Lanka Lakshmi

The plays of C.N.Sreekantan Nair ushered in a change in the Kerala theatre scene. Lankalakshmi is the second play of a trilogy of plays on Rama, the hero of the Ramayana. The first of the plays is titled Saketham and the third is Kanchana Seetha, Saketham marks the beginning of Rama’s ayana-journey and Kanchana Seetha marks the finale of the journey. The second play of the trilogy Lankalekshmi is the tale of Ravana; a character who aspires for power but has to content with the inevitable catastrophe.

The mask of the superhuman that was donned by both Rama and Ravana in other theatrical representations was removed by C.N.Sreekantan Nair. The mythic heroes are represented as purely human. The Dasharatha, Sri Nair presents in Saketham is a Dasharatha who tries to retain his individuality and lose the ideoogy of state craft while the Rama of Kanchana Sita tries to lose his indivuduality in the quest to uphold Rama Rajya, the ideal state. Midway between them is Ravana, whose personal shortcomings lead to the destruction of his state. In Lankalakshmi, more than in the other plays of the triology, the presence of the dramatist is keenly felt. Movement and change from the important theme, and text of the play in this Ravanayana (the journey of Ravana) each incident, not just Sita’s abduction or the destruction of Lanka, is dramatic. Ravana literally rises to the stature of a tragic hero who faces his doom.

Intertextuality and the existence of ”other“ texts are evident in the play and is conveyed to the reader subtly. The devices the dramatist follows in this and in the presentation of the character of Ravana who is both lover and artist bring out Sreekantan Nair’s act.

Translating this play is a challenge-a challenge that was taken up and executed by Vasanthi Sankaranarayanan. We propose to publish Lankalakshmi in two instalments, spanning this and the next issue of Samyukta.


Ravanan Malyavan Viroopakshan Suparswan

Prahastan Kumbhakarnan Vibhishanan Indrajith

Atikayan Sardoolan Nikumbhan Kumbhan

Hanuman Angadan Mandodari Sita

Lankalakshmi Sarama Rakshasas Rakshasa Women


(Tower gate to Lanka. Night. The indistinct figure of a Rakshasa Women can be seen. From the darkness of the night, Hanuman enters and severely hits the Rakshasi; the Rakshasi falls down. When the Rakshasi gets up she is transformed into divine and beautiful figure. At that a time a music which sounds otherworldly emerges)

Lankalakshmi( LL): Anjaneya, I have waited for years for your arrival. I am Lanka Lakshmi. Because of a curse, I have been forced to stay as a guard to Lanka for a long time. Brahma had ordained that one day a monkey would hit me and then I can leave the form of a Rakshasi and go back to my old self. My release has come. You, my dear friend, have been helpful and freed me. What can I offer you in retur?

Hanuman (H) : I have come searching for someone. When Rama, his wife Sita and younger brother Lakshmana were staying at the Dandaka Fomst, at the behest of his father Dasaratha, Ravana, the ruler of Lanka stole Sita. Rama, weighed down by his sorrow, made a pact of friendship with Sugreeva, the monkey king who sent one hundred thousand monkeys in different directions in search of Sita. Thus I have crossed the sea, a hundred miles wide, and have come here. I must find Sita.

LL : You have already begun to succeed in your effort. Think of my image and begin your search. But, you should not be shocked on seeing Ravana’a sleeping chamber. You may feel that even Mandodari resembles mo. Sita is imprisoned and is staying at the garden nearby, filled with sorrow. There only the ripened leaves of the Asoka tree to give her shade.

H :_ In which direction is this side garden?

LL : You can see a golden cupola wherever you stand in Lanka. Near the palace. The garden is close by, north of the cupola.

H : Oh, Goddess Lalithambika! I am happy that you came in person to show me the way.

LL : I withdraw. Now, you can enter Land. Be careful. Ravana is the saviour of his clan; victor of the whole universe. He has received a boon from Brahma, the Creator, that he cannot be killed by anyone born as a bird, serpent, Yaksha, or Rakshasa. He was able to make me his guard, though it turned out to be his undoing. His son, Meghanadhan is an expert in magic warfare. By defeating Indra, the King of Devas, be bas won the name, Indrajith. His brother. Kumbhakarnan, the black one, frightens the whole world, when he wakes up from his sleep. Ravana has with him thousands of equally brave warriors of the Rakshasa clan. Crossing the sea was a brave act; but that is not enough to meet these forces. You have many tricks in hand. after all, you are the son of Wind. I am going. You must enter inside tonight itself. Be careful. Remember that you are the instrument in the joining of two Yugas. Come back victorious. (Disappears) (The other-worldly music ends. Frightening sounds emerge.

