26 Mohan Rakesh’s Ashad Ka Ek Din

Ms. Safia Begum

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Mohan Rakesh: About the Playwright


Mohan Rakesh was born on 8th January, 1925 in Amritsar to Karam Chand Guglani who was a lawyer by profession. His father was also engaged in social work and headed many literary and cultural organizations. Thus, Mohan inherited interest in literature and music from his father. When Mohan was sixteen years old his father passed away leaving huge debts. Mohan had a great influence of his father. However, after his father passed away initially it was Mohan’s elder sister who took the responsibility of the house till Mohan completed his education.


Mohan did his M. A. in Sanskrit from Lahore and after the Partition of the country he shifted to Jallandhar with his family. Later, he continued his education and completed M. A. in Hindi Literature too. Mohan initially started his career as a teacher and taught at school and colleges. Before deciding to take writing as a full time career he was an editor of a short story magazine for some time.


Later, he shifted to Bombay in search of work. There he struggled to get a job and from three days he did not have money to buy food. Finally when he decided to pack his luggage he received the appointment letter from Sydenham College of Commerce to teach as a part time teacher at a salary of Rs. 75 only. He accepted the offer as he experienced hunger.


Later, it was made full time with lectureship at Elphinstone College. However, he lost the job. Further, for some time he taught at Jalandhar and in Delhi, and also for a while at a school in Shimla. After then once again he left his job and returned to Jalandhar and joined the D. A. V. College. He left that job too in order to become a full time writer.


Works of Mohan Rakesh:


He is considered as was one of the pioneers of Hindi Literature’s Nai Kahani Literary Movement that emerged in 1950s. He initially began writing stories and later wrote several plays. In the meantime, briefly he has also served as an editor of the journal Sarika from 1962-1963. His play Ashadh Ka Ek Din (1958) made him as a significant playwright of post-Independence era. It not only influenced the Hindi literary scenario but also revived the Hindi theatre significantly.


His notable works are Ashadh Ka Ek Din (1958), Lehron Ke Rajhans (1968) Adhe Adhure (1969), Pairon Tale Ki Zameen (1973), Ande Ke Chilke, Anya Ekanki Tatha Beej Natak (1973) Raat Beetne Tak, Tatha Anya Dhwani Natak (1974). Further, he also wrote Andhere Band Kamare (1961), Na Aane Wala Kal (1968) and Antaraal (1972). For his contribution to literature and theatre he was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.


Like the play under discussion today, Leheron ke Raj Hans is also one of the noted plays of Mohan. It was first written as a short story and later Mohan turned it into a radio play for All India Radio Jalandhar and broadcasted as Sundri. It took twenty years to bring out the final version of the play. Till then he was recreating its different versions. Many distinguished Indian theatre directors like Arvind Gaur, Shayamanand Jalan, Om Shivpuri and Ram Gopal Bajaj staged this play over the time. The whole process of writing this play was also made into a play by using Mohan’s diary, writings and letters that discussed the play. The play was titled as Manuscripts and staged very creatively by 2nd Foundation, a Delhi based theatre group.


Now we are going to discuss the play Ashadh ka Ek Din. The play was first performed by Anamika, a Kolkata based theatre group, under the direction of Shyamanand Jalan in 1960. Following that it was also staged by the theatre doyen Ebrahim Alkazi at the National School of Drama (NSD), Delhi in 1962. This play made Rakesh the foremost modern Hindi playwright of the time. The play, Ashadh Ka Ek Din is translated into English as One Day in the Season of Rain jointly by Aparna Dharwadker and Vinay Dharwadker. Sarah K. Eusley has also translated it as One Day in Ashadha.


Literary Style of Mohan Rakesh:


The writing style of Mohan Rakesh was the outcome of the changing post-Independence scenarios. He along with other writers tried to project human life and anxieties of middle class society which was undergoing a great shift. He has also focused majorly on man and woman relationships specifically the women’s image as the society was shifting. Women then entered into the arena of home and were asserting identity for themselves. This was completely new and raising many conflicts in the domestic life spaces.


To draw attention towards the angst and inner turmoil of relationships, the playwright has used the everyday common language. Interestingly this particular play, Ashadh Ka Ek Din brings Kalidasa into it. To portray the essence of the times of Kalidasa who was a Sanskrit poet and playwright, Rakesh has sprinkled some Sanskrit words and gave poetic feel specifically to be observed in the dialogues of Kalidasa and Mallika.


Background of the Play:


The title of the play was borrowed from Kalidasa’s Meghaduta, which is in Sanskrit. Mohan Rakesh’s play is an outcome of feeling and experience when he read the Kalidasa’s Meghaduta. He said “When I read Meghdoot, I would feel that the story was less about a dispossessed yaksh than about a poet who is alienated from his own soul that he has poured his guilt-realization into his opus”(Referred in www.revolvy.com, “Ashadh ka Ek Din”) . However, it is not a historical play depicting the poet’s life. Rather it presents the tension between art and politics of the time through figures specifically Kalidasa, the great poet and playwright of Sanskrit and his muse. Regarding the title, according to Hindu calendar, Ashadh is the beginning month of rainy season in India and it falls between the months of June and July. Since India is largely an agricultural country Ashadh has various other connotations too.


