Nature and its Representation in Indian Literature
India is a country with variety of ecosystems which ranges from Himalayas in the North to plateaus of south and from dynamic Sundarbans in the east to dry Thar of the West. With time, however, these ecosystems adversely affected due to anthropogenic activities. Literature could not remain unaffected from this alarming depletion of the natural world and has changed its course from representation of nature in reverence to it’s exploitation and destruction.
Indian writers such as R.K. Narayan, Manohar Malgonker, Raja Rao, Kamla Markandaya and Anita Desai have invoked Nature and nature elements for expressing what they believed, and for representing their contemporary Social and regional atmospheres. R. K. Narayan, for example, is famous as a regional novelist, for his imaginary creation of Malgudi, a backdrop upon which a number of his novels and short stories are based. In these works, he has exploited the entire social, psychological and regional atmosphere. Thus, he has used “nature” as the setting and background in his novels and short-stories such as Malgudi Days, Man Eater of Malgudi, The English Teacher and The Guide— in which nature plays both negative and positive roles. It is in the spiritual ambience of Sarayu river and the ruined temple, for example, where Raju was inspired to transform from a tourist guide to spiritual guide, in The Guide.
Raja Rao, on the other hand, has used the elements of nature in his novels like Kanthapura to express his mythological, social and regional views. His Kanthapura projects the role and importance of nature effectively in the human life. Through the depiction of rivers, mountains and other natural elements, he has proved the value of his co-relationship. The introduction of mythological bounteous goddess, Kenchamma shows the respect that Indian culture endows in its members for mother nature.
Kamla Markandaya, another great novelists, has also used natyre and natural elements in her novel where she depicts nature as a wild animal—a destroyer and preserver at the both time. Her novel, Nector in a Sieve is a fine example of the depiction and use of nature imagery in which she shows the effect of environment on mankind. Thus giving a glimpse of her environmental concerns.
Nature can be portrayed as kind and gentle, something that does not hurt anybody, as well as aggressive and destructive. Bhabani Bhattacharya, in his novel, So Many Hungers, has depicted a natural calamity to demonstrate the tragic effect of famine on the inhabitants of Bengal. Bhattacharya has employed various nature symbols and imageries for different types of comparisons and revealed the miserable, gruesome and helpless situation of famine-inflicted peasants.
Anita Desai, a prominent and popular Indian English novelist, also uses nature which includes animals, plants and birds in her novels to compare and symbolize the interior states of mind of characters. In her novels like, Cry, The Peacock, Voices in the city Clear Light of Day and Where Shall We Go This Summer, Desai uses allegories and symbolism harnessing the natural elements to underline the peculiarities of characters’ psychology and material conditions. In her masterpiece, The God of Small Things, she highlights the effects of anthropogenic activities like environmental pollution and urbanization. By the help of many picture sequence, descriptions of scenery and regions, she successfully portrays the image of a gloomy environment.
Other environment cautious novelists like Kiran Desai, Jayant Mahapatra, Amitav Ghosh, Ramanujan etc. has used nature as landscapes and as constructive and destructive forces of nature. They used elements of nature, including flora and fauna to symbolize various atmosphere, moods, feelings and status. Various kinds of environmental issues like biological, social, political, racial, regional etc has been projected by these intellectual writers. However, the novelists like Arundhati Roy, Amitav Ghosh, Bhabani Bhattacharya and Kiran Desaai have dealt with the subjects of environmental concerns. Highlighting the significance of eco-balance, they advocate a balanced and harmonious co-relationship between nature and mankind.
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