REVIEWS

 

Kumaran Asan Birth Centenary Volume: Edited by N. Govindan. Published by Sameeksha, 77 B Harris Road, Madras-2. Price: Rs. 90.

 

            This is a beautifully got-up token of remembrance of a poet and reformer of social life, whom many actually worshipped for his poetic efflorescence as much as for his deep thinking on man and life. He belonged to the trio, of whom the other two worthy names are of Vallathol Narayana Menon and Ullur Parameswara Aiyar. But unlike the other two, Kumaran Asan happened to be more than an original poet, having rebelled against outmoded literary conventions of the age. Born on 12th April 1873, he died very young in 1924, under very tragic circumstances of a drowning accident. He was associated with the widely known Narayana Guru in his youth, and hence bid fair to outdo him also in his own zeal for reforming the society of Kerala with its decadent caste restrictions of a bygone period. His poetry in Malayalam struck many of his ardent admirers as something to­ equal some of the reputed writers’ immortal works in Sanskrit and English literatures. The occasion of his birth centenary has enabled the emergence of a volume containing not only tributes to his memory from the pens of contemporary writers of his, but also of important men and women in other sister literatures as Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Kannada, Punjabi, Gujarati and Urdu. Some of the persons have contributed to this volume articles on subjects other than about Kumaran Asan.

 

            The contents are arranged under four parts, each one con­tributing to the general heading of ‘Poetry and Renaissance’. Thus the first part supplies matter upon great playwrights and poets of the past such as Shakespeare in English, Schiller in German, Pushkin in Russian, Petofi in Hungarian, Walt Whitman in American. The second part contains general themes such as Macaulay’s ‘vociferous logic’, Tagore’s surfeit of songs in Bengali, Iqbal’s revolutionary thought, Bharati’s awakening of the Tamil spirit, etc., from some of the present day columnists such as Mulk Raj Anand, Dr K. R. Srinivasa Aiyengar, Smt. Prema Nandakumar and D. Anjaneyulu. The third part is full of serious discussions of the merits of Kumaran Asan’s genius and expression with adequate samples of his longer poems translated into English from many a reputed critic and Rasika of Kerala. The last part brims over with accounts of contemporaries of Kumaran Asan in the other languages as Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamll, Bangali and English.

 

            All of these contributors have enriched this sumptuous volume by their articles specially written for this centenary production. One cannot leave unfinished this valuable addition to the existing centenary publications in honour of many other Indians who had left legacies of an enduring nature in the respective fields in which they had been able to play significant roles.

 

            The book is brought out attractively with a number of photographic plates inside and a charmingly designed cover page as well as inner flaps.

–K. CHANDRASEKHARAN

 

A Literary Man’s Political Experiences: By D. Jayakantan. Vikas Publishing House Private Ltd., 5 Ansari Road, New Delhi - 12. Price: Rs. 38-30.

 

            Jayakantan is a name much in the eye of the Tamil-reading public for sometime now. He is a writer with a number of novels and short stories to his credit. His winning the Sahitya Akademi Award for the best novel of the year 1972 has provided an additional incentive to the widening circle of his admirers.

 

            Having no scholastic education worth mentioning, his education in the school of life has enabled him to learn more of life and train himself as a creative writer of fiction. “A foster-child of the Communist Party” as he labels himself, he has been closely connected with the activities of the Communists in Tamil Nad and has had experiences both as an editor and a speaker in their ranks. Yet he has retained a rare combination of enthusiasm for fresh ideas and a healthy restraint sufficient to guide him in revolv­ing within himself the pros and cons of everything that challenges settled notions in the prevailing society of his times. The most cherishable consequence of such an unusual power of reasoning is his balanced mind – perhaps also uncommon with writers with a slant for extreme leftist ideas in politics.

 

            The book is a translation in English of his serialled articles, which appeared in “Tughlak” (a fortnightly) done by an university Professor, Sri M. S. Venkataramani, who evinces a legiti­mate appreciation of Jayakantan’s writings and his unconventional life.

 

            This volume is not an autobiography, but a collection of reminiscences of the writer, Jayakantan, who claims that his writings as a creative artist never got influenced by the colour of his political leanings. It is still necessary to draw the special attention of the readers to the refreshing views upon the allied topics of Communalism and Social Reform that receive a thought-­provoking interpretation at his hands. They are the results of the writer’s own reflections upon problems that have struck him as peculiar to our country’s impeded progress.

