A river is an eternally contemporary phenomenon. It has no origin and end, at least such a one which could be grasped with human intelligence. The first upsurge of the original spring happening somewhere far inside the earth gushing forth and ousting itself on the earth’s surface is that origin which we cannot see with our eyes. This real origin is not which could be traced and understood physically as the origin of a river is actually a revelation of the limitations of sensory system of humans. What we see or sense as the origin of a river is the ultimate reach of our search of its origin. Our search stops there, it does not end with the grasp of the origin. What we see as the primary spring of the origin of the great Ganga at Gangotri is the final point within human capacity. The true origin of river is far deeper in the womb of the Mother Earth. Locating the unobservable source of a river is out of human reach. How could we see the first upsurge which happens at a place which we cannot see with our eyes? This substantiates the human limitations of understanding what could be seen by us as the origin. However, the true source of a river remains unexplored. This ever-flowing source of human life grants the attribute of incessant flow to people’s culture. It changes its forms and course with respect to the various regions it flows through. But the matter that flows, the life breeding river water, the source of human life, and the consistent water is always the same, unified, cohesive forms of varied expressions of the same source, the same river.

The ever flowing river of Bharatiya culture has cultivated this ever-evolving aspect of the identity and individuality of the people of Bharat. The Bharat Rashtra is its people. The people of Bharat are its culturally cohesive ensembles. This cohesiveness progresses and evolves with a passage of time. The communicative cultures, linguistic patterns, artistic expressions, everyday cultures and ways of life of the people of Bharat transform and develop through immense influxes which are perpetually operative in the form of consciousness and feelings. No sane people define these mores and modes of life before they are lived out. We, the people of Bharat do not do that. The riparian cultures of the people of Bharat evolved through centuries developed a common character. Of course, the local and spatial touches to the expression of this culture were diverse and marvellously unique. Yet, the clairvoyant cohesive aspects of cultural practices formed a Bruhad-Bharatiya (larger Indian) cultural harmony transcending the local pluralities across the subcontinent called Sankritik-Bharat. This nuanced cultural character, this unique cultural milieu; the civilisational identity came to be observed as the Hindu way of life by the people of all castes and creeds. It became the quintessential character of the individual living in the Hindu society in the world. It was neither imposed nor was it determined by an individual or any scriptures. The very fact that there are no evangelical or documentary guidelines of the Hindu way of life shows that it did not come into practice through the writing of an individual or through the dictate of a monolithic, monotheist religion. This is the ethos of our life as Hindus. Its reverential expression is Hindutva. Hindutva makes Bharatiya culture eternally contemporary.

As a nation-wide unfolding of Bharat centric academics, arts, Media and intellectual traditions, ‘Lokmanthan’, went off in a three-day International Colloquium of ‘Nation First’ thinkers, artists and activists which was jointly organised by the Department of Culture, Government of Madhya Pradesh and the social activity called Prajna Pravah at Vidhan Sabha Parisar, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh from November 12 to 14, 2016. ‘Lokmanthan’- 2016 was inaugurated with Devi Saraswati Poojan and Deep Prajwalan at the hands of Prof Om Prakash Kohli, Honourable Governor of Madhya Pradesh, Swami Avadheshanand Giri, Shri Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Honourable Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and Shri Suresh Soni, RSS Sahsarkaryavah.

