Sanskrit plays on European stages (and elsewhere)

Madhav Deshpande mmdesh at UMICH.EDU
Fri Nov 13 12:06:48 UTC 1998

Dear Folks,
	The enlargement of the original question will allow wider
responses.  It is not an uncommon event to see Sanskrit plays staged in
Sanskrit in India.  Long since I was in college in Pune (around 1962), the
state government of Maharashtra annually sponsored staging of
drama-competitions in Marathi and Sanskrit.  Several groups from
Maharashtra participated in these annual competitions.  I myself acted in
SvapnavAsavadatta, ZAkuntala, and MAlavikAgnimitra, and our group from the
Fergusson College in Pune won second prizes.  Besides staging classical
dramas, the Bombay competitions also attracted modern Sanskrit dramas.  I
personally wrote two small plays, one on the life of the Marathi saint
JnAnezvara and another on the life of RAmazAstri, a judge from the Peshwah
period.  Both of these were presented on stage by a junior high-school
group from Pune and won first prizes.  Pune alone often had several groups
participating in these drama competitions.  Around 1964, there was a
celebration of the completion of 50 (?) years of German-teaching in Pune,
and a group of us staged the whole of ZAkuntalam on stage in German.  Pune
also has a tradition of staging Sanskrit translations of Shakespeare's
dramas.  Professor S.D. Joshi's Sanskrit translation of Hamlet was staged
in Pune around 1980.  This is an important area and someone could do a
comprehensive study.  There are similar activities in Bombay, Madras etc.
An important place to mention is the Vikram University at Ujjain.  There
is an annual Kalidasa festival, and among the regular activities of this
festival is staging of Sanskrit plays by groups from all over India.  
	The Marathi rendering of ZAkuntala by Mr. Annasaheb Kirloskar
around 1880 is the beginning of modern Marathi musical dramas.  To my
knowledge, this was the first time in Maharashtra that a classical drama
in translation was presented to larger audiences.
	The staging of Sanskrit dramas or dramatized versions of Sanskrit
based stories especially in dance-drama format is common even among the
Indian immigrant populations in the US.  In Detroit, I and my wife,
Shubhangi, have participated in the Kathak based versions of MeghadUta and
ZAkuntala, and a BharatanATyam based version of KumArasambhava.  We also
staged a dance-drama version of Nala-DamayantI story.  Such efforts are
seen in many other places in North American Indian communities.

					Madhav Deshpande

On Fri, 13 Nov 1998, Jean-Luc CHEVILLARD wrote:

> Thanks to Lars Martin Fosse, Rebecca Manring
> and Yaroslav V. Vassilkov for their answers.
> Of course, when I said "European stages", I did not mean
> to exclude the United States of America (to mention at least
> one country outside Europe ...).
> I think I should may be further extend my question
> to performances of translations
> into modern languages (including English)
> of classical Sanskrit plays on Indian stages.
> The general question being of course
> "Where is Sanskrit theatre alive?"
> in the sense that we can say that
> Shakespeare is alive to-day in Paris:
> 1. you can go today or tomorrow
>  to the Th�atre de la Ville and see
>  a performance (in French) of
>  "La Nuit des Rois" ("Twelfth Night")
> 2. you can go today or tomorrow
>  to the Th�atre Lucien Paye and see
>  a performance (in French) of
>  "Rom�o et Juliette" ("Romeo and Juliet")
> 3. you can go today or tomorrow
>  to the Th�atre l'Ath�n�e and see a play
>  "librement inspir�e de William Shakespeare"
>  under the title of "La Trag�die de Coriolan"
> Where is Bhavabhuti alive?
> Where is Kalidasa alive?
> Why are they not so very much alive as Shakespeare is?
>  (I tend to think this is partly because the field of INDOLOGY
>   has been from the beginning confiscated to some extent
>   by indo-europeanists but this is of course
>   a very partial answer .... :-)
>   and not a criticism ;-)
> -- Jean-Luc CHEVILLARD (Paris)

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