|Kalidas-Ghalib Academy For Mutual Understanding
By : Justice Markandey Katju, Judge, Supreme Court of India
- Today India is passing through a critical stage in its history. In Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, etc. farmers and weavers are committing suicide regularly. Prices of essential commodities are sky rocketing. Unemployment has become massive and chronic, the educated youth can see only darkness in their lives. Water and electricity shortage is widespread. Corruption and fraud are seen everywhere, even in the highest places. Medicines and medical treatment have become prohibitively expensive for the masses. Housing is scarce. The educational system has gone haywire. Law and order has collapsed in many parts of the country where criminals and mafia are calling the shots. The worldwide economic recession has hit India too.
- Apart from the above, powerful divisive forces have started operating in our country trying to sow the seeds of discord among our people and trying to create hatred and enmity between various communities and groups.
- In this scenario the time has now come for the patriotic intellectuals of the country to come forward to give guidance to the people and to promote the rich composite culture of India and help the country on the path of progress.
- It is with this aim and intention that the ‘Kalidas-Ghalib Academy for Mutual Understanding’ has been created at Delhi, and it is proposed to set up its branches all over India.
- Ordinarily, intellectuals are the eyes of society and without intellectuals a society is blind. However, when our intellectuals themselves are groping in the dark and seem to be without vision, one can well imagine the terrible plight of the society. The truth is that today even intellectuals in India are groping in the dark and are unable to understand what is happening in India and in the world. Hence, we have to first enlighten and educate the intellectuals of India and only thereafter will the intellectuals be able to educate the rest of the country.
- We have, therefore, to first discuss what is our country, India.
- It may be surprising but the truth is that very few people know what is India. Hence, it is absolutely necessary to understand our country before we can discuss about what steps should be taken for its progress.
|India is broadly a country of Immigrants
- While North America (USA and Canada) is a country of new immigrants, who came mainly from Europe over the last four centuries, India is a country of old immigrants in which people came over the last ten thousand years or so. Probably about 95 % people living in India today are descendants of immigrants who came mainly from the North-West and to a lesser extent from the North-East. Since this is a point of great importance for the understanding of our country, it is necessary to go into it in some detail.
- People migrate from uncomfortable areas to comfortable areas. This is natural because everyone wants to live in comfort. Before the coming of modern industry there were agricultural societies and India was a paradise for these because agriculture requires level land, fertile soil, plenty of water for irrigation etc. which was in abundance in India. Why should anybody living in India migrate to, say, Afghanistan which has a harsh terrain, rocky and mountainous and covered with snow for several months in a year when one cannot grow any crop? Hence, almost all immigrations and invasions came from outside into India (except those Indians who were sent out during British rule as indentured labour, and the recent migration of a few million Indians to the developed countries for job opportunities). There is perhaps not a single instance of an invasion from India to outside India.
- India was a veritable paradise for pastoral and agricultural societies because it has level & fertile land, hundreds of rivers, forests etc. and is rich in natural resources. Hence for thousands of years people kept pouring into India because they found a comfortable life here in a country which was gifted by nature.
- As the great Urdu poet Firaq Gorakhpuri wrote:
|“Sar Zamin-e-hind par aqwaam-e-alam ke firaq
kafile guzarte gae Hindustan banta gaya”
|Which means -
|“In the land of Hind, the Caravans of the peoples of
the world kept coming in and India kept getting formed”.
- Who were the original inhabitants of India ? At one time it was believed that the Dravidians were the original inhabitants. However, this view has been considerably modified subsequently, and now the generally accepted belief is that the original inhabitants of India were the pre-Dravidian aborigines. In this connection it is stated in The Cambridge History of India (Vol-I), Ancient India as follows:
“It must be remembered, however, that, when the term ‘Dravidian’ is thus used ethnographically, it is nothing more than a convenient label. It must not be assumed that the speakers of the Dravidian languages are aborigines. In Southern India, as in the North, the same general distinction exists between the more primitive tribes of the hills and jungles and the civilized inhabitants of the fertile tracts; and some ethnologists hold that the difference is racial and not merely the result of culture. Mr. Thurston, for instance, says:
It is the Pre-Dravidian aborigines, and not the later and more cultured Dravidians, who must be regarded as the primitive existing race…… These Pre-Dravidians …… are differentiated from the Dravidian classes by their short stature and broad (platyrhine) noses. There is strong ground for the belief that the Pre-Dravidians are ethnically related to the Veddas of Ceylon, the Talas of the Celebes, the Batin of Sumatra, and possibly the Australians. (The Madras Presidency, pp. 124-5.)
