Essentials of Hindutva (Book)
|Year of Publication||1923|
|Author||Vinayak Damodar Savarkar|
During his stay from 1906 to 1910 in England, Savarkar grew inquizzitive to the question of who can precisely be called a 'Hindu'. Against the backdrop of raging chaos in India owing to the communal representation in the polity, eminent scholars, both Indian and English got interested in defining the word 'Hindu'. However, none of them succeeded in their attempts and at last, summed up the argument by pointing out that the word 'Hindu' was simply undefinable. Savarkar knew the real cause of their failure and pointed out the popular error of identifying the word with its religious aspect alone. He was convinced that none of them did ever grasped the full import of the national aspect implied in the word 'Hindu'. Thus he took the onus upon himself to bring justice to the word Hindu and Hindus' , altogether. He dwelt on the subject chiefly from its historical aspect and traced the development of Hindu race, religion and polity ever since the Vedic period. Unfortunately, Savarkar was arrested in England as a political revolutionist which led to the delay in publication of his works on the subject. It was in 1923 that the first edition of his book 'Hindutva' was brought out by Shri. V.V. Kelkar, B.A., L.L.B., advocate, Nagpur but his name could not be published as the author as he was still in the prison. The book came as a veritable revelation to Hindus at that time for it revealed to them their real National - Self. The definition pronounced by Savarkar provided a broad basic foundation on a bed-rock on which a consolidated and mighty Hindu nation could take a secure stand. The definition propounded by him was even adopted by the Hindu Mahasabha itself as the standard - authoritative definition of Hindutva.
The article put forth is a conscientious effort to present a brief summary of his book "Essentials of Hindutva" and stimulate discourses on the subject. It aims at amplifying the work of the great visionary that Savarkar was.
What is in a name?
V.D Savarkar through rationality and logic, brings out the significance of the association of a word to what it is understood by the popular masses, which with time as the emphasis grows stronger becomes impossible to separate. Moreover, the word altogether begins to matter as much as the thing itself when a number of secondary thoughts or feelings gets mystically attached to the word. He creates a fair analogy and puts forward a constructive criticism of the Shakespearean phrase. He says that there are words which imply an extremely complex idea or an ideal; words which are used synonymously for vast and abstract generalizations which would then become difficult to comprehend if the word itself ceases to exist. Savarkar cleverly reasons that those words or names are not the hand or the foot or any other body part of a man precisely because they are the very soul of man. The name thus becomes the idea itself as it adapts itself to the very essence of its meaning and lives longer than generations of men do. Thus in the end, he categorically refutes the famous Shakespearean dialogue and establishes the consequences of using names indiscriminately. [ref]
Hindutva is different from Hinduism
In his next essay called 'Hindutva is different from Hinduism', he goes on to elucidate the term Hindutva stating how it is not just a word but history of a whole race. He strongly opposes the usage of the two terms, Hindutva and Hinduism synonymously for he believes that the latter is a cognate term and is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of the former. The term Hinduism remains vague and impossible to understand until we know what Hindutva actually means. He argues that 'ism' generally means a theory or a code more or less based on spiritual or religious dogma, which is why Hinduism cannot be identical to Hindutva. He then reiterates that the fundamental difference between the two terms will become more transparent as we proceed to understand the essential meaning of the word Hindu. [ref]
What is a Hindu?
In 'What is a Hindu', Savarkar makes it certain that the intrepid Aryans existed beside the holy waters of Indus even before the ancient Egyptians, and Babylonians had built there magnificent civilization. He believed that by the time Aryans had spread out to the farthest of the seven rivers, they had cut themselves aloof from their cognate and neighbouring people, especially the Persians. They had even succeeded in developing a sense of nationality and giving themselves a local name 'Sapta Sindhus' out of their gratitude to the genial and perennial network of waterways that ran through the land like a system of nerve - threads, weaving them into a Being. He described Aryans essentially being the cultivators which as such, well justifies their divine love and homage they bore to these seven rivers. Therefore he saw no reason why people of diverse biological origins would be unable to form a united nation. Thus, all the people who resided beside the holy waters of river Indus came to be renowned as 'Sindhus' or 'Sapt Sindhu', which as a matter of fact, was also applied to whole of Vedic India in the oldest records of the world, the RigVeda itself.