 

            One traces, in this narrative, his own confidence in some of his convictions. May be such a trait can occasionally betray one into an egoistic mood. Still the antidote lies in his own confession: “I write about my perception of what goes around. I did not have the obstinacy to contend that my perception is the correct one.” Such an introspective attitude would naturally lead the reader to consider his words with sympathy and understanding.

 

            The book, no doubt, gives one an inner look into what other­wise would gain the reputation of a false self-evaluation by a writer of himself. Perhaps, it would be premature too on our part to imagine that his views would resist future challenges to his career, when we know that he is just only on the wrong side of forty years and has a more fruitful period before him for reflections and clarifications of life and political matters.

–K. CHANDRASEKHARAN

 

Temple Terracotta of Bengal: By Prodosh Dasgupta. All India ­Handicrafts Board, Govt. of India, Ministry of Foreign Trade, New Delhi.

 

            There are regions where stone is available in abundance and regions where no stone is available. Thus there are two streams of culture –the stone-culture and the clay-culture. In Bengal, stone is very scarce and hence Bengal belongs to clay-culture.; this truth applies not only to the art of architecture but also to that of sculpture. Sculpture, moulded in clay and later burnt in fire, is called terracotta; thus we find in Bengal terracotta rather than stone-sculpture. Temples are also built in Bengal with bricks and they are embellished with clay-scriptures or terracottas. But there is the risk of impermanence to the terracottas, for humidity or damp weather ruins them. Stone-sculpture is safe in this respect.

 

            Prodosh Dasgupta, a renowned sculptor himself, has spared no trouble in producing this beautiful volume which contains a meticulously written enlightening text and numerous photographs, taken by the author himself, of the temple terracottas found in the various places of Bengal. The scholarly text which contains the histori­cal details, the artistic traditions and conventions, analyses of the techniques and styles, denotes that the author, Pradosh Dasgupta, is more than a mere sculptor. He travelled extensively as well as intensively in obscure corners of the unknown villages of Bengal for years together for the sake of producing the present volume; he underwent numerous hardships in his endeavours.

 

            About the origins of the terrcotta art in Bengal, the author states, “Nobody knows where the first chapter of Bengal terracotta may be opened. Although through the excavations and other stray evidences the earliest Bengal terracotta may be dated as far back as the proto-historic times, there is no gainsaying the fact that no trace of its development is available with us until we come to the Maurya-Sunga period. The unfortunate hiatus in the Indian history of art that exists even today between Mohanjodaro and the Maurya period (300 B. C.) is a headache to many of our art historians and archaeologists.”

 

Both brick-making and clay-sculpture or terracotta, in one sense, belong to the art of pottery. Pottery is the oldest plastic art in the world. Clay-modelling preceded stone-carving. Bengal’s original sculpture was terracotta, no doubt. But it lost its continu­ous current during the historical periods reigned by many a ruler both Hindu and Muslim. According to the author, “The most profuse and rich period of the history of Bengal terracotta art, however, culminated during the 17th and the 18th centuries, A. D. Thus, we find that this art flourished most under the Muslim rulers during the age of the imperial Mughals.” Thus, we find that the maturity, if not the origin, of Bengal terracotta art is comparatively recent whereas the maturity of stone-sculpture goes to the remote past.

 

Strange it is to find that the Bengal temple terracottas depict also the human figures of foreigners! In those days the Portuguese atrocities were prevalent in parts of Bengal and thus the Bengal terracotta artists could not resist their temptation of recording in their art the scenes which they saw around them, or heard of them. The Portuguese hunting wild animals, riding in chariots, love-making with local women, etc., are some of the subjects to which they gave form in terracottas, in a synthetic style of realism and imagination.

 

In the reign of Alivardi Khan in Bengal in the 18th century, the Marhatha Bargis entered Bengal and were active in committing many atrocities in many parts of the country. Some of the terracottas depict such seenes too.

 

In the art of terracotta there are numerous styles according to the regions where they were produced. Thus, we have the Vishnupur Style, the Burdwan Style, the Murshidabad Style, the Birbhum Style, the Hughly Style, etc. Each style has got its own rhythm, balance and proportion; each style is conspicuous by display of its own mannerism and treatment. In some styles, the realistic representation is more prominent while in others imaginary delineation. However, those terracotta artists were able to display their dexterity in whatever they touched. Many of those artists were, in fact, illiterate rustic artisans.

