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Full text of "The Indian Stage Vol II"

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u< OU_1 64638 >m 



OSMANIA UNIVERSITY LIBRARY 



Call No. * Accession No. 

Author 
Title 
This book should be returned on or before the date last marked below. 



THE INDIAN STAGE 

Vol II. 



By 
HEMENDRA NATH DAS GUPTA 

Girish Ghosh Lecturer, Calcutta University. 



1938 



Published by 
M. K. DAS GUPTA, B. A. 
124/5, Russa Road! Kalighat, 
CALCUTTA. 



Printed by 

Pulin Bihari Sarkar at 

Metropolitan Printing & Publishing House Ltd. 
90, Lower Circular Eoad, Calcutta. 



Price Rs. 5/- 
Foreign 10 Shillings. 



To 

SHYAMA PRASAD MUKHERJEE, Esq. 

Vice-chancellor, Calcutta University. 



PREFACE 

Dr. Jolian Vanmanen, who wrote a masterly and 
erudite preface to my first volume of the Indian 
Stage, has also dealt with the contents of the present 
volume in the said preface and no further introduc- 
tion is therefore necessary. I beg to express my 
heart-felt gratitude to him for the appreciative 
references he has made about me. 

The first volume deals with the stage as described 
in "Natyasastra", dramas and stage as inscribed 
in rocks and stones, dramas of Bhasa, Kalidasa 
and Bhavabhuti, Yatras and the plays in which 
Sriehaitanya took delight and the full history of 
the English Stage of the eighteenth century the 
Play House, the Calcutta Theatre, the Chowringhee 
Theatre and the Sansouci Theatre, and the stages 
in the houses of Babus Prasanna Kumar Tagore 
and Nabin Krishna Bose, up to the middle of the 
nineteenth century. 

The present volume takes us to the earliest 
Bengali Dramas including Bhadrarjun Natak, Kulin- 
kuiasaarvaswa, Sakuntala, Venisanhar, Sarmistha, 
Bidhavabivaha Natak, Nildarpan Natak and Ram- 
abhisek and other Nataks and how these were 



11 

staged. Later, we get a full history as to how 
the theatre that was confined to the few aristocratic 
families came to be moulded by a middle class expert, 
and last of all, the sensational stories that read like a 
romance, as to how the theatre was put under a ban 
under the Dramatic Performances Act. 

It will be height of ingratitude on my part if I 
fail to acknowledge the kindly help rendered by 
my ex-pupil Mr. Sacchidananda Bhattacharya, the 
merchant prince of Bengal and an erudite scholar, 
philosopher and philanthropist towards the 
publication of this and the previous volume. But 
for his help and encouragement, neither of the 
volumes would have seen the light of the day. 

Pandit Narendra Chandra Vedantatirtha, M.A. has 
put me under a deep debt of obligation by going 
through the whole book in proofs and giving the 
correct rendering of the diacritical words. I am also 
thankful to my friends Messrs. Amulya Bhusan 
Chatterjee, M.A. and Sailendra Nath Sen, B. Com. 
for the kind assistance rendered by them. 

I must admit with gratitude the help rendered 
to me by Mr. Sailendra Nath Mitra M.A., Secretary 
Post-graduate Department, Calcutta University, Babu 
Nalini Ran] an Pandit, Kiran Chandra Dutt M.R.A.S., 
and Babu Kshetra Mohan Mitra, the famous actor 
of the Bengali Stage. All of them helped me 
materially. I have got much help from my friends 



Ill 

Mr. B. N. Das, B.L., M.L.A., Rangoon and Prof. Jitesh 
Chandra Guha M.A., B.L. 

I received enormous assistance from Babu 
Devendra Nath Bose, one of the distinguished 
authors and critics of the day and Natyacharya 
Amrita Lai Bose, who was a victim of the unjust 
Surendra-vinodini prosecution. 

My books contain the fruits of unremitting 
researches, in this particular department of Indian 
culture, carried on for twenty years under great 
difficulties. The Calcutta University has already 
given me enough patronage and I hope and trust, 
the book will receive the warmest appreciation from 
the cultured public. 



124/5 B, Russa Road, 

Calcutta. Author. 



CONTENTS. 

Chapter I. 
The Early Bengali Plays. 

Chandi, Chitrayajna, Chhadmavesh, Vidyasundar, 

Bhaiiumatir Chittavilas, Bhadrarjun, Kulin-kula-sarvaswa. 

... JLJL. I~~"~o5. 

Chapter II. 

Sakuntala at Chhatu Babii's House, Ramnarain's 
Plays, Kaliprasanna Sinha's Vidyotsahini Theatre. 

Veni-samhar, Kumar-sambhav Natak, Savitri- 
Satyavan. ... ... ... PP. 3651 

Chapter III. 
The Belgachhia Theatre. 

Ratnavali, Sarmistha, Ekci ki bale Sabhyata, Krishna- 
kumari. Kcshav Chandra on the Stage, Bidhavavivaha 
Natak. ... ... ... PP. 5290 

Chapter IV. 
Dinabandhu Era* 

East Bengal Stage, Nildarpan Natak, Rev- J. Long's 
prosecution. ... ... ... PP. 91 101 

Chapter V. 
Three Aristocratic Theatres. 

Pathuriaghata Theatre Vidyasundar, Bujhle kina. 
Music at Pathuriaghata. Jorasanko Theatre Navanatak. 
Shobhabazar Theatre Valmiki-protibha. 

PP. 10213Q 



VI 

Chapter VI. 
The Bengali Theatre of Bowbazar. 

Manomohan Bose, dramatist his Ramabhisek Natak, 
Sati, Harischandra PP. 129134 

Chapter VII. 
Opera Yatras. 

Other theatres Padmavati at Burtola, Naldamayanti 
at Bagbazar. Sakuntala at Arpuli, Usha-Aniruddha, 
Kichhu kichhu Bujhi, Kavi contests in theatre. 

PP. 135148 

Chapter VIII. 
The National Theatre. 

Sadhavar Ekadashi, Girish Chandra Ghose's Nimchand, 
Girishand Dinabandhu Litavati, Nildarpan Natak at 
Public theatre, Naisho Rupea, Bharatmata, Bhimsingh. 
National and Hindu National. Girish, the father of the 
Bengali Stage. ... ... ... PR 149218 

Chapter IX. 
Bengal Theatre. 

Sarmistha, first actresses on the Stage. PP. 219 227 

Chapter X, 
Great National Theatre. 

Bhuvanmohan Neogi, Kamyakanan on 31st Dec., 1873, 
Mrnalini Anandakanan PP. 28 2242 

Chapter XI. 
Dramatic Performances Act. 

National Dramas, Prince of Wales's visit, Gajadananda 
and other farces, Surendra-Vinodini Prosecution and 
Trial, Chakardarpan Natak the Act. PP. 243288 



Authoritative 

Books on Drama & Stage by the 

Author.* 

(1) Indian Stage I. (Recommended for the 
B.A, Classes by the Calcutta University), Us. 5/- 

(2) Indian Stage II. Rs. 5/- 

(3) Girish-pratibha (in Bengali) with a 
commentary on the social, historical and mytho- 
logical dramas of Girish Chandra Ghose. 

(4) Girish Chandra Ghose's place in 
Bengali Drama and Stage (University Publica- 
tion) to be shortly out. 

(5) Dani Babu and the Bengali Stage from 
1886 to 1032 Rs. 2/- 

*Deshabandhu-smrti (2nd Edition) in two 
volumes in Bengali to be shortly out. The reminis- 
cences read like romance and the history of Bengal 
politics is most interesting Price Rs. 3/-, each 
volume. 



INDIAN STAGE 



Vol. II 



I. THE EARLY BENGALI PLAYS 

We have seen from the preceding volume that 
though the revival of the Drama in Bengal dates from 
the time of Hrlchaitanya, direct impetus to the 
modern Bengali stage was, however, given by the 
early English Theatres of Calcutta, of which the 
Chowringhee Theatre stood the most prominent. This 
historic house exercised a great deal of influence upon 
the educated community of the Hindu citizens of 
(Calcutta and its principal patron in its evil days was 
the late Prince Dwarka Nath Tagore. The Yatras, 
on the other hand, that were the mo in source of popu- 
lar entertainment, fell into decline on account of their 
degenerating into low taste and high erotic tune. 
This caused indeed a great loss to the country, for in 
the absence of other mediums, the Yatras were a kind 
of popular institution for the spread of mass education. 
Really with the disappearance of the Yatras, many 
good things were lost to Bengal. 



The introduction of dramatic performances in the 
place of the ancient Yatras was to a great extent due 
to the spirit of the time. Bengal was then passing 
through a phase of rapid changes. The leaven of 
the western civilisation entered into Bengali life and 
it rapidly attacked the Bengali society both for good 
and bad- Yatras, too, degenerated into vulgar shows, 
and educated minds discountenanced those altogether. 
Thus when first the Hindu Theatre was opened at 
the house of Babu Prasanna Kumar Tagorc, a Re- 
former" writing in the Calcutta Journal, January, 
1832 (pp. 6-7), was jubilant at the resuscitation of 
the Hindu Theatre, as will be evident from the fol- 
lowing quotation from that Journal : 

''What child of enlightenment, what men of 
patriotic feelings will not hail with raptures of joy 
that day when our hitherto degraded countrymen 
will turn their backs with disgust against the gross,, 
barbarous and obscene performance of Gobies and 
Yatras to relieve their aching heart by the sign of a 
rational and dignified performance on the stage of 
our Hindu Theatre ?" 

Raja Ram Mohan, too, at about the time boldly 
attacked the huge mass of superstitions accumulated 
through centuries of slavery and national degeneracy. 
He reformed the language, held up the lofty religious 
cult of the Upanisads and banished from the land 
many shameful practices and atrocious crimes that 
were perpetrated in the name of religion. The great 



reformer was followed by a host of capable apostles of 
light, and their names are the proud legacy of that 
eventful time. Religion, morality, politics, literature 
and art came under the pitiless glare of critical 
inquiry and much filth and dirt were removed to 
help a healthy national growth. In this all-embrac- 
ing movement for national regeneration, drama 
replaced the ancient Yatras. Many notable persons 
of that time lent their hands in this particular depart- 
ment of poetic art. Even men like Keshav Chandra 
Sen, Pratap Chandra Ma/Aimder, Narendra Nath Sen, 
W. C. Banerjee, Michel Madhusudan Dutt, and 
Rajendra Lala Mitra took active part in dramatic 
performance, each one an intellectual force of Bengal, 
not to speak of the deathless glory which Keshav 
Sen reaped as a religious preacher. Even the aristo- 
cracy did not lag behind ; many cultured and wealthy 
Citizens of Calcutta worked for the uplift of the 
people and drama received great patronage in their 
hands. No civilised nation can be without its drama, 
and it was only natural for such intellectual giants 
like Madhusudan, and Keshav Chandra to espouse 
the popular cause. Bengali drama was thus in a 

tage of development and we would better treat the 

abject in its chronological order. 

The pioneer in introducing dramatic performances 

Bengali, as we have already seen, was Lebedefr, 

with his worthy co-adjutor Golak Nath Das, 

'1 in 1795, a Bengali play for the entertainment 



4 

of the Bengali audience but time drew a veil of 
oblivion over their noble efforts, though they surely 
deserve grateful tribute of Bengal. The man who 
next took up this cause was Nobin Krishna Bose, 
who staged Bharat Chandra's Vidya-mndar in his 
residential house at Shyambazar in 1833. In the 
interval between Lebedeif s enterprise and Nabin 
Babu's Theatre, there were exhortations in the 
Samacaracandrika and occasionally by others for 
dramatic performance in Bengali, but they went un- 
heeded, though almost every educated man of that 
time felt the want of a Bengali Stage. It was only 
in 1831 that the liberal and enlightened Zeminder, 
Prasanna Kumar Tagore with his colleagues started 
the Hindu Theatre for the entertainment of the 
Bengali audience. But the plays acted there were 
all in English- Nabin Babu's Theatre was really 
the first genuine endeavour for the performance of 
Bengali drama, after a lapse of about thirtyeight 
years from Lebedeff s ! After Nabin Babu's Theatre, 
the Bengali students and actors again reverted to 
English plays and the Oriental Theatre staged 
English plays for the entertainment of the educated 
Bengalees. But with time at last there grew ar 
anxious craving for the Bengali plays. 

In the preceding volume we have mentioned o 
or two Bengali plays, but we shall now trace 
growth of the modern Bengali Drama from ifr 
Sanskrit model to its present westernised 



Attempts were at first made to write Bengali dramas 
after Sanskrit style. But since such plays did not 
meet with public approval, the Sanskrit model was 
given up and was replaced by the western ideal. 

The growth of the Bengali drama is really inter- 
esting, for in the beginning the attempts were only 
crude- The most noticeable attempt to write a 
Bengali Drama was that by Bharat Chandra, the 
famous poet of the Vidyasundar. It was he who 
first thought of introducing Bengali dialogues and 
Bengali characters in a Bengali drama. He com- 
menced the drama Cancel shortly before his death. 
In the opening verse or Nandi, the sutradhara 
eulogises the virtues of the poet's patron, Raja 
Krishna Chandra of Krishnanagore, a Bengali 
Zeminder of repute who lived at the time of the Battle 
of Plassey. The characters of the drama are Goddess 
Candi, her enemy Mahisasur and the Praja or the 
people. 

The Sutradhara speaks in Sanskrit, but his wife, 

Nati, replies in Bengali, as a woman does in Prakrit 

in a Sanskrit drama. Goddess Candi, the demon 

Mahisasur and other characters speak in Bengali. 

But their dialogues contain an excessive mixture of 

Sanskrit, Hindi and Persian words. The poet died 

^fore the play was completed. One cannot too much 

*;ret the loss, for it was the first attempt after a 

agali drama by the greatest poet of that time. 



6 

This is the fragment of the first Bengali drama that 
we possess, and was written about the year 1760. 

After a lapse of about twenty years, there was 
another attempt to write a drama in Bengali by a 
Sanskrit scholar, Pandit Yidyanath Vachaspati 
Bhattacharya of Nadia. The name of the drama is 
Citrayajna. It is the second instance of a Bengali 
drama. 

Though Babu Kaliprasanna Sinha calls it a 
Sanskrit Drama*, H. H. Wilson considers it as a 
heterogeneous composition. It was composed about 
the year 1778.* "It is so far valuable," says Wilsonf 
"as conveying a notion of the sort of attempts at 
dramatic composition made by the present race of 
Hindus in Bengal. The Yatras or Jatras which are 
occasionally represented in the Bengali language 
follow the plan of Citrayajna, with still less preten- 
sions to a literary character. They are precisely the 
Improvista Coined ia of the Italians, the business 
alone being sketched by the author and the whole of 
the dialogue supplied by the actors. The dialogue is 
diversified by songs which are written and learnt by 
heart. Some improvement, however, has been madei 



* Vide preface to Vikramorvasi translated in Bengal 
about the year 1857, under the auspices of 4l Vidyotsahi* ' 
Sabha. It speaks of Citrayajna, written about 80 ye? 



ago." 



\ Vide Wilson's "The Theatre of the Hindus , Apper< 



of late years, in the representation of the perform- 
ance ; the details of the story are more faithfully 
and minutely followed and part of the dialogue is 
composed and taught by the author to the actors." 

(3) The third noticeable attempt was that of 
Lebedeff and we have made extensive reference to 
the translation of Disguise and its representation on 
the stage in Vol. I, pages 219-258. 

(4) We next hear of a farcical comic piece Kali- 
raj ar Jatra which was played in 1821. The 
Samvadakaumudl a vernacular paper edited by 
Raja Ram Mohan Roy in its issue No. VIII of 
1821 mentions a drama named Kalirajar Jatra 
(which to convey the spirit of the drama, may be 
translated as the ''Journey of Mephistoples"). 
Unfortunately, a copy of this journal could not be 
found, but we have from the Calcutta Review of 
1850 (Vol. XIII page 160) stating that "a new 
drama, Kalirajar Jatra is being performed.' 5 

The word '' Jatra" has, however, raised some mis- 
conceptions in the minds of some critics who hold it 
was not a drama. The Samvadakaumudl describes 
the play as a comedy. The Calcutta Review calls it 
"drama". "Jatra" here does not mean "the musical 
opera" but only "journey 7 , as has been amply shown 
in the following account given in English in the Sep- 
tember issue of the Asiatic Journal, 1822 which 



8 

derived its information from the Bengali paper, the 
Samvadakaicmudl : 

"A descriptive account of a drama newly invented and 
of the characters personated in it. It is denomi- 
nated the "Colly Raja's Jatra". It was stated 
in a former number that when a full account of 
the comedy was received it should be laid be- 
fore the public. It is composed of various actors 
who arc well -versed in the act of "Singing and 
dancing". The following is the order o their 
appearance on the stage. First, two Baistambas ; 
second, the Kaliraj ; third, the Vizier; fourth, the 
preceptor; fifth, a noble and well-dressed English- 
man "Just come from Chattogram'' with a lady; 
sixth, the only man-servant and maid-servant of 
this young gentleman. In the last scene when 
all these are assembled, they began to dance and 
sing with a voice as melodious as that of the 
Cuckoo, talk witty things and thus excite the 
laughter and put into rapture those Babus who 
assembled there from different quarters and 
some of whom arc very much interested that 
in process of time this comedy will become 
very popular/' 

No doubt Yatras were in vogue at that time and 
Samacaradarpan, 26th Jan. 1822 called it a musi- 
cal opera "Natoon Jatra", but here 'Jatra' evidently 
refers to the journey of the Kaliraj from Chittagong 
to Calcutta and it is doubtful if the editor of Darpan 
saw the performance A similar idea is found in 
Pandit Khirode Prasad Vidyavinode's Dada Didi 



9 

staged in 1907, a play since put under ban by the 
Government. In so late a play as Kliasdakhal by 
the veteran comedian, late lamented Babu Amrita 
Lai Bose, we find Kali * directing his steps towards 
Calcutta where, he says, a good many of his institu- 
tions have thrived. The above piece was really not 
a Yatra and Raja Ram Mohan, too, would not 
have called it a drama, if it really were not so. 
Besides, the only kind of Yatra in vogue at that 
time was the Krsna Yalra, or Nala-Damayantl 
Yatra or the like and there is hardly any tradition 
preserved in Bengal about a Yatra in which Kali 
figures as a character. On the other hand, people had 
commenced to feel a liking for English theatres. 

(5) That similar light dramas were at that time 
represented, may be gathered from the same number 
of the Asiatic Journal, borrowing facts from the 
Samvadakaumudl of 1822 in its issue V. The 
significant lines occur there : 

''Letter from a correspondent pointing out the 
immoral and evil tendencies of dramas or plays 
recently invented and performed by a number of 
youngmen and recommending their suppression/'^ 



* Kali is the evil genius of this age, who like a second 
Lucifer delights in leading men astray in perverse ways 
which ultimately lead to their destruction. 

I (A. J. Sept. 1822.) 

2 



10 

It is not possible to find out what and of what 
type those dramas were. Obviously, they were not 
dramas of good taste. Most likely, they were 
farcical comedies or Satirical plays but certainly 
they were not Yatras as treated of Krsna and Gopfs, 
Nala and Damayanti or, at later stage, of Vidya 
and Sundara. 

(G) The Calcutta Journal speaks of a new book, 
a translation from English of William Franklin's 
Comroopa by Babu Jagamohan Bose of Bhowanipur, 
who from the above work again published a comedy 
denominated The Comroopa Yatra* The comedy 
was performed on Saturday night, the 9th March 
1822, at the house of Shyamsundar Das of the 
same place/ 1 ' This too was not a Yatra but meant 
journey to Comroopa. 

(7) We have next noticed Kisna Misra's 
Probodhcandrodaya Natalc at page 70 Vol. I. of this 
book. A Bengali translation of the drama was 
published in the year 1822 under the name of 
Atmatattvakaumudl, the translators being Kashinath 
Tarkapanchanan, Gadadhar Nyayaratna and Ram- 
kinkar Siromani. It was in 6 Acts. There is a mention 
of this book in the catalogue of books in the British 
Museum also."}* It is an instance of the early attempt 



* Calcutta Journal, Vol. II, NO. 76, p. 309, 1822. 

| Vide, Dr. Jayantakumar Das Gupta's article ^Sorne 
early dramas in Bengal" in the Advance, dated loth April, 



11 

of the Hindus to bring out only translations of 
Sanskrit dramas. It was also really admirable to 
publish drama at a time when a section of the people 
was fond of very light shows. It was priced at 
Rs 2/- and printed at the Chandrika Press. (Vide, 
Samacaracandrika of 1831, 2nd. May). 

(8) Rev. J. Long in his catalogue of 1100 
Bengali books, published in 1852, speaks of : 

(i) Hasyaniava, a farce written in 1822. 

We have not got a copy of this, but would supply 
our readers with an English translation of the 
review by Rajendra Lala Mitra in his Vivid/ia- 
rthasangraha of Chait, 1780 (Haka) : 

''Under the cover of u dramatic piece, foolish lust- 
ful King, avaricious minister, ignorant physi- 
cian, cowardly soldiers have all been severely 
dealt with ; though it is laughable and short, it 
is not received with regards owing to the 
obscenity it exhibited." 

(ii) Kautultasarvcwva Natal^ a better drama 
than the above. Both are, however, transla- 
tions from original Sanskrit pieces. The 
Asiatic Journal of Sept. 1822 might have 
referred to dramas of this nature. 



1932, which runs as follows : "Schuylar's Bibliography of 
the Sanskrit Drama and the British Museum Literary Cata- 
logue of Bengali Books (1883) mentions a Bengali paraphrase 
of Krsna Misra's famous drama Prabodhacandrodaya 
published in 1822. 



12 

Rev. Long has mentioned Kautukasarvasva 
Natak as a drama by R. Chandra Tarkalankar 
of Harinavi. 

Zenker described it "Drama in Bengali per 
R. Chundra Tarkalankar de Harinavi." Both Long 
and Zenker put the date as 1830- Blimhardt in 
his catalogue of Bengali books in the British 
Museum Library (1866) speaks of the Kautuka- 
sarvasva Naiak, by Gopinath Chakrabarty as 
Kali-Vatsarajar Upakliyan based on the story 
of Kali-Vatsa-raja, a Sanskrit play with intervening- 
portions appearing in a Bengali version in prose 
and verse by Ram Chundra Tarkalankar in 1828- 
The Samacaracandrika of May 1831 referred to 
this drama as well as Prabodhacandrodaya NaJ,ak 
as ready for sale in the office with price of Re. 1 . 
Pandit Gopinath, author of the original, composed 
this drama for performance in the house of some 
wealthy citizen. It is a two-act play opening with 
an invocation to Ganesa in tripadi verse. IT. H. 
Wilson in his Theatre of the Hindus wrote of the 
Sanskrit original as "a satire upon princes who addict 
themselves to idleness and sensuality and do not 
patronise the Brahmins." The language of the 
translation is commonplace and is often a mixture 
of the highsounding and vulgar- There are many 
stanzas in Payar and Tripadi verse. The trans- 
lator calls his language 8adhubha$a- Some 



13 

people, especially the ficticious Dhananjay Mukherjee 
in a Brochure entitled Vanglya.Natyasala publish- 
ed by Babu Nalini Ranjan Pandit (Page 2, line 15) 
has confused this drama with Vidyasundar just as 
Lebedeff s Disguise has been similarly confused 
in the Visvakosa* 

It is believed that Shakespeare's Tempest was 
translated into Bengali by a civilian about 
the year 1820, but no copy of the work has been 
found or described anywhere. 

(9) Next, we have Vidyasundar (of Bharat 
Chandra) acted at Nabin Babu's house in the year 
1833-S but its importance lies in that next to 
Kalirajar Yatra it was an original Bengali work 
acted on the stage. It shows the hankering 
of a philanthropically disposed Bengali to try any- 
thing good in his mother tongue in preference to 
English or Sanskrit or mixed drama. 

(10) Long's catalogue of Bengali books mentions 
two dramas, viz., Kalidasa's tiakuntala translated 
and published by Sj. Ramtarak Bhattacherya in 
18- 10* and Ratnavall, a Sanskrit drama by Harsa- 
Vardhan, king of Kashmira rendered into Bengali 
by Nilmani Pal. 

*Vide Rahg&laya, Vol. 16 and observations of the Indian 
Stage, Vol. i, page 222. 

1. See Vol. i. pp. 285-294. 

2. See also Samvadprabhakar, 28th June 1848. 



14 

(11) A Kavya called Ramanl Natak by Pancha- 
nan Banerji of Shyampukur, printed in 1848. (See 
below, No. 12). 

(12) A drama named Kirtivilas is also men- 
tioned in Long's catalogue 1 as being recently 
composed, printed and published with the permis- 
sion of the Vidyamvada Sabha. Rev. Long men- 
tions it with the following descriptions : 

Klrtivilcts or the evils of Stepmother A drama 
in 5 acts by G. C- Gupta P. P. 70 B. S. Price 
12 as. Subject A King's son near the 

Jumuna committed suicide owing; to the 

r^> 

cruelties of his stepmother. The book shows 
considerable talent/ 

(13) Long in his catalogue of Bengali books 
also mentions a drama called Mahanataha i. e-, 
Ramcandra's history dramatised in 1849 by 
Pandit Ramgati Nyayaratna and translated into 
English by Raja Kali Krishna. That this was not 
possibly a Yatra piece but a drama is clear from 
the fact that Mr. Long gave separate lists for Yatra's 
and Nataks. 

(14) Some literary men including Rai Baha- 
dur Dinesh Chandra Sen put Prcm Ncdaka by Babu 
Panchanan Banerjee of Shyampukur, Calcutta, as 
being the first Bengali Drama. We have come 
across two compositions by the same author, Prcui 

i. See also Samvadprabhakar^ 2ist May, 1852. 



15 

Natak and Ramanl Natak but they are not dramas. 
They are really epic poems (Kavyas) composed in 
Tripadl and Payar metres. There are no dramatic 
characters, nor any dialogues. The compositions 
display bad taste with an abundance of Adirasa 
(amores) as the names suggest. Ramanl Natak was 
printed in 1848 and Prcma Natak in 1853.* 

(14) Bhanumatlr Cittavilas : This was 
nothing but Merchant of Venice rendered into 
Bengali, probably about the year 1850-1852 by 
Babu Hara Chandra Ghose of Babugaunge, Hooghly, 
a scholar with much literary attainments. A copy of 
the book is available at the Imperial Library, Calcutta. 
As a translation it stands on the same footing as 
Chadmabcs or Disguise. Mr. Long puts it : "Trans- 
lation with adaptations, well and ably done". He, 
however, gives no date. But in the Prabhakara of 
Iswar Gupta (Paush 1260 = December 1853) we find 
a mention of "a novel drama (Abhinava Natak) by 
Babu Hara Chandra Ghose, Superintendent of 
Excise, Maldah, written on the principles of English 
dramas". (Imgraji Nataker Rityanusare). 

It appears that this drama was probably prior 
to Bhadrarjuna in-as-much as it is mentioned in 



*Mr. Sarat Chandra Ghosal, M. A. B. L., Saraswati, the 
erudite scholar, first drew our attention to these books, 
in the n ow-defunct Bengali Monthly Nurayana, Magh O 
Chaitra 1321, edited by the late Deshabandhu C. R. Das f 



1C 

Long's Catalogue, whereas the other is not. Some 
persons always express difficulty in ascertaining 
the exact date of Bhaniimatl. In the early September 
of 1909 one Mr. K. B. Dutt put a query in the 
Indian Daily News as to who was the first drama- 
tist of Bengal. Our esteemed friend Mr. Kiran 
Chandra Dutt sent a reply on the 9th September, 
in the same paper telling that the author of 
Bhadrarjuna was the first dramatist. A correspon- 
dent signing himself as "Old man", contradicted him 
on the 24th September, saying that Hara Chandra 
Ghose of Hughly, who was the recipient of the 
Aukland prize in golden and silver watches in 
Muhammad Moshin's Hughly College in the year 
1840 for a lucid translation of Bacon's Truth in 
Bengali, published his Bhanumatlr Cittavilas in 
1850. Then came further news on the 27th Sep- 
tember from "One who knows" that the drama was 
published in 1842. 

There is no corroboration of the above- 
dates but what Hara Chandra Ghosh himself 
wrote in the preface of his next drama Kaurav- 
vijay Natak will undoubtedly throw sufficient 
light on the matter. He says : "In 1852 I 
published my vernacular drama of the Merchant of 
Venice which was written at the suggestion of an 
European friend of native education." Hara Chandra 
further said that the work met with much appre- 



17 

elation and emboldened him to write his next drama- 
It was really a novel thing to see a Shakespeare's 
play acted in oriental dress and with enthusiasm. 
We, however, have no record of any performance. The 
names are all Indian, showing how Hara Chandra 
tried to remodel western stories into Bengali, at a 
time when there was still in the country a bias for 
Sanskrit plays. 

Bhanumatl was a replica of Portia and the scene 
shifted from Ujjain to Guzrat. Sulocana and Su6lla 
are her attendants. There is a regular benedictory 
verse, a hymn to Sarasvati, and an attempt to please 
courtiers by an ode to vernal pleasures. For acts 
and scenes the author uses the words ahJca and 
aiiga. 

(15) Bhadrarjim Natak In 1852, certainly 
next to BJidmimatlr Cittavilas, was published this 
much-talked-of drama under the name Bliadrarfun 
Naialc* from the pen of Tar a Charan Sikdar and 
containing the story how Arjun, the third Pandava 
carried away Bhadra (Subhadra, the sister of 

* Mamaisa bhagini Partha 

Siiranasya sahodara ; 
Subhadra nama bhadram te 

Piturme dayitii suta. 

Kalikata Caitanya-candrodayayantrc mudrita, 

tiakabda, ^774. 

This was on the title-page. 

3 



18 

Krsna). We had an opportunity of going through 
the book and this book alone may be called the first 
and original dramatic attempt in Bengali literature 
on record. In the preface Tara Charan writes that 
various Sanskrit dramas had then been translated 
into Bengali- We do not know whether Bhadrarjun 
was ever acted.* He, however, made a new departure 
in the dramatic mode, which was subsequently fol- 
lowed by almost all dramatists of Bengal. He 
avoided the classical convention of introducing 
Prologue and Epilogue. In the Bhadrarjun, there 
is neither the Sutradhara, nor Nandl, nor similar 
dramatic devices that are indispensable to a Sanskrit 
play, nor do we find any Vidusaka or professional 
jester in the drama. Michael M- S- Dutt, the great 
Bengali poet, who composed his Sarmistha seven years 
later, once wrote to his friend Raj Narayan Bose 
that in writing dramas he would not allow himself 
to be bound by the rules of Sanskrit Rhetoric, but 
would look to the great dramatists of Europe for 
his models. Tara Charan Sikdar, who preceded 
Michael in shaking off the fetters of the Sanskrit 
model, deserves all praise for his literary courage 
in rising above the formalities of a dead language, 
which would have certainly impeded the varied 

*Vilvamai)gal Mr. Jogindra Nath Bose mentions a 
drama of this name in his Biography of Madlmsndan, but so 
far we have not been able to trace the work in print or in 
reference. 



19 

growth of the Bengali drama. It must not be for- 
gotten that the first Bengali dramatist, who introduced 
the innovation, was Babu Tara Charan Sikdar and not 
Michael Madhu Sudan Dutt, though the latter, by the 
wealth of his imagination and vigour of style, has 
completely cast the pigmy reformer into oblivion 
and might not have known about his predecessor or 
his drama at all. Tara Charan writes in the 
preface : 

"The book has been written in a quite new style. 
Hence we think it necessary to give some idea 
of it in brief. In its dramatic action and situa- 
tions this drama is after European model but 
there is no departure from the old style of 
composition in prose and poetry. I have done 
away with certain characters of the Sanskrit 
drama e.g., Nancfo, Sutradhara and NaH on the 
stage by way of prelude, nor have I inserted 
the character of Vidusaka. For Scene the 
word "saiiiyogasthaP' has been used. 

There was another great innovation in Sikdar's 
drama. The speeches were written in prose, but 
rhyming doggrels, both short and long, were now and 
again put into the mouths of the actors. 

The preface again is greatly valuable from the 
point of history. We get therein some idea of the 
nature of dramatic appreciation then existing among 
the Bengalees. The preface says that in those days 
Bengali actors expressed their thoughts in songs and 



20 

jesters excited the audience to laughter on unneces- 
sary occasions. The author has purposely avoided 
age-long vagaries and deserves all praise due to a 
pioneer. 

Subhadra was a favourite theme with the poets 
of the time. Michael Madhusudan Dutt wrote 
an unfinished drama of the name. Nabin Chandra's 
conception of Subhadra in JRaivatak and Kuruksetra 
was full of grandeur and Bankim Chandra, too, was 
obsessed with her ideal in Visavrksa. So the topic 
was a popular one, but there was no action in the 
drama and though Bhima's anger, Baladeva's pride 
and Narada's quarrelsome spirit were shown, 
Draupadl was given a minor place and no indivi- 
duality was traceable in Satyabhama or Rukminl. 
Conversations, though vulgar, were, however, true to 
domestic life. 

The composition, however, is commonplace and 
does not rise above the ordinary. Some people have 
spent much pen and ink over a remark of Mr. 
Jogindra Nath Bose and holds that the latter had 
no right to call it "of indecent taste". Mr. Bose 
nowhere calls the play obscene. What he says 
is that though Bhadrarjun is worth mentioning, the 
language is Jcadarya i. e., bad. 

To come to our list, Rev. Long mentions a few 
other dramas of this period : 



21 

(16) Caitanyacandrodaya NataJc, or Caita- 
nya's history dramatised Translated by Prem 
Das B. A., in 1853, Re. 1-8 as, throws much 
light on the doctrines and life of Caitanya, who 
flourished four centuries ago. 

(17) We have, however, in our possession, a work 
Bodhenduvikas Natak* which may be considered 
a drama. This was from the pen of no other person 
than the most popular writer of the time, the poet 
Iswar Chandra Gupta whose illustrious pupils were 
the great Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and dramatist 
Dinavandhu Mitra. It was published in Prabhakara 
in 1260 B. S. (corresponding to 1853 A. D.) and 
though written on the Sanskrit model, we have both 
dialogue and songs in it. It is an imitation of the 
Sanskrit play called Prabodhacandrodaya Natak 
and the characters are Madan? Rati, Vivek &c. 
"The drama was completed" says the great Bankim 
"and after his death in 1265 B. S., his brother 
Ramchandra brought out in 1859 the first part from 
the portion with price of Re. 1-8 as, that had been 
published in Prabhakara" The rest has not up to 
day seen the light of the day. The drama contained 
many scenes, and the dialogues are not interesting, 
though some of the songs were excellent. 



* A copy of the above may be found in the Sahitya 
Parishad Library. 



22 

We have it on the authority of the dramatist 
Manomohan Bose that rehearsals of JBodhcnduvikas 
continued with great eclat, large sums of money were 
spent for it, but "no good came out of it except the 
recounting of songs of Hari (Visnu)".* Kehearsals 
were in progress, as a correspondent of the Hurkara 
says really "Prabodhacandrodaya will be acted at a 
private theatre in a gentleman's house at Calcutta. 
[t is a clever drama, but it is utterly unfit for the 
stage. A number of metaphysical dialogues can hardly 
interest the majority of those who seek amusement 
From those representations. 55 t 

The idea of staging was, however, given up 
is the enlightened section did not approve of it 

From an advertisement of Prabodhacandrodaya 
in the Samacaracandrika of 1831, some maintain 
that this must be Iswar Gupta 5 s translation of the 
Sanskrit drama of the same name. It is probably 
not true. As we have already noticed Iswar Gupta 5 s 
imitation of the Prabodhacandrodaya was called 
Bodhenduvikojs, and Bodhcnduviltm would have 
been published long ago in Gupta's Samvadprabha- 
fcara (which was started in 1830) if it was an earlier 



*Vide, the Bengali Journal Madhyastha edited by him 
Paus 1280 B.S.) which is preserved in the Sahitya Parishad 
Library, Calcutta. 

\ Hurkara, 2ist May, 1857 and Hindu Patriot, 28th 
May, 1857. 



23 

translation, and would not have been simply adver- 
tised in the Candrika. Further, we have no evidence 
to show that Iswar Gupta was the author of this 
advertised Bengali drama. As we have seen, the 
Bodhenduvikas was published in 1853 in his 
paper during the poet's life-time. 

The one referred to in 1831 was probably 
Atmatattvakaumudl translation of Prabodha- 
candrodaya Natalc, as we mentioned in page 10. 

(18) Another drama Kali by the same author 
Iswar Chandra Gupta is also a similarly unfinished 
work. 

(19) The Pralhakar of 20th November, 1855 
and 14th December, 1855 notices two dramas 
Vidhavorudwaha Natalc (' widow-marriage drama')* 
and 'Babu Natak\ published by "the late Babu 
Kaliprasanna Sinha, Secretary and Priyanath Bose, 
Assistant Secretary of the Vidyotsahini Sabha." 
The former was priced at Re. 1 and the latter at 
eight annas. The Babu had been first published 
about two years previous to the first, and in absence 
of any copy we are not definite whether it was a 
drama or a piece like Babu Amrita Lai Bose's farce 

of this name. 



* It will be worthy of note here, that Pandit Iswar 
Chandra Vidyasagore's first work on widow marriage was 
published in 1854, an ^ this must have influenced the 
Vidhava-tidvaha Natak and similar other works. 



24 

Last but not the least, we come to most impor- 
tant drama of the chapter. 

(50) KullnakulasaTvasva by Pandit Ram 
Narayan Tarkaratna of Harinabhi, 
24-Parganas. 

It was not a translation but the first serious 
attempt at drama, and it has been highly spoken of 
by contemporary journalists and men of culture. The 
circumstances under which the drama was composed 
are interesting. Babu Kalicharan Chaturdhurin, a 
Zeminder of Rangpur, North Bengal, announced in 
1853 (i) in the BhasJcar, edited by Gauri Sankar 
Bhattacherjee (popularly known as "Gurgude Bhatta- 
cherjee", on account of his short dwarfish stature), 
and (ii) in the Rahgpur-vartavaha (in first non- 
official organ) that a prize of Rs. 50/- would be 
given to the author of the best drama on the evils of 
Kulinism introduced in the country by Vallal Sen. 
It was at this time that the educated people were 
awakened to the social abuses eating into the vitals 
of the Hindu society, and Kulinism was one such 
evil. One man and very often an old man took to 
fifty, sixty and hundred wives, and not unoften a 
number of brides of ages varying from ten to 
sixty were married at the same Lagna (auspicious 
moment for the marriage), the Kulln husband 
accepting a dowry in each case and not returning to 
these wives a second time. Ram Narayan Tarkaratna 



25 

(afterwards popularly known as Naiulce Ram Naran\ 
who wrote the drama Kullnkulasarvasva, won 
the prize. It aimed at eradicating the social and 
moral evils that had crept into the Hindu society 
from the scandalous practice of kulinism, which set 
up a quite arbitrary barrier between different classes 
of Brahmins. 

Through the kind permission of his patron, Babu 
Kali Charan, Ram Naran had the book published in 
1854, a review of which from the Bhaslcar of the 
23rd December of that year (corresponding to 9th 
Paush, 1261 B. S.), we give below (in English transla- 
tion) : 

"We have received a copy of the new drama Kulm- 
kulasarvasva by Pandit Ram Narain Tarka- 
ratna, senior professor, Hindu Metropolitan 
College. About the subject of the book, mention 
was made before in Bhaskar and our readers 
might remember that Tarkaratna got prize of Rs. 
50/- by composition of this book, from the gener- 
ous land-holder Srila Srijut Kali Charan Roy 
Choudhury and the latter appreciating the 
Pandit's merit presented the book back to him 
and got the book printed. We have gone 
through the whole book and been much pleased 
with it. 

"The drama has been well-written, specially the parts 
of the clever Rashika and Fulkumari have been 
excellent. The conversations of Brahmin lady 
with her daughters which are quite natural, 
prove masterly craft of the writer. The 

4 



26 

episode of Dharmashil has been supported by 
various legends of the Puranas. In short, the 
book is an excellent one. A beautiful drama in 
Bengali like the present one will remove many 
evil practices from the society." 

Rajah Iswar Chandra Singh also wrote to Keshav 
Gangulee : "Ramnarain's K. K. 8. has acquired a 
just and well-merited fame."* 

As Disguise of 1795 was a translation, Ralirajar 
Yatra (182L) a farcical piece, and Vidyasundar 
of 1833 not a drama but a metrical composition, 
properly speaking Kullnkulasamasva was the first 
real Bengali Drama that was put on board the 
stage, in 1856 or earlier. The time too was very 
opportune for staging the play. Our readers should 
remember that only two years ago or so, the Oriental 
Theatre which had given performances in English 
and had just given up staging English dramas, (Vide, 
my Indian Stage 1st Vol., page 304, and Iswar 
Chandra Singh's reminiscences, p. 221 ) had almost 
become defunct owing to the want of Bengali plays 
for which they had a bias. The appearance of Kulln- 
kulasarvasva, therefore, at a time when the absence 
of Bengali drama was keenly felt, was very much 
welcomed by the young enthusiasts. 

Kulmkulasawasva marks, therefore, the epoch 
and it was succeeded by a number of perform- 

*(Michael's Biography by Jogindranath Bose, p. 220). 



27 

ances in Bengali in quick succession. Our friend, 
Mr. Brajendra Nath Banerjee strikes, however, a 
different note about the date of performance of this 
epoch-making and sensational drama- As we have 
already noted, Brajendra Babu's research is rather 
misleading and not unoften have we found him 
taking delight in his new 'discoveries', although based 
upon suppositions, their value must be taken at a 
discount. 

Now the acknowledged and authoritative date of 
the first performance of SaJcuntala at Ashutosh 
Dev's house of which we shall speak later on, is on 
the 30th January 1857, and KuUnkulasarvasva 
(K. K- S.) must have been therefore staged before 
that. But Mr. B. N. Banerjee quoting wrongly a 
stray passage from the reminiscences of late Babu 
Gaurdas Bysak about his friend Michael Madhu- 
sudan Dutt, wherein is mentioned the date of the first 
performance of Kulmhilasarvasva as being March 
1857 by mistake, jumps to the conclusion that 
Sakuntala was staged first and Kullnkulasarvasva 
followed it.* 

The reminiscences in the third edition of the book, 
which have been taken principally as Mr. Banerjee 1 s 
authority, run as follows : 



* Vahg 7 \ya-Naiyamlar Itihas, p. 41, by Brajendra Nath 

Bandyopadhyaya. 
Modern Review, p. 524, Nov. 1931. Early history 

of Bengali Theatre by B. N. Banerjee, 



28 

"The credit of organising the first Bengali Theatre 
belongs to the late Babu Joyram Bysak of 
Churrokdanga Street, Calcutta, who formed and 
drilled a Bengali dramatic corps and set up a 
stage in his house on which was performed in 
March 1857, the sensational Bengali play of 
Kulmkulasarvasva by Pandit Ramnarayana. 

The success and popularity that attended this first 
experiment led the late Babu Gopal Das Sett 
to form a similar corps and set up a stage in 
his house in Ratan Sircar's Garden Street, on 
which the same play was repeated, before an 
enthusiastic audience. As naturally expected 
Vidyasagore and Babu Kali Prasanna Sinha 
encouraged the actors in Babu Gadadhar 
Sett's house, by their presence and personal 
interest/' 

*'The late Babu Kali Prasanna Sinha evidently 
drew his inspiration of a native theatre from 
these performances v 

"Then the grandsons of the late Babu Ashutosh 
Deb gave some dramatic performances in their 
house " 

The above reminiscences,* however, give late 
Babu Joyram Bysak, in whose house K. K. S. was 
staged, the credit of organising the first Bengali 
Theatre and put tiakuntcda subsequent to it in point 
of time. The quotation, therefore, is not of much 

* Michael M. S. Dutt's Biography by Jogindra Nath 
Bose, Page 648, Third Edition. 



29 

help to him even with regard to dates and a re- 
search scholar should have weighed facts before 
exploding the hitherto recognised theory or version. 
At the same time the short history given by Babu 
Gourdas Bysak, the most intimate friend of Madhu- 
sudan and one who was very closely associated with 
Bengali Theatre since 1857, is entitled to the great- 
est weight. One would therefore like to go deep 
into the origin or the source. 

Now, the actual wording of the reminiscences 
that were put in the form of a letter written to the 
biographer of the poet by Gourdas Babu on May 
1892 from 3. Bysak's Lane, Calcutta, gives the lie 
direct to any wild theory. They run as follows : 

"Next in 1853-54 some of the ox-students of the 
Oriental Seminary, who formed a Dramatic 
Corps under the drilling of Messrs Clinger and 
Roberts, who belonged to the Kans Sotiri Theatre 
and opened a stage, called the "Oriental 
Theatre" in the premises of the Seminary, 
where they acted the plays of Othello and 
Merchant of Venice, etc. It was Babu (since 
Maharaja) Jatindra Mohon Tagore, who first of 
all suggested to them that they should introduce 
native dramatic representations arid organise a 
native Orchestra on the basis of our native 
instruments. Acting upon this hint they 
produced the sensational play of Kulinkula- 
sarvasva and the theatre abruptly became 
dc funt in 1856. 



30 

This novel amusement received a temporary en- 
couragement from the late Kali Prasanna Sinha 
and the grandsons of the late Babu Ashutosh 
Dev, who set up a stage in their respective 
mansions on which were given some perform- 
ances in our national style. 

The date and the order given in the above letter 
about K. K. 8. and Sakuntala in Ashutosh Dev's 
house, which was incorporated verbatim in the first 
edition of the book,* leave no room for doubt 
that K. K. S. was the first drama staged in 1856, 
and Sakuntala followed it (i. e., in Jan. 1857). 
As the above letter is authentic we find it verbally 
copied in the second edition also.f 

How could this passage be altered in the third 
edition in 1905 from the year 1856 to March 1857, 
when Babu Gourdas was no more in the land of 
living and the biographer Jogin Babu also did not 
offer any explanation of this change, one wonders. 
A letter can not change by the efflux of time. 
To us it appears that the change was made by the 
author or somebody who revised the third edition 
in the light of the history given by Jogin Babu in 
the body of the book. But here, too, he definitely 
states that K. K. S. was the first genuine Bengali 
attempt. (Vide, page 213 of the biography). 

* Michael's Biography Parikisia by Jogindra Nath Bose, 

Pages 5-6 ist edition, 1893. 
t Par&i&la (Page, 5 & 6) published in the year (1895). 



31 



The other proofs sought by Mr. Banerjee are 
also of no value. Since the performance began in 
1856, it was repeated in Calcutta and other places 
too. The mention of one of the performances 
being in March 1857, does not make it subsequent to 
Sakuntala* Besides, the play was acted four times 
in the house of Jagat-durlabh Bysak alone.~f As the 
play was popular, it was acted even after Sakuntala. 
Babu Kaliprasanna Sinha, too, was making arrange- 
ments for its performance after the representation of 
jSakuntala at Ashutosh Dev's house. J 

Now, to give an account of the performance of 
the first genuine Bengali attempt, the stage was im- 
provised in Bysak House at Churrokdanga (now 
Tagore Castle Road). It was constructed in the 
courtyard of the house under the supervision of Babu 
Rajendra Nath Banerjee the Burra Babu, or the 
Head Clerk, of the East Indian Railway Company, 
with the assistance of Babu Jagat Duiiabh Bysak. 

Joyram Bysak, Jagat Durlabh Bysak, Narain 
Chandra Bysak, Rajendra Nath Banerjee, Mahendra 
Nath Mukherjee, Radha Prasad Bysak and Behari 
Lai Chatter jee (afterwards the manager of "Bengal 
Theatre") were the artists and of them Behari Lai 

* Vide, Hindu Patriot, March 19, 1857. 

t Mahendra Nath Mukerjee's reminiscences. Puratan 

Prasaiiga (Prathama Paryyaya), pp. 148, 149. 
I Sainvad-Prabhakara, March 10, 1857. 



