Red Oleanders- Rabindranath Tagore Words Of The Master (Set of 12 Books)

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Item Code: NAG339
Author: Rabindranath Tagore
Publisher: Niyogi Books
Language: English
Edition: 2012
Pages: 1265
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 7.0 inch X 5.0 inch
Weight 1.30 kg
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Book Description
About The Book

Book 1: Malini
Book 2: Fireflies
Book 3: Sacrifice
Book 4: Gitanjali
Book 5: The Crown
Book 6: Nationalism
Book 7: The Fugitive
Book 8: Fruit Gathering
Book 9: Red Oleanders
Book 10: Religion of Man
Book 11: The Crescent Moon
Book 12: The King of the Dark Chamber


Rabindranath got the inspiratiuon to compose the poetic play Malini from the story 'Malinyavastu' of the Buddhist literary compendium Mahavastu-Avadana. He did not have access to the original; but among the books that he always carried with him during his zamindari days in North Bengal and Odisha was Rajendralal Mitra's seminal work, The Sanskrit Buddhist Literature of Nepal. He found the story of Malini in this anthology and basing on it wrote the verse-play in 1896, although it was first published as an independent book by Indian Publishing House some sixteen years later in 1912.

Tagore first translated Malini into English in the same year (1912), keeping it close to the original and retaining all the four scenes. He essayed a new translation in 1916 on the way to Japan. In this translation, four scenes of the original were condensed into two scenes, lengthy dialogues were substantially pruned, and a minor character, Prince, who did not exist in the original, was introduced in the translation. When McMillan, New York, brought out the volume Sacrifice and Other Plays in 1917, it is this translation which was included in the volume along with Sannyasi, Sacrifice, and The King and the Queen. Edward Thompson has commented on this translation in his book, Rabindranath Tagore: His life and Work: "It is translated fairly faithfully except that its long beautiful speeches are cut down and the first scene's opening in which Malini receives the sage Kasyapa's last instructions, is omitted." It is interesting to learn from Tagore's preface to the Bengali original of Malini that Robert Trevelyn (1872- 1957) found some resemblance between the play and the Greek plays. As Tagore writes, "I had a comment from Trevelyn, the poet and Greek scholar, that he noticed a resemblance between my play and the Greek drama. I could not exactly understand what he meant; though I have read a few in translation, but Greek drama is outside my experience. It is Shakespearean drama which have always been our model.'

In Malini, as in Sannyasi (Prakritir-Pratishodh) and Sacrifice (Visarjan) Tagore dramatized the concept that the religion of man is much higher than the religion of rituals and scriptures. Supriyo and Kshemankar are two opposite characters in the play. Supriyo believes that fair play and justice are the religion of the heart and is ready to uphold it at any cost. He does not much care for the religion based on narrow principles of caste and rituals. He is calm and composed and can be misunderstood as weak, even cowardly. He is like Binoy of Gora, Nikhilesh of Ghare Baire or Jaisingh of Visarjan. Kshemankar is fierce, strong, proud and dazzling in personality. Unwavering, like Raghupati of Visarjan, he is totally committed to the tradition of religion he has received based on Brahminism and rituals. Although Rabindranath does not himself believe in ritualistic religion and his authorial sympathy lies with Supriyo, he has not depicted Kshemankar as mean or small in any way. On the contrary, he has invested Kshemankar's character with heroic grandeur.

Malini is torn between the two heroes ------ a bond of love for Supriyo and an irrestible attraction for Kshemankar. Having recently accepted Buddhism as her faith, she suffers from a conflict between two opposing impulses-one of the ideal of universal compassion preached by Gautam Buddha and the other of love and friendship of the flesh and blood kind. When Kshemankar is imprisoned by the king on the charge of treason at the instance of Supriyo, the drama reaches its climax. After an exchange offiery dialogues, Kshemankar hits Supriyo with his shackles and kills him on the spot. A distraught Malini still pleads with the king, her father, for showering mercy on Kshemankar. Edward Thompson finds Malini's action unconvincing, but Krishna Kripalani in his Rabindranath Tagore: A Biography makes the most telling analysis: "Malini, the King's daughter in the play, is his (Tagore's) first major Buddhist heroine......And yet the most powerful and convincing character in the play is not this lovely and saintly but somewhat shadowy woman in whose proud personality is symbolized the strength and obstinacy of his religion. The conflict is not only between obedience to 'moth-eaten scriptures' and religion of one's choice but between the poetry of pity and the prose of social necessity. 'Pity is beautiful like the yonder moon that casts its spell in the sky, but is that the only enduring reality? Tomorrow the day will break and the hungry multitude will draw the sea of existence with their thousand nets and their clamour will fill the sky. Then this very moon will seem a pale shadow.' But even a deeper conflict is that of personal loyalties. Should one, if faced with a relentless choice, betray one's conscience or one's religion, one's country or one's faith, the pledge of friendship or that of love? There is no answer to these questions and the tragedy of heroic folly must take its course. All that Malini can do is to forgive and ask others to forgive."


