Great Personalities of India Varāhamihira Indian philosopher and scientistalso called Varaha, or Mihira



Download 87,96 Kb.
Date conversion18.08.2018
Size87,96 Kb.

PowerPlusWaterMarkObject4109345



Great Personalities of India

Varāhamihira

Indian philosopher and scientistalso called Varaha, or Mihira

Born 505, Ujjain, India died 587, Ujjain

Indian philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician, author of the Pañca-siddhāntikā (“Five Treatises”), a compendium of Greek, Egyptian, Roman, and Indian astronomy.

Varāhamihira’s knowledge of Western astronomy was thorough. In five sections, his monumental work progresses through native Indian astronomy and culminates in two treatises on Western astronomy, showing calculations based on Greek and Alexandrian reckoning and even giving complete Ptolemaic mathematical charts and tables.

Although Varāhamihira’s writings give a comprehensive picture of 6th-century India, his real interest lay in astronomy and astrology. He repeatedly emphasized the importance of astrology and wrote many treatises on śakuna (augury) as well as the Bhaj-Jātaka (“Great Birth”) and the Laghu-Jātaka (“Short Birth”), two well-known works on the casting of horoscopes.

For more information, please click the following link:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/623232/Varahamihira

Bipin Chandra Pal


Indian journalist

Born Nov. 7, 1858, Sylhet, India [now in Bangladesh] died May 20, 1932, Calcutta [now Kolkata]

Indian journalist and an early leader of the nationalist movement. By his contributions to various newspapers and through speaking tours, he popularized the concepts of swadeshi (exclusive use of Indian-made goods) and swaraj (independence).

Though originally considered a moderate within the Indian National Congress, by 1919 Pal had moved closer to the more militant policies of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, one of the leading nationalist politicians. In later years Pal allied himself with fellow Bengali nationalists who resented the cult of personality surrounding Mahatma Gandhi, the most popular nationalist leader. Pal’s overriding concern in his writings from 1912 to 1920 was to achieve confederation of the different regions and different communities within India. After 1920 he remained aloof from national politics but continued to contribute to Bengali journals.

For more information, please click the following link:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1354602/Bipin-Chandra-Pal

Gopal Krishna Gokhale


Indian social reformer

Born May 9, 1866, Ratnagiri district, India died Feb. 19, 1915, Pune

Social reformer who founded a sectarian organization to work for relief of the underprivileged of India. He led the moderate nationalists in the early years of the Indian independence movement.

In 1902 Gokhale resigned as professor of history and political economy at Fergusson College, Pune, to enter politics. As an influential and respected member of the Indian National Congress, the leading nationalist organization, Gokhale advocated moderate and constitutional methods of agitation and gradual reform. Three years later he was elected president of the Congress.

In addition to his political activities, Gokhale’s deep concern with social reform led him to found the Servants of India Society (1905), whose members took vows of poverty and lifelong service to the underprivileged. He opposed the ill-treatment of untouchables, or low-caste Hindus, and also took up the cause of impoverished Indians living in South Africa.

For more information, please click the following link:



http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/237223/Gopal-Krishna-Gokhale

Michael Madhusudan Datta


Indian author Datta also spelled Dutt

Born Jan. 25, 1824, Sāgardari, Bengal, India [now in Bangladesh] died June 29, 1873, Calcutta, India

Poet and dramatist, the first great poet of modern Bengali literature.

Datta was a dynamic, erratic personality and an original genius of a high order. He was educated at the Hindu College, Calcutta, the cultural home of the Western-educated Bengali middle class. In 1843 he became a Christian.

His early compositions were in English, but they were unsuccessful and he turned, reluctantly at first, to Bengali. His principal works, written mostly between 1858 and 1862, include prose drama, long narrative poems, and lyrics. His first play, Sarmistha (1858), based on an episode of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahābhārata, was well received. His poetical works are Tilottamasambhab (1860), a narrative poem on the story of Sunda and Upasunda; Meghnadbadh (1861), his most important composition, an epic on the Rāmāyaa theme; Brajangana (1861), a cycle of lyrics on the Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa theme; and Birangana (1862), a set of 21 epistolary poems on the model of Ovid’s Heroides.

