23 Dharamvir Bharati’s Andha Yug

Abu Saleh

epgp books





What is the Chapter About:


This module introduces you to the renowned playwright Dharamvir Bharati and more specifically to his play Andha Yug. In the first section you will be introduced to the life, career and other writings of Bharati which earned him recognition. Later on in this module you will learn about the play, AndhaYug, its themes and critical analysis along with some other interesting facts about the author or play.


About the Playwright; Dharamvir Bharati:


Dharamvir Bharati was born on 25th December, 1926 in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. He lost his father at a young age that left a vacuum in his life and also financial difficulties for the family. In these difficult times he managed to continue his education and received Master of Arts in Hindi from Allahabad University in 1946. After completing his master’s degree he worked more than five years as a magazine sub-editor of Abhyudaya and Sangam. After this he started working for his PhD and received the doctorate degree in 1954. Soon he joined as a lecturer in Allahabad University. He left the post in 1960 to join as a Chief Editor of the Hindi weekly magazine Dharma Yug which was run by the Times India Group in Bombay. Under his editorship the magazine earned wide circulation and he remained associated with it till 1987.


During his free times he continued writing and gradually was acknowledged as a writer. Later, he turned out as a prolific writer. He wrote plays, poems, novels, essays and so on. For his literary contributions Bharati was honoured with the Padma Shree in 1972, the fourth highest civilian award given by the Government of India. Further, he was also awarded the Maharana Mewar Foundation Award in 1988. In 1989, once again the Indian Government honoured him with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the highest national recognition given in the area of performing arts. Later he was awarded the Maharashtra Gaurav, Kaudiya Nyas and Vyasa Samman too. Dharamvir Bharati died in 1997 due to heart disease.


Do You Know:


His most popular novels are Gunahon Ka Devta and Suraj Ka Satvan Ghodha (The Seventh Steed of the Sun). Both the novels were made into film by acclaimed filmmakers. Suraj Ka Satvan Ghodah is considered as one of the foremost examples of metafiction in twentieth-century Hindi literature. It was translated into Bengali by the noted poet Malay Roy Choudhury, for which he was awarded the Sahitya Academy Award for Translation.


Works of Dharamvir Bharati:


The following are some of his prominent works cutting across various genres.


Novels: Gunaho ka Devta (1949), Suraj ka Satwan Ghoda (1952), Giyara Sapno ka Desh, Prarambh va Samapan.


Poetry: “Kanupriya”, “Thanda Loha”, “Saat Geet Varsh” and “Sapana Abhi Bhi”.


Plays:Andha Yug (1953).


Essays: Thele par Himalayas, Pashyanty Stories: Unkahi, The River was Thirsty, Neil Lake, Human Values and Literature, Cold Iron.


Short Stories: “Swarg Aur Prathvhi”, “Band Gali Ka Aakhkri Makhaan”, “Chand Aur Tuthe Hue Log”, “Samast Kahaniya Ek Saath” and “Saas Ki Kalam Se”.


Literary Style of Dharamvir Bharati:


Dharamvir Bharati is considered as a modern creative writer whose writings are concerned with the immediate social and political issues of the time. He used elements of folk, chorus and poetic style of writing in his play. He was one of the pioneers of the experimental movement in poetry called Prayogavada which is known as NaiKavita movement.

Background of the Play:


Andha Yug is a verse play written in Hindi which was published in 1953. It was first staged in 1964 by the noted theatre personality Ebrahim Alkazi. The play is based on the mythologies of the Mahabharata. The play is one of the significant literary creations that were written soon after the Partition of India and Pakistan. The play stands against war, hatred and laments the loss of humanity and life. Bharati writes “Andha Yug would never have been written if it had been in my power not to write. I was in dilemma when the idea of writing the play rose within me. It made me little afraid. I knew that if I set out to write it, I would never be able to turn back!” (Bharati in the Prefatory Notes of the play).

Setting of the Play:


The play has five acts and an interlude. Interval can be planned after the interlude. The writer gives instruction of the setting in the play itself as “A Note to the Directors” which indicates that the stage design should be simple and kept minimal. He also elaborates on change of a scene. The playwright says “There is a permanent curtain at the back and two more in addition. Scene change will be indicated through the dropping and lifting of the curtain in the middle of the stage. The proscenium curtain should be dropped at the end of the act. The curtain at the back and middle are not to be painted. The stage must be bare as possible. Lighting should be restrained and imaginative”.


The choric song style is borrowed from Indian folk theatre tradition. Here chorus is used to explain the significance of the actions or to provide information that is not shown on the stage. At times it also explains the symbolic importance of the events. The writer continues “There should be two choric voices and one should be of female and other should be of male. Instrumental music accompanying the choric should be minimal” (Bharati in “A Note to the Directors” of the play).

