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The Discovery of India

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In conjunction with the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund in New Delhi, Oxford proudly announces the reissue of Glimpses of World History and The Discovery of India, two famous works by Jawaharlal Nehru. One of modern day's most articulate statesmen, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote a on a wide variety of subjects. Describing himself as "a dabbler in many things," he committed his life not only to politics but also to nature and wild life, drama, poetry, history, and science, as well as many other fields. These two volumes help to illuminate the depth of his interests and knowledge and the skill and elegance with which he treated the written word!!

656 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1946

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About the author

Jawaharlal Nehru

213 books387 followers
First prime minister of independent India (1947 – 64), Nehru was educated at home and in Britain and became a lawyer in 1912. More interested in politics than law, he was impressed by Mohandas K. Gandhi's approach to Indian independence. His close association with the Indian National Congress began in 1919; in 1929 he became its president, presiding over the historic Lahore session that proclaimed complete independence (rather than dominion status) as India's political goal. He was imprisoned nine times between 1921 and 1945 for his political activity. When India was granted limited self-government in 1935, the Congress Party under Nehru refused to form coalition governments with the Muslim League in some provinces; the hardening of relations between Hindus and Muslims that followed ultimately led to the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan. Shortly before Gandhi's assassination in 1948, Nehru became the first prime minister of independent India. He attempted a foreign policy of nonalignment during the Cold War, drawing harsh criticism if he appeared to favour either camp. During his tenure, India clashed with Pakistan over the Kashmir region and with China over the Brahmaputra River valley. He wrested Goa from the Portuguese. Domestically, he promoted democracy, socialism, secularism, and unity, adapting modern values to Indian conditions. His daughter, Indira Gandhi, became prime minister two years after his death.

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Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
653 reviews7,015 followers
May 1, 2013

It is but folly for me to attempt to review a book so close to my heart. But, on my third reading of this book, it is time to finally go beyond the beauty of the prose and the elegance of Nehru’s presentation. It is time to see if the book achieves the objectives it sets out to achieve and judge it thus. I will let my earlier one-line review stand. Here goes…

The following passage reflects the objective of the book.

To know and understand India one has to travel far in time and space, to forget for a while her present condition with all its misery and narrowness and horror, and to have glimpses of what she was and what she did. 'To know my country', wrote Rabindranath Tagore, 'one has to travel to that age, when she realized her soul and thus transcended her physical boundaries, when she revealed her being in a radiant magnanimity which illumined the eastern horizon, making her recognized as their own by those in alien shores who were awakened into a surprise of life; and not now when she has withdrawn herself into a narrow barrier of obscurity, into a miserly pride of exclusiveness, into a poverty of mind that dumbly revolves around itself in an unmeaning repetition of a past that has lost its light and has no message for the pilgrims of the future.'

Does it achieve such a grand objective? It sweeps across Indian history on very able wings and the history unfolds with irresistible drama and with the glow of a golden splendor. India of old comes alive for the reader in all its old grandeur. But this is dazzle. Does the expedition go beyond that and ‘discover’ India? It does and it doesn't. The India glimmers and fades - reappearing every time Nehru takes an unbiased look back and disappearing every time he turns his gaze eagerly to the present.

The second half of the books quickly descends into a political commentary from being a historical study - and in this transition from history to the present, the ‘discovery’ is left incomplete in the urgency to expostulate on current happenings. This is a minor failure and Nehru is quite aware of it. He has to go back to the vagueness he started with to end his quest:

