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Aldersgate College, Solano, Nueva Vizcaya Instructional Modules in World Literature

MODULE 3 ORIENTAL LITERATURE: INDIA

Overview
This module is designed to help you learn something about Oriental Literature particularly that of
India and the qualities that made this literature apart from its counterparts in the Orient. This knowledge
acquired shall help you understand your connection with the people of the countries that perpetuate the
literature which has close association with religion and philosophy.

Objectives
Upon completion of this module you should be able to:
1. Identify the forms of literature that make the literature of India unique and eminent.
2. Recognize the values and beliefs that influence the richness of Indian Literature.
3. Show appreciation on the different contributions of India to Literature and to the World Civilization
in general.

Pretest
What are you reminded of everytime you here about Indians? What particular aspect of their
culture do you admire?

Learning Focus

Background:
The ARYANS - invaders of India who brought
a. the Vedic (Vedas) Literature
b. the Sanskrit Epics
c. the Hindu Religion
d. the caste system

One is impressed by the richness of the Hindu mind and the Hindu’s essential spirituality as reflected in
their literature. We see the ethos of a nation in Hindu literature. In India, religion and philosophy are
inseparable. It has been said of India that is a land overflowing with religion. Literature was practically
confined to religion and philosophy up to more recent times. Its earliest literature, the Vedas, may be
considered both religious and philosophical. The VEDAS are supposed to be sacred books of ancient
Sanskrit hymns with accompanying comments, believed by the Hindus to have been revealed by Brahma
and on which the Brahmanical system is based. Each veda consists of mantras (hymns), brahmanas
(doctrinals and ceremonies) and the Upanishads (an inspired set of commentaries on the Vedanta
philosophy)

The VEDAS are philosophical and religious writings which are of the following kinds:
a. Rig Veda – hymns, the most literary. It is a collection of inspired and lyrical hymns on awakening,
full of sense of wonder and doubt, an intellectual inquiry, a grouping after a One Cause neither
male nor female raised above all conditions and limitations of personality and human nature. It
reflects a people intoxicated with God, at the same time per-occupied with questions on the World
soul as well as Individual soul.
b. Yajur Veda - rituals
c. Sama Veda - liturgies
d. Atharva Veda - spells, magic incantations
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The UPANISHADS - developed from the Vedic Hymns which contains the roots of the spiritual life of India

The Upanishads contains beliefs which include the following:


a. The ultimate reality is Brahman, incomprehensible and surpasses all understanding
b. The Individual Soul or Self within is identical with the soul without. By discovering the real self, man
achieves freedom and emancipation from illusion
c. The famous Trinity of Hindu gods are: Brahma, the Creator; Vishnu, the Preserver and Shiva, the
Destroyer
d. The development of the soul is a continuing process broken into stages by the baptism of death
This is the belief in the transmigration of the soul or reincarnation The soul of a good person is
reborn in a person of a higher status and the soul of an evil person is reborn in a lower form of
being. After thus cycle of rebirths, the purified soul is absorbed into Brahma and achieves Nirvana
or perfect happiness
e. Ethics are no end themselves but simply a condition of the road upon which man must travel to the
point where he develops wings and take to the sky.
f. No one can understand things human who does not first understand thins divine
g. The intellect fails in the conception of Truth or Reality Only by divesting oneself of the panoply of
reason does intuition becomes possible.

HINDU POETRY- sang or chanted verses with musical accompaniment. Indian poetry has always been
lyrical in nature, marked by a peculiarly Indian blend of subjectivity and detachment.

INDIAN EPICS
The epic is the longest and most complicated form of narrative poetry focused on a central character who
typifies the salient qualities of a race or nation and his exploits and adventure embody the struggles and
aspirations of a whole race or nation. Supernatural and religious elements are usually involved the epics

Presenting a view of life on a vast and magnificent scale, the epic rises to the grandeur of its subject
through an elevated style, polished diction and dignified tone.

The Indian Epics are:


a. The Mahabharata
b. Ramayana

The Mahabharata contains legends, myths, tales, homilies and allegories and gives the reader an insight
into life, ideas, rules of conduct and the religion of the people of India. It gives illustrations on the tenets of
Hinduism. It is sometimes called the fifth Veda.

