There aren’t many better examples of India’s diverse culture than its linguistic diversity. The country is home to 780 languages with over 120 of them holding the ‘official’ status. But the other side of the story is that India currently heads the list of UNESCO’s world’s languages in danger. The constitution, in its eighth schedule, lists 22 languages as the official regional languages in the country. This series of articles is an attempt to focus on these 22 languages, their pasts and present, and cherish our linguistic diversity. After discussing AssameseBodoKashmiri and Konkani in the previous write-up, today, we shift our focus towards Bengali.

Although some of his works might lead us to conclude that Max Müller thought little of India in general and Vedic literature, in particular, his anthology India: What Can it Teach Us? conveys his genuine love for India in the twilight of his life and career: Swarajya

F. Max Mueller / Foto um 1895  Mueller, Friedrich Max Indologe u. Historiker, Dessau 6.12.1823 - Oxford 28.10.1900. Portraetaufnahme, um 1895.
F. Max Mueller / Foto um 1895 Mueller, Friedrich Max Indologe u. Historiker, Dessau 6.12.1823 – Oxford 28.10.1900. Portraetaufnahme, um 1895.

In my two earlier pieces, I had promised to review Friedrich Max Müller’s anthology of lectures titled India: What Can it Teach Us? which may be accessed for free on Project Gutenberg’s portal. Before I review the anthology, I wish to set out a few preliminary thoughts. Those interested in decolonising the Indian mind and purging Indian history textbooks of colonial and Marxist biases must appreciate that views held by scholars and historians are not immutable. They are susceptible to change over time, and this can be attributed to several reasons, Max Müller’s views on India, Hinduism and the Vedas being a classic case in point.

Nakul Krishna in The Caravan

I bankrupted myself while writing Maximum City: Suketu Mehta Count on Urdu to have a word for it: shahr-i-ashob, lament for a city. Here is Mirza Muhammad Rafi Sauda, a poet from the eighteenth century:

How can I describe the desolation of Delhi? There is no house from which the jackal’s cry cannot be heard. … In the once-beautiful gardens where the nightingale sang his love songs to the rose, the grass grows waist-high around the fallen pillars and ruined arches. … Jahanabad, you never deserved this terrible fate, you who were once vibrant with life and hope, like the heart of a young lover.