Datta experimented ceaselessly with diction and verse forms, and it was he who introduced amitraksar (a form of blank verse with run-on lines and varied caesuras), the Bengali sonnet—both Petrarchan and Shakespearean—and many original lyric stanzas.

For more information, please click the following link:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/152282/Michael-Madhusudan-Datta

Vivekananda


Hindu leaderoriginal name Narendranath Datta, Datta also spelled Dutt

Born Jan. 12, 1863, Calcutta died July 4, 1902, Calcutta

Hindu spiritual leader and reformer who attempted to combine Indian spirituality with Western material progress, maintaining that the two supplemented and complemented one another. His Absolute was man’s own higher self; to labour for the benefit of mankind was the noblest endeavour.

Born into an upper-middle-class Kāyastha family in Bengal, he was educated at a Western-style university where he was exposed to Western philosophy, Christianity, and science. Social reform was given a prominent place in Vivekananda’s thought, and he joined the Brahmo Samaj (Society of Brahmā), dedicated to eliminating child marriage and illiteracy and determined to spread education among women and the lower castes. He later became the most notable disciple of Ramakrishna, who demonstrated the essential unity of all religions. Always stressing the universal and humanistic side of the Vedas as well as belief in service rather than dogma, Vivekananda attempted to infuse vigour into Hindu thought, placing less emphasis on the prevailing pacifism and presenting Hindu spirituality to the West. He was an activating force behind the Vedānta (interpretation of the Upaniads) movement in the United States and England. In 1893 he appeared in Chicago as a spokesman for Hinduism at the World’s Parliament of Religions and so captivated the assembly that a newspaper account described him as “an orator by divine right and undoubtedly the greatest figure at the Parliament.” Thereafter he lectured throughout the United States and England, making converts to the Vedānta movement.

On his return to India with a small group of Western disciples in 1897, Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission at the monastery of Belur Math on the Ganges River near Calcutta. Self-perfection and service were his ideals, and the order continued to stress them. He adapted and made relevant to the 20th century the very highest ideals of the Vedāntic religion, and although he lived only two years into that century he left the mark of his personality on East and West alike.

For more information, please click the following link:



http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/631407/Vivekananda

Kabīr


Indian mystic and poet

Born 1440, Varanasi, Jaunpur, India died 1518, Maghar

Iconoclastic Indian poet-saint revered by Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs alike.

The birth of Kabīr (Arabic: “Great”) remains to this day shrouded in mystery and legend. Authorities disagree on both when he was born and who his parents were. One legend proclaims a divine virginal birth. His mother was reputed to have been of the Brahman caste and to have become pregnant after a visit to a Hindu shrine. Because she was unwed, she abandoned Kabīr, who was found and adopted by a Muslim weaver. That his early life began as a Muslim there is no doubt, although he later became influenced by a Hindu ascetic, Ramananda.

Though Kabīr is often depicted in modern times as a harmonizer of Hindu and Muslim belief and practice, it would be more accurate to say that he was equally critical of both, often conceiving them as parallel to one another in their misguided ways. In his view, the mindless, repetitious, prideful habit of declaiming scripture could be visited alike on the sacred Hindu texts, the Vedas, or the Islamic holy book, the Qurʾān; the religious authorities doing so could be Brahmins or Qāzīs; meaningless rites of initiation could focus either on the sacred thread or on circumcision. What really counted for Kabīr was utter fidelity to the one deathless truth of life, which he associated equally with the designations Allah and Ram—the latter understood as a general Hindu name for the divine, not the hero of the Ramayana. Kabīr’s principal media of communication were songs called padas and rhymed couplets (dohas) sometimes called “words” (shabdas) or “witnesses” (sakhis). A number of these couplets, and others attributed to Kabīr since his death, have come to be commonly used by speakers of north Indian languages.

