Samskara Questions and Answers
Table of Contents
Q.1. Samskara and the caste structure.
The novel Samskara also shows the futility of the centuries-old caste system operating in India undermining the very concept of national integration. The caste system has eaten the vitals of Indian society and stands as a stumbling block to its progress. Samskara aims at the systematization of human values for national progress by its clinical approach to the closed society of Durvasapura agrahara. The affairs of the agrahara with the inmates following age-old rituals and its caste prejudices convert it into a ghostcolony. Life becomes nightmarish for everyone in the agrahara leading to both physical and metaphorical stinking of a rotting body. Though the aseptic administered by Anantha Murthy in the novel is stringent, its purpose is to stem the rot and pave the way for an India without the barriers of cancerous caste system for making the country a nation in reality.
Q.2. The nation-world view in Samskara.
The novel Samskara also shows the futility of the centuries-old caste system operating in India undermining the very concept of national integration. The caste system has eaten the vitals of Indian society and stands as a stumbling block to its progress. Samskara aims at the systemization of human values for national progress by its clinical approach to the closed society of Durvasapura agrahara. The affairs of the agrahara with the inmates following age-old rituals and its caste prejudices convert it into a ghost colony. Life becomes nightmarish for everyone in the agrahara leading to both physical and metaphorical stinking of a rotting body. Though the aseptic administered by Anantha Murthy in the novel is stringent, its purpose is to stem the rot and pave the way for an India without the barriers of cancerous caste system and make the country a nation in reality. Anantha Murthy’s Samskara thus projects a universal outlook for the well being of humanity as a whole where the narrow walls of caste and creed will not obstruct the progress of humanity towards a global community.
Q.3. The message of Samskara.
One learns from Sanskara that the kind of awareness which the Acharya gains through the journey requires a realistic and an empirical view of life, By evading the issues and problems one can never get out of the dilemma A conscious withdrawal from action and an inert life like the Lotos Eaters in a closed society cannot provide answers to the problems in real life. Like the inhabitants of Durvasapura village, the mere act of existing and leading a routinized fossilized life is not sufficient for the progress of the individuation process’ or a journey to one’s inner sell. It is possible only through the experience of the real and a process of self-healing and contemplation that one can evolve the mental and spiritual plane. Thus Durvasapura village is an allegorical miniature of India which requires self-examination and self-rejuvenation through lofty ideals that will take the nation through in its quest for all round progress. To do this, the nation must get rid of the albatross that hangs around its neck. It is sad to think that the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi had to shed his blood fighting for the fusion of the caste-divide in India.
Q.4. Imagery in Samskara.
Murthy describes the visitation of the birds of prey to pick up the dead and dying rats in Durvasapura agrahara in a graphic manner driving a sense of horror and fear in the minds of the readers thus: As they looked on the vulture on their roof curved his neck around like a danseuse, looked around and whirred right down to their feet to peck at and pick up another rat which had run out from the store-room to the backyard, and flew back to his perch on the roof. Both husband and wife, their life-breaths shaken up together as never before, sank down to a sitting position. Another vulture, flying far in the sky, came down to sit on Naranappa’s house. He lifted his head, flapped his demon wings loudly, came to a standstill and inspected whole agrahara with his eagle eyes. After that, more flying vultures came down to sit, two by two, two on each house as if they had agreed upon it earlier … The birds of prey had left their burial grounds to descend on the agrahara, as if at the Last Deluge, and everyone in the agrahara came out and gathered in the street, with hands on their mouths. (p. 60)
Murthy describes the dilemma of the Acharya on his return to the agrahara after his sexual affair with Chandri through a rich imagery: ‘Like a baby monkey losing hold of his grip on the mother’s body as she leaps from branch to branch, he felt he had lost hold and fallen from the rites and actions he had clutched till now.’ (p. 75)
The relevance of the title Samskara or the significance of the title Samskara.
The tile of the novel Samskara is highly suggestive and symbolic. Though the word Samskara does not occur obtrusively or too frequently in the narrative, its meanings implicitly inform the action. Moreover, the action depends on the several meanings being at loggerheads with each other. Samskara is a Sanskrit word with many meanings: ‘A rite of passage or life cycle ceremony’: ‘forming well, making perfect’, ‘the realizing of past, perceptions’, preparation, making ready, are some of the meanings of the multi-vocal Sanskrit word. The sub-title for this novel, ‘A Rite for a Dead Man’, is the most concrete of these many concentric senses that spread through the work. The opening event of the novel is a death. It is the death of an anti-Brahminical Brahmin’s death. This death brings in its wake a plane many deaths, teasing questions without answers, old answers that do not suit the new questions, and the rebirth of a good Brahmin, Praneshacharya In trying to solve the dilemma of who, if any, should perform the herctic’s death-rite (a samskara), the Acharya begins a samskara (a transformation) for himself. A rite for the dead man becomes a rite of passage for the living Acharya.
