The Stare’s Nest By My Window

The bees build in the crevices
Of loosening masonry, and there
The mother birds bring grubs and flies.
My wall is loosening, honey bees
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

We are closed in, and the key is turned
On our uncertainty; somewhere
A man is killed, or a house burned,
Yet no clear fact to be discerned:
Come build in the empty house of the stare

A barricade of stone or of wood;
Some fourteen days of civil war;
Last night they trundled down the road
That dead young soldier in his blood:
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare,
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love; oh, honey-bees
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

-William Butler Yeats
Image Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

Sutlej Di Hawa (The Breeze of Sutlej)


, ,

When I saw you wafting through
The reed-grass fields
I fell in love  with you
I found you in my breath, and in my arms.
The stink exhaled from the Raj  Bhawans
Could not touch your pure soul
Because you rise from the currents
That enclosed in their wounded heart
The martyrs hanged in Lahore.
Here, each morn
Each night, each day, each evening
Is mournful.
Songs arise here
And  the grazier boys
Riding  upon their cattle’s backs
Wade through the  waters.
I see you lost in sadness
Your wafting currents
Become my sails
Towards islands of hope
I saw you in the trees
In the sadness of the wheat fields
In the fragrance of Kikar trees.
You can see
Right up to Kaveri
Lands being grabbed
The wheat crops being insulted
The smiling paddy being burnt
You can see
Extending far and wide the Raj Bhawans
That still hold the white man’s noose.

This sadness of yours won my heart
And I saw you in the shape of a beloved
I came away
Leaving the delicate valley of letters
In your hands.
One day the people fragrant with toil
Came to me
Riding on bullock carts
Those beautiful men
To discuss the complexities of politics
And then
One day when the sun rose
Your colourless smile
Turned  red all over.
You said:
‘Think of me as a flame.’
I shall never lose heart
Even if the darkness thickens.
Your smiles
My words
Have become the light
Of my soul
I remember the day
When you  danced
Upon my shoulders
Even today I feel
As if there’s a gun upon my shoulders
My eyes are intoxicated and
All the trees appear like warriors
Riding their horses
Their heads camouflaged with leaves
No, I’m not sad
Burma and France are astir
Slogans echo in the enemy camp
The land of India speaks out
Only one voice is heard from the jungles:
Forget love. Come and see
How the enemy goes up in flames.

-Lal Singh Dil.
transl. T.C. Ghai

Continue reading

Prophesying Fake News?



आज सुबह के अख़बार में / केदारनाथ सिंहआज सुबह के अख़बार में

एक छोटी-सी ख़बर थी
कि पिछली रात शहर में
आया था बाघ !
किसी ने उसे देखा नहीं
अँधेरे में सुनी नहीं किसी ने
उसके चलने की आवाज़
गिरी नहीं थी किसी भी सड़क पर
ख़ून की छोटी-सी एक बूँद भी
पर सबको विश्वास है
कि सुबह के अखबार मनें छपी हुई खबर
गलत नहीं हो सकती
कि ज़रूर-ज़रूर पिछली रात
शहर में आया था बाघ

(In the morning papers
There was a small piece of news
That last night
A tiger had come into the city
Nobody saw it In the darkness, nobody
Heard its footsteps
Nor on any street
A small drop of blood fell
But everyone believes
That the news in the morning papers
Cannot be false
That certainly last night
A tiger had come into the city.)

-Kedarnath Singh
Image: jamie turner on Unsplash


A tiger had come into the city.)

Dividing Line


, ,


You tore into our land
a crooked line.
That morning
we learned: the dawn
had been bitten by moths,
flying in droves, in madness
towards light. Unsure of the nature
of light, they had consumed

From above, we saw only
a silver abyss, one mile long,
either side plunged
in darkness—
the darkness of night, the darkness
of ash. We searched, sifting
the soil but found nothing.

We left, trying to preserve
at least memory. Our language,
like us, had no land.

~ ~

I say to a small boat
in black waters, alone
in infinity:

Whose pulse do you hold?
And what quivering
waters hold you?

Which direction
have you found forward?
What has lived in your past?

The wood darkens
with the night, until all
that is left is its silhouette.

There are no answers.
The air is empty, with nothing
to grasp.
In the distance, the horizon trembles
like a heartbeat.

~ ~

Tell them:
I have seen skin crushed
to a pulp, dead,
transparent as paper.
I have seen whole minds
turn to ash.
I have seen more water
than I understand,
seen humans claim
all light.

And some nights, I swear
it is so dark
even God cannot see us.

Adeeba Talukder
An ekphrastic poem after the Zarina: Dark Roads exhibit.
Image: Flag of Independence 1947 by Jimmy Engineer





Gaze, gaze into my eyes, he said
I gazed.
Take a deep breath, a deep breath, he said
I did.

Now what you see
Is only me
What you hear
is only me
See, it is dark everywhere
You see nothing

You see no one
not even me
Now you go to sleep
deep, deep sleep
you cannot open your eyes now
you try, but your eyelids are heavy
heavy with sleep.

Try, if you can, he said
I could not.
Lie down, he said
I just collapsed.

What is your country? he asked
Bharat, I said
Very good, he said

Look around, now
It is green everywhere
everywhere is plenty
and you have no hunger, he said.
My belly puffed like a ballon.
You have no cold, he said.
I was hot as if I had pissed all over myself.
Why do you bother to think, he said.
Leave that to me
You have no need to talk,
You have my talk.
Take the load of your brains off your head
You cannot think now.
Try, if you like:
I tried—
but it was a hallow boom in an empty shell.
Try, if you can talk, he said
I did,
but my balls were bashed
and my penis dangled like a pendulum.
Ah, you are my dog now,
wig-wag your tail, he said.
I looked for my tail.
Where is it? I couldn’t find it.
Die now, he said
I woke up, as from a whiplash

Translated from Kannada by Polanki Ramamurthy

This poem was written during the Emergency in India (195-1977), a 21-month state of emergency unilaterally declared Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from 1975 to 1977.

Officially issued by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed under Article 352(1) of the Constitution for “internal disturbance”, the Emergency was in effect from 25 June 1975 until its withdrawal on 21 March 1977.


Maya’s Mirror



I think there is more to life than acquaintance or social relativism. The tribal peoples connect to the earth. People who follow a lunar calendar based traditions seem to be more sensitive connecting all within the divine. Whether we reach the point of recognising our collective humility I am still to see.

When we admit in each of us is every possible experience, and in every inconsistency an admission of our own shadow.

I often reflected on the Adivasi of India. There art is often admired but as a people they are marginalised. Their connection to land decimated by land grabbing demands of economic growth. It is easy to dismiss them, in the name of progress. To ignore the consequences to the environment.

The same is true of blaming Britain  –  and Britain did much harm. The few families that controlled her were exploitative in their policies. But why do people attack it so viscously?

