A Series Inspired by India’s Rebirth – 15

Author: Beloo Mehra (2020). Published under the title ‘When Young India Awakes’ in Sri Aurobindo’s Action, Vol. 51 (5), May 2020, pp. 8-10

CONTINUED FROM Part 14

Indian youth

When Young India Awakes

CHAPTER XIV

Yuvaan was now really looking forward to being at the Somnāth temple at Prabhas Patan.  He had just received a little lesson in the history of the reconstruction of this great temple after Indian independence in 1947 – via a conversation with a gentleman at the café where they had stopped for their tea break. This gentleman had been going to the Somnāth temple once a month for the last twenty years.

Yuvaan had some vague sense that this temple was of great significance – historical, religious, spiritual, cultural – but did not know anything specific about the temple’s long history. He had heard about the repeated destructions the temple had faced at the hands of invaders. But that was the fate of many temples in India, what was special about Somnāth, – he had never really bothered to learn. Nor was this ever covered in any significant way in his history books in school or college. There is so much I don’t know about my country, my nation’s history – that was the first thought which came to Yuvaan’s mind when he heard the old Gujarati gentleman mention Sardar Patel’s and K. M. Munshi’s role in the reconstruction of the temple. He decided to read up a bit before reaching the temple.

As the car sped again on the highway, sitting quietly in the backseat Yuvaan spent the next several minutes searching the internet for K.M. Munshi and his work on Somnāth temple. He bookmarked a few articles and also downloaded a couple of books by Munshi. He was tempted to read through some of the material right away, but remembered that he should first complete the chapter which he was reading from Essays on the Gita before stopping for tea break. He smiled as he realised that his interest in exploring the deeper truths of Indian culture and history had also helped him become a better student – more systematic and organised, but more importantly a more sincere, patient and open-minded learner. Something that he had struggled with during his regular school and college years!


Shri K.M. Munshi, with archaeologists and engineers of the Government of India, Bombay and Saurashtra, at the Somnath Temple, July 1950. Source: Wiki commons

Yuvaan was enthralled and deeply fascinated when he read about the Gita’s teaching of the spirit of equality with which all work must be done. This equality, according to the Gita, is not mere disinterestedness but a state of inner poise and wideness. Sri Aurobindo says that this is the foundation of spiritual freedom. And in that freedom, one must do the “work that is to be done,” a phrase, as Sri Aurobindo explains, is used by the Gita with the greatest wideness including in it all works, and which far exceeds, though it may include, social duties or ethical obligations.

Yuvaan somehow felt that perhaps this was the spirit in which Sardar Patel and K. M. Munshi must have worked on the Somnāth temple reconstruction project – as the “work to be done” in a state of inner poise and wideness. He was thrilled to see these emerging deeper connections between what he was reading and what he was experiencing in his travels to different places in India.

What is my work to be done – Yuvaan wondered for a few minutes? But as he read further, he learned that,

“…what is the work to be done is not to be determined by the individual choice; nor is the right to the action and the rejection of claim to the fruit the great word of the Gita, but only a preliminary word governing the first state of the disciple when he begins ascending the hill of Yoga.”[1]

***

“The argument of the Gita resolves itself into three great steps by which action rises out of the human into the divine plane leaving the bondage of the lower for the liberty of a higher law …The first step is Karmayoga, the selfless sacrifice of works, and here the Gita’s insistence is on action. The second is Jnanayoga, the self-realisation and knowledge of the true nature of the self and the world; and here the insistence is on knowledge; but the sacrifice of works continues and the path of Works becomes one with but does not disappear into the path of Knowledge. The last step is Bhaktiyoga, adoration and seeking of the supreme Self as the Divine Being, and here the insistence is on devotion; but the knowledge is not subordinated, only raised, vitalised and fulfilled, and still the sacrifice of works continues; the double path becomes the triune way of knowledge, works and devotion. And the fruit of the sacrifice, the one fruit still placed before the seeker, is attained, union with the divine Being and oneness with the supreme divine nature.”[2]

Karmayoga, Jnanayoga, Bhaktiyoga – these terms were familiar to him. Perhaps most Indians – even in his generation – at some point or the other have heard of these terms, mused Yuvaan. But do we really understand what these terms mean? Do we realise the depth of the meaning behind the ideas of “selfless sacrifice of works” or “self-realisation”, or even something that sounds so fundamental as “devotion”?

