The Indian Constitution is a long and complicated document that one can spend a lifetime getting to know. But what if someone asked you to describe it in a nutshell?
We would say: Imagine the Constitution as a thali. Yes, a thali meal with several distinct components, but ultimately, served on the same plate.
Like the dal baati churma, a dish of the common people of Rajasthan that reached the Mughal court during the time of Akbar.
A traditional Rajasthani thali with dal baati churma (Image by Niranjan Gohane licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)
The baati was a homegrown dish of the people of Mewar, literally born of the land and baked in the sands of the desert.
Like many parts of our Constitution that were inspired from various foreign legal systems, the dal was an addition brought to Mewar by traders from the Gupta empire. In fact, the panchmel dal that is usually had with the baati, is a cohesive mixture of five different dals.
The churma, it is said, was created when a cook poured sugarcane juice into some baatis and, realising that these made the baatis softer, created a new dish out of it. And even the Mughal cooks made changes to it, but like the Indian Constitution that has been able to accept amendments and interpretations over many years, the soul of dal baati churma has remained the same.
So, what are the components of this thali that is our Constitution?
The Constitution proclaims India a Democratic Republic
It guarantees Fundamental Rights
It can be amended
It contains Directive Principles of State Policy
It provides for an Independent Judiciary
It gives India a Parliamentary System of government
It details a Federal Structure with a strong Centre
So that’s the Indian Constitution in a nutshell. Or, shall we say, in a thali? It is an international thali that has taken the best bits from other Constitutions from around the world, but it is still a uniquely Indian preparation.
We know, we know… there is a lot more in the Constitution; but you really can’t expect the entire Constitution to be served up to you in a platter.