Nearly five months have gone by since I took to this writing and I have covered a thousand hand-written pages with this jumble of ideas in my mind. For five months I have travelled in the past and peeped into the future and sometimes tried to balance myself on that 'point of intersection of the timeless with time.' These month have been full of happenings in the world and the war has advanced rapidly towards a triumphant conclusion, so far as military victories go. […] Because of this business of thinking and trying to give some expression to my thoughts, I have drawn myself away from the piercing-edge of the present and moved along the wider expanses of the past and the future. But there must be an end to this wandering. If there was no other sufficient reason for it, there is a very practical consideration which cannot be ignored. I have almost exhausted the supply of paper that I had managed to secure after considerable difficulty and it is not easy to get more of it. The discovery of India — what have I discovered? It was presumptuous of me to imagine that I could unveil her and find out what she is today and what she was in the long past. […] Yet something has bound them together and binds them still. India is a geographical and economic entity, a cultural unity amidst diversity, a bundle of contradictions held together by strong but invisible threads. Overwhelmed again and again, her spirit was never conquered, and today when she appears to be the plaything of a proud conqueror, she remains unsubdued and unconquered. About her there is the elusive quality of a legend of long ago; some enchantment seems to have held her mind. She is a myth and an idea, a dream and a vision, and yet very real and present and pervasive. There are terrifying glimpses of dark corridors which seem to lead back to primeval night, but also there is the fullness and warmth of the day about her. Shameful and repellent she is occasionally, perverse and obstinate, sometimes even a little hysteric, this lady with a past. But she is very lovable, and none of her children can forget her wherever they go or whatever strange fate befalls them. For she is part of them in her greatness as well as her failings, and they are mirrored in those deep eyes of hers that have seen so much of life's passion and joy and folly, and looked down into wisdom's well. Each one of them is drawn to her, though perhaps each has a different reason for that attraction or can point to no reason at all, and each sees some different aspect of her many-sided personality.

While that maybe so, this too is pardonable as even the political statements soar to heights sometimes and is amazing: (more in updates section)

The tragedy of Bengal and the famines of Orissa, Malabar, and other places are the final judgment on British rule in India. The British will certainly leave India, and their Indian Empire will become a memory, but what will they leave when they have to go, what human degradation and accumulated sorrow? Tagore saw this picture as he lay dying three years ago: 'But what kind of India will they leave behind, what stark misery? When the stream of their centuries' administration runs dry at last, what a waste of mud and filth they will leave behind them!'

The conclusion is a fitting one (though this passage is not really the conclusion). It was ultimately not about the Discovery of India as India is too diverse and manifold, it was an inquiry into the soul of a generation, a Discovery of their India, of the India then, of that generation, the greatest generation perhaps in our living memory:

My generation has been a troubled one in India and the world. We may carry on for a little while longer, but our day will be over and we shall give place to others, and they will live their lives and carry their burdens to the next stage of the journey. How have we played our part in this brief interlude that draws to a close? I do not know. Others of a later age will judge. By what standards do we measure success or failure? That too I do not know. We can make no complaint that life has treated us harshly, for ours has been a willing choice, and perhaps life has not been so bad to us after all. For only they can sense life who stand often on the verge of it, only they whose lives are not governed by the fear of death. In spite of all the mistakes that we may have made, we have saved ourselves from triviality and an inner shame and cowardice. That, for our individual selves, has been some achievement. 'Man's dearest possession is life, and since it is given to him to live but once, he must so live as not to be seared with the shame of a cowardly and trivial past, so live as not to be tortured for years without purpose, so live that dying he can say: "All my life and my strength were given to the first cause of the world — the liberation of mankind."'

If only we could also figure a path to save ourselves from triviality. If only we too could Discover the moving spirit of our own Generation.
Profile Image for Murtaza .
664 reviews3,401 followers
August 21, 2019
Is there a world leader today who could write like Pandit Nehru? The Discovery of India is the unedited prison notes that Nehru wrote while imprisoned by the British in Ahmadnagar Fort in 1944. His cellmate was none other than the nationalist intellectual Abul Kalam Azad. In a sense the book is rambling and unedited, as Nehru himself acknowledges. Somehow it still manages to be brilliant. Nehru reflects on the origins of the Indian people, their current predicament under the British, the world situation and the future that an independent India is likely to face. Unlike today’s current crop of Indian leaders, Nehru's vision encompassed all peoples that had made a home there. In his vision the only true invaders India ever had were the British, because their racial ideology refused to let them blend into the country as previous arrivals had. India could assimilate and "Indianize" all but it was only the Europeans who stubbornly held themselves aloof.

Throughout his life, Nehru was discovering India himself. He was the product of an elite Western education; a representative of a liberal generation of South Asian leaders now being replaced by ultranationalists. Nehru recognized the achievements of the West, but in contrast to Muslim reformist leaders such as Ataturk and Reza Shah, he didn’t have a crippling inferiority complex to make him wage war against his own people. In this book Nehru eloquently describes the ancient route of India’s people to the modern day. He argues that India is more closely related to the Ancient Greek civilization than the West, since it was its contemporary and had much documented interchange with it. This is really an homage to India, which also did not flinch in describing its present backwardness. Indians are truly among the “old peoples” of the world. They have something in common with one another, however their uncanny similarities may be concealed at times. I was born in Pakistan and am a Canadian. But reading Nehru’s vision of India also made me proud to be an “Indian," in the way that he described it — a concept greater than the arbitrary categories of modern nationalism.

