National Unity in Our Heritage

 C.V. Narasimhan    



          Jawaharlal Nehru, in his most memorable speech on the eve of Independence on the night of 14th August 1947 referred to that midnight hour and said that ‘when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom’ and that ‘the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance’. It was not as though a totally new India was being created then. The India that was a nation with centuries of tradition and culture was uncovered that day, and its free citizens embarked on a process of discovering themselves and  progressing together on the basis of a firm core of values and way of life that had always bound them together.


2.                 Our self-governance for over fifty years under the Constitution has only tended to segmentalise the people in quarrels and divisive activities arising from exercise of political power. Disproportionate coverage of such events by the mass media has further diverted the people’s attention from the underlying core of national unity. National leaders, now and then, take up the cause of ‘national integration’ in the interest of building up a strong India , but their perception of strength is measured in relation to military power and economic power in the global context. The focus on national integration in this context limits it to surface values and the facade of external behaviour of people under government patronage. There is urgent need to go deeper into the matter and help the people to scrape off the crust of years of prejudiced propaganda and discover for themselves the national unity that has existed for centuries in our glorious heritage. Some aspects of this national unity or national ethos are easily identifiable, if one reads through our country’s history, with an objective mind. It is the discovery and strengthening of such bonds in our tradition and culture that will really make for a strong nation on the march towards an egalitarian and prosperous society. Military and economic power alone will not take us forward unless we, as a nation, have a sense of identity and are bound firmly by cultural moorings and value-systems that are native to us and impart to us a sense of pride.


3.                 Ramayana and Mahabharatha, the two national epics, portray a system of values that were held high throughout India . The conduct of life under the principles of Dharma, extending protective help to the weak and poor, adherence to Truth, honouring the plighted word, promotion and feeling of brotherhood among people, the eternal fight between the good and the evil in the world and the constant need for the good to gain the upper hand in this fight are some of the values and principles projected by these epics. The fact that these epics were very well known to the common people all over India , including the remote south is very significant and indicative of the acceptance of these values by the entire community. Poems in Purananooru of the Sangam age refer to incidents in Ramayana as examples to clarify some other local events. For example, the ignorance of some poets about how to wear the jewels presented to them by a king is likened to the ignorance of the monkey in Kishkinda in handling the jewels dropped by Sita even as she was being carried away by Ravana. (Song No. 378 of Puram). Silappadhikaram has several references to Ramayana. The north Indian poet Kalidas refers to Kanchi as a pre eminent city. Valmiki praises the affluence of Kapadapuram of the Pandyan King in the south. The fact that scholars, poets and men of letters from the north and the south acquired good knowledge of each other’s domain indicates the feelings of oneness that had permeated the academic life for several centuries. Language was no barrier at all to the fostering of this feeling in the academic life throughout India .


4.                 The importance of the principles of Dharma in our life is emphatically projected at several places in Thirukkural. For example, Kural  204 in Chapter 21, reproduced below, asserts this important principle.

Thiruvalluvar emphasises that (Dharma) itself will deal with the person who plots to harm another person. The pride of place given to Dharma in the scheme of things in Ramayana and Mahabharatha is well known. The commonality of such fundamental principles that governed the conduct of people all over the country underlined their unity in community life in the midst of diversity of local administrations under different monarchical institutions.


5.       The concept of every action leading to a consequential reaction is another fundamental aspect of our national ethics from the dawn of history. Hinduism deals with this elaborately as the Law of Karma. Thiruvalluvar refers to the inviolability of this concept in his chapter on         . In modern science we find a parallel to this in Newton’s third law “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction”, which is the only one among his propositions which holds good even when we step out of earth into space!


6.         Family ties are strong in the Indian way of life. Family is recognised as the building block of society and is therefore protected by sacremental marriages and paternal responsibilities for the education of  the young. 


7.         Sanskrit was looked upon as a perfect language for the precise documentation of important matters to be preserved and passed on from generation to generation. It was not the spoken language or the mother tongue of any group of people but was the ‘official’ language for scholars and learned men for their academic purposes. It is very significant that without the pressure of government patronage, Sanskrit was effectively learnt by a large number of scholars throughout the land. Kambar knew his Sanskrit well.


8.       Despite the persistent efforts of some ‘separatists’ to seek evidence to prove that the Dravidian group of languages is a totally separate and independent stream from the Indo-Aryan group of Sanskrit and allied languages, we should take note of the very significant fact that the letters occur in that order in the alphabets of both groups. It is now surmised by research scholars that the scripts of both Sanskrit and Tamil have their origin in the Brahmi script that was in use in Central India several millennia ago. The people who had evolved the Brahmi script are the likely ancestors of all ‘Indians’ living today in the sub-continent ! We should all be conscious of this aspect of our ancestry.


9.          Indian music system too stands out unique in the world for having developed the style of Raga alapana which is common to both Hindustani and Carnatic schools. Raga alapana, which in a way provides absolute music independent of Sahitya, is a very distinguishing characteristics of our musical heritage and is present in no other system in the world. Acknowledged experts in musicology aver that the Hindustani and Carnatic schools of music are only off shoots of the same parental system of Indian music several centuries old and they are now pursued as two sub systems, but with some very significantly common features.


In conclusion it may be reiterated that the Indians of India constitute one nation with a glorious heritage of tradition and culture, some of whose characteristic features may be identified as the following:

  1. A value system, as projected in the national epics Ramayana and Mahabharatha.
  2. A feeling of oneness and mutual recognition and appreciation among the scholars and academicians acros the country, despite differences in language.
  3. Family is recognised as the building block of society.
  4. The scripts of the  languages of the Indo-Aryan group and the Dravidian group seem to have originated from the same script of the  people of an earlier age in history, native to the Indian soil.
  5. Dharmic principle in life.
  6. Action and reaction - inevitability.
  7. Indian Music System.

 The above are only some illustrative aspects. Many more may be easily identified by any objective student of history. It is this awareness of our national unity that has to be brought home to the up-coming generation of our youngsters. Their national consciousness must be awakened and aroused to lead them on a progressive path for the fulfillment of India ’s glorious destiny in the world.