It is true that the expression cultural nationalism is regarded to have been first
used by Rajnarain Bose, the grandfather of Sri Aurobindo, way back in the 19th century.
This, however, should not lead anyone to believe that Hindutva is as recent as that; Nor
was it a reaction against either Islamic or Christian pressure. The basic inspiration was
that the whole of India, despite all its diversity, was essentially one. The significance
of the word cultural is also to distinguish this nationalism from a religious impulse.
Even today, the central thrust of Hindutva is national unity.
The concept of nationalism, as distinct from mere unity, is comparatively new. Its seed
was sown by the Reformation which
overtook Christianity in 16th century Europe. The plant however blossomed some two
centuries later with the rise of the mercantile class, as distinct from the landed
aristocracy quite a part of which was the clergy that controlled the churches of Europe.
The inspirational base of nationalism became useful in reducing the power of monarchy. In
fact, until the advent of nationalism, there was little by way of a political ideology
except as provided by religion or rather Christianity.
Nevertheless, the desire of the Indian civilisation to underline its
unity was first demonstrated as long ago as some 3400 years. It was Sri Krishna who first
personified the unity of India. On his shifting from Mathura to Dwarka, Sri Krishna went
on to become president of the Andhaka-Vrisni league or confederation of five Yadava
republican committees. They were situated on the west coast of what is now called
Saurashtra, the great peninsula in Gujarat.
The area was called Prabhas and the capital was at Dwarahpuri. The city
of Prabhas Patan still throbs with life and activity. It is only a few kilometres from
Somnath. The constituent members of die Andhaka-Vrisni league had their differences and
could not pull together. Sri Krishna was keen to ensure unity but his efforts eventually
came to naught. He failed. (The Republican Trends in Ancient India by Shobha Mukherji
published by Munshiram" Manoharlal 1969).
He realised he was ahead of his time and, yet being wedded to the idea
of political unity, Sri Krishna charted a new path. He guided and supported the Pandavas
in the epic war. Eventually they emerged victorious and established a united kingdom at
Hastinapur. Soon thereafter, Yudhisthira was advised to perform the aswamedha or
the horse sacrifice with the typical intent of expanding the state. In the words of A.D.
Pusalker (The History and Culture of the Indian People edited by R.C. Majumdar and
published by Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan) there is now a general consensus of opinion in favour
of the historicity of Krishna.
Having failed to achieve political oneness with the help of republics
forming a confederation, Sri Krishna evidently went on to support King Yudhisthira to
consolidate a united kingdom presumably in hope of promoting an expanding unification. The
presumption is based on the universal adoration Sri Krishna personally received then and
is perpetuated to this day.
Everyone, at least in India, realises what Sri Krishna means to the
Hindu psyche. Just as Sri Ram exemplifies the uncompromising idealist, Sri Krishna
personifies the comprehensive realist. When a Hindu has a problem, he wonders what Kesava
would have done to solve it with his genius for the tactic and the strategy. If the Hindu
wants to understand what life is about, he resorts to the Bhagwat Gita. If he wishes to
celebrate a festival he thinks of Giridhar Gopal. If he desires frolic, he sees Gopinath.
If he looks for love, he cannot but help dreaming of Radheyshyam. Kesava, Giridhar Gopal,
Gopinath, Radheyshyam, Kanha, are sane of the many names by which Sri Krishna is referred
to, referring specifically to different facets of his personality.
No doubt, Sri Krishna is more woven into the soul of Indians than any
other avataar. The Bhagwat Gita is a gem of a philosophy, not a religious commandment, nor
even a piece of mythology Sri Krishna was predominantly a strategist whether in diplomacy
or in war. His soul was evidently wedded to a united India. Or else how could he
still be adored literally from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Kamrup to Kutch? Manipuris
on the Myanmar border are predominantly devotees of Sri Krishna. It is believed that Arjun
was sent to this border state whose princess Chitrangada was married to him. Arjun was
also reputed to have conquered a number of other territories. Similarly, his younger
brother Nakul went westwards and made quite a few conquests on the banks of river Sindhu
as well as Saraswati. Incidentally, the south was also not neglected; all theAyyangars of
Tamilnadu are devotees of Sri Krishna. In Tamil, Krishna is called Kanha and Kannan is
quite a popular name.
What else is this but cultural nationalism or Hindutva? Having accepted
Sri Krishna as the fountain head or rather the Gangotri of Hindutva, let us move to
Vishnugupt Kautilya in the fourth century B.C.A great deal of his life and work are mixed
between the light of history and the mist of legend. Traditionally the Hindu is more a
speaker or a listener; less a reader and a writer. In the event, ancient history is less
recorded than could be. Or else we might have discovered more figures who personified
Hindutva. However, let us get back to the recorded history.
Kautilya was undoubtedly the friend, guide and philosopher of
Chandragupta Maurya who was the greatest emperor that the subcontinent had known until
then. He ascended the throne of Magadha at Pataliputra in 321 B.C. In the context of
Hindutva, his achievements were several. He defeated and expelled all foreigners,
specifically the Greek conquerors and their garrisons from the soil of India. His empire
comprised all of north and a large part of eastern India. There was an urge for a
pan-Indian oneness. And behind it the brain was Kautilya's and the brawn was the emperor's
whose grandson Ashoka carried the march forward.
Ashoka's empire was larger than his grand father's but for the purpose
of Hindutva we are not concerned with kingly or imperial success. The question is who
inspired or initiated a new drive towards it he oneness of India. Adi Shankaracharya did a
great deal more than all the emperors taken together.
Although there is a controversy about the century in which the Acharya
lived his 32 hectic years, circumstantially we take it to be 8th century A.D. (Add Sankara
- His Life and Times by T.M.P.Mahadevan and published by Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan). He is
believed to have been an avatnar of Lord Shiva. For the purpose of Hindutva,
however, our interest is confined to his consciousness as to the oneness of India. And the
fact that he travelled the length and breadth of the subcontinent more than once was no
easy task to have been undertaken on foot for someone who was based in Kalady in Kerala.
He established the four dhams, namely, Dwarka, Badrinath, Puri and Kanchi/
Rameshwaram. The mission of Adi Shankaracharya went a long way in proving the essential
integrity of India. He is an important link in the long chain of Hindutva.