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A Passage to India | Study Guide

E. M. Forster

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A Passage to India | Part 3, Chapter 33 ((Temple)) | Summary



It is two years later, in a crowded corridor in the palace of the Hindu state of Mau, and Professor Godbole, Minister of Education, is leading his choir in a ceremony celebrating the midnight birth of Krishna to the accompaniment of the sounds of monsoon rain. He and his colleagues are singing and playing music to the tiny image of the god hidden among a jumble of items on the altar among a chaotic scene. On the wall is an inscription: "God is Love." The music changes, inspiring a feeling among the musicians of universal love of mankind, and suddenly and independently the thoughts of Mrs. Moore and a wasp come into Godbole's mind, and, imitating God, he tries to love them both. Dancing down the strip of carpet where he stands, he clears a path for the litter of the ailing, aged Rajah to be carried toward the shrine.

A model of Gokul, the village of Krishna's birth, is placed before the altar, and at midnight a conch is sounded, red powder is thrown into the air, and all erupt into joy and laughter. Godbole gives a red silk napkin folded into the shape of a baby to the Rajah, who names it Shri Krishna and then is borne away to a room where Dr. Aziz, his physician, awaits him. Back in sacred corridors and the courtyard, the worshippers play silly games with butter and balls and then break great hanging earthenware jars filled with milk and rice, which everyone then eats and shares in a state of benign confusion. Godbole is left with a feeling of love for Mrs. Moore and the wasp.


In this Indian state only lightly touched by the British, chaos and love reign in a happy muddle during the celebration of Krishna's birth. The scene is full of playfulness and humor: Godbole clashes a single cymbal while untangling his glasses from a garland, the music of a Europeanized band clashes with Godbole's choir, and the participants play clownish games with butter and balls to amuse the newborn god, not unlike the pranks Aziz had planned with Mohammed Latif for the ladies at the Marabar picnic. The misspelled motto—"God is Love"—echoes what Mrs. Moore told Ronny when she first arrived about the responsibility of the English to be pleasant to Indians. Just after this, the thought of Mrs. Moore comes into Godbole's mind, and taking a godly or cosmic perspective, he tries to love both Mrs. Moore and a wasp, with an all-encompassing, equalizing love reminiscent of the Marabar echo.

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