[We shall be glad to review books in all Indian languages and in English, French and German. Books for Review should reach the office at least SIX WEEKS in advance of the day of publication of the Journal.]
ACHARYASUNDARA-PANDYA, Nitidwisashtika: Ed. by Pandita Puranam Suryanarayana-Thirtha and Veturi Prabhakara Sastri. (K. Markandeya Sarma, Kilpauk, Madras: 1928. 8 As.)
This short poem of 120 stanzas is an excellent breviary of moral maxims, the verses being easy and limpid and full of poetic grace. It has few equals as a companion to young men.
Echoes of these verses are to be found in the masterpieces of Kalidasa, Srinatha, Manjana and Bhartrihari : obviously, the poem is an ancient one. There are indications in the work that the author bore the name Acharya Sundara-Pandya and that the deity he worshipped was Arya or Sri Minakshi. A stanza says that this poem of Sundara Pandya would be placed on a golden throne by poets and crowned as queen among poems, just as the consort of god Sundara-Pandya, Sri Minakshi, was crowned by wise men after being placed on a golden throne. This is, according to the editor, a reference to the Sangam method of setting the hall-mark of approval on a poem by placing it on a golden throne and performing abhisheka. Mr. Ramakrishna-Kavi, in a short introductory preface, refers to a recent theory about Acharya Sundara-Pandya, who is referred to by Arikesari in an inscription of about 750 A. D. as his ancestor. Mr. Kavi points out that Acharya Sundara-Pandya was probably identical with Vira-Pandya, the author of the Kriya Nighantu.
These suggestions deserve careful examination at greater length than is possible here. We therefore content ourselves with complimenting the editors on the excellence of their edition.
V. NARAYANAN, M.A., M.L.
SRIPADA KAMESWARA RAO, M.A., Sahitya Mimamsa and Nataka Vimarsa. (Publisher Cherukuvada Venkataramaiya, Rajahmundry. Price Re. 1-4 and Rs. 2-8.)
With the exception of a few brilliant treatises of the type of Mr. C. R. Reddy's Kavitva Tathva Vicharamu, modern Telugu literature is sadly lacking in high-class criticism. The canons adopted in most cases are those of English critics like Edmund Gosse and Walter Raleigh. Very few have taken pains to study the ancient Sanskrit works on Alankara and compare their conclusions with those of modern European productions on Poetics and Rhetoric. It is high time that such an attempt is made. Mr. Kameswara Rao has done well, to translate into beautiful Telugu prose Dwijendra Lal Rai's and P. C. Vasu's contributions to dramatic and literary criticism, the first direct from the Bengali and the second through the Hindi translation of R. D. Misra.
The books cover a wide range, profuse quotations from Shakespeare and other western poets being a feature. Where ever available, lucid renderings from Sanskrit and English have been taken from present-day Telugu poets. Mr. Kameswara Rao is a scholar of eminence well-versed in Eastern and Western culture. The Drama in all literatures is his favourite theme, and he has been trying hard to popularise certain innovations suited to modern conditions. We have great pleasure in commending the volumes before us, as they maintain the high level attained by the author in his previous works.
T. N. SESHACHALA AIYAR, Kamba-Ramayanam (Bala- Kandam): C. SIVAGNANAM PILLAI, Kamba-Ramayanam, (4 Kandas), Tirunavukkarasu, Periya-Puranam.
