What is a nation?
What is India’s concept about nation?
What work have our rishis and ancestors done to make it a nation?”
Nation the word comes from the root word NAT, meaning ‘to be born‘.
A Nation, as various English dictionaries define, is a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory.
A writer, Ernest Renan in his book “What is a nation?” writes as follows “A nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, which in truth are but one, constitute this soul or spiritual principle. One lies in the past, one in the present. One is the possession in common of a rich legacy of memories; the other is present-day consent, the desire to live together, the will to perpetuate the value of the heritage that one has received in an undivided form”, emphasizing the democratic and historical aspects of what constitutes a nation.
The nation has been described by Benedict Anderson as an “imagined community” and by Paul James as an “abstract community”. It is an imagined community in the sense that the material conditions exist for imagining extended and shared connections. It is an abstract community in the sense that it is objectively impersonal, even if each individual in the nation experiences him or herself as subjectively part of an embodied unity with others. For the most part, members of a nation remain strangers to each other and are never likely to meet. And herein lies the origin of the phrase ‘strangers in a nation.
Now let us turn to our, Indian, perspective about the nation. We call our nation ‘Rashtra’. Our Vedas have a particular meaning attached to this noun. Atharveda deals with not only the meaning of the word but also how to manage it.
Atharvaveda says “त्वत् जाता: त्वयि चरन्ति मर्त्या: त्वं बिभर्षि”. We are born from you and we play on you, live on you. The first and most important thing about definition of Rashtra is that one needs to love one’s own country to define it, understand it. Country is not mere a piece of land that we fight for it or draw borders. It is a place which is to be loved and worshipped. Many people say “Am Indian, as I am born on this land”. I want to ask them a question “Are you just a citizen because you were born here or as the Constitution of the land says so?” Let me clarify that have the deepest respect for the Constitution of India. But just because the Constitution says so, I believe it! Is there no other reason to believe that one is a citizen of India? So my argument is that if our modern founding fathers would have not stated it, I wouldn’t be a citizen of this country? Is there a feeling, deep inside, that I should have been born in USA or Europe or any other part of the world, but India and lived there? Such people / citizens are more dangerous for the country than Her enemies. So first and foremost one needs to love Her. One needs to feel that I belong to Her.
Next, the Atharvaveda also says, “यस्या: पुरो देवकृता: यस्या: पुरो देवरक्षिता:” This country is made by the Gods and is protected by the Gods. It is the Gods who have made it for me to play on. Only when a person understands and feels this, would he make a good citizen.
Now when we are discussing this, let us also be clear that Veda’s are not talking only about India, but the abovesaid sentences are for each and every citizen of all the countries in the known world. But our common argument is that as it is written in Sanskrit so it is applicable only to India. I ask “Can language be a barrier to any good thought with an universal outlook?”
When we understand and feel the above thoughts, we can define a Rashtra. Am too small to define the same so would take help from my teacher, Pujaniya Pandurang Shashtriji Athavale. He propounds that a country is one which has its own :
1. विशिष्ट विचारधारा (a particular yet outstanding way of thinking / ideology)
2. विशिष्ट परंपरा (a particular yet outstanding tradition)
3. विशिष्ट जीवनश्रेणी (a particular yet outstanding way of living)
4. विशिष्ट धार्मिक दृष्टि (a particular yet outstanding religious view)
5. विशिष्ट आध्यात्मिक कल्पना (a particular yet outstanding spiritual outlook)
So the day we are able to think about our own country in these five aspects we will be able to grasp what our country is. And the need to love it.
An independent blog can be written on each of the above aspects with context to India (and every other country), but maybe later.
I leave it upto my readers to think about these aspects, and will write when my motherland, India, inspires me to write about it.
At the end I just want to emphasize that first we need to love our country. Feel Her. Understand Her. And for this as our seers said “चरैवेति चरैवेति”. (Walk on, Tread on).
Today I make a request to all my readers that before embarking on a trip to any foreign land, let’s go around our own country, first. Let us all admire Her beauty and behold it. There are so many facets of this beautiful land which are still unexplored and should be explored.
We have had a history of more than 10000 years to cherish.
Can we not know it?
Can we not learn from it?
Can we not understand it?
Can we not feel it?
Can we not try to imbibe it in our lives?