Love, Art, and Immortality
The Experience of Transcendence through Rasa in Tom Stoppard’s Indian Ink
British playwright Tom Stoppard’s radio play In the Native State (1991) and its stage version Indian Ink (1995) attest to Stoppard’s fascination with the country in which he spent his childhood. The play originated with his idea of wanting to write about the circular situation of a poet who sits for a portrait, while writing about the painting. Set in both colonial India and contemporary Britain, the play deals with the themes of colonialism, love, and art. Even as critical discussions of the play invariably highlight the political and cultural tensions between the East and the West, the elaborate discussions of classical Indian aesthetic theory found in the play have not yet been analysed in depth. Specifically, the spiritual significance of the rasa theory and its implications for Stoppard’s later work on consciousness has seldom been studied. The present essay argues that the play Indian Ink marks the beginning of Stoppard’s continued engagement with the aesthetic and religious philosophy of ancient India. Here, in particular, may be seen the emergence of the idea of a Universal Consciousness that transcends space and time, which closely resembles the Vedantic conception of Brahman.
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