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Volume XII - The Divinity of the Human Soul

Part III: Four Plays



PURAN (his son)
THE MAHARANI (wife of the Maharaja)
NAEKA (a court dancer)
SAHELI (Naeka's maid)
VAIRAGI (an ascetic Sage)
TWO KAZAKS (executioners)
BOY selling halva (sweets)
PEASANT WOMAN, selling buttermilk
MERCHANT, with his wife
MOTHER, with four children

Scene 1

The MAHARAJA is seated on cushions. A servant waving a fan. FIRST COURTIER on his left hand; SECOND COURTIER on his right hand. Musicians singing and playing.


MAHARAJA. ( after first song.) Khan Sahib, which raga did you sing?

MUSICIAN. It is Dipak, Huzur, the song of fire.

MAHARAJA. But the fire has not yet broken out!

MUSICIAN. Pardon, Huzur, it is just kindled; it will come to a blaze.

(Enter PAGE.)

PAGE. Maharaja! Naeka, a dancer of most exquisite beauty whose skill has amazed all the great artists of the country, awaits your Majesty's orders.

MAHARAJA. (turning to SECOND COURTIER.) Do you know her? Is she really wonderful?

SECOND COURTIER. She is beauty itself. The color of her skin is like a champak flower. With deer's eyes she penetrates the hearts of her admirers. Her swift movements are as graceful as those of the cobra. With a nightingale's voice she sings, enchanting those who hear.

MAHARAJA. (to the PAGE.) Bring her.

(Enter NAEKA; she greets the MAHARAJA.)

MAHARAJA. Have you caught your beauty from the rose?

NAEKA. Pardon me, Maharaja, the rose has borrowed its beauty from me.

MAHARAJA. (smiles.) Show me your wonderful skill, Naeka, I have heard so much about it.

(NAEKA performs the dance of the flower girl, with gestures of picking flowers and making them into a wreath; she then takes a real flower garland, dances with it and at the end puts it around the neck of the MAHARAJA. He takes her hands and holds them to his breast, drawing her nearer. She hangs back, turning away her head.)

(Enter PAGE. NAEKA returns to her place.)

PAGE. Your Majesty, Prince Puran is coming to pay his respects before going for a ride.

(Enter PURAN, greets in the royal manner, bending low and touching the ground. NAEKA, struck by the beauty of the Prince, touches her heart while looking at him.)

MAHARAJA (to PURAN.) Are you going on horseback, son? Have you finished with your studies?

PURAN ( embarrassed, with a half smile.) I intended taking some hours from my studies to be alone with nature.

MAHARAJA (ironically.) Oh, yes. – Do not stay away too long.

(PURAN leaves; NAEKA shows her emotion in her movements and expression, acting as if she felt inclined to follow him; she takes two or three steps, then recovers her senses, passing her hand over her head as if to throw off her thought.)

MAHARAJA (after PURAN has left, to FIRST COURTIER.) Why is it that he does not put his mind to study? What does he do?

FIRST COURTIER. He likes to be with nature; and when at home he is frequently seen in his mother's company.

MAHARAJA. I scarcely see him!

FIRST COURTIER. He does not enjoy hunting, wrestling, boxing; he is happy wandering alone with nature.

MAHARAJA. We must keep an eye on him!

FIRST COURTIER. Prince Puran is not addicted to any vices – drinking, smoking, or any other such habits. The Prince is different from the young men of his age; he is not attracted by frivolities and stands for ideals and principles.

SECOND COURTIER. It is natural; to what a family does he belong!

FIRST COURTIER. He is simple, but most intelligent at the same time; he does not care for reading or writing, but he thinks.

MAHARAJA (smiles.) What does he think? Does he think of the moon?

(Wine is brought on a golden tray; the MAHARAJA gives it to NAEKA; the COURTIERS give it to the MUSICIANS, and the MAHARAJA passes the wine over to the COURTIERS.)

FIRST MUSICIAN. To the glory of the Maharaja!

(All present repeat.)

