Since the ancient times it is the youth power that has always boldly stood up to the challenges and crises that have raised their ominous heads from time to time. Whenever dark clouds have hovered over the nation and mankind, the young blood has cut through and scattered them with its valor. The Vedic and Upanishadic stories amply bear out this truth.
Rishi Vamdeva and Somsrava who led the peoples’ awakening were young. So were Saytakam and Sukesha who gladly sacrificed the carnal pleasures of young age to spread the light of noble thoughts and wisdom among the populace. The young Parashuram put an end to the reign of terror of Kartvirya who was considered invincible. Parashuram is said to have organized twenty one campaigns to cleanse the earth of evil and injustice. Agastya, who shielded the Arya culture from the rampaging squads of dasyus (demonic forces) was a young man too. He compelled the Vindhyagiri Mountain to submit before his valor.
The young Vishwarath undertook great penance to instill the potency of the Gayatri mantra in people’s consciousness. His supreme effort for public weal earned him the epithet “Vishwamitra” (friend of the world) and made him venerable. Bhagirath was in the prime of his youth when he ventured on the impossible looking task of bringing the holy Ganga on earth in order to make the earth green again after she had suffered long on account of draught conditions. It was young Ram who had started on the long course of journey to put an end to the demonic stranglehold of all-conquering Ravana. Guided by Maharishi Vishwamitra and Agastya, Ram was able to defeat Ravana, the sole super power of the age. He turned this expedition into a popular movement by bringing within its fold Kol, Kirat, Shabar, Nishad and many other tribes.
Prahalad, who opposed his tyrannical and arrogant father Hiranyakashyapu, was only a young boy. He remained unwavering on his righteous path in the face of wrathful Hiranyakashyapu, who had vanquished even Indra. Prahlad placed righteousness and public well-being above personal relationship and became instrumental in solving the big problem of the time through the mechanism of Narsimha Avtar. The organizers of mass awakening against the wickedness of Kans were again adolescents, Krishna and Balram. Krishna not only ended the misrule of Kans but was also successful in transforming and energizing the rural India of the time. Later, with the help of the Pandavas he ushered in a major revolution which resulted in the elimination of stubborn autocrats like Jarasandha and Duryodhan, and in the establishment of a new benign political system.
Maharishi Vyas dedicated his whole life to the dissemination of knowledge. He had resolved to do so in his young age itself. It was the age of ignorance and cynicism. Knowledge was restricted to the privileged few. Inspired by Maharishi Dadhyanga Atharvan, Vyas along with his wife Vatika, committed himself to fight against this great crisis of all pervading ignorance. Systematization of the Vedic literature, writing of Puranas, philosophical commentaries – all these great works were done by him single-handedly. Later his young son Shukdev and disciples like Gemini and Sut-Shaunak joined him in this mega project. Sut-Shaunak, through the medium of their puranic stories, were able to liberate the common man’s mind from the shackles of many kinds of the then prevalent superstitions and misconceptions.
After the Mahabharat war the nation was once again engulfed by the dark clouds of ignorance, divisions and irrational beliefs. Then a young Siddhartha and Vardhman rose to the occasion. Relinquishing every royal luxury and comfort they chose the ascetic path of tap and brought about a unique social and intellectual revolution in the country. While Siddhartha became the Buddha, Vardhaman became Mahavir (the great conqueror) – the 24 thTirthankar of Jainism. At their call countless young men and women woke up and started awakening others. Not only India but the whole of Asia lit up with the dazzle of enlightenment. This tradition was carried forward by the young Acharya Shankar. The crisis of his time was that the country was divided into diverse sects, tantricpractices and irrational beliefs. The Acharya united the whole country with the thread of his advaita doctrine. Every nook and corner of the country began to glow with the light of this knowledge. Many young men and women – Padmapad, Sureshwar, Bharati, Karnika and others– played their roles in this monumental work of the great Acharya.
In subsequent moments of crises Ramanuja, Madhva, Nimbarka and Vallabha dedicated their youth towards resolving them. Gorakhnath too was a young ascetic who exhorted the young generation to build strong character through the power of yoga. By popularizing Hathayoga he brought about a revolution in health consciousness and character building during his time. In mediaeval ages Kabir and Raidas carried forward and nurtured this tradition. Among the Sikh gurus, be it the first guru Nanakdev or the tenth guru Govind Singh, they were young when they generated a new vigor in the country through their tap and valor. Samartha Ramdas, who inspired young Shivaji to take up cudgels against the Mughal atrocities, had started his crusade for restoration of the glory of Sanatan Dharma when he was quite young.
The history of India’s freedom movement also bears testimony to this pioneering role of the youth. Right since 1857 upto 1947 the youth of the country played a leading role in instilling among the masses the feeling of patriotism and the urge for liberation. Among the heroes of the first war of independence of 1857 Rani Lakshmibai, Tatya Tope, Mangal Pande – all were young. Lakshmibai was only 26 then. A brave soldier in her army Jhalkaribai was also a young girl. The Rani’s inspiration transformed even dancers like Sunder-Munder, Juhi, Motibai into brave warriors. Later on many leaders who devoted their whole lives to the cause of liberation – Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru – had all stepped on this thorny path of struggle and suffering with the onset of their youth.
Martyrs like Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Khudiram Bose and may others sacrificed their lives in the prime of youth to free their countrymen from the shackles of bondage. When Khudiram Bose was being taken to the gallows his parting words were:
Hansi hansi chadbe phansi, dekhile jagatvasi , Ek bar vidai de ma, Ami ghure asi
Meaning – The world will see that I wore the noose gladly. O Motherland! Bid me farewell now. I will take birth again and again.
The heartthrob of the nation’s youth, the flag bearer of the spiritual legacy Swami Vivekanand was very young too. He exhorted the young –
“O brave hearts! O young progeny of our motherland! Realize that you have taken birth to accomplish many great tasks. Be not fearful of anything. Be not scared of even the loudest thunderbolts from the heavens. Arise! Gird up your loins and get to work.”
This steely mantra of Swamiji is for all times and ages. The youth of today should take inspiration from and emulate the great personages of the past.