(Notes edited by
Alan Underwood and John Radcliffe)
|notes on the text|
Rudyard writes approvingly of the enlightened Sir Purun Dass's priorities: he has worked and tried to improve the world, before seeing to his religious duties. Rudyard's observation of American society helped bring about this change of perspective: his revulsion against the excesses of raw capitalism encouraged a new-found respect for India's ways - but only if mitigated with a British sense of values.And Harry Ricketts (p. 217) notes: As with Kim, an early version of which he had begun in the autumn of 1892, he drew heavily on his father's knowledge and expertise in writing it.
... one of the most extraordinary stories of Rudyard Kipling. It is so superbly designed, tightly written, and dexterously controlled that the apparently sprawling flux of its material falls into shape, the shape of its vision. It seems to me a masterpiece of Kipling's art, partly because it demonstrates the basic process of his creativity. I have propounded elsewhere in this book the argument that Rudyard Kipling is essentially an activist in the late-Victorian tradition, and that his activism is transformed into art in his fiction and poetry.Writing of Kipling's religious sensibilities, Philip Mason notes:
"The Miracle of Purun Bhagat", "The Bridge-Builders", and much of Kim show Hinduism with sympathy and understanding, and there is a passage about a mosque in Egypt which seems to express the essence of Islam...Angus Wilson (p. 123) comments:
"The Miracle of the Purun Bhagat" ... has been hailed as Kipling's tribute both to educated India and to the Hindu way of life. And so it is both; but it has also been pointed out that the denouement of the story, when the holy man, up in the foothills of the Himalayas, leaves his anchorite's rock cell to warn villagers of an impending avalanche, is a tribute to the Western code of action rather than to the Hindu way of passivity. This is surely right, but it is also no chance mistake of Kipling's. He is attempting to pay tribute to both systems and yet to suggest that the Western creed of human concern will assert itself in a crisis. Whether he is right or not, the story convinces. It is surely a curtainraiser to Kim, in which the Lama's Wheel and the Great Game (East and West) meet in one man, Purun Bhagat.And Eric Stokes, writing on 'Kipling's Imperialism', in John Gross (Ed.) echoes this concern:
Apart from its excellence as a story, the most curious feature of "The Miracle of Purun Bhagat", to me, is how Kipling's verbal picture of the Hindu holy man talking with the beasts in his cell, brings to mind some stained glass picture of St Francis and the birds, as it might have been painted by his Uncle Ned Burne-Jones. It is perhaps just a little too delicately beautiful to stand beside Kipling's other tributes to the Indian natural scene where the fierce roughness of life always shows through. Is this perhaps why he incorporated a story of such adult concern in a book on the surface intended for "juveniles"?
'The Miracle of Purun Bhagat' (The Second Jungle Book), which foreshadowed Kim, was one of the most explicit attempts Kipling made to understand the relationship between the two worlds, free of the racial connotation implied in the opposition of East and West. But it achieves its impressive artistic effect by a fairy-tale perfection. To idealize and freeze experience in this way was in the end to kill it, and it is significant that despite the final peroration of Kim, with its message of the fertilizing and healing role of Eastern spirituality for modern man, it marks in effect Kipling's farewell to India.Mark Paffard notes:
...The knighted Indian Prime Minister who takes up a begging bowl and becomes a pilgrim (a 'sannyasi' as laid down by Hindu custom) is an idealised subject, in whom, significantly, the man of action comes finally to the fore as he emerges from his cell to warn the villagers of a landslip. Perhaps we scarcely need to be told that when he is moved along by a policeman in Simla: 'Purun Bhagat salaamed reverently to the Law, because he knew the value of it, and was seeking for a Law of his own.'Elliott Gilbert suggests that:
Even such a story as "The Miracle of Purun Bhagat", which is not about a child and which seems at first glance to have little or nothing to do with the other tales in The Jungle Books, does in fact concern itself with the central theme of all these narratives. For it deals with a man who leaves the life into which he was born and enters upon a new and challenging existence. Like Mowgli, Purun Bhagat is searching for the world to which he truly belongs, and it is his discovery of that world that is the old man's miracle.