Churning Begins

In his inaugural address, the Chief Guest Mahamandaleshwar Juna Akhada Swami Avadheshananda Giri said that ‘the culture of Bharat connects with minds of people with integrity, equality and affection. We value the world as a family; we do not rate it as a market. The life’s values lived out by the people in their everyday life impart equality and reverence for the ordinary and for the animals, birds and the whole living world.’ He also appreciated the government for organising the colloquium. In his welcome address the Honourable Chief Minister of the State, Shivraj Singh Chauhan said that Lokmanthan is the sixth programme in a series of such thought-provoking conferences organised by the MP Government. He also assured that Lokamanthan will extract the nectar of thoughts which will alleviate us. It will help us face the challenges that Bharat is facing today. The keynote address of the inaugural session was delivered by Shri Suresh Soni. He propounded that Bharat will have to rise with its own identity but this will not be possible without understanding Bharat. Bharat has many traditions of dialogues. Bharat is not a blank slate today. In fact, it is standing at crossroads. On one hand we have life’s values and socio-economic-cultural formations extracted from the experiences of the human generations of thousands of years and on the other hand, the invading ideologies generated elsewhere are being incorporated into Bharat’s life values. This is why there is a situation of conflict. We have to develop the psychic, academic and aesthetic means to have a clearer view of the Bharat of our consciousness and remove the scum of ignorance and diffidence. We have to join the rings of the chain that are broken due to the colonial intervention. Next was the speech of thinker and Parliamentarian Shri Vinay Sahasrabudhe who said that ‘Lokmanthan’ is an activity and a movement which focuses on the issue of colonial mindset and explores the avenues for indigenising the global thoughts as well as globalising the Bharatiya polity. The last speech of the inaugural speech was made by the Honourable Governor of Madhya Pradesh, Prof Shri OP Kohli, the President of the inaugural function, Shri Kohali criticised the modern education system for its culturally insensitive policies eroding the cultural space of Bharatiya culture. He urged the gathering to ‘Return to the Roots’. A book written by the popular ‘Sangh Vicharak’ Prof Rakesh Sinha named, Swaraj in Ideas – Quest for Decolonisation of the Indian Mind was launched at the hands of all dignitaries present on the stage.

Decolonising Indian Minds

The several plenary and parallel sessions and cultural programs provided a rich feast to the mind, eyes and soul of the participants. The inaugural session was a joint session for all participants. The participants gathered for the plenary sessions in which thought provoking discussion on various issues concerning colonisation, Eurocentric Academics, decolonisation happened. This session was presided over by Pujya Swami Mitranand and deliberations were made by Shri Rajiv Malhotra and Prof. Rakesh Sinha. The splendid variety of topics provided immense opportunity for cogitative churning to all participants in the parallel sessions that followed. These sessions were mainly held on and around the topics encompassing issues like Impact of Colonisation on Literature, Social Sciences, Political Discourse, Art, Science, and Technology and on society in general. Resourceful speakers, intellectuals, academicians presented papers, made deliberations in the respective sessions. The best part of the parallel sessions was the interactions that followed. A truly academic exercise was performed in the parallel sessions with the participation of young, dynamic, curious delegates who had come from all over the nation. The unique feature of these sessions was that the cogitative churning that happened was not induced by any monetary or professional benefit but it was inspired by the veracity and sagacity of the cause of revisiting the eternally contemporary traditions of Bharat. The first day closed with a sense and realisation that the reawakening of Bharatiyata in all walks of life is possible by overthrowing the discordant colonial, Anglo-centric values.

Nationalism in the era of Globalisation

The second day of Lokmanthan reached a soprano of joy over the scholarly yet all encompassing, all inclusive and all reaching speeches made by the Honourable Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shri Shivrajsingh Chauhan, Dr Bibek Debroy and the ever adorable Former HRD Minister Dr Shri Murli Manohar Joshi. This plenary session was held on the topic of ‘Nationalism in the era of Neo-Liberalism and Globalisation’. Shri Chauhan made excellent deliberations. The gathering was awed to witness the well-studied and resourceful observations shared by the Chief Minister. Untouched by the usual dash of the political rhetoric seen in few political leaders Shri Chauhan maintained that the market-driven globalisation spread by the West will be discarded by the world and the ever indomitable ‘Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam’ will alone save the world from the present crisis of all kinds. Dr Deboroy made very forceful and delightful pitching in his speech for developing the template of consensus on what is it that Bharat wants today. He urged the people of Bharat to develop a sense of pride over our identity as Bharatiya and throw away the old, outdated garb of diffidence and mental slavery. In his presidential address Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, the veteran scholar and eloquent speaker that he is, enlightened the gathering effortlessly on the quintessential identity of Bharat. He affirmed that Bharat alone can ensure peace in the world for all. This can happen only by letting the people of Bharat realise their potential and executing it in all walks of life. He maintained that the sense of social being of humans is a greater ontological and epistemological understanding than the messy, chaotic and anarchic provocations of individualism. In this session, two books were launched at the hands of the dignitaries on stage. An Assistant Professor from Fergusson College, Shri Prasanna Deshpande’s book, named, Disindianising Indians-The Metaphysics of Academic Left, which is a polemic on the imposition of Cultural Marxism on the academics of Bharat provoking radical identity politics, was launched at the hands of Shri Murli Manohar Joshi, Shri Bibek Deboroy and Shri Shivraj Singh Chauhan. A Souvenir by Janmabhumi (A Malayalam Daily Newspaper), Pragnya documenting the vision and philosophy of ‘Lokmanthan’ edited by Shri Pradeep Nambiaar was also launched in this session.