 

The author has provided, in this volume, with a detailed technical information, the modus operandi, as to how the terracottas are prepared. He has classified the types of clay with which the terracottas are executed, the methods of carving and modelling, the types of the craftsmen who create them, the drying of the clay plaques and, eventually, baking them in kilns. These craftsmen did belong to the lower strata of the society. These craftsmen were extant till the last century when still alive was the custom of building temples in Bengal. But in the present century these craftsmen became extinct with the advancement of industrial civilization.

 

The volume “Temple Terracotta of Bengal” is a remarkable volume of both enlightenment and entertainment–enlightenment from the scholarly text and entertainment from the fascinating illustrations. A part from these, there are short notes relating to each illustration. In the end of the text there is given an extensive glossary which helps the reader, especially the foreign reader, to understand the native words. There is added also a bibliography. Printing and get up are well done.

 

Literature on art is rare in India; there are no well-inform­ed as well as well-illustrated books on the art of terracotta. Prodosh Dasgupta’s present book fulfils that want to a great extent.

–SANJIVA DEV

 

The Key to the Sciences of Man: By D. G. Garan. Philosophical Library, New York. Price: $ 10.

 

The volume under review is a revolutionary attempt and approach to the study of human values. The author does not accept the current theories–Humanist and Philosophical. The view that values are objective, absolute and intrinsic is refuted as going against the facts of human experience. “Value is always a feeling or organic experience, and as such it only can derive from, or lead to, opposite value experiences. Thus the qualitative gain that the humanists are stressing is never possible in view to experiences. The only possible progress is the deplored quantitative one. The learning and knowledge have left as traces of the equal gains and losses of value experiences can be endlessly rich. Also the inner values as quantitative satisfaction, potentials like the love, interest or morals can be endlessly rich and are the most needed psychic capital. But such value potentials are created by the accumulation of their opposites, needs or non-satisfactions and restrictions always felt as disvalues.” (P. 489)

 

It is difficult for the traditionalist and theists to accept the theory of values as set forth by the author. The Indian dialectician has a rational retort to those who uphold the relativity of values. To deny the objective validity of values, e.g., truth, beauty, goodness, etc., would lead to the admission of one truth, namely, the truth of the denial of values. The author has harnessed all possible resources to argue his thesis with documents in a critical manner confronting the formidable rival popular views. The book carries references chapterwise and has an useful index. The style of the book is easy and flowing and is highly informing in its contents. Chapters II, IX and X deserve close reading and are rewarding to the reader.

–DR P. NAGARAJA RAO

 

Essays in Sanskrit Criticism: By K. Krishnamurty. Karnataka University, Dharwar. Price: Rs. 12.

 

Coming from the pen of a professor, profoundly conversant with the theories of literary criticism in Sanskrit and English, the twenty-six essays in this book written in an elegant style have many lights upon the main tenets of criticism in Sanskrit. Many of the essays spotlight some points that were not given their due place, and clear some outstanding misunderstandings. The view that Sanskrit writers are deficient in synthetic outlook is rightly rebutted. The opinion that joy of creation and joy of appreciation are both Rasas though in different senses is upheld. The learned professor avers that the most important contribution of Sanskrit criticism is Alamkara. It stands for the principle of beauty; and Alam­kara and Rasa are the two magnetic poles in Sanskrit criticism. Purification theory of Bhatta Touta reminds us of the theory of Katharsis. Abhinavagupta stretched Anandavardhana’s theory, the author says, to needless length amid academic hair-splittings. In the original unrestricted sense of Rasa it could be Vyangya only from a whole work. That we do not come across identification of Rasananda and Mokshananda in the Dhvanyaloka is a fact. Drawbacks in Abhinavagupta’s views are pointed out.

 

Mahima Bhatta’s view that too much importance need not be attached to mechanical symmetry in metre, which sounds quite modern, is herein brought to our notice. That the essential secret of poetic process so ably expounded by T. S. Eliot today was not unknown to ancient literary criticism is explained at length. In all these essays views of our literary critics are correlated with those of the occidental. We commend this book to all students of literary criticism.

–B. K. RAO

 

Essays on John Donne (A Quarter Centenary Tribute): Edited by Asloob Ahmad Ansari. Published by the Department of English, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh. Price: Rs. 18.

