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Dhriti Ray Dalai/ Panchanan Dalai : Tagore’s ‘Chandalika’

Image courtesy - A Japanese Catalogue of Tagore's Paintings, 1985

Chandalika : Tagore’s Unfinished Project on Caste, Gender and sexuality 

As a poet, philosopher, educationist, playwright, thinker, and social reformer, Tagore crosses the constraint of time and space. In his universal appeal and varied genius, the 1913 Nobel-laureate fails to be read from a ‘time bound’ approach. His contributions to literature is as precious as his contributions to culture, education, nationalism, human studies, religion, gender, economy, and rural construction. Tagore’s corpus of works challenges any ‘essential’ reading of him. Appreciating Tagore’s relevance today, Kenneth R. Stunkel opines, “Tagore was and still is…a major presence in world literature….He remains a literary force” (Stunkel, Kenneth R., 2003: 239). One would not disagree with Stunkel when one witnesses the volume, variety and nature of subject maters Tagore has dealt with in his works.

It is in this sense that the present article seeks to read Tagore’s less discussed drama Chandalika (first published in Bengali in 1933 and in English translation by K. R. Kripalini in 1938) from the perspective of caste, gender, and sexuality. It attempts to view how the play is a site where Tagore projects two people, opposed to each other because of their religion, caste, gender and sexuality, to bring in a synthesis of the disharmonies that lie between them, and thereby, prove a social point. Attempting a textual evaluation of the play, the paper would conclude with how Tagore’s over emphasis on spirituality has disabled him to finish his project of finding an alternative solution to India’s tryst with casteism, religion, gender and sexuality. Tagore’s ambiguous stand can be discerned in his untouchable poems such as “Satyakama Jabala” which emphasizes on the idea of quest for truth at the expense of Jabala’s quest for knowledge. Like Ekalavya, Satyakama’s dalit dimension is strategically silenced in the poetic glorification of truth and wisdom. Tagore designs Satyakama as an ideal seeker of truth but fails to problematise his social truth. Similar such acts of silencing can be witnessed in the poem “Sweet Mercy” by the poet himself published in Harijan on 20th May, 1933. Raidas a sweeper and tanner by caste becomes the great disciple of Ramanand, the Brahmin saint of the middle ages. As a protagonist of the poem, Raidas’s greatness is pitted against Ramanand’s graciousness. He becomes the hero of another poem “The Sweeper”. Here too Raidas as a saint is eulogized only because he has enchanted the Rani Jhali of Chitor to be his disciple. In all three cases, we notice how dalits like Satyakama and Raidas are pitted against the uppercastes. Even in ‘Upagupta’ we find similar such echoes. Caste in Tagore therefore does not stand as a separate entity; rather it always ends with a spiritual renunciation or carries moral ramifications. 

In the play for our present discussion here, Tagore orchestrates his hypothesis of mitigating the divide between an untouchable and an ascetic, between a man and a woman in his protagonists thus:

PRAKRITI. When my suffering is stilled. How can he attain his Mukti until I attain
mine? (Chandalika, Act I, p. 162)
And again-

PRAKRITI. What if he escapes now, away from this birth of mine, and I can never reach
him again? Then it will be my turn to the illusion of a Chandal birth.
(Chandalika, Act I, p. 163)

True to Prakriti’s apprehension, Tagore does not make Anand and Prakriti meet together and making the chasm to exist forever. It is in this sense we can view Tagore’s project as unfinished.

Chandalika is based on a Buddhist legend. Ananda, the famous disciple of the Buddha, approaches towards a well only to ask for water from a Chandalini, a young untouchable girl. Prakriti, the Chandalini, serves him water from her pitcher and falls in love with him at the first sight. Her passion to possess Ananda tempts her to compell her mother to cast a magic spell on Ananda and to drag him to her house. The spell proves stronger and Ananda is dragged to the couch spread for him by the Chandalini. Ananda prays to the Buddha to save himself from this shame and remorse. Consequently, Buddha breaks the magic spell and frees Ananda, who walks away from the Chandalini, as pure as he came.

