This is the concluding part of Saketam. The play ends with the death of Dasarathan, who dies peacefully visualising ‘a sun that out grows the firmament.’
Sutradharan: The huge drums have frozen to silence in Ayodhya. Like shadows people collapsed along the streets. Somehow the wrath of the clan’s diety has befallen. No one knows what has to be done. Over there, at the outer quadrangle of the harem, impatiently waits Sita, wife of the young prince whom the crown right was denied. Her delicate face looks dark and glum. Why does god make that child undergo such ordeals at this tender age? Is it for measuring her endurance? Look the prince has arrived.
Raman: Where is Sita?
Sutradharan: She is waiting for you.
Raman: Let her be called here!
(Disappears Sutradharan) O, Lord Vishnu, you gave me courage to confront Parasuraman, but at this trivial moment why do you test me? Let not Raman lose courage in the presence of his beloved. (Enters Sita) Sita, I… your forgiveness on behalf of Ayodhya.
Sita: Aryaputran, you are more precious to me than any empire.
Raman: Oh! The king’s decision has become known to all so soon?
Sita: I was gladly waiting for you at the threshold of this harem, thinking that from now on, I will have you all for myself, if you arrive without the royal chariot and parasol.
Raman: Had I come riding in the royal chariot, with people accompanying me in procession, won’t you have been happy?
Sita: Then also I would be happy. My bliss is you, Aryaputran. Do you require the embellishment of a crown? This valiant prince who has conquered Parasuraman would be a glorious adornment to crowns….If Ayodhya lacks that good fortune….
Raman: I have learnt a lesson. Kama is more potent than either dharma or artha. May in future the kings of Ayodhya never sacrifice the country for the sake of a woman!
Sita: No one has enquired about the intent of Bharatan!
Raman: If the elder brother perishes in the jungle and father succumbs to old age, he can be the sole, all powerful Emperor. The royal parasol would not cast its shade over another head! Prosperous Kosalam would come under his control.
Sita: Destiny is traversing its preordained path. Grief would be futile.
Raman: Grief? For me? I have in my quiver enough arrows that could vanquish Ayodhya and this earth. To crown myself I need only my powers and prowess. But I do not aspire that ! Rajyalakshmi, blemished by ill-fame doesn’t hold any lure for me. I prefer the jungle where I will be accepted heartily by the laughing brooks, generously fostered by the flowering boughs. Mountains would radiate the profound knowledge of Brahma to bestow an enlightened welcome. Lions would announce my presence loudly. In the royal chamber set by nature for me, dawn and dusk would stand on guard, holding their auspicious lamps. My heart aches at the thought that I will be alone in that chamber.
Sita: You will not be! Angels of the jungle would stand spellbound, seeing a young girl with you in that chamber!
Raman: But Raman had not married Sita to cast her off in the jungle!
Sita: What if jungle is destined in my fate! The divine soothsayers had already predicted that. For the one who is born in a furrow, the banks of a wild brook would seem more gratifying than a beautiful room.
Raman: How would you travel in the jungle with me?
Sita: Let it be jungle, country or heaven; I will follow you like a shadow.
Raman: But a jungle is a jungle! There no one can ensure your safety!
Sita: Won’t Aryaputran be there for my safety? Aryaputran, I am dying to see the enthralling splendors of the jungle, hills and brooks! The lotus pond swarming with frolicking swans would lie lulled and hidden in the forest. The hymns of wild streams would echo, breaking the silence always. For Sita, it would be heaven. Suffused in that divine grandeur I would be happy to dwell in the jungle forever.
Sita: Do not subject me to an ordeal, Aryaputran. How would I endure the separation of fourteen years? Can you part from me for such a long time?
