How Narendra Modi is invoking old civilisational spirit to build new, aspirational India
New India can be a new light for humanity, not just at political or economic levels, but also at a civilisational level extending to a universal vision
India is not only a great nation today as the world’s largest democracy encompassing one-sixth of humanity, it is also a diverse and vibrant culture and a profound civilisation that has endured since the dawn of history spreading the deepest wisdom to the world. Yet India/Bharat was never stagnant even under foreign rule and has brought great spiritual teachings, gurus, yogis and rishis to every generation. Today a New India is arising to renew and share that vast civilisational legacy, not just as an imitation of the other countries or cultures of the world.
India’s Independence in 1947 held the opportunity for India as a nation and its dharmic civilisation to once more renew itself, and to make its presence prominent in the world again for the benefit of all humanity. This was the hope and aspiration of India’s Independence movement expressed by leaders such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sri Aurobindo and Rabindranath Tagore, and what Swami Vivekananda inspired in bringing yoga and Vedanta to the world. Many great thinkers and mystics looked for India rising to aid in the spiritual renewal of humanity, and a new vision of a universe of consciousness.
Yet not long after India’s Independence from colonial oppression, which tried to discredit India’s civilisational heritage and identity, India came under the rule of leaders who were not the products of the country’s civilisational ethos or understood its antiquity and profundity. The new political and educational forces in independent India reflected colonial and Marxist influences that portrayed India’s enduring civilisation as a myth or a prejudice, much as occurred before Independence. Post-Independence Nehruvian/Congress India did not honour the real India of the sages, but tried to remake India in their own dynastic personal images.
Modi, New India and Civilisational Identity
Today, in 2022, 75 years after Independence, a New India is arising under Prime Minister Modi, a dynamic and expansive India that combines a modern nation state at political and economic levels, besides honouring the country, culture and the civilisation of eternal Bharat.
A great civilisation is indicated by its monuments. For India’s dharmic civilisation these include great temples and sacred sites built and revered over many centuries. Though these can be found throughout the country, many of the most important have remained in ruins or suffered from neglect. Modi has honoured and helped renew these heritage sites of India, notably Ayodhya, Kedarnath, Kashi Vishwanath and the many pilgrim circuits, as well as new monuments that reflect India’s enduring civilisation.
India’s civilisation has also needed to develop its own political monuments post-Independence. Modi has transformed Delhi, as in Kartavya Path and the revamped Central Vista complex as the seat of national power, removing the old colonial monuments constructed by the British with the monuments of a New India in harmony with the country’s civilisational heritage. This has given future generations in India a national identity to relate to with pride and inspiration.
The prime minister has honoured the great political guides who provided the basis for modern India, including Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose, Sri Aurobindo and Veer Savarkar, who were previously neglected. The monumental statue by the sea in Gujarat of Sardar Patel and the Subhas Chandra Bose statue in Delhi are the most notable of these. Modi has once more honoured India’s Kshatriya dharma tradition of great kings and warriors, extending from historical figures like Rana Pratap and Chhatrapati Shivaji to the many freedom fighters of the Independence movement.
Though India is 80 per cent Hindu, Modi is probably the first prime minister to govern the country as a proud Hindu. Yet he also reaches out to the diverse peoples and cultures in India and throughout the countries of the world, seeing India’s traditions as vast and inclusive with many global connections.
The Devatas of Bharat as Shiva, Krishna, Rama, Sita, Sarasvati, Durga and Kali, Ganesha and Hanuman have been empowered once more in this New India, with the PM visiting their temples and invoking their guidance, which practice many other social and political leaders have begun to follow. Modi celebrates the great festivals of India at both national and regional levels, with new events like International Yoga Day and Ayurveda Day.
The Prime Minister has honoured the great gurus of India such as Adi Shankara, Ramanuja, Buddha, Mahavira, Guru Nanak and many more, recognising the dharmic roots of India’s civilisation.
In these many new endeavours, Modi has restored the Vastu, the sacred geography of India, honouring the country from the Himalayas to Tamil Nadu, from Kashmir to the Northeast and all the regions and states that India encompasses, not neglecting any.
Along with this he has strongly promoted ecology both in India and at a global level. He has aided in restoring the sacred Ganga river, preserving the flora and fauna of India, and improving the tourist sites of the country, as well as protecting and developing its agriculture.
Modi’s work has extended to an economic level, with a transformation of the infrastructure of the country, raising the standard of living and the convenience of rural life for the common person, removing corruption and inefficiency. Modi has given Sri Lakshmi back her traditional place in India, aiming at abundance for all. He also honours a new generation of athletes, images of India’s strength, and new entrepreneurs as pioneering a new prosperity.
At a global and diplomatic level, Modi is restoring India’s role in the world as Vishvaguru in his world travels, conferences and summits. He has developed more enduring friendships with global leaders today than perhaps any other world leader, with close connections with leaders from Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, North and South America. Modi has given India a greater place of respect in the world of nations reflecting its civilisational heritage.
There are those who criticise Modi’s efforts to renew India for the future in a continuity with the great India of the past. First among these is Lutyens’ Delhi and the old dynastic coterie and their media support, now deprived of power and influence, including their far-Left allies. The ‘breaking India’ forces are part of these, who prefer a weak and divided India which they can control.
Some call Modi arrogant, though they strive to promote themselves, gain positions and power with rarely any national concerns or civilisational vision. Some say that the New India under Modi is intolerant and not inclusive enough. Show us another country that is more inclusive. See the condition of Pakistan or the aggression of China. What other country in Asia or the world has such inclusivity as India along with preserving its ancient civilisational heritage? Strangely, we are now seeing anti-India attacks and intolerance even in the US and Canada.
Today there is division and conflict in many of the countries in the world extending to the main regions considered to represent democracy and liberalism. Europe is under the shadow of a new European war with global implications and economic decline. Culture is in decline and being lost in many parts of the world and many older traditions are being lost.
Modi has restored the connection of modern India with ancient India and the new India of the future. He has brought back India as a global power at diplomatic, economic, military and cultural levels.
In this context, the New India can be a new light for humanity, not just at a political or economic levels, but also at a civilisational level extending to a universal vision.
The writer is the director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies and the author of more than 30 books on yoga and Vedic traditions. The views expressed are personal.
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