The Ramayana - written by Valmiki. It contains a wealth of wise sayings In the story, the Hero is Rama,
characterized as having no fear, without reproach and is capable of noble deeds, is gallant and dutiful. Cita
is Rama's wife, a lovely princess, who is also noble, gentle and faithful. The epic itself is adorned with
figurative language and flashes of wisdom are scattered throughout.

The Ramayana is centered on one hero, while the Mahabharata portrays a hero surrounded by other
figures no less heroic and impressive as himself.

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Mahabharata, together with the Ramayana, constitutes one of the two great epics of India which have been
compared to The Iliad and The Odyssey of Greece. The Mahabharata and the Ramayana, however, are of
greater length and have no known accepted authorship except their attribution to Vyasa or The Arranger.
The Mahabharata, from which Savitri has been taken, is supposed to have been first transcribed in 500 B.
C. A beloved part of the epic is the book Bhagavad-Gita, which is devoted to the Lord Krishna. Savitri tells
the story of a wife whose love and devotion saved her husband’s life. You can find a condensed version of
the epic in the learning activity.

INDIAN DRAMA

The origins of the Indian drama are rooted in Indian mythology. Brahma in vented the drama for the
pleasure of the deities The Indian drama were of four basic types:
a. Nataka - considered the highest dramatic type
b. Prakaranas - plays about the domestic life of mortals, their virtues and troubles
c. Prahsanas - In contrast to the first two which were plays of the upper classes, these were vulgar
farces of the lower castes which ridiculed the upper castes
d. Yatra - originated in Eastern India and began as a form of religious entertainment later adopted by
travelling bards who dramatized the amorous escapades of the god Krishna.

SANSKRIT DRAMA

These are the classical Indian drama which are bound by tradition as established by three Indian
dramatists:
a. Bhasa
b. Sudraka
c. Kalidasa

The chief representative of mythological Sanskrit drama is the Shakuntala written by Kalidasa. It is known
for its lovely poetry, playfulness and uninterrupted humor.

The triumvirates in major Sanskrit dramatists are:


a. Kalidasa
b. Bhavabuti
c. Harsha

The theory of rasa, or flavor found at the core of Indian drama, is viewed as a pleasant sentiment belonging
to the reader whose dominant emotions, derived from experiences or inherited instincts are evoked by the
reading of poems into an ideal, impersonalized form of joy; an appreciation or enjoyment, consisting of a
pleasant mental condition... the sentiment evoked is universal in character and the aesthetic pleasure
resulting from it is not individual but generic and disinterested, being such as would be common to all
trained readers.

INDIAN THEATRE
The plays are performed in a simple platform in the hail or courtyard of the royal palace amid impressive
architecture. The actors made no attempt to create the illusion of reality. A curtain sufficed to conceal them
as they dressed for their parts. There was no proper scene except for decorations and props like seats,
thrones and chariots. The concession to realistic staging was the employment of real animals, like horses.
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Female roles were generally assigned to women, but boys and young men took the parts of the women for
parts that required too much exertion.

MODERN INDIAN DRAMA


Modern Indian drama has not evolved a new dramatic form that would carry on the tradition of Sanskrit
drama which is now a dead form. British colonization has brought a very strong influence on Indian drama
Original plays were written patterned on English models.

Rabindranath Tagore remains preeminent among Indian dramatists.


Rabindranath Tagore (1861 -1941). Foremost Bengali poet and
philosopher. He was a member of a famous family of artists, musicians
and reformers. His outstanding works include: Chitra (Beauty), Gitanjali
((Handful of Songs) and Gora, a novel after Kipling. Rabindranath
Tagore was the first Asian to have won the Nobel Prize for Literature
(he won it in 1913). He is considered a creative genius. He wrote in the
various genres, and used themes that transcended both time and place.
He also wrote the national Anthem of Bangladesh. Writing very early, he
published his first book when he was 17 years old. After a brief stay in
England where he studied law, he came back to India and became the
most important and popular writer of the colonial era.

He wrote in the various genres primarily in Bengali but translated many of his works into English himself.
Readers will find his writing highly imaginative, deeply religious, and imbued with love of nature and his
homeland. He was knighted by British King George V in 1915.

Learning Activities

Activity 1
Read the following condensed version of Savitri: or Love or Death from The Bhagavad Gita. Accomplish
the activities that follow.

