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  • 1. RAMAYANA retold by C. Rajagopalachari(Edited by Jay Mazo, American Gita Society)Contents1. The Conception2. Sage Viswamitra3. Trisanku4. Rama Leaves Home5. Rama Slays The Monsters6. Sita7. Bhagiratha And The Story OfGanga8. Ahalya9. Rama Wins Sitas Hand10. Parasuramas Discomfiture11. Festive Preparations12. Mantharas Evil Counsel13. Kaikeyi Succumbs14. Wife Or Demon?15. Behold A Wonder!16. Storm And Calm17. Sitas Resolve18. To The Forest19. Alone By Themselves20. Chitrakuta21. A Mothers Grief22. Idle Sport And Terrible Result23. Last Moments24. Bharata Arrives25. Intrigue wasted26. Bharata Suspected27. The Brothers Meet28. Bharata Becomes Ramas Deputy29. Viradhas End30. Ten Years Pass31. The Surpanakha Episode32. Kambans Surpanakha33. Khara And His Army Liquidated34. The Path Of Ruin35. The Golden Stag36. The Good Bird Jatayu37. Closely Guarded38. Rama Disconsolate39. A Second Father Dies40. Left Eyelids Throb41. He Sees Her Jewels42. Sugrivas Doubts Cleared43. The Slaying Of Vali44. Taras Grief45. Anger And Reconciliation46. The Search Begins47. Son Of Vayu48. The Search In Lanka49. Sita In The Asoka Park50. Ravanas Solicitation51. First Among The Astute52. Sita Comforted53. Sita And Hanuman54. Inviting Battle55. The Terrible Envoy56. Hanuman Bound57. Lanka In Flames58. A Carnival59. The Tidings Conveyed60. The Army Moves Forward61. Anxiety In Lanka62. Ravana Calls A Council Again63. Vibhishana64. The Vanaras Doubt65. Doctrine Of Surrender And Grace66. The Great Causeway67. The Battle Begins68. Sitas Joy69. Serpent Darts70. Ravanas Defeat71. The Giant Is Roused72. Is This Narayana Himself?73. The Death Of Indrajit74. End Of Ravana75. The End76. Epilogue
  • 2. AUTHORS PREFACEThe Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan hasadded to the debt of gratitude owed it byundertaking the publication of the Englishversion of my Tamil Ramayana. Theyachieved great success in the distributionof my Mahabharata book and I trust thisbook of the story of Rama and Sita willreceive similar welcome.Once again, I repeat my confession thatin the evening of my busy life during agreat and eventful period of Indianhistory, the writing of these two bookswherein I have retold the Mahabharataand Ramayana, is, in my opinion, the bestservice I have rendered to my people.At any rate, they embody the best joy Ihave experienced; for in these two books Ihelped our great sages to speak to our dearmen and women again in their ownlanguage, elevating their minds throughthe sorrows borne by Kunti, Kausalya,Draupadi and Sita. The real need of thehour is a recommunion between us andthe sages of our land, so that the futuremay be built on rock and not on sand.In presenting this English version to awider circle of readers spread all over theworld, I think I am presenting to them thepeople of Bharat just as they are, with alltheir virtues and their faults. Our classicsreally embody our national character in allits aspects and it is well the world sees usas we really are, apart from what we wishto become.The Ramayana is not history orbiography. It is a part of Hindumythology. One cannot understand Hindudharma unless one knows Rama and Sita,Bharata, Lakshmana, Ravana,Kumbhakarna and Hanuman. Mythologycannot be dispensed with. Philosophyalone or rituals alone or mythology alonecannot be sufficient. These are the threestands of all ancient religions. The attitudetowards things spiritual which belongs toa particular people cannot be grasped orpreserved or conveyed unless we have allthese three.The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan hasachieved great work by the very widedistribution organised by it of myRamayana and Mahabharata books, whichseek to bring Valmiki and Vyasa near tothose who have no access to the unrivalledoriginal classics. The characters andincidents of these two itihasas have cometo be the raw material for the works ofnumerous poets and saints that came laterto write dramas and sing poems andhymns to keep this nation in the straightpath.Oral discourses have further playedwith them in order to entertain andinstruct pious audiences and not a fewvariations and additions have beenmade to the original. All the languagesof India have the Ramayana andMahabharata retold by their poets, withadditions and variations of their own.They are the records of the mind andspirit of our forefathers who cared forthe good, ever so much more than forthe pleasant and who saw more of themystery of life than we can do in ourinterminable pursuit for petty andillusory achievements ill the materialplane.We should be thankful to those whopreserved for us these many centuries-oldepics in spite of all the vicissitudesthrough which our nation passed sinceVyasa and Valmikis time. Even the poetswho wrote these epics in the original didnot create but built out of the inheritedbricks of national memory prior to theirown time. Reading the Ramayana andMahabharata even in the form I havegiven them, we go back to live with ourancient forbears and listen to their grandvoice.
  • 3. Mythology is an integral part ofreligion. It is as necessary for religion andnational culture as the skin and theskeleton that preserve a fruit with its juiceand its taste. Form is no less essential thansubstance. Mythology and holy figures arenecessary for any great culture to rest onits stable spiritual foundation and functionas a life-giving inspiration and guide.Let us keep ever in our minds the factthat it is the Ramayana and theMahabharata that bind our vast numberstogether as one people, despite caste,space and language that seemingly dividethem.1. THE CONCEPTIONTo the north of the Ganga was the greatkingdom Kosala, made fertile by the riverSarayu. Its capital was Ayodhya, built byManu, the famous ruler of the Solardynasty. From Valmikis description ofthe capital Kosala, it is clear that ancientAyodhya was not inferior to our moderncities. Even in ancient India citycivilisation had reached a high level.King Dasaratha ruled the kingdomfrom the capital city of Ayodhya. He hadfought on the side of the Devas, and hisfame spread in the three worlds. He wasthe equal of Indra and Kubera. The peopleof Kosala were happy, contented andvirtuous. The land was protected by amighty army, and no enemy could comeanywhere nearIt contained forts with moats aroundthem as well as many defensiveintallations, and true to its name, Ayodhyadefied all enemies. (Ayodhya means thatwhich cannot be subdued by war).Dasaratha had eight wise ministers, everready to advise him and execute hisorders. Great sages like Vasishtha andVamadeva and other Brahmanas taughtthe dharma and performed rituals andsacrifices.Taxes were light and punishment ofcrime was just and inflicted according tothe capacity of the wrong-doer.Surrounded by the best counsellors andstatesmen, the kings splendor shone as therising sun. Many years rolled smoothlyby. In the midst of all this prosperityDasaratha had one regret; he had no son.One day in early summer he thought ofperforming a horse sacrifice for progeny.He consulted his religious masters and ontheir advice, got sage Rishyasringa toperform the Yaga. The Yaga was a grandaffair and the invitees included many ofthe kings of the day. It was no easy thingto perform yagas. The location anderection of the sacrificial platform had tobe attended to in detail strictly accordingto prescribed rules. There were expertswhose guidance was sought in arrangingthings.It meant the building of a new camp-city, capable of accommodating tens ofthousands and providing hospitality andentertainment for the invitees whoincluded the princes and sages of the land.In short, yagas in those days weresomething like our present-day State-sponsored big scale conferences andexhibitions.When all arrangements were completethe ceremonies were set in motion strictlyas enjoined by the Shastras.Contemporaneously with the yaga inAyodhya, there was a conference of theDevas in heaven. The Devas complainedto Lord Brahma that Ravana, king of thedemons, drunk with the power acquiredby the boon granted to him by Brahma,was causing them untold misery andhardship. They represented to Brahma: "Itis beyond our capacity to subdue, conqueror kill Ravana. In the security of yourboon, he has grown wicked and insolentand ill-treats all, even women. His desireis to dethrone Indra. You are our only
  • 4. refuge and it is for you to devise a methodby which Ravana can be slain and hisdespotism ended."Brahma knew that he had granted toRavana the boon prayed for by him thathe should be invulnerable and invincibleagainst Devas, Asuras, Gandharvas andother such beings. In his arrogance,Ravana did not care to ask for securityagainst mankind. As Brahma revealed thisfateful omission all the Gods rejoiced andturned to Vishnu.Absolutely surrendering themselves toHari, the Devas begged him to be born asa man and put an end to Ravana and hisatrocities. Hari agreed and assured theDevas that he would be born as four sonsof King Dasaratha who was thenperforming a sacrifice for progeny. As theghee was poured into the fire and theflames shot up to meet it, from out of theflames came a majestic figure, resplendentlike the noonday sun, holding a bowl ofgold.Calling King Dasaratha by his name,the figure said: "The Devas are pleasedwith you and are answering your prayer.Here is payasam sent by the gods for yourwives. You will be blessed with sons ifthey drink this divine beverage." With joyunbounded, Dasaratha received the bowlas he would receive a child and distributedthe payasam to his three wives, Kausalya,Sumitra and Kaikeyi.He asked Kausalya to drink a half ofthe payasam and he gave a half of whatremained to Sumitra. Half of what wasthen lift was drunk by Kaikeyi, and whatremained was given to Sumitra again.Dasarathas wives were happy, even as abeggar suddenly coming upon buriedtreasure. And in due course all of themwere expectant mothers.2. SAGE VISWAMITRAIn course of time, Dasarathas sonswere born Rama of Kausalya and Bharataof Kaikeyi. Sumitra gave birth to twins,Lakshmana and Satrughna. She had drunkthe divine payasam twice.In proportion to the quantity ofpayasam drunk by the respective mothers,the sons are traditionally considered to beparts of Vishnu. Rama was thus half-Vishnu.But such calculations have no meaning,as it is impossible to measure the Infinitearithmetically. Sruit tells us that even afraction of the Supreme Being is wholeand complete by itself."Om Poornamadah PoornamidamPoornat Poornamudachyate PoornasyaPoornamadaya Poornamevavasishyate.""What is whole, this is whole; what hascome out of the whole is also whole.When the whole is taken out of the whole,the whole still remains whole."Dasarathas four sons were given all thetraining prescribed for princes. Rama andLakshmana were specially devoted toeach other and so were Bharata andSatrughna. We can imagine that thisspecial attachment arose out of the waythe divine payasam was divided amongthe Kings wives. Dasaratha was happy tosee his four sons grow up strong, virtuous,brave and lovable and with all otherprincely qualities.One day as the King wascontemplating his sons matrimony, ushersrushed in to announce that the great SageViswamitra had arrived to see him.Viswamitra was held in awe by all as themost powerful among rishis.Viswamitras arrival at Ayodhya wasunexpected; and King Dasaratha steppeddown from his throne and advanced a fewpaces respectfully to receive the sage.Viswamitra was a king who attainedsainthood through terrible austerities. Hehad long ago exhibited his spiritualpowers by starting to create anotherBrahma and a rival universe. He had gone
  • 5. as far as the creation of newconstellations, but was prevailed upon tostop by the entreaties of the alarmed gods.Viswamitra, while he was king oncewent out with his army and chanced tovisit Vasishthas ashrama. The rishicordially welcomed his royal guest andhis huge entourage and extended to themall hospitality so sumptuous that the Kingwondered where all the rich abundancecame from in a forest hermitage.Questioned by him, Vasishtha calledhis cow Sabala and explained that she wasthe fountain of unfailing plenty.Expressing gratitude to the sage, KingViswamitra said: "You must give me thiscow as she would be more useful with methan with you. Such things of power andwealth by right belong to the King."Now Vasishtha could not part with thedivine cow. He gave many reasons andasked the King not to press his request.But the more unwilling Vasishtha was togive the cow, the more eager the Kingbecame to possess her.Failing in his efforts to tempt orpersuade the sage to part with the cow,Viswamitra became angry and ordered hismen to seize the cow by force.Sabala could not understand why shewas being roughly handled and she wasunwilling to go away from the sage andhis ashrama. Shedding tears, shewondered how she had offendedVasishtha that he should stand by andlook on while she was being draggedaway. The cow easily put to flight thesoldiers and sought refuge at the feet ofthe sage.Moved by the piteous appeal of hisbeloved cow, who was like a youngersister to him, the sage said: "Bring forthsoldiers to resist Viswamitras men."Sabala instantaneously did so, and theaggressors were soon worsted. Wild withrage, Viswamitra got into his chariot and,taking up his bow, rained arrows on thesoldiers brought forth by the cow, buttheir strength was inexhaustible, and theroyal forces suffered utter defeat. Thesons of Viswamitra now chose Vasishthahimself as their target, only to be reducedto ashes.Defeated and disgraced, Viswamitrathen and there entrusted his kingdom toone of his sons and proceeded to theHimalayas to perform tapas, directing hisdevotions to Lord Siva to gain power withwhich to subdue Vasishtha.So firm and steadfast was Viswamitrain his austerities that Lord Siva waspleased and appeared before him. Heasked the king what his object was inperforming tapas.Viswamitra replied: "If you, Umapati,are satisfied with my tapas let me beblessed with divine arrows and be masterof every weapon.""So be it," said Siva, and gaveViswamitra all the weapons available tothe Devas, Gandharvas, Rishis, Yakshasand the Demons.Swelling with pride like the ocean,Viswamitra considered Vasishtha asalready vanquished. He straightway madefor the abode of the sage. Frightened atthe fearful sight of the onrushingViswamitra, Vasishthas disciples and theanimals in his ashrama ran helter-skelter.Hit by the fire-weapon of Viswamitra,Vasishthas ashrama was reduced tocinders.Vasishtha regretted the turn of events,but determined to end the haughtiness ofthe erstwhile king, he faced him calmlywith his Brahmadanda (holy staff) inhand.Mad with rage, Viswamitra shot at himall the divine weapons he had acquired,but they were quenched as theyapproached the rishis staff and wereabsorbed by it.
  • 6. Viswamitra had but one more weaponin his armory, and that was the mostpowerful of all, the Brahmastra. As hehurled it against Vasishtha the worldbecame wrapped in gloom as in somehuge eclipse, and the very immortalstrembled with fear. But the terrible astraitself was merged in the rishis staff,making both it and the holy man glowwith the glory they had absorbed.Viswamitra stood dazed. Openlyaccepting defeat, he said: "Of what use isthe Kshatriyas might in arms? With but astaff in his hand, this Vasishtha hasnullified all my weapons. Lord Siva hasindeed fooled me. There is no alternativefor me but to become a Brahma Rishi likeVasishtha." So saying, he withdrew fromthe field of battle and proceeded south formore rigorous tapas.For years and years Viswamitra wentthrough terrible austerities. Pleased withhis perseverance, Brahma presentedhimself before him. Advising Viswamitrathat, as a result of his tapas he had risen tothe position of a rishi among kings,Brahma vanished from the scene.Viswamitra was disappointed that allhis penance could get him only the statusof Raja Rishi. Not content with anythingbut the highest the rank of a BrahmaRishi, he subjected him self to still morerigorous austerities in order that he mightbe acknowledged an equal of Vasishtha.3. TRISANKUThat was the time when the famousking of the Solar dynasty, Trisanku, wasreigning, who was so much in love withthe beauty of his body that he could notbear the thought of parting with it at deathand desired to ascend to heaven in thatvery body.Vasishtha, his preceptor, whom heapproached for help in realising his wish,advised him to give up attempting theimpossible. Dissatisfied with Vasishthasresponse, the King approached the sagessons and sought their help. They werewroth at being asked to do somethingwhich their father had pronouncedimpossible, ridiculed his vanity and curtlybade him begone.King Trisanku would not give up hisaim and told them that, since they andtheir father were too poor in merit to helphim, he would find others who werericher. Vasishthas sons were provokedbeyond endurance, and said: "Be you achandala."The curse began to act and the nextmorning Trisanku woke up a differentperson altogether, an untouchable, ugly ofform, attired in dirty clothes.His ministers and his people could notrecognise him. Driven out of his kingdomhe wandered hungry and weary almost todeath, till his destiny took him toViswamitras ashrama.The kings appearance moved the heartof the sage, who enquired: "Arent youKing Trisanku? What has brought you tothis plight? Whose curse?"Recounting all that had happened hefell at the sages feet and said: "I havebeen a good king and never swerved fromthe path of dharma. I have committed nosin and wronged none. My preceptor andhis sons have deserted me and cursed meand you see me thus before you."Viswamitra took pity on the Kingconverted by a curse into a chandala. Thiswas Viswamitras great weakness; he wasimpulsive and easily over-powered byemotions like anger, sympathy and love.In sweet words, he made the kinghappy: "O, King, I have heard of yourrighteous rule. I offer you refuge; be notafraid. I will arrange for the sacrificewhich will enable you to enter heaven inyour own body. And in this very chandalaform you shall reach heaven despite yourGurus curse. Of this you may be sure."
  • 7. And he made arrangements for a greatand unprecedented yaga.Viswamitra directed his disciples toinvite all the sages and, their disciples forthe proposed yaga. Afraid of saying "No"to what was more or less a command, allthe rishis agreed to be present.But the sons of Vasishtha declined theinvitation and made merry about a yaga atwhich the officiating priest was a onceupon-a-time Kshatriya and the yajaman astinking chandala.This reply, duly conveyed, enragedViswamitra who exploded into a cursethat Vasishthas sons do die and be rebornfor seven generations in a tribe given toeating dogs flesh.The sage then began the yaga.Extolling Trisankus eminent virtues,Viswamitra sought the help of the otherrishis in effecting the bodily translation ofTrisanku to heaven.Well aware of the sages mightypowers and fulminous temper, the inviteeslent their support, and the yaga went on. Itreached the stage when the gods wereinvoked to descend and accept theofferings. But no god came. It was clearthat Viswamitras yaga was a failure. Andthe rishis, who had attended theceremony, laughed within themselves atViswamitras discomfiture.Wild with rage, Viswamitra held theladle of ghee over the flames and said: "OTrisanku, here behold my power. I nowtransfer for your benefit all the merit Ihave earned. If my austerities have anyvalue, they should lift you to heaven inyour physical frame. I care not if theDevas reject my offerings. King Trisanku!Ascend!"A miracle followed. To theastonishment of those assembled,Trisanku in his chandala body roseheavenward. The world saw the power ofViswamitras tapas.Trisanku reached Swarga. But Indraforthwith pushed him down saying, "Whoare you, entering heaven with a chandalabody? You fool that earned the curse ofyour preceptor, go down again."Trisanku fell from heaven, head downwards, screaming, "Viswamitra! Saveme!"Viswamitra, seeing this, was besidehimself with rage. Determined to teach thegods a lesson, he shouted to Trisanku."Stop there! Stop there!" and, to theamazement of all, Trisankus earthwarddescent came to an abrupt stop and hestopped in mid air, shining like a star.Like a second Brahma, Viswamitraproceeded to create a new starry horizonto the south as well as a new Indra andnew Devas.Alarmed at their supremacy, the Devasnow came to terms and humbly entreatedViswamitra to desist. They said: "LetTrisanku stay where he is at present. Letthe other stars, of your creation shineforever, like your own fame and honor.Control your anger and be friends withus."Gratified at this submission, and aseasily appeased as provoked, Viswamitrabaited his creative process. But hisstupendous activities had consumed thewhole of the power that he had thus faracquired by his austerities, and he foundhe had to begin again.Viswamitra now proceeded westwardsto Pushkara and resumed his austerities.For years the rigorous tapas continued, butonce again as it was about to bear fruitsomething happened to rouse his angerand he lost his balance and cursed his ownsons. Soon recovering himself, he firmlyresolved never again to yield to anger, andresumed his tapasAfter many years of austerities,Brahma and the Devas appeared beforehim and said: "O Kausika! Your tapas has
  • 8. borne fruit. You are no longer in the ranksof kings; you have become a real rishi."Having thus blessed Viswamitra, Brahmareturned.This was again a disappointment. Hewanted to become a Brahma Rishi andVasishthas peer and he had only beenacknowedged an ordinary rishi. It wasrecognition as futile as the missiles ofpower, which Vasishthas Brahmadandahad swallowed.He therefore decided to go on with histapas, making it more severe than everbefore.The Devas did not like this. They sentthe heavenly damsel Menaka to tempt himwith her celestial beauty and allurements.She went to Pushkara where Viswamitrawas undergoing austerities and played, tocatch his eye with a hundred wiles ofcharm and grace. Viswamitra saw her andwas fascinated by her beauty. His vowwas broken and he spent ten years in adream of ioy, forgetful of his high resolve.Awaking at last, he looked at thetrembling Menaka sorrow fully and saidhe would not curse her, for it was his ownfolly, and not her fault, as in tempting himshe was only carrying out the orders ofher master. And sadly he wended his wayto the Himalayas to resume his brokentapas.There, for a thousand years, controllinghis senses, he performed rigorous tapas.At the request of the Devas, Brahmaappeared before Viswamitra, and spoke tohim thus sweetly: " I welcome you as aMaharishi, my son. Pleased with yoursoulful tapas I confer on you that title andthe sanctity it imports."Unmoved alike by gratification ordisappointment, Viswamitra folded hishands in adoration and asked the Father ofthe Universe if the boon meant conquestover the senses."By no means", said the Creator, "butstrive to subjugate the senses, tiger amongmunis!"Resolved on the supreme conquest,Viswamitra entered on another thousandyears of even harder tapas which threwthe Devas into even greater consternation.Indra called unto him the celestialdamsel Rambha, and enjoined on her as avital service to the Devas, to employ allher art to bring Viswamitra under the spellof her charm, and divert him from hispurpose. She was sorely afraid, but Indraassured her that she would not be leftalone, but be accompanied by the God ofLove and the Spirit of Springtime wouldbe with her for support.Unwillingly she went and as sheentered the precincts of the hermitage, theforest blossomed into vernal beauty, andthe south wind blew gently laden with thescent of flowers, and kokilas burst intosong. Love and Spring were both there toassist Beauty. Disturbed by stirrings towhich he had long been a stranger,Viswamitra opened his eyes and saw asmiling damsel of surpassing beauty, whoseemed the very soul of the spring with itsflowers and fragrance and song.At this vision of soft voluptuousness awhite heat of anger surged through him ashe recognised in it another temptationthrown in his way by the envious gods,and he cursed the temptress: "O Rambha,for seeking to tempt me who am strivingto conquer anger and desire, be thoufrozen to an image of stone for tenthousand years."But this explosion of rage made himsee how far he was from the fulfilment ofhis purpose and sadly he quitted theHimalayan forests, and sought the solitudeof the east.There, he restrained his breathing, gaveup all thought of the things of the world,and performed austerities so stern that
  • 9. smoke and flames issued from his bodyand enveloped the universe. Then at theprayer of the panic-stricken gods, Brahmaagain appeared before him, and hailed himas Brahma Rishi: "All hail, Brahma Rishi,I am pleased with you. Blessed be yourlife." Viswamitra was happy.But humbly he said: "How can I behappy unless from Vasishthas lips I hearthat I am a Brahma Rishi?"Vasishtha smiled remembering hisfight with Viswamitra, and said to him:"You have achieved the fruit of your greatausterities. Indeed you are a BrahmaRishi, my brother." There was joy allround.This was the story of the sage thatarrived suddenly at Dasarathas court.4. RAMA LEAVES HOMEKing, Dasaratha received Viswamitraas Indra would welcome Brahma andtouching his feet, the King said: "I amindeed blessed among men. Your comingcan only be due to the merit of myancestors. Like the morning sun thatdispels the darkness of night, your facebrings joy to my sight. My heart is full.Born a king, you have become throughtapas a Brahma Rishi. And you yourselfhave come seeking my dwelling. Is thereanything in my power that I can do foryou? If so, command and I shall obey."Viswamitra was rejoiced to hear thesewords of Dasaratha, and his facebrightened. He said: "O King, your wordsare worthy of you. Born in the Ikshvakuline, with Vasishtha for your Guru, whatelse could you say? You have said yesbefore I asked. This fills my heart withjoy." And he straightway explained thepurpose of his visit.Viswamitra said: "I am engaged inperforming a sacrifice. As it nearscompletion, two powerful Rakshasas,Maricha and Subahu, defile it. Theyshower unclean blood and flesh on thesacred fire. Like other rishis we couldcurse and destroy them. But that would bea waste of all our tapas."Our troubles will end if you send withme Rama, the eldest of your warlike sons.Under my care, he will grow in princelystature. He will surely defeat theseRakshasas and his name will gather lustre.Entrust Rama to my care only for a fewdays. Do not refuse my request. Fulfil thepromise you gave me unsought. OfRamas safety you need have no anxiety.You will earn undying fame in the threeworlds. Vasishtha and your ministers willagree with what I say."Dasaratha trembled with fear andanxiety. He had a hard choice to make;either to give his well-beloved son to bekilled by the Rakshasas or himself incursthe terrible anger of Viswamitra.For a few moments, Dasaratha stoodspeechless, for he was stunned andbewildered. But recovering from theshock, he begged the sage not to press hisdemand, and said: "Rama is not yet fullysixteen years of age. How can he fightwith Rakshasas? Of what use is it to sendhim with you? What does he know of thewiles of Rakshasas? It is not right that Ishould send a mere lad to fight them, I amhere, and my army is ready to march.How can a lad protect you and your yaga?Tell me all about your foes. I shall go withyou at the head of my army and do yourbidding and serve your need. Do tell meabout these desecrators."Viswamitra described Maricha andSubahu and Ravana their master. And hedemanded again that Rama should be sentalong with him.Dasaratha persisted in refusal. "Partingfrom Rama will be death to me," he said."I shall go with you, I and my army. Why,it seems to me the task proposed is prettyhard even for me. How then can my son
  • 10. cope with it? Indeed, I cannot send him. Ifyou please, I am ready with my army."Dasarathas attempt to go back on hishasty word, enraged Viswamitra. TheKings pleas and reasons were like oilpoured on the fire of his anger."This conduct is unworthy of yourlineage", the sage said. Tell me if this isyour final word. I shall go back the way Icame. Long may you live with your kithand kin, having swerved from the path ofTruth!"The earth quaked and the gods wereafraid of the possible consequences of thesages wrath.Vasishtha now turned to the King andspoke gently: "It ill becomes you, King, torefuse having promised once. Born in theIkshvaku line, you cannot do it. Havingonce said, I will do, you have no optionbut to do it. Failing, you will lose themerit of all your great gifts and deeds.Send Rama with the sage, and sendLakshmana too. You need have no fearfor their safety, When they are protectedby Viswamitra, no Rakshasa can hurtthem. As the drink of the gods, shieldedby the wheel of fire, so will Rama be byViswamitra. You have no idea ofViswamitras power; he is tapas in humanform. Bravest of the brave and wisest ofthe wise, he is master of every weapon. Inthe three worlds there is not, and therewill never be, any to equal him in martialor spiritual prowess. When he was king heobtained from the gods mastery of allweapons. He beholds the past, the presentand the future. Then why does he want theprinces, you may wonder. He can welltake care himself of his yaga; but it is forthe good of your sons that he has comehere and appears to seek your help. Do nothesitate. Send your sons with him."Listening to the wise Vasishtha,Dasaratha saw things clearly and made uphis mind to send Rama and Lakshmana.The two princes were then brought tothe presence of the sage. The King, theQueen-Mothers and Vasishtha blessedthem and sent them with Viswamitra.A pleasant breeze wafted and flowerswere strewn by the denizens of theheavens. Auspicious sounds were heard.Bow in hand, the two lads strode proudlyon either side of the Sage.Valmiki and Kamban revel in thispicture of the two handsome princesmarching out to their first adventure underthe guardianship of a great rishi who hadalso been a renowned warrior a teacherwho could create a new world; and besidehim, head erect, two princely pupils bornto end the Rakshasa race.With swords of victory hanging fromtheir waists, bows and quivers mounted onstrong shoulders, they moved, each like athree-headed cobra with uplifted hood.5. RAMA SLAYA THEMONSTERSViswamitra and the two princes spentthe night on the bank of the river Sarayu.Before retiring Viswamitra initiated theprinces in two secret mantras Bala andAtibala, which had the virtue of guardingthem from fatigue and harm. They slepton the verdant bank that night and risingat dawn proceeded on their journey. Theyreached Kamashrama in Anga Desa. Afterpresenting the princes to the rishis there,Viswamitra recounted to them the historyof the ashrama."This," be said, "is the place where theLord Siva was long engaged in austerities.It was here that the foolish god of loveManmatha aimed his arrow at Siva andwas turned to ashes by his wrath. Hencethis place is known as Kamashrama."They were the guests of the rishis thatnight, and the following morning, afterperforming the usual rites, the sage andhis pupils set out on their journey and
  • 11. reached the Ganga. They crossed the riveron a raft got ready for them by the rishis.In midstream, the princes heard a noiseand asked Viswamitra what it could be.He explained to them that it was the soundof the Sarayu flowing into the Gangs. Theprinces paid silent homage to theconfluence of the two holy rivers.A river or a hill, a tree or a cloud,indeed any object of beauty may raise oneto contemplation of the Supreme Beingand silent worship of Him. In particular,sacred rivers, temples or images, whichhave for generations been the objects ofdevotion and worship, possess this powerin a special degree, in virtue of the sacredthoughts they have witnessed andabsorbed as garments retain perfumes.Having crossed the Ganga, Viswamitraand the princes made their difficult waythrough a dense forest made dreadful bythe reverberating roar of wild beasts."This," Viswamitra said, "is theDandaka forest. What is now a terribleforest was once a well-peopled country.Once upon a time, Indra wascontaminated by sin, having killed Vritra,and had therefore to exile himself fromthe world of the Devas. The Devas set tothemselves the task of cleansing Indra.They brought waters from the sacredrivers and bathed him to theaccompaniment of mantras. The waterswhich cleansed Indra flowed into theground and enriched the earth and the landbe came tremendously fertile."All dead things, rotting corpse orstinking garbage, when returned to theearth are transformed into things of beautysuch as fruits and flowers and thewholesome things that nourish life. Suchis the alchemy of Mother Earth.Viswamitra continued: "For longpeople lived here happily till Tataka (wifeof Sunda, a Yaksha) and her son Marichawrought havoc and changed this into thedreadful wilderness it now is. They arestill in this forest. And none dare enter itfor fear of Tataka. She is equal in strengthto a score of elephants. I have brought youhere to rid the forest of this great enemy.There is no doubt that this monster, who isa source of trouble to the rishis, will bedestroyed by you."Rama, who listened to this, asked thesage: "You say she is a Yaksha. I havenever heard that Yakshas are particularlystrong. What is more, how does a womanhappen to possess so much strength?"Viswamitra replied: "You are asking avery pertinent question. Her strengthcomes from a boon granted by Brahma.There lived a Yaksha by name Suketu.Having no progeny he performed tapasand won a boon from Brahma thus: Youwill have a beautiful daughter of greatstrength of body, but you will have noson. Suketus daughter, Tataka, beautifuland strong, was married to Sunda, aYaksha, and their child is Maricha. Sundaat one time incurred Sage Agastyas curseand died. Provoked by this, Tataka andMaricha pounced on Agastya who cursedthem to be monsters living on the carcasesof men. So Tataka is now an uglymonster. Thenceforward, she and Marichahave been harassing the dwellers in thisregion of Agastya. Do not hesitate todestroy her on the ground that it is againstKshatriya dharma to kill a woman. Heratrocities are intolerable. To punish thewicked, whether male or female, is theduty of kings. It is right to kill her, as tokill a wild animal for the sake of humansafety. This is a duty cast on rulers. Manywomen have been punished with death fortheir crimes. Hence do not hesitate."Rama said to Viswamitra: "Our fathersbehest is that we should obey you withoutquestion. Bidden by you and for thegeneral welfare, we shall kill Tataka."
  • 12. So saying, he strung his bow andtwanged it till the forest echoed to itsshrill note and the wild animals scatteredin all directions in terror. It reachedTataka in her fastness, filling her withamazement at the audacious intruder whodared enter her domain. Raging withanger, she ran in the direction whence thesound came and sprang on Rama. Thebattle began.The prince at first thought of cuttingoff the limbs of the monster and sparingher life. But Tataka attacked fiercely and,rising in the sky, she rained stones onRama and Lakshmana. The two princesdefended themselves against the attack.The fight continued and Viswamitracautioned Rama against delay in dealingthe death-blow to the monster."She deserves no sympathy," he said."The sun is about to set and rememberthat at night Rakshasas grow stronger. Donot delay to slay her."Thus advised, Rama decided on killingTataka and pierced her chest with a deadlyarrow and the huge, ugly monster felldown, lifeless.The Devas cheered, and Viswamitra,filled with joy, embraced Rama andblessed him.With Tatakas end, the forest was freedfrom the curse and became beautiful tosee. The princes spent the night there andnext morning they proceeded toViswamitras ashrama.At dawn the next day, Viswamitracalled Rama to his side and blessing himsaid: "I am very happy indeed. What is itthat I can do in return for all that you havedone? I shall teach you the use of all theastras."So saying, Viswamitra gaveRamachandra the divine astras which hehad obtained through his tapas.Viswamitra taught Rama the use, controland recall of the various divine weaponsand Rama in his turn imparted theknowledge to Lakshmana.As they continued the journey, Ramapointed to a big hill with a lovely forest onits slopes and asked: "Is that the placewhereto we have to go? And who are theevil ones who hinder your yaga? Andwhat should I do to destroy them?"Ramachandra was eager to fight andwin the blessings of the sage."That is the place we are going to,"replied Viswamitra. "There the LordNarayana performed tapas and it wasthere that he was born as Vamana. It goesby the name of Siddhashrama. Mahabali,son of Virochana and grandson ofPrahlada the good Asura, was such apowerful ruler that of him even the Devaswere afraid. Mahabali had by his deedsacquired the power of Indra himself.Kashyapa and his spouse Aditi, of whomall the gods were offsprings, prayed toVishnu and begged Him to be born astheir son and protect Indra and the Devasfrom Mahabali. In answer to the prayers,Vishnu was born of Aditi as Vamana.Vamana in the form of a young studentwent to the yaga that was being performedby Mahabali and whereto all werewelcome, to ask for and receive anythingthey wanted. When Vamana presentedhimself as a suitor, Mahabalis guru,Sukra, the preceptor of all the Asuras,knew who he really was and warnedMahabali against promising to grant theyoung Brahmana his request since indeedhe was the Lord Hari in disguise, come toundo him. Mahabali did not pay heed tothis. It was his wont never to turn down arequest. Besides, he was at heart a devoteeof the Lord, and felt that he would indeedbe blessed if the Lord should deign toaccept a gift from him. With a smile,Mahabali bade him ask for what hepleased without hesitation. All have is atyour disposal, money, jewels, the wide
  • 13. earth and all it inherits. Vamana answeredthat wealth was of no use to him, and allhe begged for was three paces of ground,as paced by him. The monarch smiled ashe looked at the diminutive brahmacharislegs and said, So be it; pace and take it.The little Bachelor suddenly grew in sizeinto Trivikrama and with one stepmeasured the earth and with another theentire heavens. And there being no roomleft for the third step that had beengranted, he set his foot on Mahabalisdevoted head. In the eyes of God, the headof a bhakta is as wide as the earth or theheavens. And Mahabali, whose head wasblessed by the touch of Narayanas foot,became one of the seven immortals of theworld."After narrating the story of Mahabali,Viswamitra added: "This is where at firstNarayana and later Kashyapa performedtapas, resulting in the incarnation of Godas Vamana. In this holy place I live. Andhere the Rakshasas come and obstruct ourworship and our austerities. Your cominghere is to end this evil.""So be it," said Rama.The arrival of Viswamitra and the twoprinces was a signal for rejoicing at theashrama. The rishis offered water andfruits according to custom. Rama toldViswamitra that he might begin thepreparations for his yaga immediately andViswamitra took the vows that very night.Getting up very early the next morning,the princes went to Viswamitra and askedwhen the Rakshasas were expected so thatthey might hold themselves in readiness toreceive them.Viswamitra was under a vow ofsilence, and could not answer, but therishis, his jouniors, told the princes thatthey should be ceaselessly vigilant for sixnights and days to safeguard the sacrifice.The princes, fully armed, kept vigil forsix days and nights. On the morning of thesixth day Rama told Lakshmana:"Brother, now is the time for the enemiesto come. Let us be wary."Even as he was saying this, flames shotup from the sacrificial fire, for Agni, theGod of Fire, knew that the Rakshasas hadarrived. As the rites were beingperformed, there was heard from the sky agreat roar.Rama looked up and saw Maricha andSubahu and their followers preparing toshower unclean things on the sacrificialfire The army of Rakshasas covered thesky like a great black cloud.Rama said, "Look Lakshmana," and letgo the Manavastra at Maricha. As wasintended, it did not kill Maricha, butwrapping him up in resistless force hurledhim a full hundred yojanas near the sea.With the Agneyastra Rama killedSubahu; and then the two princes utterlydestroyed the entire army of Rakshasas.The sky was bright again.Viswamitra was supremely happy atthe completion of his yaga. "I am gratefulto King Dasaratha," he said. "You havefulfilled the promise, princes. I admireyour fortitude. This ashrama has throughyou become again a scene of success,Siddhashrama." (Siddha means success).The next day, Rama and Lakshmana,after their morning prayers, went toViswamitra and asked for further orders.The purpose of Ramas birth was notunknown to Sage Viswamitra. And heknew too the powers of the weapons hehad given to Rama. Still the actual factwhen experienced is something more thanexpectation. Sage Viswamitra was happybeyond words, and his face glowed like aflame. He then thought of the service thathe still had to do for Rama. This was theprinces marriage with Sita.The rishis assembled there said toRama: "We intend proceeding to thekingdom of Videha, where in the capital
  • 14. city of Mithila, Janaka, the illustriousphilosopher king, intends to perform agreat sacrifice. All of us are going thereand it will be good if you and the prince,your brother, accompany us. It is meet andproper that the Prince of Ayodhya shouldsee the marvellous bow in the court ofJanaka."So it was decided, and Rama andLakshmana went with Viswamitra toJanakas city.6. SITAJanaka, king of Mithila, was an idealruler. He was a much revered friend ofDasaratha who, when he planned his yagafor progeny, sent not mere messengers butministers to Mithila to invite King Janaka.Janaka was not only a brave king butwas as well-versed in the Sastras andVedas as any rishi and was the belovedpupil of Yajnavalkya whose exposition ofBrahmana to him is the substance of theBrihadaranyaka Upanishad. In theBhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna cites Janakaas an illustrious example of the Karmayogin. Janaka was thus worthy to be thefather of Sita who was to be the wife ofVishnu come down on Earth in humanform.Desirous of performing a yaga, Janakaat one time ploughed the chosen site. Asusual, this was done by his own hand.As the field was being cleared andleveled, Janaka saw among shrubs a babydivinely beautiful. Janaka was childlessand accepted the infant as the goddessEarths gift to him.Taking the child in his arms he went tohis beloved wife and said: "Here istreasure for us. I found this child on theyaga site and we shall make it our own."And she joyfully consented.The beauty of the goddess Earth mortaleyes cannot see in its fulness, but we getglimpses of it as we gaze with gratefulhearts on the emerald green or goldenripeness of spring time or autumn fields,or with awe and adoration on the gloriesof mountain and valley, rivers and ocean.This loveliness was Sita in its entirety.Kamban would have it that Sitas beautythrew into the shade Lakshmi herself whocame up with Nectar as the Ocean of Milkwas being churned. This child of divinebeauty was brought up by King Janakaand his dear queen.When Sita reached the age of marriageJanaka was sad that he would have to partwith her. Though he tried hard, he was forlong unable to choose a prince worthy ofSita. Many kings came to Mithila, seekingSitas hand, but in Janakas view none ofthem was good enough. The Kinganxiously thought over the matter andcame to a decision. Long ago, pleasedwith a yaga performed by Janaka, Varuna,presented to him Rudras bow and twoquivers. That was an ancient heavenlybow, which no ordinary man could evenmove.This was kept by him as an honoredheirloom. Since only a very exceptionalman could be considered worthy of Sita,Janaka issued this proclamation: "Sita, mydaughter, will be given in marriage to theprince who can lift, bend and string thebow of Siva which Varuna gave me and tonone other."Many princes who had heard of Sitasbeauty, went to Mithila only to returndisappointed. None could fulfil thecondition.Led by Viswamitra, the rishis fromSiddhashrama were proceeding to Mithila,with bullock-carts transporting theirluggage. The animals and the birds in theashrama set out to follow Viswamitra, buthe gently bade them stay behind.It was evening when they reached theriver Sona. There they rested for the night,Viswamitra recounting to Rama andLakshmana the history of the place.
  • 15. Getting up in the morning, they continuedtheir journey and crossed another river,not very deep, and by noon they were atthe Ganga.They bathed in the holy river and therishis made lustrations to their forbears.They improvised an ashrama there,performed their pujas and cooked theirfood. Meal over, they sat roundViswamitra who, at the request of the twoprinces, told the story of the Ganga.Himavan, king of mountains and hisspouse, Menaka, had two daughters ofwhom Ganga was the elder. Himavan senther to the land of the Devas in response totheir request and she dwelt with them.Uma, the younger, won the favor of Sivaand became his spouse.Sagara, a former King of Ayodhya, hadno son for a long time. With his twowives, Kesini and Sumati, he went toHimalaya and performed tapas. SageBhrigu, pleased with the king, blessed himand said: "You will get a number ofchildren and will acquire undying fame.One of your wives will give birth to anonly son, and through him your lineagewill be continued. The other queen willbear sixty thousand strong-armed sons."Sagaras wives bowed low before thesage and asked which one of them wouldget an only son and which the sixtythousand children. Sage Bhrigu askedeach of them their own desire.Kesini said she would be satisfied withone son who would continue the line;Sumati chose the other alternative. "Be itso," said the sage.Satisfied, the king and his wives tookleave of the sage and returned toAyodhya. In course of time, Asamanjaswas born to Kesini; Sumati gave birth to afissiparous mass which divided out intosixty thousand babies. This army ofchildren was wen taken care of by nurses.Years rolled by; and while the sixtythousand grew into strong, handsomeprinces, Asamanjas turned out to be acruel lunatic. He indulged in the pastimeof throwing little children into the riverand laughed merrily as they struggled anddied.Naturally people hated this maniac andbanished him from the country. To thegreat relief of all, Asamanjas son,Amsuman, was the opposite of his fatherand was a brave, virtuous and amiableprince.King Sagara launched a great horse-sacrifice and prince Amsuman was incharge of the sacrificial horse, but Indra,in the guise of a Rakshasa, managed tocarry off the animal. The Devas regardedyagas by mortals as a challenge to theirsuperiority, and lost no opportunity ofthrowing obstacles in their way. If,however, all obstruction was overcomeand the yaga was completed, theyaccepted offerings made to them. Andthen he who performed the yaga got duereward.The king was greatly upset when heheard that the sacrificial horse was stolen.He sent out the sixty thousand sons ofSumati to go in search of the animal allover the earth and to spare no pains toretrieve it."The loss of the horse," he impressedon them, "not only means obstruction tothe yaga; it casts sin and ignominy on anconcerned. You should, therefore, recoverthe horse, wherever it may be kepthidden."Eagerly the sons of Sagara proceededto search the entire earth, but the horsewas nowhere to be found. They evenstarted digging the earth as for buriedtreasure, and in their anxiety respectedneither place nor person and onlysucceeded in earning the hatred of all theymet. The horse was not to be found; and
  • 16. when they reported their failure to theKing, he bade them ransack the netherworld also. The princes did as they weretold and in Patala they saw the horsegrazing in a corner of an ashrama, not farfrom the place where Sage Kapila whowas Vishnu sat in meditation.The princes at once jumped to theconclusion that they had not only foundthe stolen horse but the thief also, andthey rushed on Kapila shouting, "Here isthe thief pretending to be a yogi." Kapilathus disturbed opened his eyes and thesixty thousand princes were reduced to aheap of ashes. Indra, the real thief, hadartfully left the horse here with this veryintent.7. BHAGIRATHA AND THESTORY OF GANGAKING Sagara waited in vain for thereturn of the princes who had gone insearch of the sacrificial horse.After some days he called hisgrandson, Amsuman, and said: "I amanxious to know what has happened to theprinces who went to Patala. You arebrave; go thither, well-armed and find outwhat has happened and come backcrowned with success."Amsuman went closely following thepath of the princes and reached the netherworld where he saw and paid salutationsto the mighty elephants standing guard atthe four quarters. These guardians of thequarters uttered encouraging words andsaid he would succeed in his mission.When in due course Amsuman enteredand went round Patala he was delightedwhen he found the sacrificial horsegrazing contentedly there, but wasperplexed and distressed when he sawheaps of ashes all over the place. Couldthey be all that remained of his valiantuncles?Garuda, the bird-king, brother ofSumati, Sagaras second wife, whochanced to be there told Amsuman:"Those ash heaps are all that is left of thesixty thousand sons of Sagara who wereconsumed by the wrathful glance of SageKapila. Dear child, take the horse andcomplete the yaga. If these ashes are to bewatered according to custom so that thesouls of the princes may rest in peace,Ganga should be brought down here fromthe land of the Devas."Amsuman rushed home with the horseand told the king all that he had found andlearnt.Sagara was immersed in sorrow at thefate that had overtaken his sons. However,the horse having been brought back, hecompleted the yaga. Grieving over his lostsons and despairing of ever bringingGanga down to the nether world, he dieddisconsolate.According to the Ramayana, Sagaralived for 30,000 years. Figures like 30,000and 60,000 need not confuse us. Thirtythousand may mean either a very largenumber or just thirty. If we so like, wemay take these figures literally.Amsuman succeeded Sagara as King ofAyodhya and was, in turn, succeeded byDilipa. Bhagiratha came after Dilipa.Amsuman and Dilipa though happyand blessed in other respects, diedgrieving that they were unable to bringGanga to Patala for the salvation of theirforefathers.Bhagiratha was a valiant king. He waschildless. Desiring progeny and hoping tobring Ganga down, he left for Gokarna forperforming penance, leaving the kingdomin the hands of his ministers.Bhagiratha went through severeausterities. With fire on all sides and headexposed to the hot sun, and taking foodbut once a month, he continued his tapas.Bhagirathas name has come to signifygreat perseverance in any good cause.
  • 17. Brahma, pleased with the tapas,appeared before Bhagiratha and asked:"What would you have?"Bhagiratha told him two wishes: "Ifyou have pity on me, bless me with achild to continue the line of my forebears.Secondly, cursed by Kapila Muni, myancestors lie a heap of ashes in Patala. Theashes should be washed by the waters ofGanga so that their souls may ascend topheaven. May you be pleased to orderGanga to go down."Brahma replied: "The Devas arepleased with your tapas. You wishes aregranted. But there is one difficulty. Theearth cannot withstand the force ofGangas descent. Siva alone can stand it.Therefore direct your penance and prayersto him."Bhagiratha renewed his tapas andcontinued long without food or water, andat last won Sivas grace. Siva appearedand said to Bhagiratha: "I shall fulfil yourwish. I shall receive Ganga on my head.May her grace be upon you."When Mahadeva promised help toBhagiratha, Ganga began her descent asordered by Brahma. In her arrogance, shethought she would fall on Mahadevashead and sweep him away towards Patala.The three-eyed God decided to teachGanga a lesson. And the moment hewilled it, the flood of waters that fell onhis head were held by his matted hair as inan infinite receptacle. Ganga tried her bestbut not a drop could emerge from thetangled maze of Sivas matted locks.This was a lesson to Ganga to be sure,but a heart-braking disappointment toBhagiratha. There was nothing for him butto propitiate Siva with tapas. This he didto such good purpose that Siva took pityon him and gently let out the waters ofGanga in Bindu Saras from where theyflowed down in seven small separatestreams.Three of them flowed west and threeeast; and the seventh river followedBhagiratha who was full of joy at theapproaching salvation of his ancestors.Ganga followed Bhagirathas triumphalchariot; the waters danced and shone likelightning flashes as the river made itscourse and the Devas and Gandharvasassembled above to witness the grandsight. Sometimes slow and sometimesfast, now sliding down and now jumpingup, the river went on dancing behindBhagirathas chariot and the folk ofheaven enjoyed the sight all the way.On her course, Ganga damaged theyaga platform of a rishi by name Jahnu.The rishi took the entire flood in his palmand sipped it off. Ganga disappeared againand Bhagiratha was sorely perplexed.The Devas and other rishis approachedJahnu and begged him to forgive Gangaand allow Bhagiratha to reap the fruit ofhis great austerities and perseverance. Thesage relented and let Ganga out throughhis right ear. The Devas were glad andblessed Ganga thus: "Coming out of therishis body as out of your mothers womb,you are now Jahnavi, Jahnus daughter."There was no further hindrance ormishap and Ganga reached Patala throughthe ocean. With the holy waters,Bhagiratha performed the funeral rites forhis arcestors and secured for them theirentry to heaven.Bhagirathas efforts having broughtGanga down, she is known as Bhagirathi.After concluding this narrative,Viswamitra blessed the princes. "The sunis setting," he said. "Let us say ourevening prayers in the waters of Gangawhom your ancestor brought down to thisworld."Those who bathe in the holy waters ofGanga or read or listen to this divine storywith devotion, will be cleansed of sin and
  • 18. endowed with virtue, strength andunflagging zeal.8. AHALYAAfter a days stay in the City of Visala,Viswamitra and his party left for Mithila.On the way, not far from Mithila, theysaw a beautiful ashrama which seemeduntenanted. Rama asked Viswamitra:"Whose is this ashrama with ancienttrees? Why does such a beautiful abodestand deserted?"Viswamitra replied:"This ashrama is subject to a curse.Sage Gautama lived here with his wifeAhalya, spending his days in peace andholy meditation. One day during the sagesabsence from the ashrama, Indra, filledwith unholy desire for the beautifulAhalya, entered it disguised as Gautamaand approached the lady with urgentsolicitation. She was not deceived by theimpersonation, but vain of her beauty andproud that it had won her the love of thelord of the celestials, she lost herjudgment and yielded to his desire. Whenthe sin had been sinned, realising itsheinousness and the fierce spiritual energyof her betrayed husband, she warned Indraof his terrible peril and begged him to begone in the instant. Indra was fleeing inguilty panic; but unfortunately for him healmost bumped into the rishi who was justreturning from his ablutions, clad in wetgarments and radiating spiritual lustre.Pretence was hopeless before that all-seeing wisdom and Indra bowed in abjectsupplication, and threw himself on themercy of the rishi. The sage looked at himwith wrath and loathing and cursed him:Lustful beast as you are, dead to all truthand righteousness, may your manhood fallaway from you. Indra at once became aneunuch and went back to the Devas inignominious shame. Then the sage turnedto his erring wife and prescribed a longpenance for her. He said: Living on air,you shall stay here, unseen by anyone.After a long time, Dasarathas son willpass this way. When he sets foot in thisashrama, you will be freed from the curse.Welcome him as a guest. You will thenrecover your lost virtue and get back yourown beauty. The sage then left hisviolated ashrama for Himalayas to engagehimself in austerities there."Viswamitra said to Rama: "Let us enterthe ashrama. You will bring redemption toAhalya and rekindle the light in her as thesage promised."And they went into the ashrama. AsRama set foot in the ashrama, the cursewas lifted and Ahalya stood before themin all her beauty. Having lain concealedbehind leaves and creepers and kept hervow for many years, she now shone, saysthe poet, in Ramas presence, like themoon emerging from the clouds, like aflame issuing from smoke and like thesuns reflection in rippling water.Rama and Lakshmana touched the feetof the sages wife made pure by penance.She welcomed the divine princes with allthe customary rites of hospitality. Ashower of flowers descended from theheavens as Ahalya, cleansed of sin, shonelike a goddess. Simultaneously the sageGautama returned to the ashrama andreceived his repentant and purified wifeback to his affection.That is Ahalyas story as told byValmiki. There are in other Puranas andpopular stories slightly varying versions,but the differences need not trouble us.Now, a word to those of our times whoread Ramayana and Bharata and otherPuranas. In these works, there are frequentreferences to Devas and Rakshasas. Thelatter were wicked, had no regard fordharma, and reveled in evil deeds. Asuraswere also like Rakshasas. But even amongRakshasas there were a few wise andvirtuous people. There spring up bad men
  • 19. even in the best of races and vice versa.On the whole, Asuras and Rakshasas werethose who rejoiced in doing wicked deeds.It is a pity that some people in theirignorance identify the Asuras andRakshasas with ancient Indian tribes andraces, a view not supported by any literarywork or tradition or recorded history.The conjecture of foreigners that theRakshasas were the Dravidian race, is notborne out by any authority in Tamil orother literature. The Tamil people are notdescendants of the Asuras or Rakshasas.The Devas were generally upholders ofdharma and took on themselves the task ofputting down the Rakshasas. According tothe Puranas, they had at times to deviatefrom dharma in dealing with theRakshasas, some of whom had attainedgreat power through tapas.The Devas were generally good; andthose among them who swerved from thepath of righteousness paid the price for it.There was no separate code of conduct forthe Devas; the law of Karma admits of nodistinction between the Devas and others.The law dealt with the Devas as withothers.Wedded to virtue as the Devasgenerally were, lapses on their part appearbig to us, like stains on white cloth. TheRakshasas evil deeds are taken forgranted and do not attract much attention,like stains on black cloth.The honest, when they happen to goastray, should evoke our sympathy. It ishowever the way of the world, but it is notright, to condemn in strong terms casuallapses of the virtuous, while toleratinghabitual wrong-doers.It should be noted that in the Puranaswe see the gods getting entangled indilemmas of Dharma. Indra and otherDevas are shown often as committingserious sins.Why did the sages who told thePuranas involve themselves in suchdifficulties? Their aim was to awakenpeople to a sense of the dangers ofadharma. Else, the sages need not havedeliberately attributed sinful acts to theirown heroes and created difficulties forthemselves.Some persons take pleasure in jumpingto wrong conclusions from the incidentsin the Puranas. They argue: "Ravana wasa very good king. Valmiki has falselyaccused him of wicked deeds." They ask:"Did not Rama act unjustly on a certainoccasion? Did not Sita utter a lie?" and thelike. Valmiki could well have omittedincidents which are not edifying. BothRama and Ravana were first presented tous by the poet Valmiki.There was no earlier work referring toRavana that can be quoted to contradictValmiki and stamp him as being partial toRama, Sita and the Devas, and twistingfacts to deceive people. ValmikisRamayana is the fountain source of thestory of Rama; in it, one comes acrossseemingly wrong deeds.Calm consideration of such situationswould show that they are just portrayals ofsimilar difficulties in our day-to-day life.It is for us to benefit from the moral trialscontained in them. The lesson of theAhalya episode is that, however deadlyones sin, one may hope to be freed fromits consequence by penitence andpunishment. Instead of condemning othersfor their sins, we should look within ourown hearts and try to purify them of everyevil thought. The best of us have need foreternal vigilance, if we would escape sin.This is the moral of Ahalyas error.9. RAMA WINS SITAS HANDAll arrangements for Janakas yaga hadbeen completed and to Mithila had comemany rishis and Brahmans from variouskingdoms. Viswamitra and the princes
  • 20. were duly welcomed. Janakas preceptor,Satananda, was the first to pay honor toViswamitra. Janaka followed him.The King said to the sage: "I am indeedblessed that you should attend my yaga."Pointing to Rama and Lakshmana,Janaka asked Viswamitra: "Who are thesegod-like youths who resemble each other,and carry their weapons with the proudease of seasoned warriors? Who is thehappy father of such sons?"Viswamitra told Janaka that they werethe sons of King Dasaratha. He narratedhow they had protected his own yaga anddestroyed the Rakshasas. "They havecome here," the sage went on, "to see, ifthey may, the great bow of Rudra in yourpalace." Janaka understood the meaningof Viswamitras words and rejoiced.The King said: "The prince is welcometo see the bow. If he can string it, he willwin the hand of my daughter. Many werethe princes who saw this bow and wentback, unable even to move it. I shallindeed be happy if this prince succeedswhere so many have failed and I amthereby enabled to give Sita to him."Janaka then ordered his men to bringthe bow which was kept safe and sacred inan iron box. It was brought on an eight-wheeled carriage and dragged like atemple chariot during a festival."Here," said Janaka, "is Rudras bowworshipped by me and my ancestors. LetRama see this bow."After obtaining permission fromViswamitra and the King, Rama steppedout to the iron bow-case, while all eyeswere fixed on him in wishful expectation.Opening the box, he lifted the boweffortlessly, as if it were a garland offlowers, and resting one end of it againsthis toe, he bent and strung it and drew thestring back with such irresistible force thatthe mighty bow snapped with a crash likea clap of thunder. And there fell fromheaven a shower of flowers.Janaka proclaimed: "My beloveddaughter shall be wedded to this prince."Viswamitra said to Janaka: "Send yourswiftest messengers to Ayodhya to givethe news to Dasaratha and invite him."Janakas messengers reached Ayodhyain three days. They met King Dasarathawho was seated, like Indra, on his throneand said to him: "Sage Viswamitra andKing Janaka have sent you happy news.Your son who came to Mithila has wonour princess Sita by fulfilling thecondition set for her hand. He not onlystrung Rudras bow which none beforecould so much as lift, but bent its toughpride till it broke. King Janaka eagerlyawaits your gracious consent for themarriage, and your presence and blessingat the festivities. May it please you to startfor Mithila with your retinue."Dasaratha, who had sent Rama withViswamitra with a heart not altogetherfree from anxiety even after the sagesassurance, was thrilled with joy onhearing this good news. He told hisministers to prepare for the journey andleft the very next day for Janakas capital.Dasaratha and his following reachedMithila and were received withenthusiastic welcome. Exchange ofcourtesies over, Janaka said to Dasaratha:"My yaga will soon be over. I think it bestto have the marriage as soon as the yaga isover," and sought his approval.Dasaratha replied: "You are the bridesfather and it is for you to order things asyou wish."At the appointed day and hour, givingaway the bride, King Janaka said toRama: "Here is my daughter, Sita, whowill ever tread with you the path ofdharma. Take her hand in yours. Blessedand devoted, she will ever walk with youlike your own shadow."
  • 21. Iyam Sita mama sutasahadharmacharee tavaprateechchha chainam bhadramtepanim grihneeshwa paninapativrata mahabhagachhayevanugata sada.This sloka is uttered in every weddingin upper India when the bride is givenaway.Thus was Sita given by Janaka toRama. Were they not Eternal Loversreunited? And so they rejoiced like loverscome together after separation.10. PARASURAMASDISCOMFITUREHaving thus safely handed back toDasaratha at Mithila the princes entrustedto him in Ayodhya, and after attending thewedding celebrations, Viswamitra tookleave of the two kings and went toHimalaya. In the story of Rama,Viswamitra has no further part.Viswamitra may be said to be thefoundation of the grand temple of Ramasstory. After Ramas wedding in Mithila,we do not see him again. It should benoted that characters that play a leadingrole in one canto of Valmiki almost fadeout in subsequent cantos. Viswamitra whodominates the Bala Kanda does not appearagain. Similarly, Kaikeyi and Guha areprominent only in Ayodhya Kanda. Thesame thing can be said of Bharata whomwe do not come across in the chaptersintervening between the Chitrakutameeting and Ramas return to Ayodhya.The poet hardly brings Bharata beforeour eyes during the period of Ramasdistress. The characters in ValmikiRamayana (unlike those in theMahabharata and in ordinary plays andnovels) do not present themselves off andon. Critics should bear this generalcharacteristic of Valmikis epic in mind.King Dasaratha returned to Ayodhya,accompanied by his retinue. On the way,there were bad omens and anxiousDasaratha asked Vasishtha what theyportended. Vasishtha replied that therewas no need to be alarmed, for though thebirds in the air indicated approachingtrouble, the animals on the land promiseda happy consummation.As Dasaratha and Vasishtha were thusconversing, there broke out a great storm.Trees were uprooted; the earth quaked andclouds of dust went up and hid the sun andthere was an all-enveloping darkness.Everyone was terror-struck. Soon theyknew the reason for the strangephenomenon. There stood before them theawe-inspiring figure Parasurama, thesworn enemy of Kshatriyas, with a bowon one shoulder and a battle-axe on theother, and with an arrow shining likelightning in his hand.Terrible in appearance, with his mattedlocks gathered overhead, he looked likeRudra exulting in the destruction ofTripura. His face emitted flame-likeradiance. The son of Sage Jamadagnistruck terror among Kshatriyas, manygenerations of which he had annihilated.Wherever he went he was preceded bystorm and earthquake. And the Kshatriyarace trembled in fear.The Brahmanas in Dasarathas retinuesaid to one another: "Because his fatherwas killed by a king, Parasurama took avow to destroy the Kshatriya race. Wedared to hope that his vengeful wrath hadbeen quenched in the blood of theinnumerable kings he has slain. Has heagain started his cruel campaign?"However, they honored him with thecustomary offering of water.After receiving it, Parasuramaaddressed himself to Rama: "Son ofDasaratha, I have heard of your prowess. Iwas somewhat surprised to learn that you
  • 22. strung the bow in King Janakas court andthat you drew the string till the bow broke.Here is my bow, equal in all respects tothe one that you broke. This is the bow ofVishnu which was entrusted to my father.If you are able to string this bow, you willbe worthy of my battle."Dasaratha was perturbed at this turn ofevents and he begged that his son Ramashould be spared the trial. He said toParasurama: "You are a Brahmana. Wehave heard that, satiated with yourrevenge, you have gone back to tapas asbecomes your order, in pursuance of yourplighted word to Indra, after giving awaythe earth you had conquered to Kashyapa.Is it proper that you should break yourvow, and seek to injure a prince of tenderyears who has done you no wrong, andwho is dearer to us than life?"Parasurama heard him unmovedwithout so much as looking at him, andaddressed himself solely to Rama, asthough the others did not exist:"Viswakarma originally made two exactlysimilar bows. One of them was given toRudra and the other to Vishnu. This is theone given to Vishnu. What you are said tohave strung and bent to the breaking pointwas Sivas bow. See if you can, string thisbow of Vishnu; and if you do, it will beproof of your skill and strength and I willthen honor you by fighting with you."Parasurama spoke in a loud andarrogant tone. To him Rama replied incourteous manner, yet in firm tones: "Sonof Jamadagni! You have been vengefulbecause your father was killed by a king. Ido not blame you for that. But you cannotput me down as you have humbled others.Please give me your bow."So saying, he took the bow and arrowfrom Parasurama. He strung the bow andsetting the arrow to it, drew the string.Addressing Parasurama, he said with asmile: "This mighty Vaishnava arrowplaced on the string cannot be put backidly. It must destroy something. Tell me,shall it destroy your powers oflocomotion, or would you rather that itconsumes the fruits of your tapas?"As the son of Dasaratha strung the bowof Vishnu, the glory on Parasuramas facefaded, and he stood, no longer the warlikeconqueror, but a self-subdued rishi, for thepurpose of the Parasurama avatar wasover.Parasurama said mildly to the Prince ofAyodhya: "I realise who you are. I am notsorry that you have quenched myarrogance. Let all my tapas go to you. Butbecause of my promise to Kashyapa, Icannot remain in his domains and havetherefore to hurry back to the MahendraMountains before the sunsets. Let me usemy power of locomotion for this singlething. Subject to this, let the arrow whichyou have set to the bow consume all mypower earned through tapas."So saying, Parasurama went in reverentcircumambulation around the prince anddeparted. Ayodhyas citizens were over-joyed to bear that Dasaratha and the royalprinces were returning to the capital. Thecity was festive with flowers and shonelike the deva-loka.Rama and Sita lived happily inAyodhya for twelve years. Rama hadsurrendered his heart to Sita. It wasdifficult for one to say whether their lovegrew because of their virtues or it wasplanted in their beauty of form. Theirhearts communed even without speech.Sita, rejoicing in Ramas love, shone likeLakshmi in heaven.Long afterwards, when their forest-lifebegan, Anasuya, the great sage Atris holywife, extolled Sitas love for Rama.And Sita answered: "How else could itbe? Rama is a perfect being. His love forme equals mine for him. His affection is
  • 23. unchanging. Pure of heart, he hasmastered the senses."11. FESTIVE PREPARATIONSRAMA and Sita spent twelve happyyears in Ayodhya. But now the Lord andhis consort in human form had toexperience the hardships, sorrows andconflicts of life on earth.As Bhagavan himself explains:"Whatever avatar I assume, my play mustgo through the feelings and experiencesappropriate to that incarnation."Who was the Prince of Ayodhya whothrough his body, life and experience,suffered the sorrows of mankind andsaved the gods? The ever-present, all-pervasive Being who rules the world fromwithin and without.Kamban, the Tamil poet, begins theAyodhya Kanda referring to this marvelof how the King of Kings allowed himselfto suffer the cruel machinations of thehunchback maid-servant and of a step-mother which deprived him of the sceptreand banished birn to the forest and beyondthe sea.Dasaratha loved all his, four sons andyet he had a special affection for Rama.And the latter deserved it by his royalqualities and adherence to dharma. QueenKausalya, like Aditi, the mother of thegods, was proud that she had such a son asRama. Valmiki has filled pages with thetale of Ramas virtues. The muni is neversatiated drinking from the ocean ofRamas qualities. He describes Ramasgifts and graces sometimes directly,sometimes as seen and admired by others.Thus and in many other ways he dwellson the qualities that made Rama the idealman.Ramas graceful frame and virilebeauty, his strength, his courage, thepurity of his heart, his perfect life, hiscompassion, sweetness of speech, hisserenity, his deep wisdom and his statesmanship were admired by the people andmade them eagerly look forward to hisbecoming king.And Dasaratha knew and rejoiced inthis expectation. Hence, considering hisold age, he wished to crown Rama asYuvaraja and entrust him with the de factorule of the kingdom. Informing hisministers of his desire, he had the RajaSabha convened. Rishis and wise men,leaders of the city and kings fromneighboring lands, attended the RajaSabha. When all were seated, each in hisappropriate place, Dasaratha rose andaddressed them.His deep manly voice, like the sound ofa trumpet or the roar of rain-bearingclouds, filled the great hall. A royalradiance shone from his face. His wordswere full of meaning and charmed allears."Like my ancestors, I have tended thiskingdom as a mother cares for her child. Ihave worked unremittingly for the people,Now my body is old and infirm. I wishtherefore to appoint my eldest son asYuvaraja and transfer to him the burden ofresponsibility. Following the holy customof my forefathers, I hope to spend the restof my life in austerities in the forest.Rama is fully equal to the task ofkingship. He is expert in administrationand statecraft and he is unequalled invalor. I can transfer this trust ofsovereignty to him without any anxietyand I hope that this honored assembly willpermit me to do so."Shouts of joyous acclaim rose from thegreat assembly and with one voice thegathered princes and potables exclaimed:"So be it."The King spoke again: "You agreewith my proposal but give no reason. Thiswill not do. Let the wise men explain whythey agree."
