1927 | 11,233,916 words
Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....
[W e shall be glad to review books in all Indian languages and in English, French, and German. Books for review should reach the office at least SIX WEEKS in advance of the day of publication of the Journal.]
The University of Nalanda.–By H. D. Sankalia, M.A., L.L.B. With a preface by the Rev. H. Heras, S. J., St. Xavier's College, Bombay. (Published by B. G. Paul & Co., 12, Francis Joseph St., Madras, 1934. Pages 245, pls. 17 & maps 4. Price Rs. 5.)
The book under review deals with a subject of absorbing interest,–the evolution of a system of education that was available at Nalanda, the famous monastery in Bihar which was the centre of the Mahayanist world in the centuries preceding the downfall of Buddhism in India proper. This system of education, though simple, compared very well with similar systems that characterised Occidental institutions known as ‘city schools,’ ‘stadium generale’ and ‘university.’ The seat of such a simple system was the asrama, the matha and vihara; and Nalanda was one such vihara that stood first ‘as a place which imparts knowledge in all the arts and sciences, and secondly, for a place which holds out invitation to students of every kind from all over the world.’
Tradition associated the name of Nalanda with an episode in the life of the Buddha and with some of his disciples. Probably a monastery, to which the author is inclined to assign the lofty position of ‘an international university,’ existed there from a very early date–how early we are not in a position to determine,–but it was only in the days of the Chinese pilgrims, Hiuen Tsiang and I–Tsing that it appears to have become the centre of Buddhism, a veritable ‘mine of learning’ to which scholars from the entire Buddhist world flocked, a position which it enjoyed till the twelfth century A.D. We hear of pilgrim-students from China, Tibet and Korea, of Magadhan princes and princes from the country around Gazni, sons of nobles from Kanchipuram, Purushapura (Peshawar) and Samatata wending their way to Nalanda in search of knowledge. It was again at Nalanda that the famous Harsha and Balaputradeva, the king of Java and Sumatra, built viharas for students to prosecute their studies. Hiuen Tsiang records that the total number of monks, either belonging to the monastery or strangers residing therein, always reached 10,000 and that ‘within the temple they arrange every day about 100 pulpits, and the students attend these courses without any fail, even for a minute.’ The outside courts that afforded shelter to the students were of four storeys and included the priests’ chambers. Luckily the remains of those buildings have lately been excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India and the site is now called Bargaon or Bargav after a little village of that name not far from Rajagriha, the ancient capital of Magadha. According to Mr. Page ‘its characteristic features are a long range of monasteries on the east side, a similar range of stupas on the west, and a short range of monasteries to bound the area on the south. Down the centre of the site runs an approach avenue, entered, it would seem, from the north.’ The site shows several levels, a succession of structures erected one over the other, but to none of the levels are archaeologists inclined to ascribe a date prior to the 6th century A.D.
After Hiuen Tsiang had left Nalanda, having learnt the Yogasastra and carrying an excellent impression of the university which, according to the author, is ‘one that would make any institution proud,’ there came about 57 pilgrims from China, Japan and Korea, most of whom went to Nalanda for study. Some came by sea and others by land. These preceded I–Tsing who speaks about them. I–Tsing came by sea or by what is called the ‘southern route’ and stayed at Nalanda for ten years. Though nothing is said about his studies there, we are indebted to him for recording minutely the customs and manners of the priests and the life of the students. And it is these observations that enable us to follow the author’s arguments for choosing to call Nalanda ‘an international university,’ which position it appears to have enjoyed even in the 9th century. The work of the University was not confined to the teaching of students who were within its precincts. Scholars were sent on deputation to distant places like Korea, Japan, China and Ceylon ‘to light the lamp of knowledge in these foreign lands’ and we have the names of luminaries like Kumaravijaya, Gunavarman, Paramartha’ Subhakara Simha, Dharmadeva, and Pou-to-ki-to on record which go to show the international character of the University of Nalanda.
The author has successfully demonstrated in chapter ix that Nalanda was ‘far greater than Monte Cassino, and held a more important position in India than Cluny and Clairvaux in France,’ that ‘what Buddhism did for religion, Nalanda did for learning, and that it was much more than an international university. It was a centre where bhikshus assembled from the four quarters of the world, was an abode of Bodhisattvas well-versed in Tantras and of the eight great holy personages, was a library, and finally it was an emporium supplying the four requisites, medicine to the sick, alms to the beggars, garments to the naked, and shelter to the homeless. It will be easy to agree with the author that ‘it was at once a monastery for the monks to reside, a University, and a library,………a hospital and finally a free institution, catering to all the needs of the poor.’ The golden age of Nalanda formed part of the Pala period, the Pala kings of Bengal having been great patrons of the monastery. The later art of Nalanda belongs to the art of the Pala empire. Tantrism that found a congenial home at Nalanda opened up a new field, viz., art and iconography. Innumerable images found at Nalanda answering the descriptions detailed in the Tantras gave rise to a new school of art, the Nalanda Art or the Pala Art. A comparative study of these images and those found in Java has led scholars to believe that Nalanda exercised a great influence on the religious life in the Malay Archipelago.
