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The Kerala bond in Nehru's discovery of India

Special Correspondent
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Gopalakrishna Gandhi lauds State's intellectual tradition

Gopalakrishna Gandhi says that as an enquiring intellectual, Nehru was drawn to Adi Sankara.
Gopalakrishna Gandhi says that as an enquiring intellectual, Nehru was drawn to Adi Sankara.

Former West Bengal Governor Gopalakrishna Gandhi has said that India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru found in the intellectual tradition of Kerala exactly what he needed “in order to understand the troubled mind of India he was giving leadership to.”

He was delivering the fourth K.R. Narayanan Memorial Lecture here recently.

Speaking on “Nehru and Kerala – a continuing dialogue,” Dr. Gandhi said that once he understood Kerala's unique intellectual tradition, Nehru lost no time to recognise that Kerala had an intellectual fibre that could weave into new India's tapestry the unique strength and resilience it needed.

Intellectual powers

“The people of Kerala, speaking one language, Malayalam, but professing at least three major faith traditions, with a history of maritime interaction with other continents and climes, exposed by their natural bent for intellectual curiosity to reading, analysis, and comment, have shored up a body of intellectual powers and energies that India is in dire need of.''

Dr. Gandhi said the people of Kerala were “too aware, too proud of their right to original thinking, to the privilege of critical enquiry and reinvestigation, to become hidebound. Their ability to question, to probe, to not accept blindly any convention, any tradition, however high its auspices, is nothing short of a colossal strength. Religions, philosophies, and ideologies have yielded before Kerala's questionings of them”.

Continuing dialogue

He hoped that today when “foreign and native dogmas were trying to dominate our ways of life, Kerala would continue to subject them to independent analysis and examination. And when it does that, it would be continuing the dialogue which a universe of Kerala's minds had with a man who valued that interaction inestimably and applied to the nation's mind, definition ally.”

He remarked that there was no special bond between Nehru and Kerala, but Nehru did something he would be remembered for: Kerala, as a State, came into being during his Prime Ministership, and he was also instrumental in the controversial dismissal of the first E.M.S. Namboodiripad government in the late fifties. But as an enquiring intellectual, Nehru was drawn to Adi Sankara. In the Glimpses of World History , Nehru wrote about Adi Sankara: “It is unusual thing for a man to become a great leader chiefly because of his intellect.” And in the Discovery of India about Sankara: “Born in Malabar... he strove to synthesize the diverse currents that were troubling the mind of India of his day.” Nehru seemed to find in Kerala's intellectual traditions exactly what he needed in order to understand the troubled mind of India, he added.

Of same tradition

Dr. Gandhi observed that Nehru saw in others belonging to Kerala, representative of the same intellectual tradition of reasoning and analysis. “Among them was Kocheril Raman Narayanan,” Dr. Gandhi said.

The talk was organised by the Centre for Research and Education for Social Transformation (Crest), an autonomous body.

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