The colonial consciousness that has engulfed us has to wither away before we realise the dream of Swaraj in thought. Only then this would lead to education based on Bharatiya ethos which will ensure that our future generations will be truly free of the colonial yoke
Has the Bharat which was under Colonial rule for centuries found its own true thought process and consciousness today? Have we been successful in rediscovering ourselves after the Independence from Colonial rule? Many have asked these questions and if we see closely, both are worth contemplating seriously. It is definitely true that our subjugation to the colonial rule first under the Mughals and later under the British have destroyed our original thought and consciousness.
The colonial rule delivered a severe body blow to various parts of our societal structure. The damage done to our Dharmic beliefs is almost unrepairable. Since furthering division based on religion and caste was the sole purpose of these attacks, it affected our society directly. By surviving through conditions where Jaziya had to be paid to retain one’s identity to laying down one’s life, choosing not to convert, Bharatiya society’s efforts to safeguard its identity is nothing but phenomenal. The sacrifice of Bharatiyas who dreamt of Swaraj and fought to attain it is unfathomable.
Intellectual Slavery under Colonial rule
There is a huge difference in the way Bharatiya society used to think before the colonial rule of the British and after. The imperial rule caused immense harm to Bharatiya minds. It destroyed our capacity to think independently. Our minds were moulded to think like the Western civilisation and to cater to the needs of the colonial powers. We were interpreted in an alien language and terms. Strangely, western terminologies were used to describe the thoughts that had nothing to do with the western civilisations. The narrative was not only that of a western mind but even the analysis of the Bharatiya perspective did not emerge from the clutches of the colonial intellect.
The intensity of the Colonial rule was such that we were disconnected from our roots and became subservient to the western thought process. They began to showcase the Bharat that was interpreted and depicted by the British elite as the real Bharat. Gradually the methods to see Bharat through the eyes of the British evolved. It was in this scenario, Bharat that was depicted as inferior, uncivilised started to seem as true even to the Bharatiya mind. Everything that was in English or originated from the British was deemed as superior and true. Consequently, only those literature, history and philosophy which came through English sources found acceptance in the intellectual sphere.
Several centuries of living under colonial rule concealed our experience of our own culture. The colonial narrative over the Bharatiya history, lifestyle, beliefs, and traditions made us feel inferior about ourselves. The British successfully made the Bharatiya society be in disgust its own traditions, history and turn its back towards them. Consequently, the civilisation, the culture, the land which had reached the pinnacle of glory as a Tapobhumi, cradle of civilisation, beacon for humanity, land which spread the message of welfare of all, treasure trove of the knowledge imparted by great Rishis in their unparalleled works, the land where tourists came from all over the world and recorded their experiences in their dairies, such a civilisation was depicted as land of snake charmers, beggars and a ghetto of ignorant brutes. A narrative was built to portray that Bharatiyas were nothing but descendants of a mixed culture, which was a result of the marriages between foreign invaders who did not return to their land and Bharatiya women. Our universities carried this false narrative forward in their textbooks even after Independence, which continues to govern the Bharatiya mind. It was this colonial consciousness that eclipsed the efforts to find our own identity in our own land.
Independence failed to end Colonial thought
For Nehru who became the first Prime Minister of Independent India, the knowledge in the western pattern was most ideal. He felt that villages of Bharat were unproductive and the entire Bharat was a land of uncivilised people. Therefore it was deemed that the western model of education was the only solution to make Bharatiyas ‘civilised’ and uplift them from ignorance. Macaulay wished to create a country where its citizens would be like the British in their intellect, outlook and desires even though they would only be Bharatiyas in flesh and blood. But it is we who implemented his wishes in letter and spirit. The educated class which was moulded in such a mindset defined Bharat in western terms. The economy of Bharat was modelled after the West. The benchmark for development was imported from the west. The tenets which guided our research in literature was from the west. History was narrated as per the western time frames. This meant that Bharat instead of having its own identity became a stereotype of the western colonial construct.
As the research centres of our universities did not emerge out of the grip of the western colonial construct, we could not find out true moorings. Despite seven decades of Independence we have not been able to write our own history. Research in literature was not guided by the values of the Bharatiya civilisation. Hence, even the new generation were not freed from the clutches of the foreign yoke and remained subservient intellectually.
It was in these circumstances that our literature, economics, social and political sciences were analysed and narratives built. In other words, we saw ourselves through the alien eyes due to which we perceived ourselves in disgust and insulted our forefathers. We supported the allegations of being uncivilised, snake charmers, illiterates and a dark continent. We were delighted when the world mocked at us. As a young nation that had become just independent, instead of finding our roots we began to cast ourselves in the western mould. What we see today is a result of this stereotype.
