Friday, December 16, 2016




Much has been written about Tagore’s play, Chandalika which is based on a Buddhist legend Tagore came across while studying Ranjendra Lal Mitra’s The Sanskrit Buddhist Literature. According to the story Ananda, the famous disciple of the Buddha, approaches towards a well to ask for water from a Chandalini, a young untouchable girl. Prakriti, the Chandalini, serves him water from her pitcher and falls in love with him at the first sight. Her passion to possess Ananda compels her mother to cast a magic spell on Ananda and to drag him to her house. The spell proves stronger and Ananda is dragged to the couch spread for him by the Chandalini. Ananda prays to the Buddha to save himself from this shame and remorse. Consequently, Buddha breaks the magic spell and frees Ananda, who walks away from the Chandalini, as pure as he came. The play, for many, has been either a play of spiritual conflict or a psychological drama. Such readings of us however obliterate the most social concerns of the play like casteism and sexuality which make the play more as a social document than a mere stage show of entertainment and aesthetics. Though Subaltern Studies as a critical theory was unheard of in Tagore’s time, it is interesting to revisit and reintrospect Tagore’s Chandalika from the Postcolonial perspective .My paper will try to look at Tagore from the Subaltern standpoint, especially with reference to Gramsci’s notion of the ‘subaltern’ and the postcolonial issues of subjectivity and identity-formation .

Tagore’s Chandalika is a powerful critique of Indian society that ignores and deprives a large community of its fundamental rights and dignity, labelling them as subhuman untouchables. The dominant social groups of the high caste Hindus are much to be blamed for the dastardly acts of inhumanity and cruelty. The narrative of Chandalika is an evidence of the subaltern protest against Brahmanical hegemony and it explores possible ways of redemption. The story parallels powerfully the anti-caste movements associated with Phule, Periyar and Ambedkar. But Tagore does not lose sight of the fact that the Subaltern is held in subjection through its internal weakness and through its acceptance, as evident in the slavish mentality of Prakiti’s mother, Maya, of the moral, social and political ideologies of the ruling class. Maya internalizes and consents to her subordination as ordained. This subjectivity is not just externally imposed but is ingrained in the subaltern culture and consciousness. The mother considers Prakiti’s new birth following the awakening of her consciousness as madness. She chastises Prakiti’s newly gained enthusiasm after her.


  1. Please give us the full summary if you can

  2. Helpful guidance, helped a lot to understand the underlying meaning and the main theme of the drama. Thank you.

  3. A good summary.But can u give it as Act 1 summary, Act 2 summary

  4. Ideological aspects of the drama has been focused on more than the event.Hence it isn't summery but critical appreciation.