 

Ever since T. S. Eliot placed John Donne at the head of the poets of unified sensibility. John Donne has become the doyen of the modern poets. He became a “must” for aspiring poets and an inevitable item on the syllabi of all universities in the East and West. His poetic reputation had grown by leaps and bounds and reached such colossal proportions that it all appeared to be ridicu­lously exaggerated praise. A revision had become necessary and in the process of revaluation of some of the angularities of Donne criti­cism are cured. The quarter centenary celebration of John Donne gave an opportunity for many to turn to Donne in the light of recent criticism and appraise him afresh. In Aligarh Muslim University of India members of the English Department applied themselves to the study of Donne to make an objective study of him on the occasion. They invited contribution from a few scholars from other universities too.

 

The volume, by any standard, is a very welcome addition to the library of Donne criticism. The contributors to the volume deserve a rich need of praise for their thorough-going scholarship and balanced views.

 

In the first essay, ‘John Donne in his age’, Prof B. K. Kalia of Kurukshetra University makes a thorough study of Donne’s contemporary reputation. He traces how he rose from the level of a mere coterie poet to that of a poet of greater importance. The author has successfully contradicted Miss Rosemund Tuve’s contention that this view of Donne as a rebel is a modern imposition. He also succeeds in showing how unreal and untenable is the distinction we very often draw between the rake and the priest, John Donne and Dean Donne.

 

In the next essay, “Some aspects of Donne’s love poetry with specific reference to the Relique”, Z. A. Usmani brings out the greatness of Donne’s love poetry, especially the poem ‘Relique’, which he analyses in detail He concludes by saying that the poem itself is a relic discovered and recognized in the timeless present that unites the miracle that has been and the miracle that might have been. Prof. Iqbal Ahamad’s essay, ‘Woman in Donne’s love poetry,’ makes an interesting reading.

 

The three essays, ‘Donne’s verse letters’ by Masoodul Hasan, ‘Donne’s epithalamic verse’ by M. K. Lodi and ‘Pope’s adaptations of Donne’s satires’ by Jafar Zaki, throw much light on the little known aspects of Donne’s poetry. They make a fresh reading. Harish Raizada makes an attempt to assess the satirical genius of John Donne on the basis of a study of the entire love poetry of Donne. Prof. A. A. Ansari studies Donne’s divine poems in his paper. “Two modes of utterance in Donne’s divine poems”, while Prof. Nareshchandra and Prof. P. K. Ghosh assess the merits of Donne as preacher and writer of prose. They convincingly show that even as a preacher Donne won a distinction for himself and became a model for others to follow.

 

“Competent” is the word to describe these learned papers. They drive us back to Donne’s works with renewed enthusiasm.

–DR G. SRIRAMAMURTY

 

Aspects of Deccan History: Edited By V. K. Bawa. Institute of Asian Studies, Hyderabad-27. 1975. Price: Rs. 30.

 

In this handy volume, Dr. V. K. Bawa strings together the proceedings of the Seminar on the Deccan History which was held from the 22nd December, 1973. There are altogether 19 essays covering different aspects of the Deccan history.

 

On geopolitical aspect, there is an essay on the historic Deccan tracing the historical evolution from earliest times and mentions that it was “a laboratory of relations between the Aryan civilization of the North and the historic Dravidian civilization of the South.” The other essays cover geopolitical aspects of Vijaya­nagar kingdom with the kingdoms of the Deccan.

 

With reference to socio-economic aspects, there is an essay on the economic development of South India in the 19th century. Dr. Eric Frykenberg has contributed an interesting paper on the problem of land control in the districts of Andhra. Other essays cover the different aspects of socio-economic power in the region of Deccan.

 

On the cultural side, Dr N. Venkata Rao contributed an exhaustive article on the Telugu literature during the Kakatiya period. Some aspects of art and architecture of the Deccan region are traced by Prof. R. Subrahmanyam. Dr. Jagadish Mittel in an article on the Deccanese painting points out the major differ­ence between the Deccanese and Mughal paintings.

 

The volume deserves to be read by all those interested in the study of the history of the Deccan.

