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Myth in Contemporary Indian Literature
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Myth in Contemporary Indian Literature

”With myth, everything becomes Possible” Claude Levi Strauss

Structural Anthropology

Myths are important not only as they highlight the origin or the particular world view of a society but also as has they related to literature and life in general. Myth in contemporary Indian Literature reflects these inquiries as seen through the eyes of scholars like Alok Bhalla, Vishwanath Khaitre, R Shashidhar and others. These inquiries reveal the epistemological potential’ that myths possess to unravel many truths. Interestingly, these truths make possible diverse interpretations of even the sacred texts such as Mahabharata and Ramayana which form an integral discourse in this seminal work. The frame of this discourse is contemporary (as suggested in the title) as in many articles like those by Gulam Nabi Khayal and C.N Ramachandran we look into contemporary poetry and the political sub texts of myths. Yes with myth everything is possible.

About the Author

K. Satchidanandan is a pioneer of modern poetry and criticism in Malayalam with 20 collections of critical articles and interviews, and 15 collections of translated poetry. Winner of twenty-seven state level and national awards for literature, his works have been translated into several Major Indian and foreign languages and included in national and international anthologies. He has done readings and lectures in all major countries of Europe and Asia besides the USA.

Introduction

This anthology brings together selected papers from the seminar on ‘Myth in Contemporary Indian Literature’ organised by the Sahitya Akademi in February 2003. The seminar attempted to look at the employment, revision, reinterpretation, transformation, recontextualisation and subversion of myths in contemporary Indian literature. The term ‘Myth’ is not used here exclusively or chiefly in the extended sense in which Roland Barthes uses it in his Mythologies to denote tam semiotic constructions of ideological intent nor as it is used in common sense discourse meaning just a superstition or a lie widely believed in and accepted as truth. However the meaning of myth in d context of these deliberations does not rule out these possibilities elaboration since it has a profound relationship with the concepts of truth and untruth and the mechanisms of truth production with which modern thinkers like Nietzsche, Barthes and Foucault concerned.

No account of the relation between myth and literature can proceed without defining the term ‘Myth’, and this is the very subject of myth studies. On the one hand there is the question as to what myths actually refer to, since they have come to mean many different things— from primitive and sacred rituals to propaganda and ideological statements. On the other, there is a lot of confusion and conflicting Argument over how to define the significance of myth. There seem to be only two ways of making sense of either of these questions of reference and significance. We can argue historically following the development and functioning of myths and their passage into mythology or we can concentrate on the nature of the mythic, or mythicity rather than on certain myths. Here we can even become concerned with the ontological status of myth as part of a general theory of human expression.

The paradox of myths is that they are factually false, not true in that form at least; but they have a power that transcends their inaccuracy, even depends on it. Myths are believed, but not in the same way history is. Those who subscribe to a myth may assert its ‘truth’ by which they often imply a valuable meaning. History is what myth is not; history would lose its value Wit is not factually true. But myths help us ask even more basic questions about human meaning and this is what gives them continued relevance in the successive ages of man. Marx was wrong in supposing in Grundrisse that myths would not survive science: they still charm us, involve us, move us, encourage us to intervene in history positively or negatively, leading us backward or forward, speaking often as they do of utopias in the future or golden ages in the past. (We may recall how the myth of Rama, of his mythical birth place Ayodhya and the Ramsetu he is supposed to have built with Hanuman’s help, led to major political controversies in the recent past.) The meaning of myth has been historically evoked through many versions of its main themes: myth as the source of history or as religion, morality or an expression of psychological origins. There is mythic form in which the structural significance of myth is said to be in its metaphorical word-play as pointed out by Vico, Mueller and Schlegel or in its symbolic consciousness as demonstrated by Jung and Cassirer. These arguments are closely linked to theories of the function of myth as ritual, speculation or wish-fulfillment and even as primitive science.

All aspects of the thematic formalist and functionalist arguments about myth seem to be relevant to literary studies. Mythological references in literature establish our psychological origins or the structure of our collective unconscious: we all know how a single reference to a character or situation in an episode of the Ramayana or Mahabharata suddenly illuminates a whole personal or social context and unleashes a flood of associations in the readers or listeners. Names like Ram, Lakshman, Bharat, Kumbhakarna, Sita, Kaikeyi, Urmila, Ravan, Soorpanakha, Hanuman, Sambooka, Sabari, Bali or Sugreev in the Ramayana or Krishna, Arjun, Karna, Ekalavya, Drona, Dhritarashtra or Draupadi in the Mahabharata are used in daily conversation in India to invoke specific associations, and this is also true of certain episodes in these epics. They reveal the binary structures of thought or fantasy-dislocation or problem-reflection. They may ironically prefigure literary meaning or act as the primary language of experience. In addition to these thematic variations, literary myth studies from those of the German Romantics to Roland Barthes have argued for the importance of mythopoesis, the mythopoeic imagination as the source of the power of both myth and the best of literature. This is close to Frank Kermode’s well-known idea that myth ‘short-circuits the intellect and liberates the imagination,’ or Northrop Frye’s view of literature as displaced mythology or John Vickery’s argument that Fraser’s The Golden Bough has propelled the modern (Western) imagination along an important mythopoeic course.

Myth today is so encyclopedic a term that it means everything or nothing. We can find in it whatever we want to say is essential about the way humans try to interpret their place on earth. Myth is a synthesis of values which uniquely manages to mean most things to most men. It is ‘allegory and tautology, reason and unreason, logic and fantasy, waking thought and dream, atavism and the perennial, archetype and metaphor, origin and end,’ to quote Eric Gould (Mythical Intentions s Modern Indian Literature). Thematics and the search for the powerful motif have given rise to unearned optimism, befuddlement, revolutionary subversion and even fascism as in the case of the Nazis who nourished the myth of Aryan superiority Whatever the ideological use to which it is put, somehow myth has proven itself essential or very close to essential, within the cultural and social scheme of things. Myths apparently derive their universal significance from the way in which they try to reconstitute an original event or explain some fact about human nature and its worldly or cosmic contents.

All myths seem to have an ontological gap between event and meaning. A myth intends to be an adequate symbolic representation by closing that gap; yet its meaning is perpetually open and universal only because once the absence of final meaning is recognised, the gap itself demands interpretation which in turn must go on and on, for is nothing if it is not a system of open meaning. A myth may deal with ultimate questions, but its repeated exploitation of the fact that its questions have no answers leads to a linguistic crisis, to the inadequacy of human language, or a need to resort to translinguistic facts like God or nature: we realise that our ability to interpret our place in the world is distinctly limited by the nature of language. We are aware of the arguments of the trans-rationality of myth from the traditional Jungian perspective. The problem lies in determining the extent of that unreason. The mystery of the origin of myth most often finds its place in versions of Jung’s theory of collective unconscious. Cassirer and Langer also suggest that the gap in myth between event and meaning requires the verbalisation of some ‘motor expression’ or states of feeling to replace the motor expression of the ‘holy,’ as proposed by myth critics like Mircea Eliade or Rudolph Otto.

There is one line of critics from Vico to Malinowsky, Durkheim, Mauss and Levi-Strauss who have tried to bridge this gap through positivistic and rationalist approach aligning myth with rationality. Another line aligns myth with the evolution of consciousness as is done by Herder who treats myths as allegories, or Max Mueller who considers myth a ‘linguistic disease’ while a third group of eminent modernists including Jean Piaget and Roland Barthes consider myth to be superior reason. Existentialists like Kierkegaard, Jaspers and Heidegger associate myth with the basic questions of being, encompassing and nothingness; structuralists like Propp, Levi-Strauss, Todorov and Kristeva try to offer a poetics for mythic form, and poststructuralists like Derrida look at the institutionalisation of the mythic discourse as a linguistic phenomenon. In short there are ways and ways of looking at myth and its relationship to literature and life.

