Performing Nationhood: The Emotional Roots of Swadeshi Nationhood in Bengal, 1905-1912 0199480184, 9780199480180

This book serves as the corridor to one's 'self'. It began as a humble attempt to interrogate the perform

301 64 1MB

English Pages 261 [209] Year 2019

Report DMCA / Copyright


Recommend Papers

Performing Nationhood: The Emotional Roots of Swadeshi Nationhood in Bengal, 1905-1912
 0199480184, 9780199480180

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview

Performing Nationhood

Performing Nationhood The Emotional Roots of Swadeshi Nationhood in Bengal, 1905–12



1 Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries. Published in India by Oxford University Press 2/11 Ground Floor, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi 110 002, India © Oxford University Press, 2019 The moral rights of the author have been asserted. First Edition published in 2019 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by licence, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above. You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer. ISBN-13 (print edition): 978-0-19-948018-0 ISBN-10 (print edition): 0-19-948018-4 ISBN-13 (eBook): 978-0-19-909975-7 ISBN-10 (eBook): 0-19-909975-8

Typeset in Dante MT Std 10.5/13 by The Graphics Solution, New Delhi 110 092 Printed in India by Gopsons Papers Ltd., Noida 201 301

‘White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.’ —J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings For every such place you choose to be in, I choose to be with you. For you, Baba.



he ideas that unsettled me during my doctoral years left me with little peace even when the thesis was submitted. Engendering of nationhood through performance formed the mainstay of my doctoral research in the context of the Swadeshi age. Dealing with the intricacies of performative mechanisms, I dwelled in the emotional plane of the Bengalis: ideas emerged out of their intellectual praxis into the passion of the people, eventually assuming the form of people’s emotions. Moving from the papers (newspapers, books, journals, and pamphlets) people read to the performances they enjoyed, ideas travelled far into the emotional world, where they assumed different forms. Nuanced they were, indeed, as I concluded in my doctoral thesis, but the shades they assumed remained beyond the framework of my research. However, the ‘self/selves’ of the dominated/colonized mind were a cause of constant consternation for my ‘self ’. If the colonized did experience a mere discoursed and engendered nationhood, why did the emotional chronology of the period not attest to it? Why did the literature of the period, the memoires, repeatedly speak of a narrow line of separation, segregation? Above all, what in essence were the contours of the hidden transcript of resistance? As I engaged with these questions, a deeper understanding of the emotional world of Swadeshi nationhood emerged, and the resultant product is this book. The research work that stands in the form of a book today could not have become a reality without the help and constant encouragement of several people who stood by me through thick and thin. This is my humble attempt to acknowledge the trust they showed in me, especially when I lost faith in myself. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude towards my supervisor, Dr Shukla Sanyal. She saw me when I was an invisible non-entity in the masters’ batch of 2005–7 at the University of Calcutta,

x Acknowledgements

India. Even after I started working on this topic, there were moments when I faltered, fell, and felt compelled to escape it. However, she stood by me resolutely and, never imposing herself on me, showed me the right path to take. When the arduous hours of checking and rewriting the manuscript began to take a toll on my morale, she made me see sense and put me under a disciplined order to bring out the best in me. I remain ever so grateful to her for those long hours of discussions and critical engagement that helped the framework of this book—my doctoral thesis—to assume a concrete form and shape. I would also like to thank Professor Arun Bandopadhyay; Nurul Hasan, professor of Modern India, for his advice and support; my teachers at the Department of History, University of Calcutta; Professor Suranjan Das, vice chancellor of Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India; Professor Bhaskar Chakraborty; Professor Suparna Gooptu; Professor Nirban Basu; Professor Amit De; and Professor Ritwika Basu, who have been, and still are, a constant source of support for me in my research endeavours. I would like to extend a special thanks to Professor Hari S. Vasudevan and Professor Biswamoy Pati for the interest they showed in my work. Extensive hours of discussions with them helped me put my work in perspective. My gratitude is also due to Professor S. Maswood for her valuable suggestions and the effort she put into making me a better academician. I am also grateful to Professor Rajshekhar Basu whose constant encouragement and help enabled me to tide over the rigorous process of writing this book. To my teachers who endured me all through my formative period, Professor Subhash Ranjan Chakraborty, Professor Jayasree Mukherjee, and Professor Rajat Kanta Ray, thank you for encouraging me to be myself. I also remain humbly grateful to the late Professor Tripti Chaudhuri for her invaluable suggestions that gave my book and me a new direction. While working on this book, I had to consult various primary records at the West Bengal State Archives (both in the Home Political Section as well as the Intelligence Branch Records) and the help I received there from Sucharita-di, Jhuma-di, Professor Subhash Ranjan Chakraborty, and the late Professor Basudeb Chattopadhyay deserves special mention because without their assistance, I could not have completed this book. I am much indebted to the staff at the National Library of India, Bangiya Sahitya Parishad, Kolkata Police Museum Library, Ariadaha

Acknowledgements xi

Public Library, and Central Library, University of Calcutta (Alipore Campus), all in Kolkata, and the National Archives and Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, in New Delhi, who extended help to me graciously and tirelessly for this book. All my hard work would have been in vain had I not found the platform to work and for that I owe a lot to Samir-da in the Department of History Library, University of Calcutta, Anisur-da of the department office, and Bijoy Dey of Presidency College Library, Kolkata. The limits of my critical faculties were put to the test whenever the ideas that came alive in this book were presented before my peers, The exercise always resulted in helpful observations and comments that enhanced the analytical potential of the book. For this, I remain ever grateful to the journals that published my papers and graciously extended their permission and support when these papers became a part of the present book. I hereby take the opportunity to extend my gratitude towards The Journal of Historical Review, Exploring History, The Inclusive (an online journal), Social Scientist, Indian Historical Review, and Societal Studies. I have been considerably fortunate in finding support in my colleagues, family, and friends who have borne my complaints and bad temper with the sweetest disposition. This book would perhaps have remained an unrealized dream had my friends not constantly coaxed me into action. Therefore, I take this opportunity to thank my colleagues at Victoria Institution College, Kolkata, St. Paul’s Cathedral Mission College, Kolkata (especially Mousumi-di, Santanu-da, Sutapa-di, and Anamitra-di), and Mankar College, West Bengal. My friends have constantly supported me through my bad as well as good times, but above all, I would like to thank Monideepa, Priyanka, and Ausmita for standing by me. A special thanks goes to Manas and Nandini who have not only been my friends, but also my support during trying times. I would also like to thank Babli, Piku, Chumki, Babai, Bukan, Arghya, Munna-di, Partha-da, Arghyadeep, Avirup, Gurguri, and July for being with me when I needed them the most. Most importantly, I would like to extend my gratitude to my sisters, Sudataa and Sabik, for being my guiding stars, my mother for being so patient with my erratic work hours and tremendous bad temper, my brother-in-law Rahul for always being there for me, and my nephew Gogol for being the most pleasurable diversion whenever I felt suffocated

xii Acknowledgements

by the pressure of work. Last, but definitely not the least, I would like to dedicate this book to the loving memory of my father, who always gave me (and still does) the strength to re-invent myself at every turn of my life. Thank you all for being the bricks I needed to build this dream with.

Introduction In Search of An Emotional History of Swadeshi Bengal


he present study is a critical analysis of the process of development of an emotional bond among the people of Bengal during the Swadeshi era and the role performative spaces played in this regard. A major centre of popular entertainment, performative spaces also emerged as an arena for contesting the colonial authorities during the swadeshi and boycott agitation. In this study, I have paid close attention to the three most popular performative media of Bengal—theatre, jatra, and songs. I have tried to map the patterns of modification introduced in performative techniques by Swadeshi performances. This has enabled me to unveil the intricacies of the interaction between sentiments, emotions, and ideas and contemporary political discourse, and the eventual development of a Swadeshi nationhood. For a detailed examination of the emotional nature of nationhood that developed in Bengal, I have restricted the timespan of the book from 1905 to 1912. The unfolding of the swadeshi and boycott agitation, however, was not the only reason for choosing this period as the chronological framework of the book. The vibrant and experimental nature of popular Bengali performances of the time and the treatment of theatre as an active political space by colonial authorities also drew my attention to this period. The association and intermingling of prevalent political ideas with performance was remarkable, and greater so was the emotional expression that it engendered (often referred to as seditious by various documents of the British Raj). The emotion and bond that emerged from it set a paradigm for the twentieth-century nationalist movement and for the generation that followed. Performing Nationhood: The Emotional Roots of Swadeshi Nationhood in Bengal, 1905–12. Mimasha Pandit, Oxford University Press (2019). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199480180.001.0001

xiv Introduction

‘The play-as-text can be performed in a space, but the play-as-event belongs to the space, and makes the space perform as much it makes actors perform.’1 Space of performance, in traditional performance terminology, was believed to be a mere arena of enactment. When analysed in the light of performance studies, however, the space includes not the area alone, but the actors and the spectators as well. In this capacity, it serves as a point of communication between the narrative of the performance, the performers, and the audience. As a result, space can combine different time frames, that in which the performance takes place (in this case, the Swadeshi age) and that of the performance (for instance, morning or evening) with the time performed onstage (that is, the historical or social time presented in performance). Such a process of framing evoked a connection between the real and the fictional space.2 The process of dissemination and understanding of ideas acquired volatility due to this inherent quality of the performative space. Caught within the web of enactment, the performer and the spectator weaved new meanings and interpretations into their shared experience of the performance. Swadeshi jatra, theatre, and songs reworked the traditional performative space into a performative element, transforming the space of folk entertainment into an area of meeting, seeing, understanding, discussing, and finally, responding. Watching a performance together and simultaneously responding to it allowed the spectators to realize the similarity in their responses. By virtue of this connection, people gained the power to pass judgements. The voice of the people began to be taken into account due to the changes it could demand to be introduced in the performance. The performer and other performative faculties, on the other hand, could modulate the opinion of the people, that is, the way they responded to the ideas exhibited in the space. In most cases, both the performer and the spectator engaged in a tussle to influence the other’s opinion/expression. In this manner, the performance established a cyclic relationship between the performer and the audience. 1 David Wiles, ‘Introduction’, A Short History of Western Performance Space, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 2 Gay McAuley, ‘Introduction’, Space in Performance: Making Meaning in the Theatre, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1999.

Introduction xv

Performative space included the spaces of gathering where the performance took place. In traditional performance terminology, space of performance is defined as an area where both the performer and the spectator come together. Having the ability to connect the two, space frames the performance.3 Encompassing the performance with its ensemble of performers and spectators, space sets the parameters of representation and drawing meanings from it. In order to make it easier to understand the unique, though critical, contribution of performative space to the history of engendering of an emotional bond among Bengalis, I would like to clarify the usage of the terms ‘popular entertainment’ and ‘folk entertainment’ in the book. I have used the terms interchangeably, referring to forms of entertainment enjoyed by people. A distinction can hardly be drawn on the ground of recognizability, as it seems that such features are not confined to any one form of entertainment. Sumanta Banerjee is of the opinion that folk entertainment and popular entertainment had features in common, and that a performance by performers familiar with the spectators at a social level was equally valid for both forms of entertainment.4 Though popular performances retained ‘collective autonomy’, the means of performance served as a common feature exhibited by both these forms of entertainment. The autonomy, in context of the Swadeshi intellectual world of the early twentieth century, engendered homogeneousness among the audience. The term ‘performative tools’ best describes the collective autonomy of the performances, highlighting the various features of popular performances. Performative tools encompass little details like costumes, props (including scenery, posters, banners, or even pamphlets), and even the space of performance, that is, the mise-en-scène that enhances the meaning-making ability of a performance and engenders a bond between the spectators.


McAuley, in his analysis of the significance of space in theatrical performance, grants the area of performance the role and status of a catalyst. Space played a powerful role in forging a close relationship among wholly unconnected groups of people and two different time frames. For an in-depth discussion, see McAuley, Space in Performance. 4 Sumanta Banerjee, The Parlour and the Streets: Elite and Popular Culture in Nineteenth Century Calcutta, Calcutta: Seagull Books, 1989, p. 2.

xvi Introduction

Performative tools introduced a change in the way people/the audience visualized the space of performance, as well as their sociopolitical sensibility. However, the introduction of change needs to be gauged in the context of two developments that occurred during the period—presence of a fully grown public sphere, and the outbreak of the Swadeshi and boycott agitation against the decision of the colonial authorities to partition Bengal. Ever since the development of a public sphere, the politics of Bengal worked within its domain. Constant reference to the colonial administration and remission of the situation (social, political, economic as well as cultural) created by its presence formed the mainstay of the political expression of the colonized. The presence of a public sphere, however, required the political ideas to earn the approval of people. Communicative media, especially performance media, became a popular means of disseminating these political ideas and for allowing the people to pass their judgment on them. Dramatic representations of the nineteenth century, with cynical portrayals of the evils of modern society, tried to launch an attack on colonial rule as the perpetrator of all evil. Farces dealing with the low ebb of social morality and economic problems proliferated and were performed on the stages of Bengal and tried to generate popular support against colonial modernity.5 Scandalous affairs (such as the Mahanta–Elokeshi 5

A new genre of patriotic plays made their appearance during the 1870s that contextualized the lives of fictitious characters in a historical setting, ones holding a reference to the colonial rule of the British in Bengal. By patriotic plays, I mean to highlight plays based on the life and amours of some fictitious characters. In these plays, the tyranny of the colonial rule provided the background for generation of a crisis in the lives of the characters, resolved through restoration of the pristine order. Upendranath Das, Sarat Sarojini, Surendra Binodini, Calcutta: J. P. Ray and Co., 1880; Jyotirindranath Tagore, Sarojini, Purubikram, Kiranchandra Bandopadhyay’s Bharat Mata [Mother India], Bharat Jaban [Indian Infidels], and Haran Chandra Ghosh’s Bharat Dukkhini [Ill-fated India] belonged to this genre of plays performed during this period. For a detailed discussion of the historical plays of the 1870s, see H. N. Dasgupta, The Indian Stage, Metropolitan Printing and Publishing House Ltd., 1934, pp. 270–86; Sisir Kar, British Sashone Bajeyapto Bangla Boi [Bengali Books Proscribed under the British Rule], Calcutta: Ananda Publishers, 1988, pp. 130–4. Also see, Pabitra Sarkar, ‘Unobingsho Shatabdir Bangla Natok O Tar Proyogkala’ [Bengali Drama and its Application in the Nineteenth Century],

Introduction xvii

affair)6 became a staple of this genre of performances that tried to unveil the disruption caused by colonial rule in the idyllic social fabric of India. Until the advent of the Swadeshi and boycott agitation, such a portrayal had remained subtle in nature, never directly engaging with the colonial authorities. The wrath of Bengalis against the partition of Bengal found a voice in the vituperations that poured out in the performative space. The language of accusation became more direct, owing to the intellectual milieu of the age. One begins to comprehend the Bengali world of ideas through an article published in the Bengali journal Natyamandir, where the author drew the attention of readers to two very important terms: Bangadesh and jatiyabhab. The term ‘Bangadesh’ brought together two different social–geographical ideas—Banga and desh7—that coalesced to give form and shape to a political/territorial boundary of Bengal. However, the process of imagining this boundary offered several obstacles that required one to overcome the abstract nature of the boundary. In order to give the boundary a form, the population residing within it needed to be marked out by the presence of a common bond among them, a jati. Treated as a multi-dimensional term, jati implies an association by birth, race, caste, sub-caste, tribe, and nation. Thus, the emotional bond among the members of a jati, or one’s kinsfolk, came to be referred to as jatiyabhab. However, this presented a problem for the Santhals, the Biharis, and the Ahoms, who could not be incorporated into the linguistic and ethnic

in Unish Shotoker Bangali Jibon O Sangoshkriti [Bengali Lifestyle and Culture of the Nineteenth Century], ed. Swapan Basu and Indrajit Choudhury, Calcutta: Pustok Biponi, pp. 511–29, 520–2. 6 Tanika Sarkar, Hindu Wives, Hindu Nation: Community, Religion and Cultural Nationalism, New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2000, pp. 56–9. 7 The word Banga or Vanga, actually a Persian word, gained currency during the Muslim period. Historians maintain different opinions regarding the meaning of the word Vanga. Some believe it to be the name of an ancient Magadhan king, while others consider it to be a derivative of the word Vanga, which means a marshy land. The meaning of the word desh was multi-connotative during the age. It was used to signify a range of meaning from a subregion, to a region, to a country. For a detailed discussion on both the terms, see Swarupa Gupta, Notions of Nationhood in Bengal: Perspectives on Samaj, 1870– 1905, Leiden: Brill, 2009, pp. 108–9, 277–8.

xviii Introduction

framework of jati. To overcome this problem, the intellectuals endeavoured to build a jati, jatir gathan (engendering nationhood), imbued with a samajik (social) meaning.8 Accommodating various families, jatis, castes, and regions within its domain, samajik linkages served as an all-encompassing concept. It forged a link between all who shared the same bloodline, matrimonial relations, private spaces (houses), social spaces (neighbourhoods), office spaces and so forth, that came to be referred to as atmiya svajan (kith and kin).9 The emotion people felt for their samajik linkages, a social network, was associated with the emotion they nurtured for a cultural notion of jati, thereby transforming jati into a socio-cultural identity. The roots of self-identification were shifted from ethnicity to the samajik linkage of atmiya svajan to lay the foundation of self-knowledge. Atul Chandra Basu praised natyashala or the theatrical houses of Bengal for engendering jatiya bhab among the people of Bangadesh.10 Following his argument, one can assume that if the Bengalis were imbued with the knowledge of ‘self ’, performance had an important role to play in it. The knowledge of the ‘self ’, in the context of colonial domination—which was felt most acutely in 1905 due to the partition of Bengal—assumed the form of what intellectuals described as swadhinatar bhab. The word ‘swadhinata’ stood for liberation from the control of the ‘other’ dominant power. What the intellectuals sought was not just liberation from colonial control, but liberation of the swadesh that loosely meant one’s country (sva: one’s own, and desh: region, country). Dissemination of such ideas by means of performance conferred upon people the sense of ‘jatiya bhab’, a distinctive status that separated them from the ‘other’. Meaning, once the emotion of jati associated with the notion of swadesh, it created an ‘other’ that was opposed to the oneness invoked by the coalescence of the two. The presence of the ‘other’ served as an additional, and a very important, source of engendering indigeneity. However, the engendered emotion needed to be ingrained 8

Gupta, Notions of Nationhood in Bengal, p. 143. For an in-depth discussion, see Ronald B. Inden and Ralph W. Nicholas, Kinship in Bengali Culture, New Delhi: Chronicle Books, 2005, p. ix, Chapter 1. 10 Atulchandra Basu, ‘Banglar Rangalay’, Natyamandir, 1318 B.S. (1911), cited in Prabhatkumar Das, ‘Bangabhanga: Bangarangamancha O Jatrar Ashor’, Parikatha, 2005, pp. 281–319, p. 281. 9

Introduction xix

not merely in the minds of the people, but in their hearts as well. This could not be achieved unless a passion was invoked. A solution to this dilemma appeared in an article of a seditious series, ‘Mukti Kon Pathe’, where the author suggested a simple means: Jatra … dvara svadhinatar abashyakata prachar kora … rogike chini makhano bodi khawaibar moto eishakal amod-promoder bhitor diya swadhinatar bhab prachar sadharaner mon bodo sahajei taha graham kore. [Jatra … preaches the necessity of independence … like giving a patient a sugar-coated pill, if the passion of independence is promoted amongst people through such a medium of entertainment, people would easily accept it.]11

Such measures ensured a union of the ideas of the intellectuals with the emotions of people. The process of establishing this link, however, was not easy. Popular emotion, closely associated with their inherent emotions, could only be invoked by calling upon the root metaphors that triggered it. A set of culturally identifiable motifs typical to the socio-cultural sensibility of the people, the root metaphors held the key to popular emotion. The Swadeshi performances, in order to effect the desired coalescence, used more of such metaphors to trigger and direct the inherent emotions of people in favour of swadeshi and against the ‘other’. Therefore, vigorous attempts were made to create a public space where the Bengali audiences could be made to understand the ideas of the age, discover a concord between it and their beliefs, internalize the product that emerged from this concord, and transform it into a part of their mentality. It was in this intellectual ambience that the colonial government introduced the plan to partition Bengal in 1905. Although a vigorous agitation unfolded, the partition of Bengal was carried out and the new provinces of Eastern Bengal and Assam were formed. Speech-making, political gatherings, monster-sized meetings, and display of violence (political dacoity and assassinations) began to work changes in the opinion of the people. Narratives in newspapers and other print media

11 Abinash Chandra Bhattacharyya, Mukti Kon Pathe [Which Way Lies the Freedom], Kolkata: Punascha, 2006, p. 145.

xx Introduction

made such actions a much talked-about affair. This influenced the mentality of the people and affected the prevailing ties holding them together. The erstwhile bond, rooted in factors like caste, ethnicity, clanship, and regionality, was replaced by a broader category of communion. However, one would be sorely mistaken to assume that the old sentiments and emotions were totally rejected. On the contrary, the ancient sentiments were modulated to adapt to a broader framework of belonging—more suited to the politics of the time. *** I adopted cultural criticism, anthropology, and performance studies to form the standard theoretical approach while working on the performance history of the Swadeshi era. Navigating through untraced terrains proved a difficult task and required me to work with a framework that would throw light on the obvious as well as the suppressed. I used cultural criticism as the broader framework to understand the process of identity formation in the context of political developments and social progress. Since the late twentieth century, cultural criticism has served its purpose well to decipher the patterns of cultural development at social, political, and emotional planes, and the link it shared with the broader mentality of the era. Ethics of analysis and ethics of interpretation12 have been applied to understand different historical landmarks such as the French revolution, various cultural developments like that of England, and the process of identity formation as in the case of Americanism. Cultural criticism combined with anthropology helped critically trace the development of unique identities in respective societies. This, however, assumed a more complicated aspect when applied in the framework of Swadeshi performance and simulacrum. Multiple definitions and interpretations can emerge from the exercise. To sift through the multilayered terrain, I adopted performance analysis as a necessary tool to understand the transition that diverse emotions underwent in order to develop a perceived homogenous passion. Homogenization of emotions occurred in the context of cultural mentality. Therefore, to appreciate the transition of public emotion 12

Greg Forter, and Paul Allen Miller, Desire of the Analysts: Psychoanalysis and the Cultural Criticism, New York: SUNY Press, 2008, p. 14.

Introduction xxi

from diverse to homogenous, one must first comprehend the mental framework in which it unfolded. Thus, a brief analogy of the cultural mentality that the Bengalis held and nourished in the beginning of the twentieth century,13 in such a case, becomes indispensable. Bengalis viewed culture as an aesthetic product that developed from a spiritual engagement of the colonized with the Western framework created by the colonizers. The critical faculty of culture that emerged in the beginning of the twentieth century was, in a way, a distant echo of the contests and reconciliations that had occurred in the previous century. For such obvious reasons, despite differing on finer elements, the essence of understanding and critiquing culture remained the same among the larger section of Bengalis. In the eyes of early nationalists, the union between spiritual form and culture was inevitable, even desirable. Men such as Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Nabagopal Mitra (the progenitor of Hindu Mela), and Madhusudan Dutta and Bhudeb Mukhopadhyay (dubbed as reformist and traditionalist respectively) believed that spiritual forms triggered cultural development. Everything material lacked aesthetic, hence was deemed unfit to be a part of culture as a whole. Folk and popular art forms bore the brunt of the crusade against vulgar elements that morally corrupted the taste and mentality of people. Nationalists carried out vigorous acts of purification using 13 The nineteenth century in Bengal was an era of intellectual efflorescence. Sushovan Sarkar (alias Amit Sen) and Kenneth W. Jones located in the efflorescence of new ideas about one’s past, language, literature the roots of a new Bengali culture that adopted the Classical past to the Western idea to develop a new Bengali identity. A root of this new identity was located in the Western ideology of culture. The reservation of ‘moral’ and ‘vulgar’, hence, figured prominently in the emergent Bengali culture and its sense of aesthetic. These elements became the basic standards for measuring the value of a performance. Unless the performance carried character building and moral elements, it was neither critically acclaimed nor considered viewable. Popular and acclaimed performances like Bilbamangal, based on moralizing spiritual and historical themes, had little or no connection with the folk or popular element characterized as vulgar and harmful to the character-building process of the society. For an in-depth discussion, see Susobhan Sarkar, On the Bengal Renaissance, Calcutta: Papyrus, 1979; Amit Sen, Notes on the Bengal Renaissance, Bombay: People’s Publishing House, 1946; Kenneth W. Jones, New Cambridge History of India, vol. 3, Part 1, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

xxii Introduction

media such as newspapers, periodicals, and journals. It warned the Bengalis that unless discarded, vulgarity of popular art forms would disrupt the moral and social order of Bengal. Only such performances that supported the moral character-building elements of civilization held the promise of replenishing the moral value of a society, attracted the attention of critiques, and came to be defined as ‘culture’. Parameters of culture underwent transformation when the colonizers, in their attempt to gather more knowledge about the colonized, theorized Indian culture. The beginning of this process can be traced back to the early twentieth century, when volumes of reports reached the local government from the local policing authorities. The reports were sampled, labeled, and stacked in a neat order of reference for the government translators. Their duty was to translate the collected material and detect traces of sedition in it. A list of aesthetic materials that held the status of culture, based on the précis and remarks that the translator wrote down in neatly marked columns, was recorded in a book. Such compilations often held a brief account of the performances noted in a column adjacent to the name of plays. The Criminal Investigation Department collected common Bengali songs in 1912 and compiled them together in a report to send to the home department of the British Indian government. Similar in structure to the official compilations of Swadeshi plays and jatras, the report had neat columns reserved for registering the opinion of the translator and the legal remembrancer. The analysis featuring in these columns formed the foundation of the colonial theoretical framework employed for investigating Indian culture. A puritanical approach was taken towards performative texts that appeared to be ‘bad books’ lacking ‘literary merit’.14 According to the colonial authorities, these pieces were poisonous trash concocted to gain popularity15 and not as innocent as they seemed on the surface.16


West Bengal State Archives (WBSA)-Eastern Bengal and Assam (Confidential), F.N. 410 of 1909, Notes and Translations of ‘Matripuja’ Songs, and so on, compiled by Special Branch, Eastern Bengal and Assam. 15 WBSA-Home Political Branch (HPB) (Confidential), F.N. 129 of 1911, Extract from the Report on Native Papers in Bengal for the week ending the 25 June 1910. 16 WBSA-HPB (Confidential), F.N. 129 of 1911, Confidential letter on 27/28 January 1911.

Introduction xxiii

On the whole, the value-oriented theory of the Raj completely trashed Bengali culture and found it to be extremely seditious and with no visible (or inherent) merit at all. Early twentieth century witnessed the dawn of a new era of overt political opposition as well as the development of a new cultural theory. The stunted social and material prospects of the Bengalis turned them against the colonial authorities, especially because of the cultural anathema of effeminacy that was imposed on the subject race by the colonizers. They held the imperial cultural theory responsible for their undersized social and moral prospects. Effeminacy became the bane of the Bengalis, used against their cultural individuality. Twentieth century nationalists tried to invert this image of effeminacy to alter the cultural identity imposed on their people.17 Folk and popular culture was overhauled to unearth stories of prowess and valour. Bringing the history of the local rajas, zamindars, and nawabs into the performative space reconfigured Bengalis as brave-hearted valorous individuals. Old practices and customs were infused with a fresh breath of life to celebrate the cultural uniqueness of Bengal. An article that appeared in Sandhya, a vernacular daily, in 1908 pleaded with its readers to adopt the customs and practices of olden days to establish swaraj.18 Another vernacular daily, Yugantar, mouthpiece of the intelligentsia advocating radical ideas, vowed to preserve national arts and improve the social and cultural status of Indians—processes that it believed went hand-in-hand. Culture and cultural ethos emerged in their theoretical parenthesis as the soul of the nation, and were pruned and decorated to justify the masculinity of the Bengalis and the Indians as a whole. 17

Femininity was projected as an inherent quality of Indian culture on which their identity (rather their unchanging nature) was vested. As against the Indians, the English were projected as naturally masculine, hence fit to rule. Colonial forms of knowledge or discourses disseminated to justify British imperium, and the necessity to rule the weaker, upheld this stark division. See Bernard S. Cohn, Colonialism and its Forms of Knowledge: British in India, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996; Mrinalini Sinha, Colonial Masculinity: The ‘Manly Englishman’ and the ‘Effeminate Bengali’ in the late Nineteenth Century, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995. 18 WBSA-HPB, Reports on Native Papers (henceforth RNP), Sandhya, 14 January 1908.

xxiv Introduction

Early twentieth century treaded dangerous grounds in its theorization of culture. Rabindranath Tagore warned against the inherent danger when he stressed upon the necessity to wedge the gap between the educated and the masses.19 The attempts, though feeble and halfhearted initially, gained a new lease of life during the Swadeshi era. Popular media was clipped to fit the nationalist frame. The change made an impact on the process of theorization of culture. The ideologues of the era began to see culture as an aesthetic means of disseminating an idea of ‘self ’. It is no surprise, a woman writing to the editor of a vernacular daily, Jasohar, laid down strict rules of culture wherein she beseeched her fellow readers to quit giving alms to roaming mendicants or bairagis (an integral part of the Bengali folk culture) who refused to sing Swadeshi songs.20 This particular form of theorization of culture held immense sway over the countryside, and soon after, bairagis and vaishnavis (female religious mendicants of the Vaishnava cult) were found singing swadeshi songs instead of religious songs. Culture, thus, emerged as a natural corollary of nationalism. In the same vein, Satyendra Nath Dutta, a Bengali poet, celebrated the advent of Swadeshi nationalist ideas as the dawn of a ‘golden age’ in Bengal.21 Theorization of culture assumed a cultural–aesthetic mould where all literary texts and performances were considered to be the idiomatic representations of political ideas of the time. Culture, as a product of the glorious Bengali revolution,22 became the hallmark of future 19

Rabindranath Tagore in his novel Ghare Baire [The Home and the World] repeatedly highlighted the wedge existing between the intellectuals, their ideas, and the masses. The gap existing between the two and the implementation of the ideas often assumed the character of forcing the idea in practice over the masses. This remains a recurrent theme in the novel, exposing the wedge existing between idea and practice. See Rabindranath Tagore, Ghare Baire, Calcutta: Visvabharati Publication, 1916; Rabindranath Tagore, Swadeshi Samaj, Calcutta: Visvabharati, 1962. 20 WBSA-HPB, RNP, Jasohar, 16 September 1909. 21 Satyendra Dutta wrote ‘Banga-itihase aj elo swarna yuga!’ in his poem ‘Sandikshan’. The poem was published on 18 September 1905. The poem did not appear in print after 1905, until 1922, when it was republished along with another of his compilation Benu O Bina. Satyendranath Dutta, Benu o Bina, third edition, Allahabad: Indian Press Limited, 1906. 22 Binay Sarkar, a contemporary, has defined the swadeshi movement as ‘1905-er gourabmay bangabiplab’ [the glorious Bengali revolution of 1905],

Introduction xxv

nationalist historians who characterized culture as a consequence of political endeavour. Swadeshi movement in Bengal gained the glorified status of ‘the first movement of national independence’ in the writings of R. C. Majumdar.23 Haridas and Uma Mukherjee identified it as the inaugurator of a new age in Bengal that also wrought visible and significant changes in the intellectual plane of the Bengalis.24 Nationalist historians, by identifying a political event of the stature of the swadeshi movement as the base, relegated culture to the background as a mere product of it. Culture lost all its singularity in the hands of nationalist theorists. The finer points of cultural efflorescence did not figure in the theoretical framework developed by them. They failed to grasp that culture was not subordinate to the political ideas of the time. The lacuna thus created in the critical evaluation of culture was filled in by the neo-Marxist historians who tried to evaluate society and culture from the perspective of haves and have-nots within the framework of hegemony. Historical works produced in this framework paid close attention to culture as an agent of political change and not its by-product. Sumit Sarkar’s seminal work25 on Swadeshi movement, published in the 1970s, illustrated the distinction between the ‘bhadralok landlorder’ and the ‘peasant commoner’ emerging from the stock cultural assumptions with which the agitators and extremists had entered the political arena.26 In the hands of a Marxist historian, culture assumed the form of tradition, deployed calculatedly as ‘a technique of mass contact’ to gain hegemony over the mind and body of the commoner. Despite being evaluated in a different theoretical framework, culture failed to gain the status of an agent of change. Sarkar, though discussing the role of culture as a ‘technique’ to reach out to people, failed to explain the means by which the task of establishing a contact with the

cited in Haridas Mukherjee and Uma Mukherjee, Swadeshi Andolan O Banglar Nabajug, Calcutta: Dey’s Publishing, 1961, p. 176. 23 Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, Preface to Mukherjee and Mukherjee, Swadeshi Andolan O Banglar Nabajug, pp. ix–xi. 24 Haridas Mukherjee and Uma Mukherjee, India’s Fight for Freedom, Calcutta, 1958. 25 Sumit Sarkar, Swadeshi Movement in Bengal, 1905–1908, New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 1973. 26 Sarkar, Swadeshi Movement in Bengal, pp. 515–16.

xxvi Introduction

people was carried out, and most importantly, how people reacted to it. Culture and its various intricacies, in this case, were left outside the framework of theorization. However, the all-encompassing approach of performance studies can restore culture to its rightful place as a means of communication, persuasion, and modulation. Any theorization of culture requires shifting of attention from ‘culture as reflection’ to ‘culture as an agent of change’. To understand the ability of culture to inform political ideas, and not vice-versa, one must pay closer attention to the theoretical concept of culture. In the beginning of the nineteenth century, the deep impact industrialization left on the Western society and economy wrought a change in the idea of culture. As Raymond Williams surmises, it ceased to be the ‘culture of something’ and became ‘culture as such’.27 His theorization identified four layers in the definition of culture: first, ‘a general state or habit of mind, having close relations with the idea of human perfection’; second, ‘the general state of intellectual development in a society as a whole’; third, ‘the general body of arts’; and fourth, ‘a whole way of life, material, intellectual and spiritual’.28 The study of mentality to decipher the commonalties between the thoughts of one person with that of others of his time gained wider currency in the 1930s and 1940s. The theoretical framework identified mentality or ideas as the primary element of culture. Ideas or mentality became a matter of close investigation, necessary to decipher the root of cultural changes. The method received further primacy with the appearance of the works of Antonio Gramsci in which he stressed the importance of such cultural ideas or mentality in the formation of ‘hegemony’ or a power base.29 Henceforth, the study of culture, or cultural criticism, took the form of an investigation of the genesis of power. In the 1980s, Michel Foucault expanded the theoretical approach by asserting the importance of analysing the ‘archaeology of

27 Raymond Williams in his seminal study on the new role assumed by the term ‘culture’ in post-industrialized society traces the changes that its meaning and understanding underwent. See Raymond Williams, Culture and Society 1780–1950, New York: Doubleday and Co., 1960, p. xiv. 28 Williams, Culture and Society, p. xiv. 29 Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebook, ed. and trans. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan, 2009.

Introduction xxvii

knowledge’30 for deciphering changes pertaining to the root of power.31 Volumes of literature have been written by him to highlight the relationship between knowledge and power, where knowledge emerges from various discourses on culture, and power emerges as an outgrowth of the dissemination of that discourse. Developments in the field of cultural criticism since the last century have shown that one can better understand changes or developments in society, economy, and politics if one pays closer attention not merely to the ideas produced during the age but also to the agents of culture, that is, the elements that have the power to influence the way culture is understood and perceived. These agents can be identified as the elements that were considered products of culture prior to the 1980s. The analysis of cultural products as culture-producing agents reached new heights in the hands of Victor Turner32 whose work on ritual process and social drama laid bare the performative nature inherent in almost every cultural development, and hence in social, economic, and political progression. In his works, cultural criticism became closely associated with anthropology, turning it into a study of not merely the formation of a culture, but also the experiences of that culture. The attention of historical analysis was thus turned to factors which had hitherto been kept outside its ambit, such as drama, rituals, and media. Drawing upon Turner’s thesis, I would like to argue that this space opened up by the Swadeshi performances had great potential. The space lay ‘betwixt’33 the two worlds where 30

Foucault uses the term to refer to the roots of knowledge, that is, the corpus of knowledge that presupposed the same way of looking at things, and the same division of the perceptual field. He said, notion or view of various things in the world are created by the discourses or narratives pertaining to it that he described as an organized series of descriptive statements. See Michel Foucault, Archaeology of Knowledge, New York: Routledge, 2002. 31 Foucault, Archaeology of Knowledge; Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization, New York: Routledge, 2001; Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality, London: Vintage Books, 1990; Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, New York: Routledge, 2002. 32 Victor Turner, Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974. 33 In the intervening liminal period, the state of the subject becomes ambiguous, that is, neither here nor there, and it lies between all fixed points of classification or categories of normal life. See Turner, Drama, Fields and Metaphors, pp. 53, 232.

xxviii Introduction

‘anything [might] happen’.34 It was an ‘interim of “liminality”’ which held the potentiality to stand aside from one’s own social position and formulate ‘a potentially unlimited series of alternative social arrangements’.35 Swadeshi performance as a ‘liminoid’ genre subverted the axioms and standards of the established social order.36 It provided individuals with a capacity to ‘stand aside from the models and paradigms for behavior and thinking which, as children, they are conditioned into accepting’. This helped them to ‘innovate new patterns themselves or assent to innovation’.37 The theorizers of culture of the Swadeshi era have missed this space controlled by, instead of controlling, the masses of Bengal, where both the performer and the spectator were active participants and not simply the objects of culture. The spontaneous development of varied and possible cultural practices in the liminal space, under the disseminative–persuasive and responsive network of the liminoid genre, was a combination of ideas given form by intellectuals and the perception of those ideas by the spectators. Above this stood the emotions felt by the spectators when visualizing the ideas in the liminal space. Emotions generated by sensation, spectacle, and music created a bond among the spectators. A community that bonded over shared emotions created an uneasy dynamic. Ideas and perceptions in this ‘betwixt’ space assumed a life and form of their own. The trajectory of this life and form, though ignored by intellectuals and nationalists over time, made its presence felt in the responses of the people. The present study examines the ‘betwixt’ mentality that became a defining element of the community-building sensation or emotion of Swadeshi Bengal. Analysis of the performative media that created this fluid ‘betwixt’ space becomes imperative to better understand the emergence of a new bond in Swadeshi Bengal. For this, I am much indebted to the theoretical framework for studying public sphere developed by Jürgen Habermas.38


Turner, Drama, Fields and Metaphors, p. 13. Turner, Drama, Fields and Metaphors, p. 14. 36 Turner, Drama, Fields and Metaphors, p. 14. 37 Turner, Drama, Fields and Metaphors, pp. 14–15. 38 Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991. 35

Introduction xxix

The study of media gained further importance when Habermas published his seminal work on the formation and transformation of the Western bourgeois public sphere. In this work, he examined the role played by the public sphere in deploying various cultural products to build a bourgeois identity and the change it brought about in people’s mentality. Following his stead, several cultural historians, in later years, developed a method of analysing the role of various communicative media in a space of voluntary gathering in influencing the emotions and mentality of the people, thereby affecting a change in the social, political, and economic beliefs of the age. I have applied cultural criticism in its present form to understand the processes involved in producing and experiencing culture in the public sphere through performative media such as theatre, jatra, and songs, and the eventual generation of an emotion that not only helped people bond but also defined the contours of the bond. *** Performance as a text-in-action needs to be decoded through a curious process of semiotic analysis. While writing this book, I made use of similar analytical tools, largely borrowing the procedural framework from the anthropological theorization of the ‘liminoid’ by Turner, Habermas’ theory on the public sphere from Cultural Studies, and the theorization of the role played by emotional reconstruction by Rajat Kanta Ray.39 The present climate of disciplinary convergence has made it possible for me to delve deeper into the intricacies of textual and oral performances, and thereby examine the changes manifest in the emotional plane, triggered by communication and an exchange of ideas. One can grasp the pattern of exchange in performative media by closely following the development of ideas put into action by the swadeshi movement. My approach to the problem has been a theoretical exercise wherein I have tried to trace the communicative faculties of Swadeshi jatra, theatre, and songs that developed a double thrust of communication and persuasion in the public space. Popularity enjoyed by these forms 39 Rajat Kanta Ray, Exploring Emotional History: Gender, Mentality and Literature in Indian Awakening, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001.

xxx Introduction

of entertainment, as I found through a thorough analysis of their performances, conferred upon them the status of a public arena where ideas could be exchanged, critiqued, and often, if not always, modified. However, as stated earlier, the exercise could not have been complete without a critical understanding of the actions of the spectators. Hence, I have tried to take into account the target audience’s reception of ideas disseminated by the performances. The thrust of this examination required me to pay close attention to specific areas of performance such as the text/libretto/lyrics of the form of entertainment, how the text was performed, and the response of the spectators, both verbal and gesticulated. I have used methods of performance criticism to review the communicative and persuasive tendencies of the Swadeshi media. In the first chapter, the texts of performances have been put to a semiotic analysis to carefully decode the keywords present in them. Repetitive use of such words formed an identifiable pattern within the framework of the text. Along with specific words, the narrative has been brought within the grid of semiotic analysis to unearth the pattern of stories told onstage and in various other performative spaces by the performers. The stories re-told did not always derive from a Bengali sensibility, but from regional memories of the Rajputs, the Punjabis, and the Maharashtrians as well, bringing to the fore a new ‘hero cult’ that eventually merged with the local cultural memories of Bengal. The merger brought together stories of various regions as well as the memories associated with them. The bringing together of memories in performative texts allowed the regional stories to acquire the status of ‘stories of all’ or ‘memories of us’. Thus, the texts soon transformed into a storehouse of common memories. Such an aggregation necessitated the texts to contain words and models that served as a common referent for ‘us’ and an antithesis of ‘them’ or ‘the other’. A stark contrast drawn between the two defined an identity, separating the good from the evil. The good invariably assumed the characteristic features of the indigenous population, while the evil illustrated the features of a foreigner. The characterization portrayed the accumulated stories in a definitive light of indigeneity. The nature of indigeneity reflected in the stories collected in the storehouse became the parameter for judging the indigeneity of other stories that vied to be included in it. Sense and markers of indigeneity, once accumulated in the storehouse of performance texts, became audible and visible in the performative

Introduction xxxi

space. The second chapter deals with the enactment of the texts. This added a new dimension to the way indigeneity was viewed by people. Performance introduced unique methods to disseminate the text. In this context, one must bear in mind that the performances, particularly jatra and theatre, had the express desire to draw in and entertain as many people as possible. Therefore, mise-en-scène, gesture, dialogues, music—all collaborated to render the presentation entertaining. Such a rendition of text that deployed performative tools excited and invoked a passionate response in the audience. The expression of excitement, often in the form of catcalls, cheers, or even jeers, turned the audience from being mere spectators to a participating voice that held the ability to effect change in the performance. Therefore, the expression of emotion by the audience and the performative tools that excited it became a part of the performative text. In order to understand the transformation of a voiceless spectator into an audible audience, I have put the performance and the space of performance through a rigorous semiotic analysis. This has helped me to illustrate the ways and means by which the performer and the spectator were transported to a different level of communion through the incitement of an impassioned vocalization of emotions. This vocalization rendered the opinion (the voice) of the people conspicuous. Given the public nature of the space, it became difficult to avoid or ignore the voice. Dissemination of ideas among such men (and women) required a certain degree of approval on the part of the audience-public. Their keen sense of sensation needed to be modulated in favour of the disseminated ideas. The third chapter seeks to understand the use of certain culturally meaningful elements that held immense significance in the daily lives and belief system of the Bengali audience. By using semiotic analysis, I have tried to decipher the pattern of appearance of such motifs in performances and the subsequent reaction it drew from the people. Performative analysis of expression, and its simultaneity, helped me to make sense of the process of a collective act. I realized that it was not just the homogeneity in their reaction to the motifs that allowed the audience to identify with each other, but also the timing of the expression of this sensation that established a link between their logical and emotional plane, thereby joining them in an emotional bond. The fourth chapter emerged as a corollary of the third, in the sense that a semiotic analysis of the pattern of appearance of motifs revealed

xxxii Introduction

a few of the characteristic features of the motifs analysed in Chapter 3. These features invariably influenced the emotion engendered in the audience, since the emotion was closely associated with the appearance of motifs, as illustrated in Chapter 3. The motifs played a significant role in inciting a particular kind of emotion. Deductive analysis helped me put the semiotic pattern of the motifs in identifiable blocks, deciphering in the process a close connection between the emotions of violence associated with the motifs and their entanglement with the emotion engendered in the audience. The resultant notion of community/nationhood, therefore, developed a keen association with different aspects of violence. Violence and its association with the idea of ‘self ’/‘selves’ presented a problem of identification for the people who subscribed to it. While exploring the emotional world of the Bengalis, walking through the memory lanes built by the narratives of novels and memoires, I discovered a breach in the context of emotional expression. I have largely used James Scott’s theoretical framework of dissimulation and Jean Baudrillard’s framework of simulacrum40 to understand why the break occurred, and how the identity of self/selves was oppressed by the all-encompassing and homogenizing tendency of nationhood. Reactionary measures to make one’s presence felt remained hidden from the public eye, but it is undeniable that the hidden transcript of resistance of the colonized gave birth to more hidden transcripts within the space of the emotional bond. *** Data sources, both printed (for example, printed books of jatrapalas [jatra libretto] and dramas, song books, and pamphlets of songs) and 40 Simulacrum or dissimulation means pretension of not having something that one has. Scott uses a similar idea of pretension to demarcate the hidden expression of popular emotion that seldom finds expression in public places for fear of retribution of those in power. I have used these two ideas to show how people in fear of state retribution expressed their selves in private spaces. But the pretension involved in demonstrating of not having what they actually had was played out just as against the hegemony of dominated, as for that of the dominant. James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts, London: Yale University Press, 1990, p. 3; Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, translated by Sheila Faria Glaser, Ann Arbour: University of Michigan Press, 1994, p. 2.

Introduction xxxiii

oral (for example, songs), used in the book have mostly been collected from archives, libraries, and digital sources. The deductive research method used in the process of analysis involved textual criticism of the librettos and lyrics. For this purpose, drama books, song books, and pamphlets have been used. Most of these records were consulted at the National Library of India and Paschim Banga Sahiya Parishad (West Bengal Public Library Network) in Kolkata, and the Digital Library of India. Information about the performances was primarily gathered from confidential government records, police reports, history sheets, and fortnightly reports preserved in the West Bengal State Archives, Kolkata, and the National Archives of India, Delhi. At places, in order to gain insight into the audience reaction to performances, I had to consult government records and newspaper reports (at the newspaper section of the National Library of India, Kolkata, and the microfilm section of the Nehru Memorial Museum Library, New Delhi). However, these reports did not touch upon the emotions felt by the people while responding to performances. For being able to grasp the emotional nature of the audience reaction, I am greatly indebted to the autobiographies and memoires of the people who witnessed the agitation. In them, I discovered memories that recalled, in vivid detail, the emotion people felt when witnessing or reacting to Swadeshi performances. An analysis of not merely the remembered, but also the silences and gaps (something I believe done consciously and often deliberately) helped me to put into perspective the information gathered, compare the ideas of the text with that of the performance, and examine the meaning comprehended and internalized by the spectators. The data, once collected, was subjected to content analysis, through which I discovered a definite pattern in the performative means of engendering of a sense of nationhood. Certain motifs and symbols appeared repetitively in the texts of plays as well as in performance. The latter did not always adhere to the textual framework, nevertheless, the repetition did not fail to make its appearance in both. Their rendition in performance particularly invoked publicly visible emotions in the audience (at least in the public spaces beyond the monitoring authority of the colonial administration). Visibility of emotions, especially in association with particular symbols, assumed different forms. Reading into the intricacies of this emotional plane was not an easy

xxxiv Introduction

task, but the accounts of memories from that time helped me unearth a layered emotional comprehension and engendering of a nuanced sense of nationhood. *** The genre of the fantastic took rebirth within the Swadeshi space of performance in the early twentieth-century Bengal. As the ‘mayarajya’41 or the world of fantasy unfolded before the people, they were entranced by its portrayed reality. Despite being aware of its spectacular nature, they willingly suspended their disbelief to grasp the many possibilities it offered. The analysis of data within the methodological framework I adopted in writing this book brought me face to face with the reality of a self/selves that mirrored ‘us’ and rejected ‘them’. A space of interaction emerged from the techniques of mass contact deployed by performances. The space gathered reactions in the form of expressions and emotions and gave them an opportunity to interact with the emotion generating agent (the performance). Such interactions, in the world of Swadeshi entertainment, gave the audience an upper hand over the performance. They could express their opinions and influence the course of the performance. Rise of the Bengali public in the performance arena was eventually modulated and redirected with great passion and exuberance towards nationhood. An unmistakable proliferation of Swadeshi performances can be noticed in the early twentieth century. A performance, as a space of interaction, offered varied forms of the fantastic. Yet, the popular was neatly pruned to fit the nationalist frame. A remarkable space, indeed, emerged that accommodated the nationalist framework with a popular performative text. Though rough around the edges with ribaldry, on the whole it created a nationalist entertainment for the nation (at least a semblance of it was religiously maintained). The image of the nation appeared in a more pronounced form in the narratives of such a performance. Puranic legends, tales of a more local nature, were mixed with stories that lay outside the framework of experiences and memories of the common Bengali masses. The concoction, thus produced, catered 41 Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Amar Kaaler Katha [Story of My Age], Calcutta: Bengal Publishers, 1358 BS (1951), p. 152.