This is a period of creative inactivity in Tamil. Never was Tamil literature at so low an ebb. Not that there is a dearth of printed matter: printing presses in the Tamil country are more active indeed than almost in any other part of South India. News-papers, hand-bills about dramatic entertainments, catalogues of postal business adventurers, magazines which are magazines merely because the postal rules allow concession rates for advertisement matter relieved by an occasional inter-larding of 'literature', novels which are blatant adaptations from English,—these are what the generality of Tamil printing presses produce. Some other presses indeed there are which bring out primers, readers, catechisms and analyses,—and these constitute the autocracy. Literature gets no chance of being published in the Tamil country. The outlook for Tamil literature has not been so murky for about half a century. The humanity of Vedanayagam Pillai who practically brought the novel into Tamil, the inspiring touch qf Sundaram Pill ai, the indefatigable zeal of Suryanarayana Sastri, the qelicate charm of Rajam Iver, the finished fret-work of Chelvakesavaraya Mudalivar, the inspiration, the vision, and the force of the prose and the poetry of Bharati, the satiric vein of Madhavayya,—these are the qualities for which Tamil acquired a reputation in the hands of the masters of the past two generations. The only creative artist now alive is P. Sambanda Mudaliyar. But we have no glimmer even of the rise of a star of the first magnitude above the horizon. Among finished historians the palm must be divided between the two Raghava Aiyangars, but they are historians, scholars and critics: neither of them can be considered to be creative artists, for, their published work of that kind is meagre. None of the younger men has any promise in him. Even so early in its history, modern Tamil has become completely commercialized. There is no scope for anyone who will not write down to the intellectual level of the Tamilian labourer who seeks his living in the Malay states, or humble himself before the petty publisher who runs a precarious publishing department as a side-line to an even more precarious grocery business. The grace of Tamil and its incomparable strength have now disappeared in the rank vernacular which publishers demand and thrust down the throat of the public. The people of the Tamil country are now paying the penalty for too rapid and too thorough an anglicization. The literature of the present day is despicable in quality and negligible in quantity. A few more years of this cultural inanition must lead inevitably to an atrophy of the creative instinct among the Tamils.
This is the reason why we welcome some recent publications of the type of Mr. T. N. Seshachalam's edition of the Bala kandam of Kamban's Ramayanam, and also Mr. C. Sivagnanam Pillai's abridgements of the various books of Kamban's Ramayanam and Sekkilar's Periya Puranam. These books are editions, in the full or in abridgement, of the works of the two great epic poets of the 12th century A. D.: they are far away from us, both in time and in spirit. None the less, the appearance of these books at this time shows that there is still a demand,—though weak, almost imperceptible and fluctuating,—for the genuine classics of Tamil. The presentation of these classics by these two editors is even more significant. The poems are annotated briefly and to the point, and some critical notes are added. While this shows that the classics are not understood without such aids, it shows also that people are yet to be found who would put themselves to the trouble of working steadily through them. The editors have done their work conscientiously and they have not forgotten that they are editing classics. Even the man in the street can now have no excuse for refusing to study the early classics, but we wonder whether even these excellent editions will tempt the English-educated man to turn to a study of the masterpieces of his mother tongue, for, he has no eye for the literature and no heart for the culture of his country.
We must also draw attention to Mr. Sivagnanam Pillai's excellent lives of the three great saints of Tamil Saivism. They are compact of literature and competent historical research. They are guide-posts to a critical study of the ancient Tamil literature. Nowhere else have we found the raw material for the lives of the saints of Tamil Saivism collected with such completeness or sifted with greater acumen.
Mr. Seshachalam has laid the Tamil country under heavy obligation to him by starting a weekly called the Kala-Nilayam, which is purposely intended to be an exponent of the ancient Tamil culture and a practical exemplification of how the Tamil language could be made to convey modern thoughts to modern minds. The style is designedly literary. To the casual reader it might appear pedantic, but a continued study of the essays will show how well a pure literary style can be sustained without its degenerating into pedantic bombast. Mr. Seshachalam and his collaborators deserve to be congratulated for their high courage in seeking to reinstate a literary style in Tamil to the place which is its just due. With this same purpose it is indeed that Mr. Seshachalam has also written a novel, the Prince of Yemangada. And the story in it is not its least interesting feature.
We wish Mr. Seshachalam and Mr. Sivagnanam Pillai a full measure of public appreciation and we are confident that, in course of time, recognition will come to them as persons who in their effective, though humble, ways contributed to the resuscitation of Tamil language and literature.
