Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 6 (Jan-Mar 1984) p. 5.


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Communal Elements in Late Nineteenth-Century Hindi Literature

Sudhir Chandra

HIS paper is an auto-critique. It has, therefore, to begin on a personal note. In the course of my examination of the changing pattern of social consciousness among the Hindus during the later nineteenth century, I have been struck by the quality and wealth of evidence yielded by literature for the historical reconstruction of social reality. Literature not only helps the historian refine many of his received assumptions; it even obliges him, at times, to essay a new look at reality. This is all the more so when the reality he seeks to understand is so nebulous and complex as social consciousness, besides being largely unresponsive to the historian's conventional tool and source material.

Literary evidence obliged me to substantially modify my initial hypothesis that conservatism held the key to the understanding of modern Hindu - and by extension possibly Indian - society1. Ambivalence suggested itself as the essence of social consciousness at a time when the society was sluggishly moving away from its traditional moorings. Taking up three basic indicators for closer analysis,2 I found, for a reason that had perhaps not been discerned before, that the concept of modernization as suggesting the coexistence of change and continuity in the shaping of modern India needed revision. There was nothing remarkable in the need for revision itself. Its significance lay in the reason thereof inasmuch as it also indicated the lines for the altered look.

In spite of its ethnocentric value assmptions, the strength of the concept of modernization lies in accommodating the persistence of both continuity and change or tradition and modernity, though it would tend to reverse the order in

Journal of Arts and Ideas 5


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