Introduction xxxv

as much to the popular taste as it did to the nationalist sensibility which was restrained by the ideas of Victorian morality. This was a dangerous terrain where the popular, in most performances than not, was threatened with annihilation. Few Swadeshi media survived the onslaught. Among these few, I selected three—jatra, theatre, and songs—to illustrate how the mutability of these performance media allowed them to accommodate the elements of both, the nationalist and the popular, and hold them in a precarious balance. Visuals were redefined by these performances. The redefinition occurred not through the props used in the performance, but in the space of the performance where the gestures of both the performer and the audience merged together to create a moment of many possibilities. The role of the audience as a receptor needs to be reconfigured in this context. In the space of many possibilities where ideas, supported by varied cultural symbols and motifs, tried to direct the emotions of the people, their reception by means of visuals or sounds led to the internalization of a mutated form of the disseminated ideas. The space generated insightfulness and a different plane of consciousness in the audience. Tarashankar Bandopadhyay was endowed with a similar ‘moner sparsashakti’ (emotional sensibility) in his beloved ‘mayarajya’.42 Alternative interpretations became associated with the disseminated idea at the moment of its reception. Mukunda Das’ performances, for that very reason, led to cases of fire-raising in Eastern Bengal and Assam.43 Similarly, the song ‘Bande Mataram’, composed by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in the early nineteenth century, was transformed into a symbol of revolution in the space of musical performance and was used as a chant of nationalism by the intellectuals and a war cry by the masses. In fact, the transformation was so deep that Bande Mataram, in its own right, became a legitimizing force in the Indian political and social life. With the rise of such alternative definitions of the song, several songs expressing similar emotions and particularly using the phrase Bande Mataram, were composed in Bengal. Swadeshi performance, in its space, attached critical alterations to ideas,


Bandopadhyay, Amar Kaaler Katha, p. 152. National Archives of India (HPB), May 1908, Proceeding No. 36, weekly report of the director of criminal intelligence, dated 4 April 1908. 43

xxxvi Introduction

which seeped into the mental habits of people and, in the long term, became their custom. *** The purpose of any historical analysis is to understand the past and to gauge and communicate with the present. In the same vein, this study of the Swadeshi public and folk entertainment can be a social scientist’s looking glass for searching deeper the roots of inconsistencies, fragments, and an individualized alignment within the Indian national identity. Nationhood acquired a layered form in the space and temporal plane of the swadeshi movement. Partha Chatterjee calls this an outcome of heterotopia, or a heterogeneous time which is unevenly dense. According to him, ‘nation is indeed an abstraction … only “an imagined community” and … therefore, this ideal and empty construct, floating as it were in homogenous time, can be given a varied content by a diverse group of people.’44 A similar phenomena became visible during the Gandhian phase of the nationalist movement. In the 1920s and the 1930s, Congress politics and their definition of nationalism reached the people through well-organized print media and oral propaganda. These ideas underwent tacit modulations upon reaching the people. A popular understanding of these ideas by people in their own world reacted severely with modernity, or the ideas of modern citizenry and nationhood, that was being disseminated by the intellectual leadership with an aim to establish hegemony over the people of the subcontinent. At the moment of this reaction, a new definition of national integrity and homogeneity was created. The nation imagined by the people within the frame of their own world view did not always fit the image the intellectuals had intended for them. Alternative visions of a nation began to appear in popular narratives and informed people’s understanding, in response to organized ideas of 44

Partha Chatterjee tried to show the root and the nature of popular politics all over the world where the popular, though remaining a unit in the unbound seriality of imagination, assumed a singularly different identity that appeared as a product of the homogenous modern time or governmentality. See Partha Chatterjee, The Politics of the Governed: Reflections on Popular Politics in Most of the World, Columbia: Columbia University Press, 2006, p. 12.

Introduction xxxvii

nationhood entering the popular world. Satinath Bhaduri beautifully depicts this phenomenon in his novel Dhorai Charitmanas.45 Bhaduri makes his subaltern protagonist, Dhorai, represent the Tatma people, and imagines Gandhi as Ganhi Bawa, a man with immense spiritual and healing powers. The Tatmas read the nationalist ideas in the script of their own world view and react to it accordingly. It goes on to show that the iconic figure of Gandhi used for legitimizing nationalist ideas in the post-Swadeshi era was refurbished to fit the popular socio-religious belief system and the ideas associated with his person were transformed into a millenarian nationalist vision. As Shahid Amin noted, ‘The Gandhi of its rustic protagonists was not as he really was, but as they had thought him up.’46 The Tatmas, as do the organized peasants of Gorakhpur, imagine a Gandhi/Mahatma that is at variance with the actual man. This indeed presented a paradox between the disseminated idea and its reception. Rooted in this paradox, the idea of a nation offered alternative visions. I have tried to argue that the liminal nature of the space where the idea of a nation unfolded allowed modulations to eventually appear in the idea of nationhood that sought to bind people together. In this space, the popular reacted with the hegemonic idea. The interaction assumed a potent nature because the meeting of the static word and spontaneous performance allowed emotions to be roused. Reaction was reception; and reception in the liminal space of performance, a space of many possibilities, meant internalization of the idea moulded into the receptor’s own world view. So, liminality of the Swadeshi performances produced different shades of nationalism. This has been the main thrust of investigation undertaken by the book. *** The performance history of the Swadeshi age has failed to attract the attention of colonial authors writing on India. Both A. Fraser and 45 Narrating the story of Dhorai, the novel revolves around the life of Tatmas of Northern Bihar and their interaction with modernity and nationalism. Satinath Bhaduri, Dhorai Charitmanas, eighth edition, Kolkata: Tanusree Production, 2015. 46 Shahid Amin, ‘Gandhi as Mahatma: Gorakhpur District, Eastern UP, 1921–2’, in Subaltern Studies III: Writing on South Asian History and Society, ed. Ranajit Guha, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1984, pp. 1–55, p. 54.

xxxviii Introduction

Valentine Chirol writing about the age chose to maintain silence over the cultural performances of the time. Even though volumes of documents were ordered by the colonial government on the performance of the natives, they were kept secret and confidential. The public did not have access to these documents, neither did the English authors ever mention them in their writing. The swadeshi movement found mention as a politically turbulent phase where the finer details of its cultural performances were overlooked. It is hard to ascertain whether such a move was intentional or accidental, as until the Independence, the English authors writing on the age remained silent on the subject. On the contrary, Bengali authors produced voluminous literature on the performative aspects of the Swadeshi age. Texts of plays were the foremost publication on the subject that circulated the book market. Librettos such as Girish Chandra Ghosh’s Siraj-ud-Dowlah, Mir Kasim, Chhatrapati Sivaji; K.P. Vidyabinod’s Padmini, Palasir Prayaschitta; Dwijendra Lal Ray’s Durgadas, Mebar Patan; Kunja Behari Gangopadhyay’s Matripuja; Haripada Chattopadhyay’s Durgasur; Haradhan Roy’s Ranajiter Jiban Jajna, and several such popular play books filled the shelves of libraries and topped the list of book orders until they were banned and proscribed by the government. Books of Swadeshi songs were also very popular and were extensively bought, circulated, and read. Jogendra Sharma’s compilation of Swadeshi songs Bande Mataram,47 the song books Mukunder Matripujar Gan and Swadeshi Palli Giti, and song pamphlets like Deser Gan and Mayer Gan formed an integral part of the available records on the songs of the age. Autobiographical works of men and women recollecting their memories of the Swadeshi age, particularly Tarashankar Bandopadhyay’s memoir Amar Kaler Katha and Koishor Smriti,48 Sarala Devi Chaudhurani’s Jibaner Jharapata,49 Hemchandra Qanungo’s Banglay Biplab Prachesta, Jadugopal Mukhopadhyay’s Biplabi Jibaner Smriti, and Satis Pakrasi’s Agnijuger Katha, provide information about the Swadeshi performances. 47 Reprinted from Jogendra Sharma, Bande Mataram, Kolkata: Parul Pakashani, 2007. 48 Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Koishor Smriti, Calcutta: Bengal Publishers, 1956. 49 Sarala Devi Chaudhurani, Jiboner Jhorapata, Calcutta: Sahitya Samsad, 1879.

Introduction xxxix

These narratives are first hand recollections of such performances and the emotions they generated. The authors reminisce about the sensations they felt during the performance and how they reacted to it. Performance in these narrations is marked as a mere product of the movement or the new age (naba jug). Spectators hardly find mention and the description of the author’s feelings is merely representative of the general feeling generated by the coming of a new age. Though the present century has produced serious academic studies on performance, there is a dearth of research on the dramatic, musical, and folkloric performances of the Swadeshi age. Sudipto Chatterjee’s book, The Colonial Staged: Theatre in Colonial India,50 is an insightful work on the performance culture (particularly of public theatre) of nineteenth-century Bengal. Concentrating primarily on the development of bourgeoisie public theatre, the book simultaneously pays attention to the elements of folk and jatra performance that formed the core of performances of the later century. Rustam Bahrucha’s book, Rehearsals of Revolution: The Political Theatre of Bengal,51 and Nandi Bhatia’s Acts of Authority/Acts of Resistance: Theatre and Politics in Colonial and Post-Colonial India52 deal with performances in a broader perspective, stretching the period of their analysis from the eighteenth century to the post-colonial era. In these books, the dramatic performances of the Swadeshi age find only a passing mention. A record of Swadeshi jatra performances has also been reduced to the autobiographical account of the famous Swadeshi jatra performer Mukunda Das. A biographical account of the life of Mukunda Das by Joyguru Goswami, and later by Sarochis Sarkar, mentions the swadeshi movement and the his performances following its outbreak, but is silent on the government’s stringent vigilance, tightened further by the rising number of jatra parties in Bengal and the ever-increasing seditiousness of their performance. Swadeshi musical performances, particularly the performance of swadeshi songs, find mention in several historical 50

Sudipto Chatterjee, The Colonial Staged: Theatre in Colonial India, Kolkata: Seagull Books, 2007. 51 Rustam Bahrucha, Rehearsals of Revolution: The Political Theatre of Bengal, Calcutta: Seagull Books, 1983. 52 Nandi Bhatia, Acts of Authority/Acts of Resistance: Theatre and Politics in Colonial and Post-Colonial India, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004.

xl Introduction

analyses, though there are many research works that take up the subject exclusively. In this connection, the research study of Gita Chattopadhyay deserves mention. Gita Chattopadhyay analysed Bengali patriotic songs composed between 1901 and 1914, but the scope of her research was restricted to analysing and discussing the changing nature of songs in different contexts, failing to point out the role of songs as a media in the new context. A dearth of relevant academic research on the topic has been one of the main impediments I faced while writing the book. The available data had to be analysed within the framework of theories applied in different cultural contexts. This may have, at places, made the study more theoretical than such a research agenda calls for. Dealing primarily with details of performance, enactment, and response gathered from collective memory (for instance, from autobiographies, newspaper reporting, and colonial documents), the analysis assumed a hypothetical nature at certain instances. Despite such shortcomings, this research work has been an earnest attempt to recover the performance history of the swadeshi movement and the impact that it had on the representation and perception of an Indian national identity.

1 Inventing Indigeneity A Storehouse of Collective Memory

This means that underlying the letter of the tale, be it hagiographic or extraordinary, and behind the evident purpose of glorification of the monarch, lies a hidden or explicit polemical intent to justify, persuade, and rally support. —Roger Chartier1


tories of extraordinary feats that involved great men of fantastic proportions became the foundation of most dramatic/musical texts of the Swadeshi era. The tales adopted by such performative texts/ books were not new. In fact, the official reports classified them to be of quite an old order, being written in early 1902. Nonetheless, words of the chosen text of performance and the thematic framework of the books made them accommodative of the nationalist intellectual efflorescence of the time, a process identified as jatir gathan. This process 1 Printing technology did not merely revolutionize the process of circulation of the word but also introduced, and encouraged, new ways of reading it. Roger Chartier analyses religious and fantastic, as well as popular, literature of early modern European era to understand the practice of distribution of new objects that could easily be manipulated, and the process that gave ‘images and texts a more substantial presence and a more familiar reality’. See Roger Chartier, ed., Culture of Print: Power and Uses of Print in Early Modern Europe, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1989, pp. 1–5.

Performing Nationhood: The Emotional Roots of Swadeshi Nationhood in Bengal, 1905–12. Mimasha Pandit, Oxford University Press (2019). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199480180.003.0001

2 Performing Nationhood

required the notions of nationhood to be justified; hence, polemical intent underlay every text that found a place in the performative arena. The sole purpose of these texts was to persuade and rally the opinion of the people, and to guide their fanciful ideas in a particular direction.2 The necessity of this instructive process arose from two changes that occurred in the lives of Bengalis: the swadeshi and boycott agitation that appeared in protest against the plan of the colonial government to partition Bengal, and the emergence of a well-developed public sphere in Bengal. Burgeoning ideas of nationhood, that eventually assumed an anti-partition/colonial stance, became increasingly approachable due to the presence of the public sphere. The amplification of the reach of these ideas by means of various media and the creation of a space of interaction between the ideas and the public wrought a serious change in the framework of media engaged in a process of disseminating ideas. The public consuming the ideas disseminated by the media no longer functioned as mere consumers, but emerged as active participants in the process of consumption, whereby they gained some functions of an arbiter as well. Ideas underwent a process of critique under the scanner of the public who consumed them. Therefore, the opinion of the public became increasingly important for the media. The words of wisdom and valour spoken in the texts of Swadeshi performances, therefore, did not make an attempt to disseminate the ideas alone but intended, either explicitly or implicitly, to order the imagination of the public in the direction where their ideas could rally support and be justified. The polemical intent of the texts of performance directed its attention towards developing a storehouse of such stories, memories, and 2 Swadeshi books aimed at ordering the thinking (and, as we will see in the course of the book, the emotional) faculty of people by bringing together their sensibility, their desires, their past, and their present under the rubric of common memories. Each story that found a place in the texts invariably tried to establish itself as the ‘story of the people’. This created an order of indigeneity on people’s mentality, enforcing their sense of ‘us’. The arguments developed in this chapter emerged out of the article published in the Indian Historical Review, and I am deeply indebted to the reviewers who raised potent questions and helped me broaden the horizon of the ideas presented in this chapter. For an in-depth discussion, see Mimasha Pandit, ‘Creating an Order of Indigeneity: Performative Texts, Common Memories and Swadeshi Nationhood’, Indian Historical Review, vol. 42, no. 1 (2015): 65–89.

Inventing Indigeneity 3

experiences that the people shared in common, which would develop in them a ‘deep, horizontal comradeship’.3 In the least, the stories, the authorship expected, would develop a sense of self. Ramendra Sundar Tribedi summarized the intent of the texts in an article written for Bharati where he wrote: Notuba amra amadigoke chinibo na- amader dhatute, majjay ki bal ache taha janibo na- amra nijeder paye bhor diye daraite sahashi hoibo na.4 [We will not know ourselves unless we know the strength of our constitution that runs in our veins—we will be afraid to stand on our own feet.]

The act of knowing oneself and one’s strength acquired a particular mould. Summarizing this intent, an article published in Education Gazette in 1872 noted, ‘Jahate natyalaye jatiya sakal reeti rakshya korite paren, tahar janya bishesh jatnashil hon’5 (All are requested to be more careful about protecting nationalist trends). Thus, the desire to discover one’s self and the nature of such discovery became apparent in the effort made by the performative media from the late nineteenth century. The effort extended its reach to performative texts as well. The texts, as discussed earlier, held the key to the imagination of the people. Printing revolution helped to bring various stories and legends together under one rubric and, more importantly, helped circulate it. An ‘order of books’, in the very sense that Roger Chartier applied it to examine the dissemination of ideas in early modern Europe, made its presence felt in the early twentieth-century Bengal, however, the importance of handwritten material did not wane due to this. In fact, handwritten texts continued to enjoy an important position in the public sphere of the dominated because of their ability to elude colonial surveillance. Despite the differences, performative texts, in essence, collected the stories that people related to. Tales of mythical proportion and historical valour figured in most of the texts. Social issues that formed a part 3 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, London: Verso, 1983, p. 7. 4 Ramendra Sundar Tribedi, ‘Bangiya Sahitya Parishad’, Bharati, Baisakh 1312 BS (1905): 13–26, 16–18. 5 Education Gazette, 13 December 1872, cited in Brajendranath Chattopadhyay, Bangiya Natyashalar Itihas, revised edition, Kolkata: Karuna Prakashani, 2013.

4 Performing Nationhood

of people’s life, especially under the colonial rule, formed an essential part of these texts. Yarns of fables were spun using the memories of the past, both remembered and recent. These stories found a place in the texts and served not merely as a framework of the performance, but as a storehouse where the experiences/memories of the people were brought together. In this chapter, I will look closely at the texts of performative media (theatre, jatra, and songs) to understand the process by which the stories were curated and how the commissioning of such texts, both as read and performed material, ordered the imagination of the people in a harmonized and uniform network.6 *** The year 1905 marked the dawn of a new age. Tarashankar Bandopadhyay reminisced about this notun kal (new age) in his memoire. Though Bengal felt the first splash of the oncoming waves through the anti-partition and boycott agitation, a prelude to this wave washed over Bengal in the late nineteenth century. In as early as 1872, a Bengali journal, Halisahar Patrika, noted, ‘Amader jodi ekti natyasala thakito, taha hoile amra tothay deshiya natyakadir abhinay darshan koriya gorbo korite partam.’7 (If only we had a national theatre space where we could watch indigenous performances, it would make us feel so proud.) The term deshiya (indigenous) gained prominence among the contemporary intellectuals who, like Ramendra Sundar Tribedi, believed that the reconstruction of the past needed to be willed by the people of the land. Stories needed to be collected, sorted, and put into a whole to reconstruct the past and, through its prism, the present. Reconstruction did not mean a mere collection of stories; it meant inventing a tradition. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger describe ‘invented tradition’ as ‘a set of practices, normally governed by overtly or tacitly accepted rules and of a ritual or symbolic nature, which seek to inculcate certain values and norms of behavior by repetition, which automatically implies continuity with a suitable historic past’.8 The process of inculcation 6 Education Gazette, 13 December 1872, quoted in M. Pandit, Indian Historical Review, pp. 66–8. [Education Gazette, 13 December 1872, quoted in M. Pandit] 7 Halisahar Patrika, 1279 BS (1872). 8 Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds, The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, p. 1.

Inventing Indigeneity 5

undertaken by the performative texts of the age involved ordering the minds of the people into an order of deshiya. Immersed in a multi-connotative grid, the term ‘deshiya’ had a whole range of meaning. It could mean a region, sub-region, or even a country. But, in essence, it meant any place where people sharing some commonalties resided together. The performative texts tried to open up similar spaces of commonalty in the pages of the stories narrated. A rather tricky task, but achieved, nonetheless, through the stories related by jatra, theatre, and songs. The texts reworked the memories into a homogenous form. Insertion of symbols in various forms in the body of the text often opened up a space for innovation. The texts of dramas and jatrapalas bore marks of such spontaneity. The colonial drama police reported such incidence of spontaneity in the texts and particularly pointed out the variations that occurred frequently in a performance over and above its text.9 Swadeshi musical performances (by which I mean songs performed in public spaces) made use of texts in a more spontaneous manner where they worked more as an instrument of dissemination than as a framework of performance (to be discussed later in the book). Despite the texts being under the direct gaze of the surveillance of the Raj and often bearing the brunt of proscription, the Swadeshi performances remained the primary source of their success. The foremost reason for this primacy lay in the aptitude they showed for curation and reformulation. The stories related by the texts reflected the memories of the people. Representations visible in the texts recounted aspects of society and mythology shared by the people in common. The act of reading and eventually seeing/hearing the stories created a space where people could be made to believe that these stories were a part of their life; they were ‘their’ stories. In these narrations, people from various socio-economic backgrounds found some or the other element that formed an integral part of their memory. Perhaps their fellow audiences never featured in their private memory, but once the memories became a part of the performances, they assumed the form of a public memory that their fellow audiences shared. In the arena of performance, personal memories became public memories, or rather, ‘their’ memories. The Swadeshi performative texts brought together a plethora of tales, 9

West Bengal State Archives (WBSA)-Home Political Branch (HPB) (Confidential), F.N. 410/1909.

6 Performing Nationhood

known and forgotten, of Bengal and of distant parts of the subcontinent, immersed in themes and symbols that people were ritualistically and symbolically familiar with, thereby establishing an order of seeing, reading, comprehending and, above all, ordering the imagination of the people in one grid by inventing indigeneity. *** A notion of collective self that needed to be invented required stories that defined that self. Stories of social oppression, societal lacunas, the brunt of which people experienced in their daily life but lacked the awareness of its shared nature, needed to be communicated to them. Dramas dealing with social themes and of an introspective nature were not a new phenomenon and were quite popular on the Bengali stage since the late nineteenth century. Quite effective in highlighting the causal effect relationship of the colonial rule with the social condition of the colonized, dramas such as Sarat Sarojini, Surendra Binodini, Mohonter E Ki Kaaj! brought together under one rubric the social experiences of the people. Introspection emerged as the staple format in these dramas to question the ill effects of colonization. Similar formats gained immense popularity in the early twentieth-century Bengal, when the swadeshi and boycott agitation began in protest against the partition of Bengal. Introspective in nature, the structural foundation of these texts enabled a reading of people’s daily life experiences and shared them with others who underwent similar episodes. In context of the swadeshi agitation, the focus of the social themes was turned towards the experiences of the people under the colonial rule. Devolution of social medians and parameters and evaluation of the responsibility of the colonial Raj became the most common subjects of these texts. Texts with social themes opened up a space in the public domain for not only discussing issues revolving around the social wounds affected by the colonial rule but also for resisting them.10 Being under the constant surveillance of the Raj, this was no easy task. Any direct reference to the contemporary political situation and any association of people’s afflictions with 10 P.B. Zarrilli, B. McConachie, G.J. Williams, and C.F. Sorgenfrei, eds, Theatre Histories: An Introduction, New York: Routledge, 2010, p. 446.

Inventing Indigeneity 7

the colonial rule held the possibility of earning the books the wrath of the Raj. The axe of proscription loomed large over the head of every text dealing with the contemporary situation. The only assured means of eluding proscription lay in using veiled allusions. Centring the texts around social themes served as one such effective veil for referring to the colonial rule and its ill effects on the social environment of the colonized. Discreet in their constitution, texts with social themes surreptitiously pointed out the afflictions of the colonized world and simultaneously highlighted the responsibility of the colonial rule in tearing asunder its social fabric. Social dramas gained popularity on the Bengali stage during the Swadeshi era with the plays written by Manamohan Goswami. A clerk at a colonial customs office, he dreamed of making it big on the Bengali stage. In early twentieth century, especially during the early phase of the swadeshi and boycott agitation, he wrote many social dramas that not only became very popular among the ticket-buying audiences of Calcutta but also reached out to the audiences of mufassal (provincial towns) through the performances of amateur and itinerant theatre enthusiasts. His play Sansar, performed at the Minerva Theatre in early 1905, dramatized the afflictions of the Bengali society. The household of a poor yet bhadralok (Bengali gentry) family serves as a microcosmic representation of the Bengali society. The head of the family, Priyanath, fails to procure a job despite being well-educated. Their lack of financial security is directly linked to the corrupt constitution of the colonial employment sector, and exposes the family, particularly the dharma of kula, to foreign elements. Interestingly, Manamohan Goswami does not directly indict the colonial rule for the evil days that befall the family, but uses the characterization of Ramendra and Binod, sons of wealthy landlords and educated in the Western system, to depict its ill effects on the social fabric of Bengal. Ramendra is shown desirous of ravishing the chastity of Nirada, the widowed sister of Priyanath. The unstable financial condition of Priyanath’s household encourages such an indecent conspiracy to be hatched. On the other hand, Ramendra’s evil intentions expose his own wife, Pratibha, to the impropriety his friend, Binod. The evil cycle of financial instability and a lack of social security takes a precarious turn when Priyanath’s wife, Saraju, is tricked into a trap by the village pimp, Bama, and is sold off to the labour contractors

8 Performing Nationhood

who ship her off to the tea estates of Assam under the Arkathi system.11 The plot reaches its climax with the abduction of Nirada and finally the death of Pratibha in her bid to save Nirada’s and her own modesty. This particular turn of events re-established the lost sense of social rules and norms in the minds of the social deviants. Saraju, on the other hand, sold as a tea-garden labourer, faces dishonour at the hands of Mr Bull, the caretaker of the estate, but finds salvation at the hands of Mr More, the owner of the estate. In this part of the narration, the cause of crisis and its ameliorator are both representatives of the ruling race, thereby indicating that dramas with a social theme, such as Sansar, despite their candid narration and melancholic portrayal, remained hopeful in their conclusion that a change of situation would definitely follow. As depicted in the play, Priyanath’s reunion with his entire family finally draws the play to a close. The thematic framework of the play exposed the ills of the social order established by colonialism. The experiences of the masses in the contemporary world found a voice in the narration that connected the theatre memory with their personal memory, thereby establishing a link between the characters of the narration and the audiences. Despite it being a perilous task, connecting memories found a more candid expression in the play Samaj, penned by Manamohan Goswami. Another popular drama with a social theme, Samaj was first performed on the stage of National Theatre in 1314 BS (1907). Later, the itinerant wing of the group performed the play in Rangpur on 29 March 1910. On 25 June 1909, Calcutta Anusilan Samity performed the same play 11 Arkathis were indigenous agents or contractors who collected and sold labourers to various plantations. As recruiting agents, they would often decoy women who had fled from their homes and had scanty or no resources. Such women could easily be sold to the planters, and the recruiting officers almost never questioned such acquisitions because of the strong union of these recruiting agents and the strong resistance they could work up. For an elaborate discussion on this, see S. Sen, ‘Unsettling the Household: Act VI (of 1901) and the Regulation of Women Migrants in Colonial Bengal’, in ‘Peripheral’ Labour?: Studies in the History of Partial Proletarianization, ed. S. Amin and M. van der Linden, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, pp. 150–5. Also see S. Sen, ‘Commercial Recruiting and Informal Intermediation: Debate over sardari system in Assam Tea Plantation, 1860–1900’, Modern Asian Studies, vol. 44, no. 1, (2010): 3–28.

Inventing Indigeneity 9

at Kalighat Road. The popularity of the play rested on its candid representation of social misdemeanour and misconduct of the professed heads of the society. The social problems dealt in this play were more inward-looking than its predecessor. Readers are introduced to the plot and the inherent crisis of the play through the prism of dowry. The play opens with heart-rending lamentations of Dinabandhu and Annapurna, a poor bhadralok family, over their failure to catch even a glimpse of their daughter, Kamala, at her in-laws’ house for their inability to pay the full amount of the dowry promised during her wedding. Kamala is shown to be in a precarious position herself in the household of her in-laws. Not supported by her husband, Paresh, Kamala faces humiliation within the household. Her father-in-law, a zamindar, treats her with contempt, yet remains a respectable zamindar in the family’s social circle. Sycophants such as Bhatta and Rati mistreat Annapurna after the death of her husband and, instead of helping her, turn society against her by misinterpreting religious dictums. The image that emerges in the persona of Rati and Bhatta reflects Gaganendranath Tagore’s famous lithograph of 1917 where a hypocritical Brahmin is shown indulging in meat, alcohol, and women instead of dedicating his life to pious thoughts and actions.12 The corruption depicted in the text reaches its climax with the outbreak of a famine in the village of Manoharpur that formed a part of the estate of Kamala’s father-in-law. He artificially creates this famine-like situation in the village through excessive rent collection. The situation worsens due to repeated claims of the zamindari system, reinforced by the indulgence of the colonial system.13 Imbalances existing within the Bengali society emerged in a crystal clear form through the play. These representations struck a chord with the people because they were a mirror image of the life that


The visual image of a morally corrupt, gluttonous, and unfeeling Brahmin drawn by Manamohan Goswami was an opinion held commonly by the educated bhadralok section of Bengal in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. A representation can also be found in one of the cartoons of Gaganendranath Tagore drawn in 1917 where he showed a ‘hypocritical Brahmin indulging in meat, alcohol, and women instead of devoting his life to pious activities’. See P. Mitter, ‘Cartoons of the Raj’, History Today (1997): 16–21. 13 Permanent Settlement introduced by the colonial government in 1793.

10 Performing Nationhood

colonial rule imposed on them. A social unity got established among the people based on the images that reflected their shared experiences. The introspective nature of the texts often turned the audience’s attention towards themes that portrayed a range of social issues. The duties of social beings formed as much a part of the narrations as did glorification of ideals of widowhood and womanhood. Manamohan Goswami’s play Karmafal dealt with the corruption of the social fabric by the forceful penetration of an alien colonial/Western social system. Seen as a synonym of evil, this invasion was held responsible for wrecking the social and familial duties of womenfolk. Guided by self-interest, a few men encouraged practices, often inhuman, that punctured the social fabric of Bengal. The Special Branch of Eastern Bengal and Assam noted another play with a similar narration called Khalash that was being performed by the Saltirpara High School of Narayangunj in 1908. As argued by Jean Baudrillard, the audiences did not know who they were, they re-invented themselves through a re-‘presentation’ of their ‘selves’. A paradigm of the true ‘social self ’ discoursed by the social drama texts became the means of reworking a common notion of ‘self ’ through the web link of common memories. The process of engendering social memories worked by means of ‘othering’, especially the colonial social order. This process had a mellowed presence in the social texts, but became more vituperative in its references in the texts of naksha (pantomime). Described a byangochitra (satirical sketches), Bengali naksha gained prominence as a genre since the publication of Hutum Pyanchar Naksha14 and Alaler Ghare Dulal.15 The framework developed by this genre of early Bengali Renaissance played the function of ‘mirroring’ the society through an introspective process. These representations satirized certain social practices or customs, and often made use of scathing language to critically evaluate and expose the drawbacks and vices of the society. Melodramatic language and humour formed an integral part of such texts, the use of which helped bring out the ironies existing within social institutions, practices, and customs. Exposing the social duality opened a space for suggesting more than one meaning of the representations, 14

K. Singha, Satik Hutom Pyanchar Naksha, Calcutta: Subarnarekha, 1991. P. Mitra, Alaler Gharer Dulal, in Satsahitya Granthabali, vol. 1, Calcutta, 1855–7. 15

Inventing Indigeneity 11

thereby encouraging ‘double meaning’. The text Holo Ki! by Surendra Chandra Basu performed at the Classic Theatre in 1905 used similar double meanings to imply one for another. Two subplots are developed simultaneously in the text. On the one hand, Natabar, a village tantabay (weaver), is shown discarding his familial craft skills for the new identity of a service professional in the colonial framework of chakri. He lets go of his indigeneity by adopting foreign ways and practices to the extent of being disrespectful towards the cause of swadeshi and boycott. But the new identity and equality he believes to have adopted as a part of the colonial framework of chakri gets completely shattered as a mere illusion when he is removed from his office to make place for a European person. The superfluous nature of the babu16 identity is sarcastically treated in this plot to expose the elusive nature of service equality and, by extension, social equality in the colonial chakri framework. In the other subplot, Padmalochan, another village migrant to the city, is shown pretending to be a shaman to help a man called Pyakhamchand gain the love of a girl called Noukri. The girl’s father belongs to the nouveau riche section of the social order created by the colonial rule, especially the chakri, and finds Pyakhamchand an idler and unfit to marry into his household because he had failed to fit into that social order. His love for the new system is sarcastically portrayed through his love for his daughter Noukri—whose name translates to ‘job’/‘chakri’ in Hindi. Padmalochan and Pyakhamchand trick Noukri’s father into agreeing to the marriage, with the simulation of delinquency by Noukri. The pretension of having committed delinquency becomes a means for supporting swadeshi and boycott, enacting a ‘hidden transcript of resistance’ (discussed in Chapter 4). In fact, the use of the chant ‘Bande Mataram’ as a means of curing Noukri’s delinquency, though exaggerated an action, helped expose the irony of the modern Bengali society and the colonial chakri. The act of suggesting meanings appeared more prominently in jatrapalas. Social atrocities found a more clear presentation in the texts of the jatras. Hidden under the garb of mythological themes, jatras surreptitiously addressed contemporary social events and issues. The pala Surath Uddhar Gitabhinay used the mythico-fictional story of conflict between devas and asuras (the good and the evil), a government 16

A term used to refer to the educated Bengali gentry in a pejorative sense.

12 Performing Nationhood

translator noted, ‘as a means for portraying the State of India’.17 Other jatrapalas used a similar narrative framework for inserting contemporary social issues within a narration of a mythological flavour. The constitution of the palas, like any folk narrative, held a three plane discourse where a crisis in the lives of the protagonists always led to amelioration of the crisis and, finally, a re-integration of the fragmented pieces into the social fold/normative social structure. Haradhan Roy made use of a similar structure to narrate the story of Surath Uddhar Gitabhinay.18 The narration opens with the crisis faced by Surath, the protagonist and the king of Anga, who has lost his kingdom due to an evil conspiracy of a few men. To worsen the situation, he is separated from his family who fall into the hands of evil men, some of whom conspire to defile the modesty of Surath’s daughter and his wife. Resorting to violence, as an offering to Shakti (the primordial force), rescues Surath and his family from the men with malicious intentions. The resolution of the crisis is followed by a reunion of all the family members. This not only ensured a resolution of the crisis, but also a reintegration of the social players, especially womenfolk, into the normative family structure. The model served as the mainstay of most of the other popular Swadeshi palas such as Brita Sanhar19 and Mayabati.20 A similar crisis–resolution– reintegration model was used to narrate the mythico-social stories. The very use of this model, in fact, allowed the palas to be placed in a social theme. By surreptitious means, it referred to the Raj as the source of crisis that threatened the social household structure of the Bengali society. It allowed the authors of jatrapalas to open an in-between space where the mythical acquired realistic proportions and vice-versa. The

17 Basudeb Chattopadhyay, Folk Theatre and the Raj: Selections from Confidential Records, West Bengal State Archives, Kolkata, 2008, pp. 40–1. 18 Haradhan Roy, Surath Uddhar Gitabhinay, Calcutta: Sri Gurudas Chattopadhyay Kartrik Prakashit, 1314 BS [1907]. 19 This pala too was discovered in manuscript form as the colonial record mentioned no name of the author or publisher. Basudeb Chattopadhyay, Folk Theatre and the Raj: Selections from Confidential Records, Kolkata: West Bengal State Archives, 2008, pp. 40–1. 20 Written by Haradhan Roy, the pala was never published and was proscribed in manuscript form. See, Basudeb Chattopadhyay, Folk Theatre and the Raj, pp. 70–1.

Inventing Indigeneity 13

intermingling often allowed the authors an opportunity to insert contemporary social issues/events within the structure of the mythological plot. The phenomena of the coming together of the two themes appeared in a more pronounced form in the pala Matripuja.21 One of the most popular jatrapalas of the age, it appeared in various form. In essence, however, the narrative structure of the pala remained the same. A relatively unknown author called Kunja Behari Gangopadhyay was the first to author a pala/play text that appeared by the name Matripuja. In the prologue of the text, the author made it quite clear that it was a derivation of the Chandi Purana. The structural framework of the Purana stories followed the same crisis–resolution–reintegration model where devas and asuras faced each other as opposing forces. While introducing the text, Kunja Behari Gangopadhyay described the devas as selfless beings and the asuras as licentious and pleasure-seeking men.22 The legal remembrancer not only found it a very bad book,23 but also full of harangues against the English government of India.24 The text of Matripuja underwent a change in narration in the hands of Mukunda Das, but the essential structure remained the same. The manuscript discovered during a raid at his house showed that the pala had lost all its mythological flavour and adopted the naksha style of theatrical plays. This, however, did not lead to its loss of popularity. In fact, Matripuja gained a social life of its own, enabling it to redefine and rework itself while keeping intact its structural framework of a social mirror. As social events and issues began to be incorporated in this framework, people found their experiences mirrored in these texts. An ensemble of people’s memories, the palas gradually emerged as the storehouse of recent memories of the Bengalis. The task of representing the social condition of Bengal under the colonial rule found a resolute voice in the texts of Swadeshi songs. Unlike the texts of dramas and jatrapalas, the texts of songs paid close attention to the various colonial policies—economic and political—to 21 Kunja Behari Gangopadhyay, Matripuja [Mother Worship], Calcutta: Jatiprasad Gangopadhyay Kartrik Prakashito, 1315 BS [1908]. 22 Gangopadhyay, Matripuja, p. iii. 23 Basudeb Chattopadhyay, Folk Theatre and the Raj, p. 17. 24 Basudeb Chattopadhyay, Folk Theatre and the Raj, p. 17.

14 Performing Nationhood

highlight the impact of the colonial rule on Bengali society. Based on the narrative pattern of the texts of the song, they can be categorized into two clear orders: jeremiads on colonial economic policies, and criticism of the legal and judicial system of the colonial government. Texts highlighting the condition of the economy, for instance, the song Amra nehat garib, amra nehat chhoto (We are very poor, we are very insignificant)25 by Rajani Kanta Sen, in no uncertain terms, held the capitalist economy imported by the colonial Raj responsible for the poor economic condition of Bengal. In the text, Kanta pointed out that while others benefit from the riches of the land (milk of the mother), its own people languish in poverty. The song ends with the realization that the foreigners siphon away the gold of the country in return of meagre ‘toys’.26 The song penetrates into the heart of the problem of colonial economy where the radar of introspection holds not just the colonial authority responsible for the poor condition of the economy, but also equally the insensibility of the people of the land. This eventually became an abiding feature of most of the Swadeshi songs of the age. A song written by Chandi Charan Banarji, who identified himself as Mohan, laments the beggarly condition of the people27 owing to the plunders made by foreigners.28 Though the song was introspective in its constitution, it was used as a veil to launch a critical attack on the economic system introduced by the foreigners. Some of the songs graphically described the effect of such economic exploitation: ‘There was a time when one maund of rice could be had for a rupee, but now it sells five seers (a pansari) a rupee.’29 People of the land were criticized as mendicants who ‘take food provided by others’, ‘bathe when others’ help them, and ‘put on clothes provided by others’.30 The narrative structure of most of the songs of this category drew heavily upon the theory of drain of wealth postulated by eminent men such as Dadabhai Naoroji and R. C. Dutt. Following their hypothesis, the composers of the songs pointed 25

Amiya Kumar Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal: A Collection of Documents, vol. 4, Calcutta: Government of West Bengal, 1995, p. 143. 26 Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 143. 27 Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 146. 28 Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 160. 29 Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 160. 30 Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 154.

Inventing Indigeneity 15

out the outflow of India’s wealth to another country in the form of remittances and salary paid to the European officials in India, and also felt very strongly that the export of raw materials from India and the sale of finished products back in the Indian markets by foreign traders was the real reason for the country’s economic stagnation. As a solution to overcome the economic stagnation, Swadeshi songs encouraged the people of the country to shun the usage of goods manufactured by foreigners and use indigenous products instead. Few of the strong proponents of this message were the narratives found in the songs sung by Mukunda Das. Composed by Man Mohan Chakrabarti, the songs exhorted the people of the country, particularly the womenfolk, to ‘give up (wearing) glass bracelets’.31 In another song, Govinda Chandra Ray exhorted the people of the land, using all due metaphors, to give up necklaces made of iron chains and prevent the foreigners from robbing them of the wealth the land has always possessed.32 Foreign articles sold in India were further degraded by being associating with symbols of caste degeneration whereby a song composed by an unknown composer stated: ‘Alas, by deluding you, (they) are making you take salt mixed with bones of cows, horses, and pigs.’33 Hindus and Muslims alike shared the fear of pollution and losing one’s faith—a common factor that joined the two communities together. The composer of the song, and of other songs that used such tropes, utilized this link in the song to make it comprehensible to both the communities. The second category of Swadeshi songs targeted the politico-judicial system of the colonial government. The song ‘E je byabhichar ke kore bichar’34 (Who is there to judge such an abuse [of justice]), penned by an anonymous author, portrayed the political condition of Eastern Bengal and Assam. The song referred to Sir Bampfylde Fuller, the then viceroy general of the newly created province, as the ‘guardian of the kingdom’ turned devourer who unleashed ‘terrible oppression and injustice’ upon the people of the province.35 The harangue of these songs did not spare Lord Curzon either who was declared to be the 31 32 33 34 35

Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 162. Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, pp. 168–9. Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 166. Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 158. Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 158.

16 Performing Nationhood

‘stepson’ of Mother Bengal because he ‘hurled a sharp pointed scimitar upon Bengal’ and helped the foreigners rob her ‘of all her wealth and jewellery’.36 The song held a direct reference to the partition of Bengal. The lyrics of the song symbolically represented it as the murder of Bengal. Such portrayals were already quite popular and became the subject of many cartoons and caricatures.37 Songs incriminating colonial rulers found much popularity during this period. A song by Mukunda Das, the famous jatrawallah (an actor who performs in a jatra) of Barisal, most contemptuously thanked Curzon for dispelling the sleep of the natives with his ‘shout’.38 Though the song did not directly allude to the event referred to as ‘shout’, it, nevertheless, left no doubt in the minds of the readers/listeners that the event being spoken of is most definitely a reference to the partition of Bengal. Another song of Mukunda Das gained notoriety owing to the interposing of words that the author-singer often managed in it during performances. The song came to the notice of the policing authorities in 1908 when Bhabaranjan Majumdar, a famous singer of Swadeshi songs from Barisal, published a songbook called Desher Gan (Songs of the Nation). A compilation of nationalist songs, the songbook also contained the song by Mukunda Das. The song began with a note of challenge extended by the author to the ‘foreigners’, saying: ‘Oh foreigner, what do we care for the threats you hold out? The body is under your control, but not the mind 36

Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 159. A caricature found a space in the pages of Sanjivini in early days of the partition agitation in Bengal. The cartoon portrayed: 37

‘A European with a smiling face is represented as sawing vertically a Bengali woman dressed like a Hindu widow, her life blood flowing out in a torrent from the edge of the saw. With her fist clenched and lips pressed together in great agony, she is shown as calmly resigning herself to her fate. Another European is represented as standing nearby and laughing heartily at the sight, whilst some Indians look as if greatly agitated and incensed by the scene. The letterpress is ‘The Partition of Mother Bengal’.

National Archives of India (hereafter NAI), RNP in Bengal for the Week ending the 29 July 1905. For a detailed discussion on the intent of such caricature see, Mimasha Pandit, ‘Objectionable Caricature: Political Cartoons, Satirical Songs, Pantomimes and Sedition in Bengal’, The Quarterly Review of Historical Studies, vol. 50, no. 1 and 2, 57–71, 59–61. 38 Pandit, ‘Objectionable Caricature’, p. 164.

Inventing Indigeneity 17

[thought].’39 Surprisingly, when the policing authorities recovered the same song from the articles removed from Mukunda Das’s boat, from which he was arrested, it referred not to any foreign power, but clearly stated: ‘Fuller, what fear do you shew? My body is subordinate to you, but my mind is free.’40 The song made a direct reference to Fuller, that is, Bampfylde Fuller, the representative of the colonial government in the province of Eastern Bengal and Assam, bringing to the notice of the readers/listeners the kind of oppressive regime (particularly the punitive policing force) he had set apace in the region. Songs of such nature tried to acquaint the readers/listeners with the nature of governance and the effect it was having on the people of the land. Such songs related the story of the plight the people faced under the colonial regime and, in a way, pooled in the memories of the people together to prepare a narrative that could act as an ensemble of their experiences. One effective means selected by the performative texts for analysing the political actions of the Raj was the appraisal of the tools of resistance deployed by the nationalists, particularly the revolutionaries. A series of battle songs, few of them characterized as bugle songs, became immensely popular during the period. One such song, written by Aswini Kumar Dutta, drew the attention of the colonial authorities. Its opening line exhorted the readers/listeners to march valiantly into the battle of life.41 The same song called upon the people to sacrifice their life ‘for the country’s sake’.42 Swadeshi songs exhorted the listeners/readers to shun all fear in this battle of life. One particular song, composed by Mukunda Das, encouraged the readers/listeners to prepare themselves for death and to ‘advance with sword in hand’.43 Such exhortations were by no means vague and some clearly outlined the means by which one should ‘advance’ into the battle of life. A song by Nibaran Chandra De that was prohibited under section 124A and 153A, Indian Penal Code (henceforth, IPC), declared: ‘Is it possible to effect the deliverance of


Pandit, ‘Objectionable Caricature’, p. 163. NAI-HP, Progs. No. 112–31, Political A, March 1909, Demi-offical from H. LeMesurier, Esq., to Sir Harold Stuart, no. 4367-S.B., dated the 6 December 1908. 41 ‘On, on, on, oh brothers, onto the battle of life’. NAI-HP, Progs. No. 112–31, p. 143. 42 NAI-HP, Progs. No. 112–31, p. 143. 43 NAI-HP, Progs. No. 112–31, p. 161. 40

18 Performing Nationhood

the Mother? … O brothers, if you can offer up your lives, sacrifice your lives.’44 The message thus delivered was loud and clear. The only means of marching and winning the battle of life was sacrifice. The narration did not stop short at that. The authors of the Swadeshi songs took great care in explicating the meaning of sacrifice. Once again, the onus of responsibility was borne by Mukunda Das. In a song that he composed during this period, he clearly described the purport of sacrifice. He pointed out: ‘Those who lay down their life in order to maintain the honour of the country sacrifice themselves, giving up worldly desires and longings.’45 The battle songs glorified sacrifice in their narrative. Sacrifice emerged in these lyrical narratives as the best and only means of regaining one’s lost glory. The song texts thus laid the foundation of a new social memory, one concerned with sacrifice, to preserve the historical memory. In a song written by Jatindra Narain Sil, the poet or lyricist calls upon the people to sacrifice their lives by reliving the glorious past of Krishna, Akbar, and Sivaji.46 He invokes the historical memory of these characters and personalities to inspire the people to rise up in arms and create a new social memory. Thus, the project of creating a storehouse of memories did not depend only on reliving the old and contemporary ones but also on creating new ones. In this way, the narratives of the performative texts had the minds of people ordered in a single file by transforming their stories and experiences into a single narrative, unbroken and common to all. *** The project of combining the memories of people into one whole turned the attention of the authors to historical narratives. History writing emerged as an important instrument in homogenizing the memories of the people. The project of history writing gained much importance


NAI-HP, Progs. No. 112–31, pp. 170–1. NAI-HP, Progs. No. 112–31, p. 164. 46 NAI-HP, Progs. No. 112–31, p.189. 47 K. Chatterjee, ‘The King of Controversy: History and Nation-Making in Late Colonial India’, The American Historical Review, vol. 110, no. 5 (2005), 23 February 2011,, p. 2. 45

Inventing Indigeneity 19

in Bengali life in the early twentieth century and became a matter of public passion.47 A constant attempt was made to ‘(re)construct a connected account of Bengal’s and India’s past’ so that the people could be programmed into an order of oneness through it.48 History served as a catalyst between the present and the past identities and, in the process, connected the imagination of the people in a community. The twentieth century witnessed an uncommon popularity of historical events and anecdotes as a theme in performative texts. A curious concoction of past and myth, history was employed in the service of performative media. Selective processes of accumulation and dissemination led to the mythification of history and the historicization of myth.49 History lent lip service to the intellectuals’ project of asserting the physical superiority of the native race. Historical figures who had played a substantial role in defending the honour and independence of their kinship, their tribe, their family, or their community became the prime focus of these narratives. Texts of performance of the age that were based on historical themes constantly highlighted the bravado with which native men/ kings fought foreign incursion and often sacrificed their lives to protect the freedom of their (mother)land. Textual narration, in the form of performance, converted the stories of these illustrious men, glorifying the feats of the Aryan race, into the historical memory of the people. The books dramatized for the stage, following the contemporary tendency, derived their matter from historical themes. Limiting the focus of historical dramatizations to such figures helped not just in brewing up a strong adventurous mixture for the public but also in grounding these stories as their historical past. Constant staging of these stories granted them a universality enabling the authors, and particularly the


K. Chatterjee, The American Historical Review, pp. 1454–75, p. 1455. Roland Barthes in his study of various sociological performances and the kind of impression it creates in popular mind, which he refers to as mythologies, shows how social events, personalities, and entities are perceived through a veil of myths created by a group of intellectuals, patronized by authority, or by the state/authority itself, else by forces that opposes authority. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century vigorous attempt was made to engender a notion of nationhood and credited with the development of a keen interest of the intellectuals in history. For an in-depth discussion on the idea of mythology see, Roland Barthes, Mythologies, London: Vintage Books, 2009. 49

20 Performing Nationhood

performers, to project these stories as a past they shared; hence, ‘their’ past. Khirod Prasad Vidyavinod’s historical play Banger Pratapaditya50 (Pratapaditya of Bengal) appeared as early as 1903 and was the first of its kind. Though performed as early as 1903, the declaration of the partition plan added a new meaning to the play and enhanced its popularity. Kohinoor and Minerva theatres as well as various amateur theatrical groups/parties of Calcutta and mufassals also performed it.51 Drawing upon English and indigenous historical sources on Pratapaditya,52 Khirod Prasad tried to project it as the history of national life.53 The main thrust of the narrative was to delineate the dedicated efforts of Pratap to preserve the independence of his desh from the hands of the Mughal emperor Akbar. The gullibility of Pratap’s character in the plot, as Khirod Prasad noted, helped to portray the abilities and drawbacks of Bengali character.54 In Khirod Prasad’s play, the history of Jessore under Pratapaditya emerged as a glorious episode of patriotism exhibited for one’s desh and matribhumi (motherland), which was wrecked by Pratapaditya’s suspicious nature. This historical discourse of the king of Jessore, however, did not go unchallenged. The rival theatrical group, Minerva Theatre, soon came up with a play highlighting, as they proclaimed in their advertisements, ‘the other side of the shield’.55 50 Khirod Prasad Vidyavinod, Banger Pratapaditya, fifth edition, Calcutta: Gurudas Chattopadhyay & Sons, 1322 BS [1915]. 51 The performance of the play by the Amta Dramatic Club in Calcutta on 19 January was reported by Amrita Bazaar Patrika, 23 January 1907. The fortnightly report to Government of India by the Government of Eastern Bengal and Assam reported the performance of the play Pratapaditya by the boys of the local Nation School of Chandpur in the Tipperah district. NAIHome Department (hereafter HD) PB, F.N. 50/1908, Report on the agitation in Eastern Bengal and Assam during the second half of the October 1907. The Special Branch of Eastern Bengal and Assam reported the performance of the play by a local amateur theatrical party of Pabna in 1910. See B. Chattopadhyay, Folk Theatre and the Raj, pp. 88–9. 52 Pratapaditya was the ruler of Jessore and fought against the Mughal forces to prevent their incursions into his provinces. For an in-depth discussion, see Ramram Basu, Raja Pratapadityacharitra, Kolkata: Srerampore press, 1801. 53 Vidyavinod, Banger Pratapaditya, p. ii. 54 Vidyavinod, Banger Pratapaditya, p. iii. 55 Bengalee, 9 January 1904.

