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RAMAYANA retold by C.

Rajagopalachari
(Edited by Jay Mazo, American Gita Society)

Contents

1. The Conception 39. A Second Father Dies


2. Sage Viswamitra 40. Left Eyelids Throb
3. Trisanku 41. He Sees Her Jewels
4. Rama Leaves Home 42. Sugriva's Doubts Cleared
5. Rama Slays The Monsters 43. The Slaying Of Vali
6. Sita 44. Tara's Grief
7. Bhagiratha And The Story Of 45. Anger And Reconciliation
Ganga 46. The Search Begins
8. Ahalya 47. Son Of Vayu
9. Rama Wins Sita's Hand 48. The Search In Lanka
10. Parasurama's Discomfiture 49. Sita In The Asoka Park
11. Festive Preparations 50. Ravana's Solicitation
12. Manthara's Evil Counsel 51. First Among The Astute
13. Kaikeyi Succumbs 52. Sita Comforted
14. Wife Or Demon? 53. Sita And Hanuman
15. Behold A Wonder! 54. Inviting Battle
16. Storm And Calm 55. The Terrible Envoy
17. Sita's Resolve 56. Hanuman Bound
18. To The Forest 57. Lanka In Flames
19. Alone By Themselves 58. A Carnival
20. Chitrakuta 59. The Tidings Conveyed
21. A Mother's Grief 60. The Army Moves Forward
22. Idle Sport And Terrible Result 61. Anxiety In Lanka
23. Last Moments 62. Ravana Calls A Council Again
24. Bharata Arrives 63. Vibhishana
25. Intrigue wasted 64. The Vanara's Doubt
26. Bharata Suspected 65. Doctrine Of Surrender And Grace
27. The Brothers Meet 66. The Great Causeway
28. Bharata Becomes Rama's Deputy 67. The Battle Begins
29. Viradha's End 68. Sita's Joy
30. Ten Years Pass 69. Serpent Darts
31. The Surpanakha Episode 70. Ravana's Defeat
32. Kamban's Surpanakha 71. The Giant Is Roused
33. Khara And His Army Liquidated 72. Is This Narayana Himself?
34. The Path Of Ruin 73. The Death Of Indrajit
35. The Golden Stag 74. End Of Ravana
36. The Good Bird Jatayu 75. The End
37. Closely Guarded 76. Epilogue
38. Rama Disconsolate
AUTHOR'S PREFACE towards things spiritual which belongs to
a particular people cannot be grasped or
The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan has preserved or conveyed unless we have all
added to the debt of gratitude owed it by these three.
undertaking the publication of the English The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan has
version of my Tamil Ramayana. They achieved great work by the very wide
achieved great success in the distribution distribution organised by it of my
of my Mahabharata book and I trust this Ramayana and Mahabharata books, which
book of the story of Rama and Sita will seek to bring Valmiki and Vyasa near to
receive similar welcome. those who have no access to the unrivalled
Once again, I repeat my confession that original classics. The characters and
in the evening of my busy life during a incidents of these two itihasas have come
great and eventful period of Indian to be the raw material for the works of
history, the writing of these two books numerous poets and saints that came later
wherein I have retold the Mahabharata to write dramas and sing poems and
and Ramayana, is, in my opinion, the best hymns to keep this nation in the straight
service I have rendered to my people. path.
At any rate, they embody the best joy I Oral discourses have further played
have experienced; for in these two books I with them in order to entertain and
helped our great sages to speak to our dear instruct pious audiences and not a few
men and women again in their own variations and additions have been
language, elevating their minds through made to the original. All the languages
the sorrows borne by Kunti, Kausalya, of India have the Ramayana and
Draupadi and Sita. The real need of the Mahabharata retold by their poets, with
hour is a recommunion between us and additions and variations of their own.
the sages of our land, so that the future They are the records of the mind and
may be built on rock and not on sand. spirit of our forefathers who cared for
In presenting this English version to a the good, ever so much more than for
wider circle of readers spread all over the the pleasant and who saw more of the
world, I think I am presenting to them the mystery of life than we can do in our
people of Bharat just as they are, with all interminable pursuit for petty and
their virtues and their faults. Our classics illusory achievements ill the material
really embody our national character in all plane.
its aspects and it is well the world sees us We should be thankful to those who
as we really are, apart from what we wish preserved for us these many centuries-old
to become. epics in spite of all the vicissitudes
The Ramayana is not history or through which our nation passed since
biography. It is a part of Hindu Vyasa and Valmiki's time. Even the poets
mythology. One cannot understand Hindu who wrote these epics in the original did
dharma unless one knows Rama and Sita, not create but built out of the inherited
Bharata, Lakshmana, Ravana, bricks of national memory prior to their
Kumbhakarna and Hanuman. Mythology own time. Reading the Ramayana and
cannot be dispensed with. Philosophy Mahabharata even in the form I have
alone or rituals alone or mythology alone given them, we go back to live with our
cannot be sufficient. These are the three ancient forbears and listen to their grand
stands of all ancient religions. The attitude voice.
Mythology is an integral part of Taxes were light and punishment of
religion. It is as necessary for religion and crime was just and inflicted according to
national culture as the skin and the the capacity of the wrong-doer.
skeleton that preserve a fruit with its juice Surrounded by the best counsellors and
and its taste. Form is no less essential than statesmen, the king's splendor shone as the
substance. Mythology and holy figures are rising sun. Many years rolled smoothly
necessary for any great culture to rest on by. In the midst of all this prosperity
its stable spiritual foundation and function Dasaratha had one regret; he had no son.
as a life-giving inspiration and guide. One day in early summer he thought of
Let us keep ever in our minds the fact performing a horse sacrifice for progeny.
that it is the Ramayana and the He consulted his religious masters and on
Mahabharata that bind our vast numbers their advice, got sage Rishyasringa to
together as one people, despite caste, perform the Yaga. The Yaga was a grand
space and language that seemingly divide affair and the invitees included many of
them. the kings of the day. It was no easy thing
1. THE CONCEPTION to perform yagas. The location and
To the north of the Ganga was the great erection of the sacrificial platform had to
kingdom Kosala, made fertile by the river be attended to in detail strictly according
Sarayu. Its capital was Ayodhya, built by to prescribed rules. There were experts
Manu, the famous ruler of the Solar whose guidance was sought in arranging
dynasty. From Valmiki's description of things.
the capital Kosala, it is clear that ancient It meant the building of a new camp-
Ayodhya was not inferior to our modern city, capable of accommodating tens of
cities. Even in ancient India city thousands and providing hospitality and
civilisation had reached a high level. entertainment for the invitees who
King Dasaratha ruled the kingdom included the princes and sages of the land.
from the capital city of Ayodhya. He had In short, yagas in those days were
fought on the side of the Devas, and his something like our present-day State-
fame spread in the three worlds. He was sponsored big scale conferences and
the equal of Indra and Kubera. The people exhibitions.
of Kosala were happy, contented and When all arrangements were complete
virtuous. The land was protected by a the ceremonies were set in motion strictly
mighty army, and no enemy could come as enjoined by the Shastras.
anywhere near Contemporaneously with the yaga in
It contained forts with moats around Ayodhya, there was a conference of the
them as well as many defensive Devas in heaven. The Devas complained
intallations, and true to its name, Ayodhya to Lord Brahma that Ravana, king of the
defied all enemies. (Ayodhya means that demons, drunk with the power acquired
which cannot be subdued by war). by the boon granted to him by Brahma,
Dasaratha had eight wise ministers, ever was causing them untold misery and
ready to advise him and execute his hardship. They represented to Brahma: "It
orders. Great sages like Vasishtha and is beyond our capacity to subdue, conquer
Vamadeva and other Brahmanas taught or kill Ravana. In the security of your
the dharma and performed rituals and boon, he has grown wicked and insolent
sacrifices. and ill-treats all, even women. His desire
is to dethrone Indra. You are our only
refuge and it is for you to devise a method of Kaikeyi. Sumitra gave birth to twins,
by which Ravana can be slain and his Lakshmana and Satrughna. She had drunk
despotism ended." the divine payasam twice.
Brahma knew that he had granted to In proportion to the quantity of
Ravana the boon prayed for by him that payasam drunk by the respective mothers,
he should be invulnerable and invincible the sons are traditionally considered to be
against Devas, Asuras, Gandharvas and parts of Vishnu. Rama was thus half-
other such beings. In his arrogance, Vishnu.
Ravana did not care to ask for security But such calculations have no meaning,
against mankind. As Brahma revealed this as it is impossible to measure the Infinite
fateful omission all the Gods rejoiced and arithmetically. Sruit tells us that even a
turned to Vishnu. fraction of the Supreme Being is whole
Absolutely surrendering themselves to and complete by itself.
Hari, the Devas begged him to be born as "Om Poornamadah Poornamidam
a man and put an end to Ravana and his Poornat Poornamudachyate Poornasya
atrocities. Hari agreed and assured the Poornamadaya Poornamevavasishyate."
Devas that he would be born as four sons "What is whole, this is whole; what has
of King Dasaratha who was then come out of the whole is also whole.
performing a sacrifice for progeny. As the When the whole is taken out of the whole,
ghee was poured into the fire and the the whole still remains whole."
flames shot up to meet it, from out of the Dasaratha's four sons were given all the
flames came a majestic figure, resplendent training prescribed for princes. Rama and
like the noonday sun, holding a bowl of Lakshmana were specially devoted to
gold. each other and so were Bharata and
Calling King Dasaratha by his name, Satrughna. We can imagine that this
the figure said: "The Devas are pleased special attachment arose out of the way
with you and are answering your prayer. the divine payasam was divided among
Here is payasam sent by the gods for your the King's wives. Dasaratha was happy to
wives. You will be blessed with sons if see his four sons grow up strong, virtuous,
they drink this divine beverage." With joy brave and lovable and with all other
unbounded, Dasaratha received the bowl princely qualities.
as he would receive a child and distributed One day as the King was
the payasam to his three wives, Kausalya, contemplating his sons' matrimony, ushers
Sumitra and Kaikeyi. rushed in to announce that the great Sage
He asked Kausalya to drink a half of Viswamitra had arrived to see him.
the payasam and he gave a half of what Viswamitra was held in awe by all as the
remained to Sumitra. Half of what was most powerful among rishis.
then lift was drunk by Kaikeyi, and what Viswamitra's arrival at Ayodhya was
remained was given to Sumitra again. unexpected; and King Dasaratha stepped
Dasaratha's wives were happy, even as a down from his throne and advanced a few
beggar suddenly coming upon buried paces respectfully to receive the sage.
treasure. And in due course all of them Viswamitra was a king who attained
were expectant mothers. sainthood through terrible austerities. He
2. SAGE VISWAMITRA had long ago exhibited his spiritual
In course of time, Dasaratha's sons powers by starting to create another
were born Rama of Kausalya and Bharata Brahma and a rival universe. He had gone
as far as the creation of new taking up his bow, rained arrows on the
constellations, but was prevailed upon to soldiers brought forth by the cow, but
stop by the entreaties of the alarmed gods. their strength was inexhaustible, and the
Viswamitra, while he was king once royal forces suffered utter defeat. The
went out with his army and chanced to sons of Viswamitra now chose Vasishtha
visit Vasishtha's ashrama. The rishi himself as their target, only to be reduced
cordially welcomed his royal guest and to ashes.
his huge entourage and extended to them Defeated and disgraced, Viswamitra
all hospitality so sumptuous that the King then and there entrusted his kingdom to
wondered where all the rich abundance one of his sons and proceeded to the
came from in a forest hermitage. Himalayas to perform tapas, directing his
Questioned by him, Vasishtha called devotions to Lord Siva to gain power with
his cow Sabala and explained that she was which to subdue Vasishtha.
the fountain of unfailing plenty. So firm and steadfast was Viswamitra
Expressing gratitude to the sage, King in his austerities that Lord Siva was
Viswamitra said: "You must give me this pleased and appeared before him. He
cow as she would be more useful with me asked the king what his object was in
than with you. Such things of power and performing tapas.
wealth by right belong to the King." Viswamitra replied: "If you, Umapati,
Now Vasishtha could not part with the are satisfied with my tapas let me be
divine cow. He gave many reasons and blessed with divine arrows and be master
asked the King not to press his request. of every weapon."
But the more unwilling Vasishtha was to "So be it," said Siva, and gave
give the cow, the more eager the King Viswamitra all the weapons available to
became to possess her. the Devas, Gandharvas, Rishis, Yakshas
Failing in his efforts to tempt or and the Demons.
persuade the sage to part with the cow, Swelling with pride like the ocean,
Viswamitra became angry and ordered his Viswamitra considered Vasishtha as
men to seize the cow by force. already vanquished. He straightway made
Sabala could not understand why she for the abode of the sage. Frightened at
was being roughly handled and she was the fearful sight of the onrushing
unwilling to go away from the sage and Viswamitra, Vasishtha's disciples and the
his ashrama. Shedding tears, she animals in his ashrama ran helter-skelter.
wondered how she had offended Hit by the fire-weapon of Viswamitra,
Vasishtha that he should stand by and Vasishtha's ashrama was reduced to
look on while she was being dragged cinders.
away. The cow easily put to flight the Vasishtha regretted the turn of events,
soldiers and sought refuge at the feet of but determined to end the haughtiness of
the sage. the erstwhile king, he faced him calmly
Moved by the piteous appeal of his with his Brahmadanda (holy staff) in
beloved cow, who was like a younger hand.
sister to him, the sage said: "Bring forth Mad with rage, Viswamitra shot at him
soldiers to resist Viswamitra's men." all the divine weapons he had acquired,
Sabala instantaneously did so, and the but they were quenched as they
aggressors were soon worsted. Wild with approached the rishi's staff and were
rage, Viswamitra got into his chariot and, absorbed by it.
Viswamitra had but one more weapon response, the King approached the sage's
in his armory, and that was the most sons and sought their help. They were
powerful of all, the Brahmastra. As he wroth at being asked to do something
hurled it against Vasishtha the world which their father had pronounced
became wrapped in gloom as in some impossible, ridiculed his vanity and curtly
huge eclipse, and the very immortals bade him begone.
trembled with fear. But the terrible astra King Trisanku would not give up his
itself was merged in the rishi's staff, aim and told them that, since they and
making both it and the holy man glow their father were too poor in merit to help
with the glory they had absorbed. him, he would find others who were
Viswamitra stood dazed. Openly richer. Vasishtha's sons were provoked
accepting defeat, he said: "Of what use is beyond endurance, and said: "Be you a
the Kshatriya's might in arms? With but a chandala."
staff in his hand, this Vasishtha has The curse began to act and the next
nullified all my weapons. Lord Siva has morning Trisanku woke up a different
indeed fooled me. There is no alternative person altogether, an untouchable, ugly of
for me but to become a Brahma Rishi like form, attired in dirty clothes.
Vasishtha." So saying, he withdrew from His ministers and his people could not
the field of battle and proceeded south for recognise him. Driven out of his kingdom
more rigorous tapas. he wandered hungry and weary almost to
For years and years Viswamitra went death, till his destiny took him to
through terrible austerities. Pleased with Viswamitra's ashrama.
his perseverance, Brahma presented The king's appearance moved the heart
himself before him. Advising Viswamitra of the sage, who enquired: "Aren't you
that, as a result of his tapas he had risen to King Trisanku? What has brought you to
the position of a rishi among kings, this plight? Whose curse?"
Brahma vanished from the scene. Recounting all that had happened he
Viswamitra was disappointed that all fell at the sage's feet and said: "I have
his penance could get him only the status been a good king and never swerved from
of Raja Rishi. Not content with anything the path of dharma. I have committed no
but the highest the rank of a Brahma sin and wronged none. My preceptor and
Rishi, he subjected him self to still more his sons have deserted me and cursed me
rigorous austerities in order that he might and you see me thus before you."
be acknowledged an equal of Vasishtha. Viswamitra took pity on the King
3. TRISANKU converted by a curse into a chandala. This
That was the time when the famous was Viswamitra's great weakness; he was
king of the Solar dynasty, Trisanku, was impulsive and easily over-powered by
reigning, who was so much in love with emotions like anger, sympathy and love.
the beauty of his body that he could not In sweet words, he made the king
bear the thought of parting with it at death happy: "O, King, I have heard of your
and desired to ascend to heaven in that righteous rule. I offer you refuge; be not
very body. afraid. I will arrange for the sacrifice
Vasishtha, his preceptor, whom he which will enable you to enter heaven in
approached for help in realising his wish, your own body. And in this very chandala
advised him to give up attempting the form you shall reach heaven despite your
impossible. Dissatisfied with Vasishtha's Guru's curse. Of this you may be sure."
And he made arrangements for a great Trisanku reached Swarga. But Indra
and unprecedented yaga. forthwith pushed him down saying, "Who
Viswamitra directed his disciples to are you, entering heaven with a chandala
invite all the sages and, their disciples for body? You fool that earned the curse of
the proposed yaga. Afraid of saying "No" your preceptor, go down again."
to what was more or less a command, all Trisanku fell from heaven, head down
the rishis agreed to be present. wards, screaming, "Viswamitra! Save
But the sons of Vasishtha declined the me!"
invitation and made merry about a yaga at Viswamitra, seeing this, was beside
which the officiating priest was a once himself with rage. Determined to teach the
upon-a-time Kshatriya and the yajaman a gods a lesson, he shouted to Trisanku.
stinking chandala. "Stop there! Stop there!" and, to the
This reply, duly conveyed, enraged amazement of all, Trisanku's earthward
Viswamitra who exploded into a curse descent came to an abrupt stop and he
that Vasishtha's sons do die and be reborn stopped in mid air, shining like a star.
for seven generations in a tribe given to Like a second Brahma, Viswamitra
eating dog's flesh. proceeded to create a new starry horizon
The sage then began the yaga. to the south as well as a new Indra and
Extolling Trisanku's eminent virtues, new Devas.
Viswamitra sought the help of the other Alarmed at their supremacy, the Devas
rishis in effecting the bodily translation of now came to terms and humbly entreated
Trisanku to heaven. Viswamitra to desist. They said: "Let
Well aware of the sage's mighty Trisanku stay where he is at present. Let
powers and fulminous temper, the invitees the other stars, of your creation shine
lent their support, and the yaga went on. It forever, like your own fame and honor.
reached the stage when the gods were Control your anger and be friends with
invoked to descend and accept the us."
offerings. But no god came. It was clear Gratified at this submission, and as
that Viswamitra's yaga was a failure. And easily appeased as provoked, Viswamitra
the rishis, who had attended the baited his creative process. But his
ceremony, laughed within themselves at stupendous activities had consumed the
Viswamitra's discomfiture. whole of the power that he had thus far
Wild with rage, Viswamitra held the acquired by his austerities, and he found
ladle of ghee over the flames and said: "O he had to begin again.
Trisanku, here behold my power. I now Viswamitra now proceeded westwards
transfer for your benefit all the merit I to Pushkara and resumed his austerities.
have earned. If my austerities have any For years the rigorous tapas continued, but
value, they should lift you to heaven in once again as it was about to bear fruit
your physical frame. I care not if the something happened to rouse his anger
Devas reject my offerings. King Trisanku! and he lost his balance and cursed his own
Ascend!" sons. Soon recovering himself, he firmly
A miracle followed. To the resolved never again to yield to anger, and
astonishment of those assembled, resumed his tapas
Trisanku in his chandala body rose After many years of austerities,
heavenward. The world saw the power of Brahma and the Devas appeared before
Viswamitra's tapas. him and said: "O Kausika! Your tapas has
borne fruit. You are no longer in the ranks "By no means", said the Creator, "but
of kings; you have become a real rishi." strive to subjugate the senses, tiger among
Having thus blessed Viswamitra, Brahma munis!"
returned. Resolved on the supreme conquest,
This was again a disappointment. He Viswamitra entered on another thousand
wanted to become a Brahma Rishi and years of even harder tapas which threw
Vasishtha's peer and he had only been the Devas into even greater consternation.
acknowedged an ordinary rishi. It was Indra called unto him the celestial
recognition as futile as the missiles of damsel Rambha, and enjoined on her as a
power, which Vasishtha's Brahmadanda vital service to the Devas, to employ all
had swallowed. her art to bring Viswamitra under the spell
He therefore decided to go on with his of her charm, and divert him from his
tapas, making it more severe than ever purpose. She was sorely afraid, but Indra
before. assured her that she would not be left
The Devas did not like this. They sent alone, but be accompanied by the God of
the heavenly damsel Menaka to tempt him Love and the Spirit of Springtime would
with her celestial beauty and allurements. be with her for support.
She went to Pushkara where Viswamitra Unwillingly she went and as she
was undergoing austerities and played, to entered the precincts of the hermitage, the
catch his eye with a hundred wiles of forest blossomed into vernal beauty, and
charm and grace. Viswamitra saw her and the south wind blew gently laden with the
was fascinated by her beauty. His vow scent of flowers, and kokilas burst into
was broken and he spent ten years in a song. Love and Spring were both there to
dream of ioy, forgetful of his high resolve. assist Beauty. Disturbed by stirrings to
Awaking at last, he looked at the which he had long been a stranger,
trembling Menaka sorrow fully and said Viswamitra opened his eyes and saw a
he would not curse her, for it was his own smiling damsel of surpassing beauty, who
folly, and not her fault, as in tempting him seemed the very soul of the spring with its
she was only carrying out the orders of flowers and fragrance and song.
her master. And sadly he wended his way At this vision of soft voluptuousness a
to the Himalayas to resume his broken white heat of anger surged through him as
tapas. he recognised in it another temptation
There, for a thousand years, controlling thrown in his way by the envious gods,
his senses, he performed rigorous tapas. and he cursed the temptress: "O Rambha,
At the request of the Devas, Brahma for seeking to tempt me who am striving
appeared before Viswamitra, and spoke to to conquer anger and desire, be thou
him thus sweetly: " I welcome you as a frozen to an image of stone for ten
Maharishi, my son. Pleased with your thousand years."
soulful tapas I confer on you that title and But this explosion of rage made him
the sanctity it imports." see how far he was from the fulfilment of
Unmoved alike by gratification or his purpose and sadly he quitted the
disappointment, Viswamitra folded his Himalayan forests, and sought the solitude
hands in adoration and asked the Father of of the east.
the Universe if the boon meant conquest There, he restrained his breathing, gave
over the senses. up all thought of the things of the world,
and performed austerities so stern that
smoke and flames issued from his body sacred fire. Like other rishis we could
and enveloped the universe. Then at the curse and destroy them. But that would be
prayer of the panic-stricken gods, Brahma a waste of all our tapas.
again appeared before him, and hailed him "Our troubles will end if you send with
as Brahma Rishi: "All hail, Brahma Rishi, me Rama, the eldest of your warlike sons.
I am pleased with you. Blessed be your Under my care, he will grow in princely
life." Viswamitra was happy. stature. He will surely defeat these
But humbly he said: "How can I be Rakshasas and his name will gather lustre.
happy unless from Vasishtha's lips I hear Entrust Rama to my care only for a few
that I am a Brahma Rishi?" days. Do not refuse my request. Fulfil the
Vasishtha smiled remembering his promise you gave me unsought. Of
fight with Viswamitra, and said to him: Rama's safety you need have no anxiety.
"You have achieved the fruit of your great You will earn undying fame in the three
austerities. Indeed you are a Brahma worlds. Vasishtha and your ministers will
Rishi, my brother." There was joy all agree with what I say."
round. Dasaratha trembled with fear and
This was the story of the sage that anxiety. He had a hard choice to make;
arrived suddenly at Dasaratha's court. either to give his well-beloved son to be
4. RAMA LEAVES HOME killed by the Rakshasas or himself incurs
King, Dasaratha received Viswamitra the terrible anger of Viswamitra.
as Indra would welcome Brahma and For a few moments, Dasaratha stood
touching his feet, the King said: "I am speechless, for he was stunned and
indeed blessed among men. Your coming bewildered. But recovering from the
can only be due to the merit of my shock, he begged the sage not to press his
ancestors. Like the morning sun that demand, and said: "Rama is not yet fully
dispels the darkness of night, your face sixteen years of age. How can he fight
brings joy to my sight. My heart is full. with Rakshasas? Of what use is it to send
Born a king, you have become through him with you? What does he know of the
tapas a Brahma Rishi. And you yourself wiles of Rakshasas? It is not right that I
have come seeking my dwelling. Is there should send a mere lad to fight them, I am
anything in my power that I can do for here, and my army is ready to march.
you? If so, command and I shall obey." How can a lad protect you and your yaga?
Viswamitra was rejoiced to hear these Tell me all about your foes. I shall go with
words of Dasaratha, and his face you at the head of my army and do your
brightened. He said: "O King, your words bidding and serve your need. Do tell me
are worthy of you. Born in the Ikshvaku about these desecrators."
line, with Vasishtha for your Guru, what Viswamitra described Maricha and
else could you say? You have said 'yes' Subahu and Ravana their master. And he
before I asked. This fills my heart with demanded again that Rama should be sent
joy." And he straightway explained the along with him.
purpose of his visit. Dasaratha persisted in refusal. "Parting
Viswamitra said: "I am engaged in from Rama will be death to me," he said.
performing a sacrifice. As it nears "I shall go with you, I and my army. Why,
completion, two powerful Rakshasas, it seems to me the task proposed is pretty
Maricha and Subahu, defile it. They hard even for me. How then can my son
shower unclean blood and flesh on the
cope with it? Indeed, I cannot send him. If The two princes were then brought to
you please, I am ready with my army." the presence of the sage. The King, the
Dasaratha's attempt to go back on his Queen-Mothers and Vasishtha blessed
hasty word, enraged Viswamitra. The them and sent them with Viswamitra.
King's pleas and reasons were like oil A pleasant breeze wafted and flowers
poured on the fire of his anger. were strewn by the denizens of the
"This conduct is unworthy of your heavens. Auspicious sounds were heard.
lineage", the sage said. 'Tell me if this is Bow in hand, the two lads strode proudly
your final word. I shall go back the way I on either side of the Sage.
came. Long may you live with your kith Valmiki and Kamban revel in this
and kin, having swerved from the path of picture of the two handsome princes
Truth!" marching out to their first adventure under
The earth quaked and the gods were the guardianship of a great rishi who had
afraid of the possible consequences of the also been a renowned warrior a teacher
sage's wrath. who could create a new world; and beside
Vasishtha now turned to the King and him, head erect, two princely pupils born
spoke gently: "It ill becomes you, King, to to end the Rakshasa race.
refuse having promised once. Born in the With swords of victory hanging from
Ikshvaku line, you cannot do it. Having their waists, bows and quivers mounted on
once said, 'I will do', you have no option strong shoulders, they moved, each like a
but to do it. Failing, you will lose the three-headed cobra with uplifted hood.
merit of all your great gifts and deeds. 5. RAMA SLAYA THE
Send Rama with the sage, and send MONSTERS
Lakshmana too. You need have no fear Viswamitra and the two princes spent
for their safety, When they are protected the night on the bank of the river Sarayu.
by Viswamitra, no Rakshasa can hurt Before retiring Viswamitra initiated the
them. As the drink of the gods, shielded princes in two secret mantras Bala and
by the wheel of fire, so will Rama be by Atibala, which had the virtue of guarding
Viswamitra. You have no idea of them from fatigue and harm. They slept
Viswamitra's power; he is tapas in human on the verdant bank that night and rising
form. Bravest of the brave and wisest of at dawn proceeded on their journey. They
the wise, he is master of every weapon. In reached Kamashrama in Anga Desa. After
the three worlds there is not, and there presenting the princes to the rishis there,
will never be, any to equal him in martial Viswamitra recounted to them the history
or spiritual prowess. When he was king he of the ashrama.
obtained from the gods mastery of all "This," be said, "is the place where the
weapons. He beholds the past, the present Lord Siva was long engaged in austerities.
and the future. Then why does he want the It was here that the foolish god of love
princes, you may wonder. He can well Manmatha aimed his arrow at Siva and
take care himself of his yaga; but it is for was turned to ashes by his wrath. Hence
the good of your sons that he has come this place is known as Kamashrama."
here and appears to seek your help. Do not They were the guests of the rishis that
hesitate. Send your sons with him." night, and the following morning, after
Listening to the wise Vasishtha, performing the usual rites, the sage and
Dasaratha saw things clearly and made up his pupils set out on their journey and
his mind to send Rama and Lakshmana.
reached the Ganga. They crossed the river dreadful wilderness it now is. They are
on a raft got ready for them by the rishis. still in this forest. And none dare enter it
In midstream, the princes heard a noise for fear of Tataka. She is equal in strength
and asked Viswamitra what it could be. to a score of elephants. I have brought you
He explained to them that it was the sound here to rid the forest of this great enemy.
of the Sarayu flowing into the Gangs. The There is no doubt that this monster, who is
princes paid silent homage to the a source of trouble to the rishis, will be
confluence of the two holy rivers. destroyed by you."
A river or a hill, a tree or a cloud, Rama, who listened to this, asked the
indeed any object of beauty may raise one sage: "You say she is a Yaksha. I have
to contemplation of the Supreme Being never heard that Yakshas are particularly
and silent worship of Him. In particular, strong. What is more, how does a woman
sacred rivers, temples or images, which happen to possess so much strength?"
have for generations been the objects of Viswamitra replied: "You are asking a
devotion and worship, possess this power very pertinent question. Her strength
in a special degree, in virtue of the sacred comes from a boon granted by Brahma.
thoughts they have witnessed and There lived a Yaksha by name Suketu.
absorbed as garments retain perfumes. Having no progeny he performed tapas
Having crossed the Ganga, Viswamitra and won a boon from Brahma thus: 'You
and the princes made their difficult way will have a beautiful daughter of great
through a dense forest made dreadful by strength of body, but you will have no
the reverberating roar of wild beasts. son.' Suketu's daughter, Tataka, beautiful
"This," Viswamitra said, "is the and strong, was married to Sunda, a
Dandaka forest. What is now a terrible Yaksha, and their child is Maricha. Sunda
forest was once a well-peopled country. at one time incurred Sage Agastya's curse
Once upon a time, Indra was and died. Provoked by this, Tataka and
contaminated by sin, having killed Vritra, Maricha pounced on Agastya who cursed
and had therefore to exile himself from them to be monsters living on the carcases
the world of the Devas. The Devas set to of men. So Tataka is now an ugly
themselves the task of cleansing Indra. monster. Thenceforward, she and Maricha
They brought waters from the sacred have been harassing the dwellers in this
rivers and bathed him to the region of Agastya. Do not hesitate to
accompaniment of mantras. The waters destroy her on the ground that it is against
which cleansed Indra flowed into the Kshatriya dharma to kill a woman. Her
ground and enriched the earth and the land atrocities are intolerable. To punish the
be came tremendously fertile." wicked, whether male or female, is the
All dead things, rotting corpse or duty of kings. It is right to kill her, as to
stinking garbage, when returned to the kill a wild animal for the sake of human
earth are transformed into things of beauty safety. This is a duty cast on rulers. Many
such as fruits and flowers and the women have been punished with death for
wholesome things that nourish life. Such their crimes. Hence do not hesitate."
is the alchemy of Mother Earth. Rama said to Viswamitra: "Our father's
Viswamitra continued: "For long behest is that we should obey you without
people lived here happily till Tataka (wife question. Bidden by you and for the
of Sunda, a Yaksha) and her son Maricha general welfare, we shall kill Tataka."
wrought havoc and changed this into the
So saying, he strung his bow and and Rama in his turn imparted the
twanged it till the forest echoed to its knowledge to Lakshmana.
shrill note and the wild animals scattered As they continued the journey, Rama
in all directions in terror. It reached pointed to a big hill with a lovely forest on
Tataka in her fastness, filling her with its slopes and asked: "Is that the place
amazement at the audacious intruder who whereto we have to go? And who are the
dared enter her domain. Raging with evil ones who hinder your yaga? And
anger, she ran in the direction whence the what should I do to destroy them?"
sound came and sprang on Rama. The Ramachandra was eager to fight and
battle began. win the blessings of the sage.
The prince at first thought of cutting "That is the place we are going to,"
off the limbs of the monster and sparing replied Viswamitra. "There the Lord
her life. But Tataka attacked fiercely and, Narayana performed tapas and it was
rising in the sky, she rained stones on there that he was born as Vamana. It goes
Rama and Lakshmana. The two princes by the name of Siddhashrama. Mahabali,
defended themselves against the attack. son of Virochana and grandson of
The fight continued and Viswamitra Prahlada the good Asura, was such a
cautioned Rama against delay in dealing powerful ruler that of him even the Devas
the death-blow to the monster. were afraid. Mahabali had by his deeds
"She deserves no sympathy," he said. acquired the power of Indra himself.
"The sun is about to set and remember Kashyapa and his spouse Aditi, of whom
that at night Rakshasas grow stronger. Do all the gods were offsprings, prayed to
not delay to slay her." Vishnu and begged Him to be born as
Thus advised, Rama decided on killing their son and protect Indra and the Devas
Tataka and pierced her chest with a deadly from Mahabali. In answer to the prayers,
arrow and the huge, ugly monster fell Vishnu was born of Aditi as Vamana.
down, lifeless. Vamana in the form of a young student
The Devas cheered, and Viswamitra, went to the yaga that was being performed
filled with joy, embraced Rama and by Mahabali and whereto all were
blessed him. welcome, to ask for and receive anything
With Tataka's end, the forest was freed they wanted. When Vamana presented
from the curse and became beautiful to himself as a suitor, Mahabali's guru,
see. The princes spent the night there and Sukra, the preceptor of all the Asuras,
next morning they proceeded to knew who he really was and warned
Viswamitra's ashrama. Mahabali against promising to grant the
At dawn the next day, Viswamitra young Brahmana his request since indeed
called Rama to his side and blessing him he was the Lord Hari in disguise, come to
said: "I am very happy indeed. What is it undo him. Mahabali did not pay heed to
that I can do in return for all that you have this. It was his wont never to turn down a
done? I shall teach you the use of all the request. Besides, he was at heart a devotee
astras." of the Lord, and felt that he would indeed
So saying, Viswamitra gave be blessed if the Lord should deign to
Ramachandra the divine astras which he accept a gift from him. With a smile,
had obtained through his tapas. Mahabali bade him ask for what he
Viswamitra taught Rama the use, control pleased without hesitation. 'All have is at
and recall of the various divine weapons your disposal, money, jewels, the wide
earth and all it inherits.' Vamana answered sixth day Rama told Lakshmana:
that wealth was of no use to him, and all "Brother, now is the time for the enemies
he begged for was three paces of ground, to come. Let us be wary."
as paced by him. The monarch smiled as Even as he was saying this, flames shot
he looked at the diminutive brahmachari's up from the sacrificial fire, for Agni, the
legs and said, 'So be it; pace and take it.' God of Fire, knew that the Rakshasas had
The little Bachelor suddenly grew in size arrived. As the rites were being
into Trivikrama and with one step performed, there was heard from the sky a
measured the earth and with another the great roar.
entire heavens. And there being no room Rama looked up and saw Maricha and
left for the third step that had been Subahu and their followers preparing to
granted, he set his foot on Mahabali's shower unclean things on the sacrificial
devoted head. In the eyes of God, the head fire The army of Rakshasas covered the
of a bhakta is as wide as the earth or the sky like a great black cloud.
heavens. And Mahabali, whose head was Rama said, "Look Lakshmana," and let
blessed by the touch of Narayana's foot, go the Manavastra at Maricha. As was
became one of the seven immortals of the intended, it did not kill Maricha, but
world." wrapping him up in resistless force hurled
After narrating the story of Mahabali, him a full hundred yojanas near the sea.
Viswamitra added: "This is where at first With the Agneyastra Rama killed
Narayana and later Kashyapa performed Subahu; and then the two princes utterly
tapas, resulting in the incarnation of God destroyed the entire army of Rakshasas.
as Vamana. In this holy place I live. And The sky was bright again.
here the Rakshasas come and obstruct our Viswamitra was supremely happy at
worship and our austerities. Your coming the completion of his yaga. "I am grateful
here is to end this evil." to King Dasaratha," he said. "You have
"So be it," said Rama. fulfilled the promise, princes. I admire
The arrival of Viswamitra and the two your fortitude. This ashrama has through
princes was a signal for rejoicing at the you become again a scene of success,
ashrama. The rishis offered water and Siddhashrama." (Siddha means success).
fruits according to custom. Rama told The next day, Rama and Lakshmana,
Viswamitra that he might begin the after their morning prayers, went to
preparations for his yaga immediately and Viswamitra and asked for further orders.
Viswamitra took the vows that very night. The purpose of Rama's birth was not
Getting up very early the next morning, unknown to Sage Viswamitra. And he
the princes went to Viswamitra and asked knew too the powers of the weapons he
when the Rakshasas were expected so that had given to Rama. Still the actual fact
they might hold themselves in readiness to when experienced is something more than
receive them. expectation. Sage Viswamitra was happy
Viswamitra was under a vow of beyond words, and his face glowed like a
silence, and could not answer, but the flame. He then thought of the service that
rishis, his jouniors, told the princes that he still had to do for Rama. This was the
they should be ceaselessly vigilant for six prince's marriage with Sita.
nights and days to safeguard the sacrifice. The rishis assembled there said to
The princes, fully armed, kept vigil for Rama: "We intend proceeding to the
six days and nights. On the morning of the kingdom of Videha, where in the capital
city of Mithila, Janaka, the illustrious ripeness of spring time or autumn fields,
philosopher king, intends to perform a or with awe and adoration on the glories
great sacrifice. All of us are going there of mountain and valley, rivers and ocean.
and it will be good if you and the prince, This loveliness was Sita in its entirety.
your brother, accompany us. It is meet and Kamban would have it that Sita's beauty
proper that the Prince of Ayodhya should threw into the shade Lakshmi herself who
see the marvellous bow in the court of came up with Nectar as the Ocean of Milk
Janaka." was being churned. This child of divine
So it was decided, and Rama and beauty was brought up by King Janaka
Lakshmana went with Viswamitra to and his dear queen.
Janaka's city. When Sita reached the age of marriage
6. SITA Janaka was sad that he would have to part
Janaka, king of Mithila, was an ideal with her. Though he tried hard, he was for
ruler. He was a much revered friend of long unable to choose a prince worthy of
Dasaratha who, when he planned his yaga Sita. Many kings came to Mithila, seeking
for progeny, sent not mere messengers but Sita's hand, but in Janaka's view none of
ministers to Mithila to invite King Janaka. them was good enough. The King
Janaka was not only a brave king but anxiously thought over the matter and
was as well-versed in the Sastras and came to a decision. Long ago, pleased
Vedas as any rishi and was the beloved with a yaga performed by Janaka, Varuna,
pupil of Yajnavalkya whose exposition of presented to him Rudra's bow and two
Brahmana to him is the substance of the quivers. That was an ancient heavenly
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. In the bow, which no ordinary man could even
Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna cites Janaka move.
as an illustrious example of the Karma This was kept by him as an honored
yogin. Janaka was thus worthy to be the heirloom. Since only a very exceptional
father of Sita who was to be the wife of man could be considered worthy of Sita,
Vishnu come down on Earth in human Janaka issued this proclamation: "Sita, my
form. daughter, will be given in marriage to the
Desirous of performing a yaga, Janaka prince who can lift, bend and string the
at one time ploughed the chosen site. As bow of Siva which Varuna gave me and to
usual, this was done by his own hand. none other."
As the field was being cleared and Many princes who had heard of Sita's
leveled, Janaka saw among shrubs a baby beauty, went to Mithila only to return
divinely beautiful. Janaka was childless disappointed. None could fulfil the
and accepted the infant as the goddess condition.
Earth's gift to him. Led by Viswamitra, the rishis from
Taking the child in his arms he went to Siddhashrama were proceeding to Mithila,
his beloved wife and said: "Here is with bullock-carts transporting their
treasure for us. I found this child on the luggage. The animals and the birds in the
yaga site and we shall make it our own." ashrama set out to follow Viswamitra, but
And she joyfully consented. he gently bade them stay behind.
The beauty of the goddess Earth mortal It was evening when they reached the
eyes cannot see in its fulness, but we get river Sona. There they rested for the night,
glimpses of it as we gaze with grateful Viswamitra recounting to Rama and
hearts on the emerald green or golden Lakshmana the history of the place.
Getting up in the morning, they continued Years rolled by; and while the sixty
their journey and crossed another river, thousand grew into strong, handsome
not very deep, and by noon they were at princes, Asamanjas turned out to be a
the Ganga. cruel lunatic. He indulged in the pastime
They bathed in the holy river and the of throwing little children into the river
rishis made lustrations to their forbears. and laughed merrily as they struggled and
They improvised an ashrama there, died.
performed their pujas and cooked their Naturally people hated this maniac and
food. Meal over, they sat round banished him from the country. To the
Viswamitra who, at the request of the two great relief of all, Asamanjas' son,
princes, told the story of the Ganga. Amsuman, was the opposite of his father
Himavan, king of mountains and his and was a brave, virtuous and amiable
spouse, Menaka, had two daughters of prince.
whom Ganga was the elder. Himavan sent King Sagara launched a great horse-
her to the land of the Devas in response to sacrifice and prince Amsuman was in
their request and she dwelt with them. charge of the sacrificial horse, but Indra,
Uma, the younger, won the favor of Siva in the guise of a Rakshasa, managed to
and became his spouse. carry off the animal. The Devas regarded
Sagara, a former King of Ayodhya, had yagas by mortals as a challenge to their
no son for a long time. With his two superiority, and lost no opportunity of
wives, Kesini and Sumati, he went to throwing obstacles in their way. If,
Himalaya and performed tapas. Sage however, all obstruction was overcome
Bhrigu, pleased with the king, blessed him and the yaga was completed, they
and said: "You will get a number of accepted offerings made to them. And
children and will acquire undying fame. then he who performed the yaga got due
One of your wives will give birth to an reward.
only son, and through him your lineage The king was greatly upset when he
will be continued. The other queen will heard that the sacrificial horse was stolen.
bear sixty thousand strong-armed sons." He sent out the sixty thousand sons of
Sagara's wives bowed low before the Sumati to go in search of the animal all
sage and asked which one of them would over the earth and to spare no pains to
get an only son and which the sixty retrieve it.
thousand children. Sage Bhrigu asked "The loss of the horse," he impressed
each of them their own desire. on them, "not only means obstruction to
Kesini said she would be satisfied with the yaga; it casts sin and ignominy on an
one son who would continue the line; concerned. You should, therefore, recover
Sumati chose the other alternative. "Be it the horse, wherever it may be kept
so," said the sage. hidden."
Satisfied, the king and his wives took Eagerly the sons of Sagara proceeded
leave of the sage and returned to to search the entire earth, but the horse
Ayodhya. In course of time, Asamanjas was nowhere to be found. They even
was born to Kesini; Sumati gave birth to a started digging the earth as for buried
fissiparous mass which divided out into treasure, and in their anxiety respected
sixty thousand babies. This army of neither place nor person and only
children was wen taken care of by nurses. succeeded in earning the hatred of all they
met. The horse was not to be found; and
when they reported their failure to the chanced to be there told Amsuman:
King, he bade them ransack the nether "Those ash heaps are all that is left of the
world also. The princes did as they were sixty thousand sons of Sagara who were
told and in Patala they saw the horse consumed by the wrathful glance of Sage
grazing in a corner of an ashrama, not far Kapila. Dear child, take the horse and
from the place where Sage Kapila who complete the yaga. If these ashes are to be
was Vishnu sat in meditation. watered according to custom so that the
The princes at once jumped to the souls of the princes may rest in peace,
conclusion that they had not only found Ganga should be brought down here from
the stolen horse but the thief also, and the land of the Devas."
they rushed on Kapila shouting, "Here is Amsuman rushed home with the horse
the thief pretending to be a yogi." Kapila and told the king all that he had found and
thus disturbed opened his eyes and the learnt.
sixty thousand princes were reduced to a Sagara was immersed in sorrow at the
heap of ashes. Indra, the real thief, had fate that had overtaken his sons. However,
artfully left the horse here with this very the horse having been brought back, he
intent. completed the yaga. Grieving over his lost
7. BHAGIRATHA AND THE sons and despairing of ever bringing
STORY OF GANGA Ganga down to the nether world, he died
KING Sagara waited in vain for the disconsolate.
return of the princes who had gone in According to the Ramayana, Sagara
search of the sacrificial horse. lived for 30,000 years. Figures like 30,000
After some days he called his and 60,000 need not confuse us. Thirty
grandson, Amsuman, and said: "I am thousand may mean either a very large
anxious to know what has happened to the number or just thirty. If we so like, we
princes who went to Patala. You are may take these figures literally.
brave; go thither, well-armed and find out Amsuman succeeded Sagara as King of
what has happened and come back Ayodhya and was, in turn, succeeded by
crowned with success." Dilipa. Bhagiratha came after Dilipa.
Amsuman went closely following the Amsuman and Dilipa though happy
path of the princes and reached the nether and blessed in other respects, died
world where he saw and paid salutations grieving that they were unable to bring
to the mighty elephants standing guard at Ganga to Patala for the salvation of their
the four quarters. These guardians of the forefathers.
quarters uttered encouraging words and Bhagiratha was a valiant king. He was
said he would succeed in his mission. childless. Desiring progeny and hoping to
When in due course Amsuman entered bring Ganga down, he left for Gokarna for
and went round Patala he was delighted performing penance, leaving the kingdom
when he found the sacrificial horse in the hands of his ministers.
grazing contentedly there, but was Bhagiratha went through severe
perplexed and distressed when he saw austerities. With fire on all sides and head
heaps of ashes all over the place. Could exposed to the hot sun, and taking food
they be all that remained of his valiant but once a month, he continued his tapas.
uncles? Bhagiratha's name has come to signify
Garuda, the bird-king, brother of great perseverance in any good cause.
Sumati, Sagara's second wife, who
Brahma, pleased with the tapas, Three of them flowed west and three
appeared before Bhagiratha and asked: east; and the seventh river followed
"What would you have?" Bhagiratha who was full of joy at the
Bhagiratha told him two wishes: "If approaching salvation of his ancestors.
you have pity on me, bless me with a Ganga followed Bhagiratha's triumphal
child to continue the line of my forebears. chariot; the waters danced and shone like
Secondly, cursed by Kapila Muni, my lightning flashes as the river made its
ancestors lie a heap of ashes in Patala. The course and the Devas and Gandharvas
ashes should be washed by the waters of assembled above to witness the grand
Ganga so that their souls may ascend top sight. Sometimes slow and sometimes
heaven. May you be pleased to order fast, now sliding down and now jumping
Ganga to go down." up, the river went on dancing behind
Brahma replied: "The Devas are Bhagiratha's chariot and the folk of
pleased with your tapas. You wishes are heaven enjoyed the sight all the way.
granted. But there is one difficulty. The On her course, Ganga damaged the
earth cannot withstand the force of yaga platform of a rishi by name Jahnu.
Ganga's descent. Siva alone can stand it. The rishi took the entire flood in his palm
Therefore direct your penance and prayers and sipped it off. Ganga disappeared again
to him." and Bhagiratha was sorely perplexed.
Bhagiratha renewed his tapas and The Devas and other rishis approached
continued long without food or water, and Jahnu and begged him to forgive Ganga
at last won Siva's grace. Siva appeared and allow Bhagiratha to reap the fruit of
and said to Bhagiratha: "I shall fulfil your his great austerities and perseverance. The
wish. I shall receive Ganga on my head. sage relented and let Ganga out through
May her grace be upon you." his right ear. The Devas were glad and
When Mahadeva promised help to blessed Ganga thus: "Coming out of the
Bhagiratha, Ganga began her descent as rishi's body as out of your mother's womb,
ordered by Brahma. In her arrogance, she you are now Jahnavi, Jahnu's daughter."
thought she would fall on Mahadeva's There was no further hindrance or
head and sweep him away towards Patala. mishap and Ganga reached Patala through
The three-eyed God decided to teach the ocean. With the holy waters,
Ganga a lesson. And the moment he Bhagiratha performed the funeral rites for
willed it, the flood of waters that fell on his arcestors and secured for them their
his head were held by his matted hair as in entry to heaven.
an infinite receptacle. Ganga tried her best Bhagiratha's efforts having brought
but not a drop could emerge from the Ganga down, she is known as Bhagirathi.
tangled maze of Siva's matted locks. After concluding this narrative,
This was a lesson to Ganga to be sure, Viswamitra blessed the princes. "The sun
but a heart-braking disappointment to is setting," he said. "Let us say our
Bhagiratha. There was nothing for him but evening prayers in the waters of Ganga
to propitiate Siva with tapas. This he did whom your ancestor brought down to this
to such good purpose that Siva took pity world."
on him and gently let out the waters of Those who bathe in the holy waters of
Ganga in Bindu Saras from where they Ganga or read or listen to this divine story
flowed down in seven small separate with devotion, will be cleansed of sin and
streams.
endowed with virtue, strength and you shall stay here, unseen by anyone.
unflagging zeal. After a long time, Dasaratha's son will
8. AHALYA pass this way. When he sets foot in this
After a day's stay in the City of Visala, ashrama, you will be freed from the curse.
Viswamitra and his party left for Mithila. Welcome him as a guest. You will then
On the way, not far from Mithila, they recover your lost virtue and get back your
saw a beautiful ashrama which seemed own beauty.' The sage then left his
untenanted. Rama asked Viswamitra: violated ashrama for Himalayas to engage
"Whose is this ashrama with ancient himself in austerities there."
trees? Why does such a beautiful abode Viswamitra said to Rama: "Let us enter
stand deserted?" the ashrama. You will bring redemption to
Viswamitra replied: Ahalya and rekindle the light in her as the
"This ashrama is subject to a curse. sage promised."
Sage Gautama lived here with his wife And they went into the ashrama. As
Ahalya, spending his days in peace and Rama set foot in the ashrama, the curse
holy meditation. One day during the sage's was lifted and Ahalya stood before them
absence from the ashrama, Indra, filled in all her beauty. Having lain concealed
with unholy desire for the beautiful behind leaves and creepers and kept her
Ahalya, entered it disguised as Gautama vow for many years, she now shone, says
and approached the lady with urgent the poet, in Rama's presence, like the
solicitation. She was not deceived by the moon emerging from the clouds, like a
impersonation, but vain of her beauty and flame issuing from smoke and like the
proud that it had won her the love of the sun's reflection in rippling water.
lord of the celestials, she lost her Rama and Lakshmana touched the feet
judgment and yielded to his desire. When of the sage's wife made pure by penance.
the sin had been sinned, realising its She welcomed the divine princes with all
heinousness and the fierce spiritual energy the customary rites of hospitality. A
of her betrayed husband, she warned Indra shower of flowers descended from the
of his terrible peril and begged him to be heavens as Ahalya, cleansed of sin, shone
gone in the instant. Indra was fleeing in like a goddess. Simultaneously the sage
guilty panic; but unfortunately for him he Gautama returned to the ashrama and
almost bumped into the rishi who was just received his repentant and purified wife
returning from his ablutions, clad in wet back to his affection.
garments and radiating spiritual lustre. That is Ahalya's story as told by
Pretence was hopeless before that all- Valmiki. There are in other Puranas and
seeing wisdom and Indra bowed in abject popular stories slightly varying versions,
supplication, and threw himself on the but the differences need not trouble us.
mercy of the rishi. The sage looked at him Now, a word to those of our times who
with wrath and loathing and cursed him: read Ramayana and Bharata and other
'Lustful beast as you are, dead to all truth Puranas. In these works, there are frequent
and righteousness, may your manhood fall references to Devas and Rakshasas. The
away from you.' Indra at once became an latter were wicked, had no regard for
eunuch and went back to the Devas in dharma, and reveled in evil deeds. Asuras
ignominious shame. Then the sage turned were also like Rakshasas. But even among
to his erring wife and prescribed a long Rakshasas there were a few wise and
penance for her. He said: 'Living on air, virtuous people. There spring up bad men
even in the best of races and vice versa. Why did the sages who told the
On the whole, Asuras and Rakshasas were Puranas involve themselves in such
those who rejoiced in doing wicked deeds. difficulties? Their aim was to awaken
It is a pity that some people in their people to a sense of the dangers of
ignorance identify the Asuras and adharma. Else, the sages need not have
Rakshasas with ancient Indian tribes and deliberately attributed sinful acts to their
races, a view not supported by any literary own heroes and created difficulties for
work or tradition or recorded history. themselves.
The conjecture of foreigners that the Some persons take pleasure in jumping
Rakshasas were the Dravidian race, is not to wrong conclusions from the incidents
borne out by any authority in Tamil or in the Puranas. They argue: "Ravana was
other literature. The Tamil people are not a very good king. Valmiki has falsely
descendants of the Asuras or Rakshasas. accused him of wicked deeds." They ask:
The Devas were generally upholders of "Did not Rama act unjustly on a certain
dharma and took on themselves the task of occasion? Did not Sita utter a lie?" and the
putting down the Rakshasas. According to like. Valmiki could well have omitted
the Puranas, they had at times to deviate incidents which are not edifying. Both
from dharma in dealing with the Rama and Ravana were first presented to
Rakshasas, some of whom had attained us by the poet Valmiki.
great power through tapas. There was no earlier work referring to
The Devas were generally good; and Ravana that can be quoted to contradict
those among them who swerved from the Valmiki and stamp him as being partial to
path of righteousness paid the price for it. Rama, Sita and the Devas, and twisting
There was no separate code of conduct for facts to deceive people. Valmiki's
the Devas; the law of Karma admits of no Ramayana is the fountain source of the
distinction between the Devas and others. story of Rama; in it, one comes across
The law dealt with the Devas as with seemingly wrong deeds.
others. Calm consideration of such situations
Wedded to virtue as the Devas would show that they are just portrayals of
generally were, lapses on their part appear similar difficulties in our day-to-day life.
big to us, like stains on white cloth. The It is for us to benefit from the moral trials
Rakshasas' evil deeds are taken for contained in them. The lesson of the
granted and do not attract much attention, Ahalya episode is that, however deadly
like stains on black cloth. one's sin, one may hope to be freed from
The honest, when they happen to go its consequence by penitence and
astray, should evoke our sympathy. It is punishment. Instead of condemning others
however the way of the world, but it is not for their sins, we should look within our
right, to condemn in strong terms casual own hearts and try to purify them of every
lapses of the virtuous, while tolerating evil thought. The best of us have need for
habitual wrong-doers. eternal vigilance, if we would escape sin.
It should be noted that in the Puranas This is the moral of Ahalya's error.
we see the gods getting entangled in 9. RAMA WINS SITA'S HAND
dilemmas of Dharma. Indra and other All arrangements for Janaka's yaga had
Devas are shown often as committing been completed and to Mithila had come
serious sins. many rishis and Brahman's from various
kingdoms. Viswamitra and the princes
were duly welcomed. Janaka's preceptor, a clap of thunder. And there fell from
Satananda, was the first to pay honor to heaven a shower of flowers.
Viswamitra. Janaka followed him. Janaka proclaimed: "My beloved
The King said to the sage: "I am indeed daughter shall be wedded to this prince."
blessed that you should attend my yaga." Viswamitra said to Janaka: "Send your
Pointing to Rama and Lakshmana, swiftest messengers to Ayodhya to give
Janaka asked Viswamitra: "Who are these the news to Dasaratha and invite him."
god-like youths who resemble each other, Janaka's messengers reached Ayodhya
and carry their weapons with the proud in three days. They met King Dasaratha
ease of seasoned warriors? Who is the who was seated, like Indra, on his throne
happy father of such sons?" and said to him: "Sage Viswamitra and
Viswamitra told Janaka that they were King Janaka have sent you happy news.
the sons of King Dasaratha. He narrated Your son who came to Mithila has won
how they had protected his own yaga and our princess Sita by fulfilling the
destroyed the Rakshasas. "They have condition set for her hand. He not only
come here," the sage went on, "to see, if strung Rudra's bow which none before
they may, the great bow of Rudra in your could so much as lift, but bent its tough
palace." Janaka understood the meaning pride till it broke. King Janaka eagerly
of Viswamitra's words and rejoiced. awaits your gracious consent for the
The King said: "The prince is welcome marriage, and your presence and blessing
to see the bow. If he can string it, he will at the festivities. May it please you to start
win the hand of my daughter. Many were for Mithila with your retinue."
the princes who saw this bow and went Dasaratha, who had sent Rama with
back, unable even to move it. I shall Viswamitra with a heart not altogether
indeed be happy if this prince succeeds free from anxiety even after the sage's
where so many have failed and I am assurance, was thrilled with joy on
thereby enabled to give Sita to him." hearing this good news. He told his
Janaka then ordered his men to bring ministers to prepare for the journey and
the bow which was kept safe and sacred in left the very next day for Janaka's capital.
an iron box. It was brought on an eight- Dasaratha and his following reached
wheeled carriage and dragged like a Mithila and were received with
temple chariot during a festival. enthusiastic welcome. Exchange of
"Here," said Janaka, "is Rudra's bow courtesies over, Janaka said to Dasaratha:
worshipped by me and my ancestors. Let "My yaga will soon be over. I think it best
Rama see this bow." to have the marriage as soon as the yaga is
After obtaining permission from over," and sought his approval.
Viswamitra and the King, Rama stepped Dasaratha replied: "You are the bride's
out to the iron bow-case, while all eyes father and it is for you to order things as
were fixed on him in wishful expectation. you wish."
Opening the box, he lifted the bow At the appointed day and hour, giving
effortlessly, as if it were a garland of away the bride, King Janaka said to
flowers, and resting one end of it against Rama: "Here is my daughter, Sita, who
his toe, he bent and strung it and drew the will ever tread with you the path of
string back with such irresistible force that dharma. Take her hand in yours. Blessed
the mighty bow snapped with a crash like and devoted, she will ever walk with you
like your own shadow."
Iyam Sita mama suta King Dasaratha returned to Ayodhya,
sahadharmacharee tava accompanied by his retinue. On the way,
prateechchha chainam bhadram there were bad omens and anxious
te Dasaratha asked Vasishtha what they
panim grihneeshwa panina portended. Vasishtha replied that there
pativrata mahabhaga was no need to be alarmed, for though the
chhayevanugata sada. birds in the air indicated approaching
This sloka is uttered in every wedding trouble, the animals on the land promised
in upper India when the bride is given a happy consummation.
away. As Dasaratha and Vasishtha were thus
Thus was Sita given by Janaka to conversing, there broke out a great storm.
Rama. Were they not Eternal Lovers Trees were uprooted; the earth quaked and
reunited? And so they rejoiced like lovers clouds of dust went up and hid the sun and
come together after separation. there was an all-enveloping darkness.
10. PARASURAMA'S Everyone was terror-struck. Soon they
DISCOMFITURE knew the reason for the strange
Having thus safely handed back to phenomenon. There stood before them the
Dasaratha at Mithila the princes entrusted awe-inspiring figure Parasurama, the
to him in Ayodhya, and after attending the sworn enemy of Kshatriyas, with a bow
wedding celebrations, Viswamitra took on one shoulder and a battle-axe on the
leave of the two kings and went to other, and with an arrow shining like
Himalaya. In the story of Rama, lightning in his hand.
Viswamitra has no further part. Terrible in appearance, with his matted
Viswamitra may be said to be the locks gathered overhead, he looked like
foundation of the grand temple of Rama's Rudra exulting in the destruction of
story. After Rama's wedding in Mithila, Tripura. His face emitted flame-like
we do not see him again. It should be radiance. The son of Sage Jamadagni
noted that characters that play a leading struck terror among Kshatriyas, many
role in one canto of Valmiki almost fade generations of which he had annihilated.
out in subsequent cantos. Viswamitra who Wherever he went he was preceded by
dominates the Bala Kanda does not appear storm and earthquake. And the Kshatriya
again. Similarly, Kaikeyi and Guha are race trembled in fear.
prominent only in Ayodhya Kanda. The The Brahmanas in Dasaratha's retinue
same thing can be said of Bharata whom said to one another: "Because his father
we do not come across in the chapters was killed by a king, Parasurama took a
intervening between the Chitrakuta vow to destroy the Kshatriya race. We
meeting and Rama's return to Ayodhya. dared to hope that his vengeful wrath had
The poet hardly brings Bharata before been quenched in the blood of the
our eyes during the period of Rama's innumerable kings he has slain. Has he
distress. The characters in Valmiki again started his cruel campaign?"
Ramayana (unlike those in the However, they honored him with the
Mahabharata and in ordinary plays and customary offering of water.
novels) do not present themselves off and After receiving it, Parasurama
on. Critics should bear this general addressed himself to Rama: "Son of
characteristic of Valmiki's epic in mind. Dasaratha, I have heard of your prowess. I
was somewhat surprised to learn that you
strung the bow in King Janaka's court and placed on the string cannot be put back
that you drew the string till the bow broke. idly. It must destroy something. Tell me,
Here is my bow, equal in all respects to shall it destroy your powers of
the one that you broke. This is the bow of locomotion, or would you rather that it
Vishnu which was entrusted to my father. consumes the fruits of your tapas?"
If you are able to string this bow, you will As the son of Dasaratha strung the bow
be worthy of my battle." of Vishnu, the glory on Parasurama's face
Dasaratha was perturbed at this turn of faded, and he stood, no longer the warlike
events and he begged that his son Rama conqueror, but a self-subdued rishi, for the
should be spared the trial. He said to purpose of the Parasurama avatar was
Parasurama: "You are a Brahmana. We over.
have heard that, satiated with your Parasurama said mildly to the Prince of
revenge, you have gone back to tapas as Ayodhya: "I realise who you are. I am not
becomes your order, in pursuance of your sorry that you have quenched my
plighted word to Indra, after giving away arrogance. Let all my tapas go to you. But
the earth you had conquered to Kashyapa. because of my promise to Kashyapa, I
Is it proper that you should break your cannot remain in his domains and have
vow, and seek to injure a prince of tender therefore to hurry back to the Mahendra
years who has done you no wrong, and Mountains before the sunsets. Let me use
who is dearer to us than life?" my power of locomotion for this single
Parasurama heard him unmoved thing. Subject to this, let the arrow which
without so much as looking at him, and you have set to the bow consume all my
addressed himself solely to Rama, as power earned through tapas."
though the others did not exist: So saying, Parasurama went in reverent
"Viswakarma originally made two exactly circumambulation around the prince and
similar bows. One of them was given to departed. Ayodhya's citizens were over-
Rudra and the other to Vishnu. This is the joyed to bear that Dasaratha and the royal
one given to Vishnu. What you are said to princes were returning to the capital. The
have strung and bent to the breaking point city was festive with flowers and shone
was Siva's bow. See if you can, string this like the deva-loka.
bow of Vishnu; and if you do, it will be Rama and Sita lived happily in
proof of your skill and strength and I will Ayodhya for twelve years. Rama had
then honor you by fighting with you." surrendered his heart to Sita. It was
Parasurama spoke in a loud and difficult for one to say whether their love
arrogant tone. To him Rama replied in grew because of their virtues or it was
courteous manner, yet in firm tones: "Son planted in their beauty of form. Their
of Jamadagni! You have been vengeful hearts communed even without speech.
because your father was killed by a king. I Sita, rejoicing in Rama's love, shone like
do not blame you for that. But you cannot Lakshmi in heaven.
put me down as you have humbled others. Long afterwards, when their forest-life
Please give me your bow." began, Anasuya, the great sage Atri's holy
So saying, he took the bow and arrow wife, extolled Sita's love for Rama.
from Parasurama. He strung the bow and And Sita answered: "How else could it
setting the arrow to it, drew the string. be? Rama is a perfect being. His love for
Addressing Parasurama, he said with a me equals mine for him. His affection is
smile: "This mighty Vaishnava arrow
unchanging. Pure of heart, he has manship were admired by the people and
mastered the senses." made them eagerly look forward to his
11. FESTIVE PREPARATIONS becoming king.
RAMA and Sita spent twelve happy And Dasaratha knew and rejoiced in
years in Ayodhya. But now the Lord and this expectation. Hence, considering his
his consort in human form had to old age, he wished to crown Rama as
experience the hardships, sorrows and Yuvaraja and entrust him with the de facto
conflicts of life on earth. rule of the kingdom. Informing his
As Bhagavan himself explains: ministers of his desire, he had the Raja
"Whatever avatar I assume, my play must Sabha convened. Rishis and wise men,
go through the feelings and experiences leaders of the city and kings from
appropriate to that incarnation." neighboring lands, attended the Raja
Who was the Prince of Ayodhya who Sabha. When all were seated, each in his
through his body, life and experience, appropriate place, Dasaratha rose and
suffered the sorrows of mankind and addressed them.
saved the gods? The ever-present, all- His deep manly voice, like the sound of
pervasive Being who rules the world from a trumpet or the roar of rain-bearing
within and without. clouds, filled the great hall. A royal
Kamban, the Tamil poet, begins the radiance shone from his face. His words
Ayodhya Kanda referring to this marvel were full of meaning and charmed all
of how the King of Kings allowed himself ears.
to suffer the cruel machinations of the "Like my ancestors, I have tended this
hunchback maid-servant and of a step- kingdom as a mother cares for her child. I
mother which deprived him of the sceptre have worked unremittingly for the people,
and banished birn to the forest and beyond Now my body is old and infirm. I wish
the sea. therefore to appoint my eldest son as
Dasaratha loved all his, four sons and Yuvaraja and transfer to him the burden of
yet he had a special affection for Rama. responsibility. Following the holy custom
And the latter deserved it by his royal of my forefathers, I hope to spend the rest
qualities and adherence to dharma. Queen of my life in austerities in the forest.
Kausalya, like Aditi, the mother of the Rama is fully equal to the task of
gods, was proud that she had such a son as kingship. He is expert in administration
Rama. Valmiki has filled pages with the and statecraft and he is unequalled in
tale of Rama's virtues. The muni is never valor. I can transfer this trust of
satiated drinking from the ocean of sovereignty to him without any anxiety
Rama's qualities. He describes Rama's and I hope that this honored assembly will
gifts and graces sometimes directly, permit me to do so."
sometimes as seen and admired by others. Shouts of joyous acclaim rose from the
Thus and in many other ways he dwells great assembly and with one voice the
on the qualities that made Rama the ideal gathered princes and potables exclaimed:
man. "So be it."
Rama's graceful frame and virile The King spoke again: "You agree
beauty, his strength, his courage, the with my proposal but give no reason. This
purity of his heart, his perfect life, his will not do. Let the wise men explain why
compassion, sweetness of speech, his they agree."
serenity, his deep wisdom and his states
Then several speakers rose and to be done. If the King wanted him to take
explained Rama's virtues and fitness to it up, he was ready to do so. But if the
rule. The King's heart was filled with joy King wanted him to give it up, he was
to hear these praises of Rama. equally willing. In this mood, Rama went
At last the whole assembly rose and to his father
said with one voice: "Let there be no 12. MANTHARA'S EVIL
delay. Let Rama be anointed Yuvaraja." COUNSEL
The King answered that he was happy THE King embraced Rama, seated him
and would forthwith carry out their beside him on the throne and said: "I am
wishes. Then turning to Vasishtha, old. I have enjoyed my life as a man and a
Vamadeva and the other holy men and king. I have discharged all my duties to
guardians of the sacred rites, he said: my ancestors. There is nothing left for me
"This is the auspicious month of Chaitra, to do. My only desire is to install you on
the season when the trees in the forest are the throne of our fathers. Last night I had
covered with flowers. Revered elders, bad dreams. Those who read, the future
make all preparations for the anointing of advise me that a great sorrow, even death,
Rama." may overtake me very soon. Hence I wish
The assembly was glad to hear these to have the coronation performed
prompt orders. As bidden by the King, tomorrow. Tomorrow, the readers of the
Sumantra, the minister in charge of the stars say, is auspicious. Something within
household, went to fetch Rama. Rama, me says, 'Do this at once.' You and Sita
ignorant of all these happenings, came and should prepare for tomorrow's anointment
stood before his father. by fasting tonight. Lie down on a bed of
Hearing of the decision to anoint him darbha grass and have trusty and vigilant
Yuvaraja, he humbly bowed acceptance, friends to look after your safety. It seems
saying, "I am in duty bound to carry out to me that the present time when Bharata
your orders, whatever they be." is away is particularly opportune for your
Dasaratha blessed Rama and said: installation. Not that I do not know that
"You are a good prince beloved of the Bharata is the soul of righteousness in
people. Let not your courtesy and your thought and conduct alike, and that he is
consideration flag but increase with your devoted to you, but the minds of men are
opportunities of doing good, and earn you changeful and open to unexpected
enduring glory." And Rama returned to influences."
his dwelling. And so the King decided that the
Hardly had Rama returned home when coronation should be performed on the
Sumantra called in haste and told him that very next day and told Vasishtha of his
his father wished to see him. Asked for decision. Bad dreams added to the reasons
the reason, Sumantra could not tell; he for fixing the day for the coronation at
only knew he had been enjoined to fetch once.
the prince at once. Taking leave of his father, Rama went
Rama thought: "The King must have to Kausalya's apartment to give her the
taken counsel over the coronation news and seek her blessing. But the
ceremony and perhaps met with some Queen had heard the news already.
difficulty. But whatever happens is for the Sumitra, Sita and Lakshmana were all
best." Rama was not eager to assume there with Kausalya, who, clad in
authority, but looked on it as only a duty
ceremonial white, sat offering prayers for But the summons that came was of an
her son. entirely opposite nature.
Rama reported to his mother the King's In accordance with the practice in royal
latest command. She answered: "This I households, Queen Kaikeyi had a woman
have heard. May you live long. Be a good companion and confidential servant. She
ruler. Conquer your foes and protect your was a hunchback named Manthara. Being
subjects and kinsfolk. You have pleased a distant relation of the Queen, she
your father and you have made me claimed great intimacy with her.
happy." Manthara is one of the best known
Then bidding farewell to his mother characters in the Ramayana. Every man,
and step-mother, Rama went to his own woman and child in our land knows and
apartment. As directed by the King, detests her, as the cause of Rama's exile,
Vasishtha came to Rama's place. He was Dasaratha's death and all the sorrows
welcomed by him at the entrance, which befell the royal family.
Vasishtha initiated Rama with due On the day on which Dasaratha
mantras in his pre-coronation fast. summoned the Assembly and decided to
As Vasishtha returned to the King, he anoint Rama as Yuvaraja, Manthara
saw groups of people on the royal road, happened to climb up to the terrace of the
cheerfully discussing the great festival of women's apartments and stood surveying
the morrow. Houses were being decorated the town below. She saw the streets were
with flowers, festoons and flags. It was sprinkled with water and gaily decorated.
with difficulty that Vasishtha could make Flags flew from the house-tops. Wearing
his way through the crowds to the King's new clothes and bright jewels, smeared
palace. The King was pleased to hear that with sandal paste and decked in flowers,
the fast had begun duly and all was being people moved about in crowds, engrossed
got ready for the ceremony. in happy talk.
But in his heart of hearts there was a Musical instruments played in the
fear that some mishap might come temples. Manthara could not understand
between him and his one wish. the reason for all this, for she did not
The city was in a joyous commotion of know what the King had decided. Some
expectancy. In every house, in every celebration was on, she guessed. Manthara
street, men, women and children looked turned to a servant and asked her: "Why
on the coronation as a great and are you wearing this silk dress? What is
auspicious occasion in their own lives and on in the City? Kausalya seems to be
awaited it with enthusiasm. distributing gifts to Brahmanas. She is a
Rama and Sita in their dwelling thrifty lady and would not be doing this
meditated long on Narayana, fed with for nothing. There are festive sights and
ghee the sacrificial fire, and reverently sounds everywhere. Do you know what all
sipped what remained of the ghee, and this is about?"
slept on grass spread on the floor. Early The little servant girl answered,
the following morning, they were roused dancing with joy: "Why, do you not know
from slumber by music and held that our Ramachandra is going to be
themselves in readiness to proceed to the anointed Yuvaraja tomorrow morning?"
palace and in expectation of the This was news! Manthara was
auspicious call. overpowered with sudden anger. Quickly
she hobbled downstairs. Straight she
entered Kaikeyi's room. Kaikeyi was Manthara. It was a royal custom at once to
resting on her bed. reward with a rich gift the bringer of any
"Rise, rise, foolish woman! A flood of important good news.
misfortune is rising to drown and swallow Kaikeyi thought Manthara, like any
you! You are betrayed and ruined. Your other officious personal attendant, was
star is setting. Foolish girl, is this the time ingratiatingly jealous in her mistress's
to sleep?" interests. How could this woman
Kaikeyi, fearing that some calamity understand the goodness of Rama, or
had overtaken Manthara, asked her gently: affairs of State? And so she thought her
"What is troubling you? Why are you thus foolish fears would be banished if she saw
upset?" that her mistress was happy at the event.
And the clever Manthara began: Kaikeyi's mind was still uncorrupted. She
"Destruction has come upon both you and had the culture of her noble lineage and
me, my girl. Dasaratha has decided to was not easily amenable to low thoughts.
make Rama Yuvaraja, the real ruler of this This but increased Manthara's grief.
land. What greater cause for sorrow need I She flung away the necklace and said:
have? When grief comes to you, how can "Woe to you, stupid woman. All is lost
I remain unconcerned? I have come and stupidly you laugh with joy. How can
running to you. You were born and bred you be blind to the misfortune that is
in a royal family. You were married into a coming to you? Am I to laugh or cry at
royal family. Now, alas, all is over. Like this folly? Your rival, Rama's mother, has
the simple woman you are, you have been conspired to making him King. And you
deceived. Your husband has cheated you jump with joy. Insane woman! What
with sweet words. It is a deep plot, as any would be Bharata's state when Rama
one can see. He put Bharata out of the reigns? Would not Rama fear and ever
way by sending him to the distant place of look upon Bharata as a dangerous enemy?
his uncle, and is taking advantage of his Rama knows human nature. He knows
absence by hurriedly crowning Rama. By that Bharata alive would be a constant
tomorrow it will all be over. And you threat to his power and therefore must be
watch all this, lying in bed and doing killed. Does not one kill a cobra out of
nothing, while you and all who depend on fear? Hereafter there is no security for
you are being destroyed." Bharata's life. Tomorrow morning
And so, Manthara went on talking. Kausalya will be a happy woman and you
Kaikeyi's ears heard the words without will bend before her as a well-dressed
quite heeding their drift. Like the rest of slave. You will stand before her, hands
the royal household her mind was clasped in obedience. From tomorrow
overwhelmed now with the joyous your son too will be a subject and a slave.
expectation of Rama's coronation, for she In these apartments there will be no more
loved and esteemed Rama like everybody honor or joy."
else. And she stopped, unable for grief to
"Manthara, you have brought me good continue. Kaikeyi heard all this and
news," she said. "Is my son Rama to be wondered "Why should Manthara have
crowned tomorrow? What greater joy can such fears? Does she not know Rama? Is
come to me? Here, take this. Ask me for he not dharma embodied in human form?"
anything else." So saying, Kaikeyi took She said: "Manthara, have you not
the necklace off her neck and gave it to known and rejoiced in Rama's
truthfulness, right conduct and humility? Fear now entered the heart of the
He is the elder prince and he gets the Queen. Manthara won. Kaikeyi's face was
kingdom. Bharata will get it one day after flushed; her breath became hot. Helpless
him. What is wrong with all this? Why, she clung to Manthara for comfort and
dear friend, do you feel such grief? After safety.
