Act One of Saketam is set in Ayodhya, at the very dramatic moment when Sri Raman is declared the crown prince. The evocative description of how Kosalam should be decorated and the list of things that Vasishtan requires for the coronation is followed by the entrance of the divine Kausalya who expresses her happiness without restraint and is chided gently by Vasishtan. Yet the shadows that darken Kausalya’s happiness is evident in her memory of Dasharathan’s promise to Kaikeyi that her son would be made the heir. All shadows are dismissed when Raman enters and does respectful obeisance. Dasharathan tells Raman that he is to be made the crown prince. Dasharathan remembers the curse of the Sudra sage, yet unlike Kausalya is not disturbed by the memory at first. He, instead, dismisses it_ However when he is alone, he is full of forebodings.
[Kaikeyi, beautiful and embellished with various ornaments reclines on the couch in indolent voluptuousness. The fire of her youth is still aflame. Enters Mandhara; a hunchbacked ugly hag.]
Mandhara: The ill-fated daughter of Kekayam; a stale old tale you have become! Your beauty was the delusive dream of an imbecile. Like a wretched stream in the peak summer, you have dried up severely.
(Kaikeyi lilts her head; looks at Mandhara.)
You vainly boasted that you have triumphed over the universe. But the treasure pot you held in your succulent bosom turned out to be a cistern of wriggling serpents. They bit into your soul. Now there is no hope left; you are ruined! The accursed one! Sooner or later, you will drift aimlessly in this scorching wasteland, forlorn and detested by all.
Kaikeyi: (Sits up; furious) Mandhara!
Mandhara: Yes, Mandhara….your humble servant; the one who has come with good tidings. That lover of yours! Your little darling! Oh! That old man has betrayed you, your father and your son…A fine reward to your honeyed kisses!
Kaikeyi: (Rises with a start and shouts aloud) Stop it; you devil!
Mandhara: (Approaches Kaikeyi with a miserable expression) When King Asvapathy forsook your mother; I took good care of you and I am your foster mother. My unfortunate child; from tomorrow, your son Bharathan will have to stand in servitude at the feet of a son of your husband born to another wife. At the dawn of tomorrow, he will be ousted from the line of succession to the King.
Kaikeyi: Alas, was this the implication of your wicked curses! Is this damned hunchback so full of malice? Tomorrow is the coronation day of my dearly loved lad. Has not Raman suckled my breast like a son? lie is dear to me, to Aryaputran and to Ayodhia.
Mandhara: (taking the hand of Kaikeyi) Children forget even their own mother. Then will someone ever consider a woman who is not related to him. In the damp gust of imprudent emotions, your discretion was scattered to smithereens, Daughter…. Think for yourself…you are a matchless beauty. Empires will bow down reverentially at your feet. Still that marvellous charm of yours did not come to the aid in making your only son the heir to the crown or giving you the cherished status of the king’s mother. Did your beloved who got intoxicate with the abundant honey of your youthful splendour consult or even mention you about the coronation?
Kaikeyi: Aryaputran knows my desire
Mandhara: Do you think that your son is not capable of ruling the kingdom?
Kaikeyi: He has mastered Dhanurveda and the Vedic dharma. But how can he claim the crown while having an elder brother?
Mandhara: Why don’t you understand! The crown of Ayodhya is your son’s right. Has not Dasarathan pledged to make your son the heir to the throne when he married you? Where is the kingdom; did your son get it? Asvapathi is not alive now. If your brother, Yudhajith enquires about this, what excuse wilt you give him? Will you tell him that it was with your consent that the right to the crown has been denied to your son? Will you say that you agreed to break the pledge? Did you consent? Did anybody ask for your permission?
Kaikeyi: (Feebly). If they had asked, 1 would have permitted.
