Benoy Kumar Sarkar.

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tradition the world has obtained in his synthetic reshaping of cultural
forces a most powerful art-structure, which is at once national and
universal, a harmonious composition in which are skilfully blended
the ancient and the modern.

In this epic reconstruction was New India born, — the India
of Hindu, Mohammedan and Christian folk-spirits, the Greater India
of rapprochement between the East and the West. Dutt's work
stands to the nineteenth century in the same relation as Kalidasa's



Young India. 315

Raghuvamsha to Vikramadityan India of the fourth and fifth cen-
turies. In his attitude of challenge and defiance Bengal has found,
besides, its bible of nationalism, and its gospel of strenuous resistance
against tyranny.

Dutt's fire and force pervade the lyrical ballads of Nabin
Chandra Sen whose racy rhythm and diction, however, sharply mark
him off from the former's stately gait and learned pose. In Sen's
poetry the Krishna-legends of the Mahabharata fame have received
the same eclectic re-presentation as the Rama-stories in Dutt's.
With Girish Chandra Ghosh, the dramatist, Dutt and Sen constitute
the triumvirate who have rebuilt the literary art of old India for
the Bengal of today. In these great masters of the last generation
must be sought the springs of philosophical and social transformation
which feed the stream of contemporary life.

Sen's work has been epoch-making in another line. Like Hem
Chandra Banerji and Dinabandhu Mitra, whose creative fervour was
stirred by the political and legal wrongs perpetrated on the people
by the foreigners, Sen has contributed to Bengal one of its most
inspiring anti-British productions in verse. This is Palashir Juddha
(The Battle of Plassey) whose title carries its own message, remind-
ing one, as it does, of the national calamity of 1757. With Sen as
with Banerji poetry was a spontaneous medium of emotion.

4. Romanticism in Fiction.

In Engel's novel Stoertebecker (1921) Germans are reviving
the literary idealism such, for instance, as is associated with Goethe's
Goetx and Schiller's Rauber dealing with the adventures of bandit
chiefs. The identical romanticism in fiction has been furnished to
Young India by Bankim Chandra Chatterji in Ananda Matha (1885).
The song of the robbers in this Bengali story idealizing, as it did,
the Rousseauesque "state of nature" has since passed into a war-
chant of the entire nation. The burden is as follows:
"Hail! Motherland!
Vande Mdtaram!

Thou art my muse, Thyself my creed:
In thee my heart and soul;
And in my limbs the spirit Thou!
In mine arm Thou art strength;
Thyself heart's devotion;
Thine the images bodied forth
In temples one and all, Mother!"



3 1 6 Benoy Kumar Sarkar,

Thus sang Chatterji's daeoits, — thus sing the patriots, martyrs,
swarajists of India.

Koran Ohelo is a historical novel in Gujarati by Navalram. It
deals with the exploits of the last Rajput (Hindu) King, Karan, who
challeged Alauddin, the Moslem. The motif and treatment make
this Gujarati work essentially a kin to the numerous Marathi novels
in which Hari Narayan Apte has brought before his compatriots
the life and activities of Shivaji or to the novels in Bengali by Bankim
Chandra Chatterji which have for their theme the political and
military enterprises of energists in mediaeval India.

The romantic handling of the past with a leavening of nation-
alism, love of individuality, and the sturdy spirit of freedom which
characterize the robber-stories of Goethe and Schiller and the
romances of Scott has certainly been a common feature in India's
modern fiction, saturated with idealism as it is. In this sense Vande
Mdtaram (Hail Motherland) is the message not only of Chatterji's
Ananda Matha but virtually of every literary work, novel or drama,
conceived in the background of mediaeval history.

5. Gujarati Prose and Poetry.

On the other side, the spirit of Gustav Freytag, Victor Hugo
or Dickens is represented by the author of Samswati- Chandra ,
Govardhanram Madhavaram Tripathi, who is reputed to have
contributed to the Gujarati people their "nineteenth Purana." In
this novel dealing, as it does, with the life of modern Gujarat
we are presented with a realistic picture of men and manners
such as the eighteen Puranas of old India have perpetuated for
us in Sanskrit in regard to previous ages.

The Gujarati Sahitya Parishat (Academy of Gujarati Literature)
owes its origin to Tripathi. Academies of literature together with
tiammelans i.e. congresses (generally annual) of the men of letters
are a regular feature in the cultural life of every language-zone in,
India. The institution is as popular among the Telugu-speaking..
Andhras of Madras as among the Oriyas of Orissa. The subjects
discussed in these assemblies of authors and journalists are through-
out uniform. They range from philological, anthropological and
archeological investigations to dramatic criticism, the discussion of
scientific and technical terminology as well as philosophical disser-
tations, oriental and occidental.

