One of the things that completely fascinated me when I was told stories from the Ramayana by my grandmother was the concept of the ‘kopagraha’, made famous by Queen Kaikeyi.
Kaikeyi, goaded by Mantra, decides that her son Bharata must be crowned King of Ayodhya, in place of Rama, the first-born. But convincing her husband the King, was not going to be easy. As the first step, she retreats to her kopagraha (literally, Hall of Rage). She flings off her jewels, unfastens her hair, puts off her silks and flings herself on the bed, before sending word to the King that he better come there post-haste, or else…
What ensues is well-known. The King has to bow to her pressure. He decides to crown Bharatha king, exiles Rama to the jungle, and later, succumbs to a heart attack or stroke. But that is the subject of the epic, not this blog.
The kopagraha is the crux here. What a concept! A whole hall or palace to retire to, signalling your rage! A whole building legitimizing tantrums and bad behaviour! I wonder if the kopagraha was a common resource. Could anyone from the royal family just walk in and occupy it? If so, what would happen if two or more people wanted to use it at the same time? Maybe there were systems for bookings like we have for meeting rooms in offices? Or did each important person have one exclusively? Maybe it could be a perk—corporates could allot kopagrahas along with corner offices!
I have often imagined how I would design a kopagraha if I had a chance to have one. I think it would be painted the deep grey of dark clouds, and a bright angry red. The furnishings would all be red. Glass vases and tea cups and china bric a brac would be handy to fling against walls. The acoustics would be designed to catch the shrillest notes of querulous voices and amplify them. Bows and arrows, along with targets to substitute for whoever was the enemy of the moment.
Alas, while punching bags and ‘anger rooms’ and such are a part of some anger management programs, we do not now have the luxury of a palace to indulge our rage.
Interestingly, as I was looking for references to kopagrahas, I learnt that boudoirs were originally on the lines. ‘Boudoir’ apparently means sulking or pouting room. It is derived from the French ‘bouder’, which means to sulk or pout. In the 1700s, the boudoir was a room to withdraw to, and apparently to sulk in!