Next Show of Yakshini

December, 2019

A century ago, on 18th of October 1917, on the south bank of river Ganges near Didarganj, Patna; a female figure carved in Chunar sand-stone dating back to the Mauryan period was accidentally unearthed. This 2000 years old ‘nymph of stone’ surpassed the charm of the Aphrodite; and the mesmerizing aura radiating out of this bizarre beauty clouded the smile of Mona Lisa. Neither the villagers who dug out the figure, nor its mentors who brought the figure into the newly established Patna Museum, then, would have imagined that the icon was going to be a legend in archaeology and art-history.
Today we know this legendry beauty as
‘Didarganj Chowry Bearer Female Figure’ or ‘Didarganj Yakshini’, exhibited in Patna Museum, Patna. This is the first life size three diemnsional female statue sculpted as early on Indian archaeological time line, as 300 BC.
Testimonials

“….I was particularly impressed by the story which was a nice blend of history & imagination 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

“…..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 and Archaeology (rtd.), BHU, Varanasi

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Introduction of the Play

Yakshiniis 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 :

  1. The documented story of the excavation of “Didarganj Yakshini” and subsequent accession of the same to Patna Museum in 1917 including all details of intervening events.
  2. The historical, aesthetic and archaeological 'features & facts' related to this figure.
  3. A fictitious story, within the limits of historical facts, describing the possible objective and circumstances of sculpting of this masterpiece in 300 BC.
  4. The "Cult value" of this figure for the rural folk who found this statue as well as the "Exhibition value" of the same for the gentry who recived this figure in to the newly built Patna Museum in 1917.

Design

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 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 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 and provides a wide scope for creative and technical applications to the director and artists.

Story

This play consists of two acts.
In act-one, the story of its excavation and retrieval has been fabricated in an entertaining manner around the documented facts with all real characters of the episode of 1917. All physical, historic, aesthetic, and archeological characters of the icon have been explained in this act through dialogues of the characters in a very interesting manner so that the audiences learn and grasp every information about this sculpture while entertaining themselves.
The 'public interpretation' of this artwork at the time sculpture was discovered, has been considered specifically in this play. According to the writer 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 retrieval 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 on the basis of traditional belief and cult-practices.

In act-two of the play a fictitious story portraying a sculptor, a model and the circumstances leading to the sculpting of this masterpiece in 300 BC has been fabricated within the limits of the historical facts, which enlivens 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 audeince with this icon emotionaly.

Objective

Love and respect for antiquities, monuments and heritage are hallmarks of a civilized and intellectually developed society. The knowledge of our glrious past gives us a self-identity and self-respect which are essential for the progress of an individual, and hence of the society. So we must inculcate awareness and curiosity among the masses for monuments, artifacts and antiquities so that they may understand the importance of conserving and maintaining their glorious heritage. Didarganj Yakshini is a landmark icon which highlights the 'superb aesthetic sense' and 'technical excellence' of ancient Indian iconography. Therefore, a play like Yakshini, shocasing the story of discovery and magnificence of this icon, will serve as aseminal endeavour for mass-education and mass-motivation.

To a historian and/or archaeologist, an artifact 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 belongs. But a common man cannot decipher all these facts by mere looking at the artifact and reading the tag on it in museums. Even the description given by a museum guide is not always interesting so as to arouse a curiosity to know more. People just remain ignorant of the crucial information about our past, what they deserve to know.

Keeping the above fact in mind, the play Yakshini, and each of the forthcoming plays of the series Heritage Play, has been prepared to educate people about the mystical past of our land and culture as well as to raise awareness about the conservation of cultural heritage. In fact, the same is the objective behind the introduction of the topic 'museum-education or 'public museology’ in the syllabus of museological science.

In the Offing

Yakshini is a pioneer work in public museology and a series of such plays named Heritage Play, are being prepared based on important museum collections uncovering some unknown chapters of Indian culture, tradition, knowledge, philosophical and scientific ideas - developed in the diffrent epochs of time. Each of the plays in the series deals with the information related to the central subject embedded in 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.

sunita-bharti

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 resonate in the conscience of common people, surpassing the walls of the museums. If it so happens, our heritage shall be preserved in the hearts of people, beyond the confines of 'museums' and historical 'sites'.
With this very objective, and inspired by the popular remark of Greek philosopher Cicero, “To be ignorant of the past is to be forever a child”; I streered my passion - the theatre, to a more utilitarian path and started a series of Heritage Plays showcasing the stories of archaeological excavation and related information to make people aware of the museum-collections. 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 fisrt 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.

There has been a visible effect of the shows of Yakshini on the influx of museum visitors: people are drawn towards the museums with enhanced interest in antiquities - their eyes searching for another artefact having another story hidden within. This is a fact that more we know about antiquities, more we love and respect them and more are we keen for their conservation.
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.

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.

Thanks!

CHARACTERS

Act - 1

  1. Bulakani: The washerwoman (of village Tajpur-Rasulpur, Didarganj Kadam Rasul, where icon was found) who cleans the cloth on the protruding pedestal of the underground chowry-bearer in 1917. (Played by Sunita Bharti)
  2. Aklu, Rhman, Janki, Dashain and Badaruddin: Labourers (of the aforesaid village) who were in digging the chowry-bearer out of earth. The names are imaginary.
  3. Bhunesar Pande: Hindu priest of the aforesaid village. Name is imaginary.
  4. Narendra: Student of Patna college hailing from the aforesaid village who informed Professor Samadar about the find; a historical caharacter mentioned by Spooner with imaginary name.
  5. Gulam Rasul: Son of the Kaji of the aforesaid village, a historical character mentioned in the report of Dr. Spooner and the confidential report of the inspector of Malsalami thana, Patna dated 20 October 1917.
  6. Prof. J. N. Samadar: Professor of Patna College, the renowned historian and author.
  7. E. H. C. Walsh: Member of Board of Revenue and the president of Patna Museum Committee. 1917.
  8. Dr. D. B. Spooner: The renowned American Archaeologist & Superintendent, Archaeological Dept. Eastern Circle.
  9. Inspector of Malsalami Thana: Real Character
  10. Other Villgers
  11. Orderly of Wlsh

Act - 2

  1. Devi Madhvi: A royal girl of Sravasti, secretly married with Magadh Emperor; the model and inspiration of chowry-bearer.
  2. Bhadrak: State Sculptor of Magadha.
  3. Mahanaman: A retired captain of Mgadha, caretaker of Madhavi.
  4. Harshdev: Amatya (Minister) of Magadha.
  5. Jayraj: Mhanayak (General) of a Magadhan army.
  6. Vyom: Helping hand of Bhadrak
  7. Radha: Maid employed by Bhadrak for Madhavi,  par amour of Vyom.
  8. Yuvraj: Heir presumptive of Magadhan Throne.
  9. Laghunak and Chhapanak: Spies of Yuvraj.
  10. Orderly of Amatya
  11. Soldiers

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