A. Motivation Question
It is said that behind every great man is a great woman, just as it is also said that a woman can
bring out the best or the beast in a man. What is your stand on this? Support your stand with examples and
illustrations.

B. Vocabulary Exercise
Express the following in everyday English:
1. . ... manifested her countenance by the fire
2. . ... his kindness and faith had earned him favor
3. . ... continuers of his line
4. . ... the first great law is for a man to leave seed
5. . ... the self-existent agreed
6. . .. would not bear the guilt before the all-seeing gods
7. . ... like the earth for patience
8. . ... the sylvan court
9. ..... the fine raiment she was wearing
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SAVITRI From Bhagavad-Gita


A Summary

Once upon a time lived a very virtuous king; Aswapati by name; he was just, pious-minded, valiant,
true, generous to his people and fair He reigned among his people, the Madras, patiently and free of woe.
However, as he grew older, he grieved so much for an heir. For this reason he made many a great sacrifice
to the goddess Savitri. For sixteen years he continuously burnt sacrifice. Pleased by this, the goddess
manifested her countenance by the fire. She, Savitri, told Aswapati that his kindness and faith had earned
him favor. Aswapati could now make a wish and it would surely be granted.

In reply Aswapati said that he had been making these vows for the sake of children, continuers of
his line. He believed the seers when they said that the first great law is for a man to leave seed. Granting
his wish, the great goddess said that the self-existent agreed and that Aswapati would have a daughter, the
most beautiful this world has ever seen.

Happily, Aswapati went back to the palace and continued to do as before. On the appointed time,
the wise king made love to his first and fairest wife. And she conceived a baby girl, as promised by the
goddess. Eventually a lovely baby was born to the king and queen. Born on the feast day of the goddess
and as lovely, the daughter was named Savitri.

She grew lovely, so beautiful, as if she were a goddess. When she moved, all eyes were on her.
However, not one of the noblest of lords dared to speak to her, much more ask her to be his wife. Oh, what
a perfect maid whose face shed heavenly light wherever she went.

One day, after making her offering to the goddess Agni, she went to her father who noted that she
has fully grown. Finding out that no one was suing his daughter, he got worried and told her, ―Since no one
is seeking for your hand in marriage, it is time that you yourself find someone to be your husband. Choose
a virtuous prince. Whoso is dear to you will be dear to us. The wise men say that a father who does not
give his child in marriage is blamable.‖ He urged his daughter to ―choose a husband that he (Aswapati)
would not bear the guilt before the all-seeing gods.‖

Obeying her father and escorted by ministers and sages, she went searching for that prince to be
her husband. From forest to forest, through and woodland towns.

After many days, fair maiden Savitri, with her entourage, returned to her father. Narada, the rajah’s
counselor, was there and asked where she came from and at this time she was still without a husband. The
king replied that it was for this purpose that his daughter embarked on a journey. He commanded the
counselor to listen to what his daughter had to say.

Given the permission, Savitri narrated her story: in Chalva there lived ang reigned a prince.
Dyumutsena was without kingdom and throne because his enemies betrayed him. He and his family were
now leading a holy life in the forest. Savitri had chosen the king’s son Prince Satyavan to be her husband.

At what he heard from the princess, Narada expressed his concern; Prince; Satyavan was a fair
prince, virtuous, like the sun for grace and glory, like Vrihaspati in counsel, like Mahendra for strength, and
like the earth for patience. He was a perfect man for a perfect husband. There was only one fault that

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mingled with his qualities: According to Narada, the gods told him that Satyavan was going to die at the end
of the year. To this Savitri’s answer: "Once falls a heritage, once a maid yields her maidenhood, once a
father say choose, I abide thy choice, these three things done, are done forever.‖ She added that she had
made up her mind and would not change it.

Aswapati could only agree with his daughter. He bade the nuptials and all things needed for the
wedding be prepared and on the appointed day they set forth for the sylvan court of Dyumutsena.

After giving due respect, Aswapati offered his daughter to be the wife of Satyavan. Dyumutsena,
being a very righteous man and not wanting to take the opportunity, was reluctant. Owing to their present
circumstance, Dyumutsena would not consent to the marriage. He told Aswapati that their humble home
would not be fitting place for a most beautiful princess. Savitri’s father begged Dyumutsena not to deny the
wish of Savitri. Unknown to Aswapati, Dyumutsena had long wished the union of the two families. He finally
consented to the marriage.

