The mistake which both Gandhi and Golwalkar made

We have argued elsewhere that the fact that India was spiritually united by the great religions of this land - often together called Hinduism - does not mean that India was politically united. Spiritual unity often exists without political unity. In fact, a lot more often than the cases where they actually do co-exist. While it is obvious that India is predominantly a Hindu country (entirely so as you dig more and more into history), it is not true that Indians felt anything resembling "Indianness" or Bharatiyate in India's history. At best, they felt like Kannadigas or Tamils or Telugus or Bengalis.

In this post, we show how M.S. Golwalkar (RSS) and M.K. Gandhi (Congress) both implicitly assumed that spiritual unity is equivalent to political unity, and thus were both wrong in this respect.

M.S. Golwalkar could never tire of pointing out, incorrectly, that India was one "Nation" before the British. Of course, he gives examples of India's spirituality to drive home his point, often inventing new terms such as "national life" and claiming that Bharat was one nation from time immemorial. Here's an excerpt from his "Bunch of Thoughts" where he displays his implicit assumption that spiritual unity is equal to political unity. It is due to such irrational ideologies that the RSS and the BJP are even to this date against a federal structure in India (more on that here).

The national life of Bharat is an ancient one. The social life here has been woven round a cultural tradition imbued with common life-ideals stemming out of a common comprehensive life-philosophy. This has been a living tradition since ages, well before the Islamic and Christian invaders stepped on this soil. The thread of inherent unity has never snapped in spite of apparent distinctions and dissensions among castes, creeds, sects and even political kingdoms. The human group, which has been expressing this unified current of life has been popularly known as the "Hindu". The national life in Bharat is therefore the Hindu National Life.

In this aspect, Golwalkar is no different from Gandhi who also saw Hinduism as the basis of India's nationhood, although Gandhi did not use the word "Hindu" in the same fashion as Golwalkar. When asked to explain why he thinks India was one nation before the British, Gandhi replies in Hind Swaraj, first published in 1938:

I do not wish to suggest that because we were one nation we had no differences,but it is submitted that our leading men travelled thoughout India either or foot or in bullockcarts. They learned one another’s languages and there was no aloofness between them. What do you think could have been the intention of those farseeing ancestors of ours who established Setubandha (Rameshwar) in the South, Jagannath in the East and Hardwar in the North as places of pilgrimage? You will admit they were no fools. They knew that worship of God could have been performed just as well at home. They taught us that those whose hearts were aglow with righteousness had the Ganges in their own homes. But they saw that India was one undivided land so made by nature. They, therefore, argued that it must be one nation. Arguing thus, they established holy places in various parts of India, and fired the people with an idea of nationality in a manner unknown in other parts of the world.

Clearly, the basis of Indian nationalism as envisaged by Gandhi was also Hinduism - for the examples he quotes (and the ones he hasn't quoted, too!) are obviously Hindu examples.

Thus, both Gandhi and Golwalkar had the same misconception - that a spiritual unity simply meant a political unity. Not so. Not so at all. Kingdoms which worshipped the very same Gods and Goddesses, kingdoms which gave patronage to the very same Vedic learning fought on the political battlefield. Mayurasharma, a Kannadiga Brahmana who went to Kanchi to study the Vedas ended up giving up that study in favour of founding the Kadamba dynasty to avenge illtreatment by a guard of the Tamil Pallava dynasty at Kanchi. History is abound with examples where religion / spirituality does not automatically bring about a feeling of "one nation". Kannadigas never felt like "Indians" when Harshavardhana came attacking when the Chalukyas were ruling this blessed land. Nor did that "Indianness" get born when Pulakeshi defeated Harshavardhana.

This is the truth which both Gandhi and Golwalkar failed to see. This is the truth that we cannot afford to neglect, since the political unity of India today cannot rest on a historical political unity which Gandhi or Golwalkar fantasized about. The political unity of India rests on a true federal system of government - something which the Indian constitution is not opposed to in principle, but doesn't have the guts to explicitly admit - since both the BJP and the Congress never understood India's political history. It's time they understood. It's time they admitted old mistakes and moved on. There's more to India than Gandhi and Golwalkar. India must go on inspite of the follies of its finest men.


