The Return of the Lion (Play)

The brave king Shivaji, led his Maratha warriors to fight many battles against the Moghul army and defeated them. After one battle Aurangzeb, the Moghul King, captured and imprisoned him.


Shivaji : The ruler of the Marathas

Jijabai : Shivaji’s mother

Mantri : Shivaji’s chronicler

Sachiv : The secretary

Ram Das : A poet, Shivaji’s teacher and companion

Soyabai : Shivaji’s wife and Sambhaji’s mother

Pandit Rao : Sambhaji’s foster mother

The setting

Officers of Shivaji’s court

An attendant in Maratha uniform

(A room in the fort of Rajgarh near Poona. Jijabai, Shivaji’s mother, is sitting on a small throne. She is surrounded by officers of the court. Among them are the Mantri, the Sachiv, Pandit Rao, and the poet, Ram Das, who has an open letter on his knee. In a corner, Soyabai, Shivaji’s wife and Sambhaji’s mother, is sitting quietly; and by her side is Sambhaji’s foster-mother who is an older woman. The two of them are talking softly.)

Jijabai : I can’t believe that my son is dead. The letter is a hoax.

Ram Das : But the letter is from Agra.

Jijabai : And therefore it is a hoax. When did Aurangzeb ever tell the truth? Did he not make false promises to my son?

Ram Das : It was Jai Singh who made those promises to our Raja.

Jijabai : I know that. Can Jai Singh ever make a promise on his own? Surely, the slave spoke for the master.

Mantri : Spoke in a terribly bad way. Aurangzeb has laid traps for us everywhere. Bijapur is about to strike. Discontent is spreading among our own men.

They may revolt any day. And there is no news about Shivaji. We don’t know what to do. 

Sachiv (sadly) : The letter says that Shivaji is dead, but it doesn’t say how he died.

Jijabai (sternly) : Listen! I, your Raja’s mother and your Regent, say the letter is a hoax. Don’t speak about it any more.

Soyabai : Does the letter say anything about my dear boy, Sambhaji?

Jijabai : Keep quiet, girl. You are not the only mother here. I say the lion and his cub will soon return to their kingdom. They can’t stay long in the fox’s den. Mantriji, listen to me. Raise the pay and increase the rations of the soldiers. Send useful gifts to their wives and sweets and toys to their children. I’ll pay for everything out of my private purse. And please tell them that the Raja is at Varanasi and will return before long.

Tell them also that all the great astrologers at Varanasi have studied Shivaji’s horoscope and they all say that nothing can stop him from becoming the lord of the whole of Maharashtra. Keep the soldiers and the priests contended and happy, and they will believe your words.

(addressing all those present there in a changed voice)

Friends! I have grown old and weak. I haven’t many years to live. Help me to live till my brave boy returns to me. Don’t say he is dead.

All Men : Our Raja’s mother will live.The Queen Regent will live! Our Raja will return to us. We’ll pray for his safe return.

Jijabai : Well said, my brave friends. Tomorrow, I’ll say my special prayers to our family goddess, Bhawani. She gave him to me, and I’m sure she’ll bring him back to me. (turning to Soyabai).

Soyabai, my child, don’t worry. Your son, as well as mine, is going to return to us.

Section II

(footsteps and a slight noise outside)

Sachiv : What’s that?

Ram Das : Perhaps someone wants to see us. (An attendant, who is a tall Maratha in uniform, enters and bows three times to Jijabai).

Attendant : Rani Saheba, there are three holy men at the gate outside. They want to see you.

Jijabai : Where do they come from?

Attendant : I think they are from the north. They say they are bairagi sadhus.

Jijabai : What can their business be?

Attendant : Perhaps they have come to beg from you. They must have heard of your charity. They are poor men in rags. Their heads are shaven and their arms and faces are painted grey with ashes.

Jijabai : They are holy men, and they have come from a far-off place. I cannot say no to them. I need their blessings. Let them come in.

(The attendant bows three times again and goes out. Soyabai and Sambhaji’s foster mother move up nearer to the throne).

Sachiv : May I leave now, Rani Saheba? My secretary must be waiting for me.