The papers collected here explore the several uses of myth in contemporary Indian literature. In some sense, our modernisms seem to begin with the deployment of myths in an attempt to articulate the complexity of the contemporary human predicament, thus innovating the tradition and putting it in the service of the individual genius of the writer, the genius of the specific language, and the modern situation. Myths had been employed during the freedom struggle too, but chiefly to arouse national pride and invite people to join the anti-colonial struggle. Now it is used to comment on the new, post-colonial situation with its doubts, despair and dilemmas as in Dharamvir Bharati’s Andhayug, Girish Karnad’s Yayati, Arun Kolatkar’sJejuri, Sitanshu Yashaschandra’sJatayu, Balamani Ammas Viswamitra, Ayyappa Panilcer’s Kurukshevram, N. N. Kakkad’s Vajrakundalam, Sitakant Mahapatra’s Yasboda’s Sololoquy, or Pratibha Satpathy’s Shabar. Situations and characters in the major epics were taken up again and again for the interpretation of the new social, political and mental states and structures. The Mahabharata with its polyphony and its almost inexhaustible hermeneutic potential inspired several novels like Shivaji Savant’s Mrii’yunjay, V S. Khandekar’s Yayati, Pratibha Ray’s Yajnaseni, S.L. Bhyrappa’s Parva, Anupama Niranjana’s Madhavi, M.T. Vasudevan Nair’s Second Turn, P K. Balakrishnan’s Let Me Sleep Now and V T. Nandakumar’sKrnan, C.N. Sreekantan Nair’s drama trilogyKanchana Sita, Saketam and Lankalakshmi, Kuvempu’s play Shudra Tapaswi, Bhisham Sahni’sMadbar’i, Sara Joseph’s series of short stories based on the Ramayana and Mahasweta Devi’s Draupadi are examples to the subversion of myths through ethical/political interrogation. Thus myths have been employed at times to reinforce the status quo and more often to look at nature, society and relationships from fresh and often radical points of view.

At least since the seventies of the last century, our literatures seem to have entered a phase of revisionist myth-making where myths are revisioned and reinterpreted from original perspectives. The feminist, tribal and dalit discourses have been particularly productive in their retellings: marginalised or oppressed characters like Sambooka of the Ramayana slain by Rama for doing penance, a right denied to Sudras, or Ekalavya of the Maahabharata disempowered by the Brahmin Drona who asked for Ekalavya’s thumb as his teacher’s fee as the disciple, an avarna, had secretly learnt what he was not authorised to learn, have appeared in tribal and dalit literatures as protagonists and symbols of oppression. Characters like Sita, Mandodari, Manthara, Soorpanatha and the wife of Sambooka have been portrayed by Sara Joseph as victims, often resisting victims, of patriarchal oppression and Ravana appears morally superior to Rama in her narratives. Such subversive interpretations often persuade us to intenogate our status-quoist notions of dbarnza from the point of view of the victims of the discriminatory social order: women, dalirs, tribals, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities, etc. thus employing myth in the service of democracy; human rights and social justice.

This anthology has been divided into two sections: the first carries papers of a more general nature, dealing with definitions, problems, sources or the employment of myths across a range of texts or the use of one source in diverse contexts; the papers in the second are more specific and deal mostly with individual texts or trends.

One of the broader themes taken up for discussion is the relationship between myth and literature. K. Shasidhar considers it a dialectical, and not a mutually exclusive, relationship. Myth was literature until recently when we began to believe that literary texts have an epistemological potential and can reveal truth. Later myth came to be increasingly replaced by history — as stories that really happened. This coincided with the birth of the ‘author’ who is supposed to be blessed with special insights into the order of superior reality. Even then myth continued to define and shape literature prominently.

By the second half of the eighteenth century; countries in Western Europe began to develop a national consciousness that compelled them to construct histories and lineages for themselves. Myth was now being used in literature to serve the hegemonic political entity; With the examples of Walter Scott and Arthur Conan Doyle, Shasidhar shows how fiction writers helped project the nation as an unproblematic and unbroken entity that continues into the future. This construction of the nation happened also in India. A serious and recognisably modern use of myth in literature takes the shape of an existential exploration of either a putative past from the present or the present from the past. Shasidhar demonstrates this with the works of P. Lankesh, Girish Kamad and H.S. Shivaprakash in Kannada who have all drawn from the history and myth of the Veerashaiva movement of the twelfth century in order to explore the existential traumas of our times. They use myth self-consciously. Myth becomes powerful when it is seen in an ahistorical frame as is done by O.V. Vijayan in his Saga of Dharmapuri. Shasidhar also has a dig at authors like Gopalakrishna adiga and U.R. Ananthamurthy who promoted and sustained the myth of an ‘organic community’ through their writing. He thinks that it has something to do with the neo-conservative ideology they seem to align themselves with. He also criticises the apparently radical post-colonial arguments of intellectuals like Ashis Nandy and D.R. Nagraj who also ultimately plead for a return to some putative past and a recovery of our original identity that we lost in the colonial era. He suspects that we are now witnessing a powerful resurgence of neoconservatism that speaks an intellectual language. “This new myth of misrepresented India is trying to create history out of older myths wk dismissing much of known history as recent myth.” This belligerent nativism coexists with an increasing loss of economic 1oin — almost a sell-out of the public sphere in economic terms. Post-structuralism that came as a radical argument is thus being used aw the right. It tells us that modernity history progress, reason and sciences are bogus. This is like Rousseau’s radical argument for the of kings who lose popular confidence being turned round by conservatives who argued that kings cannot be displaced by one —‘n alone as ‘people’ also means those of the previous and the generations!

Vishvanath Khaire attempts a rationally consistent understanding of the mythological material in the Vedas, Brahmanas and epics. With plenty of examples he proves that the metaphors and narratives in them are replete with reflections of the social structure and class dominance in Indian society across ages. Sanskrit mythology the scholar says, was created by members of the priestly class who were themselves speakers of Indian folk tongues. Indian mythology has to be studied in the multicultural setting of a subcontinent in space and five millennia in time. Kiran Budkuley examines the employment of the Mahabbarata myths in contemporary writing to reconstruct or deconstruct them. The epic has not existed as a sacrosanct religious text but has been recontextualised and revised many times by writers with different 1 ideological inclinations. As examples she takes ShashiTharoor’s The Great Indian Novel, S.L. Bhyrappa’s Parva, V.S. Khandekar’s Yayati , Girish Karnad’s play of the same name, Dharmveer Bharati’s Andha Tug, Bhisham Sahnis Madhavi, Shivaji Savant’s Mriiyunjay and Uday Bhembre’s Karnapara besides renderings like Ravindra Kelekar’s Mahabharat: Ek Anusarjan and P. Lal’s The Mahabharat of Vyas. She shows how the irreverent iconoclasm exploding mythic paradigms breaks the shackles of ideological conditioning and gives voices to the long-suppressed aspirations of the marginalised majority silently clamouring for truth and ethics.

