Indian philosophy is one of the ingredients which make Yeats modernist poet with his specific brand of modernism. Yeats’s modernism is rooted in a variety of sources such as nineteenth century English poetry, French symbolists, Imagism and so on so forth. Some of the major influences on his poetry include Irish mythology and folklore, European and Eastern mysticism, the occult and magic, the Caballah and Rosicrucianism, French symbolist and Romantic poetry, theosophy and Hindu philosophy. It would be useful to learn about Irish tradition’s consistent interest in and response to India and some cultural conditions that reciprocated the responses of Ireland and India.
The Celts and the Indians
Yeats was highly influenced by Shelley who in his Prometheus Unbound, says, “And the Celts knew the Indians!” Yeats himself was very much aware of this fact which finds expression in his letter to the Irish American Boston Pilot of July 1889,
“The earliest poet of India and the Irish peasant in his novel nod to each other across the ages and are in perfect agreement.”1
There are also interesting similarities in the history, mythology and the political situations of India and Ireland. These affinities facilitate the mutual literary as well as philosophical influences and the reception between the two countries.
Myles Dillon in his Celts and Aryans draws interesting parallels between Irish and Indian legends. King Cormac MacAirt, for example has an adventure similar to that of King Dushyant. Just as Dushyant meets Shankuntala, Cormac also meets Buchet, in the forest by chance and marries her. The Irish god of the dead ‘Donn’, the first to die, the father of all men and women is very similar to the Indian god of death Yama. The Irish word Sidhe may be from the same origin as the Sanskrit word Sidhe. In 1890s, Yeats began to compare Irish, Assyrian and Indian symbols and wanted to set up an Irish mystical order using the Indian concept of Tattwas.
Both the Irish and the Indians consider themselves as very spiritual. The chief religion of India is Hinduism and that of Ireland Catholicism. Despite some basic theological and doctrinal differences, the way in which these are practiced is very similar. Though Christianity upholds monotheism unlike Hinduism, the pantheon of the many saints who are worshipped by the Irish Catholics is comparable to the innumerable gods and goddesses of Hinduism, with the virgin Mary in place of the Mother goddess of Hinduism. The close similarity in customs, music, metre, myths, symbols and religious beliefs between India and Ireland may be the outcome of an Indo-Irish heritage.
Similarity in Political History
India and Ireland also share many similarities in political history. Both the countries were colonized by the British. The native culture and language were suppressed and English was imposed. The Young Ireland rebellion in 1848, much like the 1857 revolt in India was a failure. In 1907 the Irish Parliamentary Party...