Jijabai : Please stay awhile. These holy men have come from the north. Perhaps they have news for us about the Raja. Ah, my heart beats.

(The attendant enters again with three sadhus who seem to be poor, humble men dressed in rags. Two of them are tall and the third, is a small man, who does not look up).

Ram Das : (rising and joining the palms of his hands). Welcome, holy men.

First Sadhu : God bless you, holy guru!

Second Sadhu : God bless this house!

(The third sadhu joins the palms of his hands in greeting but says nothing. He keeps his eyes fixed to the ground.)

Jijabai : (to the third sadhu) Have you no words to bless us with, holy man? Why don’t you say something?

First Sadhu : He has taken a vow of silence, noble lady.

Jijabai : I see. (thinks)

First Sadhu : Stories of your wisdom and your kindness to the poor have reached distant places. We’ve travelled a long way to see you.

Jijabai : You are welcome to this house and to stay here as long as you wish.

Second Sadhu: At Varanasi we met a Brahman who told us that your son, Shivaji had gone to Agra and that you were ruling for him.

Jijabai : What else did you hear about Shivaji?

Second Sadhu : One day we met a band of horsemen. They said the Raja had been put in prison by Aurangzeb.

Jijabai : The lion won’t stay long in that dirty den. What else did you hear? Tell me.

First Sadhu : That’s all we heard, noble lady. We wish we knew more, but we don’t. We’re men of peace and spend most of our time in temples and lonely places.

Jijabai : True. Holy men have nothing to do with war and fighting. Come, give me your blessings. I need them badly. I’m dying to see my son.

(The first and second sadhus bless her. The third does nothing)

Jijabai : (To the third sadhu) If you don’t want to bless me, you may curse me and I’ll die cheerfully. I can’t live without my son. (He falls at her feet. she passes her hand gently over his face, utters a cry and draws his head to her breast.)

It’s my son! It’s my son! My son has come back to me! Shivaji has come back! The Lord of Maharashtra has come back! The lion has come back from the fox’s den.

All : Long live Shivaji! Long live the Lord of Maharashtra!

Shivaji : (rising) Yes, Shivaji has escaped from the fox’s den and the vulture’s claws. I’ve come back to my mother, my friends and my people.

Soysbai : (nervously) Dear husband, have you left my son behind in the hands of the enemy?

Shivaji : No, I haven’t. He’s quite safe with friends. Don’t worry about him. He’ll be with you in a few days. (looks around and sees Ram Das.) Sir, your pupil has returned to you. Won’t you advise and guide him as you’ve always done? (turning to others) Friends, come closer. Your Raja has come back safe from the spider’s web. Be happy and rejoice. 

Today we’ll give a feast to the poor. Light the torches on the hill-tops and illuminate the palace. Fire the guns and shout that the Raja has returned to his people.

All : We’ll do all this; and we’ll feast and sing and dance. Long live Shivaji! Long live Jijabai! Long live Maharashtra!


It is a play about Shivaji and his mother, Jijabai who, in the absence of Shivaji, acts as Regent of the State. The reader gets to see how in this role, she controls her emotions and acts with intelligence and wisdom.

One day, Jijabai receives a letter from Aurangzeb informing her that Shivaji had been killed. She does not believe that her brave son, the lion of Maharashtra, had been killed. She knew that Aurangzeb was in the habit of telling lies. She considers the news a hoax and tells her Mantriji not to disclose the news as it could dishearten people.

When Mantriji tells her that there are signs of rising revolt and discontentment among the soldiers, she tells him how to satisfy them and their families to divert their attention and curb the simmering rebellion.

In the second part of the play, Jijabai welcomes the three holy men who have come from North. They give her the news that Shivaji and his son Sambhaji have been arrested by Aurangzeb. When Jijabai asks for their blessings, only two of them oblige her. The third one falls on her feet. Jijabai recognises Shivaji in the guise of a Sadhu.

Shivaji announces a celebration on his safe return. Shivaji also tells his mother that she should stop worrying about Sambhaji. He says that he is safe with his friends and would join them later.