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Our Cultural Heritage

Niharranjan Ray

By Krishna Chaitanya
The Indian Book Company, New Delhi, 1975, 202, 40.00

VOLUME I NUMBER 2 April - June 1976

Here is another general commentary on Indian culture, this time by a well-known Indian writer. It is difficult to assess which level of reader the book is really meant for as it is written in a very broad sweep. If one is looking for a general image of Indian culture this is certainly not the book since it presupposes a good deal of background knowledge of the subject. If one is after a critical appreciation of India's cultural life through the ages and in its diverse and complex manifestations, one is likely to find the commentary sketchy and jumpy, besides being subjective, selective and showing gaps. And, certainly it is no book for the scholar and the specialist; it is neither analytical nor systematic. Yet it is a pleasantly readable book which attempts in a subjective and impressionistic manner, a perceptive interpretation of some of the major traits and tendencies of India's cultural life from proto-historic times to our own days. A number of purple passages scattered here and there reveals evidence of insight of the author and also that his tastes and preferences are catholic, healthy and refined. A consciousness of those traits and ten­dencies which are relevant to our times, absence of cul­tural chauvinism and a readiness to acknowledge India's debt to alien cultures, characterize the general approach of the author to his subject. One also feels happy in his avoidance of the school-men's outlook on and interpretation of Indian culture. But at the same time one must point out that the author has all along been preoccupied with the articulations of the so-called ‘great tradition’ of Indian cul­ture, oblivious altogether of the countless ‘little tradi­tions’ which contributed so much to the enrichment of India's aesthetic, speculative and behavioural life. While his observations on Christianity in India (here the author's horizon is limited to Kerala) are knowledgeable and perceptive, he shows but scant consideration for Islam; the Sufis and Sufi-ism are not even referred to, for instance, not to speak of Sultanate and Mughal contri­bution to India's aesthetic articulations in the areas of music, painting and architecture. Though his attitude is generally liberal, the author's vision is largely mono­polized by the Hindu (culturally speaking, not in a religious sense) tradition, and that too of the classical vintage alone. The book consists of six short chapters. A brush­stroke commentary on ‘the interior ...

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