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The National Culture of India

The National Culture of India
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Item Code: IDK387
Author: S. Abid Husain
Publisher: National Book Trust
Edition: 2007
ISBN: 9788123701462
Pages: 218
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 8.5" X 5.5"

In this book The National Culture of India Dr S. Abid Husain indicates the central characteristics of Indian culture as it has grown from its beginnings to its present positions. His presentation of the subject is marked by ability, vision and purpose. He argues that there has been a common spiritual outlook on life, to which various races and religions have made contributions. "India's cultural history of several thousand years shows that the subtle but strong thread of unity which runs through the infinite multiplicity of her life, was not woven by stress or pressure of power groups but the vision of seers, the vigil of saints, the speculation of philosopher, and the imagination of poets and artists and that these are the only means which can be used to make this national unity wider, stronger and more lasting." It may appear somewhat strange that our government should be a secular one while our culture is rooted in spiritual values. Secularism here does not means irreligion or atheism or even stress on material comforts. It proclaims that it lays stress on the universality of spiritual values which may be attained by a variety of ways.

Religion is a transforming experience. It is not a theory of God. It is spiritual consciousness. Belief and conduct, rites and ceremonies, dogmas and authorities are subordinate to the art of self discovery and contact with the Divine. When the individual withdraws his soul from all outward events, gathers himself together inwardly, strives with concentration, there breaks upon him an experience, sacred, strange, won-drous, which quickens within him, lays hold of him, becomes his very being. Even those who are the children of science and reason, must submit to the fact of spiritual experience which is primary and positive. We may dispute theologies but we cannot deny facts. The fire of life in its visible burnings compels assent, though not the fumbling speculations of smokers sitting around the fire. While realization is a fact, the theory of reality is an inference. There is a difference between contact with reality and opinion about it, between the mystery of godliness and belief in God. This is the meaning of a secular conception of the state though it is not generally understood.

This view is in consonance with the Indian tradition. The seer of the Rig Veda affirms that the real is one while the learned speak of it variously. Asoka in Rock Edict XII pro-claims: "One who reverences one's own religion and disparages that of another from devotion to one's own religion and to glorify it over all other religions, does injure one's own religion most certainly. It is verily, concord of religions that is meritorious." Samavaya eva sadhuh. Centuries later Akbar affirms: "The various religious communities are divine treasures entrusted to us by God. We must love them as such. It should be our firm faith that every religion is blessed by Him. The Eternal King showers His favours on all men without distinction." This very principle is incorporated in our Constitution which gives full freedom to all to profess and practice their religious beliefs and rites so long as they are not repugnant to our ethical sense. We recognize the common ground on which different religious traditions rest. This common ground belongs of right to all of us as it has its source in the eternal. The universality of fundamental ideas which historical studies and comparative religion demonstrate is the hope of the future. It makes for religious unity and understanding. It makes out that we are all members of the one invisible church of God though historically we may belong to this or that particular religious community.

Dr Abid Husain has made certain suggestions for strengthening national unity and whether we accept them or not, they deserve the serious consideration of all thoughtful Indians.


In the second half of the eighteenth century the emergence of the United States of America as a free democratic power, which served as an indirect cause of the French Revolution, was an epoch-making event. It deepened and broadened the trickling stream of modern democracy into a mighty perennial river. Today when the sources of the democratic impulse seem to be drying up in many parts of the world, the birth of the new Republic of India is a momentous event which brings a new message of hope to all lovers of freedom. But this hope is not free from a lurking fear that the introduction of democracy may prove to be premature in India as it has been in some other Asian countries.

There are three main reasons for the failure of democracy disposition and historical tradition combined to create an unfavourable climate; in others, the people lacked the minimum education and political consciousness and in the case of one or two countries anti-democratic forces from outside exercised a retarding influence. Luckily in India none of these obstacles is so great as to be a real danger to the democratic experiment. The idea of democracy is not new to the Indian mind. Though ancient India did not know anything like the present elaborate system of representative government, there was a primitive democracy on the village level. The people, innocent of book-learning, most of them are, do not lake the practical good sense and the native public spirit which form the basis of democracy. This was amply proved during the first General Elections in free India-the biggest in the history of mankind. As for external influences, they are on the whole favourable to democracy. The only danger to our new democracy, and much greater than it would appear to the superficial observer is that Indian nationhood and national culture is a delicately balanced system of unity in diversity and if this balance is disturbed by a wrong handling of the cultural problem, there may be a terrible disintegration, putting an end not only to the democratic system but to all peace and order and our hard won freedom may be lost to forces of tyranny, external or internal.

The purpose of this book is to discuss this vital problem as far as possible, from an objective point of view, to study the past development and present position of Indian nationhood and national culture and to consider the ways and means of preserving and strengthening their integrity.

It must be mentioned here that when this book was first written in Urdu, India had not yet been split into two separate sovereign states and my scope of discussion comprehended the whole of undivided India. The partition of the country due mainly to the forces of culture separatism, has in the first place, proved that the dangers pointed out by me were real and in the second place made it necessary to confine the discussion generally to India proper (Bharat) which is the major heir to the cultural heritage of undivided India. But I must emphasise that I regard the whole subcontinent as one cultural unit (in the broader sense of the term) whose two parts are so closely bound to each other, not merely by common history and geography, but a thousand inner bounds, that their total severance in the present form cannot last long and the day is not far when they will have to form at lest a virtual confederation like the United States and Canada, if not a regular federation like the two parts of Canada.

I have to express my deep sense of gratitude to the Rockefeller Foundation whose help enabled me to live and work at my book in the pretty little town of Tuebingen in Germany away from all private and public worries, in a climate physically bracing and mentally stimulating. My thanks are also due to Dr Tarachand who kindly went through the typescript correcting errors and suggesting improvements and to Dr Radhakrishnan who was good enough to write a foreword to the book.

Back of the Book

This book is a learned exposition of the theory that amidst the great diversity in every walk of life in India there exists an underlying unity. To elucidate his thesis the author has made a chronological survey of Indian history and the movements that have shaped the country. He has concluded by enumerating the various fissiparous tendencies present today, but still sees hope in the future.

Abid Husain (1896-1978) was Professor of Philosophy and Literature at Jamia Millia, New Delhi, during 1926-56 and then Professor Emeritus, Jamia Millia. He wrote over forty books including Indian Nationalism and Indian Culture (3 volumes), The Way of Gandhi and Nehru, The Destiny of Indian Muslims, besides various translations from English and German. The original edition of this book in Urdu received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1956 and in 1957 Dr. Husain was awarded the Padma Bhushan.


Foreword by S. Radhakrishnanix
Preface to the Second Editionxvii
Preface to the Third Editionxix
IThe Bases of Indian Culture1
IIThe Fountain-head: The Indus Valley Culture16
IIITwo Streams: The Dravidian Culture and the Vedic Culture of the Aryans20
IVThe First Confluence: Vedic Hindu Culture26
VBuddhism-Jainism-Schools of Philosophy The Great Epics36
VIThe Second Confluence: Puranic Hindu Culture53
VIINew Winds and New Currents60
VIIIMuslim Culture before it came to India68
IXThe Contact between Hindu Culture and Muslim Culture in India77
XThe Third Confluence: The Hindustani Culture-193
XIThe Hindustani Culture-2108
XIIThe Impact of English Culture on India119
XIIIReaction against English Culture: Political and Cultural Separatism139
XIVProspects of Cultural Unity:
The Present Situation

XVTowards a new National Culture194

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