Mandhara: When the coronation of the one who has no claims to the throne takes place, no one bothers to ask the rightful heir to the crown about it. A proper occasion was chosen for it, when Bharathan and Sathrukhnan were away. Even the hunter kings of the jungle were invited, but not the king of Kekayam. They knew, if Yudhajith comes, he would certainly demand to fulfil the pledge. The king of Midhila was also avoided because they were afraid of his stern righteousness. They imposed the burden of a lasting curse on Ayaodhya in a congregation of some dependent kings who are as cowardly as eunuchs. Daughter, this treason started much earlier. When the great sage Viswamithran requested to protect his sacred rituals, the king sent Raman and his accomplice, Lakshmanan; thinking that the glory of such a great deed should go to Raman.
Kaikeyi: I will strongly express my annoyance and displeasure to aryaputran.
Mandhara: Who is concerned about your annoyance, dissent or even death? From tomorrow, you are just a slave to Kausalya. In the conceit of your alluring beauty, have you not offended her? Have you not always charmed her beloved to your bedchamber? Remember, she is a volcano fuming with vindictiveness. Tomorrow onwards that raging fire of revenge will consume each pore of your body. You are an outsider, a friendless alien in Ayodhya. Alone, forlorn and neglected you are; even today.
Kaikeyi: The righteousness of Raman will be my armour against all harms.
Mandhara: You will beg for righteousness, won’t you? The one who has to command as the king’s mother will plead for someone’s mercy; Is’nt it? But you dim witted child, all doors are closed before you; you happened to be the mother of Bharathan; any amount of beseeching will not save you. Raman will always be full of fear and a feeling of insecurity since Bharathan is the rightful heir to the crown of Ayodhya. Bharathan will have to seek refuge in distant lands or even in the land of the dead. Listen keenly to the blood stained walls of the palaces; those stones will be muttering menacingly the tales of treason, betrayal and murders.
Kaikeyi: Is there no way out?
Kaikeyi: Your beauty is still capable of rescuing your son.
Kaikeyi: Having shed all the blossoms and leaves; my spring withered off.
Mandhara: No, no my daughter. You are an evergreen spring, the unending blush of twilight. In the rapture of this enticing spring, Kosalam should fall and be ensnared completely in the cobweb of your dazzling beauty that blossoms forth to a celebration of hues.
Kaikeyi: I forgot myself I shut away from the enemies in the fortress of my loveliness, became oblivious of my experiences, myself and even my beloved son.
Mandhara: Imagine; if the fruit of your womb gets slaughtered due to your slackness. Surrounded by spies, dogged by betrayal, fleeing in fear, totally worn out and at last in an evil hour of the accursed, in the silent moment of a dark night, your beloved son. . .
Kaikeyi: (breaks into tears) Lord Vishnu, may the lightning shatter this lethal tree sprouted in Kekayam.
Mandhara: Daughter, do not lose heart. The blessing of nature, your peerless beauty will safeguard you as a sure weapon against all these.
Kaikeyi: But I know it is too late.
Mandhara: Not at all!
Kaikeyi: Raman’s coronation has been decided. Even if I demand the nuptial promise to be fulfilled and if it were granted, there is no use, Ayodhya would be turbulent, always.
Mandhara: Does not the son of Kekayam possess the power to subjugate Ayodhya?
Kaikeyi: The children will have to fight with each other
Mandhara: When Bharathan reigns over the Kingdom, let Raman rule the jungle.
Kaikeyi: It is impossible.
Mandhara: If you command, the king would forsake not only Raman, but even his own life.
Kaikeyi: Never, never…. (Absolutely shattered) There is no way out for me and my son. Aryaputran is totally oblivious of me. Was the bliss I poured into his soul so fleeting! Aryaputran would not have savoured such ecstasies even in the paradise.
Mandhara: The slighted Lady! Let the world perceive your might. Wake up! The powers of the universe dwell in your self. Your very being is the embodiment of good and evil. The incarnation of power, the beauteous one, wake up; Saketam is waiting for your orders.
Kaikeyi: But Raman is the life force of Aryaputran.
Mandhara: Raman; or is it Sita? You are the one to assess even that. Why do you hesitate? Wake up! You are Maya. You are Sakthi. Let the worlds be crushed under your feet.
