Monday 27 August 2018

History of India....Sister Nivedita

We must not be cowed too easily by proofs that such and such a cherished idea had a foreign or semi-foreign origin. In this world there is no such thing as real originality. Some mind more powerful than others breaks up common symbols into their elements and recombines these in an unexpected fashion. This is the whole of what we call originality. The proof of a mind's vigour lies in its ability to work upon the materials it meets with. What is true of persons is true in this respect of nations. Same achievements, because we do not know their history, appear unique, solitary, miraculous. In reality, civilisations like religion, are a web ; they are not statues or salon-pictures, great creation!, of individual genius.

If we could unveil the spectacle of the genesis of Greece, we should find links between common and uncommon in every department of her extraordinary output, and much that now seems unaccountable for its beauty or its boldness would then appear inevitable. The fact that Egypt, Assyria, and the East itself were all within hail, had more to do with the peculiar form taken by the Greek genius than we are now prepared to grant. If so, the actual glory of Hellenic culture lay in the distinctiveness of its touch, and the energy of its manipulation, of the materials that came its way. Perhaps above even these qualities was a certain faculty of discrimination and organisation in which it excelled.

But in any case the Greek race would not have produced the Greek civilisation in any other geographical or ethnological position than the one which they happened to occupy. The utmost that can be said in praise of any special people is that they have known how to give a strong impress of their own to those materials which the world of their time brought to their door. If this be the high watermark then of national achievement, what is there to be said for that of India? Has she, or has she not, a touch of her own that is unmistakable? Surely it was a knowledge of the answer that led us to this question. Even in decorative matters the thing that is Indian cannot be mistaken for the product of any other nationality. Who can fail to recognise the Indian, the Assyrian, die Egyptian, or the Chinese touch in, for example, the conventionalizing of a lotus? In form, in costume, in character, and above all, in thought, the thing that is Indian is unlike any un-Indian thing in the whole world. For the mind that tends to be depressed by the constant talk of Indian debts to foreign sources, the best medicine is a few minutes' quiet thought as to what India has done with it all. Take refuge for a moment in the Indian world that you see around you.

Think of your history. Is it claimed that some other people made Buddhism? Or that Shiva with his infinite renunciation was a dream of Europe? No: If India shared a certain fund of culture elements with other people, that is nothing to be unhappy about. The question is not, where did they come from? But what has she made out of them? Has India been equal to her opportunities at every period? Has she been strong enough to take all that she knew to be in the world at each given period, and assimilate it, and nationalise it in manner and use? No one in his senses would deny this of India. Therefore she has nothing of shame or mortification to fear from any inquiry into culture origins.


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