RAASHTRAM – SPIRITUAL-EMOTIONAL CONCEPT OF NATIONHOOD
Paper Presented at 2nd ASSE International Conference on
Nation, Nationality, Nationhood: What is in the Name?
On 2–3 May 2013 at Tirana, Albania
by: Sri Ram Madhav Varanasi, MA (Pol. Science), Director, India Foundation, New Delhi, India
Nation, nationalism and nationhood are relatively new concepts as far as the West is concerned. It was in the 18th and 19th centuries that the discourse on what constitutes nation had really gained currency and momentum. However, even at the turn of 21st century no single definition for nation and nationality could be agreed upon.
Joseph Stalin in hiswork ‘Marxism and the National Problem’ described nationa as a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture. Many Marxist historians like Eric Hobsawm argued that nationalism defies any definition. Benedict Anderson viewed nations as imagined communities.
Paul Gilbert, in his work The Philosophy of Nationalism, describes seven categories of nations – Nominalist, Naturalist, Voluntarist, Territorial, Linguistic, Axiological, Destinarian. Cultural dimension to nation discourse was added recently by scholars like Samuel Huntington, Lawrence E. Harrison etc.
In India, the concept of nation existed for millennia in the form of a pan-Indian spiritual-emotional identity. In Rig Veda, the most ancient work of Hindu seers, the word ‘Raashtram’ was used to describe the national identity of the people of the land called Bharatavarsha. ‘Raashtram’ is a uniquely Indian concept for nationhood founded essentially on the spiritual foundations. Thus ‘Raashtram’ as an idea is a unifying and development-oriented (Abhyudayam) concept as against today’s concept of nation which has been a major source of political conflict and violence throughout last three centuries.
This paper explores the epistemology of the word ‘Raashtram’ and determines how it has acted as a catalyst for the gradual evolution of the Indian national identity over millennia. This spiritual-emotional identity of ‘Raashtram’ is the principal unifying factor of Indian nation through the centuries. It is this identity that was invoked by the Indian freedom fighters of all hues – from the revolutionaries to the Gandians alike – in their efforts to rouse the Indian nation against the foreign yoke of the British in 19th and 20th centuries.
A profound understanding of this concept helps in evolving new theories and concepts of nationhood that are based on universal ethical and spiritual principles. Such understanding of the concept of nation in the light of the idea of ‘Raashtram’ will help forge a world free of sectarian nationalist conflict and misery.
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Nation, Nationalism and Nationality are essentially European ideas which evolved in the 18th & 19th centuries. Emergence of Nation States in Europe and their expansion into America was the first catalyst for the discourse on the concept of Nationhood in the West. This discourse is still on, and no one definition or explanation can fully and comprehensively explain this concept.
Nation-states: A History of Just Two Centuries
One of the main reasons for this lack of clarity is the relatively recent exposure of the world to this concept. Nation States came into existence hardly two centuries ago in Europe. “The concept of nation-states, i.e. that the aspirations of the people that constitute a nation are best served by a common political entity is considered a relatively recent idea in Europe from the 18th century. Nationalism led to the formation of nation-states and modern countries. This development was followed up with a gradual hardening of state boundaries with the passport and visa regime that followed it”, says Sankrant Sanu in an enlightening article “Why India Is a Nation”.
Many European nations that we see today didn’t exist 200 years ago or 300 years ago. We heard of monarchs and royals earlier, but the Nation States that we see today came into being much later. Their boundaries too kept changing in the last two centuries. Two World Wars witnessed great changes in the geography of many of these Nation States and the disputes about their boundaries and their very existence are contested by many groups to this day. Take the case of the Scots in the UK or the Flemish in Belgium or the Kurds in Turkey… they all challenge the Nation State they live in and say they are a different Nation.
History of the United Kingdom in last two hundred years itself is a testimony to the upheavals that the concept of Nation State has endured. England, Scotland and Wales got together in 1702 to form what is called the Great Britain. Even then they retained different laws and held on to separate National Churches. Scotland had a Presbyterian Church for a very long time to which many of its citizens adhere to. It is in a way the national Church of Scotland and is known as Kirk in that country. It is essentially a Protestant Church. The British continue to have the Anglican Christianity as their State Religion. Although an Anglican Church, the Church of Wales has its own Arch Bishop who is independent of the Anglican Establishment of England.