It would seem probable, then, that the original speakers of the Dravidian languages were outsiders, and that the ethnographical Dravidians are a mixed race. In the more habitable regions the two elements have fused, while representatives of the aborigines are still in the fastnesses to which they retired before the encroachments of the newcomers. If this view be correct, we must suppose that these aborigines have, in the course of long ages, lost their ancient languages and adopted those of their conquerors. The process of linguistic transformation, which may still be observed in other parts of India, would seem to have been carried out more completely in the South than elsewhere.
The theory that the Dravidian element is the most ancient which we can discover in the population of Northern India, must also be modified by what we now know of the Munda languages, the Indian representatives of the Austric family of speech, and the mixed languages in which their influence has been traced (p.43). Here, according to the evidence now available, it would seem that the Austric element is the oldest, and that it has been overlaid in different regions by successive waves of Dravidian and Indo-European on the one hand, and by Tibeto-Chinese on the other. Most ethnologists hold that there is no difference in physical type between the present speakers of Munda and Dravidian languages. This statement has been called in question; but, if it is true, it shows that racial conditions have become so complicated that it is no longer possible to analyse their constituents. Language alone has preserved a record which would otherwise have been lost.
At the same time, there can be little doubt that Dravidian languages were actually flourishing in the western regions of Northern India at the period when languages of the Indo-European type were introduced by the Aryan invasions from the north-west. Dravidian characteristics have been traced alike in Vedic and Classical Sanskrit, in the Prakrits, or early popular dialects, and in the modern vernaculars derived from them. The linguistic strata would thus appear to be arranged in the order---Austric, Dravidian, Indo-European.
There is good ground, then, for supposing that, before the coming of the Indo-Aryans speakers of the Dravidian languages predominated both in Northern and in Southern India; but, as we have seen, older elements are discoverable in the populations of both regions, and therefore the assumption that the Dravidians are aboriginal is no longer tenable. Is there any evidence to show whence they came into India?
No theory of their origin can be maintained which does not account for the existence of Brahui, the large island of Dravidian speech in the mountainous regions of distant Baluchistan which lie near the western routes into India. Is Brahui a surviving trace of the immigration of Dravidian –speaking peoples into India from the west? Or does it mark the limits of an overflow form India into Baluchistan? Both theories have been held; but as all the great movements of peoples have been into India and not out of India, and as a remote mountainous district may be expected to retain the survivals of ancient races while it is not likely to have been colonized, the former view would a priori seem to be by far the more probable.
In Wikipedia (see Google : The original inhabitants of India) it is mentioned :
“A number of earlier anthropologists held the view that the Dravidian peoples together were a distinct race. However, comprehensive genetic studies have proven that this is not the case.
The original inhabitants of India may be identified with the speakers of the Munda languages, which are unrelated to either Indo-Aryan or Dravidian languages”
- Thus the generally accepted view now is that the original inhabitants of India were not the Dravidians but the Munda aborigines whose descendants presently live in parts of Chotanagpur (Jharkhand), Chattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal, etc. In 1983 their total population was about five million, which is only a tiny fraction of the total population of India.
- It is not necessary for us to go into further details into this issue, but the facts mentioned above certainly lends support to the view that 90-95% people living in India are descendants of immigrants.
- It is for this reason that there is such tremendous diversity in India. This diversity is a significant feature of our country and it is necessary to go into this aspect also in some detail.
|Tremendous Diversity in India
- There are a large number of religions, castes, languages, ethnic groups, cultures etc. in our country, which is due to the fact that India is a country of immigrants. Somebody is tall, somebody is short, some are dark, some are fair complexioned, with all kinds of shades in between, someone has Caucasian features, someone has Mongoloid features, someone has Negroid features, etc. There are differences in dress, food habits and various other matters.
- We may compare India with China which is larger both in population and in land area than India. China has a population of about 1.3 billion whereas our population is roughly 1.1 billion. Also, China has more than twice our land area. However, all Chinese have Mongoloid features; they have a common written script (Mandarin Chinese) and 95% of them belong to one ethnic group, called the Han Chinese. Hence there is a broad homogeneity in China.