32 

was the first, who appeared as an actor on the public 
stage. All these persons were the former actors of 
the Oriental Theatre and it was about them, Babu 
Gaurdas Bysak must have made references in his 
above letter. 

Next, about the performances at Sett's house,* we 
find reference to one of the performances in the 
Samvad-Prabhakara of 22nd March, 1858. It also 
appears that the Hindu Patriot of the 18th April 
1858 devoted a few lines commenting upon perform- 
ance in general- The latter was a disparaging criti- 
cism wherein it was averred "that the less said about 
the performances the better, but there were one 
or two persons whose talents as mimics may develop 
in the fullness of time." 

A rejoinder was immediately sent to the press 

from the members of the Vernacular Theatre as it 

vas called and it was asserted there that men like 

ibu Kisori Chand Mitter, Peari Chand Mitter, 

* About the performance we get some idea from the 
reminiscences of Mahendra Mukherjee. 

Rajendra Vavu o Jagaddurlabh Vavu divya bhundi laiya 
mathay Jamba tiki vilambita kariya Brahmana 
pandit sajiyachilen. Rajendra Vavur haste eka{;i 
amuker nasyadhar. Tanhara duijane yakhan 
tarka vitarka kariten, takhan 6rotrvrnda hasiya e 
uhar gaye padita, o uhar gaye padita, EkatI sakher 
dala vajaita. Ami kulacaryya sajitam. 

Puratan Prasanga. 



33 

Kshetra Chandra Ghose, Dr. Rajendra Lai Mitter 
and Nagendra Nath Tagore were all present at 
the performance and throughout the play they 
accorded to the actors their heart-felt and sincere 
approbation. 

The Samvad-Pralhakar also highly spoke about 
the performance that was attended by 600 or 700 
persons. Radha Prasad Bysak admirably represent- 
ed the character for Ghatak and Sripati Mukherjee, 
Head Master of Janai School, appeared in the role 
of Dharamshila. The Prabhakara also bore testi- 
mony to the presence of Vidyasagore Mahasaya at 
the performance and in this point corroborates the 
statement of Babu Gaurdas Bysak. 

Gopal Sett himself, the son of Babu Gadadhar 
Sett, in whose house the play was staged, Priyanath 
Dutt, Gadadhar's grandson, Nakur Chandra Sett and 
Narayan Chandra Bysak, who played in Bysak's 
house, were in their respective roles here as well. 
Narayan appeared in the role of Jahnabi and in 
that of Rasika Naptini. 

"The unprecedented sensation into which the 
whole native community was thrown", says Babu 
Gaurdas Bysak ''after the celebration of the first 
widow marriage under the segis of that redoubtable 
apostle of social reform, Iswar Chandra Vidyasagare, 
accounted for the interest and excitement which these 
performances of a play representing a social reform, 

5 



34 

created at the time." Indeed, the KulinJculasarvasva 
was performed in the teeth of great opposition from 
a section of the Hindu community and that its 
influence was great upon the society, cannot be gain- 
said. From the following extract of the Hindu 
Patriot, dated the 15th July 1858, it will be seen 
how the Kulins of the Hooghly District were against 
its performance : 

"The acting of the Kulmhdasarvasva Natak at 
Chinsurah has, it appears, given great offence to the 
Kulins of the locality. The Natak is an ill-executed 
burlesque. The acting took place in the house of a 
gentleman of the Baniya caste and Kulln Brahmins 
intended, it is said, to retaliate in kind." 

"The gentleman referred to," was probably Babu 
Narottam Pal.* Rupchand Pakshee, a noted musi- 
cian of that time, composed songs for the occasion 
and sang them.f 

From the very beginning, the Kulins of Bengal 
were opposed to its performance J and the Hindu 
Patriot does not seem to have been much in favour 
of the play. 

But all those, who had the courage to stage the 
drama, deserve our respectful thanks for their noble 

* Sainvad-Prabhakara ^rd July, 1858). 

t Akshay Sarkar's reminiscences, Father & Son. 

t Calcutta Review 1873, page 275. 



35 

innovation, which inspired others for Bengali plays at 
a time when the educated Bengalees and the students 
showed their decided preference and love for English 
dramas, and the College students acted only the 
English plays. 

Kullnkulasawasva was thus a great innovation 
both as a drama and as an acting piece on the stage, 
and we repeat the words of Rajah Is war Chandra 
that 'it acquired a just and well-merited fame/ 

Next, we must mention about the drama Svarna- 
srnkhal Natak, which was staged at Barisal. One 
would not even wonder if he hears that this might 
have been staged even before Kulmkulasarvasva. 
The book was printed at Dacca in 1863 and in the 
apologium was mentioned the following : 

"About eight years ago, (that is in 1855-56) this 
drama was written at Barisal for its representation 
there." 

We have, however, no further reference of this 
drama or its representation, but it seems that theatre 
was making its appearance even in Muffiisil. 



Chapter II 



BENGALI DRAMAS IN THE MUTINY YEAR 

1. At Chhatu Babu's House. 

After Kullnkulasarvasva, the next attempt was 
made in the house of Babu Ashutosh Dev, the 
millionaire of Calcutta, popularly known as Chhatu 
Babu by his grandsons, who called themselves as 
members of Jnanapradayin'i Sabha* The drama 
was not an original one, but a translation of Kalidasa's 
Sakuntala into Bengali by Nanda Lai Roy, 1 but all 
the same it was a genuine Bengali play. Although 
opinion was divided 2 as to its success, the attempt, 
however, was really very praiseworthy. 

We have accounts of the performances of 
Sakuntala in the above house, one on the 30th 
January 3 and another on the 22nd February 1857. 4 
The stage wore a beautiful appearance and it was of 
the nature of a private theatrical, making an accom- 



1 Samvad-Przbhakar, I5th June 1857. 

2 Hindu Patriot, 5th Feb. 1857. 
8 Hindu Patriot, 5th Feb, 1857. 
* Prabhakar, 26th Feb. 1857. 



37 

modation of about 400 persons. Mr. O. C. Dutt 
(grandson-in-law of Chhatu Babu) composed songs 
and was the stage-manager. 

Babu Priyamadhav Basu Mullick appeared in the 
role of Dusmanta, Annada Mukherjee of Durvasa, 
Mahendra Nath Mukherjee 1 of Kanva's disciple, 
Abinash Chandra Ghosh of Anasuya and Bhuvan 
Ghosh of Priyamvada and last and not the least 
Babu Sarat Chandra Ghosh (a grand-son of Chhatu 
Babu, a born actor and afterwards founder of the 
well-known Bengal Theatre) was in the role of 
Sakuntala. Sarat Babu looked really grand and 
queenly in his gestures and address and did great 
justice to the part of the heroine he was enacting, 
The other amateurs also succeeded in creating an 
effect. 2 

This was the view of the contemporaneous 
paper, the Hindu Patriot. 

It, however, held that full measure of success 
could not be realised and the corps dramatique 
required more polishing. Babu Kisori Chand Mitter, 
the great social reformer and a veteran journalist, 
went, however, a step further and considered the 
performance of Sakuntala at Simla a failure. In 
his opinion Salcuntala being a masterpiece of drama- 



1 



Vide, his reminiscences in Puratan Prasahga. 
Hindu Patriot, 5th Feb. 1857. 



38 

tic genius, required versatile and consummate talent 
rarely to be met with in this country. 1 

We hear of another performance at Janai 
(Hooghly) in the house of Babu Purna Chandra 
Mukherjee in May 1858. The gathering there was 
large and the stage and hall were nicely decorated 
and illuminated. The parts of Dusmanta and 
Bakuntala were ably performed and other parts 
well sustained. It was after all a ''village theatre" 
with all defects for the first amateurs. 

[ Hindu Patriot, June 10, 1858.] 

We hear of another play Mahasveta, a Bengali 
rendering of the famous Sanskrit novel Kadambarl* 
Its author Mani Mohan Sarkar subsequently won 
reputation for the composition of a Yatra piece, called 
Usa and Aniruddha, which, as we shall see here- 
after, was the first Yatra performance enacted by the 
master of dramatists Girish Chandra Ghosh. Maha- 
sveta was first performed in Bhadra (September) 
1857 3 at the house of Babu Charu Chandra Ghosh 
and the cast was as follows : 

Raja ... Annada Prasad Mukherjee. 

Pundarika (Nata) ... Mahendra Nath Mazumdar. 

Kapifijala ... Mani Mohan Sarkar (author). 

Kancuki ... Shiv Chand Sinha. 

1 Calcutta Review 1873, page 282, Modern Dramas. 

2 Samvad-Prabhakar Sept. 16, 1857. 

3 The book itself gives this cast. 



39 

Maha^veta (Nati) ... Kshetra Mohan Sinha. 

Kadambari ... Mahendra Nath Ghosh. 

Taralika ... Sarat Chandra Ghosh. 

Ram ... Bhuban Mohan Ghosh. 

Chatradharini ... Mahendra Nath Mukherjee. 

The Drama was published in Kartik, 1266. 

II. Vidyotsahini Theatre. 

We now come to the Bengali Theatre in the 
house of late Kali Prasanna Sinha, who, though then 
a young man of 15 or 16 in the year 1857, took a 
leading part in the social, political and intellectual 
life of Bengali Hindus and founded a literary asso- 
ciation, named Vidyotsahini Sabha in his house in 
the year 1855. 1 This literary association, under 
the direct and close supervision of Kaliprasanna, 
did much in the resuscitation of the Hindu drama 
and Hindu Theatre by writing and staging Bengali 
plays after the style of Sanskrit dramas instead of 
attempting foreign pieces unsuited to the national 
taste. In the year 1857, Kaliprasanna started a 
Theatre, called the Vidyotsahini Theatre after the 
set of the Sabha following in the wake of the 
Setts and Bysaks and after the model of Babu Sarat 
Chandra Ghose (Sakuntala). 

1 Mr. Manmatha Nath Ghose M. A., in his Memoirs of 
Kaliprasanna Sinha, has given this date and we, on 
a reference to all papers, consider it to be authentic, 



40 

Babu Gurudas Bysak, in his reminiscences, 
writes : 

'The late Babu Kaliprasanna Sinha evidently 
drew his inspiration of native theatre from these 
performances? for it was that time that he set up a 
stage in his mansion on which were produced 
in a superb native style and before a large and 
influential audience composed of the elite of the 
European and native society, Bengali renderings of 
the Sanskrit plays of Vemsamhara, Malatlmadhava 
and Vikramorvdsl. The first play, staged in this 
Theatre, was Semsamhara. rendered from the well- 
known Sanskrit drama of Bhatta Nyrana by Ram 
Narain Tarkaratna. 1 It was put on the stage on 
Saturday, the llth April 1857 before a number of 
audience, as we get from a correspondent of Hindu 
Patriot (April 16, 1857) : 

"Last Saturday 8 , the 9th instant another Hindoo 
Theatre was inaugurated under the title of Vidyot- 
sahini Theatre. Several gentlemen, native and 
European, were present and the Vemsamhar Natak 
was acted with considerable applause. The dialogues 
were mostly in Payurs (couplets) and Tripacbis 
(triplets) instead of dramatic verses. But songs were 
wanting. The performance on the whole was very 

1 Some wrongly held Kali Prasanna himself to be the 

author. ( Vide, Preface of the book. ) 
* nth and not the gth was the Saturday. 



41 

creditable to the Young Hindu Amateurs to whose 
zeal and spirit the theatre owes its existence. As to 
how the performance was successful we would better 
quote the remarks of Mr. Ghose from his Memoirs 
of Kaliprasanna, page 28 : 

"The performance was highly successful 1 and 
elicited unanimous praises from the European and 
native gentlemen of rank and station, who attended 
theatre. We have heard from reliable sources that 
Kali Prasanna, who represented the part of Princess 
Bhanumati played it to perfection and was welcomed 
with roars of applause, when he appeared before 
the admiring gaze of the audience as a beautiful 
girl dressed in a rich, gold embroidered Benares sadl 
and decked with priceless jewels, which belonged to 
his family and excited the envy of the richest 
men in Calcutta." 

Kali Prasanna Sinha, then a young boy of 
sixteen, was the observed of all observers. Adorned 
with ornaments and jewels, he appeared in the 
character of Bhanumati. The jewellaries he put on 
would be worth more than a lac of rupees. Fort 
Williams Band played the Orchestra and Sir Cecil 
Beadon with a number of European gentlemen 
was present and encouraged the undertaking by 
his warm appreciation. As the above play was not 
quite suitable for the Bengali stage, its diction being 

1 Preface of Vikramorvasl. 

c 



42 

too heavy and as there was no drama besides Kulln- 
kulasawasva and the Sakuntala> Kali Prasanna 
took upon himself the task of writing a suitable 
play : 

Vikramorvasl a free translation of Kalidasa's 
drama of the name was written and published in 
September, 1857 and staged at the Vidyotsahini 
Theatre with great eclat and the remarks of the 
Hindu Patriot would give a faithful account of its 
performance. 1 

There was no Sutradhara like the old Sanskrit 
drama and music consisted of both by amateurs and 
the Town Band. Kali Prasanna himself took the 
part of Pururavah and performed it with consummate 
histrionic skill- The late Mr. W. C. Banerjee (then 
a boy of thirteen) and other distinguished men re- 
presented other parts. Not to speak of the Hindu 
Patriot of the time, Mr. Kishori Chand Mitter also 
in his posthumus article on Modern Hindu Drama, 
failed not to notice the performance in the following 
words : 

"There was a large gathering of native and 
European gentlemen, who were unanimous in prais- 
ing the performance. Amongst the latter, Mr. 
Beadon, afterwards Sir Cecil Beadon, the then 
Secretary to the Government of India, expressed 

1 ffindu Patriot, Dec. 3, 1857, 



43 

to us his unfeigned pleasure at the admirable way 
in which the principal characters sustained their 
parts." 

Calcutta Review, 1873, p. 253. 

We now quote extracts from the Hindu Patriot, 
December 3, 1857 : 

The Vidyotsahini THeatre 

Our readers will remember that about six weeks 
ago, we reviewed in these columns Baboo Kali 
Prasanna Sinha's translation of Vikramorvasi 
of Kalidasa. In the present issue, we have to 
notice the performance of that drama got up 
under the auspices of the same Baboo in his 
own mansion. The native gentry of Calcutta 
and suburbs representing the intelligence, taste, 
good sense, fashion and respectability of Hindu 
society, were all present in gorgeous winter 
garments but the audience was too large for 
the place and we hear with regret that many 
members of the Chowringhee aristocracy were 
obliged to run counter on account of the 
alarming density of the collection. Whatever 
the public may complain of with respect 
to the unrestricted distribution of tickets 
of admission, we must do justice to Baboo 
Kali Prasanna Sinha to whose liberal mind and 
general munificence, Calcutta owes a most 
significant institution for rational amusement. 
The Vidyotsahini Theatre is in the second 
year of its existence and though it is a private 
property, the intelligent and respectable public 



44 

may as freely enjoy its benefit as they do partake 
of the common air we live in. The eclat 
with which the Vikramorvasi was performed 
on the last occasion was great. The stage was 
beautifully decorated and the theatre room was 
as nobly adorned as cultivated taste could 
dictate or enlightened fashion could lead to. No 
delicate consideration of economy was ever 
thought of, and the result was most magnificent 
and gratifying. The marble painting on the 
frontis piece of the stage was as neat as elegant, 
and the stone pictures of Bharata and Kalidasa, 
though mostly imaginary, were executed with 
so much nicety and taste that one was 
involuntarily reminded of the classic days of 
Grecian Sculpture and painting casting into 
form Gods and Goddesses of heavenly birth. 
The reception was very courteous and gracious 
which was conducted by our excellent towns, 
man, Babu Huro Chunder Ghose. But we 
cannot afford space for details though the 
narration of which in the present instance is 
pleasant. We shall at once notice the perform- 
ance leaving aside all unnecessary preliminaries 
and the grateful reminiscences of older drama. 

The peculiar characteristic of our theatrical is the 
absence of dramatic opening which belongs 
to the romantic school of the modern drama. 
We have the old Grecian way of opening the 
play by the appearance of the Manager 
of the stage, who explains to the audience 
the nature and character arid in some instances 
the incidents of the performances. But accom- 



45 

paniment of music and songs relieves that 
dull delay and patience-tresspassing colon, which 
like a forced march, is always tiresome, for 
we must bear in mind that the spectator 
has ever the incidents of the story vividly 
stamped on his mental vision and does not 
wait to be helped in the margin. 

In B. S. Theatre the music was excellent, both when 
the amateurs performed and when the Town 
Band played. They awakened in the souls 
of the feeling portion of the audience, who had 
any sympathy for sounds the most pleasant 
emotions and kept the chord in a remarkably 
beautiful harmony. Of the performance nothing 
can be exaggeratedly stated. The part of the 
king Purarovah represented by Babu Kali 
Prasanna Sinha was admirably done. His 
mien was right royal and his voice truly 
imperial. From the first scene of the play 
when he with his pleasant companion, a 
civilized buffoon commenced to interchange 
words of fellowship, to the last scene when he 
was translated with his fair Urva^I to heaven, 
he kept the audience continuously alive and 
made a most gladsome impression on their 
minds. Every word he gave utterance to, 
was suited to the action which followed it. In 
the language of the poet he did truly hold 
the mirror up to nature* Whose heart did not 
palpitate with the most quick emotions when 
the king hearing the nymphs cry for help 
announced his approach in the most heroic 
strain and went to their relief ? The act was as 



40 

chivalrous as it was heroic. There was the 
romance of real life represented in true colours. 
But how sweetly docs the language of love 
convey its moaning to a lover's mind. Urva6i 
is rescued from the infernal clutches of the 
demon. She thanks in a soft but most eloquent 
language her gallant saviour ; Citralekha, her 
lady of honour mingles in the song of thanks- 
giving, while the king hears in the dulcet air 
the most passionate voice of love. 

The scene lay in the Hemcott range and the roman- 
tic objects that allured observations from 
around, with the angelic charm of Urva&i and 
the glorious graces of her lovely companion, 
threw the mind of the King into a kind of 
magical enchantment and his vision henceforth 
became the heavenly fair. Then comes the 
scene of the descending of the Heavenly Car 
with Urva^i and Citralekha on, singing in a 
most rapturous strain and lapping the gazing 
soul literally, as it were, in Klysian bliss. If 
there could be angel visits on earth which poets 
sing of, the appearance of LTrva^i with her 
ethereal companion in the heavenly car was 
such a visit. It struck the heart of every one 
of the spectators. It almost realised the scrip- 
tural vision of Klija's ascension to Heaven- 
We have seen pictures of Grecian Gods driv- 
ing chariots and read of ancient heroes skim- 
ming the air through such cars, but all the 
glowing figures of imagination which we have 
formed melted away as the mists disappeared 
and the heavenly car from Indra's region neared 



47 

our common earth- The attitude of Urva6i on 
the car was delightfully picturesque, and the 
sweet songs and muruc which attended the des- 
cent, gave it the glow of an Arabian Night's 
dream- But the enchantment was not yet 
complete. She came and vanished like a vision. 
The king was restless, and in the madness of 
love appealed with child-like simplicity to the 
counsel of Vidiisaka, the buffoon who like 
Lear's fool mocked his sorrow but never leav- 
ing his moralizing occupation. 

The disconsolate Devee, wife to the king, worships 
the gods to cure her husband's misdirected 
love but subsequently moved by the frantic 
state of the Raja disavows her worship, recalls 
prayer and seconds his wish to propitiate the 
deities to gratify his desire. This is the true 
picture of Hindu Lady, who at the sacrifice of 
her own happiness would even submit to 
austerities and observances for the fulfilment of 
her lord's wishes. Next opens the affecting part 
of the play. The commencement is solemn and 
the circumstance serious. The electric light 
opens upon the air and the artillery of heaven 
roars tremendously ; in the midst of this scene 
the King enters singly and in a state of excite- 
ment, cries for Urva&i in a most lamentable 
strain, turns his mind inward, discourses with 
his own soul, rings the bells of his passion and 
addresses the woods and trees, the birds and 
skies, in a most pathetic tone. This part of 
action was most difficult, and our friend Kali- 
prasanna did it well. There on addressing 



48 



the mountain now the woods behind, now 
the river beneath and now the birds above, 
with the essential pauses of affection, when 
the heart is rent by the agony of love, 
like Milton's Adam at the loss of Eve the 
soliloquizing in the most pathetic manner and 
calling forth the most tender emotion from 
the deep wells of passion a la Hamlet the re- 
peated falls which the king met with from the 
negative replies which he construed in that 
frantic mood from the significant sounds that 
dropped all these were quite natural and most 
admirably put into action. However we would 
not give anything for the Urva^i for whom 
the king had spent so much breath. We doubt 
whether our countrymen would content them- 
selves with presenting to the world such an 
Urva^i, whom poetry represents as the paragon 
of beauty, as was represented at the B. S. T. 
But we do not disparage her. She will make 
a different being that is more acceptable, if 
she continue on earth, for love-making in 
heaven is quite another affair, and is not suited 
to the taste of us mortals. "Bedoosok" was 
ably performed, but his jokes were lost partly 
on account of the noise, and partly on account 
of the unintelligibility of the language. The 
Cowar was just like Home's Young Norval, 
and the caressing address of UrvaSi, set in 
tune, was most magnificently done- Other 
characters were indifferently good, but the voice, 
which spoke from behind the scene, was really 
abominable. 



49 

While we thus do justice to Babu Kali Prasanna 
Sinha, we must, however, be allowed to express 
one patriotic wish. With all its excellencies 
the Vidyotsahini Theatre is a private establish- 
ment, though its very existence is a sign 
of the times. The attempt to cultivate the 
drama is justly praiseworthy, but what we 
would like to have is a public institution of 
the kind of a permanent character. The age 
is much too advanced to wait for an elaborate 
dissertation on the usefulness of such au ins- 
titution in order to get it established. There 
are many among us, we know, with good sense 
and sufficiency enough to come forward and 
aid such a project and at the head of that band 
we unhesitatingly put down the name of Babu 
Kali Prasanna Sinha. Let the lovers and 
patrons of the drama form themselves into a 
body, take the project into their consideration 
and they are assured of every encouragement 
and co-operation from the Hindu Patriot* 

The above remarks would show the part the 
press was playing in the resuscitation of Hindu 
drama, a thing quite worthy of it. 

In 1858 Kali Prasanna wrote and published 
another drama of the name of Savitfl-Satyavan. 
To all intents and purposes it was an original drama, 
though the main plot was drawn from the Maha- 
bharata. Vavu, it appears, was only a farce com- 
posed under the auspices of Vidyotsahini and there 

7 



50 

3 no evidence of its being put on boards of the 
heatres at all 

The story of Savitri and Satyavan runs thus : 

Savitri the daughter of King Agvapati had en- 
aged to be the wife of Satyavan, the son of the 
eposed King Dyumatsen, who had turned a 
ermit. Though revealed to her by the divine sage 
mt Satyavan was to live only one year longer, she 
iithfully kept her vow and was united in marriage 
) the hermit-prince. Agreeably to the prediction 
the holy sage the prince died after one year but 
le faithful wife clung to his dead body and would 
ot deliver it up though claimed by Yama, the King 
E terrors in prison. At last King Yama, while 
iving vara (eft, boon), was fairly outwitted by the 
sntle but heroic Savitri and eventually Satyavan 
as restored to life. 

There is a departure in this drama from the Sans- 
rit model, as regards the Ahkas. It adopted the 
Ian of European drama of the five Acts ; our present 
ramas too are of five acts only. 

The play was staged on the 5th June, 1858 * 
id successfully, like the previous performances. We 
3t from Calcutta Review (1859, March, Vol. 32) : 

"The performance, we are bound to say, does no 

* Prabhakar^ 4th June, 1858. 



51 

little credit to him. The characters are on the whole 
well-drawn, the scenes are interesting, dialogues smart 
and spirited and the style chaste." 

We may here mention to our readers that Savitri 
formed an interesting theme for many later drama- 
tists. Pandit Kshirode Prasad produced one in 1902 
at the Star and a few years ago in 1931 May, 
Star and Natyaniketan, vied with one another in the 
representation of Sail on the stage. Savitri is also 
an interesting topic for the present day cinema 
pictures. 

In 1859 Kali Prasanna wrote and published 
another drama, the Malatimadhava or the Indian 
Romeo and Juliet, based on Bhavabhuti's well- 
known Sanskrit drama of the name. It was almost 
an original drama, interspersed with some beautiful 
songs. The author seemed from his preface to have 
adopted this more to the purposes of stage which 
could not be served by his previous dramas. 

Kali Prasanna continued, till his death, to take a 
lively interest for the improvement of the Bengali 
Stage and Bengali Dramas, and if he lived more, we 
would have expected more valued efforts towards the 
revival of drama and stage. All his attempts towards 
new ideals and reforms, even before Madhusudan 
came to the field, were really very praiseworthy. 



Chapter III 

THE BELGACHHIA THEATRE 

The first permanent stage of Bengal. 

If any parallel is to be drawn, the Belgachhia 
Theatre was to Bengal, what the Glove was in 
England during the Elizabethan age. With it dates 
the beginning of the permanent Bengali stage, for 
all other attempts previous to this, however laudable 
or brilliant, were but sporadic and temporary, hence 
little abiding in their influence. Such was its 
enlightened atmosphere and cultural spell that soon 
pervaded the intelligentsia of Calcutta with a genuine 
love and desire for national drama and for a national 
stage. Above all, its service to Bengali literature is 
invaluable, and so long the language is spoken or 
written, its rich contributions will never be forgotten. 

The Belgachhia Theatre drew out one of the 
greatest poets of the modern world, we mean Michael 
Madhusudan Dutt, and but for this it is doubtful 
whether Madhusudan would have seriously turned to 
Bengali literature at all. The thoroughly anglicised 
youth, who prided in his mis-spelling of a common 
Bengali word, has left the greatest classical work in 



53 

Bengali poetry. Our task of course is not to pursue 
Madhusudan's career as a poet, but to notice only a 
particular side of his great, versatile genius. Madhu- 
sudan is unquestionably the greatest classical poet 
of Bengal and one of the greatest masters of epic in 
world's literature ; and we may also unhesitatingly 
add that Madhusudan Dutt is the first great 
dramatist of Bengal and his plays are the first 
genuine dramatic works in Bengali literature. As 
a drama KullnltulcLsarvasva Natak does not stand 
any comparison with Krsnakumari and his two 
farcical comedies still hold high place among the 
witty productions in Bengali literature. 

During the performance of the SaJcuntala in the 
house of Babu Ashutosh Dev, vide page 3G, Babu 
(afterwards Maharaja) Jatindra Mohan Tagore, a 
highly enlightened zeminder of Calcutta and a 
nephew of Babu Prasanna Kumar Tagore met Raja 
Iswar Chandra Singh of Paikpara, Belgachhia, and 
his brother Pratap Chandra Singh, who, too, came to 
witness the performance. Iswar Chandra and Pratap 
Chandra were, in the words of Babu Gaur Das 
Bysak, two nature noblemen, "impregnated with true 
patriotic zeal for the welfare and advancement of the 
country." Jatindra Mohan in a highly opportune 
moment, when they were witnessing the performance, 
spoke to the brothers about the desirability of having 
a permanent Bengali stage. It was, asserted 



54 

Jatindra Mohan, a sheer waste of time and money to 
fritter away energy and enthusiasm in performances 
for a day or two. The idea was instantly taken 
up by the two brothers and in due course of time 
the famous Belgachhia Theatre came into existence. 
It was indeed a red letter day both for the Bengali 
drama and for Bengali language. 

The history of the foundation of the Belga- 
chhia Theatre can be gathered from a letter written 
by Raja Iswar Chandra Singh* to Babu Keshav 
Chandra Ganguly, dated the 27th August 1858, 
the year of the foundation of the Calcutta 
University : 

"When three or four years ago, you all quarrelled 
with the proprietor of the Oriental Seminary, 
we all proposed to have a native drama written 
out and acted ; and such was our earnestness 
in the cause that we all asked you to select and 
hire a site and a native gentleman was asked 
either for the loan or hire of the premises. 
Somehow or other the subject dropped here, 
and was never thought of more till a year and 
a half ago, when we found some youngsters 
getting up a representation of a native drama* 
At this time a consultation was held and after 
much discussion the Ratnavall was fixed upon 
as the best drama or one of the best dramas 
that our Sanskrit could boast of. Then again 
came the difficulty of finding a man, who, with 

* Vide> page, 220, Michael's life by Jogindfa Babu. 



55 

a thorough knowledge of the language, would 
combine a dramatic talent. The man was at 
last found. Sometime before this the Kulm- 
kulasarvasva had acquired a just and well 
merited fame and the author was pitched 
upon as the only pandit, who, with a good know- 
ledge of Sanskrit, combined dramatic talent, 
and subsequently the translation was entrusted 
to him." 

Next, Iswar Chandra proceeds to give an account 
as to how a year and a half they took to prepare the 
play by having too many rehearsals and fixing too 
many details. 

The stage was built at enormous cost borne by 
the two Rajas of Paikpara and their magnificent 
Belgachhia villa formerly owned by Prince Dwarka- 
nath Tagore, with the whole place appearing more 
like a fairy land, added considerably to the beauty 
and pomp of the dramatic entertainment. 

The theatre opened with the performance of the 
drama Ratnavall beginning from 8-30 p. M. and 
closing at 12-30 on Saturday, July 31, 1858, and 
about the success of the performance Babu Gaurdas 
Bysak, who was an actor himself and the best friend 
of Michael Madhusudan Dutt, described in his 
reminiscences in the following manner in 1892 : 

"To say that the Belgachhia Theatre scored a 
brilliant success is to repeat truism that has 
passed into a proverb. It achieved a success 



56 

unparalleled in the annals of Amateur Theatri- 
cals in this country. The graceful stage, the 
superb sceneries, the stirring Orchestra, the 
dresses, the costly appurtenances, the splendid 
get up of the whole concern were worthy of 
the brother Rajas and the genius of their 
intimate friend Maharaja Sir Jatindra Mohan 
Tagore, an accomplished connoisseur. The per- 
formance of a single play, Ratnaval 7 ^ which 
alone cost the Rajas ten thousand rupees, 
realised the idea, and established the character 
of the real Hindu drama with the improvements 
suited to the taste of an advanced age". 

The Hindu Patriot of the time also wrote about 
it in the following way* : 

"The characters were so nicely balanced; the tone, 
the gesture and what is called dramatic action 
were so clever and consistent, and the counter- 
feit of passions so natural and life-like that 
we little expected so much excellence at the 
outset of a dramatic company. Indeed from 
first to last, stage was all action and animation 
and the audience was all attention. The drama, 
though not without some merits, is not much to 
our taste... but superior talent of the amateurs 
made amends for the feebleness of the play." 

Babu Sriram Chatterjee, a distinguished scholar 
of the Hindu College, wrote after seeing the perform- 
ance : 

"It can be said without contradiction that the stage 
* H. P. 5th August, 1858. 



57 

presented the appearance of Indra's palace* 
The whole audience was so charmed beyond 
measure that even myself, however cynical in 
many matters, remained entranced, as it were-"* 

The elite of the town was present and amongst 
others were noticed Sir Frederick Halliday, Mr. 
Hume, Mr. Goodive Chakraberty, Kali Krishna 
Bahadur, Ramgopal Ghose, Peari Chand Mitter, 
Kisori Chand Mitter, Ramnarain Tarkaratna, the 
Judges and Magistrates of Calcutta and other higher 
officials and non-official s."j" 

Most of the actors later in life occupied high 
status in society and the cast was distributed as 
follows 

Raja Udayan ... Prconath Dutt, afterwards 

Asst. Controller General. 

Vasantaka (jester) ... Keshav Chandra Ganguly, 

afterwards Superinten- 
dent, Controller General's 
office. 

Romanvan (general) ... Raja Iswar Chandra Singh. 

Yaugandharayana (minister) Babu Gaurdas Bysak, De- 
puty Magistrate, next 
Deonath Ghosh, Officer 
Finance Department and 
a Ray Bahadur. 

Vabhravya ... Nabin Chandra Mukherjee. 

* Madhu's Biograhy. 

I Prabhakar % 4th Aug, 1858, 

8 



58 



Bahubhuti 

Vasavadatta 

Ratnavali 

Susangata 

Bajikar (magician) 

Darwan 

Sutradhar 

Copdars 



Girish Chandra Chatterjee. 
Mahendra Nath Goswami. 
Hem Chandra Mukherjee. 
Aghore Chandra Digharia. 
Srinath Sen. 
Jadu Nath Ghose. 
Kshetra Mohan Goswami. 

Dwaraka Nath Mullick and 
Krishna Gopal Ghose. 

Ramnath Laha. 

Kalidas Sanyal and Kali 
Prasanna Banerjee. 

A Brahmin from Seram- 
pore. 

Maharaja, Jatindra Mohan. 

Kshetra Mohan Pal and 
Jadunath Goswami, the 
famous musicians of 
Bengal.* 



Besides Dr. Rajendra Lala Mitra, Pandit Iswar 
Chandra Vidyasagore, Ramaprasad Roy, Vakil (who 
was the first Indian Judge of the High Court but 
died before taking his seat), Dwarakanath Mullick of 
Pataldanga, Tara Charan Guha of Hogal Kuria and 
other persons of lead and light, used to take a 
keen interest for the success of the performance. 



Dancers 
Kancanamala 

Music Master 
Concert 



Mr. J. N. Basu's book, p. 223. 



59 

As to how the artists acquitted themselves in 
their respective roles, we should better quote the 
words of Babu Gaurdas Bysak* : 

"The dramatic corps was drawn from the flower 
of our educated youth. Among the actors, Babu 
Keshav Chandra Ganguly stood pre-eminent. 

Endowed by nature with histrionic talent of no 
mean order, he represented the Vidusalca (jester) 
with such life-like reality, and so rich a fund of 
humour as to be styled the "Garrick of our Bengali 
Stage." Raja Iswar Chandra Singh, who looked a 
prince every inch, encased in mail-coat armour, with 
a jewelled sword hanging by his side, acted his part, 
with wonderful effect, befitting the character of a 
generalissimo. Sagarika, the sea-rescued heroine 
depicted in the play as a maiden of exemplary 
patience under suffering, extreme modesty and a 
heart tender and susceptible to the influence of love 
was represented by an intelligent Brahmin lad, whose 
musical voice enchanted the audience* The queen 
Vasavadatta who is most queenly in her character had 
her part admirably acted by a handsome young lad 
Mahendra Nath Goswami even to the line in the 
original "Resigns all hope of life which is now 
unbearable". The scene in which the magician 
(Srinath Sen) set fire to the house of Raja 
Udayaha, king of Kashmir, by means of his wand 

*Madhusudan's Biography by J. N. Bose, p. 223. 



60 

and incantations (mantras) and the flashes of light 
that were produced by storntium red fire (then quite 
a rare and novel substance here) as well as the scene 
in which the full moon rose behind the plantain 
grove, were so affectingly enacted as to rivet the 
wonder and admiration of the audience. The manner 
in which the other actors, one and all, acquitted 
themselves met with the warmest applause from 
the audience an audience composed of the elite 
of Calcutta, the cream of European and native 
society. Eminent Government officials and high 
non-official gentlemen who witnessed the perform- 
ances spoke of ^exquisite treat" they had enjoyed as 
heightening their idea of our Indian music and of 
our Indian stage. The Lieutenant Governor, Sir 
Frederick Halliday, who was present with his family 5 
was so delighted with acting of Babu Keshav 
Chandra that he complimented him on his extra- 
ordinary dramatic talents. He said that looking at 
his serious and sedate appearance one could hardly 
believe him capable of acting so capitally the part of 
the Jester.* 

So eager were the people to see the performance 
that on one occasion a certain wealthy gentleman of 
Calcutta unable to obtain an invitation from the 
Rajas offered even a hundred rupees or more for the 

* Jogendra Nath Bose's Biography of Michael M S. 
Dutt in Bengali, p. 648-49, 3rd. Edition. 



61 

purchase of a single ticket. It was something 
preposterous, no doubt, but it showed the eagerness 
evinced by the people to witness the performance of 
Belgachhia amateurs. 

Babu Kisori Chand Mitra also wrote in the 
Calcutta Revieiv about Keshav, thus : 

"The part of the king and Ratnavali were per- 
formed by youngmen, who acquitted themselves 
most creditably in their situation which were 
eminently dramatic but the gem of the actors was 
Vasantaka, who was represented by Babu Keshav 
Chandra Ganguly. His ready wit, his brilliant 
bonmots, inimitable comic humour may fairly entitle 
him to the praise of being the best actor in Bengal. 
He kept up the interest of the play most successfully 
and was the life and soul of the performance. The 
performance was a great success." 

Michael Madhusudan Dutt, who was most inti- 
mately associated with this Theatre dedicated after- 
wards his drama Krsnakuman to Keshav Chandra, 
whom he called "The first actor of the age". 

Now let us see how far did the outside opinion 
accept the performance. The Hindu Patriot of the 
5th August, 1858 thus writes : 

"We most willingly call to notice the excellent 
performance of the character of Ratnavali, the 

heroine of the play 

The passions, the emotions were so vividly 



62 



depicted that we scarcely believe, there was one 
among the audience upon whom these did not 
make an impression and such as is not likely 
soon to wear away. The part of the king did not 
want in dignity, in earnestness or in depth and 
if, as we have heard some friends remark, his 
lament over the sufferings of his love was too 
theatrical and the action therein exceeding the 
language of his grief, we must absolve him from 
all blame, who was too knowing not to know 
the measure of the lament. For sooth the 
passion was wrought up to so high a pitch that 
less earnestness would have become indecorous ; 
the defect was that the plot of the play was not 
fully developed to give nature adequate scope 
for action. Union is not only strength but 
beauty ; this was remarkably illustrated in the 
conjoint action of the King and Ratnavali, both 
when the latter reduced to the last point of 
despair was about to transmigrate herself to the 
other world, where there would be no grief and 
disappointment and when she was surprised to 
see the king come to her rescue when the 
apartments of her confinement were in flames. 
Then the king snatching his dearest love, as it 
were, from the grasp of grim Death Ratnavali 
falling senseless with all the tranquil beauty of 
such an hour on the arms of her lover His 
Kingship's awakening her to sense with gentle 
strokes of affections, and her gradually regain- 
ing life and strength the confused interchange 
and intermingling of affections Oh ! it was Ex- 
quisite, Exquisite. It brought tears to many eyes, 



63 

we shall never foget it. There was then the King's 
jester it. The character kept the audience in in- 
cessant laughter and nothing could be finer and 
more amusing than the joy, hilarity what we 
may call verbose delight and penitent wonder 
which were specially called forth during the little 
interleaned comedies of errors which perpe- 
tually animated the conversations and witticisms 
of Vasantaka. There was so much worldliness 
mixed up with pleasantry in this character 
that it required consummate mastery of human 
nature and thorough knowledge of the world 
which we are happy to say, the amateur 
displayed to admiration. The interest of the 
performance of the part was so great that the 
jester was the special favourite of the night's 
audience Susangata the queen's maid also 
Ratnavali's friend was pretty well in keeping 
with her part and the artless cunning with which 
she superintended the first two visits of the 
king with his love, was characteristic. The 
queen's part was somewhat wanting in queenli- 
ness but the moral control which she held over 
the king was so inexorably exercised that an 
exemplary husband told us in confidence nothing 
could be more true to nature. The story of 
the ship-wreck related by the minister of the 
King of Ceylon was well described. The per- 
sonal bearings of some of the characters were 
particularly striking as those of King Vijay 
Varma and Ratnavali." 

Another special feature of the theatre was the 
introduction of the national Orchestra on the basis 



64 

of Indian instruments and it was Raja Jatindra 
Mohan, who suggested this. The concert was played 
under the direction of Professor Kshetra Mohan 
Goswami, a genius in music and Babu Jadunath 
Pal led the band. Gosain for the first time put 
into notation some of the native tunes and ragas 
and thus was the first Concert Band in Bengal 
formed. Babu Gurudayal Chaudhury disciple of the 
poet Iswar Gupta composed songs for the purpose. * 

Indeed, the music had so powerful and beneficial 
an effect upon the English gentlemen that one of 
them to whom the Anglo India Drama and Music 
owe more than to any other English resident in 
India, remarked that it completely neutralised in his 
mind the prejudices which he had conceived against 
tho Hindu music. The airs complacently preserved 
the oriental character of the occasion. 

As to dancing, the Patriot observes : 

"We were, however, not a little surprised with the 
nice dancing which we witnessed* At first we 
mistook the dancers who played so wonderfully 
for nautch girls until we were disabused of our 
impression by authentic evidence. Indeed, they 
trimmed over the stage ground so lightly and 
moved briskly that one not behind the scenes 
could scarcely forego the above conclusion." 

* I. Gaurdas Bysak's reminisences. 
2, Kisori Chand Mitter's article, 



65 

Then at the suggestion of his friend Babu Gaur- 
das Bysak, Madhusudan was engaged by the Rajas 
to translate the play for the convenience of spectators, 
who could not understand Bengali. The translation 
was a masterpiece and few Englishmen, said the 
Harkara, could have written so chaste and beautiful 
English. 

In this permanent stage-of Belgachhia, Ratnavall 
alone was performed twelve nights, and this would 
not have been possible if the stage was a temporary 
one. Indeed, Belgachhia permanent Theatre marked 
a new era in the history of the Bengali Stage. It 
acted as a first great stimulus and henceforth theatres 
were started all over the country. The organisers 
have left a history behind and no greater compli- 
ment is possible than what was paid by Michael 
Madhusudan Dutt in the following words : 

"Should the drama ever again flourish in India, 
posterity will not forget those noble gentlemen, the 
earliest friends of our rising National Theatre?* 

Our readers will remember that the idea of a 
National Theatre came first from Madhu Sudan. 

II. SARMISHTHA. 

Ratnavall was followed by Sarmistha written 
for the aforesaid theatre by Michael Madhusudan 

* Preface to 

9 



66 

Dutt, who, when Sagarika (Ratnavall) was losing 
attraction by repetition, came to the rescue with his 
first Bengali production. But the question is how 
could a Bengali drama come out from the pen of the 
Anglicised Bengali, who found it difficult even to 
spell the simple Bengali word Prthivl meaning 
the earth, rather prided in mis-spelling the word, 
confidently remarking to his friend Bhudev Mukher- 
jee, that it must be Prathivl and not Prthivl ? The 
solution surely lies in the miracle of his genius 
more than with anything else. 

It is said that when the rehearsal of Ratnavall 
had been going on, Madhusudan exclaimed to his 
friend Gaurdas Bysak, another promoter thereof 
"what a pity that the Rajas have spent such a lot of 
money over a miserable play. I wish I had known 
of it before, as I could have given you a piece worthy 
of your theatre". Babu Gaurdas laughed at these 
presumptuous words, but a genius like Madhusudan 
was not to be put out by laughter or cold sneer, 
and within a short space of time he brought to the 
astonishment of his friends, the above mentioned 
drama which was successfully acted by the troupe 
on the 3rd September, 1859. Both Jatindra 
Mohan Tagore and Raja Is war Chandra were 
principal organisers and the former composed some 
songs including the ode to $iva in the last act of the 
performance* 



The dramatic cast was as follows : 



King Yayati 



Preonath Dutt. 

(as his father died, the part 
of Raja was performed by 
Jadunath Chatter jee) 

Keshav Chandra Ganguly. 
Nobin Chandra Mukherjee. 
Dena Nath Ghose. 
Sarat Chandra Ghose, (laterly 

of the Bengal Theatre). 
Iswar Chandra Singh. 
Tara Chand Guha. 

[As the Raja fell from the back of his horse and his 
hand fractured, Tara Chand took the part of Bakasur 
and his part of Daitya was taken by Nritya Lai Das.] 

Citizens ... Harish Chandra Mukherjee. 

Rasik Lai Saw. 
Brono Lai Dutt. 



Madhavya (Basantaka) 
Mantri (minister) 
Sukracarya (Rsi) 
Kapil (His disciple) 

Bakasur (General) 
Daitya (An officer) 



Courtiers 
Copdar 



Darwan 

Devajani 

Sarmistha 



Jatindra Mohan Tagore. 
Rajendra Lai Mitter. 

Dwarkanath Mullick this 
part ultimately was taken 
by Mahesh Chandra Chan- 
der. 

Jatindra Ghose, Raja's 
brother-in-law. 

Hem Chandra Mukherjee, 
(Sagarika of Hatnavall). 

Kristodhone Mukherjee, (a 
new-comer) a real acqui- 
sition. 



PBrnika ... Kalidas Sandel (formerly 

appeared as a dancing girl). 
Devika ... Aghore Chandra Digharia 

(Susangata). 

Nata ... Braja Durlabh Dutta. 

Naj;i ... Chuni Lai Bose (as before). 

Maidservant ... Kali Prasanna Mukherjee. 

Dancing girls ... The same as before plus 

Bankim Chandra 

Mukherjee. * 

Though Raja Is war Chandra doubted whether 
&armistha would be as popular as Ratnavall, it was 
indeed a great success and the newspapers of the 
time spoke highly of the performance. 

Madhu, too, was present in the performance and 
wrote to his friend Babu Rajnarain Bose about its 
successful representation : 

"When tSarmistha was acted at Belgachhia, the 
impression it created was simply indescribable. 
Even the least romantic spectator was charmed 
by the character of Sarmistha and shed tears 
with her. As for my own feelings, they were 
"things to dream of, not to tell 1 '. Poor old 
Ram Chandra (Babu Ram Chandra Mitra, the 
veteran old teacher of the Hindu College) was 

* From a letter, 24th March, 1859 of Raja Iswar 
Chandra fixing the cast and written to Gaurdas 
Bysak. Vide, Madhusudarfs Biography \ p. 233 by 
Jogindra Nath Bose. 

Vide also Anusllan and Purohit, 1302, Jyaisiha % 
Rahgabhumir Itivrtta* 



half mad and grasped my hand saying "why, 
dear Madhu, my dear Madhu, this does you 
great credit indeed ; Oh, it is beautiful.'' 

How the enlightened public appreciated the 
performance, will be evident from the review in the 
Hindu Patriot (September 10, 1859) : 

"The period of the drama transports us back to 
Indian society as it was two thousand yeas ago 
and we are glad to state that the scenic arrange- 
ments and the accoutrements of the corps 
dramatique pictured forth with a marvellous 
accuracy the India life, habitudes and usages 
of the distant age. Our antiquarian friends 
present on the occasion bore cheerful testimony 
to their accuracy. The habitements of the 
Sage Sukracarya flowing from neck to foot 
tinged with mud green colour approximating 
in sombreness to the covering sheet of an Egyp- 
tian Mummy adoring the Calcutta Asiatic 
Museum, and withal beautifully attesting to 
the austere life of the 72i, in marked contrast 
to the costume of our capuchins of the present 
day were an object of particular admiration to 
them. The court was splendidly represented, 
the courtiers observing a fidelity of manner and 
bearing, which, those, who accuse our country- 
men of deficiency in either, ought to have wit- 
nessed to disabuse themselves of their errone- 
ous ideas. 

The performance, we are happy to be able to 
remark, was not charged with any appreciable 
exaggeration. A free and full scope was afford- 



70 

ed to nature and if the outset wanted a little 
in life and animation, it was more than com- 
pensated for by the unusually exciting interest, 
which the play created as it neared the conclu- 
sion. This time, as on the past occasion, the 
jester was the soul of the corps. The genial 
play of his fancy, his exquisite humour and 
his frolics, his appropriate % apothegems un- 
obstrusively introduced in the midst of quiet 
laughter, and his merry consideration of self, 
undisguised and always enlivening were always 
welcome and often exciting. There was so 
much freedom, life, grace and nature about 
him that we can boldly declare, he will do equal 
justice to the Boards of Paris or London. The 
other characters comported themselves as agree- 
ably to the audience as creditably to themselves. 
They were particularly observant of decorum, 
seldom transgressing the modesty of nature." 