An author who like Tripathi has interested himself in the same
problems of present-day life — but whose modus operandi is the
instrument of satire is Ramanbhai Nilkanth. His Bhadram Bhadra is



Young India. 3 1 7

enjoyed by the Gujaratis as an Indian Don Quixote. Nilkanth is,
besides, a reformer not only in social organization — but also in
linguistic taste. In the controversy between the erudite Sanskritized
diction and popular vocabulary he has thrown in his lot with the
masses.

The poet "Kalapi" is well known for his translations from
Wordsworth. But his place in Gujarati literature is assured by his
Kekdrava (The Peacock's Notes). The technique of Kalidasa's
Meghaduta (Cloud-Messenger) has been brilliantly employed by the
author, who, by the bye, is prince of Lathi in Kathiawar, with a most
wonderful sense of rhythm.

To a "migrant bird" Kalapi addresses the following song:
"To the land of Kashmir, of sweet springs and balmy breezes!
Dear traveller! linger there in a land that is dear to me —
In a land of uttermost delight and honey- flowing groves
Where shadows of clustered grapes are cast on crystal streams.

* *

"At eventide the Himalayan peaks are dyed with the colour of roses
Then vale after vale, and countless fountains and lakes grow fairer yet,
And the trees in the mountains above the clouds converse with the

stars —
They are bathed in the light of heaven and smile in a happy trance.

'Bethink thee then of the love of thy Master and friend —
My child, my darling, alas! thy tears are falling still, my grief!
But perch in the crown of a mighty tree I have reared for thee,
And I shall recite to thee, my dear, this little song I have made." 1 )

But the poet-patriot who has equipped Young Gujarat with its
war-cry is Narmada-Shamkar Lal-Shamkar, in whose anti-British
songs much of the spirit that is agitating India's mind to-day was
anticipated. His refrain, Jaya Jaya Garavi Gujarata! (Victory to
Great Gujarat), has earned for him a pan-Indian reputation. Among
his scholarly works the Dictionary of the Gujarati Language is a
solid testimony to his capacity for labour.

6. Songs of the Marathas.

The bwadeshi-swaraj movement has automatically been associ-
ated among Marathas with the revival of Shivaji-cult both as cause
and effect. Around this worship of the Frederick the Great of

*) Transl. by A. Coomaraswamy and P. V. Vaishva for the Modern
Revieiv (^Calcutta) for March 1920.



318 Benoy Kumar Sarkar,

India the best brains of the Deccan have grouped themselves, as
explorers and novelists, as historians and artists.

Vinayak Savarkar, whose activity has been epoch-making in
various fields of Young India, is also one of the most signal
contributors to the songs of latter-day Maharashtra. Shivaji is the
hero of his historical lyrics. His Sinha-gadchd Powddd (The Ballad
of Sinhagad) depicts one of the pioneering achievements of the
Hindu nationalist of the seventeenth century. The ballad narrating
the devotion of Baji Prabhu Deshpande to> the duty set by his
master is likewise a soul-inspiring execution in the Shivaji legend.

Besides these "national" lyrics which as in every other province
of India are oriented to the present struggle against Great Britain,
howsoever varied be the races and the epochs dealt with, modern
Marathi possesses a host of songs, which the theatre has contributed
to the man in the street and made part of the people's folk-literature.
Just at present the melodies sung by "Bal-Gandharva" on the stage
are setting the musical taste and standard of the Marathas. He
plays invariably the female part, since in Bombay, perhaps in every
cultural region outside of Bengal, actresses are yet unknown.

7. Marathi Drama.

The dramatist whom "Bal Gandharva" has thus succeeded in
making a popular figure is Krishnaji Prabhakar Khadilkar. This
play-wright made his debut with prose-dramas like Kichaka-vadha
(The Slaying of Kichaka), which although based on a legend
in the Mahabhcwata was too suggestive and modern to be tolerated
by British law and was therefore proscribed. Khadilkar has several
other plays in prose of which the themes are derived from Maratha
history of the eighteenth century. Bhao Bandki (Family Quarrel)
deals with the murder of Narayan Rao through the machinations of
his aunt Anandi Bai. Kanchangadchi Mohand (The Lady of Kanchan-
gad) is another piece from the same quarry.

