Summary: is the Fall of Praneshacharya in the Novel Samskara "The Fortunate Fall"

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The study explains the position of Praneshacharya in the novel. Samskara is not only the depiction of orthodox Brahmanism in the community but it has more principles to present through the lens of Felix Culpa Tradition (fortunate fall). Praneshacharya represents the character of Brahmin society where he undergoes series of self –realization leading to positive outcome. His way of portrayal in the novel gives us the value of pragmatic realism. The fall in the novel experiences the fortunate fall through the character Praneshacharya. He becomes the realistic person at the end of the novel after realizing the fact about the human life. Moreover, it also argues about the life realities that we need to overcome as a human being. Therefore, this study is not on the focus of orthodox Brahmanism as such but it is focused more largely on the figure of Praneshacharya whose moral and spiritual growth amplifies at the end which can be describe as “fortunate fall” in the novel.

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The “fall” can be understood in two broad aspects such as positive and negative fall. The term “Felix Culpa” in catholic tradition is described as “happy fault.” It was first coined by Saint Augustine. In literary context, it is a series of unfortunate events eventually leading to a happier outcome and phrase itself is paradoxical in nature. According to Sharma (2009, P. 132) he added that “this no doubt is a kind of ‘felix culpa’, which makes possible further personal growth.” The fall in this novel brings the major change in the character and to the society as a whole. At the apparent level the novel is modestly interpreted as portrayal of decadence of Brahmanism in modern India. In the novel Praneshacharya is considered as a great ascetic and “Crest jewel of Vedic learning” (Murthy, p.23) but the death of Narranapa created chaos in the society where Praneshacharya could not find the solution to perform the death rites. So, he goes to Maruti temple to search the answer which he fails. He encounters with Chandri in the forest who was the wife of Narranapa which is considered as major negative fall in Praneshacharya as he is a highly learned person in the Brahmin Society. The readers and the Brahmin society may view as a negative fall as he encounters with lots of problems in the novel. One may argue that the novel satirizes the orthodox of Brahmanism in Agrahara but it’s not a major theme discussed in the novel. The complete human cycle is understood through various life experiences and then only becomes complete human being. Anantha Murthy has not focused on orthodox Brahmanism but written based on the figure of Praneshacharya where moral and spiritual growth takes place in the novel widely and considered as “fortunate fall” which actually pedals the whole text. According to Saint Ambrose and Thomas Aquinas (Daniel, 2011), the forbidden fruit eaten by Adam and Eve is also considered as fortunate fall as it has brought a birth to human being on the earth. Therefore, Samskara presents the fortunate fall of Praneshacharya in different dimensions through worldly pleasures, recognize the pragmatic realism and identify his “self-identity” on the earth through self-questioning and self-realization.

The encounter of Chandri in the novel is a crucial point where Praneshacharya realizes about the worldly pleasures and attachment. He realized that human beings are not apart from the worldly pleasures such as sex, human desire and materialism. After meeting with Chandri in the forest he knew about the earthly attachment. He has observed in the novel that, “below were the green grass smells wet earth, the wild Vishnukranti with its sky blue flowers and the country sarsaparilla, and the smell of woman’s body sweat.” (Murthy, p.67). Moreover, his slip with chandri, the low caste woman in the society itself is new birth for Praneshacharya because the concept of human desire was understood as he was not aware of. Further the critic Dr. Sharma (1982) explains that, 'Here Praneshacharya is initiated into a new world of basic realities and becomes a witness to numerous shades of human experiences and life.” Moreover, another aspect of Praneshacharya’s response which is equally important after encountering with Chandri. When he woke up he felt as if he was waking up from his mother‘s lap after a great fatigue. As he looked about wonderingly he saw “a night of undying stars, spread out like a peacock’s tail and his eyes were filled with the sights, his ears with sounds all around him” (Murthy, p.67) symbolizing the fortune in his life.

