Indian Visions of The Future: Rahul Sankrityayan’s 1924 Science-Fiction Novel Twenty-Second Century

A/Prof. Peter Friedlander1

1ANU, Canberra, Australia

Just as understandings of the past are rooted in contemporary debates, so too are visions of the future products of the times in which they are produced. In order to investigate this proposition, I explore how a pioneering Hindi science fiction novel was shaped by the era in which it was written. My focus is on the Hindi science-fiction novel Twenty-Second Century by Rahul Sankrityayan. This remarkable work by one of the most significant Indian writers of the twentieth century revealed his vision of how India would have developed by 2124. In order to understand the ideas in the novel I analyse how Rahul Sankrityayan’s involvement with the freedom struggle, socialism, internationalism and Buddhism shaped his concept of India’s future. Whilst Sankrityayan is today remembered mostly for travel writing and Buddhist studies this novel reflects how his socialism informed his vision of India as part of a future universal union of socialist states. I also consider its relationship to international literature, and science-fiction, of its era and its relationship to more recent Hindi science-fiction literature. My conclusion is that in contrast to many of today’s visions of India’s future, this novel presents a radical alternative vision for a future India.


Peter Friedlander lectures at the Australian National University where he teaches Hindi and Indian studies. He learned Hindi whilst living in India in the nineteen seventies and went on to do a degree in Hindi at SOAS (London University) and did research on Sant Raidas for which he was awarded a PhD in South Asian Studies in 1991. His publications include works on Raidas, Kabir, Buddhism and Hinduism and the relationship between Hindi language, religion, and politics in India such as ‘Ravidas and the Ganga: Appropriation or Contestation?’, in Conceiving the Goddess, (Monash University, 2016), ‘Ravidas in the Guru Granth’, in Knut A. Jacobson, Brill’s Encyclopedia of Sikhism, Volume 1: History, Literature, Society beyond Punjab (Brill, Leiden, 2017), Ravidas (Oxford Bibliographies, 2019), A Fountain in mid-air: Kabir Creations and Recreations (Primus, Delhi, Forthcoming).



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