Tuesday 28 August 2018

The History of India.....Sister Nivedita

This nightmare being disposed of, there is still another. The Indian mind can hardly help making questions of antiquity into partisan arguments. Perhaps this is natural; but in any case it is a great barrier to the popularising of real historical inquiry. The mind of the student ought to be absolutely open on the point of dates. If there is the least bias in favour of one direction or the other, it is just like a weight on one side of a balance. Fair measure does not come that way! As a matter of fact, the strictly historical period in India may be comparatively short, something less than thirty centuries, but there can be no difference of opinion as to the vast length of the total period of evolution.

The oldest problems of the world's history have their field of study here. Those sociological inquiries that lie behind all history must be pursued in India. History proper only emerges when a certain group of people becomes sufficiently consolidated to carry on common activities in a direction and with a motive that we may call political. Man, as the political animal, is the subject of history.

This is a stage that will be arrived at soonest by communities which are relatively small and compact and inhabit clearly defined geographical confines, on the frontiers of other populations not greatly unlike themselves in civilisation. Thus Egypt, Nineveh, and Babylon could not but arrive sooner than India on the historical stage in virtue of their very nearness to one another. But this does not necessarily mean that they could compete with her in actual age, or in the depth of the tendencies making for their evolution.

And in any case, while these are dead, India lives and develops still, responds still to all the living influences of the world about her, and sees before her, as the individual unit that her development has made her, a long vista of growth and perfection to be achieved. The art and architecture of Egypt date from four thousand years before the Christian era. Crete had a story almost as early. Who shall say what was the age of Babylon? But we must remember that when all these were already mature, India was still a-making. A long childhood, say the biologists, is the greatest proof of evolutionary advancement. Egypt, with her exceptional climate, made art and architecture the supreme expression of her national existence. India put her powers, perhaps as long ago, into the dreams and philosophy of die Upanishads. Cities would have crumbled into dust, temples and carvings would have succumbed in a few aeons to the ravages of time.

Human thought, written on the least permanent and most ephemeral of all materials, is nevertheless the most enduring of all the proofs of our antiquity. Who shall say that we have not chosen the better part? Every generation destroys the parchment of our record, and yet a million generations only make its truth the more assured. We can hardly dig so deep into die past as to come upon the time when in Egypt, or Greece, or Crete, or Babylon, the name of India had not already a definite sound and association. At the very dawn of history in Europe, her thought, and scholarship were already held in that respect which is akin to awe. His old tutor in the fourth century before Christ begs Alexander to bring him an Indian scholar!

There is no need for discontent in the Indian mind, if those activities of which the historic muse can take account, activities intertribal, international, political, began for her comparatively late'. India, alone of all the nations of antiquity, is still young, still growing, still keeping a firm hold upon her past, still reverently striving to weave her future. Are not these things glory enough for any single people?


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