Pluralism at core of Indian psyche, says President Pranab Mukherjee

Mukherjee’s latest iterations about India’s multicultural values and pluralism will inevitably be viewed through a political lens even though the occasion at Rashtrapati Bhawan was in essence an academic one.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi | Updated: November 22, 2015 1:06:46 am
President Pranab Mukherjee during his address on Saturday. Image: Rashtrapati Bhavan President Pranab Mukherjee during his address on Saturday. Image: Rashtrapati Bhavan

Speaking at the inauguration of the first international conference of Indologists at Rashtrapati Bhavan, President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday reiterated that “pluralism and multi-culturalism are at the very core of the Indian psyche”.

“…the world is struggling to deal with the worst impulses of intolerance and hatred that mankind has ever witnessed. At such a time, there can be no better recourse than to remind ourselves of the high values, written and unwritten samskaras, duties and the way of life that is the essence of India. This is the time to reinforce the civilisational values that bind together the complex diversity of modern-day India and promote them among our people and the world,” he said

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Talking to experts in Indology from around the world about ancient Indian civilisation, Mukherjee said their efforts must not become an exercise in nostalgia. “Instead, I anticipate that your scholastic interactions, while firmly anchoring today’s India in her glorious history, will illuminate the logical path to her destined greatness. I am confident that your deliberations over the next three days will highlight the manner in which pluralism and multi-culturalism are at the very core of the Indian psyche,” he said.

Over the last few weeks, Mukherjee has spoken about what some call an “atmosphere of intolerance” in the country. He has also spoken against the trend of prominent writers and artistes returning their awards.

On Saturday, the President quoted widely from Rabindranath Tagore and Swami Vivekananda to reinforce his message of plurality. Quoting from Tagore’s poem Bharat Tirtha, he described India as a divine ocean where streams of humanity from all over the world have converged. Reading from Vivekananda’s writing, he defined India by its religious tolerance: “It is here that Indians build temples for Mohammedans and Christians; nowhere else. The one great lesson, therefore, that the world wants most, that the world has yet to learn from India, is the idea not only of toleration, but of sympathy.”

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