By: M.R. Lalu
January comes with hopes and aspirations. The festivities to welcome a New Year accelerate a genuine thirst for jubilance and enthusiasm with expectations flying high hopefully bringing good fortunes and change in life. People across the globe slide into a festive mood and everywhere we can see a wind of optimism blowing with uninterrupted friendship and accommodation. The wintry mist of December tells us stories of hits and misses of the year. With every passing year we are moving one step towards our greater goals as humankind. Amid such merriment and busy festivities we need to also kindle a little benevolence, beneficence, kindliness, love, patience and compassion.
January is also known for the birth anniversaries of two great luminaries of India. The first one is Swami Vivekananda whose birthday falls on January 12 and the second is the birthday of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on January 23. Vivekananda was born in 1863 and Netaji was born in 1897. By the time India’s most renowned freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose was born, Swami Vivekananda the patriotic saint of India was almost planning to pack his bag for his return journey to eternity. Netaji was five years old when Vivekananda left his body in 1902. Within a short period of 39 years on the planet, Vivekananda, with his herculean spiritual austerity, could ignite the fire of spiritual revolution which would last for a millennium and had influenced everybody including Subhas Chandra Bose in the freedom movement. That was the spiritual heights in which he could establish his saintly persona. The sacred association of Vivekananda and Ramakrishna had a huge impact on Subhas Chandra Bose.
Colonial India was a challenge and to capture the glimpse of his spiritual mission for a nation that remained in servitude for centuries was quite tiresome for Vivekananda. For an individual, spiritual awakening is a personal affair and it needs tremendous hardships to discover the eternal bliss in him. Vivekananda had to spiritually conquer a country that was shattered intellectually, emotionally and spiritually by the gruesome impact of the invasion and his mission was more strenuous than an armed struggle against the British. Vivekananda knew the real reason that pushed a country with extraordinary cultural resonance into the perils of colonial dominance. For Bose, Vivekananda was his spiritual guru, in whom he discovered a blend of unadulterated patriotism and the purest form of spiritual decorum. Subhash Chandra Bose was not only awakened by the spiritual depth of Vivekananda but Vivekananda’s unflinching patriotism got more and more engraved in his conscience as he flipped the pages of the saint’s teachings. The patriot in Netaji became profound and unequivocally powerful by the insightful views of Vivekananda.
Vivekananda’s call was for the youth of India and he told them to love the country unconditionally so that the fight against British dominance was possible. The influence that Vivekananda had on Netaji is reflective in his words. Netaji writes, “How shall I express my indebtedness to Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda? It is under their sacred influence that my life got the first awakening.” Netaji was well aware of the fact that Vivekananda’s mission was not only spiritual but also to awaken the country’s patriotic sensibility and turn its social intelligence towards self respect and enabling India to inch for its long awaited freedom. This came from a conviction that India’s essential character was spiritual since the days of the Vedas. The country was soaked in spiritual wisdom for centuries and with the passage of time the supreme idea of spiritual evolution got settled and the essential values were mischaracterized as ethnic servitude. Colonial dominance, therefore, according to Vivekananda, was a by-product of the genetic disconnect that India was made a victim of for centuries of invasion. Though sunk in the stupor of subjugation, the people of India found immense strength coming from the patriotic eloquence of Vivekananda. Netaji was one among millions who captured the splendour of spiritual values that Vivekananda disseminated.
Extremely elated by the spiritual vision of Vivekananda, Netaji writes, “If Swamiji had been alive today, he would have been my guru, that is to say, I would have accepted him as my Master. Needless to say, as long as I live, I shall be absolutely loyal and devoted to Ramakrishna- Vivekananda.” Stigmatised by the impudence of the colonial behaviour of the British, the Indian servitude was slowly but rebelliously unravelling against the colonial barbarity and craving for a fresh air of freedom. The country sprang into an arm struggle with Netaji leading it from the front. When Netaji chose arm struggle as a means to political liberation, Vivekananda’s teachings fuelled his spiritual personality, strengthening the deep patriotic behaviour in him to rise into its Himalayan stature. With Vivekananda began India’s modern spiritual renaissance and its cultural nationalism got exposed through the patriotic sacrifices made by numerous people including Netaji.
Historic inscriptions on the conversation between former British Prime Minister Clement Attlee and the then acting Governor of West Bengal Justice PB Chakraborty in 1956 reveals the fact that the British had to ultimately decide to leave India in 1947 because of the erosion of loyalty to the British crown among the Indian Army and Navy as a result of Netaji’s military activities. To PB Chakraborty’s question on Mahatma Gandhi’s influence on the British decision to vacate India, Atlee is known to have replied with a sarcastic smile that Gandhi’s influence was minimal. In 1946, about 20000 sailors of the Royal Indian Navy serving on78 ships are known to have mutinied against the British Empire. They went around Mumbai and Karachi with portraits of Netaji and forced the British to shout ‘Jai Hind’ and other INA slogans. This could be enough to illustrate the impact of Netaji on India’s independence and every year January comes with memories of great patriotism that Vivekananda through his spiritual ideals and Netaji through his patriotic courage gifted to the Indian populace.
Swami Vivekananda’s birthday is celebrated as National Youth Day while Netaji’s birthday is celebrated as Parakram Divas. Both terms beautifully connotes a vision for the youth of the world’s largest democracy. The English equivalent of Parakram can be courageous and vigorous. India’s Amrit Kaal is for the youth to jump into this transformation mission with Vivekananda’s ideals being implemented with Netaji’s courage.
(Freelance Journalist/Author of “India @ 75- A Contemporary Approach”)