MAHARAJA (to NAEKA.) Now open your wings and fly, beautiful bird.

( NAEKA dances. The MAHARAJA moves his head to the rhythm of the dance. NAEKA going round and round, falls into a swoon; raising her hands, balancing as if she might fall. The MAHARAJA rises from his seat and goes to her, makes a sign to the COURTIERS to leave. COURTIERS and MUSICIANS depart; the MAHARAJA holds NAEKA to his breast. When she opens her eyes; she turns her head and waves her hand towards the door by which the Prince has left.)

MAHARAJA. One jasmine kiss.

(She responds and he kisses her.)


Scene 2

Drawing room in the new home of NAEKA near the palace. NAEKA putting kohl on her eyelids, touching her lips with red paint. SAHELI holding a mirror before her, standing.

SAHELI. Bai, Providence has granted you comfort, jewels, the sweet little pavilion the Maharaja has given you; besides you have his love. There's nothing more one could wish, and yet I scarcely see you smile. Has an evil eye fallen on you ? Maybe you are worrying about something. If only I knew what troubles your mind. – I would give anything in the world to see you smile again!

NAEKA. Yes, I have everything that one could need, but I wish I could love him. I can't say I love him. His nearness is loathsome to me. Besides, I cannot accustom myself to his requirements. He asks me to abstain from any kind of frivolity with men.

SAHELI. Yes, because he loves you. You are a born artist, excuse me, Bai! (Smiling with a humorous expression and with gestures.) You belong to those charming women who are inclined to love one and to like another, to smile at one and to sign to another, o caress one and to pet another, to kiss one and to embrace another.

NAEKA. Am I really charming?

SAHELI. Certainly, Bai, you know you are. There is the woman who has charm for many, and there is the woman who has charm for one, and there is another woman, like myself, who has charm for none. Your vanity has been fed, Bai, by the attention of many admirers.

NAEKA. From my early youth I have grown up playing, making friends, singing and dancing. I attracted young men like a magnet, and so I have never been starved of attention.

SAHELI. This life must seem strange to you, Bai, but you will grow used to it.

NAEKA (shaking her head.) No, never.

SAHELI. You will change like the season when the time comes.

NAEKA. This life is like a prison to me. I am like a bird in a golden cage. (Weeping.) I would rather be a free dancer than a queen in captivity.

SAHELI (wiping her eyes and kissing her.) If I was admired by the Maharaja as you are, I should walk to him on my hands. (NAEKA smiles.) You are too young yet to know what it is to be loved by the Maharaja. Every dancer in the country envies you the privilege. Now the Maharaja has made you the court dancer, but (whispering in NAEKA'S ear.) one day you might become queen.

NAEKA. That is all I want, to be queen one day. Yet I wish it were Puran and not he.

SAHELI ( holding her head with both hands in a great fright; then, touching her lips with her finger.) Ah, seal your lips, it can be most disastrous!

NAEKA (rises from her seat and looks out of the window.) There he goes on horseback. Saheli, I pray, will you call him? Say that I have something to talk over with him. Bring him here, won't you, Saheli, please?

(SAHELI gets up and runs to call the Prince. When she is alone, NAEKA acts as if she wonders if he will come or if he will not come, and how she will approach him, and what she will say to him; embarrassed and afraid, excited and dumbfounded, she awaits his coming.)

(Enter PURAN)

PURAN ( to NAEKA.) Did you call me?

NAEKA. Yes, I did call you, Puran. Come in, sit here. (Giving him a seat next to her. He sits, shy, with downcast eyes.) I admire your beautiful horse. It seems to be proud of its handsome rider. – Tell me, why is the Maharaja not pleased with you? I would do anything to make him more favorable to you.

PURAN. Father's pleasure is all I seek. When I cannot please him, I realize my unworthiness.

NAEKA. You unworthy! How can you say that? You are the worthiest son any father could have. If you were the king, people here would be happier than they have ever been. Our people will rejoice, seeing you one day sitting on the throne with the crown on your head.

PURAN. May father live and reign forever!

