Did You Know About The RSS’ Bharata Bharati Series? That Project Is More Important Today Than Ever Before
‘Bharata Bharati’ has to take the place of one of the greatest cultural institutions of India, which seems lost to the perversions of the Left.
In the famous television series The Mentalist, serial killer ‘Red John’ kills a woman related to a remote happy memory of the hero, Patrick Jane.
When Jane realises what has happened, the killer boasts how he had entered Jane's mind and killed that memory.
The generation in India that grew up with Uncle Pai’s Tinkle cannot forget Suppandi – that innocent ever-bumbling yet lovable character.
Would you believe that his ‘official’ Twitter handle follows Caravan and The Wire among other assorted leftist publications?
The ‘left’ in India does not have the ability to create but it has perfected the science of encroaching, and whatever it touches becomes ugly and perverted.
And what it has done to Suppandi proves even cartoon characters are not spared.
Perhaps, the proverbial last straw on the back of old Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) fans is the ‘factsheet’ that was put out on social media on the auspicious occasion of Sri Rama Navami.
The factsheet asks if the readers know that Sri Rama gave a death sentence to his brother Lakshmana.
The accompanying illustration shows a muscular Sri Rama, looking like a warlord, placing his leg on the stump of a tree and shooting an arrow into the gloomy dark sky.
In effect, it is a negative message, unsuited for an auspicious day.
In short, Amar Chitra Katha seems to be slowly transforming itself into something that is the antithesis of everything that Uncle Pai stood for.
As Amar Chitra Katha becomes the battleground of ideologies, the nation is the loser. But all is not lost.
Sometimes, such situations force us to see the good that is with us already, and which we have chosen to ignore, because we have taken it for granted.
One such 'good' is the ‘Bharata Bharati’ children’s book series of the Bengaluru-based Rashtrotthana Sahitya.
The series has ‘tejasvi navadhitamastu’ (let what we study be invigorating) from the Krishna Yajurveda Taittiriya Upanishad (2.2.2) as its motto.
The chief editor of the series for a considerable period of time was Prof L S Seshagiri Rao (1929-2019).
What Anant Pai was to Amar Chitra Katha, Prof L S Seshagiri Rao was to Bharata Bharati.
He was no ordinary person but a veritable rishi in the world of Kannada literature. His message to his young audience reading the books and their parents was this:
Here are books about Bharat that is India. This country has a history of several thousand years. She has faced wave after wave of foreign invaders. And yet her spirit is unbroken and her culture is alive. These books - small in size but great in value, carry us to the world of greatness. The great heroes and heroines of legend and history, martyrs who lived and suffered and died that India may live; sages and saints, great men and women who lived for others, boy-heroes, warriors, revolutionaries, scientists, writers, sportsmen - all live in the pages of these books.November, 1973
These are small pocket books of 45 to 50 pages. They cover the biographies of great men and women.
This includes puranic and ithihasic heroes and heroines, historical personalities, warriors, freedom fighters, noble rulers, social reformers, scientists and artists.
In the case of scientists, for example, Bharata Bharati has books on Satyendra Nath Bose, P C Roy, Birbal Sahni to name a few.
The young reader is taken into consideration and tough concepts explained lucidly and in a way that the child can have an elementary grasp of what is being written about.
Here is a small paragraph from the book on Satyendra Nath Bose:
Quantum Statistic, a well-known branch of science today, was yet to see the light of day. Bose’s theoretical exposition developed this branch. Quantum statistic has enabled scientists to solve several problems scientifically and by cogent reasoning.
The social reformers presented in the series include among others Dhondo Keshava Karve and Dr B R Ambedkar.
Bala Bharati is part of the RSS' publishing wing. It is forthright in describing the hardships these social reformers faced. Here is an excerpt from its book on Karve:
Karve’s marriage with a widow was a sensation in society. A number of people condemned him very strongly. There was hot discussion even in newspapers in places like Pune, Bombay, Belgaum and Dharwar. Karve and his friends had formed an association called the ‘Sneha Vardhak Mandali’. The other members now did not like his attending the meetings. Karve left the Association. … Just because he married a widow Karve had to suffer for many years in many ways. His brother did not agree to send his son for education to Karve’s house. When Karve’s mother and brother came to his house, even when his mother was very ill, she gave strict instructions that Karve should not be informed. Society baked Karve in the fire of its displeasure; but he did not lose heart.