T. G. A.
REV. FATHER HENRY HERAS, S. J., M. A. The Aravidu Dynasty of Vijayanagara Vol. I. (B. G. Paul, Madras, 1928. Rs 10.)
Father Heras has undertaken a great task, and has done it in a manner which gives satisfaction to the scholar as well as the lay reader. A complete history of the Vijayanagar Empire is yet to be written, for, the present work covers only a short period towards the closing years of the Empire. A book of this kind ought to have been written long ago, but for the indifference of scholars who are immediately interested in the reconstruction of the history of South India. Father Heras is eminently fitted to do the work which he has undertaken. His knowledge of European languages has enabled him to exploit the Portuguese and the Jesuit records, which would not have been easily possible for others. However, he does not base his account entirely on them, but draws his information from all available sources—inscriptions, monuments, travellers' journals, historical documents and vernacular literatures; and examines them with rare impartiality, and arrives at very judicious conclusions. In fact, Father Heras deserves to be congratulated on the production of a book which cannot easily be surpassed for a long time to come. It bears testimony to his patient industry, rare skill in marshalling all relevant facts, lucidity of presentation, and soundness of judgement.
The book contains 26 chapters, besides an exhaustive bibliographical introduction at the beginning, and four appendices containing Persian, Portuguese, and Latin documents, an exhaustive index and a short corrigenda at the end. The first chapter describes the reign of Venkata I, and the tyranny of Salakam Timma. It shows clearly that Rama Raya, the founder of the Aravidu Dynasty, and his brothers, saved the Empire from destruction, and supplanted the Tuluva Dynasty gradually. The next four chapters are devoted to a description of the career of Rama Raya, first as a Minister of State and next as the regent and the virtual ruler of the Empire. We have in these chapters a lucid account of Rama's methods of internal, administration and foreign policy. The Muhammadan historians, and following them, many English writers, describe him as a monster of wickedness in his dealings with the Deccani Sultans. Father Heras, after a careful examination of all relevant documents, arrives at a different conclusion: "The policy of Rama Raya in his relations with Deccani Muhammadans was that of the shrewd diplomatist of the modern type". Then follows an account of the Telugu invasions of the south, which ultimately resulted in the complete conquest of the Chola, Ohera, and Pandya kingdoms, and the foundation of the Nayak principalities of Madura, Tanjore, and Gingee. It must be pointed out in this connection that Father Heras is wrong in thinking that the Nayak Kingdom of Madura was established during the time of Achyuta. The tradition, and all available records, clearly mention that the events connected with the foundation of the Kingdom of Madura took place during the reign of Krishna Raya. The arguments which Father Heras advances against this view are hardly convincing. We have for the first time a clear and graphic description of the battle of Rakshasa Tagdi (Talikota). We understand that the Muhammadan victory, which was so disastrous in its consequences to the Hindu Empire, was won not so much on account of the valour of the Deccani Sultans, but of the treachery of the Muhammadan regiments employed by the emperors of Vijayanagar. Chapter 10 describes the assassination of Sadasiva and the end of the Tuluva Dynasty. The next four chapters deal with the reigns of Tirumala and Ranga I. 1t is interesting to note that the city of Vijayanagar was not destroyed by the Muhammadans as it is generally believed. Father Heras brings some new evidence to show that the Deccani sultans were responsible for the construction of certain new buildings in the Hindu capital. The general belief that the capital was transferred to Penugonda soon after the disaster at Rakshasa Tagdi is shown to be false. In fact, Tirumala ruled the Empire from Vijayanagar for two or three years after this event. With the reign of Venkata II, the Muhammadan attacks grow feeble, and Venkata was able to force the Muhammadan rulers to recognize the Krishna as the boundary between the Hindu Empire and its Muhammadan neighbours. A few chapters are devoted to the description of the relations of the Emperor with his Viceroys. The Empire was ill-organized. Obedience to the Emperor was secured very often at the point of the sword. The Viceroys were disloyal, and were ready to take advantage of the earliest opportunity to break away from the Empire.