Khadilkar's genius is versatile. He has created several types of
womanhood in some of his dramas in verse. He has laid under
contribution the ancient story of Kacha coming to Shukra for
education and wooing his daughter Devajani. The play is called
Vtdyd-harana (The Stealing of Learning) and will be found to be
more complex in the treatment of the relations between the sexes
than is Tagore's Chitrd which is equally based on ancient legends.
In Khadilkar's two other woman-pieces, Rubnini-swayamvara (The
Choosing of her husband by Rukmini) and Draupadi, Marathas



Young India. 319

can see the female sex in its atmosphere of freedom, individualism
and self-assertion.

Khadilkar has taken part in politics, — belonging to the extre-
mist group of patriots. His newly founded daily, Lokamanya
(Respected by the People), is the organ of the swarajists.

The founder of the Marathi theatre is Anna Kirloskar. His
plays like Shakimtala and Saubhadra were adapted from the old
Sanskrit treatises. Although he did not originate any theme he
is the creator of the new drama of the Marathas. He was besides a
genuine poet in whose songs the people find the flow of the soul
which as a rule is not characteristic of Khadilkar's compositions.
In the work of adapting ancient classics for the modern stage
Kirloskar found a colleague and follower in Deval. This latter's
Mrichchhakatika, Shapa-sambhrama (based on the Kddambari of
old) and Mnkandyaka have served to bring home to the present
generation the literary and cultural tradition of the past on which
the contemporary re-valuation is erected.

Altogether in these literary achievements of the Maratha play-
house Bengal will remember the work accomplished for it by
Girish Chandra Ghosh, — and the Western students of drama
will notice the counterpart of the movement by which the Greek
and the Latin sources have been exploited for the modern stage
in Europe.

A brilliant poet has been cut off in his prime at the age
of 32. This was Ram Ganesh Gadkari. His poetry breathes the
atmosphere of undiluted natural sentiment. The elegies composed by
him touch the tenderest chord in the human heart. His poems
on nature and love possess an originality in the handling of emotion,
Gadkari was strongest in the treatment of pathos. Perhaps no
composition in Marathi has excited so much universal pity among
the people as this sad young author's Ekach Pydlcl (Just One Glass)
acted on the stage. This drama is a study in the drink-evil and
domestic misery, — and can always be used in the propaganda for
prohibitionism.

While Khadilkar because of his many-sided dramatic pro-
ductions and feverish fecundity is almost a household word to the
literary public ; a play-wright of exceptional merit whose popularity
is no less patent is Narsingh Chintamon Kelkar, the present editor
of the Kesari, the Marathi weekly. His Totayache Banda (Revolt
of the Pretender) has for its theme the problems of double personality
akin to many of the theses in psychology and fiction which the



320 Benoy Kumar Sarkar,

late war has contributed to literature through the unrecorded deaths
of many soldiers.

In 1 76 1 at the Battle of Panipat (near Delhi) Sadasiva Rao
Bbao, the chief of the Marathas, was killed in action. But as no
trace was found of his body, a pretender came back from the front
and claimed to be the ruler of the territory as well as the husband
of the widow.

While reading Kelkar's story based on this incident one is
easily reminded somewhat of Madame Borel's novel, Le Survivant
(The Surviver), in which is presented the study of a strange
personality constituted of the physical body of one man and the
soul of another who is dead. The Maratha author has tried
moreover to visualize the folk-India of the latter half of the
eighteenth century. His characterizations are lively and his treatment
has the grace of natural humour.

8. Hari Narayan Apte.

In the field of romance Hari Narayan Apte was until his
death (1920) the most prominent figure. As an exponent of social
reform and social service and as director of the Anandashrama
Publications of old Sanskrit texts he was also one of the most
influential makers of modern Maharashtra.

As man of letters he has naturally been attracted by that
rich mine of legends and hearsays, namely, Maratha history. And
nobody has made use of this valuable source of fiction more
artistically than Apte.

Among his historical novels the Ushahkkal (Dawn) deals with
the exploits of the early Marathas. Gad Aid pan Sinha Geld (The
Castle came, but the lion is gone) is based on the statement of
Shivaji to his followers who had stormed the fort of Sinhagad
to the effect that although they had achieved their aim their
triumph was eclipsed by the death of their commander, "the lion"
Tanaji.

Apte's description of the manner in which people of the lowest
class were organized into a mighty army and bands of young
patriots used to form themselves into secret associations for political
purposes has become a classic among the Marathas. Although in
his personal views Apte happened to be an associate of the
"moderate" leaders of nationalist India his artistic c'reations have
furnished Maharashtra with the tenets of radical politics.