Rama, Bharata will reign for a hundred Because his first two wives had borne
years. Do not cry. You know how no children, Dasaratha, following the
affectionate Rama is to me. Indeed he royal custom, married Kaikeyi. At that
cares for me more than for his own time Kaikeyi's father secured from
mother. Does not Rama hold his brothers Dasaratha the promise that the child of her
as dear as life? It is not right that you womb should become king after him. In
should fear any harm from Rama." such a promise given by a childless king
"Alas, Alas!" said Manthara. "Why are there was nothing surprising and nothing
you so foolish? Once Rama is crowned wrong. At that time, his then queens had
king, what chance has Bharata? Do you long been childless. The King took a third
not know the rule of succession? When wife for the sake of progeny. Even then
Rama ascends the throne all prospects of his wish for a son to be born was not
royalty for Bharata and his line are at an fulfilled. Many years passed.
end. After Rama, Rama's son will be king, After the great sacrifice was
and after him that son's son will be king, performed, all three wives bore children.
and so the succession will go on. Eldest The son of the Queen Eminent, Rama,
son succeeds eldest son. There is no was the eldest among four sons. He was
chance for a younger brother, no matter also great in virtue, fully equal to the
how good or manly he is. My dear, you burden of Kingship, acceptable to
know not even this. What is one to do?" ministers, citizens and vassal princes.
"Once Rama is crowned," she How could Dasaratha violate the royal
continued, "he will not leave Bharata custom and ignoring Rama's claim anoint
alone. There will be danger to Bharata's Bharata?
life. If you want Bharata to live, advise Moreover, neither Bharata nor Kaikeyi
him to remain away, an exile from home; had ever thought of or wished for the
for if he returns he will be coming to his fulfilment of this old and forgotten
death. It would be safest for him to leave promise. During all the intervening years,
even his uncle's house, and hide his head no word had been spoken on this subject.
in obscurity in some more distant land. Hence the King thought there could be no
And Kausalya is no friend of yours. She difficulty in installing Rama as Yuvaraja
bears you a grudge because you are the in accordance with the custom of the
King's favorite and have often slighted dynasty and public expectation. And there
her. And now she is sure to wreak was no cloud in Kaikeyi's mind. This is
vengeance on you. You know the wrath of clear from Kaikeyi's behavior. And
a rival wife is a raging fire when it finds Bharata was too noble to raise this
its chance. You may take it that, if Rama question.
is king, Bharata is as good as dead. And, yet, as Dasaratha told Rama, even
Therefore, think hard. Be firm. Decide the purest of minds is mutable. When fate
something and stick to it. Somehow conspires with bad counsel, any one of us
Bharata must be crowned. Rama must be might be corrupted. And this happened to
banished from the kingdom." Kaikeyi. The gods in Heaven had received
an assurance, and the sages had performed is not a joke; it is a subtle psychological
tapas or the destruction of Ravana. What phenomenon,
we call destiny, therefore, ordained that "This is indeed strange, Kaikeyi," said
Kaikeyi's pure heart should be changed by Manthara. "Is it for me to tell you how
Manthara's evil counsel. So says Kamban this could be brought about? Have you
in the Tamil Ramayana in his own really forgotten? Or, are you only
inimitable style. pretending? But if you want me to say it, I
Fearing that delay might bring some shall do so. Listen."
unpredictable obstacles, Dasaratha had And then she paused. Kaikeyi, all
ordered the coronation to be done without impatient, cried: "Tell me, tell me.
waiting for Bharata's return to the capital. Somehow Bharata must be crowned and
This same fear and hurry were used by Rama's coronation must be stopped."
Manthara to persuade Kaikeyi to take the "Very well," said Manthara, "I shall tell
wrong path. "Think, my Queen. Why this you. Do not be impatient. You remember
haste? Why does your husband rush how your husband Dasaratha, long ago,
through the ceremony when your son is fought against Sambara in the South? And
absent? Is it not to cheat him of his right? you were with him, were you not? Your
Is not the motive plain? The King husband went, did be not, to help Indra?
pretends to be enamored of you. But this Sambara of Vaijayanti was too powerful
is only his hypocritical shrewdness." for Indra, who sought Dasaratha's help.
Thus tempted, Kaikeyi thought over Did not Dasaratha get wounded in battle
Manthara's advice. Kaikeyi was weak like and lose consciousness? Then, you drove
any other woman. She had good feeling his chariot skilfully out of the battlefield,
and good culture, besides a keen intellect. gently removed the arrows from his body
But she had little knowledge of the world. and revived him and saved his life. Have
She was also terribly obstinate. Easily you forgotten all this? And what did be
deceived, she did not have the power to tell you then? He told you in gratitude:
foresee the full consequences of her 'Ask me for two boons. I shall give you
action. Thus began the charter of grief in anything you want.' Then you answered: 'I
the Ramayana. shall ask for my boons later. I want
13. KAIKEYI SUCCUMBS nothing now.' Then he promised, did he
Kaikeyi, who had looked upon Rama not, 'You will have your two gifts
as her own son, was enmeshed in whenever you want them'? You told me
Manthara's arguments and became all this long ago yourself. You may have
helpless. forgotten it, but I have not. The time has
"Indeed, I am afraid," she said. "Tell arrived to get him to redeem his promise.
me what we should do. Am I to be a Demand that he should crown Bharata
servant to Kausalya? Never, Bharata must instead of Rama. This will be the first of
be crowned. You are quite right. And two gifts he promised. For the second gift,
Rama must be sent to forest. But how ask that Rama be sent to the forest for
shall we get all this done? Tell me. You fourteen years. Do not be frightened. Do
are clever and know the way." not fear to ask. Do not think it sinful to
And she clung to Manthara. In demand this. Do what I tell you. It is only
Kaikeyi's eyes at that time Manthara's if Rama is sent into the forest that his hold
crooked frame appeared handsome. This on the people will relax and disappear in
course of time and your son's position will
be secure. Go now and lie down in the Kaikeyi is dead. My dear, dear
sulking room. Throw away your fine dress Manthara!"
and your jewels, wear an old sari and Kaikeyi in her anger believed that
stretch yourself on the floor. When the Dasaratha had really been treacherous to
King enters the room, do not speak to her. Even then, stretched on the ground
him. Do not even look at him. I am sure divesting herself of all ornaments and
he cannot endure your sorrow. You will putting on a face of grief and anger, she
then have your way with him. The King looked inexpressibly beautiful. So great
will try to get round you. Do not yield. He was her beauty.
will offer many alternatives. Accept none The sinful thought had found lodgment
of them. Insist on the two boons. Be firm. in her mind and her whole nature was
Bound by his promise the King will transformed. The fear that she would lead
finally come round. I know how a slave's life, and that even Bharata's life
passionately he loves you. He would give was in peril, had got hold of her. For the
up his life for your sake. To please you he first time in her life she cast aside the
would jump into fire. Do what I tell you. sense of shame and sin and hardened her
Do not be afraid. Unless Rama is sent to heart. Heaving heavy sighs, perspiring,
the forest, your wish will not be fulfilled. and with eyes closed, Kaikeyi, beautiful
Rama must be sent away. Only then the like a Naga goddess, unbraided her hair
position you get for Bharata will be real and lay on the floor with dishevelled
and lasting. Remember this and mind you tresses and sprawling like a bird shot
do not weaken." down by a hunter. The flowers and
Listening to this exhortation, Kaikeyi's shining jewels, which once adorned her
face shone with hope. "What a brain you person, lay scattered in the dark room like
have, Manthara," exclaimed Kaikeyi. stars in the midnight sky.
"You have been the saving of me." And Having dismissed the Assembly and
she jumped about in joy like a filly. given orders for the due celebration of the
Manthara repeated again and again that coronation ceremony, Dasaratha, relieved
Rama must be sent to the forest. "Do not of care and wishing to relax, sought the
delay. What needs to be done, do at once. apartments of his favorite consort. He had
It is no good strengthening the tank-bund decided on the coronation of Rama after
after the waters have flown out. receiving the approval of all those who
Remember what I have told you. had a right to be consulted and he felt
Everything depends on your firmness. happy and free, as after laying down a
Victory is yours if you do not yield." heavy burden.
Kaikeyi assured Manthara of her He entered Kaikeyi's chamber to tell
firmness and forthwith entered the sulking her the happy news and spend in pleasant
room, removed her jewels and scattered talk the night before the coronation. The
them on he floor, changed her clothes and junior queen's residence was a beautiful
stretched herself on the floor. Then, palace with lovely gardens and tanks,
assuming a broken voice, she said: birds playing in the water and peacocks
"Manthara, you will yourself carry the dancing with tails spread out and trees
news to my father Kekaya. You will resplendent with bright flowers. In
yourself tell him one of two things: either Dasaratha's happy mood it appeared
that Bharata is to be crowned or that unusually beautiful that night.
Like the full moon rising brightly The King proceeded: "Was anyone in
before an eclipse, without knowing of the the palace guilty of discourteous
eclipse that lies in wait for her, the poor behavior? Tell me and I shall punish him.
old King entered Kaikeyi's dwelling with Did anyone slight you or was there
a beaming face. The incense pots and anything you wanted which I neglected to
drinks were in their usual places but he give you? Tell me."
did not see the Queen whom he was eager In this way, he mentioned faults that
to meet. might have occurred in the running of a
Of all his consorts Kaikeyi was the one big house and asked her what the matter
whose company he sought for joyous was and why she was upset. Kaikeyi paid
relaxation from all cares of state, for she no attention to his questions and was mute
never interfered in public affairs, and like one possessed.
always waited for him at the entrance and The King begged her more
welcomed him with a warm embrace. But, importunately: "State your wish. It shall
today, she was nowhere to be found. be done. Do you want anyone punished? I
The King was perplexed. He went shall punish him. Do you want anyone
around and looked in vain for her in all freed from punishment? I shall free him,
her favorite haunts thinking that she was even if he be a murderer. You know my
playing a sweet game of hide and seeks. absolute authority, I can give and I can
He did not find her. This sort of thing had take, as I please. Anything, to anyone, I
never happened before! He asked a can do what I wish. Ask me anything and
maidservant where the Queen was. it shall be done at once."
Folding her hands in reverence, the girl Kaikeyi sat up. The King was pleased.
said: "Lord, the Queen is angry. She is in And she began: "No one slighted or
the inner chamber." dishonored me. But there is something
The surprised King entered the room. which you can do and you must do it for
And he saw a sight which amazed and my sake. Give me your word that you will
distressed him, for there she lay on the fulfil my desire. Then I shall tell you what
bare floor, with draggled robes and it is."
disheveled hair, like one in mortal pain. Hearing this, the unsuspecting old man
She seemed too full of anguish even to was filled with joy. Possessing absolute
look at him as he entered. powers, he had no doubt that he could
The poor guileless King, all fulfil her wishes whatever they were, and
unconscious of having given any cause for so boldly and joyously he said: "Well,
offence, behaved with the doting fondness Kaikeyi, tell me your wish. It shall be
of an old husband and seating himself by done. I swear it. I swear it on all I love
her on the floor stroked her hair and most on you, the dearest among women,
strove to console her with loving words and on Rama, dearest to me among men! I
and caresses: swear in the name of Rama: Whatever you
"What has come over you? Are you ill? desire, I shall do, I promise, I swear."
Do you feel any pain? Have I not the best Guileful wickedness and trustful
doctors in the land? I shall send for them misfortune were reaching the climax in
at once. They can cure any malady. Do their unequal encounter. The King's
not be afraid." swearing in the name of Rama filled
Kaikeyi sighed heavily, but would not Kaikeyi with supreme delight. She was
speak. now sure that she had won, for the King
would never break a promise coupled with The King answered: "Yes, I do
that beloved name. remember this. Ask for your two gifts.
"Do you promise? Very well!" she You shall have them now."
exclaimed. "Swear again in the name of Kaikeyi said: "Remember you have
Rama that you will do what I wish made a vow. You have given a pledge.
without fail. Swear it!" You have sworn in the name of Rama.
The King said: "My beloved queen, I The gods and the five elements have
promise. I swear it on Rama. Whatever witnessed your promise. I shall state my
you wish I shall do. This is my sworn wishes. Your ancestors never broke their
word." word. Prove yourself their worthy
At this stage, as she thought of the descendant by being true to the word you
tremendousness of her intended request, have given. With the preparations now
Kaikeyi's heart misgave her and she afoot for the coronation, crown my son
feared that on hearing it her horror- Bharata. This is my first wish. The second
stricken husband would exclaim: 'God boon that I demand is, send your son
forbid! No oath or promise is strong Rama to live in the Dandaka forest for
enough to justify so heinous a sin!' and fourteen years. Remember your solemn
recoil from her with abhorrence. vow that you cannot break. The good
She stood erect and with folded hands, fame of your great dynasty is in your
turning in the four directions, invoked in a hands."
solemn voice the heavenly powers to 14. WIFE OR DEMON?
witness and confirm the oath: "Oh, Ye Dasaratha was thunder-struck.
Gods! You have heard and witnessed the When his mind resumed its function,
promise given to me by my husband. Sun, he doubted the reality of what had
Moon and Planets, you are my holy happened. "Could it be other than a
witnesses. Ye, Five Elements! You have hideous dream? Or the phantasmagoria of
heard the promise. He who has never a disordered brain? Or the sudden
broken his word, my husband, has sworn materialisation of the sins of some past
to do my wish. Bear witness to this." birth called up for my chastisement? I am
Dasaratha was looking at her with certainly the victim of an illusion. I cannot
hungry, joyous eyes. She knew her man believe this to be reality."
and she began boldly: "Do you remember, Unable to stand the confused agony of
King, how, when long ago in the field of shapeless terrors, he closed his eyes and
battle you were about to lose your life, I became unconscious. Opening his eyes a
drove your chariot in the dark night, took little later, they fell on Kaikeyi and he
you out of the battlefield, removed the trembled like a stag at the sight of a tiger.
arrows from your body and comforted and He sat up on the floor and moaned,
revived you? When you came out of your swaying helplessly this side and that like a
faint, you said something, did you not? cobra held by the spell of a potent charm.
You said: 'You have restored to me the Again he swooned.
life which my foes had taken from me. I After a long interval, be recovered his
shall give you any two gifts you ask.' senses and, with eyes turned to his
Then I said: 'I want nothing now. It is joy tormentor and inflamed with helpless
enough now for me that you are alive. I anger, cried out: "O wicked ogress!
shall ask for my gifts later.' Do you Destroyer of my dynasty! What harm has
remember this?" Rama done to you? Has he not looked
upon you as his own mother? I thought committed? Of the hundreds of women in
you were a woman. I now see you are a the palace, has anyone ever uttered a word
venomous serpent brought from far away against his honor or virtue? The whole
and cherished in my bosom only to sting world loves him for his great and good
me to death!" qualities. How did you alone among so
Kaikeyi was unmoved and spoke not a many find cause to dislike him? Is not
word. Rama like Indra himself? Is not his face
The King went on: "On what pretext radiant with goodness and spiritual light
can I banish Rama, whom all the people like a rishi's? The whole world praises his
love and praise? I may lose Kausalya and truthfulness and friendliness, his learning
survive. I may lose the pure-minded and wisdom, his heroism and humility. No
Sumitra and survive. But if I lose Rama, I one has heard a harsh word from his lips.
cannot live thereafter. Without water, How can I, his father, say to him 'Son, go
without sunlight, I may live for a while, to the forest'? This can never be. Have
but never without Rama. Expel from your mercy on me, an old man nearing the end
mind this sinful thought. With my head of his days. Kaikeyi, ask for anything else
bowed at your feet, I beg of you. Have in this kingdom, ask for everything else,
you not said many a time, 'Two dear sons and I will give. With folded hands, I beg
I have. And of them Rama, the elder, is you, do not send me to Yama. Clinging to
dearer to me'? In deciding to crown Rama, your feet I beg you, I beg you humbly,
what have I done but carry out in action save Rama! Save me from sin!"
your unspoken wish? Why then do you To the King thus struggling in a sea of
demand these cruel boons? No, no, it grief, pitiless Kaikeyi spoke cruel words:
cannot be really that you mean this. You "King, if having promised the boons
are only testing me to find out if I indeed you regret it and will be forsworn, what
love your son Bharata. Do not, through a sort of king would you be and what right
great sin, destroy our famous line of would you have to speak of satya and
Kings." dharma? How can you face other kings?
Even then Kaikeyi spoke no word, but Will you shamelessly confess to them,
her eyes blazed scornful anger. 'Yes, Kaikeyi saved me from death and I
The King continued: "Till this day you gave her a promise. Later, I was sorry I
have done nothing to cause me sorrow, gave it and I broke it'? What else could
never spoken an unworthy word. Who has you tell them? All monarchs will shun you
corrupted you now? I cannot believe that as a disgrace to their order! And common
this evil thought is your own. How often people will laugh in scorn at their rulers
have you told me, my dear, that, noble as and say, 'Kings break promises even when
Bharata is, Rama is nobler still? Is it the given to their queens. Do not expect kings
same Rama that you now want to be sent to keep their word.' Do you not know that
to the forest? How can he dwell in the Saibya, to redeem the pledge he gave to a
forest? How can you even entertain the bird, cut the very flesh off his bones and
thought of his going away into the gave it away? Have you not heard of
wilderness infested by ferocious beasts? Alarka who plucked his eyes out to keep
How lovingly has Rama treated you and his word? The sea stays within its limits
served you! How can you forget all this and does not overflow the land, because it
and steel your heart and utter the words, feels bound by its agreement. Do not
'Send him to the forest'? What fault has he violate your solemn pledge. Follow the
path of your royal ancestors. O, I fear that the flavor of poisoned wine, I was lured
you, their unworthy descendant, will by your beauty into marrying you. Like a
forsake dharma; you will crown Rama and deer ensnared by a hunter, I am caught in
you will dally with Kausalya. What do your net and perish. Like a drunken
you care what happens to dharma? What Brahmana in the streets I shall be
do you care what happens to satya? If you universally despised. What boons have
deny me the gifts you promised on oath, I you demanded? Boons that forever will
shall this very night drink poison and end taint the fame of our dynasty with the
my life. You may anoint and install Rama, ignominy of lustful dotage that drove an
but before your eyes, O, promise breaker, old fool to the banishment of a beloved
I shall be dead. This is certain. And I and peerless son. If I tell Rama to go to
swear it in the name of Bharata. It will be the forest, yes, he will cheerfully obey and
well and good if you fulfil your promise go to the forest. Myself and then Kausalya
and banish Rama to the forest. Else, I and Sumitra will die. How will you enjoy
shall end my life." the kingdom thus secured, O sinful,
With this firm declaration, Kaikeyi foolish woman? And will Bharata agree to
stopped. Dasaratha stood speechless, your plans? If he does agree, he shall not
staring at his pitiless wife. Was this lovely perform my obsequies. O shameless
creation really Kaikeyi or a demon? Then, woman, my life's enemy, kill your
like a huge tree felled by a forester with husband and attain widowhood to enjoy
his axe, the King shook and toppled down the kingdom with your son. O, how sinful
and lay stretched unconscious on the floor are women and how pitiless! No, no. Only
in pitiful ruin. this woman is cruel. Why should I insult
Regaining his senses after a while, he other women? What a pity that my
spoke in a low voice: "Kaikeyi, who has Bharata should have this monster for a
corrupted your mind to see me dead and mother! No, I can never do this. Kaikeyi, I
our race destroyed? What evil spirit has fall at your feet and beg you. Have some
possessed you and makes you dance in pity on me!"
this shameless fashion? Do you really The King rolled on the ground and
think that Bharata will agree to be king writhed in agony. What shall we say of
after sending Rama to the forest? He this scene? A great emperor, famous for
never will, and you know it. Can I his long and glorious reign, crying and
possibly bear to tell Rama to go to the rolling on the ground, clasping his wife's
forest? Will not the kings of the world feet and begging for mercy. It was like
despise me, saying, 'This uxorious old Yayati, thrown back to earth when, his
dotard has banished his eldest son, the accumulated merit exhausted, he was
best of men'? Don't you see that they ejected from Swarga.
would laugh at me? It is easy enough for No matter how humbly he begged,
you to say 'Send Rama away to the forest,' Kaikeyi was obstinate and said firmly:
but can Kausalya or I survive his "You have yourself boasted that you are a
departure? And have you thought of truth speaker. But now having sworn
Janaka's daughter? Would it not kill her to before the gods that you have granted a
hear that Rama is to go away to the boon, you attempt to retract your promise.
Dandaka forest? Cheated by your face I If you break your word, I shall surely kill
thought you a woman and took you for myself and that, will not add greatly to the
my wife. Like a deluded man, tempted by
glory of your dynasty, of which you are so Do this, my love, my life." Again the
proud!" King clung to the feet of Kaikeyi.
"Very well, then," said Dasaratha. "Let But she answered: "Have done with
Rama go to the forest and let me die. this foolery, see that you do not break
Having destroyed me and my race, a your word and drive me to keep mine, and
jubilant widow, you will gain your wish kill myself. It is useless for you to try to
and seek joy in your life!" evade."
Again, after a while, the old King The King said: "With due rites and in
cried: "What good you will gain by the presence of Fire, I took your hand and
sending Rama to the forest, I fail to see. called you wife. Here and now I renounce
The only result will be that the whole you, and with you the son you bore. Night
world will despise you. After many years is gone; the dawn is near and the morning
of prayer and penance, I had Rama by the will see not Rama's coronation, but my
grace of God. And him I now banish into funeral." Kaikeyi cut him short: "You are
the forest, I, most wretched of men!" prattling vainly. Send at once for Rama.
Lifting his eyes to the sky, he said: "Oh Let him come here. Tell him the kingdom
night! Stay on. For when you pass and day is Bharata's and he should go to the forest.
dawns, what shall I do? What shall I say Keep your promise. Do not waste time."
to those eager crowds, who, full of love Dasaratha groaned: "Very well. Let me
for Rama, will be awaiting the coronation at last set eyes on Rama's face. My death
festivities? O heavens! Stay still for my is near. Let Rama come. Let me see his
sake with your stars! No, no. Stay not, for face before I die. Tied down by dharma
then I must keep looking at this sinful this old fool is helpless."
woman. Depart at once, O night, so that I And again he fell unconscious.
may escape this face." 15. BEHOLD A WONDER!
Thus delirious and conscious by turns, POOR Dasaratha was in extreme
the poor old man suffered agony, a king agony, pulled by natural affection on one
who had reigned for sixty thousand years. side and by the moral obligation to fulfil a
"Pity me, Kaikeyi," he said. "Forget the pledge on the other. He had fondly hoped
harsh things I uttered .in anger. I beg you that Kaikeyi would relent and that
in the name of the love you bore me. You somehow the conflict of duties would be
may take it that I have given the kingdom resolved. But now he saw that this was not
to you. It is yours. And you can give it to be.
with your own hands to Rama and see that He had still one faint hope: "Rama is in
the coronation goes through. The Raja no way bound by my promises and
Sabha has decided and I have announced pledges. Strong as he is in people's love
to the elders and to Rama that his and in his peerless prowess, he may
coronation is to take place tomorrow. Let disregard my promise, and stand on his
not this announcement become false. own rights. But I cannot conceive his
Have pity on me. Give the kingdom as doing so, for my slightest wish has always
you own to Rama. The fame of this been sacred to him. Yet, if by some
magnanimous gift will last as long as the chance he did so, it would save the
world endures. My wish, the people's situation."
wish, the Elders' wish, Bharata's wish, In the confusion and anguish of his
they are all that Rama should be crowned. heart, the old King consoled himself with
such false hopes, forgetting that Rama
would never think of disregarding his people are waiting and all preparations are
father's promise and that filial obedience complete."
was a fundamental rule of his life. Sumantra approached the King's bed-
But the false hopes did not persist long. chamber and chanting the morning hymn,
He felt that his death was near. In this conveyed Vasishtha's message. "Oh
agonising conflict of duties, death would King," he said, "arise from slumber to the
be a relief, and save him from the hymn of your charioteer as the king of the
disruption and sorrows to come. gods does to Matali's waking songs. May
As death drew near, his mind recalled all the gods be gracious unto you. The
past events. He remembered a great sin elders, generals, and chief citizens are
committed by him in youth. He felt that he waiting for your darshan. The goddess of
was now reaping what he then sowed: "I night has withdrawn. The day's work
killed the Rishi's son and brought grief to awaits your ordering. Oh King of kings,
his aged parents. How could this sin be be pleased to rise. Holy Vasishtha and his
wiped off except by my suffering the men are waiting."
anguish of losing a dear son?" Thus At that moment the King was
Dasaratha resigned himself to his fate as a speechless with agony, but Kaikeyi boldly
just retribution for the wrong he had once answered for him and told Sumantra: "The
done. King spent the night talking of Rama's
He concluded that be had no alternative coronation and had no sleep. So now he is
but to fulfil his word to his cruel wife and in a slumber. Go at once and bring Rama."
left the ordering of things entirely to Thus the clever woman sent Sumantra
Kaikeyi. to fetch Rama to convey the King's
Day dawned. The hour fixed for the command. She knew that Dasaratha had
coronation was approaching. The agreed but had not the strength to do what
procession of Vasishtha and his disciples had to be done. Hence Kaikeyi resolved
carrying the golden vessels containing the that she would herself do what needed to
waters of holy rivers was coming towards be done.
the palace. Sumantra went to Rama's palace. Sita
The great street was decorated and was and Rama were getting ready for
crowded with eager men and women. coronation. Then Sumantra gave to Rama
They rejoiced to see Vasishtha and his the message that the King and Queen
disciples march to the palace with the holy Kaikeyi wanted his presence. Rama
waters, and the paraphernalia of hastened to obey.
installation. As they saw the honey, curds, The unexpected delay and these
clarified butter, fried rice, sacred grass, strange goings and comings roused
flowers, maidens, elephants, horses and doubts, but no one dared to talk of them.
chariots, the white umbrella, the bull, the The men concerned hoped that somehow
horse and the tiger-skin seat moving to the things would turn out right and went on
accompaniment of music from many with their allotted work.
instruments, the people made loud and The streets were brightly decorated; the
jubilant acclamations which filled the air. great hour was approaching as in the
Vasishtha, approaching the palace gate, Queen's chamber strange and sinister
saw Sumantra and said to him: "Pray, go events were developing.
in at once and inform the King that the
"Why this long delay?" the people did so. Is this worthy of him? Is it not
wondered. "Perhaps the preliminary rites unbecoming of a King to pledge his word
are more elaborate than we had thought." and then regret it? You have the power to
The crowds in the streets grew bigger fulfil his promise, but he fears even to tell
and bigger and more impatient. you of it and is thinking of violating it.
Sumantra accompanied Rama to Would it be right? If you assure him that
Kaikeyi's palace, treading the way with he need not be anxious about your attitude
difficulty through the throng. Rama and that he should keep his word at all
entered the Queen's apartment. As he costs, you will give him the needed
stepped over the threshold, he started as if strength to behave righteously. You must
he had set his foot upon a snake, for he give him the help he needs. The thing is in
saw with awe-struck amazement his father your hands. I shall tell you what it is, but
lying on the bare floor in anguish. The after you promise me that you will help
King evidently had been struck down with the King to fulfil his pledge."
some great sorrow. His face was like a Rama, saddened at the thought that he
parijata blossom wilted in the sun. should in any way be the occasion of
He touched his father's feet and paid distress to his father, said to Kaikeyi:
the same filial worship to Kaikeyi. "Mother, am I indeed the cause of all this
Dasaratha uttered in a low voice the trouble? I do not deserve that you should
name of Rama and stopped. He could have any doubts about me. If my father
speak no more. He could not look straight asks me to jump into the fire, I shall not
into the face of Rama. hesitate to do it. If he asks me to drink
Rama was perplexed and filled with poison, I shall drink it without hesitation.
apprehension at the sight of his father, You know this. You know well enough
lying there unable to speak, in the grip of that at his bidding I would drown myself
some great agony. What it could be Rama in the sea. Here mother, I give you my
could not even guess. solemn promise that I shall fulfil the
He turned to Kaikeyi and said: King's promise to you, and I never break
"Mother, this is indeed strange. No matter my word."
how angry he was, my father would speak When Rama uttered these words,
sweetly to me. Have I without knowing it Kaikeyi exulted, for she knew she had
offended him in any matter? Has some conquered. The King for his part was in
sudden sickness struck him down? Has despair, seeing that all escape was now
someone spoken rudely to him? Do tell barred.
me what has happened. I can bear this Thereupon the pitiless Kaikeyi uttered
suspense no longer." these terrible words: "Rama, your words
Bold Kaikeyi seized the chance and are worthy of you. What higher duty has a
said: "The King is angry with no one. son than helping fulfilment of the word
There is nothing wrong with his health. his father has given? Now I shall let you
But there is something in his mind which know your father's promise to me. When
he is afraid to tell you. That is all. He is in the battle with Sambara your father was
afraid to say it to you, lest you should feel wounded, I rescued and revived him.
hurt. That is why he is silent. Once upon a Your father in gratitude for having been
time, pleased with me he offered, and I rescued by me when grievously wounded
accepted, the gift to two boons. Now, like gave me two boons to be claimed and
an uncultured person, the King regrets he specified when I choose. I have claimed
and specified them now. They are that his face from me and refrain from
Bharata should be anointed Yuvaraja and speaking loving words to me? My
that you should be sent away this very day grievance, if at all, is that he did not send
to the Dandaka forest, to remain in exile for me straight and give me his command.
for fourteen years. You have sworn I shall go to the forest this very day, with
solemnly to carry out his promise to me, no regret. Send swift messengers at once
and now it is your duty to prove true to to fetch Bharata home."
your pledged word. If you find right The Prince's face glowed like a
conduct as hard as your father did, that is sacrificial fire bursting into flame as the
another matter. Otherwise, listen to what I ghee is poured into it. Kaikeyi felt glad at
say. It is for you now to relinquish the her apparent success. She could not look
installation and to go out into exile with into the future and its sorrow, for what
matted locks and hermit weeds, leaving greater grief can come to a woman than
the preparations now ready to serve for the scorn of her own son? Greed deceived
Bharata's installation." her into folly. It prevented her from
When she uttered these cruel words the understanding aright the mind of her own
King writhed in agony, but Rama heard son Bharata.
her untroubled. Kaikeyi beheld a miracle. Like a captive elephant hemmed in on
There was not the slightest sign of all sides, Dasaratha lay in anguish. With
disappointment or sorrow in Rama's face. needless harshness, Kaikeyi hurried Rama
Smiling, the Prince said: "Is that all, saying, "Do not wait for the King to speak
mother? Surely, the King's promise must and prolong the affair."
be fulfilled. My hair shall be twisted and I At this Rama said: "Mother, you have
shall wear the bark and I shall go this very not, it seems, known me. I value no
day to the forest." pleasure higher than to honor my father's
Kaikeyi spoke prophetic words when pledge. Let Bharata carry the burden of
she said Rama's dutifulness would bring kingship, and look after our aged father. It
him glory undying. That glory will will indeed give me the greatest joy."
continue as long as the Himalaya stands Dasaratha, silent till now though
and the waters of Ganga flow and as long listening intently, moaned aloud. Rama
as the ocean-waves beat on the solid earth. touched the feet of his father and Kaikeyi
Rama said to Kaikeyi, in unperturbed and hurried out of the chamber.
tones: "I am not in the least annoyed. Lakshmana had been standing outside. He
Would I not be happy to give anything to knew what had happened and with eyes
Bharata? Even if no one asked me, I red with anger he followed Rama.
would cheerfully give him my all. And On the way Rama saw the vessels
how can I hold back a moment when my holding the consecrated water for the
father commands it? What pains me a coronation. He walked round them in
little is that father should have entertained worship. With calm majesty lie left behind
any doubt about my willingness. Why the white umbrella and other royal
should he have hesitated to tell me what insignia and advised the crowds to
he wanted and left it to you to say it to disperse. The Prince, in whom desire had
me? Am I not his son, bound to do his been vanquished, went to the house of
behest? What glory or what joy can I look Queen Kausalya to give her the news and
for except to make good his word? How take her blessings before departing to the
did I deserve it that my father should avert forest.
Readers should exercise their cut down. Lakshmana and Rama gently
imagination and build up in their own raised her.
hearts the passions and sorrows of the She clung to Rama and cried: "Is my
persons figuring in this epic. Dasaratha's heart made of stone or iron that I still
anguish, Rama's cheerful renunciation and live?"
the greedy passion of Kaikeyi which Lakshmana could not bear the sight of
smothered all noble impulses these are the Queen's grief. Angrily he spoke: "This
familiar phases in our daily lives. old King has pronounced on Rama a
Valmiki and Kamban saw with the doom that is reserved for the most wicked
vision of genius and made the events in evil-doers. What sin or crime has Rama
Rama's story live again in song. We too committed? Not even his worst enemy
should see them through imagination. could find any fault in Rama. The doting
This is the meaning of the tradition that old man has lost his senses over his young
wherever Rama's tale is told Hanuman wife and is not fit to be king any more.
himself joins the gathering and reverently How can a king listen to a woman and
stands listening with tear-filled eyes. May violate dharma? Even your enemies, O!
everyone that reads this chapter receive by Rama, when they look at you begin to
Rama's grace and strength to bear the love you, but this dotard of a father sends
sorrows that have to be faced in life. you to the forest. Look here, brother, let
16. STORM AND CALM us together throw out this King and take
RAMA went to Queen Kausalya's charge of the kingdom. Who will dare
dwelling. Many visitors were assembled oppose us? I shall make an end of anyone
there, eagerly awaiting the coronation. In who dares. Only give me leave and I shall
the innermost apartment, the Queen, clad do this single-handed. A young brother to
in white silk, was before the sacrificial become King and you to go to the forest!
fire invoking blessings on her son. The world would laugh at this absurdity.
As soon as Rama entered, she Don't consent to this. I at any rate won't
embraced him and showed him, who she stand this. I shall put down all opposition
thought, was to become the Yuvaraja, to a and see that you rule the kingdom without
specially raised seat. delay or hindrance. Never doubt but I
"Mother, this seat is now too high for have strength to do it. Instead of the sun
me," said Rama. "I am a hermit and rising, a great darkness has descended
should sit on grass spread on the floor. I upon the land this morning, for when we
have brought you news, which may were expecting your coronation the King
sadden you. Listen, and give me your sentences you to banishment! In the face
blessings." of such injustice there is no use being nice
And he told her briefly what had and polite. I cannot stand this. I must do
happened: "The King wishes to give the my duty. Mother, now you will see the
crown to Bharata. His command is that I strength of my arm and so will you,
should spend fourteen years in the brother."
Dandaka forest. I must leave today, Lakshmana's words were some solace
mother, and I come for your blessings to Kausalya, but yet this strange talk of
before I go." ousting the King and seizing the throne
When Kausalya heard this, she fell on frightened her.
the ground like a plantain tree suddenly She said: "Rama, consider well what
Lakshmana says. Don't go to the forest. If
you go away, how can I stay here all alone great joy. Let us forget all about the
among enemies? I too shall go with you." coronation, and think worthily as becomes
Rama had listened in silence to our race. Consider our father's condition.
Lakshmana's outburst, for it was wise to Our hearts should go out to him in
let the pent up passion find outlet in sympathy, for he is stricken with a great
words. Then, turning to Kausalya he said: sorrow. Whatever be the reason, he gave a
"Mother, let there be no talk of anyone promise and if he should break it, he
going with me to the forest. It is your duty would be committing a shameful sin
to stay here serving the King and sharing which would besmirch and blot out all his
the sorrow that has come to him in his old great and glorious deeds. He is heart-
age. How can the crowned Queen of an broken at the wrong he feels he has done
Emperor wander with me like a widow in me. But I do not feel it a wrong at all, for
the forest? This cannot be. I shall return a king must keep his word and a son must
after my term of forest life. It is my duty obey his father. You should show that you
to fulfil my father's word. It is all the same too are free from any sense of injury. Only
to me, whether it is just or unjust, so can we bring him mental relief. He
spontaneous or extorted by force or fraud. gave us the life that we hold and we
If I fail in this primary duty, I can gain no should give him peace of mind. He is
satisfaction or good name through any afraid about the other world. We should
amount of wealth or power. Lakshmana, free him from this fear. So far, we have
your proposals are quite wrong. I know never given him cause for sorrow or
your great strength and I have no doubt dissatisfaction. Now we have become the
that you can vanquish and destroy all cause of a great fear in his mind about
opponents and secure for me the kingdom. what is to happen to him in the other
I know also your affection for me. But the world. We can easily relieve him. Instead
way in which you propose to use it is not of doing this, are we to add to his
worthy of the dynasty to which we troubles? For this reason my mind has
belong. Our highest duty is to fulfil our altogether turned away from the
father's word. If we fail in that, no other coronation and is intent on the journey to
achievement can make up for it." the forest. My sole desire now is to go to
Rama tried to console both his mother the forest and see that Bharata is crowned.
and his brother, but Lakshmana's anger This would please me best. If I delay,
could not be easily put down. Perhaps it Kaikeyi will grow suspicious. Hence I
could have been, if he himself, not Rama, should go to the forest this very day and
were the sufferer. But it was Rama who bring peace to her mind. Rid of the fear of
was the victim of this cruel injustice. And the sin of breaking a promise and assured
so Lakshmana writhed in anger like a of my willing and cheerful acceptance of
wounded cobra. Rama took him apart, his command, our father will be happy.
made him sit down and tried to calm him: And we should not be angry with Kaikeyi
"Lakshmana, are you not my other self, either. Has she not been kind to us all
my very soul in another body? Listen to these years? That she should suddenly
me. You are courageous and strong. conceive this idea is surely the working of
Control your anger and grief on my fate. We should not blame her for it. One
account. Don't allow these evil spirits to proposes something and fate decides
possess you. Holding fast to dharma, let otherwise. In this, Kaikeyi is but a passive
us convert our present disgrace into a instrument in the hand of fate. Our little
mother will have to bear the grievous In the Kamban Ramayana also,
burden of the world's blame, but our love addressing his brother 'raging like the fire
for her should remain the same as ever. If, of dissolution,' Rama says: "It is not the
before this, there had been evil in her river's fault that the bed is dry. Even so,
thought, her conduct would have shown it. my going hence is not the King's fault, nor
There is no doubt that some higher force Queen Kaikeyi's nor her son's. The wrong
has made her say suddenly and harshly, is the work of fate. Why should one be
'Rama, go to the forest.' Otherwise how angry then?"
could a high-minded woman who so far This explanation calmed Lakshmana
looked upon us as her own children now for a while. But soon his anger boiled up
behave so brazenly before her husband? again. He said: "Very well, then. This is
Who can oppose destiny? Even steadfast the work of fate. Fate, I grant, is the cause
sages have swerved suddenly from their of our step-mother's sudden folly. And I
tapas. How can poor Kaikeyi hope to am not angry with her. But are we, on that
resist fate? Let us resolve firmly to change account, to sit still and do nothing? It is
this sorrow into joy. That would be a Kshatriya dharma to overcome evil and
proof of our nobility and courage, establish justice. A hero does not bow
Lakshmana. With the blessings of my down before fate. Having announced
mothers and elders, I shall go to the forest. Rama's coronation by beat of drum to the
Bring here the water, the water from the town and country, the treacherous King
Ganga for the coronation. I shall use it for invokes some old forgotten boon and
ablution before departing for the forest. orders you to go to the forest. Is it manly
No. no, that water belongs to the State and to call this fate and obey it meekly? Only
is intended for the coronation. How can cowards go down under fate. Heroes
we touch it? We shall go to holy Ganga should oppose and vanquish it. I am no
ourselves and fetch the water for my weakling to yield to fate. You will see
ablution. Brother, be not sad thinking of today the might of a hero matched against
kingdom or wealth; life in the forest will fate. I shall tame the mad elephant fate
be my highest joy." and make it serve me. I shall banish to the
So Rama revealed to his brother his forest those who conspired to banish you.
inmost thoughts. In these passages If you wish to visit the forest for a change,
Valmiki uses the word daiva. In Sanskrit you can do so later. The proper time for it
literature, daivam means fate. Daivam, will be when you have reigned as king for
dishtam, bhagyam, niyati and vidhi are all many years and then entrusted the crown
words conveying the idea of something to your sons. That was the way of our
unexpected and inexplicable. Because of ancestors. If anyone questions your
the belief in God as the Prime Cause, a kingship now, I stand here to annihilate
natural confusion arises between fate and him. Are these two shoulders merely for
God's will. What Rama said to Lakshmana beauty? This bow, these arrows and this
on the present occasion does not mean sword hanging on my side are they mere
that he thought that the gods contrived decorations? Or do you think they are
Kaikeyi's action for their own benefit. theatrical equipment put on for show? I
Rama offered no more than the usual await your orders. Give me the word and
consolation: "It is the work of fate. Do not test my prowess."
grieve. No one is to blame for this." Rama gently pacified Lakshmana's
rage which was flaming up into a
conflagration. "As long as our parents are illumines one's being as with an Inner
alive," said Rama, "it is our duty to obey Light!
them. I cannot dream of disobeying my We saw that Rama left Sita and went to
father. It is our prime duty to do his the King in answer to the message brought
bidding and enable him to fulfil his by Sumantra. Sita was expecting Rama to
pledge. What joy is there in getting a return in a chariot with the royal umbrella,
kingship after insulting our parents and followed by a great retinue. But now she
slaying Bharata, the embodiment of saw Rama return alone, unattended, with
dharma?" none of the royal insignia. And she noted
And he wiped with his hand the tears on his face the glow of some fixed
from Lakshmana's eyes. When Rama did resolve. Rama was thinking as he came
this, Lakshmana grew calm for the how he could break to his beloved the
affectionate magic of Rama's hand could news that his father had decreed that he
work wonders. was to go to forest.
17. SITA'S RESOLVE "Something troubles the mind of my
What took place in the inner lord," thought Sita, "but what can
apartments of the palace was not yet anything matter so long as there is our
known to the town-people. But Rama for love?" And she asked him: "What is the
his part lost no time in preparing for forest matter? Why do you look so strangely?"
life. Rama told the story briefly and then
He went to Queen Kausalya to receive added: "Princess, my love, I can well
her blessings before leaving the city. imagine your sorrow at having to part
Kausalya said to him again: "How can I from me and stay here. Janaka's daughter
stay in Ayodhya after you are gone? It is requires not my guidance to her duty. Be
best that I go with you to the forest." Of thoughtful of the comfort of the King and
course, she knew that her duty was to the three Queens, your mothers. Do not
serve her husband in his old age and share expect any better treatment than that given
his sorrow in Ayodhya. And yet her mind to the other princesses in the palace. Be
was now so confused by grief that she did respectful to Bharata who will be ruler
not see things clearly. and guard against any offence to his
But Rama would not hear of it and put feelings. Your love for me, I trust, will not
her in mind of her duty to be with the grow any less during this absence. I shall
heart-stricken old King in his sad solitude. return from forest after these fourteen
She recognised the justice of this years. Till then do not neglect customary
counsel. She gave him her benedictions in rites and ceremonies. Mother Kausalya in
sweet words diluted with the salt of her sorrow will need your attentive care.
broken tears. "Do as your father has Bharata and Satrughna are dear to me.
decreed and return in glory." Rama put You will look upon them as your brothers.
heart in her with a smile saying: "The Conduct yourself as befits your royal race
fourteen years will pass quickly and you and your own nature. Avoid extolling me
will see me back." so as to give possible offence to other
The poet says that, as Rama received good men. I must go to the forest today.
his mother's benedictions, his bright face Keep your mind steady and calm."
glowed with added effulgence. How truly When Sita heard this unexpected
he pictures the sublime loveliness that speech, her love for Rama manifested
comes of a great renunciation that itself as anger that he should for a moment
conceive that she could consent to part the sight of you. The sun, rain, wind and
from him and live in comfort in the palace hunger and the spikes and thorny shrubs
while he was a homeless wanderer in you speak of, I shall endure them all
pathless forests. "A fine speech you have cheerfully. I am not in the least afraid, and
made, knower of dharma. It is to me a on the other hand you may be certain life
strange doctrine that a wife is diverse will depart from this body if you leave me
from her husband and that his duty is not here and go."
hers, and that she has no right to share in "When I was in Mithila," she said, "the
it. I can never accept it. I hold that your Brahmanas and astrologers told my
fortunes are mine, and if Rama has to go mother that I was destined to live in the
to the forest, the command includes Sita forest for a while. Can I fulfil this
also, who is a part of him. I shall walk in prediction alone in the forest? Here is the
front of you in the forest ways and tread opportunity for me to fulfil it in your
the thorns and the hard ground to make company which will make the forest a
them smooth for your feet. Do not think garden of delight. For whom is forest life
me obstinate. My father and mother have unpleasant? Only to those men and
instructed me in dharma. What you tell women who have not controlled their
me is totally opposed to what they have senses. You and I can be masters of our
taught me. To go with you wherever you senses and miss nothing. I implore you,
go, that is my only course. If you must go put me not away from you, for parting
to the forest today, then today I go with from you is more cruel than death."
you. There is no room here for any There is a strength in supreme love
discussion. Do not think that I cannot bear which defies reason and laughs at death
forest life. With you by my side it will be itself. And Rama suffered himself to be
a joyous holiday. I shall not be a source of persuaded, partly because his love was
trouble to you. I shall eat fruit and roots great as hers and every passionate word
like you and I shall not lag behind as we she spoke found ready lodgment in his
walk. I have long wished to go to the heart, and partly because he was confident
woods with you and rejoice in the sight of of his ability to protect her. It was settled
great mountains and rivers. I shall spend that Sita should accompany Rama to the
the time most happily among the birds and forest.
flowers, bathing in the rivers and doing She sent for the poor and gave away all
the daily rites. Away from you, I do not her belongings and prepared herself for
care for Heaven itself. I shall surely die if life in the forest. Lakshmana also decided
you leave me behind. I implore you to to go with his brother and be of service to
take me with you. Have pity on me. Do him in the forest, and Rama had to agree.
not forsake me now." The three went to take leave of the aged
Beginning in anger, her speech ended King.
in sobs. Rama explained to Sita that life in In the streets and on the balconies were
the forest was not as easy as she thought crowds of people looking on. Through the
and set out at great length the difficulties windows and from the terraces of
and dangers and again insisted that she mansions, men and women saw Rama and
should not think of accompanying him. Lakshmana and the princess proceeding
Sita's eyes filled with tears. "Tigers, on foot, like the poorest in the land.
lions, bears, snakes none of them will Filled with boundless grief and
come near me. They will flee from us at indignation, the people said to one
another: "What kind of a King is this who Rama and Lakshmana tenderly lifted
sends so noble a prince to the forest? And him up and put him on the couch. "My
their Sita walks a princess that should Lord," said Rama, "we have come to seek
command the service of the royal chariot. your leave to go to I the forest. Vaidehi
Can she bear the heat and the rain of the and Lakshmana too are going with me in
forest? This is monstrous! We shall go spite of all I could do to make them desist.
then to the forest too. Let us gather up all Pray give us your benedictions and leave
we have and get away to the forest with to depart."
these princes. The forest where Rama Dasaratha then said: "Rama, I am
dwells shall be our Ayodhya. Let these bound by the boons that I have given to
houses here henceforth deserted be Kaikeyi. But you are not so bound. Why
infested with snakes and rats. Let Kaikeyi do you not brush me aside and seize the
rule over the ruins of Ayodhya. Wild kingdom by force?"
beasts and vultures of the forest will come That had long been in the King's mind
to stay here. This will become a forest, as the best and only solution of this cruel
and the forest will become Ayodhya." problem and came out now clearly in
Rama heard people talking thus, but words.
took no notice. At the entrance to But Rama said: "I have no desire for
Kaikeyi's palace, Rama saw Sumantra kingdom or power, father. May you reign
seated sorrow fully aside in a corner. for a thousand years more. My heart is
Rama tenderly spoke to him: "The three of now set on going to the forest and I am
us have come to meet the King. Sumantra, even now in readiness to start after
crave leave for us to enter his presence." receiving your blessing. When the
Sumantra went, in accordingly to fourteen years have passed I shall return
announce them to the King. What a sight and tender obeisance."
met him there! Like the sun in eclipse, The King's faint hope, it was now
like an oven filled all over with ash, like a clear, must be abandoned. "My son! Bring
tank gone dry, the King was stretched flat glory to our line of kings. Go, but come
on the floor, his glory gone and his face back unscathed. May danger flee from
shrunken and distorted with anguish. your path. Cling to dharma. You are
Sumantra, his voice trembling with unshakable in resolution. Firm and
grief and his hands clasped together, said: unchangeable is your will. But do not go
"The Prince waits at the entrance and away today. Spend but this night here
seeks audience to take your blessings with me. Let me fill my eyes with the
before he gives away all he has to the sight of you. You can go away at dawn.
Brahmanas and starts for the Dandaka Like one handling a live coal deceptively
forest." covered with ash, I gave the promise to
The King bade Sumantra let the Prince Kaikeyi not knowing what was in her
in. mind. I am now helpless and caught in her
Rama came and bowed to the King net. And you say, 'I shall fulfil my father's
from a distance. As soon as he saw Rama, promise. I shall not let dishonor blot the
the King suddenly rose and rushed with name of my father. I shall give up the
out stretched arms to embrace him, but kingdom and go to the forest.' Where in
dropped in a swoon before reaching his the world can one find a son like unto
son. you? I swear to you, I did not intend this
great wrong."
Thus piteously spoke the King. It was As he spoke Kaikeyi's face paled with
Dasharatha's wish to die without losing, anger. She glowered at the King, and in a
even in his last moments, the respect of voice tremulous with scornful wrath she
Rama. said:
"Father, send for Bharata at once and "A good and generous monarch surely!
fulfil the promise you have given to You will give Bharata this kingdom after
mother Kaikeyi. Do not be troubled by the squeezing out of it all the good it holds, as
thought that you are doing me a wrong, one might offer in mockery an empty
for I had no desire for the throne, and do drinking vessel to a man dying of thirst!
not feel it a deprivation to be denied it. What pleasure or glory will my son have
Untroubled by grief or doubt, have in ruling a deserted state?"
Bharata crowned and give him your Dasaratha groaned in helpless chagrin
blessings. Cast all grief aside. Shed no and marveled at a cruelty that could stab a
tears. Can the ocean dry up? So may you man already crushed under an intolerable
too not lose your balance ever, great burden. Angry words rose from the
father. My sole wish is to make good the mouths of those around, for even the
word you gave. If I got all the wealth of courtiers found this open heartlessness
the world, but falsify your word, what joy more than they could suffer in silence.
would that be to me? I shall spend my Rama put an end to all recriminations by
time happily in the forest. Where but in saying he would not agree to take
the forests can one find beauty or joy? paraphernalia incongruous with what was
Father, you are my God. I take it that it is intended in forest life.
God that sends me to the forest. When the "Honored Lord," he said, "what use
fourteen years are over, you will see me have I, who am departing to the forest to
again. Do not grieve. What profits it that I live on what sylvan nature yields, for an
stay here a night longer and go tomorrow? army or the glittering equipage of a royal
Time is made up of a succession of pageant? After gladly renouncing the
tomorrows and one day is just like throne, what use have I for its restrains?
another. Inevitable sorrows do not become Would it not be covetous folly, after
joys by postponement." having parted with the elephant, to burden
"Well then, send for the commanders," oneself with the ponderous chain? Father,
said the King to Sumantra, "and order I have cheerfully relinquished my claim to
them to get ready the chariots, elephants, the kingdom in favor of Bharata and his
horses and foot soldiers, to go with Rama mother, and with it all the incidents of
to the forest. And along with the army royalty. For my fourteen years of forest
send all the necessary stores for Rama to life I require nothing but bark garments
live with the Rishis of the forest. Let there such as Rishis wear and simple
be nothing wanting in men, money or necessaries of forest life such as spades
things." and baskets."
Poor Dasaratha imagined that he could Hardly had Rama spoken these words
make Rama's exile to the forest something when the unabashed Kaikeyi hastened to
like a royal tour affording a pleasant produce the forest dress! She had kept it
change from routine and enlivened by ready and gave it herself without a blush
exchange of gracious hospitalities with the to Rama. Then and there Rama dressed
sylvan population. himself in bark. And in these garments be
shone like a Rishi. Lakshmana too
changed into bark dress, while Dasaratha some time before he could muster his
watched all this in helpless anguish. faculties sufficiently even to think.
Then Kaikeyi brought a bark dress for When he recovered some strength, he
Sita too. She received it and stood muttered half unconsciously: "Surely I
bewildered, for she had never worn such must in a previous birth have inflicted
garments before and did not know how to hideous suffering to loving hearts. I must
change into them. have torn calves from their mothers,
Approaching Rama, who stood there children from their parents, husbands
resplendent with divine effulgence, Sita from their wives. How else could I suffer
said shyly: "Pray tell me, how does one thus? And death does not come when we
put this thing on?" As Rama took up the want it. And I have to endure the torture
bark dress and, wrapping it over Sita's of always having before my mind's eye
silk, made a knot over her shoulder, the my godlike son deprived of his birthright
ladies-in-waiting wailed aloud and and forced into the bark-garments of a
Dasaratha fell into a swoon. hermit. O life, how bitterly you cling to
When he regained consciousness, he those who would be rid of you! Rama has
loudly reviled Kaikeyi, but she only gone into exile and yet I do not die! Rama
smiled scornfully. She surely was not ... Rama ... Have you gone? ..."
responsible for Sita going to the forest. A little later, his mind clearer, the King
The princess sought her own pleasure by said: "Sumantra, get ready the chariot and
going to the forest with her husband and take my sons and Janaki to the frontier of
would not be dissuaded. the kingdom."
Lowering his eyes as he was leaving, Lakshmana touched the feet of his
Rama said: "Father, I leave behind my mother Sumitra and uttered the single
mother Kausalya, blameless and tender- word "Mother." She embraced him, kissed
hearted lady, bereft of her son in her old his head and said: "Your devotion to your
age. This sudden fate is bitter to her as brother has filled your mother's heart with
death, but she consents to live only for pride and joy. It is your duty, child, to
your sake, to share your sorrow and guard and serve Rama. Always stand in
console you. She is incapable of harboring vigilant watch by Rama's side in the
an unkind thought towards anyone, and forest. Your elder brother is to you both
she has never before felt the pang of such preceptor and king. This is the dharma of
poignant parting. Be kind to her when I our race. Go with my blessing,
am no longer here and, when I return after Lakshmana. In the forest, regard Rama as
my long exile in the hope of putting my your father and look upon Janaki as
head on her feet, let me not hear that she myself and the forest will be to you as
has died of sorrow." Thus Rama spoke, Ayodhya. Go cheerfully, my dear son, and
unable to bear the thought of his mother's God bless you."
grief. As Rama went out speaking thus, In the Ramayana, Sumitra is a woman
Dasaratha could not endure the sight and of few words and mature wisdom and
covered his face with his hands. great tact and infinite courage, full of
18. TO THE FOREST faith, in whom 'hope shines like a fame
AFTER Rama left his father's presence when it has gone out in all others.' The
with these words, the stricken King lay tradition is that Sumitra knew Rama's
prostrated in speechless sorrow, and it was divinity and the purpose of his incarnation
and that this enabled her not only to
comfort Kausalya but to see a holy crowded streets, the houses were full of
ministration in Lakshmana's sharing mourning women and children.
Rama's exile. The King stepped out of Kaikeyi's
Sumitra said: "Ascend the chariot, O apartment and looked at the departing
Prince. God blesses you. Tell me where I chariot. A long time he stood there
am to drive, for the fourteen-year period watching the cloud of dust as though he
has begun, my Prince." saw in it the beloved form of Rama. When
Sita got up the chariot cheerfully. even this went out of sight, he fell down,
Kausalya had made up for her a packet of moaning. Kausalya and Kaikeyi sat on
personal requirements. The shields, bows either side.
and arrows and other weapons of the two "Do not touch me," said Dasaratha to
brothers together with pickaxes and Kaikeyi. "I hate the sight of you, sinful
baskets were placed in the chariot. woman! Everything is at an end between
Pickaxes and baskets are essential in the you and me. I renounce you here and
forest. Rama and Lakshmana ascended the now."
chariot. Sumantra drove it forward. "If Bharata agrees to your
Let us pause a while at this stage when arrangements and accepts the kingdom,"
Rama's forest life begins, and pray that we he said again, "he need not perform my
may be purified of our sins. Truth, obsequies, and even if he did, my departed
courage and love are the gospel of the spirit would reject his offering of waters.
Ramayana to us. To give it to us was How can Rama live in the forest? Will he
Rama born. We shall gain these gifts if we sleep on the bare ground with a stone or a
meditate on the Princes and Janaki in the log for a pillow? Will he eat fruits and
bark habiliment as they left the city. berries?"
The crowds in the street cried to the Thus the king went on lamenting
charioteer: "Go slow, go slow. Let us have helplessly.
a look at Rama's face. Alas, Alas, who Sometimes he would turn to Kaikeyi
could send such children to the forest? and say, "May you be happy in your
How could their mothers endure this success! Long may you live a happy
sorrow and survive? Look at Vaidehi's widow."
face. She is indeed blessed. And Heart-broken and empty like one
Lakshmana is happy to have such a returning home from the cremation
brother to whom he can give devoted ground, he entered Kaikeyi's apartment by
service. He is indeed a hero and a knower force of habit; then suddenly he said, "Not
of dharma." So the people of the city here. Take me to the dwelling of
talked among themselves as they followed Kausalya."
the chariot. And their grief swelled like a And so they did, and there he lay
flood. waiting for his end.
Rama was saying to the good At midnight, he said, "Kausalya, are
charioteer, "Faster, faster" The people you there? Touch me with your hand. My
were saying, "slow, slow." And the crowd sight is gone with Rama."
became bigger and bigger. Sumantra Poor Kausalya did her best to comfort
managed somehow to take the chariot out the King, but what comfort was there in
of the press of the mourning town where, her wounded heart to give? For as the
in addition to the loud sorrow of the slow sorrow-laden hours crawled from
watch to watch, the cold night seemed to
her a devouring flame, and the gentle will see with your own eyes Rama
moon fierce as the noonday sun. returning after fulfilment of his vow.
To her thus sorrowing Sumitra said: Believe me, Rama will return, beautiful
"Sister, you have heard the Shastras and like the full moon, and touch your feet
know dharma. Why should you grieve like with joy and devotion. You will then shed
this? It is your office to put courage in tears not of grief but of joy. Dear, dear
others, you should not lose heart yourself. Kausalya, give up your grief. You will see
Rama has gone to the forest for guarding the three of them returning. You should
the King's honor. You are indeed blessed console and encourage the other women
among women, for you are the mother of in the palace and not stand broken-hearted
a hero who has scorned a kingdom and yourself. Who else in this world stands
preferred to uphold his father's honor. firm by dharma like Rama? Is this a cause
Why should you grieve for a son who for grief? No, be proud of your son,
fulfils a difficult duty to perfection? We Kausalya!"
should not feel sorry for one who walks in Listening to Sumitra's words, Kausalya
the path of his ancestors and wins undying was somewhat consoled.
fame. I am proud that Lakshmana has The people of the city followed Rama's
accompanied Rama. Janaki, though chariot in a huge crowd. They tried to stop
knowing well the hardships she has to the chariot, shouting, "Do not go to the
face, has also gone with her husband. forest. Return to the city."
Rama's glory will shine like an undying "I am going to the forest to uphold my
lamp. This is no occasion for grief. His father's, word," Rama said. "There is no
purity, his virtue shall be a shield and time for sorrow here and you should not
armor to them. He is so great and holy seek to hinder me."
that the sunrays falling on him will not But the people would not listen to him,
burn him and the wind that blows will and went in crowds after him shouting
caress him with its coolness. His pure wildly: "Do not go to the forest, do not go
frame, as he sleeps at night, will be to the forest!" Rama stopped the chariot
embraced and protected by the moon- and addressed them with his eyes full of
beams as an infant is by its loving mother. love for them: "Citizens of Ayodhya, I
Shed all anxiety over your heroic son. No know the love you bear for me. You will
foe can en counter him and escape with show it best by transferring it on my
life. Our Rama is endowed with all behalf, and at my behest, to my beloved
auspicious qualities. Your hero son will brother Bharata. Nothing else will please
surely return to Ayodhya and ascend the me more. Bharata is good and noble, has
throne. The Lord of the world, and no all royal qualities and is fully worthy of
other, is Rama. Sita is with him, and Sita love. So conduct yourselves as to please
is no other than the Goddess Lakshmi. him. Young in years, he is old in wisdom
Rama will return and ascending the throne and his heart is at once heroic and tender.
will fill with delight the kingdom which He has the strength to protect you. He is
now laments his exile. You saw the grief your king, and you owe him loyalty and
of the citizens as they watched his affection. I am going to the forest to fulfil
departure. My heroic son, the devoted my father word and the King has
Lakshmana, armed with bow and sword, appointed Bharata as Yuvaraja. He is in
has gone with him to guard his person. No every way fitted for that position. You and
harm, no danger can approach Rama. You I alike should obey the King's commands.
You should go back and try to mitigate he himself spent the night in vigil talking
the sorrow of my father at parting from with Sumantra.
me." Long before dawn Rama rose from
Thus Rama spoke to them in kindly sleep and told Sumantra: "The citizens
tones. But they loved him all the more who have followed us, fatigued by their
because of this and would not be long journey, are fast asleep. I am deeply
consoled. Some Brahmanas, old in years moved by their affection; but I cannot
and excellent in virtue, looking at the permit their love to force me to go back.
chariot wept and cried: "Why, O horses, Let us therefore, move on even now,
do you carry our Rama into the forest? while they are yet asleep."
We have heard it said that horses are The horses were harnessed and the
sharp of hearing. Listen to us then and chariot slowly crossed the river. Standing
bring back our Rama." on the southern bank, Rama told
Hearing these words of yearning from Sumantra:
old Brahmanas, Rama stopped the chariot. "If you take the chariot to the other
The three descended from it and went shore, where the people are asleep, and
forward walking. drive it for a little distance towards
The common people, leading citizens Ayodhya and then bring it back to this
and wise elders, men of penance, why, side, we can proceed on our journey
even the birds on wings, tried to prevent before they wake up. They will see the
Rama from going to the forest. The river track of the chariot going towards the city,
Tamasa, says the poet, seemed to conspire and thinking that we have returned home,
with them, for now it flowed across his may themselves go back. Unless you do
path. The chariot stopped on the this the crowd will go on following us."
riverbank. Sumantra unyoked and watered Sumantra did this and, when the
the horses and let them loose to graze. chariot returned, the three got into it again
Rama said: "Lakshmana, this is the and proceeded southwards.
first night of our forest ilfe. Let us spend it 19. ALONE BY THEMSELVES
on the bank of this holy river. Life in the The citizens who had slept on the bank
forest holds no hardship, as you and I of the Tamasa woke up in the morning
know. Look, the birds, the animals and and looked round. They were surprised to
even the trees seem to sympathise with us. see that Rama and the chariot had
The only pain is when we think of the disappeared. They followed the track of
grief of our parents in Ayodhya, though I the chariot-wheels but were disappointed
feel reassured as I think of Bharata's to find that it was lost in the main road to
nobility and goodness. He will assuredly the capital.
tend our parents with true affection. They returned home to their own
Sumantra, go, look after the horses." houses and sought satisfaction in reviling
Then, Rama offered the evening Kaikeyi. Without Rama, the city was
prayers by the river and said: "Let us fast bereft of beauty and wrapt in gloom.
on this first night of our forest life, Sumantra and the princes had crossed
Lakshmana. Your presence by my side the Tamasa long before dawn and
rids me of all care." travelled far into the forest. Crossing
Lakshmana spread some grass on the several streams, they approached the
ground for Rama and Sita to sleep on but southern boundary of the Kosala country.
As they journeyed on, Rama said to
Sumantra: "I wonder when I shall hunt Warmly embracing Guha again, Rama
again in the forest of Sarayu. Is hunting said: "Brother, I know how deep is your
good for princes? Perhaps, it is, in love for me. Your wish is itself as good as
moderation." hospitality rendered. I am bound by my
Thus conversing on many matters, they vows and must refuse anything more. I
went forward. When they reached the have come to dwell in the forest and not to
southern boundary of the kingdom, Rama enjoy life as a chieftain's guest. These
stopped the chariot and facing north horses are my dear father's favorites. Pray
towards Ayodhya, bent his head in a feed them well. We shall be content with
prayer, saying: "O, jewel among cities! O simple food and rest for the night."
ancient capital of the Ikshwakus! Shall I They lay under the tree for the night.
finishing my penance in the forest, live to Guha and Lakshmana kept awake,
see my father and mother and you? Grant conversing with Sumantra.
me that supreme joy." Said Guha to Lakshmana: "Brother, do
The chariot reached the bank of the go and rest. There is a bed made ready for
Ganga. They proceeded along the bank, you. My men will keep careful watch.
admiring the beauty of the river. Finding a None dare do anything in the forest
spot of surpassing charm, Rama said: "We unknown to me. Have no anxiety
shall spend the night here." regarding Rama. Do sleep."
Untying the horses, they sat under a Lakshmana replied: "How can I find
tree. Guha, the chief of the region, having sleep, Guha? Here, lying on the bare
learnt already from his men that Rama ground, is Sita, daughter of the great
would be coming there, came forward Janaka and daughter-in-law of the great
with his retinue to greet Rama and Dasaratha. The great Purushottama
Lakshmana. himself who could subdue the three
He had unbounded love for the royal worlds lies stretched on the grass. How
family and for Rama. Being the chieftain can I sleep who sees this? I wonder how
of the tribes who dwelt on the banks of Ayodhya is bearing it. He queens'
Ganga, he was a man of great prestige and apartments must be loud with wailing. I
power. Rama and Lakshmana rose to greet even doubt if at this moment Kausalya
Guha, even while the latter was still at and my mother are alive. My father
some distance from them. Guha indeed found strength somehow to say to
welcomed them with a hearty embrace, Rama, 'Go to the forest,' but I doubt if he
saying: "Regard this land as your own. has strength enough left to survive Rama's
This place is as much yours as is actual departure. And if he has passed
Ayodhya. Who can hope to have a guest away, our mothers too will have given up
like you? It is indeed my good fortune." their lives. And here we are, deprived
Guha had prepared a lavish even of the privilege of doing the last
entertainment. He said, "Feel perfectly at offices to the dead. In any case it is hardly
home and happy in my kingdom. You possible that our father and mothers will
may spend all the fourteen years with us be alive to greet us, when we return to
here. You will not lack anything I assure Ayodhya after our term in the forest."
you. Looking after you will be a pleasure Thus spoke Lakshmana in sorrow.
and privilege to me. Be gracious enough Guha was in tears. The night was spent in
to accept my hospitality." such sad conversation.
Early next morning, Rama told Tell the Maharaja that it is my earnest
Lakshmana: "We must now cross the prayer that he should hasten with the
river. Ask Guha to make ready a boat big installation of Bharata, so that he may be a
enough for crossing this broad river." comfort to him in our absence."
Guha ordered his men to get this done and But Sumantra, unable to restrain his
informed Rama. grief, burst out: "How am I to return and
Sumantra bowed low and stood before with what words can I give comfort?" And
Rama seeking his further commands. when he looked at the empty chariot, he
Rama understood Sumantra's unuttered wept and said: "How shall I drive this
grief and, laying his hand on Sumantra's chariot that stands desolate without you?"
shoulders, said: "Sumantra, return to Once again Rama spoke words of
Ayodhya with all speed and be at the side comfort and courage to Sumantra and
of the King. Your duty is now to look urged on him the duty of patience, and
after him." sent him home.
"O Rama," exclaimed Sumantra, "Guha", said Rama, "I could indeed
"rectitude, learning and culture seem to be spend fourteen years in your kingdom as
of no value. You and your brother and you desire. But would that be fulfilling
Vaidehi are going to live in the forest. my vow? I have left Ayodhya to fulfil my
What is going to be our lot? How are we father's pledge. I must therefore lead the
going to fare under Kaikeyi's rule?" He life of a tapasvi. I must not touch dishes
now wept like a child. daintily cooked and served. We have to
Wiping the tears from Sumantra's eyes, live only on fruits, roots and permissible
Rama said: "Our family has known no kinds of meat such as we offer in the
nobler friend than you. It will be your task sacrificial fire."
to console my father. His heart is river by Comforting Guha thus, the brothers got
grief. Whatever his commands carry them their locks matted with the milk of the
out dutifully. Do not ask yourself whether banyan. They helped Sita into the boat
he wants a thing for himself or with a and then got into it themselves. Guha bade
view to pleasing Kaikeyi. Avoid giving the boatmen to row it across.
him any pain of mind. Have no anxiety The boatmen took them quickly across
about us. You should say this on my the river. At midstream Sita offered a
behalf to my aged father who is stricken prayer to the goddess of the river: "Devi,
with a grief he never knew before. Clasp help us fulfil our vow and return safe to
his feet as you have seen me do, and our homeland."
assure him from me that none of us, not I They talked as they went on. They
nor Lakshmana, nor Sita, feel injured or reached the farther bank of Ganga. And
sorry at having been sent away from there for the first time, the three stood
Ayodhya. We look forward to fourteen alone, unattended by friends!
years of forest life which will speed on "Lakshmana, you are my sole armed
happy wings, and then surely we shall guard now," said Rama. "You will go
return to his feet for blessings. Give our first. Sita will follow. And I shall walk
love to my mother Kausalya, and tell her behind you both. We must save Sita as far
that protected by her blessings we are well as possible from the hardships of forest
and give a like message to my life. Hereafter there will be none to keep
stepmothers, especially to Kaikeyi, lest us company and no fun or amusement."
she should think we have parted in anger.
Rama's thoughts went to his mother on his advice and with his blessings left
Kausalya. for Chitrakuta.
"Lakshmana," he said, "should you not 20. CHITRAKUTA
go back to Ayodhya and look after mother Rama spent the night in Bharadwaja's
Kausalya and Sumitra Devi? I shall ashrama. Getting up in the morning, they
manage my forest stay somehow." paid their respects to the Maharishi and,
Lakshmana replied: "Forgive me, taking leave of him, set out for the
brother; I am not going back to Ayodhya." Chitrakuta hill. The muni treated them
Rama indeed expected no other answer. affectionately as if they were his own
Thus now and again we shall see the children and sent them forth with his
human element come up and the divine blessings after explaining to them the way
prince grieve and talk as common people they should take through the forest.
do. This is the fascination of the The three followed his topographical
Ramayana. If Almighty God remains instructions closely and in due course
almighty and does everything Himself, came upon the river Kalindi. They
then where is room or need for an avatar constructed a raft with logs and bamboos
and how could the dharma of common and creepers of the forest and on it
men be established? Lakshmana made a seat for Sita with little
This is the difference between the twigs and leaves on which she sat. The
earlier avatars and the later. In the Rama passage of the river was accomplished in
avatar, the course of human conduct and safety.
the dharma governing it come linked In midstream Sita offered salutations to
together. This has been made explicit by the river goddess and prayed that Rama
Valmiki. might fulfil his vow and the three be
On the occasion of Sita's ordeal by fire enabled safely to return home.
at the end of the battle, Rama says to After crossing a few more streams,
Brahma who appeared then among others they came to a big banyan tree which had
and deprecated the idea of putting Sita to been described by Bharadwaja. And under
proof: this tree Sita again offered prayers saying:
"I regard myself only as Rama, son of "Grant, O holy tree, that my husband may
Dasaratha, an ordinary human being. Who complete his vow and that I may see again
I am in reality, where I belong, why I took the queens Kausalya and Sumitra."
birth, are matters on which you must Rama asked Lakshmana to walk in
enlighten me, and I do not know." front with Sita behind him while he
While Rama was plunged in thinking himself followed in the rear. "Whatever,
of the mothers left behind, Lakshmana flower or fruit she asks for on the way,"
ministered to him with loving words of he said, "get it for her and keep her spirits
courage and hope. up."
They spent that night under a banyan As Sita went she showed an eager
tree and left early next morning for curiosity, asking about forest trees and
Bharadwaja's ashrama which they reached creepers and was lost in admiration at the
at sunset. many-sided beauty of forest life.
Partaking of the hospitality of the sage, They greatly enjoyed the journey and
they besought him to tell where they could rested for the night on the bank of a river.
spend the years quietly in the forest and Here and in other places, Valmiki
describes how Rama and Lakshmana
secured food by hunting. He makes it most certainly live happily here in their
quite plain that they had to subsist largely holy company."
on meat. Some good men are troubled by They proceeded to put up an ashrama
this. But meat was not prohibited for there for themselves. Lakshmana was a
Kshatriyas. Indeed, it has always been the clever workman. He soon constructed a
rule in India to permit any food strong hut, which was weather-proof and
legitimately obtained and consecrated as a made it comfortable and convenient.
sacrifice. Rama was a Kshatriya and he Single-handed, he completed the mud hut
lived in the forest in the Kshatriya way, with windows and doors all made of
though abstemiously. bamboos and jungle material.
