Chapter XXXVI from E M Forster’s A Passage to India (Part3 – Temples): Summary and Analysis
The final procession was to take place in the evening and before that the palace remained full of action and energy. The news of Rajah’s death had not been made public so that it does not obstruct the festivities. Aziz left for the guest house but found Fieldings in a boat in the Mau tank. He rode off to the guest house thinking he could see the servants but came against Ralph. After a short episode of complaining Mrs Moore again brought him to where he was before the case. He thought he owed her and so decided to show Ralph the real India. However, their boat collided with Fieldings’ in the tank and still they managed to get out secretly. The processions were over and no one knew how much emotional action had taken place that evening somewhere far from it.
The palace remained filled with action and energy all the time. The after effects of the puja was that people believed that the final revelation had not yet taken place. Fulfilment brings satisfaction and without it the hope remains that fulfilment is yet to happen. God was born last night but his procession made people think that he was to be born yet. Normally, there used to be celebrations on the inside quarters before the Rajah where a troupe of male performers enacted the various actions and mediations of Hinduism. Lord Krishna was a saviour and his actions and words remained the mainstay of these performances highlighting important events from his lifetime when he had taken birth on this earth. All of it was followed by the ‘Maharasa’ (dance of Krishna with milkmaids). The actors would themselves become Gods and Rajah and his companions would worship them. However, this time his death interrupted the normal flow of things and still was less interruptive than as in Europe. There were two heirs to the throne but made no fuss despite knowing that something had happened because it was an auspicious time and in Hinduism, religion is a stronger force than other things. So, the festivities continued and any cause of pain or sorrow was avoided.
Aziz had no more understanding of these things than any average outsider. He was surprised at lack of suspicion and selfishness in MAu. Being an outsider he was treated as guest at such times and received small courtesies and presents. He was idle and except to send the embrocation had nothing to do. He found an intent that Mohammed Latif kept and which was purified using some sacred procedure and which he shared with no-one. Aziz promised he was going to bring it back after use. He just wanted an excuse to take a ride.
The procession was being decorated and small and large idols of Gods were being placed inside a palanquin. He took his eyes off and collided with the Minister of education (Godbole). Godbole asked him to keep away since his touch will need purification or another bath. However, his protest did have much heat or tension and Aziz said sorry at which Godbole smiled and mentioned the guest house party. Aziz told him that Fielding had not married Miss Quested. Godbole knew it already that it was Heaslop’s sister he had married. Aziz was worried why he had not told him feeling reminded of yesterday’s pickle. Godbole smiled and told him that he was bound by his limitations and still there was no need to be angry at him because he was a true friend. Professor Godbole’s skills were notable in this area and Aziz would feel like a baby the Godbole cerated him with his fresh smile. He turned his horse from there because the procession was growing thicker. Then arrived the sweepers’ band. It was a special ritual that signified that God lived among the poor and the downtrodden. The scene grew magnificent and as the doors were flung open the entire court was visible. People were standing dressed in white robes. The Ark of the Lord was decorated well and was full of statuettes. The environment grew holy with the Monsoon sun glowing mildly and lighting up the palace walls. The palanquin was lifted and was to be followed by State Elephants with empty Howdahs on their backs.
Aziz was bored and India felt a desert like his old Dear Emperor Babur who had found no friend or fruit here. The lane led him outside the town where he watched the evening clouds reflecting in the Mau tank. However, seeing an advancing boat in the tank made him grow cynical. He knew the English had improvised to use something in the place of oars and that they were patrolling India. He was again reminded of Miss Quested’s wish of seeing India and that it was hardly different from ruling India. He felt good about the Hindus who at least were not interested in prying into others’ lives. The English were trying to get their boat as close to the point where the procession would descend to get a closer view without getting into trouble. He again made his way to the Guest House hoping he would find some servants and dig the for information. He went through the promontory containing the royal tombs where the fruit bats were growing thirsty and made strange sounds. The environment smelled of death but was not sad. The Guest house was located on a crest and it was getting darker.
Now, he could not see the tank and its water, the boat having vanished from sight. A sentry slept in the porch and lamps were burning inside the rooms. He came across two letters on the piano as he went from one room to another. He quickly pounced upon the information contained in them without any shame. He found the letters interesting because he thought they helped him understand Fielding and his heart hardened against his former friend. Heaslop had written letters in which Ralph was described as a near imbecile. They were planning to make up for the old misunderstandings. He also wished to make up with Adela. Next letter was from Adela who wished that Stella could have a better experience than her and so had given her some money to clear the old debt she owed India. Aziz was a bit perplexed about what debt she owed to India. He appreciated the flow and informal tone of the letter because such communication w as possible only in a world were the women are free. To see all of them being one and specifically Ronny made him angry and he banged his fist at the piano. A strange voice he had heard somewhere called in a respectful tone.
Ralph Moore approached looking weak. Aziz thought of treating him the way Calendar had treated Nuruddin. He asks him in a rude tone about the bee stings that made the guy afraid. Aziz continued in a stern tone and Ralph could feel the unkindness in his words. He tried to complain but Aziz did not seem n a mood to let him go without having vented his frustration. As Aziz’s attitude grew even rude, the boy complained that he and his people had one him no harm and there was no need to be so unkind. Aziz was still curt about the Marabar incident but he felt good about the boy knowing his name. Right then the State guns went off and the prisoner was released. As the guns kept flashing they lit up the palace and the surrounding area. Aziz was ready to return and the guy’s words had lessened the pain so he held out his hand feeling how bad is attitude had been. He asked if he was still unkind. Ralph replied no and Aziz again asked if he could always tell a stranger from a friend. The reply was affirmative and so Aziz told him he was an occidental. However, he shuddered at his use of words since he had spoken the same words to Mrs Moore. He handed the magic ointment which he had been keeping from Ralph all this time. Ralph was Mrs Moore’s son and that pleased him but dissatisfaction was that he was Heaslop’s brother. He asked if Mrs Moore had talked of him and Ralph eagerly replied that she had mentioned in her letters. Aziz instantly replied that she was her best friend in all the world. Despite her not being nay major help during note case, she had stolen a special place in his heart. He offered Ralph a tour immediately.
Things had changed as Mrs Moore was present again in their heart and mind and Aziz was again in mood. He brought out ores from where they were hidden and took out Ralph. Wind helps them float and were was no need to row. They came to a position from where the Rajah’s father’s life like statue was visible at his tomb and Ralph exclaimed. Aziz told him the king was dead but they had hidden the fact in order to not obstruct the celebrations. Ralph urged him to take the boat closer and closer so he could watch the procession. Aziz tried his best to keep the boat away from the light of the torches on the bank. They caught sight of a female devotee singing praises of the God. Godbole caught sight of the boat and waved but Aziz could not understand his feelings. Rain began and people were ready to throw the statuettes into the water as they did every year after the celebrations. In Hinduism they call it the final holy dip that mark the end of the celebration or the holy passage – departure. Many more things were thrown in the way marking a passage like Tazias, Ganpat images and more such things which Forster calls emblems of passage. The tray that contained the village of Gokul was given the final holy dip by an Indian who entered the water to dispose the contents. It was when the two boats with English people in them collided. The two boast capsized and the people in them fell into the shallow waters. While they tried to get up and collect themselves the procession had started returning. The tray was returned to Godbole who took some mud adhering to it and smeared it across his forehead. The next day, the Rajah was officially dead and no one knew where all the emotional action had taken place during the procession. Intruders remained undiscovered.