Apte has selected his theme from Rajput annals also, — the
source so popular in Bengali drama, poetry and fiction. His



Young India. 321

Rupa-nagarchi Rdjkanyd (The Princess of Rupanagar) has curiously
enough the same plot as Bankim Chandra Chatter ji's Bdjasmka.
Apte's contemporary piece is Pan lakshat kon gheio ? (But
who cares for it?). In it the novelist holds the mirror up to modern
Maratha society, — and has a chance to expose the current
abuses in domestic and public life.

9. Bal . Gangadhar Tilak.

Khadilkar and Apte are unforgettable names in Marathi
literature. Equally or rather more. so is Bal Gangadhar Tilak. His
claims to mankind's recognition in other, non-literary lines are of
course unparalleled.

For a whole generation Tilak was the "uncrowned king" of
Maharashtra in the estimation alike of the intelligentszia as of the
working men and women. His moral persuasion was eminently
successful among the masses in combating alcoholism. Unnumbered
families of mill-hands in Bombay and the Deccan loved and
worshipped him as father, friend, benefactor.

Vedic scholarship counted Tilak among its veterans of the
premier rank. He was one of the brilliant pioneers of modern
education in his province, a cause to which he devoted himself
at immense personal sacrifice. In his death the world of science
has lost a keen seeker of truth, and humanity an indefatigable
energist in the service of freedom and democracy.

Prince among journalists, Napoleon among fellowmen, pro-
pagandist among philosophers, mathematician, lawyer, orator, this
apostle of liberty was the very sun of the social system among
the Marathas, — the Goethe of Poona as much in the radiation of
influences as in the bringing together of world-forces. A towering
personality that he was both in thought and deed, in idealism,
organizing capacity and constructive statesmanship, Tilak's life-
long persistence in self-expression has rendered to Marathi language
and literature a service which is monumental, which indeed very few
men of letters individually have been able to accomplish in the
world.

And yet authorship was hardly a vocation with Tilak. His
books in English are entitled The Arctic Home in the Vedas and
Orion. The only book which he has left for his readers in
Marathi is the Gitd Rahrtsya (The Philosophy of the Gita). This
was written during his second imprisonment and published shortly
before his death. It embodies the maturest experience of his fully-
lived life and reinterprets the traditional soul-metaphysics, optimistic

Sarkar, The Futurism of Young Asia. 21



322 Benoy Kumar Sarkar,

as it is, in the interest of a vigorous materialism. This Marathi
introduction to the Gitd will appear to students of comparative
philosophy to be another Voltaire's Essai sur les Mceurs (Essay on
Morals), the analogy being confined chiefly to logic and language.

But the entire Tilak-literature bearing as it does the stamp of
a mighty intellect is to be found in the columns of the weekly
Kesari, the journal which he founded and which has furnished
the "whole duty of man" to thousands of its regular readers on
every question of life, social, religious, moral, political, literary.
The Kesari has long remained the real "national university" of
the Marathas. To it the young man of letters looks for suggestions
in diction, the historian for judgment and criticism, the scientist for
the language of the laboratory, and the patriot for inspiration
in martyrdom.

Tilak was not a poet, novelist or dramatist. His medium was
the essay, conversation, lecture written or ex tempore. His writings
are the compositions of a man of action, pithy, pointed, precise,
popular, addressed to the man in the street, to the woman in the
home. Supremely a journalist and a lecturer, first and last an
essayist and a popularizer, Tilak has imparted to his mother-
tongue a vocabulary, style and range for which a parallel is to
be sought only in the epoch-making achievements of French prose
in the eighteenth century through the writings of Montesquieu, the
sociologist, and Diderot, the director of the Encyclopedie. Nay r
if one should look ahead and try to envisage the future career
of the new Maratha in its historical perspective one should have
to appraise the literary output of Tilak the prophet, preacher, patriot
as a tremendous dynamic force no less vitalizing and momentous
for his race than was that of Voltaire for France during the last
and the greatest period of his devotion to "reason" and "humanity"
through journalistic pamphleteering manipulated from Ferney on
the Swiss side of the Lake of Geneva.

10. Themes of Literature.

A Georg Brandes attempting to make a survey of the tendencies
In the literature of Young India will have to begin with the state-
ment that there is strictly speaking no "Indian literature" but that
the literatures in India are as varied as those in Europe. The
languages in which the mind of India speaks are as different from
one another as is Portuguese from Russian or Tchech from Danish.

