With this National Consultation seminar, one feels that at last we are awaking to the needs of adolescent and young people of India, who are keen to learn of Indian History at a deeper level than the usual stories of dynasties, kings & queens and of the political struggles for power and kingdoms and Colonial rule. This need of the adolescent and young people has not been attended to with any special focus. As a result, we do not find in the available literature any considerable number of books that can be regarded as specially meant for them. The Government and non-government agencies which have for their aim the task of inspiring the coming generations do not appear to have undertaken any sustained programme of producing books that relate to biographies, autobiographies or important anecdotes that may leave any powerful imprint on the shaping of the inner thoughts, inner visions, inner character or inner personality of these young leaders. There are, indeed, a number of books, which can be counted, as relevant to them, but if you ask the question whether they were written with a special focus on them, the answer may not be so much in the affirmative. This particular seminar is, to my mind, a significant event, which might provide an opportunity to chalk out a programme with a needed focus, and a number of institutions or publishing houses may gain profitably from this. It is heartening that a number of authors and educationists and others interested in this task are present here, and we look forward to a fruitful exchange that may contribute significantly to the production of the required literature, and this may enhance the cause and philosophy of value-oriented education.
My aim in this paper is rather modest, and I wish to present the result of a short survey that I have conducted, and I should like to present to you a list which can be of some use in identifying the name of the seers, poets, and leaders of India in respect of which some written material is available. I have surveyed a few publications, which are available in English and Hindi, and I am presenting in an Appendix, the titles, authors and publisher and in some cases, e-mail or telephone number of relevant publishers.
I should, however, like to mention the names of these illumined seers, poets and others in respect of which we need to have more literature on and literature of higher quality.
Let me first mention that although the Vedas have a number of hymns composed by illumined women seers, we have hardly any list of these seers in any systematic manner. Indeed, it is impossible to have any biographical material available to us, but we can at least bring out an inspiring monograph containing the thoughts and aspirations of these women seers. We may also have some material about them in the ancient books of Ithihas and Puranas. These also need to be researched into and inspiring accounts can be brought out to show how ancient Indian women had achieved high degrees of illumination and wisdom. There is a very important volume brought out by Geeta Press called NARI ANK which is devoted only to accounts of leading women of India. Let me mention here the names that we find in this valuable book: Gargi, Maitreyi, Andal, Vidula, Lopa Mudra, Meerabai, etc. It is true that the accounts given of many of these leading women do not fulfill the need of the quest among our young students, but the very fact that such a large number of women leaders of India have been identified, some of the authors may find it a useful tool for collecting research material and for writing inspiring books regarding them. Perhaps an Institution like the NCERT may like to commission researchers and authors to prepare monographs on these leaders.
Again I should like to refer to the important Vedic seers, and in regard to whom practically no interesting account is available. We may take only a few important names, Gritsamada, Vishwamitra, Vamadeva, Atri, Bharadwaja, Vashishtha, Madhuchhandas, and Deerghatamas, On Vishwamitra and Deerghatamas, we have two interesting books, which have been written by Prof. S P Singh. In regard to the others, there are only two, namely, Vishwamitra and Vashishtha in regard to whom some accounts are available in some kind of legendary form. The famous founder of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan , Kulpati K Munshi, has written a fictional biography of Vishwamitra in which we also find the stories of Shunhashepa and of the liberation of Shunhashepa. He has also written a fictional novel on Parashurama, which is interesting and instructive. In regard to other great seers, mentioned in the Vedas, we do not have any authentic statements of their thoughts or their philosophy or their spiritual realizations. But these seers were not mythological figures and we do possess the hymns composed by them, and if not their biographies, we should at least be able to give to our young people their thoughts and visions. I would suggest that Vedic scholars and other Sanskrit scholars may be requested to bring out some publications which may be able to give a message to our young people that the ancient rishis were heroic in their adventures of consciousness, that they had illuminations of various kinds, and that they were not only seekers of knowledge but also great possessors of knowledge. For it is evident, that these seers the discoverers of three oceans of consciousness — the inconscient, the conscient and the superconscient. It is also evident that they were masters of human psychology and they made great distinction in regard to sensations, mind, intellect and still higher faculty of revelations, intuition, inspiration and discrimination. It is also evident that they were masters of knowledge of different planes of existence, not only of physical existence but also of vital planes and mental planes and supramental planes. Our young people ought to have knowledge of what these seers have acquired in terms of knowledge and in terms of powers of faculties, and how they were able to establish a civilization, which has surprisingly sustained continuity, which is unparalleled in the history of the world.
