Triveni Journal

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....

Reviews

Samskrit Literature by K. Chandrasekharan and V. H. Subrahmanya Sastri (P.E.N. Series. Published by the International Book House Ltd. Bombay, I. Pp. 300. Price Rs. 6.)

Samskrit or the perfected language is a name to conjure with. All Indian languages, in some way or other, owe their very existence to this divine tongue. Once it held its sovereign sway over all India, and even now, though circumstances have conspired to dethrone it from its exalted position, it does not cease to exert its influence upon the minds of millions of Indians and the cultured literati all the world over. The Upanishads that gave solace to foreigners also are the life and soul of India and her culture. Samskrit is the language of the Upanishads. If India wants to live, Samskrit must live.

No one interested in any aspect of Indian life and culture can afford to ignore the study of Samskrit Literature, and this handy volume written by two eminent scholars serves as a helpful introduction to that. As far as we are aware, this is the first book written on Samskrit Literature in a brief compass by Indians, purely from the orthodox Indian point of view. The authors with incredible velocity survey the whole field of Samskrit Literature from the Vedic period to the modern age, wherein the living Samskrit poets like Sri Y. Mahalinga Sastri and Srimati Kshamabai Rao also find their due place, within a short space of 300 pages, without at the same time ignoring the individual and distinguishing traits of each important author and book.

The declared intention of the learned authors in writing this book is “to give a connected account of salient facts about the origin and growth of Samskrit Literature, from the literary point of view only, and hence, as far as possible they have shunned all controversy over dates.” They also make no secret of the fact that “in the matter of opinion and criticism they have set down their honest impressions.

This brochure is divided into chapters dealing with Samskrit language, Vedas, Puranas and Itihasas, Sastras, Kavyas, Dramas, and Samskrit Poetry. To these chapters is added an anthology of representative pieces from Samskrit Literature translated into English.

The first chapter deals with Samskrit Language proper, and therein, the authors explain at length, with pleasing analogies and convincing arguments, how Samskrit is not a dead language, how it was once a spoken tongue, and how it deserves to be called “Samskrit” or the perfected tongue. Then the authors approach the Vedas with due reverence, and, after cautioning the readers not to dismiss lightly ancient Indian theories of the origin of sound, try to make out a case for the reasonableness of the orthodox Indian point of view, according to which the Vedas are authorless, eternal, and innumerable. After a peep into the field of Sastras, they arrive at the domain of Kavyas, where at the very entrance, the aims and ideals of Indian art and poetry are made clear. “Our ancient aestheticians looked to poetry to elevate the morals and to substantiate the ideals of humanity. Theories like ‘Art for art’s sake’ never had an iota of appeal to them...Art and literature should paint man as born and destined to strive only for higher ideals.” The readers are then introduced to a discussion on the soul of poetry. Different rhetoricians, like Bhamaha, and Dandin, Bhatta, Lollata, Srisankuka, Bhatta Nayaka, and Abhinavagupta, the exponents of ‘Rasa-sutra,’ are also introduced to us, and the authors make the following observation while dealing with Abhinavagupta and Jagannatha: “According to Abhinavagupta, a rasika becomes impersonal from the moment of his preparation to enjoy a piece of art. He cares only for the resultant pleasure from the art of the dramatist and the skill of the actors in the presentation. Pandita Jagannatha criticised Abhinavagupta and expressed ‘Rasa’ as of a Rasika’s own making, and never the result of the dramatic performance.” A brief survey of all the major Rhetoricians and their works follows next.

