The Final Act of Varanasi’s Naachghar

Social Commentary

The Final Act of Varanasi’s Naachghar

Illustration: Rutuja Patil


he stage is set. Everyone is gathered in the Assembly Room and the air is thick with anticipation. His Highness the Maharaja of the princely state of Benaras, Ishvari Prasad Narayan Singh, occupies the throne, as his staff waits hand on foot. The Maharaja is flanked by the imperious Kunwar Sahib and British sahibs, who endure the oppressive heat of April with resignation. The women and Indian officers wait a few paces away, hands folded in patience.

Something historic is about to unfold. India’s first Hindi play, Janaki Mangal, based on the wedding of Sita and Ram, and written by Shital Prasad Tripathi, is going to be staged for the first time. In the corner, Bhartendu Harishchandra, standing at the cusp of literary and cultural greatness, takes his position as Lakshman…