Using political, military and religious power Great Britain abolished the Irish Parliament and annexed Ireland in 1801. Thus what we today call as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland emerged. However the Catholic majority never accepted this arrangement and a long, often bloody, struggle followed, which culminated in the collapse of the arrangement of the United Kingdom. Catholic majority areas of South Ireland seceded from the UK to emerge again as the Republic of Ireland, although the Anglican Church ensured that its followers, who have by then become a dominant group in Northern Ireland, continue their allegiance to the United Kingdom. Thus the Nation State of UK that we see today can boast not even a century’s history.
Even American history also tells the same story. The Anglo Saxon aggressors, who sailed to the shores of the east Coast of America and anchored near Boston were hardly in control of less than 10% of geographical entity of what is today called the United States of America at the advent of the 18th Century.
At the time of the great American Revolution in 1776 when the 13 British Colonies came under one umbrella led by Thomas Jefferson and declared independence from the British Parliament’s control, their geographical area was limited to the area covering the States on today’s East Coast of the USA. Texas and California joined in 1845 after the Mexican War and Hawaii became a State in 1900. Seen from this historical background the United States of America as a Nation State is not more than two centuries old.
Also important to note here is the discourse as to whether the Nation State called the USA has really become a nation or not. The Second Continental Congress had declared independence in July 1776 and adopted the United States Declaration of Independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson. The American Revolution was the result of a series of social, political, and intellectual transformations in American society, government and ways of thinking. Americans rejected the aristocracies that dominated Europe at the time, championing instead the development of republicanism based on the Enlightenment understanding of liberalism. In 1788 the new American Constitution was adopted. The Bill of Rights, the most important part of the US Constitution was adopted in 1891. It is this Bill of Rights that keeps the diverse American peoples as one. However skeptics like Samuel Huntington questioned this very feeble foundation of American identity. In his important work ‘Who Are We’ Huntington raises the crucial question as to whether the United States of America had really become one nation. His answer was in the negative although his thesis was about creating one national identity for entire America which he described as ‘Protestant Ethic without Organised Church’.
The Nation States in Africa were a creation of the Colonists. During 1884 – 1885, European nations met at the Berlin West Africa Conference to discuss the partitioning of Africa. It was agreed that European claims to parts of Africa would only be recognised if Europeans provided effective occupation. In a series of treaties in 1890–1891, colonial boundaries were completely drawn. All of sub saharan Africa was claimed by European powers, except for Ethiopia (Abyssinia) and Liberia. Germans too were major players in this game at that time. But what is most important to note here is the fact that not a single representative of the African people was involved when the Colonial masters were redrawing the boundaries and creating the Nation States in Africa.
There are a few countries that can claim much longer history. For example countries in South America like Mexico and countries in Eurasia like Egypt, Turkey etc. But here again the Nation States of all these countries are of very recent origin and had nothing to do with their ancient past. The Aztec culture that was prevalent in Mexico before the Spanish Conquest has remained only as a museum item and mark of pride while the present day has become Hispanic in language, religion and culture. Same is the case with countries like Egypt and Turkey etc. The ancient kingdoms of Mesopotamia, Egypt etc had lost all their traces in the modern Nation States of Egypt, Italy, Turkey etc.
All this points to the fact that the global understanding of the concept of Nation, Nationhood etc is based on models that are short-lived and shifting their bases constantly. Yet, based on the experience of last two centuries various scholars have tried to develop theories for Nation and Nationalism. Ethnicity, language, kinship, culture, territory and several other factors have been enumerated as the basis for Nationalism. All this has ended in definitional confusion with regard to Nation and Nationality.
What is the European concept of Nation and Nationhood?
Despite these definitional worries, there was a fair amount of agreement among the modern western scholars about what is historically the most typical, paradigmatic form of nationalism. It is the one which features the supremacy of the nation’s claims over other claims to individual allegiance, and which features full sovereignty as the persistent aim of its political program. Territorial sovereignty has traditionally been seen as a defining element of state power, and essential for nationhood. It was extolled in classic modern works by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau.
The territorial state as political unit is seen by nationalists as centrally ‘belonging’ to one ethnic-cultural group, and actively charged with protecting and promulgating its traditions. This form is exemplified by the classical, “revivalist” nationalism, that was most prominent in the 19th century in Europe and Latin America.
In other words, a nation is any group of people aspiring to a common political state-like organization.
