ACT - I
[Forest road near a hermitage]
(Enter two guards)
GUARDS — Out of the way! Away! Sirs, out of the Way!
(Enter Yaugandharayana, disguised as a religious mendicant, and Vasavadatta in the garb of a lady of Avanti)
YAUGANDHARAYANA — (Listening) What! Even here the people are driven aside? Why,
These self-possessed dwellers of the hermitage content with woodland fruits and clad in bark, worthy of all respect, are being terrified?
Who is this insolent fellow, lacking courtesy, made arrogant by fickle fortune, who by his rough command is turning a peaceful penance-grove into a village street?
VASAVADATTA — Sir, who is this (person) that drives away (the ascetics).
Yaugandharayana — My lady, whoever drives himself away from the dharma (righteousness).
VASAVADATTA — Noble one, I did not mean to say that.
(But actually I wanted to know) whether even I should be ordered to clear the way?
YAUGANDHARAYANA — Even the gods, lady, are rejected
VASAVADATTA — Ah! Noble one, fatigue is not as distressing as humiliation.
YAUGANDHARAYANA — Such honour has been enjoyed and then renounced by you.
So, there need be no worry in this case. For –
Formerly thou also hadst gone (moved about in your city) in this covetable way. With the victory of thy lord thou wilt once more attain an exalted state. The cycle of worldly fortunes revolves with the march of time in a series like the spokes of a wheel.
GUARDS — Out of the way, sirs, out of the way!
(Enters the Chamberlain)
CHAMBERLAIN — Sambhasaka! No, the people should not indeed be driven away. See –
You should avoid reproach (blame) to the king. Harshness should not be adopted towards the inmates of hermitages. These ascetics have come to the forest for avoiding insults of the city life.
GUARDS — Very well sir. (Exit)
YAUGANDHARAYANA — Ha, why, he seems to be an enlight-
ened person. (To Vasavadatta) come child, let us approach him. VASAVADATTA — As you please noble one. YAUGANDHARAYANA — (Approaching) Oh, Sir, what is the
reason of this hustling?
CHAMBERLAIN — Ah! Good hermit.
YAUGANDHARAYANA — (to himself) `Hermit' is an excellent form of address. But not being used to it. it does not well appeal to my mind.
CHAMBERLAIN — Sir, listen, this verily is the sister, by name Padmavati, of our king Dartaka who is (so) named by his elders. Here she, having visited the mother of our king DarSaka, who resides in the hermitage and permitted by her, she (Padmavati) will go to Rajagrh. So, today she is pleased to stay in the hermitage. Therefore you may fetch from the forest, at your sweet will, holy water, fuel, flowers and sacred grass. The king's daughter is a friend of piety; she would not
wish your pious duties to be hindered. Such is the tradition of her family.
YAUGANDHARAYANA — (To himself) So, this is the Magadha King's daughter by name Padmavati, who was predicted by astrologers, Puspakabhadra etc. to become the queen of our lord. Hence,
Great hatred or high respect springs from (one's) intention (feeling). On account of my being desirous (of having her) as (my) master's wife, I feel great kinship for her.
VASAVADATTA — (Aside) Hearing that she is a princess, I too feel for her a sisterly affection.
(Enter PadmavatT with her relative and a maid)
MAID — Come, come Princess, here is the hermitage; please enter it.
(Then appears seated lady ascetic).
LADY ASCETIC — Welcome to the Princess.
VASAVADATTA — (To herself) (so) This is that princess. Her form (beauty) indeed (is) in keeping with her noble birth.
PADMAVATI — Revered lady, I bow to you.
LADY ASCETIC — Live long! Come in, my daughter, come in, for all guests penance groves indeed are their own homes.
PADMAVATI — So, it is your reverence. I feel quite at home, and grateful to you for your kind words.
VASAVADATTA —(Aside) Her words are as sweet as her looks. LADY HERMIT — (To the maid) My good girl, has no king as yet sought the hand of your blessed sovereign's sister?
MAID — There is one, Pradyota by name, king of Ujjayini. He has sent an ambassador on behalf of his son.
VASAVADATTA — (Aside) well, well. Now she has become mine (relative).
LADY HERMIT — Such loveliness well deserves this honour. We have heard that both are mighty royal families.
PADMAVATI — (to the Chamberlain) Noble one, have you found
any hermits that will do us the favour of accepting our gifts? Distribute according to their heart's desire and demand, by proclamation, what any man would have.
CHAMBERLAIN — As is desired by you, respected princess. (Addressing ascetics of the hermitage) 0, ascetics residing in the hermitage listen, do listen. Here her highness, the Magadha Princess in whom confidence is created on account of the respectful treatment accorded to her, invites you in keeping with her dharma, to accept from her gifts.
