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‘Women In Search of Identity In Tagore’s ‘Chitra’

Dr. Vinay Kumar Pal
Asst. Teacher D.A.V.K.H.S School

Rabindra Nath Tagore is a great Indian poet. He is born on 7th May, 1861 at Jorasanka, Kolkata. He has taken his education at home under private teachers for various subjects. He has written thousands of poems, short stories, songs, essays, dramas etc. He has become the first Indian who received Nobel Prize in 1913 for his great writing named “Gitanjali”. He is also a philosopher, a painter and a great patriot who has composed our National Anthem “Jana Gana Mana”.  He is the first great feminist in Indo-English fiction and poetry. Woman has a unique place in his creative world. I have chosen his poetic play ‘Chitra’ where he shows Chitra a true woman who chooses a path of honesty that leads to her destination. She believes that Good wine needs no bush.  Tagore describes the real beauty of Chitra in the poetic play ‘Chitra’. Chitra, the daughter of the king of Manipur, was not conscious of her physique and sex before meeting Arjuna . She used to protect the people of her kingdom from the robbers and anti-social elements. She dressed herself as a soldier and never dreamt of a home of her own, with the lord of her heart. While hunting an animal in the forest her foot fell on the chest of Arjuna who was leading the life of an ascetic there. She asked him to get away if he wanted to be alive. By this time she had never heard the name of this warrior. Arjuna allowed her to go her way and mind her business as he had not retired to the forest to show his bravery. But Chitra forgot her manlike strength and wanted to possess the hero of her heart at every cost. Due to Cupid’s archery, she had become the victim of love at first sight. After a lot of meditation, she pleased Lord Vasanta and Lord Madana to win the heart of Arjuna. She tells Lord Madana:  “I am Chitra, the daughter of the kingly house of Manipur. With god like grace Lord Shiva promised to my royal grandsire an unbroken line of male descent. Neverthless, the divine world proved powerless to change the spark of life in my mother’s womb so invincible was my nature, woman though I be”.1(P.37) She was taken aback as Arjuna told his name to her. There was no limit to her fear and wonder now. She felt herself a foolish woman for the first time in her life as she did not know how to ask for forgiveness. She simply stood like a barbarian at that time and he walked away. Next morning she stopped wearing man’s clothes and decorated herself with bracelets, anklets, waist-chain etc. She felt the ‘shrinking shame’ and aspired for Arjuna. When she met him in the temple of Lord Shiva, he neglected her. He had simply told her that he had taken the vow of celibacy for twelve years and ignored her. As Chitra could not tolerate these words of Arjuna, She burnt her bow and arrows in the fire. She knows that many saints and sages were disturbed by beautiful women and goddesses and got their aim. Chitra does not have the needed time to win the heart of Arjuna by slow degrees. Had God given her the time and opportunity, she would have helped him as a warrior. As a Kshatriya she would have helped him in giving justice to the weak people. Now she feels sad as she had to suffer a lonely silence. She is just like widow with nightly tears. She compares herself with a flower that drops into the dust before it ripens into fruit. She requests Lord Vasanta and Lord Madana to help her. She wants perfect beauty only for a day so as to satisfy her desire. Lord  Madana grants her prayer and Lord Vasanta gives the blessings of beauty for one whole year.At the result, Arujana was bewitched with her beauty. When he meets her in the temple of Lord Shiva, he admires her loveliness. So far he had not seen such a beautiful woman on earth. It was a vision of total loveliness. Chitra told him that she came to the temple of Lord Shiva for the fulfilment of the desire of her heart. She tells him that she has heard the glory of the royal house of the Kurus and  a lot of tales about the bravery of Arjuna. Arjuna confesses that his vow is dissolved by her beauty as the moon dissolves the obscurity of night. Chitra fails to understand the cause of Arjuna’s homage to a woman. Indirectly she confesses :”Alas, that this frail disguise, the body, should make one blind to the light of the deathless spirit! Yes, now indeed, I know, Arjuna, the fame of your heroic manhood is false”. 