Ghulam Nabi Khayal looks at the question of myth in the context of contemporary Kashmiri poetry He tells us how even the creation of Kashmir is surrounded by myth. With examples from poets like Ghulam Mahjoor, Ahmad Batwari, Rasool Mir, Dinanath Nadim, Rehman Rahi and Amin Camil he shows how extensive the use of myths—from across the world—has been in traditional poetry and concludes saying now mostly poets employ only myths around Aka Nandun, Heemal and Naagi Raai. Ratneshwar Misra looks at the status of myth, chiefly the legends around Rama and Krishna, in contemporary Maithili literature. L. Damodar Singh discusses myth in general with references to William Bascom and Malinowsky before he looks at myth in Manipuri literature. He quotes Malinowsky “Studied alive, myth... is not an explanation in satisfaction of a scientific interest, but a narrative insurrection of primeval reality told in satisfaction of deep religious wants, moral cravings, social submissions, assertions, even practical requirements”. He examines how myth has been integral to literature in Manipur which has been a meeting place of cultures of all regions. Native Maitei and Hindu Vaishnavite cultural traditions together form the matrix of Manipuri culture. The scholar examines the use of both the sources in contemporary writing and concludes, “The ontological soul-killing experiences that they witness in the society torn and tortured by violence, tension and conflict find apt mythopoeic tools for the intense expression of their psyche as in other Indian literatures”. Subhendu Mund looks at the recent revivification of myth and the emergence of myth-criticism as an influential discourse in the Western academia especially after Jung, Northrop Frye, Levi-Strauss and Rolaiid Barthes. The influence has also percolated into our bhasha literatures. Mund looks at the use of myth in Oriya literature right from its early practitioners like Markanda Das, Sarala Das, Jagannath Das and Achyutananda Das upto the period of Gangadhar Mehar, Radhanath Roy, Sachi Rautray, Sitakant Mahapatra and Ramakanta Rath. He also looks at the treatment of myth in Oriya fiction and its recent subversive use as in Haladhar Nag’s dalit novels Achia (The Untouchable) where he uses the Sabari myth in the Ramayana to question the caste hierarchy and Bachar (The Year) where Earth and Time are used as characters. Similar use is also found in Feminist writing.

C.N. Ramachandran in his interesting paper brings in the political aspect of myth by connecting myths with the world views inscribed in them by the classes in power. He exemplifies his view-point with Romila Thapar’s comments on the didactic discourses in the Mahabharata and Ramayana as different from the layers. Kannada literature too is full of re-readings and re-valuations, right from Pampa and Kumaravyasa. The Jam poets found it difficult to accept the Brahmin ideology underlying the epics: so they had to interpret them afresh. Kuvempu too exposes the cruelty and absurdity of the Kurukshetra war in the play Smashana Kurukshetram and turns Sambooka into a hero in Shudra Tapaswi. S. L. Bhyrappa’s novel Parva is another example of re-reading. The works of Girish Karnad, Chandrasekhara Kambar and Anupama Niranjana besides folk and tribal epics are also examined to reveal their re-visioning of traditional legends and folk-myths.

M. Leelavati argues that myths are depersonalised dreams and investigates contemporary Malayalam writing to see how myths have been put to different uses by poets as varied as Edassery Vailoppilli, O. N. V Kurup, Sugatakumari, Ayyappa Paniker and ‘Satchidanandan.’ She says myths and archetypes can be used to serve constructive as well as destructive ends and pleads for the preservation of our pluralistic heritage. Satyavrat Sastri observes that even in modern Sanskrit writing, myths are not accepted as they are, but undergo reinterpretation. Param Abichandani examines myths in the context of different genres in contemporary Sindhi literature, Vasdev Mohi’s play, Eklavya being an example of re-reading. Balachandran ‘Bala’ takes up the metamorphoses of Ahalya in the new Tamil literature, as in the works of Suradha, N. Pitchamurthy, Murugasundaram and Jnani. G.V Subramanyan divides Telugu writers into pro-myth and anti-myth writers: Viswanatha Satyanarayana who wrote Ramayana Kalpavriksham is pro-myth while Muppalla Ranganayakamma who wrote Ramayana Vishavriksham represents the anti-myth trend. Aniket Jaaware has a different take on the topic altogether: he considers the very idea of Indian literature to be a myth as literature is a limited category that can never reach up to its aspiration of being a national category

The essays that follow apply myth criticism to specific texts. Subha Chakraborty Dasgupta surveys theories of myth before she begins to analyse the stories of Mahasweta Devi. She says it is the engagement with praxis that legitimises the transposition of myth in a living context on to the plane of a written story. The question of legitimacy here is linked to modes of representation and ideologies of mimesis. Mahasweta Dcvi mediates between two worlds separated by thousands of years and yet seem to live side by side. She creates a new language, a ‘third term’ stemming out of the two distinct worlds with their distinct languages that she negotiates. This is fashioned out of oral as well as written traditions leading to a ‘speakerly’ text. It is with the dynamism of these ‘speakerly’ texts that myths receive form and functionality in the modern context. The critic looks at Mahasweta Devi’s stories like ‘Shishu’, ‘Sesh Shamanin’ and ‘Bichchan’ to demonstrate her points. C.N. Srinath speaks of the power of myth to transform reality in India which does not have a solid tradition of history The use of myth is a potential strategy to represent reality but it is fraught with risks as it can also distort reality and lead to a stereotypical yoking of the mythical and the real. Srinath looks at some texts written by Indians in English like Raja Rao’s Kanthapura, G.V Des ani’s All about H. Hatterr, S. Anantanarayanan’s The Silver Pilgrimage and Arun Joshi’s The Strange Case of Billy Biswas to show how different writers employ myth differently in their works. Sometimes it is serious and philosophical as in Raja Rao and sometimes comic and farcical as in Desani. In R.K. Narayan or Anantanarayanan, reality itself gets a mythic dimension.

Alok Bhalla speaks of his experience of translating Dharamveer Bharati’s Andha Yug. He examines in detail Bharati’s treatment of the Characters of the Mahabharata and their moral implications as also the clement of the sacred that constitutes the text. Andha Tug ,he says, is a tragedy that happens because the Kauravas in their greed, stupidity and blindness so disfigure and deny Krishna as to blot out from their s ial and political vision every possibility of creating cities of virtue and hope; but the earlier translations turned it into an existentialist text, the angst of Aswatthama and Gandhari occupying the central stage and winning the readers sympathy while Krishna comes out as a vile and capricious god: this is a distortion of the intended message ii the play written in the aftermath of partition and the bloodbath it led to. His task was to restore the sacrality and the ethicality the text had lost in earlier English versions

N. Manu Chakravarthy analyses Kuvempu’s Kannada play, Shudra ‘tapasvi, Mukunda Rao’s English short story, ‘Rama Revisited’ and U .R. Ananthamurthy’s Kannada short story, ‘Jaratkaru’. All the three texts work within the traditions they interrogate; they bring the readers face to face with the major historical upheavals in Indian society, and all of them deal with fundamental issues not yet fully resolved in our society Shudra Tapasvi, a radical retelling of the Sambooka episode in the Ramayana is an indictment of the caste system while the other two reassert the plurality of the Indian philosophical traditions and seem to adopt a Buddhist view of life where everything is self-moulded, momentary and empty. All these texts interrogate the monolithic notions about Indian society and dc-centre experience and meaning making multiple readings possible. S.Kanakaraj examines the transformation of myth in Girish Karnad’s plays, Hayavadana and The Fire and the Rain. Karnad, he says, shares with William Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren, Saul Bello T. S. Eliot, John Barth and Chinua Achebe, an attitude to myths where myths serve as the literary base tor reviewing post-Modern life situations in a fresh light. Karnad reinterprets the tales of Vakratund and Hayagriva in Hayavadana and that of Yavakri in The Fire and the Rain to make meaningful comments on the post-Modern existential situation.

