From Volga to Ganga
Edited by Kanwal Dhaliwal, Maya Joshi
Translated by Victor Gordon Kiernan, Kanwal Dhaliwal
Rahul Sankrityayan (1893–1963) was a polymath and polyglot. A pioneering explorer-traveller, he is known not only for his travelogues but also for contributions to history, philosophy, memoir-writing, polemics, biography, drama, translation, lexicography, critical commentary on and emendation of rare Buddhist philosophical texts recovered from Tibet, and diverse fiction, mostly historical. He even authored a science-fiction novel, Baisvin Sadi. Ever the seeker, he moved where his learning led him – from the Arya Samaj, to Buddhism, to Marxism. A founding member of the Communist Party of India in Bihar, he was imprisoned for three years by the colonial government. He was conferred the Padma Bhushan in 1963.
Volga se Ganga, Sankrityayan’s most popular book, is a genre-defying work of historical fiction that seeks to track the migration of peoples from the bank of the Volga in 6000 bce to the banks of the Ganga in 1942, the year it first came out. It takes the reader by the hand, guiding them through the evolution of Indo-European culture and politics over this 8,000-year period with stories that leap across centuries, peopled with characters historically known and vividly imagined, who fall in love, fight each other, write poetry, expound philosophy, debate ideas, sacrifice their lives for causes, eat, drink, entertain, dress, love, and hate in terms that would be recognizable to a historian as being appropriate to their times.
Volga se Ganga has been translated across languages, Indian and foreign, but this edition, for the first time, brings together all twenty chapters in English.
[Volga to Ganga] is quite unlike any I have read in recent times. . . .We travel down the river of time, holding the author’s hand, as he paints a panoramic view of history which is also rich in small details and wondrous sights, sounds, smells. . . . Maya Joshi’s excellent introduction and notes provide a valuable context for the modern reader possibly unaware of the author’s formidable reputation as a polymath and polyglot.
Rakhshanda Jalil, The Hindu