Written fourteen years after the tragic partition of the country. Susamhatabharatam takes into its stride the struggle for freedom its achievement after paying the price of Partition, the liberation of Goa from the Portuguese and the Chinese aggression. The objective is the integration of the country. The play is a sensitive portrayal of political reality which is not easily amenable to the needs of literary creativity. The play holds the attention of the reader throughout. Its verses will keep him in thrall. The language is simple, idiomatic and crisp. One marvels at the ease with which the author has delineated the modern political issues in classical Sanskrit without making any compromise with its pristine dignity.
Born on 23rd October, 1927 at Indupalli of East Godawari District in Andhrapradesh, M.M. Pullela Shrirmchandrudu studied Shastra from his father. He is an erudite scholar in many shastra. He is Vedantashiromani, Hindi Visharada, MA (Sanskrit, Hindi & English). He served as Professor, Department of Sanskrit, Osmania University, Hyderabad (A.P.) for many years. He has more than 160 books to his credit. He has been honoured with many titles and awards such as: Mahamahopadhyaya (Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, New Delhi, 1999), Vedantavaridhi (Kanchi Kamakotipeetham, Kanchi 2007), Good Sanskrit Scholar (Telugu University, Hyderabad, 1991), Vedanta Shiromani (Madras Sanskrit College, 1948), President’s Certificate of Honour, 1987), Vishwabharaati Award 1994, Central Sahitya Academy Award 1996 & 2002, Vachaspati Puraskar 2004, Shastrakalanidhi, Chennai 2006 etc.
I am very happy to note that the play Susamhatabharatam of Prof. P Sriramachandrudu is now available in English. Prof. Sriramchandrudu is a serious scholar, critic and translator of Sanskrit texts but his talent as a poet and playwright is not so well known. I hope this English translation by Dr. Madhusudhan Penna will go a long way in bringing into the light the prodigious literary talent of Sriramachandrudu.
Written in six acts the play has as its subject freedom struggle, the achievement of independence and the political churning in post-Independent India. The very fact of the ancient and classical Sanskrit handling a closer-to-our-time a theme as national integration and post-Independent politics makes it a very interesting text for me. The interplay of a lyrical and harmonious classical sensibility with the cacophony and intrigue of contemporary politics is fascinating, and is representative of a condition that the modern India mind has always grappled with. The play has already received the appreciation of critics and readers for its mellifluous prose and charming shlokas, and now it is finally in English translation for the enjoyment of a larger readership. I am sure the readers will welcome this play.
The contribution to Sanskrit that Professor Sriramchandrudu has made is prolific and of incredible variety. After a long and arduous studentship in the Gurukula tradition which has endowed him with flawless command of Sanskrit and of the six shastras, he has studied with meticulous care English, Telugu and Hindi obtaining Master’s in each of them from different universities across the country. He has demonstrated his unrivalled expertise in writing erudite commentaries, translating classics from Sanskrit, publishing research papers, editing priceless manuscripts, authoring authoritative works in different branches of learning and chairing scholarly debates. The numerous titles, awards and honours like the conferment of ‘Mahamahopadhyaya’ have come to him unasked and worthily. All this has no effect on him. The heavy weight of accolades sits lightly on his shoulders. Not many can have all this and yet be as simple and as unassuming. He has lived an exemplary life. A dhira he has braved many trials and tribulations. Any other in his place would have lost his nerve, and become a wreck. It is a tribute to his spiritual mettle that he has remained in the world and not of it like the proverbial lotus untouched by water. He is a rishi.
His massive scholarship has veiled his creative writing. Unfortunately it is not as well known that he is an excellent poet and playwright in Sanskrit. A reading of his poetry and plays will reveal that he has adopted a modern approach in all his writings while being securely anchored in the classical tradition.
