Bharat: Then, Now and Always

I wonder over the phenomenon that is India; not only the stretch of square miles, but the living, throbbing entity created by the will and imagination of millions through many centuries. This Bharatavarsha, or Aryavarta, was born when Vasishtha and Vishvamitra sang on the banks of the holy Sarasvati, when Parashurama led the Aryans to the banks of the Narmada, when Agastya and Lopamudra crossed the Vindhyas and the seas and when Bharata held sway and gave his name to this land. It was already in sturdy existence at the dawn of what is called, in the narrow sense, the "Historic Period".

During this dawn, placed between the seventh and tenth century before Christ, waves of intense activity passed over many of those lands in which man had emerged from the Bronze Age. Confucius taught in China; Zoroaster gave a new creed to Iran; the Jews in Babylonian captivity developed their faith and toughness; Greece emerged as the pioneer of European culture; and Rome was founded.

At this time a highly complex civilisation and a noble culture had been flourishing in India for centuries. Empires had been founded: literature and philosophy had come into being: life had been well lived and deeply pondered over. A well-knit social system, "Varnashramadharma", had been evolved through racial and cultural adjustments; India was not young. She had emerged into a "full panopalied" manhood. She had reached the highest culture accessible to man. Pataliputra was forging an empire.

Thought, expression and social adjustment were fast developing to produce, within a century or two, of Manu's laws, Buddha's thought, Panini's grammar, Bhasa's drama and Kautilya's political technique. And above all, Sri Krishna had already lived and taught and had left the most vital of legacies in the Bhagavta Gita: not the Gita as we know it, but the original form in which it was planned. All the forces working to create this living entity of Aryavarta were denoted by the comprehensive term "Dharma": a term which was represented by con-centric circles of beliefs, traditions, practices and duties, conceived as each owing its resilience to the impelling force of its inner circle. Twenty-seven hundred years have rolled by. The Egypt of the Pharaohs, the Greece of Pericles, the Iran of Darius and the Rome of the Caesars are all dead; their life and culture mere materials for scholarly research. But India has stood the shocks of time. Manu, Buddha, Panini, Bhasa and Kautilya are still living influences operating on life; Kashi’s temples, Kailash’s prominence, and Chidambaram’s lingas are as important today as two thousand years ago. Sri Krishna's exhortation to Arjuna still inspires the thought, hope and conduct of millions. In this sense India is unique. Conquerors have come, seen and conquered and brute force has time and again overwhelmed her. But in spite of this she has lived a life of unbroken continuity throughout the historic period on the lines she planned before it came into being. Bending, she is yet unbroken. Long enduring, she still triumphs. Empires have grown and withered; India retains the vigor of an undying life.