Volga Se Ganga
|Original title||वोल्गा से गंगा|
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)|
Volga Se Ganga (वोल्गा से गंगा) is a collection of 20 short-stories by great scholar and writer Rahul Sankrityayan. Rahul Sankrityayan was a true vagabond who traveled to far lands like Russia, Korea, Japan, China and many others. He mastered the languages of these lands and was an authority on cultural studies.
Original publication and translations
It was first published in 1944 and is considered the greatest Hindi book of modern Indian literature. It has been translated into many languages including Bengali, English, Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Russian, Chinese, Punjabi and many more. This book is now considered a classic in history of Indian Literature. The first Bengali translation was published in 1954.
Volga Se Ganga is about the history of Indo–European people who were later known as the Aryans. The 20 stories are woven over a time span of 8000 years and a distance of about 10,000 km. This is a very good attempt at freeing our brains of the clutches of space and time. The first story Nisha is about cavemen living in caucasia [southern Russia] about 6000 BC. The society or its precursor at that time was matriarchal and so the story is named after the leader of the family 'Nisha'. Although all the 20 stories are independent and equally enjoyable in their own right, the sequence in which they are arranged nevertheless serves a very important purpose. It is an indispensable aid to anyone who has been baffled by discontinuities in the evolution of societies and their cultures. Here one can find a gradual transformation from a matriarchal society (the first two stories) to a patriarchal one (the rest), a gradual change from freedom to slavery, from acceptance of slavery to its loathing and the likes. If we are to believe Sankrityayan then an apprehension for technological advancement is nothing new. People were wary of the newly better armament which was fast replacing the older stone equipment (Fourth story – Puruhoot (Tajikistan 2500 BC.)). The same story tells us how an arms race was started during that period and how southerners amassed great wealth at the expense of the northerners. The sixth story Angira (Taxila 1800 BC) is about a man who wants to save the Aryan race from losing itself to other races by teaching about their culture (precursor to Vedic Rishis). The eighth story (Pravahan (700 BC. Panchal, U.P.). is about the upper class manipulating religion for their own vested interests and conspiring to keep people in dark for at least 2000 years). One can see how easily and frequently the Indians, the mid easterners and the Greeks mingled with each other in the times of Chanakya and Alexander by reading the tenth story Nagdatt about a philosopher classmate of Chanakya who travels to Greece and learns how Athens fell to Macedonia. The eleventh story (Prabha, 50 AD) is about the famous (also the first Indian) dramatist Ashwaghosh, who adopted the Greek art of drama into Indian culture in a very beautiful and authentic way, and his inspiration. Baba Noordeen (1300), the 15th story is about the rise of Sufism. The seventeenth story Rekha Bhagat (1800 is about the barbarous rule of the East India company and the anarchy it brought to India. The last story (Sumer, 1942) is about a man who goes on to fight the Japanese because he wants Soviet Russia to triumph, for this nation (i.e., the Communist Party) is the only hope left for humanity.
Rahul Sankrityayan was greatly influenced by Marxist ideas. This influence can be easily felt in the last three stories. Mangal Singh (the protagonist in 18th story) personally knows Marx and Engels and is amazed how Marx knows so much about India. He explains to Anne, his beloved, how Science is indispensable to India but unfortunately the Indians put faith above it. He goes on to fight the Britishers in the 1857 uprising with a strict code of conduct.
The author (original name Kedarnath Pandey) was so deeply influenced by Buddhism that he adopted it along with the name Rahul (The name of Gautam Buddha's son). This influence is also felt in his stories Bandhul Mall (490 BC, 9th story) and Prabha. Also the dynamical view of life which is at the centre of Buddhist philosophy can be seen. One more characteristic feature that deserves mention here is the simplicity of language. There are no pointless linguistic decorations here. The author instantly gets to the point just like Voltaire with Candide.