The authors now alight at the shrine of Valmiki the ‘adikavi’ who they think is the author of Balakanda and Uttarakandas also of the Ramayana. After paying homage to him, and noticing Asvaghosha, they lead the readers to Kalidasa, the prince of poets, who flourished in the 4th and 5th centuries of the Christian era, and offer their unstinted meed of praise to him. Our attention is drawn to Bharavi’s originality of method which is illustrated, and then we are led to Sri Harsha “whose work smacks so much of Sastras, and who, by a peculiar deftness of language, can hit off many suggestions and ideas in one and the same stanza.” Thus on our way we are shown 80 other authors of Mahakavyas including Srimati Kshamabai Rao the living poetess, “whose capacity for versification in simple Samskrit cannot be forgotten.” While treating of Bana, the foremost among prose writers, the authors attempt to silence the critics “who doubt whether Bana cares for the execution of a fine plot or for any of those situations which bear the stamp of probability.”

Then we are led to the domain of Samskrit Drama, wherein the dramatists, in order “to secure an idealistic atmosphere and their chief aim of painting the ideal in order to elevate the minds of the audience who witness a performance, chose episodes for treatment from great epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata.” Absence of tragedies in Samskrit Literature is ably accounted for. “Idealism as painted by Samskrit writers will not permit of any defeat for the hero on the stage. Even Fate’s severest strokes will have to be cancelled by supernatural powers and efficacy of penance. The ideal chosen as the motive of the play should be such that people beholding it should return with their faith strengthened in the good resulting from high endeavours and their senses soothed by the happiness crowning human efforts….If a successful end is certain for human strivings, whether in one life or after many lives, that truth must be represented in a drama.” Nearly 40 dramatists beginning from Asvaghosha, who, according to the authors, preceded Kalidasa, and ending with Sri Y. Mahalinga Sastri of modern times, pass before us in their characteristic colours, in this short survey of Samskrit Drama. At the end of their long but happy survey, in the last chapter, the authors ponder over the beauties that contributed to the immortality of Samskrit poetry, and broadcast to the world at large the message of our Samskrit poets, that nothing but a harmony of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha can bring happiness to suffering humanity.

The anthology covering nearly a hundred pages contains some of the best representative specimens of Samskrit Literature, and a study of these will surely induce any one to seek after the originals for direct contact and full appreciation.
B. KUTUMBA RAO, M.A.

An Introduction to the study of Hinduism by Sri Bipin Chandra Pal (Published by Yugayatri Prakashak Ltd., Calcutta, 6. Pp. 208. Price Rs. 4-8-0.)

This is a reprint of the author’s book on the subject first published in 1908. The sub-title “A study in Comparative Religion” is a mere correct description of the contents of the book. Sri Bipin Chandra Pal is well known as one of the foremost of the pioneers in the nationalist movement in the country to whose brave and selfless efforts towards the end of the last century the country owes the political awakening, the organisation of the Indian National Congress and the struggle for political freedom which resulted in complete Independence in 1947. But his attainments and his views as a religious and social thinker are not as familiar to the public at least outside Bengal as they should be; this will be readily conceded after a perusal of the volume under review.

Our nationalist movement was many sided and from the beginning, and all through, the leaders at any rate conceived it as an assertion and claim of the nation for independent development on its own natural and self-chosen and self-directed paths in all aspects of social and cultural life. Also the characteristic spiritual outlook of the nation could not but influence the mentality, out-look and interests of our prominent leaders, almost without any exception, to study the history of our civilisation and culture and the influence of our religion on it.

In this book Sri Pal contends successfully against the facile and superficial and sometimes conceited and prejudiced interpretations of our culture and complex religion by ill-qualified and in-competent foreigners, and makes out an irrefutable case for the study of our religion by the thoughtful among our nationals, so that it may continue to evolve towards greater and greater perfection and also, by its correct presentation to the world, exert its proper influence on the evolution of the religious thought of humanity which is advancing with time towards closer unity. The book provides an introduction not merely to the study of Hinduism but to the study of comparative religion and is bound to be of great interest and benefit to the English educated young men of the day who may be anxious to understand the genesis and history and meaning and value of our religious texts, traditions and institutions.

