Shri Madhav Sadashivrao Golwalkar, popularly known as Shri Guruji, was perhaps the only leader of the post-Independence period who had the vision to fully realise the importance of social and cultural forces in shaping the political and civilisational destiny of India. He knew that India'sunity had been effectuated by its culture and it were the cultural forces alone that could strengthen this unity further. He was never tired of emphasising: ?Our culture is the real and abiding cornerstone of national harmony and integration, subscribing to common national ideals irrespective of personal creed.?
An example: Kashmir
Whenever the above fundamental reality of India was lost sight of, the country came to grief. Take, for example, the case of Kashmir. Few in our country realise that Kashmir'srelationship with the rest of India is based not merely on the Instrument of Accession and Articles 1 and 370 of the Constitution of India; it is rooted in far more potent and enduring forces whom neither the turbulence and tornadoes of the past nor the negativism and nihilism of the present-day politics can really destroy. It is a relationship of mind and soul that has existed from time immemorial and found ample expression in common avenues of intellect and emotions, poetry and literature, philosophy and outlook.
Every green pasture that you walk around in Kashmir, every silvery peak that you watch from pleasurable distance, every stream that sings its song by your side, every enchanting lake that you come across now and then and every little town and city that you visit, has some signpost or the other of this deep and abiding relationship. Kalhana was not off the mark when he observed in the Rajatrangini that there was hardly any place in Kashmir that was not a tirtha. And Vincent Smith rightly pointed out that ancient India had nothing more worthy of its early civilisation than the grand ruins of Kashmir.
To understand in depth Kashmir'srelationship with the rest of India, it is necessary to address ourselves to a few basic questions.
What were the forces that brought into existence, about 4,000 years ago, a quiet little temple on what is now known as the Sankaracharya Hill? What made the great Kashmiri King Lalitaditya (721-761) to build the glorious temple in honour of Surya, the Sun Lord, at Martanda, and Avanti Verrman (855-883) to construct equally splendid temples at Avantipura? What inner urges did these constructions symbolise? What philosophy, what temper of mind, did they represent? Were these inner urges, these tempers of mind, not products of the same cultural forces that prevailed in other parts of India?
How is it that for thousands of years, the learned Brahmins of South India have, on getting up from bed, folded their hands, looked northward and prayed: Namaste Sardadevi; Kashmira mandala vasini (I salute the Goddess of Sarda who resides in Kashmir)? Why is it that even now parents tell their children to seek the blessings of this Goddess of Learning who has her abode in north Kashmir in the Valley of Kishanganga?
What made Sankara, when he wanted to rejuvenate the spirit of India, to travel from a small hut of Kaladi in Kerala all the way to the distant hills in Kashmir? And what made him stay there for quite some time and compose his famous poem, Soundarya Lahari, propounding his philosophy of Shakti and Shiva? Why is it that Abinava Gupta, the great savant of Kashmir Shaivism, is also called Sankaracharya of Kashmir, and how is it that he draws his philosophic thought from the same cultural spring as that of Sankara?
What were the forces that attracted Swami Vivekananda from Kolkata to Kanyakumari and then to Kashmir? What made him, standing before the holy cave of Amarnath, experience one of the highest stages of spiritual ecstasy? Why was he so captivated by the sight in the cave that for days, to use the words of Sister Nivedita, he could speak of nothing else but the image of Shiva and proclaim that he had never been so greatly inspired as then?
What do the various landmarks on the route from Pahalgam to the Cave of Amarnath?Chandanwari, Pishu Ghati, Seshnag, Panchtarani?stand for? Are they not some of the most important symbols of Indian culture and beliefs?
How is it that Kashmir had always an innate attraction for Indian saints and sages, poet and philosophers and provided them with perennial inspiration? What, in moments of poetic intensity, made Kalidasa see the ?laughter of Shiva? in the Himalayas and Subramania Bharati think of Kashmir as the Crown of Mother India?
The answer to all these questions is one and only one: Kashmir, for thousands of years, has been a part of the Indian vision?a silent and serene, yet solid part; and integral and inseparable part.
Even when Islam came to Kashmir, it did not alter the ethos of the common folk. Most of the Islamic teachings were just grafted on Vedantic beliefs and thoughts. The central message of Kashmir'spatron saint and founder of the Rishi order, Sheikh Nooruddin Noorani was: ?There is one God but with a hundred names. There is not a single blade of grass, which does not worship Him.?
Sheikh Nooruddin himself was deeply influenced by Lal Ded who ?saw Shiva and Shakti sealed in one? and whose outlook was permeated with some of the finest components of Indian thought and tradition.