Kaikeyi: (tearfully, with eyes smouldering with fiery) Aryaputran has not understood rile. (Tears away the ornaments, with her hair undone and dishevelled, the face becomes demonic) (The stage gets dim slowly Mandhara vanishes. When the stage becomes bright again, the announcement; “The King of Kings, Dasarathan who wears the crown of the clan of Raghus” is heard from the background. Dasarathan walks in, overcome with ecstasy. Seeing Kaikeyi reclining, he sits on the couch.)
Dasarathan: Goddess, why is this ever bright lamp has flared up inauspiciously? The King of Kosalam has come near you. Command MC Goddess? These nocturnal hours should brim with bliss; I have rushed here to rejoice with my beloved. The strings of veena are chattering sweetly. The fragrance of cloves drifts from the garden. The sight of your moist lips, closed in shyness overwhelms the depths of my soul. Sweetheart, bloom like a bud of jasmine; drunk with the tender rays of moon. (Kaikeyi is silent)
(Bends and brings his face near Kaikeyi’s)
Beloved, I yearn to hear your loving complaints. If you command I will fathom the seven oceans to gather pearls and adorn your cool bosom.
Kaikeyi: The petals of this sweet-scented nocturnal blossom have withered; my king; this goblet that once overflowed with exhilarating honey has become empty now. The fragrant blossom that used to gild the bosom of the king of Kosalam will be trodden on the streets of Ayodhya by the donkeys.
Dasarathan: This self- derision does not suit you. You are a radiant lotus; half bloomed in the loch of time. When the crowns fell one by one in the desire for you, the king of Kosalam embraced the radiance, forgetting even the universe and thus dissolved in celestial joy. The beloved of my soul; I take pride in having entered the heaven of beauty, do not shut the doors of that shrine before this pilgrim. You are my strength, my desire too. My wealth, empire, and the transient and eternal world only you!
Kaikeyi: (sits up in bed). Don’t cheat yourself my lord. Look at me closely. My eyes have lost their lustre, the cheeks are wrinkled. These lips are not succulent anymore; they resemble dry grapes now.
Dasarathan: Never! Never! By the arrows shot from these enthralling eyes, the powers of the universe lie drugged in a delightful stupor.
Kaikeyi: Will your inner vigour rise at the sidit of my smile; Aryaputran?
Dasarathan: (grasping Kaikeyi’s hand). My vigour will rise, invincible. will submit the sceptre of the three worlds at your feet.
Kaikeyi: Is it true?
Dasarathan: Is there a truth greater than you; Goddess? (Kaikeyi smiles, enchantingly) (Dasarathan is overcome with joy and looks at her lasciviously) Beloved, the cluster of stars dances in rhapsody. The King of Kosalam stands before you as a beggar. (Kaikeyi takes up a mirror with a handle from the couch; and gets up. She looks at her reflection for a moment and is content with her beauty. Then glances temptingly at Dasarathan through the corner of her eyes)
Kaikeyi: (in a voluptuous voice) Aryaputran!
Dasarathan: (overcome with emotion, takes Kaikeyi ‘s arm extended towards him). The night has untied her abundant dark hair and like you, slowly beckons the king of stars.
Kaikeyi: The night gave herself to the king of stars and he, in return?
Dasarathan: He gave her all that the heart desired.
Kaikeyi: (lovingly, yet in the tone of a complaint). Other than promises what else Aryaputran gave to me? In the battletents, in the bowers of the garden, at nights, you gave me plentiful promises.
Dasarathan: (approaches Kaikeyi, overcome with overwhelming emotion). You have never demanded anything from me.
Kaikeyi: Will you give me if 1 demand? Dasarathan: I will give you everything I own.
Kaikeyi: (closes her eye, her bosom raises and she heaves a prolonged sigh). Is it true?
Dasarathan: It is true.
Kaikeyi: Then take a pledge, placing your hand on the head of your companion at play.
