Watchman of the Lake Summary

“Watchman of the Lake” is a one-act play by R.K. Narayan that tells the story of Mara, a man who is chosen by the goddess to be the watchman of a sacred lake. Mara accepts his duty with reverence and devotion, and he spends his life protecting the lake from harm. The play is a celebration of nature and the importance of environmental stewardship, and it also explores the themes of faith, duty, and sacrifice. Read More 1st PUC English Summaries.

Watchman of the Lake Summary

Watchman of the Lake Summary in English

The title of the play ‘Watchman of the Lake’ by R.K. Narayan refers to a watchman who was instrumental in the lake coming into being. The one-act play which has five scenes unfolds before us the saga of Mara who, against stiff opposition, ensured that the lake came into being, and sacrificed himself to ensure that the lake did not overflow its banks destroying the whole capital of the king who had constructed the lake.

In scene one, we see road makers working under the instructions of the village headman. The village headman, who is rude to all the workers, repeatedly reminds them that the road should be ready within a day before the arrival of the king. When he catches some workmen laughing, he asks for the reason. He is furious to know that the reason behind their laughter is Mara hiding behind a rock. The headman orders his workers to go and catch Mara. When Mara is brought to him, he admonishes (scolds) Mara for distracting the workers and reminds him that he had repeatedly asked Mara to keep away from the workers for the present and the king when he passed that way.

When Mara shows his disobedience, he orders one of his workers – Bhima, who is as huge as a giant, to tie up Mara and lock him up in a cellar. Even when Mara tells him that he wants to inform the king about a dream in which he had seen the Goddess, the headman doesn’t relent. The headman cautions Bhima not to listen to the prattle of Mara.

In scene two, we see the king passing by that way. But suddenly Mara jumps down from a tree and places before the king the vision of the Goddess of his dream and her words. Mara says that the plate where the king stood was a sacred spot as Hanuman had come there in search of the sanjeevini to revive Lakshmana, fatally wounded in the war. The stream that arose from where the sanjeevini grew was Veda and she was a plaything for the Goddess. The Goddess kept her in the shelter in summer and made her flow past the kingdom of the king at other times. So, if a bank was built for her, even during summer, the king’s subjects could make use of the water. The king is impressed by the idea that Mara has had the vision of the Goddess and he asks Mara to follow him to the kingdom.

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In scene three, we see that a huge tank has already been built for river Veda, and Mara loyally takes care of the lake. He is watchful of people who come there to fish but is ready to let the water for the use of all subjects, according to the law laid down by the king. He ensures that no one is harmed at the lake, not even the tiger that comes there to slake its thirst. We see Mara taking the help of his son – Ganga to maintain the lake. When the scene ends, we see that Mara is worried about the rising levels of the water in the lake.

In scene four, we see Mara at the palace seeking permission to speak to the king late at night. Mara, who is drenched in water and has mud splashed all over him, confides to the king that the Goddess had appeared in his dream again and had warned him about Veda overflowing the banks of the lake. She hadn’t relented even when Mara had reminded her that it was at her behest that the bank had been built. Mara adds that the Goddess seemed to be in a destructive mood. Mara tells the king that if the water overflowed, then the whole kingdom would be destroyed.

Even as the king gets ready to inform his subjects about the impending deluge and doom, Mara tells him that there is one way of saving the kingdom. He says that the Goddess had promised not to overflow until Mara returned and the king could ensure that Mara didn’t return by killing him. Thus we see that Mara sacrifices himself for the welfare of the king and his subjects. His only request is to make his son the next watchman and his grandson and great-grandsons after his son to be subsequent watchmen of the lake.

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In scene five, we see that Ganga is the watchman of the lake and he narrates to his son when he took over his father’s duty. From his narration, we come to know that the king had come personally to inform Ganga that his father was more. The king had also asked Ganga to start doing his father’s duty immediately. The king had also built a shrine with two figures – one of the Guardian Goddess on the top pedestal and one immediately below it – of Mara. By the king’s order, worship was to be performed every Tuesday and Friday. Ganga remarks that scores of people since then had come from far and near to worship. Thus, we see that Mara, who was called a lunatic by the village headman, was worshipped by thousands of villagers.


The novel “Watchman of the Lake” by R.K. Narayan concludes with Mara, the watchman of the lake, returning to the lake after having been away for many years. The novel “Watchman of the Lake” concludes with Mara returning to the lake, realizing its sacredness and his responsibility to protect it. His return symbolizes his own rebirth and his renewed commitment to the lake. The novel also suggests that we all have a responsibility to protect the natural world.