The purpose of literature

Source: This post is based on the article “The purpose of literature” published in The Hindu on 30th August 2021.

Relevance: To understand the value of Indian literature.

Synopsis: It is through inclusive and diverse writing that we get a socio-cultural understanding of the nation.


Recently, Delhi University dropped Mahasweta Devi’s renowned short story “Draupadi” & two Dalit writers “Bama & Sukirtharani” from their BA Hons syllabus.

What should be the purpose of literature?
  • To understand who we are, or ought to be, as people.
  • To understand where and how we live and the challenges that our time and society face.

To understand literature better, all over the world, the literature syllabus is being redrawn to ensure inclusion and diversity.

What is special about writings that have been removed?
  1. Draupadi—It details the hardships of the tribals, which still exist in today’s world.
  2. Bama’s Karakku: It gives a brief about subjugation, caste oppression & exclusion from society.
  3. Sukirtharani poems: It’s about Dalit feminist politics.

These are the important writings that highlight concerns that help us in getting a socio-cultural understanding of the issues that plague Indian society. These kinds of writings help us to encourage critical questioning & thinking among young minds.

What should be done before removing any such writings?
  • There should be proper scrutiny by the experts.
  • Proper reasoning why the particular text is chosen to be removed.
  • Ensure that there is no political interference/pressure.
Previous instances

This is not the first time such incidents have happened. There are many examples where such writings have been dropped from the university syllabus. The prominent ones are,

  • AK Ramanujan’s Three hundred Ramayanas
  • Rohinton Mistry’s A fine balance
Way forward
  • We should focus on Indian literature along with world literature.
  • An introduction to Indian writing will go a long way in creating passionate learners and critical thinkers.
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