SarmistJia is important from other points of 
view also. It marks the epoch when Bengali Dramas 
began to just come into being. Madhusudan also 
introduced some innovations and was practically the 
pioneer to secede from the old Sanskrit school of 
drama. Bliadrarjun was rather too insignificant 
a drama to draw any notice of the people, and we 
have also seen Kaliprasanna Sinha was gradually 
receding from the old model, but it was Madhusudan, 
who gave the last blow. From the very beginning 
Madhusudan tried to discard old Sanskrit models 
and classical conventions. In the preface to the 



71 

translation of Ratna/vall Madhusudan wrote "A host 
of writers, who will discard Sanskrit Models and look 
to higher sources for inspiration." 

Mahamahopadhyaya Premchand Tarkavagish, the 
famous Sanskritist of that time, going through the 
manuscript copy of Madhusudan's armistha remark- 
ed, "It is no drama, perhaps it is the production of 
a young Babu having a knowledge of English ; any 
corrections made would necessitate the change of the 
look as a whole." Madhu, on the other hand, required 
no help from a Sanskrit dramatist and wanted to 
stand or fall by himself. Thus he writes to his 
friend Gaurdas Bysak : 

"I am aware, my dear fellow, that there will, in 
all likelihood, be something of a foreign air about 
my drama and that it is my intention to throw off 
the fetters forged for us by a servile taste of every- 
thing Sanskrit." 

Madhu, however, could not shake himself off from 
all the old technique and formalities, but taking 
everything into consideration, Madhusudan may be 
considered to be the pioneer showing a new path, 
which was henceforth to be followed by later drama- 
tists. 

The opening song was composed by Madhusudan. 
It throws a light on his attitude of mind then 
uppermost in him, to see dramatic art reaching a high 
Standard of mor^l excellence an4 it also gives % 



72 

hint about the low standard of dramatic literature 
then prevalent. Thus it runs : 

"O, mother India, how long will you remain in 
slumber ? There was a time when dramatic art was 
in ascendency in India but it is almost dead now. 
Where are the poets Valmiki, Vyasa Kalidasa and 
Bhavabhuti ? I cannot bear the sight of the sons of 
Bengal being charmed by dramas of evil taste. They 
drink poison, leaving aside nectar. I invoke thee, 
oh mother, to awake and enthuse good taste in 
them."* 

Sarmistlia really put Madhu at the head of 
the Bengali authors and it was considered by the 

Mati hay kotha se sukher samay, 

Ye samay, de^amay, nafyaras savi^es chila 

rasamay. 

Sona go bharatabhumi kata nidra yave tumi, 

5r nidra ucit na hay. 
U|;ha tyaja ghumaghor, haila haila bhor, 

Dinakar pracite uday. 
Kothay Valmiki Vyas, kotha tava Kalidasa, 

Kotha Bhavabhuti mahoday. 

Alik kunajyarange, maje loka Radhe Vaiige 

Nirakhiya prane nahi say. 

Sudharasa anadare, ViSavari pana kare, 

tahe hay tanu, mana ksay. 

Madhu kahe jago ma go, vibhusthane ei mago, 

surase pravrtta ha'k tava tanayanicay. 

* Dr. Rajendra Lala Mitra's Vih sam. pancani parva } 
$amkhya $8, kaka Ij8o } Magha, 



73 

people of Bengal as the best Bengali drama, hitherto 
published in Bengali. 

Madhu himself wrote out a translation of the 
same for the English-speaking audience. 

The last performance of armistha in the 
Belgachhia Theatre was on September 22, 1859 as 
was noticed in the Bengal Harltara of Tuesday, 
September 29, 1859 : 

"The armistha was performed for the last time, we 
understand, before the holidays on Tuesday 

evening last, at the little private Theatre 

Among the company were present The 
Hon'ble Sir J. P. Grant, Lt. Governor of 
Bengal, Mr. & Mrs. J. P. Grant Junior, Dr. and 
Mrs, McPherson, Major Plowden, Private 
Secretary to Lieutenant Governor, Mr. C. 
Piffard and Mr. H P. Hinde of the Supreme 
Court Bar, Mr. Site Apcar, Moonshi Ameerali 
of Patna notoriety, Babu Rajendra Lala Mitter, 
a numerous and fashionable audience from the 
depot at Dum Dum and many other native and 
European gentlemen/' 

The above plays Kullnkulasarvasva, &akuntala, 
Ratnavall and tiarmistha inaugurated a new epoch 
in the history of the dramatic literature in Bengal, 
about which Rev. J. Long did not forget to mention 
in his report to the Government of Bengal in 1859, 
in following words : 

"A taste for Dramatic Exhibition has lately 
10 



74 

revived among the educated Hindus, who find that 
translations of the Ancient Hindu Dramas are 
more valuable than translations from English 
Plays.-- 

Foremost among the persons of the Drama are 
Raja Pratap Chander Singh and a young Zeminder 
Kali Prasanna Singh." 

Madhusudan's second drama was Padmavati 
written after the Great legends. Its Sacl, Ratl, 
Narada, Raja Indranil and the princess Padmavati 
are copied from the Greek Juno, Venus, Discordia, 
Paris and Helen of Homer's Illiad, with of course 
some difference in representation of art and character 
in a way characteristic of Madhu's genius. Madhu 
expected it to be staged at the Belgachhia, but it 
could not be so done. 

Madhusudan next wrote the two farcical comedies 
Eke i ki Bale Sabhyata (Is this civilization) and 
BurnsaliJcer Ghare Row in the same year, i. a, in 
1860. The former exposes the habits of Young 
Bengal and the latter mercilessly does of the hypo- 
crites, who put on a sanctimonious air. Most of 
these religious frauds like Bhafctaprasad of the latter 
farce are really licentious and avaricious. 

As to Madhusudan's dramas, opinion is divided, 
but the farces have been very highly spoken of by 
all classes of people including even the most fasti- 
dious critic. We quote below the observations of 



75 

a writer, who is thought by some people as the 
renowned Bankim Chandra Chatterjee that appeared 
in the Calcutta Review of 1871 (Vol. 52) in the 
name of Babu Haramohan Mukherjee : 

"As a dramatist Mr. Dutt is not successful. Among 
his plays are Sarmistha, Padniavatl and Krma- 
kuman and the first mentioned in particular 
is very generally admired. In our judgments 
none of them are of much value and his un- 
doubted poetic genius seems to divert him as 
soon as he sets about writing a play. His 
farces, however, are good, one of them entitled, 
Is this civilization is best in the language. 
This little work deserves notice independently 
of its great merit. The Bengali Press at the 
present day is very prolific, but by far the larg- 
est part of the books published are mere 
servile imitations of some successful author. 
There are imitations of Vidyasagore, imitations 
of Tek Chand Thakur, of Dina Bandu Mitra, of 
the author of Durges-nandirii, but perhaps no 
work has formed the model for so many imita- 
tors as 7s this civilization* It is a farce with a 
purpose being intended chiefly to ridicule and 
so expose the vice of drunkenness and other 
evils by which it is generally attended. 

This little work, therefore, independently of its being 
in itself one of the best farces in the language 
joins the additional importance from the large 
number of other books written after its model. 

To give an adequate idea of this clever little work 
by translated extracts would be entirely im- 



76 

possible, because half the fun lies in the absurd 
Jargon interlaced with English words and the 
cant of debating clubs in which the characters 
speak. The scene is laid in the Jvuina- 
tarangim Sab ha, a sort of scientific debating 
society, which chiefly devoted itself to nautch 
girls and tippling. The types of life and 
character, which it represents, are sufficiently 
disgusting and the important question is 
whether representation is correct* 

To the shame of Bengal we must say that we fear 
the picture is a true one. 

The reformer, who never gets beyond tipsy, haran- 
gues full of English expressions, should not be 
confounded, as he often is, by Europeans with 
the really civilised class. But it cannot be 
denied that he is a fair representation of the 
great horde of partly educated Babus, whose 
only claim to enlightenment lies in the fact that 
they drink, wear shabby trousers and stammer 
out barbarous English. These are the men, who 
swarm in every office and plague officials with 
endless applications for employment, crowd the 
thoroughfares of the native town in the evening, 
drain the liquor-shops and form the majority 
of his audience when Babu Keshav Chandra 
Sen lectures in the Town Hall. Of education 
they have had nothing worth the name. Having 
spent a few years very profitably in learning 
smattering of English at home or Anglo-verna- 
cular school, they started in life, if poor, at the 
age of eighteen as umedwars, if rich, they 



77 

devoted themselves from the same age with 
their whole strength to swinish pleasures. The 
country is over-run with men of this sort and 
Mr. Dutt's picture is true in life ; but they must 
not be confounded with the really cultivated 
class, who, inspite of all that has been said 
regarding the spread of English education, are 
comparatively few in number- 

The other farce also describes the vices of a man 
who poses as a pious man but was a debauch 
within." 

The above review appeared during the lifetime 
of Madhusudan, and so far as the farces are con- 
cerned the above remarks are justly true ; but as 
regards the dramas, we humbly differ. Madhu's 
dramas did not find recognition in the first stage, as 
the Sanskrit school of critics (by far the largest at 
the time) found him a renegade from the established 
school of dramas and the Bankim school wanted a 
dramatist of a higher standard like Marlow or 
Shakespeare and as Madhu could not satisfy either 
class, he had few friends to admire him though his 
dramas, especially Krsnakumari, had much of 
dramatic excellence in them. Indeed, Madhusudan 
was the pioneer and may very well be considered as 
the best of the dramatists of the earliest history of 
Bengali dramas. 

Is this civilization was also very highly spoken 
of by the Hindu Patriot, July 31, 1856 ; 



78 

"This farce is undoubtedly one of the happiest re- 
productions of the fertile brain of the gifted 
poet- It is a life-like picture of Young 
Bengal full of sallies of wit and humour and 
written in familiar graceful Bengali." 

Now as to why these farces, though written for 
the Belgachhia Theatre, could not be acted there, we 
would better quote from the reminiscences of Babu 
Keshav Chandra Ganguly about Madhusudan. The 
following account, taken from the Biography of the 
poet, will greatly interest our readers :* 

''After the farces were written by Madhusudan 
for the Belgachhia Theatre and were subsequently 
printed at the expense of the Rajas of Paikpara and 
the characters were cast, the rehearsals commenced. 
But an adverse circumstance occured, which prevented 
their being brought on the stage. 

"A few of the young Bengal class getting a 
scent of the farce "Eke i Tci Bale Sabliyata and 
seeing that the caricature made in it touched them 
too closely, raised a hue and cry and choosing for 
their leader a gentleman of position and influence, 
who, they knew, had some influence with the Rajas 
deputed him to dissuade them from producing the 
farce on the Board of the Theatre. This gentleman 
(also a young Bengal) fought tooth and nail for the 
success of his mission." 

* * Madhusudan's Biography, 2nd Edition, p. 32-33, 
Pariiista. 



79 

'The Rajas would not yield at first, but under 
great pressure were obliged to give up the farce. 
Raja Is war Chandra Singh was so disgusted at this 
affair that he resolved not only to give up the other 
farce, but to have no more Bengali plays acted at the 
Belgachhia Theatre. This circumstance was not 
known to our friend Michael, who pestered me with 
repeated enquiries, why the farces were not taken up 
in earnest by the Belgachhia Dramatic Corps. Is it 
because we think that they were not well written. 
I could only give him an evasive reply saying that 
as one farce exposes the faults and failings of Young 
Bengal and the other, those of the old Hindus, and 
as the Rajas were popular with both the classes, 
they did not wish to offend either class by having 
them acted in theatre- The above incident how- 
ever, so much disgusted Raja Is war Chandra that he 
made every representation for having some English 
farces acted on the Boards of the Belgachhia Theatre.* 
And rehearsals actually commenced with the Raja 
himself, Dr. Rajendra Lala Mitter, Babu Keshav 
Chandra Ganguly, Babu Dinanath Ghose and others, 
but as Babu Jatindra Mohan Tagore was opposed 
to the acting of English plays or farces on the 
Boards of the Bengali Theatre, the project fell 
through and the theatre was practically suspended." 

* Jatindra Mohan in a letter, dated 22nd May, 1860, 
writes to Madhu saying, "I am led to believe that 
the Rajas will have no more Bengali plays at the 
Belgachhia." MichaeVs Biography, page 



80 

Madhu next composed a drama Subhadra, which 
he did not intend for the stage, as it was simply a 
dramatic poem. He then culled out his subject 
from the Pathan History and set upon himself to 
write a piece under the name of Rezia, daughter of 
King Altamash of the Slave Dynasty, as he thought, 
"Mahomedans are a fiercer race than ourselves and 
would afford splendid opportunity for the display of 
passion," and sent a synopsis of the play to Babu 
Keshav Chandra Ganguly, Maharaja Jatindra 
Mohan Tagore and Raja Iswar Chandra Singh for 
consideration if it could be acted at the Belgachhia 
Theatre. They, however, thought that Mahomedan 
names would not hear well in a Bengali drama and 
too many female characters therein could not be well 
represented. Keshav, however, thought, the history 
of the Rajputs would afford materials for a proper 
drama. Madhu took the subject in right earnest and 
within a space of one month's time from August 6 
to September 7, 1860, finished his drama l&sna- 
kumarl. This book, as we have seen, was dedicated 
to Keshav Chandra Ganguly. 

Madhu wanted it, as he said, his heart was set 
upon seeing it, to be acted at Belgachhia. He wanted 
Mr. Ganguly to see the Chhota Raja (Raja Iswar 
Chandra) with Dinonath and Jatindra Mohan and 
mildly threatened saying, "Mind, you all broke my 
wings once about the farces ; if you play a similar 



81 

trick this time, I shall forswear Bengali and write 
books in Hebrew or Chinese." 

But Raja Iswar Chandra was unmovable partly 
for his illness and partly for the previous disappoint- 
ment and the theatre soon became the "abode of 
Bats". In vain Madhusudan tried for its revival 
and in a letter to Mr. Ganguly he wrote : 

"It strikes me, that if the Drama is to be acted 
as it has not received even a moderate degree of 
development in this country, you had better at once 
organise your company and begin operations with 
the two acts printed- Go on rehearsing at Jatindra's 
and then you can settle whether we are to do the 
thing in the Town Theatre or blaze out at dear old 
Belgachhia 1 vote for Belgachhia." 

Madhu also selected the cast putting the role of 
Dhanadas in the hands of Keshav, but he was sorry 
to find as he wrote, "I am afraid, brother Keshav, 
we are losing that fine enthusiasm we once had in 
matters dramatic" and was stirring his friend in the 
words, "If the Rajas of Paikpara are bent upon 
shutting their doors against Sarasvati, I hope, the 
poor Goddess will still find a warm friend in Babu 
Jatindra Mohan Tagore." 

But alas ! the continued illness and the sad 
and untimely death of Raja Iswar Chandra, a prince 
amongst men, on the 29th March, 1861, put an end 
to the project for ever, The Belgachhia, the first 

11 



82 

permanent stage of Bengal, was thus broken up, 
leaving its memory for good. There is no trace of 
the stage now, but the memories of Raja brothers, 
Jatindra Mohan Tagore, Keshav Chandra Ganguly, 
above all, Madhusudan Dutt and his farce. Is this 
civilization, written for it, will ever remain fresh in 
the minds of every Bengalee, so long as civilization 
remains with us. 

The songs of KrsnaJcumarl were composed by 
Maharaja Jatindra Mohan, who, on this occasion as 
before, bore the cost of printing the drama. This is 
the first Bengali tragedy in the dramatic literature 
of Bengal and the Hindu Patriot of February 1867, 
writes thus : 

"This is the best and original drama in the Bengali 
language familiar with the richest treasures of 
the dramatic Literature of Europe and India. 
Our author had enriched his mother tongue with 
a production, which would bear comparison 
with the first class dramas of the ancient and 
modern classics. Written in chaste Bengali 
with a plot admirably developed, the characters 
beautifully fitting into each other and possessed 
of an antique grandeur, Krsnakuman if it 
had not been stamped with imprint of a modern 
press and name of a modern writer, would have 
passed as one of those master-productions of 
poetic genius, which have won for ancient 
India such an eminent place in the republic of 
letters." 



83 

This is not the place to criticise about the 
Dramatic merits of Madhusudan's genius, but it is 
undeniable that his pen produced the first successful 
Pauranik Drama,* the first tragedy, the first histori- 
cal drama and as a social sketch the first farce that 
has remained unsurpassed by any writer even until 
this day and it is he, who dreamt for National 
Theatre, hoped for it and before his death saw its 
birth and wrote dramas for it. So long as Bengali 
Drama and Theatre will have its history, Madhu- 
sudan's name will ever be remembered with sincere 
gratefulness by his countrymen- 

Rev. KESHAV CHANDRA ON THE STAGE 

Drama exercised such a fascination over the 
country that almost all her gifted sons took an 
active interest in it, and of them Eev. Keshav 
Chandra Sen, the illustrious preacher, was one. The 
name of Keshav is a bye-word amongst the educated 
Bengalees for his great oratorial powers, superb 
eloquence and the supreme gifts of carrying every- 
thing before him, like whom Europe has scarcely seen 
a dozen of preachers since the spread of Christianity 
in the west. In his student days, Keshav was a great 
lover of drama, who, with his friend and associate 
Rev. Brother Pratap Chandra Mazumder, a great 
orator ( to those orations America bore many 

* We have already mentioned about Bhadrarjun Naiak, 



84 

eloquent testimonies of appreciation and praise) and 
Babu Narendra Nath Sen (afterwards the famous 
editor of the Indian Mirror, who never faltered to 
speak the truth face to face even to an angry 
Viceroy) figured as Hamlet, Leartes and Ophelia 
respectively in the performance of Hemlet, in English 
at their native village Garifa. This was in 1857 or 
thereabout, when SaJcuntala and other Bengali 
dramas were being staged. 

The other parts were represented as follows : 

Horatio ... Akshay Kumar Mazumder. 

Polinius ... Bhola Nath Chakraverty- 

Barnardo ... Jogendra Nath Sen. 

King ... Mahendra Nath Sen. 

Queen ... Nanda Lai Das. 

An interesting and faithful account of the per- 
formance may be gathered from the well known 
book, "Life and teachings of Keshav Chandra Sen" 
by Rev. Pratap Chandra Mazumder, p. 101-102 : 

"A stage was improvised, castway European clothes 
were speedily procured from the bearers and we 
painted our faces as best as we could. Keshav 
played Hamlet most successfully, he had the 
constitution of the Danish Prince by nature. 
The present writer took the part of Leartes, 
while Narendra Nath Sen, who had thin girlish 
voice at the time, played Ophelia very feelingly. 
Considering our age and training, the perform- 
ance was successful. We kept up the play 



85 

from time to time, till Keshav's theatrical 
propensities developed into the Vidhavavivaha 
Naiak, a little while afterwards." 

As to the performance of the second drama 
Vidhava-vivaha NataTc, the same writer gives an 
interesting and faithful account as follows in pages 
114-16 of his book : 

"In the splendid building at Chitpore Eoad to which 
the Brahma School was removed in 1859, 
Keshav found a somewhat unexpected occu- 
pation. He was entrusted with the management 
of an institution very different from the Brahma 
School. It was a Dramatic Club to put on the 
stage Vidhavabivaha Natak ( Widow-marriage 
Drama) written with the object of reforming 
the cruel custom of the forced celibacy of young 
Hindu widows. By repeated representation 
of Hamlet and other performances half musical, 
half dramatic, Keshav had developed such a 
talent for stage management that the gentlemen, 
who projected this company, most of them our 
relatives and neighbours, senior to us in age, 
implicitly trusted Keshav with the sole charge of 
the new undertaking. Keshav's love for 
Shakespeare and for good dramas in general 
was unbounded, it was one of those 
dispositions, which his early asceticism never 
wholly effaced, strange as that may seem and 
which adhered to him till the last day of his life. 

He always looked upon dramatic representation not 
only as a most enlightened form of public 



86 



amusement but also as a most potent agency 
for the reformation of social evils. Abstemi- 
ous in his own personal habits, he never grudged 
to the community its legitimate share of rational 
recreation. Natural innocent joyousness he 
held to be the safety-valve of a hundred ill- 
humours in the human mind also as a great force 
by which an individual and a nation might be 
raised to the most exalted ideals. To all these 
motives were added the intense sympathy he 
felt with the marriage of Hindu widows. Since 
the inaugeration of the widow marriage reform 
in 1856,* Keshav, though then a very young man, 
wished well to the cause and did what he could 
do to contribute to its success. He, therefore, 
cheerfully accepted the management of the 
Widow marriage Drama. Four institutions now 
ran abreast each other under Keshav's super- 
vision. There was the Colootola Evening 
School, the Good Will Fraternity, the Brahma 
School and the Theatre at Chitpore Road. As 
nearly the same individuals comprised the staff 
of them all, it was sometimes amusing and 
perplexing to hear the several bells ring almost 
simultaneously for the classes of the first, the 
services of the second, lectures of the third and 
rehearsals of the fourth. 

The plot of the drama was the miserable life of a 

* In 1855, a society for the reformation of Hindu 
customs with Kisori Chand Mitter as secretary 
was formed, where Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidya* 
sagore now and then used to read pamphlets* 



87 

Hindu widow, shut in the Zenana, who t in her 
solitary friendless condition, formed an attach- 
ment to a young neighbour by whom she was 
led to course of sin. The concluding scenes 
depicted her sufferings, her suicide, her con- 
fessions with appeals to all patriotic men, to 
put an end to the forced celibacy of Hindu 
widows. The performance was first opened to 
the public in the beginning of 1859 and pro- 
duced a sensation in Calcutta, which, those, who 
witnessed it, can never forget. The represent- 
atives of the highest classes of Hindu society 
were present. The pioneer and father of the 
widow marriage movement Pandit Iswar came 
more than once, and tender-hearted as he was, 
was moved to floods of tears. In fact, there 
was scarcely a dry eye in the great audience : 
undoubtedly the most wholesome effect was 
produced. Keshav, as stage manager, was 
warmly complimented on his energy and 
intelligence and we, his friends, as amateur 
actors, who had done our best, also received 
our humble share of praise, Though his 
dramatic success brought Keshav a good deal 
before the public in that dawn and flash of his 
spiritual character, the occupation of a stage 
manager could not but soon grow uncongenial. 
He and his companions were often thrown into 
heterogenous company ; some of the parts played 
were undoubtedly harmful in their moral 
tendency ; there was inevitable dissipation, 
frivolity and a dangerous love of public 
applause. So before the end of the year the 



Theatre was given up completely and Keshav 
turned his attention to more serious and 
important subjects." 

The drama in Bengali was from the pen of late 
Babu Umesh Chandra Mitra, who treated the social 
question admirably * and the place of its perform- 
ance was at Sinduria Pati (Chitpore Road) near 
Canning Street at the house of Babu Gopal Lai 
Mullick. The Theatre was called the Metropolitan 
Theatre after the name of the Hindu Metropolitan 
College, which had been located here.f The first 
performance was on the 23rd June, 1858. 

The Hurlcara t gives an account that on April 
27, 1859, the audience numbered 500 persons, per- 
formance commencing at 8 p.m. and closed at 3 a.m. 
and the part performed by a Tol Pandit, Tarka- 
lankar and by Sukhamayi, elicited most admiration 
and that the stage scenes were well got up, and that 
thanks were due to the proprietor Muralidhar Sen. 

* Citizen, June 26, 1859. 

\ It is now at the Samkar Ghose Lane, under the name 
of the Vidyasagar College. 

t Another drama of a similar nature with Vidhava- 
udvaha Naiak was to be acted in the northern 
part of the town at Kansaripara in the house 
of a Bania, Manindra Lai Bose, Bengal Hurkara % 
May 21, 



89 



The cast as follows : 

Kirtiram Ghos 
Manmatha 

Rama Kanta 



Guru Maha^aya 

Ramdev 

Bridegroom 

Sulocana 

PadmavatI 

Daughter - in - law of 

Sukhamayi 
Rasavati 



Mahendra Nath Sen. 
Rev. Pratap Chandra 

Mazumdar. 
Prof. Krishna Bihari Sen 

(brother of Keshav Chandra 

Sen). 

Haran Chandra Mazumdar. 
Akshay Chandra Mazumdar. 
Yadav Chandra Roy. 
Behari Lai Chatterjee. 
Gopal Chandra Sen. 

Narendra Nath Sen. 
Rakhal Chandra Sen. 



The part of Sulocana was so splendidly done 
that the people doubted whether the part was really 
acted by a man or a woman, but HurJcara hoped 
that female parts should be represented by persons 
of that sex. 

It is said that songs composed by Dwaraka Nath 
Roy were set to tune by Babu Radhika Prasad 
Dutt,* who composed the concert along with 
Umesh Bhadra, Kshetra Bose, Panchanan Mitra, 
Gadadhar Mitra, Rasik Mukherjee and Beni Madhav 
Bose. 

We have another social drama under the name 

of Nava Vyndavan under the auspices of Keshav 



Prabhakara, I4th May, 1859, 



12 



90 

Chandra Sen, in the name of Chiranjiv Sarma 
(Trailokya Nath Sanyal). Keshav Babu is said to 
have taken the part of Pahafl Vava- This drama 
has often been acted and the last performance, we saw, 
was at the Victoria Institution in 1916, when Babu 
Dines Chandra Das, now an important figure in 
'Talkies', took the part of Avina3 and Mr. S. Sen 
(son of Keshav Babu) that of Pahari Vava. Indian 
Mirror also reports about an earlier performance 
of the drama, in 1882. f The play must have 
commenced long before that. 



t Indian Mirror, lycA September, 1882, 



Chapter IV 

DINABANDHU ERA 

AND 

The East Bengal Stage 

Next, we shall speak about a drama, which 
brought about a great national awakening in the 
province. The drama was the well known piece 
Nlladarpana and the dramatist was no other person 
than the great Dinabandhu Mitra, the period of 
whose domineering influence as the dramatist, was 
known as the Dinabandhu Era. The performance 
of the Nlladarpana Natak was a memorable incident 
in the history and development of the Bengali Stage. 
The honour of frequently staging the drama and 
thereby exposing to the public high-handedness of 
the oppressive Indigo planters belonged, however, to 
The "East Bengal Stage", Purvavanga-Rahgabhumi 
of Dacca, which greatly helped the cause of national 
agitation that shook then the province of Bengal 
from one end to the other. It is, however, providen- 
tial that the first national drama by Dinabandhu 
(friend of the poor) was staged in the native district 
of the great national leader De^abandhu, or the 
friend of the country. 



92 

It was about the time of the Sepoy mutiny that 
the oppression of the Indigo planters reached its 
climax and in the words of Rev. James Long "a reign 
of terror existed." An Indigo commission was 
appointed by Sir J. P. Grant, Lt. Governor, in 1860 
with Mr. W. 8. Seaton Karr as Secretary, to enquire 
into the grievances of the ryots (Praja) and the great 
patriotic editor Babu Harish Chandra Mukherjee 
rendered invaluable services by writing columns after 
columns every day about the inhuman oppression 
of the planters. It was at this time, in September, 
1860, Dinabandhu exhibited in graphic colours the 
horrors of the planters' oppression over the helpless 
ryots of Bengal, how the poor peasantry was being 
cruelly ground every day under that heartless 
system. His drama was, in fact, the Mirror, as its 
name Darpana signifies, that held up the full reflec- 
tion of the oppression and tortures practised by 
the haughty and defiant planters. Dinabandhu did 
not dare to subscribe his name as the author, but the 
book read as being "written by a certain traveller 
for the good of ryots, suffering from the bite of the 
Cobra de capello in the form of the Indigo planter,"* 

The author's experiences were only reflected in 



* The first edition of the book shows that the date of 
publication was 2nd 5vin, 1782 (Saka Era), printed 
by Ramchandra Bhowmik at Bangala Bazar Dacca 
Press. 



03 

the Mirror, as the greatest literary genius of that 
time, Bankim Chandra, writes : f 

"In consequence of Government work he had to 
travel from Manipore to Ganjam and from Darjeeling 
to seas- --he had to go from village to village- he 
had extraordinary power of mixing with people 
and he used to mix gladly with people of all classes. 
He knew intimately low caste villagers' daughters 
like Kshetramani, old village women like Aduri, 
village ryots like Torap, Dewans of Indigo Factory, 
Amins etc. In Niladarpana, author's experience 
and sympathy combined in full measure and it was 
the most powerful of all his dramas " 

Indeed, Kshetramani of the drama was none but 
Haramoni, a peasant girl of Nuddea in flesh and 
blood, known as one of the beauties of Krishnagar, 
who was carried off to the Kulchikatta factory, in 
charge of Archibald Hills, the Chhota Saheb, where 
the girl was kept in his bed-room till late hours of 
the night, and the kind Magistrate of Amarnagore 
in the drama was no other person than Mr. W. J. 
Herschel, grandson of the great astronomer and 
Act XI was nothing but the cruel summary 
procedure, which Nabin Madhav, a character in the 
drama, describes as a cruel Law and Revati, 



t Vide, Biographical sketch of Dinabandhu by Bankim 
Chandra Chatterjee. 



94 

another character, remarks that under this law, no 
appeal lies against conviction. ("Pil Hoi na")* 

Mr. R C. Dutt, I.C.S., C.I.E. also speaks about the 
drama :f 

"Dinabandhu, who was born in Chamberia village 
in the Nuddea District, had ample opportunities 
to note the doings of the planters and their 
subordinates. 

"At last, in 1860, he published his first dramatic 
work Nlladarpana anonymously, bringing 
together facts and incidents, which had come 
up to his observation and weaving them into the 
plot with the skill of a true artist." 

Now Dacca, the place of birth of this famous 
drama, gave quite a befitting representation of this 
epoch-making play, and its modes and sentiments at 
once took the country by storm. The Hurkara J 
speaks both about the drama and its performance : 

"Our native friends entertain themselves with 
occasional theatrical performances and the 
Nlladarpana was acted on one of these 



occasions." 



The effect of the drama and its performance was 
electrifying and it roused a wave of indignation 

* Indigo Commission Proceedings. 

t 'The Literature of Bengal," Chapter XVII. 

Dramatic writers, 
t Hurkara^ I2th June, 1861, A correspondent of Dacca. 



95 

throughout the length and breadth of the country as 
the following remarks of the famous scholar, preacher 
and author, Pandit Shiv Nath Sastri, will show : 

"When the celebrated patriot Harish Chandra 
Mukherjee took up his pen in the Hindu Patriot, 
the planters' Citadel of Sin trembled. When the 
people's minds were thus excited, then was 
published Dinabandhu Hitter's celebrated drama 
Nlladarpana. We shall never forget the upheaval 
which it caused in Bengali society. All of us, 
children, old men and women, became almost mad. 
It was the talk in every home and in every lodging 
was its representation ; Bengal began to quake from 
one end to the other, as if from the effects of seismic 
shock. As the result of this great upheaval, the 
oppression of the Indigo planters vanished for ever 
from Bengal."* 

Nor was the response confined to Bengal alone. 
There were arrangements for the performance of the 
drama in Bombay also. So says the Hindu 
Patriot : 

"We learn from the Times of India that the 
Editor of the Bombay Samacar Darpan has com- 
pleted arrangements to bring the Nlladarpana on the 
stage of the Grant Road Theatre. Is there no editor 

* Vide, Bengali essay National Awakening and also 
The Indigo Disturbance National Literature compiled 
by Babu Lalit Ch. Mitra, 



96 

of the Englishman type there to bring the libel- 
treating Editor to his bearing ?"* 

The above refers to the prosecution of Rev. J. 
Long at the instance of Mr- Walter Brett, editor 
Englishman, for libel, about which we ought to give 
here a short account. 

Several gentlemen of education and position 
wanted to have the book translated into English for 
the information of those, who were ignorant of the 
Bengali language, but who should be acquainted with 
the true state of national feeling on the subject and 
Mr. Seaton Karr, Chief Secretary to the Govern- 
ment of Bengal, struck with the thorough knowledge 
of village life, which the drama displayed, gave sanc- 
tion to the translation of it into English. Rev. 
James Long had it done through Michael Madhu- 
sudan Dutt of Sarmistha fame, in August 1861 and 
500 copies of this translation were sent to the 
Bengal office and out of these 202 copies were sent 
to England under official seal, and only 14 copies 
were circulated in India. Rev. J. Long wrote a very 
able preface to that translation and published it in 
his own name. 

The landowners and the Commercial Associa- 
tion backed the Indigo "planters and Mr. Walter 
Brett, then Editor of the Englishman, who was all 
along with the Editor of the Hurkara "described in 

* Hindu Patriot, $th Sept., 1861, 



97 

preface to the drama as having sold themselves for 
Rs. 1000/- like Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus 
to the Roman Pontius Pilate for a few pieces of silver 
coins," at first brought a libel action against the 
printer Mr. C. H. Manual, who was fined Rs. 10/- by 
the Supreme Court of Calcutta for his having admitted 
liability. Then a libel suit was brought against Rev. 
Long himself. The case was heard at the Criminal 
Sessions of the Calcutta High Court, presided over 
by Sir Mordaunt Wells on the 19th July, 186 1* 
Mr. Long admitted his connection with the work and 
presented a long statement in justification of his 
sympathy with the movement, describing therein how 
the drama was a genuine expression of the popular 
feeling and the effect of indigo-planting was as 
ruinous as the drama represented. The Judge, 
however, went out of his way to denounce both Mr. 
Long and the work, describing the latter as foul and 
disgusting libel. From the following instance quoted 
in the HurJcara from a passage of Nlladarpana, it 
is curious how he interpreted the facts : 

There is a conversation between Daraga and 
Zamadar where the former asks : 

"Did not the Magistrate say that he will come 
here this day ?" 



Messrs. Paterson and Cowie appeared for the prosecu- 
tion, and Messrs. Eglionton and Mewmarch for the 
defence. 

13 



98 

Zamadar : No, Sir, he had four days more to 
come. At Sachinagore on Saturday they have a 
Champagne party and ladies' dance. Mr- Wood 
can never dance with any other but our Saheb, and 
I saw that, when I was a bearer. Mrs. Wood is 
very kind, through the influence of the latter, she got 
me the zamadary of the Jail. 

The Judge in his charge directed the jury about 
the passage that it tended to make the insinuation 
against the whole body of Indigo-planters that they 
did by such means exercise an undue influence over 
the Magistrates of the districts.* Mr. Long repudiat- 
ed the suggestion that it was too far-fetched to draw 
such an inference and that as a missionary his 
conduct was dictated by his religion and conscience 
which, he said, convicted him of no moral offence or 
of any offence deserving the language used in his 
Lordship's charge to the jury. The Judge yet 

* A correspondent of the Hindu Patriot wrote : "Are 
these Magistrates fit men to govern we millions, 
when they can not resist the temptation of dining 
with the planters, and talking with their wives and 
dancing with them/' 

Selections from the Records of Bengal Government No. 
III. Page 792. The Hakims surrounded by the 
planters sit along witn them while deciding cases 
and the court is crowded with Amlahs and the 
Mokhters of the planters. 



99 

sentenced him to one month's simple imprisonment 
and to pay a fine of Rs. 1000/- 

Immediately after the sentence was passed, Mr- 
Long was heard to say "What I have done now, I 
will do again." The fine was immediately paid by 
Babu Kali Prasanna Sinha of Mahabharala and 
Vidyotsahinl fame, though many others were quite 
eager to do the same. 

The above persecution, as the Hindu Patriot* 
observed, could only be compared with the judicial 
murder of Nandakumar, more so in the arbitrariness 
of the Bench and Mr. Justice Wells, a true incar- 
nation of arrogant, haughty and Bengali-hating 
Englishman has been deservedly called Impey of the 
Nineteenth Century. 

The incarceration of this revered and benevolent 
Christian gentleman, a courageous and a loyal 
servant of the Church, evoked so much public sym- 
pathy that the Hindu community under the leader- 
ship of Rajah Radhakanta Dev held a meeting at 
his Natmandir on the 26th August, 1861, passed a 
resolution for the recall of that Judge and sent it to 
His Excellency the Viceroy, protesting against the 
indiscriminate attacks made by the judge on the 
character of the nation as a whole, to which a reply 
was communicated to Babu Jatindra Mohan Tagore 
(afterwards Maharajah), then the Honorary Secretary 



Aug. 6, 1861, Hindu Patriot. 



100 

to the British Indian Association having stated that 
though judicial officers should be careful that their 
denunciations of crime might not be interpreted into 
hasty imputations against a whole people or commu- 
nity, but in the present case such imputations were 
not intended. 

This prosecution was the first political case of its 
kind in India and the first national drama was the 
subject of the indictment. 

Popular feeling of indignation was exceptionally 
strong and its expressions were frequent in rhymes 
and songs. One of such songs ran as follows : 

Harish is prematurely cut off ; Long has been 
clapped into prison, and the Indigo monkies are 
bringing ruin upon the golden land of Bengal. 

"Asamaye Haris malo 
Longer hcdlo karagar, 
Nllbandare sonar Bahgla, 
Kallo bhai charkhar" 

Mr. Long's publication was not the only one 
translation but we hear of other translations of the 
drama, called by Mr. F. H. Skrine, as a sort of 
Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the Hindu Patriot* men- 
tions one as follows : 

"The London Special of the Hurkara states that 
Messrs. Simkim Marshall and Co., have published 

* Hindu Patriot, 26th May, 1862. 



101 

the Niladaiyana in London. Pity, the justice of Sir 
Mordaunt Wells cannot reach these enterprising 
publishers." 

The drama was, also, as Bankim Chandra writes, 
translated into other languages of Europe. 

The Calcutta Review, however, gave an unjust 
estimate of the drama. It gives it "a very low place 
as a work of art/' The importance, says the writer 
in it, "was political and not literary, and as literature 
rather than politics is our present theme, we shall not 
discuss it at great length. 5 '* We do not agree with 
this remark but consider along with Bankim Chandra 
that it was excellent as a piece of dramatic art too. 

Niladarpana was followed by Sadhavar Ekadasi, 
Navin Tapasvini, Kamalc Kaminl, Ble Pagla 
Buro and Jamai Barik\~ and in realism and action 
Dinabandhu surpassed even Madhusudan. The 
rapid passing of the age from Ramnarain to Madhu- 
sudan and from Madhu to Dinabandhu is really an 
interesting development and our readers should care- 
fully notice this. 



* Calcutta Review, Vol. 52, 1871. 
t We shall deal with these later on. 



Chapter V. 

THREE ARISTOCRATIC THEATRES 
L The Pathuriaghata Theatre. 

The Pathuriaghata Theatre was started in 1865 
by Maharaja Sir (then Babu) Jatindra Mohan 
Tagore at his palace in Pathuriaghata, It was not 
a spacious house, but a beautifully got up one. The 
scenes were singularly well painted under the super- 
vision of Girish Chandra Chatterjee, the famous oil 
painter of Postha at Pathuriaghata, specially the 
drop-scene, which was 'ablaze with aloes and water- 
lilies and was entirely oriental/* 

Jatindramohan secured the magnificent orchestra 
of the Belgachhia Theatre and amongst others, 
the assistance of the well known actors of the 
time, the co-operation of even Keshav and Priya- 
nath not being excepted. With this magni- 
ficent orchestra and the distinguished corps of the 
Belgachhia Theatre, Jatindramohan was equally 
successful in entertaining his numerous friends, 
European and Indian, for over 25 years and achiev- 



* Calcutta Review, 1837. Kisori Chand Mitter's 
reminiscences. 



103 

ing a reputation as high as what had been attained 
by its prototype, the Belgachhia. Indeed, it left a 
lasting mark in the annals of our drama.* 

Jatindramohan had published a new edition of 
Vidyasundar in 1858, with vulgar portions purged 
off and additions made suiting the occasion. A 
second edition of this was made in 1865 and with 
this dramatic version of his own, he opened the 
Theatre on the 6th January, 1866. 

Before this, there was a performance of the 
Bengali translation of Kalidasa's Malavlkagnl- 
mitra in 1859 in Ishan Babu's house under the 
direction of Babu (Sir) Saurindramohan Tagore, but 
it was the first as well as the last drama represented 
there.f The Stage as Ardhendusekhar Mustafi 
says, "was the Nautch-Hall, attached to the west 
portion of Saurindramohan's residence, the house 
belonging to the estate of Rajendranath Tagore, 
father-in-law of Ishan Babu." 

Saurindramohan once appeared in the role of 
Kancukl and Mohendra Mukherjee acted the part of 
Vidusaka. 



* Gaurdas Bysatfs Reminiscences. 

t Jatindra Mohan Tagore's letter to Madhusudan 
in 1863, Kisori Chand Mitra's article in Calcutta 
Review, 1873, Modern drama, Ardhendu Sekhar 
Mustafi's reminiscences. 

Puratan Prasahga } second series, pp. 154-56. 



104 

It is said that on the night of performance, 
Saurindra Mohan, after being dressed, came running 
on the stage and drew attention of the Maharaja, 
who appeared as king, addressing the latter." Your 
Majesty, come to the harem at once. Chota Rani 
(the younger queen) has fainted at the sight of a blue 
monkey (nil bandar). The above at once excited 
a roar of laughter amongst the audience and re- 
moved Saurindra-mohan's nervousness, who was 
comparatively green on the stage. The translation 
was made by Pandit Ramnarain with the help of 
Saurindramohan. 

But to return to Vidyasundar. When the stage 
was about to be constructed in the Maharaja's house, 
the stage in Ishan Babu's house was dismantled and 
several things of that were used in the present stage, 
the rest being done at the expense of the Maharaja*. 

Vidyasundar, staged on 6th January 1866, was 
repeated nine or ten times in continuous succession 
and the cast was distributed as follows : 
Raja Vir Sing ... Radha Prasad Basak (Simla.) 

Mantri ... (Hari Mohan Karmakar ) 

Jorasanko. 
Ganga Bhat ... Girish Chandra Chatter jee of 

Pathuriaghata well known 

painter. 
Sundar ... Mahendra Nath Mukherjee 

(Darjipara.) 



* Ardhendu Sekhar Mustafi's Reminiscences. 



105 

Dhumaketu, Kotal ... Hari Charan Banerjee. 

Vidya ... Madan Mohan Barman. 

(Hindusthani, afterwards in 
the National Theatre.) 

Hiramalin! ... Krishna Dhan Banerjee (Hu- 

... galkuria). 

Maids to the princess . . . Sulocana, Sasthidas Mukherjee 

(Khardah), Chapala, Jadunath 
Ghose, Bimala (friend of 
Chapala), Narain Ch. Basak 
(Simla). 

Pratiharl . . . Umanath Chatter] ee. 

Praharl ... Brajadurlabh Dutt (Aheree- 

tola). 

The stage-rehearsal had been held on the 30th 
December, 1865, before the Raja of Rewa, who had 
come to Calcutta for an interview with Lord Law- 
rence, the Viceroy of India and was a guest to 
Jatindra Mohan in his Emerald Bower. None but 
the distinguished guest with his retinue and the 
members of the host's family were present on the 
occasion of the first performance. It is said that the 
Raja was so highly pleased with the play that when 
it was over, he caused two packages of Kashmere 
shawls and a bag of money to be brought 
and offered for distribution to the actors. But 
it was courteously explained by Jatindra Mohan 
that as amateurs they could not accept the 
presents, but were all the same thankful to the 

14 



106 

Raja* for the kind offer, indeed. Such was the 
enthusiasm of the people for Pathuriaghata palace 
plays, that three or four days before the per- 
formance, all the tickets issued as complimentary 
cards to the guests were exhausted. 

Ardhendu Shekhar Mustafi, the great artist of 
the National Theatre of the subsequent time speaks 
of the rehearsals, thus : 

"I used to go to the rehearsals, which were held 
almost every night. Babu Ghanashyam Bose of 
Garanhatta was the manager f and Keshav Chandra 
Ganguly of Gosainpara the master- -Brajadurlabh's 
and Girish Babu's performance was considered to 
be very pleasing and faultless. Radhaprasad Babu 
was no inferior to them but all the same Brajadurlabh 
Babu was in my opinion the best of the lot. His 
superior talents were noticeable even in the insigni- 
ficant part of a watcher. At the time of inflicting 
punishment on Malini, the speech and movements 
and the manner of dealing her with Cuffs appeared 
to be very interesting." 

As to how Vidyasundar was appreciated by the 

* Michael's Biography, Page 651. The Prabhakar^ 
Jan. 3, 1866 corroborates the presence of the Raja 
of Rewa. 

t Prabhakar of 1 3th Feb. 1866, calls him Honorary 
Secretary. 



107 

educated public will appear from the following 
review of the Bengalee, 13th January, 1866 : 

"The impersonation of the characters was almost 
faultless. The part of Hira was well sustained. 
She was a pretty woman herself, past maturity, 
but upon whom age had not yet quite told so 
as to make her appear less charming. She was 
an agreeable talker, sly and coquettish but not 
innately corrupt or vicious. Indeed, no sooner 
she saw Sundar, she was herself smitten by his 
person and his address. But the warmer 
sentiment melted away as soon as she learnt 
that the person upon whom Sundar had set his 
heart was her own sweet mistress : She was 
too willing to forward his views but by fair and 
honorable means. The young lovers, however, 
were for the romance of secret love and they 
accordingly kept Hira carefully out of the way- 
She was thus innocent of all their intrigues and 
when she was brought to grief as one privy 
to the whole affair, she cursed herself for 
having ever given shelter to such an adventurer. 

The part of Vidya was capitally done. It was 
essentially feminine. Her love was of her a 
thing not apart. It was her whole existence. 
She was nothing if not lovely. Even in her 
grief, her eyes swollen with tears, when the sad 
news that Sundar had been caught and sentenc- 
ed to die was broken to her, she sank under its 
weight without being boisterous, t in a manner 
that made her look more interesting and lovely 
than even when she was happy. The songs 



108 

which poured fourth under an effort to relieve 
herself were truly pathetic, though we must say 
that they somewhat interfered with the effect 
produced by her capital acting. 

The character of Sundar was rather inelegant and 
rough. Ganga Bhat and the Rajah's Mantri 
acquitted themselves so well that we had 
nothing left to wish for. The Rajah was equal- 
ly a successful character. But the two cham- 
ber maids of Vidya were altogether deficient. 
There were nothing feminine about them. Their 
dress was ill chosen, which heightened the 
slovenliness of their appearance. 

The Vidyasundar Natak was followed by a very 
laughable farce, which added much to the en- 
tertainment of the evening. The whole burthen 
of the satire fell upon the devoted head of a 
stupid old Munsiff, who already declined in the 
vale of years, had the variety to offer himself to 
a neighbour's wife as a lady's man. 

The scenes> both in the Natak and in the farce,* were 
well painted and some were admirably suited 
to the occasion. We noticed particularly the 
humble but elegant cottage of Hira, which per- 
haps was taken from some existing model. The 
Orchestra was excellent and shewed consider- 
able improvement upon those we had heard 
before. 

When we left we only wished that the female 
characters could be represented by women ; for 

Yeman Karma Teman PhaL 



109 

all the time we were painfully alive to the 
demoralizing tendency of boys and young men 
throwing themselves into the attitude, the 
gestures, motions and even the voluptuousness 
of women. But as under existing circumstances 
of native society, it is not possible to have any 
but courtezans to join the Corps Dramatique, 
we must choose the lesser of the two evils."* 

The performances and rehearsals of Vidyar 
sundar created a taste for stage in the minds of the 
illustrious actor Ardhendu Sekhar, who became 
afterwards one of the most prominent figures on 
the Bengali Stage. 

The next farce Bujhle Kina, "Do you under- 
stand", first performed in December 1866, was also 
a great success and elicited frequent applause and 
loud roars of laughter from the audiance.f 

Mafatlmadhav, translated by Pandit Ramnarain 
Tarkaratna from Bhavabhuti's drama of the name, 
was performed in 1869. In 1870, two farces 
Ubhaya Sankata, or the horns of a dilemma and 
Caksurdana, (opening of eyes) both from the pen of 
Jatindra Mohan gave sufficient mirth to the specta- 

* The Bengalee I3th January, 1866. 

f "The Bengalee" Dec. 22, 1866. 

Mahendranath Vidyanidhi says, "It was in 1867, 3ist 
September." As it was staged several times, we 
cannot ascertain with accuracy when was it first 
staged. Here it is not very material too, 



no 

tors. In the former, the evils of poligamy were 
described and the other roused the sense of a pro- 
fligate young man. 

