The Chinmaya Mission is a worldwide nonprofit Hindu spiritual organisation with more than 250 centres worldwide. The Mission spreads the knowledge of Advaita Vedanta, the non-dual system of thought found in the Upanishads, which epitomise the philosophical teachings of the Vedas.
Swami Chinmayananda born Balakrishna Menon on May 8, 1916, in Ernakulam in Kerala, India was the eldest son of Kutta Menon, a famous judge and nephew of the Maharaja of Cochin. His mother, Paru Kutty, died while giving birth to her third child, and her eldest sister, Kochunarayani raised Balakrishna.
Balakrishna completed his formal schooling in Sree Rama Varma High School, Kochi and Vivekodayam School, Thrissur. He completed his Fellow of Arts (FA) at the Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam, and his Bachelor of Arts (BA) at the St. Thomas College, Trichur. He then went to Lucknow University (1940–1943) and earned postgraduate degrees in literature and law, while completing courses in journalism at the same time.
During the years as a student, Balakrishna did not formally accept religion. In the summer of 1936, he visited Shree Ramana Maharshi (December 30, 1879 – April 14, 1950), widely acknowledged as one of the eminent Hindu gurus of modern times. When Ramana Maharshi looked at him, Balakrishna experienced a spiritual ecstasy. Yet, at that time, he justified it as mere ‘hypnotism’.
The ‘Quit India’ Movement
On August 8, 1942, at the Gowalia Tank Maidan (also now known as August Kranti Maidan) in Mumbai, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi launched a ‘Do or Die‘ civil disobedience movement called the “Quit India Act” also known as the “India August Movement” to be carried out throughout India, demanding “an orderly British withdrawal” from India.
The All-India Congress Committee (AICC) proclaimed a mass protest. The British were prepared to act. Within hours after Gandhi’s speech, almost the entire INC leadership was imprisoned without trial.
Balakrishna joined fellow students in writing and distributing leaflets to stir up the national pride amidst the wide-scale attempt by the Indian activists to force the British to leave India. He gave many speeches generating awareness of the inability of the British to solve the problems of India.
Within weeks, more than 100,000 people were arrested nationwide, mass fines were levied, and thousands were killed or injured in police and army shootings.
Balakrishna, went underground when he came to know that a warrant had been served for his arrest. He spent the following year moving around in the state of Abbottabad (the same region where Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda, was shot dead by the US Army Seals on May 2, 2011), far from where the British officials would be looking for him. After a year, he left Kashmir and moved to Delhi.
Almost two years after the British had issued the warrant for his arrest, believing his case might have been long forgotten, Balakrishna arrived in Punjab and associated himself with several freedom groups operating over there. He advised students on distributing leaflets and organising public strikes, but he was promptly picked up by the police and imprisoned.
Living for several months in unhygienic conditions in prisons, Balakrishna was afflicted with Typhus. As was the custom with the British jail officials he and many other sick people were carried out of the prison at night and were dumped on the outskirts of the town.
The next morning, an Indian Christian lady passing along the road where Balakrishna was lying saw him. He reminded her of her own son serving in the British army. The good Samaritan took Balakrishna to her home. The doctor who examined him insisted that Balakrishna be taken to a hospital without delay if he were to survive.
After several weeks, Balakrishna recovered his health. Sri K Rama Rao, the eminent editor, noted freedom fighter and a member of the first Rajya Sabha, gave Balakrishna his first job as a journalist sub-editor at the National Herald in Lucknow and later at Delhi. Balakrishna wrote a series of articles — short, critical satires — on socialism in a society where the majority of people were poor. These were soon published regularly in Indian national papers.
Around 1947, working as a journalist, he decided to write an article “exposing” sadhus and made preparations to travel to Swami Sivānanda’s ashram in Rishikesh. He later confessed:
“I went not to gain knowledge, but to find out how the swamis were keeping up the bluff among the masses.“
If you ask me to name two good men who stood for the rights of their fellow beings in the last century and made a mark in the history of humanity, I would immediately say: “Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.”
These two passionately devoted men with dreams and visions inspired their people using nonviolent civil disobedience based on their respective religious beliefs.
Mahatma Gandhi called all Indians to break free from the yoke of the British rule and Martin Luther King mobilized his fellow Afro-Americans, who still languished in all the corners of American society and found themselves in exile in their own land, to break free from the shackles of the invisible, but existing slavery.
Four weeks after returning from India, King prepared a draft for an article titled “My trip to India,” April 1959. Ebony magazine published it under the title “My Trip to the Land of Gandhi“.
In that article King notes that Gandhi’s spirit was still alive, though “some of his disciples have misgivings about this when… they look around and find nobody today who comes near the stature of the Mahatma.” Lamenting India’s pervasive economic inequalities, King observes that “the bourgeoise– white, black or brown – behaves about the same the world over,” and he calls upon the West to aid India’s development “in a spirit of international brotherhood, not national selfishness.”
