Dance Drama Chandalika

Keywords: “Give me water”, Untouchability, Liberation, Conflicts, Caste structure, Lord Buddha


This play of Rabindranath Tagore depicts beautifully the 5th Century BCE saga of an untouchable Chandal girl, who is an outcast of society since her birth. She suffers from untold humiliation and harsh treatment from all sections of society. She holds God responsible for such an ignominious situation for all her life. Then comes thirsty Ananda, the most favourite disciple of Lord Buddha. Seeing Prakriti drawing water from well he utters the phrase ‘Give me water, give me water.’ Ananda’s request takes Prakriti by surprise and she tells him that she is an untouchable Chandal girl and that the water of the well,drawn by her, is impure. If she gives him water, she commits a great sin. Ananda declares that she is the same human being as he is and assures her that every water is pure that quenches thirst. Prakriti now overcomes her conflict of mind and gives him water. She falls in intense love with exceptionally handsome Ananda, but he ignores her. She asks her mother Maya to use her magic spell to bring him down to their cottage. Again, there is conflict in her mind about the persecution of Ananda due to her mother’s magic spell and her love and respect for him. Ultimately, however, Ananda comes to their cottage, though pale and sickly, and forgives them all in the name of Lord Buddha.
Thus, the Nrityanatya or Dance Drama Chandalika is an extremely powerful play of Rabindranath exhibiting the curse of untouchability and liberation from the menace of caste structure and in the process resolving the conflicts Prakriti nurtures in her mind.

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