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Front cover of the abridged printing of Saraswatichandra
|Author||Govardhanram M. Tripathi|
|સરસ્વતીચંદ્ર at Gujarati Wikisource|
Saraswatichandra is a Gujarati novel by Govardhanram Madhavaram Tripathi, an author of early twentieth century from Gujarat, India. Set in 19th-century India , It is acclaimed as one of the masterpiece of Gujarati literature. The novel was adapted in several plays, radio plays, films and TV series. It was well received by the number of critics, and was translated into several Indian languages, along with English. However, Suresh Joshi, a strong proponent of Formalism theory, criticized the novel for its structural failure.
The novel was written over a period of 15 years, with the first volume being published in 1887 and the fourth one in 1901. Govardhanram began to write first part on 18 September 1885 and published it in April 1887. He started to write second part in 1888, completed in June 1891 and published it on 9 June 1892, and in the next year he started to write third part, which he completed in 17 October 1896 and published in 1898. On 20 December 1896, he started to write fourth part and completed it on 23 December 1901. The fourth part was published in 1902.
Principal characters are:
Spanned about in 2000 pages, the novel divided into four parts with subtitle: The Administration of Buddhidhan, The Family-maze of Gunasundari, The Political Administration of Ratnanagari and The Dreamland of Saraswati. As the titles suggest, the first part is about the administration of Buddhidhan, the second about Gunasundari's family life, the third about the politics of Ratnanagari, and the fourth about the consciousness of Saraswatichandra, the hero.
The novel begin with the Saraswatichandra's arrival in Suvarnapur and his meeting with Buddhidhan, a Divan of Suvarnapur. Hence, the first part gives an account of politics and conspiracy in Suvarnapur under the administration of Buddhidhan. At the end of the first part Kumud, wife of Pramadadhan who is a son of Buddhidhan, leaves Suvarnapur to visit her parents home. Thus, the second part gives an account of Kumud's family. As Kumud's father is a Divan in Ratnanagari, the third part is about the political administration of Ratnanagari. While all social, political and religious reflections are concentrated in the last part.
The novel take place in two fictional town, Suvarnapur and Ratnanagari.
Saraswatichandra, the main protagonist of the novel, is a well educated, young lawyer deeply interested in literature, quite emotional and idealistic. He has been engaged to marry Kumudsundari (daughter of Vidyachatur - a Divan of Ratnanagari), a charming and proficient lady. But for certain reasons, Saraswatichandra renounce his home. He assumes the name Navinchandra and starts his pilgrimage. As a result, Kumudsundari's parents marry her to Pramadadhan, the wayward son of Buddhidhan of Suvarnapur. Subsequently, Saraswatichandra (with the pseudonym of Navinchandra) arrives in Suvarnapur and has a meeting with Buddhidhan. Impressed by his eloquent talk and command over English, Buddhidhan invites him to stay with him. Saraswatichandra accepts Buddhidhan's proposal, resides at his home and finally becomes important member of Buddhidhan's family.
But soon after, Saraswatichandra leaves Buddhidhan's house due to the tensions that contact with Kumud is causing them both, but on the way, he is attacked by bandits. The Sadhus of Sundargiri pick him and nurse him. At the same night, Kumud also leave Suvarnapur to visit her parents home and on the way, get attacked by the same bandits gang, but is saved by her grandfather, who had come halfway to receive her. Kumud somehow falls into the river and is picked up by Sadhvis at the bank of the river.
The focus of the novel is on two Gujarati Brahmin families. The family of Lakshminandan is settled in Bombay, has a roaring business, and is very wealthy. Saraswatichandra, the brilliant scholar-to-be, is born to Lakshminandan and Chandralakshmi. He has a dazzling career to look forward to as he is steeped in Sanskrit and English classics, is a barrister by qualification and has tried his hand successfully at his father's business. The other family is that of Vidyachatur, the highly knowledgeable prime minister of the court of King Maniraj of (the fictional) kingdom of Ratnanagari. To him and his wife, Gunasundari, the lady of tremendous qualities, are born two daughters, Kumudsundari (the elder) and Kusumsundari. Saraswatichandra's mother dies, and Lakshminandan remarries. The step-mother, Guman, is a scheming woman and she treats her step-son with suspicion and dislike. Meanwhile, Saraswatichandra and Kumudsundari are engaged to be married, subsequent to which they exchange letters and fall in love without having seen each other; he, charmed with Kumud's tenderness and similar likes and she, taken in by his vast knowledge and excellent qualities.