The Plot of the Play:


The play Andha Yug (1953) is set in evening of the last eighteenth day of the Great war of Mahabharata. The play was written after the turbulent times of partition of India and Pakistan that took place in 1947. It is a metaphorical play that mourns for the loss of ethical and human values. In other words, it is an interpretation of modern turbulent times that is depicted using the characters of the epic Mahabharata symbolically and metaphorically.


The play begins with the Mahabharata war which took place between Kauravas and Pandavas for the throne of Hastinapur. The kingdom is burning and the battlefield is now covered with dead bodies and vultures. It is about the post war disconcerted survivors of the Kaurava clan. However, when Pandavas won the war Kauravas, who lost once again decides to avenge against the Pandavas. Ashwatthama releases the Brahmastra, the ultimate weapon that can destroy the world. The play centres on Krishna who could not ensure peace. However, Krishna’s presence throughout the play is significant that tells us that ethical and moral values are always at hand in all the situations and times to human beings. It is we, human beings who have to choose and follow the path.




Ashwatthama: Son of Dronacharya; a Kaurava warrior.


Gandhari: Wife of the blind king, Dhritarashtra; mother of Duryodhana and his ninety-nine brothers. She voluntarily blindfolded herself when she married Dhritarashtra.


Dhritrashtra: He is the blind king of the Kauravas and husband of Gandhari. He is the father of Duryodhana and his ninety-nine brother.


Kritavarma: Born into the same Yadava clan as Krishna but fights against him, on the side of the Kauravas.


Sanjaya: Charioteer of Dhritarashtra; given supernatural vision by Vyasa to describe everything that happens in the war to Dhritarashtra and Gandhari.


Old Mendicant: Character who appears as an astrologer, as Vyasa, and as the hunter Jara.


Vyasa: Sage and author of the Mahabharata; father of Pandu, Dhritarashtra, and Vidura; bestows divine vision on Sanjaya and is capable of influencing events.


Vidura: Sage and half-brother of Dhritarashtra.


Yudhishthira: Oldest of the Pandavas; son of Kunti by the God Dharma.


Kripacharya: Ashwatthama’s uncle; a master teacher of the warrior arts to the Pandavas and the Kauravas; fights on the side of the Kauravas.


Yuyutsu: Illegitimate son of Dhritarashtra by a slave girl; the only Kaurava to take the Pandavas’ side in the war.


Balarama: Older brother of Krishna; a master teacher of the warrior arts to the Pandavas and the Kauravas; chooses not to fight in the war.


Krishna: An incarnation (avatara) of the Godhead Vishnu; assists the Pandavas as counselor and as Arjuna’s charioteer.


There are other minor character too like Dumb Soldier, Guard 1 and Guard 2.

Major Themes and Other Relevant Issues Discussed in the Play:


The play deals with various issues and themes that are relevant and contemporary to all times for example Ashwatthama represents the blind affection, Dhritrashtra presents misplaced loyalty, Yuyutsu presents impotent visions, Sanjay symbol of anguish, Gandhari represents anger and Vidur becomes the representative of morality. Vyasa’s Mahabharata is a narrative that reinforces the point of Dharma, moral and ethical righteousness and conflict between the clans, that is, Kauravas and Pandavas.


In this great narrative of conflicts and dharma Krishna is the focal point around whom everything spins and grows. Krishna is the centre of the play however; he is never seen on the stage. His presence is felt through the symbols like feathers of peacock, flute etc. He is the axis at the same time he remains beyond these conflicts or issues like good vs. bad. His presence represents an end in itself. “This faith in Krishna sustains the moral well-being of all principal characters. Aggrieved Gandhari curses Krishna to death and yet feels acutely sorry and even Ashwatthama admits the presence of divine peace on the face of Krishna at the time of his demise”

AndhaYug the title and the narrative present an age of blindness or Kali Yuga. An age that is devoid of dharma, reason and peace. Similar were the situations and incidents after the partition of India. The play was a representation of the modern times the degeneration of human values. Since the partition of the Indian subcontinent resulted in uprooting and displacing humans from their place of origin, butchery and savage atrocities on fellow human beings, disrespect to the modesty of women and so on and so forth. One finds the similar conditions prevalent in the play and the usage of words also direct towards it. For example the words like half-truths, inertia, blindness, barbaric, deformed and suicidal and so on. The freedom for which people sacrificed their lives suddenly turned out to be disillusioned for the residents of both the countries.


Further, the playwright uses the two guards as a metaphor to represents the predicament of the common man. Let us see a discussion.