Dasarathan: (feeble with passion, places his hand on Kaikeyi is head). I swear, swear, swear, by this flower soft body, the luscious fruit of your ripe lips, the cool intoxicating perspiration beaded on your forehead, I swear.
Kaikeyi: (Kneels down before Dasarathan, takes his arms and looks up at his face). The beloved of my heart; I have just a single demand to make!
Dasarathan: (helps Kaikeyi to rise) Jest ask me!
Kaikeyi: The son of Kausalya should live in the jungle for fourteen years from tomorrow. Dasarathan: (chocked) You Demon!
Kaikeyi: Aryaputran, Goddess and demon are not one. Should not there be at least a moment’s distance between these two?
Dasarathan: May your head shatter into a thousand pieces. May the sun break into smithereens; I will not budge.
Kaikeyi: Aryaputran has granted me my heart’s desire a thousand times. Jest a moment ago, you made a promise thrice, placing your hand on my head.
Dasarathan: (Furiously) You are an envenomed brew.
Kaikeyi: Who is the envenomed brew, the daughter of Kekayam or the king of Kosalam? Who deceived Kaikeyi with honeyed words? Haven’t you married me promising the kingdom to my son? Now you are giving it away secretly to another. Is this the justice the kings of Kosalam would offer? Give me the kingdom which belongs to my son. Let Kausalya’s son rule the jungle.
Dasarathan: (fiercely). The dreadful woman! You are death incarnate; the serpent that I wore, taking it for a garland! Let your beau and its evil powers come to an end with you. (Attempts to throttle her; but the pity-id expression on Kaikeyi’s face and her touch melt Dasarathan’s heart an weaken his hand)
Kaikeyi: Is this how your beloved is rewarded?
Dasarathan: (retraces his steps) You and Raman are everything to me
Kaikeyi: Is not Bharathan the son born to your beloved?
Dasarathan: Bharathan will never demand the kingdom, he is the righteou one.
Kaikeyi: His guardian is demanding the kingdom which is his rightful claim. Give him his country.
Dasarathan: I never dreamt that you would demand the nuptial promise be fulfilled. Tomorrow at day break, with appropriate rituals my eldest son is to he declared the crown prince. Its festivities have begun in Ayodhya. The drums are echoing from all directions. I rushed here to rejoice your smile flowering at this news. The reeds that sway at the first showers never become aware of the noise of the rocky foundations breaking down deep beneath. Is there any difference between king Dasarathan and a mere blade of grass? Dear Kaikeyi, how will I keep this promise?
Kaikeyi: To keep the promise, king Sibi fed the hawk with the chunks of flesh severed from his own body. Alarklmn pulled out his eyes and handed them over to the blind Brahmin. Aryaputran can keep his promise without enduring such anguish.
Dasarathan: Do you think I will have no pain?
Kaikeyi: With the tranquillity felt from being truthful, the pain will vanish in a moment. In truth, justice (dharma) is also embedded. Truth is eternal.
Dasarathan: Can’t I give the kingdom to my son?
Kaikeyi: The kingdom belongs to Bharathan. Dasarathan: But why should the dearly loved son of Ayodhya live in the jungle?
Kaikeyi: To keep the promise of his father.
Dasarathan: (Kneeling down). My dear, the king of Kosala bow down before you. Liberate my son from the pledge; allow him to be the crown prince
Kaikeyi: (helping Dasarathan to stand up). Why should you become so disheartened and frail? Don’t you love Bharathan? Is he not our beloved son?
Dasarathan: I saw the face of a son for the first time when Raman was born. Now my life’s long path is about to merge with the perpetual horizon. When I reach the last step, when I bid farewell to my kith and kin, will I not crave to have a glimpse of his face? If Bharathan wants to rule the country, let him. Why do you insist that Raman should leave for the jungle?
Kaikeyi: If Raman does not go to the jungle, Bharathan cannot rule the kingdom.
Dasarathan: Will you not make little amendments to the pledge for the ill sake of your beloved?
