The Mother Divine
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By Sir John Woodroff
Compiled by Deb Kumar Chakraborti
(Originally published in The Mother, February 1972)

The Early English settlers first engaged in trade and then in conquest, did not concern themselves with what the Indian believed or did in matters not directly and materially affecting themselves. Their energies were devoted to the security of their position and trade. With, however, the gradual settlement of the country after the Battle of Plassey, English culture was brought to bear on it. The most important happening in the first half of the 19th century was the defeat of the orient list party amongst the English in India and the determination to forward the teaching of the English language. The importance of this decision cannot be over-rated, for thereby English Ideas and ideals came in time to spread throughout the land and even to being accepted by some of its people in place of their own. The fault of the famous minute of 1835 was the resolution of the Government of Lord William Bentinck that the great objective of the British Government ought to be the promotion of European literature and science amongst the natives of India and that all the funds appropriated for the purpose of education would be best employed in English education alone. Sir Charles Wood's dispatch of 1854 furthered English education and resulted in the formation of a department of Public Instruction together with the outline of a University System. From this time forward English education was more and more organized in Government hands. Even private schools were subject to a system of inspection so as to approximate those institutions to the ideals and efficiency of government schools.

All this is part of the process whereby a dominant race at first works by force of arms, and then, when free to do so by cultural assimilation. Wherever there is resistance to such assimilation, there is a conflict of culture and ideals. A cultural conquest means the subjection and, may be, destruction of the psychic possessions of the racial soul which is then transformed into the nature of that of the victor.    Language affords a notable example of such cultural dominance. People who abandon or are compelled to abandon their language for that of another lose themselves.

Only a race's own language can express its soul. Those who speak a foreign tongue will tend to think in foreign thoughts; those who think in foreign thoughts will have foreign ways and so forth. For these reasons dominant people have sought to impose their language on subject races as the completion of their conquest. (Now a days) Indian boys are sent to missionary schools or schools conducted by Christians, from which some students have returned to their homes in the belief that their parents (if they themselves had any belief) were dark "heathens”. In this way the Indian Dharma is being lost and often no other definite conception of life and its duties has been acquired in its stead.

To an Indian, self-conscious of the greatness of his country's civilization, it must be gall and wormwood to hear other speaking of the "education” and "civilization" of India. India who has taught some of the deepest truths which our race has known is to be "educated''. She whose ancient civilization ranks with the greatest the world has known is to be "civilized".

That great man and orientalist Sir William Jones said, "It is impossible to read the Vedanta or the many fine compositions in illustration of it, without believing that Pythagoras and Plato derived their sublime theories from the same fountain with the sages of India." The celebrated French historian of philosophy Victor Cousin wrote: "when we read with attention the poetical and philosophical monuments of the East, above all those of India, which are beginning to spread in Europe, we discover there many a truth and truths so profound, and which make such contrast with the meanness of the results at which European genius has sometimes stopped, that we are constrained to bend the knee before the philosophy of the East and see in this cradle of the human race the native land of the highest philosophy." Professor Lowes-Dickinson, in an essay which seeks with justice to define the character of Indian civilization, profoundly remarks that it is so unique that the contrast is not so much between East and West as between India and the rest of the world. Thus India stands for something which distinguishes it from all other peoples, and so she calls herself Karma - bhumi as opposed to Bhoga-bhumi of all other peoples. For this she has been wonderfully preserved until today. Even now (and in this consists one cause of the extraordinary interest which India arouses) we can see the life of thousands of years ago. Standing at the Ghats of Banaras or by any village well we are transported into the beautiful antique world.

I have in mind not any soiled and hybrid developments of the time, but the principles of the civilization of old India, with its Dharma, Devata and Gomata a civilization in its depths profound, on its surface a pageant of antique beauty—the civilization of India of the Hindus.

But this is only one side of the picture; on the other side critics like Mr. Archer have waged severe attacks on India and her culture. Comparing Indian and European art he says, "The difference almost amounts to that between fine art and barbarism." About the Indian epics he says, "The Mahabharata is in no way behind the Ramayana in crudity and extravagance, it is in many respects the more barbarous of the two." As for Indian architecture, "It is a disease of gigantesque barbarism." As for the Indian Gods, "Ganesha is the pot-bellied Falstaff of Hinduism," and so forth.

Here two facts may be noted. The first is that there must be something peculiar in Indian civilization which is the cause of this animosity: and the second is the proof such attacks afford of the living force of this civilization. None now goes into moral hysterias over the absurdities or the iniquities of Phoenician, Carthaginian or the Babylonian civilization. They are dead and gone, but India lives. Up to now India has presented itself as one of the immortal peoples, to use the word of (I think) some French writer whose name I forget. Suffering racial and social division, politically    disrupted, with a great variety of languages and scripts, governed for centuries by strangers, she has yet held together so that she can still speak of "India." This I think is due primarily to certain religious and philosophical concepts held in common by her people, and as regards ''Hinduism” in its technical sense, the wonderful organization called Varnashrama dharma.

I have, therefore, my moments of angry wonder as I see the increasing vulgarization of the fine and (in an eastern sense) aristocratic life of India, the betrayal or neglect of past traditions and culture, the senseless imitations of foreign ways simply because they are foreign and the many shams and falsities of modern Indian life. How many Europeans have been even in partial degree "hinduized'' (if then term can be applied to any) as compared to the thousands who have been anglicized.

The glamour which attends a dominant race produces amongst the imitative the   "have a drink" and ''so English'' Indian; the type which bans "native dress" from his club because it is "run on European lines” and brings up his children in "Indian Eton’s" to segregate them from the common run of Indian folk. If attention has not been paid to Indian culture (by the British rulers), it is due primarily to the fact that the English educated sections of the community have not, as a rule, made any demand for it. Some of them are quite content with "Indian Etons" and the like.

(Speaking of the present political situation of India,) while political home-rule might be attained through the adoption of the civilization of the foreign ruler, there would in such case, no longer be a home (in the Indian sense) to rule. Those who then ruled themselves would be an alias of their departed rulers; people who in the language of Macaulay would be Englishmen in everything but color.
It was Swami Vivekananda who said that if India becomes English, all intermediate steps towards such a result spell weakness, India is now about to be drawn into the world-whirlpool wherein she must herself struggle to preserve herself..

It has already been pointed out that India is the native land of the highest philosophy. Worshippers of the Vedanta think that Indian civilization has been almost alone preserved throughout the ages, because through its Vedantic teaching India was destined to be Jagatguru, the spiritual teacher of the world.
I believe that the principles of Indian civilization are of great value. Without belittling others, I think that it will be to the benefit of the world at large that it should take the help of the Indian people infused by the Indian  spirit,  and not servile imitators for whom we Westerns have no place. We have no need for disciplines in matters in which we are the masters. In order that Indian culture should take its place in the world, it is necessary that the Indian spirit, which has produced that culture, should be fostered. This is for the world good, and for this end, whatever is our race, we should all render our service, and thus be friends of the world (Jagadbandhu).