Jajmani System, Jatis and Castes

Dr Harsh Satya talks about India’s traditional Jajmani system and its linkages with jatis and castes. The word Jajmani comes from Yajman which is linked to the practice of Yajnya.

This video is recorded at the SIDH campus, Kempty, during the workshop in December 2021 by Amit of ‘Des Ki Baat‘ and will be uploaded on his channel also.

IGNCA-SIDH Dharampal centenary program

It is heartening to see that there appears to be an awakening of interest and a recognition of the importance of Dharampalji’s work. The Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) and SIDH are collaborating on a year-long program to study and popularize his writings. This program was inaugurated by a distinguished panel on 19th February, 2022. Here are some photos…

Lighting the lamp by the Minister of Culture, Arjun Ram Meghwal

Launch of the advance copy of Dharampal’s ‘Rediscovering India’.
Left to right: Ramesh Chandra Goud (Dean, IGNCA), Pawan Gupta (SIDH), Arjun Ram Meghwal (Hon. Minister of Culture), Suresh Soni (Senior RSS leader), Ram Bahadur Rai (Chairman, IGNCA), Mahesh Sharma (Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi Central University, Bihar)

Pawanji speaking at the event

One of the posters with Dharampal quotes in the lobby outside the auditorium.

I will be speaking more about the details of the program here and on our Telegram channel at https://t.me/joinchat/6L8R1CROo6AyZWM1.

Rediscovering India – Preface

(The following is an abridged version of the Preface to the second edition written by Pawanji. Take a look…)

Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, highly revered monk and founding Director (later Vice-Chancellor) of Tibetan Institute of Higher Studies, Sarnath, as well as the first elected Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile, makes an important distinction between what he calls an ‘ordinary rational mind’ and the ‘original mind’. While felicitating Dharampalji in an award ceremony jointly organised by the Infinity Foundation and the Centre for Study of Developing Societies in 2004 he said, “Buddha had an original mind. Dharampalji has an original mind.” That is a high tribute but also the best way to describe Dharampalji. To put him in any category will be limiting our understanding of the man. He was not even a graduate having left his studies mid-way in 1942 during the Quit India movement. So, to call him a Historian, a Gandhian, a Philosopher, would not do justice to him and will blinker our understanding.

Jayprakash Narayan recognised his brilliance very early and persuaded him to become the General Secretary of AVARD (Association of Voluntary Agencies for Rural Development) of which JP was the President. It was here, while studying the functioning of the newly introduced Panchayati Raj system of the Government of India that he realised the following: that Indian society functioned according to traditional idioms and beliefs, that ‘outward-looking’ (educated) Indians were completely alienated from the way our ‘ordinary’ people took their decisions and led their lives, that the educated had no understanding of our indigenous social systems and their dynamics, and that the picture of the Indian society that the educated have is all wrong.

Perhaps this and other similar experiences led him to undertake the long, intense and arduous research lasting more than 30 years in various libraries and archives both in England and in India. He wanted to know how the Indian society functioned before the British conquered it. It is difficult to imagine that what Dharampalji discovered in various archives and libraries was not seen by others before him. Gandhiji himself had referred to the existence of such records in 1931 while he was in London for the 2nd Round Table Conference. But it was Dharampalji’s sharp eye and his ability to see and cull out what others often tend to gloss over or remain oblivious to that made all the difference. What impressed him most was the relaxed and easy manner in which we were able (till the 19th century) to organize our collective life – organically and naturally.

“Rediscovering India”, being republished after a gap of almost 20 years is an important book to understand the British mind, their strategies, how India got destroyed, the ramifications of changes brought about by the British knowingly or unknowingly, the shift from societal systems to systems imposed by the State. As the Nobel prize winning author V.S. Naipaul used to say, India is a “wounded civilization.” “Rediscovering India” helps in the diagnosis of this long festering wound and points towards the path to a healthy India.

