Harishchandra : The Martyr Of Truth
The drama in this volume is the English translation of the Tamil drama entitled Arichandra. It has its origin in the Sanskrit drama Harish Chandra which is the name of one of the noblest kings of ancient kingdom of Ayodhya and a descendant of Shri Ramchandra who, by virtue of his steadfastness to truth and dharma ranks among the incarnations of Vishnu and is the hero of the farmed Sanskrit epic Ramayana. Harishchandra, as a martyr of Truth, is one of the most widely know mythological Kings of ancient India. His name is remembered with great veneration and piety and is regarded as the very incarnation of Truth. As the author says, the value of this work ?consists in its being a Tamil Play?.. and is held to be the most popular. The fate of its hero and heroine has again and again drawn tears from the crowds who so eagerly congregate in all parts of Southern India and Tamil Ceylon to witness its representation?.. The whole gist of this play may be summed up in the words: Better die than lie.? The story of Arichandra may and may not be a myth. It is a story which deals equally with the mortals of the earth and the immortal gods of heavens who are animated with the sentiments of mutual love and jealousy. It is a heart-rendering scene to see the noble king and his virtuous wife and innocent son being tortured and put to indescribable cruelty. And in the end he comes unscathed and triumphs over his adversity. ?Perchance a raging fire might become icy-cold; perchance a limpid stream from the snowy hills might scale one; Yea Meru, the king of mountains shake and totter; the God of Day rise in the West and set in the East but never, never, even in dreams, will Arichandra, the man of truth tell a lie.? In the end, ?like the gold which has passed through successive crucibles, devoid of all impurities? king Arichandra shines ?in greater splendour than even hills?. The drama ends with an order from Lord Shiva to Indra, the king of gods, to accompany king Arichandra, with all his retinue to Ayodhya and to recrown him as emperor of Ayodhya.
This Tamil Drama, which was translated more than 120 years ago into English, retains its originality and excellence. The author is undoubtedly the master of three languages viz Tamil, Sanskrit and English his ability and competence in these languages, stand unrivalled. When it made its first appearance in English, it received encomiums from the British press. The Westminister Review said, “A Tamil Drama, translated by a native of Ceylon, Barrister-at-law of Lincoln’s Inn and member of Her Majesty’s Legislative Council of Ceylon is a curiously in the history of letters…. This Introduction, which is written in perfectly idiomatic English, is the composition of one well-versed in ancient and modern letters and languages…..” Similar praise was showered by a number of other literary journals of English. Such a literary gem of the Tamil literature translated into classic English by a highly competent expert who is well-versed in several languages, besides his own native Tamil, must be the favourite of all research Scholars and lovers of literature in the entire English speaking world.
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