Is it possible to bring a complex character to life in a 45-minute discourse delivered from behind a wooden podium? Yes. Sudha Seshayyan proved that she can. It was not a dry pedantic speech. Sudha breathed life and emotion into Kunti – one of the seven noble characters featured in Natyarangam’s ‘Bharatham Mahabhaaratham.’ It was one of the highlights of the seven-day festival.
She traced Kunti’s story from her birth till the time she accompanied Dhritarashtra and Gandhari to the forest, renouncing all that she held dear. By the time Sudha rounded off her talk, which drew mainly upon sage Vyasa’s ‘Mahabharata,’ Kunti had taken a viswaroopa in the minds of the audience.
Sudha described how Kunti was a prisoner of circumstances. She was born as Pritha, the daughter of Surasena, but was given in adoption to Kuntibhoja.
Sudha graphically described the inherent curiosity of a little girl testing the efficacy of the mantra taught to her by sage Durvasa, her shock at Soorya’s appearance, her hidden joy at the birth of a baby, followed by her torment while deserting it for fear of societal censure.
Kunti was almost a puppet in the hands of fate. She was married to King Pandu, but as a result of a curse on him, she had to use the mantra to beget children of Dharma, Vayu and Indra. She she set afloat Karna, but nurtured Madri’s children along with her three sons.
Life was not a bed of roses for the royal princess. Her sons (the Pandavas) lost their kingdom, daughter-in-law Draupadi was disrobed in public, Kunti herself spent many years in the forest, and she could not reveal that Karna was her eldest son. But Kunti was never bitter – therein lay her nobility.
Sudha Seshayyan also gave a glimpse of the Kunti Stuti. The unwavering devotee in Kunti knew that gods’ leelas were to test and help the devotees. She, therefore, asked for more miseries, so that she could always think of Lord Krishna.
Kunti emerged as a towering personality, a strong noble woman who guided her five sons through a tumultuous life and was not cowed down by misfortune. She was not without her faults, her moments of weakness – all that made Kunti human and vulnerable.
Sudha took us on Kunti’s life–journey as a girl, a wife, a mother, and a rajamata. But her description of Kunti as a companion, surpassed all. It was an emotional moment when she described Kunti finally walking away with Gandhari and Dhritarashtra to the forest. Determined to accompany the blind old king and his blind-folded queen, Kunti bade her sons farewell, blessed them all and commanded them to go back to the city.
It was a solemn moment. The evocative web of words was so poignant that the audience was moved by it.