Group: Chidakash Kalalay

Source: Visvanatha’s Saugandhikā Haranam

Director: Sayak Mitra


Our unique Sanskrit troupe, Chidakash Kalalay, now has its own space tastefully constructed in an indigenous manner by Anubha Fatehpuria and Richa Bose, in Boral just south of Kolkata, where it also performs for small gatherings from time to time (see photo). Its latest production, Rasa-Bala-Buddhi, opened there and featured another milestone: Chidakash’s founder, Piyal Bhattacharya, gave the charge of direction to Sayak Mitra, the most experienced of his disciples. The aesthetics and style, of course, stay the same.

Chidakash’s exploration of unknown Sanskrit texts continues, adapting Kavivara Visvanatha’s Saugandhikā Haranam, about Bhima locating the fragrant saugandhikā flower desired by Draupadi. However, the dramaturgical reasons for choosing this later source instead of Nilakantha’s older Kalyāna-saugandhikam, treating the same story, need justification. The note on the production confuses by terming it both a preksanaka (one of the uparupaka minor genres) as well as a vyayoga (one of Sanskrit’s ten major rupakas)—the category to which Kalyāna-saugandhikam traditionally belongs. Here, the hāsya rasa with Hanumana and the langur puppets, and the typically feminine kaisiki (graceful) vritti, undercut a heroic vyayoga as conventionally defined.

Mitra interprets the three key aspects of the play as rasa (the sweet-smelling blossom), bala (mighty Bhima) and buddhi (sagacious Hanumana). He imparts a contemporary environmental consciousness by subtly satirizing Bhima’s blitz levelling the forest just to find the flower, before Hanumana tricks him into some sense. Rudra Prasad Roy’s muscular dancing suits Bhima to a T, and this physical āngika transforms to internal sāttvika abhinaya when he understands Hanumana’s wisdom. As always, Chidakash’s āhārya (décor and costume) strikes us with its exquisite beauty. Comprehensibility of the classical-language vācika (speech) remains the stumbling block: perhaps a spoken synopsis as a sutradhara’s prologue, in keeping with ancient practice, could bridge the gap.

Since the specific opportunity may not arise again, I feel like indulging my hobby of identifying natural names. Is saugandhikā a real or mythical flower, or just an adjective rather than a noun? The normally infallible Sanskrit savant-lexicographer, Monier Monier-Williams, defines it as a waterlily; but Indian waterlilies don’t have an aroma. Could it be the lotus, then, which does have a fragrance? South Indian languages, however, call the ginger lily (Hedychium coronarium) saugandhikā; its heady smell indeed carries over a distance, but it doesn’t grow in alpine lakes as the saugandhikā is said to. I must reconcile myself to the possibility that saugandhikā was a figment of Vyasa’s imagination. Or, maybe, like the rare rājhamsa swans in the Himalayas, an extinct fragrant waterlily that used to grow around Kailash? Like Bhima, I await enlightenment from a botanically knowledgeable reader or Hanumana.