They gathered in the forest for the wedding. A royal wedding it was, and Aswapati went home glad.
Satyavan was glad, too, at this fortune. Savitri rejoiced with the husband she chose.

As soon as her father left, she stripped herseif of all jewels and gold and the fine raiment she was
wearing. She lived a simple life and won the hearts of all by her gentle actions, soft government, and
patience. Respectful she was to the king and queen, gracious and loving, dutiful and dear.

However quiet and peaceful their lives were, the months passed and the words of Narada kept
haunting and bothering Savitri. Satyavan, as was foretold, must die. A year had passed and now only four
days were left to reckon with. Savitri decided to fast. Her father-in-law found out and tried to talk her out of
it. The princess replied that it was her duty and she had a vow to keep.

On the morning of the fateful day, though weak from fasting, Savitii stood and made offering on the
altar flames, greeted the king and queen and saluted the gray-haired Brahmans. Having a hint of what she
was up to, her father-in-law persuaded her to change her mind but she would not. As they were talking,
Satyavan came and Savitri asked permission to go to the forest with her husband.

Knowing that Savitri had been fasting, Satyavan dissuaded his wife When she could not be
persuaded to be left behind, Satyavan asked her to bid permission from the king and queen. They gave her
their blessings.

The forest was beautiful: flower-laden trees, crystal streams, soaring hills. But Savitri could not
appreciate this beauty. Instead, she was watchful over her husband whom she knew may at any moment
die.
As the prince was gathering sacred fuel, he raised his axe and suddenly fell ill. Becoming too weak
for work, he complained to Savitri that he could not stand on his feet. Savitri laid him tenderly on the ground
and attended to him. Surely, she thought, it was the day when her husband should die. Then that awesome
form, the god of death, Yama himself, appeared before her. When Savitri asked why it was Yama who was
summoning her husband, the god answered that since the fallen prince was a virtuous man he deserved a
no-lesser-god than Yama himself.

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Savitri did not complain when the god of death fitted the noose and forced the prince’s soul out of
its body and take it away to the south. Instead she followed Yama and told him she must go where her
husband went.

Along the way, the princess boldly talked to Yama with wisdom and respect. For every word that
she spoke, Yama was impressed and rewarded Savitri with a wish. The first wish that Savitri asked was
that his father-in-law regain his strength and his eyesight. This Yama granted.

Savitri’s second wish was this: that her father-in-law get back his throne and reign in
righteousness. Speaking further, Savitri was allowed a third wish: that the king, Dyumutsena, would beget
sons who may continue his royal line. This also was granted.

After praising Yama for his virtues, Savitri got her fourth wish: ―Many sons born of her body, boys,
Satyavan’s children, lovely, valiant, strong continuers of their line.‖ This Yama also granted.

After being granted each wish, Savitri was told to return home. But this only spurred her to speak
and ask more boldly. She pressed on and finally Yama gave her an incomparable boon. Taking her
chance, thus she spoke: Not heaven, not heavenly joys, not incomparable bliss did she want, but her
husband's life without which she would die. She would even forego the first four wishes granted her in
exchange for the life of her husband.

Right there and then Yama released the soul of Satyavan along with many promises of a glorious
future and left. Savitri sped to the glade where her husband lay. She lifted his head and he revived. He
asked his wife where that gloomy man that hailed him was. Savitri explained that it was Yama, the god of
death come to take him, but he was gone now.

Resting for a while, they departed for home. Happily, they would live liter.

C. Reading Comprehension She was named after the Goddess who promised Aswapati(the King) who granted his

1. Why did the king name his daughter According


Savitri?wish of having a daughter.
to Narada, Prince Satyavan (the man whom Savitri wants) is a perfect man for Savitri
2. Why couldn’t Savitri get a husband? but the gods told him that he will die by the end of the year.
3. What did the king finally decide? Because he had long wished the union of the two families.
4. Why was everyone at first hesitant to accept Savitri’s choice of a husband? Because they knew that he will die soon.
5. What kind of son was Prince Satyavan? Satyavan was a fair prince, virtuous, gracious and glorious, strong, and patient.
6. How did Savitri convince the god of death to finally give back the soul of her husband?
Savitri respected Yama's act of taking away Satyava's soul but she, instead, bravely followed Yama. The god of death

D. Beyond Reading asked questions to Savitri and he was impressed by her answers. Yama grated her four wishes and one of them
brought Satyava's soul back to his body.