P P. Ravindran takes up for discussion three Malayalam novels, M. Mukundan’sKesavan’sLamentations, Sara Joseph’sA1aha-c Daughters and N. Prabhakaran’s The ThyoorDocuments to look at the myth-history-fiction interface and its imapact on the Production of truth-effects in literature. He points out that what is at stake in any discussion on the relation between myth and literature is the Knowledge status of the two. He shows how the three novels look at reality in three different ways and employ myth to different purposes, though they are all interrogative texts while at times adopting imperative and declarative postures, to follow Emille Benveniste’s textual categories. This is due to the proximity to the tradition of documentary realism. But they mediate the reality for the reader and engage the reader in contradiction in varying degrees of rigout Pradeep Gopal Deshpande examines the mythical modes in the novels of Balachandra Nemade and Vilas Sarang. He shows how Nemade’s nativist use of myth in Kosla, Bidhar and other novels helps him to counter the modernist onslaught of excessive individualism while Sarang’s use of myth in Enkichya Rajyat typifies the opposite, ‘the avant-garde swell of excessive individualism’. Chandrakant Patil begins with a statement on the two uses of myths in literature: to reveal the inner turmoil and perceive the problems of living, and to establish the identity of the individuals, communities and subcultures. He first mentions the different uses to which the modern poetry of Sadanand Rege, Vinda Karandikar, Arun Kolatkar, Dilip Chitre and Vilas Sarang puts mythological figures and contexts and then goes to the subversive use of myths by the tribal poet, Bhujang Meshram in his poems written in Marathi and five tribal dialects. As an insider to the discourse of myth, he examines nature and society with their complexities and contradictions and establishes a very original relationship with language, dialect and culture through the mythical mode.

Prafulla Kumar Mohanty examines how the myths around Krishna, Radha and Ahalya are used creatively and symbolically in the Oriya works of Sitakant Mahapatra, Ramakanta Rath and Pratibha Ray. Sachidananda Mohanty complements the discussion by looking at the mythopoeic mind at work in Ramakanta Rath’s Sree Radha and Pratibha Satpathy’s Shabari. He contextualises his discussion in the larger world of Oriya poetry and shows how the two works cited establish a break with the earlier romantic traditions of erotic, devotional and Sabuja or green kinds. They point to a new transcendental romanticism. Akshaya Kumar explores the shifting semantics of the tale of Pooran Bhagat in modern Punjabi literature as it moves from the spiritual to the subaltern. He at different versions of the kissa whose expansive ambiguity allows for re-inscriptions. Several new authors like Shiv Kumar Batalvi, Atamjit , Ajmer Singh Aulukh and Iqbal Ramoowalia represent a gradual displacement of the original story that brings in new iinfl4uuns, The critic hopes that the kissa will be further rewritten In the context of the increasing dalitisation of the political and literary discourse. A.R Venkatachalapathy takes up for investigation the short stories of Pudumaipithan to establish how an encounter with tradition has been a constitutive element of modernity in Tamil as elsewhere. He looks at how the myth of Agaligai or Ahalya gets radically transformed in Pudumaipithan’s fictional discourse. Pudumaipithan interrogates the very meaning of the emancipation AhaIy achieved by Rama’s touch by problematising her after-life in the story, Sapavimochanam (Deliverance).

Together these papers discuss, with examples of texts from different languages, the diverse reinterpretations of myth in contemporary Indian writing and their social and aesthetic Implications the hook is sure to generate further discussions on the topic and his a special relevance in our national context where myths in Influence the very course of politics.

 

Contents

 

Introduction ix
Part One  
Literature and New Myths 3
R. Shashidhar  
Understanding Indian Mythology 10
Vishvanath Khaire  
Mahabharata Myths in Contemporary Writing: Challenging Ideology 16
Kiran Budkuley  
Mythological Interpretations in Contemporary Kashmiri Poetry 31
Ghulam Nabi Khayal  
Myth and Contemporary Maithili Literature 37
Ratneshwar Mishra  
Mythical Intentions in Contemporary Manipuri Literature 45
L. Damodar Singh  
Myth as Continuity: Contemporary Oriya Literature 60
Subhendu Mund  
Ages Pass but the Story Continues.A Note on Myths in Modern Kannada Literature 71
C.N.Ramachandran  
Mythical Concepts in Contemporary Malayalam Poerty 83
M.Leelavati  
Myth in Contemporary Sanskrit Literature 95
Satya Vrat Shastri  
Myth in Contemporary Sindhi Literature 104
Param Abichandani  
The Ahalya Myth in Contemporary Tamil Poetry 108
R. Balachandran ‘Bala’  
Myth in Contemporary Telugu Literature 116
G. V. Subramanyan  
Part Two  
The Myth of Indian Literature 129
Aniket Jaaware  
Contesting Polarities: Creating Spaces Reading Myth in Mahasweta Devi’s Stories 137
Subha Chakraborty Dasgupta  
Myth in Contemporary Indian Fiction in English 145
C. N. Srinath  
Defending the Sacred in an Age of Atrocities: On Translating Dharamvir Bharati’s Andha Yug 158
Alok Bhalla  
Mythical Imagination as Contemporary Experience: Creative Negotiations of the Present with the Historical Past 177
N. Manu Chakravarthy  
Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana and the Fire and the Rain: A Critical Study of Indian Myths as Reinterpretations of Situations of Life 186
S. Kanakaraj  
Myth, Truth and History in Contemporary Malayalam Novel 202
P P Raveendran  
Enki and Indradutta : Mythical Modes in the Novels of Vilas Sarang and Bhalachandra Nemade 214
Pradccp Gopal Deshpande  
Myth as Reality: The Tribal Poetry of Bhujang Meshram 229
Chandrakant Patil  
Mask and Creative Symbolisation in Contemporary Oriya Literature: Krishna, Radha and Ahalya 236
Praflilla Kumar Mohanty  
The Mythopoeic Imagination in Sri Radha and Shabari 247
Sachidananda Mohanty  
From the Spiritual to the Subaltern: Shifting Semantics of Kissa Pooran Bhagat in Modern Punjabi Literature 257
Akshaya Kumar  
Deliverance from Curse! Deliverance from Myth? Agaligai in Pudumaippithan’s Writings 279
A R Venkatachalapathy  

 

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Myth in Contemporary Indian Literature

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Myth in Contemporary Indian Literature

”With myth, everything becomes Possible” Claude Levi Strauss

Structural Anthropology

Myths are important not only as they highlight the origin or the particular world view of a society but also as has they related to literature and life in general. Myth in contemporary Indian Literature reflects these inquiries as seen through the eyes of scholars like Alok Bhalla, Vishwanath Khaitre, R Shashidhar and others. These inquiries reveal the epistemological potential’ that myths possess to unravel many truths. Interestingly, these truths make possible diverse interpretations of even the sacred texts such as Mahabharata and Ramayana which form an integral discourse in this seminal work. The frame of this discourse is contemporary (as suggested in the title) as in many articles like those by Gulam Nabi Khayal and C.N Ramachandran we look into contemporary poetry and the political sub texts of myths. Yes with myth everything is possible.