The biggest historical counterfactual of South Asia remains the question of Partition. Nehru makes a compelling argument that the tardiness of Indian Muslims in developing a middle class — they were more stifled by feudalism and suffered more from the British occupation than the Hindus — led to the fear that they would become an automatic underclass in an independent India. Nonetheless he felt that over time an independent Pakistan and India would still be drawn to one another out of necessity. The cruel manner in which Partition was implemented by the British put an end to that optimistic vision. We are still not at the end of the story.

Life in prison was hard on Nehru, who, even more than Gandhi, was a man of action. He was clearly chafing to get back out into the battle for independence. One thing I learned from this book was the importance of ensuring that ones thoughts reach praxis in a meaningful way. Nehru did not have a spotless record and his policy on Kashmir set the stage for the current tragedy brought about by the Hindu nationalist BJP (whose progenitors Nehru saw lurking even in the 1940s). Nonetheless he was a really special world leader; the type whose words and actions were inspired enough to give birth to a real nation. His life was a milestone in the project of returning dignity to the peoples of Asia and Africa. I hope that the India he envisioned is not past the point of retrieval.
Profile Image for Alok Mishra.
Author 23 books1,184 followers
June 29, 2018
This is a good attempt at presenting a picture of India. Good for the students of history but yes, there are facts which might be disputed. Well, history (and of India) is full of points of conjecture because the historians' attempt at making things tilt towards a particular side.
Profile Image for Adam .
58 reviews
December 23, 2007
A number of reviewers have noted that Discovery of India and Glimpses of World History were written during the years Nehru languished in British custody for sedition and civil disobedience. What none of them, nor the publisher, have pointed out is that these books were culled from hundreds of letters that Nehru wrote to his daughter, Indira (Gandhi), then in her teens and early twenties. As a forcibly absentee father, Nehru wanted both to explain his absences and play a role in her life and upbringing. The letters were his gift to her - an indication of his love and caring and a way to educate her in his world view. If the books seem romanticized, that is why. If they seem personal, that is why. And if they seem subjective, that is also why. They were not intended for publication. These were love letters from a father to his daughter to explain the world to her and her place in it, as he saw it. They imparted to the future Prime Minister of India a sense of nationalism, love for country and a belief in democracy, as well as an intimate understanding of politics and working the levers of power. These books are far more than an intellectual exploration of Indian and world history; they were the seeds from which modern Indian history grew. A precious gift, indeed.
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,305 reviews750 followers
December 30, 2015
Nevertheless, we cannot just disrupt and hope for something better without having some vision of the future we are working for, however vague that vision may be. We cannot just create a vacuum, or else that vacuum will fill itself up in a way that we may have to deplore. In the constructive schemes that we make, we have to pay attention to the human material we have to deal with, to the background of its thought and urges, and to the environment in which we have to function. To ignore all this and to fashion some idealistic scheme in the air, or else to think in terms of imitating what others have done elsewhere, would be folly.
What I seek in literature and nonfiction and any piece that does not follow the popular pretense of labeling itself fully one or the other is a reminder that the earth is round. The matter of Europe being on the top right of the map, masquerading under specialized nomenclature rather than the far more consistent title of West Asia, is one of power, born and bred long before I came to being and most likely still to be dominating the scene when I am gone. The self proclaimed, self ordained, self maintained holds no interest for me, not so long I must answer with lies to keep a grade and job and standard of living. If that were not bad enough, all this falsehood is split in twain along the camps of religion or science, ancient script or political economics, the modern day of globalization or the ancient grounds of philosophy. It is not often that a work acknowledges the dangers of blocking one aspect of humanity from another in both mental configuration and physical deportation. It is near impossible to find an author that sets life as the goal, never succumbing to those death dealers who call such holism naive.
Ancient Greece is supposed to be the fountain-head of European civilization and much has been written about the fundamental difference between the Orient and the Occident. I do not understand this; a great deal of it seems to me to be vague and unscientific, without much basis in fact.

