Somadeva’s “The Red Lotus of Chastity”

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In various literatures across the world from different periods, the hero or heroine often disguises herself or himself in order to accomplish certain task which would ordinarily be considered impossible. In medieval periods “Clothing provided an immediate way of distinguishing ‘Who was who” (Gregorová 9).  In most cases, the unusual task is usually inclined towards saving a husband, wife, family member or a loved one. In Somadeva’s “The Red Lotus of Chastity,” disguise plays a critical role in plot development and offers a critical role in portraying the role of women during the period. This paper explores women disguises in the story and critically analyzes how the disguises enable the women to achieve their desired objectives. It also delves into assessing how disguise reveals the relationship between females and their male counterparts in the story.

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Somadeva’s “The Red Lotus of Chastity” is awash with cunning characters, especially women, who display a mastery of deception in the form of disguise in order to accomplish their desired objectives. The first episode of disguise in the story emerges where Siddhikari, who is a pupil to the corrupt nun, disguises herself in order to be able to steal her wealthy employer’s wealth.  She hurts everyone who becomes an obstacle in her scheme to gain the trust of her employer (1276). In this case, Siddhikari utilizes disguise to inculcate the culture of trust, which she intends to use to steal wealth from her master. She manages to steal the employer’s gold and takes it to the corrupt nun. Siddhikari disguises herself to steal in order to gratify the crooked nun.

Another scenario of disguise in the story is exhibited by the dishonest nun herself. The nun employs disguise in her scheme to induce chaste Devasmita to hunger for and give in to the demands of “sense and element” through infidelity to her husband, Guhasena, when he is not in the vicinity (1277). The nun uses disguise to exhibit an image of a holly person while intending to deceive Devasmita to abandon her virtues for heathen pleasures.  In this case, the wandering nun uses disguise as a bait to lure Devasmita to buy her views and fall for her trap. Luckily, Devasmita proves to be a wise woman and avoids the nun’s mischievous scheme to deceive her.

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According to “Disguise causes misdirection, and misdirection is often done within a disguise” (125). Devasmita also employs the technique of disguise to achieve her desired goal. She crafts her own scheme to evade the nun’s trap and rescue her husband, Guhasena “with her presence of mind” (1278). Using the story of Saktimati’s, a sly wife, who utilized disguise to rescue her husband, she disguised herself together with her maids as merchants with the main motive of exposing the men who had attempted to seduce her so as to thwart their revenge against Guhasena (1279). Consequently, she manages to safeguard both her chastity and her husband via her ingenious plot, which makes her honored and a darling to all people (Somadeva 1279).

The technique of disguise in Somadeva’s “The Red Lotus of Chastity” is immensely displayed by female characters in the story. For example, Siddhikari, the wandering nun and Devasmita are the epitome of disguise in the story. The women use disguise to achieve their different desired goals through instituting ingenious schemes to get what they want. In the story, disguise reveals the ability of women and exhibits them as having the capacity to do what men can do in a society where females were dominated over by their male counterparts.

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  1. Gregorová, Jaroslava. The Concept of Disguise in Shakespeare’s Tragedy Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark on the background of the crisis of Humanism and Renaissance in England. Diss. Masarykova univerzita, Pedagogická fakulta, 2015. Accessed November 17, 2017 <https://is.muni.cz/th/396876/pedf_b/Bakalarska_prace_-_The_Concept_of_Disguise_in_Tragedy_Hamlet__Prince_of_Denmark-_definitely_final.pdf>
  2. Somadeva.  From “Kathasaritsagara.”  Beginnings to 1650.  The Norton Anthology of  World Literature.  Vol. 1.  Shorter Third Edition,  Ed. Martin Puchner et al. Shorter Third ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2013. 1274-1279. Print.
  3. Terry, Norina S. “Disguise and Misdirection in Comedic Literature.”  Accessed November 17, 2017 <http://www.uh.edu/honors/Programs-Minors/honors-and-the-schools/houston-teachers-institute/curriculum-units/pdfs/2008/comedy/terry-08-comedy.pdf>
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