Q.6. “Samskara is an attack on decaying Brahminism.” Comment
Anantha Murthy attacks the instable roots of Brahmanism with the help of the character of Naranappa. Naranappa describes the lives of all great Brahmins who had violated their orthodoxy by falling for the charms of women of lower caste. He sights the example of the great sage Parashara who fell for the irresistible charms of Matsyagandhi, a fisherwoman and took her in his boat and blessed her body with a sweet fragrance. They made love in the boat itself under the cover of the clouds and thus was born the great sage Vysa who wrote the immortal Mahabharata. Another such example of love transcending spirituality is that of the great sage Vishvamitra who lost all the spiritual powers that he had gained by falling for the ensnaring charms of Menaka. One more such example is that of sage Adi Shankara who entered into the dead body of a king to experience sex with his queen. All the agrahara Brahmins who find fault with Naranappa for denigrating Brahminhood, do not contribute to its dignity by their conduct. They are guilty of jealousy, lust, anger, gluttony and adultery. Even the great Praneshacharya is guilty of committing adultery and sustaining adulterous thoughts after tasting real sexual pleasure with Chandri, the concubine of the much denigrated Naranappa. He commits the sins of his friend Mahabala and his opposites number Naranappa. Shripati commits adultery with Belli and consumes liquor secretly with his friends after the drama rehearsal at Parijatapura
Q.7. The sense of doom in Samskara
The atmosphere in Samskara.
The horrible conditions of the agrahara folk in the aftermath of Naranappa’s dead body lying rotting: The agrahara Brahmins lead a nightmarish life as the dead body of Naranappa lying rotting without being disposed. As they cannot eat on account of the pollution caused by the death in the agrahara, they spend a sleepless night on account of their gnawing hunger. The foul stench arising from the rotting corpse assails their nostrils and turns their stomachs. Added to this Lakshmidevamma’s words that the ghost of Naranappa is roaming about the agrahara make their hearts come to their mouth. This fetid atmosphere of horror and foul stench is further intensified by the scampering of the rats and their falling dead both in the Brahmin colony and in the outcaste hutments. The children of the agrahara watching the scampering rats from the storeroom to the backyard and counting them in the manner of their parents counting measures of paddy is an example of Anantha Murthy’s subtle irony and black humour. The innocent children do not know that the rats are the minions of death and disaster, which have already set their foot in the agrahara by taking Naranappa as their first victim ! Death is chasing them like furies in the form of plague gobbling up its victims in quick succession.
Q.8. Romance and realism in Samskara.
The narrative of Samskara is a curious fusion of the physical and metaphysical, realism and romance. The major characters in the novel have been imparted a romantic initiation by Anantha Murthy. Romance finds its due place in the inner sanctums of the Acharya, but the pendulum swings more towards realism than romance. At many places, the romantic aspects of the novel are merged with realism. In a way both romance and realism depend and rest upon each other to provide a wider range of themes. The fusion of romance and realism does not become a hindrance in the progression of narrative. The extensive use of symbols and myths show the romantic pattern of the novel because romance is more committed to myth and symbols than history. Romance also provides ample freedom to the author to express the emotional surge of the heart. The primary obligation in romance is to the self whereas realism is closer to everyday life. Thus, the blend of romance and realism in the narrative of Samskara imparts a new strength to the structure of the novel.
Q.9. Nature as background in Samskara.
In the narrative of Samskara, Nature serves as an essential backdrop. It is properly fused with the theme of the novel. The major characters become enlivened in the natural background at critical moments in the narrative. Like Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester Prynn of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter; Praneshacharya and Chandri also meet in the forest and it becomes a consecrated place for them. The forest also becomes the ‘temenos’* for the Acharya. The Acharya’s sexual union with Chandri kindles his nostalgia for his childhood days and he swims in the forest river, enjoys the beautiful sights and sounds of nature. He smells the fragrant grass under his feet and enjoys the beuty of the star-studded sky. He fondles a young calf very warmly and it enjoys the touch of the Acharya. The Acharya during his wanderings journeys through the forest steering himself through his reveries. The village of Durvasapura itself is a beautiful place on the banks of the perennial river Thunea. The agrahara houses grow colourful flowers in their garden for the worship of their god. Only Naranappa grows flowers for the head of his ravishing Chandri and for decorating the flower vase in his bedroom.
Q.10. Write a short note on Mahabala.
Mahabala is the classmate of Praneshacharya at Kashi where he had his Vedic education. He was very studious and he and the Acharya used to spend enlightening times arguing with each other on Dwita and Advaita philosophy He revealed his scholarly bent of mind during their mutual discussion. This apart, he was gifted with musical abilities. Music was his breath. He used to sing Jayadeva’s Geetagovindam with great fervour. It looked as though he was poised for something great in his life as a scholar. But suddenly, he disappeared from his classes. After a long search for him, the Acharya found him one day in a seedy locality of Kashi. He was not willing to entertain any conversation with the Acharya and wished to avoid him because he did not want the Acharya to know the depths of disrepute into which he had fallen now. However, the Acharya was shocked to find him spending his company with a lowborn prostitute. The Acharya decided that he should never go the way that Mahabala had gone. But as irony would have it, the ascetic Acharya had yielded to his libido by enjoying sexual pleasure with Chandri, the concubine of Naranappa, his arrogant anti-self