The fall of Nalanda is due to many intrinsic causes that precipitated the downfall of Buddhism. Kumarila and Sankara were two of the greatest opponents of the age. Buddhism was hemmed in from all sides, political, moral and philosophical, and ‘only one thing remained to exterminate it,. viz., the annihilation of its visible existence, its abodes, the Buddhist monasteries,’ and this was accomplished by the Mohammedan invader, Bakhtiyar Khilji, at the beginning of the 13th century. Many a monastery fell, chief of them being Nalanda, Vikramasila and Odantapura.
The author has done his task well and deserves the thanks of all for his valuable contribution. A word of praise is due to the publishers, B. G. Paul and Co. for the excellent get-up, faultless letter-press and clear blocks of photographs that the publication under review reveals.
T. N. RAMACHANDRAN
Bulletin of League of Nations Teaching No. I.–(Published by the Secretariat, League of Nations, Geneva.)
This Bulletin affords very interesting and instructive reading. Prof. Gilbert Murray leads off with a characteristically clear and cogent paper on ‘International education Today.’ M. Jean Piaget follows with a weighty utterance on ‘Is Education for Peace Possible?’ Jose Castillejo of the Madrid University writes on ‘Education for Peace,’ This is by no means a chance grouping. In the first of these papers Prof. Murray draws attention to how much education is being made the means of propaganda. Swords are rattling everywhere in Europe and life is being stampeded by battle cries, if not precisely for active war yet for an internal organisation which, in its technique and atmosphere, is so near to open hostilities. The old political values–liberty and equality–have never been so much in disgrace as now. They are looked upon as things fit only for doddering grannies to talk about. Power, centralization, are the motives of fashionable political craft. In favour of these ideas opinion is being canvassed and the children are being taught accordingly. Naturally the League and its ardent promoters are alarmed. They affirm the importance of education and how education can shape the mind of the young into a sober view of things. Of course to a hasty mind this may very well look like Nero fiddling when. Rome was burning. But an altered motive and method of education can produce results only slowly. The results may not be instantaneous but they will be lasting.
The Bulletin contains an excellent resume of the work of the League, and its interest is greatly enhanced by the three wireless talks given by Prof. Anesaki of the Tokio University on ‘East and West,’ Prof. Shotwell of the Columbia University on ‘International Outlook in the Social Sciences,’ and Prof. Radhakrishnan on ‘The World Challenges the League of Nations,’ respectively. Indian readers will doubtless feel greatly and specially interested in one of the best talks ever given by their great countrymen. The Bulletin ends with a few official documents which are just what official documents are, very dull but very useful. We do not know if the League could afford to broadcast these bulletins amongnst all schools, colleges, public reading rooms and libraries. But every attempt should be made to reach as large a circle as possible, for the League may not in itself be a positive good but it seems to be the only rational alternative to chaos and carnage.
Enchantments.–By V. N. Bhushan, M.A. (The Ananda Academy, Masulipatam.)
In the collection of these poems under the present name ‘Enchantments,’ Mr. Bhushan sustains his reputation for ardent feeling and fluent and sometimes even eloquent expression. To preserve a distinctly Indian atmosphere in imagery and sentiment–and express oneself in English verse–is not an easy thing; and even so Mr. Bhushan has achieved success. There is no point in comparing a poet’s work with that of another and giving him a rank. Mr. Bhushan may not belong to the order of the masters. But he feels sincerely and sings sweetly, and that is enough for most of us.