NAEKA (whispering.) I would be the one to stand by you if ever a struggle arose. (With determination, raising her finger.) Know, Puran that you always have someone to give your confidence to. I can be hard as a rock when it comes to a test.

PURAN (looks bewildered.) What do you mean?

NAEKA Your mother must be most beautiful.

PURAN. My mother's beauty cannot be observed by every eye.

NAEKA. Is she old?

PURAN. Her soul is older still.

NAEKA. No, doubt, she loves you very much.

PURAN. She is for me God's compassion on earth.

NAEKA (reluctantly.) I am your father's favorite (smiling) but I am young enough to be your love-mate. (PURAN still more perplexed.) Puran, why are you silent, why do you not talk to me? (She puts her arm in his, caressing his hand, draws closer to his face.) Puran, have you ever know, or heard, or seen the outburst of the heart's volcano? (PURAN rises; she rises also and holds his hands.) Think what you will, say what you will, but let once my lips touch yours; what will be, will be. (She throws her arms around him and kisses him; sees the MAHARAJA coming behind PURAN. She loosens her hold and pretends to be fainting. PURAN leaves hurriedly, not seeing his father.)

MAHARAJA (raises her up, one hand on his dagger, in a rage.) What is this?

NAEKA (throws her head on his breast and puts her hand on his shoulder.) Your son, your son!

MAHARAJA. My son? He is not my son! He cannot be my son! How dare he come here? Did he not know that I care for you? He is a disgrace to my name. (He lays NAEKA down on cushions; she lies motionless.)

MAHARAJA (to SAHELI, outside.) Send for the kazaks. (He takes his own scarf and tears it.) Tear him, destroy him!

(Enter two KAZAKS, NAEKA sits up with staring eyes, listening.)

KAZAKS. Command.

MAHARAJA. Arrest Puran!... Flay him, cut his head off, bury him alive, throw him into the sea, do whatever you choose, that I may never see his face again!

(NAEKA trembles, falls down in despair. KAZAKS depart.)


(Enter SAHELI.)

MAHARAJA. Rosewater. (SAHELI runs and brings it, sprinkles it on NAEKA'S head. The MAHARAJA, holding her with his left hand, fans her with his silk handkerchief.)


Scene 3

The jungle at sunset. A bitter cry of a woman behind the scenes.

WOMAN'S CRY. My beloved son, my only son!

A DEEP VOICE. Mother, mother, do not despair.

HARSH VOICES. Come on, come on. Linger no more, here.

( PURAN is pushed on the scene by the two KAZAKZ, then stands calmly.)

FIRST KAZAK. Your head's to be chopped off here.

SECOND KAZAK. Your bones will dry here in the sun.

PURAN. I am perfectly resigned to my father's command, if only you will allow me one moment to pray.

FIRST KAZAK. No, it can't be done.

SECOND KAZAK (to FIRST KAZAK.) No, let him, let him.

FIRST KAZAK. Do it quickly. We must return before sunset (pointing at the red sky), with your head to be brought to the Maharaja.

(PURAN kneels down, with palms joined, his head slightly raised.)

FIRST KAZAK. Let's take a little drop. (They drink from the bottle.)

PURAN. God, with clear conscience and with pure heart, I lay before Thee the record of my life's deeds. No one have I ever offended, to no one have I caused any harm. Clear away, Lord, my father's misconception of me; comfort the sad heart of my loving mother. And forgive the one who unintentionally brought this about. I pray Thee, Lord, bless them all. Amen.)

(He bends his head low. To KAZAKS.) Now I am ready.


SECOND KAZAK. You strike (Both unsheathe their daggers.)

FIRST KAZAK. You do it.


FIRST KAZAK (goes to PURAN and makes a violent thrust with his weapon; when it nearly touches PURAN'S head, his hand becomes paralyzed.To SECOND KAZAK) No, you do it!

SECOND KAZAK. I will. (He twists and turns, and moves passionately around, preparing himself to strike. He raises his hand with great strength. When the dagger is near PURAN'S head, the KAZAK'S hand trembles and he throws his weapon away. Calls FIRST KAZAK and makes gesture.) Let him go.

