Symbolism in Girish Karnad's "Tughlaq"

Girish Karnad enhances the appeal of the play Tughlaq by utilizing various suggestive and concrete images. For one, Tughlaq's insomnia may reflect the intense turmoil in his mind. His walking under the moon may signify his madness. Further, Tughlaq compares himself to a tree which wants to spread its branches among the stars, and the roots of which are yet to find their hold on earth. It reflects that unless the subjects who are the very base of his empire understand his ideals, he cannot implement it and render his kingdom an ideal one. He wants to climb the tallest tree or reach new heights. Tughlaq desires "to cover the whole earth with greenery or prosperity; he intends "to cover up the boundaries of nations." He wants to diminish all restrictions by virtue of his secularist rule.

Besides, the fort built by Tughlaq in his youth is symbolic of his dreams which he wants to imprint in history, by building it brick-by-brick. Tughlaq speaks of a half-built gate trying to contain the sky within its cleft. These reflect the protagonist's aspirations which never reaches its ultimate aim and shatters down. The half-burnt torch mirrors his hopes that get extinguished half-way. The rose garden the king envisages is the garden of ideals which has dried up towards the end.

The old guard in scene viii speaks of himself getting entangled in an eagle's nest. He never knows when the eagle will come swooping down and prey upon him, in that deadly atmosphere. The fort is said to have a route coiled like a python inside it. Those who enter the maze of this fort can never find their way back. The route from Delhi to Daulatabad is compared to a snake which is at once an image of poison and death. The kingdom is described by Tughlaq as "a honeycomb of diseases." It is the store-house of diseases and desperately requires the help of a doctor. The step-mother aptly refers to the country as "a kitchen of death" Death has become a routine event and is treated as any other domestic affair. In such a state of affairs, Tughlaq compares himself to a pig rolling in gory mud.

The prayer call is a reflection of Tughlaq's moral well-being in the play. Before five years it was corrupted at regular intervals, and it had left him for five long years. When he sees a concrete reflection of himself in Aziz ,he realizes the truth- that justice was not as simple as he thought and logic not that beautiful. The return of the prayer-call signifies the return of his moral well-being and he sleeps;soundly after a long period of time. with peace and without any conflict in his mind.

And,finally,the play Tughlaq is itself symbolic. It is not only historical, but relevant to the modern times. The play was written in 1964, one year after the death of Nehru. Sixteen years after independence, the country was still in a state of turmoil and was no better than when it had started off as an independent country. Thus, Tughlaq becomes symbolic of the dreams of Nehru. The Indian government's policies are echoed by those of Tughlaq. Practical politicians took advantage and made most of the policies. The disillusionment it echoes is not only that of India, but of the Third-world countries as well. Hence, the multifarious universality of the play.

Published by Rukhaya M.K.

Rukhaya MK, literary critic, poet and academician, has published her works in anthologies and journals. An award-winning writer, she has won accolades in writing at the national level and international level...  View profile