The Patrika noticed the usefulness of these ins- 
tructive pieces observing that one performance 
produces such good in society as one hundred 
speeches cannot do* 

Indeed, the 'farces' depicted the manners and 
customs of the age. Although they attacked with 
merciless severity the imperfections and ludicrous 
infirmities of the modern age, they did not render the 
same, our objects of dislike, nor those excited disgusif 

Of the artists, Mahendranath Mukherjee's 
Makaranda in Malatimadhav was excellent as his 
Vidusaka in Malavtkagnimitra. His performance 
was so very amusing that on one occasion, Lord 
Northbrook, who now and then came to witness the 
performance called him to his presence. Mahendra 
Babu bowed down to him and addressed the Viceroy 
as "Sir", instead of "Your Excellency", or "My Lord", 
and for this he was afterwards reprimanded by the 
Maharaja brothers, but Mahendra Babu replied in 
his usual amusing manner, "otherwise, why should I 
be only a clerk in Gillander's House ?"J 

* Amrita Bazar Patrika^ loth March, 1870. 

t Kisori Chand Mitra. onJHindu drama, Calcutta Review, 

1873. Vol. 57. 
$ Mahendra Babu's reminiscences in Puratan Prasanga* 



Ill 

To the disappointment of all, no piece was acted 
in 1871, but early in 1872, on the 13th January, the 
stage re-opened with Rukminlharan followed by 
the farce, Ubhayasahkaia. 

Rasaviskarvrndak was a later production in 
1881. Coming from the pen of Raja Saurindra 
Mohan Tagore, it represented the nine Rasas (emo- 
tions) of Kavya (poetry), Hasya (laughter), Vilapa 
(lamentation) etc., as described in Natydsastra. The 
incidents were taken from the Ramayana and 
Mahabharata e. g. Karunrasa was represented by 
Laksmana's leaving Sita in the forests and Sita's 
lamentation, Hasy by Kalanemi's Lankabhaga, Bhay 
Rasa ( terrific ) by the presence of Nrsimha etc. 

It was composed for exhibiting at the Emerald 
Bower on the occasion of the College Reunion, held 
on 4th February, 1881, but the hall, where the stage 
was built, was too insufficient for the large audiance 
that assembled there and the performance had to be 
stopped. Then the performance was enacted at the 
stage of the Pathuriaghata Palace on the 12th 
February, 1881. 

Some time after, when their Excellencies visited 
the palace on invitation, some scenes were shown to 
them for their entertainment * and the scene 
"Vangavalakartrk Briteniya Arati" was also shown 

* The statement of Mahendranath Vidyanidhl, as correct- 
ed by Rai Bahadur Baikuntanath Bose, 



112 

when the subjects of Her Majesty the Chinese, 
Mags, Mussalman, Hindu, Christian were all 
gathered together. 

Music at The Pathuriaghata Theatre. 

Music is a principal feature of dramatic perform- 
ance and Pathuriaghata did not lack superiority in 
point of this. 

We have seen that the Orchestra of Belgachhia, 
introduced at the suggestion of Jatindra Mohan, was 
the first concert in a Bengali Theatre and was a 
thing of great attraction. After the closing of that 
Theatre, not only was this secured for Pathuriaghata, 
but supplemented further by the recent innovations 
of his brother Saurindra Mohan, and assisted by the 
co-operation of the famous musician, Kshetramohan 
Gosain, author of Sahgltasar and Svaralipi and 
Krishnadhan Banerjee, author of Setarsiksa, it 
was a thing of great mirth and masterly 
art Gosain was no doubt a musician of superior 
order, but Raja Saurindra Mohan must be credited 
with being the most conspicuous figure who 
revived Hindu Music on a scientific basis and there 
was no second to him, both in vocal and instrumental 
music. He was recognized for his musical talents 
throughout the world and the Universities of Oxford 
and Philadelphia conferred titles of Doctor of Music 
on him- He started a school Bengal Academy of 
Music, in 1881 and the books of Kshetramohan 



113 

and Kali Prasanna Banerjee also contained notations 
introduced by him. Hindu Music, thus revived by 
the Rajah, thoroughly demonstrated its superiority 
over European music and was made an accom- 
paniment of the performance of Malatlmadhava, 
where the present notation of Hindu Music was for 
the first time introduced.* 

Closely connected, as it is, with our subject, the 
description of Hindu instrumental music given by 
Babu Kisori Chand Mitra in the last pages of Hindu 
Dramaf as to the ancientness of I. Stringed instru- 
ments ( Vina, Setar, Tambura), II Pulsatile Instru- 
ments (Dholoka, Khol, Dhole, Nagara, Baya, Tabala), 
III Percussion Instruments (Mandira, Kartal, Kansi, 
Nupur) and IV Wind instruments (Mohan Bani, 
Sankha) ought to interest our readers. 

On the 25th February, 1873, Lord Northbrooke, 
who was present at one of the performances of 
Rukmimharana and Ubhayasankata along with the 
Hon'ble Miss Baring, the Marquis of Stafford, His 
Honour the Lieutenant Governor, several members 
of the Executive and Legislative Councils, Secretaries 
to Government, and other Indian notabilities, was 
greatly pleased with the Orchestra and on the closing 
of the drama examined the different instruments and 

* Vide : also The Hindu Patriot, Jan. 15, 1872. 
t Modern Hindu Drama^ CaL Review, 1873, 

15 



114 

expressed himself highly delighted with what he saw 
and heard. In fact, he carried away a very good 
opinion of Indian music. 

Kaja Saurindra Mohan Tagore had prepared an 
English translation of the airs played by the 
Orchestra, which was put in the hands of the Euro- 
pean guests to help them in understanding the 
music. 

That Lord and Lady Bipon also showed much 
interest in the Pathuriaghata Orchestra, we get 
from the reminiscences of Babu Gaurdas Bysak and 
the note attached to it by Michael's biographer 
Jogindranath* : 

"Special interest for the Belgachhia concert was 
evinced by Her Excellency the Lady Ripon. She 
used to scrutinize every instrument and the manner 
in which each was played upon. She, more than 
once, visited the Pathuriaghata. It was at her special 
request that the Maharaja deputed Belgachhia 
Orchestra Company, to entertain their Royal High- 
nesses, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, who 
greatly appreciated the music. The Duke remarked 
that some of the airs were particularly delightful." 

Thus with the national sentiments, enterprise, 
public spirit and enlightened liberality f of Maharaja 

* Parisista, page 651, third edition, 
t A. B. Palrika } March 10, 1870, u no money was 
spared for scenes and dress," 



Sir Jatindra Mohan Tagore and the artistic 
superiority of his worthy brother Saurindra Mohan, 
the Pathuriaghata Theatre rose to the rank of a 
National Institution in Bengal/ 1 " It achieved a 
success, which considering the paucity of dramatic 
talent, was simply wondered at. 

II. THE JORASANKO THEATRE 

The contributions of the Jorasanko Thakurbari 
are also no less remarkable to the development of 
the Bengali stage- No doubt, the theatre started by 
the nephews and sons of Maharshi Devendra Nath 
was short-lived but their endeavours to resuscitate 
our Hindu Drama should be remembered with 
gratitude. The Tagore family is one of geniuses of 
Bengal and it has continually kept up histrionic 
art in full vigour for more than a century. We 
have seen the Prince Dwarkanath having patronised 
the Chowringhee and Sansouci theatres and at one 
time the Chowringhee theatre would have closed its 
doors permanently but for his large-hearted contri- 
bution. In the building fund of the Sansouci also 
he headed the list of donors, t 

Dwarkanath's son Babu Girindra Nath wrote a 
drama Vavuvilasl which was acted in the Tagore 
House. 

We have heard of another of his sons 

* Hindu Patriot, Jan. 15, 1872. 

t Pages 256, 269, 277, My Indian Stage> Vol* L 



116 

Nagendra Nath's attempt of starting Theatre.* Then 
again of the next generation, which we shall here 
describe. Next to that, too, we find that Jyotirindra 
Nath was not only a brilliant musician but also a 
dramatist of no mean order. Purovikram, Asrumatl 
and Sarqjim staged afterwards at the Great National 
Theatre and the Bengal Theatre were soul-stirring 
national dramas of the time. Then again, Babu 
Abanindra Nath is an artist of rare merit, and 
last though not the least, the world-renowned Poet 
Rabindra Nath has been occasionally seen on the 
stage till the other day besides producing his well- 
known dramas Raja Rani, Visarjan, Acal- 
ayatan, Tapatl, Cirakumarsabha, Citrangada etc. 

The following geneological table may be of some 
interest to our readers : 

Dwarkanath Badhaaath 







ath 


1 1 

Devendranath G 

1. Dwijendra, 
2. Satyendra, Q a , 
3. Hemendra, 
4. Jyotirindra, 
5. Babiiidra. 


2 | 3 Srin 
irindranath Nagendranath 


1 1 
len Gunen Daughter 
| m Jagadish 
1 Gaganendra, Ganguly 
2 Bamarendra, 
3 Abanindra. 


Daughter 
m. Nilkamal 
Mukherjee. 



Says the National Paper > nth. Dec. 1872: "The 
first project was by the late Hon'ble Prasanna 
Kumar Tagore. The next by Nabin Chandra 
Bose....The third attempt of the kind was made 
by the late Babu Nagendra Nath Tagore. He 
was very successful in his attempt..." 



11? 

The Jorasanko Theatre was organised by the 
members of the Tagore family and the performers 
were also themselves and their friends. Pandit 
Mahendra Nath Vidyanidhi to the best help of the 
future historian collected the reminiscences of persons 
associated with this theatre or those who were 
present there. We shall narrate here the facts 
common to the reminiscences of Babu Nil Kamal 
Mukherjee, Akshay Kumar Mazumdar, Ardhendu 
Sekhar Mustafi and Jyotirindra Nath Tagore. Nil 
Kamal was closely associated with this theatre and 
used to keep a diaiy and put into it incidents of this 
theatre and Akshay Kumar was the principal 
actor, being well known as Comic and was in charge 
of rehearsals. 

The youngsters Jyotiiindranath, Gunendranath 
and others at the beginning used to rehearse poems 
and select passages of dramas like J&rsnafaiman, 
Eke-i-ld-vale Sabliyata and Vidhavaviva/ia Natak, 
in the last of which Krishna Behari Sen acted in the 
role of Padma. These were confined only to the 
members of the family,* and considered by the 
elder members of the house as "Child's Play/' 
On an occasion when a toy-stage was being 
built in one of the rooms, Ganendranath finding 
that it was done at the instance of his brother 
Gunendra, accosted him thus : 



* Reminiscences of Jyotirindranath Tagore. 



118 

"What's the good in spending money over a 
shadowy thing ? If you want a stage, do it in a 
proper way and after full deliberation." 

Then a committee was formed with Ganendra- 
nath, Nilkamal Mukherjee, Jajnes Prakas Ganguly, 
Srinath Tagore and Devendranath's eldest son 
Dwijendranath. As however no suitable drama was 
available, the projectors advertised in the Indian 
Daily News of 22nd January, 1865, for well written 
dramas depicting the evils of poligamy and announc- 
ed a prize of Rs. 200. 

Ramnarain responded to the call and obtained 
the prize by writing his Navanatak, which was 
approved by Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar 
and Babu Raj Krishna Banerjee.* 

The drama was then put on boards and was 
staged on 5th January, 1867 and repeated eight times 
and the last having on the 23rd Feb. 1867. The 
stage was built in the big hall in the first floor and 
scenes were regularly painted. 



* Other dramas were also advertised on i5th Feb. 1865, 
Indian Daily News. 

I. The Hindu Females their condition and helrx" 

lessness. Prize Rs. 2oo/-. Time ist Feb. 

II. The Village Reminders Period ist Feb. 1866, 

Prize Rs. ioo/-. Time ist Feb. 

The dramas are to be written in Bengali and have to 
be dedicated to the Jorasanko Theatre. 



119 

The characters were represented by elderly 
people" 1 ' and cast as follows : 

MALES 

Gave3 Vavu (village Zeminder) Akshay Kumar Mazum- 

dar. 
Sudhir ... Sarada Prasad Mukher- 



Vidharmavagi^a ... Ananda Chandra Bhatta- 

charjee. 

Cittatos (flatterer) ... Jadunath Mukherjee, 

(Maharshi's son-in-law). 

Neighbour (of the village) ... Sailendra Nath Tagore. 

Neighbour (of the town) ... Nil Kamal Mukherjee. 

(Girindra Nath's son-in- 
law.) 

Dambhacarya (Dalapati) ... Bhuvan Mohan Chatter- 

jec. 

Kautuk (Bachelor neighbour) Matilal Chakravarty. 

Subodh (Gave3 Babu's 

eldest son) ... Benode Lai Ganguly. 

(Amritalal's elder brother, 
Jyotirindranath's brother- 
in-law). 

Madho (servant) ... Sailendranath Tagore. 

FEMALES 

Savitri (1st wife of Gave3) ... Sarada Prasad Ganguly. 

(Maharshi's son-in-law). 

Candralekha ( 2nd wife of 

Gave3 ... Amrita Lai Ganguly, 

(Jyotirindranath's 
brother-in-law). 

* Jyotirindranath's Reminiscences, 



120 

Amala (Neighbour) ... Thaka Bhusan Ganguly. 

Kamala ... Dinanath Ganguly. 

Vimala ... Radhabinode Chatterjee. 

Capala ... Hem Chandra Banerjee. 

Nata ... Nil Kamal Mukherjee. 

Nati ... Jyotirindranath Tagore. 

The characters were mostly the members of the 
family. 

Kisorichand Mitra writes of the Jorasanko 
Theatre : 

"Akshay Babu acted in the role of the husband 
Gave and the misery of the domestic life was vividly 
realized. In truth, the acting* was infinitely better 
than the writing of the play. Not only Gaves Babu 
but almost all the other actors acquitted themselves 
most creditably. It is a thousand pities that the 
untimely demise of Babu Ganendra Nath Tagore 
proved a death-blow to the Jorasanko Theatre." 

Gaurdas Babu also says : 
"The representations which they gave from time 
to time in their house and in which they themselves 

* So says Jyotirindranath Yakhan GaveS 1 Vavur chota 
ginni o vada ginni Gave& vavur ek ek{;a pa dakhal 
kariya tail mardan karivar janya fnaf;ani karita, 
at valita eta amar pa, tui amar patay kena tail 
makhchis, ityadi, takhan Gave,4 vavur avastha o 
mukhabhangi dekhiya dar^akera keval hasiyii gada- 
gadi ditei vaki rakhita. 

Indeed, Akshay Kumar was a jestor of no less distinction 
than Babu Keshav Chandra Ganguly. 



121 

took the part of actors could not be surpassed In 
respect of the excellence of acting, the exquisiteness 
of music and the sweetness of the songs." 

"There was a magnificent concernt party with 
amateur and paid musicians, Bishnu Charan 
Chatterjee the celebrated singer of the Brahma 
Samaj, leading the tune and Jyotirindra Nath 
playing on the Harmonium. The concert was 
excellent. It had no borrowed airs and was quite 
in keeping with national taste."* 

Everybody was glad at this time to notice the 
return of old days of friendship and union amongst 
Europeans and Indians. There was at that time a 
good number of social gatherings, where both the 
classes united very freely and cordially, the latest 
one of that period was held at the house of 
Babu Ganendra Nath Tagore on the occasion of 
the performance of the Navanatak. Many respec- 
table European and Indian gentlemen were present. 
Babu Jnanendra Mohan Tagore Barrister-at-Law 



The National Paper. Jan 9, 1867. About acting also, 
the Paper says : 

' l Beginning with the graceful bow of the Naji, the 
representation of every succeeding character 
elicited loud shouts of applause from all sides, 
and rendered the whole scene an object of 
peculiar amusement to the audience''. 



122 

entertained the whole party with lively conver- 
sation, t 

Navamtak was followed by Manomayl and 
Allek Vavu, but that the Jorasanko Natya Samaj 
was short lived and came to a close in 1867, is also 
mentioned in the preface of a drama Hindu Mahila 
Nafakj whose author Babu Bepin Mohon Sen Gupta 
of Shamra got a prize of Rs. 200 in 1868 in res- 
ponse to the advertisement for the best drama for 
Hindu Females. 

We close this chapter with a few words as to 
how the Tagores showed great honour to a dramatist 
for writing a Bengali drama. Jyotirindra Nath said : 

"A very important function celebrated the prize- 
giving ceremony. It was a memorable day. All 
the elite of the town was present and the amount of 
Rs. 500 was put in heaps in a silver plate. The 
drama was read, met with universal applause and 
the money was paid to Ramnarain by the president 
of the meeting, the late Babu Peari Chand Mitter, 
author of Alaler Gharer DulaV\ 

Such patronage and appreciation was worthy of 
the Jorasanko Tagore House, which is still very 
famous for art, poetry and culture. 

I The National Paper, Feb., 6, 1867, 



123 
VALMIKIPRATIBHA 

Though of a later date, we cannot but mention 
an important drama from the pen of Rabindra 
Nath. It was the well known piece Valrnikipratibha 
by Rabindra Nath and we cannot do greater justice 
to it than quote from the reminiscences of late Babu 
Amritalal Bose : 



short, sweet piece was performed at the 
Jorasanko House in 1880, before a congregation of 
literary celebrities. Rabi Babu was in his teens, when 
he wrote this play. Babus Akshay Kumar Sarkar 
and Indra Nath Banerjee returned from Jorasanko 
at the National Theatre at Beadon Street, when my 
farce Tilatarpan was being first staged and gave us a 
brilliant account of the play, predicting a great future 
for the boy-poet and composer." 

Ill THE SOBHA BAZAR PRIVATE 
THEATRICAL SOCIETY 

In 1864, an association for dramatic perform- 
ances was formed with Babu Chandra Kali Ghose as 
president, Umesh Chandra Mitra as Secretary and 
members of the Raj family as members, and under 
the auspices of this, Is this Civilisation ( Eke-i-ki* 
vale Sabhyata) was staged on the 4th and 29th July, 
1865, in the house of Raja Devi Krishna Deb at 
1/5, 2/6 Raja Nava Kissen Street, North Calcutta. 



124 

The performance, as the Hindu Patriot remark- 
ed, was exceedingly creditable to the young amateurs ; 
scenes were appropriate and well done ; music, though 
not keeping with high merits of acting, was not 
inferior, dancing varied and spirited and indeed one 
of the principal attractions of the performance, but 
the paper objected to the representation of this farce 
on the stage of a family theatre.* 

The characters, all of which sustained their parts 
admirably and equally well, were cast as follows : 

Kali Vavu ... Kumar Upendra Krishna Dev 

Nava Vavu ... Mani Mohan Sarkar. 

Cooly and Kamala ... Kumar Uday Krishna. 

Karta, Durmukh and 

Mantri ... Peari Baishnav. 

Gardener ... Preo Madhav Bose Mullick. 

Harakamini ... Kumar Brajendra Krishna. 

Prasannamayi ... Kumar Amarendra Krishna. 

Nrityakali and Vavu ... Gopal Chandra Rakshit. 

Krsnalcuman Naiak was next taken up and 
staged in the same year. Babu Mahendra Nath 

* Although the farce is undoubtedly one of the happi- 
est productions of the fertile brain of the gifted 
poet and is a lifelike picture of Young Bengal, full 
of sallies of wit and humour and written in grace- 
ful and familiar Bengali, but the poet has neces* 
sarily depicted habits and practices, which are 
equally shocking to good taste and morals. 

The Hindu Patriot, $istjuly % 2^65, 



125 

Vidyanidhi is definite on the point, although we 
have no newspaper report in corroboration. Very 
likely, it was confined to a select few and not a public 
one. The theatre was then abruptly closed. 

It is also worthy of note that Maharaja Jatindra 
Mohan Tagore was arranging rehearsals of Knnar 
kumari in his palace, but his revered mother not 
consenting to a tragedy being acted in the house, 
the idea was given up there. 

Eighteen months after, Krsnakumarl was again 
acted under the direction of a new committee with 
Babu Kali Prasanna Singh as the President, 
Rajendra Nath Banerjee vice-President and Babu 
Barada Kanta Mitra, a son-in-law of the Raj family 
as Secretary and Pyari Mohan Das (Peari Vaishnav), 
Mani Mohan Sarkar, author, and members of the 
Raj family as members of the Executive Committee. 

The first public performance after the Theatre 
was revived, was held on February 8, 1867. The 
Hindu Patriot (llth February 1867) gives a des- 
cription of this in very flattering terms : 

THE SOBHABAZAR THEATRE. 

Rrmakumari is the best and indeed the only 
original drama in the Bengali language. 
Familiar with the richest treasures of the 
literature of Europe and India, our author has 
enriched his mother tongue with a production, 
which would have comparison with the first 



126 

class dramas of the ancient and modern 
classics. 

The scenes of Krsnakumarl are laid in that 
region of Indian Chivalry, which has been the 
theme of many a song and tale, we mean the 

Rajputana States The reader must have 

seen that it requires no mean histrionic talent 
to reproduce the thrilling events on the stage 
with immense effect. We must, therefore, make 
every allowance for the shortcomings of the 
amateurs of the Sobhabazar Theatre, who with- 
out the advantage of an experienced director 
certainly did as much as could be fairly 
expected from them. 

The first three acts lacked life and animation but as 
the plot thickened and the interest of the 
audience increased, the actors rose to the level 
of cries. The death scene was very affecting. 
It drew tears from many eyes. All the charac- 
ters in the 1st Act were more or less equal to 
the occasion and the general effect was one of 
decided success. There are some very promis- 
ing amateurs in this corps such as the young 
men, who personated the characters of Dhanadas, 
Madanika, Bhim Singh, Balendra and Satya 
Das and if they persevere, we have no doubt, 
they will in time prove very successful actors. 
The scenes were well painted and some of 
them were indeed exquisitely done. We parti- 
cularly liked the garden scene. The rolling 
of the thunder was also well imitated. 

As for the concert, great pains seemed to have 



127 

been taken for it. The amateurs did not follow 
the beaten track of the Belgachhia and 
Pathuriaghata Theatres. Their tunes, too, we 
must confess, improved as the plot thickened. 
We wish that they would lay less stress on the 
Dholak which, to our ear, gave too much of 
Akrai character to the music. 

Pandit Mahendra Nath Vidyanidhi not only 
collected facts from contemporaneous persons, but 
also quoted the above report of the Hindu Patriot 
verbatim. As such, with all sources to distinguish 
facts from fiction, his account possesses great value 
as to their authenticity. 

The cast was as follows : 
MALES 

Bhim Singh, Rana of Udaypur Babu Bihari Lai Chatter- 

jee*. 
Balendra Singh (Raja's brother) Preomadhav Bose 

Mullick of Hogalkuria. 

Satya Das ... Kumar Ananda Krishna. 

Jagat Singh ... Upendra Krishna. 

Narayan Missir ( Jaypur Maha- 

raj) ... Beni Madhab Ghosh. 

Dhana Das ... Mani Mohan Sarkar. 

Sutradhar ... Kshetra Mohan Bose. 

FEMALES 

KfSnakumari ... Kumar Brajendra 

Krishna. 



Babu Kali Prasanna Singh was to have played the 
part but very much engrossed in private affairs, 
he could not do that, 



128 

Ahalya Bai (Raja's daughter) Son of Raja Narendra 

Krishna, Kumar Amar- 
endra Krishna. 

Tapasvini ... Uday Krishna Dutta. 

Vilasavati (mistress to Maha- 
raja) ... Haralal Sen of Aheritola. 
Madanika ... Jivan Krishna Dev. 
Do. First attendant 

(Sahachari) Hiralal Sen. 
2nd ... Nakul Chandra 

Mukherjee. 

Manimohan Sarkar was to have played the part 
of Madanika, but he took the part of Dhanadas as 
Babu Peari Mohan Das, to whom the selection fell 
before, could not act before, and his part of 
Madanika was played by Babu Jivan Krishna Dev. 
Thus was Jivan Babu termed Disbanded Madanika 
Kali Avatar.* He, on a later occasion, played the 
part of Kali in Padmabatl. 

After this we do not hear any more of this 
Theatre, but the example set by the above represent- 
ations in Pathureaghata, Jorasanko and Shobhabazar 
paved the way for the establishment of many public 
theatres in Bengal. 



Rahgabhumi, 1307, 2oth Magh, 



Chapter VI 



THE BENGALI THEATRE OF BOWBAZAR. 

The Bowbazar Theatre started by some Bengali 
amateurs of the locality brings us specially into 
contact with a poet and dramatist Babu Manomohan 
Bose, whose genius as a play-wright and author of 
national songs needs no further mention. Babu 
Chuni Lai Bose, who had often, before this, appeared 
in the Belgachhia as Nati and in different female 
roles in the Pathuriaghata Theatre organised the 
Theatre and Babu Baladev Dhara, who also appeared 
in the Pathuriaghata Theatre was his chief assistant 
Manomohan Babu, who had hitherto distinguished 
himself as a composer of Kavi and Half Alc^Lai 
songs was approached by Chuni Babu for a dramatic 
piece and the former agreeing, the party set to work 
about the construction of a stage in Bowbazar, which 
was built in the courtyard of Babu Govinda Chandra 
Sarkar, 3, Govinda Sarkar's Lane, then known as 
Biswanath Matilal Lane. It was here that the first 
drama of Manomohan, Ramabhisek Noiak (instal- 
lation of Rama as a Crown Prince) was staged on a 
Saturday in the beginning of 1868 and the cast was 
as follows : 

17 



130 



)a3aratha 



tama 



jaksmana 



umantra 

r idusaka 

>andis 

iajadnta 



MALES 

Ambika Banerjee. 

Uma Charan Ghose (of Raipur). 

Baladev Dhara (an organiser). 

Hriday Banerjee. 

Pratap Chandra Banerjee 

(an organiser). 
Matilal Basu. 

Bihari Das and Kanai De. 
Kali Haldar. 
Nanda Lai Dhar. 

FEMALES 



!au6alya ... Chuni Lai Bose. 

umitra ... Chandra Mukherjee. 

ita ... Ashutosh Chakraverty (of Shibpur). 

rmila ... Bihari Dhar, 

[anthara ... Kshetra Mohan De. 

ati ... Nanda Ghose. 

A correspondent of the National Paper, who 
itnessed the performance says : 

"The stage was beautiful, scenes were in accord- 
ace with requirements. Visitors were well received 
ad actors were elegantly and suitably dressed and 
le whole performance was excellent/' 

March 25, 1868, National Paper. 

The performance was successful and the drama 
enceforth became a popular piece for all amateur 
arties. It was thus ironically termed as Varna- 
aricaya Natak. 



131 

Prominent among the respectable gentlemen, who 
frequently came to witness the performance*, were 
Maharaja Sir Nripendra Narayan Bhup Bahadur 
of Coochbehar, Raja Digambar Mitra, Mr. W. C. 
Banerjee afterwards the famous Barrister of the 
Calcutta High Court, Sir Chandra Madhav Ghose 
the late officiating Chief Justice of Bengal, Poet 
Hemchandra Benerjee and some of the Judges of the 
High Court, both European and Indian. 

Manomohan's next successful drama Sail Nakalc 
was very admirably staged in the winter of 1872 and 
the dress and drapery to be worthy of the king 
Daksa had to be selected from the wardrobe of a 
rich inhabitant of Hatkhola, namely Dayal Chand 
Dutt, who was intimate with the Babus of Bow- 
bazar. The cast was as follows : 

MALES 

Daka & Siva ... Chuni Lai Boset 

Santiram ... Mati Lai Basu 

Narada ... Pratap Chandra Banerjee 

Sabhapala ... Nityananda Dhar 

Nagarpala ... Baladev Dhara 

Nandi ... Kanai Behari Dhar 

Vai$nava ... Beni Madhav De. 

Saiva ... Kshetra Mohan De 

Nata ... Nanda Lai Dhar 

*Madhyastha, Magh, 1280 on Satl Naiak gives a review, 
but we refrain from giving it as being edited by 
the dramatist himself. 

\Vide % page 68 of this volume. 



132 
FEMALES 

Prasuti ... Abinash Chandra Ghose 

Sati ... Ashutosh Chakravarty 

A^uini . . . Chandra Mukherjee 

Alaka ... Bihari Dhara 

Magha ... Kali Chatterjee t 

Sanaka ... Nanda Ghose 

Maya ... Nanda Ghose 

Bijaya ... Kali Chatterjee 

... Nanda Ghose 



We find, however, an account of the play in 
Amritabazar Patrika, 22nd January, Tuesday, 
1874: 

"Some respectable persons of Bowbazar have 
got a stage for amateur performances built at their 
cost. Sail Natak was staged last Saturday. Parts 
were ably rendered by the artists. We have been 
much pleased with the performance. The sentences 
of Prasuti and Sati should better be curtailed. The 
Orchestra was very pleasing". 

The Englishman of March 17, 1874, also says : 

"The Bowbazar Amateur Theatre was well fitted 
on Saturday night, when Sail Nafak was performed. 
The Maharaja of Vizingram, Rajah Chandra Nath 
Roy, the Pakur-Raj and several respectable 
European and native gentlemen were present. The 
acting on the whole was a success." 

The party next staged Manomohan's Ham- 



133 

candid, written in December, 1874*, which, how- 
ever, for the misfortunes to the organiser of the 
play Babu Chunilal Basil in the death of his wife 
and eldest son, the whole party became frightened 
and the Theatre had to be closed for good. 

For the graphic description of the Bowbazar 
Theatre and the staging of the plays of Manomohan 
Bose, we are thankful to Mr. Sailendra Nath 
Mitra, M. A., Senior Professor of Pali, University 
College, CaL and an erudite scholar, for the laborious 
collection of all facts relating to its performances. He 
is a resident of Sankaritola, Bowbazar, and as an 
ardent lover of drama and stage, collected facts from 
Babu Baladev Dhara and other persons of the loca- 
lity. As few contemporaneous papers referred to the 
Bowbazar Theatre, the pains, which Mr. Mitra took, 
were arduous and enormous. Since his source was the 
living memory of persons associated with the Theatre, 
and not records in journals, the informations 
may, however, labour under very minor discrepancies, 
which on examination have, however, been found 
not to affect the interesting, important and vivid 
history he has given. 

For example, Ham&bhiseka Natak was staged 
first in February or March 1868f and not after 
Durgapuja i.e., September-October of the same 

* Madhyastha, Magh, 1281. 

\The National Paper, March 25, 1868, 



134 

year. Again, according to his account Satl Natak 
was performed in winter of 1871 i. e., early part of 
1872 (January), whereas of the papers, The Amrita 
Bazar Patrika ( 30th Jan. 1873 ) speaks of 
a new play being then put rehearsals.* These under 
however, may not form a discrepancy as the play 
might have commenced in the previous year 
and staged in 1872, and might have been put in 
rehearsals a second time in the next year. News- 
paper comments (excepting advertisements of opening 
nights) are often misleading and a real scholar has 
to sift staff from the kernel. Besides, Mr. Mitra's 
authorities are definite that Satl Natak continued 
for 4 years and this seems to be the real fact.f 

About the performance of another play at 
Bowbazar, probably by another party, we get the 
following account : 

JanaJcl-harana Natak by Kanai Lai Seal 
of Bowbazar. The performances were satisfactory, 
first in Kanai Babu's house, next in the house of 
Ramlal Matilal. 

* It says that the party was very successful in Ram- 
abhiseka Natak and this time, too, a new play has 
been put under rehearsal. 

t Vide the Indian Athenaum (English), September, 1923, 
page, 74, and the Bengali Vangavani (monthly 
Journal, Magh, 1330, page 764). Both the articles 
were written by Mr. Sailen Mitra. 

Amrita Bazar Patrika, I5th May, 1873. 



Chapter VII 



OPERA YATRAS AND DEGENERATED 
THEATRES. 

In our previous Vol. I, we have dealt with Yatra 
rather elaborately in pages 109-144 We have 
described Krsna-Yatra, Sakher Yatra, Puran 
Yatra and the New Yatras. In our present volume, 
we shall describe how a new class of reformed Yatras 
arose in Bengal and a correct description is found 
in Vangadarsana (1289, Falgun, corresponding to 
1883 Febry.) in the following way : 

Kayek vatsar haila, ar ek paddhatir yatra 
arambha haiyache. Ihake keha keha apera 
vale, keha va upahas kariya "oppeyera" vale. 
Ihate samla ache, pentlun ache, kot ache, 
taravari ache^ sadhubhasa ache, vaktrta ache, 
citkar ache, patan ache, utthan ache. Ihate 
dekhivar jinis yathesta. Purve loke yatra 
gunita, ekhan loke yatra dekhe. Tahatei ei 
nutan yatrate ve^bhusar eta jak. Sangit o 
kavyaraser eta abhav. 

Such yatras are in vogue even today and we shall 
now describe a few performances of this kind. 



136 

The first opera in Bengali is perhaps akuntala 
by Babu Annada Prasad Banerjee. It was written 
in a simple and elegant style and songs were appro- 
priate and exquisite. About its performance 
the Hindu Patriot, May 22, 1865, writes as 
follows : 

"We had the pleasure of witnessing the perform- 
ance more than once and we must say that it did 
credit to those, who were engaged in it, we hope the 
opera will supersede the degenerate yatra." 

Ramnarain's Ratnavalt, Kali Prasanna Sing's 
Savitn-Satyavan, Madhusudan's Padmavatl and 
other dramas, we mentioned before, were sometimes 
acted as operas, as only a few days ago Pan$av- 
gaurav, Jaria, Sail natak were so performed. 

In 1865, Padmavatl was very well acted as an 
opera in the house of Babu Rajendra Chandra Dutt 
( Raja Babu ), the well known Homeopath of Bow- 
bazar before a distinguished audience and the Hindu 
Patriot, Nov. 20, 1865, writes about it : 

'The opera was preceded by a play on the piano- 
forte by the trained but gentle hands of Mrs. 
Berigny. At about one in the morning commenced 
the opera. The concert, which inaugurated the 
performance, was excellent ; in fact, it reminded us of 
the Belgachhia Orchestra. Then began the play. 
The actors acquitted themselves on the whole 



137 

successfully and creditably. This we can say boldly 
and sincerely that, of the three dramas, which have 
been popularised in the form of opera, the perform* 
ance of Padmavatl was decidedly the best and 
most successful." 

We hear of another opera Jandki-Ulap but we 
have not seen any copy. 

These Yatras, an admixture of theatre and old 
Yatras, were also degenerated into farcical shows and 
the necessity of having decent theatres on popular 
basis was keenly felt. 

On the other hand, the example, set by 1. Bei- 
gachhia, 2. Pathuriaghata, 3. Jorasanko, 4. Shobha 
Bazar Private Theatrical Company, 5. Bowbazar 
Theatre, was also the origin of mushroom growth, as 
during the rainy season, of various theatrical associa- 
tions in Calcutta and Mofussil, too numerous to 
mention, and we propose to describe only a few, 
having some historical interest. 

6. Panchanan Mitrtfs Theatre at Burtola, 
Chitpore Road (Goranhata). 

Through Panchanan Babu's exertions, Michael 
Madhusudan Dutt's Padmavatl was staged in Sept. 
1867, in the house of Jay Chand Mitra with great 
eclat. This is what Babu Kisori Chand Mitra says 
in his reminiscences* : 

*Calcutta Review : Modern Theatre, 1873, p. 262, 
18 



138 

"It was produced on the Boards of the "Bengal 
Amateur Theatrical Society" at Burtola, No. 246, 
Chitpore Road on the 14th Sept., 1867. This 
performance was preceded by a Yatra Padmavafa, 
based on the play in the house of the Duttas of 
Wellington Square." 

The Dramatis personae were : 

Baja Indramla ... Behari Lai Chatterjee (after- 

,, . wards of the Bengal Theatre). 

Mantri, Sarathi, 

Kaficuki, Augira ... Comic actor Girish Chandra 

Ghose (Nyadaru Girish), late 
of the Bengal Theatre. 

VidQsaka ... Mani Mohan Sarkar, author of 

Usa Aniruddha). Friends 
used to call him as Lord. 

Kali ... Jivan Krishna Dev (of the 

Shobhabazar Raj family). (Not 
J. K. Sen, as said by Viswa- 
kosh. cf. "Disbanded Mada- 
nika Kali Avatar." in page 
128. 

Padmavati ... Sib Chandra Chatterjee 

Basumati ... Haridas Das, late of Bengal 

Theatre. 

It was in Padmavati that we find that Michael 
Madhusudan Dutt first used blank verse in the 
mouth of Kali. 

7. Nala-Damayantl at Bagbazar. 

In 1868, Nala-Damayantl composed by Babu 
Kalidas Sanyal, was staged at Madanmohantala 



13d 

in Chitpore Road, through the eftorts of Babu CSropal 
Chandra Chakravarty and Nyadaru Girish. Kali- 
das Babu, too, took a keen interest and his composi- 
tion and rendering of the part met with much appre- 
ciation, so much so that he was successful in obtain- 
ing a post at the Burdwan Raj House under Rajah 
Mahatab Chand Roy.* 

The cast was as follows : 

Nala ... Gopal Chakravarty. 

Vid5aka ... Kalidas Sanyal. 

Bhimasena ... Gagan Chakravarty 

Kaficuki ... Shyama Charan Charkrvarty. 

Ki ... Nyadaru Girish 

Damayanti ... Ashu Chakravarty and Shib Chatterji, 
next by a Jugi boy. 

Induprabha, published in 1868, a drama by 
Girish Chandra Banerji of Chota Maheshtala, was 
staged here. Vicitravahu was played by Gopal 
Chakravarty. 

8. jakuntala at Arpuli, Pataldanga. 

In 1866, Mahasveta, SaJcuntala and Buro 
Saliker Ohare Eow were staged here- 

They next staged Nirnai Charan Seal's Gandrcir 
vaU and Enrctri-avar Barra Log. 

9. afamtala at the house of Kali Krishna 
Pramanik at Kansaripara in 1867, and also at 
Kshetra Ghose's house at Sankaritola, Calcutta. 

* Mahendranath's Reminiscences. 



140 

10. Slti&r Vanavas by Umes Chandra Mitra. 
of Bhowanipore, performance at the house of Nil- 
mani Mitra, 

A correspondent in Bengali writes* : 

"I welcome with extreme joy the first perform- 
ance of a tragedy, entitled the Exile of Slta at 
Bhowanipore. On the whole, the performance was 
worthy of our best commendation." 

11. Mani Mohan Sarkar's Usa Aniruddha 
by Chorebagan party, in 1867. 

12. Janafti-vilapa in 1868 as referred to by the 
National Paper, April 29, 1868. 

The mofussil performances were also too many 
to mention but Salcuntala performance in Janai at 
Purna Chandra Mukherji's house in 1858, and Is 
this Civilisation of Madhusudan in Atul Mukherji's 
house and Bholanath's Bhale re mor Vap in 
another Mukherji's house at Janai deserve special 
mention.f 

* Bengali, July 7, 1866. 

t The following dramas are also worthy of mention : 

1. Hindu-Mahila tfalak a drama on Hindu 

females, their condition, helplessness by Batuk 
Behari Bandyopadhyaya, Calcutta, G. P. Ry. 
Company (1869) vol. 50, Calcutta Review. 

2. Vikrama Naiak (1864) by Durga Charan 
Chattopadhyaya, an East Bengal Dramatist, 
Nantyana, Magh, 1322, Nalini Bhattashali. 



141 

In course of time most of the amateur perform- 
ances degenerated into party squabbles on account 
of unseemly quarrels and mutual, undignified 
jealousies. As an example, we may mention here of 
a private Theatre started at Kaylahata, Jorasanko, by 
Babu Hemendra Nath Mukherjee (second son-in-law 
of Maharshi Devendra Nath Tagore and grandson of 
Babu Shyamlal Tagore of Pathuriaghata), in his 
father's house- 

The pavillion afforded an accomodation for 200 
selected persons of very great position and put on its 
boards a farce ^ Kichu Idcliu vujhi" "Yes, I under- 
stand," as a rejoinder to the farce "Vujhle Id-nci? 
"Do you understand", that was played at the Raja's 
house at Pathuriaghata.* This trash piece was from 
the pen of Bholanath Mukherjee and the other one 
(Vujhle ki-na) was the work of Preomadhav 
Bose, well-known composer of Kavi Songs. This 
farce Kichu kichu vujhi, which was played at 
Kaylahatat on 2nd Nov., 1867, (cf. Vujhle ki-ria 
performed in Dec., 1866) exhibited a too low and 
vulgar taste. It not only caricatured the Pathuria- 

3. Carumukh Qittahamty Harachandra Sil. 

4. Urval~by a Bengali Lady, published in 1866. 
Price Re I, from Derozio Company Press. Vide, 
Jogendra Nath Gupta's article in Pancafusfa, 

* Vide, page 109. 

f Ratan Sarkar's Garden Street, Jorasanko. 



142 

ghata Theatre but had personal references to 
Maharaja Dr. Saurindra Mohan Tagore, who now 
and then suffered from tooth-ache, and Babu 
Ardhendu Sekhar Mustafi in the role of Dantavakra, 
gave a graphic and humorous description of Dr, 
Tagore and his tooth-ache. Ardhendu Sekhar was 
the first cousin of the Tagore brothers, their mother 
being his father's sister, and enjoyed a pension 
along with his father from the Tagore Castle. His 
father asked him not to play the part but he refused. 
For caricaturing the Tagores publicly, Mustafi with 
whom the whole Tagore family were greatly offended, 
lost his pension and all the favours he had hitherto 
enjoyed there. It is said, Hemendra Nath and Bhola- 
nath were present at some performance of Usa and 
Aniruddha at Chorebagan and planned to start a 
Theatre, where Bholanath Mukherjee would write 
plays and Hemendra bear the cost of perform- 
ances. Ardhendu appeared in the roles of 
Dantavakra, Candanavilas and Moradali, while 
Dharmadas Soor (subsequently the famous stage- 
manager) appeared in the role of Candanvilasi. 
The other characters were Natas, Khadyote^var 
Guruji, Kalu Venod, Varada and Vaisnavi. The 
performance was so charming but vulgar that 
Madhusudan, who was present together with Babus 
Gaurdas Bysak, Sarat Chandra Ghose (Bengal 

Mahendranath's Reminiscences, 



143 

Theatre), Nabin Mukherjee (Jatindra Mohan's 
brother-in-law), is said to have expressed mtiiklLre 
vava wrttike, that is, no doubt, it gives mirth, but it 
is worse than clay in point of vulgarity. 

To come to our point, how it turned hi to 
squabbles, we shall mention here. 
There is a song in Vujhle U-na : 

re negate dhulu dhulu kare dunayan, 
Ravan marila Rame kande Duryodhan. 
To this Mukherjee composed the following song 
as a parody, to be sung hi the same tune. 

Ore negate dhulu dhulu kare dunayan, 
Ravan marila Rame kade Duryodhan. 

Na vujhe karechi nes*a 

Kothay amar raila pes*a 
Eloke^e ela Ke^a karivare ran 

Damayanti-bhaye kenco 

Padire peyeche penco 
Vidye ha'la garbhavati thakurer likhan, 

8iver ghare kestar meye 

Pencor mata raila ceye 
Bakuni dhaka Gangay neye karle palayan. 

Kheyechi asahya mad, 

diyechi kar leje pad, 
Eto nahe kam vipad kamde na ekhan. 

Eki ha'la dSter jvala, 

Lokalaye visam jvala, 
Kanete karila kala vikata vadan. 



144 

This song, vulgar as it is, has a history behind 
it and the following passages will show that 
clearly : 

1. Nes*a, mada (wine) refers, to excessive habits 

of drinking of actors on the stage. 

2. Elokes'e Keshav appearing as Jester, came 

bare-headed in Belgachhia, No. 1. 

3. Damayanti Nala-Damayanti, No. 7. 

4. Padire peyeche Penco Padmavatj, played 

at Panchanan Mitra's house, but now 
suspended No. 6. 

5. Vidye etc. to Vidyasundar, at Pathuria- 

ghata. No. 2. 

6. Siver etc. Krsnakumarl Natak, at Siva 

Krishna Dev's house. No. 4. 

7. Sakunidhaka Aakuntala. played this side 

of the Ganges, is being staged at Howrah, 
Janai. Nos. 9, 12. 

8. Danter jvala refers to tooth-ache of Dr. 

S. M. Tagore. 

To this Preo Babu, author of Vujhle ki-na wrote 
a song, in equally vulgar taste, as a rejoinder to 
Mukherjee's, to be sung in the farce and to be acted 
a few months after, hi the house of Yadunath 
Chatterjee at Rajvallabh's Lane (Bagbazar). 



145 

The song ran thus : 

Ami thiyetarer "history", 

Grin cama nake diye go, 

Dekhi grin rumer "mystery'*, 

Ranga ranga cheleguli sakhl saje sav, 

Kare narlr matan rav, 

Tader akar dekhle akkel gudum, 

Icche hay "kiss" kari. 



Jay khudor vadlte majhe ha'la ekta dhum, 

Sune hayni rete ghum, 
Elo rajar vadlr vudo hanu Indranller saj pari, 

Dukankata vidusak se ladeli sarkar, 



"Disbanded madanika kali avatar." 



# # * 



Paner khilir dokanete ha'la ekta "act", 

Valchi tari ^fact 
Ha ? la yugir meye Damayanti, 
Eman thiyetare gad kari. 

Green Room Mystery about drinking parties. 

Rajar vadlr Hanu Behari Lai Chatter jee, who 
took the part of Bhimsing at the Raja's 
house, appeared as Indranlldf in Padmavatl. 

Dukankata, etc. Mani Mohan Sarkar, who 
was called 'Lord', took the part of Vidusaka 

19 



146 
Dhanadasa at Raja's house, in Krsna- 



Disbanded Jivan Krishna Dev took the part 

of Madanika in KrsnaJcumarl Natak at 



Sobhabazar, which was to have been taken 
by Mani Mohan Sarkar He also appeared 
as Kali in Padmavatl. 

Vide page 138. 

Paner khilir refers to Nala-Damayanti at 
Bagbazar. Here first Shib Chandra 
Chatterjee used to play the part of 
Damayanti ; next the son of a man of 
Yugi caste from Kombuliatola. Refers to 7. 

In another song Bose sang : 

Kaylahatar mayla hatay ha'la tomar thai- 
In the third he showed the merit of a Kavi- 
walla but the song did not show good taste. 

It ran thus : 

Bhyala bhyala bhyala mor vap re, 
Tui godar dale kapni paris 

Apani kalir kapre. 

Rajar vadlr vujhle ki-na 

O tar vujhis kfickala, o tor yay na gun vala, 

Kichu kichu vujhi vale laglo tor haf re. 

Thus we find that theatre, though revived with 
great promise, passed into a stage of degradation. 
We commenced this volume with excess of Kavi 



14? 

squabbles, but though theatres were thought to 
replace them, we again turn round to the same. 

Theatres, on the other hand, which were really 
respectable, were, heitherto, generally organised by the 
educated and intelligent members of the wealthy 
Bengali community and the middle class, had no 
access there. It was keenly felt that the public 
should not be deprived of the refined intellectual 
amusement and instructive entertainment, and a 
prospectus of a public Theatre was actually issued 
calling for shares and subscriptions.* Nothing, 
however, came out of this and while Tagores 
and Devs tried all means to entertain their 
friends and patrons, common people on the other 
hand, began to be more and more disappointed, with 
their desire for the amusement unsatisfied. 

It was about this time that there rose a mighty 
genius, who, with his lifelong devotion as a master 
artist, inimitable teacher and distinguished dramatist, 
founded, moulded and nurtured the Bengali Stage 
on national lines and after years of devotion, industry 
and sacrifice turned it into an excellent institution 
for nation-building, which people of all classes have 
always earnestly sought for education, amusement 
and culture. By the time of his death in 1912 



* The projectors were Radhamadhav Roy (also styled 
'Manager') of 102-7 Aheeritola Street, Calcutta and 

Jogendranath Chatterjee. 

Hindu Patriot, nth Feb., 1860. 