  • 24. Then several speakers rose andexplained Ramas virtues and fitness torule. The Kings heart was filled with joyto hear these praises of Rama.At last the whole assembly rose andsaid with one voice: "Let there be nodelay. Let Rama be anointed Yuvaraja."The King answered that he was happyand would forthwith carry out theirwishes. Then turning to Vasishtha,Vamadeva and the other holy men andguardians of the sacred rites, he said:"This is the auspicious month of Chaitra,the season when the trees in the forest arecovered with flowers. Revered elders,make all preparations for the anointing ofRama."The assembly was glad to hear theseprompt orders. As bidden by the King,Sumantra, the minister in charge of thehousehold, went to fetch Rama. Rama,ignorant of all these happenings, came andstood before his father.Hearing of the decision to anoint himYuvaraja, he humbly bowed acceptance,saying, "I am in duty bound to carry outyour orders, whatever they be."Dasaratha blessed Rama and said:"You are a good prince beloved of thepeople. Let not your courtesy and yourconsideration flag but increase with youropportunities of doing good, and earn youenduring glory." And Rama returned tohis dwelling.Hardly had Rama returned home whenSumantra called in haste and told him thathis father wished to see him. Asked forthe reason, Sumantra could not tell; heonly knew he had been enjoined to fetchthe prince at once.Rama thought: "The King must havetaken counsel over the coronationceremony and perhaps met with somedifficulty. But whatever happens is for thebest." Rama was not eager to assumeauthority, but looked on it as only a dutyto be done. If the King wanted him to takeit up, he was ready to do so. But if theKing wanted him to give it up, he wasequally willing. In this mood, Rama wentto his father12. MANTHARAS EVILCOUNSELTHE King embraced Rama, seated himbeside him on the throne and said: "I amold. I have enjoyed my life as a man and aking. I have discharged all my duties tomy ancestors. There is nothing left for meto do. My only desire is to install you onthe throne of our fathers. Last night I hadbad dreams. Those who read, the futureadvise me that a great sorrow, even death,may overtake me very soon. Hence I wishto have the coronation performedtomorrow. Tomorrow, the readers of thestars say, is auspicious. Something withinme says, Do this at once. You and Sitashould prepare for tomorrows anointmentby fasting tonight. Lie down on a bed ofdarbha grass and have trusty and vigilantfriends to look after your safety. It seemsto me that the present time when Bharatais away is particularly opportune for yourinstallation. Not that I do not know thatBharata is the soul of righteousness inthought and conduct alike, and that he isdevoted to you, but the minds of men arechangeful and open to unexpectedinfluences."And so the King decided that thecoronation should be performed on thevery next day and told Vasishtha of hisdecision. Bad dreams added to the reasonsfor fixing the day for the coronation atonce.Taking leave of his father, Rama wentto Kausalyas apartment to give her thenews and seek her blessing. But theQueen had heard the news already.Sumitra, Sita and Lakshmana were allthere with Kausalya, who, clad in
  • 25. ceremonial white, sat offering prayers forher son.Rama reported to his mother the Kingslatest command. She answered: "This Ihave heard. May you live long. Be a goodruler. Conquer your foes and protect yoursubjects and kinsfolk. You have pleasedyour father and you have made mehappy."Then bidding farewell to his motherand step-mother, Rama went to his ownapartment. As directed by the King,Vasishtha came to Ramas place. He waswelcomed by him at the entrance,Vasishtha initiated Rama with duemantras in his pre-coronation fast.As Vasishtha returned to the King, hesaw groups of people on the royal road,cheerfully discussing the great festival ofthe morrow. Houses were being decoratedwith flowers, festoons and flags. It waswith difficulty that Vasishtha could makehis way through the crowds to the Kingspalace. The King was pleased to hear thatthe fast had begun duly and all was beinggot ready for the ceremony.But in his heart of hearts there was afear that some mishap might comebetween him and his one wish.The city was in a joyous commotion ofexpectancy. In every house, in everystreet, men, women and children lookedon the coronation as a great andauspicious occasion in their own lives andawaited it with enthusiasm.Rama and Sita in their dwellingmeditated long on Narayana, fed withghee the sacrificial fire, and reverentlysipped what remained of the ghee, andslept on grass spread on the floor. Earlythe following morning, they were rousedfrom slumber by music and heldthemselves in readiness to proceed to thepalace and in expectation of theauspicious call.But the summons that came was of anentirely opposite nature.In accordance with the practice in royalhouseholds, Queen Kaikeyi had a womancompanion and confidential servant. Shewas a hunchback named Manthara. Beinga distant relation of the Queen, sheclaimed great intimacy with her.Manthara is one of the best knowncharacters in the Ramayana. Every man,woman and child in our land knows anddetests her, as the cause of Ramas exile,Dasarathas death and all the sorrowswhich befell the royal family.On the day on which Dasarathasummoned the Assembly and decided toanoint Rama as Yuvaraja, Mantharahappened to climb up to the terrace of thewomens apartments and stood surveyingthe town below. She saw the streets weresprinkled with water and gaily decorated.Flags flew from the house-tops. Wearingnew clothes and bright jewels, smearedwith sandal paste and decked in flowers,people moved about in crowds, engrossedin happy talk.Musical instruments played in thetemples. Manthara could not understandthe reason for all this, for she did notknow what the King had decided. Somecelebration was on, she guessed. Mantharaturned to a servant and asked her: "Whyare you wearing this silk dress? What ison in the City? Kausalya seems to bedistributing gifts to Brahmanas. She is athrifty lady and would not be doing thisfor nothing. There are festive sights andsounds everywhere. Do you know what allthis is about?"The little servant girl answered,dancing with joy: "Why, do you not knowthat our Ramachandra is going to beanointed Yuvaraja tomorrow morning?"This was news! Manthara wasoverpowered with sudden anger. Quicklyshe hobbled downstairs. Straight she
  • 26. entered Kaikeyis room. Kaikeyi wasresting on her bed."Rise, rise, foolish woman! A flood ofmisfortune is rising to drown and swallowyou! You are betrayed and ruined. Yourstar is setting. Foolish girl, is this the timeto sleep?"Kaikeyi, fearing that some calamityhad overtaken Manthara, asked her gently:"What is troubling you? Why are you thusupset?"And the clever Manthara began:"Destruction has come upon both you andme, my girl. Dasaratha has decided tomake Rama Yuvaraja, the real ruler of thisland. What greater cause for sorrow need Ihave? When grief comes to you, how canI remain unconcerned? I have comerunning to you. You were born and bredin a royal family. You were married into aroyal family. Now, alas, all is over. Likethe simple woman you are, you have beendeceived. Your husband has cheated youwith sweet words. It is a deep plot, as anyone can see. He put Bharata out of theway by sending him to the distant place ofhis uncle, and is taking advantage of hisabsence by hurriedly crowning Rama. Bytomorrow it will all be over. And youwatch all this, lying in bed and doingnothing, while you and all who depend onyou are being destroyed."And so, Manthara went on talking.Kaikeyis ears heard the words withoutquite heeding their drift. Like the rest ofthe royal household her mind wasoverwhelmed now with the joyousexpectation of Ramas coronation, for sheloved and esteemed Rama like everybodyelse."Manthara, you have brought me goodnews," she said. "Is my son Rama to becrowned tomorrow? What greater joy cancome to me? Here, take this. Ask me foranything else." So saying, Kaikeyi tookthe necklace off her neck and gave it toManthara. It was a royal custom at once toreward with a rich gift the bringer of anyimportant good news.Kaikeyi thought Manthara, like anyother officious personal attendant, wasingratiatingly jealous in her mistresssinterests. How could this womanunderstand the goodness of Rama, oraffairs of State? And so she thought herfoolish fears would be banished if she sawthat her mistress was happy at the event.Kaikeyis mind was still uncorrupted. Shehad the culture of her noble lineage andwas not easily amenable to low thoughts.This but increased Mantharas grief.She flung away the necklace and said:"Woe to you, stupid woman. All is lostand stupidly you laugh with joy. How canyou be blind to the misfortune that iscoming to you? Am I to laugh or cry atthis folly? Your rival, Ramas mother, hasconspired to making him King. And youjump with joy. Insane woman! Whatwould be Bharatas state when Ramareigns? Would not Rama fear and everlook upon Bharata as a dangerous enemy?Rama knows human nature. He knowsthat Bharata alive would be a constantthreat to his power and therefore must bekilled. Does not one kill a cobra out offear? Hereafter there is no security forBharatas life. Tomorrow morningKausalya will be a happy woman and youwill bend before her as a well-dressedslave. You will stand before her, handsclasped in obedience. From tomorrowyour son too will be a subject and a slave.In these apartments there will be no morehonor or joy."And she stopped, unable for grief tocontinue. Kaikeyi heard all this andwondered "Why should Manthara havesuch fears? Does she not know Rama? Ishe not dharma embodied in human form?"She said: "Manthara, have you notknown and rejoiced in Ramas
  • 27. truthfulness, right conduct and humility?He is the elder prince and he gets thekingdom. Bharata will get it one day afterhim. What is wrong with all this? Why,dear friend, do you feel such grief? AfterRama, Bharata will reign for a hundredyears. Do not cry. You know howaffectionate Rama is to me. Indeed hecares for me more than for his ownmother. Does not Rama hold his brothersas dear as life? It is not right that youshould fear any harm from Rama.""Alas, Alas!" said Manthara. "Why areyou so foolish? Once Rama is crownedking, what chance has Bharata? Do younot know the rule of succession? WhenRama ascends the throne all prospects ofroyalty for Bharata and his line are at anend. After Rama, Ramas son will be king,and after him that sons son will be king,and so the succession will go on. Eldestson succeeds eldest son. There is nochance for a younger brother, no matterhow good or manly he is. My dear, youknow not even this. What is one to do?""Once Rama is crowned," shecontinued, "he will not leave Bharataalone. There will be danger to Bharataslife. If you want Bharata to live, advisehim to remain away, an exile from home;for if he returns he will be coming to hisdeath. It would be safest for him to leaveeven his uncles house, and hide his headin obscurity in some more distant land.And Kausalya is no friend of yours. Shebears you a grudge because you are theKings favorite and have often slightedher. And now she is sure to wreakvengeance on you. You know the wrath ofa rival wife is a raging fire when it findsits chance. You may take it that, if Ramais king, Bharata is as good as dead.Therefore, think hard. Be firm. Decidesomething and stick to it. SomehowBharata must be crowned. Rama must bebanished from the kingdom."Fear now entered the heart of theQueen. Manthara won. Kaikeyis face wasflushed; her breath became hot. Helplessshe clung to Manthara for comfort andsafety.Because his first two wives had borneno children, Dasaratha, following theroyal custom, married Kaikeyi. At thattime Kaikeyis father secured fromDasaratha the promise that the child of herwomb should become king after him. Insuch a promise given by a childless kingthere was nothing surprising and nothingwrong. At that time, his then queens hadlong been childless. The King took a thirdwife for the sake of progeny. Even thenhis wish for a son to be born was notfulfilled. Many years passed.After the great sacrifice wasperformed, all three wives bore children.The son of the Queen Eminent, Rama,was the eldest among four sons. He wasalso great in virtue, fully equal to theburden of Kingship, acceptable toministers, citizens and vassal princes.How could Dasaratha violate the royalcustom and ignoring Ramas claim anointBharata?Moreover, neither Bharata nor Kaikeyihad ever thought of or wished for thefulfilment of this old and forgottenpromise. During all the intervening years,no word had been spoken on this subject.Hence the King thought there could be nodifficulty in installing Rama as Yuvarajain accordance with the custom of thedynasty and public expectation. And therewas no cloud in Kaikeyis mind. This isclear from Kaikeyis behavior. AndBharata was too noble to raise thisquestion.And, yet, as Dasaratha told Rama, eventhe purest of minds is mutable. When fateconspires with bad counsel, any one of usmight be corrupted. And this happened toKaikeyi. The gods in Heaven had received
  • 28. an assurance, and the sages had performedtapas or the destruction of Ravana. Whatwe call destiny, therefore, ordained thatKaikeyis pure heart should be changed byMantharas evil counsel. So says Kambanin the Tamil Ramayana in his owninimitable style.Fearing that delay might bring someunpredictable obstacles, Dasaratha hadordered the coronation to be done withoutwaiting for Bharatas return to the capital.This same fear and hurry were used byManthara to persuade Kaikeyi to take thewrong path. "Think, my Queen. Why thishaste? Why does your husband rushthrough the ceremony when your son isabsent? Is it not to cheat him of his right?Is not the motive plain? The Kingpretends to be enamored of you. But thisis only his hypocritical shrewdness."Thus tempted, Kaikeyi thought overMantharas advice. Kaikeyi was weak likeany other woman. She had good feelingand good culture, besides a keen intellect.But she had little knowledge of the world.She was also terribly obstinate. Easilydeceived, she did not have the power toforesee the full consequences of heraction. Thus began the charter of grief inthe Ramayana.13. KAIKEYI SUCCUMBSKaikeyi, who had looked upon Ramaas her own son, was enmeshed inMantharas arguments and becamehelpless."Indeed, I am afraid," she said. "Tellme what we should do. Am I to be aservant to Kausalya? Never, Bharata mustbe crowned. You are quite right. AndRama must be sent to forest. But howshall we get all this done? Tell me. Youare clever and know the way."And she clung to Manthara. InKaikeyis eyes at that time Mantharascrooked frame appeared handsome. Thisis not a joke; it is a subtle psychologicalphenomenon,"This is indeed strange, Kaikeyi," saidManthara. "Is it for me to tell you howthis could be brought about? Have youreally forgotten? Or, are you onlypretending? But if you want me to say it, Ishall do so. Listen."And then she paused. Kaikeyi, allimpatient, cried: "Tell me, tell me.Somehow Bharata must be crowned andRamas coronation must be stopped.""Very well," said Manthara, "I shall tellyou. Do not be impatient. You rememberhow your husband Dasaratha, long ago,fought against Sambara in the South? Andyou were with him, were you not? Yourhusband went, did be not, to help Indra?Sambara of Vaijayanti was too powerfulfor Indra, who sought Dasarathas help.Did not Dasaratha get wounded in battleand lose consciousness? Then, you drovehis chariot skilfully out of the battlefield,gently removed the arrows from his bodyand revived him and saved his life. Haveyou forgotten all this? And what did betell you then? He told you in gratitude:Ask me for two boons. I shall give youanything you want. Then you answered: Ishall ask for my boons later. I wantnothing now. Then he promised, did henot, You will have your two giftswhenever you want them? You told meall this long ago yourself. You may haveforgotten it, but I have not. The time hasarrived to get him to redeem his promise.Demand that he should crown Bharatainstead of Rama. This will be the first oftwo gifts he promised. For the second gift,ask that Rama be sent to the forest forfourteen years. Do not be frightened. Donot fear to ask. Do not think it sinful todemand this. Do what I tell you. It is onlyif Rama is sent into the forest that his holdon the people will relax and disappear incourse of time and your sons position will
  • 29. be secure. Go now and lie down in thesulking room. Throw away your fine dressand your jewels, wear an old sari andstretch yourself on the floor. When theKing enters the room, do not speak tohim. Do not even look at him. I am surehe cannot endure your sorrow. You willthen have your way with him. The Kingwill try to get round you. Do not yield. Hewill offer many alternatives. Accept noneof them. Insist on the two boons. Be firm.Bound by his promise the King willfinally come round. I know howpassionately he loves you. He would giveup his life for your sake. To please you hewould jump into fire. Do what I tell you.Do not be afraid. Unless Rama is sent tothe forest, your wish will not be fulfilled.Rama must be sent away. Only then theposition you get for Bharata will be realand lasting. Remember this and mind youdo not weaken."Listening to this exhortation, Kaikeyisface shone with hope. "What a brain youhave, Manthara," exclaimed Kaikeyi."You have been the saving of me." Andshe jumped about in joy like a filly.Manthara repeated again and again thatRama must be sent to the forest. "Do notdelay. What needs to be done, do at once.It is no good strengthening the tank-bundafter the waters have flown out.Remember what I have told you.Everything depends on your firmness.Victory is yours if you do not yield."Kaikeyi assured Manthara of herfirmness and forthwith entered the sulkingroom, removed her jewels and scatteredthem on he floor, changed her clothes andstretched herself on the floor. Then,assuming a broken voice, she said:"Manthara, you will yourself carry thenews to my father Kekaya. You willyourself tell him one of two things: eitherthat Bharata is to be crowned or thatKaikeyi is dead. My dear, dearManthara!"Kaikeyi in her anger believed thatDasaratha had really been treacherous toher. Even then, stretched on the grounddivesting herself of all ornaments andputting on a face of grief and anger, shelooked inexpressibly beautiful. So greatwas her beauty.The sinful thought had found lodgmentin her mind and her whole nature wastransformed. The fear that she would leada slaves life, and that even Bharatas lifewas in peril, had got hold of her. For thefirst time in her life she cast aside thesense of shame and sin and hardened herheart. Heaving heavy sighs, perspiring,and with eyes closed, Kaikeyi, beautifullike a Naga goddess, unbraided her hairand lay on the floor with dishevelledtresses and sprawling like a bird shotdown by a hunter. The flowers andshining jewels, which once adorned herperson, lay scattered in the dark room likestars in the midnight sky.Having dismissed the Assembly andgiven orders for the due celebration of thecoronation ceremony, Dasaratha, relievedof care and wishing to relax, sought theapartments of his favorite consort. He haddecided on the coronation of Rama afterreceiving the approval of all those whohad a right to be consulted and he felthappy and free, as after laying down aheavy burden.He entered Kaikeyis chamber to tellher the happy news and spend in pleasanttalk the night before the coronation. Thejunior queens residence was a beautifulpalace with lovely gardens and tanks,birds playing in the water and peacocksdancing with tails spread out and treesresplendent with bright flowers. InDasarathas happy mood it appearedunusually beautiful that night.
  • 30. Like the full moon rising brightlybefore an eclipse, without knowing of theeclipse that lies in wait for her, the poorold King entered Kaikeyis dwelling witha beaming face. The incense pots anddrinks were in their usual places but hedid not see the Queen whom he was eagerto meet.Of all his consorts Kaikeyi was the onewhose company he sought for joyousrelaxation from all cares of state, for shenever interfered in public affairs, andalways waited for him at the entrance andwelcomed him with a warm embrace. But,today, she was nowhere to be found.The King was perplexed. He wentaround and looked in vain for her in allher favorite haunts thinking that she wasplaying a sweet game of hide and seeks.He did not find her. This sort of thing hadnever happened before! He asked amaidservant where the Queen was.Folding her hands in reverence, the girlsaid: "Lord, the Queen is angry. She is inthe inner chamber."The surprised King entered the room.And he saw a sight which amazed anddistressed him, for there she lay on thebare floor, with draggled robes anddisheveled hair, like one in mortal pain.She seemed too full of anguish even tolook at him as he entered.The poor guileless King, allunconscious of having given any cause foroffence, behaved with the doting fondnessof an old husband and seating himself byher on the floor stroked her hair andstrove to console her with loving wordsand caresses:"What has come over you? Are you ill?Do you feel any pain? Have I not the bestdoctors in the land? I shall send for themat once. They can cure any malady. Donot be afraid."Kaikeyi sighed heavily, but would notspeak.The King proceeded: "Was anyone inthe palace guilty of discourteousbehavior? Tell me and I shall punish him.Did anyone slight you or was thereanything you wanted which I neglected togive you? Tell me."In this way, he mentioned faults thatmight have occurred in the running of abig house and asked her what the matterwas and why she was upset. Kaikeyi paidno attention to his questions and was mutelike one possessed.The King begged her moreimportunately: "State your wish. It shallbe done. Do you want anyone punished? Ishall punish him. Do you want anyonefreed from punishment? I shall free him,even if he be a murderer. You know myabsolute authority, I can give and I cantake, as I please. Anything, to anyone, Ican do what I wish. Ask me anything andit shall be done at once."Kaikeyi sat up. The King was pleased.And she began: "No one slighted ordishonored me. But there is somethingwhich you can do and you must do it formy sake. Give me your word that you willfulfil my desire. Then I shall tell you whatit is."Hearing this, the unsuspecting old manwas filled with joy. Possessing absolutepowers, he had no doubt that he couldfulfil her wishes whatever they were, andso boldly and joyously he said: "Well,Kaikeyi, tell me your wish. It shall bedone. I swear it. I swear it on all I lovemost on you, the dearest among women,and on Rama, dearest to me among men! Iswear in the name of Rama: Whatever youdesire, I shall do, I promise, I swear."Guileful wickedness and trustfulmisfortune were reaching the climax intheir unequal encounter. The Kingsswearing in the name of Rama filledKaikeyi with supreme delight. She wasnow sure that she had won, for the King
  • 31. would never break a promise coupled withthat beloved name."Do you promise? Very well!" sheexclaimed. "Swear again in the name ofRama that you will do what I wishwithout fail. Swear it!"The King said: "My beloved queen, Ipromise. I swear it on Rama. Whateveryou wish I shall do. This is my swornword."At this stage, as she thought of thetremendousness of her intended request,Kaikeyis heart misgave her and shefeared that on hearing it her horror-stricken husband would exclaim: Godforbid! No oath or promise is strongenough to justify so heinous a sin! andrecoil from her with abhorrence.She stood erect and with folded hands,turning in the four directions, invoked in asolemn voice the heavenly powers towitness and confirm the oath: "Oh, YeGods! You have heard and witnessed thepromise given to me by my husband. Sun,Moon and Planets, you are my holywitnesses. Ye, Five Elements! You haveheard the promise. He who has neverbroken his word, my husband, has swornto do my wish. Bear witness to this."Dasaratha was looking at her withhungry, joyous eyes. She knew her manand she began boldly: "Do you remember,King, how, when long ago in the field ofbattle you were about to lose your life, Idrove your chariot in the dark night, tookyou out of the battlefield, removed thearrows from your body and comforted andrevived you? When you came out of yourfaint, you said something, did you not?You said: You have restored to me thelife which my foes had taken from me. Ishall give you any two gifts you ask.Then I said: I want nothing now. It is joyenough now for me that you are alive. Ishall ask for my gifts later. Do youremember this?"The King answered: "Yes, I doremember this. Ask for your two gifts.You shall have them now."Kaikeyi said: "Remember you havemade a vow. You have given a pledge.You have sworn in the name of Rama.The gods and the five elements havewitnessed your promise. I shall state mywishes. Your ancestors never broke theirword. Prove yourself their worthydescendant by being true to the word youhave given. With the preparations nowafoot for the coronation, crown my sonBharata. This is my first wish. The secondboon that I demand is, send your sonRama to live in the Dandaka forest forfourteen years. Remember your solemnvow that you cannot break. The goodfame of your great dynasty is in yourhands."14. WIFE OR DEMON?Dasaratha was thunder-struck.When his mind resumed its function,he doubted the reality of what hadhappened. "Could it be other than ahideous dream? Or the phantasmagoria ofa disordered brain? Or the suddenmaterialisation of the sins of some pastbirth called up for my chastisement? I amcertainly the victim of an illusion. I cannotbelieve this to be reality."Unable to stand the confused agony ofshapeless terrors, he closed his eyes andbecame unconscious. Opening his eyes alittle later, they fell on Kaikeyi and hetrembled like a stag at the sight of a tiger.He sat up on the floor and moaned,swaying helplessly this side and that like acobra held by the spell of a potent charm.Again he swooned.After a long interval, be recovered hissenses and, with eyes turned to histormentor and inflamed with helplessanger, cried out: "O wicked ogress!Destroyer of my dynasty! What harm hasRama done to you? Has he not looked
  • 32. upon you as his own mother? I thoughtyou were a woman. I now see you are avenomous serpent brought from far awayand cherished in my bosom only to stingme to death!"Kaikeyi was unmoved and spoke not aword.The King went on: "On what pretextcan I banish Rama, whom all the peoplelove and praise? I may lose Kausalya andsurvive. I may lose the pure-mindedSumitra and survive. But if I lose Rama, Icannot live thereafter. Without water,without sunlight, I may live for a while,but never without Rama. Expel from yourmind this sinful thought. With my headbowed at your feet, I beg of you. Haveyou not said many a time, Two dear sonsI have. And of them Rama, the elder, isdearer to me? In deciding to crown Rama,what have I done but carry out in actionyour unspoken wish? Why then do youdemand these cruel boons? No, no, itcannot be really that you mean this. Youare only testing me to find out if I indeedlove your son Bharata. Do not, through agreat sin, destroy our famous line ofKings."Even then Kaikeyi spoke no word, buther eyes blazed scornful anger.The King continued: "Till this day youhave done nothing to cause me sorrow,never spoken an unworthy word. Who hascorrupted you now? I cannot believe thatthis evil thought is your own. How oftenhave you told me, my dear, that, noble asBharata is, Rama is nobler still? Is it thesame Rama that you now want to be sentto the forest? How can he dwell in theforest? How can you even entertain thethought of his going away into thewilderness infested by ferocious beasts?How lovingly has Rama treated you andserved you! How can you forget all thisand steel your heart and utter the words,Send him to the forest? What fault has hecommitted? Of the hundreds of women inthe palace, has anyone ever uttered a wordagainst his honor or virtue? The wholeworld loves him for his great and goodqualities. How did you alone among somany find cause to dislike him? Is notRama like Indra himself? Is not his faceradiant with goodness and spiritual lightlike a rishis? The whole world praises histruthfulness and friendliness, his learningand wisdom, his heroism and humility. Noone has heard a harsh word from his lips.How can I, his father, say to him Son, goto the forest? This can never be. Havemercy on me, an old man nearing the endof his days. Kaikeyi, ask for anything elsein this kingdom, ask for everything else,and I will give. With folded hands, I begyou, do not send me to Yama. Clinging toyour feet I beg you, I beg you humbly,save Rama! Save me from sin!"To the King thus struggling in a sea ofgrief, pitiless Kaikeyi spoke cruel words:"King, if having promised the boonsyou regret it and will be forsworn, whatsort of king would you be and what rightwould you have to speak of satya anddharma? How can you face other kings?Will you shamelessly confess to them,Yes, Kaikeyi saved me from death and Igave her a promise. Later, I was sorry Igave it and I broke it? What else couldyou tell them? All monarchs will shun youas a disgrace to their order! And commonpeople will laugh in scorn at their rulersand say, Kings break promises even whengiven to their queens. Do not expect kingsto keep their word. Do you not know thatSaibya, to redeem the pledge he gave to abird, cut the very flesh off his bones andgave it away? Have you not heard ofAlarka who plucked his eyes out to keephis word? The sea stays within its limitsand does not overflow the land, because itfeels bound by its agreement. Do notviolate your solemn pledge. Follow the
  • 33. path of your royal ancestors. O, I fear thatyou, their unworthy descendant, willforsake dharma; you will crown Rama andyou will dally with Kausalya. What doyou care what happens to dharma? Whatdo you care what happens to satya? If youdeny me the gifts you promised on oath, Ishall this very night drink poison and endmy life. You may anoint and install Rama,but before your eyes, O, promise breaker,I shall be dead. This is certain. And Iswear it in the name of Bharata. It will bewell and good if you fulfil your promiseand banish Rama to the forest. Else, Ishall end my life."With this firm declaration, Kaikeyistopped. Dasaratha stood speechless,staring at his pitiless wife. Was this lovelycreation really Kaikeyi or a demon? Then,like a huge tree felled by a forester withhis axe, the King shook and toppled downand lay stretched unconscious on the floorin pitiful ruin.Regaining his senses after a while, hespoke in a low voice: "Kaikeyi, who hascorrupted your mind to see me dead andour race destroyed? What evil spirit haspossessed you and makes you dance inthis shameless fashion? Do you reallythink that Bharata will agree to be kingafter sending Rama to the forest? Henever will, and you know it. Can Ipossibly bear to tell Rama to go to theforest? Will not the kings of the worlddespise me, saying, This uxorious olddotard has banished his eldest son, thebest of men? Dont you see that theywould laugh at me? It is easy enough foryou to say Send Rama away to the forest,but can Kausalya or I survive hisdeparture? And have you thought ofJanakas daughter? Would it not kill her tohear that Rama is to go away to theDandaka forest? Cheated by your face Ithought you a woman and took you formy wife. Like a deluded man, tempted bythe flavor of poisoned wine, I was luredby your beauty into marrying you. Like adeer ensnared by a hunter, I am caught inyour net and perish. Like a drunkenBrahmana in the streets I shall beuniversally despised. What boons haveyou demanded? Boons that forever willtaint the fame of our dynasty with theignominy of lustful dotage that drove anold fool to the banishment of a belovedand peerless son. If I tell Rama to go tothe forest, yes, he will cheerfully obey andgo to the forest. Myself and then Kausalyaand Sumitra will die. How will you enjoythe kingdom thus secured, O sinful,foolish woman? And will Bharata agree toyour plans? If he does agree, he shall notperform my obsequies. O shamelesswoman, my lifes enemy, kill yourhusband and attain widowhood to enjoythe kingdom with your son. O, how sinfulare women and how pitiless! No, no. Onlythis woman is cruel. Why should I insultother women? What a pity that myBharata should have this monster for amother! No, I can never do this. Kaikeyi, Ifall at your feet and beg you. Have somepity on me!"The King rolled on the ground andwrithed in agony. What shall we say ofthis scene? A great emperor, famous forhis long and glorious reign, crying androlling on the ground, clasping his wifesfeet and begging for mercy. It was likeYayati, thrown back to earth when, hisaccumulated merit exhausted, he wasejected from Swarga.No matter how humbly he begged,Kaikeyi was obstinate and said firmly:"You have yourself boasted that you are atruth speaker. But now having swornbefore the gods that you have granted aboon, you attempt to retract your promise.If you break your word, I shall surely killmyself and that, will not add greatly to the
  • 34. glory of your dynasty, of which you are soproud!""Very well, then," said Dasaratha. "LetRama go to the forest and let me die.Having destroyed me and my race, ajubilant widow, you will gain your wishand seek joy in your life!"Again, after a while, the old Kingcried: "What good you will gain bysending Rama to the forest, I fail to see.The only result will be that the wholeworld will despise you. After many yearsof prayer and penance, I had Rama by thegrace of God. And him I now banish intothe forest, I, most wretched of men!"Lifting his eyes to the sky, he said: "Ohnight! Stay on. For when you pass and daydawns, what shall I do? What shall I sayto those eager crowds, who, full of lovefor Rama, will be awaiting the coronationfestivities? O heavens! Stay still for mysake with your stars! No, no. Stay not, forthen I must keep looking at this sinfulwoman. Depart at once, O night, so that Imay escape this face."Thus delirious and conscious by turns,the poor old man suffered agony, a kingwho had reigned for sixty thousand years."Pity me, Kaikeyi," he said. "Forget theharsh things I uttered .in anger. I beg youin the name of the love you bore me. Youmay take it that I have given the kingdomto you. It is yours. And you can give itwith your own hands to Rama and see thatthe coronation goes through. The RajaSabha has decided and I have announcedto the elders and to Rama that hiscoronation is to take place tomorrow. Letnot this announcement become false.Have pity on me. Give the kingdom asyou own to Rama. The fame of thismagnanimous gift will last as long as theworld endures. My wish, the peopleswish, the Elders wish, Bharatas wish,they are all that Rama should be crowned.Do this, my love, my life." Again theKing clung to the feet of Kaikeyi.But she answered: "Have done withthis foolery, see that you do not breakyour word and drive me to keep mine, andkill myself. It is useless for you to try toevade."The King said: "With due rites and inthe presence of Fire, I took your hand andcalled you wife. Here and now I renounceyou, and with you the son you bore. Nightis gone; the dawn is near and the morningwill see not Ramas coronation, but myfuneral." Kaikeyi cut him short: "You areprattling vainly. Send at once for Rama.Let him come here. Tell him the kingdomis Bharatas and he should go to the forest.Keep your promise. Do not waste time."Dasaratha groaned: "Very well. Let meat last set eyes on Ramas face. My deathis near. Let Rama come. Let me see hisface before I die. Tied down by dharmathis old fool is helpless."And again he fell unconscious.15. BEHOLD A WONDER!POOR Dasaratha was in extremeagony, pulled by natural affection on oneside and by the moral obligation to fulfil apledge on the other. He had fondly hopedthat Kaikeyi would relent and thatsomehow the conflict of duties would beresolved. But now he saw that this was notto be.He had still one faint hope: "Rama is inno way bound by my promises andpledges. Strong as he is in peoples loveand in his peerless prowess, he maydisregard my promise, and stand on hisown rights. But I cannot conceive hisdoing so, for my slightest wish has alwaysbeen sacred to him. Yet, if by somechance he did so, it would save thesituation."In the confusion and anguish of hisheart, the old King consoled himself withsuch false hopes, forgetting that Rama
  • 35. would never think of disregarding hisfathers promise and that filial obediencewas a fundamental rule of his life.But the false hopes did not persist long.He felt that his death was near. In thisagonising conflict of duties, death wouldbe a relief, and save him from thedisruption and sorrows to come.As death drew near, his mind recalledpast events. He remembered a great sincommitted by him in youth. He felt that hewas now reaping what he then sowed: "Ikilled the Rishis son and brought grief tohis aged parents. How could this sin bewiped off except by my suffering theanguish of losing a dear son?" ThusDasaratha resigned himself to his fate as ajust retribution for the wrong he had oncedone.He concluded that be had no alternativebut to fulfil his word to his cruel wife andleft the ordering of things entirely toKaikeyi.Day dawned. The hour fixed for thecoronation was approaching. Theprocession of Vasishtha and his disciplescarrying the golden vessels containing thewaters of holy rivers was coming towardsthe palace.The great street was decorated and wascrowded with eager men and women.They rejoiced to see Vasishtha and hisdisciples march to the palace with the holywaters, and the paraphernalia ofinstallation. As they saw the honey, curds,clarified butter, fried rice, sacred grass,flowers, maidens, elephants, horses andchariots, the white umbrella, the bull, thehorse and the tiger-skin seat moving to theaccompaniment of music from manyinstruments, the people made loud andjubilant acclamations which filled the air.Vasishtha, approaching the palace gate,saw Sumantra and said to him: "Pray, goin at once and inform the King that thepeople are waiting and all preparations arecomplete."Sumantra approached the Kings bed-chamber and chanting the morning hymn,conveyed Vasishthas message. "OhKing," he said, "arise from slumber to thehymn of your charioteer as the king of thegods does to Matalis waking songs. Mayall the gods be gracious unto you. Theelders, generals, and chief citizens arewaiting for your darshan. The goddess ofnight has withdrawn. The days workawaits your ordering. Oh King of kings,be pleased to rise. Holy Vasishtha and hismen are waiting."At that moment the King wasspeechless with agony, but Kaikeyi boldlyanswered for him and told Sumantra: "TheKing spent the night talking of Ramascoronation and had no sleep. So now he isin a slumber. Go at once and bring Rama."Thus the clever woman sent Sumantrato fetch Rama to convey the Kingscommand. She knew that Dasaratha hadagreed but had not the strength to do whathad to be done. Hence Kaikeyi resolvedthat she would herself do what needed tobe done.Sumantra went to Ramas palace. Sitaand Rama were getting ready forcoronation. Then Sumantra gave to Ramathe message that the King and QueenKaikeyi wanted his presence. Ramahastened to obey.The unexpected delay and thesestrange goings and comings rouseddoubts, but no one dared to talk of them.The men concerned hoped that somehowthings would turn out right and went onwith their allotted work.The streets were brightly decorated; thegreat hour was approaching as in theQueens chamber strange and sinisterevents were developing.
  • 36. "Why this long delay?" the peoplewondered. "Perhaps the preliminary ritesare more elaborate than we had thought."The crowds in the streets grew biggerand bigger and more impatient.Sumantra accompanied Rama toKaikeyis palace, treading the way withdifficulty through the throng. Ramaentered the Queens apartment. As hestepped over the threshold, he started as ifhe had set his foot upon a snake, for hesaw with awe-struck amazement his fatherlying on the bare floor in anguish. TheKing evidently had been struck down withsome great sorrow. His face was like aparijata blossom wilted in the sun.He touched his fathers feet and paidthe same filial worship to Kaikeyi.Dasaratha uttered in a low voice thename of Rama and stopped. He couldspeak no more. He could not look straightinto the face of Rama.Rama was perplexed and filled withapprehension at the sight of his father,lying there unable to speak, in the grip ofsome great agony. What it could be Ramacould not even guess.He turned to Kaikeyi and said:"Mother, this is indeed strange. No matterhow angry he was, my father would speaksweetly to me. Have I without knowing itoffended him in any matter? Has somesudden sickness struck him down? Hassomeone spoken rudely to him? Do tellme what has happened. I can bear thissuspense no longer."Bold Kaikeyi seized the chance andsaid: "The King is angry with no one.There is nothing wrong with his health.But there is something in his mind whichhe is afraid to tell you. That is all. He isafraid to say it to you, lest you should feelhurt. That is why he is silent. Once upon atime, pleased with me he offered, and Iaccepted, the gift to two boons. Now, likean uncultured person, the King regrets hedid so. Is this worthy of him? Is it notunbecoming of a King to pledge his wordand then regret it? You have the power tofulfil his promise, but he fears even to tellyou of it and is thinking of violating it.Would it be right? If you assure him thathe need not be anxious about your attitudeand that he should keep his word at allcosts, you will give him the neededstrength to behave righteously. You mustgive him the help he needs. The thing is inyour hands. I shall tell you what it is, butafter you promise me that you will helpthe King to fulfil his pledge."Rama, saddened at the thought that heshould in any way be the occasion ofdistress to his father, said to Kaikeyi:"Mother, am I indeed the cause of all thistrouble? I do not deserve that you shouldhave any doubts about me. If my fatherasks me to jump into the fire, I shall nothesitate to do it. If he asks me to drinkpoison, I shall drink it without hesitation.You know this. You know well enoughthat at his bidding I would drown myselfin the sea. Here mother, I give you mysolemn promise that I shall fulfil theKings promise to you, and I never breakmy word."When Rama uttered these words,Kaikeyi exulted, for she knew she hadconquered. The King for his part was indespair, seeing that all escape was nowbarred.Thereupon the pitiless Kaikeyi utteredthese terrible words: "Rama, your wordsare worthy of you. What higher duty has ason than helping fulfilment of the wordhis father has given? Now I shall let youknow your fathers promise to me. Whenin the battle with Sambara your father waswounded, I rescued and revived him.Your father in gratitude for having beenrescued by me when grievously woundedgave me two boons to be claimed andspecified when I choose. I have claimed
  • 37. and specified them now. They are thatBharata should be anointed Yuvaraja andthat you should be sent away this very dayto the Dandaka forest, to remain in exilefor fourteen years. You have swornsolemnly to carry out his promise to me,and now it is your duty to prove true toyour pledged word. If you find rightconduct as hard as your father did, that isanother matter. Otherwise, listen to what Isay. It is for you now to relinquish theinstallation and to go out into exile withmatted locks and hermit weeds, leavingthe preparations now ready to serve forBharatas installation."When she uttered these cruel words theKing writhed in agony, but Rama heardher untroubled. Kaikeyi beheld a miracle.There was not the slightest sign ofdisappointment or sorrow in Ramas face.Smiling, the Prince said: "Is that all,mother? Surely, the Kings promise mustbe fulfilled. My hair shall be twisted and Ishall wear the bark and I shall go this veryday to the forest."Kaikeyi spoke prophetic words whenshe said Ramas dutifulness would bringhim glory undying. That glory willcontinue as long as the Himalaya standsand the waters of Ganga flow and as longas the ocean-waves beat on the solid earth.Rama said to Kaikeyi, in unperturbedtones: "I am not in the least annoyed.Would I not be happy to give anything toBharata? Even if no one asked me, Iwould cheerfully give him my all. Andhow can I hold back a moment when myfather commands it? What pains me alittle is that father should have entertainedany doubt about my willingness. Whyshould he have hesitated to tell me whathe wanted and left it to you to say it tome? Am I not his son, bound to do hisbehest? What glory or what joy can I lookfor except to make good his word? Howdid I deserve it that my father should averthis face from me and refrain fromspeaking loving words to me? Mygrievance, if at all, is that he did not sendfor me straight and give me his command.I shall go to the forest this very day, withno regret. Send swift messengers at onceto fetch Bharata home."The Princes face glowed like asacrificial fire bursting into flame as theghee is poured into it. Kaikeyi felt glad ather apparent success. She could not lookinto the future and its sorrow, for whatgreater grief can come to a woman thanthe scorn of her own son? Greed deceivedher into folly. It prevented her fromunderstanding aright the mind of her ownson Bharata.Like a captive elephant hemmed in onall sides, Dasaratha lay in anguish. Withneedless harshness, Kaikeyi hurried Ramasaying, "Do not wait for the King to speakand prolong the affair."At this Rama said: "Mother, you havenot, it seems, known me. I value nopleasure higher than to honor my fatherspledge. Let Bharata carry the burden ofkingship, and look after our aged father. Itwill indeed give me the greatest joy."Dasaratha, silent till now thoughlistening intently, moaned aloud. Ramatouched the feet of his father and Kaikeyiand hurried out of the chamber.Lakshmana had been standing outside. Heknew what had happened and with eyesred with anger he followed Rama.On the way Rama saw the vesselsholding the consecrated water for thecoronation. He walked round them inworship. With calm majesty lie left behindthe white umbrella and other royalinsignia and advised the crowds todisperse. The Prince, in whom desire hadbeen vanquished, went to the house ofQueen Kausalya to give her the news andtake her blessings before departing to theforest.
  • 38. Readers should exercise theirimagination and build up in their ownhearts the passions and sorrows of thepersons figuring in this epic. Dasarathasanguish, Ramas cheerful renunciation andthe greedy passion of Kaikeyi whichsmothered all noble impulses these arefamiliar phases in our daily lives.Valmiki and Kamban saw with thevision of genius and made the events inRamas story live again in song. We tooshould see them through imagination.This is the meaning of the tradition thatwherever Ramas tale is told Hanumanhimself joins the gathering and reverentlystands listening with tear-filled eyes. Mayeveryone that reads this chapter receive byRamas grace and strength to bear thesorrows that have to be faced in life.16. STORM AND CALMRAMA went to Queen Kausalyasdwelling. Many visitors were assembledthere, eagerly awaiting the coronation. Inthe innermost apartment, the Queen, cladin white silk, was before the sacrificialfire invoking blessings on her son.As soon as Rama entered, sheembraced him and showed him, who shethought, was to become the Yuvaraja, to aspecially raised seat."Mother, this seat is now too high forme," said Rama. "I am a hermit andshould sit on grass spread on the floor. Ihave brought you news, which maysadden you. Listen, and give me yourblessings."And he told her briefly what hadhappened: "The King wishes to give thecrown to Bharata. His command is that Ishould spend fourteen years in theDandaka forest. I must leave today,mother, and I come for your blessingsbefore I go."When Kausalya heard this, she fell onthe ground like a plantain tree suddenlycut down. Lakshmana and Rama gentlyraised her.She clung to Rama and cried: "Is myheart made of stone or iron that I stilllive?"Lakshmana could not bear the sight ofthe Queens grief. Angrily he spoke: "Thisold King has pronounced on Rama adoom that is reserved for the most wickedevil-doers. What sin or crime has Ramacommitted? Not even his worst enemycould find any fault in Rama. The dotingold man has lost his senses over his youngwife and is not fit to be king any more.How can a king listen to a woman andviolate dharma? Even your enemies, O!Rama, when they look at you begin tolove you, but this dotard of a father sendsyou to the forest. Look here, brother, letus together throw out this King and takecharge of the kingdom. Who will dareoppose us? I shall make an end of anyonewho dares. Only give me leave and I shalldo this single-handed. A young brother tobecome King and you to go to the forest!The world would laugh at this absurdity.Dont consent to this. I at any rate wontstand this. I shall put down all oppositionand see that you rule the kingdom withoutdelay or hindrance. Never doubt but Ihave strength to do it. Instead of the sunrising, a great darkness has descendedupon the land this morning, for when wewere expecting your coronation the Kingsentences you to banishment! In the faceof such injustice there is no use being niceand polite. I cannot stand this. I must domy duty. Mother, now you will see thestrength of my arm and so will you,brother."Lakshmanas words were some solaceto Kausalya, but yet this strange talk ofousting the King and seizing the thronefrightened her.She said: "Rama, consider well whatLakshmana says. Dont go to the forest. If
  • 39. you go away, how can I stay here all aloneamong enemies? I too shall go with you."Rama had listened in silence toLakshmanas outburst, for it was wise tolet the pent up passion find outlet inwords. Then, turning to Kausalya he said:"Mother, let there be no talk of anyonegoing with me to the forest. It is your dutyto stay here serving the King and sharingthe sorrow that has come to him in his oldage. How can the crowned Queen of anEmperor wander with me like a widow inthe forest? This cannot be. I shall returnafter my term of forest life. It is my dutyto fulfil my fathers word. It is all the sameto me, whether it is just or unjust,spontaneous or extorted by force or fraud.If I fail in this primary duty, I can gain nosatisfaction or good name through anyamount of wealth or power. Lakshmana,your proposals are quite wrong. I knowyour great strength and I have no doubtthat you can vanquish and destroy allopponents and secure for me the kingdom.I know also your affection for me. But theway in which you propose to use it is notworthy of the dynasty to which webelong. Our highest duty is to fulfil ourfathers word. If we fail in that, no otherachievement can make up for it."Rama tried to console both his motherand his brother, but Lakshmanas angercould not be easily put down. Perhaps itcould have been, if he himself, not Rama,were the sufferer. But it was Rama whowas the victim of this cruel injustice. Andso Lakshmana writhed in anger like awounded cobra. Rama took him apart,made him sit down and tried to calm him:"Lakshmana, are you not my other self,my very soul in another body? Listen tome. You are courageous and strong.Control your anger and grief on myaccount. Dont allow these evil spirits topossess you. Holding fast to dharma, letus convert our present disgrace into agreat joy. Let us forget all about thecoronation, and think worthily as becomesour race. Consider our fathers condition.Our hearts should go out to him insympathy, for he is stricken with a greatsorrow. Whatever be the reason, he gave apromise and if he should break it, hewould be committing a shameful sinwhich would besmirch and blot out all hisgreat and glorious deeds. He is heart-broken at the wrong he feels he has doneme. But I do not feel it a wrong at all, fora king must keep his word and a son mustobey his father. You should show that youtoo are free from any sense of injury. Onlyso can we bring him mental relief. Hegave us the life that we hold and weshould give him peace of mind. He isafraid about the other world. We shouldfree him from this fear. So far, we havenever given him cause for sorrow ordissatisfaction. Now we have become thecause of a great fear in his mind aboutwhat is to happen to him in the otherworld. We can easily relieve him. Insteadof doing this, are we to add to histroubles? For this reason my mind hasaltogether turned away from thecoronation and is intent on the journey tothe forest. My sole desire now is to go tothe forest and see that Bharata is crowned.This would please me best. If I delay,Kaikeyi will grow suspicious. Hence Ishould go to the forest this very day andbring peace to her mind. Rid of the fear ofthe sin of breaking a promise and assuredof my willing and cheerful acceptance ofhis command, our father will be happy.And we should not be angry with Kaikeyieither. Has she not been kind to us allthese years? That she should suddenlyconceive this idea is surely the working offate. We should not blame her for it. Oneproposes something and fate decidesotherwise. In this, Kaikeyi is but a passiveinstrument in the hand of fate. Our little
  • 40. mother will have to bear the grievousburden of the worlds blame, but our lovefor her should remain the same as ever. If,before this, there had been evil in herthought, her conduct would have shown it.There is no doubt that some higher forcehas made her say suddenly and harshly,Rama, go to the forest. Otherwise howcould a high-minded woman who so farlooked upon us as her own children nowbehave so brazenly before her husband?Who can oppose destiny? Even steadfastsages have swerved suddenly from theirtapas. How can poor Kaikeyi hope toresist fate? Let us resolve firmly to changethis sorrow into joy. That would be aproof of our nobility and courage,Lakshmana. With the blessings of mymothers and elders, I shall go to the forest.Bring here the water, the water from theGanga for the coronation. I shall use it forablution before departing for the forest.No. no, that water belongs to the State andis intended for the coronation. How canwe touch it? We shall go to holy Gangaourselves and fetch the water for myablution. Brother, be not sad thinking ofkingdom or wealth; life in the forest willbe my highest joy."So Rama revealed to his brother hisinmost thoughts. In these passagesValmiki uses the word daiva. In Sanskritliterature, daivam means fate. Daivam,dishtam, bhagyam, niyati and vidhi are allwords conveying the idea of somethingunexpected and inexplicable. Because ofthe belief in God as the Prime Cause, anatural confusion arises between fate andGods will. What Rama said to Lakshmanaon the present occasion does not meanthat he thought that the gods contrivedKaikeyis action for their own benefit.Rama offered no more than the usualconsolation: "It is the work of fate. Do notgrieve. No one is to blame for this."In the Kamban Ramayana also,addressing his brother raging like the fireof dissolution, Rama says: "It is not therivers fault that the bed is dry. Even so,my going hence is not the Kings fault, norQueen Kaikeyis nor her sons. The wrongis the work of fate. Why should one beangry then?"This explanation calmed Lakshmanafor a while. But soon his anger boiled upagain. He said: "Very well, then. This isthe work of fate. Fate, I grant, is the causeof our step-mothers sudden folly. And Iam not angry with her. But are we, on thataccount, to sit still and do nothing? It isKshatriya dharma to overcome evil andestablish justice. A hero does not bowdown before fate. Having announcedRamas coronation by beat of drum to thetown and country, the treacherous Kinginvokes some old forgotten boon andorders you to go to the forest. Is it manlyto call this fate and obey it meekly? Onlycowards go down under fate. Heroesshould oppose and vanquish it. I am noweakling to yield to fate. You will seetoday the might of a hero matched againstfate. I shall tame the mad elephant fateand make it serve me. I shall banish to theforest those who conspired to banish you.If you wish to visit the forest for a change,you can do so later. The proper time for itwill be when you have reigned as king formany years and then entrusted the crownto your sons. That was the way of ourancestors. If anyone questions yourkingship now, I stand here to annihilatehim. Are these two shoulders merely forbeauty? This bow, these arrows and thissword hanging on my side are they meredecorations? Or do you think they aretheatrical equipment put on for show? Iawait your orders. Give me the word andtest my prowess."Rama gently pacified Lakshmanasrage which was flaming up into a
  • 41. conflagration. "As long as our parents arealive," said Rama, "it is our duty to obeythem. I cannot dream of disobeying myfather. It is our prime duty to do hisbidding and enable him to fulfil hispledge. What joy is there in getting akingship after insulting our parents andslaying Bharata, the embodiment ofdharma?"And he wiped with his hand the tearsfrom Lakshmanas eyes. When Rama didthis, Lakshmana grew calm for theaffectionate magic of Ramas hand couldwork wonders.17. SITAS RESOLVEWhat took place in the innerapartments of the palace was not yetknown to the town-people. But Rama forhis part lost no time in preparing for forestlife.He went to Queen Kausalya to receiveher blessings before leaving the city.Kausalya said to him again: "How can Istay in Ayodhya after you are gone? It isbest that I go with you to the forest." Ofcourse, she knew that her duty was toserve her husband in his old age and sharehis sorrow in Ayodhya. And yet her mindwas now so confused by grief that she didnot see things clearly.But Rama would not hear of it and puther in mind of her duty to be with theheart-stricken old King in his sad solitude.She recognised the justice of thiscounsel. She gave him her benedictions insweet words diluted with the salt ofbroken tears. "Do as your father hasdecreed and return in glory." Rama putheart in her with a smile saying: "Thefourteen years will pass quickly and youwill see me back."The poet says that, as Rama receivedhis mothers benedictions, his bright faceglowed with added effulgence. How trulyhe pictures the sublime loveliness thatcomes of a great renunciation thatillumines ones being as with an InnerLight!We saw that Rama left Sita and went tothe King in answer to the message broughtby Sumantra. Sita was expecting Rama toreturn in a chariot with the royal umbrella,followed by a great retinue. But now shesaw Rama return alone, unattended, withnone of the royal insignia. And she notedon his face the glow of some fixedresolve. Rama was thinking as he camehow he could break to his beloved thenews that his father had decreed that hewas to go to forest."Something troubles the mind of mylord," thought Sita, "but what cananything matter so long as there is ourlove?" And she asked him: "What is thematter? Why do you look so strangely?"Rama told the story briefly and thenadded: "Princess, my love, I can wellimagine your sorrow at having to partfrom me and stay here. Janakas daughterrequires not my guidance to her duty. Bethoughtful of the comfort of the King andthe three Queens, your mothers. Do notexpect any better treatment than that givento the other princesses in the palace. Berespectful to Bharata who will be rulerand guard against any offence to hisfeelings. Your love for me, I trust, will notgrow any less during this absence. I shallreturn from forest after these fourteenyears. Till then do not neglect customaryrites and ceremonies. Mother Kausalya inher sorrow will need your attentive care.Bharata and Satrughna are dear to me.You will look upon them as your brothers.Conduct yourself as befits your royal raceand your own nature. Avoid extolling meso as to give possible offence to othergood men. I must go to the forest today.Keep your mind steady and calm."When Sita heard this unexpectedspeech, her love for Rama manifesteditself as anger that he should for a moment
  • 42. conceive that she could consent to partfrom him and live in comfort in the palacewhile he was a homeless wanderer inpathless forests. "A fine speech you havemade, knower of dharma. It is to me astrange doctrine that a wife is diversefrom her husband and that his duty is nothers, and that she has no right to share init. I can never accept it. I hold that yourfortunes are mine, and if Rama has to goto the forest, the command includes Sitaalso, who is a part of him. I shall walk infront of you in the forest ways and treadthe thorns and the hard ground to makethem smooth for your feet. Do not thinkme obstinate. My father and mother haveinstructed me in dharma. What you tellme is totally opposed to what they havetaught me. To go with you wherever yougo, that is my only course. If you must goto the forest today, then today I go withyou. There is no room here for anydiscussion. Do not think that I cannot bearforest life. With you by my side it will bea joyous holiday. I shall not be a source oftrouble to you. I shall eat fruit and rootslike you and I shall not lag behind as wewalk. I have long wished to go to thewoods with you and rejoice in the sight ofgreat mountains and rivers. I shall spendthe time most happily among the birds andflowers, bathing in the rivers and doingthe daily rites. Away from you, I do notcare for Heaven itself. I shall surely die ifyou leave me behind. I implore you totake me with you. Have pity on me. Donot forsake me now."Beginning in anger, her speech endedin sobs. Rama explained to Sita that life inthe forest was not as easy as she thoughtand set out at great length the difficultiesand dangers and again insisted that sheshould not think of accompanying him.Sitas eyes filled with tears. "Tigers,lions, bears, snakes none of them willcome near me. They will flee from us atthe sight of you. The sun, rain, wind andhunger and the spikes and thorny shrubsyou speak of, I shall endure them allcheerfully. I am not in the least afraid, andon the other hand you may be certain lifewill depart from this body if you leave mehere and go.""When I was in Mithila," she said, "theBrahmanas and astrologers told mymother that I was destined to live in theforest for a while. Can I fulfil thisprediction alone in the forest? Here is theopportunity for me to fulfil it in yourcompany which will make the forest agarden of delight. For whom is forest lifeunpleasant? Only to those men andwomen who have not controlled theirsenses. You and I can be masters of oursenses and miss nothing. I implore you,put me not away from you, for partingfrom you is more cruel than death."There is a strength in supreme lovewhich defies reason and laughs at deathitself. And Rama suffered himself to bepersuaded, partly because his love wasgreat as hers and every passionate wordshe spoke found ready lodgment in hisheart, and partly because he was confidentof his ability to protect her. It was settledthat Sita should accompany Rama to theforest.She sent for the poor and gave away allher belongings and prepared herself forlife in the forest. Lakshmana also decidedto go with his brother and be of service tohim in the forest, and Rama had to agree.The three went to take leave of the agedKing.In the streets and on the balconies werecrowds of people looking on. Through thewindows and from the terraces ofmansions, men and women saw Rama andLakshmana and the princess proceedingon foot, like the poorest in the land.Filled with boundless grief andindignation, the people said to one
  • 43. another: "What kind of a King is this whosends so noble a prince to the forest? Andtheir Sita walks a princess that shouldcommand the service of the royal chariot.Can she bear the heat and the rain of theforest? This is monstrous! We shall gothen to the forest too. Let us gather up allwe have and get away to the forest withthese princes. The forest where Ramadwells shall be our Ayodhya. Let thesehouses here henceforth deserted beinfested with snakes and rats. Let Kaikeyirule over the ruins of Ayodhya. Wildbeasts and vultures of the forest will cometo stay here. This will become a forest,and the forest will become Ayodhya."Rama heard people talking thus, buttook no notice. At the entrance toKaikeyis palace, Rama saw Sumantraseated sorrow fully aside in a corner.Rama tenderly spoke to him: "The three ofus have come to meet the King. Sumantra,crave leave for us to enter his presence."Sumantra went, in accordingly toannounce them to the King. What a sightmet him there! Like the sun in eclipse,like an oven filled all over with ash, like atank gone dry, the King was stretched flaton the floor, his glory gone and his faceshrunken and distorted with anguish.Sumantra, his voice trembling withgrief and his hands clasped together, said:"The Prince waits at the entrance andseeks audience to take your blessingsbefore he gives away all he has to theBrahmanas and starts for the Dandakaforest."The King bade Sumantra let the Princein.Rama came and bowed to the Kingfrom a distance. As soon as he saw Rama,the King suddenly rose and rushed without stretched arms to embrace him, butdropped in a swoon before reaching hisson.Rama and Lakshmana tenderly liftedhim up and put him on the couch. "MyLord," said Rama, "we have come to seekyour leave to go to I the forest. Vaidehiand Lakshmana too are going with me inspite of all I could do to make them desist.Pray give us your benedictions and leaveto depart."Dasaratha then said: "Rama, I ambound by the boons that I have given toKaikeyi. But you are not so bound. Whydo you not brush me aside and seize thekingdom by force?"That had long been in the Kings mindas the best and only solution of this cruelproblem and came out now clearly inwords.But Rama said: "I have no desire forkingdom or power, father. May you reignfor a thousand years more. My heart isnow set on going to the forest and I ameven now in readiness to start afterreceiving your blessing. When thefourteen years have passed I shall returnand tender obeisance."The Kings faint hope, it was nowclear, must be abandoned. "My son! Bringglory to our line of kings. Go, but comeback unscathed. May danger flee fromyour path. Cling to dharma. You areunshakable in resolution. Firm andunchangeable is your will. But do not goaway today. Spend but this night herewith me. Let me fill my eyes with thesight of you. You can go away at dawn.Like one handling a live coal deceptivelycovered with ash, I gave the promise toKaikeyi not knowing what was in hermind. I am now helpless and caught in hernet. And you say, I shall fulfil my fatherspromise. I shall not let dishonor blot thename of my father. I shall give up thekingdom and go to the forest. Where inthe world can one find a son like untoyou? I swear to you, I did not intend thisgreat wrong."