Kabīr’s poetic personality has been variously defined by the religious traditions that revere him, and the same can be said for his hagiography. For Sikhs he is a precursor and interlocutor of Nanak, the founding Sikh Guru (spiritual guide). Muslims place him in Sufi lineages, and for Hindus he becomes a Vaishnava (devotee of the god Vishnu) with universalist leanings. But when one goes back to the poetry that can most reliably be attributed to Kabīr, only two aspects of his life emerge as truly certain: he lived most of his life in Banaras (now Varanasi), and he was a weaver (julaha), one of a low-ranked caste that had become largely Muslim in Kabīr’s time. His humble social station and his own combative reaction to any who would regard it as such have contributed to his celebrity among various other religious movements and helped shape the Kabīr Panth, a sect found across north and central India that draws its members especially but not exclusively from the scheduled castes (formerly known as untouchables). The Kabīr Panth regards Kabir as its principal guru or even as a divinity—truth incarnate. The broad range of traditions on which Kabīr has had an impact is testimony to his massive authority, even for those whose beliefs and practices he criticized so unsparingly. From early on, his presence in anthologies of north Indian bhakti (devotional) poetry is remarkable.

For more information, please click the following link:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/309270/Kabir

Rabindranath Tagore


Bengali poetBengali Rabīndranāth hākur

Born May 7, 1861, Calcutta, India died Aug. 7, 1941, Calcutta

Bengali poet, short-story writer, song composer, playwright, essayist, and painter who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Tagore introduced new prose and verse forms and the use of colloquial language into Bengali literature, thereby freeing it from traditional models based on classical Sanskrit. He was highly influential in introducing the best of Indian culture to the West and vice versa, and he is generally regarded as the outstanding creative artist of modern India.

The son of the religious reformer Debendranath Tagore, he early began to write verses, and after incomplete studies in England in the late 1870s, he returned to India. There he published several books of poetry in the 1880s and completed Mānasī (1890), a collection that marks the maturing of his genius. It contains some of his best-known poems, including many in verse forms new to Bengali, as well as some social and political satire that was critical of his fellow Bengalis.

In 1891 Tagore went to East Bengal (now in Bangladesh) to manage his family’s estates at Shilaidah and Shazadpur for 10 years. There he often stayed in a houseboat on the Padma River (i.e., the Ganges River), in close contact with village folk, and his sympathy for their poverty and backwardness became the keynote of much of his later writing. Most of his finest short stories, which examine “humble lives and their small miseries,” date from the 1890s and have a poignancy, laced with gentle irony, that is unique to him, though admirably captured by the director Satyajit Ray in later film adaptations. Tagore came to love the Bengali countryside, most of all the Padma River, an often-repeated image in his verse. During these years he published several poetry collections, notably Sonār Tarī (1894; The Golden Boat), and plays, notably Chitrāgadā (1892; Chitra). Tagore’s poems are virtually untranslatable, as are his more than 2,000 songs, which remain extremely popular among all classes of Bengali society.

In 1901 Tagore founded an experimental school in rural West Bengal at Śantiniketan (“Abode of Peace”), where he sought to blend the best in the Indian and Western traditions. He settled permanently at the school, which became Viśva-Bhārati University in 1921. Years of sadness arising from the deaths of his wife and two children between 1902 and 1907 are reflected in his later poetry, which was introduced to the West in Gitanjali, Song Offerings (1912). This book, containing Tagore’s English prose translations of religious poems from several of his Bengali verse collections, including Gītāñjali (1910), was hailed by W.B. Yeats and André Gide and won him the Nobel Prize in 1913. Tagore was awarded a knighthood in 1915, but he repudiated it in 1919 as a protest against the Amritsar Massacre.