Visarjan was first published as a play in Bengali in May, 1890. After at least three revisions, Tagore gave the final shape to the play in 1903. Although another revised version was prepared by Tagore in 1926, it is the 1903 version which was included in the Rabindra- Rachanabali in 1931 and this remains the standard text till date. The play is the dramatized version of the first few chapters of Tagore's novel Rajarshi, but the plot of the drama is a great improvement upon that of the novel.

Visarjan has been staged a number of times during Tagore's life. But the maximum interest was generated when it was staged for two nights at the then Empire Theatre (presently Roxy Cinema) of Calcutta in August 1923, for in this enactment Tagore himselfplayed the role of Jaising with a lot of gutso, despite the fact that he was 62 at that time. The Englishman (27 August, 1923) reported his acting thus: "His vacillation when picturing the struggle between obedience to his preceptor (the priest) and adherence to his ideal of love was a masterpiece of histrionic skill and his deep, sonorous voice calling out to the unseen god to get him out of this struggle sent a thrill through the hearers." Visarjan was also made into a movie by Orient Pictures Corporation of Bombay in 1928 and was shown at the Crown Theatre (presently Shree cinema) of Calcutta as well as in London and other cities of Europe.

Rabindranath himself translated Visarjan under the title Sacrifice in 1917. It was first published by Macmillan, New York, with the dedication page reading: 'dedicated to those heroes who bravely stood for peace when human sacrifice was acclaimed for the war.' It may be mentioned here that although the original Bengali play had five Acts, the English translation was given the shape of an one- Act play. According to Edward Thompson, "Sacrifice is the greatest drama in Bengali literature." He elaborates, "All these dramas are vehicles of thought rather than expressions of action; and they show the poet's mind powerfully working on the subject of such things in popular Hinduism as its bloody ritual of sacrifice. The dramas show also how the poet was emancipating himself from the tangles of the solely artistic aim of life ......Like Malini, it teaches that love and not orthodoxy worships God, and it burns like a slow deep fire against bigotry." Sacrifice is a lyrical play written in blank verse, but there is no sign of what is called 'lyrical abandon' in the play. The plot has been woven with such consummate skill that there is no looseness anywhere. The dramatic sequences progress fast and furious, tight and dense. The dramatic conflict in the play is provided by meaningless superstition of religions rituals and blind allegiance to age- old customs on one side and the eternal truth of humanism and instinctive knowledge of the essential good on the other. The clash is between hollow religiosity and humane values, between traditional practice and compassionate love, between violence and non-violence. J n the character of Raghupati we see the powerful personification of the hollow religiosity and blind superstition; it is added and abated by the selfish desire and traditional god fearing nature of Queen Gunavati; this circle is further vitiated by Nakshatra Rai's naked greed for the royal crown. All the thoughts and actions of this group are devised and monitored by the superior inteJJjgence of Roghupo/j, On the other side, we find Govindamanikya standing tall and firm like a mountain with his unflinching commitment to the lofty ideals of truth and humanism; his ally in this battle is a tender young girl, Aparna, an incarnation of love and compassion and a living protest against the cruel and heartless customs of the society. In between these two opposite forces is Jaising, the tragic hero of the drama. He firmly believes in the rituals and customs that tradition dictates, he has total faith in and great devotion to his preceptor Raghupati and yet he is deeply moved by the humanistic inspirations emanating from Aparna. These opposite pulls of conscience and traditional belief tear him apart with such intensity that he decides to end it by sacrificing his own life. This sacrifice rouses the filial emotions of Raghupati and stirs his heart so powerfully that in a sudden flash he realizes the ultimate truth of life. The play is, indeed, in the words of Krishna Kripalani: "a passionate testament of Rabindranath's humanism and his courage in denouncing what seemed to him stupid or inhuman in the tradition of his own people."