- On the other hand, as stated above, India has tremendous diversity and this is due to the large scale migrations and invasions into India over thousands of years. The various immigrants/invaders who came into India brought with them their different cultures, languages, religions, etc. which accounts for the tremendous diversity in India.
|What follows from the Diversity
- Since India is a country of great diversity, it is absolutely essential if we wish to keep our country united to have tolerance and equal respect for all communities and sects. It was due to the wisdom of our founding fathers that we have a Constitution which is secular in character, and which caters to the tremendous diversity in our country.
- Thus it is the Constitution of India which is keeping us together despite all our tremendous diversity, because the Constitution gives equal respect to all communities, sects, lingual and ethnic groups, etc. in the country. The Constitution guarantees to all citizens freedom of speech (Article 19), freedom of religion (Article 25), equality (Articles 14 to 17), liberty (Article 21), etc.
- Apart from that, the Constitution provides for federalism. Federalism is really catering to regional aspirations, and this is essential in a country like ours with such diversity. Thus, the Tamil people have their own State Government, and so do people of Bengal, Nagaland, Orissa, Punjab, Maharashtra, Gujarat, etc. There is also a Central Government for everyone, and thus there is Unity in Diversity.
|The Emperor Akbar
- The architect of modern India was the great Mughal Emperor Akbar who gave equal respect to people of all communities and appointed them to the highest offices on their merits irrespective of their religion, caste, etc. Emperor Akbar was perhaps the greatest ruler the world has ever seen.
- The Emperor Akbar held discussions with scholars of all religions and gave respect not only to Muslim scholars, but also to Hindus, Christians, Parsis, Sikhs, Jains, etc. Those who came to his court were given respect, and the Emperor heard their views, sometimes alone, and sometimes in the Ibadatkhana (Hall of Worship), where people of all religions assembled and discussed their views in a tolerant spirit. The Emperor declared his policy of Suleh-e-Kul, which means universal tolerance of all religions and communities. He abolished Jeziya in 1564 and the pilgrim tax in 1563 on Hindus and permitted his Hindu wife to continue to practice her own religion even after their marriage. This is evident from the Jodha Bai Palace in Fatehpur Sikri which is built on Hindu architectural pattern.
- In 1578, the Parsi theologian Dastur Meherji Rana was invited to the emperor’s court and he had detailed discussions with Emperor Akbar and acquainted him about the Parsi religion. Similarly, the Jesuit Priests Father Antonio Monserrate, Father Rodolfo Acquaviva and Father Francisco Enriques etc. also came to the Emperor’s court on his request and acquainted him about the Christian religion. The Emperor also became acquainted with Sikhism and came into contact with Guru Amar Das and Guru Ram Das.
- Thus, as stated in the Cambridge History of India (Vol. IV- The Mughal Period) Emperor Akbar conceived the idea of becoming the father of all his subjects, rather than the leader of only the Muslims, and he was far ahead of his times. As mentioned by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in ‘The Discovery of India’, “Akbar’s success is astonishing, for he created a sense of oneness among the diverse elements of India.”
- In 1582, the Emperor invited and received a Jain delegation consisting of Hiravijaya Suri, Bhanuchandra Upadhyaya and Vijayasena Suri. Jainism, with its doctrine of non-violence, made a profound impression on him and influenced his personal life. He curtailed his food and drink and ultimately abstained from flesh diet altogether for several months in the year. He renounced hunting which was his favourite pastime, restricted the practice of fishing and released prisoners and caged birds. Slaughter of animals was prohibited on certain days and ultimately in 1587 for about half the days in the year.
- Emperor Akbar was a propagator of Suleh-i-Kul (universal toleration) at a time when Europeans were indulging in religious massacres e.g. the St. Bartholomew Day massacre in 1572 of Protestants, (called Huguenots) in France by the Catholics, the burning at the stake of Protestants by Queen Mary of England, the massacre by the Duke of Alva of tens of thousands of protestants for their resistance to Rome and the burning at the stake of Jews during the Spanish Inquisition. We may also mention the subsequent massacre of the Catholics in Ireland by Cromwell, and the mutual massacre of Catholics and Protestants in Germany during the thirty year war from 1618 to 1648 in which the population of Germany was reduced from 18 million to 12 million. Thus, Emperor Akbar was far ahead of even the Europeans of his times.
