The Death of Bali – Part three – text of the performance

8 07 2008

I wanted to to write a bit about the text and background of Balivadham(Act one of Bhasa’s play Abhisheka Natakam) for a better understanding of the previous posts on ‘The Death of Bali’.


Bhasa’s interpretations and characterisations are interesting. After being shot by Rama’s  arrow, Bali and Rama have a dialogue about Dharma – righteousness. No one can escape this scene without melting in their heart for Bali who was selfishly slain by Rama and that too from hiding.


Bhasa exposes Rama’s faltering when he is confronted by Bali wanting an explanation why his life was being ended. One finds Rama not being able to give a single reasonable answer to Bali’s questions. Below I have given a translation of the last part of the play from when Bali has been shot by Rama.


Brief description of the plot:

Rama(the hero of Ramayana)’s wife Sita has abducted by King Ravana. Rama(who is a prince in exile) sets out to find her along with his younger brother Lakshmana.


Mean while, Bali, the mighty monkey King of Kishkintha, the land of the monkeys is challenged to a dual by a demon/magician Dundhubhi. They fight inside a cave for days and nights. Bali’s brother Sugreeva waits for him outside the cave. Dundhubhi, with his magic makes Sugreeva believe that Bali has been defeated and killed. Sugreeva closes the opening of the cave so that Dundhubhi may not escape, goes back to the Kingdom and  takes over the throne and the queen.


Bali after killing Dundhubhi, realises that the cave has been shut from outside by his brother. He misunderstands that his beloved brother has tried to cheat him. Enraged he goes back to the kingdom, throws his brother out and regains the throne.


Sugreeva flees for his life and lives in hiding. During this time he meets Rama and they make a  deal to help each other by which Rama would kill Bali so that Sugreeva would become King again and then Sugreeva would help to find Rama’s wife. Rama follows Sugreeva to Kishkintha. Sugreeva and Bali engage in a dual during which Rama shoots Bali from a hiding place.


Quoting from the text:

Lakshmana: See Bali with his strong arms lies with his body split by the arrow and covered all over with blood. His red eyes are cast downwards as if he is getting ready to go to Yamaloka.


Bali, lies unconcious for some time and soon regains conciousess and reads the name ‘Rama’ inscribed on the arrow. The he addresses Sri Rama.


Bali: Alas! reputed as you are for your kind and gentle nature and for your righteousness, today you have soiled that reputation by killing me falsely from ambush. O’ noblest of the race of Raghu, you are a hermit wearing Jata(matted hair) and Valka(dress made of tree bark), but your mind and action are not in consonance with the nature of a hermit. When I was engaged in a fight with my brother, it was adharma(wrong, unlawful) on your part to kill me staying hidden behind a tree.


Rama: How do you say that killing from ambush is adharma?


Bali: What doubt is there about it?


Rama: No. it is not adharma. Look, animals are killed by laying nets or snares for them, the man remaining in ambush. You deserve to be killed and you are an animal. So I have punished you remaining hidden at a distance.


Bali: Do you think that I deserve to be punished or killed?


Rama: What doubt is there?


Bali: For what reason?


Rama: You have taken a woman as your wife whom you had no right to take.


Bali: Among us (monkeys) it is quite right and lawful to take another’s wife.


Rama: You are the Emperor of Monkeys with a good sense of Dharma and Adharma. Was it right on your part to behave like ordinary monkeys and take to yourself your brother,s wife?


Bali:  In the matter of accepting one’s brother’s wife, Sugriva and I are equally guilty. But you have punished me but Sugreeva is left unpunished.


Rama: That is because you deserve to be punished. One does not punish the innocent.


Bali: Listen, oh Rama. Sugriva took my wife; I am his elder brother. So if I take his wife, how do I become guilty and punishable?


Rama: Because it is never right for an elder brother to take his younger brother’s wife.


Bali: I have no reply to make. But by being killed by you I have been freed from all sins.


Rama: So be it.


Sugreeva: What a painful and pitiable sight! Oh, greatest of monkeys, you used to walk like an elephant and your arms are like the trunks of elephants. My heart seems to break when I now see those arms lying in the dust with their shoulder rings all scattered by the enemy’s arrow.


Bali: Sugreeva, this is destiny, fate, wordly dispensation.


Tara(Bali’s wife, whom bali and sugreeva ‘take’ from each other)’s voice from backstage – Alas, Alas, His majesty!!


Bali: Sugreeva, don’t let the women come here. It is not desirable that they should see me in this condition.


Sugreeva: Your highness’s orders will be carried out. Hanuman, see that it is done.


Hanuman: As the prince commands.


Hanuman exits and re-enetrs bringing Angada (Bali’s son) with him.


Hanuman: Angada, this way, this way.


Angada: Overcome with sorrow on hearing the news that the Emperor of monkeys is dying, I have come here walking with faltering steps. O’ Hanuman, where is the Emperor lying?


Hanuman: Look, there the emperor lies with his heart pierced by an arrow. He lies there like the Crouncha mountain when it was felled and shattered by Lord Subrahmanya’s trident.


Angada(going near Bali): O’ Maharaja, you, the noblest of the monkeys, were for long unequalled in strength and prowess and lived enjoying all the pleasure of the world. Oh, great Hero, what a painful sight it is to see you rolling in the dust now, with your mighty limbs deprived of all strength and movement! Are you desirous of going to heaven, throwing away this body torn with the arrow?


Bali: Angada, don’t be sorry

Sugreeva, forget all the wrongs that I have done. Now that you going to become the King of Monkeys, give up all anger and bitterness towards me, rule the kingdom according to Dharma and receive him(Angada) who is an ornament to our race.


Sugreeva: As the Maharaja commands!


Bali: Listen Rama, please forgive us for all our wrongs, considering them only to be the pranks and freaks natural to monkeys.


Rama: Yes, I shall do so.


Bali: Sugreeva, accept this Hemamala(golden necklace) which is the heirloom of our race.


Sugreeva: I am blessed!


Bali: Hanuman, get me some water.


Hanuman: As your majesty commands.


Hanuman makes his exit and then re-enters.


Hanuman: Here is water.


Bali: (after performing achama, a purification of the body with water)


I feel my life ebbing. I see the sacred rivers like the Ganga before me. Divine damsels like Urvashi approach me. Here is the chariot drwan by a thousand divine swans, sent by Yama, the god of Death, to transport me to the heaven of the heroes.

Let it be, here, here I come..




All say together: Alas! Alas! Maharaja!!


Rama: Alas, Bali is dead and he has attained heaven. Sugreeva, perform his funeral rites.


Sugreeva: As the Lord orders, so it will be done.


Rama: Lakshmana, perform the coronation ceremony of Sugreeva.


Lakshmana: As brother orders, so it will be done.


                                                                All exeunt.




One response

12 07 2008
Palaniappan Vairam

Nice articles….
Two things interest me in this blog,
one rama’s arrow compared to Subrahmanya’s trident….
was this book written any where during Guptas(1-6AD) period?….. Subrahmanya was a popular god only during their period – u see the kings name like Skanda Gupta,Kumara Gupta etc.

Second one…
was Rama more of an oppurtunist? …. He sided with Sugreeva and killed Bali …. Bali was friend of Ravana and would not help didnt Rama killed Bali since it helped him more in his conquest….. I feel it was more of an political move than move based on dharma!

And in Tamil we actually call Bali as Vaali so actually bit suprised to know his name is Baali!

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