–DR K. S. SUNDARAM

 

How to know God: By Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood. Sri Ramakrishna Math, Madras-4. Price: Rs.5-50

 

This is a new translation and commentary on the Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali by these two well-known collaborators in interpreting the ancient Indian wisdom in terms of modern thought. The authors approach the Aphorisms for the light they give to seekers of God-realisation and they do not hesitate to go beyond the strict sense of the sutras. They draw upon the commentaries of Bhoja and Vyasa and quote from the writings of Swami Vivekananda and also from other scriptural texts of India. The presentation follows the order in the original: Yoga and its aims; Yoga and its practice; Powers; Liberation.

 

In the comment on 1.33 calling for “friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and indifference toward the wicked”, the authors add: “Our proper approach toward our fellow human beings is summed up in one of the first of the Hindu monastic vows: ‘The flies seek honey. I will shun the habit of the flies and follow that of the bees. I will refrain from finding faults in others and look only for the good which is in them’.”

 

In an interesting aside while discussing the concept of Ishwara in Patanjala Sutras, it is pointed out: “After liberation man is one with Brahman. But he can never become one with Ishwara. Indeed, the desire to become Ishwara, the Ruler of the universe, would be the most insane of all egotistical desires – it seems to be typified, in Christian literature, by the story of the fall of Lucifer.”

 

This publication is a happy addition to the series that the Sri Ramakrishna Math has been bringing out, Indian editions of works originally published abroad.

–M. P. PANDIT

 

Spilitual Healers of India: By Jaya T. Rao Sahib. 1498/11A Rama Iyer Road, Mysore-4. Price: Rs. 6.

 

A very well written book giving brief accounts of some of the important spiritual personalities in India who have helped to shape the country’s evolution of general consciousness in the diverse spheres of life. There is Purandaradasa who initiated the movement of the minstrels of God in Karnataka and whose vachanas (bon mots) are still on the lips of the common man, bridging the gulf between Heaven and Earth, pointing out the foibles of man and the glory of God. Kabir who lauded the Divine in its impersonal form, worked for a unity of the many approaches to God and established the Bhakti cult in a powerful way in the North, comes next. Then follow Tulsidas of Rama Charita Manas fame and the example set by him for instant conversion of the human personality into the spiritual; Saint Tyagaraja who showed the possibility of realising the Divine through music and began a new age and style of music in South India; Sri Raghavendraswamy who took Samadhi over three hundred years ago but still continues –in fulfilment of his assurance – to guide and help humanity with the dynamics of his presence at the Mantralaya; Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa who inaugurated the Indian Renaissance and demonstrated in his own life the fundamental unity of religions and made spiritual life accessible to the ordinary man; Sai Baba of Shiridi who shocked the orthodox and self-complacent minds of the society by his bizarre ways and brought about a striking change in the mentality of an increasingly materialist generation; Sri Ramana Maharshi who revived the ideal of the ancient Upanishads and sent a wave of spirituality vibrating throughout the world; and lastly Satya Sai Baba who is quite a phenomenon baffling both modern science and hidebound orthodoxy, working for the uplift of the masses in a spiritual dimension. A satisfying book which, we hope, will be followed by another dealing with personalities that have not found mention in this collection though they have played an important part in the spiritual development of India.

–M. P. PANDIT

 

The Quest of the Real: By Kurian Kadankavil. Dharmaram      Publications, Bangalore-29. Price Rs. 15.

 

Though the text chosen for a study of this theme from the Vedanta is the Mundaka Upanishad, the discussion ranges wider. The background of the Vedic thought and practice, the several lines of spiritual enquiry that are recorded in the various Upa­nishads and a peep into the post-Upanishadic developments–all these are brought into focus. The main argument in the Mundaka establishing two spheres of knowledge, the lower and the higher, apara and para, and the pragmatic approach investing both with reality in their own kind, the vision of the universe as an emanation of the Supreme Brahman, the methods open to the seeker to realise the Divine Reality, e.g., sacrifice, meditation, learning, development of consciousness, renunciation and allied subjects form the topics of the dissertation. The work is an earnest attempt at grasping the core of the philosophy and Sadhana of the seers of the Upanishads and it succeeds in an ample measure in emphasising the comprehen­sive nature of the effort in India of that age to realise the truth of the Self and the world.

 

A scholarly study in a becoming spirit of humility.

–M. P. PANDIT

 

Guide to Good Life: By S. V. Parthasarathy. 17 Venkataratnam Nagar, Madras-20. Price: Rs. 12.