1. Film Review. Watch any film set in India, paying particular attention to the women. Then, write an
essay on Indian women based on the film. Corroborate your essay with readings about India.

2. Guest Speaker. Invite an Indian guest speaker to your class, asking him/her to talk about Indian
culture, particularly religions, languages, and literature.

3. Interview an Indian friend or neighbor and have him/her talk about their culture, religion, language
and literature.

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Activity 2
A. Read the poem by Rabindranath Tagore. Answer the questions for discussion that follow.

To Nature
Rabindranath Tagore

Thou tanglest my heart in a hundred nooses of love,


What is this thy play?
It is but a little feeble life---
Why so many bonds to bind it?
At every turn and every moment
Thou winnest my love with thy wiles,
But has none to give, thou stealer of hearts!
I wander about in search of thy heart.
O cruel Nature;
So many flowers, such light, such songs and scents,
But where is love?
Hidden in the wealth of thy beauty thou laughest
While we weep.
Day and night in the deserted playfield
Thou playest in jest;
We wot not whom thou lovest or slightest;
He to whom thou art kind and loving in the morning,
The evening finds him lying neglected in the dust.
Still I love thee and cannot forget,
Thou enchantress;
Thy loveless embrace awakes in the heart,
A thousand songs;
In happiness and grief and misery I live in the sunlight,
Nor crave the frozen stillness of the endless night.

Half open, half-veiled, thy face


Is the abode of mystery;
To the heart it brings the ache of love
Mingled with fear;
Thy ever-new phases pass understanding.
And the heart is filled with laughter and tears.
Stretching forth my heart and soul I rush toward thee,
But thou eludest my grasp;
I see the slight, sweet, mocking smile
On thy sun-red lips;
If I wish to flee thou spreadest thy nets for my feet —
What arts, what strength, fleet-footed, quick of tongue!

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B. Discuss briefly your answers to the following questions.


1. Find out who the "thou" is in the first stanza.
2. Determine the idea suggested in the images of nature.
3. Identify what the author is trying to say in his choice of images.
4. Determine is the tone of the poem.

C. Copy a poem or song that treats the same subject matter. Then make a sketch or drawing about it.

Activity 3
A. Read another poem by Rabindranath Tagore. Answer the questions for discussion that follow.

B. Discussion Questions
1. What are the signs of love that you see manifested in people every day?
2. How would you describe a great love relationship between husband and wife?

C. Vocabulary
Translate the following lines into Filipino, paying particular attention to the underlined word/words:
a. My spellbound heart
b. old chronicles of love
c. in shapes that renew and renew forever
d. heaped at your feet
e. Clad in the light of a pole-star
f. necklace of songs
g. piercing the darkness of time
h. ancient tale of being apart
i. The love of all man’s days

Unending love
A Poem by Rabindranath Tagore (1861 - 1941)

I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times,


In life after life, in age after age forever.
My spell-bound heart has made and re-made the necklace of songs
That you take as a gift, wear around your neck in your many forms

In life after life, in age after age forever.


Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, its age-old pain,
Its ancient tale of being apart or together,
As I stare on and into the past, in the end you emerge
Clad in the light of a pole-star piercing the darkness of time:
You become an image of what is remembered forever.

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount
At the heart of time love of one for another.
We have played alongside millions of lovers, shared in the same
Shy sweetness of meeting, the same distressful tears of farewell –
Old love, but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

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Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you,


The love of all man’s days both past and forever:
Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life,
The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours -
And the songs of every poet past and forever.

D. Discussion Questions
1. What are some of the numberless forms that love may take?
2. How does love manifest itself? Give examples.
3. What images of love are remembered forever?
4. What things do lovers have in common?
5. What does the poet mean by the last stanza?
6. What does he mean by the last two lines?

Posttest
Write a one-page commentary on the following quotes from Tagore:

1. Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection:
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert of dead habit;
Where the mind is lead forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action -
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

2. I slept and I dreamed that life was all joy.


I woke and saw that life was but service.
I served and understood that service was joy.

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