- Emperor Akbar himself abstained from eating meat on Fridays and Sundays and on some other days, as has been mentioned in the Ain-i-Akbari by Abul Fazl.
- It was because of the wise policy of toleration of the Great Emperor Akbar that the Mughal Empire lasted for so long, and hence the same wise policy of toleration alone can keep our country together despite so much diversity.
- We may give another historical illustration of tolerance in our country. In the reign of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Avadh, in a certain year Holi and Muharram coincidentally fell on the same day. Holi is a festival of joy, whereas Muharram is an occasion for mourning. The Hindus of Lucknow decided that they would not celebrate Holi that year out of respect for the sentiments for their Muslim brethren. On that day, the Nawab joined the Muharram procession and after burial of the Tazia at Karbala he enquired why Holi was not being celebrated. He was told that it was not being celebrated because the Hindus out of respect for the sentiments of their Muslim brethren had decided not to play Holi that year because it was a day of mourning for the Muslims. On hearing this, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah declared that since Hindus have respected the sentiments of their Muslim brothers, it is also the duty of the Muslims to respect the sentiments of the Hindu brethren. Hence, he announced that Holi would be celebrated the same day and he himself was the first who started playing Holi on that day and thereafter everyone in Lucknow, including the Muslims, played Holi, although it was Muharram day also. It is this kind of sentiment of tolerance which alone can keep our country united.
- Since our country has tremendous diversity (for the reasons given above), it is absolutely essential in order to keep the country united and to take it on the path of progress to give equal respect to all communities and sects and all people must live in peace and harmony with each other, even if they differ in religion, caste, language, beliefs and practices.
|India is a Poor Country
- The worst thing in life is poverty. Nobody respects the poor. The truth is that we are not respected by the developed countries, not because the colour of our skins is brown or black but because our country is poor. Hence if we wish to get respect in the comity of nations we must make India a highly prosperous country, which is only possible by a high level of industrialization.
- Today the real world is cruel and harsh. It respects power, not poverty or weakness, and power comes from a high degree of industrialization.
- When China and Japan were poor nations they were derisively called “Yellow Races’ by the western nations. Today nobody dares to call them ‘yellow races’ as they are strong industrialized nations. Similarly, if we wish to get respect in the world we must make India a highly industrialized and prosperous country. For this purpose a powerful cultural struggle, that is, a struggle in the realm of ideas must be waged by our patriotic and modern minded intelligentsia. This cultural struggle must be waged by combating feudal backward ideas e.g. casteism & communalism and replacing them with modern and scientific ideas among the masses.
- Underdeveloped countries like India are passing through a transitional age, between feudal agricultural society and modern industrial society. This is a very painful and agonizing period. A study of the history of England of 17th and 18th centuries and of France of the 18th and 19th centuries, shows that the transitional period was full of turbulence, turmoil, revolutions, intellectual ferment, etc. It was only after going through this fire that modern society emerged in Europe. India is presently going through this fire. We are going though a very painful period of our history.
- Our national aim must therefore be to get over this transitional period as quickly as possible, reducing the agony which is inevitable in this period. Our aim must be to create India as a modern, powerful, industrial State, for only then will we be able to provide for the welfare of our people and get respect in the world community.
- At present we have hardly any relevance in the world. Although we have a population of 110-115 crores, we do not have a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, while countries like England and France having a population of about 6 crores each have permanent seats there. We are not a member of the G-8 developed countries. We have to apply for financial aid to other countries or financial institutions, like beggars.
- India has all the potential of becoming a modern industrial giant in the world. We have a large number of eminent scientists, engineers and technicians; we have immense reserve of raw materials and we have a huge population which can serve as a market. Hence we have all the resources which are required to become a modern industrial giant. Why then have we not become one? This is a vital question for all intellectuals to deeply ponder upon.
