In “The Discovery of India”, Nehru sets out on a voyage of self-discovery and offers a penetrating analysis of his own motherland. The book, first published in 1946, prompted Albert Einstein to write to Nehru: “I have read with extreme interest your marvellous book…It gives an understanding of the glorious intellectual and spiritual tradition of …India.”
Nehru was jailed for his participation in the Quit India movement along with other Indian leaders, and he used this time to write down his thoughts and knowledge about India’s history. The book is widely regarded as a classic in India since its first publication in 1946, and provides a broad view of Indian history, philosophy and culture, as viewed from the eyes of a liberal Indian fighting for the independence of his country .
In The Discovery of India Nehru argued that India was an historic nation with a right to sovereignty. (Calhoun, Craig, Nations Matter: Culture, History and the Cosmopolitan Dream, Routledge, p. 63.)
In this book Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru tries to study the history of India starting from the Indus Valley Civilization, and then covers the country’s history from the arrival of the Aryans to government under the British Empire. The effect of these various people on Indian culture and their incorporation into Indian society is examined.
This book also analyses in depth the philosophy of Indian life.
“India’s past; her glory, her victory, her shock, her reminiscence, her philosophy, her geography, her fate, and her everything… This is a compelling read from the man who lead India in her darkest hour; the man who was chosen by destiny to enlighten the Indians, proves himself to be an enlighten soul when it comes to know her. The history is nothing like a research material as it was intended to, primarily; ignite curiosity in a nine year old girl to know about her motherland. At times the book seems a little bit exaggareted, but it was written to make readers passionate about India.
This book has acquired the status of a classic since it was first published in 1946. To read The Discovery of India is to more than discover just India. Not limited to information about the subcontinent as it is today, one discovers the world from Plato, Emerson, the history of lands like Afghanistan, China’s ancient trade links with India and so much more. It is to venture into a discovery of the world itself.
The whole written and unwritten history of India is given in the book. The Indus valley civilization, the coming of the Aryans, Hinduism, caste system, the continuity of the great Indian culture, name it and it is in the book. The epics, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavad-Gita, Buddha, Ashoka and through all the people, the books and the contemporary records of the time, we get a complete picture of India through the ages. The dawn of the medieval period and the golden era of the Gupta dynasty give a good insight of India’s foreign relationships with the people of Iran, Greece. Then there is the answer to the most perplexing question of Buddhism in India. That is the fact that even though the religion was started in India, the larger part of Buddhism in India merged with Hinduism the book gives a detailed picture of the times. Through the Arabs, the Mongols we come to the golden time of the Mughal Empire. And the lives of Babar, Akbar, the Marathas, all flash before our eyes, as we are led to the colonial times of the British rule, with all the minute details. The path takes through the times when the British came as traders to India and later went to build a colonial empire. The dawn of the national movement, and what better way to learn about it than through the words of the man who along with Gandhi trembled the colonial rule. This is best section of the book in my view. We get all the bits and pieces of history of the country and this is a must read for all the Indians.
There is a difference between learning the details from the history books and reading the book of a man who have gone through the experience. Here we see the pain, the nationalism, the human spirit, and we feel all the feelings that were experienced by the people in the national movement when they gave their lives for the welfare of the country. The few unarmed citizens of the country who trembled the mighty British Empire, which, at the time was the peak of its glory. The chapters give us a beautiful insight into the friendship between Gandhi and Nehru, the role of Gandhi, M. A. Jinnah, the coming of the Second World War and the final phase of the freedom movement after the war. The book however cannot go any deeper into the freedom struggle as it was written a decade before India got her independence.
A must read for Indians and especially for those who have an interest in Indian History, Culture and traditions.
I just can’t help it.A couple of excerpts from the book:
“There is stillness and everlastingness about the past; it changes not and has a touch of eternity, like a painted picture or a statue in bronze or marble. Unaffected by the storms and upheavals of the present, it maintains its dignity and repose and tempts the troubled spirit and the tortured mind to seek shelter in its vaulted catacombs. There is peace there and security, and one may even sense a spiritual quality. But it is not life, unless we can find the vital links between it and the present with all its conflicts and problems. It is a kind of art for art’s sake, without the passion and the urge to action which are the very stuff of life. Without that passion and urge, there is a gradual oozing out of hope and vitality, a settling down on lower levels of existence, a slow merging int non-existence. We become prisoners of the past and some part of its immobility sticks to us.
Ends and means: were they tied up inseparably, acting and reacting on each other, the wrong means distorting and sometimes even destroying the end in view? but the right means might well be beyond the capacity of infirm and selfish human nature. what then was one to do? not to act was a complete confession of failure and a submission to evil; to act meant often enough a compromise with some form of that evil, with all the untoward consequences that such compromises result in.
Religion merges into mysticism and metaphysics and philosophy. There have been great mystics, attractive figures, who cannot easily be disposed of as self-deluded fools. Yet mysticism (in the narrow sense of the word) irritates me; it appears to be vague and soft and flabby, not a rigorous discipline of the mind but a surrender of mental faculties and a living in a sea of emotional experience. The experience may lead occasionally to some insight into inner and less obvious processes, but it is also likely to lead to self-delusion. “
I have typed these directly from the book…
This book is part of my ” South Asian Author Challenge 2010″ and also this review is going to “Book Review Party Wednesday” hosted by http://cymlowell.blogspot.com/