 

The Indian epics such as the Ramayana of Valmiki and the Mahabharata of Vyasa contain a number of moral precepts and invaluable lessons for the conduct in life for man and woman. It is therefore no fresh thought on the part of the author of the present compilation of enduring sayings from the text of Valmiki’s immortal poem, to have gathered many of the precepts contained in the verses and presented them with their English translations. Further, his own explanatory notes on the value of the moral injunctions add considerably to the purpose of the publication. Thus, we have here nearly 263 precepts contained in verses which

form more than the exact number of the sayings, because of the precepts sometimes getting elaborated in more than one verse in the text itself. But actually more such useful guides can be availed of if we discern often in suggestive thoughts for our cultural awakening from many more contexts in the narration of the story.

 

The book certainly gains much by the introduction from the author, whose sense of values of our philosophical and cultural background is reflected in more than one aspect of life which he has classified for his comments. He has dealt with Sanatana Dharma and proved its efficacy in every department of human existence. When he deals with Maya for instance, he has recourse to Sankara’s theory and his comparison of it with Einstein’s scientific thought is really illuminating and wholly satisfactory.

 

With the index of Slokas and of Precepts towards the last the book bids fair to be highly useful. But the book could have been more carefully printed and also better presented.

–K. CHANDRASEKHARAN

 

Sarojini Naidu: By Tara Ali Baig. Published by the Publications Division, Government of India, New Delhi-1. Price: Rs. 7.

 

This book in the “Builders of Modern India” series dealt with the life and work of perhaps the most distinguished woman of our freedom struggle. Although Sarojini Naidu’s first love was poetry, she was drawn into politics because, as she had explained in a letter to Symons, she couldn’t “renounce this coloured, unquiet, fiery human life of this earth.” As Mrs. Baig says, she was influenced by her scholar-father Agorenath Chattopadhyaya, the liberal Gokhale, the nationalist Jinnah and, of course, Gandhi. Through her ideals, sacrifices and brilliance, she won a respectable place in the highest councils. She participated in all the important political campaigns; she was a close associate of Gandhi and Nehru; she became the Congress President at Kanpur in 1925. She also presided over the Asian Relations Conference in 1947 with dignity. In Free India, she was the first woman governor of a state.

 

Mrs. Baig observes that Sarojini’s distinctive contribution as a nation-builder was the promotion of Hindu-Muslim unity. Her spontaneous oratory in the national cause had inspired many thousands to action. It was through her innumerable speeches that she had won an abiding place in people’s hearts and it was again her speeches, not her poetry, which had won her the title, “the Nightingale of India.”

 

If Gandhi had invested politics with spiritual values, Mrs. Naidu had added an aesthetic dimension to it through her extra­ordinary gifts of laughter and oratory and her feminine charm and grace.

 

Mrs. Baig’s biography is a vivid account of a vibrant personality.

–E. NAGESWARA RAO

 

Appaandai Nathar Ula: Edited by M. Shanmukham Pillai. Published by the University of Madras, Madras-4. Price: Rs. 8.

 

Ula” in Tamil means procession. Later on ‘Ula’ came to denote descriptive literature of a procession where the hero is God or a king. Ulas are evident even from the days of Sundaramurti Nayanar of Sangham Tamil period. Every literary piece of Tamil literature Silappadhikaram, Manimekhalai, Javaka Chintamani, Kambha Ramayanam, etc., contains descriptive poems on processions.

 

Appaandai Nathar Ula is one such piece of literature written at the end of the 16th or at the beginning of the 17th century by one Ananta Vijayar on the local deity of Tirunarungundai situated 12 miles South-East of Thirukkoyilur in South Arcot District of Tamil Nadu. The deity is Parswanatha, the 23rd Theerthankar of the Jains and he is called Appaandai Nathar by the local citizens meaning Father, Preceptor and God. This was a popular Jain pilgrim centre of eminence.

 

In connection with the Silver Jubilee of the centenary of the Jain Mahaveera Vardhamana, the University of Madras entrusted the work of editing the literary work ‘Appaandai Nathar Ula’ to Shri M. Shanmukham Pillai, Lecturer in Tamil in charge of Thirukkural Research. Shri Pillai brought out a very useful edition reproducing all the 620 couplets, giving a graphic introduction to the Ula literature, explaining the historical, sculptural and archi­tectural accounts relating to the place along with the story of Parswanatha. Devotional compositions in praise of Thirunarun­gundai and Parswanatha have also been added.