Inventing Indigeneity 21

A re-enactment of Kedarnath Chaudhury’s play Raja Basanta Ray, it dramatized Rabindranath Tagore’s novel, Bou Thakuranir Haat.56 In this novella, Tagore drew an ethically weak picture of Pratapaditya. This moral was highlighted in Kedarnath Chaudhury’s play. The difference in the historical discourse not only reflected the rivalry of the two theatrical enterprises but also highlighted the heterogeneity of opinion inherent in the progression of constructing a nationalist history. It was emblematic of the time in which the dramas appeared and hence highlighted the conflict in the notions of nationhood prevalent in the Bengali intellectual world. Girish Chandra Ghosh breathed fresh life into the genre. The historical dramas penned by him remained unmatched in popularity during the Swadeshi era. The play Siraj-ud-Dowlah57 staged in Minerva Theatre on 7 September 1905, dramatized the essential historical facts of the battle of Plassey, glorifying Siraj-ud-Dowlah as the ‘last independent Nawab of Bengal’.58 In the play, the character of the nawab was re-evaluated. The historical re-evaluation of Siraj has been a controversial one. He was portrayed by historians such as Henry H. Dodwell and Percival Spear as a cruel ruler indulging in excesses and as the architect of the Black Hole tragedy. He was depicted as a king rendered helpless by the circumstances. The play portrayed him as a ruler who tried to foster unity among his subjects and within his court.59 Not only did his entreaties fail, but he also learnt of the conspiracy hatched against him in collaboration with foreigners, which he tried to prevent through a bloodless transfer of power to Mir Jafar.60 When all his supplications failed, he decided to march into the battleground to protect swadesh (one’s own land) or to sacrifice his life in its pursuit. However, hoodwinked by false promises of the conspirators and their foreign collaborators, Siraj faced defeat in the battle. The drama was a remarkable attempt to incorporate the character and story of the nawab of

56 R. Tagore, Bou Thakuranir Haat, Calcutta: Visvabharati Publication, 1289 BS [1882]. 57 Girish Chandra Ghosh, Siraj-ud-Dowlah, sixth edition, Calcutta: Gurudas Chattopadhyay & Sons, 1361 BS [1954]. 58 The advertisement of the play in the Amrita Bazaar Patrika, 1 December 1905, used this epithet to describe the Nawab. 59 Ghosh, Siraj-ud-Dowlah, pp. 29–30. 60 Ghosh, Siraj-ud-Dowlah, pp. 140–1.

22 Performing Nationhood

Bengal into the project of establishing the order of indigeneity. The play dramatized the nawabi histories of Bengal written by Akshay Kumar Maitreya,61 Nikhil Nath Ray,62 and Kaliprasanna Bandopadhyay.63 In this dramatization, he evaluated the character of Siraj as a rajnoitik o projabatshal64 (political and benevolent) nawab. The aim of staging this story was to project the nawab of the Bengal Subah (the pre-colonial Bengal province comprising of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa) as a king who fought for swadesh, the land (a territorial stretch demarcated by socio-cultural ties) identified also by the audience as their desh. The aim was to make the theatre-going audience (primarily comprising the city-dwelling people and townsmen who were involved in the colonial service sector) perceive it as their historical past, since they had roots in the same land. The bid to create a common history that would appeal to all made the dramatists look for historical personalities outside Bengal too. Dwijendra Lal Roy’s Rana Pratap Singha was an outcome of this endeavour. The play was first staged at the Star Theatre on 2 September 1905. It was later performed by other public theatrical boards of Calcutta and by various amateur theatrical parties as well. The plot highlighted the resistance offered by the Rana of Mewar, Pratap Singha, against the Mughal emperor Akbar. The narrative of the play portrayed Pratap Singha as a national arbiter possessing courage and moral conviction. Though the Rana’s brother, Sakta Singha, and Akbar’s daughter, Mehrun-Nissa, played a significant role in the play, their presence served the dramatic progression of the narrative, creating a fuller and more glorified image of Rana Pratap Singha. Influenced by D. L. Roy’s play, the amateur theatrical party Nawadip Banga Natya Samaj enacted a play called Bharat Gourab, or Pratap Singha. The play, though closely following the historical schematic of Roy’s play in essence, purported to be


Akshay Kumar Maitreya, Sirajdoulla, Calcutta: Metcalfe Press, 1902. Nikhil Nath Ray, Sonar Bangla [Golden Bengal], Chapter 2, Calcutta: Metcalfe Press, 1908, pp. 38–69. 63 Kaliprasanna Bandopadhyay, Banglar Itihas: Nababi Amal [History of Bengal: Age of the Nawabs], third edition, Calcutta: Student’s Library, 1316 BS [1909]. 64 Kaliprasanna Bandopadhyay, Banglar Itihas [History of Bengal], Calcutta: Bengal Medical Library, 1901, p. ii. 62

Inventing Indigeneity 23

a ‘modified form of Matripuja’.65 The plot of the play portrayed the contest of Akbar and Rana Pratap, highlighting and often glorifying the historical personality of the latter as a hero of the land who fought for the independence and honour of his desh. The play allowed Rana Pratap’s character to be perceived as culturally related to the audience by virtue of his love for his desh. The endeavour to (re)construct and (re)play the history of the land included the dramatization of other historical characters too. The battles and achievements of Sivaji,66 Mir Kasim,67 Rajaram,68 Padmini,69 Prithiraj,70 Nandakumar,71 Kedar Ray of Bikrampur in the play Banga Bikram,72 and Durgadas73 were etched in the plot of plays that became immensely popular during this period. Several events of historical import were also put on stage by the dramatists of the age. Most noted 65

The Special Branch of Eastern Bengal and Assam noted that a series of jatras, songs, and dramatic pieces appeared during the Swadeshi age which though having varying features invariably exhibited seditious tendencies as it tried to create disaffection in the minds of the people against the British government through a seditious allegory of Puranic warfare between the Gods and the demons. WBSA-PB (Confidential), F.N. 410/1909, Notes and Translations of ‘Matripuja’ Songs, and so on. B. Chattopadhyay, Folk Theatre and the Raj, pp. 36–7. 66 The play Sivaji or Chhatrapati Sivaji by Girish Chandra Ghosh and by Manamohan Goswami related the brave fight of the Maratha king and great warrior against the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. The plot of both the plays celebrated the Maratha warrior as a hero fighting for preserving the independence of his land. The play Chhatrapati went by different names. It was published as Chhatrapati Sivaji by both Girish Chandra Ghosh and also by Manamohan Goswami. The Special Branch of Eastern Bengal and Assam province noted that the play was also published and performed under the title of Rosenara (by M. Goswami) and Sivaji. 67 G.C. Ghosh, Mir Kasim, Calcutta: Keshab Printing Works, 1313 BS [1906]. 68 Haranath Basu, Rajaram or Birpuja, Calcutta: Kalika Press, 1909. 69 Khirod Prasad Vidyavinod, Padmini, Calcutta: Wilkins’ Machine Press, 1313 BS [1906]. 70 Manamohan Goswami, Prithiraj, Calcutta: Kalika Press, 1312 BS [1905]. 71 Khirod Prasad Vidyavinod, Nandakumar, Calcutta: Wilkins’ Machine Press, 1314 BS [1907]. 72 Anonymous, Banga Bikram, Calcutta: Bihari Lal Dutta, 1313 BS [1906]. 73 D.L. Roy, Durgadas, Calcutta: Matcalfe Press, 1313 BS [1906].

24 Performing Nationhood

amongst them were the plays Palasir Prayaschitt74 and Mebar Patan.75 These plays became the enacted versions of historical records or books. The passion of the public was roused to discuss and consume the history of various races and heroes of the land through such performances. The enactment of historical characters and events brought alive before the masses, particularly the illiterate multitude, words of historical texts. Jaladhar Sen, a contemporary, in connection with the performance of Siraj-ud-Dowlah, noted, ‘Satyer sathe kolpona mishiye, Girish Babu ashol kotha futaiya tuliya Siraj-ud-Dowlah ke raktamangsher manusher moton loksomokkhe dar koraiya diyachhen’ (Enmeshing truth with fantasy, Girish Babu has revealed real facts through which he has placed before the public Siraj-ud-Dowlah in its true essence). The Bengali theatre thus assumed a pedagogic function, teaching the masses to identify various kings and events as their historical past and educating them to believe this past to be the root of their indigeneity. Jatrapalas that were strictly mythological in character began to demonstrate efficiency in historical themes too in the early twentieth century. Keeping in consonance with the attempt to establish a link between the past and the present, palas with historical themes became very popular during the Swadeshi age. Under the influence of kal (age/ time) and ruchi (opinion/taste), jatras introduced historical themes and characters in the constitution of the palas. Such introductions were new and unique to the jatra texts. Haripada Chattopadhyay, an eminent author of historical jatrapalas writing in the early twentieth century, noted that kal and ruchi created many inconsistencies in the contemporary Bengali world. Hence, in the introduction to his historical pala, Padmini, he clearly pointed out the reason behind the introduction of historical themes in it. In the pala, he assiduously brought to the attention of the readers that jatrapalas had to diversify into such new avenues to keep the avowed purpose of performance, that is, communication intact. Therefore, in accordance with the demand of the time and public taste, the jatrapalas disseminated ideas that would interest the people. One such jatrapala was Ranajiter Jiban Jajna.76 Based on 74

K.P. Bidyabinode, Palasir Prayaschitta, Calcutta: Wilkins’ Press, 1313 BS [1906]. 75 D.L. Roy, Mebar Patan, Calcutta: Victoria Press, n.d. 76 Haripada Chatterji, Ranajiter Jiban Jajna, Calcutta: Basupati Press, 1315 BS [1908].

Inventing Indigeneity 25

the historical character of Ranjit Singh, it narrated the struggle of the Singh of Bharatpur (king of the Sikhs) against the English. The subject of the libretto was the attempt of the English to capture Bharatpur and the valiant effort of Ranjit to defend his land. The legal remembrancer of the Raj found the narrative of the pala open to objection on the ground that it bred and encouraged ill feelings against the government of Her Majesty established by law and between the native and European subjects of Her Majesty in India. The remembrancer suggested that the author, printer, and publisher of the book could be tried under section 124A, IPC. Haripada Chattopadhyay’s pala Padmini narrated the historical tale of the fall of Chittor under the advances of Alauddin Khilji motivated by his desire to capture Padmini, the wife of the Rana of Chittor’s uncle. In this extraordinary treatment of history, Haripada Chattopadhyay transformed the battle of Chittor into an ethical battle fought at the behest of Padmini, who was at once portrayed as a historical character and as a supernatural figure, that is, a counterpart of the pimordial force. History, in this treatment, attained mythical proportions. The intermingling of history and myth probably rendered the narrative open to varied interpretations. The legal remembrancer advised proscription because the narrative threatened to evoke communal hatred between the Hindus and the Muslims, since the portrayal of Alauddin Khilji’s character tended to vilify the latter. Besides that, a suggestive association of the villains with the colonial regime occurred through symbols, motifs, and hidden references to contemporary incidents demonstrating the brutality of the British Raj’s administration. These associations that the people read between the lines of the text had the power to promote hatred among communities and classes, thereby causing the palas to be labelled seditious. The jatrapalas based on historical characters or incidents underwent a similar surveillance as did the mythological palas. In both cases, the charge was the same—spread of sedition. The legal remembrancer proclaimed the jatrapalas seditious because of the antipathy they evoked in the minds of the people against the Raj. This led to the proscription of jatrapalas. The legal remembrancer recommended such an action because he found the content of the books falling under section 4(1) of the Indian Press Act of 1910. Such actions were deemed necessary against the palas because not only the performances but also their reading could inspire a sense of dichotomy between the ‘us’ and the ‘other’ in the minds of the people.

26 Performing Nationhood

The Raj was determined to root out every attempt at disloyalty. But what made the jatrapalas disloyal and objectionable? Why did the jatrapalas originally written in a far earlier age and dealing with mythological and historical themes make the Raj uncomfortable? The answers to these questions can be found in the legal opinion proffered by the remembrancer to the Government of Bengal on the play Mira Uddhar.77 He noted that the play in itself could not be brought under the radar of the Press Act of 1910. However, he noticed that there were a few passages which appeared to be open to objection. In reference to them, he noted further: ‘They are in their phraseology somewhat indefinite as regards the period to which they relate.’78 The Raj was concerned with ‘phraseology’ because that enabled the intention and interpretation nexus of a jatrapala to travel between two time frames—that of the play and that of the reader/audience. The government ordered its translator to ransack every available jatrapala, both in manuscript and print, for such phrases and passages. The play Ranajiter Jiban Jajna was also found rife with ‘incidents and characters’ that were clearly drawn from the ‘political situation of India of to-day’ and had ‘no reference to Bharatpur as it was then’.79 The texts of jatra introduced a new dimension to the mental world of the people, which made the contemporary political condition of India comprehensible to them through in-text allusions. The jatrapalas thus created a distinction between ‘them’ and ‘us’ in the minds of the readers/audience. A passage opened up between the temporality of the text and that of the reader, enabling the peculiarities in the text to be inserted into contemporary times. Texts of songs presented a more complex problem for the authorities because of the variability they demonstrated. Printed versions of songs appeared as songbooks and printed pamphlets in various parts of Bengal. Though the books of songs were traceable, the pamphlets remained immensely elusive in nature due to the untraceable places where they were printed and the low-key manner in which they were circulated. Songs began to make use of historical events and incidents, and invoked 77

Haradhan Roy, Mira Uddhar, Calcutta: Pasupati Press, 1315 BS [1908]. WBSA-HPB (Confidential), F.N. 206 (5–9)/1911, letter from G. H. B. Kenrick, Advocate General of Bengal, dated Calcutta, 22 June 1911, to Government of Bengal. 79 NAI-HPB, Political A, July 1909, Progs. No. 19–23. 78

Inventing Indigeneity 27

the ancient times to create a sense of a common past shared by the readers. One such popular song was ‘Jaga jaga sava Bharata santan’80 (Arise! Arise, all the children of India). The text of the song exhorted the Bengalis to arise from their ‘ominous sleep’81 and reveal themselves once again like the glorious and chivalrous heroes of yesteryear, such as Pratapaditya. There is a frequent reference in the song to a ‘Golden India’ of the years gone by and is filled with laments for the present situation where India is ‘trampled upon and insulted by another nation’ and is ‘poor and miserable’. The reference to a golden past, when the Indian land blossomed with bounties and a plentiful harvest, recurs in many songs. The reference is a thematic framework that holds the songs together, acting as the locus of the message delivered in the lyrics. Not unlike Man Mohan Basu’s song ‘Jaga jaga sava Bharata santan’, a few songs printed in the pamphlet Swadeshi Palli Sangit (Swadeshi Folk Songs) talked of an ancient glory and bounty that has come to ruins under the present circumstances. In one of the translations, it is stated, ‘“Golden Bengal” is about to be ruined on account of iniquities’.82 In another translation, India finds reference as a ‘golden land’ that does not have an equal in ‘wealth and strength’ in the world, yet faces destruction at the hands of Satan.83 One of the songs printed in the pamphlet ‘Mayer Gaan’ (Songs of Mother), comprising Swadeshi songs, also referred to India as the land of the Aryans, having ‘pristine glory and history’.84 The translation of an objectionable paragraph of a song found in a proscribed songbook, Swadesh Sangit (Songs of Our Country), also talked of India’s ‘ancient pride’.85 The songs, which had a historical theme, constantly called to the attention of the audiences a golden age of the 80 Noted by the Criminal Investigation Department, Political Branch, in 1912. Available in Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 130. 81 Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 151. 82 WBSA-HPB, History Sheet of Brajendra Lal Ganguli, no. 21, compiled by Special Branch, Eastern Bengal and Assam. Abstract no. 30 of 1907, para. 173 (c2), p. 601. 83 WBSA-HPB, History Sheet of Brajendra Lal Ganguli, no. 21. Abstract no. 30 of 1907, para. 173 (c2), p. 601. 84 WBSA-HPB, History Sheet of Brajendra Lal Ganguli, no. 21. Abstract no. 32 of 1907, para. 119, p. 661. 85 WBSA-Intelligence Branch (I.B.) Records, F.N. 294 of 1910, Progs. 1–5, Proposed forfeiture of a book entitled ‘Swadesh Sangit’, p. 45, song no. 28.

28 Performing Nationhood

yesteryear. It tried to influence the historical imagination of the people to make them believe that the era of the past was a golden era: an age of fulfilment and contentment. These portrayals were points of reference used to bring to the foreground the demerits and drawbacks of the age that the Bengalis were living in. As inferred from the themes of the performative media of Swadeshi Bengal, most historical works of the age, as pointed out by Kumkum Chatterjee as well,86 tried to create a knowledge base of the past to lay the foundation of a national identity. Swarupa Gupta believes that historical works of the age attempted to create a memory/narrative base for the people that would prioritize the differences and distinctiveness of the Indian culture.87 One of the most critical features of this distinctiveness highlighted by the historically themed song texts was its constant reference to an Aryan past, where the ancestry of the Indians was traced to the martial band of Aryans. In the famous bugle song ‘Baj re shinga baj re oi robe’ (Sound the conch in that tune) by Hem Chandra Banarji, the author traced the lineage of the Indians back to the Aryans.88 In a rather uncommon song ‘Ki dussamay ohe dayamay hou re saday’ (Be kind, O compassionate, at such terrible times), composed during the Swadeshi age (between 1905 and 1908), Dharmananda Mahabharati described the ‘poverty stricken’ and ‘emaciated’ condition of the ‘sons of the Aryan land’.89 In this song too, the author emphasized the Aryan 86 Kumkum Chatterjee noted that in late colonial India, a large number of genealogical-historical works flourished in order to legitimize the authority of the local rulers by associating them with Adisura. This became the standard model to be followed by most of the gentries and local ruling families who had their genealogical history written during the late colonial period. K. Chatterjee, ‘King of Controversy: History and Nation Making in Late Colonial India’, American Historical Review, vol. 110, no. 5, 2005, pp. 1454–75. 87 Swarupa Gupta, Notions of Nationhood, Perspectives on Samaj, 1875–1905, London: Brill, 2009, pp. 7–8. 88 ‘Look and behold, how with joined palms like cowards, devoid of courage, eagerly rush forward the inhabitants of India who have disgraced their birth. … When their ancestors, intoxicated with warlike fury, poured into Aryabarta (the land of the Aryans), darkening the four quarters with the fume of their fury.’ Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, pp. 151–2. 89 ‘Oh gracious God! What hard days! Be kind to India! … The sons of the Aryan land, emaciated and poverty stricken, are dying for want of food.’ Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, pp. 192–3.

Inventing Indigeneity 29

lineage of the people of this land. Thus, ancestry became an important link, which connected the memories of thousands of people. The sense of a shared lineage served as an important factor in all the stories/narratives of the storehouse created by the authors of these popular forms of entertainment to invoke common memories, hence acted as a strong bond between the narrator and the listeners, and among the listeners themselves. The attempts to develop a storehouse of common memories/narratives, particularly the ones sharing a historical theme, did not stop at invoking a sense of common descent. Closely connected with the idea of a common lineage, song texts often stressed upon distinctions. Thus, we come across song texts that highlighted historical and social personalities and eulogized their achievements. In a song composed by Jatindra Narain Sil, a fairly less popular composer, the lyricist/author encouraged the readers/listeners to break free of the torpor that surrounded them and be united through a remembrance of the courageous and brave deeds of historical personalities like Badal, Pratapaditya (the king of Bengal), Shivaji (the great Maratha leader), and even Akbar (the great Mughal ruler of India).90 Pratapaditya, as a major historic link, found mention not only in many song texts (a mention of him can also be found in the famous song ‘Amar Desh’ [My country] by D. L. Roy) but in several play and jatra texts as well. The lyricist added the achievements of Shivaji, Badal (a figure of the Rajasthani legend on Padmini, the queen of Chittor), and Akbar to those of Pratapaditya to escalate the appeal it held for Bengali people. The texts of songs portrayed the narratives as the stories of the people. In the words and narration of the stories, the texts of songs encouraged the listeners to decipher their own stories, their own lives, which eventually got associated with their memory of the past. To make the imagination more effective, social figures such as Nimai (one of the famous proponents of the Vaishnava Bhakti cult in Bengal), Raghumani (a Hindu philosopher), and Chandi Das was used in the texts. The song ‘Amar Desh’ recalled the contribution of these men to demonstrate that the people of the land shared a 90 ‘Remember Badal, remember Akbar (celebrities in Indian history), recall the tales of the bravery of Shivaji and Pratap.’ It is interesting to note that in order to arouse the Indians from the sleep that has overtaken them, the lyricist also refers to the recent feats of a foreign country, that is, Japan. See, Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 189.

30 Performing Nationhood

connection with these men, shared common knowledge of the stories narrating their achievements, and hence shared a connection with each other as well.91 The narratives that the people shared a connection with did not remain restricted to those of historical and social figures alone. Following the standard of historical borrowing set by jatrapala and theatre texts, song texts too made use of figures rooted deep in popular memory, yet could not claim for themselves the status of historical personages. The song by Jatindra Narain Sil commands our attention in this regard. Alongside several historical figures, the song identifies eminent figures of ancient Indian epics such as Ram Chandra, Arjun, and Krishna92 as exemplary personalities to demonstrate the nature of prowess and courage that the people of the land possessed. The usage of such personalities in all the three popular media of the Swadeshi age indicates an attempt on the part of the lyricists/authors to blend history with myth. Stories needed to be conceived and told in ways that are comprehensible and would arouse a fellowship among the listeners/audience, thereby creating a substantial storehouse of historical narratives (be it the feats of historical characters, legends, or accounts of a ‘golden past’) to which the readers/audience could relate to and identify with. *** The Swadeshi play-texts served the purpose of staging history, folklore, myths, and social problems before the people. The idea was to tell such stories and re-tell experiences that would constantly highlight the samajik ties existing amongst atmiya svajan. Thus, staging of stories and experiences in the arena of theatre became a means of propaganda. The narration intended to propagandize the stories as the true past/present social condition of the people. Such stories were (re)told to indoctrinate the public into believing in them as their past (or present) and to have the audience realize that their fellow viewers shared the belief. So, the text of the drama—the printed book or the manuscript—played 91 92

Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 150. Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 189.

Inventing Indigeneity 31

a significant role in guiding the disjointed masses under the rubric of common and indigenous stories/history.93 The propagandized commonalty of the stories/past portrayed in the texts of plays gave the people a source of indigeneity. The people now had a source of stories and past narratives that not only helped them realize who they were/ are as individuals but also made them aware of the presence of other people who shared this realization with them. This was achieved following two processes: suppression of individual identities and ways of living by a community of responses or public; transformation of the publicness expressed through assent or dissent in the community of response/sensation into a community of commonalties forged by the usage of certain cultural symbols or leitmotifs identified by the public in common. The performative texts thus used their narratives to convey and make the people aware of what was indigenous and what alien, laying the foundation of an order of indigeneity in the public mind. The texts and the stories they narrated laid the foundation of the people’s realization of a self which underscored their first step towards feeling and realizing nationhood.


Stephen E. Wilmer noted that the American theatre played a significant role in building up the national identity. The staging of history, folklores, myths, and stories indoctrinated the masses to believe that it was their common story/ past that they shared as a community of Americans. S. E. Wilmer, Theatre, Society, and the Nation: Staging American Identities, Edinburgh: Cambridge University Press, 2004, p. 1.

2 Community of Emotion In Search of a Swadeshi Public

It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair …1


ight days before the declaration of the partition of Bengal was formally promulgated in 1905, Bengal celebrated dashami (the tenth day) of Durga Puja. Ever since July of that year, Bengalis had despaired over the decision of the colonial authorities to partition Bengal into two halves. As winter set in for the year and the date of partition drew closer, the good spirits of the Bengali populace should have been dampened, but instead of giving into hopelessness, they witnessed the birth of a new hope—a new cultural life. Tarashankar Bandopadhyay noted in his memoirs, ‘Elo jhar, elo notun kal … 1905 shaler tirishe aswin’ [Thus came a storm, a new age … 16th October of 1905].2 The swadeshi age dawned in Bengal with a sudden outpouring of the people’s pent-up grievances that had accumulated under the strict surveillance of colonial life. Hope surged and the swadeshi and boycott agitation extended into the provinces of Eastern Bengal and Assam by 1907, as recorded in the official reports. Neatly stacked on the racks of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Home Department, the report noted the progress of the movement as it turned, in the words of the 1

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Amar Kaler Katha (Story of My Age), Calcutta: Bengal Publishers, 1951, p. 143. 2

Performing Nationhood: The Emotional Roots of Swadeshi Nationhood in Bengal, 1905–12. Mimasha Pandit, Oxford University Press (2019). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199480180.003.0002

Community of Emotion 33

Raj, into a ‘seditious’ and brutal monster. Vernacular and English dailies and periodicals, however, noted the birth of a new cultural hope (see the Introduction) as the Bengalis engaged in various media to disseminate the notion of a ‘glorious self ’. Light shone forth from the swadeshi media as it collated popular memory to give birth to culture ‘as such’.3 A whole way of life, reflected in the intellectual plane of the Bengalis through the media of arts (and performances), brought out all that was best in the people of the age. It outshone everything else. In order for the brilliance of the Swadeshi media to shine forth required a darker zone that would provide a contrast to its luminosity through its shadowy presence. The performance of the play Pratapaditya by the boys of the National School of Chandpur in the Hill Tippera district drew the attention of the colonial policing authorities, not due to its cultural value but for the anti-British remarks that the boys shouted out during the performance.4 This illustrated the surging forth of the despairing voices of Bengalis, which gave rise to a culture of hope. It found further attestation in the government reports. A report sent by the district subjudge (munsiff) categorically noted a feeling of mistrust reigning among the people—especially the youth—against the colonial government, that encouraged them to develop faith in anything anti-British they read in the newspapers or heard from the agitators.5 This turn of events suggests that a change was afoot where despair was being voiced, turning the very action into a moment of hope. The passionate undercurrents of the process gained visibility and audibility. The expression of impassioned responses in a common space of association developed a feeling of camaraderie among the people of the community, which went a long way in bestowing upon them a voice of their own. Spaces of association came to be under colonial surveillance with the inauguration of the movement. Public places were strictly monitored to keep them free from the contagion of sedition. The dynamics of the age cut through such regulations and discovered new possibilities 3 Raymond Williams, Culture and Society 1780–1950, New York: Doubleday and Co., 1960, p. xiv. 4 NAI-HP, Political A, January 1908, Progs. No. 50, Report on the agitation in Eastern Bengal and Assam during the second half of the October 1907. 5 NAI-HP, Political A, January 1908, Progs. No. 50, Report on the agitation in Eastern Bengal and Assam during the second half of the October 1907.

34 Performing Nationhood

in the performative space. An arena for interaction emerged within the framework of Swadeshi performances. Within its ambit, the visible and the audible remained outside the legal jurisdiction of the Raj. In this chapter, I will analyse the Swadeshi performances and the various techniques they deployed in order to comprehend and account for the visibility/audibility people gained in Swadeshi Bengal to transform their despair into new hope. *** It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity …6

Hemchandra Qanungo, a revolutionary of the age, wrote in his autobiography that Swadeshi songs could put the listener in a trance and create bhaber unmadana7 (frenzied emotion). Ramapati Dutta, his contemporary, reminisced about a feeling of losing oneself among many while watching a theatrical performance. The vague passions of the people gives us a glimpse of the audibility and visibility that people gradually acquired in the performative space. This still does not explain the feeling of oneness. Here, as we return to the documented memories and experiences of Ramapati Dutta, we discover that the moment of forgetting oneself (ami) coincided with the identification of a larger self (amra).8 This particular feeling eventually became the hallmark of Swadeshi performances that instilled a sense of community among the Bengalis. Benedict Anderson in his seminal work conjectured that a community is always imagined.9 This hypothesis became the foundation of the community that developed in the space of Swadeshi performance. It was imagined. The audiences met in the performance arena as complete strangers. Yet, Ramapati Dutta concedes that when they simultaneously expressed their emotions, they merged into a larger self: a union 6

Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. Hemchandra Qanungo, Banglay Biplab Prachesta [Revolutionary Endeavours in Bengal], Calcutta: Chirayit Prakashan, 1984, p. 54. 8 Cited in Prabhat Kumar Das, ‘Bangabhanga: Bangarangamancha O Jatrar Ashor’, Parikatha, pp. 281–319 (2005): 313. 9 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, London: Verso, 1983. 7

Community of Emotion 35

that surpassed their apparent disbelief towards the performance. The audiences willingly suspended incredulity, a task accomplished by the techniques of performance, while watching the play. These techniques infused a sense of reality into the visual and aural rendition of the play text. The performed, though not real, held the semblance of being real. The fine line dividing the ‘not-real’ from the ‘not not-real’ imparted a spectacular quality to the performance. Affected by it, the audiences willingly suspended their disbelief and let their passions be expressed in the form of excited cat-calls, cheers, and requests for an encore. At that moment, they were transformed into a community held together by emotions, felt and expressed. *** It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness …10

As 1910 came to a close, the colonial authority in Bengal was beside itself with unease. A new phenomena had spread throughout Bengal— both in the east and the west. Swadeshi performances had assumed a form that put the people into frenzy. This instilled fear in the colonial authority. Something new was afoot that they could detect, but could neither monitor nor control. The passionate emotion expressed in the performative space was indeed a new phenomenon because, as Tarashankar Bandopadhyay later noted, ‘Notun juger bhabdharar sange parichay amader ei natyaandolan jotokhani koriye diyechhe, totokhani aar kichhute hoy ni.’11 (None could introduce us to the emotions/passions of the new age as well as the theatre movement.) The word bhabdhara, according to the Bengali lexicon, is a combination of two words—‘bhab’ and ‘dhara’. Bhab connotes passion/emotion, while dhara, literally meaning flow, can also mean direction. Put together, it can mean the direction of emotional flow. Tarashankar points out categorically that the bhabdhara of the jug (age) was disseminated to the people quite efficiently. The bhabdhara reigning supreme during the Swadeshi age was disseminated to the audience/listener as well. From this emerged a spine-tingling sensation that the audiences experienced during this period. 10 11

Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. Bandopadhyay, Amar Kaler Katha, p. 155.

36 Performing Nationhood

The sensation experienced by the audience was derived from a ‘you– are–there’ effect that the performances could create. Sensational scenes opened an avenue for such experiences. A lived experience, it helped the audience to internalize the disseminated idea. Live and involving as the scenes were, they created, as a reviewer of a popular daily later noted, ‘a feeling of excitement or romanchito, and sent down a spine-tingling chill or kontokito’.12 The reviewer was visited by this sensation after viewing the performance of the play Shivaji at the Classic Theatre.13 Similarly, the performance of the play Chandra Shekhar by the Gents’ Dramatic Club of Chunhapukur was showered with accolades by the reviewer of Amrita Bazaar Patrika owing to the realistic representation of ‘the swim in the Ganges’, ‘the death scene of Protap’, and especially the perfect representation, with acute attention being paid even to the minute details, of ‘the Nawab’s court scene’.14 Manamohan Pade, a contemporary observer, noted in his memoir the effect of a chorus song sung during the performance of the play Jibansandhya at the Star Theatre.15 He vividly recalled the frenzied response of the audience that was literally entranced (matiya uthiten) by the performance. The directionality of emotion, however, can be best comprehended when one sifts through a review of the play Neel Darpan. An old play of much repute, it was an enactment of Dinabandhu Mitra’s drama. An amateur group by the name Friends’ Dramatic Union performed the play at Curzon Theatre in 1908. Amrita Bazaar Patrika, while reviewing the play, spoke highly of ‘the outrage scene’ and ‘the court scene’.16 Special attention was paid to the outrage scene because, as the reviewer noted, the audience was ‘excited to frenzy’ when that particular scene was enacted. To understand the reason behind such a bhabdhara, one needs to critically appreciate the scene that effected the expression of such intense emotions. The outrage scene depicted an 12

Rangalay, March 1902, cited in Ramapati Dutta, Rangalaye Amarendranath [Amarendranath in the Theatre], Calcutta: Puran Press, 1348 BS [1941], pp. 315–16. 13 Rangalay, March 1902, cited in Ramapati Dutta, Rangalaye Amarendranath, p. 315. 14 Amrita Bazaar Patrika, 13 July 1908. 15 Autobiography of Manamohan Pade cited in Prabhat Kumar Das, Parikatha, p. 313. 16 Amrita Bazaar Patrika, 24 March 1908.

Community of Emotion 37

Englishman, Mr Rogue, trying to dishonour Khetromoni, the daughter of a poor indigo farmer. The advances made to violate the modesty of the woman fed the fear of men who felt that their womenfolk were equally threatened by the English as the girl Khetromoni was by Mr Rogues onstage. A terrifying tingling sensation ran down their spines as the woman tried to dodge the attempts made by Mr Rogue to get hold of her and disrobe her. The excitement, fed by anger, burst out when another ryot (a farm peasant) slapped this very man (Mr Rogue) as part of the narrative. The action was depicted as a just punishment for his misbehaviour and the wrong done against Khetromoni. A ‘you– are–there’ effect created by the performance made the audience feel so involved in the act that Khetromoni became a part of their family (or at least a replica of their household) and their frenzied reaction was a direct result of their willing suspension of disbelief. They screamed and shouted to prevent Mr Rogue from harassing their daughter/wife/ sister/mother Khetromoni. Thus, a powerful image portrayed by the performance held a sway over the passion of the people and swadeshi performances consciously played upon it to disseminate the notion of nationhood to the audiences. The effect was remarkable as the techniques of performance fuelled the audiences’ passion and enhanced the luminosity of Light by juxtaposing it against Dark portrayals. The frenzy that ensued joined the people in a bond of excitement felt commonly by them. *** It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness …17

Shakespeare once said, ‘This fellow is wise enough to play the fool.’18 A complete recluse and beyond social (or in this case, penal) cure, a fool abounds in stories and actions that judiciously hide, yet reveal, voices unspeakable and forbidden. Critically evaluating in jest everything around him, a fool does so in utmost revelry.19 Erasmus wrote to 17 18

Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, London: D. C. Heath and Co., 1916,

p. 46. 19 See, Ralph Lerner, Playing the Fool: Subversive Laughter in Troubled Times, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

38 Performing Nationhood

Thomas Moore, ‘Nothing is more puerile, certainly, than to treat serious matters triflingly; but nothing is more graceful than to handle light subjects in such a way that you seem to have been anything but trifling.’20 The revelry or foolery becomes his/her mask that is used as a safeguard against such systems or people whom he/she prefers would not read into their hidden critical evaluation. This was indeed, as Viola would concede, ‘a practice / As full of labour as a wise man’s art’.21 Swadeshi performances subsumed turning the incredulity of the audiences into belief. Practices, forms, and techniques used in the performance tried to bring about such an inversion. Out of the context of performance, many such techniques might seem puerile and entirely foolish. Some such performances enacted scenes and excited reactions categorically labelled as absolutely foolish. But this was a new age—the people’s age (in the words of Tarashankar Bandopadhyay)—and foolishness became the new form of wisdom, hidden yet potent enough to bind the people together in that moment of reaction. In this section of the chapter, I will go through each Swadeshi media separately to decipher what effect such tomfoolery of enactment and reaction had on the space of performance and the people gathered in that space.

Theatrical Publichood Techniques of performance of the swadeshi era were culture specific. They created a virtual reality that only the audiences could read into, yet the audiences were sceptical about their possibility or reality in the colonial context. As belief and incredulity got interwoven, a sensation was effected in the audiences. Dialogues delivered during the performance created such a moment defined by the interplay of the two. Used in theatrical representations for dramatic progression, dialogic exchanges helped the speakers, the ideas they communicated, as well as the listeners (audience) to influence each other.22 The backdrop and 20 Desiderius Erasmus, The Praise of Folly, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1941, p. 3. 21 Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, p. 46 22 Mikhail M. Bakhtin, ‘Discourse in the Novel’, in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, compiled by Michael Holquist, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981, p. 354.

Community of Emotion 39

gesticulations used onstage needed a verbal explanation. A complimentary act, visuals found justification in the audio/aural rendition of dialogues. The performance of the play Samaj illustrates the importance of this process. The depiction of a famine-ravaged Manoharpur, a hamlet of rural Bengal, finds aural justification in the words delivered by a famine-ravished villager. He laments: ‘Dekhun, amader abostha dekhun, peter jala bodo jala, manushke pishacher adham kore! Prane daya thake na, maya thake na, mamata thake na!’23 (Behold our condition, how hunger has turned us into beasts! I no longer feel any compassion, kindness, or ruth!). Moments before the dialogue is delivered, the villagers are shown feeding on corpses wasted by the famine. The harrowing image drawn by the representation that pricked the senses of the audience was transformed into an audible passion when the pathos of the dialogue shattered the calmness of their protected life. A sensation of shame and pain felt vicariously through the performance caused them to rise up in an impassioned vocalization of their emotions. Similar sensations visited the audience when the climax of the play Banger Pratapaditya24 was staged. Enacted in the secluded setting of a prison, Pratapaditya is shown languishing, unaccompanied and completely dejected. The dejection of the protagonist etched on every niche and corner of the dramatic setting reached out to the audience, but not as much as when, like a sigh, a lament escaped his lips: ‘Ha Banga! Sata aparadheo ami tomay bhalobashi’25 (Beloved Banga! I love thee despite all my sins). The pathos of the dialogue delivered by the character, resigned to his fate and rejected by all, ricocheted around the hall along with those few words. The closure of the dramatic progression was complete with the closure of Pratapaditya’s fate: to be dejected yet love his beloved Bengal despite all his follies. The audience response to such an articulation on stage puts aside any scope for doubt that it excited them into an impassioned action. Such a crossing of boundaries of one’s self (atmabismrita) does make one wonder: could dialogues, the oral renditions of emotion, have 23

Manamohan Goswami, Samaj, Calcutta: Kalika Press, 1316 BS [1909], p.

126. 24 Khirod Prasad Bidyabinod, Banger Pratapaditya [Pratapaditya of Bengal], Calcutta: Gurudas Chattopadhyay Kartrik Prakashito, 1909. 25 Khirod Prasad Bidyabinode, Banger Pratapaditya, p. 179.

40 Performing Nationhood

excited the audiences enough to feel the emotion? A contemporary theatre critic, Dhananjay Mukhopadhyay, riled against the technique in all disgust and revealed ‘the truth’ behind on-stage representation. Mukhopadhyay noted that contemporary theatre actors and actresses were audacious creatures who looked the audiences in their eyes. So engrossed were they with the audiences that they completely ignored their co-actors/co-actresses onstage.26 Had it actually happened the way Mukhopadhyay claimed, it would have spelt disaster for the play! Imagine all the actors and actresses ignoring each other onstage while delivering dialogues to a third party—invisible to others. Ghost presence, as delineated by Ibsen, was definitely not the technique being used; not, at least, in the dialogic framework of the play.27 I believe, Mukhopadhyay’s critique exaggerated the dislike he had for the technique as a whole. The truth in his claim, however, lies in the fact that the actors and actresses were indeed looking at the audience while delivering their dialogues. Manmatha Nath Chattopadhyay attested this in his memoir where he reminisced that when Surendra Chandra Ghosh, better known as Danibabu, stood onstage as Mir Kasim, he looked into the eyes of the audience while delivering his dialogues and said, ‘Amra mantramughdher moton chahiya abhinay dekhitam. Sange sange uttejito hoiya uthitam’28 (We would watch the performance as if mesmerized by it. Simultaneously, we would be excited by the performance). The eye-contact maintained during the performance captivated the audience (mantramugdha). It created an impression that the words spoken onstage were meant for them. Though it was not something that the Brechtian model29 would approve of, the technique of  dialogue 26 Dhananjay Mokhopadhyay, Bangiya Natyashala [Bengali Theatre], Calcutta: Emerald Printing Works, 1316 BS [1909], p. 27. 27 Ibsen, in most of his dramatic presentations, used the technique of ghost presence that afforded the audience a sensation of feeling the constant presence of someone, or something, even though being wholly absent in the mise-enscène. See Marvin Carlson, The Haunted Stage: Theatre as Memory Machine, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003. 28 Manmathanath Chattopadhyay’s autobiography quoted in Prabhat Kumar Das, Parikatha, p. 309. 29 The Brechtian model insisted on maintaining a clear demarcation between the staged reality and the space of the audiences, while the invisible fourth wall allowed the audiences a peek into the staged time.

Community of Emotion 41

delivery broke loose of the limits of staged reality and merged with the real time of the audience. Naturally, when Danibabu, playing the role of Siraj-ud-Dowlah, looked into the eyes of the audience and delivered the dialogue, ‘Banger Santan—Hindu Mussalman / Banglar sadhoho kalyan’30 (Sons of Bengal—the Hindus and the Muslims / improve the condition of Bengal), the audience, captivated by his demeanour, was visited by an uncanny feeling that the words were being spoken to them. The effect was remarkable. Caught in the reality of the performance enmeshed with their own, they felt a tingle down their spine. A reaction burst forth from them that Manmatha Nath characterized as uttejito or excited. A similar reaction became visible during the performance of songs onstage. Songs formed an essential part of public theatrical performance ever since its inception in the nineteenth century. Entertainment of the audiences, the prime consumers of theatrical performances, required the theatre groups to include elements that would draw in more people to the shows. The upper-middle class population of the city and the mufassals, along with the village population that visited Calcutta for work, went to theatres for entertainment. The theatre crowd, although a mixed bag of social sections, shared a similar liking for folk forms of song and performance like half akdai, panchali, and kathakata. These folk forms, popular among the Bengalis, remained ingrained in the imagination of most Bengalis despite being labelled as vulgar. Recited in a singsong rhythmic meter, they created among Bengalis, who were fed on a strict diet of these forms, a taste for rhythmic dialogues. To cater to the popular taste, theatre performances included songs as a part of their dramatic progression. The monotony of spoken dialogues could also be broken easily by the inclusion of sung dialogues. A musical ensemble of clarinets and harmonicas added to the appeal songs had for people’s imagination. Ramapati Dutta recalled how the chorus song of the play Jibansandhya, staged on 21 November 1908 at the Star Theatre in Calcutta, excited the audience. Sung by the male chorus of the theatre and accompanied by the orchestra, it reverberated around the hall. The bass male voices complemented the songs that celebrated chivalry and death, the 30

Manmathanath Chattopadhyay’s autobiography quoted in Prabhat Kumar Das, Parikatha, p. 309.

42 Performing Nationhood

necessary price that had to be paid for attaining freedom. The song insisted upon the sacrifice of one’s body to uphold the honour of the motherland. Thus, they sang: Mukta prane juddha khetre bakkharakta korite daan, Lakkha lakkha bir putra byagrochitte aguyan. Putra kanya janani jaya Tuchha shakali mithya maya, Ghor samara tyajibo kaya, rakhibo janmabhumir maan.31

[To willingly shower the heart’s blood in the battlefield, lakhs and lakhs of brave sons eagerly come forward. Sons, daughters, mothers, and sisters, inconsequential are all ties. In the extreme battlefield, I shall sacrifice my body and uphold the honour of my motherland.] The audiences were so excited by the song that they sang along, recalls Ramapati Dutta.32 Perhaps the idea of cutting down the heads of mlechcchhas (infidels) was the reason behind such a reaction of the audiences who, Dutta reminisced, ‘bastuta khepiya uthiten’ (were excited to the point of frenzy).33 The enmeshing of time effected through the eye contact made by the performers during the performance of the song inspired similar sensations among the audiences. In fact, the sensation instilled by the performance made the spectator forget oneself in the moment of frenzy. At that moment, the identity of the Rajputs, who lost their motherland to the mlechcchhas, got enmeshed with that of the audience. Temporal enmeshing fused the portrayal of mlechcchhas in the imagination of the masses with the British in the context of the swadeshi movement. The subsequent uttejito response of the audience was a mere reflection of the sensation that the spectators felt coursing through their veins. Manamohan Pade, on this occasion, sat in the theatre hall watching, and equally listening to, the drama unfold onstage. The performance excited a feeling in his senses, a feeling not quite dissimilar to the feeling 31 Ramapati Dutta, Rangalaye Amarendranath [Amarendranath in the Theatre], Calcutta: Puran Press, 1348 BS [1941], p. 437–8. 32 Datta, Rangalaye Amarendranath, p. 437. 33 Datta, Rangalaye Amarendranath, p. 437.

Community of Emotion 43

recounted by Ramapati Dutta. He defines it as matta.34 In the Bengali lexicon, the word ‘matta’ derives its meaning from two words—bibhor (reverie or ecstasy) and atmahara (to lose oneself, or to be beside oneself with some inexpressible emotions). A curious sensation, matta excited a metaphysical experience. It allowed Pade and, as he recounted, others present in the space of performance to move beyond the limits of the atma or self. It is interesting to note that the metaphysical experience that Pade and his fellow audience members had was perhaps the same that encouraged Ramapati Dutta and his fellow audiences members, to be excited into frenzy. One must bear in mind, in this regard, that the audiences’ self, when moving beyond oneself, sought a union with the supernatural being—nameless, formless, and faceless. As the experience was had amidst a crowd that had come together to watch the performance of the play, the feeling of matta effected a transcendence beyond oneself and into the larger self through frenzy (khaepiya uthiten).35 Bangabasi, a vernacular daily, while reporting the performance of the play Shivaji, made an interesting observation about the play. It noted, ‘Drishshye drishshye jalanta deepak rage abhinayer analochchhas uchhalita hoiyachhilo’36 (In every scene, his powerful acting lit a fire in the performance). A play staged by Classic Theatre, run by Amarendra Nath Dutta at the moment, Shivaji was first enacted in 1902. The popularity of the play lead to its repeated performance well into the era of the swadeshi and boycott agitation. Already noted for its excellent narration, the play’s popularity rose further due to the mimetic gesture adopted by the performers, adding a feel-real element to the performance. Rangalay, a vernacular theatre journal, first pointed this out. After witnessing the first show of the play, Dutta wrote: Abhinaykalin angik bhabbhangi ebong baktrita shrobon koriya amra tahake jathartoi Maharashtrapati Sivaji boliya mone koriyachhilam. … Raput shibire Jashobanto Singher sakkhate Chhatrapati Sivajir abhinaye deho romanchito o kantakita hoiyachhilo.37 [The body gestures and the speeches delivered during the performance made by him has actually made us, indeed, consider him as Sivaji, the 34 35 36 37

Prabhat Kumar Das, Parikatha, p. 313. Prabhat Kumar Das, Parikatha, p. 437. Cited in Dutta, Rangalaye Amarendranath, p. 424. Dutta, Rangalaye Amarendranath, pp. 315–16.

44 Performing Nationhood king of Maharashtra. … The acting of Chhatrapati Sivaji in the presence of Jaswant Singh in his battle tent was quite thrilling and exciting.]

The word ‘abhinay’ stands for role-playing. In this case, the journal further noted that angik bhabbhangi or gestures affected the audience to feel thrilled (kantakito) and excited (romanchito). The gesture, or mimetic gesture, adopted by the performers had the ability to make the audiences willingly suspend their disbelief and, consequently, believe what they saw onstage. Thrill and excitement visited their senses because they felt present in the moment of the performance. The eye contact maintained with the audiences as a part of the dialogue delivery technique was also a constituent of mimetic gestures. The technique of supplementing verbal expressions with physical actions excited the senses of the audience with an uncanny you–are–there sensation. They felt that the action involved them; hence, it not only entertained them but also acted as a new fillip of life and excitement in them, making each one of them lose oneself in the crowd gathered in the space of performance. One should simultaneously bear in mind that all of them shared this feeling of excitement, hence the infusion of this sense of a greater and unified self occurred with all. Performance of the play Mir Kasim left a similar imprint on the memory of Hemendra Nath Dasgupta. He reminisced about the mimetic gesture adopted by the popular theatre actress Sushilabala when playing the wife (begum) of Mir Kasim. As the forces of Mir Kasim faced the onslaught of the rival forces, his wife presented a sword to Taki Khan, the trusted commander of Kasim, to ward off the enemies threatening the independence of the land. The gesture, followed by her song ‘Bir kare tarabari dhore’ (Holding the sword like a hero) was enough to excite the audience.38 As a thrill ran through the audiences, they momentarily lost their sense of self (atmabismrita) and developed an instant bond with the others present in the same space. It made them vocal about their emotions and the shouts of ‘bande mataram’ rang through the hall.39 Excited by Sushilabala’s gesture onstage, the audiences felt that it was them that she was inciting to fight for their land. In the context 38 Hemendra Nath Dasgupta memoirs cited in Prabhat Kumar Das, Parikatha, p. 309. 39 Hemendra Nath Dasgupta memoirs cited in Prabhat Kumar Das, Parikatha, p. 309.

