Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rajkahini [1905]

Abindranath Tagore’s greatest contribution remains his founding of the pioneering Bengal School of Art movement, which led him to be recognized as, ‘Father of Modern Indian Art’. However, he also had a near magical way with words, and, propelled by his legendary uncle Rabindranath Tagore, he went on to write a number of books that have come to be recognized as landmarks in Bengali children’s literature, with Rajkahini being a glowing and an immensely popular example of that. Revisiting a book that one read and loved as a kid, can provide a strangely nostalgic sense of homecoming and a throwback at the good old days lost in space, and such was the case here. The novel comprises of an interconnected set of short stories, with each focused on one or more famous characters belong to Rajput myth-oral history revolving around the then Rajput nerve-centre of Chittor in Rajasthan. The highly romanticized tales of the various kings and queens, who either rose from the ashes or went down in blazes of glory, are gripping accounts of courage, valour, honour and duty, against a rich and dynamic socio-political tapestry. However, given that it was written during the Swadeshi movement, of which he was an active part of, in British-ruled India, the stories served the added purpose of rousing the Hindu nationalist spirit against colonial forces, which formed a distinctive theme and tone that cut across the novel. Revisiting the book at my current state of maturity and experience, it was obvious that it was never aimed at adults in the first place, and consequently, the continual emphasis on the above-mentioned themes appeared a tad jingoistic at times, while some of the contents bordered on glorification of chauvinism and brawns. But, the smooth style and fecundity of the author’s imaginations, laced with his quintessential and marvelous pen-sketched artwork, didn't fail to impress me this time around as well.

Author: Abanindranath Tagore
Genre: Adventure/War/Historical/Children's Literature/Historical Novel
Language: Bengali
Country: India