One major view on such self-awareness was expressed by Sri Jayprakash Narayan in 1962. He had then said :
“The ancients held that the highest form of knowledge is self-knowledge and that he who achieves that knowledge achieves all. It seems to me that the value of self-knowledge holds good for nations as well. No matter how one defines a nation – and it has not been found easy to do so – the essence seems to lie not in its outward attributes but in the mental world of those who comprise it. Of the ingredients of this inner world, the most important is self-image, that is, the image that the people comprising a nation have of themselves and their forefathers.
“During the British period, the needs of imperialist rule dictated that Indians be pictured as an inferior people in respect to material, moral and intellectual accomplishments. This deliberate denigration of the Indian nation was furthered by the incapacity of the foreigner to understand properly a civilization so different from his own. So, in course of time, as our political subjugation became complete, we happened to accept as real the distorted image of ourselves that we saw reflected in the mirror the British held to us.
“Not a small part of the psychological impetus that our freedom movement received was from the few expressions of appreciation that happened to fall from the pens or lips of Western scholars about Sanskrit literature, Indian philosophy, art or science. Sometimes these foreign opinions about past Indian achievements were seized upon and inflated out of all proportions so as to feed the slowly emerging national ethos.
“After the first few years of euphoria since Independence, a period of self-denigration set in during which educated Indians, particularly those educated in the West, took the lead. Whether in the name of modernization, science or ideology, they ran down most, if not all, things Indian. We are not yet out of this period. I am not suggesting that what is wrong and evil in Indian society or history should be glossed over. But breast-beating and self-flagellation are not conducive to the development of those psychological drives that are so essential for nation building, nor so is slavish imitation of others.
“One of the reasons for this state of affairs is lack of sufficient knowledge about our history, particularly of the people’s social, political and economic life. One of the faults of our forefathers was their lack of sense of history, and their proneness to present even historical fact in the guise of mythology. As a result, even after long years of modern historical research, in India and abroad, our knowledge happens to be limited – particularly in the field of social history. Also there are long gaps or period of darkness about which not much of anything is known. One such period was that between the decline of the Mughal power and the arrival of the European trading companies and the ultimate consolidation of British power. That period was undoubtedly one of political disintegration. Yet, the material researched by Shri Dharampal and published herein reveals the survival of amazing powers of resistance to the state in the common people – ‘the Lohars, the Mistress, the Jolahirs, the Hujams, the Durzees, the Kahars, the Bearers, every class of workmen’, to quote the Acting Magistrate of Benares in 1810 – when, in their opinion, it became oppressive or transgressed the limits of its authority.
“The behaviour of the five hundred and odd princes towards their people during British rule had created the general impression that the king in Hindu polity was a tyrant and there was no limit to his power as far as it related to his subjects, who were supposed to be traditionally docile and submissive. Foreign and Indian studies of Hindu polity, no doubt, had revealed quite a different type of relationship, which allowed even for the deposition of an unworthy king by his people. But that was considered to be a mere idealistic formulation, true more in theory than in practice limited by dharma, that is, the system of duties, responsibilities and privileges that had evolved through the ages and come to be accepted by all concerned, was also not taken seriously. Instances of autocratic monarchs who defied the established dharma and got away with it were looked upon not as exceptions but as the rule.