representing women: tradition, legend and Panjabi drama is a pioneer work on
Panjabi legends and drama from gender perspective. The book juxtaposes the textualities of legend and drama to reveal how the
post-independence drama represents woman along more just, realistic and
humanistic lines as opposed to her pervasive marginalization and misreprentation in the traditional narratives. It examines
woman's construction in the context of patriarchal paradigms, particularly in
the context of love, sexuality of woman in the preindependence
Panjabi drama is also considered. The book constitutes a substantial
contribution to the areas of women's studies and contemporary Indian drama.
Pankaj K. Singh has been teaching
at the Dept of English, Himachal Pradesh university shimla,
since 1976. She has published extensively in the areas of women's anthologies
and leading national and international journals. She was a fellow of the Indian
institute of advanced study from 1993 to 1995. She visited Canada in 1996 under
the Canadian studies faculty research fellowship programs. She has translated a
number of literary she has been associate editor of summer hill. Has review and
is on the editorial board of studies on humanities and social sciences.
In the early nineties my reading of a couple of
Panjabi plays coincided with that of Bhisham Sahni' s Madhavi, and what
particularly fascinated me was the conscious recasting of patriarchal myths and
legends along feminist lines. This led me to search for similar phenomena in
contemporary north Indian drama. In Hindi drama such attempts turned out to be
surprisingly rare, the questions of power, justice, identity and moral choice
being taken up largely in an existential context unrelated to gender. In
contrast, Panjabi drama offered a fairly consistent pattern of interrogating
the gender assumptions of traditional narratives.
The book juxtaposes two textualities,
of legend and of drama, to study how the pervasive marginalisation
and misrepresentation of woman in the legend are opposed by a more just,
realistic and humanistic're-representation' of woman
in post-Independence Panjabi drama.
Four major legends central to the Panjabi
cultural heritage-'Hir Ranjha,'
'Mirza Sahiban,' 'Puran Bhagat' and 'Raja Rasalu'-are discussed to examine how these construct woman
subjecting her to patriarchal paradigms, particularly in the context of love,
sexuality and marriage.
In its preoccupation with gender in the
literary textualities cutting across time and genre
the book falls in the area of Women's Studies. However, it is equally a book on
drama on the ideology and aesthetics of a major stream of Panjabi drama since
its emergence in the early twentieth century. Chapter I examines the nature of
traditional narratives and the problematic relationship of tradition and
modernity in contemporary drama rewriting myths or legends. It also places the
aesthetics of contemporary drama in the context of Indian dramatic traditions,
classical and folk. The subsequent three chapters take up Specific legends and
plays for detailed analysis. The playwrights discussed include Balwant Gargi, Sant Singh Sekhon, Shiv Kumar batalvi, Harsaran Singh, Kapur Singh Ghuman, Surjit Singh Sethi, Joginder
Bahrla.' Ajmer Singh Aulakh,
Manjit Pal Kaur and Atamjit.The translations are largely my own, except where
indicated otherwise. At many places I am sure the terseness and poetic rhythm
so characteristic of Panjabi folk utterances could not be satisfactorily
rendered into English; while partly this could be due to my own limitations,
there can be no doubt that the cultural resonances of the original defy
expression in a medium as alien as English.
I am grateful to a number of persons for their
help and support; first of all to Professor J.S. Grewal
and Professor Mrinal Miri,
the two Directors of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, and to the entire staff of the lIAS.
The interaction with Fellows and Associates at the lIAS
was most fruitful, particularly with Bhisham Sahni, Randhir Singh, Raghvendra Rao, Vijaya Ramaswamy, Papiya Ghosh, Birinder
Pal Singh and Ram Ratnam.
For their valuable suggestions on the
manuscript I am grateful to Tejwant S. Gill, Arun Prabha Mukherjee,
Vinay Khanna, and to Jaidev who in fact rendered crucial help all through the
work. Tejwant S. Gill also helped in translating some
of the verses of Waris Shah.
Important resources were provided by Manjit Pal, Chaman Lal, Dayal Singh, Naresh Jain ,Javed
Alam, Sarita Rai, Harinder and Birinder Pal. Photographs of plays' productions were
readily provided by Kewal Dhaliwal,
Atamjit, Navnindra Behl, Gurcharan Singh, Pran Sabharwal and Lakhha Lahiri. My
thanks to Saroj Chaman and
to Museum and Art Gallery, Punjabi University, Patiala for the two paintings.
Nand Lal Verma helped with the typing of the manuscript. N.K. Maini expedited the publication of the book.
Finally a word of grateful thanks to those who
in fact have been the losers in this satisfying endeavour
of mine: to my husband, Krishan, for his patience and
constant cooperation, and even more intensely to my children, Vikram and Vishal, for not
insisting too much on their naturally most urgent claims on my time and
It may not be wide off the mark to look
upon the change in the outlook on the role of women as one of the most
significant of modern social developments. The role of women along with its
perception has also been a highly sensitive reflector of the tension between
"tradition" and "modernity". The present work, which is a product of a fellowship at the Institute,
captures certain interesting aspects of this tension in the context of the
developments that have been taking place in the realm of modern Panjabi drama.
Among the various art forms, drama, perhaps, lends itself most readily to
conflict and tension. Thus, the theme chosen for the study as well as the genre
of literature selected for the analysis and articulation of the theme have
added to the attractions of the work. I hope the scholars and readers
interested in the field will find the work an welcome
addition to the area.
Tradition and innovation
On the use of myth, legend and
Adapting indigenous forms
Myth, legend and drama in the pre-independence phase
Recasting woman: the love
legends of Hir Ranjha and
Tragedies of patriarchy
Character and context: politics
of gender in Hir Waris
Recreation of legend in drama
Pilu's Mirza Sahiban:
Misogyny and Misrepresentation
reconstructions of Mirza sahiban
reconstruction of puran bhagat
and raja rasalu
Puran bhagat and raja rasalu: discourses of morality or misogyny?
Decentring the legend:
Some other experiments
Appendix: the playwrights speak
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