Indian Civilisation and the Constitution
RNP Singh

The traditional India is the origin and source of the India of today. At the existential level it is the backbone of India. In the philosophic plane it is verily its soul. It is visible in the every walk of life, unless the ‘modern’ Indian, blinded by aggressive modernity, dismisses all traditions as backward and thereby misses their impact. India’s philosophic and spiritual quests manifest explicitly and involve and bring the ordinary people of India together time and again and connect them to their geography as a sacred idea in a manner unknown to any other civilization. In fact, the capacity of this ancient nation to bring together the people and link them in their geography, constituted the very basis of nationhood.

Indian Civilisation never attempted to extend or impose by war or force, its faith that was rooted in its geography, to peoples or nations outside its borders. So, its faith never diffused into other territories or peoples or mixed with their identities. It thus, came to be almost identified with the geography of India. Even when its religious influence spilled beyond its borders, the Indian religions fertilized the faiths and culture of host geographies, and not extend the Indian rule or dominance to the host territory. Thus, India did not attempt to impose Buddhism on China. Rather, China volunteered to accept Buddhism. Identical was the case of Hindu influence in Indonesia and other eastern countries.

The unique significance of this faith—which is the collective of the commonwealth of Hindu Civilisational faiths linked to geography of India is its non-conflicting nature. That is, being doctrinally tolerant of other faiths, it never had conflict with any other faith. On the contrary, it integrated all other faiths as part of its own ever-accommodating creed. Since it is non-conflicting, it turned out to be non-aggressive and consequently non-invasive. It believed in the principle of Sarva Dharma Sambhao (equal respect for all faith). These traditions have sustained this ancient nation and preserved its soul even in the absence of a protective government for centuries and even in spite of hostile governments seeking to undermine and destroy its soul. No ‘modern’ government can survive and sustain in this ancient nation without the continued support of this undated and un-dateable antiquity and traditions. This traditional India is also integral to spiritual India and is inseverable from it.

But, despite traditional India’s manifest importance in shaping the personality of India as a unified nation, free India’s constitutionalism and political establishment have successfully packaged and marketed ‘modern’ India as the real one. And equally successfully ‘modern’ constitutional India has trivialized the traditional India as a regrettable fallout of the forgettable past, keeping aside the pride for recall. By projecting the traditional India as quarrelsome and difficult, and therefore, backward and out of date, modern India tended to dismiss the traditional India as a burden. In the process, and presuming its assumptions about the traditional India, the modern India disconnected itself from the spiritual values that lie deep inside the heart of traditional India.

The concept of ‘modern’ India is philosophically rooted in the Anglo-Saxon model shaped and structured on the experiments and experiences of Christendom with individualism, secularism and liberalism as symbols of modernity. In short, modern India is an exotic and glamorous laboratory strenuously trying to experiment the Anglo-Saxon experiences on this ancient nation by a cut-and-paste model largely ignoring all native and indigenous ideas. This alien philosophy and exogenous institutions which collectively represented the cut and paste modernity in India have over the years disturbed traditional India’s harmony and its political interpretation has ultimately shaped as vote-bank politics.

Different judgments pronounced by the Supreme Court are consistent with the effectiveness of the traditional India in challenging the secular India’s approach to the traditional India. Take the most obvious case of Sanskrit language which is source of all ancient Indian literature and how it was virtually condemned to oblivion by ‘secular’ India and how the judiciary handled secular India’s objections to the ancient language. The ‘secular’ India had virtually declared the Sanskrit as a dead language and had even equated it with Hindu faith and imaged it as a religious language rather than a national, cultural asset. It had even implicitly contended that promoting Sanskrit would amount to promoting Hindu faith and would breach the discipline of secularism as part of the majoritarian aggression. In contrast, promotion of Urdu was considered by secular India to be part of the affirmative constitutional obligation of the State to the minorities. The judiciary however, adopted a different position and created appropriate space for Sanskrit. Interpretations of the higher judiciary of the land, assigning the Hindu way or Hindutva to the centuries old socio-cultural underpinnings of India are not an exercise of mere juristic interpretation. It is more fundamentally the acknowledgement of those social, cultural, ideational and political norms that give the people and territory of India their defining identity.

In spite of the currently fashionable denial by the purveyors of perverted secularism, of the Hindu underpinnings of India’s milieu, these underpinnings have been vested with great significance by the leaders of the freedom movement and has been subtly insistently stated in the structures of the democratic institutions set up by independent India. Our Constitution, our Parliament, our highest judiciary, and other important organs of the state recognize clearly that the ultimate sources of inspiration for shaping free India’s destiny would remain the millennia old heritage of Hindu ideals and civilisational concerns. The founding fathers of India’s political regime had no doubts in their minds that India can remain a pluralistic and democratic polity only if it adheres to the fundamental values of a democratic and pluralistic Hindutva.

This was perhaps the reason that the word Secularism was not included in the body of the Indian Constitution, as it was accepted without hesitation that a Hindu majority India would remain necessarily secular and even-handed in determining the relationship of the State with various religious denominations inhabiting the country. But during the period of emergency, in 1976, the word Secular was inserted in the Constitution, in the 42nd amendment under pressure from those who did not believe in the basic values of the Indian Civilisation. As per the 42nd amendment, in the Preamble of the Constitution, the words “Sovereign Democratic Republic” were substituted with “Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic.”