148 

within 45 years, the Stage became a place, where 
people resorted to not only for amusement and "art 
for art's sake" but like many other civilised 
countries, it acted as an instrument of culture and 
light and contributed not a little to the popular 
awakening of Bengal. This was no other person 
than the late Girish Chandra Ghose, who is justly 
known both as Shakespeare and Garrick of Bengal 
and the father of the Bengali Stage. 

Our next few pages of tMs volume will be 
devoted to describing the earliest chapter of his 
'making' and how from the beginning of his 
appearance, the nation as a whole, accepted him as 
the first great teacher. The next chapters will deal 
with the National Theatre and Girish Chandra's 
early connection with it, along with his talented 
colleagues and disciples, who assisted him in his 
noble work and mission as a builder of the nation. 



Chapter VIII 

THE NATIONAL THEATRE 

SADHAVAR EKADASHI 

On a certain occasion in 1867, when Girish 
Chandra was only a young man of 22 or 23, he was 
approached by a person, who was congratulating 
himself on his obtaining a ticket for witnessing a 
theatrical performance in the house of a rich man and 
he narrated the devices, he had recourse to, for 
procuring the same- Girish had also reports how 
people, wishing to have entry into any of the houses, 
were often turned out by Darwans by the neck. 

This touched the self respect of Girish and when 
next he met his friends anxious to see performances, 
Girish promised that he would entertain the 
common people by opening a theatre within a year. 

Shortly after, in the same year, Girish Chandra 
Ghose then serving as a clerk in John Atkinson & 
Company organised for the first time a yatra perform- 
ance of Michael Madhusudan Dutt's Sarmisflia. 
To make it more attractive Girish proposed to insert 
certain songs and for that purpose, he requested Babu 
Preomadhav Bose Mallick, who readily agreed to 



150 

comply with his request. Inspite of repeated re- 
minders, however, when Preo Babu failed to compose 
the same, Girish and his friend Babu Umesh Chandra 
Roy of East Bengal felt much disappointed and 
talked amongst themselves "what's the good of so 
much trouble, let us ourselves manage as we can." 
This first led Girish to compose some songs and we 
quote here a translation of a few lines as the first 
published composition of the great dramatist : 

"Ah ! what a beauty ! 

"Is it an illusion or a damsel in 

reality ! 

"Perhaps the sylvan goddess 

"With her radiant face 

"And lotus-like eyes with dews 

"Roam in joy. 

"Who is this maid and 

"Why she is helpless." 

The successful performance of the yatra en- 
couraged Girish to remove the much felt want of the 
middle class men, who failed to secure seats in the 
aristocratic Theatres. He found a very able 
colleague in the person of Babu Nagendra Nath 
Banerjee of Ramkanta Bose Street, the maternal 
grand father of Srijukta Anurapa Devi, the distin- 
guished novelist of Bengal. They were also joined 
by Babus Radhamadhav Kar, Arun Chandra Haldar 
and Mahendranath Banerjee of Paikpara and with 



151 

their co-operation and assistance organised the 
Bagbazar Amateur Theatre, in 1868, Babu Arun 
Haider lending the use of a room in his house for 
the rehearsals of Sadhavar Ekadasl, to be soon 
acted. As they could not afford gorgeous dress and 
scenes, the above named social sketch was selected 
for performance. 

As we have already hinted before, Dinabandhu 
was the next powerful dramatist after Madhusudan* 
and both of them departed considerably from the 
beaten path of the older Sanskrit dramatists as 
followed by Pandit Ramnarain Tarkaratna. Like 
Niladarpanci the rest of Dinabandhu's dramas are 
more or less of the realistic school and attempted 
to draw graphic pictures of the social and economic 
condition of the country of his time and Sadhavar 
Ekadc&i gave a living picture of Young Bengal. 
It is after the model of Ekeiki Bale jSabhyata, "Is 
this civilisation" of Madhusudan, which preceded it 
The late Babu Bhudev Mukherjee says that Dina- 
bandhu imitated Madhusudan and by incorporating 
the character of Madhusudan himself in the drama 
as Nimchand, Dinabandhu surpassed even his proto- 
type in dramatic excellence, f The character of 
Neemchand is a unique creation representing a 

* Vide page, 101. 

t As a poet Dinabandhu was the link between the old 
school of Iswar Gupta and new school of Madhu- 
sudan, but as a dramatist, he was greater. 



152 

young man of high education and culture who took to 
drinking, which ultimately ate into the vitals of the 
society. He quotes Shakespeare, Byron and Milton 
and has a knowledge of men and things. Falling, 
however, intoxicated in the drain, Nimchand mutters: 

"Hail holy light ! the offspring of Heaven first 
born of the enternal, co-eternal beam." 

Babu Akshaykumar Sarkar, t editor Sadharam, 
says "these were the words often uttered by 
Michael himself" : 'A Dutt is no body's servant' 
'that is, moral courage and I am the son of the son 
of that moral courage family" thus Madhu used 
often to exult in. 

Nimchand, being thus a living representation of 
so illustrious a poet, was a thing of great interest. 
The great Bankim Chandra, too, wrote about it :- 
"All the characters are living personations and the 
subject, too, breathes much of reality." 

But the late Rev. Lai Behari Dey, author of 
Govinda Samanta of Bengal Peasant Life in the 
Friendly Revieiv, a weekly journal, edited by him 
made a very adverse comment of it. Thus he said : 

"If this trash ever be put on the stage, we cannot 
recommend a better place for its performance than 
Sonagachee and a better audience than its inmates 
and their patrons." 

Pltaputra by Akshay Sarkar, page, 531, Bangabhasar 
Lekhak, 



153 

Dinabandhu, too, was not indifferent to this 
observation. He was highly offended and gave a 
fitting rejoinder in his next farce Jama/i Barilc, 
where Mr. De was ridiculed as Totaram Shot, 
meaning one who commits things to memory as a 
Tota (parrot), and produces those like a Shot 
(thoughtless speaker). 

The illustrious Bankim Chandra did not, how- 
ever, approve of Dinabandhu's caricaturing Rev. Lal- 
behari De as Totaram Bhoi. In the preface to the 
works of Dinabandhu, Bankim said, "Totaram Bhat 
is a blot (kalanka) to Dinabandhu's fame". 

As we have seen before, Dinabandhu did not 
follow the dicta of Sankrit dramatists and avoided 
a prologue and abundance of songs. But as the 
public had not yet been accustomed to the new ideals 
and loved to hear songs as in Yatras, Girish inserted 
here as well some songs fitting in with the occasion 
and wrote a prologue with Sutradhar and Nati. The 
first performance was held during the Durgapuja 
festival of 1868 (1275 B. s.) in the house of Babu 
Prankrishna Haldar of Mukherjeepara, Baghbazar, 
and Girish appeared in the main role of Neem 
Chand. He was also the master and coached the 
other artists in different characters, which were as 
follows : 

Atal ... Babu Nagendra Nath Banerjee. 

Kenaram ... Ardhcndu Sckhar Mustafi, 

20 



154 

Jivan Chandra... Ishan Neogi. 

Nakoor ... Mahendra Nath Banerjee. 

Ram manikya ... Nil Kamal Ganguly (of Dacca). 

Kumudini ... Amritalal Mukherjee (Bel Babu). 

Saudamini ... Mahendra Nath Das. 

Kancan ... Radhamadhav Kar. 

... Nagendra Nath Paul.* 



The second performance was held at Shampukur 
in the house of Babu Navin Chandra Dev (Girish's 
father-in-law and grand-father of Babu Chunilal 
Dev, actor) and the third at Garpar in the house of 
Babu Jagannath Bose. 

The fourth performance was very important 
from historical point of view, as on this occasion the 
author came to see the performance and a host of 
well known gentlemen came along with him. Chief 
amongst them were Bijoo Bahadur and other Raj- 
kumars of the Shobhabazar Raj family, Dr. Durga- 
das Kar (father of the eminent Doctor R. G. Kar 
and Babu Radhamadhav Kar)^ Babu Sarada Charan 
Mitra (afterwards judge of the Calcutta High Court), 

* There is some difference in the narration of the cast. 
Both Babus Abinash Chandra Ganguly and Kiran 
Chandra Dutt hold that Babu Radhamadhav Kar 
appeared in the role of Rammanikya and Nandalal 
Ghose as Kancan on the first night. But Babu 
Radhamadhav Kar says that he appeared in the 
role of Kancan and Nilkanta Ganguly as Ram- 
manikya on the first night. Vide^ Radhamadhav's 
Reminiscences i Rahgabhumi. 



155 

Jadunath Banerjee, the well known writer, and Babu 
Gopal Lai Mitra, Vice-Chairman (afterwards), Cal- 
cutta Corporation. It was held in February, 1870,* 
on the night of the Saraswati Puja in the house of 
Rai Ram Prasad Mitra Bahadur of Shampukur and 
the whole audience unanimously praised the part of 
Neemchand. In their midst sat the author, struck 
with amazement, when with wistful eyes and tears 
he saw the figures of his own imagination, so per- 
fect as living beings on the stage and he came to the 
actors after the performance was over and embraced 
Girish paying compliments to him all the while, "I am 
sure, Neemchand has been written for you alone, but 
for you, the drama could not have been acted at air. 
So excellent was the representation of Neemchand 
that both Babu Indranath Banerjee and Babu 
Akshay Kumar Sarkar, two great literary luminaries 
of Bengal, used to express always that "Bengal's Girish 
was no inferior to Garrick of any country". Dina- 
bandhu Babu's worthy son Babu Lalit Chandra 
Mitra, M.A. (now no more) wrote on the death of 
Girish in the Bengali, echoing the sentiments of his 
father : "About forty-five years ago, Girish Chandra 
appeared in the inimitable role of Neemchand in 
Dinabandhu's Sadhavar Ekadasl and when he awoke 
next morning, he found himself an actor' 7 . 

* In Bangadarsan, Mr. Sarada Charan Mitra speaks of 
having seen the performance in February, 1870, 
the year he appeared at the M. A. Examination. 



156 

Nimcad-bhumikay tumi sudhijan, 
Nidra^ese yavc tumi ha'le jagarita, 
Dekhile jayer dhvani kapaye pavan, 
Grhapath rangamanca kare mukharita. 

Last though not the least, the late Mr. Justice 
Sarada Charan Mitter of the Calcutta High Court 
on a later occasion, wrote in Vangadarsan of 
Agrahayan, 1312 B. So about this representation 
of Girish Chandra : "Many a drama in English, 
Bengali and Sanskrit have I read carefully. Yet 
some are only present in my memory and some 
have been effaced from it, and as age far advances, 
how much more will be lost in memory, but 
one thing I will never forget in life and that is 
the life-like acting of Neemchand of that night. That 
very night I was introduced by somebody to Girish. 
His youngest brother is my class-mate and Girish 
has since been an esteemed and honourable friend 
of mine 5 '. Indeed, the ex-judge always held Girish 
Ghosh in the highest admiration since that perform- 
ance- Sj. Amrita Lai Bose also said to us that 
when during that time he came to Calcutta from 
Benares, he heard the success of Neemchand's part 
from every mouth and especially from Ardhendu- 
sekhar.* The conversation ran thus : 



Ardhendu's autobiographical account also shows that, 
e) 8th Paus, 



157 

Ardhendu See the part of Neemchand, dear, 
it is worth-seeing. 

Amritlal Ah ! who other than myself can play 
the part of Neemchand. 

Ardhendu Oh ! dear, no, he is really a fine 
actor. Come once and see, Girish impersonates 
Neemchand wonderfully well. 

(Amrita Bose's Reminiscences). 

So also during the combined performance by the 
actors and actresses of Calcutta at the Kohinoor 
Theatre in 1912 to raise funds for raising a memorial 
of late Girish, a few months after his death, Amrita- 
lal's song alluded to Neemchand's part : 

"Made matta pada tale 
Nimedatta-Rangasthale, 
Prothame dekhila Vanga 
Nava Nataguru tar. 

Natyamandir, 3rd year, 1319 B. S. 

Thus was the position of Girish Chandra as the 
Nataguru, secured on the first night of his appearance 
in the immortal piece of Sadhavar EJcadasi, and 
his career as an actor began thence. 

Sadavar Ekadasl was also very important from 
the point of the establishment of the National 
Theatre, as this organisation grew so prominent 
within such a short time that it was successful 
within three or four years to start the public Theatre. 



153 

Natyacharya Amrita Lai Bose also acknowledges 
this with gratitude. 

So important apart Sadhavar Ekadasl played in 
the starting of National Theatre that Girish never 
forgot to express his gratitude to the author of the 
piece. The eulogium, he paid in the preface of 
Santi Ki Sasti, while dedicating this immortal social 
tragedy forty years after, to the hallowed memory of 
Dinabandhu, will speak for itself. The letter runs 
thus : 

"Sir, You were born to be the founder of the 
Bengali Stage from which I have been earning my 
bread. For this you deserve my deepest gratitude. 
I have heard that respectful regards may visit even 
the highest region. So I believe that in whatever 
elevated sphere you may be or in whatever high 
mission may you now be engaged, my respectful 
greetings will touch your feet. When the Sadhavar 
Ekadasl was acted, no theatrical performance could 
be held without the help of some rich men, as it was 
beyond the capacity of ordinary people to bear the 
expenses of dress and other things incidental to it. 
But such expenses had not to be incurred in your 
society sketch the Sadhavar Ekadasl and there- 
fore, the young people, though of ordinary circum- 
stances, selected this for performance. If your dramas 
were not there, those young men would not have 
ventured to start the National Theatre. This is why 



159 

I respectfully greet you as the founder of the 
Bengali Stage. 

For a very long time I had a desire to pay my 
grateful tribute to you, but I refrained from it be- 
cause, hitherto, I could not write any drama worthy 
of acceptance. Now I find that my end is nigh, 
when will then my wish be fulfilled ? This is why 
I have ventured to dedicate this unworthy piece to 
your sacred memory. I have emboldened myself 
with the thought that a god may be worshipped 
even with humble flowers. (Devatar puja)." 

Yours ever gratefully, 

Girish Chandra Ghosh. 

Baghbazar, 3rd Paush, 
1315. 

Here we ought to mark the change of events 
in the rise and growth of the National Theatre and 
Bengali Drama. But for Dinabandhu and his 
Sadhavar Ekadasl, the middle class young men 
could not have succeeded to make their project fruit- 
ful and but for Girish's powers as the organisor and 
his exquisite life-like representation of Neemchand, 
the type of young Bengal, the project would not 
have ultimately resulted in the establishment of 
the National Theatre. If the dramas of Kamnarain 
and Madhusudan were originally meant for the rich 
people, Dinabandhu's dramas were most advan- 
tageously made use of by the poor (Dinas) and in 



160 

Sadhavar Ekadasl, we find as Babu Amritalal Bose 
rightly remarks, "the first germ of the Public 
Theatre in Bengal."* Indeed Neemchand was as 
much synonymous with Girish as Sadhavar Eka- 
ddsi was with National Theatre and the Public 
Stage. 

Dinabandhu and Girish Chandra were, therefore, 
rightly called the real founders of the National 
Theatre and Public Stage of Bengal. 

Sadhavar JEkaddsl also secured the note worthy 
artists of great public importance. One of them 
was Babu Ardhendu Sekhar Mustafi and the other 
Babu Dharmadas Sur. 

The story of Ardhendu's success, ,s an actor in 
the role of Dantavakra, was listened to with joy by 
Girish Chandra, who asked his friend Nagendranath 
to have Ardhendu brought before him. Ardhendhu 
was the son of Babu Syama Charan Mustafi of 
Baghbazar and Girish had seen him at a Morning 
School of the locality, as a companion of his youngest 
brother, Atul Chandra Ghosh, afterwards an Advocate, 
Calcutta High Court. He was given the part of 
Kenaram, which was rendered well. On the fourth 
night he appeared as Jivan Chandra in place 
of Ishan Neogi and so perfect was his representation 
that Dinabandhu himself praised Ardhendu im- 
mensely. 

* Manasl Marmavam^ iSravan, 1323. 



161 

His kicking of Atal after rebuking him "GuetS, 
aj theke toke tyajya putra kollem", was considered 
as an improvement on the author, who wanted to 
insert this in the next edition as an addition. 

Satisfied though with the performance as a whole, 
Girish, however, marked the defects of the stage and 
its management at the first performance and from the 
following night Babu Dharmadas Sur, who had 
acted as Candanvilasl as colleague of Ardhendu 
in the Kaylahata Theatre 51 ' and who remarked that 
the stage required improvements though the acting 
was good, began to act as the stage manager and we 
shall presently see how wonderfully he contributed 
to the development of the stage with the new 
schemes of artistic management as the architect of 
the stage carrying fully the sense of the masterly 
dramas of Girish Chandra Ghosh. Indeed, the 
Bengali Stage could not have attained such perfec- 
tion, but for the devotional endeavours of Dharmadas. 
It is said that sometimes disguised as a shifter of the 
Lew's Theatre, he learnt the shifting arrangement 
of the scenes, but once detected in his disguise, was 
turned away. Thus he learnt the art, often 
submitting himself to various indignities. Of him 
Girish wrote : 

"The actors, who won such high repute on the 
stage, could not have acquired it but for Dharmadas. 

* Vidc^ page 142. 
. 21 



162 

The renowned artists Ardhendu Sekhar, Matilal 
Sur, Mahendra Lai Bose, Captain Bell, Sib Charan 
Chatterjee and others, if alive, would have exclaimed 
in one voice : "we have acquired reputation in 
public, but Dharmadas was often behind the wings ; 
a few only would have exclaimed "who drew this 
scene ?" 

Natyamandir, Bhadra, 1317, B. S. 

In the above performance, Kenaram was played 
by Abinash Chandra Banerjee of Chorebagan, who, 
for his excellent representation, was hereafter called 
as "Ghatiram Deputy" ; Radhamadhav Kar appears 
as Rammanikya and his Kanchan was played by 
Nondalal Ghosh, who was better known as Nanda 
ostad. The actors brought scenes and wings from 
Sibpur and on the prosenium ( Mukhapat ) was 
written, ''He holds the mirror upto nature." * The 
fifth performance was held at the house of Babu 
Lokenath Bose of Baghbazar, sixth at Kidderpore, 
during the Puja of 1870 at the house of Babu 
Lakshminarayan Dutt of Chorebagan, grandfather 
of Babus Hirendranath Dutt Vedanta-ratna and 
Amarendranath Dutt actor and in this performance 
another farce of Dinabandhu, Biyepagla-Buda, was 
performed with great success. The part of Ardhendu 
as Rajib Mukherjee,t an old Brahmin, mad for 

* Rahgabhumi, 8th Paush, 1307. 

f This was written in reference to a living person. 



163 

marriage, was a treat. The unique position of 
Ardhendu as a serio-comic actor was determined 
here. He was here supported in the cast by 
Babu Radhamadhav Kar as Rata Napte, Babu 
Gopal Chandra Das as Pancur ma and Babu 
Sib Chandra Chatterjee as Kaner BhaginI, all of 
whom scored a great success in the representation 
of their successive parts. After the performance 
was over, Girish Babu in the role of Neem Chand 
used to recite the following prologue before the 
audience, which, we reproduce here as the concluding 
mirth for our readers : 

Matlami to phuriye gelo 
Dekhun budor ranga, 

Basarghare topor pare 
Kiva biyer dhanga. 

Ay na Nose, Rata kotha japarista bol, 
Ksama kariven dos rasikamandal. 
Asche evar chodar dal Bhuvno, Nose, Rata, 
Sabhyagan namaskar phuralo amar katha. 

The above verse means, intoxication is over, 
enjoy the fun, forgive us for our defects and accept 
our greetings. 

The name of the book Sadhavar Ek&dasi has 
been explained by Neeinchand at the end of the 
book. Referring to Atal another specimen of young 



164 

Bengal, who, for wine and woman, cares none in the 
world and feels no shame to leave the most beauti- 
ful and accomplished wife, for Kanchan, a prosti- 
tute. Of this class Neemchand, though a drunkard, 
otherwise a good soul, thus exclaims : 

Mataler man tumi 

Ganikar gati, 
Sadhavar Ekada^l 

tumi yar pati. 

The verse can thus be rendered into English : 

"Thou, the solace of the drunken 

The refuge of harlots, 
And widowhood to the woman 

Whose husband thou art." 

After Sadhavar Ekadasi, it took some time to 
have the next drama performed. There was no 
place to meet and the members were mostly occupied 
in Yatra shows.* Dengu fever also broke out in 

* Early in 1870, Bhalore mor vap> a piece by Bholanath 
Mukherjee, was performed at the house of Jayram 
Bysak (Charakdanga), which was repeated in the 
Jonai House at Aheritola. Babus Nagendra Nath 
Banerjee and Badhamadhav Kar got a counter- 
piece written by Priyamadhav Bose. Although it 
was not acted, contests, however, continued for 
some time in Samvad-Pmbhakar between the two 
writers. Vide^ Ardhendu Mustafi's Autobiographical 
account, 



165 

Calcutta for some time and at last Babu Brajendra 
Nath Dev,*f brother-in-law of Girish Chandra, with 
a view to have a permanent stage, built at his house, 
raised a fund out of the contributions from brokers, 
baparies^and clerks of Messrs Atkinson & Co., where 
he was the Book-keeper and Girish served as a clerk. 
Much enthusiasm was seen and Krsnahimarl Natak 
was actually put under rehearsals. In a short time 
Brajendra Nath fell seriously ill and the actors 
were again scattered. 

A common friend was next found and Babu 
Govinda Ganguly, a gentleman hailing from Ichha- 
pur, Vikrampur and an officer of Digu Babu of Dacca 
at Hatkhala, agreed to lend the use of a room and 
bear the expenses of rehearsals. The party then 
thought of a permanent stage and began to collect 
subscriptions from the promoters and friends. A 
sum of Us. 80/- was only collected, Dharmadas and 
Nagendra each having contributed Rs. 20/-. This 
magnificent sum was again exhausted in the pur- 
chase of a few pieces of cloth and colours for the 
scenes. The party was in despair again. 

Girish then came to the rescue and with the 
permission of his brother-in-law Brajendra Babu 
and other members of the family had the materials 



f Father of the actors Babus Chuni Lai Dev and 
Nikhilendu Krishna Dev, the former of whom was 
an important figure in the Bengali Stage. 



166 

>f the unfinished stage brought to the house of Babu 
iajendra Chandra Pal (son of Brindavan Pal) of 
Jhambazar and placed those in charge of Dharma 
)as. As only a short while ago, the services of the 
ainter had to be dispensed with for want of money, 
)harmadas himself began to paint the scenes. 

At this time a destitute English sailor, without 
x>d and raiment, came for charity. In the course 
f a conversation Dharmadas came to learn that he 
ras an expert in making painters' colours. Dharma- 
as gave him shelter in his house and in turn had 
11 the scenes painted by him. He was so much 
ccupied with the work of the stage that his duties 
s a teacher in the Kambalitola Preparatory School 
rere performed now and again by Ardhendu Sekhar 
nd sometimes by Babu Amritalal Bose, who had 
smporarily come from Beneras, where he was a 
lomoeopathic Doctor. Thus with the help of 
rirish and the exertion of Dharmadas, a permanent 
tage was soon built at Rajen Pal's house. 

Both Ardhendu and Dharmadas were for charg- 
ig prices for admission, but with Girish opposing, 
le suggestion that he would have nothing like it 
nless Rs. 5000/- was set up for the purpose, the 
lea was given up. 

National Theatre* was the name given to this 

* Vide, Ardhendu Sekhar's Reminiscences, "Ranga- 
bhumi", 6th Magh f 1307. 



167 

permanent structure. The name was suggested by 
Babu Navagopal Mitra, Editor The National Paper, 
who took a special interest in naming every organis- 
ation as national and was hence himself named as 
National Navagapal. He wanted to call it the 
Calcutta National Theatre but at the suggestion of 
Babu Matilal Sur, the word Calcutta was dropped 
and the Theatre was given its present name. 

It took however some time and not until the 
rainy season of 1871, that any performance could 
be held in the National Theatre. The party had 
selected Lllavatl for its performance, but its 
versification was rather too difficult for ordinery 
actors to recite the passages. It required a good 
deal of coaching ; so, the members got round Girish 
for their master. 

About this time an amateur party at Chinsurah 
Hoogly (a few miles off from Calcutta) under the 
supervision of the great Bankim Chandra Chatterjee 
(whose name is a by-word in Bengali and whose 
Bande Mataram broke through the slumber of 
centuries) and his associate Babu Akshay Chandra 
Sarkar had the drama of Lllavatl staged with 
scenes and passages cut off and others added accord- 
ing to their choice. Girish's party was then 
rehearsing the whole play without omitting any- 
thing, as if in competition with Chinsurah party, 
but during the latter stage, Girish Chandra, owing 



168 

to the pressure of office work and also on account 
of some differences with some members, could not 
attend the rehearsals and the part of the hero 
Lalit was therefore given to Dharmadas. As 
the latter did not do justice to the part in rehear- 
sals, the whole party, headed by Ardhendu, 
Govinda, Nagendra and Dharmadas, came to 
the house of Girish and entreated him in the 
most imploring terms : "What ! we would be 
defeated by the Chinsurah party and you will 
silently witness it by standing aloof". Girish agreed 
at last and so superbly he did his part that the 
author clasped him in joy and exclaimed, "I was 
not aware that my verses could be so well read. 
Take this compliment at least". Ardhendu, too, did 
his part very successfully in the role of Haravilas 
and maid servant talking in Midnaporc dialect. 
The following list will give an idea as to how the 
principal actors had their parts distributed : 

Girish ... Lalit (Hero) 

Ardhendu ... Haravilas and "Jhee" 

Jogendra Nath Mitra ... Naderchand 

Nagendra Nath Banerjec ... Hemcliand 

Mati Sur ... Mejho Khudo 
Amritalal Mukherjee or Captain 

Bell or Bell Babu ... Saradasundari 

Mahendralal Bose ... Bholanath 

Suresh Chandra Mitra ... Lilabati 

Sib Chandra Chatter jee ... Srinath 

Kshetra Ganguly ... Rajlakshmi 



169 



Radhamadhav Kar ... Kshirode-basini 

Hingul Khan ... Raghua Ude 

Jadu Bhattacherjee ... Yogajivan 

It was here that Babu Mahendra Lai Bose, 
afterwards the well-known tragedian, met Girish 
Chandra Ghosh. After the most successful career 
of 20 years, when Mahendralal passed away in 
March 1901, (24th Falgun 1307 B.S.) Girish Babu 
wrote about him in Rangalaycb" thus : 

"Mahendra Lai acquired a taste in acting in his 
younger days and when our amateur party showed 
performances of Sadhavar Ekaddsl, he used 
to be present almost every night. After this, 
when L r ilavatl was settled for performance, I met 
him first. He wanted a part in the play. But the 
cast was almost settled there. He was, however, 
allowed to appear in the short role of the village 
Zeminder Bholanath Chaudhury, and to conceal his 
tender youth he was made to put on a pair of false 
moustache. The whole party was glad to see the 
change in countenance. When, in the play Mahendra 
Lai in his role in conversation as a drunken man 
used to tell Srinath, his brother, "what she says is 
right, but brother, what can I do" (Scene III, Act 
IV), the expression will never be forgotten by those, 
who heard him. Dinabandhu, the author, after 
the performance addressed him as "Bholanath 
Chaudhury." 

In later years, Mahendralal grew to be a very 

23 



170 

successful actor and was called the Tragedian of 
Bengal. In acting scenes of despair, he was with- 
out any parallel. 

The performance of lAlavatl received warm 
applause from the audience and pleased the author 
so much that he expressed thus : "Now shall I write 
to Bankim, duo (fie), thou art defeated." Dr. 
Kanai Lai De also so much appreciated the play 
that he expressed before Maharaja Jatindra Mohan 
Tagore himself that "your performance compared 
with that of Girish's party is but a crow nursed up 
in a golden cage."* 

The yard was large and spacious and yet a 
number of audience had to go disappointed every 
night for want of accommodation. So great was the 
earnestness of the general public to see the theatrical 
performances, that to avoid rush Dharmadas, the 
manager, used to distribute tickets on reference to 
University certificates, which had to be shown him. 

Thus, we find that Dinabandhu's Lilavatl was 
staged by the National Theatre in June or July, 
1871, and was repeated four nights only, but owing 
to excessive rains the stage was considerably 
damaged and the party was dissolved, not to meet 
till January, 1872.f 

* Vide, Ardhendu Sekhar's Biography by Girish Chandra. 

fin January 1872, we have evidence of the staging of 

Sarmistha at Coochbihar Rajbari Theatre, through 



171 

Some of our friends of the modern period have 
asserted that Lilavati was staged in May, 1872 and 
not on the previous year. The present writer wrote 
two articles in the issues of Aghrahayan and Magh 
of 1339 B.S. of the now defunct monthly journal 
Pancapuspa, edited by Prof. Amulya Charan Vidya- 
bhushan. The discussion was entirely academic and 
the history of the stage is not affected in the least 
whether the play was performed in 1871 or 1872. 
As, however, no erroneous notion should be enter 
tained even of a minute detail, I weighed all facts 
most carefully and after a deliberate consideration 
agree with the late Babu Ardhendu Sekhar Mustafi,* 
that Lilavatl was staged for the first time, by the 
National Theatre in 1871, and not in 1872. 

As theatres were too many at the time,*}* it is not 
prudent to identify one for the other without some 

the exertions of the Stamp Superintendent, who 
devoted whole time to the success of the play. It 
was during the time of the Political Agent Col, 
Haughton. Vide, Hindu Patriot^ Jan. 29, 1872, 
u The Drama of Coochbihar." 

*Vide Ardhendu Sekhar's Reminiscences^ Rahgabhumi, 
Magh, 1307. 

t Theatres and Operas are not a few in this city, If 
not now, at least some time ago, they were as thick 
as black-berries. Every street and every lane could 
boast of one such institution. Nor are those 
theatres of ordinary merit. Some were of excellent 
character. The National Paper, nth Dec., 1872. 



172 

Common peculiarities and one wonders as to how a 
performance by Shambazar Natya Samaj of 1872,* 
could be indentified as the first performance done 
on the previous year by Baghbazar Amateur Theatre 
(the previous name) or the National Theatre (the 
present name) or one by Girish, Ardhendu, 
Nagendra, Mahendra and others. 

On the other hand, Babu Ardhendu Sekhar 
Mustafi narrates the incidents of the period from 
1871, July (date of Lilavatl) to 1872, 7th Dec. 
(the admitted date of Nllcularpana), covered in 
seventeen months, with so minute details and 
accuracy that we have no hesitation to hold his 
history as the most authentic and accurate. All 
the contemporaries, Babus Amritalal Bose, Radha- 
madhav Kar and Mahendra Lai Bose pay compli- 
ments for authenticity of his history and none 
contradicts him. Further discussion here would be 
too dreary and taxing to our readers. 

LUavatl spread the reputation of the National 

* Lllavatl was staged last Saturday by Shambazar 
Natya Samaj and there is contemplation of giving 
more shows. The company would have done if 
the performances were done some time earlier. 
The summer has assumed a dreary appearance and 
it will be very troublesome both for the actors as 
well as spectators. Madhyastha, May 23, 1872. 

N.B. There is nothing to show that this was a perform* 
ance by Girish Babu's party. 



173 

Theatre in various directions and Girish next selected 
Nlladarpana Natak for performance by his party, as 
he remembered the sensation the drama produced 
in mufusil ten years ago, while he was still in his 
teens. Babu Bhuvan Mohan Neogi, so well known 
a figure in connection with the public stage of Bengal, 
came to the field at this time. He lent his garden 
house standing on the Ganges, for rehearsals from 
January, 1872* and used to help the party with 
money from time to time. After the rehearsals had 
fairly advanced and all the scenes of Nilcula^ana 
painted by Dharmadas, Girish was pressed by his 
colleagues to open the stage as a public theatre by 
charging prices for admission. He, however, con- 
sidered the idea too premature as his ideal of 
"National" was great and something different. To 
charge prices in the name of the National Theatre 
with such a poor stage and scenes and a group of a 
few amateurs confined to a particular locality, would, 
he argued, be unfair to the public and would 
also be slighting the hallowed name of the 
"National" which applied to the Bengali Nation, 
as a whole, and other peoples would have 
a veiy poor idea of the Bengalis, if this little 
amateur stage were supposed to represent their 
National Ideal. The difference was not with regard 
to the name 'National', as used by the amateurs 

* Reminiscences of Ardhendu, RahgabKumi, 



174 

but with regard to national in the name of the 
public, charging prices. Formerly it was not known 
to many but by making it public it would attract 
public notice. Everybody, however, seemed to turn 
a deaf ear to his objections ; they decided almost 
unanimously, remarking, "If he differs, let us do 
without him and let us find out a man, who can 
like him keep us all under control". Girish left 
the party owing to this difference and Babu Beni- 
madhav Mitra, who happened to be at the ghat in 
connection with the Gangayatra of a dying man at 
the time, was made their president.* The dress 
rehearsal was held at the house of Babu Nagendra 
Nath Banerjee. 

The house of Madhusudan Sanyal at Jora- 
sanko (popularly known as the Ghariwalla Bari, 337, 
Upper Chitpur Road) was rented at Rs. 30, a month 
and the stage was soon built up there. Though 
practically there was no pavilion and the audience 
had to sit under the canopy of canvas, yet the play 
was a great success and the sale proceeds amounted 
to Rs. 700/- in the first night, the tickets having 
been priced at Rs. 2/- first class (chairs), Re. l/- 
second class (benches of planks) and As. /8/- third 
class (raised pucca plinth).* The performance com- 
menced at 8 P.M. (doors being opened at 7 P.M.). 

* Reminiscences of Ardhendu Babu and Amrita Babu 
and Abinash Babu-Kiran Babu's account. Vide> 
also, Amrita Bazar Patrika of 5th December, 1872. 



175 



The cast was distributed as follows :* 



Nagendra Nath Banerjee 
His brother Kiran 
Ardhendu Sekhar Mustafi 

Mati Lai Sur 
Mahendra Bose 

Amrita Lai Bose 
Abinash Chandra Kar 
Kshetra Ganguly 
Amrita Lai Mukherjee 

(Bell Babu) 

Sib Chandra Chatter] ee 
Gopdi 



Tincowri Mukherjee 
Shashi Bhushan Das 

Purna Chandra Ghosh 
Jadunath Bhattaeherjee 
Golok Chatter jee 
Kartik Chandra Paul 



Nabin Madhav 
Bindu Madhav 
Mr. Wood, Golok Bose, 
Raiyat, Savitri. 
Torap, Raicharan, 
Gopal, Muktear. 
Magistrate, Sadhu 
Charan, Padi mayrani 
Sairindhri 
R. P. Rogue 
Saralata 

Kshetramari'u 
^\>pi Dewan 
Nabin Madhav's 
Muktear 
Rebati, Aduri 
Amin, Pundit Maha- 
saya, Kaviraj 
Lathiwal 
Rayyat 
Khalasi 
Dresser 



Ardhendu, in the role of Mr. Wood, was a 
unique figure and the performance was very much 
appreciated, though the author keenly felt the gap 
of a serious actor in the absence of Girish Chandra, 
Properly speaking, this was the first public theatre, 

* Reminiscences of Ardhendu Sekhar & Amritalal & 
Kiran Babu and Abinash Babu's account, 



176 

laving opened on the 7th December, 1872 (on 23rd 
igrahayan, 1279 B. S.), under the old name of 
National Theatre, with the performance of Nila- 
larpana. In it the important figures were 
Ardhendu, Nagendra, Dharmadas, Mahenv "Ml 
Babu and Amritalal. The money, howeve., .s 
spent for the benefit of the stage and improvement 
}f dramatic literature and none used to take a share 
}f it except Ardhendu who needed occasional 
help.* Practically, all the actors worked for the 
sake of a high ideal and the Bengali stage was really 
bunt ou t ke sacr ifi ce O f a f ew Bengali youths of 
the middle clas. 

This was the first time tna-t ^a'bu kmritalal 
Bose took a part here. He was then practising as 
a Homeopathic Doctor, first at Benares and then at 
Patna and after Girish Chandra left the party, the 
part of Sairindhri, which had been given to Babu 
Radhamadhav Kar, was played by him The re- 
presentation was excellent and his weeping im- 
pressed the audience. It is said, Ardhendu taught 
him to weep at a deserted house in the evening, 
which since acquired a notoriety as Binder Bari 
or the haunted house. 

It will not be out of place to put before our readers 
the contemporary opinions regarding the performance 

* On the third night he had to be paid before he was 
persuaded to come and play his part. 



177 

of N r dadarpana. The National Paper called it an 
event of national importance* and felt it an honour to 
record it in its columns. The Patrika considered it 
a great thing that without any support of any rich 
man, the theatre promised to be a national concern, 
which would ensure great benefit to the society and 
encourage talented writers to write plays.t The 
Madhyastha was gratified at the sight of the 
audience, both by their number and their outward 
appearance. Indeed, the number was so large that 
the authorities found it difficult to accommodate all 
with seats and a number of people was found going 
back, disappointed. J 

About the performance, The Indian. Mirror 
rightly remarked that throughout the whole, the 
acting was most excellent and it did not know what 
to admire best whether Sadhu Charan's ease of 
acting, SairindhrFs maiden modulation of voice or 
the gentle motion and the accents of the graceful 
Saralata and The Mirror considered that although 
Torap in some instances outheroded the Herod, 
the part was, however, acquitted very creditably. 

The National Paper, however, gave the palm of 
superiority to the following actors over the rest, 



* The National Paper, nth Dec., 1872. 
I The Amrita Bazar Patrika, I2th Dec., 1872. 
\ Madhyastha, J5th Paush, 1279, 28th Dec., 1872, 
$ Indian Mirror^ 26th Dec., 1872, 

23 



178 

amongst the male first Torap, second Golok Bose, 
third Nabin Madhav, fourth Dewan, fifth rayyats, 
sixtli the little boys and among the females, Golok 
Bose's wife, Sairindhri, Kshetramani, Padi may- 
rani. It continued that the actings of the females 
were most sympathetic, especially when Golok 
Bose's wife played the idiot's part, when Kshetra- 
mani grew righteously indignant at the shameful 
conduct of Rogo the Shahib, and they all lament- 
ed over the miserable condition of Bose's family. 
Many amongst the audience shed copious tears, when 
they saw the enactment of parts. 

Madliyastha considered, however, Golok Bose, 
Dewan of the Indigo Factory, Mr. Wood, Mr. 
Rogue, Amin, Muktear* Kaviraj, Torap and Kshetra- 
mani to be classed as the best, Nabin Madhav, 
Sadhu Charan, Pandit, Daroga, four boys, Sairindhri, 
Saralata, Padi mayrani as second class artists and 
others, who approached those closely to be third class 
actors. In fact each one vied with another in ex- 
cellence to verify the slang Look to me. It also 
considered that the manner in which the Dewan of 
the Indigo Factory, Mr. Wood, Kaviraj, Torap, 
Kshetramani in all the scenes, Golok Bose in the 
Magistrate's Court, Savitri in her insanity, Kshetra- 
mani at the time when the Shahib was using force 
upon her, Revati at the time of Kshetramani's death, 
Torap and Nabin Madhav when they rescued 



170 

Kshetramani from Mr. Rogue's hands, Sairindhri 
when Nabin Madhav was lying unconscious, and 
Saralata in that scene and just before she was 
killed by her mother-in-law, were excellent and 
highly praiseworthy. 

The Patrika also expressed gratification at the 
excellent representation by artists. In its opinion, 
"The loyal and spirited character of Torap was well 
represented. The roles of Golok Bose and his 
wife were played by one and the same actor. 
He is an expert actor. But he could not well 
represent the wife's part. Sairindhri was not so good, 
but her cries were indeed marvellous. Saralata was 
indeed a young wife, weak and gentle. Aduri was 
excellent. Each and every character delighted us. 
The performance was faultless". 

Some of the artists have also left reminiscences, 
which are hero worth mentioning. Babu Dharma- 
das Sur believed that such an excellent representa- 
tion could not be surpassed in future. Babu 
Ardhendu Sekhar felt that with the high apprecia- 
tion they received from the audience, their breasts 
were puffed up ten times in glee. Babu Amritalal 
Bose in his personal reminiscences about his co- 
actors says, "Handsome Nagendranath did well as 
Nabin. The stalwart figure of Ardhendu most 
appropriately fitted in with the character of Mr. 
Wood. Abinash Babu had a very handsome 



180 

appearance and his features looked rather rough and 
stern and he could thus splendidly represent the 
cruel and reckless officer of the Indigo Factory 
Mr. Rogue. Last, but not the least, MatilaPs acting 
as Torap and his make-up were so excellent that 
none has yet been able to act that part so success- 
fully as Matilal." 

Indeed, inspite of petty mismanagement, here 
and there, the acting, on the whole, was so excellent 
that even the famous educationist Babu Rajnurayan 
Bose of the Brahma Community after witnessing 
the performance remarked, u that the ideas he had 
formed in his mind about the dramatic characters, 
their pose, posture, speech and dress tallied with 
the reality."* 

The authorities, however, had to meet one diffi- 
culty. Our readers must have read at page 99, how 
Rev. Mr. J. Long was sentenced to one month's 
imprisonment for libel, in 1861 and the Englishmanf 
expressed surprise at Government's allowing the play 
to be represented without libellous parts being 
removed. Babu Nagendra Nath Banerjee, however, 
on the following day (21st Dec.) wrote in excuse 
that "the object of the promoters was simply to 
represent village life and it was far from their object 



*Madhya$tha^ 28th Dec., 1872. 
\ The Englishman^ 2oth Dec. 



181 

to traduce the character of Europeans and that the 
libellous portions have been omitted."* 

The Deputy Commissioner of Police was present 
on the 2nd night of the performance (21st) and 
inspite of his assurance that he came there only as a 
spectator, one of the promoters,, however, appeared on 
the stage, at the close of the play and apologised 
"We act this drama because the state of the village- 
life has been vividly described, but not from malice, 
nor for the disgrace of any community."f 

Nothing, however, was heard after this. 

We ought to give also the other side of the 
shield here. 

"Sulov" still complained of the company not 
having the good taste to exclude obscene scenes and 
expressions from the play 4 

In the articles "National Theatricals" and "Father", 
published in the IinHm. Mirror of the 19th and 
27th December, respectively and in other papers, 
appeared also adverse criticisms of the play. The 
former issue contained : "Histrionic arts : 

"The play failed to bring the atrocities of the 
Indigo Planters vividly before the eyes of the 
spectators. Golok and his wife were represented by 



* The Englishman^ 23rd Dec,, 1872. 
t- Madhyastha, 28th Dec., 1872. 
\ Mirror, igth Dec., 1872. 



the same actor, but though an adept, he was not so 
successful in the wife as in the husband, a compara- 
tively very inferior part. Sairindhri the heroine was 
not upto the mark ; her weeping tone was unnatural"* 

The issue of the latter date also contained the 
opinion of "Father" in the following expressions : 

"Up goes the drop-scene next and out comes the 
ricketty stage with its repulsive hangings. I was 
also touched at the tragic death of the author. Golok 
Bose's limping exit and nasal voice was simply 
ridiculous. The much-injured ryot, too, vied with 
each other in comic preference. Sarindhri belonged 
to some extinct race of mortals, whose weeping tone 
some antiquary might recognise and it was a curious 
sight to see her drawling with the upper lip curved 
and head beating time."f 

Some actors of the day believed that the articles 
were written by or at the direction of Girish Chandra 
Ghosh. It might be that the leader of the tiadhavar 
Ekadasl party really represented the "Father of the 
stage." Though there is no definite proof beyond 
mere suggestion to attribute the authorship to Girish, 
we must at the same time admire the unnamed critic, 
whoever he is, for the anxiety the articles expressed 
to see the stage really purged off evils so that real art 



* Indian Mirror, I9th December, 1872. 
t Indian Mirror, 27th Dec., 1872 ; vide, A. B. Patrika, 
26th Feb., 1932 ( Author's articles). 



183 

might be shown from the very beginning and what 
he says has been mostly corroborated by journalists 
here or there. That Girish Babu satirised the party 
for taking so rash and premature a step by making 
the theatre public without a better house and a better 
stage may, however, be seen from the following song, 
which he put into the mouth of Babu Radhamadhav 
Kar, while playing a farce in a Yatra performance. 

The song, satirical, as it is, represents a chapter 
of the history of the National Theatre and we give 
it below : 

Lupta Veni vohiche Terodhar 
Tahe Puma, Ardha-Tndu, Kiran, 

Sindur niakha matir har 
Naga hote dhara dhaiya Sareshati, 

Ksmakaya. 

Vividha vigraha ghater upar sobha pay 
Siva Sambhusuta Mahendradi 

Yadupati avatar 
Alaksyete Visnu kare gan, kiva 

dharmaksetra sthan. 
Avina^i muni rsi kocche vase 

clhyan. 

Savai mile deke vale Dmabandhu 

kara par 

Kiva Balumoy vela, pale pal reter bela J 
Bhuvanmohan care kare Gopale khelu 



184 

Miche kare aa 'yata casa' niler 

goday dicche sar. 

* 
Kalankita Sai sarase amrta 

barase 
Jwan hoi ba deener gaurav ota dine 

khase 

Sthanamahatmya handi shundi poisha 
de dekhe bahar. 

The song is a satire on some actors of the 
play, whose names we give below in order of the 
rhyme. 

The meaning may be explained thus : 

Lupta Veni Venimadhav Mitra, President, but 
whose name was not announced. 

Purna Purnachandra Mitra, actor. 

Ardha-Indu Ardhendu, the leading actor. 

Kiran Kiran Chandra Banerjee (Nagen Babu's 
brother). 

Sindurmakha 'Mati ? Matilal Sur. 

Naga Nagendra Bandyopadhyaya, the Secretary, 

who was the organiser. 
8iva Siv Charan Chatter jee. 
Sambhusuta Kartik Chandra Pal dresser. 
Mahendra Mahendra Lai Bose. 
Jadupati Jadunath Bhattacharjee. 
Visnu Bishnu Chandra Chatterjee of the Brahma 

Samaj, who used to sing from behind. 



185 

Dharma Stage manager Dharmadas Sur. 

Ksetra Kshetra Mohan Ganguly. 

Bela Bel Babu Amrita Lai Mukherjee. 

Palepal Rajendra Nath Paul, one of the well- 
wishers, and others of his caste. 

Bhuban Mohan Care Bhuban Mohan's parlour 
on the Ganges, where rehearsals used to 
be held. 

Core Wanders, or Banks of the Ganges. 

Gopala Gopal Das, actor. 

Casa Actors of the Sadgopa caste (there were 
many). 

Niler Gorai Nlladarpana, put on for performance. 

Amrta Amritalal Bose. 

Diner gaurav The fame of Dinabandhu might 
decline with this acting and on such a stage. 

Sthariamahatmye On payment of 8 as., persons 
of all castes saw the performance sitting 
together unlike other occasions, when seats 
of Bhadraloks used to be separated from 
those of the ordinary classes. 

Here the song refers to actors, though it may 
also mean the Triveni Tlrtha or the junction of the 
three rivers the Ganges, the Jamuna and the Sara- 
swati at Triveni, few milesnorth of Howrah. 

However satirical the song was, "it did not", says 
Viswakosh, "create any bad feeling" It must be 
admitted that the song too did not contain the sting 

24 



186 

apt to be found on similar satires and Babu Amrita 
Lai Bose says, "we relished the song and sang it 
in chorus." Ardhendu also said, "all our names were 
so cleverly put in the song that it reflected much 
credit on the poetic imagination of Girish Ghosh."* 

Our readers would mark the difference in tone 
and expressions in protests even when one does not 
agree and this was expected of the 'Father of the 
stage/ He was critical to a finish without any 
vulgarity anywhere. 