From 1912 Tagore spent long periods out of India, lecturing and reading from his work in Europe, the Americas, and East Asia and becoming an eloquent spokesperson for the cause of Indian independence. Tagore’s novels, though less outstanding than his poems and short stories, are also worthy of attention; the best known are Gorā (1910) and Ghare-Bāire (1916; The Home and the World). In the late 1920s, at nearly 70 years of age, Tagore took up painting and produced works that won him a place among India’s foremost contemporary artists.

For more information, please click the following link:



http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/580333/Rabindranath-Tagore

Indira Gandhi


Prime minister of Indiain full Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi

Born Nov. 19, 1917, Allahabad, India died Oct. 31, 1984, New Delhi

Politician who served as prime minister of India for three consecutive terms (1966–77) and a fourth term (1980–84). She was assassinated by Sikh extremists.

She was the only child of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India. She attended Visva-Bharati University, West Bengal, and the University of Oxford, and in 1942 she married Feroze Gandhi (died 1960), a fellow member of the Indian National Congress (Congress Party). She was a member of the working committee of the ruling Congress Party from 1955, and in 1959 she was elected to the largely honorary post of party president. Lal Bahadur Shastri, who succeeded Nehru as prime minister in 1964, named her minister of information and broadcasting in his government.

On Shastri’s sudden death in January 1966, Gandhi became leader of the Congress Party—and thus also prime minister—in a compromise between the right and left wings of the party. Her leadership, however, came under continual challenge from the right wing of the party, led by a former minister of finance, Morarji Desai. In the election of 1967 she won a slim majority and had to accept Desai as deputy prime minister. In 1971, however, she won a sweeping electoral victory over a coalition of conservative parties. Gandhi strongly supported East Bengal (now Bangladesh) in its secessionist conflict with Pakistan in late 1971, and India’s armed forces achieved a swift and decisive victory over Pakistan that led to the creation of Bangladesh.

In March 1972, buoyed by the country’s success against Pakistan, Gandhi again led her new Congress Party to a landslide victory in national elections. Shortly afterward her defeated Socialist Party opponent charged that she had violated the election laws. In June 1975 the High Court of Allahabad ruled against her, which meant that she would be deprived of her seat in Parliament and would have to stay out of politics for six years. In response, she declared a state of emergency throughout India, imprisoned her political opponents, and assumed emergency powers, passing many laws limiting personal freedoms. During this period she implemented several unpopular policies, including large-scale sterilization as a form of birth control. When long-postponed national elections were held in 1977, Gandhi and her party were soundly defeated, whereupon she left office. The Janata Party took over the reins of government.

Early in 1978 Gandhi’s supporters split from the Congress Party and formed the Congress (I) Party—the “I” signifying Indira. She was briefly imprisoned (October 1977 and December 1978) on charges of official corruption. Despite these setbacks, she won a new seat in Parliament in November 1978, and her Congress (I) Party began to gather strength. Dissension within the ruling Janata Party led to the fall of its government in August 1979. When new elections for the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) were held in January 1980, Gandhi and her Congress (I) Party were swept back into power in a landslide victory. Her son Sanjay Gandhi, who had become her chief political adviser, also won a seat in the Lok Sabha. All legal cases against Indira, as well as against her son, were withdrawn.

Sanjay Gandhi’s death in an airplane crash in June 1980 eliminated Indira’s chosen successor from the political leadership of India. After Sanjay’s death, Indira groomed her other son, Rajiv, for the leadership of her party. Gandhi adhered to the quasi-socialist policies of industrial development that had been begun by her father. She established closer relations with the Soviet Union, depending on that nation for support in India’s long-standing conflict with Pakistan.

