Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Lady in Love: Abhisarika to Khandita

Today I was discussing a phenomena observed in our setting, where women, especially from rural areas, who are having an extra-marital affair, get extremely angry with their lover when in front of the society (village panchayat), he either blames her for seducing him or/and commits to not continuing the affair any longer. Interestingly, she is not so bothered much by the social shame and scandal, but a lot about breaking of her trust in her lover. I don't remember how famous heroines of western literature like Anna Karenina responded to similar situations. However, it seemed a little too complex to my colleague who wondered, isn't it a paradox that the women who break the trust, asks for trust?

My take on this was different ... probably these women, when they make a choice about having an affair outside the marital relationship, have already come to terms with the social shame, which they might have to face sooner or later. They are more concerned about the mythical idea of romance and love, where the lover should have faced the world and declared to the society his undying love and readiness to die for her, but not give up on her. Almost Laila-Majnu / Romeo-Juliet style. Probably it gives meaning, almost sprinkles a spiritual dust on to their bond, a relationship which may not be otherwise pardonable by the society. Probably, if it is spiritual, infused with other-worldly qualities, then the usual social norms do not apply. But to reach that level, one needs to prove it...

And if in the initial test itself, it fails, then it was not worth it... they feel shocked because now it doesn't seem like it was love, and thus was not actually worth it! They feel manipulated, merely used like an object ... and thus the sense of betrayal of trust and anger. Which might seem paradoxical to the outside world. But for her, this which she had created between herself and her lover was very private, very secret, intimate and special, almost sacred. From this angle, she might be more idealistic and others might be more cynical about the nature of lovers, of men, of world and its ways and probably life itself!!!

Something about the complex nature of our culture itself, which is vast in its spirit, gives space to many transgressions. NatyaShastra of Bharata Muni describes 8 types of heroines (Astanayikas) and the Abhisarika is the one who is hurriedly going to meet her lover, in the middle of the night, with dangers like storm and snakes lurking around. The setting itself suits a relationship in secret, out of social norms. It is poetic, because in such a relationship there are no expectations, except that of love and company. She demands nothing else but presence of her lover during stolen moments. There is an idea of surrender, of absolute giving, almost sacred. This is often a metaphor of soul's love for the Divine.

And then when he doesn't come, after his endless promises, she is enraged. She is Khandita nayika, the one angry with her lover (who might even have deceived her - Vipralabhdha nayika). Elaborate description of this women and her anger is found, along with the attempts of her lover to make her happy again. Probably the experiences are similar to these women who seem so angry with their lovers. 

The descriptions of these characters in the classical work of art in India is celebratory, is almost divine, and at some places she is Radha herself and her unlawful lover is Lord Krishna. I will end with a quote by Sri Aurobindo

"God has so arranged life that the world is the soul's husband; Krishna its divine paramour. We owe a debt of service to the world and are bound to it by a law, a compelling opinion, and a common experience of pain and pleasure, but our heart's worship and our free and secret joy are for our Lover."

(Note: There is an elaborate and interesting theory of emotions in NatyaShastra... but that post some other day). 


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