Saturday, March 10, 2007

Kosambi on the Role of Gita

Aniruddha Kulkarni, while reading The Last Mughal thinks that the controversy behind calling the events of 1857 as a Mutiny or the first War of Indian Independence is meant to hide the
suffering of the ordinary people during those days.
Therefore, you wonder if D D Kosambi amongst all is closest to the truth when he says: “It seems to me that Gita philosophy, like so much else in India’s ‘spiritual’ heritage, is based in the final analysis upon the inability to satisfy more than the barest material needs of a large number”

There could be many Quixotian solutions to this. Use politically correct language. Stop calling poor, poor! Stop calling third class compartment, third class. That is what Indian Railway did when one day they just erased one line from III to make it II!


Rahul Banerjee said...

this cryptic comment on the gita by kosambi is uncharacteristic of him. kosambi's unique contribution to indian historiography is his brilliant textual analysis of the ancient texts whether in sanskrit or pali to distil out probable insights into ancient indian history for which unfortunately we can rely on very little other than conjecture. thus one would have expected a more detailed comment from kosambi based on a deeper analysis of the text. because this comment of kosambi's is applicable only to the "nishkam karma" philosophy adumbrated by krishna in chapters 2-6 and repeated at various places thereafter. however what is much more harmful about the gita is that it supports the caste system and also gives the impression that the gods will eventually come and set everything right - "paritranaya sadhunam cha vinashaya dushkritam sambhavami yuge yuge" or something like that. this is a totally fatalistic philosophy that has held the indian populace in the thrall of negativity for millennia.

bhupinder said...

Thanks for your insightful comment, Rahul. I read DDK many years back, and don't remember the details, the chapter that he wrote on the Gita, available here

aniruddha g. kulkarni said...

I am not as learned as you are but I think DDK's wrting is full of "cryptic comment". I recently read Sethu Madhavrao Pagdi's -very good historian himself but treated with contempt by DDK- Marathi autobiography and he has detailed DDK's 'weird' nature in some detail. DDKs sure seem capable of 'cryptic' comments. If you just shoed me this comment and sked me to identify its author, 9 times out of 10 I would have said either DDK or someone like Indivar Kamtekar.

By the way this comment appears in "Myth and Reality" (reprint 2005) page 41 "Notes to Chapter I".