India's Loyalty

By Rabindranath Tagore
(Translated from the Original Bengali by Basanta Koomar Roy)

[The New York Times/Current History, September 1915]

The following article, as translated, appeared originally in The International for August, 1915.

Loyalty is one of our inherent characteristics. There is something special in the loyalty of India. To the Hindu the King is divine, and loyalty is a religious cult. The people of the West cannot understand the true significance of this. They think that this bowing down before power is a sign of our national weakness.

The Hindu cannot but take almost all the relations of life as ordained. To him there is almost no chance relation. For he knows that however wonderful and varied the revelation may be, the original source is one. In India this it not only a philosophy, but it is the religion of the people as well. It is not only written in books or taught in academies, but it is also realized in the heart, and reflected upon every-day duties of life. We look upon our parents as gods, our husbands as gods, and chaste women as goddesses. By showing respect to our superiors we satisfy our religious sense. The reason is not far to seek. From whatever source we derive benefit we see this primal source of all beneficence. To be separated from all the varied expressions of divinity around us, and then to pray to a benevolent Father in a distant heaven is not the religion of India. When we call our parents gods we never think of such an absurdity as that they are omnipotent. We fully know their weaknesses and their good qualities. We are also certain that the benefits they are showering upon us as father and mother are an expression of the fatherhood and the motherhood of the Universal One. That is why Indra, (the god of the clouds), moon, fire, and wind have been spoken of as gods in the Vedas. India was never satisfied until she could feel the presence of the all-powerful One in the varied expressions of nature. To us the universe is alive with a divine life.

It is not true to say that we worship power owing to our weakness. Every one knows that India worships even the cow. She knows that it is an animal. Man is powerful and the cow is weak. But the Indian society derives various benefits from the cow. Similarly the workman bows in reverence to his tools, the warrior to his sword, and the minstrel to his harp. It is not that they do not know that tools are mere tools, but that they know as well that a tool is only a symbol. The joy and benefit derived from it is not the gift of the wood or the iron, for nothing which is not kindred can touch the soul. It is for this that his gratitude and worship is offered through the tools to Him who is instrumental to all expressions.

Nothing can pain India more than to feel that this governmental affair is only a machine. She, who is satisfied by feeling a kinship of the soul even with the inanimate, how can she live unless she can find a real personification of the heart in such a vast human institution as the State? One can bend wherever there is a relationship of the soul with its kindred. Where there is no such relationship, and if one is constantly forced to bend low, there he feels insulted and grieved. Therefore, if we can realize the life of the supreme power and beneficence as the ruler, we can bear the heavy yoke of government. Otherwise the heart breaks down at every step. We want to worship the State after infusing it with life; we wish to feel the kinship of our hearts with it. We cannot bear force as mere force.

It is true that loyalty is the very heart of India. In her the King is not merely to please her whims. She does not like to see the King as an unnecessary appendage. She wants to feel the King as a reality. For a long time past she has not yet found her King, and she is becoming more and more grieved. How this vast country is being afflicted in her heart of hearts by the burdensome yoke of her many Kings from beyond the seas, and how she is sighing helplessly all the time is known only to the omniscient. India only knows how painful it is to bear with the heartlessness of those who are merely sojourners, who are always longing for the holiday, who live a life of exile in this "land of regrets," as they call it, only for their livelihood; and with those who are working the administrative machinery by being paid for it, and with whom we have no connection whatever, India, with her innate feeling of loyalty, is thus humbly praying: "O Lord, no more can I bear with these little Kings, temporary Kings, and many Kings. Give me the one King who will be able to proclaim that India is his kingdom—a kingdom, not of the merchant, not of the sojourner, not of the paid servant, not of Lancashire. O Lord of the universe, give us one whom we can accept as our King whole-heartedly."

To rule man with a machine and ignore the connections of the heart or of society is not possible. Justice cannot bear the arrogance for any length of time. It is not natural. It hurts the universal law. No talk of "good government" or "peace" can satisfy this intense heart famine. The British officials may get angry and the police serpents may raise their heads at such statement, but the famished truth that is wailing within the hearts of 300,000,000 of the people of India cannot be rooted out by any man or superman.

We cry for bread but we are given only stones. No wonder that our hearts regret and refuse everything. It is then that in our heart of hearts the spiritual India is awakened: "Be not deceived by outward appearances—all this is mere play." In this play, even he who is dancing does not know that he is merely an actor in disguise. He thinks he is a King, he is a magistrate, he is a Viceroy. The more he is being enveloped with this veil of falsehood the more he is forgetting the real truth. If you remove his actor's dresses today, then in the eternal truth what is left? There is no difference between him and me. In this universe I am as big a King as any King on earth. * * *

Where there is only show of authority, excess of force, and where there is only whip and cane, prison and fine, punitive police and armed soldiers, there can be no greater insult of self, no greater insult to the all-knowing God within us, than to be afraid and bend. O motherland, with the help of your eternal, noble, and inspiring knowledge of Godhood, keep the head unmoved and untainted high above those insults; refuse with all thy heart these high-sounding falsehoods, see that wearing an awe-inspiring mask they may not influence thy inner soul in any way. Before the purity, the sacredness and the all-powerfulness of the soul these loud declamations and punishments, this pride of position, these huge preparations for the economic drain are merely child's play. If they pain you, see that they do not make you mean. Where there is a bond of love, to bend there is glorious; but where there is no such bond, one should keep his heart free and head erect. Never bend. Give up mendicancy. Do organize yourself in silence and in secret. Do not slight small beginnings. Keep an invincible faith in yourself. For, surely, you have a mission in this world. That is why with all your sufferings and tribulations you were not destroyed.

Mother India, your throne lies stretched at the feet of the sacred Himalayas, and it is being washed on three sides by 'the great oceans. Before your throne the Hindus and the Mohammedans, the Christians, Buddhists and the Parsees have been attracted at the call of the Father. When you will again occupy your own seat, then, I am sure, the differences of knowledge, work, and religion will be solved, and the all-envious, poisonous pride of the modern, cruel, political system will be softened at thy feet. Do not be hasty, do not be deceived, do not be afraid. Know thyself and awake, arise and stop not till the goal is reached.

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013

If you appreciate the articles, read the e-novel informed by them —


A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald

The Headlong Fury