Islam and Mahabharat

Excerpts from Tagore’s Letters & Diaries.
Written to Amiya Chakraborty while on Java trip: 17 Sept. 1927

Dear Amiya,

My visits here are nearly over. It was my wonder to observe their people’s theatre, clumsily integrating Indian fragments. I had written you before how Ramayana and Mahabharata are animated in their life. Because it is living, it is not a prototype of any documented literature. It had drastic metamorphosis through thoughts and imaginations of the people here. They did not get in store in any scriptural sermon all the principles of life, but had those embodied in the characters of these two epics. The yardsticks to judge good and bad in the humans are these characters. So, with dynamics of life its prerequisites have changed variously. It is like oral transformation of Vidyapati and Chandidas’ (poets of mediaeval Bengal) compositions relayed down by the Bengali musicians from age to age. Yesterday we went for a shadow show. Its typed story was given to us. I’m sending it for your eye. Translate it into Bengali and judge it vis-à-vis the original Mahabharata. The distinction of the story is, there is no Draupadi (the central polyandrous female character of this epic having all the five Pandava brothers as her husbands) in the story. The neuter Brihannala of Mahabharata has been named ‘Kenobordi’ as a female. Kitchaka was beguiled by her beauty and fell victim to Bhim (the 2nd Pandava). This Kitchaka is enemy of the fish-king in Javani Mahabharata. Pandavas, by exterminating him, earned the gratitude of the King Birat.

The balcony of the palace of the king titled as ‘Monkunagro’, where I am sitting now to write this letter, abounds with Ramayana stories beautifully drawn on silk to be seen all around on the foundation pillars. But, they are Muslims by religion. Yet, they know ins and outs of the Hindu deities. They have taken as their own all the ancient streams of the India narratives. In fact, there is nothing wrong in it, as the characters of Ramayana and Mahabharata in abstraction are roaming around in their land. Rather, they do not have such all pervasive camaraderie in our country., where they do not figure in all their festivals as at every home here.

Originally published in the Bulletin (May 2010) of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture.
Translation by the author.

References and Source
The January-June 2003 issue of “Shrayan” a compilation from Tagore’s letters and diaries. by the editor of the magazine Mr. Pathik Basu.

More By  :  Rajat Das Gupta

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Comment 27 April 2014 TO: Mr. Suraj Kumar Your question is irrelevant. You miss the central point that in Indonesia we find a soft face of Islam where they freely draw from the legends of Mahabharat in their public stages whereas almost the entire populace there consist of Muslims. Rajat Das Gupta

Rajat Das Guptya
27-Apr-2014 06:28 AM

Comment kya mahabharat ke samay islam dharm tha.

suraj kumar
26-Apr-2014 08:35 AM

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