FIRST KAZAK (with expression of fright, whispers.) No, what will the Maharaja do to us?

SECOND KAZAK. We shall see.

FIRST KAZAK ( raises PURAN, holding his hand.) Now, young man, we let you go; but go far, far away.

(PURAN bows and leaves.)

FIRST KAZAK (to SECOND KAZAK.) It's all right.

SECOND KAZAK. He was innocent.

FIRST KAZAK. But what shall we say to the Maharaja?

SECOND KAZAK. That he is dead and buried!

(Both laugh, holding their stomachs, looking in the direction that PURAN went.)


Scene 1

The city gate at dawn. The moon is still shining. A VAIRAGI in Samadhi, sitting on a tiger skin, with a snake round his neck, between the road and the city wall. Two ROBBERS sitting on a rock on the right, at the side of the road.

FIRST ROBBER. Thank goodness, we had some luck last night; and a good escape. But what about the other two? Why haven't they returned yet?

(The SECOND ROBBER stands up and looks in the distance.)

SECOND ROBBER. They may come any moment (Silence.) There they are. (Pointing.) Do you see?

FIRST ROBBER. They seem to have stolen a lot; see the heavy burden they are carrying. (Silence.) But it is a man!

(The two ROBBERS rise and go some steps forward.)

SECOND ROBBER. Hallo, what have you brought?


THIRD ROBBER. Brought our ill luck.

FOURTH ROBBER. We've never had so bad a trip since we began. When passing through the forest we saw in the distance the face of a beautiful woman. We were delighted at the prospect of good luck. As we went near, what did we find? This wretched man.

THIRD ROBBER. He had gone hungry, I suppose, for many days. He had nothing with him.

FOURTH ROBBER. We thought to save him from the wolves and picked him up in order to sell him at the slave market for twenty thousand dirams.

THIRD ROBBER (To the first two ROBBERS.) Yes, he (pointing to the FOURTH ROBBER.) had great dreams about this bargain, but it all turned out to be nothing.

FOURTH ROBBER. He was not so bad at first when we took him along with us.

THIRD ROBBER. We should have left him on the way when we saw he was too ill to follow us; but you insisted that we should carry him through the forest. Here, we've tired our arms and legs, and now he's worse than before, perhaps on the point of dying.

FIRST ROBBER (frightened.) Be careful. If the police see us with him, they'll arrest us for his death.

(The four ROBBERS, shocked, leave the body and escape. An old WOMAN FRUIT SELLER, hurrying to the market with a straw tray of fruit on her head, knocks against the body of the PURAN, is frightened and bends down.)

WOMAN FRUIT SELLER. What is it? Who is it? (looks at him.) Poor man, he's dead perhaps.

(TWO LABORERS pass with spade and fork on their shoulders, on their way to the fields They stop to see what is going on.)

WOMAN FRUIT SELLER. Poor man, what's happened to him? Is he dead? (Holds her finger to his nostrils.) He's still breathing.

FIRST LABORER. What shall we do?

SECOND LABORER. Let's put him near the Vairagi; he'll take care of him.

( The LABORERS lift the branches on which the body was carried and bring it before the Vairagi.)

WOMAN FRUIT SELLER. Baba, Baba, look at this man; help him, Baba, help him! (She takes her tray of fruit and runs quickly to follow the men.)

VAIRAGI (opens his eyes, bends low and looks at PURAN, gently puts his hand in the middle of his breast and breathes on him. PURAN opens his eyes.) Yes, awake, awake, awake.

(PURAN moves head and body.)


VAIRAGI. Now, you rise, rise ( he lifts him) rise.

(PURAN has risen and sits. VAIRAGI puts his hand in the brass pitcher next to him and wets PURAN'S forehead. PURAN brightens up.Morning breaks while this is happening. People are coming from both directions: a Boy with halva, an Old Man, a Woman with buttermilk, a Merchant with his wife, a Mother with four children. They all stand still, looking curiously at the scene before them.)