He has found out that life is a duplicity after him becoming aware about the new world that he has found. The new found awareness even forced him to return to Chandri. He readily accepts that “he had left desire, desire had not left him.” (Murthy, P. 77). When his wife dies, Praneshacharya does not hesitate to cremate her though he has become polluted through his association with Chandri. The very action displays that he is no longer confined in the unpracticality of worldly affairs. Praneshacharya leaves the world of materialism after going to Meliga with Putta realizing the fact that it will bring disgrace in individual’s life. So, he sold his ring of sacred thread for the ticket fare to Kundapura. “Praneshacharya untied the ring on his sacred thread and handed it to him. Putta held it in his hand, examined it, said, don’t you accept anything less than fifteen rupees. Then they entered a Keri and went to a goldsmith’s house.” (Murthy, p .113) where it was sold for ten rupees symbolizing that he wanted to be away from the materialistic world. . He too became aware of feminine beauty as he was not before where he got married to invalid wife Bhagirathi. Later his desire and lust grew after experiencing the reality. He mentioned, “As desire stirred in it, the Acharya’s body craved for touch. His eyes grew dim. He thought of going to Kundapura and searching out Chandri” (Murthy, ,P. 95).

Realism is one of the important principles that human should possess because the reality of world is understood through the lens of realism. We cannot escape from the reality of world. The realization of realism also came into his mind after encountering with Putta who sticks to him like 'a sin of the past.” Praneshacharya has discovered a new world for him after his departure from Agrahara. He has just practiced the orthodox rituals thinking that he will reach to the salvation through bookish learning of Vedas. It was an irony for him as he failed in the first part of the novel. The practical world was shown by Putta letting him to experience the reality of the world. He encountered with number of events which he has not seen before in car festival at Meliga. Praneshacharya stood outside this world of ordinary pleasures and looked at the gathered crowd observing the reality of world. He has seen, “beggars begging, beggars stumps for hands or legs, blind men, people with two holes in place of a nose, cripples of every kind.” (Murthy, p .109) at festival and realized to move from orthodox ritualism to pragmatic realism. As Praneshacharya travels through the fair the taboos and pollutions of Brahmanism are put aside, he is introduced to lust, pressing need, revenge, greed, gambling and bargaining. Just as the voice of conscience struggles to bring heroes on the right path. At malegi he came to know more about the reality of human freedom after seeing the people in their own world with lots of merry making and enjoyment. To some extent he started feeling, “Acharya felt not only remorse but a lightness in the thought he was now a free man, relieved of his responsibility to lead the way, relieved of all authority”. (Murthy, p 76).

Human beings are in search of freedom to face the reality of life in a practical way. According to Sharma (1982) he proclaimed that, “The wholeness of life and his readiness to bear the responsibility of his action frees Praneshacharya from the midpoint he had fallen into. He feels free; as he says, in the midst of the changefulness.” He consents that as long as he is a human, the human world is the only means to his freedom.

The word ‘self’ is another approach to refer to our subjective existence. The one who exists is not simply an object for another but is a subject to himself. Therefore, the term ‘self’, though used in innumerable contexts, fundamentally it refers to our sense of identity. Everything that exists has self and it is self that makes anything be what it is. Nevertheless, to truly hook who that self is we need to be self-realized. One of the important aspects in our life is to question ourselves and learn through the experiences that we have gained. To know and identify ourselves is imperative in one’s life. Moreover, the critic Misra (1982) supported that Praneshacharya’s discovery of the power of personal identity and felt experience added flavor to understand self. Praneshacharya left the community of Agrahara to define and find his true identity as a human being living on the earth. It was a kind of new environment for him to walk after encountering with Chandri. He wants to find the true meaning of life by experiencing the real world. According to Naipaul, (1982), “He goes away from his community, to seek identity, his true form, his basic human nature and his very self. He decides to go for an unknown destination. It might be said that he is trying to define his new self by negatives.” It is really essential for human being to know and identify ourselves first and then only we can know about the society at large.

