Bipin Chandra Pas was a major figure in the Indian Nationalist Movement, a leader of the extremist wing of the congress party who advocated a more militant against British Imperialism cause. The soul of India, Published in
1911, was a part of this attempt. Pal reached into the past to create a comprehensive and constructive ideology which would be the basis for what he described as ‘ the new patriotism’, the newly- awakened India. For Pal,
the soul of India was Sri Krishna- not as a sectarian ideal, but the means through which the past of India manifested itself in the present, and would animate its future too. Through a comparison of Indian and Western
thought, a consideration of Indian history, and the condition of the country in his day, Pal crafted a unique synthesis which transcends the time in which it was written, and presents the ideals and principles of Indian
civilization in its most reaslised sense.
Bipin Chandra Pal (1858-1932) was in the forefront of public life in India for more than fifty years. A member of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, he worked with or started several journals- Paridarsak, Bengal Public opinion,
Tribune, New India, Bande Matram and Hindu Review. He forced the 1857 session of the congress to set up an elected subjects committee to draft resolutions, and championed the cause of ill treated Assam tea workers.
He toured England, Europe and the US, speaking on religion, temperance and Indian politics, plunged into the nationalist movement upon return in 1900 and was jailed in 1907. After some years of a self-imposed exile
following this, he returned to India in 1912. He faded into the background after the rise of Gandi but continued to advocate a federal union of India and on India’s role in Asia until his death. Among his many books are
Memories of My Life and Times, The New Spirit , Brahmo Samaj and the Battle of Swaraj, Swadeshi and Swaraj, Character Sketches and the Economic Menace to India. After his death, Sri Aurobindo eulogized Pal as
one of the mightiest prophets of nationalism and one of its greatest orators.
'The Soul of India' is in the form of four letters written to a young English friend by Bipin Chandra Pal (1858-1932), one of the foremost leaders of the nationalist movement in India in the last two decades of the nineteenth
and the first quarter of the twentieth century. These letters reveal his standpoint which was intensely nationalistic in spirit, betraying the deepest concern about many issues - religious, economic social, educational and
political, and while discussing these; his profound veneration for the spiritual, moral and intellectual achievements of Indian civilisation is revealed. During the initial stages of the Independence movement in India, Bipin
Chandra Pal's views and ideas were of considerable utility in arousing the people of India from the slumber of centuries.Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) rightly called him the mightiest prophet of nationalism, but this prophet,
unfortunately, is almost a forgotten figure today.
It is heartening to note that Mr Mehra of Rupa and Co. has planned the reintroduction of the writings of Bipin Chandra Pal to the- present day readership which, I am sure will facilitate political scientists, modern historians
and social thinkers to understand how in the existing conditions in India we could be benefitted by some of the seminal political ,social and educational thoughts of Pal presented by him with such precision and force. Pal,
along with Bal Gangadhar Tilak(1856-1920) and Lala lajpat Rai (1865-1928), started the first popular upsurge, (much before Mahatma Gandhi entered the fray of Indian politics), against British colonial policy in the 1905
partition of Bengal which came to be known as the Swadeshi Movement. He was among the first to vigorously articulate the new philosophy of organised resistanc toBritish rule and through his English daily 'Bande Mataram
founded in 1906, he induced the idea of free India in the minds of all his countrymen under British rule.
He managed to bring Sri Aurobindo Ghosh to assist him in writing editorials for 'Bande Mataram'. Sri Aurobind by his forceful editorials from behind the scene, and Pal by his powerful oratory, created a special position in
the history of India's freedom movement. 'Bande Mataram' was the first public organ to declare passive resistance against foreign control and also to endorse 'Swaraj' i.e. complete independence. In his article on 'The
Bedrock of Indian Nationalism', Pal wrote thus in 1908: The strength of the new movement in India lies in its supreme idealism. It is not a mere economic movement though it openly strives for the economic resurrection of
the country. It is not a mere political movement though it has boldly declared itself for absolute political independence. It is an intensely spiritual movement having for its object not simply the development of economic life or
the attainment of political freedom but really the emancipation in every sense of the term, of the Indian manhood and womanhood.