The following morning Rama woke up Kamban and Valmiki vie with each
Lakshmana and said: "Listen, the birds are other in their accounts of this episode.
singing to the morning sun. It is time for Kamban says that when Lakshmana had
us to start." completed the structure, Rama embraced
The popular story that Lakshmana him weeping and asked him: "When and
spent the whole period of forest life how did you learn all this?" One can
without food or sleep is not found in imagine the scene.
Valmiki. Sometimes, even, through Rama, his eyes filled with tears of joy,
fatigue Lakshmana did not get up quite said, according to Kamban: "The flower-
early in the morning and Rama had to soft feet of the Princess of Mithila have
rouse him from slumber! traversed the hard forest floor. If her feet
They performed their ablutions and have done a wonder, why, Lakshmana,
worship and resumed their journey in the your hands too have wrought a miracle of
path indicated by Bharadwaja. The season house-building! I have seen today the gain
was summer and the trees and plants were that is in misfortune."
ablaze with multi colored flowers. The Here, beside the lovely Chitrakuta hill,
branches bowed under the weight of fruits on the bank of the river Malyavati, in that
and blossoms. cottage the three young people lived, free
Rama pointed out the beauty of the from care, performing their daily
forest to Sita from time to then, saying as devotional routine. They forgot that they
they walked: "How beautiful is the forest were in exile and spent the time happily,
unspoilt by human interference! Look at like Indra in Heaven surrounded by the
the beehives hanging there! Look at the gods.
ground entirely covered with fallen The happy life in Chitrakuta is a
flowers! Listen to the birds! How wonderful background to set off the later
beautifully they sing to one another and sufferings and sorrows of the three.
live in joy! Life would indeed be pleasant 21. A MOTHER'S GRIEF
if we could always enjoy such sights and Sumantra and Guha stood watching the
sounds." three figures as long as they could. When
Then they saw at a distance the they disappeared from sight, they were
Chitrakuta hill. They were glad and began plunged in sorrow and went back to
to walk briskly towards it. "How beautiful Guha's town. After a while Sumantra
this region is!" exclaimed Rama. "The returned to Ayodhya.
forest here has fine edible roots and fruits. As the charioteer approached the city,
The water is clear and sweet. Rishis dwell he found it desolate and devoid of the
in ashramas in this forest and we may usual cheerful bustle of urban life. As
soon as he crossed the fortress-gate and binds you to feel or appear to be grieved
entered the city, his chariot was for what you have deliberately done. Why
surrounded by a crowd eagerly asking: are you silent? You need not refrain from
"Where did you leave Rama? How was he giving expression to sorrow for fear of
when you left him?" offending Kaikeyi, for she is not here.
"Dear people of Ayodhya," said Surely you should inquire of Sumantra
Sumantra, "Rama and Lakshmana have about Rama. Have you no humanity? Why
crossed the Ganga. Ordering me to return do you try to suppress even natural
home, they entered the forest on foot." feelings?"
A great cry of grief rose from the Her grief and love for Rama blinded
multitude and many cursed themselves her to the state of her husband's body and
and attributed the catastrophe to their own mind. Instead of lightening, she
sins. On both sides of the streets, women aggravated his suffering.
stood as the chariot passed and cried: Dasaratha opened his eyes and
"Look at the car which departed with the Sumantra reported duly Rama's message
princes and Sita and has come back in his own words.
empty." Sumantra tried his best to console
Sumantra drove forward covering his Kausalya. But she went on repeating:
face with the end of his upper garment, "Take me and leave me where Rama is.
ashamed of himself. He stopped the Young Sita is there with him facing the
chariot in front of Dasaratha's palace and hardships of the forest. I cannot bear this
alighted. agony. Let me go to Dandaka and be with
There in front of the palace a great Sita."
crowd had gathered. Women were saying, Sumantra answered: "Queen, be brave.
"How is Sumantra going to meet Kausalya Banish this grief. Rama spends his time
and tell her that he left her son in the even more happily in the forest than he
forest? How will she survive the report?" did in Ayodhya. He feels no sorrow.
With increasing sorrow and confusion, Lakshmana finds joy in the supreme job
Sumantra entered the Queen's apartment. of dutiful service to the brother he loves.
There he saw the King more dead than He is very happy. As for Sita, there in the
alive. In low tones, he spoke of Rama's forest, as here in the palace, she lives for
message to the King who heard it in heart- Rama with every breath and knows
broken silence. neither fear nor sorrow. She spends her
Then Kausalya, unable to control her time as though she was a sylvan goddess
wrath, addressed the King: "Here stands and is as happy there as she was here
your minister who has returned from the playing in the groves and gardens of
forest after leaving my child to fulfil your Ayodhya. The beauty of her face is still
command. Why are you silent? It was like the rising moon's. Like a forest fawn
easy and pleasant to give boons to she lives there with care-free grace,
Kaikeyi. Why are you ashamed of it now? spending the, golden hours with Rama by
Did you not know that this would be the her side. Every sight and sound is a new
result of what you did? You have honored source of joy to her and the theme of talk
your word. You may be happy over that. with Rama and Lakshmana. Walking
But who can share my sorrow with me? I barefoot, her feet are red like the lotus,
have to bear it all. My grief cannot be and need no painting with henna. She
reduced by your pain. No convention walks in the forest as if she were dancing.
She only lacks the tinkling anklets to without the love of my lord or the sight of
make it complete. All that I say is true. my only son. Was ever a woman left more
There is no need for you to grieve. The desolate? But you, are you not delighted
three of them are fulfilling their sacred with what you have done? It is enough for
duty and offering an object lesson to the you that Kaikeyi and Bharata are happy.
world. They are making the King's word You need not entertain any fear that Rama
good. Their life will be remembered and will mar that happiness, even if he
praised forever. Why, then, should we returned from the forest after fourteen
grieve for them?" years. He will not touch the kingdom once
With such talk, Kausalya would be ruled by Bharata. The tiger does not touch
consoled for a while. But soon she would the leavings of another animal's. Like a
break down again and cry: "Alas, alas, fish, eating its offspring, you have killed
Rama, my child." Her grief seemed your own child."
redoubled when she saw Sumantra come Touched to the quick, the King even in
back, leaving Rama in the forest. the intensity of his anguish turned to his
22. IDLE SPORT AND TERRIBLE wife with a humble prayer for forgiveness
RESULT with clasped hands.
Dasaradha had been driven ruthlessly "Have pity on me, Kausalya," he
by circumstances to an action which not moaned. "You have been kind and
only broke his heart but made him hate forgiving even to strangers. Do have some
himself and deprived him even of self- compassion on your husband who has
pity. The only way out of the dilemma of always loved and honored you and whose
either breaking his plighted word or doing heart is broken by a sorrow which knows
a great wrong to Rama would have been no remedy!"
for the latter to disobey him and insist on These piteous words and the sight of
his rights. But Rama placed his duty to his her husband in supplication and the
father high above all other things. And memory of happier hours pierced the
Rama was all the world to Sita and noble queen to the heart and she fell at his
Lakshmana. So they had all gone together. feet imploring forgiveness for
To Dasaratha, agonising on his bed of unbecoming words forced out of her by
pain in desolation and remorse, Kausalya grief.
spoke reproachful words. As the leaden hours crept slowly on,
The stinging words in which Dasaratha remembered something that
Kausalya's sorrow found expression had happened long ago and it aggravated
caused excruciating pain to Dasaratha, but the anguish of his heart.
she seemed to find some relief in giving The King turned to Kausalya and said:
vent to her feelings in this way. "Are you still here, my dear? The fruit of
"Proud of having kept your word and one's action can never be escaped. I now
happy in young Kaikeyi's approval and endure the result of a great sin that I
gratification, have you any thought for committed in the days that are gone. Men
others? You have been my world and my in their ignorance sometimes do great
god, my joy in this world and my hope for evils for the sake of some slight
the next and you have forsaken me. My momentary pleasure. Then when the time
son, the light of my life, has been comes, the price has to be paid. When I
wrenched away from me and banished. I was young, I had the skill to use my bow
live here alone, old, helpless woman, against unseen targets aiming by sound
only. For the pleasure of exercising this return with my pitcher filled. Why did you
skill, I once killed an innocent man and kill me? O God, my penances and my
committed a great sin. Listen, I shall relate devotions have all gone to naught. My
to you that sad adventure. It was before parents do not know that I lie here
you came to me. One night I went, out in stricken and helpless. They will go on
my chariot to hunt on the banks of the waiting for me and even if they knew it,
Sarayu. It had been raining heavily and, what could they do, blind and helpless?
from the mountainsides, the streams were Who are you? What! Are you not the
running dyed with the rich colors of King of Kosala? And so, you, the King,
minerals and fresh soil. The birds were who should by right protect me, have slain
silent. The forest seemed asleep. I could me. Very well, O King, go yourself and
take the aim by the ear and shoot, without tell them what you have done. Fall at their
seeing, a tiger or bear or other wild beast feet and beg for forgiveness. Else, their
that might come to slake its thirst in the anger will reduce you to ashes. Go
stream. I wanted to test this skill of mine. straight to the ashrama. Take that path
It was dense darkness. I waited for some there. Go at once and save yourself. But
wild animal to come. Then I heard a this arrow is a torture. Pull it out and
gurgling sound as of an elephant drinking. relieve me of the pain before you go.' I
At once I aimed an arrow in the direction knew that if I pulled out the arrow from
whence the sound came. Like a venomous his body, his pain would end indeed, but
serpent, swish went my dart and hit the so would his life in a gush of blood. My
object. But I was shocked to hear a human hand refused to do the deed. For a while I
voice exclaim 'Alas! I am dead!' I heard stood, not knowing what to do. Then, the
the man cry again piteously, 'Who can be young ascetic said: 'Do not hesitate. Do
my enemy? Never have I done any harm end my pain. My mind is now clear and I
to anyone. Who then could want to kill me have calmed myself. Boldly pull out the
thus as I was filling my pitcher with arrow and release my life.' Gently I pulled
water? What could he gain by this? Why the arrow out. The young ascetic turned
should anyone bear hate against one living on the ground, heaved a sigh and, with his
his innocent hermit life in the forest? eyes fixed on me, breathed his last. It is
What is to happen to my old blind parents this crime of mine that is now pursuing
now, with none to look after them? O me. The agony of those blind parents who
misery!' Horror-struck, I stood trembling were deprived by me of their son has
in every limb. My bow and arrow slipped come now for me to endure."
from my hands. I approached the place 23. LAST MOMENTS
from where the voice came and I found a Dasaratha continued: "Listen, I shall
young ascetic lying on the ground with tell you what followed. Having committed
dishevelled hair, covered all over with a sin and seeing the young ascetic die, I
blood and earth. Beside him lay an stood wondering what-to do next. Finally
upturned pitcher. The look of his eyes was I decided that it was my duty and my
as fire. When he saw me, he cried, 'O interest to do what he advised me. I
Sinner that has killed me! Why did you cleaned the pitcher, and filling it with
aim your arrow at me that was taking fresh water, took it and went along the
water from the stream? My old blind footpath he had pointed out. I reached his
parents are thirsty and are waiting for me cottage and there I saw the old couple
in the ashrama, thinking that I would waiting for the return of their son. They
sat there like two birds with broken wings judgment.' The miserable couples were
shrivelled in body and unable to move. struck dumb by my dreadful tale about
Both were blind. They were speaking to their son. Tears poured from their
each other about the long delay of their sightless eyes, and the old man said:
son in fetching water from the stream. I 'King, your sin is indeed great. But it was
was filled with terror as I slowly done in ignorance. And you have come
approached them. The old man, hearing yourself to tell me your crime. So you
my footsteps, mumbled: 'Why this long shall live. Now take us both to the spot.
delay, my son? Quickly give me some Let us touch our beloved son with our
water to drink. Your mother too is athirst. hands and send him into Yama's keeping.'
Were you making your pleasure in the I carried them to the river bank where
stream? Was this the cause of your delay, their son lay dead. They felt his body all
son? Why are you silent? Even if your over, cried and blessed his soul and
mother or I have offended you in any performed the cremation. Then before
manner, you should not take it to heart. ascending the funeral pyre and giving
You are a perfect son and our only prop. them selves up to the fire, they turned to
We have lost our eyesight and you serve me and said: 'This great grief you have
as our eyes. Indeed you are more than our brought about for us, you too, will endure
life to us. Why are you still silent? Are in good time. You will die of grief parted
you still angry. I trembled in fear when I from your son.' Saying this, they burnt
heard the toothless old man talking thus. themselves and their souls joined the
Gathering courage I began: 'O, holy one, I gods. My sin has pursued me and I am
am Dasaratha by name, a Kshatriya, now in its grip. My old crime is killing me
bound to obey and serve you, though not now. As food prohibited by they doctors
your son. Driven by my former karma, I foolishly consumed by a sick man kills
have committed a terrible sin and stand in him, what that old father uttered in
abject humility before you. I went to the unbearable grief has now come true. I
riverbank for sport, hoping to shoot wild have sent my innocent son to the forest
beasts. I thought I heard in the darkness an and, unable to bear the grief, I now enter
elephant drinking water. I aimed my Yama's abode. How else could these
arrow, as I am a marksman that can aim unnatural events occur? How else could I
by sound as well as by sight. It was my be thus deceived and betrayed? Even if I
misfortune and his fate that my arrow ordered Rama to go to forest, why should
struck your son as he was filling his he obey my unjust command? Why
pitcher, with the gurgling I had mistaken should he insist on being exiled? It is the
for that of an elephant drinking. Thus, curse of that old blind couple, nothing
without intending it, I fatally wounded else. Kausalya, I do not see you. My sight
your beloved son. When I went to the spot is gone. Death is fast approaching. Come
and saw him rolling in blood with my nearer and let me feel you. All is over.
arrow stuck in his breast, I cursed myself. The messengers of Yama are calling me.
I was filled with horror and stood not Will Rama come? Shall I see him before I
knowing what to do. At his request I die? Oh, I am dying. The oil is all
pulled the arrow out to release him from consumed and my light is going out! Ah
the mortal pain. He is dead. I have told Kausalya! Oh Sumitra!"
you the horrible sin I have committed. I
throw myself at your mercy. I await your
His life slowly ebbed away and that King and take her away. Then they
night at some time unobserved by any, the discussed about the funeral rites. They
King breathed his last. could not be performed immediately, for
As described by Valmiki in the early Rama and Lakshmana had gone to the
pages of the epic, Dasaratha was one who forest and Bharata and Satrughna were far
had mastered all the Vedas and Shastras, away in their uncle's place. It was decided
was a farsighted person, the hero of many to send for Bharata and to keep the body
battles, the performer of many sacrifices, immersed in oil till his arrival.
follower of dharma, a far-famed king with The great monarch's remains were thus
many friends and no foes, and one who kept waiting for Bharata's arrival.
had conquered his senses. His power was Ayodhya, the city of splendor, was sunk
like Indra's. His wealth was like Kubera's. in darkness and lamentation. Crowds of
In statesmanship, he was like Manu. Fate women met here and there and reviled
had ordered that such a one should exile Kaikeyi. There was anxiety in men's
his beloved son and die of a broken heart, hearts. The crown prince had gone to the
with none by him in his last moments but forest. Bharata too was far away. Anarchy
two faithful women stricken by himself was feared, for no one in those days could
with a common sorrow. imagine a people going on without a king.
Since the King had so often fainted and After the long night had passed, the
recovered, his death was not immediately ministers, officers and elders assembled in
noticed by Kausalya or Sumitra. They the hall in the morning. Markandeya,
were weary, too, with grief and watching, Vamadeva, Kashyapa, Katyayana,
and fell into a sleep of fatigue in a corner Gautama, Jabali and other learned men,
of the apartment. At dawn, the musicians with Sumantra and the other ministers,
and singers, whose duty it was to rouse bowed to Vasishtha and said:
the King from slumber, came to his "Sir, the night we have passed was like
bedchamber and played on instruments a century. The King is no more. Rama and
and sang the usual hymns. Lakshmana are in the forest. Bharata and
But they saw no sign of the King Satrughna are in far off Kekaya in their
waking. The royal servants who attended grandfather's house. Someone must
to the King's morning needs waited long forthwith be asked to take up the
and wondered why he slept till so late. responsibility of rule. A land without a
Then they made bold to enter the king cannot survive. Order will disappear,
apartment and saw him lying dead. son will not obey father, nor wife her
Soon the news spread and filled the husband. The rains will hold back.
palace with grief. The widows of the great Thieves and robbers will range at will.
Dasaratha cried like orphaned children, There will be no mutual trust among
embracing one another in unavailing people. Neither agriculture nor trade can
lamentation. flourish. Without a king, the land must
24. BHARATA ARRIVES lose its prosperity. The springs of charity
Kausalya clung to the King's body and will dry up. Festivals and services will
cried: "I shall go with the King to Yama's cease to be performed in temples. There
abode. How can I live without my son and will be no expounding of Shastras or
without my husband?" epics, nor any listeners. People will no
The elders and officers of the palace more sleep with doors open. Culture will
managed to separate her from the dead decline and soon disappear. Penances,
vows, enjoyments, learning, all depend on princes were residing in the palace of their
the king's protection. The beauty of maternal uncle. They decided to wait on
women will vanish. The sense of security the princes the next morning.
will be lost. Men will eat one another up The night the messengers arrived,
as, fish do. Cruelty and misery will grow Bharata had evil dreams and woke up in
apace and lay waste the land. For good to the morning filled with anxiety as to what
prosper and evil to be restrained, a king is they might portend. His face showed the
essential." state of his mind. His companions tried to
Thus Valmiki describes at length the entertain him with dance and mirth to
dangers of anarchy through the mouths of make him forget his cares, but did not
leaders in that assembly. succeed.
"It looks as if a great darkness has We still do not know all the secrets of
enveloped the land," they said. "Dharma is nature and the telepathy of affection.
in danger. Let us forthwith secure a king." Maybe, Dasaratha's mental anguish and
Vasishtha sent for tried messengers and death throes reached Bharata across space
said to them: "Start at once. Go straight and caused him his bad dreams. He said to
and swift to Kekaya. See that you wear no himself: "It seems to me that death is
sign of sorrow on your face or show it in approaching my brother Rama or
your behavior. Bharata should not know Lakshmana or myself. They say that an
that the King is dead. Tell him simply that early morning dream does not fail to be
the family preceptor and ministers want fulfilled. And mine has been a terrible
his presence at once in Ayodhya and bring dream. I am full of fear. I know not what
him along with you with all the speed you to do."
may. Tell him nothing about Rama and Just then the messengers were
Sita going to the forest or the King's death announced. The King of Kekaya and his
on account of grief. To avoid all son Yudhajit received the envoys with due
suspicion, take with you the usual gifts of courtesy.
jewels and precious garments for They paid their respects to the King
presentation to the King of Kekaya." and that princes, then turned to Bharata
From this we can understand the and said:
meaning of what the Shastras and Kural "The priests and ministers send you
say about Truth. Truthfulness should be their blessings and request you to return at
such that it needlessly hurts no being in once to Ayodhya. They want us to convey
the world. The test for right conduct to you that the need for your presence
including truthfulness is harmlessness. there is most urgent. Please touch for
This does not mean that truth is acceptance these garments and jewels to
underrated. be given to your uncle and to the King as
Soon the messengers were provisioned gifts from the palace of Ayodhya."
and equipped for the long journey and Bharata questioned the messengers
furnished with gifts of honor. Mounted on after the welfare of all at home. The
swift and sturdy horses, they sped past manner of his inquiry suggests that he had
rivers and forests, up hill and down dale, an uneasy premonition that his mother's
and reached Kekaya, which was headstrong and ambitious nature might
somewhere to the west of the modern have had something to do with this hasty
Punjab, and found themselves in summons home. "And is my mother, the
Rajagriha, its capital, where the Ikshvaku haughty and irascible Queen Kaikeyi who
believes herself all-wise and must always Inauspicious omens were seen
have her way, is she in good health?" everywhere. Bharata concluded that some
The messengers must have been at great misfortune had overtaken the city
their wits' end for an answer. The best and that was the reason why he had been
they could make was: "O tiger among so hastily sent for. He entered Dasaratha's
men, all are well whose welfare is dear to palace. The King was not to be seen. His
you. Lakshmi, the goddess of sovereignty, anxiety increased.
whose abode is the lotus, woos you. Get He then entered Kaikeyi's palace.
into your chariot without loss of time." When she saw her son after a long
There was an enigmatic thought in this absence, she jumped from her golden
greeting, for according to them Bharata couch to embrace him. He bent down and
was to be installed on the throne. touched her feet. She kissed his head and
The prince took leave of his uncle and welcomed him with maternal blessings.
grandfather for returning home and "Did you have a good journey?" she
preparations were made for his departure. asked. "Are your uncle and grandfather
The old king and Yudhajit collected rare well? Tell me all about them."
and valuable things of their country to be He answered: "The journey took seven
sent as gifts to King Dasaratha and Prince days. All our people at Kekaya are happy
Rama of Ayodhya. Bharata and Satrughna and well. Grandfather and uncle send you
mounted their chariots and started with a their love. They have sent rich gifts for
big retinue towards Ayodhya. They you, but these will arrive later. I have
travelled fast, unmindful of fatigue, and come in advance. The envoys hurried me,
by forced marches reached Ayodhya on saying there was urgent work demanding
the morning of the eighth day. my presence here. What is all this about? I
As he approached the city, Bharata's went to the King's palace to pay him my
mind was filled with misgiving. Nothing respects. He was not to be found there and
seemed to be as it was before, and the air here too his couch is empty. Perhaps he is
seemed heavy with disaster. He asked the with one of my senior mothers. I must go
charioteer: "Why does the city wear such and see him and tender my respects."
a strange look? I do not see the usual When Bharata, innocent of heart and
crowds of people going in and coming out unaware of what had happened, said this,
in the gardens outside the city. One used the foolish queen intoxicated with a new
to see young men and women with bright, sense of power answered: "My child, your
cheerful faces. But now they all seem father had his full share of the blessings of
sad." this life. His fame was great. He
Bharata's chariot entered the city performed all the sacrifices enjoined by
through the Victory Gate. The streets, tradition. He was a refuge for the good.
houses and temples were bare and He has now entered the higher world and
unadorned. The faces of the people looked joined the gods."
drawn and famished. On hearing this, Bharata fell down
"Why are the musical instruments uttering a cry, his long arms stretched out
silent?" he asked. "Why are the citizens on the ground. Rising, he looked at his
not decked with flowers and sandal paste? father's empty bed and sobbed like a
These are all bad signs. I cannot repress destitute orphan. The mighty hero threw
my anxiety." his god-like frame on the earth and wept
like a child in uncontrolled grief.
Looking at her son, who lay on the his last crying, 'Ha, Rama, Ha,
ground like a big tree fallen to the axe, Lakshmana, Ha, Janaki.' These were his
Kaikeyi said: "Arise, O King. Stand up. It last words." He died saying: "It is not
is not right for a king thus to mourn and given me to live to see Rama, Lakshmana
roll on the ground. Honor and glory are and Sita return. Happy they who will see
waiting for your acceptance. You are to their return."
uphold the dharma and perform sacrifices Listening to this, Bharata gathered that
in the way of your royal fathers. Your Rama and Lakshmana too were absent
intelligence shines like the noonday sun. from the Kings side. His grief increased
No misfortune dare come near you. Son, and he asked Kaikeyi: "Where. Were
strong of limb and brave-hearted, stand they? What business took them away from
up." our father's side during his last moments?"
Bharata's mind was immaculate, Hoping to pacify him, Kaikeyi said:
spotless. He did not see all that Kaikeyi "My son, Rama put on the garments of an
had put in this her appeal! ascetic and, taking Lakshmana and Sita
After lamenting long, he got up and with him, went to the Dandaka forest."
said: "When I went to my uncle's house I Bharata's amazement now knew no
had hoped that Rama's installation as bounds. He asked: "I understand nothing
Yuvaraja would come off soon and that on of what you are saying. What sin did
my return I would see the great festive Rama commit that he should undertake
ceremonies. How differently have things such expiation? Did be rob any Brahmana
turned out! How am I to bear this or cause bodily hurt to any innocent
calamity? No more shall I see my father's person or desire somebody else's wife?
'face. What did he die of? How did he get Why did he have to go to the forest? Who
the illness? And I was not by his side laid on him this penance?"
when he lay sick! It was given to Rama to In those days people went of their own
tend him in his last moments. How will or were sent to the forest as a
affectionate the King was towards me! If purifying punishment for such and other
some dust settled on my body, he would heinous crimes. Now Kaikeyi shaken out
wipe it with his hand. And how soft and of silence by this tempest of questions
pleasing was his touch! And it was not came out with the truth foolishly hoping
given me to serve him in his need. But for the best.
mother where is Rama? Hereafter he is "Rama committed no crime. He neither
both father and preceptor to me. I must robbed nor harmed anyone. And it was
see him at once and kiss his feet. He is not in Rama's nature to cast eyes of desire
now my sole refuge. What was my father's at other people's wives. What happened
last message to me? I want his very was that, seeing that preparations were
words." afoot for installing him as crown prince
Kaikeyi's answer had to be consistent and regent, I approached the King for
both with truth and her designs. She was your sake and secured the fulfillment of
pulled in contrary directions by her two boons he had long ago granted to me.
culture and her ambition. She found words I asked that the kingdom should go to you
which conveyed that the King did not and that Rama should be exiled to the
think of Bharata in his last moments. She forest. Bound by his past promise, the
also wished to prepare him for the rest of King agreed. Rama has therefore gone to
the news. She said: "Your father breathed the forest with Sita and Lakshmana.
Unable to bear this separation, your father great King relied on Rama and
expired of grief. Do not waste yourself in Lakshmana. How could you believe that
vain lamentations now. Think now what in their absence I could rule the kingdom?
you should do. You know dharma. Your And, even if I could, would I agree?
duty is to accept the burden of kingship. I Never will your wish be fulfilled through
did all this for your sake and you should my cooperation. I can no longer regard
accept the fruit of my action in the spirit you as my mother. I cut myself off from
in which I acted. The city and kingdom all relation with you and decline to regard
have come into your possession without you as my mother. How could you ever
your wanting or working for it. Following think of setting aside rule and custom and
the injunctions of Vasishtha and other getting a younger son crowned? Would
learned men, perform duly your father's not the world revile us for all time? The
obsequies and then prepare for the general law of kings and the tradition of
coronation. You are a Kshatriya. You our family cannot be violated. I will not
have inherited your father's kingdom. carry out your wish. I shall go to the forest
Attend to what has fallen to you as your and bring Rama back. I shall set the crown
duty." on his head and rejoice in being his loyal
25. INTRIGUE WASTED servant."
Now Bharata understood everything To understand Bharata's feelings, we
and realised the enormity of the harm should keep in mind his innate noble
wrought by his mother. nature, his love for Rama, his grief for his
Overwhelmed by grief and near, he father and the sense of guilt and shame
could not control himself. At the thought that for his sake his mother had done this
of what she had done and the eternal grievous wrong. We should not weigh his
infamy she had incurred, his grief grew words in dry air and a chemical balance.
wild and he hurled cruel words at her. In such contexts, poetry flashes fire. One
"What have you done?" he cried. "Did sees it both in Valmiki and Kamban.
you ever hope to make me accept the Bharata raised his voice and spoke
kingdom? Deprived of such a father and again: "Banish Rama indeed! It is you that
such a brother, am I likely to care for ought to be banished, cruel woman, who
power? After causing the death of the have forsaken the path of dharma. So far
King and the banishment of Rama, you as you are concerned you may take it that
ask me to take their place and rule the I am dead, for I would rather be dead than
land. This is like pouring oil into the fire be son to a murderess! Murderess of your
of my grief. How unfortunate was my husband! You are not the daughter of the
father to have chosen you for a wife! good King Asvapati. You are a Rakshasi.
Kausalya and Sumitra will also die of To what hell should you go, you, who
grief. Oh, how could you bring yourself to banished the only child of mother
do this to Rama who was so devoted to Kausalya? What punishment would be too
you? Revered mother Kausalya treated great for the grief you have caused her?
you like her own blood-sister. How could Kamadhenu, the cow-mother, had
you think of plotting against her beloved hundreds of thousands of children, yet she
son? And did you not know how much I shed tears at the sight of the suffering of
loved Rama? Greed destroyed your two bulls yoked to a plough and her tears
understanding. How else could you so scalded Indra on his throne in high
foolishly plan for my happiness? Even the Heaven. And Kausalya's only child you
sent to the forest, hoping thus that you and Bharata himself rushing wildly towards
I could be made happy! I shall do the them to plead for mercy.
obsequies and go to the forest and fall at Kausalya's first thought when she
the feet of Rama and bring him to his heard of Bharata's arrival was that he had
kingdom. And then, to cleanse hastened back to assume the fortune
myself of the sin and the shame you which had come to him. Had not the
have brought on me, I shall lead the life of elders and ministers, led by Vasishtha,
an ascetic in the Dandaka forest. What a decided to send for Bharata so that he
flood of sorrow have you let loose on the might perform his father's obsequies and
earth? By what penitence, by what self- be crowned king? Hence, seeing Bharata,
mortification, can you redeem yourself? I Kausalya, her heart desolate with her loss
shall go myself at once to Rama and get of husband and son, said in a low voice:
rid of my guilt by restoring the kingdom "Bharata, the kingship is waiting secured
to him." for your sake by Kaikeyi. You need not
Finding no relief for his anguish by fear any let or hindrance from us. Take it,
angry words, sighing like a young and may all happiness be yours. Only one
elephant newly captured, hot tears-falling boon I crave of you to let me join your
from his eyes, he felt he could bear no father on the funeral pyre."
longer the sight of his mother and rushed These words were like stinging poison
to Kausalya's apartment, there to find a in Bharata's ears. He fell at her feet and
better place to give vent to his sorrow. clung to them, unable to speak.
Thus did Kaikeyi's castle in the air go Kausalya said again: "Oh Bharata, at
up in smoke. She lay down on the floor least take me where Rama is in the forest."
and wept. The most painful of all Unable to bear all these piteous words
reflexions is that of a crime perpetrated in of Kausalya and unable to speak, Bharata
vain. fell into a swoon. After a while he sat up
Among the characters in the and said: "Mother, why do you thus
Ramayana, Bharata is the perfect torture me who am innocent? You know I
embodiment of virtue. In the villages of was far away and knew nothing of the
the North, the people celebrate an annual wicked things going on here. Do you not
festival for the episode of the meeting of know the love I bear for Rama? Would I
Rama and Bharata at Chitrakuta, which ever do such a thing to him? May all the
they consider the most sanctifying part of sins of the world descend on me if I had
the Ramayana epic. There have been the least notion of the evil brewing here! I
through the ages great and noble souls had nothing to do with it. I have no desire
whose virtue shines eternally in the midst to reap its fruit."
of the sordid self-seeking of a sinful He raised his hands and recited all the
world, as a beacon light to seekers of the horrible sins that one could commit and
right path, and as a token of the god in invoked on himself the punishments due
man. to them if he had any part in the plot.
Soon the news of Bharata's arrival In those days as now it was hard for a
spread throughout the palace. Kausalya, son to prove that he knew nothing of a
still laboring under her grief, heard this, scheme carried out by his mother for his
and was glad and told Sumitra, "Come, let benefit. Bharata could only swear his
us go and meet Bharata." Hardly had they innocence again and again. He cared
taken a couple of steps when they saw nothing for kingdom or wealth or power
and it was a terrible torment to him that demise, the ministers called the Assembly
Kausalya should think him capable of and addressed Bharata thus:
greed for them at the expense of his "The King has gone to the world
brother. Indeed such a thought was hardly above. Rama and Lakshmana are in the
less cruel and unjust than Rama's exile! forest. The land is now without a king. It
He could never accept the crown which is right that you should assume the rule at
was his beloved brother's birthright. our request. The preparations for the
His passionate sincerity convinced coronation are all complete. The citizens
Kausalya of the injustice of her and ministers are awaiting your
suspicions, and her heart went out to him. acceptance. This is your kingdom lawfully
Tenderly she raised him from the ground descended from your ancestors, It is for
and took his head on her lap and caressed you to be anointed and rule righteously
him as though he were Rama himself. over us."
"My dear son, my grief is doubled by Bharata went with folded hands round
seeing the pain raging in your innocent the materials gathered for the coronation
heart. What shall we do child? We are the and said in grave tones to the assembled
playthings of fate. May the reward of elders:
goodness come to you in this world and "I do not consider it proper that you
the next!" should ask me thus to accept the kingdom.
Kausalya had not believed Bharata According to the custom of our house, the
privy to the plot, but she feared that he throne belongs to the eldest son. With all
would condone it and yield to the respect to you, I have decided to go to the
temptation of its results. Now she was forest and bring Rama back to Ayodhya
convinced that Bharata's heart was with Lakshmana and see that Rama is
completely free from stain. Though her crowned. Please get ready the men and
own son had gone to the forest, she was materials for this purpose. Prepare the
pleased that such another son had come to road for the journey. Let laborers be
her in his place. mobilised for it. It is my final and
Here, Kamban beautifully sings how irrevocable decision not to accept the
Kausalya shed tears of joy over Bharata crown."
and embraced him imagining that Rama Listening to the prince's words, the
himself had returned from the forest. whole assembly was beside itself with joy.
Kausalya said amidst her sobs: "Many They applauded Bharata's suggestion. The
were your ancestors who attained fame. army and a big retinue were got ready to
You have surpassed them all in glory by accompany the prince to the forest.
renouncing the kingship that has come to Quickly an army of workers with their
you. You are indeed king among kings." tools went forward to prepare the road.
The Kausalya and Bharata portrayed Men who knew the forest, pioneers
by Kamban embody a culture. May these who could dig wells and canals, builders
heroic figures and that culture live forever of rafts and boats, carpenters and
in the land of Bharata! engineers, worked enthusiastically,
The obsequies of the dead King were because they were engaged in getting
duly performed. Vasishtha and other beloved Rama back. Culverts were built,
learned men and elders offered grave trees felled, a broad road for the prince
shastric consolation to Bharata and and his retinue was soon laid. Ups and
Satrughna. Fourteen days after the King's downs were levelled, marshes drained,
resting-places for the army and facilities Nahusha of old. He is the rightful king.
for drinking water and all other He is fit to be sovereign in the three
conveniences were soon made ready. worlds. Standing here I pay my homage to
Though thus preparations were made Rama there in the forest. He is the King,
for Bharata's journey to the forest, not I."
Vasishtha and the other ministers formally The Assembly burst into tears of joy
summoned the Assembly again. They did when they heard Bharata speak thus.
not give up their desire to get Bharata to And Bharata continued: "If I am unable
agree to be crowned. They sent to persuade King Rama to agree, I shall
messengers to Bharata palace and invited stay there performing penance. It is your
him to the Hall. They approached him duty, O Elders, to use every means to
with music playing on many instruments. bring Rama back. I shall do all I can to
All this pained him. make Rama come back to Ayodhya and
He stopped the musicians and sent the make him King."
messengers back and told Satrughna: He then ordered Sumantra who was
"Why should they still persist in standing near him to hasten the
tormenting me when I have refused the preparations for going to the forest. The
kingdom? This is the result of our city rejoiced in anticipation of Rama's
mother's intrigue. My father has gone to return, for all felt sure that nothing could
Heaven leaving me to bear all this alone. resist the force of Bharata's dutiful love.
The land needs a king; without one it 26. BHARATA SUSPECTED
drifts like a rudderless and derelict ship. GAZING across the river Ganga,
We must soon get Rama back." Guha, the hunter-king, noticed unusual
The Assembly sat eagerly looking for commotion on the bank opposite. A great
the entrance of the blameless prince. He army had encamped there. He pointed it to
entered the Hall as the full moon rises in his kinsmen standing by his side and said:
the sky He bowed to the elders and sat "Who is this and why has he come here
down. with a large army, apparently to cross the
Vasishtha said: "This kingdom has river? The flag suggests that it is Kaikeyi's
been given to you by your father and your son Bharata and his army. Yes, I see the
brother Rama. Accept it and protect us flag flying on the top of the chariot and I
according to ancient custom." can recognise the tree painted on it. That
Bharata's heart was far away with is the flag of the King of Ayodhya. Is not
Rama. Tears fell from his yes. The young Rama's enemy, Bharata, the King of
prince wept aloud in the midst of the royal Ayodhya too? Having secured the
Assembly and in a voice struggling with kingdom unjustly through his mother
tears, he addressed words of respectful Kaikeyi, it looks as though he has pursued
reproach to the preceptors: Rama here to slay him. Get together our
"How can you ask one of my race and warriors and kinsmen and friends. Let
upbringing to usurp what belongs to them stand ready on this bank. Gather all
another far nobler and more worthy than the boats and fill them with armed men
I? Can any son of Dasaratha possibly ready for battle. Let us wait and see. If the
dream of such iniquity? This kingdom and newcomers are well disposed towards
I, and all else in it belong to Rama. He is Rama, we shall help them to cross the
the eldest son, the noblest among us, a river and come over to this side. But, if
lover of dharma, an equal to Dilipa and
their intention is hostile, we shall prevent return to Ayodhya. I swear, I have no
them from crossing the Ganga." other purpose in my mind."
And so having made all preparations, Guha rejoiced to see in Bharata's face
Guha, in accordance with rules of his intense love for Rama and his grief at
courtesy, took some presents, got into a what had happened. He said: "My Lord,
boat and went to meet Bharata. who in the world can equal you in
On the other bank at the same time sacrifice? Who but you would renounce
Sumantra, was telling Bharata: such wealth and power coming to him
"Look! Guha, the hunter-king, devoted unsought? Your glory will shine forever."
friend of Rama, has come with his people The hunter-king supplied Bharata's
to welcome us. He is the ruler of this army with all it needed. The hosts and the
region. He and his kinsmen are well guests retired for the night.
acquainted with every nook and corner of The meeting with Guha only increased
this forest. They could tell us where Rama Bharata's sorrow. Bharata was endowed
is to found and lead us safely and swiftly with a heart of utter innocence. He sighed
to the place." and said: "AIas, that it should come to
Meanwhile Guha crossed the stream this," and rolled sleepless on the ground.
and, approaching Bharata, bowed and His whole body burned with thoughts of
said: "Though we have been taken by the infamy that had come as a cloud over
surprise by your unexpected visit, still all him, his father's death and the parting
that is mine here you may consider as from Rama. Guha spoke words of comfort
your own and command me. I consider it and tried to console him. This meeting of
an honor to be able to welcome and Bharata and Guha and the way they
entertain you and your army." shared their sorrow is an episode dear to
Bharata answered: "It is very kind of the Vaishnava Alvars and other true
you, O friend of my brother, to offer Bhaktas.
hospitality to such a large army. I wish to Bharat questioned: "What food did
proceed to the hermitage of Bharadwaja. Rama take when he was here? Where did
We do not know the way, and, we also he sit? Where did he sleep? What did he
need to cross this great river." say? And what did he do?"
Guha bowed before him with clasped Guha answered every question lovingly
hands and said politely: "My lord, my and pointed the spot where Rama had
servants and myself are ready to go with slept. And when he was asked, "Where
you and act as guides. But you must did Lakshmana sleep?" He replied:
excuse me for expressing a doubt which "Lakshmana said, 'When Rama and Sita
occurs to me on seeing this large army lie stretched on the bare earth, how can I
you have brought. Surely you have no sleep?' and he shed tears and, like me,
intentions hostile to Rama?" stood on guard the whole night, bow in
Pained by these words and from a heart hand."
clear and pure as the summer sky, Bharata As Bharata pictured this scene, his
said: "Alas, what greater shame can come grief became unendurable. He saw the
to me than this, that men who love Rama spot where Rama and Sita had slept that
should fear and suspect me? Have no night and showed it to the weeping
misgivings, Guha. Rama is my father queens.
now, for he has taken the place of my lost Asked what Rama ate, Guha answered:
father. I have come here to beg of him to "My Lord, they fasted that night.
Lakshmana brought some water and Rama midst as crowned king and all their recent
drank of it and handed it back to sorrows would pass like a bad dream.
Lakshmana to drink. The food brought Valmiki describes the scene on the
was returned untasted. The following bank of the Ganga in a way that recalls to
morning, they matted their locks and one a crowded railway station during a
walked into the forest." popular festival. When the whole army
Bharata had found some relief from had crossed the river, Bharata followed it
sorrow in his resolve to seek out Rama in a boat specially fitted up for him.
and persuade him to return, but his talk They reached the ashrama of
with Guha and the sights he saw brought Bharadwaja.
it back in full flood. The story of Bharata in the Ramayana
"For my sake, Rama, you slept on the portraying a character of unrivalled purity
grass. I have seen the spot and still live. and sublime selflessness is something,
And they want me to wear a crown, on top more than an episode, and stands out by
of all this!" Thus he lamented itself even in that noble epic, as holy
inconsolably. shrines do on the banks of the Ganga.
Then he told himself: "I shall somehow It uplifts the heart, and gives one a
take Rama back and seat him on the glimpse of the heights to which human
throne. If he wants his vow fulfilled, I nature can rise when cleansed by love and
shall replace him in the forest for fourteen devotion. Whether Rama and Bharata
years. He will agree to this arrangement as were incarnations of the Deity or merely
it is only right and proper." Thus he supreme creations of a nation's
calmed himself. imagination this episode is among the
Early next morning, Bharata woke up masterpieces of the world's literature.
Satrughna: "What are you still sleeping? Jnana and bhakti will automatically
The day has already dawned. The army grow by a contemplation of the
has to cross the river. We should send personality of Bharata. In order to recreate
quickly for Guha and arrange for the the scene and the person in his own mind
journey." the reader must bring into play his
Satrughna answered: "I am not asleep, reverent imagination. We bring with us
brother. Like you I spent the whole night into this world as our inborn gift some
thinking of Rama." wisdom and reverence. This gift is always
While they were speaking, Guha in us and though sometimes obscured by
arrived and after courteous greetings prejudice or passion it keeps alive the
announced that he had a fleet of many divine in man which prevents him from
boats ready. All the baggage and the reeling back into the beast.
whole army were put on boats. The loaded Bharata and his retinue went on
vessels crossed the great river. The towards Bharadawaja's ashrama. When
transport across raised a joyous clamor they reached the Prayaga wood, they saw
like some great festival. at a distance a beautiful grove with a
The people did not see the sorrow in cottage in its midst. Learning that this was
Bharata's heart for they had concluded, Bharadwaja's ashrama, Bharata left his
even when Bharata set out, that Rama retinue behind and, accompanied only by
would surely return. They went forward Vasishtha and a few other elders, walked
rejoicing that soon Rama would be in their towards it with due humility.
Divesting himself of his silk garments Bharata and very beautifully expresses
and his weapons and accompanied only Bharata's indignation.
by the ministers he went on foot behind We may not, reading it all today,
Vasishtha. A little further on, he left appreciate Bharadwaja's doubts about
behind even the ministers, and he and innocent Bharata. Such suspicion was
Vasishtha alone went forward. perfectly natural to Guha, but not so in a
When Bharadwaja saw Vasishtha, he wise rishi. Valmiki makes the rishi justify
rose from his seat and went to meet the himself saying: "Don't I know you, young
illustrious visitor and bade his disciples to prince? I put you these questions only the
bring the customary water for the feet of more clearly to reveal your innocence."
the guests. Valmiki pictures rishis not as
Bharata offered humble salutations to omniscient sages, but as very human wise
Bharadwaja. Learning who he was, the men and seekers after truth, liable to love
rishi received him with the respect due to and fear somewhat like the rest of us. Just
a king and made inquiries concerning his as Valmiki delineates Rama as a hero
welfare. He thoughtfully refrained from rather than as an avatar, so he makes
making any mention of the sad fate of Bharadwaja doubt Bharata because of his
Dasaratha. tender affection for Rama. Bound by his
The narration that follows is as told in attachment to Rama, he hurts Bharata.
Valmiki's epic. A few words by way of Seeing the latter suffer, he at once
explanation may be useful. Bharadwaja consoles him with an explanation.
suspected and questioned Bharata, just as All Valmiki's characters are human
Guha had done earlier. This is, however, beings with heightened human qualities. It
not so put in the Tulasidas Ramayana is only under great stress or in exceptional
which is a poem of pure bhakti. There is circumstances that divinity shines faintly
nothing that was not within the knowledge through the human nature. In the time of
of rishis. How then could Bharadwaja (in Tulasidas, bhakti had reached its noonday
the Tulasidas Ramayana) entertain any height. It shone dispelling every shade.
doubt about Bharata? Though bhakti predominates in Kamban's
Kamban, the Tamil poet of the picture also, he contrives to retain the
Ramayana, follows Valmiki closely not humanity of Valmiki's characters and in
only here but in many other places where places makes them even more beautiful.
Tulasidas differs. Although Kamban Bharadwaja, after making the usual
carefully follows Valmiki, he adds many personal inquiries, asked Bharata: "Why
beautiful passages out of his own did you leave your kingly duties and go
imagination. With a touch here and a over here? Should you not stay in
touch there, Kamban manages skilfully to Ayodhya? Listening to his young wife,
disentangle many knots. The changes he Dasaratha ordered Rama to live for
makes are very few, while Tulasidas deals fourteen years in the forest and the prince
freely with the story, taking such liberties accordingly left the city with his brother
as he likes with the story as a great bhakta and Sita. Do you feel that even now the
may who has made his god his own by way is not clear for your rule and have
self-forgetting surrender. you come to complete what Dasaratha
Following Valmiki, Kamban reports began and make assurance doubly sure?"
the conversation between Bharadwaja and Hearing these words, Bharata wept.
The tears gushed and he could hardly
speak. "Death," he said, "would be better beings and ordered them to produce a
than such a life as this." great feast for Bharata and his followers.
"Do you doubt me, master?" he asked. Then a miracle happened. The feast
"Do not blame me for what was done by that was ready in Bharadwaja's ashrama
my mother in my absence without my was like that which Vasishtha gave of old
knowledge or consent. I have come now to Viswamitra. The only difference was
to do my utmost and persuade Rama to go that here, there was no quarrel or
back with me to Ayodhya, and there to be commotion. Everyone had ample
crowned King. And it is my purpose to be accommodation. Sandal paste, flowers,
his humble slave all my life. I have come food and drink, music and dance by divine
here to ask you where Rama dwells, to go performers were all provided.
and beg of him to return home. And me, Bharadwaja's feast was more
you suspect!" sumptuous than that given by emulous
Bharadwaja said: "Bharata, I know kings to one another. Dwellings, vehicles,
your real nature. You are a scion of the servants rose suddenly into being. The
race of Raghu. I questioned you because I guests forgot themselves in the feast. The
wished to draw out a revelation of your soldiers in Bharata's army in the ecstasy of
affection and loyalty and thereby establish present enjoyment exclaimed to one
and spread your glory. Do not grieve. The another: "We shall not go to the Dandaka
Prince is dwelling on Chitrakuta hill. Stay forest. We shall not return to Ayodhya.
here today. Tomorrow, you and your We shall stay here forever."
ministers shall go there. You will please How were they to know that the good
me by accepting hospitality for a day in things they enjoyed were for a day, and
the ashrama." would disappear at dawn, like the stage
Bharata said: "My Lord, your wishes and the crowd after a village play is over?
and words of affection are a feast. What The guests ate fully and soon fell fast
more is required?" asleep.
Bharadwaja smilled because he could The following morning Bharadwaja
see that Bharata was unwilling to cast the said to Bharata: "At a distance of two-and-
burden of feeding an army on a poor a-half yojanas from here runs the river
ascetic. He said: "I am bound to entertain Mandakini. On its banks is an unpeopled
you in a manner worthy of your status and forest with Chitrakuta hill to its south. On
goodness. Why have you left behind your the slope of the hill, in a hut your brothers
army and retinue?" and Sita are dwelling." And he explained
Bharata answered: "I followed the rule in detail the way they should follow.
that one should not approach a rishi's The three queens were presented to
dwelling with a retinue. There is a big receive the sage's blessings. "This is
crowd following me. It would be a great Queen Kausalya," said Bharata, "the
disturbance to you if they all come here." mother of Rama and here, to her right and
The rishi said: "Nothing of the sort. supporting her, stands the mother of
Order them all to come up." Lakshmana and Satrughna, sorrow-
And so Bharata ordered. stricken and limp like a creeper stricken
Bharadwaja went to the sacrificial fire by summer winds." "And here is my
and, uttering mantras, sipped water thrice mother, the cause of all our sorrow," said
and called on Viswakarma, Maya, Yama, Bharata, pointing to Kaikeyi who along
Varuna, Kubera, Agni and other celestial
with the other Queens prostrated before "Look, Sita, at those birds playing," he
the sage. would say. "Look at that rock on the hill
"Do not judge your mother harshly," with the blue, yellow and red veins
said Bharadwaja casting his gentle eyes shining on it. Look at these plants and
on the sorrowing lady. "All that has creepers with their flowers. We feared life
happened has happened for the good of in the forest, not knowing how pleasant it
the world." would be. I am so happy here. And I have
This episode of introducing the in addition to this pleasure the feeling that
mothers is placed by Kamban in the I carry out my father's promise. We have
earlier scene with Guha. Guha reverently the joy of duty done besides leading a
inquires about the queens and Bharata happy life here. Over and above all this, I
explains. What Valmiki describes as am happy that my brother Bharata is
having taken place in Bharadwaja's ruling the kingdom."
ashrama is, with more poetical effect, Thus Rama, free from sorrow himself,
transferred by Kamban to its proper place. made Sita happy. Descending from the
Introducing Kausalya to Guha, Bharata hill they would sometimes go to the river
says, in the Ramayana of Kamban: "This Mandakini and spend time there.
is the mother of Rama. Her treasure was "Look at those sand hillocks," Rama
Rama and she lost it because of me." Of would say. "Look at the swans playing
Sumitra he said: "This is the mother of among the lotuses. The stream is as lovely
Lakshmana, truer brother to Rama, who as yourself, beloved. The fords where
has a happiness beyond the reach of poor animals come to drink are beautifully red
me." Kaikeyi in Kamban, as in Valmiki, is with new earth. Even the river in Kubera's
introduced by Bharata in harsh terms. kingdom cannot be as beautiful as this.
Bharata and his great retinue took the Sea the rishis bathing there and standing
forest path as directed by Bharadwaja. in supplication and offering hymns to the
They saw from afar the Chitrakuta hill and sun. Look at the flowers falling from the
as they proceeded eagerly a column of boughs on the water. Look at that pearl-
smoke indicated the spot where the scattering cascade. We are indeed lucky to
prince's dwelling was and shouts of joy be far away from the crowded city here in
arose from the crowd. Leaving his the forest. There, we cannot see rishis and
following behind, Bharata went forward pure souls such as we see here bathing
accompanied only by Sumantra and everyday. This hill is our Ayodhya. The
Vasishtha. birds and beasts are our subjects. The
27. THE BROTHERS MEET Mandakini is our Sarayu. With you and
WHILE Bharata was thus engaged in Lakshmana by me, I am so happy and
trying to undo the mischief wrought by content. How pleasant it is to see the
others, in the forest hut at Chitrakuta, life animals drinking water in the stream
went on fairly cheerfully. With without any fear! Plunging in the water
Lakshmana and Sita by his side, Rama here, eating fruits and roots, walking
lacked nothing. The grandeur of the about in the forest and climbing the hills,
mountain scenery and the forest and the why should I think of kingdom or
sweet songs and play of the birds pleased power?"
his heart. He forgot the sorrow of his exile Thus, in the company of Sita and
from kinsfolk and city. Lakshmana, Rama was spending happy
days.
One day as they were sitting as usual destroyed the greed of his mother. You
on the slope of the hill in utter peace, will soon see the forest paths running with
suddenly at a distance, they saw a cloud of blood. Like a tree uprooted by an
dust rise in the sky which seemed moving elephant, Bharata will be felled to the
towards them. And soon they heard a ground by me. We shall destroy this army.
great noise as of a big crowd. Rama saw We shall feed fat the beasts of prey in the
the forest animals stampeding hither and forest. " Lakshmana spoke thus, beside
thither in fear. It looked as if an army himself with rage.
entered the forest. Rama proceeded to calm him. "I know
"Do you hear that noise?" Rama said to you can destroy the seven worlds if you
Lakshmana, "'The elephants, bisons and are so minded. Listen, you can easily kill
deer are running helter skelter. What Bharata and his army, but there is a thing
could it be? Could it be some king come to consider before you set to work.
here hunting? Or is it that some tiger or Disobeying and disgracing our father and
other fierce wild beast has come killing our brother and earning infinite
rummaging? Just see and tell me." obloquy, what good shall we gain by
Lakshmana climbed up a tall tree and battling for and winning the kingdom?
looked all around. He saw a large army What we gain by killing our kinsfolk will
approaching from the north, a complete be like food with which is mixed poison.
force of all limbs, chariots, elephants, Why and for whom do we seek wealth
horses and foot soldiers. and kingdom? Is it not for the sake of
He shouted to Rama in warning: others, whose joy is our own? Who would
"Listen, brother. A great army is want to acquire a kingdom by wrong
approaching with flags flying and in means? And what joy is there in a
complete formation. Let us be careful. Put kingdom which you cannot share with
out the fire. Take Sita into the cave for those you love? Truly I tell you, I will
safety. Let us don our armor and get ready never look at wealth and power that you
for battle." and Bharata and Satrughna cannot enjoy
Rama said: "Do not be in such hurry. with me. I know why Bharata is coming
Look again at the flag on the chariot and here now and I will tell you. He knows the
tell me which king is leading his army way of dharma. He is coming here to give
here." the kingdom to me. If he had been in
Lakshmana looked and was filled with Ayodhya instead of in the far-away land
anger. "O my brother, it is Bharata. Not of his uncle he would have dissuaded
satisfied with getting the kingdom, he is Kaikeyi, and saved our father from the
pursuing us here. I can see the tree on our great sorrow which has befallen him. I am
flag flying in the breeze. He has come to certain he is coming now to take me back
slay us. But the son of Kaikeyi shall not to the city. It is wrong of you to think ill
escape with life from me today. What sin of Bharata and speak such harsh words
is there in killing this destroyer of about him. If it is desire for the kingdom
dharma? The only question now is, shall that makes you so cruel in your suspicion,
we wait for them here, or shall we give tell me. I have only to tell Bharata to pass
them battle on the top of the hill? We will it on to you, and I have no doubt he will
make him pay for all the harm be has done do it with pleasure."
us. It is surely no sin to kill one who
comes to slay us. With him will be
Rama said this laughing, and victory and other weapons all of
Lakshmana shrank into himself with superlative excellence. They saw also,
shame. spread out to dry on the branches of trees,
"Perhaps our father, the King," garments of bark. Bharata beheld all these
Lakshmana said. " Is himself coming to sure signs of his brothers' residence in the
see us." hermitage with a swelling heart.
After listening to Rama, he was From inside came smoke from the
convinced that his fear was improper. He oblations of daily worship. Entering,
wondered then why the army was Bharata saw the altar with its blazing fire
marching and thought that perhaps and Rama himself seated by it with matted
Dasaratha was coming to visit them in the locks, majestic, though in deer-skin and
forest and a large retinue followed the bark, a ruler of the world, with his mighty
King. The commentator remarks that arms, breadth of chest and a countenance
Lakshmana, realising his folly in having made to command love and obedience. By
spoken ill of Bharata, was trying by some him were Sita and Lakshmana. He had
explanations to cover up his shame. been thinking all the time of the infamy
Rama cheered up Lakshmana saying: that had gathered on his head, and
"Yes, it may be as you say. Thinking that wondering what to say and what to do
life in the forest was hard, the King might when he met Rama.
have come to take us, and specially Sita, But now when he saw Rama, he forgot
back to the city. But then, we do not see all this in the great love that surged within
the King's great white umbrella. But him and submerged all other thoughts and
whatever be the case, you should be fears. He sprang forward to the spot where
calm." Lakshmana stood humbly with Rama was seated. He could utter no word,
folded hands by Rama. beyond "Brother," and fell at his feet, and
Halting the army at some distance, sobbed. By this time, Sumantra and Guha
Bharata sent a few men to observe and joined him.
report on the place whence the smoke Rama saw before him lying on the
rose. They brought the news that this was ground Bharata with hands clasped in
the very spot described by Bharadwaja supplication, with matted locks and in
and that the cottage was very probably garments of bark. With grief and fasting,
Rama's forest abode. his body had grown lean and he was
Bharata started forward with tanned with fatigue and exposure. Rama
Satrughna, Vasishtha and Sumantra. As embraced him, and kissed him on the
they advanced, they saw indications that head, and said: "Brother beloved, why did
the ashrama was habited. There was a you leave our father's side and come all
path that led to the river and the trees were this way into the forest? And why have
blazed on either side of it as though to you grown so thin?"
make it easy to find it in the dusk. Bharata was speechless. Rama put to
Presently they came to a cottage thatched him the formal questions which members
with leaves, near which were stacks of of the royal family asked each other when
faggots and the dry dung of deer and wild they met after an absence.
buffaloes heaped for use in winter. After an interval, Bharata gathered
In the cottage, on the walls were strength and gave answer. "Why do you
mighty bows and quivers full of deadly question me about the kingdom, brother,
arrows, swords which seemed to radiate as though I were its ruler? What
connection is there between the kingdom suspense and surprise. In old works, in
and myself? When you are the rightful addition to plenty of these qualities, there
king, how could I call myself king or rule were generous doses of didacticism.
over the land? My duty is to do you It may be added here that even old
humble service. It has not been given to commentators noticed that the chapters of
me to do it. The eldest son should bear the this episode have got mixed up and
burden of the kingdom. This is the law displaced in Valmiki. Kamban has of
and custom. Come with me to Ayodhya, course regularised and modernised the
wear the crown and shower your grace on narrative. In Tulsidas the meeting of
our family and people. The old King's Rama and Bharata is steeped in bhakti and
work in the world is over and he has there is no room for any complications.
entered Swarga. When you had left 28. BHARATA BECOMES
Ayodhya for the forest and before I RAMA'S DEPUTY
returned from Kekaya the King gave up WHEN it was known that the four
his life, slain by the grief of separation princes and the three queens were reunited
from you. Do not give way to sorrow. and could be seen together in one place, a
Perform the obsequies of our father. chorus of joy went up in the army and
Thinking of you, he gave up his life. The retinue and they came surging forward to
obsequies you perform will alone satisfy witness that happy spectacle. They were
his spirit." Thus Bharata steadied himself sure now that Rama would return to
and spoke. Ayodhya and the people embraced one
When Rama heard that his father was another for the very joy.
dead, he fell down like a tree felled by an The sage Vasishtha conducted the three
axe. Bharata had no need to repeat before queens to the hut. On the way, they saw
Rama all the apologies and explanations the river Mandakini. When he showed
which he had to give to Kausalya, Guha them the spot where the princes daily took
and Bharadwaja. Where was the need for water for their use, Kausalya and Sumitra
explanations when Rama set his eyes on broke down and sobbed. Said Kausalya:
that grief-stricken body and that ravaged "From this pool in the river, Sumitra,
face? Bharata, whose one concern was to your son takes water to the ashrama every
take Rama back to Ayodhya, spoke only day. Lakshmana is prepared to do the
of this and not at all of himself. commonest task cheerfully for his brother.
The princes, with Sita and Sumantra He does not mind the weight of the water
went to the river and offered libations for pot on his princely shoulder."
the peace of the departed soul of the King. They saw the spot where Rama and
After other customary ceremonies, the Lakshmana poured out libations for their
princes returned to the cottage. They held father's Spirit. The darbha grass lay with
each other's hands and relieved their the ends facing south, beside the oil cake.
sorrow by loud lamentation. Kausalya clung to Sumitra and said: "O
In this episode, where Bharata meets Sister! This is the food that the mightiest
Rama, we read in Valmiki a long lecture kings have to be content with after death."
on the art of government, delivered by They reached the hut. There they saw
Rama to his brother. Often in our epics, the princes with faces clouded with
we come across such long dissertations on sorrow, seated under a thatched roof.
politics or morality. Modern fiction gives Unable to bear the sight, the royal mothers
high priority to narrative vigor, dramatic sank to the floor.
When Rama lifted Kausalya tip, she Saying this, the great Bharata, with
stroked him with her flower-soft hands tear-filled eyes, clung to the feet of
and was at once sad and happy. She Ramachandra.
embraced Sita and said: "My child, Rama raised him from the ground and
Janaka's daughter, daughter-in-law to the embracing him said:
King of Ayodhya, do you live in this hut "Child, we were born in a noble family
in the forest? O, faded lotus-flower! O, and brought up in good ways. Neither you
golden image covered with dust! My heart nor I can do anything wrong. I see no fault
melts at the sight of you." in you, my blameless brother! Do not feel
Rama reverently touched the feet of sad and do not speak unkind words about
Vasishtha who seemed another Brihaspati, your mother. It is not proper that we
the preceptor of the gods, come down to should blame her. Surely our father had
earth, and then sat by his mother. Bharata the right to tell us what to do, aye, even to
humbly sat apart facing Rama. The elders decree banishment, just as he had the right
surrounded them, eagerly awaiting what to order a coronation. Our duty is to honor
Bharata would say and how Rama would our father and our mother. How could I
react. disobey or question their command? Was
"Bharata, why have you left your it for me to refuse my father's command
kingly duties and come here in deer skin that I should go to the forest? He gave you
and with matted locks?" asked Rama. kingship and he ordained for me life in the
Bharata attempted to speak several times, forest. He certainly had the right to settle
but at first could not get beyond the word the manner of our lives. What right do we
'Brother.' Then he pulled himself together have to alter or reject his plans? Far from
with a great effort and said: being wrong, it is your duty to rule the
"Sending you to the forest, but unable land. And I too shall do my duty and fulfil
to bear the pain, our father's soul fled to our father's last command by living
heaven. All the good my mother has got fourteen years in the Dandaka forest.
from her evil plan has been that she has Failing to fulfil our father's wish, can I
become a sinner and a widow and is in find contentment in the possession of the
deep sorrow. Despised by the world, she whole world?"
experiences hell on earth. Only you can Bharata repeatedly besought and
save us. Undo all the evil that has been importuned Rama. Rama realised that
done and wipe off our tears by agreeing to Bharata grieved that it was for his sake
be crowned. It is to implore you for this injustice had been done and that he
that we and the citizens and the army and endeavored to remove the blot.
the widowed queens have come and are "Do not blame yourself," he said. "Do
all here waiting on your word. Grant us not think that all these things took place
our prayer. This alone will put an end to for your sake. Destiny rules everything.
our sorrow and re-establish the dharma of Give up your grief. Return to Ayodhya
our race. Without a rightful king, the land and rule the kingdom. Let us each perform
is like a widow, desolate and helpless. the duties assigned to us by the father we
You must come back and make it happy love and revere."
and secure. Like the full moon rising, The people who watched the talk and
dispel our darkness. The ministers here saw the determination of the prince were
and I fall at your feet and beg of you. Do filled with joy and sorrow in equal
not refuse, O, brother!"
measure. Bharata's affection and purity "On the whole, my opinion is that you
filled them with pride and joy. should return to Ayodhya and accept the
Rama told Bharata his unalterable throne. Of course, your father's command
decision. "I cannot possibly disobey my also has to be considered, and reconciled
father's word. You will please me by not to this step. You have obeyed that
persisting in trying to persuade me. command at once and unhesitatingly, but
Satrughna is there to help you in ruling, as now a new situation has arisen. Bharata in
Lakshmana is here to help me in forest his helplessness, fearing infamy, has
life. With Lakshmana by my side, I lack sought shelter at your feet. How can you
nothing. Let us all four, brother, do our spurn him? We all know that you love
other's will." him as your life. You never refuse those
The learned Jabali, one of the priests who approach you for help. How then can
who had accompanied Bharata, here you deny it to Bharata now? Is it not your
interposed a lesson on worldly wisdom for life-principle to help those who seek
the benefit of Rama. "You talk again and refuge at your feet?"
again of your father's command. But Rama showed no signs of
Dasaratha was a physical body which has relenting. Then, Bharata turned to
now rejoined the five elements. You talk Sumantra and said, "My brother has no
as though there is some continuing pity for me. Please spread a bed of darbha
relationship between that person who is grass here for me. I shall take the pledge
now no more and yourself. This is sheer of fasting unto death."
illusion. Why do you like the foolish Sumantra hesitated and looked at
prating of dharma and seek to give up the Rama. Then Bharata himself fetched and
good fortune to which you were born? spread the grass and sat on it.
Like a woman mourning with dishevelled "My child, this is not right," said Rama
hair, the city of Ayodhya is plaintively firmly. "Rise. Go to Ayodhya and fulfil
longing and waiting for your return. Go your duties. Do not go against Kshatriya
back. Accept the crown. Enjoy life's dharma."
pleasures. Listen to Bharata. Do not fail in Bharata got up and as a last resort
your proper duties." appealed to the people who had
This lecture angered Rama. He said accompanied him, a representative crowd
with much sharpness: "Sir, you seem to of soldiers and citizens from Ayodhya:
set little value on truth and rectitude. Your "O, citizens of Ayodhya! Why do you
materialist talk fills me with such stand mutely looking on? Do you not want
abhorrence that I wonder that an Rama to return? Why then are you silent?"
unbeliever like you should have been The people answered: "Rama will not
tolerated in the court." swerve from truth. He will stand firm by
Jabali hastened to explain that, far from his father's promise. He will not return to
being an infidel, he had all his life been a Ayodhya. What is the use of pressing him
teacher of the Shastras and that he had further?"
only spoken as he had done out of an Rama said, "Listen to them, brother.
earnest wish to persuade Rama to return. They wish well by both of us. Virtue
Vasishtha also intervened on his behalf dwells in their hearts."
and that unlucky interlude came to an end. Bharata said: "Here I am as guiltless as
Vasishtha then put the case for Rama's Rama and a fit substitute for him. If the
return this way: King's word should be fulfilled let me stay
here in the forest in place of Rama. Let "Your virtue will be for ever
him fill my place and rule in Ayodhya." remembered. Are you not a son of the
Rama laughed and said: "This solar race? As water flows downwards,
procedure of exchange cannot apply here. the virtue of your family runs its
This is not trade or business for barter and inevitable course in you. Your father
agreement. It is true that sometimes one Dasaratha is indeed happy. He is not dead
discharges the duties of another, when the but lives again immortally in you."
latter is too weak and unable to do it. But They met Guha again and crossed the
how does it fit on this occasion? Can any Ganga and reached Ayodhya. Bharata and
of you say that for life in the forest I have his followers entered Ayodhya. The city,
no capacity but only Bharata has?" bereft of the King and Rama, appeared
Then the wise Vasishtha found a desolate to Bharata. It seemed to be
solution for the problem in which enveloped in the darkness of a moonless
righteousness struggled with night. When he returned in haste from
righteousness as to which should be more Kekaya, he had entered the city in fatigue
right. "O, Bharata, rule the kingdom under and shapeless fear and suspense; but today
Rama's authority and as his deputy. No he entered it again fully realising all the
blame would attach to you then and the tragedy.
pledge would be kept." He remembered the past and thought of
Rama took Bharata on his lap and told the present and grieved afresh. He went to
him, "Brother, look on the kingdom as my the palace and took the queens to their
gift to you. Accept it and rule it as our desolate apartments. He went to the
father wished." assembly hall, and said: "Great is my
A glory descended on Rama and sorrow. But I shall bear it. I shall stay in
Bharata at that moment at they shone like Nandigrama and carry out my tasks as I
two suns. have promised Rama. Make all
Bharata said: "Brother, you are my arrangements for this purpose."
father and my God. Your least wish is my This was done and he solemnly
dharma, Give me your sandals. That token announced in the assembly, "This
of yours shall reign in Ayodhya till you kingdom is Rama's. For the time being, he
return. And for fourteen years I shall stay has asked me to be in charge. In my
outside the city and discharge the King's brother's place I have installed his sandals.
duties in your place, paying reverent Deriving my authority from them I shall
homage to your sandals. At the end of that do my work as king."
period, you will return and accept the Accordingly, Bharata stayed in
kingship." Nandigrama and with the help of
"So be it," answered Rama. ministers ruled the kingdom as a religious
He placed his feet on the sandals and duty until Rama should return after
handed them to Bharata who prostrated completing his forest life. And indeed, is
himself on the ground and accepted them it not the law laid down in Scripture that
and put them on his head. one should serve the world unselfishly
Bharata and his retinue turned back and without attachment, leaving the fruit
towards Ayodhya. On the way, they met of one's work at the feet of the Lord?
the sage Bharadwaja and reported what Rama did his penance in the forest for
had happened. He blessed Bharata saying: fourteen years and all the time Bharata too
did his penance at Nandigrama near Walking, through the great Dandaka
Ayodhya. forest, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana reached
29. VIRADHA'S END a spot where many rishis lived. Even as
NOT far from Chitrakuta was an they approached the place, they saw the
outpost of the Rakshasas, called sacrificial materials, bark garments and
Janasthana, in charge of a famous warrior deerskins spread out to dry and they knew
named Khara, who was a brother of it was a colony of holy men.
Ravana. From this station, fierce The place was beautiful to look at.
Rakshasas ranged the forest round, Birds and animals moved about with the
molesting the rishis in their isolated freedom from fear born of affectionate
ashramas. They made life so insecure that familiarity with their human neighbors.
the rishis abandoned their hermitages in Ripe fruits hung from the trees. The
the Chitrakuta region in spite of all that beautiful sound of Vedic chanting was
Rama could do to dissuade them. heard.
After Bharata's departure Rama was As they came near, they saw the
not quite happy in Chitrakuta. The face of radiant faces of the rishis. They welcomed
his beloved brother tearful with Rama. "O, King! You are our protector,"
disappointment and the sad drooping form they said. "Whether we are in the town or
of his widowed mother were ever before in the forest, you are our king." And they
his mind's eye. Now that the going away gave the new comers all they needed and
of the rishis had deprived him of even a place in which to rest.
their companionship, the lonely hut was The following morning, the three took
so full of sad memories that he made up leave of the rishis and re-entered the
his mind to seek some other resting place forest, which was now denser than before
in the Dandaka forest. and there were tigers and other wild
So they left Chitrakuta and proceeded animals. They proceeded slowly and
to the hermitage of Atri, a rishi who knew cautiously.
the country, to seek his advice as to where Suddenly, a gigantic form distorted like
they might establish themselves. They a broken fragment of a hill rushed at them
were most affectionately received and Sita making a blood-curdling noise. It was a
won the heart of Atri's wife, the saintly man-eating rakshasa and his roar was like
Anasuya. Anasuya delighted at finding in thunder. He was unutterably ugly and the
Sita a perfect embodiment of wifely tiger-skin he wore was covered with blood
virtues, blessed her and presented her with and gobbets of flesh of the slaughtered
beautiful garments and auspicious beast were sticking to it still.
cosmetics that set out the charms of lovely The corpses of three lions and the head
young wives. of an elephant recently slain were impaled
Anasuya was the embodiment of pure and strung in a row on the great spear
womanhood and her gifts added beauty which he shook menacingly at them.
and inner strength to Sita. She received The rakshasa lifted his weapon, roared
the gifts and said: "My Lord the prince horribly and, springing forward lifted Sita
loves me with the love of a mother and a and as he held her, shouted at the princes:
father. I am indeed blessed." "Who are you, little fellows? How dare
Then they made inquiries concerning you enter this forest? You look young but
the way and resumed their journey. wear matted locks and bark garments.
You have disguised yourselves as
ascetics; yet you carry bows and arrows, Rama's eyes grew red with anger. "It is
and go about with this woman by your time for you to go to Yama," he said and
side. Whom are you trying to cheat? Are bent his bow and shot a sharp arrow at the
you not ashamed of yourselves? You are monster. It pierced his body and emerged
besmirching the good name of the rishis red with blood, glistening like fire, and
by your conduct, you hypocrites! Know fell on the earth beyond. But the rakshasa
that I am Viradha himself. The flesh of was not killed. Enraged by the pain, he
rishis is my daily food. I shall have this placed Sita on the ground, and lifting his
lovely damsel for my wife, do you spear and opening his mouth wide rushed
understand? I shall now drink your blood, towards Rama and Lakshmana. The
you villains!" princes sent a shower of arrows at him.
Held in his grasp, Sita trembled with The arrows stuck so thick on his body that
fear. Rama lost his usual self-control and he bristled all over like a gigantic
said: "Lakshmana, this is unbearable. porcupine.
