Le Roi de Lahore



The people of Lahore, led by the high priest Timour, pray to Indra for deliverance from the advancing Muslim armies of Mahmoud. Scindia, the King's minister, arrives to ask that one of the women of the temple, Sita, be released from her vows; Timour replies that only the king can make such a request. Scindia tells him that he has heard that a man has been visiting her within the temple itself; they go off to visit her together. in the temple, Scindia tells Sita he is taking her to be married, and Sita is overjoyed; but when Scindia reveals that he is the intended husband, she sends him away. Her agitation revealing her guilt, she confesses that she has been visited by a man who talked of love but has never touched so much as her hand. Scindia begs for her love, but she refuses him, and he swears revenge. He calls in all the people, and orders her put to death; Alim, the King, who has just arrived through the secret door, reveals that he is her lover and gives her his protection. Timour tells him that to expiate his sin, he must ride against Mahmoun's army.


In the camp of Alim's army, Sita watches some soldiers play chess, waiting for the King to return from battle. After she retires, the defeated remnants of the army return, telling the camp that the king is dying; Scindia takes the opportunity to seize power for himself. Alim arrives, weak and pale, and tries to rally his soldiers, but they reject him, and he dies in Sita's arms.


In Paradise, Alim appears before Indra. He begs to return to Sita, and Indra agrees: he will be reincarnated, not as a king, but as a commoner, and his life will be linked to Sita's, so that if she dies, he will also.


In the palace, Sita mourns the death of the king and swears that she will not marry Scindia; on the palace steps, Alim is overjoyed that he has returned to life. He stops Scindia, about to enter the palace to see Sita; the people are confused to see a man with the features and voice of the dead king. Alim demands the love of Sita; Scindia orders him killed, but Timour, recognizing the will of Indra, intervenes and takes him into the temple as Sita's palanquin passes by on its way to the palace.


In Indra's sanctuary, Sita, who has fled from the palace, draws a dagger to kill herself, but she pauses to listen to the evening prayer. Alim arrives through the secret door and the lovers try to flee together; but Scindia arrives with his soldiers. Sita, trapped by Scindia's men, stabs herself; Alim, feeling the same blow, dies with her. A vision of paradise appears, and as Sita and Alim die, Scindia regrets his evil deeds.

contributed by Chris Hapka; © 1998

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Monday, 08-Dec-2003 21:46:31 PST