I suggest because there is a shadow of fear within India that Britain exploited a weakness already apart of her. Go back and read the writings of the early Hindu reformers like Ram Mohan Roy and you see they express this point.

I know people will say I dont understand “because you are a foreigner”. I hear this said of people who have lived there for decades. The divisiveness that accuses me of not being able to understand, also blocks the accuser from self-reflection.

I have witnessed the most serene and sacred. I have equally felt a cynical disgust for saffron robed businessmen pretending to be holy. Their diya plastered sanctums of self glory.

At the call of dawn, in sari and Sunday best, I wonder if we can look beyond the symbols. There is great beauty in the serene devotion of people praying before the joyful Garnesh, or to consider the sweet sacrifice of Sita.

But what of the temple that sits beside an open sewer? The beauty of marigold flows onto the street, but so do the plastic bags that clog the drains and from them  food scraps are eaten by cows, the swallowed plastic often causing agonising consequences.

It is all to easy to say that reality is an illusion and dismiss the consequences. This Maya however, is a reflection of who we are within. So how we treat others, and how we treat our world, is a mirror of how we view divine truth.

My Shiva and Parvati I am Khiron


In that moment I felt only a deep warmth for Khan Bhai: ever faithful, ever sincere.

Our eyes met.

“Salaam” he said, his fingers tracing his thoughts:”my mind, my breath, my heart”.

“Salaam alaikum” I said. I smiled, but wanted to cry.

He pulled me over in embrace. “Wa-Alaikum-as-Salaam.”

The memory still brings me to tears.  Why? I’m not a Muslim.  The farewell has no religious connotations to me. But sincerity from one of the most genuine I have ever met crosses religious boundaries.

Strangely, I am reminded of when Octavia Paz resigned his post as Mexican Ambassador to India. He could not be formerly be sent off from India because Paz had resigned in protest of his government’s oppression of protestors in his home country. Instead he was invited by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for a meal, along with Rajiv and wife Sonia.

A poet, the former ambassador met with artist friends, and then would farewell India with a trip to Elephanta.

I have flown from Mumbai many times and Elephanta still remains one home of my deepest reflections.  Like Octavia Paz, the great sculptures half lit in contrajuer  remind me of my own impermanence.

The Ardhanariswara, half man half woman, reminds us of our polar opposites we to must embrace. Like Chiron we are half animal and half divine. Eve came from Adam, say the Jews, because in Adam was first both Male and female before both aspects were manifested in separate complementary forms and yet “one flesh”.

After visiting Elephanta, Paz penned  a goodbye  that I cannot surpass:

“Shiva and Parvati:
we worship you
not as gods
but as images of the divinity of man.
You are what makes and is not,
what man will be
when he has served the sentence of hard labour.
your four arms are four rivers,
four jets of water.
Your whole being is a fountain where the lovely Parvati bathes, where she rocks like a graceful boat.
The sea beats beneath the sun:
it is the great lips of Shiva laughing;
the sea is ablaze: it is the steps of Parvati on the waters.

Shiva and Parvati:
the woman who is my wife
and I
ask you for nothing, nothing
that comes from the other world:
the light on the sea,
the barefoot light on the sleeping land and sea.”

“Thank you India for discovering myself ….. and thank you Octavia Paz” I wrote that night.

Discovered myself?  I had done nothing o the sort.

I remain incomplete, and so I return home to India.

Like Khiron the wounds of childhood leave many of us alone, a guide comes and aids us. But the wounded healer of myth, in a form of mythical euthanasia, escaped eternal pain by giving up his immortality to release Prometheus from the talons of Zeus liver gorging eagle.

My own myth must be dissolved that I can recreate my legacy.

Ram Mohan Roy: Renaissance Man of Destiny


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“The greatest creative personality of nineteenth century India” is how the Oxford History of India describes Ram Mohan Roy

A servant of man, pioneer, a cosmopolitan, “Ram Mohan Roy was “a philosophic modernist, a progressive religious thinker, anxious to emphasize the essentials of religion[1]”said Dr, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. For Gandhi Roy was “the father of advanced liberal thought in Hinduism.”

Ram Mohan Roy’s ideas bridged many contradictions.

He spread the seeds of spiritual renaissance that led to Independence, and yet welcomed Britain.

After 700 years of Muslim Rule he invited British education to rise up his people, yet Macaulay’s education reforms made “clerks, not statesmen… ‘black Englishmen’ … but not better Indians[2]” Yet failed, claimed Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, to “make the slightest impression” for 99.9% of the vast Hindu Samaj[3]

His ideas were vast, he was more than any other man, claimed S, Cromwell Crawford, who compares his failures to Jesus. Like Jesus philosophy, his ideas were a seed.

Jesus ideas died in Palestine. Jesus ideas were recrafted by St. Paul and morphed unrecognizably beyond the Nazarene. So Ram Mohan Roys ideas have been claimed by different peoples and his image reshaped by different generations He is claimed by Intelligentsia, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, humanists, and the Brahmo Samaj

Long before I ever entered India he fascinated me, along with the list of reformers that led to Gandhi and beyond. Reform is far more than spouting a religious or political ideal.

Ram Mohan Roy was a champion of dharma, but Dharma is subtle as Bhisma famously said.

The Gita ideal of duty performed detached from the outcome can take many paths reveals the Mahabharata. Similarly, Ram Mohan Roy’s ideas bridged many contradictions. “Ram Mohan Roy considered it expedient to welcome the British as agents of modernization; but had India been strong, united and enlightened, love of the fatherland would have made him forcefully resist the flying of the Union Jack on Indian soil. “ wrote Crawford. At times it was expedient to condemn, other times commend his people.

Early Life

rajaram-mohan-royTo understand him we must go back in time. We cannot condemn with the luxury of hindsight away from the pressures two centuries back. Nor see him heroically as “a modern Ullyses” to whom “all mysteries were unveiled, and all idols broken” compared to Voltaire, Volney Diderot and Herder[4].
Born in Radhanagar, Houghly District, Bengal in 1772 to an orthodox Brahmin family with the best education available. Bengal was the centre of British India, but the Mughal’s still ruled the north. Living standards plummeted as wars drained funds, Hindu and Muslim art declined. As the Mughals declined suttee, female infanticide and purdah among Hindu’s and Muslims increased. The ghosts of the Bhakti movement, and the syncretistic like Nanak or Kabir assimilated into new castes. Military ascetics terrorised the northern countryside.

But Ram Mohan’s grandfather Krishnachandra Banerji had been honoured as Raya Rayan for his service to the Nawab of Bengal. His father, a devoted Vaishnavite, was a chief of various districts and made wealth by renting a farm to the governments. He was later zamindar to the royal family of Burdwan.