During the early 1980s Indira Gandhi was faced with threats to the political integrity of India. Several states sought a larger measure of independence from the central government, and Sikh extremists in Punjab state used violence to assert their demands for an autonomous state. In response, Gandhi ordered an army attack in June 1984 on the Harimandir (Golden Temple) at Amritsar, the Sikhs’ holiest shrine, which led to the deaths of more than 450 Sikhs. Five months later Gandhi was killed in her garden by a fusillade of bullets fired by two of her own Sikh bodyguards in revenge for the attack on the Golden Temple.

For more information, please click the following link:



http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/225198/Indira-Gandhi

Ramana Maharshi


Hindu philosopheroriginal name Venkataraman Aiyer

Born Dec. 30, 1879, Madurai, Madras states, India died April 14, 1950, Tiruvannāmalai

Hindu philosopher and yogi called “Great Master,” “Bhagavan” (the Lord), and “the Sage of Aruṇāchala,” whose position on monism (the identity of the individual soul and the creator of souls) and māyā (illusion) parallels that of Śaṅkara (c. ad 700–750). His original contribution to yogic philosophy is the technique of vicāra (self-“pondering” inquiry).

Born to a middle-class, southern Indian, Brahman family, Venkataraman read mystical and devotional literature, particularly the lives of South Indian Śaiva saints and the life of Kabīr, the medieval mystical poet. He was captivated by legends of the local pilgrimage place, Mt. Aruṇāchala, from which the god Śiva was supposed to have arisen in a spiral of fire at the creation of the world.

At the age of 17 Venkataraman had a spiritual experience from which he derived his vicāra technique: he suddenly felt a great fear of death, and, lying very still, imagined his body becoming a stiff, cold corpse. Following a traditional “not this, not that” (neti-neti) practice, he began self-inquiry, asking “Who am I?” and answering, “Not the body, because it is decaying; not the mind, because the brain will decay with the body; not the personality, nor the emotions, for these also will vanish with death.” His intense desire to know the answer brought him into a state of consciousness beyond the mind, a state of bliss that Hindu philosophy calls samādhi. He immediately renounced his possessions, shaved his head, and fled from his village to Mt. Aruṇāchala to become a hermit and one of India’s youngest gurus.

The publication of Paul Brunton’s My Search in Secret India drew Western attention to the thought of Ramana Maharshi (the title used by Venkataraman’s disciples) and attracted a number of notable students. Ramana Maharshi believed that death and evil were māyā, or illusion, which could be dissipated by the practice of vicāra, by which the true self and the unity of all things would be discovered. For liberation from rebirth it is sufficient, he believed, to practice only vicāra and bhakti (devotional surrender) either to Śiva Aruṇāchala or to Ramana Maharshi.

For more information, please click the following link:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/490468/Ramana-Maharshi

Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan


Muslim scholar Sayyid also spelled Syad, or Syed, Ahmad also spelled Ahmed

Born Oct. 17, 1817, Delhi died March 27, 1898, Alīgarh, India

Muslim educator, jurist, and author, founder of the Anglo-Mohammedan Oriental College at Alīgarh, Uttar Pradesh, India, and the principal motivating force behind the revival of Indian Islām in the late 19th century. His works, in Urdu, include Essays on the Life of Mohammed (1870) and commentaries on the Bible and on the Qurʾān. In 1888 he was made a Knight Commander of the Star of India.

Sayyid’s family, though progressive, was highly regarded by the dying Mughal dynasty. His father, who received an allowance from the Mughal administration, became something of a religious recluse; his maternal grandfather had twice served as prime minister of the Mughal emperor of his time and had also held positions of trust under the East India Company. Sayyid’s brother established one of the first printing presses at Delhi and started one of the earliest newspapers in Urdu, the principal language of the Muslims of northern India.

The death of Sayyid’s father left the family in financial difficulties, and after a limited education Sayyid had to work for his livelihood. Starting as a clerk with the East India Company in 1838, he qualified three years later as a subjudge and served in the judicial department at various places.