Some scholars have added cultural dimension to the definition. Michel Seymour in his proposal of a “socio-cultural definition” states that nation is a cultural group, possibly but not necessarily united by a common descent, endowed with civic ties (Seymour 2000). By this definition, nation became a somewhat mixed category, both ethno-cultural and civic, but still closer to the purely ethno-cultural than to the purely civic extreme.
Definitional variations abound. The early German elaborations talk about “the spirit of a people”, while somewhat later ones, mainly of French extraction, talk about “collective mentality”. Isaiah Berlin, writing as late as the early seventies, proposed as a part of his definition of nationalism that it consists of the conviction that people belong to a particular human group, and that “…the characters of the individuals who compose the group are shaped by, and cannot be understood apart from, those of the group …”.
Classical nationalism of the western origin is the political program that sees the creation and maintenance of a fully sovereign state owned by a given ethno-national group (“people” or “nation”) as a primary duty of each member of the group.
There are some scholars who believed that the concept of Nation itself is artificial and imagined. Ernst Gellner observes that nationalism is an ‘invention’ or fabrication, “Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness, it invents nation where they do not exist”. Benedict Anderson claims that nations are imagined communities.
Some modern day critics like Prof. Balagangadhara have argued that the European concept of Nation State has its origins in Christianity itself. They cite the story in Genesis of the Old Testament. According to the Old Testament there is a narrative of the City of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9. Everyone on earth spoke the same language. As people migrated from the east, they settled in the land of Shinar. People there sought to make bricks and build a city and a tower with its top in the sky, to make a name for themselves, so that they not be scattered over the world. God came down to look at the city and tower, and remarked that as one people with one language, nothing that they sought would be out of their reach. God went down and confounded their speech, so that they could not understand each other, and scattered them over the face of the earth, and they stopped building the city. Thus the city was called Babel.
Ethno-Political or Ethno-Cultural form of Nationalism has led to the creation of a large number of Nation States in the 18th and 19th Centuries. It might have benefitted some, like the Israelis, the Belgians etc and continues to be seen as beneficial by groups like the Scots in UK, the Flemish in Belgium, the Kurds in Turkey and Iran and the Tamils in Sri Lanka. But it essentially is based on divisive and superiority sentiments.
Nation-states Alien to Indian Thought
Influenced by the Euro-centric discourse on Nation and Nationalism some Indian and British scholars have tried to apply the same Nation State concept to India as well. The British, who ruled over India for more than two centuries, were in the forefront arguing that India was never a Nation in th European sense of the term. Sir John Strachey, a Member in the Council of Secretary of State of the British Government wrote in 1888 : “This is the first and the most essential thing to learn about India that there is not and never was an India or even any country of India possessing, according to European ideas, any sort of unity, physical, political, social or religious. No Indian nation, no people of India’ of which we hear so much.” As late as 1930, the Simon Commission referred to India as a “conglomeration of races and religions.”
This Anglicised discourse on India’s nationhood was taken forward by some Indian scholars also besides the European ones. Surendranath Benarjee authored a book titled “A Nation in the Making” describing India as a Nation that is slowly being built on the lines of the European Nation State model.
However, the European concept of Nation is alien to Indian thought. “The concept of nation itself is, in fact, alien to the Hindu temperament and genius. It is essentially Semitic in character, even if it arose in Western Europe in the eighteenth century when it had successfully shaken off the Church’s stranglehold. For, like Christianity and Islam, it too emphasizes the exclusion of those who do not belong to the charmed circle (territorial, or linguistic, or ethnic) as much as it emphasizes the inclusion of those who fall within the circle. Indeed, the former, like the heretics and pagans in Christianity and Islam, are cast into outer darkness”, writes eminent Indian author Girilal Jain.
Robindranatath Tagore too was critical of the West contrasting it with the Indian thought: “The civilisation of Ancient Greece was nurtured in the city walls. In fact, all the modern civilisations have their cradles of brick and mortar. The walls leave their mark deep in the minds of men. Thus in Indiait was in the forests that our civilisation had its birth, and it took a distinct character from this origin and environment. It was surrounded by the vast life of nature and had the closest and most constant intercourse with her varying aspects. Her aim was not to acquire but to realise, to enlarge her consciousness by growing into her surroundings. The West seems to take pride in thinking that it is subduing nature as if we are living in a hostile world where we have to wrest everything we want from an unwilling and alien arrangement of things. This sentiment is the product of the city wall habit and training of mind. But in India the point of view was different; it included the world with the man as one great truth.India put all her emphasis on the harmony that exists between the individual and the universal. The fundamental unity of creation was not simply a philosophical speculation for India; it was her life object to realise this great harmony in feeling and action”.
