Chandalika

Rabindranath Tagore

Thinking About the Play

Question 1: Why does something so ordinary and commonplace as giving water to a wayfarer become so significant to Prakriti?

Answer: Prakriti belongs to the caste which others consider as lowest of the low, the untouchables. People even keep away from their shadows. Since her childhood, Prakriti has seen nothing but discrimination heaped upon people of her caste. So, when a monk demands water from her, it is a shocking surprise for her. There are separate wells and ghats where people from untouchable caste are allowed to take water. They are not allowed to roam anywhere near the public facilities used by people from the upper castes. So, before the encounter with the monk, Prakriti could not even dare to dream about serving water to such a person. This shows the significance of Prakriti giving water to a wayfarer.




Question 2: Why is the girl named Prakriti in the play? What are the images in the play that relate to this theme?

Answer: The word ‘Prakriti’ means ‘nature’ and the girl has been given this name to represent the nature. There are numerous images depicting the nature. For example, at the beginning of the play, Prakriti’s mother talks about crows on tree, and about scorching sun of the month. After that, Prakriti’s green sari has been compared with young shoots of paddy. The author also talks about some basic desires of human being, i.e. of thirst and kama.

Question 3: How does the churning of emotions bring about self-realisation in Prakriti even if at the cost of her mother’s life?

Answer: There are two stages of self-realisation in Prakriti. The first instance is when she realizes that she can quench the thirst of another human being, contrary to her earlier mental conditioning that Chandals are of no use to the society. After that, when Ananda comes to her, under the influence of Buddha’s curative antidote to the magic of Prakriti’s mother, Prakriti realizes that Ananda’s life does not need worldly pleasures. Then Prakriti realizes her folly.

Question 4: How does the mirror reflect the turmoil experienced by the monk as a result of the working of the spell?

Answer: The mirror reflects various stages of turmoil experienced by the monk as a result of working of the spell. The monk is seen to be restless during his journey to and from Vaishali. He is seen to wandering through mountains and forests.

Question 5: What is the role of the mother in Prakriti’s self-realisation? What are her hopes and fears for her daughter?

Answer: When the mother hears about Prakriti’s desire to offer herself to Ananda’s service, the mother forbids her to go ahead. Her mother gives various suitable reasons for that. She says that it would be a sin to distract a monk. After that, the mother gives in to Prakriti’s desire and agrees to cast a spell on Ananda. At the end of the play, the mother dies. Her death signifies the punishment for the sin which the mother and daughter duo have committed. This makes Prakriti to see through the futility of her exercise.

Question 6: ‘Acceptance of one’s fate is easy. Questioning the imbalance of the human social order is tumultuous.’ Discuss with reference to the play.

Answer: It is true that acceptance of one’s fate is easy. Most of the people learn to live with the way life comes to them. Breaking the shackles of social order is fraught with risks of agony and suffering. Questioning the imbalance of the human social order is tumultuous because an individual is powerless against the deep entrenched mindset of the society. To understand this, you can take many examples of atrocities against people of scheduled castes, when such people try to assert their identity. You will find numerous new about a groom from scheduled caste beaten black and blue because he tried to ride a horse during marriage procession. You will also find news about a person from scheduled caste getting punishment because he sported a moustache, because sporting a moustache is considered the privilege of some upper caste men only.




Appreciation

Question 1: How does the dramatic technique suit the theme of the play?

Answer: The author has used two dramatic techniques prominently in this play, and they are ethos and pathos. Ethos means the belief system of a culture or a community. The author tells about the set of beliefs which segregate people of different castes in the society. Pathos means a sense of pity for the theme or a character. By highlighting the pains of the Chandalas, the author has used this dramatic technique. Both the techniques suit the theme of the play because the play is about the pains, desires and struggles of a person from the untouchable section of the society.

Question 2: By focusing attention on the consciousness of an outcast girl, the play sensitizes the viewer/reader to the injustice of distinctions based on the accidents of human birth. Discuss how individual conflict is highlighted against the backdrop of social reality.

Answer: Prakriti and her mother are living their lives, the way any other person from their caste is supposed to live. They have accepted their faith of living on the fringes of the society, and they don’t want to confront the social order. But when Prakriti meets Anand, the Buddhist monk, she goes through a sort of awakening. She realizes her worth as a human being. In order to utilize her potential as a human being, she decides to offer herself to the monk. This shows the conflict between the set social order and aspiration of an individual. Dialogues by her mother illustrate the inherent conflict.

Question 3: ‘I will enthrone you on the summit of all my dishonour, and build your royal seat of my shame, my fear and my joy’. Pick out more such examples of the interplay of opposites from the text. What does this device succeed in conveying?

Answer: Following is an example which shows the interplay of opposites:

“I started up trembling and bowed before his feet, without touching them.”

Prakriti wants to show her gratitude to the grand gesture shown by the monk. She is trembling because she got the respect beyond her wild imagination. She is bowing before the monk’s feet to show reverence. But she desists from touching his feet because touch by a person from the Chandala caste is considered to have polluting effect on a person from the upper caste.

This device succeeds in portraying the conflict in the drama.

Question 4: ‘Shadow, mist, storm’ on the one hand, ‘flames, fire’, on the other. Comment on the effect of these and similar images of contrast on the viewer/reader.

Answer: Words in the first group are in total contrast with word in the second group. Prakriti has lived all her life under shadow, mist and storm. This means that she has been put inside a watertight compartment by the accident of her birth. She cannot live the way people of mainstream live. She has to be content with all the ignominy which society bestows on people of her caste. Once she happens to meet Ananda, she gets flame and fire on her hand. The fire is of a newfound discovery of her worth as a human being. The fire works like a double edged weapon. Fire can cook food but it can also destroy a whole village. Prakriti runs the risk of ostracisation if she tries to fulfill her desire to serve the monk the way she wants to serve.




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