Sayyid Ahmad had a versatile personality, and his position in the judicial department left him time to be active in many fields. His career as an author (in Urdu) started at the age of 23 with religious tracts. In 1847 he brought out a noteworthy book, Āthār aṣṣanādīd (“Monuments of the Great”), on the antiquities of Delhi. Even more important was his pamphlet, “The Causes of the Indian Revolt.” During the Indian Mutiny of 1857 he had taken the side of the British, but in this booklet he ably and fearlessly laid bare the weaknesses and errors of the British administration that had led to dissatisfaction and a countrywide explosion. Widely read by British officials, it had considerable influence on British policy.

His interest in religion was also active and lifelong. He began a sympathetic interpretation of the Bible, wrote Essays on the Life of Mohammed (translated into English by his son), and found time to write several volumes of a modernist commentary on the Qurʾān. In these works he sought to harmonize the Islāmic faith with the scientific and politically progressive ideas of his time.

The supreme interest of Sayyid’s life was, however, education—in its widest sense. He began by establishing schools, at Muradabad (1858) and Ghāzīpur (1863). A more ambitious undertaking was the foundation of the Scientific Society, which published translations of many educational texts and issued a bilingual journal—in Urdu and English.

These institutions were for the use of all citizens and were jointly operated by the Hindus and the Muslims. In the late 1860s there occurred developments that were to alter the course of his activities. In 1867 he was transferred to Benares, a city on the Ganges with great religious significance for the Hindus. At about the same time a movement started at Benares to replace Urdu, the language cultivated by the Muslims, with Hindi. This movement and the attempts to substitute Hindi for Urdu in the publications of the Scientific Society convinced Sayyid that the paths of the Hindus and the Muslims must diverge. Thus, when during a visit to England (1869–70) he prepared plans for a great educational institution, they were for “a Muslim Cambridge.” On his return he set up a committee for the purpose and also started an influential journal, Tahdhīb al-Akhlāq (“Social Reform”), for the “uplift and reform of the Muslim.” A Muslim school was established at Alīgarh in May 1875, and, after his retirement in 1876, Sayyid devoted himself to enlarging it into a college. In January 1877 the foundation stone of the college was laid by the Viceroy. In spite of conservative opposition to Sayyid’s projects, the college made rapid progress. In 1886 Sayyid organized the All-India Muhammadan Educational Conference, which met annually at different places to promote education and to provide the Muslims with a common platform. Until the founding of the Muslim League in 1906, it was the principal national centre of Indian Islām.

Sayyid advised the Muslims against joining active politics and to concentrate instead on education. Later, when some Muslims joined the Indian National Congress, he came out strongly against that organization and its objectives, which included the establishment of parliamentary democracy in India. He argued that, in a country where communal divisions were all-important and education and political organization were confined to a few classes, parliamentary democracy would work only inequitably. Muslims, generally, followed his advice and abstained from politics until several years later when they had established their own political organization.

For more information, please click the following link:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/10149/Sir-Sayyid-Ahmad-Khan

Buddha


Founder of Buddhism (Sanskrit: “awakened one”) clan name (Sanskrit) Gautama or (Pali) Gotama, personal name (Sanskrit) Siddhartha or (Pali) Siddhatta

Flourished c. 6th–4th century bce, Lumbini, near Kapilavastu, Shakya republic, Kosala kingdom [now in Nepal] died , Kusinara, Malla republic, Magadha kingdom [now Kasia, India]

Spiritual leader and founder of Buddhism.

