CHARACTERS OF THE PLAY
PURAN (his son)
THE MAHARANI (wife of the Maharaja)
NAEKA (a court dancer)
SAHELI (Naeka's maid)
VAIRAGI (an ascetic Sage)
TWO KAZAKS (executioners)
WOMAN FRUIT SELLER
BOY selling halva (sweets)
PEASANT WOMAN, selling buttermilk
MERCHANT, with his wife
MOTHER, with four children
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
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.
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
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
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
( 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.)
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,
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
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.)
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
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,
(Enter two KAZAKS, NAEKA sits up with staring
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
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.)
The jungle at sunset. A bitter cry of a woman behind
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
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
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.
FIRST KAZAK (to SECOND KAZAK.) You do it.
SECOND KAZAK. You strike (Both unsheathe their daggers.)
FIRST KAZAK. You do it.
SECOND KAZAK. No, you.
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.)
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
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?
(Enter THIRD and FOURTH ROBBERS.)
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
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
WOMAN FRUIT SELLER. Poor man, what's happened to him?
Is he dead? (Holds her finger to his nostrils.) He's
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
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
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
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
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.)
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
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?
PURAN. Yes, now.
(NAEKA calls SAHELI, whispers something in
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
(The MAHARAJA listens eagerly; NAEKA
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.
(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.