Vision of Patriotism
January 15, 1917 — The Leader office, Allahabad (now Prayagraj), India
Mr. President, ladies and the citizens of Allahabad, — Do not think it is enough to cow the boldest heart to silence, to see so many thousands of people gathered together in the expectation of hearing an oration which it is not within the limitations of my gift to offer? I trust since my voice has been overworked in your province you will extend to me, to the very end of my speech, that courtesy of perfect stillness, because, though I may share the enthusiasm of the great patriot, Surendranath Banerjea, I have not been gifted with his voice. In your great province, gentlemen, during these past few weeks, it has been my great privilege to go from centre to centre; and one thing that has stuck me as it must strike every student of the national awakens, is how real is this awakening in your midst, in the very heart of what your critics have called the sleeping, dreaming province of India. Whether one goes to the spiritual centre of the United Provinces where the Ganges signs her immemorial song of love and absolution, or whether one goes to the modern industrial capital of Cawnpore, or whether one goes to Lucknow that still keeps the memories of her royal dynasties, or whether one goes to modern Aligarh with a new life of Islamic Renaissance, one is compelled to understand that no longer is it true that India is asleep, that the voice of the future has not begun to call to the present; one is compelled o understand that there is something to-day levelling the life of the nation, levelling the entire people, form those who are the followers of Santana Dharma to those who are the dissenters of the Arya Samaj, from those who go by the letter of the Koranic texts to those who put the widest interpretation of life on the great democratic ideals for he Prophet of Arabia. And when one comes to Allahabad one is only confirmed in this conviction that India is awakened to-day, and the awakening had not merely kindled the hearts of the young generation but the heart of the older generations has got rekindled from that immortal torch that we call the fire of patriotism. In Allahabad to-day, as many centuries ago, we find pilgrims streaming upon the banks of the two great rivers that stand go-day as ages ago as the symbol of unity. We know that in ages gone by every province of India sent to this great focus of union these two life-giving and sin-pardoning rivers, their pilgrims. We know too that this city stands to us of the Hindu race as the sacred land where the Ramayan had is centre, its citadel when Rama met Bharata on the banks of the Ganges and we of modern India have our own personal admiration of the sanctities connected with the river because the sacred ashes of Gopal Krishna Gokhale have been sent here and those ashes of the Servant of India hav been scattered on the rivers united standing for ever as a bond between yesterday and to-day and to-morrow.
Gentlemen, what shall I speak to you about to-day, you whose hearts are throbbing with that burning love that is called the love of the country? What can a mere poet, a mere woman talk to you about that you gentlemen know? From my ignorance what shall I teach to your experience? From my weakness what shall I offer to your strength? Only the dreams of a poet, only the prayers of a woman that night after night and morning after morning are offered to that temple of the great Bharata Mata.
[The lecturer, after quoting Shelley’s lines describing the spring season, proceeded: — ]
If I speak to you to-night it will not be as a politician, since, I say it over and over again, my woman’s intelligence cannot grapple with the transcendent details of politics. I only understand the great abiding principles of patriotism which impelled each generation to give its own contribution of loving service to the great Motherland, in upholding the honour of the Motherland and in adding to the pleasure of the Motherland. In spring-time when the blossoms break open, when the Bulbuls sing, oh, what is it that comes to a poet as it comes to the heart of you all? It is the vision of a life different. Memory does not belong to the spring time, but to the autumnal days. Spring time brings back to the heart the vision of a new awakening hope, a new vision of to-morrow, because the blossoms of the spring hold the pledges of harvest; and so the message of the spring that comes to the heart of a nation must hold prophecy of a harvest of great deeds which are the only logical outcome of the spring time of great dreams. It is to one of the recognized leaders whom no one suspects of poetry that I owe the inspiration of the phrase that I will use to-day as the text and burden of my address to you. Two years ago it was my friend, and I am proud to say in one sense my comrade and leader, Mr. Mahomed Ali Jinnah, who in addressing students in Bombay said that there were three visions that come to every man in his lifetime and it was in the following and fulfilment of these visions that every soul found its harmonious development — the vision of Love, the vision of Religion and the vision of Patriotism. I will speak to you on these three great visions that have come to most of the passing generation as they must come to you who belong to the generation that stands upon the threshold of destiny. The vision of love, the vision of religion and the vision of patriotism are the three visions that make of a brute a man and of a man a god.
Take the history of the world as we know it and see how th vision of love, working and working and working in the hearts of ages has built up a great religion, a great literature, has inspired great wars has caused great victories, has made defeat worth-while because all was well lost. To what do we owe our great stories that thrill the heart of every Hindu man and woman, excepting that vision of love that found its pious embodiment in the virtues, in the sacrifices, in the invincible courage of those heroines of our scriptures, those household words, those dreams of poet’s imagination, those embodiments of the nation’s ideals, that greatest Sita, that unconquerable Svitri, that faithful Dayanti and that Sakuntala who made her name famous in far off Germany? All these dreams are dreams of poets who behold the vision of love. Take our Rajput history. What is the one thrilling inspiration of the Rajput period excepting the honor of Padmini, which was the vindication of love?
What was it that swept those temples; those immemorial temples on the banks of the immemorial river, save the aspirations of men to reach the divine, no matter through what agony, and sacrifice and through what suffering and despair? In the case of the crusades of Palestine it was the vision of religion that made practical service possible. In India they need not be told wha the vision of faith had one in building their civilization. Religion at its best had given the Hindu civilization that immutable quality of spiritual vitality that had made India survive all dynasties.
