The Breakers of Taboos Indian Writers

The Breakers of Taboos Indian Writers

 Prof. Asghar Ali Ansar

School of Languages, Literature &Society

Jaipur National University, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India


According to Merriam Webster Dictionary taboo is “a prohibition imposed by social custom or as a protective measure….something that is not acceptable to say, mention or do.”

According to Cambridge Dictionary taboo is “a subject, word, or action that is avoided for religious or social reasons.”

Thus we see that taboos are those habits and practices by a section of the society which are considered social evils by the society and which are forbidden in the Indian society. In short we can say that these are banned activities which are the result of social custom or aversion.

Taboos are of many forms. It may be in the form of words, eating, drinking, doing something, even way of living and certain kinds of relationships. If someone goes against the taboos, it is considered that he has affected and destroyed the culture and sometimes religion too. In fact taboos are cultural laws under the social institutions which govern the communities. Taboos regulate the way people interact with the world around them by prohibiting the use of items considered sacred.

So, to break the taboos, one needs to have great courage. But in every age there have been some scholars who have broken taboos in their literary works and have made the society furious against them. Writers like Rabinderanath Tagore, R.K.Narayan, Mulkraj Anand, Grish Karnad, Salman Rushdi, Vijay Tendulkar, Mahesh Dattani etc are such writers who have broken social taboos in their literary works.

Their breaking of social taboos in their literary works has proved boons for the superstitious society that have been realized later on. The practice of sati system was very common in Indian society once. But Raja Ram Mohan Roy stood against it and the practice was stopped gradually and later on it was made illegal.

Similarly girls’ education was not allowed in the middle class of the Indian society. Unlike the present age, the independence of girls was unimaginable. Education was not considered necessary for girls. Girls were supposed only to look after their children and their husbands’ family. Similarly women’s employment, love marriage, single mother, live in relationship, women’s smoking cigarette, their drinking wine and their mixing up with men in the society and pronouncing their husband’s name were considered bad in the Indian society.

But the liberalization and Feministic movement in Indian Literature brought a drastic change in the society and people-men and women became aware of their rights and as a result of the spreading of literature the above mentioned taboos and orthodox practices were stopped. Now girls have started in participating in the activities of the society side by side to men. Now they are getting education, employment and are leading independent life. Girls’ smoking cigarette and drinking wine are still considered taboos in our society but in literary works we find many women characters who break the taboos and lead an independent life in spite of opposition from the society.

Thus we see that social taboo is a kind of slavery which imposes a lot of restrictions on the society. But in Indian Literature, as we have mentioned above, there have been many writers who have revolted against this slavery imposed on the society in the name of either social values or religion and have broken these taboos in their literary works by making their characters-male or female-independent and making them to go against those social taboos.

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