The Significance of Indian Elements in The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

The Significance of Indian Elements in The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

 "The Waste Land" poem is written by T.S. Eliot, first published in 1922. It is considered one of the most important poems of the 20th century and is known for its complex structure, rich symbolism, and diverse literary and cultural references. The Waste Land can be viewed as brokenness and loss and Eliot's numerous allusions to the First World War suggest the war played a significant part in bringing about the social, psychological, and emotional collapse. The plot of the poem is allusive and elliptical but at the same time flooded with the richness of different references. Eliot makes use of different images, symbols, and references from Christianity,  Biblical significance, and Indian philosophy from Buddhism to Upanishads. The use of Greek Mythology in Modern Metaphors helps to establish the poem as a Universal piece of writing.

                                             In his poem The Waste Land he portrayed the devastated land after the World War First. The changing dynamics of Modern cities and modern people ended with chaos, despair, and spiritual sterility. In order to find answers of modern problems he refers to Indian philosophy as a solution or way to the regeneration of life. The Waste Land is divided into five sections : 

            1) '' The Burial of the Dead ''  introduces the diverse themes of disillusionment and despair.     

            2) " A Game of Chess " and the third 

            3) '' The Fire Sermon '' shows the influence of Augustine and Eastern religions 

           4) '' Death by Water '' and the fifth 

           5) '' What the Thunder said features the influence of Indian thought on the Poet Laureate.

  T.S Eliot employs literary and cultural allusions from the Western canon, Buddhism, and the Hindu Upanishads. The poem shifts between voices of satire and prophecy featuring abrupt and unannounced changes of speaker, location, time, and conjuring a vast and dissonant range of cultures and literature. The Fire Sermon and What the Thunder Said are two parts in which  Indian-Eastern philosophy reflected more. 

                        The Fire Sermon is taken from a sacred book of Buddhism, in which Buddha preaches a sermon called Fire Sermon which teaches human beings how to liberate yourself from all these worldly materialistic wants. To liberate self one should avoid all worldly desires and passions. And the particular word given for that is ' Detachment '. Eliot says .......

 TO Carthage then i came 

Burning burning burning burning

O Lord Thou pluckest me out 

O Lord Thou Pluckest


                So, the word burning pointed out detachment from all the so-called human wants. By burning self meaning emptying self in Buddhism sense. The significance and essence of the whole fragmented poem can be noticed in these last lines of the poem which are taken from  Brihadaranyaka Upanishads.....

  Shantih , Shantih , Shantih '' 

 '' Datta, Dayadhvam, Damyata '' refers to the concept of '' giving, compassion, and control '' of the ancient Indian religious and philosophical texts Upanishads, which are based on the ideas of Hinduism and Buddhism. According to the texts,  all people must follow these three concepts in order to achieve inner peace, and the God's nature can enable this. The word ''Santih'' is actually the formal ending of the Upanishads, and literary means ''inner peace''. Eliot ends the poem with a hopeful and spiritual tone, implying that peace and harmony can be achieved. This is how he breaks the traditional form of writing poetry and leaves his typical modernistic stamp. 

                                                      The Brihadaranyaka Upanishads allude to Prajapathi, the Creator, talking to his three offspring - Devatas, Demons, and Men. In the first Brahmana, all the virtues are brought together under the three Da`s which are heard in the voice of the thunder namely Dama or self-restraint for the Devas, Danas or Self- Sacrifice for the humans and Daya or compassion for the Demons. Eliot was greatly influenced by the Bhagavad Gita. 

                                           Part 5 of The Waste Land indicates a turning point. ''The Word of the Thunder'' offers a ray of hope penetrating the despair that hangs over the rest of the poem. Eliot uses concepts from Sanskrit texts as a framework to give shape to and support the many ideas that constitute the human psyche on a spiritual journey.  

                                                           The Waste Land reiterates the three cardinal virtues of Damyatha ( Restraint) , Datta (Charity) and Dayadhvam (Compassion) and the state of mind that follows obedience to the commands as indicated by the blessing Shanti, Shanti, Shanti - the peace that passes understanding.      

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