I will speak briefly of his play in Sanskrit Susamhata Bharatam (Integrated India). The name itself refers to the problem of integration in India-a home for almost all living religions, presenting to a superficial observer a medley of sects, clans, castes, political groups and languages all pulling fiercely indifferent directions. The nation seems to be on the verge of disintegration. The bogey of disintegration has been there for long. It was raised chiefly by the British at the time of Independence. Winston Churchill felt sure that “India would fall back quite rapidly through the centuries into the barbarism and privations of the Middle ages”. He loved to perpetuate the empire over which the Sun would not set. It was his pet dream. When the question of granting Independence to India came up, as the Prime Minister he said firmly that he was not there to preside over the liquidation of the mighty empire. He had such a low opinion of Indians and their leaders that he declared that it was nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi a Half-naked Fakir striding the steps of the vice-regal palace “to parley on equal terms with the representative of the king-Emperor”. At this distance of time, we merely laugh at his ill-bred hubris and move on. But the British did everything to scuttle the struggle for freedom, by their well-tested policy of divide and rule. They had the solid support of the Anglophiles. Besides, the venality of the native princes helped the British to introduce and perfect the art and craft of corruption. They brought in the scourge of division on communal lines. The selective conferment of favours was perused as a policy. The rich were with them, and so were the most among those schooled in English. Everything British was considered almost divinely ordained, and all that was Indian was dismissed as trash. Indians were sought to be divided in every conceivable way, be it on the basis of religion, region, language, caste, creed or community. The spectre of disunity was projected the violent break-up of the country for which they had in fact all along planned. They wanted to undermine the Gandhi-Nehru-Patel leadership by exaggerating the minor differences of opinion among them. They made fun of non-violence as a means of political struggle. There were among Indians the followers of Bose who disapproved of non-violence as a political weapon. Bose favoured befriending the Japanese to defeat the British and win freedom for consequences. It was felt that the Japanese would enter to rule once the British leave. Then the choice would be no better than the one between the devil and the deep sea.
This is the political background of the play. One would notice that it has family resemblance with Mudra Rakshasa, though it is free from bitterness and ruthlessness that characterize Visakhadatta’s play.
Susamhata Bharatam was written in 1962. A fourteen years after the tragic partition of the country. It takes in to its stride the struggle for freedom its achievement after paying the price of Partition, the liberation of Goa from the Portugese and the Chinese aggression. The play is a sensitive portrayal of political reality which is not easily amenable to the needs of literary creativity. It must be said to the credit of the author that he has eminently succeeded in this challenging task.
The play is in Sanskrit on purpose. It has six acts. The author has stated clearly that Nehru is the protagonist of the play. The struggle for freedom, its achievement and its protection make for its subject. The objective is the integration of the country. We notice that the author is happy with the play as he has confidently called it That, it indeed is. It runs into 70 closely printed pages, and has passages of prose and 120 slokas, true to the Sanskrit Rupaka tradition. The language is simple, idiomatic and crisp. We marvel at the ease with which he has delineated the modern political issues in classical Sanskrit without making any compromise with its pristine dignity. The shlokas provide a rich literary fare. They have about them an effortless grace. Their charm, I am sure, will be irresistible when set to music, which is an inseparable ingredient in Sanskrit dramas.
Act-I opens with Nandi. The verse is a restatement of the sacred Gayatri.
This imparts a sense of sanctity to the play reminding us of Kalidasa’s assertion that the enactment of a play is. There was some delay caused by an avoidable quarrel among the actors drawn from different regions of India. They finally fall in line when reminded that they all are the children of Mother India. Asked about staging a play in Sanskrit instead of a popular regional language, the Sutradhara defends his decision saying that Sanskrit is in fact the warp and woof of every regional language and that it unites India. Of Sanskrit he says.
The mere mention of ‘being bound in unity’ by the Director brings Churchill on to the stage by the. He talks to the British envoy from India to enquire. The use of portends the trouble to the Empire in the offing. He is informed of the widespread struggle for freedom in India. Churchill brushes it aside as of no consequence. The envoy tells him of his efforts to corrupt the effete princes by bribing them. He refers to Rangoji and Aziz the native kings who are only too eager to help the British. The other rulers also will support the British without much delay. Act I reveals the British prejudice against India, the vulnerability of the native rulers and the administrative machination to quell the freedom movement. There is however a suggestion at the end that the freedom-loving British are pricked by guilty conscience in denying freedom to others.
Act II presents an interesting interaction on the Gandhian non-violence between Bose and Nehru. While Bose finds it ineffective, Nehru defends it. Nehru tells Bose categorically that the Japanese intervention is no better. The choice may prove much worse once the British leave. We learn of Bose’s historic escape from India. Nehru, Patel and Gandhi discuss the concept of non-violence as political weapon. Gandhi effectively silences them with his convincing replies to their objections. The talk of partition is in the air. The Hindu-Muslim divide is imminent thanks to the British policy of divide and rule. Gandhi is persuaded to give his consent to partition. Nehru defends mechanization and industrialization disregarding Patel’s objections. Gandhi wants that rapid mechanization should not imperil the unique cultural heritage of India. The government adopts repressive measures to put down “Quit India” movement. All the popular leaders including Gandhi, Nehru and Patel are imprisoned.
Act III is a masterly expose of the despicable depravity of the native rulers represented by Rangoji and Aziz. Their gullibility is fully exploited by the Scheming English men-John and Drinkwater. They are deftly hoodwinked into believing that the two not-so- charming English women introduced to seduce them are closely related to the British envoy. An honest native ruler Vasavasena is introduced to stand as a foil to Rangoji and Aziz.
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