And yet it would not take long to touch the bottom and find
that what the Indian mind speaks through all these diverse media,



Young India. 323

Tamil, Telugu, Marathi or Hindi is invariably the same. The
literature of Young India is intrinsically one.

When life is so complex and pluralistic as today it is difficult
to classify the "themes" of art. But several leading sources of in-
spiration for creative literature may here 'be indicated.

The characters, situations, plots and motives in modern Indian
prose and poetry have been profoundly influenced by the study of
antiquities, translations from ancient Hindu and Mohammedan litera-
ture as well as general archaeological scholarship. A real Renaissance
has thus set in in Indian thought, — i.e. a re-interpretation of the
past in the light of modern viewpoint and technique. In this trans-
valuation of values there has been working the ail-too familiar
romantic spirit.

In the second place, the folk-movements in public life, the an-
thropological investigations of scholars and learned societies, the
cult of social service which has become popular among the educated
classes, the statistical studies in regard to peasants' and working
men's budgets, the cry of rural reconstruction, these and allied
activities have served to enrich the novels, songs and short stories
not only with folk-lore material but also with the heroic and the
tragic in the life and labour of the masses, the pariahs, the working
men and the villagers. The democratic experience of Young India
here has its literary counterpart.

Thirdly, as might naturally be expected, Western fiction and
drama have furnished Indian authors with many new subjects for
conscious imitation or adaptation. And of course the indirect
suggestive value of these foreign creations in regard to the treatment
of legend, the analysis of attitudes, and creation of types is immense.
The sway of the world-spirit or the cosmopolitan element in Indian
literature is hereby assured.

ii. The Wealth of Urdu.

Pari passu with this creative urge in thought one will have to
notice a current of literary activity in India which as in every other
country of the world today is manifesting itself in the effort to
assimilate the best literary treasures of foreign nations. And this is
all the more to be observed in India because here as in Japan,
China and Egypt virtually the entire literature on higher science and
philosophy has to be borrowed wholesale from the standard classics
in the Western languages.

Perhaps the most advanced of all Indian tongues in this
direction is Urdu or Hindusthani (as distinguished from Hindi) whose
wealth in original poetry and fiction must not however be underestimated.

21*



324 Benoy Kumar Sarkar,

Writing on the place of Urdu in the Indian vernaculars 2 ) Abdul
Majid makes out a short inventory of its borrowed wealth in the
following manner:

"In poetry and drama, most of the world-classics have found
their way into Urdu. Homer's Iliad, The Mahabharata, The Ra-
mayana (Valmiki's as well Tulsi Das's); Kalidas's Sakuntala, Megh-
dut, and other works; Milton's Paradise Lost and Tagore's Gitan-
jali, Chitra, and several other pieces are easily accessible to the Urdu-
knowing public. Shakespeare is perhaps the most popular. Most of
his plays have been translated and are being staged. Othello,
Hamlet, King Lear, The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, Cymbeline, The
Merchant of Venice, Winter's Tale, Measure for Measure, 1 he
Comedy of Errors, and As You Like It, have long been available in
Urdu. Some of Sheridan's plays, like Pizarro, and selected poems of
Sophocles and Sappho, Dante and Goethe, Longfellow and Southey,
Shelley and Byron, Wordsworth and Tennyson have also been
rendered into Urdu.

"In fiction, next to Reynolds, who it seems has a peculiar
fascination for the Indian youth, Scott, Marie Corelie and Conan,
Doyle are the most favourite. Almost the complete works of Bankim-
chandra and most of Tagore's tales have been rendered into Urdu.
Latterly R. L. Stevenson, Rider Haggard, Oscar Wilde, Bernard
Shaw and H. G. Wells have begun to come in favour.

"Among general prose-writers the Urdu-speaking public have
found their favourites in Macaulay and Carlyle, Smiles and Lubbock.

"In regions of philosophy and psychology, Urdu possesses several
dialogues of Plato, selections from Aristotle, Chanakya's Maxims,
Seneca's Reflections, Berkeley's Principles and Dialogues, Le Bon's The
Crowd, The Psychology of the Evolution of Peoples, and The Psychology
of the Great War; and portions of the works of Bacon, Hume, Kant,
Mill, Spencer, James and Stout.

"In general history and biography, the names of Plutarch's
Lives of Eminent Greeks and Romans, Rollin's Greece, Bury's History
of Greece, Thacker and Sch will's General History of Europe, Dozy's
Islamic Spain, Wallace's Russia, Abbott's Napoleon, Green's History



Online LibraryBenoy Kumar SarkarThe futurism of young Asia, and other essays on the relations between the East and the West → online text (page 33 of 42)