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Samskara: A Rite for a Dead Man

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  889 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
Made into a powerful, award-winning film in 1970, this important Kannada novel of the sixties has received widespread acclaim from both critics and general readers since its first publication in 1965. As a religious novel about a decaying brahmin colony in the south Indian village of Karnataka, Samskara serves as an allegory rich in realistic detail, a contemporary reworki ...more
Paperback, Second Edition, 143 pages
Published September 1st 2012 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1965)
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Sep 03, 2013 Garima rated it really liked it

If one believes that life is complicated then death comes with its own share of ramifications. No matter how much we read or learn, the eternal truth that claims to render understanding about every situation and ensures answers to every possible question remains nothing but an illusion, which when shatters brings out a whole new set of predicaments. U.R. Ananthamurthy’s novel Samskara revolves around such perplexities and presents an allegorical enquiry into the nature of word Samskara, its vari
Apr 26, 2015 Himanshu rated it really liked it
Shelves: quickies, swadesi
Your idea that only men of 'Goodness' can reach salvation, isn't that only a form of hopelessness? Doesn't it mean the disappointment of a human hope, desiring a thing and not getting it? In men of 'Darkness' there's no desire of salvation in the first place. How can such clods feel disappointed by not getting what they don't want? No one can say, 'I'll become a "Man of Goodness"'; one can only say truly 'I am a "Man of Goodness"'. Only such natures crave and hunger for the Lord's grace.

I ca
Tanuj Solanki
Nov 14, 2013 Tanuj Solanki rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, india
As A K Ramanujan, the translator, says in the Afterword, Samskara is a story where the erumpent individual tears the archetype of the Brahmin. It is perhaps the best Indian novel in an indigenous language that I have read. One could bemoan the fact that the characters, except the central one of Praneshacharya, are two dimensional caricatures, but isn't that the condition of an allegory? The novel is allegorical and it is profound, and was in certain ways meant to be an initiation for the Modern( ...more
Jun 23, 2009 Ero rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-liberry
I tried to read this a few years back and got stuck on cultural confusion (not knowing what the basic plot elements are about, can really make a novel tough going) and gave up a third of the way through. On this reading I found it somewhat easier, and by the halfway point was thoroughly hooked. I've also been reading Joseph Campbell, so I was very aware of some of the classic elements in this story: the unison with the opposite, the crossing of the threshold, the return to the community.

The mai
Feb 19, 2015 Shanmugam rated it it was ok
Problem is not with the book, translator is not entirely at fault here either, it is just that I am not part of the targeted audience. I might not know the Kannada language, but I am not an alien to the setting - where this story takes place. The place is only a few hundred miles away. We, South Indians, share same customs, caste intricacies, religion and beliefs to a greater extent.

Instead of bringing forth a missed out experience, this dry, textbook translation only glares with a lose of eloq
Prof. Mohamed  Shareef
Paper on the Novel 'Samskara'
The Quest after Divinity:
Praneshacharya and Putta in

I. Introduction.

U.R. Anantha Murthty’s ‘Samskara’ was first published in 1965 and it was made into a film in 1970. Since then, it had created a lot of controversy in academic and
non-academic circles. The theme of the novel is the story of a decaying brahmin agrahara in the old Konkan region.

The title of the novel ‘Samskara’ has different meanings. According to ‘A Kannada- English Dictionary’ by Reverent
Jun 23, 2015 Ini rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the book shortly after Ananthamurthy passed away. I heard so much about him after his death.. his ideas, the controversial responses to his ideas, people's opinions of him, a spectrum of different kinds of comments about him, his life, his work. I had to read his work and decide for myself what I felt about him and if I needed to have opinions that are so strong.
I'm in fact speechless with admiration for this man that I know now.. through Samskara. It asks some of the most intriguing que
Shefali Mehta
Jan 28, 2016 Shefali Mehta rated it liked it
Shelves: indian
Now I do get that the focal point for the author was decaying brahminism, but I find it sort of morbid that all women characters in the novel are either dismissed by other male characters as dead fish or seen as so "ripe" that a man wouldn't be responsible for acting on his sexual impulse. The epidemic theme could have been elaborated, but the author plays out the whole tension of the novel through the protagonist's sexuality. So while sex is seen as an affirmation of life, and the path for spir ...more
Mar 20, 2014 Bahia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-books-read
This book tells the story of a decaying brahmin village that is pulled into a quandary of what to do about a brahmin who died. This particular brahmin rebelled against the orthodox ways of the village and flouted his indiscretions in the face of the other brahmin. However, since he was never excommunicated, only another brahmin could perform his last rights. The Archaya, young head of the brahmin village, agonized over what to do, but without explicit instruction from the books he didn't know wh ...more
Amit Mishra
Jun 10, 2013 Amit Mishra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading this book, I can fully understand why this book created such a controversy at the time it was released. I remembered, that Vijay Tendulkar faced a similar acerbic criticism, when he had written, on similar lines against Bhrahmin Orthodoxy in Ghashiram Kotwal.

