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....
Babu Bhagwandas is an eminent scholar who always exhibits in his writings striking originality of thought and presentation. The present work is an expansion in book form of an article contributed to "The Contemporary Indian Philosophy," edited by Sir S. Radhakrishnan and J. H. Muirhead, under the caption "Atma Vidya or the Science of the Self." Mr. Bhagwandas has been a life-long student of Indian Philosophy and Literature, and has striven to evolve the main principles which underlie the comprehensive and carefully thought-out ‘philosophy of life’ of the Hindu seers and thinkers. The pivotal concept, according to Mr. Bhagwandas, around which these principles revolve, is the Science of the Self or Atma Vidya. As it has a practical bearing on life, its truth and validity are further affirmed by the autobiographical sketch given by the author stressing his spiritual experiences.
A careful study of our scriptures brings home to our mind the fact that this Atma Vidya has been evolved by our sages and seers as the central doctrine whose truth has been experienced by the reality of their inner vision. It runs through, permeates and illumines the whole mass of their conceptions and views regarding life, social organisation and ultimate objects. Hence the Gita declares it to be the ‘Raja Vidya,’ the ‘King of all Sciences.’ Mr. Bhagwandas has therefore rightly attempted in this work to give a succinct, logical and scientific exposition of the application of this truth of Atma Vidya in all the different spheres of human activity. In spite of the "many mannerisms" alluded to by the author himself, the reader is enabled to appreciate fully the profundity of his thought. Many scholars and thinkers have written upon the various aspects of the principles and ideas which have formed the foundation of the great fabric of the ancient civilisation of India. Many and varied have been the views profounded by them in regard to their historical evolution and their effect upon the progress of India. There have been sharp difference of opinion and keen controversy among the educated Indians themselves in regard to these matters. Hence naturally a work like this is apt to provoke much thought and sometimes even controversy, but the critical acumen of the author is so effective that it is not easy to differ from him. Further, he has striven to enunciate the main principles behind Indian thought which one can perceive after a careful sifting and analysis which steers clear of the degeneracies, limitations and excrescences which may have modified them in their application to the facts of Indian life in the course of centuries. Every one of us will, therefore, agree that a re-statement in the language of modern thought of this central doctrine evolved by our sages and seers is absolutely necessary at the present day. The author, as a great theosophist, has had the advantage of a close and intimate acquaintance with the literature of the other great religions of the world and has naturally therefore tried to picture in appropriate places the unity underlying the fundamental conceptions of all religions and ‘philosophies of life’ evolved by the great thinkers throughout the world. In his characteristic way, Mr. Bhagwandas tries to derive support for his conclusions from the root meanings of the words used to connote the main ideas in all the literatures on the subject.
Our Cultural Heritage–By Dr. Ishwara Topa (Kitabistan, Allahabad. Rs. 3.)
This is a well-meaning, but ill-arranged and ill-written book. It purports to show the evolution of important aspects of Indian culture under the pressure of political and religious forces through the ages. The author has a surprisingly tedious way of labouring the obvious; while his attempts at original ‘interpretation’ or commentary have nothing but their cocksureness to commend them. Kicks and bouquets are lavished with unthinking prodigality on the historical processes of the past. Nowhere in the book is there a specific answer to the question: What is Indian culture? Nor is there any appreciation of the chronological factor in the author’s crescendo of thrice-damned iteration. The attempt to indulge in picturesque writing is unsupported by adequate resources of imagination and scholarship. Consequently the style is woolly in thought and flabby in expression. The learned will be repelled by the manner of the author, while the layman must reel under a sense of most ‘admired’ disorder!
Of the two essays in the volume, one deals with the cultural trends in Ancient India, and the other explains the evolution of Indo-Muslim Kingship. By way of introduction to the first, he says: "It is now a fait accompli (sic!) that, before the advent of the Aryans, Indian civilisation was moulded by the Dravidian factors and influences. The Dravidians were a cultured people who had settled in North-western India . . . . They represented a type of civilisation which had attempted to urbanize life . . . ." This is a fair sample of the author’s treatment of the archaeologist’s tentative theories of proto-history. Then the author traces the conflict between Aryan and Dravidian culminating in the triumph of the latter. The fusion of the two races and cultures is then summarised in the pseudo-scientific jargon considered appropriate by one school of historians at the present day. Then we have the familiar rehash of the text-book versions which have found in the priestly class and the caste system the villains of the piece that have tended to the emasculation of Hindu society. The makers of the Upanishads are described as at once escapists and destroyers of society. It appears that their philosophy exhibited anti-social and anarchic tenaencies; at the same time, this philosophy is said to have left the masses ‘cold.’ Buddhism and Jainism are then claimed to have effected the emancipation of the individual from his thraldom to the priest. Buddha is said to have attempted "in plain and simple language to bring home to the plain and simple people of his times the importance of the transvaluation of values in life"–whatever that might mean. But the wicked priest reasserted his sway over men, notwithstanding Buddha; and our problem today is said to be "to free India from the paralytic efforts of the priestcraft civilisation!"