Identity, Aspirations and National Integration

The plenary session was followed by parallel sessions offering a rich variety to all the participants to choose their intellectual feast. These sessions covered topics like, Nationality and Modernity, Modernity and Life-Style, Present Global Scenario and the Geo-Politics of Bharat, Indigenous Economics and the role of Culture, Tradition and Religion in Nationality. Influential speakers from all over the world engaged these sessions with a result of a very productive and enlightening indulgence of the participants. Shri Tarek Fatah, renowned thinker, author and columnist was the chief attraction of the post lunch plenary session. He presented a polemic on the radicalisation of Islam and appeasement of Muslims for political paybacks. In his unique style coupled with dark humour Shri Tarek brightened the gathering. He made a strong appeal for asserting the identity of Bharat and using power to crush the sinister intentions of the confronting neighbourhood. Shri Milind Kamble, the founder and chairperson of Dalit Chamber of Indian Commerce made a very inspiring deliberation on how the Dalit radicalisation of identity will prove to be detrimental to the Dalit cause and also on how the activism of cooperation will alone prepare a pathway for the social, cultural and economic upliftment of Dalits in Bharat. He also encouraged entrepreneurial aspirations among Dalit youth and also that they should by’ job providers’ instead of ‘job seekers’. He made an appeal to Dalit youth to emulate the thoughts of the veteran leader and thinker Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and not to fall a prey to the provoking, destructive machinations of the Left. This session got over with a very methodical and inspiring summing up by Prof Shri Ashok Modak.

This session was followed by parallel sessions which included the topics like, National Identity and Personal Identity, Women Empowerment, Western Discourse on Women, Dalit Identity, North East, Jammu and Kashmir and People in Democracy. These sessions were well received and the participants too shared their views during the interaction that followed. The cultural programs that followed presented a rich heritage of aesthetic practices in Bharat. It included Kathakali, Kalari, Bharata Natyam and Tayambaka. It was performed by Shri Kalamandalam Prashobh. Astavadhan presentation made by Shatavadhani Dr Ganesh was the marvellous performance.

Role of Art, Culture and History in Nation Building

The third day of ‘Lokmanthan’ opened with a very aesthetically enriching experience. The session was chaired by Dr Sonal Mansingh, the Founder President of Centre of Indian Classical Dances. Sushri. Kalapini Komakali made the first deliberation on the role of art and culture in nation building. The clarity in her thoughts and ease in expressions were found matching her rewarding excellence in singing the Nirguni Bhajans. Dr Kapil Tiwari made a fulsome presentation on the symbols of Bharat expressing its rich cultural heritage. He said that the concept of Bharat and its realisation starts and ends with the people of Bharat. Bharat means its people. Their life and life’s ways make Bharat. Hence, aesthetic practices of all kinds should incorporate this symbolism expressing the Bharat present in all things. The closing remarks of this session were made by Dr Sonal Mansigh. She asserted that the reawakening of Bharat has to have a space for ‘gender equity’. Without ensuring an equal social, cultural status to the women of Bharat no nation building could be possible. Her views shared in her address were well received by the gathering.

