The World is a joint family

Vasudhaiva kutumbakam

Vasudha + eva  Kutumb+ ekam

The World  (is) One family

This tenet, one of the strongest humanist statements to come out of sanskrit literature, is as old as anybody’s guess. Much of sanskrit literature is like that, vastly diverse, mostly philosophical and sometimes profound. Its beauty lies in the unbroken oral tradition that sustained it for centuries before the first palm leaf scripts were prepared, before even the grammar was constructed to describe the language. Centuries of recitation have lent a unique musical note to every sanskrit word. For in it, like a note, reverberates the meaning.

Certainly the person who first said “Vasudhaiva kutumbakam” either had a very limited worldview or very true foresight, because ever since sanskrit was first studied by western literatures, the world has been welcomed to Indian’ness’. It has already become a western phenomenon.

Not convinced? Fair enough

Read on.

When William Jones introduced Sanskrit to the world as a perfect amalgamation of everything considered uniquely perfect about greek and latin literary traditions so far, he found that he “..could not help but assume a common ancestry to the three traditions” His hypothesis led to the formulation of the indo-european school of languages. One cannot help but imagine this hasty commandeering of a newly discovered rich and ancient literary culture into an assimilated western civilised past  was just his “White Man’s burden” talking. Inspired by visions of a glorious common past, a burden was felt upon white shoulders to civilise and dominate uncivilised people’s of the – erstwhile – free world.

It was german philologist Friedrich Max Muller who brought back some academic sanity to the proceedings. In 1844 he started translating the Upanishads and by 1874 he had completed a critical edition of the Rig Veda. His leanings towards romanticism gave him unique lenses to look at Indian culture, free from socially rampant racism and first-world-ism. In Germany, he was able to complete an ancient nature worshipping, complex and philosophical picture of the people who conversed in sanskrit.

By the start of the twentieth century, the thinkers and the academics generally liked the India of the past because Europe was coming out of fishy politics and bloody imperialist wars of the nineteenth century. But interest in India and the Orient declined as Britain acquired dangerous enemies close at hand and could in fact care less about its colonies(by this point, basically the indian subcontinent) and romanticism lost its favour with the common people, who were now getting drafted into various armies.

Throughout both the Great Wars Indian troops fought and briefly the world noted a a certain Mr. Bose attempt the old “enemy of my enemy is my friend” trick, while Gandhi basically invented “non violent independence movement”. From now on, People will take India seriously as a country that truly deserves freedom.**A country which walks its principles. What principles? Remember Muller and his anti-racist work that changed european outlook on indian philosophy, somewhat? This is why he was important. Incidentally, another man with a common German middle name, Martin Luther King, who brought down racist segregation in the American continent.

**Also Britain had no more money to run India without its non violently non cooperating Indian workforce after two expensive wars.

Now that India was on the World’s radar, time was ripe for a certain boyish band to come here and experience the divine knowledge of India, or something like that, they were never very sure about it either. The Beatles presented India to the world like a yogic miracle destination for self-discovery and finding direction. At least one frizzy haired guy named Jobs got attracted by the various “intoxicating” experiences India promised and left somewhat enlightened, if not high on enthusiasm. Meanwhile, Panditji kept the music moving in the background. From Woodstock to recording rooms with rockstars, he played and influenced many genres of music we all love listening to.

Indianisation not sounding so unconvincing?


As the Indian diaspora in the Americas and Europe became more organised and affluent, their influence was felt in local societies. Now Indian culture, decorated with color and lights on festive occasions and served with mouth watering delicacies prepared in authentic style was available as local cuisines and frankly, many minds were blown in the 50s and 60s. Even the Kamasutra and Yoga were re-discovered and it was like unlocking the secrets to healthy and happy lifestyle. Jet routes were modified on several international carriers, to include Mumbai and Delhi, if not Kolkata.

Of course, I am completely (shamelessly) ignoring scientific achievement. In the seventies we became a nuclear power and people were scared but our reputation was upheld once again and Mrs. Gandhi showed the world how to bring democracy to people, when Bangladesh got to elect its own government thanks to India. But science and politics have very little role to play in the lives of common people, both in India and abroad. Lamentably true. In popular culture, Indianisation was well underway by the 90’s when India opened up to the world after a long post independence sulk. From pyjamas to fast food, everything was exported, from concepts, to products and recipes. We have miles to go but we have come miles since our destitute days as a baby country.

Let’s do a check post 15 years. About 170 years after Muller translated his first upanishad, this german carrier demonstrates how Indianised international services have become.

as if that was not enough proof. Here is a song composed by George Harrison finished by Eric Clapton and Dhani, George’s son. It is called Marwah, after a place in Mumbai and it was released in his memory. What can be more Indianising than music about an indian beach dedicated to the memory of a Beatles great, composed by himself. The World is a family Indeed. Or as they say in India for large multi-generation families, The World is a joint family.

*This blog-post is written for  in association with IndiBlogger.


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