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Questioning orthodox tradition: A scrutiny of the teacher in Chandra Prasad Saikia’s Maharathi

Sumi Bora

LOKD College, Dhekiajuli, Assam

Volume 2, Number 2, 2017 I Full Text PDF

Article DOI:  10.21659/bp.v2n2.10

Epics in a society work as the cultural repository and the bearer of tradition which provides an identity marker and a sense of repute to it. When we look at ‘Indian tradition’ the two great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata offer the bedrock through which the ‘Indian way of life’ defines itself. No doubt India is a land where different religions co-exist and a place with multitudinous tribal cultures, yet these two epics have made inroad into the psyche of the Indian masses in one way or the other.

There has been a culture of re-writing and re-interpretation of the epics by different authors based on the present concerns which have lent them a life of their own, to quote an Eliotean phrase “presentness of the past” and have prevented them from being lost in dead archives. When we look at the context of Assam, eminent littérateur Chandraprasad Saikia’s novel Maharathi (Great Warrior) (1992) based on the life of Karna immediately draws our attention. Written in the first person narrative the novel depicts the inner life of Karna and offers his perspective on different characters and situations that moulded his life and being.

It was Chandra Prasad Saikia’s multifaceted experience in life as freedom fighter, a novelist, journalist, book publisher and commentator from Assam that provided him with the creative and critical acumen to script such an outstanding novel like Maharathi which also earned him the Sahitya Akademi Award. Here, I would further like to add that Chandra Prasad Saikia (1927-2006) was the President of the Assam Sahitya Sabha between the years 1999-2001 and has also authored several books; prominent among them are Edin, Meghamallar, Uttarkal, Suryasnan, Mandakranta, Janmantar, Maharathi and Tore More Alokare Yatra. Acknowledging his contribution he was awarded many titles and recognitions in the state and national level. Prominent among them are the Williamson Magor Award, the Publication Board Award for his novel Torae Morae Alokare Yatra and the Katha Award for three consecutive years from 1996 to 1998 for Gariyoshi, a monthly magazine in Assamese. He was also conferred the Padma Bhushan Award by the Indian Government in the year 2007 for his outstanding contribution to the society.

By penning the novel on Karna, Saikia made a unique contribution to the tradition of literary works on Karna, one of the fascinating and complex characters of Mahabharata. When we survey the field of literary creations on Karna the prominent works which draw our attention are Rabindranath Tagore’s poem, Karna Kunti Sangbad based on the meeting of Karna and Kunti before the war which played a decisive role in structuring the course of events in the Mahabharata. Karna’s private and personal life which have intrigued writers and readers is keenly dealt in the Marathi books of Radheya (1973) authored by Ranjit Desai and Mrityunjay (1967) authored by Shivaji Sawant. Mention must also me made of Ramdhari Singh Dinkar’s epic poem Rashmirathi (1952), also been adapted as play later on, which narrates Karna’s life…Full Text PDF>>