Ancient undivided India lived through its hundreds of thousands of villages. Even today India lives through its villages – six lakhs of inhabited villages. Early twentieth century rural population in India was 89% and it got reduced to 72% by early twenty-first century.
Indian soul and spirit are in these villages. Here survives the time-tested ancient civilization. Spirituality is kept in tact here without getting much affected by the degenerating, war-mongering and materialism centered western civilization. Simple living and high think continue to remain the motto of one’s life in Indian villages. Mahatma Gandhi symbolized this. He understood Indian villages and its inhabitants much more than anyone else. He was the Spiritual Master of a Millennium than just a political leader who won for India political freedom from the British colonialists.
Mahatma Gandhi had the following dream to transform the villages in the independent India as follows:
“An ideal Indian village will be constructed as to lead itself to perfect sanitation. It will have cottages with sufficient light and ventilation built of material obtainable within a radius of five miles of it. The quarters will have courtyards enabling householders to plant vegetables for domestic use and to house their cattle. The village lanes and streets will be free of all available dust. It will have wells according to its needs and accessible to all. It will have houses of worship for all, also a common meeting place, a village common land for grazing its cattle, a co-operative diary, primary and secondary schools in which industrial education will be the central part, and it will have panchayaths for settling disputes. It will produce its own grains, vegetables and fruits and its own khadi.”
This remained unfulfilled as within six months of Indian independence Gandhiji fell victim to an assassin’s bullet. Post independent Indian leadership and bureaucracy had no thrill for the above. They found thrill in copying the material-centered western civilization. We are paying the price for this.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote in Hind Swaraj in 1908: “it is my deliberate opinion that India is being ground down not under the English heel, but under that of modern civilization. It is groaning under the monster’s terrible weight”.
Mahatma Gandhi’s words are living words – ageless and timeless. This sixty-two year old man had no opportunity to meet him personally. If Gandhiji lived I would have loved to meet him to sit at his feet and learn his invaluable teachings. Alas! Gandhiji’s words are living words. It is equally true of the words of Gandhiji’s doctor of village industries J. C. Kumarappa.
Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule was written by Gandhiji in 1908 during his return voyage from London and this was first published serially in the columns of the Indian Opinion. It was originally written in Gujarati and subsequently translated into Hindi, English and other languages. One-hundred years have just passed after Gandhiji’s writing this. This less than one-hundred page publication clears our doubts and provides answers to the present-day ills of the world from wars to terrorism as well as Global Warming to dreadful degenerative diseases like cancer.
As we all know Gopalakrishna Gokhale was Gandhiji’s “Rajya Guru” i.e. Political Guru. Gokhaleji only advised Gandhiji to spiritualize politics, which he literally did. But for that Gandhiji rose to become not just another man of the past millennium but truly the Spiritual Master of a millennium. It is unfortunate that in the present-day politics there is no spirituality or any principles. On the other hand religions got politicalized and lost spirituality.
In the year 1912 when Gokhaleji visited South Africa and saw the English translation of Hind Swaraj, he thought it so crude and hastily conceived that he prophesied that Gandhiji himself would destroy the book after spending a year in India.
Gokhaleji’s prediction failed. In 1921 writing about it Gandhiji said: “It teaches the gospel of love in place of that of hate. It replaces violence with self-sacrifice. It pits soul/l force against brute force. I withdraw nothing except one word of it, and that in deference to a lady friend. The booklet is a severe condemnation of modern civilization. It was written in 1908. My conviction is deeper today than ever.”
As a Youngman when I read it for the first time in 1966 I could not grasp much about it. When I re-read it in the midst of the present-day world problems, it is illuminating. My Bharath Yathra of 1999-2000, when I travelled criss-cross India from Kanyakumari to Kedarnath, saw with my own naked eyes the Indian villages and the living inhabitants sans language and religions barriers, I understood Gandhiji’s Hind Swaraj much better.
During early twentieth century India had 24 crores population and density per sq.km. was 77. After one-hundred years in early twenty-first century the population rose to 103 crores with density of population at 325 per sq.km.
Early twentieth century Indian urban population was 11% and it rose to 28% by early twenty-first century. In terms of population increase the urbanization is not that alarming. The least urbanized Indian state is Himachal Pradesh with 10% urban population. Delhi has the maximum of 93% followed by Chandigarh 90% and Pondicherry 67%. National Capital Territory Delhi is equally the Crime Capital of India, thanks to urbanization.
India today is not a Village Republic but a Republic with parliamentary democracy, copied from Great Britain. In Hind Swaraj Gandhiji wrote about British Parliament as follows:
“The condition of England at present is pitiable. I pray to God that India may never be in that plight. That which you consider to be Mother Parliaments is like a sterile woman and a prostitute. Both these are harsh terms, but exactly fit the case. That Parliament has not yet, of its own accord done a single good thing. Hence I have compared it to a sterile woman. The natural condition of that Parliament is such that, without outside pressure, it can do nothing. It is like a prostitute because it is under the control of ministers who change from time to time.