Vishwa said...

Couple of questions regarding this...
You claim that the concept of India(political map) was born only with the independence movement many may not accept but even if I take your word, I have 2 questions which need clarifications.
1. When the independence movement started, what made our freedom fighters to fight for only that land mass which we call today as India? Don't call it spiritual unity, because Indian spiritualness had even spread to Tibet, Thailand, Burma, Srilanka. But we never fought for it. As a matter of fact India(then leaders like Nehru) did not honour Srilanka's plea for help in its freedom struggle saying India doesn't want to act as a big brother.
2. On the other hand, Was spiritual unity the reason for Wodeyars of Mysore, Marathas, the Scindias of gwalior to accede to India?If so, then you are conceding that spiritual unity was portrayed into political unity hence it spiritual India and political India go hand in hand.

Anandatirtha said...

I'd like to thank BANAVASI BALAGA for starting this debate. I only hope a healthy dialogue ensues.


Your first question is very appropriate to the matter at hand, and well asked. But first, we must understand the word "We" as applied to Indians during the freedom struggle, since you use the term "Our freedom struggle".

The people of this landmass called India were not accustomed to think of themselves as part of a large political unit called India. Hence, the "We" you talk about did not exist. Different provinces - united by Hinduism and Gandhian principles - started realizing the need for independence from the British, and they started realizing that there's merit in working together. The weak always unite against the strong. Thus, "We", as in "The People of the India of 2009" were born.

Now, who all united under this "We" banner for the freedom struggle? Every province under British Rule! Every province which the British called as the "Indian Empire" - including Pakistan and Bangladesh. Burma and Sri Lanka didn't come into this "We" because the British put these two under different administration units. Sri Lanka was very much together with today's India in the freedom struggle, with involvement from people like Gandhiji and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya. Of course, the fact that Sri Lanka was a separate island administered by a separate British administration reduced the give-and-take between India and Sri Lanka during the struggle. Nehru referred to the Sri Lankans as India's "cousins abroad" because of what the British defined India as different from "Ceylon".

Now to your second question. Unfortunately, you are not very clear in asking this question. Yes, spiritual unity was part of the reason which made the Wodeyars, the Marathas, the Scindias to accede to India. But there was another reason too - and that was - there was tremendous political pressure from the freedom movement to accede. Now, when you say "spiritual unity was portrayed into political unity hence it spiritual India and political India go hand in hand", you become un-understandable. Explain what you mean, and I'll try to comment later.

Jockey said...

My answer to Vishwa is very simple. If your argument is that there was political unity in India before the British, show me proof. Show me proof that there was one King, one Capital (even if it changed from place to place), one Constitution (or anything resembling it), one set of rules, one Army, one Navy...etc.

If you cannot provide proof, you have lost the debate.

Mahanteshwar said...

See Dude,
I am also a proud kannadiga. I have been reading articles in this blog for a long time.

What are the goals you are trying to achieve in through this blog - Increase Kannada Nationalism and create separate nation for Karnataka ???

If you do want to separate Nation and want all languages of India as equal, a lot of problems araise.
What language do you want to follow in Education, Defense, Medicine, technology, Banking. Regionalism will increase. How to you tackle it

Give us a clean idea of what solution you have in mind for the INDIA consisting of multiple languages. Tell us how to you want our country "Bharata" to handle multiple language issues.

Just giving out "Rhetoric articles" like these are of little use
without a vision.


Anandatirtha said...

Mahanteshwar, perhaps you didn't read this sentence in the article:

The political unity of India rests on a true federal system of governmentThat is BANAVASI BALAGA's for multilingual India. We do not advocate for separate Nations because of the same reason why kingdoms desired to become larger and larger (and our great kings undertook, for example, the Ashwamedha Yajna) in the early days - i.e., political stability, increased peace in the world, and the spread of Dharma.

No problems arise if all languages are treated as equal. In fact, problems arise if there is inequality built into the system, as it is the case now. Inequality is the mother of discord. And discord is here today because of inequality.

