Indian literature over the centuries in all its aspects was the ambitious theme that the then infant Indian. Institute of Advanced Study chose for a fortnight-long seminar way back in May 1970. In just under two years, the proceeding of the seminar, including a summary of the discussions during those two weeks, were published by the Institute. That volume, having been out of print for years, is being reissued now.
Now is a very different time. Much has change in the intervening four decades. We have even experienced a decade and a half of a new century. Indian literature has since grown enormously, and changed dramatically. Ways of defining and understanding the subject, too, have undergone significant changes. So has, often unrecognizably, the larger world within which literature is produced. And, not just calendrically but in terms of the quality of human life, the new century is proving to be very different.
There is reasons enough to reissue the volume with a new ‘Introduction’. This gives us a chance to look back and compare the developments and changes in between. We can see how our immediate predecessors saw Indian literature and literature. Those who of us who have survived the intervening decades can see what have survived the intervening decades can see what we thought in our youth. We can feel how they, and the then we, felt Indian literature and literature. Comparing that with our present modes of apprehending the subject, we can appreciate how much we have since been enriched or impoverished. Our individual answers may not produce a consensus. But our perspective will, more likely then not, have gained in depth.
During the first decade or so following the founding of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study in 1965, several path-breaking seminars were organized around issues that were then of urgent concern to researchers and society alike. Leading academics participated in the deliberations and the interesting volumes that emerged were published by the Institute as the 'Transaction Series'. Each of these publications represented an important benchmark in the subject they sought to explore. However, questions of fundamental importance are not only complex: they are also perennial in nature. Even the most outstanding contributions can perhaps provide only partial answers. In their relative incompleteness, nevertheless, are contained possibilities of future trajectories for exploration. Half answers, therefore, often become the basis of a renewed and revitalized effort and thereby of a better understanding.
Given the significant nature of these seminars and the continuing relevance of their themes, my predecessor, Professor Peter Ronald deSouza, was justifiably of the view that their proceedings needed to be republished with a new introduction written by an eminent scholar in the relevant specialization. His personal initiative has been crucial for the republication of these 'Transaction Series'. The typing of the volumes was a time-consuming task as was the painstaking process of proof-reading. I would like to acknowledge with thanks the support provided by the scholars who undertook the task of writing the new introductions to these volumes. We are grateful to Professor Binita Desai who helped us with the design not only of these books but also of our other design requirements.
The Golden Jubilee celebrations of 2015 are, indeed, a fit occasion for the Institute to release the Transactions volumes as a new series. These volumes are not simply markers of the lasting impact of the research carried out at the Institute. They are points of both reference and departure even today for those who seek meaningful answers to questions that have for long drawn the attention of thinkers.
The Indian Institute of Advanced Study, a centre of higher learning and research, is dedicated to the exploration of ideas and the pursuit of knowledge. Its principal aim is to provide atmosphere and essential infrastructure, conducive to quiet contemplation and serious study, to a community of scholars engaged in individual or group research.
From time to time the Institute holds seminars, conferences and workshops focussd on specific themes, to which leaders of thought and action are invited. Each such get-together is carefully planned-as a meeting of minds and an adventure of ideas-to generate insights and perspectives on issues of conceptual or contemporary significance. Their proceedings are published in the Transactions of the Institute. Twelve volumes, including this one, have so far been published in this series, more are in press or in active preparation.
The reader will find in this book a panoramic view of India's literary landscape. On a limited scale, the contributions and summary of discussions brought together in this volume also illuminate the unity and diversity in the literature of different Indian languages.
Dr. Arabinda Poddar was entrusted with the responsibility of editing and introducing this volume. He has carried out this task with imagination and competence. The Institute is grateful to him.
The essays included in this volume were presented at a seminar on Indian Literature organized by the Indian Institute of Advanced Study in May 1970. The seminar was planned with a view to, first, gaining a panoramic view of India's literary landscape, and, secondly, examining the contention that Indian Literature is one despite its being written in different languages. The seminar, however, was not language-oriented, and, as such, all the major languages were not represented. This, contrary to the declared aim, prevented the seminar from seeing Indian Literature in its totality. The essays, therefore, are to be read within the context of this limitation.
The inaugural essays contributed by three distinguished intellectuals who are also perceptive critics-Dr Niharranjan Ray, Dr V. K. R V. Rao and Sri Krishna Kripalani-recognize the diverse: phenomena of India's literary life as also the multi-facedness of her culture. But, nonetheless, they also stress the essential unity which lends to the multiplicity itself its unique charm. This unity is more conceptual and inward than mechanical and outward, following as it does from the characteristic nature of our perception, sensibility and sensitivity. Furthermore, it is sustained by common cultural inheritance and made meaningful by common aspirations.
Section A presents ten essays on the heritage and background of Indian literature. These seek to illustrate how much it owes to classical Indian as well as to modern European influences, Dr M. Varadarajan supplies a wealth of information on classical Tamil Literature and dwells, incidentally, on features that made the Sangham Poetry aesthetically so rich in both formal beauty and content. Dr K. K. Raja, after a brief survey of the Dravidian Literatures, concludes that in the South alone the classical Sanskrit traditions have been preserved in their pristine purity. Dr K. M. George, while maintaining the view that the modernity of Indian Literature is bound up largely with Westernism, makes a scrutiny of the phonological and morphological structures of several languages in order to locate the Western influence in the structural development of Indian languages. The other essays review the situation in respect of a few regional literatures.
