RAJA RAM MOHAN ROY

(One Act play)

 

M. JAGANNATHAN

 

SCENE I

 

(Ramakanta and Others)

 

1st Man:           Ramkanta, the work of your boy is useless.

He has begun to question our conduct.

He challenges the tradition handed down to us.

He questions the validity and use of idolatry.

Can we afford to ignore the images of our deities?

Be it Shivalinga or the image of Lord Krishna?

How wrong he is led, alas!

Why you joined in him in a maulvi school?

He has become a Mussalman.

That is all it seems to me, Ramkanta.

 

Ramkanta:        Beloved Sir, I already burn in ire.

He has such things written now.

As a father, am not I much offended?

What is our tradition, what is our culture?

Did not I read theology of Muslim law?

Where is the necessity to question the validity,

As regards our own idolatry and idol worship?

A Mussalman is not bound to worship image.

Our Rishis did not forbid the same.

 

Cousin:             He could not become a Prahalada.

By disputing a father like you.

Who emboldened him to question like this.

To challenge our holy images? Are they not sanctified by recitations?

Has he read the Vedas and Vendangas?

Why he uselessly speaks? He has read

Arabic culture and stories.

He has completely forgotten Ramayana.

What a dutiful son Dasaratha had in Rama.

On one day evening he ordered for coronation.

On the very next morning there was banishment.

Was either of the decree of the king questioned?

What a marvellous obedience to the will of father!

The word of the father. Ha, ha, is he also a son?

Others will also soon revolt.

They may choose to live in Arab.

Idolatry is worse than carnage.

It is the word of Mohammedan.

It will not bind on us on any score.

We are not his wallet man.

What a nonsense your son did!

 

Ramkanta :       Whether all of you favour him or oppose him

I am convinced in my opinion to foster him no more

I have to advise my wife and convince her.

About Her son’s conduct in respect of religion.

Have we not learnt what he has learnt?

How well he could have learnt our scriptures?

I am not ready to become a fool

Skanda is said to have taught Pranava;

The fountain word of all Vedas.

Shiva bowed to him to learn.

But what this boy does?

He comes rather to disregard Pranava itself. I will not any further shelter Ram Mohan.

 

(Enters Ram Mohan’s Mother)

 

Ram’s mother: Salutations to elders. Salutation.

Something phenomenal may be in this assembly.

I am a woman. Have I the right to know?

 

1st Man:           Definitely you have to know it, my child.

Your beloved son has begun to wrong us.

 

Mother:            Unable to hear, Excuse me elders.

It is a wild accusation.

In the name of Shiva I swear.

My son will never wrong elders like you.

 

2nd Man:          Why you lock your ears, dear child?

You have not fully heard our complaint.

There is no personal harm to any individual.

Your son is not such a wicked boy.

But he has begun to pillage the basis

Of our religious edifice of ancestors.

He flouts our worship of Sivalinga,

And the images of Ram and Krishna.

“Is there any use in worshipping these images?

What good these could bring to you?”

Questions of this nature he asks.

Dear child, now tell, what you would like to tell?

 

Mother:            I am made speechless on this occasion.

I am not much wise to say anything.

It is a subject beyond my comprehension.

I will not give up worship of Shivalinga.

Although my lord himself worships Ram and Krishna

Will I for this boy’s sake forsake that?

 

 

Ramkanta:        This is the stand of everyone here.

He has troubled the serenity of these elders.

“One is the God. Worship Him alone”

Ram Mohan says this, say: reminds this

Who knows not this vedantic view?

Who can afford to ignore Krishna?

Who has taught the much-praised Gita?

Is there any lore on earth equal to it?

Can we afford to forget that teacher?

Will it not be reason and transgression?

Alas! How cruel a question he asks?

 

1st Man:           Offer of oblation and worship to that image

Is the worship of the All-pervading Self.

Within his human semblance, he had everything.

Is the boy aware at least of this?

Fault is with his recent learning.

He has read much Mohamedan literature;

Koran and other works at Patna.

That is why he speaks thus.

 

2nd Man:          Most of our kinsmen have learnt Arabian law

The Koran and allied theology.

The studies are for attending in Mohamedan courts.

But is there any necessity on his part

To make them the criterion of his conduct?

This is the issue now in question.

Why shall he differ from others?

 

Ramkanta:        My boy has become a problem at this tender age.

I have lost the serenity by his behaviour.

 

Others:             Now keep peace, we shall then decide publicly.

