Somtow’s Mahajanaka Opera-Ballet

Somtow's Mahajanaka

I have often reflected that the Buddhist tradition contains more than enough good stories that could be adapted to various media for modern presentation, but hardly do we see it done.

The Jataka stories in particular would be suitable for updating and presenting in film and/or stage form, but their seems to be a great lack of initiative amongst Buddhists generally at the present time.

The work presented today is an exception, being a record of a recent staging of an adaptation of the Mahajanaka Jataka story, known to nearly all traditional Buddhists, by S. P. Somtow’s Bangkok Opera group earlier this year.

The opera has four scenes, which are described below:

Mithila: A fraticidal war destroys the city of Mithila. In the aftermath, Prince Mahajanaka pledges to his mother that he will make a voyage to save his kingdom.

Maelstrom: A storm destroy’s the Prince’s ship and casts him into the ocean.

Mekhala: After swimming resolutely for seven days and nights Mahajanaka is saved by the Goddess Mekhala.

Mango: Coming ashore in the land of Suwannabhumi the Prince sees two mango trees. One is almost devoid of fruit; the other glistens with poisonous fruit. He comes to realise that he must be like the tree that gives up all its fruit for the sake of his people. A mighty nation will grow from Prince Mahajanaka’s mango seed.


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2 comments to Somtow’s Mahajanaka Opera-Ballet

  • I want to tell you that I am adapting the entire 10 last lives of the Buddha into operatic/ballet form right now. It is a long term project and the cycle will be performed in festival style over a 5 day period.

    • Anandajoti

      This is really good news indeed. Thanks for your inspiring work on these projects. Hope recordings can also be uploaded to youtube as with this one, so more people can benefit.

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