A charismatic nationalist leader, Jawaharlal Nehru fought for Indian independence from British rule for nearly three decades beginning in the late 1910s. He was deeply involved in the political opposition and was imprisoned numerous times for civil disobedience.
Jawaharlal Nehru wrote his major books, Toward Freedom, an autobiography in 1936; The Discovery of India in 1946; and Glimpses of World History, a series of letters to his daughter Indira, in 1934. He was a talented and expressive writer in English, and he and India’s freedom struggle became more widely known through the extensive circulation of his writings in the West. Here a short book review of his famous book The Discovery of India is attempted.
The Discovery of India was written by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru during his imprisonment in 1942-1946 at Ahmednagar Fort. Nehru was jailed for his participation in the Quit India movement along with other Indian leaders, and he used this time to write down his thoughts and learning about India’s history. Discovery of India is widely regarded as a classic in India, and provides a concise precise Indian history, philosophy and culture as viewed from the eyes of a liberal Indian fighting for independence of his country. It was then published in 1946 and has since acquired the status of a classic.
The story of Discovery of India begins from prehistory to the last years of British colonial rule; some of the greatest heroes of India are mentioned. Analyzing texts from the Vedas to the Upanishads, and epics such as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, and personalities like the Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru brings to life an ancient culture and land that has been the base and headquarters of some of the world’s great traditions of philosophy, science and art, and almost all its major religions.
Chapter three of the book is about the relationship with his wife Kamala, her death, and his thoughts of death. These are the two clues from the book that give us a very good idea about Jawaharlal Nehru, not as the prime minister of India, but as a human being.
It is from Chapter four, The Quest, that the very essence of the Discovery of India begins. The panorama of its past, the search for India, the BHARAT MATA, the variety and unity of India and all these reflect the beauty and glory of the Indian civilization. The glory of the Indian civilization, can never be equalled in any way by the modern society of our country.
And the whole written and unwritten history if India is given in Discovery of India. The Indus valley civilization, the coming of the Aryans, Hinduism, caste system, the continuity of the great Indian culture, is in the book (Discovery of India). The epics, The MAHABHARATA, the BHAGAVAT GITA, BUDDHA, ASHOKA and through all the people, the Discovery of India has the contemporary records of the time, we can get a complete picture of India through the ages.
The dawn of the medieval period, and the golden era of the Guptas. Discovery of India gives a good insight of India’s foreign relationships with the people of Iran, Greece. Then there is the answer to the most perplexing question of Buddhism in India.
Through the Arabs, the Mongols we come to the golden time of the Mughal empire. And the lives of Babar, Akbar, the Marathas, all flash before our eyes, as we are led to the colonial times of the British rule, with all the minute details. The path takes through the times when the British came as traders to India and later went to built a colonial empire.
Discovery of India gives us a beautiful insight into the friendship between Gandhiji and Nehru, the role of Gandhiji, M. A. Jinnah, the coming of the Second World War and the final phase of the freedom movement after the war.
Nehru’s narration of history and knowledge about India is excellent. Writing with pride about his motherland, he does not mince his words. Whilst singing the praises of his people’s successes and great heritage, he also acknowledges their failures and weaknesses. His intense dislike for British rule comes through and it is his hope for India that prevails.
To read The Discovery of India is to more than discover just India. Not limited to information about the subcontinent as it is today, the discovery foes from the world from Plato, Emerson, the history of lands like Afghanistan, China’s ancient trade links with India and so much more. It is to venture into a discovery of the world itself. Discovery of India makes a person have inner knowledge and pride that he originates from so wonderful a land.
I hope that this short review inspires you to read this wonderful book.