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Fundamental Unity of India

Dr. Radhakumud Mookerji wrote The Fundamental unity of India in 1914 and its introduction was written by Ramsay Macdonald who was MP and later on became Prime Minister of UK. Ramsay Macdonald’s observations are reproduced here.  – Saroj Mitra


Mr. Radhakumud Mookerji has honoured me by asking me to write an introduction to his interesting book. To those who follow the work of the band of Indian historical students who are struggling, with no great measure of encouragement, to found a school native to the soil and inspired by Indian tradition, Mr. Mookerji’s books need no introduction, especially since he published his History of Indian Shipping. In this little book he attempts to lay the only foundation upon which an Indian Historical School can rest. If India is a mere geographical expression, a mere collection of separate peoples, traditions, and tongues existing side by side but with no sense of nationhood in common, Indian history cannot be the record of an evolution of a civilization – it can be nothing more than an account of raids,  conflicts, relations of conquerors and conquered. That this is the common view is only too true; that a superficial view of India lends all its weight to that view is only too apparent; that it is the view of many of the present governors is proclaimed without secrecy from Ceylon to Afghanistan.

Those who read this book will find that there is another view, and that the Hindu, at any rate, from his traditions and his religion, regards India not only as a political unit naturally the subject of one sovereignty—whoever holds that sovereignty, whether British, Mohammedan, or Hindu—but as the outward embodiment, as the temple—nay, even as the goddess mother—of his spiritual culture. India and Hinduism are organically related as body and soul. Nationality is at best a difficult thing to define, to test and establish. The barren controversies on the subject to which the demands of Ireland for Home Rule have led, prove that. But the Aryan settled it decisively so far as India and himself are concerned. He made India the symbol of his culture; he filled it with his soul. In his consciousness it was his greater self. How he did it Mr. Mookerji shows in his interesting chapters.

Mr. Mookerji writes only of history, but it is a history which we read with political thoughts in our mind. It is this history quickened into life which is giving us our Indian political problems. What share has the Mohammedan in it? Perhaps much greater than we think. The Pax Britannica does not merely shelter weak men; it is also a shade under which liberal political ideas take root and flourish. And nationalism cannot be dissociated from liberal political ideas. To amplify and discuss this would be out of place here, and Mr. Mookerji would not wish me to use the privileges of an introduction to widen until it passes into current political controversy the historical field of his study. But these thoughts have been in my mind as they will no doubt be in that of everyone who reads this book, and I have been anxious to indicate that in my opinion, at any rate, the unity of India will not remain exclusively a Hindu conception, although its origin may be in Hindu culture.

Many people imagine that this Indian nationhood is only a disturbing element in politics. But that is a mistake. It is a reviving influence on culture. Indeed, in some respects, its political expressions are its crudest and most ill-formed embodiments. We have it best—if, as yet, in no very great volume—in art and literature. In art, as in education, we have been proclaiming, in out vanity, that India had to learn the western tone and touch, with the result that Indian art has been debased and every spontaneous thought crushed out of it. But life returned through the nationalist revival. Nothing has ever struck me with more force that the contrast between the ugly daubs which compose an art exhibition in India held under Western auspices and the product of Western “inspiration” on the one hand, and the beautiful harmonies of form and colour which the Indian Art Society brings together on the other. And it is interesting to note how in this art the spirit of India is not merely Hindu. Mr. Tagore’s great painting “The Death of Shah Jehan,” is as essentially Persian as his “Spirit of India” is Hindu. Moreover, in literature, are we not at present in the midst of a “Gitanjali” puja—all unconscious that it is the refined expression of Indian nationalism? Finally, there are the students of intellectual culture with whom Mr. Mookerji himself co-operates, gathering together the scattered records of Indian achievement so that they may be known and due homage paid to the people who accomplished them. Thus India awakes anew to a sense of independence and self-respect, and only by such an awakening can she contribute her share to the culture of the world.

— J. Ramsay Macdonald.

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