In regard to two great characters of India, Rama and Krishna, there is a good deal of literature available in our country, not only in Sanskrit but also in all the languages of India and yet, it is surprising that there is hardly any concise monograph on Rama or Krishna, through which our young people may come to learn, not of their mythological feats and achievements, but of their great human qualities of valour and courage, of their knowledge and of their high states of consciousness, of their virtues and of other immense qualities of leadership and excellence which can be humanly cultivated and achieved by all aspiring people.
Kulpati K Munshi has given a remarkable biography of Krishna in several volumes, and they need to be visited. But still, there is a need to have one powerful monograph, each on Rama and Krishna.
Similarly, there is a need to have a monograph on Valmiki and Vyasa It is true that biographical material on these two supreme poets is scanty, and even mythological to some extent. But there could be monographs to review the thoughts and visions they have depicted in Ramayana and Mahabharata. The excellence of their poetry also needs to be brought out, and much of their wisdom can be counted in inspirational form. Much valuable material on these two poets is available in the writing of Sri Aurobindo (vide Vol. III of collected works of Sri Aurobindo) and this material can be profitably utilized for creating inspiring monographs on these two poets.
It is surprising that although Arjuna was the central figure of Mahabharata, there is no instructive or inspiring monograph on this great hero either. In contrast to Arjuna we have several monographs on Abhimanyu, and yet we do not get an adequate idea of the kind of training that he must have received so as to become a powerful hero who could fight all alone several champions of war, almost unarmed before he could be struck by deadly blows.
Similarly, one could think of monographs on many characters one could find in the Mahabharata and Ramayana who have not received much attention from the writers. We have only a few accounts of characters like Bheeshma and Draupadi and Karna. But this is not enough; much more needs to be written, and a greater effort of research needs to be undertaken for the benefit of the young people.
There is a vast ocean of Puranic literature, and although many stories which have been presented there are symbolic or mythological in character, they need to be re-written in such a manner that our young readers can respond to them suitably and can derive valuable lessons from them. There are also a number of legends like Vikramaditya and Bhoja, and these stories also need to be re-written so as to appeal to the taste and imagination of our modern young people.
Of the great historical characters, we have four main characters: Rana Pratap, Akbar, Shivaji and Rani Lakshmi Bhai, who seem to be the favourites of our authors. But of many others, like Prithviraj Chauhan, we do not hear much although many of them are inspiring and their life stories can be very instructive.
In regard to the saints of India we have once again a very valuable book produced by Geeta Press namely Sant Ank, and I should like to present a list of names in regard to whom accounts have been given in this volume: Ramanujacharya, Shankaracharya, Madhavacharya, Samarth Ramdas, Ramkrishna Paramhansa, Sant Tukaram, Kamban, Tyagaraja and many others.
This list is formidable, but biographical accounts given in this book are not by and large inspiring. But the available material in this volume and further material that can be collected by fresh research can result in literature we need to create for our young people.
I need not labour on giving an account of a number of monographs that are available, but I should like to mention, that contributions have been made by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, National Book Trust, Children's Book Trust and Publication Division of Government of India. Rupa Publications are also note worthy, Motilal Banarasidas has also brought out valuable monographs and biographies and Raja Pocket Books also, which have brought out 20 — 30 monographs, some of which are truly inspiring. We need to be thankful to all of them, but we need to urge all of them and many other publishers, like Navjiwan Karyalaya, Shastri Sahitya and others to undertake a fresh project of producing monographs of very high quality — biographies which are not only informative but also analytical, interesting and pedagogically instructive. The theme of illumination, heroism and harmony should weave all these biographies so as to make of them a special category of inspiring works.