By Nithin Sridhar
Every country, every nation needs a narrative, a story about its past, its culture and traditions, its battles and victories, and about achievements and failures by its people. The narrative of a country defines its identity and self-hood.The narrative tells people who they are, where they came from, what heritage or what baggage do they carry from their past.
Need for a National Narrative
A country’s narrative is as much about its present and future as it is about its past. Without knowing who one is, without knowing what the nation stood for, there will be neither any clarity about present activities, nor a vision or direction about the future.Therefore, it is very vital for any nation, any country, in fact any community to have a narrative about its own-self.
If we look at various countries of the world, like China, Japan, UK, or Russia, they all have a well-defined story, a narrative about their own nations which are not only factual but are also narrated from their own world-view. It is only India which is still devoid of any such narratives. The history, politics, religion, art, culture and every other aspect of Indian life is still defined and judged based on narratives which has been created for India by people who are often inimical to India. These narratives have been created from a world-view which is completely alien to Indian concept of life as explained in my article “India is free, but Indians are still colonized.”
But, sadly, many Indians don’t realize the necessity of such a narrative and some even show apathy and dislike towards the issue.
Writing about such attitudes among Indians, Rajiv Malhotra writes:
“Unfortunately, I find Indians, especially Hindus, confused about this matter, often in denial about its significance, and even outright hostile to the very idea of having such a narrative. Many elites in Delhi have criticized my suggestion for narrative debates and discussions, calling such an activity divisive. They see India through the lens of fragments, with separate and conflicting narratives, and Hinduism as the scourge inflicting our society’s health and viability.”
Therefore, it is very vital to create an “Indian Narrative” if India ever wishes to become an independent and assertive global player. And Sanskrit will play a very central role in creation of any genuine and credible narrative about India.
Sanskrit and India’s National Narrative
Sanskrit is the mother of not only of many Indian languages but also of much of the Indian culture and lifestyle. The Vedas were transmitted by the Rishis (Seers) in Sanskrit. The treatise on dharma (duty and law), artha (wealth and administration), kama (human desires) and moksha (spiritual path) have been written and taught in Sanskrit. Much of Indian drama, dance, music, arts and every other Indian aspect of life had been explored and expressed in Sanskrit.
Just as a mother nourishes her children, Sanskrit has nourished every human expression, every human action and every aspect of human life.
A language like English can be termed as a “predatory” language, which replaces not only the word-usages in other indigenous languages, but also the ideas, thoughts and values expressed in them.
Unlike predatory languages, Sanskrit has been a “nourishing” language. It has lent its store house of knowledge and wisdom, its arts and sciences as well as its intricacies of language to other Indian languages and yet has allowed those indigenous languages to develop independently and attain zenith.
Further, the ideas of religion and philosophy, ethics and morality, arts and science, or of spirituality that have been expressed in various indigenous languages,can all be traced to the ideas expressed by various rishis and thinkers in Sanskrit.Moreover Sanskrit has influenced the culture and thought process of not only India, but also of whole South Asia and South-East Asia.
While explaining the central role that Sanskrit plays in Indian life and how India lost its strength and selfhood and became passive because of abandoning Sanskrit, Kapil Kapoor says:
“India has powerful, attested, traditions of texts and thinkers in disciplines ranging from prosody to philosophy and these are enshrined mainly in Sanskrit. By abandoning this donor Sanskrit tradition, we have become passive, uncritical recipients of Western theories and models.
“Had the classical thought enshrined in Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit texts and some of it preserved as adaptation in Old Tamil texts been made a part of the mainstream education, it would have enabled the educated Indian to interact with the west on a level ground. This tradition has attested texts and thinkers in a wide range of disciplines – philosophy, grammar, poetics, prosody, astronomy, architecture, mathematics, medicine, atmospheric sciences, sociology / ethics (dharmasastra), chemistry, physics, agriculture, economics and commerce, music, botany and zoology, weaponry and art of warfare, logic, education, metallurgy. The texts of these disciplines not only make statements about the respective domains of knowledge but also enshrine the empirical wisdom gathered by our society over centuries in these spheres.”
Hence, Sanskrit is deeply connected to Indian life and identity. A revival of Indian life and strength is possible only through a revival of Sanskrit.
Therefore, any credible narrative about India and its identity, must be a narrative of Sanskrit and its expression of Indian way of life. Only through Sanskrit, can India make a credible narrative about its Sanskriti (civilization).