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"ALAS, alas! Ah Sita! Ah
Lakshmana!" So cried Maricha simulating
Rama's voice. And Sita was deceived.
Trembling like a plantain tree in a storm,
she cried: "There, Lakshmana, do you not
hear your brother's voice? Run, run at
once to his help!"
Overwhelmed by fear and seeing
Lakshmana unwilling to move, she
appealed to Lakshmana again and again in
an agony of anxiety: "I hear my Lord's
voice in distress. Go, go at once! Do not
delay!" she cried. "He is in some great
danger. Did you not hear his cry for help?
Why do you still stand here? Your brother
is no doubt surrounded by Rakshasas and
cries for help. Instead of rushing to his
rescue, you stand still here!"
Lakshmana knew the wiles of the
Rakshasas and remembered his brother's
command. He would not move.
Sita grew furious in her agony of fear
and doubt. She beat her breast with both
hands and shouted in uncontrollable fury:
"Son of Sumitra! Have you too turned
foe? Have you been an imposter all these
years? Have you been with us waiting
only for Rama to die? Pretending to be his
friend, were you hoping all the time for
his death to secure me thereafter? Why
else do you stand here, wicked wretch,
and refuse to go to his rescue when he
cries for help? Traitor! Imposter!"
Lakshmana's heart like poisoned arrows.
He closed his ears with his hands. He
spoke gently to Sita, who was in tears of
wrath: "Vaidehi, Rama can encounter and
vanquish any foe in the world. There is no
need to fear, O more than mother! Calm
yourself. None in the universe is strong
enough to touch our Rama or do him
harm. What you have uttered is unworthy
of you, my mother. Do not fear or grieve.
You will surely see Rama return with the
body of the stag you wanted. The voice
we heard was not his. It is a Rakshasa's
trick. Do not be deceived and grieve for
nothing. My brother has posted me here to
watch over you. Do not ask me to leave
you alone and go. I cannot disobey my
brother. Since we slew the Rakshasas of
Janasthana, their people are trying to
avenge themselves in various ways. We
should not be misled by their false forms
and voices. It was not Rama's cry for help.
You need not be afraid in the least."
But Sita's fear grew to a frenzy and
with eyes red with anger she uttered
terrible words: "Taking advantage of what
you call your brother's command, you
stand unmoved by his cry of anguish and
are prepared to let him perish! Oh, how
completely have you been deceiving us,
Rama and me, all these years! Base,
wicked, selfish wretch calling yourself
brother! O, you false friend, do you
rejoice that Rama is in dire peril? I now
see why you followed us into the forest.
Have you been set on by Bharata? Have
you all become my lord's enemies? Have
you all joined together in a wicked
conspiracy? I, who have lived with Rama,
shall I ever look at you or another? When
Rama dies, I die with him. Know this for
Sita burst into a rage which completely
overwhelmed Lakshmana. Her cruel
words pierced and burnt into him like
poisoned arrows. His hairs stood on end.
He clasped his hands in worship and said:
"O Mother! O Goddess! How can such
words issue from your mouth? Like red-
hot iron they burn my ears. Cruel and
unjust are these thoughts of yours. With
all the gods for witness, I swear, your
suspicion is wrong. I see now that after all
you are a woman like other women quick
to think evil of others. I fear a great
tragedy is about to befall you. Otherwise
you could not have thought and spoken
evil of me."
And innocent Lakshmana trembled in
fear of some dire calamity that was to
come over them.
But Sita said: "Look here, here is
plenty of dry fuel. I shall light a fire and
fall into it. Or I shall drown myself in the
Godavari. Or I shall hang myself dead,
unless you run immediately to the help of
Rama. Now, once again, I ask, will you
not go? Or shall I perish?"
She beat her breast and cried.
