A Passage to India

by E. M. Forster

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How is Hinduism represented in A Passage to India?

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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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Comment on the representation of Hinduism in A Passage to India.

I believe that of the three religions represented in this book (Islam, Christianity, Hindusim), Hindusim is the most positive. Hinduism is the main religion in India. Hinduism is very big on freedom of beliefs which, in this novel, results in the view that people should accept things as they are and not try to hard to change things. Since Hinduism accepts all beliefs, there is more unity among peoples in this religion and E. M. Forster seems to imply in this novel that this is a preferable religion to all others because it unites people and does not separate them. Professor Godbole is the representative of Hinduism in this novel and of all the other characters, he rises above the petty disputes that separate the characters based on culture and religion. I believe that Forster meant to show that Hindusim represents the heart of India.

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Comment on the representation of Hinduism in A Passage to India.

On many levels, Forster's depiction of Hinduism and its values are to be seen through the prism of vast difference that its Western counterparts.  This is seen in how Forster depicts Professor Godbole.  Through this character, Hinduism is seen as "accepting" and a type of religious structure where there is total openness and one whose structure is vastly different than its Western contemporary.  The idea of the sound emanating from the caves, "BOUM," helps to accent this.  Such a depiction of Hinduism was unique for its time, in that the book did not show the religion to be something of a savage and indigenous nature.  Yet, its depiction might have actually contributed to its classification of a religion where "anything goes."  This certainly might not have been the intent of Forster in doing so, but his depiction, especially when seen in stark contrast to religions of the West, represents one where individuals come to understand Hinduism as nothing more than a set of values where "everything is accepted."  This overall, and limited view of acceptance, is combined with a depiction that Hinduism is mystical and beyond the reach of the individual, as seen again with Godbole.  While this might be true, it contributes to the idea that Hinduism is perceived to be a value system where there is little in way of tradition and dictum.

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