The last two chapters describe the 'literary activity' and 'the struggle of Sri Vaishnavism with the other sects'. The description of the literary activity is fairly accurate, although the antiquated writers whose views Father Heras follows lead him often to commit blunders. One of the most remarkable events in the later Vijayanagara history is the expansion of Vaishnavism in the Telugu country. It has profoundly affected the life and culture of the people. But Father Heras dismisses the subject with a brief account, whereas he devotes a disproportionately large amount of space to a description of the mission of Robert de Nobili. The fault is perhaps not so much due to the negligence of Father Heras, as to the carelessness of Mr. A. Rangaswami-Saraswati, the author of "The Sources of Vijayanagara History" who does not include in it an important passage from Amuktamalyada in which Krishna Raya describes the expansion of Vaishnavism in the Andhra-desa. The book, therefore, is in need of improvement in these respects. A few words must he said in passing regarding the plates. Almost all of them are good and they certainly enhance the value of the book. The frontispiece does not represent the head of a human being, not to speak of Rama Raya. The vakradanta clearly indicates that the head belongs to a demon, probably a village deity. The printing is fairly good, but the book abounds in spelling mistakes. The proof reading has been carelessly done.
N. VENKATARAMANAYYA, M.A., Ph.D.
G. VENKATACHALAM Modern Indian Artists. (The National Press, Bangalore. Re. 1-8)
This is a timely and most welcome brochure from the pen of one who is intimately associated with the Art movement in South India. It is usual to style the Modern Indian School of Painters as the 'Bengal School' and their art as ' Bengal Art '. And that, in the view of some, is enough to condemn the movement. While it is true that the revival of Indian Art in recent years is due in the main to the devoted labours of E.B. Havell, Abanindranath Tagore, and the distinguished students of the latter like Nandalal Bose, Asit Haldar, and Promode Chatterjee, it has to be recognised that the movement has rapidly spread to all parts of India. Differences in technique, and specialised aptitudes, are bound to become evident in the different art centres at Mysore, Masulipatam, Lucknow, and Lahore. The third generation of artists—we mean the disciples of Abanindranath's disciples—is coming up and a close observer can trace the variations due to differing environment. Mr. Venkatachalam has rendered a great service to the cause of Modern Indian Art by the publication of these charming sketches. They are in no sense complete studies of the Artists. Each in fact deserves a volume to himself. But a perusal of Mr. Venkatachalam's book is sure to arouse interest in the subject and lead to a more correct appreciation of true Indian Art. Ws need only add that the book is beautifully got-up and the half-tone reproductions have come off admirably.
P. T. SRINIVASA AIYANGAR, The Stone Age in India: (Sir S. Subramaniya Aiyar Lectures, 1926, University of Madras.)
Mr. P. T. Srinivasa Aiyangar is never more original than when he is writing on a subject which others despair of tackling. He has a keen eye for facts and an unerring instinct for correct conclusions. With a well-stored mind and a disciplined intellect which ought to be the envy of others in the field, Mr. Srinivasa Aiyangar has a happy knack of presenting any theme in the most advantageous light. He is a realist and never cuts himself away from facts. So it is that this book of his is a challenging contribution to the literature of the subject with which it deals. That primeval man had his birth in South India, that he grew up intellectually under a South Indian sun, and that he discovered iron right under his feet in South India and brought about a revolution in man's history in this country, are among the principal conclusions which he lays Before the scholarly world in this work. It is hard to controvert Mr. Srinivasa Aiyangar, and unless it can be shown that iron was not a constituent of a civilization at least as ancient as that to which the palaeolithic age of South India belongs, it would be difficult to show that Mr. Srinivasa Aiyangar is wrong. This is a question which has really to be taken up in earnest and the evidence all the world over will have to be sifted with great care. We hope Mr. Srinivasa Aiyangar's book will incite scholars to a thorough investigation.