Kabir’s life and his religious tenets have been a fruitful field of research for scholars both Eastern and Western. The author of the present monograph with his knowledge of Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati and Persian is well qualified to shed new light on a subject, old but eternally new. In his preface he promises the public two more volumes on Kabir, one dealing with his religion, the other dealing with his poetry. The volume under review deals with the biographical details of Kabir, and it has been the author’s endeavour to reconstruct the historical image of the medieval saint rescued from the outgrowths of superstitious myths. Some of his finding’s run counter to the current notions on the subject, and he joins issue with such scholars as Pandit Shyam Sundar Das and Prof. Keay. The author places the fullest reliance on the Sikh sources and his knowledge of the Adi Granth enables him to supply the corrective in several contexts. His conclusions can by no means be said to be final; but such as they are, they may be mentioned here. Kabir was born anywhere between 1360 and 1398 and he died between 1420 and 1449. He was therefore posterior to Ramananda and anterior to Nanak. Kabir was hot a direct disciple of Ramananda, nor was Nanak Kabir’s disciple. The Goshtis that are on record between such notables as Nanak, Kabir, Goraknath and Dharm Das are all later manufactures by the respective followers to glorify their own Gurus in particular. Kabir Panth was organised in the latter half of the sixteenth century after the model of the Sikh Panth.
This is the picture the author gives of the historical Kabir: ‘A Mahommedan of character, independence and conviction; simple in habits, merciful to all, extremely hospitable; rather pugnacious, frank to a fault, assimilative; genuinely fond of a retired, contemplative life, without any ambitions of guruship, picked up and idolized by the hero- worshipping, superstitious and tolerant Hindu and dropped by the intolerant Moslem; we bow to him for all these human virtues; but we refuse to accept him as what the Hindu worshippers have made him out to be, a fallen Brahmin disciple of a Brahmin Vaishnava, who through the grace of his Guru rose to be the greatest mystic of medieval India.’
The form of this monograph is rather to be regretted. It is far from being a connected account of Kabir’s life as understood by the author. Several sections are more or less critical notes on published and unpublished records. Some of them could have been conveniently reduced to footnotes. But there is no doubt that, on the whole, the book is an important contribution to Kabir literature and the public may await the other volumes with Interest.
Flower Offerings.–By Prabhakar R. Kaikini, with a foreword by Prof. Armando Menezes. (Pages 40. Price Re. 1.)
Ever since Rabindranath Tagore won his world-wide renown, the number of young Indians who seek to realise their literary being in the English language has been on the increase. But prose-poetry, which was a profound symbol of Tagore’s triumph, has been in almost all other cases a measure of despair. They have, as Prof. Menezes points out, been forced to ‘grapple with the terrors of a foreign tongue, swelling the tears of a poet with the tears of a scholar.’ Kaikini’s ‘Flower Offerings’ is a collection of early efforts. Tagore is his spiritual master. The very ground and the seedlings of his poetry are derived therefrom. There are far too many echoes of Rabindranath and the very name ‘Flower Offerings’ (Pushpanjali) is an echo of ‘Gitanjali.’ Here is a good instance (page 19):
‘What are you doing here in this fearful lonely corner, girl?’ I asked. ‘When the busy throng of buyers subsides, when the merry ducks call no more and vanish into the cool shelter of that yonder grove, when the angry maiden of the noon lies asleep after her passion is gone, when the boatman leaves his ferry to take his food, I come out of my hiding place and cast about this net to catch my long lost glorious dreams of love and life.’
But both language and thought seem to fall off in lines such as these: ‘The free souls enjoy free flights of joy in the wideness of infinity reigned over by Thy mercy, O my Lord.’ In general, the poems are marked by a sincere and expectant spirit, though the author may not have cultivated in full that universalization of being which can address the Divine in terms at once familiar and intimate. The book is adorned with a frontispiece by Pulin Behari Dutt and is dedicated to Srimathi Sarojini Devi.
G. V. S.
Valmiki Ramayana–Condensed in the Poet’s own words. Text in Devanagari and English translation by Vidyasagara Vidyavachaspati Prof. P. P. S. Sastri, B.A. (Oxon) M.A.– (Published by G. A. Natesan & Co., Madras. Price Re. 1-4-0.)
It is well-nigh impossible to condense such an intensely mellifluous poem like the Ramayana whose every word is soakled in honey, so to say, and allows no scope for choice. But in these days of hurry and light reading, condensed editions of the classics have become a necessity. And Messrs. G. A. Natesan & Co., deserve to be congratulated on this score for giving the public a beautiful condensed edition of the epic.