The term buddha (Sanskrit: “awakened one”) is a title rather than a name, and Buddhists believe that there are an infinite number of past and future buddhas. The historical Buddha, referred to as the Buddha Gautama or simply as the Buddha, was born a prince of the Shakyas, on the India-Nepal border. He is said to have lived a sheltered life of luxury that was interrupted when he left the palace and encountered an old man, a sick man, and a corpse. Renouncing his princely life, he spent six years seeking out teachers and trying various ascetic practices, including fasting, to gain enlightenment. Unsatisfied with the results, he meditated beneath the bodhi tree, where, after temptations by Mara, he realized the Four Noble Truths and achieved enlightenment. At Sarnath he preached his first sermon to his companions, outlining the Eightfold Path, which offered a middle way between self-indulgence and self-mortification and led to the liberation of nirvana. The five ascetics who heard this sermon became not only his first disciples but also arhats who would enter nirvana upon death. His mission fulfilled, the Buddha died after eating a meal that may accidentally have contained spoiled pork and escaped the cycle of rebirth; his body was cremated, and stupas were built over his relics.

For more information, please click the following link:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/83105/Buddha

Satyajit Ray


Indian film director

Born May 2, 1921, Calcutta, India died April 23, 1992, Calcutta

Bengali motion-picture director, writer, and illustrator who brought the Indian cinema to world recognition with Pather Panchali (1955; The Song of the Road) and its two sequels, known as the Apu Trilogy. As a director Ray was noted for his humanism, his versatility, and his detailed control over his films and their music. He was one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century.

Ray was an only child whose father died in 1923. His grandfather was a writer and illustrator, and his father, Sukumar Ray, was a writer and illustrator of Bengali nonsense verse. Ray grew up in Calcutta and was looked after by his mother. He entered a government school, where he was taught chiefly in Bengali, and then studied at Presidency College, Calcutta’s leading college, where he was taught in English. By the time he graduated in 1940, he was fluent in both languages. In 1940 his mother persuaded him to attend art school at Santiniketan, Rabindranath Tagore’s rural university northwest of Calcutta. There Ray, whose interests had been exclusively urban and Western-oriented, was exposed to Indian and other Eastern art and gained a deeper appreciation of both Eastern and Western culture, a harmonious combination that is evident in his films.

Returning to Calcutta, Ray in 1943 got a job in a British-owned advertising agency, became its art director within a few years, and also worked for a publishing house as a commercial illustrator, becoming a leading Indian typographer and book-jacket designer. Among the books he illustrated (1944) was the novel Pather Panchali by Bibhuti Bhushan Banarjee, the cinematic possibilities of which began to intrigue him. Ray had long been an avid filmgoer, and his deepening interest in the medium inspired his first attempts to write screenplays and his cofounding (1947) of the Calcutta Film Society. In 1949 Ray was encouraged in his cinematic ambitions by the French director Jean Renoir, who was then in Bengal to shoot The River. The success of Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief (1948), with its downbeat story and its economy of means—location shooting with nonprofessional actors—convinced Ray that he should attempt to film Pather Panchali.

But Ray was unable to raise money from skeptical Bengali producers, who distrusted a first-time director with such unconventional ideas. Shooting could not begin until late 1952, using Ray’s own money, with the rest eventually coming from a grudging West Bengal government. The film took two-and-a-half years to complete, with the crew, most of whom lacked any experience whatsoever in motion pictures, working on an unpaid basis. Pather Panchali was completed in 1955 and turned out to be both a commercial and a tremendous critical success, first in Bengal and then in the West following a major award at the 1956 Cannes International Film Festival. This assured Ray the financial backing he needed to make the other two films of the trilogy: Aparajito (1956; The Unvanquished) and Apur Sansar (1959; The World of Apu). Pather Panchali and its sequels tell the story of Apu, the poor son of a Brahman priest, as he grows from childhood to manhood in a setting that shifts from a small village to the city of Calcutta. Western influences impinge more and more on Apu, who, instead of being satisfied to be a rustic priest, conceives troubling ambitions to be a novelist. The conflict between tradition and modernity is the great theme spanning all three films, which in a sense portray the awakening of India in the first half of the 20th century.

