Venturing into a comparatively uncharted area, this book offers a literary criticism of the Bhagavad Gita, that great philosophical treatise of Hinduism. Dramatically and philosophically the Gita is an integral part of the Mahabharata and at the same time, a coherent whole independently. Vysa's dramatic genius is highlighted in the literary dramatic patterning of the Gita which deals with the crisis of a soul and ends in the resolution of the crisis. The Gita is both universal and particular, eternal yet peculiarly pertinent to a single moment. Poetry, drama and philosophy combine to make the Gita - quite apart from its religious underpinning - a masterpiece of literary achievement in any language. In this literary elucidation, the author seeks to create an awareness of the sense of elevation and complex dramatic impact.
About the Author
Madhusudan Pati is a Professor of English at Sambalpur University, Orissa. He has authored six books of literary criticism (two in collaboration) on Oriya writers and two volumes of poetry in Oriya. He has besides, written Sanskrit Drama : Essays in Revaluation, and edited a scholarly volume, West Orissa : A study in Ethos. He has published a number of critical essays in reputed journals relating to texts and themes from Sanskrit, Oriya, English, Hindi, European, African and Austrialian literatures. His field of specialization is Comparative Literature.
One of the blessings of being born an Indian is the easy familiarity one acquires with such profound literature as the Bhagavad Gita. The Gita cast its fascination on me rather early, when I was a student in the Matriculation class. And although I never had the urge or scope to pursue the text with any scholarly rigour, my mind continued to receive its ministrations periodically, with spells of discontinuity - long and short - throughout my adult life. At various points of time I have had the privilege of acquainting myself with readings by eminent minds such as Sankara, Sridhara, Tilak, Aurobindo, Sivananda, and Chinmayananda; also the blessed opportunity of hearing a number of saints and devotees discourse upon or converse on the wisdom-sayings of Krishna, to all of whom I offer my deep gratitude and humble thanks. There was no conscious intention, at the time I read them, of a systematic collection of their views, nor of a formulation of my own; and even through the present writing, I have not felt impelled to engage in a philosophical debate.
There were two main reasons why I felt like presenting my running response to the poem despite an almost overwhelming sense of diffidence and awe. One was entirely personal, elevation and joy that reading and hearing the Gita had at various times produced in me. And the other was an intellectual suspicion that, possibly, the literary patterning of the Gita had not really received the critical attention that it deserved. No doubt we have not really received the critical the critical attention that it deserved. No doubt we have occasional warnings - as in Krishna Chaitanya's Mahabharata: A Literary Study - not to miss Vyasa's overall poetic design. But compared to the number of works engaged in thematic exposition, responses that seek to consistently relate the poetry to the philosophy, the textual and structural designs, putting due emphasis on the dramatic management of interacting moods and impulses of the four characters introduced therein, appear to be woefully inadequate. Since the thought content and the emotive configuration in the Gita always appeared to me mutually complementary, even dependent and the human, dramatic appeal of the text left as strong an impress on my mind as its didactic power, I felt I should simply record my perceptions and reactions in a free, unpretentious manner - that it to say, go on reading aloud my understanding, in different measures and styles as they appeared appropriate from canto to canto. And this I have done here for whatever it is worth.
Significant elements of poetic style and dramatic structure have been only selectively highlighted at particular points in the reading of the text. It is hoped the reader would exercise a similar kind of critical anticipation elsewhere, and enlarge for himself many of the notings incorporated in the discussion that could not be sufficiently elaborated either for reasons of space or because of the greater urgency felt in respect of certain other items of thought. In order to properly clarify the dramatic import of certain sequences, it has been felt necessary to recapitulate a few basic elements in the narrative more than once in course of the discussion. The reader is requested to appreciate the contextual compulsion and not to be brusquely dismissive of such elements as merely avoidable repetition. Similarly, a reader who might-for whatever reason - feel somewhat uncomfortable with the use of superlatives at certain points in the analysis is requested to bear in mind the critical obligation that the language of exposition must not be allowed to reduce the epic sweep, sublime vision and devotional fervour of the text in the interest of a supposedly more desirable neutrality of interpretative voice.
No English translation of the Gita known to me satisfactorily captures the tonal beauties of the original. In particular, the sense of elevation that the Sanskrit text produces, and in that context, the impact of intermittent departures in the poem into everyday voices, the astonishing condensation and multivalence felt at a number of places, and the skillful variation in poetic pressure which create a complex dramatic, experience in the poem, are well-nigh impossible to communicate through an English translation. To start with, I had attempted my own rendering of the text while recording my observations, but very soon desisted from the same owing to pressure of time, and went ahead to adopt Swami Chinmayananda's translation as the standard one. At just a few places I have preferred to draw upon Jayadayal Goyandka's translation, and have also consulted Sri Biharilal Pandit's Srimad Bhagavad Gita (in Oriya). On occasions I have paused to effect small, thought to me significant, modification of the sources being used. But while writing my appreciation I have refrained from referring to these and other commentaries, many of which have clearly influenced my response, but mostly as prior intellectual deposits in the mind and not as handily available references. Pointed non-acknowledgement of such sources might have made this effort rather critically vulnerable. But that has also helped an unhindered, delighted presentation of individual appropriation and appreciation. It is as a record of that joy that I offer it to its interested readers.
I humbly apologise for all the blemishes of comprehension and composition in the book for the irritation they might cause the perceptive minds.
I am grateful to the Lord for the Maya He has applied in impelling an unworthy person like me to venture into such a daunting, through inspiring, territory as the Bhagavad Gita. May my ignorance aid others discernment.
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