The ancient Indian ideal of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family) has come to represent India’s universal and holistic worldview, promoting global harmony and unity. As India assumed the Presidency of the powerful G20 forum in late 2022, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam Indian culture was chosen as the summit’s theme, underscoring India’s commitment to inclusive development and indicative of its growing leadership on the world stage.
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam meaning finds deep roots in India’s Vedic scriptures and has been integral to its cultural ethos and spiritual values for millennia. Its universal brotherhood and oneness essence resonates with the urgent need for global cooperation and collective action to solve shared challenges in the 21st century.
As the world grapples with widening inequalities, social fragmentation, climate crisis, and geopolitical tensions, the Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam Indian culture ideal offers a humanistic vision of unity, tolerance, and shared destiny.
Meaning and Origin of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam meaning comprises two Sanskrit words – “Vasudha,” meaning earth, and “Kutumbakam” meaning family. It means “the whole world is one single family.”
The concept is derived from the ancient Indian text Maha Upanishad, part of the Vedic scriptures dating back over 3000 years. The precise shloka reads:
“अयं बंधुरायं नेति गणना लघुचेतसां उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्”
“Ayam bandhurayam neti ganana laghuchetasam udaracharitanam tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam”
This translates to:
“Only small men discriminate saying: One is a relative; the other is a stranger. For those who live magnanimously, the entire world constitutes but a single family.”
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam in Ancient Indian Texts
References to the Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam Indian culture abound in seminal Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain texts composed centuries ago, highlighting the universality of this ethos.
The Mahabharata, Ramayana, Vishnu Purana, Hitopadesha, Panchatantra, and other ancient stories emphasize the oneness of existence using the “world as family” analogy. Lord Krishna explains this view in the Bhagwad Gita (Chapter 6, Verse 29) as he elucidates the spiritual path:
सर्वभूतस्थमात्मानं सर्वभूतानि चात्मनि |
ईक्षते योगयुक्तात्मा सर्वत्र समदर्शन: || 29||
“Such is the greatness of those who possess this wisdom that they see no difference between a gentle brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog, or a litter carrier.”
Ancient Buddhist and Jain literature also echo the same sentiment. The Metta Sutra evokes the expansive spirit of loving-kindness towards all beings, as does the Jain Namokar Mantra, conveying respect for all creatures in existence. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam meaning has been an integral part of diverse Indic philosophies for ages.
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Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam in the Indian Freedom Struggle
In the modern period, Mahatma Gandhi expressed this ideal in his words and deeds. He put forth the mantra: “Hindu-Muslim-Sikh-Isaai, Aapas mein hai bhai bhai” (Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians are all brothers). His relentless efforts to unite India’s diverse communities during the freedom struggle were inspired by the Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam meaning.
Gandhi ji saw Indians as children of Mother India, equally entitled to live in harmony. He valued simplicity, non-violence, and community spirit as pathways to realize this ideal. His emphasis on truth, ethics, and coexistence resonates deeply with the ancient Indian dictum of “the world as one family.”
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Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: Relevance in Contemporary Times
In current times marked by identity politics, xenophobia, and discord, the Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam ethic offers a refreshingly universal, humanistic, and holistic approach to humanity’s shared problems and collective future.
It transcends narrow divisions based on race, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or economic status. It answers the fundamental human quest for harmony and meaning in diversity. It aligns perfectly with the United Nations’ founding vision of global cooperation and multilateralism for peace, human rights, and sustainable development.
As a culturally pluralistic democracy that built unity from diversity, India is ideally positioned to promote Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam as a governing principle of international relations. India can showcase how shared civilizational values, inclusive economic growth, climate justice, rules-based world order, and mutually beneficial partnerships can foster global solidarity.
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Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam Theme of India’s G20 Presidency
The choice of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam as the theme of the G20 summit in India is a strategic opportunity to present India’s universal and harmony-centric worldview on the global stage. The G20, or Group of 20, is an intergovernmental forum of the world’s major developed and developing economies. It steers global economic governance.