- The main reason for this is that there have been powerful divisive forces since the days of British rule which have sown the seeds of discord among our people and made them fight with each other on the basis of religion, caste, language etc. This Divide and Rule policy which was started by the British after the mutiny of 1857 has been continuing even after Independence and is the major cause for our extremely slow process of industrialization.
|The Divisive Forces in our Country
- The year 1857 marks an historical and critical point in our country’s history. In that year the mutiny took place which shook the British rule in India. In this mutiny, Hindus and Muslims joined each other to fight against the British. After suppressing this mutiny the British rulers decided that the only way to control and rule India was the policy of Divide and Rule. Hence all communal riots began after 1857, and there is abundance proof that these were in a subtle way engineered by the British administrators.
- It is true that the Muslim invaders who initially invaded India destroyed many Hindu temples. However, the descendants of these invaders who settled down in India and became local rulers in various parts of the country gave many grants for building Hindu temples. Since the vast majority population was Hindu, to break temples would only invite revolts and turmoil, which no ruler wants. Hence in their own interest the Muslim rulers gave grants to build Hindu temples, and fostered communal amity.
- Our history was written by the British who wanted Hindus and Muslims to fight with each other. Hence, in our history books mention is only made of destruction of Hindu temples by the Muslim invaders, but the other part of the story, that is the giving of grants by the local Muslim rulers in India for building Hindu temples and their celebrating Hindu festivals has deliberately been suppressed and omitted from our history books. Thus a totally one-sided version has been presented to us in order to incite communal hatred. There are hundreds and thousands of instances of grants by Muslim rulers for building Hindu temples, and their celebrations of Hindu festivals, but this is hardly ever mentioned.
- To give an example of the falsification of our history mention may be made to the speech entitled `History in the Service of Imperialism’ by Dr. B.N. Pande in the Rajya Sabha on 29.7.1977. We may just quote one excerpt from this speech :
“A glimpse into official British records will show how this policy of Divide-et-Impera was taking shape. The Secretary of State Wood in a letter to Lord Elgin [Governor General Canada (1847-54) and India (1862-63)] said: 'We have maintained our power in India by playing off one part against the other and we must continue to do so. Do all you can, therefore to prevent all having a common feeling.’
George Francis Hamilton, Secretary of State of India wrote to Curzon, ‘I think the real danger to our rule in India not now, but say 50 years hence is the gradual adoption and extension of Western ideas of agitation organization and if we could break educated Indians into two sections holding widely different views, we should, by such a division, strengthen our position against the subtle and continuous attack which the spread of education must make upon our system of government. We should so plan educational text-books that the differences between community and community are further strengthened (Hamilton to Curzon, 26th March 1886).
Cross informed the Governor-General, Dufferin, that 'This division of religious feeling is greatly to our advantage and I look for some good as a result of your Committee of Inquiry on Indian Education and on teaching material' (Cross to Dufferin, 14 January, 1887).
Thus under a definite policy the Indian history text-books were so falsified and distorted as to give an impression that the medieval period of Indian history was full of atrocities committed by Muslim rulers on their Hindu subject and the Hindus had to suffer terrible indignities under Islamic rule. There were no common factors in social, political or economic life.
While I was doing some research on Tippu Sultan in 1928 at Allahabad, some office bearers of a college Students Union approached me with a request to inaugurate their History Association. They had directly come from the college with their text-books. I opened the chapter on Tippu Sultan. One of the sentences that struck me deeply was: 'Three thousand Brahmins committed suicide as Tippu wanted to convert them forcibly into the fold of Islam'. The author of the text-book was, Mahamahopadhyaya Dr. Har Prashad Shastri, Head of the Department of Sanskrit, Calcutta University. I immediately wrote to Dr. Shastri for the source of his information. After many reminders came the reply that he had taken that from the Mysore Gazetteer.
Prof Srikantia of Mysore University informed me that the episode of the suicide of 3,000 Brahmins is nowhere in the Mysore Gazetteer and he, as student of history of Mysore, was quite certain that no such incident had taken place. He further informed me that the Prime Minister of Tippu Sultan was a Brahmin named Punaiya and his commander-in-chief was also a Brahmin, named Krishna Rao. He supplied me with the list of 156 temples to which Tippu Sultan used to pay annual grants. He sent me 30 photostat copies of Tippu Sultan's letters addressed to the Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Srinageri Math with whom Tippu Sultan had very cordial relations....
