“The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru”
In start it seems this book is written by a poet not by politician. The style of writing is very poetical that makes this book very delightful and pleasant reading, it captivates the reader from the very beginning and mesmerizes with its delicate diction, very few writers have this Anglo-Indian quality of English writing. In beginning his poetical nature mentions the appearance of crescent moon. When he is brought to Ahmadnagar fort prison with his other learned companions, ever since moon becomes his acquaintance, friend and companion and a metaphor of many colors of life, love, death and the resurrection of hope!
He tells us how he declined the invitation by two dictators that he was against fascism and Nazism like many Indians, and he was democratic soul. It is no wonder to see the leaders of past were highly learned, bookworms and voracious readers by themselves, be it was ZAB, Winston Churchill, G.M.Syed, Moulana Abul Kalam Azad and many others like them. This is why Jawaharlal Nehru quotes many authors in his book giving references from their books tell us about his earnest love for books and reading. He talks like a politician (that he was), poet, philosopher and intellectual.
Though he sees religion as a set of some principles but still he looks at himself as a godless person, and about science and technology he tells us though science and technology are leaping at fast pace but yet vague and uncertain. He never found attraction for mysticism, metaphysics and spiritualism and philosophy, for him they were very hard to understand and vague in their nature. He found Marxism and Leninism better but he was not that type of the leftist soul, he just liked intellectual aspects of everything.
He was ashamed of poverty-stricken India, and reason he tells is that lack of technology which enabled western countries to dominate other countries and modern technology made them militarily strong and Asia was far behind at that time. He thinks middle class though a part of colonial structure was less active for freedom but it was countryside folks, masses from smaller towns, villages who stood and fought for freedom of India. He laments that if there was a crushed class in India before partition it was peasant class.
He not only owns praises but also relates the Indus valley civilization with India which is stretched from Sindh to Punjab, (but now this civilization is reduced to only Sindhis. We have marginalized the Indus civilization. Today we do not know any Indian knows about this civilization and calls it his/her civilization so is the case of many Pakistanis). Nehruji tells us that he visited Mohen Jo Daro twice and laments the lack of funds which would cause harm to its preservation.
He sheds light on Indian philosophy though not in detail, (it is noteworthy that few portions of original text has been cut out in this edition so it is quite possible such details must be erased from the this book) that is not the philosophy of negation but rather abstention to life based on Buddhism and other religions, and he tells how Aryan brought Vedanta philosophy to mother India.
He mentions in detail about caste system in India somewhat with same historical account we have read in our textual books, that how Aryan came, conquered and divided and ruled. The functionality, practices and how important it was to social life of India. The caste system was opposed by many, there have been movements and efforts in past to negate this system and bring reforms but still it grew strongly in India, reformists criticized it yet it progressed somehow. Though Buddhism never adopted caste system and it vanished away slowly from India so was the influence of caste system in India.
Then he talks about Upanishads. To him Upanishad is a bouquet of all colorful beautiful flowers. Its text is religious and nonreligious same time, scientific, metaphysical, spiritual and human. He find Upanishads very moving, magical and heart touching, its text and content is near to Islamic Sufi threads , giving freedom to human mind to question and yet raises many questions philosophically. Reading his views and what he has quoted from Upanishads is so curious and thoughtful that one would be fond of getting and reading Upanishads at first hand.
He tells us the cultural riches of India, north India, ancient, civilized, culturally, socially and economically rich past of whole India. The Mauryan Empire, art, drama, theatre or nataka, mathematics and numerals.
Then enters the East India company, how it grabbed the power gradually and became master of India and maintained their imperialism. The ICS and coming of viceroys their attitude with Indians, introducing the railway system and others were for exploitation of Indian resources. The East India company was more a corporation serving British landlords and ruling class at the caste of Indians and he tells cricket even a sport was teamed up on racial basis so were the clubs and other amenities.
Nehruji laments how Britishers disrupted with their so called policies the village community life which was highly organized, autonomous and powerful, functioning on its own, the new policies affected the socio-economic life of villagers and left them poverty-stricken.
He tells us education or western knowledge spread very slowly at individual level, government was against it and created obstacles, colonial powers disliked the idea of educating natives, but later circumstances made them compelled and gradually education grew.
He expresses his opinion about Indian personalities and reformists, Bengal and its early learned people who adopted English system and got English education and later formed reforming movements which influenced majority of people. Bengal was under control of British from the time of Plassey battle than the other provinces or parts of India, so Bengalese accepted the English rulers influence and also got many favors.
He mentions Gandhi, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Abul Kalam Azad and their views with regard to new reformist movements within India and out of India, especially movements in Muslim countries, the most talked about, “Khilafat Tahreek”. Then line and action of thought of Muslim league, National Congress and their outlook.
Giving his clear viewpoint on World War II and the stance of congress party, he criticizes Imperialist British and sympathizes with the countries victims of war. He laments how imperialist powers used Indian as mercenaries in war zones without respecting the opinion of Congress and Indian people. Then there were groups who were supporting Britain but the mass of people was against this policy. He talks about foreign policy adopted by Congress, contrary to today’s Indian attitude and policies, Nehru’s, “The discovery of India” is full of praise for China and shows great sympathy for China and its people.