A CHILD. There's a tiger, it's looking at us!

(The three other children come nearer.)

ANOTHER CHILD. (frightened.) Oh, look at the snake! (Draws closer to is mother.)

OLD MAN (with important voice to the children.) The snake is the sign of wisdom.

WIFE ( to MERCHANT.) What is the matter with the young man?

HUSBAND. Life is a mystery.

OLD MAN (important.) Life is a problem. (Nodding his head as if approving of what he said. Looks at the VAIRAGI for his opinion.)

VAIRAGI (making gesture.) All this is amazing Maya. There are four days of moonlight and then comes the dark night. The vision of Maya is the dream of mortality. (PURAN listens attentively.) When the screen is removed from your eyes, you will see that nothing here belongs to you; the honor that cannot be sustained long, the name that will in time be forgotten, the treasure that will one day be snatched from your hands, the comfort that will no more be yours, are of little value.

MERCHANT. But the thousand rupees I have buried will not be taken away by anyone!

VAIRAGI. You will say: this I hold, that I possess; but in reality nothing belongs to you, not even your own body.

MAN WITH SPADE. (with an expression of doubt.) Then we must have nothing?

VAIRAGI. The day when you have nothing, you will have everything.

MERCHANT. So we must leave the pursuit of the world:

VAIRAGI. When you cease to follow the world, the world will follow you.

MERCHANT. Then what must we do?

VAIRAGI. Realize the One, rising above duality; burn your false ego to ashes, and powder your skin with the ashes.

MERCHANT. Do you mean to say we must give up all this?

VAIRAGI. Hold on till it gives you up.

SECOND LABORER (ironically.) Then you think the whole of life is meaningless?

VAIRAGI. It is meaningless until you have understood the meaning of it.

MERCHANT. Baba, is life on earth worthless?

VAIRAGI. The moment you recognize its worthlessness, life becomes worth living.

(MAGICIAN enters, his eyebrows painted white, his forehead painted red.)

OLD MAN. Now you have spoken about life, Baba, but what about death?

MAGICIAN (emphatically.) What are you asking him? What does he know of life and death? Can he make the dead alive? (With gestures.) I can cut myself and heal instantly; and I can kill myself and waken to life. I can drown myself and rise upon water. Now, you all who listen, leave him alone and follow me. I can get you anything: health, wealth, success, power, pleasure, all.

OLD MAN. Let's see this fellow, what he's going to do .

(All, one after another, follow the MAGICIAN.)

THE BOY WITH HALVA (the last remaining of the crowd, pointing at the VAIRAGI.)

Nothing doing with him.

(The VAIRAGI is left with PURAN.)

PURAN. They are like a flock of sheep.

VAIRAGI. Such is the way of the world.

PURAN. Master, all you have said has deeply touched me. Pray grant me the privilege of serving you, that one day I may deserve to attain Vairag.

VAIRAGI. Vairag my son, is freedom from all bondage. Are you drawn by family ties?

PURAN. No, Guru, except the deep devotion I have for my mother.

VAIRAGI. Have you any ambition for wealth or rank.

PURAN. I have none, though I was born in a position to have it all.

VAIRAGI. The way of the mystic leads to the goal of annihilation. Will you keep to the path steadily in the face of all earthly temptations, young man?

PURAN. Yes, Guru, by your help I shall gain the strength that will carry me through.

VAIRAGI. I will take you on probation, son, for a limited period, during which you will pass through many tests.

PURAN (bends down to the feet of the VAIRAGI.) I surrender myself to your inspiring guidance.

(The VAIRAGI lifts PURAN up, holds him for a moment, gives him his mantle to wear; the rosary he was holding he puts around PURAN'S neck, then touches his forehead with water from his pitcher and blesses him with both hands stretched over his head.)


Scene 2


NAEKA'S drawing-room.

NAEKA standing before the mirror, putting on her earrings. SAHELI holding the tray of jewels.

NAEKA. Since the loss of his son, the Maharaja is most depressed. Did you hear anything about the Maharani?

