Rama Setu: Bhavabhuti’s presentation on theatre -- Sarvesh K. Tiwari
Excerpts from a brilliant monograph by Sarvesh K. Tiwari (24 May 2008):
One good example of this is how bhavabhUti (8th cent.) presents the episode of setu-bandhana in his play mahAvIra-charita…
(Picture a stage with a background depicting a palace-balcony overseeing the lush gardens, and rAvaNa standing in the center, apparently lost in thoughts of how to win over the sItA’s heart.)
Entry of mandodarI with a maid.
Maid (speaking in prAkR^ita): Here, Queen, here is the silver staircase for you to climb.
Mandodari (climbing the stairs while looking at rAvaNa, addressing audiences in prAkR^ita):
Why! Isn’t that our Ten-Headed Emperor himself! (then looking more directly at him as she reaches closer - ) Alas! Why does he gaze towards ashoka vATikA!! (now with sorrow in her voice - ) Why! Even during the times of invasions by enemy, does Emperor remain indifferent like this? (finally reaching near rAvaNa, addresses him - ) Victory to the Ten-Headed Emperor! jedu jedu mahArA.a dasakandharo!!
rAvaNa (as if fixing his posture): Why! mandodarI? (and sits down to the left)
mandodari (also sits down): mahArAj, what did you decide?
rAvaNa: about what?
mandodari: About the enemy army’s invasion.
rAvaNa (with sarcastic surprise): Why! Enemy! enemy’s army!! Invasion by enemy’s army!!! All the strange stuff you tell me today devi!
(changes tone for this ode: - )
That me — who in battlefield could hold two enraged elephants with two hands –
and then with the other four, block the dikpatI-s coming from all the four directions –
Mighty blows of indra’s vajra etc. were only good enough to leave slight bruises upon the skin of whose chest –
that me — now has got some enemy! Surely, an amusing thing I hear today!
(back to normal tone) so be it! Let us hear that too devi, say, who is that?
mandodarI: Followed by all the vAnara-s, marching ahead of sugrIva, matched in step by his younger brother, that son of dasharatha — rAma — so I hear.
RavaNa: a mendicant with a younger brother, devi!! So, what to speak of him! he would have gone away by now.
mandodari: Emperor! Better to be careful from this group. and there is more -
Encamping on the sea coast, rAma invoked sea-God. When he did not turn up – then –
(falling back to saMskR^ita, sings this ode -)
He then deployed certain prayoga-s of weapons, by which, in less than half a moment -
Entire water started revolving in a vortex, and also turned as red as blood -
The alligators began to fall unconscious, and the shells of tortoises started rupturing-
All creatures indeed of the ocean became unconscious, conch shells started exploding with thundering sounds.
rAvaNa (indignantly): So what?
mandodari (back to prAkR^ita): Emperor! After that, hounded by the arrows of rAma, Sea-God came forth from the waters, and falling to the shelter of rAma’s feet, told Him the path of how to cross over the ocean. And I hear further, that the Courageous One has even got that path constructed.
rAvaNa (quipping sarcastically): Very well! Let us then also hear devi, how is that path constructed!!
mandodari: Emperor! They are constructing a bridge by using the mountains brought by thousands of vAnara-s.
rAvaNa: devi, you have been conned by someone! This ocean knows no limits. The mountains found in the entire continent of jambU, and even those of all other continents too, would surely not be able to fill even a part of this ocean!!
Besides, by calling him brave and courageous you make a misjudgment about our own courage! Careless about the streams of blood flowing from the veins of our severed heads - nay! - smiling with the eyes filled with the tears of joy – had we performed our offering of our heads at the feet of Lord shiva. He, who pleased with us had accepted such our offering, that Lord Shiva himself is witness to our courage!!!”
mandodari: Emperor! Please do not dismiss this without paying a serious thought. This construction of setu is a unique event! By the earlier puNya-s of a certain vAnara, it seems even the stones are floating at the surface of the water!!!
rAvaNa (shaking his head in denial): To this stupidity of women - that stones can float over water – what can be said!!! What more to say devi than this:
(sings this ode — )
about our knowledge of scriptures, knows bhamhA himself, the propagator of vedA-s,
about our command, knows indra himself, the commander of Gods,
about our strength, knows vajra, and about our glory the whole world,
about our power knows mount kailAsha; and what is more –
about our courage knows none other than shiva Himself –
whose holy feet we had lavishly washed with our own blood!
(thundering sounds from the background)
mandodari: Emperor! Protection! Protection! (acts to be terrified, looks at him in fear)
rAvaNa: devi! Fear is baseless.
===(In the background, chorus makes more clear noises this time that inform the audience that rAma-lakshamaNa with sugrIva’s army have arrived at the gates of laMkA.)===
In the seventh act, this scene is about rAma, sItAdevI and lakshamaNa returning back to ayodhyA from laMkA in the pushpaka vimAna. sItAdevI gets the aerial view of rAma setu and in her amazement, she inquires her brother-in-law about it as follows:
seetaa: jo amhaanam jetthasasurehi kidanimmaano tti vuddhaparepararaaye sunoadee. Edasya majjhevi ki edam doorappasaaridam dhavalamsuam vi-a ahinavatinacchannaasu bhoomisu dosa-i
sItA (in prAkR^ita): I have been hearing that ancient tradition, that this massive flood in ocean came into existence by efforts of our Great-Grand Fathers-in-law.  Now, even in the heart of that ocean, what is that thing, which is shining as if a bright strip of cloth spread over greenery?
Lakhsmanah: devi. Sotsaaham dhrutas’aasanaih sakutukaivrukshaukasaam naayakai dikparyatadharaadharendras’ikharaanyaanaayya nirmapitah kalpaantaavadhivandaneeyamahimaa lokasya seturnavah keertistambha ivaayamaaryacaritasyaambhonidhau lakshyate
That, which was constructed by those great vAnara heroes cheerfully –
By bringing the rocks from the great mountains in all the directions –
That new Bridge whose fame is to remain till the last day of this universe –
Behold this! that Pillar of Glory of the character of our Arya!
The approving applauses from the audience.