The Last Brahmin is a work of reflection as well as the intellectual quasi-autobiography of a modern-day pandit.
Written by a schoolteacher of Sanskrit, it embodies an effort to grapple with the enigma of the Brahminical tradition—its spread over long time periods, its forms and transformations, its implications and stakes for the Indian subcontinent’s Hindus and larger world. Even as it is a philosophical critique of an elite tradition, The Last Brahmin emphasizes the enormity of the tasks involved in finding alternatives to that tradition today.
From the core of the surviving realms of the tradition, this work recounts a tale of living on in difficult and adversarial conditions for the sake of learning, scholarship, and the rigours of pedagogical bonding.
This is also thus a narrative of the pain of discontinuity: it dramatizes the philosophical and historical issues of cultural practice in the form of filial disinheritance and throws up some formidable questions: What is an inheritance? Who inherits tradition? How may one inherit a tradition? What are the conditions and consequences of such inheritance? In the process, this reflective work emerges as the poignant articulation of a Brahmin’s response, and responsibilitiies, in the wake of colonial and postcolonial conditions.
Its critical unravelling of the Sanskrit tradition sets The Last Brahmin apart from the disciplinary frames of Indology on the one hand, and partisanal Hindu ideological forces on the other. While pitching its tent against Orientalist knowledge on India, it insists equally on the difference and distinction between the Brahmin Sanskrit tradition and ‘so-called Hinduism’.
Rani Siva Sankara Sarma (the author), teaches Sanskrit in a small-town school in Andhra Pradesh. His literary work includes short stories, poetry, and essays in Telugu. He has written a poem in Sanskrit on the Ramayana as well as experimental poetry in collaboration with Dalit writers.
D. Venkat Rao(the translator), teaches in the School of Critical Humanities at the Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad. His areas of interest include Sanskrit systems of reflection, culture studies, and digital humanities.