The story exposes the shallow understanding of 'Dharma' of the hypocritical Brahmin society, in great detail. The central theme of the book is that when societies fail to understand and interpret Dharma, in the context of the t
Antonio Dittmann
Jul 25, 2013 Antonio Dittmann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india-read
When all that you believe and have studied and treasured for decades fails to answer your most desperate plea for help and guidance, what happens next? In the classic African novel 'Things Fall Apart,' writer Chenua Achebe's protagonist, the once mighty and proud Ogonkwo, finds nothing left to call real and good and honorable, but for the tree upon which he hangs himself. For the Brahmin hero in Ananthamurty's story, the answer is found in the bittersweet reality of form and passion as he gives ...more
Arathi Mohan
Jul 18, 2015 Arathi Mohan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india, fiction
When all your lifelong beliefs and principles crumble down around you, what do you do? This novel examines the situation from a respected Brahmin's perspective. The death of Naranappa throws up more challenges to the Great Learned sage Praneshacharya than he ever posed in his rebellious life. Through the turmoil posed by the sudden turn of events in his life, the sage must decide whether to live a life of repentance or to shed all fear and to redeem himself. "The novel ends, but does not conclud ...more
Jan 10, 2016 Adiba rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Okay, so I'm not exactly sure what to think of this book. Was it interesting? Yeah maybe at some parts. I like how allegorical the ideas behind the materialistic things were. I like how they portrayed the importance of "sanskar" through the calamities faced. However, the ending was really annoying and some parts of the book, like how everyone's fighting over gold and allowing the body to rot! There were many parts in the books that I understood and that I didn't and parts that I did was mainly b ...more
Poonam Garvan
Jan 17, 2015 Poonam Garvan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is a comment on human nature and how man's hypocrisy has rendered him so small that even at a subconscious level he does not want to part with it. The writer had chosen the perfect medium to hit at a person's dual nature. Corruption, which already exists in the hearts of those Brahmins who follow the teaching of Praneshacharya, takes a form soon after the death of Naranappa, a man who always lived his life on the extremes just like Praneshacharya. Where on one hand we have Naranappa w ...more
Saurabh Sharma
Feb 26, 2014 Saurabh Sharma rated it really liked it
Samskara is a thought provoking book that questions the very essence of Brahmanism and takes the reader through a deeply profound journey of self discovery and transformation. The book by U.R. Anantamurthy raises a sensitive query regarding the notion of Brahmanism. Who is a real Brahmin the author asks, does the mere performance of samskaras(rituals and ceremonies), reciting of hymns and chants, asceticism makes one Brahmin or is it the inner life of an individual, the spiritual self or rather ...more
Umesh Kesavan
Jul 15, 2014 Umesh Kesavan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, classics, novels
I read it in a Tamil translation by Sadasivam. A thought-provoking work which depicts the fall of Brahmin society through the death rites of a Brahmin rebel.Some profound questions and unmasking of some hypocrisies make this novel a modern Indian classic.
Bradley Farless
Sep 16, 2011 Bradley Farless rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I picked this book up because it's required reading for a course I'm taking, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good it is. It's a great story about old vs new, religious vs secular, and rediscovering one's self.
Admittedly, I can't remember most of this book. However, one of my favorite quotes comes from this book: "Only the form we forge for ourselves in our inmost will is ours without question."
Adarsh Vasista
Oct 01, 2015 Adarsh Vasista rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Samskara , according to me, is one of the most important works of Kannada modernist literature. This is one such books, which brought both the facets of Indian societal system, the worst and inhuman social practices like casteism and the mild flow of meta theism into a single platform. The building of the plot and the personification of the characters are amazingly painted. Even though, its not a correct criticism of Hinduism ( There are certain hymns which go against the fact written in Samskar ...more
Aug 14, 2013 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Samskara” is an unflinching look at religious self-regard as practiced by a Brahmin community in India and its leader, the Acharya. The novel poses a Hindu theological concern: how to perform the necessary death rites for a Brahmin who gleefully violated every tenet of the faith and caste into which he was born: he lived with a low-caste woman not his wife, drank, ate flesh in general and in particular fished—with Muslims!—from the sacred pond. The issue becomes even more complicated once the d ...more
Anadamaurthy's dexterous pen wields the magic of posing some eternal questions to the human mind. By juxtaposing the two extremes, The virtuous and flawless personification of the perfect Brahmin, Praneshacharya also known as Crest-Jewel of Vedic Learning. The other extreme is Naranappa, the Brahmin who renounced his faith and took up as his personal ambition to debilitate everything "brahmin" around him, beginning with living with a prostitute and eating with the Muslims. As a result he is avoi ...more
May 10, 2013 Nirmal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somehow I was worried that this book will a drag but it is quite gripping, compact and generally well written. So it does live up to its fame as a modern classic.

