Aspects of Indian Nationalism

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Part Three

Indian nationalism, since the early years of the Indian renaissance, has undergone various mutations. K. D. Sethna, one of the finest scholars and thinkers this country has produced in our life time, has pointed out how the shock of sheer spirituality in the figure of Sri Ramakrishna, who summed up in his life the whole spiritual history of India, gave birth to Indian nationalism by kindling in the nation a consciousness of its own typical genius.

The second phase of our nationalism was not directly spiritual but charged with indigenous history. The stress now was more on the collective soul of the country as felt in the traditional ideals and institutions, the characteristic customs and festivals. This nationalism was fostered by the great Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

In the third phase, our nationalism became ethical as Mahatma Gandhi set up certain moral doctrines for the patriot’s guidance, chiefly the doctrines of non-violence and what he called Truth. Out of this came a fourth kind of nationalism.

This brought the rationalism of the West and cut the ethical completely off from the mystical. This was the phase of our nationalism fostered by Jawaharlal Nehru. It was non-religious, wholly secular. During the early years of independence under Nehru’s patronage, India became a socialist, secular democracy and an intelligentsia favoring Dialectical Materialism and the Economic View of History entrenched themselves in our universities. Thus what started as a spiritual renaissance ended up as an anti-spiritual establishment controlling the press and the academic institutions.

All these developments have brought us to a point when the traditional defenses of Indian culture have almost lost their hold over people. Multinationals and modern technology have encouraged the glut of Western cultural influences in the country. The ubiquitous TV has invaded the privacy of our bedroom, kitchen and the drawing room. The mass media is glamorizing and glorifying the western lifestyle which has, in the long run, such deleterious effects as the homogenization of human wants and giving rise to unachievable expectations. What we call globalization results in the spread of a single culture – the same wants, the same institutions, the same sets of values everywhere.

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