  • 44. Thus piteously spoke the King. It wasDasharathas wish to die without losing,even in his last moments, the respect ofRama."Father, send for Bharata at once andfulfil the promise you have given tomother Kaikeyi. Do not be troubled by thethought that you are doing me a wrong,for I had no desire for the throne, and donot feel it a deprivation to be denied it.Untroubled by grief or doubt, haveBharata crowned and give him yourblessings. Cast all grief aside. Shed notears. Can the ocean dry up? So may youtoo not lose your balance ever, greatfather. My sole wish is to make good theword you gave. If I got all the wealth ofthe world, but falsify your word, what joywould that be to me? I shall spend mytime happily in the forest. Where but inthe forests can one find beauty or joy?Father, you are my God. I take it that it isGod that sends me to the forest. When thefourteen years are over, you will see meagain. Do not grieve. What profits it that Istay here a night longer and go tomorrow?Time is made up of a succession oftomorrows and one day is just likeanother. Inevitable sorrows do not becomejoys by postponement.""Well then, send for the commanders,"said the King to Sumantra, "and orderthem to get ready the chariots, elephants,horses and foot soldiers, to go with Ramato the forest. And along with the armysend all the necessary stores for Rama tolive with the Rishis of the forest. Let therebe nothing wanting in men, money orthings."Poor Dasaratha imagined that he couldmake Ramas exile to the forest somethinglike a royal tour affording a pleasantchange from routine and enlivened byexchange of gracious hospitalities with thesylvan population.As he spoke Kaikeyis face paled withanger. She glowered at the King, and in avoice tremulous with scornful wrath shesaid:"A good and generous monarch surely!You will give Bharata this kingdom aftersqueezing out of it all the good it holds, asone might offer in mockery an emptydrinking vessel to a man dying of thirst!What pleasure or glory will my son havein ruling a deserted state?"Dasaratha groaned in helpless chagrinand marveled at a cruelty that could stab aman already crushed under an intolerableburden. Angry words rose from themouths of those around, for even thecourtiers found this open heartlessnessmore than they could suffer in silence.Rama put an end to all recriminations bysaying he would not agree to takeparaphernalia incongruous with what wasintended in forest life."Honored Lord," he said, "what usehave I, who am departing to the forest tolive on what sylvan nature yields, for anarmy or the glittering equipage of a royalpageant? After gladly renouncing thethrone, what use have I for its restrains?Would it not be covetous folly, afterhaving parted with the elephant, to burdenoneself with the ponderous chain? Father,I have cheerfully relinquished my claim tothe kingdom in favor of Bharata and hismother, and with it all the incidents ofroyalty. For my fourteen years of forestlife I require nothing but bark garmentssuch as Rishis wear and simplenecessaries of forest life such as spadesand baskets."Hardly had Rama spoken these wordswhen the unabashed Kaikeyi hastened toproduce the forest dress! She had kept itready and gave it herself without a blushto Rama. Then and there Rama dressedhimself in bark. And in these garments beshone like a Rishi. Lakshmana too
  • 45. changed into bark dress, while Dasarathawatched all this in helpless anguish.Then Kaikeyi brought a bark dress forSita too. She received it and stoodbewildered, for she had never worn suchgarments before and did not know how tochange into them.Approaching Rama, who stood thereresplendent with divine effulgence, Sitasaid shyly: "Pray tell me, how does oneput this thing on?" As Rama took up thebark dress and, wrapping it over Sitassilk, made a knot over her shoulder, theladies-in-waiting wailed aloud andDasaratha fell into a swoon.When he regained consciousness, heloudly reviled Kaikeyi, but she onlysmiled scornfully. She surely was notresponsible for Sita going to the forest.The princess sought her own pleasure bygoing to the forest with her husband andwould not be dissuaded.Lowering his eyes as he was leaving,Rama said: "Father, I leave behind mymother Kausalya, blameless and tender-hearted lady, bereft of her son in her oldage. This sudden fate is bitter to her asdeath, but she consents to live only foryour sake, to share your sorrow andconsole you. She is incapable of harboringan unkind thought towards anyone, andshe has never before felt the pang of suchpoignant parting. Be kind to her when Iam no longer here and, when I return aftermy long exile in the hope of putting myhead on her feet, let me not hear that shehas died of sorrow." Thus Rama spoke,unable to bear the thought of his mothersgrief. As Rama went out speaking thus,Dasaratha could not endure the sight andcovered his face with his hands.18. TO THE FORESTAFTER Rama left his fathers presencewith these words, the stricken King layprostrated in speechless sorrow, and it wassome time before he could muster hisfaculties sufficiently even to think.When he recovered some strength, hemuttered half unconsciously: "Surely Imust in a previous birth have inflictedhideous suffering to loving hearts. I musthave torn calves from their mothers,children from their parents, husbandsfrom their wives. How else could I sufferthus? And death does not come when wewant it. And I have to endure the tortureof always having before my minds eyemy godlike son deprived of his birthrightand forced into the bark-garments of ahermit. O life, how bitterly you cling tothose who would be rid of you! Rama hasgone into exile and yet I do not die! Rama... Rama ... Have you gone? ..."A little later, his mind clearer, the Kingsaid: "Sumantra, get ready the chariot andtake my sons and Janaki to the frontier ofthe kingdom."Lakshmana touched the feet of hismother Sumitra and uttered the singleword "Mother." She embraced him, kissedhis head and said: "Your devotion to yourbrother has filled your mothers heart withpride and joy. It is your duty, child, toguard and serve Rama. Always stand invigilant watch by Ramas side in theforest. Your elder brother is to you bothpreceptor and king. This is the dharma ofour race. Go with my blessing,Lakshmana. In the forest, regard Rama asyour father and look upon Janaki asmyself and the forest will be to you asAyodhya. Go cheerfully, my dear son, andGod bless you."In the Ramayana, Sumitra is a womanof few words and mature wisdom andgreat tact and infinite courage, full offaith, in whom hope shines like a famewhen it has gone out in all others. Thetradition is that Sumitra knew Ramasdivinity and the purpose of his incarnationand that this enabled her not only to
  • 46. comfort Kausalya but to see a holyministration in Lakshmanas sharingRamas exile.Sumitra said: "Ascend the chariot, OPrince. God blesses you. Tell me where Iam to drive, for the fourteen-year periodhas begun, my Prince."Sita got up the chariot cheerfully.Kausalya had made up for her a packet ofpersonal requirements. The shields, bowsand arrows and other weapons of the twobrothers together with pickaxes andbaskets were placed in the chariot.Pickaxes and baskets are essential in theforest. Rama and Lakshmana ascended thechariot. Sumantra drove it forward.Let us pause a while at this stage whenRamas forest life begins, and pray that wemay be purified of our sins. Truth,courage and love are the gospel of theRamayana to us. To give it to us wasRama born. We shall gain these gifts if wemeditate on the Princes and Janaki in thebark habiliment as they left the city.The crowds in the street cried to thecharioteer: "Go slow, go slow. Let us havea look at Ramas face. Alas, Alas, whocould send such children to the forest?How could their mothers endure thissorrow and survive? Look at Vaidehisface. She is indeed blessed. AndLakshmana is happy to have such abrother to whom he can give devotedservice. He is indeed a hero and a knowerof dharma." So the people of the citytalked among themselves as they followedthe chariot. And their grief swelled like aflood.Rama was saying to the goodcharioteer, "Faster, faster" The peoplewere saying, "slow, slow." And the crowdbecame bigger and bigger. Sumantramanaged somehow to take the chariot outof the press of the mourning town where,in addition to the loud sorrow of thecrowded streets, the houses were full ofmourning women and children.The King stepped out of Kaikeyisapartment and looked at the departingchariot. A long time he stood therewatching the cloud of dust as though hesaw in it the beloved form of Rama. Wheneven this went out of sight, he fell down,moaning. Kausalya and Kaikeyi sat oneither side."Do not touch me," said Dasaratha toKaikeyi. "I hate the sight of you, sinfulwoman! Everything is at an end betweenyou and me. I renounce you here andnow.""If Bharata agrees to yourarrangements and accepts the kingdom,"he said again, "he need not perform myobsequies, and even if he did, my departedspirit would reject his offering of waters.How can Rama live in the forest? Will hesleep on the bare ground with a stone or alog for a pillow? Will he eat fruits andberries?"Thus the king went on lamentinghelplessly.Sometimes he would turn to Kaikeyiand say, "May you be happy in yoursuccess! Long may you live a happywidow."Heart-broken and empty like onereturning home from the cremationground, he entered Kaikeyis apartment byforce of habit; then suddenly he said, "Nothere. Take me to the dwelling ofKausalya."And so they did, and there he laywaiting for his end.At midnight, he said, "Kausalya, areyou there? Touch me with your hand. Mysight is gone with Rama."Poor Kausalya did her best to comfortthe King, but what comfort was there inher wounded heart to give? For as theslow sorrow-laden hours crawled fromwatch to watch, the cold night seemed to
  • 47. her a devouring flame, and the gentlemoon fierce as the noonday sun.To her thus sorrowing Sumitra said:"Sister, you have heard the Shastras andknow dharma. Why should you grieve likethis? It is your office to put courage inothers, you should not lose heart yourself.Rama has gone to the forest for guardingthe Kings honor. You are indeed blessedamong women, for you are the mother ofa hero who has scorned a kingdom andpreferred to uphold his fathers honor.Why should you grieve for a son whofulfils a difficult duty to perfection? Weshould not feel sorry for one who walks inthe path of his ancestors and wins undyingfame. I am proud that Lakshmana hasaccompanied Rama. Janaki, thoughknowing well the hardships she has toface, has also gone with her husband.Ramas glory will shine like an undyinglamp. This is no occasion for grief. Hispurity, his virtue shall be a shield andarmor to them. He is so great and holythat the sunrays falling on him will notburn him and the wind that blows willcaress him with its coolness. His pureframe, as he sleeps at night, will beembraced and protected by the moon-beams as an infant is by its loving mother.Shed all anxiety over your heroic son. Nofoe can en counter him and escape withlife. Our Rama is endowed with allauspicious qualities. Your hero son willsurely return to Ayodhya and ascend thethrone. The Lord of the world, and noother, is Rama. Sita is with him, and Sitais no other than the Goddess Lakshmi.Rama will return and ascending the thronewill fill with delight the kingdom whichnow laments his exile. You saw the griefof the citizens as they watched hisdeparture. My heroic son, the devotedLakshmana, armed with bow and sword,has gone with him to guard his person. Noharm, no danger can approach Rama. Youwill see with your own eyes Ramareturning after fulfilment of his vow.Believe me, Rama will return, beautifullike the full moon, and touch your feetwith joy and devotion. You will then shedtears not of grief but of joy. Dear, dearKausalya, give up your grief. You will seethe three of them returning. You shouldconsole and encourage the other womenin the palace and not stand broken-heartedyourself. Who else in this world standsfirm by dharma like Rama? Is this a causefor grief? No, be proud of your son,Kausalya!"Listening to Sumitras words, Kausalyawas somewhat consoled.The people of the city followed Ramaschariot in a huge crowd. They tried to stopthe chariot, shouting, "Do not go to theforest. Return to the city.""I am going to the forest to uphold myfathers, word," Rama said. "There is notime for sorrow here and you should notseek to hinder me."But the people would not listen to him,and went in crowds after him shoutingwildly: "Do not go to the forest, do not goto the forest!" Rama stopped the chariotand addressed them with his eyes full oflove for them: "Citizens of Ayodhya, Iknow the love you bear for me. You willshow it best by transferring it on mybehalf, and at my behest, to my belovedbrother Bharata. Nothing else will pleaseme more. Bharata is good and noble, hasall royal qualities and is fully worthy oflove. So conduct yourselves as to pleasehim. Young in years, he is old in wisdomand his heart is at once heroic and tender.He has the strength to protect you. He isyour king, and you owe him loyalty andaffection. I am going to the forest to fulfilmy father word and the King hasappointed Bharata as Yuvaraja. He is inevery way fitted for that position. You andI alike should obey the Kings commands.
  • 48. You should go back and try to mitigatethe sorrow of my father at parting fromme."Thus Rama spoke to them in kindlytones. But they loved him all the morebecause of this and would not beconsoled. Some Brahmanas, old in yearsand excellent in virtue, looking at thechariot wept and cried: "Why, O horses,do you carry our Rama into the forest?We have heard it said that horses aresharp of hearing. Listen to us then andbring back our Rama."Hearing these words of yearning fromold Brahmanas, Rama stopped the chariot.The three descended from it and wentforward walking.The common people, leading citizensand wise elders, men of penance, why,even the birds on wings, tried to preventRama from going to the forest. The riverTamasa, says the poet, seemed to conspirewith them, for now it flowed across hispath. The chariot stopped on theriverbank. Sumantra unyoked and wateredthe horses and let them loose to graze.Rama said: "Lakshmana, this is thefirst night of our forest life. Let us spend iton the bank of this holy river. Life in theforest holds no hardship, as you and Iknow. Look, the birds, the animals andeven the trees seem to sympathise with us.The only pain is when we think of thegrief of our parents in Ayodhya, though Ifeel reassured as I think of Bharatasnobility and goodness. He will assuredlytend our parents with true affection.Sumantra, go, look after the horses."Then, Rama offered the eveningprayers by the river and said: "Let us faston this first night of our forest life,Lakshmana. Your presence by my siderids me of all care."Lakshmana spread some grass on theground for Rama and Sita to sleep on buthe himself spent the night in vigil talkingwith Sumantra.Long before dawn Rama rose fromsleep and told Sumantra: "The citizenswho have followed us, fatigued by theirlong journey, are fast asleep. I am deeplymoved by their affection; but I cannotpermit their love to force me to go back.Let us therefore, move on even now,while they are yet asleep."The horses were harnessed and thechariot slowly crossed the river. Standingon the southern bank, Rama toldSumantra:"If you take the chariot to the othershore, where the people are asleep, anddrive it for a little distance towardsAyodhya and then bring it back to thisside, we can proceed on our journeybefore they wake up. They will see thetrack of the chariot going towards the city,and thinking that we have returned home,may themselves go back. Unless you dothis the crowd will go on following us."Sumantra did this and, when thechariot returned, the three got into it againand proceeded southwards.19. ALONE BY THEMSELVESThe citizens who had slept on the bankof the Tamasa woke up in the morningand looked round. They were surprised tosee that Rama and the chariot haddisappeared. They followed the track ofthe chariot-wheels but were disappointedto find that it was lost in the main road tothe capital.They returned home to their ownhouses and sought satisfaction in revilingKaikeyi. Without Rama, the city wasbereft of beauty and wrapt in gloom.Sumantra and the princes had crossedthe Tamasa long before dawn andtravelled far into the forest. Crossingseveral streams, they approached thesouthern boundary of the Kosala country.As they journeyed on, Rama said to
  • 49. Sumantra: "I wonder when I shall huntagain in the forest of Sarayu. Is huntinggood for princes? Perhaps, it is, inmoderation."Thus conversing on many matters, theywent forward. When they reached thesouthern boundary of the kingdom, Ramastopped the chariot and facing northtowards Ayodhya, bent his head in aprayer, saying: "O, jewel among cities! Oancient capital of the Ikshwakus! Shall Ifinishing my penance in the forest, live tosee my father and mother and you? Grantme that supreme joy."The chariot reached the bank of theGanga. They proceeded along the bank,admiring the beauty of the river. Finding aspot of surpassing charm, Rama said: "Weshall spend the night here."Untying the horses, they sat under atree. Guha, the chief of the region, havinglearnt already from his men that Ramawould be coming there, came forwardwith his retinue to greet Rama andLakshmana.He had unbounded love for the royalfamily and for Rama. Being the chieftainof the tribes who dwelt on the banks ofGanga, he was a man of great prestige andpower. Rama and Lakshmana rose to greetGuha, even while the latter was still atsome distance from them. Guhawelcomed them with a hearty embrace,saying: "Regard this land as your own.This place is as much yours as isAyodhya. Who can hope to have a guestlike you? It is indeed my good fortune."Guha had prepared a lavishentertainment. He said, "Feel perfectly athome and happy in my kingdom. Youmay spend all the fourteen years with ushere. You will not lack anything I assureyou. Looking after you will be a pleasureand privilege to me. Be gracious enoughto accept my hospitality."Warmly embracing Guha again, Ramasaid: "Brother, I know how deep is yourlove for me. Your wish is itself as good ashospitality rendered. I am bound by myvows and must refuse anything more. Ihave come to dwell in the forest and not toenjoy life as a chieftains guest. Thesehorses are my dear fathers favorites. Prayfeed them well. We shall be content withsimple food and rest for the night."They lay under the tree for the night.Guha and Lakshmana kept awake,conversing with Sumantra.Said Guha to Lakshmana: "Brother, dogo and rest. There is a bed made ready foryou. My men will keep careful watch.None dare do anything in the forestunknown to me. Have no anxietyregarding Rama. Do sleep."Lakshmana replied: "How can I findsleep, Guha? Here, lying on the bareground, is Sita, daughter of the greatJanaka and daughter-in-law of the greatDasaratha. The great Purushottamahimself who could subdue the threeworlds lies stretched on the grass. Howcan I sleep who sees this? I wonder howAyodhya is bearing it. He queensapartments must be loud with wailing. Ieven doubt if at this moment Kausalyaand my mother are alive. My fatherindeed found strength somehow to say toRama, Go to the forest, but I doubt if hehas strength enough left to survive Ramasactual departure. And if he has passedaway, our mothers too will have given uptheir lives. And here we are, deprivedeven of the privilege of doing the lastoffices to the dead. In any case it is hardlypossible that our father and mothers willbe alive to greet us, when we return toAyodhya after our term in the forest."Thus spoke Lakshmana in sorrow.Guha was in tears. The night was spent insuch sad conversation.
  • 50. Early next morning, Rama toldLakshmana: "We must now cross theriver. Ask Guha to make ready a boat bigenough for crossing this broad river."Guha ordered his men to get this done andinformed Rama.Sumantra bowed low and stood beforeRama seeking his further commands.Rama understood Sumantras unutteredgrief and, laying his hand on Sumantrasshoulders, said: "Sumantra, return toAyodhya with all speed and be at the sideof the King. Your duty is now to lookafter him.""O Rama," exclaimed Sumantra,"rectitude, learning and culture seem to beof no value. You and your brother andVaidehi are going to live in the forest.What is going to be our lot? How are wegoing to fare under Kaikeyis rule?" Henow wept like a child.Wiping the tears from Sumantras eyes,Rama said: "Our family has known nonobler friend than you. It will be your taskto console my father. His heart is river bygrief. Whatever his commands carry themout dutifully. Do not ask yourself whetherhe wants a thing for himself or with aview to pleasing Kaikeyi. Avoid givinghim any pain of mind. Have no anxietyabout us. You should say this on mybehalf to my aged father who is strickenwith a grief he never knew before. Clasphis feet as you have seen me do, andassure him from me that none of us, not Inor Lakshmana, nor Sita, feel injured orsorry at having been sent away fromAyodhya. We look forward to fourteenyears of forest life which will speed onhappy wings, and then surely we shallreturn to his feet for blessings. Give ourlove to my mother Kausalya, and tell herthat protected by her blessings we are welland give a like message to mystepmothers, especially to Kaikeyi, lestshe should think we have parted in anger.Tell the Maharaja that it is my earnestprayer that he should hasten with theinstallation of Bharata, so that he may be acomfort to him in our absence."But Sumantra, unable to restrain hisgrief, burst out: "How am I to return andwith what words can I give comfort?" Andwhen he looked at the empty chariot, hewept and said: "How shall I drive thischariot that stands desolate without you?"Once again Rama spoke words ofcomfort and courage to Sumantra andurged on him the duty of patience, andsent him home."Guha", said Rama, "I could indeedspend fourteen years in your kingdom asyou desire. But would that be fulfillingmy vow? I have left Ayodhya to fulfil myfathers pledge. I must therefore lead thelife of a tapasvi. I must not touch dishesdaintily cooked and served. We have tolive only on fruits, roots and permissiblekinds of meat such as we offer in thesacrificial fire."Comforting Guha thus, the brothers gottheir locks matted with the milk of thebanyan. They helped Sita into the boatand then got into it themselves. Guha badethe boatmen to row it across.The boatmen took them quickly acrossthe river. At midstream Sita offered aprayer to the goddess of the river: "Devi,help us fulfil our vow and return safe toour homeland."They talked as they went on. Theyreached the farther bank of Ganga. Andthere for the first time, the three stoodalone, unattended by friends!"Lakshmana, you are my sole armedguard now," said Rama. "You will gofirst. Sita will follow. And I shall walkbehind you both. We must save Sita as faras possible from the hardships of forestlife. Hereafter there will be none to keepus company and no fun or amusement."
  • 51. Ramas thoughts went to his motherKausalya."Lakshmana," he said, "should you notgo back to Ayodhya and look after motherKausalya and Sumitra Devi? I shallmanage my forest stay somehow."Lakshmana replied: "Forgive me,brother; I am not going back to Ayodhya."Rama indeed expected no other answer.Thus now and again we shall see thehuman element come up and the divineprince grieve and talk as common peopledo. This is the fascination of theRamayana. If Almighty God remainsalmighty and does everything Himself,then where is room or need for an avatarand how could the dharma of commonmen be established?This is the difference between theearlier avatars and the later. In the Ramaavatar, the course of human conduct andthe dharma governing it come linkedtogether. This has been made explicit byValmiki.On the occasion of Sitas ordeal by fireat the end of the battle, Rama says toBrahma who appeared then among othersand deprecated the idea of putting Sita toproof:"I regard myself only as Rama, son ofDasaratha, an ordinary human being. WhoI am in reality, where I belong, why I tookbirth, are matters on which you mustenlighten me, and I do not know."While Rama was plunged in thinkingof the mothers left behind, Lakshmanaministered to him with loving words ofcourage and hope.They spent that night under a banyantree and left early next morning forBharadwajas ashrama which they reachedat sunset.Partaking of the hospitality of the sage,they besought him to tell where they couldspend the years quietly in the forest andon his advice and with his blessings leftfor Chitrakuta.20. CHITRAKUTARama spent the night in Bharadwajasashrama. Getting up in the morning, theypaid their respects to the Maharishi and,taking leave of him, set out for theChitrakuta hill. The muni treated themaffectionately as if they were his ownchildren and sent them forth with hisblessings after explaining to them the waythey should take through the forest.The three followed his topographicalinstructions closely and in due coursecame upon the river Kalindi. Theyconstructed a raft with logs and bamboosand creepers of the forest and on itLakshmana made a seat for Sita with littletwigs and leaves on which she sat. Thepassage of the river was accomplished insafety.In midstream Sita offered salutations tothe river goddess and prayed that Ramamight fulfil his vow and the three beenabled safely to return home.After crossing a few more streams,they came to a big banyan tree which hadbeen described by Bharadwaja. And underthis tree Sita again offered prayers saying:"Grant, O holy tree, that my husband maycomplete his vow and that I may see againthe queens Kausalya and Sumitra."Rama asked Lakshmana to walk infront with Sita behind him while hehimself followed in the rear. "Whatever,flower or fruit she asks for on the way,"he said, "get it for her and keep her spiritsup."As Sita went she showed an eagercuriosity, asking about forest trees andcreepers and was lost in admiration at themany-sided beauty of forest life.They greatly enjoyed the journey andrested for the night on the bank of a river.Here and in other places, Valmikidescribes how Rama and Lakshmana
  • 52. secured food by hunting. He makes itquite plain that they had to subsist largelyon meat. Some good men are troubled bythis. But meat was not prohibited forKshatriyas. Indeed, it has always been therule in India to permit any foodlegitimately obtained and consecrated as asacrifice. Rama was a Kshatriya and helived in the forest in the Kshatriya way,though abstemiously.The following morning Rama woke upLakshmana and said: "Listen, the birds aresinging to the morning sun. It is time forus to start."The popular story that Lakshmanaspent the whole period of forest lifewithout food or sleep is not found inValmiki. Sometimes, even, throughfatigue Lakshmana did not get up quiteearly in the morning and Rama had torouse him from slumber!They performed their ablutions andworship and resumed their journey in thepath indicated by Bharadwaja. The seasonwas summer and the trees and plants wereablaze with multi colored flowers. Thebranches bowed under the weight of fruitsand blossoms.Rama pointed out the beauty of theforest to Sita from time to then, saying asthey walked: "How beautiful is the forestunspoilt by human interference! Look atthe beehives hanging there! Look at theground entirely covered with fallenflowers! Listen to the birds! Howbeautifully they sing to one another andlive in joy! Life would indeed be pleasantif we could always enjoy such sights andsounds."Then they saw at a distance theChitrakuta hill. They were glad and beganto walk briskly towards it. "How beautifulthis region is!" exclaimed Rama. "Theforest here has fine edible roots and fruits.The water is clear and sweet. Rishis dwellin ashramas in this forest and we maymost certainly live happily here in theirholy company."They proceeded to put up an ashramathere for themselves. Lakshmana was aclever workman. He soon constructed astrong hut, which was weather-proof andmade it comfortable and convenient.Single-handed, he completed the mud hutwith windows and doors all made ofbamboos and jungle material.Kamban and Valmiki vie with eachother in their accounts of this episode.Kamban says that when Lakshmana hadcompleted the structure, Rama embracedhim weeping and asked him: "When andhow did you learn all this?" One canimagine the scene.Rama, his eyes filled with tears of joy,said, according to Kamban: "The flower-soft feet of the Princess of Mithila havetraversed the hard forest floor. If her feethave done a wonder, why, Lakshmana,your hands too have wrought a miracle ofhouse-building! I have seen today the gainthat is in misfortune."Here, beside the lovely Chitrakuta hill,on the bank of the river Malyavati, in thatcottage the three young people lived, freefrom care, performing their dailydevotional routine. They forgot that theywere in exile and spent the time happily,like Indra in Heaven surrounded by thegods.The happy life in Chitrakuta is awonderful background to set off the latersufferings and sorrows of the three.21. A MOTHERS GRIEFSumantra and Guha stood watching thethree figures as long as they could. Whenthey disappeared from sight, they wereplunged in sorrow and went back toGuhas town. After a while Sumantrareturned to Ayodhya.As the charioteer approached the city,he found it desolate and devoid of theusual cheerful bustle of urban life. As
  • 53. soon as he crossed the fortress-gate andentered the city, his chariot wassurrounded by a crowd eagerly asking:"Where did you leave Rama? How was hewhen you left him?""Dear people of Ayodhya," saidSumantra, "Rama and Lakshmana havecrossed the Ganga. Ordering me to returnhome, they entered the forest on foot."A great cry of grief rose from themultitude and many cursed themselvesand attributed the catastrophe to their ownsins. On both sides of the streets, womenstood as the chariot passed and cried:"Look at the car which departed with theprinces and Sita and has come backempty."Sumantra drove forward covering hisface with the end of his upper garment,ashamed of himself. He stopped thechariot in front of Dasarathas palace andalighted.There in front of the palace a greatcrowd had gathered. Women were saying,"How is Sumantra going to meet Kausalyaand tell her that he left her son in theforest? How will she survive the report?"With increasing sorrow and confusion,Sumantra entered the Queens apartment.There he saw the King more dead thanalive. In low tones, he spoke of Ramasmessage to the King who heard it in heart-broken silence.Then Kausalya, unable to control herwrath, addressed the King: "Here standsyour minister who has returned from theforest after leaving my child to fulfil yourcommand. Why are you silent? It waseasy and pleasant to give boons toKaikeyi. Why are you ashamed of it now?Did you not know that this would be theresult of what you did? You have honoredyour word. You may be happy over that.But who can share my sorrow with me? Ihave to bear it all. My grief cannot bereduced by your pain. No conventionbinds you to feel or appear to be grievedfor what you have deliberately done. Whyare you silent? You need not refrain fromgiving expression to sorrow for fear ofoffending Kaikeyi, for she is not here.Surely you should inquire of Sumantraabout Rama. Have you no humanity? Whydo you try to suppress even naturalfeelings?"Her grief and love for Rama blindedher to the state of her husbands body andmind. Instead of lightening, sheaggravated his suffering.Dasaratha opened his eyes andSumantra reported duly Ramas messagein his own words.Sumantra tried his best to consoleKausalya. But she went on repeating:"Take me and leave me where Rama is.Young Sita is there with him facing thehardships of the forest. I cannot bear thisagony. Let me go to Dandaka and be withSita."Sumantra answered: "Queen, be brave.Banish this grief. Rama spends his timeeven more happily in the forest than hedid in Ayodhya. He feels no sorrow.Lakshmana finds joy in the supreme jobof dutiful service to the brother he loves.He is very happy. As for Sita, there in theforest, as here in the palace, she lives forRama with every breath and knowsneither fear nor sorrow. She spends hertime as though she was a sylvan goddessand is as happy there as she was hereplaying in the groves and gardens ofAyodhya. The beauty of her face is stilllike the rising moons. Like a forest fawnshe lives there with care-free grace,spending the, golden hours with Rama byher side. Every sight and sound is a newsource of joy to her and the theme of talkwith Rama and Lakshmana. Walkingbarefoot, her feet are red like the lotus,and need no painting with henna. Shewalks in the forest as if she were dancing.
  • 54. She only lacks the tinkling anklets tomake it complete. All that I say is true.There is no need for you to grieve. Thethree of them are fulfilling their sacredduty and offering an object lesson to theworld. They are making the Kings wordgood. Their life will be remembered andpraised forever. Why, then, should wegrieve for them?"With such talk, Kausalya would beconsoled for a while. But soon she wouldbreak down again and cry: "Alas, alas,Rama, my child." Her grief seemedredoubled when she saw Sumantra comeback, leaving Rama in the forest.22. IDLE SPORT AND TERRIBLERESULTDasaradha had been driven ruthlesslyby circumstances to an action which notonly broke his heart but made him hatehimself and deprived him even of self-pity. The only way out of the dilemma ofeither breaking his plighted word or doinga great wrong to Rama would have beenfor the latter to disobey him and insist onhis rights. But Rama placed his duty to hisfather high above all other things. AndRama was all the world to Sita andLakshmana. So they had all gone together.To Dasaratha, agonising on his bed ofpain in desolation and remorse, Kausalyaspoke reproachful words.The stinging words in whichKausalyas sorrow found expressioncaused excruciating pain to Dasaratha, butshe seemed to find some relief in givingvent to her feelings in this way."Proud of having kept your word andhappy in young Kaikeyis approval andgratification, have you any thought forothers? You have been my world and mygod, my joy in this world and my hope forthe next and you have forsaken me. Myson, the light of my life, has beenwrenched away from me and banished. Ilive here alone, old, helpless woman,without the love of my lord or the sight ofmy only son. Was ever a woman left moredesolate? But you, are you not delightedwith what you have done? It is enough foryou that Kaikeyi and Bharata are happy.You need not entertain any fear that Ramawill mar that happiness, even if hereturned from the forest after fourteenyears. He will not touch the kingdom onceruled by Bharata. The tiger does not touchthe leavings of another animals. Like afish, eating its offspring, you have killedyour own child."Touched to the quick, the King even inthe intensity of his anguish turned to hiswife with a humble prayer for forgivenesswith clasped hands."Have pity on me, Kausalya," hemoaned. "You have been kind andforgiving even to strangers. Do have somecompassion on your husband who hasalways loved and honored you and whoseheart is broken by a sorrow which knowsno remedy!"These piteous words and the sight ofher husband in supplication and thememory of happier hours pierced thenoble queen to the heart and she fell at hisfeet imploring forgiveness forunbecoming words forced out of her bygrief.As the leaden hours crept slowly on,Dasaratha remembered something thathad happened long ago and it aggravatedthe anguish of his heart.The King turned to Kausalya and said:"Are you still here, my dear? The fruit ofones action can never be escaped. I nowendure the result of a great sin that Icommitted in the days that are gone. Menin their ignorance sometimes do greatevils for the sake of some slightmomentary pleasure. Then when the timecomes, the price has to be paid. When Iwas young, I had the skill to use my bowagainst unseen targets aiming by sound
  • 55. only. For the pleasure of exercising thisskill, I once killed an innocent man andcommitted a great sin. Listen, I shall relateto you that sad adventure. It was beforeyou came to me. One night I went, out inmy chariot to hunt on the banks of theSarayu. It had been raining heavily and,from the mountainsides, the streams wererunning dyed with the rich colors ofminerals and fresh soil. The birds weresilent. The forest seemed asleep. I couldtake the aim by the ear and shoot, withoutseeing, a tiger or bear or other wild beastthat might come to slake its thirst in thestream. I wanted to test this skill of mine.It was dense darkness. I waited for somewild animal to come. Then I heard agurgling sound as of an elephant drinking.At once I aimed an arrow in the directionwhence the sound came. Like a venomousserpent, swish went my dart and hit theobject. But I was shocked to hear a humanvoice exclaim Alas! I am dead! I heardthe man cry again piteously, Who can bemy enemy? Never have I done any harmto anyone. Who then could want to kill methus as I was filling my pitcher withwater? What could he gain by this? Whyshould anyone bear hate against one livinghis innocent hermit life in the forest?What is to happen to my old blind parentsnow, with none to look after them? Omisery! Horror-struck, I stood tremblingin every limb. My bow and arrow slippedfrom my hands. I approached the placefrom where the voice came and I found ayoung ascetic lying on the ground withdishevelled hair, covered all over withblood and earth. Beside him lay anupturned pitcher. The look of his eyes wasas fire. When he saw me, he cried, OSinner that has killed me! Why did youaim your arrow at me that was takingwater from the stream? My old blindparents are thirsty and are waiting for mein the ashrama, thinking that I wouldreturn with my pitcher filled. Why did youkill me? O God, my penances and mydevotions have all gone to naught. Myparents do not know that I lie herestricken and helpless. They will go onwaiting for me and even if they knew it,what could they do, blind and helpless?Who are you? What! Are you not theKing of Kosala? And so, you, the King,who should by right protect me, have slainme. Very well, O King, go yourself andtell them what you have done. Fall at theirfeet and beg for forgiveness. Else, theiranger will reduce you to ashes. Gostraight to the ashrama. Take that paththere. Go at once and save yourself. Butthis arrow is a torture. Pull it out andrelieve me of the pain before you go. Iknew that if I pulled out the arrow fromhis body, his pain would end indeed, butso would his life in a gush of blood. Myhand refused to do the deed. For a while Istood, not knowing what to do. Then, theyoung ascetic said: Do not hesitate. Doend my pain. My mind is now clear and Ihave calmed myself. Boldly pull out thearrow and release my life. Gently I pulledthe arrow out. The young ascetic turnedon the ground, heaved a sigh and, with hiseyes fixed on me, breathed his last. It isthis crime of mine that is now pursuingme. The agony of those blind parents whowere deprived by me of their son hascome now for me to endure."23. LAST MOMENTSDasaratha continued: "Listen, I shalltell you what followed. Having committeda sin and seeing the young ascetic die, Istood wondering what-to do next. FinallyI decided that it was my duty and myinterest to do what he advised me. Icleaned the pitcher, and filling it withfresh water, took it and went along thefootpath he had pointed out. I reached hiscottage and there I saw the old couplewaiting for the return of their son. They
  • 56. sat there like two birds with broken wingsshrivelled in body and unable to move.Both were blind. They were speaking toeach other about the long delay of theirson in fetching water from the stream. Iwas filled with terror as I slowlyapproached them. The old man, hearingmy footsteps, mumbled: Why this longdelay, my son? Quickly give me somewater to drink. Your mother too is athirst.Were you making your pleasure in thestream? Was this the cause of your delay,son? Why are you silent? Even if yourmother or I have offended you in anymanner, you should not take it to heart.You are a perfect son and our only prop.We have lost our eyesight and you serveas our eyes. Indeed you are more than ourlife to us. Why are you still silent? Areyou still angry. I trembled in fear when Iheard the toothless old man talking thus.Gathering courage I began: O, holy one, Iam Dasaratha by name, a Kshatriya,bound to obey and serve you, though notyour son. Driven by my former karma, Ihave committed a terrible sin and stand inabject humility before you. I went to theriverbank for sport, hoping to shoot wildbeasts. I thought I heard in the darkness anelephant drinking water. I aimed myarrow, as I am a marksman that can aimby sound as well as by sight. It was mymisfortune and his fate that my arrowstruck your son as he was filling hispitcher, with the gurgling I had mistakenfor that of an elephant drinking. Thus,without intending it, I fatally woundedyour beloved son. When I went to the spotand saw him rolling in blood with myarrow stuck in his breast, I cursed myself.I was filled with horror and stood notknowing what to do. At his request Ipulled the arrow out to release him fromthe mortal pain. He is dead. I have toldyou the horrible sin I have committed. Ithrow myself at your mercy. I await yourjudgment. The miserable couples werestruck dumb by my dreadful tale abouttheir son. Tears poured from theirsightless eyes, and the old man said:King, your sin is indeed great. But it wasdone in ignorance. And you have comeyourself to tell me your crime. So youshall live. Now take us both to the spot.Let us touch our beloved son with ourhands and send him into Yamas keeping.I carried them to the river bank wheretheir son lay dead. They felt his body allover, cried and blessed his soul andperformed the cremation. Then beforeascending the funeral pyre and givingthem selves up to the fire, they turned tome and said: This great grief you havebrought about for us, you too, will endurein good time. You will die of grief partedfrom your son. Saying this, they burntthemselves and their souls joined thegods. My sin has pursued me and I amnow in its grip. My old crime is killing menow. As food prohibited by they doctorsfoolishly consumed by a sick man killshim, what that old father uttered inunbearable grief has now come true. Ihave sent my innocent son to the forestand, unable to bear the grief, I now enterYamas abode. How else could theseunnatural events occur? How else could Ibe thus deceived and betrayed? Even if Iordered Rama to go to forest, why shouldhe obey my unjust command? Whyshould he insist on being exiled? It is thecurse of that old blind couple, nothingelse. Kausalya, I do not see you. My sightis gone. Death is fast approaching. Comenearer and let me feel you. All is over.The messengers of Yama are calling me.Will Rama come? Shall I see him before Idie? Oh, I am dying. The oil is allconsumed and my light is going out! AhKausalya! Oh Sumitra!"
  • 57. His life slowly ebbed away and thatnight at some time unobserved by any, theKing breathed his last.As described by Valmiki in the earlypages of the epic, Dasaratha was one whohad mastered all the Vedas and Shastras,was a farsighted person, the hero of manybattles, the performer of many sacrifices,follower of dharma, a far-famed king withmany friends and no foes, and one whohad conquered his senses. His power waslike Indras. His wealth was like Kuberas.In statesmanship, he was like Manu. Fatehad ordered that such a one should exilehis beloved son and die of a broken heart,with none by him in his last moments buttwo faithful women stricken by himselfwith a common sorrow.Since the King had so often fainted andrecovered, his death was not immediatelynoticed by Kausalya or Sumitra. Theywere weary, too, with grief and watching,and fell into a sleep of fatigue in a cornerof the apartment. At dawn, the musiciansand singers, whose duty it was to rousethe King from slumber, came to hisbedchamber and played on instrumentsand sang the usual hymns.But they saw no sign of the Kingwaking. The royal servants who attendedto the Kings morning needs waited longand wondered why he slept till so late.Then they made bold to enter theapartment and saw him lying dead.Soon the news spread and filled thepalace with grief. The widows of the greatDasaratha cried like orphaned children,embracing one another in unavailinglamentation.24. BHARATA ARRIVESKausalya clung to the Kings body andcried: "I shall go with the King to Yamasabode. How can I live without my son andwithout my husband?"The elders and officers of the palacemanaged to separate her from the deadKing and take her away. Then theydiscussed about the funeral rites. Theycould not be performed immediately, forRama and Lakshmana had gone to theforest and Bharata and Satrughna were faraway in their uncles place. It was decidedto send for Bharata and to keep the bodyimmersed in oil till his arrival.The great monarchs remains were thuskept waiting for Bharatas arrival.Ayodhya, the city of splendor, was sunkin darkness and lamentation. Crowds ofwomen met here and there and reviledKaikeyi. There was anxiety in menshearts. The crown prince had gone to theforest. Bharata too was far away. Anarchywas feared, for no one in those days couldimagine a people going on without a king.After the long night had passed, theministers, officers and elders assembled inthe hall in the morning. Markandeya,Vamadeva, Kashyapa, Katyayana,Gautama, Jabali and other learned men,with Sumantra and the other ministers,bowed to Vasishtha and said:"Sir, the night we have passed was likea century. The King is no more. Rama andLakshmana are in the forest. Bharata andSatrughna are in far off Kekaya in theirgrandfathers house. Someone mustforthwith be asked to take up theresponsibility of rule. A land without aking cannot survive. Order will disappear,son will not obey father, nor wife herhusband. The rains will hold back.Thieves and robbers will range at will.There will be no mutual trust amongpeople. Neither agriculture nor trade canflourish. Without a king, the land mustlose its prosperity. The springs of charitywill dry up. Festivals and services willcease to be performed in temples. Therewill be no expounding of Shastras orepics, nor any listeners. People will nomore sleep with doors open. Culture willdecline and soon disappear. Penances,
  • 58. vows, enjoyments, learning, all depend onthe kings protection. The beauty ofwomen will vanish. The sense of securitywill be lost. Men will eat one another upas, fish do. Cruelty and misery will growapace and lay waste the land. For good toprosper and evil to be restrained, a king isessential."Thus Valmiki describes at length thedangers of anarchy through the mouths ofleaders in that assembly."It looks as if a great darkness hasenveloped the land," they said. "Dharma isin danger. Let us forthwith secure a king."Vasishtha sent for tried messengers andsaid to them: "Start at once. Go straightand swift to Kekaya. See that you wear nosign of sorrow on your face or show it inyour behavior. Bharata should not knowthat the King is dead. Tell him simply thatthe family preceptor and ministers wanthis presence at once in Ayodhya and bringhim along with you with all the speed youmay. Tell him nothing about Rama andSita going to the forest or the Kings deathon account of grief. To avoid allsuspicion, take with you the usual gifts ofjewels and precious garments forpresentation to the King of Kekaya."From this we can understand themeaning of what the Shastras and Kuralsay about Truth. Truthfulness should besuch that it needlessly hurts no being inthe world. The test for right conductincluding truthfulness is harmlessness.This does not mean that truth isunderrated.Soon the messengers were provisionedand equipped for the long journey andfurnished with gifts of honor. Mounted onswift and sturdy horses, they sped pastrivers and forests, up hill and down dale,and reached Kekaya, which wassomewhere to the west of the modernPunjab, and found themselves inRajagriha, its capital, where the Ikshvakuprinces were residing in the palace of theirmaternal uncle. They decided to wait onthe princes the next morning.The night the messengers arrived,Bharata had evil dreams and woke up inthe morning filled with anxiety as to whatthey might portend. His face showed thestate of his mind. His companions tried toentertain him with dance and mirth tomake him forget his cares, but did notsucceed.We still do not know all the secrets ofnature and the telepathy of affection.Maybe, Dasarathas mental anguish anddeath throes reached Bharata across spaceand caused him his bad dreams. He said tohimself: "It seems to me that death isapproaching my brother Rama orLakshmana or myself. They say that anearly morning dream does not fail to befulfilled. And mine has been a terribledream. I am full of fear. I know not whatto do."Just then the messengers wereannounced. The King of Kekaya and hisson Yudhajit received the envoys with duecourtesy.They paid their respects to the Kingand that princes, then turned to Bharataand said:"The priests and ministers send youtheir blessings and request you to return atonce to Ayodhya. They want us to conveyto you that the need for your presencethere is most urgent. Please touch foracceptance these garments and jewels tobe given to your uncle and to the King asgifts from the palace of Ayodhya."Bharata questioned the messengersafter the welfare of all at home. Themanner of his inquiry suggests that he hadan uneasy premonition that his mothersheadstrong and ambitious nature mighthave had something to do with this hastysummons home. "And is my mother, thehaughty and irascible Queen Kaikeyi who
  • 59. believes herself all-wise and must alwayshave her way, is she in good health?"The messengers must have been attheir wits end for an answer. The bestthey could make was: "O tiger amongmen, all are well whose welfare is dear toyou. Lakshmi, the goddess of sovereignty,whose abode is the lotus, woos you. Getinto your chariot without loss of time."There was an enigmatic thought in thisgreeting, for according to them Bharatawas to be installed on the throne.The prince took leave of his uncle andgrandfather for returning home andpreparations were made for his departure.The old king and Yudhajit collected rareand valuable things of their country to besent as gifts to King Dasaratha and PrinceRama of Ayodhya. Bharata and Satrughnamounted their chariots and started with abig retinue towards Ayodhya. Theytravelled fast, unmindful of fatigue, andby forced marches reached Ayodhya onthe morning of the eighth day.As he approached the city, Bharatasmind was filled with misgiving. Nothingseemed to be as it was before, and the airseemed heavy with disaster. He asked thecharioteer: "Why does the city wear sucha strange look? I do not see the usualcrowds of people going in and coming outin the gardens outside the city. One usedto see young men and women with bright,cheerful faces. But now they all seemsad."Bharatas chariot entered the citythrough the Victory Gate. The streets,houses and temples were bare andunadorned. The faces of the people lookeddrawn and famished."Why are the musical instrumentssilent?" he asked. "Why are the citizensnot decked with flowers and sandal paste?These are all bad signs. I cannot repressmy anxiety."Inauspicious omens were seeneverywhere. Bharata concluded that somegreat misfortune had overtaken the cityand that was the reason why he had beenso hastily sent for. He entered Dasarathaspalace. The King was not to be seen. Hisanxiety increased.He then entered Kaikeyis palace.When she saw her son after a longabsence, she jumped from her goldencouch to embrace him. He bent down andtouched her feet. She kissed his head andwelcomed him with maternal blessings."Did you have a good journey?" sheasked. "Are your uncle and grandfatherwell? Tell me all about them."He answered: "The journey took sevendays. All our people at Kekaya are happyand well. Grandfather and uncle send youtheir love. They have sent rich gifts foryou, but these will arrive later. I havecome in advance. The envoys hurried me,saying there was urgent work demandingmy presence here. What is all this about? Iwent to the Kings palace to pay him myrespects. He was not to be found there andhere too his couch is empty. Perhaps he iswith one of my senior mothers. I must goand see him and tender my respects."When Bharata, innocent of heart andunaware of what had happened, said this,the foolish queen intoxicated with a newsense of power answered: "My child, yourfather had his full share of the blessings ofthis life. His fame was great. Heperformed all the sacrifices enjoined bytradition. He was a refuge for the good.He has now entered the higher world andjoined the gods."On hearing this, Bharata fell downuttering a cry, his long arms stretched outon the ground. Rising, he looked at hisfathers empty bed and sobbed like adestitute orphan. The mighty hero threwhis god-like frame on the earth and weptlike a child in uncontrolled grief.
  • 60. Looking at her son, who lay on theground like a big tree fallen to the axe,Kaikeyi said: "Arise, O King. Stand up. Itis not right for a king thus to mourn androll on the ground. Honor and glory arewaiting for your acceptance. You are touphold the dharma and perform sacrificesin the way of your royal fathers. Yourintelligence shines like the noonday sun.No misfortune dare come near you. Son,strong of limb and brave-hearted, standup."Bharatas mind was immaculate,spotless. He did not see all that Kaikeyihad put in this her appeal!After lamenting long, he got up andsaid: "When I went to my uncles house Ihad hoped that Ramas installation asYuvaraja would come off soon and that onmy return I would see the great festiveceremonies. How differently have thingsturned out! How am I to bear thiscalamity? No more shall I see my fathersface. What did he die of? How did he getthe illness? And I was not by his sidewhen he lay sick! It was given to Rama totend him in his last moments. Howaffectionate the King was towards me! Ifsome dust settled on my body, he wouldwipe it with his hand. And how soft andpleasing was his touch! And it was notgiven me to serve him in his need. Butmother where is Rama? Hereafter he isboth father and preceptor to me. I mustsee him at once and kiss his feet. He isnow my sole refuge. What was my fatherslast message to me? I want his verywords."Kaikeyis answer had to be consistentboth with truth and her designs. She waspulled in contrary directions by herculture and her ambition. She found wordswhich conveyed that the King did notthink of Bharata in his last moments. Shealso wished to prepare him for the rest ofthe news. She said: "Your father breathedhis last crying, Ha, Rama, Ha,Lakshmana, Ha, Janaki. These were hislast words." He died saying: "It is notgiven me to live to see Rama, Lakshmanaand Sita return. Happy they who will seetheir return."Listening to this, Bharata gathered thatRama and Lakshmana too were absentfrom the Kings side. His grief increasedand he asked Kaikeyi: "Where. Werethey? What business took them away fromour fathers side during his last moments?"Hoping to pacify him, Kaikeyi said:"My son, Rama put on the garments of anascetic and, taking Lakshmana and Sitawith him, went to the Dandaka forest."Bharatas amazement now knew nobounds. He asked: "I understand nothingof what you are saying. What sin didRama commit that he should undertakesuch expiation? Did be rob any Brahmanaor cause bodily hurt to any innocentperson or desire somebody elses wife?Why did he have to go to the forest? Wholaid on him this penance?"In those days people went of their ownwill or were sent to the forest as apurifying punishment for such and otherheinous crimes. Now Kaikeyi shaken outof silence by this tempest of questionscame out with the truth foolishly hopingfor the best."Rama committed no crime. He neitherrobbed nor harmed anyone. And it wasnot in Ramas nature to cast eyes of desireat other peoples wives. What happenedwas that, seeing that preparations wereafoot for installing him as crown princeand regent, I approached the King foryour sake and secured the fulfillment oftwo boons he had long ago granted to me.I asked that the kingdom should go to youand that Rama should be exiled to theforest. Bound by his past promise, theKing agreed. Rama has therefore gone tothe forest with Sita and Lakshmana.
  • 61. Unable to bear this separation, your fatherexpired of grief. Do not waste yourself invain lamentations now. Think now whatyou should do. You know dharma. Yourduty is to accept the burden of kingship. Idid all this for your sake and you shouldaccept the fruit of my action in the spiritin which I acted. The city and kingdomhave come into your possession withoutyour wanting or working for it. Followingthe injunctions of Vasishtha and otherlearned men, perform duly your fathersobsequies and then prepare for thecoronation. You are a Kshatriya. Youhave inherited your fathers kingdom.Attend to what has fallen to you as yourduty."25. INTRIGUE WASTEDNow Bharata understood everythingand realised the enormity of the harmwrought by his mother.Overwhelmed by grief and near, hecould not control himself. At the thoughtof what she had done and the eternalinfamy she had incurred, his grief grewwild and he hurled cruel words at her."What have you done?" he cried. "Didyou ever hope to make me accept thekingdom? Deprived of such a father andsuch a brother, am I likely to care forpower? After causing the death of theKing and the banishment of Rama, youask me to take their place and rule theland. This is like pouring oil into the fireof my grief. How unfortunate was myfather to have chosen you for a wife!Kausalya and Sumitra will also die ofgrief. Oh, how could you bring yourself todo this to Rama who was so devoted toyou? Revered mother Kausalya treatedyou like her own blood-sister. How couldyou think of plotting against her belovedson? And did you not know how much Iloved Rama? Greed destroyed yourunderstanding. How else could you sofoolishly plan for my happiness? Even thegreat King relied on Rama andLakshmana. How could you believe thatin their absence I could rule the kingdom?And, even if I could, would I agree?Never will your wish be fulfilled throughmy cooperation. I can no longer regardyou as my mother. I cut myself off fromall relation with you and decline to regardyou as my mother. How could you everthink of setting aside rule and custom andgetting a younger son crowned? Wouldnot the world revile us for all time? Thegeneral law of kings and the tradition ofour family cannot be violated. I will notcarry out your wish. I shall go to the forestand bring Rama back. I shall set the crownon his head and rejoice in being his loyalservant."To understand Bharatas feelings, weshould keep in mind his innate noblenature, his love for Rama, his grief for hisfather and the sense of guilt and shamethat for his sake his mother had done thisgrievous wrong. We should not weigh hiswords in dry air and a chemical balance.In such contexts, poetry flashes fire. Onesees it both in Valmiki and Kamban.Bharata raised his voice and spokeagain: "Banish Rama indeed! It is you thatought to be banished, cruel woman, whohave forsaken the path of dharma. So faras you are concerned you may take it thatI am dead, for I would rather be dead thanbe son to a murderess! Murderess of yourhusband! You are not the daughter of thegood King Asvapati. You are a Rakshasi.To what hell should you go, you, whobanished the only child of motherKausalya? What punishment would be toogreat for the grief you have caused her?Kamadhenu, the cow-mother, hadhundreds of thousands of children, yet sheshed tears at the sight of the suffering oftwo bulls yoked to a plough and her tearsscalded Indra on his throne in highHeaven. And Kausalyas only child you
  • 62. sent to the forest, hoping thus that you andI could be made happy! I shall do theobsequies and go to the forest and fall atthe feet of Rama and bring him to hiskingdom. And then, to cleansemyself of the sin and the shame youhave brought on me, I shall lead the life ofan ascetic in the Dandaka forest. What aflood of sorrow have you let loose on theearth? By what penitence, by what self-mortification, can you redeem yourself? Ishall go myself at once to Rama and getrid of my guilt by restoring the kingdomto him."Finding no relief for his anguish byangry words, sighing like a youngelephant newly captured, hot tears-fallingfrom his eyes, he felt he could bear nolonger the sight of his mother and rushedto Kausalyas apartment, there to find abetter place to give vent to his sorrow.Thus did Kaikeyis castle in the air goup in smoke. She lay down on the floorand wept. The most painful of allreflexions is that of a crime perpetrated invain.Among the characters in theRamayana, Bharata is the perfectembodiment of virtue. In the villages ofthe North, the people celebrate an annualfestival for the episode of the meeting ofRama and Bharata at Chitrakuta, whichthey consider the most sanctifying part ofthe Ramayana epic. There have beenthrough the ages great and noble soulswhose virtue shines eternally in the midstof the sordid self-seeking of a sinfulworld, as a beacon light to seekers of theright path, and as a token of the god inman.Soon the news of Bharatas arrivalspread throughout the palace. Kausalya,still laboring under her grief, heard this,and was glad and told Sumitra, "Come, letus go and meet Bharata." Hardly had theytaken a couple of steps when they sawBharata himself rushing wildly towardsthem to plead for mercy.Kausalyas first thought when sheheard of Bharatas arrival was that he hadhastened back to assume the fortunewhich had come to him. Had not theelders and ministers, led by Vasishtha,decided to send for Bharata so that hemight perform his fathers obsequies andbe crowned king? Hence, seeing Bharata,Kausalya, her heart desolate with her lossof husband and son, said in a low voice:"Bharata, the kingship is waiting securedfor your sake by Kaikeyi. You need notfear any let or hindrance from us. Take it,and may all happiness be yours. Only oneboon I crave of you to let me join yourfather on the funeral pyre."These words were like stinging poisonin Bharatas ears. He fell at her feet andclung to them, unable to speak.Kausalya said again: "Oh Bharata, atleast take me where Rama is in the forest."Unable to bear all these piteous wordsof Kausalya and unable to speak, Bharatafell into a swoon. After a while he sat upand said: "Mother, why do you thustorture me who am innocent? You know Iwas far away and knew nothing of thewicked things going on here. Do you notknow the love I bear for Rama? Would Iever do such a thing to him? May all thesins of the world descend on me if I hadthe least notion of the evil brewing here! Ihad nothing to do with it. I have no desireto reap its fruit."He raised his hands and recited all thehorrible sins that one could commit andinvoked on himself the punishments dueto them if he had any part in the plot.In those days as now it was hard for ason to prove that he knew nothing of ascheme carried out by his mother for hisbenefit. Bharata could only swear hisinnocence again and again. He carednothing for kingdom or wealth or power
  • 63. and it was a terrible torment to him thatKausalya should think him capable ofgreed for them at the expense of hisbrother. Indeed such a thought was hardlyless cruel and unjust than Ramas exile!He could never accept the crown whichwas his beloved brothers birthright.His passionate sincerity convincedKausalya of the injustice of hersuspicions, and her heart went out to him.Tenderly she raised him from the groundand took his head on her lap and caressedhim as though he were Rama himself."My dear son, my grief is doubled byseeing the pain raging in your innocentheart. What shall we do child? We are theplaythings of fate. May the reward ofgoodness come to you in this world andthe next!"Kausalya had not believed Bharataprivy to the plot, but she feared that hewould condone it and yield to thetemptation of its results. Now she wasconvinced that Bharatas heart wascompletely free from stain. Though herown son had gone to the forest, she waspleased that such another son had come toher in his place.Here, Kamban beautifully sings howKausalya shed tears of joy over Bharataand embraced him imagining that Ramahimself had returned from the forest.Kausalya said amidst her sobs: "Manywere your ancestors who attained fame.You have surpassed them all in glory byrenouncing the kingship that has come toyou. You are indeed king among kings."The Kausalya and Bharata portrayedby Kamban embody a culture. May theseheroic figures and that culture live foreverin the land of Bharata!The obsequies of the dead King wereduly performed. Vasishtha and otherlearned men and elders offered graveshastric consolation to Bharata andSatrughna. Fourteen days after the Kingsdemise, the ministers called the Assemblyand addressed Bharata thus:"The King has gone to the worldabove. Rama and Lakshmana are in theforest. The land is now without a king. Itis right that you should assume the rule atour request. The preparations for thecoronation are all complete. The citizensand ministers are awaiting youracceptance. This is your kingdom lawfullydescended from your ancestors, It is foryou to be anointed and rule righteouslyover us."Bharata went with folded hands roundthe materials gathered for the coronationand said in grave tones to the assembledelders:"I do not consider it proper that youshould ask me thus to accept the kingdom.According to the custom of our house, thethrone belongs to the eldest son. With allrespect to you, I have decided to go to theforest and bring Rama back to Ayodhyawith Lakshmana and see that Rama iscrowned. Please get ready the men andmaterials for this purpose. Prepare theroad for the journey. Let laborers bemobilised for it. It is my final andirrevocable decision not to accept thecrown."Listening to the princes words, thewhole assembly was beside itself with joy.They applauded Bharatas suggestion. Thearmy and a big retinue were got ready toaccompany the prince to the forest.Quickly an army of workers with theirtools went forward to prepare the road.Men who knew the forest, pioneerswho could dig wells and canals, buildersof rafts and boats, carpenters andengineers, worked enthusiastically,because they were engaged in gettingbeloved Rama back. Culverts were built,trees felled, a broad road for the princeand his retinue was soon laid. Ups anddowns were levelled, marshes drained,
  • 64. resting-places for the army and facilitiesfor drinking water and all otherconveniences were soon made ready.Though thus preparations were madefor Bharatas journey to the forest,Vasishtha and the other ministers formallysummoned the Assembly again. They didnot give up their desire to get Bharata toagree to be crowned. They sentmessengers to Bharata palace and invitedhim to the Hall. They approached himwith music playing on many instruments.All this pained him.He stopped the musicians and sent themessengers back and told Satrughna:"Why should they still persist intormenting me when I have refused thekingdom? This is the result of ourmothers intrigue. My father has gone toHeaven leaving me to bear all this alone.The land needs a king; without one itdrifts like a rudderless and derelict ship.We must soon get Rama back."The Assembly sat eagerly looking forthe entrance of the blameless prince. Heentered the Hall as the full moon rises inthe sky He bowed to the elders and satdown.Vasishtha said: "This kingdom hasbeen given to you by your father and yourbrother Rama. Accept it and protect usaccording to ancient custom."Bharatas heart was far away withRama. Tears fell from his yes. The youngprince wept aloud in the midst of the royalAssembly and in a voice struggling withtears, he addressed words of respectfulreproach to the preceptors:"How can you ask one of my race andupbringing to usurp what belongs toanother far nobler and more worthy thanI? Can any son of Dasaratha possiblydream of such iniquity? This kingdom andI, and all else in it belong to Rama. He isthe eldest son, the noblest among us, alover of dharma, an equal to Dilipa andNahusha of old. He is the rightful king.He is fit to be sovereign in the threeworlds. Standing here I pay my homage toRama there in the forest. He is the King,not I."The Assembly burst into tears of joywhen they heard Bharata speak thus.And Bharata continued: "If I am unableto persuade King Rama to agree, I shallstay there performing penance. It is yourduty, O Elders, to use every means tobring Rama back. I shall do all I can tomake Rama come back to Ayodhya andmake him King."He then ordered Sumantra who wasstanding near him to hasten thepreparations for going to the forest. Thecity rejoiced in anticipation of Ramasreturn, for all felt sure that nothing couldresist the force of Bharatas dutiful love.26. BHARATA SUSPECTEDGAZING across the river Ganga,Guha, the hunter-king, noticed unusualcommotion on the bank opposite. A greatarmy had encamped there. He pointed it tohis kinsmen standing by his side and said:"Who is this and why has he come herewith a large army, apparently to cross theriver? The flag suggests that it is Kaikeyisson Bharata and his army. Yes, I see theflag flying on the top of the chariot and Ican recognise the tree painted on it. Thatis the flag of the King of Ayodhya. Is notRamas enemy, Bharata, the King ofAyodhya too? Having secured thekingdom unjustly through his motherKaikeyi, it looks as though he has pursuedRama here to slay him. Get together ourwarriors and kinsmen and friends. Letthem stand ready on this bank. Gather allthe boats and fill them with armed menready for battle. Let us wait and see. If thenewcomers are well disposed towardsRama, we shall help them to cross theriver and come over to this side. But, if
  • 65. their intention is hostile, we shall preventthem from crossing the Ganga."And so having made all preparations,Guha, in accordance with rules ofcourtesy, took some presents, got into aboat and went to meet Bharata.On the other bank at the same timeSumantra, was telling Bharata:"Look! Guha, the hunter-king, devotedfriend of Rama, has come with his peopleto welcome us. He is the ruler of thisregion. He and his kinsmen are wellacquainted with every nook and corner ofthis forest. They could tell us where Ramais to found and lead us safely and swiftlyto the place."Meanwhile Guha crossed the streamand, approaching Bharata, bowed andsaid: "Though we have been taken bysurprise by your unexpected visit, still allthat is mine here you may consider asyour own and command me. I consider itan honor to be able to welcome andentertain you and your army."Bharata answered: "It is very kind ofyou, O friend of my brother, to offerhospitality to such a large army. I wish toproceed to the hermitage of Bharadwaja.We do not know the way, and, we alsoneed to cross this great river."Guha bowed before him with claspedhands and said politely: "My lord, myservants and myself are ready to go withyou and act as guides. But you mustexcuse me for expressing a doubt whichoccurs to me on seeing this large armyyou have brought. Surely you have nointentions hostile to Rama?"Pained by these words and from a heartclear and pure as the summer sky, Bharatasaid: "Alas, what greater shame can cometo me than this, that men who love Ramashould fear and suspect me? Have nomisgivings, Guha. Rama is my fathernow, for he has taken the place of my lostfather. I have come here to beg of him toreturn to Ayodhya. I swear, I have noother purpose in my mind."Guha rejoiced to see in Bharatas facehis intense love for Rama and his grief atwhat had happened. He said: "My Lord,who in the world can equal you insacrifice? Who but you would renouncesuch wealth and power coming to himunsought? Your glory will shine forever."The hunter-king supplied Bharatasarmy with all it needed. The hosts and theguests retired for the night.The meeting with Guha only increasedBharatas sorrow. Bharata was endowedwith a heart of utter innocence. He sighedand said: "AIas, that it should come tothis," and rolled sleepless on the ground.His whole body burned with thoughts ofthe infamy that had come as a cloud overhim, his fathers death and the partingfrom Rama. Guha spoke words of comfortand tried to console him. This meeting ofBharata and Guha and the way theyshared their sorrow is an episode dear tothe Vaishnava Alvars and other trueBhaktas.Bharat questioned: "What food didRama take when he was here? Where didhe sit? Where did he sleep? What did hesay? And what did he do?"Guha answered every question lovinglyand pointed the spot where Rama hadslept. And when he was asked, "Wheredid Lakshmana sleep?" He replied:"Lakshmana said, When Rama and Sitalie stretched on the bare earth, how can Isleep? and he shed tears and, like me,stood on guard the whole night, bow inhand."As Bharata pictured this scene, hisgrief became unendurable. He saw thespot where Rama and Sita had slept thatnight and showed it to the weepingqueens.Asked what Rama ate, Guha answered:"My Lord, they fasted that night.
  • 66. Lakshmana brought some water and Ramadrank of it and handed it back toLakshmana to drink. The food broughtwas returned untasted. The followingmorning, they matted their locks andwalked into the forest."Bharata had found some relief fromsorrow in his resolve to seek out Ramaand persuade him to return, but his talkwith Guha and the sights he saw broughtit back in full flood."For my sake, Rama, you slept on thegrass. I have seen the spot and still live.And they want me to wear a crown, on topof all this!" Thus he lamentedinconsolably.Then he told himself: "I shall somehowtake Rama back and seat him on thethrone. If he wants his vow fulfilled, Ishall replace him in the forest for fourteenyears. He will agree to this arrangement asit is only right and proper." Thus hecalmed himself.Early next morning, Bharata woke upSatrughna: "What are you still sleeping?The day has already dawned. The armyhas to cross the river. We should sendquickly for Guha and arrange for thejourney."Satrughna answered: "I am not asleep,brother. Like you I spent the whole nightthinking of Rama."While they were speaking, Guhaarrived and after courteous greetingsannounced that he had a fleet of manyboats ready. All the baggage and thewhole army were put on boats. The loadedvessels crossed the great river. Thetransport across raised a joyous clamorlike some great festival.The people did not see the sorrow inBharatas heart for they had concluded,even when Bharata set out, that Ramawould surely return. They went forwardrejoicing that soon Rama would be in theirmidst as crowned king and all their recentsorrows would pass like a bad dream.Valmiki describes the scene on thebank of the Ganga in a way that recalls toone a crowded railway station during apopular festival. When the whole armyhad crossed the river, Bharata followed itin a boat specially fitted up for him.They reached the ashrama ofBharadwaja.The story of Bharata in the Ramayanaportraying a character of unrivalled purityand sublime selflessness is something,more than an episode, and stands out byitself even in that noble epic, as holyshrines do on the banks of the Ganga.It uplifts the heart, and gives one aglimpse of the heights to which humannature can rise when cleansed by love anddevotion. Whether Rama and Bharatawere incarnations of the Deity or merelysupreme creations of a nationsimagination this episode is among themasterpieces of the worlds literature.Jnana and bhakti will automaticallygrow by a contemplation of thepersonality of Bharata. In order to recreatethe scene and the person in his own mindthe reader must bring into play hisreverent imagination. We bring with usinto this world as our inborn gift somewisdom and reverence. This gift is alwaysin us and though sometimes obscured byprejudice or passion it keeps alive thedivine in man which prevents him fromreeling back into the beast.Bharata and his retinue went ontowards Bharadawajas ashrama. Whenthey reached the Prayaga wood, they sawat a distance a beautiful grove with acottage in its midst. Learning that this wasBharadwajas ashrama, Bharata left hisretinue behind and, accompanied only byVasishtha and a few other elders, walkedtowards it with due humility.
