Astride the wheel is a quite tale of the last years of a temple priest in rural Orissa and his acceptance of monotonous poverty - the fate of most Indian villagers. Sanatan Dase dimly senses that a great freedom lies beyond his wife's continuous complaints, the petty social insults he bears, and the endless shortages in his life.
The first of the novel is set in a village in Orissa. In its second half, the reader leaves behind the claustrophobic brahmin settlement, its caste hierarchies, trivial preoccupations and repetitive rituals to travel with Sanatan Dase to Dakhineswar, Varanasi, Vrindavan, and finally to Puri. The protagonist's outward pilgrimage coincides with a journey into an inner world of profound mystical experience.
Often described as a Hindu novel, the work hints at a secret and flawless happiness that is attainable through simple piety and devotion.
This translation will appeal to aficionados of regional Indian literature, as well as the general reader.
From the Back of the Book:
The life of Santana Dase, a fifty-year old servitor of the Lakshminarayan temple, consist of the self, the family, priestly duties, and the politics of Oriya village society. Yet his ends are never met, God, manhood, the soul and the world.
Through a chance encounter with the intellectual Satpathy during a trip to Dhabaleswar, Dase discovers the futility of worldly struggle and realizes that the soul is attached to a 'wheel of fire', constantly moving forward. His world is soon to be forever transformed.
The deaths of his wife and soon close the door on Sanatan Dase's reality, as his family disintegrates, and he leaves his old life behind, embarking on a journey with Satpathy. They travel to Dakhineshwar, Varanasi, Vrindavan, and finally to Puri, where Sanatan meets a happy and painless end.
About the Author:
Chandrasekhar Rath retired as Professor of English and Deputy Director Education for Orissa State, in 1987. He is a painter, writer, and sculptor, and a currently a Government of India Senior Fellow. He has won the Orissa Sahitya Akademi Award twice, and the Central Sahitya Akademi Award. His work has been translated into several languages.
Jatindra Kumar Nayak, the translator, teaches English literature at Utkal University, Bhubhaneshwar. He has won a national award for translation.
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