Sadly, the Indian scholarship is under the cruel clutch of some wrongly motivated so-called secular scholars or a gang of scholars who do not allow the Indian youth to know the significance of Hinduism. Hinduism and Indianness is as a matter of fact the one and the same thing. Respect, tolerance, non-violence; respect for other religions, way of life and cultures; spiritual and cultural dignity; respect for elders, women, teachers, artists, etc. are some of the basic things that we teach to our children as the essence of Indian culture. A careful and biasfree examination of Indian culture and Hinduism will reveal that in essence these are integral elements of Hinduism.
The book under review talks about India and Hinduism in the same spirit. Though it lacks some continuity and many threads of information but the author of the book very emotionally and rationally has made an attempt to explain the meaning and functions of Hinduism as essence of Indian culture tracing its origin and history from the ancient pasts. After reading this one remembers the significance and uniqueness of Indian civilisation. It is unique continuous. Continuity is the base of sanatan, an integral element of Hinduism. It is this continuity of Indian culture that makes it different. This has been recognised by historian A. L. Basham. He says: ?The ancient civilisation of India differs from those of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece, in that its traditions have been preserved without a break down to the present day. Until the advent of the archaeology, the peasant of Egypt or Iraq had no knowledge of the culture of their forefathers, and it is doubtful whether their Greek counterparts had any but the vaguest ideas about the glory of Periculean Athens. In each case there had been an almost complete break with the past. On the other hand, the earliest Europeans to visit India found a culture fully conscious of its own antiquity?a culture which indeed exaggerated that antiquity and claimed not to have fundamentally changed for many thousands of years. To this day legends known to humblest Indian recall the names of shadowy chieftains who lived nearly a thousand years before Christ and the orthodox Brahman in his daily worship repeats hymns composed even earlier. India and China have, in fact, the oldest continuous cultural traditions in the world.?
The author, Dr Bhupendra Kumar Modi has developed his argument in two parts: (A) Bharat (India) and (B) Sanatana Dharma. In part A, he sees India as one of the most powerful centres in the world along with United States of America and China. In the second chapter, ?The Land of Bharat? he talks about the geographical boundary as mentioned in the Hindu texts such as Samhitas; the literal and spiritual meaning of India; India as a great centre of civilisation and outsiders, positive opinions about India; the role played by the sages, scholars and kings to maintain the harmony and cultural greatness in India. He believes that the harmony between nature, man and all other elements plays equally big role to sustain the cultural glory. ?The great understanding about maintaining ecological balance helped in integrating man with nature. So plants, birds, animals and other species found in the diverse nature became part of the local festivities or worship.? The author has highlighted the role of India as matri-bhoomi, pitri-bhoomi, karma-bhoomi, punya-bhoomi, dharma-bhoomi and moksha-bhoomi. He believed that over a period of time dharma became the sole guiding factor in determining correct behaviour for any individual; in providing high value on expanded concept of family; in enforcing moral obligations on individuals and society; in advocating tolerance in accepting different lifestyles or unique skills; in respecting environmental concerns; in providing support roles on shared responsibility; and in allowing sharing of material objects with community and groups.
The third chapter, ?Unity in Diversity? is very interesting. He talks unity in diversity in the typical Hindu way.
In the Western countries, the author thinks, integration of individual is based on the material progress. In contrast, the smallest unit in Bharat, the individual, is more integrated with family and society. He is not divided or torn. Respect for women, child care according to the Hindu way, significance of intellectual properties, role of ahimsa are other important issues that are very minutely but in the language of common people discussed in the book. The book contains a very small but an important message from the then Prime Minister Shri A.B. Vajpayee.
Reading of this book takes us back to remember the account of Fa-Hien, a Chinese monk who was in India for some six years during the reign of Chandra Gupta II (c.376-415) of the famous Gupta dynasty. He noticed the peacefulness of India, the rarity of serious crime and the mildness of the administration. He stated that it was possible to travel from one end of the country to the other without molestation, and without the need of passport. Fa-Hien found Buddhism still flourishing, but theistic Hinduism was very widespread. At this time India was perhaps the happiest and most civilised region of the world, for the effete Roman Empire was nearing its destruction and China was passing through a time of troubles between the two great periods of the Hans and the T?angs.
The book is full of references and has been written in an emotional tone for common readers and specially for young non resident Indians who want to know the history, culture and significance of the country of their forefathers? origin.
(Bharatiya Jnanpith, 18, Institutional Area, Lodhi Road, New Delhi-110 003.)