But, however successful the acting was, Nlla- 
darpana failed to produce any effect in Calcutta, 
while representations of the drama produced an 
electric sensation in mufasil in the year 1861, as we 
narrated at page 95 of this book. There was really 
much of comic show and the author very rightly 
missed the presence of the serious actor in Girish. 
The Patrika, too, was disgusted "at the audience 
bursting into loud laughter when the poor ryots were 
ciying aloud after being kicked to the ground by the 
Indigo Saheb."f It rightly endorsed that Nlla- 
darpana should better be performed at Krishnagore, 
the scene of the plot and its neighbouring places 
Jessore and Murshidabad. The National Paper 
also agreed to this view. 

Nlladarpana was not, however, the first public 

* Rahgabhumi, 1307, 20th Magh. 

f Amritabazar Patrika , mh Dec., 1872, 



187 

performance of Bengal. Here, too, Dacca was the 
pioneer and JRamabhisek Ncttak was staged on the 
30th March, 1872. The young men of Dacca, the 
pick of the society at the time, raised money by 
selling tickets for the performance and devoted it 
to charitable and educational purposes. A decent 
stage was built with scenes painted by well known 
artists. No school student was, however, allowed to 
come to see the performance. Tickets were priced 
at Rs. 4, 2, and Re. 1. The performance was 
highly appreci at ed.* 

From another account "f we have the following : 

"A large number of persons witnessed the 
performance. Amongst others, some notable 
Mahomedans, the District Superintendent of Police, 
Mr. Pogose and a few Christian gentlemen were 
present. All of them expressed much gratification 
at the representation of the play. The D.S.P. was 
so much pleased that while leaving he expressed 
that he would not miss the next opportunity of 
bringing his wife with him. Mr. Pogose too 
repeated that the amount (Rs. 5) was really spent 
for a noble cause* All the actors did well and the 
special amongst them were Rama, Laksmana, 
Manthara and Dasaratha." 

To come back to The National Theatre, it how- 

* Amrita Bazar Patrika, 28th March, 1872. 
t Amrita Bazar Patrika, 4th April, 1872. 



188 

continued showing performances on every 
Saturday as per following : 

7th Dec., Niladw-pana. 

14th Dec*, Jamai Bank by Dinabandhu. 

21st Dec., Niladarpana.* 

As to Jamai Barik, the small farce, Pandit 
Ramgati Nyayaratna says, "The domesticated sons- 
in-law and fathers-in-law, who have to maintain 
them, will be brought to their senses on reading the 
book/ 1 

As to the performance, the Hindu Patriot of 
the ICth Dec., 1872 writes as follows : 

"Last Saturday night the National Theatre gave 
a second performance. On the last occasion Babu 
Dinabandhu Mitra's Jamai Barilc or the sons in- 
law's barracks a farce was performed. The play 
was well sustained. The sons-in-law performed 
their parts admirably. The drollery of the scene 
when they appeared in a group and exchanged notes 
was very telling. But some of the female characters 
were not quite successful. On the whole, however, 
the performance was good. We would recommend 
the amateurs to have a repetition of Nlladarpana 
and to give a timely notice to the public as many, we 
are told, are desirous to see it." 

The Patrika, however, wrote a long article about 

* Contemporaneous advertisements in Englishman, 
Indian Daily News ^ Madhyastha, 8th Paush, 1279 
B.S, and Purohit, 1901, Sravan. 



180 

the performance, portions of which would only be 
necessary :* 

"As we shed tears in Nlladarpana, we laughed in 
Jamai Barik. Each and every actor of this time is a 
perfect jewel. Every part was well done, especially 
that of Padmalochan, Bagala and Bindu was wonder- 
ful Every time we saw them, we felt extremely 
delighted. But we were greatly disappointed for the 
omission of one scene. Kamini lamenting for her 
husband is an excellent scene in the original, but the 
whole thing was reported through the mouth of the 
Mayrant. That marred the whole effect of the scene. 
This is due to an error of judgment on the part of the 
author and Dinabandhu should have realised it 
There was another mistake for Padmalochan to sing 
and dance after the quarrel of the two co- wives. 
That is not consistent with his character/' 

The performance of Niladarpana on the second 
night fetched Rs. 450 only and was not of the superior 
order like the former one. It was also considered 
necessary to form a body of persons, who would 
honour those visitors to whom honour was due, select 
proper dramas and look to the better management of 
the stage and auditorium. Such was the earnestness 
that the leading newspapers, including the Patrika 
and National Paper began to offer suggestions for 

* Amrita Bazar Patrika, igth Dec,, 1872. 



190 

the improvement of the stage, scenes, music # and 
dances. 

An idea as to how the making of the National 
Theatre was done by the devotion of the workers in 
the field may be gathered from the autobiographical 
account of Babu Arnritalal Bose : 

At that time, coolies and servants 

were but few, 

Even they dreaded to work. 
People, therefore, have seen near the Laldighi 
Bhuni Babu fixing placards getting 

upon a ladder. 

Now-a-days everything is done by mere orders ; 
Even the bearers can now compose 
songs for an opera. 

Amrita Madira. 

On the 4th and 18th January, 1873 the National 
>e played Navln Tapasvinl a drama by 
>andhu and the National Paper wrote : 

aladhar, with his quips and cranks and wanton 
"ejoy, with his love for Kamini with her 
nd grace, charmed the audience/' 

Ardhendu as Jaladhar surpassed all past 
Girish Chandra said, "this representation 
alleled in the unparalleled" "atulaniya 
laniya." 

.rika of I2th Dec., 72 said, u none was pleased 
/ith the music." 



191 

Jaladhar was the king's minister but a man 
devoid of common sense and wanted to make love 
with Malati, the chaste wife of a Sadagar Ratikanta. 
Through the intelligence of Mallika, Malati's cousin, 
he was converted into a Hondal Kut Kute, a 
curious human figure with a monkey's cap, his body 
immersed in tar and then covered with cotton and 
afterwards locked in a big cage. This part and the 
couplet : 

Malati Malati Malati phul 
Majale majale majale kul 

still feels one with great mirth. It will be no 
exaggeration to say that Raja Chandra Nath of 
Nator was beside himself with joy on seeing the 
part of Jaladhar, played by Ardhendu. The part of 
the hero (Bejoy) was taken by Babu Amrita Lai 
Bose and that of Navln Tapasvinl, (lit. the young 
devotee) by Kshetra Ganguly. 

All these dramas that formed the first and the 
most important supply for the National Theatre 
make Dinabandhu the pet of the age and about the 
merits of these the great Bankim Chandra writes 
as the following : 

"Dinabandhu's dramas were realistic. The plots 
originated from incidents, characters of living beings, 
old novels, English Literature and current tales. 
Navln Tapasvinl was one of such dramas. The 
story of Rajah Ramani Kanta was a real one, the 



192 

story of Hondal Kut Kute was borrowed from 
old novels and the characters of Jaladhar and 
Jagadamba were conceived in imitation of Sir John 
FalstafFs discomfiture in Shakespeare's Merry Wives 
of Windsor." 

Llldvatl was staged on the llth January, 1873, 
but a real Lalit was wanting to give it life. Every- 
body was so thoroughly charmed with the long 
passages recited by the inimitable Girish in Rajendra 
Pal's house about two years ago, that the audience 
here was displeased with the lifeless acting of the 
hero, some really shouted, "lovers should stop love 
discourses."* 

Hitherto performances were held on Saturdays 
only. From the 15th January those continued on 
Wednesdays also. On Wednesday, the 15th Janu- 
ary, Biyepagla ButLa was presented with some panto- 
mimes, represented for the first time on the public 
stage. Pantomime, as the National Paper says, 
"was played with better skill and success than what 
was expected." 

The MadhyastJia also gave a nice description of 
the following pantomimes : 

"The Hunch Back, News above for National 
Civil Service, Mustafi Sahebka Pucca Tamasa, and 
the Fairy Land." 

^ loth Falgun, 1289 B.S f 



193 

These comic sketches were not regarded with 
favour by the thoughtful section of the people, who 
began to cry for better and newer dramas, but none 
was found to step into Dinabandhu's place. 
Ramnarayan's Yeman Karma Teman Plial was 
next staged on the 22nd January, 1873, and his 
Navanatak on the 25th. These two were old 
dramas. As each week, a new drama was tried, 
pantomimes were not even reduced to any writing, 
and acting used to be carried more with the help of 
a prompter. This was the origin of the actor behind 
the scenes.* 

Next a new drama Naisho Rupea from the pen 
of the illustrious journalist late Babu Sisir Kumar 
Ghosh was staged on the 8th February, 1873, and as 
an elaborate social drama, it deals with the prevailing 
marriage custom of the time, the reverse of what 
is in vogue in the present day. There was perni- 
cious custom in vogue in our society when payments 
as marriage demands were exacted from grooms of 
Kulin by the bride's fathers who did not allow their 
daughters to go to father-in-law's house until full 
payments were made and sons-in-law were treated 
with harshness and indignities if before clearing all 
arrears they came to the house of fathers-in-law. 
This was more prevalent amongst the Kulins. 

The demand of money for Ramdhan's daughter 

* Girish's Biography of Arclhendu, 

25 



194 



Sarala in the drama being Es. 900/-, the book is 
so named. Satulal, brother of Eamdhan with 
a bubble in hand, figured as the social reformer, 
whose efforts saved Sarala and got her married to 
Eanjan, a hearty young man of the village, both of 
the couple having loved each other : 

The drama, original as it was, served its purpose 
and in the opinion of the Patrilca "no other 
writer had shown greater insight into human heart 
as the author of Naisho Rupea, like Dinabandhu 
Mitra, who attempted to excite laughter or as Madhu- 
sudan, who tried to rouse poetical emotions in the 
poetic or poetical people. 5 ' 

The drama, original as it was, served its purpose 
and although the Patrika paid eulogy for showing a 
great insight into human heart, we would better 
reproduce the observations of the illustrious Bankim 
Chandra,* which run thus : 

"There is not a single true drama in Bengali. 
The author has attempted to write the book in a 
highly simple and clear style. We can not say, he 
has been a great success ; yet for the very attempt 
he deserves just praise. The tyranny of Sanskrit 
has been so great, that it has become quite unbear- 
able now-a-days but the writer, in order to avoid 
Sanskrit, has fallen to the rusticity of the village 
dialect." 

* Bangadarsan^ loth Falgun, 1279, 



195 

"The chief merit of the book consists in showing 
self-less love. This makes us forgive the author 
for all his short-comings. There is little interest 
in the drama, and Satulal is a queer person but 
not improbable, there is nothing in this character 
for which the author may be justly proud. Satulal 
is Neemchand in Hemp-smoking and therefore Neem- 
chand's second. But it can be equally remarked 
that it means no mean credit to a modern play- 
wright. Satulal has a full development. He 
can be recognised by his face and even from distance 
by his very voice. We cannot but laugh at his 
words when we are by his side ; again when we 
notice tears in him, we feel strongly attracted to- 
wards him. Satulal has got so many virtues that 
it is no wonder that he would stand by Neemchand 
resting his hand on the Litter's shoulder We con- 
clude our criticism, but if this is the first attempt 
of "the unknown writer", we are sure, his works will 
be prized when he will be more experienced in tackl- 
ing language and emotions." 

Regarding the performance, The National Paper 
commented : 

"Ramdhan, the Brahmin, father of Sarala the 
heroine of the play, maintained his part very well* 
The part of Gopimohan Bhattacherjee, another 
Brahmin, was well acted. He excited great laughter 
during his conversation with his wife. Kanai 



196 

Ghoshal, a village gentleman, who afterwards proves 
to be the father of Ran j an, acted his part to the satis- 
faction of the audience. His conversation with his 
wife Shashi's mother in the last act was very pathetic. 
Satulal, the younger brother of Ramdhan was 
really comical. Satu is a Ganja-smoker with an 
open heart. He excited great laughter whenever he 
appeared on the stage. In the third scene of 
Act III, the professional disputes between the 
Allopathic Doctor, the Homeopathic Doctor (Niloo 
Babu) and the native Kaviraj were very amusing. 

"In the fifth Act the bridal hall was a beautiful 
spectacle. Navin Babu's short address in the Sabha 
on the transcient state of worldly happiness in the 
tone of a Brahma preacher elicited cheers. Amongst 
the female characters Sarala's mother, Shashi's 
mother and Shashi acquitted themselves well. The 
love scenes between Ranjan and Sarala were toler- 
ably represented. Ranjan was very hasty and 
rather flipp. Sarala's expression, motion and 
gestures were graceful and quite feminine. We are 
very glad to notice this time the presence of several 
respectable European gentlemen and ladies in the 
Theatre ; a judge of the High Court graced the 
Theatre with his presence."* 

Ardhendu appeared in the role of Satulal, 
Ainrita Babu in that of Ranjan and Kshetra 

* The National Paper, Feb., 1873. 



19? 

Ganguly of Sarala. In appreciation of Ardhendu, 
we have the following from Girish Chandra 
Ghosh : 

"Those who beheld that performance said before 
the author himself that what was represented by 
Ardhendu was not possible from any other actor, 
even of the English stage- His calling for bids 
Naisho Rupea Ek, Naisho liupea Do, Naisho Ihiyea 
Teen and other expressions used in soliloquy were, 
though an improvement on the author, yet, extra- 
ordinarily original and interesting."* 

Of Ardhendu Girish Babu said that his comic 
acting was of a very high order. When he used to 
play a part, he was something different from the 
part itself ; the extraordinary comic element 
blended with seriousness was Ardhendu's creation 
and it was more appealing to the audience who used 
to see Ardhendu all in himself and not the part he 
played. In the farces and pantomimes^ too, 
Ardhendu was marvellous to a degree, and unique 
in character. He was at his best in Biyepagla Bu^a 
"when lying down alone in his bed, he expatiated in a 
beautiful and well paused soliloquy on the prospects 

* Biography of Ardhendu. 

t Biyepagla Buda, Kubjar kughaian, Nava Vidyulaya, 
Mustafi Saheb ka Pucca Tamasa, Paristhan, Betatl 
Babu } Model School, Subscription book and Green 
Room of a Private Theatre. 



i9b 

of the forthcoming nuptials, which opened on him 
like a new Elysium."* 

About this time Debcarson a humorous actor 
from the continent arrived in Calcutta with 
Mr. and Mrs Hall and entertained the public 
specially the Europeans at the Grand Opera 
House by his comic songs and sketches. The 
performance began from a Thursday of November 
1872 with Dalcghar and other shows f and notices 
used to be scattered broadcast Dekho, Debcarson 
Saheb lea Pucca Tamasa. 

On the 7th December, 1872 the very night when 
the public theatre was opened at Jorasanka, Deb- 
carson caricatured the Bengalees in a farce as 
Bengali Balu. He used to draw large crowds, 
earned a good deal of money and was much 
applauded when he sang : 

"I am a very good Bengalee Babu 
"I keep my shop at Radhabazar ; 
"I live in Calcutta, eat my dalbhat 
"And smoke my Hookka."t 

* Indian Mirror, 22nd, January, 1873. 

t c The Bengali Babu", "Professor", "The School Master", 

"Police Court", "The Blind Beggar", "The Bombay 

Parsee." 
t Debcarson stayed only a couple of months in Calcutta 

and was spoken of with much interest by the 

Englishman as will appear from the following : 
41 The inimitable Deb gave his last regular performance 



199 

On the Bengali stage, however, there was only 
one man, who was a match for this Saheb and that 
was Babu Ardhendu Sekhar Mustafi. To give a 
retort to Debcarson's above caricature, Ardhendu, 
dressed as a Saheb with an old hat, torn coat and 
dirty trousers and with Violin (Behala) in hand, 
used to show Mnxtafi Sahellca Pucca TamcL^a to 
caricature the so-called Sahebs in the following 
song, which he used to sing with gestures : 

"Ham vada sahev hai duniyame 

"None can be compared hamara sath ; 

"Mister Mustafi" name hamara 

"Catgaon me mera Vilat. 

"Coat pini, pentaloon pini 

"Pini mera trousers ; 

"Every two years new suit pini 

"Direct from Chadney bazar. 

"Dirty niggar hate hamare 

"Vada maayP ache, chho chho". 

By this and other comic sketches of the like 
nature (generally known to all as Mustafi Saheb Jca 

at the Opera House, on Wednesday night and the 
attendance was full. Though not such as might 
have been expected, Deb's part of the perform- 
ance was capital and we are glad to hear that he 
will take a benefit at the Town Hall before leaving 
Calcutta with his Company. He deserves, and 
ought to have a bumper house." 

The Englishman f Friday, Dec, 20, 1872, 



200 

Pucca Tamasa), Mr. Mustafi who was henceforth 
regarded in the stage as Mustafi Saheb or Sahel by 
all, was a match for Debcarson and both drew 
equally crowded houses by their pucca tamasa, 
though in the opinion of Girish Chandra, Debcar- 
son's humour was of a much lower order than that 
of his Bengali rival. 

There is also another incident, which needs 
mention here. A few months before the "National 
Theatre" showed its performance before the public, 
Mrs. Lewis arrived in Calcutta with her Dramatic and 
Burlesque Company and entertained the public with 
a number of plays and farces. The Opening Night 
of the Lewis Theatre was the 28th September, 1872, 
at the Town Hall. After some time she built a 
stage at the Chowringhee Road on the Maidan on 
the mode of The English Stage and was popular 
here. Mr. Geo Lane Anderson and G. H. Leonard 
were artists on her stage and she continued till 1876. 
It might be that this theatre and Debcarson's shows, 
were the immediate incentives to the starting of the 
Public Theatre in hot haste. 

Bharat-Mata, was also staged on the 15th Feb., 
1873 at the instance of Babu Sisir Kumar Ghose, 
editor Amrita liazar Patrika, and of this we shall 
give a detailed description hereafter. 

As all possible dramas were now exhausted, the 
party at this time wanted to play Michael Madhu- 



201 

sudan Dutt's Krsnakuman NaJtak^ the well known 
tragedy of the day. But to make it a success 
worthy of the drama, after the performance of the 
play at the Shobhabazar Private Theatrical Com- 
pany they knew that the part of Bheem Sing could 
not be rendered by anybody in the troupe except 
by their leader Girish Chandra Ghosh, whose deep 
clear and resonant voice with his kinglike appear- 
ance fitted in well with the part and so all came 
to Girish Babu at his house in a body. Girish 
agreed to play the part on one condition that his 
name would be in the advertisement as Bheem Sing 
"by an amateur." They, however, added 'distin- 
guished' before the word 'amateur' and appeared with 
their leader in the main role on the 22nd Feb., 1873, 
(just two months and a half after they had separated,) 
and Rajah Chandra Nath of Natore, who had been 
very much pleased with Girish's acting and postures 
during rehearsals, himself dressed "Girish with his 
own princely costume and his rich sword, the insignia 
of his rank, dangled from his jewelled belt." Michael 
was present during the first performance and highly 
praised the histrionic talents of Girish Chandra. 
The acting of Girish was marvellous. It is said, 
so deep was his voice and so strong his feelings 
that when he called twice in his anguish the 
name of "Mansinha", "Mansinha", two spectators of 
the stall fainted on the first night. Equally heart- 
rending was his expression to his wife at the death 

20 



202 

of his daughter Mahisi, do you see your Krsna 
"Mahisi, tomar Krsnake dekcho". 

Mahendra Babu was in the role of Rani Ahaylya 
and drew tears from the audience by the tragic part. 
To Kshetra Ganguly, the poet addressed thus : 
Krsnakuman, you have done perfection." 

Dharmadas says "we do not get even one hun- 
dredth of the encouragement, which all sections of 
the Calcutta public including the weathiest citizens 
gave us then." 

The cast was distributed as follows : 

Balendra ... Nagendra. 

Dhanadas ... Mustafi Saheb. 

Jagat Sing ... Kiran Banerjee. 

Mantri ... Gopal Chandra Das. 

Satyadas ... Mati Sur. 

Kysnakumari ... Kshetra Ganguly. 

Vilasavati ... Bel Babu. 

Earn Ahalya ... Mahendra Bose. 

Madanika ... Ashutosh Bose. 

Girish's presence was also required at that time, 
as between the members disputes were going on as 
to who would be in charge of money, etc. About a 
month before this, we find in Madhyastha, The 
National (22nd Jan.,* 1873) and other papers that 
some actors Babu Mahendra Lai Bose, Mati Lai 
Sur, Amrita Lai Pal and Rajendra Nath Pal 
members notified in papers that according to a 



203 

meeting held on the 19th January, Babu Navagopal 
Mitra, 1 Manomohan Bose 3 and Heinanta Kumar 
Ghose, 3 were made arbitrators. Madhyastha 
apprehended that the failure in mediation might 
require even the intervention of law courts. The 
difference arose in a wrong move of Devendra Nath 
that his brother Nagendra, Amrita Bose and 
Dharmadas should declare themselves as proprietors 
to which Dharmadas objected. 4 

The matters grew worse and in a meeting presided, 
over by Babu Hemanta Kumar Ghose, both parties 
attended but could not come to any definite settle- 
ment. We next find an advertisement in English- 
man and Indian Daily News of the 24th Jan., 1873 
and subsequent dates, as the following : 

National Theatrical Society 

"At a meeting it was resolved that Nagendra 
Nath Banerjee, the former Secretary of the Society, 
be discharged and Babu Mati Lai Sur be appointed 
in his place." 

Within 10 or 11 days differences seemed, how- 
ever, to have been settled and that Babu Nagendra 
Nath Banerjee continued to be the Secretary. 

1 Editor National Paper. 

2 Editor Madhyastha. 

3 Editor Amrita Bazar Patrika. 

4 Dharmadasa's Autobiography. 



204 

It was at this time* that Girish was called both 
to play that part as well as to control and direct 
to the management and the above settlement was 
the immediate effect of his arrival. 

Girish wrote in Ardhendu's biography : 

But at that time, men, who posed to be patrons in 
order to appropriate the sale proceeds of the 
theatre, declared the difference of opinion as 
enmity towards the theatre. But I had to join 
it when the Krmakuman was staged. I was 
selected for the role of Bhimsinha. At that 
time the difference between the two sections 
became more intense and wide. I refused to 
appear unless my name was advertised as an 
amateur. But the avaricious amongst them 
objected to it, fearing that it might frustrate 
their object. But when they found me un- 
yielding, it was advertised, "Bheemsinha by a 
distinguished amateur ." 

Girish Babu became henceforth the director,f and 

* Madhyastha t I3th Magh, 1279 ; National Paper, 22nd 
Jan., 1813 ; National Paper, 1 2th March, 1873 and 
Madhyastha, 3rd Chaitra, 1279 ; /. D. News, 5th 
Feb., 1873 and A. B. Patrika, 3oth Jan., 1873 and 
also Dharmadasa's Reminiscences. 

t Indian Mirror, 26th Feb., 1873, says that the editor of 
the Amrita Bazar Patrika and Girish were the only 
directors and hoped that under both, the latter 
being one of the best native amateur actors of the 
town and combining in himself a good education 
with an excellent taste and a tolerable knowledge 



205 

united the artists, went on merrily for some time but 
owing to excessive rains in the early spring of that 
year, they had to close the theatre at Sanyal bardi 
in a few nights only. On the last night, 8th 
March, 1873 after a few Pantomimes, MichseFs 
Bu^asaliker GJia^e Roiv and Yeman karma teman 
phal, they took leave of the public with a timely 
composed song from the pen of Girish Chandra, 
sung by Babu Behari Bose (Jyetha Behari) in 
female dress : 

The song reads thus : 

"With a sorrowful heart I take your leave 
May I ask the wise not to forget me ; 
In the midst of beauty and joy 
My heart withers in despair. 
Though the copious rains make all happy 
The earth has put on her vernal garb ; 
But it grieves me more, to depart * 

in this season of joy. 
Though hope to appear in a new guise, 
on a new built stage." 

of human nature, the National Theatre will daily 
improve. 

* After the song was finished, all those present, began 
to express regret. They began to say 'why do you 
stop, why bid adieu. Why should we forget you, 
we would come wherever you would go/ 

AmritalaPs Reminiscences* 



After the theatre was closed apparently for rains, 
but really for jealousies a dispute arose about the 
possession of theatre's property its funds, dress, 
furnitures and others things. The dispute could 
not be amicably settled and it gave rise to two 
parties. Amrita Babu joined Ardhendu's party. 
The second party was in fact led by Rajendra Pal. 
Dharmadas Sur was in that party. It is even now 
talked about, that the disruption of the National 
Theatre was due to the excessive greed of those, who 
wanted to be the party leaders.* 

Babu Amritalal Bose also agreed that those, who 
were in charge of fund, could not render any account 
and the disputes arose about that. 

The dress used to remain then at Nagendra 
Nath's house but then the stage and scenes remained 
with Dharmadas. An opportunity soon arose for 
the prominence of the Theatre. 

It was at this time (3rd Feb., 1873), His Excel- 
lency Lord Northbrook, the Viceroy of India, laid 
the foundation stone of the Calcutta Native Hos- 
pital, which was to be built on the banks of the river 
at Pathuriaghata. Dr. Macnamara a specialist in 
Opthalmy was collecting subscriptions at the time. 
Babu Rajendra Nath Pal and Dharmadas Sur in 
an interview with Dr. Macnamara suggested a bene- 
fit performance and the Doctor gladly agreed to take 



* Ardhendu's Biography by Girish. 



207 

on hire the Town Hall for the performance and 
bear necessary expenses. The condition was that 
all proceeds of sale of tickets would be given him 
for the purpose. They took a week's time and saw 
Girish, as within so short a time they could never 
venture to appear on the stage without his help. 
As the purpose was noble, Girish agreed and took 
upon him the task of coaching the actors, himself 
playing the role of Mr. Wood. Niladarpana was 
selected for the performance- 

Only three classes of seats (Reserved seats Rs. 4, 
First class Rs. 2, and Second class Re. 1 ) were 
issued and the sale proceeds amounted to Rs. 1100/- 
only, of which Rs. 400 met the necessary expenses. 
Almost all the disciples and colleagues of Girish 
Chandra Mati Sur, Mahendra Bose, Abinash Kar, 
Gopal Chandra Das, participated in the performance. 
The part of Sairindhri was played by Babu Radha- 
govinda Kar (afterwards Dr. R. G. Kar), Radha- 
madhav's brother. 

The performance was shown on the 29th March, 
1873 (Saturday) and the Town Hall was very finely 
decorated with flowers, leaves and proper lights, 
Dr. Macnamara being himself present at the recep- 
tion. The play was a grand success and Girish 
Babu so well fitted his part with the make up, 
movements and articulations of voice that people 
thought that Mr. Wood's part was being played by 



208 

a Bengali knowing English friend of the Doctor. 
Girish's representation received greater appreciation 
by the cultured audience though Ardhendu could 
carry the mass more powerfully. The reason is for 
the difference in the two distinct conceptions. 
Ardhendu represented Wood as a hard hearted 
greedy Englishman, whereas Girish showed -him as 
one not cruel by nature, but doing his duty as an 
English settler (merchant) with vengeance. 

The scene where Rogue was assaulting Kshetra- 
mani moved the audience so much that Babu Dina 
Dayal Bose, Babu of one of the most renowned 
Barristers, Mr. Woodroff (Justice Woodroft's father), 
asked for police help for the arrest of the saheb. 
It was a regret that few Europeans were present 
but that they wanted to see another performance, 
was echoed in the following observations of the 
Englishman of the 31st March, 1873 : 

The National Performance at Town Hall 

On Saturday night (29th March), the members of the 
Calcutta National Theatre performed in the 
Town Hall the play of NUadarpana for the 
benefit of the National Hospital. It is a great 
pity that so short a notice was given, as on that 
account very few Europeans were present. 
However, the natives mustered very strongly 
on the occasion and testified by their repeated 
plaudits how much they enjoyed the perform- 
ance. The acting was exceedingly good 



209 

throughout. We hope, the management will 
give another performance shortly." 

We have already mentioned that Nagendra Nath 
and Ardhendu were not in this party. They, how- 
ever, did not fail to assert their official connection. 
When at a special meeting held on the 26th 
March, 1873 by Dharmadas's party at the Baithak 
Khana house of the late Babu Rasik Neogi's ghat, 
it was resolved, amongst other things, that Babu 
Amrita Lai Pal be nominated Honorary Secretary 
in place of the above gentlemen,* the above two 
gentlemen also made a counter move. When all 
preparations were going on for the above perform- 
ance of Nvladarpana at the Town Hall, they not 
only threw the blame on Girish Chandra, but issued 
a notice on the 29th March, the night of perform- 
ance as follows : 

44 We are sorry to announce that owing to a breach 
amongst the members of the above society 
through the instrumentality of one of the direct- 
ors Babu Girish Chandra Ghose, the play of 
Niladarpana, to take place this evening at the 
Town Hall, is hereby postponed till further 
notice/' 

Ardhendu Sekhar Mustafi Master. 

Nagendra Nath Banerjee, 

Hony. Secretary. 
29th March, 1873. 

* Vide, Englishman and I. D. News^ Advertisement^ 
March, 24th 2gth, 1873. 

27 



210 

Of course, Babu Amritalal Pal, the newly 
appointed Secretary issued a contradiction at once 
to the following effect : 

"Gentlemen, friends and patrons are requested not 
to lend their ears to the above advertisement 
of several persons, who are against the theatre." 

National Theatre, 

Office, Baghbazar, Amrita Lai Pal, 

29th March, 1873. Hony. Secretary. 

As no counter organisation was able to stop the 
performance of Nlladarpana under Girish, Ardhendu- 
Nagen's party calling itself "Hindu National" rented 
the Grand Opera House and showed performances 
for three nights on : 

5th April 1. Model School and its examin- 
ation. 2* Belati Babu. 3. Distribution of 
Title of Honour. 4. "Mustafi Sahebka 

s 

Pucca Tamasa" followed by 5. "Sarmistha" 
with Nagendra Babu as Yayati, Ardhendu 
Vakasur, Sib Chandra Sukracarya, Bel 
Babu Devajani and Kshetra Mohan 

Sarmistha-* 



* Private boxes to admit 5 ... 20 

Lower stage to admit 4 ... 16 

Dress Circle ... ... 4 

Stalls front ... ... 3 

back ... ... 2 

* ++ fft ft* ** 



12th April Tragedy of "Vidhava-vivaha/' 

19th April "Kiiicit Jalayog, Ekei-ki-bale 
Sabhyata, Dispensary, Charitable Dispen- 
sary^ Bharat Sangit. 

On the 26th April, 1873, "Hindu National" 
showed a performance of Nlladarpana at the 
Howrah Railway Theatre, which was rather adversely 
criticised by one Dinanath Dhar in A. B. Patrika, 
12th June, 1873: 

"Mr. Wood out-did his part, so was not ably ren- 
dered. He ought to read the passages in 
Hamlet, sc. ii, Act III." 

But unable to do much in the face of competi- 
tion with Girish Chandra, they left for Dacca by 
the 1st week of May.* Before they left, they 
commenced building a stage at the house of Babti 
Kaliprasanna Sinha.f 

The National Theatre again gave another bene- 
fit performance on the 5th April at the Town Hall 
for the Charitable Section of the Indian Reform 
Association staging Sadhavar Ekadasi and Vilapa 
( lamentation of Bharatamata ). But the sales fell 
off this night owing to competition of Hindu 
National. 

On the 12th April, 1873, the National Theatre 

* Amrita Lai Bose's Reminiscences. Puratan Prasanga^ 

2nd Paryaya, p. 128. 
t Amrita Bazar Patrika^ isth May t 1873. 



212 

affixed their stage at the house of Raja Radhakanta 
Dev,* showing the performance of Krsnakumarl 
Natak. But a very untoward event occured that 
day. There was a voucher in the name of Amrita 
Babu, showing some money owed by the National 
Theatre to him, as the three directors decided so, and 
on the 12th, Amrita Lai Babu got an order of 
attachment before judgment and had the scenes 
and stage of the National Theatre attached. The 
money was, however, paid by Kumar Girindra 
Krishna Dev Bahadur of the Shobhabazar House 
and the performance went on as usual. The Raj 
Kumars, who had once attained great success by 
staging this very drama before, appreciated the 
performance by Girish Chandra's party very much 
and encouraged the players. Kumar Amarendra 
Krishna, who had played the part of Rani Ahalya 
highly praised Mahendra Babu for the part. About 
Ahalya, Girish himself wrote : 



The audieuce could not restrain their tears at 
performance of the Rani in the drama, even 
though in appearance he did not look quite 
upto the mark. He who acted the part in the 
performance at the Shobhabazar Raj House 

* Indian Daily News and Amrita Bazar Patrika : 
National Theatre, Calcutta, Saturday, I2th April, 
1873. -The performance to -take place at the 
elegant Natmandir of Raja Radhakanta Dev 
with Dharmadas as Stage manager. 



213 

forgot his jealousy and greatly praised the rival 
actor.* 

On the 19th April, 1873, they showed the 
performance of Nlladarpana and on the 26th some 
pantomimes, Piano being conducted by young boys 
of the age of 7 and 10. 

On the 10th May, 1873, they showed a perform- 
ance of Kapalct'kun^ala of Bankim Chandra. The 
dramatisation was made by Girish Chandra, at 
Sanyal-bari, though not staged there and the parts 
were coached by him. On the night of the perform- 
ance, here the manuscript of the drama, however, 
disappeared in a mysterious way. But Girish 
managed the whole thing in such a wonderful manner 
(by extempore prompting) that nobody could feel 
about the loss of the dramatised book and the play 
with Matilal Sur as Kapalika and Mahendra Bose as 
Navakumar was a great success. This was, however, 
advertised as the Grand Farewell night or f the last 
night of the seasons and the "National" closed its 
performance and next pursued the Hindu National 
at Dacca. 

The Hindu National, however, had already met 
with a hearty reception at Dacca. They lived at 
the house of Babu Radhika Mohan Roy, brother 

* Natyamandir, p. 919, Vol. I. 
I- Vide, Amrita Bazar Patrika and Indian Daily 
8th May, ig73- 



of Mohini Babu, Zeminder and Banker of Dacca 
and showed their performances on the East Bengal 
stage of which we mentioned before, and the English 
Band of Nawab Gani Mia's house and the concert 
of Mohini Babu's house were in attendance. Amrita 
Babu says : 

"Babus Kali Prasanna Ghose, Editor, Bandhav and 
Abhaya Charan Das (Eai Bahadur), Dr. Kedar- 
nath Das used to attend the performances and 
the public appreciated it. Mr. Kemp of the 
Bengal Times, however, made jesting criticism. 
We also satirised Kemp in a farce : Mr- 
Rampini, the then Joint Magistrate, and Mr. 
Witheral, D. S. P. joined in laughter/'* 

It goes without saying that the Dacca people 
appreciated the performances very much, f Nava- 
<njttak was also played there. 

The Hindu National had also already been 
successful in enlisting popular sympathy at Dacca 
and some people had purchased season tickets. 
The "National" with Mati Sur, Mahendra Bose, Gopal 
Das and others under the management of Rajendra 
Pal and Dharmadas Sur came now and advertised : 

The Real National has now arrived/' and 
showed performances at Jivan Babu's compound. 

* Reminiscences of Amrita Bose, p. 129. Puralan 

Pvasanga. 
\ Amrita Bazar Patrika> 22nd May, 1873* 



215 

They could not, however, (being late in the field) 
secure much of the patronage of the local gentry. 
The worst of it was that Girish Chandra Ghose, 
whose co-operation they had counted much, could 
not join the party as Mr. Atkinson did not grant 
him leave. Both the sections suffered losses but 
National suffered much greater and had to come 
back by mortgaging the scenes with Hindu National. 
Both parties returned to Calcutta and National 
used to have rehearsals at Bhuvan Babu's garden 
house on the Ganges, while Hindu National did at 
Nagen or Ardhendu's house. 

One good result, however, came out of the evil 
Prosperity divided them, but adversity united again. 
Thus, on the 10th of July, 1873, united they gave 
a benefit performance of Krsnakumari Natak * in 
aid of the orphans of the poet Madhu Sudan Dutt 5 
after his untimely death, which melancholy event 
took place on the 29th June, 1873. The united 
troupe played in full strength at the house of Raja 
of Dighapatia (Rajbati) during the first-rice cere- 
mony of Kumar Pramadanath. This was the first 
instance of the party's going outside on contract, 
Girish, Dharmadas, Amritalal and Nagendranath 
not having accompanied it. There were four per- 
formances at Dighapatia. 

* Indian Daily News, A. B. Patrika, loth July, 1873 
and Hindu Patriot, I4th July, 1873, 



216 

On the way, there were more performances at 
Rajshahi. The troupe staged some plays in Sept., 
1873, at Berhampur, Murshidabad, under the name 
of "National." Babu Bankim Chandra Chatterjee 
was then a Deputy Magistrate here. He became 
intimate with the party.* 

At this time Nagen Babu and Dharmadas Babu 
got some money by showing performances at home. 
They next joined Babu Bhuvan Mohan Neogi. 

On the 7th Dec., both National and Hindu 
National celebrated the first anniversary of Public 
Theatre under the presidency of Raja Kali Krishna 
Dev Bahadur, when Babu Manamohan Bose deli- 
vered a very interesting lecture.f 

The troupe in the old Jorasanko site staged some 
dramas: Hemalata Natak\ (a martial drama) by 
Haralal Ray on the 13th December, 1873, Kamale 
Kamiril on the 20th and Hemlata again on the 27th, 
when The Great National Theatre a permanant 
structure worthy of the name of a stage, was built 
and of this we shall speak later on. 

* Ardhendu Babu's reminiscences, Rangabhumi l nth 
Falgun, 1307. 

\ Englishman, loth Dec., 1873 and Madhyastha, Paush, 
1280. 

\ Hemalata Nataka : the parts of Satyashakha, Hema- 
lata, Bikram Singh and Kamala Devi were very 
well done / the performance was a great success. 

A, B. Patrika^ i8th Dec., 1873. 



217 

Boiled down it comes to this, that in the face of 
the aristocratic theatres, Girish conceived the plan 
of having performances for the middle class men 
and matured it with all success and Dinabandhu 
supplying him with dramas, Girish worked wonders. 
Indeed, Neemchand laid the foundation for the 
future stage of Bengal. 

During the time of the next drama, Lllavatl the 
stage was named "National" and this again became 
"public theatre" with Niladarpana. But it is an 
undeniable fact that it became prominent, when it 
was open to the public, but Girish had left his 
connection then. 

Chief in the first two dramas, but absent in the 
third ! No doubt, he did not take part, out of a 
principle, but his spirit worked there. Nlladarpana 
was chosen by him, parts were coached by him, and 
his disciples, who appeared in the first two, appeared 
in the third as well. Dharmadas Sur, too, was the 
stage manager in all the three dramas. 

Further, because they could not do without him, 
they came to him, when Krsnakumarl NaJtak 
was put on the bill within first two months, greeted 
him as their guide with all persuation and selected 
him as their arbitrator, when disputes arose. Indeed, 
Girish Chandra was the master spirit from whom 
all inspiration came, and the National theatre was 
like a son to him, whom the father begot, nursed him, 

28 



218 

gave him a training but was absent, when the formal 
Namakarana Ceremony was performed. In short, 
Girish Chandra Ghose was really the Father of the 
Bengali Stage. The late lamented Amritalal Bose, 
himself a great actor and brilliant play-wright, used 
to call himself, Mahendralal, Matilal, and his name- 
sake Bel Babu as moonlight deriving its splendour 
from the sun-like Girish. Thus, he used always to 
refer about him : 

Drunken, his feet shaking, when 
Nime Dutt appears on stage ; 
Bengal first saw then 
Her first stage father. 

In the next Volume of this book, we shall find 
how the huge contribution in all kinds of dramas 
came from Girish, how he pleased the audience with 
his masterly acting, which was no inferior to that of 
a Garrick and Roscius and how he founded the 
National Stage (again), the Star Theatre, the 
Minerva Theatre, the Emerald Theatre, the Kohinoor 
Theatre and ultimately turned "Minerva" into an 
ideal stage of Bengal. But even without considering 
those, we may undoubtedly call Girish Chandra 
Ghose as the Father of the Bengali Stage from the 
time of Sadhavar 



Chapter IX 

Bengal Theatre 

The year 1873 marks the stage of further inno- 
vation in the Bengali Stage. On the Sixteenth 
August, 1 873, the "Bengal Theatre" was started at 9/3, 
Beadon Street, Calcutta, mainly through the exertion 
of Babu Sarat Chandra Ghose, whom the readers 
have found in the role of tiakuntala at Chhatu 
Babu's House. He found an able co-ad jutor in the 
well known actor Babu Beharilal Chatterjee, who 
had already figured in Kullnaknlasarvasva at the 
house of Jay ram Bysak of Charakdanga, in 
VwuMimhaHi at the house of Babu Kali Prasanna 
Sinha and also in tiakuntala at Chhatu Babu's house, 
in female characters in all the three plays. It was 
at the last place, Sarat Babu met him and became 
friends. It was this Behari Babu, who had played 
the part of Bheemsingh in the Shobhabazar Raj 
House, in 1867, and as Indraneel in Padmavati 
and thus on the Bengali stage, he figured promi- 
nently long before Babu Girish Chandra Ghose 
came into the dramatic field. 

The performance at Jorasanko by the National 
Theatrical company created a desire in Sarat Babu's 



2^0 

mind to start a public theatre and through the able 
collaboration of Beharilal, began to mature his plans. 
The open space in front of Chhatu Babu's house, 
where now the Beadon square post office stands, was 
taken lease of by Sarat Babu from his maternal 
grandfather Chhatu Babu and the stage was built 
there. The roof consisted of ordinary tiles and the 
plinth was kancha (of earth). Sarat Babu was the 
proprietor and Behari Babu became manager. The 
combination of both the organising capacity of 
Sarat Babu and the qualities of Beharilal as an 
actor, master and dramatist, made the Bengal 
Theatre popular and Beharilal remained the life long 
manager of the company, till April, 1901, when the 
Ilengal Theatre had to be closed, owing to the 
lamented death of Beharilal. None continued to be 
the manager of a company at one stretch so long, as 
Beharilal. .Bengal Theatre has, therefore, a conti- 
nuous and growing record of its own, and Behari- 
lal too must have his own place in the history of 
the Bengali stage, which is certainly not inconsider- 
able. 

Actresses on the stage 

iJMigal Theatre, however, is credited with making 
certain reforms on the stage for which it deserves 
thanks. To turn theatre into a school of art, it is 
necessary to introduce female artists on the stage, 
as male actors can not do it for any length of 



221 

time, boys from respectable classes can not be 
available and the standard is not reached even 
by the best boy artists. It was not also possible 
at that time to secure decent or respectable 
women for this purpose. Actresses had, therefore, 
to be secured from the women of the town and until 
and unless cultured women of broader views come 
forward from respectable families, theatres have no 
other option but to go on with actresses of the 
present status only. It was further when the 
National Theatre was started, we find some weighty 
arguments in the Education Gazette from one 
Khsetra Nath Bhattacherjee : 

"The more such theatres are started, acting will be 
improved and dramas composed in competition. 
The present theatres had no female artists on 
the staff. This will be soon considered as a 
defect and means will be sought to remedy this 
defect. Some of the prostitutes are trying to 
receive education. If a few of such educated 
women are secured, happy consequences will 
outweigh any mischief done.'' 

These opinions carried much weight and the 
times also helped the introduction. It was at this 
time that Babu Ram Chand Mukherjee, Dewan 
of the famous millionaire Babu Ashutosh Dev had 
an opera party and some women appeared as 
actresses and singers there. The Oriental Theatre 
of Howrah also introduced females from the 15th 



222 

February, 1873 and the next step was taken by the 
National Liceum from the 7th Feb. # of the same 
year. We have also an account that from 7th May, 
1873, a party opened Vidyasundar under the name 
of Great India Theatre, where some actresses 
appeared in the roles of Vidya and Malini.* 

From the very beginning, Sarat Babu, through the 
suggestion of Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Pandit 
Satyavrata Samasrami and Mr. 0. C. Dutt, ( Sarat 
Babu's brother-in-law), introduced females in the 
in the Bengal Theatre and four actresses were taken 
at first the person of Elokeshi, Jogattarini, 
Shyamasundari and Golap, though only two in the 
roles of Devajanl and Devika (Sarmistha's attendant) 
appeared on the stage on the opening night, i.e.) the 
16th August. Thus, we find that as Lebedeff s 
theatre in 1795, Nabin's Theatre of 1833 and the 
above two theatres, were all very short-lived, Bengal 
Theatre alone is credited, as being the pioneer 
to introduce the important change. It is said that 
Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, who was one of 
the patrons and supporters of Sarat Babu from the 
time his Theatre was contemplated, severed his 
connection with it, at the introduction of females. 
The public and local papers were also indignant 
over it. 

Michael Madhusudan Dutt wrote Maya-kanan 
* Vide, Indian Daily News of contemporaneous period. 



223 

for representation in the opening night and the 
company purchased this piece and Bewli Ki Dhanur- 
goon from the author, but as the poet's death marked 
it as an omen (indeed, with death it began and with 
death it closed), they postponed it for a future 
performance and put &armistha on the boards for 
the first night, applying all the sale proceeds to the 
aid of the orphans, left helpless by the death of 
their guide, patron and philosopher Madhusudan, 
the illustrious poet of Bengal. 

Now, as to the success of the play and other 
details, we would here quote the remarks of a corres- 
pondent S. N. M. of Nandabag, Calcutta in 
Englishman * who wrote on the 19th Aug., 1873 : 

"On Saturday last, I went to see the first perform- 
ance of Bengal Theatre in Beadon Street in 
front of the house of Ashutosh Dev* It is 
erected in the fashion of Lewis Lyceum Theatre 
Hall. On Saturday last, the celebrated Sarmistha 
was brought on the stage for the benefit of the 
orphans of Michael M. S. Dutt and for the first 
time women were introduced as actresses. On 
Saturday last, there were only two females, 
who represented Devajani and Devika (Sharmis- 
tha's attendant). Their motions and speech 
were not quite easy and free. One Sagarika 
did well. Sukracharyya and Madhavya did 
well. Jayanti was, no doubt, gorgeously dressed, 
but was clumsy in movements. Great praise 

* Vide } Englishman, 2yth August, 1873. 



224 

is due to Babu Sarat Chandra Ghose, manager 
of the theatre and Babu Pyari Mohan Roy, 
Honorary Secretary for their noble exertions 
in the opening of the Theatre for the enter- 
tainment of the general public." 

The Englishman of 18th August also had 
the following : 

"Theatricals are now the rage in Calcutta. A 
Bengali Theatrical Company has been formed... 
On last Saturday 1 6th, the theatre was opened 
...The Gallery is well arranged and decent. 
Michael M. S. Dutt's classical drama Sarmistha 
was selected for the first appearance. The 
actors performed their parts very creditably. 
The two women who were professional women 
were most successful we wish the drama would 
have done without actresses. 9 ' 

Amrita Hazar Patrika of 13th Bhadra, 1280 
B. S., 28th Aug., 1873 writes : 

A New Theatre has been opened in Calcutta by 
the mime of Bengal Theatre. Sarmistha was 
staged there for the last two Saturdays. The 
Theatrical Company has built a big house for 
performance and has made many excellent 
arrangements for the audience. They intro- 
duced two women on the stage in the parts 
of Dovajani and Devika. Amongst the actors 
everyone except Jayanti acquitted himself well. 
When 6armistha was written, there was really 
no drama in Bengali language at that time, 
which was not permeated by Sanskrit. That 
Bengali is no more/' 



225 

They next staged Mayakanon, which represents 
author's tragic life, on August and September, 
CaJcsurdan, on the 5th October, Durgesnandinl on 
the 20th October, 1873, in which Behari Babu 
played the part of Abhiram Swami and Haridas 
Das as Osman, whose stature, movements and the 
representation of the part were unique and have not 
been surpassed by any actor up to now including 
even Dani Babu. 