  • 67. Divesting himself of his silk garmentsand his weapons and accompanied onlyby the ministers he went on foot behindVasishtha. A little further on, he leftbehind even the ministers, and he andVasishtha alone went forward.When Bharadwaja saw Vasishtha, herose from his seat and went to meet theillustrious visitor and bade his disciples tobring the customary water for the feet ofthe guests.Bharata offered humble salutations toBharadwaja. Learning who he was, therishi received him with the respect due toa king and made inquiries concerning hiswelfare. He thoughtfully refrained frommaking any mention of the sad fate ofDasaratha.The narration that follows is as told inValmikis epic. A few words by way ofexplanation may be useful. Bharadwajasuspected and questioned Bharata, just asGuha had done earlier. This is, however,not so put in the Tulasidas Ramayanawhich is a poem of pure bhakti. There isnothing that was not within the knowledgeof rishis. How then could Bharadwaja (inthe Tulasidas Ramayana) entertain anydoubt about Bharata?Kamban, the Tamil poet of theRamayana, follows Valmiki closely notonly here but in many other places whereTulasidas differs. Although Kambancarefully follows Valmiki, he adds manybeautiful passages out of his ownimagination. With a touch here and atouch there, Kamban manages skilfully todisentangle many knots. The changes hemakes are very few, while Tulasidas dealsfreely with the story, taking such libertiesas he likes with the story as a great bhaktamay who has made his god his own byself-forgetting surrender.Following Valmiki, Kamban reportsthe conversation between Bharadwaja andBharata and very beautifully expressesBharatas indignation.We may not, reading it all today,appreciate Bharadwajas doubts aboutinnocent Bharata. Such suspicion wasperfectly natural to Guha, but not so in awise rishi. Valmiki makes the rishi justifyhimself saying: "Dont I know you, youngprince? I put you these questions only themore clearly to reveal your innocence."Valmiki pictures rishis not asomniscient sages, but as very human wisemen and seekers after truth, liable to loveand fear somewhat like the rest of us. Justas Valmiki delineates Rama as a herorather than as an avatar, so he makesBharadwaja doubt Bharata because of histender affection for Rama. Bound by hisattachment to Rama, he hurts Bharata.Seeing the latter suffer, he at onceconsoles him with an explanation.All Valmikis characters are humanbeings with heightened human qualities. Itis only under great stress or in exceptionalcircumstances that divinity shines faintlythrough the human nature. In the time ofTulasidas, bhakti had reached its noondayheight. It shone dispelling every shade.Though bhakti predominates in Kambanspicture also, he contrives to retain thehumanity of Valmikis characters and inplaces makes them even more beautiful.Bharadwaja, after making the usualpersonal inquiries, asked Bharata: "Whydid you leave your kingly duties and goover here? Should you not stay inAyodhya? Listening to his young wife,Dasaratha ordered Rama to live forfourteen years in the forest and the princeaccordingly left the city with his brotherand Sita. Do you feel that even now theway is not clear for your rule and haveyou come to complete what Dasarathabegan and make assurance doubly sure?"Hearing these words, Bharata wept.The tears gushed and he could hardly
  • 68. speak. "Death," he said, "would be betterthan such a life as this.""Do you doubt me, master?" he asked."Do not blame me for what was done bymy mother in my absence without myknowledge or consent. I have come nowto do my utmost and persuade Rama to goback with me to Ayodhya, and there to becrowned King. And it is my purpose to behis humble slave all my life. I have comehere to ask you where Rama dwells, to goand beg of him to return home. And me,you suspect!"Bharadwaja said: "Bharata, I knowyour real nature. You are a scion of therace of Raghu. I questioned you because Iwished to draw out a revelation of youraffection and loyalty and thereby establishand spread your glory. Do not grieve. ThePrince is dwelling on Chitrakuta hill. Stayhere today. Tomorrow, you and yourministers shall go there. You will pleaseme by accepting hospitality for a day inthe ashrama."Bharata said: "My Lord, your wishesand words of affection are a feast. Whatmore is required?"Bharadwaja smilled because he couldsee that Bharata was unwilling to cast theburden of feeding an army on a poorascetic. He said: "I am bound to entertainyou in a manner worthy of your status andgoodness. Why have you left behind yourarmy and retinue?"Bharata answered: "I followed the rulethat one should not approach a rishisdwelling with a retinue. There is a bigcrowd following me. It would be a greatdisturbance to you if they all come here."The rishi said: "Nothing of the sort.Order them all to come up."And so Bharata ordered.Bharadwaja went to the sacrificial fireand, uttering mantras, sipped water thriceand called on Viswakarma, Maya, Yama,Varuna, Kubera, Agni and other celestialbeings and ordered them to produce agreat feast for Bharata and his followers.Then a miracle happened. The feastthat was ready in Bharadwajas ashramawas like that which Vasishtha gave of oldto Viswamitra. The only difference wasthat here, there was no quarrel orcommotion. Everyone had ampleaccommodation. Sandal paste, flowers,food and drink, music and dance by divineperformers were all provided.Bharadwajas feast was moresumptuous than that given by emulouskings to one another. Dwellings, vehicles,servants rose suddenly into being. Theguests forgot themselves in the feast. Thesoldiers in Bharatas army in the ecstasy ofpresent enjoyment exclaimed to oneanother: "We shall not go to the Dandakaforest. We shall not return to Ayodhya.We shall stay here forever."How were they to know that the goodthings they enjoyed were for a day, andwould disappear at dawn, like the stageand the crowd after a village play is over?The guests ate fully and soon fell fastasleep.The following morning Bharadwajasaid to Bharata: "At a distance of two-and-a-half yojanas from here runs the riverMandakini. On its banks is an unpeopledforest with Chitrakuta hill to its south. Onthe slope of the hill, in a hut your brothersand Sita are dwelling." And he explainedin detail the way they should follow.The three queens were presented toreceive the sages blessings. "This isQueen Kausalya," said Bharata, "themother of Rama and here, to her right andsupporting her, stands the mother ofLakshmana and Satrughna, sorrow-stricken and limp like a creeper strickenby summer winds." "And here is mymother, the cause of all our sorrow," saidBharata, pointing to Kaikeyi who along
  • 69. with the other Queens prostrated beforethe sage."Do not judge your mother harshly,"said Bharadwaja casting his gentle eyeson the sorrowing lady. "All that hashappened has happened for the good ofthe world."This episode of introducing themothers is placed by Kamban in theearlier scene with Guha. Guha reverentlyinquires about the queens and Bharataexplains. What Valmiki describes ashaving taken place in Bharadwajasashrama is, with more poetical effect,transferred by Kamban to its proper place.Introducing Kausalya to Guha, Bharatasays, in the Ramayana of Kamban: "Thisis the mother of Rama. Her treasure wasRama and she lost it because of me." OfSumitra he said: "This is the mother ofLakshmana, truer brother to Rama, whohas a happiness beyond the reach of poorme." Kaikeyi in Kamban, as in Valmiki, isintroduced by Bharata in harsh terms.Bharata and his great retinue took theforest path as directed by Bharadwaja.They saw from afar the Chitrakuta hill andas they proceeded eagerly a column ofsmoke indicated the spot where theprinces dwelling was and shouts of joyarose from the crowd. Leaving hisfollowing behind, Bharata went forwardaccompanied only by Sumantra andVasishtha.27. THE BROTHERS MEETWHILE Bharata was thus engaged intrying to undo the mischief wrought byothers, in the forest hut at Chitrakuta, lifewent on fairly cheerfully. WithLakshmana and Sita by his side, Ramalacked nothing. The grandeur of themountain scenery and the forest and thesweet songs and play of the birds pleasedhis heart. He forgot the sorrow of his exilefrom kinsfolk and city."Look, Sita, at those birds playing," hewould say. "Look at that rock on the hillwith the blue, yellow and red veinsshining on it. Look at these plants andcreepers with their flowers. We feared lifein the forest, not knowing how pleasant itwould be. I am so happy here. And I havein addition to this pleasure the feeling thatI carry out my fathers promise. We havethe joy of duty done besides leading ahappy life here. Over and above all this, Iam happy that my brother Bharata isruling the kingdom."Thus Rama, free from sorrow himself,made Sita happy. Descending from thehill they would sometimes go to the riverMandakini and spend time there."Look at those sand hillocks," Ramawould say. "Look at the swans playingamong the lotuses. The stream is as lovelyas yourself, beloved. The fords whereanimals come to drink are beautifully redwith new earth. Even the river in Kuberaskingdom cannot be as beautiful as this.Sea the rishis bathing there and standingin supplication and offering hymns to thesun. Look at the flowers falling from theboughs on the water. Look at that pearl-scattering cascade. We are indeed lucky tobe far away from the crowded city here inthe forest. There, we cannot see rishis andpure souls such as we see here bathingeveryday. This hill is our Ayodhya. Thebirds and beasts are our subjects. TheMandakini is our Sarayu. With you andLakshmana by me, I am so happy andcontent. How pleasant it is to see theanimals drinking water in the streamwithout any fear! Plunging in the waterhere, eating fruits and roots, walkingabout in the forest and climbing the hills,why should I think of kingdom orpower?"Thus, in the company of Sita andLakshmana, Rama was spending happydays.
  • 70. One day as they were sitting as usualon the slope of the hill in utter peace,suddenly at a distance, they saw a cloud ofdust rise in the sky which seemed movingtowards them. And soon they heard agreat noise as of a big crowd. Rama sawthe forest animals stampeding hither andthither in fear. It looked as if an armyentered the forest."Do you hear that noise?" Rama said toLakshmana, "The elephants, bisons anddeer are running helter skelter. Whatcould it be? Could it be some king comehere hunting? Or is it that some tiger orother fierce wild beast has comerummaging? Just see and tell me."Lakshmana climbed up a tall tree andlooked all around. He saw a large armyapproaching from the north, a completeforce of all limbs, chariots, elephants,horses and foot soldiers.He shouted to Rama in warning:"Listen, brother. A great army isapproaching with flags flying and incomplete formation. Let us be careful. Putout the fire. Take Sita into the cave forsafety. Let us don our armor and get readyfor battle."Rama said: "Do not be in such hurry.Look again at the flag on the chariot andtell me which king is leading his armyhere."Lakshmana looked and was filled withanger. "O my brother, it is Bharata. Notsatisfied with getting the kingdom, he ispursuing us here. I can see the tree on ourflag flying in the breeze. He has come toslay us. But the son of Kaikeyi shall notescape with life from me today. What sinis there in killing this destroyer ofdharma? The only question now is, shallwe wait for them here, or shall we givethem battle on the top of the hill? We willmake him pay for all the harm be has doneus. It is surely no sin to kill one whocomes to slay us. With him will bedestroyed the greed of his mother. Youwill soon see the forest paths running withblood. Like a tree uprooted by anelephant, Bharata will be felled to theground by me. We shall destroy this army.We shall feed fat the beasts of prey in theforest. " Lakshmana spoke thus, besidehimself with rage.Rama proceeded to calm him. "I knowyou can destroy the seven worlds if youare so minded. Listen, you can easily killBharata and his army, but there is a thingto consider before you set to work.Disobeying and disgracing our father andkilling our brother and earning infiniteobloquy, what good shall we gain bybattling for and winning the kingdom?What we gain by killing our kinsfolk willbe like food with which is mixed poison.Why and for whom do we seek wealthand kingdom? Is it not for the sake ofothers, whose joy is our own? Who wouldwant to acquire a kingdom by wrongmeans? And what joy is there in akingdom which you cannot share withthose you love? Truly I tell you, I willnever look at wealth and power that youand Bharata and Satrughna cannot enjoywith me. I know why Bharata is cominghere now and I will tell you. He knows theway of dharma. He is coming here to givethe kingdom to me. If he had been inAyodhya instead of in the far-away landof his uncle he would have dissuadedKaikeyi, and saved our father from thegreat sorrow which has befallen him. I amcertain he is coming now to take me backto the city. It is wrong of you to think illof Bharata and speak such harsh wordsabout him. If it is desire for the kingdomthat makes you so cruel in your suspicion,tell me. I have only to tell Bharata to passit on to you, and I have no doubt he willdo it with pleasure."
  • 71. Rama said this laughing, andLakshmana shrank into himself withshame."Perhaps our father, the King,"Lakshmana said. " Is himself coming tosee us."After listening to Rama, he wasconvinced that his fear was improper. Hewondered then why the army wasmarching and thought that perhapsDasaratha was coming to visit them in theforest and a large retinue followed theKing. The commentator remarks thatLakshmana, realising his folly in havingspoken ill of Bharata, was trying by someexplanations to cover up his shame.Rama cheered up Lakshmana saying:"Yes, it may be as you say. Thinking thatlife in the forest was hard, the King mighthave come to take us, and specially Sita,back to the city. But then, we do not seethe Kings great white umbrella. Butwhatever be the case, you should becalm." Lakshmana stood humbly withfolded hands by Rama.Halting the army at some distance,Bharata sent a few men to observe andreport on the place whence the smokerose. They brought the news that this wasthe very spot described by Bharadwajaand that the cottage was very probablyRamas forest abode.Bharata started forward withSatrughna, Vasishtha and Sumantra. Asthey advanced, they saw indications thatthe ashrama was habited. There was apath that led to the river and the trees wereblazed on either side of it as though tomake it easy to find it in the dusk.Presently they came to a cottage thatchedwith leaves, near which were stacks offaggots and the dry dung of deer and wildbuffaloes heaped for use in winter.In the cottage, on the walls weremighty bows and quivers full of deadlyarrows, swords which seemed to radiatevictory and other weapons all ofsuperlative excellence. They saw also,spread out to dry on the branches of trees,garments of bark. Bharata beheld all thesesure signs of his brothers residence in thehermitage witha swelling heart.From inside came smoke from theoblations of daily worship. Entering,Bharata saw the altar with its blazing fireand Rama himself seated by it with mattedlocks, majestic, though in deer-skin andbark, a ruler of the world, with his mightyarms, breadth of chest and a countenancemade to command love and obedience. Byhim were Sita and Lakshmana. He hadbeen thinking all the time of the infamythat had gathered on his head, andwondering what to say and what to dowhen he met Rama.But now when he saw Rama, he forgotall this in the great love that surged withinhim and submerged all other thoughts andfears. He sprang forward to the spot whereRama was seated. He could utter no word,beyond "Brother," and fell at his feet, andsobbed. By this time, Sumantra and Guhajoined him.Rama saw before him lying on theground Bharata with hands clasped insupplication, with matted locks and ingarments of bark. With grief and fasting,his body had grown lean and he wastanned with fatigue and exposure. Ramaembraced him, and kissed him on thehead, and said: "Brother beloved, why didyou leave our fathers side and come allthis way into the forest? And why haveyou grown so thin?"Bharata was speechless. Rama put tohim the formal questions which membersof the royal family asked each other whenthey met after an absence.After an interval, Bharata gatheredstrength and gave answer. "Why do youquestion me about the kingdom, brother,as though I were its ruler? What
  • 72. connection is there between the kingdomand myself? When you are the rightfulking, how could I call myself king or ruleover the land? My duty is to do youhumble service. It has not been given tome to do it. The eldest son should bear theburden of the kingdom. This is the lawand custom. Come with me to Ayodhya,wear the crown and shower your grace onour family and people. The old Kingswork in the world is over and he hasentered Swarga. When you had leftAyodhya for the forest and before Ireturned from Kekaya the King gave uphis life, slain by the grief of separationfrom you. Do not give way to sorrow.Perform the obsequies of our father.Thinking of you, he gave up his life. Theobsequies you perform will alone satisfyhis spirit." Thus Bharata steadied himselfand spoke.When Rama heard that his father wasdead, he fell down like a tree felled by anaxe. Bharata had no need to repeat beforeRama all the apologies and explanationswhich he had to give to Kausalya, Guhaand Bharadwaja. Where was the need forexplanations when Rama set his eyes onthat grief-stricken body and that ravagedface? Bharata, whose one concern was totake Rama back to Ayodhya, spoke onlyof this and not at all of himself.The princes, with Sita and Sumantrawent to the river and offered libations forthe peace of the departed soul of the King.After other customary ceremonies, theprinces returned to the cottage. They heldeach others hands and relieved theirsorrow by loud lamentation.In this episode, where Bharata meetsRama, we read in Valmiki a long lectureon the art of government, delivered byRama to his brother. Often in our epics,we come across such long dissertations onpolitics or morality. Modern fiction giveshigh priority to narrative vigor, dramaticsuspense and surprise. In old works, inaddition to plenty of these qualities, therewere generous doses of didacticism.It may be added here that even oldcommentators noticed that the chapters ofthis episode have got mixed up anddisplaced in Valmiki. Kamban has ofcourse regularised and modernised thenarrative. In Tulsidas the meeting ofRama and Bharata is steeped in bhakti andthere is no room for any complications.28. BHARATA BECOMESRAMAS DEPUTYWHEN it was known that the fourprinces and the three queens were reunitedand could be seen together in one place, achorus of joy went up in the army andretinue and they came surging forward towitness that happy spectacle. They weresure now that Rama would return toAyodhya and the people embraced oneanother for the very joy.The sage Vasishtha conducted the threequeens to the hut. On the way, they sawthe river Mandakini. When he showedthem the spot where the princes daily tookwater for their use, Kausalya and Sumitrabroke down and sobbed. Said Kausalya:"From this pool in the river, Sumitra,your son takes water to the ashrama everyday. Lakshmana is prepared to do thecommonest task cheerfully for his brother.He does not mind the weight of the waterpot on his princely shoulder."They saw the spot where Rama andLakshmana poured out libations for theirfathers Spirit. The darbha grass lay withthe ends facing south, beside the oil cake.Kausalya clung to Sumitra and said: "OSister! This is the food that the mightiestkings have to be content with after death."They reached the hut. There they sawthe princes with faces clouded withsorrow, seated under a thatched roof.Unable to bear the sight, the royal motherssank to the floor.
  • 73. When Rama lifted Kausalya tip, shestroked him with her flower-soft handsand was at once sad and happy. Sheembraced Sita and said: "My child,Janakas daughter, daughter-in-law to theKing of Ayodhya, do you live in this hutin the forest? O, faded lotus-flower! O,golden image covered with dust! My heartmelts at the sight of you."Rama reverently touched the feet ofVasishtha who seemed another Brihaspati,the preceptor of the gods, come down toearth, and then sat by his mother. Bharatahumbly sat apart facing Rama. The elderssurrounded them, eagerly awaiting whatBharata would say and how Rama wouldreact."Bharata, why have you left yourkingly duties and come here in deer skinand with matted locks?" asked Rama.Bharata attempted to speak several times,but at first could not get beyond the wordBrother. Then he pulled himself togetherwith a great effort and said:"Sending you to the forest, but unableto bear the pain, our fathers soul fled toheaven. All the good my mother has gotfrom her evil plan has been that she hasbecome a sinner and a widow and is indeep sorrow. Despised by the world, sheexperiences hell on earth. Only you cansave us. Undo all the evil that has beendone and wipe off our tears by agreeing tobe crowned. It is to implore you for thisthat we and the citizens and the army andthe widowed queens have come and areall here waiting on your word. Grant usour prayer. This alone will put an end toour sorrow and re-establish the dharma ofour race. Without a rightful king, the landis like a widow, desolate and helpless.You must come back and make it happyand secure. Like the full moon rising,dispel our darkness. The ministers hereand I fall at your feet and beg of you. Donot refuse, O, brother!"Saying this, the great Bharata, withtear-filled eyes, clung to the feet ofRamachandra.Rama raised him from the ground andembracing him said:"Child, we were born in a noble familyand brought up in good ways. Neither younor I can do anything wrong. I see no faultin you, my blameless brother! Do not feelsad and do not speak unkind words aboutyour mother. It is not proper that weshould blame her. Surely our father hadthe right to tell us what to do, aye, even todecree banishment, just as he had the rightto order a coronation. Our duty is to honorour father and our mother. How could Idisobey or question their command? Wasit for me to refuse my fathers commandthat I should go to the forest? He gave youkingship and he ordained for me life in theforest. He certainly had the right to settlethe manner of our lives. What right do wehave to alter or reject his plans? Far frombeing wrong, it is your duty to rule theland. And I too shall do my duty and fulfilour fathers last command by livingfourteen years in the Dandaka forest.Failing to fulfil our fathers wish, can Ifind contentment in the possession of thewhole world?"Bharata repeatedly besought andimportuned Rama. Rama realised thatBharata grieved that it was for his sakeinjustice had been done and that heendeavored to remove the blot."Do not blame yourself," he said. "Donot think that all these things took placefor your sake. Destiny rules everything.Give up your grief. Return to Ayodhyaand rule the kingdom. Let us each performthe duties assigned to us by the father welove and revere."The people who watched the talk andsaw the determination of the prince werefilled with joy and sorrow in equal
  • 74. measure. Bharatas affection and purityfilled them with pride and joy.Rama told Bharata his unalterabledecision. "I cannot possibly disobey myfathers word. You will please me by notpersisting in trying to persuade me.Satrughna is there to help you in ruling, asLakshmana is here to help me in forestlife. With Lakshmana by my side, I lacknothing. Let us all four, brother, do ourothers will."The learned Jabali, one of the priestswho had accompanied Bharata, hereinterposed a lesson on worldly wisdom forthe benefit of Rama. "You talk again andagain of your fathers command.Dasaratha was a physical body which hasnow rejoined the five elements. You talkas though there is some continuingrelationship between that person who isnow no more and yourself. This is sheerillusion. Why do you like the foolishprating of dharma and seek to give up thegood fortune to which you were born?Like a woman mourning with dishevelledhair, the city of Ayodhya is plaintivelylonging and waiting for your return. Goback. Accept the crown. Enjoy lifespleasures. Listen to Bharata. Do not fail inyour proper duties."This lecture angered Rama. He saidwith much sharpness: "Sir, you seem toset little value on truth and rectitude. Yourmaterialist talk fills me with suchabhorrence that I wonder that anunbeliever like you should have beentolerated in the court."Jabali hastened to explain that, far frombeing an infidel, he had all his life been ateacher of the Shastras and that he hadonly spoken as he had done out of anearnest wish to persuade Rama to return.Vasishtha also intervened on his behalfand that unlucky interlude came to an end.Vasishtha then put the case for Ramasreturn this way:"On the whole, my opinion is that youshould return to Ayodhya and accept thethrone. Of course, your fathers commandalso has to be considered, and reconciledto this step. You have obeyed thatcommand at once and unhesitatingly, butnow a new situation has arisen. Bharata inhis helplessness, fearing infamy, hassought shelter at your feet. How can youspurn him? We all know that you lovehim as your life. You never refuse thosewho approach you for help. How then canyou deny it to Bharata now? Is it not yourlife-principle to help those who seekrefuge at your feet?"But Rama showed no signs ofrelenting. Then, Bharata turned toSumantra and said, "My brother has nopity for me. Please spread a bed of darbhagrass here for me. I shall take the pledgeof fasting unto death."Sumantra hesitated and looked atRama. Then Bharata himself fetched andspread the grass and sat on it."My child, this is not right," said Ramafirmly. "Rise. Go to Ayodhya and fulfilyour duties. Do not go against Kshatriyadharma."Bharata got up and as a last resortappealed to the people who hadaccompanied him, a representative crowdof soldiers and citizens from Ayodhya:"O, citizens of Ayodhya! Why do youstand mutely looking on? Do you not wantRama to return? Why then are you silent?"The people answered: "Rama will notswerve from truth. He will stand firm byhis fathers promise. He will not return toAyodhya. What is the use of pressing himfurther?"Rama said, "Listen to them, brother.They wish well by both of us. Virtuedwells in their hearts."Bharata said: "Here I am as guiltless asRama and a fit substitute for him. If theKings word should be fulfilled let me stay
  • 75. here in the forest in place of Rama. Lethim fill my place and rule in Ayodhya."Rama laughed and said: "Thisprocedure of exchange cannot apply here.This is not trade or business for barter andagreement. It is true that sometimes onedischarges the duties of another, when thelatter is too weak and unable to do it. Buthow does it fit on this occasion? Can anyof you say that for life in the forest I haveno capacity but only Bharata has?"Then the wise Vasishtha found asolution for the problem in whichrighteousness struggled withrighteousness as to which should be moreright. "O, Bharata, rule the kingdom underRamas authority and as his deputy. Noblame would attach to you then and thepledge would be kept."Rama took Bharata on his lap and toldhim, "Brother, look on the kingdom as mygift to you. Accept it and rule it as ourfather wished."A glory descended on Rama andBharata at that moment at they shone liketwo suns.Bharata said: "Brother, you are myfather and my God. Your least wish is mydharma, Give me your sandals. That tokenof yours shall reign in Ayodhya till youreturn. And for fourteen years I shall stayoutside the city and discharge the Kingsduties in your place, paying reverenthomage to your sandals. At the end of thatperiod, you will return and accept thekingship.""So be it," answered Rama.He placed his feet on the sandals andhanded them to Bharata who prostratedhimself on the ground and accepted themand put them on his head.Bharata and his retinue turned backtowards Ayodhya. On the way, they metthe sage Bharadwaja and reported whathad happened. He blessed Bharata saying:"Your virtue will be for everremembered. Are you not a son of thesolar race? As water flows downwards,the virtue of your family runs itsinevitable course in you. Your fatherDasaratha is indeed happy. He is not deadbut lives again immortally in you."They met Guha again and crossed theGanga and reached Ayodhya. Bharata andhis followers entered Ayodhya. The city,bereft of the King and Rama, appeareddesolate to Bharata. It seemed to beenveloped in the darkness of a moonlessnight. When he returned in haste fromKekaya, he had entered the city in fatigueand shapeless fear and suspense; but todayhe entered it again fully realising all thetragedy.He remembered the past and thought ofthe present and grieved afresh. He went tothe palace and took the queens to theirdesolate apartments. He went to theassembly hall, and said: "Great is mysorrow. But I shall bear it. I shall stay inNandigrama and carry out my tasks as Ihave promised Rama. Make allarrangements for this purpose."This was done and he solemnlyannounced in the assembly, "Thiskingdom is Ramas. For the time being, hehas asked me to be in charge. In mybrothers place I have installed his sandals.Deriving my authority from them I shalldo my work as king."Accordingly, Bharata stayed inNandigrama and with the help ofministers ruled the kingdom as a religiousduty until Rama should return aftercompleting his forest life. And indeed, isit not the law laid down in Scripture thatone should serve the world unselfishlyand without attachment, leaving the fruitof ones work at the feet of the Lord?Rama did his penance in the forest forfourteen years and all the time Bharata too
  • 76. did his penance at Nandigrama nearAyodhya.29. VIRADHAS ENDNOT far from Chitrakuta was anoutpost of the Rakshasas, calledJanasthana, in charge of a famous warriornamed Khara, who was a brother ofRavana. From this station, fierceRakshasas ranged the forest round,molesting the rishis in their isolatedashramas. They made life so insecure thatthe rishis abandoned their hermitages inthe Chitrakuta region in spite of all thatRama could do to dissuade them.After Bharatas departure Rama wasnot quite happy in Chitrakuta. The face ofhis beloved brother tearful withdisappointment and the sad drooping formof his widowed mother were ever beforehis minds eye. Now that the going awayof the rishis had deprived him of eventheir companionship, the lonely hut wasso full of sad memories that he made uphis mind to seek some other resting placein the Dandaka forest.So they left Chitrakuta and proceededto the hermitage of Atri, a rishi who knewthe country, to seek his advice as to wherethey might establish themselves. Theywere most affectionately received and Sitawon the heart of Atris wife, the saintlyAnasuya. Anasuya delighted at finding inSita a perfect embodiment of wifelyvirtues, blessed her and presented her withbeautiful garments and auspiciouscosmetics that set out the charms of lovelyyoung wives.Anasuya was the embodiment of purewomanhood and her gifts added beautyand inner strength to Sita. She receivedthe gifts and said: "My Lord the princeloves me with the love of a mother and afather. I am indeed blessed."Then they made inquiries concerningthe way and resumed their journey.Walking, through the great Dandakaforest, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana reacheda spot where many rishis lived. Even asthey approached the place, they saw thesacrificial materials, bark garments anddeerskins spread out to dry and they knewit was a colony of holy men.The place was beautiful to look at.Birds and animals moved about with thefreedom from fear born of affectionatefamiliarity with their human neighbors.Ripe fruits hung from the trees. Thebeautiful sound of Vedic chanting washeard.As they came near, they saw theradiant faces of the rishis. They welcomedRama. "O, King! You are our protector,"they said. "Whether we are in the town orin the forest, you are our king." And theygave the new comers all they needed anda place in which to rest.The following morning, the three tookleave of the rishis and re-entered theforest, which was now denser than beforeand there were tigers and other wildanimals. They proceeded slowly andcautiously.Suddenly, a gigantic form distorted likea broken fragment of a hill rushed at themmaking a blood-curdling noise. It was aman-eating rakshasa and his roar was likethunder. He was unutterably ugly and thetiger-skin he wore was covered with bloodand gobbets of flesh of the slaughteredbeast were sticking to it still.The corpses of three lions and the headof an elephant recently slain were impaledand strung in a row on the great spearwhich he shook menacingly at them.The rakshasa lifted his weapon, roaredhorribly and, springing forward lifted Sitaand as he held her, shouted at the princes:"Who are you, little fellows? How dareyou enter this forest? You look young butwear matted locks and bark garments.You have disguised yourselves as
  • 77. ascetics; yet you carry bows and arrows,and go about with this woman by yourside. Whom are you trying to cheat? Areyou not ashamed of yourselves? You arebesmirching the good name of the rishisby your conduct, you hypocrites! Knowthat I am Viradha himself. The flesh ofrishis is my daily food. I shall have thislovely damsel for my wife, do youunderstand? I shall now drink your blood,you villains!"Held in his grasp, Sita trembled withfear. Rama lost his usual self-control andsaid: "Lakshmana, this is unbearable.Kaikeyi must have known all this whenshe sent us to the forest!"Rama was bewildered and did notknow how to meet the Rakshasa. ButLakshmana, hissing like an angry snake,said: "Rama, you are strong like Indraand, with me by your side, you should nottalk dejectedly. Look at what my bow andarrow can do. The earth will presentlydrink this monsters blood. My wrathwhich was denied outlet at Ayodhya, Ishall now direct on this monster, andshatter him as Indra did the wingedmountains of yore. I shall attack thiscreature and slay him."Viradha roared again: "Who are you?Tell me at once." Ramas mind nowcleared. His face glowed with courage andcalmly he said: "We are princes of theIkshvaku race. We have come to live inthe forest. May we know who you are?"The Rakshasa answered. "And so, youare the sons of Dasaratha, are you? Myfathers name is Jaya. And I am knownamong rakshasas as Viradha. You punykshatriyas carrying arms, what can youand your ridiculous weapons do to me? Ihave secured a boon from Brahma that noweapon can hurt me. Leave this girl hereand run away, if you wish to save yourlives."Ramas eyes grew red with anger. "It istime for you to go to Yama," he said andbent his bow and shot a sharp arrow at themonster. It pierced his body and emergedred with blood, glistening like fire, andfell on the earth beyond. But the rakshasawas not killed. Enraged by the pain, heplaced Sita on the ground, and lifting hisspear and opening his mouth wide rushedtowards Rama and Lakshmana. Theprinces sent a shower of arrows at him.The arrows stuck so thick on his body thathe bristled all over like a giganticporcupine.The rakshasa however laughed andshook his limbs, and down fell all thedarts. He straightened himself and liftedhis spear again. Rama and Lakshmanawith two arrows broke the spear andrushed at him sword in hand. But he liftedthem both up with his hands and put themon his shoulders and strode off into theforest. Sita saw them disappear in thedarkness of the jungle and wept loud.Rama and Lakshmana, seated one oneach shoulder, knowing that weaponscould not kill him, wrenched off his armsand threw them down. They then attackedhim with their hands and feet. Still theycould not kill him on account of Brahmasboon, but the agony of his wounds was sogreat that he howled with it. Unfortunatelyfor him he had asked for immunity fromslaughter, but not from pain.The brothers threw down the exhaustedmonster and Rama planted his foot on hisneck to prevent him from rising.The touch of Ramas feet cleared themist in which the curse incurred in aprevious birth had shrouded hisunderstanding, and in the sudden light ofrecollection he joined his hands and saidhumbly, "Your feet have touched me,Lord, and my eyes are opened. I haverealised who you are. I am under a curse,but you can save me. I am not a rakshasa
  • 78. by birth, but a Gandharva. The boon Isecured prevents my liberation. If youcould somehow kill me, I shall recovermy original form and go to heaven."Accordingly Rama and Lakshmanasmashed him without weapons and buriedhim in a pit they dug in the earth. And therakshasa returned to the world ofGandharvas.Then the princes went back to the placewhere Sita stood terrified and told her allthat happened.They proceeded to the ashrama ofSarabhanga. Indra was there with othergods, talking to the rishi. Knowing thatRama had arrived, he cut short his talkand went away. Then Rama, with hisbrother and wife, approached the rishi andhumbly saluted him.The old ascetic said: "It is for you Ihave been waiting. It is time for me toleave the body but my wish was to seeyou first. And so I have been waiting.Now my desire is fulfilled, I pass on toyou all the merit of my penances."Rama answered: "My Lord, should Inot earn my own merit? How can Ireceive what you have earned? I haverenounced everything to live in the forest.Advise me where I can best find an abodein the forest and send me forth with yourblessing."The rishi knew the secret of Ramasavatar and told him: "Learn from the sageSutikshna where in the forest you shoulddwell."Then Sarabhanga kindled a fire andentered it. The gross body perished in theflames and a youthful ethereal form rosefrom the pyre and floated up the heavens.When the rishis of that forest heard thenews of Viradhas death they came toRama and surrounded him. "It is our goodfortune, O King," they said, "that youhave come to dwell in this region.Hereafter, we shall perform our penanceuntroubled by rakshasas. Look at thosebones scattered all round. They are theremains of ascetics killed and eaten by therakshasas. The rishis on the banks ofPampa and Mandakini live in constantfear of their lives from these man-eatingmonsters. The Kings duty from which hemay not fail without sin is to protect hissubjects. Just as householders pay taxes, ashare of the merit of our penances goes tothe Kings benefit. You are radiant likeIndra, king of the gods. Protect us fromthis persecution of the rakshasas. You areour only refuge."Rama answered: "I am bound, O greatones, to obey your command. I gave upkingship and came to the forest inobedience to my fathers wish. If indischarging my duty as a son I can alsoserve you and do some good, I shall countmyself twice blessed. I shall stay in theforest and destroy the rakshasas and freeyou from trouble. Shed your fear."Ramas promise of help gave relief andjoy to the rishis. Rama, Lakshmana andSita then proceeded towards the ashramaof Sutikshna. They came to a big hillsurrounded by a thick forest which theyentered. There they saw bark garmentsdrying in the sun and a little later cameupon the old rishi himself.Saluting him, the prince said: "Myname is Rama, O holy sage. I have cometo have darshan of you. I pray for yourblessing."The sage rose and embraced him."Welcome, defender of dharma. Myashrama is fit up by your presence. It isnow yours. When I heard you had leftAyodhya and taken up your abode atChitrakuta, I knew you would come here,and have lived in hope of seeing you. ElseI would have long ago given up this body.The merit I have accumulated I now passon to you. Take it for yourself, your
  • 79. brother and the princess." The sages facewas bright with the light of long holy life.It was the custom of the rishis thus tooffer their acquired merit to those whocame as their guests. From Ramasanswer, we can see how such courtesieswere to be received."O sage, I must earn merit by my owngood deeds. With your blessing, I stillhope to do so. I wish to dwell in theforest. The sage Sarabhanga directed mehere to receive your blessing and seekyour instructions as to where I could builda home for the rest of my stay in theforest."The rishis face was bright with joy andhe said meaningfully: "You may live inthis ashrama. There are many rishis livinground about. The forest is full of fruit androots. But evil beasts are abroad molestingthe rishis and obstructing their penance.The sages are unable to bear this trouble.But for this, the place is good."The prince understood what the sagemeant to convey. He bent and strung hisbow and said: "Holy sage! I shall destroythese evil-doers. My bow is strong andsharp are my arrows. It is not proper thatwe should dwell in this ashrama. It mayinterrupt your penance. We shall find aplace for ourselves in the neighborbood.Permit us to do so."That night they stayed in the sagesashrama as his guests, The followingmorning, the three got up and bathed inthe cool water fragrant with flowers, litthe sacrificial fire, performed theirworship and touched the feet of the sage."By your grace, we spent a good night.We desire to see the other rishis in theregion and receive their blessings. It isgood to set out before the sun grows hot.Pray, give us leave to go."The sage embraced the princes andblessed them, saying: "Visit the goodrishis in the Dandaka forest. They have allgone through great austerities andobtained divine powers. The forest isindeed beautiful with deer and birds andlotus-filled tanks, and the hills withcascades and peacocks. Lakshmana, gonow with your brother and with Sita.Come to this ashrama whenever you feellike it."The three walked round the sageaccording to custom and took leave ofhim. Sita handed to them their swords,bows and quivers and the princes set out,more radiant than before because of thegreat sages blessings.30. TEN YEARS PASSNow begins the Aranya Kanda. Thepoet begins with an episode that preparesus for the misfortunes of Sita. A newresponsibility has been cast on the prince.He is to destroy rakshasas who molest therishis in the Dandaka forest. A fear arosein Sitas heart like a shadow cast by eventsto come."Why should you and Lakshmana whoare properly to be merely ascetics in theforest" asked Sita of her beloved husband,"take on yourselves this task ofprotection? You have come here to fulfil apromise of the late King. The duty ofprotecting the rishis belongs to the rulerwho is actually reigning. It is not for you,engaged in penance, to protect rishis. Tokill anyone, except in self-defence, isopposed to the vow of ascetic life. Butyou have rashly promised protection tothe rishis. I wonder where this will leadus?"Thus Sita argued in soft andaffectionate words while they were goingfrom Sage Sutikshnas ashrama towardssome other ashrama in the Dandaka forest."Bear with me, my Lord," she said,"for seeming to counsel you. I speak butas a weak woman out of my infinite lovefor you. You know what dharma is. But,men, it is said, are driven by desire into
  • 80. three kinds of sin: falsehood, lust andviolence. Falsehood is unthinkable in onewho for truths sake has renounced akingdom and is here in the forest. And asfor lust do I know that you will not alloweven the thought of another woman toenter your mind. But I am afraid of thethird kind of sin. Should we kill one whodoes not attack us? Whether it is arakshasa or anyone else, why should wekill anyone who leaves us alone? Youwere in a hurry, I feel, to give your wordto the rishis. To destroy the wicked is nodoubt the duty of a kshatriya but can thatduty still cling to you when you haverenounced the privileges that go with it,and elected the life of a recluse in theforest? The duties of kingship go withactual status. Dressed in garments of barkand with hair matted, you are now anascetic, pure and simple. Of course, youknow best. I am only asking you to thinkwell before undertaking anything."Ramas love and admiration of Sitarose all the more for her is misgivings."Indeed, my love," he said, "you speaklike a true daughter of Janaka. But, Sita,did you not once say yourself that theweapons borne by kshatriyas are forprotecting others? When helpless peoplesuffer persecution, how could a kshatriyasit still? When we came here the sagescomplained of their sufferings andentreated our protection. They could notendure the cruelties of the Rakshasas wholooked on them as so much meat andmade shambles of the hermitages. Didthey not show us a great heap of bones toshow what had been done? You are thekings son, they said. Our troubles willnow end as darkness before the rising sun.You are our only refuge. Could weprinces hear their piteous appeal andrefrain from helping them? Everykshatriya, everyone has to do his duty, notthe king alone. You are, of course,solicitous for my safety. Even grantingthat what you say is right, I have given myword and I cannot go back. They said,You are our refuge, and I have given myword to protect them. A pledge thus givencannot be withdrawn. What I have spokencannot now be unsaid. You and I musttread together the path of dharma. Howcan we differ?" Talking thus, they wentalong the forest path.This conversation occurs in the poemlike the cloud that precedes the storm. It isthe artistic creation of a changingatmosphere and not a random casting upof facile verses.For ten years, Rama, Lakshmana andSita lived quietly among the rishis. In thegreat Dandaka forest, there were a numberof ashramas where the rishis livedpractising their austerities and living theirlives of abnegation. The princes spent amonth in one ashrama, three months in asecond and perhaps a year in a third aswelcome and happy visitors.The forest was indescribably beautiful,with deer and bison, boars and elephants.The birds, the trees, the creepers, the bluewaterlilies, all live again in the beauty ofValmikis poetry.Rama was very happy these ten years,the joy of association with great and holymen being added to his joy in the quietcompanionship of Lakshmana and Sita.These ten years are disposed of in a smallchapter. Time happily spent seems shortand needs no length in recording.When after ten years had thus passed,the end of their forest life wasapproaching, Rama wished to havedarshan of the sage Agastya who lived inthe south. The sage was, likeVishwamitra, famous through the threeworlds. It used to be said that if all thewisdom and spiritual merit between theHimalayas and the Vindhyas were put onone scale and Agastya sat on the other, the
  • 81. southern scale would go down by hisweight.There is also the story of Agastyasservice during the wedding of Siva andParvati. All the rishis had gone to MountKailas for the great event. Agastya alone,staying in the south, maintained thebalance of the earth. Once the VindhyaMountain steadily grew towards theheavens and threatened to obstruct thesuns passage between the northern andsouthern hemispheres.The gods grew frightened andapproached Agastya for help. The Sagestood before the mountain which bent lowin reverence before him. Then he blessedit saving: "May you ever remain thus",and so the mountain stretches low andlong even now. So goes the story.Two Rakshasas, Vatapi and Ilvala,gave much trouble to the rishis. Theformer had obtained a boon that no matterinto how many pieces his body was cutup, they would all reunite and his bodywould be whole and strong as before.IIvala, disguised as a brahmana, would goto the ashrama of one rishi after anotherand say, "O Learned One! Go over to myhumble home and oblige me by acceptingthe consecrated food prepared for mymanes."On no account, according to ancientrule, could one refuse such an invitation.The rishis therefore had to accept theinvitation. To them Ilvala served as foodhis brother Vatapi cut up and cookedlusciously and after the unsuspectingguests had eaten the meat, the host would,according to custom, ask the guests, "Areyou satisfied?" The answer would be"Yes. We are content." Then, Ilvala wouldshout, "Vatapi Come out!" And at the callof Ilvala, Vatapi reunited into life wouldcome out tearing the bowels of the guests.Many rishis had to die in this way.One day, Ilvala tried to play this trickon Agastya. As usual, Vatapi enteredAgastyas entrails as meat. Agastya ofcourse knew this, but he was a devotee ofGanapati and had obtained the power todigest the Rakshasa."Are you satisfied?" asked Ilvala."Yes, I am satisfied," answeredAgastya.IIvala shouted, "Vatapi, come out."Agastya, laughing, said, "Vatapi hasbeen digested, my host!""What?" cried Ilvala. "Have you killedmy brother?" And he rushed againstAgastya.The Sage opened his eyes inindignation and the rakshasa was reducedto ashes. No rakshasas would thereaftercome near Agastya and he protected theother sages also. Rama first went to theashrama of Agastyas younger brother andobtained his blessings before visitingAgastya himself. Proceeding south andapproaching Agastyas place, Ramanoticed the brightness of the whole region,the birds and animals playing aboutwithout fear and brahmanas gatheringflowers for worship.He told Lakshmana to go in advanceand announce him to the sage. Lakshmanamet one of the disciples of the sage andsent word through him: "Ramachandra,son of Dasaratha, has come with hisbrother and wife to seek the great sagesblessings.Agastya warmly welcomed the princes.He said: "I heard of your having come todwell in Chitrakuta, and I was lookingforward to your visit. The end of yourexile is approaching. Stay here duringwhat remains of it in peace. This place isfree from the fear of rakshasas."Rama answered: "I am happy toreceive your blessing and I thank you foryour gracious welcome. But I havepromised protection to the rishis in
  • 82. Dandaka and now that I have receivedyour blessings, I must return to thatforest."And Agastya answered: "What you sayis right." Then the Sage gave to Rama thebow made by Viswakarma for Vishnu andan inexhaustible quiver, as well as asword. He blessed him saying, "Rama,destroy the rakshasas with these weaponswhich of yore Vishnu gave me."Agastya advised the prince to spend therest of his exile at Panchavati."May God bless you, O, Prince," saidAgastya, "take good care of Sita who forlove of you cheerfully submits tohardships to which she was not born oraccustomed. Women are by nature fond ofcomfort and averse to hardship but nosuch weakness is found in Sita. She is likeArundhati. Wherever you are,Ramachandra, with Lakshmana and Sitaby your side, the place will be filled withbeauty. But Panchavati is itself a beautifulspot and Sita will love to live there, securein the protection of you both. Fruit androots are there in abundance. Stay there onthe bank of the Godavari. The period ofyour exile is coming to an end. You willsoon fulfil your fathers plighted word.Like Yayati, Dasaratha is served by hiseldest son."31. THE SURPANAKHA EPISODETHE Princes and Sita, followingAgastyas instruction, took the way toPanchavati. On the way they met a hugefigure perched on a big tree. They took itto be a Rakshasa."Who are you?" asked Rama in anangry tone. The vulture howeveranswered in a voice full of mildness andaffection: "My child, I am your fathersaged friend." Then he proceeded to tell hisstory.Jatayu was the brother of Sampati, theson of Aruna the dawn-god, who wasbrother to Garuda the great eagle-vehicleof Vishnu.He said: "When you leave Sita aloneand go hunting in the forest, I shall belooking after her safety."The prince was pleased and acceptedthe offer of the bird with gratitude. Theythen proceeded on their journey.Rama was thrilled by the beauty ofPanchavati and gratefully offered praise inhis thoughts to Agastya for recommendingthe spot to them. He told Lakshmana: "Wecan build our ashrama and enjoy our stayhere for any length of time. Those hills arenear and yet not too near. Look at thoseherds of deer. The trees with their flowersand the sweetly singing birds, the river,the clean sand, everything is beautiful.Choose for us a good site and build acottage."Lakshmana did as he was told. Heconstructed an ashrama.Valmiki pauses here to explain the skilland swiftness of Lakshmanasworkmanship. He describes in detail howthe mud walls were raised and thethatched roof was made. Rama admiresLakshmana enthusiastically."You are more than a father to me,"said the prince shedding tears of love andjoy.We, too, may pause to think how thenoble prince Lakshmana acquired thisskill. We may infer that in those dayseducation even of princes included aknowledge of the realities of life anddevelopment of manual skill such as couldenable one to collect materials in a forestand put a neat cottage for oneself.In the ashrama at Panchavati, Ramaand Sita lived happily, lovingly served byLakshmana.One morning in early winter the threewent as usual to the Godavari for theirbath and to offer their morning prayersand fetch water for the days needs. They
  • 83. walked conversing about the beauty of theseason. Lakshmana thought of Bharataand how he would then be busyperforming the ceremonies appropriate tothe month.He said: "Bharata is entitled to live inease but he has taken on himself a life ofhardship because we live a life of hardshipin the forest. My heart is full of sorrow forhim. Even in this cold weather poorBharata no doubt eats sparingly and sleepson the bare floor. This cold morning hetoo is probably walking towards theSarayu. How fortunate we are to havesuch a noble brother! Pure in mind andspeech and conduct, renouncing allpleasures, he lives a life of austerity forour sake. He is exactly like our dear fatherand quite the opposite of his mother. Howcould so cruel a woman as Kaikeyi bearso good a son?"Rama stopped him, saying: "Talk asmuch as you like of Bharata and ourfather, but stop condemning Kaikeyi. Allthat you say of Bharata is true and mythoughts too today go to him in love. Howlong yet to see him again? When shall wehave that pleasure, Lakshmana? Whenshall we four brothers live together again?Bharatas loving words are still sweetlyringing in my ears."Thus thinking longingly of home andBharata they bathed in the Godavari onthat early winter morning.After offering oblations to theirancestors and prayers to the sun, Ramarose transfigured like the Lord Siva andreturned to the ashrama with Sita andLakshmana.Their morning duties over, they satwhiling the hours with wistful talk of olddays and tales of long ago.While they were thus recapturing thepast in sweet companionship suddenlythere came a Rakshasa woman who sawthem. She was Surpanakha, Ravanassister who was roaming the forest full ofthe idle thoughts of well-fed ill-taughtyouth. She was horribly ugly, but had themagic power to assume any lovely form atwill. When she saw the godlike beauty ofRama, she was filled with uncontrollabledesire for him and accosted him."Who are you, dressed like an asceticbut accompanied by a woman andcarrying warlike weapons and arrows?Why are you here in the forest thatbelongs to the Rakshasas? Speak thetruth."On such occasions it was the courtesyof those days for the person accosted toannounce himself and recite his name, cityand history and inquire of the newcomerconcerning his or her family and thepurpose of the visit.Rama began, "I am the eldest son ofthe great King Dasaratha. My name isRama. This is my brother Lakshmana.And this is my wife Sita. Obeying thebehests of my father and mother and infulfilment of dharma, I am now in theforest. And now please announce who youare. What is your family? You look like awoman of the Rakshasa race. What isyour purpose in coming here?"She answered, "Have you heard ofRavana, the heroic son of Visravas andthe king of the Rakshasas? I am his sister.My name is Surpanakha. My brothersKumbhakarna and Vibhishana are alsorenowned warriors. The lords of thisregion, Khara and Dushana, are also mybrothers. They too are mighty men at armsand wield great authority in these regions.But I am not subject to their control, butam a free person, free to do what I likeand please myself. Everybody in thisforest is, as a matter of fact, afraid of me."She said this to strengthen her wooingposition."The moment I set eyes on you," shecontinued, "I fell in love with you. You
  • 84. are now my husband. Why do you wanderaround with this midget of a woman! I amthe mate worthy of you. Come with me.Let us wander at will through the forest. Ican take what shape I please. Do not mindthis girl of yours. I shall cut her up in atrice and dispose of her. Do not hesitate."Under the influence of lust, she thoughtin the manner of her race and prated thus.All this amazed and amused Rama. Hesmiled and said: "Oh beautiful one! Yourdesire for me will end in trouble for you.My wife is here with me. I do not care tolive the life of a man with two wives. Butmy hefty brother here is untrammelledwith a wife, and is as good-looking asmyself. He is the proper husband for you.Offer your hand to him and leave mealone."Rama said this, being confident thatLakshmana would deal with Surpanakhasuitably.The Rakshasi took Ramas adviceseriously and approached Lakshmanasaying, "Oh, my hero, come with me. Letus together wander at will in joy throughthis Dandaka forest."Lakshmana entered into the humor ofthe situation and said, "Do not be foolish.He is trying to cheat you. What is yourstatus and what is mine? I am here a slaveto my brother, while you are a princess.How could you become my wife andaccept the position of a slaves slave?Insist on Ramas taking you as his secondwife. Do not mind Sita. Soon Rama willprefer you to her and you will be happywith him."Some critic might ask whether it wasproper thus to torment a woman,especially a woman in love. But if weexercise our imagination and have beforeus a monster of ugliness we canunderstand the situation. It is true that shecould assume any charming form shechose, but in the intoxication of lust, sheseems to have omitted even thisallurement."This ugly, corpulent and paunchyRakshasi, with leering eyes blood-shotwith lust, her red hair all dishevelled andher voice hoarse with passion, accostedthe handsome, beautifully built andsmiling Rama", says Valmiki. The Tamilpoet Kamban varies the situation bymaking Surpanakha assume a lovelyshape from the outset.Impelled by brute passion, theRakshasi did as she was told byLakshmana and went again to Rama. Shethought and acted like a Rakshasi for sheknew no other way of life.The sight of Sita enraged her. "It is thiswretched little insect that stands betweenyou and me. How could you love this girlwithout a waist? Look. I shall finish heroff this instant. I cannot live without you.Once I have put her out of the way, youand I shall live together happily." Sayingthis, she sprang on Sita.Rama intervened just in time to saveSita. The farce had gone too far andthreatened to become a tragedy. Ramashouted to Lakshmana, "Look, I have justbeen able to save Sita. Attend to thismonster and teach her a lesson."Lakshmana at once took up his swordand maimed Surpanakha and drove herout. Disgraced and mutilated, Surpanakhauttered a loud wail and disappeared intothe forest.Bleeding and mad with pain and rage,she flung herself on the ground beforeKhara, as he sat in state with hiscolleagues. Yelling with anguish, sherelated the story of her wrongs. The scornand mutilation she had suffered was aninsult to the Rakshasa race which onlyblood could efface.She said: "Look at me. Rama andLakshmana have done this and they are
  • 85. still alive and roaming in your domain.And you sit here doing nothing."Khara stood up and said: "My dearsister, what is all this? I understandnothing. Calm yourself and tell me whathas happened. Who dared to do this thingto you and is he in this forest? Who is hethat wants to become food for crows andvultures? Who has stirred up the blackcobra? Who is that fool? Where is he?Tell me, and he shall die at once. Theearth is thirsty for his blood. Stand up andtell me everything as it happened.""Two handsome young men," saidSurpanakha, "have come into the forest,dressed like ascetics and accompanied bya girl. They say they are the sons ofDasaratha. These two together, making anexcuse of the girl attacked me and havehurt me thus shamefully. I am thirsting forthe blood of these villains. Slay them first.Everything else can wait."Khara ordered his generals: "Go atonce, slay these men and bring theirlifeless bodies. Drag hither the womanalso. Delay not."Fourteen generals set out to do hisbidding.In Kambans Ramayana, Surpanakha isdelineated as having come in the shape ofa beautiful young woman, entirely human,who tried to tempt Rama. Kamban departswidely from Valmiki in this episode andhe makes a beautiful episode of it as willbe seen in the next chapter.There are some people who pose ascritics of our holy books and traditionssaying, "This hero killed a woman. Heinsulted and injured a woman who offeredhim her love. He killed Vali from behind,rather than face him and accept honorabledefeat. He unjustly banished Sita to theforest at the end of all the adventures. Ifthe banishment of Sita was not unjust andif he rightly suspected Sitas fidelity, whythen, we too, must suspect her fidelity."All such criticism is based on amentality of hatred. We haveunfortunately plenty of barren, heartlesscleverness, devoid of true understanding.Let those who find faults in Rama seefaults, and if these critics faultlesslypursue dharma and avoid in their ownlives the flaws they discover in Rama, thebhaktas of Sri Rama will indeed welcomeit with joy. If they exhibit the virtues ofRama and add to these more virtues andgreater flawlessness, who can complain?32. KAMBANS SURPANAKHARAMA and Lakshmana drove outSurpanakha, as one takes a stick anddrives out a donkey straying into a garden.Such is the brief and simple treatment ofthis incident by Valmiki.Kamban, the Tamil poet, however,deals with it more elaborately and hasmade a number of changes in the story.Sitting on the riverbank, Rama watcheda swan walking and then looked at Sita,also walking. Noting the similarity in thegait, Rama was pleased and smiled. Sita,for her part, observed an elephantreturning from the river and, reminded ofRamas gait, smiled. Thus in Panchavati,beside the river Godavari, love flowedsmoothly between the banks of dharma.Just then fate conspired with lust to dragSurpanakha to the presence of Rama. TheLord Vishnu had left the Ocean of Milkand taken birth as Dasarathas son, to ridthe earth of the enemies of the gods. Buthow was Surpanakha to know this?Beholding the beauty of his person, shewondered: "Is this Manmatha or Indra orSiva or Vishnu? But Manmatha has nobody. Indra has a thousand eyes and Sivahas third eye in the forehead, and Vishnuhas four arms; so he cannot be Indra, Sivaor Vishnu. Perhaps, after all, this isManmatha who has recovered his bodythrough penance, after it had been reducedto ashes by Sivas wrath. If it be
  • 86. Manmatha, why should this handsomehero still perform penance? Why shouldthis lotus-eyed youth waste his time intapas?"So she stood there wondering,watching, unable to turn her eyes away.She thought, "My own form would fillhim with disgust. I shall change myappearance and then approach him."She transformed herself into a beautifulyoung woman and appeared before himlike the full moon. Her slender frame waslike a golden creeper climbing up theKalpaka tree in Heaven. Her lovely lipsand teeth were matched by her fawn-likeeyes.Her gait was that of a peacock. Heranklets made music as she came near.Rama looked up and his eyes beheld thiscreature of ravishing beauty. She bowedlow and touched his feet. Then shewithdrew a little with modesty shadingher eyes.Rama welcomed her, imagining thatshe was a visitor from some distant placeand inquired: "Which is your place? Whatis your name? Who are your kinsfolk?"She answered: "I am the daughter ofthe grandson of Brahma. Kubera is abrother of mine. Another is Ravana,conqueror of Kailasa. I am a maiden andmy name is Kamavalli. And what is yourpurpose in coming here? It is not properfor a woman to speak out the trouble inher mind. And yet I suppose I must speakit out. The God of Love has invaded myheart. You can and should save me."She paused. Rama remained silent.And she went on."You may wed me with Gandharvarites. You know it is permitted for loversto come together in this manner. Once weare joined in this way, not only willhappiness be ours, but friendship betweenyou and my brother, the great Ravana,will follow. You are alone in this forestand the Rakshasas will molest you. Evenif you do not provoke them, they will giveyou trouble because you are dressed as anascetic. If you marry me, you will be freefrom all this danger. Not only that, mypowerful people will be ready to serveyou in all ways. Consider this well."Thus she pleaded for the fulfilment ofher desire, citing authority and appealingto Ramas self-interest also.Rama laughed revealing his beautifulpearly teeth. Just then, Sita was comingtowards them through the plants andcreepers, herself looking like anothercreeper. Surpanakha saw and marvelled ather loveliness.Not knowing whom she was,Surpanakha angered by lust, told Rama:"This girl is a Rakshasi in human form.She has come to deceive you. Beware ofher. Demonic is not her real form. She is aRakshasi that eats raw meat. Throw herout. Have nothing to do with her."Rama laughed again. "You are indeedwise," said he. "You have found out thetruth about her."Meanwhile, Sita had come and stoodby Rama. Surpanakha could notunderstand what Rama was laughing for.In her lust, she had quite lost her wits. Shehissed at Sita: "Why do you approach thishero of mine, oh Rakshasi? Go away fromhere."Sita, bewildered and afraid, hung onthe princes shoulder, and she then seemedlike a lightning flash hugging a rain-bearing cloud.Rama now saw that the joke had gonetoo far and said: "Dear lady, please stop,lest my brother should hear you. He isquick-tempered and terrible when angry. Iadvise you to go back quickly the wayyou came." Saying this, Rama took Sitawith him and went into the hermitage.The fire of her desire unquenched, theRakshasi spent the night somewhere,
  • 87. somehow. In the morning, she thought: "Ishall die if I do not get this man. So longas this girl is with him, he will never comenear me. I must contrive to carry her offand put her away somewhere and then Imay secure his love." Thus resolved, shecame again to the ashrama.Rama had gone to the river for hismorning ablutions and prayer and Sitawas alone in the ashrama. Surpanakhareckoned this was her chance to carry heroff. She did not notice that Lakshmanawas in the wood nearby. She rushedtowards Sita. Lakshmana shouted andsprang on the Rakshasi. Catching hold ofher hair, he kicked her and drew hissword. Surpanakha when attackedresumed her own shape and at tackedLakshmana. Lakshmana easily caughthold of her and mutilated her and droveher off.Surpanakha ran into the forest,bleeding and loudly appealing to herkinsfolk: "Oh, brother Khara! Oh, brotherRavana! Oh, Indrajit! Oh, kings of theRakshasa race! Are you all asleep? Amere man has insulted me and cut off mynose. Do you not hear my lamentations?"This is Kambans version of theepisode. Surpanakha approaches and triesto attract Rama, hiding her true form andappearing like a beautiful human girl. Thisvariation is supported in a way byValmikis description of Surpanakha asKamarupini, that is, one able to assumewhat form she liked.The Tamil poet appears to have feltsomething wrong or wanting in Valmikisstory and has woven an episode showinghow bestial passion works.33. KHARA AND HIS ARMYLIQUIDATEDACCOMPANIED by the fourteengenerals of Khara, Surpanakha came backto Ramas ashrama, determined to avengeherself and drink the blood of the princes.Pointing to the two young men, she toldher escort, "Look, there stand the menwho insulted and mutilated me. Slay themimmediately."Rama understood the situation at onceand told Lakshmana: "Take care of Sitafor a while, while I deal with thosefellows."Saying this, he took up his bow.Following the prevailing rules of war,Rama announced himself to Kharasgenerals and said, "Tell us the reason thatyou come here. Know that we are here inthe forest at the bidding of the rishis forthe purpose of destroying their enemies. Ifyou wish to escape with life, leave usalone."But the Rakshasas wanted not peace,but war. And the battle began. It did nottake long for Ramas arrows to annihilatethe Rakshasa generals.Once again, lamenting loudly,Surpanakha went to Khara. Thedestruction of the powerful detachment hehad sent was inconceivable. He could notbelieve it. He sought to soothe hisdisturbed sister with soft words."I have sent warriors unconquerable,each one like Yama. They must have bynow fulfilled their mission. Why do youweep? Why need you bewail while I amhere?"Surpanakha rose, and wiping the tearsfrom her eyes, said: "True, you sent yourfourteen warriors with me. But thefourteen now lie stiff and cold in death,slain by Rama, whose skill with weaponsbaffles description. If you have a spark ofpride in you, start at once, fight withRama and save the Rakshasa race. If youdo not, the destruction of our people iscertain. But if you are afraid, tell me soand I shall understand. These young menwho have entered your satrapy aredetermined to destroy your race, unlessyou first meet and destroy them."
  • 88. These words, spoken by his sister in aloud voice before all his courtiers, piercedKharas heart."Why do you speak thus terrified by apuny human being? Hold yourself inpatience for a moment and you will havehis blood to drink." So saying, Khara rose."Do not go alone!" she said. "Takeyour army with you."Khara gave orders accordingly. A greatarmy, fully armed, went in advance underthe leadership of Dushana. Behind thearmy Khara proceeded majestically in achariot. On the way he met with many badomens which affected the spirits of hishost. He laughed and reassured his army,saying:"Never have I been so far defeated inbattle. Do not mind these portents. Weshall soon crush these two little men andreturn in triumph."The army took heart at these boldwords of their leader.Hearing the tumultuous noise of theapproaching army, Rama and Lakshmanaprepared for battle. Rama toldLakshmana: "Do you see the signs? It iscertain that the Rakshasas of Janasthanaare coming here to their death! I see inyour face the glory of the victory thatawaits us. Arm yourself and take Sita withyou to a cave in the hill and look after her.I shall encounter the Rakshasa hordes anddestroy them. Go at once. I do not requireany help." Saying this, Rama put on hisarmor and strung his bow.Lakshmana did as Rama bade and tookSita to a mountain cave.A great battle was to follow. So theDevas and Gandharvas hovered in theheavens to watch the fight. They utteredbenedictions and prayed for Ramasvictory. The rishis had misgivings. Howwas Rama, standing single, to meet andquell this huge army? As Rama stoodthere, bow in hand, the radiance of hisface was like that of Rudra himself whenhe bent his great bow Pinaka.The Rakshasa force advanced in proudarray, with drums and trumpets and theclanking pageantry of war filling thequarters with clamor and causing thedenizens of the forest to stampede in alldirections. Rama stood holding his bowwith his band on the string. Like greatblack clouds disturbing the sun theRakshasa hordes surrounded him.The battle began. But while even theDevas wondered how he could withstandthe yelling masses which rushed on him, aconstant stream of deadly arrows spedfrom his bow before which the Rakshasaranks withered and fell like moths beforea blazing fire.Dushana himself now stood in front ofRama. Rama bent his bow and sent hisshafts in all directions in an unceasingstream. Like rays from the sun, and withthe speed of light, arrows shot out fromthe spot where Rama stood, spread out inall directions and brought down warriors,chariots, elephants and horses.The shafts pierced the bodies of theRakshasas and came out, covered withtheir blood shining like fire. The armywas utterly destroyed and Rama stoodstill, like Siva at the end of Time.Dushana came again with another greatarmy. For a while he seemed indomitable.But soon Ramas arrows laid low hischariot, drivers and horses. He jumpeddown and sprang towards Rama. Ramasarrows, however, severed his arms fromhis trunk. And the monster fell dead onthe ground like a huge elephant. OtherRakshasas, who saw Dushana falling,rushed against Rama and were also slainby the arrows that sped from his Kodandabow.In this way, the whole army of Kharawas destroyed. It had come roaring like anocean and now it lay still, a mass of
  • 89. corpses and severed limbs and derelictweapons and broken chariots.Only Khara and Trisiras remained. AsKhara rushed forward to meet Rama,Trisiras stopped him saying: "I shall gofirst and kill Rama. Or else, I shall bekilled. After I am dead, you may meethim."The three-headed Rakshasa mountedon his chariot attacked Rama with hisarrows. Rama met them with arrows thathissed like deadly serpents. At lastTrisiras collapsed and fell spitting blood.His followers fled like deer.Khara, seeing this, cried: Hold to thefugitives and directed his chariot againstRama. His confident pride was gone buthe fought manfully. The shafts sent by thetwo warriors covered the sky. Khara stoodlike Yama in his chariot, sending hisstream of arrows. For an instant, Ramaleaned on his bow. In that interval Ramasarmor was pierced by Kharas arrows andshowed the princes body shining like thesun.Rama now took up the bow of Vishnuand laid low Kharas chariot and cut hisbow in twain. Khara then took his maceand approached Rama. The Devas andrishis watching the battle became anxiousand renewed their benedictions."You have been a terror and a plagueto mankind!" exclaimed Rama. "Strengthof body is no protection to an evil-doer.You have persecuted and killed rishisengaged in penance in the forest. You willnow receive the punishment due for thesesins of yours. The spirits of the rishiswhose flesh you fed on are nowwitnessing your punishment from theiraerial chariots. I have come to theDandaka forest to destroy wickedRakshasas. My arrows will pierce thebodies of all your kinsfolk. Your head willsoon roll on the ground like a ripe fruit.""Human worm!" exclaimed Khara."Son of Dasaratha! Have done withboasting! You are proud because you havekilled a few common Rakshasas. A heroboasts not as you do. Only a Kshatriyabanished by his people can talk boastinglike this. You have shown you can brag.Let us see now if you can fight! Yourwords have blazed up like burning strawwith little heat or life. Here I stand macein hand, like Yama to take your life.Evening approaches. Be prepared to loseyour life. I am here to avenge the death ofthese my followers whom you havekilled."So saying, he whirled his mace, andhurled it at Rama. The mace was split byRamas arrows into splinters which fellharmless on the ground. "Have youfinished speaking, Rakshasa? Now youshall die. This forest will be safe hereafterand the rishis will live in peace," saidRama.Even while Rama was speaking, Kharapulled out by its roots a huge tree, andgnashing his teeth, threw it at Rama. Butthis too Rama split by his arrows. Andfearing further delay, he aimed deadlydarts at Khara. The wounded Rakshasasprang on Rama intending close combatwith him. But the latter avoided contactby stepping back and laid him dead with ashaft which clove his breast.The Devas showered flowers from onhigh and cried in joy: "Rama has killedthe sinful Rakshasa. Men can live in peacein the Dandaka forest hereafter. Within anhour Rama has destroyed Khara, Dushana,Trisiras and their whole army. Indeed heis a hero."Sita and Lakshmana returned from thecave. Lakshmana embraced Rama andrejoiced that single-handed he hadfulfilled the promise of safety he hadgiven to the rishis.