As India hosts G20 meetings across its cities and presides over the Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi in September 2023, it can shape conversations on reimagining globalization for shared prosperity, accelerating sustainable development, safeguarding climate justice, stabilizing the global financial system, ensuring food and energy security, containing terrorism and catalyzing technological transformations.
India can promote Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam Indian culture in each forum as an organizing principle for transparent, democratic, and collaborative international efforts. India’s heritage of diverse communities harmonizing through a unifying culture makes it uniquely qualified to advocate solidarity, empathy, and win-win mindsets in the G20 summit India discourse.
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam Vision at the G20 Summit in India
The choice of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam as the central theme of India’s G20 Presidency reflects the country’s aspiration to provide moral leadership in addressing pressing global challenges.
As Prime Minister Modi stated at the G20 Summit in Bali in November 2022 upon receiving the presidency from Indonesia, the task before the world is to bring back human-centric globalization focused on collective welfare and well-being. The sentiment of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam will guide India as it strives to depoliticize the global supply chain and create an inclusive, ambitious, action-oriented, and decisive agenda.
The year 2023 is critical as countries grapple with the aftereffects of the pandemic, the Ukraine conflict, and monetary tightening in major economies. As India assumes the G20 presidency, it envisions using this platform to promote global solidarity and seek unity through teamwork across groupings like the Global South and Global North.
The extensive consultation process for the G20 summit India agenda setting spanning finance, agriculture, employment, digital economy, health, environment, tourism, etc., reflects a collaborative spirit. The Indian presidency plans to highlight solutions for shared global concerns like food and energy security, women empowerment, technological access, climate resilience, and humanitarian aid.
The theme of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam will underpin India’s thrust on healing, harmony, and hope. Yoga sessions, meditation practices, and India’s cultural repertoire will provide moments of contemplation within the hectic summit schedules. The idea is to remind delegates about the foundational unity of humanity, shared destinies across borders, and the importance of collective action to secure universal interests.
This accords with the Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam philosophy, which speaks to an interconnected world where all living beings strive for balance, justice, and symbiotic partnerships. As the custodian of this ancient ethos, India aims to deploy it proactively during its G20 summit in India to promote multilateralism, ease geo-economic tensions, and foster global solidarity.
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Promoting Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam during India’s G20 Presidency
India can promote the Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam philosophy effectively during the G20 summit in India in the following ways:
- Highlighting Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam in speeches and statements by Indian leaders and delegates at G20 meetings. Citing its historical roots and contemporary relevance.
- Curating cultural performances, yoga sessions, and culinary experiences showcasing India’s heritage of diversity and pluralism for G20 attendees.
- Leveraging India’s growing soft power and media footprint to amplify the message of global harmony. Encouraging thinkers and celebrities to endorse this theme.
- Providing thought leadership on reimagining globalization, climate justice, sustainable development, transparent governance, human security, and inclusive policymaking in alignment with Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
- Spotlighting shared civilizational values that unify humanity and can shape universal ethics for international cooperation. Countering divisive ideologies.
- Co-creating solutions to global challenges through participative and consultative processes, giving voice to marginalized sections like developing countries, women, youth, etc.
- Launching high-impact development cooperation initiatives guided by the Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam ethos of symbiotic partnerships, capacity building, and growth with equity.
- Leveraging networks like BRICS, SCO, IORA, and India’s wide diaspora to build consensus and momentum around this inclusive worldview.
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Key Elements of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam Worldview
Some salient features of the Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam approach relevant to global governance are:
- Recognizing the interdependence and interconnectedness of all nations, communities, and living organisms on the planet, which is our common home. Appreciating shared risks, responsibilities, and destiny.
- Commitment to mutual understanding, empathy, harmony, trust-building, and non-violence in resolving conflicts. Deploying cultural diplomacy and soft power.
- Fairness, justice, and level playing field in international trade, investment, and development partnerships. Economic inclusion of marginalized regions like Africa.
- Climate justice and equitable clean energy transition enabling sustainable lifestyles. Eco-friendly circular economies.
