The three works collected for this midterm essay are “The Thousand and One Night” from Arabian literature, “The Bhagavad-Gita” from Indian literature, and “Tale of Gengi” from Japanese literature. Finding out the similarities among the three literature works from three different cultures is an interesting subject. In this essay, an effort will be made to identify the aspects found in the literature of the present era and relevant to today’s society.
“The Thousand and One Night” is a collection of stories compiled in Arabic and translated into many other languages during the golden age of Islam. The stories have been collected over the centuries by different writers and scholars across the most of Asia and North Africa. The stories do have a link with ancient and medieval Arabic and Persian literature. Many stories part of “The Thousand and One Night” have been the folk stories during the caliphate period and drawn from the Persian artwork. The common characters in all the stories of “The Thousand and One Night” are Shehryar, the King and Sheherzad, the princess. The Princess narrates the stories and King listens to the stories. The king Shehryar was betrayed by her wife; therefore, he would kill his every wife next morning of the marriage so as not to get disappointed again. One of the two daughters of his Vazir got interested in marrying to the King after seeing a bloodbath every second day. She purposely married the king in order to stop the further killings of women by the king. On the first night of the marriage, she started a story to the sister of the king and continued till next morning, and she was not killed the next morning. Her stories continued for one thousand and one night and, meanwhile, the king got curious about the stories and gave attention to her stories. After one thousand and one night of listening to the stories of the Sheherzad, the King Shehryar accepted her as his real wife, and they started to live happily thus bringing an end to the killing of women by the king. An extract from page 12 of her story “The Story of the Merchant and the Jinni” on the first night reads, “The merchant, upon this, wept bitterly, and said to the Jinni, I commit my affair unto God, for no one can avoid what He hath decreed:—and he continued his lamentation, repeating the verses.” The quote indicates that fear of God prevailed and people trusted in God; an indication of Islamic tone in the stories (One Thousand and One Night 12).
Truth about betraying wives still exists in today’s society as it has been a permanent factor throughout the history of mankind. Also trusting the subordinates and involving them in personal affairs proves harmful even today as the required distance between the served and serving must be maintained at all the times. However, as regards to the literature, “The Thousand and One Night” is a folk story and have a much broader scope than any of the literatures of today. It is a complex story, and scholars have been attempting to find out the origin of the “The Thousand and One Night.” It is a composite work, and earlier tales seem to have come from Persia and India. Initially three stories were translated into Arabic, and that formed the basis for development and making of the “The Thousand and One Night.” Few stories seem to have come from Syria and Egypt. The diversity of the nature of stories makes it the complex and uneasy combination of stories on account of their time of origin and the origin. Today’s literature does not have a single story of the type with such a wider scope, and, therefore, no more relevant in the society today. No one listens to the stories and no one dares to kill the wife.
Bhagavad Gita means “the song of the Bhagavan” is a sacred book of Hinduism and consists of 700 verse scriptures. It is normally referred to as Gita and is part of Hindu classic Mahabharata. The work is in the form of a dialogue between the Prince Arjun and his lord Krishna. Arjun is motivated by his lord Krishna to kill his relative in the line of his duty as a warrior. Gita presents a mix of the Brahmanical concept of Dharma, yogic ideals of liberation, theistic Bhakti and Samkhya philosophy. The Gita calls for selfless action inspired by many Hindu leaders especially Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who sought spiritual guidance from the Gita. Origin of the Gita dates back between second century BCE and fifth century BCE, however, most agreed upon date is second century BCE. Gita is the text to be remembered by all Hindus. Hindu Synthesis emerged during the second century BCE and third century BCE in the early classical period. Bhagavad Gita is the closing accomplishment of Hindu synthesis. The Gita attempts to forge a harmony between different Hindu factions. Translation of a quote from Chapter 2 Verse 27 of Bhagavad Gita reads “The end of birth is death; the end of death is birth: this is ordained! And mournest thou, chief of the stalwart arm! for what befalls which could not otherwise befall? (Bhagavad Gita).