In fact a land of such extreme diversity in language, religions, rituals and customs is a nightmare for and scholar to explain in terms of the modern Nation State concept. That leads us to the question of what is the identity of India if not a Nation in the European sense?
Rishi Aurobindo, one of the greatest saint-philosophers of 20th Century described Indian approach to Nationalism is the following words: “In Positivism Europe has attempted to arrive at a higher synthesis, the synthesis of humanity; and Socialism and philosophical Anarchism, the Anarchism of Tolstoy and Spencer, have even envisaged the application of the higher intellectual synthesis to life. In India we do not recognise the nation as the highest synthesis to which we can rise. There is a higher synthesis, humanity; beyond that there is a still higher synthesis, this living, suffering, aspiring world of creatures, the synthesis of Buddhism; there is a highest of all, the synthesis of God, and that is the Hindu synthesis, the synthesis of Vedanta. With us today Nationalism is our immediate practical faith and gospel not because it is the highest possible synthesis, but because it must be realised in life if we are to have the chance of realising the others. We must live as a nation before we can live in humanity.”
Sri Aurobindo rejected the theory that the essential conditions of nationality are unity of language, unity of religion and life, and unity of race. He pointed out that the English nation itself was built out of various races, that Switzerland has distinct racial strains speaking three different languages and professing different religions, that in America the candidates for White House addressed at that time the nation in fourteen languages, that Austria is a congeries of races and languages and that the divisions in Russia are hardly less acute. He argued that the idea that unity in race, religion or language is essential to nationality is an idea which will not bear examination. He referred to the example of the Roman Empire, which created a common language, a common religion and life, and tried its best to crush out racial diversities under the weight of its uniform system, but it failed to make one great nation. In an illuminating passage, Sri Aurobindo defined the essential elements of nationality. He wrote:
“We answer that there are certain essential conditions, geographical unity, a common past, a powerful common interest impelling towards unity and certain favourable ‘political conditions which enable the impulse to realize itself in an organized government expressing the nationality and perpetuating its single and united existence. This may be provided by a part of the nation, a race or community, uniting the others under its leadership or domination, or by a united resistance to a common pressure from outside or within. A common enthusiasm coalescing with a common interest is the most powerful fosterer of nationality.”
Rashtram: The Enlightened Path
“Common enthusiasm coalescing with a common interest” as basis of nationhood has been realised in India for Millennia. This is described aptly from the Vedic period as “Rashtram” or “Rashtra“.
Rastram is etymologically explained as a firm, enlightened path for welfare of a community. The word is derived as a combination of two roots: ras’mi ‘the sun’ and sTha ‘firm, placed in’. This leads to an extraordinary evocation in the Vedas: rastram me datta (Give me that lighted path).
In India, the concept of nation existed for millennia in the form of a pan-Indian spiritual-emotional identity. In Rig Veda, the most ancient work of Hindu seers, the word ‘Rashtram’ was used to describe the national identity of the people of the land called Bharatavarsha. ‘Rashtram’ is a uniquely Indian concept for nationhood founded essentially on the spiritual foundations. Thus ‘Rashtram’ as an idea is a unifying and development-oriented (Abhyudayam) concept as against today’s concept of nation, in which the basic urge to live together is not developed, and which has been a major source of political conflict and violence throughout last three centuries.
Rashtram – The Divine Mother
Rashtram has been invested with divinity and motherhood in the Vedas. Vak, one of the innumerable women composers of the hymns in Vedas says in the Pratham Mandala of Rig Veda:
Aham Rashtri Sangamani Vasunam Chikitushi Prathama Yagyiyanam – Rig Veda
I am the beholder of this Rashtra; benefactor of the gods; and first among the worshipped.
Thus an effort was made to infuse the sense of divinity, sacredness and motherhood in Rashtram from the times of Rig Veda. Most important aspect to note is that from time immemorial women were held in very high esteem in India and this hymn is the in a sense the originator of the concept of Bharat Mata – the Motherland Bharat. Rishi Aurobindo described her as Jagajjanani – the mother of all mothers – the Universal Mother.
