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|Author||Devaki Nandan Khatri|
|Publisher||Lehri Book Depot, Varanasi, India|
Chandrakanta is a popular Hindi novel by Devaki Nandan Khatri. It is considered to be the first work of prose in the modern Hindi language, and may have significantly contributed to the language's popularity. Chandrakanta was composed in 1888. The copyright on the novel expired in 1964 and it is now in public domain, along with other titles by the author.
It inspired the TV serial of the same name.
The story is a romantic fantasy about two lovers who belong to rival kingdoms: the princess Chandrakanta of Vijaygarh, and the prince Virendra Singh of Naugarh. Krur Singh, a member of the Vijaygarh king's court dreams of marrying Chandrakanta and taking over the throne. When Krur Singh fails in his endeavour, he flees the kingdom and befriends Shivdutt, the powerful neighbouring king of Chunargarh (a renaming of "Chunar-fort", referring to the fort in Chunar that inspired Khatri to write the novel). Krur Singh coaxes Shivdutt to ensnare Chandrakanta at any cost. Shivdutt captures Chandrkanta and while running away from Shivdutt, Chandrakanta finds herself a prisoner in a tilism. After that Kunvar Virendra Singh breaks the tilism and fights with Shivdutt with the help of aiyyars . Chandrakanta, the novel, has many sequels, prominent being a 7-book series (Chandrakanta santati) dealing with the adventures of Chandrakanta and Virendra Singh's children in another major tilism.
Tilism and Aiyyars
Chandrakanta is notable for introducing the concepts of "Aiyyar" and "Tilism" to Hindi literature.
According to Devaki nandan Khatri, An Aiyyar (male) or Aiyyara (female) is a secret agent cum spy cum fighter. He or she is expert in many arts like:
- Fighting skills
- Fine arts
Disguise is must (Aiyyar/a may change him/herself into person of same or even of opposite sex but of resembling body built, by makeup).
Fighting skills are also must, for self-defence. An Aiyyar/a always overpowers any small group of ordinary soldiers.
He/she may need to spy for taking out some secrets or for finding some missing persons.
Knowledge of science and fine arts is also necessary, as it may come handy many times.
Medical knowledge, and specially that of Anaesthesia is needed for him/her.
Chemical knowledge is also needed
In a nutshell an Aiyyar is a Jack of all trades. But contrary to common belief, Khatrian Aiyyar/a are unfamiliar with magic and spells. He/she may join into any king's or landlord's service or may remain free.
The items must for an Aiyyar/a: Kamand (a long very strong cord used to climb over building secretly, or for tying opposite Aiyyar/a or captured person/s) Batua or purse (used to keep necessary medicines, makeup items, money and dry fruits) Lakhlakha must also be in the 'Batua' (lakhlakha is a kind of smelling salt used to revive any unconscious person) Khanjar or dagger (for safety and for attack) Langot or short smart pants are usually worn by male Aiyyars when in easy mood
Ethics of Aiyyars:
Never kill or torture any other Aiyyar/a (but can arrest him/her)
Never cheat your master
Never attack too many Aiyyars over a single person
The novel depicts a number of friendly and unfriendly Aiyyar.
Aiyyars on the side of Virendrasingh include:
- Tej Singh
- Jeet Singh (Tej Singh's father)
- Devi Singh;
Aiyyars on the side of Chandrakanta:
Aiyyars on the side of Krur singh:
Aiyyars on the side of Shivdutt (all except last two later joined the Virendra Singh's side):
- Pandit Badrinath
- Pandit Jagannath
- Ghasita Singh
- Bhagwan Dutt
Later on in Chandrakanta Santati, many more Aiyyars were introduced, including mainly:
- Bhairo Singh (Tej Singh's son)
- Tara Singh (Devi Singh's son)
- Indra Dev
- Kamla (Bhootnath's Daughter)
- Sher Singh
- Tara (not to be confused with Tara Sing)
- Harnam Singh (only name in this epic allotted to two totally different characters)
- Bihari Singh
- Raja Gopal Singh
- Laxmi Devi
Chandrakanta was made into a television serial in the mid-1990s, but the serial was never completed due to financial reasons. However, the only congruence between the novel and the serial was in the name of a few characters, the rest of the storyline being completely different from the book. The serial also introduced many new characters and both these deviations were not popular with viewers. The serial took far too many liberties with the original script and failed to attract wide viewership.
A new serial named Kahani Chandrakanta Ki has been started in 2011 on Sahara One TV Channel, Based on his next novel in Chandrakanta series named Chandrakanta Santati (story about Chandrakanta's sons) by the same director Sunil Agnihotri, with same degree of deviations from the original Devki Nandan Khatri novel. The story of Chandrakanta Santati is very much different from the story shown by new TV serial "Kahani Chandrakanta Ki".
Indian filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra is producing a film adaptation of the book, which will be directed by Ram Madhvani. The film has been titled Taalismaan and includes Amitabh Bachchan among the cast, playing an Aiyyar. Abhishek Bachchan will also be seen in this screen adaption of the tale of Chandrakanta.