Raman: Not that it is possible for me! But…
Sita: Aryaputran, do not decline my request. This Ayodhya becomes a dark jungle, if you are not with me. In your company, the wilderness would become Ayodhya. In the verdant shadows of the jungle, on the cool couch spread by the tender turfs I would recline with you, drinking the beauty of the lush boughs. Through this green thatch, sky would peep at us, playing hide and seek like a delightful child. When the changing seasons offer you flowers and fruit, this wife would proudly accept them. The flocks of deer; our dear friends that visit us everyday would whisper in my ears: “Sita, don’t you see? There is no trace of sorrow left in your Aryaputran”.
Raman: (With a smile) Those ethereal goddesses of the jungle would take pleasure in teasing us that I am happy because of you being near me all the time.
Sita: Hearing this, the jungle would lovingly complain to the ephemeral moon. (With great excitement) Aryaputran, I am ready!
Raman: (In jest) This intoxicating beauty would tempt the rakshasas.
Sita: Then they would realise that the blaze of this beauty can burn them to ashes. (Enters Lakshmanan)
Raman: Is there no change in your decision?
Lakshmanan: My presence is perilous to Ayodhya. The fear of dharma will not defend always.
Ramna: You are blinded by your affection for me.
Lakshmanan: Let there be a proliferation of the blind in Ayodhya. There are tiC only two options; I would either accompany you to the jungle or submit before you the throne of Ayodhya. I am waiting for your orders.
Sita: Prince! Let the orders be given by me. Three of us are going to the jungle.
Raman: If it is your desire, Devi, let it be so. Dear prince, at the house of acharyan, I have kept those bows and armours presented by Varuna during the yaga of the king of Mithila. Retrieve those divine weapons. Before we start the journey make all the necessary offerings in your presence. Make abundant offerings of gold and gems to the ascetics of Kashasala and Kapitasala.
(When Lakshmanan turns to go, enters Kausalya. Seeing Kausalya Lakshmanan M. becomes agitated again.)
Lakshmanan: My elder brother should know that these tears are shed from ot the eyes of Ayodhya. Unless you wipe them away; hiding in the jungle would not grant you any salvation.
Raman: (Sternly) Why does the prince who set out for making sacred offerings falter? You may go now. My mother will not desire me to bear a crown that I do not deserve.
(Lakshmanan leaves, dissatisfied)
Mother, holding the hands of Vishvamitran at a tender age, your son has traversed the paths of jungle full of sharp stones and ht thorns and hence I am accustomed to them. In those days you didn’t shed tears. Now your son is not an infant. You must know in that there is nothing insurmountable for me on this earth. You eyes are not meant for shedding tears anymore. They have to shower blessings on me, on her and on the world.
Kausalya: No, my son, there are no tears left in my eyes to be shed. I have crossed the ebbs and eddies of anguish. The boundless agony and the stillness of its calm have given refuge to the queen mother of Ayodhya. Only one deed remains now. I have to send you off to the jungle. My son, it is a proper culmination to my in life’s experiences. (Going near Sita and embracing her) Ill fated girl! Why did you plunge your oars to reach the depths of this ocean of pain? I had at least enjoyed the status of the queen. Are you more unfortunate than I am? Daughter, another woman shattered by sorrow is begging for your forgiveness on behalf of Ayodhya. (Kausalya leaves)
Raman: No one can console that woman. Let time take it as a challenging endeavour!
(The stage becomes dark; Raman and Sita disappear. Then appears Sutradharan, visible in a beam of light.)
Sutradharan: That moment has come near. When the entire Ayodhya is immersed in anxiety, Kaikeyi presented Raman, Sita and Lakshmanan the apparel made of tree barks, to be worn in the jungle. (The stage gets dark, Sutradharan disappears. When the stage becomes bright again Sita, Raman and Lakshmanan appear with their apparels made of tree bark. Kaikeyi is also present.)