The character of Raghupati, the priest of the Tripureswari temple of the kingdom of Tripura, is a marvelous creation by Tagore. He is determined to maintain the age-old custom of offering live sacrifice in the temple. For this purpose, he goes to the extent of plotting a fratricide, inciting the subjects to treason, and even creating a deep mistrust between the queen and the king. But there is not even an iota of selfishness or personal gratification in his objective. He is always true to his own belief and that is why his towering personality commands admiration and respect from the readers.

A lurking question however remains about the real import of the play. Is it only a protest against animal sacrifice and bloodshed in the temple? Or is it also a veiled indictment of the idol worship prevalent amongst the Hindus? The latter position cannot be ruled out if we consider the fact that Rabindranath, as a devout Brahmo, was all along against idolatry. Moreover, at the climax of the play, just before and after Jaising dies, Aparna expresses her love for him. At the denoument that follows, Raghupati attributes all responsibility of the tragedy to the idol of the goddess and throws it away.

In a manner of speaking, the idol is also thus sacrificed. And the moment he says that the goddess is not there in the stone idol, "She is nowhere,-neither above, nor below", Gunavati immediately realizes her mistake, her mistrust against her husband evaporates and she lovingly addresses him as "My King". Govindamanikya too speaks of a new kingdom of love when he says of the goddess, "She has burst her cruel prison of stone, and come back to woman's heart." Hence, in the final analysis, triumph of love over customary belief seems to be the abiding theme of the play Sacrifice.


A few days ago 1 said to a distinguished Bengali doctor of medicine, 'I know no German, yet if a translation of a German poet had moved me, I would go to the British Museum and find books in English that would tell me something of his life, and of the history of his thought. But though these prose translations from Rabindra Nath Tagore have stirred my blood as nothing has for years, I shall not know anything of his life, and of the movements of thought that have made them possible, if some Indian tra-veller will not tell me.' It seemed to him natural that I should be moved, for he said, 'I read Rabindra Nath every day, to read one line of his is to forget all the troubles ofthe world.' I said, 'An Englishman living in London in the reign of Richard the Second, had he been shown translations from Petrarch or from Dante, would have found no books to answer his questions, but would have questioned some Florentine banker or Lombard merchant as I question you. For all I know, so abundant and simple is this poetry, the new renaissance has been born in your country and I shall never know of it except by hearsay.' He answered, 'We have other poets, but none that are his equal; we call this the epoch of Rabindra Nath. No poet seems to me as famous in Europe as he is among us. He is as great in music as in poetry, and his songs are sung from the west of India into Burmah wherever Bengali is spoken. He was already famous at nineteen when he wrote his first novel; and plays, written when he was but little older, are still played in Calcutta. I so much admire the completeness of his life; when he was very young he wrote much of natural objects, he would sit all day in his garden; from his twenty-fifth year or so to his thirty- fifth perhaps, when he had a great sorrow, he wrote the most beautiful love poetry in our language', and then he said with deep emotion, 'words can never express what I owed at seventeen to his love poetry. After that his art grew deeper, it became religious and philosophical; all the aspirations of mankind are in his hymns. He is the first among our saints who has not refused to live, but has spoken out of Life itself and that is why we give him our love.' I may have changed his well-chosen words in my memory but not his thought. 'A little while ago he was to read divine service in one of our churches-we of the Brahma Samaj use your word "church" in English-it was the largest in Calcutta and not only was it crowded, people even standing in the windows, but the streets were all but impassable because of the people.'

Other Indians came to see me and their reverence for this man sounded strange in our world, where we hide great and little things under the same veil of obvious comedy and half serious depreciation. When we were making the cathedrals had we a like reverence for our great men? 'Every morning at three-I know for I have seen it'-one said to me, 'he sits immovable in contemplation, and for two hours does not awake from his reverie upon the nature of God. His father the Maha Rishi would sometimes sit there all through the next day; once, upon a river, he fell into contemplation, because of the beauty of the landscape, and the rowers waited for eight hours before they could continue their journey.' He then told me of Mr Tagore's family and how for generations great men have come out of its cradles. 'Today,' he said, 'there are Gogonendranath and Abanindranath Tagore, who are artists; and Dwijendranath, Rabindra Nath's brother, who is a great philosopher. The squirrels come from the boughs and climb on to his knees and the birds alight upon his hands.' I notice in these men's thought a sense of visible beauty and meaning as though they held that doctrine of Nietzsche that we must not believe in the moral or intellectual beauty which does not sooner or later impress itself upon physical things. I said, 'In the East you know how to keep a family illustrious. The other day the curator of a Museum pointed out to me a little dark-skinned man who was arranging their Chinese prints and said, "That is the hereditary connoisseur of the Mikado, he is the four-teenth of his family to hold the post.'" He answered. 'When Rabindra Nath was a boy he had all round him in his home literature and music.' I thought of the abundance, of the simplicity of the poems, and said, 'In your country is there much propagandist writing, much criticism? We have to do so much, especially in my own country, that our minds gradually cease to be creative, and yet we cannot help it. If our life was not a continual warfare, we would not have taste, we would not know what is good, we would not find hearers and readers. Four-fifths of our energy is spent in the quarrel with bad taste, whether in our own minds or in the minds of others.' 'I understand,' he replied, 'we too have our propagandist writing. In the villages they recite long mythological poems adapted from the Sanscrit in the Middle Ages, and they often insert passages tellin the people that they must do their duties.