Bipin Chandra Pal 10 the 'Apologia' of the book, 'The Soul of India' presented Shri Krishna as the soul of India, who as the Principal and Personality in and through whom as in the past so also in the present and even in the
future, the great Indian synthesis was, is being, and will be worked . Thus, by using these great religious figures not in the ordinary or literary sense but in a figurative way, Pal lent a new momentum and driving force to the
awakened feeling of patriotism. The intermingling of religious passion with political idealism was possible because for Pal, dharma works for synthesis and is the soul of order and speaks of a federation of many cults and
cultures. Hindu society is also, Pal explains, for the same reason, not a homogenous unit but rather a highly developed organic whole which seeks to realise its essential unity not by denying but openly accepting and
harmonising in the totality of its life, the endless diversities of its component organisms. Like the Hindu religion, Pal further explains, Hindu society is also not a single unit but a federation of many units. The freedom and
integrity of the parts inside the unity of the whole, is the very soul and essence of the federal idea. Pal always strove for this unity in diversity and used it as the ideology behind our struggle for freedom. It is to be borne in
mind that a mere association of religious sentiment with a political movement does not necessarily suggest a conservative or reactionary trend just as the conduct of a political movement on a purely non- religious basis does
not always imply a progressive and radical tendency. The introduction of religious idealism into the freedom movement by Pal was a part of a political strategy designed to intensify and popularise the movement by explaining
the ingenuousness of the federalism of dharma He, thus, sharpened and popularised the movement by linking it with the historic traditions of the soil. Pal maintained that 'a mere political revolt might be easily crushed by
superior physical force of diplomatic cunning. But an essentially spiritual movement ... cannot be killed without killing the entire people among whom it takes its birth.'
.In the first letter of his book 'The Soul if India' while describing the fundamental considerations for his writing these letters to his young English friend, he said that the general perception about India in the West was that it had
aglorious past but that it did not have a present. The British rulers' primary objective was to make us 'civilised' and make our present worth living. This, according to Pal, was a totally erroneous perception and these four
letters were written to rectify this false idea and give a true picture 'about the inner spirit of our complex life and culture'. Pal feels sorry that most of the English works on India could not seize the true course of historic
evolution in India. These works are misleading but they don't show any dishonesty. The misunderstanding has arisen because of the fundamental difference between the mental temperament and spiritual character of
Europeans and Indians though both are two great divisions of the same Indo-Aryan race. As members of the same race, there are also many fundamental affinities between them and thus both unity and difference were
traced by Pal with deep insight and clarity of expression. These letters are Pal's interpretation of India, its people, its dharma, ethos, culture and philosophy of life. His comparative approach distinctlybrings out the difference
of approach between Indian and European minds. An example given by Pal in the book under the Caption 'Law vs Right:
The word of Indian Evolution is Dharma; the word of European is Right. And these two words seem to my mind, to completely sum up the fundamental difference between India and Europe. Dharma is the law of
renunciation, Right is the law of resistance, Dharma demands self-abnegation, Right self-assertion. Dharma develops collectivism: Right individualism. Dharma works for synthesis, Right lives and grows in antithesis. Dharma
is the soul of order: Right the parent of revolution. To understand India we must seize the conception of Dharma. To understand Europe we must seize the principle of Right. How then, can the generalisations of European
experience, gathered under the Law of Right, help one to interpret the character and culture of India trained in the ideal of Dharma?
In accordance with the Indian National Congress Resolution taken at the Calcutta session in 1906, Bipin Chandra Pal set out on a long tour of India which culminated in the city of Madras, where he gave five lectures with
emotion and subtle logic, in 1907, to expound the philosophy, goal, programme and strategy of the national movement in considerable detail. Srinivasa Sastri recorded his impression of those lectures, 'Oratory had never
dreamed of such triumphs in India, the power of the spoken word had never been demonstrated on such a scale'. The Rowlett Committee blamed his Madras speeches for the political upheaval in the South during the years
that followed which resulted in various trials in 1908 but Pal could not be punished for sedition. It was found that simply expressing the will of an enslaved people to be free cannot be termed as seditious But, on Lord
Minto's recommendation, he was deported to England during period 1908-1911.
During his three year sojourn in England he developed a new political thought which he called the empire-idea, and he became an advocate of a new type of internationalism-a Cooperative Partnership with Great Britain
based on perfect equality of status for all. In this partnership, he emphasized India would have to be given 'the freest scope for self fulfillment'. This would be possible when Britain and Europe understood India. In the second
letter, his effort was to undertake the work of interpreting India to the modern world. But he was very candid in admitting the fact that being the product of a hybrid education, Indians had become the victim of a kind of
intellectual and spiritual atavism and that he was also no exception to this. So, instead of interpreting he tried to study and understand India. In the second letter Pal penned his impression about India, the meaning of its
geographical name Bharatvarsha, the character of Indian Unity, the method of Aryan expansion in India, the method of race-fusion, the Hindu social economy, the concept of Asramas and the nation-idea in ancient India.