I admit that until the early 1960s, I was not a fan of Martin Luther King, Jr., mainly because I did not know much about him, or I might even say misinformed.
After hearing Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, at the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” on August 28 1963, delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of 200,000 civil rights protesters, I realized how truly a great man and a gifted leader he was. He began his speech with:
“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree is a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But 100 years later the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still badly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of materia1 prosperity. One hundred years later the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. So we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. …“
I was spellbound. His soaring close: “Free at last, Free at last, Great God almighty, We are free at last,” still resonates even today and inspires those who follow his dream.
Here is the full text of his speech “I Have a Dream“:
“I HAVE A DREAM…“
(Copyright 1963, MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.)
Speech by the Rev. MAXTIN LUTHER KING
At the “March on Washington”
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree is a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But 100 years later the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still badly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of materia1 prosperity. One hundred years later the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. So we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men—yes, black men as well as white men—would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality — 1963 is not an end but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.
There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright days of justice emerge. And that is something that I must say to my people who stand on the worn threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.
They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.
We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.
We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their adulthood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only.”
We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and the Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.
No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulation. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering.
Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go hack to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our Northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream … I have a dream that one day in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today … I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning. “My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that. Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi, from every mountainside. Let freedom ring …
When we allow freedom to ring – when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, Free at last, Great God almighty, We are free at last.“
There seems to be some sort of affinity between India and day 26.
On the occult side, Manmohan Singh, the 14th Prime Minister of India, from 2004 to 2014, was born on September 26, 1932. Maneka Sanjay Gandhi the new Indian Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development in the Government of Narendra Damodardas Modi, was born on August 26, 1956.
Many incidents such as India’s Independence Day, Republic Day, major earthquakes, tsunamis, internecine communal riots, bloody terrorist attacks have taken place on day 26.
January 26, 1930 – India’s Independence Day
India gained freedom from the British rule on August 15, 1947, but patriotic Indians had celebrated their first “Independence Day” 17 years earlier, on January 26, 1930. The choice of the day was unforeseen.
In 1928, Motilal Nehru chaired a prestigious committee that drafted a “Constitution” for an Indian Dominion that would have been a secular democratic reflection of Britain’s parliamentary system.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his All-India Muslim League insisted on more “safeguards” for Muslims as their price for endorsing the Motilal Nehru Committee’s proposal.
Jawaharlal Nehru and other young radical leaders of Congress like Subhas Chandra Bose of Bengal viewed Motilal Nehru’s recommendations as too conservative.
Mahatma Gandhi remained aloof from such matters, preferring to spin his cotton, waiting to be called upon to lead the next Satyagraha.
Motilal Nehru was unable to rally the broad spectrum of Indian political parties to his constitution’s support and it was doomed to an early demise.
The Indian National Congress held its annual session in Lahore in December 1929. During the debates, the All India Home Rule League and the All-India Muslim League favoured for a Dominion status for India within the British Empire as enjoyed by Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Newfoundland at the time. Leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and many others argued for a complete separation from British rule. In the end, the latter group’s view prevailed.
The Congress then promulgated the “Purna Swaraj” or “complete self-rule” declaration resolving the Congress and Indian nationalists to fight for complete independence from the British rule as opposed to a dominion status for India.
.Jawaharlal Nehru was chosen as the president of the Congress. On the midnight of December 31, 1929, he raised the first “Swaraj” flag on the banks of the Ravi river in Lahore. This flag was adopted and it was first hoisted on October 31, 1931. This flag was used by the Provisional Government of Free India during the subsequent years of Second World War.
The Congress passed a resolution fixing the last Sunday of January 1930 as India’s “Independence Day”. Coincidentally, it was January 26. It resolved to hold countrywide demonstrations in support of the goal. The day was to begin with the hoisting of the flag and reciting the “pledge of independence”. Gandhi envisaged that besides the meetings, the day would be spent,
“… in doing some constructive work, whether it is spinning, or service of ‘untouchables,’ or reunion of Hindus and Mussalmans, or prohibition work, or even all these together.”
An official draft by Gandhi said:
“The British government in India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but has based itself on the exploitation of the masses and has ruined India economically, politically, culturally and spiritually… Therefore, India must sever the British connection and attain ‘purna swaraj’ or ‘complete independence’.”
The Congress called on the people to pledge themselves to civil disobedience and “to carry out the instructions issued from time to time” by the Congress, till India attained complete independence. The celebration of such an Independence Day was envisioned to stoke nationalistic fervour among Indian citizens, and to force the British government to consider granting independence.