Kaikeyi: Will you not do a little sacrifice for the darling of your soul?
Dasarathan: The emperor of greater Kosalam beseeches you. All the regimes in the east under the path where the chariot of sun rolls are mine. Indus, Sauvira, Saurashtram, Angara, Vangam, N Magadha, Kasi, Kosalam, Matsya Desam and the countries in the south are also my own. You can demand whichever you want.
Kaikeyi: (determined). I have not demanded in my life anything from you so far. In this matter, I would not waver or compromise. My son has the right to the kingdom. Why should I be ashamed in demanding my right? No! Great king! I will not change my mind in this matter. I plead thrice to send Raman to the jungle and make Bharathan the king. If you do not accept this, I will sacrifice my life before you.
Dasarathan: Lord Vishnu! How did I get ensnared in this closed jungle? There is only darkness and the hissing noise of cruel serpents. Mortals overcome all calamities. There is only one hazard that cannot be surmounted. It gave him a beautiful name.
Kaikeyi: (With love and affection). Beloved, I will pour my strength to you. I will make an offering of my beauty at your feet, the radiant beauty treasured by the sky, ocean and earth. (Takes Dasarathan’s arms) come to the balcony, to the royal couch. The stars are making beaded garlands. Drunk with the fragrance of mango blooms; the female cuckoo calls out ‘pleadingly to her beloved for company. Come beloved…. (Overcome by love, gestures to Dasarathan and vanishes, walking backwards).
(Dasarathan stands dumbfound)
Dasarathan: The night, studded with stars, May you never dawn again. (Reclines slowly on the couch.)
(The stage becomes dim gradually. In thefaint light of a lamp the Sutradharan, bereft of turban, enters)
Sutradharan: The king could not sleep. But in Ayodhya, too, no one else slept that night. They were celebrating a great event. By next morning, the pathways were well decorated. The subjects, after having taken bath and dressed up gorgeously began to assemble on both sides of the royal highway to witness the coronation procession. The articles needed for coronation are ready at the agnisala of the royal palace. The royal forces have lined up in the foreground of the palaces; crowd jostle everywhere; the loud voices of in the foreground of the plate; conches and instruments can be heard in unison. Dasarathan, the king of kings is reclining on the couch, facing the east (goes) (When slowly the stage becomes bright, Dasarathan’s form, nervous and worn out with sleeplessness, resting on the couch, becomes clear. He then sits up and stares for a moment eastwards.)
Dasarathan: The earth is exhausted; having witnessed dawns and sunsets. The doomed reiteration prompts one to sail endlessly without a purpose. (Looks at the handled mirror, takes it and smiles feebly at the reflection). Even if one looks at the mirror a life time, the face is revealed only in some ordained occasion. What is seen! The ferocious and stunted form covered with scabs of fear and shame. By then it will be too late. No Veda teaches on remedying this ailment.
(Kaikeyi enters, dressed in elegance. Dasarathan stares at her and hands over the mirror. She takes it and looks at her face unknowingly). Can you see your face?
Kaikeyi: (alluringly sweet). Let me look at it myself.
Dasarathan: What you see may not be your face
Kaikeyi: When it is dawn, you have nothing but ridicule to offer me.
Dasarathan: (standing up abruptly). I am starting off to the mansion of Raman.
Kaikeyi: Raman and Sumanthran will be here soon. I have sent messengers to them.
Dasarathan: I have not asked you to do that. (Raman enters, followed by Sumanthran. Dasarathan looks at his son fixedly for a while, with great effort, controls the surge of emotion). Son, could you sleep on the darbha?
Raman: I could not sleep (Dasarathan walks up and down nervously.)
Sumanthran: His Highness, it is time to proceed.
Dasarathan: Sumanthran must have had to take great efforts throughout the night.
Sumanthran: Lord, having supervised the arrangements, after midnight, 1 wandered from place to place in disguise to witness the enjoyment of people. At one place, I was so thrilled that I dismounted from the horse and started dancing with them.