Setting of the Play:


In almost every play setting is a significant part that helps one to understand and create the ambience the playwright has intended while writing a play. Many a times the playwrights instruct the settings in writing along with the play. The setting of this play is mostly written in the text of the play. The setting of the play is very significant to understand the relationship and emotions of the two protagonists. Changing time to growing distance, each and every thing is described in detail including the paintings on the walls and other household articles.


The play is set in a village of Himalayas. All the three acts of the play open on a rainy day in the month of Ashadaha. Sound of light thunder and rain is heard before and for a few seconds after the curtain rises. Then the scene opens into an ordinary room. The walls of the room are of wood whose lower section is caulked with soft mud and at intervals swastikas are drawn in red dye. The front door leads to a dark veranda. The door has niches on both the sides in which extinguished lamps are kept. The door at the left leads to another room. With the door open the corner of a bedstead is visible. The planks of the bed are also caulked with clay. A conch shell and lotus are drawn on it with red chalk. Occasionally, flashes of lightening are seen in the large window on the right.


The hearth and the surrounding clay and bronze utensils are on one side of the room. On the other side, at a distance from the window, are four large clay jugs used for storing grain. They are covered with kusha grass which is held in place by a stone. By the window is a wooden seat with a tiger skin spread on it. There are two chairs near the hearth. Ambika is sitting in one of these chairs winnowing paddy into a basket. Looking towards the window she takes a deep breath and then resumes her work. The front door opens and Mallika enters shivering in her wet clothes. Ambika continues working without looking up. Mallika hesitates momentarily, then comes over to Ambika.


The Plot and Summary of the Play:


The play is divided into three acts. Setting remains the same but the Swastika paintings gradually fade away and some of the articles of the house go missing.


Mallika and Kalidasa are out on a rainy day to enjoy the rain and nature. Mallika’s mother, Ambika does not like her daughter roaming around with Kalidasa. Mallika returns home and finds her mother annoyed. Kalidasa has taken a vow not to marry but Mallika loves Kalidasa. A state official comes and announces that Kalidasa is to be honoured by the King of Ujjain. Kalidasa does not want to accept the honour but his uncle, Matul wants him to accept the honour of the state. Matul, Kalidasa’s maternal uncle comes agitated and angry as Kalidasa does not want to go to Ujjain to accept the honor of the King.


Though Mallika is sad but persuades Kalidasa to go Ujjain and accept the honour. Half-heartedly Kalidasa agrees to go. Ambika, Mallika’s mother is worried about her daughter as Kalidasa has shown no interest in marrying her daughter before leaving for the city. Vilom, a villager who calls himself Kalidasa’s friend is interested in Mallika. Mallika does not like Vilom but he comes occasionally on the pretext to see Ambika. He does not approve of Mallika meeting Kalidasa. He wants to know what Kalidasa has planned to do with Mallika before he leaves for Ujjain. However, Kalidasa leaves for Ujjain without any promise to return but Mallika waits for him.


Time moves on and we see Mallika in the same house busy in household chores. Now, she does all the household tasks which earlier her mother used to do. Mallika’s mother is unwell. Mallika takes care of her mother. In the meantime, Kalidasa has become a renowned writer. Suddenly two women scholars, Rangini and Sangini, from Ujjain visit Mallika’s home. They are working on Kalidasa’s life. They have come to her home in order to carry out their field work. However, Mallika does not understand their strange behaviours and questions. They return disappointed.


Kalidasa and his wife are on their way to Kashmir. He is the ruler of Kashmir now. Kalidasa does not come to meet Mallika. Priyangumanjari, the Gupta princess, who is married to Kalidasa, comes to see Mallika. Mallika is sad but does not show it. After the princess leaves Vilom enters and argues with Mallika and enquires why Kalidasa has not come to her house. Mallika asks Vilom to leave. Mallik cries and Ambika soothes her. Mallika buys Kalidasa’s works and reads them.


It is once again the same rainy day of Ashadh Matul, Kalidasa’s maternal uncle, comes to Mallika’s home. Matul now walks with the help of crutches. When Matul went to see Kalidasa during his stay in the palace he slipped on the floor and broke his leg. On this same rainy day Kalidasa comes to Mallika’s home. They interact and Kalidasa thinks that Mallika is still waiting for his return. Kalidasa returns to Mallika to begin a new life with her. However, Mallika is now married to Vilom.


Vilom knocks at the door and seeing Kalidasa shows him his rightful place and refers Kalidasa as guest as he is the owner of the house now. Vilom comes and asks Mallika to take care of the guests. Kalidasa and Mallika talks for a while suddenly child’s cry is heard from inside the room and Mallika goes to see the child. Kalidasa finds that Mallika is the mother of Vilom’s child. Seeing this Kalidasa leaves the place and Mallika though wanted to follow Kalidasa’s step but chooses to stay behind for the sake of her child.


