Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. December 17, 1907
The Awakening of Gujerat
When the word of the Eternal has gone abroad, when the spirit moves over the waters and the waters stir and life begins to form, then it is a law that all energies are forced to direct themselves, consciously or unconsciously, willingly or against their will, to the one supreme work of the time, the formation of the new manifest and organised life which is in process of creation. So now when the waters of a people's life are stirred and the formation of a great organic Indian state and nation has begun, the same law holds. All that the adversaries of the movement have done whether they have tried to repress or tried to conciliate, has helped what they sought to destroy and swelled the volume and strength or purified as by fire the forces of Nationalism. So also the efforts of those among ourselves who are afraid of the new movement or distrustful of it to check the pace and bring back the nation's energies into the old grooves, have only helped to increase the vehemence of the National desire to move forward. When Sir Pherozshah Mehta juggled the Congress into Surat, he thought he was preparing a death-blow for Nationalism: he was only preparing the way for a Nationalist awakening in Gujerat. Nationalism depends for its success on the awakening and organising1 of the whole strength of the nation; it is therefore vitally important for Nationalism that the politically backward classes should be awakened and brought into the current of political life; the great mass of orthodox Hinduism which was hardly even touched by the old Congress movement, the great slumbering mass of Islam which has remained politically inert throughout the last century, the shopkeepers, the artisan class, the immense body of illiterate and ignorant peasantry, the submerged classes, even the wild tribes and races still outside the pale of Hindu civilisation, Nationalism can afford to neglect and omit none. It rejoices to see any sign of life where there was no life before, even if the first manifestations should seem to be ill-regulated or misguided. It is not afraid of Pan-Islamism or any2 signs of the growth of a separate Mahomedan self-consciousness but rather welcomes them. It is not startled by the spectacle of a submerged class like the Namasudras demanding things which are, under existing circumstances, impracticable from Hindu society. When a community sues for separate rights from the bureaucracy, that is a sign not of life but of stagnant dependence which is death, but when it seeks a larger place in the national existence and it tries to feel its own existence and its own strength, it is a true sign of life, and what Nationalism asks is for life first and above all things; life, and3 still more life, is its cry. Let us by every means get rid of the pall of death which stifled us, let us dispel first the passivity, quiescence, the unspeakable oppression of inertia which has so long been our curse; that is the first and imperative need. As with backward communities, so with backward provinces. It is vitally important to Nationalism that these should awake. Behar4, Orissa, the Central Provinces, Gujerat, Sindh must take their place in the advancing surge of Indian political life, must prepare themselves for a high rank in the future federated strength of India. We welcome any signs that the awakening has begun. It is for instance a cause of gratification that Orissa is beginning to feel its separate consciousness, and to attempt to grow into an organised life under a capable and high-spirited leader, although we consider his political attitude mistaken and believe that he is laying up for himself bitter disappointment and disillusionment in the future. But when the inevitable disappointment and disillusionment come, then will the new political consciousness, the new organised5 life of Orissa become an immense addition of strength to the forces of Nationalism. Yet it remains true that the only way these provinces can make up for lost time and bring themselves up swiftly to the level of the more advanced races, is by throwing themselves whole-heartedly into the full tide of Nationalism, and we do not know that we ought not to thank Sir Pherozshah for giving us a unique chance to light the fire in Gujerat.
The Gujeratis have only recently been touched by the tide of political life. Largely split up into Native States, large and small, and only partially under the direct rule of the bureaucracy, immersed in commerce and fairly prosperous until the last great famine swept over the once smiling and fertile province destroying life, human and animal, by the million they had slumbered politically while the rest of India was accustoming itself to some kind of political activity. It was at the Ahmedabad Congress that Gujerat was for the first time moved to a political enthusiasm, an awakening perhaps helped on by the association of a thoroughly Swadeshi Exhibition with the session of the Congress and the inclusion, however timid and half-hearted, of industrial revival in our political programme. Then came the outburst of the Swadeshi by which Gujerat, unlike some of the other politically backward provinces, was profoundly affected. The ground has been prepared and Nationalist sentiment has already spread among the educated Gujeratis. The Surat Congress provides an opportunity to give a fresh and victorious impulse which will make Gujerat Nationalism a powerful working and organised6 force. The importance of winning Gujerat to the Nationalist cause is great. The Gujeratis labour as the Bengalis did, until the present awakening, under a reproach of timidity and excessive love of peace and safety. The truth probably is that so far as the reproach has any foundation either in Bengal or Gujerat the defect was due not so much to any constitutional cowardice as to indolence born of climate and a too fertile soil and to the prevalence of the peaceful and emotional religion of Chaitanya and Vallabhacharya. Be that as it may, Bengal under the awakening touch of Nationalism has wiped out that reproach for ever and there is no reason why Gujerat, stirred by the same influences, awakened to the same energy, should not emulate her example and take like her a foremost place in the battle of Swaraj. We must not forget that she also has great traditions of old, traditions of learning, traditions of religion, traditions of courage and heroism. Gujerat was once part of the Rajput circle and her princes fought on equal terms with Mahmud of Ghazni. Her people form valuable and indispensable material for the building of the Indian nation. The savoir-faire, the keen-witted ability and political instinct of her Brahmins, the thrift and industry of her merchants, the robust vigour and common sense of her Patidars, the physique and soldierly qualities of her Kathis and Rajputs, the strong raw human material of her northern and southern hills, are so many elements of strength which Nationalism must seize and weld into a great national force. Even if Sir Pherozshah Mehta overwhelms us with numbers at Surat, even if we cannot carry a single proposition in the Congress Pandal, yet if we can give this great impulse to Gujerat and organise7 our scattered forces for a great march forward, all the energy, all the expenditure we can devote to this session at Surat will be amply rewarded. It is not merely or chiefly by victories in the Congress but by victories in the country that we must record the progress of Nationalism.
Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 1890–1908 .- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.
1 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: organizing
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: or of any
3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: life, life and
4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bihar
5 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: organized
6 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: organized
7 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: organize