Kaikeyi: Children, I thought it is better to give you the apparel made of tree barks with my own hands. I have fulfilled that duty. Before the next dawn the world would pronounce its verdict on the daughter of Kekayam. Let me give a proper conclusion to my follies before that. When merciless ill-fame and tainted reputation given by the world build a dark cell around Kaikeyi, there should be left a tiny creak for the rays of contentment to creep in. Masses have contested for truth and righteousness, ripping them into numerous shreds in the effort. To take my side there is no truth and righteousness left…. This mother’s good wishes are with you always.
Raman: You can give me anything you like, whether it be an apparel of tree barks, bangles or crown. We would accept them the same way Bharatan would have accepted them.
Kaikeyi: Let the world realise that my being the mother of Bharatan does not imply that there is no affection left in my mind for Raman and giving the crown to Bharatan has not reduced my affection either …. Sita, when you wear this apparel made of tree barks, you would also hate me; but when you become a mother, you would certainly forgive me.
Lakshmanan: If the daughter of Magadha were clever enough, then I would also have become a King!
Kaikeyi: Even Sumitra could have demanded for sulka. Do you think there is something unbecoming in that? Why was Janakan so obdurate that the one who marries his daughter should shoot an arrow from the bow of Mahesha. Was it not a sulka? Every dignified father would decide a sulka for his daughter. (Enters Vasishtan, all bow reverentially)
Vasishtan: (To Raman) Your love for the father has saved Ayodhya from a great disaster. You have elevated yourself loftier than Ayodhya. Great deeds and immense achievements are in store for you. May blessings be showered on you! But why is this apparel of tree barks?
Kaikeyi: Won’t that be more appropriate in jungle?
Vasishta: When kings go for hunting, they do not wear the apparel of tree bark!
Kaikeyi: For Raman who is about to rule the jungle, tree bark would be appropriate. I myself have presented it to him.
Vasishtan: But why did you give it to this girl?
Kaikeyi: She is accompanying Raman.
Vasishtan: She is not so unfortunate to wear a tree bark. She is not a destitute; she is a devout wife who has chosen to accompany her husband. She has every right to be adorned with ornaments and follow her husband merrily. How could you command someone who has to create love and longing in her husband’s heart to wear this tree bark? Daughter, you need not wear that! It is time for the children to leave.
(Raman, Sita and Lakshrnanan leave)
Kaikeyi: For Raman clad in tree bark, Sita dressed in the same way would suit well.
Vasishtan: The dear wife of Dasarathan should know that there should be a limit to obstinacy. If Sita wraps her petal soft body in a tree bark and treads the paths of Ayodhya, you and your husband will have to approach her for protection. For the people of Ayodhya, Dharma has not become deteriorated.
Kaikeyi: You also, Great Sage, must be cursing me!
Vasishtan: You are the thamasa bhava of Dasarathan. Dasarathan married his own satva, rajas and thamo gunas. In Kausalya resides the satva guna, veerya in Sumitra and wickedness in you.
Kaikeyi: You should forgive the bold adventure of a mother who has great love for her child.
Vasishtan: Daughter, who should forgive? Other than your husband and your soul? Knocking at those shut doors, plead for mercy! Perhaps, if there is a flicker within, you might at least hear a faint reply.
(Enters Dasarathan, worn out)
Dasarathan: The hour of departure is dragging near. The desikan also has reached. Kaikeyi, like the final wish of a body awaiting imminent death, let me beseech you for the last time; will you not alter the verdict on Raman to be cast off to the jungle?
Dasarathan: One last wish. Permit him to stay in Ayodhya for seven more days. Let my heart drink the pleasure of his presence and quench its thirst.
Kaikeyi: O, Maharajan, for Kaikeyi, these are not childish affairs. sarathan: Guru, Will you not plead on my behalf?
(Vasishtan is silent)
It is time to commence the journey. Why should there be a delay? Where are the children? I do not see them.
Sumanthrar: The chariot is ready.
Dasarathan: Sumanthrar, are you going to drive the chariot?
Sumanthrar: Yes, my lord, but these hands calloused with practice feel weak today.