The Crown

The Crown was originally published as a Bengali play called Mukut by Indian Publishing House in 1908 and was included in the Rabindra Rachanavali (Vol. 8) in 1941. Tagore himself translated it into English in 1918 under the title The Crown. We learn from the diary of Rabhindranath Tagore that: "The way he did this was to take the Bengali book in his hand and dictate the translation in English to Mr. Andrews who put it down to paper." However, the English translation, though repeatedly retouched and improved by Tagore, was never published in his life-time. It is only in 1983 that it was first published in the Rabindra-Biksha (Issue 9) and later collected in The English Writings ofRabindranath Tagore (Vol. Two), edited by Sisir Kumar Das and published by Sahitya Akademi in 1996.

The Crown is a narrative drama in three Acts. The Act I contains three scenes, while Act 11 has six and Act III only three scenes. Designed to be enacted by the boy students of the Brahmacharyashram school of Bolpur, the play shows the defeat of falsehood and meanness at the hands of truth and greatness of heart. Based on an episode of the royal family of the princely state of Tripura, the play has three main characters-wily youngest prince Rajdhar, heroic middle prince Indrakumar and the loving eldest prince and heir-apparent Chandramanikya. The play dramatizes the conflict between the three princes with the crown at the centre of dispute. The cunning youngest prince Rajdhar earned for himself the crown from the enemy through lies and deceit, but he did not dare to brag his costly victory before the greatness of the dying braveheart prince Chandramanikya. The quality of mind and heart has been given predominance over that of might and intelligence. The one who is pure of heart ultimately wins the crown, although in the apparent battle of life it might look as if he has lost. This loss is only apparent because he wins not a country but the heart of crores of people.

The Crown is purposefully devoid of any women characters so that the boys of the school find it easy to stage. Unlike many of Tagore's other plays, it is totally bereft of any song or symbolism. Although confined to aristocracy and a limited way of life, the play nevertheless does not lack in dramatic action. Not just the excitement of the battlefield but the fiery conflicts of heart also make the play bright and dazzling. General Isha Khan and the three princes reveal their identity and character through brief but scintillating dialogues in the very first two-three scenes. Behind Isha Khan's self-respect and uninhibited straight talks lies his sense of justice and love for his worthy disciple, the eldest prince Chandramanikya. The eldest prince admires the heroism of the middle prince on one side and indulges in the caprices of the much-maligned youngest prince on the other. He acts as an apostle of peace between the two erupting volcanoes of the royal family and often sacrifices his own rights on the altar"offamilial compromise. Although Indrakumar is the epitome of an ideal Kshatriya hero, he is too sensitive to minor family issues and extremely impatient of Rajdhar's mean tricks. It is Indrakumar's arrogance and constant indictment of Rajdhar which might have pushed the latter to the extreme path of treason.

The end of the play, however, does not do justice to Tagore's reputation as a playwright. As a repentant Indrakumar who had forsaken his elder brother out of anger, begs forgiveness of the dying Chandramanikya, Rajdhar enters the scene and places the ill-earned crown at the feet of Chandramanikya, who directs him to offer it to Indrakumar. Indrakumar in turn again places the crown on Rajdhar's head. The whole situation smacks of sentimentalism. Moreover, there was no preparation for the mental metamorphosis of Rajdhar. Hence, his repentance does not rise to the level of credibility, leaving the readers/audience somewhat sceptic and confused.