Some Characters in the Play:


Kalidasa: He is the protagonist of the play.


Mallika: She is the daughter of Ambika and muse of Kalidasa.


Vilom: Vilom is the self-proclaimed friend of Kalidasa. He later marries Mallika.


Rangini and Sangini: Scholars from ujjain who visits Mallika’s home.


Ambika: Mother of Mallika


Matul: He is the maternal uncle of Kalidasa.


Priyangumanjari: The princess whom Kalidasa marries.


Dantul: A gentleman from the royal family.


Anuswar & Anunasik: State officials


Nikshep: villager


Issues and Themes of the Play:


Conflict between Art and Politics:


The play shows the inner conflict between art and politics through the character of Kalidasa. Kalidasa does not desire for power but he does not resist it strongly either. He accepts Mallika’s words and begins his journey to become a court poet. After reaching there whatever literary works he produces remains the reflections of his life that he has spent in the village with his muse, Mallika. He marries the Gupta princess and never wishes to return to see Mallika even once. Though he narrates his pains when he meets Mallika but until then he tries to adjust to the polarities of his life. However, he fails to adopt the life of the palace. Thus, tired in tattered clothes he returns to Mallika only to find that she no more belongs to him.


To present this tension between art and politics, rain and Mallika played an important role in the play. The association between the poet, his creativity and muse is detached when he goes to Ujjain. When he is away in Ujjain it did not rain too. The second act is dominated by the political and social life of the court and their strange ways of understanding life, culture and art that astonishes everyone in the village. Kalidasa seems to be connected to and in harmony with the self. Mallika binds him to art and thereby liberates him. She acts as his muse and links him to his creativity. Initially he does not realise the importance of Mallika in his life but later it was clear to him.


Even though it is Mallika who persuades him to go to Ujjain, he silently agrees to go without any strong resistance. It was not the love for art or Mallika that was hindering him to go. He was rather afraid about his reactions and greed for power that was somewhere lying in his unconscious self. Later, when he returns he says I returned because “… I was free from my love of power and authority.” (Sarah, 235) He further explains “I was afraid that it would overwhelm me and change the direction of my life. This fear was not unfounded.… Were you surprised that I took on the responsibility of ruling Kashmir? …for me it was natural” (Sarah, 237)   Thus, it was not the resistance to accept the honour but the reaction to it was stopping Kalidasa from going to Ujjain. In Ujjain he was trying to be happy but he was not. “Administrative duties conflicted with my work” (Sarah, 237) Thus, he could not devote time to his creativity. “… I was struck by how far away from greatness I have moved….I was no longer the same person who had insight into what was great and glorious”


He could never be the same Kalidasa when he was in the position of power and authority. He gradually moved away from his former self. The big leap in his life that distanced him from what he considered as great and glorious happened when he married the princess and accepted the political authority. Thus, Kalidasa became Matra‘gupta’. He could not maintain the two conflicting sides, that is, Kalidasa and Matragupta alive together in one person. Thus, he had to leave what was hindering him to get liberated. He decides to leave his kingdom and the name and returns to the greatness of art. The play further touches upon the issues like the relationship between man and woman, unrequited love, the conflict between culture and nature and so on.


Summary :


In this module we have discussed about Mohan Rakesh, the playwright. We came to know about his personal life and literary career. We also learnt about Rakesh’s works and his style of writing. Further, we have discussed the play Ashad Ka Ek Din. We came to know about the background of the play. We have discussed the plot, summary of the play and its characters. After this we have focused on various themes and relevant issues discussed in the play. For more on this module, please find the e-text, learn more and self-assessment tabs.

you can view video on Mohan Rakesh’s Ashad Ka Ek Din


  • “Ashadh ka Ek Din” https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Ashadh%20Ka%20Ek%20Din&item_ty pe=topic
  • “Front Matter.” Journal of South Asian Literature, vol. 9, no. 2/3, 1973,www.jstor.org/stable/40871686.
  • Indian Roots. “Indians Read: Half Way House by Mohan Rakesh” http://daily.indianroots.com/indians-read-halfway-house-by-mohan-rakesh/
  • Juneja, Renu. “Women in the Plays of Mohan.” Journal of South Asian Literature, vol. 19, no. 1, 1984, pp. 181–192.www.jstor.org/stable/40872657.
  • Rakesh, Mohan. One Day in Ashadha translated by Sarah K Enslay. New Delhi: National School of Drama, 2000.
  • Sawhney, Simona. “Literary Modernity and Sanskrit Poetry: The Work of Mohan Rakesh” in
  • The Modernity of Sanskrit. UK: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.
  • Singh Pokhariya, Lalit. “Remembering Mohan Rakesh” Appeared on 8th January, 2015 in Swarajyamag. http://swarajyamag.com/culture/remembering-mohan-rakesh