The future historians of England will have to consider how far England's decline from her proud eminence was due to her imperialism and racialism, which corrupted her public life and made her forget the lessons of her own history and literature.
I hope to never get used to the feeling that I am yet again not paying yet another country their due. With India, however, it is an above average disappointment, what with the plethora of Ragavis and Vikrams and Sureshs in my classrooms from kindergarten up, a multitude of friends and colleagues with whom I exchanged sheets and conversed upon disparate subjects of fencing and Doctor Who. Too great an obsession would truthfully do far more damage than my aspiring to be greater interest, but before this work, I did not get the sense of walking with trepidation into a room of millinia old conversations as I do with Japan, or Greece. It is a flaw that continues to affect hundreds of my concepts of countries and cultures, of course, but my building of an contextualized cathedral of India was especially disturbing in how often I across one thing that i head learned about as another. One philosophical concept, one mathematical breakthrough, one social humanitarianism of education and light, one of many myriad fields chipped down into textbooks and learned about as European triumphs. Much like the British Museum, one would have to ban many a class if one was thorough about the legalities of looting.
Sometimes a vague sense of uneasiness films them at a seeming contradiction between their domestic and colonial policy, between their professions and practice, but, considering themselves above all as practical men of common sense, they sternly repress all these stirrings of conscience.

It may be said that a great part of the costs of transition to industrialism in western Europe were paid for by India, China, and other countries, whose economy was dominated by the European powers.
Everywhere you look in my USA part of the world, England sells itself extraordinarily. The faces of actors, the conventions of humor, the tributaries of tea, the funniness of its history and the drama of its royalty. Many a colonizing European country does the same, but England is closest in my view for the simple matter that my country is its colony grown up. It is not too much to say that, for every propaganda appeal indulged in Anglophile tradition, India and so many others are reduced. It is one of choice: do I accept the Winston Churchill of war glory and Nobel Prize for Lit fame, or do I acknowledge the Bengal famine and its family tree of fascism, nazism, and imperialism. If I describe the book far more in context with colonialism than before all such occurred, it is because this world still necessitates essential readings that put dominant cultures into perspective. Jawaharlal Nehru is not the only one who disgruntled the status quo with more than beautiful amounts of rhetoric and cold hard facts, but all that is only a part of this work. If there is one country that shows the feebleness of excuses when it comes to wholesale domination, let it be India. The movement to reclaim the bindi here in 2015 United States shows how little that European desire to steal and distort this ancient world of nation's humanity has changed since 1946.
But it is a curious realism that sticks to the empty shell of the past and ignores or refuses to understand the hard facts of the present, which are not only political and economic but also include the feelings and urges of vast numbers of people. Such realism is more imaginative and divorced from to-day's and to-morrow's problems than much of the so-called idealism of many people.
I will be reading The Bhagavad Gita because of this, as well as Monkey: The Journey to the West (unabridged, of course). Concepts of Yoga, the caste system, Pakistan, and so many others have put in a stronger, far more complicated place, enough that a fellow student's sensationalized simplification of "Does he focus on female infanticide?" both shocked and saddened to the bone. In terms of reservations, I know enough about Gandhi to forgo Nehru's boundless praise, and our all too similar suspicion of religion is too final on his side for me to draw from. What must be mentioned is that this was written in jail during a colonizer's wartime, a point where the world's raging still slanders, obfuscates, and every so often painfully tells the truth to my own. Above all, it is a careful consideration of humans, by a human, certainly within the context of India but of work, of play, of cultural bedrock, of hope, of the search for truth, in such a covering of all matters of disciplines around the supreme purpose of social justice that I cannot imagine a lack of resonance, leastwise not in full, with any and all.
We can never forget the ideals that have moved our race, the dreams of the Indian people throughout the ages, the wisdom of the ancients, the buoyant energy and love of life and nature of our forefathers, their spirit of curiosity and mental adventure, the daring of their thought, their splendid achievements in literature, art and culture, their love of truth and beauty and freedom, the basic values that they set up, their understanding of life's mysterious ways, their toleration of ways other than theirs, their capacity to absorb other peoples and their cultural accomplishments, to synthesize them and develop a varied and mixed culture; nor can we forget the myriad experiences which have built up our ancient race and lie embedded in our subconscious minds.
I still have not said much of the critically specific sort about this work. Ah well. In light of that, one last wish would be to live to see another work of this epic sort in this vein of the world, where the number of quotes of Europeans Nehru so frequently made use of could easily be replaced with with ones of a far less foreign sort. A reclamation, if you will. It would be a nice feeling, to know that the earth is healing.
Profile Image for Malavika Jagannathan.
9 reviews14 followers
August 26, 2011
The only history book about India I recommend to anyone who asks for one. For one, it's beautifully written, and, though Nehru comes from his own perspective about India, it's a perspective well-worth noting. Nehru, who was India's first Prime Minister, wrote most of it while imprisoned by the British between 1942 and 1945, so the book's history is tied intimately to the subject matter. If you know nothing about India or even if you think you know everything, this is a history book that deserves to be read. (As a side note, I happened to buy a fourth edition of this book at a library book sale in college for 50 cents, only to find out later that the book had actually been signed by Nehru himself in 1957!).
Profile Image for Sumukh Shankar Pande.
11 reviews3 followers
February 24, 2018
When I was a boy, I liked to discuss what I was learning at school with my grandfather. Not one to mince words, my grandfather grimaced when I asked about Jawaharlal Nehru. "Saala Nehru. Jinnah ko Pakistan de diya. Hindi Chini bhai bhai bolke India ki badnami kardi". I found this surprising and confusing, but I admired my grandfather more than anyone else, hence made his opinion my own without any question. As the years passed, I began to question this opinion. Did he really deserve such hatred from my grandfather? Why was I blindly accepting my grandfather's opinion? I decided to read The Discovery of India to know his thoughts and ideas. The first thing that struck me about Nehru is how good a writer he was. I often found myself slowing down and re-reading sentences of particular beauty. I found in this book the lucid thoughts of a well-read, learned man worthy of the title of Pandit. His grasp of world affairs and Indian history is quite incredible. His message of the importance of science and humanism in the modern world resonated with me. My hate had turned to silent admiration. No man is perfect, and Nehru was undoubtedly deeply flawed. He made many mistakes, angering many people like my grandfather. That being said, his flaws do not erase the role he played in India gaining its freedom after much toil, and the establishment of democracy, two things most people take for granted nowadays. Nehru has gone from being an exalted figure in Indian history to someone fiercely demonized today. This may be justified, but I know that most of the hate is passed down, like mine (Propaganda hasn't helped either). Now that I have some background, I wish my grandfather was still around so I could argue with him about "Woh Saala idiot Nehru".

