For the prosperity of any country, there is a need for its people to be united under a single banner. We have our national symbols like our Flags, Anthems, Emblems and so on and so forth. However, there is a need for an abstract ideal, a vision of a future, towards which a country’s people can aspire for.
The United States of America has American Exceptionalism etched into its national character. The Chinese have ‘Tianxia’ or ‘All Under Heaven’ which defines their purpose in this world. For the Japanese, it’s the Royal Line of Amaterasu which provides them with the grand narrative of their country. The British have their Monarchy and their strength derived from it.
Indians have been deprived of a grand narrative for as long as we have been independent. We have been independent for over 70 years and yet, we haven’t really defined our purpose in this world. Why does India exist? What is India’s place in this world? What is the great purpose that India is meant to serve? These are questions the answers to which we have to discover for ourselves if we are to become a dominant political force in the world.
In this article, I shall make an attempt to answer some of these existential questions. Surely, there are others far more intellectually superior than I am who are more suited to provide answers to such queries. With my limited knowledge and utmost humility, I make this attempt in the hope that it may inspire, by some stroke of great fortune, other great minds to delve upon such matters.
A Grand Narrative, by its very definition, must clearly explain the purpose of a nation’s existence. It must encompass, or at least strive to, the story of a nation from ancient history, or at least since the conception of nation-states, to a time in the great unforeseeable future.
This poses a certain challenge for India because if we are to endorse the liberal perception of the Indian state, then we are merely seventy-odd years old and a nation that is merely seventy years old has no history. It’s not unsurprising then that India hasn’t been able to come up with its own Grand Narrative as the intellectual corridors of the country continue to be dominated by people of a liberal or Marxist bent. Thus, if we are to formulate a Grand Narrative for our country, then we ought to reject outright the liberal perception of the Indian state.
Fortunately for us, there is an alternative that is readily available to us. It is the Hindutva perception of India. According to Hindutva ideologues, the Indian state is a political union of Hindus under a single nation-state. The Indian state, they say, is the custodian of the Hindu Civilization and its foremost duty is to ensure the continued existence of Hinduism. It does provide the foundation for a vision worthy of being a Grand Narrative.
Let us first evaluate the circumstances of our times. Our world is dominated by two Abrahamic religions: Christianity and Islam. There is another Abrahamic religion which is another potent regional force: Israel. They are all essentially different versions of a single memeplex: Monotheism. Our world currently is dominated by monotheism. Apart from Japan and China and India and a few other small countries, there are hardly countries today where Polytheism exerts any significant influence. Even China, it’s officially a Communist state but it has invariably displayed a tendency over the years to preserve its traditional heritage. And Japan, apart from the Grand Narrative, its people are also united by a shared race.
Thus, we arrive at a simple conclusion. India is the only heterogeneous country in the world today where the multiplicity of the Divine is not merely a stated proposition but a living reality for over a billion people. Where else would we find such a diverse community of people who worship a multitude of Gods with equal fervour? Where else would we find such a vibrant community of people for whom a multiplicity of the Divine is the normal order of the Universe? Quite unfortunately and it is with great grief that I say, there is no country which embodies such values today. India stands alone. This fact is important and I believe it would be part of our Grand Narrative.
There is another concept that has captured the Indian imagination for a long time. It is believed that there was a time, in stark contrast to the times we are living in, where Bharata was a beacon of wisdom for the whole world. Our ancestors spurned a tale of unfathomable prosperity, our land teemed with exquisite works of Art and Architecture, our Bards and Poets and Authors composed works of Literature which were unparalleled in their magnificence. Our land was home to a great many wise men who embarked upon foreign shores and spread our ideas to the world. A great many wise men borne across the world traversed great stretches of land to set their foot upon the sacred soil of Bharata and taste the fountain of wisdom that flows from its sacred rivers. We were ‘VishvaGuru’ and there is an emotional sentiment attached to that word that has not yet escaped our consciousness.
There is one question that needs to be addressed at this juncture. If we did manage to become ‘VishvaGuru’ again at any certain point of time in future, what is it that we will teach the world? What are the things that we can teach the world that it is so lacking? Historically, we have inspired the world through our philosophy. Therefore, as ‘VishavaGuru’, what is the one great philosophy that we can teach the rest of the world? As we have discussed previously, there is something extremely exclusive that we can teach the world, something our people experience every day as the routine state of affairs: The Multiplicity of the Divine. In simple words, Polytheism.
These are abstract concepts that we have discussed thus far. There is an urgent need to address a very pressing query. Who are we? And when did we come to exist as a nation? There are very complicated questions but fortunately for me, these questions have already been answered by intellectual stalwarts much before I was even born. It is on the path they forged that I now humbly tread, the path illuminated by the wisdom that was bestowed on those great men by the Devas themselves.
Without digressing any further, I put my faith in the shining wisdom of the great Hindutva stalwarts before me and say proudly that I am a Hindu. That we are Hindus and that is our identity. But again, the word Hindu is a headlight, we need a flashlight. That predicament has also been solved for me, fortunately. We are Hindus and we are descendants of the great Monarch Bharata after whom our nation is so fondly named. We are the descendants of Bharata and His subjects. Now that, dear readers, is a flashlight.
Thus, in my imagination, there are three essential components of our Grand Narrative as Indians. Firstly, India is the last bastion of Polytheism. Secondly, As VishvaGuru, we must teach the people of the world about the multiplicity of the Divine. Thirdly, we are the descendants of the Great Monarch Bharata and his subjects.
Therefore, in a synthesis of these three distinct components, I conclude that the Grand Narrative of our nation should be described thus: We are the descendants of Bharata and his subjects upon whose shoulders rests the destiny of Polytheism. And the knowledge of the multiplicity of the Divine is the greatest gift that we could offer to the world.
The ancient Romans are gone and the great Roman Gods haven’t been worshipped for many centuries. The ancient Greeks are gone and hardly remain to offer sacrifices to the Gods. Similar has been the fate of the ancient Egyptians. But we, the Hindus, are still right here. Our Gods haven’t abandoned us. And we haven’t abandoned Them.
Thus, I have finished the elaboration of my perception on what should be the Grand Narrative for India. But we need a simple word to describe our Grand Narrative. We cannot use a couple of sentences every time someone wishes to gain knowledge of our Grand Narrative. And there is only one word that I believe which could perfectly encapsulate our Grand Narrative. It is a description of our culture and Sanskriti. And it appears to me that it only fitting that our Grand Narrative be called by that name.
We are all familiar with the word. The word represents the order that we see in nature. The word represents the cosmos and everything that lies beyond. The word explains the nature of our Sanskriti. The words explain our love, devotion and dedication towards our Gods. The word denotes the sacrifices that parents make for the welfare our his children. The word explains the valour of our ancestors on the face of great adversity. It is the one word that encapsulates the entirety of our philosophy over the course of thousands and thousands of years. The word is Dharma.
It is India’s Dharma to ensure that the knowledge of the multiplicity of the Divine is not lost to the fanaticism of monotheistic religions. It is the sacred duty that we have been entrusted with. And it is this sacred duty that defines the great purpose that we must serve in the world.