Rama’s Last Act by Bhavabhūti

By Bhavabhūti
Translated by Sheldon I. Pollock
Foreword by Girish Karnad

Rama’s Last Act by Bhavabhūti

“Rama’s Last Act” by Bhava·bhuti is counted among the greatest Sanskrit dramas. The work at once dramatizes the “Ramáyana”—it is one of the earliest theatrical adaptations of Valmíki’s epic masterpiece—and revises its most intractable episode, the hero’s rejection of his beloved wife. Human agency in the face of destiny, the power of love, and the capacity of art to make sense of such mysteries are the themes explored in this singular literary achievement of the Indian stage.

SITA: (with muted joy) I feel as if the life of the entire universe has returned.

RAMA: But, what is happening here?

Is this some kind of distillation
of heavenly sandalwood leaves,
or are these droplets come from stalks
of moonbeams squeezed in a press?
Or is someone dripping on my heart,
to soothe again a life once burned,
the extract of the magic herb
that brings the dead back to life?

Surely I am familiar with this
from long ago, this touch
that both restores my consciousness
and induces a deep delirium:
no sooner does it dispel the faintness
arising from my anguish
than it produces the stupefaction
of an absolute bliss.

458 pp.  |  ISBN-13: 978-0-8147-6733-7  |  ISBN-10: 0-8147-6733-8  |  Co-published by New York University Press and JJC Foundation


“The Shadow”
(Act III, pp. 174–193)
(28 pp, 2.92mb)

Download Excerpt (pdf)
Download CSL Front Matter (pdf)
Order Now

Download the title page and table of contents and one chapter of the book (in English and Sanskrit on facing pages), bundled together as a .pdf file. You can also download the CSL Front Matter (6pp, 1.3mb). It describes how we transliterate the Sanskrit text in the Roman alphabet and includes a guide to pronunciation. It also explains our system of representing phonetic fusion (sandhi).

You can set Adobe Acrobat Reader to display the Sanskrit text and translation in facing page view. Simply go to “View” in the toolbar, select “Page Layout” and click on “Facing.”

About the Translator

Sheldon I. Pollock is William B. Ransford Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Columbia University. He has also translated Ramáyana II: Ayódhya and Ramáyana III: The Forest of the Ramáyana and “Bouquet of Rasas” and “River of Rasas”. He is the author of The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India and editor of Cosmopolitanism and Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia.

About the Foreword Writer

Girish Karnad is not only a celebrated playwright, but also a poet, actor, director, critic, translator and cultural administrator. He has written eight major plays, of which “Tughlaq” is the most famous, as well as working on many popular and art films as actor, director and/or scriptwriter.

About the Manuscript

The Newari ms. of the Uttarar?macarita (1196 CE) is from the National Archives, Kathmandu, I-344 (Nepal-German Manuscript Preservation Project reel-number B 15/4; with thanks to Harunaga Isaacson and Dragomir Dimitrov).