The play, for many, has been either a play of spiritual conflict or a psychological drama. Several critics have opined how the psychological turmoil which includes Prakriti’s moral, sensual, spiritual, and social conflicts make the play a psychological drama. Such readings of us however obliterate the most social concerns of the play like casteism and sexuality which make the play more as a social document than a mere stage show of entertainment and aesthetics. Many reviews published in the book Rangamancha O Rabindranath Samakalin Pratikriya (1995) reveal the insufficient attention paid to the content and connotations of the play to our society. Instead of viewing it as a play of social problems, or a play that problematises our notion of caste, gender, sexuality and spirituality, the reviews by different newspapers and magazines, as recorded in the above mentioned book, concentrate more on the entertainment, the dramaturgy, the dialogue, orchestra, actors, costumes, chorus, and aesthetics of the play, ignoring the stark realities of our society. Besides, some of the reviews like the report published in the pages of Hindustan Standard (7th Jan, 1939) inform us about how the elite class like the Maharaja of Tipperah watched a special screening of the play. Some reviews like the one in The Statesman, dated the 10th of February, 1939, mention of budding actors such as Sm Nandita Devi, the poet’s granddaughter and Mamata Bhattacharya among many. In some other reviews, we find the mention of dance styles from different states like the Manipuri style of Assam and the Kathakali of South India effecting the stage play of Chandalika (p. 272). In some other reviews too, the emphasis has been on how the performances drew full house, how the poet himself recited the poem, how somebody led the choir (p. 265), how the costumes and the production in general were extremely artistic (p. 268 ), and how the story was presented through a series of superb dance evolved at the Santiniketan School (p.2 69), and how the response received at Bankura, Midnapur and Asansol was up to satisfaction (p. 275). What is ironical in these reviews is the absence of an appropriate attention to how the play sensitizes the social issues endemic to our society. 

Chandalika is an epitome of the master dramatist’s experiment with three significant issues i.e., spirituality, untouchability, and sexuality. The play is a perfect labyrinth of Indian society having three prominent themes; the most prominent being the ‘spiritual liberation’, while ‘emancipation from the scourge of untouchability,’ and the ‘burden of sexuality’ constitute the other two underlying themes. The play displays close interlinking of caste, gender, and religion in subtle and significant ways that we can detect and debate. 

Tagore reminds us of his intellectual ingenuity he has employed to deal and debate not only spirituality but also India’s greater and grave cause, i.e. untouchability. The union of Ananda and Prakriti in the play is symbol of union on many levels, i.e, union between a man and woman, between an austere man and an impure woman, between a spiritual individual and a passionate adult girl. It is in this dichotomy of gender, religion, individuality and sexuality that Tagore seeks to bring in a synthesis of them that would be symmetrical to a sound and civilized society. Similarly, in his dramatic treatment of social problems, Tagore comes closer to what John Webster attempts to do in his The Duchess of Malfi and what W. B. Yeats tries to achieve in his poetic drama The Countess Cathleen. Even Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream can be thought of while one ponders over the midsummer-day-meeting of Prakriti with the Bhikshu and her consequent fancy and fantasy to possess him. What would be observed in our discussion of the text later are the echoes of Shakespearean and Websterean language, metaphors and ideas of sins and violence that we notice in this play of Tagore. See for example how Tagore is expressing the enormity of vice and virtue in the following dialogue of Prakriti, the dalit protagonist.

PRAKRITI. Only once did he cup his hands, to take the water from mine. Such a little water, yet the water grew to fathomless, boundless sea. In it flowed all the seven seas in one, and my caste was drowned, and my birth washed clean.
Does not the metaphors of ‘fathomless, boundless sea,’ and ‘all the seven seas’ remind us of Macbeth who compares the severity of his sin thus:

MACBETH. Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine… (Act II, Scene i)

One can notice the ‘extended simile of sea’ that Shakespeare and Tagore employ to describe the enormity of crime, vice and virtue. Similarly, Prakriti’s madness for Ananda reflects that of the Duchess for Antonio as in the following dialogue of the Duchess-

DUCHESS. “For I am going into a wilderness, 
where I shall find nor path, nor friendly clew to be my guide”(Act I, 
Scene i).
Like the Duchess, Prakriti too declares her desire for Ananda oblivious of social constraints thus:

PRAKRITI. I’m afraid of nothing now. Chant your spells, bring the Bhikshu to the side of the Chandalini. I myself shall do him honour – no one else can honour him so well. (Act I)
More than these, Tagore displays his ability to depict the renaissance idea of crime and passion in Prakriti’s determination as does Shakespeare in Macbeth’s determination to murder the king Duncan. Notice the similarities in both Macbeth and Prakriti’s dialogue.