Rediscovering India – Excerpts

I have been carefully going through the ‘Rediscovering India’ document before we send it for typesetting and printing. I started copying out paragraphs that I thought were hard-hitting and am now having trouble selecting 500 words for this blog post. I have 9500 words to choose from. 🙂

Take a look…

“While there can be some controversy about the prosperity or poverty of the Indian people, or any seg­ments of them during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, the term backwardness does not in any sense apply to them then. Rather, it was the newly arrived Europeans in India who felt that the Indians applied such an appellation to them (the Europeans) for their manners and greed which were considered barbaric and uncouth, about the color of their skin which was thought to be diseased, or even the system of dowry which is said to have obtained in eighteenth century England, but to have been looked askance in eighteenth century India. By the end of the eighteenth century when large parts of India had effectively been conquered and subdued the tide obviously changed and instead the term “backwardness” or images of similar nature began to be deliberately and extensively applied to Indian society.”
– From the chapter titled ‘A question of backwardness’

“Those who have become Westernized – the Western type of commodities may be used by a very large number of people, but those whose minds have been Westernized – I think are not more than half a percent of us. Probably less, basically not more than half a million people – the officer class in the European sense of the term, which could mean scholars, administrators, army personnel, high dignitaries, managers of industry, etc. And those who are completely lost, among these half a million wouldn’t be very many, maybe a few thousand or so – the rest I think can be brought back by a movement backed by spirit and courage and hope.

“Such a movement, however, has to be of much greater dimensions and inner energy than even the freedom movement under Mahatma Gandhi. It may not be pan-India, it could be initially a regional thing, because if we are going to wait for the spark to be all over India, then we would be waiting for many generations. The spark may arise in some corner of Tamil Nadu or in Bihar or anywhere, or in areas where movements like that of Swadhyaya have made visible impact dur­ing the past three to four decades, wherever there is this feeling of ‘What happened to us’, ‘We have got lost’, ‘Let’s stand up, do something’.”
From the chapter titled ‘Five hundred years of western domination’

“What seems to have disturbed Mahatma Gandhi most during his early contact with Europe, was the manner in which the civilisation of Europe, especially of Britain, treated its own people, how it eroded their individual dignity as human beings, how it subordinated them to powerful hierarchical systems, rather than the damage done by Europe to his own country. The latter he could oppose as a patriot but the former violated his humanity. It is this former aspect which seems to have decided for him that his own country and anyone else who would listen to him should have nothing to do with such a civilisation at any stage. Yet, he failed to impart this understanding to men like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.”
From the chapter titled ‘The common grounds of slavery and modern science’

Rediscovering India

At SIDH we are republishing an out-of-print book, ‘Rediscovering India’, by Dharampalji. With a foreword by Chandra Shekharji, former Prime Minister of India, it is a book of essays and speeches (1956-1998) in which Dharampalji talks about a wide range of topics. The book has 27 chapters divided among three main sections:

  1. Indian Society at the Beginning of European Dominance and the Process of Impoverishment.
  2. Problems Faced by India after the End of European Dominance.
  3. Some European Characteristics and Their Worldwide Manifestations.

The following are some excerpts from the book:

“Over the last 40 years, Dharampal has written several articles, given many talks, read papers in conferences and seminars. These are significantly different from his research work, where he has by and large refrained from interpretations. These articles are based on the insights gained by him during the painstaking research and from his dwelling on them later on. In these articles, Dharampal is speculative, tries to conjure a picture of what the Indian society may have been like, how it may have functioned, taken its decisions, arranged its affairs, what were its ways of protest etc. before or immediately after the arrival of the British. It also tries to draw a picture of the manner in which the British may have looked at our (alien) ways and how the systems imposed by them must have contributed to disrupting the society. Perhaps for the first time the articles have been collected and put together for readers to get a glimpse into Dharampal’s world.”
From the Preface to the first edition written by Pawan Gupta in 2003.

