Santana Dharma and Indian Nationalism: Sri Aurobindo’s Uttarpara speech

Indian freedom struggle brought to the fore several inspirational leaders; those who were not just patriotic but also true Sanatana Dharmis. They were the ones who realised that without one’s roots one is but like a tree that can be blown away by the slightest wind. Reform in the Hindu religion always came from within but more importantly the calls to strengthen our roots and stay true to our Dharma grew loud and clear during the freedom struggle. Thinkers like Sri Aurobindo Ghosh and Swami Vivekananda among others made a clarion call to the people go back to their roots and realise the greatness of Sanatana Dharma. There is no denying the fact that Sanatana Dharma and Indian Nationalism were inter-linked in more ways than one and Sri Aurobindo’s Uttarpara speech is a testimony to that. This speech was delivered on 30th May 1909 in Uttarpara, Hooghly district of present state of West Bengal. It would be worth noting here that this speech was delivered after Sri Ghosh was released after spending a year in jail during which time, in his own words “God gave me the message”.

During his time in jail he did the sadhana of the Bhagavad Gita and it is from his realisations and sadhana that he brought forth what Hindu religion or Santana Dharma truly means and stands for. The Uttarpara speech is in many ways what each Hindu needs to know about the religion that he/she has been following since ages. The most touching line in this speech says “other religions are preponderatingly religions of faith and profession, but the Sanatana Dharma is life itself; it is a thing that has not so much to be believed as lived”. Sri Aurobindo’s imprisonment and solitary confinement gave him a chance to realise the true nature of Hinduism. Aurobindo was born and brought up in England. He was atheist and agnostic in the beginning. Being sceptical in nature he found himself drawn towards the Vedas and Gita. He experienced both within and without, the message of the Gita.

Speaking before the members of ‘The Society for the Protection of Religion’, he extolled the members to realise the true nature of Hindu religion or that which we call Sanatana (meaning eternal) Dharma. A narrow, sectarian or exclusive religion can live only for a limited time and a limited purpose. This is the one religion that can triumph over materialism by including and anticipating the discoveries of science and the speculations of philosophy. He emphasised that Sanatana dharma is nationalism for us. He believed that the nation was born with and also moves and grows with Sanatana Dharma. He says “When the Sanatana Dharma declines, then the nation declines, and if the Sanatana Dharma were capable of perishing, with it the nation would perish”.

This speech is a watershed moment for us Hindus because it brings forth not only Sri Aurobindo’s realisations about Hinduism but also how Sanatana Dharma is the heart and soul of this nation. In today’s charged environment, particularly when liberals and pseudo-seculars would have us believe that Hinduism is merely another religion or faith and a proud Hindu is often labelled as ‘Sanghi’ or called other names; Sri Aurobindo’s speech at Uttarpara is his actual experience of living out Santana Dharma. The message of the Vedas, Vedanta and Gita as lived out and realised by Sri Ghosh should guide us in understanding the true nature of our dharma. We have always been taught to question rather than be a sheep in the herd. Here is a realised soul who guided the people not out of blind faith but after making his journey from an atheist to an extoller of Hinduism. The teachings and thoughts of leaders like Sri Aurobindo have not reached a wide audience. The more we read about the views of such leaders the closer we would be to realising why Santana Dharma and Indian Nationalism cannot and should not be separated but rather are inter-linked.