Time to expand India’s cultural influence, usher in Maha Akhand Bharat, says Times VC & MD Samir Jain | India News

NEW DELHI: When a troubled world is increasingly receptive to the wisdom that comes from India’s extraordinary heritage, India must step up and spread its civilisational influence. With this as his central message in his address at the Times Now Summit on Thursday, Samir Jain, vice-chairman and managing director of the Times Group, presented the idea of ‘Maha Akhand Bharat’ — a cultural construct that captures both the current reality of India’s rising soft power as well as points to the enormous future potential.
The world’s growing attraction for the Indian way of life must be built on, Jain said. Appealing to Amit Shah, Union home minister, Jain said such a mission is achievable if it is pursued with the kind of indomitable resolve Shah is known for. ‘Maha Akhand Bharat’, Jain said, is neither confined by territory nor restricted to history.
He drew a distinction between his cultural construct and the two most famous terms with ‘Bharat’ in them, Akhand Bharat and Mahabharat. Akandh Bharat, the geographical swathe covering the Indian subcontinent and extending east to Thailand and Indonesia and controlled by powerful dynasties in ancient India was an example of cultural influence spread by political rule. Mahabharat, the Indian epic, is woven around a great war. “This is not the time of Mahabharat … Akhand Bharat is history. This is the time of Maha Akhand Bharat,” Jain said.
His message — the arc of India’s soft power will expand if we shift from the geopolitical to the geocultural. A world buffeted by wars and powerplays will be greatly receptive to such a message from India, he pointed out.

“Just as the influence of India once spread across Akhand Bharat … it can be seen even now in Bali,” Jain said, “India’s cultural influence is growing across the globe.”
Detailing how India’s geocultural soft power is already a global reality, the Times Group VC & MD said: This influence “can be seen in temples, within homes, in discussions on Adhyatm, courses on Indian culture, as well as interest in Indian music and dance forms. It is manifest in the popularity of yoga, ayurveda and naturopathy. Asthavakra, Patanjali Yoga Sutra and Yoga Vasishta are being taught abroad. Now, you even have Vedic cuisine, while Indian doctors working abroad teach you how to meditate”.
What India needs is a firm national resolve and a fired up national imagination, India needs to think big, Jain said. “We have seen that a tiny country like Britain became a global hegemon by imagining itself as ‘great’ and striving for that status.”

Jain recalled the poem former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had composed to mark BJP’s foundation day in 1980. “The darkness will disperse, the sun will rise and the lotus will bloom.” “When our popular poet Vajpayee ji recited these lines, Amit Shah had just started a life of public service. Today, the lotus has bloomed across India,” Jain said, referring to Shah’s stellar contribution in expanding BJP’s influence.
“Your example shows that while success does not come in a day, it comes one day,” Jain added. For India, “the time is now”, Jain said. On a different but related note, Jain elaborated on the concept of what constitutes good government by using the metaphor of a family. Praising Shah, Jain said the home minister, known for his “high energy”, had treated the entire country as his own family, and has brought peace and order, which is the starting condition for inclusive growth.
“A family will typically consist of everyone — from children and elderly to those who don’t earn enough; even those who don’t earn at all. Still, they are all taken care of… (this) should be an ideal country’s distinguishing characteristic as well,” Jain said. Inclusive growth, Jain said, reflects the principle of “anekaantvaad”, the core of Jainism, which acknowledges that nobody has a monopoly over truth and all viewpoints are equally valid and, therefore, calls for respecting views and thoughts at odds with or even contrary to one’s core convictions. Jain said just like in a family where people live together despite their differences, an ideal government should create conditions for diverse and contrary viewpoints to co-exist.
Explaining further, Jain said: “There should be room for those who believe in family rule, and those who oppose it; those who believe in nationalism and those who don’t; those who believe in dialogue and those who believe in refuting whoever does not agree with them. But it is only when they live together, when there is conversation among them, that we ensure prosperity.” Recalling Modi’s words to President Putin, Jain said, “Our Prime Minister recently told Russia that now is not the time for war. That was because he wanted his foreign audience to understand that India’s tradition is that it is never atime for war. There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.”

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