2(P.41) But Arjuna forgets every glory of the earth and only Chitra is real to him. The false beauty appeals his senses and appearances proved to be deceptive. Chitra enjoys the bliss of love in the company of Arjuna. She even forgets the history of her past for a few months. The drops from the cup of love are dear to her. She feels delighted when Arjuna admires her beauty. The spring flowers prepare a perfumed grassy bed for her and to the moments of joy fly fast. The joy does not remain limitless for Chitra as she does not want to cheat anybody. She feels restless at times. It is true that these are the moments of ecstasy for her. But she feels ashamed of herself and says: “Shame slipped to my feet I like loosened clothes……… with the first gleam of light, the first twitter of birds, I rose up and sat leaning on my left arm…………” 3(P.43).As she remembers her past, she becomes sad. It is true that Arjuna loves her. But Tagore knows the definition of beauty and relates it with restraint and discipline. Tagore is not a follower of mere physical beauty as he had studied authors like Kalidas. Lord Madana asked Chitra the causes of her agony. Had Lord Madana granted her the love of a single night, there would have been no limit to hear despair now.Now the question arises – How would Chitra face the situation if physical beauty is withdrawn? As a bold woman,Chitra is prepared to bear every sorrow in silence. Theonly trouble is her disguise now as her heart wants to reveal her true self to Arjuna. Lord Vasanta advises her to enjoy the mad festival of love and wait for the advent of autumn. Chitra returns home as a restless bird. She asks Arjuna to accept her as a maid if he cannot accept her as his wife. In a mood of regret, she tells him the idle days are over and her joy has turned into pain. Vasanta and Madana become conscious of the universal fact that pleasure winged days fly fast. Now Arjuna feels tired of love making and as Kshatriya wants to enjoy hunting. As his spirit is restless, he does not want to remain caught.Chitra asks him – What is the cause of his restlessness and indirectly asks:”Do you now know that I am no more than what you see before you?”. 4(P.46)As a matter of fact the great Pandava has no peace of mind and his heart is unsatisfied. He has heard of a Chitra who protects the villagers from the robbers. As he is confused, he tells her. “Mistress mine, do not hope to pacify love with airy nothings. Give me something to clasp, something that can last longer than pleasure, that can endure even through suffering.” 5(Page. 46) There is no limit to the agony of Chitra as she is sad due to her misfortune. All her achievements are nothing. Her learning goes waste. Perhaps Arjauna is tired of her. All her requests are ignored by Arjuna as he wants to meet the real Chitra.But the artificial Chitra warns him:”Why, what has she ever had, the unfortunate creature? Her very qualities are as prison walls, shutting her woman’s heart in a bare cell. She is obscured, she is unfulfilled. Her womanly love must content itself dressed in rags, beauty is denied to her. She is like the spirit of a cheerless morning”. 6(Page.48)But alas! Arjuna does not accept her statement as he has an inner urge to see real beauty. The question arises-Will Arjuna accept her if she gives up the plums of beauty ? Will this heroic soul tolerate her if she does not have the borrowed clothes. Now Arjuna is confused for a moment and confesses: “I never seem to know to you aright. You seem to me like a goddess hidden within a golden image ……. ………….in your playful words mocking at their own meaning, I gain glimpses of being trying to rend as under the languorous grace of her body, to emerge in a chaste fire of pain through a vaporous veil of smiles. Illusion is the first appearance of truth”. 7(P.49) As Chitra is nourishing a son in her womb, she can offer him a second Arjuna and nothing else. She confesses that she is only an ordinary woman without any disguise. As Arjuna is wise and prudent, he accepts her and says: “Beloved, my life is full”. 8(P.51) Tagore asserts that the beauty of heart and soul is superior to that of body. Thus, R.N. Tagore believes in the dignity of women. Through Chitra, he illustrates his concept of beauty. Merely physical beauty does not keep Arjuna in bondage of love forever. He accepts real Chitra when she appears before him without her artificial beauty. She makes him feel that ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’. She knows very well that lie has no life and truth can be stopped for some time but cannot be finished and finally quality speaks for itself.
Reference : Tagore, R.N: Chitra in the English Writings of R.N. Tagore, Vol. II Note : All the page nos. related to the text has been given with the quotations. Books Cited: 1. Dr. Usha Bande’s: Tagore’s Chitra and Folklore’s Hidimba: Power of the feminine, year 19/11/2013 2. A study of Tagore’s Chitra-Abhinav Journal, year 07/07/2018 3. Mrs. Neetu Rastogi’s Rabindra Nath Tagore : A Critical Study, year 12/07/2018

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