Excellent read. Recommend highly.
Profile Image for Samadrita.
295 reviews4,558 followers
August 21, 2014
Undoubtedly one of the finest pieces of non-fiction I've ever read. If not for the author's vivid knowledge of India's heritage, culture, social life, history and a first-hand account of events constituting our freedom movement, this must be read for the literary richness of Nehru's writing style.
Profile Image for Jerry Jose.
360 reviews61 followers
March 3, 2017
My lousy reading is non professional to such extends that the only historical quote I remember of, is by Captain America(probably not originally by him even) – 'Those who ignore the past are bound to repeat the same mistakes in future'. The point is, this seemingly political history book, had me(the local yokel here) baffled, with amusement and admiration, towards its concise and stylized prose, excellent research, catholic views and humility in presentation.

Discovery of India, starts and ends in Ahmednagar Fort prison, with Nehru reminiscing the pleasant memories from his provincial election campaign across the length and breadth of undivided India, often with marvel on its incredibly diverse culture and perseverance. He then tries to define mainland India from the far ancient period, from Indus Valley civilization, with the limited information unearthed then. Then follows Vedas, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and their philosophy, concept of monism against the monotheistic and polytheistic outlook Indian religions now associate with. The narrative moves through the political history of India, from Mauryas, Gupta dynasty to Delhi Sultanate and Mughals, foreign relations, art and culture, and eventually to the British; the often neglected South is given due credit for its empires and colonies in South East Asia. The most fascinating thing is, having the chance to read this book now, with clear accords of Nehru and his India at our disposal, and India further ahead, and I must say, he adhered to his ideas without pretexts, with a progressive outlook even by modern standards.