Maybe it is not about understanding these ideas but actually living them, actually realising the truth of being a devotee, being a karmayogi and a jnanayogi! But still, something in Yuvaan insisted that one’s intellectual curiosity must also be satiated along the way. At least that was the case for him, he was becoming more aware by the day.

Coming to the end of the chapter titled “The Core of the Teaching” Yuvaan again realised the need to closely study the entire Bhagavad Gita with the help of a teacher. He really needed help, he knew that for sure – to unlock the deeper truths behind the words of this eternal scripture, this timeless Song of the Divine. His heart sent up a silent prayer that he may find such a teacher at the right time, as he gazed outside from the car window, his head rested against the glass in a contemplative mood.


Source: Wiki commons

Catching a signboard on a roadside shop which read “Jaya Somnāth,” Yuvaan suddenly realised that soon he would be standing in front of the Somnāth temple. He started browsing through the online material he had saved earlier about K.M. Munshi and his work. He learned about the multi-faceted personality of K.M. Munshi – freedom fighter, political thinker, lawyer, literary figure, institution-builder, and a great patron of Indian culture and civilisation. Yuvaan was especially thrilled to learn about Munshi’s association with Sri Aurobindo, who inspired him to work for the renaissance of India and for the renewal of her eternal and noble traditions, unsullied by ritual and dogma.

Munshi had done a good deal of historical research on the Somnāth temple, Yuvaan learned. This was reflected in his book “Somnāth: The Shrine Eternal” which was published on the occasion of the installation of the Somnāth deity in the newly constructed temple. Yuvaan was intrigued by the fact that Munshi had also written a historical novel titled “Jaya Somnāth” which he was definitely going to read soon.

“Desecrated, burnt and battered, it still stood firm – a monument of our humiliation, and ingratitude. I can scarcely describe the burning shame which I felt on that early morning as I walked on the broken floor of the once-hallowed sabha mandap, littered with broken pillars and scattered stones. Lizards slipped in and out of their holes and the sound of my unfamiliar steps, and Oh! The shame of it! – an inspector’s horse, tied there, neighed at my approach with sacrilegious impertinence.”[3]

This is how Munshi had described the deep anguish he felt when he first visited the ruins of Somnāth temple in 1922.



Given the great historical, cultural and spiritual significance of this temple and the geographical area of Prabhas in the collective psyche of Indians, after independence, both Munshi and Sardar Patel strongly felt that restoration of the temple to its glory will significantly enhance the faith of Indians in their future as a free people. Munshi was invited by Sardar Patel to draw up a plan for this important task.

As Yuvaan continued to browse and read selectively, he began to wonder why Munshi’s contribution towards the rebuilding of the Somnāth temple and the challenges he faced during that time were not common knowledge. Shouldn’t this history be known to people in his generation? After all, it is the history of people who had built modern India while restoring and renewing her ancient spirit, who deeply understood the value of a cultural revitalization that is needed for the modern age, who not only valued but also truly identified with the spirit of a dynamic religio-spiritual culture of India.

TO BE CONTINUED….


Notes

[1] CWSA, 19: 36

[2] CWSA, 19: 37-38

[3] K.M. Munshi, Somnāth – The Shrine Eternal, 1951 (3rd edition 1965), pp. 163-164.


Read earlier parts in the series:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8a, Part 8b, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12 , Part 13a, Part 13b, Part 13c, Part 14

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