When Nationalism was first published in 1917 by Macmillan, New York, it contained three lectures, delivered in different places in Japan (Tagore first visited Japan from May to September, 1916) and in the USA where it was his second visit. The book also contained English translations of five poems, all taken from the collection, Naivedya. In a new edition of Nationalism, published by Rupa, New Delhi in 1992, edited by E.P. Thompson, these poems were deleted without any editorial explanation. In English Writings of Tagore (Volume Two), published by Sahitya Akademi in 1996 and edited by Sisir Kumar Das, we find one of the poems 'The Sunset of the Century' (shatabdir surjya aji) restored. This is the text that has been followed in the present edition. From the notes of the Sisir Kumar Das volume, we learn an interesting information. Although the Macmillan book was dedicated to his friend CF. Andrews, Tagore wanted to dedicate it to the then American President, Woodrow Wilson, but was not allowed to do so, as 'Tagore was believed to be involved in the anti-British plots that were being hatched in America by Indian revolutionaries.' (Stephen Hay, 'Tagore in America'). Sounds quite amusing in today's context!

Tagore's views on nationalism clearly come through in the three essays that the book contains, 'Nationalism in the West', 'Nationalism in Japan' and 'Nationalism in India'. Europe was at war then and as E. P. Thompson pointed out, though the world war was not a central theme of Nationalism, it was ever present in the background as proof of the self-destructive tendency of the organized modern nation. The publication of the novel Ghare Baire a year before, followed by its English translation (Home and the World) by Surendranath Tagore three years later in 1919, in some ways complemented these lectures, as the novel was highly critical of the Swadeshi Movement. It may also be kept in mind that Rabindranath first stated his position on nationalism through the endless debates of his celebrated novel Gora (1910) and in some of his seminal essays like 'Swadeshi Samaj', 'East and West' and others. An appreciation of Nationalism presupposes an understanding of the spirit of the times that gave birth to it. In his essay on 'Three Novels of Tagore', Nihar Ranjan Ray made a telling analysis of the situation obtaining towards the end of the last century. Discontent against the oppressive rule of the British came to a head in the idea of freedom and of a separate national existence. Men of action and imagination were engaged in discovering an underlying unity in the midst of the diverse forms of activities centering round the movement. Rabindranath, not only one of them, but perhaps at the vanguard of the movement, found a solution in the spiritual idealism of the ancient sages. Naivedya enunciates in clear terms that principle. He entered into an argument with Ramendra Sundar Trivedi on the specific social problems and gave an interpretation of the disease of the national life in its relation to our broader ideals and problems. He came to form at this time definite ideas about the nation and nationalism, Hinduism and Hindu society. It was during this time that he became acquainted with Brahmabandhab Upadhyay. A definite and complete philosophy of life and conduct took shape in the mind of Rabindranath from all these encounters and discussions. Enough light is thrown on his attitude by his essays, lectures and dissertations of the period-'Brahman', 'The Letter of a Chinese', 'The History of India', 'Politics and Religion', 'The King's Relative', etc.

At this juncture Bengal was partitioned in 1905. This momentous historical action turned a simmering movement into a conflagration. The intelligentsia was drawn into the vortex, and Rabindranath found himself in the forefront. Now he felt the need of a complete re-thinking as he could not place nationalism above the nation. In 'Swadeshi Samaj' he wanted to canalize sentimental movements through a concrete path of action. In 'National Education, 'Educational Problem' and in numerous other essays and lectures, his ideology was clearly reflected. But he was noticing with dismay that the movement was departing from the high principles of our country, nervousness was settling upon the leadership. Sandhya, Yugantar and Bande Mataram groups became the nuclei for the spread of terroristic activities. At Jamalpur, the Hindus and the Muslims were at loggerheads, the cleavage between the leftists and rightists in the Congress was complete. 'The Problem', 'East and West' and some other essays showed the conflict and transformation of Rabindranath's mind which was gradually crystallised into clear concepts expressed through the three essays of the present volume. Tagore totally rejected nationalism as it is understood in the Western sense of the term in the very first essay, declaring unequivocally "Neither the colourless vagueness of cosmopolitanism, nor the fierce self-idolatry of nation-worship is the goal ofhuman history". He makes an important distinction between samaj (society) and rashtra (nation). While society does not have an ulterior purpose and is a natural regulation of relationships and the spontaneous self-expression of man as a social being, the nation is an organization of people with a mechanical purpose founded on greed,jealousy, suspicion and lust for power. As Uma Dasgupta in her Introduction to Tagore's Selected Writings on Education and Nationalism (OUP, New Delhi, 2009) points out :"Tagore's educational work and his own nationalism were rooted in an original vision of India's history amounting to a deviation from both the colonialist historiography and the nationalist ideology of those times His reasoning was based on his historical understanding of his country's 'formation' as a social civilization founded on a 'continual social adjustment' ". Tagore is sharply critical of the rigidity of social stratification in India and the resulting crippling of her people's minds, but he is even more critical of the Western nationhood which he condemns in strong terms: "The national machinery of commerce and politics turns out neatly compressed bales of humanity which have their use and high market value; but they are bound in iron hoops, labeled and separated off with scientific care and precision".