Community of Emotion 45

of the swadeshi and boycott agitation, the British Raj turned into the rival conspirator in their imagination, which needed to be slain by the sword extended to them. The gesture let loose the emotions they hid within and the only possible way they could reveal them was by using the battle cry of the agitation, ‘bande mataram’. Banned by the British Raj, its utterance in public spaces was labelled seditious. Naturally, its utterance inside a theatre signalled a form of activism, potent yet hidden from the eyes of the authorities. The feel-real element of theatrical performances, in order to entice the senses of the audiences, made use of mise-en-scène. Andy Lavender defines a mise-en-scène as ‘a continuum’. The purpose of such staged elements was to establish a relationship between the performers, and between them and the spectators. In the space of performance, miseen-scène, on one hand, justified the time it represented, and on the other, established a relationship between the represented time and the time of the spectators. In this connection, one is reminded of the performance of the play Raja Ashoka. A popular English daily, Bengalee, while reporting on the performance of the play Ashoka, which was performed at the Kohinoor Theatre in 1908, noted that the scenic effect used in the performance was grand. In fact, a good effort was made to recreate springs and falls inside the abode of the Raja of Takkhyashila to make it look both grand and realistic.40 Another daily, Amrita Bazaar Patrika, also noted the techniques used to add this touch of realism and splendour to the staged scene. The reviewer called the scene attractive, gorgeous, and appropriate. As an afterthought, it added that the stage props and the mise-en-scène were ‘cleverly manipulated’. The choice of the words made me wonder what indeed did the performance/ performer/theatre house want to manipulate? Ramapati Dutta, with his innumerable anecdotes about Amarendra Nath Dutta’s theatre life, came to my rescue once again. Going over his observations on the staging of the play Shivaji, I stopped short at the place where he credits drishyapat (stage props) along with dialogue delivery and appropriate body and facial gestures for thrilling and instilling an impassioned sentiment among the audience. I was struck by the possibility that perhaps what the reviewer from Amrita Bazaar Patrika was trying to hint at was


The Bengalee, 31 March 1908.

46 Performing Nationhood

that the theatrical performances used stage props or mise-en-scène to manipulate the emotions of the audience into a moment of excitement. The manipulation of the audience’s emotion occurred in a more overt manner in the performance held at the National School of Mymensingh by young boys. Not even of the status of an amateur performance, it caught the attention of the sub-inspector of the Special Branch because of its context that he believed could excite the masses. A brief summary of the performance follows the initial note where it is identified as a skit. One of the boys who performed in the skit was dressed as a beena (bugle). This appeared to be quite an interesting innovation added by the swadeshi performance, where the performer became one with a stage prop or the mise-en-scène. The coalescence became even more complicated when the boy dressed as the beena exhorted the audience in an excited tone to awake and sound throughout India. The connotative usage of the bugle, often used in battlefields to signal the beginning of a battle, in the skit and its association with the verbally delivered idea of being sounded throughout the country perhaps intended to suggest to the audiences an allusion that, in the context of the swadeshi movement, they alone could comprehend. Though the officiating magistrate called it a sedition thinly veiled, it was also noted that the audiences found it delightful and rejoiced at its presentation with thunderous clapping. The sentiments and emotions of the audiences, not merely in this instance but during most of the swadeshi theatrical performances, gained a vocal nature that they cherished and rejoiced at together.

Suggestively Alluding to and Feeling ‘Us’ The creation of the ‘other’, fundamentally different from ‘we/us’, is a part of the process of symbolic exclusion.41 Inclusiveness demanded and effected by theatrical performances during the Swadeshi age could not complete the image of ‘Us’. It needed a potent threat from without to feel well cemented from within. An alternate was given form by jatra performances to invoke in the minds of the gathered audiences a strong sense of indigeneity. Sensations and emotions experienced in the space 41 For an in-depth discussion of the concept see, Vilho Harle, ‘On the Concepts of the Other and the Enemy’, History of European Ideas, vol. 19, no. 1–3 (1994).

Community of Emotion 47

of performance assumed a more concrete form in the arena of jatra performances. Othering, as a part and parcel of the jatra performative technique, created two different planes in the minds of the audiences, and from this separation was born a sensation that brought the audiences together in a community. Jatrar darshak,42 or audiences of jatra performances, often appeared in Bengali vocabulary to describe the public taste for ribaldry and vulgar art forms that the Bengali elite culture, informed by the Victorian moral order, disapproved of. However, at the turn of the century, the educated middle class Bengali population, in an atmosphere of renewed interest in popular art forms, began visiting, even patronizsing, jatra performances. As a result, the form of jatra we come across from the Swadeshi age is a curious mixture of the old form of jatra performance and the new elements of theatrical performance. The finer tastes of the audiences of theatre got transmitted to jatras when the same bulk of audiences became jatrar darshak. The net outcome of this intermingling—as Mukunda Das, a famous jatra performer of the Swadeshi age, later admitted—was that Swadeshi songs and narratives had to be incorporated within the framework of jatra.43 Curiously enough, Aswini Kumar Dutta, a wellknown Swadeshi agitator of Barisal, influenced Mukunda Das to imbibe swadeshi ideas into his performances. However, the age-old popular framework of jatra performances did not incorporate the notions of the new age per se. They were trimmed and pruned to fit with the spontaneity inherent in the structure. Mythological palas formed the staple framework of jatras, where a contrast was drawn between the good and the evil, devas (Gods) and asuras (demons). The process of symbolic exclusion inherent in the framework processed the notions of the new age in a manichaeistic order that placed swadhinata (freedom) against paradhinata (subjection), and used this juxtaposition as a larger context to portray the battle between the two opposing moral orders. Exclusivism can be factored out of jatra performances because of the form’s very framework. As in olden times, jatrapalas were performed in open spaces. Unlike theatrical performances, they lacked a proscenium. 42 Used as a pejorative term in the nineteenth century, it not only referred to the economic status of the audiences of jatra, but also their social status based on their taste for vulgar art forms like jatra. 43 The Bengalee, 17 July 1907.

48 Performing Nationhood

The line of division separating the performers from the audiences was almost nearly absent. Audiences sat near, and often at level with, the performance arena. This arrangement established a peculiar relationship between the performers and the audiences. Enacted in private spaces, such as the house of a village notable or a naatmandir (vestibule of a temple), jatra performances hardly ever qualified as public performances that accommodated ticket-buying audiences. They continued to be an informal enactment where the performers, as well as the performance, could hardly make an impressive show of a feel-real element. Instead, they remained wholly discernible, in terms of mise-en-scène. Despite such shortcomings, actors and actresses who played gods and goddesses transformed into their imitative counterpart (swarups) during the performance. In this connection, one is reminded of the Ramlila performance at Ramnagar, a hamlet across the river Ganga in Varanasi, where the performers in the roles of Ram, Laxman, and Sita performed on the roads and alleys of Ramnagar, and belong to neighbourhood communities themselves.44 Despite being familiar to the performers, the village audiences worshiped the actors and actresses as swarups of the divinity they represented during the performance.45 The performers of jatra underwent a similar experience. The markedly unnatural form of jatra performance hardly qualified as a technique, but this very quality of performance enhanced its capacity for dissemination. Richard Schechner, while critically locating the Ramlila of Ramnagar within performance theory, illustrated that such popular performances worked by means of transubstantiation, a phenomena associated with the Christian lore.46 A form of jatra worked in a similar manner. The space of performance that could not distinguish between the actors/ actresses and the audiences developed a fluid space where the temporal


Richard Schechner and Linda Hess, ‘Ramlila of Ramnagar’, The Drama Review, vol. 21, no. 3 (1977): 5–82, 30. 45 Schechner and Hess, ‘Ramlila of Ramnagar’, pp. 69, 71, 77–8. 46 The term ‘transubstantiation’ figured in the Catholic history as a process by which the bread and wine metaphorically and miraculously signified the body and blood of Christ. The term has come to be used in theatrical and performative parlance because of its metaphorical nature, which held a multiconnotative grid. See Richard Schechner, Between Theater and Anthropology, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985, pp. 183–4.

Community of Emotion 49

plane of the two coalesced. In such a fluid temporality, both had the ability to ‘transubstantiate’ the meaning they performed with the meaning implied. The colonial authorities later pointed out this dangerous potential of jatra performances—the ability to suggest allusions actually invisible in performance. This invoked a unique sensation among the audiences. The lack of a feel-real element when combined with instantaneous inclusions that caught the audiences unawares, effected a spine-tingling sensation among those present in the space. Based on this analysis, one can identify some specific technical features of the Swadeshi jatra performance. The introduction of gags or a sudden interpolation of scenes/dialogues, often gestures, completely changed the meaning-making faculty of a pala. The Special Branch noted Brita Sanhar or Brita Ankar47 as one such pala. In the list of dramas prepared by the colonial authorities, they noticed that the aforementioned pala, though it had the framework of a mythological narrative, accommodated interpolations that had the ability to hoodwink the authorities with their double meanings. The pala Matripuja by Mukunda Das was performed like a skit that underwent transformation in every performance. No performance was completely similar to the previous one. Some new songs, new words, or even dialogues were added in every performance. Therefore, despite having a rather uninteresting narrative and style (as compared to the other palas of the age with more engaging narratives), Mukunda Das’ pala seldom failed to draw in an audience. Reporting about one such pala of Mukunda Das, performed at Raja Bahadur’s Haveli in 1907, Amrita Bazaar Patrika noted that the performance was ‘simple’ yet ‘calculated to impress the Swadeshi cult’.48 As a result, the viewers were ‘literally spellbound’ and watched the full five hours of it, disregarding the summer heat. The performance offered them a sensation that did not allow them to detach themselves from the staged reality. One needs to pay closer attention to the songs Mukunda Das used in his performance to understand the process by which the sensation thrilled the audiences. One such song 47 Basudeb Chattopadhyay, Folk Theatre and the Raj: Selections from Confidential Records, Kolkata: West Bengal State Archives, 2008, pp. 40–1. 48 Amrita Bazaar Patrika, 18 April 1907. NAI-HPB, Progs. No. 109, Political B, February 1908, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated 15 February 1908.

50 Performing Nationhood

was ‘Oh foreigners, what do we care for the threats you hold out’.49 This song was reportedly performed in the pala Matripuja and apparently underwent cosmetic changes in every performance. In some performances, the word ‘foreigners’ was replaced by the term ‘Fuller’ (Bamfylde Fuller, the lieutenant governor of the newly created eastern Bengal and Assam provinces). In fact, in the performances that he made in Jessore, Barisal, and other areas of the newly created province, the replacement occurred more frequently. This associated the interpolation with a surprise element that the audiences could readily comprehend. The effect such an interpolation could create became visible in the enthusiastic demonstration that the people made soon after in Lohagarh Bazaar, Jessore50 (discussed in detail in Chapter 3). The spontaneity of the unrealistic performance drew the audiences into an enmeshed time and space. In that space, when a devbalak (young boys who sang songs in praise of the Lords of Heaven) was beaten up by asuras or demons—who had captured Heaven by force—for singing songs praising the Motherland,51 an instant connection was made by the audiences between the depicted scene and the incident of a young boy called Sushil being flogged to death in punishment for chanting ‘bande mataram’.52 The audiences who visited these performances, as Robert Darnton points out, were well conversant with the incidents of the day due to the daily social gatherings where news reports were read out to them.53 Naturally, they knew of the widely reported incident of Sushil’s death. The sudden appearance of the same in front of them, though in a different garb, caused immense excitement among 49

Amiya Kumar Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, vol. 4, Calcutta: Government of West Bengal, 1995, p. 163. 50 NAI-HP, Political B, February 1908, Progs. No. 109, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated 4 April 1908. 51 Kunja Behari Gangopadhyay, Matripuja ba Svargoddhar [Worship of the Mother or Deliverance of Heaven], Calcutta: Indian Patriot Press, 1908, p. 94. 52 Sushil Sen, a Bengali youth of the Swadeshi age was tried before the court by Magistrate Kingsford for beating up an English police who lathi charged on a peaceful group of protestors. Kingsford ordered Sushil to be lashed publicly for his impunity. The incident of public flogging of Sushil created quite a stir in the Bengali society already agog with discontent owing to the partition of Bengal. 53 Robert Darnton, ‘Literary Surveillance in the British Raj: The Contradictions of Liberal Imperialism’, Book History, vol. 4 (2001): 133–76, 141.

Community of Emotion 51

them. A report sent to the government in 1907 noted that the pala ‘habitually excite[d] disaffection’.54 The audiences felt the excitement running down their spines and infused it into their fellow spectators too by means of shouting and clapping used to express their excitement. It established an instant connection that joined the audiences in a community of passion. The mise-en-scène of a jatra performance was usually very plain and could hardly create a spectacular effect. The mythological palas, even the palas based on historical narratives, used attires that were described by a critique of the nineteenth-century colonial theatre as ‘puerile’.55 No element of the fantastic lay hidden within the strange assortment of clothes worn by the performers of jatra. In fact, Mukunda Das made the members of his party wear coarse swadeshi clothes called chhit kapad dyed purple with indigo. The moral order of division created by the jatra performances became more pronounced in this representation where the performers wore swadeshi clothes, rejecting the foreign-made clothes that did not form a part of the indigenous production process. A distinction was clearly drawn between ‘our’ swadeshi and ‘their’ foreign-made goods. Such a moral ordering boosted the dissemination of the notion of ‘economic swadeshism’.56 The impact can be gauged in the reaction of the women of Jessore who visited one such performance. These women broke their English-made glass bangles in response to Mukunda Das’ performance.57 The new moral order, visible in the dyed clothes, reached out to the women audiences. Their interpretive will was

54 NAI-HPB, Political A, August 1907, Progs. No. 114, Fortnightly Report for the period ending 20 July 1907. 55 Calcutta Review, printed early in the century, quoted in Sudipto Chatterjee, Colonial Staged: Theatre in Colonial Calcutta, p. 120. 56 The Swadeshi era in Bengal witnessed development of a strong public opinion in favour of the development of indigenous industries. Bipin Chandra Pal upheld the economic aspect of swadeshi when he declared that the only honest form of swadeshi is ‘economic swadeshism’. Please see Bipin Chandra Pal, Swadeshi and Swaraj: The Rise of New Patriotism, Calcutta: Yagayatri Prakashak, 1954, pp. 223–4. 57 NAI-HPB, Progs. No. 109, Political B, February 1908, Weekly report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated 15 February 1908.

52 Performing Nationhood

directed towards the idea disseminated by the pala. This feat was achieved by engaging their emotions with the illustrations made by the performance. The appearance of every performer in that purple attire—a marker of swadeshism—was remarkable. The excitement generated by such an association found a vent in the act of breaking their glass bangles that did not fit into the new order. It established that the women had started talking and expressing their opinions which, if need be, could translate into action. The community born from exclusivism practiced inclusivism for those who could/did (were sometimes even made to) identify with the community of ‘us’.

Public Singing/Singing Publichood Silent voices rising from torpor began to be audible in the space of performance. However, they were bounded by jatra and theatre within this space. Therefore, they could not reach out to all. This problem found a solution in the performance of Swadeshi songs, which liberated the space and threw it open to all. Speech-making and magic lantern gatherings58 dissolved the limits of the space of participation. However, the songs caused the arena to function more as a space of monologue than that of dialogue. The colonial authorities were the first to notice it. They astutely pointed out, ‘In terms of mobilizing the masses, the ability of these songs is much superior to that of speeches.’59 As the following discussion will prove, Swadeshi songs and their technique of dissemination did add a new dimension to the process of involving people and rendering them audible.

58 References of magic lantern gatherings can be found in the autobiographies of revolutionaries like Bhupendranath Dutta and Jadugopal Mukhopadhyay, used as a means for preaching the ideals of revolutionary nationalism. An image projector, magic lantern gatherings involved lectures discrediting the colonial authority and celebrating acts of resistance of the colonized by using plates of pictures painted, printed, or produced photographically. 59 Home Political (Confidential), Police Report from Eastern Bengal and Assam, 22 January 1907. The extract has been borrowed from Asok Kumar Mukhopadhyay’s article ‘Polishi Reporte Swadeshi Gaan’ [Swadeshi Songs in Police Report], reprinted as a foreword to Jogindranath Sarkar’s, Bande Mataram, Kolkata: Sahistya Samsad, 2007, pp. 5–18, 10.

Community of Emotion 53

Song was identified by Mukti Kon Pathe, a revolutionary tract of the age, as a unique medium to entice the hearts of the people.60 It had the ability to bring forth the silent voices of the composer and the singer, as well as the listeners who discussed the song. The Swadeshi meetings and gatherings served as one such place. Amrita Bazaar Patrika reported the proceedings of a Swadeshi meeting held at College Square on 13 January. A band of boys sang the famous song ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’ song at the beginning of the proceedings. The report noted that Babu Rabindranath Tagore’s song had an ‘excellent effect upon the audience’.61 The use of the term ‘effect’ in the report, though attesting to the mobilizing tendency of songs, does not give a clear idea about the process involved in producing it. This became particularly evident in the song sung on the eve of the anti-partition agitation in 1905. The Crime Investigation Department listed the song as ‘popular but harmless’.62 However, the striking quality of the song lay with its composer. One Arshad Ali, a labourer from Harinarayanpur, had composed the song. The voice of the man reflected in the lyrics of the song that called out to all Indians to awake and do away with the evil days that had befallen the country. The song not only illustrate the idea of nationhood, but also gave a voice to a faceless multitude. Unlike their theatrical counterpart, songs had to traverse a fairly complicated route of dissemination. The public course undertaken by Swadeshi songs, in a historical context, reveals that instead of merely disseminating the ideas of the age (of nationhood), the songs mobilized the public into audibility. The techniques used by song performances formed a major element that contributed to their complexity. The deliberate use of certain tunes for the songs formed one of the techniques used by the performers. However, in order to understand the nature of this medium of performance, we must first look closely at its proceedings. Professional singers, identified as Swadeshi songsters by the colonial policing authorities, performed Swadeshi songs. Itinerant songsters visited different places to sing Swadeshi 60 ‘Sangiter dvara manusher man ke ati sahajei bash kora jay’. Abinash Chandra Bhattacharyya, Mukti Kon Pathe [Which Way Lies the Freedom], Kolkata: Punascha, 2006, pp. 145–6. 61 Amrita Bazaar Patrika, 13 January 1906. 62 Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, vol. 4, pp. 139, 144.

54 Performing Nationhood

songs. They were either invited to perform by local agitators, or simply moved from one place to another to disseminate the notion of ‘swadeshi’ among the people. In fact, as colonial reports show, the samitis, revolutionary and radical in nature, developed a separate wing for propaganda that adopted songs as an effective medium to serve their purpose.63 Anti-Circular Society collected contributions for the National Fund—set up during the swadeshi and boycott agitation to back ‘the movement’ in a similar manner. Aswini Kumar Dutta of Barisal engaged Mukunda Das, the popular Swadeshi jatrawallah, as a samiti propagandist. As the spokesperson of the Swadesh Bandhab Samiti founded by Dutta, he sang songs in different parts of Bengal to propagate its ideas. Another such popular songster of the age was Brajendra Lal Ganguli of Suhrid Samiti, Mymensingh.64 He reportedly visited different towns and villages to propagate Swadeshi ideas through the medium of songs. In this order of things, songs—used as a means of propaganda—needed to be popular to gain the attention of the audiences. The best possible option, in such instances, was setting the lyrics to a popular tune. It needed to be fitted in a mould known to all to enhance its adaptability to the taste of the audiences. The popularity of the song ‘Sonar Bangla’ can be credited to the tune it used. Sarala Debi Chaudhurani noted in her memoire that the tune for the song was collected from a boat rower.65 While on a visit to Silaidaha, she had heard the rower sing a song that caught her attention because of its tune. Popularly referred to as the bhatiali tune, it was particularly endearing. Due to this quality of the tune, Rabindranath Tagore set the song ‘Sonar Bangla’ to it. Bhatiali folk tunes were quite popular in the Bengali countryside. Setting the song to this tune not only made the people like it but allowed them to easily

63 Samitis split on the course of action to be adopted for disseminating revolutionary ideas. One group insisted on continued development of physical culture, while the other insisted on adopting various means of propaganda to inculcate their ideas among the masses. 64 WBSA-HPB, History Sheet no. 21 of Brajendra Lal Ganguli. File No. 570 of 1908. 65 Sarala Debi, Jiboner Jhara Pata [The Fallen Leaves of Life], Calcutta: Sahitya Parishad, 1879, pp. 81–2.

Community of Emotion 55

memorize it as well. Thus, the interplay of music and lyrics did give the song a life of its own.66 Brajendra Lal Ganguli’s song ‘Bhaiya desh ka yih kya haal’67 enjoyed a similar life of its own. Ganguli performed the song in localities that had a substantial population of Hindi-speaking men. To cater to the sensibility of its target audience, Ganguli set the song to a rustic Hindustani folk tune. The tune, as Sellnow points out, made the notion inherent in the song more comprehensible for the listener. Moreover, being set to a popular tune, it easily gained a seat in the memory of the people. A rather ‘popular rural song’68 similarly made use of rustic tunes. Songs discovered in the exercise books of the samiti members were usually set to marching tunes. The song ‘Amar Desh’ by D. L. Roy and a series of songs glorifying death as martyrdom—such as the Prafulla songs and battle songs—gained a life of their own among men nurturing revolutionary ideas because of the tune the songs were set to.69 In fact, the commingling of poetry and music created an illusion of life in the Swadeshi songs that enabled the audiences to feel and express the emotion that the songs invoked in them. 66

It is noted by eminent musicologists that songs are music in words, and the interplay of the two constitutes the life of a song. The tune of a song determines the impact potential of a song. In fact, the influence a song can have on individuals is relative to the tune to which it is set. Sellnow is of the opinion that ‘music does impact meaning. Hence, any method designed to analyze music as a rhetorical form must consider the dynamic interaction between lyrics and score to capture a full meaning of the message’. M. Booth, ‘The Art of Words in Songs’, The Quarterly Journal of Speech, vol. 62 (1976): 242–9, 242. Also see D. Sellnow and T. Sellnow, ‘The “Illusion of Life” Rhetorical Perspective: An Integrated Approach to the Study of Music as Communication’, Critical Studies in Media Communication, vol. 18, no. 4 (2001): 395–415, 396. 67 WBSA-HPB, History Sheet no. 21 on Brajendra Lal Ganguli. 68 List of Common Bengali songs on record in the political branch, Criminal Investigation Department, 1912. Reprinted in Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, vol. 4: 121–98, 128. 69 Song about Prafulla Chaki the boy who lost his life with Khudiram Bose in the Kennedy assassination case. Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, vol. 4, pp. 126–31.

56 Performing Nationhood

The emotion, thus engendered, did not remain limited to the audience alone. As the tune could be memorized, the song—along with the illusion it could create—travelled far and wide with the listener– turned–singer. This was a curious phenomenon that eventually became a potent technique deployed by the Swadeshi song media. Spatiality or the geographical location of performance figured prominently in this technique. The geographical location of performance has held an important position in the communicative process of media in every culture.70 However, before we go on to describe the nature of influence that the factor had on Swadeshi Bengal, and the eventual process of identity formation, one needs to understand closely what is actually meant by the term ‘spatiality’. The term has categorically been used in this chapter to mean ‘the space in which a performance occurs’, which ‘opens up special possibilities for the relationship between actors and spectators, and for movement and perception’.71 Thus, a ‘performance’s spatiality is brought forth by the performative space and must be examined within the parameters set by it’.72 With this parameter in mind, one must carefully look at the spatiality of performance as the space where the performers and the spectators communicate with each other. The communication between the two parties, in this case, becomes relative to the spatiality of the performance. The dailies that reported processional musical performances unfailingly identified the space where they were performed. The names of various streets figured in such reports. The nature of such spaces is indefinite because the processions, winding from one street to another, could not be neatly delineated, hence can be believed to have encompassed a large area of performance. Often, meeting grounds—such as College Square—figure in the reports along with spaces that had distinct religious undertones, such as the premises of a temple. In such spaces, singing—as an act—always got entwined with the symbolic meaning of the space. Processional singing, moving in an undefined space, had an open-ended marker of meaning. This blurred 70

One can mention, in connection with this, the role spatiality played in the revolutionary culture of France. See, Mona Ozouf, Festivals and the French Revolution, tr. Alan Sheridan, Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1991. 71 Erika Fischer-Lichte, The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics, tr. Saskyra Iris Jain, New York: Routledge, 2008, p. 107. 72 Fischer-Lichte, The Transformative Power of Performance, p. 107.

Community of Emotion 57

the boundary separating a singer from an audience. Processional singing of the popular song ‘Ekbar tora ma bolia dak’ (All the children call out to the mother just once), composed by Rabindranath Tagore, in Majilpur (24 Parganas) caught the imagination of the audiences. Singing along with the boys of the local school, they joined the parade. At that very moment, the listener transformed into a performer. They sang the song bounded in their personal mood, but the act of singing together was definitely a public activity. Men (rarely women), unknown to each other, communicated in the space and bonded with each other through the act of becoming audible. Amrita Bazaar Patrika reported one such incident where the audience broke into a song ‘Mai desher raja, mai desher rani’ (Mother is the king of the country, mother is the queen of the country)73 in response to a speech and a preceding song74 that had electrified them. Perhaps not as sensational as the thrills of theatre, or as spine-tingling as the ‘you–are–there’ effect created by jatra, the medium of song nonetheless established a camaraderie of publichood among the people. In 1906, policing authorities reported an incident of a musical parade organized by the youth of Brahmanberia, Tippera district.75 In this report, the policing authorities pointed out that the students who paraded the streets not just sang but also shouted.76 Shouting out loud was not merely wayward behaviour; it was a reflection of the critical faculty gained by the audiences in their new avatar—publichood. The Swadeshi space of performance excited such emotional reactions in the gathered audiences that, if viewed outside the context, might seem utterly foolish. People breaking out in a song; women breaking their bangles; individuals shouting ‘bande mataram’ with a group of people, rather a crowd, hardly known to them would seem to be an imbecile act in any normal setting. However, these were not normal times. Hence, the reactions of the people cannot be disregarded as foolish. The actions of the people endeavoured to voice the emotions they felt, yet lacked a space to express them. Swadeshi performances 73

Amrita Bazaar Patrika, 20 January 1910. I have been unable to trace the song but gathering from the nature of the songs sung during other Swadeshi meetings, it was no doubt a patriotic song charged with intense pathos. 75 WBSA-HPB, History Sheet no. 21 of Brajendra Lal Ganguli. 76 WBSA-HPB, History Sheet no. 21 of Brajendra Lal Ganguli. 74

58 Performing Nationhood

gave them the requisite space, free from colonial retribution (a point discussed in detail in Chapter 4), to make themselves heard. The voice of the public, once it became audible, spoke out its likes and dislikes, setting a parameter for performative and cultural practices (see Chapter 3). When the intellectual world collided with the popular, the knowledge of ‘self ’ and ‘selves’ was born that became the hallmark of Swadeshi nationhood (see Chapter 5). The age of foolishness became the moment that gave birth to, and accommodated, the age of wisdom. *** It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …77

Swadeshi era in Bengal can be characterized as when the best of times unfolded in the worst of times. Time was of paramount importance in the narrative of the age. It was the time of colonial subjection and the time of public expression against the excesses (as the colonized believed it to be) of the colonial rule. The burgeoning public sphere had let loose the manacle that had previously chained the people. Swadeshi performances played a significant role in bringing about this transformation. The enmeshed temporality of the performative space allowed the loosening of the ‘Sasan sanyata kantha janani’ (Voices stymied by law, O Mother!),78 lamented by the composers of the previous age. Unable to speak their mind, clogged by the time-jail of the colonialists, the colonized carved out a space hidden from the prying eyes of the colonial authorities to talk, often hatefully, about the colonizers. The Raj was unable to check the process. The space of performance did not qualify as a public space in the strict legal terms set by the colonial authorities. Unlike theatrical performances, jatra and song performances could not be interdicted under the legal system because they did not have ticketbuying audiences visiting their performances. As a result, despite being aware of the unshackling of the manacles, the colonial authorities could not put under surveillance the public’s voices and, most importantly, their subject of discussion. The inability of the Raj to break loose of the private–public dichotomy, as Laura Mason has observed in the

77 78

Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. WBSA, E.B.& A., History Sheet of Brajendra Lal Ganguli, No. 21.

Community of Emotion 59

case of French Revolution, was rendered weaker through the mixing of media.79 In 1909, Bhagwan Singh, a sub-inspector in service of the colonial policing system, reported an incident witnessed by him in an unusual space: a compartment of a train.80 There, he came across a group of singers who sang patriotic songs with such fervour that people were inspired to buy fifty copies of the pamphlet from which the group sang the songs. The policing authorities later identified it as the pamphlet called Desher Gan. It was interdicted under section 124A of IPC, for the legal remembrancer advised that action could be taken against it ‘in cases of the distribution of this pamphlet and the singing of its contents’.81 Excitement ran through the audience when Swadeshi songs were sung from the pamphlet Hunkar in a steamer.82 A sub-inspector, travelling by the same steamer, reported the incident. He found a teacher of the Khulna National School, Hiralal Sen (popularly known as Hira Lal Master), singing the songs to an audience gathered on the deck of the steamer. Singing from and the selling (or distribution) of printed ephemera added a new layer to the emotional plane of the audiences. The aforementioned instances demonstrate that Swadeshi performative media (often in consonance with print media), with all its peculiarities and unprecedented techniques of entertainment, established an instant connection with people’s sensibilities. The movement of the spectators between the two time frames and the superimposition of the sensation engendered by the performance over their contemporary situation made them respond. The response came in the form 79

Laura Mason, while analysing the various song texts of revolutionary France, came across a series of texts (either published in the newspaper or printed as pamphlets) that served not merely as the carrier of the word but also of the place and tune of performance, making singing a group activity where people could participate together, thus developing a common source of feeling together. For an in-depth discussion, see Laura Mason, ‘Songs: Mixing Media’, in Revolution in Print: The Press in France 1775–1800, ed. Robert Darnton and Daniel Roche, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989, pp. 252–69. 80 WBSA-Eastern Bengal and Assam records, F.N. 128 of 1909, demi-official dated 8 October 1908. 81 WBSA-HPB, History Sheet no. 21 of Brajendra Lal Ganguli. File No. 570 of 1908. 82 WBSA-HPB, F. N. 34 of 1908. Statement recorded by G.C. Denham under Section 161 Criminal Procedure Code on 18 October 1908.

60 Performing Nationhood

of audibility of an excited voice. The community of audiences created by performance allowed the people to talk and, more importantly, talk aloud. People now had an arena of their own where they could express their feelings and emotions, and above all, had the freedom to make their voices audible. The audibility empowered the audiences to assume the role of arbiters, passing judgements and critically reviewing the notions placed before them. As they raised their voices in the performative space, they heard themselves along with the others. Hearing their individual voices in consonance with the rest, resonating in a compatible tonality, they felt an invisible line of connection drawing them together. Men were not just talking; they were talking (as well as singing) the same lingo (or tune). An awareness spread through the people when they reacted and simultaneously witnessed their fellow viewers reacting in the same manner. Individual response and the awareness of the responses of their fellow spectators bonded the men in a group, a community, held together in a complex web of emotions. It was indeed the best of times and the worst of times when a community of emotion, based on popular voices, set in motion a meaning-making process that re-invented at every turn the individual and national ‘self ’ in Swadeshi Bengal.

3 Community of Felt Emotions Birth of an Imagined National ‘Self ’


oices emerged from the shadows of silence and could be heard in unison. Though inarticulate, they were audible. The British Raj grew uncomfortable in the murmuring silence that they could feel, yet could neither detect nor interdict. The whispers that reached them could not be decoded easily. Hidden behind allusions and harmless sounds, (such as catcalling, cheering, and singing) the voices remained outside the purview of the colonial surveillance. Nationalist leaders and ideologues rejoiced in the breaking of silence, but with caution. Though the author of Mukti Kon Pathe claimed that swadhinatar bhab, if disseminated by means of performative media such as jatra, could easily make inroads into the hearts of the audiences, the events that followed proved that the audiences were not inert beings, though silent.1 Once they gained a space to speak out loud and express their feelings, they chose their course of action at free will. The resolve they showed as public could not be taken lightly as it became a voice too powerful to mould or contend with. The Raj, fearful of the newly gained audibility of the subject race, kept a close watch on all their gatherings. Every little detail of such occasions found a place in its files of correspondence. In 1910, a pala by the name Sujajna was reported to have been performed in Bhatpara, 1

Abinash Chandra Bhattacharyya, Mukti Kon Pathe [Which Way Lies the Freedom], Kolkata: Punascha, 2006, p. 145. Performing Nationhood: The Emotional Roots of Swadeshi Nationhood in Bengal, 1905–12. Mimasha Pandit, Oxford University Press (2019). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199480180.003.0003

62 Performing Nationhood

a place not very far from Calcutta.2 Once the seat of the learned, Bhatpara had been turned into a mufassal of the 24 Parganas district, left in the outskirts of the city. Despite being pushed to the backwater, the people of the locality remained active in expressing their opinions. The events that followed the performance of the aforementioned pala attested to this fact. A jatra party from Calcutta had reportedly performed the pala. The report on the performance was placed under the subheading ‘seditious plays’. Though the drama police of the Raj did not state their reasons categorically, the division of the report into two parts made their dissatisfaction and the reasons behind it quite evident. First of all, the pala portrayed a foreign merchant by the name of Kuhuk, who was made ‘odious’ to the ‘swadeshites’; secondly, the portrayal ignited the local youth enough to ‘conspire together to beat the actor who played the part of this foreign merchant’. The first cause of dissatisfaction was valid enough to prick the suspicion of the colonial authorities. However, the second seems unconvincing owing to the fact that the actor portraying the foreign merchant was not even remotely connected to the English race, nor was he associated with the Raj in an administrative capacity. Nevertheless, the actor, though remaining unnamed, finds a place in the report for facing the dangers of being beaten up. If it was not concern for this anonymous actor of the subject race, what induced the Raj to report so meticulously the imminent danger and violence he faced? When I came across this discrepancy in the report, I was baffled by the inconsistent nature of the term ‘seditious’ used in the report. The plain and simple Manichaestic division did not seem valid for it. It was then, while examining the portrayal of the characters, that I realized that the actor had shot to fame (or rather infamy) due to the character he portrayed, the way he portrayed it, and for making the character so odious (the portrayal must have been quite realistic) to the youth of Bhatpara. The actor, in his role play, ceased to be a member of the jatra party Chakraborty and Co. As the performed time coalesced with the lived time of the audience, the actor transformed into a member of the colonizing race. So, at the precise moment when the unnamed actor transformed into Kuhuk, the foreign


NAI-Home Political, Political B, August 1910, Progs. No. 10–17, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, Shimla, 21 June 1910.

Community of Felt Emotions 63

merchant, and his volatile ethnic identity moulded into that of a Briton, an attack on him, or even a conspiracy to attack him, meant a threat to the image he had assumed—that of the British. Hence, the concern with this otherwise not-so-popular representation was an outcome of the imminent threat the youth of Bhatpara, and by extension the people of Bengal, posed to the British, even if it was actually directed towards their image portrayed by an Indian actor. A feeling of discomfort crept into the demeanour of the Raj. The wall of invincibility they had so carefully built around themselves through years of patient discourse on colonial masculinity and the subject race’s effeminacy suddenly seemed to develop cracks, struck by the voices (that translated into a violent gesture in this instance) of the colonized, eager to break the silence surrounding them, even in a public space. The nationalist ideologues and leaders were equally in awe of the public gesture of breaking the silence. As the public spoke their mind, their voices gained potency. Ideologues of nationhood soon discovered that the notions disseminated by the Swadeshi media did not lie beyond the purview of critical evaluation. A weekly report sent by the Director of Criminal Intelligence to the Home Department in 1907 brought to the attention of the authorities proceedings of a play that was apparently stopped from being performed due to the opinion expressed by such potent voices in the audience. The naib of cutcherry (the Hindu hall of justice) in Pogaldighi invited an amateur theatre party to perform two plays, Siraj-ud-Dowlah and Durga Das. The performance of the plays evoked a mixed reaction in the audiences. The Muslim audiences who had come to watch the performance found it contrary to their taste because, as the report stated, the play Durga Das portrayed the wife of Aurangzeb enamoured by a Hindu man (that is, Durga Das). So strong was their objection to the portrayal that the play had to be suspended. The naib who had organized the performance also had to give his word that such a thing will not be repeated in the future. The subtext of the audience reaction, in this instance, that led to the performance being called off signifies a rejection of ideas inherent in the performance. The allusions made in the performance used a Rajput–Mughal conflict metanarrative that collided with the taste of the Muslim audiences, hence triggering an emotional response that rejected the metanarrative and, by extension, the allusions suggested by it that formed the subtext of their reaction. In another instance, Sarala Debi Chaudhurani

64 Performing Nationhood

reminisced in her autobiography that Amarendra Nath Dutta faced severe criticism in the vernacular journal Bharati (mostly penned by her) for putting a sudden stop to the performance of the play Aurangzeb because the Muslim audiences threatened to force stop it from being staged.3 What is noteworthy in these instances is the audience reaction that assumed the role of an arbiter. It now held sway over Swadeshi media and hence over the dissemination and circulation of the notions of nationhood portrayed in them. To turn the audience reaction/public opinion in favour of the ideas disseminated, Swadeshi performances adopted extensive means to woo their opinion. The process of wooing involved an attempt to invert the subtext of the audience reaction in favour of the ideas presented in the performances. Inversion, as a specialized act of replacing the subtext of a reaction, required the agent of the reaction to be mollified. This was achieved by introducing certain elements in the performance that would trigger the inherent emotions, yet control their direction of flow in favour of the ideas portrayed. Swadeshi performances introduced such elements that were centrally meaningful4 to the audiences. These elements introduced in the production of performances had specific meanings associated with them in the cultural grid they formed a part of. Steeped in multiple meanings, the elements appeared in the performances as different symbols and motifs that had the ability to bring together in the people varied emotions associated with them. The use of such symbols and motifs proved to be an excellent communicative tool. As cultural artefacts,5 the symbols combined the varied passions of the people on a common emotional plane. Hemendranath Dasgupta experienced a similar emotional upheaval while watching the performance

3 Sarala Debi Chaudhurani, Jiboner Jharapata, Calcutta: Sahitya Samsad, 1879, p. 171. 4 An analysis of the anthropology of theatre and the spectacles it affords shows that spectacles are associated with sensations and symbolic codes. The organization and display of such spectacles ensure that a particular sensation is invoked that would enable the public to express a positive emotional response. William O. Beeman, ‘The Anthropology of Theatre and Spectacle’, Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 22 (1993): 369–93, 380. 5 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and the Spread of Nationalism, London: Verso, 1983, p. 4.

Community of Felt Emotions 65

of the play Mir Kasim. Excited by the spectacular nature of the dialogic schemata, Dasgupta reminisces how the audiences chanted aloud slogans of ‘bande mataram’ in unison. A progression can be noticed in this memory associated with a Swadeshi performance where the feeling of being mantramugdha (entranced) transformed into an impassioned excitement (uttejito) that terminated into an intense emotion of oneness, whereby the audiences filled the space of performance with shouts of ‘bande mataram’.6 The imagined amra of Ramapati Dutta’s memory, born out of a passionate exchange in the space of performance, assumed an emotional dimension when the same feeling distinctively identified itself with the Swadeshi slogan ‘bande mataram’. The term ‘amra’ owed its origin not to the political meaning of the term but to the awareness such reactions, expressed in unison, could produce among the audiences regarding the similarity of their emotions with those of their fellow audiences. The realization of the similarity existing between the reactions they had, associated with the cultural connotation of the slogan ‘bande mataram’, united the audiences together in a bond of felt emotions.7 An avenue was thus created to allow the passion of the public to translate into an emotion of nationhood. This chapter will serve as my lens to look closely at the process of development of a bond based on ordinary emotions felt in extraordinary situations.

6 The provision of feeling and expressing the feeling aroused by socio-culturally meaningful symbols in a face-to-face exchange with the fellow viewers, who also felt and expressed similar feelings, helped the imagination of a common bond by the public, resulting in a ‘theatrical nationhood’. Loren Kruger uses the term to refer to the rise of ‘mass national politics’ and ‘the demand of the people for legitimate representation as protagonist on the political stage’ on the European and American stage. See Loren Kruger, The National Stage: Theatre and Cultural Legitimation in England, France, and America, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992, p. 3. 7 Rajat Kanta Ray in his seminal work on the emergence and existence of a community before the arrival of modernity and nationalism has shown that the people were bounded together in a community by emotions and feelings they had in connection with certain leitmotifs. See Rajat Kanta Ray, The Felt Community: Commonalty and Mentality before the Emergence of the Indian Nationalism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

66 Performing Nationhood

*** During a performance, in the moment of realization and expression, the spectators voiced their amazement at the performance, thereby exercising their publicness. During such an exhibition of emotion, the spectators were conscious of the authority they held as a community/ public within the performance arena. Their reactions born out of sensations were expressions of their opinions regarding the (re)presentation. The audience responses, in a way, had an active role to play within the framework of performance. Frequent acts of catcalling or sloganeering were typical means used by the audiences to express their pleasure or displeasure at the (re)presented ideas/scenes. The power gained by public opinion, naturally, transformed it into a prime arbiter of the jatra performances. The ideas disseminated by a performance lay at the mercy of the theatre-going public8 and the jatrar darshak-9 turned-public. The way the public felt about the performances and consequently judged them had the power to alter a performance or at times suspend it altogether. Performances transformed the space of performance into a public space where people could come together as a public and make their voices audible. Every individual who came to view the performance discovered in his newly found power to express himself a connection binding him to his fellow viewers. The audience


Julie Stone Peters, in her analysis of the commingling of the two media— print and performance—in Europe during the fifteenth and the nineteenth century, traces the rise of a ‘public’ which was considered to consist of: right-minded and engaged citizens, eager patrons of their nation’s cultural life, a powerful yet invisible body at once to be enlightened and obeyed … a force with which writers putting their work into print would necessarily have to reckon. … This new (or at least newly important) public was, however, constituted not by the newspress alone but in a number of arenas for collective expression.

It was in this context that the theatre-going public came to be widely recognized in Europe as the arbiters of theatrical performances. See Julie Stone Peters, ‘Making It Public’, Theatre of the Book, 1480–1880: Print, Text, and Performance in Europe, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. 9 The lower class and countryside audiences were often derisively referred to as ‘jatrar darshak’.

Community of Felt Emotions 67

evenly felt the moment of excitement. This feeling, though personal, elicited a response from each member of the audience in the space of performance. The expression of this feeling in the presence of the fellow viewers, who also expressed their feelings, established a common link between the viewers. Despite the differences in their social and economic status, the people in the audience often shared a core realization. They were united in their awareness of the power they held in such public spaces. The awareness of their public nature also made them conscious that they were at par with other people and audiences who could and did express themselves in such spaces of gathering. The bond they imagined cut across all social, spatial, and economic divisions, and joined the people in a common bond of vocality and publicness. The moment of expression elicited a core realization. Members of the audience, once strangers to each other, developed a bond of shared emotion when they entered the performance arena and as the performance progressed towards a climax. The feeling of ‘amra’ that Ramapati Dutta felt while watching the performance of Amarendra Nath Dutta remained loosely bonded. Joined by a moment of passion, the audience assumed the form of a crowd that, though passionate in intent, lacked direction. The very same audience, as Manamohan Pade recalls, assumed a completely different form of association when the symbols used in the performance triggered culturally induced emotions. The use of the motif of land in the performance of Jibansandhya10 played a similar function. The chorus song insisted upon sacrificing one’s body to preserve the honour of one’s janmabhumi.11 The symbol of janmabhumi appeared in the play repeatedly. The scenes (or in this case, the songs) that excited an impassioned response among the audiences especially and invariably deployed this motif. In this section, I will critically analyse the motif used in the play Jibansandhya to decipher the connection it shared with the passion of the audiences and the eventual translation of that passion into an emotional oneness.


Prabhat Kumar Das, Parikatha (2005): 281–319, 313. ‘Mukta prane juddha khetre bakkharakta korite daan / Lakkha lakkha beer putra byagrochitte aguyan / Putra kanya janani jaya / Tuchha shakali mithya maya / Ghor samara tyajibo kaya, rakhibo janmabhumir maan.’ Prabhat Kumar Das, Parikatha, p. 313. 11

68 Performing Nationhood

The play Jibansandhya, based on the book Rajput Jiban Sandhya12 by R. C. Dutt, was a historical narrative of the life and feats of the Rajput king Maharana Pratap. The audiences who came to watch the performance experienced a spine-tingling sensation owing to the dramatic progression of the narrative where Maharana Pratap is shown trying to preserve the independence of his janmabhumi. A psychological analysis of the communitarian feelings inspired in a group reveals that motifs and signs are often associated with emotions that get induced once a particular form or word appears in their presence.13 The word ‘janmabhumi’ appeared in the play as one such symbol loaded with socio-cultural values shared by the people. Uday Mehta, in his Lockean and Burkian analysis of a contractual political community, draws the conclusion that the identity of people and the idea of land share a close and inseparable relationship where the latter determines the former.14 Collective identity is thus born from the people’s emotional attachment with an inherent sense of belonging to the land.15 Maharana Pratap’s, as well as his fellow Rajputs’, imagination of land as home, the attachment to which was based on an emotional togetherness effected by shared values, was closely associated with the word that appeared repeatedly in the play. It brought together two ideas, janma (literally meaning birth) and bhumi (literally meaning land), to denote land as both a place of birth as well as home. The song that triggered an emotional reaction 12 Ramesh Chandra Dutt, Rajput Jiban Sandhya [Twilight of the Rajputs], Calcutta: Elm Press, 1879. 13 ‘Shared cultural understandings, symbols, and histories are important aspects of the shared emotional connection. … The shared emotional connection can be likened to Tönnies (1955, 1974) Gemeinschaft, Leighton’s (1959) shared sentiments, and Nobles’ (1990) notion of experiential communality. … The shared emotional connection reflects shared history and systems of meaning, and experiences that people may have internalized because of time spent together in specific social-cultural contexts.’ Christopher C. Sonn, ‘Immigrant Adaptation: Understanding the Process through Sense of Community’, in Psychological Sense of Community: Research, Applications and Implications, ed. Adrian T. Fischer, Christopher C. Sonn, and Brian J. Bishop, New York: Plenum Publishers, 2002, pp. 205–22, p. 212. 14 Uday S. Mehta, Liberalism and Empire: A Study in Nineteenth Century British Liberal Thought, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999, pp. 144–6. 15 Mehta, Liberalism and Empire, pp. 148–9.

Community of Felt Emotions 69

in the audiences during the performance identified janmabhumi as the place of birth with which people shared an emotional attachment, and as home that determined their territorial connectedness16 based on the socio-cultural values they attached to the land. The Bengali sensibility grasped the inherent connotation of the symbol primarily because of the embryonic relationship it shared with the land. Christina Baxter has illustrated the connectedness that the Bengalis shared with land through an analytical study of the nineteenthcentury satire Kalikata Kamalalaya17 by Bhabani Charan Mukhopadhyay. Colonial intervention in the Indian socio-cultural structure, especially in Bengal, led to the development of a new class, identified as bhadralok. Mukhopadhyay identified the presence of two categories within this new class—one was simply known as bhadralok, while the other was classified as daridra athacha bhadralok (poor, yet bhadralok). The bhadralok, in a socio-cultural context, Baxter argues, gained prominence as the educated class (one that received formal schooling in the Western model), the landed class (possessor of landed estate), and the service class (associated with the colonial service sector or Chakri).18 16 Bhikhu Parekh defines land as ‘territorially concentrated group of people’ held together by the common mode used by them to conduct their affairs, which includes both the body of institutions as well as shared values, ‘Discourses on National Identity’, Political Studies, vol. 42, no. 3 (1994): 492–504, p. 502. 17 The educated babus who belonged to the upper class were referred to as ‘bhadralok’. The social category called bhadralok was highly stratified, but remained connected based on two criteria—education and caste. For an indepth discussion, see Christine Baxter, ‘The Genesis of the Babu: Bhabanicharan Bannerji and Kalikata Kamalalay’, in Rule, Protest, Identity: Aspects of modern South Asia, ed. Peter Robb and David Taylor, London and Dublin: Curzon Press, 1978, pp. 193–205, and Sumanta Bandopadhyay, The Parlour and the Streets: Elite and Popular Culture in Nineteenth Century Calcutta, Calcutta: Seagull Books, 1989, pp. 48–50. 18 A class of Bengalis gained social status in the nineteenth century by virtue of their English education and the service they provided (due to their education) to the administrative arrangement of the colonial rulers in the capacity of a kerani. A clockwork lifestyle was the hallmark of this class which was identified by a few characteristic features (satirized in svang, patchitras of Kalighat, and parodies) such as a black overcoat or chapkan, a dhoti, and pump shoes with

70 Performing Nationhood

The distinction between the two categories depended on the combination (or lack) of the socio-cultural markers of a bhadralok. Despite such differences, the class developed a distinct identity that drew its sustenance from highly urban associations, but majorly from their ancestral home, referred to as bhitamati. The term ‘bhita’, derived from the sociocultural context of the Bengalis of the nineteenth century, meant home or one’s ancestral home that could loosely be defined as one’s place of birth. In that case, bhita could also mean janmabhumi. Whereas, the concept of mati, denoting land—both as an economic estate and one’s social identity marker, was synonymous with the socio-cultural notion of bhumi. Ronal B. Inden and Ralph W. Nicholas, while discussing the socio-cultural roots of kinship and the emergent Bengali culture, illustrated the importance of the concept of bhumi as home and desh as an extended social home with a definite boundary demarcated by the ties of atmiya and svajan.19 Swarupa Gupta, while discussing the samajik notion of nationhood, described ‘desh’ as the territorial representation of samaj that combined all castes, clans, and language groups in a single community. The illustration of the land-motif in performance assumed the form of desh, as expressed in another popular song of a play. The song identified desh in the context of extended ties shared by atmiya and svajan. The motif underwent a drastic transformation as it rose from the status of an emotional attachment, or janmabhumi, to be a territorially demarcated region, or desh, or bharatbhumi.20 The sense of an emotional attachment associated with the motif appeared in consonance with the audience’s impassioned reaction to spectacles offered by the life-like performance of the play Jibansandhya. The land-motif triggered the inherent patriotic emotions of the audiences and in the

socks, but most importantly a life-cycle controlled by the clock (duty hours from ten in the morning to five in the evening). The cultural hybridity and the resultant social dilemma that the class faced has been critically analysed by Sumit Sarkar. Sumit Sarkar, Writing Social History, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 285, 305–7. 19 For a detailed discussion, see Ronald B. Inden and Ralph W. Nicholas, ‘Introduction’, Kinship in Bengali Culture, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973. 20 Prabhat Kumar Das, Parikatha (2005): 281–319, 314.

