English Essay on “Veneration for Antiquity” for School, College Students, Long and Short English Essay, Speech for Class 8, 9, 10, 12 and Competitive Exams.

Veneration for Antiquity

Antiquity possesses a charm for thinking and unthinking people alike, and the instinct to respect what is old is inherent in human nature. It may be that, as the poet says,—

The Past will always win

A glory from its being far;

or, as some other thinkers suppose, that the golden age is left behind in the past, when everything was good and perfect, and men were happier than they ever can be at the present day. Whatever the reason may be, the fact is undeniable that antiquity evokes feelings of reverence in all people, except the most narrow-minded. The question is, what is the best way of showing this reverence ? And how far should it go ?

The best way to show reverence to antiquity is not by blindly adopting old manners and customs simply because they are old, but by retaining those that are beneficial and rejecting those that are harmful. Manners and customs originate with the needs of the time, and are adapted to the habits of the people of their age in a wonderful degree. It is clear, therefore, that as the habits of the people change, as a new age dawns upon a country, old manners and customs must he modified to suit the new conditions, and in some cases must be abolished altogether; otherwise no progress is possible. To try to perpetuate an old institution for no other reason than that it has come down from the past, is to push our veneration for antiquity to a very undesirable extreme.

No country in the world can boast of such a hoary antiquity as, India. There are hundreds of old customs and institutions of which it is impossible to trace the origin, or to give the date of their first beginning. The dust of ages is lying thick upon them, and historical research has vainly striven to sweep it off. No one, for instance, knows for certain when exactly the caste system arose in India; and yet the caste system is a modern institution compared with some of the still more ancient pilgrimages. Are we to respect these, or reject them ? The answer to this question cannot be given in one word. The caste system, as it was originally devised, was made more and more complex in each succeeding age, until the quadruple division of the people has been split into a hundred castes and denominations, each with sub-castes and sub-denominations of its own. Similarly, out of the few ancient pilgrimages—at the most, four–there have now sprung up several hundred, each claiming a sanctity of its own, and each giving birth to others, so that already their total number is beyond the power of a single individual to visit in a single life-time. The growth in the case of both is but the natural result of time. Divisions among a sect or caste are bound to arise as soon as the number of its adherents goes beyond a certain limit. New sacred places, similarly, are bound to spring up as the history of a people runs on its course. The modern Indian is too puzzled with these things to take up a clear definite attitude towards these ancient things. But he should in no case lose his reverence for these ancient things that have come down to us from the remotest antiquity. Time has hallowed them, although it has shrouded their origin, and even their significance in some cases.

But while we reverence the past, we should never allow ourselves to neglect the present. The present is a creature of the past; it derives a glory from the past, but that glory is apt to be tarnished unless the people of the present try to maintain it. India is believed to have had a brilliant civilisation in the past, —a civilisation that is sometimes set above the western civilisation of the modern age; but no attempt is made to prove such a comparison. The proper thing would be, not merely to boast of our having had a glorious past, but to find out what exactly we had then which we have now lost. Mere boasting does no good; on the contrary, it tends to make us rely more strongly on the past than on the present.

Not Heaven itself upon the Past hath power,

That which has been has been, and we have had our hour :

That is all very true, but there is no reason why we should rest content with it, and cease to strive in the present, to make the present still more brilliant, still more glorious. That veneration of the past which is blind to the present, which lead us to believe that the past was the golden age, which makes us think that India has attained the zenith of her glory in the old days, compared with which the present days are unworthy and degenerate,—this sort of veneration is no veneration at all, because it tends to make us unprogressive. That veneration, also, which induces us to praise everything belonging to past times, to try to perpetuate everything that has come down from ancient times, regardless whether it is suited or unsuited to our own days is, again, no veneration, but blind conservatism, leading only to deadly stagnation. That veneration, again, which actuates us to look down upon other nations, merely because they are a later growth, or which makes us call them barbarians, simply because their civilisation differs from ours, is also no veneration, but spiteful intolerance. The true veneration of our antiquity is that which teaches us to respect the past and use the present to the utmost of its capacities; to adapt old things to new conditions; to recognise, respect, and adopt all the good that we notice in all the other races of the world, to feel a love for them as branches of one common human family scattered over the globe, and to cooperate with them in the common cause of the progress of the world.

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