Who requires a pitcher? Who seeks a garment? What does he again, that has finished the course of his studies according to his resolve, desire, that he may have to give to his Preceptor (as a fee)? By (making) this request the daughter of our king, who is a friend of the righteous, wishes that she herself should be favoured. Whatever be the desired object of anybody, let him declare that - what should be given and to whom.
YAUGANDHARAYANA— (Aside)Ah, I see my opportunity. (Aloud) Sir, I ask a boon.
PADMAVATT — Happily my visit to this penance grove is fruitful. LADY HERMIT — This hermitage is one in which all the ascetics are quite content, so this one must be a stranger.
CHAMBERLAIN — Well, sir, what can we do for you?
YAUGANDHARAYANA — This is my sister. I wish that she, whose husband has gone on a journey, should be protected by the princess for some time. For -
I have nothing to do with money, nor with objects of pleasure or raiment. It is not for livelihood that I have put on these ochre garments. This noble (or, firm) minded princess, whose observance of religious duties is seen (proved), is able to protect the character of my sister.
VASAVADATTA — (Aside) So, the noble Yaugandharayana wishes to leave me here. Be it so, he will not act without reflection.
CHAMBERLAIN — Lady! His expectation is great indeed. How can we consent? For wealth it would be easy to give, or one's life, or the fruit of austerity. Anything else would be easy, but hard is the guarding of a pledge.
PADMAVATI — Noble one, having first proclaimed, 'who wants
what', it is improper to hesitate now. Now you please do whatever he wishes.
CHAMBERLAIN — This is worthily spoken by your ladyship. Maid — Long live the princess, thus true to her word. LADY ASCETIC — Live long, 0 auspicious one!
CHAMBERLAIN — Very well my lady. (Approaching Yaugandharayana) Sir, her Honour accepts the guardianship of your sister.
YAUGANDHARAYANA — I am much indebted to Your Highness (To Vasavadatta) my child! Approach Her Honour.
VASAVADATTA — (Aside) there is no escape. I will go, unfortunate that I am.
PADMAVATT — Yes, come hither. Now you belong to me. LADY HERMIT — She looks to me like the daughter of a king.
Maid — Your reverence speaks well. I too perceive that she has
YAUGANDHARAYANA — (Aside) Ah! half my task is done. Things are turning out just as it was arranged with the other ministers. When my royal master is reinstalled and Vasavadatta is restored to him, her Highness, the Princess of Magadha, will be my surety for her. For indeed, Padmavati then has been predicted as the future queen of the king, by those (Puspakabhadra etc.) who foresaw the calamity first. (Because it has happened accordingly, so) this is done through confidence in that (prediction), for luck does not transgress the well-judged declaration (or prophecy) of prophetic seers.
(Then enters Brahmacharin, a student)
BRAHMACHARIN — (looking upwards) It is midday and I am greatly fatigued. In which place then shall I rest?
(Turning around) Good, this area must be a penance grove because:
The deer are roaming about freely and without taking fright, full of confidence engendered by the place as being secure; the trees, with their branches fully laden with flowers and fruits are all tended with kindness; the herds of cows, that form the wealth (of the ascetics)
are for the most part brown-coloured; the quarters disclose no fields (of corn); and this smoke (that is seen) is rising from many sources (huts); undoubtedly this is a penance forest.
I will enter it. (Entering) Ah. This person is out of keeping with a hermitage. (Looking in another direction) But there are also hermits. There is no harm in proceeding further. Oh! ladies!
CHAMBERLAIN — Freely, freely, you may enter. A hermitage as is well known is common to all people.
VASAVADATTA — Hum!
PADMAVATI — Ah, the noble lady avoids the sight of a stranger. Well; it will be easy for me to look after my charge.
CHAMBERLAIN — Sir, we have arrived here before you. Accept the hospitality due to a guest.
BRAHMACHARIN — (Sipping water) Fine, fine. I am relieved of fatigue. Yaugandharayana — Sir, where do you come from? Whither have you to go? Where does the noble one reside?
BRAHMACHARIN — Hear, sir. I have come from Rajagrha for acquiring preeminence in Vedic lore. I resided in a village named Lavanaka, in the Vatsa territory.
VASAVADATTA — (Aside) Ah! Lavanaka! At the mention of that name my anguish seems renewed.
YAUGANDHARAYANA — Now, did you finish the course of your studies?
BRAHMACHARIN — Not indeed.
YAUGANDHARAYANA — If the studies are not finished (then) what is the purpose of your coming here?
BRAHMACHARIN — A terrible catastrophe occurred there YAUGANDHARAYANA — What was it?
