The idea of India: Before and after Independence


The concept of nation and nationality are different in different parts of the world. They are generally based on language, region, or religion. Nationalism word was derived from the word nation. At the time of independence then, the names Bharat, India, Al-hind, and Hindustan coexisted to designate the Indian subcontinent. The geographical basis of our nation was associated with the Himalayas in the north and sea in the south. Our ancestors have spelled out the physical shape of our land in text like Puranas. It has a long glorious, prestigious and troubled history. More than a geographical area, Bharat has been like a thread that could stitch different cultures together. Despite being one of the oldest civilizations and throughout a lighthouse for the world, we are withering away from the core concept of Bharat lately.

According to me, the idea of India before independence was all about integration and togetherness. Firstly, the idea of Bharat always rested in the decentralized form of institutions and governance. Central planning and forced imposition of unjust legislation was never part of the idea of Bharat. It was so liberal in its nature that the Hindi translation for blasphemy does not exist. It means we were free to express ourselves even about our Gods. Secondly, in the place of religion, there was the existence of spiritual Dharma and this Dharma was guiding and practicing force of decentralized society. In the pre-independence era, the mela’s, Yatra’s, temples and festivals were not just religious affairs, but also the strengthening bond of the nation. The participatory and collective approach was inherent in it. Our country has been caring for the best assimilation and accommodation process for people coming from outside. We the people never considered any group or society as our enemy, either by ideology or religion. Bharat never compromised with the basic principles of acceptance and coexistence. Swami Vivekananda described Bharat as a nation with Dharma as its soul. We always considered our country as our mother. Atharva Veda gives significant explanation about it: –

“Bhadramichchanta rishayah swarvidastapo Deekshamupanisheduragre Tato Rashtrambalamo ascha aatantadasmai deva upasam namantu”

Desirous of achieving good of the whole people! the seer sages did penance” and out the penance emerged the Rashtra’s might and vitality. Therefore, let the understanding men be devoted to the Rashtra.

 Even Aurobindo expressed it in his Bhawani Mandir: –

For what is a nation? What is our mother-country? It is not a piece of earth, nor a figure of speech, nor a fiction of the mind. It is a mighty Shakti, composed of the Shaktis of all the millions of units that make up the nation, just as Bhawani Mahisha Mardini sprang into being from the Shaktis of all the millions of gods assembled in one mass of force and welded into unity. The Shakti we call Bharat, Bhawani Bharati, is the living unity of the Shaktis of three hundred million people …”

In the pre-independence era, there was a dark side too, especially in the medieval period. The first problem was the distorted caste system, which resulted in disharmony among our societies. It also resulted in an irrational social hierarchy and badly impacted the core idea of Bharat. Not only that, the invaders started to destruct the delicate fabric of our spiritual elements. Although, from Delhi sultanate to the Mughal Empire, despite being their oppressive nature, they never tried to destroy Indian social order even though they always try to expand their religion. But when Britishers arrived, they distorted our social, economic and political culture completely. They came here as traders and become rulers. Not only that, they started to exploit our natural, social and economic resources for the sake of their own benefit only. Firstly, they broke the unity of our society and after 1857 revolt with the principle of divide and rule, they damaged our legacy. Lack of foresight of Indian rulers let them lead the way. They made Bharat a poor country and presented their pseudo philosophies of liberalism and civilizational as ultimate truth. Not only that, but they also played with the ancient history of India and manipulated our freedom struggle too. Finally, they succeed in their game plan and converted Bharat into India. So, the story after independence is more about India and less about Bharat

Since its inauguration, in the midst of the intense drama, excitement and terror of 1947, the public life of an independent nation Bharat that is India has offered a wide array of Vivid collective spectacles and formidable individual characters. Pre-Independent India was the golden era of nationalism, where the nation was led by luminaries like Gandhi, Nehru, Subhash, Bhagat Singh, Azad, Ambedkar among others. Independent India presented a sorry picture of Shattered nationalism. Contrary to the basic element of Bharat, fragmentation started before the independence. Despite the long-written constitution and well-framed preamble, it failed to deliver the level playing field for everyone. There the so-called champions of nationalism have failed miserably in addressing the issue because of some obvious reasons. We started to play with our history of freedom struggle and some so-called historians framed it with pre-conceived notions in their mind. In the first 20 odd years post-independence, the primary reason for the United India was the residual feeling towards the independence movement and trust in the congress party. Later, several results changed the minds of the nation. Party politics resulted in more and more fragmentation in society. Salman Rushdie has called India carnivalesque in its differences beginning from elaborate surnames to cast differences. With the introduction of economic reform, the process of fragmentation started to become more complicated as the various regional parties grew stronger. Dirty politics of appeasement distorted the religious comfort in our country and resulted in some catastrophic consequences. The LPG reformed further widened the already wide gap between rich and poor. It further indicated the gap between Bharat and India.

However, the dream that every Indian nurture is yet to be transformed into reality. Bharat has started to lose its identity and aspiring to be the clone of the west. The prospect of yore (Sone ki chidiya) is long-forgotten and instead, it is only abject poverty that rules. The very concept embodied renunciation ones, but now it signifies corruption and deprivation. We can also see the reflection of it on the streets all over the country in the present COVID-Crisis. We have insulted the great dream of making Bharat a country with equitable distribution of resources seen by great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh. It is not that we have not received anything since independence, but because of growing corruption and party politics, most efforts have been failed to address the cause.

It is the right time to look into our own identity. We need to transform again from India to Bharat. If we can adapt our own idea of development and peace instead of Western guided liberal raga of development, we can re-discover ourselves. Our identity lies in our harmony, our diversity and our acceptance. We have to make our own wisdom as our guiding force, then only we can be the Vishwa-Guru again.