Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Indosphere and Greater India




So marvelous is the human brain. It has an infinite capacity for curiosity and assimilation of information. One topic leads to another, one bit of information opens a door into a maze of more information. In such a wondrous rabbit-hole like fashion; I stumbled onto the word "Indosphere" and brought to mind Atalji's famous poem titled "स्वतंत्रता दिवस की पुकार". 

Sitting alone at home after a long day at work, I was watching the series "Fightworld" on Netflix. Episode 3 is about the Burmese martial art of Lethwei. It is a unique martial art in the sense it allows the use of headbutts. In most martial arts, headbutting will get you deducted points at best and disqualified at worst. It is a brutal martial art to boot; fighters are mostly bare-knuckled with only a light gauze padding on their hands. Its fascinating insights aside, I casually checked out the wikipedia page of "Lethwei" and stumbled onto the fact that it is culturally linked to other martial arts throughout Southeast Asia and has particularly close links to "मुष्टि युद्ध" in India. 

Just like martial arts, languages too have deep connections and this natural progression of web searches led me to the word "indosphere" coined by the linquist James Matisoff to denote the areas of Indian influence in linguistic development/evolution of Southeast Asia. From here to the wider scope of India's cultural influence was but a step. And what a step! From the writings of RC Mazumdar to Sylvain Levi; there is a substantial body of work which explores the deep cultural influence that India has had on Southeast Asia. Since 130 - 300 CE, trade proved the catalyst for spreading Indian influence across the region. From the Salakanagara kingdom founded in 150 CE to the Khmer kingdom and later the Ceylon kingdom right into the middle of the 13th century.  A trail of rich cultural influence that has left a vast trail across the pages of history and continues to manifest itself in small ways even today. 

In the 21st century this has become even more relevant. As an answer to the "sinosphere", Greater India is emerging as a counter-weight. In response to the CPEC, India's "necklace of diamonds" are encircling China with an equally impressive string of collaborations and partnerships. Right from India being acknowledged as a stakeholder in Aghanistan to Modi's personal chemistry with Shinzo Abe, Indian influence in world polity is again on the upswing. From Chabahar to Colombo, India is partnering with its neighbors to achieve a higher level of synergy and achieve mutual goals. 

This brought me to an inspiring poem by Atalji about "United India" or "अखंड भारत". The climactic verse of which runs as follows - 

दिन दूर नहीं खंडित भारत को पुनः अखंड बनाएँगे।
गिलगित से गारो पर्वत तक आजादी पर्व मनाएँगे॥
उस स्वर्ण दिवस के लिए आज से कमर कसें बलिदान करें।
जो पाया उसमें खो न जाएँ, जो खोया उसका ध्यान करें॥

While Atalji only spoke about an indivisible India and limited his idea to a more inward-facing perspective; today's India has an outward-facing outreach. We are propounding the message of "वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्" or "the world is one family". Global in scope and vast in its appeal. The "Indosphere" of the 21st century is inherently relevant and scalable. I am looking forward to our country reaching ever greater heights on the global stage with this message of collaboration amidst diversity.

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