In "Nationalism in Japan", Tagore advises the Japanese not to imitate the West by organizing themselves on the basis of selfishness, as the European civilization is now 'choking itself from the debris carried by its innumerable channels'. He asks the Japanese to minimize the immense sacrifice of man's life and freedom by following their indigenous ideals of simplicity and recognition of social obligation. In 'Nationalism in India' he argues that the main problem in India is the hierarchization of her society on the basis of race/caste and a blind faith in the authority of traditions. He points out that Indians cannot build a political miracle of freedom upon the quicksand of social slavery. Tagore is thus against winning political freedom by sacrificing our moral freedom.

Tagore's forthrightdenunciation of nationalism provoked sharp reaction in the American press and severe criticism by Japanese intellectuals. This work understandably made him unpopular in America and Japan. But even in his own country he was under attack from the Indian nationalist leadership. Perhaps Krishna Kripalani hit the nail on the head when he said, "His lectures on Nationalism were ill- timed. Though he was right, prophetically right, in what he said, and must be admired for his courage in courting abuse, the time was inauspicious." (Rabindranath Tagore, OUP, New Delhi, 1962).

That Tagore was prophetically right became evident by the end of the twentieth century when several thinkers across the world started echoing his critique of the nationalist ideology, beginning with Benedict Anderson's acknowledged classic Imagined Communities, published in 1983.

Red Oleanders

For those of us who are concerned with life and with the play of human forces across the stage of our daily existence, it is the underlying significance which forms the kernel of the problem. In this play there is no attempt to point a moral or to preach a sermon, but because these characters "are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time," they give us a mirror in which perhaps we may catch some glimpse of that truth to which we are so accustomed that we have forgotten all about it. The test of every great work of art, in colour, sound, form or word, is this test of significance. The artist has had something great to say and he has said it greatly, so truth is revealed. But to do this, and much modern work shows a woeful lack of consciousness "minema'ner, life itself must be a great work of art, so that out of the significance of his life a man will draw forth that which holds the essence of truth, and, with the tool over which he has the most complete mastery, will give to it artistic shape. There are those who, in perfecting their tool of craftsmanship, spend their whole lives comparing their facility of use with that of others and await with anxiety the plaudits or criticisms of their fellow craftsmen. This is not so with him who lives greatly. Out of the wealth of his experience of life and of his conviction of truth he draws that which is most truly significant and offers it to us chiselled with no doubting hand and illuminated by his own creative imagination.

In daring to sit in judgement upon Red Oleanders, we are not judges, we are the accused. For we stand in front of a great life, the life of one who has lived and drunk of the draft of life from foam to dregs, so that according to our judgement we shall stand judged. The figure on the canvas cannot be separated from its background, else the unity of truth is broken. The background to this play is one which needs careful attention if the characters, as they step upon the stage, are to tell their tale, and keep their significance. Divest them of this and it is so easy to be superficial, to repeat the catchwords of the modern market place; a poetic tirade against modern industrialism, the usual hit at Science, the national complaint of the subject against oppression. But whether we will or no, the forces that we ordinarily applaud are beaten at the end. They dissolve before the close into a complete insignificance and vanish in the face of a superior force which somehow convinces us, whether we see its significance or not.

In Red Oleanders, there are certain underlying principles at work, principles which we can quite easily recognize in our own daily existence if we choose to look for one moment under the surface. The habit of greed-greed for things, for power, for facts, with all the ramifications that greed is able to set up between man and man-is arrayed against the explosive force of human sympathy, ofneighbouriiness, of fellowship and of love, the force which we may term good. Good is here arrayed against the dehumanizing force of mammon, of selfishness, of evil; of that which separates us from our fellows against that which cements us together, of that which because it divides us, is untruth, is a lie. Only in so far as he recognizes this truth, has man succeeded in reaching the peak upon which the human race now stands, whilst the tiger, a solitary wandering unit, still prowls the jungle alone.