Dasarathan: People are so overcome with delight.
Kaikeyi: (Impatiently) Dear son, to convey sad news, your father hesitates. As far as truth is concerned there is nothing pleasant or unpleasant. If Aryaputran is not willing….
Dasarathan: Enough! I have not handed over the crown to you. Kaikeyi is just one among my wives. (After a while) my son, I asked you to sleep properly guarded. But I had no one to protect me. I was extremely wary of crossing a hollow, every step was taken with caution. But I was unaware, that awful void had engulfed me much earlier. When the four of you played in this yard, I thought I had triumphed. It was not so. In the arms of destiny, I am being crushed like an infant. Dear one!, I had promised the kingdom to the daughter of Kekayam as a nuptial pledge. Kaikeyi demands it now for her son Bharathan. If Bharathan has to rule the country, she insist that Raman has to remain in the jungle for fourteen years. I had to consent both the conditions. Let Bharathan take charge of the kingdom. You may bless the jungle with your presence’ for fourteen years.
Raman: (After a while, calmly). Sumanthran, let the messengers ride their swift horses to Kekayam with the royal command and Bharathan be brought here. Sumanthran: (overcome with emotion). As you command,
Raman: Mother, what was the mistake I committed that made my dearly loved mother to give such an order? Please express openly the misdeed on my part which caused your disfavour. Before I leave to the jungle, I wish to redeem my folly.
Kaikeyi: You will not do anything that would cause my disfavour. But truth is inscrutable. When you sleep in the jungle, warm and earnest prayers of this mother will guard you. (Raman bows in reverence and leaves.)
Sumanthran: Even if you command to kill me or sentence me to exile in the jungle, 1 dare to proclaim the truth. I take you for the murderess of your husband and the doom to this clan.
Kaikeyi: The royal servant forgets his limitations.
Sumanthran: What misfortune is left to befall, queen? The beloved son o Ayodhya is discarded in the jungle on the very day o coronation. My master, who is as stern as the mountain an imperturbable as the ocean is broken with grief. A great curse has befallen on Ayodhya. Queen, take my word! This sin will gobble the sinner one day. For whom you have committed this crime? If it is for your son, that son would one day blame you ruthlessly. In the eternal inferno of ill fame, you will burn and rot forever without salvation. I, the one who has served this palace for a life time plead before you, it is not too late. Please be kind enough not to sabotage the coronation.
Kaikeyi: I do not long for the fame from self sacrifice. The sheet anchor of the glory of a Kshatriya is power. His Brahmasutra is authority. Valour and determination are his sword and shield. For the fame of sacrifice, one does not have to live in the palace. Enough to go to the abode of Sabari and eat fruits and roots.
Sumanthran: We have witnessed the glory resulting from power waning off.
Kaikeyi: You can bear the rudraksha the glory of which does not fade away. Entrust the sceptre in the arms of Kekayam.
Sumanthran: How would the thorny coral trees bear sweet mangoes? You might not be able to remember your mother, do you know why? Though the whole episode took place in the far off kingdom famous for horses, I have heard of it. Your father had the special blessing of understanding the meaning of the sound that the insects make. One day in his bed chamber, king Asvapathi laughed at a joke made by an ant. Your mother insisted on knowing the reason for the laughter. Asvapathi said: “beloved, if I disclose the secret, I will die instantly”. The boon was like that. No matter whether he dies or lives, your mother was obstinate to know it. But the king of Kekayarn was not willing to die. He broke his marital bond with the stubborn wife.
Kaikeyi: The daughter has the ability to evade the mother’s plight.
Sumanthran: The king of Kosalam would die, do you think so? But if Ayodhya becomes turbulent, who is there to curb her? If prince Lakshmanan takes up arms in fury; who can confront him?
