I like experimenters in religion: Sudhir Kakar (Interview) (With Image)

July 24th, 2010 - 12:43 pm ICT by IANS  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, July 24 (IANS) Mughal prince Dara Shukoh, Mahatma Gandhi and spiritualist Ramakrishna Paramahansa shared a trait - they were religious secularists at heart, says psychoanalyst and writer Sudhir Kakar who loves to get into the lives of historical characters to find answers.

“The three of them tried to bring the Hindus and the Muslims together in a spirit of integration, find common ground and make them accept each other,” Kakar told IANS in an interview here.

His new book, “The Crimson Throne”, which was released Friday, is a historical fiction based on the war of succession to the Peacock Throne and the rivalry between Dara Shukoh and younger brother Aurangzeb during the reign of emperor Shah Jahan seen through the eyes of two European travellers.

“Mahatma Gandhi used the word Allah in his chants, Dara Shukoh wore a ring with an emblem of a Hindu ‘prabhu’ (god) and Ramakrishna practised the Islamic way of life for six months. I like these experimenters in religion,” Kakar said.

He was drawing similarities between his books, “Ecstasy” based on the life of Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda, “Mira and the Mahatma” based on Mahatma Gandhi’s relationship with Miraben and “The Crimson Throne”.

Kakar, who has written four works of fiction and 17 non-fiction, “likes historical novels”.

“History as it is documented tells us very little about the characters. It only narrates what the characters did - but not why they did so and who they were in life. I like to get into their lives to find out the answers. Shah Jahan, Dara Shukoh and Aurangzeb - the three characters that I probe in ‘The Crimson Throne’ - are complex,” the 72-year-old said.

He shot into limelight with bestsellers like “The Inner World”, “Shamans, Mystics and Doctors,” “Intimate Relations”, “Ecstasy” and the “Mira and the Mahatma”, books that sought to explore the human psyche, relationships, sexuality, mysticism and spirituality.

Kakar holds a degree in psychoanalysis from the Sigmund Freud Institute in Frankfurt and has lectured at Harvard University. He currently lives in Goa.

Analysing the character of Shah Jahan, Kakar said the Mughal emperor “possessed great aesthetic sensibilities and knowledge of gemstones”. But he was a “bigot till son Dara Shukoh and daughter Jahanara’s influence changed him”.

“After the death of wife Mumtaz Mahal, Shah Jahan was seized with sexual addiction. Dara Shukoh, on the other hand, was scholarly, tolerant, amiable by nature. He was a bad judge of people because he was vain and full of himself. Sibling Aurangzeb was highly moral, devoted to the cause of Islam with few addictions, conservative and physically brave,” he said.

Many people believe Aurangzeb was “indirectly responsible for all the problems in India today”.

“Aurangzeb contributed to the growth of hardline Islam,” Kakar said. Aurangzeb was a frugal man, but his exclusionary policies bred aggression, he explained. “Exclusion triggers a primitive fear in the human brain,” the writer added.

The book was in a way “symbolic of the conflict between the conservative or hardline Islam preached by Aurangzeb and the Sufi or the inclusive Islam that Dara Shukoh believed in”, Kakar said.

“The story (’The Crimson Throne’) teaches us to be careful before taking hardline religious positions because it causes disintegration,” the writer said.

Kakar chose Shah Jahan and the struggle to the Peacock Throne as his subject because “it was multi-layered”. “The story had sibling rivalry…, family drama and it sowed the seeds of the encounter between a rising Europe and decadent India; and clash of faith within Islam,” he said.

But the book that Kakar enjoyed writing the most in his career as a writer over 30 years was “Shamans, Mystics and Doctors”. “I met a lot of interesting people in the course of my research,” he said.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@ians.in)

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