Tuesday, Jun 28, 2022
Outlook.com
Review

The Myth Of Unfreedom

An eclectic and incisive tract

The Myth Of Unfreedom
The Myth Of Unfreedom
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

The first section offers links between history, gender and culture; the second discusses the narrative vis-a-vis the Mahabharata and the last deals with how, in time, the various commentaries (10th to 16th C) chose to interpret the theme and how four popular versions in Bengali, Brajbhasha, Kashmiri and a Dravidian language came to be. These versions reflected popular tastes and the dominant social norms. Thus, in the early 18th century version (ordained by the Mughal emperor Farrukhsiyar and rendered in Brajbhasha by poet Nawaz Kavishwar), it takes on a form which braids poetry with prose. Brajbhasha and Urdu are sister tongues of the Doab. So, when around 1806, one Mirza Qasim Ali translated the narrative into Urdu, its idiom, like the Braj version, also endorsed the social mores of the day - that of the Brahminical high culture, which since Kalidasa's time had viewed women as simple and docile creatures, indispensable as lovers and mothers of legitimate heirs. To this end, the Mahabharata version, in which Sakuntala sparkled as a free, forthright woman, was mutated. To destigmatise the errant king Dushyanta 'the divine curse' was resorted to. It was this that led to the loss of the signet ring and the king's memory. Divine intervention restores the king's memory and all ends well.

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