(Hanuman moves into darkness and disappears. )


Act One

(The court room of Ravana. A fairly old Viroopakshan; middle-aged Suparswan; Youthful Nikumbhan, Kumbhakarnan’s son; Nikumbhan, the Minister; Indrajith, who is of the same age; a young Atikayan. Indrajich is impatient.)

Indrajith: Do not think I am being disrespectful to my father’s uncles. They are very dear to me. Still, I have to say this. Today, Lanka has turned into an old woman. King Ravanan’s famous sword, Chandrahasa has begun to rust. Heroism has become a thing of the past. Victories in wars figure only in st ories told by grandmothers to children. People with unimpaired vision can see. Look, that gold cupola may break and fall any moment. That cupola is the symbol of Lanka. It is the flagstaff of Ravanan, who flogged and conquered the Devas and the guardians of the four directions. But, now I fear that it may fall down any moment.

Nikumbhan : The story goes that an old monkey set fire to its bottom.

Atikayan : The palace of the great king, Ravanan, who made the three worlds kneel in defeat was scratched and torn to bits by a wild monkey.

Viroopakshan : If a drunk bumble bee droned and flew across your lap, can it be thought as causing a bad reputation to you ?

Nikumbhan: The burning of Lanka and destruction of one fourth of the army of Rakshasas is not such a small matter.

Indrajith : The commandant’s son Jambumali was killed. My brother died.

Nikumbhan: Akshan and the son of Prahastha did not pay much attention to the might of the old monkey.

Indrajith : That is what I wish to tell the respected elders and the chief minister. Should the heroes of war who defeated Yama, the God of Death be afraid of anyone? Everyone is afraid of Lanka. If you are caught in a forgetful slumber after a booze on self-exaltation, once again we will be forced to do penance for ten thousand years.

Viroopakahan: Brave warriors like Indrajith should not attach so much importance to these things. Long ago, when we conquered the worlds of Devas, human beings and Yakshas and came back to Lanka, what did we hear? Our niece, Kumbheenasi had been stolen and taken away by a Rakshasa, Madhu. From the Lanka of King Ravanan who had conquered the whole universe, after vanquishing whoever opposed him!

Akikayan: Was my brother just a child?

Viroopakshan : He was doing penance. Kumbhakarnan was in a deep sleep then too. Vibhishanan was having a bath!

Indrajith : Without taking rest, my father went straight to Madhupuri. Madhu hid himself.

Viroopakshan: But, the king forgave Madhu. He summoned Madhu and gaveltim his blessings. Not just because Kumbheenasi bagged him to. The king of Rakshasas knew what was important and what unimportant.

Indrajith: There were other reasons for that. The king was prepared to go for any compromise on behalf of people whom he loved.

Nikumbhan : This is not such a trivial issue. The monkey burnt Lanka; murdered a great deal of people. He sat nonchalant in front of the king. Seeing the trickery of the messenger. we can get an idea of the strength of the enemy.

Indrajith : Nikumbhan, have you conveyed the seriousness of the situation to the king?

Viroopakshan: Nikumbhan became the chief minister because of his ability to distinguish the important from the unimportant.

Indrajith: In the vast ocean, a sand bridge is being built. We should be alert.

Suparswan : As only close relatives are present in the court now, we do not have to be cautious about being frank. We have to suspect that the shadow of omens predicting inauspicious events has fallen on us.

Viroopakshan : What? Inauspicious events for Lanka? Do not blabber. Suparswan’s words often exceed the limit.

Suparawan : Brother, I can understand your impatience. After all, you are the son of Malyavan who on being defeated in the strife between the Devas and Rakshasas left Lanka arid hid himself in the nether world. Whereas Ravanan is the embodiment of revenge that Malyavan and the remaining Rakshasa warriors cherished.

Viroopakshan: In one sense, Ravanan is my adopted son. I was there. always with the king. My father who lived for a long time in the netherworld, sent my younger uncle, Sumali to the earth to win back Lanka. I am the one who came to the Earth as a companion to your father. Then, Akampan and you were children. Prahastan was also young. At that time it was Vaishravanan (Kubera) who was the lord of Lanka. One day we saw Vaishravanan travelling in the Pushpaka plane through the aerial path. The owners of Lanka rotting in the netherworld while the wealth of Lanka was being enjoyed by another person! On that day we cried till the sun went down. My younger uncle thought of a plan

Atikayan : Wasn’t it on that day that he persuaded my grandmother to wed the sage


Suparswan : When my elder sister, Kaikasi entered the abode of the sage, the hermitage and its surroundings were bathed in the evening sun’s red hue.

Viroopakshan: It was that twilight bathed in a red hue that witnessed the genesis of the second Rakshasa kingdom. I am the one who took her to the hermitage of Vishravas. Even when Kaikasi’s son won back Lanka and saved the clan, even as he won the worlds of Yakshas, Varuna and Yama, your father and I were the ones who stood on either side of him and fought the wars. Not that Suparswan. Even if the king himself mentioned that inauspicious events have overtaken Lanka, I will not tolerate it.

