Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The dramas written in Nepal, Assam and Mithila-ERA OF DECADENT DOCUMENTARY PROSE- Dr. Radhakrishna Chaudhary

After the golden age of Vidyapati and his successors, the Maithili literary tradition was one of almost mechanical repetition without any sign of originality in the realm of prose. Mithila lost her independence after 1530 A. D. and after 1556 A.D. came to be ruled by the Mughal Governors. The Khandawalas enjoyed some sort of autonomy but without any political authority whatsoever. The signs of political decay were also discernible in the field of literature. The old lyrical flow in poetry or the rimed prose was now a thing of the past. A halting prose style was adopted not exactly for any literary production but for writing a matter of facts documents concerning the sale of serfs etc. The study of Sanskrit continued and the classicists continued to hold their own. The age was one of decadent feudalism with all its concommitant ramifications. No piece of remarkable prose is available in Maithili.
In the medieval period, prose pieces are scattered here and there in some of the literary dramas and even they are not very remarkable. The available papers, court judgements, sale deeds sale of serfs and the documents relating thereto, throw sufficient light on the contemporary social history. Most of these documents of the medieval period are in pure Maithili while some of them are in mixed Sanskrit and Maithili. We have an example of such literary styles in the Likhnavali of Vidyapati. Slavery seems to have been one of the most important social factors in medieval Mithila and an established custom. Large number of documents relating to the sale and purchase of slaves and serfs (Bahikhata), deeds of emancipation (Gaurivavatikapatra), contracts for the payment of debts and their remission (Nistarapatra), agreements of daily labourers (Janaudha), ordinary contracts (Akrarapatra), emancipation (Ajatapatra), judgements and state papers contain prose passages. They are of a very mean quality but they held us in arriving at the conclusion that prose was not altogether neglected and various new forms and technique were employed by the writers.
These documents are secular in character. They were executed in set forms in mixed Sanskrit and Maithili and some of them are in pure Maithili. These deeds were prepared by the Kayasthas, a secular caste, who had specialised in this art. These documents record caste, age, identification mark on the body of a slave, price, conditions governing the sale and purchase, signature of the parties-concerned and of the witnesses. The earliest Gaurivavatika is dated 1615 A. D. relating to the emancipation of daughter of one’s Bahia (serf type servant), when she was married to someone else. The deed is drawn in favour of the father-in-law of the girl concerned and is in the nature of a deed of emancipation than of sale. The translation of the Sanskrit portion of the deed is given below :—
“In the Sake year 1537 (1615 A. D.) on the Fourth day of the bright half of the month of Vaisakha, Friday, ......the daughter of my slave, by name Padumi, fair complexioned who is married... .I have given unto you after taking from you one rupee ... I have no connection with her.”
The vernacular portions of such documents are very short and they simply state facts and conditions of service, mention name of the clerks and witnesses etc. The language portion in these documents form an insignificant part. They are important in the sense that the “set form of the language marks a real advance on ths syntax of the early Maithili prose.” It must be admitted here that the matter of fact statement has little or no interest and literary merit in spite of the archaic flavour of the style.
The use of the words “Rupaiya” or “Rupia” or “Rupya”, “Tanka” etc. is indicative of the fact that money economy was coming into use though feudal!, system was in vogue. The earliest slave sale deed (Bahikhata) is dated in 1627-28 A. D. It is a sort of contract to serve the master in return for money. Under such terms, slaves were bound to their masters alone. The Maithili prose used, in those docment are far removed not only from the modern forms. but also”from the archaic forms of the Gaurivavatika. What is noticeable in these deeds is the full connected sentence in Maithili. The service contracts were generally entered into by potters, washermen and various sorts of labourers. This system marked a definite advance over the existing sale system where the question of the liberty of the individual was almost unthinkable. Payment through land came to be replaced gradually by cash nexus but even for such cash payments, documents were written and prepared and signed by the contracting parties. The Vrittipatras or the grant deeds also contain some prose passages and the earliest document of this type is dated in 1763 A. D. Court judgements and Vyavasth-apatras are also important for studying the prose style and the earliest court judgement in Maithili is dated in 1792 A. D.
During the medieval period, Arabic, Persian and Urdu words came to be used in Maithili and the language documents abound in Urdu and Persian technical terms. They have hardly any literary merit. Administrative and business letters are written in highly dignified but persianised Maithili style. Some of the documents of the time of Maharaja Chatrasimha are in highly persianised Maithili. The style, though ornate, is influenced by Arabic and Persian. These documents are dry and dreary and hardly contain any literary merit. Their importance lies in the fact that they give us an idea of the prose style that was in vogue then. The documentary prose, though not exclusively literary, is characterised by brevity of statement, economy of words, simplicity and clarity of thoughts. Though lacking in the literary flourish of the old Maithili and the niceties of the modern age, the medieval documentary-cum-decadent prose gives us an insight into the mind of medieval feudal writers of Mithila. They are more the source materials of social history than the examples of literary prose. The medieval prose was barren and no remarkable achievement is seen in this direction. The prose of Jyotirishwar does not seen to have been cultivated after him and that resulted in the decadence of the old style. Some dramatists of the middle ages tried to write some prose passages but they could not attain the standard they aimed at.
The dramas written in Nepal, Assam and Mithila contain some stray prose passages. According to Dr. P. C. Bagchi, there were only oral prose passages in the opera like Nepalese dramas. Augustus Conrady, in his study of the Harischandranrityam by Siddhi Narasimha, has found two layers of prose—one intended for the conversation of the upper classes and another for the lower classes. Class characterisation has been a feature throughout the medieval period and the people of lower classes are not expected to be competent enough to use finished language or to be expert in literary prose. Culture seems to have been the preserve of the aristocracy, and language, the medium of the cultural expression, was bound to be influenced as such. Long prose passages are found in the Ankianatas of Assam. Whatever prose passages are available to us in the dramas of Mithila, they are simple and legible. The economy of words is practised by the composers. From the point of view of the literary prose style, the medieval period, in Mithila, was, to all intents and purposes, barren.

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