ICPR: Stories of Illumined Seers, Poets and Heroes 20 July 2004 - Part 3: Atmosphere in 1857

This is one of the best questions I’ve received. Very short question:

Q: 1857 mein bharat mein kya vatavaran tha?

You cannot appreciate Rani Laxmibai unless you know the answer to this question. Let me explain to you this condition of India in 1857. There were three great powers at the time of 1857, there was the power of the Mughal, the power of the Marathas and the power of many small kingdoms scattered all over the country. The Britishers had entered into India and there was rivalry between the British, the French and the Portuguese. There was no one leader in India at that time who commanded respect of Indians. There was not one aspiration in India at that time which could unite the people of India together. The Indian life had become highly irreligious. As Vivekananda has said, the religion of India had become a pitiable religion: take five times bath, go to puja and believe that God will do everything. There was rivalry among small subedars, nawabs and kings. There was intrigue, bribery and corruption. There is a very famous sentence of Robert Clive who was one of the principal characters who advanced the cause of Britishers in India, and he had amassed tremendous amount of wealth through what we can call bribery. When he went back to England, he was charged. He had to face trial and he said the amount of money that was flowing into my hands when one nawab was giving money against the other, when one maratha was giving money against another maratha, what I have taken is a small token. So imagine the kind of bribery that was going on in India, the kind of corruption that was there in Indian political life, there was despair, despair among those who loved their country and there was a real darkness. Even the light of spirituality was not extinguished, it was dimmed, it was a period of a night: darkness, inertia, sleep, exhaustion, bad dreams, weakness all over and quick gains overnight. This is the psychology in India.

Now you have to remember that this was the general blanket all over India. In that condition, you find one young lady, a young woman who was reading Bhagavad-Gita, who had mastered the art of warfare, who could ride the horse. There’s no rival who could compete with her. Her physique was an exemplary body and she had virtues all grown out like a lotus, she had an aspiration, a living aspiration. You might say that true India was living in her, India of karma yoga, India of bravery and heroism, India of the course of unity and at a young age of eighteen, she could assert herself with this greatness. It is this contrast which has to be seen and she must have such a powerful personality, such a firmness of will that she could stamp herself on all the leaders of India at that time.

It is in this context that you should study Rani Laxmibai. How can you today, for example, today's condition is not so great either, in this condition of India today, you imagine, you want to stamp yourself with these three main qualities which Rani Laxmibai had. I don't think any one of us can be a good candidate as far as physical culture is concerned. None of us here. This is the weakness of India today, physical culture in India today is so weak. We are ruining our bodies, we are taking to bad habits, bad food, junk food, sleeping at very late at night, getting up at 11 o'clock in the morning, lack of all physical exercise. How can we meet the difficult conditions of India with this kind of physical culture in the country?

Second, in the aspiration derived from Karma Yoga, Rani Laxmibai was reading Bhagavad Gita from the age of seven. I don't know how many of you have read the Bhagavad Gita today. Why is it that we don't read it at all, or we only hear a few words here and there from this great book of India?

And thirdly, how much do we know of India? Therefore, if you have to stand up as a soldier like Rani Laxmibai today, we don't have those qualifications. In that sense, you might say that today's India is even poorer than India of 1857. Of course much of the fault lies with our educational system. We are not giving to our children what they want to receive. I don't speak only of your school, I am speaking in general, education that is given in the country today is of such poor quality. We have tremendous potentiality and yet we are not able to give to our children what we should be giving. This question can be answered at length also, but I will stop here because I have many other good questions.