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The Vegetarian World Forum
No. 4 Vol. XI - WINTER 1957, pp.13-15:

15th WORLD VEGETARIAN CONGRESS IN INDIA

Mr. JAYANTILAL N. MANKAR, Secretary of The Bombay Humanitarian League, must be congratulated on organizing the most wonderful international vegetarian congress ever held. We know his many fellow workers in every centre will join us in this tribute and would wish us to express our gratitude for his great service to the vegetarian  movement.

The sixty or so delegates from twenty nations who travelled around India to take part in the regional sessions were everywhere received with fabulous hospitality – often literally overwhelmed by exquisitely prepared dishes unfamiliar to Western digestive processes - garlanded with fragrant leys,  and treated like royalty. An unforgettable experience which made nonsense of Kipling's idea that "never the twain shall meet".

Not since the time of the Emperor Asoka has the vegetarian movement been acknowledged by the Head of a State, and its representatives so fèted by Cabinet Ministers, Governors of Provinces, Maharajahs and civic dignitaries. Although vegetarianism has always been an integral part of Indian life for countless generations, it has not been emphasized so resoundingly since the time of Asoka. It can be truly stated that the whole of India has now been made aware of the practical advantages of vegetarianism, from the economic and nutritional points of view, and that those who stand by India's ancient ethical principles have been greatly encouraged - everywhere gratitude was expressed for our initiative in beginning the practical work hitherto neglected in India.

Daily newspapers gave accurate reports of our activities and speeches; All India Radio allowed us to make several broadcasts and even broadcast a complete session.

The Congress was greatly honoured by the President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, who not only flew specially from Delhi to Bombay to inaugurate the sessions, but entertained the delegates to tea at his beautiful palace in Delhi, where he talked freely with his visitors. "Don't judge India by all this," he said, pointing to magnificent buildings and gardens, "India is a land of huts."

The Prime Minister, Mr. Nehru, also received us at his home and took us into his garden to see his pet pandas. It was a great privilege to tell him how much we admired his efforts to bring high principles into international affairs.

We were entertained by the Governors of several Provinces and granted interviews by four or five Cabinet Ministers who gave interested attention to our pleas for recognition at Governmental level of the practical advantages of vegetarianism. We also deplored the export of monkeys - if anyone can produce evidence that the monkeys are used for atomic experiments the export will be stopped forthwith, for it is a condition that they should not be so used.

The Maharajah of Benares entertained us in his palace fort across the Ganges, and we had a glimpse of feudal India - a good way of life when the Prince was good - we circled the courtyard on his painted elephants. We spoke in company with the Patriarch of Moscow and masked Jain priests at the World Conference of Religions. We interviewed the Sankar-Acharya - the orthodox Brahmin "Pope " – an erudite and charming old man who carries only a thin bamboo wand with a little orange flag as a symbol of his great office, and who walks on his constant travels about India. The greater the man the more simple his life in Hinduism - a hint our Archbishops might well take from the East.

Our audiences were numbered in many hundreds, often in thousands, and microphones with loudspeakers were nearly always necessary to reach all present. Indian audiences have a capacity for listening for hours on end - long after the European delegates were rendered comatose! Three-hour sessions followed by speeches at luncheons and dinners, talks in temples, at Rotary Clubs, medical
associations, universities, and press conferences were our lot through the weeks.

Among the distinguished Indian speakers were Mrs. Rukmini Devi Arundale, M.P., Chairman of The All India Reception Committee, who visited all the centres with us and conducted many of the sessions, always giving a balanced outlook on the many aspects of vegetarianism;. Mr. M. A. Ayyangar, Speaker of the Lok Sabha (the Indian House of Commons); Mr. Morarji Desai, Minister of
Commerce and Industry, one of the more brilliant figures in the Indian Government; Dr. Sampurnanand, Chief Minister of the United Provinces; Sardar Mohan Singh; Mr. J. N. Lal, Bihar Minister of Animal Husbandry; Mr. Shanti Prasad lain, a well known industrialist and managing director of The Times of India; Mr. S. Prakasa, the Governor of Bombay; Dr. V. K. R. V. Rao, Vice-Chancellor of Dethi Hindu University; Mr. C. Rajagopalachari, who was an intimate friend of Mahatma Gandhi; and many others too numerous to mention here.