In the foreword to R.K. Mookerjee’s The Fundamental Unity of India, late Sir J. Ramsay MacDonald, ex-Prime Minister of Britain writes: “The Hindu regards India not only as a political unit naturally the subject of one sovereignty – whoever holds that sovereignty, whether British, Mohamedan, or Hindu – but as the outward embodiment, as the temple – nay, even as the goddess mother – of his spiritual culture… He made India the symbol of his culture; he filled it with this soul. In his consciousness, it was his greater self.”
Evolution of Rashtra
In Bharat there was evolution of Rashtra. The underlying concept was different. It is not similar to the theory of Nation in the West. There is a beautiful shloka in Atharva Veda which says:
Bhadram icchhantah rishiyah
swar vidayah, tapo dikshaamupanshed agre.
tato raashtram, bala, ojasya jaatam
It means that a bhadra icchha – a benign wish originated in the minds of ancient seers during the course of their penance. This benign wish was for Abhyudayam – the welfare and glory of all. This is not divisive and is not guided by the desire that I should get all pleasures. These rishis – sages were supremely learned and it was their benevolent wish.
Abhyudayam is material and spiritual wellbeing of the mankind. The above shloka mentions that the sages, through their penance and meditation, have realised this benign wish of the universal wellbeing and that wish has invigorated the consciousness of the Rashtram. The sages says that even gods bow before such consciousness of Rashtra. Now what is Rashtra here? This is not political but it is spiritual. This is for the welfare of all.
But the most important question is how to explain bhadra icchha (benign wish)? The entire philosophy of Rashtra emanates from this bhadra icchha (benign wish). A doctrine of Dharma was developed on the basis of this bhadra icchha.
Sage Kaṇāda in Vaiśeṣika Sūtra notes a definition of Dharma by its beneficial impact, focusing on discharge of one’s responsibility:
Yatobhyudaya nisreyasa siddhihi ca dharmah
“That which leads to the attainment of Abhyudaya (prosperity in this world) and Nihśreyasa (total cessation of pain and attainment of eternal bliss hereafter) is Dharma”. The Bhadra Icchha – Benign Wish of the sages was to secure this two-fold objective.
It is this Dharma which is the soul of the Rashtra. Swami Vivekananda described India as ‘Dharma Praana Bhaarata‘ – ‘Bharat with Dharma as soul’. This concept of National Soul is unique to India and that soul is ‘Rashtra‘ – the quintessential national identity of India. Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya called it ‘Chiti‘. The first Prime Minister of India, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, despite his Western upbringing and Socialist convictions, had to appeal to this concept of the National Soul in his famous Tryst with Destiny address to the Indian Parliament on the midnight of 14/15 August 1947 when India became independent. He said:
“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.
It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.
At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her success and her failures. Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again.”
The ideals that Nehru referred to as those that had given her strength were the ideals of Dharma. Dharma can be understood a set of values that define the ethical, spiritual life of India as a Rashtra. They include its outlook to life, creation, universe, god, state, wealth and everything else. It is these ideals on which the Indian nationhood – Rashtriyata – was founded and thrived. It is these ideals India ‘never lost sight of’ in her long journey through victories and vicissitudes.
Some of the fundamentals of Dharma can be enumerated briefly in order to underscore the difference between the concept of ‘Rashtram‘ and ‘Nation’.
On the question of Creation it believes:
* Isavasyam idam sarvam (Chapter 4: The Isavasya Upanishad).
The entire universe, animate and inanimate alike, is pervaded by Isvara – the divine consciousness.
On the question of ethnic, racial, linguistic and other difference in the world it proposes:
* Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam
The entire world is one family.
On the economic question it talks about ‘sustained consumption’:
* tena tyaktena bhunjitah
One should acquire only that much which was left for him by Isvara
On the welfare question, it states:
* sarve bhavantu sukinah – sarve santu niramayah
Let ALL be happy and free from diseases
On the environment related questions, its proposition is:
* Mata bhumi putro’ham prithvyah (Atharva Veda 12|1|12)
This earth is my mother and I am her son.
On the question of religious diversity in the world, it proposes:
Indram mitram varunnamagnimaahutathoe divyah sa suparnoe garutmaan |
Ekam Sadvipraa bahudhaa Vadanti maatarisvaanamaahuh – Rig Veda
Truth is one; wise men interpret in different ways.
