From the book 'Caste, Colonialism and Counter-Modernity' by Debjani Ganguly.

Chapter 3: The Anamalous Insider, p. 69-70.


Here I cite two instances to illustrate Ghurye's version of what constitutes 'true' India. In the first case, we see him agonizing over the attempt made by Annadurai, (the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu) to translate the national motto ‘Satyameva Jayate’ into Tamil. Such translation, Ghurye claims, is nothing short of sacrilege to Indian nationhood. How dare a lower-caste Tamilian upstart trifle with the sacrosanct Sanskrit of the Upanishads, and in the process deprive the 'true' Indian of a glimpse of his glorious nationalist past?

The national motto, 'Satyameva Jayate', a sentence taken from an old Upanishad, is in Sanskrit language and is written in the Devanagari script. The associations of the motto thus transport, or are expected to transport Indians to their glorious past of two thousand five hundred years ago. Annadurai's action has destroyed the national motto as a national symbol which it has been such [sic] for the last seventeen years.

Note how Annadurai and his Tamil ilk are excluded from this special journey to India's ‘glorious' past. The non-Brahman, non-Aryan claim to nationhood cannot but be counterfeit, and in some senses a betrayal of the 'genuine' claimants. A similar rhetoric informs Ghurye's critique of the DMK government's success in transforming parts of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 by granting legitimacy to 'Self-Respect' or ‘Reform' marriages. As is well known in dalit studies, the Self-Respect Movement initiated by Periyar in Tamil Nadu has been among the most politically charged dalit liberation movements of modern India. Ghurye interprets the DMK government's action as inimical not only to Hindu morality but also to Indian nationhood:

Such conditions as of [sic] avoidance of certain relationship between the spouses considered to be part and parcel of the moral code of a people would evidently be difficult of being observed [sic]. Restriction of bigamy, an advance in morals and marital happiness, is of course non-existent. The sentiment of Hindu India as a whole is flouted and the right of any successful political party to change the Indian law of marriage for its own State of domination is asserted.

Ghurye's writing, in its critique of lower-caste militancy and its assumption of the Hindu Brahmanic essence of the Indian nation, can be situated in the cusp of two dominant narratives of Indian nationalism that are hegemonic to this day. They are:

  • the secular, liberal democratic 'modern' discourse that attempts to focus on India's Unity and Oneness by seeing its cultural diversity in the image of many small streams that would eventually converge to form an awesome yet harmonious national torrent:
  • the discourse of Hindutva that categorically traces the genealogy of the new nation to its hoary Hindu past and that, in its more benign form, expects non-Hindus to 'fit in' and not claim any special benevolence from the State.
--End quote--

Disclaimer: some spelling mistakes may exist.


Hawkeye said...

well! from your quote ganguly is reasonably successful in showing us that ghurye is an idiot.

but was that the purpose of your post?

btw annadurai wasnt the first to translate sanskrit to thamizh. what periyar and annadurai did was rehash old attempts, but in a more effective fashion.

Suresh said...


This is one of the few books that I've been re-reading for a better understanding of bourgeois nationalism of India, before and after independence.

Ghurye was one of the most influential social scientists in India. A lot of the contemporary social scientists, especially in the right, follow his footsteps in situating issues of caste. So it's important to realize that Ghurye is not some idiot that we can write off so easily. His rhetoric is something that is reproduced time again by upper caste apologists in academia (often masked as those who want to be rid of the caste system, calling for the abolishment of all affirmative action), media and others.

I should have probably quoted the entire portion of the chapter that deals with a part of Ghurye's writings with regard to the 'reservation system' and his notion of 'merit'. It would have then been a little more interesting to see how many would resist from siding with him.

The point? Nothing really. I just wanted to quote a part of book that I thought is extremely well written vis-a-vis the subject matter it deals with. Hoping that it would generate some curiosity among some to read it and also be a precursor to a post I intend to do in future; and if possible, generate some discussion points prior to that.

Now, I would urge you to read further (hopefully you can get the book from your library or if you don't mind reading off the computer screen) and finish this chapter if you have time. I would like you to read the portion where he deals with Gandhian nationalism and his rather patronizing approach to untouchability and casteist oppression. It's hard not to call him an "idiot" too.

This quote isn't particularly special, I quoted it just because it had mentioned Anna and the DMK; thought it will draw some attention.

Anonymous said...

Hey Suresh....any idea what happened to Mondugi's blog?

CresceNet said...

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Hawkeye said...

/* Ghurye's writings with regard to the 'reservation system' and his notion of 'merit'. It would have then been a little more interesting to see how many would resist from siding with him.*/

:-) very good point.

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