Memories of my Life and Times–Vol. II (1886-1900) by Bipin Chandra Pal (Published by Yugayatri Prakashak Ltd., Caltutta, Pp. 296. Price Rs. 6.)

Society is reflected in the life of the individual, even as the individual, reacting upon the social environments, contributes to its growth or decay, as the case may be.” “The life of an individual, however humble it may be, and how much so ever mean may be its value if taken in itself, is, therefore, found to have a worth far transcending its outer qualities, when studied as an expression and illustration of the general social movements about him.

In these, among many other profound observations, in the valuable Foreword, on the organic conception of the relation between the individual and social life and development, Sri Pal himself explains the value of his autobiography to students of the history of the period covered by his life, which constitutes one of the most eventful and significant epochs in the history of our civilisation and culture. And Sri Pal was no ordinary individual but a leader, one of the foremost of his day, and not merely witnessed but personally shared the toils and turmoils through which the mighty transformation in Indian thought and life was achieved during this period of violent religious and social revolt and then a tremendous political upheaval.
For the conservation of our political freedom recently achieved and the realisation of complete economic and cultural freedom, which is yet to be attempted and achieved, and for progress in the future, a knowledge of the history of our immediate past, of the generation represented by the author, is of supreme value and essential. The book throws a flood of light on the thought currents and cultural life of Bengal, which was the centre of social reform and political revolt and led the other Provinces in all aspects of the national renaissance; and Sri Pal was closely associated with all these movements. In fact he was almost entirely devoted to public life, and was one of the leading personalities in his Province and exerted considerable influence upon his generation. As such this record of his experiences and activities, especially during the period 1886-1900 covered in this volume, is a very valuable document to all earnest students of modern Indian history and culture.

Religion and Dharma by Sister Nivedita. (Published by Advaita Ashrama, Almora. Pp. 150. Price Rs. 2.)

The book comprises a series of notes and brief articles contributed originally to the editorial columns of the Prabuddha Bharata and suggested chiefly by the ethical and religious aspects of the advancing national movement in the early decades of this century. The terms Religion and Dharma stand for the monastic ideal and the ideal of National righteousness, the social conception of law and conduct and worship. Sister Nivedita believed in the power of the Indian consciousness to absorb and transmute the contribution of the Western civilisation with which India came into contact in the British period. She showed the way to it through an exchange of organic ideals between East and West and, for India, a reinterpretation in modern times of the faith and practice of the past, a shifting of the emphasis from the monastic ideal to the ideal of social service, the exaltation of work, of positive character and of knowledge.

Sister Nivedita, the famous Western disciple of Swami Vivekananda, needs no introduction or commendation to Indian readers, and her right to advise the people of our country is unquestioned in view of her complete identification with them and their culture and religion The process of assimilation and absorption by us of the contribution of the West is in no sense complete. The problems, dangers and difficulties inherent in the process which occasioned these wise reflections, comments and exhortations to the young men of her time, still remain to be faced and tackled. Her interpretation of our religion and culture, and the advice with regard to our duty to develop and at the same time adapt it to modern conditions, have a permanent value and deserve the careful and reverent study, especially of the young men and women of the present time of confusion and chaos in national ideals.

Gandhi’s View of Life by Chandra Sekhar Shukla. (Bhavan’s Book University, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay. Pp. 245. Price Rs. 1-12-0.)

The author terms it with characteristic modesty an essay in understanding and not an interpretation or a defence. But the book is really all these at the same time, and the General Editors must be complimented on the choice of the author who is very well qualified for the task by his close proximity and intimate personal contacts with Gandhiji during his life time, his intelligent, sincere and ardent appreciation of the Mahatma and his view of life, his careful and devoted study of the writings and speeches and activities of the great leader, with a number of books already to his credit on Gandhiji’s life and personality and message.

This volume also serves the general objective of the Book University to present to the readers in the country and outside, the literature which stands for India and the fundamentals of Indian culture. The first book of the series, already reviewed in this Journal, is a summary, in a series of stories, of the great national epic of India, The Mahabharata, by Rajaji, embodying the traditional ideals of the nation.