Dr Shastri's book was approved as a course book of history for high schools in Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Orissa, U.P., M.P. and Rajasthan. I approached Sri Ashutosh Mukherjee, the then Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University, and sent him all the correspondence that I had exchanged with Dr Shastri, with Mysore University Vice-Chancellor, Sri Brijendra Nath Seal, and Prof. Srikantia, with the request to take proper action against the offending passages in the text-book. Prompt came the reply from Sri Ashutosh Mukherjee, that the history book by Dr Shastri has been put out of course.
However, I was amazed to find the same suicide story was still existing in the history text-books which had been prescribed in 1972 for Junior High Schools in U.P.”
- It is high time that our history be corrected and our children be taught that Hindus and Muslims were living peacefully and on good terms with each other for centuries before the British came to India and particularly before the 1857 mutiny.
- It is these divisive forces which ultimately led to the partition of India in 1947, and these divisive forces have once again become very active in recent times.
|The Importance of the Constitution of India
- The Constitution of India has played a major role in keeping our country united. It was the greatness of our leaders like Pandit Nehru that at a time when religious passions were inflamed at the time of partition in 1947, and when Pakistan was declared to be an Islamic State, our leaders set up a secular Constitution providing for freedom of speech, equality, liberty, freedom of religion etc. When passions are inflamed it is difficult to keep a cool head. There must have been tremendous pressure on our political leaders in 1947 to declare India a Hindu State since Pakistan had declared itself a Muslim State. It is a tribute to our great leaders of that time that they kept a cool head and insisted that India will not be a Hindu State, but will be a secular State. It is for this reason that we made some progress since 1947 (though a lot more has to be done), while our neighbouring country is in deep distress.
|Historical significance of the Kalidas-Ghalib Academy
- Having discussed in brief about our country, we may come to our organization Kalidas-Ghalib Academy for Mutual Understanding. This organization has been formed by some patriotic intellectuals of our country, and its aim is to promote the composite culture of India and oppose the divisive forces in our country.
- The importance of the cultural struggle i.e. the struggle in the field of ideas cannot be underestimated. For instance, great thinkers like Rousseau and Voltaire had a major role in creation of modern Europe. Similarly, our intellectuals must now play such a major role. They have to promote the rich composite culture of India and combat the divisive forces which are trying to weaken and break up our country.
- The words ‘Kalidas’ & ‘Ghalib’ in the expression ‘Kalidas-Ghalib Academy’ are only metaphors and they represent the entire composite culture of India, including the cultures developed in all parts of India, such as South India, Bengal, Punjab, Maharashtra, UP, North-East, J & K etc.
- Today, a large section of even our educated class have little idea about our composite culture and those who created it. For instance, how many people have heard of Amir Khusro? Amir Khusro made a significant contribution in developing the composite culture of India, and he was a veritable Michelangelo of India, but few people know about his works. Many Muslims wrote Hindi poetry of a high order e.g. Raskhan, Rahim, Jayasi, etc., and they had a good knowledge of Ramayan, Mahabharat, etc. The Sufis played a great role in promoting communal harmony and developing a composite culture in India. Kabir is regarded as both a Hindu and a Muslim. The great Tamil poet Subramania Bharti (1882 – 1921) contributed significantly to the freedom struggle in South India. Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyaya and Kazi Nazrul Islam in Bengali and Premchand and Rahul Sanskritayan in Hindi are names to reckon with.
- 90% Muslims in India and Pakistan go to dargahs of Sufi saints, which is anathema to the small section of Muslims (who regard it as idolatry). This is because of the Hindu influence on Islam, and in fact a large number of Hindus also visit dargahs. Thus we see that a cultural synthesis had emerged in India before the coming of the British, and this was embodied also in Urdu literature, which is almost entirely secular.
- It is also necessary to mention the great role of Sanskrit in the cultural development of our country. I am constrained to say that in our country Sanskrit is hardly getting the respect it deserves. A language which was declared by that outstanding scholar, Sir William Jones, to be “more perfect than Greek, more copious than Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either” is today practically regarded as worthless and its teachers are treated shabbily. This just shows the level of degradation to which we have fallen.