Ram Mohan Roy was first educated at Patna, groomed for the Muslim courts. He praised Arabian logic, was inspired by the Quran’s monotheism and the character of the Prophet, and was fascinated by Arabian and Persian poetry.

Three years later he studied Sanskrit at Banares at the insistence of his maternal relatives who were, professional priests. At Banares he studied Vedanta, the Upanishads, Smritis, Tantra’s, and Puranas.

When returning home he questioned the validity of his families idol worship, and then left to Tibet where he is recoded to have debated for two or three years disputing with a devotee of “the living Lama”. There his experience taught him to appreciate women.

Returning home, unable to reconcile idols, he eventually left to Calcutta. leaving his wife and family in his mothers care.

His early writing argued true religion is rooted in human nature, and anything against this is a product of habit. Supernaturalism was called on to buttress invented dogmas by religious leaders seeking private glory. Detached from moral sense, rote learners of religion have lost their discrimination and made atrocities into a virtue. Preferring revelation, reason becomes a voice of Satan and fallacious arguments and legends bolster an imagined superiority.

But man has an innate capacity to rationally see the truth of one divine being and the brotherhood of all men.

Faith in God of superior understanding proves only the possibility of something, not the truth of any religious astringency . An overlord may allow different laws for different times or conditions, but could the Great Overlord make contradictory pronouncements: the worship of Hindu idols and simultaneously wage war on idolaters?

He would move into the East India company as a diwan, the highest post allowed for Indians, and be recognised or his honesty, integrity and acumen. He challenged the elitist disrespect of local custom and in Ragpur agitated against sati. He would serve the British government as an envoy in border disputes.

Significantly the speed in which he learned English. He wanted to study the English character and bridge two worlds.

Three British schools of thought

edmund-burkeEdmund Burke was indignant at the East India Company’s officers flaunting their ill gotten exploitation of Indians. Besides his moral outrage, the behaviour of the tabob revealed a constitutional threat of mercantile Mughals on British politics.

Three approaches evolved. Conservative, liberal and Utilitarian (joined by Evangelicals) and the role of greater administrators who bridged these views.

Burkes Conservative approach demanded just rule adapted to fit the specific character and circumstances of the people. It prohibited rash interference in local institutions. In 1793 The East India Company rejected missionary William Carey because conversion would plant ideas of political unrest.

Conservative rule was supported by the Orientalists, pioneered by William Jones and Charles Wilkins. Jones postulated a common ancestry to Sanskrit and Classical European languages. Jones translation of Kalidasas Shakuntela astounded the English imagination. He placed the Mahabharat and Ramayan with Shakespeare claiming Indian art made her an equal to Europe but different. He promoted respect for other cultures and the eradication of cultural ignorance.

More liberal thought took three forms: To Liberals improvement meant Western education; the utilitarian : improvement good laws and to the evangelicals that joined them Christianity and conversion.


William Bentinck

The Liberal and evangelicals efforts resulted in the Charter of 1813 and the introduction of missionaries. Governor General of India, William Bentinck was influenced by strong willed reformers John Stuart Mill and Utilitarian Jeremy Bentham. Bentham argued “the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.” Social reform had made great strides in Britain. Unrest had followed the abuses of the Industrial revolution and Bentham would push for reform, fearful of possible revolution. The Enlightenment and scientific progress had enlivened Britain Liberals believed India paralysed and moribund.

John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill

Mills text was part of the East India Companies curriculum. Social reforms in India had been previously accidental. He stridently attacked the British East India Company, British ignorance and aggression imperialism and the evils inflicted on Indian society. Mill also expressed contempt for Indian societies abject arrested development. Mill claimed religious barbarism had structured every aspect of life, government, social position laws to the deity and philosophic discussion of the divine seemed fantastic, wild and irrational, not a product of cultivated reason. Before Macaulay, he claimed William Jones was wrong to praise India’s art and poetry as Britain’s equal. The Mahabharata and Ramayana were out of touch with the physical and moral laws of the universe. Hindu saints were bound by ceremony and not the moral upliftment of the people[5].

Charles Grant

Charles Grant

While politically poles apart, Evangelicals equally sought the inner reform of society. For example, Charles Grant believed India deserved good government in return for the profits made by Britain “in order to continue to hold the advantage we derived from them.”

The British East India Company derives from the Christian Community so is duty bound o promote “the general welfare of the many millions of under its government.” However it was morally wanting compared to the “profound peace” under Aurangzeb. Improvement of government, and not its abdication, was required. Not just legislation but moral change of the evil ways rooted in the Indian people by its religion. Before Macaulay he promoted English education that would give temporal wealth and open away for the Gospel for Spiritual prosperity. Bishop Wilberforce, who helped remove slavery, supported Grants ideals.

However, the Charter of 1813 was uncritically accepted because it gave profit a righteous sanction and a pretence of morality to British rule. It was not blind to British injustice but claimed there was no alternative.

Thirdly, the Great administrators

With a foot in both camps included Mountstuart Elphinstone and Thomas Munro, preaching patience and caution.

Mountstuart Elphinstone

Mountstuart Elphinstone

Elphinstone promoted reforms but the former diplomat did not agree foreign cultures were degraded. His second arrival to India was in 1819. In Bombay he observed “I doubt whether anybody could tell me what was good for the Maharattas. I was certain that I could not, an therefore I wanted to be taught by time.”[6]

The governor of Madras, Thomas Munro, reversed Cornwallis system of of zarmindas allowing peasants proprietorship..Because of his historical knowledge, he knew that the recent wars, and not moral or religious poverty taught by evangelicals, had ravaged the land.

Moving into the 19th century, attempts to regulate European traders who had state like powers.

Ram Mohan Roys response

Ram Mohan Roy responded by a process of synthesis that encouraged internal development of the Indian people.

Within India, aristocrats be-cried the wrongful seizure of lands and the disruption of traditional values and practise. Different values prevailed: Europe treated war like science when Indian rulers considered it more a sport

Meanwhile, India’s new middle class responded to Europe in three ways: Orthodox, Radical and Liberal.

Radha Kanta Deb

Radha Kanta Deb

The Orthodox accepted political but not a cultural submission. They held tenaciously to the past and ignored the future. At first Britain agreed and missionaries were minimal. But tensions would eventually explode in the 1857 revolt. A noted advocate of this position was scholar Radha Kanta Dob, who challenged Ram Mohan Roy and formed the Patitoddhar Sabha to reclaim converts back from Christianity.

The Radicals, or Young Bengals, from Hindu College were influenced by Anglo-Indian Henry Dorozio. To embrace Western rationalism. They studies the likes of Voltaire, Hume and Bentham and looked to a national future.

“By their integrity, dignified conduct and contentiousness coupled with intellectual ability, they enhanced the self respect and evaluated the moral stature of their society. They were men of honour in whom the nationalist sentiment – the love of India-first manifested itself” wrote historian Vincent A. Smith[7].

