A Cultural Syllabus for the Judiciary

A Cultural Syllabus for the Judiciary

A slew of judgements over various aspects of the Hindu society and culture in recent times have exposed the alarming extent of the deracination of India's judiciary. We present an outline cultural curriculum in the hope of undoing this state of affairs.

Preface

A LASTING IMPRESSION THAT VEXES ME is a former Supreme Court judge’s remark during the Ram Mandir case hearings. Among other things, the judge was thoroughly flabbergasted with the octogenarian lawyer, Sri K. Parasaran’s absolute command over sacred Hindu texts, which he cited from memory. 

The incident reveals two elements simultaneously to a Hindu who is anchored to his roots. One, the utter deracination of the highest court of India. Two, Sri Parasaran was only carrying forward an immutable tradition of scholarship, cultural fealty, truth and Dharma. His arguments in court were merely the verbal expressions of this hallowed tradition. In Sri Parasaran’s own words, the reason behind his mastery over our Sastra-lore was the early training his father had given him: "For Parasaran, his father Kesava Aiyengar, also a lawyer and a Vedic scholar, was his guru… Parasaran describes himself as a combination of a sanyasi and family man, “attached to detachment and detached to attachment.”    

Like in every field in the human sphere, it is not sufficient to have a mastery over texts. One has to transcend the text to ascend and then realise the innate philosophy that unites all fields. Perhaps this is what Sri Parasaran meant in the aforementioned profile on him.

Known to recite scriptures in court, he came to be called the “Pitamaha” of the Indian Bar. He says he recites them only when they are relevant to the case. “Some may not like it. Some judges like it. I have culled out several principles of modern law from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, which I cited in the Supreme Court.    

But given the overall social and judicial climate that we are now inhabiting, lawyers of Sri Parasaran's cultural mettle are clearly endangered species.  

Products of Education

Which brings us to the foregoing point about the pervasive deracination at the highest levels of the Indian judiciary. This deracination has not occurred accidentally but is the direct and logical outcome of the Indian educational system we’ve adopted since Macaulay & Co thrust it upon us. 

But the most lethal facet of this deracination is cultural illiteracy. Over the last decade, the kind of judgements that have emanated from the SC, especially over matters related to the Sanatana society and traditions and customs are akin to advertisements of this cultural illiteracy. And because it has come from the SC, the Hindu society has all but become defenceless.

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IF FORMAL EDUCATION is a major reason for this alarming state, there is an unseen but equally significant reason: this is the generation of Hindu parents who failed their kids, failed to instil culture and tradition and the values and ideals that had sustained the Sanatana civilisation for almost a millennium and had survived the most brutal and repeated onslaughts. In this sense, the Sanatana culture cannot be taught but it has to be lived. Even more fundamentally, a spiritual culture like Sanatana Dharma wasn’t built overnight, it wasn’t the work of one person or one ashram or one book.  

If we observe the Sanatana cultural and social trajectory after “independence,” it becomes clear that today, there are almost no Hindu parents in urban India who can teach this culture to their children. And what are the avenues for kids, teenagers etc., who genuinely want to learn their own culture outside of mainstream education? Ill-informed comics, Devdutt Patnaik brand of misleading nonsense, and poorly made TV serials. On the other side, we have its deadliest  manifestation: Bollywood and web series. A Hindu attempting to learn about his own roots from these avenues is akin to taking coaching in Sanatana Dharma from a hardened Mullah.  

Much as I hate to say it, even the British couldn't do what we have done to ourselves after “independence.” 

Clearly, the people who go on to become judges have also been weaned on this toxic and roots-free “education.” And they’re not immune from its disorienting influences. Even if we set aside cultural and social matters for a while, notice who these judges rely on as authorities in constitutional or political issues: their authority figures invariably reside in the West. These authority figures continue to shape their psyche and worldview and logically, also influence the rationale behind their judgements. 

A worrying result of all this has been the severe undermining of the stature of the judiciary. This is apart from the pervasive corruption, which is common knowledge. These are not my words… there is a wealth of videos on YouTube and podcasts that use blunt language to call out the more sordid aspects of the judiciary SC citing quotations from various judgements.   

But on the cultural side, the situation is even more alarming. It appears that of late, the judiciary has singled out various aspects of Hindu Dharma, traditions, festivals, etc., for harsh treatment. The judgements on say Dahi Handi, Deepavali, Holi, Sabarimala, etc., are notable for their pronounced cultural illiteracy. The words of Sri R. Jagannathan are noteworthy in this regard: “The next time the judiciary takes up Hindu issues, Hindu petitioners should insist that they be assisted in their interpretations of Hindu rights under the law with the help of true practitioners from various sampradayas. Judicial cultural illiteracy cannot be eradicated otherwise.” (Emphasis added) 

It appears that in recent times, this judicial cultural illiteracy has been transformed into a lethal arsenal targeting the Hindu community. It would behove well for the judiciary to remember a fundamental truth: it is the Sanatana civilisation and culture that gave “independent” India its Constitution, and not vice versa. Like the Nehruvian establishment, the judiciary seems to have subconsciously assumed that India was created in 1947 or 1950. 

Equally, our esteemed judiciary should also remember an even more fundamental truth: Cultural education preserves civilisational integrity.

And so, on the urgent need for eradicating the cultural illiteracy of our judiciary, and on the even more urgent need of safeguarding our civilisational integrity, which is the only guarantee of India’s political independence, I have formulated an outline curriculum for our judiciary. This is a public-spirited endeavour.

A Cultural Curriculum

Vedic Corpus

The Ten Principal Upanishads

Literature

  1. Ramayana — Maharshi Valmiki

  2. Mahabharata — Bhagavan Veda Vyasa 

  3. The 18 Puranas 

  4. The Pancha Mahakavyas (the Five Great Poems) — (1) Kumarasambhava (2) Raghuvamsa by Kalidasa (3) Kiratarjuniya by Bharavi (4) Naiśadha-carita by Sri Harsha and (5) Śiśupāla-vadha by Magha 

The Sutra and Dharmasastra Corpus

  1. Manusmriti 

  2. Yajnavalkyasmriti

  3. Parasarasmriti 

  4. Naradasmriti

  5. Apastambha Dharmasutra

  6. Gautama Dharmasutra

  7. Baudhayana Sutras

  8. Kamasutra — Vatsyayana

  9. Arthasastra — Kautilya

  10. Chaturvarga-Chintamani - Hemadri

  11. Dayabhaga - Jimutavahana

  12. Mitakshara - Vijnanesvara

  13. Parasara-Madhaviya — Vidyaranya Swami

Note that these are some of the most authoritative works representative of the overall corpus on Hindu law, jurisprudence, society, and related aspects. Items # 11 and 12 above are commentaries on various Dharmasastras and Sutras.

And last but not the least, the monumental History of Dharmasastra in five volumes by Mahamahopadhyaya P.V. Kane. He was the walking encyclopaedia cum one-man university of law and jurisprudence. 

Postscript

As always, I live on hope and optimism and hope that our judiciary might finally be cured of its cultural illiteracy. If not that, I hope that this curriculum might at least ignite a matchstick leading to judicial deracination. 

The Sanatana civilisation and its cultural inheritance is way too precious to be left at the mercy of court judgements.

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