West indian culture

Chitta Ranjan Das’ Essays on Literature, Culture and Society

Literature as tapasya: the Weltanschauung of Chitta Ranjan

Chitta Ranjan believed in tapasya as a mode of being in a world, where we work patiently to bring existing reality to a new evolutionary height as well as to ascend to a higher level of consciousness and a more dignified relationship. quality with the existing self, culture and society. One of his inspiring interlocutors in Odia literature is the poet Gangadhara Meher, a weaver like Kabir, and the author of a touching poem on Sita from the Ramayana called Tapaswinee. In one of her critical works, Chitta Ranjan calls Gangadhara a tapaswee (1983). We can look at the efforts of Chitta Ranjan from the same point of view.

Literature as tapasya makes many new beginnings possible. First of all, it allows us to flourish, to grow, to become capable of more sharing, of giving and of love. The tapasya of literature is a tapasya of self-transformation. In literature, we are generally familiar with experimenting with styles and techniques, but the most important thing for Chitta Ranjan is to experiment with her own life, to carry out multiple “experiments with truth”, like Gandhi, another creative interlocutor of our time with whom Chitta Ranjan conducted a lifelong dialogue, pushes us to achieve. But self-transformation and world-transformation go hand in hand. Literature must contribute to the transformation of the world – through its ugliness and its many indignities, literature must help the world to be a more dignified place. The institutional moorings of the world – its politics, its economy and its education – must be changed so that the dignity of the human person is at the center of our scheme of things. Literature must contribute to the construction of such a world and of the transformed consciousness which makes it possible.

As a tapasya of social transformation, literature should participate in people’s social, cultural and moral struggles. It must express people’s creativity and aspirations, including people’s deconstruction of existing dehumanizing systems. For this, poets and writers must write in the language of the people without unnecessary ornament. The dominance of ornamental language as it occurred in the Ritikavya era of medieval literature, and as it occurs in some areas of modern poetry, is a sign of decadence for Chitta Ranjan. One of the animation chapters of the magnum opus by Chitta Ranjan Odia Sahityara Sanskrutika Bikashadhara [The Cultural Development of Odia Literature] is called “The conflict between Reeti and Preeti”. Chitta Ranjan stands for the affirmative love of life in literature, a love that expresses itself in the clarity of its language. Writing in a socially powerful language as an aspect of social conformity, whether Sanskrit in the medieval world or English in contemporary India, is an expression of our alienation from the dynamic bonds with people who surrounding us.


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