Thursday, December 15, 2005

Colonial rule challenged India in its very concept of civilization

Twilight of the Bengal Renaissance: R K Dasgupta and his quest for a world mind. By Subrata Dasgupta. — Soumitro Das The Statesman Oct 03,2005
British rule came as a shock to many thinking people in India, especially in Bengal. What was distinctive about British rule was that it manifested an overwhelming superiority in practically every sphere of human activity as compared to what India had on offer, whether it be science, education, law, culture and society. For a single Tagore the Europeans could boast of at least 50 great poets; for a single Shankaracharya, the Europeans could boast of at least 25 or 30 major philosophers. Besides European philosophy had totally freed itself from the burden of religious doctrine, right from the time of Plato and Aristotle. Europe, at least since the Renaissance had produced a brilliant artistic and scientific culture that will take us centuries to match. Macaulay was right when he remarked that a single shelf in a good European library could match the entire corpus of Indian literature and philosophy. The result was an abiding complex of inferiority vis -a- vis the British in particular and the West in general. This inferiority complex impacted on our culture in two different ways. One result was a mad scramble for certificates of excellence from Western writers and intellectuals.
R K Dasgupta is a typical product of the shock induced by colonial rule in Bengal and his quest for the world mind, as Subrata Dasgupta puts it, is just another quest to regain and recover the lost universality of Indian, specifically Hindu, culture. This loss of the universal continues to traumatize the Hindu mind uptil now. It is a question, for Dasgupta, to stand up with dignity to the cultural might of the West. It is, above all, a question of national pride.
Dasgupta takes a look at R K Dasgupta’s thinking on what is sometimes called the Bengal Renaissance. Here, R K Dasgupta, instead of relying on historians, either British or Indian, whom he reproaches of applying blindly the model of the European Renaissance, turns to a poet and a politico-religious figure to better understand the phenomenon. In Tagore and Sri Aurobindo, R K Dasgupta finds an emphasis on the indigenous element in the Bengal Renaissance rather than on Western influences. The spiritual dimension is also stressed. Once again, of asserting national pride. It is evident from R K Dasgupta’s thinking on this subject that colonial rule challenged India in its very concept of civilization, something that Muslim rule has never been able to do. (The reviewer is a freelance contributor)

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