The language of Education, Medicine, Technology, Banking - should be Kannada in Karnataka. Of course, we can't get there immediately on the first 3 - we need to slowly ramp down English and ramp up Kannada. Banking is something we can move to a Kannada-plus-English system overnight. Note: Not Hindi, but English. We invite you to explore the "Hindification" category of this blog for why we believe so.

In the India of our conception, all Indian languages have equal representation in the defense forces, too - atleast the ones who have considerable representation in the army. Regiments from Karnataka work in Kannada, and those from Maharashtra in Marathi. If a particular state doesn't send a critical number of brave men/women into the defence forces, the language of that state will obviously not be represented. As to the question of how these different regiments can possess a feeling of oneness - the answer is: that a common thread of spirituality and secularism runs in all of us, that we have a common history of British imperialism, that we avowedly want to stick together as one Nation, that we want to live and respect each other and build a great India, that we all want to protect this blessed land where the greatest philosophies of the world were born, the greatest scientists and thinkers existed, that we want to continue to stick together and become the beacon light of Dharma in this world, and that we have common enemies, and that unity is strength.

All this is not difficult to accomplish if the will is there. The problem historically has been the lack of will and a false feeling that unity can be forced by imposing one language all over India. Our constant message has been that India's unity is because of her diversity. The destruction of diversity (by way of advocating for inequality, like you sadly do) has the danger of destroying unity itself - something which we all dislike.

Jockey said...


Or maybe we retain Hindi & English as the languages of the Defence forces for historical reasons. Defense is one service anyway - for which all states pay for.

But it must be made clear to the Indian public that the reason why English and Hindi are used is only because of historical / convenience reasons.

Mahanteshwar said...

a) >>The language of Education, Medicine, Technology, Banking - should be Kannada in Karnataka. Of course, we can't get there immediately on the first 3 - we need to slowly ramp down English and ramp up Kannada

Students from all over India come to Karnataka to study. Don't tell me that you expect them to learn Kannada or do you want only kannadigas to study here.

b) Comming to few points mentioned in the blog.
>>> we have a common history of British imperialism
>>> that we have common enemies

The above two points are a weak factor in binding all of us. In fact they cannot bind us Indias.

India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were all ruled by Moghuls, British.
Why is that not a binding factor for India, Pakistan and Bangladesh then ;-).

What bound all the Indians during the partition, was that we all were Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and all these originated from a
common principle of Dharma i.e Hinduism. This is very much evident from the history.

If you feel, we can take the discussion offline.

Anandatirtha said...


Students coming to Karnataka should study in the language of the land - just like elsewhere in the world. There's nothing peculiar about Karnataka here. It's the norm everywhere in the world. Even small countries like Israel (population smaller than that of Bengaluru) work completely in their own language and external students learn it.

Don't pick only the "common enemy" argument of mine in isolation. Doing so distorts my message and draws the debate to a wrong direction.

I mentioned a lot of other binding forces to which you should give equal consideration. In fact, because of not considering the other binding forces, India today has been reduced to a set of states with a "common enemy" - Pakistan, terrorism, or what have you. Sometimes, these common enemies are also invented!

For sure, Hinduism (I include Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism - every form of religion which was born in this part of the world - in this word) bound most of India (not every resident, because of followers of other faiths) spiritually.

However, the feeling that there was a political unity before the British is an illusion, has has been explained in the article. There is not a single shaasana found in Karnataka which talks about anything called Bhaarata as a larger political entity of which Karnataka is part, to which a Kannadiga King must bow his head to.

Of course, there is profuse reference to Hindu Gods, Goddesses and the Vedas and stuff like that - but not to an India or Bhaarata anywhere in the political history of Karnataka (or any other state) before the advent of the British.

I agree with Jockey's way of looking at it: this part of the world did not have one king, one constitution, one army, one navy etc before the British. That's what is called political unity - not the presence of one main religion, however much we are proud of that religion.

As to what bound all of us during the freedom movement - it's the feeling of weakness vis-a-vis the British and of course, religion, and Gandhiji's popular campaign that weakness (the inability to fight the British in an armed struggle) can actually be converted into strength.

Ideally, a handful of Hindus should have been strong enough to annihilate the very first British invaders. Note: I mean strong enough, not "politically united enough". It's a powerless race which needs hundreds of millions of its inhabitants to "unite" to fight a handful of British.