Yet they were too radical to last beyond 1840: they rejected the past and in protest were baptised Christians, ate beef and drank beer.

The liberals led by Ram Mohan Roy blazed the middle way. Liberals rejected both the cultural isolation of Traditionalists and cultural abdication of the Radicals. They would never eat beef, yet from 1815 to 1830, Roy would promote a (then) un-Indian concept of modern nationalism that had no precedent.

This was achieved through reason from the Upanishads .

“Once this was accepted the western challenge could be met face to face. Western loans would not involve eastern apostasy; loyalty and reform could go hand in hand” wrote Anglophile Victor Smith .

Ram Mohan Roy offered both the traditional riches and future hopes, Westernized and still Hindu.

Grateful for the ‘useful mechanical arts’ introduced by the West, but to science, literature and religion “I do not acknowledge that we are placed under any obligation.”

He argues that continued Indian loyalty depended on continuing the civil liberties granted under British rule. In particular, he argues for freedom of the press. Indian princes had kept people in darkness and this inspired revolt. Free press helps good government, he argues, by revealing the errorsor injustice of leaders because of our imperfect human nature.

In 1828, he supposes ‘one hundred years hence’, discourse with Europeans, will result in the rise of Hindu nationalism, especially on occasions when restrictive regulations are applied by the British.

“His attitude toward the West was neither that of surrender, or withdrawal, or conflict. It was one of comprehension. The new world from the West was not a substitute but a supplement to the old. Synthesis, which is different from syncretism, was his remedy for the predicament of Hinduism7”

This was possible because of the organic connection of profane and spiritual inherent in tradition and dharma. In the West, Descartes had separated profane and spiritual. Hindu religion has no separate domains.

“The more real religion is, the more concerned it is with its own overcoming” wrote S. Cromwell Crawford. Nothing is therefore profane or to crass that it cannot be sanctified[8]. “In the absence of this explanation, it is difficult to explain the Raja’s reforming genius.”

Although inspired by social Christian message, Roy would be discouraged by the elitist assumption – perhaps well meaning enthusiasm – that people will want Christianity. Christianity had its own history of religious violence.

The range of Ram Mohan Roys genius in religious, political, judicial administrative and economic reform as well as his philosophy of ethics is to vast for this article.

Ram Mohan Roy sought to lift his people from degradation to divinity, from superstition to rationality. His translations of the Upanishads lifted the dark veil of Sanskrit before Hindus and invited others to appreciate Hindu thought.

His promoting Hindu monotheism made him Hindu friends and enemies, and gave him a Western audience.

The Puranas and Tantras describe gods and goddesses, he said, but admit they are an aid for the less educated, of a greater harder to grasp divine unity. Idols have divided the people into Hindu sects, belief in the nationalism of Hindu that embraced one uniting god.. It was time to ditch them and return to the Veda’s monotheism.

Ram Mohan roy offered Indians a way out of the divisive corruptions while retaining Indian self respect by rediscovering Hindu monotheism. He argued that these were an ‘allegoric adoration’   which had over time developed a life of their own and covered the truth of the one supreme being.

To deify the natural forces in a phenomenological world divides experience. Humanising elemental forces we enter into the muddy world of sectarianism: whether of Krishna, Jesus, or Mohammad.

He used the same analysis on the Christian Bible. Many Christians were fascinated to learn of Hinduisms monotheistic roots. But when Ram Mohan wrote on the moral ethic of Jesus, many Christians objected that morality was not enough unless one accepts the Deity of Jesus in the Trinity. With extensive Biblical knowledge he demonstrated that belief in the One God with appropriate moral conduct was all that was required. From the Bible alone he argued strongly against the Trinity,

Magnanimous to those who Christians helped elevate the people he hoped they would return in kind, but was disappointed when they maligned everything Indian. The poor in Europe are equally uneducated he argued. The Bible describe God in anthropomorphic terms, so why derive Hindu texts for doing the same?

Proselytizing was a breach of ethics. Ram Mohan Roy reminds the British that they see themselves as guardians of justice, so why act like savage conquerors of former times?

On the surface there are differences between Hindu and Christian, but look in to the depths of each faith and you find more similarities.

As V.G Kiernan reminds us in The Lords of Human Kind, justified complaint rests not to what the British actually did, but to how they did it. British meddling fuelled the Indian reaction and resistance begun in 1856.

Mostly, as Nehru reminds us, British rulers were lilly-hearted bureaucrats who contemplated change only if it were safe.

Ram Mohan Roy however had a grand vision. He did not choose his circumstances, but spared no effort to liberalise them. He planted a seed, and its tree has spread and morphed over generations: perhaps beyond his ideas.

[1] From S.Cromell Crawford, 1984, Ram Mohan Roy: Social political and religious reform in the 19th century India, Paragon House Publishers.

[2] Acharya Ramadeva quoted bt Gandhiin Navajivan, 20-1-1929, Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, VOL.44 :16 JANUARY, 1929 -3 FEBRUARY, 1929

[3] Ramesh Chandra Majumdar,On Mohan Roy, Asiatic Journal, 1973, p. 40.

[4] Sir Brajendra Nath Seals oration, “Ranmohan Roy: The Universal Man” 1933.

[5] In contrast, Gandhi argued Belief that sins were forgiven in Jesus removed responsibility of self improvement from a Christian but Hinduism taught responsibility in the karma doctrine.

[6] Quoted M. E. Chamberlain,1974, Britain and ndiaArchon Books, Connecticut.

[7] Vincent A, Smith p733, TheOxford History of India, ed. Percival Spear(3rd ed. Oxford Clarendon Press, 1958). It is important to note Smiths wrote under colonial ideas that India needed European “benign” guidance.

[8] A Westerner may compare this to the Jewish concept of elevating the profanr to the spiritual realm through a mitzvah or commandment performed after a blessing.

Akbar to Independence and Beyond: Middle class India and after


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The 1857 Mutiny

The 1857 Mutiny

Part four and finish of my early historic review toward Hindu nationalism, undertaken when I first arrived in India in an effort to understand her.

To large for one post, here is part four, revealing my thinking from the past. Click here to see Part 1 Akhbar to Derozio , or Part 2 Ram Mohan Roy to Macaulay. and part 3 Drabendranath Tagore to Vivekananda.

The rise of Indian nationalism was inspired by the rising Indian and Muslim middle class who success in the British system outweighed old school Muslim and Hindu.

However, following ‘the mutiny’ of 1857, British suspicions of Indian loyalty increased racial discrimination partly ‘justified’ by social theories inspired by Darwinism.

Highly educated Nationalist moderates had read English classics promoting justice, freedom and love of one’s country teaching Britain was providential; toward Indian self government.

