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Biplob Prodhan
  • 4 weeks ago
  • 24
Discuss the symbolic significance of mosque, cave and temple in A Passage to India. [NU. 2012]

Ans. The central design of A Passage to India is composed three major symbols which are indicated in the titles to three parts of the novel: Mosque, Caves and Temple. In the first part of the novel we are brought to a mosque, in the second to the caves, and in the third to a temple. Each visit is a critical encounter and has symbolic significance which dominates the events following it in that section of the novel.

In the Mosque part of the novel, an English woman and an Indian enter a mosque and establish “secret understanding of the heart”. Aziz, the Muslim doctor, enters the mosque to get the peace and happiness denied to him in the Anglo-Indian world. Similarly Mrs. Moore, bored by the dull entertainment at the British club has escaped into the mosque. Thus both of them have entered the mosque to seek shelter from the oppressive surroundings. After conversation, Mrs Moore finds that Aziz is a warm and sensitive man and ultimately an understanding of each other occurs. This understanding of the heart, in other words, friendship is the dominant urge at this stage and expresses the most general meaning of the mosque symbol of the novel. The “Mosque” with its serene beauty, its combination of light and shade, represents a belief in the oneness of God as well as oneness of India, and therefore, comes to symbolize a possibility of understanding and friendship established between the East and the West, as represented by the friendship between Aziz and Mrs. Moore. But this friendship between people of different races and colour, is undercut by the ironical message of the ‘Bridge Party’ which proves to be a failure.

The Marabar Caves are mysterious as is India. We are told by Forster that they are prehistoric. They pre-dated Islam, Christianity and even Hinduism, which are the oldest religions in the world. They stand for chaos, darkness and evils. The dark and empty caves reveal the hollowness of life where nothing matters. The vacuum produces an echo, “bou-oum” sound which is frightening. By hearing this echo in the caves, two British women, Mrs Moore and Adela Quested unwilling and against their intentions, have released Evil which spreads everywhere. The echo suggests a unity but it is a unity which does not have any qualities of love, goodness and understanding. It negates all their values.

The “Temple”, the last section containing the essence of the novel, stands for love, harmony and happiness. It opens with Godbole presiding over a festival-the celebration of the birth of Sri Krishna in a temple at Mau during the monsoons. Amid all the noise and confusion of celebration the god is born, symbolically, and love, celebrated. In celebrating the birth of the god, the Hindus led by the wise Brahmin Godbole, assume that all creation is one and shares in joy. It is a vision of God as a Universal Friend who embraces all the people and things of this earth in His Divine Love.

To conclude. A Passage to India is a complex work of art based on the evil of the British imperialistic rule in India. In it the symbolic devices, of the three parts, ‘Mosque’, ‘Caves’, and Temple’, are very much important because they heighten the meaning of the novel and also add dignity to it.

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Biplob Prodhan
Biplob Prodhan Founder & Director EDNOUB Foundation Ednoub Private Program

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