This book was written by me in Ahmadnagar Fort Prison during the five mothers. April to September 1944. Some of my colleagues in prison were good enough to read the manuscript and make a number of valuable suggestions. On revising the book in prison I took advantage of these suggestions and made some additions. No one I need hardly add is responsible for what I have written or necessarily agrees with it. But I must express my deep gratitude to my fellow prisoners in Ahmadnagar. Fort for the innumerable talks and discussions we had which helped me greatly to clear my own mind about various aspects of Indian history and culture. Prison is not a pleasant place to live in even for a short period much less for long years. But it was a privilege for me to live in close contact with men of outstanding ability and culture and a wide human outlook which even the passions of the moment did not obscure.
My eleven companions in Ahmadnagar Fort were an interesting cross section of India and represented in their several ways not only politics but Indian scholarship old and new and various aspects of present day India. Nearly all the principal living Indian languages as well as the classical languages which have powerfully influenced India in the past and present were represented and the standard was often that of high scholarship. Among the classical languages were Sanskrit and Pali, Arabic and Persian the modern languages were Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Telugu, Sindhi and Oriya. I had all this wealth to draw upon and the only limitation was my own capacity to profit by it. Though I am grateful to all my companions I should like to mention especially invariably delighted me whose vast erudition invariably delighted me but sometimes also rather overwhelmed me. Govind Ballabh Pant, Narendra, Dev and M. Asaf Ali.
It is a year and a quarter since I finished writing this book and some parts of it are already somewhat out of date and much has happened since I wrote it. I have felt tempted to add and revise, but I have resisted the temptation. Indeed I could not have done otherwise for life outside prison is of a different texture and there is no leisure for thought or writing. It has been difficult enough for me to read again what I have written. I wrote originally in long hand this was typed after my release. I was unable to find time to read the typescript and the publications of the book was being delayed when my daughter Indira Came to my rescue and took this burden off my shoulders. The book remains as written in prison with no additions or changes except for the postscript at the end.
I do not know how other author feel about their writings but always I have a strange sensation when I read something that I had written some time previously. That sensation is heightened when the writing had been done in the close and abnormal atmosphere of prison and the subsequent reading has taken place outside. I recognize it of course but not wholly it seems almost that I was reading some familiar piece written by another who was near to me and yet who was different. Perhaps that is the measure of the change that has taken place in me.
So I have felt about this book also. It is mine and not wholly mine as I am constituted today it represents rather some past self of mien which has already joined that long succession of other selves that existed for a while and faded away leaving only a memory behind.
Pava K. Varma
we are today in the middle of celebrating sixty years of Indian independence. Out freedom was hard won and we respect therefore what became ours after a prolonged period of pain and struggle. The last six decades have been a slow journey to a point where I have begun to acknowledge India’s position as a powerful nation in the world and its people as future readers in a global scenario. In times where phrases a cultural diplomacy and the primacy of cultural intervention in social life are used regularly we are finally accepting perhaps a little superpower. We are in act turning the gaze back at ourselves to understand and re-define ourselves.
To understand who we are today we have to see ourselves as the world sees us. But before we can do that we must become familiar with our own history, Our civilization. It must be to put it aptly a discovery or India and of ourselves. Or perhaps a re-discovery. It is this point that brings me to Pandit Nehru’s well known book. The discovery of India Coming from where it does a book written by a political leader a book written in incarceration in a record time of five months a record of a vast and ancient civilization a voluminous and scholarly piece of writing the book takes a place for itself form which it is near impossible to dislodge it. It reflects two things at one go the deep need of an Indian to understand his roots and a passionate exhortation by a leader to his people that they realize how deep and true their roots are in order that they dip into if for a renewed sense of pride and assertion in the face of a colonial onslaught.
Nehru’s book is also important because it came just head of India’s independence. It was so to speak the finally thrust by one of the nation’s lead figures to bolster our movement for freedom. While it forced its readers to become aware of and acknowledge the past that had birthed them and marked them out as heirs to an amazing civilization it must have compelled them to use this knowledge to claim back what was rightfully in order to look ahead to a free future.