“I think it is a false impression that the early nineteenth century British mind was in any sense concerned with economic or social backwardness of India and that its usage of terms like ‘ignorance’, ‘misery’, pertain to any socio-economic context. What obtained in the early nineteenth century Britain were a well-defined hierarchical structure, a rigorous legal system, an administrative and military structure admission to which was based on birth, patronage or purchase. To such a mind the liveliness of ordinary Indian society, its relative cohesive social structure, its educational institutions, admission to which did not depend on wealth, its joint ownership of land, etc. were points not in its favour but elements which indicated its depravity and laxity.

There was a debate in the House of Commons in 1813. Many members were of the view that the people of India and the Indian society (in spite of the turmoil and disorganisation it was passing through) were still to be envied for their enlightened manners, their tolerance, their social cohesiveness and their relative prosperity. The debate was primarily concerned with the saving of the soul of the Indian people and its main mover was the great nineteenth century Englishman, Mr. William Wilberforce. He argued that Greece and Rome were wretched till they got converted to Christianity. Therefore, it was impossible that the Indians could be happy, enlightened, in their unchristian state. Mr. Wilberforce concluded that India must be wretched, depraved and sunk deep in ignorance till they could become Christians.”
From the chapter titled ‘India must rediscover itself’.

“Having taken it for granted, on the basis of what the West popularized about itself, that the history of European man and his aspirations and theorizations had some universal validity, we also seem to have assumed that we were also capable of repeating what the West had done in the past 1,000 years of its history. The images we had of Western man were either of the individual plunderer of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, or the Western man of the twentieth century – sophisticated, polished, consider­ate, charitable, and at least theoretically, advocating equality and fraternity amongst all men. . . . We did not realize that to reach this present dazzling stage the West had to be harsh, cruel, exploitative, etc., not only to the non-Western world but to its own people for many centuries. The supposition that the West has arrived at its present democratic and welfare arrangements because these had been in-built in its medieval and early modern society is as much a myth as the supposition that the people of India led impoverished and politically oppressed lives for thousands of years.”
From the chapter titled ‘The question of India’s development’

The Fourth Political Theory

“The future world should be characterized by multiplicity; diversity should be taken as its richness and its treasure, and not as a reason for inevitable conflict; many civilizations, many poles, many centers, many sets of values on one planet and in one humanity. Many worlds.

But there are some who think otherwise. Who are aligned against such a project? Those who want to impose uniformity, the one (American) way of life, One World. And their methods are force, temptation, and persuasion. They are against multipolarity. So they are against us.”
Alexander Dugin, “The Fourth Political Theory” (2012)

Alexander Dugin is a Russian political philosopher and advisor to President Putin. In one of his books, ‘The Fourth Political theory’, he lays out an alternative to the Western, liberal, modern way of being in the world. Professor Dugin says that the three political theories that spread across the world over the last 200-250 years are – Liberalism, Communism and Fascism. And they appeared in the world in that order. Liberalism with its basis in the Individual, Communism with its basis in Class and Fascism with its basis in the Nation State, Professor Dugin says, are all different aspects of the same project of modernity, based on Cartesian materialism. And all these appeared on the world stage at the cost of the then existing diverse traditional human societal systems.

Professor Dugin says that all the three systems are totalitarian in nature and believe in universalism. Which means that they think that their way is THE ONLY way for mankind. Since Liberalism has triumphed over both Communism and Fascism, we live in a unipolar world of individualism. It is easy to see that Communism and Fascism are totalitarian, but Liberalism? Professor Dugin tells a story in an interview recorded in September 2020 and referenced later in this note. He says that his YouTube, Twitter and Gmail accounts were cancelled and he was banned from Amazon. He goes on to say that he is not unhappy about it because it proves his point about the totalitarian nature of the Western liberal establishment.