The second essay deals with Indo-Muslim Kingship. Any discussion of this subject is like the discussion of ‘Snakes in Ice-land.’ There is no such thing at all! The period of Indian history between Ghazni’s looting expeditions and the rise of the Mughals is marked by one simple fact. All the invaders, and so-called kings were merely birds of passage. They had no cultus either politically, culturally or ethically; though they were Islamites, they allowed none of the ideology of their faith to shape their policy or conduct. Four to five centuries of mutual violence, rapine and sporadic dreams of dominion were needed to drill into the invaders minds that the problem of government was not merely to break as many heads as possible, but also to organise civil life. This consciousness dawned only when the rulers made up their minds to stay in the land. There was nothing Indian in the ideas of the Kingship which had a chequered line of development; but there were isolated attempts to give it a Muslim complexion. These can be seen in periods of exceptional internal disorder and repression. The author reads too much of the present into the past, even as jaundiced politicians of today are attempting to transpose too much of the past into the present. These two, between them, only help in misreading the past and in mortgaging the future!
From the point of view of production, the book is a credit to Kitabistan but the price of Rs. 3 is a little too high judged by any standards.
Professor Wadia’s lectures on Zoroaster at Bangalore in 1936 form the basis of this book. The essential features of the religion of Zoroaster have been explained clearly as a protest against the sacrifices and rituals of his day. To Zoroaster the term ‘Deva’ meant an evil spirit and Ahura-mazda is the Supreme God. The prophet was against religious propaganda ed by force. He emphasised that the path to immortality and bliss was a highly moral life; and his God was the God of Righteousness. The later Zoroastrians however developed a complex theology and code of rituals although they did not let the rituals or theology obscure the fundamental principle of purity in thought, word and action. Prof. Wadia points out how mistaken was the popular notion that the Zoroastrian is a Fire worshipper. Fire is only a symbol of God chosen by man to focus his attention upon for worshipping Him. The worship of Fire was an old Aryan custom which the prophet transmuted into the worship of God.
The new religion of Zoroaster was characterised by the high position he gave to woman and the cultivator. Prof. Wadia adopts the dictum that every theistic religion that claims to be ethical must be dualistic, and explains the Zoroastrian religion in the light of that dictum. In the chapter on "Later Zoroastrianism," the Professor explains how the freshness of the faith had been lost through endless excrescences but through them all shines the flash of illumination which came to the prophet and found expression in the emphasis on the cultivation of moral and spiritual ideals instead of a belief in the efficacy of rites and rituals.
Buddha–By Devamitta Dharmapala (Publishers: G. A. Natesan & Co., Madras. Annas 12.)
To this fourth edition, (the first after its author’s death,) is added as an appendix the article on the study of the Buddha Dharma which the author contributed to ‘The Indian Review’ just before his death. Other appendices explain the principal doctrines of the Dharma and include extracts from Asvaghosha’s Buddha-charita and from the Dhammapada, besides extracts from speeches of Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi on the Buddha. The exposition of the life and teachings of the Buddha contained in this handy book, coming as it does from the pen of one of the greatest of modern Buddhist monks, is at once lucid and authoritative. It is interesting to be told that the Buddhism of the people of India is of native origin, that the gods of the Buddhist were the gods of the Brahman, and that the Brahmans and the Sramanas were equally the objects of devout Buddhist charity, and that archaeology reveals to us that one common enemy wrought havoc on both the Buddhist and the Hindu images which existed side by side in ancient places of worship. The venerable Devamitta points out in the introductory chapter other common features between Hinduism and Buddhism. The Buddha came to show the path of righteousness and to destroy the path of error. Enlightenment comes by investigation, says the Buddha, and not by prayer or ritual or sacrifice; Buddhism therefore is a religion of analysis, and prescribes a path to happiness unfettered by religious beliefs. Earnest unswerving effort without looking up to a god or gods characterises the doctrine of the Buddhist, coupled with a faith in the Buddha and other holy ones and in their teachings. The path to Nirvana or supreme Bliss is two-fold–Ekayana for those who concern themselves with the salvation of others, and Hinayana for those who do not so concern themselves; but there is very much in common between the two paths which every aspirant moulds his conduct by.
