An Indian Love Story.
TAGORE, Rabindranath. Chitra. London: The India Society, 1913.
8vo, original cream cloth, gilt lettering to front and spine; pp. viii + 34, printed in red and black: boards a little soiled and spine browned, traces of bookplate removal from front pastedown, very good.
First edition. One of 500 copies on hand-made paper of which 250 were for sale, published in the year of Tagore's Nobel Prize award.
Rabindranath Tagore (1861 - 1941), was a Bengali polymath who was pivotal in the reshaping of Bengali literature and music. He was a poet, dramatist, novelist, essayist, short story writer, painter, singer, musician, actor, mystic, aesthetic thinker, and social reformer, and was given the titles of ‘Great Sentinel’ and ‘Gurudev’ by Gandhi.
Chitra, his lyrical drama, is the translation of Chitrangada (1892). The drama is based on the love story of Chitra and Arjuna, which forms a memorable episode in the well-known epic, The Mahabharata. The only child of the king of Manipur, Chitravahana, has been brought up like a prince to be an heir to the throne. She is proud of her prowess and ‘manliness’, until she falls in love with Arjuna, who spurns her. Broken-hearted Chitra realizes the ‘vain pride of her manlike strength’ and prays to the gods for ‘a brief day of perfect beauty’ to ensnare Arjuna. The gods generously grant her a year of Venus-like beauty, but Chitra soon realises that her body has become her enemy, for Arjuna is attracted by her ‘borrowed beauty’ and she cannot reveal her true self.
In India, the play was performed without scenery, with the actors surrounded by the audience. Tagore requested that the play be performed without stage directions.