The second is on the Gita, the quintessence of the Hindu religion in all its aspects of Metaphysics, Philosophy and Ethics, by the eminent jurist and student of philosophy, H. V. Divatia. Now, quite properly, we find in this volume of “Gandhi’s view of life” an exposition of Indian culture and its fundamentals as they stand revealed clearly in the process of assimilation and absorption of the best elements of European culture and adjustment to modern conditions of life. There can be no better interpretation of the fundamentals of a culture than the life of the most typical representative of it, and there can be no two opinions regarding the fact that Gandhiji’s life is at once the most typical and representative and at the same time the noblest expression of the fundamentals of our hoary culture which reaches forth in his hands to the glory of pointing the way to the evolution of one Universal culture and a peaceful and tolerant way of life.

The view of life of Gandhiji presented in this volume is not based exclusively on the teachings or utterances of the great man or his declared principles. The author is well aware of the inherent complexity and difficulty of the subject in view of the continual process of evolution in Gandhiji’s view of life, the principles being exemplified and gaining in accuracy and definiteness by their application to actual personal and public situations in life of the great man who was at once a man of thought, a theorist, and a man of action, a leader. The author has attempted laudably to get at the view of Gandhiji who saw life ‘steadily’ and saw it ‘as a whole’, by a reverent study of the utterances and the life of the Mahatma as well as the various interpretations of the same by several eminent contemporaries already available to us.

Indian Congress for Cultural Freedom - March 28 to 31 of 1951. (The Democratic Research Service, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Bombay 1, Price Rs. 5)

The volume contains not only an account of the conference and its proceedings but also the speeches delivered by the chairmen and speakers of the various sectional conferences as well as the papers read at the same.

The Congress is the first held in Asia in support of the movement for a permanent international congress for cultural freedom to combat the suppression of intellectual freedom, wherever and in whatever form the danger might manifest itself. The Government of India, in their anxiety to hold the scales even and to appear to do so beyond any doubt, between the partisans and admirers of Russian Communism and American Democracy, each with its own culture front, prohibited at the last moment the holding of the conference at Delhi according to the original intention of the sponsors. But undeterred by this initial damper on their enthusiasm, the sponsors proceeded to arrange for the holding of the conference at Bombay and succeeded admirably in their attempt.

Many distinguished men of culture from the different parts of the country participated in the proceedings, and there was also a considerable contingent of fraternal delegates from Europe and America to add to the dignity and international status of the conference. The presence of men of culture like the poets Auden and Spender, philosophers like Burnham and Norman Thomas and leaders of social movements like Muller, Yergan and Margolin and Madariaga revealed the international magnitude and value of the proceedings.

The active co-operation and participation on the same platform of Mr. Munshi, the top-rank Congress leader and Cabinet Minister who inaugurated the conference, and Sri J. P. Narain, the Socialist leader, who presided over the inaugural session, strikingly revealed the agreement of the different parties and political ideologies in the country on the fundamental objectives of the conference and their common concern for preserving and guarding the cultural freedom of the citizen in our infant Republic.

It is true some of the speeches of the sponsors seem to indicate an obsession with the Communist culture front and the dangers from it, but some of the speeches and especially the papers contributed by Dr. Bhagavandas and Dr. Hafiz Syed on Indian culture and the Indian ideal of freedom of thought respectively, and of Mr. Masani on Neutralism in India are undoubtedly of remarkable value and interest to Indian readers. They help to place the present movement for the preservation of cultural freedom in the proper perspective in the context of Indian culture and its evolution through the centuries, and also explain clearly the rationale and justification of the peculiar policy of positive neutrality pursued by our Government of national leaders in the present crisis in the international situation, when the whole world is rapidly tending to a division into two hostile camps led by America and Russia.
M. S. K.

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