Patriotism, a compelling case for syncretic living

Religion gave Hindu civilisation an immutable quality of spiritual vitality that made India survive all dynasties, observed Sarojini Naidu

Take the history of the world as we know it and see how the vision of love, working and working and working in the hearts of ages has built up a great religion, a great literature, has inspired great wars has caused great victories, has made defeat worth-while because all was well lost. To what do we owe our great stories that thrill the heart of every Hindu, man and woman, excepting that vision of love that found its pious embodiment in the virtues, in the sacrifices, in the invincible courage of those heroines of our scriptures, those household words, those dreams of poet’s imagination, those embodiments of the nation’s ideals, that greatest Sita, that unconquerable Savitri, that faithful Damayanti and that Sakuntala who made her name famous in far off Germany? All these dreams are dreams of poets who behold the vision of love. Take our Rajput history. What is the one thrilling inspiration of the Rajput period excepting the honour of Padmini, which was the vindication of love?

What was it that swept those temples; those immemorial temples on the banks of the immemorial river, save the aspirations of men to reach the divine, no matter through what agony, and sacrifice and through what suffering and despair? In the case of the crusades of Palestine it was the vision of religion that made practical service possible. In India they need not be told what the vision of faith had done in building their civilization. Religion at its best had given the Hindu civilization that immutable quality of spiritual vitality that had made India survive all dynasties.

As the logical sequence from that personal human vision of love and that personal spiritual vision of faith must come the highest of all visions, the vision of Patriotism and that is a word, I think, that must find an echo in your hearts whether you have consciously or unconsciously accepted or rejected the vision of love and the vision of faith. I don’t think there is one in your midst today that has not longed for and prayed for that vision of Patriotism which alone makes a man or woman worthy to be the child of this great Motherland. And so from that personal limited vision of experience that I have spoken of, I will pass to this vision of patriotism which is a communal vision, not an individual vision.

Many amongst you have temperaments that may or may not realize, may or may not accept, may or may not benefit by the personal intensities of those individual emotions, but I believe that we in India, whether Hindus or Mahomedans, are all being consecrated in that crucible that destroys all that is mean, and we have that crucible alone to be re-shaped as vessels to pour the divine essence of love for India. And so all of us present here today are taking that communion together from a great living cup that time has shaped for us, a living cup that bears on its sides, on its golden surface not merely the design of the lotus that is the sacred symbol of the Hindus, but I see on the three other sides of that cup other symbols belonging to the other children of Bharata Mata. I see on one side the Crescent, on a second side, the Alhilal, on the third side the image of that torch that has never gone out since the exiles from Persia carried it in triumph and brought it to these shores. And on the fourth side, gentlemen, since I am a visionary, I see visions, I see the Cross that has stood for two thousand years as the symbol of the servants of Him who being a man taught I the lesson of love from the mountain top and said to the disciples, ‘It’s I, be not afraid.’ That is a vision that appeals to me.

(Excerpt published from Indian Nationalism The Essential Writings edited by S Irfan Habib, with permission from Aleph Book Company)

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