This book is an attempt at exploring the dramatic genius of Sri Aurobindo. He is better recognised today as a poet philosopher than as a dramatist. But his genius finds its most spontaneous expression both in poetry and drama.Chief emphasis has been laid on systematic analysis and perceptive critical discussions of his dramatic arts. It provides scholarly treatment of his dramatic art along with practical details of textual interpretation. Biographical, intellectual, philosophical and social background of different plays have been discussed to clear away the misunder standing of the readers. Thematic and stylistic interpretations have got considerable space.
Mishra, Laxmi Narayan (Born in 1955) has been teaching English in S.G. College, Kanikapada, Cuttack (Orissa) since 1979. In 1984, he was enrolled as a research scholar in the University of Allahabad on the topic Sri Aurobindo's Dramatic Theory and Practice, and he was awarded the degree of D. Phil. in 1987. He has published more than half a dozen articles and research papers in various leading literary journals. Besides, he has authored several books including literary criticisms and novels.
Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) was a multi-pronged and multi-coloured genius. He was a great man, a colossal author, a perfect yogi, a noble saint, an enviable polyglot, a dauntless freedom fighter, a staunch nationalist- all rolled in one. To escape the contagious influence of such an impressive personality in an independent India is almost unbelievable if not impossible. In the history of Indian Literature of the renascent period, Sri Aurobindo has only a few parallels- surely not too many- and in this context Thakur Rabindranath Tagore and Swami Vivekananda appear before our vision. And in the context of World Literature, we can think of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton, and partly Wordsworth, as his worthy compeers. A sustained flight of imagination and a noble vision of life have not been granted to many, but Sri Aurobindo has been very fortunate in having these qualities combined with many more. Besides, the Sage of Pondicherry was gifted with a great artistic skill and intellectual power; he could read and write in the Classical languages- Greek, Latin and Sanskrit. At a time when the modern world is beset with great tension and peril of another holocaust- as though the two previous World Wars were not enough to teach it a lesson- it is to the credit of Sri Aurobindo that he found time enough for the pursuit of peaceful activities like writing and meditation.
What is more to his credit is that he could write an epic on the adventures of the Soul titled Savitri (1950-51), his magnum opus indeed, in the face of an unspeakable danger of a nuclear war with the possibility of wiping out the entire humanity, of that of devastating dehumanization and destabilization. Savitri is the only epic cast in verse form which has been written after John Milton's Paradise Lost (1667); both these epics have been written in blank verse and on a grand scale. The multi-foliate personality of Sri Aurobindo fascinates us for three things in particular- for its revolutionary zeal and nationalistic spirit, for its moral, spiritual and philosophical preoccupations, and for its multi-faceted literary activity. After his successful trip to England for higher education where he joined his elder brother, Manmohan Ghose, who had made a mark as a poet there and after his eventful return to Bengal where he started a teaching career, Sri Aurobindo had plenty of time with him to devote to the service of Mother India to liberate her from the clutches of British rulers. He plunged headlong into the national fight for freedom, and through his powerful pen (as seen in Bhawani Mandir, 1905, and Bandemataram, 1906-7) and active participation (as proved by the Alipur trial episode) he added a personal luminous touch to it. In some of his poems and plays, Sri Aurobindo unequivocally expressed his patriotic feelings, such as in the poems "Invitation" (1907), Baji Prabhou (1922), and "The Children of Wotan" (1940), and in the play Perseus the Deliverer (1907). Another aspect of Sri Aurobindo's personality which is of no less significance to us is his whole-hearted devotion to the pursuit of morality, spirituality and philosophy. It was when he was lodged in the Alipur jail awaiting his trial that he had the first glimpse of Narayan (God), and this changed the whole course of his life. In February 1910, he left Calcutta for Chandernagore and eventually reached Pondicherry on 4th April, 1910, where he stayed for the rest of his life. Pondicherry became the centre of his yogic and spiritual exercises; here he founded his well known Ashram, initially with four or five disciples (see Sri Aurobindo: His Life and Teachings, 1965 ed., p.7). Many more Indians and foreigners joined the Ashram in due course, and Mme. Mira Richard of France was one of them. The sea-bound landscape, the tranquility of the place, and the commitment of disciples were all-conducive to meditation and spiritualism. On November 24, 1926 - the day of his Realisation (Siddhi), Sri Aurobindo once again felt the descent of the Lord in the physical, and then for twelve years together he remained in complete retirement, receiving hardly anyone and keeping in touch. with his disciples through written replies. Sri Aurobindo was a supreme singer of the Soul and a great meditationist, whose message to the 'erring humanity' was to cast aside the slough of sordid Materialism and to march ahead towards the attainment of the Godhead (or, the Overmind Consciousness). A similar message was also delivered by Wordsworth in his sonnet "The world is too much with us". Through his writings, Sri Aurobindo propagated his noble ideals and thoughts with a considerable zeal. His Savitri is a stupendous effort on the part of Man for self-evolution and self-exaltation towards the Divine Consciousness, which is also so emphatically articulated in his great prose work called The Life Divine (1939-40) in two volumes. A third aspect of Sri Aurobindo's attractive personality is his neck-deep absorption in Literature, and we know that he ceaselessly wrote poetry, plays, prose works and letters. Certainly he was a tireless votary of the Muse, and his writings of all sorts are actually an extension of his noble vision of life and his thoughtful philosophy of human evolution. If Savitri is the culmination of his intuitive, meditative and mystical poetry (please note, Sri Aurobindo has also left behind a considerable body of love poetry).
Perseus the Deliverer and Vasavadutta (1957) are his singular achievements in the dramatic genre. Shakespeare and Milton, among others, were the potent influences on the mind and art of Sri Aurobindo, but the selection of subject-matter and its skilled treatment are characteristically his own. His prose works and letters- and they are too many- tend to affirm and clarify his poetic and dramatic postulations to a great extent. What K.D. Sethna remarks about his poetry is also true of his plays and prose works he remarks that all his (the poet's) "poetic expression is packed with symbols and visions straight from the spiritual planes" (The Poetic Genius of Sri Aurobindo, 1947, p. 101). All his works are definitely suffused with "passion, pulse and power", with a moral-cum-spiritual vision of life, with a clear-cut message for the evolution of Man towards higher and still higher stages of Consciousness.
This book, which is originally a thesis submitted to the University of Allahabad for the award of D.Phil., is an attempt at exploring the dramatic genius of Sri Aurobindo. Of course, the original thesis has been pruned down at the publisher's request retaining the substantial part of it. The present critical study is made on the dramatic theory and practice of Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) who occupies a pre-eminent place in modern Indo-English poetry. He is better recognised today as a poet philosopher than as a dramatist. But he possessed a multi-faceted literary personality which is somewhat difficult to reckon with. My explicit purpose is to estimate the success of Sri Aurobindo as a dramatist and to point out the extent to which he has gone in putting his dramatic theory into practice. Obviously, I have dwelt at length on Sri Aurobindo's dramatic works and the possible foreign influences upon them. The plays of Sri Aurobindo are the dramatic poems in which the plots, characters and atmosphere convey and symbolise a poetic vision of life. An attempt is made here at the interpretation of his vision in the light of the psychology and philosophy of life expounded by Sri Aurobindo in his major works and letters. The primary tool employed herein is that of character-analysis, relating it at every stage to the major vision embodied in his dramatic poetry. In Sri Aurobindo's life, his writing was not an To the helpful staff of the Allahabad University Library and National Library, Calcutta, I am greatly indebted indeed. Finally, I extend my thanks to my publishers, B.R.Publishing Corporation of Delhi, for readily undertaking the publication of this work.
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