Dastan-e-Mahabharat in Urdu: Where religion and language fuse for communal harmony

Called Dastan-e-Mahabharat, it is written by Professor Danish Iqbal and presented by Fouzia Dastango and Firoz Khan

Dastan-e-Mahabharat in Urdu: Where religion and language fuse for communal harmony

Rana Siddiqui Zaman

Sozish dil ki khoon e garm ki thi/ Dharm se jung ye adharm ki thi/ Bhagya ki baat kab thi, Karm ki thi/ Baat itni si thi, par marm ki thi/ Paanch Panadav they aur Sau kaurav/ Sach vahin thaa, jahan pe they maadhav...

With such words the Mahabharat in Urdu would be presented to the audience of Delhi/NCR at India International Centre on Saturday, July 27. Called Dastan-e-Mahabharat, it is written by Professor Danish Iqbal and presented by Fouzia Dastango and Firoz Khan.

So what's going to be special in this dastan and why it is happening?

“We are presenting Mahabharat from beginning to end, but we are not emphasising on the war. We are talking about what happens after the war, the happiness or the capital gains etc. No one has talked about the preparations of the war and what happened after the war, its impacts etc,”says professor Iqbal.

Adds Fouzia, “We have researched a lot and we have kept a large portion of teachings from the Geeta where Krishna teaches Arjuna to serve the dharma and that dharma says that you have to fight against the atrocities and you must follow the right route and be with the right people. We have taken the portions where dharma, atrocities against people and justice are being spoken about in Mahabharat. For example, It says, “Krishna farmaate hain, “Ai Kunti ke Laal, jo shakhs jis tarah ki khwahish karta hai, jis tarah ki tammna karta aur jis tarah ka amal karta hai, usi ki munasabat se ajar pata hai. Devtaaon ki poojega devtaaon tak pahunchega, jo bhooton ki ibadat karega, bhooti ki rasai hasil karega lekin jo Ishwar ko multlashi hoga vo Ishwar tak pahunchega aur mukti hasil karega.”

The teachings of Geeta from Krishna to Arjun take up five minutes in 45-minutes of dastan-goi.

Why was the need to do a dastan e Mahabharat at this time has some noble intentions and cost effective strategy. But noticeably, despite being largely in Urdu, Iqbal Danish prefers calling it “Language neutral” because it also uses poetry of poet Ramdhari Singh Dinkar in it as well as aesthetics and expressions of Urdu.”

Theatre performances are largely run in losses. The high cost of theatre also creates the need to have an economical way to tell a story effectively. “Of late, I realised that theatre becomes a very costly enterprise, so I was looking for smaller formats which didn’t require much money, logistics and too much of paraphernalia. Since it is a direct storytelling, it is an economical and useful format. It requires good performers, specialized excerpts and less paraphernalia, he says explaining the most important reason to do Dastan e Mahabharat.

“There has been too much of bad blood, hate crimes and mob lynching happening around. It is so difficult to survive as a writer and an artist in this atmosphere and also it’s painful to realise that your work is not making an impact on the society. So I have been trying to carve out a niche area by bringing old Hindu stories like tales of Mahabharat, Ram, Kriashna-Radha etc. I am trying to present the Hinduism content in a pure, stylised and chaste Urdu. One is a core Hindu area and another a deep Muslim expressions and aesthetics. It is a pleasant surprise for Hindu patrons also and Musims too.”

Fouzia adds,”They do not know there are 70 versions of Bhagavad Gita, 80-90 versions of Mahabharata/Ramayana available in Urdu. It is a pleasant surprise to know that so much content is available and Muslims are utilising it to entertain us and Muslims are also getting to know Hindu stories. This sort of assimilation will help society. You are asking us to say ‘Jai Shri Ram’, we are telling our connection with Lord Ram is not new, it has been there since long. We will say in our own creative ways.”,

The duo have presented some 100 shows across the country to both the communities and in smaller, humbler institutions too. The old libraries like Raza Library in Patna and Rampur Library have rare versions of Mahabharat. Since people do not go to libraries and they do not read Urdu, so they don’t get to know. So, as a writer and artiste it is their duty to bring it to people who don’t know that it exists in Urdu, is what these artistes feel.

Does it have any impact on the Urdu or non Urdu speaking people of both the communities?

“I can see that Urdu and non-Urdu speaking people take it differently. Even Muslims do not know that so much content is available in their own language (Urdu). For non Muslims, it is a bit disturbing to see that so much content is available and ‘they’ are doing it and we don’t even know it.”

Fouzia and professor Iqbal are also planning to present Dastan Apne Ram Ki and Krishna and Radha and Meera as protagonists of their dastangoi. “It is like we did Daastan e Gandhi sometime back when we saw the society is forgetting the values of Gandhi. The effort is to contribute to the society through this art,” says Faouzia.

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