The Section on Folk Literature contains only four essays which do-not aim at giving either a comprehensive or an analytical treatment of the topic. Yet Dr A. K. Ramanujan's search of the myths and folklore for the Indian Oedipus offers genuinely absorbing stuff, more so because such explorations are rare to come by. Mere drawing of parallels is not his purpose; he has taken care to show that, in different sociocultural contexts, the same basic patterns may change direction and appear quite in. the reverse, as is perhaps the case with Indian Oedipus themes. Sri Kshitish Roy has briefly but successfully argued in favour of Folk Literature as the highest common denominator of Indian Literature, which deserves encouragement, study and promotion.
In Section C devoted to an examination of literary genres, Dr (Mrs.) Kaul re-evaluates Tulsidas's Ramcharitmanas. Her application of Western criteria in assessing the merits of an Eastern masterpiece is not only apt but pays adequate dividends, inasmuch as the analysis reveals the historical urges silently determining the direction of Tulsidas's narrative and its too obvious drawbacks as even a Secondary Epic. The shift in the historical motive and scale of social values perhaps also explains his deviation from Valmiki and occasional lapses in taste.
The Section on Literature and Ideas contains eight essays covering, relatively, a large area of contemporary interests. Sri A. S. Ayyub, no doubt, treads controversial ground when he seeks to re-establish the almost broken tie of religion (although deinstitutionalized) with literature, but yet pleads very cogently for a personal religion in conformity with one's experience of the world and acquired through emotional maturity gained from combats with life. He, inter alia, makes commendable journeys into Richards' and Maritain's philosophy of poetry and examines Eliot's insistence on the production of a sort of sacred literature as against secular and on the necessity of belief in the supernatural order, and finds Eliot's position quite vulnerable on a good number of points. Poetry becomes great when it draws sustenance from the personal religion or spiritual Weltanschauung of the poet, and for proper enjoyment of it no complete indentification is demanded of the reader but only well-grounded esteem, he concludes. Or A. N. Kaul gives a critical penetrating and perceptive analysis of the development of R. K. Narayan as a novelist, unveiling in the process the multiplicity of inspiration as well as of motive that went into the growth of the Malgudi novels. The cardinal thematic point that has been emphasized is that is no irreconcilable conflict in his works, and, therefore, no tragedy of the Western type. The point to remember, however, is that Narayan should not be taken as belonging to that insular group of writers called Indo-Anglians who dwell in metropolitan centres and possess neither identity nor relation, and that Western canons of tragedy or of comedy are hardly applicable in an assessment of Narayan's works which smell so strongly of the soil. Or (Mrs.) Margaret Chatterjee's essay on social and political ideas in modern Bengali literature; although not all-inclusive, is yet refreshing; while Or H. Gohain's survey of contemporary literature shows that it is little helpful in removing ideological obstacles and emotional resistances to secularism. He thus brings home an important point.
In the tools of criticism section, several specialists have analyzed the metrical structures of major Indian languages. Dr O. M. Anujan writes about the south Indian languages, Dr N. Sen on three eastern Indo-Aryan versifications, Dr N. G. Joshi about Marathi prosody, and Dr M. H. Khan on Urdu poetic forms. Or S.K. Ghose starts with Sanskrit poetics but dwells mainly and with authority on Sri Aurobindo's aesthetics. Dr V. 1. Subramoniam's erudite article on 'Linguistics and Poetry' seeks to take away the irrelevant and the redundant from prevalent modes of literary appreciation and provide a framework for the analysis of communication. But readers, allergic to linguistic dissection, may still remain sceptical and ask: How far can linguistic analysis be an aid to the understanding of the creative process or its
enjoyment ? The same perhaps holds good in relation to Dr S. K. Das presentation of a relatively young 'discipline' Stylisrics, n his essay 'Towards a Unified Theory of Style'. Dr Subramoniam offers us one variety of dissection, Dr Das another essay, where various categories of time, place, participants, form, content, purpose, choice, etc. combine to identify the style of a text and also determine in a way, its artistic quality. The intellectual effort demanded in such analysis is undoubtedly enormous, but, at the end of the journey one arrives only at a level of description and not of evaluation. The question, therefore, recurs: should one remain content by merely stating 'A rose is a rose is a rose', or tear every petal to a hundred pieces vainly to see wherein lie its sweetness and beauty ? Dr A. R. Das Gupta in his 'East-West Colloquy' discusses how the 'translation curtain' could be removed to enable people of one tongue to appreciate the literature of another and also on the difficulties associated with the problem. Dr R. K. Dasgupta provides a scholarly discourse on the problems of methodology that confront literary historiography.
In the last section, constructive suggestions have been put forward on the feasibility of introducing Indian Literature as an academic discipline with a view to the cultivation of a sense of awareness of the background of India's literatures and culture on the one hand and fostering national integration on the other. While the ideological framework is provided by Dr K. R. Srinivasa Iyenger, an examination in detail of the diverse aspects of such a course incorporating therein the phased programme of instruction to be imparted has been done by Professor. V. K. Gokak. Dr R. K. Dasgupta, again, elaborates a concrete frame of research in modern Indian languages that any university having departments of modern Indian languages could undertake. These suggestions offered by persons long associated with university teaching and research should draw the attention of people in charge of the nation's education.
The above paragraphs give an outline of the areas covered by the essays included in the present volume, No one is conceited enough to claim that the last word on the subject has been uttered, simply because there exists no finite number in the sphere of knowledge. But, on the whole, it is hoped that these essays will stimulate further inquiry, besides satisfying current curiosity.
The Editor of the volume wishes to offer his apologies to those with whose articles he was directed to take considerable liberties, and also to the readers of this volume for possible errors, printing or other; that have crept in due to inadvertence.
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