Guruji: A drishta-XV
On culture-defined nationalism, Guruji was decades ahead of Western sociologists
In defining the Hindu nation as founded on culture, traditions and ancestry, Shri Guruji was far ahead of Western sociologists, who saw culture, traditions and ancestry as attributes of nationalism long after Guruji’s lifetime. Shri Guruji was the first to expound nationalism as ‘fraternal consciousness’ born out of ‘common ancestry, culture, heritage, history and traditions’ (Bunch of Thoughts, p175). Guruji was explicit that cultural nationalism was neither political (Ibid, p45/531) nor narrow religious idea (Ibid, p137). He had pointed out that the Hindu philosophy welcomed all religions with open arms (Ibid, p421), abhorred intolerance and treated all faiths alike (Ibid, p186). Until monotheism arrived, religious intolerance was unknown to India (Semitic Monotheism: The Root of Intolerance in India, New Perspectives Quarterly, Spring, 1994, USA).
Shri Guruji emphasised the unity in diversity in Hindu way of life, society, religion and culture (Ibid, p133-34) adding that heterogeneity and diversities are a manifestation of the commonalty (Ibid, p131-32) running as a thread of inherent unity through apparent diversities (Ibid, p73). The most original contribution of Guruji to the discourse on nations and nationalism was the way he distinguished ‘Hindu nation’ from ‘secular state’ (Ibid, p215) defining the Hindu nation in cultural, rather than in political terms (Ibid, p45). Given the acutely political, even theological, drift in defining nationalism in the West, no sociologist of Western academia could have comprehended that what Guruji was saying then – namely that ‘nation’ and ‘state’ are not necessarily identical. But, being just the proxy of Western academia, the Indian intellectual and political establishment had made – even now continue making – utterly unfair comments on Guruji for his exposition of cultural nationalism. Ironically, after Guruji, his both concepts – cultural nationalism and nation-state distinction – have entered the mainline discourse in the West now! Read on.
Ancient ‘nations’ and modern ‘nationalism’– ‘nations’ pre-date ‘nationalism’
In Western discourse, ‘if there is one point on which there is agreement (among sociologists) it is that the term nationalism is quite modern. (Nationalism by Anthony D Smith, 2010, p5). The earliest reference to nationalism in social and political sense was as late in end 18th century. It was rarely used in the 19th century. In 1836, nationalism in English appeared theological (Ibid). It was only during the 20th century, the term acquired the meanings associated with it now (Ibid). On the origin of nations and, distinct from it, nationalism, the two views in the Western discourse today are: the modernists’ view and the perennialists’ (read, for simplicity, ‘traditionalists’) view. The modernists’ view is that nation is a deliberate creation and the rise of nationalism precedes the creation of nation; and the perennialists view is that nationalism is, of course, modern, but nation is an organic evolution, continuity of older community with ethnic, linguistic or cultural background. (Introduction to Political Theory by John Hoffman and Paul Graham, p267). So, the modernists say that nationalism precedes the creation of a nation, but the perennialists say that nations pre-date (modern) nationalism. The perennialists’ view namely, that (ancient) nations predate modern nationalism is exemplified by Bharat as a nation since millennia. Read on.
The concept of nation in Bharat dates back to the times of Vedas (1500BCE) and Puranas. When Guruji said that (Hindu) nation, Rashtra, existed ‘from time immemorial (Bunch of Thoughts, p129/514) he was speaking on the authority of ancient Hindu texts, the antiquity of which is unquestionable. The History of Dharmasastras (Vol III, p.132-33, Government Oriental Series ClB No 6 Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute Poona) says: “The word Rashtra occurs even in Rigveda.” Rigveda also praises Varuna as the Lord of the Rashtras. In Atharavaveda, the Mother earth is invoked to impart strength and energy to the Rashtra. Agni Purana says that Rashtra is the most important of all elements of the state”. (Ibid) “According to Puranic geography there are seven dvipas namely Jambu, Plaksha, Salmali, Kusa, Krauncha, Saka, Pushkara (Vishnu Purana) and each dvipa is divided into Varshas. Jambudvipa has nine Varshas of which Bharatvarsha is the first. Vishnu Purana, Brahmanda Purana, Markandeya Purana and other Puranas describe Bharatvarsha ‘as a land of action’ (Karmabhumi). This is patriotism of a sort, but, not of the kind we see in Western countries. Bharatvarsha itself has comprised numerous countries from the most ancient times. The names of the countries and the tribes and the people inhabiting them were the same, according to Panini.” (Ibid, p134)
Take as an illustration, one of the oldest Puranas. The Brahmanda Purana dated by modern scholars earlier to Narada Purana of 7-10th CE. It contains geographic and demographic description of the world and Bharat in Verse 4 and onwards in Chapter 16 (Ancient Indian Tradition and Mythology Series published by Motilal Banarsidas. Brahmanda Purana, part I, p130). Chapter 14 of it describes the Continents and Sub-Continents of the world. Chapter 15 describes the length and spread of the earth, also Jambudvipa. Chapter 16 gives the physical description of Bharat(a), and says that it “is a mysterious subcontinent” in the middle of the universe “where the fruits of Karma are enjoyed” whether auspicious or inauspicious. It adds: “It lies on the north of the ocean and on the south of Himavan (Himalayas)” and “is called Bharata” and “its subjects are Bharati” (belonging to Bharat). Can there be a more accurate description of a nation defined by culture? It is “from here”, the Purana claims, “that heaven and salvation are attained.” “Nowhere else on this Earth,” the Purana says, “have holy rites been enjoined on the human beings.” (The editors of the book claim that due to this special importance, Bharat(a) is called Karmabhoomi. Ibid, p150 foot note 2). So, Bharat is the earliest known, also the longest living, nation defined by culture, testifying to the Western perennialists’ view that nations pre-date nationalism. This ancient nation of Bharat, which existed from Vedic times, pre-dated, by two millennia the modern, 20th century concept, of nationalism.