Anonymous said...

though it may feel like karnatique is telling something odd. But if we get it into the grass root level and see the problem then probably i think what guru is telling is a solution for India as a whole.

As Anandatirtha said i think we should have our education system that teaches us in our regional language (Rather we can call it as "mother tongue"). And people coming from outside wants to learn something then they have to understand the feelings of domiciles of karnataka and behave like a kannadiga if he wants to learn and earn bread and butter here.

I want banavasi balaga to take some major steps where we can see that we have the real education, rather than the crap what we have studied and wat we are teaching to our younger generation.


Anonymous said...

Wow...Such a thought provoking article. So true!!!!

Vishwa said...

My thoughts are here..

Jockey said...

The map you show is but one snapshot from -Infinity (minus infinity) until today, and Ashoka is one bubble in the ocean of World history. As you yourself argue, this empire disintegrated.

For most of history, India as we know today had more than 1 army, more than 1 administration, etc.

The very fact that Ashoka's empire disintegrated into many kingdoms shows that there was an inherent urge in different parts of India to declare "independence" - to use the word in use today. In fact, it is in that state of "independence" that most kingdoms thrived for most of history. And even when they were part of Ashoka's empire, if it weren't true that multiple armies and administrations were present in the "bud" form, they wouldn't come out after Ashoka.

You can't win this argument by going further and further into history. Here's why: if you go to the Krita-yuga, there was no king anywhere. Then - do you argue that there was a political India? No! If you argue that there indeed was, then it was the whole world - which again means there was no Political India.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Vishwa

Though most of India was under one control under Ashoka, it was not complete. As usual, (most of) Tamil Land was out of it. Even the territories of the empire were not voluntarily under it due to the similiarity in their sprituality. On the other hand, they were together because of the military (not even political) power of the the King/Emperor, otherwise they would not have disintegrated into smaller kingdoms after the decline of the Kings of the Mauryan Empire.

Sprituality can not be the sole binding force for a country. Otherwise, many neigbouring Muslim/Christian countries would have been together and Pakistan and Bangladesh would not have been separated.

On the other hand, no doubt, the same language (mother tongue) can be a stronger binding force for a country as found in examples like Bangladesh vs. Pakistan and Tamils vs. Sinhalese in Srilanka, etc.

However, it does not mean that we, the different language groups in India, can not live/stay together as a country. We can, provided all languages are treated as equals politically and not one of these languages is treated as a superior language politically and officially.

At the same time, a recognition given to a language for its literary excellence should not be confused as a special treatment becuase it is nothing more than awarding a particular Indian for an achievement in some field, say, sports.

Regards to all

Nihar said...

I frequently read 'Karnatique'. I enjoy the articles thoroughly. But may I say, I do not find the scholarly value that I am seeking from a group that I respect and to some extent believe in?

My early education happened in a convent; something which I believe, destroyed my early learning of kannada. If I learnt good kannada it was in a RSS shakha. I learnt my first 'Manku timmana kagga' there. Today I can probably boast of knowing more Manku timmana kagga, more vachanas and better kannada than many of my friends do, most of it learnt through the RSS shakha. The other day when Mahantesh (who has commented earlier) told me that he wanted pursue his MA in Kannada, I felt really great. He too is a swayamsevak and his kannada pride too, I believe, is core to his Swayamsevakatva (Correct me Mahantesh if I am wrong). The anti-Sangh rhetoric in the last few writings on this blog which tries to find a contradiction between these two identities, is totally unwarranted and based on inaccurate facts and wrong understanding. While criticism is always welcome, it could be based on a better understanding of concepts involved.

The other day I read an article on federalism and today this one. Both have a similar theme. In my opinion, the author / authors could do better by going deeper into the concepts than just taking a superficial view. This will lend credibilty to the articles.

I think you should contemplate on what the terms like "national life" really mean and if you are not assuming too many things based on your wrong understanding of such terms? Do you understand the difference between words like rashtra, desha, rajya etc or for that matter the terms like country, state, nation etc?

