The secular song

Aradhika  Sharma

Dear Diary Didi,

Hadd ho gayi hai. Can students not even pray without PILs being filed about it? 

Apparently, a lawyer in Jabalpur has raised a concern that the compulsory recitation of morning prayers in Sanskrit and Hindi by students of Kendriya Vidyalayas (irrespective of faith and belief) violates their fundamental right to religion. I didn’t know language had a religion!

He also says that singing prayers is an obstacle in developing the scientific temperament of students. If that were the case, many of my classmates wouldn’t have become doctors, surgeons and scientists.

For 10 years, I’ve stood in the halls and grounds of various Kendriya Vidyalayas across the country, singing the elegant and simple verses of the morning prayer.

Asatomasadgamaya (From ignorance, lead me to truth)

Tamasomajyotirgamaya (From darkness, lead me to light)

Mrityormaamritamgamaya (From death, lead me to immortality)

It’s true that, like every other student, I would wish we had a more rousing prayer. Sometimes I’d try to liven things up by lustily and loudly singing the verses of the Vedic chant (which is the prelude to the longer secular prayer). But never did I or any of my fellow students think of challenging the sagacity or the democracy of it. Even then we knew that the hymn was a paean to the spirit of duty and love and we prayed for strength and knowledge.

Diary didi, most of the KV kids were fauji bachchas — moving from one place to another following their fathers. As soon as we reached a new city, our mothers would march us straight into a KV, admit us without fuss and we’d soon find ourselves in the blue and white uniform, badges, belts and red ribbons neatly in place, standing in the school assembly.

I travelled with my father from Tezpur (Assam) to Kolkata and Bangalore. On the very first day at each new school, as I sang the familiar prayer along with the other kids, I immediately felt the security of the familiar... I would go so far as to say that the KV prayer has been the sutradhar of secularism — the musical devise that assured the KV bachchas of familiarity and acceptance.  Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. The world is one family. 

The pure and melodious lines of the invocation have immense relevance for every student. The three little lines hold tremendous shakti and inspire and invoke the love for knowledge. After singing the verses, we had to speak out the national pledge: “India is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters…”

Can’t see how we could get more secular than that!

One thing is for sure. This lawyer from Jabalpur has reiterated my love for my school(s) and got me thinking just how smart the KV systems are at integrating students and communities. Never have I appreciated my alma mater more than when I read about the petition. 

Last words?

“Asatomasadgamaya.” From darkness, lead us to light.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti...

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