Recent communal riots in Gujarat have stirred the minds of people and forced them to undertake an exercise in introspection. In this context, a serious question has been raised as to what is the true nature of Gujarat. It has impelled a task of discovery through which we can touch and experience what may be called the Soul of Gujarat, that glorious lotus of divine love that we call Garavi Gujarat.
According to one view of history, events of the world occur accidentally; contingency of events is sometimes seen as incidence of chance. There is a view that the world is a world of freedom, and that this freedom renders the course of events as a string of strokes that have no meaning and that even to look for meaning is meaningless. But at a deeper and deliberate level, it may be contended that freedom is not a mere freak or caprice but it is a power of choice informed by intelligence, purpose, wisdom and meaning.
In this light, no event in the world is atomic, since every event that occurs must be harmonious with all the rest.
Against this background, one thing that strikes us is that Gujarat is particularly a land of harmony. Harmony in the world works best when it is inspired by wisdom and when it is capable of fighting against all that is disharmonious, rebellious against what is disharmonious and which wants to serve and labour for the deepest and highest purposes of human life. In other words, harmony attains its fulfilment when it is supported by wisdom, heroism and dedicated labour. The prominent feature of the essential nature of Gujarat, its swabhava and swadharma, is that of harmony. The theme of Gujarat is the theme of harmony.
The law of harmony and law of love is particularly the law of mutuality, — mutuality where one and the other depend upon each other. Mutuality is a concept that must be distinguished from the concept of tolerance, the concept of life which is guided by the philosophy of "live and let live".
Even the law of coexistence is not the law of harmony. We often speak of coexistence; but this does not describe the very soul of Gujarat. The law of Gujarat is the law of mutuality. The entire striving of Gujarat is to express mutuality and to realise mutuality in every aspect of life. This is the basic thrust of Gujarat. Gujarat may not be a store of wisdom, wisdom that has been developed so powerfully and immortally by the northern peaks of whiteness; but Gujarat has a natural inclination and humility to receive and to be guided by wisdom; it fosters wisdom and blends it with its own special characteristic of harmonising forces of nature, physical, human and divine. Gujarat may not be rebellious or revolutionary; it may not have the impetuous fire that we find in the Eastern horizon of India. It may indeed be rebellious, but only under pressing circumstances; only to prove that its search for harmony is not a sign of weakness or something devoid of heroism and courage. Gujarat has its own share of the stories of battle, adventure, sacrifice and valour; but the soul of Gujarat shines out much more and much more centrally in its thought, art, creativity and activities that are centred in the maturity of relationships, in its temperament of tenderness and affection, in its spontaneous sense of fraternity and hospitality, in its activities of give and take, in the nurturing and manifestation of the sense of mutuality and harmony. Whenever these tendencies have predominated, Gujarat has manifested its glory; whenever contrary tendencies tend to predominate, Gujarat has tended to deviate from its own swabhava and swadharma. The great poet of Gujarat, the adikavi of Gujarat, Narsi Mehta, gave to it and to the whole of India the potent message of mutuality, love, harmony and intense humanism that breathes with intense divinity when he sang:
वैष्णव जन तो तेने कहिये जे पीड़ परायी जाणे रे I
पर दुख्खे उपकार करे तोये मन अभिमान ना आणे रे II
"Let us call him a real Vaishnava who understands the pain of others; he may go to the rescue of others but does not allow vanity to ride over him."
Let us just take a few examples at random of the sense of mutuality that is so manifestly prominent in the Gujarati literature. Let us just consider the prominence of lyricism. Lyricism is the eternal song of mutuality.
Lyrics become perfectly beautiful and sweet when they sing of relations that are interdependent, the roots of which transcend selfishness and egocentricity. In the literature of Gujarat, what is immortal is its lyrics, not epics. Lyricism is the heart of Gujarat, the Gujarati temperament is like two birds singing to each other. The immortal Ila Kavyo are unforgettable. How simply and deeply the relationship of the mutuality of the brother and the sister throbs unfailingly in these poems!
ईला! स्मरे छे नहीं एक वेळा आ चोतरे आपण बे रमेला, दादाजी वातो करता निरांते वहेला जमीने अहीं रोज राते।
"Ila! You remember, indeed, how we used to play here at this rendezvous; grandpa used to tell us stories every evening here after our early dinner!”
Or let us take just this one line from Kavi Kant's Purvālāpa:
आज महाराज! चंद्र नो उदय जोईने हृदयमां हर्ष जामे।
"Today, O Lord, the sight of the rising moon fills our heart with ecstasy!"
In this one immortal line, Kavi Kant brings out the entire joy of the mutual relationship between Man and Nature. Again, this heart-rending line of Kalapi:
ते पंखीनी उपर पथरो फेंकतां फेंकी दीधो!
"Alas! A stone was inflicted on that bird despite unwillingness."
Or this line from Kalapi again:
रे पंखीडां सुखथी चणजो गीत वा कांई गाजो।
"O birds! Peck at the grains with ease and celebrate life with musical songs."
Once again, we have this experience of mutuality and intense tenderness of the heart that feels identity with others.
Again, it is significant that Garba and Rāsa express the intensity of mutuality that is expressive of the soul of Gujarat.