 

This literary work is slightly different from the others in as much as Ananta Vijayar chose to praise the Lord through devoted love in the words of “Nayaki” passing through her seven stages in life.

–P. SRINIVASAN

 

Nammalvar: By A. Srinivasa Raghavan. Sahitya Akademi. Rabindra Bhavan, New Delhi-1. Price: Rs. 2-50.

 

The outpourings of the Alvars of South India, numbering to nearly 4000 verses, occupy an important place in the corpus of devotional literature in Tamil. Several of the Alvars were gifted poets soaked in the noblest literary traditions of the Sangam age of Tamil Iiterature. But as attempts to make a literary assess­ment of their poetry is frowned upon by the orthodox, the works of the Alvars are known mainly for their devotional and mystic content.

 

In the galaxy of Alvars, Nammalvar is venerated as the super-mystic of South Indian Vaishnavism. His four works, viz., Tiruviruttam, Tiruvasirivam, Periya Tiruvantadi and Tiruvoymozhi are considered as the Tamil counterparts of the four Vedas. The last-named work, in particular, contains the essence of Vaishnava philosophy. Later Acharyas of this religion extracted most of their metaphysical concepts from this ‘Sacred Word’. The work is unsurpassed in mystic literature for its spiritual depths and fervour.

 

The late Prof. Srinivasa Raghavan was a life-long interpreter into English of the beauties of Tamil literature and has, in the pre­sent work, undertaken the difficult task of introducing Nammalvar to the non-Tamilian public. As there is very little to write about the  ‘life’ of the Alvar, the author has rightly concentrated his efforts on an analysis of the saint’s philosophy and his approach to God. Copious translations from the verses of the Alvar have been furnished to drive home his approach as a mystic and a poet rather than as a formal philosopher. The last chapter of this excellent monograph has been devoted to a careful examination of the poetry of Nammalvar. The printing is elegant.

–T. PARTHASARATHY

 

Freedom and Peace: By Bhimsen Gupta. Writers Club, Kurukshetra, Price: Rs. 8-50.

 

These metrical compositions depict struggling India, Free India and New India and seek to capture the various moods of the nation’s awakened consciousness. The actual poetic achievement is not commensurate with the idealism that had inspired it. There is undeniable patriotic fervour behind the lines but that is not enough. The art which fuses patriotic feelings into “thoughts that burn and words that breathe” is not much in evidence here.

–Dr C. N. SASTRI

 

Sea-Sonnets: By Jesse Roarke. Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, Pondicherry - 2.

 

This volume of hundred sonnets was inspired by the sea which happens to be a perennial theme and a perpetual symbol of immen­sity. Set against that unchanging back-drop, human life with its exultations and agonies looks like a brief candle and a walking shadow. The sonnets bear testimony to a fine poetic sensibility, clarity and vigour of expression.

 

“My nature is serene in rise and fall

And never longs for smoothness or the dock;

Deep in ward there is neither turn nor shock”

 

remarks the poet whose serenity seeks to build true substance year by year and ripen with experience.

–DR. C. N. SASTRI

 

TAMIL

 

Vuravugal: By Neela Padmanabhan. “Neelakant”, 36/1684–1. Kuriyathi Road, P. O. Manacaud, Trivandrum-695009. Price: Rs. 20.

 

Fictional writing in Tamil has increased in recent decades. While the short story has a bit slackened in its speed, the novel has gained greater momentum in fulfilling the craving of readers. Every writer has to his or her credit a novel of at least three hundred pages of closely-packed, suspense-sustaining matter with the addi­tional attraction of the sex-appeal as almost the main interest of its theme. It is, therefore, first a relief to find a writer departing from the usual rut for keeping up the story-interest but take to some change in ordering the stuff in his own way. The author of the present volume is not new to the field, as he has already made a name for his contributions to it. He has here chosen the Hindu joint family as the chief source for his inspiration and woven round a family some of the constant bickerings and domestic inadjustabilities among its members. Still, the technique he has adopted is fresh in the manner of the narration. It is all in the first person with frequent flashbacks for incidents and details which give a naturalness to the picture of a person in sensitive and reflective moods concerning events of a past that furnishes all the strength to the main story’s career.