MACBETH. If it were done when ‘t is done, then
‘t were well
It were done quickly:… (Act I, Scene VII)

PRAKRITI. If my longing can draw him here, and if that is a crime, then I will commit the crime. I care nothing for a code… (Act I)

Tagore displays his classical dramatic style through his engagements with style, metaphors, language and technique. His classical style of opening the play Chandalika reminds us of the opening of Macbeth with the most intriguing dictum of the witches- “Fair is foul, Foul is Fair”. It would do well to mark how Tagore opens his play with the following intriguing dialogue of the mother which presupposes a kind of danger that is likely to follow. 

MOTHER. Parkrit! Prakriti! Where has she gone? What ails the girl, I wonder? She’s never to be found in the house. (Act I)

Through his employment of words such as ‘ails’ and phrase like ‘never to be found in the house’, Tagore implicates two things here; one is the dreadful ‘problem’ that Prakriti and the readers/viewers should realize; secondly, the ‘boundary or limit’ that is necessitated by the problem to which Prakriti should adhere to. The opening of the play only accentuates its concerns over caste and sexuality. In fact, Tagore makes it more apparent in the middle of the play through the dialogue of the Mother who warns her daughter of “trespassing” the demarcated boundary for Chandals like them:

MOTHER You are unclean; beware of tainting the outside world with your unclean
presence. See that you keep to your own place, narrow as it is. To stray
anywhere beyond its limits is to. (Act I)

The words ‘ails’ as mentioned in our first quotation as well as ‘uncleanlines’ and ‘narrow passage’ in the above dialogue are hints of Prakriti’s over brimming adulthood and its consequent the burden of sexuality. They serve as clues to comprehend Prakriti’s caste as well as sexual positions i.e, the sickness which bothers her mother to warn Prakriti from trespassing, as otherwise she would pollute others as well as herself. It is also noteworthy to notice how the dramatist intensifies the notion of caste and sexuality gradually through metaphors and symbols that can be read as markers of mental, social and textual tensions. More hints are provided when the mother comments:

MOTHER. … Past noon, and a blistering sun, and the earth too hot for the feet!... . Why, the very crows on the amlok branches are gasping for heat. Yet you sit in the Vaisakh sun for no reason at all!(Act I, p. 147)

As can be judged, the danger and curse of caste and sexuality is conveyed by selective employment of words such as ‘blistering sun’, ‘earth too hot’, ‘gasping crows’, and ‘Vaisakh sun’. All these can be perceived as metaphoric connotations to the evil of caste as well as the ripen youth of her. Prakriti’s adulthood cannot be viewed in a usual or ordinary sense as we view other ordinary girls’ youth. Precisely for this, Tagore uses these incongruent metaphors to awaken us to an unusual picture of Prakriti’s adulthood. Prakriti is not only an adult but also a Chandalini, an untouchable girl. The ‘blistering sun’ and the ‘hot earth’ are the markers of her sensual heat that Prakriti would eventually emit though her actions and words in the play. They are also the markers of her limited space and boundary which if she crosses would defile others and bring curse to her house. In fact, the mother warns her asking, “Aren’t you afraid of brining a curse upon yourself?” (Act I, p. 154). Prakriti’s sexuality is thus a site of contestation both for herself to tame it, as her mother implies, as well as for Ananda, the disciple of Lord Buddha. Tagore’s unusual metaphors thus presuppose the unusual incidence (that is likely to follow. And it is through this Tagore heightens his concerns in the play that are generally overlooked by many. In fact, he takes little time to depict his impressions of caste through the dialogues of the dalit duo.