About the Author

K. Satchidanandan is a pioneer of modern poetry and criticism in Malayalam with 20 collections of critical articles and interviews, and 15 collections of translated poetry. Winner of twenty-seven state level and national awards for literature, his works have been translated into several Major Indian and foreign languages and included in national and international anthologies. He has done readings and lectures in all major countries of Europe and Asia besides the USA.

Introduction

This anthology brings together selected papers from the seminar on ‘Myth in Contemporary Indian Literature’ organised by the Sahitya Akademi in February 2003. The seminar attempted to look at the employment, revision, reinterpretation, transformation, recontextualisation and subversion of myths in contemporary Indian literature. The term ‘Myth’ is not used here exclusively or chiefly in the extended sense in which Roland Barthes uses it in his Mythologies to denote tam semiotic constructions of ideological intent nor as it is used in common sense discourse meaning just a superstition or a lie widely believed in and accepted as truth. However the meaning of myth in d context of these deliberations does not rule out these possibilities elaboration since it has a profound relationship with the concepts of truth and untruth and the mechanisms of truth production with which modern thinkers like Nietzsche, Barthes and Foucault concerned.

No account of the relation between myth and literature can proceed without defining the term ‘Myth’, and this is the very subject of myth studies. On the one hand there is the question as to what myths actually refer to, since they have come to mean many different things— from primitive and sacred rituals to propaganda and ideological statements. On the other, there is a lot of confusion and conflicting Argument over how to define the significance of myth. There seem to be only two ways of making sense of either of these questions of reference and significance. We can argue historically following the development and functioning of myths and their passage into mythology or we can concentrate on the nature of the mythic, or mythicity rather than on certain myths. Here we can even become concerned with the ontological status of myth as part of a general theory of human expression.

The paradox of myths is that they are factually false, not true in that form at least; but they have a power that transcends their inaccuracy, even depends on it. Myths are believed, but not in the same way history is. Those who subscribe to a myth may assert its ‘truth’ by which they often imply a valuable meaning. History is what myth is not; history would lose its value Wit is not factually true. But myths help us ask even more basic questions about human meaning and this is what gives them continued relevance in the successive ages of man. Marx was wrong in supposing in Grundrisse that myths would not survive science: they still charm us, involve us, move us, encourage us to intervene in history positively or negatively, leading us backward or forward, speaking often as they do of utopias in the future or golden ages in the past. (We may recall how the myth of Rama, of his mythical birth place Ayodhya and the Ramsetu he is supposed to have built with Hanuman’s help, led to major political controversies in the recent past.) The meaning of myth has been historically evoked through many versions of its main themes: myth as the source of history or as religion, morality or an expression of psychological origins. There is mythic form in which the structural significance of myth is said to be in its metaphorical word-play as pointed out by Vico, Mueller and Schlegel or in its symbolic consciousness as demonstrated by Jung and Cassirer. These arguments are closely linked to theories of the function of myth as ritual, speculation or wish-fulfillment and even as primitive science.

All aspects of the thematic formalist and functionalist arguments about myth seem to be relevant to literary studies. Mythological references in literature establish our psychological origins or the structure of our collective unconscious: we all know how a single reference to a character or situation in an episode of the Ramayana or Mahabharata suddenly illuminates a whole personal or social context and unleashes a flood of associations in the readers or listeners. Names like Ram, Lakshman, Bharat, Kumbhakarna, Sita, Kaikeyi, Urmila, Ravan, Soorpanakha, Hanuman, Sambooka, Sabari, Bali or Sugreev in the Ramayana or Krishna, Arjun, Karna, Ekalavya, Drona, Dhritarashtra or Draupadi in the Mahabharata are used in daily conversation in India to invoke specific associations, and this is also true of certain episodes in these epics. They reveal the binary structures of thought or fantasy-dislocation or problem-reflection. They may ironically prefigure literary meaning or act as the primary language of experience. In addition to these thematic variations, literary myth studies from those of the German Romantics to Roland Barthes have argued for the importance of mythopoesis, the mythopoeic imagination as the source of the power of both myth and the best of literature. This is close to Frank Kermode’s well-known idea that myth ‘short-circuits the intellect and liberates the imagination,’ or Northrop Frye’s view of literature as displaced mythology or John Vickery’s argument that Fraser’s The Golden Bough has propelled the modern (Western) imagination along an important mythopoeic course.

Myth today is so encyclopedic a term that it means everything or nothing. We can find in it whatever we want to say is essential about the way humans try to interpret their place on earth. Myth is a synthesis of values which uniquely manages to mean most things to most men. It is ‘allegory and tautology, reason and unreason, logic and fantasy, waking thought and dream, atavism and the perennial, archetype and metaphor, origin and end,’ to quote Eric Gould (Mythical Intentions s Modern Indian Literature). Thematics and the search for the powerful motif have given rise to unearned optimism, befuddlement, revolutionary subversion and even fascism as in the case of the Nazis who nourished the myth of Aryan superiority Whatever the ideological use to which it is put, somehow myth has proven itself essential or very close to essential, within the cultural and social scheme of things. Myths apparently derive their universal significance from the way in which they try to reconstitute an original event or explain some fact about human nature and its worldly or cosmic contents.

All myths seem to have an ontological gap between event and meaning. A myth intends to be an adequate symbolic representation by closing that gap; yet its meaning is perpetually open and universal only because once the absence of final meaning is recognised, the gap itself demands interpretation which in turn must go on and on, for is nothing if it is not a system of open meaning. A myth may deal with ultimate questions, but its repeated exploitation of the fact that its questions have no answers leads to a linguistic crisis, to the inadequacy of human language, or a need to resort to translinguistic facts like God or nature: we realise that our ability to interpret our place in the world is distinctly limited by the nature of language. We are aware of the arguments of the trans-rationality of myth from the traditional Jungian perspective. The problem lies in determining the extent of that unreason. The mystery of the origin of myth most often finds its place in versions of Jung’s theory of collective unconscious. Cassirer and Langer also suggest that the gap in myth between event and meaning requires the verbalisation of some ‘motor expression’ or states of feeling to replace the motor expression of the ‘holy,’ as proposed by myth critics like Mircea Eliade or Rudolph Otto.

There is one line of critics from Vico to Malinowsky, Durkheim, Mauss and Levi-Strauss who have tried to bridge this gap through positivistic and rationalist approach aligning myth with rationality. Another line aligns myth with the evolution of consciousness as is done by Herder who treats myths as allegories, or Max Mueller who considers myth a ‘linguistic disease’ while a third group of eminent modernists including Jean Piaget and Roland Barthes consider myth to be superior reason. Existentialists like Kierkegaard, Jaspers and Heidegger associate myth with the basic questions of being, encompassing and nothingness; structuralists like Propp, Levi-Strauss, Todorov and Kristeva try to offer a poetics for mythic form, and poststructuralists like Derrida look at the institutionalisation of the mythic discourse as a linguistic phenomenon. In short there are ways and ways of looking at myth and its relationship to literature and life.