Moderates attacked disparities but not British rule, placing them at a political disadvantage to extremist groups who could rally greater popular support under the banner of Indian symbols.

They demanded the rights and liberties of the British and constantly recalled Parliament and Queen Victoria’s promise that Indians could compete equally against English in the Indian Civil Service.

hume1However, they were a more effective, but perhaps largely forgotten, force in changing British opinion. The first meeting of The Indian National Congress was fathered by sympathetic retired civil servant Scotsman Allan Octavian Hume.

“You are the salt of the land” wrote Hume in 1883 “and if amongst even you, the elite, fifty men cannot be found with sufficient power of self sacrifice, sufficient love for and pride in their country, sufficient genuine and unselfish heart-felt patriotism to take the initiative, and if needs be, devote the rest of their lives to the Cause – then there is no hope for india.”

Bombay born Dadhabai Naoroji (1825 -1917), ‘the grand old man of India’, was the son of a Zoroastrian priest whose descendants had fled Persia after Muslim conquest. His little used family name was Dordi meaning a twisted rope made of coconut husk.

“You may burn a dordi” said Naoroji “but you can never take the twist out of it. So it is with me. When once I form a decision nothing will dislodge me from it.”

Dadhabai Naoroji

Dadhabai Naoroji

The first Indian to achieve a professorship of Mathematics, serving twenty seven years at Bombay’s Elphinstone Institution, Naoroji moved to permanently to London to help the British become aware of India’s problems. He was the first Indian elected to the house of commons and pushed for a parliamentary commission into the financial administration of India.

Naoroji bitterly condemned the costly drain of British rule on India. He praised the abolition of suttee and infanticide, destruction of thugs, the ‘remarriage of Hindoo widows and charitable aid in time of famine” “of which any nation may be rightly proud.” Britain’s civilizing influence had no debit but more could have been done. The education of male and female, ‘though only partial’ and the ‘resuscitation of India’s own noble literature’, peace and morality, freedom of speech, railways and irrigation are to be praised.

There is generally “a slowly growing desire to to treat Indians equitably” but there have been “repeated breaches of promises” to give “natives” a fair share in administration.

“No greater calamity could befall India than for England to go away and leave India to herself” Naoroji claimed. However the ‘great moral evil’ was the drain British rule placed on India.

However, Europeans isolated themselves and were not the peoples “mental, moral or social leader, or companion”. They cannot enter Indian thoughts feelings or sympathies.

British came “acquire India’s money, experience and wisdom” and carry both away with them” when they return home leaving “India so much poorer in material and moral wealth” and their pensions, without training administrative and statesman to act as ‘natural guides of the rising generations in their national and social conduct’ for future generations.

Thousands are now educated but find no positions available for them in their motherland. Potentially, they are a ‘wild, spirited horse, without curb or reins’ that could recoil on the rulers.

With ‘culpable indifference’ every effort is made to extract taxation without adequate effort to ‘increase the peoples means to pay’.

Naoroji was thrice elected president to the Indian National congress (1886. 1893, 1906) and prominent in its first session in 1885.

He asked whether ‘the days of the Rajahs like the great Vikram’ or ‘the later empire of our friends, the Mahomedans’, ‘even in the days of the great Akhbar himself’ were as important as congress second session in 1886, praising the civilizing rule of the queen that ‘made it possible for us to meet in this manner’and for Naoroji to travel without fear for his family in his absence.

Rather than preaching sedition, ‘we are loyal to the backbone’ and Congress was ‘another stone in the foundation of stability of government.’

India’s ‘great misfortune’ was British not knowing their wants, calling on the British sense of ‘fair play and justice’ of making India both self supporting by either returning wealth to her or increasing India’s material position to be able to produce more income and satisfying India’s ‘reasonable and growing political aspirations to administer her own country.

While Britain rightly expected economic return on investment it was ‘economically rude and unintelligent’ to expect public works intended for future benefit to be immediately paid for by the present generation[1].

A businessman would not pay a manager more than he earned, yet demands to Britain exceed Indian production. In his many returns to India, Naoroji served as Chief Minister to the Princely state of Paroda in 1873- 74, to prevent the crown from annexing it for mismanagement.

Moderates promoted understanding between Hindus and Muslims and Bengali Surendranath Banerjea (1848 – 1926) exhorted young men to strive for unity as a patriotic duty.

Surendranath Banerjea

Surendranath Banerjea

Called ‘surrender not’ Banerjea, the son of a Brahman doctor, he was one of the first Indians selected for Indian civil Service. Unlike the British, he was dismissed for a minor oversight, failed to have it overturned in London and failed to be admitted to the bar he returned to India convinced “the personal wrong done to me was an illustration of the impotency of our people” he was determined to spend his life “redressing our wrongs and protecting our rights, personal and collective.”

Calling young men “ the hope of your country” he used his oratorical skills to rouse Bengali and Punjabi to “lead worthy, honourable, and patriotic lives that we may all live and die happily and that India may be great.”

Just as Englishmen look back with ‘pride and satisfaction’ “when Hampden offered up his life for the deliverance of his own country, when Algerian Sydney had laid down his head on the block to rid his country of a hated tyrant.”

This principle of “Indian unity” was taught in the Punjab three hundred years ago by Nanak, ‘the immortal founder of the Sikh empire” who endeavoured “knit together Hindus and Musulmans under thee banner of a common faith.”

“We too must preach the great doctrine of peace and good will between Hindus and Mussulmans, Christians and Parsees” and all sectors of the Indian community, said Banerjea. We must meet on the “common platform …of our own countries welfare.”

“There is a common divinity, to whom we may uplift our voices in adoration. The divinity who presides over the destinies of our country” he said.

Discouraging blind loyalty to Britain, it is “unnecessary” to use violence to ‘redress our grievances. Constitutional Agitation will secure for us those rights, the privileges which in less favored countries are obtained by sterner means.”

He stubbornly apposed extremist calls against foreigners and started the tradition of welcoming imprisonment to demonstrated injustice after criticizing a judge.

Britain would grant self-government when India was prepared for it. We must take the community on “a process of steady and gradual uplift’ so there be“no sudden disturbance or dislocation” described as “the normal path of progress in Hindu society.”

Society is moving as was seen by changes to ‘the question of sea voyage, or child marriage, or even enforced widowhood’ and the ‘remarkable’ removal of ‘restrictions of caste’ including the now ‘not infrequent’ marriages ‘between hitherto prohibited sub castes of Brahmins and Kayasthas”. Twice president of Congress, he left it in 1918 to head the All-India Liberal Federation when younger congress members threatened to block the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms.

Maharashtran Mahadev Govind Ranade emerged from the Elphinstone Institution and the new Bombay University where he taught economics, history and literature. Appointed a subordinate judge in the government courts of Poona, he was barred from politics worked to reform child marriage, non marriage of widows and the seclusion of women.

