The Demon King


SATB, Indian ensemble (tanpure, tablas, sitar) narrators, and puppet.



Lehigh University Choral Arts with Arati Shah-Yukich, puppet by Mock Turtle Puppets, Doug Roysden puppeteer

Lehigh University Choral Arts

Program Notes

The Demon King was written in collaboration with Arati Shah-Yukich

The story of The Demon King

Once upon a time in ancient India, there was a Demon King known as Haranya Kashap whose devotion so pleased Lord Vishnu that he was granted his greatest desire.  “I shall be killed neither at day nor at night, neither inside nor outside a dwelling, by neither human nor beast. ”  “And so it shall be,” said Lord Vishnu.   Fearlessly, the Demon King began to conquer the world, drunk with the immense power he of his conquests.

The Demon King had a little son by the name of Prahlad.  Prahlad worshipped Lord Vishnu and praised the Lord’s limitless powers.  The Demon King began to feel jealous of Prahlad’s devotion.  “Prahlad, you shall worship only ME!” the Demon King declared.  But Prahlad was immovable in his adoration for Lord Vishnu.  “My God, Lord Vishnu, is beyond life and death.  He is beyond every power imaginable.  I shall worship only Lord Vishnu.”

“Prahlad, you shall embrace the pillar and meet your death!” cried the Demon King in fury.  In the shadow of the evening on the grand front porch of the palace, demons gathered to build a fire around the great pillar symbolized the immense power of the Demon King.  Many more demons gathered in the courtyard to watch the spectacle of Prahlad’s impending death, chanting raucously, “Go to death! Go to death!”

Unwavering in his devotion to Lord Vishnu, Prahlad confidently advanced towards the red-hot pillar, his prayers muffled by the demons’ cries.  As the boy was about to embrace the pillar amid acrid smoke, a deafening sound arose and the pillar burst open.   A terrifying fear arose in the heart of the Demon King as in front of his eyes arose a huge creature, half-man and half-lion.  The demons, aghast, began to quiver.  “Neither is it night nor a day, neither inside nor outside, neither man nor  beast!  Surely this must be the death of the King.”  The terrorstruck Demon King began to tremble. “How is this possible?  I am afraid!”

“O Arrogant King! You thought you were immortal!  Then why fear me?” The half-lion half-man Narsimha roared and slew the Demon King with his claws.  Thus, at neither day nor night, neither inside nor outside, neither by a man nor by beast, the Demon King met his death and his son Prahlad reigned as king.

“Narsimha” is one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.


Notes on the work

Like the story itself of “neithers and nors,” the music for this piece can be neither associated with the Indian music tradition, nor with the Western musical tradition.  It is neither just a story nor a just a musical.  It has vocal music from Indian and choral tradition of the west, narration, Indian and western orchestration, dancing and a puppet.  Written in Sanskrit, the music is set to two Indian rāgas (a rāga roughly corresponds to a scale in western tradition) and two talas (rhythmic patterns).  The first half of the piece is in a morning rāga Vairagi, and the second half in the evening rāga Shree.  The music for Demon King was composed by Arati Shah-Yukich and Steven Sametz in 1997.  The Sanskrit translation was done by Swami Tadatmananda.  Subsequent performances of The Demon King incorporated Indian dance as well as the Indian ensemble and giant puppet of Vishnu.


Arati Shah-Yukich, co-composer and vocal soloist for the premiere of The Demon King. Arati studied Hindustani classical vocal music years for twelve years, culminating in the equivalent of a BA degree in music.  As a young artist, she won a prestigious state-level competition by All-India Radio.  She also has four years of training in sitar.  She has published three albums of devotional music, containing many of her own compositions.  She is featured in an Indian music and Jazz recording, titled “The Shape of Ragazz to Come” by Jayho Jazzmata in Chicago.  As a solo artist, she has given numerous performances in the US, France and India to raise funds for social and environmental causes.  Arati has a MS in physics and Ph.D. in biomedical field, both from MIT.


Traditional Sanskrit Text.