The plenary session was followed by parallel sessions on the areas like, Culture, Art and Literature, Folk art, Traditions, Current Trends in Media, Academics, Intellectual Universe, History Writing, Film Making, Social Media and New Society. Manthan continues

The three-day ‘Lokmanthan’ came to a very electrifying closure with the speech of the ever vibrant Shri Anupam Kher. He insisted that the family values and love, respect for parents are the easiest and surest ways to stay connected to one’s own cultural roots. Citing many anecdotes from his interaction with his father and other members of his family, Anupam tickled everyone and made them understand the otherwise considered mundane and routine idea of respect for parents. He said that if you do not respect your parents, you lose the right to respect your Dharma, Rashtra and the mankind. His speech was followed by one of the most inspiring and true-to-life discourse delivered by Rev. Samdhong Rinpoche, a highly respected Tibetian academician. He stated that decolonisation of culture will not be possible without decolonising our languages. Since language is the vehicle of culture, it transfers cultural values to the next generations. Hence, an absolute cleansing of the colonial dregs would require us to return to our languages. He said that our life lived in a close affinity with nature will help us reawakening our cultural self because nature cannot be colonised. So, if we live our life in harmony with the nature in the ecosystem of Bharat, the less colonised we will be. With the aura of solemnising expressions Shri Rinpoche elevated everyone in spirit, mind and thoughts.

Toward the end of the valedictory session of Lokmanthan Shri J Nandakumar, RSS Saha Prachaar Pramukh and the General Secretary of the Organising Committee of ‘Lokmanthan’-2016, presented a report of ‘Lokmanthan’- 2016. He also presented the vote of thanks. The Adhvaryu of Lokmanthan-2016, the operating, channelising force behind the organisational particulars shared the view with the audience on why was Bhopal selected as a location for Lokmanthan. He stated that the ancient glorious cultural traditions of Bharat under the rule of King Bhoj are still followed in this city. The people of this town possess a sterling quality of internalising cultural values. People of this town are known for their hospitality, generosity and willingness for learning. Shri Nandakumar also thanked everyone who supported, volunteered and participated into ‘Lokmanthan’ to make it into a movement.

The valedictory session got over with the presentation of Lokamrit by Shri Shrikant Katdhare and the concluding speech of Shri Chandra Prakash Dwivedi, the veteran actor, script writer and film maker. Shri Shrikant presented a point by point list of resolutions made as a result of Lokmanthan, the extraction of the nectar of workable modules for the realisation and actualisation of all the Bharat centric intellectual, aesthetic, philosophical thoughts that were presented, received, reflected in the deliberations that were made in the ‘Lokmanthan’, the great churning of great thoughts. In his concluding speech Shri Chandra Praksh said that preserving distinctiveness of Bharatiya culture is the only way to build the Rashtra because the polity, culture and Dharma are absolutely blended into one another.

Thus the great churning has paused for a moment. This churning will gather a momentum and speed and will broadcast the nectar of Knowledge in all directions enlightening those who will participate and also those who do not. The question is would you like to be a part of the churning. The pursuit is the nectar perhaps. Such an idiomatic understanding of Hindutva and the conviction in its characteristic relation with life was the self-knowledge of the people of India. We were not tutored to internalise this by the British or the natives. The alienating rationality of colonial rulers ascribed certain provincial characteristics to the people of Bharat. They imagined our identity with certain means in their minds and the colonisers tried to legitimise this imagination by fulfilling those means. They did not only rule the nation politically but their rule also shaped and determined the character of our social institutions. The typically Bharatiya arts and aesthetics retained their indigenous character but our academics, Media and Entertainment, Judiciary are still under the colonial influences. Bharat will be truly independent through an outright decolonisation of the minds of its people and through a creation of Bharat centric academics and aesthetics.

(The writer is an Asst. Professor of English, Fergusson College, Pune)