Things reach a head in Saraswatichandra's home when he realizes that even his father suspects him of having an interest only in the family wealth and he decides to renounce his home. His best friend, Chandrakant, tries his best to use every argument he can think of to prevent his friend from carrying out this terrible vow. But Saraswatichandra is not amenable to argument, and he leaves, thus not only renouncing home and wealth, but also leaving young Kumud in the lurch. He proceeds by sea to (the fictional) Suvarnapur. By the time he reaches there, Kumud has already been married off to Pramad-dhan, the wayward son of Buddhidhan, the man who is slated to become prime minister of Suvarnapur.
And thus, we come to the third family. Buddhidhan is a Bania (vaaniyaa) and has a sharp intelligence and political sense, by which he manages to overturn the reign of Suvarnapur's ruler, Jadsinh, and his administrators, Dushtrai and Shathrai. His own Rajput friend, Bhoopsinh, becomes king and Buddhidhan, his prime minister. Saraswatichandra stays at Buddhidhan's place calling himself Navinchandra, and watches all this political activity with interest. Inevitably, he comes into contact a few times with Kumud, the daughter-in-law of the house. Love for each other ignites again, and a lowly companion of the daughter of the house takes advantage of this and incites Pramad-dhan against his wife.
On the day Buddhidhan gets the prime minister's post, Saraswatichandra leaves his house due to the tensions that contact with Kumud is causing them both and leaves without a destination in mind. He steps into a cart going towards Manoharpuri in Ratnanagari. Meanwhile, Kumud is also on her way in a palanquin and accompanied by guards, to see her mother in Manoharpuri. Saraswatichandra's is attacked by bandits and they leave him injured in a forest. An attack on Kumud is also planned by the bandits, and knowing this, Kumud's grandfather, Maanchatur, leads a team to counter the bandits. They manage to foil the bandits' plans, capture their leader, but then, Kumud, fearing shame and infamy, tries to commit suicide by jumping into the Subhadra river. Despairing for her life, Maanchatur returns and everybody assumes her dead.
Saraswatichandra, meanwhile, is rescued by a group of ascetics and taken to their ashram on the nearby mountains of Sundargiri. Here, Saraswatichandra impresses the head monk, Vishnudas, by his breadth of knowledge and eventually makes him name him as his successor to the post of head monk. Kumud also survives and her unconscious body is caught by a lady ascetic, Chandraavali, and her companions. This group takes Kumud to Vishnudas' ashram and both she and Saraswatichandra come to know of each other's presence there.
The ashram ascetics realize the facts of the past life of these two, and try their best to reunite them. In this attempt, they take them both to an isolated cave on the peak of Chiranjeevshrung. Here, spending four days and nights together, they undergo a mystical experience which convinces them to reunite. The major impediment is how the society will view this reunion. This is a complex problem, and they think of three different alternatives.
All this time, Lakshminandan has almost lost his mind in his son's absence, and Chandrakant vows to find his friend and is lodged at Vidyachatur's place for a long time. Ratnanagari's police and detectives find out where Saraswatichandra and Kumud are, and eventually, his entire family, as well as Lakshminandan and Guman, decide to visit Sundargiri, talk to Vishnudas about getting the two 'back into the world'.Saraswatichandra must marry Kumud, Saraswatichandra must return to Bombay and manage his family business again.
Anandshankar Dhruv decribed the novel as a purana; Vishwanath Bhatt called it 'epic in prose'; while Dolarrai Mankad hailed it as 'Sakalakatha'. Umashankar Joshi also appreciated the novel and called it 'the poem of the Age written in prose'. The size of Saraswatichandra was criticized in the context of form-content relationship. But, Ramnarayan V. Pathak observed that the looseness of the novel does not diminish from its aesthetic beauty. However, Suresh Joshi, a strong proponent of Formalism theory, criticized the novel for its structural failure. On of his student and critic, Suman Shah, also supported Joshi's statement.
It is believed that Govardhanram has sketched his own various personality through this novel.
Saraswatichandra was translated and published in English by the director of Sabarmati Ashram, Tridip Suhrud, in four volumes starting 2015. The book was also translated into Hindi by Alok Gupta and Virendranarayan Sinh in 2015 and was published by Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi.
The novel was adapted in several plays, radio plays, films and TV series. One play was adapted in lifetime of Tripathi. One adapted was adapted by Raghunath Brahmabhatt of Nadiad which became very popular. It was adapted for radio too. It was adapted in Gujarati film also. The Hindi film Saraswatichandra (1968) was based on this novel. It was adapted in TV serials four times. The 2013 television series of the same name based on the novel was broadcast on Star Plus in 2013–14.