There are many things in the article which I agree with. I agree that historically political unity in India never existed. Yes thats true. Read carefully, the quotations that you have quoted. Neither Guruji nor Gandhiji contradict you on that.

I also agree that we should have education (at all levels) in native languages. I don't know if that is practical, but nevertheless that is my conviction. But there are fundamental disagreements too. If I find time, and if you are interested in listening, I can try writing a rejoinder.

One comment on the title: You could add the following also to the list of Gandhi and Golwalkar, for all of them did the same "mistake" or they "misunderstood" what you so clearly understand; Swami Vivekananda, Rajaram Mohan Roy, Aurobindo, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Subhas Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Savarkar, Swami Shraddhanand, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Shyamji Krishnaverma, Madam Cama, ............. the list would go on and on. And yes what about Kuvempu, who also talked of "Bharatambe" as the only diety whom we need to worship. Neither Gandhiji nor Guruji Golwalkar were the first or the most forceful of the proponents of this "confused" philosophy.


Jockey said...


With due respect to whoever taught you M.K.T., and with due respect to D.V.G., and with due respect to the contents of M.K.T., I'd like to offer the viewpoint that the very problem with the RSS is that it considers Kannada as at best a vehicle for spirituality, there too, second in line after Sanskrit. This same thinking is reflected in your "I don't know if that is practical" about real education in Kannada (about which, shoot. We're listening).

At best, the RSS can give you pride in Kannada. Which I see it has given. But pride is useless if it cannot deliver any value other than pride itself. By itself, pride is not a virtue - as is sufficiently illustrated by many Kannada writers who can only shed tears about Kannada while lecturing about its past glory.

>>>Do you understand the difference between words like rashtra, desha, rajya etc or for that matter the terms like country, state, nation etc?

No. Please tell me. I think they're all one and the same. Kannada has a word "Naadu". Every other word has been imported from other sources and connote meanings other than what's natural to Kannadigas.

>>>There are many things in the article which I agree with. I agree that historically political unity in India never existed. Yes thats true.

That's a welcome statement! Maybe you and Mahantesh should have a chat.

>>>Read carefully, the quotations that you have quoted. Neither Guruji nor Gandhiji contradict you on that.

They may not contradict, but they definitely obscure the difference between political unity and spiritual unity. That suffices to hold them responsible for the misconception that they've created in the public - a fraction of which is represented by Mr. Vishwa on this thread.

Quoting big names who made big mistakes is no defence against the mistakes themselves. Sure, Kuvempu made the mistake, too. So what? Remind yourself of Shankaracharya asking an opponent: "So what? What if what I say is against Shruti?".

>>>Neither Gandhiji nor Guruji Golwalkar were the first or the most forceful of the proponents of this "confused" philosophy.

Now, this is a confusing statement. Did you get convinced that G and G were indeed proponents of the "confused" philosophy by the time you completed your comment? Or did you just stop being careful with what you write?!

Jockey said...

I'm sorry. It should be M.T.K. and not M.K.T.

And while I'm at posting a comment anyway, Nihar, may be you should write an article for the "Organizer" about how there wasn't any political unity in India. That will show you how deep-routed the misconception is inside the RSS and by virtue of it, outside it too.

Thennavan (Southerner) said...


RSS would have made you and some others learn Kannada and even take a pride in that. But, I would say that is purely vis-a-vis English. Can they ever say Kannada is as good a language as Sanskrit? or at the least, Hindi is no more important language than Kannada and that Kannadigas need not learn Hindi when Hindiwalas don't learn Kannada.

What RSS strongly believes and propagates is that Sanskrit is the only language for Indian Common Hindu Sprituality as if the Almighty GOD listens only to Sanskrit and that Hindi is the only language suitable for Indian Political Unity as if only the Hindi speaking/knowing people are the true Indians and others are fanatics/antinationals. But, I doubt if that is really their belief to keep India together at the best or if their motive is to suppress and rule the other language people indirectly.

Regards to all

Nihar said...

Jockey you failed to see the double quotes I put for "confused". Nevertheless, do not worry. That is all you have been doing for a long time now; misunderstanding or distorting what others say. Please be receptive and you would understand what others say.