Suparswan : But, the attacks were always by Lanka on others, never by any one on Lanka. Till today. Haven’t you heard that the son of Dasaratha has built a bridge over the ocean?

Atikayan: A destitute prince who was thrown out, what can he do against Lanka?

May be he can give vent to his anger by banging his head against the walls of the fort.

Suparswan: In a battle fought to win back his beloved wife, any man’s vigour would be redoubled.

Nikumbhan: Rama is coming with the monkey army, after killing Bali and enthroning his brother Sugreeva as the king. Even if we are the victors of the world, we have to be alert and awake.

Indrajith: We have to also modernise our technique of warfare.

(Prahastan enters hearing this statement. Indrajith, Nikumbhan and Atikayan bow their head showing respect.)

Prahastan: (with a smile): Son, say that to your father directly.

Indrajith: I was not finding fault with the commandant. I just mentioned it so that the king’s advisors on warfare will take note.

Prahastan: There is no one to compete with the Rakshasas in weaponry or courage. I heard that the army which is going to face us is superior in numbers. The only problem then is, they will have to build a granite bridge instead of an earthen bridge.

Indrajith: If it is built at a vantage point, an earthen bridge would suffice.

Prahastan: Sure, let us think about the technique of warfare also.

Suparswan: Let me ask a question to Prahasthan who acted as the great commandant of King Ravanan in all the warfare that he conducted in the Divine and Human worlds. When you are talking to your brother, you should set aside the tone of the soldier. Is not the purity of objective as important as the technique of warfare for a soldier?

Prahasthan : I agree.

Suparswan: A war fought to keep someone else’s wife-how can that be morally correct for Lanka?

(Everyone looks shocked. But, their reactions, afterwards, were different )

Prahasthan: (moving to the front) The purity of war, it only means the capability to kill. War is a habit. There is no reason. Nor is there a need for reason. Maybe, it is the most beautiful aspect of the nature of the universe. (With a smile). Since you forbade me to speak in the language of a soldier, I was trying to speak in the language of my elder brother himself.

Supraswan: The language you used is indeed good. But you gave a twist to the topic of our conversation. I also know that you did it intentionally. Still, Leaders of the Rakshasa clan! You have to think of this issue. Should Lanka fight a war for the sake of a woman?

Atikayan: Should we think along those lines? Elder Heads of family, young children, the topic is not a good one.

Superswan : It is best to realise that the topic is not good.

Viroopakshan: His mother also was abducted. Not a Rakshasi, but an Apsaras.

Dhanyamali. Is he in any way inferior? Mandoari’s son Aksha and he

grew up like twins. They became the pride of Lanka. Like Mandodari; Mali also beautifies Lanka.

Suparswan : How many beauties beginning with the letter “M” can you remember. Elder Brother? I shall remember those which have other letters.

Indrajith: Humourous talk on the wives of the chieftains may give pleasure to the old men. But for the children, such an asceticism does not come easily.

Nikumbhan : Wherever one sees beauty, taking it with or without force is the Dharma of Rakshasaa.

Viroopakshan : It is the Dharma of improving one’s family line.

Suparswan : The germ for improvement as well as destruction is one and the same.

Prahasthan : Soorpanakha was searching for a good looking man. If Lakshmanan did not disfigure her face and breasts, Kharan , Dooshanan and Trishiras would not have fought with Raman. If they were not killed in that fight the king would not have stolen Raman’s wife. Isn’t that what you meant, Elder Brother?

Suparswan : I thought of so many things. It is enough, as a soldier, if you understood that much.

Prahasthan: The mixing of bloods will reduce the stamina of Rakshasas. That may lead to improvement or destruction

Suparswan : If the number of stolen young women, kept in Lanka, belonging to the clans of Yakshas, Kinnaras, human and divine beings increase, it might result in the downfall of the Rakshasa clan and the growth of a different one.

Indrajith: The mothers of our clan’s elders —the wives of Malyavan —belonged to the Gandharva clan. Vedavathi, mother of Malyavan, Sumali and Mali-our family’s grandmother was the daughter of a Gandharva. Why, even my father is of a mixed lineage. By using the term “germ of Destruction”

— the revered elder meant — I hope not the king.

Suparswan : Children, don’t make me out to be a conspirator. My sister’s son, who restored a new life to the Rakshasa clan, hiding in the nether worlds and conquering their old city, the wealth, the kingdom, the Pushpaka and the three worlds by waging wars is a Godlike figure admired and worshipped by me. When my father was struck down by an arrow in the world of Indra, he held me and this boy to him and said, “Vishnu who defeated my brother should get defeated by my grandson. You with your knowledge and he, in use of weapon, should support him”. Prahasthan and I have not gone against that command. As knowledge is not a solid mass as weaponry, our languages are different, that’s all.

