Exploring and understanding the Indian psyche

Last Updated 04 July 2009, 12:02 IST

Sudhir Kakar is the pioneer of psychoanalysis in India who has studied Indian psyche and its varied manifestations in broader contexts from a cultural-specific perspective, yet many of his findings are universalistic. For that, he has been acclaimed as one of the 25 major contemporary thinkers of the world. Apart from his theoretical work, he has written few fictions that are deeply influenced by his psychoanalytic approach.

India Analysed is a book covering conversations between Sudhir Kakar who, now at the age of 70, lives in Goa and Ramin Jahanbegloo, an Iranian-Canadian philosopher.      

Ramin did his doctorate on Gandhi’s non-violence and has been writing and commenting on India through his interactions with Indian intellectuals, artists and politicians. This is a unique approach to deal with the complexities of India.

Earlier, he has approached religions and secularism in India through his conversations with Ashish Nandy (Talking India: 2006) and after India Analysed that explores largely the attitudes of Indian people towards sex, mysticism, religion etc., his upcoming book intends to grapple with Indian political philosophy through conversing with Bhiku Parekh. Ramin justifies the significance of ‘dialogue’ as he believes that the essence of any discourse lies in its duality; the engagement in a dialogue that also empowers to think independently.

Sudhir Kakar’s theoretical approach is based upon cultural-relativity and thus his methodology is influenced by the Indian worldview with its mythology and cultural traditions. Though his psychoanalysis is based upon the theories of Freud and Erikson, he discards the universalistic canons as he believes in the distinctive features of the Indian social and spiritual structure to comprehend the Indian psyche and imagination. That is the reason the main source of his research are Indian classical texts, mythology, folklore, popular cultural beside biographies and letters. Thus, he approaches his subject first with Indian cultural viewpoint. Then he applies psychoanalysis.

The book is quite interesting as it also throws light upon the personality development of Sudhir Kakar himself as he recollects his childhood memories, his own identity-crisis, ideological predilections etc. We come to know Sudhir Kakar more intimately and about the links between his theoretical approach and his own life-experiences. One of the major underlying themes in Kakar’s work has been the confrontation and reconciliation between tradition and modernity in India at psychological, social and historical levels. This has a correlation with Kakar’s own personality development.

As a child he grew between conservative and progressive families, and as a young man he spent most of his time in the west. He talks of his childhood, family, partition trauma and studying economics in Germany after graduating in Engineering from Ahmedabad. He returned to India in 1964 and joined IIM(A) as a Research Fellow but he was undergoing a deep identity crisis as he was not sure what he wanted to become.

The book covers the entire spectrum of Kakar’s scholarly interests ranging from his idea about Indian identity and selfhood, gender and sexuality, family, social and mental hierarchy, religion and communalism, healing traditions, guru-shishya traditions, myths, classical texts such as Kamasutra and the Hindu system of ahsrma and dharma etc.
For Kakar, Indian self and its genesis are distinct from the western self and hence, it should be studied within broader socio-cultural and historical contexts. Since the book is written in a dialogic form, it is an interesting and fast-reading.  

Title: India Analysed : Sudhir Kakar in conversation with Ramin Jahanbegloo
Author: Sudhir Kakar & Ramin Jahanbegloo
Publisher: Oxford University Press, India
Year : 2009 , Pages: 90
Price: INR 395

(Published 04 July 2009, 12:02 IST)

Follow us on