Rakshasa-Tangadi centers around the Battle of Talikota.

Girish Karnad’s much-anticipated play that centers around the Battle of Talikota (1565), between Aliya Ramaraya of the Vijayanagar empire and the united forces of the Deccan sultanate, will be out on August 15.

Titled Rakshasa-Tangadi, the play is now being printed, confirmed Samir Joshi of Manohara Granthamala, publisher of most of the works of Mr. Karnad. The play looks at what happened at Rakkasa-Tangadi (or Rakshasa-Tangadi, the planes between the villages of Rakkasagi and Tangadagi where the war was fought), through an unconventional lens.

Earlier this year, in an interview with The Hindu, the playwright, scholar, and intellectual had said he was progressing slowly on the play.

“The play is almost there but not quite there…If it happens it happens, if not fine,” he had said.

The 104-page book has a picture of Tarif-i-Husain Shah Badshah Dakhan—courtesy, Bharat Itihas Sanshodhak Mandal, Pune—on the cover page. The play is Mr. Karnad’s response to a milestone incident in Karnataka’s history.

Three incidents

In his introduction to the play, Mr. Karnad writes that three incidents catch his attention when he looks at thousand years of Karnataka’s history—the Vachana revolution of the 11th century, Vijayanagar empire of the 16th century, and politics of Tipu Sultan of the 18th century. As a playwright, he has already responded to two incidents—in Tale Danda and Tipu Sultan Kanda Kanasu. Rakshasa-Tangadi,is the third attempt in the series, he says.

Rakshasa-Tangadiis the fourth historical play by Mr. Karnad, who has mastered the craft of blending the past and the present to make historical plays relevant to the present times. His Tughlaq (1964), which is about the turbulent rule of Muhammad bin Tughlaq in the 14th century, was interpreted by some as an allegory of the Nehruvian era.

Taledanda (1990) is about the rise of the radical protest and reforms movement, Lingayatism, in the 12th century Karnataka. According to Mr. Karnad, he wrote the play in 1989, when the mandir and Mandal movements were beginning to show again how relevant the questions posed by radical thinkers are for the present age. Tipu Sultan Kanda Kanasu explores the sense of loss and despair that the Indian disunited rulers underwent right up through the times of Tipu Sultan.

About Rakshasa-Tangadi, Mr. Karnad had said in the interview that the plot and the protagonists were far more intriguing than the mainstream narrative that has “whitewashed it into a Hindu–Muslim conflict.”

About the choice of the title, Mr. Karnad writes in the introduction to the play:

“Though there was a dispute about the specific place where the decisive war of Vijayanagara took place, most scholars say that the war was fought in a planes between two places, Rakkasagi and Tangadagi. But the only document available on it in Kannada, Ramarayana Bakhairu,called the place as Rakshasa-Tangadi.”

He points out that while the first word is Sanskrit, the second is Dakkani.

Sources for the play

Mr. Karnad says that it was noted critic the late Kirtinath Kurtakoti who triggered curiosity about Aliya Ramaraya in him. Reading Richard M. Eaton’s A Social History Of The Deccan, 1300-1761, further convinced him that Aliya Ramaraya would become an extraordinary theatre character. Mr. Karnad has dedicated this play to Mr. Eaton and Krishna Kolhara Kulkarni, who helped him with documents on cultural and economic aspects of the Adil Shahi administration.

He acknowledges that eight important historic volumes, including Sewell Robert’s A Forgotten Empire (Vijayanagar), Burton Stein’s The Cambridge History Of India: Vijayanagara, John M. Fritz and George Mitchell’s New Light On Hampi: Recent Research At Vijayanagara, helped him understand the period.

This article originally appeared in The Hindu on July 15, 2018, and has been reposted with permission.

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