The sales, however, were not satisfactory at the 
beginning, but the theatre began to get packed up 
houses, when on the 13th December, 3873, was put 
on boards "Mohanta on the stage" Ish ! Mohantar 
Eld Kajj representing how Elokeshi a youthful lady 
of prepossessing beauty living at Harinabhi in the 
district of Hugly was coaxed, cajoled and seduced 
to become a concubine of Mohanta Madhav Giri, 
through the assistance of the step-mother of the girl, 
against her consent, how the girl made a clean 
breast of every thing to her husband Nabin, when 
he came to the house of the father-in-law and how 
the husband, not finding a Palki to carry his wife 
through the foul play of the Mohanta, exclaimed 
"This peerless beauty and youth of my darling to 
be tested by a monkey !" and hacked her to 
pieces with a fishing dao (Bati), how he immediately 
appeared before the police and made true and full 
disclosures of all the incidents, sticking to the con- 

29 



226 

fession before the Magistrate and how he was tried 
at the Hugly Sessions and sentenced to transpor- 
tation for life. # Babu Beharilal Chatterjee, both 
in appearance and representation in the role of the 
Mohanta, was full of life. 

This was the most sensational play at that time, 
which drew crowds into the theatre as the tale of 
the day was Mohanta and Elokeshi episode. His- 
tory, however, repeated itself and more than half a 
century after, the affairs relating to the Mohanta 
also became the talk of the day, and the people not 
meekly submitting to the villainies of the head of 
a sacred place, and awakened to a sense of self- 
respect fought against the powers and riches of an 
unscrupulous Mohanta and at last forced him to 
come to his knees and submit to popular demands 
in September, 1924, and the leader of the struggle 
was no other person than the great and illustrious 
leader of the country, Deshabandhu Chittaranjan 
Das, but the chapter after was a cloudy one for 
Bengal 

In the year 1874, Vidya-sicndar of Maharaj 
Jatindra Mohan Tagore, Malatl-inadhav on 21st 
May, Navanatak on 6th June, Padmavatl on 4th 
July, Pum-vikram on 22nd August, Ajmer Kumari 
on 18th September, Banger Pamjay on 14th Nov. 
were played. In this way the Bengal Theatre won 

* Nabin was subsequently released from jail on mercy. 



227 

the praise of all in their attempts to entertain the 
public and was able to secure patronage of big 
persons through the untiring exertion of Sarat Babu 
and Beharilal. 

In the year 1875, there was some change in the 
management. Towards the beginning of the year, on 
the 6th February, Babu Nagendra Nath Banerjee, 
Kiran Ch. Banerjee and Amrita lal Bose and few 
actors from the Great National Opera Company 
joined the Bengal Theatre and performed Sail Ki 
Kalankinl on the 6th February.* But about the 
time when Malhar Rao Gaehver was staged on the 
22nd May, Amrita Lal Bose left for Great National 
again. Nagendra Babu then formed an independent 
group under the name of New Aryan Theatre and 
with the help of Babu Upendra Nath Das staged 
his drama Surendra-vinodini Natalc^ After this 
Upendra Babu too joined the Great National and we 
should take our readers there. 



* Englishman, 6th February, 1875. This had been 
played in Great National in 1874 before. 

t A. B. Patrika, I9th August, 1875 and Englishman^ 
1 7th August, 1875. 



Chapter X 



The Great National Theatre 

The other important public theatre was the 
Great National Theatre, which opened on the 31st 
December, 1873, with Eamya Kanon and was 
associated with the name of Babu Bhuban Mohan 
Neogy to whom all credit of having the permanent 
stage of the National Theatre must go and who was 
protector of it for a number of years. It was built 
of wood after the pattern of Lewis Theatre at 
Chowringhee under the supervision of Babu 
Dharmadas Sur, the proprietor Bhuvan Mohan 
Neogy having spent Rs. 13000/- for the purpose. 
It is said that Bhuvan Babu, his relation Dharmadas 
and Babu Nagendra Nath Banerjee went to the 
Bengal Theatre to see a performance of "Mohanta 
on the stage" and were very much disappointed when 
they were not allowed to see the Manager after they 
failed to get tickets at any price, the rush on the 
night being very great. Bhuvan Mohan, a youth of 
generous but lavish spirits, had just inherited large 
property and had, as we have seen before, a great 



229 

taste for theatre. The result of the misunder- 
standing was the establishment of the Great 
National Theatre with Dharmadas Sur as Manager 
on a site which still adorns a flourishing and support- 
ing stage with the Minerva Theatre. The land 
belonged to one Mahendra Das and a lease of it 
was taken for 5 years by Dharmadas at a monthly 
rent of Rs. 40/- in Neogi's name. The possession 
of the land was taken on 29th September, 1873, and 
scenes were painted by Dharmadas Sur with the 
help of Mr- D. Garrick. * 

The foundation stone was laid in Sept. 29, 1873, 
under the presidency of Babu Novogopal Mitra. f 

Kamyakanani was taken from a fairy tale, and 
was run on a competition with Bengal's Mayafcanan, 
which did not meet with much acclamation. The 
welcome song was sung by 50 voices in a chorus 
and a farce Young Bengal was also in the bill, but 
the opening night was marked by a mishap which 
forbode its future fate. It was very curious that 
when the hero of the play Babu Amritalai Bose 
was worshipping the Goddess Kali before the sacri- 

* Dharmadas's Autobiography. 

f Englishman, 3rd Oct., 1873. 

t Amrita Babu says it was composed by the joint 
exertion of himself, Nagendra Babu, his brother 
Devendra Babu and another Devendra, a Medical 
College student. Vide % also his reminiscences. 



230 

ficial fire on the stage, people all round cried out 
'fire, fire', the wings having caught fire elsewhere. 
There was a great commotion amongst the audience, 
who began to find out the easiest means to escape. 
The accident was due to the fact that no chimney 
was set in on the gas box by the side of the window 
and owing to high pressure, fire broke out. The 
loss, however, was not much, slight repairs having 
restored the whole thing. There was, however, no 
further repetition of this drama, as it was con- 
sidered inauspicious. 

The spectators made a great clamour for the 
return of money, but were pacified with great diffi- 
culty by Ardhendu Babu, who was present here not 
as actor but as a sympathiser. Fire is a great curse 
to theatres. We have seen how Chowringhee and 
Sansoucie Theatres were closed down owing to fire 
and about half a century after in 1922, another sad 
fire completely burnt Minerva down, though the 
proprietor with great tact and perseverance was able 
to open it again at the same site. 

Babu Nagendra Banerjee was the Secretary of 
the above Great National and his brother Devendra 
Babu, a Director. 

On the 1st January, 1874, there was a perform- 
ance of Niladarpana, held at the Fancy Fair, of 
Belvedere as the Bengal Theatre, conducted with 
actresses, was not considered with favour. On the 



231 

10th January, Vidhava-vivaha Natalc was played 
and Pranaya-parlksa was played on the 17th Jan., 
when the scenic grandeur was really marvellous. 

On the 3rd January, 1874, The Old National 
Theatre also played Nlladarpana and Ami ta 
Unmadinl 'I am a mad woman' to conclude 
Mohanta in a penitent state and the most successful 
scenes of "Bharat-Mata" and "Cymbeline" ( Kusuin 
Kumari) on the 17th January, and also Manomohan 
Boso's Pranaya-pariksa These performances, 
though enacted in a rickety and shabby stage and not 
fetching much money, were really wonderful as the 
famous Amrita Bazar Patrika of 15th Jan., 1874 
(3rd Magh, 1280, B. S.) speaks of both the National 
and Great National : 

"The Great National has got its own theatre- 
building and stage and scenes are very nice. 
The National has no house and its scenes are 
shabby and require a change. The Orchestra 
of Great National consists in the English Band 
but all the same is not sweet. The Orchestra 
of the National is sweet and one would like it 
to continue, and above all, the actors of the 
National are so well trained that they can not 
be matched with those of the National.*' 

Thus, while Great National, inspite of its house 
and scenes, could not make much impression on the 
audience, and while Bengal's Durges-nandim,, with 
Sarat Chandra Ghose, an expert rider on horseback, 



232 

was drawing crowded houses, Girish Chandra 
Ghosh's help was considered indispensably necessary 
and he too ungrudgingly rendered his services. On 
the 24th January, Krsnakuman Natak was staged 
and Kapalkundala was staged with great success on 
7th Feb., 1874. Girish then dramatised two well 
known novels of Mr. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, 
Mrnalinl and Visavrltsa. These two dramas kept 
up the imagination of the spectators for some time 
and Girish also coached the parts and appeared in 
leading roles. All artists of both "National" and 
"Great National" gathered at the Great National 
Stage under the leadership of Girish and enacted a 
performance, which has ever remained incomparable. 
MrnaLinl was staged on the 14th Feb., 1874, and 
the cast was as follows : 

Pashupati ... Girish Chandra Ghosh. 

Hrisikesh ... Ardhendu Sekhar Mustafi. 

Hem Chandar ... Nagendra Nath Banerjee. 

Digvijay ... Amritalal Bose. 

Byomkesh ... Amritalal Mukherjee (Bel Babu) 

Baktier Khiliji ... Mahendralal Bose. 

Janardan ... Radha Prasad Basak. 

Mrinalini ... Basanta Kumar Ghosh. 

Girijaya ... Ashutosh Bandyopadhyaya. 

Manorama ... Kshetra Mohan Ganguli. 

Mynalini ... Mahendra Nath Sinha. 

Here Girish surpassed his Neemchand, Wood 
and Bheem Singh and showed talents of a very 



233 

high order. Babu Amrita Lai Bose said, at Kantal- 
para in 1917, during the first Bankim Sammilani, 
"Girish's voice was so powerful, distinct and sonorous 
and so masterly his acting that for this part alone, an 
artist would have been honoured with titles in other 
countries." He says also in his reminiscences, 
"Girish's artistic movements in the last scene, while 
he embraced Astabhuja in the flames, produced a 
thrilling sensation even on us, what to speak of the 
spectators." What an expression displayed in his 
face when he, for the first time, got Manorama's 
acquaintance in her words that she was Keshav's 
daughter his own married wife ! Ardhendu also 
joined Great National for the first time as Hrisikesh 
and all actors did well, but special mention might be 
made of Manorarna of whom the advertisement used 
to run as "Look look to your Manorama, she 
jumps at the fire !" 

As a dramatist also there was indication of 
Girish's genius, when on the last scene Pasupati was 
frantic for Manorama saying, "Leave me, leave, 
Manorama is in the room, she must be saved/' 
This was Girish's invention. 

The party next staged Visavrksa on the 7th 
March, 1874, with Girish as Nagendra Nath and 
when Kapalalciin<lala was again staged on the 4th 
April, 1874, Babu Amrita Lai Bose said : 

"Nagen Babu was both a handsome person and a 
good actor. He rendered the part of Nava- 

30 



234 

kumar with great credit. Matilal's Kapalik was 
superb. None has been able to surpass him 
upto now in his Torap and Kapalik. Bel Babu 
and Kshetra Babu did marvellous, the former as 
Kapalaknndalii and the latter as Manorama. 
These two used to monopolise the main female 
characters. Bel Babu was without a rival in 
emotional and Kshetra Babu in mild female 
characters." 

Kamalini (or Daughter of a Kulin) was staged 
on the 30th May, 1874, when the theatre 
remained in abeyance for some time, travelling in 
MafussiL * once or twice, after which we come to 
the period of great transition on the stage* 

Inspite of the marvellous acting by Girish and 
his colleagues, the Great National laboured under 
serious disadvantages in acting without female 
actresses and Bengal Theatre therefore began to 
command a greater sale. Diirgesa-nandint was played 
here on the 20th Dec., 1873 in competition with 
its rival, but besides female actresses, Babu 
Sarat Ghosh's "Jagat Sinha" at The Bengal was a 
treat. His princely figure and his dexterity as a 
rider on the stage made the performance more 
attractive. Then again when Mrnalinl was staged 
at the Bengal theatre also (the manuscripts accord- 
ing to some being supplied by Babu Kiran Chandra 
Banerjee, who appeared as Pashupati), the songs of 

* Sadharam, 5th July, 1874. 



235 

Golapsundari (afterwards Sukumari Dutt) used to 
produce a thrill to the audience. The Great 
National began, thus, to fall down in competition. 
Dharmadas could not meet the situation ; so in his 
place Nagendra Babu was appointed the Manager, 
with his brother Devendra Nath Banerjee as Direct- 
or. The absence of female characters being thus 
keenly felt, the Great National in Devendra 
Nath's Opera 8 all Id Kalahldnl or Is she chaste 
or not * staged on Sept., 14th, 1874 introduced the 
following actresses Kajkumari, Kshetramani, Jadu- 
manr, Luxmimani, Narayani and Harimati. 

Our readers will excuse us for making some 
references here about these actresses. Rajkumari 
as a heroine was successful, but of Kshetramani it 
may be said that none equalled her in histrionic 
arts. On a later occasion His Excellency Lord 
Dufferin, the Viceroy of India and Sir Rivers 
Thompson, the Lieutenant Governor, on seeing her 
play the part of Jhee (maid servant) in the farce of 
Vivahabibhrat of Amritalal, congratulated her on 
the success she achieved, remarking, very few actresses 
could equal her in acting even in England. In comic 
parts she was in all respects a match to Ardhendu 
Sekhar and the two together could reproduce 
Pantomimes admirably, sometimes on prompting 
and sometimes without it and in tragic parts she 

* A. B, Patrika } i;th Sept., 1874. 



236 

surpassed other colleagues. For her, to represent 
best art, one pose or expression was quite enough. 
As an orphan poor girl leading an old beggar in 
Sarat-sarojini, finding no juice in a piece 
of dried sugarcane and disgust on the occasion 
thereby, used to be shown by one look only. 

Sometimes after, Kadambini also joined this 
theatre and was set up for leading parts. But the 
next two actresses who soon joined the Great 
National, Sukumari from Bengal, and Binodini just 
fresh (the latter being still alive), were historically 
important. Both rose to the top of the profession 
and Binodini was once considered to be the Prima 
donna of the Bengali Stage. 

Sail ki Kalankini with Raja in the role of 
Radhika was much appreciated and was soon 
followed by other performances, which have become 
matters of history now. We shall relate those in 
the next chapter. 

About its success, Girish says : 

Great National won much reputation by staging 
Sati ki Kalahkim under the direction of Madan 
mohan Burman. * 

Indeed, Bhuvan Neogi, the proprietor, spared no 
pains or money to make the play a success, but the 
introduction of women was not agreeable to 

* Girish's preface to Binodini's autobiography. 



237 

Dharmadas and Ardhendu, who went out under 
the leadership of Matilal Sur and showed some 
performances at Dacca, Berhampore, Krishna- 
nagore, Ranaghat, Birbhum and Bogra under the 
name "National", but as Ardhendu's mother was 
in death-bed, he was helped by Bhuvan Mohan and 
was not allowed any more to go outside.* He too 
joined the theatre with women. 

Next, Puruvikram f spread reputation far and 
wide but we reserve our comment for the next chapter 
and other performances do not deserve mention 
except Rudrapal, which was a translation of Macbeth, 
and on the first night (31st Oct., 1874), Colonel 
Hyde was present and the advertisement ran as 
"Macbeth, with an original music from Lockes." 
Rani Oilabila, a very difficult part, was rendered by 
Kshetramani in Piiruvikram. 

From monetary considerations, however, these 
two dramas could not interest the spectators much, 
and they wanted another opera like Sail H Kalan- 
Hni and Ananda Kanan by Lakshmi Narayan 
Chakravarty, brought on the stage on 14th and 21st 
Nov.,} 1874, that fetched them some money. A review 



* Rangabhumi, zy& March, 1901. 

t Rangabhumi, 23rd March, 1901, Ardh endu's remini- 
scences. On that night of Puurvikram^ Bengal 
played Durgesnandim and Opera Troubles, 

\ Englishman, 24th Nov., 1874. 



238 

by Englishman of this opera gives a bit of con- 
temporary history. 

"The Great National Theatre The opera Ananda 
Kanan (The Bower of Bliss) or Madaner 
Digvijaya was performed at the National 
Theatre for the second time on Saturday last 
before a good, though not a crowded house. 
The performance was fairly done, the actors 
and actresses acquitting themselves creditably. 
Among them the following deserve special men- 
tion Rati and Sauti represented by Jadumani, 
Kavita and Kamala by Raj Kumari, Ahmika by 
Khatoo, Chapalata by Haridashi, Lila by Kadu, 
Sangit by Hari Charan Banerjee, Madan by 
Suresh Mitter, Basanta by Nagendra Nath 
Banerjee, Aviveka by Ardhendu Mustafi and 
Narayan by Amrita Lai Bose." 

Both Satl Id Kalankinl and Ananda Kanan 
bringing some money, Nagen Babu considered, success 
was due to him and insisted on an agreement being 
drawn by the proprietor, that in case the latter 
dismissed him, an indemnity of Rs. 20000/- would 
have to be paid. Bhuvan Babu refusing the proposal, 
Nagendra Nath left the theatre along with his 
brother Kiran Chandra Banerjee, Babu Amrita Lai 
Bose, Madan Mohan Burman, Jadumani and 
Kadambini.* 

* On the gth Jany, 1875, at the Lewis Theatre Royal 
under the name "Great National Opera Company'*, 
Nagendra Babu did marvellously as the drunkard in 



As we describedlin page 227, they afterwards 
joined the Bengal Theatre. 

Great National experienced a bitter time with 
this change and we can not enlighten our readers 
about internal troubles more than what appeared 
in the Indian Daily News of 2nd Dec., 1874 : 

"A correspondent mentions that a warrant has been 
issued against one prominent character connect- 
ed with it, for his apprehension on a charge of 
criminal misappropriation, the amount of defal- 
cation is stated to be Rs. 10000/-, which is pro- 
bably an exaggerrtion as is also the statement 
that a young native gentleman has been induced 
to incur debts, in connection with the theatre, 
to the extent of Rs. 50000/-/' 

There was really a suit and a very prominent 
notary of the town (afterwards a title-holder) was 
indicted for perjury ( making false statements 
about Bhuvan Mohan). 

Satrusanhar was staged on 12th Dec., and 
Vanger SukJiavasan, on 26th Dec., 1874 

Dharmadas was next taken in as the manager, 
who now formed a strong corps with Mahendra 
Lai, Matilal, Bel Babu, Kshetramani and Golap 
Sundari. 

Kincit Jalayoga and Jadumani as Radhika in Sail 
ki Kalahkim. Maharaja of Jodhpore was present, 
Englishman, I2th Jan, 1875. 



240 

Sometime after, Amritlal Bose, Madan Mohan 
Burman and Kadambini also returned as stated 
before, to the Great National. 

Dharmadas got the right of staging a new drama 
Samtsarojini from the pen of Babu Upendra Nath 
Das, although known as written by one Durgadas 
Babu. It was staged at the Great National on 
2nd Jan., 1875, under the distinguished presence and 
patronage of H. H. the Maharaja Harendra Krishna 
Singh of Bettia. The house was crowded to suffo- 
cation and on the 2nd night a large number of intend- 
ing visitors had to go disappointed for want of 
accommodation and the parts were very well rend- 
ered. It was unanimously pronounced to be one 
of the most original and powerful productions of the 
age. Shooting on the stage was shown for the 
first time.* 

In a later issue, the Englishman praised highly 
Mahendra Babu ( representing Sarat Kumar), 
Kiran Chandra Banerjee, Jagattarini, Binduvasini 
and Kshetramani and specially the songster Jadu- 
mani.f 

After having played one or two stage shows, the 
Great National, with the assistance of Babu Girish 
Chandra Das, an officer of the Calcutta Currency, 
then on special deputation, went to Delhi in March, 

* A. B. Patrika, I4th Jan, 1874. 
f Englishman, lyth Aug., 1875. 



241 

1875. The party stayed at Delhi for about 10 days, 
then went to Lahore, stayed for about a month and 
created an impression there. It then came 
to Meerut, to Agra, Brindavan and the whole 
party then came to Lucknow.* 

A portion of the company showed performances 
at 'Home' also, under Mahendra Bose, as manager. 

The return of Dharmadas's party in July, 1875, 
after a successful tour was noticed in the pages of 
the Englishman as follows : 

"The portion of the company, lately giving so many 
successful performances in Delhi, Lahore etc., 
so favourably noticed in the papers having just 
returned to Calcutta > the performances hence- 
forth will be on grand scale- The orchestra 
under the direction of Madan Mohan Burman 
is a charming one." 

On 3rd July, 1875, Padmini by Mahendra 
Basu was staged for his benefit, Mahendra Babu 
himself appearing in the role of Bheem Sinha. The 
well known "Bharat Sangit" song was sung by Jadu- 
mani. Gopal Chandra Mazumdar appeared as 
Alauddin. 

After this, for about 4 or 5 months the theatre 
remained in the hands of Babu Krishnadhan 
Banerjee of Shyampukur as lessee, with Babu 
Mahendra Lai Bose as his Manager. The reason of 

* Indian Mirror, yth April, 1875. 

31 



242 



this change was that Bhuvan Balm .by .the lon 

lifli; iltuinn i; KMxTc m . .. . | tf| ' n.)/) 

absence ot the company not only lost at home but 

>Ullr),.,lf>!l! )1 .'',1,'iH iJ< I- "MUMII JIC |j')Kyi!> 

also did not get anything frpm abroad, though , the 
ulpdv/ oil t Tun.., {" vi;Dim<I ,/iivT u) ^inwJM a) 
Manager was said to nave made profits and in 

j- ,11 ii. t -"*'il'''iliJ ut. 'JiriJ;-> Il'iij) vl'U;<l 

disgust he leased his theatre to a third party/ ^ ' 



i. ..Beriarmanoes,.. it.. was s seen i that 

was in debt, and unable to payment. 

ft I rYtolv HI /('"'"a '- -:.! s i'V.n;,iKLI<> irmt'jj tyl I. 

tuvan Babu, therefore, took the theatre back into 
,<i aojjcu Mill m Jcu'V >vw - invl Ijj-P-^V'4^ c "I'*')*!; 
ais hahos and made Babus U peijdra TN ath .Das, and 

Amrita Lai Bose as Director and Manager, 'respect- 

$MJ. 

Great 1 -Notiondl i'^h^eatre (btaged/^tZfi/'a^curn^ 

^l; n I8^ff ariil T^HMa "[BtifoJiW b^' lo ferajendra 
'Kumar feiby on''^ 'JanJ^'lSfft.: feut l> ^tie inauspi- 
cious ^y in the for^uijes oi, Bhuvan Mphan was 

in ascendancy and Jie fell intid such 7 - great * 'cfifficultier 
UiJ'5iU r/uufoin;!/! Jibuti '<ul jot J^mj;) ^jiv/ UH;<,| 
thaj; he Ips^nonev, e^iergj^ and spjinf^and the resul 

was that ne nad 10 clpsp tneatr^ ere %ng. J *Wc 

"V ! wv'1* ^ Ml/ ' ^ l;7 ^Ji n *i K ll!-- nii ^ >>'><1U" nv/on>iJhv/ 
snail take our readdf s to the next cnapter for those 

ti; JV^U'^llUi 'irJuifuxuIA . inlMirjr) 
incidents of great public interest 



* Englishman, 7th August, 1875. 

I <. 






XI 



PERFORMANCES ACT 

tJwut 



For some time and .with OTTO tor /fial sinoft Mr. 

, Nnth Hns <nnrl ffohii Amritn T.aT RAQA fnnlr 



to, stqge , .draroas ..of smsational .. mtemsfe 

acanired a^notorifitv. Imndonts ftiieftfificted in nnioJc 



and toeiJUi9apatiaJriertoj:mance>s 
the free. and. fair growth of ikeisiaae^ was r soom 



ip stiiif in JLUfuc fuicf it 

ve^table word of t JJamQclQs ^even today ; on the 



Bengali Stage." The, history of thib period is a very 

> .fH;nc( tiv^f *' '^iMiiJi) /-;<ni; Mldno'ft Mil) Jllll .;J"Huj 

memorable one, and we propQse tp narrate the cau 

" 



L 



^iiu. in, y ,,j;m'm 'm<71 vH Trtl P^itti''^* W^o,/! tini 
repeated, in, the, Gre^t isational, Theatre also. . It 

Tnilw *>iJj -xl <ijl>,i// 1 ^fUyi.^ ^H'M;ML>'I. HnJ TKI In 

was reallv a drama or the national, interest. It 



244 



touched every Bengali heart. It stirred up the 
audience both Indians and Europeans alike, and 
sometimes they were beside themselves with emo- 
tion. The Great National Theatre went to different 
places in 1875 with Dharmadas Babu as manager. 
It gave its performances at Agra, Delhi, Mathura, 
Brindavan, Lucknow and everywhere the scenes of 
oppression by Messrs. Wood and Rogue upon the 
innocent ryots created great sensation amongst the 
audience. When they appeared on the stage in 
their respective roles, Babu Nilmadhav Chakravarty 
as Golak Bose, Nagendra Banerjee as Navin, Babu 
Ardhendu Shekhar as Mr. Wood, Babu Matilal Sur 
as Torap, Babu Avinash Chandra Kar, Assistant 
Manager as Mr. Rogue, Kshetramani as Savitri, 
Kadambini as Sairindhri, Binodini as Saralata, 
Lakshmi as Kshetramoni and Narayani as Padi- 
mayrani, everybody was pleased as to the manner 
in which they acquitted themselves in their alloted 
parts. But the trouble arose during a performance 
at Lucknow, when Mr. Rogue fell upon Kshetramani, 
big with child and the poor girl piteously begged 
to be released crying in utter helpless manner and 
saying, "Saheb, father ( Saheb Tumi Amar Baba ), 
I am your daughter, leave me, thou art my father," 
but Rogue dragged her by force brutally taunting 
at her last remarks saying, "I wish to be the father 
of your child" ( "Tomar Cheler Baba haite iccha 



245 

hoeche")- At that time Torap entered the room 
in company with Navin Madhav, by breaking open 
the window-panes and while Navin raised Kshetra- 
mani in his arms and departed and Torab slapped 
and kicked Mr. Rogue, the European audience was 
so much excited that some of them actually ran 
towards the stage to fall upon Matilal Sur, who 
appeared in the role of Torap. They were, at last, 
pacified with great difficulty. The District Magis- 
trate ordered the performance at once to be stopped, 
advised the party to start for Calcutta, and with 
police help made them leave the station peace- 
fully, with their bags and baggages. * 

That was the stir, Nlldarpana created amongst the 
audience, yet strictly speaking it was not a national 
drama in the sense it had no political goal to achieve, 
nor any political propaganda to make, but it laid 
before the public the heartless oppression of the 
indigo planters upon the helpless ryots, so that 
therein might be a speedy end to all such cruelties. 

The object was no doubt laudable and noble 
but as we have shown in page 98, in no way it 
could be called seditious, nor was it an attempt for 
the political uplift of the inass^ The first national 
dramatic piece in the aforesaid sense was, therefore, 
"Bhart-matar Bilap", or the lamentations of 
Mother India, staged on the 15th February, 

* Reminiscences of Binodini Dasi. 



r; 

1873 at the Hindu Mela . ( Fair ) , under f th( 

moo'j oilt J>yT>tnL uiriol i uin1 liult JA .fofbso 
auspices ,oti the National f Thjeatre. f If representec 
WJk d m f l; 'j' j(f V 1 ' r vj;fiiml/, nr/j;/i mi//, vffiqjffo'i ni 
Mother India, pale r .and. morose at the miseries, 

poverty and , degradation or.ner sons -awL pathetic 
waqiiPj uiriol /IHH; b'U'n;qiJ> Jan; *W'n;*nMn immi 
and q^uite reluctant to r make any c ?ff?rt j^atspyer. 

The ft famous soiig " Malina'f MuKna^a^dram 
jBtarate^TpmarL ( Inuia^ ithv moopiike iace 
is dkrli: with sorron ), used to ri^ve tne, audience 
ro.teaKS- f Ipis.piepe^was written at tne guggestion 
of Babu pisnir Kumar Gnosn,, me ''ipnous rounder 

(itor of Itne ^mrita ^jSazar H Palrilca 9 AiiiQug\i 
im; f nj)ir)L; ) -fol j-/j;^ <>) vtmr od) 




ami Hiaiior or inp j&mriwb jiazar irairiica 9 airnQUgn 
iTliy/ pin; f nj)ir)L; ) -jol j'/j;^. <>t ytmi oriJ^L'^r/Tn; 
printer s name only was given as ' Kiran Chandra 
tf )h ' J !L nu/h;k, onl MV.CM! (uoin 'jnjini <i] < Vf,, 4 >;moq 
Banerjee. The songs were oorro wed. from JThakur- 1 
i i i ^ 'V>i2iU2ijio i>ni* ^Biy v*'yft flu// .yLfiji 

bari, whose authorship ^as attrimitea to batyendra 



, i xu rt - 

bari, whose authorship "^was attribtitea to Satyendra 



: ^arA * IM ..^/iun ul i;hac22K(ttvi(j Ir/uJilou van 'f//u 
There, the mother sits* dark and solemn with 
rMJ^jioi^^/fuqi) ^/)lhK')fl MfU, f)ilduu .ojiu 'uofoij. 
f like the moon over-cast with cfouds . ot 

,f(;(U ()-. ,^>TI .^x'HuJ^fl i Oil] JH>iU KKi^intl tfil>ni 

sorrow, ahq resting her cheeK on her left palm ^ 

.^unorrr) (run, fii; ot lui' /;lri'xj-i i; ><! Irl^ira ni'/rxU 

r r Her hair is f dishevelled ^and coarse ; . , , r 
MicUm nm; ?>j<lf;nniiT T<woi> on <uv/ Trj[uooj!l 

4 - She is clad iftrrags. , , ^ , 

ii '/nv/ on (it ,r,(f rJ^nq rn nv/oil^ uv-nil ;r// -. linl 

icon bracelets she wears. on her wrists,;. , 
^Tjn m; n ^uv/ 'iyn .^noinn?)^ n'jiir/) ^rrhlnr.M 



Meditation's, self. 

ff)H nTi;H' 



* ^4. B. Patrika, loth Falgun. 12.79, B - S ' 

.r/'Ktl iriiooniH )o /.vtun'M 



247 

Suddenly, alighting alpft tlje Sky, 

And the goddess > .JJestin v. appeared i 

Her graceful feet planted on a lull blown lotus. 

But, lo ! she burst Jnto .tears, crying, 

"Alas ! Seeing thy sorj-pwfyJ face, <^,.J2tiarata 5 

Tears gijish tHrpygh n\y f .eyes i Jbdth^ay^njd i?ight. 

My heart breaks seeing mee, 

Thus plunged intp apt, ocean qt grj^l. 

Hearing that sweet. voica She looked UP :. 

But being blind with tears, * ' 



The sight is quite painful to see ; 



Seeing that 



And now she is in the aueen's palace, 
Standing by the sea," 



248 

"God save the queen, 
May victory attend on her, 
May she give shelter to all." 

Thus they sang. 
Then a white man red with rage, 

Cried out, "Rebellion rank !" 
And kicked at the children of the soil. 
Mother knelt and wept. 
She cursed her lamentable fate, 
And wept her appeals to God. 

The Amrita Bazar Patrika* published the full 
play in Bengali and stated that when this piece was 
performed at the Hindu Mela on the i5th Feb., 
1873, the whole audience numbering about 1500 
persons shed tears and their hairs stood on their 
end. 

It was, as Bangadarshan (of Kartic, 1280 B. S.) 
stated, "a Burlesque or allegory. Mother India, the 
presiding deity of fortune, some Indians and two 
Europeans, Patience and Courage were its characters. 
It was a tolerably good production." 

The above named drama was followed by Hema- 
lata Natak by Babu Haralal Hoy, Head master, 
Hare school, and was staged on the 13th December, 
1873, at the Jorasanko "National." Babu Mahendra 
Lai Bose appeared in the main role of Satyasakha 
and Dr. R. G. Kar as Satyasakha's mother. 
* loth Falgun, 1279 B. S. 



249 

The Great National Theatre, as we have seen 
before, was started afterwards at 6, Beadon Street 
and the above three dramas staged in the "National" 
of the old Jorasanko were revived in the Great 
National also. 

We shall now confine our attention only to the 
Great National. 

In the year 1875, Pnni-vikram,* Bharate 
Yavan and Banger Sukhavasan were staged at 
the Great National Theatre on the 3rd October, 7th 
November and 26th December, respectively. These 
plays appealed to the patriotic feelings of the 
Bengalis ; Bharate Yavan related the historic 
resistance of Prithviraj against the Moslem invaders, 
Banger Sukhavasan was based upon Baktiar 
Khilji's conquest of Bengal and Pnru-vikram from 
the pen of Jyotirindra Nath Tagore described the 
heroic deeds of that heroic king Porus, who bravely 
fought against Alexander the Great, Emperor of 
Greece. Mahendra Lai Bose acted the part of 
Alexander the Great, Nagendra Nath Banerjee that 
of Porus and Srimati Kshetramani Devi that of 
Ailobila, the queen. There was a song in that 
drama that vibrated the patriotic cords of the 
Bengali audience, and we give below a summary of 
that in our English : 



* Puru-vikram was produced very successfully at the 

G. N. Theatre, both actors and actresses playing their 

respective parts well, Englishman, 1875, 6th October. 

32 



250 

Let the children of Bharata in one voice declare 
Which land is like her ? 
What hill is like the Himalayas. 
Which land is so rich with 

Such streams and mines of gems.' 1 ' 
Let us sing of her glory. 
May victory ever attend on her. 
There is nothing to fear. 
Let us sing of her victory for ever 
Where the woman is so chaste and fair 
Like Sita, Savitri, Sarmistha and Damayanti ? 
Let us sing of her victory. 
Have you forgotten the heroes 

Bhishma, Drona, Bhima and Arjuna the 

brave ? 
Why do you fear the enemy ? 

Virtue always treads in virtue's path, 
Division has made you weak, 
But united will grow strong. 

Thus sing of victory to Bharata, 
Her countenance will again be bright. 

Similarly in Scene I, Act III when king Porus 
was urging his men to fight against the Greeks 
reminding every one of his duty towards the 
father-land, we find greater inspiration : 



*In this vein the famous song of D. L. Roy in his 

Shajahan ran : 
Cl ln this world of ours full of wealth, bliss and corn will 

you get a land like this ?" 



251 

"Awake, Arise ! 

"Look, the cruel Yavanas 

"Trespass into your home ; 

Be of one mind, 
Liberate the Mother-land 

Delay is intolerable 
Advance with the banner of victory in your hand. 

What is life without freedom ? 
Fie on him who wants to live 

Being robbed of his liberty 
It is better to die, 

But let Liberty and Honour live in the land. 
Come and swear, 

Either must win or must die- 
Either kill the Yavanas 

Or follow death yourself. 

Then followed in quick succession other 'Nation- 
al' dramas at the Great National Theatre, in 1875. 

Of them the following deserve special notice, 
Hlralc-curna Natalt, Sarojinl Natak and the 
Surendra-vinodini, Natak* Similar other dramas 
like the Malhar Rao, Virnan, the Ajmer 
Kumarl and Banger Parajaya were also staged 
at the Bengal Theatre. 

Hiralc-curna was written by Sj. Amritalal Bose, 
and was staged on the 17th June, 1875. It re- 
presented the farcical 'trial* of Malhar Rao Gaekwar 
of Baroda, who was forced to abdicate on the 29th 
April, 1875, for having attempted to poison Col, 



252 

R. Phayre, British Political Agent of the Baroda 
Court. 

The Amrita Bazar Patrika commenting upon 
the play observed that despite its good many merits, 
its effect was marred by its undignified attacks 
hurled against Babu Kristo Das Paul, the Editor 
of the Hindu Patriot, who supported the "Trial". 

H'trak-curna was followed by Jyotirindra Nath 
Tagore's Sarojini Natalc. It was a famous produc- 
tion of its time and its songs and sentiments became 
the literary possession of the day. 

It narrated the story of the historic fight of Rana 
Lakshman Singh of Chitore against Ala Uddin 
Khiliji the Pathan ruler of Delhi. There was 
a song in the drama by the Rajput women dressed 
in red-bordered saris and adorned with floral wreaths 
about to fling themselves on the blazing pyre to 
burn to death and save them from the polluted 
touch of the Mahomedan victors. The song used 
to kindle patriotic fervour in the heart of every 
Bengali spectator. The famous song ran thus : 
Jval, jval cita dvigun dvigun 

Paran sapive vidhava valfw 
Jvaluk, jvaluk citar agun 

Judavi ekhani praner jvala. 
Dekh re yavan dekh re tora, 

Ye jvalay hrdaya jvalali save, 
Saksi rahiven devata tar 

Er pratiphal bhugite have. 



253 

In English the song reads thus : 

Blaze up ye funeral pyre, blaze up in double the 

glare, 

The widowed woman will cast her life. 
Let the flame of the funeral pyre burn and leap, 
It will soon extinguish the burning of heart. 
Look, ye Yavanas, look, but here, what fire 

have you enkindled in our bosoms, 
Gods will bear witness to this 

And soon you will reap the fruit of your 

deeds. 

There was also another scene in the drama, which 
greatly excited the audience, they even seemed to 
forget themselves in great excitement. This was 
when Sarojinl ( the heroine ) was brought before 
a sacrificial post ( to which animals for sacrifice are 
tied down ) and Rana consented to her being sacri- 
ficed for the deliverance of the country. Ranadhir 
was looking sharp and Bhairavacharya, the disguised 
spy from the court of the Emperor Alauddin 
approached her with sword in his hand. Then all 
on a sudden, Bijay Singh rushed into the scene 
crying, "All's conspiracy, Bhairav is not a brahmin, 
but a Mahamedan spy from Delhi." At this, many 
of the spectators, out of emotion, jumped upon the 
stage to save Sarojini's life and some even fainted. 
The famous actress Binodini told us that occasion- 
ally some of them had to be nursed by the 



254 

theatrical staff till they regained their conscious- 
ness.* 

As soon as Babu Upendra Nath Das became 
the director of the Great National, he began to 
revive the ;martial dramas of Jyotirindra Nath. 

The third play Surevifofamnodini has become 
quite a history, for the trouble it put its authors 
into ; but of this, later on. 

Now, these dramas produced a tremendous effect 
on the minds of the people, and naturally attention 
of the Government was drawn towards them. Espio- 
nage from one side and suspicion from the other, 
were much in evidence. Even friends were sometimes 
mistaken for spies. An Englishman, Mr. Hunter 
who liked the play, one day came to witness the 
performance, but finding that his presence was 
looked upon with some suspicion, he exclaimed 
"I have come to see the play, not to arrest you." 

The hon'ble Mr. Hobbhouse, the law member 
of the Viceroy's Legislative Council, wanted special 
powers of the Executive quoting history that in 
times of excitement there was no surer method of 
directing public feeling against individuals or classes 
or the Government itself, than by exhibiting them 

*Mati Sur appeared in the role of Lakshman Singh, 
Gopal Das as Bhairavacharya, Amrita Bose as Bijay Singh, 
Mahendra Bose as Ranadhir Singh and Binodini as 
Sarojini, 



255 

on the stage in an odious light and the best remedy 
was therefore to suppress such dramas. 

No doubt, Mr. Hobbhouse, while presenting the 
Bill in the Supreme Legislative Council, presided 
over by his Excellency the Viceroy, on the 14th 
March 1876, did not mention about these dramas 
in particular, but put clearly before the house, 
when Sir Richard Temple, the Lieutenant Governor 
of Bengal, was also present in the Council, the 
following : 

"Now it had been found in all times and in all 
countries that no greater stimulus could be supplied 
to excite the passions of mankind than that supplied 
by means of the drama and that no feat was too 
difficult for a dramatist, who could produce any effect 
he pleased on the minds of the spectators : 

Sequius irritant animos demissa per aures 
Suam que sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus.*" 

II. ARRIVAL OF THE PRINCE OF WALES. 

Though the staging of the National dramas was 
not sought as an apology for passing the Dramatic 
Performances Act, the incidents relating to the 
Prince's visit in the house of a Bhowanipore gentle- 
man were, however, so made. 

It was about this time that his Royal Highness 



* Englishman, I5th March, 1876. 



256 

the Prince Of Wales ( afterwards, King Emperor 
Edward VII, grandfather of our King Emperor 
Edward VIII and George VI ) visited Calcutta on 
December 23, 1875.* Amongst his famous hosts, 
Babu Jagadananda Mukherjee, a famous vakil of the 
Calcutta High Court, and a member of the Bengal 
Legislative Council, entertained the Prince in his 
residential house at Bakulbagan, Bhowanipore, on 
the 3rd January, 1876 ( 20th Paush, 1282 B. S.). 
The Prince was loyally received by the ladies of his 
zenana and presented with an emerald necklace, 
one pair of gold bangles, one gold neck chain and 
some pairs of Dacca embroidery muslins, f Lord 
Northbrooke, the then viceroy is said to have protest- 
ed at the Prince's reception at a Hindu zenana and 
his resignation was rumoured. II Mrs. Jagadananda 
Mukherjee, with her retinue and neighbouring friends, 
was all attention to the Prince, received him with 
conchshells, and offered varan with the joyous 
shouts ulu, peculiar to Hindu females on festive 



* The Prince arrived near Diamond Harbour on the 
22nd December, 1875, through the steamer Serapin and 
arrived at the Prinseps ghat on 23rd December, at 
4-30 P. M. (Contemporaneous newspapers). 

t Diary of Jagadananda Mukherjee, published in page 
54 of Nandavansa by Mr. Chandra Sekhar Mukherjee. 

|| It is said that the Prince went to the Zenana, leaving 
the ladies that accompanied him, behind, and His Excellency 
as a mark of displeasure, wanted to tender resignation. 
A. B. Patrika, ;th Magh, 1282 B. 8. 



257 

occasions. The prince seemed to have been asto- 
nished at the jewellery and ornaments, which Mrs. 
Mukherjee and her companions put on their person 
and is said to have exclaimed, while parting, to 
Jagadananda Babu : 

"I see no difference between your house and my 
Windsor palace." 

An account of the visit of the prince, though a 
digression, we give here below from an account of 
the prince's private secretary : 

3rd January, 1876. 

How it came about I do not exactly know but it is 
probably that the prince expressed a wish to 
see the Zenana of some respected native and 
that the wish was made to the worthy Hindu of 
Bhowanipore. Mr. Mukherjee was too happy 
to gratify it to-day. Miss Baring, Lady Temple, 
to-day Miss Milmen, Lady Stuart Hogg and 
others had perhaps some part in this pourpar- 
lers. There were hundreds of children assembled 
to see the prince arrive ; most of the little ladies 
held pretty bouquets, with which, out of local 
devotion, to pelt the prince. These children 
may develop into Hindu Blooms and establish 
women's Rights associations unless their wild 
shrieks of liberty were silenced into the leaden 
flood of caste and custom, which has drowned 
so much thought and life in India century after 
century. Instead of salutes and flourishes 
or bell peeling the Hindus use conches to 
announce the arrival of guests ; the noise of 

33 



258 

these natural horns makes one rej 
is not among the Tritons. These we 
often and long for there were false 
the prince coming but at last his cai 
in sight and there was conch-blo> 
Royal Highness did not appear in tb 
attire, which Mrs. Mukherjee ana 
friends, no doubt, thought a prince should w^. . 
Whether Babu Jogadananda Mukherjee will 
ever get over the wrath of his co-religionists 
for the doings of this day, time only can show. 
There is one fact revealed by the manner in 
which the occurrence was accepted by those 
concerned. Hindu ladies at all events do not 
consider strict seclusion all essential to their 
happiness. But it is dangerous to argue from 
a particular to the universal and so it will be 
safer perhaps to say that some Hindu ladies 
do not dislike being seen at all events by a 
Prince of Wales." 

This incident, however innocent, was severely 
commented upon and raised a storm of protest 
throughout the length and breadth of the country and 
the press and the stage equally joined in expressing 
severe condemnation of Jagadananda Babu's action. 
The Hindu Patriot regretted "that the national feeling 
had been outraged at the price the Babu paid for his 

* Travels of the prince by W. H. Russel, honorary 
private secretary to H. R. H. Prince of Wales and 
member of the prince's suite accompanying him 
to India Published in 1877, page 378379. 



259 

honour." The Fatrilca was rather more outspoken ; 
on the 23rd Paush, 1282 B. S., it wrote "The Hindu 
society can bear all oppression, but no shock to 
its womanhood. Any person, who allows the family 
to be defiled from outside, is a disgrace, nay a 
great enemy, to the Hindu society." 

Indeed this action of his, received the strongest 
censure from the society. Satirical songs poured forth 
from all quarters and the Great National Theatre, 
at the earliest opportunity, took up the matter, 
prepared and staged a farce Oajadananda on the 
19th February, 1876, written by Upendra Babu, 
along with the performance of "Sarojinl Natak". 
The prologue and the songs now without trace, were 
all the composition of Girish Chandra Ghosh. The 
song that was put into the mouth of the ladies, while 
moving round the prince, ran thus : 

"Can't knock about any more 
My feet are aching 
Why do you fall on my person 
Just move a little slowly 
I can't walk with pitcher in my hand 
Just wait a moment. 
I am wet with perspiration." 
Olo dhire calo 



This was followed by quoted poem "Po/t- 
of the well known poet Hem Chandra Banerjee 



260 

satirising his brother-pleader as "Long live, thou 
son of a Mukherjee." 

The Government of Bengal seemed to be highly 
offended with the above representation on the stage 
and tried to prevent its repetition. On the 23rd 
February, 1876, ( Wednesday ) at the benefit night 
of Babu Amrita Lai Bose when performance of 
Satl ki Tcalankini and a musical concert were 
arranged, Gajadananda too was brought on the 
stage under a new name and in a somewhat different 
garb.* 

The police were present on this occasion also. 
Then for the 26th February, "new and able work" 
Karnat-lcumar ( The Prince of Karnat ) was put 
on boards to conclude with the above farce under 
again a new name Hanuman-caritra ( Monkey's 
character ), when Mr. Das, the Director, was to have 
delivered a stirring speech in English. This 
time, too, the police forbade its repetition. The 
troupe next arranged to hold on the 1st March, 
a performance of Surendrcb-vinodinl along with 
the above farce under a queer name Police of 
Pig and Sheep, criticising the spirit of Sir 
Stuart Hogg, Commissioner of Police, and Mr. 
Lamb, Superintendent of Police, for having taken up 
a hostile attitude. The joint attraction for a railway 

* Correspondence of G. C. De in Indian Mirror^ Feb. 
27, 1876, 



261 

ain on the stage and the Director's speech in 
English 'on actresses', as well as the farce in a new 
ame, drew a very crowded house at that night. 

The various poems on the topic, composed on 
le period, the farce staged at the Great National 
nder different names and the stirring speeches of 
dr. U. N. Das made the city too hot for Jagada- 
anda Babu and after the third performance was 
dvertised, Government finding that the police has 
een calumniated, came to his rescue, in right earnest 
nd set its machinery in force in favour of the 
>rince's distinguished host. On the representation 
i the Government of Bengal, His Excellency Lord 
^orthbrooke, the Viceroy, issued an Ordinance, from 
nmla as an emergency measure, under the Govern- 
nent of India Act, with a view to give the Govern- 
nent of Bengal, power to control the dramatic 
>erf ormances. This was to remain in force for two 
nonths till the end of May, until a new law was 
>assed by the Viceregal ( Supreme ) Legislative 
Council, on the subject. Armed with this authority 
Vlr. Lambert, Deputy Commissioner and Mr. Lamb, 
Superintendent of Police with Babu Amrita Lai 
Dutt, Inspector, Shampukur Thana, came to 
;he Great National Theatre on the 1st March, 
L876, when the performance was going on 
ind in absence of the honorary director Mr. 
[Jpendra Nath Das, owing to mortification, 
handed over the order to Babu Amritalal Bose, 



262 

the manager, asking the authorities not to play the 
farce Gajadananda, Hanuman-caritra or Police of 
Pig and sheep, in the night and similar other farces 
that were libellous and obscene, any more, on their 
stage, on pain of penalty under the Ordinance. It 
is not possible to get at the farces anywhere at this 
moment, as the first one was in manuscript and the 
last two extempore, but for the information of our 
readers, we quote a few lines from the Amrita Bazar 
Patrilta, # about this repressive Ordinance of 
the time : 

"The story is soon told. The National Theatrical 
Company entertained crowded houses with the farce 
of Gajadananda and the prince. A cry was raised 
by the friends of Jagadananda that the piece was 
obscene and disloyal. We did not see it before, but 
we have seen it since and consider it only a harmless 
piece enough. However painful it may be to the 
feelings of Babu Jagadananda and his friends to be 
thus caricatured, the farce was neither disloyal nor 
obscene. 

