This article elucidates the meaning of Indian nationalism and its connection to religious universalism as a problem of ethics. It engages in that exercise of elucidation by interpreting a few of the key texts by Aurobindo Ghose on the relationship between ethics and politics in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Both secularist and subalternist histories have contributed to misunderstandings of Aurobindo's political thought and shown an inability to comprehend its ethical moorings. The specific failures in fathoming the depths of Aurobindo's thought are related to more general infirmities afflicting the history of political and economic ideas in colonial India. In exploring how best to achieve Indian unity, Aurobindo had shown that Indian nationalism was not condemned to pirating from the gallery of models of states crafted by the West. By re conceptualizing the link between religion and politics, this essay suggests a new way forward in Indian intellectual history.
“[L]ong after this controversy is hushed in silence”, Chitta Ranjan Das had said of Aurobindo Ghose during the Alipore bomb trial in 1909, “long after this turmoil, this agitation ceases, long after he is dead and gone, he will be looked upon as the poet of patriotism, as the prophet of nationalism and the lover of humanity. Long after he is dead and gone, his words will be echoed and reechoed, not only in India, but across distant seas and lands. Therefore, I say that the man in his position is not only standing before the bar of this court but before the bar of the High Court of History”.
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