Dasarathan: The Charioteer, the Minister and the King should never know weariness. Charioteer, let the dear son of Ayodhya start his journey to the jungle in all luxury, pomp and glory. The soldiers, several servants, rich merchants, hunters that roam about in the forest and countless citisens should accompany my child. Let the group amass treasuries full of wealth and grains and valuables for the journey.
Kaikeyi: Maharajan, Bharatan does not want this country that is emptied like a goblet, with its rich contents thus taken out.
Dasarathan: Lord Vishnu! Are you not the one who created the conscience of Dasarathan? It could not be stronger than your hands.
Vasishtan: Daughter, even if Raman dwells in a jungle, it would become prosperous like the countryside without a retinue. The people would rush to be near him. Being the guru of the clan, I am not accompanying him to the jungle.
Dasarathan: To discard him in the jungle! The clan of Ikshvaku is not so barbaric.
Kaikeyi: Sagaran, who was born in your clan, discarded his first son Asamanjan in the jungle.
Vasishtan: Asamanjan was so ruthless that he found pleasure in hurling children into the river Sarayu. Daughter, now tell me the wrongs committed by the son of Dasarathan.
Dasarathan: Had there been the traces of Asamanj clan in Raman…My child, you lack the valour to rip off my cursed head. Guru! If it is not dharma, pronounce imprisonment or exile…this is the only desire that remains in my heart.
Kaikeyi: You are deviating from your promise.
Dasarathan: No, I would not deviate from my promise. But, at least at this moment, let me be honest to my inner self.
(Enter Sita with Raman and Lakshmanan, who are clad in tree bark)
(Outraged) Who suggested this garb?
Kaikeyi: (Sternly) I suggested this. I myself presented this to them.
Dasarathan: (Even more furious, tries to take out the dagger from its sheath, leaves it half way. With great effort controls himself) Son, the children of Ikshvaku should not be like timid foals. The chain that has bound your father does not tie you down. Won’t the hands that made Bhargavaraman shudder with terror move? Let the filthy blood of Dasarathan gush out in glee. Now if you cut into pieces this body which is already dead, it will not be patricide.
Kaikeyi: Maharajan, this is not the way to overcome the bindings of a vow. Here is the neck of Kaikeyi to be cut. That will be more propitious.
Raman: The crown drenched in the blood of the dearest kin would not fit the head of any Ikshvaku. This son is capable enough to safeguard the pride of my father, mother and Ayodhya. Let Bharatan experience the burden of the crown and Raman the beauty of the jungle. We bid you farewell. We will return to Ayodhya when fourteen years are over. May Saketam enriched in glory and eminence welcome us then!
Vasishtan: Child, you are all-powerful, born to vanquish the universe. Start with strong determination. The subordinate king Guhan would take you to the other bank of Ganga. He may be grief-stricken, console him. At Prayaga, the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna, you should seek blessings from sage Bharadvajan. He would advise you about the path to be taken. Children, the omnipotent has preordained some purpose for this journey. You are on the path of a great movement. Children, you will be successful!
(Sita, Raman and Lakshmanan bow in reverence)
Kaikeyi: Prince, I am sad that you are not born as my son.
Dasarathan: (Looks at the children for a while, slowly comes near Sita and pats her head) Daughter, you are also bidding farewell! The all-enduring earth may show you the right path. The children may feel tempted to kill wild animals. Never permit them! You can leave now, children.
(Kausalya enters with flowers, rice and a burning lamp on a platter: Piously performs the auspicious ritual of circling the platter over their heads)
Dasarathan: Mother, let us take leave from you.
Kausalya: It is a mother’s fate to suffer the pain of parting from her children. Leave me now. Protection would be extended to you from the four directions…. Leave with a calm mind. After you return from the jungle having fulfilled your father’s promise, my eyes would witness my son reigning on the throne of Ayodhya. Children, you may go.
