Nativism in Girish Karnad’s Naga-Mandala
Bhalchandra Nemade observed that modern Indian literature has been basking in the glory of western modernism. It always locates the centre of creativity outside the desi (native) tradition. In his book Nativism Nemade poses a question, ‘Do we need native standards to interpret and evaluate native tradition or the so-called “universal” standards for this purpose?’ Nemade’s question becomes very important in Indian context, because throughout the world cultural similarities do exist, but differences which are more fecund and important, also exist. There can be universal standards in science because in science there is nothing Occidental or Oriental, Western or Indian, but each culture has distinct native styles of living. Nemade takes into consideration the Whorfian thesis of how language decides the speakers’ world-view. As the so-called ‘universal standards’ take into its ken only European knowledge and ignores conveniently others, the basis of these standards is ‘hollow’. Nemade is right when he says, the British, having ruled over most peoples of the world for generations, have imposed upon the subject-cultures the rules based on their understanding of universe. Now accepting such irrational standards as ‘universal’ would mean we ourselves lack the power of investigating truth. Literature is a kind of knowledge about human existence with reference to the cosmos, nature, society and the inner mental process of human beings. Then how can this knowledge be assessed with reference to the cosmos, nature, society which is alien and has no reference and relation to the land and culture which the work of art represents. Therefore, in this paper an attempt has been made to discuss how the concept of Nativism is reflected in Girish Karnad’s Naga-Mandala. Naga-Mandala, based on two Kannada folk-tales which Girish Karnad heard from A. K. Ramanujan, is full of mythical wonder and is enshrouded in a realm of magic and supernaturalism. The mythical culture and tradition is clearly seen in this play. This paper is an attempt to find how the Nativistic literary values are present in this play and show how this play reflects indigenous Indian tradition and culture.
While introducing what modern India has offered to the world by way of literary achievement, John Oliver Perry, in his article in the World Literature Today has pointed out that:
Deshivad (nativism) is the positive term advanced by Bhalchandra Nemade to start a nationwide literary movement emphasizing India’s many regional languages and cultures, a movement just now being widely recognized and challenged (1998:687). However, M.H. Abram’s A Glossary of Literary Terms (1993) fails to exhibit any reference to nativism. Even the fourth edition of J. A. Cuddon’s Dictionary of
Literary Terms and Literary Theory, published in 1999, does not include it. This volume has included all the –isms: from the period of Aristotle to the present one, but it fails to pay any attention to nativism. Originally the concept of deshivad (not properly translated into English as Nativism) was used in world literature, in Indian literary criticism in particular, by Bhalchandra Nemade, after realization of the perils of submitting the products of one literary culture to another culture’s theories. Nemade observed that modern Indian Literature had been basking in the glory of western modernism, always locating the center of creativity outside the desi (native) tradition. The existing literary theory has indeed been excessively in-group and obscurantist; therefore, Nemade started the nativistic literary movement to undo that damage and made it more widely accessible to the bahujan samaj – the majority of ordinary people. The important reason for the growth of Nativistic literary theory since the 1960 was the gradual breakdown of the assumption that works of literature can only be appreciated by those with a particular sort of cultural...
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