The papers collected here explore the several uses of myth in contemporary Indian literature. In some sense, our modernisms seem to begin with the deployment of myths in an attempt to articulate the complexity of the contemporary human predicament, thus innovating the tradition and putting it in the service of the individual genius of the writer, the genius of the specific language, and the modern situation. Myths had been employed during the freedom struggle too, but chiefly to arouse national pride and invite people to join the anti-colonial struggle. Now it is used to comment on the new, post-colonial situation with its doubts, despair and dilemmas as in Dharamvir Bharati’s Andhayug, Girish Karnad’s Yayati, Arun Kolatkar’sJejuri, Sitanshu Yashaschandra’sJatayu, Balamani Ammas Viswamitra, Ayyappa Panilcer’s Kurukshevram, N. N. Kakkad’s Vajrakundalam, Sitakant Mahapatra’s Yasboda’s Sololoquy, or Pratibha Satpathy’s Shabar. Situations and characters in the major epics were taken up again and again for the interpretation of the new social, political and mental states and structures. The Mahabharata with its polyphony and its almost inexhaustible hermeneutic potential inspired several novels like Shivaji Savant’s Mrii’yunjay, V S. Khandekar’s Yayati, Pratibha Ray’s Yajnaseni, S.L. Bhyrappa’s Parva, Anupama Niranjana’s Madhavi, M.T. Vasudevan Nair’s Second Turn, P K. Balakrishnan’s Let Me Sleep Now and V T. Nandakumar’sKrnan, C.N. Sreekantan Nair’s drama trilogyKanchana Sita, Saketam and Lankalakshmi, Kuvempu’s play Shudra Tapaswi, Bhisham Sahni’sMadbar’i, Sara Joseph’s series of short stories based on the Ramayana and Mahasweta Devi’s Draupadi are examples to the subversion of myths through ethical/political interrogation. Thus myths have been employed at times to reinforce the status quo and more often to look at nature, society and relationships from fresh and often radical points of view.

At least since the seventies of the last century, our literatures seem to have entered a phase of revisionist myth-making where myths are revisioned and reinterpreted from original perspectives. The feminist, tribal and dalit discourses have been particularly productive in their retellings: marginalised or oppressed characters like Sambooka of the Ramayana slain by Rama for doing penance, a right denied to Sudras, or Ekalavya of the Maahabharata disempowered by the Brahmin Drona who asked for Ekalavya’s thumb as his teacher’s fee as the disciple, an avarna, had secretly learnt what he was not authorised to learn, have appeared in tribal and dalit literatures as protagonists and symbols of oppression. Characters like Sita, Mandodari, Manthara, Soorpanatha and the wife of Sambooka have been portrayed by Sara Joseph as victims, often resisting victims, of patriarchal oppression and Ravana appears morally superior to Rama in her narratives. Such subversive interpretations often persuade us to intenogate our status-quoist notions of dbarnza from the point of view of the victims of the discriminatory social order: women, dalirs, tribals, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities, etc. thus employing myth in the service of democracy; human rights and social justice.

This anthology has been divided into two sections: the first carries papers of a more general nature, dealing with definitions, problems, sources or the employment of myths across a range of texts or the use of one source in diverse contexts; the papers in the second are more specific and deal mostly with individual texts or trends.

One of the broader themes taken up for discussion is the relationship between myth and literature. K. Shasidhar considers it a dialectical, and not a mutually exclusive, relationship. Myth was literature until recently when we began to believe that literary texts have an epistemological potential and can reveal truth. Later myth came to be increasingly replaced by history — as stories that really happened. This coincided with the birth of the ‘author’ who is supposed to be blessed with special insights into the order of superior reality. Even then myth continued to define and shape literature prominently.

By the second half of the eighteenth century; countries in Western Europe began to develop a national consciousness that compelled them to construct histories and lineages for themselves. Myth was now being used in literature to serve the hegemonic political entity; With the examples of Walter Scott and Arthur Conan Doyle, Shasidhar shows how fiction writers helped project the nation as an unproblematic and unbroken entity that continues into the future. This construction of the nation happened also in India. A serious and recognisably modern use of myth in literature takes the shape of an existential exploration of either a putative past from the present or the present from the past. Shasidhar demonstrates this with the works of P. Lankesh, Girish Kamad and H.S. Shivaprakash in Kannada who have all drawn from the history and myth of the Veerashaiva movement of the twelfth century in order to explore the existential traumas of our times. They use myth self-consciously. Myth becomes powerful when it is seen in an ahistorical frame as is done by O.V. Vijayan in his Saga of Dharmapuri. Shasidhar also has a dig at authors like Gopalakrishna adiga and U.R. Ananthamurthy who promoted and sustained the myth of an ‘organic community’ through their writing. He thinks that it has something to do with the neo-conservative ideology they seem to align themselves with. He also criticises the apparently radical post-colonial arguments of intellectuals like Ashis Nandy and D.R. Nagraj who also ultimately plead for a return to some putative past and a recovery of our original identity that we lost in the colonial era. He suspects that we are now witnessing a powerful resurgence of neoconservatism that speaks an intellectual language. “This new myth of misrepresented India is trying to create history out of older myths wk dismissing much of known history as recent myth.” This belligerent nativism coexists with an increasing loss of economic 1oin — almost a sell-out of the public sphere in economic terms. Post-structuralism that came as a radical argument is thus being used aw the right. It tells us that modernity history progress, reason and sciences are bogus. This is like Rousseau’s radical argument for the of kings who lose popular confidence being turned round by conservatives who argued that kings cannot be displaced by one —‘n alone as ‘people’ also means those of the previous and the generations!

Vishvanath Khaire attempts a rationally consistent understanding of the mythological material in the Vedas, Brahmanas and epics. With plenty of examples he proves that the metaphors and narratives in them are replete with reflections of the social structure and class dominance in Indian society across ages. Sanskrit mythology the scholar says, was created by members of the priestly class who were themselves speakers of Indian folk tongues. Indian mythology has to be studied in the multicultural setting of a subcontinent in space and five millennia in time. Kiran Budkuley examines the employment of the Mahabbarata myths in contemporary writing to reconstruct or deconstruct them. The epic has not existed as a sacrosanct religious text but has been recontextualised and revised many times by writers with different 1 ideological inclinations. As examples she takes ShashiTharoor’s The Great Indian Novel, S.L. Bhyrappa’s Parva, V.S. Khandekar’s Yayati , Girish Karnad’s play of the same name, Dharmveer Bharati’s Andha Tug, Bhisham Sahnis Madhavi, Shivaji Savant’s Mriiyunjay and Uday Bhembre’s Karnapara besides renderings like Ravindra Kelekar’s Mahabharat: Ek Anusarjan and P. Lal’s The Mahabharat of Vyas. She shows how the irreverent iconoclasm exploding mythic paradigms breaks the shackles of ideological conditioning and gives voices to the long-suppressed aspirations of the marginalised majority silently clamouring for truth and ethics.