(Sita, Raman and Lakshmanan leave; bowing before everyone. Sumanthrar follows them. Kaikeyi goes out through the other side. Dasarathan, fully worn out, approaches Kausalya for support. Kausalya holds his weary hand.)
Dasarathan: We have become forlorn.
Kausalya: I am near you.
Dasarathan: Yes, we two; at first also it was like that. Only we two! (Kausalya leaves, leading Dasarathan. Both disappear. The stage becomes dark. In a beam of light, the Sutradharan becomes visible.)
Sutradharan: When Raman and Lakshmanan clad in tree bark, went away in the chariot with Sita, all on a sudden the sun vanished, planets became faint, stars lost luster. Like an ocean turbulent in the storm bursting out of dark clouds, Kosalam was in turmoil. People with their tear-drenched faces stood still along the paths. Later, these outraged people started to surge towards the palace, in different groups. For many days and nights, they stood excited in front of the palace…. The sixth night has come, after Raman’s departure. (The stage becomes dark, disappears Sutradharan. When the stage becomes bright again, Dasarathan, now fully succumbed to old age, walks wearily.)
Dasarathan: Am I seeing dreams while awake? Which is that mansion at the fag end of my sight? I have never seen it before! The stairs wind up infinitely. There lions sleep; at every turn elephants stand with their uplifted trunks. My children are walking away, holding the hands of Rishi Vishvamitran. Anyone there!
Dasarathan: Have not Bharatan and Satrukhnan come?
Dasarathan: Whose voice is this? (Kaikeyi comes closer) Oh! The daughter of Kekayam!
Kaikeyi: Aryaputran, Don’t you see me?
Dasarathan: The emperor of Ayodhya has given you everything. There is nothing left in my hands, to be claimed.
Kaikeyi: Aryaputran has not forgiven me.
Dasarathan: Only the mighty can forgive. My strength has drained out of me. There is nothing left to be given…. Where is Kausalya?
(Kaikeyi is silent)
She was servile to me, was a friend, consort, sister and at times mother. I did not go to her shrine at the apt hour for worship. Now I hear the approaching flutter of a night that would no end in light, the never ending dark hours! Anyone there!
(No one hears that weak voice)
Is Sumitra there?
(Kaikeyi is silent)
She must also have collapsed on the rug of distress. She is extremely annoyed with me…. Have not Bharatan and Satrukhnan come?
Dasarathan: Have you not left?
Dasarathan: It must be death itself that I am waiting for, if you have come without any intent to leave. (Kaikeyi bursts into tears) Is this not the daughter of Kekayam?
Dasarathan: Why do you cry? (Going near her) I wished that at least you would be pleased. So no one is free from the clasp of sorrow…. We wandered in search of bliss amidst blazing sorrows that burn down everything. Creation of humanity must be impossible without a ‘tinge of misery. Why is the arrival of Bharatan delayed?
Kaikeyi: He must have started from Kekayam.
Dasarathan: Then you can make arrangements for his coronation…. Let messengers be sent immediately to all directions. Do not invite the King of Mithila…. Maharshi Vasishtan would give you meticulous guidance…Hmm … you may go now…. Do not delay things anymore…. Haven’t you left?
(Kaikeyi leaves, slowly)
If informed, the King of Mithila would come. I do not have the strength enough to confront that old lion…. Today the broods of all those spiteful beasts that I slaughtered are giving nocturnal company to my children. Everyday, nature writes and wipes off countless lessons anew. Like an imprudent kid, man forgets them all. Finally, those would be recalled at the fainting moment of a fatal fall. By then sunset would be over!
Sumanthrar: Your humble vassal is back….
Dasarathan: (With momentary excitement) Sumanthrar! Where are the kids?
Sumanthrar: They have left for the ashram of Bharadvajan.
Dasarathan: I wished that my child would return, for a last glimpse of his father…. Tell me everything!