Whatsoever be the decision of assembly;

Be ready to bow to the same.

 

SCENE II

(House of Ram Mohan

Ram Mohan, Ramkanta and Others.)

 

Ramkanta:        Mohan, I sent you to Patna to learn Arabic language

Wishing that you may follow me in my stead.

But what now you have done?

 

Mohan:             I have learnt there Arabic language;

The culture wont to Arabians;

The Koran, and connected works

All have contributed to wider understanding

They are men and community of phenomena.

I will be able to occupy the post you hold.

 

Ramkanta:        By your knowledge of Koran and Shariat;

Sufi lore and theology of Arab;

Definitely Mohammedans will love you.

They will hold you in high esteem.

But what you have brought to your home?

 

Mohan:             Your question puts me on the horns of dilemma.

Father, what ye wish that I should bring home?

Tell me plainly. I am not able to understand.

What now ye wish to say to me?

 

Ramkanta:        You have provoked me, your mother.

And upon the whole, the community.

You have become a Mussalman.

Since you learnt Koran and Shariat

Under the roof a Brahmin is a Mussalman.

People have begun to speak like that.

 

Mohan:             Father, what is it? Why ye speak like this?

I have learnt the Koran. It is true.

But I have not become a Mussalman.

Why you speak like this?

 

Ramkanta:        As if ignorant of what yourself have done,

Ram Mohan, you speak to me now.

You have begun to flout the tradition.

The worship of the images of gods.

On that score you have become a Mussalman.

It is not enjoined on us to worship like them.

Our culture and tradition have glory.

Also they are of very hoary past.

It is not a religion of the desert lands.

We nev’er took to dates and camels,

When they had no Avatar they worship Moham-

                        med’s Lord. 

We have Vedas and other Shastras.

The Shastra sanction the worship now in vogue.

It is also the custom among us,

Moreover such custom and worship of idols

Brought in its train no harm to us,

People are happy and calm.

The plains of the land are fertile.

Our ancestors have been rich.

Equally also am I not living here?

Why you shun our worship and question?

This I wish to say.

 

Mohan:             Now I have learnt the cause of your wrath.

Our kinsmen have instigated you

So that my knowledge be abandoned.

I am convinced with my learning.

I have given up earlier learnings and beliefs.

The customs in vogue are crude enough.

They are against true knowledge.

Grandeur of God is beyond speech and comparison.

How ye all came to reduce the same to idol.

God is the creator of the man and stone,

Then how man put God into a stone? Tell me, father?

 

Ramkanta:        I am not able to dispute this, Mohan.

This is a difficult question to answer.

Have you not read our Shastras?

There is recommendation and suggestion

Instances and illustrations to us

So that we may use these symbols

The idols now we worship.

Idol worshippers have been wise.

They have been blessed with progeny.

They are not wanting in riches.

They are calm and comfortable.

Then, why you should talk like this?

 

Mohan:             I think not of material welfare

In connection with the worship of God.

My contention is that God has no equal.

Everything has its origin from Him.

As such, created beings could not be worshipped.

He is beyond the human faculty.

Reasoning will not relate Him to us.

Then, how will idols testify to His traits?

He is said to have no form.

How form then He could have got?

I am not able to agree with you.

Or with the traditional worship.

Although there may be instances in our literatures

Sanctifying and attesting to idol worship

I am not ready to follow them.

My instincts speak against the same.

Please excuse me father,

If my speech wrong you now.

 

Ramkanta:        Definitely your speech provokes me.

Your questions, your learning and leanings,

All go to anger me immeasurably.

For the sake of a son I may bear with you.

When you speak like this I may lend ears

But will the kindred leave the matter?

They have resolved to discuss it publicly.

And decide in respect of your conduct.

Ask your mother what has happened?

Even your mother was made speechless.

All are put to anxiety on your score.

You have begun to condemn and caricature.

The worship of kinsmen openly.

They are determined to assemble publicly.

They may order banishment of you.

Or for your sake the family as a whole.

Since I am Comfortably rich

And since they draw from my purse

They may hesitate to initiate such step.

But they are all against you.

This much I could say.

 

Mohan:             Let all men related to me go against me.

But why shall I go against my own conscience?

No one can afford to do this.

Are they not abiding by the dictates of their conscience?

How then they expect me to give up the knowledge?

So I also follow the path of my knowledge.

It is in accordance with my conscience.

How then I could be happy or calm?

Do they think I should go mad or become fop.

Father, I shall see mother, For the present, forgive.