MOTHER. Did you tell him that you are a Chandalini?
PRAKRITI. I told him, yes. He said it wasn’t true. If the black clouds of Sravana are dubbed Chandal, he said, what of it? It doesn’t change their nature, or destroy the virtue of their water. Don’t humiliate yourself, he said; self-humiliation is a sin, worse than self-murder. (Act I, pp. 147-148)

Tagore in the above lines seems to contextualize and criticize the irrational matrix of caste system. He alludes ‘caste’ to ‘cloud’ to attach a metaphysical and spiritual tag to this ‘vaporous thing called caste’ (as Yeats would have described it) in order to subvert the material and mundane manifestations of caste. For him, both humanity and sexuality are as pure and natural as that of the ‘cloud.’ Therefore, the notion of purity and pollution should not be attached to sexuality and caste. This is the reason why Ananda, the spiritual wayfarer, and Prakriti, the Chandalini, are pitted against each other to convey the possible union between purity and pollution. In this sense, the play is a workshop where Tagore employs two different individuals to arrive at a rationale for possible solution that would remove the existing prejudices and evil practices. Moreover, in his deconstructive outlook on untouchability, the poet-philosopher questions the established social perceptions and attitudes of conformity towards caste hierarchy, and thereby compels us to realize that believing in untouchability on untouchables’ part is as much a sin as it is on the part of the promoters and practitioners of casteism. It is in this, we notice the reformative role of Tagore like many of his contemporaries such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.

Tagore’s desire to regenerate its people from the scourge of caste by bringing a new dawn and new birth to the nation is seen in Ananda’s enlightening speeches to Prakriti. Prakriti’s psychological liberation as witnessed in the following dialogues can be viewed as Tagore’s conscious attempt to stir the social and psychological conscience of other people towards ‘condemned people such as the untouchables’, and ‘the evil called untouchability’: 

MOTHER. What words are these from you? Have you remembered some tale of a former birth?
PRAKRITI. No this is a tale of my new birth. 
MOTHER. You make me laugh. New Birth, indeed! Since when, pray? (Act I, p 148)

While Prakriti believes in her new birth, her mother however is ironical of such a possibility. Tagore’s dramatic excellence is best witnessed in this problemtisation of ‘emancipation from caste’ by infusing belief and disbelief, even adding irony and suspense to the possibility of such freedom and liberation from untouchability. It is not the ‘new birth’ from caste alone that Tagore is contextualizing in Prakriti here. In fact, this ‘new birth’ of her can be viewed as a new birth of sexuality for Prakriti as she is young and beautiful. Thus she confesses to this:

PRAKRITI. I may truly call it my new birth! He came to give me the honour of quenching Man’s thirst. (Act I, p. 149)

Let us not be oblivious to the italicized ‘me’ and capital ‘M’ in ‘Man’s’ here. Also our recollection of connection between thirst and water would enable us to understand the sexual implication that Prakriti has been persistently making in her speeches. At the same time, we cannot forget how ‘water’ is also a site of practice of untouchability that has been contextualized in myths, history, legends, creative and critical works. The protagonist herself quotes Ananda’s example of how Chandals have served water to the priestly people.

PRAKRITI. He said that Janaki bathed in such water as this, at the beginning of her forest exile, und the Guhak, the Chandal, drew it for her. My heart has been dancing ever since, and night and day I hear those solemn tones- ‘Give me water, give me water.’ (Act I, p. 149)

‘Water’ as a site and object of multiple interpretations- interpretation that is very specific to untouchability, purity, sexuality, and pollution. The story of Chandalika is complex thus in its multifarious dealing with caste, sexuality and spirituality. One can predict the narrative swing Tagore makes through Prakriti in her viewing of Ananda - sometimes as a ‘Man’, while at other times, as a ‘spiritual man’. Such paradigmatic shift in her pursuit is clear in the conversations between the mother and herself.
MOTHER. For whom do you wait?
PRAKRITI. For the wayfarer … That one wayfarer, Mother, the one and only. In him are all who fare along the ways of the world…. For my heart is become like a waterless waste, where the heat-haze quivers all day long, and the hot wind fans like flame. Its water cannot be given, for no one comes to seek it. (Act I, pp. 149-150)

Tagore conveys both the spiritual and sexual quests in the above dialogues of Prakriti. While the mother is doubtful of any man accepting Prakriti, Prakriti, on the contrary, is optimistic of the arrival of her “one and only” ideal man whom she views as the epitome of all worldly men and a symbol of dissolution where all castes and contradictions mingle together. Both the phrases “ways of the world” and “one and only” refer to Prakriti’s description of her most loved man who is an ascetic as well as an embodiment of all worldly ways. “Ways of the world” conveys the idea of worldliness, of mundane corporal affairs as much as it enlightens us how all’ the ways of the world’ finally join in Him. This mixture of spirituality and sexuality is best understood in the protagonist’s passionate longing for her ideal one.

