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In India many Government Institutions, agencies, Judicial Bodies etc use mottos from religious texts primarily Hindu texts like Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads etc.

Does this violate concept of secularism followed in India ?

Some mottos -

  • Supreme Court - यतो धर्मस्ततो जयः (Yato Dharmas Tato Jayaḥ) [from Mahabharata ] (translation: ""Where there is Dharma, there will be Victory" Dharma is a concept of central importance in Indian philosophy and religion that has multiple meanings in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. More idiomatically, but less exactly, "the righteous will be victorious")

  • National motto - सत्यमेव जयते (Satyameva Jayate) [from Mudaka Upanishad ] (translation: "Truth alone triumphs")

  • Research and Analysis Wing - धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः (Dharmō rakṣati rakṣitaḥ) [from Manusmriti ] (translation: "those who protect the Dharma are protected by the Dharma." More idiomatically but less exactly, "those who stand up for what is right will be protected by the righteous")

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  • In the US, we have laws regarding the separation of Church and State, yet we write on nearly all our money "In God We Trust". A required line in many courts is "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole [...] so help you God"?
    – Ron Beyer
    Feb 28, 2020 at 18:31
  • @RonBeyer: I'm pretty sure the requirement is unconstitutional.
    – MSalters
    Feb 28, 2020 at 18:35
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    @RonBeyer you only swear to the (Christian) God in US courts if you want to. If you don’t want to you make an affirmation where you simply promise to “tell the truth ...”
    – Dale M
    Feb 28, 2020 at 22:24
  • Translations in the question of the mottos would help provide an answer. Plenty of sacred texts have statements in them that aren't inherently religious, so it depends upon what they say. A statement that translates as "The sun rose" wouldn't be inherently religious even if it is a quote from a religious text. "Shiva is a great god", in contrast, would be obviously non-secular.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 8, 2021 at 19:43
  • Sanskrit itself is not objectionable. It is the parent language of the Indo-Aryan languages spoken by 78.05% of Indians and a liturgical language of the lion's share of speakers of other languages in India including the the Dravidian languages spoken by 19.64% of Indians. Languages spoken by the remaining 2.31% of the population belong to the Austroasiatic, Sino–Tibetan, Tai–Kadai and a few other minor language families and isolates. English is the only other language with such a national reach and is a colonist's language not native to India.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 8, 2021 at 21:07

2 Answers 2

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Art. 25 of the Indian Constitution says (in part)

  1. Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.

But,

  1. Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law

regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;

providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.

The preamble does also declare that India is a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic, but this is not a clearly-enforceable article. There is no legal requirement that government action be entirely devoid of consideration for religion. What the law says is that the government must respect the rights of individuals to practice their own religion, but that does not preclude favoring a particular religion, e.g. using Hindu texts in official contexts. So far, the courts have not rules that government action must be entirely devoid of religious reference (for example the various Hindu family laws vs. Muslim family laws are not unconstitutional).

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None of the examples of mottos given in the question appear to violate the principle of secularism.

While they are drawn from religious texts, they do not have any necessary metaphysical content (although one could imagine a metaphysical reading of them), and the term Dharma used in two of them is not specific to one religious faith and is a general philosophical concept shared by many religions and philosophies of South Asia (with the additional desirable feature of being a concept central to educated thought in India while being entirely non-Western).

The use of Sanskrit itself is also not objectionable. It is the parent language of the Indo-Aryan languages spoken by 78.05% of Indians and a liturgical/religious language of the lion's share of speakers of other languages in India (including the the Dravidian languages spoken by 19.64% of Indians, and much of the remaining 2.31% of the population who speak languages belonging to the Austroasiatic, Sino–Tibetan, Tai–Kadai and a few other minor language families and isolates).

English is the only other language with such a national reach that can be unifying nationally, and is a colonist's language not native to India, so it is less suitable for an expression of the national identity of India. Any other language commonly spoken in India would not be desirable because it would show favoritism to the speakers of that language in a linguistically diverse nation with fifteen official languages and far more that are commonly spoken.

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