Community of Felt Emotions 71

passion invoked by the spectacle of the performance, they realized that they shared a core sentiment with their fellow spectators. The realization made them express their feelings out loud. The lingo they used to express their feelings—bande mataram—established an instant relation between their felt emotions and the ideas expressed in the play. Once the moment of passion translated into a moment of realization, the shared passionate reactions (expressed aloud and in unison) united the audiences in a community of felt emotions. *** The symbolization of land as janmabhumi and desh/bharatbhumi assumed a more anthropomorphic form when land was illustrated as ‘mother’ in the jatrapalas of the age. One such particularly notorious pala was Matripuja. The pala came to the notice of the colonial authorities when Mukunda Das began performing it in various parts of eastern Bengal and Assam. It was a skit that used the name of a pala originally composed by Kunja Behari Gangopadhyay. The pala by Kunja Behari Gangopadhyay was proscribed under section 124-A of the IPC for secretively alluding to various contemporary political incidents that would, the Raj believed, excite the people against the established government. While noting the allusions made in the pala, the colonial drama police gave primacy to a portrayed incident where the government had allegedly tried to ‘put down the cry of bande mataram’, or what the nationalists believed to be ‘the worship of the mother country’.21 Country or territory specific areas of attachment, synonymized with the idea of desh, appeared as mother in the pala. Perhaps, this was one of the prime reasons why the colonial translator indicated the existence of a close relation between the idea of ‘bande mataram’ and mother country. Bande mataram, written in Sankrit, translated as ‘hail thee, Motherland’. Therefore, the use of terms such as ‘matripuja’ (worship of the mother) and ‘bande mataram’ (hail thee, motherland) synonymously ascribed a new form to the land motif. A report sent to the Government of India in 1907 noted that the pala Matripuja ‘habitually excited disaffection’.22 The labelling was valid and 21 22

NAI-HP, Political A, May 1909, Progs. No. 110–17. NAI-HP, Political A, 1907, Progs. No. 114, Fortnightly report.

72 Performing Nationhood

justified, but the pala they found seditious was the one performed by Mukunda Das. The narrative of the pala, though not mythological in content, used the name of Gangopadhyay’s pala. The one performed by Mukunda Das opened with a scene that staged a dialogue between a character called santan (child) and Paramananda.23 The latter defined the purpose of the pala, that is, to beg for alms for the worship of the Mother. In the very next scene, a dialogic exchange between santan and the wife of a deputy magistrate was presented. The former identified himself as the son of the Mother who had chosen a peripatetic way of life to serve the country. A simple equation was drawn through these conversations that lend synonymity to the ideas of country and Mother. As desh assumed the form of Matri or Mother, the motherland motif became the symbol that triggered popular emotion. The symbol of Mother held a cultural significance in Bengal. On the one hand, she was Adya Shakti, the primordial force of creation and destruction. The symbol was fed by different portrayals of the form in theatre. Dramatic representations of Swadeshi Bengal added more layers of meaning to the motif that had a deep-rooted connection with the inherent emotions of the people. In the pala Durgasur, she assumed the form of Annapurna (the nurturer and provider of food). Nevertheless, she remained the janani-janmabhumi24 (motherland) in performative imagination. She was divine yet abstract in the form the motif assumed in the pala Banger Pratapaditya where she was ‘kapalini’ (the fearsome demon-slayer).25 The mother figure was invoked to inspire strength in the hearts of the emaciated Bengalis. Her portrayal on stage adopted a different shade with the pala Surath Uddhar Gitabhinay. An exponent of the motherland appeared as Angarajlaxmi who, on one hand, was portrayed as Mahamaya mahashakti26 (primordial energy) and as Bharatmata27 (Mother India) on the other. Thus, the pala invoked the idea of sacrifice through the following song: 23

WBSA-HP, History Sheet of Mukunda Das. Haripada Chattopadhyay, Durgasur, Calcutta: Pasupati Press, 1909, p. 231. 25 Khirod Prasad Bidyabinod, Banger Pratapaditya, Calcutta: Sri Gurudas Chattopadhyay Kartrik Prakashita, 1909, pp. 54–6. 26 Haradhan Roy, Surath Uddhar Gitabhinay, Calcutta: Sri Gurudas Chattopadhyay Kartrik Prakashita, 1907, pp. 1, 54. 27 Haradhan Roy, Surath Uddhar Gitabhinay, p. 54. 24

Community of Felt Emotions 73 jago jago joto Bharat santan! Koro koro shobe Matripujar bidhan28 [Arise all ye children of Bharat! And religiously worship the Mother Goddess.]

The divine motherland motif assumed the form of Bharatmata, equating the inherent patriotic attachment with one’s land with a larger emotional oneness with an abstract landmass imagined as Mother. Land was given a human form and in that capacity she was both divine and with superhuman powers. However, the imagination of Adya Shakti as a divinity was not new to the Bengali imagination. She appeared in various forms—Tara, Shyama, Durga, and Jagaddharti—a classification that continues to hold sway over the Bengali imagination. The form Adya Shakti assumed during the Swadeshi age, however, was a combination of divinity and land, assuming greater potency still as land became the divine mother and vice-versa. This caused the love for one and awe for the other to transubstantiate, giving form to a new imagination where land as the divine mother needed protection. All distinction between land and its human form, the mother, was lost when it was declared in the pala Surath Uddhar Gitabhinay: svarthapar paapachari mlechcchhadal, din din bharat jananir hridayer rakta nisthurer nyay soshan korchhe!29 [The selfish and sinful mlechcchhas are continuously sucking the lifeblood out of Mother India!]

This statement, where land assumed the form of India, wed the idea of land with the form of a mother. This imagination found a more vocal advocate in the character of Badal in the pala Padmini, where he resolutely declared that Chittor was his home because ‘janmabhumi jananir shange shange jay’ (Motherland is where the mother is).30 The mother figure portrayed in the performances was not restricted to being


Haradhan Roy, Surath Uddhar Gitabhinay, p. 54. Haradhan Roy, Surath Uddhar Gitabhinay, p. 124. 30 Khirod Prasad Bidyabinode, Padmini, Calcutta: Wilkins’ Machine Press, 1906, p. 159. 29

74 Performing Nationhood

a mother divine, a mother protector, or a mother nurturer alone; she was also portrayed as janani (the upholder of the honour of the family/ kula). Such an association appears in the pala Surath Uddhar Gitabhinay, where Birendra Singha laments the condition of the kingdom ruled by a mlechcchha king under whose reign, he fears, the ‘bharater ghare ghare pativrata sati’ (chaste and dutiful wives of Indian households) would lose their ‘kuladharma’31 (the codes of conduct of a familial kinship). Similarly in the pala Padmini,32 the protagonist, that is, the queen of Chittor and wife of Rana Bhimsimha, is described as ‘kulalakshmi’33 or the mainstay of the kula (family), threatened by jaban (foreigners). The term ‘kula’ refers to a set of people, a family, whose common reference point is the seed male or the ancestral male.34 Every person, man or woman, who shares the bija-purusa (male seed) is considered a part of that kula. However, the term also includes in its ambit all the females who marry into the kula. Thus, the wife of a male belonging to a kula becomes a part of that kula after marriage, though originally unrelated to it. She becomes the janani (genetrix) of the santan (progeny), ensuring the continuation of the kula and preventing its extinction. In fact, the express obligation of the wife and other female members of the kula seems to be to abide by their duty/dharma of holding together the continuity, solidarity, and integrity of the kula/family. So, in referring to queen Padmini as the kulalakshmi threatened by jaban (infidels), the narrative of the play tried to highlight the threat looming over the inner world of the people. The mother figure assumed the role of a genetrix entrusted with the responsibility of preserving the gosthi or localised patrilineage/descent group35 of the kula/clan. In this role, the mother assumed the earthly characteristics of a patibrata sati, the main upholder of kuladharma36 or the integrity and purity of the clan. In such a role, 31

Haradhan Roy, Surath Uddhar Gitabhinay, p. 22. Haripada Chattopadhyay, Padmini, Calcutta: Bhattacharyya and sons, 1337 BS [1930]. 33 Haripada Chattopadhyay, Padmini, p. 63. 34 Ronald B. Inden and Ralph W. Nicholas, Kinship in Bengali Culture, New Delhi: Chronicle Books, 2005, pp. 4–8. 35 Inden and Nicholas, Kinship in Bengali Culture, p. 8. 36 Haradhan Ray, Surat Uddhar Gitabhinay, Calcutta: Gurudas Chattopadhyay Kartrik Prakashita, 1314 BS [1907], p. 22. 32

Community of Felt Emotions 75

the mother figure was not only protective but also, under critical situation, destructive. Padmini, as the kulalakshmi bound to perform her kuladharma, unleashed the force of Adya Shakti and became one with it by performing jowhar (a traditional practice in parts of Rajasthan where women performed self-immolation to avoid disgrace at the hands of the invading forces). The self-sacrifice by Padmini was portrayed as an act of protection of the kula/clan, including the closest of kin. In fact, the act of sacrifice, coterminous with protection, was meant not merely for Padmini’s family members, but also for the people of Chittor. So, it was not merely about the protection of the kula but also safeguarding the integrity of the people of Chittor who formed the local descent group of the clan. Hence, they too, by definition, were people of the kula/ family of the genitor whose well-being was closely associated with the conduct of the genetrix. Thus, the mother figure was portrayed in the jatrapalas as a destructive force of Adya Shakti, a nurturing force of an earthly mother, as well as a protective force of kulalakshmi. Thus, the emotional attachment with one’s land was strengthened through its association with the inherent love one has for for one’s mother (the filial bond). The translation of the land-resident relationship (patriotism) into a mother–child relationship made the emotion elicited by the motif deeper and more dynamic in nature, enabling it to encompass all in a single unit. The mother motif or Matri acquired a polysemic stature within a cultural perception. The usage of a similar motif in the pala Matripuja brought to the minds of the audiences the varied meanings associated with it. Every time the word ‘mother’ appeared in the pala, associated images of land and nation came unbidden to their minds. A gallery of associated meanings nourished the mother image to assume a mutable form that oscillated between Mother land and Adya Shakti, but always remained a mother in essence. In the second scene of Mukunda Das’ pala, the character of santan (in the same trope of filial love and piety between mother and son), in conversation with the wife of a deputy magistrate, expounds the importance of boycotting the services of the foreigners. In scene four, santan convinces a prostitute to give up her profession and adopt the spinning of yarn for manufacturing swadeshi clothes. Interestingly, santan refers to the courtesan as ‘mother’ in this scene. A filial bond between two complete strangers is established through the idea of swadeshi that would benefit the Mother (both the

76 Performing Nationhood

Motherland as well as the courtesan saluted as mother) and help her to become self-sufficient without having to prostitute herself (a trope used to establish the slavish nature of the deputy magistrate in scene two) to earn a livelihood. The significance of the mother trope to trigger a filial bond with the land becomes apparent in the song that follows the second scene. The notorious ‘white rat’ song makes clearer the allusion hidden in the trope and the associated emotion targeted by the performances. Mukunda Das used the trope to trigger the sense of a core filial attachment and emotion that Bengalis upheld for their Matri, who was as much a divine Adya Shakti as their procreator or Genetrix, and redirect it towards the possible means to serve her. Swadeshi—or the production, sale, and use of indigenous clothes by boycotting everything foreign—was portrayed as a possible means to serve Matri or the mother. This proved to be an extremely effective measure. Following Mukunda Das’ performance of the play in Jessore, threatening notices that warned the shops against selling foreign made goods were put up in the Lohagarah bazaar complex, as a weekly report of the director of Criminal Intelligence noted in 1908.37 The notice further claimed that if anyone disobeyed the warning, their shop would be burned to ashes. A direct reaction to the performance, it brings to light two aspects of it—the trope reached out to the audiences who were eager enough to demonstrate their filial bond with the land by boycotting foreign-made goods, even if it meant adopting violent measures such as burning down shops; secondly, once the sense of a filial bond and the associated emotions got triggered, they moved beyond the limited space of the performance arena and established a bond of shared emotions among a larger section of people. *** The network of audibility moved beyond the closed space of performance of Swadeshi theatre and jatra, broadening the reach of the voices and the emotional attachment they engendered. Swadeshi songs, as discussed in the previous chapter, opened up the space of performance by diluting the strict distinction between a performer and an audience. Such volatility, in effect, ascribed a new dimension to widening the limits 37 NAI-HPB, Political B, February 1908, Proceedings No. 109, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated the 15 February 1908.

Community of Felt Emotions 77

of the public’s voice. New motifs were added to the gallery of existing ones that further strengthened the reach of the emotional bonding. Popular motifs of the Swadeshi performative media appeared repeatedly in songs as well. Prominent among them was the mother figure who was deified as ‘sujalan, sufalan, malayaja sheetalan’38 (richlywatered, richly-fruited, cool with the winds of the south). Kamini Kumar Bhattacharya imagined the symbol as ‘Kamala’39 that caught on the imagination of many Swadeshi composers. Another song found in the seditious song pamphlet Desher Gaan (Songs of the Country) imagined the motherland in a similar image, appealing to her goodwill to ‘shower upon Bengal all that is good in the world’.40 A part of the Hindu pantheon, Kamala or Laxmi is considered as the Goddess of Wealth and is believed to possess the power to bring prosperity to any place where she decides to reside. The use of ‘mother-as-Kamala’ motif, though extolling the cause of economic swadeshism, did not fit into the propagandist project of the revolutionary samitis. The very same pamphlet, Desher Gan, contained songs that portrayed the mother motif as Shakti or Chamunda, the primordial destructive force, whose very appearance, as the song suggested, would cause the ‘demons to pass their days in consternation’.41 In another song, the composer entreated the mother figure to reappear and unleash her destructive powers: Chandi, you appear in this age to punish Chanda and Munda … O Subhasankari (one who does good), relieve us of our fears. The Universe in agitated by the strides of the Daityas. Mother, awake in this age again to relieve us of our fears.42 38 The mother figure appeared so in the song ‘Bande Mataram’ composed by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. Aurobindo Ghosh translated the song in English and published it in Karmayogin. WBSA, E.B.& A., History Sheet of Brajendra Lal Ganguli, No. 21. 39 In the song ‘Sasan sanyata kantha janani’, the composer illustrated how the ‘storehouse of Kamala (the goddess of plenty) has been emptied by exploitation’. In the illustration, he associated the image of mother with motherland who appeared as a divine goddess of the Hindu pantheon. WBSA, E.B.& A., History Sheet of Brajendra Lal Ganguli, No. 21. 40 WBSA, E.B.& A., History Sheet of Brajendra Lal Ganguli, No. 21. 41 WBSA-HP, File No. 108 of 1909, Addenda No. 1 to History Sheet No. 15. 42 Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 172.

78 Performing Nationhood

Similar ideas of violence associated with the icon of Shakti were expressed in a song composed by Mukunda Das: What shall we fear for death when, to protect her children, Matangi (an epithet of Durga) has become riotous in the sports of war? … The oppressor of the demons is now mad. Can demons remain in Bengal any longer?43

Resplendent and fearsome in her divine role, the mother-figure assumed an anthropomorphic form in the song ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’, where the trope of mother was used to present ‘mother Bengal’. The composer wrote: O mother, in the months of Aghrayan, on your fields covered up with bumper crops What a pleasant smile have I seen. Along the banks of rivers, at the foot of the banyan trees What an apron of beauty, shade, love and affection Have you spread, mother, the words that fall from your lips Sound sweet like honey in my ears. Mother, if your face becomes pale My eyes overflow with tears.44

The composer masterfully coalesced the land motif with the mother motif in this particular song. A similar coalescence of the two motifs was cleverly achieved in the song ‘Swadesher dhuli swarnarenu boli’ where the composer portrayed the motherland as: This your body is made of her earth. This your body has been nursed in that. To that shall you return as earth. When the earthly play will be over.45

43 44 45

Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 161. Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 147. Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 148.

Community of Felt Emotions 79

The song ‘Amar desh’ by Dwijendra Lal Roy attained notoriety due to its rising popularity during the Swadeshi age. The song imagined land as a mother figure and motherland as desh, setting in motion a major enmeshing of tropes deployed by Swadeshi songs. Patriotism acquired a new form in the songs of Dwijendra Lal Roy where land was imagined in an anthropomorphic form of mother, and country as desh: O my India! O my mother! O my nursery, nurse and home! Why disheveled are thy locks And dim thine eyes with tears of gloom? Why art thou in rags? Oh why Has dust claimed one who’s born divine When four hundred million voices Sing thy name inviolate. When four hundred million children Call thee singing: Mother mine!46

The motif deployed in the song had a tremendous impact on the imagination of the audiences who came to watch or hear it being performed. In fact, it was one of the most widely popular songs of the period, sung at most processions and Swadeshi meetings. In 1909, the director of Criminal Intelligence reported the proceedings of a Swadeshi meeting held in Beadon Square, Calcutta.47 It was noted in the report that when the meeting began, there was hardly an audience present. However, when the meeting was formally inaugurated with the singing of the song ‘Amar Desh’, people, identified by the report as ‘small boys and young men of the student and shopkeeper class, mostly Bengalis with a sprinkling of Hindustanis’, began to flock there.48 The report calculated the strength of the gathered audience to be around 300 to 400. It appears that the song, with its immaculate tune (a marching tune has been used in the song) and the trope of mother for desh, appealed to all, irrespective of their social, class, and age differences. People who were hardly interested in the proceedings of the meeting flocked there just 46

Dwijendra Lal Roy and Rathindra Nath Roy, ed., ‘Gaan’, in Dwijendra Rachanabali [Dwijendra Omnibus], vol. 2, Calcutta: Shishu Sahitya Samsad, 1964, p. 645. 47 NAI-HP, Political B, October 1909, Progs. No. 110–17, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated 18 September 1909. 48 NAI-HP, Political B, October 1909, Progs. No. 110–17.

80 Performing Nationhood

because of the song. The sudden participation of uninterested individuals who were not acquainted with each other suggests that they were drawn in by the lyrics (and the tune) of the song. Although uninvited (I prefer to refer to them as ‘uninvited’ because, in this space, the occasion was not advertised as in theatrical or jatra performances), a certain emotion was triggered in the public that compelled them to become a part of the meeting and, in the process, positively acknowledge its ideals, which were conspicuously Swadeshi. The song ‘Amar Desh’ found a mention in another report where it was suggested that the song was quite popular with the agitators who organized Swadeshi processions and meetings. It made itself conspicuous by repeatedly featuring in other performative media like theatre and jatra. However, the report of 1909 came to the attention of the policing authorities in a rather unusual context. On 12 November 1909, the day of Janmastami (the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna), a murder was reported. Though the report did not state who was murdered, it brought to the attention of the government that two of the accused in the murder case were reportedly found singing the song ‘Amar Desh’ just before the murder actually took place.49 This piece of report was rather disconcerting for the Raj. The effect it had on the sensibility of the people and the triggering of an emotion of a rather violent nature became a matter of grave concern for them. The very next year, another report sent to the government brought to their attention how young boys of Eastern Bengal and Assam were marching on the streets singing the song ‘Amar Desh’.50 The reportage of such incidents surrounding the singing of the song could not be taken lightly. It was banned by the government in all its forms, printed and performed. Regardless, it does serve as a microscopic lens to evaluate the motherland trope used in Swadeshi songs and the effect it had on the emotions of the people. The motif, in its duality (combining land with the idea of desh as well 49 NAI-HPB, Political A, January 1910, Progs. No. 126–7, Monthly Report for the month of November 1909. Reported by the letter No. 9557-S. B., dated the 29 December 1909 (confidential), written by H. LeMesurier, chief secretary to the Government of Eastern Bengal and Assam to the Secretary to the Government of India, Home Department. 50 NAI-HPB, Political A, August 1910, Progs. 42–3, Report for the month of May 1910.

Community of Felt Emotions 81

as mother), produced images of a threatened household and that of a household symbolized as the body of the mother (referring also to the womenfolk of the household), and a clever association of the two with the idea of desh or country.51 The country (an abstract idea) became imaginable in its feminine form, which, above all, triggered such emotions that made the idea acceptable to the people (the arbiters). Other motifs, not quite popular with the theatre and jatra performances, found a place in Swadeshi songs. Divinity and anthropomorphic forms were simultaneously deployed in this instance as well. In this motif, however, a strong masculine figure found a place of pride. The motif finds a strong advocate in the song ‘Abanata Bharat tomare chahe’ (Degraded India needs you) by Kamini Kumar Bhattacharyya. The song uses Bivatsa Rasa52 to describe the condition of the country and the strict measures needed to correct it. Thus, the poet Kamini Kumar Bhattacharyya sang: Degraded India is in need of thee, Come Murari (a name of Krishna), wielder of the discus Sudarshana (a terrible weapon of destruction wielded by God Vishnu).53

A reference was made to Murari, the destructive avatar of Lord Vishnu, to invoke a sense of masculine prowess that emanates from the figure while it annihilates demonic forces. The image of Murari, the destroyer with his Sudarshan chakra and sword, was a powerful, masculine, and divine icon. Drawn from the Hindu pantheon, it already had a plethora of meanings associated with it in the minds of the people. Other popular songs referred to overtly masculine historical figures such as Pratapaditya, Nimai (the proponent of Bhakti ideology in Bengal), and Shivaji, or to contemporary figures such as Kanai Lal Dutta, Khudiram Bose, and Prafulla Chaki, in association with divine and masculine destructive forces such as that of Murari. 51

See Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and its Fragments: Colonial and Post Colonial Histories, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993. 52 Bharat Muni’s Natyashastra associates Rasa with taste, and Bhivatsa Rasa stands for hyperbolic gestures. 53 The extract is taken from the translation of the song Abanata Bharat tomare chahe provided in the History Sheet of Brajendra Lal Ganguli. WBSA, E.B.& A., History Sheet of Brajendra Lal Ganguli, No. 21.

82 Performing Nationhood

Reportedly, the boys of Netrokona sang one such song, extolling the martyrdom of Kanai Lal Dutta. The song was sung in the premises of a local temple of Kali54 to mourn the hanging of Kanai Lal Dutta. Though the transcript of the song sung at the gathering is not provided by the report, it mentions nonetheless that on the very same day, a notice of a rather violent nature was discovered on a wall of Bindu Bashini School. It warned the boys of the school against attendance on the day of Kanai Lal Dutta’s hanging. It is interesting to note that the association of Kanai Lal with divinity is ascertained through the interweaving of the time of his hanging with the performance of the song in a religious space, accommodating in this relation the deity of Kali, the Goddess of Destruction. Secondly, the much fanfare and pride with which his death is mourned suggests that Kanai Lal’s actions had raised him in the eyes of the people to the status of a divine martyr. The association of the two elements turned Kanai Lal into a protagonist of the divine motif of masculinity. No doubt, the singing of songs in praise of the man (and the glory of his actions) and the subsequent fate that befell him at Netrokona triggered the emotions of the youth to imbibe similar ideas as him and follow him on his course of action. The violent notice discovered on the wall of the school was an outcome of this triggering. The stage was thus set for the arbiter to feel involved in a performance. The feelings that the motifs evoked and the emotions that were triggered as a result caused the audiences to arbitrate in favour of the performance. However, the direction of flow of their emotions and actions was wayward and often adopted courses that went beyond the control of the ideologues, as demonstrated by the incident at Netrokona. *** Cultural artefacts and motifs capable of triggering popular emotion found a place of pride in the Swadeshi performances. The arousal of such emotions enabled the public to identify certain elements as ‘centrally meaningful’ that held significance for them and their fellow 54 NAI-HPB, Political A, January 1909, Progs. No. 94, Letter No. 4422-S. B., dated the 21 December 1908, sent by H. LeMesurier, Esq., C. I. E., I. C. S., Offg. Chief Secretary to the government of eastern Bengal and Assam, to the secretary to Government of India, Home Department.

Community of Felt Emotions 83

viewers, thereby establishing an instant connection/bond between them. As they exhibited their response to the identification of, and the connection they felt with, the leitmotifs, the spectators became aware of another reason responsible for their agitated response. They realized that their response was not just an assertion of their public role as arbiters but also the fountainhead of a common passion that emanated from the similarity of meanings they derived from the leitmotifs within their socio-cultural customs and the contemporary context. The common passion and its realization led to the development of a felt community55 that translated the shared bond of publicness into a shared bond of socio-cultural ties, which helped the people imagine themselves to be a part of a broader network.


Rajat Kanta Ray, The Felt Community: Commonalty and Mentality before the Emergence of the Indian Nationalism, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003.

4 Violence and Nationhood Unearthing the Hidden Transcript of Resistance

Radhakanta dirghakhyan mone mone bhoyer shange juddhya korechhilen. Je phul tini debotar pujar janyao tulte diten na, shei phul mlechcchha rajar pratinidhi musalman magistrateer tushtir janya dite badhya hoyechhen, sahosh kore ‘na’ bolte paren nai, nijer shei durbalatar anushochanay gachhtake tini shamule tule fele diyechhen. —TARASHANKAR BANDOPADHYAY, Padachinha1 The collective hidden transcript of a subordinate group often bears the forms of negation that, if they were transposed to the context of domination, would represent an act of rebellion. —JAMES C. SCOTT, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcript of Resistance


new set of order influenced by the colonial hegemony impacted the lives of many Bengalis, including Tarashankar Bandopadhyay.

1 Radhakanto fought for ages with fear in his mind. Flowers which he denied even his God, had to be plucked for the gratification of a Muslim magistrate, a representative of the infidel king, whom he could not gather the courage to refuse, hence, uprooted the tree to repent his weakness. See Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Padachinha [Footprints], Tarashankar Rachanabali, vol. 9, Calcutta: Mitra O Ghosh Publishers, 1405 BS [1998], p. 236.

Performing Nationhood: The Emotional Roots of Swadeshi Nationhood in Bengal, 1905–12. Mimasha Pandit, Oxford University Press (2019). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199480180.003.0004

Violence and Nationhood 85

The new order, perhaps, held a different meaning for each member of the community (something I will discuss in detail in the next chapter), but the responses it elicited fell into a pattern throughout the length and breadth of the Bengal Province. Narrating the experiences, and the subsequent responses, of the new order in his novel Padachinha, Tarashankar brings out the dilemma between public actions and private emotions. Radhakanto, the father of the protagonist, suffers a moment of indecision when his most intense hatred for the representative of the ‘infidel’ king/Raj fails to find expression in his public actions due to the fear of retribution.2 It forced Radhakanto to suppress his displeasure at being compelled to give his prized possession to the Muslim magistrate, flowers that he did not offer even to the Gods. His fear compelled him into obedience in his public action. Hiding his hatred for the act, he complied, however, his private emotions repented his weakness. His hatred for his own fear and the desire to avenge his humiliation stirred his private emotions. Away from the surveillance of the Raj, Radhakanto unleashed his emotions on the said rose bush, which he uprooted as an act of vengeance against those who had humiliated him. Though the fear of retribution had forced Radhakanto to assume the role of an obedient servant of the Raj, in private, where he was assured of the absence of the prying eyes of the Raj, he shed his mask and expressed his emotions in the most violent form. Thus, the idea of resistance from the subordinated, though not overt, is not wholly absent from their private world. However, this resistance remains essentially out of the sphere of direct interaction between the dominant and the subordinated. Hence, in all essential public interactions between the dominant and the subordinated, what can also be referred to as the public transcript, there is a tendency to hide. The history of the Swadeshi era in Bengal (early twentieth century) is underlain by such incidences of hiding. The colonial experience ingrained in the minds of the subordinated Bengalis inspired a tendency in them to hide their unpretentious feelings about the colonizers/the dominant. Fear sealed their mouths in the public transcripts. The act of hiding 2 As Radhakanto later explains to himself, the fear psychosis lay in the memory of the retributive acts of merciless killing of Santhals during a rebellion by the British, stories he had gathered from his grandmother. Padachinha, pp. 240–1.

86 Performing Nationhood

assumed the form of dissimulation.3 In fact, the more menacing the power, thicker was the mask.4 Silence and disguise marked their public interactions, when dislike welled in their hearts, bordering on the desire for vengeance,5 as witnessed in the case of Radhakanto. James C. Scott shows that in such a large-scale structure of domination, a sequestered space for the critique of the dominant, and domination, is invariably created by the dominated where they can vent their feelings. It is in this space that they voiced what they hid in their public transactions. In one of the weekly reports sent to the director of Criminal Intelligence, the policing authorities indicated, ‘A proposal made by the agitators to build a theatre here is considered to be directed towards the evasion of the new act against seditious meetings.’6 The dominated felt relatively safe voicing their innermost feelings in this space because it was hidden from the surveillance of the hegemonic order/colonizers. The Swadeshi performative space, hidden from colonial surveillance, in this sense, afforded the public/audience an opportunity not merely to realize its publichood but to voice its opinions as well. Visualizing/hearing and discussing/expressing one’s feelings transpired in the space simultaneously. What the public/audience saw and heard began to be discussed in context of the feelings and emotions pent-up inside them. To understand what transpired in the space of performance, therefore, we must pay closer attention to the nature of the performance (inquiring into the public/private dichotomy) and, if one accepts Scott’s hypothesis, also try to gauge how the relationship between performance and audience response within the performative space created a platform for giving agency to the muted voices (as discussed in Chapter 2). 3 Jean Baudrillard defines dissimulation as a pretension of not having what one has, Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, trans. Sheila Faria Glaser, Ann Arbour: University of Michigan Press, 1994, p. 2. 4 James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts, London: Yale University Press, 1990, p. 3. 5 ‘The process of domination generates a hegemonic public conduct and a backstage discourse consisting of what cannot be spoken in the face of power.’ The backstage discourse develops its own form and means of insubordination that he refers to as the ‘infrapolitics of the powerless’. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance, pp. xii–xiii. 6 NAI-HPB, Political B, August 1907, Progs. No. 141, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, Simla, week ending 17 August 1907.

Violence and Nationhood 87

The invocation of shared feelings within the space of performance forged a strong bond of emotion between the members of the audience. Beyond their highly region-specific and profession-specific identities, people gained a new identity that subsisted on the commonalty of culturally shared archetypes and a sense of exclusion of the ‘other’. The process of imagining a bond, therefore, harnessed the emotional commonalties of the people as much as their qualitative differences. But what made the audience ‘feel’ and ‘imagine’ the bond so ardently? Performances, no doubt, highlighted—in narration and (re)presentation—the differences and similarities shared by the people. However, could such performative mechanisms alone have sufficed to forge a unity among them? Search for entertainment could have been one of the factors that drew them to these spaces. However, if their motive behind visiting such spaces was entertainment alone, could they have felt the ‘sensation’ and ‘rush of emotion’ invoked by the performances that presented on stage their personal experiences? Though it is widely assumed that audiences, being at the receiving end of a performance, consume notions portrayed before them indiscriminately, they actually have a far greater involvement in the process of reception. Audiences have their own set of notions that often influence the ideas presented by the performative media. Perhaps this contributed to the formidable stature that the strategic public voice, audible within the performative arena, gained. The newly acquired vocality of the people spelt danger, not merely because of the judgement it could now pass on the notions presented in the performances but also because of the additions/changes it could make to them. Popular voices, in many instances, forced/ persuaded the performances to introduce changes in their framework, for instance, the closing down of the performance of the play Durga Das at Pogaldighi cutcherry (see Chapter 3). It shows how the success and continuance of a performance, hence the ideas (re)presented by it, depended largely on the endorsement of the theatre visiting public, the voice of whom remained silent or muted in all public transcripts. In the space of performance and among their compatriots who felt equally the brunt of colonial subjectivity, the colonized people raised their voices to register their opinion in favour of ‘us’ and against ‘them’—something they were denied in their public transaction with the colonizers. People carried within themselves this vocality, anger, and the subsequent sense of difference from the ‘other’ to the space of performance and

88 Performing Nationhood

expressed them in the performative arena. In the space of performance, the emotions felt in common by them transformed their mutual dependence into an imagined bond. Thus, in the hidden space of dramatic and musical performances where they sought to vent their suppressed feelings and experienced a bond defined by the sense of a national ‘self ’, the two feelings merged together to develop the social imagery of ‘us vs. them’. All those who suffered under the colonial rule and shared the fate of the colonized (muted by subjectivity, bonded by emotions felt in common) identified with this national ‘self ’ and dissociated themselves from the dominant group (in the power structure)—the colonizers. A critical discussion about the ‘other’ group was usually carried out in the performance arena, particularly in enactment and often at the receiving end too. Performances, and at times receptors, attacked and decried the injustice of several acts and policies felt by the people under the regime of the powerful colonizers. The performances staged in the mufassils and villages of Bengal often flouted the legislations of the colonial government and faced prohibition by their law. Within the space of performance, such acts clearly and openly contravened the authority of the colonizers in the hegemonic structure. However, the act of subversion mostly remained secretive, avoiding contact with the public domain. This raises a question about the public nature of the performances. If the performances avoided contact with the public domain, how can we consider them to belong to the public space? Scott resolves this dilemma by highlighting the hidden nature of association in a ‘shared situation of subordination’.7 However, this should not lead one to believe that the hidden nature of the space made it any less public. The space served as a platform for voicing one’s opinion and critiquing the hegemonic order in two distinct ways: talking against the Raj, which was imbued with a ‘latent sense of violence’,8 thereby dismantling its disciplining order of subordination; and developing the identity of a national ‘self ’ by denying the clasp of the ‘other’/colonial ‘self ’ of the British Raj.9 7

Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance, p. 8. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance, p. 39. 9 ‘The hidden transcript does require a public, even if that public necessarily excludes the dominant. None of the practices and discourses of resistance can exist without a tacit or acknowledged coordination and communication within the subordinate group. For that to occur, the subordinate group must carve for 8

Violence and Nationhood 89

Though the relations among the colonized were characterized by ‘symmetry and mutuality’, the hidden transcript developed an experience no less tyrannical, where a ‘coercive pressure’ was generated ‘to monitor and control deviance’ within the group.10 Hence, the hidden transcript of resistance enacted in the performance arena targeted not just the colonizers but their coterie of Indian supporters, and imitators, too. The performances levelled their criticism against the public life organized in imitation and support of the English. Moments of reproach appeared in performative renditions of texts where a gross caricature of the Indian public life was enacted. The caricatures mirrored various practices of the contemporary politics and society. In every mirrored practice, images often repeated themselves—illustrations of a good image suppressed and oppressed by a bad image. The use of grotesque gestures and dialogues made the caricatures laughable. The caricatures distorted the image of the bad and their unscrupulousness to such an exaggerated extent that they became ludicrous. The laughter that such portrayals could inspire was tinged with criticism and, in most cases, contempt. Thus, the laughter that the media encouraged gave the public—the disempowered—an opportunity to review and deride the more powerful and made allowances for disciplining the body and mind of those among the public who took recourse to deviancy. At the receiving end, the audiences could, and often did, express— in no uncharacteristic terms—the notions they held about the power holders. The people who visited such performances with their newly acquired vocality voiced their views regarding the performances or about the notions presented in them. The expressed views were not always influenced by the performances alone. The worldview that the audiences carried with them to the space of performance played a significant role in this expression. This was mostly coloured by a ‘latent sense of violence’ they nurtured against the perpetrators of their humiliation and insult (the colonial Raj). As discussed earlier in the chapter, the subordinate/colonized group did not vent out such feelings in their public transcript with the colonizers (owing to the subordinated status they

itself social spaces insulated from control and surveillance from above.’ Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance, p. 118. 10 Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance, pp. 26–7.

90 Performing Nationhood

suffered in the colonial power equation). The expression of emotions that the audiences felt in response to the performances acted as a vent for the anger, frustration, and a host of other emotions they felt against the colonial regime. Often, the expression of resistance depicted signs of violence. The disempowered, in their attempt to vent their feelings and emotionally feel their nationhood,11 took recourse to violence in speech and gesture. The emotion of nationhood and its expression by the people in the performance arena, therefore, assumed a definite character and nature. In this chapter, I will, therefore, look closely at the emotions invoked by the performances in the minds of the audience, and the way people/the audience perceived these emotions, resulting in the addition of a ‘latent sense of violence’ to the disseminated notion of nationhood, both at the performative plane and the plane of reception. *** Voices freed from the shackles of silence spoke a language undecipherable for others—a language expressing the emotions triggered by cultural symbols used in the Swadeshi performances. Despite its exclusivity, people—like Radhakanto—feared retribution. Protective of their refuge where they had the freedom to speak their mind, the performers and the audiences alike were reluctant to allow a forfeiture of this space to the Raj. The colonial legal framework did allow them a respite from its surveillance, yet the people were not convinced. They wanted to act like Radhakanto—violently and in complete seclusion from the prying eyes of the colonial authorities. An indomitable desire such as this made them look for models and means that would ensure for them a moment of shedding the mask that had hidden them from the dominant. However, this was not an easy task. It required careful deliberations that would hide the process as well. The coded symbolism of the performances needed to be disseminated in a form that would seem harmless on the surface and was entertaining on the whole. Swadeshi


I have deliberately used the term ‘their nationhood’ to draw the attention of the readers to the contours of nationhood that eventually emerged in Bengal, and later in South Asia per se. This aspect of the Swadeshi nationhood will be gradually unveiled in the course of this chapter and in the next chapter.

Violence and Nationhood 91

theatre, jatra, and songs adopted a mode of excess that allowed performers and the audience to vent their feelings, like brothers-in-arms, yet remain hidden from the colonial eyes.

Transcripting the Hidden Resistance A hybrid performative culture had flourished in Bengal since the nineteenth century, owing to the interplay of two social classes, as well as their cultural tastes, that made up the theatre going audience.12 This allowed the collation of theatrical performances to be as amenable to the melodramatic genre as to realism. In this order of things, thematic scenes, gestures, and dialogues that were introduced within the malleable structure of the genre allowed the application of the interpretive skills of both the performer and the audience,13 while shades of realism maintained the semblance of obedience on the surface. Melodrama, being a drama of excess,14 was rooted in ‘high emotionalism and stark ethical conflict that is neither comic nor tragic’.15 The magnification of emotions felt by the author was rendered remarkably well before the audiences in an exhortative dialogue, ‘Kill-kill! My 12 Theatrical performances of the late nineteenth century attained a new height with the founding of the public stage. Performances were no longer restricted to a few educated bhadralok audiences or among men certified by the bhadralok as a qualified audience. As the social range of the theatre going audience expanded, so did the public taste that the theatrical performances had to take into account. The middle class men who became frequent visitors of theatre along with the educated bhadralok class brought with them a taste for the performative techniques of jatra performances. Faced with the stupendous job to serve both the categories of audiences, theatre developed a middle way between Western Realism and the vibrancy of jatra performances. A hybrid performance, thus, came into being in the theatres of Bengal. For an in-depth discussion, see Sudipto Chatterjee, The Colonial Staged: Theatre in Colonial Calcutta, Kolkata: Seagull Books, 2007, pp. 144–9, 162. 13 M. Hays and A. Nikolopoulou, ‘Introduction’, in Melodrama: The Cultural Emergence of a Genre, ed. Michael Hays and Anastasia Nikolopoulou, New York: St. Martin’s, 1996, p. x. 14 P. Brooks, The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama, and The Mode of Excess, New York: Columbia University Press, 1995, p. 5. 15 Brooks, The Melodramatic Imagination, p. 12.

92 Performing Nationhood

mother … is dancing violently with her tremulous tongue protruded, with a view to drink the blood of the mlechcchhas. … Prepare a garland with the heads of the mlechcchhas! … Kill-kill, tear into pieces! The golden India is going to be reduced to ashes! Kill-kill!’16 Spoken by a madwoman, the exuberant violence of emotions expressed played with the coded term ‘mlechcchhas’.17 In the context of the Swadeshi agitation and the enmeshing of time by Swadeshi performances, the term assumed a layered meaning, referring to the Mughals as well as the English at the same time. The rhetoric fed a new enthusiasm into the nationalistic emotion,18 though pretending to be a crucial narrative functionality. The rhetorical torrent opened up new avenues for surreptitiously expressing the grievances the performers and the audiences held and shared in the context of the swadeshi movement and the dissimulation they practised before the colonizers. The similarity of their feelings was used to suggest meanings in the performance that were comprehensible to that particular group alone. With the help of such manoeuvring, the melodramatic genre of performance filled the theatrical (re)presentations with innuendos and double meanings, enabling the Bengalis to hide, as well as enact, their resistance against colonialism. For this reason, melodrama became a particularly liked and implemented aspect of a performance. The show of disrespect/resistance against the power holders/colonizers also found a place in the inciting speech made by Siraj in the play Siraj-ud-Dowlah. He says: Banger santan, Hindu Mussalman, Banglar sadhaho kalyan, toma shobakar jahe bangshadhargan- nahi hoy Feringhi nafar. Shatrugyane Feringhire koroho porihar: bideshi feringhi kobhu nohe aapnar, Svarthapar- chahe matra rajya adhikar. Hou shobe judharte prostut.19

16 The translation of the passage can be found in the WBSA-HP (Confidential), F.N. 206 (10–12)/1911. 17 The term ‘mlechcchha’ was used for non-believers and was often used against Muslims, as in the play, where it was directed against the Mughals. 18 The memoir of Apareshchandra Mukhopadhyay, Rangalaye Tris Batsar, cited in Prabhatkumar Das, Parikatha, p. 307. 19 Girish Chandra Ghosh, Siraj-ud-Dowlah, Calcutta: Gurudas Chattopadhyay & Sons, 1361 BS [1954, 6th edition], pp. 29–30.

Violence and Nationhood 93 [Sons of Bengal, Hindu and Mussalman, work for the betterment of Bengal so that your successors do not have to serve the feringhi as their servants. Considering every feringhi your enemy and exterminate them. The foreigner feringhi can never be your friend. A selfish being, he only craves to control this rajya (kingdom). Prepare yourself for battle.]

The Swadeshi speech performed onstage put into the character of Siraj excited feelings of most bitter hatred against the English in India.20 The passionate words of the speech undermined the faith that ordinary people put in the majesty and permanence of the English government in India.21 The policing force of the colonial government noted in Brahmanbaria in Tippera, a ‘recrudescence of unrest as shown by the objectionable demeanour of the people’.22 It shows that the harangues presented by performers impersonating Siraj had a tremendous impact on the mentality and conduct of the public. The speeches, acting more as propaganda, worked out a single evil force or darkness—that is, the power holders/the colonizers—looming over the light of civilization of the colonized. This ethical conflict underscored each speech made in the performance. The identification and singling out of the evil force in the colonizer affected the behaviour of the public towards the colonizers. As in the case of Brahmanbaria, the ‘objectionable’ behaviour of the people and the eventual ‘recrudescence of unrest’ suggests that acts of a violent nature were often committed by the audiences, both within and without the theatrical space, in their attempt to stress upon their commonness, hence their nationhood, thereby staging a resistance against colonialism, both onstage and off it. A similar act of resistance was performed in the play Holo Ki. The performance held the exaggerated action of an Englishman, Mr Redox (a representation of the power holders/colonizers), kicking a Swadeshi agitator. The act in itself was not very potent, though it did express the threat the empowered section held against the disempowered. It symbolically extended to all the members of the community of the 20 WBSA-IB, S.N. 23/1909, F.N. 179/1909, confidential letter, dated 8 November 1908, from an eminent Bengali scholar to the Commissioner, Dacca division. 21 WBSA-IB, S.N. 23/1909, F.N. 179/1909. 22 NAI-HP, Progs. No. 113, Political B, January 1908, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated the 11 January 1908.

94 Performing Nationhood

disempowered, connected by their samajik (social) bond. However, it amounted to being nothing more than a justification for the act that followed. It depicted the Englishman, Mr Redox, being beaten up by some Bengali youths. This was a potent act, undoing or resisting the oppression of the colonizers embodied in the person of the actor playing the Englishman. The actions of the impersonators underscored the ethical conflict inherent in the dualistic division created within the society by the colonizers. The evil dominant is shown avenged for his oppressive nature. Within the enmeshed time frame of the performance, the audience felt itself present in the act and in the shoes of the actors who beat up the Englishman. This had a cathartic effect on them. A surge of passion emanated from the audience’s imagined ability to avenge its grievances. This brings to one’s mind the reminiscence of Richard Wright on how all the crossroad talk and gossip among the black boys about the whites, offstage, revolved around the show of violence against them and a supposed consternation between a black man and white, where the white man was wasted by the other. These fantasies and gossips, he concedes, formed the touchstone of the fraternity they shared.23 Swadeshi performances offered similar stories that fed the vengeance seeking soul of the disenfranchized audience/public—something the people feared to reveal, or even speak of, in their public transcripts. The action of the Swadeshi boys beating up the Anglo-Indian man gratified their ‘latent sense of violence’ and their hearts rejoiced in being the virtual perpetrators of the action, owing to the ‘you-are-there’ effect produced by the performance. A cathartic effect was what the men of Swadeshi Bengal sought in the performances. Even in the performance of the circus party from Poona, performed in Rajshahi and Rangpur,24 people looked for a space to release the grievances that had piled up in their hearts. The skit performed in a circus arena demonstrated resistance in the most direct form. The narrative revolves around an English missionary and the many paramours his wife has in Indian men (see Chapter 1). The narrative, though bringing together the experiences and memories of 23 Richard Wright, Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth, New York and London: Harper and Brothers, 1945, pp. 67–9. 24 NAI-HPB, Political A, October 1907, No. 76, Fortnightly Report from 4 to 9 September, Shillong, 25 September 1907.

Violence and Nationhood 95

the people, did not serve as the key release point. Rather, one particular scene of the skit served that purpose. The scene with the English missionary getting beaten up by young national volunteers acted as that outlet for the performers and the audience. There was a definite role inversion enacted through this scene, allowing the dominated/ subjugated to gain an upper hand over the dominant race. Moreover, the release came when the inversion was enacted through an absolute show of violence. It was not merely the jatra performers but also the audiences or jatrar darshak who craved for such a catharsis. Jatrapalas that were unable to provide such release points in their narrative failed to attract audiences. As discussed earlier, Mukunda Das had reportedly confessed that being an entertainer, he had to take into account the taste and opinions of the audiences to run his show and unless Swadeshi elements appeared in his performances, his shows would not attract their attention. The subsequent colonial reporting attested to his statement.25 A performance, as reported by the Amrita Bazaar Patrika, held at the house of a local gentleman in 1908 brings to our attention how the audience present there forced the jatra party to sing Swadeshi songs.26 But the most violent of these was the action taken by the youth of Bhatpara for whom a cathartic end was achieved by violent means. They decided to completely dissolve the boundary between the performers and spectators and actually beat up the actor who was playing the role of a foreign merchant in the pala Sujajna.27 The dominated were eager to vent the feelings they had nourished underneath their garb of obedience. They looked for moments within the space of performance when they could shed that garb and say out aloud (or act overtly) what they really felt within. The most intense dislike against the dominant pulsated through their veins, seeking a release. When it did find a vent, the results were remarkable. 25

The pala Ranajiter Jiban Jajna had to be pulled down the board by a jatra party because the local authorities allowed its performance only after a few passages were deleted. This deprived it of all interest and audiences did not turn up for the show. The manager had to give up the idea of performance altogether for this very reason. NAI-HPB, Political B, June 1909, Progs. No. 115–24, Weekly report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated 1 May 1909. 26 ‘A National Song Incident’, Amrita Bazaar Patrika, 20 November 1905. 27 NAI-Home Political, Political B, August 1910, Progs. No. 10–17, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, Shimla, 21 June 1910.

96 Performing Nationhood

Their voices unmuted and actions unmasked, the Bengalis sought for an amelioration of their condition in the performative space—something they had been unable to achieve in their public dealings. Resistance, as a necessary action for denying the authority of the existing regime, nevertheless remained suggestive in nature in theatre and jatra for the fear of prohibition. However, Swadeshi songs opened up new avenues for the performance media and audiences alike, affording them an opportunity to express their resistance in a most overt language, yet remain outside the purview of colonial surveillance. This indeed created a perplexing situation for the Raj. They noted that it was a ‘new phenomena’ visible in the countryside of Bengal28 and was quite difficult to be brought under surveillance. Mukunda Das gained fame through his performance of the pala Matripuja, but his popularity rested more on the songs that formed an integral part of all his spectacles. These songs, sung as a part of the pala, also gained a life of their own when sung by the composer as well as many other songsters of the age. A weekly report sent from Khulna noted that a party of one Biswesar Nur, found to be an offshoot of the jatra party of Mukunda Das, was singing objectionable songs in the district.29 During a swadeshi and boycott meeting held at Karimganj in the Surma Valley region, songs by Mukunda Das were sung to inspire nationalist ideals among the gathered audiences.30 One of these songs invoked the oft-deployed mother symbol of Matangi to inspire among the audiences a sense of togetherness based on collective memory and root it on firm grounds. It categorically stated: ‘The oppressor of the demons is now mad. Can demons remain in Bengal anymore?’31

28 Home Political (Confidential), Police Report from Eastern Bengal and Assam, 22 January 1907. 29 NAI-HPB, Political B, January 1909, Progs. No. 106–12, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated 12 December 1908. 30 NAI-HPB, Political B, July 1908, Progs. No. 72–81, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated 20 June 1908. 31 Amiya Kumar Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, vol. 4, Calcutta: Government of West Bengal, 1995, p. 161.

Violence and Nationhood 97

The song coaxed the audiences to ‘behold, the thunderbolt has fallen on the mother’s body’.32 But the passage that most concerned the Raj was the one that not only encouraged the audiences to avenge the fate of the mother figure, but also incited them to action by providing them a justified ground for performing such an action. It said: Prepare yourselves, O ye children, The Hindus and Muhammadans, Without caring whether you live or die. Advance with the sword in hand, You may take Mukunda with you, if need be.33

When the translation of this song reached the magistrate responsible for judging Mukunda Das’ guilt as a marked disseminator of sedition, he said, ‘Only one interpretation of this exuberant passage is possible, viz., that it is a direct incentive to the natives of Bengal to unite in open rebellion against the “demons” as Government.’34 The association of words with the spaces where they was performed proved dangerous. Dissatisfied with a suffocated sense of freedom, people wanted some means (even if it was merely verbal) to shout out their mind and heart’s desires. Mukunda Das’ song, and to sing along with it, offered such an opportunity to them. The act of singing, especially the words so seriously condemned as seditious by the Raj, amounted to a major contravention. However, they remained hidden in the multitudinous voices that hummed along. Naturally, when the song ran through the audience gathered at the Surma Valley conference or the spectators gathered in some open space, they sang along, not merely for the attraction the lyrics held for them but also for the opportunity it offered them to shed their mask and pronounce what had been boiling inside their being. The emotional outburst visible among the audiences in case of Swadeshi songs transposed the boundary of the performance arena. It gained a lengthier, and often far-reaching, lifespan, whereby it travelled far and wide through a melodious means of communication. Swadeshi

32 33 34

Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 161. Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 161. Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 161.