Kaikeyi must have known all this when The rakshasa however laughed and
she sent us to the forest!" shook his limbs, and down fell all the
Rama was bewildered and did not darts. He straightened himself and lifted
know how to meet the Rakshasa. But his spear again. Rama and Lakshmana
Lakshmana, hissing like an angry snake, with two arrows broke the spear and
said: "Rama, you are strong like Indra rushed at him sword in hand. But he lifted
and, with me by your side, you should not them both up with his hands and put them
talk dejectedly. Look at what my bow and on his shoulders and strode off into the
arrow can do. The earth will presently forest. Sita saw them disappear in the
drink this monster's blood. My wrath darkness of the jungle and wept loud.
which was denied outlet at Ayodhya, I Rama and Lakshmana, seated one on
shall now direct on this monster, and each shoulder, knowing that weapons
shatter him as Indra did the winged could not kill him, wrenched off his arms
mountains of yore. I shall attack this and threw them down. They then attacked
creature and slay him." him with their hands and feet. Still they
Viradha roared again: "Who are you? could not kill him on account of Brahma's
Tell me at once." Rama's mind now boon, but the agony of his wounds was so
cleared. His face glowed with courage and great that he howled with it. Unfortunately
calmly he said: "We are princes of the for him he had asked for immunity from
Ikshvaku race. We have come to live in slaughter, but not from pain.
the forest. May we know who you are?" The brothers threw down the exhausted
The Rakshasa answered. "And so, you monster and Rama planted his foot on his
are the sons of Dasaratha, are you? My neck to prevent him from rising.
father's name is Jaya. And I am known The touch of Rama's feet cleared the
among rakshasas as Viradha. You puny mist in which the curse incurred in a
kshatriyas carrying arms, what can you previous birth had shrouded his
and your ridiculous weapons do to me? I understanding, and in the sudden light of
have secured a boon from Brahma that no recollection he joined his hands and said
weapon can hurt me. Leave this girl here humbly, "Your feet have touched me,
and run away, if you wish to save your Lord, and my eyes are opened. I have
lives." realised who you are. I am under a curse,
but you can save me. I am not a rakshasa
by birth, but a Gandharva. The boon I untroubled by rakshasas. Look at those
secured prevents my liberation. If you bones scattered all round. They are the
could somehow kill me, I shall recover remains of ascetics killed and eaten by the
my original form and go to heaven." rakshasas. The rishis on the banks of
Accordingly Rama and Lakshmana Pampa and Mandakini live in constant
smashed him without weapons and buried fear of their lives from these man-eating
him in a pit they dug in the earth. And the monsters. The King's duty from which he
rakshasa returned to the world of may not fail without sin is to protect his
Gandharvas. subjects. Just as householders pay taxes, a
Then the princes went back to the place share of the merit of our penances goes to
where Sita stood terrified and told her all the King's benefit. You are radiant like
that happened. Indra, king of the gods. Protect us from
They proceeded to the ashrama of this persecution of the rakshasas. You are
Sarabhanga. Indra was there with other our only refuge."
gods, talking to the rishi. Knowing that Rama answered: "I am bound, O great
Rama had arrived, he cut short his talk ones, to obey your command. I gave up
and went away. Then Rama, with his kingship and came to the forest in
brother and wife, approached the rishi and obedience to my father's wish. If in
humbly saluted him. discharging my duty as a son I can also
The old ascetic said: "It is for you I serve you and do some good, I shall count
have been waiting. It is time for me to myself twice blessed. I shall stay in the
leave the body but my wish was to see forest and destroy the rakshasas and free
you first. And so I have been waiting. you from trouble. Shed your fear."
Now my desire is fulfilled, I pass on to Rama's promise of help gave relief and
you all the merit of my penances." joy to the rishis. Rama, Lakshmana and
Rama answered: "My Lord, should I Sita then proceeded towards the ashrama
not earn my own merit? How can I of Sutikshna. They came to a big hill
receive what you have earned? I have surrounded by a thick forest which they
renounced everything to live in the forest. entered. There they saw bark garments
Advise me where I can best find an abode drying in the sun and a little later came
in the forest and send me forth with your upon the old rishi himself.
blessing." Saluting him, the prince said: "My
The rishi knew the secret of Rama's name is Rama, O holy sage. I have come
avatar and told him: "Learn from the sage to have darshan of you. I pray for your
Sutikshna where in the forest you should blessing."
dwell." The sage rose and embraced him.
Then Sarabhanga kindled a fire and "Welcome, defender of dharma. My
entered it. The gross body perished in the ashrama is fit up by your presence. It is
flames and a youthful ethereal form rose now yours. When I heard you had left
from the pyre and floated up the heavens. Ayodhya and taken up your abode at
When the rishis of that forest heard the Chitrakuta, I knew you would come here,
news of Viradha's death they came to and have lived in hope of seeing you. Else
Rama and surrounded him. "It is our good I would have long ago given up this body.
fortune, O King," they said, "that you The merit I have accumulated I now pass
have come to dwell in this region. on to you. Take it for yourself, your
Hereafter, we shall perform our penance
brother and the princess." The sage's face gone through great austerities and
was bright with the light of long holy life. obtained divine powers. The forest is
It was the custom of the rishis thus to indeed beautiful with deer and birds and
offer their acquired merit to those who lotus-filled tanks, and the hills with
came as their guests. From Rama's cascades and peacocks. Lakshmana, go
answer, we can see how such courtesies now with your brother and with Sita.
were to be received. Come to this ashrama whenever you feel
"O sage, I must earn merit by my own like it."
good deeds. With your blessing, I still The three walked round the sage
hope to do so. I wish to dwell in the according to custom and took leave of
forest. The sage Sarabhanga directed me him. Sita handed to them their swords,
here to receive your blessing and seek bows and quivers and the princes set out,
your instructions as to where I could build more radiant than before because of the
a home for the rest of my stay in the great sage's blessings.
forest." 30. TEN YEARS PASS
The rishi's face was bright with joy and Now begins the Aranya Kanda. The
he said meaningfully: "You may live in poet begins with an episode that prepares
this ashrama. There are many rishis living us for the misfortunes of Sita. A new
round about. The forest is full of fruit and responsibility has been cast on the prince.
roots. But evil beasts are abroad molesting He is to destroy rakshasas who molest the
the rishis and obstructing their penance. rishis in the Dandaka forest. A fear arose
The sages are unable to bear this trouble. in Sita's heart like a shadow cast by events
But for this, the place is good." to come.
The prince understood what the sage "Why should you and Lakshmana who
meant to convey. He bent and strung his are properly to be merely ascetics in the
bow and said: "Holy sage! I shall destroy forest" asked Sita of her beloved husband,
these evil-doers. My bow is strong and "take on yourselves this task of
sharp are my arrows. It is not proper that protection? You have come here to fulfil a
we should dwell in this ashrama. It may promise of the late King. The duty of
interrupt your penance. We shall find a protecting the rishis belongs to the ruler
place for ourselves in the neighborbood. who is actually reigning. It is not for you,
Permit us to do so." engaged in penance, to protect rishis. To
That night they stayed in the sage's kill anyone, except in self-defence, is
ashrama as his guests, The following opposed to the vow of ascetic life. But
morning, the three got up and bathed in you have rashly promised protection to
the cool water fragrant with flowers, lit the rishis. I wonder where this will lead
the sacrificial fire, performed their us?"
worship and touched the feet of the sage. Thus Sita argued in soft and
"By your grace, we spent a good night. affectionate words while they were going
We desire to see the other rishis in the from Sage Sutikshna's ashrama towards
region and receive their blessings. It is some other ashrama in the Dandaka forest.
good to set out before the sun grows hot. "Bear with me, my Lord," she said,
Pray, give us leave to go." "for seeming to counsel you. I speak but
The sage embraced the princes and as a weak woman out of my infinite love
blessed them, saying: "Visit the good for you. You know what dharma is. But,
rishis in the Dandaka forest. They have all men, it is said, are driven by desire into
three kinds of sin: falsehood, lust and solicitous for my safety. Even granting
violence. Falsehood is unthinkable in one that what you say is right, I have given my
who for truth's sake has renounced a word and I cannot go back. They said,
kingdom and is here in the forest. And as 'You are our refuge,' and I have given my
for lust do I know that you will not allow word to protect them. A pledge thus given
even the thought of another woman to cannot be withdrawn. What I have spoken
enter your mind. But I am afraid of the cannot now be unsaid. You and I must
third kind of sin. Should we kill one who tread together the path of dharma. How
does not attack us? Whether it is a can we differ?" Talking thus, they went
rakshasa or anyone else, why should we along the forest path.
kill anyone who leaves us alone? You This conversation occurs in the poem
were in a hurry, I feel, to give your word like the cloud that precedes the storm. It is
to the rishis. To destroy the wicked is no the artistic creation of a changing
doubt the duty of a kshatriya but can that atmosphere and not a random casting up
duty still cling to you when you have of facile verses.
renounced the privileges that go with it, For ten years, Rama, Lakshmana and
and elected the life of a recluse in the Sita lived quietly among the rishis. In the
forest? The duties of kingship go with great Dandaka forest, there were a number
actual status. Dressed in garments of bark of ashramas where the rishis lived
and with hair matted, you are now an practising their austerities and living their
ascetic, pure and simple. Of course, you lives of abnegation. The princes spent a
know best. I am only asking you to think month in one ashrama, three months in a
well before undertaking anything." second and perhaps a year in a third as
Rama's love and admiration of Sita welcome and happy visitors.
rose all the more for her is misgivings. The forest was indescribably beautiful,
"Indeed, my love," he said, "you speak with deer and bison, boars and elephants.
like a true daughter of Janaka. But, Sita, The birds, the trees, the creepers, the blue
did you not once say yourself that the waterlilies, all live again in the beauty of
weapons borne by kshatriyas are for Valmiki's poetry.
protecting others? When helpless people Rama was very happy these ten years,
suffer persecution, how could a kshatriya the joy of association with great and holy
sit still? When we came here the sages men being added to his joy in the quiet
complained of their sufferings and companionship of Lakshmana and Sita.
entreated our protection. They could not These ten years are disposed of in a small
endure the cruelties of the Rakshasas who chapter. Time happily spent seems short
looked on them as so much meat and and needs no length in recording.
made shambles of the hermitages. Did When after ten years had thus passed,
they not show us a great heap of bones to the end of their forest life was
show what had been done? 'You are the approaching, Rama wished to have
king's son,' they said. 'Our troubles will darshan of the sage Agastya who lived in
now end as darkness before the rising sun. the south. The sage was, like
You are our only refuge.' Could we Vishwamitra, famous through the three
princes hear their piteous appeal and worlds. It used to be said that if all the
refrain from helping them? Every wisdom and spiritual merit between the
kshatriya, everyone has to do his duty, not Himalayas and the Vindhyas were put on
the king alone. You are, of course, one scale and Agastya sat on the other, the
southern scale would go down by his One day, Ilvala tried to play this trick
weight. on Agastya. As usual, Vatapi entered
There is also the story of Agastya's Agastya's entrails as meat. Agastya of
service during the wedding of Siva and course knew this, but he was a devotee of
Parvati. All the rishis had gone to Mount Ganapati and had obtained the power to
Kailas for the great event. Agastya alone, digest the Rakshasa.
staying in the south, maintained the "Are you satisfied?" asked Ilvala.
balance of the earth. Once the Vindhya "Yes, I am satisfied," answered
Mountain steadily grew towards the Agastya.
heavens and threatened to obstruct the IIvala shouted, "Vatapi, come out."
sun's passage between the northern and Agastya, laughing, said, "Vatapi has
southern hemispheres. been digested, my host!"
The gods grew frightened and "What?" cried Ilvala. "Have you killed
approached Agastya for help. The Sage my brother?" And he rushed against
stood before the mountain which bent low Agastya.
in reverence before him. Then he blessed The Sage opened his eyes in
it saving: "May you ever remain thus", indignation and the rakshasa was reduced
and so the mountain stretches low and to ashes. No rakshasas would thereafter
long even now. So goes the story. come near Agastya and he protected the
Two Rakshasas, Vatapi and Ilvala, other sages also. Rama first went to the
gave much trouble to the rishis. The ashrama of Agastya's younger brother and
former had obtained a boon that no matter obtained his blessings before visiting
into how many pieces his body was cut Agastya himself. Proceeding south and
up, they would all reunite and his body approaching Agastya's place, Rama
would be whole and strong as before. noticed the brightness of the whole region,
IIvala, disguised as a brahmana, would go the birds and animals playing about
to the ashrama of one rishi after another without fear and brahmanas gathering
and say, "O Learned One! Go over to my flowers for worship.
humble home and oblige me by accepting He told Lakshmana to go in advance
the consecrated food prepared for my and announce him to the sage. Lakshmana
manes." met one of the disciples of the sage and
On no account, according to ancient sent word through him: "Ramachandra,
rule, could one refuse such an invitation. son of Dasaratha, has come with his
The rishis therefore had to accept the brother and wife to seek the great sage's
invitation. To them Ilvala served as food blessings.
his brother Vatapi cut up and cooked Agastya warmly welcomed the princes.
lusciously and after the unsuspecting He said: "I heard of your having come to
guests had eaten the meat, the host would, dwell in Chitrakuta, and I was looking
according to custom, ask the guests, "Are forward to your visit. The end of your
you satisfied?" The answer would be exile is approaching. Stay here during
"Yes. We are content." Then, Ilvala would what remains of it in peace. This place is
shout, "Vatapi Come out!" And at the call free from the fear of rakshasas."
of Ilvala, Vatapi reunited into life would Rama answered: "I am happy to
come out tearing the bowels of the guests. receive your blessing and I thank you for
Many rishis had to die in this way. your gracious welcome. But I have
promised protection to the rishis in
Dandaka and now that I have received brother to Garuda the great eagle-vehicle
your blessings, I must return to that of Vishnu.
forest." He said: "When you leave Sita alone
And Agastya answered: "What you say and go hunting in the forest, I shall be
is right." Then the Sage gave to Rama the looking after her safety."
bow made by Viswakarma for Vishnu and The prince was pleased and accepted
an inexhaustible quiver, as well as a the offer of the bird with gratitude. They
sword. He blessed him saying, "Rama, then proceeded on their journey.
destroy the rakshasas with these weapons Rama was thrilled by the beauty of
which of yore Vishnu gave me." Panchavati and gratefully offered praise in
Agastya advised the prince to spend the his thoughts to Agastya for recommending
rest of his exile at Panchavati. the spot to them. He told Lakshmana: "We
"May God bless you, O, Prince," said can build our ashrama and enjoy our stay
Agastya, "take good care of Sita who for here for any length of time. Those hills are
love of you cheerfully submits to near and yet not too near. Look at those
hardships to which she was not born or herds of deer. The trees with their flowers
accustomed. Women are by nature fond of and the sweetly singing birds, the river,
comfort and averse to hardship but no the clean sand, everything is beautiful.
such weakness is found in Sita. She is like Choose for us a good site and build a
Arundhati. Wherever you are, cottage."
Ramachandra, with Lakshmana and Sita Lakshmana did as he was told. He
by your side, the place will be filled with constructed an ashrama.
beauty. But Panchavati is itself a beautiful Valmiki pauses here to explain the skill
spot and Sita will love to live there, secure and swiftness of Lakshmana's
in the protection of you both. Fruit and workmanship. He describes in detail how
roots are there in abundance. Stay there on the mud walls were raised and the
the bank of the Godavari. The period of thatched roof was made. Rama admires
your exile is coming to an end. You will Lakshmana enthusiastically.
soon fulfil your father's plighted word. "You are more than a father to me,"
Like Yayati, Dasaratha is served by his said the prince shedding tears of love and
eldest son." joy.
31. THE SURPANAKHA EPISODE We, too, may pause to think how the
THE Princes and Sita, following noble prince Lakshmana acquired this
Agastya's instruction, took the way to skill. We may infer that in those days
Panchavati. On the way they met a huge education even of princes included a
figure perched on a big tree. They took it knowledge of the realities of life and
to be a Rakshasa. development of manual skill such as could
"Who are you?" asked Rama in an enable one to collect materials in a forest
angry tone. The vulture however and put a neat cottage for oneself.
answered in a voice full of mildness and In the ashrama at Panchavati, Rama
affection: "My child, I am your father's and Sita lived happily, lovingly served by
aged friend." Then he proceeded to tell his Lakshmana.
story. One morning in early winter the three
Jatayu was the brother of Sampati, the went as usual to the Godavari for their
son of Aruna the dawn-god, who was bath and to offer their morning prayers
and fetch water for the day's needs. They
walked conversing about the beauty of the sister who was roaming the forest full of
season. Lakshmana thought of Bharata the idle thoughts of well-fed ill-taught
and how he would then be busy youth. She was horribly ugly, but had the
performing the ceremonies appropriate to magic power to assume any lovely form at
the month. will. When she saw the godlike beauty of
He said: "Bharata is entitled to live in Rama, she was filled with uncontrollable
ease but he has taken on himself a life of desire for him and accosted him.
hardship because we live a life of hardship "Who are you, dressed like an ascetic
in the forest. My heart is full of sorrow for but accompanied by a woman and
him. Even in this cold weather poor carrying warlike weapons and arrows?
Bharata no doubt eats sparingly and sleeps Why are you here in the forest that
on the bare floor. This cold morning he belongs to the Rakshasas? Speak the
too is probably walking towards the truth."
Sarayu. How fortunate we are to have On such occasions it was the courtesy
such a noble brother! Pure in mind and of those days for the person accosted to
speech and conduct, renouncing all announce himself and recite his name, city
pleasures, he lives a life of austerity for and history and inquire of the newcomer
our sake. He is exactly like our dear father concerning his or her family and the
and quite the opposite of his mother. How purpose of the visit.
could so cruel a woman as Kaikeyi bear Rama began, "I am the eldest son of
so good a son?" the great King Dasaratha. My name is
Rama stopped him, saying: "Talk as Rama. This is my brother Lakshmana.
much as you like of Bharata and our And this is my wife Sita. Obeying the
father, but stop condemning Kaikeyi. All behests of my father and mother and in
that you say of Bharata is true and my fulfilment of dharma, I am now in the
thoughts too today go to him in love. How forest. And now please announce who you
long yet to see him again? When shall we are. What is your family? You look like a
have that pleasure, Lakshmana? When woman of the Rakshasa race. What is
shall we four brothers live together again? your purpose in coming here?"
Bharata's loving words are still sweetly She answered, "Have you heard of
ringing in my ears." Ravana, the heroic son of Visravas and
Thus thinking longingly of home and the king of the Rakshasas? I am his sister.
Bharata they bathed in the Godavari on My name is Surpanakha. My brothers
that early winter morning. Kumbhakarna and Vibhishana are also
After offering oblations to their renowned warriors. The lords of this
ancestors and prayers to the sun, Rama region, Khara and Dushana, are also my
rose transfigured like the Lord Siva and brothers. They too are mighty men at arms
returned to the ashrama with Sita and and wield great authority in these regions.
Lakshmana. But I am not subject to their control, but
Their morning duties over, they sat am a free person, free to do what I like
whiling the hours with wistful talk of old and please myself. Everybody in this
days and tales of long ago. forest is, as a matter of fact, afraid of me."
While they were thus recapturing the She said this to strengthen her wooing
past in sweet companionship suddenly position.
there came a Rakshasa woman who saw "The moment I set eyes on you," she
them. She was Surpanakha, Ravana's continued, "I fell in love with you. You
are now my husband. Why do you wander seems to have omitted even this
around with this midget of a woman! I am allurement.
the mate worthy of you. Come with me. "This ugly, corpulent and paunchy
Let us wander at will through the forest. I Rakshasi, with leering eyes blood-shot
can take what shape I please. Do not mind with lust, her red hair all dishevelled and
this girl of yours. I shall cut her up in a her voice hoarse with passion, accosted
trice and dispose of her. Do not hesitate." the handsome, beautifully built and
Under the influence of lust, she thought smiling Rama", says Valmiki. The Tamil
in the manner of her race and prated thus. poet Kamban varies the situation by
All this amazed and amused Rama. He making Surpanakha assume a lovely
smiled and said: "Oh beautiful one! Your shape from the outset.
desire for me will end in trouble for you. Impelled by brute passion, the
My wife is here with me. I do not care to Rakshasi did as she was told by
live the life of a man with two wives. But Lakshmana and went again to Rama. She
my hefty brother here is untrammelled thought and acted like a Rakshasi for she
with a wife, and is as good-looking as knew no other way of life.
myself. He is the proper husband for you. The sight of Sita enraged her. "It is this
Offer your hand to him and leave me wretched little insect that stands between
alone." you and me. How could you love this girl
Rama said this, being confident that without a waist? Look. I shall finish her
Lakshmana would deal with Surpanakha off this instant. I cannot live without you.
suitably. Once I have put her out of the way, you
The Rakshasi took Rama's advice and I shall live together happily." Saying
seriously and approached Lakshmana this, she sprang on Sita.
saying, "Oh, my hero, come with me. Let Rama intervened just in time to save
us together wander at will in joy through Sita. The farce had gone too far and
this Dandaka forest." threatened to become a tragedy. Rama
Lakshmana entered into the humor of shouted to Lakshmana, "Look, I have just
the situation and said, "Do not be foolish. been able to save Sita. Attend to this
He is trying to cheat you. What is your monster and teach her a lesson."
status and what is mine? I am here a slave Lakshmana at once took up his sword
to my brother, while you are a princess. and maimed Surpanakha and drove her
How could you become my wife and out. Disgraced and mutilated, Surpanakha
accept the position of a slave's slave? uttered a loud wail and disappeared into
Insist on Rama's taking you as his second the forest.
wife. Do not mind Sita. Soon Rama will Bleeding and mad with pain and rage,
prefer you to her and you will be happy she flung herself on the ground before
with him." Khara, as he sat in state with his
Some critic might ask whether it was colleagues. Yelling with anguish, she
proper thus to torment a woman, related the story of her wrongs. The scorn
especially a woman in love. But if we and mutilation she had suffered was an
exercise our imagination and have before insult to the Rakshasa race which only
us a monster of ugliness we can blood could efface.
understand the situation. It is true that she She said: "Look at me. Rama and
could assume any charming form she Lakshmana have done this and they are
chose, but in the intoxication of lust, she
still alive and roaming in your domain. All such criticism is based on a
And you sit here doing nothing." mentality of hatred. We have
Khara stood up and said: "My dear unfortunately plenty of barren, heartless
sister, what is all this? I understand cleverness, devoid of true understanding.
nothing. Calm yourself and tell me what Let those who find faults in Rama see
has happened. Who dared to do this thing faults, and if these critics faultlessly
to you and is he in this forest? Who is he pursue dharma and avoid in their own
that wants to become food for crows and lives the flaws they discover in Rama, the
vultures? Who has stirred up the black bhaktas of Sri Rama will indeed welcome
cobra? Who is that fool? Where is he? it with joy. If they exhibit the virtues of
Tell me, and he shall die at once. The Rama and add to these more virtues and
earth is thirsty for his blood. Stand up and greater flawlessness, who can complain?
tell me everything as it happened." 32. KAMBAN'S SURPANAKHA
"Two handsome young men," said RAMA and Lakshmana drove out
Surpanakha, "have come into the forest, Surpanakha, as one takes a stick and
dressed like ascetics and accompanied by drives out a donkey straying into a garden.
a girl. They say they are the sons of Such is the brief and simple treatment of
Dasaratha. These two together, making an this incident by Valmiki.
excuse of the girl attacked me and have Kamban, the Tamil poet, however,
hurt me thus shamefully. I am thirsting for deals with it more elaborately and has
the blood of these villains. Slay them first. made a number of changes in the story.
Everything else can wait." Sitting on the riverbank, Rama watched
Khara ordered his generals: "Go at a swan walking and then looked at Sita,
once, slay these men and bring their also walking. Noting the similarity in the
lifeless bodies. Drag hither the woman gait, Rama was pleased and smiled. Sita,
also. Delay not." for her part, observed an elephant
Fourteen generals set out to do his returning from the river and, reminded of
bidding. Rama's gait, smiled. Thus in Panchavati,
In Kamban's Ramayana, Surpanakha is beside the river Godavari, love flowed
delineated as having come in the shape of smoothly between the banks of dharma.
a beautiful young woman, entirely human, Just then fate conspired with lust to drag
who tried to tempt Rama. Kamban departs Surpanakha to the presence of Rama. The
widely from Valmiki in this episode and Lord Vishnu had left the Ocean of Milk
he makes a beautiful episode of it as will and taken birth as Dasaratha's son, to rid
be seen in the next chapter. the earth of the enemies of the gods. But
There are some people who pose as how was Surpanakha to know this?
critics of our holy books and traditions Beholding the beauty of his person, she
saying, "This hero killed a woman. He wondered: "Is this Manmatha or Indra or
insulted and injured a woman who offered Siva or Vishnu? But Manmatha has no
him her love. He killed Vali from behind, body. Indra has a thousand eyes and Siva
rather than face him and accept honorable has third eye in the forehead, and Vishnu
defeat. He unjustly banished Sita to the has four arms; so he cannot be Indra, Siva
forest at the end of all the adventures. If or Vishnu. Perhaps, after all, this is
the banishment of Sita was not unjust and Manmatha who has recovered his body
if he rightly suspected Sita's fidelity, why through penance, after it had been reduced
then, we too, must suspect her fidelity." to ashes by Siva's wrath. If it be
Manmatha, why should this handsome and the Rakshasas will molest you. Even
hero still perform penance? Why should if you do not provoke them, they will give
this lotus-eyed youth waste his time in you trouble because you are dressed as an
tapas?" ascetic. If you marry me, you will be free
So she stood there wondering, from all this danger. Not only that, my
watching, unable to turn her eyes away. powerful people will be ready to serve
She thought, "My own form would fill you in all ways. Consider this well."
him with disgust. I shall change my Thus she pleaded for the fulfilment of
appearance and then approach him." her desire, citing authority and appealing
She transformed herself into a beautiful to Rama's self-interest also.
young woman and appeared before him Rama laughed revealing his beautiful
like the full moon. Her slender frame was pearly teeth. Just then, Sita was coming
like a golden creeper climbing up the towards them through the plants and
Kalpaka tree in Heaven. Her lovely lips creepers, herself looking like another
and teeth were matched by her fawn-like creeper. Surpanakha saw and marvelled at
eyes. her loveliness.
Her gait was that of a peacock. Her Not knowing whom she was,
anklets made music as she came near. Surpanakha angered by lust, told Rama:
Rama looked up and his eyes beheld this "This girl is a Rakshasi in human form.
creature of ravishing beauty. She bowed She has come to deceive you. Beware of
low and touched his feet. Then she her. Demonic is not her real form. She is a
withdrew a little with modesty shading Rakshasi that eats raw meat. Throw her
her eyes. out. Have nothing to do with her."
Rama welcomed her, imagining that Rama laughed again. "You are indeed
she was a visitor from some distant place wise," said he. "You have found out the
and inquired: "Which is your place? What truth about her."
is your name? Who are your kinsfolk?" Meanwhile, Sita had come and stood
She answered: "I am the daughter of by Rama. Surpanakha could not
the grandson of Brahma. Kubera is a understand what Rama was laughing for.
brother of mine. Another is Ravana, In her lust, she had quite lost her wits. She
conqueror of Kailasa. I am a maiden and hissed at Sita: "Why do you approach this
my name is Kamavalli. And what is your hero of mine, oh Rakshasi? Go away from
purpose in coming here? It is not proper here."
for a woman to speak out the trouble in Sita, bewildered and afraid, hung on
her mind. And yet I suppose I must speak the prince's shoulder, and she then seemed
it out. The God of Love has invaded my like a lightning flash hugging a rain-
heart. You can and should save me." bearing cloud.
She paused. Rama remained silent. Rama now saw that the joke had gone
And she went on. too far and said: "Dear lady, please stop,
"You may wed me with Gandharva lest my brother should hear you. He is
rites. You know it is permitted for lovers quick-tempered and terrible when angry. I
to come together in this manner. Once we advise you to go back quickly the way
are joined in this way, not only will you came." Saying this, Rama took Sita
happiness be ours, but friendship between with him and went into the hermitage.
you and my brother, the great Ravana, The fire of her desire unquenched, the
will follow. You are alone in this forest Rakshasi spent the night somewhere,
somehow. In the morning, she thought: "I Pointing to the two young men, she told
shall die if I do not get this man. So long her escort, "Look, there stand the men
as this girl is with him, he will never come who insulted and mutilated me. Slay them
near me. I must contrive to carry her off immediately."
and put her away somewhere and then I Rama understood the situation at once
may secure his love." Thus resolved, she and told Lakshmana: "Take care of Sita
came again to the ashrama. for a while, while I deal with those
Rama had gone to the river for his fellows."
morning ablutions and prayer and Sita Saying this, he took up his bow.
was alone in the ashrama. Surpanakha Following the prevailing rules of war,
reckoned this was her chance to carry her Rama announced himself to Khara's
off. She did not notice that Lakshmana generals and said, "Tell us the reason that
was in the wood nearby. She rushed you come here. Know that we are here in
towards Sita. Lakshmana shouted and the forest at the bidding of the rishis for
sprang on the Rakshasi. Catching hold of the purpose of destroying their enemies. If
her hair, he kicked her and drew his you wish to escape with life, leave us
sword. Surpanakha when attacked alone."
resumed her own shape and at tacked But the Rakshasas wanted not peace,
Lakshmana. Lakshmana easily caught but war. And the battle began. It did not
hold of her and mutilated her and drove take long for Rama's arrows to annihilate
her off. the Rakshasa generals.
Surpanakha ran into the forest, Once again, lamenting loudly,
bleeding and loudly appealing to her Surpanakha went to Khara. The
kinsfolk: "Oh, brother Khara! Oh, brother destruction of the powerful detachment he
Ravana! Oh, Indrajit! Oh, kings of the had sent was inconceivable. He could not
Rakshasa race! Are you all asleep? A believe it. He sought to soothe his
mere man has insulted me and cut off my disturbed sister with soft words.
nose. Do you not hear my lamentations?" "I have sent warriors unconquerable,
This is Kamban's version of the each one like Yama. They must have by
episode. Surpanakha approaches and tries now fulfilled their mission. Why do you
to attract Rama, hiding her true form and weep'? Why need you bewail while I am
appearing like a beautiful human girl. This here?"
variation is supported in a way by Surpanakha rose, and wiping the tears
Valmiki's description of Surpanakha as from her eyes, said: "True, you sent your
Kamarupini, that is, one able to assume fourteen warriors with me. But the
what form she liked. fourteen now lie stiff and cold in death,
The Tamil poet appears to have felt slain by Rama, whose skill with weapons
something wrong or wanting in Valmiki's baffles description. If you have a spark of
story and has woven an episode showing pride in you, start at once, fight with
how bestial passion works. Rama and save the Rakshasa race. If you
33. KHARA AND HIS ARMY do not, the destruction of our people is
LIQUIDATED certain. But if you are afraid, tell me so
ACCOMPANIED by the fourteen and I shall understand. These young men
generals of Khara, Surpanakha came back who have entered your satrapy are
to Rama's ashrama, determined to avenge determined to destroy your race, unless
herself and drink the blood of the princes. you first meet and destroy them."
These words, spoken by his sister in a face was like that of Rudra himself when
loud voice before all his courtiers, pierced he bent his great bow Pinaka.
Khara's heart. The Rakshasa force advanced in proud
"Why do you speak thus terrified by a array, with drums and trumpets and the
puny human being? Hold yourself in clanking pageantry of war filling the
patience for a moment and you will have quarters with clamor and causing the
his blood to drink." So saying, Khara rose. denizens of the forest to stampede in all
"Do not go alone!" she said. "Take directions. Rama stood holding his bow
your army with you." with his band on the string. Like great
Khara gave orders accordingly. A great black clouds disturbing the sun the
army, fully armed, went in advance under Rakshasa hordes surrounded him.
the leadership of Dushana. Behind the The battle began. But while even the
army Khara proceeded majestically in a Devas wondered how he could withstand
chariot. On the way he met with many bad the yelling masses which rushed on him, a
omens which affected the spirits of his constant stream of deadly arrows sped
host. He laughed and reassured his army, from his bow before which the Rakshasa
saying: ranks withered and fell like moths before
"Never have I been so far defeated in a blazing fire.
battle. Do not mind these portents. We Dushana himself now stood in front of
shall soon crush these two little men and Rama. Rama bent his bow and sent his
return in triumph." shafts in all directions in an unceasing
The army took heart at these bold stream. Like rays from the sun, and with
words of their leader. the speed of light, arrows shot out from
Hearing the tumultuous noise of the the spot where Rama stood, spread out in
approaching army, Rama and Lakshmana all directions and brought down warriors,
prepared for battle. Rama told chariots, elephants and horses.
Lakshmana: "Do you see the signs? It is The shafts pierced the bodies of the
certain that the Rakshasas of Janasthana Rakshasas and came out, covered with
are coming here to their death! I see in their blood shining like fire. The army
your face the glory of the victory that was utterly destroyed and Rama stood
awaits us. Arm yourself and take Sita with still, like Siva at the end of Time.
you to a cave in the hill and look after her. Dushana came again with another great
I shall encounter the Rakshasa hordes and army. For a while he seemed indomitable.
destroy them. Go at once. I do not require But soon Rama's arrows laid low his
any help." Saying this, Rama put on his chariot, drivers and horses. He jumped
armor and strung his bow. down and sprang towards Rama. Rama's
Lakshmana did as Rama bade and took arrows, however, severed his arms from
Sita to a mountain cave. his trunk. And the monster fell dead on
A great battle was to follow. So the the ground like a huge elephant. Other
Devas and Gandharvas hovered in the Rakshasas, who saw Dushana falling,
heavens to watch the fight. They uttered rushed against Rama and were also slain
benedictions and prayed for Rama's by the arrows that sped from his Kodanda
victory. The rishis had misgivings. How bow.
was Rama, standing single, to meet and In this way, the whole army of Khara
quell this huge army? As Rama stood was destroyed. It had come roaring like an
there, bow in hand, the radiance of his ocean and now it lay still, a mass of
corpses and severed limbs and derelict "Human worm!" exclaimed Khara.
weapons and broken chariots. "Son of Dasaratha! Have done with
Only Khara and Trisiras remained. As boasting! You are proud because you have
Khara rushed forward to meet Rama, killed a few common Rakshasas. A hero
Trisiras stopped him saying: "I shall go boasts not as you do. Only a Kshatriya
first and kill Rama. Or else, I shall be banished by his people can talk boasting
killed. After I am dead, you may meet like this. You have shown you can brag.
him." Let us see now if you can fight! Your
The three-headed Rakshasa mounted words have blazed up like burning straw
on his chariot attacked Rama with his with little heat or life. Here I stand mace
arrows. Rama met them with arrows that in hand, like Yama to take your life.
hissed like deadly serpents. At last Evening approaches. Be prepared to lose
Trisiras collapsed and fell spitting blood. your life. I am here to avenge the death of
His followers fled like deer. these my followers whom you have
Khara, seeing this, cried: 'Hold' to the killed."
fugitives and directed his chariot against So saying, he whirled his mace, and
Rama. His confident pride was gone but hurled it at Rama. The mace was split by
he fought manfully. The shafts sent by the Rama's arrows into splinters which fell
two warriors covered the sky. Khara stood harmless on the ground. "Have you
like Yama in his chariot, sending his finished speaking, Rakshasa? Now you
stream of arrows. For an instant, Rama shall die. This forest will be safe hereafter
leaned on his bow. In that interval Rama's and the rishis will live in peace," said
armor was pierced by Khara's arrows and Rama.
showed the prince's body shining like the Even while Rama was speaking, Khara
sun. pulled out by its roots a huge tree, and
Rama now took up the bow of Vishnu gnashing his teeth, threw it at Rama. But
and laid low Khara's chariot and cut his this too Rama split by his arrows. And
bow in twain. Khara then took his mace fearing further delay, he aimed deadly
and approached Rama. The Devas and darts at Khara. The wounded Rakshasa
rishis watching the battle became anxious sprang on Rama intending close combat
and renewed their benedictions. with him. But the latter avoided contact
"You have been a terror and a plague by stepping back and laid him dead with a
to mankind!" exclaimed Rama. "Strength shaft which clove his breast.
of body is no protection to an evil-doer. The Devas showered flowers from on
You have persecuted and killed rishis high and cried in joy: "Rama has killed
engaged in penance in the forest. You will the sinful Rakshasa. Men can live in peace
now receive the punishment due for these in the Dandaka forest hereafter. Within an
sins of yours. The spirits of the rishis hour Rama has destroyed Khara, Dushana,
whose flesh you fed on are now Trisiras and their whole army. Indeed he
witnessing your punishment from their is a hero."
aerial chariots. I have come to the Sita and Lakshmana returned from the
Dandaka forest to destroy wicked cave. Lakshmana embraced Rama and
Rakshasas. My arrows will pierce the rejoiced that single-handed he had
bodies of all your kinsfolk. Your head will fulfilled the promise of safety he had
soon roll on the ground like a ripe fruit." given to the rishis.
How did Rama all alone perform these hosts come down to earth and fight on
feats? If one observes a cow guarding her Rama's side?" Akampana answered: "No
calf and scattering a whole crowd of men, such thing happened, great king. Alone
one can realise the power of love. Love is did Rama stand against our whole army
a supreme quality which according to and its commanders and destroyed them
occasion manifests itself in diverse heroic all. And Khara and Dushana too were
forms such as valor and self-sacrifice, just slain. The deadly arrows issuing from
like gold which can be changed for silver Rama's bow like five-headed serpents
or goods or other things of value. When pursued the Rakshasas wherever they
God assumes human form and is engaged went and destroyed them." And he went
in fulfilling His promise to save the on to describe at length Rama's skill and
helpless, His limitless power comes into speed in the use of his weapons.
play. And so Ravana learnt that Dasaratha's
34. THE PATH OF RUIN son, Rama, with his younger brother
AKAMPANA, one of the few Lakshmana was at Panchavati and that he,
Rakshasas who survived the great alone without even his brother's aid, had
slaughter at Panchavati, fled to Lanka and done it all and that no gods had come to
seeking audience of Ravana, said: their aid.
"Almost all our people who occupied "Well," said Ravana, "I do not
Janasthana are dead and Janasthana is understand this but I shall start at once. I
now an empty ruin. I alone have managed shall destroy these little worms of men
to escape with life." and return." And he rose. "Hear me, great
Ravana was furious with anger. He king, before you go," said Akampana, and
stared and violently shouted: "Who explained once again Rama's strength and
destroyed my lovely Janasthana? Was it courage.
Yama or Agni or Vishnu? I shall deal "Listen to me. No one can fight with
death to the god of death. I shall burn up Rama and conquer him. When I say 'No
both the god of fire and the sun. I shall one,' I mean 'No one.' Not even you can
strangle and suffocate the god of wind. do it. Because you have promised me
Tell me, who was it that destroyed protection, I dare thus to tell you the plain
Janasthana and killed my men heedless truth. There is only one way of killing
that I am here to avenge? Speak out at him. His wife is with him. The whole
once." earth holds not her equal in beauty. If you
It was ever dangerous to carry contrive to carry her off, separation from
unpleasant news to tyrants. Akampana her will kill Rama; so great is his love for
was frightened by the king's rage and said, her. Consider how you can do this. Do not
"I shall speak, if you give me protection." think of battle with him."
He then told his tale. "Rama, son of When he heard of Sita's beauty, the
Dasaratha, a young warrior, lion-like in Rakshasa's desire was kindled. He began
fierce valor, a hero who has already to think that the defeat of Khara and his
acquired fame among men, fought with hosts was indeed a fortunate event that
Khara and Dushana at Panchavati and brought him an opportunity for gaining
destroyed them." one more beautiful queen and wife. He
The Rakshasa king hissed like a cobra welcomed Akampana's advice and said:
and said: "What are you talking? How did "Tomorrow morning I shall go. I think
this happen? Did Indra and the divine your plan is good."
Accordingly Ravana set out in his his face like a sacrificial flame fed with
mule-yoked flying chariot which gleamed ghee and his mighty body showed the
like the moon among the clouds as it sped scars of many wounds received in
fast in the air. He went straight to victorious battle against gods, asuras and
Maricha's dwelling. others.
Maricha duly welcomed his king and His strength and courage were
inquired what urgent necessity brought limitless, so was his adharma. He had no
him there. Ravana answered: "Hear me, equal in persecuting Devas, spoiling
Maricha. You and you alone can help me. sacrifices and carrying away women. The
Janasthana has been destroyed and so too hosts of Devas and asuras were mortally
the whole army I had stationed there. All afraid of him. He was a terror to all
this is the work of Rama, son of creatures. Enjoying wealth and varied
Dasaratha. Isn't it amazing? To avenge pleasures, freed from the fear of death, the
myself, I am resolved to carry off his ruler of Lanka knew no master or rival
wife. In this I need your advice and help." and feared neither God nor sin.
Maricha ,whose experience of Rama's With his ten heads, large eyes and huge
prowess had seared into his soul, was limbs, his figure was terrible, but it also
horrified and tried to dissuade Ravana possessed the marks of royalty.
from his mad enterprise. Gorgeously dressed and bejeweled as he
"What plan is this? Some enemy sat on his throne, surrounded by his
determined to destroy you, but pretending ministers in the midst of the splendor of
to be your friend, has given you this plan the despoiled world, there suddenly
of carrying off Sita. Whoever gave you appeared before him like the vision of the
this advice wishes the end of the Rakshasa doom to be, his sister Surpanakha,
race. It is like advising you to put your bleeding and mutilated, a shape of pain
hand into the mouth of a sleeping cobra and sorrow and shame. While all looked
and pull out its fang. Haven't you a happy at her with horror struck eyes in stunned
home and devoted wives? Return to them, silence, her anguish broke out in burning
and enjoy your life and prosperity. To words.
hanker after Rama's wife is the highway to "What a fool are you that, sunk in
disgrace and destruction and the sensual pleasures and arrogantly secure of
annihilation of the Rakshasa race." sovereignty.You are not awake to the
Ten-headed Ravana went back to deadly danger that threatens your
Lanka, for Maricha's counsel appeared existence at your very doors! Surely that
right to him. Ravana must have then king who is drunk with self-importance
remembered the omission in the series of and dead to all portents that threaten his
boons he had secured. He had obtained state is doomed to shame and destruction!
immunity from the attacks of all beings No object is of less account or more
except men. Rama's shafts had conquered contemptible than a ruler who falls
and killed the whole army with Khara, through his own remissness. Know you
Trisiras, Dushana and other mighty not that your brothers, Khara, Dushana
warriors. Thinking of all this, Ravana and Trisiras and your gallant army of
accepted Maricha's advice. fourteen thousand fierce Rakshasas have
But fate would not let him be. Ravana been exterminated by Rama, a mere man,
was seated on his throne with his and that your outpost at Janasthana has
counsellors around him. Majesty shone on been destroyed? One moment I saw a
single warrior stand proud in the glittering your own strength. You can easily secure
pageantry of war and the next, they lay Sita, and make her your own. And can
dead slain by that man's arrows, strewing you remain indifferent to the insult to your
the ground like ripe crops devastated by a race? Khara and Dushana lie dead in
terrible hail-storm. And you see me, your Janasthana because they dared oppose
own sister, disgraced, mutilated and heart- Rama. Think of all this and do what is
broken! Have you no thoughts of right. Save, oh, save, the honor of our
vengeance, you, a hero, a brother, king?" race."
Stung by her contempt and heart-struck Listening to these words of his sister
by her suffering and sorrow, Ravana said: and her praise of Sita's beauty, Ravana
"Be sure you shall have vengeance. But dissolved the council and retired to muse
this Rama, who is he? What sort of man is alone. He had to think and think again,
he? What are his weapons? How does he because he remembered what Maricha had
fight? What seeks he in Dandaka forest? told him. He turned in his mind the pros
And how happened it that you were so and cons and finally coming to a decision
cruelly mutilated?" ordered a chariot to be kept ready in
She gave a description of the brothers secrecy.
and Sita, dwelling on the virile beauty and It was ready, his golden chariot, drawn
powers of the brothers, probably with a by mules bearing demon faces. Mounting
view to provoke the envious jealousy of it, he passed over sea and land and cities.
the Rakshasa. And growing As he looked from his magic chariot at the
enthusiastically eloquent about the sights of the summer season down below,
superlative loveliness of Sita, she said: "I his passion grew stronger.
have no words to describe her perfections. He reached Maricha's ashrama and met
I have never seen such sublime beauty in Maricha who, with matted hair and bark
any created thing, be it Gandharva or garments, lived the life of an ascetic.
Kinnara or a daughter of man. And now, I Seeing his king and kinsman, Maricha
will tell you why this ghastly outrage was welcomed Ravana duly and said: "Why
perpetrated on me. On seeing this Sita, I have you come all this way a second time
felt that none but you deserved her and and unannounced?"
that she was fully worthy to share your Ravana, skillful in speech began: "I am
bed and out of my love for you I tried to in great trouble from which only you can
carry her off for you. Lakshmana, who save me. I beg you for help. Do you know
was standing by, prevented it and, how my brothers, under my orders, ruled
springing on me, disfigured and disgraced Janasthana and how they and their
me thus. For your sake, all this I have warriors knew no opposition all these
suffered. If you wish to avenge this insult years? But now this man Rama has killed
and protect the honor of the race, rise and them and their whole army. Without a
go at once. Apart from revenge for the chariot, and standing on the ground, his
insult I have suffered, secure for yourself arrows have pierced to death all our
a wife worthy of you. If you capture her kinsmen. Today, in the Dandaka forest,
and disgrace Rama, the spirits of the rid of Rakshasas, the rishis live fearless
warriors who were slain in Dandaka lives. This Rama is a worthless prince
would be satisfied. I too shall feel that banished by his father, no doubt for some
some amends have been made for the crime. He has been wandering in the
dishonor done to me. You do not know forest alone with his wife, Sita. This
fellow dressed like an ascetic but enjoying by a lustful desire to possess Sita. All this
sense-pleasures, this renegade from Maricha saw.
dharma, proud of his strength and for no We should analyse Surpanakha's
other reason, has mutilated the face of my motives too. She had suffered because of
sister and insulted our race. My sister who her own uncontrollable carnal desire.
has suffered this pain and shame had Though it was Lakshmana who mutilated
come and complained to me. If, with all her she was not so angry with him as with
this, I sit still and do nothing, would I still Sita who stood between her and her desire
be a king? To avenge myself I have and whose beauty and virtue she hated as
decided to carry off Rama's wife from the darkness hates light.
Dandaka forest. To disgrace and punish The one desire that now burned in her
this Rama is a duty I owe to my race. And heart was to avenge herself by bringing
for this I need your help. With you to help disgrace on Sita. In order to use Ravana
me, I have no fear. In courage, strength, for this purpose, she described Sita in
skill and magic powers, none on earth can such glowing terms to him and kindled his
equal you. That is why I have come to lawless passion. The rest of her talk was
you. You cannot refuse me. I will tell you ancillary to her main purpose. Reference
how you can help me. You should turn to the honor of the race, the security of his
yourself into a golden deer, a golden deer empire, the slaying of his kinsmen and so
with silver spots, casting a spell on all on was only to serve her main purpose
eyes. In that shape romp in front of Sita which was to rouse Ravana's lust and
near Rama's ashrama. True to the make him desire Sita and he was caught in
character of women, she will insist on the snare.
Rama and Lakshmana pursuing and 35. THE GOLDEN STAG
capturing you for her. When they are thus MARICHA told Ravana, "I have
engaged and she is left alone, I shall easily listened, my king, to all that you have said
carry her off. Sita is a most beautiful and I am filled with boundless sorrow. It
woman. Rama losing such a wife is sure is easy to flatter. Flattery is ever pleasant
to languish in sorrow and lose his manly to the ears. Those who utter good though
spirit. It will then be easy to kill him and unpalatable advice are few; and fewer still
avenge ourselves." are those who welcome it when given. Yet
Maricha stared at Ravana. His face it is my duty to speak to you the harsh
became pale and his mouth grew parched. truth. Sweet words might please you now,
He was frightened by Ravana's plan. With but will surely lead you to danger and
his experience of Rama's prowess and his ruin. Your informants have not told you
own wisdom born of penance, Maricha the truth about Rama. Do not be deceived
saw what was going to happen. by what you have heard from others about
He knew that Ravana's sinful purpose this Rama. He is neither a renegade nor a
had not the ghost of a chance of success. criminal, but a dutiful son who is in the
It was clear to him that the noose of fate forest to honor his father's word. Far from
was round Ravana's neck dragging him to being a weakling or coward, he is a
inevitable ruin. He had spoken no doubt mighty warrior, whose equal in arms does
of the honor of the Rakshasas, of the not exist. Do not make him your
duties of kingship and of the insult to implacable enemy and bring ruin on your
Surpanakha. But he was really impelled people and your kingdom. From what you
are bent upon, it looks as though Sita was
born only to compass your ruin. The race rich and beautiful city and certain death
of Rakshasas and Lanka itself will soon be on yourself. If your persist in your foolish
destroyed on your account. Who is the project, O Ravana, I see before my eyes
enemy that has put this disastrous thought the ruin that awaits you. I see Lanka in
into your head? Who has given you this flames and her streets littered with death,
bad advice to take you, your kingdom and and her widows and orphans loud in
your race to danger and destruction? Who lamentation. Avoid this great sin. If you
told you that he was a lover of pleasure are angry with Rama fight him face to
and falsehood? Rama is the embodiment face and meet your death like a hero. Do
of dharma. He employs his strength and not follow a fraudulent path and drag me
courage in the service of dharma. As Indra into it. Go back and be happy with your
is surely the first among the gods, Rama is numerous wives. Do not invite Yama to
first among mortal men. How dare you, your land and race!"
how could you, cast longing eyes on Sita? Thus Maricha earnestly pleaded for the
Will Sita ever yield to you? Take her from good of Ravana who, however, was far
Rama indeed! Can one deceive the sun from pleased or convinced. How could
and steal from him his light? You will be good advice prevail on a victim of lust?
reduced to ashes if you approach the Like a sick man rejecting medicine,
blazing fire of Janaka's daughter. Do not Ravana refused to listen to Maricha's
fall a prey to Rama's shafts. Do not seek counsel.
your own death. Do not approach the fire "If a king" said Ravana, "wants to
guarded by Rama. One should not launch know whether a thing should or should
on a course of action without full thought. not be done, it is open to his adviser to
You can never vanquish Rama in battle. examine its advantages and disadvantages,
O, Ruler of the Rakshasas, do not turn a but I have not come to you for such
deaf ear to my words. Do you remember advice. I am king and I have come to tell
how, in olden days, proud of my strength, you that I have decided to do this. I expect
I disturbed the rites and sacrifice of the and want your help to carry it out. You
sage Viswamitra. In those days Rama was forget the loyalty due from you and dare
but a boy; yet Viswamitra had, with tell me that what I contemplate is wrong.
Dasaratha's permission, taken young On this matter, I have considered
Rama to protect his sacrifice. That sage everything and reached a decision. This
knew Rama's prowess. I approached the insignificant creature whom you extol is
place to put out the sacrificial fire with unworthy of the honor of a formal
contaminating blood and flesh and then I challenge to battle from me. What more is
came up against the boy Rama. What do he than a man driven out of his own
you think happened? He let loose an country, a fool who has allowed himself
arrow which killed Subahu on the spot to be cheated by a woman and has been
and with another he swept me off my feet deprived of his rights? The proper
and hurled me into the sea. Rama the boy treatment or such a fellow is to disgrace
is now a man, immeasurably stronger and him by carrying off his wife. This is a
more skillful in arms! Do not incur his matter determined and concluded. Your
wrath. Do not bring ruin on your people remarks are therefore irrelevant. You
who are now enjoying wealth and should do what I want you to do and that
pleasure. Do not harbor thoughts about is not much. Transform yourself into a
Sita and bring down destruction on your strange and beautiful stag and appear
before Sita and attract her attention. Sita animal had its own different hue and
will send Rama to pursue and capture you. exquisite beauty. Like a rainbow in the
You should draw Rama away to a distance sky, it charmed the eye of the beholder.
and simulate Rama's voice and cry 'Ah, Gold, silver, diamonds, gems and flowers
Sita, Ah, Lakshmana!' Hearing this Sita seemed to appear in succession on its
will conclude that Rama is in danger and beautiful skin. It was like a living stream
she will force Lakshmana to go to his of jewels flowing on a beautiful golden
help. When thus she is alone, I shall carry body.
her off to Lanka. Once you have rendered With such surpassing beauty the magic
me this help, you will be at liberty to do deer wandered here and there, now resting
what you like. But if you will not help me for a while and now pursuing its graceful
now, understand, your life shall be gambols. It would sometimes bend and
forfeit." nibble the grass on the ground, again lift
Maricha thought within himself. "My its head up to eat the tender leaves of
frenzied Ravana who is already under the plants. Sometimes walk slowly near the
shadow of doom will not listen to advice. ashrama and again jump away and
Sinful desire is driving him to Yama. It is disappear and reappear at a distance.
better for me to be killed by Rama than by Sometimes it would join a herd of deer;
Ravana. At least then I would yield my then it would part from it and walk alone.
life to a foe." The other deer would smell him and move
And so be agreed to the proposal. away in sudden terror.
He said: "I have given you good Sita, who was then gathering flowers in
advice, but you will not listen. If I carry the forest, looked at the stag and stared
out your wishes, I am sure to die. But not spell-bound at its wondrous beauty. The
more sure than that you will also perish, deer, too, stared back at her and ran here
not long after with all that is yours. So and there in front of her, shedding a new
will our race. Some enemy of ours beauty on the landscape.
wishing our destruction has set you on this "Do come and look! Do come and
course, someone who envies you. I would look!" cried Sita, eager that Rama and
rather be killed by a foe whom I respect Lakshmana too should see that wonderful
than by you. Come, let us go to Dandaka." stag.
Ravana was overjoyed and embraced "Come quickly, quickly!" she cried.
Maricha saying: "Now you are again my Rama and Lakshmana came out of the
dear old Maricha." cottage and saw the exquisite creature and
The two ascended the chariot and marvelled at its beauty.
proceeded towards the Dandaka forest. Lakshmana grew suspicious. It seemed
They flew over cities, mountains, rivers to him it was no ordinary deer, but a
and kingdoms. Reaching Dandaka, they Rakshasa in disguise. Both Rama and
espied Rama's ashrama in a banana Lakshmana had heard about Maricha and
garden. had been told how, assuming the form of a
They alighted at a distance and Ravana deer, he would often beguile and destroy
took Maricha by the hand and, pointing to those who came for hunting deer in the
the ashrama, told him to do his part forest.
according to their plan. Lakshmana said, "This is no ordinary
At once Maricha transformed himself animal. This is a trick of the Rakshasas."
into a wonderful deer. Every part of the
But Sita said: "Do catch this deer for He said to himself: "Even if
me. We shall bring it up as a pet in the Lakshmana be right and the creature is a
ashrama. This is the most beautiful Rakshasa so much the better reason for
creature I have so far seen in this forest. killing it. What is there to be afraid of? If I
Look! Do look at it. What color! What cannot catch it alive, I can bring it down
playfulness!" with an arrow and give the skin to Sita.
And so she went on, talking of the deer When she is so keen on having it, is it not
and desiring to possess it. And she my duty to get it for her?"
pleaded: "Do somehow catch it for me." And he told Lakshmana to bring him
She begged Rama: "Soon we shall his bow and arrows. Lakshmana's heart
have to return to the city. Should we not was not in it, but he obeyed.
take some rare thing from the forest to And Rama set out saying: "Mind,
Ayodhya? How beautiful it will be, this Lakshmana, remain by Sita's side and
exquisite creature moving in the inner guard her vigilantly. I shall come back
apartments of our palace? Bharata would soon with this stag alive or killed. Do not
be so pleased. I should love to give it to be anxious. Even if this is a Rakshasa,
him. Do my beloved, catch it for me. what does it matter? It will share the fate
Somehow catch it for me." of Vatapi. If this has come here to cheat
Sita saw that Lakshmana did not seem me, as Vatapi tried to cheat Agastya, why
to like her importunity. This only made then, it will be the victim of its own
her more determined to persuade Rama to deceit. What can this animal do to me?
get it for her. If a strong desire creeps into Stag or Rakshasa, it is all the same."
our heart and someone stands in the way Again he said, "Be careful. Mind Sita.
of it, we are angry with him no matter Anything might happen at any time. Be
how dear he may be to us. vigilant."
This unfortunate truth about the way Destiny had set the stage for
that desire works in the human mind is misfortune. Strangely enough Lakshmana,
explained clearly by the Lord in the Gita. who was by nature hasty and quick to act,
It was demonstrated by what happened in was suspicious on this occasion and
Sita's heart now. Rama, who was usually circumspect now
"Look!" she exclaimed, "it is all gold! yielded to Sita's foolish wish, and
Look now! It is all silver! If you cannot disregarding Lakshmana's warning, went
capture the creature alive, at least bring it in pursuit of the Maricha-stag.
down with an arrow and let us take the In order to give Ravana plenty of time
skin home. We shall never again see such and opportunity, Maricha kept within
a beautiful skin. It would be a lovely thing sight of Rama, but beyond his reach, and
to sit on. Look. It is going away. Do go drew him on and on like fate. The deer
and catch it alive. Or else, let me have at would take a few steps, then stop and turn
least the skin." and stare at the pursuer. Then suddenly it
Again she said, "Look, look again. All would start as if in fear. Pricking its ears,
these long years, I never saw such a it would spring drawing up its hooves to
beautiful thing in these forests. It is like a its breast. It would disappear for a while
cluster of shining stars!" among the trees. Emerging soon on some
Rama could no longer resist her tall mound, it would display its lovely
entreaties. outline framed against a passing cloud.
Sometimes it allowed near approach as
though tired and so easy of capture but cries for help. Instead of rushing to his
presently it would spring up and bound far rescue, you stand still here!"
away. Lakshmana knew the wiles of the
This went on until Maricha took Rama Rakshasas and remembered his brother's
far out. Then the Rakshasa realised this command. He would not move.
game would not go on forever and that his Sita grew furious in her agony of fear
end was near. Rama, tired of the pursuit, and doubt. She beat her breast with both
bent his bow and sent forth an arrow. It hands and shouted in uncontrollable fury:
pierced the stag. Maricha resumed his "Son of Sumitra! Have you too turned
natural form and simulating Rama's voice foe? Have you been an imposter all these
called out, "Ah Sita, Ah Lakshmana!" and years? Have you been with us waiting
fell dead. only for Rama to die? Pretending to be his
"Lakshmana was right," said Rama to friend, were you hoping all the time for
himself. "This deer was indeed a his death to secure me thereafter? Why
Rakshasa." else do you stand here, wicked wretch,
He thought further: "Hearing his last and refuse to go to his rescue when he
cry, maybe, Sita will be deceived. She is cries for help? Traitor! Imposter!"
likely to be overwhelmed by fear." These cruel words pierced
He then said to himself again: "What if Lakshmana's heart like poisoned arrows.
Sita entertains false fears? Lakshmana is He closed his ears with his hands. He
there by her side." spoke gently to Sita, who was in tears of
His heart then swelled with pride and wrath: "Vaidehi, Rama can encounter and
joy, that he had a brother like Lakshmana, vanquish any foe in the world. There is no
so loving and so steadfast. How could need to fear, O more than mother! Calm
Rama guess what was happening at that yourself. None in the universe is strong
very instant in the ashrama, and what enough to touch our Rama or do him
painful words Lakshmana had to bear harm. What you have uttered is unworthy
from Sita? Truly, the way of destiny is of you, my mother. Do not fear or grieve.
cruel. You will surely see Rama return with the
36. THE GOOD BIRD JATAYU body of the stag you wanted. The voice
"ALAS, alas! Ah Sita! Ah we heard was not his. It is a Rakshasa's
Lakshmana!" So cried Maricha simulating trick. Do not be deceived and grieve for
Rama's voice. And Sita was deceived. nothing. My brother has posted me here to
Trembling like a plantain tree in a storm, watch over you. Do not ask me to leave
she cried: "There, Lakshmana, do you not you alone and go. I cannot disobey my
hear your brother's voice? Run, run at brother. Since we slew the Rakshasas of
once to his help!" Janasthana, their people are trying to
Overwhelmed by fear and seeing avenge themselves in various ways. We
Lakshmana unwilling to move, she should not be misled by their false forms
appealed to Lakshmana again and again in and voices. It was not Rama's cry for help.
an agony of anxiety: "I hear my Lord's You need not be afraid in the least."
voice in distress. Go, go at once! Do not But Sita's fear grew to a frenzy and
delay!" she cried. "He is in some great with eyes red with anger she uttered
danger. Did you not hear his cry for help? terrible words: "Taking advantage of what
Why do you still stand here? Your brother you call your brother's command, you
is no doubt surrounded by Rakshasas and stand unmoved by his cry of anguish and
are prepared to let him perish! Oh, how alone. May you be safe and well! May the
completely have you been deceiving us, gods of the forest protect you! I shall do
Rama and me, all these years! Base, your bidding. I see bad omens. I fear
wicked, selfish wretch calling yourself greatly. I wonder if I shall ever see you
brother! O, you false friend, do you with Rama again. Yet I shall go!"
rejoice that Rama is in dire peril? I now And he went, unwillingly and looking
see why you followed us into the forest. back every now and then.
Have you been set on by Bharata? Have Lakshmana walked with his heart
you all become my lord's enemies? Have troubled and heavy with anger and
you all joined together in a wicked sorrow. How could he bear to hear the
conspiracy? I, who have lived with Rama, cruel words of Sita? How could he forget
shall I ever look at you or another? When them? Sorely wounded was the heart of
Rama dies, I die with him. Know this for the prince who had renounced everything
certain." to be with his brother.
Sita burst into a rage which completely Lakshmana went in the direction that
overwhelmed Lakshmana. Her cruel Rama had taken. Ravana, who had been
words pierced and burnt into him like waiting for this, now approached Rama's
poisoned arrows. His hairs stood on end. ashrama. He transformed himself into a
He clasped his hands in worship and said: mendicant ascetic, clad in clean saffron
"O Mother! O Goddess! How can such clothes and his lips uttered beautiful
words issue from your mouth? Like red- Vedic hymns while in his heart was
hot iron they burn my ears. Cruel and ugliest evil.
unjust are these thoughts of yours. With Sita was standing at the entrance of the
all the gods for witness, I swear, your cottage, her eyes fixed on the forest,
suspicion is wrong. I see now that after all eagerly looking for Rama. Ravana beheld
you are a woman like other women quick Sita.
to think evil of others. I fear a great At sight of her, the desire planted in his
tragedy is about to befall you. Otherwise heart by Surpanakha took good root and
you could not have thought and spoken grew rapidly irresistible. He was more
evil of me." determined than ever to possess Sita.
And innocent Lakshmana trembled in Seeing this wandering ascetic, clad in
fear of some dire calamity that was to saffron clothes, carrying his water-pot and
come over them. staff, Sita greeted him respectfully,
But Sita said: "Look here, here is according to the courtesy due to holy men.
plenty of dry fuel. I shall light a fire and He desired hospitality. As in duty bound,
fall into it. Or I shall drown myself in the she offered him a seat and placed before
Godavari. Or I shall hang myself dead, him some fruits and roots as was the
unless you run immediately to the help of custom.
Rama. Now, once again, I ask, will you The ascetic sat and looked again at
not go? Or shall I perish?" Sita. His desire grew stronger. Sinner and
She beat her breast and cried. Rakshasa though he was, he had an
Lakshmana could bear this no longer. He instinct that made him wish to win her
raised his hands in solemn worship and heart; he wished not to ravish but to
said: secure Sita's willing consent and make her
"Very well, sister. I shall obey you and his wife.
disobey my brother. I shall leave you
The King of Lanka wanted and hoped faithful of friends, why did I. with
to persuade Sita. He thought she would obstinate folly, drive you away?"
yield to him for his wealth and power, The Rakshasa held her firmly down
turning her back on poverty-stricken and drove on in the aerial car. Sita
Rama. He thought also that this would be addressed the trees and plants down below
the best way of disgracing and punishing and begged them to tell Rama of her fate.
Rama. He expected Sita to behave like It happened that old Jatayu, half-asleep
other women he had known. upon a tree, saw the chariot flying past.
Seated in front of the fruits and roots Startled by a woman's cry of distress he
offered by Sita, the ascetic began to praise was wide awake in a moment and
Sita's beauty in terms too warm for a recognised Sita by her voice. She also saw
genuine ascetic. He dwelt on the charms him and appealed to him for rescue.
of her person and asked: "Who are you? Jatayu's blood was fired by the sight of
Why are you here alone in the forest her piteous plight and he threw himself in
haunted by Rakshasas and wild beasts?" the way of the aerial car crying: "Hold,
She was astonished but answered his hold! What is all this?"
questions. She hoped the prince would "The King of Lanka is carrying me
return at once and kept her eyes fixed on away by force," wailed Sita, "but what can
the doorway. you do to prevent it, my poor old friend?
Little by little the visitor revealed who O fly to Rama and Lakshmana and tell
he was and described the greatness of his them my helpless plight!"
origin and family, his power and wealth. But Jatayu's fighting blood, the blood
After exalting himself, he proceeded to of generations of lordly ancestors who
run down Rama and concluded. ruled the air and knew not fear, was on
"Be my wife and live a glorious life fire. He cared not for Ravana and his
with me in Lanka. Come, let us go!" might. He only saw a princess in distress.
In this unexpected situation, Sita's He thought of his friend Dasaratha and his
purity gave her courage to defy the promise to Rama and he was resolved that
powerful monster whom she now knew this outrage should not occur while he
for what he was. lived to prevent it.
"Base and wicked fellow! Your Jatayu now addressed Ravana directly:
destruction is near. Leave this ashrama if "Oh king, I am Jatayu, king of the eagles,
you would escape with life" she said, a king like you. Listen to me, brother
hissing like an angry cobra. king! Forbear from this wicked act. How
The Rakshasa was furious. He can you call yourself a king and do this
completely threw off all pretence of shameful wrong? Is it not the rule of kings
disguise and gentleness and assumed his to protect the honor of women? And Sita
real imperious wickedness. With one hand is a princess. I warn you, you shall surely
he caught hold of her hair and with the perish unless you leave her and go. Her
other lifted her up and carried her to the very look will reduce you to ashes. You
chariot which waited for him behind the are carrying a venomous cobra in your
trees. Forcing her into it, Ravana rose bosom. The noose of Yama is round your
with her into the air. neck and dragging you to perdition. I am
Sita cried aloud: "O my lord! Where old and unarmed and you are young, fully
are you, my Rama? Oh Lakshmana, most armed and seated in a chariot. Yet I
cannot look on, while you carry off Sita.
Why do you do this cowardly act behind pulled off than another took its place and
Rama's back? If you have any grievance Sita was held in writhing helplessness.
against him, meet him face to face. O, you At last Ravana let go Sita and
would fly away from me, would you? You unsheathing his sword cut off the bird's
shall not escape while I am alive! I care wings and talons. The old bird was now
not for your chariot or your ten heads, or helpless and fell on the ground unable to
your glittering arms! Your heads shall roll move.
on the ground that you have polluted with Janaki ran and embraced Jatayu and
your presence. Get down from your car, cried: "O my father! You have given away
and fight if you are not a coward as well your life for my sake. You are a second
as a thief!" father to my Lord! And now you are no
Ravana flared up in a rage. He attacked more. O our devoted brave friend!"
Jatayu. It was like a clash between a Then Ravana turned towards her to
mighty wind and a massive rain-cloud. take her up again. Helplessly she ran
The battle raged in the sky above the hither and thither, crying. She clung to the
forest. Jatayu fought like a winged trees and cried. "O my Rama, where are
mountain. you? O Lakshmana, where are you? Won't
Ravana aimed deadly darts at him. But you, come to my rescue?" The Rakshasa
the eagle intercepted them all and with his at last caught her and rose in the air.
talons tore Ravana's flesh. The enraged As the dark and massive Ravana flew
Rakshasa despatched sharp, serpent-like in the sky with her, Sita struggling in his
missiles against the bird. grasp looked like a flash of lightning
The bird-hero was desparately across a great black cloud. The Rakshasa
wounded, but fought on undauntedly carrying her appeared like a mountain
while Sita watched the unequal combat covered by a forest-fire. The body of
with beating heart and tearful eyes. The Ravana, lit up by Sita, coursed through the
sight of her made Jatayu all the fiercer in sky like a calamitous comet.
his attacks on Ravana. But his years were Thus was Sita carried away by the
telling on him and he felt he must gather Rakshasa. The sun grew dim and untimely
all his strength for a supreme attempt to darkness descended on the earth. All
conquer. Regardless of the wounds, he beings lamented: "Dharma is destroyed.
attacked Ravana fiercely and with his Righteousness has disappeared. Virtue
wings broke off and threw down his and pity are no more."
jewelled crown and deprived him of his The dumb creatures of the earth,
bow. He attacked the chariot and killed looking upwards, shed tears. Ravana,
the demon-faced mules and the charioteer cruelly clutching the princess, flew as
and smashed the vehicle into a thousand towards his ruin. As she was carried away,
pieces. Ravana fell on the ground, still the petals fell down from the flowers she
clutching Sita. The elements rejoiced to was wearing at that time and as they were
see Ravana fall. strewn along the path below, they seemed
The gallant old bird swooped down on to announce the scattering of Ravana's
Ravana's back and tore great chunks of fortune and affluence.
flesh off it, and tried to wrench off the 37. CLOSELY GUARDED
arms which held Sita. But Ravana had SITA opened her eyes red with anger
twenty arms, and no sooner was one and grief, and facing Ravana cried: "Base
fellow! You boasted of your fame and
your great origin and your warlike went to his apartments with the grief-
qualities, but have you behaved like a stricken Sita. The fool thought that he had
brave warrior? Are you not ashamed of secured the prize, but he was taking home
yourself? What sort of warrior is he who his own death in a woman's form. Then,
waits for the husband's absence to steal his summoning some demon-like Rakshasis,
wife and carries off a lonely helpless he ordered them to keep watch over Sita,
woman when no one is nearer to prevent specially commanding them to let none
it? What heroic deed to kill the old bird approach her without his permission.
that tried to save me! How brave was your "Give her whatever she wants, clothes
talk in the ashrama! The world will no or gold or jewels. Serve her and do her
doubt remember and praise this great hero honor as you would serve and honor me,"
who dares not fight but is prepared to he enjoined them.
steal! If indeed you come of a noble And he added the warning: "Anyone
family, what a shame you have brought who utters a word which might offend her
upon it! And what do you hope by thus will be punished with death. No one,
carrying me off? How long do you hope knowingly or unknowingly, should cause
to live? Very soon Rama's arrows will her anger or grief."
seek you out and end your life. Know that Having thus installed Sita in the inner
the moment Rama sets eyes on you, you apartment, he considered what should be
are dead. Do not hope to escape. Your done next. He sent for some clever spies
death is certain at his hands. What then do and gave them this mandate:
you gain by this cheating? I will never be "Go at once to Janasthana where Khara
yours. I shall die before I yield to you and lived. Watch carefully and bring me word
you cannot escape my lord, having what Rama is doing. So long as that Rama
incurred his wrath. Very soon you will see is alive I cannot sleep. He is my greatest
the river Vaitarani in hell. The red-hot foe. Somehow, he should be killed. Go
image is awaiting you there for your boldly now and do your job and return."
embrace. So is the tree with iron spikes. Imprisoned within a fortress in a sea-
Rama within an hour slew your army of girt island, Sita did not know where she
myriad Rakshasas in Janasthana. Will he was or how far from Rama. She expected
let you escape? Soon will he send you to that her lord would somehow arrive, kill
Yama." Ravana and redeem her.
While Sita was speaking words of Though full of grief, thinking of the
contempt and warning, Ravana, strength and prowess of her lord she was
chariotless, sped like an arrow across the bold and steady in mind. It was also some
sky towards Lanka. They went over many consolation that the Rakshasa king did not
mountains and rivers and Sita saw some behave like a beast with her.
people below standing on a hilltop. She Having despatched his men to
took off her sash and tying up her jewels Janasthana, Ravana returned to Sita's
in it threw the bundle down. presence. He saw her overwhelmed by
She did this hoping that the ornaments grief and shedding tears. The Rakshasis
thus dropped may be seen by Rama and were watching her with care.
give him a clue of the direction in which He thought that if she saw his wealth
she was carried away. and power she would yield to him. She
Crossing the Pampa and then the sea, was therefore taken round in the great
Ravana entered the city of Lanka. He palace and shown the wealth and grandeur
there displayed. No king on earth had ever As Ravana went on speaking thus,
possessed such wealth and means of tears flowed from Sita's eyes. She covered
enjoyment. her face with the end of her sari as she did
Sita was shown gold and jewels and not want her enemies too think that she
silks in plenty; curiously wrought was afraid.
platforms, vehicles and towers; thousands Ravana begged and importuned her:
of maid servants and every symbol of "Do not be shy. There is nothing wrong in
wealth and royal power. But her thoughts accepting me, nothing to be ashamed of. It
were elsewhere. is laid down that one should accept the
Ravana tried to convince her also of gifts of God. O beautiful one! I bow my
the vastness of his army. But then she had head at your feet and beg you for your
already formed her opinion of his prowess grace. I am your slave. Forgetting my
and had described it to him in scathing greatness and power, I thus beg for your
terms. favor. Never in my life have I bowed in
Yet, Ravana argued: "All this you can this way before anyone."
count and enjoy as your own. You shall be He really thought he could persuade
my queen, dearer to me than life itself. I her and gain her affection.
have many wives but you shall be mistress If one's mind is clear, one can
of them all. Hereafter my love shall be for courageously face any situation. In spite
you and you alone. Listen to me. Do my of her grief, therefore, Sita spoke boldly to
desire. For hundreds of miles the sea the Rakshasa. She placed a little bit of
surrounds this island which is guarded by grass between Ravana and herself before
thousands of mighty soldiers. No one can answering him.
enter this city. No one among the gods or Boastful words were uttered by Ravana
asuras can match me in might; and they in sanyasi garb, sitting in front of the fruit
know it. What pleasure or honor is it for served by her in Panchavati. Imprisoned
you to stick to a poor human creature Sita now spoke as if in echo of those
banished from his kingdom, a destitute words.
wandering in the forest? To match your "Know who I am. Dasaratha was
beauty, you need my wealth. Do not waste famed in all the three worlds and reigned
the years of our youth. You are never long years and stood as a bulwark of
again going to set eyes on Rama. Be dharma and defender of truth. His son
certain of that. Rama cannot approach this Rama, of godlike presence and lion-like
city. Treat this kingdom as yours. Treat valor, is my husband. He and his brother
me and all the obedient gods as slaves. Lakshmana will surely take your life. You
Till now, because of your sins in some know how Khara and his army were
previous birth, you have suffered destroyed in Janasthana by my lord. As
hardship. Here after you will enjoy with easily as an eagle carries a venomous
me the fruits of your former merits. You serpent, he destroyed your huge army in
will be the queen of Lanka and the wife of Janasthana. Because you have secured a
the Lord of Lanka, the conqueror of boon that no god or Asura can kill you,
Kubera. Let us take our pleasure floating you have dared to make Rama your
about the world in the Pushpaka vimana. enemy. You think your boon will save
Let the cloud of sorrow disappear from you. But I tell you, you cannot escape.
your face and let the moon of joy appear." You will surely meet your death at his
hands. You are, like the goat tied to the
altar-post for sacrifice, doomed to death. Though overwhelmed by grief, she had
The moment Rama sets his angry eyes on the faith that Rama and Lakshmana would
you, you will meet your fate. My lord will somehow discover where she was and
dry up the sea or bring down the moon, if rescue her, that her lord would destroy
necessary, to kill you and redeem me. It is Ravana and take her back to a happy life
certain. Your evil deed will bring with him.
destruction on yourself and your kingdom. Sustained by this faith, she was neither
My noble lord lived unafraid in the midst frightened by threats nor deceived by
of the Rakshasas in the forest. Like a hero, temptations. Not for one day, or two, but
he fought and killed the Rakshasas who for months, Sita suffered thus a close
encountered him. Like a thief, you stole prisoner in the Asoka garden.
me in his absence. But you cannot escape. The day was yet far off when the
Your fate impelled you to this sin because mighty Hanuman, crossing the sea, would
the hour of your ruin and the destruction visit Sita in her sorrow and bring her the
of your race are near. You ask me to message of hope and love and the
accept you. How foolish! Can the craw assurance of relief: "Rama loves you
approach the swan? Can a heinous sinner infinitely. He will be here soon. Be not
be allowed near the sacrificial fire? I do afraid."
not value life or body. Do you imagine I All the women in our land who suffer
would wish to live despised by the world? sorrow in any way are so many replicas of
Do not dream that out of fear or for saving Sita. May all the men be like Hanuman,
my life I shall yield to you." pure and heroic helpers of such suffering
Having spoken those words, she was women! We shall now go to Rama and
silent. Lakshmana.