A second point, are you the author of the article. Just wanted to know, since your id does not match. I respect the thoughts irrespective of that, but I would like to know if they are the thoughts of the author too.

I have never seen kannada as aganist any other language, leave alone English or Hindi. My concept of Kannada is not so narrow minded.

Your reactions (especially Thennavan's) makes me think again if one could have an academic discussion with you. I had been sceptic of this and didn't want to write a comment or suggest to write a rejoinder. It was only because of some of my friends who share a common cause with Banavasi Balaga who wanted me to write what I think. I am sure they would have got an answer. If you would like to be in your own cucoon, so be it. All the best! The best I could do is to stop disturbing you all and suggest the same to my friends who wanted me to write this.

Anyways best of luck!


Nihar said...

And jockey, thanks for your suggestions. My aricles have earlier been published by the Indian Express among others. Next time I write an article, I surely will think of sending it to the Organiser too.


Jockey said...


Is your point is that Golwalkar and Gandhi were both talking about

(a) only a spiritual unity? or
(b) a spiritual + political unity? or
(c) only a political unity?

Choose one, so that I can understand what you mean.

I'm not the author of the article.

You use big words about your Kannada not being narrow minded and stuff, but you don't back it up with any solid stuff. Help me understand why "your Kannada", which as per your presents here is limited only to spiritual stuff like the MTK, should not be termed narrow minded - although I never accused you of any such thing.

"I have never seen kannada as aganist any other language, leave alone English or Hindi."

When you start craving for a day when Kannada can be used in every walk of life, every other language must be displaced. Now it's your choice of words that you call it as being "against other languages". But it is not so.

Also, I'm not sure you realize that Hindi people are imposing their language on Kannadigas. So, I'm not sure if you realize that they're being "narrow minded". So, I'm not sure if you realize that it's actually correct for us to be "narrow minded", although we're not.

Thennavan (Southerner) said...


You shouldn't be upset that others have difference of opinion with you. If you genueinely believe the underlying TRUTH in what you say, you should continue to write on how others are wrong in what they say.

At the minimum, you can write about the policy of RSS concerning the other languages like Kannada, Tamil, etc. vis-a-vis Hindi and Sanskrit so that others can also see sense in the truth (of what you say).


Jai Veerupaksha said...


I believe Banavasi BaLaga doesn't have anything against spirituality which is the only true unifying factor of "Bharat", but it only further believes that if this unity were to exist, a practical federal system that provides enough powers to each state to chart their own destiny politically and administratively is the only way forward.

Even if we don't wake up to this reality, the voters of our country seem to have understood this.Increased representation of regional parties in the Parliament and the increasing inability of the 2 National parties ( that don't believe in true federalism) to garner sufficient seats with every passing election is ample proof that it is not too long before each state in India would want to be represented by its own party that works to secure its political and adminsitrative interests.Indirectly what each state would want is not a breaking down of the nation but an equality in representation. Of course there is a well defined framework within our constituion for this to become a reality one day.

Spiritual unity cannot bring about political unity but political diversity can still go exist with spiritual unity which is what a true federal set up with equal representation to each state will help achieve.

Harish Kumar said...

North Indian because of their contact with the barbarians cannot feel the spirituality of India, the spiritual force that unites all Indians. This spiritual force was responsible for TN, anti-hindi state par excellence, emerging as the major contributor to the Kargil War Fund.As a result, they believe that a single language is necessary to unite Indians. But they are not able to explain if language can unite how partition happened and Punjab was divided and Bengal was divided.Why the North Indian kings were busy fighting amongst themselves instead of joining together to throw out the muslim rule ?

Its the common spiritual tradition that unites Indians and not language.

English should be the language that binds Indians.

Highly Federal Structure is necessary.

Harish Kumar said...

Swami Vivekananda said it would be good to have a single language, but then the diversity of India and the problem of protecting other languages need to be taken care of.

Sri Aurobindo (when asked what he thought of the plan to make Hindi the National Language) -- declared " I wonder what the other states are going to say to that ? "

Thus the two great Rishis of modern India were not in favour of a single national language. They were concerned about the opinions of others and the need to maintain diversity.

We should follow the Rishis.

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