Ray never returned to this saga form, his subsequent films becoming more and more concentrated in time, with an emphasis on psychology rather than conventional narrative. He also consciously avoided repeating himself. As a result, his films span an unusually wide gamut of mood, milieu, period, and genre, with comedies, tragedies, romances, musicals, and detective stories treating all classes of Bengali society from the mid-19th to the late 20th century. Most of Ray’s characters are, however, of average ability and talents—unlike the subjects of his documentary films, which include Rabindranath Tagore (1961) and The Inner Eye (1972). It was the inner struggle and corruption of the conscience-stricken person that fascinated Ray; his films primarily concern thought and feeling, rather than action and plot.

Some of Ray’s finest films were based on novels or other works by Rabindranath Tagore, who was the principal creative influence on the director. Among such works, Charulata (1964; The Lonely Wife), a tragic love triangle set within a wealthy, Western-influenced Bengali family in 1879, is perhaps Ray’s most accomplished film. Teen Kanya (1961; “Three Daughters,” English-language title Two Daughters) is a varied trilogy of short films about women, while Ghare Baire (1984; The Home and the World) is a sombre study of Bengal’s first revolutionary movement, set in 1907–08 during the period of British rule.

Ray’s major films about Hindu orthodoxy and feudal values (and their potential clash with modern Western-inspired reforms) include Jalsaghar (1958; The Music Room), an impassioned evocation of a man’s obsession with music; Devi (1960; The Goddess), in which the obsession is with a girl’s divine incarnation; Sadgati (1981; Deliverance), a powerful indictment of caste; and Kanchenjungha (1962), Ray’s first original screenplay and first colour film, a subtle exploration of arranged marriage among wealthy, westernized Bengalis. Shatranj ke Khilari (1977; The Chess Players), Ray’s first film made in the Hindi language, with a comparatively large budget, is an even subtler probing of the impact of the West on India. Set in Lucknow in 1856, just before the Indian Mutiny, it depicts the downfall of the ruler Wajid Ali at the hands of the British with exquisite irony and pathos.

Although humour is evident in almost all of Ray’s films, it is particularly marked in the comedy Parash Pathar (1957; The Philosopher’s Stone) and in the musical Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1969; The Adventures of Goopy and Bagha), based on a story by his grandfather. The songs composed by Ray for the latter are among his best-known contributions to Bengali culture.

The rest of Ray’s major work—with the exception of his moving story of the Bengal Famine of 1943–44, Ahsani Sanket (1973; Distant Thunder)—chiefly concerns Calcutta and modern Calcuttans. Aranyer Din Ratri (1970; Days and Nights in the Forest) observes the adventures of four young men trying to escape urban mores on a trip to the country, and failing. Mahanagar (1963; The Big City) and a trilogy of films made in the 1970s—Pratidwandi (1970; The Adversary), Seemabaddha (1971; Company Limited), and Jana Aranya (1975; The Middleman)—examine the struggle for employment of the middle class against a background (from 1970) of revolutionary, Maoist-inspired violence, government repression, and insidious corruption. After a gap in which Ray made Pikoo (1980) and then fell ill with heart disease, he returned to the subject of corruption in society. Ganashatru (1989; An Enemy of the People), an Indianized version of Henrik Ibsen’s play, Shakha Prashakha (1990; Branches of the Tree), and the sublime Agantuk (1991; The Stranger), with their strong male central characters, each represent a facet of Ray’s own personality, defiantly protesting against the intellectual and moral decay of his beloved Bengal.

The motion-picture director also established a parallel career in Bengal as a writer and illustrator, chiefly for young people. He revived the children’s magazine Sandesh (which his grandfather had started in 1913) and edited it until his death in 1992. Ray was the author of numerous short stories and novellas, and in fact writing, rather than filmmaking, became his main source of income. His stories have been translated and published in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere. Some of Ray’s writings on cinema are collected in Our Films, Their Films (1976).

For more information, please click the following link:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/492404/Satyajit-Ray

*****




The database is protected by copyright ©sckool.org 2016
send message

    Main page