Dr. Radhakamal Mukerjee (1889 1968) was one of the greatest social scientists of India. He was Professor of Economics and Sociology at Lucknow University and later on Vice-Chancellor at the same University. He played an important and constructive role in country's freedom struggle. He was invited to deliver lectures at many Indian universities and also abroad including U.K., Europe, U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. He was a highly original philosopher of history, a penetrating interpreter of civilization and a gifted art theorist. He wrote more than 50 books covering these and other subjects. He held important positions in some national and international bodies. An American reviewer has considered him to have written "some of the most important works of our century."
THE civilization of India is of great significance in human history for three reasons. First, its extraordinary continuity for about five millennia is evidence of its vitality, the roots of which, its humanistic spirit and distinctive system of values and social arrangement, throw light upon the perennial sources of mankind's strength and staying power. Secondly, Indian culture has through several centuries established a unity of Asian civilization. The method by which this has been achieved not only represents the special genius of India but also indicates the direction of all history, from specific culture to universal culture, from 'tribe' nationalism to a unified world society, the destiny of the human species. Thirdly, India's reflection on the problems of human life and society, vigorously pursued since the dawn of civilization, has produced and nurtured a mental pattern somewhat distinct from the Western and East Asian. Prominent in this pattern is a boundless devotion to the quest of peace and harmony that cannot but be of interest in a war sick globe.
The state, politics, and conquest are far less significant in India than metaphysics, religion, myth and art as factors in social integration. There are hardly any people in the world who have been ruled so little by political occurrences- -a reign, an invasion, or a war-and so much by metaphysical and religious movements; by scholastic formulations of common myths, norms and social traditions. It is these that have welded Middle, East, and South-East Asia for several centuries into one spiritual community.
Many foreign writers speak of the religiosity of India, but in fact the dominant note of her culture is mythopoeic, metaphysical and aesthetic rather than religious and theological. The myriad names and appear ances of her gods-the three hundred and thirty million deities of her mythology-many of whom are assimilated from the cults and beliefs of the non-Aryan peoples, do not trouble the Indian, since all equally embody the same world-transcending metaphysical and aesthetic attributes. In an inscription at the temple of Keśava at Belur, Mysore, there is the following universal prayer: "May Hari, the Lord of the three worlds, worshipped by the Saivas as Siva, by the Vedantists as Brahman, by the Buddhists as the Buddha, by the logicians as the chief agent, by the Jains as the emancipated being, and by the ritualists as the principle of observance, grant our prayers.
The various scriptures of the peoples may discourse eloquently about. the gods and their modes of worship and ritual, but these are silenced before the religious metaphysic of the Vedanta and its triple canon (prasthanas), viz., the Upanişads, the Brahma Sutra, and the Bhagavad Gita. 'All scriptures become mute when the Vedanta lion emerges, just as the jackals which raise their voices in the forest lapse into silence as they encounter the lion.’
It is the stress in India or purely intellectual and metaphysical traditions rather than theological dogmas and creeds, and the derivation of both cosmology and the system of social values and institutions from the former, that account for the flexibility and catholicity of Indian culture, and the large measure of success it obtained in assimilating alien and backward races and peoples both within the country and abroad. No race could elaborate, as India has done, a myth or fiction of racial miscegenation (varnasamkara) in order to throw open her doors to myriads of inferior and alien stocks. Right from the Upanişadic stress on the virtues of compassion, self-discipline and charity, and the austere eight-fold path of the Buddha, the Indian code of Dharma has insisted upon gentleness, tenderness, and non-violence, qualities through which India has tamed and civilized many peoples without the weapons of fire and sword.
The approach to Indian history must, therefore, be integrative and cultural rather than merely political. By concentrating on fundamental 'ideas-in-action', myths and values, order and sequence can be brought into the study of the life and development of this ancient people. Other wise the invasions and conquests and the rise and disintegration of the various kingdoms and empires in different parts of India would constitute an unreal picture of chaos or a succession of crises and revolutions.
To enable the intelligent layman to read the volume without the distraction of footnotes and references, these have been omitted, except in the text itself; the student is referred to an ample bibliography at the end of the book. By way of illustration, quotations from literary works, myths, hymns and inscriptions have been included, as well as examples of the principal motifs and symbols of Indian art, especially sculpture. With its metaphysical outlook on life, Indian civilization authentically and spontaneously reveals itself in sculpture, the most appropriate medium for recording man's permanent and supernatural values. A time-chart giving the principal events, epochs and movements will, it is hoped, be found useful.
I am thankful to the University of Lucknow for inviting me to deliver the Radhakumud Mookerji Endowment Lectures in 1956 for which I have utilized certain chapters of this work.
I am grateful to Professor C. D. Chatterjee of the Department of Indian History and Archaeology for several valuable suggestions. Mr Jagadish Prasad Misra and Mr B. N. Srivastava of the same Department and Dr A. C. Banerjee of the Department of Sanskrit have laid me under obligation by revising the proofs. I am also indebted to my pupil Dr Shankar Sahai for assistance in designing the Maps and to Mr Jagadish Prasad Misra for the preparation of a full and valuable Index. I would also thank the Department of Archaeology, Government of India, as well as the State Museums at Calcutta, Patna, Madras, Nalanda, Sarnath and Mathura, the National Museum of India, New Delhi, the Varendra Research and Dacca Museums, East Pakistan, the Bangkok Museum, the Archaeological Survey of Indonesia and Mr Reginald Le May, Dr Raghu Vira, Mr W. G. Archer, Dr A. J. Ph. Vogel and Mr B. N. Srivastava for lending me photographs and permitting their reproduction in the volume.
The system of transliteration adopted in this work is represented by the following words: Sri Kriṣṇa, Lichchhavayah and Mimamsa.
CIVILIZATION in India is at once more ancient and alive than in any other country in the world. Yet few countries have experienced such invasions and conquests by alien races; even fewer contain such a diversity of natural conditions, customs and languages. The continuity of Indian civilization is largely the outcome of a well-nigh homogeneous pattern of myths and values, and a social order that it has evolved through fifty centuries of struggle, gradual assimilation and synthesis. In this immense territory invasion, war or conquest, if it has welded together or disintegrated kingdoms and empires, has not led to the wholesale expropriation of a population nor to the substitution of one culture for another; it has not materially in fluenced the habits and character of the Indian people.
The key to Indian life and development is to be found in a certain systematisation of manners, beliefs, and ethos, the balanced pursuit of the four-fold goals of life: Dharma, or absolute righteousness, Artha, or vocation, Kama, or fulfilment of desires, and Mokşa, or release, all in a governing metaphysical frame of reference. In the last analysis the essential gift of Indian civilization is the sense of Dharma, for each individual, ethnic group, caste, and vocation; each must pursue, accomplish and, finally, transcend a certain code of duties. in accordance with life's demands. Dharma is explained in the Mahabharata by Krisna as what protects or preserves: Dharma is what contains both the social order and the cosmic order, which in Indian thought are continuous. It is the divine and transcendental Justice, Truth and Law which uphold universe, mind and people. (Mahabharata, Udyoga parva, 137, 9). Dharma defines and regulates both the functions of social life and the goals of the individual and is interpreted across the centuries as the unbounded extension ofsocial relations, as the liberation derived from interdependence and solidarity. The individual's aim of perfection is the same as the group's aim of culture, complete, balanced and practical-the realisation of the Universal Self and the Universal Community, which India names and worships as Paramatman and Narayaṇa, identifying the one with the other.
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend