Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Saffronisation of Education: Political Ideology and Interpretation of History

Ram Puniyani

Our sub continent, which has a common past; shares its history, there are diverse ways of looking at the same history by groups belonging to different political ideologies. With the change of Government in Delhi, the leading institutions are having a major policy shift, organizations like Indian Council of Historical Research, National Council for Education, Research and Training amongst others, as they have got heads whose qualification is not excellence in their disciplines but their proximity to ideology of ruling dispensation. These are the institutions which delve in to history, education and most of the disciplines related to social sciences. The change of the policy seems to be guided by BJP’s parent organization, RSS whose political ideology is Hindu nationalism in contrast to the values of Indian Constitution, the one of Indian Nationalism. To give an indication of the same RSS Chief (Sarsanghchalak) stated (March 3, 2015) that Indian history should be saffronised. To back him up BJP leader and ex Minister of MHRD Murli Manohar Joshi said that the call to saffronise Indian history is necessary and the concerned Minister should feel proud in saffronising the history books.

What is saffronisation of History books? This term was coined by the progressive rational historians and intellectuals to criticize the move of same Dr. Joshi when he was minister of Human Resource Development, the ministry which also deals with education, in Vajpayee led NDA Government (1998) and had brought serious changes in the curriculum, education and social science-history books. The books which were introduced during his tenure had statements like, it is because we are the children of Manu that we are known as manushya or manav (human), scientists consider plants as inanimate, while the Hindus consider them as animate and to have life, on refusing to accept Islam Banda Bairagi had the heart of his son thrust down his throat, Sati is presented as a Rajput tradition that we should be proud of, etc. Similar distortions in medieval period were; Qutub Minar was built by emperor Samudragupta and its real name was Vishnu Stambha. At another level the battles for power between Shivaji and Afzal Khan, the battle between Akbar and Maharana Pratap, Guru Govind Singh and Aurangzeb was given religious color.

These changes came under scholarly criticism from the professional, progressive, secular historians. They coined the term ‘Saffronisation of education’ for this presentation of history. In the face of the criticism the same Murali Manohar Joshi said that the changes in the history books are not saffronisation, its mere correcting the distortions in the history (April 2003) Now turning around due to newer political equations; he is owning the same term, saffronisation, as a matter of pride.

It was British who introduced the Communal historiography in India. This historiography is a way of looking at the historical phenomenon through the lens of religion. The same history in a modified way was picked up by the Hindu and Muslim communalists. In sum and substance, Hindu communalists, Hindu Nationalists presented that India was a Hindu nation from times immemorial and Muslims and Christians and Muslims are foreigners here. The Muslim communal history began from the invasion of Sindh by Mohammad bin Kasim bin in 8th century and claimed that Muslims were the rulers of this land so British should hand over power to them once they leave. A version of this prevails in Pakistan History books today.

In contrast; those identifying with secular, democratic Indian national movement presented a view of history where religion of King was not the main determining factor of his policies. This view was also presented by the leader of freedom movement, Mahatma Gandhi. In his book Hind Swaraj he writes, “The Hindus flourished under Moslem sovereigns and Moslems under the Hindu. Each party recognized that mutual fighting was suicidal, and that neither party would abandon its religion by force of arms. Both parties, therefore, decided to live in peace. With the English advent quarrels recommenced… Should we not remember that many Hindus and Mohammedans own the same ancestors and the same blood runs through their veins? Do people become enemies because they change their religion? Is the God of the Mohammedan different from the God of the Hindu? Religions are different roads converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take different roads so long as we reach the same goal? Wherein is the cause of quarreling?”

After getting independence, in India while the British introduced pattern continued for some time, gradually serious historical research and rational approach started entering the history books. Along with formation of NCERT, the books with rational viewpoint did replace the ones’ with communal interpretation, in schools, which were having NCERT curriculum. With the coming to power of BJP led National Democratic Alliance from 1998, Dr. Joshi brought in the communalization of curriculum and saffronisation of education. With NDA’s defeat in 2004, the Congress led UPA came to power and it gradually and to some extent, restored the spirit of scientific temper and rational thought in education and to some extent scrapped communal version of history in books. The communal version of history in a way is a fiction suiting the political agenda of ‘Religious nationalism’, whether in Pakistan or India. So Here in India a Taj Mahal becomes Tejo Mahalay, a Shiv Temple and the freedom struggle is presented as a religious was against Muslims, Muslim kings are blamed for destruction of temples and spreading Islam by sword. The divisive mind set is promoted for political goals. In books in Pakistan Muslim Kings are Heroes and Hindu kings nobody!

Apart from the official school text books as such RSS has been running a chain of schools, Sarswati Shishu Mandirs, Ekal Vidyalayas and Vidya Bharati, which are using the version of History. It is this version form RSS stable schools, which they are proposing for the state run institutions. This is what will be a very divisive move for our plural country with immense diversity. 

Blogger Tricks

Subversion at Work: Astrology Discredited in the Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Ayodhyākāṇḍa

Ramkrishna Bhattacharya

An advertisement published in the Times of India (Kolkata edition) on December 10, 2014 entered by Nakshatra Diamond Jewellery (certified by Gemological Science International, International Gemological Institute, Independent Gemological Laboratories and others) contained a half-page picture of a bejewelled Bollywood film-star. The advertisement was entitled ‘This Pushya Nakshatra / Buy from the amazing collection at Nakshatra & usher in blessings, luck & success in your life.’

The day the moon enters Puṣya, the eighth of the twenty seven lunar mansions/constellations (nakṣatra). Indian astrologers consider this day to be auspicious, particularly for the coronation of kings (puṣyābhiṣeka). Puṣya in a general sense stands, among other things, for ‘nourishment’. In fact the whole month of Pauṣa in the Hindu calendar is supposed to be lucky or propitious for all activities, such as marriage, house warming (gṛhapraveśa), etc.1

Painting: Raja Ravi Varma

Puṣya was known in the early Vedic times (Ṛgveda 1.191.12, also Atharva-veda 5.4.4). It was also known as Tiṣya (Ṛgveda 5.54.13, 10.64.8). Pāṇini mentions it along with a synonym, Siddha/Sidhya2 in the Aṣṭādhyāyī 3.1.116 (‘púṣ-ya- and sídh-ya- are introduced to denote asterisms (nákṣatre),’ puṣya-siddhau nakṣatre).3 Puṣya literally means ‘increased wealth’ as Sidhya stands for ‘achieves success in this’ (Katre p. 212). A detailed description of the benefits accruing from a bath on the day the moon enters Puṣya is found in the Kālikā-Purāṇa, chapter 86. The king should take the bath, for it would ensure good fortune, welfare and wipe out the possibility of famine and epidemic of death.4

Varāhamihira also waxes eloquent on the power of Puṣya:
There are no portents whose evil effects are irremediable by Pushya Snāna and there are no ceremonies calculated to do a king as much good as the ceremony of Pushya Homa [ritual].
The king that desires an increase in power and the king that desires sons will be benefited by Pushya Snāna [bath at the time of Pushya].

Thus have been stated by Bṛhaspati to Indra the rules relating the ceremony of Pushya Snāna – for longevity, increase of progeny/subjects and of fortune. (Bṛhatsaṃhitā 48.84-87. Translation amended)
Pushya is mentioned in several lexicons and other sources (see Böhtlingk-Roth, s.v.). More interesting, however, is the fact that the Rāmāyaṇa Book 2 (Ayodhyā-kāṇḍa, the Book of Ayodhyā), refers to Puṣya, not once or twice, but several times in all in connection with the coronation of Rāma, but with quite an opposite effect.


Daśaratha convened the chief men of the land from the various cities and provinces from the fourcorners, ‘aryan and barbarian, and others who lived in the forest and mountain regions in which they lived’ (mlecchāś cāryāś ca ye cānye vanaśailāntavāsinaḥ 2.3.9ab). and told them:
My body has grown old in the shade of the white parasol. I have lived a life of many, countless, years, and now I crave repose for this aged body of mine…

to invest Rāma, champion of righteousness and bull among men, with the office of prince regent, a union as propitious as the moon’s with the constellation Puṣya. (crit. ed. 2.2.10, p.41)5

Then he called Rāma to the assembly and told him:
And since by your virtues you have won the loyalty of these my subjects, you shall become prince regent on the day of Puṣya’s conjunction. (2.3.24, p.51)
The course of events that followed refers to Puṣya again and again:
After the townsmen had gone, the king held further consultation with his counsellors. When he learned what they had determined the lord [Daśaratha] declared with determination: “Tomorrow is Puṣya, so tomorrow my son Rāma, his eyes as coppery as lotuses, shall be consecrated as prince regent.” (2.4.1-2, p.51)
When the assembled chiefs and counsellors were gone Daśarath again called Rāma and told him:
Rāma, I have had dreams lately, inauspicious, ominous dreams. Great meteors and lightning bolts out of a clear sky have been falling nearby with a terrible crash. The astrologers also inform me, Rāma, that my birth star is obstructed by hostile planets, Angāraka, Rāhu and the sun. When such portents as these appear it usually means a king is about to die or meet with some dreadful misfortune. You must therefore have yourself consecrated, Rāghava, before my resolve fails me. For the minds of men are changeable. Today the moon has reached Punarvasu, just to the east of Puṣya; tomorrow, the astrologers predict, its conjunction with Puṣya is certain. On this very Puṣya day you must therefore have yourself consecrated, Rāghava, before my resolve fails me. On this very Puṣya day you must have yourself consecrated – I feel a sense of great urgency. Tomorrow, slayer of enemies, I will consecrate you as prince regent. (2.4.12-22, p.55)
Some may very well think of this passage as an act of subversion. The royal astrologers could foretell about Daśaratha’s death but could not foresee that Rama was not destined to be made the prince regent. The counsellors of Daśaratha too proved to be no better, although they were sages of repute. They too did not foresee that all attempts to consecrate Rāma would prove to be futile: Daśaratha was not destined to see his eldest son enthroned.

Let us look at the following passages that go on hammering on the auspiciousness of Pusya, credulously repeated by other characters of the epic:
At that moment Kauśalyā stood with her eyes closed, while Sumitrā, Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa were seated behind her. From the moment she received word that her son was to be consecrated as prince regent on Pushya day, she had been controlling her breathing and meditating on the Primal Being, Janārdana. (2.4.30-33, p.57)
Now, Kaikeyīs family servant, who had lived with her from the time of her birth, had happened to ascend to the rooftop terrace that shone like the moon. From the terrace Mantharā could see all Ayodhyā – the king’s way newly sprinkled, the lotuses and water lilies strewn about, the costly ornamental pennants and banners, the sprinkling of sandalwood water and the crowds of freshly bathed people. Seeing a nursemaid standing nearby, Mantharā asked:
Why is Rāma’s mother so delighted and giving away money
to people, when she has always been so miserly? Tell me,
why are the people displaying such boundless delight? Has
something happened to delight the lord of earth? What is he
planning to do?”
Bursting with delight and out of sheer gladness the nursemaid told the hunchback Mantharā about the greater majesty in store for Rāghava:
Tomorrow on Puya day King Daśaratha is going to consecrate Rāma Rāghava as prince regent, the blameless prince who has mastered his anger.” (2.7.5-8ab, p.71)
Mantharā then proceeded to visit Kaikeyī. She found her quite happy with the news of Rāma’s coronation. The queen even presented her with a lovely piece of jewellery.
But Mantharā was beside herself with rage and sorrow. She threw the jewellery away and said spitefully: 
“You foolish woman, how can you be delighted at such a moment? Are you not aware that you stand in the midst of a sea of grief? It is Kauśalyā who is fortunate; it is her son the eminent brahmans will consecrate as the powerful prince regent tomorrow, on Puṣya day. Once Kauśalyā secures this great object of joy, she will cheerfully eliminate her enemies. (2.8.1-3, p.75)
In the mean time, the work of consecration has begun.
The ministers, the leaders of the army and the leading merchants joyfully convened for Rāghava’s consecration. When the bright sun had risen and Pushya day had come, the chief Brahmans made the preparations for Rāma’s consecration. (2.13.1-3, p.107)
When Rāma went back to meet his spouse, his demeneour betrayed his misgivings:
Sītā started up and began to tremble as she looked at her husband consumed with grief, his senses numb with anxious care. When she saw how his face was drained of color, how he sweated and chafed, she was consumed with sorrow. “What is the meaning of this, my lord?” she asked. Today was surely the day for which the learned brahmans had forecast the conjunction of Puṣya, the majestic constellation ruled by Bṛhaspati. Why are you so sad, Rāghava? The hundred-ribbed parasol with its hue of white-capped water is not throwing its shade upon your handsome face. (2.23.5-8, p.161)
Thus, contrary to all expectations, instead of being crowned as the sovereign of Kośala, Rāma was forced to go to exile for fourteen years. The prediction of the astrologers and the endeavours of his father’s counsellors came to naught. So much for the alleged beneficial effect of Puṣya.6 The astrologers and cunsellors did not warn Daśaratha of the consequences if he tried to empower Rāma as the King of Kośala.


Why should the author of this Book, or more specifically, of this section (added, according to Brockington p.329, at the second stage of redaction), repeatedly disparage the royal astrologers and counsellors by pointing out, not once or twice, but several times, the alleged beneficial effect of a day (when the moon enters Puṣya) and the opposite result that followed? The Rāmāyaṇa itself is in all respects a pro-Establishment work, basically male-dominated and conservative in approach concerning all social and political questions. The debunking of astrologers stands out as a significant piece of dissidence not expected in a Brahmanical work. In the Indian tradition the Rāmāyaṇa is not considered to be a secular epic (mahākāvya). On the other hand, it is the first work composed by the ‘first poet’ (ādikavi). Vālmīki was so regarded even in the first century ce, as evidenced in Life of the Buddha (Buddhacarita) by the Buddhist poet, Aśvaghoṣa. He writes: ‘And Vālmīki was the first to create the verse’ (vālmīkirādau ca sasarja padyaṃ, 1.43). The discrediting of astrology, or at least of royal astrologers, is an unexpected radical trait in the received text of the Rāmāyaṇa in all its recensions and versions. It is strange that neither P.L. Vaidya, the editor of the Ayodhyākāṇḍa in the crit. ed., nor any scholar, Indian or foreign, writing on the Rāmāyaṇa pays the least attention to the irony inherent in the repeated reference to Puṣya and the failure of the astrologers in determining the fate awaiting Rāma. Vaidya commenting on 2.4.19-20, writes:
The reason for immediate coronation of Rāma as indicated here is that stars do not seem to be favourable to Daśaratha, and even suggest calamities like death or change of mind. The good and auspicious idea in the mind of Daśaratha, therefore, requires to be put into action immediately (p.695).
This is to miss the mark. Vaidya does not say a word about astrology and its failure. He is concerned solely with the ethical questions arising out of the situation. Nor does Sheldon Pollock, in his otherwise admirable translation, spend a single word to point out the irony of the circumstances. 

All this automatically raises the obvious question: how could such an anti-Establishment view find place and continue to hold it in a ‘sacred text’ like the Rāmāyaṇa?

The only tentative answer I can offer is that, even among the redactors of the Ayodhyākāṇḍa of the Rāmāyaṇa there must have been one who had some grudge against astrology, perhaps because he himself had been a victim of deception of false prophecy. Or he might have a freethinker (rarely met with, but not altogether non-existent in any phase of Indian history), not believing in astrological predictions. There is no gainsaying that the irony of the situation is enhanced by the welfare expected of Puṣya and the disaster that fell on Rāma’s life. There is an oral tradition which says that the adherents of the Nyāya philosophy used to scoff at the astrologers by saying, ‘Astrology is (rendered) fruitless by the banishment of Rāma from his kingdom’ (viphalaṃ jyotiṣaṃ śāstraṃ rāme rājyavivāsite).7 This was in response to a maxim vaunted by the astrologers, ‘Astrology is productive (lit. fruitful) where the sun and the moon are (its) witnesses’ (saphalaṃ jyotiṣaṃ śāstram candrārkau yatra sākṣiṇau).

The redactor of this section of the Rāmāyaṇa Book 2 must have been an ancestor of the Naiyāyikas who ridiculed astrology by citing the case of Rāma’s banishment.

Appendix A

Sanskrit passages from the Rāmāyaṇa (critical edition)

taṃ candram iva puṣyeṇa yuktaṃ dharmabhṛtāṃ varam |
yauvarājyena yoktāsmi prītaḥ puruṣapuṃgavam
|| (crit. ed. 2.2.10)

tvayā yataḥ prajāś cemāḥ svaguṇair anurañjitāḥ |
tasmāt tvaṃ puṣyayogena yauvarājyam avāpnuhi
|| (2.3.24)

gateṣv atha nṛpo bhūyaḥ paureṣu saha mantribhiḥ |
mantrayitvā tataś cakre niścayajñaḥ sa niścayam
śva eva puṣyo bhavitā śvo 'bhiṣecyeta me sutaḥ
rāmo rājīvatāmrākṣo yauvarājya iti prabhuḥ
|| (2.4.1-2)

rāma vṛddho 'smi dīrghāyur bhuktā bhogā mayepsitāḥ |
annavadbhiḥ kratuśatais tatheṣṭaṃ bhūridakṣiṇaiḥ
jātam iṣṭam apatyaṃ me tvam adyānupamaṃ bhuvi
dattam iṣṭam adhītaṃ ca mayā puruṣasattama
anubhūtāni ceṣṭāni mayā vīra sukhāni ca
devarṣi pitṛviprāṇām anṛṇo 'smi tathātmanaḥ
na kiṃ cin mama kartavyaṃ tavānyatrābhiṣecanāt
ato yat tvām ahaṃ brūyāṃ tan me tvaṃ kartum arhasi
adya prakṛtayaḥ sarvās tvām icchanti narādhipam
atas tvāṃ yuvarājānam abhiṣekṣyāmi putraka
api cādyāśubhān rāma svapnān paśyāmi dāruṇān
sanirghātā maholkāś ca patantīha mahāsvanāḥ
avaṣṭabdhaṃ ca me rāma nakṣatraṃ dāruṇair grahaiḥ
āvedayanti daivajñāḥ sūryāṅgārakarāhubhiḥ
prāyeṇa hi nimittānām īdṛśānāṃ samudbhave
rājā vā mṛtyum āpnoti ghorāṃ vāpadam ṛcchati
tad yāvad eva me ceto na vimuhyati rāghava
tāvad evābhiṣiñcasva calā hi prāṇināṃ matiḥ
adya candro 'bhyupagataḥ puṣyāt pūrvaṃ punar vasum
śvaḥ puṣya yogaṃ niyataṃ vakṣyante daivacintakāḥ
tatra puṣye 'bhiṣiñcasva manas tvarayatīva mām
śvas tvāham abhiṣekṣyāmi yauvarājye paraṃtapa
|| (2.4.12-22)

tatra tāṃ pravaṇām eva mātaraṃ kṣaumavāsinīm |
vāgyatāṃ devatāgāre dadarśa yācatīṃ śriyam
prāg eva cāgatā tatra sumitrā lakṣmaṇas tathā
sītā cānāyitā śrutvā priyaṃ rāmābhiṣecanam
tasmin kāle hi kausalyā tasthāv āmīlitekṣaṇā
sumitrayānvāsyamānā sītayā lakṣmaṇena ca
śrutvā puṣyeṇa putrasya yauvarājyābhiṣecanam
prāṇāyāmena puruṣaṃ dhyāyamānā janārdanam
|| (2.4.30-33)

rāmamātā dhanaṃ kiṃ nu janebhyaḥ saṃprayacchati |
atimātraṃ praharṣo 'yaṃ kiṃ janasya ca śaṃsa me
kārayiṣyati kiṃ vāpi saṃprahṛṣṭo mahīpatiḥ
vidīryamāṇā harṣeṇa dhātrī paramayā mudā
ācacakṣe 'tha kubjāyai bhūyasīṃ rāghave śriyam
śvaḥ puṣyeṇa jitakrodhaṃ yauvarājyena rāghavam
rājā daśaratho rāmam abhiṣecayitānagham
| (2.7.5-8ab)

mantharā tv abhyasūyyainām utsṛjyābharaṇaṃ ca tat |
uvācedaṃ tato vākyaṃ kopaduḥkhasamanvitā
harṣaṃ kim idam asthāne kṛtavaty asi bāliśe
śokasāgaramadhyastham ātmānaṃ nāvabudhyase
subhagā khalu kausalyā yasyāḥ putro 'bhiṣekṣyate
yauvarājyena mahatā śvaḥ puṣyeṇa dvijottamaiḥ
|| (2.8.1-3)

te tu tāṃ rajanīm uṣya brāhmaṇā vedapāragāḥ |
upatasthur upasthānaṃ saharājapurohitāḥ
amātyā balamukhyāś ca mukhyā ye nigamasya ca
rāghavasyābhiṣekārthe prīyamāṇās tu saṃgatāḥ
udite vimale sūrye puṣye cābhyāgate 'hani |
abhiṣekāya rāmasya dvijendrair upakalpitam
|| (2.13.1-3)

praviveśātha rāmas tu svaveśma suvibhūṣitam |prahṛṣṭajanasaṃpūrṇaṃ hriyā kiṃ cid avāṅmukhaḥ ||atha sītā samutpatya vepamānā ca taṃ patim |apaśyac chokasaṃtaptaṃ cintāvyākulilendriyam ||vivarṇavadanaṃ dṛṣṭvā taṃ prasvinnam amarṣaṇam |āha duḥkhābhisaṃtaptā kim idānīm idaṃ prabho ||adya bārhaspataḥ śrīmān yuktaḥ puṣyo na rāghava |procyate brāhmaṇaiḥ prājñaiḥ kena tvam asi durmanāḥ || (2.23.5-8)

Puṣya occurs in the following verses in the vulgate: 2.12ab, 3.41ab, 4.2ab, 4.22ab, 4.33ab, 7.11ab, 8.9cd, 15.3ab, and 26.8 ab.

1 Since the month of Pauṣa comes after the harvesting season, cultivators and traders are in a relatively prosperous state, and have some money to spare. There is a Bangla proverb, kāro pauṣmās kāro sarvanāś (To one the month to prosper ( Pauṣa), to another, disaster). A festival is also held in every Bengali Hindu household at the last day of Pauṣa. Several types of cocoanut confectionaries are prepared and people are invited to partake of them.
2 The other two synonyms are Tiṣya and Puṣyā.
3 Commenting on Aṣṭ 2.3.45 (nakṣatre ca lupi), Katre provides an example: ‘One should drink a milkshake when the asterism Puṣya is in conjunction with the moon,’ puṣyena/puṣye pāyasaṃ aśnīyāt (p.148)
4 pauṣe puṣyar kṣage candre puṣyasnānaṃ nṛpaś caret |
saubhāgye-kalyāṇakaraṃ durbhikṣa-maraṇākahaṃ || (Kālikā-Purāṇa 86.2, p. 879). 
This verse is quoted in the Śabda-kalpa-druma, a Sanskrit-Sanskrit dictionary, from which it is re-quoted in Böhtlingk-Roth’s Sanskrit-Wörterbuch.
5 For the critically edited constituted text of the original Sanskrit passages, see Appendix A below. A vulgate text with an English translation is to be found in <http://www.valmikiramayan.net/utf8/ayodhya/sarga2/ayodhya_2_frame.htm>
6 It may be mentioned in this connection that there are several floating verses (udbhaṭa-śokas) of unknown authorship satirizing astrologers. Some of them have been collected in the anthology, Subhāṣita-ratna-bhāṇḍāgāra under the head, ‘Censure of Evil Astrologers’ (kugaṇaka-nindā).
7 These two maxims have been cited by S. Thakur in 1982/1988 p. 22. To the best of my knowledge they had never been recorded before. Enquiries with Nyāya specialists such as Professor M.K. Gangopadhyaya and Professor Prabal Kumar Sen too confirmed this conclusion. Thakur in his short note, however, discusses Daśaratha’s speeches alone; he does not mention those of others.

Works Cited

Aśvaghoṣa. The Buddhacarita. Ed. and trans. E. H. Johnston. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1978 (first pub. 1936).
Aṣṭādhyāyī of Pāṇini. Ed. and trans. S. M. Katre. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1989.
Böhtlingk, Otto and Rudolf Roth. Sanskrit-Wörterbuch. Delhi: Motilal Banrsidass, 1990 (reprint).
Brockington, J. L. Righteous Rāma: the Evolution of an Epic. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1984.
Kālikāpurāṇa. Ed. Panchanana Tarkaratna, revised by Srijiva Nyayatirtha. Kalikata: Nababharata Publishers, 1384 Bangla Sal.
Katre, S. M. See Aṣṭādhyāyī of Pāṇini.
Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki. Vol. 2. Ed. Shastri Shrinivas Katti Mudholkara. Delhi: Parimal Publications, 1983. (vulgate)
Rāmāyaṇa, Book 2, Ayodhyā by Valmīki. Trans. Sheldon Pollock.Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.
Śabdakalpadruma (1822-58). Compiled by the Pundits appointed by Radhakanta Deva. Delhi: MLBD, 1961 reprint.
    Subhāṣita-ratna-bhāṇḍāgāra. Narayan Ram Acharya (ed.). Bombay: Nirnay Sagar Press, 1952, newly edited by Kashinath Pandurang Parab. Śrīsubhāṣitaratnabhāṇḍāgāraṃ. Revised by Wasudev Laxman Panashikar. Delhi: Eastern Book Links, 1991.
Thakur, Srikrishnaciatanya. Jyotiṣīder bhāgya gaṇanā upahāsa karechen Vālmīki (Vālmīki ridicules the astrologers’ calulation). Utsa Mānush, October-November 1982, reprinted in Vijñāna Jyotiṣa Samāja. Kolkata: Utsa Mānush, 1988 (first published 1983), 22-24.
Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa,The. Critically edited by G.H. Bhatt and others. Baroda: Oriental Institute, 1960-75.
Varāhamihira. Bṛhatsaṃhitā with [saṃhitā-]Vivṛti by Utpalabhaṭṭa. Ed. Avadha Vihari Tripathi. Varanasi: Sampurnanand Sanskrit Vishvavidyalaya, 1968.
Varāha Mihira. Brihat Samhitā. Trans. N. Chidambaram Iyer. Madras, 1884.
Viśvakoṣa. Compiled and published by Nagendranath Vasu. Vol. 12. Kalikata, 1308 Bangla Sal (1901ce).

Acknowledgements: Amitava Bhattacharyya, Sourav Basak, and Sunish Kumar Deb. The usual disclaimers apply.

Ramkrishna Bhattacharya taught English at the University of Calcutta, Kolkata and was an Emeritus Fellow of University Grants Commission. He is now a Fellow of PAVLOV Institute, Kolkata.

Attacking the Cross: Rise in Anti Christian Violence

Ram Puniyani
Julio Ribeiro is one of the best known police officers in India. Recently (March 16, 2015) he wrote in his article that he is feeling like a stranger in this country. ‘I feel threatened, not wanted, reduced to a stranger in my own country’. This pain and anguish of a distinguished citizen, an outstanding police officer has to be seen against the backdrop of the rising attacks on Churches and rape of the 71 year old nun in Kolkata. All over the country the rage amongst the Christian community is there to be seen in the form of silent marches, candle light vigils and peaceful protests. 

As such during the last several months in particular the instances of attacks, and intimidation of the minority community has become more frightening. There is also a noticeable change in the pattern of violence against them. Earlier these attacks were more in the remote Adivasi areas, now one can see this taking place in urban areas also. The change in frequency of these attacks after the new Government took over is a striking phenomenon. 

As such Christians are one of the very old communities in India. Right from the first century when St. Thomas visited Malabar Coast in Kerala and set up a Church there the Christian community has been here, part of the society, contributing to various aspects of social life. The missionaries, the nuns and priests, have also spent ages in the rural hinterlands setting up educational and health facilities and have also founded the most reputed educational institutions in most of the major cities of the country. Christians today are a tiny minority (2.3% as per 2001 census). It has been a community which like any other has its own internal diversity with various Christian denominations. 

In this context the rise of anti Christian violence during last few decades in Adivasi areas, Dangs (Gujarat) Jhabua (MP) Kandhamal (Orissa) has been an unnerving experience for the community as a whole and for those believing in pluralism and diversity of the country in particular. The violence which picked up from mid nineties peaked in the burning alive of Pastor Graham Stains (23rd Jan 1999) and later Kandhamal violence in 2007 and 2008. After this there was a sort of low intensity scattered violence in remote areas, till the attack on Churches in Delhi from last several months. The Churches which were attacked were scattered in five corners of Delhi, Dilshad Garden (East), Jasola (South West), Rohini (Outer Delhi), Vikaspuri (West) and Vasant kunj (South), as if by design the whole terrain of Delhi was to be covered for polarization. It was claimed by police and state that the main cause of these has been theft etc.; in the face of the fact at most of the places the donation boxes remained intact. BJP spokesperson are vociferously giving the data that during this period so many temples have also been attacked, which is a mere putting the wool in the eye, as the targeted nature of anti Christian violence is very glaring. 

In the meanwhile the RSS Sarsanghachalak, the boss of the Hindu right, to which BJP owes its allegiance, states that Mother Teresa was doing the charity work with intent to conversion. Post the statement two major incidents have come to light. One is in Hisar in Harayana, where a church has been attacked, it’s Cross replaced by the idol of Lord Hanuman and the Chief Minister of Haryana, who again has RSS background, stated that the Pastor of the Church has been alleged to be part of the conversion activities. At the same time RSS progeny Vishwa Hindu Parishad stated that more such acts of attack on churches will take place if conversions are not stopped. This incident reminds one of the placing of the idols of Ram Lalla (Baby Ram) in Babri Mosque in 1949 and then claiming that it was a birth place of Lord Ram. In addition the statement of the Chief Minister gives a clear indication as to how the investigation of the incident will take place and whether the real culprits will ever be nabbed. Incidentally there are no police complaints about Pastors’ conversion activities if any, in the police records. This ‘they are doing conversions’ is a standard ploy which is propagated for anti Christian violence, which one has witnessed so far. 

After Bhagwat’s comments on Mother Teresa the anti Christian violence seems to be intensifying by the day and the incidence of Haryana and Kolkata are symbols of that and VHP is openly talking of more attacks. When Prime Minister Modi broke his deliberate silence on the issues of violence against minorities, he did say that religious freedom will be respected. But one also knows that what he says and what he means are mostly not the same. Also that now the silence of last several months has given a clear message to his associates in RSS combines that they can carry on their disruptive and polarizing activities at will. A large section within the Christian community feel that Modi was voted on the agenda of development and this type of violence was not anticipated! That is a sheer naivety, Modi is a RSS trained Pracharak, for whom the divisive agenda remains at the core, to be implemented by a clever ‘division of labor’ implemented through different organizations, which are part of RSS combine popularly known as Sangh Parivar. 

As such India has been the cradle of many religions, which celebrated and lived together, a far cry from the present atmosphere which is intimidating the minorities. Christian’s plight in recent times is something to which the concerned democratic rights individuals need to wake up to. This seems to be unfolding of the script, Pehle Kasai Phir Isai, (First Muslim, then Christians). It is not just a violation of their rights; it’s also a violation of very basic norm of democracy. As they say, a democracy has to be judged by the litmus test of level of security and equity its minorities enjoy!

Friday, 10 April 2015

Georg Lukács, Philosopher and Aesthetician

Ramkrishna Bhattacharya

Not a doctrine but a method

Georg Lukács (1885-1971), philosopher and aesthetician, was one of the original philosophers of the twentieth century. A lifelong Marxist, he always believed that Marxism was not a doctrine but a method. In his seminal essay, ‘What is Orthodox Marxism?’ he insisted on this point as Engels had done in his celebrated letter to Werner Sombart (March 11, 1895): ‘This is a very interesting point, about which Marx himself does not say much. But his way of viewing things is not a doctrine but a method. It does not provide ready-made dogmas, but criteria for further research and the method for this research.

Lukács too echoed the same view:
Let us assume for the sake of argument that recent research had disproved once and for all every one of Marx’s individual theses. Even if this were to be proved, every serious ‘orthodox’ Marxist would still be able to accept all such modern findings without reservation and hence dismiss all of Marx’s theses in toto – without having to renounce his orthodoxy for a single moment…. [O]rthodoxy refers exclusively to method (1971 p.1. Italics in the original).
In this and other respects Lukács was always original both in his approach and in his conclusions. He, however, acknowledged his debt to Ernst Bloch (1885-1977), a fellow German philosopher, who first convinced him ‘through his example that it was possible to philosophize in the traditional manner’ (1983 p.38). Up until 1914 Lukács, in his own words, ‘had been wasting [his] time with the Neo-Kantianism of the period.’ But in Bloch he ‘encountered the phenomenon of a man who could do philosophy as if the whole world of modern philosophy did not exist and who showed that it was possible to do philosophy like Aristotle and Hegel’. Lukács always regarded Bloch ‘as a wholly admirable person and of great integrity,’ even after Bloch left the then German Democratic Republic in 1961 (1983 pp.126-27; see also Lukács 1974 p. 67).

Georg Lukács
It is indeed somewhat overwhelming: ‘doing philosophy’ without referring to contemporary philosophers and not quoting from their works whether in approval or in refutation. It takes tremendous courage and sky-high self-confidence to write a series of articles on Goethe’s Faust with only a copy of the play and a handful of secondary works, all belonging to the eighteenth century, on the table. That is precisely what Lukács did in his Goethe studies that began in the 1930s and were completed in the 1940s. All of them were in the form of essays with not a single footnote or endnote, ruthlessly driving one point, namely, despite occasional backslidings Goethe stood on the side of reason against the irrationalist German romantics.

Lukács’s debt to Bloch

This is the hallmark of Lukács as a philosopher and a literary critic. He knew he was an original thinker and would not let his readers forget it. It is therefore no wonder that George Lichthein finds Lukács’s The Specific Nature of Aesthetics (Die Eigenart des Aesthetischen ) ’[w]holly within the central European tradition’. He complains:
Lukács rarely cites non-German writers, even when they happen to be Marxists or Hegelians. On the evidence of his magnum opus one might be pardoned for supposing that he had never heard of R. G. Collingwood. A few passing references to Christopher Caudwell exhausts the subject of Marxist aesthetics in the English-speaking world. Even within his own culture area he is curiously selective, since he ignored all members of the Frankfurt School, including Theodore Adorno; Lukács does not even refer to Arnold Hauser and Hans Mayer, etc. (1976 pp.116-17).  
In the light of Lukács’s declaration of his debt to Bloch, there is nothing inexplicable or astonishing in this. Lukács was ‘doing’ aesthetic as an extension of his ‘doing philosophy’. He had no need to refer to current works on philosophy or aesthetics. Whatever little he required of anthropology he gathered from V. Gordon Childe (1892-1957), the author of that significantly entitled work, Man Makes Himself
In an interview with the New Left Review (published in July-August 1971) Lukács candidly said: ‘When all is said and done, there are only three great thinkers in the West, incomparable with all others: Aristotle, Hegel and Marx’ (1983 p. 181). He admitted that to that day (1971) he had not lost his admiration for Hegel, and ‘I think that the work Marx began – the materialization of Hegel’s philosophy – must be pursued even beyond Marx. I have tried to do this in some passages of my forthcoming Ontology’ [the book on ontology came out in 1971]. (1983 pp.181-82).

Lukács’s contribution to Marxism lies in his formulation of an aesthetics fully drawn from Marx and Engels’s stray remarks and comments. Unlike Franz Mehring (1846-1919) and Georgii Plekhanov (1856-1918), Lukács and his Russian friend, Mikhail Lifschitz (1905-1983) felt that there is a specific Marxist aesthetics as opposed to this or that aesthetics which had to be harnessed to complete the Marxist system. They also came out against the approach to turn Marxism into just one socio-economic theory among others.1

Lukács’s debt to Stalin

Interestingly enough, the idea of an independent Marxist aesthetics owing to none excepting Marx and Engels was not a brainwave of Lukács. It was the natural outcome of a debate that was going on in the Soviet Union in 1930. A. Deborin (pseudonym of Joffe Abram Noisweebich, 1881-1962), a Russian Marxist philosopher was trying to establish the orthodoxy of Plekhanov. No less a person than Joseph Stalin (1879-1953), the then head of the Soviet Union, came out in protest against this. Stalin, like his mentor V. I. Lenin (1870-1924), believed Marxism to be an integral world outlook, not a hidebound petrified doctrine (Lenin 1967a p. 41). Stalin’s criticism of Plekhanov gave Lukács the idea of making a similar critique of Mehring. 
Lukács acknowledges his debt to Stalin in this respect. He declares: ‘[I]t is a sheer prejudice to imagine that everything Stalin did was wrong and anti-Marxist’ (1983 p. 86). Again he said, ’I have never doubted for a moment that Stalinism involved the destruction of reason. But I would not think it right to criticize Stalin, let us say, because we had discovered some parallel or other to Nietzsche’ (1983 p. 104). 
While not denying that a number of the later features of Stalinism manifested themselves in the Stalin-Deborin debate, Lukács unhesitatingly admits that Stalin’s defence of an extremely important point of view (namely, Marxism as a totalizing worldview) played a very positive role in his own development (1983, p. 86).2 The entire subsequent development of both Lukács and Lifschitz was set in train by their works on an independent Marxist aesthetics. The notion, that aesthetics forms an organic part of Marxism, is to be found in the two essays Lukács wrote on Marx’s and Engels’s letters to Ferdinand Lassalle, the author of a play called Franz von Sickingen. The essays appeared in Der Rote Aufbau (1932) and Internationale Literatur (1933).
Lukács also speaks of Elena Feliksovna Usevich (1893-1968), a Polish literary critic, who attacked the orthodox line on naturalism, but never suffered any serious consequence.3 Usevich and some others denied that ideology could be a criterion for the aesthetic achievement of a work of art. On the other hand, they argued that great literary works could emerge on the basis of a very bad ideology as was the case with Balzac’s royalism. This also implied that a good ideology can coincide with very poor works of literature.4  
This is a radical departure from the mechanistic concept that great literary works could be produced only on the basis of a good ideology, and conversely, bad ideology would invariably give rise to very poor works of literature. (1983 p.100) 
On the basis of this novel outlook (namely, ideology cannotbe a yardstick for aesthetic achievement) Usevich went on attacking the political poetry of the day with perfect impunity. Neither was she tried or imprisoned nor was she ‘purged’ (1983 p.100). 
Lukács himself was not much involved in all this since he did not know Russian. Nor was he ever taken to task for expressing his views on Hegel in the second half of the 1930s, at a time when Andrei Alexandrovich Zhdanov (1896-1948) had proclaimed Hegel to be the ideologist of feudal reaction to the French Revolution. At a later stage Zhdanov together with Stalin depicted the entire history of philosophy as a long running conflict between materialism and idealism. This is how Lukács represents the new phase of philosophical studies in the Soviet Union.
This representation, however, cannot be wholly true. Lukács was perhaps forgetting that long before Zhdanov and Stalin, Engels had spoken of the split of all philosophers ‘into two great camps, idealism and materialism’ (Ludwig Feurbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy (1888) in: Selsam and Martel 1963 p.48). 
As against this opposition, materialism vs idealism, Lukács focusses on a different polarity in his The Destruction of Reason (German edition 1954, English edition 1974). He claimed that the struggle was between rational and irrationalist philosophy. Lukács admitted that the irrationalists were all idealists, but materialists were not their only opponents. There were idealists among the rationalist opponents too. This is indeed totally incompatible with the Zhdanovian theory, but Lukács was not blacklisted for his rather unconventional view. On the contrary, his ‘left’ critics accused him for underplaying the polarity of materialism and idealism. But, let it be noted that Lukács did not have to face any inquisition, either in Moscow or in Budapest, for holding such an unfashionable view. In fact Lukács had never been expelled from the Hungarian Communist Party, although he was definitely under a cloud until well into the 1960s. What appeared in the Hungarian encyclopedia in 1962 regarding Lukács’s alleged expulsion from the Party was vehemently denied by Lukács himself (1983 p. 134).

Passion for objectivity

Lukács’s approach to literary judgment is marked by objectivity. He did not care for the author and his/her intentions, but concentrated on what had been written. Performance rather than anything else was his sole concern. George Steiner, not an altogether unsympathetic critic of Lukács, has spoken of Lukács’s pact with the Devil, that is, ‘historical necessity’:
The daemon promised him the secret of objective truth. He gave him the power to confer blessing or pronounce anathema in the name of revolution and the ‘laws of history’. But since Lukács’s return from exile [August 1, 1945], the Devil has been lurking about asking for his fee. In October 1956 he knocked loudly at the door (1987 p. 65).5
It is true that Lukács had agreed to make all sorts of compromise with the powers that be; he did many things that made his friends and admirers uncomfortable. For example, he did not speak out against the Moscow Trial (1936-38). The only reason of his silence, he said, was to remain inside the Party and be a soldier in the fight against fascism. It is similar to Faust’s pact with Mephistopheles: a modern allegory of selling one’s soul in exchange of attaining objectivity.Objectivity was the key word in Lukács’s life and thought. Istvan Eörsi (1931-2005) has conjectured how Lukács might have reacted if he (Eörsi) would decide to discuss with him the contents of his (Eörsi’s) essay entitled ‘Georgy Lukács, Fanatic of Reality’:

If I were able to discuss with him this proposed essay of mine, he would most certainly direct my attention to its objective nature. “For,” he would say, “it is not altered in the least by the fact that I have died.” I would venture to object that his death would be certain to have an emotional effect on the author and, not unlikely, on the readers of this article in their attitude to the subject. Because the latter would appear, by the fact of death, unexpectedly final and closed and we would not have been prepared for it. “All this is very likely,” he would reply, “but what we are prepared for is one thing and what the subject is quite another. The subject is not altered by the state and character of our preparedness” (The New Hungarian Quarterly 1971 p. 26; Psyche and Society, May 2013, pp. 7-8).

Here is an example of Lukács’s objectivity in relation to himself. It was widely known that Thomas Mann (1875-1955) had modelled the character of Naphta in his novel, The Magic Mountain, on young Lukács. Naphta is a Jesuit, highly respected by the members of his own order but alienated from his priestly community. Generally speaking, he is not a pleasing character. Yet Lukács did not mind it a bit that he had been portrayed in an unfavourable light. Eörsi observes:

[I]t was none other than Lukács who drew attention to the proto-fascist features of Naphta’s character. He was of course aware who Thomas Mann’s model was but he considered it the writer’s private business where he took his models from. He was persuaded that as a literary critic he had only to do with the objective nature of the work as it had been realized readily and with their relationship it bore to reality, and he thought that he could well leave autobiographical matters, not bearing directly on the essential issues, to the painstaking care of philologists (The New Hungarian Quarterly (NHQ ) 1971 p. 32; Psyche and Society (PAS), May 2013, p. 12).

One of Lukács’s favourite quotes was from Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship where Philine says, ‘And if I do love you, what concern is that of yours?’

Lukács claimed that this was his life long attitude to ‘important men’ (1983 p.40). He also considered this to be the critic’s ideal standpoint with regard to artists and to people in general (NHQ 1971 p. 32; PAS p.11). He remained unaffected by slanders that dogged him throughout his life. After hearing a particularly unsavoury slander he reflected a little and told Eörsi, ‘Look, I have always said that as long as I’m not there I don’t mind if they hang me’ (NHQ 1971 p. 31; PAS 2013 p.11).

Intention versus Performance

Looking at the performance rather than the intention of the author is the hallmark of Lukács both as philosopher and literary critic. Lukács’s insistence on performance rather than intention has a history of its own. While reviewing Margaret Harkness’s novel, City Girl, in a letter addressed to the author (April 1888), Engels applied the term ‘realism’ in a very special sense: ‘The realism I allude to may crop out even in spite of the author’s opinion’ (Marx-Engels 1976 p. 91). He cited Balzac as a case in point. Balzac was politically a Legitimist; his works were all in defence of the aristocratic classes. Yet his novels represent the republican heroes in the most favourable light:

That Balzac was thus compelled to go against his own class sympathies and political prejudices, that he saw the real men of the future where for the time being, they alone were to be found – that I consider one of the greatest triumphs of Realism, and one of the greatest features in old Balzac (Marx-Engels 1976 p. 92).

Now we know that this evaluation of Balzac was not originally Engels’s. As early as 1870 Emile Zola (1840-1902) had formulated it in this very way. Similarly, unbeknown to both Zola and Engels, Nikolay Alexandrovich Dobrolyubov (1836-1861), a Russian critic, had also illustrated this position (namely, opposition between intention and performance) by referring to the story of Balak and Ballam in the Old Testament. Balak wished Ballam to curse Israel, ‘but in the solemn moment of elation a blessing instead of a curse involuntarily rose to his lips.’ (Lukács 1972 p. 114).6

Lukács mentions Dobrolyubov but not Zola.7 Going beyond Engels Lukács formulated that discrepancy between intention and performance, between Balzac the political thinker and Balzac the author of Human Comedy constitutes Balzac’s historical greatness (Lukács 1972 p. 21). Lukács never tires of reiterating this, always in relation to Balzac, and never ceases to praise Engels for his ‘methodological clarity’ which, in his opinion the great Russian critics lacked, although they ‘were no less distinctly aware of this dialectic’ (1972 pp. 91, 114). One may suspect that Lukács was trying to separate the political views held by the author and her/his creativity by upholding Engels’s praise of Balzac as a realist author. Zola, on the other hand, wished to appropriate Balzac in the progressive camp. So he declared: ‘Balzac is ours: Balzac, the royalist and Catholic, worked for the Republic for the free societies and religions of the future’ (Qtd. Wellek, 4:17-18).8

What is ‘Party literature’?

N. Krupskaya, Lenin’s wife, once provided a helping hand to Lukács. In a letter published posthumously (1960), it was found that in Krupskaya’s opinion, by ‘Party literature’ Lenin did not mean literature as fine art or imaginative literature. Apparently then Lenin meant only those pieces (non-fiction) that appeared in Party press . Certainly this interpretation gives an entirely new complexion to the formulation made in Lenin’s famous 1905 essay, ‘Party Organization and Party Literature’. Two years after the publication of this letter Lukacs declared he had long held that very view. ‘The importance of this statement is considerable, for this essay was the bible of sectarianism in the arts during the ideological dictatorship of Stalin and Zhdanov It is curious and interesting, that the publication of Krupskaya’s letter should have received so little attention’ (1969 pp.7-8).

Although it is possible to make the most of this highly interesting and charitable explanation, not everybody has been taken by it. István Mészáros, otherwise a staunch defender of Lukács, is more than sceptical in accepting such a view of ‘Party literature’ in Lenin’s 1905 essay (1972 pp.107-09). Mészáros does not refer to Lukács’s preface to the English edition of Probleme des Realismus (Berlin 1955 English translation 1962) but to his essay on Solzhenitsyn (1969) in which Lukács cryptically refers to ‘Krupskaya’s letter’ without any further reference (1970 p.77). Yet the escape route provided by Krupskaya, intentionally or unintentionally, has been largely ignored by literary critics who claim to be Marxists. It is rather strange that Krupskaya’s remark on Lenin’s essay has not been reproduced in Lenin’s On Literature and Art, a collection of extracts of Lenin’s views as found in his writings or in the memoirs of others. In any case, Krupskaya’s clarification is rarely, if at all, mentioned in articles and book-length studies on Lenin and his aesthetic views.

Lukács’s shortcomings

Since Lukács would like to be judged in the same way as he used to judge others, we would like to point out some of Lukács’s shortcomings at the end. First, he was thoroughly Euro-centric, having an extremely narrow perspective of ‘the great tradition’ reminiscent of the canon of F. R. Leavis (1895-1978), the eminent English critic of the last century. Second, Lukács’s generalizations are often rather sweeping; he disregards all evidence that go against his thesis. Third, he could never properly appreciate the contribution of modernists or even of Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) as the founder of a new kind of theatre.9 Fourth, Lukács was constitutionally incapable of responding to poetry, whether of the past or of the present. And, last but not least, his political stand often blinded his vision. in his ultra-left phase he dismissed Rabindranath Tagore’s Ghare Baire (Home and the World) as a ‘Gandhi novel’ which betrays his utter ignorance of the date of composition of the original novel (serialized in Sabujpatra in 1914, published in book form in 1916, when Gandhi was nowhere in the picture), and the time when the translations into English (1919) and from English to German (1920) appeared. There is not the least trace of objectivity in Lukács’s assessment of Tagore as found in this deplorable review article which does little credit to his stature as a literary critic.

One might multiply instances of many such limitations in Lukács’s works. Nevertheless, his contributions to both Marxist philosophy and aesthetics are admittedly outstanding.

I have consciously avoided repeating Mészáros’s analysis of Lukács’s philosophical outlook as given in his Lukács’ Concept of Dialectic. He pinpoints three categories, namely, (a) “Ought” and Objectivity, (b) Continuity and Discontinuity, and (c) Totality and Mediation. His explication merits re-reading, not once, but several times. I have only tried to supplement Mészáros by highlighting the aesthetic aspects in Lukács’s literary-critical works.
For an overview of Lukács’s outlook of literature and art, Bela Kiralfalvi’s The Aesthetics of György Lukács is a reliable guide.

1 Here and elsewhere I have adapted Lukács’s own words instead of quoting him verbatim every time. References to the sources are given in parentheses.
2 For further details regarding the debate see Kolakowski 3: 63-76.
3 Lukács mentions E. Ussiyevitch as ’[t]hat intelligent and courageous critic of the Thirties’ in his Preface to the English edition of Probleme des Realismus (printed as The Meaning of Contemporary Realism), p. 8. Lukács is said to have been ‘the intellectual leader’ of the Russian journal, Literaturny Critique whose inner circle comprised M. Lifshitz, I. Satz, and E. Usiyevitch (Mészáros p.139).
4 We shall come back to Balzac later. Let is be noted that Lukács often drew logical conclusions of this kind from the works of Marx and Engels and extended the scope of the original declarations/statements.
5 By ‘October 1956’ Steiner most probably means Lukács’s tenure as a Minister of Culture in Imre Negy’s Government and the course of subsequent events that culminated in his deportation to Romania (4 November 1956). Lukács had previously become a member of the enlarged Central Committee of the Hungarian Communist Party (Mészáros p. 149).
6 The reference is to Numbers 23:8-10. Balak there said to Ballam, ‘What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemy, and you heap blessing for them!’ To this Ballam replied, ‘Am I not obliged to say what Yahweh puts into my mouth?’ (23:11-12. Qtd. from The Jersalem Bible version). This happened not once, not twice, but thrice.
7 Leo Popper (1886-1911) was the first to develop a theory of ‘double misunderstanding’ at the level of artistic intention and that of reception. He wrote of this to Lukács on October 7, 1910 (Lukács 1986 p. 126, 128 n1). Leo Popper is known to have influenced young Lukács (Lukács 1986 p. 295).
8 Cf. ‘The artist usually sets out – or used to – to point a moral and adorn a tale. The tail, however, points the other way, as a rule. Two bluntly opposing minds, the artist’s and the tale’s. Never trust the artist. Trust the tale. The proper function of a critic is to save the tale from the artist who created it’ (D. H. Lawrence 1923/2003 p.14). To this Angela Carter added: ‘[Lawrence] was right, even if he did not want this to happen to his tales’ (Carter p.3). For further examples (for instance, the case of Dickens) see Hawthorn p. 71.
9 In his long essay, ‘Realism in the Balance’ (Das Wort 1938) directed against Bloch, Lukács praised a one-act playlet by Brecht. Brecht viewed it as a sinister compliment: ‘Lukács has welcomed The Informer as if I were a sinner returning to the bosom of Salvation Army’ (Bloch and others p. 58 n18).

Works Cited

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This piece was presented in the Max Mueller Bhavan Library, Kolkata as a part of the lecture programme, The German Intellectual Tradition: From Kant to Habermas Phase II, on April 4, 2015.

Acknowledgements. Amitava Bhattacharyya, Amlan Dasgupta, Sunish Kumar Deb, Siddhartha Dutta, Arindam Saha, and Arun Sen. The usual disclaimers apply

    Ramkrishna Bhattacharya taught English at the University of Calcutta, Kolkata and was an Emeritus Fellow of University Grants Commission. He is now a Fellow of PAVLOV Institute, Kolkata.


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