Indrajith : The language of weapons would indicate that we should go to the Asoka garden and kill that woman with one stroke. What would the language of knowledge suggest?

(”The ruler of the three worlds!” This form of address is heard in a resounding voice from behind the room.

Knowing that the king was about to come, the courtiers remain silent. Ravanan enters, accompanied by Kumbhan and sits on the diamond-studded throne.)

Ravanan : You all heard, didn’t you?

Prahasthan & Nikumbhan” : Yes, we heard.

Ravanan : What is the remedy?

Prahastan : Raman’s wife who is kept in the Side Garden………

Ravanan: Give her back to Raman and ask for his forgiveness?

Prahasthan: The suggestion is to kill.

(A fearful sound. Except for Ravanan and Indrajith, everyone else takes out their swords and Iooks in the direction from which the sound came. Ravanan looks only to assess what it was all about.)

Indrajith: The Cupola has fallen down.

Suparswan : The highest cupola in Lanka!

Ravanan: Send a messenger to bring Mayan. Let him build another golden cupola, taller than the previous one. It should be shaped in such a way as no naked eyes have seen the like of it so far. The diamonds obtained by breaking up the throne of Varunan sbould be fixed around it. Its glow should spread beyond the Southern Seas. Let Mandodari also be happy on seeing her father. Were you all scared on hearing the sound?

Nikumbhan : I have never heard such a loud noise in Lanka.

Ravanan : Whowere you scared of?

(All silent)

Viroopakshan: There is a story going around that Raman is an incarnation of Vishnu.

Ravanan: Once we surrounded the fortress of a king named Maruthan. My uncles were also with me at that time.On my way back from the Himalayas. Maruthan, strong, powerful was performing a sacrifice. Indran, Yaman, Varunan, Vaishravanan – all had arrived to eat the sacrificial offerings.

Maruthan must have felt strong, thinking that the sovereigns of the three worlds were with him. But, do you know what these Gods did when they heard that I had arrived? What would they have done? You say.

Atikayan : They must have fled, for fear of their lives.

Ravanan : They all ran, that is true.

Prahasthan : Indran as a peacock, Varunan as a swan. Yaman as a crow.

Ravanan: Vaishravanan, the eldest son of my father, the great sage, who showered all his blessings on him and brought him up……

Prahasthan: As a chameleon.

(Everyone laughs )

Ravanan: Myself, being the son of the sage Vaishravas, felt ashamed. My dear elder brother could have run off at least as an elephant. The story of Vishnu is also not different. When our armies swarmed in, Indran went and fell at the feet of Vishnu and begged. Vishnu who had twirled his wheel to kill Mali and force Sumali and Malyavan to escape to the netherworld decided that silence was the best policy. Malyavan’s son is afraid of Vishnu, isn’t he?

Viroopakshan : I did not want to be frightened of Vishnu; so a good portion of my life, I have stayed with the leader of Rakshasas in the battlefield.

Ravanan : Then, don’t go on yelling “Vishnu”, Vishnu” and frighten the children. Let them grow up witnessing the light of victory and the growth of the clan. We must find out where exactly this Vishnu has reached. Call Vibhishanan.

Prahasthan : The monkey army has built a seabridge and has come to our side.

Ravanan : Let them wait at the doors for somedays. My pride is not allowing me to go ahead and start attacking them. Is it because you do not know how to face them that you wanted Sita to be killed? Who is the decreeing authority?

Indrajith : It was not a decree. We thought why not get rid of the nuisance?

Ravanan : Children find pleasure in squeezing the neck of a butterfly and killing it.

( Enter Sardoolan )

Sardoolan : The army is huge.

Ravanan: How big?

Sardoolan : It is difficult to gauge correctly. All the monkey armies from Vindhya Mountains to the South end have assembled.

Ravanan : Who is the commandant?

Sardoolan : Sugreevan. The second in command, Neelan. On both sides, Kumudan, Sharabhan, Rambhan, Panasan, Vinathan, Kradhan, Gavayan.

Ravanan: Um………

Sardoolan : Brave soldiers, Angadan…

Ravanan: Isn’t he the son of that forest woman, Tara?

Sardoolan : Ye, Bali’s son.

Viroopakshan : Or the son of Sugreevan?

Ravanan: Um…..

Sardoolan : Jambavan, Hanuman

Ravanan: And those human children?

Sardoolan : Even King Sugreevan is taking orders from them. Those young men wearing

the shining armour and holding the glistening bows, dazzle the eyes like the mid noon Sun.