Phidelu Ragala Dazan–Prose & Poems–By Patabhi (Price As. 6. Copies can be bought of the author, addressed to Sudarsanamahal, Nellore.)
This small volume of prose-poems is perhaps the cleverest thing in modern Telugu literature after Kanyasulkam: I mean, naturally, that it is the cleverest thing in modern Telugu literature after the clever side of Kanyasulkam, for, to be frank, Kanyasulkam is the most uneven piece of art that genius ever perpetrated. There are portions of Kanyasulkam, as the drama develops mechanically, which make one not just yawn but weep. The authentic voice of Gireesam disappears, and Madhuravani somersaults into maudlin sentimentality. In this unbelievable transmutation of the soul of a prostitute, Kanyasulkam descends to the level of dramas like Chintamani and Vipranarayana, so dear to the public of Mr. Sthanam Narasimharao. Kanyasulkam should have been, like Kubla Khan, an unfinished piece. That it happens to be a completed drama is a tragedy of some magnitude to Telugu letters, for it cannot be denied even by its most ardent admirers that the latter part of it is
"Like some poor nigh-related guest
That may not rudely be dismist;
Yet hath outstayed his welcome while,
And tells the jest without the smile."
Phidelu Ragala Dazan is all of a piece. It contains twelve poems each of which is a masterpiece of fine observation, felicity of expression and perfect execution. Whether the poet writes about the season of spring in the City of Madras,
"I have heard that the season of spring
has visited the city of Madras.
Where is this season of spring?
I do not hear the songs of birds.
I only hear the endless uproar of trams and buses.
Is it really the spring?
But, look . . . .
In letters that pierce the eye,
In front of Chellaram’s shop
The Annual Spring Clearance . . . .
Surely, it must be the season of Spring,"
or, whether he compares the traffic policeman to a girl dancing the Bharata Natya, or moonlight in China Bazaar to Badam-kheer, he is always attempting to be clever, and nearly always succeeding. The majority of the poems deal with sophisticated life in Madras: with telephone calls which lead to taxi rides which do not end there. Prostitutes in half-dark recesses of their Mint Street homes, ladies in gold-bordered Mysore sarees, with hand-bags and high-heeled shoes, and certain unfortunate Anglo-Indian girls "who, as consideration for a nine-annas’ seat in a picture-house, yield their surface for the adventure of exploration,"–all flit across the poems, whatever the title or the theme of the poem wherein they occur. There are rare places, just one or two where the verses cease to be merely clever, and attain the serious dignity of poetry. But, generally speaking, cleverness is the only claim of these poems to be noticed. Like all modernist verse in other lands, at least in the first stages of rebellion, these verses too exhibit an anxiety to eschew all conventional metaphors, similes and poetic associations, in order to replace them by the material that modern life supplies. When T. S. Eliot discarded Wordsworth’s description of a quiet evening sky as ‘a nun, breathless with adoration,’ and talked in his turn of ‘a patient etherised upon the table,’ his merit lay, not so much in any immediate effectiveness of his own imagery as in his stern refusal to trade in imagery which was outworn and which was ceasing to have any intrinsic emotional value in modern life. If poetry in the days of Matthew Arnold was, in Arnold’s phrase, the criticism of life, modernist poetry in the early stages had no creative value of its own but had value only so far as it could be construed as a species of criticism of the poetry that just went before. In England, for instance, this negative achievement was all that it could lay claim to, and was perhaps content to claim, for quite a long time. But when something more positive is sought and achieved, standardization begins: standardization of rhythm, standardization of rhyme-schemes, and even standardization of imagery. It is too early, therefore, to start hoping, with the slender evidence in hand of the verses here reviewed, that a new movement in Telugu Poetry is on the horizon, and that the illusory dawn heralded by Messrs. Krishna Sastry and Viswanatha Satyanarayana and men of their ilk has died out. It may even be that m the succeeding decades poetry must yield outright to prose. There is, however, a valiant band of pioneers in young poets of real merit like Mr. Srirangam Srinivasa Rao and Mr. Mallavarapu Visweswara Rao struggling to do something different but their hour has not yet struck. Meanwhile Mr. Pattabhi Rama Reddi may congratulate himself on his own peculiar significance in this context. But, before he can achieve anything really worth while, he must shed his cleverness.