Ghulam Nabi Khayal looks at the question of myth in the context of contemporary Kashmiri poetry He tells us how even the creation of Kashmir is surrounded by myth. With examples from poets like Ghulam Mahjoor, Ahmad Batwari, Rasool Mir, Dinanath Nadim, Rehman Rahi and Amin Camil he shows how extensive the use of myths—from across the world—has been in traditional poetry and concludes saying now mostly poets employ only myths around Aka Nandun, Heemal and Naagi Raai. Ratneshwar Misra looks at the status of myth, chiefly the legends around Rama and Krishna, in contemporary Maithili literature. L. Damodar Singh discusses myth in general with references to William Bascom and Malinowsky before he looks at myth in Manipuri literature. He quotes Malinowsky “Studied alive, myth... is not an explanation in satisfaction of a scientific interest, but a narrative insurrection of primeval reality told in satisfaction of deep religious wants, moral cravings, social submissions, assertions, even practical requirements”. He examines how myth has been integral to literature in Manipur which has been a meeting place of cultures of all regions. Native Maitei and Hindu Vaishnavite cultural traditions together form the matrix of Manipuri culture. The scholar examines the use of both the sources in contemporary writing and concludes, “The ontological soul-killing experiences that they witness in the society torn and tortured by violence, tension and conflict find apt mythopoeic tools for the intense expression of their psyche as in other Indian literatures”. Subhendu Mund looks at the recent revivification of myth and the emergence of myth-criticism as an influential discourse in the Western academia especially after Jung, Northrop Frye, Levi-Strauss and Rolaiid Barthes. The influence has also percolated into our bhasha literatures. Mund looks at the use of myth in Oriya literature right from its early practitioners like Markanda Das, Sarala Das, Jagannath Das and Achyutananda Das upto the period of Gangadhar Mehar, Radhanath Roy, Sachi Rautray, Sitakant Mahapatra and Ramakanta Rath. He also looks at the treatment of myth in Oriya fiction and its recent subversive use as in Haladhar Nag’s dalit novels Achia (The Untouchable) where he uses the Sabari myth in the Ramayana to question the caste hierarchy and Bachar (The Year) where Earth and Time are used as characters. Similar use is also found in Feminist writing.

C.N. Ramachandran in his interesting paper brings in the political aspect of myth by connecting myths with the world views inscribed in them by the classes in power. He exemplifies his view-point with Romila Thapar’s comments on the didactic discourses in the Mahabharata and Ramayana as different from the layers. Kannada literature too is full of re-readings and re-valuations, right from Pampa and Kumaravyasa. The Jam poets found it difficult to accept the Brahmin ideology underlying the epics: so they had to interpret them afresh. Kuvempu too exposes the cruelty and absurdity of the Kurukshetra war in the play Smashana Kurukshetram and turns Sambooka into a hero in Shudra Tapaswi. S. L. Bhyrappa’s novel Parva is another example of re-reading. The works of Girish Karnad, Chandrasekhara Kambar and Anupama Niranjana besides folk and tribal epics are also examined to reveal their re-visioning of traditional legends and folk-myths.

M. Leelavati argues that myths are depersonalised dreams and investigates contemporary Malayalam writing to see how myths have been put to different uses by poets as varied as Edassery Vailoppilli, O. N. V Kurup, Sugatakumari, Ayyappa Paniker and ‘Satchidanandan.’ She says myths and archetypes can be used to serve constructive as well as destructive ends and pleads for the preservation of our pluralistic heritage. Satyavrat Sastri observes that even in modern Sanskrit writing, myths are not accepted as they are, but undergo reinterpretation. Param Abichandani examines myths in the context of different genres in contemporary Sindhi literature, Vasdev Mohi’s play, Eklavya being an example of re-reading. Balachandran ‘Bala’ takes up the metamorphoses of Ahalya in the new Tamil literature, as in the works of Suradha, N. Pitchamurthy, Murugasundaram and Jnani. G.V Subramanyan divides Telugu writers into pro-myth and anti-myth writers: Viswanatha Satyanarayana who wrote Ramayana Kalpavriksham is pro-myth while Muppalla Ranganayakamma who wrote Ramayana Vishavriksham represents the anti-myth trend. Aniket Jaaware has a different take on the topic altogether: he considers the very idea of Indian literature to be a myth as literature is a limited category that can never reach up to its aspiration of being a national category

The essays that follow apply myth criticism to specific texts. Subha Chakraborty Dasgupta surveys theories of myth before she begins to analyse the stories of Mahasweta Devi. She says it is the engagement with praxis that legitimises the transposition of myth in a living context on to the plane of a written story. The question of legitimacy here is linked to modes of representation and ideologies of mimesis. Mahasweta Dcvi mediates between two worlds separated by thousands of years and yet seem to live side by side. She creates a new language, a ‘third term’ stemming out of the two distinct worlds with their distinct languages that she negotiates. This is fashioned out of oral as well as written traditions leading to a ‘speakerly’ text. It is with the dynamism of these ‘speakerly’ texts that myths receive form and functionality in the modern context. The critic looks at Mahasweta Devi’s stories like ‘Shishu’, ‘Sesh Shamanin’ and ‘Bichchan’ to demonstrate her points. C.N. Srinath speaks of the power of myth to transform reality in India which does not have a solid tradition of history The use of myth is a potential strategy to represent reality but it is fraught with risks as it can also distort reality and lead to a stereotypical yoking of the mythical and the real. Srinath looks at some texts written by Indians in English like Raja Rao’s Kanthapura, G.V Des ani’s All about H. Hatterr, S. Anantanarayanan’s The Silver Pilgrimage and Arun Joshi’s The Strange Case of Billy Biswas to show how different writers employ myth differently in their works. Sometimes it is serious and philosophical as in Raja Rao and sometimes comic and farcical as in Desani. In R.K. Narayan or Anantanarayanan, reality itself gets a mythic dimension.

Alok Bhalla speaks of his experience of translating Dharamveer Bharati’s Andha Yug. He examines in detail Bharati’s treatment of the Characters of the Mahabharata and their moral implications as also the clement of the sacred that constitutes the text. Andha Tug ,he says, is a tragedy that happens because the Kauravas in their greed, stupidity and blindness so disfigure and deny Krishna as to blot out from their s ial and political vision every possibility of creating cities of virtue and hope; but the earlier translations turned it into an existentialist text, the angst of Aswatthama and Gandhari occupying the central stage and winning the readers sympathy while Krishna comes out as a vile and capricious god: this is a distortion of the intended message ii the play written in the aftermath of partition and the bloodbath it led to. His task was to restore the sacrality and the ethicality the text had lost in earlier English versions

N. Manu Chakravarthy analyses Kuvempu’s Kannada play, Shudra ‘tapasvi, Mukunda Rao’s English short story, ‘Rama Revisited’ and U .R. Ananthamurthy’s Kannada short story, ‘Jaratkaru’. All the three texts work within the traditions they interrogate; they bring the readers face to face with the major historical upheavals in Indian society, and all of them deal with fundamental issues not yet fully resolved in our society Shudra Tapasvi, a radical retelling of the Sambooka episode in the Ramayana is an indictment of the caste system while the other two reassert the plurality of the Indian philosophical traditions and seem to adopt a Buddhist view of life where everything is self-moulded, momentary and empty. All these texts interrogate the monolithic notions about Indian society and dc-centre experience and meaning making multiple readings possible. S.Kanakaraj examines the transformation of myth in Girish Karnad’s plays, Hayavadana and The Fire and the Rain. Karnad, he says, shares with William Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren, Saul Bello T. S. Eliot, John Barth and Chinua Achebe, an attitude to myths where myths serve as the literary base tor reviewing post-Modern life situations in a fresh light. Karnad reinterprets the tales of Vakratund and Hayagriva in Hayavadana and that of Yavakri in The Fire and the Rain to make meaningful comments on the post-Modern existential situation.