Ravanan : We shall give them the job of guards in Lanka. When you, my beloved son, bound Indran with rope and dragged him through our corridors, this idea dawned on me.

Sardoolan : A spy has to tell the truth. Raman and Lakshmanan are famous for their magical strength.

Viroopakshan: Cutting off the nose and breasts of a woman who went to them all by herself, seeking love; is that a sign of bravery and courage?

Ravanan: Um…. the weapons?

Sardoolan : Clubs, swords and sticks covered with thorns. The monkeys will uproot mountains and fight their kind of war. Only Raman and Lakshmanan use bows and arrows. It is believed that they possess even divine weapons.

Indrajith : What divine weapons?

Sardoolan : Arrows such as Agneyam, Varunam, Garudam, Nagam and Maheswaram.

Indrajith: What about the Brahmastra?

Sardoolan : They may possess even that. There is no report of it having been ever used.

Ravanan : They even possess the Brahmastra? Um, Sardoolan, is there anyone in the monkey army who has knowledge about the medicines such as Mrithasanjeevani?

Sardoolan: : Jambavan and Sushenan may be knowing it. Maybe Raman too. Forgive me, my Lord. I shall find out all about that before the sun rises.

Prahastan : Have they all crossed the bridge?

Sardoolan : They have arrived on this side.

Ravanan : Sardoolan, you may go.

(Sardoolan leaves)

Indrajith : We should have attacked them before they crossed the bridge.

Ravanan : We can attack even after they have crossed and entered inside.

Indrajith : If they are still on the bridge, we would require only fewer soldiers.

Jus.t through trickery the enemy could be defeated.

Ravanan : If you learn magical warfare, it is natural to use trickery in war.

Prahasthan : The young prince suggests that warfare techniques should be modernised.

Ravanan : How?

Viroopakshan : The young prince used to say that Lanka’s army is full of old men with greying hair.

Ravanan : True, but, this grey hair, which frightens even the God of Death is one which

declares the revival of a clan which was pushed into the netherworld, and the sovereignty which that clan obtained over the three worlds. Indran can be tied up and dragged. But, in order to have greying hair, time has to pass. Son, you can change the technique in your time. I have not felt the need for it.

lndrajith : Wisdom may win faster than mere physical strength.

Ravanan : Mind, the urge….that is the root for everything. The rest will always be only synonyms or different expressions of the text. What is your new warfare technique?

Indrajith : Behead Sita and place her head when the enemy can see it. Raman and Lakshmanan will fall down, drained of power. The war will be over in a moment.

Ravanan : What is the opinion of others lite Prahasthan?

Prahasthan : That is not a technique of warfare. It is war through trickery. If we do not have any other way, we can use it.

Suparswan : It is possible that murder of Sita may redouble the strength of Raman and Lakshmanan. If the young prince’s technique is to succeed, Sita will have to be returned to Rama.

Ravanan : Sita should definitely be returned. is that so?

Suparswan : Women who are so endowed and enchanting are supposed, to have connections with the cycle of the Universe. It would be wise to give up.

Viroopakshan : So, Ravanan should yield Sita as a tax and become a vassal, is that what you want?

Ravanan: I was attracted to another man’s wife and stole her, that is what some people in our own harem think. Even you people, my countries and relatives may be under that impression. It is true that I was attracted to her and abducted her. But, I do not think that I have performed an untoward act. I have seen beautiful women in all the three worlds. Beauties among Apsaras, Yakshas and the seductresses of Varunan’s world. Some of them are staying in my harem too. Some became the mothers of children who protect my honour. I proved that Rambha’s divine beauty is not unattainable for a Rakshasa. She might have cursed me. Another woman uttered a more severe curse and jumped into the fire and killed herself. Even today, I have not forgotten that young woman who jumped into the fire while I was lying in the waist of Himalayas and sighing, drunk by her beauty. Her curses echoed and reverberated on all sides of the mountain like that of a disembodied voice. Anyone who does not desire her cannot be called a man.I have seen only one woman comparable to her, that is Sita. Perfection of Beauty! I do not care who married her. That jewel is suited only to Lanka. Anything which is rare in the three worlds, should belong to Lanka. I stole the divine plane Pushpaka from my elder brother Vaishravanan, so that it will belong to Lanka. Brahma’s armour should come to the ruler of Lanka. Siva’s sword, Chandrahasa, that should decorate the weapon-stores of Lanka. There is orly one thing which Lanka does not have……..Kamadhenu. I saw her in Varunan’s world; called her, but she did not come. It was useless to bring her without her consent. So, I did not use force and bring her… Lanka has everything else. All the duties, fortune and wealth. Sita also should belong to Lanka. I am not a womaniser, I am a lover of all rare and beautiful objects. All things of beauty this Ravanan will win. They will adorn Lanka and will be a lasting fortune for the clan of Rakshasa.

