Archive for the ‘Nirad Chaudhari’ Category

The continent of circe: Essays on the People of India ( By Nirad C Chaudhari, Jaico Publishing, India) : A profound book on Indian culture

November 17, 2007

Nirad C Chaudhari, who lived most of his later life in Britain and died there a few years ago just a few year short of hundred, has presented in this book his deep understanding of Indian culture and Hinduism.

He repeatedly maintains that he technically is a Shudra: the lowest caste among the Hindus. His criticism of the Independence heroes of India and the writer Rabinrda nath Tagore is plausible and a little intemperate if one is to consider it in the present context, when most of the people he criticised has been deified to the extent that they are considered beyond any scrutiny.

Also is remarkable of his recognition of Hindu militarism and its going unacknowledged by the conquerors who ruled the India for centuries. It is presented as something different than the others and is directed inwards; and remains dormant to appear sporadically and surprisingly in the history. Nirad’s analysis in this regard is important as he was hired as a military expert by the colonial government during the second world war.

Nirad Chaudhri has intended in this book to put ahead the debate that the Aryans of India were migrants from the West and became brown by the ’sun and wind’ of the continent over the centuries.

Their inability to accept the black colour as equal; and their love and appreciation of rivers and other traits Nirad had presented as a proof to this end. The waters of a holy river lapping the ample breasts of a half-naked Hindu woman, while she is chest deep in it to offer prayer to the deities, while the naked Naga Sadhus pass from a  holy river bank nearby, with their genitals pierced and chained to suggest their celebate lives and the detachment to worldly matters is a scene depicted in the book, to explain the times, people and attitudes the writer knew.

He has hinted at the unavailability of Hindu women for blacks, unlike the European or American women, as a proof of the loathing the black color receives from Hindu higher caste. He maintains that Hindus are incapable of seeing any beauty in black colored people. This all may look a needless point, unsuitable for this remarkable book, that has an acuity rarely seen in the work of recent authors from the continent, and the writer’s deep study of the Hindu religious books that the authors refers to frequently in this book, and a first hand knowledge of the Sanskrit language. Nirad was not called ‘Brown-sahib’ for nothing.

Then he focuses on the matter of cow slaughter and debates that eating cow meat is nowhere prohibited in Hindu religious books. And he argues that the Indian cows are more beautiful than anywhere else. Nirad maintains that it is due to the color only that the buffalo milk is unacceptable to higher caste Hindus though it is more nutritious than the cow milk. Also the buffalo is slaughtered in the religious ceremonies of Hindus.

Nirad also dwells on the issue of Hindu sexuality, sounding a little prudish, when he rejects the ancient erotic art carved on the caves and the literature like Kamasutra as of little value and not the genuine representative of it. He argues it is lecherous in nature and meant to stimulate or satisfy the physically incapable or mentally perverted, men or women. He also disapproves of the Western curiosity and appreciation of the same. He states that the Hindu way of sex is not Gandhian non-violent type. Then he goes on to express his dismay when he noticed among an old married couple in his childhood, the amount of verbal abuse, sallies and innuendos going on,  the man mostly receiving them. Though they looked perfectly happy to the other people. 

He maintains that there is much self-wounding and violence taking place among a married Hindu couple than ever noticed or reported, by the scholars – indegenious or foreigner. The latter actually have no means to understand the cultural nuances of Hindu society, Nirad often asserts.  

He also reports the continuous emtional black-mail a Hindu man, particularly a jobless one, suffers for the sex he receives from his wife. The thought of the sex he would be receiving from his wife in the night keeps him going through all the harshness he is subjected to by his wife or the larger world, for his joblessness or other matters, keeps him going on. The couple hating each other to the utmost go to bed and fulfil their carnal desire in the dark, and detest each other for everything the next day, to became again aroused br the desire by the evening; never coming out of the fatigue of copulation really. Gratifying oneself by courtesans is what most people could not afford and having extra marital relations is always a risk of another marriage, entailing a lot of family quarrell and sufferings, more than anything else, as per Nirad. But he also states the Hindu capacity to ignore the inevitable adultery in some cases. These observation are of a time Nirad lived. They may look relevant or not in todays context, when the Hindu sexuality too, like many other things, has undergone a remarkable shift.

Nirad subtantiate most of his arguments in this regard by quoting from saskrit and French or Latin literature, displaying  his eclectic source of knowledge, to lend credence to the same. Defying his tyrannical observations would take a longer appranticeship with an intelletual career and greater insight than his, though the informations are more readily available nowadays.

This book also has the attitudes of English rulers before independence and shows how much they were worried about the mob overwhelming them and a possible sabotage. It was an uneasy relationship that is well explored by Nirad. 

And at times the arguments may appear without any sound proofs, that the author forwards with emotions, ran out of the quotes in different languages; and it seems the author is never ready to concede on anything he is arguing about. But it was a book written more then fifty years back. So such flaws could be ignored. Considering the fact that even today this is how matters are debated in the Continent.

For the people interested in the history of the Indian sub-continent, that is not much reported nowadays, or is tempered with even in the academic papers, this book is a delightful read, if one can ignore this singular flaw of the book: Of presenting the Aryans as the European Migrant.