Sumanthrar: People accompanied us till the banks of Tamasa. As they refused to go away, at midnight we tied the horses to the chariot and rode away. Crossing Vedashruti, Gomati and Syandika, we reached the banks of Ganga. The hunter king Guhan received us ceremoniously in all respect and veneration.
Dasarathan: Guhan is my beloved companion. He must have burst into tears.
Sumantharar: My Lord, he enquired umpteen times whether you are alive!
Dasarathan: Did you tell him that though I am not dead, I have become a fatigued and fragile old man? (Sumanthrar is silent) Let me listen….
Sumanthrar: Ganga, like a mother, holy Ganga received the prince, hailing with pulsating ripples. Then conch shells echoed from the ashrams on the shores. Gandharvas and kinnaras started playing their celestial drums. In the tender breeze, the konna and wild elanji abundantly rained fresh blossoms that spread their floral parasol along the banks of the streams. I drank this sight from the other shore…. As the boat in which the children sailed approached the distant joint where the land and horizon merge, the clouds clad themselves in seven hues and started dancing.
Dasarathan: Nature would not abandon the forlorn children. Give me their story, one by one.
Sumanthrar: Like the embodiments of Vishnu and Shiva, the children appear dazzling with their tangled tresses and apparel of tree bark.
Dasarathan: What about my daughter?
Sumanthrar: Like a delighted infant on the lap of her mother, she rejoices in the vast affectionate bosom of the universe.
Dasarathan: What did the prince tell you lastly, before leaving?
Sumanthrar: Told that they would return after fourteen years; then expressed a wish that the coronation of Bharatan should take place immediately. At the end gave me an order like this: `Sumanthrar, you are an ever-faithful companion of the clan of Ikshvaku. You should fulfill without delay all the desires and orders of our father and of mother Kaikeyi.’ Forgive me, my great master! I was bequeathed the duty to bring this news to your esteemed presence. Otherwise I would have sought refuge and salvation in the depths of the sacred Ganga.
Dasarathan: I do not blame you. Everything leads unto death. In life, everything clearly appears as the food for death. But would everything end in death? Death… to what celestial being does it become sustenance? (Even more weary) How long I have been thirsting for the sight of Kausalya!
Sumanthrar: Devi was coming hither; I told her all the details. She must be taking rest, having felt weary suddenly. (Enters Kausalya) Here comes Devi!
Kausalya: Sumanthrar, don’t you see the masses at the courtyard of the palace! Console them!
Dasarathan: Let Devi’s orders be carried out! (Sumanthrar leaves) You have heard the account of the children? Where are you, Devi? Let me feel the sacred touch of your hand. (Kausalya goes near Dasarathan and takes his hand) Devi, coming under the sway of some mysterious and unknown power, man commits sins; despite his will and desire. He cannot ever liberate himself from those sins. (Kausalya cries) But everything has finished. Are you crying?
Dasarathan: Virtuous wives may tell lies for the happiness of their husbands. I also yearn to shed tears…. If you tell me that you have forgiven me earnestly and wholeheartedly, perhaps I may be able to cry. Please come, sit with me for a while. (Makes Kausalya sit on the couch and rests his head on her lap) Tell me once that you have forgiven me. Let me cry and unburden my heart.
Kausalya: Aryaputran, there is a limit to my own endurance. I have never thought even for a moment that you and I are separate. We can forgive and suffer together. (Dasarathan cries, pressing his face on Kausalyar lap, she pats him affectionately and tries to raise his face) Please get up. If infants weep, they can be pacified by silly chit chat. For us, the time for crying is long over. (Dasarathan rises, with tearful eyes)
Dasarathan: Devi, does not love get liberated at some fateful moment, like a soul released from the shackles of the body? (Enters Sumanthrar)
Sumanthrar: Great King, Guhan is waiting for your permission to come in.