Framers of the Constitution of India seemed to be aware of the Hindu heritage of India. A perusal of the first copy of the Constitution, which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly, is most illustrative in this regard. The Constitution includes twenty-two illustrations within its main body. These illustrations are listed at the beginning of the every part of the Constitution which gives a very interesting insight. The illustrations are apparently chosen to represent various periods and eras of Indian history. The history of India has been classified into the following periods by the Constitution of India:-

I) Mahenjodaro Period
II) Vedic Period, Epic Period
III) Mahajanapada and Nanda Period
IV) Mauryan Period
V) Gupta Period
VI) Medieval Period
VII) Muslim Period
VIII) British Period
IX) India’s Freedom Movement
X) Revolutionary Movement for Freedom.

Following are the sketches chosen from the pre-Muslim period:-

I) The Mohenjodaro Seal
II) A Vedic Ashram (Gurukul)
III) Rama’s victory over the demonic forces of Lanka and the recovery of piety and virtue symbolized by Sita
IV) Shri Krishna propounding the Gita to Arjun
V) Bhagwan Budha delivering a sermon
VI) A Scene from Bhagwan Mahavir’s life
VII) The preaching of Dharma in India and abroad
VIII) Depiction of Hanuman
IX) The court of king Vikramaditya
X) The seal of the University of Nalanda
XI) A Hindu sculpture from Orissa
XII) The bronze image of Shiva Natraj
XIII) The descent of the holy Ganges on earth.

Two illustrations have been selected to represent Muslim period. These are:-
I) A portrait of Akbar
II) Portraits of Shivaji and Guru Govind Singh.

Sketches chosen from the British Period and the era of India’s freedom movement are:-
I) Tipu Sultan
II) Rani Lakshmi Bai
III) Netaji Subhash Chondra Bose
IV) Mahatma Gandhi.

A study of the illustrations included in the body of the Constitution reinforces the view that these were neither chosen arbitrarily nor without a certain point in mind. They are not merely artistic embellishment to the pages of the Constitution. On the contrary, they seem to have been selected to represent the ethos and values of India, which the Constitution seeks to reinforce through its written words. The framers of the Constitution had no doubt in their minds that the Hindu heritage of this country is the bedrock on which the spirit of the Constitution sails. Illustrations selected to represent Muslim Period also tell a story. From the whole range, only Akbar was selected who comes close to the Hindu ideals and spirit. Shivaji and Guru Govind Singhji were chosen because they fought the oppression and cruelty of the Mughal state which was acting as the instrument of Islamic religious supremacy.

Pictures chosen from the British period and the era of India’s freedom movement are also unique. Tipu Sultan and Rani Lakshmi Bai, both were inveterate warriors against European Colonial domination. Another figure chosen from the phase called ‘Revolutionary Movement for Freedom’ is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose whose gallantry and dedication raised the morale of the freedom fighters and led to wider repercussion in other section of society. The only person chosen to represent the theme of India’s Freedom Movement is Mahatma Gandhi, whose deep association with Hindu values, Hind Swaraj and Ram Rajya are no hidden facts. The Constitution of India seems have chosen Hindu icons to represent ethos.

Fragrance of Hindutuva also permeates the most important constitutional and administrative units of the Indian State. The head of the Lok Sabha is the Speaker, and what we find inscribed boldly above the chair of the speaker is the following—Dharamachakra Pravartanaya (for the turning of the wheel of righteousness). The rulers of ancient India had accepted the path of dharma as their area of exertion and the managers of free India’s politics accepted the notion by putting the Dharamchakra on the national flag, and the related motto in the central place of the highest legislative body.

The Parliament of India bears prominent reminders of the Hindu ethos at many places:

I) At door No. 1 is inscribed: Lok Devarampatraarnu Pashyematvamvayamvera (from the Chhandogya), or ‘Open the door for the welfare of the people and show them the path of noble sovereignty’.
II) At the door of the Central Hall: Ayamnijahparovetigananalaghuchetasam Udarcharitanamtuvasudhaivakutumbakam (from the Panchatantra), or ‘To think in terms of ‘me’ and ‘others’ is a narrow way; for the men of liberal character the whole world is one family’.
III) On the dome near lift No. 1: Na sasabhayatranasantivriddhah Vriddhahna to ye navadantidharmam Dharmahsa no yatranasatyamasti Satyamnatadyachhalambhyupaiti (from the Mahabharat), or ‘No assembly is a sabha which does not comprise elders; he is not an elder who does not speak according to dharma; no dharma survives without truthfulness; and every truth is necessarily devoid of cunning and deceit’.
IV) On the dome near lift No. 2: Sabha vanapraveshtaya Vaktavyamvasamanjasam Abruvanvibruvanvapi Narobhavatikilvishi (from the Manusmriti), or ‘Either do not enter the sabha or speak only according to dharma when you are inside it. Those who do not speak untruthfully and unrighteously are partakers of sin’.Impact of Hindu heritage and its value systems on the legal and administrative life of India becomes all the more apparent when one finds the core ideals adopted by various institutions. Some of the examples are as follows:

I) Government of India — SatyamevaJayate
II) Lok Sabha — Dharamchakra Parvartanaya
III) Supreme Court — Yato Dharmastatojayah
IV) All India Radio — Bahujanhitaya
V) Doordarshan — Satyam Shivam Sundram
VI) Indian Army — Seva Asmakam Dharmah
VII) Indian Navy — Shan No Varunah
VIII) Indian Air Force — Nabhah Sprisham Diptam
IX) Delhi University — Nistha Dhriti Satyam
X) Life Insurance — Yogakshemam Vahamyaham.

These ideals do not convey religious dogmas. They are civilizational values whose sanction comes from deep humanism and a commitment to a righteous way of life. They are noble virtues, ancient value system of the Hindu way of life whose adoption was deemed to be relevant for the future of the modern India’s democratic polity.

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