Didarganj Yakshini is a hallmark of the 'superb aesthetic sense' and 'technical excellence' of ancient Indian iconography. The play YAKSHINI, showcasing the story of discovery, and highlighting the unique features of this iconic art, is a seminal work in the field of mass-education and mass-motivation about our heritages.
“I never watched such a play before!”
Shri Subrato Nath
Additional Director General, National Museum, New Delhi
“….I was particularly impressed by the story... as well as by the direction which never allowed the show to be dreary…."
Dr. Ratneshwar Mishra
Head of the Dept. of History (rtd.), LNMU, Darbhanga
“The play carries the objectives of 'public-museology'…..I never watched such a play before in India …..”
Dr. D. P. Sharma,
Former Director, Bhārat Kalā Bhavan, BHU, Varanasi
“…. a very impressive representation of the past. It enlivens. The Mauryan era is perceivable to people now…..”
Dr. Vibha Tripathi,
Head of the Dept. of Ancient History & Archaeology (rtd.), BHU, Varanasi
Yakshini” is the first InfoDrama InfoDrama is a genre of stage play in which educational information is addressed through an entertaining story. This is simillar to a 'documentary' in respect of its informative content and simillar to a stage drama due to the format of its presentation. in Indian theatre as well as in Hindi literature based on the world famous legendary icon 'Didarganj Yakshini', and therefore, the first example of application of theatre in higher education (i.e., Public Museology).
The play showcases the followings :
Love and respect for cultural heritage is characteristic of a civilized and intellectually developed society. It inculcates 'self-identity & self-respect' in people, which are the key-elements responsible for the progress of an individual, and hence, of the society. Therefore, people must know well about their cultural heritages: the monuments, the artefacts, the antiquities etc., and be aware of the importance of their conservation and maintainance.
To a historian or an archaeologist, an artefact found in an archaeological excavation speaks a lot about the custom, costume, tradition, socio-economic condition, trade, belief, and even about the environmental and ecological conditions of the era it belonged; and they pour their talent and labour in books and papers to inform us about them comprehensively. But a common person doesnot have enough time to take trouble of reading research-papers and books. It is only through mass media that people can be informed about the researched facts related to our heritages in a very short time.
This is why, Sunita Bharti has launched the series of Heritage Plays, for educating people about our cultural heritages, because live theatrical presesntation has deeper impact on the public conscience than videos and cinemas.
The play Yakshini, and each of the forthcoming plays of the series Heritage Play, have been exclusively created and designed, with the help of experts and authorities of the subject, for educating people about the amazing past of our land and culture, as well as for creating awareness for conservation of cultural heritages. In fact, the same is the objective behind the introduction of 'museum-education or 'public museology’ in the syllabus of 'museological studies'.
The play YAKSHINI is a new genre or catagory of stage plays called 'InfoDrama'.
In an InfoDrama, information about a particular subject is imparted to the audience through an entertaining story. The facts and figures are delivered to the audience through the various apendages of drama, viz., dialogues, set-design, costumes and acting. This is simillar to a 'documentary' in respect of its informative content, as well as simillar to a stage drama due to the format of its presentation.
Many characters in the play “Yakshini” are real, well documented in the annals and chronicles and a few characters are fictitious but quite relevant to the context and theme, required to construct a complete story in historical background.
The play complies with theatrical norms, has dramatic fluidity providing a wide scope for creative and technical applications to director and artists.
This play consists of two acts.
Act-one displays the story of its excavation and retrieval, based on the documented facts with all real characters of the episode of 1917. All the physical, historic, aesthetic, and archaeological features of this icon have been explained through the dialogues of the characters in a very interesting manner so that the audience learn and grasp every information related to this figure while entertaining themselves.
The play specifically highlights the 'public interpretation' of this artwork at the time sculpture was discovered. According to historian Richard H. Davis, there is always a “cult value” of images in a particular culture or community. But Dr. D. B. Spooner, who played an important role in accession of the image to the Patna Museum and wrote a report on Didarganj Image in the Journal of Bihar and Orissa Research Society in 1919, considered only the “exhibition value” of the icon; and he didn't enquire what the locals opined about the image. If they were worshiping the icon, what did they think of this icon? In act-one of this play, the writer has made a logical conjecture of what the villagers would have thought of this image, based on traditional belief and cult-practices.
Act-two of the play shows a fictitious story portraying a sculptor, a model and the circumstances leading to the sculpting of this masterpiece in 300 BC within the limits of the historical facts to enliven the epoch concerned. This story aids to the creative imagination of audience/visitors to realize the period in which this sculpture was created as well as connects the audience with this icon emotionally.
In the Offing
Yakshini is a pioneer work in public museology and a series of such plays named Heritage Play is being prepared based on important museum collections, archaeological excavations and ancient monuments, uncovering some unknown chapters of Indian culture, tradition, knowledge, philosophical and scientific ideas developed in the different epochs of time. Each of the plays in the series deals with the information related to the central subject in form of an interesting story fabricated within the boundary of historical and archaeological facts.
These plays, based on extensive academic research and exploration present a new 'genre' in Indian theatre : the Utiliterian Theatre or InfoDrama.
The outcome of dedicated labour and talent of our archaeologists and historians in reconstructing our past, must not be confined within a circle of intellectual minority; but must reach every nook and corner of society. Therefore, the existence of archaeological 'artefacts' and 'finds' must surpass the walls of the museums and resonate in the conscience of common people. If it so happens, our heritage shall be preserved in the hearts of people beyond the confines of 'museums' and 'sites'.
Therefore, with an objective to bring the stories of antiquities out of museums - in public; and inspired by the popular remark of Greek philosopher Cicero, “To be ignorant of the past is to be forever a child”, I steered my passion, theatre, to a more utilitarian path and started a series of Heritage Plays. Plays of this series show the stories of archaeological excavations of artefacts and highlight the related information to make people aware of the museum-collections and other heritages. The play Yakshini, based on the Mauryan sculpture ‘the Didarganj Chawry Bearer’ excavated in 1917, is the first production of this series.
This is a fact that message and information delivered through plays have deeper impact on public-conscience compared to cinema and videos. It was the most thrilling moment in my theatre career when a humble audience, after the first show of Yakshini greeted me with remark, "we used to go to museum, you have brought museum to us". Perhaps, this was the greatest reward I ever had in my life for my humble works.
We know that the role of museums is not limited to collecting and conserving things but also to educate people about them. In this respect, Yakshini is the first theatrical piece accountable in the subject of Public Museology. Staging of such plays in Museums, Universities and other organizations of similar nature will certainty create a positive atmosphere for protection and conservation of our heritage and culture, because more we know about antiquities, more we love and respect them and more are we keen for their conservation.
I hope people will welcome the upcoming play of this series 'Ashthi Kalash', which is based on the excavation of the relics of Buddha at Vaishali in 1958, with the same love and enthusiasm as they have greeted its predecessor Yakshini.
Act - 1
Act - 2