PERHAPS one of our most encouraging experiences was to be received by a large party of Namdhari Sikhs, a sect which has been strictly vegetarian for many generations - a finer body of men could not be found anywhere - extraordinarily handsome, including many stalwart six-footers, happy and with brilliant minds. We were lavishly entertained by their second Guru, His Holiness Sri Satguru Partap Singhji Maharaj, in Delhi. It may not be out of place to mention that now we are receiving reports that processed foods have been reaching the Hunzas and physical deterioration has been, noted among this vegetarian tribe (which is not now strictly vegetarian),  the Namdhari Sikhs can be authoritatively quoted as being among the most outstanding physical specimens anywhere. These people were in the forefront of non-co-operation with the British, and even raised the flag of, Independence before the so-called Indian Mutiny - many gave their lives in the rigours of solitary confinement, suffering the lashes of authority, neither asking for nor receiving mercy. It was touching to be whole-heartedly welcomed by them. Indeed, as General. Carriappa pointed out to the editor, "There is no feeling against the British - did you not notice that the ovation given to you, as the British Representative, was more enthusiastic than to other nationals?"

Indian dancing, music and yogi demonstrations, were among our entertainments. We visited endless temples - shoeless and cautiously in some, though the Jain temples were always spotless. We did our best to sit cross legged through periods of agony as we envied our Indian friends their natural Buddhic posture - we hope our constant fidgeting and movement to relieve outraged knee joints will be forgiven. We visited ancient ruins and magnificent forts and, of course, the Taj Mahal, the exquisite beauty of which baffles description.

We saw sacred cows in the streets, buffalo carts, poverty in extreme forms. We coped with beggars, snake and mongoose charmers; long hours - sometimes two nights and two days - in, trains, perspiring and dust-covered.  We saw the panorama of India-immense flat plains with strange crops - millet, lentils, sugar cane, bananas, coconut palms; rice in every stage of growth, for about three crops are taken in rotation every year; the ceaseless struggle for water with men and beasts toiling at wells all through the day. Later, as we flew from Cochin after a few days' rest with a tea planter in the Nilgiris mountains, we saw the vast wastes of the Deccan with tiny bands of cultivation following the rivers. We talked with those full of energy and hope for the future; with those who spoke darkly of Communism; we heard of graft and corruption in high places, we heard the laments of shop-keepers and industrialists starved of need imports, and saw the sheaves of triplicated forms needed to place a simple internal order; of new and original types of taxation - yet our abiding impression is of a happy people with a pronounced strata of gentleness - even the beggars laughed with us when repulsed with a laugh.

INDIA has its problems. Vast and seemingly insoluble problems. But there is no doubt  that India has a great contribution to make in world affairs. At its heart is the principle of Ahimsa, deeply rooted. It has a cultural background to which the whole world is indebted. In its philosophies and outlook on life India has everything for Man's intellectual and spiritual needs-if its people can hold these in face of "westernization" it will be truly great.

The 15th World Vegetarian Congress has stirred the nation. There is no doubt about this. We can only hope that immediate action will be taken to consolidate the gains made.

As may well be imagined hundreds of speeches were made during the sessions at Bombay, Delhi, Patna, Benares, Bodh Gaya, Calcutta, and Madras. In this issue of World Forum we can only give a few of the manuscripts-many are not yet available. The European and American speakers fulfilled their duties admirably, but since their points are already familiar to the majority of our readers we prefer to report the very fine contributions made by our distinguished Indian friends.

Long Live India,

Geoffrey L. Rudd

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