BURRA V. SUBRAHMANYAM
Kathalu, Gathalu; Ekavali–By Veluri Sivarama Sastry (Can be had of the author, Suravaram, Atkur P.O., Kistna District. Price As. 12 each.)
These two books, being the first published poetical works of Sivarama Sastry after a lapse of nearly twenty years, are greatly welcome. Sivarama Sastry holds a high place amongst modern Telugu poets. It is rare to find such scholarship as his amongst modern poets, and rarer still to find his poetical gifts amongst scholars of today. While yet young, he soared like a rocket into the firmament of fame and shone there in glorious colours, along with his ‘Gurus’, Tirupati Venkata Kavulu. His ‘avadhanams’ at Guntur and Tenali are still a record in that line, but the days for such exhibitions of poetical feats are gone, and gone for ever. Since then, while he went on enriching his scholarship of the classics with a thorough and up-to-date knowledge of the English and Bengali literatures, his muse had been almost silent, except for an occasional stray note here and there. It is these stray notes that are gathered together in these volumes.
‘Kathalu, Gathalu’ is a translation in verse forms of Tagore’s ‘Katha’ from the original Bengali. Most of these are short stories–as the title itself shows–and are familiar to readers of Gitanjali, Fruit-Gathering, and Broken Ties. Of these stories it can truly be said what a critic said of Tolstoy’s Twenty-three Tales–that even if no other work of the author was available to us, this little volume of stories was enough to rank him as a first class artist. Of passionate outbursts of poetry, and of exuberant, unbridled expression we have many samples in modern poetry. We have been so used to this ‘efflorescence of individual lyricism’ that anything savouring of simplicity is mistaken to be of no artistic value. Our great art-critics believed that human emotion is only one of the ingredients of literature and not its aim, which is ‘the beauty of perfect fullness consisting in simplicity and restraint.’ Great art consists in feeling much and controlling much, but not in parading it. These stories would have been taken by Tolstoy as examples of the highest art. You may not find any single line of poetic flourish or lyrical beauty that you can quote to others, but the story as a whole is like a full-blown flower that has its beauty not in individual petals but in its fullness.
We ought to be grateful that these stories are rendered into Telugu by Sivarama Sastry alone and by none else. When Sastry translated Gandhiji’s Autobiography into Telugu, he set a very high standard for translations. His translation is now read as much for the beauty of the simple style as for a knowledge of Gandhiji’s life. This kind of the surely classical simple style where the maximum effect is brought out with a minimum amount of words is his peculiar gift.
‘Ekavali’ is a collection of the author’s original poems contributed to different magazines during the last twenty years, and, as said before, this period was one when his muse was least active. The poems are arranged neither chronologically–in which case it would have given us an insight into the poet’s development nor in any definite order. As it is, it is a jumble: you can pick a blank or ‘a full prize in this ‘lucky dip.’ The ‘Snake Charmer,’ and ‘Uttarayanam’ are philosophical poems of a high order, while ‘My Necessities’ is uninspiring. ‘The Plot’ and ‘The Pup’ are good narrative poems, while ‘Satya Pratijna’ is mediocre. While his ‘Anandam’ is sincere, his ‘Head-ache’–what a medley of titles!–is not very genuine. In poems like ‘The Rose’ and ‘Prasadhanam’ a straining after effect is clearly seen. It may be an accident, but it looks as if his ‘Temple Entry’ is suggested by ‘The Gain of
the Lord,’ a poem of Tagore published in the first mentioned book, ‘Kathalu’; and the poem ‘Padamulu’ suggested by a poem of Edward Thomas entitled ‘Words.’ The poems I like in this volume are ‘Uttarayanam,’ ‘Snake Charmer,’ ‘The Furrows,’ and ‘The Pup,’ besides the lyrical poem ‘Mohamu. The last poem in this collection ‘Agni’ is a melancholy poem, and the reader shares the author’s grief when he finds all his manuscripts destroyed by a disastrous fire in his house.
Altogether this collection of poems is not the best the author can give us, and the country expects much more from this scholar-poet.
The get-up of the books is good, but while in ‘Ekavali’ a few printer’s errors are left unnoticed in the errata column.