  • Guard 1: Honour!
  • Guard 2: Disbelief!
  • Guard 1: Sorrow at the death of one’s sons!
  • Guard 2: The future that is waiting to be born!
  • Guard 1: All these grace the lives of Kings!
  • Guard 2: And the one they worship as their Lord takes the responsibility for all of them!
  • Guard 1: But what about the lives the two of us have spent in these desolate corridors?
  • Guard 2: Who shall take responsibility for us?
  • Guard 1: We did not violate honour
  • because we did not have any.
  • Guard 2: We were never tormented by disbelief because we never had any faith
  • Guard 1: We never experienced any sorrow
  • Guard 1: nor felt any pain.
  • Guard 2: We spent our desolate lives in these desolate corridors
  • Guard 1: because we were only slaves
  • Guard 2: We merely followed the orders of a blind king.
  • Guard 1: We had no opinions of our own. We made no choices.

The two guards move on the stage and emphasize the hapless and concerns of common man especially of the turbulent and times of extreme atrocities. However, common man was never the concern or central to the ancient narratives but modern retellings situates and imagines their conditions. The works like AndhaYug and other varied and modern interpretations of ancient texts have highlighted the agony of common masses that was silenced from a very long time. These retellings are significant for the changing times and also make the masses compatible to the changing times.


Issues of Morality and Ethics in Andha Yug:


The play brings to our attention the battle between the good vs bad or dharma and adharma, duties and responsibilities of God and humans. The play by bringing in Krishna as the focal point of discussion and his absence and metaphorical presence draws our attention towards these complex issues and often vaguely understood concepts. Bharati invokes in the readers the emotions and sympathies for Gandhari who has lost her sons in the war. On the other hand we are forced to think that what role did Krishna play in the war? Why did not he stop the war and bloodshed? “Like hundreds of Kauravas, we invariably refuse to hear the voice of God and blame him when our ambitions are not fulfilled; refuse like the Kauravas in the play, to gaze inwards and find within the sources of grievous wrong” (4). Further, it is seems simple and undemanding to ask what God has and ought to do for human beings rather than questioning or introspecting ourselves how responsible we are for our actions and “what we can do for God so that he searches for us”.

The figure of Krishna is very complex to understand. He is human with whom one can relate with and at the other end he is the God. His earthly presence makes humans to ask for his support to the actions of our contemporary times or desires. If he fails to respond to it we turn away from him feeling as if he is the sole responsible authority for our wrong deeds.


For example like the Kauravas.

Dhritarashtra: Vidura


For the first time


In my life


I am afraid.


Vidura: Afraid?


The fear you experience today


had gripped others years ago


Dhritarashtra: Why didn’t you warn me then?


Vidura: Bhishma did.


So did Dronacharya.


Indeed, in this very court


Krishna advised you:


‘Do not violate the code of honour.


If you violate the code of honour


It will coil around the Kaurava clan


Like a wounded python


And crush it like a dry twig’…


Vidura: Yet from the very first day


It was obvious that the Kaurava might


-the final arbiter of truth-


Was weak and vulnerable


Over the past seventeen days


You have received news


Of the death


-one by one-


Of the entire Kaurava clan. (32-34)

Vidura is correct in emphasizing that one cannot take virtue for granted used it as per one desires as a commodity or service whenever it is required and forgotten in other times (06). Alok Bhalla writes “A moral life demands perpetual attention. And those, like Dhritarashtra, who fail to understand this, cannot hope to escape the consequences. In the balance of things, then, it is right that, at the end of all the carnage which he had failed to prevent, Dhritarashtra is consumed by a relentless forest fire, a manifestation of the desolation and the affliction of his soul .


Summary :


In this module we have discussed about Dharamvir Bharati, the playwright. We came to know about his personal life. We also learnt about Bharati’s literary works and his style of writing. Further, we have discussed the play Andha Yug. We came to know about the background and setting of the play. We have discussed the plot and summary of the play. Then we have also discussed the characters in it. After then we have focused on various themes and other relevant issues discussed in the play. Hope these are useful to you. For more on this module, please find the e-text, learn more and self-assessment tabs. Thank you.

you can view video on Dharamvir Bharati’s Andha Yug



  • “About the Playwright and Translator” Manoa, vol. 22, no. 1, 2010, pp. 142–143. www.jstor.org/stable/20720745.
  • Bharati, Dharamvir. Andha Yug. trns Alok Bhalla. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1953.
  • Bhalla, Alok. “Defending the Sacred in Age of Atrocities: On Translating Dharamvir Bharati’s ‘Andha Yug.’” Indian Literature, vol. 49, no. 1 (225), 2005, pp. 88–104. www.jstor.org/stable/23346579.
  • Joshi, Prabodh “Aftermath of Mahabharat: Dharamveer Bharati’s Andha-Yug and Kashinath Singh’s Upsanhar”. International Journal of English Language, Literature and Humanities, Volume IV, Issue III, March 2016. www.ijellh.com