Mahadev Govind Ranade
Mahadev Govind Ranade

Protected by the Western Ghats, the Maharashtran kingdoms were some of the last to fall to Europe. Established by the Marathi-Kunbi castes under Shivaji (1630? – 1680), the kingdom was ruled by his descendants, Peshwas (Prime Ministers) and later intellectual leaders of the Chitpavan Brahman caste. Even after the 1818 collapse of the Peshwa government Poona remained an intellectual centre.

An early member of the Prarthana Samaj, a prayer society modeled after Rammohun Roy’s Brahmo Samaj and founded 1887 following a visit to Bombay by Keshub Chunder Sen, Ranade admired Roy as a patriot and godly man and sought to keep its ties with Hindu society and gradually bring the orthodox around to its position.

In 1887 he founded the Indian National Social Conference and in 1890 the Industrial association of Western India.

He rejected the claim of the Brahmo and Arya Samaj for a revival of ancient faiths. In advocating a “return old ways, …old authorities and the old sanction …people speak without realizing the full significance of their own words.”

The past includes the Vedas, Smritis, Puranas, Mohuomaden and modern Hindu times. What ancient past should be revived? “Men and gods of the old days ate and drink forbidden things to excess” and lists past Nigoya system of brother in law marriage for widows. Or the eight forms of marriage that ‘included capture’, the sexual liberties ‘of the marital tie’ taken by Rishis and their wives. Or the ‘hecatombs of animals sacrificed’ “which human beings were not spared as propitiatory offerings” or flinging men into “rivers, or over rocks, or hook swinging, or the crushing beneath Jagannath car.”

Should Brahmins return to the past when they were beggars’ dependent on the king?

“A living organism, as society is, no revival is possible” argued Ranade.“Reformation is the only alternative open to sensible people”.

Revival may change the external. “It is not the outward form, but the inward form, the thought and idea which determines the outward form, that has to be changed if real reformation is to take place.”

Influenced by a social system that “set forth as isolation, submission to outward forms of power more than to the voice on inward conscience’ resulted in ‘perception of fictitious differences between men and women’, passive acquiescence” of wrong doing “indifference to secular well being, almost bordering on fatalism.”

“They prevent some of our people from being who they really are in all conscience, neither better or or worse than their fellows” he said.

Referencing Saint Paul, he says the past should be by “the fruits they have borne’ which Ranade calls ‘disastrous.’

Ranade encouraged cultivating ‘the spirit of fraternity or elastic expansiveness’ and not isolation. Every caste and sect’ splits itself off, teaching that knowledge and salvation is for an elect few. Ranade taught expanding your friends “towards a general recognition of the essential equality between and man. It will beget sympathy and power.”

Secondly, although we are ‘children of God’ he criticize being kept as children because someone in the past told you so. Rather than being helpless, he taught “that of freedom responsible to the voice of god in us.” There is “a divine principle enthroned in the heart of everyone’ and because of this power we have a duty to act.

Thirdly, “hereditary and birth explain many things, but this Law of Karma does not explain all things!” Rather than “enforce surrender” he taught ‘a new idea” that the “Law of Karma can be controlled and set back by a properly controlled will, when it has been made subservient to a higher will than ours.”

Fourth, Ranade denied that evil is inevitable in human life.

His patient, constructive, scholarly and devotion to Welfare inspired patriotism in hundreds of young man to whom he maintained constant correspondence inspiring Gokhale and Gandhi.    

Delhi 1947 Aug 15

Reflections Post Independence

For five decades following Indian Independence, writer John Murray recorded changing social attitudes across the sub continent.He argued that in the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign her consort Prince Albert inculcated a ‘respect for truth and honesty, justice, efficiency and dedication to ones duty[2]’ but self imposed cultural isolation of the British, their superior air and in some cases arrogance helped feed Indian nationalism.

Murray writes of Michael, one of the last surviving Indian officials of the Raj, reflecting on the ‘decline in values, the self seeking and intrigue, diminished sense of responsibility and the unsuitability of many of the appointments’ in India following 1948.

Under the British everything was well run, without bribery or corruption, claimed Michael. But I wonder if Michael was speaking cautiously, even subserviently, to a white man? The British were guilty of corruption – but to a far lesser scale, reflecting their smaller numbers.

Sadly, says Murray, ‘many positive values of the Raj hive off to sink like scraps in rough water, while less desirable elements of foreign rule such as exploitation and inequality, have not been vanquished in an egalitarian Utopia’.

Corruption is so bad Murray quotes a Cabinet Member from Bihar as reported in The Hindu, lamenting that ‘graft and corruption have become so rampant’ that ‘government employers do not dispose of work of even ministers without extorting bribes … Not a single official paper moved from one table to another unless the person concerned paid a bribe at each stage of its movement.’

Nehru August 15, 1947

Nehru August 15, 1947

Many Indian educated youth would wipe British colonial history as if a bad dream, writes Murray who believes Britain and India were destined to meet but that India undeniably belongs to the Indians.

Britain and India “had qualities that the other lacked and they complemented one another” like a chauvinistic male and a subservient female.

Gandhi’s success drew in part by calling on India’s strength of character and his ability to uncover the ‘flaw in the psyche of his opponent. He undermined the credibility of the British stance on many issues’ infuriating the British to ‘hopeless perplexity’ against Passive resistance.

‘Gandhi was aware of his opponent’s weaknesses, but he also knew that it was the basic decency of English representatives of the crown and members of the Indian civil Service that would enable him to win the battle against Britain.’

He respected British culture and values and ‘bore no ill will’ but confronted Britain with a spiritual-mindedness, patience and courage that gave him greater stature’.

Gandhi warning of catastrophe was sidelined by Lord Mountbatten’s determination to see a deal between Pandit Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah resulting in columns of terrified refugees crossing borders formed without consultation or without adequate warning. All in an area that had been in a state of civil war for months.

The result was the most brutal peacetime slaughter in human history that left scars on the psyche of both India and Pakistan.

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Northern princely states could decide on either nation and the Kashmiri born new Indian Prime Minister Nehru prevailed on the indecisive Hindu Maharaja Hari Sing to side with India following attacks by insurgent Muslim frontier tribesman who raped, pillaged and tortured en-route to the capital Srinagar.

The Maharaja did not hold a proposed plebiscite of the mainly Muslim region fueling Indian/Pakistan division that many Kashmere’s today use to feed their own desire of independence from either state.

Sadly, however, ‘a myriad unresolved factors in [India’s] ancient national psyche’ reactively become newsworthy while the quiet tolerant majority are ignored. Fundamentalists calling for a Theocratic State ‘threaten to fulfill India’s irrevocable destiny or send the nation spiraling off course.’