While discussing the character of Indian Unity, Bipin Chandra Pal evinced a deep understanding of India's socio-political and cultural configuration. He explained:
The name Bharatavarsha is derived from Bharata who is described in the Vedas as 'Raja-Chakravarti' i.e. a great emperor actually meant to be a king: 'established at the centre of a circle of kings.' He was not an
administrative head of any large and centralised government, but only the recognised and respected centre and symbol of a confederation of kings of different kingdoms and principalities. And, this being so, it was not
possible to hold that the unity indicated by the name 'Bharatavarsha' was, in any way, either a political or administrative unity. Neither was it a religious or sacerdotal unity. In the presence of many races and cultures in India
even in those early days, convincing evidence of which is supplied by all our old books, it is equally impossible that this unity should have been a mere racial unity. The unity of India was, thus, neither racial, nor religious, nor
political nor administrative. It was a peculiar type of unity, which may perhaps be best described as cultural, which gave India a deep, though complex kind of organic unity at the back of all the apparent diversities and
multiplicities of our land people. The old unity of India and the ancient national life and consciousness of her multitudinous peoples, were further considerably deepened and enlarged under Muslim rule.
It is interesting to note that after returning from England he tried to popularise the empire-idea, (though, without much success) and also to make the people conscious of the great dangers which political pan-Islamism
presented to the future of India. The empire-idea alone, he thought could provide an effective remedy for this evil. How prophetic no doubt, he was but his panacea to remove one ill by another ill was not accepted by the
majority of the India leaders during that time. He visited England for the third time as a member of a Congress and Home Rule League deputation led by Tilak. The economic exploitation of India by Britain and her self-
governing colonies now appeared to him as the greatest menace which his country would have to face in the coming years.
The third letter of the book started with a pertinent question, whether cultural unity is the same as national unity because as time passed, we all realised the importance of national unity about which Pal had spoken during his
life time. The fundamental difference, according to Pal' between European nationalism and Indian nationalism lie on the excessive emphasis of the one on territorial and of the other on cultural unity. This cultural unity in India
was responsible in the development of a federal type of nationality ages ago. This, Pal said, is really the advanced type of social organisation towards which humanity is slowly moving. In fact, India furnishes a model of that
Universal Federation, the Federation of the World, which is the dream of the seers and prophets of even modern Western humanity.
Though Pal stood against the orthodox Hindu set-up and raised his voice against the evils and ill practices of .Hinduism, he profusely used the names of Hindu Gods and Goddesses to create a religio-cultural nationalism to
fight the colonial ruler. This was critically termed by many as Pal's religious frenzy. Let us not forget that in the initial stage of the nationalist movement, the name of Durga and Kali were used to show one's veneration to the
Mother, who was no other than the Motherland herself This was a new conception of patriotism of which Bankim Chandra Chatterjee was the seer and prophet, and Sri Aurobindo, the high priest. But in the hands of Pal this
concept of patriotism turned into an all embracing national concept. In his weekly, the 'New India', Pal maintained that New India could, 'no more ignore the ancient spiritual treasures of the Hindus, than the higher elements
of Mohammedan culture'. This standpoint was intensely nationalistic in spirit, breathing the deepest veneration for the spiritual, moral and intellectual achievements ofIndian Civilisation. Nationalism, for Pal, was a 'divinely
appointed power of the eternal, and must do its God-given work before it returns to the universal energy from whence it came.' The introduction of religion into politics did not detract the progressive and political character
of the movement as one could easily notice Pal's firm belief in the equality of men and women, his encouragement of widow marriage and women's education, his fight against castism and untouchability and his interest in
educational reforms. By lending his powerful support to the Age of Consent Bill (1891), he completely alienated the social conservatives and even ran the risk of assassination.
In fact, in the last third and the fourth letters to his young English friend, Pal was more keen to explain the affinities between Hinduism and Christianity, their philosophy and ways of thinking and hence the subject matter of
these letters are religious and philosophical in nature. In his later life -he was greatly influenced by the Vedantic philosophyof Shankaracharya, and finally, under the influence of Bijay Krishna Goswami, he was drawn to the
Vaishnava philosophy of Sri Chaitanya. His universalism was enriched by hisown experiences of higher Vaishnavic realisations as he hasmentioned in 'The Soul of India': 'In Vaishnavism the innatesense of the Spiritual and the
Universal of the Indo-Aryan Race-Consciousness seems to have found its loftiest anddeepest expression'.
This book reveals the mind of one of the greatest andardent patriots of the first part of nineteenth century Indiawho had a 'never say die' attitude and lived by his principlesand was a man of indomitable courage and
Your email address will not be published *
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend