Book release | “Mudra the language of Kutiyattam, Kathakali and Mohiniyattam” – Natanakairali

Ludwig Pesch shares some thoughts during the book presentation for Mudra the language of Kutiyattam, Kathakali and Mohiniyattam by G. Venu on 16 April 2023. The views expressed are entirely those of the speaker.

Published by Natanakairali, Irinjalakuda (Kerala, India) | Worldcat.org title descriptions and library collections >>
1st ed. March 2023 (Rs. 3000)
Inquiries: abhinayakairali@gmail.com
T: ‭+91 98464 52933‬

Published by Natanakairali, Irinjalakuda (Kerala, India)
1st ed. March 2023 (Rs. 3000)
Inquiries: abhinayakairali@gmail.com
T: ‭+91 98464 52933‬

A compilation covering the contributions by all speakers (duration 2:11:42) is found here: https://youtu.be/gIDgpX47u1s >>

Transcript

Already at first glance its sheer scope is impressive: 1341 hand gestures rendered in minute detail. As “non-specialist” I feel free to explore it from various angles, some interrelated in surprising ways. Much looks familiar for someone like me having seen several of the productions it discusses. To a degree this also applies to the teaching methods even if in need of being adjusted to the talents of individual learners. 

These factors sensitize us to universal principles that connect the arts beyond language, creed, or social status. As for the challenges involved, let me refer to a publication that addressed my own doubts as a beginning student of Carnatic music in Chennai: in Beyond Culture, anthropologist E.T. Hall describes how and why he “developed a cultural model that emphasised the importance of nonverbal signals and modes of awareness over explicit messages. These insights proved invaluable in studying how members of different cultures interact and how they often fail to understand one other.”1

What struck me then was an observation that seems self-evident only in hindsight:

“In a sense … man’s relationship to all the art forms is much more intimate than is commonly supposed; man is art and vice versa. There is no way the two can be separated. The whole notion that the two are separate is […] probably an aberration of Western culture.”2

Hand gestures would naturally have been the first choice for overcoming this separation from time immemorial. 

Venu G has been a pioneer in this regard, as witnessed by many (including myself) during intercultural symposia and a research project on Kerala’s cultural practices, widening our respective horizons in unforeseen ways. This would have been impossible had he sacrificed his freedom as independent researcher and practitioner, ever since he and Mohiniyattam expert Nirmala Paniker founded Natanakairali at Irinjalakuda, then still a semi-rural environment. 

While reading this new book it dawned on me that their collaborative efforts may be compared with an ancient custom locally known as kāvu (“sacred grove”)3. Formerly widespread, it provides multiple blessings including that of a biotope

All over the world similar places are now endangered due to urban sprawl even as scientists have demonstrated how indispensable they are from the point of view of biodiversity –  safeguarding water supplies and providing clean air in harmony with local conditions. In other words, such places ensure food security and the possibility to develop new, often lifesaving medicines.4

As for the cultural equivalent of a kāvu which I now associate with Natanakairali, we see references to the natural world as part of new productions, research and documentation projects; and also in the daily practice as mentors for those who (like myself) have marvelled at the infinite possibilities of exploring our relationship with forces beyond our control, namely by artistic means. No doubt this is food for thought, an unmeasurable but real contribution to social development in times of ever increasing uniformity. 

Without development and cultural participation entire communities become alienated from one another, leaving rural communities behind while prompting their youth to leave in search of new opportunities. 

Fortunately these trends are being noticed by scientific minds and educationists calling for new priorities; so also the United Nations as part of its “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” programme. Such heritage needs to be fostered within and beyond the communities to whom credit is due, an approach long advocated by Venu G. As evident from his new book, a “born researcher” gladly acknowledges exponents for their part in a precious heritage in need of being passed forward. 

If this is a cause for celebration, it is because here we become aware of two realms that flourish in close proximity; and this not just as “resources” as they cannot be gauged in terms of monetary value or prestige alone. 

We owe this new awareness to a wealth of details and their systematic presentation: several specialized branches of the arts are mutually connected, marvelling at their diversity from multiple perspectives like ecology, psychology, history or other disciplines; and as a result, we realize that an art – any art – needs to be rediscovered, protected and redeveloped by each new generation. 

Nobody to my knowledge has expressed this more succinctly than Rabindranath Tagore: 

“A most important truth, which we are apt to forget, is that a teacher can never truly teach unless he is still learning himself. A lamp can never light another lamp unless it continues to burn its own flame.”5

Yet going by a letter to his Dutch translator – the writer and psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden – Tagore was weary of vanity: 

The superconscious self of mine which has its expression in beauty is beyond my control. […] The body of the lamp is dark, it has no expression, only its flame has the language.”6

As evident from Venu G’s writings, lectures and personal communications, an artistic education is not merely a question of authority, success or entitlement but one of sensitivity to social development and dignity that must not be taken for granted. 

His new work also demonstrates the scope for reaffirming such values and – equally important – provides a context that emboldens readers to seize every opportunity to convey a sense of purpose through their chosen art.

To illustrate my personal interpretation on these lines, let me point out a few mudras rendered in notation as found in this book.

The Glossary is equally helpful as it includes brief synopses and information about the characters figuring in some of the plays covered; this in addition to glimpses of the situations or dilemmas they face within a given scene – details local audiences would have been familiar with not so long ago.     

There is nothing vague or mysterious about the language of gesture when applied to the function of specific subsets of mudras; now shown in a handsome work of reference wherein each gesture conveys moods, actions and even memories; some relating to daily life (though in kutiyattam as if mirrored rather than projected). 

This differentiation resonates with a rhetorical question posed by Marcel Marceau, known as the world’s “Grand master of mime”: 

Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us without words?7

In this sense, Kerala’s “shared vocabulary” is more than suited to engage in the intercultural dialogue to which Venu G has contributed consistently for half a century: 

doing justice to “the most moving moments of our lives” requires universal (mundane) just as stylized (culture-specific) vocabularies effortlessly travelling between the present, the past and possible futures that depend on choices made as part of a given story. 

While contributing to Festivals of India held all over the world Venu G discovered: 

Like spoken language, Kathakali gestures offer a complete vocabulary for communication. It is very often possible to express our thoughts and emotions more forcefully with mudras than through words.” ((Mudra the language of Kutiyattam, Kathakali and Mohiniyattam, p. 10))

With Abhinjana Sakuntala, his critically acclaimed Kutiyattam adaptation, Venu G could test this premise in India and other countries. The tension between urban civilization and communities devoted to alternative lifestyles may be viewed as a theme that connects our time with the ancient world inhabited by Kalidasa. And, as convincingly put forward by Professor Romila Thapar, the inherent tensions from which the famous poet derived inspiration, have resulted in a tapestry of cultural relations that has inspired artists from antiquity:

“In writing this play Kalidasa selected a theme from the epic, but the sub-themes may well have come from folk literature. […] Elaborating on the origin myth of the Bharatas constituted a deliberate turning to the past, possibly with the unstated thought of drawing some parallels with the present“.8

Viewing Venu G’s creative and scholarly work from this angle, and taking note of the rich store of experiences on which it is built, makes me confident that it will continue to facilitate opportunities for a dialogue on eye-level wherever needed; within and beyond India as envisaged by Tagore who anticipated the modern idea of “resilience”.

Educationist Maria Montessori, who spent more than seven years in India during and after World War 2, pondered and acknowledged the insights she gained from young children and their parents. These may well be the quintessence of all transformative experiences as part of lifelong learning. So I trust that her belief in the future of humankind was not misplaced:

Only the collaboration between the children and the adults will be able to solve the problems of our time.”9

*

Much of the media contents included in the present video clip were created for educational purposes, partly in the course of an interdisciplinary research project titled “Sam, Reflection, Gathering Together!” hosted by Natanakairali in collaboration with the Bern University of the Arts. Music, dance and drama lecture-demonstrations and performances were presented by many artists and students of Natanakairali and Natanakaisiki as well as visiting artists during the “Sam” workshop held in Kerala in 2006. The name of this research project points to a common denominator in the otherwise differentiated teaching, interpretation and performance practices of South India’s music, dance and drama traditions. As for the events during which many of the photographs and audio recording were created, see “Sam, Reflection, Gathering Together!” https://sam.mimemo.net >>

Notes & references
  1. New York Times (8 May 2009)
    <<www.nytimes.com/2009/08/05/science/05hall.html>>[]
  2. E.T. Hall, Beyond Culture, New York, 1977, p. 80
    <https://worldcat.org/en/title/318322952>[]
  3. “Despite their decline, they still serve the purpose of reminiscing the past where people worshiped nature together with their deities, conserving biodiversity along with the culture. They exist even today, amidst human settlements and urban areas and are rich in biodiversity that has been protected by local people for their religious and cultural beliefs. The groves have different deities and varied legends associated with them.” – Haritha John in “Sacred groves of north Kerala: The last refuge for biodiversity amongst urbanisation”, Mongabay, 29 January 2019
    <https://india.mongabay.com/2019/01/sacred-groves-of-north-kerala-the-last-refuge-for-biodiversity-amongst-urbanisation/>[]
  4. “Though Harsh Berger used the term Ethnobotany only in 1895 this was the practising knowledge of the tribals and aborigines from time immemorial. Traditionally transmitted knowledge about plants, their medicinal and other uses and also their cultural significance are the three levels of ethnobotany. Now this branch has grown to the level of collecting and codifying the knowledge traditionally transmitted through centuries by the tribals. Ethnobotany tries to study the relation between human beings and nature. Ethnic people are knowledgeable and their world view about the sustainable life practices is now studied in modern context. […] The granaries of the knowledge in the memories of the indigenous people, in folk forms, should have patent rights for which people all over the world are fighting.” – C.R. Rajagopalan in “Indigenous knowledge – The CFS Experience”, Summer rain: Harvesting the Indigenous Knowledge of Kerala, Thrissur: Centre for IK/Folklore Studies, 2004, p. 12
    <https://worldcat.org/en/title/255522477>[]
  5. Santiniketan, Santiniketan, 1961, p. 28[]
  6. 9 August 1913 as quoted in “Tagore in The Netherlands” by Liesbeth Meyer
    <<https://www.parabaas.com/rabindranath/articles/pMeyer.html>>[]
  7. CBC, 23 September 2007
    <https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/grand-master-of-mime-marcel-marceau-dies-1.644639>[]
  8. Romila Thapar, Sakuntala, New Delhi, 1999, p. 45[]
  9. Maria Montessori from Madras on 11 November 1939, “Report on the First Indian Training Course in Education” quoted in Maria Montessori Writes to her Grandchildren: Letters from India, 1939-1946 , Amsterdam, 2020, p. 38
    <https://worldcat.org/en/title/1273931392>[]

True happiness according to Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore sketched by Dutch artist Martin Monnickendam during a lecture tour in September 1920 © Stadsarchief Amsterdam

“True happiness is not at all expensive. It depends upon that natural spring of beauty and of life, harmony of relationship. Ambition pursues its own path of self-seeking by breaking this bond of harmony, digging gaps, creating dissension. Selfish ambition feels no hesitation in trampling under foot the whole harvest field, which is for all, in order to snatch away in haste that portion which it craves. Being wasteful it remains disruptive of social life and the greatest enemy of civilization.” | Read the full lecture >>

Source: Rabindranath Tagore in “Robbery of the soil” (Calcutta University, 1922), posted by Tony Mitra on a blog “Exploring citizens duty on food security, environmental sustainability, covid and freedom issues” (27 September 2015)
https://www.tonu.org/tag/robbery-of-the-soil/
Date visited: 12 January 2021

Worldcat lists compiled by Ludwig Pesch

“I savour the taste of freedom” – Tagore on individual exploration

My freedom lies not in
pursuing detachment.
Amidst a thousand fetters
shall I savour the taste of freedom
in delirious joy.

In 2020 we celebrated the 100th anniversary of a visit to the Netherlands, one that was eagerly expected by many in September 1920

By Ludwig Pesch

“Vrije Gemeente” (Paradiso) image © Ludwig Pesch

Believe me, my friend, my heart goes out to you but I am inarticulate. I have to speak to you in a language not my own. The best that I have in me I give out in songs – no, I can not even say that I give it out – it comes out of itself. The superconscious self of mine which has its expression in beauty is beyond my control – and my ordinary self is stupid and awkward before men. Very often I think and feel that I am like a flute – the flute that cannot talk but when the breath is upon it, can sing.)1

From a letter to his Dutch translator, writer Frederik van Eeden (signed in London, 9 August 1913)
Tagore Sketched by Martin Monickendam in September 1920 | Stadsarchief Amsterdam >>

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), India’s first Nobel laureate, established his Santiniketan school and Viswa-Bharati University on and amidst several Santal villages. It is therefore hardly surprising that he often compared the Infinite Being to a flute player whose “music of beauty and love helps us to transcend our egotistic preoccupations”.2

Such longings, here reiterated by one of world’s most celebrated poets – belong to a greater tradition that seeks to overcome barriers such as language or faith with the help of music. This is more than evident from sources that reveal his admiration for both, the “mad” Baul minstrels and Kabir, an equally rebellious poet whose song lyrics he knew and recommended:3

In several plays Tagore introduced a baul inspired character who would voice his message and philosophy […] roles that Tagore himself delighted in playing with abandon.

Reba Som, Rabindranath Tagore: The Singer and His Song (New Delhi, 2009), p. 76

The play he was most fond of himself, playing the role of the “fakir”, is Dakghar, translated into English under the title “The Post Office”, and Dutch (De brief van den koning, first published in 1916 and again as Amal en de brief van de koning in 1992).4

Its essence seems as relevant in today’s world as in Tagore’s own times, as Bhaswati Ghosh would put it: “In Dakghar (The Post Office), young Amal, the protagonist, bonds with numerous strangers with the spontaneity and guilelessness typical of most children. The play cleverly unravels Tagore’s thoughts on freedom.” Quoting from his Foreword to S Radhakrishnan’s The Philosophy of Upanishads,

When our self is illuminated with the light of love, then the negative aspect of its separateness with others loses its finality, and then our relationship with others is no longer that of competition and conflict, but of sympathy and co-operation.5

The essay by Bhaswati Ghosh is aptly prefaced by Tagore’s forceful proclamation, one worth pondering time and again: ours being a moment in history when freedom – human rights and democracy – can no longer be taken for granted, anywhere. So it is may be read as an urgent appeal directed at aspiring artists, educators, even “opinion and decision makers”; namely to take and share responsibility for this may well decide over their own survival when modern society relentlessly puts their very legitimacy into question in times of perpetual crisis:

My freedom lies not in
pursuing detachment.
Amidst a thousand fetters
shall I savour the taste of freedom
in delirious joy.

What makes his all-embracing outlook so relevant for all of us – to this very day – is this: “Tagore remains a staunch votary of exercising individual exploration as a key to finding freedom.” (Bhaswati Ghosh, Parabaas 2011)

This call for making individual choices in the face of social or political pressures, runs like a red thread through Tagore’s life and work, as can be gleaned from his letter written to the aforementioned Dutch writer, Van Eeden in 1924 (quoted by Rokus De Groot, p. 123):

Men like yourself in Europe prove that her soul is not dead and that the stream of life giving water runs deep under her spiritual soil, seeking its outlets in individual lives.

In hindsight, such high expectations may hardly seem justified given the many failures of judgement among Europe’s leading men (women having little, if any, say in such matters), such as preventing or mitigating the unprecedented suffering of yet another “World War” that was to follow the first one; an equally senseless one yet even more cruel war than the war that had just ended when Tagore visited the Netherlands in September 1920. It had caused untold suffering to millions of Indians.

Historical facts such as armed conflicts must not, however, dishearten those presently working towards lasting peace and intercultural dialogue, irrespective of one’s national, religious or class identity – the very notions Tagore had reason to question when seeking support among responsible fellow citizens at home and abroad. This may explain why music seemed best suited to the purpose of transcending even those obstacles others would have despaired of:

Tagore was “attracted by the distinctive styles of regional music [he] wrote about the great evocative power of tunes wafting across distances–carrying the message of an unknown address whispered in the ear by a traveller – bringing a note of hope and encouragement across oceans of divide.”6

Image © Tagore Centre >>

The above quote also reminds us of the fact that reed and bamboo flutes are the world’s most “democratic” to this very day, both literally and figuratively. His interdisciplinary approach to any major challenge – as pioneer in rural education, campaigner for social reform and international peace activist – remains likewise inspiring for countless artists, both well known (especially those with Bengali roots) and otherwise. His continuing influence reflects his prolific output and depth of thought on important issues, in the form of novels, theatre plays, poetry, stories, and essays.

Tagore’s commitment to bridging the divisions in India’s social fabric was unwavering even in the face of enormous pressure and political unrest. The wide appeal of his quest is evident from the fact that over two thousand of his songs continue to be sung by Bengali speakers in and outside India; and this in spite of the fact that these are spontaneous outpourings in need of being memorized while he sung them “without knowing how to write music” (Reba Som). One notable exception from this rule may be a poem that was later arranged in his presence and therefore lent itself to becoming independent India’s national anthem: “Jana-gana-mana”.

In later life he immersed himself in painting. His unusual oeuvre comprises seemingly surreal paintings besides hundreds of drawings resulting from a long habit of “doodling” in his manuscripts. Rejecting both academic Western and “Oriental Art“, Tagore is now regarded as path-breaking visual artist in his own right, initially by the surrealists who arranged an exhibition in Paris at short notice. As he told Romain Rolland during a conversation in Geneva (1930),

Words are too conscious; lines are not. Ideas have their form and colour, which wait for their incarnation in pictorial art. Just now painting has become a mania with me. My morning began with songs and poems; now, in the evening of my life, my mind is filled with forms and colours.7

Tagore believed that art, music, painting and dance elevate man from a mere being to a personal man:

Personality [is] conscious of its inexhaustible abundance; it has the paradox in it that it is more than itself; it is more than as it is seen, as it is known, as it is used. And this consciousness of the infinite, in the personal man, ever strives to make its expressions immortal and to make the whole world its own.8

This he amply illustrated by his own song lyrics, as it were, imbued with synaesthetic connotations such as these:

A light touch do I feel, a few words do I hear / And I conjure in my mind spring’s full moon / The intoxicating red of the ‘palash’ / Mixed with a dash of champa’s heady fragrance / I weave with music into a net of colour and fervour / Whatever comes close through intervals of time / Paints dream in the startled nooks of my mind / Whatever goes afar sets my tunes atremble with emotion / And with these I pass my days / Keeping count to the beat of anklets.9


Ludwig Pesch specialized in the Carnatic bamboo flute under the guidance of H. Ramachandra Shastry (1906-1992) whom he accompanied on many occasions.

H. Ramachandra Shastry (Kalakshetra, ca. 1983)

At the invitation of Smt. Rukmini Devi-Arundale, a gurukulavāsa type of personalized apprenticeship became possible thanks to Kalakshetra College (today known as Rukmini Devi College Of Fine Arts), the “institution of national importance” inspired by Rabindranath Tagore: it was his pioneering institution, Santiniketan, that provided a model for the revival of South Indian performing and visual arts just as related crafts.

Tagore in Kalakshetra
image by L. Pesch

For Rabindranath, who was essentially a poet and artist, the realization and the expression of beauty was the supreme objective in human life. His concept of beauty, according to true Indian tradition, was inseparably connected with truth and goodness. Whatever is true and noble in life, nature and art is also beautiful. Thus, aesthetic sensitiveness, in the true sense, is a fundamental aspect of spiritual education. A proper aesthetic culture should also include the perception and expression of the beautiful in human life and social conduct, as well as in art and literature. Rabindranath stated in no uncertain terms that man’s sensory encounter with the environment was as important as his mind’s enquiry into its inner mystery, and any worthwhile society should provide for both.10

Whatever is true and noble in life, nature and art is also beautiful” – Rabindranath Tagore quoted by the Archaeological Survey of India (Unesco) >>

Book recommendation: Pidhana – The Canopy of Life
Tagore’s ideal of uniting practical, academic, artistic and spiritual education amounts to “lifelong education” and “ecology” in the most modern and comprehensive sense, namely in harmony with nature. Kalakshetra’s unique ecology, like Santiniketan, was painstakingly created from a barren stretch of land, over a period of several decades. This process and the unique environment resulting from it are documented in a beautiful book titled Pidhana – The Canopy of Life (Chennai, 2014, ISBN: 978-81-921627-3-7): richly illustrated, this publication tells the story of the trees found in the 99acre campus of Kalakshetra Foundation.