To the gardener of a northern clime the oleander is a flowering shrub, which, because of the character of its foliage and the simple beauty of its red blossoms, well repays careful attention and its place inside the heated greenhouse. In more temperate regions the oleander finds its welcome in the open garden, and will lavish its splendour within the courts of palace or monastery, whilst in India it flourishes of its own accord over jungle and plain. It has the same flower, the same nature, the same principle of growth, but according to temperature and environment it finds devotion from one, appreciation from another, and only cursing and bitterness from the poor cultivator, who, as its roots spread from the hedgerow and invade his scanty plot, must set to work with his kodali and root it out. In his struggle for livelihood he is concerned with the underground ramifications of the root system, and with his eyes upon the soil he lacks either the time or the energy to glance as the spray of red blossoms that hangs immediately over his head.

Into a world where men have sacrificed every simple human relationship and are grubbing for what they can get, out of each other, out of the soil, out of books or the exploitation of souls, where the beauty ofhuman sympathy is forgotten, the oleander sheds its flower, and, with a shock, some with protest, some in anger, some in response to a deep echo within, cast away their tools and according to their several abilities realize that beauty of life which had dwelt among them, but which they had allowed to grow out of reach.

Religion of Man

The chapters included in this book, which comprises the Hibbert Lectures delivered in Oxford, at Manchester College, during the month of May 1930, contain also the gleanings of my thoughts on the same subject from the harvest of many lectures and addresses delivered in different countries of the world over a considerable period of my life.

The fact that one theme runs through all only proves to me that the Religion of Man has been growing within my mind as a religious experience and not merely as a philosophical subject. In fact, a very large portion of my writings, beginning from the earlier products of my immature youth down to the present time, carry an almost continuous trace of the history ofthis growth. To-day I am made conscious of the fact that the works I have started and the words I have uttered are deeply linked by a unity of inspiration whose proper definition has often remained unrevealed to me.

In the present volume I offer the evidence of my own personal life brought into a definite focus. To some of my readers this will supply matter of psychological interest; but for others I hope it will carry with it its own ideal value important for such a subject as religion.

My sincere thanks are due to the Hibbert Trustees, and especially to Dr. W.H. Drummond, with whom I have been in constant correspondence, for allowing me to postpone the delivery of these Hibbert Lectures from the year 1928, when I was too ill to proceed to Europe, until the summer of 1930. I have also to thank the Trustees for their very kind permission given to me to present the substance of the lectures in this book in an enlarged form by dividing the whole subject into chapters instead of keeping strictly to the lecture form in which they were delivered in Oxford. May I add that the great kindness of my hostess, Mrs. Drummond, in Oxford, will always remain in my memory along with these lectures as intimately associated with them?

In the Appendix I have gathered together from my own writings certain parallel passages which bring the reader to the heart of my main theme. Furthermore, two extracts, which contain historical material of great value, are from the pen of my esteemed colleague and friend Professor Kshiti Mohan Sen. To him I would express my gratitude for the help he has given me in bringing before me the religious ideas of medieval India which touch the subject of my lectures.

The King of Dark Chamber

Raja or The King of the Dark Chamber was the first of Rabindranath Tagore's plays in the allegorical symbolical genre which was a complete novelty in the then Bengali literature. Tagore wrote Raja in between 19 October and 11 November of 1910 when he was recuperating from a bout of illness at the kuthibari of Silaidah. From a letter written by Tagore to Charuchandra Bandyopadhyay on 3 November, 1910, one can gather that it was composed at the behest of his school at Santiniketan where the students and the teachers intended to stage a new play. The play was inspired by 'The Story of Kusa' included in The Sanskrit Buddhist Literature of Nepal (1882) edited by Rajendralal Mitra. Santidev Ghosh, however, suggested two more possible sources of the story, one Urvashi's curse in the play Vikramorvashi and the other Aniruddha's curse in the folk-epic Padmapuran. Raja in Bengali was first published by Indian Publishing House on 6 January, 1911 and the second revised edition came out on 12 April, 1921. The drama contains 20 scenes and is enriched by no less than 26 wonderful songs. Interestingly, Tagore ceaselessly worked on the theme of Raja, first condensing it to a shorter play Arupratan in 1920 and then to a dance-drama Shapmochan in 1931. Prashanta Chandra Mahalanabis has written in his diary on 5 August, 1932 that Rabindranath was working on yet another version of the play; however, he could not complete the work.