Relevant truth from Gita found in today’s society comprises the whole Hindu culture that is a living example of the truth and facts from Gita relevant to today’s society. Hindu culture is totally based on the guidelines provided by Gita and therefore, giving one particular truth prevailing in today’s society will not be fair to the Bhagavad Gita. Bhagavad Gita stands equally relevant even today from all its perspectives. However, today’s literature does not have a match with the literature work of Bhagavad Gita. The teachings projected in the Gita are well established as part of Hindu culture, and found in every sphere of Hindus lives. In all forms of literature and film work, the projection of Gita and its teachings is necessary and part of Hindu culture today. There are factors from Gita that are valid and an accepted norms of life in the Hindu culture. Hindu does not go away from the teachings of Gita and follows the instructions given in Gita religiously and with full zeal and zest. In a nutshell, the culture or the literature of Gita has got complete relevance in the today literature as well as the culture of Hindu people. Hindu culture bases on the teachings of Bhagavad Gita, and Indian literature does carry the teachings of Gita within and projects the same.
“The Tale of Gengi” is a classic work of Japanese literature written in the eleventh century by a royal lady Murasaki Shikibu during the high time of Heian period. It has been names as the world’s first novel and the first modern novel. The language of the book was the archaic court language that was not readable after a century. Japanese people have been reading the illustrated version. In the early part of the twentieth century, it was translated into modern Japanese language by a Japanese poet. The work is considered to have been completed by 1021. The book is a masterpiece of literature, however, its influence on Western and Eastern audience remains a question to debate. The story is about the son of the ancient Japanese emperor whose name was Hikaru Genji. At the age of three, Gengi’s mother died and the emperor could not forget her. After sometimes, the emperor found another lady and removed Genji from the crown ship and sent him to a village to live there as a common man. He pursued his career as an imperial officer. He was a love maniac and fell in love with every second lady even with his own stepmother. He fell into numbers of love affairs in his life and abandoned many women. His love for his stepmother stayed there permanently and she gave birth to a son from Genji who later became the crown prince. Gengi got frustrated with his love for her stepmother but had to keep it a secret for the future of his illegitimate son. In the later part of his life, Gengi returns to the royal family and starts enjoying his married life with his wives, his sons and grandson. Later part of the book deals with the stories of his grandsons. A quote from page 191 in The Tale of Genji reads, “Genji: A dawn farewell is always drenched in dew, but sad is the autumn sky as never before. The Rokujo Lady: An autumn farewell needs nothing to make it sadder. Enough of your songs, O crickets on the moors!” (Murasaki 191)
The truth or fact from the story relevant to today’s society is that Genji's social status and ranking allow him to do whatever he wants to satisfy his own personal desires, in an appropriate professional way. Also the concept of polygamy does prevail in today’s society especially the Muslim world. Relevance of “The Tale of Gengi” in today’s literature is debatable. The story seems to be a special story and does not have much relevance with the today’s work of literature. Not much of what is quoted in the book is part of Japanese culture now, and depiction of Genji as a person who is sexually too much obsessed with the ladies and his projection as sexually too strong is little exaggerated. The story has been prolonged un-necessarily by including the story of Gengi’s third generation and their love affairs and love rivalries. The story of past is a good read, however, carried no relevance to the literature of present era.
The three literature work from three different cultures shows a mix of their presence in today’s world. The Arabian literature has the widest possible scope and does not have any relevance to the work to today. The Indian literature the sacred book of Bhagavad Gita is totally relevant today in all the fields of life of Hindu people and also part of their every form of literature. The Japanese literature is a story of special people in the special environment and does not have much of relevance today.
Bhagavad Gita, the Sacred Book of Hinduism. Religious Text. Web. 20 June. 2014.
Murasaki Shikibu. The Tale of Gengi. 1021. Web. 20 June. 2014.
One Thousand and One Night. The Book. 1984. Web. 20 June. 2014.