  • 90. How did Rama all alone perform thesefeats? If one observes a cow guarding hercalf and scattering a whole crowd of men,one can realise the power of love. Love isa supreme quality which according tooccasion manifests itself in diverse heroicforms such as valor and self-sacrifice, justlike gold which can be changed for silveror goods or other things of value. WhenGod assumes human form and is engagedin fulfilling His promise to save thehelpless, His limitless power comes intoplay.34. THE PATH OF RUINAKAMPANA, one of the fewRakshasas who survived the greatslaughter at Panchavati, fled to Lanka andseeking audience of Ravana, said:"Almost all our people who occupiedJanasthana are dead and Janasthana isnow an empty ruin. I alone have managedto escape with life."Ravana was furious with anger. Hestared and violently shouted: "Whodestroyed my lovely Janasthana? Was itYama or Agni or Vishnu? I shall dealdeath to the god of death. I shall burn upboth the god of fire and the sun. I shallstrangle and suffocate the god of wind.Tell me, who was it that destroyedJanasthana and killed my men heedlessthat I am here to avenge? Speak out atonce."It was ever dangerous to carryunpleasant news to tyrants. Akampanawas frightened by the kings rage and said,"I shall speak, if you give me protection."He then told his tale. "Rama, son ofDasaratha, a young warrior, lion-like infierce valor, a hero who has alreadyacquired fame among men, fought withKhara and Dushana at Panchavati anddestroyed them."The Rakshasa king hissed like a cobraand said: "What are you talking? How didthis happen? Did Indra and the divinehosts come down to earth and fight onRamas side?" Akampana answered: "Nosuch thing happened, great king. Alonedid Rama stand against our whole armyand its commanders and destroyed themall. And Khara and Dushana too wereslain. The deadly arrows issuing fromRamas bow like five-headed serpentspursued the Rakshasas wherever theywent and destroyed them." And he wenton to describe at length Ramas skill andspeed in the use of his weapons.And so Ravana learnt that Dasarathasson, Rama, with his younger brotherLakshmana was at Panchavati and that he,alone without even his brothers aid, haddone it all and that no gods had come totheir aid."Well," said Ravana, "I do notunderstand this but I shall start at once. Ishall destroy these little worms of menand return." And he rose. "Hear me, greatking, before you go," said Akampana, andexplained once again Ramas strength andcourage."Listen to me. No one can fight withRama and conquer him. When I say Noone, I mean No one. Not even you cando it. Because you have promised meprotection, I dare thus to tell you the plaintruth. There is only one way of killinghim. His wife is with him. The wholeearth holds not her equal in beauty. If youcontrive to carry her off, separation fromher will kill Rama; so great is his love forher. Consider how you can do this. Do notthink of battle with him."When he heard of Sitas beauty, theRakshasas desire was kindled. He beganto think that the defeat of Khara and hishosts was indeed a fortunate event thatbrought him an opportunity for gainingone more beautiful queen and wife. Hewelcomed Akampanas advice and said:"Tomorrow morning I shall go. I thinkyour plan is good."
  • 91. Accordingly Ravana set out in hismule-yoked flying chariot which gleamedlike the moon among the clouds as it spedfast in the air. He went straight toMarichas dwelling.Maricha duly welcomed his king andinquired what urgent necessity broughthim there. Ravana answered: "Hear me,Maricha. You and you alone can help me.Janasthana has been destroyed and so toothe whole army I had stationed there. Allthis is the work of Rama, son ofDasaratha. Isnt it amazing? To avengemyself, I am resolved to carry off hiswife. In this I need your advice and help."Maricha ,whose experience of Ramasprowess had seared into his soul, washorrified and tried to dissuade Ravanafrom his mad enterprise."What plan is this? Some enemydetermined to destroy you, but pretendingto be your friend, has given you this planof carrying off Sita. Whoever gave youthis advice wishes the end of the Rakshasarace. It is like advising you to put yourhand into the mouth of a sleeping cobraand pull out its fang. Havent you a happyhome and devoted wives? Return to them,and enjoy your life and prosperity. Tohanker after Ramas wife is the highway todisgrace and destruction and theannihilation of the Rakshasa race."Ten-headed Ravana went back toLanka, for Marichas counsel appearedright to him. Ravana must have thenremembered the omission in the series ofboons he had secured. He had obtainedimmunity from the attacks of all beingsexcept men. Ramas shafts had conqueredand killed the whole army with Khara,Trisiras, Dushana and other mightywarriors. Thinking of all this, Ravanaaccepted Marichas advice.But fate would not let him be. Ravanawas seated on his throne with hiscounsellors around him. Majesty shone onhis face like a sacrificial flame fed withghee and his mighty body showed thescars of many wounds received invictorious battle against gods, asuras andothers.His strength and courage werelimitless, so was his adharma. He had noequal in persecuting Devas, spoilingsacrifices and carrying away women. Thehosts of Devas and asuras were mortallyafraid of him. He was a terror to allcreatures. Enjoying wealth and variedpleasures, freed from the fear of death, theruler of Lanka knew no master or rivaland feared neither God nor sin.With his ten heads, large eyes and hugelimbs, his figure was terrible, but it alsopossessed the marks of royalty.Gorgeously dressed and bejeweled as hesat on his throne, surrounded by hisministers in the midst of the splendor ofthe despoiled world, there suddenlyappeared before him like the vision of thedoom to be, his sister Surpanakha,bleeding and mutilated, a shape of painand sorrow and shame. While all lookedat her with horror struck eyes in stunnedsilence, her anguish broke out in burningwords."What a fool are you that, sunk insensual pleasures and arrogantly secure ofsovereignty.You are not awake to thedeadly danger that threatens yourexistence at your very doors! Surely thatking who is drunk with self-importanceand dead to all portents that threaten hisstate is doomed to shame and destruction!No object is of less account or morecontemptible than a ruler who fallsthrough his own remissness. Know younot that your brothers, Khara, Dushanaand Trisiras and your gallant army offourteen thousand fierce Rakshasas havebeen exterminated by Rama, a mere man,and that your outpost at Janasthana hasbeen destroyed? One moment I saw a
  • 92. single warrior stand proud in the glitteringpageantry of war and the next, they laydead slain by that mans arrows, strewingthe ground like ripe crops devastated by aterrible hail-storm. And you see me, yourown sister, disgraced, mutilated and heart-broken! Have you no thoughts ofvengeance, you, a hero, a brother, king?"Stung by her contempt and heart-struckby her suffering and sorrow, Ravana said:"Be sure you shall have vengeance. Butthis Rama, who is he? What sort of man ishe? What are his weapons? How does hefight? What seeks he in Dandaka forest?And how happened it that you were socruelly mutilated?"She gave a description of the brothersand Sita, dwelling on the virile beauty andpowers of the brothers, probably with aview to provoke the envious jealousy ofthe Rakshasa. And growingenthusiastically eloquent about thesuperlative loveliness of Sita, she said: "Ihave no words to describe her perfections.I have never seen such sublime beauty inany created thing, be it Gandharva orKinnara or a daughter of man. And now, Iwill tell you why this ghastly outrage wasperpetrated on me. On seeing this Sita, Ifelt that none but you deserved her andthat she was fully worthy to share yourbed and out of my love for you I tried tocarry her off for you. Lakshmana, whowas standing by, prevented it and,springing on me, disfigured and disgracedme thus. For your sake, all this I havesuffered. If you wish to avenge this insultand protect the honor of the race, rise andgo at once. Apart from revenge for theinsult I have suffered, secure for yourselfa wife worthy of you. If you capture herand disgrace Rama, the spirits of thewarriors who were slain in Dandakawould be satisfied. I too shall feel thatsome amends have been made for thedishonor done to me. You do not knowyour own strength. You can easily secureSita, and make her your own. And canyou remain indifferent to the insult to yourrace? Khara and Dushana lie dead inJanasthana because they dared opposeRama. Think of all this and do what isright. Save, oh, save, the honor of ourrace."Listening to these words of his sisterand her praise of Sitas beauty, Ravanadissolved the council and retired to musealone. He had to think and think again,because he remembered what Maricha hadtold him. He turned in his mind the prosand cons and finally coming to a decisionordered a chariot to be kept ready insecrecy.It was ready, his golden chariot, drawnby mules bearing demon faces. Mountingit, he passed over sea and land and cities.As he looked from his magic chariot at thesights of the summer season down below,his passion grew stronger.He reached Marichas ashrama and metMaricha who, with matted hair and barkgarments, lived the life of an ascetic.Seeing his king and kinsman, Marichawelcomed Ravana duly and said: "Whyhave you come all this way a second timeand unannounced?"Ravana, skillful in speech began: "I amin great trouble from which only you cansave me. I beg you for help. Do you knowhow my brothers, under my orders, ruledJanasthana and how they and theirwarriors knew no opposition all theseyears? But now this man Rama has killedthem and their whole army. Without achariot, and standing on the ground, hisarrows have pierced to death all ourkinsmen. Today, in the Dandaka forest,rid of Rakshasas, the rishis live fearlesslives. This Rama is a worthless princebanished by his father, no doubt for somecrime. He has been wandering in theforest alone with his wife, Sita. This
  • 93. fellow dressed like an ascetic but enjoyingsense-pleasures, this renegade fromdharma, proud of his strength and for noother reason, has mutilated the face of mysister and insulted our race. My sister whohas suffered this pain and shame hadcome and complained to me. If, with allthis, I sit still and do nothing, would I stillbe a king? To avenge myself I havedecided to carry off Ramas wife from theDandaka forest. To disgrace and punishthis Rama is a duty I owe to my race. Andfor this I need your help. With you to helpme, I have no fear. In courage, strength,skill and magic powers, none on earth canequal you. That is why I have come toyou. You cannot refuse me. I will tell youhow you can help me. You should turnyourself into a golden deer, a golden deerwith silver spots, casting a spell on alleyes. In that shape romp in front of Sitanear Ramas ashrama. True to thecharacter of women, she will insist onRama and Lakshmana pursuing andcapturing you for her. When they are thusengaged and she is left alone, I shall easilycarry her off. Sita is a most beautifulwoman. Rama losing such a wife is sureto languish in sorrow and lose his manlyspirit. It will then be easy to kill him andavenge ourselves."Maricha stared at Ravana. His facebecame pale and his mouth grew parched.He was frightened by Ravanas plan. Withhis experience of Ramas prowess and hisown wisdom born of penance, Marichasaw what was going to happen.He knew that Ravanas sinful purposehad not the ghost of a chance of success.It was clear to him that the noose of fatewas round Ravanas neck dragging him toinevitable ruin. He had spoken no doubtof the honor of the Rakshasas, of theduties of kingship and of the insult toSurpanakha. But he was really impelledby a lustful desire to possess Sita. All thisMaricha saw.We should analyse Surpanakhasmotives too. She had suffered because ofher own uncontrollable carnal desire.Though it was Lakshmana who mutilatedher she was not so angry with him as withSita who stood between her and her desireand whose beauty and virtue she hated asdarkness hates light.The one desire that now burned in herheart was to avenge herself by bringingdisgrace on Sita. In order to use Ravanafor this purpose, she described Sita insuch glowing terms to him and kindled hislawless passion. The rest of her talk wasancillary to her main purpose. Referenceto the honor of the race, the security of hisempire, the slaying of his kinsmen and soon was only to serve her main purposewhich was to rouse Ravanas lust andmake him desire Sita and he was caught inthe snare.35. THE GOLDEN STAGMARICHA told Ravana, "I havelistened, my king, to all that you have saidand I am filled with boundless sorrow. Itis easy to flatter. Flattery is ever pleasantto the ears. Those who utter good thoughunpalatable advice are few; and fewer stillare those who welcome it when given. Yetit is my duty to speak to you the harshtruth. Sweet words might please you now,but will surely lead you to danger andruin. Your informants have not told youthe truth about Rama. Do not be deceivedby what you have heard from others aboutthis Rama. He is neither a renegade nor acriminal, but a dutiful son who is in theforest to honor his fathers word. Far frombeing a weakling or coward, he is amighty warrior, whose equal in arms doesnot exist. Do not make him yourimplacable enemy and bring ruin on yourpeople and your kingdom. From what youare bent upon, it looks as though Sita was
  • 94. born only to compass your ruin. The raceof Rakshasas and Lanka itself will soon bedestroyed on your account. Who is theenemy that has put this disastrous thoughtinto your head? Who has given you thisbad advice to take you, your kingdom andyour race to danger and destruction? Whotold you that he was a lover of pleasureand falsehood? Rama is the embodimentof dharma. He employs his strength andcourage in the service of dharma. As Indrais surely the first among the gods, Rama isfirst among mortal men. How dare you,how could you, cast longing eyes on Sita?Will Sita ever yield to you? Take her fromRama indeed! Can one deceive the sunand steal from him his light? You will bereduced to ashes if you approach theblazing fire of Janakas daughter. Do notfall a prey to Ramas shafts. Do not seekyour own death. Do not approach the fireguarded by Rama. One should not launchon a course of action without full thought.You can never vanquish Rama in battle.O, Ruler of the Rakshasas, do not turn adeaf ear to my words. Do you rememberhow, in olden days, proud of my strength,I disturbed the rites and sacrifice of thesage Viswamitra. In those days Rama wasbut a boy; yet Viswamitra had, withDasarathas permission, taken youngRama to protect his sacrifice. That sageknew Ramas prowess. I approached theplace to put out the sacrificial fire withcontaminating blood and flesh and then Icame up against the boy Rama. What doyou think happened? He let loose anarrow which killed Subahu on the spotand with another he swept me off my feetand hurled me into the sea. Rama the boyis now a man, immeasurably stronger andmore skillful in arms! Do not incur hiswrath. Do not bring ruin on your peoplewho are now enjoying wealth andpleasure. Do not harbor thoughts aboutSita and bring down destruction on yourrich and beautiful city and certain deathon yourself. If your persist in your foolishproject, O Ravana, I see before my eyesthe ruin that awaits you. I see Lanka inflames and her streets littered with death,and her widows and orphans loud inlamentation. Avoid this great sin. If youare angry with Rama fight him face toface and meet your death like a hero. Donot follow a fraudulent path and drag meinto it. Go back and be happy with yournumerous wives. Do not invite Yama toyour land and race!"Thus Maricha earnestly pleaded for thegood of Ravana who, however, was farfrom pleased or convinced. How couldgood advice prevail on a victim of lust?Like a sick man rejecting medicine,Ravana refused to listen to Marichascounsel."If a king" said Ravana, "wants toknow whether a thing should or shouldnot be done, it is open to his adviser toexamine its advantages and disadvantages,but I have not come to you for suchadvice. I am king and I have come to tellyou that I have decided to do this. I expectand want your help to carry it out. Youforget the loyalty due from you and daretell me that what I contemplate is wrong.On this matter, I have consideredeverything and reached a decision. Thisinsignificant creature whom you extol isunworthy of the honor of a formalchallenge to battle from me. What more ishe than a man driven out of his owncountry, a fool who has allowed himselfto be cheated by a woman and has beendeprived of his rights? The propertreatment or such a fellow is to disgracehim by carrying off his wife. This is amatter determined and concluded. Yourremarks are therefore irrelevant. Youshould do what I want you to do and thatis not much. Transform yourself into astrange and beautiful stag and appear
  • 95. before Sita and attract her attention. Sitawill send Rama to pursue and capture you.You should draw Rama away to a distanceand simulate Ramas voice and cry Ah,Sita, Ah, Lakshmana! Hearing this Sitawill conclude that Rama is in danger andshe will force Lakshmana to go to hishelp. When thus she is alone, I shall carryher off to Lanka. Once you have renderedme this help, you will be at liberty to dowhat you like. But if you will not help menow, understand, your life shall beforfeit."Maricha thought within himself. "Myfrenzied Ravana who is already under theshadow of doom will not listen to advice.Sinful desire is driving him to Yama. It isbetter for me to be killed by Rama than byRavana. At least then I would yield mylife to a foe."And so be agreed to the proposal.He said: "I have given you goodadvice, but you will not listen. If I carryout your wishes, I am sure to die. But notmore sure than that you will also perish,not long after with all that is yours. Sowill our race. Some enemy of ourswishing our destruction has set you on thiscourse, someone who envies you. I wouldrather be killed by a foe whom I respectthan by you. Come, let us go to Dandaka."Ravana was overjoyed and embracedMaricha saying: "Now you are again mydear old Maricha."The two ascended the chariot andproceeded towards the Dandaka forest.They flew over cities, mountains, riversand kingdoms. Reaching Dandaka, theyespied Ramas ashrama in a bananagarden.They alighted at a distance and Ravanatook Maricha by the hand and, pointing tothe ashrama, told him to do his partaccording to their plan.At once Maricha transformed himselfinto a wonderful deer. Every part of theanimal had its own different hue andexquisite beauty. Like a rainbow in thesky, it charmed the eye of the beholder.Gold, silver, diamonds, gems and flowersseemed to appear in succession on itsbeautiful skin. It was like a living streamof jewels flowing on a beautiful goldenbody.With such surpassing beauty the magicdeer wandered here and there, now restingfor a while and now pursuing its gracefulgambols. It would sometimes bend andnibble the grass on the ground, again liftits head up to eat the tender leaves ofplants. Sometimes walk slowly near theashrama and again jump away anddisappear and reappear at a distance.Sometimes it would join a herd of deer;then it would part from it and walk alone.The other deer would smell him and moveaway in sudden terror.Sita, who was then gathering flowers inthe forest, looked at the stag and staredspell-bound at its wondrous beauty. Thedeer, too, stared back at her and ran hereand there in front of her, shedding a newbeauty on the landscape."Do come and look! Do come andlook!" cried Sita, eager that Rama andLakshmana too should see that wonderfulstag."Come quickly, quickly!" she cried.Rama and Lakshmana came out of thecottage and saw the exquisite creature andmarvelled at its beauty.Lakshmana grew suspicious. It seemedto him it was no ordinary deer, but aRakshasa in disguise. Both Rama andLakshmana had heard about Maricha andhad been told how, assuming the form of adeer, he would often beguile and destroythose who came for hunting deer in theforest.Lakshmana said, "This is no ordinaryanimal. This is a trick of the Rakshasas."
  • 96. But Sita said: "Do catch this deer forme. We shall bring it up as a pet in theashrama. This is the most beautifulcreature I have so far seen in this forest.Look! Do look at it. What color! Whatplayfulness!"And so she went on, talking of the deerand desiring to possess it. And shepleaded: "Do somehow catch it for me."She begged Rama: "Soon we shallhave to return to the city. Should we nottake some rare thing from the forest toAyodhya? How beautiful it will be, thisexquisite creature moving in the innerapartments of our palace? Bharata wouldbe so pleased. I should love to give it tohim. Do my beloved, catch it for me.Somehow catch it for me."Sita saw that Lakshmana did not seemto like her importunity. This only madeher more determined to persuade Rama toget it for her. If a strong desire creeps intoour heart and someone stands in the wayof it, we are angry with him no matterhow dear he may be to us.This unfortunate truth about the waythat desire works in the human mind isexplained clearly by the Lord in the Gita.It was demonstrated by what happened inSitas heart now."Look!" she exclaimed, "it is all gold!Look now! It is all silver! If you cannotcapture the creature alive, at least bring itdown with an arrow and let us take theskin home. We shall never again see sucha beautiful skin. It would be a lovely thingto sit on. Look. It is going away. Do goand catch it alive. Or else, let me have atleast the skin."Again she said, "Look, look again. Allthese long years, I never saw such abeautiful thing in these forests. It is like acluster of shining stars!"Rama could no longer resist herentreaties.He said to himself: "Even ifLakshmana be right and the creature is aRakshasa so much the better reason forkilling it. What is there to be afraid of? If Icannot catch it alive, I can bring it downwith an arrow and give the skin to Sita.When she is so keen on having it, is it notmy duty to get it for her?"And he told Lakshmana to bring himhis bow and arrows. Lakshmanas heartwas not in it, but he obeyed.And Rama set out saying: "Mind,Lakshmana, remain by Sitas side andguard her vigilantly. I shall come backsoon with this stag alive or killed. Do notbe anxious. Even if this is a Rakshasa,what does it matter? It will share the fateof Vatapi. If this has come here to cheatme, as Vatapi tried to cheat Agastya, whythen, it will be the victim of its owndeceit. What can this animal do to me?Stag or Rakshasa, it is all the same."Again he said, "Be careful. Mind Sita.Anything might happen at any time. Bevigilant."Destiny had set the stage formisfortune. Strangely enough Lakshmana,who was by nature hasty and quick to act,was suspicious on this occasion andRama, who was usually circumspect nowyielded to Sitas foolish wish, anddisregarding Lakshmanas warning, wentin pursuit of the Maricha-stag.In order to give Ravana plenty of timeand opportunity, Maricha kept withinsight of Rama, but beyond his reach, anddrew him on and on like fate. The deerwould take a few steps, then stop and turnand stare at the pursuer. Then suddenly itwould start as if in fear. Pricking its ears,it would spring drawing up its hooves toits breast. It would disappear for a whileamong the trees. Emerging soon on sometall mound, it would display its lovelyoutline framed against a passing cloud.Sometimes it allowed near approach as
  • 97. though tired and so easy of capture butpresently it would spring up and bound faraway.This went on until Maricha took Ramafar out. Then the Rakshasa realised thisgame would not go on forever and that hisend was near. Rama, tired of the pursuit,bent his bow and sent forth an arrow. Itpierced the stag. Maricha resumed hisnatural form and simulating Ramas voicecalled out, "Ah Sita, Ah Lakshmana!" andfell dead."Lakshmana was right," said Rama tohimself. "This deer was indeed aRakshasa."He thought further: "Hearing his lastcry, maybe, Sita will be deceived. She islikely to be overwhelmed by fear."He then said to himself again: "What ifSita entertains false fears? Lakshmana isthere by her side."His heart then swelled with pride andjoy, that he had a brother like Lakshmana,so loving and so steadfast. How couldRama guess what was happening at thatvery instant in the ashrama, and whatpainful words Lakshmana had to bearfrom Sita? Truly, the way of destiny iscruel.36. THE GOOD BIRD JATAYU"ALAS, alas! Ah Sita! AhLakshmana!" So cried Maricha simulatingRamas voice. And Sita was deceived.Trembling like a plantain tree in a storm,she cried: "There, Lakshmana, do you nothear your brothers voice? Run, run atonce to his help!"Overwhelmed by fear and seeingLakshmana unwilling to move, sheappealed to Lakshmana again and again inan agony of anxiety: "I hear my Lordsvoice in distress. Go, go at once! Do notdelay!" she cried. "He is in some greatdanger. Did you not hear his cry for help?Why do you still stand here? Your brotheris no doubt surrounded by Rakshasas andcries for help. Instead of rushing to hisrescue, you stand still here!"Lakshmana knew the wiles of theRakshasas and remembered his brotherscommand. He would not move.Sita grew furious in her agony of fearand doubt. She beat her breast with bothhands and shouted in uncontrollable fury:"Son of Sumitra! Have you too turnedfoe? Have you been an imposter all theseyears? Have you been with us waitingonly for Rama to die? Pretending to be hisfriend, were you hoping all the time forhis death to secure me thereafter? Whyelse do you stand here, wicked wretch,and refuse to go to his rescue when hecries for help? Traitor! Imposter!"These cruel words piercedLakshmanas heart like poisoned arrows.He closed his ears with his hands. Hespoke gently to Sita, who was in tears ofwrath: "Vaidehi, Rama can encounter andvanquish any foe in the world. There is noneed to fear, O more than mother! Calmyourself. None in the universe is strongenough to touch our Rama or do himharm. What you have uttered is unworthyof you, my mother. Do not fear or grieve.You will surely see Rama return with thebody of the stag you wanted. The voicewe heard was not his. It is a Rakshasastrick. Do not be deceived and grieve fornothing. My brother has posted me here towatch over you. Do not ask me to leaveyou alone and go. I cannot disobey mybrother. Since we slew the Rakshasas ofJanasthana, their people are trying toavenge themselves in various ways. Weshould not be misled by their false formsand voices. It was not Ramas cry for help.You need not be afraid in the least."But Sitas fear grew to a frenzy andwith eyes red with anger she utteredterrible words: "Taking advantage of whatyou call your brothers command, youstand unmoved by his cry of anguish and
  • 98. are prepared to let him perish! Oh, howcompletely have you been deceiving us,Rama and me, all these years! Base,wicked, selfish wretch calling yourselfbrother! O, you false friend, do yourejoice that Rama is in dire peril? I nowsee why you followed us into the forest.Have you been set on by Bharata? Haveyou all become my lords enemies? Haveyou all joined together in a wickedconspiracy? I, who have lived with Rama,shall I ever look at you or another? WhenRama dies, I die with him. Know this forcertain."Sita burst into a rage which completelyoverwhelmed Lakshmana. Her cruelwords pierced and burnt into him likepoisoned arrows. His hairs stood on end.He clasped his hands in worship and said:"O Mother! O Goddess! How can suchwords issue from your mouth? Like red-hot iron they burn my ears. Cruel andunjust are these thoughts of yours. Withall the gods for witness, I swear, yoursuspicion is wrong. I see now that after allyou are a woman like other women quickto think evil of others. I fear a greattragedy is about to befall you. Otherwiseyou could not have thought and spokenevil of me."And innocent Lakshmana trembled infear of some dire calamity that was tocome over them.But Sita said: "Look here, here isplenty of dry fuel. I shall light a fire andfall into it. Or I shall drown myself in theGodavari. Or I shall hang myself dead,unless you run immediately to the help ofRama. Now, once again, I ask, will younot go? Or shall I perish?"She beat her breast and cried.Lakshmana could bear this no longer. Heraised his hands in solemn worship andsaid:"Very well, sister. I shall obey you anddisobey my brother. I shall leave youalone. May you be safe and well! May thegods of the forest protect you! I shall doyour bidding. I see bad omens. I feargreatly. I wonder if I shall ever see youwith Rama again. Yet I shall go!"And he went, unwillingly and lookingback every now and then.Lakshmana walked with his hearttroubled and heavy with anger andsorrow. How could he bear to hear thecruel words of Sita? How could he forgetthem? Sorely wounded was the heart ofthe prince who had renounced everythingto be with his brother.Lakshmana went in the direction thatRama had taken. Ravana, who had beenwaiting for this, now approached Ramasashrama. He transformed himself into amendicant ascetic, clad in clean saffronclothes and his lips uttered beautifulVedic hymns while in his heart wasugliest evil.Sita was standing at the entrance of thecottage, her eyes fixed on the forest,eagerly looking for Rama. Ravana beheldSita.At sight of her, the desire planted in hisheart by Surpanakha took good root andgrew rapidly irresistible. He was moredetermined than ever to possess Sita.Seeing this wandering ascetic, clad insaffron clothes, carrying his water-pot andstaff, Sita greeted him respectfully,according to the courtesy due to holy men.He desired hospitality. As in duty bound,she offered him a seat and placed beforehim some fruits and roots as was thecustom.The ascetic sat and looked again atSita. His desire grew stronger. Sinner andRakshasa though he was, he had aninstinct that made him wish to win herheart; he wished not to ravish but tosecure Sitas willing consent and make herhis wife.
  • 99. The King of Lanka wanted and hopedto persuade Sita. He thought she wouldyield to him for his wealth and power,turning her back on poverty-strickenRama. He thought also that this would bethe best way of disgracing and punishingRama. He expected Sita to behave likeother women he had known.Seated in front of the fruits and rootsoffered by Sita, the ascetic began to praiseSitas beauty in terms too warm for agenuine ascetic. He dwelt on the charmsof her person and asked: "Who are you?Why are you here alone in the foresthaunted by Rakshasas and wild beasts?"She was astonished but answered hisquestions. She hoped the prince wouldreturn at once and kept her eyes fixed onthe doorway.Little by little the visitor revealed whohe was and described the greatness of hisorigin and family, his power and wealth.After exalting himself, he proceeded torun down Rama and concluded."Be my wife and live a glorious lifewith me in Lanka. Come, let us go!"In this unexpected situation, Sitaspurity gave her courage to defy thepowerful monster whom she now knewfor what he was."Base and wicked fellow! Yourdestruction is near. Leave this ashrama ifyou would escape with life" she said,hissing like an angry cobra.The Rakshasa was furious. Hecompletely threw off all pretence ofdisguise and gentleness and assumed hisreal imperious wickedness. With one handhe caught hold of her hair and with theother lifted her up and carried her to thechariot which waited for him behind thetrees. Forcing her into it, Ravana rosewith her into the air.Sita cried aloud: "O my lord! Whereare you, my Rama? Oh Lakshmana, mostfaithful of friends, why did I. withobstinate folly, drive you away?"The Rakshasa held her firmly downand drove on in the aerial car. Sitaaddressed the trees and plants down belowand begged them to tell Rama of her fate.It happened that old Jatayu, half-asleepupon a tree, saw the chariot flying past.Startled by a womans cry of distress hewas wide awake in a moment andrecognised Sita by her voice. She also sawhim and appealed to him for rescue.Jatayus blood was fired by the sight ofher piteous plight and he threw himself inthe way of the aerial car crying: "Hold,hold! What is all this?""The King of Lanka is carrying meaway by force," wailed Sita, "but what canyou do to prevent it, my poor old friend?O fly to Rama and Lakshmana and tellthem my helpless plight!"But Jatayus fighting blood, the bloodof generations of lordly ancestors whoruled the air and knew not fear, was onfire. He cared not for Ravana and hismight. He only saw a princess in distress.He thought of his friend Dasaratha and hispromise to Rama and he was resolved thatthis outrage should not occur while helived to prevent it.Jatayu now addressed Ravana directly:"Oh king, I am Jatayu, king of the eagles,a king like you. Listen to me, brotherking! Forbear from this wicked act. Howcan you call yourself a king and do thisshameful wrong? Is it not the rule of kingsto protect the honor of women? And Sitais a princess. I warn you, you shall surelyperish unless you leave her and go. Hervery look will reduce you to ashes. Youare carrying a venomous cobra in yourbosom. The noose of Yama is round yourneck and dragging you to perdition. I amold and unarmed and you are young, fullyarmed and seated in a chariot. Yet Icannot look on, while you carry off Sita.
  • 100. Why do you do this cowardly act behindRamas back? If you have any grievanceagainst him, meet him face to face. O, youwould fly away from me, would you? Youshall not escape while I am alive! I carenot for your chariot or your ten heads, oryour glittering arms! Your heads shall rollon the ground that you have polluted withyour presence. Get down from your car,and fight if you are not a coward as wellas a thief!"Ravana flared up in a rage. He attackedJatayu. It was like a clash between amighty wind and a massive rain-cloud.The battle raged in the sky above theforest. Jatayu fought like a wingedmountain.Ravana aimed deadly darts at him. Butthe eagle intercepted them all and with histalons tore Ravanas flesh. The enragedRakshasa despatched sharp, serpent-likemissiles against the bird.The bird-hero was desparatelywounded, but fought on undauntedlywhile Sita watched the unequal combatwith beating heart and tearful eyes. Thesight of her made Jatayu all the fiercer inhis attacks on Ravana. But his years weretelling on him and he felt he must gatherall his strength for a supreme attempt toconquer. Regardless of the wounds, heattacked Ravana fiercely and with hiswings broke off and threw down hisjewelled crown and deprived him of hisbow. He attacked the chariot and killedthe demon-faced mules and the charioteerand smashed the vehicle into a thousandpieces. Ravana fell on the ground, stillclutching Sita. The elements rejoiced tosee Ravana fall.The gallant old bird swooped down onRavanas back and tore great chunks offlesh off it, and tried to wrench off thearms which held Sita. But Ravana hadtwenty arms, and no sooner was onepulled off than another took its place andSita was held in writhing helplessness.At last Ravana let go Sita andunsheathing his sword cut off the birdswings and talons. The old bird was nowhelpless and fell on the ground unable tomove.Janaki ran and embraced Jatayu andcried: "O my father! You have given awayyour life for my sake. You are a secondfather to my Lord! And now you are nomore. O our devoted brave friend!"Then Ravana turned towards her totake her up again. Helplessly she ranhither and thither, crying. She clung to thetrees and cried. "O my Rama, where areyou? O Lakshmana, where are you? Wontyou, come to my rescue?" The Rakshasaat last caught her and rose in the air.As the dark and massive Ravana flewin the sky with her, Sita struggling in hisgrasp looked like a flash of lightningacross a great black cloud. The Rakshasacarrying her appeared like a mountaincovered by a forest-fire. The body ofRavana, lit up by Sita, coursed through thesky like a calamitous comet.Thus was Sita carried away by theRakshasa. The sun grew dim and untimelydarkness descended on the earth. Allbeings lamented: "Dharma is destroyed.Righteousness has disappeared. Virtueand pity are no more."The dumb creatures of the earth,looking upwards, shed tears. Ravana,cruelly clutching the princess, flew astowards his ruin. As she was carried away,the petals fell down from the flowers shewas wearing at that time and as they werestrewn along the path below, they seemedto announce the scattering of Ravanasfortune and affluence.37. CLOSELY GUARDEDSITA opened her eyes red with angerand grief, and facing Ravana cried: "Basefellow! You boasted of your fame and
  • 101. your great origin and your warlikequalities, but have you behaved like abrave warrior? Are you not ashamed ofyourself? What sort of warrior is he whowaits for the husbands absence to steal hiswife and carries off a lonely helplesswoman when no one is nearer to preventit? What heroic deed to kill the old birdthat tried to save me! How brave was yourtalk in the ashrama! The world will nodoubt remember and praise this great herowho dares not fight but is prepared tosteal! If indeed you come of a noblefamily, what a shame you have broughtupon it! And what do you hope by thuscarrying me off? How long do you hopeto live? Very soon Ramas arrows willseek you out and end your life. Know thatthe moment Rama sets eyes on you, youare dead. Do not hope to escape. Yourdeath is certain at his hands. What then doyou gain by this cheating? I will never beyours. I shall die before I yield to you andyou cannot escape my lord, havingincurred his wrath. Very soon you will seethe river Vaitarani in hell. The red-hotimage is awaiting you there for yourembrace. So is the tree with iron spikes.Rama within an hour slew your army ofmyriad Rakshasas in Janasthana. Will helet you escape? Soon will he send you toYama."While Sita was speaking words ofcontempt and warning, Ravana,chariotless, sped like an arrow across thesky towards Lanka. They went over manymountains and rivers and Sita saw somepeople below standing on a hilltop. Shetook off her sash and tying up her jewelsin it threw the bundle down.She did this hoping that the ornamentsthus dropped may be seen by Rama andgive him a clue of the direction in whichshe was carried away.Crossing the Pampa and then the sea,Ravana entered the city of Lanka. Hewent to his apartments with the grief-stricken Sita. The fool thought that he hadsecured the prize, but he was taking homehis own death in a womans form. Then,summoning some demon-like Rakshasis,he ordered them to keep watch over Sita,specially commanding them to let noneapproach her without his permission."Give her whatever she wants, clothesor gold or jewels. Serve her and do herhonor as you would serve and honor me,"he enjoined them.And he added the warning: "Anyonewho utters a word which might offend herwill be punished with death. No one,knowingly or unknowingly, should causeher anger or grief."Having thus installed Sita in the innerapartment, he considered what should bedone next. He sent for some clever spiesand gave them this mandate:"Go at once to Janasthana where Kharalived. Watch carefully and bring me wordwhat Rama is doing. So long as that Ramais alive I cannot sleep. He is my greatestfoe. Somehow, he should be killed. Goboldly now and do your job and return."Imprisoned within a fortress in a sea-girt island, Sita did not know where shewas or how far from Rama. She expectedthat her lord would somehow arrive, killRavana and redeem her.Though full of grief, thinking of thestrength and prowess of her lord she wasbold and steady in mind. It was also someconsolation that the Rakshasa king did notbehave like a beast with her.Having despatched his men toJanasthana, Ravana returned to Sitaspresence. He saw her overwhelmed bygrief and shedding tears. The Rakshasiswere watching her with care.He thought that if she saw his wealthand power she would yield to him. Shewas therefore taken round in the greatpalace and shown the wealth and grandeur
  • 102. there displayed. No king on earth had everpossessed such wealth and means ofenjoyment.Sita was shown gold and jewels andsilks in plenty; curiously wroughtplatforms, vehicles and towers; thousandsof maid servants and every symbol ofwealth and royal power. But her thoughtswere elsewhere.Ravana tried to convince her also ofthe vastness of his army. But then she hadalready formed her opinion of his prowessand had described it to him in scathingterms.Yet, Ravana argued: "All this you cancount and enjoy as your own. You shall bemy queen, dearer to me than life itself. Ihave many wives but you shall be mistressof them all. Hereafter my love shall be foryou and you alone. Listen to me. Do mydesire. For hundreds of miles the seasurrounds this island which is guarded bythousands of mighty soldiers. No one canenter this city. No one among the gods orasuras can match me in might; and theyknow it. What pleasure or honor is it foryou to stick to a poor human creaturebanished from his kingdom, a destitutewandering in the forest? To match yourbeauty, you need my wealth. Do not wastethe years of our youth. You are neveragain going to set eyes on Rama. Becertain of that. Rama cannot approach thiscity. Treat this kingdom as yours. Treatme and all the obedient gods as slaves.Till now, because of your sins in someprevious birth, you have sufferedhardship. Here after you will enjoy withme the fruits of your former merits. Youwill be the queen of Lanka and the wife ofthe Lord of Lanka, the conqueror ofKubera. Let us take our pleasure floatingabout the world in the Pushpaka vimana.Let the cloud of sorrow disappear fromyour face and let the moon of joy appear."As Ravana went on speaking thus,tears flowed from Sitas eyes. She coveredher face with the end of her sari as she didnot want her enemies too think that shewas afraid.Ravana begged and importuned her:"Do not be shy. There is nothing wrong inaccepting me, nothing to be ashamed of. Itis laid down that one should accept thegifts of God. O beautiful one! I bow myhead at your feet and beg you for yourgrace. I am your slave. Forgetting mygreatness and power, I thus beg for yourfavor. Never in my life have I bowed inthis way before anyone."He really thought he could persuadeher and gain her affection.If ones mind is clear, one cancourageously face any situation. In spiteof her grief, therefore, Sita spoke boldly tothe Rakshasa. She placed a little bit ofgrass between Ravana and herself beforeanswering him.Boastful words were uttered by Ravanain sanyasi garb, sitting in front of the fruitserved by her in Panchavati. ImprisonedSita now spoke as if in echo of thosewords."Know who I am. Dasaratha wasfamed in all the three worlds and reignedlong years and stood as a bulwark ofdharma and defender of truth. His sonRama, of godlike presence and lion-likevalor, is my husband. He and his brotherLakshmana will surely take your life. Youknow how Khara and his army weredestroyed in Janasthana by my lord. Aseasily as an eagle carries a venomousserpent, he destroyed your huge army inJanasthana. Because you have secured aboon that no god or Asura can kill you,you have dared to make Rama yourenemy. You think your boon will saveyou. But I tell you, you cannot escape.You will surely meet your death at hishands. You are, like the goat tied to the
  • 103. altar-post for sacrifice, doomed to death.The moment Rama sets his angry eyes onyou, you will meet your fate. My lord willdry up the sea or bring down the moon, ifnecessary, to kill you and redeem me. It iscertain. Your evil deed will bringdestruction on yourself and your kingdom.My noble lord lived unafraid in the midstof the Rakshasas in the forest. Like a hero,he fought and killed the Rakshasas whoencountered him. Like a thief, you stoleme in his absence. But you cannot escape.Your fate impelled you to this sin becausethe hour of your ruin and the destructionof your race are near. You ask me toaccept you. How foolish! Can the crawapproach the swan? Can a heinous sinnerbe allowed near the sacrificial fire? I donot value life or body. Do you imagine Iwould wish to live despised by the world?Do not dream that out of fear or for savingmy life I shall yield to you."Having spoken those words, she wassilent."Is that so?" said Ravana. "Very wellthen, I shall give you twelve months time.If you agree to accept me, well and good.If at the end of that period, you refuse, mycooks will make meat of your body formy breakfast."After warning Sita thus, he gave ordersto the attendant Rakshasis: "You shouldbreak her pride and obstinacy by somemeans or other. Put her alone in the Asokagarden and skillfully use fear andtemptation to bring her to her senses. Aswe tame a wild she elephant, you shouldtrain her to submission." And angrily hewent to his palace.The Rakshasis took Sita to the Asokagarden. It was a beautiful park attached tothe womens apartments. The trees werefull of flowers and fruits, and beautifulbirds played among them. Here,surrounded and guarded by terribly uglyRakshasis, Sita was kept prisoner.Though overwhelmed by grief, she hadthe faith that Rama and Lakshmana wouldsomehow discover where she was andrescue her, that her lord would destroyRavana and take her back to a happy lifewith him.Sustained by this faith, she was neitherfrightened by threats nor deceived bytemptations. Not for one day, or two, butfor months, Sita suffered thus a closeprisoner in the Asoka garden.The day was yet far off when themighty Hanuman, crossing the sea, wouldvisit Sita in her sorrow and bring her themessage of hope and love and theassurance of relief: "Rama loves youinfinitely. He will be here soon. Be notafraid."All the women in our land who suffersorrow in any way are so many replicas ofSita. May all the men be like Hanuman,pure and heroic helpers of such sufferingwomen! We shall now go to Rama andLakshmana.38. RAMA DISCONSOLATEWHEN Maricha was struck by Ramasarrow and was about to die, he resumedhis own Rakshasa shape and cried aloudin a voice which was an exact imitation ofRamas: "Ah Lakshmana. Ah Sita!"Rama now realised how the Rakshasahad beguiled them and how be had beendrawn away a long distance by the craftyMaricha and he was full of anxiety as towhat it all could mean."Alas, we have been badly deceived. Itwould be terrible if Lakshmana is alsodeceived by this cry and leaves Sita aloneto come to my succour. It looks as thoughthe Rakshasas have planned this ruse tocarry off Sita and eat her. When Sita hearswhat she will take as my cry of distressshe is sure to insist on Lakshmana leavingher and rushing to my help. The howlingof jackals and the behavior of birds doportend disaster. There is trepidation in
  • 104. my heart and it is a portent in itself ofsome danger close at hand."Saying thus to himself, Rama hurriedback to the ashrama. On the way, he sawLakshmana running towards him. "Alas,the worst I fear has happened," exclaimedRama.He held Lakshmanas hands and criedin sorrow: "Why did you leave Sita alonein the forest, Lakshmana? You may besure the Rakshasas have killed and eatenher. It was not right for you to leave herand come away. It is now all over withSita!"Fatigued and thirsty with the futilechase, and now overwhelmed with angerand unbearable anxiety, Rama cried again:"If I do not see Sita in the ashrama whenwe return, I shall surely die, Lakshmana.You will return to Ayodhya, the survivorof us three, and tell them what hashappened. O, how will Kausalya bear hergrief? Lakshmana, you have more thanfulfilled Kaikeyis wishes. The Rakshasaswill by now have visited on Sita, poorunprotected Sita, all their pent-up hatredagainst us. They must have killed andeaten her up by now. How could youleave her alone and come away? Howcould you be deceived by Marichas falsecry? What shall I do now? I shall see Sitano more. The Rakshasas plan hassucceeded. My trust in you was misplacedand I shall never see Sita. How could youleave her and come away, how could you,Lakshmana?"Lakshmana answered with tears in hiseyes: "What else, brother, could I do?When Sita heard the cry, Alas Sita! AlasLakshmana! she was frightened.Quivering with fear she urged me to go toyou at once and would tolerate no delay.She persisted, whatever I said to thecontrary. I told her again and again not tobe afraid and assured her that no foe wasstrong enough to do you harm, and thatthe cry of distress was not yours, but shewould not listen. She charged me withhaving turned traitor to you and withhaving come to the forest with treasonableintentions. And, O brother, she found itpossible in her anguish to say I would beglad of your death out of sinful intentionstowards herself! I was half-dead withhorror on hearing those words of hers andthen she announced that she would killherself if I did not go on the instant. Madherself, she maddened me with her wordsof reproach and I ran towards you notknowing what else to do."But Rama was not satisfied. "Whatevera foolish woman might have said in herfright, you should have stayed and not lefther unprotected. How could you do such afoolish thing? You have brought calamityon me. I shall never see Sita again."The two hurried to the ashrama. Manybad omens appeared on their way. AndRama repeated, as he saw them one byone: "I fear, I fear we shall never see Sitaagain!"Reaching the ashrama, they found it, asthey had feared, empty. Sita was not there.The deerskin, the kusa grass, the matspread as a seat, all lay scattered on theground.Rama wept and ran hither and thitherin the grove round the cottage. The leavesand flowers on the trees had faded. Sitawas nowhere to be seen.He wandered about like one mad. Hiseyes were bloodshot. He cried, "Alas,have they eaten her up? Have they carriedher away? O, bow she must have trembledin terror! I cannot bear the thought of it.Could it be that she has gone to the riverto fetch water? Could it be that she hasgone out to cull flowers? Let us see."And he went searching among thetrees, hoping that perhaps she was hidingand playing a practical joke on him. Hissorrow swelled like the sea and seemed to
  • 105. have drowned his reason. He called thetrees one by one by their names andbeseeched them for help."Oh Asoka tree! Be true to your name,remove my sorrow you must know thetruth. Tell me where Sita is now. Oh tallpalm tree! You must be able to see whereSita is. Tell me where she is."He talked to the animals too. "Ohtiger!" he said, "the elephant and the deerare afraid to tell me the truth. But youknow no fear. You can tell me what hashappened. You know everything. Tell methen the truth."He cried: "Oh Sita, you are bidingsomewhere. There! There! I see you there!Stop this fooling. I can stand it no longer."After wandering and weeping in vainfor a long time he fell on the ground,moaning, "Ha Lakshmana! Ha Sita!" Hecried like an elephant trapped in a pit."Lakshmana, Sita is nowhere. TheRakshasas have captured her and torn herto pieces and eaten her up. How can I liveany more? My end is near. But when myfather sees me in the other world, he willsay, Why have you come here, my son,before fulfilling my command? I havefailed. In everything, I have failed."Lakshmana could bear this sight nolonger. "Brother, it is not right that youshould cry like this," he said. "Let ussearch through the forest. You know howfond Sita is of entering caves and thickets.She may be bathing in the river or playingsomewhere or culling flowers. Let ussearch again. She is only testing us. Comelet us search again. Do not cry."The two searched again all over theplace on hills, by pools and on the riverbank. But they did not find her. "Sita isnot to be seen, Lakshmana," said Rama."What shall I do now?"Lakshmana tried to encourage himwith words of hope, but Rama wasinconsolable. "No, no, my brother. Thereis no hope," he said, "Sita is nowhere. Ihave lost her forever. I shall live nomore."He lay unconscious for a time. Then hecame to himself and lifted his voice andwept. Nothing that Lakshmana said couldcomfort him."Lakshmana, how can I go back toAyodhya?" he cried. "Wont they laugh atme for returning alone after allowing Sitato be killed and eaten by Rakshasas?Having brought her to the forest andhaving failed to protect her, what shall Itell Janaka? No, you should go alone toAyodhya. Go and look after our mothers.Greet Bharata from me and tell him it wasmy dying wish that he should continue torule as king."All Lakshmanas efforts to console himwere in vain. He was convinced that theRakshasas had carried away Sita and tornher to pieces and eaten her up. He picturedto himself in detail the horror of hersuffering and cried in his grief: "I musthave committed terrible sins. How elsecould such suffering come to me? Sitawho accompanied me, thinking I couldprotect her, has been eaten by theRakshasas and I can do nothing about it.Is there another sinner like me in theworld?"Lakshmana said: "Do not lose heart.You must be bold and energetic. Aresolute mind can conquer fate. But youmust first conquer your weakness. Let usmake a more thorough search of theforest. Instead of yielding to unavailingsorrow, let us be manly and active." ButRama would not listen.Rama behaved as a human being, notan avatar of Vishnu. Though elsewherehis words and actions give room for adifferent view, here Valmiki describesRama as a mere man enveloped in thegloom of a supreme misfortune.
  • 106. His feeling and behavior are exactlythose of any noble and virtuous man whohas lost his beloved wife, dearer to himthan life itself, and that in a forest infestedwith Rakshasas. We see that all the effortsof Lakshmana to console him had noeffect.Our common human dharma isillustrated by the sorrow of Rama. We seehere the picture of true and equal lovebetween a virtuous man and woman andthe anguish of loss.The episode may also be interpretedallegorically. Ramas sense of privation,when he misses Sita, is a measure andimage of the mind of God when a singlehuman soul is lost through sin.One may ask whether God can lose, orcan suffer pain of mind. If one realisesthat all life is divine leela, the play ofGod, no further exegesis is needed. Sin,merit, devotion, all are aspects of thatsport.Each one of us is beloved of the Lord.If for any reason we are swept away fromthe right path, He suffers like a lover whohas lost his love. And His sorrow too is apart of His great play.39. A SECOND FATHER DIESTHE two brothers searched everymountain, forest and riverbank callingSitas name aloud. But all in vain, andthey did not so much as find a clueanywhere. Baffled and grief-stricken,Rama cried out against the river Godavari,against the gods and against the fiveelements.The poet sage ascribes the silence ofthe rivers and the gods and elements totheir fear of the powerful Rakshasa king.A herd of deer, however, movingsouthwards seemed to indicate to Ramaand Lakshmana that they too should travelin the same direction. They did so and,after a time, found some flowers scatteredon the way.Rama at once recognised the flowersand cried excitedly: "These are the veryflowers I gave her. They must have fallenfrom her hair."His grief and anxiety grew greater andhe sobbed aloud fearing the worst for Sita.They searched the forest all around thespot where they found the flowers. Theynoticed the marks of a Rakshasas big feetand little footprints that they knew wereSitas.They found some gold beads spilt fromSitas jewels. Rama cried again: "Look!The Rakshasa has been chasing her like abeast of prey to tear her tender flesh!"Then they saw several fragments of achariot and great clots of blood, as alsoroyal headgear and jewels scattered on theground. They wondered what these thingscould mean.Soon they came upon a large bowbroken, flag torn and armor crushed. Alittle later they saw the dead bodies of acharioteer and of mules. It was clear that avehement battle had been fought on thatspot."Two powerful Rakshasas must havestruggled here," groaned Rama, "eachclaiming the sole right to eat Sita."Conjecturing and lamenting in thisway, Rama went on: "Dharma could notsave Sita! No god came to her rescue! Itwill be right to destroy this wickedworld." Rama was beside himself andtalked wildly.Lakshmana did his best to calm thedistracted Rama. "Great sorrowunbalances all minds, even the strongest,"he said. "Else why should you thus loseself-control? Why should you hate andcurse the whole world for the evil deed ofone person? How often have you, mybrother, calmed my anger and led me onthe right path! But now a great grief hasupset your mind and it is the turn of theyounger brother to give courage and
  • 107. counsel patience to the elder and restorehim to his natural heroism. Let us find outwho our enemy is and deal with him."With such loving words Lakshmanasought to give courage and consolationand both walked on. They had notproceeded far when they came on Jatayu,bloody and mutilated, unrecognisable,lying on the ground.At first Rama thought it was someRakshasa disguising himself to deceivethem and, wild with anger, cried: "Look!Here is a Rakshasa who has eaten Sita!"and rushed towards him, bow in hand.Then raising his ruffled and gory headwith great pain, Jatayu spoke in a feeblevoice that seemed struggling with death."Do not kill me, dear Rama, who has but afew moments more to live! The dearprincess you are searching for has beencarried off by Ravana and he could do soonly by first robbing me of my life!Seeing Sita in his flying chariot in the air,I intercepted it and gave him battle. Istruck down his bow and smashed hischariot. His charioteer I slew. The marksof my last great fight you can see allround this place. I did my best. How Iwish it were better for your sake! At lastas, weary with toil, I was still waging ahopeless combat. Age against youth, beakand talons against keen weapons andpanoply of steel, he cut off my wings andlegs. And as I fell wounded to death, helifted Sita and flew with her into the skyin a southern direction. Though rackedwith the pangs of death, I have clung tolife for love of you to tell you what Iknow. Now that I have done this, bless meand let me die." Tears flowed fromRamas eyes as he listened to Jatayus tale.He flung aside his bow and embraced thebird. The princes sorrow knew no bounds.They lamented loudly, rolling on theground."I am the most unhappy man alive,Lakshmana," said Rama. "Giving up thekingdom, I came to the forest, and here Ihave lost my Sita. This Jatayu, who was asecond father to us, has, laid down his lifefor my sake. Why, if I fell into the fire, Ifear my bad luck will put even the fireout. If I fell into the sea, I fear it woulddry up. What a terrible sinner I am,Lakshmana! Who knows, one day I mightlose you too, Lakshmana."Embracing Jatayu, he said: "O, myfather! Really, did you see Sita?" ButJatayu lay speechless on the ground.After a few moments Jatayu spokeagain in a low voice: "Be not afraid,Rama. You will surely find Sita. No harmwill come to her. Regaining the treasureyou have lost, you will greatly rejoice."With these words, he spat out blood andgave up life.They were foolish and committederrors of omission and commission andlost Sita. Trying to save Sita from thecalamity that their carelessness hadbrought upon her, Jatayu, old, unarmed,had fought with wing and beak and talonand given up his life. When their fatherdied in Ayodhya, his obsequies wereperformed by Bharata and Satrughna.Rama and Lakshmana. were deniedthis privilege because they were away inthe forest. They regarded Jatayu as theirown father and in performing hisobsequies derived some consolation fornot being by Dasarathas side andperforming the last offices to him. Whatother help or honor could they accord toheroic Jatayu?The bhaktas worship Jatayu as the bestof bhaktas. Exercising our imagination,we should behold with Sitas eyes the poorold birds hard struggle against theRakshasa king. Then we would realise thelove and gratitude and sorrow that musthave surged in her heart as she watched
  • 108. his sufferings. Thus we shall be purifiedby the grace of the Mother. What wonderis there in the rank assigned to Jatayuamong the bhaktas?Later, when Rama fights and isvictorious in Lanka, Sita does not see it;she is a prisoner in the Asoka forest. Shehas to be content with listening to reportsof the battle and of the prowess of herlord. But Jatayus devotion and heroismSita saw with her own eyes in theDandaka forest. Unarmed, he opposed theRakshasa who had all his weapons andarmor, and humbled his pride at the costof his own life.Jatayus battle with Ravana is moreimportant than the battles in Lanka. Hencethe pious revere Jatayu along with Bharataand look upon him as an Alvar, a guide inthe spritual path."Lakshmana," said Rama, "gather dryfaggots. I shall churn the fire. We failed toperform our fathers obsequies, let us do itfor the eagle-father who gave up his lifefor us."The princes chanted holy invocationsas they poured libations to the departedspirit: "O king of birds, may you enjoy allthe bliss of the virtuous who perform greatsacrifices! May you enjoy the bliss ofVanaprasthas who have performed greatpenance! May you enjoy the bliss of thosewho have made great gifts of land! Mayyou enjoy the bliss of those who fightheroically in the field of battle! May thebliss of all good people be yours!" Afterthe ceremony Rama became steadier andstronger in mind.To millions of men, women andchildren in India, the Ramayana is not amere tale. It has more truth and meaningthan the events in ones own life. Just asplants grow under the influence ofsunlight, the people of India grow inmental strength and culture by absorbingthe glowing inspiration of the Ramayana.When we see any helpless person indanger or difficulty, let us think of Jatayuand with firm mind try to help regardlessof circumstance.Ramas losing health and lamenting insorrow may be compared to the behaviorof another incarnation honored by anotherfaith. It is said in the Bible that Jesus,nailed to the cross and about to give up hisghost, cried with a loud voice: "Eloi! Eloi!lama sabachthani!" which is Hebrew for"My God, my God, why have youforsaken me?"The mystery of incarnations is ever thesame. They are weighed with the dust andtears of the body they have taken andsuffer and grieve like mortals.40. LEFT EYELIDS THROBIN face of the unexpected difficultiesthat overtook them one after another,Rama and Lakshmana often lost heart.Their fortitude yielded place sometimes togreat despair. But they managed toencourage each other and proceeded ontheir way.Passing through the forest, the twoprinces were suddenly caught by atremendously big Rakshasa of ugly formwithout head or feet. His mouth was in hisgreat belly and he had two enormous armswhich, without moving from his place, hewould stretch out and clutch tiger, bear orany other living thing within reach, andswallow them.He had only one eye which was placedin his chest but which was terrible tobehold.Caught by this monster, the princeswere, for a while, bewildered and did notknow what to do.Then Rama told Lakshmana: "Let usnot be confused. You will cut off one arm,I shall cut off the other."And so they did. The name of themonster was Kabandha, which means thebarrel-shaped one. Once his arms were
  • 109. severed, he was helpless and began toexplain:"On account of my evil deeds I wascursed by Indra to bear this form and thisname. I believe you are Rama andLakshmana. Indra promised me freedomfrom the curse when you two should comeand cut off my arms and commit this bodyof mine to the flames."The princes set fire to his body asdesired by the unfortunate monster andthere arose from the flames a lovely beingwhich entered a heavenly chariot andascended to the celestial world.Before going, he said to Rama: "Youwill assuredly regain Sita. Go to thebeautiful banks of the Pampa and seek thehelp of Sugriva living there on theRishyamuka hill. Driven out of thekingdom by his brother Vali, he lives inconstant fear and danger. Gain hisfriendship, and you will succeed in yourattempt." Saying this Kabandhadisappeared.Rama and Lakshmana now set forwardin the direction of the Pampa. In thatlovely region they visited the ashrama ofthe aged sanyasini, Sabari, the disciple ofRishi Matanga, and accepted herhospitality. Sabari was a woman of aforest tribe and a faithful serving sister inthe ashrama of the old saint Matanga.When he departed this life, she wanted todie too. But he said the time was not yetand she should await the arrival of Rama,an incarnation of Vishnu, for the bliss ofhis darshan was in store for her.So the old and wrinkled woman livedher saintly life, looking faithfully after theashrama as of old and keeping it sweet toreceive the promised guest.When the princes came, she producedthe fruits she had gathered and kept forthem, and described and showed to themthe wonders of the Matanga ashrama.Then with their leave, she kindled a fireand entering it ascended to heaven.The meeting with this saintly womanand the waters of the river Pampa gavestrength of mind to the princes. Theythought over what should be done next.Said Rama: "Lakshmana, I ambeginning to think that we shall succeed.Let us search the forest for Sugriva whosehelp we should obtain."They went all over the Pampa area.The place was lovely, but the loveliness ofthe spot and the animals, birds, trees andcreepers only increased Ramas grief.Every beautiful object wrung his heartand made him think: "How much wouldSita have enjoyed this?" Try as he might,he could not control the human sorrowwhich by his incarnation he hadundertaken to endure.Lakshmana tried to revive his spirit. Hesaid: "Even if Sita is kept hidden in thewomb of Aditi, the mother of the gods, wewill discover her. Ravana cannot escape.It is certain we shall kill him and redeemSita. It is not proper that you should thusdespair. How can you let anxiety orweakness come over you? If we lose aprecious thing, we should work for itsrecovery with perseverance. Sometimesour very affection becomes our enemy.Too much love brings on grief and griefweakens effort. What need is there for meto tell you all this? You know it all. Let usnot lose hope. Let us forget the griefbrought on by love and bend our mind andbody to exertion. Be brave. Be hopeful.We shall succeed. Get rid of your sorrow,brother!"The younger brother thus advisedRama. Commentators look uponLakshmana as Adisesha. Adisesha, theserpent, is said to be ever the protectingspirit of Vishnu. So Lakshmana ever triedto give Rama fresh energy andenthusiasm.
  • 110. The fugitive Vanara prince Sugriva andhis faithful adherents with the watchfulvigilance of fear saw Rama andLakshmana roving in the forests and weretroubled with doubts. Having been ejectedfrom his kingdom by Vali, Sugriva chosethis mountainous spot because he believedthat it was made by the curse of a rishiinaccessible to Vali. And now he fearedthat here, too, Vali in disguise wasfollowing him in order to kill him.Or else, he feared, some Kshatriyawarriors taking the side of Vali were thereto kill him. The other Vanaras ran hitherand thither in panic.Hanuman was Sugrivas chief minister.He reassured Sugriva, saying: "This is notVali, nor are they friends of Vali, it seemsto me. There is no ground for fear. I shallgo and talk to them and find out the truth."Sugriva was pleased and said: "Do it,but be careful. Go, find out the truth andcome back. Use all your skill. I am full ofsuspicion. They behave as if they aresearching for someone. Could it not bethat it is me they seek?"Taking the form of a brahmana,Hanuman approached Rama andLakshmana. As he went and stood in frontof them, a confident feeling possessed hisheart. Straight away he started speakingout frankly.Hanuman went forward to learn thetruth without discovering himself. But ashe went on speaking, he threw all cautionaway and told in detail all about himselfand the Vanara King.Looking on Rama and Lakshmana, hewas beside himself as a devotee in thepresence of the Lord, and praised them.He said that he was a Vanara and hadcome there in disguise as desired by hisKing."Royal saints," he said, "your presencehere fills my heart with joy. There is anaura round you as if you were gods. I takeit, you are here in the forest for doingtapas. But why have you come to thisinaccessible spot? Please tell me who youare. This river and this forest are madelovelier by your presence. Your faces andforms are radiantly beautiful. Thecreatures in the forest look on you withreverence and awe. Your strength andcourage are manifest. Who are you? Fromwhich country do you come? It is clearyou are entitled by birth to rule somemighty kingdom and yet you are dressedlike ascetics. With matted hair and barkgarments you carry also bows and arrows.Why are you silent? Here Sugriva, theVanara King, driven out of his kingdomby his brother Vali, is in hiding. He is fullof grief. I am his minister. My name isHanuman. I am the son of Vayu. Asordered by my king, I put on theappearance of a brahmachari and am nowhere before you."Listening to these courteous words ofHanuman, Rama said to Lakshmana:"Brother, this speech of Hanuman hasinspired me with confidence. I trust himabsolutely. Did you notice the beauty ofhis language and how correct andrhythmic his enunciation is? He speakslike one who has mastered the Vedas andthe science of grammar. An idealmessenger he is. Fortunate is the king whohas such a messenger. He whom we aresearching for is himself in search of us.We came here to see Sugriva and he hassent this messenger to us. Let us welcomehim."Then they began to talk freely to oneanother. Rama and Lakshmana on the onehand and Hanuman on the other relatedtheir history, their joys and sorrows, hopesand fears.As a result of this talk, Lakshmanaconceived a great affection for Hanuman.He said to Hanuman: "My brother,born to great wealth, the eldest son of an
  • 111. emperor, has left his kingdom and cometo the forest. Here his wife, dearer to himthan life itself, was abducted by Ravana,who had by a fraudulent trick inveigled usfar away from the hermitage where shewas. We seek Sugrivas help to rescue herand recover her, for a daitya, who under acurse took on the form of a Rakshasa, toldus: If you secure the help of Sugriva, theVanara King, you will regain the princessstolen by the Rakshasa. And so we arehere. We seek the friendship of yourking."Hanuman answered: "Sugriva too hasbeen persecuted by Vali and deprived ofhis kingdom and his wife. It is now certainthat he will regain both. My king will gainmuch by your friendship and with his helpyou will also succeed in your efforts."Then the three went to Sugriva. Theway was such that only a Vanara couldtraverse it. Hanuman resumed his naturalshape and carried both the princes on hisback.The hearts of good men meet andinstantly come together. As the Kuralsays, the spontaneous mutual attraction oftwo hearts and not long acquaintancecreates friendship and this friendship waspart of the divine dispensation. It waspredestined that Hanumans sublimedevotion should be at Ramas service forthe fulfilment of the purpose of theincarnation. And so there was acceptanceat first sight.His carrying the two princes on hisshoulder was an outward symbol ofinward union. As friends and loversembrace each other, Hanuman, the lovingservant, rejoiced in carrying his Lord onhis shoulders.Ascending the Malaya hill, Hanumanwent in advance to Sugriva and,announcing the visit of Rama andLakshmana, said:"Rama is a prince full of wisdom andvirtue. He is the eldest son of the famousEmperor Dasaratha. To fulfil his fatherspromise, he left Ayodhya with his brotherand wife and came to the forest. KingDasaratha was compelled by his youngerwife, in fulfilment of an undefinedpromise given long ago, to banish Rama.In the forest, taking advantage of theprinces absence, Ravana carried away thewife of Rama. Rama has come here,seeking your help in finding her. Theprinces are worthy of your friendship.You too will gain greatly from friend shipwith such heroes."Sugriva assumed the form of ahandsome man and had a long and heart-to-heart talk with the princes. Stretchingforth his hand to Rama, he said:"Princes, if you care for the friendshipof a Vanara, here is my hand, accept it.Hanuman has told me all about yourvirtue and greatness."Rama clasped his hand and embracedhim. Soon Hanuman got together somefaggots and kindled a fire.Circumambulating the flames Rama andSugriva swore mutual friendship: "Let usshare our joys and sorrows." They vowed:"Let our friendship be eternal."They cut down the branch of a tree andsitting on it, Rama and Sugriva wereengaged in cheerful talk and so, too, wereHanuman and Lakshmana seated onanother. Sugriva narrated the story of hislife. How greatly he and his elder brother,the mighty Vali, were once devoted to oneanother, and how malignant fate hadthrough no fault of Sugrivas made deadlyenemies of them.It had comes about this way. Once aRakshasa named Mayavi came atmidnight to the gate of Kishkindha, theircapital, and vauntingly challenged Vali toinstant combat in pursuance of an ancientfeud.