"Is that so?" said Ravana. "Very well 38. RAMA DISCONSOLATE
then, I shall give you twelve months' time. WHEN Maricha was struck by Rama's
If you agree to accept me, well and good. arrow and was about to die, he resumed
If at the end of that period, you refuse, my his own Rakshasa shape and cried aloud
cooks will make meat of your body for in a voice which was an exact imitation of
my breakfast." Rama's: "Ah Lakshmana. Ah Sita!"
After warning Sita thus, he gave orders Rama now realised how the Rakshasa
to the attendant Rakshasis: "You should had beguiled them and how be had been
break her pride and obstinacy by some drawn away a long distance by the crafty
means or other. Put her alone in the Asoka Maricha and he was full of anxiety as to
garden and skillfully use fear and what it all could mean.
temptation to bring her to her senses. As "Alas, we have been badly deceived. It
we tame a wild she elephant, you should would be terrible if Lakshmana is also
train her to submission." And angrily he deceived by this cry and leaves Sita alone
went to his palace. to come to my succour. It looks as though
The Rakshasis took Sita to the Asoka the Rakshasas have planned this ruse to
garden. It was a beautiful park attached to carry off Sita and eat her. When Sita hears
the women's apartments. The trees were what she will take as my cry of distress
full of flowers and fruits, and beautiful she is sure to insist on Lakshmana leaving
birds played among them. Here, her and rushing to my help. The howling
surrounded and guarded by terribly ugly of jackals and the behavior of birds do
Rakshasis, Sita was kept prisoner. portend disaster. There is trepidation in
my heart and it is a portent in itself of the cry of distress was not yours, but she
some danger close at hand." would not listen. She charged me with
Saying thus to himself, Rama hurried having turned traitor to you and with
back to the ashrama. On the way, he saw having come to the forest with treasonable
Lakshmana running towards him. "Alas, intentions. And, O brother, she found it
the worst I fear has happened," exclaimed possible in her anguish to say I would be
Rama. glad of your death out of sinful intentions
He held Lakshmana's hands and cried towards herself! I was half-dead with
in sorrow: "Why did you leave Sita alone horror on hearing those words of hers and
in the forest, Lakshmana? You may be then she announced that she would kill
sure the Rakshasas have killed and eaten herself if I did not go on the instant. Mad
her. It was not right for you to leave her herself, she maddened me with her words
and come away. It is now all over with of reproach and I ran towards you not
Sita!" knowing what else to do."
Fatigued and thirsty with the futile But Rama was not satisfied. "Whatever
chase, and now overwhelmed with anger a foolish woman might have said in her
and unbearable anxiety, Rama cried again: fright, you should have stayed and not left
"If I do not see Sita in the ashrama when her unprotected. How could you do such a
we return, I shall surely die, Lakshmana. foolish thing? You have brought calamity
You will return to Ayodhya, the survivor on me. I shall never see Sita again."
of us three, and tell them what has The two hurried to the ashrama. Many
happened. O, how will Kausalya bear her bad omens appeared on their way. And
grief? Lakshmana, you have more than Rama repeated, as he saw them one by
fulfilled Kaikeyi's wishes. The Rakshasas one: "I fear, I fear we shall never see Sita
will by now have visited on Sita, poor again!"
unprotected Sita, all their pent-up hatred Reaching the ashrama, they found it, as
against us. They must have killed and they had feared, empty. Sita was not there.
eaten her up by now. How could you The deerskin, the kusa grass, the mat
leave her alone and come away? How spread as a seat, all lay scattered on the
could you be deceived by Maricha's false ground.
cry? What shall I do now? I shall see Sita Rama wept and ran hither and thither
no more. The Rakshasas' plan has in the grove round the cottage. The leaves
succeeded. My trust in you was misplaced and flowers on the trees had faded. Sita
and I shall never see Sita. How could you was nowhere to be seen.
leave her and come away, how could you, He wandered about like one mad. His
Lakshmana?" eyes were bloodshot. He cried, "Alas,
Lakshmana answered with tears in his have they eaten her up? Have they carried
eyes: "What else, brother, could I do? her away? O, bow she must have trembled
When Sita heard the cry, 'Alas Sita! Alas in terror! I cannot bear the thought of it.
Lakshmana!' she was frightened. Could it be that she has gone to the river
Quivering with fear she urged me to go to to fetch water? Could it be that she has
you at once and would tolerate no delay. gone out to cull flowers? Let us see."
She persisted, whatever I said to the And he went searching among the
contrary. I told her again and again not to trees, hoping that perhaps she was hiding
be afraid and assured her that no foe was and playing a practical joke on him. His
strong enough to do you harm, and that sorrow swelled like the sea and seemed to
have drowned his reason. He called the is no hope," he said, "Sita is nowhere. I
trees one by one by their names and have lost her forever. I shall live no
beseeched them for help. more."
"Oh Asoka tree! Be true to your name, He lay unconscious for a time. Then he
remove my sorrow you must know the came to himself and lifted his voice and
truth. Tell me where Sita is now. Oh tall wept. Nothing that Lakshmana said could
palm tree! You must be able to see where comfort him.
Sita is. Tell me where she is." "Lakshmana, how can I go back to
He talked to the animals too. "Oh Ayodhya?" he cried. "Won't they laugh at
tiger!" he said, "the elephant and the deer me for returning alone after allowing Sita
are afraid to tell me the truth. But you to be killed and eaten by Rakshasas?
know no fear. You can tell me what has Having brought her to the forest and
happened. You know everything. Tell me having failed to protect her, what shall I
then the truth." tell Janaka? No, you should go alone to
He cried: "Oh Sita, you are biding Ayodhya. Go and look after our mothers.
somewhere. There! There! I see you there! Greet Bharata from me and tell him it was
Stop this fooling. I can stand it no longer." my dying wish that he should continue to
After wandering and weeping in vain rule as king."
for a long time he fell on the ground, All Lakshmana's efforts to console him
moaning, "Ha Lakshmana! Ha Sita!" He were in vain. He was convinced that the
cried like an elephant trapped in a pit. Rakshasas had carried away Sita and torn
"Lakshmana, Sita is nowhere. The her to pieces and eaten her up. He pictured
Rakshasas have captured her and torn her to himself in detail the horror of her
to pieces and eaten her up. How can I live suffering and cried in his grief: "I must
any more? My end is near. But when my have committed terrible sins. How else
father sees me in the other world, he will could such suffering come to me? Sita
say, 'Why have you come here, my son, who accompanied me, thinking I could
before fulfilling my command?' I have protect her, has been eaten by the
failed. In everything, I have failed." Rakshasas and I can do nothing about it.
Lakshmana could bear this sight no Is there another sinner like me in the
longer. "Brother, it is not right that you world?"
should cry like this," he said. "Let us Lakshmana said: "Do not lose heart.
search through the forest. You know how You must be bold and energetic. A
fond Sita is of entering caves and thickets. resolute mind can conquer fate. But you
She may be bathing in the river or playing must first conquer your weakness. Let us
somewhere or culling flowers. Let us make a more thorough search of the
search again. She is only testing us. Come forest. Instead of yielding to unavailing
let us search again. Do not cry." sorrow, let us be manly and active." But
The two searched again all over the Rama would not listen.
place on hills, by pools and on the river Rama behaved as a human being, not
bank. But they did not find her. "Sita is an avatar of Vishnu. Though elsewhere
not to be seen, Lakshmana," said Rama. his words and actions give room for a
"What shall I do now?" different view, here Valmiki describes
Lakshmana tried to encourage him Rama as a mere man enveloped in the
with words of hope, but Rama was gloom of a supreme misfortune.
inconsolable. "No, no, my brother. There
His feeling and behavior are exactly Rama at once recognised the flowers
those of any noble and virtuous man who and cried excitedly: "These are the very
has lost his beloved wife, dearer to him flowers I gave her. They must have fallen
than life itself, and that in a forest infested from her hair."
with Rakshasas. We see that all the efforts His grief and anxiety grew greater and
of Lakshmana to console him had no he sobbed aloud fearing the worst for Sita.
effect. They searched the forest all around the
Our common human dharma is spot where they found the flowers. They
illustrated by the sorrow of Rama. We see noticed the marks of a Rakshasa's big feet
here the picture of true and equal love and little footprints that they knew were
between a virtuous man and woman and Sita's.
the anguish of loss. They found some gold beads spilt from
The episode may also be interpreted Sita's jewels. Rama cried again: "Look!
allegorically. Rama's sense of privation, The Rakshasa has been chasing her like a
when he misses Sita, is a measure and beast of prey to tear her tender flesh!"
image of the mind of God when a single Then they saw several fragments of a
human soul is lost through sin. chariot and great clots of blood, as also
One may ask whether God can lose, or royal headgear and jewels scattered on the
can suffer pain of mind. If one realises ground. They wondered what these things
that all life is divine leela, the play of could mean.
God, no further exegesis is needed. Sin, Soon they came upon a large bow
merit, devotion, all are aspects of that broken, flag torn and armor crushed. A
sport. little later they saw the dead bodies of a
Each one of us is beloved of the Lord. charioteer and of mules. It was clear that a
If for any reason we are swept away from vehement battle had been fought on that
the right path, He suffers like a lover who spot.
has lost his love. And His sorrow too is a "Two powerful Rakshasas must have
part of His great play. struggled here," groaned Rama, "each
39. A SECOND FATHER DIES claiming the sole right to eat Sita."
THE two brothers searched every Conjecturing and lamenting in this
mountain, forest and riverbank calling way, Rama went on: "Dharma could not
Sita's name aloud. But all in vain, and save Sita! No god came to her rescue! It
they did not so much as find a clue will be right to destroy this wicked
anywhere. Baffled and grief-stricken, world." Rama was beside himself and
Rama cried out against the river Godavari, talked wildly.
against the gods and against the five Lakshmana did his best to calm the
elements. distracted Rama. "Great sorrow
The poet sage ascribes the silence of unbalances all minds, even the strongest,"
the rivers and the gods and elements to he said. "Else why should you thus lose
their fear of the powerful Rakshasa king. self-control? Why should you hate and
A herd of deer, however, moving curse the whole world for the evil deed of
southwards seemed to indicate to Rama one person? How often have you, my
and Lakshmana that they too should travel brother, calmed my anger and led me on
in the same direction. They did so and, the right path! But now a great grief has
after a time, found some flowers scattered upset your mind and it is the turn of the
on the way. younger brother to give courage and
counsel patience to the elder and restore "I am the most unhappy man alive,
him to his natural heroism. Let us find out Lakshmana," said Rama. "Giving up the
who our enemy is and deal with him." kingdom, I came to the forest, and here I
With such loving words Lakshmana have lost my Sita. This Jatayu, who was a
sought to give courage and consolation second father to us, has, laid down his life
and both walked on. They had not for my sake. Why, if I fell into the fire, I
proceeded far when they came on Jatayu, fear my bad luck will put even the fire
bloody and mutilated, unrecognisable, out. If I fell into the sea, I fear it would
lying on the ground. dry up. What a terrible sinner I am,
At first Rama thought it was some Lakshmana! Who knows, one day I might
Rakshasa disguising himself to deceive lose you too, Lakshmana."
them and, wild with anger, cried: "Look! Embracing Jatayu, he said: "O, my
Here is a Rakshasa who has eaten Sita!" father! Really, did you see Sita?" But
and rushed towards him, bow in hand. Jatayu lay speechless on the ground.
Then raising his ruffled and gory head After a few moments Jatayu spoke
with great pain, Jatayu spoke in a feeble again in a low voice: "Be not afraid,
voice that seemed struggling with death. Rama. You will surely find Sita. No harm
"Do not kill me, dear Rama, who has but a will come to her. Regaining the treasure
few moments more to live! The dear you have lost, you will greatly rejoice."
princess you are searching for has been With these words, he spat out blood and
carried off by Ravana and he could do so gave up life.
only by first robbing me of my life! They were foolish and committed
Seeing Sita in his flying chariot in the air, errors of omission and commission and
I intercepted it and gave him battle. I lost Sita. Trying to save Sita from the
struck down his bow and smashed his calamity that their carelessness had
chariot. His charioteer I slew. The marks brought upon her, Jatayu, old, unarmed,
of my last great fight you can see all had fought with wing and beak and talon
round this place. I did my best. How I and given up his life. When their father
wish it were better for your sake! At last died in Ayodhya, his obsequies were
as, weary with toil, I was still waging a performed by Bharata and Satrughna.
hopeless combat. Age against youth, beak Rama and Lakshmana. were denied
and talons against keen weapons and this privilege because they were away in
panoply of steel, he cut off my wings and the forest. They regarded Jatayu as their
legs. And as I fell wounded to death, he own father and in performing his
lifted Sita and flew with her into the sky obsequies derived some consolation for
in a southern direction. Though racked not being by Dasaratha's side and
with the pangs of death, I have clung to performing the last offices to him. What
life for love of you to tell you what I other help or honor could they accord to
know. Now that I have done this, bless me heroic Jatayu?
and let me die." Tears flowed from The bhaktas worship Jatayu as the best
Rama's eyes as he listened to Jatayu's tale. of bhaktas. Exercising our imagination,
He flung aside his bow and embraced the we should behold with Sita's eyes the poor
bird. The princes' sorrow knew no bounds. old bird's hard struggle against the
They lamented loudly, rolling on the Rakshasa king. Then we would realise the
ground. love and gratitude and sorrow that must
have surged in her heart as she watched
his sufferings. Thus we shall be purified When we see any helpless person in
by the grace of the Mother. What wonder danger or difficulty, let us think of Jatayu
is there in the rank assigned to Jatayu and with firm mind try to help regardless
among the bhaktas? of circumstance.
Later, when Rama fights and is Rama's losing health and lamenting in
victorious in Lanka, Sita does not see it; sorrow may be compared to the behavior
she is a prisoner in the Asoka forest. She of another incarnation honored by another
has to be content with listening to reports faith. It is said in the Bible that Jesus,
of the battle and of the prowess of her nailed to the cross and about to give up his
lord. But Jatayu's devotion and heroism ghost, cried with a loud voice: "Eloi! Eloi!
Sita saw with her own eyes in the lama sabachthani!" which is Hebrew for
Dandaka forest. Unarmed, he opposed the "My God, my God, why have you
Rakshasa who had all his weapons and forsaken me?"
armor, and humbled his pride at the cost The mystery of incarnations is ever the
of his own life. same. They are weighed with the dust and
Jatayu's battle with Ravana is more tears of the body they have taken and
important than the battles in Lanka. Hence suffer and grieve like mortals.
the pious revere Jatayu along with Bharata 40. LEFT EYELIDS THROB
and look upon him as an Alvar, a guide in IN face of the unexpected difficulties
the spritual path. that overtook them one after another,
"Lakshmana," said Rama, "gather dry Rama and Lakshmana often lost heart.
faggots. I shall churn the fire. We failed to Their fortitude yielded place sometimes to
perform our father's obsequies, let us do it great despair. But they managed to
for the eagle-father who gave up his life encourage each other and proceeded on
for us." their way.
The princes chanted holy invocations Passing through the forest, the two
as they poured libations to the departed princes were suddenly caught by a
spirit: "O king of birds, may you enjoy all tremendously big Rakshasa of ugly form
the bliss of the virtuous who perform great without head or feet. His mouth was in his
sacrifices! May you enjoy the bliss of great belly and he had two enormous arms
Vanaprasthas who have performed great which, without moving from his place, he
penance! May you enjoy the bliss of those would stretch out and clutch tiger, bear or
who have made great gifts of land! May any other living thing within reach, and
you enjoy the bliss of those who fight swallow them.
heroically in the field of battle! May the He had only one eye which was placed
bliss of all good people be yours!" After in his chest but which was terrible to
the ceremony Rama became steadier and behold.
stronger in mind. Caught by this monster, the princes
To millions of men, women and were, for a while, bewildered and did not
children in India, the Ramayana is not a know what to do.
mere tale. It has more truth and meaning Then Rama told Lakshmana: "Let us
than the events in one's own life. Just as not be confused. You will cut off one arm,
plants grow under the influence of I shall cut off the other."
sunlight, the people of India grow in And so they did. The name of the
mental strength and culture by absorbing monster was Kabandha, which means the
the glowing inspiration of the Ramayana. barrel-shaped one. Once his arms were
severed, he was helpless and began to Then with their leave, she kindled a fire
explain: and entering it ascended to heaven.
"On account of my evil deeds I was The meeting with this saintly woman
cursed by Indra to bear this form and this and the waters of the river Pampa gave
name. I believe you are Rama and strength of mind to the princes. They
Lakshmana. Indra promised me freedom thought over what should be done next.
from the curse when you two should come Said Rama: "Lakshmana, I am
and cut off my arms and commit this body beginning to think that we shall succeed.
of mine to the flames." Let us search the forest for Sugriva whose
The princes set fire to his body as help we should obtain."
desired by the unfortunate monster and They went all over the Pampa area.
there arose from the flames a lovely being The place was lovely, but the loveliness of
which entered a heavenly chariot and the spot and the animals, birds, trees and
ascended to the celestial world. creepers only increased Rama's grief.
Before going, he said to Rama: "You Every beautiful object wrung his heart
will assuredly regain Sita. Go to the and made him think: "How much would
beautiful banks of the Pampa and seek the Sita have enjoyed this?" Try as he might,
help of Sugriva living there on the he could not control the human sorrow
Rishyamuka hill. Driven out of the which by his incarnation he had
kingdom by his brother Vali, he lives in undertaken to endure.
constant fear and danger. Gain his Lakshmana tried to revive his spirit. He
friendship, and you will succeed in your said: "Even if Sita is kept hidden in the
attempt." Saying this Kabandha womb of Aditi, the mother of the gods, we
disappeared. will discover her. Ravana cannot escape.
Rama and Lakshmana now set forward It is certain we shall kill him and redeem
in the direction of the Pampa. In that Sita. It is not proper that you should thus
lovely region they visited the ashrama of despair. How can you let anxiety or
the aged sanyasini, Sabari, the disciple of weakness come over you? If we lose a
Rishi Matanga, and accepted her precious thing, we should work for its
hospitality. Sabari was a woman of a recovery with perseverance. Sometimes
forest tribe and a faithful serving sister in our very affection becomes our enemy.
the ashrama of the old saint Matanga. Too much love brings on grief and grief
When he departed this life, she wanted to weakens effort. What need is there for me
die too. But he said the time was not yet to tell you all this? You know it all. Let us
and she should await the arrival of Rama, not lose hope. Let us forget the grief
an incarnation of Vishnu, for the bliss of brought on by love and bend our mind and
his darshan was in store for her. body to exertion. Be brave. Be hopeful.
So the old and wrinkled woman lived We shall succeed. Get rid of your sorrow,
her saintly life, looking faithfully after the brother!"
ashrama as of old and keeping it sweet to The younger brother thus advised
receive the promised guest. Rama. Commentators look upon
When the princes came, she produced Lakshmana as Adisesha. Adisesha, the
the fruits she had gathered and kept for serpent, is said to be ever the protecting
them, and described and showed to them spirit of Vishnu. So Lakshmana ever tried
the wonders of the Matanga ashrama. to give Rama fresh energy and
enthusiasm.
The fugitive Vanara prince Sugriva and it, you are here in the forest for doing
his faithful adherents with the watchful tapas. But why have you come to this
vigilance of fear saw Rama and inaccessible spot? Please tell me who you
Lakshmana roving in the forests and were are. This river and this forest are made
troubled with doubts. Having been ejected lovelier by your presence. Your faces and
from his kingdom by Vali, Sugriva chose forms are radiantly beautiful. The
this mountainous spot because he believed creatures in the forest look on you with
that it was made by the curse of a rishi reverence and awe. Your strength and
inaccessible to Vali. And now he feared courage are manifest. Who are you? From
that here, too, Vali in disguise was which country do you come? It is clear
following him in order to kill him. you are entitled by birth to rule some
Or else, he feared, some Kshatriya mighty kingdom and yet you are dressed
warriors taking the side of Vali were there like ascetics. With matted hair and bark
to kill him. The other Vanaras ran hither garments you carry also bows and arrows.
and thither in panic. Why are you silent? Here Sugriva, the
Hanuman was Sugriva's chief minister. Vanara King, driven out of his kingdom
He reassured Sugriva, saying: "This is not by his brother Vali, is in hiding. He is full
Vali, nor are they friends of Vali, it seems of grief. I am his minister. My name is
to me. There is no ground for fear. I shall Hanuman. I am the son of Vayu. As
go and talk to them and find out the truth." ordered by my king, I put on the
Sugriva was pleased and said: "Do it, appearance of a brahmachari and am now
but be careful. Go, find out the truth and here before you."
come back. Use all your skill. I am full of Listening to these courteous words of
suspicion. They behave as if they are Hanuman, Rama said to Lakshmana:
searching for someone. Could it not be "Brother, this speech of Hanuman has
that it is me they seek?" inspired me with confidence. I trust him
Taking the form of a brahmana, absolutely. Did you notice the beauty of
Hanuman approached Rama and his language and how correct and
Lakshmana. As he went and stood in front rhythmic his enunciation is? He speaks
of them, a confident feeling possessed his like one who has mastered the Vedas and
heart. Straight away he started speaking the science of grammar. An ideal
out frankly. messenger he is. Fortunate is the king who
Hanuman went forward to learn the has such a messenger. He whom we are
truth without discovering himself. But as searching for is himself in search of us.
he went on speaking, he threw all caution We came here to see Sugriva and he has
away and told in detail all about himself sent this messenger to us. Let us welcome
and the Vanara King. him."
Looking on Rama and Lakshmana, he Then they began to talk freely to one
was beside himself as a devotee in the another. Rama and Lakshmana on the one
presence of the Lord, and praised them. hand and Hanuman on the other related
He said that he was a Vanara and had their history, their joys and sorrows, hopes
come there in disguise as desired by his and fears.
King. As a result of this talk, Lakshmana
"Royal saints," he said, "your presence conceived a great affection for Hanuman.
here fills my heart with joy. There is an He said to Hanuman: "My brother,
aura round you as if you were gods. I take born to great wealth, the eldest son of an
emperor, has left his kingdom and come "Rama is a prince full of wisdom and
to the forest. Here his wife, dearer to him virtue. He is the eldest son of the famous
than life itself, was abducted by Ravana, Emperor Dasaratha. To fulfil his father's
who had by a fraudulent trick inveigled us promise, he left Ayodhya with his brother
far away from the hermitage where she and wife and came to the forest. King
was. We seek Sugriva's help to rescue her Dasaratha was compelled by his younger
and recover her, for a daitya, who under a wife, in fulfilment of an undefined
curse took on the form of a Rakshasa, told promise given long ago, to banish Rama.
us: 'If you secure the help of Sugriva, the In the forest, taking advantage of the
Vanara King, you will regain the princess princes' absence, Ravana carried away the
stolen by the Rakshasa.' And so we are wife of Rama. Rama has come here,
here. We seek the friendship of your seeking your help in finding her. The
king." princes are worthy of your friendship.
Hanuman answered: "Sugriva too has You too will gain greatly from friend ship
been persecuted by Vali and deprived of with such heroes."
his kingdom and his wife. It is now certain Sugriva assumed the form of a
that he will regain both. My king will gain handsome man and had a long and heart-
much by your friendship and with his help to-heart talk with the princes. Stretching
you will also succeed in your efforts." forth his hand to Rama, he said:
Then the three went to Sugriva. The "Princes, if you care for the friendship
way was such that only a Vanara could of a Vanara, here is my hand, accept it.
traverse it. Hanuman resumed his natural Hanuman has told me all about your
shape and carried both the princes on his virtue and greatness."
back. Rama clasped his hand and embraced
The hearts of good men meet and him. Soon Hanuman got together some
instantly come together. As the Kural faggots and kindled a fire.
says, the spontaneous mutual attraction of Circumambulating the flames Rama and
two hearts and not long acquaintance Sugriva swore mutual friendship: "Let us
creates friendship and this friendship was share our joys and sorrows." They vowed:
part of the divine dispensation. It was "Let our friendship be eternal."
predestined that Hanuman's sublime They cut down the branch of a tree and
devotion should be at Rama's service for sitting on it, Rama and Sugriva were
the fulfilment of the purpose of the engaged in cheerful talk and so, too, were
incarnation. And so there was acceptance Hanuman and Lakshmana seated on
at first sight. another. Sugriva narrated the story of his
His carrying the two princes on his life. How greatly he and his elder brother,
shoulder was an outward symbol of the mighty Vali, were once devoted to one
inward union. As friends and lovers another, and how malignant fate had
embrace each other, Hanuman, the loving through no fault of Sugriva's made deadly
servant, rejoiced in carrying his Lord on enemies of them.
his shoulders. It had comes about this way. Once a
Ascending the Malaya hill, Hanuman Rakshasa named Mayavi came at
went in advance to Sugriva and, midnight to the gate of Kishkindha, their
announcing the visit of Rama and capital, and vauntingly challenged Vali to
Lakshmana, said: instant combat in pursuance of an ancient
feud.
Vali, who never refused a fight, rushed nothing terribly wrong in the conduct
forth impetuously, followed by Sugriva; either of Vali or of Sugriva. Anger
and seeing them, the Rakshasa fled. confuses the mind. One who yields to
Pursuing him they saw him disappear into anger loses the capacity to see the truth.
a great cave the mouth of which was That way lies destruction. Vali's anger led
overgrown with brushwood. Vali bade to his end. Sugriva humbly confessed the
Sugriva, exacting an oath from him, to truth, but Vali would not listen.
wait at the entrance for him and plunged He was beside himself with rage.
into the darkness of the cave after the foe. Sugriva too, was guilty of imprudent
Sugriva waited long, but Vali did not haste. He concluded too quickly that his
come out. As he stood racked with doubt, brother had died. He was afraid that the
indistinct shouts and groans, which Asura who was victorious would come
seemed to his horror-struck ears his out and kill him also. So he closed the
brother's, issued from the cave. Presently entrance of the cave and returned home.
there gushed out of it foaming blood At first he was not keen on becoming king
which made him sure that Vali had and yet he allowed himself to be
perished in the struggle. persuaded by the people.
To make sure that the victorious He yielded to a subconscious desire
Rakshasa would not rush out in the elation without sufficient thought. So difficulties
of triumph and destroy Kishkindha, came upon him. Thoughtless action leads
Sugriva blocked the entrance of the cave to unhappiness. This is what we learn
with a huge rock and returned to from the story of Sugriva. One should not
Kishkindha with his tale of Vali's death. desire what belongs to another. One has to
As a rulerless state invites disaster, he was exercise great care, and control one's
persuaded by the ministers and elders to desires.
occupy the vacant throne. In contrast to Sugriva, when the
While he was enjoying the sweets of ministers and subjects in Ayodhya pressed
power, like a bolt from the blue, Vali Bharata to accept the crown, he was firm
burst on them. Haggard with wrath and in his refusal. Bharata's strength of
wounds, and accusing him of treason and character was great. But Sugriva was
unnatural conduct towards one who was at different. He was weak, and suffered in
once his brother and his king, Vali drove consequence. Bharata had the courage to
him out with scorn and contumely as a refuse and his name lives forever.
wretch too vile to live, but whom he In every episode of the Ramayana
forebore to slay only because he was some lesson which we should learn for
unfortunately also his brother. our daily life is taught. The meaning is in
So by a cruel fate he had been deprived some places plain; in others it may lie
of his home, throne, and all, including hidden. If we read with reverence and
even his wife, and had to seek asylum in think deeply, we can always see the
the forest with a few faithful friends. Here moral.
at least he was safe, for Vali had been Sugriva concluded his story with a
forbidden by a rishi from entering the piteous appeal to Rama. "For fear of Vali I
precincts on pain of instant death. am a wanderer in the forest. I live
This incident between Vali and Sugriva concealing myself here. Could you, will
is a good example of the moral teaching you, kill Vali and restore to me my
conveyed in the Puranas. There was kingdom and my wife?"
Rama answered: "Certainly I will. Vali How full of loving reverence is this
cannot escape this now. Be assured." speech which Valmiki puts in the mouth
As Sugriva and Rama were talking of Lakshmana and how cruelly must Sita's
thus, in the Asoka grove far away, the left unjust words have pierced his heart on the
eyelids of Sita throbbed, which is a good fateful day when she drove him from her.
omen for women. At the same time, the Rama took all the jewels in his hands
left eyelids of the Rakshasa king also and pressed them one by one to his eyes.
throbbed as an evil sign. He said: "They must have fallen on the
41. HE SEES HER JEWELS soft grass and so they are intact."
THEN Sugriva heard the story of the Then, grief giving place to rage, he
calamity that had befallen the Raghu said: "Yama's gates are wide open to
princes at Panchavati and how Rama's receive the Rakshasa. Soon will he be
heart was breaking with the ache of destroyed with all his people."
separation from Sita and anxiety as to her Seeing Rama's grief and wrath, Sugriva
fate. Deeply touched, Sugriva tried to became somewhat anxious. Though their
console Rama. "I have heard everything mutual friendship and help had been
from Lakshmana," he said. "Lay aside all pledged in the presence of the sacred fire,
doubts and fears. We shall surely discover Sugriva was concerned over the question
Sita, wherever she may be concealed, and of priorities.
that, soon. My companions and myself Sugriva's heart went to Rama in his
noticed a Rakshasa carrying a weeping suffering, indeed, he himself knew what it
lady and speeding fast across the sky. She was to lose kingdom and wife. But then,
was crying 'O Rama! O Lakshmana!' She first thing must come first. He must
too noticed us and, removing her sash, approach the subject guardedly and not
tied up in it her jewels and threw down the seem to place his own affairs before
little bundle. We picked up and have kept Rama's. That might jeopardise their
it. See if the jewels are Sita's." newborn friendship. But it was not purely
On hearing this Rama excitedly selfish to say that he, as King of
shouted: "Fetch the bundle, fetch it." Kishkindha and lord of his tribe, would be
They brought it from the cave and a far more serviceable ally than he could
when Rama saw the sash he was beside be as a fugitive pretender.
himself with grief. The little bundle Besides, if he launched on the
brought before his eyes the suffering of enterprise of reclaiming Sita when Vali
Sita at the hands of the Rakshasa. was still king of the Vanaras, one could
He closed his eyes and told Lakshmana not guess what Vali's course may be. Oh
to untie the bundle and examine the jewels no! There could be no doubt that the first
since he himself could not bear to look at move in the enterprise must be to secure
them. the resources of the Vanara kingdom by
Lakshmana did so. "Indeed these are killing Vali and placing himself on the
Sita's anklets," LakShmana said. "There is throne.
no doubt they are hers. These I know, for This alone would bring success to
often have I seen them while laying my Rama as well as himself. But realising
head on her feet in worship. The others I Rama's state of mind, he resolved to act
am not familiar with, never having with circumspection.
presumed to look closely at them." He said: "I do not know the strength or
the dwelling place of this wicked
Rakshasa. We do not know where he has persisted. Could Rama's strength
taken Sita and where he keeps her hidden. overcome Vali's? It all looked hopelessly
Still, I promise you solemnly, wherever impossible. Vali's body was like steel.
Sita may be, I shall find her and her captor How was Rama going to kill him?
and find ways of destroying him and Sugriva had these doubts about Rama.
recovering her. You will kill the wicked But he had none else to help him. And he
Rakshasa and win glory. Do not despair or was not prepared to give up his desire. He
yield to grief that weakens the spirit. Look decided to test Rama's strength.
at me. Like you, I have lost my wife. I But how is one to subject a friend to a
have been turned out of my kingdom and test without discourteously betraying one's
disgraced. And yet I control my sorrow suspicion? Rama had promised to get the
and keep my courage up. If I a Vanara, thing done. How was an occasion to be
can do this, it should be far easier for you. created to measure his ability? Sugriva
If sorrow overwhelms, one becomes thought long and formed a plan.
helpless and can do nothing. Therefore, He told Rama softly: "My Lord Rama!
friend, I beg of you to control your grief." Your words have banished sorrow from
These words of Sugriva made an my heart. I know your valor. An arrow
impression on Rama's heart. He wiped the from your bow can destroy the three
tears off his eyes and embraced Sugriva. worlds. How can Vali's frame stand
He got over the weakness that possessed against it? Still it is my duty to tell you all
him at the sight of Sita's jewels and about Vali's strength. He can go round to
recovered his fortitude and self-control. the four oceans to take up in his palm and
"Sugriva, your friendship is dear to sip the water with the morning prayers.
me," he said. "I shall follow your advice. He can toss and play with a heavy rock as
Think out when and how we should begin if it were a ball. He can pull out mighty
the search for Sita. I shall make your forest trees as if they were blades of grass.
cause mine, and place you on the throne Once Dundubhi, an Asura in buffalo form
of Kishkindha and I, who say this, have possessing the strength of a thousand
never uttered a vain or false word in my elephants, challenged Ocean to a fight.
life and never will. Tell me frankly how I Ocean evaded saying: 'You should fight
can bring you relief. I shall do it." with an equal. There in the north stands
Sugriva and his ministers were Himavan. Go and challenge him. Leave
overjoyed to hear Rama's words. They poor me alone'. Dundubhi agreed and,
were convinced that soon their troubles speeding northwards, met and challenged
would end and Sugriva would once again Himavan, going his rocky side with his
become king of the Vanaras. horns. Himavan controlled his temper and
42. SUGRIVA'S DOUBTS said: 'Why do you assault me? I am not a
CLEARED fighter. I spend my life in the company of
SUGRIVA was keen on regaining his sages who love to stay with me.'
kingdom and family, but he could not see Dundubhi answered: 'Very well, then. But
how this was to be. Vali's strength stood tell me of some one I can fight with. I
as an impossible barrier between him and want a worthy foeman today.' Himavan
the fulfilment of his desire. said: 'There is one in the south who is a
Hanuman, his minister, tried to foe worthy of you. He is Vali, the Vanara
convince him that is would succeed with King. His strength is like his father
Rama's help, but Sugriva's doubts Indra's. If you care, you may go to him
and challenge him to fight.' Dundubhi will lose his life.' That is why, O Rama,
went straight to Vali's place and raised a with my friends I am living here in safety.
loud uproar at the entrance of Kishkindha. Vali dare not approach this place for fear
He tore up trees and pulled down the gate of the curse. Look at these sal trees. He
and roared, 'Come out and prove your can pluck one of them and just shake all
strength in a fight with me.' Vali was then the leaves off as one dusts a jacket. Such
resting with his queen. On hearing the is his strength. How could I, having
challenge he came out accompanied by incurred this terrible brother's enmity, feel
the women of his palace. 'Why, O secure?"
Dundubhi, do you raise this clamor at my Lakshmana understood that Sugriva
city gate?' be asked. 'Are you tired of life?' needed a demonstration of Rama's
Vali's scornful address enraged the Asura prowess to give him confidence and he
who said: 'Don't boast of your strength in said: "How would you like Rama to show
the presence of your admiring women. I you his confidence to conquer Vali?"
have come here for a fight with you. If Sugriva answered: "Indeed, I have no
you have any manliness in you, come out doubts. I know Rama's prowess though
and show it. You will say you are too now it is hidden as embers in ashes. I have
drunk now to fight; but I am willing to sought refuge under him. And yet, when I
wait till you become sober. If you like you recall Vali's mighty deeds, I tremble. That
may spend the night in your pleasures and is all."
bid a tearful leave of all your dear ones Seeing Sugriva's faith in him and his
and come to me in the morning to be slain great fear of Vali, Rama resolved to put an
by me.' Vali laughed at Dundubhi's words end to his doubts. By a playful flip of his
and said: 'My dear women, go inside. O toe he sent the enormous skeleton of
Asura, I am not the worse for drink and if Dundubhi which was lying there, flying in
you want a fight, there is no time like the the air to a distance of ten yojanas. But
present. The drinks I have had are what Sugriva though impressed was not
the warrior takes before he goes into convinced. "When my brother sent
battle!' So saying and with a laugh he took Dundubhi's carcass hurling in the sky, it
hold of the Asura by his tail and whirled was full of flesh and blood and far heavier
him round and flung him. Dundubhi spat than this weather-beaten skeleton," he
blood and fell on the ground. After a said.
while the Asura rose again and a great Then Rama bent his bow and, pulling
battle followed. Vali, son of Indra, the string to his ear, sent forth an arrow. It
pounded the Asura to death. And he flung pierced the sal tree pointed out by Sugriva
the dead buffalo so that it fell on the and six other trees standing behind it.
ground at the distance of a yojana. Drops Piercing the seven trees the beautiful
of blood from the Asura's body were arrow touched the earth and returned to
carried by the wind and fell on the Rama's quiver.
ashrama of Matanga. The sage was wroth Sugriva, seeing this, was beside
and soon found out who was responsible himself with joy. He was now certain that
for this contamination. He saw at once Rama's arrow could pierce the adamant
that Vali in his pride had flung a bleeding frame of Vali. He fell prostrate before
carcass and desecrated the holy spot. The Rama and said: "With my own eyes I have
sage pronounced a curse, 'If this Vali now seen your prowess. Even if all the
enters the precincts of this ashrama, he gods with Indra at their head should come
and oppose you, your victory is certain. to fight. On the contrary, you made me
Why then talk of Vali? I have gained your believe you, and I have had such a
friendship and I have no more use for fear drubbing that it is a wonder I am alive."
or grief. Slay Vali and save me. Let us go "Do not be angry, Sugriva, but listen,"
to Kishkindha today." said Rama. "There was a good reason why
Both Rama and Lakshmana agreed. I could not send forth my deadly arrow.
They talked how to set about and it was You and Vali were alike in height and
finally agreed that Sugriva should appear girth, in gait and shouts, in dress and
in Kishkindha and challenge Vali to single ornaments. Once the fight began, I could
combat. Vali was sure to come out, and as not tell you from Vali. And I stood
the brothers were fighting, Rama would bewildered and helpless. It would have
kill Vali with an arrow. They proceeded to been terrible if I killed you instead of
Kishkindha. Sugriva went ahead. Rama Vali. Do not be angry. Challenge Vali
followed him and stood away behind a once again. This time I shall surely slay
tree in the dense forest. him. Here, Lakshmana, fetch that
Sugriva shouted. Vali heard the shout flowering creeper. Tie it round Sugriva's
and in great rage emerged from the neck as a garland. I shall then know who
fortress, radiant like the morning sun. is our friend and who is Vali as they fight.
The two brothers fought each other Now, Sugriva, you shall see Vali rolling
fiercely. on the ground."
But Rama, who was standing bow in Sugriva was satisfied. His spirits
hand behind a tree, was bewildered. As recovered. Lakshmana tied the creeper
they wrestled together the brothers were round his neck. Once again, and
so similar in form and feature, in handsomer than ever, Sugriva proceeded
equipment and method of fighting, that to Kishkindha. And Rama and Lakshmana
Rama could not distinguish Vali from followed him as before.
Sugriva and was afraid to shoot lest he kill 43. THE SLAYING OF VALI
the wrong combatant. EVENING was approaching. Once
Meantime Sugriva, having the worst of more Sugriva roared at the gate of
the fight, broke from his brother's grip Kishkindha and challenged Vali to fight.
with a desperate effort and, wounded and Vali who was then resting happily was
weary, disappointed and despondent, fled startled and for a moment paled with
for life and reached Rishyamuka forest. puzzled concern, but was presently
Even this he was able to do because overwhelmed with rage and sprung
Vali did not wish to slay him and was not stamping the earth as though he would
unwilling to give his brother another lease split it.
of life. Tara, his queen, her heart full of loving
Rama and Lakshmana rejoined the fear, held him in arms in a close embrace
woebegone Sugriva. He looked down at and tried to restrain his impetuosity with
the ground without lifting his eyes. He affectionate counsel. "Put away this wrath,
was angry that Rama had broken his word my dear lord, as one puts away a used
and failed to help him. garland, for you have had enough fighting
"If you did not like to kill Vali," said today. Tomorrow would do as well for
Sugriva, "you could have told me so another battle, for you lack neither
earlier. In that case, I, who know Vali's enemies nor valor. I pray you not to rush
might, would never have challenged him out on the instant. It seems to me that you
should think calmly before going out now fullness of your love for me. I shall
to meet your brother. I am afraid there is a humble Sugriva and send him back and
deeper game. Your brother was defeated return soon with victory. Have no fear for
and disgraced and ran for dear life and me."
concealed himself for safety. Now he has Thus Valmiki pictures Vali, his
returned and raises this noise. Your chivalry, his dauntless and impatient
brother is not such a fool as to challenge valor, his tenderness. It is true Valmiki's
you again so soon after the punishment hero has to kill the Vanara king, the epic
you inflicted on him unless he was requires it. But the slain warrior was a
assured of help and protection from an noble knight, worthy of the reader's
invincible ally of tried prowess. Did you admiration and tears.
not observe that his very roar of challenge Tara, with tears in her eyes,
had a new note of confidence in it? I shall circumambulated him and praying for his
tell you what I heard from Angada who success returned to her apartment full of
had it from our scouts who range the grave apprehension. Leaving Tara and her
forests. Two princes of unrivalled valor, companions behind, Vali issued from the
Rama and Lakshmana have come from fort hissing like an angry cobra and went
Ayodhya and Sugriva has secured the to meet Sugriva.
promise of their assistance. After all, my As he saw him standing there, radiant
lord, your brother is virtuous and brave. and courageous, he girt his loins and
Why should you hate him? Who in the sprang on him. And Sugriva too ran
world is closer to us than he? He will be forward to meet Vali.
your devoted servant and strong ally. It is "If you love your life," warned Vali,
best to forget the past and make it up with "run away. Do not fall a victim to this fist
Sugriva. My dear Lord, listen to my of mine!"
words!" Sugriva retorted angrily and the battle
Vali disliked this advice. Anger began. Fierce with remembered wrongs
clouded his intellect. Caught and dragged and keyed up above himself by the
by the noose of death, he could not see certainty of Rama's help, Sugriva
reason and only became more fixed in his maintained for long an equal combat. But
resolve. presently Vali's greater might began to
Tara, bright and beautiful as became prevail and Sugriva was in such obvious
her name Tara meaning star, spoke in distress that Rama who was watching with
vain. ready bow knew he could not hold out
"What are you saying?" he said. "Am I much longer.
to hear in silence the ringing challenge of It was now or never and placing a
this enemy-brother? When a foe calls to deadly arrow on the string and pulling it
battle is a warrior to hang back? Death to his ear, Rama sped it at Vali's mighty
would be better than such cowardice. chest. Pierced by that irresistible shaft
Don't you worry about Rama. He knows Vali crashed down as falls a great forest
dharma; he is one brought up in the fear of tree cut asunder by the woodman's axe
sin. Oh, let me alone, will you? I may tell and lay stretched on the ground
you I shall not kill Sugriva, only I will empurpled with blood as lies the festival
teach the presumptuous fellow a lesson he flag-staff pulled down when the festival is
won't forget and let him go. Let me go, I ended.
tell you. You have spoken out of the
Even so, he was radiantly handsome, recover your Sita I would have won her
his noble figure shining like a cloud lit up back for you in a day. I would have killed
by the setting sun. The divine necklace Ravana and dragged his body with a rope
given to him by Indra shone on his breast, round the neck and placed it at your feet.
which guarded his life and fortune. This No matter where he has hidden Sita, I
jewel, Rama's dart, the bleeding wound, would have discovered her and restored
all added lustre to his mighty body. her to you."
Valmiki describes beautifully the Thus Vali, son of Indra, reproached
majestic appearance of the fallen hero. A Rama with his dying breath. And all this
true warrior is never so beautiful as when is fully set out by Valmiki, the divine
he lies dying on the field of battle. poet, as well as by Kamban. Against this
Astounded at being hit and laid low, accusation what defence could Rama
when he least expected it from an offer? Valmiki has it that Rama gave
unknown quarter, Vali looked round in some explanation with which Vali was
perplexed surprise and saw Rama and satisfied. But I am omitting all this as
Lakshmana approaching him bow in hand. pointless and pray that the learned may
With tears of indignant wrath, and in a forgive me.
voice faint with approaching dissolution, What I think is that an avatar is an
he accused them of ignoble perfidy in avatar and that among the sorrows that the
dealing causeless death to a person Lord and His consort had to endure in
engaged in combat with another. their earthly incarnation, this liability to
"Rama," he said, "you are the son of have their actions weighed on the earthly
Emperor Dasaratha. Born of a noble race scales is a part. Vali bruised and bleeding
and famous by your own exploits, how from the many wounds of his fight with
did you bring yourself to do this deed? Sugriva, lay in the throes of death.
The world is full of praises for your valor He lived just long enough to see his
and virtue. And yet, while I was absorbed queen and his beloved son Angada. The
in a battle with another, you came unseen, poor bewildered lad who at his mother's
and from behind, shot a fatal arrow at me. bidding 'to fall at the feet of his father who
How false and undeserved is your was going on a long long journey'
reputation for manly virtue, for truth and prostrated himself in silence, too stunned
forbearance! What will the world think of to realise the extent of his loss. This will
you now? What harm have I ever done to be narrated later. Vali's words were
you? Did I come out to fight with you? addressed to Rama.
You have killed me like an assassin "All is over, I shall blame you no more.
concealing yourself behind the trees. For a My dear, dear son Angada is orphaned.
royal prince to kill an innocent person in You and Sugriva should look after him. I
this way is grievous sin. You are entrust him to you. Look after him it is
unworthy for kingship. The goddess Earth your duty to see that he does not pine
will never consent to take you for a away like a withering lotus-plant in a
bridegroom. My greatest sorrow is that I dried-up tank. Tell Sugriva that he should
am killed by a base and sinful wretch. If it not imagine that it was Tara who set me
was battle with me you wanted, I would up against him. Ask him to treat Angada
have given it to you, and slain by me in as he should treat a prince, with honor and
fair combat you might have been lying in affection. Do this for me. I want no more.
the dust as I do now. Or if it was help to The warrior's Heaven is calling me!"
So ended Vali's life. you flee in fear now? There is no danger
Owing to the protective virtue of for you. Rama killed Vali only to make
Indra's necklace, Rama could not have Sugriva king. Your lives are in no danger;
met Vali face to face and vanquished him, you will only have a different ruler; that is
just as Ravana could not be conquered by all. You need not fly or fear."
the gods. Rama could kill Vali only when When she tried to go to the spot where
himself unseen. And still the question her husband lay dead, the Vanaras stopped
stands, why should Vali have been killed her saying: "We shall crown Angada king
at all? and we shall make safe the fortress. We
Perhaps the answer is to be found in shall defend the town against Sugriva and
what Kabandha said to Rama in gratitude his allies."
for being released from his curse. But she said: "Now my noble lord is
"Through Sugriva's friendship you will dead, nothing matters." And boldly she
recover Sita," Sugriva's help not Vali's. went straight to where Rama and
And so Rama went in search of Sugriva, Lakshmana were standing.
found him and pledged his friendship and When she saw her husband lying
consecrated it by fire. Sugriva had wounded to death she could not control
committed no unforgivable offence her sorrow. She sobbed and cried.
against Vali. Yet Vali, with his "Ah my hero!" she wept embracing the
supernatural strength, persecuted his wounded Vali. "How many heroes have
brother. you laid low and now you lie low
Hearing the latter's complaint, Rama yourself! And you have left me here!"
had pledged his word to kill Vali and Soon Vali's son Angada reached the
restore to Sugriva his wife and make him spot. And Sugriva, witnessing this scene,
king as his part of the contract of alliance. was filled with remorse at the thought that
Thereafter, Rama had no alternative. To it was all for him that this calamity had
kill Vali from cover became an inevitable happened. The remorse was no doubt
necessity. Rama erred in running after the genuine. For invariably revenge,
magic deer to please his wife. especially revenge wreaked on those who
Consequent on this, difficulties and have been friends in other day; brings
sorrows and conflicts of duty pursued nothing but bitterness and grief, and the
him. If we keep in mind that when God momentary feeling of triumph is all ashes
takes a lower and limited form by His to the taste. How few of us realise this in
own ordinance, limitations follow and we the confusion created by desires and
should not be confused thereby. This is anger!
my humble view as against other Tara rolled on the ground and
explanations propounded by the pious. lamented: "Leaving dear Angada an
44. TARA'S GRIEF orphan and myself a helpless destitute you
THERE was panic in Kishkindha when have gone on the journey from which
the news came that Vali had been slain by there is no return. My Lord! My hero! "
an archer, and the Vanaras fled hither and Hanuman tried to console her: "The
thither in hopeless confusion. Tara, seeing dead reach their places in heaven. Why
this, laid aside her own grief and like a lament for Vali? Angada will be crowned
queen put courage in her husband's in due course and we shall then rejoice. It
subjects saying: "Till this day you walked is our duty to look after Angada. Let us
before the King to battle! Why, then do
now think of performing Vali's Your dear son is bowing before you. Will
obsequies." you not say a word to him? Alas! I am a
"I care for nothing," answered Tara. "It widow and he is an orphan."
is for Sugriva to perform the obsequies The sight of all this struck Sugriva to
and to look after Angada. What is there the heart. He said to himself: "Moved by
for me to do? Can a thousand Angadas desire I closed the entrance of the cave
equal in my eyes my husband? With him I and leaving Vali there, I seized and
shall enter the house of Yama. That alone enjoyed his wealth. What a sinner have I
will please me." been!"
Vali, unconscious till now, opened his It may be that in his penitent mood
eyes for the last time and addressing Sugriva accused himself wrongly, but it is
Sugriva said: "Brother, we two could have also true that, without our knowledge,
been friends and reigned happily over the desire corrupts our mind and leads us to
kingdom. But it was not given to us to be wrong actions and entangles us in sin.
so wise and happy. I am more to blame Sugriva felt that desire had unknowingly
than you, but why talk about that now? blinded and betrayed him.
Hereafter you shall rule the kingdom. I Kama in Sanskrit stands for lust and
have entrusted to you Angada, my son, greed and every kind of desire. Kama is
dearer than life itself to Tara and me. He man's internal foe which he has to
is a warrior equal to you in prowess. Be a vanquish. This is the lesson taught in the
father to him and look after him with last seven slokas of the third chapter of
kindness. This is my only request to you. the Gita. Sri Krishna concludes his
And be kind to Tara who was not only a exhortation with these words: "Jahi
blameless and affectionate wife, but also a Satrum Kamaroopam Durasadam."
very wise and far-sighted counsellor. If desire corrupted Sugriva's mind,
Whatever she foretells is bound to happen. anger corrupted Vali's. When Vali saw
Do not disregard her advice on any that Sugriva had barred the entrance and
matter. Here, take the necklace that Indra left him shut up in the cave he felt
gave me and take with it its secret power. convinced that Sugriva had accompanied
My life is over and so is my resentment. him in his pursuit of the Rakshasa not as a
May you be happy!" Thus the generous brother but with a treacherous motive. He
Vali blessed his brother Sugriva. concluded that Sugriva had planned to
He gave good advice to Angada: sacrifice him to the Asura and usurp his
"Sugriva is now your king. Be loyal to place.
him and give him patient, affectionate He became a prey to his own fury. He
service." disgraced and drove out his blood brother
Like a flowering creeper embracing a and nursed his anger. Anger (krodha, as it
forest tree felled down by an axe, Tara lay is called in Sanskrit) betrayed Vali into
on the ground clinging to Vali. sin.
Nila, as gently as he could, drew out Indeed kama and krodha are the
the dart from Vali's chest. ultimate causes of all sin. Unless we
Blood gushed out of the wound and defend our heart against these foes and
spread into a pool. Vali's life left his body. keep them out, we cannot escape sin.
Tara lamented loudly. "For the last time Sugriva lamented: "Though my sin was
salute your father," she bade Angada in great, he would not kill me. He drove me
heart-broken accents. "O my husband! out and allowed me to escape with life.
That was all. But I conspired to slay him "Look, Uma, how Rama, the Supreme
and succeeded. There is no sinner like me Being, moves all creatures like puppets
in the world and yet with his last breath he tied to strings!" Bhakti is needed to realise
gave me the kingdom to rule and gave, the full meaning of Hindu ancient
too, the gift of Indra, the necklace of mythology.
power. Indeed he was noble. Why should Even on a rational basis, Tara comes
I still cling to this base life, I, who brought out as a diplomat, an expert in
about the death of my heroic brother?" statesmanship. She had the intelligence to
At least once a year, men that follow anticipate coming events. What had
ancient custom utter the prayer happened had happened. By his address
Kamokarsheet manyurakarsheet. That is: and good fortune, Sugriva had secured the
'Desire lured me into sin, anger lured me alliance of Rama. Vali was no more;
into sin.' So saying many times with Angada's welfare was all that she should
humble penitence, they seek to cleanse care for hereafter.
their hearts. This is a practice that all Could Angada afford to antagonise
should follow, to repent and purify the Sugriva with Rama and Lakshmana ready
heart and surrender it to the Lord, to support him bow in hand? Peace, not
Kamokarsheet manyurakarsheet, war was indicated.
Narayanaya namah. Hence, when she concealed her anger
With fear and hesitation, Rama gently from Rama and put on an appearance of
approached the weeping Tara. But there patient submission to events, she was
was no sign of anger on her face. The really securing the best interests of
words she addressed to the slayer of her Angada and winning for him the
husband were worthy of a hero's queen. compassion and sympathy of all.
"With the weapon with which, O Warrior, Vali's obsequies were performed with
you killed my husband, kill me too and due form and ceremony. After the
enable me to join him. Even in heaven, he auspicious bath, Sugriva was crowned
will not be happy without me. Do not fear king and Angada was made Yuvaraja.
it would be a sin. It will be a meritorious 45. ANGER AND
act to unite husband and wife. This will RECONCILIATION
cleanse your sin, your treacherous slaying THE rainy season began. Sugriva and
of my husband." his companions spent the time in
Valmiki says at this stage that Tara Kishkindha in enjoyment but Rama and
knew the truth of Rama's incarnation and Lakshmana spent the weary days waiting
saw Vishnu in him. The traditional belief in a cave nearby. The forest paths were
is that, like Sumitra, the mother of flooded and became rushing torrents,
Lakshmana, Tara, the wife of Vali, was a impossible to traverse. The search for
jnani, a knower of Reality. Though at first Sita, therefore, had to be suspended. Rama
she hated Rama for his treachery, yet brooded over Sita's predicament and was
when she saw him face to face she saw his plunged in sorrow. Lakshmana counselled
divinity, so it is said. him to bear with the delay till the rainy
Those who read the Ramayana as a season ended. And Rama held his soul in
mere tale would find all this pointless. But patience.
to the followers of bhakti marga, this will The edge of the keenest sorrow wears
not sound improbable. Tulasidas sings at with time and perhaps Heaven's kindest
this point that Siva explains to Parvati: gifts to men are sleep for the fleeting cares
of the day and forgetfulness for the deep- Fulfilment after the promised date is
seated injuries of the heart. Kishkindha worse than useless. One should not wait to
mourned her Vali for a time, and then be reminded by one's friends of what had
rejoiced in Sugriva and the survivors. been promised to them. All this you know
Sugriva forgot the privations of his exile without my telling you. Remembering
and the remorse for his brother's death. He what Rama had done for us. We must take
enjoyed to the full his present prosperity steps to fulfil our promise without waiting
and even Tara reconciled and adapted to be reminded by him. The rainy season
herself to altered circumstances in the is over. There is no ground for further
interests of her son. delay. We can no longer postpone the task
The royal palace of Kishkindha was of searching for Sita. Rama may be very
full of joy and drinking, and the gloomy patient, but that does not justify any
months of rain, which the Raghu brothers further delay on our part. Did not Rama
spent in leaden repining, sped with kill your foe promptly, not minding the
golden-winged enjoyment for Sugriva and danger or the blame involved? We should
his household. Only Hanuman felt fulfil our promise with equal promptness."
anxious. He could not forget Rama's Thus politely did Maruti convey his
business. He was looking out for an advice to Sugriva. The latter accepted it
opportunity to remind the king of his and, thanking Hanuman, ordered Nila to
pledge to Rama. mobilise the Vanara army. "All the world
At last, the rains ceased and the sky must be searched and Sita found," he said.
was cleared of cloud and lightning. The "Order therefore the most powerful
air was sweet with the perfumes of Vanaras to come and join up at once.
flowers and the songs of birds and joy Those who fail will be summarily
came to life in the forest again. The punished." Having said this, Sugriva went
intelligent and high virtuous Hanuman back into private apartments.
now approached his king. Sugriva had Rama and Lakshmana spent the time in
entrusted all official duties to the their cave waiting for the end of the rainy
ministers and was absorbed in pleasure. season and the fulfilment by Sugriva of
Hanuman knew that the wisest and best of his promise. But when the rains were over
men neglect their promises in such and the forest and its creatures shone with
circumstances and addressed the king with renewed beauty, Rama grieved intensely
great politeness: at the thought of Sita suffering at the
"You have regained the kingdom of hands of the Rakshasas.
your ancestors and are in secure "The world is full of life and joy," said
possession and enjoyment of it. But Rama. "But Sita is in agony somewhere.
something yet remains to be done. You And I sit still here, awaiting the favor of
must fulfil your promise to your allies and this ungrateful Vanara king. Alas, she
so increase your fame and strengthen your walked cheerfully through the Dandaka
power. Even at the sacrifice of one's own forest, as if it were a palace-park. She did
interests and pleasure, one should carry not mind the stony ground and the thorns
out the business of one's friends according in the path. What must be her suffering
to one's promise. Only so can a king's now? But this king, drowned in his cups
authority and reputation grow. It will be and revelling in the company of his
best to fulfil one's promise before the due women, has forgotten his promise to me.
date. In any case delay should be avoided. Lakshmana! Go at once to Kishkindha
and tell this base king: 'Remember! Know met young Angada, the thought of whose
that the path still yawns open whereby the youth and misfortunes took away
slaughtered Vali went to his doom. Do not something of the edge of his wrath. "My
follow him, but fulfil your promise to me. child go and tell the Vanara king," he said,
Ruin awaits him who forgets kindness "that Lakshmana is waiting at the palace
and, neglects friends. Beware of Rama's gate to have audience of him on behalf of
arrows. The four months of the rainy his grief stricken brother."
season are over. These four months were Angada went accordingly to the king's
like four ages to Rama, but to you, apartment and informed him of
steeped in pleasures, they have perhaps Lakshmana's visit. But Sugriva was in no
sped like minutes! By delay you incur condition to understand. Angada saw this
Rama's wrath and seek your destruction.' and took counsel with the ministers as to
Go, Lakshmana, and tell him this." what should be done. Hanuman and some
This was the angry and impatient of the fellow ministers gently explained
message Rama wanted Lakshmana to take what was happening and Sugriva was at
to Sugriva. last roused from his tipsy condition.
Carrying this weight of his brother's Sugriva said: "I am not at fault, am I?
grief and anger, Lakshmana was about to Why should my friends Rama and
leave. Then Rama thought again. He knew Lakshmana be angry with me? Some
Lakshmana's nature and feared danger enemy must have carried tales and set
from his rashness. So he called him back them up against me."
and said to him: "In conveying my Hanuman answered: "It is my duty, O
complaint to Sugriva, do not be harsh. king, to say these things and I say them.
Whatever his faults, he is our friend. Point Do not be angry with me. We have
out his faults to him, but say nothing delayed in carrying out our promise to
harsh." Rama. We have forgotten Rama's grief. It
Lakshmana agreed, but he found it is late, but not too late. Hence let us do
hard to control his own anger as he quickly what we should. Let us seek
approached the gates of Kishkindha. forgiveness from Lakshmana. Let us,
Noting the severe face of Lakshmana without further delay, take steps to fulfil
who was fully armed, the Vanara sentry our promise to Rama."
became alert and made ready to guard the Then Sugriva agreed to receive
fortress. This enraged Lakshmana still Lakshmana.
further. As Lakshmana went into the Vanara
Some Vanaras ran to the inner town, he marvelled at its beauty and the
apartments and reported to Sugriva: culture of Kishkindha. Passing through
"Lakshmana, furious with anger, is beautiful streets, he stood outside the
coming here bow in hand. We could not king's palace. Hearing the sounds of
stop him." revelry, of dance and song, proceeding
But the Vanara king was tipsy and from within, he saw that the Vanaras had
surrounded by women and he took no forgotten their promise and were lost in
notice. The king's servants ordered the enjoyment. He could hardly control his
sentry at the gates to stand firm and anger. Still he held back from entering the
prevent the entry of any one. Lakshmana's women's chamber and, standing in a
anger became quite uncontrollable. corner, outside, he twanged his bowstring.
Lakshmana forced his way in. There he
The sound filled all Kishkindha with perish. The search for Sita will soon
fear and trembling. Sugriva, hearing it, begin. Do forgive the delay of which I am
realised that the prince was, indeed, angry. guilty."
He saw the danger and asked Tara to go Lakshmana was pleased. "Rama is
and pacify the prince. "A chivalrous man your equal in honor and prowess, none
like Lakshmana will find his anger slip else," he said. "Come with me to
from him, when he speaks to a lady and it Rishyamuka and give him words of
will be impossible for him to continue comfort in his grief."
wrathful." said the king, shrewd even in Sugriva and Lakshmana went in a litter
his tipsy condition. to Rama and, explaining the arrangements
Tara advanced towards Lakshmana. In already made, satisfied him.
looks, in knowledge of the world and skill Rama was pleased. He said: "You
in speech, Tara was unrivalled She said to indeed are a real friend. Like the clouds
Lakshmana: "After enduring for a long yielding rain, the sun destroying darkness
time poverty and persecution, Sugriva is and the moon pleasing human hearts, a
enjoying the pleasures and the prosperity good friend comes to one's help
you have secured for him. This enjoyment spontaneously. I am happy in your
has gone to his head and he has lost his friendship. Now the end of Ravana and
senses. I know his fault, but you should his race is certain."
forgive him. The high souled that knows Even as Rama was expressing his
the foibles and imperfections of our gratitude and joy, great multitudes of
common nature should temper their Vanaras under their respective leaders
censure with compassion. So be not too arrived and assembled. They came from
harsh in judging of King Sugriva's distant forests, mountains and coasts. The
surrender to temptations of the flesh, dust they raised darkened the sky.
especially after his long trials and Millions of monkeys and bears in a
privations. But I can assure you, he has variety of shapes and colors were there.
never lost sight of his debt or his duty to Sugriva addressed this enormous army
you. He has already issued orders for and showed them their appointed camping
mobilising the Vanara warriors from all places. Later, he divided the host into
quarters. Today or tomorrow they will all eight divisions and sent each under its
be here. Then the search for Sita and the commander, thoroughly to search in the
war against Ravana will begin. Have no eight directions for Sita.
doubts. And now, pray come in and see One point is worth noting here. The
the King." Tamil poet Kamban describes Tara as a
Lakshmana, now no longer angry, chaste widow living a life of discipline
entered the apartment. Sugriva, and privations. It is different in Valmiki,
descending from his seat, welcomed who includes Tara and the other women
Lakshmana. as part of the inheritance Sugriva won
"Forgive my faults," he said. "With from Vali, in fact, as an appendage of the
Rama's friendship and help I am King throne. When Sugriva lost himself in
today. How can I ever forget what I owe bodily pleasures and forgot his duty to
to the valorous and good Rama? He can Rama, Tara shared his revels and is
destroy his foes without any help from described as being flushed and unsteady
me. I, with my armies, can only follow with wine when she went out at her lord's
him. That is all. Surely Ravana will
command to allay Lakshmana's would find a way of overcoming them. He
resentment. gave his signet ring to Hanuman and said:
In ancient times, when an elder brother "Take this ring. I am full of hope that you
died leaving a wife, there was a custom in will discover Sita. This ring will tell her
royal and other noble families for the that you are my messenger. Dear
younger brother to take the widow as wife Hanuman, may you bring Sita and me
and protect her. It is difficult for people of together again!"
one age to judge the customs of another Readers should realise the solemnity
age. Imagination and great flexibility of and pathos of the scene. Rama full of
mind are needed to assess the merits and abiding trust in the devoted loyalty and
defects of usage's with which we are not valor of Hanuman placed the ring as
familiar. though it was his own hungry heart in his
46. THE SEARCH BEGINS servant's hand. The ideal servant accepted
"LOOK, Rama, at this Vanara army," the sacred trust with a deep reverence and
said Sugriva. "All these myriads, of an unshakable resolve never to fail his
wondrous strength, are yours to command. master.
They are willing and able to do you all the Sugriva gave orders to his army. "Sita
service you demand. Consider this huge must anyhow be discovered. No matter
army as your own and bid them to do where she is hidden, you can and must
whatever you wish." find her. Within a month you must return
Rama, beside himself with joy; with news of her."
embraced Sugriva. He said: "First we And the army swarmed out like ants
should find out whether Sita is alive, and from an anthill and spread in the four
if so where she is. Next we should know directions.
Ravana's whereabouts. Then we shall do Satabali and his army proceeded
what needs to be done. But it is for you, northwards. Vinata went east, Sushena
not for me or Lakshmana, to command westwards, Hanuman, Angada and
this army. You are their King. Besides, General Tara travelled southwards.
you know best what needs to be done and All were equally enthusiastic and
how to do it. Blessed am I to have a friend equally eager to catch and kill Ravana and
like you and a brother like Lakshmana!" redeem Sita. Each group was anxious to
Then Sugriva issued stringent orders to be first to return with success. There was
his commanders at once to send divisions tumultuous rivalry.
of the army to the four quarters of the Rama enquired of Sugriva: "You
earth to make a thorough search for Sita. describe every quarter and region of the
After sending away the other leaders, earth like one who has seen the whole
Sugriva took Hanuman aside and told world with his own eyes. How and when
him: "Son of Vayu, possessing the did you see it all?"
strength and splendor of your father, you "You will remember, my Lord," said
alone can succeed in this task. You have Sugriva, "how Vali pursued me in all
strength, courage and intelligence and on directions. Wherever I went, he still
you I rely to take up and discharge this pursued me. And so I had to wander over
responsibility of discovering Sita." the face of the whole world. I thus had
Rama too felt that Hanuman's efforts occasion to see every part of this planet.
would be crowned with success. Whatever Later, I learnt about the spot where Rishi
obstacles turned up, he felt that Hanuman Matanga had built his ashrama. If Vali
entered that region, his head would go to Passing through a desert, fainting with
pieces by the sage's curse. I knew that he hunger and thirst, they saw a cave from
would not come to that place and could which issued a variety of birds full of the
not harm me even if he came. So there I joy of life. The gentle breeze which came
lay protected." out of it covered them with the pollen of
The hordes that went north, east and lotus flowers and filled them with
west returned in a month and reported that fragrance. The Vanaras concluded:
Sita was not to be found anywhere. "undoubtedly there was water where the
"Carefully we searched forests, birds and perfume came from." And the
mountains, rivers and cities, but nowhere Vanaras forming a chain with linked
could we find her. Hanuman, who had hands plunged cautiously into the dense
gone southwards, is the lucky one. Did not darkness of the cave with hearts full of
the Rakshasa carrying Sita also travel hope, though too parched with thirst even
southwards? And Hanuman has not yet to shout.
returned." At long last, all of a sudden, light
Rama, hearing this, was satisfied that appeared and they saw a lovely grove with
the Vanaras had done their best. streams of pellucid water and trees
Hanuman and Angada entered and bowing under their wealth of fruit. Then
searched the caves and forests of the they came to a city, with streets paved
Vindhyas. Then they came upon a desert, with jewels set in gold and great palaces
where a rishi was performing tapas. By beautiful as a dream. They went along and
his curse it was devoid of trees and plants, then they saw an aged tapasvini clad in
of birds and beasts. Travelling further the garments of a recluse and seated on a
south, they saw a big Asura. The cruel dark skin. The Vanaras trembled before
one, regarding the Vanara crowd as a the divine splendor of her face.
good meal sprang up to catch them. They Hanuman took courage to approach
thought at first that this was no other than her. Bowing low before her, he said:
Ravana. "Salutations to you, Mother. May we
Angada rushed towards him and gave know who you are? Thirsty and tired, we
him a mighty blow. Unable to stand it, the entered the dark cave hoping for some
Asura spat blood and fell on the earth and water. And now that we see this
lay dead like a great hill. Rejoicing in the unpeopled golden city with trees and
thought that Ravana was dead, the tanks, we are afraid, lest this be a vain
Vanaras searched the forest for Sita. But, vision arising from the madness of too
there was no sign of her. And so they great sufferings. Explain all this to us and
carried the search elsewhere. remove our fears."
Often they would weary of their She answered: "How did you find your
fruitless search and sit down in blank way into this cave? You will have plenty
despair. At such times, Angada, of fruits and drink here. This palace was
Gandhamadana or some other leader built by Maya, the architect of the
would encourage them and make them Danavas. He learnt the art from
resume the search. Many days were spent Sukracharya. Long and happily did Maya
in this way. Yet Sita was not to be seen live here, till he incurred the enmity of
and they dreaded Sugriva's displeasure. Indra, who slew him. Later Indra gave this
Very far they travelled southwards in golden palace to Hema, my friend. These
their search. buildings and parks are hers. At present
she has gone to the abode of the gods. But Instead of going there and losing our
what is your purpose in coming here? lives, let us fast and seek death here and
Why did you weary yourselves wandering now." Many of his companions agreed
in the forests? First eat, drink and refresh with Angada.
yourselves and then tell me all about The Vanara General Tara said: "I do
yourselves." not agree. Why should we end our lives?
They ate and drank and refreshed Let us return to the cave of the tapasvini
themselves and were happy. Then Swamyamprabha and live there happily.
Hanuman explained to the ascetic the There is everything in plenty there.
purpose of their wandering. Neither Sugriva nor anyone else can reach
"Rama, son of Emperor Dasaratha, for this spot. We shall spend the rest of our
some reason, left his kingdom and lived in lives, free from care."
the forest with his brother and wife. Then But Hanuman said: "What unworthy
a Rakshasa carried off Sita, the wife of talk is this! What pleasure is there in
Rama. The two went out searching for eating, drinking and sleeping in the cave,
her. They made the acquaintance of leaving our families in faraway
Sugriva, the Vanara King, and became Kishkindha? Sugriva is a good king whom
friends with him. He has sent us on this we need not fear. And if indeed Sugriva is
mission to search for Sita and find her for angry with us and determined to punish
Rama. Our King fixed a time limit for us us, how can this cave give us safety? Can
to return with a clue. We lost our way in it stand against Lakshmana's rage? Will he
the darkness of this cave and the period is not smash it to pieces and kill us? I see no
now over. Now we do not know what to benefit in Tara's counsel. Let us return and
do. Sugriva is a strict master. For failure tell Sugriva the whole truth and beg for
to do his bidding within the time set, he is his forgiveness. This is the only way to
sure to visit us with the penalty of death." safety."
Swayamprabha, that was the name of "I do not agree with Hanuman," said
the ascetic woman, said: "Alas! You Angada. "Sugriva has no love or pity for
cannot by yourselves go out of this cave. me. He is sure to kill me. He is of a cruel
No stranger who enters it can go out of it nature. Remember how he killed my
with life. But yours is a great mission and father. He does not want me to live. He
I must, by my tapasya, transport you out. will find some excuse or other for killing
Now shut your eyes." me. He regards me as an obstacle in his
Accordingly they shut their eyes. All at way and that of his progeny, who but for
once they found themselves on the me would inherit Kishkindha. To break a
seashore. promise is nothing to him. Did he not
Reaching the seashore, they looked forget his solemn pledge to Rama that he
round and they were start led to discover would search for and recover Sita? Was it
that it was the beginning of spring. not only for fear of Lakshmana and his
Angada lamented: "Alas! The time set has bow that he sent us on this search? My
been transgressed. If we return to poor bereaved mother has succumbed to
Kishkindha without any clue about Sita, fear and accepted Sugriva's protection.
the King will surely punish us with death. She clings to life for my sake. Hearing
He hates me. It was under pressure from that I am dead, she will end her life. Alas!
Rama that he agreed to make me I am miserable and know not what to do."
Yuvaraja, not because of love for me.
"My death is certain", he said again, "if fly higher and rose in the sky. As they
I return to Kishkindha. It is far better to approached the sun the heat became
fast to death here." intolerable and Jatayu was about to be
He spread on the ground the kusa grass burnt up.
in the manner prescribed for the vow of But Sampati spread his wings and
death, bowed to the gods and the dead and protected his brother from the fury of the
sat facing east, determined to die. sun. Jatayu was saved, but Sampati's
When Angada the Yuvaraja took this wings were burnt off. Unable to fly, he
vow and sat in the posture of a fast unto fell down on a hill. Since then he could
death, the other Vanaras cried in grief and, not move but stayed in the same place
resolving also to fast with him and die, sat ever hungry for meal and just alive.
facing east. "Who brings sad news of my dear
From a neighboring hill, Sampati, the brother Jatayu?" he cried in agony. "Oh,
vulture King, saw this crowd of Vanaras, Vanaras, is beloved Jatayu dead indeed?
resigning themselves to fate. Having lost Why did Rama son of King Dasaratha, go
his wings and being unable to move, to the forest? Why did he lose his wife?