As the logical sequence from that personal human vision of love and that personal spiritual vision of faith must come the highest of all visions, the vision of Patriotism and that is a word, I think, that must find an echo in your hearts whether you have consciously or unconsciously accepted or rejected the vision of love and the vision of faith. I don’t think there is one in your midst to-day that has not longed for and prayed for that vision of Patriotism which alone makes a man or woman worthy to be the child of this great Motherland. And so from that personal limited vision of experience that I have spoken of, I will pass to this vision of patriotism which is a communal vision, not an individual vision. Many amongst you have temperaments that may or may not realize, may or may not accept, may or may not benefit by the personal intensities of those individual emotions, but I believe that we in India, whether Hindus or Mahomedans, are all being consecrated in that crucible that destroys all that is mean, and we have that crucible alone to be re-shaped as vessels to pour the divine essence of love for India. And so all of us present here to-day are taking that communion together form a great living cup that time has shaped for us, ad living cup that bears on its sides, on its golden surface not merely the design of the lotus that is the sacred symbol of the Hindus, but I see on the three other sides of that cup other symbols belonging to the other children of Bharata Mata. I see on one side the Crescent, on a second side, the Alhilal, on the third side the image of that torch that has never gone out since the exiles from Persia carried it in triumph and brought it to these shores. and on the fourth side, gentlemen, since I am a visionary, I see visions, I see the Cross that has stood for two thousand years as the symbol of the servants of Him who being a man taught the lesson of love from the mountain top and said to the disciples, “It’s I, be not afraid,” That is a vision that appeals to me.
So this cup has been filled and the waters of salvation have been poured in it, and it is for us who are the communicants of this great vision of Patriotism, to put our united lips and drink pledging to one another a loyalty that chance may not withdraw, a love that no outside dissentient can destroy, a faith that no difficulty can daunt, a hope so radiant that no cloud can eclipse it. These are the virtues that we of the different communities, co-sharers of this great vision of Patriotism, co-trustees of the responsibilities of this great vision, must pledge to one another. You know the time has come — it came, indeed, long ago but we were too asleep to realize that it has come. It is not often that the psychological moment comes, and when it goes nothing can bring it back. so has been the experience of the world.
[Mrs. Naidu then alluded to the past days of resentment and hatred among the different communities in this country and went on: — ]
To-day the clean page is already before us washing with our tears and to be smeared with the blood of our sacrifice and devotion. The legend is of four-fold love, not of two-fold love. We are too apt to think that the legend of India is only the sangam of the Ganges and the Jumna. There are other rivers, though they may appear small in comparison to the great rivers, that must unite, there are tributaries, gentlemen, there are other rivers, and something greater than the Tribeni is to be before the river of love which will flow towards the sea of glory — that river of life that is called the river of United India. That is the vision of Patriotism as I conceive it, as I dream of it. I know it would exist. Exist when? When you decide that you are ready, when you say to yourselves: “No more divisions, no more tyranny of communities, no more insistence on separate races, but rather an ultimatum issued to the world that we are one nation.” Gentlemen, — I will not say gentlemen, for the term has grown effete — men of India, I will say, it is, as I say, for you to decide whether to-day or a century hence the world will see the great spectacle of all those who divided streams united into a focus of that national prosperity which will bring India once more her birth-right which you have sold for a mess of pottage. Do you think — though it is a commonplace for all politicians to say — that you have been disintegrated because outsiders came to conquer you? Who can conquer the soul within? Who can destroy the invincible spirit of man? Who can fetter your spirit if that spirit refuses to be fettered? Who but yourselves say “We cannot govern ourselves? Who but yourselves have forged your fetters? Who but yourselves have built your prison walls? Who but yourselves have bound your eyes with bandages? Who are robbing you of the birthright of your inborn sense but you? Who are discounting the possibilities of the future but you? Gentlemen, men of India, I speak to you as one of yourselves. I share your shame because of the tyranny of the past.
[Mrs. Naidu asked the audience to wipe out all the evils and give themselves their birth-right of liberty which no one could withhold from them.]
It is not a gift that comes from outside. Even high gods cannot make of a slave a free man if his heart does not burn with the hunger for freedom. The vision of love, the vision of religion, and the vision of patriotism — tome these three things have all been one. I do not know, I think there are many of you who do not know also a human love that can compare with the love that one gives to the Motherland. I think the most devout Hindu of you, the most loyal Mussalman of you, cannot know of a religion more sacred and more uplifting than the worship that one brings to the feet of the mother. Patriotism. what is patriotism? It is the combined vision of love and religion. It is a vision made reality. It is a dream that has passed into love, it is a love that has passed into service, it is a worship that becomes the ladder that brings to fulfilment that great vision, the third vision, the final vision, the glorious vision. Is there any amongst you who going home to-night will say to yourselves, when you sit among your comrades, or your kinsfolk, and later in the stillness of the night — will you not say: — “Has God given to me a greater destiny than this that I become the standard-bearer of my country’s honour, that I become the soldier of her cause, the champion of her weak, the defender of her glory, the creator of her regenerated power among the nations of the world.” Do you think it a light responsibility, you the inheritors of the Vedas? Do you think, you my Mussalman brethren, a light responsibility to be the trustees of those great ideals of brotherhood that your prophet gave years ago? No; the India of to-day requires not merely what the Vedas taught you, it requires not only those democratic ideals that make the glory of Islam, but it requires the further fulfilment of this great vision of patriotism, the combination of the great spiritual mysticism of the Hindus with the dynamic power of action which is the birthright of the Mussalmans and it requires all the united gifts of her children who will focus the national vision of patriotism. Divided, there is no complete vision. Each community can only see form one angle. And what is a mere angle of vision even though it be changed? It is the combined vision of all communities that will make a true focus of national vision and it is the national vision that means the regeneration of a country.
Source: Speeches and Writings of Sarojini Naidu, (Madras: G.A. Natesan & Co.), 1904, 107-120.