(Vibhishanan enters)

We shall now stop the discussion on Sita.

Vibhishanan: My Lord, isn’t that discussion going to continue as a battle?

Ravanan: Yes; I have also learnt to stop the battle soon. Lanka has become old and grey-haired; so the children complain. Probably they mean me and my uncles. This time I am leaving it to you. In the eyes of the children, you also may have greyed. Still, for me you are a child. The job of driving away the monkey army who camp outside the fort is yours.

Vibhishanan: That responsibility is not so easy. It is almost impossible to face the numerical strength of the army; that is the information given by the spies.

Ravanan : How many divine arrows are there stocked in yow quiver?

Vibhishanan : It is rumoured that there are more of the type in Raman’s quiver. Sugreeva is Bali’s younger brother. Angadan , the daring one is Bali’s son. I hear that Hanuman has manifold prowess. We saw the tricks that he is capable of when he came here as a messenger. There are many more seasoned soldiers in their army. The enemy is not an insignificant one. It is better to be prepared. May be Lanka’s prowess…….

Ravanan : Lanka’s prowess ?

Vibhisbanan : May not be enough.

( Ravanan is impatient. Others laugh)

Ravanan : Who has created this story?

Vibhishanan : This was related by Sukan and Saranan. They decided to meet you after reconfirmation. So, they have disguised themselves once again and entered the enemy camp.

Ravanan : You are doubting that Lanka’s prowess will not be enough? Lanka means……Kumbhakarnan, Meghanadan, Prahasthan, and uncles from Viroopakshan onwards. It also means young men such as Nikumbhan, and millions of Rakshasa soldiers, forts which are impenetrable, moats, divine arrows, magic warfare techniques, the knowledge and the experience of having conquered the three worlds, the blessing of old Malyavan, who is still alive and happy that the Rakshasa clan is dominating the worlds……the prowess of such a Lanka….

Indrajith: Leave aside Lanka. I will take up the task of driving off this army all by myself.

Ravanan : Wait. I feel that Vibhishana’s brain is slightly muddled.

Vibhishanan : The whole of today I was listening to the information given by the spies. Raman by himself killed in a jiffy Kharan, Dooshanan, Trishiras and fourteen thousand soldiers of the Rakshasa army. He built a bridge over the ocean and came over to this side. The monkey army bas millions in numbers. Please do not think that Raman is an ordinary foe. In looks, he has a great presence. He has a strong physique, which seems to be wrought in the fire of unlimited strength. He possesses unknown divine weapons. It is rumoured that he is very familiar with many of those. We can see in him the invisible aura of unconquerable strength.

Ravanan: Courage is one thing; invincibility is another. Do not confuse the two. Ravanan has not fought to this day with anyone who lacks courage. After hearing your description, I am dying to confront Raman. But this aura of invincibility that you talked of, it is not very clear to me. Is this something which can be physically seen or is it a product of somebody’s imagination?

Vibhishanan : When unusual strength is combined with undiluted truth, it can be felt.

Ravanan: What exactly is that undiluted Truth?

Vibhishanan: The Truth of freeing the stolen wife is sharper than any divine weapon.

Ravanan: Regarding that human youth, there is a great deal of Truth in what you say…. Still the invincibility part of it is still not very clear to me.Look carefully at the faces of these elders. Viroopakshan, son of the King of Rakshasas, Malyavan, of mother’s uncle, Sumali’s elder brother’s son, the courageous and respected old soldier who had begun to walk in the path that led us to all our achievements, even before we were born, our mother’s youngest brother, Prahasthan, the man who fought along with me in the worlds of Yakshas, Varunan ,Yaman; Meghanadan, the youth who tied Indran who was famed as invincible, with his arrow and dragged him through the streets of Lanka…….You are seeing an vincibility and its aura in Rama which none of these possess, aren’t you?

Prahasthan: If you mean a person whom no one can defeat, there is only one such person in all the three worlds.

Ravanan: Let us forget my case. I am your brother; also the sovereign who rules the country. Both these roles have a lesser aura.

Vibhishanan: I do not deserve this sarcasm from you, brother. Brahma did not grant immortality even to you who did penance for ten thousand years. In a life which is not eternal, invincibility is even less eternal. In fact, it may be destroyed the next moment. But, sometimes some people may have the destiny of invincibility. That is all I meant. Do not attach more importance to my words. I have also to fulfil my duties. When an enemy knocks at the door, Truth and Dharma are the early casualties. It is the beginning of the aggressive dance of the lifeless heads born out of fear in Kaliyuga. Before that, before it is too late, it is my duty to remind the technique of reigning without losing wisdom and the sense of Dharma.I am accepting all the sarcasm and doing that job.

Ravanan : Let me hear about it.