Sampati had been famishing for a long Was Jatayu killed by Ravana? Tell me
time. He now rejoiced, saying to himself: all."
"So many monkeys are going to die here The Vanaras had resolved to end their
together. I shall have enough food for a lives. The wingless, old vulture had
long while without effort." desired to make an easy meal of them. But
Meanwhile, the Vanaras, expecting now things turned out otherwise. The
death, were recalling the past and talking Vanaras got up, went to Sampati and
to one another and loudly lamenting over gently led him down from the hill. Then
all that had happened. "Because of they talked and exchanged information.
Kaikeyi, Dasaratha died," they said: Sampati recounted his story. Angada
"Because of Dasaratha, Rama had to dwell related all that had happened in
in the forest. Ravana carried off Sita. The Kishkindha and asked old Sampati how
heroic Jatayu lost his life in the attempt to Rama could be helped.
save Sita. If the heroic bird had strength Sampati was old and weak, but his eyes
enough to continue the struggle a little had not lost their keenness. He could see
longer, Rama and Lakshmana would have things very far off. He could see Sita
arrived on the spot and recovered Sita. By captive in Lanka and described in detail
fate did all these things happen and the the wealth of Ravana's kingdom. He saw
end of the tale is that we are dying here. In and described how Sita sat surrounded by
what curious ways does fate work!" Rakshasis in Lanka. The Vanaras were
Listening to these lamentations, wild with joy. They jumped about saying,
Sampati stared at the mention of Jatayu "Now we know all about Sita. There is no
who was his brother. Hearing him spoken need for us to die, Rama's purpose will be
of as dead, he naturally wished to hear the achieved."
whole story. Sampati's troubles were also over. The
Sampati was very old. He and Jatayu boon he had received that when he helped
were the children of Aruna, the god of Rama he would get back his wings came
Dawn and brother of Garuda, Hari's true and even as they were talking, young
vehicle. Jatayu and Sampati in their youth feathers began to spring and grow on his
competed with each other as to who could sides. Sampati now shone with fresh
beauty and he found satisfaction in "I am now old and infirm. Yet I would
performing the funeral obsequies of gladly spend myself to fulfil our king's
Jatayu. command. But what will mere devotion
47. SON OF VAYU avail if not seconded by strength? I think I
FROM Sampati the Vanaras learnt the can manage ninety yojanas, but this is not
place where Sita was kept a prisoner in enough to cross the sea and reach Lanka. I
the land of the Rakshasa, a hundred can only regret my lost youth."
yojanas across the ocean. But of course it The Yuvaraja himself said: "I can do a
would not do to return to Sugriva at once hundred yojanas and reach Lanka, I have
with this second-hand information. They no doubt. But I wonder whether I shall
had outstayed the allotted time and only have the strength for another jump of
outstanding success could save them from equal length for the return journey."
punishment. They could not stop their Jambavan answered, "O prince, you
search till they saw with their own eyes need not doubt your strength. Your
what Sampati had described only then prowess is as great as Vali's. Yet it is not
could they fulfil Rama's purpose. proper for the crown prince to undertake
But then they had to cross the sea. this task while there are others to do it
They went to the edge of the water and under his orders. It is neither
discussed matters. "How can we cross the statesmanlike nor safe for a king to act
sea, enter Lanka, see Sita and return?" directly."
Anxiety and fear overwhelmed them. Then Jambavan cast an appraising and
Angada said: "No matter how hard the admiring look at Hanuman, who had sat
task, one should never lose courage. apart, listening to the talk, but saying
Courage is the key to success. To lose nothing.
heart is to lose everything." "I feel that the son of Vayu, sitting
Then he asked each one of his there in silence is the one best fitted by
followers to state truly the maximum strength and skill to do this deed," said the
length that he could jump. old Vanara and walked up to Hanuman
"Oh Vanara warriors!" he said, "much and brought him to their midst.
have I heard from Sugriva of your Addressing Hanuman in the hearing of
prowess. Your strength and your the myriad's of gloomy Vanaras,
enterprise are beyond dispute. We should Jambavan said: "O warrior, learned in all
fulfil this task. We cannot return to branches of knowledge, why are you
Kishkindha without seeing Sita. That is sitting silent and apart? You are the equal
certain. It is better for us to end our lives of King Sugriva, are you not? In strength
here than to be slain in disgrace by the and splendor do you not surpass all the
king. Therefore, tell me, one by one, the rest of us? Why, are you not the equal of
longest jump you have the strength and Rama and Lakshmana themselves? I have
courage to attempt." seen Garuda, the king of birds crossing
Gaja said modestly: "I can jump ten the sea. The might of your shoulders is not
yojanas." Gavaksha said: "I can do less than that of Garuda's wings. You are
twenty." Another Vanara leader claimed not inferior to the son of Vinata in
he could do thirty. strength or speed, but you are not aware of
And so each improved on the figure of your own prowess and intelligence. There
the other. At last Jambavan, the oldest of is no equal to you in the whole world.
the warriors, spoke: Anjana, your mother, was a maiden
among the goddesses above. By the curse and traversed the globe twenty-one times.
of a rishi she was born as a Vanari. One At the churning of the ocean of milk, I
day, while she was wandering carefree on fetched herbs from the four quarters at the
a mountain slope, Vayu saw her beauty bidding of the gods. But now I am old and
and fell in love with her and embraced weak. You are the sole hope of the
her. She was wroth. 'Who are you, O Vanaras. O, son of Anjana, we beg you,
wicked one' she asked, 'who dares insult noble one! With your heritage of divine
me? The Wind-God answered: 'Be not strength, delay no further. Realise your
angry, your body is not tainted by my true strength and spring forward. Like
touch and loses not its virgin purity. Not Trivikrama, you can cross the sea at a
in body but in my heart's desire did I single jump. Do it and end our troubles."
embrace you and out of this ethereal The aged Jambavan thus praised
embrace, a child will be born to you, Hanuman, reminded him of his strength
equal to me in strength and vigor. He will and roused his dormant courage. At once
be the mightiest and most intelligent Hanuman's form began to swell like the
amongst the Vanaras.' Thus did the Wind- sea in high tide. Even as the Vanaras were
God pacify Anjana. When you were a watching him, the son of Vayu grew in
little child, O Hanuman, you imagined the size. The radiance of his body filled
rising sun to be a fruit and flew towards it Angada and his companions with wonder
in order to pluck it. Seeing your effortless and joy.
and fearless flight Indra, king of the gods, From now on, Hanuman is the hero of
became concerned for the sun's safety and the Ramayana. The devotees of Vishnu
hurled his thunderbolt at you. Struck lovingly call him the Junior Servant of
down by it, you fell on a, mountain and Hari. The Senior Servant is Garuda who is
your right jaw was broken. Enraged by always with Vishnu in personal
this, your father the Wind-God stopped attendance.
his movements and stood still. All living How the Junior Servant of Hari ended
creatures became breathless and felt the grief of Sita, destroyed by fire the city
strangled in the stillness. The gods begged of Ravana and returned to the Lord and
Vayu to lay aside his anger and showered told him: "I found have Sita," we shall
blessings on you. Brahma and Indra gave now proceed to relate. Reminded of his
you boons. No weapon can slay you. might by Jambavan, Hanuman was now
Death can only come to you at your will determined to fulfil Rama's purpose. And
and not other wise. You are immortal. with fervor he uttered his faith:
Born of Anjana and begotten of the spirit "May your words come true. Flying
of the Wind-God, you are equal to him in through the sky and alighting in Lanka, I
splendor, intelligence and power. But, for shall see Janaki. I have no doubt. I shall
all your strength, you are virtuous and return and bring you good news. To take
modest. You alone can help us to fulfil the jump I must press my foot hard
Rama's purpose. Crossing the sea is no against the earth. This hill may stand it,"
hard task to you. This great army of he said and climbed up the Mahendra hill.
Vanaras, struggling in a sea of distress, There for a while he threw his whole
you should rescue. You, who can cross the strength into his foot and walked a few
sea, should not leave your power unused. steps. The creatures in the hill could not
Increase your stature. You are the equal of endure it and came out.
Garuda. Once I too was strong like you
Standing on the hill, Hanuman looked swallow the sky as he flew forward. His
at the sea and directed his yoga- eyes glistened like mountain forests on
concentrated mind towards Lanka. He fire. His red nose shone like the evening
said to himself: "I shall search and find sun.
Sita. I shall fly in the sky and cross the His huge frame spanned the sky like an
sea." enormous comet. The air roared as he
With this resolve he offered worship sped fast. Beneath him his shadow
and prayer to Surya, Indra, Vayu, Brahma, travelled like a ship on the sea. It looked
and all creation. Then facing east, he as though a huge mountain with wings
made obeisance to his father Vayu and, was flying in the sky. Hidden at times by
magnifying his frame still further, turned clouds and again emerging from them, he
towards the south. shone like the moon sailing across the
He pressed the hill with his feet and sky. The Gandharvas showered flowers.
struck it with his hands. At this impact the The Devarishis blessed him.
flowers fell from the trees and covered the With courage equal to every occasion,
hill. Squeezed irresistibly by the pressure with foresight, skill and resolution,
of his feet the hill threw out springs of Hanuman met and survived the trials on
water, like the rut flowing down the the way. Shooting up suddenly from the
cheeks of the elephant. Many colored sea, a mighty mountain rose and stood, in
veins of ore burst out of the rock. From his way. Hanuman struck it with his chest
the caves the beasts emerged with panic- and the Mynaka Mountain yielded, like a
stricken outcries. Hooded serpents cloud struck by the wind.
emitting venom bit the rock and sparks The mountain said: "My son, I am
flew out. Mount Mynaka. My king Ocean bade me
The hair of Hanuman's body stood on help Sri Rama, the descendant of the
end and he roared and lashed his tail on Sagara race. The Ocean is an old friend of
the ground. He contracted his hind parts, that race. In honor of that ancient,
held his breath, pressed down his feet, association, stay here on me for a while.
folded his ears and stiffened his muscles. You will fulfil Rama's purpose all the
Then with a roar of triumph he rose into better for this rest. When Indra struck with
the sky and like Garuda flew with the his thunder all the hills, I fled from his
speed of Rama's arrow. With the persecution and hid myself in the ocean
momentum of his speed, many trees were and survived. The Ocean who gave me
uprooted and followed in his wake. Like shelter now bids me help you. The sons of
friends who speed a parting guest, they Sagara dug and deepened the ocean. Did
accompanied him a little way, showering not your father Vayu help me to escape
down their flowers, and dropped. from Indra's thunderbolt and find
One by one the trees that followed sanctuary in the sea? Both the Ocean and
Hanuman fell into the sea like the myself will be pleased if you will accept
mountains which of old were pursued by my hospitality and rest here for a while."
Indra and denuded of their wings. But Hanuman could not yield to
Covered with bright-colored flowers the Mynaka's importunity and said politely: "I
sea shone like the sky with its stars. cannot stop, my friend. I have no time to
Hanuman's arms with their outspread lose. My vow to fulfil Rama's purpose
hands as he flew through the sky appeared permits no delay. Your kind words are
like two five headed cobras. He seemed to enough to please me."
He stroked the mountain affectionately been waiting for you. No longer can I bear
with his hand and took its leave. my hunger," and she opened her mouth
Later, a huge form stood in his way like a cave.
and said: "Enter my mouth. I have been At once Hanuman entered her mouth
without food for a long time and am and ripped a way out through her entrails
eagerly waiting for you," and the monster and emerged. The demon died and sank
opened its mouth wide like a cave. down in the water. Like the full moon
Hanuman answered: "I am bent on emerging from an eclipse, Hanuman
doing Rama's purpose. Do not stop me." shone in the sky and resumed his journey.
"Impossible!" said the monster. "You Thus surviving many trials with the
must enter my mouth." help of his subtle wit, courage and
Hanuman thought quickly and decided strength, he flew across the ocean and
what to do. Step by step he made his body approached the coast of Lanka covered
grow bigger and bigger. The Rakshasa with plantain and coconut trees.
form (which had been assumed by Surasa, On the shore of the island he saw
the Naga maiden) opened its mouth groves and mountains and forests and the
correspondingly wider and wider. mouths of rivers.
When the mouth was thus enormously Hanuman saw the wealth of Ravana's
wide, all of a sudden Hanuman contracted kingdom and the beauty of the fortified
his body into a speck and, darting through city.
the demon's mouth and body, came out "I have reached the destination," said
again and resumed his former normal Hanuman to himself. "Now without
shape. letting the Rakshasas know who or what I
He then laughed and said: "You have am, I must search the place and find out
had your wish, mother. I have entered where Sita is kept."
your mouth. What more do you need?" He reduced his huge form to the size of
And the Naga goddess blessed him a normal monkey and alighted on a hilltop
saying: "Your effort will be crowned with in Lanka.
success. I did this at the bidding of the 48. THE SEARCH IN LANKA
gods who wanted to test you. Rama's FULL of hope, Hanuman alighted and
purpose, which you seek to serve, will set foot in Lanka. But soon the flush of
assuredly triumph." triumph at the accomplishment of the
This was not the last of his trials. As he journey gave place to sober thinking.
was flying in the sky, for no reason which "True I have crossed the sea, but that is
he could discover, he found his speed only the beginning of my mission. There,
obstructed and he suffered like a ship on mount Trikuta, stands Ravana's
against a contrary wind. Some mighty magnificent city, as if suspended in the
force, he felt, was holding him and sky. How beautiful, how wealthy, how
dragging him down. well secured it is! The city and the fortress
He looked up and down and on all four are not inferior to Amaravati or
sides. Then he discovered the cause. It Bhagavati. The lovely groves, the elegant
was a huge she-demon in the sea holding buildings, the engines of defence, deep
him by his shadow below, arresting his moats, these fill me with much admiration
speed, and dragging him down. but also with greater concern. Who can
The demon, holding him by his attack and vanquish this Ravana? How
shadow, said: "Come, come! Long have I can an army cross the sea that I have just
crossed? Even if it crosses the sea and the terrible-looking Guardian Goddess of
reaches this shore, how can it attack and the city.
bring down this fortress defended by "Who are you, little monkey? How did
bulwarks manned by well-armed warriors! you manage to come here and why are
Neither guile nor force can bring it down. you here at all? Speak the truth."
But first I must find out whether Sita is "Yes, I am indeed a little monkey and I
alive or not. Other questions can wait. have come here to look at this beautiful
When and how can I best enter this well city. I shall go back after I have gone
guarded city? I have to search it round and seen everything and satisfied
thoroughly, if I am to discover the place my curiosity."
where Sita is kept. If thoughtlessly I do The deity struck an angry blow at the
something wrong now, this error would be monkey. Hanuman returned the blow
irretrievable and a great purpose would carelessly with his left hand. It doubled
fail because of haste or negligence on my her up with agony on the ground.
part. If I enter the, city by day, it will be But soon she got up and remembered
noticed by the Rakshasas. It is best I go in the prophecy that, when a monkey should
at night. But in what shape shall I go? To strike and throw her down, the city she
ward off suspicion, I must put on a trivial, guarded would be destroyed.
inconspicuous shape." She said to herself: "Ravana's sins are
Accordingly he shrank to the size of a many and grievous. The end of Lanka is
little monkey, no bigger than a cat. To approaching. The word of the gods is
enter and search the palaces and parks of about to be fulfilled." And she stood aside.
this vast city, this would be most The goddess of Lanka was not a servant
convenient. His present form was as much of Ravana. She was the spirit of the city.
smaller than his usual size as the latter Hanuman climbed over the wall and
was than the mighty proportions he had jumped into the city. It was part of the
assumed as he crossed the sea. ancient code of warfare that one should
By now the sun had set. The little not enter the enemy's fortress through the
Vanara walked towards the fortress gate. regular gate, but should make his entry in
The moon shone brightly. Hanuman was an out-of-the-way manner.
glad and grateful for this help in his Vowing that the Rakshasas should be
search. destroyed he entered the fortress of Lanka
Even on a distant view Hanuman with his left foot foremost, for that meant
wondered at the wealth and beauty defeat for the enemy.
displayed in Ravana's capital. The streets He went along the royal street that was
and mansions were bright with flags and strewn with beautiful flowers. Like
festoons and glittered with gold and lightning shining through the clouds the
precious gems. The breeze blew gently buildings shone against the sky.
from the sea. Like Indra's Amaravati and Clambering up the mansions and going
Kubera's Alakapuri, Ravana's capital had along on their roofs, he admired the
attained the peak of prosperity. The beauty of the city. The Rakshasa mansions
messenger of Rama was filled with and streets and their decorations shone
wonder and anxiety how to overcome the with ineffable beauty. The sounds of
master of such wealth and military power. cultivated and correct music were heard.
As he was walking along in amazement Lovely women moved about to the
and anxiety, he was rudely accosted by accompaniment of tinkling anklets. The
city was filled with sounds indicating a Looking at the elephants, horses and
full and joyous life. foot-soldiers in front, the high walls
In some houses mantras were being surrounding it and the beauty of its
chanted. In some others Vedic chants structure and the richness of its
were heard. In others songs celebrating decorations, he concluded that this was
the heroic exploits and glory of Ravana Ravana's own palace, the central glory of
were being sung. Soldiers and scouts were splendid Lanka. He entered this palace. It
everywhere. In the streets were people was in every way a heaven on earth
dedicated to particular religious practices worthy of Ravana's peerless power and
and vows. There were others cruel in glory. The park, the birds sporting there,
looks and ugly. The guards were armed the shrines scattered here and there, filled
with bows, swords, cudgels, slings, lances Hanuman with wonder.
and other weapons. All the warriors were He said to himself: "What wealth, what
clad in armor. beauty and what bliss!"
Some were handsome, some ugly, He was for a while lost in amazement.
complexions varied from fair through But soon he recollected that he had not yet
brown to black. Some figures were very found Sita. Admiration gave place to
tall, others very short. Thus Hanuman saw concern over the yet unfulfilled purpose
that the population had been drawn from a for which he had come.
wide area with varying climates and that Passing through many mansions, he
the army had been recruited from the pick entered the innermost private apartment of
of many nations. Ravana and was almost overcome with
He examined mansion after mansion. the luxury and richness of its apartments
He saw women of exquisite beauty, some which made it look a very abode of the
of them in the company of their husbands gods. Everywhere was gold and silver,
and others by themselves. He saw many ivory and gems and pearls, and beautiful
young damsels, bright and beautiful like carpets and furniture and in their midst he
images of molten gold. Some were seated saw the Pushpaka Vimana.
on the terraces, others were sleeping in It was a magic vehicle obtained from
their beds. Some were playing, others Brahma by Kubera. Vanquishing Kubera,
singing. Ravana brought it to Lanka as his booty.
Innumerable beautiful women he saw, As from Vasishtha's cow, in the Pushpaka
but not Sita pining for Rama. The sight of car one could get anything one desired.
so much beauty only filled Hanuman's Ravana's chamber, which Hanuman
heart with disappointment and sadness. now entered, was a very ocean of delight.
He entered and examined the homes of Countless lovely women lay sleeping in
many Rakshasas. There were war the spacious chamber, some linked arm in
elephants, pure-bred horses, chariots and arm and all in undress and the careless
armories. Soldiers stood fully armed. attitudes of sleep, making the place look
After passing through many mansions like garden of bright, flower-laden
and gardens filled with merriment and creepers.
music, he came to a great palace rising With his spirit controlled by dharma,
aloft in a nobility of splendor far Hanuman looked at all these sleeping
transcending all the magnificent buildings women, each more beautiful than the
around. other and all filled with joy and love, to
see if any of them could be Sita. Ravana's
power to take what shape he would and to bedroom, the dining room, the hall of
please all women was evident from the drink, the music room, all places had been
sight of these lovely women. searched and Sita was nowhere found. "I
Hanuman pulled himself together have entered every nook and corner.
reproachfully at his own folly in Against all the rules of propriety, I have
supposing for a moment that Sita could be even looked at every one in the women's
in that sensual paradise of happy damsels. chambers. But all in vain."
"It is certain that Sita is not in this crowd. Saying this he left the hall of drink and
What a fool am I to search for her in this went to the garden and looked into the
company! This is no place for her." little shrines and the arbours made of
Then he went elsewhere. In another creepers. But all was in vain.
chamber he saw many beds. He saw one "I have seen all of Lanka," he thought
more gorgeous than the rest, covered with with irrepressible grief. "I have seen every
gold and diamonds and Ravana stretched inch of Ravana's palace. What more could
on it, like another Mount Meru. His form I do here? Am I to return without seeing
and majestic splendor mace made even Sita? No. I shall rather end my life here.
Hanuman tremble for it moment. Yes, that is the only thing for me to do."
He stood on one side and scanned the But again he said to himself, "Fie, fie
sleeping figure unable for a time to take on me for yielding to such despondency
his eyes off the majestic and virile beauty unworthy and dishonorable."
of that mighty form. The great muscles He sprang up again and searched once
now in repose, the symmetrical grace of again every inch of the places he had been
limbs which made the Rakshasa King at through. He opened every door and
once beautiful and terrible. window and looked in. There were ugly
Then Hanuman looked at the women in women, beautiful human and Naga
the beds around and on the carpets. Some, maidens, all captured by the Rakshasa, but
who had fallen asleep while singing, were not Sita.
still hugging their musical instruments. Once again his heart sank. He did not
His eyes finally fell on a figure lying know what to do. He said to himself: "If I
on a divinely beautiful cot. The return to Kishkindha failing in my
shapeliness of her limbs and the beauty of mission, with what face shall I meet my
her features made Hanuman imagine it friends? If Rama loses all hopes of
might be Sita. He leaped up with joy. recovering Sita, what would happen to
The next instant he cursed himself for him? He would surely die. And after that,
his folly. "Fie, fie," he said to himself, what would happen to others? Instead of
"how foolish have I been! Could Sita going back to Sugriva and telling him that
sleep thus carelessly, covered with jewels, all my labors have been wasted, it would
in a stranger's chamber? The very thought be far better to stay here and spend the
is a sin." And he was overwhelmed with rest of my days in the forest and seashore
shame and sorrow at his error. of Lanka. But why live on? Is it not best
Then he said to himself: "Because she to end my life? But, then, was Sampati
would not yield to him, this Rakshasa wrong in saying that Sita was in Lanka?
must have killed her. What use is there in Or has she been killed by the Rakshasa
continuing the search?" since Sampati sighted her in this island?
He had now searched the inner She might well have been devoured by the
apartments of Ravana's palace. The
Rakshasis. Nothing is clear, everything is overlaid with gold and silver. Little bells
enveloped in doubt. What shall I do?" suspended from the trees made music in
Thus was Hanuman lost in anxiety and the breeze.
thought. Just then his eyes lighted on what Hanuman climbed up and sat hidden
he had so far left unexplored, a park among the leaves of a tall spreading tree
attached to a shrine and surrounded by with a golden platform around its stem. "If
high walls. "Oh, here is a park, I have not she be alive and in Lanka " said Hanuman
seen or searched so far. Here surely I shall to himself, "Sita would surely visit this
find Sita." garden. She would choose this place
With these words as the son of Vayu above all others for solitude and
meditated on Rama, hope sprang within contemplation of Rama. They said, did
his breast. The secluded park was well they not, that she loved groves and trees?
protected by high walls. "Yes, Sita must She would surely come here at dawn to
be here," he said to himself. Again he offer worship to the Universal Mother."
bowed to the gods. He jumped up and sat He gazed all round, hiding himself
on the wall of the Asoka Vana and among the leaves. He sat on a branch and
surveyed the beautiful park. looked below. He beheld a female figure
49. SITA IN THE ASOKA PARK seated on that platform, blindingly
As HANUMAN stood on the high beautiful and divinely pure.
wall, he did not know why, a thrill of joy Thin and pale, she shone like the streak
passed through his frame. It was the of the moon in the beginning of the bright
invisible atmosphere which envelopes an half of the month. Her beauty glowed
accomplished mission and influences fitfully through deepest dejection like
subtly the devoted heart. As be had at last flame through enveloping smoke.
reached the spot where Sita was, his Wrapped in a soiled upper garment she
whole being throbbed with exulting resembled a lovely lotus obscured by miry
expectation without any apparent reason. moss. Her face was bathed in tears, and
It was an early spring night. Trees and she was wan and thin for want of food.
plants were in flowers. Hanuman jumped She had no thoughts but of sorrow, no
to a place where there was a thick cluster glimpse of friends or hope. There were
of trees. This disturbed the birds that only Rakshasis wherever she turned her
rested there and they flew out with sweet eyes, and she felt like a doe which had
noises. Deer and other animals moved lost its herd and found itself beset by a
about. Flowers dropped from the branches pack of wild dogs.
and covered the body of Hanuman. A single snake-like braid of hair
The creatures in the park, looking at wandered unregarded down to her hip.
the lovely figure of Hanuman covered all She seemed to Hanuman at once adorable
over with flowers, thought that the God of and pitiful, like the holy word torn from
spring was visiting the grove in the early its context by infidels, like prosperity sunk
dawn. in unmerited ruin, like shattered hope and
The garden was entrancingly beautiful. faith betrayed, like frustrated fulfilment,
Lovely tanks, terraces decorated with like intellect muddied by insanity, like
gold, silver, ivory, pearl and coral crystal blameless purity besmirched by foul
steps, artificial hills and waterfalls, the slander.
sight filled Hanuman's heart with joy. Hanuman said to himself with
Around some trees were platforms conviction: "This image of beautiful
despair is surely Sita. For, behold, brightly as if on purpose to help the son of
hanging unregarded on the branches of the Vayu.
tree are the jewels described by Rama as Peering between the leaves and not
having been on her when she was carried knowing what to do, Hanuman took
away, all except those which she dropped another long look at the face of Sita, a
during the flight and which were picked face that disclosed a sea of care like a
up by us on the hill. And see the scarf she heavily-laden ship caught in a storm. The
wears, though soiled and crumpled, is the Rakshasis who guarded her were
fellow to the one we found. Surely this intolerably ugly. One had only one eye,
sublimely beautiful lady, who seems like another only one ear. Some were without
one steadfast in true love in a tempest- ears and some without noses. Some had
tossed sea of troubles, is Rama's beloved noses turned steeply upward. Some were
queen. It is for her that Rama is consumed bald, while some had done their hair in
by a three-fold agony, grief for her grotesque styles.
suffering, wrath for the insult to her and Some had pendant stomachs and some
heart-broken pangs at separation from her. had camel's lips. Some were hunchbacks.
Surely he is ever in her heart and she in Some were dwarfs and some tall like
his, and in truth they are not parted or they palmyrah trees. Swine-face, tiger-face,
could not live." buffalo-face, goat-face, all were to be
And as he continued to see her, his seen. These unsightly creatures were
heart leapt back across the ocean and holding spears and other weapons in their
sought Rama's feet in adoration. And hands.
again he looked at Sita and said to And in their midst, the pale-faced
himself: "It was for the sake of this divine princess sat trembling, befriended only by
lady that the mighty Vali, the peer of her virtue, like an unsupported beautiful
Ravana in prowess, was slain. For her that creeper fallen on the ground.
Kabandha and Viradha met their death, It was still dark and not yet dawn.
and fourteen thousand fierce Rakshasas Ravana was roused from his slumber by
with Khara, Dushana and Trisiras the chanting of the Vedas and the morning
crimsoned with their gore the glades of songs of the court bards. The moment he
Janasthana. It was for her that the splendid awoke, he thought of Sita and started
sovereignty of the Vanaras was wrested towards the park where she was kept.
from the heroic Vali and given to Sugriva. With all his retinue, he entered the
It is to do her service that I crossed the palace park, accompanied by scented
sea, the lord of rivers, and am now here in torches and the royal umbrella,
Lanka. All this seems much, but verily, if surrounded by maidens, covered all over
for her sake Rama should transform or with brilliant ornaments and clad in
even destroy the universe, I would say spotless white clothes. Ravana appeared
from my soul it is well done! She is worth charming like another Manmatha.
it all and more!" As the procession entered the gate,
And again Hanuman's heart crossed the Hanuman could hear the noise of the
sea back and dwelt on Rama far away. crowd and the tinkling of women's
Just then, as off the clear surface of a anklets. Soon he saw the Rakshasa king
lake a swan might glide, so in the blue sky approaching. At once Hanuman hid
the moon swam into sight and shone himself more effectively than before
among thick leaves.
As Ravana came towards Sita, his and wasted form, she thought of her
strength and splendor were wonderful to protectors far away. "When will they
behold. At this sight Sita's body shrank come? Will they ever come?" she asked
and trembled like a plantain tree in a herself and meditated on God.
storm. Ravana approached and spoke to her.
As one reads or listens to this sacred Hidden in the branches of the tree,
story, one should form a mental image of Hanuman watched what went on below.
Sita in her present state. One can imagine 50. RAVANA'S SOLICITATION
the agony of despair of any good woman TO SITA, plunged in a sea of sorrow
who has by misfortune fallen into the and clinging to dharma and to the thought
power of a lustful man. What must be the of her lord, Ravana spoke these words:
state of Sita, daughter of Janaka and wife "O beautiful one! Why do you shrink
of Ramachandra, in such a predicament? from me? Do you not see how much I care
To appreciate Valmiki's metaphors and for you? Though it is lawful for a
similes in this context, one should purify Rakshasa to take another's wife and
one's heart and fire it with piety. possess her by force, I am a beggar for
One feels unequal to rendering into your love. There is no need to fear me. I
another language the beautiful similes by shall never touch you till your heart turns
which Valmiki illustrates her condition. towards me. Do not be afraid. My one
Only a few are cited here to give some wish is that you should care for me as I do
idea of them. for you. You must accept me with
Ravana approached Sita still in the affection. Why do you make your body a
hope of obtaining her consent. Sita was prey to unavailing sorrow? O beautiful
covered with dust and had no jewels on one! There is none like you in loveliness,
her person but she shone as if wearing all none in all the world. It is not right for
the jewels that a princess must wear. She you to reject beautiful jewels, and clothes,
looked like a beautiful tree felled down to sleep on the ground and leave your hair
and lying low. unkempt. O gem among women, do not
Her face was covered by light and thus waste your youth and beauty. Now
shadow, like a lotus flower stained by you have come under my protection, you
mire. She swayed like a cobra bound by should lack nothing. All pleasures are
charms. Her state was like one surrounded suitors for your selection. I cannot take
by raging fires on four sides, like an army my eyes away from your face bright like
which had lost its chief warriors, like a the full moon. Wherever on your body I
river which had run dry, like a vessel for set my eyes, there they remain fixed and
sacrificial fire that suffered desecration, immovable. Why should one with so
like a lovely lotus tank destroyed by much beauty suffer so much sorrow?
elephants, like a flowering creeper Accept me and enjoy all the pleasures of
uprooted and cast aside, like a cow the world. I will conquer the world and
elephant separated from the leader of the give it to Janaka for your sake. What will
herd, captured and tied as a prisoner. I not do for you? You will be my
Sita sat trembling, overwhelmed with sovereign consort. All the queens and
grief and fear. When she perceived women in the palace will be ruled by you.
Ravana's approach, that very instant her My wealth, my kingdom, all shall be
heart travelled to Rama like a chariot yours to enjoy. Lanka and myself, why,
drawn by swift steeds. With faded face the whole earth, shall belong to you. My
strength and courage are known to the had finished speaking, Sita plucked a little
Devas and Asuras. Vanquished by me, blade of grass and, placing it between
they stand with bowed heads. With them, laughed in derision and gently
jewels and garments fit for you my spoke:
handmaidens will adorn you. I long to see "Ravana, lay aside all such vain
you splendidly decked. And you will be thoughts concerning me. It is altogether
free to give away generous gifts in improper for you to desire me. Turn your
charity. Your authority will extend over heart to your wives. Never can I agree to
all mankind. My subjects and kinsfolk what you say. Think of the family I was
will deem it a joy to serve you. Why do born in. Think of the family I was married
you waste your thoughts on wretched into. How can you ever hope to persuade
Rama, wandering in the forest? How can me? Do not give room for such foolish
you love, how can you trust one who has and impossible desires and make sorrow
been deprived of his rights and driven out for yourself!"
of his kingdom and is roaming about clad Then she turned her face away and
in bark garments? What can this helpless continued:
fellow do? The Goddess of Wealth, she "How can I become your wife, when I
that presides over power and she who am the wife of another? Do not violate
rules over success have all abandoned dharma. Do not tread the path of sin.
him, and you know it. It is even doubtful Listen to me. Think how carefully you
whether he is alive today. Anyhow, you watch over your wives to keep them safe
may take it, he will never set eyes on you from the touch of others. Would not other
again, much less come near you. Like husbands do the same by their wives?
Garuda seizing a serpent, you have Remember other men are like you. Do not
captivated my heart. I am unable to cast your eyes on another's wife. To be
escape. Even in your present state, devoid happy with your own is the way of true
of jewels or good clothes, you have drawn happiness. But if you allow your mind to
me away from my other wives. What can I dwell on another's wife, sorrow and
do now? In my apartments are dishonor will be your portion. Is there
innumerable lovely women. But after none in the world to advise you aright?
seeing you, I can bear the sight of none of Why do you do evil and bring destruction
them. You will be Queen over all of them on yourself and on your people? When a
and receive their humble service. In what king loses self-control, his kingdom and
sense can Rama equal me? Do you not see wealth will all be destroyed. Be sure, this
that in severe austerities gone through, in Lanka and its great wealth will be utterly
strength, wealth and glory, in every way I destroyed if you persist in your sin and the
am superior to him? Shake off your fear. foes whom you have conquered and
We shall wander over the whole world, humiliated will rejoice. I have no use for
happy in each other's company. With me the wealth and the pleasures that you
you will enjoy limitless wealth and promise. They do not tempt me. I have
pleasure. Life will be one continuous joy. married Rama and I cannot take my mind
O beautiful one, have pity on me. Let us and heart away from him. I, who held his
sport together in the parks and groves by hand, can never touch another, never. I am
the sea. Only say 'yes'." his, the prince's, entirely and forever. I
Thus Ravana uttered his impassioned belong to him, as the Veda belongs to one
appeal for love and pity. When Ravana who has reverently mastered it. It is not
right for anyone else to look on me with "Alas! Alas! Is there none to give you
longing eyes. Listen to me who speaks for good advice? Have you no friend to save
your good. Beg Rama humbly for you from this sin and put you on the path
forgiveness and escape from his anger. Do of virtue? You cannot escape Rama's
not go in search of your own ruin. Rama punishment. Like a rabbit antagonising a
is generous and will surely forgive you if wild elephant you have incurred the wrath
you seek his mercy. Seek forgiveness and of Rama. O wretch, who stole me in his
safety. Do not seek death and destruction. absence, are you not ashamed? Your
There, I hear even now the twang of destruction is certain. Your evil fate has
Rama's bow. You cannot escape. Yama driven you to this act. And yet you are the
stands very near, ready to carry you away. brother of Kubera. You are famous as a
The arrows of Rama and Lakshmana will warrior. You are the master of a complete
soon be here in Lanka and your city will four-limbed army. Why should you do
be in flames. Did not Rama utterly destroy this mean deed in this mean way?"
the Rakshasas at Janasthana? Did you not, Ravana's eyes rolled in anger and he
knowing his strength, come like a thief to looked fiercely at Sita, hissing like a
our hut, when Rama and Lakshmana were snake. Seeing his mounting anger, one of
away, to steal me? Can you for a moment his young wives, Dhanyamali walked up
stand before them face to face? Can a dog to his side and, embracing him, said:
approach a tiger? Will it not flee from the "King! Why do you vex yourself over
very scent? As the sun sucks up moisture this mean human creature who does not
from the wet earth, Rama and Lakshmana seem to care for you? She has not the
will drink your life. Will you run to hide good fortune to be your wife, that is all.
yourself among the mountains? Will you And what is there so attractive about her?
try to escape under the sea? Even then, as Why do you waste your thoughts on this
at the appointed hour the tree is struck by puny creature? Come away. Let us enjoy
lightning, so will you perish at their ourselves."
hands. You cannot escape." She drew him away affectionately and
Thus Sita ended with a stern warning. the Rakshasa went with her, laughing.
Ravana controlled his anger and spoke: Before he went, Ravana ordered the
"O Sita, doting on this spurious ascetic Rakshasis who guarded Sita to bring her
Rama, you talk foolishly and repay my round somehow, and with resounding
loving words with insult and contumely. steps left the Asoka park, followed by his
Because of my love for you, I have retinue. As soon as he turned his back, the
refrained, else you would be dead by now. Rakshasis surrounded Sita.
Of the time I had allowed you, two The princess, who had been bold up till
months more remain. Change your mind now, trembled when she looked at these
before they pass. Be my wife and come to ugly creatures that began speaking to her.
my bed. If you refuse, you will be sent to "When Ravana, scion of a noble
my kitchen and cooked for my meal. family, a world-famous warrior, desires
Beware!" you," said one, "how can you refuse him,
It was well-known that the food of the O foolish girl? Who do you think Ravana
Rakshasas included human flesh. Hence is? Know that he is a direct descendant of
this threat of Ravana was no exaggeration, Brahma. He is the grandson of Pulastya
but conveyed a clear possibility. Yet Sita Prajapati, son of Brahma, a hero who has
was unafraid, and answered:
won many battles and vanquished many counsel. "Won't you listen to our advice?
foes. How foolish to slight him!" You are a human and so lack sense. You
"Let not pride ruin you," said another. still hold on to this wretched man-husband
"Ravana is the son of rishi Visravas. Do of yours. Your proper place is our King's
not think he is a nobody. Accept him and bedchamber. That is the place for every
be happy." kind of pleasure. But spurning his offer,
"The king of the Rakshasas, who you are forever thinking of your worthless
defeated in battle and put to flight the husband. Why are you still fond of this
gods of heaven, invites you to be his luckless wretch driven out of his
wife," said another. "You must yield, poor kingdom? You will never see him again.
girl, or you must die." Yield to Ravana and be happy."
"Slighting all his other wives," said Sita, hearing these words, could only
another, "Ravana wants you and promises shed tears.
to make you chief among his queens. "What sinful words you utter!" she
Forsaking all his noble wives, the King, said. "Never can I do what you say. You
bewitched by your beauty, begs for your tell me that Rama is poor, wretched, and
love and offers to make you first among an exiIe from his home. All this I know.
his consorts. Why are you foolishly But among us of the race of men, no wife
obstinate?" would think of giving up her husband on
"None in all the world can equal Lord such grounds. It is wicked for the
Ravana," said another. "Good fortune Rakshasa king to desire me for his wife.
comes seeking you and you spurn it. How As the sun's brightness belongs
foolish!" inseparably to the sun so do I belong to
"The Sun and the Wind gods are afraid Rama. As Sachi is faithful to Indra, or
of the Rakshasa king. And he comes Arundhati to Vasishtha, so am I ever to
seeking you and wants to make you his Rama."
favorite wife! Do not let your pride betray The Rakshasis gave up all hopes of
you. Do not reject the fortune that comes persuading her and said to one another:
to you unsought." "What can one do with a stubborn fool
And another concluded: "We have like this? It is best to eat her before she
given you good advice. We have done our gets too thin with brooding!"
best and we leave the rest to you. If you "I am in the family way," said one. "I
reject his offer, you must surely die." have a great longing for human flesh. I
51. FIRST AMONG THE ASTUTE shall tear her out and make a meal of her
THE boldest and most strong-minded soft body. We shall strangle her and report
woman may, if kept in captivity for a long to Ravana that she died of grief," said
period, lose heart and become depressed. another. "The King is lost in unavailing
Sita hoped month after month that her grief because of this obstinate woman.
lord would discover her whereabouts and Once he knows that she is dead, he will
come to her rescue. Sick with forget all about her and sleep soundly."
disappointed hope, alone in the midst of Another said: "I long to eat her liver. It
enemies, she clung to life only from an must be very tasty."
abiding faith in the love of Rama that Another added decisively: "Let us kill
made her feel that he would surely come. her and share her limbs. Fetch some sauce
The Rakshasis plied her with what and strong liquor. Let us feast on her and
from their point of view was well-meant
drink and dance in the temple of thought of me. No, no. How could a
Nikumbhila." warrior forsake his duty and, leaving his
Hearing these horrible words and wife in the hands of his foe, take up the
seeing these terrible forms, Sita broke life of sanyasa? How foolish of me even
down and cried aloud. Her physical to think of this! The fact is that they do
courage failed and nature had its way. She not know where I am. Could it be that
sobbed like a child. But even in her sobs Rama has lost his love for me? 'Out of
her mind was clear and it was fixed on sight, out of mind,' they say. Could it be
Rama. that he has forgotten me? Fie, fie! What a
"In Janasthana Rama destroyed sinful thought! How can my Rama forget
thousands of Rakshasas. Why does not me? He never can. And what wrong have
Rama come yet to redeem me? The I committed that he should cease to think
warrior princes who killed Viradha in of me? This cannot be the reason. Perhaps
Dandaka, why are they still indifferent to Ravana has played some trick and
my fate? It could only be that they do not treacherously slain the prince."
yet know where I am! Jatayu, the vulture Thus her mind wandered from one sad
king, was slain by the Rakshasa. If he at thought to another and sank ever deeper in
least were alive, he would have told them the sea of sorrow. She decided that it was
the news that he saw the Rakshasa best by hanging herself. She could hang
carrying me. But he gave up his life in herself with her long braid of hair round
trying to save me. But how long, will her neck and jump down from a branch of
Rama remain ignorant of my being here? the Simsupa tree.
How long can Lanka and the Rakshasas Having failed in their attempt to
survive? It is certain that, in every house persuade Sita, the Rakshasis did not know
in this city, Rakshasa widows will soon be what to do next. Some went to inform
lamenting loudly. It is certain that this city Ravana of their failure. Some stayed
of Ravana and the whole Rakshasa race behind to look after Sita.
will perish." Appearing among them Trijata, a
Thus she thought within herself and Rakshasi, reprimanded them, saying: "O
slowly recovered courage. But soon again foolish ones, you are talking nonsense!
other thoughts came to her and filled her Listen to me, I shall tell you of a dream
with gloom. that I dreamt. The time has come when
"Could it be that Rama gave up his life, Lanka shall be destroyed."
unable to bear my loss? It might well be Then she proceeded to recount in detail
so. Otherwise, could he neglect me and the terrible dream that she had dreamt:
leave me all alone these so many days? "I saw in my dream Rama, shining like
Indeed he is happy now and with the a sun, come to Lanka to find Sita. I saw
Gods. I must have been guilty of many Ravana entering the abode of Yama. I saw
sins to be thus left to suffer. My heart Rama mounting Sita on his elephant and
must be made of stone. How else can I carrying her home. I saw Ravana and all
suffer all this and yet survive? Yet the Rakshasas, clad in soiled garments and
something tells me that Rama is alive else dragged away by Yama."
I should be dead!" Relating this dream to the Rakshasis,
Then again another thought occurred to Trijata warned them: "Don't persecute this
her. "Perhaps he has resolved to spend his saintly woman. Don't seek your own
life in penance and has laid aside all
destruction. Fall at her feet and beg for would surely suspect foul play and
grace." imagine that Ravana was playing some
Even as Trijata was speaking to her new trick on her. If I appeared suddenly
companions, Sita, who resolved to slay before her, she might cry out in fear. In
herself, suddenly began to see many good her present condition this is most likely to
omens. happen. The Rakshasis guarding her, who
Her left eyelids, hand, and foot have now fallen asleep, will be startled
throbbed auspiciously. A vague courage awake and discover me. They would
once again came into her heart. All ideas know that I have come from their enemy
of self-destruction disappeared. and in disguise, and they would bring the
Hanuman, sitting hidden above and Rakshasas to attack me. A great battle
watching all that happened in the grove, would ensue. Of course I shall slay most
wondered what he should do next. of them. But the task of comforting Sita
One might imagine that, having and bearing news of her to Rama would
reached Lanka and seen Sita, Hanuman be jeopardised if I were to be captured and
had nothing more to do. But he was not so held a prisoner here. This would never do.
easily satisfied. He thought within Even if I escape being caught and come
himself. out successful in the struggle, I might be
"I have done something which no one wounded and lose strength and be unable
else could do. I have crossed the sea and to cross the sea. What then would I have
discovered Sita. I have seen the city of the gained having seen Sita? One should
Rakshasas and noted its defences. All that never do things in a hurry. One should
a spy can do without revealing himself to keep in mind one's main business. King
the foe, I have done. But the situation here Sugriva and Rama are confidently
is fraught with danger. If I go back now to awaiting my return. Even a little fault on
report what I have seen to Rama and my my part now may lead to great disaster.
king, who knows what meanwhile will The first thing to do is to speak with Sita
happen here? Before Rama, Lakshmana and put joy and hope in her heart. I must
and the Vanara host arrive here, Sita, approach her in such a way that she can
unable to bear her suffering, might put an never for a moment entertain a doubt
end to her life. All my labors would then about my good faith. Well, I shall recite in
be lost. It is not enough to have seen Sita. a sweet low tone, and for her hearing
I must talk to her, give her news of Rama only, the story and virtues of Rama. Her
and put hope and courage into her heart, heart would then be filled with joy and
so that she may hold with life in spite of trust, displacing suspicion. Only thus can I
all. How would Rama receive me if I proceed."
return without speaking to Sita? I must So he thought and, still hidden by the
find some way of speaking to Sita." branches of the tree, he began to utter in a
In the rosary of Hanuman's name low voice, the sweet words, "Rama,"
occurs the title, Buddhimatam "Rama."
Varishtham, 'First among the Astute.' It is 52. SITA COMFORTED
a true description. HIDDEN by the branches, Hanuman
"In what form should I appear before sang in a sweet and gentle voice the story
Sita? In what language should I speak to of Rama so that it fell on Sita's ears:
her? If suddenly a monkey came and "King Dasaratha ruled his kingdom
spoke to her in this Asoka grove, Sita well. His army was mighty and comprised
of chariots, elephants and horses. He was These sweet words, uttered by some
virtuous and a doer of great deeds. He one from somewhere, filled Sita with
kept his word and was foremost among wonder and delight. She looked around in
the famous kings of the world. He was all directions to discover who conveyed
equal to the rishis in virtue and to Indra in such sweet matter in so sweet a voice and
statesmanship. He hated no one and in such exquisite language.
harmed no one. All his endeavors were She looked round, and up and down
crowned with success. Therefore men but found no human form to match this
called him Satya-parakrama, truly valiant. perfect speech. She only saw a lovely
The richest of the Ikshavaku race, a king little monkey seated on the branch above
of kings, the ruler of the world, he her. Sita saw the son of Vayu, the wise
enjoyed and communicated happiness. minister of the Vanara king, in the form of
The eldest of his four sons was a little monkey, radiant like the rising sun.
Ramachandra, whose face was like the The reader should imagine for himself
full moon. Wise, virtuous and a master of the joy of Rama's messenger, as Sita's
the bow, Rama was beloved of all. And he eyes fell on him. The reader who
was full of kindness for all the people in experiences this joy will find God in his
the kingdom, a warrior wedded to dharma. heart. Narayana, who is waiting eagerly to
He was the heir to the throne. And yet, to enter and take possession of our hearts,
preserve the honor of his father, he left the would leave the great and boundless
kingdom with his wife Sita and his brother ocean of milk and come to dwell within
Lakshmana and lived in the forest. There us, when we cleanse ourselves of sinful
he vanquished the Rakshasas and thoughts.
protected the rishis. He destroyed Khara Seeing Hanuman, Sita said to herself:
and Dushana and their mighty army. "The words I heard the form I see, they
Coming to hear of this, Ravana, bent on cannot be real. I am only dreaming. One
revenge, induced a Rakshasa to assume sees in one's dream what one is constantly
the form of a deer and beguile the princes brooding over. How often has my mind
in pursuit and, in their absence, carried off dwelt on the story of my Lord! Is it any
Sita by force. Grief-struck Rama went in wonder then that I seem to hear the tale as
search of Sita. He met Sugriva, the told by some one? It is not real. It is only
Vanara, and made friends with him. Rama a dream. They say that if one sees a
slew Vali, the Vanara king, and secured to monkey in a dream, it forebodes evil to
his brother Sugriva the Vanara kingdom. one's kinsfolk. May God protect Rama
And Sugriva sent his Vanara warriors to from harm! May God keep all harm away
all the quarters of the globe to find out from Lakshmana! May God bless all my
where Sita was. These Vanara warriors, kinsfolk in Mithila! No, no, this is no
who could assume what shape they would, dream. My eyes are open and I see the
searched the whole world for the missing same form still seated above me. There it
Sita. Following a clue given by Sampati, I is, clear and solid. No, this is no dream.
crossed the sea a hundred yojanas broad, And I am not asleep. How can one dream
and have come here. And now I see one without sleeping? This is no dream. All
whose form, complexion and qualities are this is real. Oh Gods! Could this indeed be
those described to me by Rama as his a messenger from my dear Lord? Oh grant
royal spouse's." that it be so! Oh Vachaspati! Master of
Having said this, Hanuman paused. speech, I salute you. Oh Agni! I salute
you. Oh Swayambhu! I salute you. Oh and insisted on going with my lord into
Gods! Protect me. May this be Rama's the forest. Even before me, Lakshmana
messenger!" had put on bark-garments, determined to
Hanuman, radiant with the joy of accompany his brother to the forest and
seeing Sita, descended to the ground and serve him. The three of us entered the
stood before her, palms joined and head forest and were living in Dandaka. One
bent in salutation. day the evil-hearted Ravana carried me
And he said in a deep soothing voice: off by force. And he has kept me a
"Mother, tears are falling from your eyes prisoner here in this Asoka garden. Of the
like drops from lotus petals. May I know time limit of twelve months he has set for
who you are, who stands there, leaning on me, only two more months remain. When
the tree trunk, face clouded with sorrow they are over I shall end my life."
and eyes wet with tears? Are you a Thus spoke the helpless princess in her
goddess or a Naga maiden? The radiance sorrow.
of your body makes me question whether The speeches of Hanuman and of
you could be of merely terrestrial birth! Janaki are sung by Valmiki in two brief
Are you Rohini separated for a while from chapters. As Hari appeared before the
the Moon-god? Or are you Arundhati emperor Bali in the form of Vamana and
parted from sage Vasishtha? No, on closer measured the universe in two steps, so
observation, you seem to be a human Valmiki has given the tale of Rama in a
woman, maybe a princess adorable in short recital by Hanuman and another by
your distress. Please tell me who indeed Sita. What greater joy can we have than
you are. May God bless you! Are you the reading Hanuman and Sita telling the
princess Sita carried off by Ravana from divine story themselves? As Vamana got
Janasthana? Is mine the bliss of seeing the better of Bali and saved him from his
Sita, the beloved of Rama?" ahankara, may this tale of Rama as told by
Sita was beside herself with joy. "My Hanuman and Sita rid us of the sense of 'I'
child," she said, "indeed I am Sita, and 'my'.
daughter of the king of Videha and Sri Sita concluded her story with the
Ramachandra's spouse. For twelve years I statement that two more months remained
enjoyed all happiness with him in of the allotted twelve-month term and that
Ayodhya. In the thirteenth year, King her life would then end. To Sita
Dasaratha made preparations to crown my overwhelmed by grief, Hanuman spoke
husband. Then Kaikeyi, his youngest words of comfort.
wife, reminded him of boons he had "O princess of Videha! Rama, the
granted long ago, and demanded that in noblest of men and the mightiest of
redemption of his word he should crown warriors has sent me to you with good
her son Bharata king, and exile Rama to news. His beloved brother Lakshmana,
the forest. She threatened to kill herself if ever anxious for your welfare, sends
this was not done. Bound by promise the through me his salutations to you."
king had to yield to her insistence. At his "Ah! What happiness is mine!" she
bidding Rama relinquished the crown and exclaimed. "I now see the truth of the
betook himself to the forest not only common saying that so long as life lasts
without regret, but happy that it was given there is hope."
to him to enable his father to keep his Thus between these two utter strangers
plighted word. I refused to be left behind a profound confidence and affection
sprang up like the sudden blossoming of been deceived by the Rakshasa. He
the Parijata in Indra's garden. Yet when, in thought for a while and realised that the
his joyful eagerness to console and only approach to her confidence was to
encourage Sita, Hanuman took a nearer awaken hope and joy in her sorely tired
step towards her, Sita lost the confidence heart by extolling Rama and harping on
inspired by his words and again grew the certainty of her rescue and his victory.
suspicious. And he began: "Rama has sent me.
She shut her eyes and moved away Rama is radiant like the Sun. Rama is
further from the tree. Hanuman, noticing pleasant to look at like the moon. Rama is
this, withdrew respectfully and stood with praised by all the rulers of the earth. Rama
hands clasped in obeisance. is valiant like Vishnu. Rama is wise like
"I have been deceived," she cried. Brihaspati. Rama is handsome like
"You are no other than Ravana. Once you Manmatha the god of love. Rama's words
came disguised as an ascetic and imposed are ever sweet and true. Rama's
on me. Now you have come again in indignation is ever righteous and well
another disguise and speak sweet words. directed. Rama is the peerless warrior.
All this will bring you no good. Why do Rama has sent me. While a Rakshasa in
you torture me, O Ravana? I am weary the shape of a deer beguiled Rama and
and full of sorrow. You call yourself a drew him away in the forest, you were left
warrior. Is it a warrior's part to persecute a alone and Ravana carried you off by
helpless woman?" force. Soon he will pay dearly for this evil
Then she opened her eyes and thought deed. You will see it with your own eyes.
again, "No, no. This cannot be Ravana. Soon the shafts of Rama and Lakshmana
Trust and friendship spring in my heart at will strike Lanka and destroy it along with
the sight of him. He can be no enemy of Ravana and all his race. At Rama's
mine. It is wrong to suspect him." bidding have I come to you to learn about
She addressed him saying: "O Vanara! your safety which is his constant concern.
Are you indeed a messenger sent by On Lakshmana's behalf I place at your
Rama? May God bless you. Tell me more feet his respectful salutations. And so too
concerning Rama. Let my ears hear and homage from Sugriva, the Vanara king.
my heart rejoice." Rama, Lakshmana and Sugriva are ever
Then once again doubts assailed her. thinking of you. It is my good fortune to
"Am I a victim of delusion, imagining have seen you alive. Now there will be no
good news? Is this a dream that mocks me more of loss of time. Soon Rama,
with the illusion of joy to make my Lakshmana and Sugriva, accompanied by
despair blacker when I am awake? Am I the whole Vanara army, will descend on
in my right senses? Of course, I am. My Lanka. I am Sugriva's minister. My name
thoughts, my words are all normal. I am is Hanuman. I crossed the sea and reached
sane and sensible. But then he says that he Lanka. You may take it that my foot is
crossed the sea a hundred yojannas broad. already on the head of the evil-minded
No, no. This cannot be true. He is Ravana Ravana. By Rama's grace, even more than
and none else." So she concluded in her by my own prowess have I, his servant,
mind and without lifting her eyes to look crossed the sea to behold you. Do not
at Hanuman sat apart in silence. suspect me. Have faith in my words,
Hanuman understood her doubts and mother." So said Hanuman with tears in
fears. They were natural in one who had his eyes. These sweet words of Hanuman
acting on her great love for Rama and " My child!" she said, "how foolish
confidence in him, put an end to Sita's was my error! How could I suspect one
fears and gave her courage and faith. like you?"
"Forgive my suspicion, O Vanara The son of Vayu explained to her who
friend," she said. "Deceived by the he was and who his father was and what
Rakshasa and surrounded by his artifices, his own might was.
I am prone to needless fear. O friend and "Though I, who enjoy the grace of my
messenger of Rama! How did you first father Vayu, should not sing my own
meet Rama? How did the Prince make praises, I do so now to end your sorrow.
friends with the Vanaras? Tell me all". Soon the Vanara warriors will be here to
To confirm her faith, Hanuman destroy the Rakshasas and their kingdom.
recounted once again the virtues and I must first return and tell them where you
attractive qualities of Rama and are."
Lakshmana. He said: "What wonder is And then he described Rama's
there in Rama becoming friends with me desolation in being parted from Sita, and
and my king and the Vanaras when the the ascetic life he led, and Sita's heart
whole world lives and finds bliss by his melted in loving sorrow. Sita forgot her
loving kindness?" own suffering thinking of Rama's grief.
He proceeded to describe fully how the 53. SITA AND HANUMAN
quarrel arose between Vali and Sugriva, "DEAR, dear Vanara friend," said Sita,
how the latter first met Rama and "I do not know whether to rejoice or
Lakshmana, how they became friends, grieve at the news you have brought. Your
how Rama promised to slay Vali and words are like nectar mixed with poison.
secure the Vanara kingdom for Sugriva, My lord's love for me is sweetest nectar,
how the Vanaras had picked up and and his grief over my plight is bitterest
preserved the jewels dropped by Sita, how poison." Thus Sita spoke what she felt and
with mounting sorrow Rama recognised found comfort in putting in words her love
them, how Vali was slain and Sugriva and her grief.
crowned, how after the rainy sea son was Pleasure and pain, happiness and
over the Vanara hosts searched the whole misery alternately impel human beings.
world for Sita, how the party led by Sita was consoled but also pained by the
Angada and proceeding south having thought that Rama had not forgotten her,
failed to find her, decided to fast to death, but was thinking of her, grieving and
how they met Sampati and received a clue searching for her.
from him, how he, Hanuman, crossed the "We are puppets manipulated by the
sea and searched the inner apartments of twin strings of joy and sorrow", said Sita.
Ravana, all this he recounted. "None of us can escape their pull. My lord
At the end of the narration he placed in and Lakshmana and myself are all subject
her hand Rama's signet ring that he had to this law. You say my lord suffers like a
brought. Sita received the ring and pressed sailing ship caught in a storm on the high
it to her eyes with joy. Now all fear of seas. O! When will he come here? Dear
Ravana's deceit and Rakshasa magic was Vanara friend, when will he destroy
over. She had complete faith in Hanuman Lanka and Ravana and the other
and infinite affection for him. Rakshasas? All this must take place
within the two months' time still left.
Please explain this to my lord. Only two
months remain to me. Vibhishana, the Rakshasas are sure to intercept and
younger brother of Ravana, tried his best challenge you. They will hurl their
to persuade the latter to change his ways. weapons at you. Your care will be to
'Return Sita,' he said to Ravana, 'and save guard me. You will not be able to fix all
Lanka and the Rakshasa race.' All his your mind on the battle and that may be a
words have gone in vain. My heart is serious set-back to the strongest warrior.
strong within me. I know Ravana is on the In a battle, one cannot be certain of
road to the abode of Yama. Soon my lord victory and what would be my fate if you
will vanquish his foes and redeem me. I should fall? And besides, in the violent
have no doubt about this. My innocent convulsions of a heady' fight, how could I
heart tells me this and it cannot prove be sure of maintaining my position on
false." your back? I may slip and fall into the sea.
Thus Sita went on speaking with tears It is clear, therefore, that you should not
in her eyes. Hanuman could not bear the try to cross the sea with me. Apart from
sight of her suffering. that Hanuman, if you snatch me away
"Mother!" he exclaimed, "I shall go at stealthily from the Rakshasas it would be
once and bring back Rama. He will no credit to the valor of my lord. The
descend on Lanka with a mighty army. honor of the Kshatriya race demands that
But why should you suffer any longer? If he should come and fight and vanquish
you are agreeable, sit on my back. I shall Ravana and redeem me as the prize of
carry you across the ocean and restore you victory. Would Rama have me stolen back
in a moment to Rama. Do not for a even as Ravana stole me from him? No,
moment doubt my ability to do this. As my son, return and quickly bring Rama
Agni carries the sacred offerings to Indra, here with Lakshmana and the Vanara
so shall I transport you to my Lord Rama. army. Let my lord's arrows destroy Lanka
Permit me, O pure of heart, to do this and send Ravana to Yama's abode. His
service. I can not only carry you and victory is certain. Like the fierce sun at
restore you to Rama, but I have the power the hour of doom, Rama's arrows will
to wrench Lanka from its foundations and burn the Rakshasa people to ashes."
throw it and its ruler at Rama's feet! Sit on "You are right," said Hanuman, "I shall
my back now and, like Rohini rejoining return alone. But what shall I tell Rama?
the Moon, you will rejoin Rama. As I What sign shall I carry of my having met
sprang and came here, so shall I spring you and talked with you?"
and reach the other shore with you." Hearing these words, all her happy life
Thus Hanuman went on speaking out with Rama came like a flood to her
of his affection and enthusiasm. And Sita memory and her eyes were filled with
wondered how the little monkey before tears. If she told Hanuman and Hanuman
her could hope to carry her across the told Rama some intimate happenings
ocean. known only to herself and her lord, it
Hanuman saw her doubt and so, to would be proof of Hanuman having seen
demonstrate his powers, he jumped off her and also make Rama see her present
from the platform and began to grow big disconsolate state.
in size. Sita was pleased. With flowing tears, she recounted
But she said: "O Son of Vayu! I realise incidents of their forest life.
your strength and yet it is not right that "Once in Chitrakuta my lord and I
you should carry me. On the way the wandered about in the grove beside the
river and became weary and rested on the us and regarded me as his mother. Tell
ground. He laid his head upon my lap and him he should come and end my
fell asleep. While thus, a crow came down suffering."
and hungrily pecked at my bosom, I drove As she thought of Lakshmana's
it off, but again and again it returned and heroism and devoted loyalty, Sita's eyes
troubled me. I then flung a pebble at it. were filled with tears. When Rama had
But even that had no effect. Rama was gone chasing the golden deer, did she not
roused from slumber and saw me thus insult him and fling burning words at the
troubled and weeping in pain. At first selfless and devoted friend? The thought
when he saw what the matter was and of this injustice filled her repentant heart
found it was but a crow, he was inclined with insufferable pain.
to laugh at my discomfiture. But he saw She was unwilling to part from
the bruise the crow had made and Hanuman, who had come to her and
discovered that the bird was really an consoled her just as she was about to put
Asura. The bird flew for its life, but Rama an end to her life. At the same time, she
sped a dart at it that pursued it wherever it wanted him to return quickly to Rama and
went, till at last the crow-Asura sought give him news concerning her.
Rama's feet for refuge and found pardon At last she said: "My child, here is the
there. Tell him of this incident. O jewel given by my mother at my wedding
Hanuman, I cannot wait for many more and fixed on my forehead by the late
days. Tell him to come quickly and save Emperor. Take it and give it to my
me." husband as a sign from me."
Again she was in tears as she said: "On So saying she untied a knot at the
another occasion we were both wandering corner of her sari, took out the divine
all alone in the forest. I was tired. jewel and handed it to Hanuman who
Perspiration had washed off the tilaka on received it with humble reverence. When
my forehead. My lord playfully plucked a Hanuman had the jewel in his hand, pride
pinch of red mineral from the rock and and joy filled his mind.
applied it between my brows with his own His heart was far away with Rama.
sweet hands. Ask him if he remembers Mentally he had recalled Rama's presence
this incident." and conveyed the glad message of his
As she went on recalling happy discovery. Only his body now stayed in
memories of the past the weight of her Lanka.
present sorrow overwhelmed her and she "Dear friend," said Sita, "you must tell
wept and said: Rama all you have learnt here, and it will
"What should I tell Rama? What is be your good fortune to help him to
there that he does not know? Does he achieve victory."
need my words to rouse his indignation? As Hanuman was about to leave, Sita
Only tell my lord that I embrace his feet. spoke again: "Dear Hanuman, convey my
That is enough. There is Lakshmana affection to the Prince and also to king
beside him, the brother born to serve him Sugriva and the other Vanara leaders. Tell
and of unrivalled skill in arms. Looking at them from me that I implore them to give
his sweet face, my Lord even forgot his help to Rama to save me from this sea of
grief for the father's death. The pure- sorrow. You, more than anyone else, I
hearted hero, dear Lakshmana, parted hope will encourage and show the way to
from his own mother and came away with the prince in all matters."
Hanuman answered: "Lay aside your And Hanuman left. Let us meditate
sorrow, dear princess. Rama, Lakshmana with reverence on the heroic son of
and the Vanara army will descend on Anjana, the wise messenger who gave
Lanka destroy the Rakshasas and redeem consolation to Sita and quenched her
you. Have no doubt." grief.
As he was about to go, Sita said again: 54. INVITING BATTLE
"Should you not stay here somewhere, for AFTER taking leave of Sita, Hanuman
a while, and rest? Should you return at sat for a while on the top of the garden
once? Your visit has given me such great wall and began to think:
consolation and made me forget my grief "What can I do to put courage into Sita
for a while. When you leave, I shall sink and some fear into Ravana and his friends
again in my sea of sorrow. You came here to shake their arrogant confidence? It
crossing the great ocean. How will Rama would be good to leave them some
and the big army cross it? Have you souvenir of my visit, some indication of
thought of that?" Doubts assailed her once what the future has in store for them. It is
again. clear I must instill some fear into Ravana
"Have no doubt, my queen!" said to prevent him from troubling Sita in the
Hanuman. "Do you think I am the only meantime. Fear is the only argument they
Vanara that could cross the sea? There is understand. Ravana has untold wealth and
not a Vanara but has more power and skill one cannot part his friends from him.
than I. Not only Sugriva, but many in his Hence sama (conciliation), dana (buying
army can fly round the world. What is this over) and bheda (sowing discord) are
narrow sea to them? There are thousands useless in this case. I should therefore do
among us who can roam in the sky. Have something terrible to frighten them, and
no doubt whatever. Do you think they warn them, not to ill-treat Sita. Yes, I
would send the best among them as a must do this before I go away."
mere messenger? Dear lady, have done At once he began to grow and assumed
with sorrow, for you will soon see me a huge form and began to lay waste the
with the two mighty princes on my back. grove. Trees fell cracking to the ground,
They will lay waste this city with the bowers collapsed, tanks and artificial hills
arrows. They will destroy Ravana and all were disfigured and destroyed. The
his race. You have as good as crossed the beautiful Asoka Park soon became a mass
ocean of sorrow and reached the other of ruin from which the deer and the birds
shore. God bless you. In a few days you fled in fear. The slumbering Rakshasis
will see the two princes standing, bow in woke up and were bewildered to see this
hand, at the gates of Lanka, destroying the unaccountable sight.
Rakshasa host. You will see the Vanara Hanuman sat on the top of the wall of
army leaping with joy over the ruined the garden, a huge figure of wrathful
city. Once they hear the news from me, menace, waiting for the answer to his
they will not delay a moment. I have only challenge. The Rakshasis quaked with
to tell them and they will start at once. Do terror at the sight of this stranger and
not lose heart." Saying this and bowing some ran to tell Ravana the news. Some
profoundly, Hanuman prepared to go. approached Sita and asked: "How did this
"Tell Rama and Lakshmana that I am huge monkey come here? You should
alive," cried Sita. "See that no time is lost. know who he is. Did he say anything to
May God bless you."
you? Tell us the truth. Do not be afraid to force started to execute the king's
speak out." commands, armed with maces and spears
"How do I know what can happen in and other weapons.
this charmed world of Rakshasas?" Sita 55. THE TERRIBLE ENVOY
answered, parrying, the question. "This THE Rakshasa warriors saw with
monkey is probably one of the Rakshasas amazement a mighty Vanara seated on the
and you are likely to know more about garden gate, who at their approach grew
him than I." The Rakshasis fled in fear to still bigger size and formidable menace.
from the park and reported to Ravana "Oh! You have come, have you?" he
what had happened. said and, jumping down, brandished his
"O king! A huge monkey terrible to tail, and striking the ground with it, roared
look at has laid waste the royal garden. It till the four quarters shook. He snatched
was in secret talk with Sita." the huge iron bar from the gate and, armed
Of course they omitted to add that they with this weapon, began to attack them
had fallen asleep and given a chance for all.
Sita to talk to the monkey. He sprang and leaped in all directions
"We tried our best to get some and, whirling the iron rod, struck the
information from Sita," they added. "We Rakshasas down, one by one. After
asked her who he was, and how he came finishing them thus, he resumed his seat
there, and what he told her. But she on the top of the pillared entrance, and
refuses to answer. You should seize and roared once again.
slay this creature. Do send a strong foe. "Long live Rama! Long live
The beautiful grove is completely Lakshmana!" he loudly proclaimed.
devastated except for the Simsupa tree "Long live King Sugriva! Oh! Ye
under which Sita is seated. Its spreading Rakshasas of Lanka, your doom are near.
branches have suffered no damage. The The great warriors Rama and Lakshmana
monkey which laid waste the tanks and and King Sugriva have sent me here to
bowers has spared the habitation of Sita. destroy you. Come on in your thousands. I
There must be a reason for this. We stand here ready to hurl you to
suspect that this is not an ordinary wild destruction. I have saluted Sita and
animal. It must have been sent by some received her blessings. And now I am
enemy of yours, either Indra or Kubera. going to destroy your city!"
Or could it have anything to do with All Lanka heard the thunder of his
Rama? How did this monkey dare to talk words and quaked in terror. When the
to Sita? He must be a messenger from news reached Ravana that the warriors
Rama. Do send your warriors to capture sent against Hanuman were all slain, he
this terrible beast." opened wide his fierce eyes in amazement
Ravana was furious on hearing that his and wrath.
favorite park, set apart for his queens, had "What is it you say?" he yelled, and
been destroyed. His eyes glowed like twin called Jambumali, the matchless warrior,
torches and hot tears rolled down from son of Prahasta. And be said to him. "Go
them like drops of burning oil. at once! Punish this monkey and report to
He turned to the bodyguards standing me."
beside him ever eager to do his bidding The Rakshasa Jambumali took some
and ordered them at once to go and time to put on armor and to take up
destroy the monster-monkey. A strong weapons and get ready to meet his foe.
Meanwhile, Hanuman was not sitting still. dressed in scarlet, with large golden rings
He climbed to the top of a temple in the in his ears, bow in hand, garland round his
park and stood there, shining against the neck, sword at his hip, he came in a
horizon like a second sun suddenly risen chariot rattling like thunder. Hanuman set
in the sky. He magnified his body still eyes on the chariot dragged by enormous
further and looked like a golden mountain mules. And he got ready.
range up in the heavens. Seated in his chariot, Jambumali bent
His roar filled the city of Lanka and his bow and aimed a few arrows at Maruti
raised echoes from all the eight quarters. who was seated on the wall. They
The hearts of the Rakshasas trembled in wounded his face and drew blood, which
fear. added to the beauty of his face. It was as if
"Long live Rama! Long live a red lotus had suddenly blossomed in the
Lakshmana! Long live King Sugriva! I heavens. The wounds enraged Hanuman,
have come as an envoy of the King of who picked up a big boulder and flung it
Kosala. I have come to destroy Lanka. I at the chariot.
am Hanuman, son of Vayu, come here to He uprooted a sal tree and, twirling it,
utterly destroy the enemies of Rama. I flung it at Jambumali. Then he plucked
have vowed before Sita and received her out a huge iron rod from the temple and
blessings. Know that I possess the aimed it at the chariot and reduced it to
strength to vanquish a thousand Ravanas. splinters and crushed the huge body of
Big boulders and uprooted trees I shall Jambumali into a shapeless mass, in
aim at the Rakshasas and destroy them. which neither head nor limbs could be
That is what I have come here for!" distinguished.
The sentries in the temple took up The issue of this battle was duly
various weapons and attacked him. reported to Ravana. He was struck with
Hanuman jumped down and plucked up a wonder. ""This is indeed something
big pillar, supporting the temple, and strange," he said to himself. "This
stood there like the destroyer. Whirling murderous brute is not an animal,
his massive weapon easily as though it certainly not a mere monkey. It is some
was a willow wand, Hanuman struck new creature devised by my old enemies
down and slew the sentries. The temple, the gods to annoy me."
from which the pillar had been removed, And be ordered mighty commanders to
collapsed. As Hanuman struck the ground go with a great army to capture the
with the pillar, sparks of fire flew all creature and produce it before him.
around. The Rakshasa chiefs went forth in a
"In Sugriva's army there are monkeys great array of chariots. In full force they
much mightier than I and they will soon attacked Hanuman, who was as before
be here," he roared. "You and your king stationed on top of the entrance and was
and your city will be destroyed by them, laughing aloud in disdainful unconcern.
root and branch. Your king has incurred They showered missiles on him that
the enmity of the Lord of the Ikshvaku mostly glanced harmlessly off his
race, has he not? Lanka is nearing its end. adamantine frame. With each dart or
Destruction awaits the Rakshasas. The arrow that struck him, he grew in stature
God of Death is approaching Ravana." and fierceness. And ranging all round with
Jambumali arrived at last. With wide, energy pelted them with rocks and huge
glaring eyes and ugly, irregular teeth tree boles, till all the leaders lay crushed
and slain, and the survivors fled in panic battlement above the gateway, and noted
and despair. approvingly the beautiful symmetry of his
Having killed or put to fight the entire mighty limbs, and the majestic intrepidity
contingent of Rakshasas, Hanuman roared of his look, Aksha felt that here was a foe
in triumph and Lanka trembled at the roar. worthy of his steel. He summoned all his
He resumed his seat on the stone- strength and resolution to do him honor.
battlement on the top of the garden-gate. The young warrior aimed three sharp
Hearing of the defeat of the force sent to arrows at Hanuman. They struck his body
capture Hanuman and the slaughter of five and drew blood. But Maruti's strength
of his best commanders, fear for the first increased and his face shone with new
time entered Ravana's heart. "It is splendor. He too was pleased with the
extraordinary that a solitary monkey prowess of the youthful Rakshasa.
should have this devastating valor and Fierce grew the battle between the two.
purposeful malevolence," Ravana thought Hundreds of arrows rose in clouds into the
with anxiety. "This is clearly a conspiracy sky and hit Maruti. Like rain falling on a
of the gods." rock, they fell on Hanuman's body. Rising
But he kept his concern to himself and in the air Hanuman dodged about evading
laughed derisively. He looked round at all the arrows. Slipping as it were through the
the members of his great council. His son meshes of that deadly network of missiles
the heroic Aksha stood foremost, eager for and finding a favorable opening closed
battle, and the proud father bade him go with Aksha.
forth to battle against the tremendous foe. Hanuman admired Aksha's youthful
Radiant with youth and health and promise and heroism, and was sorry to
glowing with high courage at this have to slay him, but there was no help for
opportunity of distinguishing himself, it for the prince seemed to get more and
Aksha went forth in a shining chariot, more formidable as the fight went on. And
confident of victory. it was unwise to take chances with him.
