Alone and banished to the forest, Bibhishna looks about miserably. He lost his titles and will never be able to see Lanka City or his beloved wife and daughter again.
With time, pride dispels his sadness and he decides then and there to cut himself from evil. He will give himself over to Rama, the God Narayna incarnated. He stands up with resilience and a small cheer emanates from the audience watching the play. A pool of rainwater in front of the stage reflects the demon’s face as he calls out for Rama. He calls and calls. But there is no answer.
I remember feeling relieved for poor Bibhishna when a jumble of monkeys emerged from the forest. But then they circled Bibhishna, trying to capture him. The demon drove them back again and again.
Finally the monkey gave up and disappeared once more. After a moment another monkey emerged. This time with a crown atop his head. Sugriva, the always victorious and king of the monkeys stood before Bibhishna.
He asked the demon for his name and family. He continued, asking why the demon was calling for his Lord Rama and driving away his monkeys.
Bidhishna stood tall and responded truthfully:
“I am a younger brother of the King of Lanka.
My name is Bidhishna, I am an astrologer.”
– Khon Script, “The Episode of the Defection of Bidhishna” by M.R. Kukrit Pramoj (A booklet I bought after the show)
He went on to tell the story of his brother’s dream, inquiry, the resulting banishment and how he wished to submit himself to Rama and serve the king until he died.
Sugriva, after hearing the story, kindly agreed to take Bidhishna to Rama’s camp.
After they entered the camp and Sugriva told his Lord Rama Bidhishna’s story however, Rama experienced doubts. He couldn’t be sure that Bidhishna was telling the truth and truly wanted to serve him.
He asks the demon a series of questions designed to test his sincerity and promised protection if Bidhishna is truthful. Bibhishna upon hearing those words took heart and told Rama how he was different from his brother in spirit.
As he spoke on in his defence the monkeys quietly chattered, scratched and ate in the background. Grins and chuckles bubbled up in the audience.
Rama asked about his wife, Lady Sita, who was stolen away by Bidhishna’s brother Ravana. His head lifted, Bidhishna assured Rama that Lady Sita was still pure and that she only remained in Lanka because of her love for humanity.
At this news Rama accepted Bidhishna’s pleas and asked Sugriva to prepare a Ceremony of the Water of Allegiance. He passed over his arrow and watched as the monkey king prepared.
With joy at succeeding in his goal Bidhishna swore his allegiance to Rama and venerated the lord.
With that Bidhishna’s titles are restored by Rama.
But the great battle between Rama and Ravana was yet to come. Never before had I seen such a display of theatrical fighting.
In the next post witness the battle between demon and god!