SAHELI. I have heard she hardly eats and never speaks, and only moans during her sleep. While awake she calls the name of her son: Puran, Puran! She has aged so much that one can hardly recognize her, and she has almost lost her sight by weeping. Did you hear about Puran's garden, Bai, which has been neglected for all these years since he went? Many trees died and plants withered away. Wolves were making their home in the place where the Prince lived. But now they say that a wanderer has come there. He sits under the shade of a tree; and since he sprinkled a few drops of water from his pitcher, the whole garden has flourished again. People go in hundreds and thousands to see him. (Looking out of the window.) There he is, going along, do you see, Bai?


SAHELI. The sage of whom they talk so much in the city.

NAEKA (also looking out of the window.) He is the sort of man who can read one's fortune. Saheli, I pray, call him here.

SAHELI (anxiously.) Oh, Bai, if the Maharaja knows I called a stranger here, he will give me to the vultures!

NAEKA (smiling.) Go, it will be all right.

(SAHELI leaves. NAEKA goes to the mirror and arranges her hair,-Enter PURAN, wearing a flowing beard, in the mantle the VAIRAGI has given him, with the rosary round his neck. Both sit down.)

NAEKA. When I saw you I thought you might see into my problem and help me out of it.

(PURAN listens. The MAHARAJA enters, and seeing NAEKA speaking to a stranger is shocked and stands still, looking at what is going on.)

NAEKA. The Maharaja, who has loved me so long, I believe is losing interest in me.

PURAN. What do you think is the reason?

NAEKA. In the beginning he was blindly in love with me, but suspecting his son in connection with me, he condemned him to death, and since then he seems as though his heart were becoming frozen.

(The MAHARAJA holds his heart and hangs his head back with half-closed eyes, remembering the incident.)

PURAN. And what did the Maharani do?

NAEKA (reluctantly.) She was most grieved at the loss of her son.

PURAN. What is she doing now?

NAEKA (with hanging head, weeping.) She has almost lost her mind thinking about him.

PURAN. I wish to see her. Will you please send for her?

NAEKA. Immediately?

PURAN. Yes, now.

(NAEKA calls SAHELI, whispers something in her ear.)

PURAN. Now tell me, was Puran really at fault?

NAEKA. That I can't say; my lips tremble, my heart fails.

PURAN (looking in her eyes.) Tell me.

NAEKA. I could not have told anyone in the world, but I cannot keep any secret from you. I know you look into my soul.

(The MAHARAJA listens eagerly; NAEKA weeps.)

NAEKA. It was my fault; I wanted to be queen, but young Puran's wife, and one day my heart burst out before him, and he refused. But the impression the Maharaja got was that he made love to me. In a fit of anger he condemned his son to death.

(SAHELI brings the MAHARANI, dressed simply; she puts cushions for her to sit on the right of PURAN.)

MAHARANI (as if she were speaking in a dream.) Why did you bring me here? Why am I brought here?

PURAN. What have you to say?

MAHARANI (nervously straightens as if hearing a familiar voice.) I long to see my son.

NAEKA. But he is dead.

MAHARANI (agitated.) No, he is living.

PURAN (whispering.) He is living dead.

MAHARANI. This voice, this is his voice. (Stands up, draws nearer to PURAN, stretches out her hands.) I want to look at you. (She feels his hand, cries.) My Puran, you are my Puran.

PURAN. Mother.

(They embrace, NAEKA is horrified.)

MAHARANI. I wish to see you.

(PURAN puts his two hands over her eyes. She looks at him, and kisses him.)

MAHARAJA (steps forward-NAEKA faints.) Do my eyes deceive me; are you really there? My son! Puran! I never thought I would ever see you again. (Stretches his hands upwards.) Thanks, Providence! (To PURAN) Will you ever forgive me? I can never forgive myself for the pain I have caused you.

PURAN. Father, I am always your son.

MAHARAJA. What more do I want? I have had my day. Now you reign over this country.

PURAN. No, father; I am going in search of another kingdom.


checked 11-Mar-2006