Nehru’s main intention behind writing this book was rekindling the lost nationalism among people of India, which was then divided into British Raj and nearly 556 Princely States. I found it quite extra ordinary of him, trying to evoke that feeling, without the strands of hegemony or aristocracy, which could have easily been established from India’s celebrated past; in fact he was more interested and invested in acknowledging India’s pluralistic society and the heritage of its neighbors which she influenced and learned from over centuries. Unlike average contemporary accords, Nehru’s discussions are not limited to the mainland India or peninsular region alone; commendable share is given to the history, science, art and cultural exchanges with Middle East, Central Asia and the South East Asia, on which the Indian diaspora extended its influence over. He was keen in accepting the cosmopolitan nature of Indian society against modern communal arguments, which assimilated even her enemies, irrespective or religion or ethnicity, the fuzzy nature of which, organized West had huge trouble in understanding.

This might have moulded his foreign policy, though economically debatable, that was based on mutual respect and peace, and equal growth opportunity for all nation States; all of which helped India achieve a benign undertone to her growth globally. He never, consciously or unconsciously, let the mega narrative of India create an asymmetry in relations with her near neighbors, which could lead them into suspecting predominance in every call for co-operation, even from an international reader perspective. His world view wasn’t limited to the East alone, he constantly looked towards America and Russia, and seemed to be genuinely troubled by the developments in Europe and Africa; and to him Independence of India was paramount not only for her people, but for the rest of the world under Imperialism and development of humanity as a whole. He displayed class even during criticizing someone, which often went like a very honest effort to understand their complex stand, followed by acknowledgement for all the things he admired about them.

I don’t see a reason why anyone should keep them aloof this book because of issues with Nehru as a political figure or ideologies of Congress, for Discovery of India is essentially and solely about India and her history and geopolitics, transcending from ancient times to far near future in Common Era. And there is something youth of India can learn and mature about here, to take pride in one’s history,culture and religion without being a dick to other’s.

excerpt from of rice and hen
Profile Image for Vipin Goyal.
Author 11 books120 followers
June 21, 2016
Nehru, Gandhi and Jinna were not original thinkers. They were highly qualified. They knew how to market themselves. They used best politicians like Patel and Munshi for their own advantage. The discovery of India is good compilation. What is original in it?
Profile Image for Sanjay Gautam.
222 reviews441 followers
December 28, 2020
It was so moving that I am at a loss of words to tell how majestic the experience has been.
Profile Image for Nikita Goel.
Author 22 books6 followers
March 12, 2021
Anyone who has read this book, please help me find,” brahmavatta” an imaginary place from where apparently Aryans travelled to India.

I am ashamed that this guy was Prime Minister of my country !!

This book is all about lies, agendas and false propagandas.
Profile Image for Kaśyap.
271 reviews123 followers
April 26, 2014
This is a very beautiful nationalistic treatise written by Jawaharlal Nehru while he was imprisoned in Ahmednagar fort. An impressionistic and romanticised work. The title “Discovery of India” reveals the orientalist nature of the work. Nehru approaches India’s past like an outsider. He wrote this book as his own attempt to “discover” India. What Nehru here was trying to do is to romanticise some part of the past as “the quintessential India”. To determine a cultural identity and identify himself with it. The search is for a timeless Indian culture. To rekindle the pride of a generation that suffered under the colonial yoke. The tone used in this book is to look at the Indian civilisation as something that has once been great but is now in degeneration.