 

SCENE III

(Home - Mother and Rammohan)

 

Mother:            Mohan, our relatives are very wrathful.

They all burn in wrath and blow like whirl-wind.

I was washed away like by Gangetic floods.

Number less relatives had come hither.

They all spoke against you.

They spoke some of your points and ideas.

They asked me if I attest and approve the same.

On that occasion I quickly replied.

“I am the worshipper of Sivalinga.

I will not give up that for my son’s sake.

I see no foolery in the same.

You speak of difficult things.

You are elderly and wise yourself shall decide”.

I took leave of the scene soon.

Within my bosom there is a struggle.

My son is very obedient. He worshipped as I do.

How he came to talk like that?

Your father is also displeased with you.

What you all have to say to this?

 

Rammohan:      Mother, ever I am an obedient son.

I will honour my mother and father.

I worshipped Sivalinga and idols of Krishna and Rama.

And whatsoever image I happened to see

It was my habit then.

Now there is a change in that habit.

The change in habit is caused by my learning.

 

Mother:            What you have learnt at Patna?

What is that teaching that transformed you?

Have you become a Muslim?

                        Simply because you learnt Arabic language?

 

Rammohan:      Mother, I have not become a Muslim.

But it is to be told that I read Koran.

I have learnt our Shastras well.

They all speak of God in exalted language.

You know God is the Creator of all.

That he created human being and inanimate being.

A stone is an inanimate thing.

Man is a living being.

But God is above all things.

As such, how man can create God?

A god in idol made out of stone is mockery.

It flouts at the imperishable trait of God.

Tell mother. If God is within the idol.

Will not he be within the mountains we see?

Why don’t we worship them all?

Why you garland the idols here?

How these chiselled stones became gods?

Tell me mother. Tell.

 

Mother:            What is it boy? You speak much, you speak well.

You have learnt well. So you speak.

I am not able to answer all these questions?

What the elders say to the volley of questions?

Have they replied to you?

 

Rammohan:      I will one day question them.

But they will not be quietened like you.

They will become cold-blooded and heave.

They may seek to drive me away from home.

But mother, in accordance with my learning,

Ever I will behave in the world.

That is sure. I tell you this.

 

SCENE IV

(Assembly of Brahmins)

 

Chief Purohit:    This is an assembly of our community.

Many of you may have known the cause

Which forced the convening of this assembly.

We are facing a new threat, new challenge;

From a member within our order and fold.

The opponent is none other than a young boy.

The male heir to our esteemed Ramkanta.

Father bows to traditions and customs.

Son revolts and he flouts at our worship.

The very basis of our existence is shaken.

The purohits tremble to hear the same.

Not a jolt to their profession;

But their satisfaction is spoiled.

Our ancient ways of prayer is flouted.

How? How? You may all seek to know.

His father Ramkanta as he knew from his son will speak.

Hear from him. I summon him to speak here.

 

Ramkanta:        Salutations to your holiness. Salutations to Purohits.

Salutations to other elderly members

Fairly versed in our shastras.

I, indeed with the head to stoop, speak.

Yes, my son questions the mode of worship.

He asks. He argues thus.

God is great. He is the Creator of all.

He is the protector of all.

He is giver of all our weal or woe.

Then how your God came to be created.

Is a sculptor the creator of a god?

Is the stone carved out the God you worship?

When you have to offer flowers.

When you pour milk and ghee on the idol

How god could be fed by the same?

Do you think he is bathed or pleased?

                        God is one. He is Great.

He could not be done even as you all do.

So on and so on he questions and answers.

At times I stood spell bound.

At times I have been provoked to wrath.

What can I afford to do?

I am not able to decide as to what I ought to do.

 

Priest:               Many Rishis known to me have worshipped idols.

Worshippers of Linga in the world are many.

It is indeed provoking everyone.

Without an image how God could be adored?

It seems that your son has become a Muslim.

Muslims only to my knowledge worship thus.

They have no image. Their God is formless.

They worship when they see no form.

 

Brahmin:           Suppose he has become a Muslim.

How he dared to deride our worship?

Or the validity of our idols?

They are the repository of our contentment.

Say, when I see not the idol of Rama a day

And garland the same, I will have no sleep at all.

Even Akbar is said to have honoured our idols.

Is Ram Mohan becoming an Aurangazeb.

 

2nd man:          The questions as spoken to by Ramkanta

Appear most dreadful and derisive and diabolical.

Such a person could not deserve his shelter.