- Human security and well-being are the goals of policymaking. Focus on health, jobs, education, women empowerment, and digital access.
- Fluid and decentralized global governance networks. Openness, transparency, and democratization of multilateral institutions like the UN, IMF, World Bank, etc.
- Unity in diversity. Respecting pluralism of civilizations, faiths, and lifestyles. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam offers an inclusive roadmap for the G20 summit India to restore multilateralism, reframe contested narratives of the Global North and Global South, and reorient the global agenda from geostrategy towards shared human priorities.
Manifestation in India’s Foreign Policy
Indian leaders have invoked Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam to emphasize engaged, consultative, and non-hegemonic diplomacy that advances win-win development cooperation. It shaped India’s leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War era.
Prime Minister Modi has proactively propagated India’s spiritual heritage to position India as a net security provider espousing universal interests and humanist values. His advocating International Yoga Day, establishing the International Solar Alliance and Gift a Vaccine program, and launching the Mission LiFE climate initiative exemplify this soft power outreach. The Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam theme gives this cultural diplomacy a coherent direction.
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Application in India’s Foreign Policy
India has often used Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam as a guiding principle in its foreign policy messaging, even as it has pursued pragmatic self-interest strategically.
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is a Guiding Principle
Officials invoke this philosophy to emphasize India’s non-hegemonic, non-interventionist, and non-expansionist approach to international relations. It signals India’s desire for friendly relations and win-win partnerships with all major powers and regions.
Key Initiatives Reflecting Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam Ethos
- Promoting conflict resolution and nuclear disarmament to reduce war risks. Voicing moderation on global forums.
- Furthering South-South cooperation through capacity-building projects across Asia and Africa. Offering lines of credit and grants.
- Leading the Non-Aligned Movement and G77 grouping by speaking for developing countries’ rights.
- Setting up the International Solar Alliance and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure to support sustainable development.
- Providing humanitarian aid and dispatching Peacekeeping Forces to conflict zones. Engaging in disaster relief globally.
- Launching Mission LiFE, Gift a Vaccine, and other initiatives for climate action and global health security.
- Shaping global norms on ocean governance, cybersecurity, and terrorism by bridging North-South differences.
- Leveraging soft power via yoga, Indian philosophy, films, cuisine, traditional medicine, music, and spiritual heritage.
The Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam worldview has thus broadly inspired India’s internationalism, development partnerships, leadership of the developing world, and ethics-based diplomacy.
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Criticism and Limitations
Skeptics argue that Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is too idealistic for application in international relations, which are driven by military and economic power play among self-interested nation-states.
They contend India must pursue hard realpolitik, focusing on territorial sovereignty, geopolitical leverage, trade surpluses, and military capacity to advance its national interests. Such critics caution against overly moralistic foreign policy lacking strategic direction.
However, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam provides an ethical compass for Indian diplomacy even as the country builds comprehensive national power. By elevating the universal interests of humanity and steering conversation towards shared civilizational values, India can shape a 21st-century global order centered on human security and planetary sustainability.
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We, As a Family, Shaping Our Future
The Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam philosophy of oneness epitomizes the tremendous wisdom in India’s ancient culture. As an aspirational ideal and governing ethic, it remains refreshingly relevant. G20 Summit India in 2023 offers a historic chance to promote this universal message at a fractured global juncture.
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam provides a healing vision to fashion an interconnected world, navigating shared risks collectively. Its humanistic essence can help refocus our worldview from “us versus them” to “we the people,” as the UN Charter expresses. Its emphasis on symbiotic partnership aligns with the pressing need for just, decentralized, and eco-centric development.
At the dawn of India’s 77th year of independence, the timeless Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam philosophy rings as true as ever. It remains a beacon of hope and unity in divisive times. As India hosts the G20 Presidency, it has an opportunity to lead by example and bring the world together as one family, rising above differences to craft a shared future.
By promoting inclusive development, climate justice, human security, global governance reforms, and soft power diplomacy, India can champion Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam to reimagine international cooperation based on shared civilizational values and our common humanity.