Union of East and West

Kedar Nath Das Gupta


Kedar Nath Das Gupta, a Bengali and friend of Rabindranath Tagore, was involved in forming the Union of East and West in January 1914. This was a society for the British and Indians in London which put on dramatic performances (having subsumed the Indian Art and Dramatic Society, formed in 1912). Das Gupta and the Society were based at 14 St Marks Crescent, London, NW1. He hoped that through the Society he could promote better understanding and collaboration between India and the West.

Das Gupta collaborated with Laurence Binyon in 1919 to adapt Kalidasa's play, Sakuntala, for the English stage. Das Gupta was able to publish through the Society some of the plays that they put on. The publication of Caliph for a Day in 1917, a Tagore play, also included photos of Das Gupta dressed in Indian clothes with three of the female members of the Society's executive, and photos of the Indian soldiers for whom the Union of the East and West had put on performances during the War.

In 1918, he published a play that he had written called Bharata, a four-act play that Das Gupta explained in the preface was drawn from writers, historians and philosophers of East and West on the four stages of life. The publication included a dedication to King George V and a quote from Lloyd George on the dust jacket. Das Gupta then migrated to New York with the Union of the East and West in the 1920s to create an umbrella movement known sometimes as the 'Fellowship of Faiths' or the 'Threefold Movement' incorporating as it did the Union of East and West, the Fellowship of Faiths and the League of Neighbours. He organized an International Conference of Faiths in Chicago in 1933. Das Gupta was also involved in organising the classes given in London in 1936 by the Swami Yogananda.

Published works: 

(with Margaret G. Mitchell) Bharata (London: Union of East and West, 1918)

Consolation from the East to the West: Ancient Indian Stories (London: Union of the East and West, 1916)  

Caliph for a Day, An Amusing Comedy (London: Indian Art and Dramatic Society, 1917)

(with Laurence Binyon) Sakuntala (London: Macmillan & Co., 1920)


Beginning of Kedar Nath Das Gupta's play, Bharata (1918), pp. 9-10.


The play begins with the main protagonist, Ram Lal, described as an 'idealist' describing to some British children the ideals of Empire.


T. W. Arnold, Bhupendranath Basu, Laurence Binyon, Lewis Casson, Charlotte Despard, E. B. Havell, Clarissa Miles, Margaret Mitchell, William Poel, William Rothenstein, Rabindranath Tagore, Sybil Thorndike, H. G. Wells.


See reference to him and the Union of East and West in Britain and India, The Times (including 28 June 1916, 28 October 1916 and 17 October 1919), The Stage (including 23 October 1919, 20 November 1919), The Era (including 19 November 1919), The New York Times (including 23 June 1922 and 1 July 1922) 

William Poel, 'Hindu Drama on the English Stage', Asiatic Quarterly Review I.2 (April 1913), pp. 319-31.


Act 1. Enter Ram Lal into a park – begin conversation with Cohen, O’Brien and Jones (children)

JONES: What a lovely daisy

RAM LAL: Yes beautiful. It is like the British Empire. Look at its petals, each distinct from the other like English, Indians, Canadians, Australians, Africans, but all are attached to one place. What do you call it?

JONES: England!

COHEN: The heart of gold.

RAM LAL: That’s right. All are untied to the stem by the bond of love. Each has a separate existence, a special mission to fulfil, but their final goal is the same. East is East, West is West, but the twain must meet on the common ground of humanity. This is the true Union of the East and West.

Secondary works: 

Chambers, Colin, A History of Black and Asian Theatre in Britain (London: Routledge, forthcoming)


This extract gives some insight into Kedar Nath Das Gupta's publications, style and ideas about unity and empire that had encouraged him to set up the Union of East and West and emphasized the power of drama to convey ideas.

Archive source: 

Theatre programmes (including programmes for 'Buddha' at Royal Court Theatre, 22 February 1912, and 'Sakuntala' at Winter Garden Theatre, 19 November 1919),  V & A Theatre Museum, Earls Court, London

Involved in events: 

Various performances put on by the Union of the East and West including performance of Sakuntala at Winter Garden Theatre, November 1919

Lecture delivered by Colonel Rai Jai Prithvi Bahadur Singh at Caxton Hall, 25 July 1929. Das Gupta had been involved in organising the event and also spoke at the event along with Annie Besant and Cecil H. Wilson (MP). [See http://nepal.humanists.net/speeches/london.html]

Lectures delivered by Swami Yogananda in London, 1936.


14 St Mark's Crescent
London, NW1 8JL
United Kingdom
51° 32' 17.2572" N, 0° 9' 3.942" W
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

at least 1910s to 1920s, 1936

Sakuntala Performance, November 1919

14 Nov 1919
End date: 
21 Nov 1919
Event location: 

Winter Garden Theatre, London


Kalidasa's Sakuntala was performed at two matinees at the Winter Garden Theatre in London in November 1919. The performance was organized by Kedar Nath Das Gupta and the Union of the East and West - a Society designed to put on Indian performances in London and promote Anglo-Indian understanding. Das Gupta approached Laurence Binyon to rework his rough translation of the play and the play was produced by Lewis Casson, who put his wife, Sybil Thorndike in the leading role (the cast was British). Binyon requested the help of William Rothenstein to design the curtains for the set, suggesting inspiration from Rajput paintings, but Rothenstein was unable to do so as he was away on Official War Artist duty in Belgium.

The Aga Khan and Maharaja of Baroda were among the attendees in a mixed audience of British and Indian well-wishers. The play was reviewed in a number of periodicals.

People involved: 

Laurence Binyon (adapted for stage), Lewis Casson (producer), Kedar Nath Das Gupta (organizer), William Rothenstein (initially requested to design scenery), Sybil Thorndike (actress), Bruce Winston (scenery designer)

Committee for Production: Dr T. W. Arnold, Bhupendra Nath Basu, Mrs G. F. Boyd, H. Dennis Bradley, Lord Carmichael, Jamnadas Dwarkadas, Alfred Ezra, Muriel Viscountess Helmsley, M. H. Ispahani, Mrs Geoffrey Lubbock, Mrs MacLellan, W. T. MacLellan, Mrs Woodhull Martin, Miss Clarissa Miles, Miss Margaret Mitchell, Sir S. D. Pattani, Charles Roberts, Mr & Mrs N. C. Sen, W. A. de Silva, Lord Sinha

Published works: 

Binyon, Laurence and Das Gupta, Kedar Nath, Sakuntala (London: Macmillan & Co., 1920)


The Times, 15 Nov 1919

The Era, 19 Nov 1919

The Stage, 20 Nov 1919


Archive source: 

Programme and fliers for the performance: '14 Nov 1919, Sakuntala', V&A Theatre Museum, Earls Court.

Letters from Laurence Binyon to William Rothenstein, Mss Eur B213, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras.


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