Water as a Symbol of “Shāntih” in T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land: An Upanishadic Reading


  • Damaru Chandra Bhatta Tribhuvan University, Tri-Chandra Campus




bondage, ignorance, knowledge, liberation, Upanishad


This paper tries to explore jivātmās' (souls' or individual selves') spiritual journey from bondage to liberation for “Shāntih” (Peace), especially represented by the symbol of water in T. S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land from the viewpoint of the principal Upanishads. The ultimate goal of life is to attain "Shāntih," Brahma, or moksha (liberation). This is symbolized through the search for water in the poem. Thus, the search for water is the search for "Shantih." The poem is influenced by the fundamental concept of the Upanishads that it is impossible to attain moksha without breaking the ignorance or the materialistic thinking that we are body and mind, made especially for sexual pleasures. We need to follow the eternal teachings of the Brihadāranyaka Upanishad—give charity or donation ("Datta"), be kind ("Dayadhvam"), and control yourself ("Dāmyata")—to achieve liberation from different kinds of sufferings as expressed in the poem. Eliot suggests that the knowledge and implementation of these spiritual values could help humanity to be free from the bondage of mundane desires, which are the causes of sufferings. Thus, this paper tries to analyze the poem from the viewpoint of the principal Upanishads to widen the horizon of knowledge for the benefit of humankind and to understand Eliot scholarship by crossing the boundaries of the Western culture.


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