I wouldn’t recommend this as a good text on history of India. This must rather be read as a work of literature that gives us interesting glimpses into the Indian past, as something that gives us a glimpse into the mind of a very learned man.
Profile Image for Dr Pia Tripathi.
3 reviews1 follower
April 8, 2021
It is a very hyped book in India, especially because of a TV series made after the book. The series called Bharat ek khoj captured the imagination of DD watching Indians. But the book is a disappointment. A meandering self-conscious treatise by India's first prime minister.
Profile Image for Manas.
8 reviews4 followers
December 30, 2018
The best thing in this book was that Nehru ran out of paper while writing in jail.
Profile Image for Dhara Mehta.
117 reviews23 followers
January 21, 2012
Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India is his perspective of Indian history from primitive times. The time course of the novel is from the Indus valley civilization to the brink of Independence. India ancient wealth is extolled, yet he describes modern India with a bit more trepidation. Overall is an amazing work, written mostly when he was in prison without the luxury of a research library. It almost seems that the forefathers of the Indian nation were apt to be history professors than presidents. Nehru criticizes the British for breaking India’s self-confidence by enslaving it. However, he does not to denounce other conquerors of India: the Muslims. This to me was surprising. The fruits and scars of Mughal rule in India evidence yet the only fruits of British rule. While British colonization of India was ‘unpleasant’ and ‘cruel’, other colonizers were far worst. He proclaims that New Zealand, Australia, and the United States are unburdened because they did not have the scars of the past. But this is most untrue, there was life in these countries before the European but their ‘past’ was decimated. Britain may have enslaved the Indian spirit but did not annihilate the county. My grandfather was a part of the quit India movement. The scars of the British occupation of India are still on his back, yet he is the staunchest supporter of the British. He was beaten by them but also was fed by them. Most of my knowledge of Indian history comes for stories of grandparents and parents not from skewed history lessons from the lens of a warrior in battle.
The most difficult part of reading this book was the seemingly never ending philosophy. The principles were very abstract and unfortunately repetitious. There were two salient points that he captures. Indians has a whole should be more scientific in their approach to religion but I think this ‘questioning’ should be expanded to culture and tradition. He also castigated Indians for being too group oriented. The group needs always take precedence over the individual’s needs.
Nehru was a great admirer of Russia and China. But history the ideologies of both were opposite of his own. This was his greatest miscalculation. I wonder what he would think about modern day India and world. Would be proud of its world standing or horrified but vast disparity between the rich and poor? But the greatest question of them all: Are we more compassionate in 2012 than 1942. Maybe to women we are better. The conditions of female tea pickers in 2008 are only slightly better than in 1920s’.

Favorite Quotes
1 A curious combination of conservatism in practice and explosive though (xxii)
2 India had no more to being considered a county than did the equator (xxi)
3 We live as August Comete said ‘dead man’s lives, encases in our past, but this is true in prison (7)
4 There is a stillness and everlasting about the past, it changes not and has a touch of eternity, like a painted picture or a statue in bronze or marble. Unaffected by the storms and upheavals of the present, it maintains its dignity and repose tempts the troubled mind to seek shelter in catacomb. We become prisoners of the past (p 7)
5 The highest truths of a civilization disowned them with impunity whenever questions of national self-interests was involves (p 351)
6 Become an occident in your spirit of equality, freedom. Work, and energy at the same time a true Hindu to the backbone in religious culture and instinct (p 369)
7 Division by creed and classes means the creation of a political camps organized against one another, teaches men to think as partitions not citizens
8 I decline to be a slave to precedent it practice I cannot understand or defend on a moral basis.
9 A society if it is to be stable yet progress, must have a certain more fixed foundation of principle as well as dynamic outlook (p 563)
10 Freedom is dear to all, but most of all who have been deprived of it (523)
11 If the government gets a hold of you they will flog you to death (or tax you to death), if the Buddhists get a hold of you they will starve you to death
12 The same methods of investigations which we apply to the sciences and to exterior knowledge should be applied to religion. If a religion is destroyed by such investigations which we apply to the sciences then the same knowledge should be applied to religion. Uf a religion is destroyed by such investigation, it was nothing but a worthless supersition
13 By writing of the past I have tried to rid myself of the burden of the past ( p 533)
14 The Muslim areas will be hard-hot, will be ecomonically backward, will not exist without foreign dependence (589)
15 There is some envy for those virgin minds which have not been violated by thoughts assaults.
16 India is 4 million separate individual men and women, each differing from one another each living in a private universe of though and feeling. India is a geographically entity….(627)
17 Blind adherence of old customs and a slavish imitation of foreign ways (629)
Profile Image for Neil.
86 reviews19 followers
July 31, 2015
This books sucks. It is wholly based on personnel opinion of the author.It is like a notes of the class 8 student,on Indian history, who know good English i.e. this book is famous. The person who knows English in India intellectual to the whole society. This is what this nehru's books is. It is based on his personal notes on history almost all positive in or justified. It is book by middle class half India - English, with good command on English. Some of the topics are little bit readable for the sake of knowing internal things in which Nehru was present. A little things are cross checked and examined in scientific manner. A person who want to history should not read this crap. Because nothing new in it is written.Part to part history books are far far ahead of it. This book is not even close to be called history book or classic. If you want to know opinion of Nehru until 1945, about India than try this. But don't blow yourself up. Nehru maybe visionary but this book is crap in English about India. My rating is 0.5/5. 0.5 because of his honest class 8 student like opinion on India. India is far - far more that here describe. Read twice but found nothing very better.
Profile Image for Dipa Sanatani.
Author 2 books66 followers
March 27, 2012
I cannot think of anyone more romantic than Nehru. The way he writes about India, you'd think he was having his biggest love affair of all with her. I loved this book. For anyone who'd like to have a historical tour of India by an Indian man who loves India, this book is it. He doesn't make apologies for aspects of India's history that are less than palatable, nor does he try to deny them. Nehru's book gives us an insight into the ideologies that were prevalent in pre-independence India. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to read about India's economic and political history.
Profile Image for Rohan Bapat.
14 reviews
May 21, 2021
The book proves how foreign Nehru was to India. He has written this book like someone from England would write about India. There is nothing patriotic in his tone through the book. Crediting him to some imaginative similes will be an insult to the country. A writer can be credited for using his imagination, not the to-be Prime minister of India.