Story is about a Brahmin settlement in a Karnataka village and how this Brahmanism is decaying in a modern setting (around 1930's/40's). It also shows that most of them have not succeeded in ridding themselves of pettiness, materialism, greed etc. Even the most exalted of them Praneshacharya (protagonist of the novel) who has a rock so
Unfortunately, i happened to read the afterword also and it turned out like its something which cant really happen in real life because of all the paradoxical scenes. Leaving that apart, altogether its an interesting novel. I like the way how the story goes in the end, praneshacharya goes out of his village in search of his true form and identity. He was living in his dream world where he did what he thought he "should" do and not what he really wanted. Lots of sensational scenes are there when ...more
Pratap Palthady
Jan 06, 2016 Pratap Palthady rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great story and good translation. I have encountered many Kannada books which have not been translated to English well. This is not one of them. The tale is controversial in nature. The central character in the story a highly learned brahmin who starts questioning his beliefs and practices. Will he drop his beliefs and practices for material and ordinary human wants?
Surprisingly, I quite enjoyed this book. It was an assigned reading for my religion studies class. This book spoke to me on a spiritual level. The protagonist in this book goes through a transformation of thinking and begins to doubt everything that he previously stood for. Yet, he doesn't simply find his path. There is a constant struggle to find his place in this world and the feeling of him never belonging in any particular place. This rings so true to me especially in these current times.
Jan 22, 2016 Archa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
a story pointing out the discrimination in Indian society on caste. It shows how rooted the notion of class consciousness. A brahmana is labelled outcast because he chose a womwn of lower cast as his partner. There s no one to perform his rituals.
Mar 06, 2012 Anukriti rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book changed the way I think about Love, Purity, Brahmins, Society, Complexity and god knows what else! Naranappa the corrupt Brahmin is to have a funeral rite. Question is- Who will do it? NONE of the other brethren want to get involved. A flashback shows how and by what standards was he corrupt. When threatened to be discarded from Brahminhood he in turn threatened to make his fellow men's lives and land IMPURE. I wouldn't want to disclose any further. If I write anymore I will end up rev ...more
Read this one on my college-age daughter's recommendation. A gem of a novel that shows how much a writer can compress into a rather short number of pages. Tightly written! Interesting to read about Hindu culture as well.
Karthik Kashyap
Gives the insight view of difficulties of performing rituals after death in Brahmin culture.
But author seems to be against the view of Brahmins and narrated in the way that it directly conveys the reader that he is against.
I read this long ago, and was more than a bit put off with the explicity descriptions of a bit revolting sort. Yet one cannot but help recognise that the book has much worth.

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Udupi Rajagopalacharya Ananthamurthy was a contemporary writer and critic in the Kannada language and is considered as one of the pioneers of the Navya movement. He is the sixth person among eight recipients of the Jnanpith Award for the Kannada language, the highest literary honor conferred in India. In 1998, he received the Padma Bhushan award from the Government of India and in 2013, he was nom ...more
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