Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, popularly known as “Rajaji” or “C.R” was a great patriot, astute politician, incisive thinker, great visionary and one of the greatest statesmen of all time. He was a close associate of Mthatma Gandhi, hailed as conscience-keeper of the Mahatma, As an
ardent freedom-fighter, as Chief Minister of Madras, as Governor of West Bengal, as Home Minister of India and as the first Indian Governor General of India, he rendered yeoman service to the nation and left an indelible impression on our contemporary life.
Rajaji was closely associated with Kulapati Munshiji and he was among the distinguished founder members of the Bhavan. The Bhavan had the privilege of publishing 18 books authored (see page ii) by him so far, the copyright of which he gifted to the Bhavan.
All of Rajaji’s works, especially on Marcus Aurelius and Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads are popular. In Mahabharata, he has displayed his inimitable flair for story-telling and applying the moral of stories to the needs of modern times. The stories were origina1ly written in Tamil and have been rendered into English, mainly by Rajaji himself. To have preserved the beauty and spirit of the great original in refined and simple English is an achievement of the highest order.
In the present book Our Culture Rajaji has drawn upon his vast knowledge of the “eternal fountains” of Indian and World Culture and explains the sources of our culture. He defines culture as 4the habit of successful self-control.’
The thought-processes of this patriarch retained their sharp
edge, while the notes of his silver tongue did not lose any of their charms even when he was a nonagenarian.
Rajaji passed away in 1972 at the age of 94.
The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan - that Institute of Indian Culture in Bombay - needed a Book University, a series of books which, if read, would serve the purpose of providing higher education. Particular emphasis, however, was to be put on such literature as revealed the deeper impulsions of India. As a first step, it was decided to bring out in English 100 books, 50 of which were to be taken in hand almost at once.
It is our intention to publish the books we select, not only in English, but also in the following Indian languages: Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.
This scheme, involving the publication of 900 volumes, requires ample funds and an all-India organisation. The Bhavan is exerting its utmost to supply them.
The objectives for which he Bhavan stands are the reintegration of the Indian culture in the light of modem knowledge and to suit our present day needs and the resuscitation of its fundamental values in their pristine vigour.
Let me make our goal more explicit:
We seek the dignity of man, which necessarily implies the creation of social conditions which would allow him freedom to evolve along the lines of his own temperament and capacities: we seek the harmony of individual efforts and social relations, not in any makeshift way, but within the frame-work of the Moral Order; we seek the creative art of life, by the alchemy of which human limitations are progressively transmuted, so that man may become the instrument of God, and is able to see Him in all and all in Him.
The world, we feel, is too much with us. Nothing would
uplift or inspire us so much as the beauty and aspiration
which such books can teach.
In this series, therefore, the literature of India, ancient and modern, will be published in a form easily accessible to all. Books in other literatures of the world, if they illustrate the principles we stand for, will also be included.
This common pool of literature, it is hoped, will enable the reader, eastern or western, to understand and appreciate currents of world thought, as also the movements of the mind in India, which, though they flow through different linguistic channels, have a common urge and aspiration.
Fittingly, the Book University’s first venture is the Mahabharata, summarised by one of the greatest living Indians, C. Rajagopalachari the second work is on a section of it, the Gita, by H. V. Divatia, an eminent jurist and a student of philosophy. Centuries ago, it was proclaimed of the Mahabharata: “What is not in it, is nowhere.” After twenty five centuries, we can use the same words about it.
He who knows it not, knows not the heights and depths of the soul; he misses the trials and tragedy and the beauty and grandeur of life.
The Mahabharata is not a mere epic; it is a romance, telling the tale of heroic men and women and of some who were divine; it is a whole literature in itself, containing a code of life, a philosophy of social and ethical relations, and speculative thought on human problems that is hard to rival; but, above all, it has for its core the Gita, which is, as the world is beginning to find out, the noblest of scriptures and the grandest of sagas in which the climax is reached in the wondrous Apocalypse in the Eleventh Canto.
Through such books alone the harmonies underlying true culture, I am convinced, will one day reconcile the disorders of modern live.
I thank all those who have helped to make this new branch of the Bhavan’s activity successful.
Rajaji’s impact on the thought of India is an established fact. His contribution has been made on many levels for he is an unusually versatile man. It is difficult to think of anyone better suited to the task of interpreting trends, and evaluating our capacity to absorb and benefit by them, than Rajaji. It was therefore appropriate that the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan should have invited him to deliver lectures on Indian culture and that the lectures should now be available to a wider public in book form.
The word culture has been much misused and abused. Under its cover we have committed many crimes but fortunately we are beginning to discover that like truth, culture can have only one meaning even though its forms are many and varied. Also that culture is something apart from politics. I make this obvious and rather trite statement because the memory of culture being equated to the pattern of the foreign ruler is still fresh in my mind. I have not
forgotten how some of us reached out to grasp the
Low allowing the roots which had sustained and nourished
s for centuries to dry up for no better reason than to appear
equal” of the foreigner. This period has, mercifully,
and India is awake, alert and anxious to find her Soul again.
In the three lectures contained in this book Rajaji has
drawn upon his vast knowledge and explained the sources
of our culture. He defines culture as “the habit of successful
self-control”. After the needs of the body and the mind have been met, culture is the third dimension which leads depth to man’s personality. The principal values that have been the moorings of our
culture have been eroded through the vicissitudes of centuries. But they have persisted and will continue to do so. I may say that our culture is the one silver thread that gleams unbroken all through the vista of our history and has sustained our nation in its many hours of travail. Providence has posed one such challenge to our values and way of living just now. It is doubly appropriate, therefore, that one of our distinguished contemporaries should have taken time and effort to remind us of our heritage and summon us to stand true to its essentials and verities.
I am grateful to the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan for having
asked me to inaugurate these lectures when they were delivered and for the opportunity of writing this foreword.
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