The book on Dr Ambedkar is thought-provoking and yet contain simple but forceful words that children can easily understand:
It appears that anger and perseverance are the two most important qualities that stand out in Ambedkar’s life. This is true from one point of view. The Hindus had called some people ‘untouchables’ and treated them very unjustly. This went on for hundreds of years. Ambedkar struggled hard to strengthen his people; he knew those who are weak are bound to suffer. Once he said, ‘Goats are sacrificed not lions.’ He attacked like lightening those who practiced injustice. He swore that he would set right injustice. He opposed the British, he opposed the Hindus that were victims of the past, he opposed even Gandhiji, he opposed the Government of free India; he brought justice to the ‘untouchables’. At times his own life was in danger; but he gave no thought to it. … The root of his anger was kindness.
One should remember that this book was first published in 1973 and for children. That was when the leftists and Congress hated Dr Ambedkar.
Before 1990s, the only organisation that was taking Dr Ambedkar to all sections of the society, contextualising his righteous anger and highlighting his patriotism was RSS alone.
The series has a title on Dr Ananda K Coomaraswamy and Nandalal Bose.
The book on Coomaraswamy explains how he was distressed by the attacks on Indian art by the colonial indologists and art critics and showed through his brilliant studies the greatness and sublimity of Indian art.
The book combines his passionate contribution to Indian art and culture and his own personal life in a way every child can understand.
Similarly, the book on painter Nandalal Bose shows the varied dimensions to his life and several influences on it – from Sister Nivedita to Mahatma Gandhi.
In the case of freedom fighters there are many titles. Let us see just two scenarios of sacrifice as depicted in these books:
As had been decided, Khudiram was brought to the gallows at 6 a.m. on the nineteenth of August, 1908. Even the smile on his face had not faded. Serenely he walked to the post. He had a copy of the Bhagavat Gita. For the last time he cried aloud ‘Vande Mataram’ and then put his hand into the noose. Khudiram had finally achieved his heroic goal; he had laid his life at the feet of Mother India. He is immortal in the history of India.
He stood six feet tall, with a broad chest; he was strong as steel and had the heart of a lion. His beard added charm to his face. There was always a smile of firmness on his lips. It shone even now. The hero in chain walked upright and with a firm mind between soldiers who led him to the hangman’s post. …Then he prayed in clear ringing tones: ‘La ilaha il Allah, Mohammed Ur Rasool Allah.’ The hangman’s noose came round his neck.
The first one is from the book on Khudiram Bose and the second on Ashfaqulla Khan.
Equally valuable are the books on the spiritual masters of India.
The book on Agastya gives the children a right perspective on how to understand the puranic dimensions of Agastya’s life – the greatness of the power enshrined in human being:
In all these stories about Agastya we find magnificent will power. A mountain or the ocean, what does it matter? I shall conquer all – such was the undaunted attitude of this great sage. Mountain, river or ocean – everything should be of service to the world. Human beings or Rakshasas – the evil doer must be punished. That was his principle. Because of his tapas he equaled in weight all the gods; the very mountain bowed before him; all the water of the ocean just filled his palm. Thus in every story about him we see the soul of man.
Here is the value system the book on Yajnavalkya inculcates its young reader with:
The entire world is pervaded by God. Having been born in this world, we must do all that we do with a sense of dedication to God. That is sacrifice. We should like to live in this world for hundred years doing our duties in this spirit. This divine message of the Vedas has been conveyed by Yajnavalkya through his Ishavasya Upanishad.
In the case of Amar Chitra Katha, while the puranic stories were presented in an attractive way, more often than not their spiritual significance was not explicitly stated. So they became illustrated magic-adventures conveying the cultural heritage.
But in the case of Bharata Bharati, the spiritual significance of the puranic stories and the lives of great men and women are clearly told – in simple, lucid language.
These books can be used for reading and storytelling sessions in schools. With little extra effort these books can be again edited for some minor grammar mistakes, and some new illustrations can be added.
As ACK veers more and more towards anti-Hindu content, there is a huge market potentiality building up for true Bharatiya, pro-Bharatiya child literature.
So Bharata Bharati also needs a strong social media presence and a separate website. Right now there is only a web page as part of the website of Rashtrottana Sahitya.
It is time we also celebrate immortal Prof L S Seshagiri Rao who worked as chief editor to bring out this wonderful series.
The dark transformation of Amar Chitra Katha has shown us that no institution is safe from the takeover of forces hostile to Hinduism and Indian culture.
There are lessons to be learnt from this sacking of the Somnath of cultural literacy by the forces that actually stand against all the values of Anant Pai.
Let us make Bharata Bharati fill the void created by the fall of Amar Chitra Katha to forces that have betrayed Uncle Pai’s vision.
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