Rashtra Dharma: A Civilizational Context


Indian Civilization is all about ‘Dharma’. Dharma can be explained as ‘One’s Duty’ that one has to abide by in any situation. But there is never one type of Dharma. It is a complex phenomenon to explain and even more complex to understand. But in the foundational Indian epic the Mahabharata, of which Bhagwat Gita is a part of, Lord Krishna has made a distinction between what is Dharma and what isn’t. To simplify it, “Dharma is the first word of the Bhagwat Gita, and fittingly so as Dharma is a central theme throughout the core of the text and forms the basis for later discussions… Dharma is perhaps best understood in referring to “right action” or “the path of righteousness”…” (Ironside). In simple words, anything that stems out of kindness is Dharma. Since the time immemorial there have been many names like Ashoka, Prithvi Raj Chauhan, Maharana Pratap, Queen Laxmibai, Begum Hazrat Mahal, King Bahadur Shah, Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and many others, who have even died preserving their Dharma. 

Dharma is a relative phenomenon, in one condition what is Dharma in another it is not. For instance, Bhagat Singh had his family crying behind but he chose nation. All these people mentioned above would have lived a comfortable life by choosing personal over their country but they preferred dying for the people’s good. Thus the idea is that Rashtra Dharma always comes first and has to be observed in all conditions without any fear. To achieve Dharma everyone has to work. If we look at the contemporary situation, if the government is supposed to take care of the people, the people are equally responsible for taking care of the Nation. It is a reciprocal relationship and one side’s treachery, nulls and voids other’s position. There are various sorts of Dharma like a Brother’s, a Mother’s, A Father’s, a Son’s, A wife’s, a Soldier’s, a Ruler’s, a devotee’s and many more but the most important Dharma is Rashtra Dharma.

This Rashtra Dharma is actually about keeping the country’s good before one’s personal good. A soldier dies forgetting all other Dharma’s just to keep his Rashtra Dharma. One doesn’t always have to die to keep this. As a subject, the people of the nation can do a lot to make the nation grow and keep it safe. This is also another of preserving it. In a country so diverse what can be a Dharma for its people that can unite them all? That is Rashtra dharma because all of us are Indians before being anything else. The whole chaos of the country owes to people’s forgetting this foundational and most important idea. There are people who have been arguing a lot about what it is and whatnot, but they never try to understand the essence of it. We have developed a habit of thinking about our caste, creed, religion and everything personal first and Rashtra Dharma at the very last and that is why we as a nation fail.

From the perspective of the people, the only dharma that should overwhelm them is their duty toward their nation and people’s common good. Conversations and dialogues have always been a part of a healthy democracy but this should never be justified to be the reason for putting the nation down. For this, it is important that we are reminded of our glorious past so that we can learn more about the complexities and contractions among our duties and their essentiality, and also understand that nothing of it should ever come in the way of National duty. The land that gives us food, shelter and survival is the land worth worshipping and if we cannot be loyal to it what else is worth having our loyalties?

Due to our colonial legacy, mental slavery has become so strong a part that we fail to see through it. Frantz Fanon, a French theorist has talked about it in his famous 1952 book Black Skin, White Masks. We love to put on a western mask on our faces but never feel satisfied because it is not what we actually belong to. This is the reason that Swami Dayanand Saraswati had given the slogan, ‘Return to Vedas’ so that we can learn about our glorious past and come out of colonial mirage and rootlessness. Since British Rule Indian intellectual insomnia continues to haunt the present. So the need is to wake people up by educating them. Unless people start appreciating their culture and its beauty, the dream of Swadeshi can never be materialized. Today western markets have flooded the nation and thrashed down it’s economy and local business because its people have forgotten to understand the value of Swadeshi. We have a habit of comparing the country with the West but forget the truth that, it is not the West, but we, who have made our country poor by hating and criticizing our own things and loving the so-called branded western goods. Our hard-earned money travels out of the country making our own people poor day by day. There are people who study in India but dream of working abroad, earning in dollars. Some earn in India and give away that money easily for western things. People remember their constitutional rights forgetting the fundamental duties of the same constitution. People are ready to give and take a bribe, steal electricity, not pay taxes but, expect their country to compete with Western nations, remove unemployment, get rid of crimes, eradicate poverty, and enhance Rupees’ value against Dollars. Through schemes like ‘Make in India’ ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, ‘Padhega India’, ‘Swacch Bharat’, ‘Digital India’, ‘Direct Debit Transfer’, and many others aim to work towards people’s expectations. But is this really possible without the support of the people? Can we really clap with one hand? That is the question and the answer would be a big ‘No’. Self-introspection is the hardest thing in the world. So here comes the Rashtra dharma in practice. We can make our nation shine by embracing Swadeshi and never forget what role it played in India’s Independence Struggle.

Moral education should be made mandatory for all students, from the beginning till the end and make sure that students not just pass it but work toward it like any other subject to attain a good understanding of it. The character of the people shapes the fate of the nation. Until we make ourselves virtuous and brave we would always be behind. The race shouldn’t be to achieve materialistic supremacy but the supremacy of the soul. These are not herculean tasks. These are the things we can do easily without making much effort. All we need to have is a will to change, not others but ourselves. The need is to focus on what Mahatma Gandhi has said, “As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world changes towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme” (Phranseth). If only we make these changes in us our Rashtra dharma would automatically be preserved.


  • Ironside, Luke M. “The Concepts of Dharma and Karma in the Bhagavad Gita.” Musingsofaneophyteblog, Shoresofthesilence, 18 Oct. 2016, musingsofaneophyteblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/the-concepts-of-dharma-and-karma-in-the-bhagavad-gita/.
  • Phranseth, Jose. “Gandhi Didn’t Actually Say ‘Be the Change You Want to See in the World.” Here’s the Real Quote:” Joseph Ranseth, Josephranseth.com, 24 Aug. 2017, josephranseth.com/gandhi-didnt-say-be-the-change-you-want-to-see-in-the-world/.

Note for viewers: The author was chosen as a winner for the above article depending upon the participation and quality in the ‘Essay Writing Contest’ organized in May 2020. The opinions expressed in the article are purely of the author.