In our country the welfare force is endemic in society, it permeates the society as religion. That is why so far India considered saving its religion and society as the only way of self-preservation. She has not valued kingdom, but society. That is why the independence of society is truly India’s Independence. This is because the liberty to secure welfare is true liberty, the liberty to save religion is true liberty.”
– Gurudev Rabindranath Thakur, Swadeshi Samaj, P. 34
The Preamble to our Constitution starts with ‘We, the people’ and ends with ‘give ourselves this Constitution’. Who are these ‘We, the people’ and what makes us different as a nation that we are entitled to be an independent republic? On the one hand, when the fervour of seventieth Republic Day is celebrated in full scale, the Kumbh Mahotsav in Prayagraj is also being scaled up with a new level of experience. There are attempts to plant stories and create confusion about the great traditions and temples. For the cynics, the Kumbh is nothing but an extravagant spending and temple traditions are nothing but a source of discrimination. By linking the Republic Day to these issues is nothing short of blasphemy for the non-Bharatiya minds. The Kumbh or Sabarimala are religious issues while the Republic Day is pure ‘Secular’ celebration for them. Precisely for this reason, exploring the essence of ‘We, the people’ is critical.
We, as a society, were forever governed by social institutions rooted in the culture and our state that was always ‘secular’ in character just facilitated that. Neither the Kumbh nor the temples were just religious activities for us but they were also means for holding the society together in a Dharmic way.
The organised Semitic religions have mass prayers. This was never the case with the Dharmic traditions. The spiritual connection with the Almighty or highest level of consciousness was always individual. The temples and festivals were instruments to strengthen the societal bonds where the individual spirituality would meet the social secular needs. The economic activities including trade were based on these festivities. The temples provided important banking support to the trading activities. Even the education and healthcare used to be delivered through temples. The society managed the temples and temples managed the society. The ‘Secular’ State was a facilitator and the law-maker in this process. This provided the inner strength to us as a society. This strength allowed us to maintain change and continuity irrespective of series of external aggression and internal upheavals.
Another important aspect associated with these temple traditions was the concept of deity. The form and character of the deity define the relationship with the devotees. So the Ram Lala or Kanha form of deities would have different customs from Lord Ram or Bhagwan Sri Krishna. As per the geo-cultural context, the practices evolved in those temples or festivals varied. That is true even for the Mutts, Dargahs and Viharas. Seeing the motherland in various forms is also a part of this collective consciousness of celebrating diversity. Therefore, the logic of uniformalising traditions and practices with the Semitic logic cannot be applied to these ‘We’.
The inherent strength of social institutions around the temples and festivals and celebrating diverse traditions as per the form and character of different forms of deities are the unique feature of this ‘Swadeshi Samaj’. Whenever this core is threatened or undermined, the collective consciousness erupts to save it. The fight to save the unique temple traditions and corrupt practices in temple administration through government interventions are nothing but an expression of the same consciousness. “Sovereignty belong to the people and rests with the people” is the spirit of the Constitution. Unfortunately, some people are using the same Constitution to damage what constitutes ‘the people’. Therefore, this Republic Day, it is our duty to resolve firmly to revitalise the fundamentals of our Republic made by ‘We, the people’.