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~ Rajiv Tuli.
A Constitution enshrines the collective values and aspirations of a nation. It also chalks out the way to achieve those goals and also empowers authority in the hands of the government to perform their functions. In the same breath, the Constitution of India is based on the civilisational values which have evolved over 5,000 years in this land of Bharat.
The core values of the Indian Constitution are liberty, equality, fraternity, peaceful mutual co-existence, democracy, and respect for nature, natural resources and other creatures. These cultural-civilisational values have emanated from the core values of Hindu culture which is the oldest flourishing civilisation of the world. The enshrined values in the Constitution have drawn heavily from the cultural ethos of Hindu-ness (Hindutva). So much so, the very name of the nation has been derived from Hindu legends. There are three core areas that have been guarded so righteously by the Supreme Court as the Basic-Structure. It includes the Preamble, Fundamental Rights, and Directive Principles and Fundamental Duties, besides some other provisions.
The very first Article 1(1) says, “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.” The Constitution of India has given our country a name Bharat which is a symbol of its pre-Muslim and pre-British glorious past. The very name Bharat is derived from the legends of ancient Hindu traditions. Our country has traditionally been known since ions as ‘Bharat’ or ‘Bharatvarsha’. According to the Vishnu Purana, “The country that lies north of the ocean and the south of the snowy mountains is called Bharat for there dwell the descendants of the Bharat.” This was quoted by the prime minister in his Lok Sabha speech recently.
India was called Bharatvarsha after the king named Bharata since the Mahabharata times. Bharata was a legendary emperor and the founder of the Bharata dynasty and an ancestor of the Pandavas and Kauravas of the Mahabharata epic. He was son of King Dushyanta of Hastinapur and Queen Sakuntala. The great king Bharat conquered all of the Bharatvarsha (area comprising the Indian subcontinent as of today).
The phrase, ‘Union of States’ underlies the cultural-historical fact that the basis of Hindu civilisation in India has been a multicultural, plural and tolerant society where many sub-cultures existed and flourished. Most of these sub-cultures emanated from Hindu-ness or have been influenced heavily by it. Despite the existence of sub-micro yet multi-cultures, there has been an underlying political, geographical and cultural unity in India for ages. The unifying force has been the cultural tenants of Hindu-ness which is not merely a religion but a way of living. This underlying unity has come up openly many times politically in the form of centralised power but remained latent and potent often without compromising the flourishing space for regional sub-culture to develop, evolve and survive.
The core value of fraternity embedded in the Preamble of the Constitution is exclusively borrowed from the Upanishadic ideal of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ i. e. the whole universe is one family. The makers of the Constitution were subtly saying that the Indian ethos was essentially Hindu in character but that ethos implied ingrained respect for and tolerance of all other faiths.
The Fundamental Duties in the Indian Constitution, though non-enforceable by the state power, are those duties which are expected by the Indian nation from its citizens. Part IV A, Article 51–A of the Constitution provides that the citizen ought to have ‘sprit of common brotherhood’, ‘strive for excellence’, ‘preserve natural environment’. The term ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ which is the core ethos of Hinduism also implies tolerance towards other faiths, harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities.
Hindu-ness has been a way of life where the co-existence of humans with nature is a natural way of living. In our daily prayers in temples, we speak of Praniyon Mein Sadbhavna Ho (there be harmony in all the creatures including animals and plants) and Vishwa Ka Kalyan Ho (let the whole world prosper). Article 51-A(g) of the Constitution enjoins upon every citizen that it shall be the Fundamental Duties to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.
Hindu ways of life not only respect human beings but even animals. Cow has been worshipped and venerated as mother in the Hindu-Indian society since the Vedic era. Cow worshipping is embedded and ingrained in the Hindu cultural psyche. Hindus consider the cow to be part of their family and there are many cultural-religious festivals which are centred on the cow and its worship. In the Directive Principles of State Policy, which serve as a guide for the states to follow them while framing their laws, the importance of the cow has been hailed.
As per Article 48 of the Constitution, the state shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves. It specifically directs the state to prohibit the slaughter of cows and calves through legislation. So, following the ideal of Mahatma Gandhi, the Directive Principles specifically enjoins upon the state to make laws to protect the cow and stop its slaughter.
The oldest civilisation of Hindu-ness has its own language: Sanskrit has been a language which is the thread which has connected the whole of Hindutva. Sanskrit is known as the language of Gods. Our scriptures like Vedas, Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata, Yoga Sutra, etc, have been written and compiled in Sanskrit language. As per Articles 343 and 351, which make Hindi the official language of the Union and direct the state to spread the Hindi language drawing “primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages” for its vocabulary. This clearly enjoins the Central and state governments to spread the unifying language of Hindi by drawing from the Sanskrit language.
Hindu-ness is an ever-evolving religion. Over time there crept up some distortions by the vested interests which sought to be amended through the Constitution. For example, untouchability has been sought to be abolished through Article 17 which abolishes untouchability in all its forms and practices.
The foundation of the Indian Constitution is Hindu-ness which is nothing but humanism and humanity.
The author, Rajiv Tuli is an independent columnist and commentator. Views expressed are personal.
This article was first published in FirstPost on Feb 17, 2022.