Vibhishanan : Give up Sita. Leave it to Raman whether we should have a war or compromise. If it is war, we do not have to hesitate.

Viroopakshan : If Vaishravanan comes back to retrieve the Pushpaka plane, will Vibhishanan give it back to him?

Vibhishanan : Me? Yes, I will give it back if it is left to me.

Ravanan : Young brother. your ethical advice is appreciated by my mind in good measure. But, I am a person who has walked away from the fertile valleys to the top of the hill. I was making a pathway for myself by cutting the hills and breaking the stones. When I stepped up, climbed and reached each stage of achievement , I saw there were more heights to climb. Holding on to the stars, stepping on to the planets, I went higher and higher…. During this climb, I restored and pulled up a clan that was drowned in despair……I gained as though there was nothing more to gain. Our ancestors, those who had held the sceptre of Lanka once upon a time were writhing in agony in the netherworld. 1 resurrected that clan.; recaptured Lanka. I accomplished all the adornments that Lanka deserved. The world which had forgotten the clan of Rakshasa are worshipping them today. Whatever I have gained is not for giving up.

Vibhishanan : You could only gain; never to give up. You captured Lanka which was your due. Rama gave up Saketam (Ayodhya) which was his due.

(Everyone laughs)

Viroopakshan : What is the relevance now of this comparison?

Vibhishanan: Strength arid weakness may be gauged by some through this comparison.

Prahasthan : The power of training, the strength of the weapons and the capability of the army, those are the relevant factors in this discussion.

Vibhishanan : The purity of the mind of the leader also adds to the strength of the followers.

lndrajith: Young Uncle, Your tone is harsher than usual.

Ravanan : Your older brother, Ravanan, leader of the Rakshasa, has only gained. Those achievements are now legends. Poets sing in praise when the planets move aside from the path of Lanka’s Pushpaka Plane. The ugly, looking, black child which was born from the womb of a young Rakshasa woman, left at some sage’s hermitage, humbled even Vishnu. That child did not even have a garland of wild flowers to give up. Our mother used to pluck flowers and put it around your neck, you being younger to him. That child grew throwing stones at the kite, killing it and eating its flesh and drinking the dirty water of the forest river. There were no women of harem to fan him or pinch him playfully. There were no bearded people to teach him the art of killing. There were no kings to welcome him and present him with a woman in one hand and Siva’s bow in the other. Even my beloved wife, Mandodari was won after breaking and entering Mayasura’s circle of chariots. I won the sword Chandrahasam by plucking Siva’s mountains with my own hands. I won the leadership of-the three worlds by killing and winning. If you are not proud about these achievements…….whatever you win, at least the shadow of one sorrow will follow you, that is the nature of life…..You are a preacher of princ iples. But, young brother. I listened to whatever you said. Your tone has become harsh today.

Vibhishanan : When an unpalatable truth is mentioned, you feel that even the tone is harsh.

Ravanan: This is not the time for a debate. Arrange the lines of soldiers and prepare for defence. Vibhishanan will give the instructions for the commandant. I would like to rest for a while. I have not played the veena for a long time. I have to be drowned in the sound of music in order to forget his speech

(Everyone laughs. Ravanan prepares to go off)

Vibhishanan: My Lord, forgive me. I do not have the courage to confront Raman.

Ravanan: Coward! Do you think Ravanan is happy to call his own brother that. If you do not have the strength, fight and die! If you die, there are other fighters in Lanka to arrange the lines of soldiers.

Vibhishanan: If you give up Sita, I shall obey any command of yours.

Ravanan : If not? If not, you will not fight for Lanka and the protection of the Rakshasas?

Vibhishanan: I do not think that Lanka which has given up the principles of Dharma, and the Rakshasas who laugh in fun when they face Truth are ideals to fight for.

Ravanan: May I know what is the ideal which inspires you?

Vibhishanan : A person must have an ideal not only to live by but to die also.

Ravanan : The country, the clan, the blood relationships, all these are not values for you?

Vibhishanan : A very firm ethics for administration is what is needed for the protection of the clan; and the nurturing of justice based on Dharma. I do not have different yardsticks for the values, whether it is Lanka or Saketam. My values do not stop at the boundary of a kingdom. My yardsticks are the principles which I cherish. Those are my values too.

Ravanan : In the battle which took place in Indran’s kingdom, when we stood in the chariot, unable to outwit the rain of arrows, our mother’s father, Sumali, the man who had won a great reputation, the man who was responsible for all our good name, he confronted Indran and gave us a little respite. In that confrontation, our maternal grandfather was struck down dead. Will you be able to do that? Or will you be measuring the battlefields with your yardstick of principles?

Vibhishanan: My Lord, the battle fields that you fought in were always unknown to me.

Ravanan : I remember.

