The 2nd Sujit Mukherjee Memorial Lecture was organised by Centre for Comparative Literature (CCL), School of Humanities on 16th April. The lecture was delivered by eminent academician, writer and cultural administrator Prof. Indra Nath Choudhuri.
Prof. Indra Nath Choudhuri was the Secretary of Sahitya Academy and Director at the Nehru Centre, London. He has written extensively on comparative literature, poetics and aesthetics. He has taught in many universities in India and abroad. Prof. Choudhuri is currently the President of Comparative Literature Association of India (CLAI).
Prof. E. Haribabu, Vice-Chancellor of the University, inaugurated the function. Speaking on the occasion Prof. Haribabu said that comparative literature has enormous scope in our country. “We have hundreds of languages and this opens a great scope for inter disciplinary research in this field”, he said.
Prof. Sachidananda Mohanty, Former head, Department of English, introduced Sujit Mukherjee to the audience. Sujit Mukherjee was a writer, translator, literary critic, publisher, teacher and cricketer. Born in 1930 in a village near Kolkata, Sujit completed his higher education in Patna College and University of Pennsylvania. He taught at National Defense academy and at Pune University before joining Orient Longman. He has written on a range of literary topics and translated many literary works from Bangla to English.
In his opening note, Prof. Indra Nath Choudhuri said that the vibrancy of Indianness can be seen in the Indian literature only when one understands it in its pluralistic context. He said that Sujit Mukherjee was very careful in not using western jargons while explaining Indian literary reality. Indian literature demonstrates unity through the acknowledgement of difference and that’s what India has to offer to this world, Prof. Choudhuri added.
He said that there are two fundamental questions to be answered while talking about Indian literature. The challenges while trying to answer these questions – (1) Is Indian literature singular or pluralistic? (2) Is it both singular as well as plural and which are mutually inclusive? – are many. Even the Dravidian literature is not taken as a whole. So taking the whole Indian literature as single unit is challenging.
Sujit Mukherjee considered the regional variations not just as variations of style but also of content and also of unity of content.
Indian literature has a strong influence of oral traditions .Folk and tribal literature has a very strong presence in the Indian literary scene. “The glory of mainstream literature rest not by marginalizing the folk literature but by accepting it as complementary” said Prof. Choudhuri. India doesn’t believe that non-literary cultures are knowledge blank. Tribal cultures are full of literature that is not written but carried as oral traditions.
Idea of Indian literature is not based on language- literature equation. Because of India’s multi language situation and writers writing in many languages, identification of Indian literature only by its affiliation to a particular language is not possible.
He said that Bhakthi movements can be taken as the best example for pan- indianness of Indian literature. He also said that the Sufi music in the form of Qawwalis can be also used to understand the basic nature of Indian cultural homogeneity.
According to Prof. Choudhuri Indian literature is the history of the total literary activities of the Indian people and Modernism in Indian literature is not unrelated to any reference to the past or the future. It absorbs traditional values throughout its march towards future.
In west modernism is considered as breaking away from the tradition. But in India new alternatives are created without breaking the continuity. “In our heterogeneity and in our openness lies our pride, not our disgrace.” He said about Indian literature.
Prof. Choudhuri concluded his lecture by saying that “Our sky is big enough to accommodate diversity and our earth is small enough to allow unity.”
Prof. Panchanan Mohanty, Dean, School of Humanities chaired the function. Prof.Tutun Mukherjee, Head of the Centre for Comparative Literature, welcomed the guests and Dr.Sowmya Dechamma delivered the vote of thanks.
-By Joyel K Pious, MA-Communication