98 Performing Nationhood

songs sung by itinerant songsters reached out to the people and their melodious tunes were often repeated by the listeners. The rural population was found singing songs that were prohibited and proscribed by the Raj. One such song was ‘Alas! Satan coming to such prosperous country’ by Mukunda Das.35 The song gives a detailed account of the miseries of the common folk: The weavers of the country do not get even two handfuls of boiled Rice twice a day (in the morning and at night) Being compelled by starvation, they have given up weaving (lit., shuttle) and are totally done for … O, we are tiring life out by hard labour, And yet our misery is not gone.36

The images of misery illustrated with extreme pathos are followed by a vivid description of the cause of such miseries. The song suggests that even during the reign of the Muslim rulers, the living conditions of people had not come to such a pass because ‘the wealth of the country remained in the country and the subjects were happy’.37 Attesting to the happiness the people experienced, the composer asserts that even rice used to sell for eight maunds (a unit of measurement popular in Bengal) a rupee. This situation seems to have been inverted by Satan who plundered the land of prosperity. The precarious nature of the living conditions of the people is best depicted through the following expression: Plundering away the wealth of the country, they have made us beggars and wear rags … and it is difficult now to get eight seer a rupee.38

Dangerous words were being sung in the song in a most pleasing tonality. Audiences were being offered an opportunity to voice their 35 36 37 38

Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 126. Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 197. Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 197. Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 197.

Violence and Nationhood 99

grievances in the most harmonious manner possible. Unfortunately, however, it failed to breed harmony between the composer/singer and the Raj. The list of prohibited songs prepared by the CID noted that this particular song by Mukunda Das was being sung in the countryside by ‘tillers of soil’.39 A social class difficult to gauge, the term ‘tillers’ could have been used to refer to landless labourers. These men, dissatisfied with their toiling lot and the oppression they faced at the hands of the dominant, voiced their dissatisfaction with the reigning situation through the song in its most harmless and melodious form. Thus, the magistrate of the colonial government noted: The bad effect which such mischievous misrepresentations of the economic problems connected with trade much necessarily have upon minds insufficiently educated to understand those problems in their true light and to realise that such statements are in fact misrepresentations is sufficiently obvious, but apart from the whole tone … is clearly intended to rouse feelings of hatred and enmity towards the English (who, though not named, are obviously intended) as plunderers (the phrase used in the original is as strong a phrase to convey the meanings as could possibly be) and the author of all the devils under which the writer represents his country as suffering.40

Interpretations of such a sort had a tremendous impact, even though the Raj believed the colonized to be ‘minds insufficiently educated’. However, as things turned out, they were soon to realize that the general trend of public opinion was in favour of such interpretations. People wanted to visualize and hear such interpretations so that their distressed condition could seek amelioration in the act. The symbolic effect of such rising voices seeking amelioration through action became aptly evident in the singing of Swadeshi songs after the acquittal of those who were accused in the Comilla Case. A telegram report sent to the government notes that on 23 August 1907, the day they were acquitted, they visited a temple in Dacca and sang songs all along the way.41 A processional movement and 39

Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 126. Samanta, Terrorism in Bengal, p. 197. 41 NAI-HPB, Political B, September 1907, Progs. 6–43, Telegram, dated (and received) 23 August 1907. From the government of Eastern Bengal and Assam, to the secretary to the Government of India, Home Department. 40

100 Performing Nationhood

the singing of songs by several school boys who accompanied them to the temple makes one believe that perhaps those who could not publicly express their opinion, despite being in favour of the accused, gave vent to their latent sense of violence against the dominant by supporting those who actually attempted to subvert its authority. Though it is surprising that most of these men were accused of fermenting a riotous situation in Comilla, other men—especially young boys—idolized them, not because of their role in the riot but for their chivalrous act of violently going against those who purportedly supported the dominant to oppress the dominated.42 Amrita Bazaar Patrika reported another incident in 1907 when the songster Brajendra Kumar Ganguli, having entertained the audiences with Swadeshi songs, was heaped with praises by them. The act of praising amounted to a show of their sense of violence because they shouted out slogans of ‘bande mataram’ together. The gathered audiences openly flouted the prohibition imposed on the usage of the term in public places. The songs excited them because they triggered their hidden emotions, which burst forth in loud shouts and established an instant connection of shared emotions and expression between them. Representations generated by Swadeshi songs effected a kind of mimesis among the audiences. The ideas or notions of violence that found justification in the songs began to be imitated by the audiences. Since the songs were mostly performed in open spaces, the participation in them was not restricted to the performers alone. By virtue of singing along, the audiences sometimes became performers themselves. Such a spontaneous upgradation introduced a kind of volatility into the space of receiving meanings or notions disseminated by the songs. In such a dialogic space, where performance merged with reception, notions of violence often got introduced in the voices of the audience-cumperformers. During the performance, the merging of the two aspects of this space caused the disseminated notions to gain a new meaning. Not only did the ideas remain within the purview of the performance but also gained a new meaning in the expressions of the audiencecum-performers. Notions of nationhood and of oneness were stressed through the emotion of violence that surged through the minds of the 42 The riot in Comilla is believed to have occurred when Nawab Salimullah visited the place after Bengal was partitioned.

Violence and Nationhood 101

audience-cum-performers. A state of unmadana43 (almost a trance-like emotion) was felt by the singers (both the performers and the audiencecum-performers). A revolutionary of the period noted that songs helped the people to feel resentment or bidyesh towards the foreigners.44 Such feelings made them develop an intense desire to sacrifice their lives, if the need arises, for the country.45 Jadugopal Mukhopadhyay further noted that the Swadeshi songs instilled a feeling of uddipana (enthusiasm) in the hearts of the audience-cum-performers who internalized the idea of nationhood disseminated though song along with an enthusiastic feeling of self-sacrifice, bordering on violence. The idea of violence became deeply embedded in the notion of nationhood received and interpreted by the audiences in the volatile space of musical performances. Thus, music and song performances helped the people to come out of their hidden simulative spaces and voice a violent transcript of resistance. *** The community of oneness transformed into a community of resistance. In speech and in action, the audiences resisted the oppressor and its acts of oppression. The Swadeshi performance media such as theatre, jatra, and songs painted the colonial world into two shades, dark and light, through the usage of specific archetypes. Stark shades of dark and light, engendered by archetypes, encouraged and nurtured the transcripts of resistance. The archetypes and the resultant expressions by the people, however, associated particular meanings to the qualitative constitution of the notion of nationhood. The symbols that appeared repeatedly in the Swadeshi media associated elements of violence to the feeling of oneness. Such incidents demonstrate that the elements of violence embedded in the archetypes or in the manner of their representation naturally encouraged the association of violence with the notion of nationhood among the people for whom performance provided a space for demonstrating their protest and for receiving new ideas. In this section, I will look closely at these incidents of violence (both latent 43

Hemchandra Qanungo, Banglay Biplab Prachesta [Revolutionary Endeavours in Bengal], Calcutta: Chirayit Prakashan, 1984, p. 54. 44 Qanungo, Banglay Biplab Prachesta, p. 52. 45 Qanungo, Banglay Biplab Prachesta, p. 53.

102 Performing Nationhood

and overt) to analyse why the public/audience, at the receiving end of a performance, readily allowed the merging of the idea of violence with the bond it experienced in the space of performance. The new age that influenced greatly the Bengali life and habits introduced a predicament in the Bengali psyche. In his memoire, Tarashankar Bandopadhyay constantly refers to this impasse. A gobhir bedona (deep melancholy) rendered their heat asunder, though they accepted the ‘new’ language, habits, and education introduced by the British civilization at the expense of the indigenous civilization.46 The deep-seated dilemma becomes more prominent in one of the incident that Tarashankar narrates in his memoire. In his village, Labhpur, the psychic duality that plagued the Bengali minds and emotions became all the more evident in the socio-economic rearrangement that the village underwent. As Tarashankar noted, a clear schism appeared between the zamindari class of the pre-colonial era and the newly emergent byabshayi/business class of the new age.47 In this tussle, he concedes, the moneyed interest won over the erstwhile feudalistic classes. The struggle was most often restricted to meagre admonitions, but occasionally assumed the form of public humiliation. Narrating one such incident from his village, Tarashankar shows how his father and two other lesser zamindars were asked to seek the forgiveness of a nouve riche businessman for protesting against a misdeed encouraged by him. They could have refused to comply, but, as Tarashankar has rightly pointed out, ‘dordondopratap englandesvarer protinidhir e adesh amanya korte tader sahosh holo na.’ (They could not gather the courage to defy the orders of the representative of the King of England.)48 Hence, they publicly apologized to the man. Despite the show of obedience in front of the power-holders, which can definitely be read as Scott’s public transcript, the disempowered—in his private space—resented the humiliation/apaman he had to undergo due to the incident.49 In fact, he sought protikar (amelioration) of the disgrace. This incident demonstrates that the author’s father and the other petty zamindars of Labhpur—the disempowered—despite being 46 Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Amar Kaler Katha [The Stories of My Age], Calcutta: Bengal Publishers Private Ltd, 1358 BS [1951], pp. 22–3. 47 Bandopadhyay, Amar Kaler Katha, pp. 5–6. 48 Bandopadhyay, Amar Kaler Katha, pp. 64–5. 49 Bandopadhyay, Amar Kaler Katha, p. 67.

Violence and Nationhood 103

insulted by the representative of the colonial regime, did not consider it sensible to oppose it in their public transcript. However, that did not make Tarashankar’s father any less desirous of justice in his private/hidden transcript. The hidden transcript of his father left a deep impression on the mind of the young Tarashankar who later recalled his father’s despair over being forced to apologize—a detestable act to which he certainly would have preferred death.50 The anger at the humiliation one faced and the thoughts of violence, turned towards oneself in this case, marked the hidden transcript of the disempowered. Hemchandra Qanungo, a member of the early twentieth-century revolutionary society, in his reminiscences about the Swadeshi era, talks of a hidden transcript of a more violent nature. In his autobiography, he noted, ‘ingrejer amale desher lokmat, purbe je ekta dukhya anubhutir ulyekh korechhi, tar khub poshok hoyechhe. Sheta hochchhe bideshir aropito ninda o ghrinajanita dukhya.’51 (Under the English regime, public opinion is extending patronage to a melancholic emotion that I have mentioned before. The sorrow is derived from the criticism piled upon us by the foreigners and from the abhorrence they show towards us.) Since the early days of colonialism, Bengalis had developed a taste for violent overtures/judhyabigrahaer byapar.52 In the early twentieth century, when they learnt to decry every form of oppression (by this, the author means colonial oppression), the voices they began to raise in their private/hidden transcripts often became associated with their pre-existing craving for freedom.53 The author attests to this development by mentioning the Dr Ryand murder case of Maharashtra where the Chapekar brothers shot down an official of the Raj for the plague of humiliation that had infected the Marathis under the quarantine arrangement of the colonial administration.54 This particular incident narrated by the author was definitely a transgression of the hidden transcript of resistance; nevertheless, it brings to our attention the latent sense of violence that marked the emotional psyche of the colonized. The Bengali audience/public carried this sense with itself to the performative space 50 51 52 53 54

Bandopadhyay, Amar Kaler Katha, p. 65. Qanungo, Banglay Biplab Prachesta, p. 8. Qanungo, Banglay Biplab Prachesta, p. 2. Qanungo, Banglay Biplab Prachesta, pp. 2, 12. Qanungo, Banglay Biplab Prachesta, pp. 12–13.

104 Performing Nationhood

where the people shed their masks and expressed it in their reactions to the portrayals onstage. Hemchandra’s assertion that the audiences craved for such performances, which portrayed ethical conflicts, battle-scenes, and triumph of the good over the evil through shedding of blood, indicates that as performance-visiting/listening public, the disempowered section often sought protikar through acts of violence. They tried to experience triumph over their intimidator in a space where chances of official retaliation were few and they were, in all likelihood, assured of the emotional camaraderie of their fellow audiences/public. However, the space of dramatic and musical performances was not always hidden, though neither explicitly visible to the Raj. In a legal sense of the term (at least in the colonial legal parlance) the places of jatra, theatre, and musical performances were indeed ‘public’. Being held mostly in visible spaces led them to be characterized as public performances. However, the imageries and portrayals appearing in the performances seldom held any direct reference to the Raj/the hegemonic order. Heaped with symbolic representations and archetypes, such portrayals remained elusive for those who did not undergo a similar experience or did not share the fantasies that the performances directly accommodated. Even the colonial surveillance system acknowledged the importance of such spaces for enacting the hidden transcripts of the colonized/disempowered. They also duly noted that performances that did not contain seditious material failed to draw in audiences. Police surveillance found that many mendicants failed to secure alms if their songs were devoid of any antigovernment supplications.55 Dramatic performances that were forced to forego seditious passages because of the surveillance of the policing authorities failed to draw audiences or, on several occasions, had to be abandoned altogether. These instances can function as an entry point into the discussion on whether the audience/public was a mere consumer of the ideas portrayed in the performances? The audience/ public, as the instances demonstrate, functioned as a prime decisionmaking body alongside the theatre groups, jatra parties, and musical samitis that determined the content of the performances. Performative media was no doubt a means of dissemination, but the nature of the 55 NAI-HPB, Political B, Proceeding No. 144, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence for week ending 24 August 1907.

Violence and Nationhood 105

subject of propagation altered itself according to the taste of the audience/public it sought to entertained. Meaning, the world view and the fantasies of the audience/public were duly taken into account while making the performance. Audience/public did seek entertainment, but one that allowed the people to shed their masks and catered to their fantasies of a violent resistance against the subordinator. In order to understand the trajectory of this resistance, I will try to unmask the hidden and locate in it the importance of violence in cementing the bond they shared. The space of performance attained prime importance due to its nature of being in a state of flux that combined together its private and public aspects. Moreover, the audience/public did not just ‘feel’ in this space but expressed what they felt as well. Hence, the emotional bonding and identification with a national ‘self ’, engendered in the space of performance (as discussed in the earlier chapters), derived sustenance from the world view of the public/audience, the very same world view coloured by a latent sense of violence. This becomes visible in the verbal shedding of the mask that the audience/public practised in the space of performance. In the earlier chapters, the analysis of the community engendered by the excitement expressed in the performance arena and the communitarian nature of the resultant bond has brought to our attention instances where the audience/public shed their dissimulation of obedience to rejoice, or even encourage, portrayals of moments when a violent action was served to evil-doers/power-holders/the subordinator. The expression of the wish to beat up an actor playing the role of an oppressive foreign merchant56 or even the breaking of glass bangles by women stirred up by the songs of Mukunda Das57 were not idle actions born out of the public’s felt emotions, or the knowledge of a commonalty existing between them, or even the source of this commonalty, but a part of the process of shedding the mask and expressing desires they nurtured58 but hid in their public transcripts. 56 NAI-HPB, Political B, August 1910, Proceedings 10–17, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, Simla, 21 June 1910. 57 NAI-HPB, Political B, February 1908, Proceeding 109, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated 15 February 1908. 58 Miss Sorabji, a legal adviser to the estate of Kalitara Sen Gupta of Noakhali, noted in one of her letters to the secretary to the Board of Revenue, Eastern Bengal and Assam, that the zenanas (womenfolk) of the household

106 Performing Nationhood

The latent sense of violence that pervaded their spoken words or actions in the private space often rode over the boundary of the performance arena owing to the blurring of the private–public dichotomy of the performative spaces.59 Lying between the public transcript (operational under and within the reach of the hegemonic order) and the hidden transcript, the space of performance assumed the characteristic features of a threshold, imbibing some aspects of both. In this sphere, the disempowered enacted an overt resistance, thereby making their defiance visible, but remained hidden individually to escape the wrath of the power-holder. James C. Scott has termed such actions of resistance by the disempowered as ‘infrapolitics’.60 It is in this space that the Bengali

talked sedition and were comfortable talking about it within the premises of their households. She further noted that even the jhis (household help) talked against the government and approved of the assassination of the deviants, the disempowered who failed to abide by the rules of the counter-hegemonic order. NAI-HPB, Political A, April 1909, Proceedings No. 51, Fortnightly Report for the month of February 1909. The female population of Bengal cherished anti-colonial desires, mostly derived from the narration of the encounters between the power-holders and the disempowered recounted to them by the male members of their family or of their locality. This raises a question about the notions they cherished: Was the fantasy they harboured a mere imitation of the male section of the disempowered lot or was it an outcome of their personal encounters? I will take up this question in the next chapter. 59 Performances of the Swadeshi era, particularly jatra performances, maneuvered between two spaces: private (spaces that remained outside the fold of the legal surveillance of the Raj) and public. Despite their private nature, the performances elicited such enthusiastic reactions from the audience that a shared sense of publichood was engendered in them (see Chapter 2). This ability of the Swadeshi performances to make private public introduced a dichotomy in the very constitution of the performances. For an in-depth discussion on this dichotomy, see Mimasha Pandit, ‘Making Private Public: Unearthing a National Voice 1905–1911’, Exploring History, vol. 3, no. 2 (2012): 47–59. 60 The term ‘infrapolitics’ has been borrowed from the theoretical analysis of James C. Scott who has defined it as the source of ‘much of the structural and cultural underpinning of the more visible political action on which our attention has generally been focused’. See James C. Scott, Chapter 7, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.

Violence and Nationhood 107

audiences made a public show of their anger, but remained safely hidden from the gaze of the Raj. The colonial surveillance detected such actions of resistance, but could hardly act against them due to the invisibility of the culprit. Weekly intelligence reports of the colonial policing authorities informed of a notice being stuck at the Lohagarah bazaar in Jessore following the performance of seditious songs by the notorious jatrawallah, Mukunda Das.61 The notice warned the sellers of the said market against importing and selling foreign goods or face serious consequences. The consequence that the notice threatened the sellers with was overtly violent. It stated, in no uncertain terms, that the shops of those discovered importing and selling foreign-made goods would be burnt to ashes. Mukunda Das discouraged the use of foreign goods in his popular song ‘White Rat’ and the song ‘Chhere dao reshmi churi’ (Forego the foreign-made glass bangles), both of which formed a part of his famous parody Matripuja. The performance of this particular skit earned him both fame and notoriety in the Swadeshi era. The nature of the audience/public reaction following Mukunda Das’ performance does hint at the nature of the very same songs and performances he was famous for. However, the violence the actions demonstrated did not directly result from Mukunda Das’ songs. Hemchandra’s reminiscences and Bandopadhya’s memoire help us to unravel the private fantasies of the disempowered who committed the act. The violence resulted from the private desire of the colonized Bengalis to avenge their humiliation by a show of force similar to what they faced in their daily interactions with the power-holders. The ripple effect that the appearance of the aforementioned notice, following Mukunda Das’s performance in Jessore, created can help us understand the widespread presence of the private fantasy, bordering on a latent sense of violence, of the disempowered. A month after the incident of Lohagarah bazaar, which did face the brunt of public violence through acts of incendiarism, as was threatened, another notice in the same vein appeared at the Kechhua Bazaar in Khulna.62 It threatened the shops selling foreign goods with a fate similar to the burnt shops of Lohagarah unless they gave it up 61 NAI-HPB, Political B, February 1908, Proceedings No. 109, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated 15 February 1908. 62 NAI-HPB, Political B, May 1908, Proceeding No. 36, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated 4 April 1908.

108 Performing Nationhood

altogether. More such notices appeared in the bazaars of Backarganj and Faridpur between March and May.63 The fantasies of the audience/ public of Jessore that received a fillip from Mukunda’s performance did not depend entirely on the performance itself for the sustenance of the emotion of vengefulness. Though the emotion seethed in them, they kept it well hidden due to the fear of retribution. In the space of performance, however, hidden from the prying eyes of the power-holders and among fellow men who shared its fate and emotions, the public/ audience expressed its rage. This emboldened the members of the audience to enact it in areas beyond the security of the performative space as well, hiding their individual identity behind the mask of anonymity, or else a mob. The secret police reported one such incident from Chandpur in the Hill Tippera district. Narrating the course of agitation in Eastern Bengal and Assam, the policing authorities reported a performance of the play Pratapaditya held at the National School. The play attracted the attention of the drama police owing to the charges of sedition and objectionable language raised against it in previous government reports. However, the reason behind the performance getting reported was not limited to this. The report further gave an account of the boys of the school shouting anti-British remarks.64 The reporter observed that the boys made themselves conspicuous through the act. However, despite their act of making themselves voluntarily visible, the colonial government could not, or did not, take any disciplinary action against them. An incident of a similar nature was reported from Bakarganj on 13 December 1910, where the police officers who were following a procession of Swadeshi singers were attacked with ‘ribald jokes’ and ‘unpleasant gestures’ by a group of boys.65 The report informs that the

63 NAI-HPB, Political B, Proceeding No. 48, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated 21 March 1908. NAI-HPB, Political B, Proceeding No. 161, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated 2 May 1908. 64 NAI-HPB, Political A, January 1908, Proceeding No. 50, Report on the agitation in eastern Bengal and Assam during the second half of October 1907. 65 NAI-HPB, Political B, April 1910, Proceedings No. 72–80, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, Simla, 1 January 1910, eastern Bengal and Assam.

Violence and Nationhood 109

boys involved in this act of treason were not a part of the procession. They stood as spectators as the procession passed by their institution— identified as Bande Mataram Institution (probably a National Institute). These boys also made themselves conspicuous by their verbal abuses and gestures towards the power-holders. Babu Parbati Raman Sen, a sub-inspector of the Kotwali in Mymensingh district reported a similar incident where he faced abusive remarks and gestures from some people who had congregated for a meeting. The subinspector visited the town hall where the meeting took place to take notes on its proceedings.66 During the conference, in the presence of two other subinspectors who had accompanied him, ‘several members of the audience stared and laughed at him [Subinspector Parbati Raman Sen]’.67 Moreover, while the subinspectors were returning from the meeting, ‘some boys’ sneered at Parbati Raman Sen, calling him ‘damn nonsense’. However, the police officers did not note down their names because, as they recalled, ‘We did not think it prudent to ask their names for the fear of further molestation and creating a row.’ Thus, the perpetrators of the abuses remained unnamed, hence hidden. It is interesting to note that in all these cases, the disempowered individuals did not engage in acts of defiance alone but in a group. This marked their intention to remain hidden, yet make their complaint/anger public. Infrapolitics provided them an opportunity to be vocal, yet remain hidden at the same time. The disempowered populace of Bengal, by 1910, were eager to hide themselves but not their anger and desire for vengeance. It gradually began to emerge in their hidden transcripts and often spilled out into the public space. This helped draw them together, not merely because they experienced a common emotion but because they could express that common emotion. Thus, an alliance was sealed between nationhood and violence.

66 During the swadeshi and boycott agitation, police officers were entrusted with the duty to attend public meetings in order to take notes and report sedition, if they detected any, to the magistrate. NAI-HPB (Confidential), Political B, August 1910, Proceeding No. 106, Letter No. 753N, from the Hon’ble Mr R. Nathan, C.I.E., I.C.S., Offg. chief secretary to the government, to the secretary to Government of India, Home Department, Shillong, Simla, 28 July 1910. 67 WBSA-PB, Government of Eastern Bengal and Assam, F.N. 606/1908, Proceedings No. 1–7, Enclosure No. 2.

110 Performing Nationhood

*** The performative space of the Swadeshi era, besides engendering a sense of nationhood in people, also served as a space for enacting the hidden transcripts of resistance. The dual purpose it served prepared ground for violence. The engendering of nationhood required, and stemmed from, an active ‘othering’. As observed in the critical analysis of the performances—in words and gesture, lyrics and music—an ‘other’ appeared and was identified as the power holder/the colonial authority whom the subordinated/audience/public thoroughly despised. The connection between the portrayed oppressor and the Raj/ power-holder was established through a curious logic of emotionalism. Young Tarashankar could not identify the logic; he merely conceded to it being some bichitra abirbhabh (strange tidings) of the age that allowed his youthful mind to correlate asuras (demons) with the colonial Raj.68 Perhaps, it was the same logic that made Nirad C. Chaudhuri’s mother ask her younger son to break an English-made glass jug out of sheer vehemence for the makers of the product.69 It was an emotional outburst that the public/audience suppressed in their public transcripts. If denied an outlet (away from the vigilant eyes of the power-holders), the emotions might have been suppressed entirely. The performative space gave an outlet to these emotions (I do not claim, however, that it was the sole space where the hidden transcripts of the people unfolded). Hence, the receptor—eager to express his emotions of hatred, born out of humiliation, among his equals—found a situation and space for it in the Swadeshi performative arena. As violent emotions poured out into the space—both in words and gesture (and music)—members of the audience/public forewent their sense of self (atmabismrita) and compounded into one whole, amra. Thus, the expression of the very emotions that bonded the public/audience in a national ‘self ’/amra was rooted in a sense of vengeance, one which made men like Tarashankar’s father and Hemchandra to look for protikar (amelioration) in acts of violence. The roots went deep and established a place for violence in the emotion of nationhood. 68

Bandopadhyay, Amar Kaler Katha, pp. 152–3. Nirad C. Chaudhuri, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 225. 69

5 Oppressed ‘Self/Selves’ Emotional Roots of Nationalism

Ultimately, modern oppression, as opposed to the traditional oppression, is not the encounter between the self and the enemy. … It is a battle between … pseudo-rulers and their fearsome other selves projected on to their ‘subjects’. —Ashis Nandy, The Intimate Enemy1


n this book, while describing and mapping the formation of a national community in Bengal from a mere group bound together by sensation, and the awareness of its effect, I came across many discrepancies and inconsistencies in the nationhood that emerged out of it. When I began to look closely at performance media such as theatre, jatra, and songs, described as ‘techniques of mass contact’,2 I realized that they served as more than just mirrors reflecting the ideas of the age. The performance media played an important role in disseminating the ideas of nationhood and in engendering a community based on emotions. The notion of nationhood emerged from the pages of the books and speeches by Bengali intellectuals and came alive in the performative space. The performances laid bare their ideas before the

1 Ashis Nandy, The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983, p. xvi. 2 Sumit Sarkar, ‘Techniques of Mass Contact’, Swadeshi Movement in Bengal, 1903–1908, New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 1972.

Performing Nationhood: The Emotional Roots of Swadeshi Nationhood in Bengal, 1905–12. Mimasha Pandit, Oxford University Press (2019). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199480180.003.0005

112 Performing Nationhood

unlettered public of Bengal. It became the mirror that showed them what they desired the most—protikar or amelioration of the conditions oppressing their spirit and being. The desire coalesced with the emotions excited by performances in the performative arena. Thus, the emotional expression of their innermost desire paved the path for the audience’s realization of their self, ‘amra’. But the amelioration of the colonized situation that people sought often varied in nature, and this gave rise to the dilemma of the oppressed. For instance, in the earlier chapter (Chapter 4), I have depicted how the amelioration sought by Tarashankar’s father for the humiliation he faced at the hands of the colonizers differed in degree from what Hemchandra Qanungo sought. The dilemma perplexed me. If, as a community of emotion—as amra—both sought amelioration, then why did it vary in its degree of realization? Reading through the texts, I realized that the notion of ‘amra’ varied, at least in the instances dealt with in the previous chapter. Tarashankar’s father, in identifying amra as a fraternal bond, limited its boundary to the fading zamindari families of Labhpur, whereas for Qanungo, amra comprised of all those who were not portrayed as the ‘other’. For Qanungo, the limits of amra emerged from the stark contrast with the ‘other’—the colonial rulers. But for Tarashankar’s father, the nouveau riche of Labhpur—in collusion with the servants of the Raj—emerged as the ‘other’, elements of which he feared even in himself. Thus, the notion of amra remained relative to the notion of the ‘other’; yet it constantly needed to be decried and rejected to realize the self. But the varying degree of comprehension of ‘amra’ and ‘other’, as determined from the various instances discussed earlier in the book, prevented the notions from having a degree of homogeneity; instead, the line of relativity served as a threshold where the volatile notions played against and with each other, producing layered notions of nationhood. Multiple interpretations were heaped upon the disseminated meaning of nationhood, making it a multi-layered notion. Looking closely at the performative mechanism, I realized that a particular feature inherent in all these performances made such a multiplicity of interpretations possible. As clarified in the introductory chapter, by performance I mean the performer, the mise-en-scène, and the audience as well. Audiences, like the performers, played a significant role in the process of transubstantiation. In the fourth chapter of the book, I have shown how this

Oppressed ‘Self/Selves’ 113

was essential for enacting a hidden transcript of resistance. A semantic transubstantiation3 was at work during a performance, assisted by popular imageries. For instance, the symbol of sacrifice was embedded in the popular imagination as an essential ingredient for worshipping Adya Shakti (the Mother symbol), which was transubstantiated for the cartographic Mother (the Genetrix), who dissolved into the image of the upholder of dharma (the samajik [social] duty that held together wife and husband, mother and child in a relationship). Symbolic representations tried to disseminate to the people the notion of their duty towards the nation, which was sought to be associated with the Mother image embedded in the socio-cultural imagination of the people. Thus, performance, with all its attributes, became a rite of passage. It became the temporal and spatial arena for communicating/transforming the notion of nationhood, as conceived by the performer-ideologue, into the understanding/comprehension of the audiences. Therefore, it is to this passage that we have paid close attention to understand the process of replacement of one meaning for another, or transubstantiation. Arnold A. van Genepp first pointed out the importance of a rite of passage. In his book The Rites of Passage,4 he showed how in every society there are moments and spaces where movement from one plane to another could be effected. Written as a framework for anthropological analysis, van Genepp divided the rites of passage into three progressive successions: ‘rites of separation’, ‘threshold rites’, and ‘rites of reaggregation’ for which he also employed the terms preliminal, liminal, and postliminal respectively.5 In the first plane, notions or ideas were disseminated, hence a ceremony of transition was initiated. Once initiated, the ideas entered a liminal plane where they were broken down into bits so that they could be re-built. However, in the liminal phase, the process of re-building did not always mean that an idea would assume the shape and form that it had cast off while entering this phase. A dilemma visited 3

The term has been discussed in detail in Chapter 4 of the book. For further detail, see Richard Schechner, Between Theater and Anthropology, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985, pp. 183–4. 4 Arnold A. van Genepp, The Rites of Passage, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960. 5 Victor Turner, From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play, New York: Performing Arts Journal Publication, 1982, p. 80.

114 Performing Nationhood

upon the recipient of the idea who could now decide either to revert to the old definition or revoke the old form for a new one. This plane in its temporal and spatial capacity was ‘in betwixt’—a plane of many possibilities. The last plane, or the post-liminal stage, was the plane of reaggregation. In this plane, the deviant ideas engendered in the liminal plane were remodelled and re-integrated into the mainstream or the socio-culturally accepted notions. The transition of ideas from the disseminated form to a new form, especially during the Swadeshi age, can be analysed within this framework. Notions of nationhood disseminated by the performative media such as theatre, jatra, and songs entered the post-liminal stage when they were merely being communicated to the audience. At this stage, the notions were reminiscent of the dramatist-performer. But as their ideas entered the world of performance, the audience and the performer at times became one with each other. This was particularly true of jatra performances. Moreover, the assimilation and interplay of different time frames and spaces often granted the performance arena a volatile nature. It never had any one time frame, nor did it have a defined space. The resultant effect of this fluid nature of performance was often felt on the space of performance that, in the process of initiation, was an equivalent of van Genpp’s ‘liminal plane’. Here, the performer as well as the audience stood apart from the sanctioned socio-cultural structure. The notion of nationhood in this plane assumed varied forms and shapes. It was stripped of its old form and rebuilt according to the world view of both the performer and the audience. In the fourth chapter of the present work, I have highlighted one significant form that the notion of nationhood acquired in this liminal space. Thus, in the process of engendering a community, a performance developed different layers of perception at various levels of comprehension. As a cultural site for hegemonic struggle, the arena of performance acted as a site for skirmish, as Ashish Nandy has pointed out, where the superiority of us/amra was fought out against ‘them’. Lata Singh identified the space of performance (particularly, theatre) as an important site of colonial authority. She has shown how ‘colonialism appropriates, de-contextualizes, and represents the “other” culture and legitimizes its authority by asserting its cultural superiority’.6 In this space, colonialism 6 Lata Singh, ed., Theatre in Colonial India: Play-House of Power, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 2.

Oppressed ‘Self/Selves’ 115

accords the status of ‘high’ to the culture of the dominant power-holder and relegates the cultural forms of the dominated/the Orient to a ‘low’ status. A part of the British civilizing mission, colonialism tried to generate a state of mind by which the dominated could, and would, accept the superior status of the colonizers and their own inferior stature, thereby making the colonial rule desirable. This, however, Singh deems as just one side of the story. In a reverse order, performative spaces also served as the arena for engendering notions of anti-colonialism. As we have already seen in the previous chapter, Bengalis modulated the site for enacting their resistance against the colonial authority while remaining hidden from the surveillance of the Raj. They overhauled popular culture to contest colonial domination. Performances became the hidden transcript of Bengali resistance. But the resistance did not remain restricted to anti-colonialism. The images and archetypes used to stage resistance often inverted the existing colonial superior–inferior dynamics. The very edifice on which stood the infallibility of the Raj was threatened by the new imageries presented to engender in people a notion of the ‘self ’. Furthermore, as I closely looked into the world of Swadeshi performances, I found that they served as a platform for bringing together the memories of the people. The Swadeshi performative media—theatre, jatra, and songs—brought together tales and stories that the people shared in common. Along with the stories already embedded in popular memory, these media brought together new stories from all over the territorial boundary of India. The usage of varied stories, of both Bengal and other parts of India, was an attempt to form a narrative that not only inspired a feeling of community but also encouraged building up of a narrative common to all those people who were bound in that community. Benedict Anderson would have us believe that printed words alone have the potential to bring together a disparate group in a community.7 Reading of the same word by people from across a large expanse of land joined them in a community of readership. But the progression of the understanding into an emotion required a more spontaneous media that would appeal to popular imagination. If circulated in print alone, ideas 7 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and the Spread of Nationalism, London: Verso, 1983.

116 Performing Nationhood

had little or no chance of holding meaning for the non-literate mass. This was particularly true for the majority of the Bengali population that was ill-conversant in the art of reading. As repeatedly pointed out in the present work, Sumit Sarkar in his seminal analysis of the Swadeshi movement highlighted an attempt on the part of the Swadeshi ideologues to disseminate their ideas by appealing to the imagination of the people. Performance media of the Swadeshi era played a significant role in appealing to the popular imagination. The idea of community, engendered in the texts of performance, created an ‘order of indigeneity’ in gradual progression—first being transformed into an idea and then an emotion with the help of performative techniques. While tracing the progress of this transformation from an idea into an emotion, I found that the nature of the performative time and space played a significant role in effecting a uniform layer of interpretation of the idea of nationhood. Uniformity often comes at a high price; the price paid for it being shouldered by people who are scarcely offered an opportunity to play a role in deciding its value. The act of resisting colonialism, or the antihegemonic struggle (as discussed in Chapter 4 with regard to the hidden transcript of resistance), created an alternative in its wake, a hegemonic order of the colonized. Performance as a site for enacting the hidden transcripts of resistance assumed prime importance as a space that could accommodate the transition from the anti-colonial struggle to a hegemonic order and, in the process, introduce a degree of conformity among the public/audience. Counter-hegemony standardized nationalism in an emotional order. A particular set of emotions gained the status of a ‘nationalist’ manner of expressing oneself. A disciplinary ‘order of indigeneity’ tried ordering the imagination of the colonized into a cosmic whole called ‘amra’ and vigorously stressed upon the difference of the same from the ‘other’. Various sets of motifs and symbols that were supposed to hold meaning for the dominated were introduced in the performances so that they could cement the bond shared between the members of the audience. But surprisingly enough, the archetypes used in the performances either suppressed various ethnic identities who were equally a part of the dominated group, or else used them as the butt of their allusions. For instance, the peasants under the domination of the landed estate-class or the continuous vilification of Muslim historical characters for alluding to the dominant/the Raj created a conflict for the realization of the cosmic whole called ‘amra’. In this

Oppressed ‘Self/Selves’ 117

context, it is essential to understand how the meaning derived from the performances by the dominated/audience, and the subsequent emotions that it invoked, affected the public/audience. While following the trail of the idea/notion of nationhood into an emotion, I realized that the meaning of an idea disseminated by the performers underwent a transformation at the moment of reception. This process engendered an emotional bond/nationhood that substituted one meaning for the other, and the muted voices found a release in the nuanced perception of a Swadeshi nationhood. *** Colonialism is a state of mind that is nurtured and enforced by the Orientalist discourse. Edward Said identified Orientalism as the ‘corporate institution for dealing with the Orient’.8 He concedes that none of the categories associated with colonialism, namely the colonizer and the colonized, are fixed or self-evident, nor do they represent any natural difference. Both of them are historically constructed categories. Hence, the category of the colonized/Orient is a produced category. The European culture, Said further argues, ‘gained in strength and identity by setting itself off against the Orient as a sort of surrogate and even underground self ’.9 In this analysis, Said attributes immense importance to the power of the colonizer. Homi K. Bhabha questions such a one-sided emphasis. Bhabha believes that such simplistic analysis pays little attention to the role played by the colonized in producing and interpreting colonial discourse. The entire process of meaning-making involved in producing the colonial subject involved a hybrid representation, which is often beyond the control of both the colonialist and the colonized.10 Thus, ‘the objective of the colonial discourse is to construe the colonized as a population of degenerate types on the basis of racial origin, in order to justify conquest and to establish systems of administration and instruction.’11 8

Edward Said, Orientalism, New Delhi: Penguin, 1979, p. 3. Said, Orientalism, p. 3. 10 Richard King, ‘Orientalism and the Study of Religion’, in The Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion, ed. John Hinnells, New York: Routledge, 2005, pp. 275–90, p. 282. 11 Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture, New York: Routledge, 1994, p. 70. 9

118 Performing Nationhood

Based on this definition of the colonial discourse, the classification ‘colonial’ and ‘colonized’ by the late nineteenth century, the time of high imperialism, rigidified the stereotypical imagination of India/the Orient, particularly of the Western-educated Bengalis who were seeking a share in the colonial rule, and pushed the category colonial to be reified as the necessary rule of the ‘manly’ superior Englishman over the ‘effeminate’ inferior. A code was set that the ruler and the ruled now shared. Ashish Nandy identifies this as the ‘homology between sexual and political dominance’.12 It played the function of altering the codes that originally informed the cultural priorities on both sides.13 However, as Nandy points out, the ‘ultimate violence which colonialism does to its victims, is that it creates a culture in which the ruled are constantly tempted to fight their rulers within the psychological limits set by the latter.’14 Once the colonizers began to ascribe cultural meanings to domination, the role definitions of colonialism were internalized by both the dominant and the dominated.15 This ‘cultural co-optation’16 led the dominated to identify themselves with the dominant for cultural legitimation. A search for martial Indianness marked the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, where the emulation of ‘manliness’ of the English became the assured means of denying one’s effeminacy and ascribing cultural authenticity to oneself. The hidden transcript of resistance that unfolded in the performative space of Swadeshi Bengal completely inverted the signifiers of the images of ‘them’ and ‘us’. The images broke free from the state of mind created by colonial stereotyping. The masculinity that informed every inch of the colonial imagination infused with the Orientalist imagination of India and constantly pushed the colonizers to portray themselves as diametrically opposite to the unchanging, weak, inferior, and effeminate natives. The transcript of resistance of the Swadeshi performative space holds evidence of performative aspects (both performance and reception) that attests to the generation of seditious or anti-government feelings among the people of the land. In one of the performances of 12 13 14 15 16

Nandy, The Intimate Enemy, p. 4. Nandy, The Intimate Enemy, pp. 2–3. Nandy, The Intimate Enemy, p. 3. Nandy, The Intimate Enemy, p. 6. Nandy, The Intimate Enemy, pp. 6–7.

Oppressed ‘Self/Selves’ 119

Girish Chandra Ghosh’s notorious play Siraj-ud-Dowlah, the Bengali translator and the legal remembrancer of the colonial government noted that the play has gained in popularity over the years in various parts of Bengal owing to the changes in the scriptural language that the play was put through in every reproduction.17 The translator particularly pointed out the addition of new words in the speeches of Nawab Siraj and the English merchants portrayed in the play due to the requirement of dramatic progression. In many words, the nawab described the English merchants as deceitful bottom-dwellers who had snatched the throne of Bengal from the hands of the nawab by chicanery. The translator laid great stress on the means—the many words in the drama that implied this message. He claimed that such words undermined the prestige and awe in which the colonial rulers were held in Bengal. Both the translator and the legal remembrancer also drew the attention of the colonial Raj to the gesticulations to which the seditious words were applied.18 The English merchants, identified by the audience/public as the representatives of the colonial rule and racially one with the colonial rulers, were shown bowing and kneeling before the nawab. Such actions, though apparently appearing as a part of the dramatic progression, generated various degrees of revulsion in reality. The net result of the portrayal was duly noted in the various weekly reports sent by the policing authorities to the director of Criminal Intelligence. In 1908, the drama police reported deterioration in the attitude of the people towards the colonial government in Dacca, where the local theatrical company staged the aforementioned play.19 In one of the reports sent by the local government to the Eastern Bengal and Assam government, the authorities noted that the dramas of a seditious tendency ‘pandered’ to the taste of the people.20 In another report on the application of the Dramatic Performance Act (DPA), 1876, the colonial authorities noted that seditious tendencies were disseminated by the dramas. The report 17

WBSA-IB, S.N. 23/1909, F.N. 179/1909, confidential letter, dated 8 November 1908, from an eminent Bengali scholar to the Commissioner, Dacca division. 18 WBSA-IB, S.N. 23/1909, F.N. 179/1909. 19 NAI-HP, Progs. No. 113, Political B, January 1908, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated 11 January 1908. 20 WBSA-HP (Confidential), F.N. 113/1910 (1–6).

120 Performing Nationhood

seems self-contradictory. If the dramas were disseminating the ideas, they could not have been influenced by the demands of the audience/ public. On the contrary, the performances were engendering the ideas among the audience/public. The colonial drama police blamed the performing parties and the dramatists for mixing up this poisonous concoction that corrupted the opinion of the people against Her Majesty’s administration and the race that so efficiently manned it.21 In fact, they felt that such misrepresentations of historical facts ‘connected with the establishment of British Rule in India’ brought discredit to the colonial establishment. They were livid, even afraid, because such performances presented a threat not merely to the colonial government but to the colonial image as well. More vicious than the portrayal of the historical dramas was that of satires, particularly of gross caricatures22 as witnessed in the pantomimes. The performance of one such pantomime by a circus party from Poona depicted colonial masculinity in the crudest form possible.23 As Mrinalini Sinha points out, colonial superiority largely depended on the maintenance of the image of physical (and moral) superiority of the English over the licentious nature and physical weakness of the natives/ colonized, which underlined their inferior status. This particular order necessitated for the English to rule over the natives. Such pantomimes depicted the English as immoral and weak in comparison to the natives who emerged as morally and physically superior. The image created by the colonials underwent a subtle inversion through this portrayal. The immorality of the European lady and the inability of the European missionary to prevent it, and the final act of a supposedly-superior European being beaten up by a supposedly inferior native upended the persona stereotype crafted by the colonials. A role reversal occurred within the play and upturned the entire order of colonialism persistently being generated by the Raj. No doubt the portrayal appeared cruder than its more refined presentations effectively played on the stages of Calcutta and the mufassals, but the role it played in eroding the colonial image of superiority was of great import. 21 WBSA-HP, F.N. 129/1911. Extract from the Report on the Native Papers in Bengal for the week ending 25 June 1910. 22 WBSA-HP, F.N. 129/1911. 23 The text has been discussed in detail in the first chapter.

Oppressed ‘Self/Selves’ 121

The erosion of faith placed in the stereotypical roles, engendered and implanted in the minds of the colonized by the Raj, worked its way gradually into the minds of the people. The performers (actorproducer) correctly identified the root of colonization: the colonized mind. The image implanted in the minds of the people of the land needed to be discredited and eventually damaged. To bring this about, jatra performances adopted a unique mechanism. The process of ‘othering’ gained a major importance in the hands of the jatra performers who took recourse to allusions to heap disgrace upon the colonial machismo. The mixing of mythology with contemporary incidents in a suggestive manner rendered the process of inversion, and eventual erosion, quite potent. In Kunja Bihari Gangopadhyay’s pala Matripuja ba Svargoddhar (Worship of the Mother or Deliverance of Heaven), a derivation of the Chandi Purana of Hindu mythology, a constant reference to the contemporary political situation is noted.24 Such suggestive representations eroded the faith that the people had invested in the image of the dominant/colonizers. Portrayed as daitya (demon), the colonizers emerged as an untrustworthy evil force in the eyes of the 24

NAI-HPB, Political A, Progs. No. 110–17, May 1909, Letter No. 4547-P., dated Calcutta, 18 December 1908. From F.W. Duke, Esq., ICS, Offg. chief secretary to the government of Bengal, to the secretary to Government of India, Home Department. The Bengali translator appointed by the policing authorities of the Raj noted a few similarities between the political incidents of the age and the dramatic incidents depicted in the play. He listed them as following: The alleged attempt of the government to put down the cry of Bande Mataram, and what is called the worship of the Mother country; The refusal of the people of Eastern Bengal to present addresses of welcome to Sir Bampfyld Fuller; The desire of the nobility to please the Government, which is twitted; The outbreak of famine; The boycott of Manchester goods; The prosecution and whipping of students, which is represented as high-handed and unjustifiable persecution; Persistence of students in the present agitation; Visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to India, and his wish expressed on his return to England that the people should be more sympathetically governed; The Daitya king in the play, who is represented as a good hearted monarch with a sincere wish to rule his subjects well, regrets that he disregarded the advice of his son under the arguments advanced by his counsellors, a set of Pisaches (devils) who are making the meek and weak shed tears, in order that they might extend their own mastery; Outrage of women in Eastern Bengal.

122 Performing Nationhood

colonized who came to watch the performance. But the loss of lustre could neither deny the homology between sexuality and colonialism, nor could it invert the roles assigned by the colonial discourse. The jatrapala of Mukunda Das, if not in substance than in its affective power, enacted an inversion. As noted repeatedly, the performance of the pala Matripuja by Mukunda Das affected the emotions of the dominated/audience in ways that excited them into spilling their actions beyond the reach of the hidden space of resistance.25 A fortnightly report of 1907 noted that performances of a party from Barisal ‘habitually excite disaffection and traduce the government’.26 Such vilification of the government did excite feelings of anathema against the colonial rule. But the reaction that Mukunda Das’ performances elicited (discussed in detail in Chapter 4) seldom amounted to erosion/inversion of the images cultivated by the colonial discourse. The image inversion appeared as a potent factor in acts put up on private occasions such as a wedding ceremony. One such performance of the pala Ranajiter Jiban Jajna, as described by a weekly report of 1909, had a scene where a captured Englishman had his ears pulled by the natives. The scene depicted in the pala went beyond Mukunda Das traducing the government. It did not merely vilify the Raj but also inverted the image of superiority held by the Englishman/dominant power against the dominated/the natives. The dominant bowed to the dominated, who humiliated him by ‘pulling his ear’. The ludicrousness of the image, eliciting laughter from the onlookers, served as another powerful factor for eroding and inverting the colonial stereotypes. The gathered audience who watched the performance mostly comprised natives/the dominated. Their derisive laughter and mirth at the humiliation of the Englishman faced at the hands of the natives, their compatriots, enacted a gradual inversion in their minds, overturning the superior–inferior equation between the dominated and the dominant. The mixing of media formed an integral part of the Swadeshi performance history. Just as the print and performance of songs appeared in collusion, so did jatra performances and music. Mr Hughes-Buller, the district magistrate of Bakarganj, noted in his diary in 1908, ‘These parties 25

Discussed in detail in Chapter 4. NAI-HPB, Political A, August 1907, Progs. No. 114, Fortnightly Report for the period ending 20 July 1907. 26

Oppressed ‘Self/Selves’ 123

consist of Hindus who go round the country giving theatrical performances, in the course of which national songs are sung’.27 Mukunda Das and the offshoot of his group particularly attracted the attention of the drama police as singers of ‘objectionable’28 songs that contained ‘hatred and contempt for the English’.29 The notorious ‘White Rat’30 song by Mukunda Das drew the attention of the colonial surveillance due to this very reason. The song, not unlike the other songs of the genre, made objectionable references to public life under the colonial rule. A ludicrously represented song, it made indirect references to the dominant power as the white rat. Such representations elicited laughter. It was the usage of the image of a white rat to symbolically represent the colonial authorities that produced mirth. Laughter, per se, appeared as an objectionable act to the colonial surveillance. Laughter is always a fait social. … Each instance of laughter is inextricably tied up with social and power relations and framed within a social situation; it is conditioned by, and reflects upon, the social constellation. The triangular relationship between (1) the ‘laughter-maker’, that is the one who incites laughter by making a joke or drawing attention to some absurdity, (2) the ‘butt of laughter’ as its target or victim, and (3) the ‘laughter(s)’, that is, the laughing audience, is always also a social triangle, constructed along parameters of gender, class, race, age or other crucial differences operative in the respective culture.31

Bakhtin characterizes laughter as a separate space—completely different, nonofficial, extraecclesiastical and extrapolitical—that existed even at the earliest stages of cultural development and the suspension of


NAI-HPB, Political A, Progs. No. 24, April 1908. NAI-HPB, Political B, January 1909, Progs. No. 106–12, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated 12 December 1908. 29 NAI-HPB, Political B, February 1908, Progs. No. 109, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated 15 February 1908. 30 NAI-HPB, Progs. No. 112–31, Political A, March 1909, Prosecution of certain persons in Eastern Bengal and Assam under Section 124 A, IPC, in respect of certain seditious performances and the printing and publishing of two seditious books called Mukunda’s Matripuja Gan and Desar Gan. 31 Manfred Pfister, A History of English Laughter: Laughter from Beowulf to Becket and Beyond, Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 1994, p. vi. 28

124 Performing Nationhood

hierarchical precedence in such a place was of particular significance.32 Thus, it can be inferred from this analysis that ‘the most significant form of laughter can arise from the margins, challenging and subverting the existing orthodoxies, authorities and hierarchies’.33 In the spectacular (carnivalesque) world of jatra performances, a similar act of subversion was enacted. The representation of the dominant, the masculine rulers, as a mere rodent by the marginalized dominated group afforded the dominated/audience an opportunity to laugh derisively at them. The laughter, as Pfister suggests, subverted the existing authoritarian structure on which stood the colonial edifice. The superior status of the ‘masculine’ colonial rulers stood disgraced by the laughter the people, occupying an inferior status in the hierarchical colonial construct, directed at their ‘gross caricature’. As the dominant’s superiority shook by the laughter of the dominated, the edifice of the Raj’s invincibility juddered as well. The sway that the masculine image of the colonial/ dominant held over the minds of the dominated people and sustained colonialism also shuddered. In this moment of derisive laughter, when the hierarchies of colonialism shook, a role reversal became possible, even reasonably achievable. The songs of the Swadeshi era constituted by far the most conspicuous form of expression, yet were difficult to be bound under the colonial law. Despite being performed in places strictly considered ‘public’ in the colonial legal classification, Swadeshi songs continued to elude legal interdiction. The performance and singing of songs classified as ‘seditious’ was strictly prohibited. Nevertheless, processions, private meetings, and public assemblies continued to entertain the public with such songs. The very act of flouting the colonial government’s law amounted to a denial of the legal authority, that is, the Raj. Little action could be taken against the singers (except perhaps the more popular songsters). Failure to take action, primarily due to the inability of the policing authorities to identify the performer–audience, rendered the process of policing ineffective. As it turns out, of all the Swadeshi performative media (those discussed in this book, at least), songs remained the most volatile form of expression because they held 32 Mikhail M. Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984, pp. 6–10. 33 Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, pp. vi–vii.

