Essays on literature, politics and violence

For the past couple of weeks I have been reading a collection of essays of D R Nagaraj called Listening to the loom, edited by Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi (the substitle of which is the title of this post). I have enjoyed the book immensely.

The pieces by Nagaraj on U R Ananthamoorthy, Chandrashekhara Kambhar and Ashis Nandy are a must read as also his analysis of the Kannada literary culture.  Nagaraj gives an entirely different dimension to the two vachanas of Basaveshvara that I like — Ullavaru Shivayala Maduvaru (The rich will build temples for Shiva) and Nudidra Muddina haaradhanthirabeku (The speech should be like a necklace of pearls).

I have always been under the impression that it was the Buddhist influence through Shankara (who–as Bharathiyar in his Bhagavad GIta introduction notes–was called a “hidden Buddhist”) which lead to non-vegetarianism in many communities. However, I did not know that the Jains had a very strong influence too; specifically, the procedure of replacing sacrifical animals with dolls made of dough apparently was a Jain practice (and, Madhvacharya recommended flour made dolls as repclamcents for animals in Vedic rituals–knowing that Madhvacharya came from South Canara which was an important Jain centre it is not difficult to see the connections).

Nagaraj has something interesting to say at least once in every two pages and many a times twice in one page. Here are some sample quotes:

… if Nandy is Naduram Godse, modernity is Gandhi–the assassin’s relationship with his victim is both complex and multidimensional.

He [Vivekananda] is the first Cristian in the context of Hinduism in modern India.

Gandhi did not talk like a Vedantin. He never had any shastric dialogues with the sadhus after the famous encounter with the priests in the Kali temple. He said goodbye to Vedanta, and for precisely this reasong Ambedkar claimed Gandhi  was ‘no true Hindu’.

The purpose of this quote is not to draw the reader’s attention to any yogic element in Gandhi but to treat the Tibetan dog as a guide who will take us on a journey to understand the sources of violence and Gandhian responses to them.

To be specific, we should be able to analyse violence and social suffering in South Asis using categories from Shramana or Sufi transtions. … If the methods and philosophical positions of present times are fit and useful to analyse the formations of several kinds of pre-modern eras, the reverse should also be true.

And there are many, many more such passages in the book.

A wonderful read and strongly recommended!

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