- The word `Sanskrit’ means “prepared, pure, refined or prefect”. It was not for nothing that it was called the `devavani’ (language of the Gods). It has an outstanding place in our culture and indeed was recognized as a language of rare sublimity by the whole world. Sanskrit was the language of our philosophers, our scientists, our mathematicians, our poets and playwrights, our grammarians, our jurists etc. In grammar, Panini and Patanjali (authors of Ashtadhyayi and the Mahabhashya) have no equals in the world; in astronomy and mathematics the works of Aryabhatta, Brahmagupta and Bhaskar opened up new frontiers for mankind as did the works of Charak and Sushrut in medicine. In philosophy Gautam (founder of the Nyaya system), Ashvaghosha (author of Buddha Charita), Kapila (founder of the Sankhya system), Shankaracharya, Brihaspati, etc., present the widest range of philosophical systems the world has ever seen. Jaimini’s Mimansa Sutras laid the foundation of a whole system of rational interpretation of texts which was used not only in religion but also in law, philosophy, grammar, etc. In literature, the contribution of Sanskrit is of the foremost order. The works of Kalidas (Shakuntala, Meghdoot, Malavikagnimitra, etc.), Bhavabhuti (Malti Madhav, Uttar Ramcharit, etc.) and the epics of Valmiki, Vyas, etc. are known all over the world. These and countless other Sanskrit works kept the light of learning ablaze in our country upto modern times.
- In this connection I would like to quote from the Constituent Assembly debate that took place on 12.9.1949 in our Constituent Assembly :-
“The Hon’ble Shri Ghanshyam Singh Gupta - We want to hear your views on Sanskrit.
Mr. Naziruddin Ahmed – I am extremely thankful to the Hon’ble Member Mr. Gupta. If you have to adopt any language, why should you not have the world’s greatest language? It is today a matter of great regret that we do not know with what reverence Sanskrit is held in the outside world. I shall only quote a few brief remarks made about Sanskrit to show how this language is held in the civilized world. Mr. W.C. Taylor says “Sanskrit is the language of unrivalled richness and purity”.
Mr. President – I would suggest you may leave that question alone, because I propose to call representatives who have given notice of amendments of a fundamental character and I will call upon a gentleman who has given notice about Sanskrit to speak about it.
Mr. Naziruddin Ahmed – Yes, Sir, I shall not stand in between. I will only give a few quotations. Prof. Max Muller says that “Sanskrit is the greatest language in the world, the most wonderful and the most perfect”. Sir William Jones said “whenever we direct our attention to the Sanskrit Literature the notion of infinity presents itself. Surely the longest life would not suffice for a perusal of works that rise and swell protuberant like the Himalayas above the bulkiest composition of every land beyond the confines of India”. Then Sir W. Hunter says that “the Grammar of Panini stands supreme among the grammars of the world. It stands forth as one of the most splendid achievements of human invention and industry”. Prof. Whitney says “Its unequalled transparency of structure gives it (Sanskrit) undisputable right to the first place amongst the tongues of the Indo-European family”. M. Dukois says “Sanskrit is the origin of the modern languages of Europe”. Prof. Weber says “Panini’s grammar is universally admitted to be the shortest and fullest grammar in the world”. Prof. Wilson says “No nation but the Hindu has yet been able to discover such a perfect system of phonetics”. Prof. Thompson says “The arrangement of consonants in Sanskrit is a unique example of human genius”. Dr. Shahidullah, Professor of Dacca University, who has a world wide reputation as a Sanskrit Scholar, says “Sanskrit is the language of every man to whatever race he may belong”.
An Hon’ble Member – What is your view?
Mr. Naziruddin Ahmed – My own view is that it is one of the greatest
languages, and ………………..
An Hon’ble Member – And should it be adopted as the National Language or not? It is not spoken by any one now.
Mr. Naziruddin Ahmed – Yes, and for the simple reason that it is impartially difficult to all. Hindi is easy for the Hindi speaking areas but it is difficult for other areas. I offer you a language which is grandest and greatest, and it is impartially difficult, equally difficult for all to learn. There should be some impartiality in the selection. If we have to adopt a language it must be grand, great and the best. Then why should we discard the claim of Sanskrit?
“Pandit Lakshmi Kant Maitra – If today India has got an opportunity to shape her own destiny I ask in all seriousness if she is going to feel ashamed to recognize the Sanskrit Language – The revered grandmother of Languages of the world, still alive with full vigour, full vitality? Are we going to deny her rightful place in Free India? That is a question which I solemnly ask. I know it will be said that it is a dead language. Yes. Dead to whom? Dead to you because you have become dead to all which is great and noble in your own culture and civilization. You have been chasing the shadow and have never tried to grasp the substance which is contained in your great literature. If Sanskrit is dead may I say that Sanskrit is ruling us from her grave? Nobody can get away from Sanskrit in India.”
