September 16, Dharma in Samskara In Hinduism, a person is offered many paths towards salvation depending on his or her caste. The only toll to pay on this path is that of dharma, or duty. For a woman, this means obeying her husband. For a brahmin man, this means living his life according to the four life-stages asramas and practicing the vedic rituals. In the novel, Samskara, U. Anantha Murthy contrasts many possible paths to salvation including that of Naranappa and that of Praneshacharya; at first glance, a sinner and a saint.

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September 16, Dharma in Samskara In Hinduism, a person is offered many paths towards salvation depending on his or her caste. The only toll to pay on this path is that of dharma, or duty. For a woman, this means obeying her husband. For a brahmin man, this means living his life according to the four life-stages asramas and practicing the vedic rituals.

In the novel, Samskara, U. Anantha Murthy contrasts many possible paths to salvation including that of Naranappa and that of Praneshacharya; at first glance, a sinner and a saint. However, throughout the novel it becomes less clear who, if either, of these two is actually performing their dharma. I do not believe that either Naranappa nor Praneshacharya are successful at performing the dharma of a brahmin man because neither fulfilled both the life stages and the performance of the rituals.

Dharma can be loosely translated to mean "duty It is most important in Hinduism to act according to your dharma rather than just to believe that it is good to do so. Flood 12 Dharma differs for each caste in Hindu society. For the brahmin male, in particular, it involves performing the vedic rituals and progressing through the four life stages, or asramas. In Samskara, both Naranappa and Praneshacharya are brahmin males living in the agrahara, Durvasapura.

Praneshacharya is considered the wisest brahmin in the agrahara because he studied the Vedas in Kashi. Naranappa, on the other hand, cast off his brahminhood for more hedonistic ways. Murthy 21 He leaves his wife for Chandri, a low-caste woman and begins to eat meat and keep company with Muslims.

At the beginning of the novel, Chandri tells Praneshacharya that Naranappa has died. Thus, the central question of the first part of the novel becomes whether or not the brahmin men in the agrahara may perform the funeral rights for Naranappa. In other words, did Naranappa still possess his brahminhood despite the way he lived his life? In attempting to answer this question, Praneshacharya begins a spiritual journey in which the question becomes whether or not he has truly fulfilled his dharma in the way he has lived his life.

Praneshacharya obviously experienced the life stage of a celibate student. His education is mentioned and praised many times throughout the novel. In the life stage of the celibate student, a brahmin man is expected to abstain from sex and study the Vedas.

Flood 62 The celibacy of this stage is necessary to retain energy for the study of the Vedas. It is a Hindu belief that semen contains energy that "can be sublimated for a religious purpose. However, I believe Praneshacharya never truly crossed to this stage because he married Bhagirathi, an invalid woman.

Part of the householder stage of life is experiencing desire, including sexual desire. However, with Bhagirathi as a wife, Praneshacharya was never able to experience that desire.

More importantly, he purposefully chose to marry Bhagirathi in order to completely avoid sexual desire and intercourse. He attempted to move from the life of a celibate student to the life of a renouncer or forest-dweller in which a brahmin gives up desire. However, I believe that in order to make the life stages of the forest-dweller and renouncer meaningful, one must first experience desire. He tries to skip the stage of the "man-in-the-world" Flood 89 and move directly to the life of a renouncer.

Praneshacharya tries to have the best of all worlds by combining all four life stages. He attempts to exist in the social world among the brahmins while still attaining the spirituality and separateness of a renouncer or forest-dweller. He never seems able to give up the world of any stage in order to move to the next stage. Naranappa, on the other hand, represents the other extreme. He sets out to experience desire whenever he can.

He sleeps with Chandri, eats meat, and drinks liquor. He knows desire and gives into it at every moment he can. He leaves his wife, ignoring his duties as a householder and casts off the traditions of brahminhood altogether. Thus, neither Praneshacharya nor Naranappa completely fulfill their dharma.

However, only Praneshacharya is given the opportunity to discover his past mistakes and perhaps learn from them. The entire novel represents a samskara, or rite of passage, for Praneshacharya in which he attempts to discern the correct path to salvation by becoming a part of the world instead of a being beyond it.

Praneshacharya had spent his whole life studying the Vedas and the Puranas without once knowing for himself what the desire they spoke of was like.

He knew only of those things transcendent to this earth. Worldly desires were foreign to him because he avoided them. First, Praneshacharya is isolated from society. When he sleeps with Chandri, his immediate reaction is that he has lost all of his authority in the community. He feels that he is no better than Naranappa and that the other brahmin men should not pay attention to what he says.

The action of sleeping with Chandri is the moment of his psychological separation from the community of the agrahara. He believes that he has fallen from grace for giving into his sexual desires. He laid out his path to salvation when he was sixteen by marrying Bhagirathi and never allowed desire or any other obstacle steer him from that path.