  • 112. Vali, who never refused a fight, rushedforth impetuously, followed by Sugriva;and seeing them, the Rakshasa fled.Pursuing him they saw him disappear intoa great cave the mouth of which wasovergrown with brushwood. Vali badeSugriva, exacting an oath from him, towait at the entrance for him and plungedinto the darkness of the cave after the foe.Sugriva waited long, but Vali did notcome out. As he stood racked with doubt,indistinct shouts and groans, whichseemed to his horror-struck ears hisbrothers, issued from the cave. Presentlythere gushed out of it foaming bloodwhich made him sure that Vali hadperished in the struggle.To make sure that the victoriousRakshasa would not rush out in the elationof triumph and destroy Kishkindha,Sugriva blocked the entrance of the cavewith a huge rock and returned toKishkindha with his tale of Valis death.As a rulerless state invites disaster, he waspersuaded by the ministers and elders tooccupy the vacant throne.While he was enjoying the sweets ofpower, like a bolt from the blue, Valiburst on them. Haggard with wrath andwounds, and accusing him of treason andunnatural conduct towards one who was atonce his brother and his king, Vali drovehim out with scorn and contumely as awretch too vile to live, but whom heforebore to slay only because he wasunfortunately also his brother.So by a cruel fate he had been deprivedof his home, throne, and all, includingeven his wife, and had to seek asylum inthe forest with a few faithful friends. Hereat least he was safe, for Vali had beenforbidden by a rishi from entering theprecincts on pain of instant death.This incident between Vali and Sugrivais a good example of the moral teachingconveyed in the Puranas. There wasnothing terribly wrong in the conducteither of Vali or of Sugriva. Angerconfuses the mind. One who yields toanger loses the capacity to see the truth.That way lies destruction. Valis anger ledto his end. Sugriva humbly confessed thetruth, but Vali would not listen.He was beside himself with rage.Sugriva too, was guilty of imprudenthaste. He concluded too quickly that hisbrother had died. He was afraid that theAsura who was victorious would comeout and kill him also. So he closed theentrance of the cave and returned home.At first he was not keen on becoming kingand yet he allowed himself to bepersuaded by the people.He yielded to a subconscious desirewithout sufficient thought. So difficultiescame upon him. Thoughtless action leadsto unhappiness. This is what we learnfrom the story of Sugriva. One should notdesire what belongs to another. One has toexercise great care, and control onesdesires.In contrast to Sugriva, when theministers and subjects in Ayodhya pressedBharata to accept the crown, he was firmin his refusal. Bharatas strength ofcharacter was great. But Sugriva wasdifferent. He was weak, and suffered inconsequence. Bharata had the courage torefuse and his name lives forever.In every episode of the Ramayanasome lesson which we should learn forour daily life is taught. The meaning is insome places plain; in others it may liehidden. If we read with reverence andthink deeply, we can always see themoral.Sugriva concluded his story with apiteous appeal to Rama. "For fear of Vali Iam a wanderer in the forest. I liveconcealing myself here. Could you, willyou, kill Vali and restore to me mykingdom and my wife?"
  • 113. Rama answered: "Certainly I will. Valicannot escape this now. Be assured."As Sugriva and Rama were talkingthus, in the Asoka grove far away, the lefteyelids of Sita throbbed, which is a goodomen for women. At the same time, theleft eyelids of the Rakshasa king alsothrobbed as an evil sign.41. HE SEES HER JEWELSTHEN Sugriva heard the story of thecalamity that had befallen the Raghuprinces at Panchavati and how Ramasheart was breaking with the ache ofseparation from Sita and anxiety as to herfate. Deeply touched, Sugriva tried toconsole Rama. "I have heard everythingfrom Lakshmana," he said. "Lay aside alldoubts and fears. We shall surely discoverSita, wherever she may be concealed, andthat, soon. My companions and myselfnoticed a Rakshasa carrying a weepinglady and speeding fast across the sky. Shewas crying O Rama! O Lakshmana! Shetoo noticed us and, removing her sash,tied up in it her jewels and threw down thelittle bundle. We picked up and have keptit. See if the jewels are Sitas."On hearing this Rama excitedlyshouted: "Fetch the bundle, fetch it."They brought it from the cave andwhen Rama saw the sash he was besidehimself with grief. The little bundlebrought before his eyes the suffering ofSita at the hands of the Rakshasa.He closed his eyes and told Lakshmanato untie the bundle and examine the jewelssince he himself could not bear to look atthem.Lakshmana did so. "Indeed these areSitas anklets," LakShmana said. "There isno doubt they are hers. These I know, foroften have I seen them while laying myhead on her feet in worship. The others Iam not familiar with, never havingpresumed to look closely at them."How full of loving reverence is thisspeech which Valmiki puts in the mouthof Lakshmana and how cruelly must Sitasunjust words have pierced his heart on thefateful day when she drove him from her.Rama took all the jewels in his handsand pressed them one by one to his eyes.He said: "They must have fallen on thesoft grass and so they are intact."Then, grief giving place to rage, hesaid: "Yamas gates are wide open toreceive the Rakshasa. Soon will he bedestroyed with all his people."Seeing Ramas grief and wrath, Sugrivabecame somewhat anxious. Though theirmutual friendship and help had beenpledged in the presence of the sacred fire,Sugriva was concerned over the questionof priorities.Sugrivas heart went to Rama in hissuffering, indeed, he himself knew what itwas to lose kingdom and wife. But then,first thing must come first. He mustapproach the subject guardedly and notseem to place his own affairs beforeRamas. That might jeopardise theirnewborn friendship. But it was not purelyselfish to say that he, as King ofKishkindha and lord of his tribe, would bea far more serviceable ally than he couldbe as a fugitive pretender.Besides, if he launched on theenterprise of reclaiming Sita when Valiwas still king of the Vanaras, one couldnot guess what Valis course may be. Ohno! There could be no doubt that the firstmove in the enterprise must be to securethe resources of the Vanara kingdom bykilling Vali and placing himself on thethrone.This alone would bring success toRama as well as himself. But realisingRamas state of mind, he resolved to actwith circumspection.He said: "I do not know the strength orthe dwelling place of this wicked
  • 114. Rakshasa. We do not know where he hastaken Sita and where he keeps her hidden.Still, I promise you solemnly, whereverSita may be, I shall find her and her captorand find ways of destroying him andrecovering her. You will kill the wickedRakshasa and win glory. Do not despair oryield to grief that weakens the spirit. Lookat me. Like you, I have lost my wife. Ihave been turned out of my kingdom anddisgraced. And yet I control my sorrowand keep my courage up. If I a Vanara,can do this, it should be far easier for you.If sorrow overwhelms, one becomeshelpless and can do nothing. Therefore,friend, I beg of you to control your grief."These words of Sugriva made animpression on Ramas heart. He wiped thetears off his eyes and embraced Sugriva.He got over the weakness that possessedhim at the sight of Sitas jewels andrecovered his fortitude and self-control."Sugriva, your friendship is dear tome," he said. "I shall follow your advice.Think out when and how we should beginthe search for Sita. I shall make yourcause mine, and place you on the throneof Kishkindha and I, who say this, havenever uttered a vain or false word in mylife and never will. Tell me frankly how Ican bring you relief. I shall do it."Sugriva and his ministers wereoverjoyed to hear Ramas words. Theywere convinced that soon their troubleswould end and Sugriva would once againbecome king of the Vanaras.42. SUGRIVAS DOUBTSCLEAREDSUGRIVA was keen on regaining hiskingdom and family, but he could not seehow this was to be. Valis strength stoodas an impossible barrier between him andthe fulfilment of his desire.Hanuman, his minister, tried toconvince him that is would succeed withRamas help, but Sugrivas doubtspersisted. Could Ramas strengthovercome Valis? It all looked hopelesslyimpossible. Valis body was like steel.How was Rama going to kill him?Sugriva had these doubts about Rama.But he had none else to help him. And hewas not prepared to give up his desire. Hedecided to test Ramas strength.But how is one to subject a friend to atest without discourteously betraying onessuspicion? Rama had promised to get thething done. How was an occasion to becreated to measure his ability? Sugrivathought long and formed a plan.He told Rama softly: "My Lord Rama!Your words have banished sorrow frommy heart. I know your valor. An arrowfrom your bow can destroy the threeworlds. How can Valis frame standagainst it? Still it is my duty to tell you allabout Valis strength. He can go round tothe four oceans to take up in his palm andsip the water with the morning prayers.He can toss and play with a heavy rock asif it were a ball. He can pull out mightyforest trees as if they were blades of grass.Once Dundubhi, an Asura in buffalo formpossessing the strength of a thousandelephants, challenged Ocean to a fight.Ocean evaded saying: You should fightwith an equal. There in the north standsHimavan. Go and challenge him. Leavepoor me alone. Dundubhi agreed and,speeding northwards, met and challengedHimavan, going his rocky side with hishorns. Himavan controlled his temper andsaid: Why do you assault me? I am not afighter. I spend my life in the company ofsages who love to stay with me.Dundubhi answered: Very well, then. Buttell me of some one I can fight with. Iwant a worthy foeman today. Himavansaid: There is one in the south who is afoe worthy of you. He is Vali, the VanaraKing. His strength is like his fatherIndras. If you care, you may go to him
  • 115. and challenge him to fight. Dundubhiwent straight to Valis place and raised aloud uproar at the entrance of Kishkindha.He tore up trees and pulled down the gateand roared, Come out and prove yourstrength in a fight with me. Vali was thenresting with his queen. On hearing thechallenge he came out accompanied bythe women of his palace. Why, ODundubhi, do you raise this clamor at mycity gate? be asked. Are you tired of life?Valis scornful address enraged the Asurawho said: Dont boast of your strength inthe presence of your admiring women. Ihave come here for a fight with you. Ifyou have any manliness in you, come outand show it. You will say you are toodrunk now to fight; but I am willing towait till you become sober. If you like youmay spend the night in your pleasures andbid a tearful leave of all your dear onesand come to me in the morning to be slainby me. Vali laughed at Dundubhis wordsand said: My dear women, go inside. OAsura, I am not the worse for drink and ifyou want a fight, there is no time like thepresent. The drinks I have had are whatthe warrior takes before he goes intobattle! So saying and with a laugh he tookhold of the Asura by his tail and whirledhim round and flung him. Dundubhi spatblood and fell on the ground. After awhile the Asura rose again and a greatbattle followed. Vali, son of Indra,pounded the Asura to death. And he flungthe dead buffalo so that it fell on theground at the distance of a yojana. Dropsof blood from the Asuras body werecarried by the wind and fell on theashrama of Matanga. The sage was wrothand soon found out who was responsiblefor this contamination. He saw at oncethat Vali in his pride had flung a bleedingcarcass and desecrated the holy spot. Thesage pronounced a curse, If this Valienters the precincts of this ashrama, hewill lose his life. That is why, O Rama,with my friends I am living here in safety.Vali dare not approach this place for fearof the curse. Look at these sal trees. Hecan pluck one of them and just shake allthe leaves off as one dusts a jacket. Suchis his strength. How could I, havingincurred this terrible brothers enmity, feelsecure?"Lakshmana understood that Sugrivaneeded a demonstration of Ramasprowess to give him confidence and hesaid: "How would you like Rama to showyou his confidence to conquer Vali?"Sugriva answered: "Indeed, I have nodoubts. I know Ramas prowess thoughnow it is hidden as embers in ashes. I havesought refuge under him. And yet, when Irecall Valis mighty deeds, I tremble. Thatis all."Seeing Sugrivas faith in him and hisgreat fear of Vali, Rama resolved to put anend to his doubts. By a playful flip of histoe he sent the enormous skeleton ofDundubhi which was lying there, flying inthe air to a distance of ten yojanas. ButSugriva though impressed was notconvinced. "When my brother sentDundubhis carcass hurling in the sky, itwas full of flesh and blood and far heavierthan this weather-beaten skeleton," hesaid.Then Rama bent his bow and, pullingthe string to his ear, sent forth an arrow. Itpierced the sal tree pointed out by Sugrivaand six other trees standing behind it.Piercing the seven trees the beautifularrow touched the earth and returned toRamas quiver.Sugriva, seeing this, was besidehimself with joy. He was now certain thatRamas arrow could pierce the adamantframe of Vali. He fell prostrate beforeRama and said: "With my own eyes I havenow seen your prowess. Even if all thegods with Indra at their head should come
  • 116. and oppose you, your victory is certain.Why then talk of Vali? I have gained yourfriendship and I have no more use for fearor grief. Slay Vali and save me. Let us goto Kishkindha today."Both Rama and Lakshmana agreed.They talked how to set about and it wasfinally agreed that Sugriva should appearin Kishkindha and challenge Vali to singlecombat. Vali was sure to come out, and asthe brothers were fighting, Rama wouldkill Vali with an arrow. They proceeded toKishkindha. Sugriva went ahead. Ramafollowed him and stood away behind atree in the dense forest.Sugriva shouted. Vali heard the shoutand in great rage emerged from thefortress, radiant like the morning sun.The two brothers fought each otherfiercely.But Rama, who was standing bow inhand behind a tree, was bewildered. Asthey wrestled together the brothers wereso similar in form and feature, inequipment and method of fighting, thatRama could not distinguish Vali fromSugriva and was afraid to shoot lest he killthe wrong combatant.Meantime Sugriva, having the worst ofthe fight, broke from his brothers gripwith a desperate effort and, wounded andweary, disappointed and despondent, fledfor life and reached Rishyamuka forest.Even this he was able to do becauseVali did not wish to slay him and was notunwilling to give his brother another leaseof life.Rama and Lakshmana rejoined thewoebegone Sugriva. He looked down atthe ground without lifting his eyes. Hewas angry that Rama had broken his wordand failed to help him."If you did not like to kill Vali," saidSugriva, "you could have told me soearlier. In that case, I, who know Valismight, would never have challenged himto fight. On the contrary, you made mebelieve you, and I have had such adrubbing that it is a wonder I am alive.""Do not be angry, Sugriva, but listen,"said Rama. "There was a good reason whyI could not send forth my deadly arrow.You and Vali were alike in height andgirth, in gait and shouts, in dress andornaments. Once the fight began, I couldnot tell you from Vali. And I stoodbewildered and helpless. It would havebeen terrible if I killed you instead ofVali. Do not be angry. Challenge Valionce again. This time I shall surely slayhim. Here, Lakshmana, fetch thatflowering creeper. Tie it round Sugrivasneck as a garland. I shall then know whois our friend and who is Vali as they fight.Now, Sugriva, you shall see Vali rollingon the ground."Sugriva was satisfied. His spiritsrecovered. Lakshmana tied the creeperround his neck. Once again, andhandsomer than ever, Sugriva proceededto Kishkindha. And Rama and Lakshmanafollowed him as before.43. THE SLAYING OF VALIEVENING was approaching. Oncemore Sugriva roared at the gate ofKishkindha and challenged Vali to fight.Vali who was then resting happily wasstartled and for a moment paled withpuzzled concern, but was presentlyoverwhelmed with rage and sprungstamping the earth as though he wouldsplit it.Tara, his queen, her heart full of lovingfear, held him in arms in a close embraceand tried to restrain his impetuosity withaffectionate counsel. "Put away this wrath,my dear lord, as one puts away a usedgarland, for you have had enough fightingtoday. Tomorrow would do as well foranother battle, for you lack neitherenemies nor valor. I pray you not to rushout on the instant. It seems to me that you
  • 117. should think calmly before going out nowto meet your brother. I am afraid there is adeeper game. Your brother was defeatedand disgraced and ran for dear life andconcealed himself for safety. Now he hasreturned and raises this noise. Yourbrother is not such a fool as to challengeyou again so soon after the punishmentyou inflicted on him unless he wasassured of help and protection from aninvincible ally of tried prowess. Did younot observe that his very roar of challengehad a new note of confidence in it? I shalltell you what I heard from Angada whohad it from our scouts who range theforests. Two princes of unrivalled valor,Rama and Lakshmana have come fromAyodhya and Sugriva has secured thepromise of their assistance. After all, mylord, your brother is virtuous and brave.Why should you hate him? Who in theworld is closer to us than he? He will beyour devoted servant and strong ally. It isbest to forget the past and make it up withSugriva. My dear Lord, listen to mywords!"Vali disliked this advice. Angerclouded his intellect. Caught and draggedby the noose of death, he could not seereason and only became more fixed in hisresolve.Tara, bright and beautiful as becameher name Tara meaning star, spoke invain."What are you saying?" he said. "Am Ito hear in silence the ringing challenge ofthis enemy-brother? When a foe calls tobattle is a warrior to hang back? Deathwould be better than such cowardice.Dont you worry about Rama. He knowsdharma; he is one brought up in the fear ofsin. Oh, let me alone, will you? I may tellyou I shall not kill Sugriva, only I willteach the presumptuous fellow a lesson hewont forget and let him go. Let me go, Itell you. You have spoken out of thefullness of your love for me. I shallhumble Sugriva and send him back andreturn soon with victory. Have no fear forme."Thus Valmiki pictures Vali, hischivalry, his dauntless and impatientvalor, his tenderness. It is true Valmikishero has to kill the Vanara king, the epicrequires it. But the slain warrior was anoble knight, worthy of the readersadmiration and tears.Tara, with tears in her eyes,circumambulated him and praying for hissuccess returned to her apartment full ofgrave apprehension. Leaving Tara and hercompanions behind, Vali issued from thefort hissing like an angry cobra and wentto meet Sugriva.As he saw him standing there, radiantand courageous, he girt his loins andsprang on him. And Sugriva too ranforward to meet Vali."If you love your life," warned Vali,"run away. Do not fall a victim to this fistof mine!"Sugriva retorted angrily and the battlebegan. Fierce with remembered wrongsand keyed up above himself by thecertainty of Ramas help, Sugrivamaintained for long an equal combat. Butpresently Valis greater might began toprevail and Sugriva was in such obviousdistress that Rama who was watching withready bow knew he could not hold outmuch longer.It was now or never and placing adeadly arrow on the string and pulling itto his ear, Rama sped it at Valis mightychest. Pierced by that irresistible shaftVali crashed down as falls a great foresttree cut asunder by the woodmans axeand lay stretched on the groundempurpled with blood as lies the festivalflag-staff pulled down when the festival isended.
  • 118. Even so, he was radiantly handsome,his noble figure shining like a cloud lit upby the setting sun. The divine necklacegiven to him by Indra shone on his breast,which guarded his life and fortune. Thisjewel, Ramas dart, the bleeding wound,all added lustre to his mighty body.Valmiki describes beautifully themajestic appearance of the fallen hero. Atrue warrior is never so beautiful as whenhe lies dying on the field of battle.Astounded at being hit and laid low,when he least expected it from anunknown quarter, Vali looked round inperplexed surprise and saw Rama andLakshmana approaching him bow in hand.With tears of indignant wrath, and in avoice faint with approaching dissolution,he accused them of ignoble perfidy indealing causeless death to a personengaged in combat with another."Rama," he said, "you are the son ofEmperor Dasaratha. Born of a noble raceand famous by your own exploits, howdid you bring yourself to do this deed?The world is full of praises for your valorand virtue. And yet, while I was absorbedin a battle with another, you came unseen,and from behind, shot a fatal arrow at me.How false and undeserved is yourreputation for manly virtue, for truth andforbearance! What will the world think ofyou now? What harm have I ever done toyou? Did I come out to fight with you?You have killed me like an assassinconcealing yourself behind the trees. For aroyal prince to kill an innocent person inthis way is grievous sin. You areunworthy for kingship. The goddess Earthwill never consent to take you for abridegroom. My greatest sorrow is that Iam killed by a base and sinful wretch. If itwas battle with me you wanted, I wouldhave given it to you, and slain by me infair combat you might have been lying inthe dust as I do now. Or if it was help torecover your Sita I would have won herback for you in a day. I would have killedRavana and dragged his body with a roperound the neck and placed it at your feet.No matter where he has hidden Sita, Iwould have discovered her and restoredher to you."Thus Vali, son of Indra, reproachedRama with his dying breath. And all thisis fully set out by Valmiki, the divinepoet, as well as by Kamban. Against thisaccusation what defence could Ramaoffer? Valmiki has it that Rama gavesome explanation with which Vali wassatisfied. But I am omitting all this aspointless and pray that the learned mayforgive me.What I think is that an avatar is anavatar and that among the sorrows that theLord and His consort had to endure intheir earthly incarnation, this liability tohave their actions weighed on the earthlyscales is a part. Vali bruised and bleedingfrom the many wounds of his fight withSugriva, lay in the throes of death.He lived just long enough to see hisqueen and his beloved son Angada. Thepoor bewildered lad who at his mothersbidding to fall at the feet of his father whowas going on a long long journeyprostrated himself in silence, too stunnedto realise the extent of his loss. This willbe narrated later. Valis words wereaddressed to Rama."All is over, I shall blame you no more.My dear, dear son Angada is orphaned.You and Sugriva should look after him. Ientrust him to you. Look after him it isyour duty to see that he does not pineaway like a withering lotus-plant in adried-up tank. Tell Sugriva that he shouldnot imagine that it was Tara who set meup against him. Ask him to treat Angadaas he should treat a prince, with honor andaffection. Do this for me. I want no more.The warriors Heaven is calling me!"
  • 119. So ended Valis life.Owing to the protective virtue ofIndras necklace, Rama could not havemet Vali face to face and vanquished him,just as Ravana could not be conquered bythe gods. Rama could kill Vali only whenhimself unseen. And still the questionstands, why should Vali have been killedat all?Perhaps the answer is to be found inwhat Kabandha said to Rama in gratitudefor being released from his curse."Through Sugrivas friendship you willrecover Sita," Sugrivas help not Valis.And so Rama went in search of Sugriva,found him and pledged his friendship andconsecrated it by fire. Sugriva hadcommitted no unforgivable offenceagainst Vali. Yet Vali, with hissupernatural strength, persecuted hisbrother.Hearing the latters complaint, Ramahad pledged his word to kill Vali andrestore to Sugriva his wife and make himking as his part of the contract of alliance.Thereafter, Rama had no alternative. Tokill Vali from cover became an inevitablenecessity. Rama erred in running after themagic deer to please his wife.Consequent on this, difficulties andsorrows and conflicts of duty pursuedhim. If we keep in mind that when Godtakes a lower and limited form by Hisown ordinance, limitations follow and weshould not be confused thereby. This ismy humble view as against otherexplanations propounded by the pious.44. TARAS GRIEFTHERE was panic in Kishkindha whenthe news came that Vali had been slain byan archer, and the Vanaras fled hither andthither in hopeless confusion. Tara, seeingthis, laid aside her own grief and like aqueen put courage in her husbandssubjects saying: "Till this day you walkedbefore the King to battle! Why, then doyou flee in fear now? There is no dangerfor you. Rama killed Vali only to makeSugriva king. Your lives are in no danger;you will only have a different ruler; that isall. You need not fly or fear."When she tried to go to the spot whereher husband lay dead, the Vanaras stoppedher saying: "We shall crown Angada kingand we shall make safe the fortress. Weshall defend the town against Sugriva andhis allies."But she said: "Now my noble lord isdead, nothing matters." And boldly shewent straight to where Rama andLakshmana were standing.When she saw her husband lyingwounded to death she could not controlher sorrow. She sobbed and cried."Ah my hero!" she wept embracing thewounded Vali. "How many heroes haveyou laid low and now you lie lowyourself! And you have left me here!"Soon Valis son Angada reached thespot. And Sugriva, witnessing this scene,was filled with remorse at the thought thatit was all for him that this calamity hadhappened. The remorse was no doubtgenuine. For invariably revenge,especially revenge wreaked on those whohave been friends in other day; bringsnothing but bitterness and grief, and themomentary feeling of triumph is all ashesto the taste. How few of us realise this inthe confusion created by desires andanger!Tara rolled on the ground andlamented: "Leaving dear Angada anorphan and myself a helpless destitute youhave gone on the journey from whichthere is no return. My Lord! My hero! "Hanuman tried to console her: "Thedead reach their places in heaven. Whylament for Vali? Angada will be crownedin due course and we shall then rejoice. Itis our duty to look after Angada. Let us
  • 120. now think of performing Valisobsequies.""I care for nothing," answered Tara. "Itis for Sugriva to perform the obsequiesand to look after Angada. What is therefor me to do? Can a thousand Angadasequal in my eyes my husband? With him Ishall enter the house of Yama. That alonewill please me."Vali, unconscious till now, opened hiseyes for the last time and addressingSugriva said: "Brother, we two could havebeen friends and reigned happily over thekingdom. But it was not given to us to beso wise and happy. I am more to blamethan you, but why talk about that now?Hereafter you shall rule the kingdom. Ihave entrusted to you Angada, my son,dearer than life itself to Tara and me. Heis a warrior equal to you in prowess. Be afather to him and look after him withkindness. This is my only request to you.And be kind to Tara who was not only ablameless and affectionate wife, but also avery wise and far-sighted counsellor.Whatever she foretells is bound to happen.Do not disregard her advice on anymatter. Here, take the necklace that Indragave me and take with it its secret power.My life is over and so is my resentment.May you be happy!" Thus the generousVali blessed his brother Sugriva.He gave good advice to Angada:"Sugriva is now your king. Be loyal tohim and give him patient, affectionateservice."Like a flowering creeper embracing aforest tree felled down by an axe, Tara layon the ground clinging to Vali.Nila, as gently as he could, drew outthe dart from Valis chest.Blood gushed out of the wound andspread into a pool. Valis life left his body.Tara lamented loudly. "For the last timesalute your father," she bade Angada inheart-broken accents. "O my husband!Your dear son is bowing before you. Willyou not say a word to him? Alas! I am awidow and he is an orphan."The sight of all this struck Sugriva tothe heart. He said to himself: "Moved bydesire I closed the entrance of the caveand leaving Vali there, I seized andenjoyed his wealth. What a sinner have Ibeen!"It may be that in his penitent moodSugriva accused himself wrongly, but it isalso true that, without our knowledge,desire corrupts our mind and leads us towrong actions and entangles us in sin.Sugriva felt that desire had unknowinglyblinded and betrayed him.Kama in Sanskrit stands for lust andgreed and every kind of desire. Kama ismans internal foe which he has tovanquish. This is the lesson taught in thelast seven slokas of the third chapter ofthe Gita. Sri Krishna concludes hisexhortation with these words: "JahiSatrum Kamaroopam Durasadam."If desire corrupted Sugrivas mind,anger corrupted Valis. When Vali sawthat Sugriva had barred the entrance andleft him shut up in the cave he feltconvinced that Sugriva had accompaniedhim in his pursuit of the Rakshasa not as abrother but with a treacherous motive. Heconcluded that Sugriva had planned tosacrifice him to the Asura and usurp hisplace.He became a prey to his own fury. Hedisgraced and drove out his blood brotherand nursed his anger. Anger (krodha, as itis called in Sanskrit) betrayed Vali intosin.Indeed kama and krodha are theultimate causes of all sin. Unless wedefend our heart against these foes andkeep them out, we cannot escape sin.Sugriva lamented: "Though my sin wasgreat, he would not kill me. He drove meout and allowed me to escape with life.
  • 121. That was all. But I conspired to slay himand succeeded. There is no sinner like mein the world and yet with his last breath hegave me the kingdom to rule and gave,too, the gift of Indra, the necklace ofpower. Indeed he was noble. Why shouldI still cling to this base life, I, who broughtabout the death of my heroic brother?"At least once a year, men that followancient custom utter the prayerKamokarsheet manyurakarsheet. That is:Desire lured me into sin, anger lured meinto sin. So saying many times withhumble penitence, they seek to cleansetheir hearts. This is a practice that allshould follow, to repent and purify theheart and surrender it to the Lord,Kamokarsheet manyurakarsheet,Narayanaya namah.With fear and hesitation, Rama gentlyapproached the weeping Tara. But therewas no sign of anger on her face. Thewords she addressed to the slayer of herhusband were worthy of a heros queen."With the weapon with which, O Warrior,you killed my husband, kill me too andenable me to join him. Even in heaven, hewill not be happy without me. Do not fearit would be a sin. It will be a meritoriousact to unite husband and wife. This willcleanse your sin, your treacherous slayingof my husband."Valmiki says at this stage that Taraknew the truth of Ramas incarnation andsaw Vishnu in him. The traditional beliefis that, like Sumitra, the mother ofLakshmana, Tara, the wife of Vali, was ajnani, a knower of Reality. Though at firstshe hated Rama for his treachery, yetwhen she saw him face to face she saw hisdivinity, so it is said.Those who read the Ramayana as amere tale would find all this pointless. Butto the followers of bhakti marga, this willnot sound improbable. Tulasidas sings atthis point that Siva explains to Parvati:"Look, Uma, how Rama, the SupremeBeing, moves all creatures like puppetstied to strings!" Bhakti is needed to realisethe full meaning of Hindu ancientmythology.Even on a rational basis, Tara comesout as a diplomat, an expert instatesmanship. She had the intelligence toanticipate coming events. What hadhappened had happened. By his addressand good fortune, Sugriva had secured thealliance of Rama. Vali was no more;Angadas welfare was all that she shouldcare for hereafter.Could Angada afford to antagoniseSugriva with Rama and Lakshmana readyto support him bow in hand? Peace, notwar was indicated.Hence, when she concealed her angerfrom Rama and put on an appearance ofpatient submission to events, she wasreally securing the best interests ofAngada and winning for him thecompassion and sympathy of all.Valis obsequies were performed withdue form and ceremony. After theauspicious bath, Sugriva was crownedking and Angada was made Yuvaraja.45. ANGER ANDRECONCILIATIONTHE rainy season began. Sugriva andhis companions spent the time inKishkindha in enjoyment but Rama andLakshmana spent the weary days waitingin a cave nearby. The forest paths wereflooded and became rushing torrents,impossible to traverse. The search forSita, therefore, had to be suspended. Ramabrooded over Sitas predicament and wasplunged in sorrow. Lakshmana counselledhim to bear with the delay till the rainyseason ended. And Rama held his soul inpatience.The edge of the keenest sorrow wearswith time and perhaps Heavens kindestgifts to men are sleep for the fleeting cares
  • 122. of the day and forgetfulness for the deep-seated injuries of the heart. Kishkindhamourned her Vali for a time, and thenrejoiced in Sugriva and the survivors.Sugriva forgot the privations of his exileand the remorse for his brothers death. Heenjoyed to the full his present prosperityand even Tara reconciled and adaptedherself to altered circumstances in theinterests of her son.The royal palace of Kishkindha wasfull of joy and drinking, and the gloomymonths of rain, which the Raghu brothersspent in leaden repining, sped withgolden-winged enjoyment for Sugriva andhis household. Only Hanuman feltanxious. He could not forget Ramasbusiness. He was looking out for anopportunity to remind the king of hispledge to Rama.At last, the rains ceased and the skywas cleared of cloud and lightning. Theair was sweet with the perfumes offlowers and the songs of birds and joycame to life in the forest again. Theintelligent and high virtuous Hanumannow approached his king. Sugriva hadentrusted all official duties to theministers and was absorbed in pleasure.Hanuman knew that the wisest and best ofmen neglect their promises in suchcircumstances and addressed the king withgreat politeness:"You have regained the kingdom ofyour ancestors and are in securepossession and enjoyment of it. Butsomething yet remains to be done. Youmust fulfil your promise to your allies andso increase your fame and strengthen yourpower. Even at the sacrifice of ones owninterests and pleasure, one should carryout the business of ones friends accordingto ones promise. Only so can a kingsauthority and reputation grow. It will bebest to fulfil ones promise before the duedate. In any case delay should be avoided.Fulfilment after the promised date isworse than useless. One should not wait tobe reminded by ones friends of what hadbeen promised to them. All this you knowwithout my telling you. Rememberingwhat Rama had done for us. We must takesteps to fulfil our promise without waitingto be reminded by him. The rainy seasonis over. There is no ground for furtherdelay. We can no longer postpone the taskof searching for Sita. Rama may be verypatient, but that does not justify anyfurther delay on our part. Did not Ramakill your foe promptly, not minding thedanger or the blame involved? We shouldfulfil our promise with equal promptness."Thus politely did Maruti convey hisadvice to Sugriva. The latter accepted itand, thanking Hanuman, ordered Nila tomobilise the Vanara army. "All the worldmust be searched and Sita found," he said."Order therefore the most powerfulVanaras to come and join up at once.Those who fail will be summarilypunished." Having said this, Sugriva wentback into private apartments.Rama and Lakshmana spent the time intheir cave waiting for the end of the rainyseason and the fulfilment by Sugriva ofhis promise. But when the rains were overand the forest and its creatures shone withrenewed beauty, Rama grieved intenselyat the thought of Sita suffering at thehands of the Rakshasas."The world is full of life and joy," saidRama. "But Sita is in agony somewhere.And I sit still here, awaiting the favor ofthis ungrateful Vanara king. Alas, shewalked cheerfully through the Dandakaforest, as if it were a palace-park. She didnot mind the stony ground and the thornsin the path. What must be her sufferingnow? But this king, drowned in his cupsand revelling in the company of hiswomen, has forgotten his promise to me.Lakshmana! Go at once to Kishkindha
  • 123. and tell this base king: Remember! Knowthat the path still yawns open whereby theslaughtered Vali went to his doom. Do notfollow him, but fulfil your promise to me.Ruin awaits him who forgets kindnessand, neglects friends. Beware of Ramasarrows. The four months of the rainyseason are over. These four months werelike four ages to Rama, but to you,steeped in pleasures, they have perhapssped like minutes! By delay you incurRamas wrath and seek your destruction.Go, Lakshmana, and tell him this."This was the angry and impatientmessage Rama wanted Lakshmana to taketo Sugriva.Carrying this weight of his brothersgrief and anger, Lakshmana was about toleave. Then Rama thought again. He knewLakshmanas nature and feared dangerfrom his rashness. So he called him backand said to him: "In conveying mycomplaint to Sugriva, do not be harsh.Whatever his faults, he is our friend. Pointout his faults to him, but say nothingharsh."Lakshmana agreed, but he found ithard to control his own anger as heapproached the gates of Kishkindha.Noting the severe face of Lakshmanawho was fully armed, the Vanara sentrybecame alert and made ready to guard thefortress. This enraged Lakshmana stillfurther.Some Vanaras ran to the innerapartments and reported to Sugriva:"Lakshmana, furious with anger, iscoming here bow in hand. We could notstop him."But the Vanara king was tipsy andsurrounded by women and he took nonotice. The kings servants ordered thesentry at the gates to stand firm andprevent the entry of any one. Lakshmanasanger became quite uncontrollable.Lakshmana forced his way in. There hemet young Angada, the thought of whoseyouth and misfortunes took awaysomething of the edge of his wrath. "Mychild go and tell the Vanara king," he said,"that Lakshmana is waiting at the palacegate to have audience of him on behalf ofhis grief stricken brother."Angada went accordingly to the kingsapartment and informed him ofLakshmanas visit. But Sugriva was in nocondition to understand. Angada saw thisand took counsel with the ministers as towhat should be done. Hanuman and someof the fellow ministers gently explainedwhat was happening and Sugriva was atlast roused from his tipsy condition.Sugriva said: "I am not at fault, am I?Why should my friends Rama andLakshmana be angry with me? Someenemy must have carried tales and setthem up against me."Hanuman answered: "It is my duty, Oking, to say these things and I say them.Do not be angry with me. We havedelayed in carrying out our promise toRama. We have forgotten Ramas grief. Itis late, but not too late. Hence let us doquickly what we should. Let us seekforgiveness from Lakshmana. Let us,without further delay, take steps to fulfilour promise to Rama."Then Sugriva agreed to receiveLakshmana.As Lakshmana went into the Vanaratown, he marvelled at its beauty and theculture of Kishkindha. Passing throughbeautiful streets, he stood outside thekings palace. Hearing the sounds ofrevelry, of dance and song, proceedingfrom within, he saw that the Vanaras hadforgotten their promise and were lost inenjoyment. He could hardly control hisanger. Still he held back from entering thewomens chamber and, standing in acorner, outside, he twanged his bowstring.
  • 124. The sound filled all Kishkindha withfear and trembling. Sugriva, hearing it,realised that the prince was, indeed, angry.He saw the danger and asked Tara to goand pacify the prince. "A chivalrous manlike Lakshmana will find his anger slipfrom him, when he speaks to a lady and itwill be impossible for him to continuewrathful." said the king, shrewd even inhis tipsy condition.Tara advanced towards Lakshmana. Inlooks, in knowledge of the world and skillin speech, Tara was unrivalled She said toLakshmana: "After enduring for a longtime poverty and persecution, Sugriva isenjoying the pleasures and the prosperityyou have secured for him. This enjoymenthas gone to his head and he has lost hissenses. I know his fault, but you shouldforgive him. The high souled that knowsthe foibles and imperfections of ourcommon nature should temper theircensure with compassion. So be not tooharsh in judging of King Sugrivassurrender to temptations of the flesh,especially after his long trials andprivations. But I can assure you, he hasnever lost sight of his debt or his duty toyou. He has already issued orders formobilising the Vanara warriors from allquarters. Today or tomorrow they will allbe here. Then the search for Sita and thewar against Ravana will begin. Have nodoubts. And now, pray come in and seethe King."Lakshmana, now no longer angry,entered the apartment. Sugriva,descending from his seat, welcomedLakshmana."Forgive my faults," he said. "WithRamas friendship and help I am Kingtoday. How can I ever forget what I oweto the valorous and good Rama? He candestroy his foes without any help fromme. I, with my armies, can only followhim. That is all. Surely Ravana willperish. The search for Sita will soonbegin. Do forgive the delay of which I amguilty."Lakshmana was pleased. "Rama isyour equal in honor and prowess, noneelse," he said. "Come with me toRishyamuka and give him words ofcomfort in his grief."Sugriva and Lakshmana went in a litterto Rama and, explaining the arrangementsalready made, satisfied him.Rama was pleased. He said: "Youindeed are a real friend. Like the cloudsyielding rain, the sun destroying darknessand the moon pleasing human hearts, agood friend comes to ones helpspontaneously. I am happy in yourfriendship. Now the end of Ravana andhis race is certain."Even as Rama was expressing hisgratitude and joy, great multitudes ofVanaras under their respective leadersarrived and assembled. They came fromdistant forests, mountains and coasts. Thedust they raised darkened the sky.Millions of monkeys and bears in avariety of shapes and colors were there.Sugriva addressed this enormous armyand showed them their appointed campingplaces. Later, he divided the host intoeight divisions and sent each under itscommander, thoroughly to search in theeight directions for Sita.One point is worth noting here. TheTamil poet Kamban describes Tara as achaste widow living a life of disciplineand privations. It is different in Valmiki,who includes Tara and the other womenas part of the inheritance Sugriva wonfrom Vali, in fact, as an appendage of thethrone. When Sugriva lost himself inbodily pleasures and forgot his duty toRama, Tara shared his revels and isdescribed as being flushed and unsteadywith wine when she went out at her lords
  • 125. command to allay Lakshmanasresentment.In ancient times, when an elder brotherdied leaving a wife, there was a custom inroyal and other noble families for theyounger brother to take the widow as wifeand protect her. It is difficult for people ofone age to judge the customs of anotherage. Imagination and great flexibility ofmind are needed to assess the merits anddefects of usages with which we are notfamiliar.46. THE SEARCH BEGINS"LOOK, Rama, at this Vanara army,"said Sugriva. "All these myriads, ofwondrous strength, are yours to command.They are willing and able to do you all theservice you demand. Consider this hugearmy as your own and bid them to dowhatever you wish."Rama, beside himself with joy;embraced Sugriva. He said: "First weshould find out whether Sita is alive, andif so where she is. Next we should knowRavanas whereabouts. Then we shall dowhat needs to be done. But it is for you,not for me or Lakshmana, to commandthis army. You are their King. Besides,you know best what needs to be done andhow to do it. Blessed am I to have a friendlike you and a brother like Lakshmana!"Then Sugriva issued stringent orders tohis commanders at once to send divisionsof the army to the four quarters of theearth to make a thorough search for Sita.After sending away the other leaders,Sugriva took Hanuman aside and toldhim: "Son of Vayu, possessing thestrength and splendor of your father, youalone can succeed in this task. You havestrength, courage and intelligence and onyou I rely to take up and discharge thisresponsibility of discovering Sita."Rama too felt that Hanumans effortswould be crowned with success. Whateverobstacles turned up, he felt that Hanumanwould find a way of overcoming them. Hegave his signet ring to Hanuman and said:"Take this ring. I am full of hope that youwill discover Sita. This ring will tell herthat you are my messenger. DearHanuman, may you bring Sita and metogether again!"Readers should realise the solemnityand pathos of the scene. Rama full ofabiding trust in the devoted loyalty andvalor of Hanuman placed the ring asthough it was his own hungry heart in hisservants hand. The ideal servant acceptedthe sacred trust with a deep reverence andan unshakable resolve never to fail hismaster.Sugriva gave orders to his army. "Sitamust anyhow be discovered. No matterwhere she is hidden, you can and mustfind her. Within a month you must returnwith news of her."And the army swarmed out like antsfrom an anthill and spread in the fourdirections.Satabali and his army proceedednorthwards. Vinata went east, Sushenawestwards, Hanuman, Angada andGeneral Tara travelled southwards.All were equally enthusiastic andequally eager to catch and kill Ravana andredeem Sita. Each group was anxious tobe first to return with success. There wastumultuous rivalry.Rama enquired of Sugriva: "Youdescribe every quarter and region of theearth like one who has seen the wholeworld with his own eyes. How and whendid you see it all?""You will remember, my Lord," saidSugriva, "how Vali pursued me in alldirections. Wherever I went, he stillpursued me. And so I had to wander overthe face of the whole world. I thus hadoccasion to see every part of this planet.Later, I learnt about the spot where RishiMatanga had built his ashrama. If Vali
  • 126. entered that region, his head would go topieces by the sages curse. I knew that hewould not come to that place and couldnot harm me even if he came. So there Ilay protected."The hordes that went north, east andwest returned in a month and reported thatSita was not to be found anywhere."Carefully we searched forests,mountains, rivers and cities, but nowherecould we find her. Hanuman, who hadgone southwards, is the lucky one. Did notthe Rakshasa carrying Sita also travelsouthwards? And Hanuman has not yetreturned."Rama, hearing this, was satisfied thatthe Vanaras had done their best.Hanuman and Angada entered andsearched the caves and forests of theVindhyas. Then they came upon a desert,where a rishi was performing tapas. Byhis curse it was devoid of trees and plants,of birds and beasts. Travelling furthersouth, they saw a big Asura. The cruelone, regarding the Vanara crowd as agood meal sprang up to catch them. Theythought at first that this was no other thanRavana.Angada rushed towards him and gavehim a mighty blow. Unable to stand it, theAsura spat blood and fell on the earth andlay dead like a great hill. Rejoicing in thethought that Ravana was dead, theVanaras searched the forest for Sita. But,there was no sign of her. And so theycarried the search elsewhere.Often they would weary of theirfruitless search and sit down in blankdespair. At such times, Angada,Gandhamadana or some other leaderwould encourage them and make themresume the search. Many days were spentin this way. Yet Sita was not to be seenand they dreaded Sugrivas displeasure.Very far they travelled southwards intheir search.Passing through a desert, fainting withhunger and thirst, they saw a cave fromwhich issued a variety of birds full of thejoy of life. The gentle breeze which cameout of it covered them with the pollen oflotus flowers and filled them withfragrance. The Vanaras concluded:"undoubtedly there was water where thebirds and perfume came from." And theVanaras forming a chain with linkedhands plunged cautiously into the densedarkness of the cave with hearts full ofhope, though too parched with thirst evento shout.At long last, all of a sudden, lightappeared and they saw a lovely grove withstreams of pellucid water and treesbowing under their wealth of fruit. Thenthey came to a city, with streets pavedwith jewels set in gold and great palacesbeautiful as a dream. They went along andthen they saw an aged tapasvini clad inthe garments of a recluse and seated on adark skin. The Vanaras trembled beforethe divine splendor of her face.Hanuman took courage to approachher. Bowing low before her, he said:"Salutations to you, Mother. May weknow who you are? Thirsty and tired, weentered the dark cave hoping for somewater. And now that we see thisunpeopled golden city with trees andtanks, we are afraid, lest this be a vainvision arising from the madness of toogreat sufferings. Explain all this to us andremove our fears."She answered: "How did you find yourway into this cave? You will have plentyof fruits and drink here. This palace wasbuilt by Maya, the architect of theDanavas. He learnt the art fromSukracharya. Long and happily did Mayalive here, till he incurred the enmity ofIndra, who slew him. Later Indra gave thisgolden palace to Hema, my friend. Thesebuildings and parks are hers. At present
  • 127. she has gone to the abode of the gods. Butwhat is your purpose in coming here?Why did you weary yourselves wanderingin the forests? First eat, drink and refreshyourselves and then tell me all aboutyourselves."They ate and drank and refreshedthemselves and were happy. ThenHanuman explained to the ascetic thepurpose of their wandering."Rama, son of Emperor Dasaratha, forsome reason, left his kingdom and lived inthe forest with his brother and wife. Thena Rakshasa carried off Sita, the wife ofRama. The two went out searching forher. They made the acquaintance ofSugriva, the Vanara King, and becamefriends with him. He has sent us on thismission to search for Sita and find her forRama. Our King fixed a time limit for usto return with a clue. We lost our way inthe darkness of this cave and the period isnow over. Now we do not know what todo. Sugriva is a strict master. For failureto do his bidding within the time set, he issure to visit us with the penalty of death."Swayamprabha, that was the name ofthe ascetic woman, said: "Alas! Youcannot by yourselves go out of this cave.No stranger who enters it can go out of itwith life. But yours is a great mission andI must, by my tapasya, transport you out.Now shut your eyes."Accordingly they shut their eyes. All atonce they found themselves on theseashore.Reaching the seashore, they lookedround and they were start led to discoverthat it was the beginning of spring.Angada lamented: "Alas! The time set hasbeen transgressed. If we return toKishkindha without any clue about Sita,the King will surely punish us with death.He hates me. It was under pressure fromRama that he agreed to make meYuvaraja, not because of love for me.Instead of going there and losing ourlives, let us fast and seek death here andnow." Many of his companions agreedwith Angada.The Vanara General Tara said: "I donot agree. Why should we end our lives?Let us return to the cave of the tapasviniSwamyamprabha and live there happily.There is everything in plenty there.Neither Sugriva nor anyone else can reachthis spot. We shall spend the rest of ourlives, free from care."But Hanuman said: "What unworthytalk is this! What pleasure is there ineating, drinking and sleeping in the cave,leaving our families in farawayKishkindha? Sugriva is a good king whomwe need not fear. And if indeed Sugriva isangry with us and determined to punishus, how can this cave give us safety? Canit stand against Lakshmanas rage? Will henot smash it to pieces and kill us? I see nobenefit in Taras counsel. Let us return andtell Sugriva the whole truth and beg forhis forgiveness. This is the only way tosafety.""I do not agree with Hanuman," saidAngada. "Sugriva has no love or pity forme. He is sure to kill me. He is of a cruelnature. Remember how he killed myfather. He does not want me to live. Hewill find some excuse or other for killingme. He regards me as an obstacle in hisway and that of his progeny, who but forme would inherit Kishkindha. To break apromise is nothing to him. Did he notforget his solemn pledge to Rama that hewould search for and recover Sita? Was itnot only for fear of Lakshmana and hisbow that he sent us on this search? Mypoor bereaved mother has succumbed tofear and accepted Sugrivas protection.She clings to life for my sake. Hearingthat I am dead, she will end her life. Alas!I am miserable and know not what to do."
  • 128. "My death is certain", he said again, "ifI return to Kishkindha. It is far better tofast to death here."He spread on the ground the kusa grassin the manner prescribed for the vow ofdeath, bowed to the gods and the dead andsat facing east, determined to die.When Angada the Yuvaraja took thisvow and sat in the posture of a fast untodeath, the other Vanaras cried in grief and,resolving also to fast with him and die, satfacing east.From a neighboring hill, Sampati, thevulture King, saw this crowd of Vanaras,resigning themselves to fate. Having losthis wings and being unable to move,Sampati had been famishing for a longtime. He now rejoiced, saying to himself:"So many monkeys are going to die heretogether. I shall have enough food for along while without effort."Meanwhile, the Vanaras, expectingdeath, were recalling the past and talkingto one another and loudly lamenting overall that had happened. "Because ofKaikeyi, Dasaratha died," they said:"Because of Dasaratha, Rama had to dwellin the forest. Ravana carried off Sita. Theheroic Jatayu lost his life in the attempt tosave Sita. If the heroic bird had strengthenough to continue the struggle a littlelonger, Rama and Lakshmana would havearrived on the spot and recovered Sita. Byfate did all these things happen and theend of the tale is that we are dying here. Inwhat curious ways does fate work!"Listening to these lamentations,Sampati stared at the mention of Jatayuwho was his brother. Hearing him spokenof as dead, he naturally wished to hear thewhole story.Sampati was very old. He and Jatayuwere the children of Aruna, the god ofDawn and brother of Garuda, Harisvehicle. Jatayu and Sampati in their youthcompeted with each other as to who couldfly higher and rose in the sky. As theyapproached the sun the heat becameintolerable and Jatayu was about to beburnt up.But Sampati spread his wings andprotected his brother from the fury of thesun. Jatayu was saved, but Sampatiswings were burnt off. Unable to fly, hefell down on a hill. Since then he couldnot move but stayed in the same placeever hungry for meal and just alive."Who brings sad news of my dearbrother Jatayu?" he cried in agony. "Oh,Vanaras, is beloved Jatayu dead indeed?Why did Rama son of King Dasaratha, goto the forest? Why did he lose his wife?Was Jatayu killed by Ravana? Tell meall."The Vanaras had resolved to end theirlives. The wingless, old vulture haddesired to make an easy meal of them. Butnow things turned out otherwise. TheVanaras got up, went to Sampati andgently led him down from the hill. Thenthey talked and exchanged information.Sampati recounted his story. Angadarelated all that had happened inKishkindha and asked old Sampati howRama could be helped.Sampati was old and weak, but his eyeshad not lost their keenness. He could seethings very far off. He could see Sitacaptive in Lanka and described in detailthe wealth of Ravanas kingdom. He sawand described how Sita sat surrounded byRakshasis in Lanka. The Vanaras werewild with joy. They jumped about saying,"Now we know all about Sita. There is noneed for us to die, Ramas purpose will beachieved."Sampatis troubles were also over. Theboon he had received that when he helpedRama he would get back his wings cametrue and even as they were talking, youngfeathers began to spring and grow on hissides. Sampati now shone with fresh
  • 129. beauty and he found satisfaction inperforming the funeral obsequies ofJatayu.47. SON OF VAYUFROM Sampati the Vanaras learnt theplace where Sita was kept a prisoner inthe land of the Rakshasa, a hundredyojanas across the ocean. But of course itwould not do to return to Sugriva at oncewith this second-hand information. Theyhad outstayed the allotted time and onlyoutstanding success could save them frompunishment. They could not stop theirsearch till they saw with their own eyeswhat Sampati had described only thencould they fulfil Ramas purpose.But then they had to cross the sea.They went to the edge of the water anddiscussed matters. "How can we cross thesea, enter Lanka, see Sita and return?"Anxiety and fear overwhelmed them.Angada said: "No matter how hard thetask, one should never lose courage.Courage is the key to success. To loseheart is to lose everything."Then he asked each one of hisfollowers to state truly the maximumlength that he could jump."Oh Vanara warriors!" he said, "muchhave I heard from Sugriva of yourprowess. Your strength and yourenterprise are beyond dispute. We shouldfulfil this task. We cannot return toKishkindha without seeing Sita. That iscertain. It is better for us to end our liveshere than to be slain in disgrace by theking. Therefore, tell me, one by one, thelongest jump you have the strength andcourage to attempt."Gaja said modestly: "I can jump tenyojanas." Gavaksha said: "I can dotwenty." Another Vanara leader claimedhe could do thirty.And so each improved on the figure ofthe other. At last Jambavan, the oldest ofthe warriors, spoke:"I am now old and infirm. Yet I wouldgladly spend myself to fulfil our kingscommand. But what will mere devotionavail if not seconded by strength? I think Ican manage ninety yojanas, but this is notenough to cross the sea and reach Lanka. Ican only regret my lost youth."The Yuvaraja himself said: "I can do ahundred yojanas and reach Lanka, I haveno doubt. But I wonder whether I shallhave the strength for another jump ofequal length for the return journey."Jambavan answered, "O prince, youneed not doubt your strength. Yourprowess is as great as Valis. Yet it is notproper for the crown prince to undertakethis task while there are others to do itunder his orders. It is neitherstatesmanlike nor safe for a king to actdirectly."Then Jambavan cast an appraising andadmiring look at Hanuman, who had satapart, listening to the talk, but sayingnothing."I feel that the son of Vayu, sittingthere in silence is the one best fitted bystrength and skill to do this deed," said theold Vanara and walked up to Hanumanand brought him to their midst.Addressing Hanuman in the hearing ofthe myriads of gloomy Vanaras,Jambavan said: "O warrior, learned in allbranches of knowledge, why are yousitting silent and apart? You are the equalof King Sugriva, are you not? In strengthand splendor do you not surpass all therest of us? Why, are you not the equal ofRama and Lakshmana themselves? I haveseen Garuda, the king of birds crossingthe sea. The might of your shoulders is notless than that of Garudas wings. You arenot inferior to the son of Vinata instrength or speed, but you are not aware ofyour own prowess and intelligence. Thereis no equal to you in the whole world.Anjana, your mother, was a maiden
  • 130. among the goddesses above. By the curseof a rishi she was born as a Vanari. Oneday, while she was wandering carefree ona mountain slope, Vayu saw her beautyand fell in love with her and embracedher. She was wroth. Who are you, Owicked one she asked, who dares insultme? The Wind-God answered: Be notangry, your body is not tainted by mytouch and loses not its virgin purity. Notin body but in my hearts desire did Iembrace you and out of this etherealembrace, a child will be born to you,equal to me in strength and vigor. He willbe the mightiest and most intelligentamongst the Vanaras. Thus did the Wind-God pacify Anjana. When you were alittle child, O Hanuman, you imagined therising sun to be a fruit and flew towards itin order to pluck it. Seeing your effortlessand fearless flight Indra, king of the gods,became concerned for the suns safety andhurled his thunderbolt at you. Struckdown by it, you fell on a, mountain andyour right jaw was broken. Enraged bythis, your father the Wind-God stoppedhis movements and stood still. All livingcreatures became breathless and feltstrangled in the stillness. The gods beggedVayu to lay aside his anger and showeredblessings on you. Brahma and Indra gaveyou boons. No weapon can slay you.Death can only come to you at your willand not other wise. You are immortal.Born of Anjana and begotten of the spiritof the Wind-God, you are equal to him insplendor, intelligence and power. But, forall your strength, you are virtuous andmodest. You alone can help us to fulfilRamas purpose. Crossing the sea is nohard task to you. This great army ofVanaras, struggling in a sea of distress,you should rescue. You, who can cross thesea, should not leave your power unused.Increase your stature. You are the equal ofGaruda. Once I too was strong like youand traversed the globe twenty-one times.At the churning of the ocean of milk, Ifetched herbs from the four quarters at thebidding of the gods. But now I am old andweak. You are the sole hope of theVanaras. O, son of Anjana, we beg you,noble one! With your heritage of divinestrength, delay no further. Realise yourtrue strength and spring forward. LikeTrivikrama, you can cross the sea at asingle jump. Do it and end our troubles."The aged Jambavan thus praisedHanuman, reminded him of his strengthand roused his dormant courage. At onceHanumans form began to swell like thesea in high tide. Even as the Vanaras werewatching him, the son of Vayu grew insize. The radiance of his body filledAngada and his companions with wonderand joy.From now on, Hanuman is the hero ofthe Ramayana. The devotees of Vishnulovingly call him the Junior Servant ofHari. The Senior Servant is Garuda who isalways with Vishnu in personalattendance.How the Junior Servant of Hari endedthe grief of Sita, destroyed by fire the cityof Ravana and returned to the Lord andtold him: "I found have Sita," we shallnow proceed to relate. Reminded of hismight by Jambavan, Hanuman was nowdetermined to fulfil Ramas purpose. Andwith fervor he uttered his faith:"May your words come true. Flyingthrough the sky and alighting in Lanka, Ishall see Janaki. I have no doubt. I shallreturn and bring you good news. To takethe jump I must press my foot hardagainst the earth. This hill may stand it,"he said and climbed up the Mahendra hill.There for a while he threw his wholestrength into his foot and walked a fewsteps. The creatures in the hill could notendure it and came out.
  • 131. Standing on the hill, Hanuman lookedat the sea and directed his yoga-concentrated mind towards Lanka. Hesaid to himself: "I shall search and findSita. I shall fly in the sky and cross thesea."With this resolve he offered worshipand prayer to Surya, Indra, Vayu, Brahma,and all creation. Then facing east, hemade obeisance to his father Vayu and,magnifying his frame still further, turnedtowards the south.He pressed the hill with his feet andstruck it with his hands. At this impact theflowers fell from the trees and covered thehill. Squeezed irresistibly by the pressureof his feet the hill threw out springs ofwater, like the rut flowing down thecheeks of the elephant. Many coloredveins of ore burst out of the rock. Fromthe caves the beasts emerged with panic-stricken outcries. Hooded serpentsemitting venom bit the rock and sparksflew out.The hair of Hanumans body stood onend and he roared and lashed his tail onthe ground. He contracted his hind parts,held his breath, pressed down his feet,folded his ears and stiffened his muscles.Then with a roar of triumph he rose intothe sky and like Garuda flew with thespeed of Ramas arrow. With themomentum of his speed, many trees wereuprooted and followed in his wake. Likefriends who speed a parting guest, theyaccompanied him a little way, showeringdown their flowers, and dropped.One by one the trees that followedHanuman fell into the sea like themountains which of old were pursued byIndra and denuded of their wings.Covered with bright-colored flowers thesea shone like the sky with its stars.Hanumans arms with their outspreadhands as he flew through the sky appearedlike two five headed cobras. He seemed toswallow the sky as he flew forward. Hiseyes glistened like mountain forests onfire. His red nose shone like the eveningsun.His huge frame spanned the sky like anenormous comet. The air roared as hesped fast. Beneath him his shadowtravelled like a ship on the sea. It lookedas though a huge mountain with wingswas flying in the sky. Hidden at times byclouds and again emerging from them, heshone like the moon sailing across thesky. The Gandharvas showered flowers.The Devarishis blessed him.With courage equal to every occasion,with foresight, skill and resolution,Hanuman met and survived the trials onthe way. Shooting up suddenly from thesea, a mighty mountain rose and stood, inhis way. Hanuman struck it with his chestand the Mynaka Mountain yielded, like acloud struck by the wind.The mountain said: "My son, I amMount Mynaka. My king Ocean bade mehelp Sri Rama, the descendant of theSagara race. The Ocean is an old friend ofthat race. In honor of that ancient,association, stay here on me for a while.You will fulfil Ramas purpose all thebetter for this rest. When Indra struck withhis thunder all the hills, I fled from hispersecution and hid myself in the oceanand survived. The Ocean who gave meshelter now bids me help you. The sons ofSagara dug and deepened the ocean. Didnot your father Vayu help me to escapefrom Indras thunderbolt and findsanctuary in the sea? Both the Ocean andmyself will be pleased if you will acceptmy hospitality and rest here for a while."But Hanuman could not yield toMynakas importunity and said politely: "Icannot stop, my friend. I have no time tolose. My vow to fulfil Ramas purposepermits no delay. Your kind words areenough to please me."
