I have read with pleasure and much absorbing interest Dr. Mrs. Ratnamayidevi Dikshit's thesis on Women in San8krit Dramas. It has impressed me as a scholarly work dealing with women characters of Sanskrit plays. This work does credit to her not only as a diligent and pains-taking researcher in the field but also as a competent writer. Drama forms an important section of Sanskrit literature and characterisation in the same is the fundamental and lasting element. The interests which keep drama alive are characters, male and female. Dr. Dikshit has chosen women characters of Sanskrit dramas for her study. In the course of her study, she has examined the conception of women in their various spheres as daughters, sisters, wives and mothers. She has shown at length how the divinity of the Indian woman travelled to a low ebb and its subsequent revival. Besides, in a short chapter Dr. Dikshit has given a critical appreciation of the origin and development of Sanskrit Dramas and also in the course of the whole thesis a vivid and lucid account of their growth, decay and revival.
The book is a very useful and a welcome addition to our knowledge of Indian Women through the ages in general and women characters of Sanskrit plays in particular. We also get glimpses into the cultural and social life of ancient, medieval and modern times in India. I am confident Dr. Dikshit's work will be welcomed by all scholars and lovers of Sanskrit studies. I heartily con- gratulate the author.
The quintessence of literature is to represent life in a realistic perspective. And life, as a social concept, is much influenced by woman. This abstraction is deliberately used; for women indeed are the organizing and moderating nucleus, around which society in its human aspect revolves.
This thesis, as the title shows, does not only consist of an historical and literary study, but has a certain social pertinence too. It aims at an evaluation of the position of women based on their portrayal in the various Sanskrit plays.
This is an attempt at description, analysis and evaluation of women's character and their position in Indian society from the days of old to the present. This is not a mere study of literature from the aesthetic or literary point of view, but an effort to reach life, the society-woman in society-through literature. In other words, this is a voyage of discovery to understand and realize the Indi-an womanhood in its representative character as depicted in the Sanskrit dramas. For this purpose, as many Sanskrit dramas were studied as could be laid hands on in the book-shops as well as many an important library of Sanskrit manuscripts. To supplement the study by comparison and contrast, numerous plays in the modern Indian languages, e. g., Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati and Malayalam were gone through. Books on dramaturgy and literary criticism in some of these languages and in English could not but be consulted or studied extensively. Sanskrit books of- course invariably served as the bed-rack.
The first chapter deals with the origin of Sanskrit drama, its course of development and the relative theories found in the Sanskrit dramaturgy. After setting forth the background in preamble, it is sought to embark upon the study of the subject proper, dealing with the women characters in general. Incidentally, the question as to who played these feminine roles and what was the significance and effect of the related directives and regulations are also discussed. An examination of the corroboration of the above-mentioned analysis in the plays available is followed up. For this purpose. the available Sanskrit plays are divided into six groups on the basis of the discussion that precedes. The division is as follows- 1. The pre-Kalidisa writers.
3. Play-wrights from Kalidasa to Bbavabhuti.
4. Play-wrights from Bbavabhuti to Jayadeva.
5. The later writers upto the 19th century.
6. The modem Sanskrit play-wrights.
The cumulative analysis and evaluation of the women characters begin with the second chapter. One chapter is devoted to each group. Then follows a chapter in which the archaeological and iconographical evidences have been examined. One chapter is devoted to estimating the trend of the plays written in the modern Indian languages in general and to getting a bird's eye-view of the influence of the Sanskrit play. over the women characters depicted in them by writers closer to our times or still living and contributing their mite to the multifloral literary wealth of the country as a whole.
As pointed out in the beginning, the main aim of this study is to assess the position of women as depicted in the Sanskrit dramas. The evaluative opinion arrived at, is characterized by contrast more than by comparison, by analysis more than by assertion. Thus one re-discovers truism that women enjoyed a much more potential and influential position in the classical period than in the later days.
There is a sceptic jeer that drama is legendary and legends are no evidence. But even a legend has a social content, the proverbial grain of truth, which can hardly be denied. Hence the 'conclusion arrived at cannot be dismissed as baseless, Being primarily a literary project, this treatise admits of no pretensions on the part of the author of having made a comparative sociological study of the position of women in ancient India Yet, literature, being life sublimated to language, has its relations to the social realities. So the opinions expressed need no apology apart from the explanations and justifications proffered in the discussions of various points.
While the depiction of contemporary women in Sanskrit drama by the play-wrights of what may be called the mediaeval period cause negative feelings, if not casts a gloom over the mind, it is impossible not to acknowledge the gallant efforts made by the play-wrights of the 19th and 20th centuries at bringing the concept of Art/an womanhood to the fore-front once more. The depiction by the modern writers of heroines like Draupadi, Savitri and Damayanti in their true spirit, and the choice of historical figures for their themes, give evidence enough of their aims and intentions. The resurgent influence of this trend is recognized.
It is said that knowledge is assertive about its knowing and wisdom is humble about its relative ignorance. The latter truth is humbly acknowledged and no claim is laid to the final validity of the opinions expressed; for the spirit of humility and honesty and sincerity of purpose have been the main guiding lights throughout this study. But if the opinions expressed provoke further study and analysis, the purpose of this attempt will have been amply served. For, achievement is not completion; it consists of constant evolution.
My deepest gratitude is due to my revered Guru. professor N. N. Chaudhuri. M. A.. D. Litt . the Head of the Sanskrit Department of the University of Delhi, who has ably guided me through the thick and thin of this venture. Without his utmost patience, consideration and kindness and his consistent encouragement, guidance, advice and instructions, this work would or could never have reached its completion. It is his alertness in procuring the newly published plays, in directing me rightly, in checking me at every wrong -step and in encouraging the smallest spark of originality that lurked in the study. that has made possible the inclusion of so much material in this thesis. It is impossible for me to thank him enough for all that he has done to help me.
The officials of the Delhi University Library, specially of the Sanskrit Section, deserve no less thanks, But for their sympathetic co- operation much of the information I have been able to gather, would not have been possible at all.
Special mention must be made here of the Authorities of the Banaras Hindu University Library. who were kind enough to lend me the only available copy of the Kaumudimahotsava.
The Authorities of the Archaeological Department, New Delhi, cannot be thanked adequately for all the help they tendered to me by making available the various reference books, manuscripts and other material. The help of Shri Parab in this respect was invaluable. Shri G. Sivaramamurti, Superintendent of the Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum and noted scholar and author not only lent his valuable books. but also helped in fixing the dates of the pictures given in the appendix and in removing many a doubt. His help was invaluable and it is difficult to thank him enough.
My sincere thanks are due to Messrs. Meharchand Lachhman Das for their untiring efforts to make this book a success.
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