BRAHMACHARIN — A king Udayana by name lived there. YAUGANDHARAYANA — We have heard of the noble Udayana. What of him?
BRAHMACHARIN — His wife, Vasavadatta by name, daughter of the king of Avanti, it was said, was deeply loved by him.
YAUGANDHARAYANA — Quite possible. What then?
BRAHMACHARIN — When the king had gone out hunting the village took fire, and she was burnt alive.
VASAVADATTA — (Aside) Untrue, untrue, I am still living, the unfortunate one!
YAUGANDHARAYANA — What then?
BRAHMACHARIN — Then in attempting to rescue her, a minister named Yaugandharayana fell into the flames himself.
YAUGANDHARAYANA — Did he really fall in? What then?
BRAHMACHARIN — Then when the king returned, and heard the news, he afflicted with the loss of the two, wished to sacrifice his life in the same fire; but was kept off with great efforts by the ministers.
VASAVADATTA — (Aside) Yes, I know my lord's tender feelings for me.
YAUGANDHARAYANA — What then?
BRAHMACHARIN — Then the king became unconscious having embraced the burnt remnants of her ornaments.
ALL — Alas!
VASAVADATTA — (To herself) May the noble Yaugandharayana now have his desires fulfilled.
MAID — Princess, this noble lady is in tears.
PADMAVATT — She must be very tender hearted. YAUGANDHARAYANA — Quite, so, quite so. My sister is tender hearted by nature. What then?
BRAHMACHARIN — Then very slowly, he regained consciousness. PADMAVATT — Fortunately he lives. My heart became paralysed as it were on hearing that he swooned.
YAUGANDHARAYANA — Then, what?
BRAHMACHARIN — Then that king, with his body reddish with dust owing to his rolling on the ground, suddenly got up and poured many a lament incoherently saying - Alas Vasavadatta! Alas daughter of the king of Avanti: Oh darling! Oh my beloved pupil! What more? To be brief, now not even the Chakravakas1 are like him (in sorrowing).
YAUGANDHARAYANA — Now sir, did none of the ministers try to compose him?
BRAHMACHARIN — There is a minister, Rumanvana by name, who did his utmost to console the king, for he - like him is not taking
1. Birds that are referred to as a model of conjugal love in post-Vedic literature.
food, his face worn out by continued weeping. Depressed by sorrow like his lord, he neglects the care of his person. Day and might he attends untiring on the king. Should the king suddenly depart this life, he too would cease to exist.
Vasavadatta — (To herself) Fortunately, has my husband been placed in good hands now.
YAUGANDHARAYANA — (Aside) Oh! what a heavy responsibility Rumanvana has to bear! For,
my burden has been lightened. his toil is constant. Everything depends on him, on whom the king himself depends.
(Aloud) Well, sir, by this time is the king consoled? BRAHMCHARIN — That I do not know.
"Here it was that I laughed with her. here I conversed with her, here I dwelt with her, here I got angry with her, and here I passed the night with her": as the king was lamenting thus, the ministers took him with them with a great effort and went away from the village. With the departure of the king. the village became desolate like the sky when the moon and stars have vanished from it.
LADY HERMIT — The king must be virtuous who is so praised even by a stranger.
MAID — Princess, is it likely that another woman's hand may be given to him?
PADMAVATT — (To herself) She has spoken as if in consultation with my heart.
BRAHMACHARIN — I take leave of you both. We must go now. BOTH — You may go and gain success in your undertaking. BRAHMACHARIN — May it be it so (exit)
YAUGANDHARAYANA — Well, I too wish to depart, permitted by your ladyship.
CHAMBERLAIN — The honourable one wishes to depart, permitted by your ladyship.
PADMAVATT — Your honour's sister will feel lonely (lit. anxious) without you (in your honour's absence).
YAUGANDHARAYANA — Being in the hands of worthy persons she will not feel lonely.
(Looking at the Chamberlain) I will go now.
CHAMBERLAIN — Very well, we shall meet again. YAUGANDHARAYANA — Be it so.
CHAMBERLAIN — May your honour leave only to see us again. PADMAVATT — Revered lady, I salute you.
LADY HERMIT — My child, may you get a husband as worthy as yourself.
VASAVADATTA — Revered lady, I too salute you.
LADY HERMIT — You too be soon united with your husband. VASAVADATTA — I am obliged.
CHAMBERLAIN — Then, come this way, your ladyship, for now -
The birds have returned to their nests. The hermits have plunged into the stream. Fires have been lit and are burning brightly, smoke is spreading in the penance-grove. The sun has dropped a long way down, gathering his rays together he turns his chariot and slow descends on the summit of the western mountain.
First Act ends