If you want to read a foreigner’s account of India, pick a real foreign author and not a pseudo Indian that Nehru proves himself to be in this book.
Profile Image for Ragunath.
22 reviews7 followers
June 19, 2017
I am surprised and salute you for your writing style, that how easily you can mix up propoganda in classic history book. you want to show in your book that India was created and become known to the world only after publication of your book. How derogatorily you have shown in your book that greeks are better than Indian in everything.
Profile Image for Andy Turner.
81 reviews1 follower
August 4, 2011
Although interesting and surely a valuable work in factual and historical ways, this is not written by a literary genius and I think it could do with refinement. When I wanted sleep, I found it perfect bedtime reading, but in all likelihood I probably will not finish it in its present form...
174 reviews
March 10, 2012
Too boring......It was included in the school-syllabus (supplementary reader). Seemed like a mental torture.
Profile Image for Jeeva.
Author 1 book10 followers
December 10, 2017
It was pretty much a 'parts greater than whole' experience. It does not and as Nehru himself confesses, did not try to come together as a book.
Profile Image for Anand.
4 reviews
February 20, 2020
Well, he has not shown the real history of India rather it is just a self made perception of him narrated in a lucrative way.
Profile Image for Arnab.
50 reviews1 follower
June 13, 2021
When I initially read this book, I was fresh out of school and a newly-minted college student (in fact, I remember that this book was the first that I purchased with my own pocket money), and I was deeply impressed by the contents. I felt I knew a lot about the history of India, and whatever I knew, this book had taught me.

Now, with the benefit of fourteen years' worth of experience, and after reading a host of more recent books on India's history, I have come to realize that this book is less a history of India, than one (albeit very significant) man's conception of what that history ought to be, and the lessons he would like future Indians to draw from this history. In short, I started to see that this book is less a historical narrative, but rather a polemic on how certain events of history must be picked up and interpreted so as to serve the interest of nation-building, which Prime Minister Nehru was to do two years after its publication. Read as a politically-motivated text, this work makes sense; as a history, it fails utterly, and may mislead more than instruct.

Recommended only to those who want a very introductory outline of Indian history, as well as to those interested in how India's first head of government perceived his country's traditions and culture.
20 reviews1 follower
September 29, 2019
A poor book - no way to discover India's rich culture. Nehru's legacy itself is tarnished as people understand the destructive impact of his socialaism.

Nehru was a westerner trapped in an Indian body, and he could lever understand the richness of India's spiritual past. India is without doubt flawed, but an ancient and siritual land that has contributed immensely to the world through yoga, meditation, pranayamas, kriyas, herbal medicine, and mathematics. Nethru fails to bring this to light.

There is also a continuity of civilization in India and unity among its various regional cultures that is apparent to one who has a deep understanding of its rich culture -this insight is missing from Nehru's narrative.
Profile Image for Upesh Patel.
6 reviews1 follower
August 19, 2014
Nehru was very favorite of China and Nehru, at usual as well as at unusual places given the examples of China and Marx in book to show how India must learn something from China that even Nehru does not knew and I think after 1962 war with China Nehru must have feelled sorry for this examples in his very famous book. By the way a good book, must read.
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