Published in : THE SUNDAY AMRITA BAZAR PATRIKA OCTOBER 22,1972
VAISHNAVA RASA PRAKASH: 1st. Part :By Professor Khudiram Das . A.K. Sarkar& Co,1-A, Bankim Chatterjee Street, Calcutta-12 .
“Dr. Khudiram Das, a veteran professor of Bengali language and literature, combines in his make-up a happy amalgam of deep erudition and fine aesthetic sensibilities. We have seen this fusion in his studies of Rabindranath; now this is once more in evidence in his work on Vaishnava literature of which the first part has just been out. Although the book mainly deals with an exposition of the lyrical aesthetic qualities of Bengali Vaishnava poetry, the author supplies its philosophical back ground as well and that in adequate measure. As a matter of fact, the entire corpus of Gandiya Vaishnava philosophy is taken due notice of to serve as a fitting backdrop to the principal subject-matter of discussion of the book. For example, the learned author makes a comprehensive study of the salient features of the different representative Vakti-philosophies of the South as propounded by Ramanuja, Nimbarka, Maldhava and Vallavacharyya and shows their affinities and differences with Achintya-Bhedabheda-Tattva, a particular form of dualism developed by the Bengal School of Vaishnava thinkers. This dualistic philosophy be it noted, although it had its origin in Navadwip and around the personality of Chaitanya, whom the people of the then Bengal and Orissa regarded as an incarnation of God, was improved upon and perfected in Vrindaban by the six Goswamis, and this after the passing away of the Master. The more notable among the six Goswamis were the two brothers Sanatan and Roop and their nephew Jeev, and this celebrity trio, each one of them a highly crudity Sanskrit Scholar, were the men responsible for the building up of the imposing structure known as Gandiya Vaishnavism comprising both its theology and poetics. The famous ‘Achintya-Bhedabheda-tattva’ was their creation. The Nawadwip and Neelachal (Orissan) Vaishnavites poured their hearts best love longing on Chaitanya, while the Vrindaban Goswamis placed Krishna in the central plank of their philosophical edifice in the light of the teachings of the Bhagvat. The dichotomy between the approach of the Bengal and Orissan Vaishnavites and that of their Vrindaban counterparts has baffled some scholars. But Dr. Das gives a convincing answer to this apparent riddle. His argument is that according to the associates and disciples of Chaitanya, the later was no other than the embodiment of Krishna and Radha joined together, so there was no fundamental difference between the two approaches. Besides the Goswamis of Vrindaban did not formulate their philosophy of their own, they had their inspiration from the direct example of the Master, and as for the working out of the details of that philosophy, Rai Ramananda, Swaroop Damodar and Raghunath Das (Goswami) acted as the intermediaries between Neelachal and Vrindaban and thus bridged the gulf between the two seemingly contrary standpoints. From the middle of the sixteenth century onwards for an uninterruptedly period of nearly two hundred years, Bengal witnessed a revolutionary upsurge of emotion in its life and society which it had not witnessed before. This was the direct outcome of the impact of Chaitanya and his Vaishnava faith. There was a levelling down of classes and untouchability and some other social taboos were made short shrift of. The efflorescence of the Vaishnava movement found its best expression in literature where appeared a galaxy of padakaries with their fine lyrics and songs and number of biographers of the life of Chaitanya both in verse and drama. The author takes stock of all these writings with his special attention on the ‘rasa’ aspect of the lyrics. Critical acumen and aesthetic sensibilities are blended together in the elaboration of what he seeks to make out by way of evaluation of Bengali Vaishnava poetry. Except for marks of traditionality here and there, the author’s outlook is on the whole progressive. What is particularly striking is his abiding sympathy for all manner of people belonging to the oppressed and the depressed layers of society, a trait which lends an added charm to the discussion. In a sub-section of the book, Dr. Das devotes a few pages to a comparative study of Vaishnava and Rabindra poetry and opines that Rabindranath was essentially a nature-poet and that there was not much of mysticism in him as understood in the Vaishnavik sense.