Oppressed ‘Self/Selves’ 125

the prospect of being modified and often concurred with other media. The wide range of a song’s performative space—that could include a parlour of a gentleman’s house, an open field, a temple, or even several roads—often rendered it unmappable and its policing a difficult task for the colonial surveillance. In this space, the fine distinction between a performer (the singer) and an audience (the listener) was often lost as the onlookers/listeners joined in the singing of the song and became performers themselves.34 Moreover, songs also encouraged the integration of two unrelated forms of expression, which had a cathartic effect on both the performer and the audience. No doubt a serious act of contravention, singing of Swadeshi songs still remained an implicit act, especially in the city. The impact, however, took a more violent turn in towns and villages.35 The collusion of ‘objectionable’ songs and explicit acts of abuse against the European, kinsfolk of the master race by virtue of their skin pigmentation, showcased a demeanour of irreverence for the dominant, amounting to a denial of their superiority. Such incidents of misdemeanour began to be reported from towns and villages.36 The singing of Swadeshi songs, the colonial administration noted, excited seditious feelings and emotions in the hearts of the zenana or the womenfolk of the household (something noted by Sorabji as well, as discussed in Chapter 4). Therefore, the administration empowered the police to make arrests if songs of such disrepute were sung in public places.37 Despite such stringent actions, songs 34

For an in-depth discussion, see Chapter 2. In the Tippera district, the local administration reported two incidents of singing and direct abusing of the Englishmen. In one instance, a European jute merchant from the Chandpur sub-division complained of his launch being stalked by a boat of young Swadeshi singers who not only sung objectionable songs of great disrepute to the established government, but simultaneously hurled abuses at him. NAI-HPB, Political A, October 1908, Progs. No. 112, Fortnightly report for the first half of September 1908. 36 See the instance of singing minstrels discussed in Chapter 2. WBSA-HP, RNP 1908, Dainik Chandrika, 5 December 1908. 37 WBSA-HP, RNP 1908, Sandhya, 9 December 1908. Reportedly, audiences of a jatra performance held inside the premises of a Bengali gentleman’s private residence forced the performers to sing national songs, which they were reluctant to include in the performance due to colonial prohibition. Amrita Bazaar Patrika, 20 November 1905, ‘A national song incident’. 35

126 Performing Nationhood

continued to circulate both public and private spaces.38 The popularity of the song ‘Ekbar biday de ma ghure ashi’ (Bid me farewell, mother, just once) after the execution of Khudiram Bose and its performance by mendicants, mimics, and bajikars39 (nomadic performers who entertained the folk populace as acrobats and snake charmers) in villages and mufassals indicates that there was a growing demand among the audience/public of these regions for the song. All these young men, in their death, had transformed into heroes and martyrs in the eyes of the dominated people of the land. The people grieved their death and the shared grief joined them in an imputed kinship. But, as Partha Chatterjee questions, why did they grieve? Proffering an answer to the question he raised, Chatterjee highlights the ‘unselfish and disinterestedness’ of their violent act and the ‘retribution as punishment exacted for it by the colonial government’.40 He further points out that the retribution exacted by the colonial regime inaugurated that catastrophic moment when the law preserving the violence of the regime was revealed as nothing more than a myth. Mythical violence emerged from the lawmakers, whereas divine violence emerged from the purity of intent bent upon accepting sacrifice for the good of all living things.41 No doubt, the songs extolling the martyrdom of such revolutionaries propagated the idea of pure violence, represented by these brave men, as necessary for destroying the mythical colonial power-making force of injustice. The songs not only highlighted the 38

Dainik Chandrika noted, songs expressing sympathy with Khudiram Bose, Kanai Lal Dutta, Satyendra and other revolutionaries who were sent to the gallows for their overt acts of violence perpetrated on either Europeans or on the supporters of the colonial regime were quite popular among the ladies of Bengal. WBSA-HP, RNP 1908, Dainik Chandrika, 5 December 1908. 39 Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, in his memoire, talks about bajikars who were popular in their village Labhpur. They would frequent their village and entertain them. After the execution of Khudiram, they added the song to their performance and, as Tarashankar notes, it was a major reason for the popularity of their performance that fetched them a good token of appreciation from the people of his village. Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Amar Kaler Katha, p. 75. 40 Partha Chatterjee, The Black Hole of Empire: History of a Global Practice of Power, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2012, p. 289. 41 Walter Benjamin, One-Way Street and Other Writings, trans. Edmund Jephcott and Kingsley Shorter, London: New Left Books, 1979, p. 150.

Oppressed ‘Self/Selves’ 127

un-British rule in India but also the erosion of the myth of invincibility that created a smoke screen over the British rule in India. British paramountcy and the myth of colonial masculinity/superiority that sustained the regime in India had begun to show signs of corrosion by 1908, at least in Bengal. Colonialism lost its erstwhile glory and the contempt of the people towards it that had lain hidden till then began to make a public appearance. The vocality that people gained made them shout out their displeasure and abhorrence for the regime. Expressed in the presence of other dominated members, the voice carried to all. The grievances they expressed turned out to be similar in nature and brought them closer in an imagined kinship. But this development spelt danger for the edifice of the colonial rule. The people, used to accepting their own inferiority against the superior masculine authority of the British to which they bowed in obeisance, suddenly began talking against it and actually laughing derisively at it. The performative space empowered them to break free of the smokescreen placed before their eyes by the spectacle of the colonial regime (something Mukunda Das continuously urged them to do in his songs). As the people geared themselves to put up threatening notices against shops selling foreign goods or to encourage people to flout colonial prohibitions, the myth shattered. Colonialism lost the mythical substantiation that marked it apart from and held it above the natives. As the performative space brought the people together in a community of emotions, colonialism began to show signs of fracture from within that, though not pronounced, left a deep crack in the edifice of the British rule. *** The gradual erosion of faith in the colonial regime strengthened the faith of the people in ‘self ’/amra. Achieved through a role reversal, the delegitimization of the myth of colonial superiority/masculinity reinforced the kinship ties of the people bound together by shared emotions. The shared emotions that brought the people together in a community demanded some amount of uniformity. A homogeneity of the images and symbols that elicited the emotions connecting them together needed to be stressed. Thus, it follows from this hypothesis that any incongruity in the images and symbols could threaten to dissolve the felt community. The uniformity of the images, and the resultant

128 Performing Nationhood

emotions, needed to be maintained at all cost to ensure the continuance of the bond. Since the corrosion of the colonial image proceeded gradually and it required the entire process to operate within the ambit of the colonial government, caution needed to be practised. Any direct reference to the dominant power, and its derision, was still out of bounds. This, however, did not stop the performances from deriding the colonial rule. To escape from being circumscribed by the colonial legal system, the entire process was carried out under the cover of allusions. The parameters of uniformity that emerged from these allusions placed the kinship between people within the ambit of an emotional bond. An arduous scrutiny of the allusions used in Swadeshi theatre, jatra, and songs and a simultaneous probing of the marginal responses to it helped me, while writing this book, to identify the nature of the resultant empathy. The creation of an order of indigeneity (see Chapter 1) by the performative texts served as the stepping stone for ordering the minds of the people into uniformity.42 Any deviation from the homogenized form was frowned upon and publicly discredited. Sarala Debi Chaudhurani disdained, in her memoire, Amarendra Nath Dutta’s action of stopping and fleeing the performance of the play Aurangzeb for the fear of retribution of some Muslim youths.43 She expressed her indignation at it and criticized it publicly in the pages of the Bengali journal Bharati. The fear that caused Amarendra Nath Dutta to deviate from the narratives of the nation, the true stories of Indian culture, and from the memory stored in the texts of performance earned him the censure and displeasure of Sarala Debi. The colonial policing authority noted a similar displeasure among the students of Dacca College towards the director of public instruction for his withdrawal of the permission that allowed them to perform a play called Padmini.44 On the other hand, praises 42 Dramatic librettos, jatrapalas, and song books/pamphlets brought together various narratives to create a storehouse of memories, both past and present, for the public/audience. Classified into three categories—historical, social, and mythological—all the narratives tried to homogenize and connect in a uniform code the memory of the people. 43 Sarala Debi Chaudhurani, Jiboner Jharapata, Calcutta: Sahitya Samsad, 1879, p. 171. 44 NAI-HPB, Political B, June 1909, Progs. No. 100–7, Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated 13 February 1909.

Oppressed ‘Self/Selves’ 129

were showered upon the boys of Ishan School, Faridpur, for refusing to abstain from political addresses in the performance they intended to hold in their institution. Such a refusal did lead to suspension of the performance altogether, but did not invite any public criticism, at least from the rank and file of Calcutta and Eastern Bengal and Assam society, to rally against them. Public criticism was unnecessary in such circumstances. Uniformity was maintained; hence, truth had prevailed, which diluted the necessity of any public action. Swadeshi performances attained uniformity by mediating between the intellectual discourses of the age and the inherent emotions of the public/audience. The mediation worked into the minds of the people the notions of nationhood and, in reverse, mutated the notions in accordance with the emotional matrix of the people. The performances, working both ways, tried to create an order of indigeneity that would bind the people in one macrocosm. The narrative texts of the Swadeshi performances featuring historical, mythological, and social themes ordered the imagination of the people uniformly. The order of indigeneity the texts fostered fiercely protected its homogeneity against possible encroachment from rival, and so-called deviant, concepts that held the capacity to disrupt the order.45 Jatrapalas of analogous genres 45 The so-called samajik plays/plays-with-a-social-theme that vowed to expose the ills of the Bengali society turned their critical faculties against the dominant power/colonial rule instead. In their ordered indigeneity, all ills of the society were an offshoot of the colonial rule. Caste and class exploitations, a major anathema of the contemporary Bengali society, found mention in almost all performances that had a social theme. Manamohan Goswami’s play Samaj, proscribed and prohibited under the DPA 1876, brought to the fore the evils of internal exploitation perpetrated by the landed estate-class over the peasants and the poor and men and women of the lower caste. In this play, the poor peasantry of Manoharpur, the zamindari of which belonged to the father of the hero of the story, faces a hard time due to the dual pressure of a famine, hence low crop production, and the excessive cesses collected by the zamindars over and above the revenue payable to them. When talking about the these discrepancies, Sudhir, friend to Paresh, the hero of the story, points out that such excesses followed from the babugiri of the Bengali landed classes. The famished peasantry of Manoharpur extended similar arguments when confronted by Paresh. The spendthrift nature of the landed class that leads them to collect these cesses finds mention in the libretto repeatedly. The  so-called

130 Performing Nationhood

such as Matripuja, Brita Sanhar, Mayabati, and Surath Uddhar Gitabhinay argued, in a similar vein, holding the colonial regime responsible for turning the social world upside down. Such similarities can be noted in the texts of the Swadeshi songs as well. An aspect common to all such performances was their introspective nature. It was meant to turn the attention of the people not just towards themselves but also towards

bharatuddharkarak or the redeemers of Bharat are also clubbed with the landed estate-men (in fact, the thin line of division between the two is made ominously non-existent in the drama) and are criticized for being dressed like babus, intent upon serving as sycophants to the rich men with a landed estate. Such portrayals and representations were apparently a part of an introspective mechanism to critique the corrupt social order and the inherent social exploitation prevalent in the society. In the early twentieth century, a progressive effort was being made in Bengal to rope in the support of the lower-caste Hindu men who had been alienated from the larger Hindu society. Sudhir and Paresh’s harangues in the drama appear to be a repetition of a similar idea. The image holds until Kamala’s (Paresh’s wife) speech to the famished peasantry of Manoharpur breaks it asunder. Her conversational exposition of the reason behind the famished condition of rural Bengal and the placing of the onus of responsibility on foreign merchants clarifies the identity of the ‘other’. The play held the landed estate-owners and the group of Bengali babus responsible for the social evils, but considered it to be an extension of the public life introduced by the colonial rulers. In this hypothecation, Indian men, with all their evils, became mere instruments in the hands of the Raj which has reified the existing social system of Bengal in imitation of its own social norms. This becomes clear when Sudhir exhorts: Ekhon ar raja samajpati non. Raja bideshi, bhinna dhrmalambi … samaji ekdin amader samasta bangalike ekshutre baddha kore rekhechhilo, shei samaj bandhan sithil hoyei amra sva sva pradhan hoye porechhi … aaj brahman, kayastha, vaishya, sudra, emonki neech jati porjonto nijo nijo jatibyabsha porityag korechhe, du pata ingraji pore … feringhir charan seva korte byasto. [The king is no more the head of the samaj (society). King is a foreigner, of different religion … once, samaj had bonded us together, the loosening of that bond has made us inward looking … Brahmins, Kayasthas, Vaishyas, Sudras, and even the lowly castes have given up their caste professions, and have chosen to serve at the feet of the feringhi/foreigner after learning a few English words.]

M. Goswami, Samaj, Calcutta: Kalika Press, 1316 BS [1909], p. 198.

Oppressed ‘Self/Selves’ 131

the ‘self ’ constructed by the colonial rule. As Jadugopal Mukhopadhyay noted in his memoire, Nirokkhor chasha bhusho … shokoler kachhe kathaprasange, desher durabasthar katha pere, ingrej e je, shei durabasthar ekmatro karon, ta praman korte ebong shei janya igrejer prati bidvesh jagate lege gelam.46 [Illiterate peasantry … and the rest, before all presenting the harrowed condition of the country, conversationally, I would try to lay the blame on the English, and would try to prove that for this very reason, Englishmen should be detested.]

In this frame of portrayal, stress was laid on a uniform mode of thinking—the responsibility of the English for the decline of the Bengali samaj. The samajik ties that held the community together depended on this uniformity for their sustenance. But the nature of the uniformity denied space to several other identities that, despite being a part of amra, remained gravely unheeded. The voice of the marginal, residing on the periphery of both the society and the mainframe performance, did find a place in the text and its performance, but this presence remained veiled by the larger progressional structure of the performance. Despite sharing different thematic references, the project of othering pervaded the processional narration adopted by the Swadeshi performances. The caste archetype that repeatedly appeared in Swadeshi performances, instead of differentiating on the basis of caste distinctions, used the fear of pollution to draw members of all castes into one whole. Songs, in their body text, claimed that the foreign-made sugar consisted of powdered cow bone, the mixing of which was intentionally encouraged by the colonial authorities who wanted to tamper with the existing samajik ties of the land. The caste/class exploitation depicted in the Swadeshi performances was thus consumed by the metanarrative of the performances where colonial rule and the new public order established by the regime was critiqued and caricatured. People visiting such performances represented an ensemble of rural and city folk. As discussed in Chapter 2, such a line of classification 46 Hemchandra Qanungo, Banglay Biplab Prachesta, Calcutta: Chirayat Prakashan, 1984, p. 25.

132 Performing Nationhood

prevents a holistic understanding of the performative space of the songs. Viewer/listener of one transpired into the performative sphere of the other. As folk performance mechanisms and urban methods acted upon each other, an interesting concoction was born. Melodramatic imagination affected the performance mechanism of both. As suggested earlier in the book, the melodramatic mode of performance provided the right avenue to appeal to the sensitivity of many with varied tastes and interests. It also provided the cover of allusions that, with their many-layered structure of reference, granted the text–author–audience trio ample space to read different meanings into the audio-visuals. This very structure of Swadeshi performances allowed latency in their constitution. Just as the author–performer could add new meanings to the performance, so could the receptor. In the layered performative space of the Swadeshi era, the voices that remained latent could still remain within folds of the meta-performance. Thus, the voices of the victims of the domination of counter-hegemonic structure remained in between the layers and remained active, albeit latent.47 The imagination of nationhood progressed by means of varied archetypes. An abstract idea, the nation remained outside the bounds of the audiences unless associated with their inherent emotions. Swadeshi performances established a link between the inherent emotions and the emotions excited by the performances by means of a series of archetypes. The archetypes used in the performances held symbolic 47 Sekhar Bandopadhyay argues that by the early twentieth century, many caste associations had come up on the periphery of the Bengali society, and they had a clear idea about their rights, particularly due to the regular reading and hearing (a practice prevalent in rural Bengal where community reading and consumption of ideas through community hearing formed an integral part of public life) of publications of caste associations such as the Namasudra Suhrid, Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampraday, Jat Vaishnava, and Sahajiya. They formed a space of their own for expressing their opinion, free from the hierarchical caste dominance, yet largely localized in their reach. Moreover, a deep-seated fear of breaking the caste incapacitated these men from making an overt attack on the system as a whole. Hence, activeness of the lower castes (who formed the majority of the low class peasantry and labour class of Bengal) remained constrained within a few localized spaces and groups. See Sekhar Bandopadhyay, Caste, Culture, and Hegemony: Social Dominance in Colonial Bengal, New Delhi: Sage Publication, 2004, pp. 58–64.

Oppressed ‘Self/Selves’ 133

cultural meanings for the audiences, and their roots went deep into the emotional world of the Bengali populace.48 This formed a part of the nationalist project, as Hemchandra Qanungo ruminates in his memoire.49 In this battle, the body of a woman emerged as a major site for the contestation and redefinition of the nationalist ‘self ’. The portrayed virtues of women regularized the pattern for imagining the ‘self ’. A belief was standardized that the virtues and destructive capacity inherent in a woman held the power to free the dominated from their colonial setting. The image of the female body in danger (that marked the moment of crisis in every Swadeshi performance) and the feat of rescue achieved by the male counterpart of the story (that brought about the final moment of resolution) helped invert the stereotype developed by the colonialists about the Indians. Portrayed as an introspective and ever-protective male, the persona completely disowned the colonial image of Indians. The stereotype of effeminacy of the colonial male stood countered at the altar of colonial delegitimization. The excitement delegitimization incited when combined with the inherent emotions, elicited by the usage of the archetype of mother goddess,

48 The archetype that attained the status of a ritualistic symbol in the performances was that of the Mother Goddess. A polysemic figure, the Mother Goddess emerged as the upholder of kula dharma (in Padmini), protector of the weak ( Jessoreswari of Pratap Singha, Matangi in various Swadeshi songs, Debi in Matripuja), and the mother-womb. She appeared in all these performative media as the giver of life—the Genetrix. As discussed earlier, the archetype of mother goddess helped establish a kinship based on a mother–son relationship that called for fraternal solidarity and avenging the mother’s humiliation at the hands of the enemy. The combination of this kinship with the community of emotion, engendered in the performative space, assumed the form and shape of a nation. Abanindranath Tagore’s image of ‘Bharat Mata’ captures the true essence of this imagined nation. As the body and social comportments of a woman became the ground for mapping the nation, the resultant nationhood derived its essence from the gender constructions that formed the edifice of the Swadeshi nation. Roles of femininity and masculinity were redefined to counter the colonial construction. The project working within the colonial framework converted the body of the woman into a ground for upholding all that was degraded by the colonial construction. 49 Qanungo, Banglay Biplab Prachesta, p. 5.

134 Performing Nationhood

upturned the colonial paradigm against ‘them’, joining the subscribers to the image into ‘us’/‘amra’. The newly created bond ‘amra’ stood in a delicate balance against ‘them’, held in place by the same mother archetype that helped bring about the role inversion. Standardized roles of masculinity and femininity emerged from the Swadeshi performances, on which stood the endurance of ‘amra’/‘us’. A gendered nationhood emerged from the characterization and standardization through which it was produced. Swadeshi performances aimed at producing a consciousness of nationhood based on an indissoluble camaraderie. Yet, caution had to be maintained to avoid the risk of being interdicted by the policing authorities of the Raj. Hence, allusions became the favoured mode of resisting the dominant power. Implicit references to the colonial authorities were made under the cover of a substitute. The popular scapegoats for making such references were the Muslims. Dramatic performances, jatra, and songs featuring Muslim characters in a villainous light primarily used them as a surrogate for the prime object of their critique—the colonial rulers. The performance of Durga Das created uproar among the Muslim population.50 The Muslim community took offense at the portrayal of Aurangzeb’s wife in the play. Bharat Mitra, a contemporary newspaper, noted that the Muslims objected to the depiction of the Muslim characters in plays such as Durga Das and Rajsinhas because of the hatred it excited in the people who visited such performances.51 Such negative responses on the part of the Muslim audience/public convinces us of their apathy towards the Swadeshi performances.

50 NAI-HPB, Political B, August 1907, Progs. No. 141, Weekly Report of the DCI for the week ending 17 August 1907. Similar arguments against the performance of Durga Das appeared in the pages of Mussalman, urging that a drama which ridicules some of the great Muhammadan rulers of India cannot but be offensive to the Muhammadans. WBSA, RNP, Mussalman, 5 August 1910. Discussed in detail in Chapter 3. 51 WBSA, RNP, Bharat Mitra, 15 May 1909. In this connection, one is reminded of the reaction of the Muslim audiences to the performance of the play Aurangzeb by Amarendra Nath Tagore. Sarala Debi Chaudhurani reminisces about the suspension of the performance of the play Aurangzeb by Amarendra Nath Dutta due to the combined threat of the radical Muslim youth and the policing authorities.

Oppressed ‘Self/Selves’ 135

The allusions did not go down well with them.52 The magnitude of the vituperative outburst in the pages of journals, considered the architect of Muslim opinion, does bring to our mind a picture of a fractured sense of community.53 However, the image is short-lived. The reports of the colonial rulers, the supposed instigators of communal tensions in Bengal, counter the image. The reports noted, ‘There is no marked ill-feeling between Muhammadans and Hindus in Calcutta.’54 52

The Muslim community accepted what was meant as a facade for enacting the hidden transcript of resistance, at its face value. Resistance to Swadeshi performances did not originate from a mistaken understanding of the images portrayed in the plays. The Muslim intellectuals opposed these performances because, as they explained, of the aslilata or indecency inherent in their performative faculty. In one of the articles that appeared in a popular Bengali journal exclusively meant for the Muslim public, noted, ‘Nothing better can be, or should be, expected from the Hindus.’ According to the author, ‘A community that openly discusses and writes about the dalliances and indecency of their own God should not be expected to write sparingly about the legends of other communities.’ WBSA, RNP, Mihir O Sudhakar, 25 June 1909. Maulvi Imdadul Haq wrote: Golpo o natokadite mussalmaner je shokol heen charitra ankita hoiya thake tahar uddeshya je mussalman ke gaali dewa, taha sahajei bujhite para jay … massalmaner adarsha khato koriya hindur adarsha uchche pratishthita korai rachiyetar uddeshya … erup sabdhanata abalamban kora abshyak je eker heen adarsha shudhu onyer adarshyer uchchata pradarshan koribar janyai ankita na hoiya pore. [This is quite understandable that the degraded character of Mussalmans depicted in various stories and dramas is a deliberate attempt to abuse the Mussalmans … the ideals of Hindus are glorified at the cost of Mussalman ideals … but it is essential to be cautious in such circumstances that the ideal of one does not get glorified by discrediting that of the other.]

In another contemporary article, an author named Siraji accused the theatrical performances of reducing self-respect even among the Muslims of Bengal who did not such object to deplorable depictions of the Muslim rulers and legends. Ibid., Siraji, ‘Sahitya o Jatiya Jibon’ [Literature and National Life], Al-Islam, vol. 2, no. 3, 1312 BS (1905). 53 Mimasha Pandit, ‘Fractured Nationhood: Swadeshi Theatre of Bengal and Building of a National “Self ”’, Conference Proceedings of Indian Association for Asian and Pacific Studies, 2014, pp. 140–51. 54 NAI-HPB, Political A, July 1907, Progs. No. 186.

136 Performing Nationhood

Reports of minor outbreaks did find a place in the official records,55 but they neither mention the particulars of the performance, nor give much information about the possible cause of the affray. The colonial authorities failed to read into these incidents anything of the nature of a communal tension, neither were such incidents reportedly repeated. On the contrary, Muslim public/audience attended the performance of the play Rajaram, depicting the struggle between the Marathas and the Muslims, by the students of the Technical School.56 Many Muslim singers (mendicants and folk artists) would compose songs about the economic plight of the country and sing it to Aswini Kumar Dutta for collecting alms. The purport of one of the songs sung by them was to highlight the negative effects of the colonial monopoly trade.57 Aswini Kumar mentions himself the names of Alam and Mafizuddin Bayati who composed Swadeshi saarigaan (a form of Bengali folk song sung by boatmen; also considered workmen’s song), appraising the colonial public life.58 Mr Hughes-Buller, district magistrate of Bakarganj, noted that the ‘lower class’, both Hindus and Muslims, felt little attachment with the activities of the Swadeshi agitators because they considered them to be ‘something that the Babus are doing’.59 Thus, it appears that the Muslim community of the two provinces did not share a homogenous opinion. Muslim intellectuals steadily represented a dualistic opinion— on the one hand, they were disgusted with the portrayals of Muslim characters in the popular Swadeshi plays; on the other hand, men such as Dedar Bux urged the community to establish a close attachment with the agitation. The lower class’ response to Swadeshi performances represented the most layered opinion. They frequented such performances, but remained aloof from the progression of the movement. The performance-visiting Muslim audiences did feel the excitement 55 Weekly reports reported a fight between Muslims and national volunteers at Palong, in Mymensingh district, over a jatra performance where a Muslim received head injury. 56 NAI-HPB, Political A, November 1909, Progs. No. 32–41. 57 NAI-HPB, Political A, July 1910, Progs. No.112–13, Report on the Political Situation in Eastern Bengal and Assam of April 1910. 58 Aswini Kumar Dutta, Atmapratistha, Calcutta: Burman Publishing House, n.d., pp. 13–14. 59 NAI-HPB, Political B, September 1907, Progs. No. 2, Diary of Mr Hughes-Buller, district magistrate, Bakarganj, January 1908.

Oppressed ‘Self/Selves’ 137

afforded by the presentation, but it failed to order their imagination into indigeneity because their socio-economic reality hardly found a voice in it. Sumit Sarkar,60 Suranjan Das,61 and Andrew Sartori62 believe the the gulf between the masses (both Hindus and Muslims) and agitation could never be breached because the lower classes failed to consider the colonial authority as their only oppressor.63 The zamindars (mostly Hindus in the Eastern Bengal and Assam province) remained the visible oppressors who continued to repress them. On an emotional plane, such concerns prevented the Muslim community from developing a sense of a shared nationhood with a community that remained their tyrant. So, the apathy that became visible among the populace was not a split in the engendered nationhood; it was the creation of a sub-hidden transcript of resistance as the counter-hegemony of the Swadeshites turned into dominance for the sake of maintaining uniformity. Their attitude towards the nationhood engendered was marked by seclusion. The Muslim populace remained latent actors in the community of emotion because of the host of other emotions they imbibed owing to the conflicting colonial and anti-colonial paradigms. *** The violence associated with the Hindu world view became associated with the notion of nationhood engendered during this period, 60 Sumit Sarkar, Swadeshi Movement in Bengal, 1903–1908, New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 1973, Chapter 8. 61 Suranjan Das, ‘Communal Violence in Twentieth Century Bengal: An Analytical Framework’, Social Scientist, vol.18, no. 6–7 (1990): 21–37, 23–4. 62 Andrew Sartori, Bengal in Global Concept: Culturalism in the Age of Capital, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2008, pp. 203–8, 210–13. 63 The consciousness of a community is encapsulated in the comprehension of its limits expressed through various symbols. Symbolism of the Swadeshi era amounted to a distinction between the higher class, the refined Hindus, and the chhotolok and jaban/infidel Muslim conqueror that gradually began to be internalized by the latter. Swadeshi performances did not overtly endorse such distinctions. But the need to elude colonial surveillance required them to take recourse to allusions that resulted in the reiteration of such distinctive portrayals. In this context, the Muslim populace failed to look behind the façade and accepted the portrayals at their face value.

138 Performing Nationhood

particularly due to the culture of political extremism that emerged in the Swadeshi ideology. This, however, was not the only definition of the notion of nationhood that emerged during this period, though it was no doubt one of the most prominent among them. Class/caste, gender, and communal distinctions began to be reified in this plane of emotion and, more often than not, attached itself with the emergent sense of community disseminated by the performances. The oppressed ‘self ’ produced as amra by the Swadeshi performances, in this plane, showed that the distinction cannot be taken at face value. The ‘amra’ proclaimed by the swadeshites was in no way homogenous. It had layers of consciousness. These layers, though remaining latent, formed a part of the engendered national consciousness. Thus, nationhood remained open-ended, inviting different interpretations time and again. Hence, several other definitions of the notion emerged in the post-Swadeshi era. The most prominent among them that we often come across is the one associated with the image of Gandhi. One such example has already been pointed out in the introductory chapter. The novel Dhorai Charitmanas by Satinath Bhaduri portrays immaculately how the vision of nationalism for a group of underprivileged people during the Gandhian era assumed the form and shape of Gandhi Raj through propaganda (for a detailed discussion, see the Introduction). Thus, the liminal nature of the performance arena invoked new ways of interpreting and understanding ideas presented before the underprivileged, making them as much a party to the process of engendering a national identity as the ideologues, thereby stimulating ‘multi-layered primordialities within an open-ended self ’.64


Ashis Nandy, Shikha Trivedy, Shail Mayaram, and Achyut Yagnik, Creating a Nationality: The Ramjanmabhumi Movement and the Fear of the Self, 7th edition, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010, p. vii.



uring the Swadeshi era, the performative space occupied an ‘in betwixt’ zone. The fluidity of the space allowed meanings to be generated, comprehended, and internalized in it and have an openended life. In the course of writing this book, the liminal nature of the space became quite prominent and discernible to me. In fact, the performative space of Bengal, owing to its liminal nature, has been a prime location for me to draw out and examine the emotions of the people and for reconstructing the emotional history of a Swadeshi Bengal. The framework of performative space that has emerged from the discussion can serve as a lens to look into the processes of identity formation in other parts of India in the early twentieth century as well. Performances of different times and spaces remained volatile in their meaning-making and comprehension process, which was an inherent quality in them. This can open up new avenues for scholars of the Indian colonial experience and the emergence of nationhood in the subcontinent. The site of performance as a unique space for shedding the simulative mask of obedience can provide us a glimpse into the popular perception of colonialism and the emergent nationhood. Engendered in a volatile space, nationhood assumed a layered perception in Swadeshi Bengal. Since the performative space catered to the popular—the unlettered masses whom Sumit Sarkar identified in the audiences who visited such performances—I realized, in the course of writing this book and researching the Swadeshi age in Bengal, that these were the people whose private lives (and emotions) suddenly collided with the ‘public’ experiences of colonialism and nationalism in the space of performance. What was visible in the responses of the people who visited the Swadeshi performances was not merely the voicing of the opinion of the colonized against the colonizers but also the voice of the Performing Nationhood: The Emotional Roots of Swadeshi Nationhood in Bengal, 1905–12. Mimasha Pandit, Oxford University Press (2019). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199480180.001.0001

140 Epilogue

subordinated against the dominant. The private emotional experiences of these men (and definitely of women and children) suddenly did not remain so private. Rabindranath Tagore, in his essay Bharatbarsher Itihas (History of India), insisted on writing a history that would illustrate not just the exterior embellishments of an event but also look deeper into the emotions involved with it that unfolded in the private space.1 My examination of the emotional life of the emergent nationhood in Swadeshi Bengal through the lens of performance history has given me an opportunity to get a glimpse of the private emotions of the Bengalis within the meta-history of the swadeshi and boycott agitation. This has also brought into question the nature of the emergent nationhood. In case of Bengal, I have shown how the notions of nationhood passed through stages of presentation, liminality, and (re)presentation to attain varied forms and features. In the course of my interaction with the emotional world of the Bengalis and its interaction with the notion of nationhood, I realized that this phenomenon was, and still is, central to the understanding of the nationhood that eventually emerged and still persists in South Asia. To demonstrate my point, I would like to cite the case of the Ramlila Committee of Allahabad that came to the fore in 2008. In 2008, a huge controversy boiled up when the aforementioned committee burned an effigy of M. Karunanidhi, the then chief minister of Tamil Nadu, for speaking out against the existence of a natural route to Sri Lanka that the Hindu fundamentalist forces claimed was built in ancient times (surprisingly, the timeline remains vague and seldom stated) by the vanarsena (army of monkeys) for Lord Rama.2 Their


Jharer din e je jhar e sarbapradhan ghatana, taha tahar garjan sotyeo swikar kara jay na. Shedin o shei dhulisamachchhana akasher madhye pallir grihe grihe je janma mrityu, sukh dukhyer prabaha chalite thake, taha dhaka parileo manusher pakhye tahai pradhan. [A climactic turbulence, despite its thunderous presence, cannot claim to be the primary event of the day. A private tale of birth and death, happiness and loss, that unfolds within a homestead, though sublimated by the thunder, remains important for human history.] Rabindranath Tagore, ‘Bharatbarsher Itihaas’ [History of India], Itihaas [History], Shantiniketan, Visvabharati, 1955, 1–11, pp. 1–2. 2 ‘Karunanidhi is Ravana in Allahabad Dussehra’, Indian Express, 18 October  2007,, accessed on 17 August 2012.

Epilogue 141

private emotions found an expression in the burning of the effigy in the performative, rather carnivalesque, space of Dussehra celebrations. It was a significant incident—the public demonstration of private emotions—especially at a time when the UPA alliance held a majority at the centre. Though the action was orchestrated by a fundamentalist ideology, one must pay attention to the fact that the enactment of such actions in a public space added layers of meaning to the existing notion of nationhood by redefining the emotional perception of one’s self/ selves. The redefinition of nationhood through moments of perception and expression in the performative space has taken place on many occasions. The celebration of the 66th Independence Day program by some school students from Bangalore reflected the same. The cultural program displayed a mosaic of Indian freedom fighters, folklore, and people who participated to celebrate nationhood.3 Within the framework of the program, the students staged the fight of Abbakka Devi, queen of Ullal (located in coastal Karnataka), against the invading Portuguese forces. What I found interesting in the presentation was the modification that Indian history and identity underwent in the mould of the performance. It held the possibility of being read between the lines, as such enactments often do in the space of performance. Traditional performances such as jatra, nautanki, and bhawai, even the more carnivalesque performances such as Ramlila, Dussehra, or even Independence Day programs, offer an ideal space where nationhood can be broken down and reshaped in various moulds. This has led to a requalification of the identity of a South Asian living in the politico-geographical boundary of the subcontinent as an Indian: an Indian who is a creation of the intermingling of his own regional, ethnic, linguistic, or even religious logic and that of the intellectuals. The notion of India thus remains one only in semblance. In all practical aspects, it has undergone constant modification in the performative space. This has led to the development of niches and layers, allowing divergent ‘selves’ to find a refuge and often carve out a separate space for themselves in this space. The contours of divergent


‘B’lore Students Tell Rani Abbakka Tale’, Deccan Herald, 19 August 2012,, accessed on 19 August 2012.

142 Epilogue

perceptions of nation and nationhood, visible in the Indian public life, can be accounted for, I believe, if the scholars of colonial as well as post-colonial experiences of nationhood put the lens of performative space to effective use.


Primary Sources Archival Documents Consulted at the West Bengal State Archives, Kolkata, India Home Political (Political) An Account of the Revolutionary Organisation in Bengal Other Than Dacca Anusilan Samiti, File No. V.A42. Application of the Dramatic Performance (Act XIX of 1876) to Seditious Plays, File No. 129 (1–8) (9–11)/1910. Application of the Dramatic Performance Act 1876 (Act XIX) to Seditious Plays, File No. 121 (1–4)/1911. Censorship of a Play Called Sakher Jalpan-ba-Thikey-Thik, File No. 183/1911. District Officers Report on Political Situation in Bengal, File No. 34/1912. Forfeiture of Book Called Durgasur, File No. 123(7)/1911. Legal Opinion on an Objectionable Play Called Samaj, File No. 121(B) (1–)/1911. Maintenance of Office Copies of Weekly Diaries and Reports, File No. 182 (1–2)/1912. Matripuja (pamphlet): Seditious Play Performed by Gagan Chandra Sutradhar’s Jatra Party at Mymensingh: Accused bound down under Section 108, Criminal Procedure Code, File No. 410/1909. Objection of the Dramatic Performance Act to Seditious Plays, etc., File No. 129/1911. Objectionable Play Called Asha Kuhakini, File No. 113(1–6) (7–8)/1910. Objectionable Play Called Mirakeshir Shap Bimochon, File No. 206(1–4) (5–9) (10–12)/1911. Play entitled Sarat Sarojini, File No. F994/1914. Preparation of Monthly Report in the Political Situation in Bengal and Submission by DPI of Quarterly Report on Same, File No. 283/1910. Prohibition of the Play Called Chandra Shekhar, File No. 74(1–5)/1913.

144 Performing Nationhood Proposed Prohibition of the Performance of a Play Called Protapaditya, File No. KW 129/1910. Reports on Native Papers (henceforth RNP), 1905. RNP, 1906. RNP, 1907. RNP, 1908. RNP, 1909. RNP, 1910. Short Note by an Eminent Bengali Scholar on a Book Titled Matripuja, File No. 410/1909.

History Sheets History Sheet No. 14 of History Sheet No. 15 of History Sheet No. 18 of History Sheet No. 20 of History Sheet No. 21 of History Sheet No. 26 of History Sheet No. 29 of History Sheet No. 37 of History Sheet No. 34 of History Sheet No. 39 of History Sheet No. 43 of History Sheet No. 62 of

Mukunda Lal Das alias Jogeshwar De. Bhabaranjan Majumdar. Kaliprasanna Das Gupta. Anath Bandhu Guha. Brajendra Lal Ganguli. Satish Chandra Mukharji. Mahendra Chandra Mukhati. Tara Nath Bal. Manoranjan Guha Thakurta. Tara Nath Ray Chaudhuri. Mahendra Nath (or Charan) Mukhuti. Durga Mohan Sen.

Eastern Bengal and Assam (Political Confidential) Binding down of Anath Bandhu Guha under Section 108, Criminal Procedure Code. Kishorganj Meeting Held at the House of Pyari Mohan Roy, Proprietor of the School, on 22 September 1908, File No. 606/1908. Mymensingh Meeting at National School on 24 September 1908. Notes and Translations of ‘Matripuja’ Songs, etc., Compiled by Special Branch, Eastern Bengal and Assam, File No. 410/1909. Swadeshi Song Book ‘Desher Gan’, Sale and Distribution at Chittagong and Patiya (seditious pamphlet), File No. 128/1909.

Intelligence Branch (I.B) Record Confidential File of Government of Eastern Bengal and Assam, File No. 165/1909.

Bibliography 145 Confidential Letter, dated 8 November 1908, from an Eminent Bengali Scholar to the Commissioner, Dacca Division, File No. 179/1909. Hunkar or War Cry and the Golden Dream of the People of Bengal, File No. 34/1908. Proposed Forfeiture of a Book Titled ‘Swadesh Sangit’, File No. 294 (1–5)/1910.

Archival Records Consulted at the National Archives of India, New Delhi Circular to All Local Governments and Administrations Regarding Sedition, Political A, March 1910, Progs Nos. 42–6. Daily Report on the Political Situation in Eastern Bengal and Assam during October 1907, Political B, October 1907, Progs Nos. 88–121. Daily Reports on the Political Situation, Political B, July 1907, Progs Nos. 39–177. Declaration of the Dinajpur District to Be a Proclaimed Area under the Seditious Meetings Act. Diary of Mr Hughes-Buller, District Magistrate, Bakarganj, January 1908, Political B, August 1907, Progs No. 242. Diary of Mr Hughes-Buller, District Magistrate, Bakarganj, Political A, April 1908, Progs No. 24. Diary of Mr Hughes-Buller, District Magistrate, Bakarganj, January 1908, Political B, September 1907, Progs No. 2. Diary of Mr Hughes-Buller, District Magistrate, Bakarganj, February 1908, Political B, September 1907, Progs Nos. 3–5, Political B, April 1908, Progs No. 76. Discharge of the Accused in the Dacca Janmastami Stabbing Case of 1907, Political B, March 1910, Progs No. 41. Fortnightly Report during January 1909, Political A, March 1909, Progs Nos. 104–6. Fortnightly Report during March 1909, Political A, May 1909, Progs Nos. 130–4. Fortnightly Report for the First Half of April 1908, Political A, May 1908, Progs No. 29. Fortnightly Report for the First Half of August 1908, Political A, September 1908, Progs No. 70. Fortnightly Report for the First Half of December 1908, Political A, January 1909, Progs No. 104. Fortnightly Report for the First Half of January 1908, Political A, February 1908, Progs No. 104. Fortnightly Report for the First Half of June 1908, Political A, July 1908, Progs No. 110. Fortnightly Report for the First Half of October 1908, Political A, January 1909, Progs No. 17.

146 Performing Nationhood Fortnightly Report for the First Half of September 1908, Political A, October 1908, Progs No. 112. Fortnightly Report for the Month of February 1909, Political A, April 1909, Progs Nos. 50–2. Fortnightly Report for the Period Ending 6 August 1907, Political A, September 1907, Progs No. 44. Fortnightly Report for the Period Ending 20 August 1907, Political A, September 1907, Progs No. 65. Fortnightly Report for the Period Ending 20 July, Political A, August 1907, Progs No. 114. Fortnightly Report for the Period Ending 6 June 1907, Political A, July 1907, Progs No. 186. Fortnightly Report for the Period Ending 20 June, Political A, July 1907, Progs No. 188. Fortnightly Report for the Period Ending September 1907, Political A, October 1907, Progs No. 52. Fortnightly Report for the Second Half of April 1908, Political A, June 1908, Progs No. 2. Fortnightly Report for the Second Half of August 1908, Political A, October 1908, Progs No. 104. Fortnightly Report for the Second Half of May 1908, Political A, July 1908, Progs No. 38. Fortnightly Report for the Second Half of November 1908, Political A, January 1909, Progs No. 94. Fortnightly Report for the Second Half of October 1908, Political A, January 1909, Progs No. 18. Fortnightly Report from 4 to 9 September, Shillong, 25 September 1907, Political A, October 1907, No. 76. Fortnightly Report of Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Second Half of February 1908, Political A, April 1908, Progs No. 37. Fortnightly Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement in Bengal, Political A, August 1908, Progs No. 130. Fortnightly Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement in Bengal, Political A, December 1908, Progs No. 94. Fortnightly Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement in Bengal, Political A, February 1909, Progs No. 1. Fortnightly Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement in Bengal, Political A, February 1909, Progs No. 14. Fortnightly Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement in Bengal, Political A, January 1909, Progs No. 20. Fortnightly Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement in Bengal, Political A, January 1909, Progs No. 40.

Bibliography 147 Fortnightly Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement, Political A, January 1908, Progs No. 49. Fortnightly Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement in Bengal, Political A, July 1908, Progs No. 50. Fortnightly Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement, Political A, July 1908, Progs No. 50. Fortnightly Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement in Bengal, Political A, June 1908, Progs No. 1. Fortnightly Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement in Bengal, Political A, June 1908, Progs No. 107. Fortnightly Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement in Bengal, Political A, June 1908, Progs No. 133. Fortnightly Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement in Bengal, Political A, March 1909, Progs No. 103. Fortnightly Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement in Bengal, Political A, May 1908, Progs No. 30. Fortnightly Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement in Bengal, Political A, November 1908, Progs No. 26. Fortnightly Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement in Bengal, Political A, October 1908, Progs No. 119. Fortnightly Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement in Bengal, Political A, September 1908, Progs No. 41. Fortnightly Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement in Bengal, Political A, September 1908, Progs No. 69. Fortnightly Report on the Political Situation in the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Second Half of April 1908, Political A, May 1908, Progs No. 29. Fortnightly Report on the Political Situation in the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Second Half of August 1908, Political A, August 1908, Progs No. 62. Fortnightly Report on the Political Situation in the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Second Half of August 1908, Political A, October 1908, Progs No. 104. Fortnightly Report on the Political Situation in the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Second Half of August 1908, Political A, September 1908, Progs No. 70. Fortnightly Report on the Political Situation in the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Second Half of December 1908, Political A, February 1909, Progs No. 32. Fortnightly Report on the Political Situation in the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Second Half of February 1908, Political A, April 1908, Progs No. 37.

148 Performing Nationhood Fortnightly Report on the Political Situation in the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Second Half of July 1908, Political A, September 1908, Progs No. 38. Fortnightly Report on the Political Situation in the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Second Half of July 1908, Political A, September 1908, Progs No. 42. Fortnightly Report on the Political Situation in the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Second Half of June 1908, Political A, July 1908, Progs No. 110. Fortnightly Report on the Political Situation in the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Second Half of March 1908, Political A, April 1908, Progs No. 107. Fortnightly Report on the Political Situation in the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Second Half of March 1908, Political A, May 1908, Progs No. 28. Fortnightly Report on the Political Situation in the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Second Half of May 1908, Political A, July 1908, Progs No. 38. Fortnightly Report on the Political Situation in the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Second Half of May 1908, Political A, June 1908, Progs No. 147. Fortnightly Report on the Political Situation in the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Second Half of November 1908, Political A, January 1909, Progs No. 42. Fortnightly Report on the Political Situation in the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Second Half of September 1908, Political A, October 1908, Progs No. 112. Fortnightly Report on the Political Situation in the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Second Half of September 1908, Political A, January 1909, Progs Nos. 59–60. Fortnightly Report up to the Close of September 1907, Political A, November 1907, Progs No. 15. Fortnightly Report, Political A, April 1908, Progs No. 36. Fortnightly Report, Political A, February 1908, Progs No. 104. Measures to be Taken by the Government of Eastern Bengal and Assam to Check the Performance of Plays with a Seditious Tendency by Theatrical Companies and Jatra Parties, Political B, August 1910, Progs No. 106. Monthly Report during June 1909, Political A, August 1909, Progs Nos. 57–9. Monthly Report during May 1909, Political A, July 1909, Progs Nos. 40–1. Monthly Report for September 1909, Political A, December 1909, Progs Nos. 15–16.

Bibliography 149 Monthly Report for the Month of August 1911, Political A, October 1911, Progs Nos. 146–7. Monthly Report for the Month of May 1910, Political A, August 1910, Progs Nos. 42–3. Monthly Report for the Month of November 1909, Political A, January 1910, Progs Nos. 126–7. Monthly Report of April 1910, Political A, July 1910, Progs Nos. 112–13. Monthly Report of December 1909, Political A, January 1910, Progs Nos. 141–2. Monthly Report of January 1910, Political A, May 1910, Progs Nos. 156–7. Monthly Report of January 1910, Political A, May 1910, Progs Nos. 138–9. Monthly Report of March 1910, Political A, May 1910, Progs Nos. 140–1. Participation of Students and Schoolboys in the Political Agitation, Political A, September 1909, Progs No. 57. Proposal to Prevent Celebration on the Occasion of the Anniversary of the Inauguration of the Boycott Movement, Report of the Celebration on the Anniversary of the Inauguration of the Boycott Movement in Eastern Bengal and Assam, Political A, October 1909, Progs Nos. 224–9. Proposal to Prevent Celebrations on the Occasion of the Anniversary of the Inauguration of the Boycott Movement, Political A, October 1909, Progs Nos. 224–9. Proposed declaration of the Arunachal Ashram as an Unlawful Association, Political A, August 1910, Progs Nos. 42–3. Proscription of Certain Plays under the Indian Press Act, Prohibition of the Performance of the Same Plays under the Dramatic Performance Act, Political B, February 1911, Progs No. 18. Prosecution of Certain Persons in Eastern Bengal and Assam under Section 124 A, Indian Penal Code, in Respect of Certain Seditious Performances and the Printing and Publishing of Two Seditious Books Called Mukunda’s Matripuja Gan And Desar Gan, Political A, March 1909, Progs Nos. 112–31. Prosecution of Rajani Kanta Pandit under Sections 124A and 153A, Indian Penal Code, in Respect of the Publication and the Printing of a Pamphlet Entitled ‘Mayer Gan’, Part II, Political A, September 1909, Progs Nos. 95–9. Prosecution of the Author, Printer and Publisher of a Seditious Bengali Play Called ‘Ranajiter Jibanjajna’, Political A, July 1909, Progs Nos. 19–23. Prosecution of the Author, Printer, and Publisher of a Seditious Bengali Drama Called Matripuja under Section 124A, Indian Penal Code, Political A, May 1909, Progs Nos. 110–17. Prosecution of the Printer and Publisher of Bande Mataram Sangit, Political A, July 1909, Progs Nos. 43–51.

