Guiding Light: India – Past and present

One hears a lot of talk about how India is a young nation, which got its independence as late as 1947 and we became a republic in 1950. That is true. But for a nation to have got independence, it must have existed before bondage. It must have been free before bondage. India was always a nation not known as India but Bharat. I am not referring to the cultural divide between Bharat and India. That is a liberal construct.

The nation was known as Bharata, Aryavarta and so on. Even the liberals are willing to grant that India existed as a culture, a civilisational entity. In fact, if you look at the Vedic records and a description of astronomical details, it has existed for thousands of years. People say it did not exist politically, which is not true. India was a federal nation with each kingdom maintaining their own armies paying respects to the Chakravarti, Emperor.

The Emperor was the head of the federal nation and these shifted. In the solar dynasty, it was the Ikshvakus who ruled followed by the Kauravas in the Lunar dynasty. The centre shifted from Ayodhya to Indraprastha. So, over centuries depending on who became the Emperor, the centre of power or the capital if one wants to call it so, shifted. This process went on until the Mauryan Empire around 300 BCE in which Ashoka was the third Emperor. During Ashoka’s time because of his pacifist attitude to the ruling, there was a certain amount of fragmentation which made the country vulnerable. Kashmir and Punjab broke free from the Mauryan Empire.

Kalinga became independent again. Kings rose in the Deccan plateau. The Chola, Chera and Pandyan kingdoms rose in the South. The federal nature of India was present since ancient times. Sometimes the borders extended, sometimes they contracted which happens in all nations because geopolitical realities keep changing. To deny an existence for India before 1947 is foolish. There was a resurgence after India’s independence. Now we are a mature democracy, chaotic at times but mature enough to reclaim our cultural civilisational heritage.

(The writer is the founder of Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him at aarshavidyaf@gmail.com)

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