Dasarathan: To offer my beloved companion, not even tears are left. Hmm…. Let him come. (Sumanthrar leaves) He has come. The thought of his arrival made me shudder a while ago. Devi, this must be an omen. Maybe it is time for all ties to sever. (Enters Guhan. Dasarathan walks unsteadily, overcome with weariness. He embraces Guhan. Guhan starts sobbing) (Walking back slowly) Dear friend, your intuition is right. King Dasarathan is dead. There is only left to break, a weak thread of some attachment. You are the one who saw my kids lastly. Did you not console each other?
Guhan: Yes, My Lord.
Dasarathan: At their age we met each other. In numerous jungles and hillsides, we amused ourselves by hunting wild animals. We did not realise then that life is fleeting like the pathetic dying groan of the king of animals, pierced by our fatal arrows. Look, do you recognise this body?
Guhan: My Lord!
Dasarathan: My companion who shared the good old days with me, realising this without complaint or reproach as human predicament, won’t you even utter a soothing word?
Guhan: My Lord!
Kausalya: Aryaputran, Don’t you notice that Guhan is very weary and agitated?
Dasarathan: Mountains do not instruct to cover up agitation and beim ve with equanimity. This has to be learnt in cities by becoming sophisticated.
Guhan: My Lord!
Dasarathan: That voice is sharp, dear friend. Grant me the solace of a goads sound. You usually come with delicious things from the jungle; today bequeath me at least the soothing coolness of your heart. Till now King Dasarathan has only offered, not begged for things. (Extending his hands) Today, give me some solace, friend.
Guhan: Your children have taken what was due for you. Forgive me! My lord, let this vassal depart. (Leaves, weighed down by emotion) (Kausalya pats the forehead of Dasarathan)
Dasarathan: (Presses his face on Kausalya’s palm; gently lifts his head) Devi, now that image becomes clear in my memory. The banks of Sarayu clad in a hazy garb of dew. Birds that chirp at the fourth yama of the night had awakened. I was sleeping on the turf. The sound of an elephant taking water through its trunk suddenly woke me up. I shot an arrow from my bow, aiming at the direction of that sound. Alas! That pathetic scream still echoes in my ears. In pitch darkness I rushed thither. Devi?… I still can see with painful clarity the delicate body of the young boy bleeding profusely…. ‘What harm did I do to you?’ asked him…. ‘I came to the river with this pot to take water for my thirsty parents’ …. I tearfully begged for forgiveness again and again; then reached the ashram as directed by the young ascetic. The old couple were waiting for the son, tired and thirsty. Both were blind. On hearing the footsteps they asked: ‘Son, why was this delay? Who else is there to take care of your parents? We are almost parched and weary. You wasted time by playing in water; didn’t you?’ I informed the ascetic couple about the mishap. They insisted to be taken near their son. Reaching near the corpse, both hugged it and started weeping in woe. At last, according the sage’s desire, I prepared the funeral pyre. Placing their son in the pyre, both of them entered the fire, together. When flames began to lick his body, the sage uttered these words: ‘You committed wrong unknowingly, so the aftermath will not be so disastrous for you. But you will also die, lamenting for your sons’ …Devi, even now those words, with a terrible clarity, can be heard! I can still see those bursting flames vividly. That moment has come. There is no way to escape. Those flames would consume me in no time. Have Bharatan and Satrukhnan come?
Dasarathan: They also will not come. Devi! What is that uproar?
Kausalya: At the courtyard, people may be listening to the story of Sumanthrar.
Dasarathan: I want to see my loving subjects. Is it sunset hour yet?
Kausalya: Not yet.
Dasarathan: There is not even a ray of light. Come! (Dasarathan by then is exhausted totally. Kausalya helps him walk up to the front stage, giving him support )
Kausalya: You can see them, if you stand here. (Dasarathan looks downwards)
Dasarathan: But I do not see anything, Devi. I am totally deprived of vision. Where are you, Devi, where are you? I cannot even see you. Oh! Lord Vishnu! (Tries to touch and feel Kausalya) Do not go away from me! My eyesight is totally lost. I have become like that old couple. Have you also lost vision?
