Chitralekha is a 1934 Hindi fantasy novel by Indian author Bhagwati Charan Verma, which is now available in hindi audio book. Click here to listen to the audiobook.
It is set in the reign of Chandragupta Maurya. This story is about life and philosophy of love, sin and virtue.
About the author –
While composing this novel, the author was practicing law in Hamirpur. Starting his literary career, the novel brought him instant fame. It is based on Anatole France’s 1890 novel Thais but the background is Indian. In the words of the author himself, “The difference between my drawings and those of Anatole France is as much as between me and Anatole France. There is a problem in Chitralekha, I have my own view of human life and its good and bad, and my soul has its own music.” Bhagwati Charan Verma
Chitralekha is a slim volume of literary work that explores the very essence of the universal truths of human life in a social set up. Woven around an intense love story that reflects on and flashes out not just the various aspects of human nature but also the myriad dilemmas faced by us in our lifetime, Chitralekha – the novel and protagonist – is riveting from the first sight and word.
The story starts with a dialogue between the great hermit Ratnambar and his disciples, Shwetank and Vishaldev about sins committed by humans. They ultimately conclude that humans become victims and slaves of circumstance. So, according to Ratnambar -there is no sin and virtue per se. Everyone does deeds according to circumstances that befall them in their lifetime. The author also propounds the views that sin may be in action but never in thought and also that ‘anuraag’ (attachment/passion) is in desire, and ‘viraag’ (alienation/lack of passion) comes from gratification (‘tripti’).
Through the various twists and turns in the plot, Bhagwati charan Varma displays a candour and liberalism not otherwise associated with Hindi literature of pre independence India. Through Chitralekha’s character, the author describes the life of a truly empowered woman: beautiful and strong from within, materialistic by choice, largehearted by nature and honest to the core. Chitralekha busts many myths surrounding a real and humane woman. She firmly holds the reins of her own life and is commanding in not letting society/ social pressure influence her. Her honesty with herself through introspection and her refusal to let an ego come in the way of atonement lead her to victory in life since she attains peace within passion and passion within peace.
This novel is a love story about a young general, Bijgupta who leads a luxurious life while serving under the Mauryan Empire and King Chandragupta Maurya( 340 BCE – 298 BCE) and the beautiful dancer and young widow, Chitralekha. Kumargiri -a hermit- also falls in love with Chitralekha and becomes a victim of his circumstances. Shwetaank and Vishaldev wish to find the truth about the holy and the unholy in life, as suggested by their guru, Ratnambar. They become slaves of circumstances too, as does Bijgupta. The other characters are Yashodhara, the princess, and Yashodhara’s father, the aged Mritunjay. The character, Chanakya, has been weaved into the novel to make it interesting.
The novel has twenty two riveting sections that clearly demonstrate the futility of being judgmental.
Adaptations into Films –
Chitralekha was twice adapted into Hindi films, in 1941 and 1964. Both the times the films were hugely successful. Both the times it was directed by Kidar Sharma. In 1941 mehtab played the role of Chitralekha and other lead actors were Nandrekar and A.S.Gyani. In 1964 Meena Kumari brought Chitralekha alive on the big screen along with
Like any language, the essence of its local aroma lies in its cultural richness. This Hindi work cannot be replicated in its entirety in any language. However, the story can only be told again.
There are many parts in the book, which takes the reader/listener deep into the philosophy of life, love, sin, virtue.