P P. Ravindran takes up for discussion three Malayalam novels, M. Mukundan’sKesavan’sLamentations, Sara Joseph’sA1aha-c Daughters and N. Prabhakaran’s The ThyoorDocuments to look at the myth-history-fiction interface and its imapact on the Production of truth-effects in literature. He points out that what is at stake in any discussion on the relation between myth and literature is the Knowledge status of the two. He shows how the three novels look at reality in three different ways and employ myth to different purposes, though they are all interrogative texts while at times adopting imperative and declarative postures, to follow Emille Benveniste’s textual categories. This is due to the proximity to the tradition of documentary realism. But they mediate the reality for the reader and engage the reader in contradiction in varying degrees of rigout Pradeep Gopal Deshpande examines the mythical modes in the novels of Balachandra Nemade and Vilas Sarang. He shows how Nemade’s nativist use of myth in Kosla, Bidhar and other novels helps him to counter the modernist onslaught of excessive individualism while Sarang’s use of myth in Enkichya Rajyat typifies the opposite, ‘the avant-garde swell of excessive individualism’. Chandrakant Patil begins with a statement on the two uses of myths in literature: to reveal the inner turmoil and perceive the problems of living, and to establish the identity of the individuals, communities and subcultures. He first mentions the different uses to which the modern poetry of Sadanand Rege, Vinda Karandikar, Arun Kolatkar, Dilip Chitre and Vilas Sarang puts mythological figures and contexts and then goes to the subversive use of myths by the tribal poet, Bhujang Meshram in his poems written in Marathi and five tribal dialects. As an insider to the discourse of myth, he examines nature and society with their complexities and contradictions and establishes a very original relationship with language, dialect and culture through the mythical mode.

Prafulla Kumar Mohanty examines how the myths around Krishna, Radha and Ahalya are used creatively and symbolically in the Oriya works of Sitakant Mahapatra, Ramakanta Rath and Pratibha Ray. Sachidananda Mohanty complements the discussion by looking at the mythopoeic mind at work in Ramakanta Rath’s Sree Radha and Pratibha Satpathy’s Shabari. He contextualises his discussion in the larger world of Oriya poetry and shows how the two works cited establish a break with the earlier romantic traditions of erotic, devotional and Sabuja or green kinds. They point to a new transcendental romanticism. Akshaya Kumar explores the shifting semantics of the tale of Pooran Bhagat in modern Punjabi literature as it moves from the spiritual to the subaltern. He at different versions of the kissa whose expansive ambiguity allows for re-inscriptions. Several new authors like Shiv Kumar Batalvi, Atamjit , Ajmer Singh Aulukh and Iqbal Ramoowalia represent a gradual displacement of the original story that brings in new iinfl4uuns, The critic hopes that the kissa will be further rewritten In the context of the increasing dalitisation of the political and literary discourse. A.R Venkatachalapathy takes up for investigation the short stories of Pudumaipithan to establish how an encounter with tradition has been a constitutive element of modernity in Tamil as elsewhere. He looks at how the myth of Agaligai or Ahalya gets radically transformed in Pudumaipithan’s fictional discourse. Pudumaipithan interrogates the very meaning of the emancipation AhaIy achieved by Rama’s touch by problematising her after-life in the story, Sapavimochanam (Deliverance).

Together these papers discuss, with examples of texts from different languages, the diverse reinterpretations of myth in contemporary Indian writing and their social and aesthetic Implications the hook is sure to generate further discussions on the topic and his a special relevance in our national context where myths in Influence the very course of politics.

 

Contents

 

Introduction ix
Part One  
Literature and New Myths 3
R. Shashidhar  
Understanding Indian Mythology 10
Vishvanath Khaire  
Mahabharata Myths in Contemporary Writing: Challenging Ideology 16
Kiran Budkuley  
Mythological Interpretations in Contemporary Kashmiri Poetry 31
Ghulam Nabi Khayal  
Myth and Contemporary Maithili Literature 37
Ratneshwar Mishra  
Mythical Intentions in Contemporary Manipuri Literature 45
L. Damodar Singh  
Myth as Continuity: Contemporary Oriya Literature 60
Subhendu Mund  
Ages Pass but the Story Continues.A Note on Myths in Modern Kannada Literature 71
C.N.Ramachandran  
Mythical Concepts in Contemporary Malayalam Poerty 83
M.Leelavati  
Myth in Contemporary Sanskrit Literature 95
Satya Vrat Shastri  
Myth in Contemporary Sindhi Literature 104
Param Abichandani  
The Ahalya Myth in Contemporary Tamil Poetry 108
R. Balachandran ‘Bala’  
Myth in Contemporary Telugu Literature 116
G. V. Subramanyan  
Part Two  
The Myth of Indian Literature 129
Aniket Jaaware  
Contesting Polarities: Creating Spaces Reading Myth in Mahasweta Devi’s Stories 137
Subha Chakraborty Dasgupta  
Myth in Contemporary Indian Fiction in English 145
C. N. Srinath  
Defending the Sacred in an Age of Atrocities: On Translating Dharamvir Bharati’s Andha Yug 158
Alok Bhalla  
Mythical Imagination as Contemporary Experience: Creative Negotiations of the Present with the Historical Past 177
N. Manu Chakravarthy  
Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana and the Fire and the Rain: A Critical Study of Indian Myths as Reinterpretations of Situations of Life 186
S. Kanakaraj  
Myth, Truth and History in Contemporary Malayalam Novel 202
P P Raveendran  
Enki and Indradutta : Mythical Modes in the Novels of Vilas Sarang and Bhalachandra Nemade 214
Pradccp Gopal Deshpande  
Myth as Reality: The Tribal Poetry of Bhujang Meshram 229
Chandrakant Patil  
Mask and Creative Symbolisation in Contemporary Oriya Literature: Krishna, Radha and Ahalya 236
Praflilla Kumar Mohanty  
The Mythopoeic Imagination in Sri Radha and Shabari 247
Sachidananda Mohanty  
From the Spiritual to the Subaltern: Shifting Semantics of Kissa Pooran Bhagat in Modern Punjabi Literature 257
Akshaya Kumar  
Deliverance from Curse! Deliverance from Myth? Agaligai in Pudumaippithan’s Writings 279
A R Venkatachalapathy  

 

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  • To understand Vedas (including Ramayan, Mahabharat, and Gita) you must consider Yogis, Yogic Power, Reincarnation, Destiny, and the simultaneous interaction of all souls over entire space and time. Without such an approach everything in our world will appear like a Myth. Please take a look at the book on Soul Theory at - https://theoryofsouls.wordpress.com/
    by Subhendu Das on 1st Feb 2015
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Immortal Wisdom from Ancient Times in Myths, Tales and Legends
by Kireet Joshi
Paperback (Edition: 2006)
Sri Mira Trust, Pondicherry
Item Code: NAC282
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Seasons of Splendour: Tales, Myths and Legends of India
by Michael Foreman
Paperback (Edition: 1992)
A Puffin Original
Item Code: IHL283
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The Three Princes of Persia: Children in World Myth
by Rohini Chowdhury
Paperback (Edition: 2005)
Penguin Books
Item Code: IDE534
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Apsarases in Indian Literature and the Legend of Urvasi and Pururavas
Item Code: IDD226
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LGBTQ: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (Identities in Select Modern Indian Literature)
by Kuhu Sharma Chanana
Hardcover (Edition: 2015)
D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Item Code: NAK754
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Vedic Etymology (A Critical Evaluation of the Science of Etymology as Found in Vedic Literature)
Item Code: IDK886
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Gods and Goddesses in Indian Art and Literature (A Big Book)
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by Dr.N.C.Panda
Hardcover (Edition: 2011)
Bharatiya Kala Prakashan
Item Code: NAF384
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A History of Indian Literature – Introduction, Veda, Epics, Puranas and Tantras (Volume I)
Item Code: NAC704
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The Folk Literature of Bengal
Item Code: IDK362
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