I look back upon the history of my country, I don’t find in the whole world another country which has done quite so much for the improvement of human mind. Out of the past is build the future. Look back therefore, as far as you can, drink deep of the eternal foundations that are behind, and after that, look forward, march forward and make India brighter, greater, much bigger than ever was. – Swami Vivekananda
INDIA is a unique country. One of the most distinctive features of its history lies in its mind-boggling diversity—in food, language, custom, tradition, climate and religious faith. What charms and astonishes sincere and unbiased students of its history is that its culture and religious traditions have withstood the onslaught of many foreign invasions for centuries, without losing their original texture and colour. Undimmed and tranquil, the Flame of Indian Culture and Religion continues to glow, notwithstanding all its chequered history and trials!
What makes India so? Its continued tradition. Having its beginnings in a dim past, where history has no peep, the Indian culture has had the fortune of being nurtured by numerous great sages, monks, kings, poets, and men of wisdom born on its soil—known and unknown. This splendid Indian heritage has been handed over, from generation to generation, by men and women who were deeply inspired by a higher vision of life and love for mankind.
This book is an attempt to give a glimpse into this rich heritage of India from Vedic times to the advent of Sri Ramakrishna. It contains pictures of exquisite paintings displayed in the exhibition on Swami Vivekananda and Indian Cultural Heritage at Vivekanandar Illam—the place where Swami Vivekananda stayed in February 1897, after his triumphal return from the West. Located on the scenic Marina beach in Chennai Vivekanandar 111am is now under the care of Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai. These pictures unfold, with the help of appropriate but short narrations, the fascinating story of India.
These paintings have been done by Sri Purushottam Karanth, a renowned artist from Mangalore, and a few are by the well-known artist from Chennai, Sri Maniam Selvan.
Sri 0. Venkatramana Reddy, the author, is a qualified architect and town planner and had served the Andhra Pradesh Government as the director of Town Planning and also as an advisor to the Chief Minister in Housing Development. He is a devotee of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna. He had advised and guided the renovation work of the building and the formation of the exhibition at the Vivekanandar Illam. He was actively involved in designing and overseeing the construction of Ramakrishna Temples in many centres of the Ramakrishna order including the Universal Temple at our Math.
For long, there had been a repeated demand by the visitors to the Vivekanandar Illam to make the paintings displayed in the exhibition available in a book form we are happy to present the same and hope this book inspires all those who love India and its rich cultural and spiritual heritage.
THE heritage of India, both spiritual and cultural, is one of the world’s standing miracles. The word culture has been misused too often and civilisation should not be confused to mean culture. Sri Rama and Sita crossed the rivers in a canoe and went about on foot wearing clothes made of barks. Now we move about in automobiles and even in giant aeroplanes wearing fine dresses made of nylons, terene and terrywool. Today the equipments we use for our needs are definitely better, more complex, and physically more comfortable. Does it mean that we are more cultured than Sri Rama and Sita? The dress we wear, the gigantic factories we set up, or dams we build, the space ships we handle are only par Is of civilisation which embrace the exterior of our life.
But, culture is the state of inner man with a characteristic way of life, inspired by the fundamental values according to which he lives. It is the sum total of the values expressed through art, literature, religion, social institutions and behaviour over acts of individuals, and mass action inspired by collective urges. However, a minimum attainment of civilisalion is essential for the attainment of culture.
Culture becomes a flowing stream only when there is continuity of collective life in people. Such continuity expresses itself in common traditions and norms of conduct, in common institutions, common aesthetic outlook, and common memory of triumphs achieved through collective action. Above all, when culture is firmly based on, and nurtured and developed as well by profound spirituality resulted from actual realisation of the Supreme Truth, then only the nation which owns it can claim to have a great heritage. And, It is India alone which can lay such a claim. It is for that reason Swami Vivekananda said:
‘The more. therefore, the Hindus study the past, the more glorious will be their future, and whoever tries to bring the past to the door of everyone, is a great benefactor to his nation.’
‘For a complete civilisation of the world is waiting, waiting for the treasures to come out of India, waiting for the marvellous spiritual inheritance of the race... Little do you know how much of hunger and of thirst there is outside of India for these wonderful treasures of our forefathers.’
At the dawn of civilization, when a major part of the world still lay enveloped in the darkness of ignorance, the soul of India awoke to the light of the spirit, and mystic consciousness bloomed in the hearts of hundreds of Truth-seekers in India.
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