Today Brahmins and Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras are mere labels. There is utter confusion of varna as I understand it and I wish that all the Hindus will voluntarily call themselves Shudras. That is the only way to demonstrate the truth of Brahminism and to revive Varnadharma in its true state. Mahatma Gandhi, Harijan, 25-3-1933
To Shri Krishna(A Song in Hindi) by Sw. Vivekananda
O Krishna, my friend, let me go to the water,
O let me go today.
Why play tricks with one who is already thy slave?
O friend, let me go today, let me go.
I have to fill my pitcher in the waters of the Jumna.
I pray with folded hands, friend, let me go.
Was it so long ago that China was considered typical of the lands that had been standing still for centuries? Today China is a land of seething political activity, the scene of a virile social movement and of a democratic upsurge. Following the 1905 movement in Russia, the democratic revolution spread to the whole of Asia—to Turkey, Persia, China. Ferment is growing in British India.
A significant development is the spread of the revolutionary democratic movement to the Dutch East Indies, to Java and the other Dutch colonies, with a population of some forty million.
First, the democratic movement is developing among the masses of Java, where a nationalist movement has arisen under the banner of Islam. Secondly, capitalism has created a local intelligentsia consisting of acclimatised Europeans who demand independence for the Dutch East Indies. Thirdly, the fairy large Chinese population of Java and the other islands have brought the revolutionary movement from their native land.
Describing this awakening of the Dutch East Indies, van Ravesteyn, a Dutch Marxist, points out that the age-old despotism and tyranny of the Dutch Government now meet with resolute resistance and protest from the masses of the native population.
The usual events of a pre-revolutionary period have begun. Parties and unions are being founded at amazing speed. The government is banning them, thereby only fanning the resentment and accelerating the growth of the movement. Recently, for example, it dissolved the “Indian Party” because its programme and rules spoke of the striving for independence. The DutchDerzhimordas (with the approval, incidentally, of the clericals and liberals—European liberalism is rotten to the core!) regarded this clause as a criminal attempt at separation from the Netherlands! The dissolved party was, of course, revived under a different name.
A National Union of the native population has been formed in Java. It already has a membership of 80,000 and is holding mass meetings. There is no stopping the growth of the democratic movement.
World capitalism and the 1905 movement in Russia have finally aroused Asia. Hundreds of millions of the down trodden and benighted have awakened from medieval stagnation to a view life and are rising to fight for elementary human rights and democracy.
The workers of the advanced countries follow with interest and inspiration this powerful growth of the liberation movement, in all its various forms, in every part of the world. The bourgeoisie of Europe, scared by the might of the working-class movement, is embracing reaction, militarism, clericalism and obscurantism. But the proletariat of the European countries and the young democracy of Asia, fully confident of its strength and with abiding faith in the masses, are advancing to take the place of this decadent and moribund bourgeoisie.
The awakening of Asia and the beginning of the struggle for power by the advanced proletariat of Europe are a symbol of the new phase in world history that began early this century.
The summer of 1898 stands out in my”
memory as a series of pictures, painted like
old altar-pieces, against a golden back-
ground of religious ardour and simplicity,
and all alike glorified by the presence of one who, to us in his immediate circle, formed
their central point. We were a party of four
Western women, one of whom was Mrs,
Ole Bull of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and another a member of the higher official world of Anglo-Indian Calcutta.
But it was not only the great cities
of admitted beauty and historical importance,
that the Swami, in his eagerness, would
strive to impress on our memory. Perhaps nowhere did his love seem more ardent,
or his absorption more intense, than as we passed across the long stretches of the Plains, covered with fields and farms and villages. Here his thought was free to brood over the land as a whole, and he would spend hours explaining the communal system of agricul- ture, or describing the daily life of the farm housewife, with such details as that of the pot-du-feu of mixed grains left boiling all night, for the morning porridge. It was the memory, doubtless, of his own days as a wanderer, that so brightened his eyes and thrilled in his voice, as he told us these
For I have heard it said sadhus by
things that there is no hospitality in India like that of the humble peasant home.
True the mistress has no better bedding to offer than straw, no better shelter than an outhouse built of mud. But it is she who steals in at the last moment, before she goes to rest herself amongst her sleeping household, to place a tooth-brush twig and a bowl of milk where the guest will find them, on waking in the morning, that he may go forth from beneath her roof comforted and refreshed.
It would seem sometimes as if the Swami lived and moved and had his very being in the sense of his country’s past. His historic consciousness was extraordinarily developed. Thus, as we journeyed across the Terai, in the hot hours of an afternoon near the be- ginning of the rains, we were made to feel that this was the very earth on which had passed the youth and renunciation of Buddha.
The wild peacocks spoke to us of Rajputana and her ballad lore. An occasional elephant
was the text for tales of ancient battles, and the story of an India that was never defeated, so long as she could oppose to the tide of conquest the military walls of these living artillery…It was as we passed into the Punjab, Rowever, that we caught our deepest glimpse of the Master’s love of his own land.
one who had seen him here, would have supposed him to have been born in the pro- vince, so intensely had he identified himself with it. It would seem that he had been
deeply bound to the people there by many
ties of love and reverence had received ;
much and given much ; for there were some amongst them who urged that they found in him a rare mixture of ‘Guru Nanak and Guru Govind,” their first teacher and their last.
Even the most suspicious amongst them trusted him. And if they refused to credit
his judgment, or endorse his outflowing sympathy, in regard to those Europeans whom he had made his own, he, it may have been, loved the wayward hearts all the more for their inflexible condemnation and incorruptible sternness. His American disciples were already familiar with his picture that called to his own face a dreamy delight, of the Punjabi maiden at her spinning wheel,listening to its “Sivoham! Sivoham! I am He! I am He!” Yet at the same time, I must not forget to tell that it was here, on entering the Punjab, even as, near the end of his life, he is said to have done again at Benares, that he called to
him the Mussulman vendor of sweetmeats, and bought and ate from his hand Moham- medan food.
As we went through some village, he would point out to us those strings of mari-
golds above the door, that distinguished the Hindu homes. Again he would show us the pure golden tint of skin, so different from
the pink and white of the European ideal, that constitutes the ‘fairness’ admired by the Indianraces. Or as one drove beside him a tonga, he would forget all, in that tale of which he never wearied, of Siva, the Great God, silent, remote upon the mountains, ask- ing nothing of men but solitude, and ”lost in one eternal meditation.’
Paintings by Nandalal Bose
Notes and Correspondences
Man does not live by bread alone. When the physical and material wants are satisfied, the human soul aspires for more refined and sublime expressions in the forms of art, poetry, music, and spiritual contemplation. The excellence in art attained by any people is a sure indication of the high level of culture to which they have risen. In India, from the very early times we find that art was cultivated and wonderful results have been attained. With the passing away of national government and indigenous rules of, great masters of art who used to attract budding geniuses, were neglected and for a time, art at its highest level became rare. In spite of the want of this patronage, the twentieth century shows clear signs of art revival alongside of the awakening of the national consciousness.