56. HANUMAN BOUND At last Hanuman hardened his heart and
VALMIKI describes in beautiful verses decided to destroy the youth.
how the youthful warrior Aksha, the equal He rushed against Aksha's chariot and
of the gods, rode to battle in a chariot broke it to pieces. The horses fell dead.
drawn by eight horses. The Rakshasa prince stood on the ground
Who can put up in a different tongue chariotless. Nothing daunted, he rose in
Valmiki's poetry describing the beauty of the air with bow and sword and attacked
forests and the terrible fury of encounters Hanuman. A great battle took place in the
between warriors? The rhythm and air. In the end Aksha's bones were crushed
grandeur of his words convey the terror and splintered and he fell down dead.
and majesty of what he describes. This Hearing that the prince had been killed
power is Valmiki's special gift. We can by Hanuman, Ravana shook with rage, but
only summarise in pedestrian prose his controlling himself he called his son
glowing account, of the battle between Indrajit, the conqueror of Indra.
Aksha, the beloved son of Ravana, and "You have mastered all weapons," he
Hanuman. said. "You have vanquished the Devas and
In a golden chariot acquired through Asuras in battle. You have by your
tapasya rode Ravana's young son. When austerities called Brahma down and
he saw Hanuman, seated on the stone secured from him the Brahmastra. There
is none in the world who can oppose you. the drumbeats and the bow-twangs of the
Fatigue cannot approach you. Your Rakshasa.
knowledge of battle is unique. You have The battle raged with increasing fury
attained strength through tapasya. Nothing and filled all beholders with amazement.
is impossible for you. None can equal In skill and strength the two warriors were
you in foresight. The Kinneras I sent and perfect equals. No matter how often he
Jambumali and the five generals of our was wounded, Hanuman's strength
army, and your dear brother Aksha have showed no signs of lessening. Indrajit
all been slain by a terrible foe who has therefore resolved: "My arrows cannot
raided us in the form of a monkey and it is vanquish this monkey. What my father
yours now to avenge them. Do not said is true. He can be bound only by
underrate him. It seems he cannot be using the Brahmastra."
vanquished by weapons. He cannot be The Rakshasa Prince sent forth the
brought down in wrestling. Consider well Brahmastra. At its touch the Vanara
therefore what needs to be done. Do it and warrior lay bound and helpless. Hanuman
return victorious. The astras you have realised what had happened. He said to
secured through tapasya can serve you at himself: "I have been bound by the
this moment. Without allowing your Brahmastra." Hanuman too had secured a
mind to wander, fight with concentration boon from Brahma, and this he now
and return triumphant." remembered.
Indrajit, bright like the gods, accepted "This will keep me bound for only one
his father's command with reverence and muhoorta (four fifths of an hour)," he said
receiving his blessings went with courage to himself. "I run no real risk. Let me see
and eagerness towards the Asoka Vana. what the Rakshasas do to me while I lie
Standing in a chariot drawn by four bound and helpless. I might find here a
fierce lions and twanging his bowstring, further opportunity to function as a
Indrajit proceeded towards Hanuman. His messenger."
chariot sounded like the wind off the As instructed by Brahma when he gave
monsoon. His lotus-like eyes shone him the gift of immortality, he
victory. surrendered himself to the Brahmastra and
As Hanuman saw the chariot coming lay down on the ground, inactive but in
towards him, he was filled with joy. full possession of his faculties.
Indrajit too, skilful in battle, bent his bow When they saw Hanuman thus lying
and got his sharp arrows ready for helpless on the ground the Rakshasas who
Hanuman. Knowing that a great battle was till then stood at a distance in fear,
at band, the Nagas, Yakshas and Siddhas surrounded him and danced with joy and
assembled in the sky to see. called him insulting names and praised
At the sight of Indrajit Hanuman roared their prince.
and increased his stature still further. "We shall cut you to pieces!" they
Silently the Rakshasa warrior dispatched shouted. "Let us eat him up. We shall drag
his darts. Showers of arrows began to him to the throne of our Ravana." Thus
descend as in the battle of the gods and and in many other ways they shouted.
their cousins, the Asuras. Hanuman rose A few among them feared and said:
in the sky and, moving with speed like "This fellow is only pretending. He may
lightning, struck down the sharp arrows. get up suddenly and attack us." So they
His roar made the quarters echo, drowning brought ropes of jute and coconut fibber
and bound him hard and shouted had not swerved from the path of dharma,
exultingly: "Now we have bound him, let not even Indra could equal him. What a
us drag him to the Lord of the Rakshasas." form, what radiance, what strength!
Indrajit, who discovered too late and Trusting to the boon he had secured, he
could not prevent this foolish mistake of took to wicked ways and has lost his
the Rakshasas, felt sad. happiness and forfeited his greatness."
"Alas!" he thought with sorrow. "They As Hanuman was lost in thought thus,
have undone all my work. These fools do Ravana addressed his ministers: "Find out
not know the secrets of supernatural from this wicked fellow who he is, where
weapons. When they have thus used ropes he has come from, who has sent him here
and jute for binding him, the astra and why he entered Lanka. Tell him to
withdraws its power. The bound of the speak truthfully."
mantra is undone when physical bonds are As ordered by the king, Prahasta
added. Hanuman is now held only by the questioned Hanuman. "Do not be afraid,
ropes that he can burst asunder and the monkey! If you speak the truth, you will
Brahmastra cannot be used a second escape punishment. Did Indra send you
time." here? Or are you Kubera's servant? Whose
Hanuman too understood this, and orders are you carrying out? Speak the
knew he could spring up free if he liked. truth and save yourself. Why have you
But he welcomed the opportunity to meet come here thus disguised? Take care you
and talk to Ravana and allowed himself to hide nothing!"
be dragged to the king, patiently bearing Hanuman, facing Ravana directly, said:
all their insults and cruelties in seeming "Neither Indra, nor Kubera has sent me
helplessness. They belabored and foully here. I am a Vanara. I came here to have a
abused him, and dragged him through the look at the Rakshasa king. That was why I
streets and women and children came out laid waste the garden. Otherwise I could
to look at him and jeer. not get to the king's presence. And
57. LANKA IN FLAMES because they attacked me and tried to kill
His captors took him to the court of me, I killed them in self-defence. I have
Ravana and placed him in front of the come here as the messenger of Sugriva,
King. Forgetting the pain and insults he the Vanara king. O Rakshasa king my lord
had borne, Hanuman gazed with wrathful looks on you as a brother and sends you
curiosity at the giant monarch. As he his greetings. Ramachandra, the famous
gazed at him resplendent on his throne a son of king Dasaratha of Ayodhya, has
sort of pitying admiration of the doomed become a friend of Sugriva and slaying
Rakshasa entered his thoughts. Vali has made Sugriva king. When
Clad in silk of golden hue, with the Ramachandra, heir to the throne of
royal crown on his head, the jewels inlaid Ayodhya, was living in the Dandaka
in it shining brilliantly, Ravana sat there, a forest to fulfil his father's word, his
figure of dazzling splendor. The whole consort who had been left alone for a
court was brilliant with shining gold and while was lost and at the behest of Rama
gems, pearls and silk. His dark body, lit and Lakshmana, Sugriva has sent his
up by the marks of royalty, looked like a servant to look for her throughout the
great radiant hill. world. I came to Lanka on this search and
"Alas!" thought Hanuman full of anger, here I saw the good princess. O lord of the
wonder and pity. "If only this great one Rakshasas, I speak to you with the respect
due from the messenger of a brother king. messenger, what use or sense is there in
I speak to you also as a devoted servant of it? Let us by all means seek ways of
the Prince of Ayodhya. You know well it punishing those that sent him here. They
was a cowardly act and totally contrary to must be brought here and given due
dharma to carry off the princess Sita. This punishment. If he is slain now, what
is sure to end in the destruction of your chance is there of our real enemies being
race if you persist in your wicked folly. brought here? If, on the other hand, he is
Restore Sita to the prince and seek his sent back alive to them, they will come
forgiveness. Know that Death has come to here and attack us. Then they will receive
you in the form of Sita. Do not mistake proper punishment at your hands."
poison for food. It is not wisdom to Ravana agreed. "Very well," he said, "a
oppose dharma and run into deadly monkey's most cherished possession is his
danger. You know well enough that the tail. Set fire to his tail, flog him soundly
sin of desiring another's wife will and turn him out."
consume utterly the merit you have earned At these words of the Rakshasa king,
through tapas and destroy you inevitably. his servants took Hanuman out. They
Your only recourse now is to seek refuge wrapped his tail in rags of all kinds. His
at Rama's feet. Do not make Rama your tail grew in size and, as it grew, they
enemy and bring about your own brought more and more old rags and
destruction. The boons you have secured wrapped them round. They soaked the
will avail you nothing against the Prince whole in oil and set it ablaze like a huge
of the Raghu race. Consider well and flaming torch.
realise the danger you are in. Pay heed to Thus bound by ropes and with tail
the words of this humble messenger of the ablaze, Hanuman was taken through the
Vanara king. Turn to the right path and streets of Lanka.
find safety. These words from a brother "Here goes the thief that entered our
king are true and meant for your welfare." city!" cried the women and children. They
Hanuman uttered this bitter warning in jeered at him as he was taken round by the
a loud and clear voice. When the exulting Rakshasas to the accompaniment
Rakshasa king heard it, his eyes grew red of pipes and drums through all the
with anger, and he ordered that Hanuman highways and byways of Lanka.
should be killed forthwith. But In the Asoka Vana the Rakshasis told
Vibhishana pointed out that it would be Sita: "The monkey with whom you had
improper to kill a king's envoy. secret talk, do you know what has
"According to the law of kings it is not happened to him? They have wrapped his
permitted on any account to kill envoys tail in cloth soaked in oil and have set fire
and messengers. You can have him to it. His tail is ablaze. They are taking
mutilated, whipped or branded, but not him in procession through the town."
killed," so counselled Vibhishana. They told Sita the tale and laughed in
"What is wrong," asked Ravana, "in scorn. She kindled a fire and offered a
killing one who has sinned so greatly?" prayer to the god of Fire: "O Agni! If
Answered Vibhishana with due there be any goodness in me, any purity,
politeness: "No matter how grievous his be cool to Hanuman; do not hurt him."
offence, it was done at the bidding of Hanuman endured the blows and the
others. To leave his royal masters alone insults heaped upon him, and proceeded
and to slay their instrument, a mere from street to street quietly observing
everything. The Rakshasas, to amuse my senses in my rage. What is the use of
their women and children took him strength and skill and all other gifts if one
through all the streets and bylanes of the cannot control one's anger? Sita too must
city. And he noted in silence, for future, have perished in this great conflagration I
use all the secrets of that fortified city. have raised. My angry deed has led to the
"But what is this miracle?" he thought. utter ruin of my whole purpose. Alas,
"The rags soaked in oil burn brightly but there is no fool, no sinner, like me on
the fire does not hurt and is cool on my earth. My rage against the Rakshasas has
tail. The elements themselves seem kind ended in the death of Sita. Here and now I
to one engaged in Rama's purpose. Did must put an end to my life and to my
not the mountain rise above the sea and shame!"
offer me hospitality? Even so the god of Then he heard some voices in the sky.
Fire is gracious to me now and does not The Charanas and Yakshas were rejoicing
harm me. Or may be, Agni being a friend and saying, "What a miracle! Glory be to
of my father Vayu, is gentle with me. Hanuman's prowess! Except the spot
Now, I think I should not let slip this where Sita is, all Lanka is in flames!"
opportunity which has come to me Hearing this ethereal conversation,
unsought to put the fear of God into these Hanuman was relieved. "Sita has saved
Rakshasas." herself. She saved me, for it was her
Suddenly he shrank in size and shook purity and power that kept the fire from
off the ropes that bound him and, harming me. How can fire help paying
resuming his huge shape, jumped with his homage to the goddess of chastity? What
blazing tail to the top of a tall building. He can fire do to fire? This fire that I started
plucked a pillar there and whirled it could not go near Sita. And is not all this
round, striking terror in all beholders. Rama's purpose? Did not the ocean king
Then he jumped from mansion to and Mynaka Mountain come to my help?"
mansion, setting fire to them. In a little Thinking thus, Hanuman went straight
while a strong breeze began to blow and to the Asoka Park again. There, under the
the whole city was in flames. The Simsupa tree, he saw Sita who was greatly
Rakshasas and their women and children relieved to see him alive and cheerful.
shouted in terror and ran hither and Rejoicing, he bowed before her and
thither. said, "Oh mother! I have seen you safe
"This monkey is no other than Yama," and sound. This is your power and my
said some. "No, he must be the god Agni," good fortune. Now give me leave to go."
said others. And they all fled from their And Sita said, "You are indeed a hero.
burning houses. For you there is nothing impossible. See
Recalling the insults he had suffered, that my lord comes here soon and lays
Hanuman was pleased when he saw the low the Rakshasas and redeems me. I
flames rise. He sat on the summit of the depend on you. You alone can achieve
Trikuta hill and contemplated with this."
satisfaction the red glow of the burning "Be assured," said Hanuman. "Sugriva
city. Then he went to the sea and, will soon be here with Rama and
plunging in, put out the fire in his tail and Lakshmana and the myriads of Vanaras.
came ashore. Ravana and his wicked hordes will perish.
"Alas! Alas! What have I done?" he The happy prince will return with you to
said with uncontrollable grief. "I have lost
Ayodhya. Grieve no more. God bless Hanuman tendered mental salutations
you." to Sita and began his story.
Thus consoling her, Hanuman took "You know how I sprang into the sky
leave of Sita. He went to the shore of the from this peak. As I was flying over the
sea and, climbing up the beautiful hill sea, a golden mountain rose suddenly
called Arishta, rose into the sky. above the surface of the water. I thought it
On the way he saw Mynaka eagerly was something rising up to obstruct me
awaiting him. He affectionately stroked it and I gave it a flick with my tail. Meekly
with his hand, but did not stop. He flew receiving the blow, the mountain said in a
straight like an arrow shot from a bow. At sweet voice: 'My son, I am no enemy. I
the sight of Mahendra hill he knew that he was saved by your father from the dire
was near the other shore and he roared. wrath of Indra and am ever greateful to
The Vanaras, meanwhile, who saw him. I now live in safety sheltered by the
Hanuman flying towards them like a great sea. In olden days, we mountains had
eagle across the sky, shouted: "He is wings and flew hither and thither in the
come. He is come!" sky and the world was in dread of us.
Till now their hearts had been full of Then Indra, to rid the world of this terror,
care and their eyes wet. Now they jumped relentlessly pursued us and cut off our
in their joy. wings. It was from this common fate that
"It is certain he is returning in your father rescued me. You are engaged
triumph," said Jambavan. "Else he would in the most fatiguing task of flying across
not roar in this manner." the sea. I have come up here to offer you
They climbed up trees and hills and some rest. Stay here for a while and then
stood watching with joy the approach of fulfil Rama's purpose.' I declined the offer
Hanuman returning from Lanka. for lack of time and, taking leave of him,
And Hanuman rejoiced to see the went on my way."
mountains and trees all covered with his Thus, in proper sequence and without
friends. Amid their glad uproar, he omission, Hanuman recounted all that
alighted on the Mahendra hill. happened during the passage and in the
58. A CARNIVAL city of Lanka. He told them how he
BESIDE themselves with joy at the searched for Sita in vain in Ravana's
sight of Hanuman, the Vanaras assembled palace, how he found her at last in the
on the Mahendra peak. And the veteran Asoka Vana, how Ravana sought and
Jambavan welcoming the son of Vayu importuned her and was spurned by her.
with great affection, spoke on behalf of He narrated what dire threats Ravana held
all. out, how the Rakshasis teased her and
"We are eager to hear a full account of drove her to think of putting an end to her
your journey and its triumphant own life, and how it was at this juncture
conclusion. More particularly, we are that he approached and gave her news of
anxious to know how you discovered Sita. Rama and hope and interest in life.
How is she now? What is the state of her With tears in his eyes he told them
mind and body? And dear son of Anjana, what a divinely precious soul Sita was and
tell us about Ravana's state and behavior. how nobly she had borne herself. Then he
After knowing everything we shall be in a narrated how he destroyed the park and
position to consider and decide what killed the Rakshasa warriors, how he was
needs to be done next. " finally bound by Indrajit and produced
before Ravana. He described what took we have not the strength to do this.
place at the interview, and how as a Single-handed I can destroy them and
punishment for his boldness of speech leave not a trace behind. And Jambavan
they set fire to his tail, furnishing him too, all by himself, can utterly destroy the
thereby with a great torch with which he Rakshasas. And so can our Prince
set their city ablaze. Angada; and so can Panasa or Nila; so can
On such occasions, when a character Mainda and Dwivida, the sons of Asvini.
has to recapitulate past events, we can see Yes, there are many among us who can
Valmiki's skill in retelling the story in slay Ravana and the Rakshasa hordes.
beautiful words. This is a source of Indeed I proclaimed aloud in Lanka: 'I, the
special pleasure to those who read the messenger of Rama and the minister of
Ramayana as a religious exercise. They do Sugriva, am come to destroy you.' But
not dislike such repetitions. Indeed it is while we are talking, Vaidehi, the
one of the special charms in a large epic. Goddess of purity, is there under the
But I have abridged the recital to suit the Simsupa tree a closely guarded prisoner
general reader who has no time or taste pining with aching heart for rescue. In her
for an oft-repeated tale however edifying. hour of despair, I showed myself to her,
Those who wish to avert some calamity or and comforted her with the assurance of
desire success in some great undertaking her lord's speedy arrival. Consider well
usually make a Parayana (devotional and decide what should now be done."
reading exercise) of the whole of the Angada, listening to all this, full of
Sundarakanda, the canto dealing with indignation jumped up, saying: "I can do
Hanuman's expedition to Lanka. It is it all alone. And there are so many of us
believed that the same result can be here, eager warriors thirsting for battle. It
obtained even by a Parayana of only this would be improper, after all these days, to
chapter where Hanuman relates to the go to Rama empty-handed and without
Vanara warriors all that happened Sita. Let us go straight to Lanka, destroy
between his crossing and recrossing the Ravana and the Rakshasa army and return
sea. to Kishkindha with Sita in our midst."
After this full narration of the Jambavan, old and wise, uttered a
happenings, Hanuman proceeded: "Our gentle protest. "No, it is not right, dear
efforts have been successful so far prince," he said. "We should report
because of the power of chastity of Sita everything to Rama and Lakshmana and
who is chastity incarnate. When I think of then do what they desire. Rama's purpose
her I wonder how the Rakshasa could should be fulfilled in the manner that he
seize and carry her away and yet escape desires. That alone is proper."
being burnt to ashes. But Ravana too had All the Vanaras, including Hanuman
accumulated great power through his and Angada, agreed that this was the right
tapas. Even so, Sita could have reduced thing to do. They then rose into the sky
him to ashes if she had chosen, but she and flew towards Kishkindha.
patiently endured all this, because she They alighted near the protected park
wanted the punishment to proceed from of the Vanara king. They made their way
her lord. And now what is your advice? into it, drank honey and ate fruit,
Shall we go straight to Lanka, destroy regardless of the warnings of the guards.
Ravana and the Rakshasa hordes, recover They indulged in unrestrained revelry and
Sita and restore her to Rama? It is not as if ruined the beautiful park.
Unable to stand the riotous behavior of found and was well in body and mind.
the mirth-makers, Dadhimukha, Sugriva's Sugriva and Lakshmana, beside
uncle and keeper of the royal park, hurried themselves with joy, embraced Rama.
to the king and complained. "Dear Vanara friends," exclaimed the
"Your protected park has been laid Prince of Ayodhya, "tell me where exactly
waste. The Vanaras that went south have Sita is. How is she? How did you manage
returned and, alighting in the garden, are to see her? Tell me everything in detail."
behaving outrageously. They pay no heed His eager inquiries came quick upon one
to my words. On the contrary, they another.
assaulted and insulted me. They drank up The other Vanaras turned to Hanuman
and ruined all the honeycombs and who stood behind, and asked him to
plucked and ate fruit as they liked and are narrate all that he had seen and done.
now lying senseless as a result of their Hanuman began to tell the tale. With his
revelry. The trees and plants are all in unrivalled courage and strength and
ruins. The king should forthwith inflict single-handed, he had performed a mighty
suitable punishment on these task. Yet he did not push himself forward
undisciplined Vanaras." into the presence of Prince Rama or King
Sugriva understood the position at Sugriva, but gave precedence to Angada
once. "Lakshmana, it is clear that and the aged Jambavan and the others,
Hanuman, Jambavan and Angada have and was silent until they asked him to
succeeded in their search and are speak.
celebrating their triumph in this manner." Indeed, generally, great men who dare
Saying this he turned to Dadhimukha and and do mighty deeds are disinclined to
said to him: "Send them all here at once." speak about their exploits. In painting this
Dadhimukha now understood the real scene the poet brings out this law of
state of affairs and, hastening to the natural conduct. Another thing to note
Vanaras, conveyed to them the king's here is Hanuman's reverence for Sita.
command. From the time he first saw her, his
59. THE TIDINGS CONVEYED reverence for Sita appeared to surpass
SUGRIVA'S conjecture was like nectar even his devotion to Rama, if the two
to Rama's ears. They eagerly awaited the could be distinguished. This is the case
arrival of the Vanaras. In a short while a with all pious devotees who regard and
great clamor was in the air and the Vanara worship the Supreme as Mother. When
hordes alighted with cries of triumph. that aspect of the All immanent Power is
Hanuman and Angada leading, the before true devotees, their reverence
Vanaras marched to the presence of their becomes ecstatic like the child's joy in the
king who with Rama and Lakshmana was mother's lap.
awaiting their coming. "Crossing the hundred yojanas of
Hanuman bowed and said: "Seen have water, I reached the city of the wicked
I the Goddess of purity, your queen. She Ravana on the southern shore. There, in a
is safe and well in Lanka. I salute her park attached to the palace, I saw Sita held
from here across space." And he turned prisoner and closely guarded. It was
southwards and offered worshipful wonderful to see her emaciated form. She
salutation. maintained life only in the thought of her
Thus succinctly did Hanuman convey lord and repetition of his name. Cruel and
to the prince the glad news that Sita was ugly Rakshasis surrounded her. I saw her
lying on the ground, her hair unkempt and "Dear hero, my heart's friend!" he cried
her face clouded by sorrow and care. "tell me everything again in full. Tell me
When I reached there, she had resolved to once again what Sita said. Let me hear her
put an end to her life to escape from the words which are sweet like water to
Rakshasa king's importunities and threats. parched lips."
I began uttering praises of your glory in a Hanuman narrated the whole story to
low voice. Unknown to her, and a mere the eager listeners and Rama wept when
monkey, I had to secure her confidence Hanuman repeated these words of Sita:
first. Then I spoke to her. I told her of the "Many Rakshasas has my Rama slain,
alliance between King Sugriva and but why has he not come here yet to slay
yourself. I told her of your great grief and Ravana and save me from my sufferings?
unchanging love. This filled her with Why has he not sent brave Lakshmana to
sweet sorrow and awakened hope in her slay the wretch? It cannot be that my lord
and the desire to live. Asked for a token has grown indifferent towards me! For I
which I might convey to you, the angel of know of no wrong I have ever committed
purity gave me this jewel to be given to in thought or word or deed to lose his
you. She also told me how once a crow love."
had troubled her while you were asleep Hanuman said: "I tried to console her
and how you were grieved about it, she saying: 'Rama is ever thinking of' you and
asked me to remind you of the incident. grieving for you. He knows no rest. Do
She wanted me to remind you of another not imagine that Rama and Lakshmana
occasion when, roaming among the hills, have forgotten you. No words of mine
perspiration had made the tilak trickle could describe their grief. Now that I am
down her forehead and you replaced it going to tell them you are here, it will not
with red ochre rubbed out of a rock. She be long before they come and destroy
bade me tell you that she would struggle Ravana and return with you in triumph to
and keep alive for a month, but then she Ayodhya.' It was then she untied the jewel
would perish at the hands of Ravana, or from a knot in a corner of her sari and
she would seek her own release of death. gave it to me. I placed it on my head in
She bade me convey her respects to the reverence and, securing it, started to
Vanara King. Now let us think and make return. She stopped me and uttered a
preparations at once for proceeding to benediction again and said: 'Friend
Lanka to redeem the princess." Hanuman convey the news of my welfare
Saying this, he handed the sikhamani, to the lions, my lord and his brother, to
crest-jewel, of Sita to the prince. king Sugriva and his ministers. Devise
Rama took the jewel from Hanuman's your plans and help him to come here and
hand and at the sight of it fainted, racked redeem me. I trust in you, Hanuman,
beyond bearing between extremes of joy absolutely. May God bless you."
and grief. "Lay aside your grief, my Lord,"
He pressed the jewel to his bosom and continued Hanuman, "and think out now
cried: "O Lakshmana!" Again he what has to be done. Sita doubted how
embraced Hanuman and said: "Heroic son you and the Vanara army could cross the
of Vayu, blessed are you who have seen sea. I assured her that she need have no
Sita. I too see her now before me. You fear or doubt on that score, since, by no
have, indeed, brought her to me." means the strongest among the Vanaras, I
myself had crossed it as she could see. I
said to her that I myself could carry Rama Lanka. Have no doubt that we can do it.
and Lakshmana on my shoulders and The moment Hanuman saw Lanka, you
cross the sea and bring them there." may take it the fortress has fallen. Doubt
60. THE ARMY MOVES only makes the warrior weak and afraid
FORWARD and should be cast aside. Our victory is
RAMA heard Hanuman with heart and certain. The feeling of confidence in my
eyes overflowing and, when he had come heart at this moment is a good enough
to the end of his narrative, said: omen for me."
"The deed done by Hanuman none else Thus Sugriva reassured Rama, and
in the world could even conceive of inspired him to action. Then Rama and
attempting, crossing the sea, entering Hanuman discussed matters about Lanka,
Lanka protected by Ravana and his the town, the fort, the moat and other
formidable hosts and accomplishing the defences. Understanding this, Hanuman
task set him by his king not only fully but described the wealth of Lanka, the happy
beyond the fondest hopes of all." lives of the Rakshasas, their confidence in
And it saddened him to think that it Ravana and their affection for him.
was not in his power to reward Hanuman He told Rama of the might and size of
at all adequately for the supreme joy he Ravana's army; the strength and structure
had brought. "O Hanuman, let this of the fortress; the alertness of the sentry;
embrace of mine stand as an the moats, walls and gates, catapults and
acknowledgment of all that my heart feels drawbridges, the care and thoroughness of
of gratitude for your great service to me." all the arrangements for defence. He also
So saying while his whole being explained how the coast too was carefully
thrilled with grateful love, he took guarded so that no enemy ship could
Hanuman into his arms and clasped him to approach it.
his breast. "And yet you may be certain," he said,
"Sugriva," he said, "Hanuman has "our Vanara army is fully equal to the
indeed wrought a wonder. He entered conquest of Lanka. We have with us
Lanka so strongly guarded by the peerless warriors like Angada, Dwivida,
Rakshasas. He has discovered Sita and, by Mainda, Jambavan, Panasa, Nala and
consoling her, preserved her life. Bringing Nila. We have an enormous army. We
back good news of her, he has saved my shall fly in the sky and without touching
life also. But how are we now going to the ground destroy Lanka. Its mountains
cross the sea? How can our huge army and forest defences are nothing to us. We
reach the other shore? Before we can shall raze the city to the ground. Fix the
attack Ravana's city and the Rakshasa's auspicious time and give us the order to
army, we have first to cross the sea. I see start."
no way of doing it. Our joy in Hanuman's Under the star of triumph, Uttara
achievement and the good news he has Phalguni, at high noon, the army set
brought is overlaid by anxiety about our forward towards the southern sea. Good
future course." omens greeted them.
But the Vanara king said: "What is As they marched, Rama, Sugriva and
this, my Lord Rama? What need is there Lakshmana went conversing with one
for dejection? Here are my warriors, ready another. "If only Sita could know that we
to lay down their lives for you and let it be have set out," said Rama, "it would
our joy to transport you and Lakshmana to encourage her to keep life going."
Scouts who knew the way went ahead, "When Ravana seized Sita and carried
looking out for enemies lying in ambush. her off," Rama said, breaking down with
They led the army through regions that fresh grief, "she must have cried aloud 'Ha
could provide food and drink for the huge my Lord! Ha Rama! Ha Lakshmana!' But
army. With speed the army crossed she saw no one coming. We failed to go to
mountains and forests. her help. Every time I think of the
The Vanaras sometimes carried Rama suffering she then must have gone
and Lakshmana on their shoulders so that through, my grief swells up afresh. What
the march might be speedy. Every am I to do? Like the limbs of one who has
moment the enthusiasm of the Vanaras drunk poison, my whole body burns with
increased. They jumped and roared and pain. She is held in the grip of the cruel
sported. Rama could hear them saying to Rakshasis and she is in great anguish.
one another: "I shall kill Ravana! I shall Janaka's daughter, the bride who entered
meet and kill Ravana!" the home of great Dasaratha, she lies on
Nila and Kumuda went ahead the bare ground, a prisoner surrounded by
reconnoitering in front of the army. Strong Rakshasis!"
warriors were kept in the rear, guarding it "Rama!" said Lakshmana, "cease from
from behind. King Sugriva, Rama and sorrow. Soon we shall destroy Ravana and
Lakshmana were in the middle. Rama rescue Sita and take her home to
gave strict orders that the army should Ayodhya. She will enter the city like the
inflict no harm or hardship on the towns goddess of chastity. Give up your grief.
and villages on the way. The noise of the Arm yourself with courage."
marching army was like the roar of the sea 61. ANXIETY IN LANKA
and filled the eight quarters. The dust they Now let us leave Rama and his host
raised covered the sky. here and go back to Ravana. Great poets
When they came to the Mahendra in all languages delineate with sympathy
Mountain, Rama climbed the peak and even their bad characters allowing gleams
surveyed the sea. of goodness to shine through occasionally,
"We should now think and decide," he for nature has not made anybody wholly
said, "how the army can cross the sea. Till and unredeemably evil.
then let it camp and rest in the forest." The poet's aim is to direct the reader's
And Sugriva passed the order to the mind into the path of good, the satvik
commanders. The Vanaras camped in the way. For this purpose they use all their
forest by the seashore. skill and power in developing even their
When Sugriva, Rama and Lakshmana rajasik and tamasik characters.
had satisfied themselves that the whole The reader who is held by rajasik and
army had settled in comfort, the two tamasik qualities, naturally tends to
brothers retired apart. sympathise with such characters; much
Rama said: "If a person loses a dear more so readers below the average who
thing, people say that time will enable him are untouched by the satvik element.
to forget about it and he will cease to They would regard the deeds of the
grieve. But Lakshmana, this is not what I hero and other satvik characters as mere
find." fiction invented for blind worship, and
Dejection again seized Rama for the identify themselves with the rajasik and
thought of Sita and her condition preyed tamasik characters and even claim these
on his mind now more than ever before. as their own kith and kin. They would find
themselves attracted by such characters You know that the king should decide his
and follow their doings with considerable course of action only after consulting his
interest. loyal ministers of clear vision and well-
Paradise Lost, the English epic on a versed in statecraft. And so I have
Biblical theme, is famous throughout the summoned this Council. Rama has
world. In this poem Milton delineates the become an inveterate enemy. Let us
Almighty and Jesus, His spiritual son and consider what we should do about it. The
human incarnation, as well as several king has no use for ministers who are not
orders of angels. But the most impressive straight forward or who not knowing their
character in the great epic is Satan who own minds wobble in their advice. The
rebelled against God and brought sin and matter before us is most important. Rama
death into this world. is strong, and so is his army. It is certain
Critics of English poetry admire that they will contrive some how to cross
Milton's wonderful success in the the sea. It would be unwise to trust to that
characterisation of Satan. Similarly, the single defence. Consider well and tell me
great dramatic poet Shakespeare has how we can strengthen and secure our city
created a wonderful character in Shylock, and army and what steps we should take
the usurer and miser. Even such to defend ourselves."
embodiments of despicable qualities are After listening to the king, the
presented by the poets as possessing members of the Assembly spoke with one
courage, determination, energy and other voice.
good qualities that attract us and serve as "Great king! Knowing well that our
a bright background to their blackness. army and our weapons are the strongest in
In Valmiki's portraits of Ravana and the world, why need you be anxious?
Kumbhakarna too, we notice the same Where is the enemy who dares to attack
artistic skill. The cook who meets all your fortress and who can oppose your
tastes shows his skill in making out of army with any hope of success? The
bitter vegetables an attractive dish. So world knows your might. Did you not
does the poet show his skill in portraying invade the city of Bhogavati and defeat
evil. the Naga king? Did you not attack
The Rakshasa king was somewhat powerful Kubera and defeat him and his
ashamed and afraid at the thought of what Yakshas and capture his Pushpaka
Hanuman had achieved in Lanka. He Vimana as well as this island of Lanka?
summoned his ministers and took counsel Did not Maya in fear of you sue for your
with them. favor and friendship and give you his
He began in an apologetic tone. "What daughter in marriage? How many cities in
has happened is something strange and the nether region have you not attacked
unexpected. No one has till now been and taken? You fought and defeated the
known to enter our city, but this envoy of Kalakeyas. The sons of Varuna, yea, and
Rama has not only entered Lanka, he has Yama himself have been suppliants for
met and talked with the imprisoned Sita. your mercy. And who is this Rama? Your
He has destroyed temples and palaces. He son Indrajit by himself can destroy Rama
has slain some of our best warriors. He and his Vanara army. Did he not seize and
has filled our people with fear. And this imprison Indra himself and afterwards let
thing is not likely to stop here. Hence we him go? How can Rama and his Vanaras
have to consider what should be done. stand against such a warrior? You have
only to bid Indrajit destroy this Vanara destroy the enemy and bring you the
crowd and all will be over. Why should news."
you, great king, be anxious?" Another Rakshasa, licking his lips, said
Thus they spoke in praise of their king. with gusto: "I shall go alone and kill and
The Commander-in-chief Prahasta rose feast on the flesh of these two men, Rama
like a great black cloud. "You, who and Lakshmana. Please let me go."
subdued in battle the Devas, Danavas and Thus one after another they got up and
Gandharvas, why should you, oh King of spoke brave words to please Ravana and
kings, feel anxious because of these little then all of them stood up together and,
creatures? It is true that the monkey came raising their weapons, roared aloud.
here and caught us napping and did some At that Vibhishana, the younger
mischief. But this sort of thing will never brother of Ravana, made them all sit
happen again. If he comes again, I know down, and said to the king with folded
how to manage him. I alone can destroy hands:
the whole Vanara race, if only you will "Brother, what these people say is
order it. You need not fear any danger sweet to hear but not true or good to act
from this small indiscretion of yours, the upon. Anything done in violation of Niti
abduction of Sita." shastra (the Science of Politics) can only
Next Durmukha rose and roared: "We lead to grief and ruin. It is only after
shall not let this monkey's bravado and trying sama (conciliation), dana (buying
undeserved good luck go unavenged. I off the enemy) and bheda (sowing
shall go this very instant and destroy the discord) that one should think of using
Vanara army, root and branch, and danda (force of arms.) against a foe. If
return." you take the advice of these people and
Vajradamshtra stood with a terrible start a war now, it would mean the
iron club in his hand and cried: "Here is destruction of Lanka and all of us. We
my weapon unwashed and still covered should also consider the demands of
with the blood and flesh of my foes. Why dharma. It was not right, it was indeed a
waste your time talking about this great sin for you, to have seized and
monkey? Are not Rama and Lakshmana brought Rama's wife here. We should first
our enemies? I shall slay them first and cleanse ourselves of this sin. What harm
then destroy the Vanara army and re turn did Rama do to us? What Rama did in the
immediately. Only let me go. I have a Dandaka forest was in pure self-defence
piece of advice to give you, King, if you and the defence of those that looked to
would listen. Let us order some Rakshasa him for protection. He fought with and
warriors to put on human form and slew only those that went out to slay him.
approach Rama, telling him, 'Bharata has His actions surely do not justify your
sent us in advance. A great army is carrying away his wife. And even if we
coming behind to help you.' While Rama had any just complaint against him, we
is thus fooled into negligence, our should have met in battle. Instead of that,
Rakshasa army can travel through the sky to contrive his absence and seize his wife
and destroy him and his followers on the was very wrong and sinful. When the fault
other shore. This is my advice." is on your side, it is morally not right that
Nikumbha, son of Kumbhakarna, rose we should think of battle. Further,
and said: "All of you may stay here with warcraft requires that before fighting we
the King. I shall go alone and meet and should take some measure of Rama's
strength and that of his army. We have "Ever since you brought Sita to Lanka
had some taste of Hanuman's strength and we see only evil omens. Even when the
skill. It is pointless to talk lightly of him. libation is poured with the correct mantra,
Did he not do remarkable things? Though the flame does not spring to receive it.
our own strength may be great, we should One finds snakes in places of worship.
weigh it against the enemy's strength and Ants infest food offerings. The udders of
then decide whether we should seek war cows are dry and yield no milk. Elephants,
or avoid it. But first it is essential that we horses, camels and monkeys fall sick,
should restore Sita. My advice is this, reject food and behave strangely.
before Rama and the Vanaras attack Medicines have lost their efficacy. Crows
Lanka, let us restore Sita. Dear brother, I perch in numbers on the housetops
am saying all this for your good. Pray, do making hideous noises. Vultures circling
not be angry with me. We should first set overhead fill the augurs with anxiety.
right our own fault and then think of other Foxes boldly enter the city and howl at
things." unusual hours. Wild beasts haunt the
Thus with folded hands Vibhishana streets. These portents should not be
besought Ravana. disregarded. I beg of you, restore Sita to
Though Ravana was pleased with the her husband. It is only since her coming
vainglorious words of his ministers and here that these omens are noticed as you
generals, there was doubt lurking in his can verify by asking others. Why should
mind. Hence, after listening to we, who have so much to lose, needlessly
Vibhishana, he said: "Let us meet again incur any one's enmity? Let us restore Sita
tomorrow and consider this matter." to her people and live happily." Thus did
He adjourned the Council, and retired. Vibhishana plead earnestly with his
62. RAVANA CALLS A COUNCIL brother.
AGAIN "Never, never!" exclaimed Ravana.
AS soon as the day dawned, "Let there be no talk here of Sita being
Vibhishana went to the king. He had returned to her people. I do not think
thought deeply over the matter and had much of this enemy. I see nothing to be
come to a decision. His brother's welfare afraid of. Now, you may go."
demanded that he should seek somehow Though he spoke thus and was
to convert and save him. obstinate, Ravana had no peace of mind.
Vibhishana entered the royal palace Sita had not yielded to him and his own
and stood with folded hands before the near kinsmen disapproved of his conduct.
king. Ravana sent away all but the He was agitated, but putting on an air of
principal Ministers and asked his brother confidence and unconcern he summoned
to speak. the Council again. Lust and injured
"My brother and my lord," began vanity kept him from the straight path, but
Vibhishana, "forgive me if what I say is he found some consolation in taking
not pleasing to your ears. My desire is not counsel from others.
to flatter but to save you from a great From the palace to the Hall of Council
danger while there is yet time. I beg of he drove through the street in a golden
you to listen to me, consider well what I chariot drawn by noble steeds. Warriors,
say and then decide on your course of holding swords and shields and wearing
action. brilliant uniforms, marched in front,
behind and on the sides. Others mounted
on elephants and horses and armed with Dandaka forest. My desire for her so
axes, spears and other terrible weapons, entirely possesses me that sending her
followed the chariot. Trumpets were back is to me unthinkable. She has not so
blown and drums beaten. far submitted to my wishes and entertains
As the Lord of Lanka, accompanied by a foolish hope that Rama will come here
his retinue, passed majestically through and redeem her. I have told her that it is
the royal street, his people bent low their an impossible wish and a vain hope.
heads and folded their hands and invoked Finally, she asked for a year's time and I
victory for him. As he entered the hall, gave it to her. I now seek your counsel.
drums and trumpets sounded loudly and My desire is unfulfilled. I can never agree
filled the eight quarters. to sending Sita back and begging
Ravana took his seat on an agate throne forgiveness from Rama. Till now neither
in the great hall constructed by Maya you, my great warriors, nor I have known
which shone in all the splendor of gold defeat in battle. True, a big monkey
and silver and precious carpets. somehow contrived to cross the sea and
Hundreds of demons stood sentry wrought some mischief here. But hard
without. Obedient to the call of the King, indeed will it be for Rama and the Vanara
thousands of Rakshasa warriors had army to cross the sea and come here. And
assembled in the chamber. Long rows of even if they did come, what need we fear?
vehicles stood in the streets. Within the What chance have they against us? On the
chamber each was assigned a seat other side of the sea, Rama, Lakshmana,
appropriate to his rank. Sugriva and the Vanaras are encamped.
Priests and chanters of the Vedas came Think how we can slay Rama and
in hundreds and after receiving tokens of Lakshmana. I should have summoned the
respect from the king were seated in the Council earlier. But Kumbhakarna was in
hall. his period of sleep and I waited till he
Vibhishana, Suka, Prahasta and others woke up."
bowed before the king and sat in their Thus spoke Ravana, blinded by lust,
respective places. Devoted officers hiding his real anxiety and mixing a little
thronged the hall, all brave and efficient falsehood with truth. For Sita had not
and waiting to fulfil the commands of asked for a year's time. She had absolutely
their king. rejected his advances, but he asked her to
The air was heavy with rich perfume. reconsider and gave her a year's time.
The assembly equalled Indra's in splendor 63. VIBHISHANA
and everyone felt that momentous KUMBHAKARNA, the younger
decisions were to be taken. Ravana broke brother of Ravana, spoke in the assembly:
the hushed expectant silence of the great "Great King! Ignoring the principles of
assembly in a voice deep and resonant as statecraft, you have run into a great
thunder. danger. If you had any grievance against
He said: "You are strong, brave and Rama and Lakshmana, you should have
skilled in the arts of peace and war. You met them face to face and defeated and
can find a way out of every difficulty. slain them before carrying off Sita. If you
Never so far has your advice miscarried. had acted thus, even Sita would have
And so, once again, I seek your counsel. admired you and there would then have
You know well what I have done. I have been a possibility of her accepting you. As
brought here Sita who was living in the waters flow down a mountain, she would
have followed a victorious warrior. You Ravana now grew enthusiastic and
did not consult us before committing the said: "Didn't I vanquish Kubera? Didn't I
offence and incurred the enmity of Rama, drive him out and make Lanka my own?
but now, when it is too late, you seek our Who dare come here and oppose me? Let
counsel. This is not the right way of doing us see!"
things that a king should follow." The assembly applauded these words.
Having spoken thus harshly, Vibhishana alone did not join in the
Kumbhakarna looked at the king and saw applause. He did not mind the wrath of his
he was pained. Affectionate as he was royal brother. He felt it was his duty to
brave, he could not endure the sadness in warn him of the danger and the error of
his brother's face. his ways.
"Let by-gones be by-gones," he He felt bound to make his utmost effort
thought, "one cannot forsake one's honor." to save him and the Rakshasa race from
Kumbhakarna was under no delusion doom. He stood up and spoke:
as to the consequences, but his generous "You have brought Sita and with her,
spirit accepted them for the sake of the death for yourself and your race. Your
brother he idolised. He knew that Rama first duty to yourself and your people is to
was a peerless warrior. restore her to Rama. If you fail in this, we
He knew the power of his bow and also shall all assuredly perish. This is certain."
the limitations of the boons that Ravana He went on describing Rama's strength
had received from the gods. But it was no and skill and his mastery of weapons. He
good taking the heart out of others in the spoke frankly and without fear.
face of unavoidable peril and so be also "If we oppose Rama," he said, "defeat
began to speak vaunting words like the is inevitable. Our fortune is sinking. Let
rest: us restore Sita, seek Rama's pardon and
"What You did may be wrong, and so thus save our kingdom, our lives and
too the way you chose to do it. You have possessions and honor."
done first what you should have done last. At this importunity of Vibhishana,
And yet, it does not matter. I shall slay Indrajit, Ravana's son, lost patience and
Rama. Do not be afraid. One or two of his burst out:
arrows may touch me. In spite of it, I shall "My uncle's words fill me with shame.
kill him and drink his blood and victory What race are we? What is our strength? I
will be yours. My brother, lay aside your marvel that a descendant of Pulastya
care, and think of other things." should talk in this strain and that the
Some people suggest that assembly should meekly sit and listen. My
Kumbhakarna was dull and so he thus uncle has only betrayed his evil intentions.
contradicted himself. But it was not We can never agree to his proposal. Are
stupidity, it was due to generous affection we to be afraid of two petty humans? Did
that he accepted the inevitable fearlessly. I not beat Indra down in battle and his
He was a proud warrior who loved his hordes of gods? Does not the whole world
brother and his people and he decided on tremble even now in terror before us?
honorable death with them. Vibhishana's counsel is an insult to our
Prahasta was Ravana's chief race!"
counsellor. He spoke of the King's Vibhishana answered gently: "Boy,
invincible strength and cheered him up. you lack experience. That is why you talk
thus. You are the king's son and should be
his best friend. But I am afraid you are advice, salutary but unpleasant, you reject.
proving yourself his worst enemy. And It is easy to speak sweet words. Your
you, ministers who ought to give good ministers are doing it. I spoke for your
advice, you are leading the king to ruin. good. But truth is bitter and you hate it.
My Lord of Lanka! Do not reject what I The terrible vision of Rama's darts
say. Return Sita honorably to Rama and destroying you is before my mind's eye
seek his forgiveness. This is the only way. and makes me speak as I do. You call me
There is no other. Failing to pursue the your enemy. Defend your city and your
only available course, we shall all perish." life as well as you can. God bless you! I
Ravana's rage was now uncontrollable. am going. May you be happy! I thought I
"I put up with your talk thus far," he could serve you in your need, but you will
shouted in anger, "because you are my not let me. You imagine that I envy you
brother. Else you would by now be dead. and your possessions. Good counsel is
A brother, I see, is one's worst enemy. All rejected by one whose end is near."
the world knows that the envy of brothers Having spoken thus, and realising that
brings dishonor and discomfiture to the there was no place for him in Lanka
brave. They hide their real desire and wait thereafter, Vibhishana renounced all his
for their time and, when it comes, do not possessions and, rising into the sky,
hesitate to practise their treachery. How proceeded straight to the spot where Rama
true is the complaint of the wild elephants and Lakshmana were encamped. Four
in the story! We are not afraid of the good Rakshasa friends went along with
burning fire. 'We do not mind the hunters him.
and their long spears. The noosed ropes 64. THE VANARA'S DOUBT
and the chains can do little harm to us. HAVING committed a sin and run into
But the elephants which join the hunters danger, Ravana did not see how to
and give us trouble, these brothers and extricate himself. Like other kings in a
cousins who turn against us, they are our quandary, he called a council for
terror!' Yes. So long as one is safe and consultation. Many spoke flattering
prosperous, the brother smiles and talks words. Only two spoke harshly.
pleasantly. But when danger comes, he is One said: "You have committed a fault.
ready to leave. The bee does not stay with But I will give up my life for you." This
the flower after the honey has been was Kumbhakarna.
sucked. It goes in search of another The other, Vibhishana, said: "You have
flower. Brothers and cousins are no better committed a sin, but there is still time for
than these bees. One cannot trust them in repentance and escape from
adversity. If any one else should have consequences. If you take this right and
spoken as you have done, Vibhishana, I wise course, we shall all escape
would have slain him here and now. Base destruction and live happily. Restore Sita
fellow! You are a disgrace to our race!" and seek pardon of Rama."
Unable to bear the insult, Vibhishana "Never," said Ravana.
rose and said: "My brother, you may "Then our ways part and I leave you,"
speak as you please. Though you have said Vibhishana.
wandered from the way of dharma, you In a conflict of duties, each one follows
are still my brother and I warn you that, his own nature. All cannot follow one and
drawn by the noose of Yama, you are the same path.
going along the path of destruction. My
Ravana's self-indulgent vanity would But can we find fault with
not let him admit his error or retrace his Kumbhakarna? We cannot do this either.
steps. Very rarely does one who has He is one of those noble soldiers of lost
committed a sin confess defeat. It requires causes whose faults we forgive for their
some courage of a bad sort to commit a selfless loyalty and sublime acceptance of
sin. But it requires much greater courage death.
of a noble kind to confess it. But, because we cannot condemn
It was this noble courage that Ravana Kumbhakarna, it does not follow that we
lacked. When an evil is being perpetrated, must condemn Vibhishana. There are
the friends of the evil-doer face a difficult some people today who rejoice in arguing
problem. Some are constrained against against dharma and against Vibhishana;
their better judgment to espouse the hence this elaboration of a simple point.
wrong cause through gratitude for past Men are restrained from evil by the
kindness, a sense of loyalty, or affinities wholesome fear that if they commit sin
of blood. they would forfeit the affection and
Others think it their duty to try and goodwill of their friends and kinsmen.
reform the sinner, regardless of his anger This fear is a strong incentive to good
and hatred and consequent danger to behavior and its removal would be a
themselves and if their efforts fail they serious loss in society.
part company from the sinner, rather than All this is forgotten by those who argue
abandon dharma and give their support to that Vibhishana was a traitor. Ravana was
the sinner who persists in crime. They the first, unfortunately by no means the
bold that it can never be one's duty to last, to dub him by that name. Those who
support or cooperate with adharma. are anxious to retain the support of
It would indeed be adharma to refrain kinsfolk while pursuing evil ways
from doing one's best to reform the sinner disapprove of Vibhishana's conduct. But
or to cooperate in his sin. In the Vibhishana was not afraid of being a
Ramayana, Kumbhakarna and Vibhishana traitor. He would have nothing to do with
represent these two different types. If adharma. His course was, however, not
Ravana had told Vibhishana: "Come, let easy as we shall see.
us go to the Dandaka forest and carry off The Vanara chieftains standing on the
Sita," it is inconceivable that Vibhishana northern seashore saw all of a sudden the
could have complied. That is why we sky lit up with a golden glow like the
respect Vibhishana. summit of Mount Meru. It was too steady
"At least now restore Sita and be to be a flash of lightning.
happy," Vibhishana said and tried to In the brightness could be
persuade Ravana. "Rama will surely distinguished the forms of five big
forgive you. Take the way of dharma." Rakshasas. Sugriva, the king and
But Ravana would not listen, and commander of the Vanaras, looking at
Vibhishana, as an enemy of sin, had no them said: "There is no doubt these are
alternative but to part company from the Rakshasas come from Lanka with hostile
perverse wickedness of Ravana. Hence it designs."
would be wrong to find fault with On hearing this, the Vanara warriors
Vibhishana. And if we find fault with him, armed themselves with trees and boulders
it is because our concern for dharma is and said: "Let us go. We shall intercept
weak.
and slay them and bring them down to at the first opportunity and return to his
earth." own people. Permit us, therefore, to
Vibhishana, hearing these words of the destroy forthwith Ravana's brother and his
Vanaras, showed no signs of fear but from followers."
above with calm courage spoke out in a Having thus frankly expressed his
clear voice: feelings at the sight of the Rakshasa,
"Vibhishana stands here before you, Sugriva stood in silence, awaiting Rama's
the brother of Ravana, the wicked king of reply. Rama listened and turned to
the Rakshasas. I am here before you, none Hanuman and other leaders and said:
other than brother to Ravana, who killed "You have heard the words of the King
Jatayu and carried off Sita by force and is who is well-versed in policy. Ravana's
how keeping her a prisoner in Lanka. In brother has come and waits there for our
vain I strove to turn him from his wicked pleasure. I wish to know your opinion on
designs and counselled him to restore Sita this matter. In times of crisis, one should
and seek Rama's forgiveness. All the ask for the advice of friends. Tell me
response I got was disdain and public without reservation what you feel in your
insult. Hence I am standing here before hearts."
you. Renouncing kingdom, wife and Angada, the Vanara prince said: "He
children, I seek service and sanctuary at has come from our enemy's camp. We do
Rama's feet. I pray you, convey this not know whether he has come of his own
information to Rama." accord or was sent by our foe. While
Sugriva mistrusted the good faith of the perhaps it would not be right to reject him
Rakshasa king's brother and reported thus out of hand, it would be dangerous to
to Rama: "Vibhishana, the brother of accept him without testing him. Let us at
Ravana, has come here with four least watch his behavior carefully without
Rakshasa friends seeking sanctuary at giving him any opening for mischief. If
your feet. They are standing there in the his movements are suspicious, we can
sky. Consider well, you who are skilled in throw him out. If they are friendly and
affairs, what should be done now. These show good faith, we shall accept him."
Rakshasas are adepts in duplicity. They Thus spoke the son of Vali.
can make themselves invisible and do Sarabha said: "I do not think it safe to
many other tricks. They have all the skill admit him now or to decide later what to
and courage of the wicked. One cannot do with him. Even now, let us test him
trust them. I believe that these Rakshasas through skilful questioners and decide
have been sent by Ravana himself. They once and for all what to do with him."
have come here to mix with us for Jambavan said: "Nothing can be
subversive purposes. Or else they intend discovered by testing such persons. If he
seeking an opportunity to assassinate the is come here hiding treacherous
leaders in our camp. Whatever Vibhishana intentions, no test can discover the truth.
may say, we cannot forget that he is the Ravana is our inveterate foe. His brother
brother of our foe. By birth he belongs to says that he has all of a sudden broken
the wicked Rakshasa race. How can we with him and come over to us. This
trust him? This is some trick of Ravana, I sudden rupture with a brother is hard to
have no doubt. It is best to kill Vibhishana believe. We have not yet crossed the sea.
and his companions right now. If we What is his motive in seeking safety with
admit him into our camp, he will betray us us while we are on this hither shore? All
this is very suspicious. They are a suppliant. His carefree looks disclose a
deceitful race. I think we should not admit guiltless heart. The wise say that the face
him." is a perfect mirror of the heart. I think that
Mainda said: "How can we reject a Vibhishana has come here honestly to
man on mere suspicion? Only after careful seek sanctuary at your feet. And there is
examination can we decide how to deal nothing strange in his action. He knows
with him. He says that he has forsaken Ravana's real weakness. He knows that
Ravana and come over to us. We can find the lord of Lanka is fated to fall. He
out the truth of this statement. Some of us knows too that you have slain Vali and
should talk to him and then decide. Surely given his kingdom to Sugriva. Granting
we have enough ability to do this." that his real motive is to secure for
Then Rama turned to Hanuman the himself the sovereignty of Lanka, there is
wise. nothing wrong in it and certainly it is a
65. THE DOCTRINE OF guarantee that he will be loyal to us.
SURRENDER AND GRACE Hence I feel that we should admit him."
IN response to Rama's invitation, The Vanara chiefs thus differed in their
Hanuman expressed his opinion in clear, views. Kumbhakarna acted according to
sweet and pregnant words: ordinary morality. This was a simple thing
"Why should you ask for our advice? that everybody could understand. But
Not even Brihaspati has anything to tell Vibhishana followed a higher morality.
you that you do not already know. If it is The path he chose was more difficult and
dangerous to admit Vibhishana, how is the likely to be blamed.
danger met by delay and trial? Where is He knew (how could anyone else
the time or opportunity for a test? More know?) his inward suffering at the thought
over, Vibhishana has not approached us of Ravana's evil doings. Ordinary people
stealthily. He has come to us with frank could not sympathise with his situation.
openness and a clear object. What is there Hence the Vanaras failed to understand
for scouts to discover about him? It has the conflict in his mind. Even today
been said by some that his sudden advent people find it hard, without elaborate
is suspicious. But why? What wonder is explanation, to appreciate Vibhishana
there if Vibhishana became disgusted with aright.
Ravana and foresaw his certain disgrace Patiently, Rama listened to the various
and a defeat? What wonder is there if he views of the Vanara chiefs. When at last
recognised your heroic virtues and he heard Hanuman's words he was filled
nobility and the certainty of your victory? with joy.
To me the time and manner of his coming Rama, steadfast in his own dharma,
give no room for suspicion. It has been found satisfaction in Hanuman's utterance.
suggested that before admitting him our A good man is glad when a friend's
leaders should put him questions and opinion supports his decision on a
examine his answers. But one who knows question of duty.
that he is suspected would cease to speak "If a man comes as a friend," said
or behave naturally. He would be afraid Rama, "how can I reject him? It is against
that we are out to find only faults in him. the law of my life. All of you, my friends
And thus his real nature will not be and helpers, should know this. Once a
revealed. I see no cause for suspicion in man surrenders himself, one should
the face or speech of this Rakshasa overlook all his faults."
But Sugriva was not satisfied. He said: for leaving us. We do not want Lanka, and
"This Rakshasa has on his own if, as is natural, he wants it, he can get it
showing deserted his brother whose cause only through our victory. From the point
he considers lost. How can one put faith in of view of policy, it would be a mistake to
a person who forsakes his own brother in reject Vibhishana.
his need?" "But there is a stronger reason. When
Valmiki records that on bearing these one comes to me for refuge, I cannot
words of Sugriva, Rama turned to reject him. This is my dharma. It does not
Lakshmana with a smile. Probably the matter if as a result of this I suffer. Even
smile was provoked by Sugriva's at the cost of life I must do this duty of
forgetfulness of his own fraternal conduct mine. Never can I deviate from it. Verily,
in his indignant condemnation of I tell you, even if Ravana himself came to
Vibhishana! me for sanctuary, I would accept him
Rama said to Sugriva: "I see what you without hesitation. How then can I reject
mean. But listen. It is natural for kings to his brother who has done me no wrong?
suspect brothers and neighbor kings. Go and fetch Vibhishana."
Good kings who entertain no such "My Lord Rama! It is wonderful how
suspicion are exceptions. Most kings clearly the right stands out demonstrated
imagine that brothers envy them. What when you speak!" said Sugriva. "I see
wonder then if Ravana suspected and things clearly now. I shall go and bring
insulted Vibhishana? It follows that Vibhishana. May he too become a loving
Vibhishana feared danger to himself if he friend of yours, even like us!" And
stayed on in Lanka. I conclude therefore Sugriva went to fetch Vibhishana.
that he has no sinister motive against us in In the Vaishnava tradition, this,
coming here for refuge. Let us go further episode, in which Vibhishana is taken by
and grant that he has eyes on the kingdom, the prince into his camp and innermost
expecting Ravana's defeat at our hands. council, is held to be as important as the
Even in this ambition there is nothing Bhagavad Gita episode in the
wrong. Well, Lakshmana, can we expect Mahabharata.
all people to be like our Bharata?" It illustrates the doctrine that the Lord
Having said this, Rama was silent for a accepts all who in absolute surrender seek
moment, lost in remembrance of Bharata's shelter at his feet, regardless of their
selfless love. Then he spoke: "Who in the merits or defects. Their sins are burnt out
world is as lucky as I am? Who has a by the mere act of surrender. This is a
brother like Bharata? And what a father I message of hope to erring humanity. It is
had! His love for me was so great that his the heart of the Vaishnava faith that there
life fled when I came away to the forest. is hope for the worst of us if only we
And my friends, who else is blessed like surrender ourselves to the Lord.
me with friends such as you?" But why should I restrict this doctrine
Having spoken thus he wiped the tears to the Vaishnava tradition? Is not this the
in his eyes, and went back to the subject heart of all the religious traditions in our
on hand. land, yes, and of all the religions in the
"I see no point in the argument that world? Every world teacher stresses this
Vibhishana will forsake us, as he has certainty of relief and redemption. It is not
forsaken his brother. He had cause for to Arjuna only that Krishna said: "Have
forsaking his brother, and can have none no fear, cast off all doubt, I shall destroy
all your sins." Wherever in the world God powerful king. If Ravana desired Rama's
has spoken to mankind in a human voice, wife and carried her off, how does it
He has given this assurance. concern you? What do you lose by it?
There are two ways in which we can Consider well and choose your course
regard Valmiki's account of Rama's with description. It is most expedient that
acceptance of Ravana's brother. The poet you and your army should return
describes the rules of policy, the matters forthwith to Kishkindha."
to be examined before one can accept a But Sugriva's response was scornful
visitor from the enemy's camp. and definite:
This is shown in the speeches of the "Base fellow! Go and tell your king
Vanara king, the cultured and that he is no brother of mine. He is wicked
accomplished Hanuman, and Rama, the and, being an enemy of my friend Rama,
firm upholder of dharma. But in addition he is my enemy too and we are out to rid
to right policy, we see here Rama's the world of him and his wicked gang. He
character and personality due to nature is a fool to imagine that he can offend
and nurture. Rama and still survive. Tell him that there
He said: "I cannot reject anyone who is no escape for him, tell him all this as
comes to me for protection. This is my from me."
dharma. If Ravana himself came to me, I When Sugriva delivered this message
would not reject him." to the Rakshasa spy the Vanaras caught
Those who look on Rama as an avatar hold of him and began to handle him
of God find in this utterance the essence roughly but Rama sternly forbade it and
of scripture. The solemn assurance which set him free to go the way he came. The
Krishna gives to Arjuna later in the Gita, spy rushed back to Lanka and conveyed
that assurance the Prince of Ayodhya the result of his adventure to Ravana.
declares in the presence of Sugriva and As soon as Vibhishana's adherence was
others in this Vibhishana episode of the accepted by Rama, Lakshmana and
Ramayana. Sugriva crowned Vibhishana king of
This divine assurance is the life and Lanka and performed the abhisheka with
light that a world filled with sin and seawater. Vibhishana pledged unchanging
darkness, needs. friendship to Rama and Rama in turn gave
66. THE GREAT CAUSEWAY his word that he would not return to
MEANWHILE Ravana did something Ayodhya without slaying Ravana.
foolish. He sent a scout to seduce Sugriva Then Sugriva, Vibhishana and
from his loyalty to Rama. This Rakshasa, Lakshmana deliberated on how to cross
Suka by name, flew across and in disguise the sea. They thought it best to begin with
met Sugriva in secret and with every a prayer to the ocean-god and submitted
appearance of benevolent solicitude spoke their opinion to Rama.
to him thus: Rama accepted their counsel and,
"Ravana, the king of Lanka, has sent spreading darbha grass on the seashore
me because of his affection and regard for and laying himself on it, began a fast,
you. He sends you his fraternal greetings. addressing his request for a passage
You are a king and he is another and there across, to the king of the sea.
is no sense in your staking your high For three days he prayed to the god of
heritage and making common cause with the sea but received no response. Then
a disinherited prince against an all- Rama, his eyes glowing with anger at the
sea-god's arrogance, turned to Lakshmana all began to work. Thousands of Vanaras
and said: went at it with enthusiasm and soon
"The low-minded mistake courtesy and finished building the causeway.
gentleness for want of strength. Mildness Valmiki describes the work at length.
is simply wasted on them. See now how I He sings with gusto of the noise and
shall bring this misproud sea to its senses confusion of the gigantic project. The
with my arrows which shall not only Vanaras went to the mountains and forests
choke it with the carcasses of mighty fish and, plucking rocks and trees, dragged
but even dry it up with their fierce odour. them to the shore. The bigger Vanaras
Bring me my bow and quiver, O brought big boulders and threw them into
Soumitra!" the sea. As they fell down, the water
Then bow in hand and blazing with splashed up sky-high.
wrath like the destroying fire at the end of Nala stood and supervised their labors.
the world he shot arrows irresistible as The leaders in charge of companies kept
thunderbolts into the bosom of the sea. them active. On top of the rocks and trees,
These missiles of power disturbed the sea when the base was firm, a dressing of
to its depths carrying death and dismay to grass and little pieces of wood was given
all it contained and presently the tortured to produce a level surface. The noise
waters began to exhale steam in their raised by the dam-builders drowned the
agony. roar of the ocean.
It looked as though Rama in his wrath The construction was complete. The
would convert the sea with its infinitude new path shone across the sea like the
of waters into a desert of blazing dust milky way in the sky. Hosts of gods above
bereft of all life. The sea-god could stand rejoiced, as hosts of Vanaras shouted
it no longer. Shining like the rising sun below in exultation. The gods and the
behind Mount Meru, he appeared and rishis uttered benedictions.
stood before Rama. Then they went on the causeway.
With folded hands he said: Hanuman carried Rama on his shoulders
"My Lord Ramachandra! I am subject and Angada carried Lakshmana on his.
to the laws of nature like the earth, the air, The Vanara army crossed the sea. There
space, light, and all constituents of the is a principle expounded here. As Rama
universe. How can I depart from my stood bow in hand, the ocean-god bowed
nature, which is to be vast, deep, wave- before him with clasped bands and said:
filled, and impassable? But this I can do. "Dear Ramachandra! Earth, air, ether,
Ask the Vanaras to bring boulders and water, fire, these five elements must
trees to build a causeway. I shall permit it. follow the eternal laws of their nature.
I shall help you by receiving and keeping Tempted by pleasure or reward or
in place the rocks and trees. This is all that frightened of punishment, can I ever
I can do and I shall also show the most swerve from my nature? Can water harden
favorable place for this causeway. There and become stone? Or can I reduce my
is Nala, son of Viswakarma, with you, depths into a shallow pond for your easy
who has the ability to build this path. May crossing?"
victory be yours." Thus the ocean king protested with all
Rama, true to his nature, graciously politeness to Sri Rama. Valmiki puts into
accepted the sea god's apology and offer the mouth of the ocean king a
of help. And then, ordered by Rama, they fundamental of our religious philosophy.
He explains the primordial relationship Really I am ashamed of you. Or could
between God and Nature. it be that you cannot bear to see me
God's law operates in and through happy? Why do you talk like this to me? I
Nature. The laws of nature were created cannot bend before Rama. If it is wrong
so that the universe may proceed by itself. policy or wrong ethics, I cannot help it.
So too the law of Karma. The five You may take it that it is part of my nature
elements, all objects without life as well and I cannot change it. I would far rather
as all living creatures, must follow their die fighting than sue before Rama for
own permanent laws. peace!"
According to the Hindu Shastras, Malyavan replied: "Consider well and
Nature itself, the sequence and chain of do what you think best." And he returned
cause and effect, the properties of matter, home, uttering the usual benedictory
and the law of Karma, all are ordained words: "Victory to the King! Victory to
permanently by God. Ravana!"
Nature itself is a witness to God. He is The old man was Ravana's grandfather.
not proved by a suspension of the laws of Ravana carefully stationed his
nature. This is expounded clearly in the warriors. He posted Prahasta at the eastern
ninth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita: entrance, Mahaparsva and Mahodara at
"Under my supervision Nature gives the southern entrance and Indrajit, his
rise to all that exists movable and illustrious son, accomplished in the arts of
immovable, and the universe, evolves secret magic, at the western entrance,
from this cause." while he decided himself to guard the
This is put briefly by Valmiki in the northern entrance. Virupaksha, the
speech of the ocean king. Malyavan, the mighty, was appointed commander of the
aged Rakshasa, tried his best to impress army within the city.
on Ravana the error of his ways. He said: Having ordered the disposition of his
"Your time of good fortune is over. forces and chief warriors, he felt he had
Your sins have begun to bear their fruit ensured victory. As his end was
and to dim your radiance. You can trust approaching, he listened to no one and
no longer the boons you have obtained foolishly believed himself unconquerable.
from the gods. Make peace with your The ministers raised shouts of victory to
enemies. Look at the army that has please the King and then dispersed.
arrived, the terrible host of Vanaras and Rama, Sugriva, Vibhishana and others
bears. Look at this wonderful causeway so held a council of war. Vibhishana duly
quickly built. It seems to me, this Rama is laid before the council the information
Vishnu himself come in human form." gathered by scouts who had gone out and
Ravana had no patience with such talk. watched Ravana's arrangements.
"Your words are wormwood in my ear," "In numbers, strength and courage,"
he cried. "It looks as though you too have Vibhishana said, "the army now mobilised
joined my enemies. Are not human beings by Ravana surpasses that with which he
well known to be weaklings? Why are you opposed Kubera. Still I have no doubt of
afraid of this wretched man driven into the Rama's victory."
forest by his father? And he relies on the Rama distributed his forces to meet
support of monkeys and bears! Of such a Ravana's disposition and assigned to each
man you are afraid. commander the task he was to perform.
He ordered Nila to meet Prahasta at the
eastern gate. Angada was to meet adjoining the city of Lanka. As the army
Mahaparsva and Mahodara at the southern burst in like a flood the frightened beasts
entrance. At the western entrance and birds in the forest fled in all
Hanuman was to encounter Indrajit, the directions.
master of black magic. Valmiki describes the scene and the
"Lakshmana and I shall meet Ravana, event in his characteristic style. Gazing
the terror of the world, and we shall direct now from below at the mountain fortress
the assault on Lanka. Sugriva, Jambavan and the divinely beautiful city constructed
and Vibhishana shall stay behind with our by Viswakarma, Rama was again filled
main army." The army rested for the with wonder and exclaimed:
night on Mount Suvela. The following "Oh what beauty! What wealth."
morning, standing on the mountaintop, The Vanaras, for their part, noted the
they took a good look at Lanka. Rakshasa warriors' strength and readiness
The beautiful city on the summit of for battle, the thick walls and mighty
Trikuta seemed as if suspended from the engines of defence.
sky. Behind the thick fortress wall the From Lanka, all ready for war, the
Rakshasa army stood sentry, looking like sounds of drums and trumpets issuing
another massive wall. Observing the great from the city increased the eagerness of
and beautiful buildings in Lanka, Rama the Vanaras for battle. The army stood in
was moved to pity. And he said: ordered divisions as instructed by Rama.
"Alas! Because one person, drawn by Looking at Lanka he said:
the noose of time, has committed a sin, all "Lakshmana! Look at the beauty of the
this wealth and the whole Rakshasa race city."
must now be destroyed. Alas that this His mind turned to Sita. She would
scion of a noble race should forget his real have known by now, he thought, of his
greatness and pull death and destruction arrival with the army and her depressed
on himself and his people!" heart must have revived. But he spoke
Rama continued: "However, we should nothing of this and engaged himself in the
now bend all our thoughts to the task arrangements for the army.
before us to win this battle and destroy Suddenly, and without any noise or
Ravana. There will be much confusion in warning to any one, Sugriva sprang up
the course of the battle. The Rakshasas into the sky and alighted on the terrace on
will try to deceive us with many disguises. top of tower in Lanka, where he saw
Let the Vanaras and bears retain their own Ravana seated clad in red royal robes like
shape while fighting. Vibhishana and his a thick black cloud seen in the red evening
friends alone need assume human forms, sky. The scar caused by the tusk of Indra's
like Lakshmana and myself. The elephant, shone like a crescent moon on
Rakshasas, our enemies, will never take his chest.
the form of man or monkey. They would "Ravana! You are caught!" cried
think it beneath their dignity to do so. If Sugriva. "I am a friend and servant of
we stand together maintaining due order Rama. This is your last day!"
we can know who is who, slay our And he sprang on him, knocked off his
enemies and help our friends." crown and gave him a mighty blow. The
67. THE BATTLE BEGINS two wrestled together for a long time.
THE Vanara army descended from Both were experts in wrestling. All the
Mount Suvela and entered the forest tricks of that science were tried by each.
Ravana was at the end of his resources life. Whatever happens, you are fit to be
and so he discarded wrestling and took to king no longer. The kingdom of Lanka
magic and Sugriva seeing this now belongs to Vibhishana. He is worthy
disentangled himself and sprang back to to rule and protect his people. If you are
where Rama was. not willing to surrender and seek safety,
The Vanara leaders, who saw the son then have your obsequies performed in
of Surya return, shouted praises and made advance. Bid final farewell to all your
a great noise of congratulations at this dear possessions in Lanka. Prepare for
daring-do, rash and reckless no doubt, but death. Come out and meet Rama in battle.'
such as would give the Rakshasas some Go, Angada, deliver this message to
idea of the mettle of the foes they were up Ravana."
against. As instructed by Rama, bold Angada
Rama too was glad to see that Sugriva delivered his message: "Listen, Ravana. I
had returned safe. Observing bleeding am the son of Vali whom you no doubt
wounds on his body, he said: remember. I have come as Rama's
"Sugriva! I am filled with wonder and messenger. The time for your liberation
joy at this, your valorous exploit. But from sin has come. You may, if you
what you did was not right. It is not for a choose, die in battle and attain the swarga
king to rush into risks. How could you of brave men, cleansed of your foul sins.
suddenly and without consulting anyone But if life is dear to you, you may beg it
take such a dangerous course?" of Rama after humble surrender, and he
Sugriva confessed his fault. never refuses mercy to a suppliant. If what
"True, it was improper to rush into I have heard about you is true, you will
battle without consulting you. But when I elect to fight, which means you choose to
saw the villain who had insulted Sita I die. I would advise you to take last leave
was overwhelmed by anger and forgot my of your kinsfolk and complete your
duty." obsequies yourself, for none of your race
The Vanara army surrounded Lanka on will be left to perform them. Look your
all sides in the manner laid down by last on lovely Lanka!"
Rama. Ravana's rage flared up like a flame.
Rama sent for Angada and said to him: "Seize him, kill him, the villain!" he
"Prince! Take this message from me to shouted.