‘It is perhaps a singular Indian trait’ wrote India Today of March 31, 1990 ‘to look for scapegoats whenever the crying need is for brutal self criticism.’

Or does Indian need to again look within – as Ramakrishna, Ram Mohun Roy and others suggest – and draw on it’s Hindu Monotheistic tradition to overcome what Murray describes as an ingrained arrogance and indifference fueled by an India divided by caste or growing economic inequality?

I hope India – the land I call home – reasserts her soul.


[1] The same policy was applied to other colonies. For example, there was immediate pressure on the colony of New South Wales to be profitable.

[2] Murray, B., 2003,‘Reflections from an Indian Diary’, Wakefield Press, Kent Town

Akbar to Independence and Beyond: Debendranath Tagore to Vivekananda


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Part three of my early historic review toward Hindu nationalism, undertaken when I first arrived in India in an effort to understand her.

To large for one post, here is part three, from Debendranath Tagore to Vivekananda, revealing my thinking from the past. Click here to see Part 1 Akhbar to Derozio , or Part 2 Ram Mohan Roy to Macaulay.

Debendranath Tagore

Debendranath Tagore

Debendranath Tagore continued the spirit of Roy’s Brahmo Samaj with its monotheistic creed. Orthodox Hinduism teaches “The supremacy of the worship of Brahma, enjoining image worship for help of those who are incapable of grasping its highest truth.”

The Brahmo rejected any ”mediums, symbols or idols of any description” denying that any “book, man or image be in the way of direct communion with God.” Tagore increasingly used his intuition, arguing that the bodiless soul was in direct communion with God.

“By the soul shalt thou know the supreme soul.”

Rather, it taught ‘loving him and doing deeds pleasant in His sight … is worship” without rites and ceremonies deemed essential in religions.

He who adores God and loves man is ‘a saint’ live with good deeds and refuse to contend with others.

“Not by wealth, nor by children, but by renunciation alone, is immortality attained” he quotes explaining “renunciation is not renunciation of the world by becoming an anchorite, dwelling in the wilderness, but dwelling at home, and living in the world, all lusts of the heart should be cast out.”

Attaining God here on earth can be attained when lusts are cast out.

‘By example and precept” the Brahmo was to “hold up a beacon the highest truths of the Hindu shastras” to purify ‘our heritage’ by acting consistent with true faith we must respond sympathetically to our ‘orthodox brethren’ and ‘make every allowance for, and abstain from persecuting or alienating, those who think different from us.’

Our motherland is dear to us, he said, but religion is dearer. “Dharma is our friend in the Lord, and dharma is our guide to the next”

Keshub Chunder Sen

Keshub Chunder Sen

More radically proactive the Bengali Keshub Chunder Sen took Roy’s openness and Tagore’s intuition to and bought the Brahmo to its peak but also irrevocably damaged it. He said he was ‘baptized’ in the ‘religion of fire’ and the ‘doctrine of enthusiasm.’

Britain was divinely providential for India, claimed Sen, and self government will come to India when she is ready and able to make a reciprocal contribution to Britain. Loyalty required allegiance to queen Victoria and to the ‘sacred book’ of British paternal rule, he described as a ‘most sacred religious ceremony’ when Victoria took the title Empress of India.

“The Hindu notion of god is sublime” Kechub preached, an ‘infinite spirit‘ ‘dwelling in His glory, pervading all space, full of peace and joy” worshipped in “quiet contemplation”. The “Mohomeden” describe God as “infinite in power, governing the universe in supreme authority as Lord of all’, who is worshipped with “constant excitement and active service” as a ‘soldier, crusading against evil.”

He desired a ‘crusade’ against the caste system of India and the ‘obnoxious distinction between Brahmin and Sudra’.

Kechub dreamed of a religion that blended these qualities. He taught a New Dispensation, an Indian National church that could unite Hindu, Muslim and Christian.

India eats, thinks and breathes in an all pervasive Christian atmosphere, and Jesus and the apostles were Asians, he said.

Just as Jesus followed Moses, Paul and Peter drank the blood of Jesus and imparted it to other Christian saints, and ‘modern’ India has ‘eaten, assimilated and absorbed, making their ideas and character our own.’

“How Asia eats the flesh and drinks the blood of Europe. How the Hindu absorbs the Christian; how the Christian assimilates the Hindu!” proclaimed Kechub. “Cultivate the communion … and continuously absorb what is good and noble of each other.”

Keshub would leave the Brahmo Samaj, taking many with him, founding the BrahmoSamaj of india, but would later scandalize this group claiming it was Gods will his 13 year old daughter marry a Hindu prince contrary to the policy he formerly advocated of minimum age for Brahmo marriage.

Dayananda Saraswati

Dayananda Saraswati

Just as energetic was the stern Bengali Vedic reformer, Dayananda Saraswati who rejected idolatry after practicing a Parthiva Puja. This ‘hideous emblem of Shiva’ “allows mice to run upon its body”. “I could not bring myself to believe that the idol and Mahadeva (Great God) were one and the same God”

He argued a reformist return to the four Vedas, “the sanhita – Mantra portions only”, which he described as “the repository of knowledge and religious truth” and “are the word of God.”

“They are absolutely free from error and are an authority unto themselves” he wrote.

He called for a return to the ’primeval eternal religion’ above the ‘hostility of creeds’ rejecting what was “objectionable and false”. He forcefully attacked idolatry, stating child marriage, untouchability, the subjugation and inequality of women were not sanctioned in the Vedas.

A man’s caste should be determined by his merit and not his birth, he said. Religious knowledge should be available for all, and not just the Brahmin.

Worship should be directed to the supreme spirit Brahma who permeates the entire universe, perfection of existence, consciousness and bliss, holy omniscient, formless, unborn, infinite, almighty, just and merciful.

“Mukti or salvation means deliverance … to get rid of all suffering, and to realize god, to remain happy and free from rebirthhe argued in debate with a Christian and Muslim. This attained by practicing truth, before God and ones conscience, to know and follow the Vedas, associate with men of ‘truth and knowledge’ practicing yoga to eliminate untruth from the mind, reciting and meditating on the qualities of God, and to pray to god ‘to be steadfast in truth(gyana), realization of the reality of dharma, to keep one away from untruth, ignorance and adharma, and to free one from the woes of birth and death and obtain mukti.”

Man suffers because of his own sins and not because of Adam. Christianity limits god to that of as man who is either responsible for evil, or powerless with Satan, or Adam, he said. The Christian and Muslim God is “like a man’ with limited knowledge.

But God is unlimited, argued Saraswati, and is in no need of a prophet.

Still Saraswati could praise Western rejection of child marriage, and marriage by personal choice, the education of both boys and girls, representative assemblies and action following consultation, sacrifice for the nation, and faithfulness to duty, supporting fellow British in trade and keeping to their own fashion rather than being swayed by exotic fashion unlike English copying Indians.

