Reading Ascetic Ideals in Indian Nationalist Thought

Rath, Akshaya K. (2022) Reading Ascetic Ideals in Indian Nationalist Thought. PhD thesis.

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During the freedom struggle movement in India, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948), Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) and Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950) adopted asceticism as an indigenous epistemology of hardship (nishkama karma) and spiritual power to counter colonial emasculation of Indian men. They revived the image of the karmayogi—the (male) body-at-service—as the anti-colonial subject to deliver defeated men and create an alternative reality dominated by divine oneness. Gandhi’s, Tagore’s and Ghose’s remasculinizing agenda indexed Indian manliness in three different dynamics. Tagore’s anti-colonialism employed an erotic politics dominated by ‘ascetic purity’ of love to recover androgyny as a legitimate cultural construct for Indian men. Ghose’s idea of anti-colonial man, in his post-political years, shifted from being a warrior ascetic to an androgynous yogi. Gandhi’s concept of ‘exemplary’ manliness was mapped onto the body of ‘God’s eunuch’. Drawing on lives and works (political and textual) of Tagore, Ghose and Gandhi, this thesis explores these thinkers’ modes of ‘oppositional’ masculinity. Positioning Tagore’s erotic politics along with Ghose’s and Gandhi’s celibate theorizations of a new India, the thesis traces their individual gender politics that was generated through the links they made between the body and the nation. While Ghose and Gandhi perceived celibacy as a means of Indian (male) superiority within the socio-cultural sphere, Tagore took it to be a tool of ‘masculine’ hegemony and of institutional violence. Locating these thinkers’ gendered decolonization in dialectic relationships, the thesis outlines their personal responses to moral tensions which Indian intelligentsia experienced between sexuality and its renunciation, and between love for the beloved and love for the motherland in their national self-fashioning.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Asceticism; Indian nationalist discourse; Gandhi; Tagore; Ghose; Karmayogi; Masculinity; ‘God’s eunuch’; Androgyny
Subjects:Humanities & Social Sciences > Sociology
Humanities & Social Sciences > Social and Personality Psychology
Divisions: Social Sciences > Department of Humanities & Social Sciences
ID Code:10511
Deposited By:IR Staff BPCL
Deposited On:19 Apr 2024 12:21
Last Modified:19 Apr 2024 12:24
Supervisor(s):Choudhury, Chaitali

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