Discuss the symbolic significance of mosque, cave, and temple in A Passage to India

A Passage to India
A Passage to India

Discuss the symbolic significance of mosque, cave, and temple in A Passage to India.

Ans. The central design of A Passage to India is composed of
three major symbols which are indicated in the titles to three parts of
the novel: Mosque, Caves, and Temple. In the first part of the novel,
we are brought to a mosque, in the second to the caves, and in the
third to a temple. Each visit is a critical encounter and has a symbolic
significance that dominates the events following it in that section of
the novel.

In the Mosque part of the novel, an English woman and an
Indian enter a mosque and establish a “secret understanding of the
heart”. Aziz, the Muslim doctor, enters the mosque to get the peace
and happiness denied to him in the Anglo-Indian world. Similarly
Mrs. Moore, bored by the dull entertainment at the British club has
escaped into the mosque.

Thus both of them have entered the
mosque to seek shelter from the oppressive surroundings. After
the conversation, Mrs. Moore finds that Aziz is a warm and sensitive man
and ultimately an understanding of each other occurs. This
understanding of the heart, in other words, friendship is the
dominant urge at this stage and expresses the most general meaning
of the mosque symbol of the novel. The “Mosque” with its serene
beauty, its combination of light and shade, represents a belief in the
oneness of God as well as the oneness of India, and therefore, comes to
symbolize a possibility of understanding and friendship established
between the East and the West, as represented by the friendshiP
between Aziz and Mrs. Moore. But this friendship between people Of
different races and color is undercut by the ironic message Of the
‘Bridge Party’ which proves to be a failure.

The Marabar Caves are mysterious as is India. We are told by
Forster that they are prehistoric. They pre-dated Islam, Christianity, and even Hinduism, which are the oldest religions in the world. They
stand for chaos, darkness, and evils. The dark and empty caves reveal
the hollowness of life where nothing matters. The vacuum produces
an echo, “bou-oum” sound which is frightening. By hearing this echo
in the caves, two British women, Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested
unwilling and against their intentions, have released Evil which
spreads everywhere. The echo suggests unity but it is a unity which
does not have any qualities of love, goodness, and understanding. It
negates all their values.

The “Temple”, the last section containing the essence of the
novel, stands for love, harmony, and happiness. It opens with
Godbole presiding over a festival—the celebration of the birth of Sri
Krishna in a temple at Mau during the monsoons. Amid all the noise
and confusion of celebration the god is born, symbolically, and love,
celebrated. In celebrating the birth of the god, the Hindus led by the
wise Brahmin Godbole, assume that all creation is one and shares in
joy. It is a vision of God as a Universal Friend who embraces all the
people and things of this earth in His Divine Love.

To conclude. A Passage to India is a complex work of art based
on the evil of the British imperialistic rule in India. In it the symbolic
devices, of the three parts, ‘Mosque’, ‘Caves’, and ‘Temple’, are very
much important because they heighten the meaning of the novel and
also, add dignity to it.

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