Mind space conquered by Sri Rama

November 11, 2007

It is the mind space not geographical space that Ram conquered
By M.D. Nalapat

Together with the teaching of the primary Indian classics, the people of this country need to re-discover their heritage. Had this columnist had a say in the matter, the Ram Sethu, to take one of several historical sites, would have been developed as a place where people from across the world can observe living history, the way they can at the Great Wall of China or the pyramids of Egypt.
The Archaeological Survey of India is an orphan department, starved of needed funds. Nor are Indian individuals and corporates given incentives to discover remnants of a heritage that is in danger of being lost through neglect. The history of India needs to be preserved in the relics of the past, of all phases

In the Knowledge Era, it is not geographical space that counts any more, but Thought Space. The nation whose people make the most significant contributions to Thought will emerge the greatest contributor to the future of humanity. It was not accidental that the British Empire was preceded by waves of invention and innovation in that small but lion-hearted country.
Today, there is no longer any value in taking over the territory of a country, for unless the people acquiesce, land is of little value. The US and several European countries have occupied both Iraq and Afghanistan in this millennium, but in neither country is there much geopolitical advantage from such a conquest. Both the Iraqi as well as the Afghan people are developing a hatred for the western peoples who run their countries that could expose Europe and North America to severe threat from jihadist violence within a generation. Only the winning over of a people can generate long-term benefit for another country, not classical western-style colonial occupation of the form seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, where—as in India—local potentates have been propped up as dummy rulers with near-zero freedom to run their own lives. Had Iraq been even 10 per cent free, such thugs as the Blackwater Gang would have been in prison rather than enjoying huge salaries while mercilessly killing civilians
It is in the context of mind space rather than geographic space that Lord Ram becomes important, for he ruled not through fear but through a mixture of love and respect. Those who were given the rights of citizens were the beneficiaries of a system of governance that relied on the cooperation and consent of the governed. The preferred modes of societal behaviour were not enforced by armed gangs in the manner that they are in today’s Riyadh and Tehran, but by a willing compliance coming from the heart, the only subservience that is real, and which in its purest form is meant only towards the Divine, whatever be the name given. Some may call the Supreme Being God, others Allah, others may worship sans a name to focus towards, yet all are as one, all are linked in a familyhood of faith and belief. If Lord Ram teaches us anything, it is the need for the unity of all those who believe in human progress to unite in its defense against those seeking to push humankind back towards strife and stagnation.
Lord Ram belongs not simply to Hindus but to all the Indic peoples equally. Indeed, to all of humankind. Which is why it was a criminal act on the part of Jawaharlal Nehru to seek to confine Lord Ram in a religious box and refuse to do the obvious, which was to incorporate the study of classics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata into school syllabi. These works are not about religion, but about a way of life designed to promote progress and harmony, and need to be internalised by each school student. It is a matter of shame that those who rule “independent” India still ignore the classics of their own land, thus giving an opportunity for some to seek to claim a monopoly over Lord Ram, who belongs to all, the way the air in the atmosphere does. Lord Ram’s magnificent example of chivalry and sacrifice can equally be a beacon for billions outside the Indian subcontinent as well as for those at home.
Lord Ram cannot be bound by religion, race or country, but the first step towards such an universalisation of the example set by him would be to ensure the incorporation of at least the Ramayana and the Mahabharata in school syllabi. It is a matter of surprise that this has never yet been attempted, despite India being “free” since 1947.
Together with the teaching of the primary Indian classics, the people of this country need to re-discover their heritage. Had this columnist had a say in the matter, the Ram Sethu, to take one of several historical sites, would have been developed as a place where people from across the world can observe living history, the way they can at the Great Wall of China or the pyramids of Egypt.
Does India’s history begin only since 1947? Well, that seems to be the view of authorities who confine VVIP visits to Rajghat, Shanti Vana, the places of martyrdom of Indira Gandhi and similar sites. While these are of significance, so too are those that emphasise the immensity of the ocean that is the history of India, and the Ram Sethu, as well as other locations associated with Lord Ram, are core in such a needed process. It is only those confident of the past that are capable of changing the future.
It is a sad truth that those “Indian” leaders who followed on the heels of the British did not pay even the attention of the colonialists to India’s heritage. The Archaeological Survey of India is an orphan department, starved of needed funds. Nor are Indian individuals and corporates given incentives to discover remnants of a heritage that is in danger of being lost through neglect. The history of India needs to be preserved in the relics of the past, of all phases, from the Vedic to the Mughal to the European. Another example of neglect is the inattention paid by the State of Maharashtra and others to the numerous sites associated with Shivaji Maharaj. Erecting statues is no substitute for neglecting his battlefields and forts. The key battlefields of India at least from Asokan times needs to be distinctively marked out and refurbished as reminders to the past. Even the scene of Indian defeats such as Plassey need to be remembered, so that the mistakes of the past can be avoided in the future. That a treasure such as the Ram Sethu is facing an imminent threat of extinction is a slur on Indian civilisation that is of a piece with the neglect of our heritage since 1947.
Lord Ram and Lord Krishna, are not names that belong to any single faith, but to all peoples of the world. Not only are they sought to be forgotten in their native land, others who seek to revive their memories are calumniated. As a people with a great future ahead of them, the population of India deserves the right to have the past of this ancient land preserved and used to create a New Indian standing proudly on the shoulders of a tradition that matches the Greeks, the Romans, the ancient Chinese, the Egyptians and others.
The attempt to confine Lord Ram into a narrow, religious box is symptomatic of those lacking confidence in the Indian people. Sadly, it is such individuals who today are in command of our destinies.
(The writer a former editor of Matrubhumi and Times of India, is now teaching International Affairs at Manipal University.)

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2 Responses to Mind space conquered by Sri Rama

  1. Namaste sir,
    My pranams to you, .I am probir Bhattacharyya a humble sitar player ,a student of Indian classical music and I want to perform.
    I seek your co-operation.
    Name-Probir Bhattacharyya.
    66/a Bisweswar choudhury lane.
    P.O-khagra. Dist-Murshidabad.A
    P.S- Berhampore.west Bengal.
    Pin-742103.
    India.
    Ph-0091-268476. STD-03482
    Mo-9474577693
    e.mail-: pb_sitar@yahoo.com
    e,mail- bhattacharyaprobir@gmail.com.

    web site: http://www.sursargam.wetpaint.com

    Thanking you.
    Probir Bhattacharyya

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