Professor Dugin says that if humanity has to be saved from its current suicidal path, we need to get out of unipolar, liberal modernity and embrace a multi-polar, multi-civilizational world of what he calls the Fourth Political Theory. Towards the end of the book he summarises the theory and says that:

“Social justice, national sovereignty and traditional values are the three main principles of the Fourth Political Theory. It is not easy to put together such a varied alliance. But we must try if we want to overcome the foe.”

His idea is to form what he calls a concentration camp for modernity by encircling it from both sides; using pre-modern traditional values and post-modern egalitarianism. The Wikipedia article on Professor Dugin says that “On 11 March 2015, the United States Department of the Treasury added Dugin to its list of Russian citizens who are sanctioned.” He must be on to something!


The Fourth Political Theory website is at: http://www.4pt.su/en
The Fourth Political Theory book is available for reading and download here.
A YouTube video with Professor Dugin explaining his theory is available here.

Andheri Raat Ke Taare

SIDH wants to bring out books written in our languages that helps us to see India, it’s samaaj, it’s ways, it’s aesthetics from our indigenous perspective. ‘Andheri Raat Ke Taare’, which was out of print for a long time, is the first book in this series. We are extremely happy that this classic has now got published. The following is the introduction that Pawanji wrote for this new edition…

ख़ुशक़िस्मत हूँ मैं। कृपा है कहीं से कि जीवन में अद्भुत और जिनके प्रति स्वतः श्रद्धा पैदा हो, ऐसे लोगों से बग़ैर ज़्यादा कोशिश किये, मिलना हुआ, और इतना ही नहीं, उनसे घरेलू सम्बन्ध बने। इनमें से एक धरमपाल जी थे और उनके मार्फ़त “गुरुजी” रवीन्द्र शर्मा के बारे में पता चला। पहली ही मुलाक़ात में आत्मीयता हो गयी। “गुरुजी’ शुद्ध मौखिक परम्परा के व्यक्ति थे। क़िस्से, कहानियाँ, अपने अनुभव में आयी बातें। उन्होंने जो देखा, सुना उसे सुनाते और उनके तार एक-दूसरे से जोड़ते जाते थे। ऐसा अहसास देते थे कि वे पढ़ते-लिखते नहीं ही होंगे। पर ऐसा नहीं था। कभी-कभार उनके मुँह से कुछ किताबों के नाम निकल पड़ते थे।

उन्हीं से सबसे पहले किशन सिंह जी चावड़ा की इस अद्भुत किताब, “अँधेरी रात के तारे” के बारे में सुना। कहीं मिली नहीं, लोगों से, जानकारों, जो लोग पढ़ने-पढ़ाने वाली जमात के थे अपनी मित्र मण्डली में, उनसे पूछा। किसी को पता नहीं। किसी ने नाम तक नहीं सुना था। फिर कहीं से एक फ़ोटो प्रति मिली। बहुत साफ़ भी नहीं थी। थोड़ा पढ़ा तो मज़ा आ गया। पहली बार किसी किताब को पढ़ते वक़्त ऐसा लगा कि, ‘भई धीरे-धीरे पढ़ो, कहीं जल्दी ख़त्म हो गयी तो?’ जैसे किसी स्वादिष्ट पकवान को सबसे बाद में खाते हैं, बचा कर रखते हैं कि स्वाद लम्बा चले, कुछ-कुछ वैसा। चाय को चुस्की लेकर पीते हैं, जल्दी नहीं, वैसा।