Worldcat lists compiled by Ludwig Pesch

Notes & references
  1. See abstract and article (in Dutch) by Rokus De Groot: “Van Eeden En Tagore. Ethiek En Muziek.” Tijdschrift Van De Koninklijke Vereniging Voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis, vol. 49, no. 2, 1999, pp. 98–147. JSTORwww.jstor.org/stable/939183, p. 109 (visited 11 June 2020[]
  2. My memories of Einstein (German ed. ’Meine Erinnerungen an Einstein’, 1931) in Das Goldene Boot, Winkler Weltliteratur, Blaue Reihe (2005) – WorldCat.org >>[]
  3. “Kabir, (Arabic: “Great”) (born 1440, Varanasi, Jaunpur, India—died 1518, Maghar), iconoclastic Indian poet-saint revered by Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs.” (visited 9 June 2020)
    https://www.britannica.com/biography/Kabir-Indian-mystic-and-poet[]
  4. “Tagore wrote The Post Office in Bengal in 1911, not long after losing his son, his daughter, and his wife to disease. In the middle of the night, while lying under the stars on the roof of his house in Shantiniketan (the ‘Abode or Peace’), he had a strange experience. ‘My mind took wing. Fly! Fly! – I felt an anguish … There was a call to go somewhere and a premonition of death, together with intense emotion – this feeling of restlessness I expressed in writing Dak Ghar The Post Office.’ Soon afterward, Tagore’s worldwide odyssey began.” – Translators’ Preface to The Post Office, translated by Krishna Dutta and Andrew Robinson with illustrations by Michael McCurdy and an Introduction by Anita Desai, St. Martin’s press New York, 1996. (Amal’s dialogue with the Thakura, Tagore’s alter ego, is found on p. 35.[]
  5. Tagore’s Foreword to S Radhakrishnan’s The Philosophy of Upanishads, quoted by Bhaswati Ghosh in “Freedom in Tagore’s Plays — an essay”. Parabaas Rabindranath Section. (visited 11 June 2020)
    https://www.parabaas.com/rabindranath/articles/pBhaswati.html[]
  6. Reba Som, Rabindranath Tagore: The Singer and His Song (New Delhi, 2009), p. 147; this can be read quite literally, given “he stepped into the streets singing songs and celebrating Rakshabandhan between members of the Hindu and Muslim communities (1905)” as noted by Abhijit Sen in “In Search of a New Language for Theatre” published on the in a special issue that celebrates the 150th year of Tagore: Indian Horizons, Vol. 24, No. 2/2010 p. 42[]
  7. The Oxford India Tagore: Selected Writings on Education and Nationalism, pp. 190-1[]
  8. Rabindranath Tagore, “Personality” in The English Writings of Rabindranath Tagore, vol. 2, ed. by Sisir Kumar Das (New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 2008). Source: © 2012 Arup Jyoti Sarma (visited 21 April 2015) http://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_11/sarma_june2012.pdf[]
  9. “Ektuku chhoya lage” in Reba Som, Rabindranath Tagore: The Singer and His Song, p. 260[]
  10. The Santiniketan Aesthetic in Unesco’s “World Heritage List Nominations” (visited 9 June 2020)
    https://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5495/[]

“Accept each other’s right to be human with dignity” – Mahasweta Devi on what it takes for cultures to survive

I see one India in the pattern. You see another. Light and shadow play. History and modernity collide. Superstition and myth, Rabindrasangeet and rap, Sufi and Shia and Sunni, caste and computers, text and sub-plot, laughter and tears, governments and oppositions, reservations and quotas, struggles and captivity, success and achievement, hamburgers and Hari Om Hari, Sanskrit and sms, the smell of rain and the sound of the sea. A seamless stitching. Many, many hands have stitched, are stitching and will continue to stitch India. […]

I cling to the belief that for any culture as old and ancient as ours to have survived over time and in time, there could only be one basic common and acceptable core thought: humaneness. To accept each other’s right to be human with dignity. This then is my fight. My dream. In my life and in my literature. – Mahasweta Devi during her inaugural speech for the Frankfurt Book Fair titled “The Republic of Dreams”

Source: Tehelka, 21 October 2006 | Learn more: https://indiantribalheritage.org/?p=7298

What Are Human Rights?
“Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.”
Learn more : Human rights | United Nations >>

“To pursue homogeneity is to enter an endless life of purging, secession and self-destructive violence” –Historian Sunil Khilnani

Every dream of homogeneity stares at an infinite regress: there’s always some aspect of identity, some sect, some culture or language, that doesn’t fit it. To pursue homogeneity is to enter an endless life of purging, secession and self-destructive violence. […]

Khilnani’s heroes, such as the emperor Akbar and his great-grandson Dara Shukoh, tend to be those who build bridges between India’s varied communities and religions; his demons are those, such as Jinnah, who believe “that there was one key identity, religion, which could lock in all the others”. This, believes, Khilnani, is profoundly wrong: “Every dream of homogeneity stares at an infinite regress: there’s always some aspect of identity, some sect, some culture or language, that doesn’t fit it. To pursue homogeneity is to enter an endless life of purging, secession and self-destructive violence.”

Yet Khilnani is scrupulously meticulous, accurate and unromantic in his depiction of his characters – and never hesitates to show the flaws of even those he most approves of. For “by insisting that figures from India’s past be preserved in memory as saints”, he writes, “we deny them not just their real natures, but their genuine achievements”. […]

Source: “Incarnations: India in 50 Lives by Sunil Khilnani” reviewed by William Dalrymple
URL: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/mar/14/incarnations-india-in-50-lives-fifty-sunil-khilnani-review-ghandi-nehru
Date Visited: 3 February 2023

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Worldcat lists compiled by Ludwig Pesch