150 Performing Nationhood Prosecution under Section 124A, Indian Penal Code, of Kunja Behari Ganguli, Author of a Seditious Drama Called ‘Matripuja’, Political A, September 1910, Progs Nos. 60–5. Prosecution under Section 124A, Indian Penal Code, of Suresh Chandra Sanyal for Posting a Pamphlet Entitled ‘Matripuja’, Addressed to the Captain, Zilla School, Rungpur, Political B, January 1912, Progs Nos. 105–9 Question and Answer in Council regarding the Political Situation in Eastern Bengal and Assam and the Suppression of Conferences Proposed to be Held in Faridpur, Barisal and Mymensingh, Political B, August 1910, Progs No. 74/74A. Report on Political Situation during August 1907, Political B, September 1907, Progs Nos. 6–43. Report on Political Situation during November 1907, Political B, November 1907, Progs Nos. 21–46. Report on Political Situation during September 1907, Political B, October 1907, Progs No. 38. Report on Political Situation during September 1907, Political B, October 1907, Progs No. 38. Report on the Agitation in Eastern Bengal and Assam during the Second Half of the October 1907, Political A, January 1908, Progs No. 50. Report on the Agitation in Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Month of November 1907, Political A, January 1908, Progs Nos. 52–8. Report on the Events Prior and Subsequent to the Bomb Outrage at Muzaffarpur, Political A, June 1908, Progs Nos. 130–1. Report on the Partition Agitation and the Boycott Movement in Bengal, Political A, July 1908, Progs No. 50. Report on the Political Situation in Bengal and Eastern Bengal and Assam 1911, Political A, February 1911, Progs Nos. 85–6. Report on the Political Situation in Bengal and Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Month of May 1910. Report on the Political Situation in Bengal and Eastern Bengal and Assam for the Month of November 1909, Political A, January 1910, Progs Nos. 126–7. Reports from the Government of Eastern Bengal and Assam on the Political Situation during August 1907, Political B, September 1907, Progs Nos. 6–43. Reports of the Celebration on the Anniversary of ‘Partition Day’ in Bengal and Eastern Bengal and Assam, Political B, December 1909, Progs Nos. 55–7. Reports Regarding the ‘Partition Day’ Celebrations in Bengal and Eastern Bengal and Assam, Political B, December 1910, Progs Nos. 47–53. Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence (henceforth DCI) and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during April 1909, Political B, June 1909, Progs Nos. 108–14.

Bibliography 151 Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during April 1910, Political B, June1910, Progs Nos. 17–25. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during April 1911, Political B, June 1911, Progs Nos. 1–3. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during August 1908, Political B, September 1908, Progs Nos. 49–58. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during August 1910, Political B, September 1910, Progs Nos. 51–9. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during August 1911, Political B, September 1911, Progs Nos. 3–7. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during August 1912, Political B, September 1912, Progs Nos. 21–4. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during December 1908, Political B, January 1909, Progs Nos. 106–12. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during December 1909, Political B, February 1910, Progs Nos. 120–7. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during December 1910, Political B, January 1911, Progs Nos. 17–19. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during February 1909, Political B, June 1909, Progs Nos. 100–7. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during February 1911, Political B, March 1911, Progs Nos. 1–4. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during February 1912, Political B, April 1912, Progs Nos. 136–9. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during January 1909, Political B, February 1909, Progs Nos. 2–11. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during January 1910, Political B, April 1910, Progs Nos. 72–80. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during January 1911, Political B, February 1911, Progs Nos. 1–5. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during January 1912, Political B, February 1912, Progs Nos. 65–8. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during July 1908, Political B, August 1908, Progs Nos. 1–8. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during July 1909, Political B, August 1909, Progs Nos. 120–9. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during July 1910, Political B, August 1910, Progs Nos. 18–25. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during July 1912, Political B, August 1912, Progs Nos. 26–30.

152 Performing Nationhood Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during June 1908, Political B, July 1908, Progs Nos. 72–81. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during June 1910, Political B, August 1910, Progs Nos. 10–17. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during June 1911, Political B, July 1911, Progs Nos. 1–4. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during March 1910, Political B, June 1910, Progs Nos. 9–16. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during March 1911, Political B, April 1911, Progs Nos. 101–4. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during May 1908, Political B, June 1908, Progs Nos. 161–8. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during May 1909, Political B, June 1909, Progs Nos. 115–24. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during May 1910, Political B, August 1910, Progs Nos. 1–9. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during May 1911, Political B, June 1911, Progs Nos. 4–8. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during May 1912, Political B, June 1912, Progs Nos. 37–40. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during November 1908, Political B, December 1908, Progs Nos. 134–42. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during November 1910, Political B, December 1910, Progs Nos. 7–10. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during November 1911, Political B, January 1912, Progs Nos. 121–3. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during November 1912, Political B, December 1912, Progs Nos. 88–91. Weekly Reports of the DCI and the Punjab Government on the Political Situation during October 1907, Political B, October 1907, Progs Nos. 80–7. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during October 1908, Political B, November 1908, Progs Nos. 63–70. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during October 1909, Political B, November 1909, Progs Nos. 32–41. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during October 1910, Political B, November 1910, Progs Nos. 17–24.

Bibliography 153 Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during October 1912, Political B, November 1912, Progs Nos. 82–6. Weekly Reports of the DCI and the Punjab Government on the Political Situation during September 1907, Political B, October 1907, Progs Nos. 1–38. Weekly Reports of the DCI and the Punjab Government on the Political Situation during September 1907, Political B, October 1907, Progs Nos. 40–9. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during September 1909, Political B, November 1909, Progs Nos. 32–41. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during September 1909, Political B, October 1909, Progs Nos. 110–17. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during September 1910, October 1910, Progs Nos. 1–8. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during September 1911, Political B, October 1911, Progs Nos. 46–9. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during the Month of April 1908, Political B, May 1908, Progs Nos. 36–43. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during the Month of December 1907, Political B, January 1908, Progs Nos. 19–26. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during the Month of February 1908, Political B, April 1908, Progs Nos. 42–9A. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during the Month of February 1908, Political B, February 1908, Progs Nos. 105–12. Weekly Report of the DCI and the Government of Punjab on the Political Situation during the Month of January 1907, Political B, January 1908, Progs Nos. 111–18. Weekly Reports of the DCI for the Week Ending 27 July, Political B, August 1907, Progs No. 135. Weekly Report of the DCI for the Week Ending 3 August 1907, Political B, August 1907, Progs No. 137. Weekly Report of the DCI for the Week Ending 10 August 1907, Political B, August 1907, Progs No. 139. Weekly Report of the DCI for the Week Ending 17 August 1907, Political B, August 1907, Progs No. 141. Weekly Report of the DCI for the Week Ending 24 August 1907, Political B, August 1907, Progs No. 144.

154 Performing Nationhood Weekly Report of the DCI, 16 November 1907, Eastern Bengal and Assam, Political B, December 1907, Progs Nos. 2–9.

Printed Drama Librettos, Jatra Texts and Songbooks, and Other Published Primary Sources Amrita Bazaar Patrika, 1905, 1907, 1908. Basu, Haranath. Maharashtra Gourab Rajaram ba Birpuja (Rajaram the Pride of Maharashtra or Hero Worship). 2nd edition. Kolkata: Bhattacharyya and Sons, 1912. ———. Rajaram or Birpuja (Rajaram or Hero Worship). Kolkata: Kalika Press, 1909. Basu, S. C. Holo Ki (What Went Wrong). Kolkata: Basu Press, 1312 BS (1905). Bandopadhyay, Kaliprasanna. Banglar Itihas: Nababi Amal (History of Bengal: Age of the Nawabs). 3rd edition. Kolkata: Student’s Library, 1316 BS (1909). Bengalee, 1904, 1907, 1908. Bhattacharyya, Abinash Chandra. Mukti Kon Pathe (Which Way Lies the Freedom). Kolkata: Punascha, 2006. Chattopadhyay, Haripada. Ranajiter Jiban Jajna (The Life of Ranajit). Kolkata: Basupati Press, 1315 BS (1908). ———. Durgasur. Kolkata: Bhattacharya and Sons Pustakalay, 1909. Das, Mukunda Lal. Gaan (Songs). Sylhet: Karimgunj Press, 1329 BS (1922). Das, Upendranath. Sarat Sarojini. Kolkata: J. P. Ray and Co., 1880. De, D. Sonar Sansar (The Golden World). Kolkata: Hindu Dharma Press, 1316 BS (1909). Dutta, Amarendra Nath. Banger Angachhed (Partition of Bengal). Kolkata: Friend and Company Publishers, 1312 BS (1905). ———. Asha Kuhakini (Shattered Hopes). Kolkata: Febrodyne Press, 1316 BS (1909). Dutta, Satyendranath. Benu o Bina. 3rd edition. Allahabad: Indian Press Limited, 1906. Gangopadhyay, Kunja Behari. Matripuja (Mother Worship). Kolkata: Indian Patriot Press, 1315 BS (1908). Ghosh, Girish Chandra. Mir Kasim. Kolkata: Keshab Printing Works, 1313 BS (1906). ———. Siraj-ud-Dowlah. 6th edition. Kolkata: Gurudas Chattopadhyay and Sons, 1361 BS (1954). Goswami, M. Sansar (World). Kolkata: Kalika Press, 1312 BS (1905). ———. Karmafal (Consequences). Kolkata: Kalika Press, 1316 BS (1909). ———. Samaj (Society). Kolkata: Kalika Press, 1316 BS (1909). Maitreya, Akshay Kumar. Sirajdoulla. Kolkata: Metcalfe Press, 1902.

Bibliography 155 Mitra, P. ‘Alaler Gharer Dulal’ (Prodigal Son of Wealthy Parents). In Satsahitya Granthabali, vol. 1. Kolkata: 1855–7. Mukhopadhyay, Dhananjay. Bangiya Natyashala (Bengali Theatre). Kolkata: Emerald Printing Works, 1316 BS (1909). Ray, Nikhilnath. Sonar Bangla (Golden Bengal). Kolkata: Metcalfe Press, 1908. Roy, D. L. Rana Pratap Singha. Kolkata: Gurudas Chakraborty and Sons, 1901. ———. Durgadas. Kolkata: Metcalfe Press, 1313 BS (1906). ———. Mebar Patan. Kolkata: Victoria Press, n.d. Roy, Haradhan, Surath Uddhar Gitabhinay (The Opera of Surath’s Deliverance). Kolkata: Sri Gurudas Chattopadhyay Kartrik Prakashit, 1314 BS (1907). ———. Mira Uddhar (Mira’s Salvation). Kolkata: Pasupati Press, 1315 BS (1908). Singha, K. Satik Hutom Pyanchar Naksha (Annotated Volume of Pantomime of the Owl). Kolkata: Subarnarekha, 1991. Tagore, Rabindranath. Bou Thakuranir Haat (Bazaar of the Queen Mother). Kolkata: Visvabharati Publications, 1289 BS (1882). ———. Ghare Baire (Hone and the World). Kolkata: Visvabharati Publications, 1916. Tribedi, Ramendra Sundar. ‘Bangiya sahitya parishad’ (The Council of Bengali Literature). Bharati, vol. 29 (1312 BS [1905]): 13–26. Vidyavinod, Khirod Prasad. Padmini. Kolkata: Wilkins’ Machine Press, 1313 BS (1906). ———. Palasir Prayaschitta (Atonement for the Loss of Plassey). Kolkata: Wilkins’ Press, 1313 BS (1906). ———. Nandakumar. Kolkata: Wilkins’ Machine Press, 1314 BS (1907). ———. Banger Pratapaditya (Pratapaditya of Bengal). 5th edition. Kolkata: Gurudas Chattopadhyay and Sons, 1322 BS (1915). ———. ‘Dada O Didi’ (Brothers and Sisters). In Khirod Prasad Natyasamagra, vol. 2. Kolkata: Sahitya Sansad, 2001.

Periodicals 1. Natyamandir. 1st issue, Bhadra 1312 BS (1905). 2. Bangasuhrid. 1st issue, Agrahyan, 1297 BS (1872). 3. Bangamihir, Sravan 1280 BS (1855). 4. Sandeshabali, Asvin 1280 BS (1855).

Memoirs and Biographies Bagol, Jogesh Chandra. Muktir Sandhane Bharat (India in Search of Freedom). Kolkata: Mahamaya Press, 1352 BS (1945).

156 Performing Nationhood Bandopadhyay, Tarashankar. Amar Kaler Katha (The Story of My Age). Kolkata: Bengal Publishers, 1358 BS (1951). Bandopadhyay, Upendra Nath. Nirbashiter Atmakatha (Memoirs of an Exiled Revolutionary). Kolkata: Barendranath Chattopadhyay, 1328 BS (1921). Debi, Sarala. Jiboner Jhara Pata (The Fallen Leaves of Life). Kolkata: Sahitya Parishad, 1879. Dutta, Aswini Kumar. Atmapratishtha (Self-Establishment). Kolkata: Barman Publishing House, n.d. Dutta, Charu Chandra. Purano Katha Uposanhar (Summary of the Past). Kolkata: Sankriti Baithaker Pakshye, 1359 BS (1952). Dutta, Ramapati. Rangalaye Amarendranath (Amarendranath in the Theatre). Kolkata: Puran Press, 1348 BS (1941). Ghosh, Girish Chandra. Bangiya Natyashalar Churamani Svargiya Ardhendu Shekhar Mustafi (Ardhendu Shekhar Mustafi the Head of Bengali Stage). Kolkata: Kalika Jantra, 1315 BS (1908). Guha, Nalini Kishor. Banglay Biplabbad (Revolution in Bengal). Kolkata: Arya Sahitya Bhavan, 1336 BS (1929). Mukhopadhyay, Apareshchandra. Rangalaye Tris Batsar (Thirty Years in the Theatre). Kolkata: De Book Centre, 1933. Mukhopadhyay, Jadu Gopal. Biplabi Jiboner Smriti (Memories of the Life of a Revolutionary). Kolkata: Academic Publisher, 1955. Pakrashi, Satis. Agnijuger Katha (Memories of the Year of Inferno). Kolkata: Nabajatak Prakashan, 1982. Pal, Bipin Chandra. Charit Katha (Autobiography). Kolkata: Bhattacharya and Sons, 1323 BS (1916). Qanungo, Hemchandra. Banglay Biplab Prachesta (Revolutionary Endeavours in Bengal). Kolkata: Chirayit Prakashan, 1984. Roy, Dilip Kumar. Smriti Charan (Autobiography). Kolkata: Indian Associated Publishing Co. Pvt Ltd, 1882. Roy, Motilal. Swadeshi Juger Smriti (Memories of the Swadeshi Era). Kolkata: Prabartak Publishing House, 1338 BS (1931).

Secondary Sources Books Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 1983. Bakhtin, Mikhail M. ‘Discourse in the Novel’. In The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, compiled by Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.

Bibliography 157 Banerjee, Sumanta. The Parlour and the Streets: Elite and Popular Culture in Nineteenth Century Calcutta. Kolkata: Seagull Books, 1989. Barthes, Roland. Elements of Semiology. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977. ———. Mythologies. London: Vintage Books, 2009. Basu, Swapan and Indrajit Choudhury, eds. Unish Shotoker Bangali Jibon O Sangoshkriti (Bengali Lifestyle and Culture of the Nineteenth Century). Kolkata: Pustok Biponi, 2003. Baxter, Christine. ‘The Genesis of the Babu: Bhabanicharan Bannerji and Kalikata Kamalalay’. In Peter Robb and David Taylor, eds, Rule, Protest, Identity, Aspects of Modern South Asia. London and Dublin: Curzon Press, 1978. Blackburn, Stuart. Print, Folklore, and Nationalism in Colonial South India. New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2003. Brooks, P. The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama, and the Mode of Excess. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995. Calhoun, C., ed. Habermas and the Public Sphere. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1992. Carlson, Marvin. Places of Performance: The Semiotics of Theatre Architecture. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993. ———. The Theatre of the French Revolution. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1966. ———. The Haunted Stage: The Theatre as a Memory Machine. Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press, 2001. Chartier, Roger. ‘Intellectual History or Socio-Cultural History?’ In Steven L. Kaplan and Dominick La Capra, eds, Modern European Intellectual History. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982. ———. The Culture of Print: Power and the Use of Print in Early Modern Europe. Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1989. ———. The Order of Books: Readers and Libraries in Europe between the Fourteenth and the Eighteenth Centuries. California: Stanford University Press, 1992. Chatterjee, Partha. The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Post-colonial Histories. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993. ———. The Politics of the Governed: Reflections on Popular Politics in Most of the World. Columbia: Columbia University Press, 2006. Chattopadhyay, Basudeb. Folk Theatre and the Raj: Selections from Confidential Records. Kolkata: West Bengal State Archives, 2008. Chattopadhyay, Gita. Bangla Swadeshi Gaan (Patriotic Songs in Bengali). New Delhi: Delhi University, 1983. Chattopadhyay, Nishikanto. The Yatras: Or the Popular Dramas of Bengal. London: Trübner and Co., 1882. Chaudhuri, Kamal, ed. Bangabhanga O Samakalin Banga Samaj (Partition of Bengal and the Contemporary Bengali Society). Kolkata: Dey’s Publication, 2005.

158 Performing Nationhood Chaudhuri, Nirad C. The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, vol. 1. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951. Cussack, Tricia and Sighle Breathnach-Lynch. Art, Nation and Gender. Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2003. Dalmia, Vasudha and Stuart Blackburn, eds. India’s Literary History. New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2004. Dalmia, Vasudha and Rashmi Sadana, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Modern Indian Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Dasgupta, H. N. The Indian Stage. Kolkata: Metropolitan Printing and Publishing House Ltd, 1934. Davis, Richard. Picturing the Nation: Iconographies of Modern India. New Delhi: Orient Longman, 2007. Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. Translated by Donald NicholsonSmith. New York: Zone Books, 1994. Derrida, Jacques. Dissemination. Translated by Barbara Johnson. London: The Athlone Press, 1981. Dutta, Bhupendra Nath. Bharater Dvitiya Svadhinata Sangram (Second Nationalist Movement of India). Kolkata: Burman Publishing House, 1947. Fischer-Lichte, Erika. The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics. Translated by Saskyra Iris Jain. New York: Routledge, 2008. Fortier, Mark. Theory/Theatre. New York: Routledge, 1997. Foucault, Michel. History of Sexuality. London: Vintage Books, 1990. ———. Madness and Civilization. New York: Routledge, 2001. ———. Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Routledge, 2002. ———. The Order of Things. New York: Routledge, 2002. Gangopadhyay, Brajendranath. Bangiya Natyashalar Itihas (The History of Bengali Theatre). Kolkata: Bangiya Sahitya Parishad Mandir, 1345 BS (1938). Goswami, Arjun, ed. Bangabhanga: 1905 (Partition of Bengal: 1905). Kolkata: Chayanika, 2005. Gramsci, Antonio. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. Edited and translated by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2009. Guha-Thakurta, P. The Bengali Drama: Its Origin and Development. New York: Routledge, 2000. Guha, R. ‘Neel-Darpan: The Image of a Peasant Revolt in a Liberal Mirror’. In David Hardiman, ed., Peasant Resistance in India, 1858–1914. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. Gupta, Dipankar. Culture, Space and the Nation-State. London: SAGE, 2000. Gupta, Swarupa. Notions of Nationhood in Bengal: Perspectives on Samaj, 1870– 1905. Leiden: Brill, 2009.

Bibliography 159 Habermas, Jurgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Translated by Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991. Hays, M. and A. Nikolopoulou. ‘Introduction’. In Michael Hays and Anastasia Nikolopoulou. eds, Melodrama: The Cultural Emergence of a Genre. New York: St Martin’s, 1996. Heehs, Peter. The Bomb in Bengal: The Rise of Revolutionary Terrorism in India. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Inden, Ronald B. and Ralph W. Nicholas. Kinship in Bengali Culture. New Delhi: Chronicle Books, 2005. Jones, Kenneth W. New Cambridge History of India, vol. 3, part 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Kaplan, Steven L., ed. Understanding Popular Culture: Europe from the Middle Ages to the Nineteenth Century. Berlin: Mouton Publishers, 1984. Kar, Sisir. British Sashone Bajeyapto Bangla Boi (Bengali Books Proscribed under the British Rule). Kolkata: Ananda Publishers, 1988. Kinnear, Michael S. The Gramaphone Company’s First Indian Recordings, 1899– 1908. Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1994. Kruger, Loren. The National Stage: Theatre and Cultural Legitimation in England, France, and America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. Lavender, Andy. ‘Mise-en-scène, Hypermediacy and the Sensorium’. In Freda Chapple and Chiel Kattenbelt, eds, Intermediality in Theatre and Performance. New York: Rodopi, 2006. Lyotard, Jean-Francois. ‘The Unconscious Mise-en-scène’. In Timothy Murray, ed., Mimesis, Masochism, and Mime: The Politics of Theatricality in Contemporary French Thought. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997. Majumdar, R. C. History of Modern Bengal. Kolkata: G. Bharadwaj and Co., 1978. Mason, Laura. ‘Songs: Mixing Media’. In Robert Darnton and Daniel Roche, eds, Revolution in Print: The Press in France 1775–1800. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989, pp. 252–69. Maza, Sarah. Private Lives and Public Affairs. California: University of California Press, 1993. McAuley, Gay. Space in Performance: Making Meaning in the Theatre. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1999. Mehta, Uday S. Liberalism and Empire: A Study in Nineteenth Century British Liberal Thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. Mukherjee, Haridas and Uma Mukherjee. Swadeshi Andolan O Banglar Nabajug (Swadeshi Movement and the New Age of Bengal). Kolkata: Dey’s Publishing, 1961. ———. India’s Fight for Freedom. Kolkata: K. L. Mukhopadhyay, 1985.

160 Performing Nationhood Mukhopadhyay, Asok Kumar. ‘Polishi Reporte Swadeshi Gaan’ (Swadeshi Songs in Police Report). Reprinted as a foreword to Jogindranath Sarkar’s Bande Mataram. Kolkata: Sahistya Samsad, 2007. Ozouf, Mona. Festivals and the French Revolution. Translated by Alan Sheridan. Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1991. Peters, Julie Stone. Theatre of the Book, 1480–1880: Print, Text, and Performance in Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Poster, Mark. Foucault, Marxism and History. Oxford: Polity Press, 1984. Ray, Rajat Kanta. Social Conflict and Political Unrest in Bengal. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984. ———. Palasir Sarajantra o Shekaler Samaj (The Plassey Conspiracy and the Contemporary Society). Kolkata: Ananda Publishers, 1994. ———. The Felt Community: Commonality and Mentality before the Emergence of Indian Nationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. ———. Exploring Emotional History: Commonality and Mentality before the Emergence of Indian Nationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Raychaudhuri, Subir. Bilati Jatra Theke Swadeshi Theatre (From Foreign Jatra to Swadeshi Theatre). Kolkata: Tulanamulak Sahitya Granthamala, Jadavpur, 1972. Samanta, Amiya Kumar. Terrorism in Bengal: A Collection of Documents, vols 1, 2, 4. Kolkata: Government of West Bengal, 1995. Sarkar, Pabitra. ‘Unobingsho Shatabdir Bangla Natok O Tar Proyogkala’ (Bengali Drama and Its Application in the Nineteenth Century). In Swapan Basu and Indrajit Choudhury, eds, Unish Shotoker Bangali Jibon O Sangoshkriti (Bengali Lifestyle and Culture of the Nineteenth Century). Kolkata: Pustok Biponi, 2003. Sarkar, Sumit. Swadeshi Movement in Bengal, 1903–1908. New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 1973. Sarkar, Susobhan. On the Bengal Renaissance. Kolkata: Papyrus, 1979. Sarkar, Tanika. Hindu Wives, Hindu Nation: Community, Religion and Cultural Nationalism. New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2000. Schechner, R. Between Theater and Anthropology. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985. Schuman, Mady and Richard Schechner. Ritual, Play, and Performance: Readings in the Social Sciences/Theatre. New York: Seabury Press, 1976. Scott, James C. Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. London: Yale University Press, 1985. ———. Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. London: Yale University Press, 1990. Sen, Amit. Notes on the Bengal Renaissance. Bombay: People’s Publishing House, 1946.

Bibliography 161 Sen, Samita. ‘Unsettling the Household: Act VI (of 1901) and the Regulation of Women Migrants in Colonial Bengal’. In S. Amin and M. van der Linden, eds, Peripheral Labour? Studies in the History of Partial Proletarianization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Sinha, Mrinalini. Colonial Masculinity: The ‘Manly Englishman’ and the ‘Effeminate Bengali’ in the late Nineteenth Century. New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1997. Sohanobis, Chinmohan. Rabindranath o Biplabisamaj (Rabindranath and the Society of Revolutionaries). Kolkata: Visvabharati Publication, 1997. Taylor, M. British Pantomime Performance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. Tripathi, Amles. The Extremist Challenge: India between 1890 and 1910. London: Orient Longman, 1967. Turner, Victor. Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974. Vijayasree, C., Meenakshi Mukherjee, Harish Trivedi, and T. Vijay Kumar, eds. Nation in Imagination: Essays on Nationalism, Sub-Nationalisms and Narration. Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, 2012. Wanner, Catherine. ‘Nationalism on Stage: Music and Change in Soviet Ukraine’. In Mark Slobin. ed., Returning Culture: Musical Changes in Central and Eastern Europe. Durham: Duke University Press, 1966. White, Hayden. Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth Century Europe. London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973. Wiles, David. A Short History of Western Performance Space. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Williams, Raymond. Culture and Society 1780–1950. New York: Doubleday and Co., 1960. ———. Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. London: Croom Helm Ltd, 1976. Wilmer, S. E. Theatre, Society, and the Nation: Staging American Identities. Edinburgh: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Wuthnow, Robert, James D. Hunter, Albert Bergesen, and Edith Kurzweit. Cultural Analysis. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984. Zarrilli, P. B., B. McConachie, G. J. Williams, and C. F. Sorgenfrei, eds. Theatre Histories: An Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2010.

Journal Articles Beeman, William O. ‘The Anthropology of Theatre and Spectacle’. Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 22 (1993): 369–93. Booth, M. ‘The Art of Words in Songs’. The Quarterly Journal of Speech, vol. 62, no. 3 (1976): 242–9.

162 Performing Nationhood Chatterjee, K. ‘The King of Controversy: History and Nation-Making in Late Colonial India’. The American Historical Review, vol. 110, no. 5 (December 2005, 23 February 2011): 1454–75. Available at, last accessed on 27 January 2010. Das, Prabhat Kumar. ‘Bangabhanga: Bangarangamancha O Jatrar Ashor’. Parikatha, vol. 7, no. 2 (2005): 281–319. Goodman, Deena. ‘The Public and the Nation’. Eighteenth Century Studies, vol. 29, no. 1 (1996): 1–4. Gordon, David M. ‘The Cultural Politics of a Traditional Ceremony: Mutomboko and the Performance of History on the Luapula (Zambia)’. Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 46, no. 1 (2004): 63–83. Grafton, Anthony. ‘The History of Ideas: Percepts and Practice, 1950–2000 and Beyond’. Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 67, no. 1 (2006): 1–32. Hurner, Sheryl. ‘Discursive Identity Formation of Suffrage Women: Reframing the “Cult of True Womenhood” through Song’. Western Journal of Communication, vol. 70, no. 3 (2006): 234–60. La Vopa, Anthony J. ‘Conceiving a Public: Ideas and Society in Eighteenth Century Europe’. Journal of Modern History. vol. 64, no. 1 (1992): 79–116. Lovejoy, A. O. ‘Reflections on the History of Ideas’. Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 1, no. 1 (1940): 3–23. Maza, Sarah. ‘Stories in History: Cultural Narratives in Recent Works in European History’. American Historical Review, vol. 101, no. 5 (1996): 1493–1515. Mitter, P. ‘Cartoons of the Raj’. History Today, vol. 47, no. 9 (September 1997): 16–21. Ospovich, David. ‘What is Theatrical Performance?’ The Journal of Aesthetics and Arts Criticism, vol. 64, no. 4 (2006): 461–70. Parekh, Bhikhu. ‘Discourses on National Identity’. Political Studies, vol. 42, no. 3 (1994): 492–504. Reinelt, Janelle. ‘National Signs: Estonian Identity in Performance’. Sign Systems Studies, vol. 33, no. 2 (2005): 369–78. Sartori, Andrew. ‘The Categorical Logic of a Colonial Nationalism: Swadeshi Bengal, 1904–1908’. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, vol. 23, nos. 1 and 2 (2003): 271–85. Sellnow, D. and T. Sellnow. ‘The “Illusion of Life” Rhetorical Perspective: An Integrated Approach to the Study of Music as Communication’. Critical Studies in Media Communication, vol. 18, no. 4 (December 2001): 395–415. Sanyal, Sukla. ‘Legitimizing Violence: Seditious Propaganda and Revolutionary Pamphlets in Bengal’. The Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 67, no. 3 (2008): 759–87.

Bibliography 163 Sen, Samita. ‘Commercial Recruiting and Informal Intermediation: Debate over the Sardari Systems in Assam Tea Plantations, 1860–1900’. Modern Asian Studies, vol. 44, no. 1 (2010): 3–28. Voskuil, Lynn M. ‘Feeling Public: Sensation, Theater, Commodity Culture and the Victorian Public Sphere’. Victorian Studies, vol. 44, no. 2 (2002): 245–74. White, Hayden. ‘The Question of Narratives in Contemporary Historical Theory’. History and Theory, vol. 23, no. 1 (1984): 1–33.


Abbakka Devi 141 Adya Shakti 72–3, 75–6, 113 agitation/agitators xiii, xv–xvii, xix, xxxiii, 2, 4, 6–7, 16, 32–3, 43, 45, 47, 53–4, 80, 86, 92–3, 108, 109n66, 121, 136–7, 140; of anti-partition 2, 4, 53 Agnijuger Katha xxxviii Amar Desh 29, 55, 79–80 Amar Kaler Katha xxxviii Anderson, Benedict 34, 115 Angarajlaxmi 72 atmiya svajan xviii, 30 audiences xiv–xvi, xix, xxxi–xxxv, 5, 7–8, 10, 22–3, 26–7, 30, 34–51, 53–71, 75–6, 79, 82, 86–7, 89–98, 100–110, 112–114, 116–117, 119–120, 122–6, 129, 132–4, 136, 139 (see also spectators); expression connected with xiii, xvi, xxxi–xxxii; gathered xxxiii, 44, 46, 57, 59, 79, 96–7, 100, 122; Hemchandra on 104 Badal 29, 73 Bakhtin, Mikhail M. 123 Banarji, Chandi Charan 14 ‘Bande Mataram’ xxxi, xxxiii, 11, 44–5, 50, 57, 65, 71, 100, 109 Bandopadhyay, Kaliprasanna 22

Bandopadhyay, Tarashankar xxxiv– xxxv, xxxviii, 4, 32, 35, 38, 84, 102, 126 Banerjee, Sumanta xv Banga Bikram 23 bangadesh xvii–xviii Banglay Biplab Prachesta xxxviii Bannerji, Bhabanicharan 69 Basu, Atul Chandra xviii Basu, Man Mohan 27 Basu, Surendra Chandra 11 Baudrillard, Jean xxxii, 10, 86, 164 Baxter, Christina 69 Bayati, Mafizuddin 136 Bengali culture xviiin9, xxin13, xxiii,70 Bengali society 7, 9, 11–12, 14, 129n45, 132n47; bhadralok household in 7 Bengali theatre 24; see also plays; performances; songs betwixt xxvii, xxviii, 114, 139 bhadralok landlorder xxv; see also Bengali society Bhaduri, Satinath xxxvii, 138 Bahrucha, Rustam xxxix Bhatia, Nandi xxxix Bhattacharyya, Kamini Kumar 81 Biplabi Jibaner Smriti xxxiii body movements 43, 45, 133; see also performances; play

Index 165 Bose, Khudiram 81, 126 Bou Thakuranir Haat 21 boycott 11, 75–6, 96, 121n24; agitation xiii, xv–xvii, 2, 4, 6–7, 32, 43, 45, 54, 109n66, 140; of foreign goods 51; see also agitation/ agitators Brajendra Babu (Brajendra Lal Ganguli) 54–5, 100 British Raj xiii, 25, 45, 61, 88 byangochitra 10 caste/class exploitation 14, 129n45, 131 Chakrabarti, Man Mohan 15 Chartier, Roger 1, 1n1, 3 Chatterjee, Kumkum 28 Chatterjee, Partha xxxvi, xxxvin44, 126 Chatterjee, Sudipto xxxix, xxxixn50, 51, 91 Chattopadhyay, Bankim Chandra xxi, xxxv, 43, 92, 128 Chattopadhyay, Gita xl Chattopadhyay, Haripada xxxviii, 24–5 Chaudhurani, Sarala Devi xxxviii, 54, 63, 128, 134n51 Chaudhuri, Nirad C. 110 Chaudhury, Kedarnath 21 Chhatrapati Sivaji xxxviii, 23n66, 44 Chirol, Valentine xxxviii Classic Theatre 11, 36, 43 colonial drama police 5, 71, 120 colonialism 8, 92–3, 103, 114–18, 120, 122, 124, 127, 139; British civilizing mission in 115; resisting 6, 85, 92–4, 96, 101, 105, 107, 115–16, 134 communal tensions 135–6

community of emotion 32–60, 112, 127, 133n48, 137; of feelings 60; formation of 111 costumes xv; see also attire under jatra counter-hegemony 116, 137 cultural: criticism xx, xxvi–xxvii, xxix; development xx–xxi, xxvii, 123; performances xxxviii; products xxvii, xxix culture xxi–xxix, xxxix, xxin13, 28, 33, 38, 47, 56, 70, 91, 114–15, 118, 123, 128, 138; Williams on xxvin27 Das, Chandi 29 Das, Mukunda xxxv, xxxix, 13, 15–18, 47, 49, 51, 54, 71–2, 75–6, 78, 95–9, 105, 107, 122–3, 127 Das, Suranjan 137 Dasgupta, Hemendranath 64 De, Nibaran Chandra 17 Denham, G. C. 59n82 desh/deshiya xvii–xviii, 4–5, 20, 22–3, 70–2, 79–81; political/territorial boundary for xvii, 115; see also nationalism; nationhood Dhorai Charitmanas xxxvii, 138 dialogues/dialogic xxxi, 38–41, 44–5, 49, 52, 65, 72, 89, 91, 100; rhythmic 41; sensation-generating 49 dissemination xiv, xviii, xxvii, xxxi, 3, 5, 19, 48, 51–3, 64, 104; media for 64; and mythification of history 11; of notions xxviii, 90, 100 dramas xvi, xxvii, xxxii, xxxiii, 5–8, 10, 13, 21, 30, 42, 49, 62, 71, 91, 119–120, 123, 129n45, 135; with social theme 6 Dramatic Performance Act (DPA) (1876) 119

166 Index Dutt, R. C. 14, 68 Dutta, Amarendranath 43, 64, 128 Dutta, Aswini Kumar 17, 47, 54, 136 Dutta, Kanai Lal 81–2 Dutta, Madhusudan xxi Dutta, Ramapati 34, 41–3, 45, 65, 67 Dutta, Satyendra Nath xxiv, xxivn21 economic swadeshism 51, 77 Elokeshi–Mahanta affair xvi emotions, attachment by 68–70, 75–6; popular xix, xxxiin40, 72, 82; Ray on xxvi; by sensation xxviii enactment xiv, xxxi, xl, 24, 38, 48, 88, 141; see also performances entertainment, forms of xiii–xv, xxx, xxxiv, xxxvi, 29; see also folk entertainments expressions, facial 45 folk entertainments/performances xiv–xv, xxxvi, xxxix, 132; Banerjee on xv Foucault, Michel xxvi, xxviin30 Fraser, A. xxxvii Fuller, Bampfylde 15, 17, 22, 50, 121n24 Gandhi Raj xxxii, 138 Gangopadhyay, Kunja Behari xxxviii, 13, 71–2, 121 Ganguli, Brajendra Lal 54–5, 100 gestures xxxv, 43–5, 49, 81n52 89, 91, 108–9; mimetic 43–4 Ghosh, Girish Chandra xxxviii, 21, 23n66, 119 Ghosh, Surendra Chandra (Danibabu) 11, 40 Gitabhinay, Surath Uddhar 11–12, 72–4, 130 ‘Golden Bengal’ 27 Goswami, Joyguru xxxix

Goswami, Manmohan 7–8, 9n12, 10, 23n66, 129n45, Gramsci, Antonio xxvi Gupta, Swarupa 28 Habermas, Jurgen xxviii, xxix Hindu fundamentalism 140 hidden transcript xxii, 11, 88n9, 89, 103–4, 106, 109–110, 113, 115–16, 118, 135n52, 137 Hobsbawm, Eric 4 Hughes-Buller 122, 136 Inden, Ronald 70 Indian(ness) 118; see also desh/deshiya indigenous xxx, 4, 15, 20, 31, 51, 76, 102; characterization of xxvi interpretations xiv, xx, xxxv, 25–6, 97, 99, 112, 116, 138 janani 72, 74, janmabhumi 67–72 jati xvii–xviii jatir gathan, xviii, 1 jatiya bhab xviii jatra xiii–xiv, xix, xxii, xxxi, xxxii, xxxv, xxxix, 4–5, 11, 16, 24, 26, 29, 47–8, 52, 57–8, 61, 76, 80, 91, 101, 104, 111, 114–15, 124, 128, 134, 141; attire in 51; farces xvi; palas 5,11–13, 24–6, 47, 71, 75, 95, 129; parties xxxix, 62, 95–6, 104; performances xxxix, 46–9, 51, 66, 80–1, 91n12, 95, 106n59, 114, 121–2, 124, 125n37; performers xxxix, 47, 95, 121; space of hidden meanings in 86, 88; and social atrocities 11 Jibaner Jharapata xxxviii Kanta, Rajani 14 Karunanidhi, M. 140

Index 167 ‘Kohinoor Theatre 45 Koishor Smriti xxxviii kuladharma 74–5 laughter 89, 122–4; Bakhtin on 123 Lavender, Andy 45 liminal space of performance xxxii; and van Genepp 113–14 lyrics xxx, xxxiii, 16, 27, 53–5, 80, 97, 110 Mahabharati, Dharmananda 28 Maitreya, Akshay Kumar 22 Majumdar, Bhabaranjan 16 Majumdar, R. C. xxv male performers 41 mass contact/mobilization xxv; techniques of xxxiv, 111 McAuley, Gay xivn2 Mebar Patan xxxviii, 24 Mehta, Uday 68 metaphors xix, 15; mimesis 100 Minerva Theatre 7, 20–1 Mir Kasim xxxviii, 23, 40, 44, 65 mise-en-scène xv, xxxi, 45–6, 48, 112; definition of xv Mitra, Nabagopal xxi modern citizenry xxxvi modulation xxvi, xxxvi Mukherjee, Uma xxv Mukhopadhyay, Jadugopal xxxviii, 101, 131 music/musical xxviii, xxxi, xxxv, xxxix, 1, 41, 55, 110, 122; performances xxxix, 5, 56–7, 88, 101, 104; samitis 104 Muslim intellectuals 135n52, 136 Mymensingh Suhrid Samiti 54, 109

naksha genre/style 10, 13 Nandy, Ashis 114, 118 Naoroji, Dadabhai 14 national identity xxxvi, xl, 28, 138 nationalism xxiv, xxxv–xxxvii, 65n7, 116, 138–9; nationalist movement xiii, xxxvi nationhood xiii, xviii, xxxii–xxxiv, xxxvi–xxxvii, 2, 21, 31, 37, 53, 58, 63–5, 70, 90, 93, 100–1, 109–14, 116–17, 129, 132, 134, 137–42; consciousness of 134; emotion of xiii, 65, 90, 110; idea/notion of 111–14, 116–17, 129, 137–8, 140–2 Nawadip Banga Natya Samaj 22 Nicholas, Ralph W. 70 Nimai 29 Orientalism, Said on 117 ‘othering’ 10, 47, 110, 121, 131 Padachinha 84–5 Pade, Manmohan 36, 42–3, 67 Pakrasi, Satis xxxviii palas 12–13, 24–5, 47, 49, 51; Adya Shakti 72–3, 75–6, 113; Durgasur xxxviii, 72; Matripuja, xxxviii, 13, 23, 49–50, 71, 75, 96, 107, 121–2, 130; Padmini xxxviii, 23–5, 29, 73–5, 128; Ranajiter Jiban Jajna xxxviii, 24, 26, 95n25, 122; Sujajn 61, 95; stress on janmabhumi 67–70; Surath Uddhar Gitabhinay 11–12, 72–4, 130 Palasir Prayaschitta xxxviii partition of Bengal xvii–xix, 6, 16, 32 patriotism 20, 75, 79 performance xiii–xxii, xxiv, xxvi–xxxi, xxxiii–xxxv, xxxvii–xl, 1–2, 4–5, 7, 16, 19, 20n51, 24–5, 33–53, 56–60, 62–71, 73, 76, 80–2, 86–97, 100–2,

168 Index 104–8, 110–126, 128–141; criticism xxx; culturally elements in 67; liminal space of 114; invoking popular emotions 29; media in xvi, xxxv, 96, 101, 116 performative: faculties xiv; mechanisms 87, 112; media xiii, xxviii, xxix, xxxv, 3–4, 19, 28, 59, 61, 77, 80, 87, 104, 114–15, 124, 133n48; space xiii–xv, xvii, xxiii, xxx, 34–5, 56, 58, 60, 86, 96, 103, 106, 108, 110–11, 115, 118, 125, 127, 132, 133n48, 139, 141–2; tools xv, xxxi performers xiv–xv, xxviii, xxx, xxxi, xxxv, xxxix, 20, 42–8, 51–3, 56–7, 76, 90–3, 95, 100–1, 112–14, 117, 121, 124–6, 132 plays, Banger Pratapaditya 20, 39, 72; Bharat Gourab 22; Bharat Mitra 134; Brita Ankar 49; Chandra Shekhar, 36; Chhatrapati Sivaji xxxviii, 23n66, 44; Durgadas xxxviii, 23; Jibansandhya/Jibansandhyay 36, 41, 67–8, 70; Mebar Patan xxxviii, 24; Mira Uddhar 26; mythological/puranik 11–13, 19n49, 24–6, 47, 49, 51, 72, 129; Neel Darpan, 36; Pratapaditya 20–1, 27, 29, 33, 39, 81, 108; Raja Basanta Ray 21; Rajaram 23, 136; Rajsinhas 134; Siraj-ud Dowlah xxxviii, 21, 24, 92, 119 popular entertainments xiii, xv Press Act of 1910 25–6 public places/spaces xix, xxix, xxxiii, xxxiin40, 5, 33, 45, 58, 63, 66–7, 88, 100, 109, 125, 141 public sphere xvi, xxviii–xxix, 2–3, 58; Habermas’ theory of xxviii

Qanungo, Hemchandra xxxviii, 34, 103, 112, 133 Raghumani 29 Ramlila Committee of Allahabad 140 Rana Pratap Singha 22 Ranger, Terence 4 Ray, Dwijendra Lal xxxviii, 22, 79 Ray, Govinda Chandra 15 Ray, Kedar 23 Ray, Nikhil Nath 22 Ray, Rajat Kanta x, xxix, 65n7 reception xxx, xxxv, xxxvii, 87, 90, 100, 117–18 resistance xxxii, 8n11, 11, 17, 22, 85, 88n9, 89–101, 103, 105–7, 110, 113, 115–16, 118, 122, 135n52, 137; community of 101 Roy, Dwijendra Lal xxxviii, 22, 79; Roy, Haradhan xxxviii, 12 Said, Edward 117 Samaj 8, 39, 70 Sansar 7–8 Sarkar, Sarochis xxxix Sarkar, Sumit xxv, 116, 137, 139 Sartori, Andrew 137 Scott, James C. xxxiin40, 86, 88, 102, 106 secret police 108 sedition xxii, 25, 33, 46, 97, 105n58, 108 self (atmabismrita/amra) xviii, xxiv, xxxii, xxxiv, 3, 10, 31, 33–4, 39, 43–4, 58, 60, 65, 88, 105, 110, 112, 115, 127, 131, 133, 138, 141; collective 6; national 60, 88, 105, 110; nationalist 133; oppressed 138; ‘other’/colonial 88; sacrifice 75, 101 Sen, Babu Parbati Raman 109

Index 169 Sen, Hira Lal 59 Sen, Jaladhar 24 sensations xxviii, xxxi, xxxix, 31, 35–9, 42–4, 46–7, 49, 57, 59, 66, 68, 87, 111 Sharma, Jogendra xxxviii Shivaji 29, 36, 43, 45, 81 Sil, Jatindra Narain 18, 29–30 Sinha, Mrinalini 120 social memories 10, 18; engendering 10 song pamphlets/songbooks xxxviii, 77, Deser Gan xxxviii; Hunkar 59; Mayer Gan xxxviii; Mukunder Matripujar Gan xxxviii songs xiii–xiv, xxii, xxiv, xxix, xxxii, xxxv, xxxviii–xxxix, 4–5, 13–18, 26–7, 29, 34, 41, 47, 49–50, 52–5, 57, 59, 67, 76–7, 79–82, 91, 95–101, 104–5, 107, 111, 114–15, 122–8, 130–2, 134, 136; ‘Abanata Bharat tomare chahe’ 81; ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’ 53; of Arshad Ali 53; ‘Baj re shinga baj re oi’ robe 28; ‘Bhaiya desh ka kya haal’/’Bhaiya desh ka yi ka haal’ 55; Bhatiali tune of 54; ‘Chhere Dao Reshmi’ Churi 107; and contravention 97, 125; cultural symbols in 31, 90; ‘Ekbar tora Ma bolia dak’ 57; feeling of oneness by impact of 34, 101; half- akdai 41; to invoke emotions 90; ‘Jaga jaga sava Bharata santan’, 27; lyrics of poetry in 55; as objectionable 27, 93, 96, 108, 123, 125; panchali, kathakata 41; Prafulla 55; resistance in 96; ‘Sasan sanyata kantha janani’ 58, 77n39; Sonar Bangla 54; street singing 80; texts

as problem 26; tonality of 60, 98; unmadana in 101; ‘White Rat’ in 76, 107, 123 Sorabji (Miss) 125 Space xiii; of interaction xxxiv, 2, 34; liminal xxviii, xxxvii, 113–14,138–9; of performance xiv, xv, xxxi, xxxiv, xxxvii, 38, 43–5, 48, 52, 57–8, 65–7, 76, 86–9, 95, 102, 105–6, 108, 114, 139, 141; spectacles xxviii, 64n4, 70–1, 96, 127; you-are-there’ sensation in 36 spectators xiv–xv, xxviii, xxx, xxxi, xxxiii, xxxix, 42, 45, 51, 56, 59–60, 66, 71, 83, 95, 97, 109; Star Theatre 22, 36, 41 Sushilabala 44 Swadeshi Palli Giti xxxviii Swadeshi Palli Sangit 27 swadeshi saarigaan, Aswini Kumar on 136 swadeshi xiii–xvii, xix–xx, xxii, xxiv, xxv, xxvii–xxx, xxxiii–xl, 1–2, 5–7, 11–18, 21, 23–4, 27–8, 30; age xiv,, xxxvii–xxxix, 23–4, 28, 30, 32, 35, 46–7, 73, 79, 114, 139; agitation 6, 92; Bengal xxviii, 28, 34, 56, 60, 72, 94, 118, 139–40; fabric xvii, 7, 10; Movement xxiv, xxv, xxix, xxxvi, xxxviii–xl, xxivn22, 42, 46, 92, 116; performative media 59, 77, 115; performative texts 5; theatre 76, 128 swadhinata xviii, 47 Tagore, Rabindranath xxiv, xxivn19, 9, 21, 53–4, 57, 140 theatre xiii–xiv, xxix, xxxi, xxxv, xxxix, 4–5, 7–8, 20–2, 24, 30, 36, 40–5, 47, 51–2, 57, 63, 66, 72, 76, 80–1, 86–7, 91, 91n12, 96, 101, 104, 111,

170 Index 114–15, 128; see also drama; plays; performances theatrical: groups 20; mise-enscène xv, xxxi, 45–6, 48, 51, 112; performances 34, 41, 45–7, 58, 91, 91n12, 123 threats 16, 50 transformation xxii, xxviii, xxxi, xxxv, 31, 49, 58, 70, 116–17 Tribedi, Ramendra Sundar 3–4 Turner, Victor xxvii

van Genepp, Arnold A. 113 Vidyavinod, Khirod Prasad 20 violence xix, xxxii, 12, 62, 78, 88–90, 92, 94–5, 100–7, 109–10, 118, 126, 137; disseminated ideas of 90 voices 33, 37, 41, 52–3, 58, 60–1, 63, 66, 76, 79, 86–7, 90, 96–7, 99, 100, 103, 117, 132 volunteers 95

Vaishnava Bhakti cult 29

zamindars xxiii, 102, 129, 137

Williams, Raymond xxvi, xxvin27

About the Author

Mimasha Pandit teaches in the Department of History at Mankar College, Burdwan, India. She graduated from Presidency University, Kolkata, in 2005, and completed her post-graduation from the University of Calcutta in 2007. She received her PhD from the University of Calcutta in 2016. Her area of research is the performance/emotional history of early twentieth-century Bengal. She takes keen interest in various performative genres (soap operas, circuses, and speech making) and texts of performance (ephemeral literature such as placards, pamphlets, notices, and advertisement flyers), and the roles such media play in informing and engendering identity.