At this point it becomes imperative to recognise the fact that Veer Savarkar was not an historian after all. Due to a dearth of scientific archaeological evidences at hand, he accepted the Aryan invasion theory that was being pushed by the Western and Communist forces of the time. Thus, he saw modern Hindus as a biological and cultural mixture of the Aryans and indigenous non - Aryans. [ref]
Savarkar then goes on to talk about the linguistics of the syllable "s" and "h" with regards to both Indian and non - Indian Prakrit languages. He elucidates the same by stating an example of the Sanskrit word "sapt" which becomes "hapta" not only in Indian Prakrits but also in the European languages. He also states that the Vedic name of our nation "Sapt Sindhu" had been mentioned as "Hapta Hindu" in the Avesta by the ancient Persian people. Thus, he draws out the conclusion that the cradle name chosen by the patriarchs of our race to designate our nation and our people was primarily Sapta Sindhu or Hapta Hindu and that almost all the nations of the then known world knew us by this very epithet, Sindhus or Hindus. [ref]
Name Older Still
What happens when a group of people enter a new country with an extremely thin population? How do they address those new scenes? Does the scattered local tribes welcome them or do they revolt? These are the kind of questions that Savarkar deals with sheer subtlety in his next essay 'Name Older Still'. He propounds two methods that the Aryans may have used to address the new scenes. The first one is by calling them by the very names through which they were known to the native people. Second by naming the new scenes similar to the names of their old habitats. He says that several of the native tribes had been good-natured folks and some even guided the Aryans and introduce them to the names of the new scenes. He shares the probability that the names of these great rivers may have been sanskritised and adopted by the Aryans. Thus, the great river Indus must have known as Hindu to the original inhabitants of our land which the Aryans got changed into Sindhu by the same linguistic law. Finally we know that even the Vedic name Sindhu is but a later adoption of the essential name of this land - Hindu which dates it's antiquity from a period so remoter that even mythology fails to penetrate - to trace it to its source.
Hindus, a Nation
In this part, Savarkar describes the course of period which eventually led to the the birth of a unified nation. As the Hindu tribes pushed forth their lands towards south and reclaimed the vast, waste and thinly populated lands, agriculture flourished, cities rose and kingdoms thrived with the touch of the human hand. At the same time, Aryans had developed loose political frameworks to suit their individualistic tendencies. Thus with time, different settlements began to lead their lives in a much centered form of institutions and the ancient generalizations and names gave way to the new ones for instance, Kurus, Kashis, Videhas, etc. Amongst those one of the most important political institution was that of a Chakarvartin. Savarkar here emphasizes that this centralisation did not necessary meant that the conception of a national and cultural unity vanished but rather the same assumed other names and forms. Then finally comes the day when the valorous Prince of Ayodhya makes a triumphant entry in Ceylon and the great wide Umbrella of Sovereignty was unfurled over the imperial throne of Ramchandra, The Brave. Savarkar says that this was the real birth-day of Hindus, of both Aryans and Anaryans; that it summed up and politically crowned the efforts of all the generations and handed down a common mission, a common banner, a common cause which all the generations after it, had consciously or unconsciously fought and died to defend.
Here, he talks about the various other terms and expressions that were used to denote this common motherland that had welded Aryans and non Aryans into a common race. The terms Aryawarta and Bramhawarta were not comprehensive enough to embrace the whole continent. The Indian Nation finally got its name as Bharat when the House of Bharat came to exercise its sway over the entire world. The name was the cherished epithet by which the people of Aryavarta and Dakshinapatha delighted to call their common cultural empire. Thus, the centre of gravity had naturally shifted from the Sapta Sindhu to the Gangetic Delta which gave way to the political grander expression, Bharatkhanda.