It has attained ultimate levels of tolerance, accommodation and celebration of pluralism on the earth.
nana vibrati bahudha vivacasam
nana dharmanam prithivi yathaukasam
sahasra dhara dravitasya ye duham
dhruvena dhamurenk pasphuranti
‘The earth is full of variety; it contains people speaking different dialects and speech, of diverse religious customs, each living according to what they think is right. The earth contains innumerable valuable things. It bears trees and plants of great diversity. We should pay homage to that Earth’.
Entire World is One Rashtram
However, one important dimension needs to be understood here. ‘Rashtra‘ is not a political concept in the sense that it doesn’t define any geographical boundaries. It is more an ethical, spiritual concept – a view and way of life. The sages of India concluded that this whole earth surrounded by oceans is one Rashtra
prithivyah samudra parayantaayah eak raat iti
Therefore the idea and concept of Rashtra is a philosophy here. It is a way of life and principles to live life which define relationship and expected behavior between people and other beings.
State under Rashtram
What is State under ‘Rashtram‘?. We need to look at this crucial question in order to understand the concept of ‘Rashtram‘ fully. Contrary to Nation State concept Rashtram views State as one of the many institutions that help society pursue the path of Dharma. State, described as Rajya, is thus not coterminous with Rashtra.
The Aitereya Brahmana, one of the ancient scriptures of India describes 10 kinds of Rajyas under one Rashtra:
sAmrajyam. bhaujyam. svArajyam. vairajyam.
pArameShThyam. rajyam. MahArajyam Adhipatyamayam.
samantaparyAyI syAt. sArvabhauma sArvAyuSha AntAdAparArdhAt.
Chanakya, the great Indian political philosopher, states that Rajah – the King – is a servant of Dharma. Unlike in Nation States the Rajah enjoys no special privileges whatsoever. He is mandated to live like a commoner. The happiness of the Rajah lies in the happiness of his subjects. Even his powers as ruler are subject to the scrutiny of the Dharma. When a Rajah is coronated he would declare thrice – Adandyosmi – Nobody can punish me. A revered sage is then made to pronounce thrice – Dharmadandyosi – The Dharma will punish you.
Millinnia-old Experience of India as Rashtram
In India, this kind of Rashtra existed for Millennia as an ethical and spiritual idea pervading the entire national life of Hindus. There existed innumerable political units in the form of kings, vassals, principalities, self-governed republics and occasionally the monarchs. But they never interfered in the national life of the people. Their duties were limited to safety, order and development. In fact while the kings waged wars the society carried on with its daily life unhindered.
As a Rashtram it had the enormous catholicity to welcome and absorb any number of outside elements, whether they came as aggressors like the Huns, the Kushans, the Greeks etc or whether as refugees like the Parsis, the Zorastrians and the the Jews. When its boundaries were threatened the Rajah of entire Rashtram rose against the enemy. In fact the Rajah were mandated to secure the borders not only of their kingdoms, but also of the Rashtram.
In order to sustain this spirit of ethical and spiritual ideals various institutions were devised in India. Innumerable sacred places were strewn across the length and breadth of the country. Pilgrimages, festivals etc became important institutions in the life of the Rashtra instead of politics and Statecraft. A unique band of renounced individuals became the vehicles of this ethical, spiritual ideal across the country from place to place, time to time and generation to generation. They authored number of Dharma Shastras to guide the society in upholding the spirit of Rashtram in contemporary age. Great epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata to their innumerable forms in later ages became powerful instruments of carrying the message of the Rashtram through generations. That is the secret of India’s uninterrupted life as a Rashtra for Millennia irrespective of the fact that it was never in history a united political entity.
To conclude, Rashtra is spiritual, all inclusive and is for the welfare of all. The foundation and the meaning behind it is not political or divisive. This Rashtra does not exist on the basis of rulers or army. This Rashtra has originated from the bhadra ichchha (benign wish) of the sages – rishis. This bhadra ichchha (benign wish) sees element of supreme soul in all, it propounds the idea of Ekam Sadvipraa bahudha vadanti and has a vision of sarve bhavantu sukhinah before it.
It is this bhadra ichchha, which has given rise to the Bharatiya Rashtram – Indian nation and sustains it through Dharma, that should be the basis for a new discourse on Nation and Nationality.
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