PRAKRITI. I want him. All unlooked for- he came, and taught me this marvelous truth, that even my service will count with the God who guides the world. O words of great wonder! That I may serve, I, a flower sprung from a poison-plant! Let him raise that truth, that flower from the dust, and take it to his bosom. (Act I, p. 150)

Prakriti considers her meeting with Ananda as a blessing in disguise as it was unthinkable and unexpected to serve water from her pitcher to a marvelous mystic man near her dalit locality during the Midsummer Day. The exclamatory remarks as observed above are indicators of the multiple meaning attached to Ananda’s meeting with Prakriti. Moreover, the irony conveyed in the italicized ‘him’, ‘me’ and ‘I’ are instrumental and central to our understanding of identity differences between Ananda and Prakriti that the dramatist wants to emphasize in order to provide a more enlightening and utilitarian view of individual, God and society. See how Ananda provides an 18th century utilitarian view of religion when he urges Prakriti to realize that ‘service to man kind is service to God.’ And in this service to God, caste, birth or occupation do not count. So her ‘dalithood’ cannot be an impediment to serve her God. The emphasis on such enlightening idea is better expressed when Tagore makes Prakriti express, “O words of great wonder!” This expression is also a reminder of realization for the readers and viewers of the play. Much of this ‘wonder’ can be directed to our interpretation of Prakriti’s corporal longing for Ananda. 

What is also implicated in the above dialogue is Prakriti’s intention to be physically united with Ananda. ‘Flower’ is the metaphor for her to be deflowered by a noble and divine MAN. It would do well to recall how in her previous speeches she considers herself to be “useless”, “waste”, and complains how “nobody comes to seek her.” And here too she wishes that her ideal man should come and raise the “flower from the dust, and take it to his bosom.” She accentuates her low birth when she compares herself as the ‘flower sprung from a poison-plant.” ‘Poison plant’ is a symbol of her dalit origin; at the same time, it is also an indication of her fatherless parentage. We are kept ignorant of Prakriti’s father which in turn complicates our understanding of Prakriti’s legitimate birth. So Prakriti’s biological as well as social (caste) birth should be considered integral to the inherent meaning of ‘poison-plant.’

Undeterred by her mother’s warning Prakriti dares to brave the world, unlike Eliot’s Prufrock who is caught between decision and indecision. Thus, her determination to disturb the world by nourishing and declaring her desire for Ananda, Prakriti rises to the stature of the Duchess of Malfi. Like Webster’s Duchess, she declares the deep seated physical desire for Ananda in her response to the mother’s query about the prince who once saw Prakriti prior to her meeting with Ananda. She declares strongly and openly to her mother thus:

MOTHER. Why didn’t you go to the king’s house? He had forgotten everything in your beauty.
PRAKRITI. Yes, he had forgotten everything- forgotten that I was a human being. (Act I, p. 151)

Prakriti reminds us of herself, as does the Duchess of Malfi, as a human having flesh, blood and “not the figure cut in alabaster” (Act I, Scene i, Line no 454). Like the Duchess, who declares, before marrying her steward Antonio, “Let old wives report I winked, and chose a husband” (Act I , Scene i, line no 349), Tagore’s heroine too declares here, “Let everyone marvel at my daring!” (Act I, p. 151-152). Little later she repeats:

PRAKRITI. I fear nothing any longer, except to sink back again, to forget myself again, to enter again the house of darkness. That would be worse than death! (Act I, p. 153)

The indomitable passion for the ascetic echoes in Prakriti’s arguments with her mother. She elevates herself to be a gift to be offered, to be engaged in an exchange or as Tagore frames it, in a “give-and-take” relationship. The Donnean question resonates in Prakriti’s argument for the union with Ananda thus, “Will he not mingle his longings with mine, as the Ganges mingles with the black waters of the Jumna?” (Act I, p.152). The subtle and significant interfuse of caste and sexuality runs in all most every dialogue of Prakriti. The protagonist’s inner conflict is revealed through her dialogues neatly crafted with metaphors and symbols. See how Prakriti problematizes the notion of caste and sexuality yet again in the following dialogue:

