Context

(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

The essays that comprise The Foundations of Indian Culture were first published in Sri Aurobindo Ghose’s philosophical journal Arya, from December, 1918, to January, 1921. They were later revised before publication in book form.

The immediate stimulus for these essays was a book entitled India and the Future (1917) by William Archer, an English writer. Written from the standpoint of Western rationalism, this work was an extremely negative account of Indian life and culture. Archer concluded that the entirety of Indian philosophy, religion, art, and literature was a mass of barbarism. Aurobindo believed that Archer had been deliberately unfair and that he was profoundly ignorant of the beliefs about which he wrote. At a time when India was still under British rule and heavily dominated by Western ideas and values, Archer’s denigration of Indian culture expressed an attitude that was all too common, prompting Aurobindo to embark on a wide-ranging defense of his native land and traditions.

The Foundations of Indian Culture is a collection of essays falling into three main parts. The first contains three essays under the title, “The Issue: Is India Civilized?,” and the second holds a series of essays entitled, “A Rationalistic Critic on Indian Culture.” The third part consists of “A Defence of Indian Culture,” which is divided into four sections, “Religion and Spirituality,” “Indian Art,” “Indian Literature,” and “Indian Polity.”