IT IS ONLY APT that we begin this series on the solemn occasion of India’s Independence Day.
Even as Nawab Nehru was delivering his Tryst with Destiny speech in Delhi, a venerable sexagenarian was hunched over his writing desk in his home in Basavanagudi, Bangalore. He was penning a passionate poem, alone and away from the madding crowds celebrating freedom. Blind to the festivities and deaf to Nehru’s fatuous speech. It was his profound ode to Bharata-Mata. It was his Puja offered through poetry.
The name of the sexagenarian is D.V. Gundappa. The title of the poem is Svatantra-Bhārata Abhinandanā-Stava (Hymn to Independent Bharata).
Two months ago, The Dharma Dispatch had published an essay series analysing and contrasting Svatantra-Bhārata Abhinandanā-Stava with Nehru’s speech. But there was a sense of incompleteness. And so, starting today, we will run a new series carrying an annotated prose translation of the entire Svatantra-Bhārata Abhinandanā-Stava. To celebrate our Independence as DVG had visualised it. Which is entirely consistent with the vision of our Rishis.
THE OPENING VERSE OF DVG’s Svatantra bhārata abhinandanā stava brings alive the physical form of Bharata-Mata. It is significant that DVG does not use the term, “Bharatavarsha” throughout the work. Here is the list of adjectives DVG paints Bharata-Mata with:
Jagadakhilahitē — The bestower of peace and well-being to the whole world.
divyatējōvibhūtē — The Exalted Goddess who emanates divine radiance.
paurānī — The Ageless Goddess
puṇyavāṇi — The one who gave us the ancient wisdom couched in the Vedas, Upanishads, epics, Puranas, etc.
bahukulajanani — The Mother of countless Kulas (generally, people hailing from various backgrounds, languages, etc).
brahmavijñānadāni — The one who gave us the Knowledge of Brahman.
dharmadīkṣāpraśastē — The one who is renowned for taking the vow of Dharma and abiding by it.
This was DVG’s Bharata-Mata who obtained freedom. In the same verse, he visualises her as a Queen (rājni) who could now sit unfettered on the throne of India and chart a victorious future.
The second verse is intensely emotional, doubtless emanating from the very core of DVG’s being. He traces Bharatavarsha’s civilisational trajectory from its primordial builders like Manu, Māndhāta, and Bhagīratha all the way up to 1947. Bharata-Mata has had the fortune of being served by such illustrious and selfless kings. And then came Her great downfall in the form of centuries of enslavement.
Then, DVG asks Her a simple question which has the power to elicit tears from a rock: “O Mother, did you suffer such prolonged and excruciating servitude in order to instil Samskara in your children?” This stirringly resonates with Ananda Coomaraswamy’s moving essay titled, Mata Bharata.
Indeed, the near-total obliteration of Samskara in our political and public life is the primary reason for the crassness and criminality plaguing us. The obliteration was deliberately engineered. Today, we have high-ranking ministers who openly declare that Samskara is a Brahminical tool of oppression. Thus, DVG’s fond hope that Bharata-Mata suffered in order to re-culture her children has been cruelly shattered by them.
However, he is also not blind to the pitfalls of an independent India which had uncritically adopted democracy — an alien system of alleged self-rule, which had been untested in practice. In fact, DVG is clearly anxious when he pleads with Her: “O Mother, bless our people with purity of mind, refinement of speech, and stainless spirit so that we can sustain this self-rule forever.”
This is what DVG himself says about this verse, which was very close to his heart: “I am particular about including this poem for the reason that it indicates what I consider the supreme mission of India in the world: the oneness of the world: Narasaubhrātra, the brotherhood of all mankind; Bhēdātītadaudārya, the largeness of heart that transcends all distinctions.”
In this verse, DVG staunchly adheres to our tradition when he asks fundamental questions: what is Bharata? Is it merely a piece of earth or soil? Or is it a creation of the collective emotion (Bhāva-sr̥ṣṭi) of our people?
Like all culturally-rooted Indians, DVG too, gives the time-honoured definition of Bharata’s geographical boundaries: Āsētu śītācala — the land encompassing the Himalayas and Ramasētu. However, he expands its scope to a profound height and expanse. In DVG’s conception, Bharata is a Tejas (radiance). It is an innate awareness of the Ātma tatva reflected in the beliefs, customs, traditions and lifestyles of its inhabitants. All these are reasons why the dust of this sacred soil becomes Akṣata when we sprinkle it on our head.
This verse is one of the grandest in the annals of Indian patriotic literature. It is deeply moving and strength-giving to everyone who cares about the cultural and civilisational heritage of Bharata. It reveals DVG as an uncompromising nationalist imbued with the Riṣi-prajña (spirit of our Rishis).
He identifies three Great Unifiers of Bharatavarsha since the dawn of its civilisation: Sri Ramachandra, Asoka, and Adi Sankara.
Sri Ramachandra’s exile and then his search for Sita Devi became a blessing for Indians. This is how DVG puts it: by the mere touch of the lotus feet of Sri Rama, the people of this vast land became unified.
In Asoka’s case, this is what DVG says: the river of Asoka’s compassion transformed itself as edicts and various acts of Dharma that he undertook throughout this land. All of these united Bharata.
In Adi Sankara’s case, he unified the Six Major Hindu Schools — Śaiva, vaiṣṇava, śākta, saura, kāpāli, gāṇapatya — by embarking on a tireless philosophical journey throughout Bharata. Thus was the country and its people integrated in an unprecedented manner.
DVG ends this verse with confident optimism, declaring that the wounds of India’s partition would heal in the future because he thought that the spirit of these savants were still alive in the hearts of our people.
Here, DVG defines democracy using a single, brilliant word: Janatātmaśikṣe. There is no non-Indian word for this. A rough translation is as follows: Soul-education of the population. And he gives us a hint: for a democracy to be successful, an essential ingredient of Janatātmaśikṣe is Gaṇadharmāvēkṣe. Broadly speaking, this is the inner culture of showing self-restraint in our external behaviour and conduct.
DVG further says that Independence was just a new morning that had dawned on the Timeless Story of Bharata-Mata. He asks her to sing this morning Raga to those Indians who harbour hatred in their hearts.
This is a vigorous and stentorian call to action to the citizens of free India. It can be justly characterised as Karmabōdhini — a guide preaching Karma.
With intense feeling, DVG invokes Bharata-Mata and likens her to a Guru. And she speaks to Bharatiyas through him. And this is her message.
“The idler who is lying down on the ground with outstretched arms hoping to catch the Sūryaratha (Chariot of the Sun, a wonderfully apt metaphor) — what is his real duty? Is it to merely fill his stomach? Or should he also aspire to harmonise his material needs with his spiritual elevation?”
DVG delineates this real duty: as the Guru, Bharata-Mata has provided an immortal guidance in the form of a Sutra (aphorism). The true fulfilment of life lies in synthesising our material and spiritual lives. And then he coins a grand adjective describing her in this role: Sūtrāyōjanadēśinī.
This verse is the starkest contrast between the Nehruvian “idea of India” and DVG’s vision for Bharatavarsha. Nehru regarded India in exclusively materialist terms. It was but natural for someone who was seduced by Marxism, one of the vilest materialisms ever produced. In hindsight, we can say that if this verse was read aloud to Nawab Nehru, he would emit a dumb, incomprehensible stare.
To be continued
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