What Ramkanta prefers to do?

 

3rd man:           Yes, what Ramkanta prefers to do?

 

Chief Priest:      The offender involved in the issue is his son.

We shall not force him to decide

We shall decide to issue and pronounce it.

 

Purohit:             His speech and behaviour as at present,

I am afraid, will mar the normalcy of community.

If youngsters like him begin to think like him.

And follow his path we will be ruined.

Community will collapse.

Vedic Dharma will ruin.

In the interest of a community

Sacrifice of one individual is desirable.

Krishna Paramatma has spoken this.

His conduct deserves social ostracism.

It is my considered view on him.

His continued presence in the community

His continued posers to our idol worship

All go to uproot the clan.

So I advocate his immediate banishment.

This will be a warning note to others.

If any who may choose to question like him

So, sir favour my decision and pronounce the verdict·

 

2nd Priest:        Purohit of Panduranga temple spoke aright.

I may adore the idol of Sivalinga.

But the decision spoken to is correct

Pronounce the verdict banishing him.

 

3rd Priest:         Ramkanta has reasons to grieve or faint.

But it will be foolish to foster a son like him.

If out of affection now we shelter him,

In the long run we will have no shelter at all.

So in the larger interest of community

I persuade Ramkanta to bow to the verdict.

I strengthen his heart to face the situation.

 

4th Priest:         Ramkanta, you know the Smriti of Manu?

He is a chief legislator of our race.

He has given us the laws to live.

One of the laws is to this effect,

Which you may also remember now.

Whosoever interferes in the matters of temple,

Dishonours women and the like, put him to sword.

Moreover, even if a person happens to be a Brahmin

He cannot escape the sentence.

But as a Brahmin he could not be put to sword

As law enjoins on us, we shall banish him.

This is the law of our Manu.

The chief priest is hearing our arguments.

He appears to expect your avowal.

Bow to the verdict and banish your son.

 

Ramkanta:        When everyone is against his posers,

I have no option but to bow to the decision.

How can I afford to forsake my worship

For the sake of my son? I will do.

 

Chief Priest:      It is hereby ordered and declared

That Ram Mohan son of Ramkanta is hereby banished.

Ramkanta himself has chosen this verdict.

Treat him henceforth as outcaste.

 

All:                   So shall we treat him henceforth

(Exeunt)

 

SCENE V

(House - Ramkanta, Mohan and another)

 

Ramkanta:        All and sundry voted against Ram Mohan

The collective verdict is banishment of Mohan

I had to bow to their decision.

Priest after priest arose to speak

They all reprimanded Ram Mohan

Ram Mohan has incurred the wrath and curse,

Before long the chief priest speaks

I bow to the decision of many.

Ram Mohan, I am driven to despair,

By your posers you have created fresh problems.

 

Mohan:             Father, kindly bear with me,

If ever I have sought to wrong you.

In truth, I have not become a Muslim,

I am not against our religion,

I am also against the idol worship.

When communal order is against me

I am not willing to be sheltered by you.

Before long the community pronounced this decision,

I have made up my mind to leave this roof

May that omnipotent Providence be merciful to all.

Giving up myself solely to the will

I take leave of you, beloved mother,

I am well aware of the paternal, maternal affection,

More than you, mother may suffer a lot.

On that score I could not cause additional wrongs.

Parents may your peace and prosperity remain.

May they cease to tease you any further.

I wish the God’s unfailing grace.

 

Mother:            Beloved boy, at this tender age where could you go?

Why you are stubborn in your decision?

Follow us, give up your decision.

How can I afford to endure your separation?

 

Mohan:             You are a wise woman. Your duty is here.

In quest of knowledge I will travel far and wide.

It is the duty incumbent on Brahmin.

Take me for a Parivirajaka.

What Acharya Sankara did? Have not you heard?

With the permission of his beloved mother

He went on to fulfill his mission.

I have a duty. I will fulfill. Allow me mother.

Follow the examples of brave mothers.

Neither your husband nor your son less grand.

I may at a time return to see you.

Allow me to take leave of you.

Whereever I be wish my welfare.

That will do.

 

Mother:            Put on you the chains and jewels

Have this purse. Brahmins may beg for food.

But I desire not you to beg.

It is to the lot of the Lord.

Forget not me nor your father.

Under inevitable circumstances we part.

 

Mohan:             I have not an iota of wrath or ill will

Ever I would worship you.

Parents, bid me farewell.

 

Parents:            Adieu.... adieu…….

 

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