For the Record -- Bharat Mata Is Not Goddess But Mother

For the Record -- Bharat Mata is not Goddess but Mother...
Shammi Paranjape


What a hullaballoo.

Bharat Mata and why should one say it, and why the image is so 'Bharatiya', (in a sari, and not jeans or a burqua)... Apart from these specious arguments, some religious heads have raised a valid objection on the ground that Bharat Mata is a Goddess and it goes against their tenets to revere the same. But the whole point is, Bharat Mata is not Goddess -- she is simply a personification of 'mother' and in our culture both mother and father are accorded divine status (out of respect).

Of course, saying or not saying Bharat Mata ki Jai is not the point. Nobody need say it if they don't want to. What gives pause is the loud rant and objections raised against the slogan itself. In simple terms, it is just an expression of love and pride in one's own country, isn't it? It is a rough equivalent of say, Americans saying "Long live America..." You don't berate slogans like that. Everybody's country is ultimately the 'motherland' that nurtures and shelters them. It is but natural to feel loyalty and strong attachment to the same.

As for the image of Bharat Mata in the traditional Indian sari, it is a pleasing image. I like it. It keeps me in touch with my own cultural roots, however nebulously. It reminds me and hopefully the current generation of youngsters that, though things are mighty different today, that picture embodies Indian culture, as it has prevailed down the ages. Just as Western means 'hi' and jeans, Indian means 'namaste' and saris. The sari is the traditional Indian garment and it is obvious that the image of Bharat Mata will be draped in a sari. Why sari? Why not jeans or burqua? Well, for the same I suppose, that the Statue of Liberty is not draped in a sari or burqua...

As for the personification of country as mother... The mother is a symbol of all that is noblest and honourable in human nature. She is celebrated in all cultures of the world. The mother nourishes comforts, inspires, and selflessly gives and is the most appropriate image to apply to one's own country. Indic scriptures declare the sanctity of four mothers -- Janam mata or the natural mother who gives you birth, Gomata or the sacred cow who yields milk, Ved mata or the Vedas that confer right knowledge, and Desh mata, or your country of birth. All are worthy of veneration. Is there something objectionable about that? There is a good reason for marking out these four 'mothers' for respect. Each plays a pivotal role in the all-round growth and development of an individual.
Being Indian (or any nationality) means you have certain core values that are part and parcel of your own culture, and you respect those values. You grow up in a cultural framework that is particular to your nationality or region alone. There is no better or worse, each a design, in the vast grand cultural mosaic of the world. As many countries, as many peoples, as many cultures. Each valid, though each different. That is the beauty. That is the plan. Diversity is the one thing that makes our planet eternally interesting.

I am Indian first and will remain so. Just as Western means you have core values of that culture, Indian should mean that you have core values of Indian culture. And obviously this culture, will derive largely from Hinduism and its beliefs and customs. But, today's urban intelligentsia is out to berate anything if it has the faintest link to the word, 'Hindu.' I beg your pardon, but that's what the majority of people in this country are! (And proud to be so). Granted, that because of Googlization, a culture invasion is sweeping the globe, and Western influences are evident, everywhere. However, this is and can be, only an overlay, and that too of superficialities, at best. At worst it is a cheap imitation. You are free to persist with the imitation, at the cost, of course, of not being your authentic self.

All this calls for some serious soul searching. Are we going off the deep end trying to prove how liberal we are? There is a tendency to decry our Indian culture as 'old fashioned' in the current blitzkrieg of liberalism. The irony is, the West is taking from us, the 'old fashioned' systems, like yoga, and bowing their heads in a collective 'namaste', and we, are going for their cool dude terminology, their style of dressing, hip hop music, swear words and other inconsequential aspects.

The truth is culture is not a designer label, but a refined life, based on cherished values. Indian culture is a rich treasure house of values that can elevate life to its highest expression. Let us not, in our mad hurry, to be acceptable smart in Western eyes, discard the substantial aspects of our own culture. Of course, considering the speed of change in current times, with the advent of Internet and mind boggling technological innovations, adaptations and modifications are necessary, even beneficial. However, these should not drown out the core values of a given culture. Blotting out of your own culture, is a self-defeating enterprise. It causes a deep seated malaise in the psyche of the individual. This in turn leads to alienation, angst and disconnectedness. Cultures are not skins that can be shed, they are the roots which uphold all that you stand for.

Let us move, let us adapt to the changing times, but let us not forget who we really are.