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Contributed by Jonathan Ablard on 04/11/2014
Jason Freitag (History) has written a chapter entitled “India’s Nietzsche: The Supermen in the East” in Todd Lewis & Bruce McCoy Owens, eds., Sucāruvādadeśika: A Festschrift Honoring Professor Theodore Riccardi. Kathmandu, Nepal: Himal Press, 2014.
In this paper Dr. Freitag explores an almost wholly overlooked topic – the Indian understanding of Friedrich Nietzsche. Dr. Freitag examines two works by a central figure in Indian thought and history, A. K. Coomaraswamy (1877-1947). Coomaraswamy was India’s leading art historian in the early twentieth century, and champion of a swadeshi approach to Indian art that privileged a pure and ideal India in distinction to a materialist West. Freitag argues that Coomaraswamy’s essays locate generally in India the spiritual power, and particularly in the Rajputs the temporal power, that Nietzsche sought in his ideological antidote to Western (read Christian) civilization. Coomaraswamy, however, far from privileging Nietzsche, actually subordinates and Indianizes Nietzsche, arguing that India already existed in that space beyond good and evil that Nietzsche idolized. Further, Coomaraswamy introduces what he sees as India’s supermen, the Rajputs, to the Nietzschean analysis that was, in Coomaraswamy’s mind, rightfully suited to them