Role of Hinduism in A Passage To India

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      E.M. Forster had an inclination towards Hinduism. An interviewer asked him what was the exact function of the long description of the Hindu festival in A Passage to India. His reply was, I needed a lump, or a Hindu temple, if you like a mountain standing up. It is well placed and it gathers up some strings. There ought to be more after it The lump sticks out a little too much."

      The section III, according to E.M. Forster, is architecturally necessary. The creation of Godbole is an attempt to describe the role of Hinduism. To some critics, the third section of the novel appears to be unnecessary. When the climax of the novel had passed and the story practically over, addition of another chapter was uncalled for. But as already discussed the purpose of the novel had not been achieved. That is why, the third section had been included. The section on Temple, completes the meaning of the symbolic Marabar Caves and the Mosque. The Mosque is associated with the arch, the Marabar Caves with the echo and the Temple with the sky. All these put together make a complete whole.

      Trilling also remarked that it is not easy to know what to make of the dominant Hinduism of the third section of the novel. However, it gathers up some loose strings. The third section completes the religious symbol, which begins with the Mosque in the first section and of the Marabar Caves in the second. The evil as symbolized by the echo of the Marabar Caves, would have dominated otherwise. This would have given a wrong impression i.e., that evil triumphs over everything in life. Forster does not deny the existence of evil but he has tried to show in the third section how evil can be faced. Forster finds the answer in Hinduism which includes everything. Dominance of Hinduism in the last section indicates that Christianity and Islam have been rejected.

      Three religions have been introduced in the novel. Islam is based on personality. Christianity is cold and calculative and gives importance to Order and decorum. Hinduism makes an appeal to the sub-conscious and hacks in order and decorum. Christianity had been unable to face the challenge of the Marabar Caves because it excluded a good deal from life. Islam based on personality cults also failed to offer any solution. Hinduism had some hope though it also failed to find correct solutions to the problems man was confronted with. It also had the tendency to lapse into chaotic muddle in its comic attempt to include everything. It is true that Hinduism had achieved what Christianity had avoided but it offered no final solution to the problems of life. The Hindus may have achieved something that the Muslims and Christians had missed but it cannot be admitted that they had found out enough to help man in all walks of life.

      McConkey quotes in support of his contention, that Hinduism had found solutions to permanent questions. To him? Godbole is "the human counterpart of the Forsterian voice". The views of this critic are "Infinite love took the form of Shri Krishna, and saved the world. All sorrow was annihilated not only for the Indians, but also for the foreigners, and all became joy and laughter; there had never been disease nor doubts, misunderstanding, cruelty and fear."

Irony in the Third Section

      Those critics who declared that Forster had found Hinduism a panacea for all ills would have to reconsider their stand if they dived deep to find out the irony characterizing the third section dealing with Hinduism. The ceremony at the temple of man contains comic elements and sometimes farcical touches. The irony sometimes borders on crudeness. The music played in the hall is described as "braying", the photographs hanging on the walls are framed "crookedly", the conversation that goes on behind the purdah is termed as "squabble" and the drummer's rhythm "a thick little blur of sound". The expressions of the singers are called, "fatuous". The rhythmic notes of the 'conch' appear to be rending. The birth of Lord Krishna has made the occasion for highly ironical remarks. "In a land where all else is unpunctual the hour of the birth was observed chronometrically. The story of the birth is nebulous." The whole ceremony comes to be described as the "great blur" of the last twenty-four hours.

Forster: A Westerner

      What we can infer from reading the third section is that Hindu attempt at harmony is not rewarding at the end. The momentary reconciliation achieved by Hinduism is really momentary. Undoubtedly, the Hindu state of Mau gives protection and refuge to the troubled and distressed souls. Aziz who was harassed by the British officials found a shelter in the state of Mau; Godbole found solace here and Fielding and Aziz too came together and cleared the misunderstands bedeviling their relations. Aziz became friendly towards Ralph Moore at Mau. Stella and Ralph too reconciled themselves to the supremacy of the Hindu religion at Mau. In spite of universal love the dissensions still existed between the English and the Indians, the Mohammedans and the Hindus and even between the Hindus and the Hindus.

Criticism of Christianity

      Forster, himself being a Christian, was ruthlessly direct in his criticism of Christianity. His intimacy with Christianity from his very childhood impelled him to criticize it mercilessly. This criticism of Islam and Hinduism is not so stringent. He liked certain aspects of these religions but as a Westerner, he could not accept them blindly.

      "I do not like Islam", says Forster, "though I have had to come through Hinduism to discover it. "He could not like Islam in spite of the fact that he had Muslim friends and had enough opportunity to live with them. Speaking on Gokul Ashtami "after all the noises, profusion and confusion of Gokul Ashtami where nothing ever stopped, or need have begun, it was like standing on a mountain."

The Rites of Hinduism did not Attract Forster

      The formal rites of Hinduism, as described above had no appeal for Forster. He liked Hinduism but not its form. He had attended the Gokul Ashtami festival at Dewas. He described it in his book The Hill of Devi. Later on, he described it in A Passage to India. It made no deep impression on him. "There is no dignity, no taste, no form, and though I am dressed as a Hindu, I shall never become one", he wrote. His response to the festival simply amounted to "it touches something very deep in their hearts.".

Does Godbole Represent Hinduism?

      Prof. Godbole was a Hindu but he does not represent real Hinduism. He was just a caricature and presented the comic element in Hinduism. His very shape and attire were the prototype of the West and the East. His indifference at the time of Aziz's trial, points to escapism. He was simple and religious, but religion does not mean a collection of dry rites and customs. A self-sacrificing soul like him, sacrificed for what? He never sacrificed anything for others. His prolonged 'puja' at Chandrapore was responsible for missing the train. His excessive attachment with the festival at Mau in the form of dancing and sinking indicates that he too neglected his duties as an official of the state. He was Minister of Education at Mau and he did not open the English medium school upon which the British Government insisted.

      The second thing about him is that he is an incomplete character. In comparison with Aziz, he looks like a flat character. A flat character cannot fully represent a religious community. As a matter of fact, no one can represent a religion that is for the most part an abstraction.

      Notwithstanding, Forster accepted the Hindu view of love, that love is one of the important ingredients of life. O. Allen says "The Hindu way of love is a god though not in its extreme, not to the exclusion of all other kinds of gods."


      To conclude, we may say that Islam and Christianity do not offer any solution to the problems of life but the Hindu message of universal love and all inclusiveness is the way, which can help humanity in building up a resistance against discord and evil.


Is Prof. Godbole a true representative of Hinduism?
Does Prof. Godbole's reaction towards Dr. Aziz's arrest reflect the attitude of the Hindus toward the Muslims and the ruling English class?
Describe briefly the birth celebration of Shri Krishna in the palace temple at Mau, stating also the part played by Godbole in it.
"It is not easy to know what to make of the dominant Hinduism of the third section of the novel A Passage to India." Discuss.
"It was architecturally necessary. I needed a lump, or a Hindu Temple or if you like —a mountain standing up. It is well placed, and it gathers some string. But there ought to be more after it. The lump sticks out a little too much" Comment on this remark of Forster with reference to the third and the closing section of the novel.
What is the exact function of the long description of the Hindu festival in A Passage to India?

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