Lakshmana could bear this no longer. He
raised his hands in solemn worship and
"Very well, sister. I shall obey you and
disobey my brother. I shall leave you
alone. May you be safe and well! May the
gods of the forest protect you! I shall do
your bidding. I see bad omens. I fear
greatly. I wonder if I shall ever see you
with Rama again. Yet I shall go!"
And he went, unwillingly and looking
back every now and then.
Lakshmana walked with his heart
troubled and heavy with anger and
sorrow. How could he bear to hear the
cruel words of Sita? How could he forget
them? Sorely wounded was the heart of
the prince who had renounced everything
to be with his brother.
Lakshmana went in the direction that
Rama had taken. Ravana, who had been
waiting for this, now approached Rama's
ashrama. He transformed himself into a
mendicant ascetic, clad in clean saffron
clothes and his lips uttered beautiful
Vedic hymns while in his heart was
Sita was standing at the entrance of the
cottage, her eyes fixed on the forest,
eagerly looking for Rama. Ravana beheld
At sight of her, the desire planted in his
heart by Surpanakha took good root and
grew rapidly irresistible. He was more
determined than ever to possess Sita.
Seeing this wandering ascetic, clad in
saffron clothes, carrying his water-pot and
staff, Sita greeted him respectfully,
according to the courtesy due to holy men.
He desired hospitality. As in duty bound,
she offered him a seat and placed before
him some fruits and roots as was the
The ascetic sat and looked again at
Sita. His desire grew stronger. Sinner and
Rakshasa though he was, he had an
instinct that made him wish to win her
heart; he wished not to ravish but to
secure Sita's willing consent and make her
The King of Lanka wanted and hoped
to persuade Sita. He thought she would
yield to him for his wealth and power,
turning her back on poverty-stricken
Rama. He thought also that this would be
the best way of disgracing and punishing
Rama. He expected Sita to behave like
other women he had known.
Seated in front of the fruits and roots
offered by Sita, the ascetic began to praise
Sita's beauty in terms too warm for a
genuine ascetic. He dwelt on the charms
of her person and asked: "Who are you?
Why are you here alone in the forest
haunted by Rakshasas and wild beasts?"
She was astonished but answered his
questions. She hoped the prince would
return at once and kept her eyes fixed on
Little by little the visitor revealed who
he was and described the greatness of his
origin and family, his power and wealth.
After exalting himself, he proceeded to
run down Rama and concluded.
"Be my wife and live a glorious life
with me in Lanka. Come, let us go!"
In this unexpected situation, Sita's
purity gave her courage to defy the
powerful monster whom she now knew
for what he was.
"Base and wicked fellow! Your
destruction is near. Leave this ashrama if
you would escape with life" she said,
hissing like an angry cobra.
The Rakshasa was furious. He
completely threw off all pretence of
disguise and gentleness and assumed his
real imperious wickedness. With one hand
he caught hold of her hair and with the
other lifted her up and carried her to the
chariot which waited for him behind the
trees. Forcing her into it, Ravana rose
with her into the air.
Sita cried aloud: "O my lord! Where
are you, my Rama? Oh Lakshmana, most
faithful of friends, why did I. with
obstinate folly, drive you away?"
The Rakshasa held her firmly down
and drove on in the aerial car. Sita
addressed the trees and plants down below
and begged them to tell Rama of her fate.
It happened that old Jatayu, half-asleep
upon a tree, saw the chariot flying past.
Startled by a woman's cry of distress he
was wide awake in a moment and
recognised Sita by her voice. She also saw
him and appealed to him for rescue.
Jatayu's blood was fired by the sight of
her piteous plight and he threw himself in
the way of the aerial car crying: "Hold,
hold! What is all this?"
"The King of Lanka is carrying me
away by force," wailed Sita, "but what can
you do to prevent it, my poor old friend?
O fly to Rama and Lakshmana and tell
them my helpless plight!"
But Jatayu's fighting blood, the blood
of generations of lordly ancestors who
ruled the air and knew not fear, was on
fire. He cared not for Ravana and his
might. He only saw a princess in distress.