“An Autobiography” also known as “Toward Freedom” published in 1936 by The Bodley Head, is an autobiographical book written by Jawaharlal Nehru while he was in prison. It ran nine editions in the first year alone. In this book, Jawaharlal Nehru described the observances of “Independence Day” on January 26 as peaceful, solemn, and “without any speeches or exhortation”:
“From then on, the Congress members and supporters celebrated January 26 as the Independence Day till 1947, regardless of whether the actual transfer of power had taken place.“
August 15, 1947 – India gains Independence
Following the peaceful, civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance, led by the Indian National Congress for independence, the British government agreed to accord freedom to India on August 15, 1947.
Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah prepared for the transfer of power from the British Crown. (Source: indyas.hpage.co.in)
Eleven days before August 15, 1947, Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru representing the Indian National Congress and Mohammad Ali Jinnah representing the Muslim League, which demanded a separate sovereign state for Muslims, prepared for the transfer of power from the British Crown.
During these deliberations, an abstract picture of a divided nation comprising India and Pakistan came into being as distinct from the agglomeration of princely states and provinces administered by the British Raj.
On August 14, 1947, the dominion of Pakistan which then included East Pakistan, declared independence from the British Crown.
On the eve of India’s Independence, towards midnight on August 14, 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, in his inaugural address to the Indian Parliament heralded India’s tryst with destiny.
“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.
It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity. …“
November 26, 1949 – Adoption of the Indian Constitution
After gaining independence, India, still owing formal allegiance to the British Crown, did not have its own Constitution and so it depended entirely on the amended colonial Government of India Act, 1935.
As a first step to evolve a sovereign republic, a constituent assembly of elected members of the provincial assemblies was set up to frame a new Constitution for the Republic of India. It included Jawaharlal Nehru, C. Rajagopalachari, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Shyama Prasad Mookherjee and Nalini Ranjan Ghosh. There were jurists like Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer and K.M. Munshi.
Dr Ambedkar was asked to lead the drafting committee of the Constitution. The committee met for 166 days over two years, 11 months and 18 days.
On November 26, 1949, the final document of the Constitution that enshrined 345 Articles and eight Schedules was adopted by the Constituent Assembly, replacing the Government of India Act (1935) as the governing document of India.
January 26, 1950 – India’s Republic Day
The Constitution came into force on January 26, 1950, and India officially became a Sovereign Democratic Republic.
January 26 was selected as the Republic Day because the Declaration of Indian Independence (Purna Swaraj) was proclaimed by the Indian National Congress on this day in 1930.
The people of India honour this day as their Republic Day.
On January 26, 1950, the Republic Day ceremonies began in Delhi.
On January 26, 1950, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, the 34th and last Governor-General of India, read out a proclamation announcing the birth of the Republic of India. The Constitution of India came into effect, declaring India as a sovereign, democratic and secular state.
Dr Rajendra Prasad took the oath of office as India’s first president, replacing the King as the head of the state, at the Durbar Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan (residence of the president of India). He addressed the crowd, first in Hindi and then in English. After the swearing-in ceremony, the new president of India drove through the streets in his state coach to the Irwin Stadium (now renamed as the Dhyan Chand Stadium) and hoisted the national flag.
The government declared a two-day national holiday to a jubilant nation.
Currently, the Republic Day celebrations begin in India on January 26 with a grand parade held in the capital, New Delhi, from the Raisina Hill near the Rashtrapati Bhavan, along the Rajpath, past India Gate.
The Republic Day festivities end officially with the Beating Retreat ceremony conducted on the evening of January 29, the third day after the Republic Day.
I came across the above fabulous photo on the internet. Do you like it? What message does it convey?
Here are some photographs I came across while surfing the net.
The vow of Hindu-Muslim unity
Talking about communal harmony on April 8, 1919, Mahatma Gandhi said:
“If the Hindu-Muslim communities could be united in one bond of mutual friendship and if each could act towards the other as children of the same mother, it would be a consummation devoutly to be wished. But before this unity becomes a reality, both the communities will have to give up a good deal, and will have to make radical changes in ideas held herefore. Members of one community when talking about those of the other at times indulge in terms so vulgar that they but acerbate the relations between the two. In Hindu society, we do not hesitate to indulge in unbecoming language when talking of the Mohammedans and vice-versa. Many believe that an ingrained and ineradicable animosity exists between the Hindus and
“When both are inspired by the spirit of sacrifice, when both try to do their duty towards one another instead of pressing their rights, then and then only would the long-standing differences between the two communities cease. Each must respect the other’s religion, must refrain from even secretly thinking ill of the other. We must politely dissuade members of both communities from indulging in bad language against one another. Only a serious endeavour in this direction can remove the estrangement between us.” (25:201-202)
He made the members present take a vow as under:
“With God as the witness, we Hindus and Mohammedans declare that we shall behave towards one another as children of the same parents, that we shall have no differences, that the sorrows of each shall be the sorrows of the other and that each shall help the other in removing them. We shall respect each other’s religion and religious feelings and shall not stand in the way of our respective religious practices. We shall always refrain from violence to each other in the name of religion.”