My Dear India, Let’s Not Forget the Heritage of Communal Harmony

How long will we let the nation burn in the fire of communal hatred, the need of the hour is to build a nation that is proud of its diversity and sensitive to its differences.

Bharat Dogra is a senior journalist who has been involved with several social movements and initiatives.

Vivekananda at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

People who are overcome by hatred and anger for others cannot remain true to their own religion. This can be seen quite clearly today as those who incite communal violence appear to have completely forgotten the lofty values which were emphasised by the great men and women of their own religion. They keep pictures of Swami Vivekanand and Shivaji in their homes, but appear to be quite oblivious of the values which these great men stood for.

Swami Vivekanand was very emphatic that the intolerance and dissensions among various religions have to end. He said, “If the Parliament of Religions has shown anything to this world it is this : It has proved to the world that holiness, purity and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character. In the face of this evidence, if anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart, and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance : ‘Help and no Fight’, ‘Assimilation and not  Destruction’, ‘Harmony and Peace and not Dissension’.”

Swami Vivekananda

More specifically, Swami Vivekanand emphasised that only by the unity and cooperation of Hindu and Muslims can we build a truly great nation. To quote the great scholar and sage, “Practical Advaitism, which looks upon and behaves to all mankind as one’s own soul, was never developed among Hindus… If ever any religion approached to this equality in a appreciable manner, it is Islam and Islam alone… I am firmly persuaded that without the help of practical Islam, theories of Vendantism, however fine and wonderful they may be, are entirely valueless to the vast mass of mankind… For our own motherland a junction of the two great systems, Hinduism and Islam.Vedanta brain and Islam body … is the only hope. I see in my mind’s eye the future perfect India rising out of this chaos and strife, glorious and invincible, with Vedanta brain and Islam body.”Today communalized groups have no hesitation in fighting the name of great scholars like Swami Vivekanand to gain respectability, but they completely forget that their agenda is in sharp contrast to the teachings of Vivekanand. Similarly these forces use the name of Shivaji, one of the greatest kings and statesmen of India, without perhaps even realizing that Shivaji’s attitude towards religions minorities was in complete contrast to their attitude.

V.B. Kulkarni writes in his book, ‘Shivaji – The Portrait of a Patriot’, “Shivaji’s  veneration for other faiths was as profound as for his own. He showed the highest respect for the holy men of Islam and of Christianity. He looked upon Baba Yakut of Kelsi as his honoured friend and benefactor, while a number of Muslim shrines received liberal endowments from his government. He showed similar respect and consideration for father Ambrose when he met him at Surat. Like the temple and the Gita, the mosque and the Holy Koran won his highest respect. During his military operations, he made it his invariable practice to give the Koran to a Muslim divine when the sacred book fell into his hands.”

It was due to his genuine respect for all religions that as Kulkarni writes “men of all classes and creeds enthusiastically took part in the great enterprise of building a new order in the country. The Pathan from the wilds of the North-West Frontier fought shoulder to shoulder with his Hindu comrade-in-arms in sustaining and strengthening the new creation. The sea-faring Muslim from the Konkan was received with open arms in the Maratha navy and given positions of trust and responsibility without the slightest suspicion or fear that the ties of religion would triumph over his sense of loyalty and obligation.”

Similar views have been expressed by another historian G.S. Sardesai in his book ‘New History of the Marathas’ Vol I, “He (Shivaji) never undertook a serious task without first consulting his gurus. Shivaji made no distinction in this respect between a Hindu and a Muslim saint. He honoured all with equal respect. At his capital Raigad he erected a special mosque for Muslim devotees in front of his palace in the same way that he built there the temple of Jagadishwer for his own daily worship.”

Today it is more important than ever before that the true message of men like Shivaji and Vivekanand, which is so helpful for national unity, is placed before people so that fanatic and communal forces are not able to misuse the name of such great men in their efforts to spread hatred and violence.

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