Celebrating the riches of Shakespeare: Shakespeare the indian icon

by Vikram Chopra

March 18, 2012

Dear Mr. Mercedes & Carlos,

Literature and Art in themselves contribute a great deal towards the enrichment and preservation of cultural and civilizational values. Shakespeare too is a great benefactor of humanity; the fragrance of his works has enchanted and continues to enchant generations of people for centuries. I feel privileged to inform that you I have brought out a book on Shakespeare, entitled Shakespeare: The Indian Icon. The book presents a century’s account of Indian response to Shakespeare: social, cultural and academic. While on the one hand it speaks of his openness as a bequest to man, on the other it shows the great love and admiration the people of India have for Shakespeare and the subtle sense of sacredness they attach to him. Broad in scope and comprehensive in coverage, this collection of essays offers some idea of the gradual but deep assimilation of Shakespeare into India’s cultural ethos. Over 150 photographs and paintings add an extra touch of beauty and sanctity to this Indian testament to the greatness of Shakespeare which seeks to contribute, in some measure, to the elegance and magnificence of our heart, mind and soul. As one turns the pages of the book one discovers the rich heritage of social, cultural, philosophical and academic traditions of India just as it unfolds the multidimensional, multilayered world of Shakespeare – the beauty and glory of its inexorable charm!

The book came out in July this year. It was released by Hon’ble Dr. Karan Singh, India’s senior Statesman, eminent theatre personalities and distinguished scholars. Soon after it was released at the 9th World Shakespeare Congress held in Prague in July, where it received wide appreciation from scholars from different parts of the world. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, TheShakespeare Institute Stratford-upon-Avon, Bancroft Library Berkeley University, Toronto University have accepted it with their wonted grace and generosity.

Celebrating the riches of Shakespeare

The book traces the entire journey of the vast and varied reception of Shakespeare in India. Beginning with Sir Muhhamad Iqbal, popularly known as Alama Iqbal’s poem written in 1908, the book presents an update account of India’s contribution to the great heritage of Shakespeare’s reception all over the world. Among its contributors are: Sir Muhammad Iqbal, Mahatma Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, Rabindranath Tagore, Mulk Raj Anand, Birju Maharaj, L.M. Singhvi, Ebrahim Alkazi, R.W. Desai, V.Y. Kantak, S. Viswanathan, Sukanta Chaudhari, Visvanath Chatterjee, Amaresh Datta, Premananda Kumar, Srinivasa Iyengar. As such, the book represents the wisdom and scholarship of some of the greatest minds of modern India thereby reflecting the broad as well as distinctive aspects of social, cultural, academic and philosophical traditions of India.

What a moment it was when I met you and Mrs. Carlos at Prague. Your amiable openness and generosity of temperament evoked the reciprocal warmth and ardour of my feelings and thoughts. I think there is a kind of bonding among the lovers of Shakespeare that is in a subtle sense, superior to or at least is independent of friendly meetings. As sensitive readers of Shakespeare we share several heights and depths, immensities and intensities of life. Sitting separately in our studies, even thousands of miles away, we pass through a similar churning of feelings and emotions, sentiments and sanctities so that when we meet physically even for the first time, all the meetings in our minds and hearts come alive and suddenly the moment becomes momentous. It was such a moment for me on 17th July at Prague where the vast Shakespearian fraternity had gathered for the World Congress.

As a mark of my tribute to your affability and earnestness and out of love and respect for the peopleofArgentina,IsentthebooktoalltheloversofShakespeareinArgentina. Hopetheyhave found it worthy of their attention and appraisal. I have prepared it with a sense of sanctity and devotion. I am almost overwhelmed by the wide appreciation the book has received in the world of Shakespeare.

The finest elements in human nature combine to produce great art and literature which further generate goodness and grace in society to make this world a more habitable place, at times even making it an envy of angels. Though often “man, proud man, / Dress’d in a little brief authority” plays such fantastic tricks as are a disagrace to his existence, but “Angels are bright still” and

Nature’s fine “piece of work” endowed with “infinite faculties” and ‘god-like apprehension’ also keeps on struggling to connect the “unweeded garden” into a pleasurable walkway and the “sad, sterile promontory” into a serene and tranquil hermitage.

I haven’t had the privilege of meeting great leaders of the world like Gandhi, Tagore, Romain Rolland, Thoreau, Emerson – but I have been specially privileged and blessed in having enjoyed the love, affection and benevolence of several sage-like persons who have been the stars, meteors and lighthouses of humanity illuminating the path of nobility, service and sacrifice. “Lives of great men all remind us/ We can make our life sublime”; it is sublimity that counts, goodness that matters.

“I shower welcome on Ye; Welcome All” are Shakespeare’s words adorning the entrance at Folgers. The fascinating world of Shakespeare is in itself a great ‘WELCOME’ to every human heart

that throbs in the universe. Shakespeare opens the gates of a ripened and joyful understanding of life. Wherever there is joy, wherever there is wisdom, wherever there is beauty, wherever there is love, Shakespeare will find a home. (a slight extension of Emerson’s tribute to Thoreau).

Meeting you is such a great pleasure, the winning warmth that you carry in your benign presence conveys the fragrance of gentleness and grace that dwells within you. I am sure our friendship will grow like a thing of beauty and truth and acquire fragrant dimensions in times to come. I also hope that our friendship will bring our countries closer to contribute to each other’s cultural richness.

With love for all the lovers of Shakespeare, choicest greetings and most pious sentiments,

Shakespearely yours, Vikram

Dr. Vikram Chopra (University of Delhi)



FSA expresses deep and sincere gratitude to Dr. Vikram Chopra.

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