Discuss the representation of Hinduism in A Passage to India.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that this becomes one of the most challenging elements in Forster's work.  Part of where the difficulty lies is in trying to figure out whether or not Forster is depicting Hinduism in a true and valid light or whether he is presenting it in a manner that reflects cultural biases of the time.  In this light, Hinduism's depiction is only offered in so far that it serves as a foil to Western Judeo-Christian values of the British.  I think that there can be a couple of elements that can be parsed about the depiction of Hinduism in the novel.  The first would be that Hinduism is a part of the culture clash that is at the heart of both the novel and British rule in India.  The values espoused in Hinduism do form a level of differentiation between both the British and the Indians who believe in Hinduism.  Of particular note is the ambiguity within which Hinduism operates, starkly contrasted with the supposed absolutes of British values and Christian identity.  Godbole becomes the central representation of Hinduism.  His depiction is one where there are tenets of Hinduism definitely presented in a manner that is consistent with the religion, such as the participation in the Krishna rebirth ceremony as well as Godbole's belief about reincarnation and consciousness.  However, given the fact that Godbole presents the only real depiction of Hinduism in the novel, it becomes challenging to place all of the nuances of the religion on his shoulders as a character.  The fact that Forster does not really display another Hindu character in detail might suggest a limitation in the depiction of Hinduism in the novel.

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