Dasarathan: Then, let me see through your eyes. A single lamp remains unextinguished. Let us leave quickly. Devi can see things? I will climb these stairs slowly. Walk on! To reach there, all rungs have to be tread. Walk on. None of my children has reached yet?
Dasarathan: No one would come. (Walks, holding the hand of Kausalya) But, wait awhile. I need to go alone.
Dasarathan: Then only the conclusion would be apt. I will present myself to the creator bearing the burden of woes on my shoulder. Let this sight make him content! (Gathering strength) Do not wait here, devi, you may go!
Kausalya: My soul also has enough strength to bear this burden.
Dasarathan: Preserve your strength. Ayodhya would need that. There is no one to support the children. (holding her hands) May these hands receive whatever is left in Dasarathan! Do you have strength to receive it?
Kausalya: (sobbing) I can receive!
Dasarathan: From now on, I will walk alone. Having lost vision, everything has become visible. You may leave now! (Kausalya cries) Hmm…. Do not stand here. This is the last order of the king of Ayodhya! Hmm. .. Last order! (Kausalya bursts into tears and leaves. Her sobs are audible for a while even after she leaves. Slowly that also becomes inaudible)
All lamps are put out. What was heard finally was the resonance of Om at the fall of the last star, dropped from the blues. The night that denotes the culmination of an aeon reclines, put to sleep by that lullaby…. This face, this innocent face; I have seen it? Forgive me! At your age, I toyed with an arrow in my hands. That arrow is still with me! I need some space to put it down! Some space! I would give in return all the domains of the East through which rolls the wheel of the sun. Only some space! Oh! My son was supposed to perform this deed! Child, was that you! You came at last! You came, radiant as the firmament! With the glory of lord Vishnu! You came and poured through horizon suffused in glory! Lord Vishnu! Everywhere is visible now! Everywhere! I can even see the boundless time. My sun has risen. A sun that would not be put out! Sun that outgrows the firmament. It is a deluge of hues! It is a merry profusion of mellifluous sounds. It is an enormous tranquility. (Slowly the stage is submerged in darkness. Appears Sutradharan)
Sutradharan: That King of Suryavamsa trod through the trail that was finally taken by Ikshvaku and Dileepan. Seeking a haven to unburden his sins, Dasarathan walked down the path leading to death. In the darkness, his hands groped for something frantically; he was overcome by the delusion, as if his eyes had caught a glimpse of light! Finally he collapsed wearily to the grasp of death. Death might be a haven. The burden of sins can be relieved there. But why do men bear this burden of sins?
atha kena prayuktoyam
paaparn charati poorusha
anichannapi vaarshr eya
balaadiva niyojita (Curtain)
Translated from Malayalam by Bini Sajil.
Dharma, artha and kama : These along with moksha are considered purusharthas or great merits in man
Konna and elangi : Kinds of flowers
Gandharva and kinnara : Celestial singers
Thamasabhava : The quality of evil symbolised by darkness.
Satva, rajas and thamo gunas : Trigunas or three qualities represented by white, red and black colours. Satvaguna is symbolised by white, rajoguna is symbolised by red and thamoguna is symbolised by black
Rishi : Sage
Rajyalakshmi : The goddess of a nation’s prosperity
Veerya : Denotes valour as indicated by rajoguna
Desikan : Officer in charge of a desam or a small region
Suryavamsam : Clan of Dasarathan, the symbol of which is surya or the sun
Acharyan : Ascetic teacher
Sulka : A vow that is made to ensure the fulfillment of certain deeds in the future
Yama : A measurement of time
Mahesha : Lord Shiva
Yaga : A sacred ritual
C.N. SREEKANTAN. One of the best playwritghts of Malayalam. Won great acclaim for his trilogy based on The Ramayana.