Infact, he was considered as highly learned person of Vedic literature but number of questions came in his mind where he was not in the position to identify himself. Indeed, he questioned himself: 'Who am I! How did I get here? What's this dark? Which forest is this? Who is this woman?' (Murthy, P.67), where lots of confusion started to crept in his mind. He questioned himself and he understood that he has not fulfilled some of the important stages of life where he was supposed to. Praneshacharya just thought that he will reach to the salvation through rote learning of Vedic literature. Later, he asked himself with number of questions about the work that he has done before and find the solution. He asked, “why did I walk away after cremating my wife?, why didn’t I want to meet Brahmins who were waiting for my guidance? Why? Praneshacharya stretched his legs trying to shed his fatigue, waiting for his mind to clear itself.” (Murthy, P. 90). The protagonist learned through self-questioning and realizing the moral and spiritual growth in human being which cannot avoided in entire life. Having understood about the reality of moral and spiritual growth he left everything behind even the Vedic texts. The text states that, “he thought of nothing, neither the fifteen gold –lace shawls in his box, the two hundred rupees, nor the basil-bead rosary done in gold given by the monastery.” (Murthy, P.85), which symbolized the positive growth in his minds. Through his self-realization and questioning he has vividly recognized the fact of human interdependence and responsibility. He came to the conclusion that human dependency is unavoidable.

The realization came to his mind that the slip with Chandri which is unknown to everyone but he actually has involved the life of entire Agrahara. “No man is an island”, simply conveys that every society should work with unity to reach to the destination. On the other hand, Praneshacharya even accepted openly in the novel that he was ready to go and conduct the funeral rites of Narranapa, symbolizing his attitude towards the work responsibility in the community. He further clarifies, “There’s this deep relation between our decision and the whole community. In every act we involve our forefathers, our gurus, our gods, our fellow humans.” (Murthy, P. 105).In each and every action that Indian takes there is a communitarian sense as they involve the whole community. Praneshacharya able to identify himself at the end of the novel made him to be self-conscious. The self-consciousness remind us to think properly and check whether it is right or wrong. He didn’t completely left the community of Brahmanism but he became more self-conscious on the work that he did. So, he started to ask multiple questions himself to analyze. Moreover, the critic Sharma (1982) remarks that, “Was it his dharma, his duty, or compassion that had made him marry an invalid? Did he do it for his salvation? Can salvation be attained through good deeds alone? Isn't denial of God a shorter way to him?.” Eventually, Praneshacharya was able to conceptualize the reality of life through self-questioning and realization.

Samskara was not an attempt to find an orthodox solution to the character but to bring the positive change which can be broadly described as fortunate fall. It is not simply interpreted as a forceful portrayal of decadence of Brahmanism in modern India. The concept goes beyond this theme. It is more focused on moral and spiritual growth of Praneshacharya what might called his fortunate fall. Praneshacharya encountered with Chandri in the forest as a good omen as he could see the positive fall. There are lots of reasons to justify such as: he knew the reality of human life by comparing his own life in the novel in the beginning. The major shift was seen in the protagonist from orthodox rituals to pragmatic realism. This novel gave the space for self- realization and self –consciousness. The protagonist is dragged to Malegi community to study and analyze the reality of human existence in the world. The journey gave him all the positive aspects of life because he experienced the different scenes at car festival. Moreover, the protagonist could find the answer of ‘self’ by identifying himself in the novel by experiencing the worldly pleasures. Therefore, as this novel is able to shape the character in positive form with positive outcome leads to be the novel the fortunate fall.







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  2. Ananthamurthy, U. R. (1976).Samskara: A Rite for a Dead Man. Trans. A. K. Ramanujan. Oxford University. Press India.
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  4. Judd, K.D. (2011). The Fortunate Fall of Adam and Eve in No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues, ed. Robert L. Millet (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011), 297–328.
  5. Gupta, R.K. (1980). The fortunate fall in U.R. Ananthamurthy’s samskara. The international fiction review, 7, no.1.
  6. Misra, N, Sharma, V.L, Kaul, R.K. (1982). Samskara: Three critics on ananthamurthy’s novel. Vol. (28). P (98).
  7. Naipaul, V. S. (1979).'A Defect of Vision.' India: A Wounded Civilization. Harmondsworth: Penguin, Print.              

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