  • 132. He stroked the mountain affectionatelywith his hand and took its leave.Later, a huge form stood in his wayand said: "Enter my mouth. I have beenwithout food for a long time and ameagerly waiting for you," and the monsteropened its mouth wide like a cave.Hanuman answered: "I am bent ondoing Ramas purpose. Do not stop me.""Impossible!" said the monster. "Youmust enter my mouth."Hanuman thought quickly and decidedwhat to do. Step by step he made his bodygrow bigger and bigger. The Rakshasaform (which had been assumed by Surasa,the Naga maiden) opened its mouthcorrespondingly wider and wider.When the mouth was thus enormouslywide, all of a sudden Hanuman contractedhis body into a speck and, darting throughthe demons mouth and body, came outagain and resumed his former normalshape.He then laughed and said: "You havehad your wish, mother. I have enteredyour mouth. What more do you need?"And the Naga goddess blessed himsaying: "Your effort will be crowned withsuccess. I did this at the bidding of thegods who wanted to test you. Ramaspurpose, which you seek to serve, willassuredly triumph."This was not the last of his trials. As hewas flying in the sky, for no reason whichhe could discover, he found his speedobstructed and he suffered like a shipagainst a contrary wind. Some mightyforce, he felt, was holding him anddragging him down.He looked up and down and on all foursides. Then he discovered the cause. Itwas a huge she-demon in the sea holdinghim by his shadow below, arresting hisspeed, and dragging him down.The demon, holding him by hisshadow, said: "Come, come! Long have Ibeen waiting for you. No longer can I bearmy hunger," and she opened her mouthlike a cave.At once Hanuman entered her mouthand ripped a way out through her entrailsand emerged. The demon died and sankdown in the water. Like the full moonemerging from an eclipse, Hanumanshone in the sky and resumed his journey.Thus surviving many trials with thehelp of his subtle wit, courage andstrength, he flew across the ocean andapproached the coast of Lanka coveredwith plantain and coconut trees.On the shore of the island he sawgroves and mountains and forests and themouths of rivers.Hanuman saw the wealth of Ravanaskingdom and the beauty of the fortifiedcity."I have reached the destination," saidHanuman to himself. "Now withoutletting the Rakshasas know who or what Iam, I must search the place and find outwhere Sita is kept."He reduced his huge form to the size ofa normal monkey and alighted on a hilltopin Lanka.48. THE SEARCH IN LANKAFULL of hope, Hanuman alighted andset foot in Lanka. But soon the flush oftriumph at the accomplishment of thejourney gave place to sober thinking."True I have crossed the sea, but that isonly the beginning of my mission. There,on mount Trikuta, stands Ravanasmagnificent city, as if suspended in thesky. How beautiful, how wealthy, howwell secured it is! The city and the fortressare not inferior to Amaravati orBhagavati. The lovely groves, the elegantbuildings, the engines of defence, deepmoats, these fill me with much admirationbut also with greater concern. Who canattack and vanquish this Ravana? Howcan an army cross the sea that I have just
  • 133. crossed? Even if it crosses the sea andreaches this shore, how can it attack andbring down this fortress defended bybulwarks manned by well-armed warriors!Neither guile nor force can bring it down.But first I must find out whether Sita isalive or not. Other questions can wait.When and how can I best enter this wellguarded city? I have to search itthoroughly, if I am to discover the placewhere Sita is kept. If thoughtlessly I dosomething wrong now, this error would beirretrievable and a great purpose wouldfail because of haste or negligence on mypart. If I enter the, city by day, it will benoticed by the Rakshasas. It is best I go inat night. But in what shape shall I go? Toward off suspicion, I must put on a trivial,inconspicuous shape."Accordingly he shrank to the size of alittle monkey, no bigger than a cat. Toenter and search the palaces and parks ofthis vast city, this would be mostconvenient. His present form was as muchsmaller than his usual size as the latterwas than the mighty proportions he hadassumed as he crossed the sea.By now the sun had set. The littleVanara walked towards the fortress gate.The moon shone brightly. Hanuman wasglad and grateful for this help in hissearch.Even on a distant view Hanumanwondered at the wealth and beautydisplayed in Ravanas capital. The streetsand mansions were bright with flags andfestoons and glittered with gold andprecious gems. The breeze blew gentlyfrom the sea. Like Indras Amaravati andKuberas Alakapuri, Ravanas capital hadattained the peak of prosperity. Themessenger of Rama was filled withwonder and anxiety how to overcome themaster of such wealth and military power.As he was walking along in amazementand anxiety, he was rudely accosted bythe terrible-looking Guardian Goddess ofthe city."Who are you, little monkey? How didyou manage to come here and why areyou here at all? Speak the truth.""Yes, I am indeed a little monkey and Ihave come here to look at this beautifulcity. I shall go back after I have goneround and seen everything and satisfiedmy curiosity."The deity struck an angry blow at themonkey. Hanuman returned the blowcarelessly with his left hand. It doubledher up with agony on the ground.But soon she got up and rememberedthe prophecy that, when a monkey shouldstrike and throw her down, the city sheguarded would be destroyed.She said to herself: "Ravanas sins aremany and grievous. The end of Lanka isapproaching. The word of the gods isabout to be fulfilled." And she stood aside.The goddess of Lanka was not a servantof Ravana. She was the spirit of the city.Hanuman climbed over the wall andjumped into the city. It was part of theancient code of warfare that one shouldnot enter the enemys fortress through theregular gate, but should make his entry inan out-of-the-way manner.Vowing that the Rakshasas should bedestroyed he entered the fortress of Lankawith his left foot foremost, for that meantdefeat for the enemy.He went along the royal street that wasstrewn with beautiful flowers. Likelightning shining through the clouds thebuildings shone against the sky.Clambering up the mansions and goingalong on their roofs, he admired thebeauty of the city. The Rakshasa mansionsand streets and their decorations shonewith ineffable beauty. The sounds ofcultivated and correct music were heard.Lovely women moved about to theaccompaniment of tinkling anklets. The
  • 134. city was filled with sounds indicating afull and joyous life.In some houses mantras were beingchanted. In some others Vedic chantswere heard. In others songs celebratingthe heroic exploits and glory of Ravanawere being sung. Soldiers and scouts wereeverywhere. In the streets were peoplededicated to particular religious practicesand vows. There were others cruel inlooks and ugly. The guards were armedwith bows, swords, cudgels, slings, lancesand other weapons. All the warriors wereclad in armor.Some were handsome, some ugly,complexions varied from fair throughbrown to black. Some figures were verytall, others very short. Thus Hanuman sawthat the population had been drawn from awide area with varying climates and thatthe army had been recruited from the pickof many nations.He examined mansion after mansion.He saw women of exquisite beauty, someof them in the company of their husbandsand others by themselves. He saw manyyoung damsels, bright and beautiful likeimages of molten gold. Some were seatedon the terraces, others were sleeping intheir beds. Some were playing, otherssinging.Innumerable beautiful women he saw,but not Sita pining for Rama. The sight ofso much beauty only filled Hanumansheart with disappointment and sadness.He entered and examined the homes ofmany Rakshasas. There were warelephants, pure-bred horses, chariots andarmories. Soldiers stood fully armed.After passing through many mansionsand gardens filled with merriment andmusic, he came to a great palace risingaloft in a nobility of splendor fartranscending all the magnificent buildingsaround.Looking at the elephants, horses andfoot-soldiers in front, the high wallssurrounding it and the beauty of itsstructure and the richness of itsdecorations, he concluded that this wasRavanas own palace, the central glory ofsplendid Lanka. He entered this palace. Itwas in every way a heaven on earthworthy of Ravanas peerless power andglory. The park, the birds sporting there,the shrines scattered here and there, filledHanuman with wonder.He said to himself: "What wealth, whatbeauty and what bliss!"He was for a while lost in amazement.But soon he recollected that he had not yetfound Sita. Admiration gave place toconcern over the yet unfulfilled purposefor which he had come.Passing through many mansions, heentered the innermost private apartment ofRavana and was almost overcome withthe luxury and richness of its apartmentswhich made it look a very abode of thegods. Everywhere was gold and silver,ivory and gems and pearls, and beautifulcarpets and furniture and in their midst hesaw the Pushpaka Vimana.It was a magic vehicle obtained fromBrahma by Kubera. Vanquishing Kubera,Ravana brought it to Lanka as his booty.As from Vasishthas cow, in the Pushpakacar one could get anything one desired.Ravanas chamber, which Hanumannow entered, was a very ocean of delight.Countless lovely women lay sleeping inthe spacious chamber, some linked arm inarm and all in undress and the carelessattitudes of sleep, making the place looklike garden of bright, flower-ladencreepers.With his spirit controlled by dharma,Hanuman looked at all these sleepingwomen, each more beautiful than theother and all filled with joy and love, tosee if any of them could be Sita. Ravanas
  • 135. power to take what shape he would and toplease all women was evident from thesight of these lovely women.Hanuman pulled himself togetherreproachfully at his own folly insupposing for a moment that Sita could bein that sensual paradise of happy damsels."It is certain that Sita is not in this crowd.What a fool am I to search for her in thiscompany! This is no place for her."Then he went elsewhere. In anotherchamber he saw many beds. He saw onemore gorgeous than the rest, covered withgold and diamonds and Ravana stretchedon it, like another Mount Meru. His formand majestic splendor mace made evenHanuman tremble for it moment.He stood on one side and scanned thesleeping figure unable for a time to takehis eyes off the majestic and virile beautyof that mighty form. The great musclesnow in repose, the symmetrical grace oflimbs which made the Rakshasa King atonce beautiful and terrible.Then Hanuman looked at the women inthe beds around and on the carpets. Some,who had fallen asleep while singing, werestill hugging their musical instruments.His eyes finally fell on a figure lyingon a divinely beautiful cot. Theshapeliness of her limbs and the beauty ofher features made Hanuman imagine itmight be Sita. He leaped up with joy.The next instant he cursed himself forhis folly. "Fie, fie," he said to himself,"how foolish have I been! Could Sitasleep thus carelessly, covered with jewels,in a strangers chamber? The very thoughtis a sin." And he was overwhelmed withshame and sorrow at his error.Then he said to himself: "Because shewould not yield to him, this Rakshasamust have killed her. What use is there incontinuing the search?"He had now searched the innerapartments of Ravanas palace. Thebedroom, the dining room, the hall ofdrink, the music room, all places had beensearched and Sita was nowhere found. "Ihave entered every nook and corner.Against all the rules of propriety, I haveeven looked at every one in the womenschambers. But all in vain."Saying this he left the hall of drink andwent to the garden and looked into thelittle shrines and the arbours made ofcreepers. But all was in vain."I have seen all of Lanka," he thoughtwith irrepressible grief. "I have seen everyinch of Ravanas palace. What more couldI do here? Am I to return without seeingSita? No. I shall rather end my life here.Yes, that is the only thing for me to do."But again he said to himself, "Fie, fieon me for yielding to such despondencyunworthy and dishonorable."He sprang up again and searched onceagain every inch of the places he had beenthrough. He opened every door andwindow and looked in. There were uglywomen, beautiful human and Nagamaidens, all captured by the Rakshasa, butnot Sita.Once again his heart sank. He did notknow what to do. He said to himself: "If Ireturn to Kishkindha failing in mymission, with what face shall I meet myfriends? If Rama loses all hopes ofrecovering Sita, what would happen tohim? He would surely die. And after that,what would happen to others? Instead ofgoing back to Sugriva and telling him thatall my labors have been wasted, it wouldbe far better to stay here and spend therest of my days in the forest and seashoreof Lanka. But why live on? Is it not bestto end my life? But, then, was Sampatiwrong in saying that Sita was in Lanka?Or has she been killed by the Rakshasasince Sampati sighted her in this island?She might well have been devoured by the
  • 136. Rakshasis. Nothing is clear, everything isenveloped in doubt. What shall I do?"Thus was Hanuman lost in anxiety andthought. Just then his eyes lighted on whathe had so far left unexplored, a parkattached to a shrine and surrounded byhigh walls. "Oh, here is a park, I have notseen or searched so far. Here surely I shallfind Sita."With these words as the son of Vayumeditated on Rama, hope sprang withinhis breast. The secluded park was wellprotected by high walls. "Yes, Sita mustbe here," he said to himself. Again hebowed to the gods. He jumped up and saton the wall of the Asoka Vana andsurveyed the beautiful park.49. SITA IN THE ASOKA PARKAs HANUMAN stood on the highwall, he did not know why, a thrill of joypassed through his frame. It was theinvisible atmosphere which envelopes anaccomplished mission and influencessubtly the devoted heart. As be had at lastreached the spot where Sita was, hiswhole being throbbed with exultingexpectation without any apparent reason.It was an early spring night. Trees andplants were in flowers. Hanuman jumpedto a place where there was a thick clusterof trees. This disturbed the birds thatrested there and they flew out with sweetnoises. Deer and other animals movedabout. Flowers dropped from the branchesand covered the body of Hanuman.The creatures in the park, looking atthe lovely figure of Hanuman covered allover with flowers, thought that the God ofspring was visiting the grove in the earlydawn.The garden was entrancingly beautiful.Lovely tanks, terraces decorated withgold, silver, ivory, pearl and coral crystalsteps, artificial hills and waterfalls, thesight filled Hanumans heart with joy.Around some trees were platformsoverlaid with gold and silver. Little bellssuspended from the trees made music inthe breeze.Hanuman climbed up and sat hiddenamong the leaves of a tall spreading treewith a golden platform around its stem. "Ifshe be alive and in Lanka " said Hanumanto himself, "Sita would surely visit thisgarden. She would choose this placeabove all others for solitude andcontemplation of Rama. They said, didthey not, that she loved groves and trees?She would surely come here at dawn tooffer worship to the Universal Mother."He gazed all round, hiding himselfamong the leaves. He sat on a branch andlooked below. He beheld a female figureseated on that platform, blindinglybeautiful and divinely pure.Thin and pale, she shone like the streakof the moon in the beginning of the brighthalf of the month. Her beauty glowedfitfully through deepest dejection likeflame through enveloping smoke.Wrapped in a soiled upper garment sheresembled a lovely lotus obscured by mirymoss. Her face was bathed in tears, andshe was wan and thin for want of food.She had no thoughts but of sorrow, noglimpse of friends or hope. There wereonly Rakshasis wherever she turned hereyes, and she felt like a doe which hadlost its herd and found itself beset by apack of wild dogs.A single snake-like braid of hairwandered unregarded down to her hip.She seemed to Hanuman at once adorableand pitiful, like the holy word torn fromits context by infidels, like prosperity sunkin unmerited ruin, like shattered hope andfaith betrayed, like frustrated fulfilment,like intellect muddied by insanity, likeblameless purity besmirched by foulslander.Hanuman said to himself withconviction: "This image of beautiful
  • 137. despair is surely Sita. For, behold,hanging unregarded on the branches of thetree are the jewels described by Rama ashaving been on her when she was carriedaway, all except those which she droppedduring the flight and which were pickedup by us on the hill. And see the scarf shewears, though soiled and crumpled, is thefellow to the one we found. Surely thissublimely beautiful lady, who seems likeone steadfast in true love in a tempest-tossed sea of troubles, is Ramas belovedqueen. It is for her that Rama is consumedby a three-fold agony, grief for hersuffering, wrath for the insult to her andheart-broken pangs at separation from her.Surely he is ever in her heart and she inhis, and in truth they are not parted or theycould not live."And as he continued to see her, hisheart leapt back across the ocean andsought Ramas feet in adoration. Andagain he looked at Sita and said tohimself: "It was for the sake of this divinelady that the mighty Vali, the peer ofRavana in prowess, was slain. For her thatKabandha and Viradha met their death,and fourteen thousand fierce Rakshasaswith Khara, Dushana and Trisirascrimsoned with their gore the glades ofJanasthana. It was for her that the splendidsovereignty of the Vanaras was wrestedfrom the heroic Vali and given to Sugriva.It is to do her service that I crossed thesea, the lord of rivers, and am now here inLanka. All this seems much, but verily, iffor her sake Rama should transform oreven destroy the universe, I would sayfrom my soul it is well done! She is worthit all and more!"And again Hanumans heart crossed thesea back and dwelt on Rama far away.Just then, as off the clear surface of alake a swan might glide, so in the blue skythe moon swam into sight and shonebrightly as if on purpose to help the son ofVayu.Peering between the leaves and notknowing what to do, Hanuman tookanother long look at the face of Sita, aface that disclosed a sea of care like aheavily-laden ship caught in a storm. TheRakshasis who guarded her wereintolerably ugly. One had only one eye,another only one ear. Some were withoutears and some without noses. Some hadnoses turned steeply upward. Some werebald, while some had done their hair ingrotesque styles.Some had pendant stomachs and somehad camels lips. Some were hunchbacks.Some were dwarfs and some tall likepalmyrah trees. Swine-face, tiger-face,buffalo-face, goat-face, all were to beseen. These unsightly creatures wereholding spears and other weapons in theirhands.And in their midst, the pale-facedprincess sat trembling, befriended only byher virtue, like an unsupported beautifulcreeper fallen on the ground.It was still dark and not yet dawn.Ravana was roused from his slumber bythe chanting of the Vedas and the morningsongs of the court bards. The moment heawoke, he thought of Sita and startedtowards the park where she was kept.With all his retinue, he entered thepalace park, accompanied by scentedtorches and the royal umbrella,surrounded by maidens, covered all overwith brilliant ornaments and clad inspotless white clothes. Ravana appearedcharming like another Manmatha.As the procession entered the gate,Hanuman could hear the noise of thecrowd and the tinkling of womensanklets. Soon he saw the Rakshasa kingapproaching. At once Hanuman hidhimself more effectively than beforeamong thick leaves.
  • 138. As Ravana came towards Sita, hisstrength and splendor were wonderful tobehold. At this sight Sitas body shrankand trembled like a plantain tree in astorm.As one reads or listens to this sacredstory, one should form a mental image ofSita in her present state. One can imaginethe agony of despair of any good womanwho has by misfortune fallen into thepower of a lustful man. What must be thestate of Sita, daughter of Janaka and wifeof Ramachandra, in such a predicament?To appreciate Valmikis metaphors andsimiles in this context, one should purifyones heart and fire it with piety.One feels unequal to rendering intoanother language the beautiful similes bywhich Valmiki illustrates her condition.Only a few are cited here to give someidea of them.Ravana approached Sita still in thehope of obtaining her consent. Sita wascovered with dust and had no jewels onher person but she shone as if wearing allthe jewels that a princess must wear. Shelooked like a beautiful tree felled downand lying low.Her face was covered by light andshadow, like a lotus flower stained bymire. She swayed like a cobra bound bycharms. Her state was like one surroundedby raging fires on four sides, like an armywhich had lost its chief warriors, like ariver which had run dry, like a vessel forsacrificial fire that suffered desecration,like a lovely lotus tank destroyed byelephants, like a flowering creeperuprooted and cast aside, like a cowelephant separated from the leader of theherd, captured and tied as a prisoner.Sita sat trembling, overwhelmed withgrief and fear. When she perceivedRavanas approach, that very instant herheart travelled to Rama like a chariotdrawn by swift steeds. With faded faceand wasted form, she thought of herprotectors far away. "When will theycome? Will they ever come?" she askedherself and meditated on God.Ravana approached and spoke to her.Hidden in the branches of the tree,Hanuman watched what went on below.50. RAVANAS SOLICITATIONTO SITA, plunged in a sea of sorrowand clinging to dharma and to the thoughtof her lord, Ravana spoke these words:"O beautiful one! Why do you shrinkfrom me? Do you not see how much I carefor you? Though it is lawful for aRakshasa to take anothers wife andpossess her by force, I am a beggar foryour love. There is no need to fear me. Ishall never touch you till your heart turnstowards me. Do not be afraid. My onewish is that you should care for me as I dofor you. You must accept me withaffection. Why do you make your body aprey to unavailing sorrow? O beautifulone! There is none like you in loveliness,none in all the world. It is not right foryou to reject beautiful jewels, and clothes,to sleep on the ground and leave your hairunkempt. O gem among women, do notthus waste your youth and beauty. Nowyou have come under my protection, youshould lack nothing. All pleasures aresuitors for your selection. I cannot takemy eyes away from your face bright likethe full moon. Wherever on your body Iset my eyes, there they remain fixed andimmovable. Why should one with somuch beauty suffer so much sorrow?Accept me and enjoy all the pleasures ofthe world. I will conquer the world andgive it to Janaka for your sake. What willI not do for you? You will be mysovereign consort. All the queens andwomen in the palace will be ruled by you.My wealth, my kingdom, all shall beyours to enjoy. Lanka and myself, why,the whole earth, shall belong to you. My
  • 139. strength and courage are known to theDevas and Asuras. Vanquished by me,they stand with bowed heads. Withjewels and garments fit for you myhandmaidens will adorn you. I long to seeyou splendidly decked. And you will befree to give away generous gifts incharity. Your authority will extend overall mankind. My subjects and kinsfolkwill deem it a joy to serve you. Why doyou waste your thoughts on wretchedRama, wandering in the forest? How canyou love, how can you trust one who hasbeen deprived of his rights and driven outof his kingdom and is roaming about cladin bark garments? What can this helplessfellow do? The Goddess of Wealth, shethat presides over power and she whorules over success have all abandonedhim, and you know it. It is even doubtfulwhether he is alive today. Anyhow, youmay take it, he will never set eyes on youagain, much less come near you. LikeGaruda seizing a serpent, you havecaptivated my heart. I am unable toescape. Even in your present state, devoidof jewels or good clothes, you have drawnme away from my other wives. What can Ido now? In my apartments areinnumerable lovely women. But afterseeing you, I can bear the sight of none ofthem. You will be Queen over all of themand receive their humble service. In whatsense can Rama equal me? Do you not seethat in severe austerities gone through, instrength, wealth and glory, in every way Iam superior to him? Shake off your fear.We shall wander over the whole world,happy in each others company. With meyou will enjoy limitless wealth andpleasure. Life will be one continuous joy.O beautiful one, have pity on me. Let ussport together in the parks and groves bythe sea. Only say yes."Thus Ravana uttered his impassionedappeal for love and pity. When Ravanahad finished speaking, Sita plucked a littleblade of grass and, placing it betweenthem, laughed in derision and gentlyspoke:"Ravana, lay aside all such vainthoughts concerning me. It is altogetherimproper for you to desire me. Turn yourheart to your wives. Never can I agree towhat you say. Think of the family I wasborn in. Think of the family I was marriedinto. How can you ever hope to persuademe? Do not give room for such foolishand impossible desires and make sorrowfor yourself!"Then she turned her face away andcontinued:"How can I become your wife, when Iam the wife of another? Do not violatedharma. Do not tread the path of sin.Listen to me. Think how carefully youwatch over your wives to keep them safefrom the touch of others. Would not otherhusbands do the same by their wives?Remember other men are like you. Do notcast your eyes on anothers wife. To behappy with your own is the way of truehappiness. But if you allow your mind todwell on anothers wife, sorrow anddishonor will be your portion. Is therenone in the world to advise you aright?Why do you do evil and bring destructionon yourself and on your people? When aking loses self-control, his kingdom andwealth will all be destroyed. Be sure, thisLanka and its great wealth will be utterlydestroyed if you persist in your sin and thefoes whom you have conquered andhumiliated will rejoice. I have no use forthe wealth and the pleasures that youpromise. They do not tempt me. I havemarried Rama and I cannot take my mindand heart away from him. I, who held hishand, can never touch another, never. I amhis, the princes, entirely and forever. Ibelong to him, as the Veda belongs to onewho has reverently mastered it. It is not
  • 140. right for anyone else to look on me withlonging eyes. Listen to me who speaks foryour good. Beg Rama humbly forforgiveness and escape from his anger. Donot go in search of your own ruin. Ramais generous and will surely forgive you ifyou seek his mercy. Seek forgiveness andsafety. Do not seek death and destruction.There, I hear even now the twang ofRamas bow. You cannot escape. Yamastands very near, ready to carry you away.The arrows of Rama and Lakshmana willsoon be here in Lanka and your city willbe in flames. Did not Rama utterly destroythe Rakshasas at Janasthana? Did you not,knowing his strength, come like a thief toour hut, when Rama and Lakshmana wereaway, to steal me? Can you for a momentstand before them face to face? Can a dogapproach a tiger? Will it not flee from thevery scent? As the sun sucks up moisturefrom the wet earth, Rama and Lakshmanawill drink your life. Will you run to hideyourself among the mountains? Will youtry to escape under the sea? Even then, asat the appointed hour the tree is struck bylightning, so will you perish at theirhands. You cannot escape."Thus Sita ended with a stern warning.Ravana controlled his anger and spoke:"O Sita, doting on this spurious asceticRama, you talk foolishly and repay myloving words with insult and contumely.Because of my love for you, I haverefrained, else you would be dead by now.Of the time I had allowed you, twomonths more remain. Change your mindbefore they pass. Be my wife and come tomy bed. If you refuse, you will be sent tomy kitchen and cooked for my meal.Beware!"It was well-known that the food of theRakshasas included human flesh. Hencethis threat of Ravana was no exaggeration,but conveyed a clear possibility. Yet Sitawas unafraid, and answered:"Alas! Alas! Is there none to give yougood advice? Have you no friend to saveyou from this sin and put you on the pathof virtue? You cannot escape Ramaspunishment. Like a rabbit antagonising awild elephant you have incurred the wrathof Rama. O wretch, who stole me in hisabsence, are you not ashamed? Yourdestruction is certain. Your evil fate hasdriven you to this act. And yet you are thebrother of Kubera. You are famous as awarrior. You are the master of a completefour-limbed army. Why should you dothis mean deed in this mean way?"Ravanas eyes rolled in anger and helooked fiercely at Sita, hissing like asnake. Seeing his mounting anger, one ofhis young wives, Dhanyamali walked upto his side and, embracing him, said:"King! Why do you vex yourself overthis mean human creature who does notseem to care for you? She has not thegood fortune to be your wife, that is all.And what is there so attractive about her?Why do you waste your thoughts on thispuny creature? Come away. Let us enjoyourselves."She drew him away affectionately andthe Rakshasa went with her, laughing.Before he went, Ravana ordered theRakshasis who guarded Sita to bring herround somehow, and with resoundingsteps left the Asoka park, followed by hisretinue. As soon as he turned his back, theRakshasis surrounded Sita.The princess, who had been bold up tillnow, trembled when she looked at theseugly creatures that began speaking to her."When Ravana, scion of a noblefamily, a world-famous warrior, desiresyou," said one, "how can you refuse him,O foolish girl? Who do you think Ravanais? Know that he is a direct descendant ofBrahma. He is the grandson of PulastyaPrajapati, son of Brahma, a hero who has
  • 141. won many battles and vanquished manyfoes. How foolish to slight him!""Let not pride ruin you," said another."Ravana is the son of rishi Visravas. Donot think he is a nobody. Accept him andbe happy.""The king of the Rakshasas, whodefeated in battle and put to flight thegods of heaven, invites you to be hiswife," said another. "You must yield, poorgirl, or you must die.""Slighting all his other wives," saidanother, "Ravana wants you and promisesto make you chief among his queens.Forsaking all his noble wives, the King,bewitched by your beauty, begs for yourlove and offers to make you first amonghis consorts. Why are you foolishlyobstinate?""None in all the world can equal LordRavana," said another. "Good fortunecomes seeking you and you spurn it. Howfoolish!""The Sun and the Wind gods are afraidof the Rakshasa king. And he comesseeking you and wants to make you hisfavorite wife! Do not let your pride betrayyou. Do not reject the fortune that comesto you unsought."And another concluded: "We havegiven you good advice. We have done ourbest and we leave the rest to you. If youreject his offer, you must surely die."51. FIRST AMONG THE ASTUTETHE boldest and most strong-mindedwoman may, if kept in captivity for a longperiod, lose heart and become depressed.Sita hoped month after month that herlord would discover her whereabouts andcome to her rescue. Sick withdisappointed hope, alone in the midst ofenemies, she clung to life only from anabiding faith in the love of Rama thatmade her feel that he would surely come.The Rakshasis plied her with whatfrom their point of view was well-meantcounsel. "Wont you listen to our advice?You are a human and so lack sense. Youstill hold on to this wretched man-husbandof yours. Your proper place is our Kingsbedchamber. That is the place for everykind of pleasure. But spurning his offer,you are forever thinking of your worthlesshusband. Why are you still fond of thisluckless wretch driven out of hiskingdom? You will never see him again.Yield to Ravana and be happy."Sita, hearing these words, could onlyshed tears."What sinful words you utter!" shesaid. "Never can I do what you say. Youtell me that Rama is poor, wretched, andan exiIe from his home. All this I know.But among us of the race of men, no wifewould think of giving up her husband onsuch grounds. It is wicked for theRakshasa king to desire me for his wife.As the suns brightness belongsinseparably to the sun so do I belong toRama. As Sachi is faithful to Indra, orArundhati to Vasishtha, so am I ever toRama."The Rakshasis gave up all hopes ofpersuading her and said to one another:"What can one do with a stubborn foollike this? It is best to eat her before shegets too thin with brooding!""I am in the family way," said one. "Ihave a great longing for human flesh. Ishall tear her out and make a meal of hersoft body. We shall strangle her and reportto Ravana that she died of grief," saidanother. "The King is lost in unavailinggrief because of this obstinate woman.Once he knows that she is dead, he willforget all about her and sleep soundly."Another said: "I long to eat her liver. Itmust be very tasty."Another added decisively: "Let us killher and share her limbs. Fetch some sauceand strong liquor. Let us feast on her and
  • 142. drink and dance in the temple ofNikumbhila."Hearing these horrible words andseeing these terrible forms, Sita brokedown and cried aloud. Her physicalcourage failed and nature had its way. Shesobbed like a child. But even in her sobsher mind was clear and it was fixed onRama."In Janasthana Rama destroyedthousands of Rakshasas. Why does notRama come yet to redeem me? Thewarrior princes who killed Viradha inDandaka, why are they still indifferent tomy fate? It could only be that they do notyet know where I am! Jatayu, the vultureking, was slain by the Rakshasa. If he atleast were alive, he would have told themthe news that he saw the Rakshasacarrying me. But he gave up his life intrying to save me. But how long, willRama remain ignorant of my being here?How long can Lanka and the Rakshasassurvive? It is certain that, in every housein this city, Rakshasa widows will soon belamenting loudly. It is certain that this cityof Ravana and the whole Rakshasa racewill perish."Thus she thought within herself andslowly recovered courage. But soon againother thoughts came to her and filled herwith gloom."Could it be that Rama gave up his life,unable to bear my loss? It might well beso. Otherwise, could he neglect me andleave me all alone these so many days?Indeed he is happy now and with theGods. I must have been guilty of manysins to be thus left to suffer. My heartmust be made of stone. How else can Isuffer all this and yet survive? Yetsomething tells me that Rama is alive elseI should be dead!"Then again another thought occurred toher. "Perhaps he has resolved to spend hislife in penance and has laid aside allthought of me. No, no. How could awarrior forsake his duty and, leaving hiswife in the hands of his foe, take up thelife of sanyasa? How foolish of me evento think of this! The fact is that they donot know where I am. Could it be thatRama has lost his love for me? Out ofsight, out of mind, they say. Could it bethat he has forgotten me? Fie, fie! What asinful thought! How can my Rama forgetme? He never can. And what wrong haveI committed that he should cease to thinkof me? This cannot be the reason. PerhapsRavana has played some trick andtreacherously slain the prince."Thus her mind wandered from one sadthought to another and sank ever deeper inthe sea of sorrow. She decided that it wasbest by hanging herself. She could hangherself with her long braid of hair roundher neck and jump down from a branch ofthe Simsupa tree.Having failed in their attempt topersuade Sita, the Rakshasis did not knowwhat to do next. Some went to informRavana of their failure. Some stayedbehind to look after Sita.Appearing among them Trijata, aRakshasi, reprimanded them, saying: "Ofoolish ones, you are talking nonsense!Listen to me, I shall tell you of a dreamthat I dreamt. The time has come whenLanka shall be destroyed."Then she proceeded to recount in detailthe terrible dream that she had dreamt:"I saw in my dream Rama, shining likea sun, come to Lanka to find Sita. I sawRavana entering the abode of Yama. I sawRama mounting Sita on his elephant andcarrying her home. I saw Ravana and allthe Rakshasas, clad in soiled garments anddragged away by Yama."Relating this dream to the Rakshasis,Trijata warned them: "Dont persecute thissaintly woman. Dont seek your own
  • 143. destruction. Fall at her feet and beg forgrace."Even as Trijata was speaking to hercompanions, Sita, who resolved to slayherself, suddenly began to see many goodomens.Her left eyelids, hand, and footthrobbed auspiciously. A vague courageonce again came into her heart. All ideasof self-destruction disappeared.Hanuman, sitting hidden above andwatching all that happened in the grove,wondered what he should do next.One might imagine that, havingreached Lanka and seen Sita, Hanumanhad nothing more to do. But he was not soeasily satisfied. He thought withinhimself."I have done something which no oneelse could do. I have crossed the sea anddiscovered Sita. I have seen the city of theRakshasas and noted its defences. All thata spy can do without revealing himself tothe foe, I have done. But the situation hereis fraught with danger. If I go back now toreport what I have seen to Rama and myking, who knows what meanwhile willhappen here? Before Rama, Lakshmanaand the Vanara host arrive here, Sita,unable to bear her suffering, might put anend to her life. All my labors would thenbe lost. It is not enough to have seen Sita.I must talk to her, give her news of Ramaand put hope and courage into her heart,so that she may hold with life in spite ofall. How would Rama receive me if Ireturn without speaking to Sita? I mustfind some way of speaking to Sita."In the rosary of Hanumans nameoccurs the title, BuddhimatamVarishtham, First among the Astute. It isa true description."In what form should I appear beforeSita? In what language should I speak toher? If suddenly a monkey came andspoke to her in this Asoka grove, Sitawould surely suspect foul play andimagine that Ravana was playing somenew trick on her. If I appeared suddenlybefore her, she might cry out in fear. Inher present condition this is most likely tohappen. The Rakshasis guarding her, whohave now fallen asleep, will be startledawake and discover me. They wouldknow that I have come from their enemyand in disguise, and they would bring theRakshasas to attack me. A great battlewould ensue. Of course I shall slay mostof them. But the task of comforting Sitaand bearing news of her to Rama wouldbe jeopardised if I were to be captured andheld a prisoner here. This would never do.Even if I escape being caught and comeout successful in the struggle, I might bewounded and lose strength and be unableto cross the sea. What then would I havegained having seen Sita? One shouldnever do things in a hurry. One shouldkeep in mind ones main business. KingSugriva and Rama are confidentlyawaiting my return. Even a little fault onmy part now may lead to great disaster.The first thing to do is to speak with Sitaand put joy and hope in her heart. I mustapproach her in such a way that she cannever for a moment entertain a doubtabout my good faith. Well, I shall recite ina sweet low tone, and for her hearingonly, the story and virtues of Rama. Herheart would then be filled with joy andtrust, displacing suspicion. Only thus can Iproceed."So he thought and, still hidden by thebranches of the tree, he began to utter in alow voice, the sweet words, "Rama,""Rama."52. SITA COMFORTEDHIDDEN by the branches, Hanumansang in a sweet and gentle voice the storyof Rama so that it fell on Sitas ears:"King Dasaratha ruled his kingdomwell. His army was mighty and comprised
  • 144. of chariots, elephants and horses. He wasvirtuous and a doer of great deeds. Hekept his word and was foremost amongthe famous kings of the world. He wasequal to the rishis in virtue and to Indra instatesmanship. He hated no one andharmed no one. All his endeavors werecrowned with success. Therefore mencalled him Satya-parakrama, truly valiant.The richest of the Ikshavaku race, a kingof kings, the ruler of the world, heenjoyed and communicated happiness.The eldest of his four sons wasRamachandra, whose face was like thefull moon. Wise, virtuous and a master ofthe bow, Rama was beloved of all. And hewas full of kindness for all the people inthe kingdom, a warrior wedded to dharma.He was the heir to the throne. And yet, topreserve the honor of his father, he left thekingdom with his wife Sita and his brotherLakshmana and lived in the forest. Therehe vanquished the Rakshasas andprotected the rishis. He destroyed Kharaand Dushana and their mighty army.Coming to hear of this, Ravana, bent onrevenge, induced a Rakshasa to assumethe form of a deer and beguile the princesin pursuit and, in their absence, carried offSita by force. Grief-struck Rama went insearch of Sita. He met Sugriva, theVanara, and made friends with him. Ramaslew Vali, the Vanara king, and secured tohis brother Sugriva the Vanara kingdom.And Sugriva sent his Vanara warriors toall the quarters of the globe to find outwhere Sita was. These Vanara warriors,who could assume what shape they would,searched the whole world for the missingSita. Following a clue given by Sampati, Icrossed the sea a hundred yojanas broad,and have come here. And now I see onewhose form, complexion and qualities arethose described to me by Rama as hisroyal spouses."Having said this, Hanuman paused.These sweet words, uttered by someone from somewhere, filled Sita withwonder and delight. She looked around inall directions to discover who conveyedsuch sweet matter in so sweet a voice andin such exquisite language.She looked round, and up and downbut found no human form to match thisperfect speech. She only saw a lovelylittle monkey seated on the branch aboveher. Sita saw the son of Vayu, the wiseminister of the Vanara king, in the form ofa little monkey, radiant like the rising sun.The reader should imagine for himselfthe joy of Ramas messenger, as Sitaseyes fell on him. The reader whoexperiences this joy will find God in hisheart. Narayana, who is waiting eagerly toenter and take possession of our hearts,would leave the great and boundlessocean of milk and come to dwell withinus, when we cleanse ourselves of sinfulthoughts.Seeing Hanuman, Sita said to herself:"The words I heard the form I see, theycannot be real. I am only dreaming. Onesees in ones dream what one is constantlybrooding over. How often has my minddwelt on the story of my Lord! Is it anywonder then that I seem to hear the tale astold by some one? It is not real. It is onlya dream. They say that if one sees amonkey in a dream, it forebodes evil toones kinsfolk. May God protect Ramafrom harm! May God keep all harm awayfrom Lakshmana! May God bless all mykinsfolk in Mithila! No, no, this is nodream. My eyes are open and I see thesame form still seated above me. There itis, clear and solid. No, this is no dream.And I am not asleep. How can one dreamwithout sleeping? This is no dream. Allthis is real. Oh Gods! Could this indeed bea messenger from my dear Lord? Oh grantthat it be so! Oh Vachaspati! Master ofspeech, I salute you. Oh Agni! I salute
  • 145. you. Oh Swayambhu! I salute you. OhGods! Protect me. May this be Ramasmessenger!"Hanuman, radiant with the joy ofseeing Sita, descended to the ground andstood before her, palms joined and headbent in salutation.And he said in a deep soothing voice:"Mother, tears are falling from your eyeslike drops from lotus petals. May I knowwho you are, who stands there, leaning onthe tree trunk, face clouded with sorrowand eyes wet with tears? Are you agoddess or a Naga maiden? The radianceof your body makes me question whetheryou could be of merely terrestrial birth!Are you Rohini separated for a while fromthe Moon-god? Or are you Arundhatiparted from sage Vasishtha? No, on closerobservation, you seem to be a humanwoman, maybe a princess adorable inyour distress. Please tell me who indeedyou are. May God bless you! Are you theprincess Sita carried off by Ravana fromJanasthana? Is mine the bliss of seeingSita, the beloved of Rama?"Sita was beside herself with joy. "Mychild," she said, "indeed I am Sita,daughter of the king of Videha and SriRamachandras spouse. For twelve years Ienjoyed all happiness with him inAyodhya. In the thirteenth year, KingDasaratha made preparations to crown myhusband. Then Kaikeyi, his youngestwife, reminded him of boons he hadgranted long ago, and demanded that inredemption of his word he should crownher son Bharata king, and exile Rama tothe forest. She threatened to kill herself ifthis was not done. Bound by promise theking had to yield to her insistence. At hisbidding Rama relinquished the crown andbetook himself to the forest not onlywithout regret, but happy that it was givento him to enable his father to keep hisplighted word. I refused to be left behindand insisted on going with my lord intothe forest. Even before me, Lakshmanahad put on bark-garments, determined toaccompany his brother to the forest andserve him. The three of us entered theforest and were living in Dandaka. Oneday the evil-hearted Ravana carried meoff by force. And he has kept me aprisoner here in this Asoka garden. Of thetime limit of twelve months he has set forme, only two more months remain. Whenthey are over I shall end my life."Thus spoke the helpless princess in hersorrow.The speeches of Hanuman and ofJanaki are sung by Valmiki in two briefchapters. As Hari appeared before theemperor Bali in the form of Vamana andmeasured the universe in two steps, soValmiki has given the tale of Rama in ashort recital by Hanuman and another bySita. What greater joy can we have thanreading Hanuman and Sita telling thedivine story themselves? As Vamana gotthe better of Bali and saved him from hisahankara, may this tale of Rama as told byHanuman and Sita rid us of the sense of Iand my.Sita concluded her story with thestatement that two more months remainedof the allotted twelve-month term and thather life would then end. To Sitaoverwhelmed by grief, Hanuman spokewords of comfort."O princess of Videha! Rama, thenoblest of men and the mightiest ofwarriors has sent me to you with goodnews. His beloved brother Lakshmana,ever anxious for your welfare, sendsthrough me his salutations to you.""Ah! What happiness is mine!" sheexclaimed. "I now see the truth of thecommon saying that so long as life laststhere is hope."Thus between these two utter strangersa profound confidence and affection
  • 146. sprang up like the sudden blossoming ofthe Parijata in Indras garden. Yet when, inhis joyful eagerness to console andencourage Sita, Hanuman took a nearerstep towards her, Sita lost the confidenceinspired by his words and again grewsuspicious.She shut her eyes and moved awayfurther from the tree. Hanuman, noticingthis, withdrew respectfully and stood withhands clasped in obeisance."I have been deceived," she cried."You are no other than Ravana. Once youcame disguised as an ascetic and imposedon me. Now you have come again inanother disguise and speak sweet words.All this will bring you no good. Why doyou torture me, O Ravana? I am wearyand full of sorrow. You call yourself awarrior. Is it a warriors part to persecute ahelpless woman?"Then she opened her eyes and thoughtagain, "No, no. This cannot be Ravana.Trust and friendship spring in my heart atthe sight of him. He can be no enemy ofmine. It is wrong to suspect him."She addressed him saying: "O Vanara!Are you indeed a messenger sent byRama? May God bless you. Tell me moreconcerning Rama. Let my ears hear andmy heart rejoice."Then once again doubts assailed her."Am I a victim of delusion, imagininggood news? Is this a dream that mocks mewith the illusion of joy to make mydespair blacker when I am awake? Am Iin my right senses? Of course, I am. Mythoughts, my words are all normal. I amsane and sensible. But then he says that hecrossed the sea a hundred yojannas broad.No, no. This cannot be true. He is Ravanaand none else." So she concluded in hermind and without lifting her eyes to lookat Hanuman sat apart in silence.Hanuman understood her doubts andfears. They were natural in one who hadbeen deceived by the Rakshasa. Hethought for a while and realised that theonly approach to her confidence was toawaken hope and joy in her sorely tiredheart by extolling Rama and harping onthe certainty of her rescue and his victory.And he began: "Rama has sent me.Rama is radiant like the Sun. Rama ispleasant to look at like the moon. Rama ispraised by all the rulers of the earth. Ramais valiant like Vishnu. Rama is wise likeBrihaspati. Rama is handsome likeManmatha the god of love. Ramas wordsare ever sweet and true. Ramasindignation is ever righteous and welldirected. Rama is the peerless warrior.Rama has sent me. While a Rakshasa inthe shape of a deer beguiled Rama anddrew him away in the forest, you were leftalone and Ravana carried you off byforce. Soon he will pay dearly for this evildeed. You will see it with your own eyes.Soon the shafts of Rama and Lakshmanawill strike Lanka and destroy it along withRavana and all his race. At Ramasbidding have I come to you to learn aboutyour safety which is his constant concern.On Lakshmanas behalf I place at yourfeet his respectful salutations. And so toohomage from Sugriva, the Vanara king.Rama, Lakshmana and Sugriva are everthinking of you. It is my good fortune tohave seen you alive. Now there will be nomore of loss of time. Soon Rama,Lakshmana and Sugriva, accompanied bythe whole Vanara army, will descend onLanka. I am Sugrivas minister. My nameis Hanuman. I crossed the sea and reachedLanka. You may take it that my foot isalready on the head of the evil-mindedRavana. By Ramas grace, even more thanby my own prowess have I, his servant,crossed the sea to behold you. Do notsuspect me. Have faith in my words,mother." So said Hanuman with tears inhis eyes. These sweet words of Hanuman
  • 147. acting on her great love for Rama andconfidence in him, put an end to Sitasfears and gave her courage and faith."Forgive my suspicion, O Vanarafriend," she said. "Deceived by theRakshasa and surrounded by his artifices,I am prone to needless fear. O friend andmessenger of Rama! How did you firstmeet Rama? How did the Prince makefriends with the Vanaras? Tell me all".To confirm her faith, Hanumanrecounted once again the virtues andattractive qualities of Rama andLakshmana. He said: "What wonder isthere in Rama becoming friends with meand my king and the Vanaras when thewhole world lives and finds bliss by hisloving kindness?"He proceeded to describe fully how thequarrel arose between Vali and Sugriva,how the latter first met Rama andLakshmana, how they became friends,how Rama promised to slay Vali andsecure the Vanara kingdom for Sugriva,how the Vanaras had picked up andpreserved the jewels dropped by Sita, howwith mounting sorrow Rama recognisedthem, how Vali was slain and Sugrivacrowned, how after the rainy sea son wasover the Vanara hosts searched the wholeworld for Sita, how the party led byAngada and proceeding south havingfailed to find her, decided to fast to death,how they met Sampati and received a cluefrom him, how he, Hanuman, crossed thesea and searched the inner apartments ofRavana, all this he recounted.At the end of the narration he placed inher hand Ramas signet ring that he hadbrought. Sita received the ring and pressedit to her eyes with joy. Now all fear ofRavanas deceit and Rakshasa magic wasover. She had complete faith in Hanumanand infinite affection for him." My child!" she said, "how foolishwas my error! How could I suspect onelike you?"The son of Vayu explained to her whohe was and who his father was and whathis own might was."Though I, who enjoy the grace of myfather Vayu, should not sing my ownpraises, I do so now to end your sorrow.Soon the Vanara warriors will be here todestroy the Rakshasas and their kingdom.I must first return and tell them where youare."And then he described Ramasdesolation in being parted from Sita, andthe ascetic life he led, and Sitas heartmelted in loving sorrow. Sita forgot herown suffering thinking of Ramas grief.53. SITA AND HANUMAN"DEAR, dear Vanara friend," said Sita,"I do not know whether to rejoice orgrieve at the news you have brought. Yourwords are like nectar mixed with poison.My lords love for me is sweetest nectar,and his grief over my plight is bitterestpoison." Thus Sita spoke what she felt andfound comfort in putting in words her loveand her grief.Pleasure and pain, happiness andmisery alternately impel human beings.Sita was consoled but also pained by thethought that Rama had not forgotten her,but was thinking of her, grieving andsearching for her."We are puppets manipulated by thetwin strings of joy and sorrow", said Sita."None of us can escape their pull. My lordand Lakshmana and myself are all subjectto this law. You say my lord suffers like asailing ship caught in a storm on the highseas. O! When will he come here? DearVanara friend, when will he destroyLanka and Ravana and the otherRakshasas? All this must take placewithin the two months time still left.Please explain this to my lord. Only two
  • 148. months remain to me. Vibhishana, theyounger brother of Ravana, tried his bestto persuade the latter to change his ways.Return Sita, he said to Ravana, and saveLanka and the Rakshasa race. All hiswords have gone in vain. My heart isstrong within me. I know Ravana is on theroad to the abode of Yama. Soon my lordwill vanquish his foes and redeem me. Ihave no doubt about this. My innocentheart tells me this and it cannot provefalse."Thus Sita went on speaking with tearsin her eyes. Hanuman could not bear thesight of her suffering."Mother!" he exclaimed, "I shall go atonce and bring back Rama. He willdescend on Lanka with a mighty army.But why should you suffer any longer? Ifyou are agreeable, sit on my back. I shallcarry you across the ocean and restore youin a moment to Rama. Do not for amoment doubt my ability to do this. AsAgni carries the sacred offerings to Indra,so shall I transport you to my Lord Rama.Permit me, O pure of heart, to do thisservice. I can not only carry you andrestore you to Rama, but I have the powerto wrench Lanka from its foundations andthrow it and its ruler at Ramas feet! Sit onmy back now and, like Rohini rejoiningthe Moon, you will rejoin Rama. As Isprang and came here, so shall I springand reach the other shore with you."Thus Hanuman went on speaking outof his affection and enthusiasm. And Sitawondered how the little monkey beforeher could hope to carry her across theocean.Hanuman saw her doubt and so, todemonstrate his powers, he jumped offfrom the platform and began to grow bigin size. Sita was pleased.But she said: "O Son of Vayu! I realiseyour strength and yet it is not right thatyou should carry me. On the way theRakshasas are sure to intercept andchallenge you. They will hurl theirweapons at you. Your care will be toguard me. You will not be able to fix allyour mind on the battle and that may be aserious set-back to the strongest warrior.In a battle, one cannot be certain ofvictory and what would be my fate if youshould fall? And besides, in the violentconvulsions of a heady fight, how could Ibe sure of maintaining my position onyour back? I may slip and fall into the sea.It is clear, therefore, that you should nottry to cross the sea with me. Apart fromthat Hanuman, if you snatch me awaystealthily from the Rakshasas it would beno credit to the valor of my lord. Thehonor of the Kshatriya race demands thathe should come and fight and vanquishRavana and redeem me as the prize ofvictory. Would Rama have me stolen backeven as Ravana stole me from him? No,my son, return and quickly bring Ramahere with Lakshmana and the Vanaraarmy. Let my lords arrows destroy Lankaand send Ravana to Yamas abode. Hisvictory is certain. Like the fierce sun atthe hour of doom, Ramas arrows willburn the Rakshasa people to ashes.""You are right," said Hanuman, "I shallreturn alone. But what shall I tell Rama?What sign shall I carry of my having metyou and talked with you?"Hearing these words, all her happy lifewith Rama came like a flood to hermemory and her eyes were filled withtears. If she told Hanuman and Hanumantold Rama some intimate happeningsknown only to herself and her lord, itwould be proof of Hanuman having seenher and also make Rama see her presentdisconsolate state.With flowing tears, she recountedincidents of their forest life."Once in Chitrakuta my lord and Iwandered about in the grove beside the
  • 149. river and became weary and rested on theground. He laid his head upon my lap andfell asleep. While thus, a crow came downand hungrily pecked at my bosom, I droveit off, but again and again it returned andtroubled me. I then flung a pebble at it.But even that had no effect. Rama wasroused from slumber and saw me thustroubled and weeping in pain. At firstwhen he saw what the matter was andfound it was but a crow, he was inclinedto laugh at my discomfiture. But he sawthe bruise the crow had made anddiscovered that the bird was really anAsura. The bird flew for its life, but Ramasped a dart at it that pursued it wherever itwent, till at last the crow-Asura soughtRamas feet for refuge and found pardonthere. Tell him of this incident. OHanuman, I cannot wait for many moredays. Tell him to come quickly and saveme."Again she was in tears as she said: "Onanother occasion we were both wanderingall alone in the forest. I was tired.Perspiration had washed off the tilaka onmy forehead. My lord playfully plucked apinch of red mineral from the rock andapplied it between my brows with his ownsweet hands. Ask him if he remembersthis incident."As she went on recalling happymemories of the past the weight of herpresent sorrow overwhelmed her and shewept and said:"What should I tell Rama? What isthere that he does not know? Does heneed my words to rouse his indignation?Only tell my lord that I embrace his feet.That is enough. There is Lakshmanabeside him, the brother born to serve himand of unrivalled skill in arms. Looking athis sweet face, my Lord even forgot hisgrief for the fathers death. The pure-hearted hero, dear Lakshmana, partedfrom his own mother and came away withus and regarded me as his mother. Tellhim he should come and end mysuffering."As she thought of Lakshmanasheroism and devoted loyalty, Sitas eyeswere filled with tears. When Rama hadgone chasing the golden deer, did she notinsult him and fling burning words at theselfless and devoted friend? The thoughtof this injustice filled her repentant heartwith insufferable pain.She was unwilling to part fromHanuman, who had come to her andconsoled her just as she was about to putan end to her life. At the same time, shewanted him to return quickly to Rama andgive him news concerning her.At last she said: "My child, here is thejewel given by my mother at my weddingand fixed on my forehead by the lateEmperor. Take it and give it to myhusband as a sign from me."So saying she untied a knot at thecorner of her sari, took out the divinejewel and handed it to Hanuman whoreceived it with humble reverence. WhenHanuman had the jewel in his hand, prideand joy filled his mind.His heart was far away with Rama.Mentally he had recalled Ramas presenceand conveyed the glad message of hisdiscovery. Only his body now stayed inLanka."Dear friend," said Sita, "you must tellRama all you have learnt here, and it willbe your good fortune to help him toachieve victory."As Hanuman was about to leave, Sitaspoke again: "Dear Hanuman, convey myaffection to the Prince and also to kingSugriva and the other Vanara leaders. Tellthem from me that I implore them to givehelp to Rama to save me from this sea ofsorrow. You, more than anyone else, Ihope will encourage and show the way tothe prince in all matters."
  • 150. Hanuman answered: "Lay aside yoursorrow, dear princess. Rama, Lakshmanaand the Vanara army will descend onLanka destroy the Rakshasas and redeemyou. Have no doubt."As he was about to go, Sita said again:"Should you not stay here somewhere, fora while, and rest? Should you return atonce? Your visit has given me such greatconsolation and made me forget my grieffor a while. When you leave, I shall sinkagain in my sea of sorrow. You came herecrossing the great ocean. How will Ramaand the big army cross it? Have youthought of that?" Doubts assailed her onceagain."Have no doubt, my queen!" saidHanuman. "Do you think I am the onlyVanara that could cross the sea? There isnot a Vanara but has more power and skillthan I. Not only Sugriva, but many in hisarmy can fly round the world. What is thisnarrow sea to them? There are thousandsamong us who can roam in the sky. Haveno doubt whatever. Do you think theywould send the best among them as amere messenger? Dear lady, have donewith sorrow, for you will soon see mewith the two mighty princes on my back.They will lay waste this city with thearrows. They will destroy Ravana and allhis race. You have as good as crossed theocean of sorrow and reached the othershore. God bless you. In a few days youwill see the two princes standing, bow inhand, at the gates of Lanka, destroying theRakshasa host. You will see the Vanaraarmy leaping with joy over the ruinedcity. Once they hear the news from me,they will not delay a moment. I have onlyto tell them and they will start at once. Donot lose heart." Saying this and bowingprofoundly, Hanuman prepared to go."Tell Rama and Lakshmana that I amalive," cried Sita. "See that no time is lost.May God bless you."And Hanuman left. Let us meditatewith reverence on the heroic son ofAnjana, the wise messenger who gaveconsolation to Sita and quenched hergrief.54. INVITING BATTLEAFTER taking leave of Sita, Hanumansat for a while on the top of the gardenwall and began to think:"What can I do to put courage into Sitaand some fear into Ravana and his friendsto shake their arrogant confidence? Itwould be good to leave them somesouvenir of my visit, some indication ofwhat the future has in store for them. It isclear I must instill some fear into Ravanato prevent him from troubling Sita in themeantime. Fear is the only argument theyunderstand. Ravana has untold wealth andone cannot part his friends from him.Hence sama (conciliation), dana (buyingover) and bheda (sowing discord) areuseless in this case. I should therefore dosomething terrible to frighten them, andwarn them, not to ill-treat Sita. Yes, Imust do this before I go away."At once he began to grow and assumeda huge form and began to lay waste thegrove. Trees fell cracking to the ground,bowers collapsed, tanks and artificial hillswere disfigured and destroyed. Thebeautiful Asoka Park soon became a massof ruin from which the deer and the birdsfled in fear. The slumbering Rakshasiswoke up and were bewildered to see thisunaccountable sight.Hanuman sat on the top of the wall ofthe garden, a huge figure of wrathfulmenace, waiting for the answer to hischallenge. The Rakshasis quaked withterror at the sight of this stranger andsome ran to tell Ravana the news. Someapproached Sita and asked: "How did thishuge monkey come here? You shouldknow who he is. Did he say anything to
  • 151. you? Tell us the truth. Do not be afraid tospeak out.""How do I know what can happen inthis charmed world of Rakshasas?" Sitaanswered, parrying, the question. "Thismonkey is probably one of the Rakshasasand you are likely to know more abouthim than I." The Rakshasis fled in fearfrom the park and reported to Ravanawhat had happened."O king! A huge monkey terrible tolook at has laid waste the royal garden. Itwas in secret talk with Sita."Of course they omitted to add that theyhad fallen asleep and given a chance forSita to talk to the monkey."We tried our best to get someinformation from Sita," they added. "Weasked her who he was, and how he camethere, and what he told her. But sherefuses to answer. You should seize andslay this creature. Do send a strong foe.The beautiful grove is completelydevastated except for the Simsupa treeunder which Sita is seated. Its spreadingbranches have suffered no damage. Themonkey which laid waste the tanks andbowers has spared the habitation of Sita.There must be a reason for this. Wesuspect that this is not an ordinary wildanimal. It must have been sent by someenemy of yours, either Indra or Kubera.Or could it have anything to do withRama? How did this monkey dare to talkto Sita? He must be a messenger fromRama. Do send your warriors to capturethis terrible beast."Ravana was furious on hearing that hisfavorite park, set apart for his queens, hadbeen destroyed. His eyes glowed like twintorches and hot tears rolled down fromthem like drops of burning oil.He turned to the bodyguards standingbeside him ever eager to do his biddingand ordered them at once to go anddestroy the monster-monkey. A strongforce started to execute the kingscommands, armed with maces and spearsand other weapons.55. THE TERRIBLE ENVOYTHE Rakshasa warriors saw withamazement a mighty Vanara seated on thegarden gate, who at their approach grewto still bigger size and formidable menace."Oh! You have come, have you?" hesaid and, jumping down, brandished histail, and striking the ground with it, roaredtill the four quarters shook. He snatchedthe huge iron bar from the gate and, armedwith this weapon, began to attack themall.He sprang and leaped in all directionsand, whirling the iron rod, struck theRakshasas down, one by one. Afterfinishing them thus, he resumed his seaton the top of the pillared entrance, androared once again."Long live Rama! Long liveLakshmana!" he loudly proclaimed."Long live King Sugriva! Oh! YeRakshasas of Lanka, your doom are near.The great warriors Rama and Lakshmanaand King Sugriva have sent me here todestroy you. Come on in your thousands. Istand here ready to hurl you todestruction. I have saluted Sita andreceived her blessings. And now I amgoing to destroy your city!"All Lanka heard the thunder of hiswords and quaked in terror. When thenews reached Ravana that the warriorssent against Hanuman were all slain, heopened wide his fierce eyes in amazementand wrath."What is it you say?" he yelled, andcalled Jambumali, the matchless warrior,son of Prahasta. And be said to him. "Goat once! Punish this monkey and report tome."The Rakshasa Jambumali took sometime to put on armor and to take upweapons and get ready to meet his foe.