- The above were some of the speeches delivered in the Constituent Assembly, and though Sanskrit was not accepted as the national language it was placed in the 8th Schedule to the Constitution, and is also referred to in Article 351.
- The high development of the Sanskrit language was not accidental. It took place because a vehicle of expressing highly abstract, subtle and profound thoughts was required to fulfil the intellectual needs of the educated people in India. As is well known, our ancestors were highly intelligent, and they questioned everything (like the ancient Greeks). Mathematics, Physics, Literature, Philosophy, Law, etc. became highly developed in our country, and hence a correspondingly highly developed and powerful vehicle of expression was required to communicate words or thoughts with elegance, precision and exactitude. Hence the crude Sanskrit of the Vedic Literature was refined and systematized by Panini and Patanjali who made it perhaps the most highly developed of all the languages of the world.
- Real knowledge of Sanskrit shows that it was the language of an inquiring man who enquired into every aspect of life. It is for this reason that Sanskrit has been an excellent mode of expression and communication in all fields, e.g. Literature, Philosophy, Science, etc. In philosophy Sanskrit was the language used not only by the metaphysical thinkers but also the materialist thinkers like the Nyayiks, Vaisheshiks, Charvaks, etc. The Mahayan Buddhist texts are largely in Sanskrit e.g. the Avadan Shatak (the Hinayan texts are in Pali, a derivative of Sanskrit). Thus, Sanskrit was the language of free thinkers, expressing the widest spectrum of thoughts.
- Later on, due to ignorance of this language amongst the people, the vested interests made it the language of the clergy which exploited the ignorance of the people and used Sanskrit Shlokas as some sort of magical formulas. The Mantras, when translated in common language, express great thoughts (and also paltry thoughts), but there is nothing magical in them. People in their ignorance thought that the words spoken in mantras were some sort of mumbo-jumbo which will grant them the desire of their hearts. This veil of ignorance has to be broken, and this great language rich in all fields must come to the people in its explicable forms. All aspects of our culture are indissolubly linked with it.
- We may also mention about Urdu which is a language to which great injustice has been done in our country (see the article by the writer entitled “Great Injustice to Urdu in India” in November part of AIR 2008). Urdu was falsely treated as a language of Muslims alone, when, in fact, it was the common language of the educated class in North India up to 1947.
- Urdu literature has Sufi influence. Sufis were the liberals among the Muslims and they spread the message of universal love among all humans, whatever their religion, caste etc. Urdu poets like Mir, Ghalib, Firaq, Faiz rank among the greatest in the world.
- Some of the Urdu writers like Mir and Nazir have written beautiful poems on Holi, Diwali, Raakhi and other Hindu festivals and customs, which shows that Urdu was not the language of any particular religion. A large number of Hindus have made their names in the front ranks of Urdu literature e.g. Firaq, Chakbast, Ratan Lal Sarshar, etc. In Vali’s poetry the words Ganga, Jamuna, Krishna, Ram, Saraswati, Sita, Lakshmi, etc. appear frequently.
- Similarly, there has been good literature written in many of the regional languages e.g. South Indian languages, Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi, Oriya, Kashmiri etc., and there is need to encourage these so that they may all contribute to the rich composite culture of India.
- No country can progress by overlooking its own cultural heritage. Culture is the base from which all intellectual activities develop. Without understanding this base how can we expand upon it and progress?
- We have no doubt to create a new culture suited to modern needs, but we should not totally reject our old culture. We should only reject that part of our old culture which is hindering our progress e.g. superstitions, casteism, communalism and regionalism.
- The members of the Kalidas-Ghalib Academy are genuinely patriotic people who wish India to rise as a world power. They do not seek votes nor are they interested in vote-bank politics, which has been the bane of India. All Indians who genuinely love their country are invited to join this nationalistic intellectual organization. The members of this organization must have the spirit and function like humble servants of the nation, having no personal interest in mind. They may not see the rise of India as a great nation in their life time, but they will have the satisfaction of having contributed to this end.