The Lord did not choose Praneshacharya; Praneshacharya chose the Lord. A brahmin gentleman addicted to gambling could not rid himself of his vice no matter how hard he tried. Why do you make me a gambler? After his psychological separation from the community, Praneshacharya experiences a physical isolation, as well. He leaves the agrahara after he cremates his wife and begins to wander the forest.

At this point he exists in a phase of transition which lasts the rest of the novel. This is the usual second stage to a samskara. During this time, Praneshacharya becomes more aware of the physical world around him. He recognizes beauty in Chandri and ugliness in his wife for the first time. But, at the same time, his transition is not yet complete.

He expects people to recognize him as the "Crest-Jewel of Vedanta Philosophy. He still sees himself as not yet of the world but above it. It is at the car-festival that Praneshacharya reaches a revelation about his place in the world. Taking in all the spectacles of the festival he suddenly realizes: "That art Thou. At first it seems exciting and beautiful to the narrator. She sees herself in all the good things of the world. But then she comes to understand that she is not only part of the good but the bad as well.

She cannot say to a butterfly: "That is you. He certainly saw himself in the Vedic teachings and in his teachers when he was a student.

But he never allowed himself to carry that feeling out to other parts of the world. At first he probably felt that way about his friend Mahabala at Kashi but as soon as Mahabala fell from grace Praneshacharya ceased to see himself as part of that "sinner.

In other words, he belongs not only to the transcendent but to the earthly. This brings him one step closer to knowing that he is part of the whole world. Praneshacharya comes to the knowledge that he is not immune to "desire," nor should he be a stranger to its "fulfillment. He planned his path to salvation while he was still a child and did only those things in life that allowed him to continue on this path, including marrying his wife.

At the end of the novel, it begins to become clear to Praneshacharya that he married Bhagirathi not because he felt compassion towards the invalid woman to follow his path to salvation. He did not marry Bhagirathi because he was compassionate but because he was selfish. When the novel ends, Praneshacharya is still in his liminal phase. He comes to no concrete conclusion about what to do. He merely gets on the cart to Durvaspara. It is clear that Praneshacharya was unable to fulfill his dharma as a brahmin because he never let himself experience any of the life stages fully.

Naranappa did not completely fulfill his dharma either because he did not follow the vedic rituals. Murthy makes the point in Samskara that brahminism in must be a combination of the two forms exhibited by Praneshacharya and Naranappa.

A brahmin cannot afford to be completely of the world as Naranappa was because he will lose the qualities that have made him a brahmin since the beginnings of vedic tradition; namely, the rituals.

But he cannot afford to be completely beyond the world either as was Praneshacharya because then he will not know conflict or desire and; thus, to renounce them would be meaningless.

To live either as Praneshacharya did or as Naranappa did is too easy and will not lead to salvation. To be able to do both; to live part of your life as a householder, experiencing the worldly desires, and then to be able to shun those desires and live as a renouncer, is the hardest thing of all and perhaps the only way to fulfill the dharma of a brahmin. It is one of the most important post-independent novels written in India which studies both metaphysical and social aspects of Hinduism.

It is very well known that the main aim of the religion is to liberate the human beings. So the human beings follow the rituals and prayers and other dictates of the religion in order to gain an entry into the paradise; and to attain moksha as in the case of Hinduism. Religion not only controls the spiritual life of the individuals, but also the social lives of the adherents.

Impact of religion starts before the birth of an individual and continues even after death. It plays a major role in shaping the psyche of an individual and influences his decisions regarding marriage, and social relations. In the case of Hinduism, the most well known social practice that has been studied by the scholars in India and abroad is that of casteism. Samskara studies not only the spiritual aspect of Hinduism and the caste system, but also orthodoxy in rituals.

The sociological and anthropological studies that have been done in the field of religion and casteism have tried to study them from the scientific point of view, but the novel treats them in a literary way.

Without commenting directly on anything, the novelist tells his story and leaves the job of interpretation to the readers.


U. R. Ananthamurthy

Ananthamurthy avoids many traps. A prostitute is one of the only characters who diligently avoids selfishness. There are all types of religious men, one of whom goes through an apocalyptic spiritual crisis in order to answer an unanswerable question. Go home now, all of you. It was evening. Agitated, Praneshachrya walked up and down, indoors, outdoors, and back. He asked Chandri, who was in the verandah, to come in and sit inside.


Plot[ edit ] The story is set in a street in a small village called Durvasapura in the Western Ghats of Karnataka. A majority of the people who live in the street belong to the community of Madhwas a Brahmin community. Two of the main characters in the story are Praneshacharya Girish Karnad and Narayanappa. Praneshacharya is a devout Brahmin who has completed his Vedic education at Varanasi and has returned to Duravasapura and is considered as the leader of the Brahmin community of his village and the surrounding ones.

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