Nameless in history: when the imperial English become the subjects of Hindu narrative

Journal Article (Journal Article)

This article analyses an intriguing unfinished long narrative poem published in 1894 about the ‘origin and rise’ of the English empire in India. Written in Sanskrit by eminent literary scholar, P. V. Ramaswami Raju, Sreemat Rajangala Mahodyanam (The Great Park of the English Raj) also contains an English translation that he himself provides alongside. The story dramatically describes the birth of the English race through the fall to earth of a celestial musician in heaven who is cursed to be nameless. This article argues that Ramaswami Raju devised creative strategies and adapted Indian forms of narration such as the purāṇa to tell this story boldly, without fear of censure. With the imperial ruler being its subject, the narrative curates two ways of speaking within and across the Sanskrit and English texts–unfolding a double register of praise and critique–that creates an ethos of irony that suffuses the poem. Raju’s creative strategy of a double register becomes ‘visible’ to a bilingual reader who is also literate in a religious idiom. The inclusion of a colonial power into a Hindu mythology and cosmos creates a moral caesura in the narrative of British imperial glory and makes the very idea of ‘English’ history impossible. Colonial-era genre debates with their focus on categories such as folk and classical largely overlooked the highly improvisational ways in which Indian scholars such as Ramaswami Raju represented controversial subjects through their creative work. In the light of the creative freedom they display, authors like Ramaswami Raju express a cultural sovereignty that transcends their political subalternity.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Prasad, L

Published Date

  • October 2, 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 8 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 448 - 460

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1947-2501

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1947-2498

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1080/19472498.2017.1371504

Citation Source

  • Scopus