You are on page 1of 2

When Supreme Court Judge Justice Dave says he needs to be a dictator to introduce lessons on

Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita in schools, he obviously presumes that this cannot be done within the
framewor of our Constitution! "his may not be correct for many reasons!
Chief Justice #hmadi in the famous S!$! Bommai case has observed that %the term &secular' has
advisedly not been defined presumably because it is a very elastic term not capable of a precise
definition(! But #rticles )* and )+ of the Constitution of ,ndia concreti-e secularism by prohibiting
discrimination on the ground of religion! So to say teaching only Mahabharata and Bhagavd Gita in
schools is against the Constitution it needs to be first established, as a matter of legal principle, that
these are religious te.ts which stand on the same footing as sacred te.ts of other religions!
"he tritest of distinctions between sacred te.ts of other religions and /indu scriptures has been
described well by the #ndhra 0radesh /igh Court in a 1223 4udgment5 %the tenets of any religion are
contained in specific /oly Boos or scriptures and they are traceable to the ultimate Spiritual
0ersonality of that religion! 6or instance, in respect of Christianity, Bible happens to be the source of
tenets and Jesus Christ is its founder! Similarly, for ,slam, 7uran is the /oly Scripture and 8Similar
attributes are present for Judaism, Buddhism etc! /owever, one cannot identify any particular religious
te.t as the sole basis for /induism nor can one authoritatively proclaim that a particular Spiritual
0ersonality is the sole propounder thereof!( What flows from this undisputable statement is that
Mahabharata or Bhagavad Gita doesn't mean the same thing to /induism as what the Bible means to
Christianity or 7uran means to ,slam! "he e.istence of /indusim does not rest on any te.t!
"he peculiarity of a /indu te.t is intertwined with the peculiarity of /induism itself! #lmost all ancient
Sansrit te.ts refer to some form of faith or divinity even while discussing the most secular aspects of
life! 6or instance, the ancient ,ndian surgeon Shushruta begins his treatise on medicine by e.plaining
the chain of divine sources through which the nowledge of #yurveda came to him, beginning with
9ord Brahma! Similarly, 0anini&s monumental wors on Sansrit grammar are said to have been gifted
to him directly by 9ord Shiva! "hese wors and a plethora of scriptures on such varied secular sub4ects
as logic, mathematics, epistemology, law and yoga constitute the broad framewor of what the
Supreme Court of ,ndia has called the /indu way of life! Belief in or adherence to the religious
concepts mentioned in these scriptures has never been a mandatory prere:uisite for /indus to
incorporate their secular values in daily life! # student of Sansrit grammar in "ashahsila or ;alanda
did not have to believe in the divinity behind 0anini's nowledge!
<iewed in this conte.t, the %/indutva( 4udgment of the Supreme Court gains a lot of significance!
Chief Justice J!S! <erma writes %it cannot be doubted8that the words &/induism' or &/indutva' are not
necessarily to be understood and construed narrowly, confined only to the strict /indu religious
practices unrelated to the culture and ethos of the people of ,ndia, depicting the way of life of the
,ndian people! =nless the conte.t of a speech indicates a contrary meaning or use, in the abstract these
terms are indicative more of a way of life of the ,ndian people and are not confined merely to describe
persons practising the /indu religion as a faith!( "herefore, the Supreme Court has said /induism is
per se a secular concept, unless spoen about or referred to only in terms of faith! Can this be said of
another religion> ,n any conte.t, can ,slam or Christianity be spoen about without the dogma of
When Mahabharata and Bhagavd Gita are sought to be taught in schools, they are only meant to
inculcate values necessary to mae future society less corrupt, violent and undisciplined! ,f these te.ts
are going to provide the right content for such a curriculum on value education in schools, why should
the fact that the te.ts also contain references to divinity and faith be a hindrance! Dr! S! $adharishnan,
while comparing the Gita with ,mmanuel 7ant's philosophy, during a lecture in )3)) says %the main
:uestions and topics of dispute ?in the Gita@ are the same as those which occupy the attention of the
western moralists!( /e adds %the case of #r4una is typical of what is taing place every minute of our
lives! ,t e.presses what every one of us has often felt8 a conflict between duty and inclination,
a struggle between reason and sense!( #ny curriculum on value education has to be centered on these
topics! #re we going to ignore this treasure trove of indigenous literature on such topics only because
some people believe that %God( gave them to us!
#lso of relevance is another important 4udgment of the Supreme Court that deals with the importance
of Sansrit :ua other languages! "he :uestion before the Supreme Court was whether the CBSA has to
necessarily offer #rabic and 0ersian as electives in School only because Sansrit was being offered!
"he Court made it very clear that Sansrit cannot be treated on par with languages that do not form part
of our national culture5 %,n view of the importance of Sansrit for nurturing our cultural heritage,
because of which even the official education policy has highlighted the need of study of Sansrit,
maing of Sansrit alone as an elective sub4ect, while not conceding this status to #rabic andBor
0ersian, would not in any way militate against the basic tenet of secularism!( #pplying the same
analogy, the Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita, being te.ts with origins in our national culture, cannot
be e:uated with sacred te.ts of other religions!
# ma4or criticism of maing one's own culture and tradition as the basis of education has been that this
militates against the concept of =niversalism! ,t is said that teaching only /indu te.ts could mae
students ethnocentric or narrow5minded! ;othing can be further from truth! ,n his famous lecture called
%Swara4 in ,deas(, philosopher 7!C! Bhattacharya deplored the propagation of %rootless( universalism5
%"hought or reason may be universal, but ideas are carved out of it differently by different cultures
according to their respective genius! ;o idea of one cultural language can e.actly be translated in
another cultural language! Avery culture has its distinctive &physiognomy' which is reflected in each
vital idea and ideal presented by the culture! # patchwor of ideas of different cultures offends against
scholarly sense 4ust as much as patchwor of ideals offends against the spiritual sense!( ,n other words,
the Mahabharata and Gita stand apart from other te.ts not only because they are secular in essence but
also because they are e.pressions of ideas and ideals distinct to our culture and are a product of this
country's genius!
Aarlier this year the Central Board of Secondary Aducation ?CBSA@, has proposed to start a three5year
value education programme across its schools in collaboration with the $amarishna Mission! "he
web5page of $amarishna Math on value education lists %chanting and study of Srimad Bhagavad
Gita( as one of its activities for students! ,n fact, children in hundreds of schools run across the Country
by /indu institutions lie $amarishna Math, Chinmaya Mission, Bharatiya <idya Bhavan are being
taught Gita and other /indu scriptures as a part of the curriculum! Many of these schools are
considered best in the Country as academic institutions! #re we to e:uate such institutions founded by
spiritual giants lie Swami <iveananda and statesmen lie 7ulapati 7!M! Munshi with missionary
scholars that mae bible prayers mandatory> #re we to mae a patchwor of our national heritage in
the name of secularism> Whether to instill pride in young minds about our heritage or to inculcate
values necessary to become responsible citi-ens of ,ndia, /indu scriptures lie the Mahabharata and
Gita stand on a footing different from sacred te.ts of other religions!