Sunday 21 January 2018

Letter About India By Sister Nivedita

यतो धर्म: ततो जय:

Letter About India By Sister Nivedita

Off Minicoy
June 29th, 1899

Another great characteristic of Indian Society as compared with Western, is the much higher civilisaion and refinement of the lower orders. It is difficult for the European mind to recognise this fact under the mask of that grinding poverty which is so apparent here. The Occidental conception of social development concerns itself much with labour and with letters, and more or less presupposes a condition of material prosperity. That is to say we are not able to detach the idea of the thing itself from that form of it which we have happened to produce. But if we drive the question of the ultimate significance of civilisation home, we shall all, I think , unite to acknowledge that it lies in a habit of self-restraint, in that which lifts man above the brute, rather in any special series of phenomena. And in these directions the busteepopulation of an Indian cit is so far ahead of the slum population of London, Paris, or New York that an impartial critic could not fail to assign ther order of age of their social system correctly without a priori information.

Hindu culture is, in fact, like a gigantic tree which is constantly embracing a wider and wider area with its roots. Through ages this huge organism has been at work, silently reclaiming more and more of humanity from barbarism. Perhaps each successive stratum won may have been a new caste taken in. Religious notions would seem to be the first great unifying nerves sent out. Then follow, through in what order I can not guess, various accretions of customs, till by degree appear the old gentleness, the old self-direction, and the old horror of defilement.

And so, silently, steadily, borne on the age-long stream of tendency to its inevitable goal, proceeds, the education of a continent. The immensity of the original task can only be surmised from the time that has already elapsed in its accomplishment, and the number of tribes still excluded from the pale. But the value of an image-worshipping, temple-building, must be incalculable. The influence of woman, too, on civilisation, is probably vastly greater in India than in the West. And this because the one woman to whose guidance a man is more or less willing to resign himself is also she whose impress is most indelible-his mother.

Treating her child as a baby for at least two years, making herself his constant companion whenever he is in the house, cooking for him and watching him eat, and at the day's end telling him stories till he sleeps, it is not easy to overrate the part which the mother and the grandmother play, in the life of the rising generations.

And this influence is redoubled, when the boy marries. In the West
"My son's my son till he gets him a wife,
But my daughter's my daughter all the days of her life."

The exact contrary is the case in India, where the little daughter-in-law comes home to the moulded and educated by her husband's mother, while the daughter of the house goes forth to receive her training at other hands.

As one looks at modern India, therefore, one feels that in the womanly touch on the individual and on homelife lies the pivotal point of its being. There can be no doubt that to this is due that saturation of the people with their own folklore to which I referred in my first letter, and the exact  conservance of religious custom from age to age must surely be traced to the same source. A man may be a constant visitor in a Hindu house without even knowing where the rooms are in which the ladies live. Strength, it has been said, lies in reserve, and those who are here so strictly concealed are perhaps all the more potent for that fact!

It is to women, then- who have wielded with such power those great impulses of purity, renunciation, and spirituality upon which the India of today is built – it is to these that must be committed those other ideas of strength, freedom, and humanity, which are to prove the legacy of this age to the world.

Without the underlying development strength would be a word of mockery: it is not to the denationalised that this inspiration can come in its vigour.  All the tremendous discipline of the Hindu woman will be taxed to its utmost, to win and use that expanded education which she will need for this task. But she will be found equal to it all, for she will be answering the cry of her own children- and is she not an Indian mother?


हमें कर्म की प्रतिष्ठा बढ़ानी होंगी। कर्म देवो भव: यह आज हमारा जीवन-सूत्र बनना चाहिए। - भगिनी निवेदिता {पथ और पाथेय : पृ. क्र.१९ }
Sister Nivedita 150th Birth Anniversary :
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