 

Realism in excelsis is what one derives from a calm considera­tion of the art revealed in this novel. There is very little of liveliness or deep urges stirred. The homeliness of many of the dialogues add the same naturalness to the entire concept of a Hindu family in conservative setting and in their social behaviour. The plot means nothing to the writer as he more often revels in the psycho-analysis of the characters. Yet one cannot escape a feeling sometimes of drag, especially when the same kind of mental reactions and re-reactions get described in minutiae. How one wishes there were something more in the novel to retain long in thought after closing the pages of the book!

–K. CHANDRASEKHARAN

 

TELUGU

 

Malli Velugu: By Sheela Veerraju. Yuva Bharati, Secunderabad. Price: Rs. 4.

 

This collection of free verse offers poems written by a painter and proves at several places Abercrombie’s remark that poetry is speaking painting and painting is dumb poetry. There is an admirable use of imagery which adds concreteness and charm to the poet’s vision of truth. Depression and despair, the stock in trade of prose-poets, are replaced by a refreshing note of optimism ring­ing unmistakably all through. “This darkness will vanish. A new dawn shall break” assures the poet who believes that “the best is yet to be”. Different periods of the day from dawn to midnight are selected as symbols for the varying phases of the poetic spirit which voyages on many strange tides of feeling and experience.

–AMARENDRA

 

Vikasa Lahari: Yuva Bharati, Secunderabad. Price: Rs. 6.

 

Within a span of 150 pages the story of Telugu literature is presented by experts like Professor Venkatavadhani, Dr C. Narayana Reddi, Dr G. V. Subrahmanyam and Arudra. The book carries a fine preface by Sri Devulapalli Ramanuja Rao, Secretary of Andhra Pradesh Sahitya Akademi, who is a finished prose-artist. Professor Venkatavadhani’s critical assessment of Nannaya, the father of Telugu poetry and the literary achievements of Triupati Venkatakavulu deserves commendation. Poet Arudra made        a refreshing approach to the life and work of Veeresalingam and found a satisfactory explanation for the feeling of isolation which gnawed at the heart of the great reformer during his closing years. Dr Narayana Reddi and Dr Subrahmanyam have offered competent and balanced studies of the poetic output of Potana and Pingali Surana. Vikasa Lahari is another bright feather in the cap of Yuvabharati. Their publications have attained new heights of excellence in printing and get-up also.

–AMARENDRA

 

Vennelacuntly Subba Rao Jeevayaatraa Charitra (The Life of Vennelacunty Soob Row): Translated by Dr Akkiraju Ramapati Rao. Sri Bharati Prachuranalu, Secunderabad. Price: Rs. 6-50.

 

The first autobiography in English, it is said, was written in the 15th century. It was the “Book of Margery Kempo”. And the first autobiography written in English by an Andbra 140 years ago is the book under notice. It is written by Soob Row (1784-1839) who was a native of Ongole. He was a linguist and worked as a translator and interpreter of the “late Sudr Court”, Madras, from 1815 to 1829.

 

The book is not only interesting, but also gives us a vivid picture of India under the East India Company, its social structure, men and matters and the travel facilities obtaining during that period. Soob Row’s report on the then existing system of edu­cation is a very valuable document.

 

With his valuable doctoral thesis on Veeresalingam Pantulu, Dr Ramakanta Rao established himself as a researcher and a good writer in Telugu. He has about 20 published volumes to his credit, besides some unpublished ones. This Telugu rendering of Soob Row’s autobiography would be a feather in his cap. The reader never feels it as a translation which excels many original writings in Telugu.

–BHAVARAJU

 

Punarjanma Vijnanamu (2 Vols.): By Pantula Laxminarayana Sastry. For copies: Author, Prattipativari Veedhi, Kaspa, Vizianagaram-2. Price: Rs. 5 each.

 

“Life after death” has now become a debatable problem and is attracting the attention of parapsychologists for investigations and research. Newspapers now and then are publishing events where some children are recollecting their past births and giving proofs thereto. The volumes under review throw light on this topic. The meaning of death and birth, sojourn of the soul after death and its rebirth, and allied topics are discussed in detail on the basis of ancient Indian scriptures, Vedas, Upanishads, Smritis and Puranas reasoning and ratiocination and experience. Incidentally Panchagni Vidya is given a full exposition. Catachetical method is adopted in the second volume, Erudition and scholarship in abundance, are brought to bear in these volumes, which deserve to be studied not only by those that are interested in the problem of rebirth hut Indian philosophy in general.

–B. K. R. SASTRY

 

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