“गुरुजी” रवीन्द्र शर्मा जो बातें करते थे उनसे मेल खाते क़िस्से, इसमें भरे पड़े हैं। वाह। ऐसा अद्भुत और रंगीनियों से भरा, वैविध्य लिए हुए देश कभी हाल तक था-यह हमारा भारत। मज़ा आ गया सोचकर, कल्पना करके ही। और इन्होंने, किशन सिंह जी चावड़ा ने तो जीता जागता देखा है इसे। महात्मा गाँधी से लेकर, अद्भुत गाने वालियों के क़िस्से। उनकी गरिमा और हिन्दू और मुसलमान बाईजीइयों में बारीक भेद। फ़कीरों से लेकर राजाओं और महाराजाओं के क़िस्से। एक आम मन्दिर में साधारण लोगों की गाने की महफ़िल से लेकर फ़ैयाज़ ख़ॉन साहब के गायकी की बारीकियों। श्री अरविन्द से लेकर गुरुजी रवीन्द्रनाथ के क़िस्से। क्या छोड़ा? हर वर्ग, हर सौन्दर्य, हर रस को समेटे हुए अपनी सहज, साधारण भाषा में, एकदम खरे क़िस्से और इनकी पैनी दृष्टि। क्या कहने? हमलोग “गुरुजी” की पैनी दृष्टि की दाद देते थकते नहीं थे। वे वो देख लेते हैं और दिखा भी देते हैं जो हम मूढ़ों को सामने होते हुए भी नहीं दिखता। किशन सिंह जी की दृष्टि, उनकी लेखनी वैसी ही मिली।

ऐसा लगा इस किताब को तो लोगों के सामने लाना ही चाहिए। बहुत ज़रूरी है। हमारा पढ़ा-लिखा वर्ग जो आमतौर पर अपने देश के बारे में भी दूसरे देश के लोगों, या उनके पढ़ाये भारतीयों से समझता है उसे यह एक सच्चा खालिस नज़रिया भी देखने-पढ़ने को मिले तो सही, भले ही वह इन्हें काल्पनिक मानेगा। पता नहीं। सोमय्या प्रकाशन को सम्पर्क किया जिन्होंने इस किताब के हिन्दी अनुवाद को छापा था। वे अपना प्रकाशन बन्द करने का निर्णय ले चुके थे। उन्होंने ढूँढ़-ढाँढ़ कर बची हुई ५ प्रतियां मुझे भिजवायीं और कहा “आप जो करना चाहते हैं, कर सकते हैं।”

इसी के कुछ समय पहले कमलेश जी को ४ घण्टे बैठाकर “गुरुजी” रवीन्द्र शर्मा को सुनाया था। वे तो लट्टू हो गये “गुरुजी” पर। कहने लगे, “पवन जी, मेरे जीवन के सबसे अनमोल ४ घण्टे आपने मुझे दिये”। अपने भारी भरकम बीमार शरीर को वे गुरुजी के पास आदिलाबाद ले जाने को लालायित रहते। हम सब डरते रहते। गुरुजी भी। उसी समय मुझे यह “अँधेरी रात…” मिलीं। कमलेश जी को दिखायी और अपने मन की बात कि इसे दुबारा छपवाना चाहिए, बतायी। वे तुरन्त राजी हो गये। “अँधेरी रात के तारे” तो मूलतः गुजराती में लिखी गयी थी, हिन्दी में अनुवाद हुआ था। कमलेश जी को लगा कि इसे थोड़ा सा सम्पादन की ज़रूरत है। वे करने भी लग गये पर इसी बीच चल बसे। फिर उदयन वाजपेयी जी से बात हुई और उन्होंने इसे छपवाने का जिम्मा लेकर कृपा की।

“अँधेरी रात के तारे” दुबारा छप कर लोगों के पास पहुँचेगी यह सोचकर भी रोमांच हो रहा है। किताब है ही इतनी अद्भुत, आज तक फोटो प्रतियाँ करवा करवा कर अपने मित्रगणों में जो रसिक हैं उन्हें भेजता रहा हूँ। अब एक सुन्दर रूप में भेज सकूँगा, इसकी बेहद ख़ुशी है। इस तरह का साहित्य हिन्दी एवं अन्य भारतीय भाषाओं में बिखरा पड़ा है। हमारे देश का दुर्भाग्य ही कहा जा सकता है कि हमें इसकी वकत नहीं। पर कोशिश तो करनी पड़ेगी कि इस प्रकार का साहित्य आमलोगों तक बहुंचे और वे जिसे महात्मा गाँधी “भारत की आत्मा” कहते थे, इसके दर्शन कर पायें।

‘Andheri Raat Ke Taare’ is published by Vagdevi Prakashan and is priced at Rs 450. If you are interested in buying copies, we can provide the book at the following discounted price:

1-4 copies: Rs. 400 plus postage
5-10 copies: Rs. 360 plus postage
11+ copies: Rs. 315 plus postage

Please write to sidhsampark@gmail.com to take the conversation forward. Namaste!