PRAKRITI. …. What is the use of one pitcher of water when the earth is cracked with drought? Will not the clouds come of themselves to fill the whole sky, the rain seek the soil by its own weight? (Act I, p. 152)
Drought here implies the caste ridden society, dry and devoid of humanity. Therefore, Prakriti argues what is the use if only she alone mingles with Ananda as the rest shall still remain despised. She takes the metaphor of cloud that should hover over the earth and pour their purifying, renewing water so that all are freed and regenerated from social evils. Prakriti’s plead for equality for all here thus reminds of Tagore’s universal concerns. The sexual imagery is also conveyed through phrases such as “pitcher of water”, “cracked earth”, and “clouds”, etc. The urge to understand the natural instinct is perfectly expressed in Prakriti’s conceited question, “Will not the clouds come of themselves to fill the whole sky, the rain seek the soil by its own weight?” The union of earth and sky sought through the weight of water here can be perceived as an extended simile for the union of Ananda and Prakriti both spiritually and sexually. 

Tagore empowers her heroine to challenge the repressive world where her identity and desire are downplayed. The dramatist makes her challenge both her desire and destiny- the desire for her ideal man and the destiny of being a Chandalini. It is interesting how Tagore subverts the Brahminical upper caste narrative:

MOTHER. Why do you get so excited, child? You were born slave. It’s the writ of Destiny, who can undo it?
PRAKRITI. Fie, fie, Mother, I tell you again, don’t delude yourself with this self-humiliation- it is false, and a sin. Plenty of slaves are born of royal blood, but I am no slave; plenty of Chandals are born of Brahmin families, but I am no Chandal.(Act I, p. 152)

Prakriti’s perseverance for Ananda even pushes her to believe in what Lady Macbeth done to her husband. He compels her mother to exercise her sorcery skills to drag the ascetic Anand to her house. Consequently, her wish is fulfilled when the mother drags Ananda irrespective of Ananda’s struggle to be freed from such sorcery. As a divine justice however the mother dies repentant of her evil trick she played on Ananda. Prakriti too is repentant of Ananda’s sordid plight resulting from the mother’s magical spell. Prakriti describes Ananda’s wretchedness as following.

PRAKRITI. Where is the light and radiance, the shinning purity, the heavenly glow? How worn, how faded, has he come to my door! (Act II, p. 165)

Mourning on Ananda’s defeat Prakriti forgives Ananda as seen in the following self reflexive dialogues of hers:

PRAKRITI. Prakriti, Prakriti, if in truth you are no Chandalini, offer no insult to the heroic. Victory, victory to him. (Ibid)

What is interesting here is the reversal of Tagore’s hypothesis towards a possible union between a Chandalini and a spiritual man; in other words, between austerity and untouchability. Unlike Webster, whose Duchess challenges the royal tradition and patriarchy to marry her steward Antonio, Prakriti in Tagore’s Chandalika deliberately withdraws from braving the world and fails to bridge the cleavage between religion, caste, gender and sexuality. It is the dalits (the mother and Prakriti) who are compelled to embrace death and defeat designed by the social order. In fact, the text ends with the death of one Chandalini (the mother), and defeat of another (Prakriti). Tagore only showcases the intention of bringing harmony between the two halves; the ‘touchables’, and the ‘untouchables.’ But his project to bridge the disharmonies through mystical treatments remains unfinished here. Unlike Yeats’s Cathleen in the play Countess Cathleen who is praised for her intention to save her people from the devils by selling her catholic soul, Prakriti is prevented from acting on her intention to be united with Ananda for a greater cause- the symbolic union of dalits and upper castes. Even the translator of the text criticizes Prakariti’s passion as “vanity and pride” (‘Introduction,’ p. 145) and supports the poetic justice of the play thus:“The daughter, though chastened and made wise by suffering, has paid a heavy price; for wisdom is not happiness and renunciation is not fulfillment.” (p.146)

Tagore’s concerns for caste and sexuality thus seem to have lost in the failure of the union between Prakriti and Ananda. The social concerns and reformative ideas would have been better staged if Tagore had brought Prakriti and Ananda together- physically and spiritually. The absence of the union thus affirms the presence of imperishable differences between dalits and the non-dalits (uppercastes). Moreover, the failure of such a union establishes the superiority of religion and god over human beings, particularly, the Haijans like Prakriti and her mother. It is only in this sense that the play is a Harijan Tragedy. Tagore’s indecisive social stand and strong spiritual quest enables the play to be read more as a spiritual text than a social document. His postmodernist concerns in the play have been spoiled by excessive spiritual tension he harps on till the end of the play. The particularities and peculiarities of caste and gender have been overlooked by the sublimical touch he gives to the text. The spiritual road does not lead us to the social matrix of caste and sexuality. The social and human dimensions lose their seriousness in Tagore’s fusion of spirituality with it, keeping the play an unfinished project. 

