The Experience of Bharatiyata

Recently I was at a function where there was a lot of talk about Bharatiyata. It struck me suddenly that everyone had a different understanding of what the word meant. Like the story of the blind men and the elephant. I thought of doing a survey, asking many people what they meant when they used the word. I asked a question on WhatsApp and on our Telegram channel.

‘I am doing a survey with people I know. What does ‘Bharatiyata’ mean for you? What defines it, what all meaning does the word capture for you? Can you write a short paragraph of 3-4 sentences about it? Please keep it informal and write what immediately comes up in your mind.’

The responses I got were like:
‘Connection with what we may call as ‘Source’ I think is a characteristic of Bharatiyata.’

It looked like almost everyone was answering either in the ‘doing’ realm or the realm of ideas and ideologies. Very few people talked about what Bharatiyata meant in their lived experience. This I thought was because of my inability to communicate my query properly. I rephrased the question as:

‘I am doing a survey with people I know. How do you experience ‘Bharatiyata’? Can you write a short paragraph of 3-4 sentences about it? Please do not write about the experience of others or of what you have read or heard. In other words, the question is not about what you think but what you experience. Not your vichar but your anubhav. Thanks in advance for your response.’

The responses I got were like:
‘भारतीयता धार्मिकता है| यह “होने” में है…’

Much better, but this looked like something that needed going into a little bit more, and I thought that doing a ‘Dayaron se pare’ video recording with Pawanji would help. I think some important insights came up when we recorded the video. I will upload it on the SIDH channel next Saturday.

I also got a response that this is a serious question that is impossible to answer in a casual survey and that educated people like us have no experience of Bharat. The injunction was that we need to ask some expert like Samdhong Rinpocheji. This seemed a little extreme to me. My logic was that I have lived here my entire life, I have been steeped in the sights and sounds of this country, my physical body is made of this soil, I (more-or-less) speak four Indian languages, my thoughts and emotions are moulded by this land, I am deeply moved by the people, places, flora and fauna of this land. How is it that I am unqualified to talk about my experience of Bharat and Bharatiyata? 

In other words, Bharatiyata is part of my daily lived experience. Even if it is a distorted version of some ideal of what Bharatiyata should mean. What do you think?

5 replies on “The Experience of Bharatiyata”

The importance of asking this question is that people will start thinking on these lines. However, I’m not quite sure how useful most responses would be simply because many like us have no experience of Bharat. We have immense love for Bharat but not much experience of it. Consequently our answers would have half sentences, many a times copy-pasted, many a times informed and inspired from Western critique of modernity (and we may make the mistake of considering them authentic Bharatiya response to modernity).

Many like us have experience of modern spirituality. Some of us have deep experience of spirituality. Some of us even have experience of ‘religiousity’ – visiting temples, observing fasts, reading popular versions of classical texts etc. Based on these limited exposures we would begin our answer to this question. But there are very few amongst us who have experienced samajikta. There are very few who have access to classical texts in original form. Very few have tried to make sense of aesthetic traditions. We must be aware of our limitations before framing an answer to this question.

Perhaps a complimentary way to approach this question could be to sit with those individuals who have some experience of Samaj and saundarya. To sit with them not with a questionnaire but just to sit with them. And in their company using our intellectual capacity we may be able to frame a better response to the question – what is Bharatiyata.

Very interesting survey.

Arun ji….You may want to consider doing one more survey…and this time you may ask slightly different question…. “What does मनुष्यता mean for you”


I think the two words are very close to each other. Both being based on the sanaatan. (Just my current understanding. I hold on to all my opinions very strongly but I cannot ignore the fact that my opinions have changed drastically over the years. So I am not very sure, but I think that Bharatiyata and manushyata are closely linked.)

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