Kaikeyi: Do not forget this! Though king Dasarathan is old, he is not a weakling. There are certain limits prescribed for the ministers, keep it in need. (Leaves, in fury)
Sumanthran: No one can untie the knots of karma. Though, one is valiant or brave, king or devine person, he has to undergo the effects of karma. It is time for the king to suffer the consequences of the curse of the Sudra sage, by looking at his face, one can see the dark shadow of the curse. The forces, the royal parasols, forts and mansions are not sufficient to defend someone. Then how can we, who are dependent on him, protect the king? (Lakshmanan enters, outrageous)
Lakshmanan: Which Yajnavalkyan proclaimed that the kingdom is for th younger brother and the jungle for the eldest?
Sumanthran: It was your father who made such a proclamation.
Lakshmanan: I do not care for the babblings of an old womeniser who has become blind with lust.
Sumanthran: It is nothing but the will of Almighty. I low come Raman, the beloved son of Kaikeyi till yesterday became an alien all on a sudden today? The all-knowing Almighty might have possessed Kaikeyi to make her utter the words that would disrupt the coronation, who knows?
Lakshmanan: Any god will accept defeat before me today. Sumanthran. God and destiny are meaningless words that create an illusion of solace. The frail sentiments would roar furiously like the rain clouds, For self defence, man should make the crown of his mind strong. I have no mercy in this. The one who has blocked the coronation may leave for the jungle and make it home; or accept captivity in a dark dungeon of stone or death. I will make Raman not only the crown prince, but the king. Who is there to obstruct me? Where is that puppet of kekayam? (Advances with an unsheathed sword)
Sumanthran: (Calmly). Please do stop, prince_ When dharma is violated, fury is natural and proper for kshathriyas. If I were in your place I too would have done the same and rushed with the’ sword in my hand. But understand this; the king of Ayodhya is not without protection. You can enter the harem only after seeing my death. To reach his blessed presence, you will have to behead thousands. (Stands imperturbably with an unsheathed sword)
Lakshmanan: You are elder to me and well revered. Do not risk yourself.
Sumanthran: This humble servant only does his duty. Dear prince, you can go forward or turn back, as you wish. If you intend to go ahead, my sword is bound to impede you. (Lakshmanan hesitates for a while. Sumanthran is composed. Dasarathar enters. He sees Lakshmanan and Sumanthran with their swords bare. Least moved; approaches them quietly and slowly)
Dasarathan: (placidly). It is better if the swords do not taste the blood of kith and kin. Once tasted, it becomes a habit. Let your sword stand in guard to intimate blood ties! (Watches Lakshmanan in immaculate quietude)
(Lakshmanan’s hand becomes weak and he lowers the sword. Sumanthran puts the sword back into the shield.)
The flashing metal and blood match very well. It is charming to see the colour of gushing blood, In my youth that sanguine hue used to fascinate me. Since war was not a daily event, I would go for hunting. At last! What is the use of recollecting all that now! Now I have realised that blood is the red spot adorning the forehead of the countenance of death. Prince, the creator gave me four sons; now only you stand before my eyes. But will a father be soothed by the sight of a son’s fierce face. ( Vanishes, walking slowly)
Lakshmanan: If Raman has to go to the jungle, this bare sword will not be sheathed again. It will protect Raman day and night.
Translated from Malayalam by Bini B.S.
Agnisala : The place where fire rituals are performed,
Darhha : A sharp and rough reed used in the sacred rituals of Hinduism
Dhanurveda : The Veda of archery and warfare.
Rudraksha : The seed of a tree considered sacred in Hinduism which is beaded together to make a rosary used by the sages.
Sakthi The supreme feminine; the embodiment of power.
Veena : A string instrument
Yajnavalkyan : The scholarly Brahmin who is an authority in fire rituals and Vedas.
C.N. SREEKANTAN NAIR. One of the best playwrights of Malayalam. Won great acclaim for his trilogy based on the Ramayana. One of his plays, Lanka Lakshmi was transalted by Vasanthi Sankaranarayanam and Bini B.S. for Samyukta.
BINI. B.S. Gifted poet. Has translated both critical and creative writing from Malayalam to English and vice versa. She is a research scholar at the Institute of English, University of Kerala.