Invisible systems and their visible effects

SIDH is going to publish ‘The White Sahibs In India’ (first published in 1937 and talked about here, here and here on this blog) by Reginald Reynolds in a month or two. I read the full book once and then started creating a final word document for printing, for which I had to pay attention to every comma and inverted comma, every italic and quotation mark. Reading the book even once is distressing and heart-wrenching and having to go through it painfully slowly is very difficult to bear. The book is relentless in graphically telling us about the dishonesty, the inhumanity, the brutality of the growth and maintenance of British rule in India. The story is told by the author using many voices – people who go along with the mainstream narrative and are happy for Britain, people who go along with the mainstream narrative but are appalled by the excesses perpetrated by the British rule, and some few voices who warn that Britain will inevitably have to pay a heavy price for its actions in India.

Anger is the appropriate first response to reading the book. It took some time to work through the anger and arrive at some form of acceptance that these things happened and that we need to acknowledge the trauma heaped on us and heal ourselves as a people. The book tells this disturbing story in clear, well-referenced terms; a story that has been carefully hidden away from us by our British-initiated, West-glorifying, India-bashing (subtly) education system. I found myself thinking that if the information in this book was presented to every Indian, our unnatural attraction to the West and its value-systems would be comprehensively broken. That brings me to the insight I wanted to present with this post. Take a look at the following excerpt:

“Our conquest there, after twenty years, is as crude as it was the first day. The natives scarcely know what it is to see the grey head of an Englishman; young men, boys almost, govern there, without society, and without sympathy with the natives. They have no more social habits with the people than if they still resided in England; nor, indeed, any species of intercourse but that which is necessary to making a sudden fortune, with a view to a remote settlement. Animated with all the avarice of age, and all the impetuosity of youth, they roll in one after another; wave after wave, and there is nothing before the eyes of the natives but an endless, hopeless prospect of new flights of birds of prey and passage, with appetites continually renewing for a food that is continually wasting.”
– The great statesman Edmund Burke speaking in 1783 about the conquest of Bengal, as quoted in The White Sahibs In India.

In my after-anger, acceptance phase, it looked like the worst excesses done by these young British men happened because they were part of a corrupting system, what Gandhiji called a satanic civilization in Hind Swaraj. I could find myself believing that they were only energetic young men merely doing their jobs, men who just wanted to make a ‘sudden fortune’. Men who, probably, were not aware of the satanic system that drove their actions. If that is possible, it got me thinking about what is it that I and people like me are not aware of, as we go about our daily lives, just doing our jobs? Going beyond the distress and anger the story causes, I found that meditating on and exploring this idea was the great gift that reading The White Sahibs In India gave me.

A sangoshthi at Jeevika Ashram (Part 2)

On the second day, I liked Sant Sameer’s presentation on bhāshā. It was informative and useful to my rudimentary interest in languages. Sant Sameer’s claim that Indic scripts (he was referring to devanāgri in particular, but I guess it would apply to all Indic scripts) represent the ‘a priori reality’, what he called ādhāra and nothing is written without it. In devanāgri the horizontal like represents this. I thought this is a serious proposition and we must take it further. It was however quite sad, when this proposition was challenged by some non-Hindi speakers, since Dravidian scripts have no horizontal (or vertical) line. I thought it would be useful for them to accept Sant Sameer’s proposition on ādhāra with an open mind and explore into similar affirmation for Dravidian scripts; is there a conception of ādhāra in these languages, and if yes, how is it represented?