Vibhishanan: In the battle fields that I wage war, there are no weapons which scratch out the boundaries of countries. There are no arrows and …..

Ravanan : But, there are ideas.

Vibhishanan : Yes……

Ravanan : Your ideas…..

Vibhishanan : Yes…..

Ravanan : That means, you are only interested in yourself, only yourself.

Vibhishanan : Not only myself. My clan too. But, my path is different from yours.

Ravanan : A path which is exclusively yours.

Vibhishanan : Yes.

Ravanan : The path of Vibhishanan! I have heard mother saying that there was a showering of flowers when she gave birth to you.

Vibhishanan : I too have heard that when you were born there was a rain of blood. Maybe both could be correct. Even though we have the same mother and father, I follow the path of our father and you, the path of our mother, Flower offerings will suit me and butcher blood will be fine for you. My Lord! Please forgive me. Lanka is being attacked for the first time. The meaning is clear that the auspicious goddess of Lanka has withdrawn. I too have stayed in Lanka as long as it was possible for me. Please let me go now.

Ravanan : Where to?

Viroopakshan : Is it not explicit where he wants to go?

Vibhishanan: If I stay here I will have to accept orders which I do not like. I will have to carry out war techniques which are not acceptable to me. I depart.

Ravanan: Who are you leaving? The brother born of the same parents. he who brought fame and name to you, the people dear to you, your clan, your country. If that is what you want I allow you to leave. I allow you to go with your life in tact. Please know this much. If you were in my place, this is not what would happen.

(Vibhishana bows)

Prahasthan : The king should understand that the value of Vibhishanan is the desire to have kingdom. It is opposed to the growth of the clan. You should put him in prison.

Ravanan: Prahasthan, are you such a simpleminded person? If what you say is true, let him have the reputation of betraying his brother. I am the protector of my own people. I haven’t yet gained the strength to punish them. If one Vibhishanan leaves, will Lanka falter? You can go.

Indrajith: Father, when the enemy is just outside the fort, you must be watchful about dear ones deserting.

Viroopakshan : Those who leave when you are in trouble are enemies. They deserve to be killed.

(Kumbhan approaches Vibhishanan in haste. Others, Prahasthan, Indrajith and Viroopakshan step before Vibhishanan and prevent him from leaving.)

Ravanan (angrily) : Why are you staying? I ordered you to leave. If you stay back, I may have to watch these people cutting you into pieces. Go away.

(Vibhishanan leaves)

Whatever you all said is true. But, Ravanan’s sword has only spilled the blood of enemies. He too was born from the womb of that dark old woman, Kaikasi. He might have fallen into the net spread by Raman. It does not matter. They will realise that Ravanan is not Bali. I have the courage to face any betrayal. Let the flags fly in Lanka. Let us stan. The fortress should be secure. In the northern door, Makarakshan, in the east and the west Sukan and Saranan; In the south Nikumbhan. Let Akampanan stand in front and lead the army. Prahasthan will watch the ranks from behind and control the progress of the war. Dhoomrakshan should break thd enemey’s ranks from behind. The right side Mahaparswan; the left side Mahodaran; Thousand elephants, ten thousand chariots, twenty thousand horses, ten million soldiers (Goes)


To be continued…

Translated from Malayalam by Vasanthi Sankaranarayanan


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The plays of C.N.Sreekantan Nair ushered in a change in the Kerala theatre scene. Lankalakshmi is the second play of a trilogy of plays on Rama, the hero of the Ramayana. The first of the plays is titled Saketham and the third is Kanchana Seetha, Saketham marks the beginning of Rama’s ayana-journey and Kanchana Seetha marks the finale of the journey. The second play of the trilogy Lankalekshmi is the tale of Ravana; a character who aspires for power but has to content with the inevitable catastrophe.The mask of the superhuman that was donned by both Rama and Ravana in other theatrical representations was removed by C.N.Sreekantan Nair. The mythic heroes are represented as purely human. The Dasharatha, Sri Nair presents in Saketham is a Dasharatha who tries to retain his individuality and lose the ideoogy of state craft while the Rama of Kanchana Sita tries to lose his indivuduality in the quest to uphold Rama Rajya, the ideal state. Midway between them is Ravana, whose personal shortcomings lead to the destruction of his state. In Lankalakshmi, more than in the other plays of the triology, the presence of the dramatist is keenly felt. Movement and change from the important theme, and text of the play in this Ravanayana (the journey of Ravana) each incident, not just Sita’s abduction or the destruction of Lanka, is dramatic. Ravana literally rises to the stature of a tragic hero who faces his doom.Intertextuality and the existence of ”other“ texts are evident in the play and is conveyed to the reader subtly. The devices the dramatist follows in this and in the presentation of the character of Ravana who is both lover and artist bring out Sreekantan Nair’s act.

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