Works Cited

Tagore, R. N. Chandalika in Rabindranath Tagore, Three Plays translated by Marjorie Sykes, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1975, 24th impression, 2005.
Kripalini, K. R. ‘Introduction’ to Chandalika in Rabindranath Tagore: Three Plays, translated by Marjorie Sykes, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1975, 24th impression, 2005.
Chakraborty, Rudraprasad. Rangamancha O Rabindranath Samakalin Pratikriya, Kolkata: Ananda Publishers’ Pvt. Limited, 1995.
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth in The Globe Illustrated Shakespeare, edited by Howard Staunton, New York: Gramercy Books, 1979.
Stunkel, Kenneth R. “Rabindranath Tagore and the Aesthetics of Postmodernism,” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Winter, 2003), pp. 237-259. Accessed from stable URL:  on 03/06/2010.
Webster, John. The Duchess of Malfi, edited by John Russell Brown, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984.


Focus – "Reading Across Time": Tagore Today

  Amrit Sen : Editorial

Lead Article
  Udaya Narayana Singh : Redrawing the Boundaries

Critical Essays

  Nation, History, Cultural Exchange
    Avijit Banerjee : Tagore’s Visit to China
    Bijoy Mukherjee : Rabindranath and Indian History
    Biswanath Banerjee : Tagore and Acharya PC Ray
    Sagarika Chakraborty : Tagore the Diplomat
    Soumitra Roy : Tagore’s Ghare Baire

  Responses to Caste and Gender
    Dhriti Ray Dalai/ Panchanan Dalai : Tagore’s ‘Chandalika’
    Dipankar Roy : Women in Tagore’s ‘Domestic Novels’
    Sanjukta Dasgupta : “Streer Patra” - A Feminist Text?
    Swati Ganguly : Gender, Sexuality and Conjugality in Samapti

  Translation and Reception
    Anindya Sen : Tagore’s Self-Translations
    Jayati Gupta : Whose Gitanjali is it Anyway?
    Sushobhan Adhikary : Cartoons on Tagore
    Usha Kishore : The Auto-translations of Rabindranath

  Rural Reconstruction and Ecopoetic
    Bipasha Raha : Experiments with Village Welfare
    Debotosh Sinha : Tagore and Rural Reconstruction
    Falguni Piyush Desai : Floriography in Tagore’s Poetry
    Marie Josephine Aruna : ‘Letters’ and Ecopoetics

  Aesthetics, Paintings and Dance Dramas
    Aju Mukhopadhyay : The Poet of Sublime Love
    Raghupathi K V : Aesthetics of Tagore and Sri Aurobindo
    Sudeshna Majumdar : Paintings of Tagore
    Sutapa Chaudhuri : Dance Dramas of Tagore

  Tagore and the Short Story
    Dominic K V : Tagore’s Short Stories
    Mausumi Sen Bhattacharjee : ‘The Hunger of Stones’

  Tagore and Visva-Bharati
    Anindita Chongdar : Anecdotes of Santiniketan
    Debmalya Das : The Visva-Bharati Quarterly
    Subodh Gopal Nandi : The Visva-Bharati Library

Creative Responses

    Sanjukta Dasgupta : Remembering Rabindranath

    Frank Joussen : Tagore and Walt Whitman
    Nuggehalli Pankaja : The Voice of Tagore
    Sanjukta Dasgupta : To Rabindranath
    Shambhobi Ghosh : Yet

  Ahmed A H S : Birthday and other poems
  Anup Maharatna : From ‘The Last Writings’
  Ashoka Sen : Africa
  Barnali Saha : The Vacation (Fiction)
  Naina Dey : Chance Meeting
  Parantap Chakraborty : The Son of Man
  Suranjima Saha : Preamble to a Journey
  Swapna Dutta : The Editor

  Amrit Sen:Behind the Veil & Tagore and Modernity
  Kumaran S : Pathos in the Short Stories of Tagore

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