Sunday, August 31, 2014

Reflections on Caste: U R Ananthmurthy

Recently Mr. U. R. Ananthamurthy, noted Kannada literateur died. He was a vehement opposer of caste system. Excerpts from today's The Hindu article:

Reflections on caste
Ananthamurthy reflected on caste on many occasions, and his novel, Samskara (1965), evokes the decadent world of a brahman agrahara (settlement), much of it drawing on his own experience of growing up in one. He belonged to the Madhva tradition, a Vaishnava sect that followed the 13th century philosopher, Madhvacharya. His name, Udupi Rajagopalacharya Ananthamurthy, as professor Arindam Chakrabarti reminded me, bears the signature of Udupi Sri Krishna — the presiding deity of Madhva Dvaita Vedanta.
Yet, his novel mocks norms of purity and pollution. Naranappa, the anti-brahmin Brahmin dies, and the question is who will perform his last rites as he has no son. Till this is done there can be “no worship, no bathing, no prayers, no food, nothing.” Naranappa had not only mocked at brahmin orthodoxy, but drank liquor, ate meat, caught sacred fish with his Muslim friends and rejected his wife, living instead with a sudra woman called Chandri. Answers are sought from Praneshacharya, the head of the village, who is the crown jewel of Vedic learning. He in turn seeks answers regarding pollution from the book of dharma and then pleads with Maruti, the chaste monkey-god, but gets no answer. He comes across Chandri in the forest and both discover each other erotically in their traumatised states, giving Praneshacharya an opportunity for self-transformation.
He decides to perform the last rites, but by then the plague is manifest on Naranappa’s body and Chandri has already asked a Muslim to cremate the body. The screenplay of the film “Samskara” (1970) was written by Girish Karnad who played Naranappa.

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