In the modern world, the educated West may have tolerated free speech and freedom of worship in their societies but Bharat has been respecting different cultures and ideologies since the time immemorial.
An enlightened columnist wrote recently that ‘the liberal West should learn from Hindu dominated Bharat’s magnanimity. She accepted over ten million Bangladesh refugees to settle in Bharat and survive.’ Reacting to his observations, some readers have written that they (the Bangladesh refugees) were once a part of Bharat. So by accepting them, we merely allowed their return. If one understands this response, one can realise that there is magnanimity in their response also. Calling people who left the country long ago ‘ours’ is that magnanimity. At the same time, it is necessary that we make a thorough enquiry into how Bharat in the past responded to questions connected to humanity.
History bears witness to Bharat’s humane attitude to all conflicts within and beyond her boundaries. This is the unique glory of Bharat and Hinduism. Nearly five thousand year old ancient civilisation has welcomed, sheltered and enriched almost all major religions and races on its holy soil. The welcome that the Hindu Bharat gave to the Jews in Kerala, when their temple in Jerusalem was shattered by Roman tyrants way back in 70 A.D. is still remembered. When their home country and religion with 1000 years of civilisation were conquered by ruthless Arab armies, the Parsis from Iran reached Bharat as refugees. Recalling that epoh-making moment in the history of humanity, Piloo Nanavutty mentions some emotional episodes in his book The Parsis.
Under the Arabs, Iranians were persecuted and fled to the mountains of Kohistan in Khorasan. They stayed there for a hundred years. Then they went to Persian Gulf port of Homuz where they are said to have remained for fifteen years. From there they set sail in seven junks and arrived at Div, an island of the southern extremity of Kathiwar. They stayed there for nineteen years and again set sail, this time, for Sanjan , a small fishing village on the west coast of Gujarath, where they landed around 785, and where the local Hindu Raja, Jadav Rana gave them shelter.
After a few days, Jadav Rana issued a proclamation inviting all Persian refugees and other citizens to assemble in an open ground. Seated on a throne, Jadav Rana asked the priest of refugees, ‘what do you want from us, O strangers from a far land?’ The priest replied humbly: ‘Freedom of worship, Sire.’ ‘Granted. What else do you wish?’ asked Rana. ‘Freedom to bring up our young ones in our own traditions and customs,’ was the priest’s reply.‘Granted. What else do you want?’ enquired Rana. ‘A small piece of land to cultivate so that we may not be a burden for the people among whom we live,’ said the priest. ‘Granted. In return, what will you do for the country of your adoption?’ Rana wanted to know. At that time, the priest asked for a brass bowl to be filled with milk and brought to the assembly. This was done. He then stirred a spoonful o sugar in the bowl and holding the glass in his trembling hands he asked the assembly of citizens there if they could see any sugar in the bowl of milk. All shook their heads. Then the old priest told Rana , ‘Sire, we shall try to be like this insignificant amount of sugar in the milk of your human kindness.’
The Hindu king of Kerala had actual asked one of his courtiers to become initiated in to Christianity so that the first Christian priest who entered Bharat through the southern state of Kerala would not find it difficult to carry on his preaching in an alien language like Malayalam. Today even uneducated Bharateeya continue to help followers of Islam and Christianity build their places of worship and exist without any difficulty. In the recent times the educated West may have tolerated free speech and freedom to practise other ways of worship in their societies but Bharat has gone a step forward and respected different cultures and ideologies.
P Satish (The writer is Lecturer in English Jagruthi, a forum for spiritual and ethical values)