We always feel inspired by Saraswatichandra. It is an immortal story of Gujarat; one can never forget it because it is primarily a story of tenderness of mutuality. "O Kumud, my Kumud!" — these words of Saraswatichandra express the sense of possession and of being possessed, and Kumud's life in which the sole theme is the unforgettable memory of Saraswatichandra. Without him, she cannot live. Entire self- giving of Kumud to Saraswatichandra and of Saraswatichandra to Kumud, even in a state of semi-permanent separation,— this is the theme of the story, and although essentially a tragic story, it is a story of essence of mutuality of love, greatly sublimated under the impress of a profound depth of philosophical and spiritual thought. And, this tragedy is so sweet and so heart-rending, so uplifting and so ennobling because it whispers into our soul of the sweet pain of love that is mutual. The entire story is a story of mutuality, where threads of intense relationship are spread out like harmonic chords that throb with the music of joy and
sorrow, of suffering and sacrifice, and of intense understanding that yields to all that is noble and true in the soul of humanity. Thus this story is the story of the soul of Gujarat, story of harmony.
Harmony is essentially interplay of forces and can be productively manifested in the field of vital existence through trade and commerce.
Trade and commerce are fundamentally movements of harmony.
Mutuality is the essence of commerce, — equation of supply and demand, equation of give and take is the heart of trade and commerce. It is in this context that the Gujarati temperament is commercial, not profit-seeking commercial, but commercial temperament that seeks profit of all, benefit of all. That is why it is Gujarat that gave and responded warmly to the ideal of "Sarvodaya"(upliftment of all). It is sometimes thought that commerce is something very low; and it would be low, if the spirit of commerce is exploitative. But basically, commerce is an expression of productivity and exchange, a rhythm and an expression of mutuality. Where the true spirit of commerce preponderates, there indeed prosperity too flourishes, and boons of Mahalakshmi abound.
Love, harmony, mutuality, commerce, prosperity, — these are the special, marks of Gujarat and whenever they predominate, Gujarat flourishes; whenever they are ignored or marginalized, Gujarat loses its way, as is evident at the present moment.
We are now at a very crucial stage. As this is a very brief analysis, we can go straight to the present moment. The present moment is a moment of great anguish — violent disharmony. This is not Guajrat. How and why have we reached this stage?
At an important point of development, after reaching a peak point of Sakshara Yuga, there was a curve, a very important curve marked by Gandhi Yuga. Concentration of Gujarat shifted from the themes of scholarship to those of practical affairs of the society and of the country.
Problems of village reforms, problems of economic development and problems of governance, — all under the large canvas of the National Struggle for Freedom, — these problems occupied the mind and the heart of Gujarat during the Gandhi Yuga. Gujarat played a leading role, and its main contribution was the message of non-violent battle for arriving at freedom that can nourish mutuality and harmony. But while freedom was attained, harmony and unity were not. And since independence, Gujarat has not been able to find its real centre of gravity, its centre of the truth of its soul.
We have in one of the great characters created by K.M. Munshi, the character of Munjal. And the one unforgettable dialogue that Munshi so
dramatically penned is the dialogue between Munjal and Kirtideva. The theme of the dialogue is also the theme that is so relevant to contemporary Gujarat. Kirtideva represents the soul of Gujarat and Munjal represents a great and powerful character of one who has yet deviated from the soul of Gujarat. Even though great and powerful, capable and successful, Munjal is interested only in his small kingdom;
he is engaged in small plots of diplomacy and maneuvering; Kirtideva is a large spirit with a vision of unity and harmony. Munjal and Kirtideva tied to each other with a relationship, — the relationship of the father and the son, — portray a picture of a great conflict between a vision and practical maneuverings in a narrow field of small battles and small victories. The present condition of Gujarat can also be described as a kind of a dialogue between a vision and the contemporary practical problems which oblige us to fix ourselves within narrow and stifling boundaries of small battles and small victories.
The great vision for which Gujarat must equip itself is the vision of the continuous quest which started with the Veda in India and which has now come to a critical point of development when the contemporary crisis of humanity is centred upon the evolution of a new type of humanity, — humanity which is free from religious rivalries, economic exploitative competitions and narrow specialisations that prevent vistas of wisdom, the recovery and progressive development of which appear to have become indispensable.
We had in Gandhi and thereafter in Mashroowala a preface to what may be called total revolution. One of the books of Mashroowala is entitled, "Samooli Kranti", where he speaks of the need to transcend the boundaries of religions and of contemporary philosophies as also narrow concepts of social and economic reconstruction. He also spoke of fundamental change in educational system. This is the point at which the thought of Gujarat needs to assimilate its glorious heritage and move forward that can initiate and develop a total revolution, — not a violent revolution but a spiritual and integral revolution that issues from the depths and heights of the Spirit.
There are three important influences which Gujarat has received during the last hundred years. These influences are from the literature of Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore and Sri Aurobindo. Fortunately, many of the works of this literature are available in Gujarati language.
All these three influences are at work in Gujarat in a living manner.
These influences, if fully assimilated, will uplift Gujarat and open before it a vast programme of action in which Gujarat can play a leading role.
The immediate future holds out a promise of a great change and a great salutary change. Sakshara Yuga followed by Gandhi Yuga was only a prelude. A new kind of Sakshara Yuga has to come. We have to train the brain of Gujarat so that we are able to delve into deepest levels of thought. We have to recover Narsi Mehta, Narmad and Goverdhan Tripathi and go beyond. A greater period of devotion and rebellious spirit and profound scholarship must prevail in Gujarat; a greater self- awareness must possess the people of Gujarat; a greater sense of mission must guide and inspire the programmes and activities of Gujarat. New lines of resolution of religious conflicts have to be conceived. A new kind of economic development, which is neither capitalistic nor socialistic, but which combines the truths of both and yet which transcends both, has to be formulated. A radical model of governance has to emerge. And in all these fields, what is most important is the birth of a new sense of fraternity, a new sense of togetherness, a new sense of mutuality. And it is here that Gujarat can play the most important role. For, the message and practice of harmony is the soul of Gujarat.