In afternoon, Gopi Krishna presented his experience with Pastoralist communities in India. Gopi’s experience with these communities is very rich. His 10 min presentation was quite profound. Amongst other things, his assertion that these ghumantu communities weave together civil with wild as they move with their animals is extremely important. For example, a wandering sheep cannot be categorized as either a wild animal or domesticated. And as the shepherd walks with his flock, he weaves a symbiotic relationship between forests/grasslands and agricultural fields. Perhaps, one trait of modernity is the strict divorce between the civil and wild. In the same session, Vaibhav Kale spoke about how modern construction has limited “material palette” to only RCC and steel primarily; mud, wood, bamboo, straws, stone etc. have nearly vanished from our contemporary construction activities. In the same session, I attempted at presenting a non-utilitarian view of technology by narrating the story of Art and Society and situating technology in that.

The evening session was on the perspective of Kalā. This session took the entire 3 day meet to another level. Susruti spoke beautifully on the relation between ‘Art and Spirituality’ and Sachin shared his experiences with different materials and craftsmen from different parts of the country. I hope these presentations were recorded well and would be available soon for viewing and sharing. I am refraining from writing about them here, as I wish to only share the recordings.

Post lunch, there was a beautiful Kathaka dance performance by a troupe of young dancers. I am really impressed by Ashish’s ability to form connections with local people in Jabalpur. I think, these connections will go a long way in growth and acceptability of Jeevika Ashram in times to come.

Overall, the three days went by very quickly with some great company and very powerful presentations.

A sangoshthi at Jeevika Ashram (Part 1)

(A 3-day sangoshthi was held at Jeevika Ashram (Indrana) near Jabalpur, 24th-26th December 2021, on “Bhārtiyatā and the perspective of Ravindra Sharma “Guruji”, with contributions of around 50 participants from different parts of the country. The event was organized with the support of IGNCA, Delhi)

According to Nirukta, Bhārat is that – “prajā bharaṇa rupa” (Vāyu Puraṇa 10.45.76)

About 40km north of river Narmada in Jabalpur, about 12 km short of the 11th century Vishnu-Varaha sculpture, lies the unassuming Jeevika Ashram (near village Indrana) where Ashish and Ragini live with their daughters. As Ashish bhai succinctly puts it, Jeevika Ashram’s efforts are towards riṇapoorti of Guruji Ravindra Sharma. Almost all of us gathered for this 3-day meet have been nudged by Guruji in some way or the other. This gathering does not carry any hesitation towards the potential that is called Bhārat or Indic tradition. The sentiment towards the promise of tradition was shared by all, and hence one would naturally expect a conversation here to have seriousness.

The question however, as Pawanji emphatically said on the opening day, is not of understanding Bhārtiyatā alone, but equally important is to develop a critical understanding of western modernity which has had a debilitating impact on local cultures across the world. All of the first day was spent on this concern- how modernity has debilitated us, the people of Bhārat.

I think, as important as it is for us to have faith in Bhārat, equally important is for us to understand how western modernity works. I see no reason for us to be shy about this, to be hesitant about this. However, this is not easy. We live in times, where we conflate modern ideas with Indic ideas, often innocently. Listening to some of the speakers on the first day (and even on later days), I got this impression. Listening to many of the questions asked by the audience, I got a similar impression.

I thought it was important to spend one whole day on this question. It is certainly a difficult question to handle in public, as inevitably one is accused of hypocrisy, of over-simplification and of one-upmanship. These criticisms are valid and in fact even necessary for they prevent us from falling into an echo chamber and mutual back scratching. However, we also need not get disheartened from them, nor get defensive about our own shortcomings. In Pawanji’s words- “we are both victims and perpetrators of modernity”, acknowledging it does not mean embracing our fall or justifying it.

(Next week we will talk more about what was discussed during the 3 day sangoshthi)