Ravana. Tell him: 'Great sinner, your end At once, two Rakshasas caught hold of
is approaching. Rama waits at your Angada. He rose in the sky carrying these
fortress gate, ready for battle. Trusting to two Rakshasas on either side of him and
the boons of the gods, you have become then flung them down.
proud and wicked. You have troubled the He rose higher up and, coming down
world too long and committed too many kicked and broke off the tower of the
heinous sins. The time has now come for king's palace. Then with a single leap he
the world to be cleansed of you. If you returned to where Rama was.
come out into the open and fight and die Dazed by Angada's exploit, the
in battle, your sins will be washed away Rakshasas were filled with fear, but they
and you will gain a place in the world did not disclose it. Ravana, too, heaved a
above as a hero. But if you love your life, heavy sigh at the sight of the broken
humbly restore Sita to her lord and beg for turret. He looked on it as a bad omen.
forgiveness. Then you can escape with
As soon as Angada returned, Rama Accordingly, the spies assumed the
issued orders to the army to begin the shape of Vanaras and coming to Rama's
assault on Lanka. camp and mixing with the other Vanaras
68. SITA'S JOY looked all around. But Vibhishana,
SUKA, the Rakshasa scout, went and discovering their disguise, caught hold of
reported to Ravana: "I did my job them and produced them before Rama.
according to your instructions. But my They pleaded that they were mere
efforts were fruitless. They were rough messengers sent by their king and prayed
with me and made me feel thankful to be for release.
allowed to come back. Rama, to whom it Rama said: "Show them our army. Let
was sport to slay Viradha, Kabandha, them have a good look around before they
Khara and others, has arrived with the return. Give them free and full
army of Sugriva. They have somehow opportunity to see our strength. And, Oh
come to know of the place where Sita is you Rakshasa messengers! When you go
held captive. The bears and monkeys have back to Ravana, tell him, 'The strength on
crossed the sea and are standing ready for which you relied when you carried Sita
battle before Lanka. The visible earth is away is to be put now to the test. Your
covered with this army. There is nothing fortress, your city and your army will be
to be gained by discussions and debates. destroyed, Rama's darts will pierce your
Their strife can only be quenched with our body.' Yes, convey this message to your
blood, Oh King! Consider well what king."
needs to be done, and do it." The spies heard Rama's words and
And then he added with fear, in a agreed to convey them to their master.
suppressed voice: "We may yet escape if Then, impelled perhaps by force of habit,
Sita is restored." they said: "Victory to thee!" The Vanara
Ravana was enraged. "What did you army took this to be a fine omen.
say?" he cried. "Let no one talk to me of The spies went back to Ravana and
Sita being restored. They do not know my said: "O King! We were discovered by
strength who talk like this. I can slay the Vibhishana and were in fear of death but
gods, the Vanaras, the Gandharvas and the Rama would not let them kill us and he
Yakshas. My darts can burn up Indra ordered our release. King! Our enemies
himself and Yama too. Wait and see how are determined. Rama and Lakshmana,
this wretched fellow Rama and his army Sugriva the Vanara king and Vibhishana,
will be destroyed." they are all of one mind. It is difficult for
Ravana believed what he said. He had us to prevail against an army led by such
dwelt long on his previous achievements warriors. We have seen Rama, son of
and, filled with pride, had become Dasaratha. He impressed us as being by
foolishly obstinate. himself strong enough to destroy our city
Then he sent for two of his ministers and army. We have seen the courage of
and told them: "Scouts have come and the Vanaras and their eagerness for battle.
reported that a large army has built a It is not expedient to try the fortune of war
causeway to Lanka and has come over with them. It seems best to restore Sita to
here. This is indeed strange news, but as Rama. Do consider what should be done."
yet nothing serious has happened. Go and Of course the advice was sincere and
observe the enemy and bring me a full and well meant, but Ravana could not control
detailed report of their strength." his fury. He said: "Even if the whole
world turns against me, I shall not yield to was confused. He had no use for true facts
fear. Even if all the Devas, Gandharvas or good advice.
and Vanaras join together to oppose me, I His thought followed a strange line. He
shall not return Sita. Because you were judged Rama by his own character. He
thrashed by the enemy, you give me this thought that, if Sita could be made
cowardly advice. Faint hearts! Where is somehow to yield to him, Rama would
the foe who can vanquish me?" return home disgraced and broken
Having said this, he went to his high hearted. Hence be resolved to make one
tower and himself surveyed the enemy's last attempt with a different technique.
strength. His ministers and officers were He sought the help of a Rakshasa
with him. sorcerer. "Oh, Lightning-Tongue!" he said
Those who had gone out to reconnoitre (that was his name), "prepare a head
described at length the Vanara chiefs and which looks so exactly like Rama's that it
the army behind them. They recounted the will deceive Rama's nearest and dearest
strength of that huge army of bears and into believing it is his. When I send for
monkeys gathered together from the far- you, come to the park where Sita is
flung forests, mountains and river-valleys incarcerated and place it before her."
of the world. The sorcerer agreed to do as he was
They spoke of their physical strength bidden.
and courage, their firm devotion to Rama, Then Ravana went once again to the
their unity and eagerness to slay the Asoka Park and tried to beguile Sita.
Rakshasas. All those that had gone "Your husband and his army have been
confirmed this. "Look!" one of them destroyed." be said. "My warriors crossed
said. "That majestic and graceful youth the sea and attacking Rama and his
with matted locks and bow in hand is monkeys, when they were tired and
Rama. See how he looks round him with asleep, killed them all. A warrior has
eyes of love and command and how his brought the head of your husband for me
glances seem to brighten the quarters and to see. Why do you still persist in your
to fill all with devotion and confidence. obstinacy? Join my wives now and reign
The mighty armed warrior near him is his as their chief. Take my advice and
brother Lakshmana, a peerless bowman become the queen of Lanka."
and Rama's second soul. And look! Next Then he ordered a Rakshasa to fetch
to him is Sugriva, wearing Vali's garland. Vidyut-Jihva, the sorcerer. The conjurer
He is the equal of Vali himself. There, came and placed before Sita a head that
next to him you see Vibhishana, your looked exactly like Rama's.
brother. It is not easy to vanquish such Startled by the sight, Sita cried, "So
warriors. Consider well and take all steps then, is this my fate?" and broke into
necessary for victory in such a situation." hopeless lamentation.
As the ministers extolled the strength Meanwhile, Rama's army had come
of the enemy, Ravana's rage grew more close to Lanka and the ministers and
and more furious. This is the way of a generals sent word to Ravana desiring an
tyrant. The wise king is never angry with immediate interview. Ravana, therefore,
those who bring him true information or had to leave Sita at once and go to the
with ministers who give him good advice Assembly Hall.
for his welfare. But now Ravana's mind Ravana's presence was necessary to
keep up the sorcerer's illusion. So, when
he left the place, the, apparition of Rama's off the Rakshasas," the Vanara army
head vanished like smoke. Sarama, who rushed on the doomed city. Some hurled
was a lady of the royal household posted big boulders against the fortress wall and
as a companion of Sita, consoled her on the city gates. Others armed with huge
explaining the illusion. She said: "No one trees torn up by the roots rushed on the
has killed Rama. He has reached Lanka at Rakshasas.
the head of a great army. They have built Then Ravana sent forth a big army. He
a wonderful causeway across the sea and commanded it to go out and slay at once
are all over Lanka like a submerging sea. all the Vanaras. They beat their drums and
The Rakshasas are panic-stricken. Ravana blew their trumpets till the sky resounded.
is only trying to deceive you through They fell upon the Vanaras. The Vanaras
sorcery." used boulders and trees and their own
Sarama went on to inform Sita: nails and fists to oppose the Rakshasas.
"Several ministers advised Ravana to Thousands fell dead on either side. The
restore you and save himself by field was covered with blood and mangled
unconditional submission. But he would bodies.
not listen to them. 'I may perish in battle,' Besides this gruesome engagement,
he said, 'but I will not bow, a suppliant there were many duels between individual
before Rama. I shall never return Sita and warriors. Angada encountered Indrajit like
sue for peace.' Holy lady! No harm can Rudra against Yama. There was a duel
come to you, Rama will surely triumph between the Rakshasa Prajangha and
and this wicked one will perish." Sampati, one of the companions of
Even as Sarama was speaking, the Vibhishana. Hanuman fought a duel with
noise of the drums and trumpets sounded Jambumali, Nila with Nikumbha,
by the Vanara army reached Sita's ears Lakshmana with Viroopaksha, and so on.
and filled her with joy. She knew that The chariot and horses of Indrajit were
Ravana's end was near. The Rakshasas in destroyed and Angada received a blow
Lanka heard the same noise and trembled from the mace of Indrajit. Jambumali hit
in fear. Hanuman with his weapon and Hanuman
69. SERPENT DARTS smashed his chariot to pieces. The
RAVANA as duly informed that Rakshasas concentrated their attack on
Rama's Vanara host surrounded Lanka Rama, and fell in thousands under his
like a tumultuous sea. In an angry mood arrows.
he went up the tower of his mansion and Vidyunmali aimed his darts at Sushena.
surveyed the scene. On every side he saw The latter smashed with a rock the chariot
Vanara warriors who had armed of the Rakshasa. Vidyunmali jumped out
themselves with trees and boulders. He with his mace and attacked Sushena who
wondered how he could destroy this vast crushed him to death with a rock. In this
invading force. way many warriors fought and many died.
At the same time, Rama saw the City The battle raged throughout the day.
of Lanka guarded by the Rakshasas. He And at night the Rakshasas would not stop
could see with his mind's eye the sad fighting. The battle became fierce. Blood
figure of Sita held captive within those flowed in streams. There was terrible
walls. He ordered an immediate assault. slaughter on both sides. Angada attacked
Shouting: "Victory to the Vanara king! Indrajit, slew his horses and charioteer
Victory to Rama and Lakshmana! Polish and smashed the chariot. The Vanaras
admired the skill and strength of their battlefield and the Vanara army is
prince and raised shouts of joy. destroyed. Also, to convince her finally,
All the warriors in the army praised the take her in the Pushpaka Vimana and
Vanara prince's prowess. Indrajit lost his show her the battlefield from above. Let
temper along with his chariot and resorted the obstinate one see for herself what has
to sorcery. Making himself invisible he happened. Seeing that she has now no one
aimed many darts at Rama and to look to besides myself, she will turn to
Lakshmana who were greatly harassed at me."
this attack from a foe whose whereabouts The Rakshasis did as they were told.
no one could discover and who seemed to From the Vimana Sita saw the field of
shower deadly missiles from all sides. battle. She saw Rama and Lakshmana
Then Indrajit shot serpent darts at lying motionless on the ground with their
Rama and Lakshmana. Bound by them, weapons scattered by their side. She was
they could not move and lay helpless on filled with grief. She thought that it was
the battlefield. They looked at one now all over and cried: "To this end has
another, wondering what to do. fate brought me, giving the lie to the
Lakshmana's grief at Rama's plight was predictions of saints and astrologers that I
great. As for the Vanaras they stood round would live as a happy wife and mother
in mournful bewilderment. and a glorious queen. Poor Kausalya!
Indrajit congratulated the Rakshasa Who shall console you now. Like one
army and returned to the city. Exulting in who, having, crossed the ocean, gets
his victory, he went to his father and drowned in a little pond, these warriors,
announced that the story of Rama and who had done so much, lie dead now. Oh
Lakshmana was over. Ravana was beside princes! How did your divine weapons
himself with joy. He embraced his son fail you. Alas, all-powerful is destiny!"
and praised his prowess. When Sita was thus in the desperation
The Vanara warriors wounded and of utter sorrow, Trijata, her Rakshasi
downcast, seeing Rama and Lakshmana companion, who was looking closely at
laid low, concluded that all was over. the motionless figures of the princes,
Vibhishana, who saw Sugriva standing suddenly burst out: "Dear Sita, there is no
helpless and forlorn, put courage in the cause for grief. Neither your husband nor
Vanara king. "It is foolish to lose hope," Lakshmana is dead. Look at their faces. Is
he said. "Look at Rama and Lakshmana. this how the dead look? They are bound
Their faces are still bright. They are not by a charmed weapon and are
dead. Be not afraid. Soon they will unconscious for a while. Look at the
recover from this swoon and resume orderly array of the army. Have courage.
fighting." Be not frightened." Her words fell like
The chief took heart and did everything nectar in Sita's ears. The Vimana returned
to save the army from panic. The ranks to Lanka and Sita was taken back to the
were reformed with their respective Asoka Vana.
chiefs. Meanwhile Ravana had it In time the force of the arrows charged
proclaimed in Lanka that Rama and with sorcery weakened. Rama opened his
Lakshmana had been slain by Indrajit. He eyes and sat up. Though sorely wounded,
sent for his women and said to them: "Go he recovered his strength by an exercise of
at once and inform Sita that Rama is no will power and sat up. He looked at his
more; that the two princes lie dead on the brother lying on the ground and cried out:
"Alas! What is the use of victory now for Vibhishana looked at Rama and
me? Why did I bring you, dear brother, Lakshmana. When he saw them wounded,
with me to the forest and get you killed covered with arrows all over, and unable
like this? How can I return without you to to fight, he broke down crying: "It is all
Ayodhya? You used ever to console me in over. What more is there to do?"
my sorrow. You are silent now when I Sugriva turned to Sushena, his uncle,
face the greatest sorrow. How can I and said: "Take Rama and Lakshmana to
survive you? Where in the world is a Kishkindha. I shall kill Ravana, redeem
warrior like you? One can replace Sita, and bring her there."
anything lost, but where can I find anyone Sushena answered: "There are herbs
to fill your place? Like Kartaviryarjuna which can heal the wounds of the princes
with his thousand hands, you with your and restore them to health. Some of us
two hands discharged showers of arrows know where these herbs are to be found.
and slew the Rakshasas. How could death Here is Hanuman. If you send him, he will
come to you? You came with me into the fetch the herbs."
forest, and now I shall repay my debt to As they were speaking, the sea and air
you by joining with you to the abode of were churned up by a mighty wind and
Yama. I confess defeat. The word I gave the great bird Garuda burst into view.
to Vibhishana cannot be fulfilled. Oh When Garuda arrived, the serpent darts
Vanara king! Return to Kishkindha with that covered Rama and Lakshmana
all your warriors. You have worked hard disappeared instantaneously. They were
for me. You have fulfilled all the duties of all venomous serpents which had become
friendship. You have my gratitude. But arrows through the magic of Indrajit and
there is no use in more of you dying. Go had bound the princes' bodies.
back to your city. Let me perish here." When their inveterate and dreaded
Thus did Rama lament in helpless grief. enemy Garuda appeared, they took flight.
Then Vibhishana arrived there, mace in Then Garuda gently stroked the bodies of
hand. Seeing his huge dark form, the Rama and Lakshmana and restored to
Vanaras imagined it was Indrajit again them their full strength. The wounds were
and started to fly. all healed and they rose up, stronger and
In another part of the battlefield more radiant than before.
Sugriva and Angada were discussing. And Rama asked: "Who are you, my
"Why are the Vanaras thus beginning to benefactor?" He did not know that he was
scatter in fear? What has happened?" Vishnu and Garuda was his own bird on
asked Sugriva. which he always rode.
Angada answered, "Do you not know Garuda answered, "I am your good
that Rama and Lakshmana are lying friend, and old companion. Glory is
wounded?" yours! Let me go now. When the battle is
Sugriva said: "It is not that. Look at the ended, we shall know each other better."
way they are running helter-skelter. There Saying thus Hamsa bird flew away.
must be some other reason for it." Seeing Rama and Lakshmana fully
Then he learnt that the Vanaras, who recovered and ready for battle, the
had suffered at the hands of Indrajit, Vanaras were enthusiastic once again and
mistook Vibhishana for him and were resumed attacking Ravana's fortress.
frightened. He sent Jambavan to rally the 70. RAVANA'S DEFEAT
troops by disabusing them of this fear.
RAVANA from within his palace was News of this discomfiture filled
surprised to hear, borne on the wind, the Ravana with uncontrollable fury. He
jubilant acclamations of the Vanaras, who hastily summoned Vajradamshtra and
he thought must then be mourning their said: "Oh bravest of warriors, go without
vanquished leaders and slaughtered delay and destroy these wicked fellows."
comrades. He turned to the Rakshasas Vajradamshtra bowed low before the
standing beside him and asked: "What has king and followed by a mighty army
happened to make the Vanaras so happy? sallied out of the southern gate and
Something strange must have occurred. encountered Angada.
Go and find out what it is." The Rakshasas under the leadership of
Some Rakshasas climbed up and Vajradamshtra waged grim battle and
looked over the wall. Returning, they said slew countless Vanaras. And yet the
to Ravana with fear and trembling: "King! Vanara army stood firm and would not
The Vanara army, led by Sugriva, is withdraw. Armed with boulders and trees,
attacking the fortress with spirit. Rama they killed innumerable Rakshasas. On
and Lakshmana are both alive. Like both sides the fighting was intense. In the
elephants that have broken their bonds, end, Angada and the Rakshasa chief
Rama and Lakshmana have shaken off the fought hand to hand for a long while.
naga darts with which Indrajit bound them Vajradamshtra was slain, gallantly
and have rejoined the army and are raging fighting to the last, and the Rakshasas fled
about the field like hungry lions. The darts in confusion. The Vanaras surrounded
of Indrajit have proved futile." Angada and shouted in exultation.
Ravana's face fell. He was filled with Then Ravana ordered Prahasta: "Send
anxiety and said: "I marvel at what you Akampana and let him have the most
say. No one till now has escaped these terrible Rakshasas to accompany him. Let
darts. If those weapons were powerless them go and slay Rama, Sugriva and the
against these men, we are in deed in Vanara army. None can resist Akampana's
danger." might and skill."
Then with an access of anger, he Accordingly, Prahasta sent an army of
shouted: "Listen, Dhumraksha! Why Rakshasas under the leadership of
should I worry when you are here? Get Akampana. True to his name, Akampana
together all the men you want. Go at once was firm and immovable in battle. He had
and destroy these two little men and return chosen his weapons and his warriors
quickly." carefully. As he advanced, bad omens met
Dhumraksha was indeed happy and him. But neither he nor his followers
proud to be thus singled out by the king. regarded them. The noise of their
He took a party of warriors and, issuing challenge rose above that of the ocean.
out of the fort, came into contact with the A great battle ensued. Blood flowed in
group who, under Hanuman, were streams. Dust rose and cut off the sun
attempting to enter the western gate. In plunging the earth in portentous gloom.
the battle that ensued there was great The slaughter on both sides was
slaughter on both sides. In the end enormous. Kumuda, Nala, Mainda and
Dhumraksha was slain by Hanuman. A Dwivida attacked Akampana who
few Rakshasas escaped into the fortress, defended himself with courage.
but most of them lay dead without. The battle went against the Vanara
warriors and they were about to take flight
when Hanuman arrived bringing courage my all for your sake. I shall lead this
and hope. Akampana sent forth a shower sortie, if such is your pleasure."
of arrows at him but Hanuman took no A huge army was collected and
notice and lifting a huge boulder and everything was got ready for a supreme
swinging it above his head hurled it at endeavor, including the solemnisation of
Akampana. The Rakshasa's darts special rites and sacrifices.
intercepted the stone and reduced it to Then Prahasta marched out to the
powder. beating of drums. Evil omens presented
Then Hanuman grew in size and shone themselves. But he disregarded them.
with blinding brightness like the sun and Seeing the great army led by Prahasta
uprooting a big tree attacked the Rakshasa issuing out of the eastern gate of the
with it and slew him. The Rakshasa army fortress, the Vanaras roared with joy and
was smashed like a forest in an earthquake prepared for battle.
and the survivors fled in panic from the Like moths rushing at a flame, the
fatal field that was strewn thick with the Rakshasas fell on the Vanara army.
dead, and spread the dismal news in "Look," said Rama, "there comes out a
Lanka. The Vanaras surrounded Hanuman Rakshasa at the head of an enormous
and uproariously expressed their army. Who is he?"
admiration. Vibhishana replied: "It is Prahasta, the
Ravana's spirits fell when he received commander-in-chief of Ravana. A third of
the news of Akampana's death but he the imperial army is his to command."
found strength in anger and desperation Then ensued a grim battle between the
and began thinking of new plans. He went Vanaras armed with boulders and trees
round the defences of the city again and and the Rakshasa equipped with swords,
took counsel with Prahasta, the spears, bows and axes. Exchanging
commander-in chief. showers of stones for arrows and
"We must break this Vanara siege. We grappling in death grips at close quarters,
should issue at the head of the whole army both sides fought fiercely, deluging the
and slay the Vanara chiefs. Myself, field with blood.
Kumbhakarna, yourself, Indrajit or Prahasta's followers, Narantaka,
Nikumbha, one of us five should take up Mahanada, Kumbhahanu and others were
the responsibility of leading the army out opposed by Dwivida, Durmukha and
of the fortress. Are we to be afraid of Jambavan and stain. There was a
monkeys? Why! They used to flee in prolonged battle between Prahasta and
terror on merely hearing the roar of a Nila. At last Prahasta, armed with a
Rakshasa. They do not know the science massive mace of iron rushed towards Nila.
of war. They are unskilled brutes. How Nila, for his part, uprooted a big boulder
have they managed to stand all our and with it smashed Prahasta's head
attacks?" killing him on the spot.
Prahasta answered humbly: "Things The Rakshasa warriors fled in all
have happened as we foresaw. We directions. After this great victory, Nila
respectfully submitted long ago that it went to Rama, and Lakshmana and,
would be best to restore Sita and make bowing low, told them what happened.
peace. But I am bound to obey you. I am Rama and Lakshmana praised his prowess
prepared to sacrifice my life, my family, and congratulated him.
Some of those who fled from the battle chariot. Deprived of every weapon, he
carried to the Rakshasa King the news that stood before Rama.
Nila, son of Agni, had slain Prahasta. "You may go now," said Rama. "You
Ravana was beside himself with rage and have fought well today. Go away and rest
grief. "My warrior chief," he said, "who and come back tomorrow, refreshed and
could vanquish Indra and his host of gods, with weapons." And Ravana retreated
has been killed by these Vanaras. We shamefacedly to the city.
cannot treat this lightly. We must destroy 71. THE GIANT IS ROUSED
Rama and the monkey host." So saying, WHEN Ravana returned humbled and
Ravana got into his chariot and went dejected, the gods rejoiced foreseeing the
forward like Rudra, the destroyer. Seated speedy end of their troubles. Ravana
in his radiant chariot and issuing from the entered the fortress, ashamed and anxious.
city, Ravana beheld the Vanara army and After deliberating a while, he recovered
heard their uproar which resounded like his courage and ordered his sleeping
the ocean. brother Kumbhakarna to be roused.
Seeing a new Rakshasa army issuing As the result of a curse, Kumbhakarna
out, the Vanaras stood ready to receive used to sleep for months together and he
them with stones and trees in hand. had gone to sleep just a few days before
Vibhishana pointed out the Rakshasa the events last narrated. Ravana asked his
warriors one by one to Rama. "There ministers to spare no efforts to rouse
seated in the chariot and shining like the Kumbhakarna at once and get him ready
rising sun, is Indrajit." And so he went on for battle.
from one renowned warrior to another till "All my penances have proved futile. It
he came to Ravana. "There, in the big looks as though the prophecy of the rishis
chariot, radiant like the sun, sits the ten- will be fulfilled," thus said Ravana to
headed Ravana." himself, but rooted in his determination to
Rama beheld the majestic and glowing fight to the last he issued orders as if he
form with interest and pity. "A great were certain of ultimate success: "Let the
warrior no doubt," he said, "but he is so warriors guard the fortress on all sides.
wicked that he has to be slain." My brother is sound asleep. He sleeps
Ravana attacked innumerable Vanaras blissfully, unaware of my anxiety. He will
and laid them low. Nila opposed Ravana not wake up for months together if left
gallantly but was felled by a fire-dart. alone. It is only nine days since he started
Hanuman attacked Ravana with violence sleeping. Rouse him at once. If he wakes
and the two fought an equal battle for a up and goes to the battle, the enemy will
while but Ravana could not be subdued be surely scattered. Who can stand before
and wrought great havoc in the Vanara my Kumbhakarna? If he wakes up and
host. opposes my enemies in battle, I need have
There was a fight between Lakshmana no fear."
and Ravana. Lakshmana fell down Ravana's officers and their servants
unconscious but Hanuman intervened and accordingly went to Kumbhakarna's
carried Lakshmana away to Rama. palace. They knew that as soon as he
Then Rama, riding on Hanuman's opened his eyes, he would be rapaciously
shoulders, gave battle to Ravana. The hungry. So they first prepared and piled
Rakshasa king was sorely wounded. His up mountains of food for him. Then they
olden crown was broken. So was his
made a great din beating drums and Kumbhakarna that he should first see the
blowing conches. King and take counsel with him as to what
Many Rakshasas exhausted themselves should be done.
pushing and shaking the huge body of the Kumbhakarna agreed, washed his face
Rakshasa. The noise that they made with and then strode in sombre majesty to the
their shouts and drums and trumpets filled hall of the king of Lanka.
the sky and frightened all the birds and The Rakshasas standing on the royal
beasts of Lanka, but Kumbhakarna in his highway felt new courage and joy as they
sleep heard nothing. The Rakshasas saw him pass and bowed low before him
worked hard at rousing him. They made and showered flowers on him. He entered
elephants walk on his body. They took the palace and stood in the presence of
cudgels and belabored him. Ravana. Rejoicing at the arrival of his
At last his eyelids opened slightly and peerless brother, Ravana stepped down
as one might brush away a mosquito while from his throne and embraced him.
still asleep he pushed them all aside and "What can I do for you, brother?"
yawned. Kumbhakarna was thus asked Kumbhakarna. "Why did you get
disturbed in his sleep which otherwise my sleep broken? What makes you afraid?
would have been months long. Tell me who is tired of life and wants to
But before be could find out the cause be turned into a corpse!"
for this, he began to eat and drink. The "Brother! You do not know what has
heaps of meat and the pots of blood and happened," said Ravana. "You were lost
wine kept ready for him were finished. in sleep. The man Rama has become a real
When his hunger was somewhat mitigated menace to me. He has built a dam across
the Rakshasas approached him to acquaint the sea we considered inviolate and now
him with the situation. the Vanara army surrounds Lanka like
Ravana's minister Yupaksha said: "My another sea. Our warriors who sortied out
Lord, we have been defeated in battle and and met them have been defeated and
stand in grave danger. You will remember almost annihilated. It is for you now to
the quarrel about Sita. The Vanaras with save us from destruction and I know you
Rama and Lakshmana have arrived and can do it. You have put the gods to rout. I
are breaking through the fort. They have know your love for me. I know your
slaughtered and defeated our army which keenness and your courage in battle. Go at
never knew defeat before. Lanka is once and annihilate these enemies and
surrounded by the Vanara host as by an help us in our need and save Lanka."
ocean. Ravana himself went to battle but Kumbhakarna, when he heard Ravana's
he retired from the field having had the words of anxiety, was moved at first to
worst of it. It was our good luck that he fury against the enemy but soon he
escaped with life." remembered the whole story and Ravana's
Hearing this, Kumbhakarna was beside vainglorious confidence in his
himself with rage. "This very instant I invincibility and that made him smile a
shall go and destroy this enemy. I shall little bitterly.
kill the Vanaras and drink the blood of He said: "Excuse me, my brother. The
Rama and Lakshmana. After finishing this warning we gave you when you consulted
first, I shall go and wait on the king." us went unheeded. Our fears have come
The ministers were delighted to hear true. You rejected the good advice we
this furious speech but pleaded with gave you. Now, you suffer the
consequences of your error and your sin. you, if he does, over my dead body and
You brought away Sita. What else can that is not possible, for no one can
happen when, driven by lust, one acts vanquish or slay me."
without thinking. If you so desired, and Kumbhakarna's pride swelled. "No
you had the confidence and strength, it matter who the enemy is," be cried, "I
would have been wise first to have slain shall destroy him. Be he Yama or Surya or
Rama and Lakshmana and then seized her. Agni, I shall eat them all up." In this
You have done things without due thought mood he rushed out to the field of battle.
and in the wrong order. When one acts The sudden waking from deep slumber
without seeking or regarding the advice of had completely upset his temper, but
wise and faithful friends and kinsmen, it is when his consuming hunger and thirst had
no wonder if he runs into danger and ruin. been appeased, he had recovered his
Did you not know that these things must balance and spoke wisdom to Ravana.
follow? Should not a king understand who Again seeing Ravana's plight, fraternal
gives him good advice and who bad?" affection and pity made him forget
Ravana did not like all this lecturing. everything else.
He had no use now for lessons in ethics or Ravana was pleased. "O my true
politics. His face flushed with anger but warrior! O my brother! What a friend in
he controlled himself and said: "Brother! need I have in Kumbhakarna!" he
The time is now past for such talk. What I exclaimed, confident that Kumbhakarna
need now is not your criticism but your would return triumphant and he now felt
prowess. What is done has been done and like one recovering from a mortal
it is useless discussing whether it was just sickness.
or unjust, wise or unwise. The question Kumbhakarna armed with his great
now is what we should do in our present spear was about to go to battle alone, but
predicament. It is your duty now to use Ravana stopped him and sent an army to
your strength and skill and ward off the aid him. He covered his brother's big body
present disasters resulting from past with jewels and garments and blessed him
errors. He is a true friend and a true saving: "Go, my hero! Destroy the
kinsman who helps one out of the trouble enemies and return victorious."
that has been brought on oneself, maybe Tall and mighty-limbed Kumbhakarna,
because of folly. If indeed you care for covered with shining jewels, was radiant
me, the time is now to show it by helping like Trivikrama himself. He
me instead of commenting on my conduct. circumambulated his brother, bowed and
I depend on your strength and prowess. marched out spear in hand at the head of a
Out of your infinite courage, give me great army, amidst the plaudits of the
comfort." Rakshasas, and under a shower of flowers
Kumbhakarna was moved by this and good wishes.
appeal. "Have no more care," he said. "I As the huge form of Kumbhakarna, a
am your brother and can never forsake giant even among the Rakshasas, was seen
you. Rest assured that Rama and stepping across the fortress-wall like
Lakshmana are dead. I shall scatter and Yama at the end of Time or some great
slay their monkey army. I shall fling at natural cataclysm, the Vanaras were
your feet the head of Rama and you shall frightened and started fleeing in all
see the Vanara King's blood flowing on directions. With great difficulty their
the battlefield. Rama can only approach
chiefs rallied them and put them in battle Rakshasa who was carrying him. Worried
formation. thus Kumbhakarna threw him down
72. IS THIS NARAYANA intending to crush him with his feet. But
HIMSELF? when he was once on the ground, Sugriva
RALLIED by Angada, the Vanaras jumped and flew off across the sky and
recovered courage, reformed in battle arrived at the place where Rama was.
order and prepared to receive Hanuman was sure that Sugriva would
Kumbhakarna. They hurled rocks at him somehow come back. Foreseeing this
and dealt heavy blows with trees plucked escape of Sugriva, Hanuman had rallied
by the roots. But he disregarded them all the Vanara ranks and prepared them again
and with a smile on his face went on for battle.
dispatching the Vanaras with a methodic Grim and gruesome with torn nose and
cruelty that was most terrifying. Some of ears, Kumbhakarna, like a great blood-red
them retreated to the newly built dam, evening cloud, and raging like Death at
while others tried to save themselves by the end of Time, returned to the battlefield
concealing on the shore of the sea and the with a huge iron mace in his hand.
forests. None could now stop Kumbhakarna.
Once again Angada had to encourage He began to kill and devour the Vanaras.
the Vanara chiefs and warriors and get The whole army began to disappear in this
them to reform and attack Kumbhakarna. way. They tried to deter him by climbing
Dwivida, Hanuman, Nila, Vrishabha, on his mountain-like body and tearing at it
Sarabha and other chiefs attacked with nails and teeth but without effect for
Kumbhakarna fiercely. But he disregarded he shook them off as if they were flies.
them all and continued his ruthless None of the Vanara chiefs could hold him.
slaughter of the Vanaras. Angada himself Lakshmana tried with his arrows to
received a blow, as a result of which he obstruct his progress but the Rakshasa
fainted and fell on the earth. Sugriva was passed him by and rushed forward to face
struck down. Picking up the unconscious Rama himself.
Vanara King, Kumbhakarna carried him For a long time Rama kept aiming
with joy towards Lanka. The Rakshasa powerful darts at the Rakshasa. The arrow
army rejoiced greatly and raised a that pierced the seven sal trees and the
triumphant uproar. Kumbhakarna wished adamantine body of Vali was powerless
to make a present of the captive Vanara against Kumbhakarna.
King to his brother Ravana. Sending sharper and stronger arrows,
As Kumbhakarna went through the Rama wounded the arms and the feet of
royal highway carrying in triumph the the Rakshasa, but nothing short of death
unconscious Vanara king, the Rakshasas would stop him. His legs were cut off, but
and their women-folk, standing on the legless he moved about on his stumps and
terraces, showered flowers and poured went on with demoniac ferocity, fighting
sandal paste. This incidentally revived his brother's battle.
Sugriva. He opened his eyes and At last, Rama cut off his head with an
wondered where he was and what had arrow.
happened. He soon understood The severed head, carried by the force
everything. of Rama's arrow, rose into the sky and red
He then began to bite with his teeth and with blood fell in Lanka like a hill with its
tear with his nails the ears and nose of the
forests aflame. The news was carried to wrought havoc among the Vanaras and
Ravana. was proceeding towards Sugriva. Angada
"Your brother Kumbhakarna, terrible opposed him and killed him and his horse.
like all-destroying Death at the end of Likewise, Devantaka and Trisiras were
Time, has entered the heaven of slain by Hanuman, and Mahodara by Nila.
slaughtered heroes! He killed thousands of Atikaya fell a prey to Lakshmana's
Vanaras and for a long time kept the army arrows. But before they died, these four
of Rama and Lakshmana in fear of had fought like four Yamas and caused
destruction. But at last he was, slain by enormous loss to the Vanara forces.
Rama himself, and deprived of arms and When Ravana heard that Atikaya was
legs his mutilated body lies like a mighty dead, he was be wildered.
tree disfigured by a forest fire. A part has "This is incredible! These my warriors,
fallen into the sea. Another big part blocks firm and mighty like mountains and
the entrance to the fortress. The severed irresistible like the ocean, have been slain
head, flying across the sky, has dropped in one by one by these enemies. Those, who
the city and is lying there. Your beloved till now have never known defeat, have
brother is gone to Heaven!" been defeated and lie dead in the
When the Rakshasas told this tale, battlefield. There stand my foes who have
Ravana felt that his own life had left him. broken out of the serpent entanglements
He swooned. After recovering with which my peerless son Indrajit had
consciousness, he cried in grief and anger: bound them. I cannot explain the marvel
"Ah mighty warrior! How could you go to of this man Rama's strength. May it be
Yama's world leaving me behind? My that he is Narayana himself?"
right hand is cut off! How did Rama kill Thus bewildered, Ravana lost heart. He
you, you whom in the whole world no wanted that the enemy forces should not
enemy dared approach? I see the gods enter the fortress and in particular should
rejoicing in their heavens at your fall. The not enter the Asoka Vana. He supervised
Vanara are dancing with delight. Of what the defences again and returned to the
use is this kingdom to me? Why should I palace, downcast and forlorn.
cling to life when my dear brother has left 73. THE DEATH OF INDRAJIT
me? Yes, I have to torture and slay the INDRAJIT comforted his father. "Why
man who killed this dear brother of mine!" should you worry when I am here alive?"
Then with sudden and futile remorse he he said and gathered an army, and with it
wailed: "Alas! Why did I refuse to listen made another sortie.
to Vibhishana?" He swooped down on the Vanara
Trisiras and his other sons tried to forces and killed and wounded thousands
console Ravana. of them. They were helpless against his
"What is the use of lamentation" they fury. The Brahmastra of Indrajit was
argued. "You who have secured from effective against even Rama and
Brahma strength and armor, why should Lakshmana who were tied up by it. They
you fear or lose yourself in grief?" And lay unconscious on the ground and the
Trisiras himself set out for the battlefield. Rakshasa prince went straight to his
Many others eagerly followed him, riding anxious father with the glad news of this
on elephants and chariots. achievement.
A great battle ensued. Narantaka,
riding on horseback spear in hand,
Vibhishana rallied the Vanara leaders Seeing Lanka being burnt down by the
who had scattered in all directions and put Vanaras, Ravana was furious and sent to
hope and courage into them. the battlefield Kumbha and Nikumbha,
Jambavan, who was more dead than the sons of Kumbhakarna, together with
alive, moved slowly among the Vanaras, Yupaksha and other Rakshasa warriors.
inquiring: "Is Hanuman alive?" After another terrible battle, Kumbha
"Yes, I am here," said Hanuman, and was slain by Sugriva and Nikumbha by
bowed low before Jambavan. Hanuman. Makaraksha, son of Khara,
"My son," said the old Vanara, who opposed Rama, fell to his fiery
"proceed northwards at once across the arrows. Many more mighty Rakshasas
sea to the Himalaya range. Between the perished. Then, at the bidding of Ravana,
Rishabha and Kailasa peaks, there is the Indrajit went once again to the battle.
Hill of Herbs. In that hilltop are four He rose into the sky and became in
medicinal plants. If you bring them here visible. Thus he fought again unseen by
quickly, Rama and Lakshmana and the the Vanaras. Indrajit, by his necromancy,
Vanara army will recover consciousness. created a maya-Sita and, putting her in a
Their wounds will be healed and they will chariot, took her before the Vanara army
fight again. Do this without loss of time. and seemingly killed her in their presence.
Only you can do this." Deceived and horrified by this, the
Accordingly, Hanuman sprang up into Vanaras asked themselves: "What good is
the air and moved fast. He reached the hill it now to continue this war?" They left the
described by the venerable Jambavan and field and went to Rama with the heart-
as he could not identify the plants, he rending news.
carried the whole hill and returned with it As a result of this trick, Indrajit gained
to Lanka. time to perform an asuric sacrifice. Rama
Even with the approach of the Sanjivi and Lakshmana, like the Vanara warriors,
hill, Rama and Lakshmana and the believed that Sita was dead and were lost
Vanaras felt the darts slip off their bodies. in grief. They were completely bewildered
Their wounds healed and they became and helpless when Vibhishana came and
strong and stood up. inquired what had happened.
The battle was resumed. Taking He listened to their story. Then he said:
counsel with Rama, Sugriva now chose a "You have been deceived. Never
few Vanaras and ordered them to enter would Ravana allow Sita to be killed. This
Lanka and set fire to the city. is only a trick of sorcery. Indrajit tries to
Towards midnight they entered the city defeat you through magic. Having given
with torches. They attacked and up all hope of achieving success by
overpowered the sentry and set fire to the normal means, he has gone to perform an
palaces and turrets of Lanka. Houses in asuric sacrifice of great power. If he
their thousands were reduced to ashes. completes it, we cannot vanquish him. We
The proud city was reduced to a mass of should therefore go and obstruct the
ruin. sacrifice. Let Lakshmana go at once and
Valmiki describes this incident in mar Indrajit's purpose."
detail. It reads very much like the Accepting this advice, Rama sent
destruction of cities in modern battles Lakshmana who was ac companied by
with which we are now familiar. Hanuman and other Vanaras, besides
Vibhishana. They went to the spot where
Indrajit was about to offer oblations to heaven of heroes? But I should not
evil spirits. The sacrifice was interrupted grieve," he said.
and a long and fierce battle ensued. But the father's heart would not thus be
Ascending his chariot, the son of Ravana denied, and again he cried: "What! Is
sent forth his arrows. Indrajit gone? The world is now empty for
Standing on Hanuman, Lakshmana did me. Oh son, you have left your mother
the same. As they were well matched in Mandodari and your dear wife and myself
strength and skill, the battle lasted long. heart-broken and disconsolate. Nothing
The chariot of Indrajit was destroyed in remains to us now but revenge and
the course of the combat and both the despair. It is best to kill Sita, the cause of
heroes stood on the ground and continued all this tragedy. My son killed the maya-
the battle. Sita. Now I shall kill the real Sita her
At last, Lakshmana used the Indra-astra self." So saying he rushed out, sword in
spell and uttering the name of Rama hand, intending to do it. Some fierce
discharged the fatal arrow. The head of Rakshasas, seeing Ravana issuing out in
Indrajit was severed and fell to the ground anger, applauded him with joy; but the
and as it fell, it shone like fire. The Devas minister Suparsva was horrified and
and Gandharvas showered flowers from appealed to Ravana's better sense and
the heavens. what was due to himself as a man and a
Lakshmana then went to Rama. He was king.
wounded all over and bleeding. He "King!" he cried, "how dare you think
walked slowly, supported by Jambavan such a thought? How can you do it? Oh,
and Hanuman. Rama had already heard Lord of ten heads! Brother of Kubera! Are
the news of the death of Indrajit. you thinking to kill a woman? Are you
"Lakshmana!" he cried, "this is the end going to incur this shame and sin? Can
of the Rakshasa race. You have achieved you thus be tempted by anger? You have
it." mastered the Vedas and all the sciences.
Lakshmana modestly stood back but You have performed many penances.
Rama seated him on his lap, kissed his How can you end up with such a thing as
head and gave vent to his joy. this? Who is equal to you? Let us direct
"You have performed a mighty deed, our anger against Rama. It will be new
impossible for anyone else. You have moon tomorrow. Gather all your armies,
deprived Ravana of his right hand. Who in issue out of Lanka, slay Rama and
the world can equal you or Vibhishana or Lakshmana and achieve victory. Then
Hanuman? I have no more care. You have take Sita. Put on the armor you have
vanquished the conqueror of Indra. I feel I secured from Brahma. Ascend your
have already recovered Sita." chariot and go to battle."
The news reached Ravana that Indrajit Ravana felt that Suparsva was right and
had been slain by Lakshmana. When he his words were good. Seated on his
heard that Vibhishana helped Lakshmana throne, he was silent for a while, lost in
in slaying Indrajit, his grief and anger profound meditation. Then he addressed
swelled and the tears he shed burnt where the commanders with folded hands,
they fell. And from his mouth issued fire. saying:
"Alas, my son! O peerless warrior! O "Go now with all your strength and
hero! Vanquisher of the great Indra! Has slay Rama. If even you fail, I shall go
Death won after all? Have you entered the myself and destroy him."
Never before had he been so courteous had been the result of overweening
and humble when dealing with his confidence in his invincibility and
officers. Adversity had taught him this contempt for the enemy, most of whom
lesson. Mounted on chariots that shone fought with no better weapons than sticks
like the hills on the evening horizon and and stones. But repeated reverses had
on the back of great elephants and brought him no wisdom.
beautiful horses, Ravana's army went in He had not even disputed the passage
full force for the great battle. of the sea but allowed the enemy a
The Vanaras tore up rocks and trees lodgment in his island. But negligent and
and attacked the Rakshasas fiercely. The reckless as a general, he was brave and
Rakshasas returned the attack with equally finally resolving to fight himself and with
grim ferocity. his sole strength to destroy the foe, he set
The Vanaras jumped about everywhere out. He had full faith in his prowess and in
and worked havoc among the Rakshasas, the efficacy of the boons he had secured
their chariots and animals. Each of the and he went forth with confidence
Rakshasas was surrounded by many mounted on his divine chariot that was
Vanaras and slain. drawn by eight horses and filled with all
The Rakshasas too did not spare the manner of weapons accompanied by a
Vanaras whom they killed in tens of division of Rakshasa chariot-warriors.
thousands. As Ravana issued out of Lanka, the sun
Rama bent his bow and sent showers of seemed obscured by an unpredicted
arrows against the Rakshasas who eclipse, and foul birds and beasts of the
destroyed their army like a raging fire. night roared at large with weird ill-
Warriors only saw their companions fall. omened cries; but disregarding it all,
They could not see Rama because of the Ravana drove out to battle accompanied
shower of arrows. Their fear conjured up by Virupaksha, Mahodara and
a multitude of Ramas, who dealt death in Mahaparsva.
all directions. The mighty Rakshasa warriors who
Countless elephants and horses followed Ravana were mowed down by a
perished. Thousands of chariots were deadly flight of arrows and chunks of
broken. The Rakshasa army was rocks and presently Ravana found himself
destroyed, all but a handful who fled into facing Lakshmana, who tried to oppose
Lanka. his further progress. Forcing his way past
The Devas, Gandharvas and Siddhas Lakshmana, Ravana precipitated himself
sang the praise of Rama from above. In against Rama with all the pent-up fury of
Lanka, the Rakshasa women clung to each hatred and revenge and strove to
other and lamented loudly that Ravana's overwhelm him with a spate of arrows.
folly should have brought this great Rama easily baffled these arrows with
calamity on them. his own and struck Ravana repeatedly,
74. END OF RAVANA without however being able to penetrate
THERE was wailing in every house in his armor. Thus they fought, these
Lanka. In Ravana's breast grief, shame supreme bowmen, each bent on slaying
and anger seethed like a raging sea. He the other and using increasingly potent
had so far sent his commanders and men missiles of secret power, while the gods in
in detachments, and, brave as they were, heaven looked on with marvel and
they had been destroyed in detail. This admiration. Neither hero had met such an
opponent before and on both sides battlefield and insisted on being taken
admiration was mingled with wrath. back to face Rama. The grim battle began
Rama pierced with his darts every limb again. Every astra was met by another. In
of Ravana. And yet he did not fall. new and wonderful ways, the two chariots
Then Lakshmana and Vibhishana moved and the two warriors fought for a
together attacked Ravana. Furious with long time, while both armies watched the
his brother and determined to kill him, spectacle with breathless admiration and
Ravana flung at him a powerful weapon. anxiety.
But intercepted by a dart of Lakshmana it Matali, the charioteer, whispered into
broke into two and fell on the ground like Rama's ear: "The Rakshasa's end is
a burning brand. Once again, Ravana approaching. Delay no further. May I
aimed another mighty sakti against remind you of Brahma-astra?"
Vibhishana. This too Lakshmana Rama uttered the spell and sent the
intercepted. Then Ravana hurled a sakti at Brahma-astra. Though the Rakshasa's ten
Lakshmana crying: "Now you are dead!" heads had often been cut off before, they
Under its impact Lakshmana fell down had grown again and baffled Rama. The
unconscious on the ground. Brahma-astra, emitting flames, went
Not observing this, Rama went on towards Ravana and pierced his chest,
keeping up his pressure against Ravana. where was enshrined the secret of his
While the battle raged between the two, invincibility, and shattered it.
the Vanara leaders took counsel and sent Then the bow slipped from the
Hanuman once again to the Hill of Herbs Rakshasa's hand and he fell down from
to save the life of Lakshmana. the chariot and lay stretched on the
For the second time, Hanuman flew battlefield.
northwards and, not wasting time The gods blew their trumpets. Rama
searching for the plants, returned with the and his chariot were covered by a heap of
whole mountain. Lakshmana got well flowers showered from the heavens.
again and resumed his part in the battle. Lakshmana, Vibhishana, Jambavan and
Meanwhile, Matali brought his master other warriors surrounded Rama, lost in
Indra's chariot to the battlefield for the use joy and adoration.
of Rama. When the first flush of triumph was
"Indra, king of gods, has sent this for over and Vibhishana looked at his
your use," said Matali. "Be pleased to brother's body, the natural call of blood
ascend this chariot and destroy Ravana, and memories of boyhood days when
the enemy of the gods!" Ravana and he had loved and played quite
Rama bowed to the gods, overwhelmed him and he burst into
circumambulated the divine chariot and lamentations over his lost brother.
ascended it. Then followed a wonderful "O warrior!" he cried. "O brother of
battle. heroic deeds! O scholar learned in all
Sorely wounded, Ravana fell Shastras! O valiant and famous King of
unconscious and, noting this, his kings! Your great arms are, now
charioteer quietly took him out of the sprawling helpless on the ground! Self-
battlefield. willed and self-deceived, surrounded by
When, a little later, Ravana recovered bad advisers, you would not heed my
consciousness, he was highly wroth, with warning! The worst I feared has happened
his charioteer for taking him out of the now! You reaped what you sowed and
you lie on the bare ground, O once mighty to your death! Was it not a heinous sin to
ruler of the Rakshasas!" carry her off when she was alone? Death
To Vibhishana thus lamenting, Rama in the form of Sita drew you to your end!
spoke: Sita and Rama are now reunited and
"Ravana fought like a true warrior and happy after their brief separation. But me
fell fighting like a hero! Death has washed and all our race you have thrust for very
his sins. It calls for no mourning. Ravana into the depths of sorrow. Alas, my
has entered Heaven." husband, my lover. You lie dead. Yet how
Rama cleared all confusion from beautiful you look with your body pierced
Vibhishana's mind and bade him do the by Rama's darts, covered with blood and
funeral rites for his departed brother. dust of battle! What should I do now? I
Said Rama: "It is for you now, his had a lord who was the Lord of Lanka! I
brother, to do the rites. Death ends all had a son who had vanquished Indra.
enmity. I, his former foe, even I can They have left me and I am a mere
rightly perform his obsequies. Your helpless widow without friends or home!"
brother is my brother too, is he not?" Lamenting thus, Mandodari fell on
The women of Ravana's palace came to Ravana's body and lay unconscious.
the field to mourn. They led the Queen 75. THE END
Mandodari, who looked like the goddess VIBHISHANA was crowned King of
of grief incarnate. The crowned queen and Lanka in a magnificent ceremony. The
beloved wife of Ravana was in utter new Lord of Lanka came out to the
desolation. Vanara camp and bowed low before
"Indra, King of gods, dared not face Rama.
your anger," she cried. "The Rishis and Then Rama said to Hanuman: "With
the Gandharvas at the very sight of you the King's permission, enter Lanka and
fled in fear in all directions. And now a tell Sita what has happened." Hanuman
mere man, a wanderer in the forest, has accordingly took permission from
brought you down! I do not understand Vibhishana and went to Asoka Vana to
how this could have happened. Truly, Fate convey the news to Sita.
is all-powerful! But lord, my lord, I Sita's joy was beyond words. She was
warned you long ago. Did I not tell you silent.
that this Rama is no mere human being, "Why, mother," asked Hanuman, "why
but someone greater than Indra or Agni or do you not speak?"
Yama, whom you could not vanquish? "What is there to say, my son?" she
This Rama is no other than Vishnu answered. "How can I repay my debt to
Himself in human form, God without you? Your wisdom, your valor, your
beginning, middle or end. Even when we prowess, your patience, your humility are
heard that he stood on the ground riding all your own. None in the world can equal
no car and slew your brother Khara in you." As she said this, her eyes filled with
Janasthana, did I not say this? When tears of gratitude and affection.
Hanuman penetrated Lank the Hanuman looked at the Rakshasi
impenetrable fortress, and laid it waste, I women who had guarded Sita and turning
knew the truth. I begged you not to incur to Sita said: "I wish to slay these cruel
their enmity but you would not listen. women who troubled you. Do give me
Why did you cast lustful eyes on chaste leave!"
Sita? This was the madness that drove you
"No, my son," she answered. "Who in Vanara leaders trying to push them aside
the world is blameless? It is the part of and make way for the palanquin.
noble souls to be compassionate towards "Let no one be kept away," said Rama.
all sinners as well as good people." "These dear Vanaras have stood and
These words of Sita are treasured like suffered for me. Sita will be pleased to see
nectar by generations of pious men. The me surrounded by such friends. Let no
worst of sinners, clinging to the golden one be pushed away."
feet of the Mother, can gain forgiveness. Rama's face showed a strange
"These Rakshasis," she continued "but transformation of mind. None of those
carried out their master's orders. How are around him, not even Lakshmana could
they to blame? Their king is dead and has understand.
paid for his crime. It is unjust to punish Alighting from the palanquin, Sita,
these Rakshasis now." with downcast eyes, proceeded towards
All that Hanuman could find to say in Rama. "Aryaputra," she said and sobbed,
reverent admiration was that what she said unable to speak more.
was only what was worthy of Rama's Aryaputra in Sanskrit means beloved
wife. and noble one and is an intimate form of
"What message am I to carry to address of wife to husband.
Rama?" he asked. "I have slain the enemy," said Rama. I
"I am eager to be in his presence," she have recovered you. I have done my duty
answered. "That is all." as a Kshatriya. My vow is now fulfilled."
Hanuman returned to Rama and gave Incomprehensible and wholly
an account of his visit. For some reason unexpected were these words that he
Rama's face now darkened and with lack- uttered. His face darkened for some
lustre eyes he fell into a frown study. A reason. Then he spoke even harsher
little later he turned to Vibhishana and words.
said: "It was not for mere attachment to you
"Ask Sita to bathe and bedeck herself that I waged this grim battle but in the
and bring her here." discharge of duty as a Kshatriya. It gives
When the message reached Sita in the me no joy now to get you back, for
Asoka Vana, she said: "I would rather go doubtfulness envelopes you like a dark
as I am." cloud of smoke."
"Not so, my lady," said Vibhishana, "What do you wish to do now?" he
"the prince's orders should be obeyed." continued. "You must live alone, for we
So, after a bath and bedecked with cannot live together. You can stay under
jewels and seated in a palanquin, Sita the protection of any of our kinsmen or
went to the camp. friends. How can a Kshatriya take back a
When he heard that Sita was coming, wife who has lived so long in a stranger's
Rama woke up from his meditation. house?"
Events of the past rose like waves and Sita looked at Rama. Her eyes flashed
battering against his mind threw it into a fire.
wild commotion of shame, grief and joy. "Unworthy words have you spoken!"
As Sita's palanquin was taken through she said. "My ears have heard them and
the great concourse of Vanaras, they my heart is broken. The uncultured may
thronged round the princess and caused speak such words but not one nobly born
confusion. It was made worse by the and brought up like you. Your anger, it
seems, has destroyed your understanding. with a strange weakness and broke the
My lord does not remember the family rule of well-brought-up men." So saying
from which I come. Janaka, the great seer, he drew her to his side.
was my father and he brought me up. Is it Then Dasaratha descended from above
my fault that the wicked Rakshasa seized and, placing the prince on his lap blessed
me by force and imprisoned me? But him.
since this is how you look at it, there is "My child!" he said to Sita. "Forgive
but one course open to me." my son. Forgive him for the wrong he did
Then turning to Lakshmana, "Fetch the you to preserve the dharma of the world.
faggots, Lakshmana, and kindle a fire," God bless you!"
she said. Indra gave his boon, and the Vanaras
Lakshmana, who had been watching who died in battle for Rama regained their
Rama's behavior in dismay and lives.
indignation turned to look at Rama's face Rama and Sita, now reunited, ascended
seeking his orders, but Rama did not say the Pushpaka which carried them swiftly
'No' to Sita's request nor show any sign of in the air with their friends, the Vanara
softening. Obeying Sita, Lakshmana warriors and Vibhishana, to Ayodhya.
kindled a big fire and the princess, with As they travelled in the sky, he said:
eyes fixed on the ground, "Look there! That is the causeway built by
circumambulated her lord and exclaimed: Nala." Again, "Look there, that is
"Ye Gods, I bow before you. Oh rishis, Kishkindha," he said, "where I met and
I bow to you. Oh Agni, you at least know made friends with Hanuman and Sugriva."
my purity and will take me as your own!" And Rama pointed out to Sita the spots
With these words she jumped into the where he and Lakshmana had wandered
flames. And wonder of wonders! The disconsolate and related to her all his
lambent flames were crowded with unforgettable experiences.
celestial figures, for all the gods came and Alighting at Bharadwaja's ashrama,
assembled there. Brahma spoke: they sent word in advance to Guha and
"Narayana! Mighty God that took human Bharata.
form to slay Ravana! Is not this your own The city of Ayodhya swam in a sea of
Lakshmi?" joy. Rama and Bharata met. Planning for
Agni, God of fire, rose in his own body Bharata's sake, ambitious Kaikeyi and her
out of the flames and lifting Sita in his hunchback maid had contrived and
arms with all her clothes and jewels concocted plots. But now, as Bharata
untouched and intact, presented her to bowed at the feet of Rama, a joy deeper
Rama. than what they had planned for him was
Rama said to Brahma: "Who am I? All his. What kingly crown could equal the
that I know and can tell is that I am Rama, joy one found at Rama's feet? What
son of Dasaratha. You know who I am sovereignty could bring one the glory that
and whence I came and more. It is you was now Bharata's forever?
who must inform me." Saying this to The Vaishnava hymns exalt Bharata
Brahma, Rama accepted Sita fire-proved. even above Rama for a spotless mind and
"Think you that I did not know your unblemished unselfishness. For fourteen
irreproachable purity? This ordeal was to years till the return of Rama, Bharata
satisfy the people. Without it, they would installed Rama's padukas and
say that Rama, blinded by love, behaved administered the kingdom as a devotional
exercise in the service of his brother. Now Dasaratha's troubles began with love.
that Rama was crowned King as his father Then the love of Rama and Sita is the
had wished, Bharata's penance was at an theme and substance of Ayodhya Kanda.
end and his heart was filled with joy. In love that is not opposed to dharma,
The smile of divine grace brightened we find a manifestation of God. So was it
Sita's face as she cast her merciful glance affirmed by Sri Krishna when he
on Hanuman. What more could Hanuman explained his manifold being to Arjuna.
desire? The Ramayana has, for its twin theme,
I have retold in brief compass the story love that is opposed to dharma also. The
of the Prince of Ayodhya as sung by Ramayana is undoubtedly a great love
Valmiki. Those who read or listen to the story.
tale, it is said, will be saved from sin and Those who regard the Ramayana as an
sorrow. Sri Sankara, the master of allegory interpret Sita as the individual
wisdom, has said that, if one keeps in soul and Rama as the Supreme Being.
one's heart the son of Dasaratha and God seeks and pursues the human soul till
meditates on him with reverence, one's He secures it. He is eager to save us. It is
sins will all be burnt up as chaff in a fire. enough if we just do not obstruct or resist.
After the avatar of Rama, the lord There are also other interpretations and
appeared again among men with greater applications of the Ramayana. Sita, the
soulabhya (easy accessibility) as Govinda. female counterpart of the Supreme Being,
He lived among cowherders as one of is the embodiment of compassion and
them and served Arjuna as a chariot grace. Compassion is the Supreme Mother
driver. At the end of the Gita, the Lord and she is enthroned in the heart of the
says to Arjuna: Lord. When she casts her merciful glance
"Believe in me as the sole refuge, cast on us, we reach the feet of God.
aside all doubt and come unto me. I shall Parvati's function in relation to Siva
save you from all sins. This is truth, and Lakshmi's in relation to Hari are both
friend. Cast off your fear." identical, and are just variations of the
This promise of Sri Krishna is same creed of dependence on God's grace.
addressed to all of us. We, like Arjuna, God as Father and God as Mother are not
have our doubts and fears in the distinct. If the Lord were to be parted
Kurukshetra of life and this assurance of from compassion, our plight would be just
grace is for all of us, for we are all dear to that of Ravana who separated Sita from
Him. Rama. The quality of the Lord's
76. EPILOGUE compassion can be understood from the
On one occasion Gandhiji and I were experience of true human love.
talking about a girl very dear to both of Many meanings can be read in the
us. I said: "How did she get all these ideas Ramayana and its beauty appreciated in
and phrases of love without having read many ways as from a real diamond many
any of present-day love stories?" glorious colors emanate. Seventeen
Gandhiji said in answer: "But has she months ago I began writing these weekly
not read the Ramayana? Is the Ramayana chapters not without fear and trembling.
not a love story too?" This struck me as This week I close it full of thankfulness
profound. Then we turned to other for the health of body and peace of mind
matters. that enabled me to complete this humble
service. Learned men will no doubt find
many faults in what I have written. But led the warrior to destroy the wicked. In
they must be glad also that it has done every episode of Krishna we see the
some good. difference between the two avatars.
A word to the children who read these I have followed the story of the Prince
chapters. I have told the story of the of Ayodhya as told by Valmiki. There was
Prince of Ayodhya mainly for your sake. a legend current among people, I think
Grown up people may read Valmiki and even before Valmiki's time, that after
Kamban. Those who know how to sing recovering Sita, for fear of scandal, Rama
can render with joy the sweet songs on sent her away to live in the forest.
Rama given to us by Tyagaraja. But this This pathetic episode must have sprung
story that I have told can be read direct by from the sorrow-laden imagination of our
you, children, without anyone's help. women. It has taken shape as the Uttara
You should look upon Rama, Kanda of Ramayana. Although there is
Lakshmana and Hanuman like your own beauty in the Uttara Kanda, I must say my
fathers and elder brothers who are by your heart rebels against it. Valmiki had
side ever eager to help you. Grow to be disposed of this old legend through the
like Bharata, Lakshmana and Hanuman, fire ordeal in the battlefield. Even that
good and brave souls, full of love and ordeal does not seem to me as consistent
strength. with Rama's character. It is painful to read
Mothers too, I know, have been it.
reading this story with joy. This has been As the prince returned from Mithila he
a great encouragement to me. They can met Parasurama. I have heard it said that
understand why I have told the story in with that meeting Parasurama's avatar
simple words and short sentences for the came to an end. Likewise, it should be
sake of our children. Everything we do, held, I think, that Rama's avatar came to
we do for the sake of our children, do we an end with the slaying of Ravana. After
not? Only women can realise and relive that battle, Rama remained only as a King
the experiences and feelings of Sita. of the Ikshvaku race.
The story of Sita as told by Valmiki On this theory, Rama's treatment of
and Kamban can be fully appreciated only Sita after the battle and in the Uttara
by women. Only they can fully appreciate Kanda can be explained simply as the
the courage of Jatayu and the prowess of behavior of a king in accordance with the
Hanuman. Sita's sorrows have not ended customs of the times.
with the Ramayana. They go on, still, in But, how can we comment on a work
the lives of our women. composed thousands of years ago and
In the Rama avatar, Rama did not coming down to us in palm-leaf
know that he was God incarnate. Krishna manuscripts subject to corruption? If,
knew that he was an avatar and acted even after the fire-ordeal in the Yuddha
accordingly. We should read the two Kanda, it is said in the Uttara Kanda that
stories with this difference in mind. The Sita was sent to the forest, we may take it
despair and grief that the man Rama that it mirrors the voiceless and endless
experienced, Krishna never knew. When suffering of our women folk.
he sucked at the demon-woman's breast or Sorrow and joy are both alike the play
was bound with a rope and thrashed for of God. God himself took with him his
mischief, he cared not nor grieved. divine spouse, the embodiment of his own
Standing weaponless in the battlefield, he supreme compassion, into the world of
men and women, and enacted with her a deference to this wrong feeling that
great drama of joy and sorrow in the Kamban departed from Valmiki here.
Ramayana. For the same reason, Tulasidas relates
Rain falling from the heaven flows into that the Sita seized and carried off by
the rivers and flows down to join the sea. Ravana was not the real Sita at all but a
Again from the sea the water is sucked up palpable image of hers left behind by the
by the sun and rises to the sky, whence it real Sita. Thus the story is told in all
descends again as rain and flows down as North India. During the fire ordeal, it is
rivers. Even so, feelings and values rise the maya-Sita that disappears and the real
from the people and, touching the poet's Sita springs again and returns from the
heart, are transformed into a poem which, flames.
in turn, enlightens and inspires the people. It was perhaps presumptuous on my
Thus in every land the poets and their part to have begun the task, but it was a
people continuously reinforce each other. joy to retell the Ramayana. Now, when it
The tenderness and purity and the untold is over, I feel like one awaking from a
sufferings of women took shape as the dream of joy. When the prince left the
Uttara Ramayana. Like an unflickering city, he felt no sorrow. It was only when
lamp, it throws light on the quality of their he lost Sita that he knew grief. So with me
hearts. Whether the epics and songs of a too.
nation spring from the faith and ideas of When I had to step down from high
the common folk, or whether a nation's office and heavy responsibility, I did not
faith and ideas are produced by its feel at a loss or wonder what to do next.
literature is a question which one is free to But now, when I have come to the end of
answer as one likes. the tale of the Prince of Ayodhya, the void
Does a plant spring from the seed or is like that of a shrine without a God. Let
does seed issue from the plant? Was the no one look upon work as a burden. Good
bird or the egg the first cause? Did clouds work is the secret that keeps life going.
rise from the sea or was the sea filled by While one should not hanker after results,
the waters from the sky? All such life without work would be unendurable.
inquiries take us to the feet of God
transcending speech and thought.
One other point, in describing how
Ravana carried off Sita, Kamban differs
from Valmiki. In Kamban's Ramayana,
Ravana does not seize and carry Sita as
Valmiki describes; without touching her
he lifts her with the earth on which she
stands. Kamban's version is followed by
most popular expositors because this
version is less painful to our feelings.
It is no sin or shame to an innocent
woman if a villain behaves like a brute.
Yet, mistakenly, we in this country look
on the violence of a brute as causing a
blemish to the woman's purity. It is in
Glossary Bhakti : Devotion to God, loyalty,
faith.
Adisesha : The primordial Serpent Bheda : Diplomacy of playing one
which is Lord Vishnu's bed. against another in the enemy camp.
Agneyastra : A missile charged with an Bhogavati : The capital of the Serpent
invocation to the God Agni (Fire). King in the nether world.
Aryaputra : Noble prince; classical Brahmana : The first of the four castes
form of address by wife to husband, devoting their lives to study and teaching
betokening love and respect combined. and the
Ashrama : Hermitage. performance of religious ceremonies.
Asuric Yajna : Sacrifice pertaining to Brahma : The Creator, one of the
Asuras. Demoniacal sacrifice and Trinity
necromancy for gaining power. Brahmastra : The most powerful
Abhisheka : Religious rite of pouring among Astras (mantra invoked weapons).
or sprinkling sacred waters on the head of Brahmachari : One who is in the first
one who is installed as King or First of the four stages in a Brahmin's life, the
Prince. stage of study and practice of a disciplined
Adharma : Sin, unrighteous action, life.
opposite of dharma. Brahmadanda : Holy staff of an
Agni : The God of Fire. austere Brahmin.
Alakapuri : The capital of Kubera, the Brahmajnana : The realisation of the
God of Wealth. Supreme Being, higher wisdom.
Amaravati : The city in heaven where Brahmarishi : The highest type of
Indra has his abode. sages.
Aruna : The God of Dawn, first son of Brihaspati : The preceptor of the
Kasyapa Prajapati and Vinata. He was Devas, the planet Jupiter.
born lame. Chaitra : The month falling in the
Aruna was the elder brother of Garuda. second half of April and the first half of
Aruna is the charioteer of the Sun God May.
Arundhati : Wife of Sage Vasishtha, a Chandala : Outcaste, untouchable.
pattern of chastity. Dana : Gift, bribing of the enemy,
Astras : Miraculous weapons whose Danavas : Sons of Danu and Kasyapa
power lay in the invocations they were Prajapati, enemies of Devas.
charged with. Daityas : Sons of Diti and Kasyapa
Asuras : Enemies of the Gods. Prajapati, enemies of Devas.
Aswapati : King of Kekaya, father of Daivam : Divine, celestial, fate.
Kaikeyi and grandfather of Bharata. Danda : Physical punishment, force
Aswini Devatas : Celestial beings, twin used in meeting the enemy's tactics.
sons of Surya. Darbha : A species of sacred grass used
Avatar : Incarnation. for religious rites.
Bala, Ati Bala: Two invocations to Deva-Loka : The celestial regions.
obviate hunger, thirst and sleep. Devarishis : Sages of Heaven.
Bhagirathi : Another name of Ganga. Devas : Celestial beings, sons of Aditi
Bhagyam : Fortune, prosperity. and Kasyapa.
Bhakta : Devotee. Dharma : Duty as laid down by
religion or custom
Dishtam : Indicated. and Asuras. A celestial tree which grants
Gandharvas : A Class Of semi-divine any wish to people who are under it.
beings. Celestial musicians. Karma : Action, the law that governs
Garuda : The bird king who is Vishnu's all action and its inevitable consequences
vehicle. on the doer.
Govinda : One of the names of Karma Yogin : One who practises the
Krishna. way of action for salvation.
Guru : Acharya, preceptor. Kasyapa : A celebrated sage, son of
Hari : One of the names of Vishnu. The Brahma. He had many wives through
second of the Hindu Trinity. Other names whom were born the various forms of life
are Krishna, Mukunda, Madhava, Kesava, on earth.
Narayana. Kekaya : A country north-west of
Himavan : The presiding deity of the Kosala, the place where Bharata's
Himalaya range. maternal grand father ruled. West of
Ikshvaku : King of the Solar race from modern Punjab.
whom the name came for the race of Solar Kinkaras : Soldiers, personal
kings. attendants.
Indra : The chief and the king of the Kinnaras : Celestial beings like the
Gods. Gandharvas, who played on musical
Indra-Astra : Missile charged with an instruments. Kodanda : Rama's bow.
invocation to Indra. Kokila : The cuckoo.
Jambavan : Leader of bears in the army Krodha : Anger.
of Sugriva. Krouncha : A bird.
Jamadagni : A great sage, father of Kshatriya : The second of the four
Parasurama. castes.
Jnana : Spiritual knowledge, Kubera : God of Wealth.
realisation. Kurukshetra : The battlefield where the
Jnani : A knower of Reality. Pandavas and Kauravas fought.
Kama : Desire, usually referred to in Kusa : A kind of grass used in religious
relation to sex. ceremonies.
Kamadhenu : The Divine cow of Lakshmi : The Goddess of well-being,
Heaven. It was born of the Ocean when wife of Vishnu.
the Devas and Asuras churned it for Leela : Play, the unexplainable ways of
Nectar. Providence.
Kamavalli : A name which Surpanakha Malyavan : The aged Rakshasa
gave to herself. grandfather of Ravana.
Kartaviryarjuna : Son of King Malyavati : A stream flowing by the
Kritavirya. He had a thousand hands and foot of the Chitrakuta Hill.
his golden chariot could go wherever he Maruti : Name of Hanuman being son
wished. He was a contemporary of of Marut, the Wind-god.
Ravana and had him imprisoned in his Mahabali : An Asura who became a
city. Parasurama killed him for carrying powerful ruler and a rival to the gods. He
away Kamadhenu and killing Jamadagni was the son of Virochana and grandson of
Kailasa : The abode of Siva. Prahlada.
Kalpaka : A Tree which issued out of Mahadeva : One of the names of Siva.
the Ocean when it was churned by Devas Maharshi : A great Sage.
Manmatha : The God of Love. Rakshasi : Feminine of Rakshasa.
Mantras : Scriptural verses, Raghu : An ancestor of Rama. He was
incantations. a king of the Solar race.
Maya : The architect of Asuras. Raja Rishi : An eminent sage, a
Meru : A fabulous mountain around philosopher-king.
which the Sun is supposed to revolve. Rishabha : A peak in the Himalayas.
Naga : Semi-divine serpents. Rishi : A sage who has undergone
Narayana : Vishnu. severe austerities.
Narada : The celestial rishi with the Rudra : Siva.
lute. Sama : Peaceful approach to the
Namah : Bow, salutation. enemy, negotiation.
Nandigrama : A village near Ayodhya Sastras : Sacred lore.
where Bharata lived and ruled Ayodhya as Satvik : Appertaining to the element of
a deputy of Rama. equanimity as distinguished from the
Nikumbhila : A cave and grove in principles of activity and inertia.
Lanka where oblations were offered to Sanyasini : A female recluse, feminine
Kali. of Sanyasi.
Niti Sastra : Science of government Sarama : Wife of Vibhishana. She and
and diplomacy. Trijata were the friends among the
Niyati : Law. Rakshasis that Sita had during her
Paduka : Footwear. incarceration in the Asoka Vana.
Parayana : Reading a Purana or Epic as Sarayu : A tributary of the river
a daily devotional exercise. Ganges on the North bank.
Parijata : A celestial flowering tree. Satyaparakrama : Righteous and
Parvati : Uma, wife of Siva. strong. Strong in righteousness.
Patala : The nether regions. Siddha : One who attained special
Payasam : A sweet preparation of milk powers through penance. A class of
and rice. heavenly beings.
Parasurama : The sixth incarnation of Siva : One of the Hindu Trinity.
Vishnu who curbed the growing arrogance Sloka : Couplet or Quatrain in Sanskrit.
of the Kshatriyas. Surya : The Sun God.
Pinaka : Bow of Siva. Soulabhya : Ease of access.
Puja : Worship. Sri Krishna : The eighth incarnation of
Prajapati : The Creator. Vishnu, who gave the Bhagavad Gita.
Puranas : Sacred legends. Sruti : Veda, Revelation.
Pushpaka Vimana : Aerial chariot of Sukra : The Guru or acharya of the
Ravana which originally belonged to Asuras, the planet Venus.
Kubera. Sitting in this chariot, one could Swarga : Heaven, where the blessed
obtain anything he or she desired. are received after death.
Rajagriha : The capital of the Kekaya Tamasik : Pertaining to the element of
country. inertia.
Rajasabha : Council of State. Tamasa : A river flowing into Ganga.
Rajasik : Appertaining to the principle Tapas : Austerities and penances.
of activity egoism, arrogance. Tapasvi : One who does Tapas or
Rakshasas : Evil-minded strong beings penance.
similar to Asuras. Tapasvini : Feminine of Tapasvi.
Tapasya : Power obtained through
Tapas or penance.
Tilaka : A mark put on the forehead of
women.
Trivikrama : See Vamana.
Vamana : The fifth incarnation of
Vishnu to curb the power of Mahabali.
Vamana became Trivikrama of huge
stature who measured Earth and Heaven
in two steps
Vanaprastha : The third stage of a
Brahmin's life retiring with his wife as a
preparation for sanyasa.
Vayu : The Wind God who was father
of Hanuman.
Vaidehi : Another name of Sita.
Vaishnava : Appertaining to Vishnu or
worship of Vishnu.
Vaitarani : A terrible river in Hell.
Varuna : The Lord of the Ocean.
Veda : Scripture. Four books: Rig
Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and
Atharvana Veda.
Vidhi : Law, decree of fate, that which
is ordained.
Vidyut-Jihva : Lightning Tongued, a
Rakshasa sorcerer.
Vinata : Mother of Garuda.
Vishnu : See Narayana.
Visravas : A rishi who was father of
Ravana.
Viswakarma : The celestial architect.
Vritra : An Asura killed by Indra.
Yaga : Sacrifice, a religious ceremony
accompanied by oblations.
Yajarmana : He who performs a
sacrifice, Master of Ceremonies.
Yakshas : A class of celestial beings.
Yama : God of Death.
Yojana : A measure of distance equal
probably to nine miles.
Yudhajit : Son of the King of Kekaya.
Brother of Kaikeyi.
Yuvaraja : Prince-Regent.