Western perennialists almost plagiarise Guruji’s concept of (Hindu) nationalism
But how do the modernists differ from the perennialists? Thus. For the perennialists, nation is a cultural community, for the modernists, it is a political community; for the perennialists, the nation’s history is immemorial, for the modernists, it is recent and novel; for the perennialists, a nation is rooted in a historic homeland, for the modernists, it is deliberately created; for the perennialists, it is organic, for the modernists, it is mechanical; for the perennialists, belonging to a nation is to possess certain qualities, that is, values (or a state of being), for modernists, belonging to a nation is to possess certain resources (or a state of doing); for perennialists, it is a seamless whole (unity in diversity), for modernists it is ever divided; for perennialists, it is ancestry-based, for modernists, it is communication-based. The modernist-perennialist discourse dates long after Guruji. The modernist theories on the recent, invented and constructed nature of nations and nationalism (Gellner 1983; Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983; Anderson 1983), and the perennialist theories emphasising the permanence of nations (van den Berghe 1978; Geertz 1973; Armstrong 1982) evolved in Western discourse from 1973 onwards (Anthony D Smith on Nations and National Identity: A Critical Assessment by Montserrat Guibernau, See: Nations and Nationalism 10 (1/2), 2004, 125–141. r ASEN 2004). The perennialists’ view of nation, which evolved after Guruji had passed away, almost word for word matches with Guruji’s conceptualisation of Hindu nation as cultural community (Bunch of Thoughts, p164); as immemorial (Ibid, p129/514); as rooted in homeland (Ibid, p113/441/510); as organic (p178/280); as quality or value-based (Ibid, p62/104/45/587); as (seamless) unity in diversity (Ibid, p73/133); as ancestry based (Ibid, p169/498). Do the perennialists not seem like plagiarising Guruji?
Ethno-symbolist theory of nationalism (of Anthony D Smith, 1991) – carbon copy of Guruji’s concept of Hindu nationalism
The ethno-symbolist theory of nationalism conceptualised by Anthony D Smith, 1991 and developed later, takes a middle course between perennialist and modernist theories. It offers fresh and illuminating insights into pre-modern forms of collective cultural identity (Anthony D Smith on Nations and National Identity: A Critical Assessment by Monteserrat Guiberno; Nations and Nationalism 10 (1/2), 2004, 125–141. r ASEN 2004 p126). Smith explores the origins of nations and national identity and finds them in ethnic identity as a pre-modern form of collective cultural identity. In Smith’s view, collective cultural identity refers to a sense of ‘continuity’, to ‘shared memories’ in history, and to notions about the ‘collective destiny’. Smith adds that there is a ‘felt filiation’ with a remote past and a ‘community’ that despite all the changes, is still in some sense recognised as the ‘same’ community (Guibernau, p126). Smith also distinguishes between ‘nation’ and ‘state’ (Guibernau, p127). Having seen how the perennialists had almost plagiarised Guruji, now compare that what Guruji had said long ago with that what Smith says now. As attributes of collective cultural identity, Smith refers to a “sense of continuity” and Guruji had talked of the same “continuity” (Bunch of Thoughts, p162); Smith talks of “shared memories” now; decades before that, Guruji had spoken about ”common memory” (Ibid, p161); Smith speaks of “collective destiny” today and Guruji had talked about “national destiny” long before (Ibid, p130); Smith talks of “felt filiation” now and Guruji had talked of “feeling of fraternity”, decades earlier (Ibid, p175); Smith distinguishes ‘Nation’ from ‘State’ and Guruji had, long back, distinguished Hindu Nation from ‘Secular State’ (Ibid, p215); Smith talks of national “community”, despite changes over time, being still recognised as the “same” community. That the Islamic Pakistan’s “Taka” community is now recognised as the “Takshakas” of Purana times and its “Puru” community, as the “Purus” of Vedic times, prove Guruji, who said that common ancestry outlives change of faith (Ibid, p169), right. Doesn’t it too appear Smith plagiarising Guruji?
QED: The Western ‘perennialist’ and ‘ethnic-symbolist’ theories on ‘nations’ and ‘nationalism’, developed long after Guruji, yet again prove Guruji as a drishta.