What was Rabindranath's mental make-up at the time of writing the play? Krishna Kripalani, in his biography of Tagore, gives us a faithful picture: "The poet was in full frenzy of the dramatic phase of his career and it was inevitable that he should dramatize the most intense experience of his life-his adventure with the Divine. He had sought God in beauty and had found him in sorrow. Is Truth merely Beauty and Goodness or is it also the Terrible? What is the soul's relation to God? Must we approach Truth on its own terms or on ours? These are the questions the poet has sought to answer in this his most symbolic and in a sense his most characteristic play, Raja."

The King of the Dark Chamber never shows himself to his people or even to his Queen, Sudarshana; her he visits in a chamber so dark that not even the outline of his form is visible. She wishes to see him, and is sure that she could recognise him. Told that her wish will be granted, she selects as the king a 'dandified pretender' who has no other merit than a handsome appearance. He wins both her love and the adulation of the people for a time, but proves a fool at the end. There is also a usurper, a strong, forthright character, the only one for whom the King shows any respect. The usurper is defeated by the King in the battlefield and when he at last reveals himself to Sudarshana, she finds him black as night, and shrinks from him in horror. Her realisation of his supremacy brings with it a complete abasement and self-surrender. The moral of the superiority of the hidden and spiritual over the obvious and material is thus powerfully brought out in the play. It is only Surangama, the Maid and Thakurda, the Grandfather who had the advance intimation of the true nature of the King by virtue of the mantra of total surrender.

In his essay on Raja, Ajit Kumar Chakravarti observed that it was a spiritual drama of a kind which has no precedent in literature, at least in the realm of drama, though it has superficial resemblance in regard to the subject-matter with St. Augustin's Confessions, Dante's The Vita Nuova, William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Francis Thomson's The Hound of Heaven. Tagore himself once stated that he had written the play in the vein of Maeterlinck; in any case, he found this form a handy one for a drama portraying what he himself described as "the inner conflict of the soul."

So far as the present English translation is concerned, its first draft was made by Kshitis Chandra Sen, then a student of Oxford and an ICS aspirant, under the title The King in 1912. This draft was corrected and modified by Tagore on the text itself. Kshitis Chandra Sen translated only two songs of the play, but Tagore discarded both and himself translated the 11 songs that are found in the revised version. A typed copy of this changed version first appeared in the quarterly magazine The Drama published from Chicago under the new title The King of the Dark Chamber in May, 1914. Within a month McMillan published this version simultaneously from England and the United States.

Immediately after its publication, appreciative reviews started coming out in the Western press. On 14 August, 1914, Montrose Standard and Angus and Mearns paper wrote in its 'Literature' section, "It is a drama, and it is an allegory ... It is pervaded by an essence of mingled idealism, spiritualised beauty, ethical truth and realism, but it refuses analysis. It lies outside the canons of conventional criticism touching construction, plot, movement, character, scene-drawing, and so forth. The King is never seen. He is a dominant though invisible influence and all powerful. Slander him and he is left untouched. You can blowout the flame of a lamp, but how can you blowout the sun? Call him ugly, and he who does so 'fashions his King after the image of himself he has seen in the mirror" ... 'Have you seen the King?' asked one, and the reply is in song: 'My beloved is ever in my heart, I see him everywhere.' The essence of the play may possibly be formulated in this shape-that majesty is not in pomp but in personality, and he who would appreciate greatness as a right must himself be great. Both judgment and love depend upon the ego of judge and lover. .. "

On 18 June, 1914, The Times Literary Supplement wrote "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength'-it is a lesson which all great spiritual natures have tried to impress upon the world. Mr. Tagore, with his steady vision into the profound secrets of the spirit, tells us the same truth in new forms. What is this King of the Dark Chamber 'meant for'? There are three obvious interpretations that might fit; but we believe that each man must find his own. The point is that, with all his serene and lofty beauty of soul, where laughter and gaiety glimmer like sunlight on the ocean, Mr. Tagore folds us in an atmosphere of confidence and faith, strips from us all tension and petty effort ('when you are past this state of feverish restlessness', says Surangama to the Queen, 'everything will become quite easy') and leads us out of the little aims and conventional considerations to the simple duty of following the call of what we know to be the truth."

It is this spiritual quest, depicted though a soul's adventures in life that makes The King of the Dark Chamber so fascinating to a sensitive reader.

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