At times extravagant – he claimed electricity was mentioned in the Vedas – and extremely strong, he could be acrimonious and was forced to defend himself from cobras, swordsman and thugs eventually killed when he attacked a Prince’s loose living and the woman in question had his milk laced with ground glass.

His militancy was continued by the Arya Samaj that he founded.



Perhaps the most saintly was Bengali Shri Ramakrishna (1836 – 1886) who retained his simplicity and devotion to Kali preaching a gentle faith of selfless devotion to god and ultimate ecstatic absorption in the divine. He lived in near constant meditative ecstasy, seeing meaning in the smallest incidents or seeing sita in a seeing a harlot. He experienced his first mystical trance at seven.

After 12 years of discipline at the new Hooghly river temple at Calcutta he experienced God as the Divine mother, Sita, Rama, Krishna, Mohammad and Jesus worshipping each according to their tradition.

He advised to live in the world but to fix your mind on God.

The Vedas claim ‘this world is like a chandelier, and each jiva (individual soul) is like a light in it.’

“Everything is the mind” said Ramakrishna “you can dye the mind with any colour you wish.”

“If you keep your mind in evil company, your thoughts ideas and words will be coloured with evil; but keep in the company of Bakhtas, then your thoughts ideas and words will be on God.”

If you are bitten by a snake and assert with strong conviction you are cured you will be cured.

He criticized a Christian book “in it there as only one them – sin and sin, from beginning to end” claiming the same ‘main topic’ for KeshubSen’sBrahmo-Samaj. ‘He who repeats day and night: “I am a sinner, I am a sinner,” becomes a sinner indeed.’

God dwells in us all, so we should love all mankind, but to the wicked you ‘bow at a distance” remaining calm at all times and “it is necessary … to keep occasionally the company of holy men”.

Ramakrisna used many ‘parables’: He compared our belief that we have dependant power to a child thinking boiling vegetables are alive in a pot, or a marionette. We should nor elevate ourselves because we are god, because god is also in the elephant blocking our way, or the elephant driver.

Holy men are like observers of a game of chess – better able to assess the play than the comp[editors attached to the games outcome.

A man convinced in the power of his gurus name, used it and walked on water. Hearing this the guru thought he was ‘very great and powerful, entered the water and drowned.

“When a wound is perfectly healed, the slough falls off itself; but if the slough be taken off earlier, it bleeds. Similarly, when the perfection of knowledge is reached by a man, the distinction of caste fall off from him, but it is wrong for the ignorant to break such distinctions.”

Swami_Vivekananda_JaipurRamakrisna’s western educated, Calcutta born disciple Narendranath Datta (1863-1902) became Swami Vivekananda. Born to a Kayastha family of lawyers he gave up material pursuits and studied as a sannyasi for 12 years.

In 1893 he spoke at the first world Parliament of Religions in Chicago, then toured Britian and the USA for four years. He returned India a hero setting out to regenerate his fellow Indians, enhance cultural pride and calling on them to become great by living by the highest of Indian values.

The world goes through changes in the material and spiritual planes and Europe had reached a material height and it was time for a spiritual adjustment. “In no distant date” he alleges, Indian oriental spiritual truths will “bring unto mankind once more the memory of his real nature.”

“To the Oriental the world of spirit is as real as to the Occidental is the world of the senses.” Each claims that the other is dreaming.

Man is to conquer nature, wrote Vivekananda to the Maharajah of Mysore in 1894, not just the external, physical nature, as seen by the occident, but also the “ majestic, internal nature of man, higher than the sun, moon and stars”.

“Spirituality must conquer the West” and “everyone must be ready for the conquest of the world by India” aided by ‘heroic workers’ who self sacrificingly ‘disseminate the great truths of Vedanta.’

Spiritual truth of Vedanta must be given to the West so that each nation and individual may work his own salvation.

While “no country in the world has so many laws” as the USA ‘in no country are they so little regarded.’ Rejecting their own traditions, many ‘learned priests’ are now interpreting the Bible in light of the Vedas teaching of ‘the eternity of both soul and creation, and God as our highest and most perfect nature.”

However, the material Westerners “never think beyond their own selfish ends” and could not care if Indians live or die.

His zeal to serve the downtrodden helped breach the divide between other nationalist leaders who were perceived as Western setting a pattern for later leaders like Gandhi.

He calls for independence of the unmanly aping of Western standards with rich and poor embracing pride in their heritage to strengthen their nation. Many Indians idealize the West but have never lived there to experience its problems. Some Indians ashamed of their poverty are like lesser European nations dressing like the British and ignoring their cultural nobility.

India has observed Western science ‘dazzling the yes with brilliance of Western suns’ with ‘rank materialism, plentitude of fortune, accumulation of gigantic power’ is also heard ‘discordant sounds’ in low ‘unmistakable accents, the heart rendering cries of ancient gods, cutting her to the quick.’

The contrast to the ‘shameless freedom’ of Western independence to the Indian goal of Mukti (renunciation) with stern vows , fasting’s, retreat, samadhi and the ‘search after self’ leads to the question “Here, in this world, of death and change, O man, where is thy happiness?’

New India is torn between the right to choose one’s spouse and the old idea that marriage is ‘not for sense enjoyment’, but ‘perpetuation of the race.’ This is responsible for society’s future and so society should be able to dictate marriage choice.

Blindly imitating an others ideas prevents these ideas from becoming India’s own. Western success is like the brilliant success of a short lightening strike. Nor is India perfect, and it must also learn.

Vivekananda illustrates India’s aping of the West with a short of told by Ramakrishna of a man who faulted the Hindu shastras but then suddenly one day praised the Bhagavad Gita. “Me thinks some European pandit has praised the Gita, and so has also followed suit.”

‘What is good or bad is not decided by reason, judgment, discrimination or reference to the shastras” but whether it is praised by ‘a white man’. While religious customs should be discussed, throwing our ‘Gods and Goddesses into the river Ganges’ because of ‘the disapproval of Westerners’ is not.

According to Vivekananda the ‘caste system is good. That is the only natural way of solving life.’ Isis natural that man will form themselves in groups. ‘There will always be caste.’ God is within a both a man who mends shoes or governs a country.”But that does not mean that there should be these privileges. They should be knocked on the head.”

There should be equal chances for all. Vedanta should be taught equally so that ‘everyone will work out his own salvation.’

He refused to condemn idolatry, arguing for religious reform ‘which truly means to be made ready or perfect by necessary cleaning or repairs, not by demolishing the whole thing.’

‘If you are fit to worship God-without-Form discarding any external help, do so, but why do you condemn others who cannot do the same.’

Part 4 will discuss y rise of Indian Middle class nationalism .