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Moral Choices

Alka Tyagi

By Dharamvir bharti . Translated by Alok Bhalla
Oxford University Press, Delhi 2005 & Manoa and the University of Hawai'i press, 2010, pp. 162, Rs. 295.00


The book was first published by Oxford University Press five years ago with a critical introduction. However this remarkable Indian drama is finding a broader reader/audience base and has recently been published by the University of Hawaii Press with an additional, deeply penetrating essay (Ahimsa in the City of Mind) by Alok Bhalla and reproductions of paintings from the 15981599 Razmnama for Akbar in the John Frederick Lewis Collection of Oriental Miniatures in the Rare Books Department of the Free Library of Philidelphia. This review focuses basically on Bhallas English translation of Dharamvir Bhartis Andha Yug as this translation unlike its predecessors comes across to the reader as a very potent creative rendering of Bhartis verse drama. Andha Yug attained the status of a classic soon after its publication in 1954. This verse drama chooses for its subject the dark times that followed the Great War at Kurukshetra in the epic Mahabharata. It deals with the despair and desolation that engulfed the survivors of the war. Bhartis play looks closely at the breakdown of values of honour, morality, righteousness and faith. Not only the Kauravas but the Pandavas also seemed to have been in the grip of complete disorder and chaos. Defending his need to write this apparently dark play about people with a blinded vision, Dharamvir Bharti talked about the compulsion that he felt to express the need to preserve the values of faith and truth even in the face of frustration, dejection, bloodshed, vengeance, disease, deformity, blindness in his prefatory note to the first edition of Andha Yug. Incidentally Bharti did not mention in his preface any connection between the political and religious violence that ensued after the partition of the country and his chosen theme from our ancient epic Mahabharata, but his subject of a blind war between two clans who had the same roots seemed to reflect very fittingly our own living reality. The play deals with the despair, confusion and hopelessness that engulf the protagonists of a war. At the centre of the play are on one hand Krishna from the Pandava side that represents righteousness, grace and divinity and on the other hand the vengeful Ashwatthama from the Kaurava side. The play opens in the city of Hastinapur with its blind Kaurava King Dhritrashtra and his blindfolded wife Gandhari. The metaphor of blindness runs throughout the text, playing upon the literal blindness of characters like ...

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