Both Sheikh Nooruddin and Lal Ded were endowed ?with vision which increases the power of speech and with inspired speech that makes vision penetrating?. It was their inspired speech and their penetrating vision, coupled with earthy sense and rub of life, that kept the Kashmiri ethos within the overall cultural mainstream of India even after a very large part of the Valley'spopulation had been brought under the fold of Islam. The followers of the Rishi order abhorred killing. Like the Jains, they were careful not to cause harm even to insects. Sheikh Nooruddin went to the extent of refusing to walk on the grass lest it should be damaged. Poet Mohammad Iqbal, who was a Kashmiri by descent, also noted in one of his Persian couplets, the habit of Kashmiri Muslims to carve out moortis even from the stones of graves.
The list of the living symbols and signposts of Kashmir'srelationship with the rest of India is long and virtually unending. But for our policy-makers it does not exist. No mention of it is ever made either inside or outside the country. No child is taught a word about it. No pressman writes a line on the subject. All that is spoken of or written about, almost ad nauseam, is the special relationship, the need to continue and strengthen Article 370, and of giving more and more autonomy?anything short of azadi?promoting thereby a separatist psyche and according a tacit approval to the ?two-nation? or ?three-nation? theory.
The Indian decision-makers have been going astray at every turning point of Kashmir'scontemporary history as they have neither any clear idea about the true vision of India nor of Kashmir'splace in that vision. The few who have, in the past, entertained such a vision, have for one reason or the other, not been able to project it effectively at the national and international scene or secure its materialisation on the ground.
It is time that those who control the political power-structure of India must listen to the sagely advice of Shri Guruji, rectify their past errors and assign key role to the cultural forces in building a strong and united India.
One of the tragic failures of the post-1947 India has been its inability to rekindle the power and profundity of the Indian culture and use it as a propelling force for fashioning out a new design of life, a new set of polity and a new from of governance. It has remained without a great inspiration, without an elevating philosophy which should have served as a guiding star for its activities in various walks of life. For a short while, its leadership, at the dawn of Independence, spoke of the opportunity which the ?long-suppressed soul of India? got to express itself; but, later on, forgot all about it. India'smind leaned heavily towards imitation. It started following first the prescription given by the ?welfare economists? of the West and then the one written for it by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Consequently, India today is a pale shadow of what it could have been. Instead of reconstructing the elevating forces of its culture, recreating its own life-nurturing functions, delving deep into its ancient nobility of temper and refining its elevating ideals and concepts, evolved after years of contemplation, it began to be led by the crass materialism of others and follow the notions that were coined elsewhere in different sets of circumstances and in different social and cultural milieu. It took the wrong direction and embarked upon a journey during the course of which it has been accumulating more and more rotten eggs in its baggage without unburdening any of its previously collected junk. It has been hurtling downwards in many spheres of governance and polity.
Around 1947, India stood at the crossroads of destiny, shaken by the tragedy of Partition and wounded badly by the chopping of its wings. It should have learnt its lessons and thought of the great assets that the ancient power and profundity of its culture had provided. It should have invested those assets in the ventures suited to its conditions and built a new India with an original and independent approach and with an animation and values of its own. A culture of contemplation, contentment, compassion, balance and harmony, backed by creative and constructive impulse, should have constituted the core motivation of its intellectual, social and political leadership. But nothing of the sort happened. And India now resembles an old and worn-out ship, overloaded by hordes of people with all their messy baggages. The ship itself is buffeted by the turbulent winds and waters that swirl around it. In the worst of scenarios, the ship may break up, and in the best, it may move permanently towards the shores of the third world and anchor there.
Blueprint for reforms
Before a point of no return is reached, the nation must realise the dangers to which it is exposed, make a fresh beginning, and draw up a blueprint for reforms, the contours of which are shaped by the reignited power of the Indian culture and coloured by the vigour, vitality and purity of an awakened soul.
For this blueprint of reforms and regeneration, illuminating ideas of Shri Guruji have to be kept at the centre of our thoughts and deeds. Let us also draw inspiration form the numerous works of social and cultural reconstruction, which he and his dedicated band of followers have performed in various walks of life. Let us all honour his great legacy, get together, move forward to inject his ideals in the machinery of governance and prove how right he was when he observed: ?We believe that the present perversions and misconceptions are only a passing phase. Our cultural roots are too firm and too deeply struck into the springs of immortality to be easily dried up. They are bound to assert their age-old vigour and vitality and throw out the parasitic growth of the past few centuries and sprout forth once again in all their pristine purity and grandeur?.
(The writer is a former Governor of Jammu and Kashmir and a former Union Minister of Culture and Tourism.)