Some years after its publication, students such as young enthusiasts of a newly independent country, were fired by the zeal to direct the country to new heights. Among other valuable sources that inspired us forward, The `Discovery of India` was one. It amazed us no less to see a scholarly volume such as this reveal the human face of Pandit Nehru, pained and perhaps reeling under great personal tragedy, passionately at work, recording the history of a nation which in its turn was suffering the tragic yoke of foreign rule.
The range that this volume covers continues to amaze even today. Though the core of the book is about the Nationalist Movement and our fight for` freedom, we move sequentially from an introductory review of India as a country to the very beginnings of the Indus Valley civilization, our racial heritage, the records of our history, the beginnings of what is today our social system, our epics, our scholarly texts, the` various periods that distinguish Indian history and- development, the problems which beset us then and1 continue till today. Pandit Nehru also writes on the1 history of the world, especially as witnessed in the Second World War that was a watershed in all our1 lives. This seemingly unending and astounding journey through time completes a circle to end again at the Ahmadnagar Fort to remind the reader once5 more of what propelled such a journey in the first instance.
How do I see this book today and more so what it sets out to do, as we race in the 21st century? Do I perceive relevance in it today? Most certainly, yes. In many ways l see in it something that l myself believe in strongly. I feel that today, as Indians, we are all poised, at a juncture where the country is going through a3 definitive phase of transition, wherein the certitudes of the past are being interrogated by the imperatives of the present and the temptations of the future. In many ways, The Discovery plays on a similar idea. It is this thesis of the book that enables us to continually strengthen ourselves to move ahead, and to once again rediscover our identity in an aggressively globalizing world.
Bharat Ek Khoj An overview
Bharat Ek Khoj is based on the book the Discovery of India by India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. It was produced and directed by Shyam Benegal and telecast every Sunday on Doordarshan in 53 episodes that ran for a whole year. It is an excellent synthesis of Indian history culture, myths, mythology, epics, drama, music and film technology. Even after twenty years we can proudly say that a whole generation was moved by this informative serial which has not only enhanced the historical perspective but also inspired viewers to have a deeper understanding of our glorious past.
Nehru came to India via the west and looked at her as a friendly westerner might have done. But did he know India? During the election campaign of 1936-37 he traveled most extensively throughout India in towns cities and villages alike. He was on a great voyage of discovery and the land of Indian and its people lay spread out before him. India with all her infinite charm and variety began to grow upon him more and more. She was like some ancient palimpsest on which layer upon layer of thought and reverie had been inscribed and yet no succeeding layer had completely hidden or erased what had been written previously. At the Ahmednagar Fort Prison Nehru sat down in five solitary jail months of 1944 to record his own voyage of the discovery of India.
Doordarshan Archives takes pride in offering this serial to its esteemed viewers in its Endeavour to fulfill its commitment towards public service.
Narrator: Om Puri
Chief Assistant Director: Madeep Kakkar
Executive Producer: Raj Plus
Script: Sharma Zaidi, Sunil Shanbag
Script in Hindi: Vasant Dev, Ashok Mishra
Translation from Sanskrti and lyrics: Vasant Dev
Script Consultants Prof. R.S. Sharma, Dr. H.D. Sankalia
Prof. Irfan Habib
Prof. S.R. Bhatt
Dr. R. Champakalakshmi, Prof. Sadashiv A. Dange
Prof. Ms Anees Syed
Costumes: Salim Arif, Farida Siddiqi, Bhavna Mukativala
Re-Recording Hitendra Ghosh, Rajkamal Kalamandir
Sound Ashwin Balsaver
Editing Sutanu Gupta, Deepak Segal
Art director: Nitish Roy
Music: Vanraj Bhatia
Additional photography: Govind Nihlani
Aerial Photography Piyush Shah
Photography V.K. Murthy
Produced and Directed by Shyam Benegal