Half-baked ideologies like Secularism, Socialism, and Marxism first crept into our literary inquiry and gradually into all aspects of our social life. Consequently, it became a part of our daily life and we started to narrate our Bharatiya literature, a result of our rich culture, within the confines of these imperfect doctrines. Resultantly, we portrayed the entire literature of Bharat as irrelevant and inconsequential. Our universities became the nodal centres to disseminate such views. This led to each new generation being misguided in an organised manner. Each generation was made to feel ashamed of their heritage. Aryan invasion theory was introduced. Dravidian separatism was foisted on us. Language and Literature were divided into Aryan and Dravidian. We were told that Aryans came from outside and Dravidians were showcased as the ones who were defeated and cornered. North-South divide was manufactured. Bharatiya culture was showcased as one that originated through those who came from outside.
Accordingly, Sanskrit was demonised and the literature that was created in Sanskrit was made out to be the enemy of all other languages. They were even successful in planting the seeds of hatred against Sanskrit, Veda – Upanishads, Ramayana – Mahabharata, etc.
In the same trait, literature that was created in old Kannada or Tamil was depicted as being against Sanskrit. Characters in the plays and poems were portrayed as opposing the hegemony of Aryan characters like Rama and Krishna. Literature that emanated from the Bhakti movement of the Sharanas like the Vachanas, Keertans was described as a rebellion and a revolution against Bharatiya culture. Such narratives were an organised conspiracy to remove the link between the Bharatiya traditions and our heterogeneous culture. Marxist analogies were liberally used in driving such narratives. The western thought which tried to comprehend unique thought of ‘Dharma’ tried to compare it with religion based on its experience of Christianity and termed it as opium. When this failed, using the same analogy idea of Dharma too was driven away from guiding us. The vachanas in Kannada which was a result of pure devotion was seen through the political lens and was interpreted as a separate religion. Vachanas were showcased as its religious book. Basavanna’s principle of work is worship which was shown as being closer to the ideology of Marx. Relationship between Vachanas which was a product of Bharatiya thought and Upanishads was rejected and was used as a useful tool to divide people on the basis of faith. Likewise, our ancient philosophical thoughts and Puranas were deemed as effete and superstitious. Not being able to comprehend the ancient literature and its purport, it was categorised based on caste. Instead of analysing literature as it is, it is still being explained in terms of caste wars, exploitation and atrocities.
Historians have showcased ancient Bharat as steeped in exploitation, ignominy and as being uncivilised. The ancient age has been portrayed as an era of darkness. It is due to this, educated Indians instead of being proud of their ancestors and history, are made to be ashamed of their past.
Struggle for Swaraj in thought continues…
The idea behind the struggle for Swaraj was not merely to drive away the British and install an Indian as a ruler in their place. Its aim was to reclaim and regain all that we had lost due to centuries of colonial rule. Unfortunately, those who ruled us after Independence from the British did not have this idea of Swaraj in mind. Instead of striving to shed the colonial baggage, the same thoughts were preserved and propagated in the name of Secularism. Hence, the remnants of our enslavement to a foreign power which had to cause disgust in us instead appeared to us as symbols which had to be nurtured and nourished.
Not just the physical remnants of colonial rule, we have safeguarded the intellectual remnants too as if it is our identity. Hence we see the same syllabus in history which the British created to legitimise their occupation of Bharat still being taught in our school textbooks. The dishonest stories that were woven to show our civilisation in poor light, are still being continued. It is due to this that our minds which had to be freed from the foreign yoke after Independence is still hanging on the gallows of slavery of the colonial powers. Today’s Bharatiya minds are like the loitering unsatisfied ghosts which have become alien to their own traditions and past. Even those efforts which are aimed at reclaiming our past are decried as saffronisation or intolerance and rejected. I wonder why even in the intellectual sphere there is a drought in terms of realising true Swaraj. Despite this discouraging scenario, there are many efforts that have emerged as small beacons of light shining to erase the colonial mindset and realise true Swaraj.
Recently, the Draft National Education Policy has been laid before the nation after much deliberations. The draft can be regarded as a huge step towards freeing our education system from centuries of intellectual slavery and realise true Swaraj in the same. It has given us hopes of washing clean the colonial minds created by Macaulay which were moulded as the British wanted it to be. The time is ripe to shed the colonial gown which our minds wore all these years and replace it with one moulded after Bharatiya ethos.
The darkness that had shrouded our knowledge has to be set aside to make way for the new light to be shown on the Bharatiya minds. As Swami Vivekananda said, “Bharat is re-awakening from centuries of slavery. There is none to stop her now.” In the present day, Bharat is beginning to manifest and express its innate power. It is this innate power which is the driving force required for Bharat to reclaim its identity again. Let this power grow from strength to strength and express itself. It is then that the dream of Swaraj would be realised.
(The writer is a Professor in Vivekananda College in Puttur, Karnataka)