He thought of his friend Dasaratha and his
promise to Rama and he was resolved that
this outrage should not occur while he
lived to prevent it.
Jatayu now addressed Ravana directly:
"Oh king, I am Jatayu, king of the eagles,
a king like you. Listen to me, brother
king! Forbear from this wicked act. How
can you call yourself a king and do this
shameful wrong? Is it not the rule of kings
to protect the honor of women? And Sita
is a princess. I warn you, you shall surely
perish unless you leave her and go. Her
very look will reduce you to ashes. You
are carrying a venomous cobra in your
bosom. The noose of Yama is round your
neck and dragging you to perdition. I am
old and unarmed and you are young, fully
armed and seated in a chariot. Yet I
cannot look on, while you carry off Sita.
Why do you do this cowardly act behind
Rama's back? If you have any grievance
against him, meet him face to face. O, you
would fly away from me, would you? You
shall not escape while I am alive! I care
not for your chariot or your ten heads, or
your glittering arms! Your heads shall roll
on the ground that you have polluted with
your presence. Get down from your car,
and fight if you are not a coward as well
as a thief!"
Ravana flared up in a rage. He attacked
Jatayu. It was like a clash between a
mighty wind and a massive rain-cloud.
The battle raged in the sky above the
forest. Jatayu fought like a winged
Ravana aimed deadly darts at him. But
the eagle intercepted them all and with his
talons tore Ravana's flesh. The enraged
Rakshasa despatched sharp, serpent-like
missiles against the bird.
The bird-hero was desparately
wounded, but fought on undauntedly
while Sita watched the unequal combat
with beating heart and tearful eyes. The
sight of her made Jatayu all the fiercer in
his attacks on Ravana. But his years were
telling on him and he felt he must gather
all his strength for a supreme attempt to
conquer. Regardless of the wounds, he
attacked Ravana fiercely and with his
wings broke off and threw down his
jewelled crown and deprived him of his
bow. He attacked the chariot and killed
the demon-faced mules and the charioteer
and smashed the vehicle into a thousand
pieces. Ravana fell on the ground, still
clutching Sita. The elements rejoiced to
see Ravana fall.
The gallant old bird swooped down on
Ravana's back and tore great chunks of
flesh off it, and tried to wrench off the
arms which held Sita. But Ravana had
twenty arms, and no sooner was one
pulled off than another took its place and
Sita was held in writhing helplessness.
At last Ravana let go Sita and
unsheathing his sword cut off the bird's
wings and talons. The old bird was now
helpless and fell on the ground unable to
Janaki ran and embraced Jatayu and
cried: "O my father! You have given away
your life for my sake. You are a second
father to my Lord! And now you are no
more. O our devoted brave friend!"
Then Ravana turned towards her to
take her up again. Helplessly she ran
hither and thither, crying. She clung to the
trees and cried. "O my Rama, where are
you? O Lakshmana, where are you? Won't
you, come to my rescue?" The Rakshasa
at last caught her and rose in the air.
As the dark and massive Ravana flew
in the sky with her, Sita struggling in his
grasp looked like a flash of lightning
across a great black cloud. The Rakshasa
carrying her appeared like a mountain
covered by a forest-fire. The body of
Ravana, lit up by Sita, coursed through the
sky like a calamitous comet.
Thus was Sita carried away by the
Rakshasa. The sun grew dim and untimely
darkness descended on the earth. All
beings lamented: "Dharma is destroyed.
Righteousness has disappeared. Virtue
and pity are no more."
The dumb creatures of the earth,
looking upwards, shed tears. Ravana,
cruelly clutching the princess, flew as
towards his ruin. As she was carried away,
the petals fell down from the flowers she
was wearing at that time and as they were
strewn along the path below, they seemed
to announce the scattering of Ravana's
fortune and affluence.
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