The task of abridging texts is in itself an onerous one and it is even more so in the case of the Ramayana. There are passages in the work of Valmiki that are the special favourites of scholars, but no abridgment can include all of them. If a great number of the favourite passages of every scholar find a place in the abridgment, it can be counted as a success. Judged by these standards and the difficulty of condensing, the present edition must be rated a real success. The value of the edition would however have been enhanced if the errata of the Sanskrit matter had been more thorough, and a few at least of the exquisite descriptions of Valmiki, like the Pampavarnana, Jaladagamavarnana, Saradvarnana, Lankavarnana and Pushpakavarnana, had been included in the text. As it is, it appears as if narrative interest has alone been retained at the expense of real poetic beauty. Many incidents from Raffia’s life that ought to find a place in the narrative are left out. It is impossible to think of Rama’s story without the incident of Ahalya’s release from her curse. The Dhanus (bow) is not mentioned as Siva’s. The description of jubilant Ayodhya on the eve of Rama’s coronation and Kaikeyi’s offer of bark garments to Rama and Sita in the presence of Dasaratha, his whole harem, Vasishta etc., could have been included. Viradha’s incident should have found a place in the book. Similarly Rama’s jest with Surpanakha. There is no mention of Sarabhanga or Sabari. The tests to which Rama was put by Sugriva find no place in the text. How Lakshmana brought Sugriva to his senses in the Sarat season is not mentioned. Though stories like that of Svayamprabha or Sampati admit of omission, others like the story of Visvamitra or the descent of the Ganges, Hanuman’s encounter with Simhika, Lanka and Akshaputra, deserve narration. Though some such incidents have been left out, the omission has been more than balanced by a judicial choice of happy passages full of moral teaching and worldly wisdom. It is hoped that a future edition will include these incidents as well. Pandit A. M. Srinivasacharya has achieved a really difficult task.
The translation of the verses in English is another feature of this book and makes it all the more welcome. There are those who, though genuinely interested in a study of the epic, are handicapped for want of good translations. The rendering in English is simple and lucid and helps an understanding of the text. Prof. P. P. S. Sastri has done a real service by giving this translation with the text. The Rt. Hon. V. S. Srinivasa Sastri contributes a charming preface. It is a book that should find a place in every Indian’s pocket, to be read and enjoyed at all times. If it were only priced cheaper it would surely reach a wider public and make its mark like the edition of the Bhagavadgita as a popular book. The purpose of this book would be more than achieved if it serves as an introduction to a study of the original text of Valmiki and ‘inspires in its readers,’ as Professor P. P. S. Sastri desires, ‘a yearning to live up to the ideals set forth, and creates a desire for a fuller acquaintance with the rich treasures of Sanskrit poetry.’
The Ramayana Diary.–(Published by the Sanskrit Academy, Madras. Printed at the M. L. J. Press. Price As. 8.)
‘He who with devotion hears (recited) a quarter of a verse or even a word of the Ramayana attains the place of Brahma and is perpetually honoured by Him.’
That is the promise held out to the readers and the hearers of the sacred epic. The Ramayana Diary, which contains a beautiful collection of didactic and epigrammatic verses, more than supplies an excellent popular means for attaining the fruit held out in the lines given above.
The book opens with a significant ‘Good Morning’ appropriately styled ‘Ramayana-suprabhata’ inspiring us to do our daily godly work. The Diary is a splendid means of realising the ideal given in the preface, ‘he wakes well, who wakes upon good and inspiring ideas.’ The contents reveal to us a variety of subjects most judiciously chosen and arranged. The pages of the Diary can be ransacked, and nowhere can it be said that a verse or a line other than a worthy gem of Valmiki fit to be retained and carefully guarded in the treasury of every human heart; has found its way into the book. Every possessor of the Diary would do well to get by heart the two or three lines that are given on every page that denotes one day of a month. It is not a Diary for any particular year but is a common one for all time. The excellent printing and get up make the Diary most inviting and the Sanskrit Academy has done a real service to the public by issuing such a beautiful brochure. The value of such a popular book as this would certainly be enhanced by the addition (which is hoped would be made in a future edition) of a lucid English translation of the Sanskrit matter. It is hoped that there would be no dearth of Indian pockets with the lovely Ramayana Diary nestling in them.
Copies can be had of the Hon. Secretary, The Sanskrit Academy, ‘The Ashrama,’ Luz Church Road,. Mylapore, Madras.
This collection of literary essays by Mr. Murty is a sign of the awakening of interest in literature and art among the Andhra public. Criticism has advanced considerably since the days of Viresalingam and Venkataraya Sastry. The journals have thrown open their columns to a discussion of literary topics, and talented scholars like Mr. Murty have eagerly availed themselves of this opportunity to educate their countrymen on the right lines. Mr. Murty is a linguist of high attainments; he has made a special study of Hindi, Bengali and Sanskrit literatures. He is acquainted with the methods of literary criticism in the West. In addition to all this, he is gifted with imagination and sympathy. There is a slight tendency towards verbosity and, in certain places, he is obscure. But these do not touch the substance of his achievement as a critic. We commend this book with the utmost pleasure. Sir S. Radhakrishnan contributes an appreciative Foreword.