chapter  4
41 Pages

Makers of modern India and their interpretations of the Gita

The exposure to Western education and ideas had a significant multidimensional impact on India. Social and religious leaders emerged one after the other who absorbed the new ideas and values of modern Renaissance in Europe and, in that light, examined India’s social, economic and political conditions. Though rooted in Indian culture and proud of it, these leaders could also see that India’s conditions cried for drastic improvements in almost all spheres of life. They became acutely aware of mass illiteracy and rampant superstition prevailing in the country, associated with the exclusion of the bulk of people from education. Colonial exploitation and destruction of indigenous industries had produced mass poverty. Subjugation under foreign rule had also made people docile and submissive. There was a need to awaken and energise the masses, make them aware of the social evils and yet restore their self-confidence. Most of the modern leaders did not feel that they had to reject the old scriptures wholesale either as hindrance or as irrelevant in this task, but found on the contrary that many of them were quite useful if only re-interpreted consistent with the Renaissance ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. They found that these values were very much there in Indian scriptures, but were obscured by some of the later developments like the caste system and suppression of women. Basic teaching of sacred books had to be rediscovered, while unnecessary accretions of irrational and false religious beliefs could be rejected. The modern Indian leaders produced their own version of Indian Renaissance, without which India could not have become a modern nation in the comity of nations in the world and make its presence felt.