If the money and the time wasted by Parliament were entrusted to a few good men, the English nation would be occupying today a much higher platform. Parliament is simply a costly toy of the nation. These views are by no means peculiar to me. Some great English thinkers have expressed them. One of the members of that Parliament recently said that a true Christian could not become a member of it. Another said that it was a baby. And if it has remained a baby after an existence of seven hundred years, when will it outgrow its babyhood?”
Is Indian Parliament of to-day anything better?
As Gandhiji wrote the people of Europe learnt their lessons from the writings of the men of Greece or Rome, which exist no longer in their former glory. In trying to learn from them, the Europeans imagined that they will avoid the mistakes of Greece and Rome. That did not happen. Gandhiji believed that the civilization India has evolved is not to be beaten in the world. Nothing can equal the seeds sown by our ancestors. Rome went, Greece shared the same fate; the might of the Pharaohs was broken; Japan has become westernized and China followed them. As India lived though its villages it was on a sound foundation. Indian ancestors dissuaded us from luxuries and pleasures and we had no system of life-corroding competition. Each followed his own occupation or trade and charged a regulation wage. It was not that we did not know how to invent machinery, but our forefathers knew that, if we set our hearts after such things, we would become slaves and lose our moral fiber. They, therefore, after due deliberation decided that we should only do what we could with our hand and feet. They saw that our real happiness and health consisted in a proper use of our hands and feet. They further reasoned that large cities were a snare and a useless encumbrance and that people would not be happy in them, that there would be gangs of thieves and robbers, prostitution and vice flourishing in them and those poor men would be robbed by rich men. They were, therefore, satisfied with small villages. They saw that kings and their swords were inferior to the sword of ethics, and they, therefore, held the sovereigns of the earth to be interior to the Rishis and the Fakirs. A nation with a constitution like this is fitter to teach others than to learn from others.
How true Gandhiji was! In no party of the world, and under no civilization, have all men attained perfection. The tendency of the Indian civilization is to elevate the moral being, that of the Western civilization is to propagate immorality. The latter is Godless; the former is based on a belief in God. So understanding and so believing, it behooves every lover of India to cling to the old India civilization even as a child clings to the mother’s breast.
As Gandhiji writes violence breeds the results of violence, and once you start the game there is no limit to be drawn. Two World Wars to Cold Wars, Korean and Vietnam wars to Afghan and Iraq Wars, wars continue in one form or the other in the world even today. With benign sciences and malignant technologies, more than cure for dreadful degenerative diseases like cancer man acquired weapons like nuclear weapons and reached the dead-end of universal destruction.
Everyone knows how even a Chine child feared the Japanese. When a Chinese friend of Philip Mumford urged action on behalf of China, he wrote in the War Resister as follows:
“Your enemy is the Japanese Government and not the Japanese peasants and soldiers – unfortunate and uneducated people who do not even know why they are being asked to fight. Yet, if you use ordinary military methods of defending your country, it is these guiltless people who are not your real enemies whom you must kill. If only China would try and preserve herself by the non-violent tactics used by Gandhiji in India, tactics which are indeed far more in accordance with the teachings of her great religious leaders, she would, I venture to say, be far more successful than she will by copying the militarist methods of Europe. …. Surely it is a lesson to mankind in general that the Chinese, the most pacific people on earth, have preserved themselves and their civilization for a longer period of history than any of the warlike races. …. We believe that killing is evil in all circumstances and out of it good cannot come. Pacifism will not spare you from all suffering, but in the long run, it is, I believe, a more effective weapon against the would-be conqueror than all your fighting forces; and what is most important, it will keep alive the ideals of your race?”
It is not Indian and Chinese governments keep alive the ideals of their races and civilization, but the people living in villages. Ever increasing urbanization and aping the western civilization are bound to destroy this. Let India and China not have the same fate of Rome and Greece followed by Great Britain and now the United States of America.
It is worth remembering here what Colonel Thomas Munro who served in India for thirty-two years:
“If a good system of agriculture, unrivalled manufacturing skill, a capacity to produce whatever can contribute to convenience or luxury; schools established in every village, for teaching reading, writing and arithmetic; the general practice of hospitality and charity amongst each other; and above all, a treatment of the female sex, full of confidence, respect and delicacy, are among the signs which denote a civilized people, then the Hindus are not inferior to the nations of Europe; and if civilization is to become an article of trade between the two countries, I am convinced that this country (England) will gain by the import cargo.”
It is time for the western type modern educated IT driven modern young Indian men and women to apply their mind on the above and avert the dangers ahead. Otherwise no one would be alive to mourn our own death. Let the following higher values of life rule our heart: (1) fearlessness, (2) wisdom, (3) honour, (4) compassion, (5) love, (6) truth, (7) non-violence, (8) beauty, (9) worship, and (10) life, the ultimate test, be our guiding forces. Cowardism, fear, greed and passions be of the past. Treat them as forgone, forgiven and forgotten. Then alone there can be a real Indian Home Rule. Any dispute on this?
Present Indian Home Rule through a Government of a few people, for a few people and by a few people. The ultimate time has come to transform this into a Government of the people, for the people and by the people with the art and science of mobilizing the entire physical, economic and spiritual sources of all the various sections of the people in the services of the common good of all. Such a government alone can bring in Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule under which everyone will enjoy the following freedom as beautifully explained by Poet Rabindranath Tagore:
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the hoary desert of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.”