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A Freethinking Cultural Nationalist (A Life History of Rahul Sankrityayan)

Item Code: NAM873
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi
Author: Alka Atreya Chudal
Language: Hindi Text With English Translation
Edition: 2016
ISBN: 9780199466870
Pages: 338
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.0 inch X 6.0 inch
Weight 460 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

These are the identities Rahul Sanskrityanan (1893-1963), born a Sanatani Brahmin, donned during the early 20th century . widely known in the field of Buddhist studies and Hindi literatures, Sanskrityayan was also a prolific writer whose varied ideological stances have baffled his critics and admires alike.

While several works have tried to analyse Sanskrityayan’s life through the lens of these identities, a Few have delved into the ambivalence that marked his thoughts and writings as he shifted his allegiance between these identities. A Freethinking Cultural Nationalist takes , as its starting point, the insight that sanskrityanan’s Personality was a product of the Period of social reforms and nationalism, and situates his life and work critically within the wider frame work of his times . by exploring the thread that held together the different aspects of his personality, it presents a multifaceted picture not just of the man, but of India itself.

About the Author

Alka Atreya Chudal is a senior lecturer at the Department of south Asian , Tibetan and Buddhist studies University of Vienna, Austria, Austria. Earlier she has taught at Nepal Sanskrit University , Kathmandu, Nepal . she is also a literature who writers in Nepali and Hindi. Her research interests span book history in nineteenths and twentieth century northern south Asia, intellectual history of north and Nepali literary studies, as well as modern and contemporary Hindi an Nepali literatures.


Rahul Sanskrityayan in the Context of His Age

Maha Pandit Rahul Sanskrityayan (1893-1963) is a well –known figure in the field of Buddhist studies and Hindi literature , and is perhaps best known for his adventurous Journey s to Tibet in search of lost original Buddhist texts. Born a sanatant Brahmin, he lived variously the life of a sandhu , an Arya Samajist, a Buddha list monk, a lay Buddhist, a secularist , a progressive writer, and a Scholar who eventually embraced Marxist socialism. He was also a political activist , and was arrested and even jailed several times for such a activities as delivering anti-British speeches (1922 and 1923-5), participation in the kisan (peasant) satyagraha campaign in Bihar (1939), and involvement in the banned communist party of India (1940-2). Sanskrityayan’ became quite a legendry figure and exercised great allure in the Hindi literary sphere for his vast scholarship’ (Orsini 32010: 428). At a later stage in his life, hi s opinions on bhartiyata (Indiaannes) called for making Hindi the national languages and Indianizing Islam, for which stance he was dismissed from the communist Islam, for which stance he was dismissed from the communist party of India.

Sankrityayan was such a frequent traveller that he came to be known as ghumakkar-raj (king of wanders). He got into his wandering habits at the age of fourteen (1907), when he ran away from home. His Wanderlust never died and, given his frequent journey an other pursuits in life, it is amazing that he found time to write such a large number of books (often at the same time).

Sanskrityayan’s numerous works are highly regarded. Prabhakar Machwe (1978: 7) totals up sanskrityayan’s output as ‘125 published tiles in five languages: they cover includes philosophy, history , sociology , science, travelogue, biography, fiction, drama, essays, lexicography, grammar, textual editing and research Tibetology, Buddhism, folklore, politics and even pamphleteering .’ He Further (1998: 29) notes that he ‘ has nearly 50,000 published pages to is credit [….].

Sankrityanan appears to those who have studied and written about him in a number of contradictory guises:

Sanskrtyanan, rahul (Kedarnath Pande, alias Baba Ramodar Das) (1893-1963) Occupation: Scholar, activities.

I know only one Rahula and he is a very delightful and learned scholar who is a Buddhist monk and knows any number of out-of –the way languages.

He changed his name and orthodox sanatani Hindu belief to Baba Ram Udar das, a Wandering mendicant, and to arya samaj. Not satisfied With the Vedic dogmatism of Arya Samaj, he took to yellow robe and became a regular Buddhist bhikkhu (monk ) after his tours to Nepal and Sri Lanka […] Marxism attracted him to such an extent, that after his journey to soviet Russia , in 1935, he turned into a socialist zealot.

Besides as a Mahapandit , rahul was also known in Nepal as a dogmatic communist leader.

As a Sadhu , Sanskrityayan donned a long black alphi (tunic worn by ascetics); as an Arya Samajist , a white and kurta; as a Buddhist , a yellow or maroon robe; s a peasant leader, a khaki shirt and shorts ; or as a communist , a formal Indian dress. Some persons have been to one or other of sanskrityayan ‘s identities, as the statements above by Jawaharlal Nehru, Janaklal Sarma, Francesca orsini, and Sirsir Kumar Das indicate. Others , however , like prabhakar Machwe , focus not on any one personas but on the full palette of personas . As Urmiles notes (1994: 7): ‘He resembles an Indian image of the renowned thinker Antonio Gramsci’s idea of an “organic intellectual”.’

Who was Sanskrityayan ? Was he at once everything mentioned above, or, at different times, a scholar , political activist , Buddhist monk, and communist ? What lay behind these multiple identities? Was there any link between them? These queries were the initial motivation for this study, which a started out with the aim of finding crucial motivates for the emergence of Sanskritayayan’s diverse masks.

Sanskrityayan Studies and a Formulation of the Problem

Sanskrityayan’s life and work have been viewed from various perspectives. Extensive studies have been published on his literary works. To date, twenty-six doctoral dissertations on him and his literary output have been written in India and abroad . A review of each dissertation was not possible during my own research. However, I was able to read a select number and to collect information about almost all of them. Twenty three of them are devoted to Sanskrityayan’ literary writings, and mainly concentrate on his contribution to different fields in the Hindi idiom. Another two (Pandeya 2011 and Urmiles1978-80) are concerned with his involvement in the Bihar peasant movement and non- cooperation . One dissertation (A Bhattacarya 2005 ) deals with sanskrityayan ‘s vyaktitvantaran.

Not Only Sanskrityayan‘s works but also his life are no longer quite the enigma they once were. From being an author of numerous biographies in the first half f the 20th century in India, Sankrityayan has himself now become a subject of choice for biographers and researches in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He has also earned a niche for himself in school and University curricula. Hindi school textbooks in India have included a chapter containing a short biographical sketch of him, while at the university level he has become a standard part of the syllabus for students of Hindi literature. In addition, numerous memories an articles have been published in newspaper, Journals an books.


  List of tables ix
  Acknowledgement xi
  Notes on Translation, Translation, and Citation xv
  Introduction: Rahul Sanskrityayan in the Context of His age 1
1. Rahul Sanskrityayan's Autobiography : The Product of a Prison Cell 40
2. The Arya Samaj: A New Light' 89
3. Buddhism: An Indian Voice 131
4. Hindu: An Indian Voice 189
  Afterword: Rahul Sanskrityanan - a Freethinking Cultural Nationalist 243
  Appendices 258
  Selected Bibliography 304
  Index 318
  About the Author 324

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