"Viceroy gives Lieutenant Governor art Ordi- 
nance, but will the Police be judges. The next 
move of Lord Northbrooke is to suppress objection- 
able theatrical performances by force." 

The Ordinance alarmed the people very much and 
the Hindu Patriot, too, with its conciliatory policy 

* jst March, 1876, 



263 

advised a milder course by saying that when the 
Anglo-Indian community was very much surprised 
over the feelings of the Hindus in the matter of 
Royal visit to Jagadananda Babu's house and when 
a charge of criminal offence might not end in convic- 
tion up to the High Court and which might necessi- 
tate the presence of the Royal Highness and his 
suite, which would make him unnecessarily unpopular 
and that of the Hindu ladies, who assembled to 
receive him, Government could have shortened the 
matter by writing a letter to the Director.* 

The Hon'ble Mr. Hobhouse, the Law Member, 
Government of India, while presenting the Dramatic 
Performances 5 Bill for further legislation in the 
Supreme Legislative Council on the 15th March, 
1876, sought this to be the main ground for putting 
it on the legislative anvil. He put his case thus : 

"A respectable Hindu gentleman holding a good 
position in society, one of the legal advisors of the 
Government and a member of the Legislative 
Council of Bengal gave an entertainment at his 
house, which some of the caste-fellows disapproved. 
In order to punish him, they got up a play in which 
this gentleman, though he had done nothing but what 
was perfectly lawful, fervently innocent, perfectly 
honourable, was represented as deliberately selling 
the honour of himself and his family, in order to get 

* Hindu Patriot, March 16, 1876. 



264 

promotion and money. Now, men were free to 
choose their own society and if they found even one 
of their society had violated any of the rules that had 
been laid down for themselves, they were at liberty 
to withdraw from association with them, however 
absurd those rules might be but they were certainly 
not at liberty to spread abroad falsehood and 
calumny in order to inflict pain upon him. Yet the 
play was acted, an honourable gentleman, held up 
to the scorn of an ignorant multitude, as we were 
told and the undaunted fact was that there was no 
direct legal power existing in the government to step 
in and prevent such a proceeding although when the 
act was done, those who, concerned in it, might and 
probably would be punished. It was this case, which 
induced H. E. the Viceroy to issue an Ordinance 
for the purpose of giving the Government of 
Bengal, power to control dramatic performance and 
the bill, which was framed on the model of this 
Ordinance I am seeking leave to introduce."* 

III. OTHER DRAMAS 

Mr. Hobhouse also mentioned another drama 
in five acts, CaJcar-darpan Natdk, a mirror of 
tea-planters, by Babu Dakshina Chatterjee, where a 
tea-planter, Mr. Maclean by name, treated two ryots 
Sarada and Barada, recently recruited as coolies, with 
harshness and cruelty and tried to outrage the modesty 

* Vide, Englishman, i6th March } 



265 

of Surama, Barada's wife, in his private apartment. 
It is a prototype of Nilafarpana Nat^li* and Sarada 
and Barada are imitations of Nabinmadhab and 
Bindumadhab, Nrityakali and Surama those of 
Sairindhri and Saralata, and Mr- Maclean as Mr. 
Rogue, Keshab Chakravarty as Gopi Dewan, Madhab 
as Sadhu, and Nidhu more as Padi Mayrani. 
This drama was not staged and of this Mr. Hob- 
house spoke in the Council rather strongly : 

"In the course of the last year a work was 
printed and published in the form of a drama en- 
titled G&kar-darpan NaiaJt which, he might state, 
meant the mirror of tea-planters. He did not 
know, who the author was and what his motives were 
but the work itself was as outrageous a calumny as 
could possibly be conceived. Its object was to hold 
up as monsters of iniquity the class of tea-planters and 
all persons engaged in promoting emigration to the 
tea-planting districts that was to say, men as res- 
pectable as any other body of men in the empire. 
These gentlemen, who carried on their business with 
great advantage to all concerned and possibly with a 
greater portion of advantage to the labourers, they 
employed than to any one else, had held up to them 
what was called a mirror in which they were re- 
presented as indulging, by way of their ordinary 
occupation, the basest of passions cruelty, avarice 

* Vide^ page 97. 

34 



266 

and lust. The play was, however, not acted but 
there it was. Written for the stage and adapted for 
it in every respect and without any preventive power 
the Government had, it might be acted at any 
moment." * 

Regarding this drama, which was not staged the 
Hindu Patriot very reasonably said that the Govern- 
ment did not step in to suppress Nlladarpana, whose 
copy it is, but those, who felt aggrieved thereby, sought 
for redress in the court and similarly if the tea- 
planters were to oppose it, court was open to them, as 
where ordinary law provides, no special power is 
necessary.f 

IV SUKUMARI'S MARRIAGE. 

Nor did the Government lack support The 
so called educated people of the puritanic section of 
the community by their views and writings at the 
time, were also giving moral support to the authorities 
describing the stage in general as a place of obs- 
cenity, which, ought, in their opinion, to be stopped. 
Some interesting events also happened at the time 
and we shall quote below a few lines coming from a 

* Englishman, i6th March, 1876. 

The book was published last January from Samachar 
Chandrika fress. No book is available now but a 
synopsis has been given in the Englishman, j$th 
May, 1875. 

\ H.P. 1 6th March, 1876. 



267 

correspondent of the Indian, Daily News of 17th 
March, 1876 : 

"Satisfaction will not be fully realised so long as 
the walls of the pavillion of this infamous 
company were not levelled to the ground, its 
furniture confiscated and sold under the ham- 
mers of the state. That this theatre by the 
introduction of the harlots on the stage became 
the hot bed of immorality and corruption none 
can deny some have gone to the length of 
saying that "Mirror has been alienating the 
sympathy of the Hindus by making ungenerous 
remarks on the taintless character of the dis- 
tinguished personages and adorable women of 
the theatre, who, like Orpheus, burnt with 
public zeal, were not ashamed even to effect 
prostitute marriages amongst them. 

MARRIAGES IN THE STAGE. 

These observations whatever their worth may be, 
coming from an exclusive section of the community, 
are referring obviously to the marriage of the cele- 
brated actress Golap-sundari of the Great National, 
who had come there from "the Bengal Theatre", 
some time towards the end of 1874. Babu Upendra 
Nath Das, a son of late Babu Srinath Das, senior 
vakil, High Court, was the honorary director here 
and his Sarat-sarojini was staged for the first time 
on January 2nd, 1875. Babu Mahendra Lai Bose 
appearing in the role of Sarat, Raj-kumari ( Raja ) 
as Sarojini and Golapsundari as Sukumad- Shooting 



268 

on the stage was shown and the Maharajkumar 
Harendra Kumar Singh of Bettia was one of the 
distinguished audience. The part of Sukumari 
was played by Golap and so beautifully and artisti- 
cally she used to do it that though a new comer, 
she was more recognised as Sukumari in the theatri- 
cal company at first and gradually amongst the 
public at large. Now Babu Upendra Nath Das 
was something of a social reformer. Before he 
became the director of the company here, he had 
started some schools and newspapers. He was 
possessed of much breadth of views end himself 
married an aged widow of another caste incurring 
thereby the displeasure of his father, which cost him 
a great deal. To improve the moral condition of 
actresses his next move was to introduce their 
marriages and arranged the marriage of Sukumari 
(Golap) on the 16th February, 1875 under Act III 
of 1872 with a handsome young man master Gostha 
Bihari Dutt under much obligation to him and 
belonging to the Subarna-Banik caste, with parents 
alive, and who used to act the part of the scientific 
man in the same drama. Though a digression, it 
may be said of the star-actress and an excellent 
singer that her married life was happy at the 
beginning and others used to caricature her : 

5mi sakher narl Sukumari 

Amara stripuruse act kari 
Puniar lok clekhe jari. 



269 

It would, however, not have been so short-lived, had 
not the irresolute young man Gostha Bihari left 
his wife and baby without any knowledge on their 
part and started as a ship-boy ( khalasi ) for England 
to find out his patron Upendra Babu, who had already 
gone there about the middle of April, 1876. He 
was not heard of since, and Mrs. Sukumari Dutt, 
reduced to extreme poverty, was next, when all other 
honest means failed ( she started first a coaching- 
akhi-a, then wrote a drama Apurva sail ), forced by 
circumstances to resume her old profession as an 
actress. She was, however, so very particular about 
her daughter's education and healthy training that 
she placed her under the care and supervision of 
the late Babu Devi Prasanna Roy Chowdhury, editor 
( Navy a Bharai) where getting a decent education 
the latter too was married to a young man under the 
Civil Marriage Act ( Act III of 1972 ). 

To come to our point, the marriage of Sukumari 
was highly disliked by the Brahmas, but the credit 
of the first and healthy reform amongst the actresses, 
was all due to Upendra Babu. 

V. SURENDRA-BINODINI PROSECUTION. 

The drama Swrendra-binodini was, too, from the 
pen of Upen Babu and like the first was also success- 
ful on the stage. This was first acted on the stage 
of the Bengal Theatre by "the Great National Opera 
Company and New Bengal Theatrical" under the 



270 

name of ''New Aryan" on 1875, which, under the 
management of Babu Nogendra Nath Banerjee, got the 
exclusive right to stage the play but as the troupe 
was dispersed during X'mas of the year, it next 
came to be staged by the Great National under the 
author's direct supervision from 3 1st December, 1875. 
But though no notice was taken before at the Bengal 
Theatre, it became the subject of prosecution, when 
it was acted on the 1st March, 1876, at the Great 
National, the same night Mr. Lamb and his asso- 
ciates communicated the order under the Ordinance. 
The reason was that at that night the word 'Tig and 
Sheep" was uttered by Mr. Amritalal Bose, when 
appearing as Magistrate Me Crimble, he addressed 
"I am not a tiger, I am not a bear," and further added 
"I am not a pig, and not a sheep." It was as we 
said before, the same night, when the farce of Pig 
Sf Sheep was stopped under the Ordinance. But 
the subject of the present prosecution was not that 
the text had been departed from, but that the drama 
was obscene. There was another scene in the 
drama in which the same European Magistrate Mr. 
Me. Crimble made an attempt of criminal assault 
on the maid Biraj-mohini, a grown up girl, who 
jumped down from the balcony to avoid the outrage. 
Mr. Bose as Magistrate used to come downstairs 
and in the next scene, carried the girl in his arms 
and concluded by saying, "By Joe ! the sweet lady ! 
had actually jumped down from the balcony," 



271 

Her figure at the time with her clothes, stained with 
blood, gave the police a handle for prosecution. Mr. 
Robertson of the River police had been to the theatre 
in plain clothes and reported strongly "on the drama 
being libellous and obscene, tending to show that 
the blood was the result of outrage of the girl by 
the European Magistrate, whom it tended to show as 
monster. Besides, the idea was that as the girl was 
not married, no Hindu would ever marry her but a 
fallen one." 

Prosecution was ordered on the above report and 
warrants of arrest were issued against Babus Bhuban 
Mohan Neogi ( proprietor ), Upendra Nath Das, 
Director, Amritalal Bose, Manager, Matilal Sur, 
Mahendra Lai Bose, Amritalal Mukherjee (Bel Babu) 
Sib Nath Chatterjee and Gopal Chandra Das, actors, 
Ramataran Sanyal, opera master and Banku Bihari 
Das as business manager. Proprietor Neogi was not 
found but surrendered next day in court and the rest 
were arrested on the theatre premises on the 4th 
March, when Sat I Id kalahkiiii was being actually 
staged. There was a great stir, actresses began to 
weep and spectators disappeared. The above gentle- 
men were sent up for trial on the 5th March, 1876, 
to the Court of Mr. Dickens, Northern Presidency 
Magistrate, on the allegations that they wilfully 
exhibited obscene representations and recited 
obscene words in public place, viz. the theatre, to the 
annoyance of others under section 292 and 294 of 



272 

the Indian Penal Code. The whole public of 
Calcutta was shocked at the prosecution and the 
general opinion highly disapproved of it. 

Indeed, the play, as a whole, was not more 
improper than many of the operas, which were 
performed on the English stage and many of 
the plays performed at Covent Garden and 
Drury Lane theatres. There are questionable 
passages even in Romeo and Juliet, Merry 
Wives of Windsor and in many of the French 
plays, but none has ever been the subject of any 
prosecution. A large number of gentlemen, both of 
lead and light, expressed their opinion in favour of 
the play and various gentlemen gave evidence for 
the defence. Babus Shy am a Charan Sarkar, late 
Chief Translator to the High Court, Pandit Jogendra 
Nath Vidyabhusan, editor Ary a Darshan, Pandit 
Mahesh Chandra Nyayaratna and Mr. Owen, chief 
Interpreter of the Calcutta High Court, expressed 
that the book was not obscene. The Education 
Gazette considered it highly instructive. The Calcutta 
Gazette stated that the book inculcated moral 
lessons. Dr. Rajendra Lai Mitra (afterwards Rajah) 
gave his opinion on a reference to the scenes in 
Elliot's 'Adam Bede and Mill on the Floss' that the 
book was devoid of any obscenity. Babus Dwijendra 
Nath Tagore and Dwarka Nath Ganguly, two of 
the most respected leaders of thought of the time, 
said that the book tended to reform society and that 



there was nothing obscene, and last, though not the 
least, Rev. Dr. K. M. Banerjee from Ballygunge, 
wrote on the llth March, 1876 : 

"It is a work which indicated a good deal of 
genius in the author and judging it only as a book 
without having seen its representation on the stage, 
I am bound to say, I have not detected any passage, 
whether obscene in itself or likely to suggest 
obscene ideas to the reader's mind." 

"It is not a book that I could recommend for the 
perusal of boys and girls but that is all I can say 
against it and from a moral point of view, I could 
say as much against some of the novels of Sir 
Walter Scott himself." 

"The scene between the Magistrate and maid 
Birajmohini appeared to be an imitation of the 
scene between the Knight Templar and the Jewish 
maid; only the Bengali author makes the girl actually 
jump down and then be brought upstairs again, 
bleeding from the wounds she received by the fall."* 

Mr. Dickens, the trying, Magistrate, however, 
considered the play to be obscene and sentenced 
only Upendra Babu and Amritalal on the 8th March, 
1876, each to suffer one month's simple imprison- 
ment, discharging the rest of the accused . Both 
the gentlemen received the fiat of the court with 
dignified calmness, which acquires, strength from the 
* Hindu Patriot, 2yth March, 1876. 

35 



274 

consciousness of perfect innocence and without a tear, 
without uttering a word in the form of penitence and 
without being in the least dissipated, submitted to 
the court's order. The court room was densely 
crowded throughout the proceedings, so much so as to 
call for the frequent interference of the Police. 

Srijut Ganesh Chandra Chunder, the well-known 
solicitor and vakil, instructed by whom appeared 
Messrs Robert Allen and Wood, Barristers before 
the Magistrate, considered the above prosecution 
unjust and had both the above two gentlemen 
released on bail from the Criminal Bench of the 
Honourable High Court, presided over by Mr. 
Justice Phear and Markby. 

Mr. W. C. Banerjee, Bar-at-law moved the 
petition for bail before their Lordships. 

Sympathy with actors was so deep and univer- 
sal that a proposal for presenting a memorial to 
His Honour the Lieutenant Governor for the libera- 
tion of the prisoners was seriously discussed on the 
9th March, 1876 at Vakils' library, High Court, 
should Mr. Justice Phear refuse to interfere in the 
matter. It was generally feared that the immediate 
result of the conviction would be total suppression of 
the National Theatre, for there was then scarcely 
any Bengali play, which, in point of decency, sur- 
passed and very few, which even equalled the one 
that had been made the subject of criminal prose- 
cution. 



275 

For the expenses of the appeal, a benefit perform- 
ance of Sarojini was organised on the llth March, 
1876 with an appeal to the public 

"Patrons and countrymen, now or never is the 
opportunity to help us". It must be said to the 
credit of the public that our countrymen heartily 
responded to the call. The above was the first 
prosecution of its kind in Calcutta, after Rev. Mr- J. 
Long, and the Baiigahasi prosecution was only 
subsequent to this in 1891. 

It must also be admitted that the treatment 
accorded to the prisoners by Police and Jail author- 
ities was sympathetic and Amrita Babu even the 
other day shed tears at the marvellous conduct of 
the Jamadar of the Lalbazar court, who protested 
with success against handcuffs being used for them. 
The same Jamadar also arranged for their food. 
Dr. Mookerjee, the Superintendent of Jail, was 
also extremely courteous in treatment to the distin- 
guished prisoners. 

During the hearing of the appeal Messrs Branson, 
Palit and Manomohan Ghosh argued the appeal, 
and vindicated the passages of the drama in the best 
way they could, quoting from Tennyson and other 
poets. On the 20th March, 1876, Justices Phear 
and Markby acquitted both the prisoners on a refer- 
ence to Regina vs. Stevent 5, Earles Reports page 
258, holding that the charge against the prison- 
ers was not specific and that the findings of 



276 

arrived at by the magistrate were not justified by the 
evidence recorded at the trial. 

Vide, I. L. R. 1 Gal 356. 

THEATRE CASE TRIAL. 

Charges were : 

1. Both Babus Upendra Nath Das and Amritalal 

Bose Director and Manager on March 1, 1876, 
at Great National Theatre wilfully exhibited 
to public view an obscene representation of a 
woman having her saree stained with blood in 
front carried in the arms of a man having his 
shirt stained with blood in front, Intending 
thereby to represent the immediate results of 
such woman having been defloured by such 
man. 

2. Babu Amrita Lai Bose as District Magistrate 
recited and uttered the following obscene words 
to the annoyance of others : 

( i ) Have you got a handsome sister ? 
Send her to my bed one day, I con- 
sent to give you some money, 

(ii) Beauty ( Sundari ), I can't wait any 
longer. I am still addressing you in 
soft words. Consent to bestow your 
love ; if you don't consent, I will take 
it against your will- 

(iii) Sundari, come to my embrace. I am 
not a tiger or a bear or a hog. I want 
to taste your love. 

The following experts were examined : 



277 

1. John Charles Owen I am senior Interpreter, 
High Court I see Surendravinodini. I have 
read the book. I find, it resembles a novel, 
called Twenty Straivs, published in "Bow 
Bells-" It is a play. It is not in my opinion 
an obscene play for the Bengali Stage. I am 
acquainted with Bengali plays but not deeply 
read in them. There are Bothers more indecent. 
The object of the scene is to excite virtuous 
indignation towards the magistrate, who is 
depicted as a villain. 

2. Shyama Charan Sarkar I am skilled in Bengali 
language and I am a Bengali author. I have 
not read this play ( reads a passage from 
page 44 ). I do not see anything obscene in the 
words. The best poem in the Bengali language 
is the most immoral. It is worse than this 
(reads a passage from another page). There is a 
passage in this page, which, I think, is immoral 
but not indecent from a Bengali point of view. 
The words are not indecent. There arc worse 
plays than this by many degrees, the magistrate's 
conduct is reprehensible. Dramatically speak- 
ing the words are not obscene. 

Pandit Mahesh Chandra Nyayaratna, Professor, 
Sanskrit College, Babu Upendra Nath Mazumdar f 
Devendra Chandra Bose and Jogesh Chandra 
Sen, witnesses for the defence characterised 
the play as innocent and a decent one.* 
Mr. Allan Counsel for the defence : 

It had been played before and no objection had been 

* Englishman^ March I3 ? 1876, 



278 

raised to it. The play as a whole was not more 
improper than many of the Operas which were 
performed on the English stage. The court 
was aware that there were many plays per- 
formed in Covent Garden and Drury Lane 
which, if not actually obscene, did not at any 
rate raise the morals. He had only to mention 
in proof of this the scenes in Sonnambula 
Travatore and Don Juan and if such plays were 
performed in the great city which was in the 
highest state of civilisation, there was really no 
necessity for plays in Calcutta to be so closely 
scrutinised the word 'obscene' has different 
meanings to different persons, whether the 
book put before the public had a tendency to 
incite lust or inculcate immorality is the only 
question. 

Magistrate Some of the witnesses say that the text 
had been departed from. 

Mr. Wood ( Counsel for the 2nd accused ) : 

Prosecution was undertaken because one of the 
actors had, it appeared, introduced the words 
'Hog and Lamb' into the play. They had been 
forbidden to play the drama of Police of Pig and 
Sheep and one of the actors having introduced 
the two words into the play, this prosecution 
had been got up by the Police. To the pure, all 
things were pure but to the impure they were 
otherwise. The plays of Shakespeare were 
really and actually obscene in many points. 
Merry Wives of Windsor was based upon 
immorality. There were indecent passages in 
Other plays such as Romeo and Juliet. The 



279 

play was not worse than a majority of the 
French plays, than many plays of Shakespeare, 
than, for instance, Roderick Random, a work 
for reading which Mr. Wood got a thrashing 
when he was a schoolboy- Whatever the 
political effect of the play might be such as the 
revolt which took place in the jail after the 
lady was indecently assaulted by the magistrate, 
he would submit there was no obscenity in the 
play and it was perfectly clear that the defend- 
ants had no criminal intention because they 
had acted in presence of the Police. 

The judgment was delivered on 8th March, by Mr, 
P. D. Dickens, 

Defendant Upendra Nath Das and Amrita Lai 
Bose were found guilty under sections 292, 
294 I. P. C. and sentenced to suffer simple 
imprisonment for one month. The other defend- 
ants were discharged. 

In passing judgment the magistrate said: 

"The evidence of the defence, it appears to me, 
proves too much, according to it nothing would 
be obscene, unless it is couched in obscene 
words. According to my opinion the passages 
in evidence are grossly obscene. It appears, a 
good taste is afforded by the daily newspapers, 
which have rejected the passages as unfit for 
publication. 

Mr* Justice Phear in delivering judgment on 20th 
March, 1876 on Revision, expressed that the 
words and passages whatever amimadversion 
the use and utterance of them on the occasion 
may be open to, are not obscene within the 



280 

meaning of sections 292, 294 1. P. C., and there 
was no ground whatever on which the convic- 
tion could be legally supported. 

Mr. Justice Markby concurred in the judgment. 

The two prisoners were thus set at liberty. 

The judgment of Mr. Justice Phear did a public 
service by pointing out to the Magistrate how he 
should deal with evidence in a case like this. Mr. 
Dickens rejected evidence of experts and Mr. 
Justice Phear interpreted the true spirit of the play, 
showing that Legislature was not right in placing 
full power in the hands of the Magistrate. The 
judgment also threw sufficient light as to how the 
two Bills The Presidency Magistrate's Bill,* and the 
Dramatic Performances Bill, then before the Council, 
should have been rectified for the maintenance of 
liberty of the subjects, and the Hindu Patriot regret- 
fully observed that "it did not behove the position of 
the Government, all powerful as it is, to exercise the 
giant power it possesses as a giant".f 

Nothing, however, could save the passing of the 
two Bills. It is, however, very striking that soon after 
the judgment was passed, Mr. Justice Phear left 
India for good on the 30th March, 1876. Eumour 
ran afloat that he was forced to tender resignation 
in place of three months' leave as previously 

* By this, a magistrate might be privileged in omitting 

to record the whole evidence. 
f Hindu Patriot \ 2yth March, 1876. 



arranged. But whether he went on leave or resigna- 
tion and whether it was voluntary or forced as a 
result of pressure put upon him by Lord North 
Brooke's Government, we need not pause to ponder. 
This much, however, is certain that he won the 
hearts of the people and before he left never to come 
again, Lady Phear was accorded an address by 
ladies of the Hindu Mahila school at the house 
of Late Babu Durgamohan Das (father of Mr. S. R. 
Das, late Law Member, Government of India and 
Mr. Justice J. R. Das of Rangoon High Court and 
uncle of the late Deshabandhu C. R. Das). # 

As we said before, a section of the Brahmas was 
very jubilant over the conviction and voiced their 
sentiments as those of the Reform Association 
through the Mirror^ : 

"We thank the Viceroy and we thank the Police 
and Mr. Dickens for their noble efforts to stem the 
tide of public immorality." 

And went so far as to pass a resolution to the 
effect. To this all papers dissented and the Hindu 
Patriot wrote very strongly : 

"It is indeed very funny to conclude from a 
resolution of a society the existence of which is 
unknown to the public that the recent arbitrary acts 
of Government have given universal satisfaction. 

* Hindu Patriot^ 2yth March, 1876. 

t Vide^ Indian Mirror of I2th March, 1876. 

36 



282 

It would help nobody to discuss whether the above 
representation was deliberately made or not but our 
contemporary ought to have known that the native 
community feels sorely the late arbitrary proceedings 
of the Government, the Magistrate and the Police 
and the people are really very much alarmed". 

THE DRAMATIC PERFORMANCES' 
CONTROL BILL. 

The anticipated failure of the above prosecution 
seems to be the real cause of forcing the Bill into 
the Dramatic Performances Act and it is a very curi- 
ous coincidence that on the very day Mr. Justice 
Phear's judgment was delivered (20th March, 1876), 
Mr. Hobbhouse, the Law Member moved the Bill 
at the Legislative Council of which we said before. 

The Dramatic Performances' Control Bill ran 
thus : 

"That whenever the Government was of opinion 
that any dramatic performance was scandalous or 
defamatory or likely to excite feelings of dissatisfac- 
tion towards the Government or likely to cause pain 
to any private party in its performance, or was other- 
wise prejudicial to the interest of the public, Govern- 
ment might prohibit such a performance". 

Section 7 further provides 

"If any Magistrate has reason to believe that 
any house, room or place is used or is about 
to be used for any performance prohibited under 



283 

the Act, he may by warrant authorise any officer 
of Police to enter with such assistance as may be 
requisite by night or by day and by force if 
necessary to enter any such house, room or place 
and to take into custody all persons whom he finds 
there for the said purpose". 

After the presentation of the Bill for considera- 
tion, protest meetings were held in various places 
and the press also took up the cause but nothing, 
however, as often is the case, prevailed. 

After the Bill was presented in the house and 
members of the Council considered the Bill, it was 
placed before a select committee consisting of the 
members : Mr. Cockrel, Raja Narendra Krishna 
Deb Bahadur, Sir Alexander Arbuthnot and Mr. 
Hobbhouse. They agreed unanimously that the 
Bill should be passed. * 

It was next placed to the Legislative Council for 
final debates and then passed into the Dramatic 
Performances' Act of 1876. 

As to its provisions we can not perhaps do a 
whit better than refer to our readers the most learned 
article of Babu Kristodas Pal that appeared in the 
pages of the Hindu Patriot on the llth December, 
1876, voicing in nutshell the objections of the public, 
after the final debates in the Council were held. 



* Page 346, Indian Gazette, 2$th March, 1876, 



284 

Indeed, there was no justification of the bill as 
the general law of the Penal Code was sufficient for 
all practical purposes. Mr. Hobbhouse's stock 
argument, 'prevention was worth all the punishment 
and it would be a poor satisfaction to punish offend- 
ers after the mischief is done/ laboured under the 
great fallacy, as seditious articles or speeches are 
never censored before they are delivered, and the 
mischief, if any, is only punished after it is done. 
The same should have been the case with Perform- 
ances also. Similarly, a gentleman might be held 
to scorn and hatred of the public by some rabid 
article in a newspaper and would the Legislature 
give protection to him by establishing a censor of 
the press or would leave him to seek redress in a 
court of justice ? As for obscenity, opinions will 
always differ and it is not at all fair to leave it to 
the executive authorities to pronounce what is and 
what is not obscene. Now, for instance, in the 
National Theatre case, the Executive authorities 
pronounced the drama Surenclravwodini as obscene 
but the High Court upon . the evidence of experts 
found it to be devoid of obscenity. The obnoxious 
Bill, therefore, took away from the constituted courts 
of justice the power of giving a judicial decision upon 
the character of a drama and has thus vested the 
sole authority in the executive officers. The principle 
underlying the Bill was, therefore, open to serious 
objection. 



285 

Then, as for the details, the Bill does not include 
private entertainments and refers only to the perform- 
ances held in a public place, that is, "Any building 
or enclosure to which the public are admitted to 
witness a performance on payment of money." Fur- 
ther, Yatras, like performances and religious obser- 
vances are exempted from the operation of the Act. 
But a conviction or discharge under this Act does 
not bar a prosecution under section 124 A (sedition) 
or section 294 of the Indian Penal Code. 

Coercive measures are neither necessary nor cal- 
culated to foster any cordial feeling. Sir Richard 
Temple, the then Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, 
however, expressed thankfulness at the moral support, 
received from Raja Narendra Krishna Deb* but 
nothing succeeded to dissuade him from his move in- 
spite of protests from the bar and though Mr. W. C. 
Banerjee made a strong case on behalf of the 
Theatrical Companies. The Bill received the assent 
of the Governor General of India, Lord Lytton, 
who had recently arrived in India, on the 16th 
December, 1876 and was thus passed into law. 

Babu Dharmadas Sur in his autobiographical 
account gives also a history and the Patrika voiced 
the feelings of the people, "It so much curtailed the 
liberty of the people." 

And it wrote in despair 

"That we are practically lifeless under the burden 

* Raja Narendra Krishna Deb Bahadur said, 



286 

of the administrators and if Government continue 
to rule by the enforcement of such laws, we shall 
have to seek a region where the frowns of the 
present administration will simply fall on our deaf 



ears." * 



The Act extended to the whole of India and by 
the powers it conferred on the Local Governments, 
it can stop the performance and suppress or forfeit 
any drama, which, in its opinion, may be considered 
seditious, obscene or defamatory. Seeking to render 
the growth of dramatic literature healthy and sound, 
it has curbed the national spirit and checked the 
progress and further development the national 
dramatic literature was growing into and promised. 
Since then there have been no national dramas, 
and we give here an instance. The Swadeshi 
movement of 1905 was the ebullition of a national 
consciousness in all the spheres of our national life, 
and inspite of the rigours of the law, came out two 
most epoch-making dramas Sherajuddola and 
MirJcasim from the pen of the master-mind Girish 
Chandra Ghose and staged on successive nights. It 
would be no exaggeration to say that what ten plat- 
forms could not do, a single performance of either 
play was enough to educate the public mind to 
such an extent as greatly alarmed the Govern- 
ment. The real history of the 18th century 



* Amrita Bazar Patrika, I4th December, 1876, 



28? 

distorted as always has been by Western historians is 
the first lesson for a student of nationalism to learn 
and this the Bengali youths were most profitably 
getting in those stirring times from the hitherto much 
despised stage- The two dramas revolutionised the 
ideas and mentality of the people and were followed 
by Ghatmpati Sivaji of the same author and Palasir 
Prayaschitta and Nandakumar of Pandit Khirod 
Prasad Vidyavinod. Some scenes and songs of 
Shajahan, Mewar-patan and Diwgadas of the late 
Mr. D. L. Roy also helped greatly to grow the natio- 
nal mind. The authorities, however, had soon their 
attention drawn to the effect produced by the stage, 
which in the years 1904-1909 became practically one 
of the chief processes of nation-building and put the 
books under proscription in 1910-11 instead of 
having asked the authors to obliterate the scenes and 
passages considered objectionable in their opinion. 
These are all now lost to us and we have at 
present no national drama, so to say. No doubt, the 
ban has been partially withdrawn from Dvijendra Lai's 
dramas, but those have b(3en restored only in a muti- 
lated form. Similarly Golok Bose's woes will no 
more be heard in Nlladarpand, Bankim Chandra's 
Lawrencefoster has now been converted into a 
Portuguese Ganjalis and the white tea-planter of 
Assam in Sanshar has now been changed into a 
Bengali villain, practising as a doctor. 

It will be interesting to our readers to learn that 



288 

within the next three months, The Vernacular Press 
Act was also passed into law by the same Govern- 
ment by Lord Lytton on the 14th November, 1877. 
Thus, both the press and the stage were gagged, as 
both have the tendency to spread a spirit of love of 
liberty amongst the people. The ban on the press 
was soon, however, removed by the liberal Govern- 
ment of Lord Ripon, but the Dramatic Performances' 
Act for the last 56 years has been hanging like a 
Damocle's sword over the stage. 

The year 1876 also marked the close of the 
English Stage in Calcutta, Mrs. Lewis, before leaving 
the shores of India, is said to have remarked, that 
owing to the disgraceful conduct of some members 
of her troupe, she was compelled to dissolve it and 
the losses she suffered might be estimated at 
Rs. 20,000/-. 

Henceforth, the Bengali Stage declined to its 
worst condition. Demoralisation set in, Bhuvan 
mohan was turned penniless and no new drama was 
produced ; and had not the great revivalist and the 
father of the Bengali Stage come into the field 
with all his might, we would no more have heard of 
the Bengali stage and drama in Bengal ; but of him 
in the next volume- 



INDEX 



Abanindra Nath Tagore 116 

Akshay Kumar Sarkar 123 

155, 167 

Akshay Mazumdar 120 

Amritalal Bose 9, 23, 123, 

155, 166, 172, 176, 191, 

206, 218, 227, 229, 250, 

251, 261, 270, 273, 279, 

Amritalal Pal 209, 210, 212 

Amulya Vidya-bhusan 171 

Ardhendu Sekhar Mustafi 

142, 156, 160, 168, 172, 

175, 176, 191, 197, 199, 

200, 209, 210, 230, 254, 

260,261 

Ashutosh Dev 31, 36 

(Ohatu Babn) 
Bankim Chandra Chatterji 

20, 21, 93, 167, 216 
Belgachhia Theatre 52, 

82, 102 

Bowbazar Theatre 129, 134 
Bengal Theatre 219, 227, 234, 
Beharilal Chatterjee 219, 220, 

226 

Bel Babu 162, 176, 218, 271 
Bhaskar ... 24 

Bhadrarjun Natak 17 

Bhanumatir Chittavilas 15 
Bharat Chandra 4, 5 

Bhubanmohan Niyogi 173, 
228, 236, 242, 271, 273 



Bholanath Mukherjee 142 
Binodini 236, 253, 254 

Bishnucharan Chattorjee 121 
Brajendra Nath Dev 165 
Brajendra Nath Banerjee 27 
Burusaliker Ghare Eow 74 
Bujhle Kina ... 109, 143 
Chandi ... 5 

Cakardarpan Natak 264 

Chowringhee Theatre 1, 230 
Chunilal Bose 129 

Chitrayajna ... 6 

Cobies ... 2 

The Comroopa Yatra 10 

C. E. Das ... 226, 281 
Raja Devikrishna Dev 123 
Devendra Nath Banerji 126 
Deviprasanna Eoy Chuudhury 

269 

Dharmadas Sur 160, 161, 

166, 170, 176, 179, 206 

214, 220, 229, 286 

Dickens ... 271,273 

Dinabaiidhu Mitra 91, 95, 

101, 158, 159, 191, 160 

D. L. Eoy ... 250 
Dramatic Performances Act 

243, 288 

Durga Mohan Das 28 

Dwarik Ganguly 272 

Dwaraka Nath Tagore 1, 55, 

115 



C ii 



Dwijendranath Tagore 272 

Ekei ki bale Sabhyata 74, 77, 

78, 82, 117, 123 

Sir Frederic Halliday 60 

Gajadananda 259 

Ganesh Chandra 274 

Girish Chandra Ghosh 149, 

153, 155,156,158,168, 

201,204, 209,211,213, 

215,217,218,233, 259, 

288 

Girindranath Tagore 115, 116 
Golapsundari (vide, Sukumari) 

Golak Nath Das 3 

Gauri Sankar Bhattacherjee 

24 

Gopal Das Sett 28 

Gosthabihari Dutt 268, 269 

Gaurdas Bysak 27, 29, 30, 

32, 33, 59, 66 

Great India Theatre 220 

The Great National Theatre 

228, 229, 231, 234, 239, 

240, 243, 244. 249, 259 

Hasyarnava ... 11 

Hara Chandra Ghosh 15, 16, 

17 
Harish Chandra Mukherjee 

95, 100 

Hem Chandra Banerjee 259 
The Hindu National 214, 215 
Hirak-curna Natak 251, 252 

Hobhouse ... 255, 263, 
264, 282, 283 



Indra Nath Banerji 123, 155 
Iswar Gupta 15, 20, 22, 23 
Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar 

... 23, 33, 222 

Iswar Singha 24, 79 

Jatindra Mohan Tagore 29, 

53, 66, 79, 81, 99, 102, 

Jadu Nath Banerjee 155 

Jagadananda Mukherjee 256, 

257, 258, 262 

Jogen Bose ... 18, 20, 30 

Jorasanko Theatre 115, 117, 

120, 128 

Sir J. P. Grant 92 

Kev J. Long 11, 15, 20, 

96, 100 

Jyotirindra Nath Tagore 121, 

122, 249, 252, 254 

Kali Prasanna Sinha 6, 28, 

30, 31, 40, 41, 43, 99, 201 

Kalirajar Yatra 7, 23 

Kalicharan Chaturdhurin 

24, 25 

Kanailal De (Dr.) 170 

Kapalkundala 213 

Kamya Kanan 229 

KeshabSen ... 3,83,90 
Keshab Ganguly 26, 59, 60. 
61, 79, 80, 81, 202 
Kemp ... 214 

Khirode Vidyavinode 8 

Kiran Chandra Dutt 16 

Kishori Chand Mitter 37, 57, 

86, 113 



[ Hi ] 



iran Chandra Banerjee 273 
rishnakumari 212, 215, 217 
Jrishnadhan Banerjee 241 
ilaja Krishna Chandra 5 

risto Das Paul 252 

Jshetra Mohan Goswami 

64, 112 

Jshetramani Devi 235, 237, 
249, 258 

Lalit Chandra Mitra 155 

jewis ... 200, 288 

Jebedeff ... 3, 4, 7 

jilabati 170, 171, 172, 192, 

217 

Jong ... 273 

tfadhu Sudan Dutt 3, 18, 19, 

20, 52, 65, 66, 

70, 71, 77, 222, 223 

tfalati-Madhab 51, 111, 113 

klahendranath Mukherjee 110 

^lanomohan Ghose 275 

dahendra Lai Bose 162, 169, 

172, 213, 214, 218, 241 

249, 269, 271 

tfati Lai Sur 162, 203, 213, 
214, 218, 271 

tfaya Kanan 222, 225, 229 
iladan Mohan Burman 241 
VTanomohan Bose 22, 129 
Minerva Theatre 230 

tfohanta on the Stage 225 
tfordaunt Wells 97, 99 

vTaren Sen ... 3, 84 

tfarendra Krishna Dev 

283, 285 



Nabin Krishna Bose 4, 31 

Nalini Ban j an Pandit 13 

Nabin Chandra Bose 13, 116 

Nabin Chandra Sen 20 

Nava Vrindavan 89 

Nagendra Nath Tagore 116 

NavaNatak ... 118, 122 

Nala-Damayanti ... 139 

NationarTheatre 149, 166, 

179, 183, 188, 200, 210, 249 

Navagopal Mitra 167 

Nagendra Nath Banerjee 180, 

203, 209, 210, 227, 228, 

235, 249, 270 

Navin Tapasvini 190. 191 

NaishoRupea ... 193, 194 

New Aryan Theatre 227 

Nildarpan 91, 93, 94, 95, 

97, 186, 188, 189. 209, 

210, 213, 227, 230, 

243, 245, 266 

Northbrooke 262 

Opera Yatras ... 132 

Oriental Theatre ... 32 
The Oriental Theatre of 

Howrah ... 221 

Padmavati ... 73, 138 

Pathuria Ghata Theatre 137 

Mr. Pagose ... 187 
Phear (Justice) 274, 280, 282 

Police of Pig and Sheep 278 
Pratap Mazumdar 3, 83, 84 

Preomadhav Bose 141 

Pranay-pariksha 231 



[ iv ] 



Prasanna Kumar Tagore 

2, 4, 116 

Prabodhacandrodaya Natak 

10 

Prince of Wales 255 

Pnru Vikram 

Eabindranath Tagore 116, 123 
Bam Mohan Eoy 2, 3. 9 
Eajendra Lai Mitra 3, 11, 272 
Earn Narain 24, 25, 118, 151 
Eatnavali 55,56,61,65,66,73 
Eadha Kanta Dev 99 

Easaviskarvrndak 111 

Eamabhisek Natak 130, 133, 
Eamgati Nyayaratna 188 
Eaj Narain Bose 180 

Earn Chandra Mukherji 221 
Eaja Eadhakanta Dev 212 
Eaj-kumari ... 235 

Bukminiharan ... 113 

Sarat Ghosal ... 15 

Sarat-Sarojini ... 240,267 
Sans Souci Theatre 29, 130 
Sakuntala 30, 31, 37, 219 
Savitri-Satyavan 49, 50 

Sarmistha 65, 68, 72, 73, 
223, 224 

Sadhavar Ekadasi 151, 155, 

157, 158, 159, 160, 163 

Saurindra Mohan Togore 103, 

112, 142 

Sarojini Natak 252, 253, 257 
Sati Natak ... 131, 132 

Sailendra Nath Mitra M- 133 
Sarat Chandra Ghose R[219, 
220, 222, 224 



Sati ki Kalankini 227, 237 
Shakespeare ... 13 

Sisir Kumar Ghosh 193, 246 
Sobha Bazar Theatre 123, 
125, 128 201 

Sri Chaitanya ... 1,21 
Kali Charan Eoy 25 

Sukumari ... 236, 266, 

269 
Surendra-Vmodini Natak 

227, 251, 254, 269, 284 
Tara Charan Sarkar 17, 18 
Temple, Sir Eichard 255, 285 
Ubhay sankat ... 113 

Umesh Chandra Mitra 123 
UpendraDas ... 26,254, 
259, 260, 268, 279 
Valmiki-pratibha 123 

Vallal Sen ... 24 

Vernacular Theatre 32 

Vidya-sundar 4, 5, 103, 

104, 107, 108 
Vidyanath Vachaspati 6 

Vidyotsahini Theatre 39, 43, 

49 

Vikramorvasi 40, 43, 44 
Vidhava-vivaha Natak 85, 

117 

Visha-vriksha 232 

Mr. Walter Scott 96, 273 

W. C. Banerjee 274 

Mr. Wood 211, 277 

Mr. W. S. Herschel 

Wilson ... 6 

Yatras 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 14 



BENGALI DRAMAS 

(when and where first staged) 

Year Drama Placo whore staged 



1778 Chitrayajna Not traced 6 

1795 Chhadmavesh 25, Dhorumtolla 7 and 

219, 258 
Vol.1 

1821 Kalirajar yatra Calcutta 7, 9 
and other similar 

dramas 

1822 The Oomroopa Shyamsundar Das's 10 

yatra house, Calcutta 

1852 Bhadrarjun Natak Not definite if 1720 

(Tarachand Sikdar) played 

1856 Kulinkulasarvaswa Jayram Basak's 29 

(Eamnarain's) House 

Swarna-srinkhal Barisal 35 

1853, 30th Sakuntala Ashu Deb's House 36 
Jan. (Nandalal Eoy) 

1857 Sept. Mahasweta 38 

At Viclyotsahini Theatre. 

1857, llth April Veni-sanhar 40 

1857, 24th Nov. Vikramorvashi 45 

1858, 5th June Savitri-satyaban 

At Belgaehhia Theatre. 

1858, 31st July Eatnavali (Eamnarain) 55, 65 

1859, 3rd Sept. Sarmistha (Madhusudan) 66, 73 
1859, 27th April Vidhava-vivaha Natak 88 

At East Bengal Stage, Dacca. 

1861 Nildarpan Natak (Dinabandhu) 91 



( vi ) 

At Pathuriaghata Theatre. 

1866, 6th Jan. Vidyasundar 103 

1869, Dec. Bujhle kina 109 

1867, 31st Sept. Malati-Madhav 

1870 Ubhay-sankat, Chakshu-dan 

1872, 13th Jan. Bukmini-haran 111 

1881 Rasaviskar-vrndak 

Jorasanko Theatre. 

1867, 5th Jan. Nava-natak (Bamnarain) 118 

1880 Valmiki-pratibha 123 

Sobhabazar Theatre. 

1/5, 2/6, Baja Navakrishna Street 

1865 Ekei ki bale Sabhyata 123 

1867, 8th Feb. Krishna-kumari Natak 125 

Bowbazar Theatre. 

3, Viswanath Matilal Lane. 

1868 Bamabhisheka Natak 129 

1872 Sati Natak 132 

1874, Dec. Harishchandra Natak 

Other Theatres. 

1867, Sept. Padmavati Jaychand Mitra's 173 

house at Burtala. 

1867, Nov. 2 Kichhu Kichchu Baybi Koylata 141 
1868 Nala-Damayanti Madanmohantola 138 

National Theatre. 
337, Upper Chitpur Boad ( Jorasanko) 

1868, Oct. Sadhavar Bkadashi ( Beal germ ) 153 

(Dinabandhu) at Prankrishna Haldar's house 
at Mukherjeepara. 

1871, June Litavati ( 'National* named ) (Dinabandhu.) 167 
1872, 7th Dec. Nildarpan * ( Do ) 172 

14th Dec. Jamai Barik ( Do ) 188 

* The first performance at Public Theatre. 



( vii ) 

1873 

4th Jan. Nabin Tapaswini 190 

8th Feb. Noisho Bupea 193 

15th Feb. Bharatmata 200 

22nd Feb. Krishna-kumari Natak 201 

( with Girish as Bhiinsing ) 

8th March Buroshalikar Ghare Eow. 205 

10th May Kapalkundala. 213 

10th Dec. Hemalata Natak ( Haralal Eoy ) 116 

20th Dec. Kamalekamini ( Dinabandhu ) 

1874 

10th Jan. Amitavinodini ( Srinath Chaudhury ) 231 

17th Jan. Kusum-kumari 
31st Jan. ( Bajerer Larai ) 
14th Feb. Mrinalini ( Bankim ) 

Bengal Theatre. 

9/3 Beadon Street. 

1873 

16th Aug. Sarmistha 222 

30th Aug. Mayakanan. 
6th Sept. Mohanter Eki Kaj 
20th Dec. Durgesh-nandini. 225 

1874 

2nd May Durgesh-nandini 
22nd Aug. Puruvikram ( Jyotirindra )* 

1875 

6th March Meghanadbadh 225-227 

25th March Durgesh-nandini 

20th May Malhar Eao Gaekwar 
14th Aug. Surendra-vinodini (under Nagendra Banerjee 

in New Aryan Theatre ) 

4th Sept. Birnari 

* Probably not staged. 



( viii ) 

18th Sept. Bangabijeta ( Eamesh Dutt ) 225-227 

25th Sept. Palashir Yuddha ( Nabin Sen ) 

Great National Theatre. 

6, Beadon Street. 

1873 

31st Dec. Kamya Kanan. 229 

1874 

10th Jan. Mohantar Bilap 231 
17th Jan, Pranay-pariksha (Manomohan Bose) 

14th Feb. Mrinalini 232 

7th March Bisavriksha 233 

30th May Kamalini 234 
19th Sept. Sati ki Kalankini * ( Devendra Banerjee ) 235 

3rd Oct. Puruvikram ( Jyotirindranath ) 237 

31st Oct. Eudrapal ( Haralal ) 

14th Nov. Ananda-kanan ( Laksmi Ohatterjee ) 

2nd Dec. Satru-sanhar ( Haralal ) 239 

26th Dec. Banger Sukhavasan (Do) 

1875 

2nd Jan. Sarat-sarojini ( Upendra Das ) 240 

3rd May Padmini 241 

7th Nov. Bharate Yavan 1f 

23rd Dec. Hirak-churna Natak 229 

31st Dec. Surendra-vinodini ( Upendra Das ) 269 

1876 

8th Jan. Prakritabandhu (Brajendra Eoy) 241 

15th Jan. Sarojini ( Jyotirindra Nath Tagore ) 252 

19th Feb. Gajadananda & the Prince. 259 

26th Eeb, Karnat Kumar ( Satyakrishna Bose ) 

Hanuman-charitra 

1st March Police of Pig and Sheep ,, 

Dramatic Performances Act 282 
* Actresses were employed.