  • 152. Meanwhile, Hanuman was not sitting still.He climbed to the top of a temple in thepark and stood there, shining against thehorizon like a second sun suddenly risenin the sky. He magnified his body stillfurther and looked like a golden mountainrange up in the heavens.His roar filled the city of Lanka andraised echoes from all the eight quarters.The hearts of the Rakshasas trembled infear."Long live Rama! Long liveLakshmana! Long live King Sugriva! Ihave come as an envoy of the King ofKosala. I have come to destroy Lanka. Iam Hanuman, son of Vayu, come here toutterly destroy the enemies of Rama. Ihave vowed before Sita and received herblessings. Know that I possess thestrength to vanquish a thousand Ravanas.Big boulders and uprooted trees I shallaim at the Rakshasas and destroy them.That is what I have come here for!"The sentries in the temple took upvarious weapons and attacked him.Hanuman jumped down and plucked up abig pillar, supporting the temple, andstood there like the destroyer. Whirlinghis massive weapon easily as though itwas a willow wand, Hanuman struckdown and slew the sentries. The temple,from which the pillar had been removed,collapsed. As Hanuman struck the groundwith the pillar, sparks of fire flew allaround."In Sugrivas army there are monkeysmuch mightier than I and they will soonbe here," he roared. "You and your kingand your city will be destroyed by them,root and branch. Your king has incurredthe enmity of the Lord of the Ikshvakurace, has he not? Lanka is nearing its end.Destruction awaits the Rakshasas. TheGod of Death is approaching Ravana."Jambumali arrived at last. With wide,glaring eyes and ugly, irregular teethdressed in scarlet, with large golden ringsin his ears, bow in hand, garland round hisneck, sword at his hip, he came in achariot rattling like thunder. Hanuman seteyes on the chariot dragged by enormousmules. And he got ready.Seated in his chariot, Jambumali benthis bow and aimed a few arrows at Marutiwho was seated on the wall. Theywounded his face and drew blood, whichadded to the beauty of his face. It was as ifa red lotus had suddenly blossomed in theheavens. The wounds enraged Hanuman,who picked up a big boulder and flung itat the chariot.He uprooted a sal tree and, twirling it,flung it at Jambumali. Then he pluckedout a huge iron rod from the temple andaimed it at the chariot and reduced it tosplinters and crushed the huge body ofJambumali into a shapeless mass, inwhich neither head nor limbs could bedistinguished.The issue of this battle was dulyreported to Ravana. He was struck withwonder. ""This is indeed somethingstrange," he said to himself. "Thismurderous brute is not an animal,certainly not a mere monkey. It is somenew creature devised by my old enemiesthe gods to annoy me."And be ordered mighty commanders togo with a great army to capture thecreature and produce it before him.The Rakshasa chiefs went forth in agreat array of chariots. In full force theyattacked Hanuman, who was as beforestationed on top of the entrance and waslaughing aloud in disdainful unconcern.They showered missiles on him thatmostly glanced harmlessly off hisadamantine frame. With each dart orarrow that struck him, he grew in statureand fierceness. And ranging all round withenergy pelted them with rocks and hugetree boles, till all the leaders lay crushed
  • 153. and slain, and the survivors fled in panicand despair.Having killed or put to fight the entirecontingent of Rakshasas, Hanuman roaredin triumph and Lanka trembled at the roar.He resumed his seat on the stone-battlement on the top of the garden-gate.Hearing of the defeat of the force sent tocapture Hanuman and the slaughter of fiveof his best commanders, fear for the firsttime entered Ravanas heart. "It isextraordinary that a solitary monkeyshould have this devastating valor andpurposeful malevolence," Ravana thoughtwith anxiety. "This is clearly a conspiracyof the gods."But he kept his concern to himself andlaughed derisively. He looked round at allthe members of his great council. His sonthe heroic Aksha stood foremost, eager forbattle, and the proud father bade him goforth to battle against the tremendous foe.Radiant with youth and health andglowing with high courage at thisopportunity of distinguishing himself,Aksha went forth in a shining chariot,confident of victory.56. HANUMAN BOUNDVALMIKI describes in beautiful verseshow the youthful warrior Aksha, the equalof the gods, rode to battle in a chariotdrawn by eight horses.Who can put up in a different tongueValmikis poetry describing the beauty offorests and the terrible fury of encountersbetween warriors? The rhythm andgrandeur of his words convey the terrorand majesty of what he describes. Thispower is Valmikis special gift. We canonly summarise in pedestrian prose hisglowing account, of the battle betweenAksha, the beloved son of Ravana, andHanuman.In a golden chariot acquired throughtapasya rode Ravanas young son. Whenhe saw Hanuman, seated on the stonebattlement above the gateway, and notedapprovingly the beautiful symmetry of hismighty limbs, and the majestic intrepidityof his look, Aksha felt that here was a foeworthy of his steel. He summoned all hisstrength and resolution to do him honor.The young warrior aimed three sharparrows at Hanuman. They struck his bodyand drew blood. But Marutis strengthincreased and his face shone with newsplendor. He too was pleased with theprowess of the youthful Rakshasa.Fierce grew the battle between the two.Hundreds of arrows rose in clouds into thesky and hit Maruti. Like rain falling on arock, they fell on Hanumans body. Risingin the air Hanuman dodged about evadingthe arrows. Slipping as it were through themeshes of that deadly network of missilesand finding a favorable opening closedwith Aksha.Hanuman admired Akshas youthfulpromise and heroism, and was sorry tohave to slay him, but there was no help forit for the prince seemed to get more andmore formidable as the fight went on. Andit was unwise to take chances with him.At last Hanuman hardened his heart anddecided to destroy the youth.He rushed against Akshas chariot andbroke it to pieces. The horses fell dead.The Rakshasa prince stood on the groundchariotless. Nothing daunted, he rose inthe air with bow and sword and attackedHanuman. A great battle took place in theair. In the end Akshas bones were crushedand splintered and he fell down dead.Hearing that the prince had been killedby Hanuman, Ravana shook with rage, butcontrolling himself he called his sonIndrajit, the conqueror of Indra."You have mastered all weapons," hesaid. "You have vanquished the Devas andAsuras in battle. You have by yourausterities called Brahma down andsecured from him the Brahmastra. There
  • 154. is none in the world who can oppose you.Fatigue cannot approach you. Yourknowledge of battle is unique. You haveattained strength through tapasya. Nothingis impossible for you. None can equalyou in foresight. The Kinneras I sent andJambumali and the five generals of ourarmy, and your dear brother Aksha haveall been slain by a terrible foe who hasraided us in the form of a monkey and it isyours now to avenge them. Do notunderrate him. It seems he cannot bevanquished by weapons. He cannot bebrought down in wrestling. Consider welltherefore what needs to be done. Do it andreturn victorious. The astras you havesecured through tapasya can serve you atthis moment. Without allowing yourmind to wander, fight with concentrationand return triumphant."Indrajit, bright like the gods, acceptedhis fathers command with reverence andreceiving his blessings went with courageand eagerness towards the Asoka Vana.Standing in a chariot drawn by fourfierce lions and twanging his bowstring,Indrajit proceeded towards Hanuman. Hischariot sounded like the wind off themonsoon. His lotus-like eyes shonevictory.As Hanuman saw the chariot comingtowards him, he was filled with joy.Indrajit too, skilful in battle, bent his bowand got his sharp arrows ready forHanuman. Knowing that a great battle wasat band, the Nagas, Yakshas and Siddhasassembled in the sky to see.At the sight of Indrajit Hanuman roaredand increased his stature still further.Silently the Rakshasa warrior dispatchedhis darts. Showers of arrows began todescend as in the battle of the gods andtheir cousins, the Asuras. Hanuman rosein the sky and, moving with speed likelightning, struck down the sharp arrows.His roar made the quarters echo, drowningthe drumbeats and the bow-twangs of theRakshasa.The battle raged with increasing furyand filled all beholders with amazement.In skill and strength the two warriors wereperfect equals. No matter how often hewas wounded, Hanumans strengthshowed no signs of lessening. Indrajittherefore resolved: "My arrows cannotvanquish this monkey. What my fathersaid is true. He can be bound only byusing the Brahmastra."The Rakshasa Prince sent forth theBrahmastra. At its touch the Vanarawarrior lay bound and helpless. Hanumanrealised what had happened. He said tohimself: "I have been bound by theBrahmastra." Hanuman too had secured aboon from Brahma, and this he nowremembered."This will keep me bound for only onemuhoorta (four fifths of an hour)," he saidto himself. "I run no real risk. Let me seewhat the Rakshasas do to me while I liebound and helpless. I might find here afurther opportunity to function as amessenger."As instructed by Brahma when he gavehim the gift of immortality, hesurrendered himself to the Brahmastra andlay down on the ground, inactive but infull possession of his faculties.When they saw Hanuman thus lyinghelpless on the ground the Rakshasas whotill then stood at a distance in fear,surrounded him and danced with joy andcalled him insulting names and praisedtheir prince."We shall cut you to pieces!" theyshouted. "Let us eat him up. We shall draghim to the throne of our Ravana." Thusand in many other ways they shouted.A few among them feared and said:"This fellow is only pretending. He mayget up suddenly and attack us." So theybrought ropes of jute and coconut fibber
  • 155. and bound him hard and shoutedexultingly: "Now we have bound him, letus drag him to the Lord of the Rakshasas."Indrajit, who discovered too late andcould not prevent this foolish mistake ofthe Rakshasas, felt sad."Alas!" he thought with sorrow. "Theyhave undone all my work. These fools donot know the secrets of supernaturalweapons. When they have thus used ropesand jute for binding him, the astrawithdraws its power. The bound of themantra is undone when physical bonds areadded. Hanuman is now held only by theropes that he can burst asunder and theBrahmastra cannot be used a secondtime."Hanuman too understood this, andknew he could spring up free if he liked.But he welcomed the opportunity to meetand talk to Ravana and allowed himself tobe dragged to the king, patiently bearingall their insults and cruelties in seeminghelplessness. They belabored and foullyabused him, and dragged him through thestreets and women and children came outto look at him and jeer.57. LANKA IN FLAMESHis captors took him to the court ofRavana and placed him in front of theKing. Forgetting the pain and insults hehad borne, Hanuman gazed with wrathfulcuriosity at the giant monarch. As hegazed at him resplendent on his throne asort of pitying admiration of the doomedRakshasa entered his thoughts.Clad in silk of golden hue, with theroyal crown on his head, the jewels inlaidin it shining brilliantly, Ravana sat there, afigure of dazzling splendor. The wholecourt was brilliant with shining gold andgems, pearls and silk. His dark body, litup by the marks of royalty, looked like agreat radiant hill."Alas!" thought Hanuman full of anger,wonder and pity. "If only this great onehad not swerved from the path of dharma,not even Indra could equal him. What aform, what radiance, what strength!Trusting to the boon he had secured, hetook to wicked ways and has lost hishappiness and forfeited his greatness."As Hanuman was lost in thought thus,Ravana addressed his ministers: "Find outfrom this wicked fellow who he is, wherehe has come from, who has sent him hereand why he entered Lanka. Tell him tospeak truthfully."As ordered by the king, Prahastaquestioned Hanuman. "Do not be afraid,monkey! If you speak the truth, you willescape punishment. Did Indra send youhere? Or are you Kuberas servant? Whoseorders are you carrying out? Speak thetruth and save yourself. Why have youcome here thus disguised? Take care youhide nothing!"Hanuman, facing Ravana directly, said:"Neither Indra, nor Kubera has sent mehere. I am a Vanara. I came here to have alook at the Rakshasa king. That was why Ilaid waste the garden. Otherwise I couldnot get to the kings presence. Andbecause they attacked me and tried to killme, I killed them in self-defence. I havecome here as the messenger of Sugriva,the Vanara king. O Rakshasa king my lordlooks on you as a brother and sends youhis greetings. Ramachandra, the famousson of king Dasaratha of Ayodhya, hasbecome a friend of Sugriva and slayingVali has made Sugriva king. WhenRamachandra, heir to the throne ofAyodhya, was living in the Dandakaforest to fulfil his fathers word, hisconsort who had been left alone for awhile was lost and at the behest of Ramaand Lakshmana, Sugriva has sent hisservant to look for her throughout theworld. I came to Lanka on this search andhere I saw the good princess. O lord of theRakshasas, I speak to you with the respect
  • 156. due from the messenger of a brother king.I speak to you also as a devoted servant ofthe Prince of Ayodhya. You know well itwas a cowardly act and totally contrary todharma to carry off the princess Sita. Thisis sure to end in the destruction of yourrace if you persist in your wicked folly.Restore Sita to the prince and seek hisforgiveness. Know that Death has come toyou in the form of Sita. Do not mistakepoison for food. It is not wisdom tooppose dharma and run into deadlydanger. You know well enough that thesin of desiring anothers wife willconsume utterly the merit you have earnedthrough tapas and destroy you inevitably.Your only recourse now is to seek refugeat Ramas feet. Do not make Rama yourenemy and bring about your owndestruction. The boons you have securedwill avail you nothing against the Princeof the Raghu race. Consider well andrealise the danger you are in. Pay heed tothe words of this humble messenger of theVanara king. Turn to the right path andfind safety. These words from a brotherking are true and meant for your welfare."Hanuman uttered this bitter warning ina loud and clear voice. When theRakshasa king heard it, his eyes grew redwith anger, and he ordered that Hanumanshould be killed forthwith. ButVibhishana pointed out that it would beimproper to kill a kings envoy."According to the law of kings it is notpermitted on any account to kill envoysand messengers. You can have himmutilated, whipped or branded, but notkilled," so counselled Vibhishana."What is wrong," asked Ravana, "inkilling one who has sinned so greatly?"Answered Vibhishana with duepoliteness: "No matter how grievous hisoffence, it was done at the bidding ofothers. To leave his royal masters aloneand to slay their instrument, a meremessenger, what use or sense is there init? Let us by all means seek ways ofpunishing those that sent him here. Theymust be brought here and given duepunishment. If he is slain now, whatchance is there of our real enemies beingbrought here? If, on the other hand, he issent back alive to them, they will comehere and attack us. Then they will receiveproper punishment at your hands."Ravana agreed. "Very well," he said, "amonkeys most cherished possession is histail. Set fire to his tail, flog him soundlyand turn him out."At these words of the Rakshasa king,his servants took Hanuman out. Theywrapped his tail in rags of all kinds. Histail grew in size and, as it grew, theybrought more and more old rags andwrapped them round. They soaked thewhole in oil and set it ablaze like a hugeflaming torch.Thus bound by ropes and with tailablaze, Hanuman was taken through thestreets of Lanka."Here goes the thief that entered ourcity!" cried the women and children. Theyjeered at him as he was taken round by theexulting Rakshasas to the accompanimentof pipes and drums through all thehighways and byways of Lanka.In the Asoka Vana the Rakshasis toldSita: "The monkey with whom you hadsecret talk, do you know what hashappened to him? They have wrapped histail in cloth soaked in oil and have set fireto it. His tail is ablaze. They are takinghim in procession through the town."They told Sita the tale and laughed inscorn. She kindled a fire and offered aprayer to the god of Fire: "O Agni! Ifthere be any goodness in me, any purity,be cool to Hanuman; do not hurt him."Hanuman endured the blows and theinsults heaped upon him, and proceededfrom street to street quietly observing
  • 157. everything. The Rakshasas, to amusetheir women and children took himthrough all the streets and bylanes of thecity. And he noted in silence, for future,use all the secrets of that fortified city."But what is this miracle?" he thought."The rags soaked in oil burn brightly butthe fire does not hurt and is cool on mytail. The elements themselves seem kindto one engaged in Ramas purpose. Didnot the mountain rise above the sea andoffer me hospitality? Even so the god ofFire is gracious to me now and does notharm me. Or may be, Agni being a friendof my father Vayu, is gentle with me.Now, I think I should not let slip thisopportunity which has come to meunsought to put the fear of God into theseRakshasas."Suddenly he shrank in size and shookoff the ropes that bound him and,resuming his huge shape, jumped with hisblazing tail to the top of a tall building. Heplucked a pillar there and whirled itround, striking terror in all beholders.Then he jumped from mansion tomansion, setting fire to them. In a littlewhile a strong breeze began to blow andthe whole city was in flames. TheRakshasas and their women and childrenshouted in terror and ran hither andthither."This monkey is no other than Yama,"said some. "No, he must be the god Agni,"said others. And they all fled from theirburning houses.Recalling the insults he had suffered,Hanuman was pleased when he saw theflames rise. He sat on the summit of theTrikuta hill and contemplated withsatisfaction the red glow of the burningcity. Then he went to the sea and,plunging in, put out the fire in his tail andcame ashore."Alas! Alas! What have I done?" hesaid with uncontrollable grief. "I have lostmy senses in my rage. What is the use ofstrength and skill and all other gifts if onecannot control ones anger? Sita too musthave perished in this great conflagration Ihave raised. My angry deed has led to theutter ruin of my whole purpose. Alas,there is no fool, no sinner, like me onearth. My rage against the Rakshasas hasended in the death of Sita. Here and now Imust put an end to my life and to myshame!"Then he heard some voices in the sky.The Charanas and Yakshas were rejoicingand saying, "What a miracle! Glory be toHanumans prowess! Except the spotwhere Sita is, all Lanka is in flames!"Hearing this ethereal conversation,Hanuman was relieved. "Sita has savedherself. She saved me, for it was herpurity and power that kept the fire fromharming me. How can fire help payinghomage to the goddess of chastity? Whatcan fire do to fire? This fire that I startedcould not go near Sita. And is not all thisRamas purpose? Did not the ocean kingand Mynaka Mountain come to my help?"Thinking thus, Hanuman went straightto the Asoka Park again. There, under theSimsupa tree, he saw Sita who was greatlyrelieved to see him alive and cheerful.Rejoicing, he bowed before her andsaid, "Oh mother! I have seen you safeand sound. This is your power and mygood fortune. Now give me leave to go."And Sita said, "You are indeed a hero.For you there is nothing impossible. Seethat my lord comes here soon and layslow the Rakshasas and redeems me. Idepend on you. You alone can achievethis.""Be assured," said Hanuman. "Sugrivawill soon be here with Rama andLakshmana and the myriads of Vanaras.Ravana and his wicked hordes will perish.The happy prince will return with you to
  • 158. Ayodhya. Grieve no more. God blessyou."Thus consoling her, Hanuman tookleave of Sita. He went to the shore of thesea and, climbing up the beautiful hillcalled Arishta, rose into the sky.On the way he saw Mynaka eagerlyawaiting him. He affectionately stroked itwith his hand, but did not stop. He flewstraight like an arrow shot from a bow. Atthe sight of Mahendra hill he knew that hewas near the other shore and he roared.The Vanaras, meanwhile, who sawHanuman flying towards them like a greateagle across the sky, shouted: "He iscome. He is come!"Till now their hearts had been full ofcare and their eyes wet. Now they jumpedin their joy."It is certain he is returning intriumph," said Jambavan. "Else he wouldnot roar in this manner."They climbed up trees and hills andstood watching with joy the approach ofHanuman returning from Lanka.And Hanuman rejoiced to see themountains and trees all covered with hisfriends. Amid their glad uproar, healighted on the Mahendra hill.58. A CARNIVALBESIDE themselves with joy at thesight of Hanuman, the Vanaras assembledon the Mahendra peak. And the veteranJambavan welcoming the son of Vayuwith great affection, spoke on behalf ofall."We are eager to hear a full account ofyour journey and its triumphantconclusion. More particularly, we areanxious to know how you discovered Sita.How is she now? What is the state of hermind and body? And dear son of Anjana,tell us about Ravanas state and behavior.After knowing everything we shall be in aposition to consider and decide whatneeds to be done next. "Hanuman tendered mental salutationsto Sita and began his story."You know how I sprang into the skyfrom this peak. As I was flying over thesea, a golden mountain rose suddenlyabove the surface of the water. I thought itwas something rising up to obstruct meand I gave it a flick with my tail. Meeklyreceiving the blow, the mountain said in asweet voice: My son, I am no enemy. Iwas saved by your father from the direwrath of Indra and am ever greateful tohim. I now live in safety sheltered by thesea. In olden days, we mountains hadwings and flew hither and thither in thesky and the world was in dread of us.Then Indra, to rid the world of this terror,relentlessly pursued us and cut off ourwings. It was from this common fate thatyour father rescued me. You are engagedin the most fatiguing task of flying acrossthe sea. I have come up here to offer yousome rest. Stay here for a while and thenfulfil Ramas purpose. I declined the offerfor lack of time and, taking leave of him,went on my way."Thus, in proper sequence and withoutomission, Hanuman recounted all thathappened during the passage and in thecity of Lanka. He told them how hesearched for Sita in vain in Ravanaspalace, how he found her at last in theAsoka Vana, how Ravana sought andimportuned her and was spurned by her.He narrated what dire threats Ravana heldout, how the Rakshasis teased her anddrove her to think of putting an end to herown life, and how it was at this juncturethat he approached and gave her news ofRama and hope and interest in life.With tears in his eyes he told themwhat a divinely precious soul Sita was andhow nobly she had borne herself. Then henarrated how he destroyed the park andkilled the Rakshasa warriors, how he wasfinally bound by Indrajit and produced
  • 159. before Ravana. He described what tookplace at the interview, and how as apunishment for his boldness of speechthey set fire to his tail, furnishing himthereby with a great torch with which heset their city ablaze.On such occasions, when a characterhas to recapitulate past events, we can seeValmikis skill in retelling the story inbeautiful words. This is a source ofspecial pleasure to those who read theRamayana as a religious exercise. They donot dislike such repetitions. Indeed it isone of the special charms in a large epic.But I have abridged the recital to suit thegeneral reader who has no time or tastefor an oft-repeated tale however edifying.Those who wish to avert some calamity ordesire success in some great undertakingusually make a Parayana (devotionalreading exercise) of the whole of theSundarakanda, the canto dealing withHanumans expedition to Lanka. It isbelieved that the same result can beobtained even by a Parayana of only thischapter where Hanuman relates to theVanara warriors all that happenedbetween his crossing and recrossing thesea.After this full narration of thehappenings, Hanuman proceeded: "Ourefforts have been successful so farbecause of the power of chastity of Sitawho is chastity incarnate. When I think ofher I wonder how the Rakshasa couldseize and carry her away and yet escapebeing burnt to ashes. But Ravana too hadaccumulated great power through histapas. Even so, Sita could have reducedhim to ashes if she had chosen, but shepatiently endured all this, because shewanted the punishment to proceed fromher lord. And now what is your advice?Shall we go straight to Lanka, destroyRavana and the Rakshasa hordes, recoverSita and restore her to Rama? It is not as ifwe have not the strength to do this.Single-handed I can destroy them andleave not a trace behind. And Jambavantoo, all by himself, can utterly destroy theRakshasas. And so can our PrinceAngada; and so can Panasa or Nila; so canMainda and Dwivida, the sons of Asvini.Yes, there are many among us who canslay Ravana and the Rakshasa hordes.Indeed I proclaimed aloud in Lanka: I, themessenger of Rama and the minister ofSugriva, am come to destroy you. Butwhile we are talking, Vaidehi, theGoddess of purity, is there under theSimsupa tree a closely guarded prisonerpining with aching heart for rescue. In herhour of despair, I showed myself to her,and comforted her with the assurance ofher lords speedy arrival. Consider welland decide what should now be done."Angada, listening to all this, full ofindignation jumped up, saying: "I can doit all alone. And there are so many of ushere, eager warriors thirsting for battle. Itwould be improper, after all these days, togo to Rama empty-handed and withoutSita. Let us go straight to Lanka, destroyRavana and the Rakshasa army and returnto Kishkindha with Sita in our midst."Jambavan, old and wise, uttered agentle protest. "No, it is not right, dearprince," he said. "We should reporteverything to Rama and Lakshmana andthen do what they desire. Ramas purposeshould be fulfilled in the manner that hedesires. That alone is proper."All the Vanaras, including Hanumanand Angada, agreed that this was the rightthing to do. They then rose into the skyand flew towards Kishkindha.They alighted near the protected parkof the Vanara king. They made their wayinto it, drank honey and ate fruit,regardless of the warnings of the guards.They indulged in unrestrained revelry andruined the beautiful park.
  • 160. Unable to stand the riotous behavior ofthe mirth-makers, Dadhimukha, Sugrivasuncle and keeper of the royal park, hurriedto the king and complained."Your protected park has been laidwaste. The Vanaras that went south havereturned and, alighting in the garden, arebehaving outrageously. They pay no heedto my words. On the contrary, theyassaulted and insulted me. They drank upand ruined all the honeycombs andplucked and ate fruit as they liked and arenow lying senseless as a result of theirrevelry. The trees and plants are all inruins. The king should forthwith inflictsuitable punishment on theseundisciplined Vanaras."Sugriva understood the position atonce. "Lakshmana, it is clear thatHanuman, Jambavan and Angada havesucceeded in their search and arecelebrating their triumph in this manner."Saying this he turned to Dadhimukha andsaid to him: "Send them all here at once."Dadhimukha now understood the realstate of affairs and, hastening to theVanaras, conveyed to them the kingscommand.59. THE TIDINGS CONVEYEDSUGRIVAS conjecture was like nectarto Ramas ears. They eagerly awaited thearrival of the Vanaras. In a short while agreat clamor was in the air and the Vanarahordes alighted with cries of triumph.Hanuman and Angada leading, theVanaras marched to the presence of theirking who with Rama and Lakshmana wasawaiting their coming.Hanuman bowed and said: "Seen haveI the Goddess of purity, your queen. Sheis safe and well in Lanka. I salute herfrom here across space." And he turnedsouthwards and offered worshipfulsalutation.Thus succinctly did Hanuman conveyto the prince the glad news that Sita wasfound and was well in body and mind.Sugriva and Lakshmana, besidethemselves with joy, embraced Rama."Dear Vanara friends," exclaimed thePrince of Ayodhya, "tell me where exactlySita is. How is she? How did you manageto see her? Tell me everything in detail."His eager inquiries came quick upon oneanother.The other Vanaras turned to Hanumanwho stood behind, and asked him tonarrate all that he had seen and done.Hanuman began to tell the tale. With hisunrivalled courage and strength andsingle-handed, he had performed a mightytask. Yet he did not push himself forwardinto the presence of Prince Rama or KingSugriva, but gave precedence to Angadaand the aged Jambavan and the others,and was silent until they asked him tospeak.Indeed, generally, great men who dareand do mighty deeds are disinclined tospeak about their exploits. In painting thisscene the poet brings out this law ofnatural conduct. Another thing to notehere is Hanumans reverence for Sita.From the time he first saw her, hisreverence for Sita appeared to surpasseven his devotion to Rama, if the twocould be distinguished. This is the casewith all pious devotees who regard andworship the Supreme as Mother. Whenthat aspect of the All immanent Power isbefore true devotees, their reverencebecomes ecstatic like the childs joy in themothers lap."Crossing the hundred yojanas ofwater, I reached the city of the wickedRavana on the southern shore. There, in apark attached to the palace, I saw Sita heldprisoner and closely guarded. It waswonderful to see her emaciated form. Shemaintained life only in the thought of herlord and repetition of his name. Cruel andugly Rakshasis surrounded her. I saw her
  • 161. lying on the ground, her hair unkempt andher face clouded by sorrow and care.When I reached there, she had resolved toput an end to her life to escape from theRakshasa kings importunities and threats.I began uttering praises of your glory in alow voice. Unknown to her, and a meremonkey, I had to secure her confidencefirst. Then I spoke to her. I told her of thealliance between King Sugriva andyourself. I told her of your great grief andunchanging love. This filled her withsweet sorrow and awakened hope in herand the desire to live. Asked for a tokenwhich I might convey to you, the angel ofpurity gave me this jewel to be given toyou. She also told me how once a crowhad troubled her while you were asleepand how you were grieved about it, sheasked me to remind you of the incident.She wanted me to remind you of anotheroccasion when, roaming among the hills,perspiration had made the tilak trickledown her forehead and you replaced itwith red ochre rubbed out of a rock. Shebade me tell you that she would struggleand keep alive for a month, but then shewould perish at the hands of Ravana, orshe would seek her own release of death.She bade me convey her respects to theVanara King. Now let us think and makepreparations at once for proceeding toLanka to redeem the princess."Saying this, he handed the sikhamani,crest-jewel, of Sita to the prince.Rama took the jewel from Hanumanshand and at the sight of it fainted, rackedbeyond bearing between extremes of joyand grief.He pressed the jewel to his bosom andcried: "O Lakshmana!" Again heembraced Hanuman and said: "Heroic sonof Vayu, blessed are you who have seenSita. I too see her now before me. Youhave, indeed, brought her to me.""Dear hero, my hearts friend!" he cried"tell me everything again in full. Tell meonce again what Sita said. Let me hear herwords which are sweet like water toparched lips."Hanuman narrated the whole story tothe eager listeners and Rama wept whenHanuman repeated these words of Sita:"Many Rakshasas has my Rama slain,but why has he not come here yet to slayRavana and save me from my sufferings?Why has he not sent brave Lakshmana toslay the wretch? It cannot be that my lordhas grown indifferent towards me! For Iknow of no wrong I have ever committedin thought or word or deed to lose hislove."Hanuman said: "I tried to console hersaying: Rama is ever thinking of you andgrieving for you. He knows no rest. Donot imagine that Rama and Lakshmanahave forgotten you. No words of minecould describe their grief. Now that I amgoing to tell them you are here, it will notbe long before they come and destroyRavana and return with you in triumph toAyodhya. It was then she untied the jewelfrom a knot in a corner of her sari andgave it to me. I placed it on my head inreverence and, securing it, started toreturn. She stopped me and uttered abenediction again and said: FriendHanuman convey the news of my welfareto the lions, my lord and his brother, toking Sugriva and his ministers. Deviseyour plans and help him to come here andredeem me. I trust in you, Hanuman,absolutely. May God bless you.""Lay aside your grief, my Lord,"continued Hanuman, "and think out nowwhat has to be done. Sita doubted howyou and the Vanara army could cross thesea. I assured her that she need have nofear or doubt on that score, since, by nomeans the strongest among the Vanaras, Imyself had crossed it as she could see. I
  • 162. said to her that I myself could carry Ramaand Lakshmana on my shoulders andcross the sea and bring them there."60. THE ARMY MOVESFORWARDRAMA heard Hanuman with heart andeyes overflowing and, when he had cometo the end of his narrative, said:"The deed done by Hanuman none elsein the world could even conceive ofattempting, crossing the sea, enteringLanka protected by Ravana and hisformidable hosts and accomplishing thetask set him by his king not only fully butbeyond the fondest hopes of all."And it saddened him to think that itwas not in his power to reward Hanumanat all adequately for the supreme joy hehad brought. "O Hanuman, let thisembrace of mine stand as anacknowledgment of all that my heart feelsof gratitude for your great service to me."So saying while his whole beingthrilled with grateful love, he tookHanuman into his arms and clasped him tohis breast."Sugriva," he said, "Hanuman hasindeed wrought a wonder. He enteredLanka so strongly guarded by theRakshasas. He has discovered Sita and, byconsoling her, preserved her life. Bringingback good news of her, he has saved mylife also. But how are we now going tocross the sea? How can our huge armyreach the other shore? Before we canattack Ravanas city and the Rakshasasarmy, we have first to cross the sea. I seeno way of doing it. Our joy in Hanumansachievement and the good news he hasbrought is overlaid by anxiety about ourfuture course."But the Vanara king said: "What isthis, my Lord Rama? What need is therefor dejection? Here are my warriors, readyto lay down their lives for you and let it beour joy to transport you and Lakshmana toLanka. Have no doubt that we can do it.The moment Hanuman saw Lanka, youmay take it the fortress has fallen. Doubtonly makes the warrior weak and afraidand should be cast aside. Our victory iscertain. The feeling of confidence in myheart at this moment is a good enoughomen for me."Thus Sugriva reassured Rama, andinspired him to action. Then Rama andHanuman discussed matters about Lanka,the town, the fort, the moat and otherdefences. Understanding this, Hanumandescribed the wealth of Lanka, the happylives of the Rakshasas, their confidence inRavana and their affection for him.He told Rama of the might and size ofRavanas army; the strength and structureof the fortress; the alertness of the sentry;the moats, walls and gates, catapults anddrawbridges, the care and thoroughness ofall the arrangements for defence. He alsoexplained how the coast too was carefullyguarded so that no enemy ship couldapproach it."And yet you may be certain," he said,"our Vanara army is fully equal to theconquest of Lanka. We have with uspeerless warriors like Angada, Dwivida,Mainda, Jambavan, Panasa, Nala andNila. We have an enormous army. Weshall fly in the sky and without touchingthe ground destroy Lanka. Its mountainsand forest defences are nothing to us. Weshall raze the city to the ground. Fix theauspicious time and give us the order tostart."Under the star of triumph, UttaraPhalguni, at high noon, the army setforward towards the southern sea. Goodomens greeted them.As they marched, Rama, Sugriva andLakshmana went conversing with oneanother. "If only Sita could know that wehave set out," said Rama, "it wouldencourage her to keep life going."
  • 163. Scouts who knew the way went ahead,looking out for enemies lying in ambush.They led the army through regions thatcould provide food and drink for the hugearmy. With speed the army crossedmountains and forests.The Vanaras sometimes carried Ramaand Lakshmana on their shoulders so thatthe march might be speedy. Everymoment the enthusiasm of the Vanarasincreased. They jumped and roared andsported. Rama could hear them saying toone another: "I shall kill Ravana! I shallmeet and kill Ravana!"Nila and Kumuda went aheadreconnoitering in front of the army. Strongwarriors were kept in the rear, guarding itfrom behind. King Sugriva, Rama andLakshmana were in the middle. Ramagave strict orders that the army shouldinflict no harm or hardship on the townsand villages on the way. The noise of themarching army was like the roar of the seaand filled the eight quarters. The dust theyraised covered the sky.When they came to the MahendraMountain, Rama climbed the peak andsurveyed the sea."We should now think and decide," hesaid, "how the army can cross the sea. Tillthen let it camp and rest in the forest."And Sugriva passed the order to thecommanders. The Vanaras camped in theforest by the seashore.When Sugriva, Rama and Lakshmanahad satisfied themselves that the wholearmy had settled in comfort, the twobrothers retired apart.Rama said: "If a person loses a dearthing, people say that time will enable himto forget about it and he will cease togrieve. But Lakshmana, this is not what Ifind."Dejection again seized Rama for thethought of Sita and her condition preyedon his mind now more than ever before."When Ravana seized Sita and carriedher off," Rama said, breaking down withfresh grief, "she must have cried aloud Hamy Lord! Ha Rama! Ha Lakshmana! Butshe saw no one coming. We failed to go toher help. Every time I think of thesuffering she then must have gonethrough, my grief swells up afresh. Whatam I to do? Like the limbs of one who hasdrunk poison, my whole body burns withpain. She is held in the grip of the cruelRakshasis and she is in great anguish.Janakas daughter, the bride who enteredthe home of great Dasaratha, she lies onthe bare ground, a prisoner surrounded byRakshasis!""Rama!" said Lakshmana, "cease fromsorrow. Soon we shall destroy Ravana andrescue Sita and take her home toAyodhya. She will enter the city like thegoddess of chastity. Give up your grief.Arm yourself with courage."61. ANXIETY IN LANKANow let us leave Rama and his hosthere and go back to Ravana. Great poetsin all languages delineate with sympathyeven their bad characters allowing gleamsof goodness to shine through occasionally,for nature has not made anybody whollyand unredeemably evil.The poets aim is to direct the readersmind into the path of good, the satvikway. For this purpose they use all theirskill and power in developing even theirrajasik and tamasik characters.The reader who is held by rajasik andtamasik qualities, naturally tends tosympathise with such characters; muchmore so readers below the average whoare untouched by the satvik element.They would regard the deeds of thehero and other satvik characters as merefiction invented for blind worship, andidentify themselves with the rajasik andtamasik characters and even claim theseas their own kith and kin. They would find
  • 164. themselves attracted by such charactersand follow their doings with considerableinterest.Paradise Lost, the English epic on aBiblical theme, is famous throughout theworld. In this poem Milton delineates theAlmighty and Jesus, His spiritual son andhuman incarnation, as well as severalorders of angels. But the most impressivecharacter in the great epic is Satan whorebelled against God and brought sin anddeath into this world.Critics of English poetry admireMiltons wonderful success in thecharacterisation of Satan. Similarly, thegreat dramatic poet Shakespeare hascreated a wonderful character in Shylock,the usurer and miser. Even suchembodiments of despicable qualities arepresented by the poets as possessingcourage, determination, energy and othergood qualities that attract us and serve asa bright background to their blackness.In Valmikis portraits of Ravana andKumbhakarna too, we notice the sameartistic skill. The cook who meets alltastes shows his skill in making out ofbitter vegetables an attractive dish. Sodoes the poet show his skill in portrayingevil.The Rakshasa king was somewhatashamed and afraid at the thought of whatHanuman had achieved in Lanka. Hesummoned his ministers and took counselwith them.He began in an apologetic tone. "Whathas happened is something strange andunexpected. No one has till now beenknown to enter our city, but this envoy ofRama has not only entered Lanka, he hasmet and talked with the imprisoned Sita.He has destroyed temples and palaces. Hehas slain some of our best warriors. Hehas filled our people with fear. And thisthing is not likely to stop here. Hence wehave to consider what should be done.You know that the king should decide hiscourse of action only after consulting hisloyal ministers of clear vision and well-versed in statecraft. And so I havesummoned this Council. Rama hasbecome an inveterate enemy. Let usconsider what we should do about it. Theking has no use for ministers who are notstraight forward or who not knowing theirown minds wobble in their advice. Thematter before us is most important. Ramais strong, and so is his army. It is certainthat they will contrive some how to crossthe sea. It would be unwise to trust to thatsingle defence. Consider well and tell mehow we can strengthen and secure our cityand army and what steps we should taketo defend ourselves."After listening to the king, themembers of the Assembly spoke with onevoice."Great king! Knowing well that ourarmy and our weapons are the strongest inthe world, why need you be anxious?Where is the enemy who dares to attackyour fortress and who can oppose yourarmy with any hope of success? Theworld knows your might. Did you notinvade the city of Bhogavati and defeatthe Naga king? Did you not attackpowerful Kubera and defeat him and hisYakshas and capture his PushpakaVimana as well as this island of Lanka?Did not Maya in fear of you sue for yourfavor and friendship and give you hisdaughter in marriage? How many cities inthe nether region have you not attackedand taken? You fought and defeated theKalakeyas. The sons of Varuna, yea, andYama himself have been suppliants foryour mercy. And who is this Rama? Yourson Indrajit by himself can destroy Ramaand his Vanara army. Did he not seize andimprison Indra himself and afterwards lethim go? How can Rama and his Vanarasstand against such a warrior? You have
  • 165. only to bid Indrajit destroy this Vanaracrowd and all will be over. Why shouldyou, great king, be anxious?"Thus they spoke in praise of their king.The Commander-in-chief Prahasta roselike a great black cloud. "You, whosubdued in battle the Devas, Danavas andGandharvas, why should you, oh King ofkings, feel anxious because of these littlecreatures? It is true that the monkey camehere and caught us napping and did somemischief. But this sort of thing will neverhappen again. If he comes again, I knowhow to manage him. I alone can destroythe whole Vanara race, if only you willorder it. You need not fear any dangerfrom this small indiscretion of yours, theabduction of Sita."Next Durmukha rose and roared: "Weshall not let this monkeys bravado andundeserved good luck go unavenged. Ishall go this very instant and destroy theVanara army, root and branch, andreturn."Vajradamshtra stood with a terribleiron club in his hand and cried: "Here ismy weapon unwashed and still coveredwith the blood and flesh of my foes. Whywaste your time talking about thismonkey? Are not Rama and Lakshmanaour enemies? I shall slay them first andthen destroy the Vanara army and re turnimmediately. Only let me go. I have apiece of advice to give you, King, if youwould listen. Let us order some Rakshasawarriors to put on human form andapproach Rama, telling him, Bharata hassent us in advance. A great army iscoming behind to help you. While Ramais thus fooled into negligence, ourRakshasa army can travel through the skyand destroy him and his followers on theother shore. This is my advice."Nikumbha, son of Kumbhakarna, roseand said: "All of you may stay here withthe King. I shall go alone and meet anddestroy the enemy and bring you thenews."Another Rakshasa, licking his lips, saidwith gusto: "I shall go alone and kill andfeast on the flesh of these two men, Ramaand Lakshmana. Please let me go."Thus one after another they got up andspoke brave words to please Ravana andthen all of them stood up together and,raising their weapons, roared aloud.At that Vibhishana, the youngerbrother of Ravana, made them all sitdown, and said to the king with foldedhands:"Brother, what these people say issweet to hear but not true or good to actupon. Anything done in violation of Nitishastra (the Science of Politics) can onlylead to grief and ruin. It is only aftertrying sama (conciliation), dana (buyingoff the enemy) and bheda (sowingdiscord) that one should think of usingdanda (force of arms.) against a foe. Ifyou take the advice of these people andstart a war now, it would mean thedestruction of Lanka and all of us. Weshould also consider the demands ofdharma. It was not right, it was indeed agreat sin for you, to have seized andbrought Ramas wife here. We should firstcleanse ourselves of this sin. What harmdid Rama do to us? What Rama did in theDandaka forest was in pure self-defenceand the defence of those that looked tohim for protection. He fought with andslew only those that went out to slay him.His actions surely do not justify yourcarrying away his wife. And even if wehad any just complaint against him, weshould have met in battle. Instead of that,to contrive his absence and seize his wifewas very wrong and sinful. When the faultis on your side, it is morally not right thatwe should think of battle. Further,warcraft requires that before fighting weshould take some measure of Ramas
  • 166. strength and that of his army. We havehad some taste of Hanumans strength andskill. It is pointless to talk lightly of him.Did he not do remarkable things? Thoughour own strength may be great, we shouldweigh it against the enemys strength andthen decide whether we should seek waror avoid it. But first it is essential that weshould restore Sita. My advice is this,before Rama and the Vanaras attackLanka, let us restore Sita. Dear brother, Iam saying all this for your good. Pray, donot be angry with me. We should first setright our own fault and then think of otherthings."Thus with folded hands Vibhishanabesought Ravana.Though Ravana was pleased with thevainglorious words of his ministers andgenerals, there was doubt lurking in hismind. Hence, after listening toVibhishana, he said: "Let us meet againtomorrow and consider this matter."He adjourned the Council, and retired.62. RAVANA CALLS A COUNCILAGAINAS soon as the day dawned,Vibhishana went to the king. He hadthought deeply over the matter and hadcome to a decision. His brothers welfaredemanded that he should seek somehowto convert and save him.Vibhishana entered the royal palaceand stood with folded hands before theking. Ravana sent away all but theprincipal Ministers and asked his brotherto speak."My brother and my lord," beganVibhishana, "forgive me if what I say isnot pleasing to your ears. My desire is notto flatter but to save you from a greatdanger while there is yet time. I beg ofyou to listen to me, consider well what Isay and then decide on your course ofaction."Ever since you brought Sita to Lankawe see only evil omens. Even when thelibation is poured with the correct mantra,the flame does not spring to receive it.One finds snakes in places of worship.Ants infest food offerings. The udders ofcows are dry and yield no milk. Elephants,horses, camels and monkeys fall sick,reject food and behave strangely.Medicines have lost their efficacy. Crowsperch in numbers on the housetopsmaking hideous noises. Vultures circlingoverhead fill the augurs with anxiety.Foxes boldly enter the city and howl atunusual hours. Wild beasts haunt thestreets. These portents should not bedisregarded. I beg of you, restore Sita toher husband. It is only since her cominghere that these omens are noticed as youcan verify by asking others. Why shouldwe, who have so much to lose, needlesslyincur any ones enmity? Let us restore Sitato her people and live happily." Thus didVibhishana plead earnestly with hisbrother."Never, never!" exclaimed Ravana."Let there be no talk here of Sita beingreturned to her people. I do not thinkmuch of this enemy. I see nothing to beafraid of. Now, you may go."Though he spoke thus and wasobstinate, Ravana had no peace of mind.Sita had not yielded to him and his ownnear kinsmen disapproved of his conduct.He was agitated, but putting on an air ofconfidence and unconcern he summonedthe Council again. Lust and injuredvanity kept him from the straight path, buthe found some consolation in takingcounsel from others.From the palace to the Hall of Councilhe drove through the street in a goldenchariot drawn by noble steeds. Warriors,holding swords and shields and wearingbrilliant uniforms, marched in front,behind and on the sides. Others mounted
  • 167. on elephants and horses and armed withaxes, spears and other terrible weapons,followed the chariot. Trumpets wereblown and drums beaten.As the Lord of Lanka, accompanied byhis retinue, passed majestically throughthe royal street, his people bent low theirheads and folded their hands and invokedvictory for him. As he entered the hall,drums and trumpets sounded loudly andfilled the eight quarters.Ravana took his seat on an agate thronein the great hall constructed by Mayawhich shone in all the splendor of goldand silver and precious carpets.Hundreds of demons stood sentrywithout. Obedient to the call of the King,thousands of Rakshasa warriors hadassembled in the chamber. Long rows ofvehicles stood in the streets. Within thechamber each was assigned a seatappropriate to his rank.Priests and chanters of the Vedas camein hundreds and after receiving tokens ofrespect from the king were seated in thehall.Vibhishana, Suka, Prahasta and othersbowed before the king and sat in theirrespective places. Devoted officersthronged the hall, all brave and efficientand waiting to fulfil the commands oftheir king.The air was heavy with rich perfume.The assembly equalled Indras in splendorand everyone felt that momentousdecisions were to be taken. Ravana brokethe hushed expectant silence of the greatassembly in a voice deep and resonant asthunder.He said: "You are strong, brave andskilled in the arts of peace and war. Youcan find a way out of every difficulty.Never so far has your advice miscarried.And so, once again, I seek your counsel.You know well what I have done. I havebrought here Sita who was living in theDandaka forest. My desire for her soentirely possesses me that sending herback is to me unthinkable. She has not sofar submitted to my wishes and entertainsa foolish hope that Rama will come hereand redeem her. I have told her that it isan impossible wish and a vain hope.Finally, she asked for a years time and Igave it to her. I now seek your counsel.My desire is unfulfilled. I can never agreeto sending Sita back and beggingforgiveness from Rama. Till now neitheryou, my great warriors, nor I have knowndefeat in battle. True, a big monkeysomehow contrived to cross the sea andwrought some mischief here. But hardindeed will it be for Rama and the Vanaraarmy to cross the sea and come here. Andeven if they did come, what need we fear?What chance have they against us? On theother side of the sea, Rama, Lakshmana,Sugriva and the Vanaras are encamped.Think how we can slay Rama andLakshmana. I should have summoned theCouncil earlier. But Kumbhakarna was inhis period of sleep and I waited till hewoke up."Thus spoke Ravana, blinded by lust,hiding his real anxiety and mixing a littlefalsehood with truth. For Sita had notasked for a years time. She had absolutelyrejected his advances, but he asked her toreconsider and gave her a years time.63. VIBHISHANAKUMBHAKARNA, the youngerbrother of Ravana, spoke in the assembly:"Great King! Ignoring the principles ofstatecraft, you have run into a greatdanger. If you had any grievance againstRama and Lakshmana, you should havemet them face to face and defeated andslain them before carrying off Sita. If youhad acted thus, even Sita would haveadmired you and there would then havebeen a possibility of her accepting you. Aswaters flow down a mountain, she would
  • 168. have followed a victorious warrior. Youdid not consult us before committing theoffence and incurred the enmity of Rama,but now, when it is too late, you seek ourcounsel. This is not the right way of doingthings that a king should follow."Having spoken thus harshly,Kumbhakarna looked at the king and sawhe was pained. Affectionate as he wasbrave, he could not endure the sadness inhis brothers face."Let by-gones be by-gones," hethought, "one cannot forsake ones honor."Kumbhakarna was under no delusionas to the consequences, but his generousspirit accepted them for the sake of thebrother he idolised. He knew that Ramawas a peerless warrior.He knew the power of his bow and alsothe limitations of the boons that Ravanahad received from the gods. But it was nogood taking the heart out of others in theface of unavoidable peril and so be alsobegan to speak vaunting words like therest:"What You did may be wrong, and sotoo the way you chose to do it. You havedone first what you should have done last.And yet, it does not matter. I shall slayRama. Do not be afraid. One or two of hisarrows may touch me. In spite of it, I shallkill him and drink his blood and victorywill be yours. My brother, lay aside yourcare, and think of other things."Some people suggest thatKumbhakarna was dull and so he thuscontradicted himself. But it was notstupidity, it was due to generous affectionthat he accepted the inevitable fearlessly.He was a proud warrior who loved hisbrother and his people and he decided onhonorable death with them.Prahasta was Ravanas chiefcounsellor. He spoke of the Kingsinvincible strength and cheered him up.Ravana now grew enthusiastic andsaid: "Didnt I vanquish Kubera? Didnt Idrive him out and make Lanka my own?Who dare come here and oppose me? Letus see!"The assembly applauded these words.Vibhishana alone did not join in theapplause. He did not mind the wrath of hisroyal brother. He felt it was his duty towarn him of the danger and the error ofhis ways.He felt bound to make his utmost effortto save him and the Rakshasa race fromdoom. He stood up and spoke:"You have brought Sita and with her,death for yourself and your race. Yourfirst duty to yourself and your people is torestore her to Rama. If you fail in this, weshall all assuredly perish. This is certain."He went on describing Ramas strengthand skill and his mastery of weapons. Hespoke frankly and without fear."If we oppose Rama," he said, "defeatis inevitable. Our fortune is sinking. Letus restore Sita, seek Ramas pardon andthus save our kingdom, our lives andpossessions and honor."At this importunity of Vibhishana,Indrajit, Ravanas son, lost patience andburst out:"My uncles words fill me with shame.What race are we? What is our strength? Imarvel that a descendant of Pulastyashould talk in this strain and that theassembly should meekly sit and listen. Myuncle has only betrayed his evil intentions.We can never agree to his proposal. Arewe to be afraid of two petty humans? DidI not beat Indra down in battle and hishordes of gods? Does not the whole worldtremble even now in terror before us?Vibhishanas counsel is an insult to ourrace!"Vibhishana answered gently: "Boy,you lack experience. That is why you talkthus. You are the kings son and should be
  • 169. his best friend. But I am afraid you areproving yourself his worst enemy. Andyou, ministers who ought to give goodadvice, you are leading the king to ruin.My Lord of Lanka! Do not reject what Isay. Return Sita honorably to Rama andseek his forgiveness. This is the only way.There is no other. Failing to pursue theonly available course, we shall all perish."Ravanas rage was now uncontrollable."I put up with your talk thus far," heshouted in anger, "because you are mybrother. Else you would by now be dead.A brother, I see, is ones worst enemy. Allthe world knows that the envy of brothersbrings dishonor and discomfiture to thebrave. They hide their real desire and waitfor their time and, when it comes, do nothesitate to practise their treachery. Howtrue is the complaint of the wild elephantsin the story! We are not afraid of theburning fire. We do not mind the huntersand their long spears. The noosed ropesand the chains can do little harm to us.But the elephants which join the huntersand give us trouble, these brothers andcousins who turn against us, they are ourterror! Yes. So long as one is safe andprosperous, the brother smiles and talkspleasantly. But when danger comes, he isready to leave. The bee does not stay withthe flower after the honey has beensucked. It goes in search of anotherflower. Brothers and cousins are no betterthan these bees. One cannot trust them inadversity. If any one else should havespoken as you have done, Vibhishana, Iwould have slain him here and now. Basefellow! You are a disgrace to our race!"Unable to bear the insult, Vibhishanarose and said: "My brother, you mayspeak as you please. Though you havewandered from the way of dharma, youare still my brother and I warn you that,drawn by the noose of Yama, you aregoing along the path of destruction. Myadvice, salutary but unpleasant, you reject.It is easy to speak sweet words. Yourministers are doing it. I spoke for yourgood. But truth is bitter and you hate it.The terrible vision of Ramas dartsdestroying you is before my minds eyeand makes me speak as I do. You call meyour enemy. Defend your city and yourlife as well as you can. God bless you! Iam going. May you be happy! I thought Icould serve you in your need, but you willnot let me. You imagine that I envy youand your possessions. Good counsel isrejected by one whose end is near."Having spoken thus, and realising thatthere was no place for him in Lankathereafter, Vibhishana renounced all hispossessions and, rising into the sky,proceeded straight to the spot where Ramaand Lakshmana were encamped. Fourgood Rakshasa friends went along withhim.64. THE VANARAS DOUBTHAVING committed a sin and run intodanger, Ravana did not see how toextricate himself. Like other kings in aquandary, he called a council forconsultation. Many spoke flatteringwords. Only two spoke harshly.One said: "You have committed a fault.But I will give up my life for you." Thiswas Kumbhakarna.The other, Vibhishana, said: "You havecommitted a sin, but there is still time forrepentance and escape fromconsequences. If you take this right andwise course, we shall all escapedestruction and live happily. Restore Sitaand seek pardon of Rama.""Never," said Ravana."Then our ways part and I leave you,"said Vibhishana.In a conflict of duties, each one followshis own nature. All cannot follow one andthe same path.
  • 170. Ravanas self-indulgent vanity wouldnot let him admit his error or retrace hissteps. Very rarely does one who hascommitted a sin confess defeat. It requiressome courage of a bad sort to commit asin. But it requires much greater courageof a noble kind to confess it.It was this noble courage that Ravanalacked. When an evil is being perpetrated,the friends of the evil-doer face a difficultproblem. Some are constrained againsttheir better judgment to espouse thewrong cause through gratitude for pastkindness, a sense of loyalty, or affinitiesof blood.Others think it their duty to try andreform the sinner, regardless of his angerand hatred and consequent danger tothemselves and if their efforts fail theypart company from the sinner, rather thanabandon dharma and give their support tothe sinner who persists in crime. Theybold that it can never be ones duty tosupport or cooperate with adharma.It would indeed be adharma to refrainfrom doing ones best to reform the sinneror to cooperate in his sin. In theRamayana, Kumbhakarna and Vibhishanarepresent these two different types. IfRavana had told Vibhishana: "Come, letus go to the Dandaka forest and carry offSita," it is inconceivable that Vibhishanacould have complied. That is why werespect Vibhishana."At least now restore Sita and behappy," Vibhishana said and tried topersuade Ravana. "Rama will surelyforgive you. Take the way of dharma."But Ravana would not listen, andVibhishana, as an enemy of sin, had noalternative but to part company from theperverse wickedness of Ravana. Hence itwould be wrong to find fault withVibhishana. And if we find fault with him,it is because our concern for dharma isweak.But can we find fault withKumbhakarna? We cannot do this either.He is one of those noble soldiers of lostcauses whose faults we forgive for theirselfless loyalty and sublime acceptance ofdeath.But, because we cannot condemnKumbhakarna, it does not follow that wemust condemn Vibhishana. There aresome people today who rejoice in arguingagainst dharma and against Vibhishana;hence this elaboration of a simple point.Men are restrained from evil by thewholesome fear that if they commit sinthey would forfeit the affection andgoodwill of their friends and kinsmen.This fear is a strong incentive to goodbehavior and its removal would be aserious loss in society.All this is forgotten by those who arguethat Vibhishana was a traitor. Ravana wasthe first, unfortunately by no means thelast, to dub him by that name. Those whoare anxious to retain the support ofkinsfolk while pursuing evil waysdisapprove of Vibhishanas conduct. ButVibhishana was not afraid of being atraitor. He would have nothing to do withadharma. His course was, however, noteasy as we shall see.The Vanara chieftains standing on thenorthern seashore saw all of a sudden thesky lit up with a golden glow like thesummit of Mount Meru. It was too steadyto be a flash of lightning.In the brightness could bedistinguished the forms of five bigRakshasas. Sugriva, the king andcommander of the Vanaras, looking atthem said: "There is no doubt these areRakshasas come from Lanka with hostiledesigns."On hearing this, the Vanara warriorsarmed themselves with trees and bouldersand said: "Let us go. We shall intercept
  • 171. and slay them and bring them down toearth."Vibhishana, hearing these words of theVanaras, showed no signs of fear but fromabove with calm courage spoke out in aclear voice:"Vibhishana stands here before you,the brother of Ravana, the wicked king ofthe Rakshasas. I am here before you, noneother than brother to Ravana, who killedJatayu and carried off Sita by force and ishow keeping her a prisoner in Lanka. Invain I strove to turn him from his wickeddesigns and counselled him to restore Sitaand seek Ramas forgiveness. All theresponse I got was disdain and publicinsult. Hence I am standing here beforeyou. Renouncing kingdom, wife andchildren, I seek service and sanctuary atRamas feet. I pray you, convey thisinformation to Rama."Sugriva mistrusted the good faith of theRakshasa kings brother and reported thusto Rama: "Vibhishana, the brother ofRavana, has come here with fourRakshasa friends seeking sanctuary atyour feet. They are standing there in thesky. Consider well, you who are skilled inaffairs, what should be done now. TheseRakshasas are adepts in duplicity. Theycan make themselves invisible and domany other tricks. They have all the skilland courage of the wicked. One cannottrust them. I believe that these Rakshasashave been sent by Ravana himself. Theyhave come here to mix with us forsubversive purposes. Or else they intendseeking an opportunity to assassinate theleaders in our camp. Whatever Vibhishanamay say, we cannot forget that he is thebrother of our foe. By birth he belongs tothe wicked Rakshasa race. How can wetrust him? This is some trick of Ravana, Ihave no doubt. It is best to kill Vibhishanaand his companions right now. If weadmit him into our camp, he will betray usat the first opportunity and return to hisown people. Permit us, therefore, todestroy forthwith Ravanas brother and hisfollowers."Having thus frankly expressed hisfeelings at the sight of the Rakshasa,Sugriva stood in silence, awaiting Ramasreply. Rama listened and turned toHanuman and other leaders and said:"You have heard the words of the Kingwho is well-versed in policy. Ravanasbrother has come and waits there for ourpleasure. I wish to know your opinion onthis matter. In times of crisis, one shouldask for the advice of friends. Tell mewithout reservation what you feel in yourhearts."Angada, the Vanara prince said: "Hehas come from our enemys camp. We donot know whether he has come of his ownaccord or was sent by our foe. Whileperhaps it would not be right to reject himout of hand, it would be dangerous toaccept him without testing him. Let us atleast watch his behavior carefully withoutgiving him any opening for mischief. Ifhis movements are suspicious, we canthrow him out. If they are friendly andshow good faith, we shall accept him."Thus spoke the son of Vali.Sarabha said: "I do not think it safe toadmit him now or to decide later what todo with him. Even now, let us test himthrough skilful questioners and decideonce and for all what to do with him."Jambavan said: "Nothing can bediscovered by testing such persons. If heis come here hiding treacherousintentions, no test can discover the truth.Ravana is our inveterate foe. His brothersays that he has all of a sudden brokenwith him and come over to us. Thissudden rupture with a brother is hard tobelieve. We have not yet crossed the sea.What is his motive in seeking safety withus while we are on this hither shore? All
  • 172. this is very suspicious. They are adeceitful race. I think we should not admithim."Mainda said: "How can we reject aman on mere suspicion? Only after carefulexamination can we decide how to dealwith him. He says that he has forsakenRavana and come over to us. We can findout the truth of this statement. Some of usshould talk to him and then decide. Surelywe have enough ability to do this."Then Rama turned to Hanuman thewise.65. THE DOCTRINE OFSURRENDER AND GRACEIN response to Ramas invitation,Hanuman expressed his opinion in clear,sweet and pregnant words:"Why should you ask for our advice?Not even Brihaspati has anything to tellyou that you do not already know. If it isdangerous to admit Vibhishana, how is thedanger met by delay and trial? Where isthe time or opportunity for a test? Moreover, Vibhishana has not approached usstealthily. He has come to us with frankopenness and a clear object. What is therefor scouts to discover about him? It hasbeen said by some that his sudden adventis suspicious. But why? What wonder isthere if Vibhishana became disgusted withRavana and foresaw his certain disgraceand a defeat? What wonder is there if herecognised your heroic virtues andnobility and the certainty of your victory?To me the time and manner of his cominggive no room for suspicion. It has beensuggested that before admitting him ourleaders should put him questions andexamine his answers. But one who knowsthat he is suspected would cease to speakor behave naturally. He would be afraidthat we are out to find only faults in him.And thus his real nature will not berevealed. I see no cause for suspicion inthe face or speech of this Rakshasasuppliant. His carefree looks disclose aguiltless heart. The wise say that the faceis a perfect mirror of the heart. I think thatVibhishana has come here honestly toseek sanctuary at your feet. And there isnothing strange in his action. He knowsRavanas real weakness. He knows thatthe lord of Lanka is fated to fall. Heknows too that you have slain Vali andgiven his kingdom to Sugriva. Grantingthat his real motive is to secure forhimself the sovereignty of Lanka, there isnothing wrong in it and certainly it is aguarantee that he will be loyal to us.Hence I feel that we should admit him."The Vanara chiefs thus differed in theirviews. Kumbhakarna acted according toordinary morality. This was a simple thingthat everybody could understand. ButVibhishana followed a higher morality.The path he chose was more difficult andlikely to be blamed.He knew (how could anyone elseknow?) his inward suffering at the thoughtof Ravanas evil doings. Ordinary peoplecould not sympathise with his situation.Hence the Vanaras failed to understandthe conflict in his mind. Even todaypeople find it hard, without elaborateexplanation, to appreciate Vibhishanaaright.Patiently, Rama listened to the variousviews of the Vanara chiefs. When at lasthe heard Hanumans words he was filledwith joy.Rama, steadfast in his own dharma,found satisfaction in Hanumans utterance.A good man is glad when a friendsopinion supports his decision on aquestion of duty."If a man comes as a friend," saidRama, "how can I reject him? It is againstthe law of my life. All of you, my friendsand helpers, should know this. Once aman surrenders himself, one shouldoverlook all his faults."
  • 173. But Sugriva was not satisfied. He said:"This Rakshasa has on his ownshowing deserted his brother whose causehe considers lost. How can one put faith ina person who forsakes his own brother inhis need?"Valmiki records that on bearing thesewords of Sugriva, Rama turned toLakshmana with a smile. Probably thesmile was provoked by Sugrivasforgetfulness of his own fraternal conductin his indignant condemnation ofVibhishana!Rama said to Sugriva: "I see what youmean. But listen. It is natural for kings tosuspect brothers and neighbor kings.Good kings who entertain no suchsuspicion are exceptions. Most kingsimagine that brothers envy them. Whatwonder then if Ravana suspected andinsulted Vibhishana? It follows thatVibhishana feared danger to himself if hestayed on in Lanka. I conclude thereforethat he has no sinister motive against us incoming here for refuge. Let us go furtherand grant that he has eyes on the kingdom,expecting Ravanas defeat at our hands.Even in this ambition there is nothingwrong. Well, Lakshmana, can we expectall people to be like our Bharata?"Having said this, Rama was silent for amoment, lost in remembrance of Bharatasselfless love. Then he spoke: "Who in theworld is as lucky as I am? Who has abrother like Bharata? And what a father Ihad! His love for me was so great that hislife fled when I came away to the forest.And my friends, who else is blessed likeme with friends such as you?"Having spoken thus he wiped the tearsin his eyes, and went back to the subjecton hand."I see no point in the argument thatVibhishana will forsake us, as he hasforsaken his brother. He had cause forforsaking his brother, and can have nonefor leaving us. We do not want Lanka, andif, as is natural, he wants it, he can get itonly through our victory. From the pointof view of policy, it would be a mistake toreject Vibhishana."But there is a stronger reason. Whenone comes to me for refuge, I cannotreject him. This is my dharma. It does notmatter if as a result of this I suffer. Evenat the cost of life I must do this duty ofmine. Never can I deviate from it. Verily,I tell you, even if Ravana himself came tome for sanctuary, I would accept himwithout hesitation. How then can I rejecthis brother who has done me no wrong?Go and fetch Vibhishana.""My Lord Rama! It is wonderful howclearly the right stands out demonstratedwhen you speak!" said Sugriva. "I seethings clearly now. I shall go and bringVibhishana. May he too become a lovingfriend of yours, even like us!" AndSugriva went to fetch Vibhishana.In the Vaishnava tradition, this,episode, in which Vibhishana is taken bythe prince into his camp and innermostcouncil, is held to be as important as theBhagavad Gita episode in theMahabharata.It illustrates the doctrine that the Lordaccepts all who in absolute surrender seekshelter at his feet, regardless of theirmerits or defects. Their sins are burnt outby the mere act of surrender. This is amessage of hope to erring humanity. It isthe heart of the Vaishnava faith that thereis hope for the worst of us if only wesurrender ourselves to the Lord.But why should I restrict this doctrineto the Vaishnava tradition? Is not this theheart of all the religious traditions in ourland, yes, and of all the religions in theworld? Every world teacher stresses thiscertainty of relief and redemption. It is notto Arjuna only that Krishna said: "Haveno fear, cast off all doubt, I shall destroy
  • 174. all your sins." Wherever in the world Godhas spoken to mankind in a human voice,He has given this assurance.There are two ways in which we canregard Valmikis account of Ramasacceptance of Ravanas brother. The poetdescribes the rules of policy, the mattersto be examined before one can accept avisitor from the enemys camp.This is shown in the speeches of theVanara king, the cultured andaccomplished Hanuman, and Rama, thefirm upholder of dharma. But in additionto right policy, we see here Ramascharacter and personality due to natureand nurture.He said: "I cannot reject anyone whocomes to me for protection. This is mydharma. If Ravana himself came to me, Iwould not reject him."Those who look on Rama as an avatarof God find in this utterance the essenceof scripture. The solemn assurance whichKrishna gives to Arjuna later in the Gita,that assurance the Prince of Ayodhyadeclares in the presence of Sugriva andothers in this Vibhishana episode of theRamayana.This divine assurance is the life andlight that a world filled with sin anddarkness, needs.66. THE GREAT CAUSEWAYMEANWHILE Ravana did somethingfoolish. He sent a scout to seduce Sugrivafrom his loyalty to Rama. This Rakshasa,Suka by name, flew across and in disguisemet Sugriva in secret and with everyappearance of benevolent solicitude spoketo him thus:"Ravana, the king of Lanka, has sentme because of his affection and regard foryou. He sends you his fraternal greetings.You are a king and he is another and thereis no sense in your staking your highheritage and making common cause witha disinherited prince against an all-powerful king. If Ravana desired Ramaswife and carried her off, how does itconcern you? What do you lose by it?Consider well and choose your coursewith description. It is most expedient thatyou and your army should returnforthwith to Kishkindha."But Sugrivas response was scornfuland definite:"Base fellow! Go and tell your kingthat he is no brother of mine. He is wickedand, being an enemy of my friend Rama,he is my enemy too and we are out to ridthe world of him and his wicked gang. Heis a fool to imagine that he can offendRama and still survive. Tell him that thereis no escape for him, tell him all this asfrom me."When Sugriva delivered this messageto the Rakshasa spy the Vanaras caughthold of him and began to handle himroughly but Rama sternly forbade it andset him free to go the way he came. Thespy rushed back to Lanka and conveyedthe result of his adventure to Ravana.As soon as Vibhishanas adherence wasaccepted by Rama, Lakshmana andSugriva crowned Vibhishana king ofLanka and performed the abhisheka withseawater. Vibhishana pledged unchangingfriendship to Rama and Rama in turn gavehis word that he would not return toAyodhya without slaying Ravana.Then Sugriva, Vibhishana andLakshmana deliberated on how to crossthe sea. They thought it best to begin witha prayer to the ocean-god and submittedtheir opinion to Rama.Rama accepted their counsel and,spreading darbha grass on the seashoreand laying himself on it, began a fast,addressing his request for a passageacross, to the king of the sea.For three days he prayed to the god ofthe sea but received no response. ThenRama, his eyes glowing with anger at the
  • 175. sea-gods arrogance, turned to Lakshmanaand said:"The low-minded mistake courtesy andgentleness for want of strength. Mildnessis simply wasted on them. See now how Ishall bring this misproud sea to its senseswith my arrows which shall not onlychoke it with the carcasses of mighty fishbut even dry it up with their fierce odour.Bring me my bow and quiver, OSoumitra!"Then bow in hand and blazing withwrath like the destroying fire at the end ofthe world he shot arrows irresistible asthunderbolts into the bosom of the sea.These missiles of power disturbed the seato its depths carrying death and dismay toall it contained and presently the torturedwaters began to exhale steam in theiragony.It looked as though Rama in his wrathwould convert the sea with its infinitudeof waters into a desert of blazing dustbereft of all life. The sea-god could standit no longer. Shining like the rising sunbehind Mount Meru, he appeared andstood before Rama.With folded hands he said:"My Lord Ramachandra! I am subjectto the laws of nature like the earth, the air,space, light, and all constituents of theuniverse. How can I depart from mynature, which is to be vast, deep, wave-filled, and impassable? But this I can do.Ask the Vanaras to bring boulders andtrees to build a causeway. I shall permit it.I shall help you by receiving and keepingin place the rocks and trees. This is all thatI can do and I shall also show the mostfavorable place for this causeway. Thereis Nala, son of Viswakarma, with you,who has the ability to build this path. Mayvictory be yours."Rama, true to his nature, graciouslyaccepted the sea gods apology and offerof help. And then, ordered by Rama, theyall began to work. Thousands of Vanaraswent at it with enthusiasm and soonfinished building the causeway.Valmiki describes the work at length.He sings with gusto of the noise andconfusion of the gigantic project. TheVanaras went to the mountains and forestsand, plucking rocks and trees, draggedthem to the shore. The bigger Vanarasbrought big boulders and threw them intothe sea. As they fell down, the watersplashed up sky-high.Nala stood and supervised their labors.The leaders in charge of companies keptthem active. On top of the rocks and trees,when the base was firm, a dressing ofgrass and little pieces of wood was givento produce a level surface. The noiseraised by the dam-builders drowned theroar of the ocean.The construction was complete. Thenew path shone across the sea like themilky way in the sky. Hosts of gods aboverejoiced, as hosts of Vanaras shoutedbelow in exultation. The gods and therishis uttered benedictions.Then they went on the causeway.Hanuman carried Rama on his shouldersand Angada carried Lakshmana on his.The Vanara army crossed the sea. Thereis a principle expounded here. As Ramastood bow in hand, the ocean-god bowedbefore him with clasped bands and said:"Dear Ramachandra! Earth, air, ether,water, fire, these five elements mustfollow the eternal laws of their nature.Tempted by pleasure or reward orfrightened of punishment, can I everswerve from my nature? Can water hardenand become stone? Or can I reduce mydepths into a shallow pond for your easycrossing?"Thus the ocean king protested with allpoliteness to Sri Rama. Valmiki puts intothe mouth of the ocean king afundamental of our religious philosophy.
  • 176. He explains the primordial relationshipbetween God and Nature.Gods law operates in and throughNature. The laws of nature were createdso that the universe may proceed by itself.So too the law of Karma. The fiveelements, all objects without life as wellas all living creatures, must follow theirown permanent laws.According to the Hindu Shastras,Nature itself, the sequence and chain ofcause and effect, the properties of matter,and the law of Karma, all are ordainedpermanently by God.Nature itself is a witness to God. He isnot proved by a suspension of the laws ofnature. This is expounded clearly in theninth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita:"Under my supervision Nature givesrise to all that exists movable andimmovable, and the universe, evolvesfrom this cause."This is put briefly by Valmiki in thespeech of the ocean king. Malyavan, theaged Rakshasa, tried his best to impresson Ravana the error of his ways. He said:"Your time of good fortune is over.Your sins have begun to bear their fruitand to dim your radiance. You can trustno longer the boons you have obtainedfrom the gods. Make peace with yourenemies. Look at the army that hasarrived, the terrible host of Vanaras andbears. Look at this wonderful causeway soquickly built. It seems to me, this Rama isVishnu himself come in human form."Ravana had no patience with such talk."Your words are wormwood in my ear,"he cried. "It looks as though you too havejoined my enemies. Are not human beingswell known to be weaklings? Why are youafraid of this wretched man driven into theforest by his father? And he relies on thesupport of monkeys and bears! Of such aman you are afraid.Really I am ashamed of you. Or couldit be that you cannot bear to see mehappy? Why do you talk like this to me? Icannot bend before Rama. If it is wrongpolicy or wrong ethics, I cannot help it.You may take it that it is part of my natureand I cannot change it. I would far ratherdie fighting than sue before Rama forpeace!"Malyavan replied: "Consider well anddo what you think best." And he returnedhome, uttering the usual benedictorywords: "Victory to the King! Victory toRavana!"The old man was Ravanas grandfather.Ravana carefully stationed hiswarriors. He posted Prahasta at the easternentrance, Mahaparsva and Mahodara atthe southern entrance and Indrajit, hisillustrious son, accomplished in the arts ofsecret magic, at the western entrance,while he decided himself to guard thenorthern entrance. Virupaksha, themighty, was appointed commander of thearmy within the city.Having ordered the disposition of hisforces and chief warriors, he felt he hadensured victory. As his end wasapproaching, he listened to no one andfoolishly believed himself unconquerable.The ministers raised shouts of victory toplease the King and then dispersed.Rama, Sugriva, Vibhishana and othersheld a council of war. Vibhishana dulylaid before the council the informationgathered by scouts who had gone out andwatched Ravanas arrangements."In numbers, strength and courage,"Vibhishana said, "the army now mobilisedby Ravana surpasses that with which heopposed Kubera. Still I have no doubt ofRamas victory."Rama distributed his forces to meetRavanas disposition and assigned to eachcommander the task he was to perform.He ordered Nila to meet Prahasta at the
  • 177. eastern gate. Angada was to meetMahaparsva and Mahodara at the southernentrance. At the western entranceHanuman was to encounter Indrajit, themaster of black magic."Lakshmana and I shall meet Ravana,the terror of the world, and we shall directthe assault on Lanka. Sugriva, Jambavanand Vibhishana shall stay behind with ourmain army." The army rested for thenight on Mount Suvela. The followingmorning, standing on the mountaintop,they took a good look at Lanka.The beautiful city on the summit ofTrikuta seemed as if suspended from thesky. Behind the thick fortress wall theRakshasa army stood sentry, looking likeanother massive wall. Observing the greatand beautiful buildings in Lanka, Ramawas moved to pity. And he said:"Alas! Because one person, drawn bythe noose of time, has committed a sin, allthis wealth and the whole Rakshasa racemust now be destroyed. Alas that thisscion of a noble race should forget his realgreatness and pull death and destructionon himself and his people!"Rama continued: "However, we shouldnow bend all our thoughts to the taskbefore us to win this battle and destroyRavana. There will be much confusion inthe course of the battle. The Rakshasaswill try to deceive us with many disguises.Let the Vanaras and bears retain their ownshape while fighting. Vibhishana and hisfriends alone need assume human forms,like Lakshmana and myself. TheRakshasas, our enemies, will never takethe form of man or monkey. They wouldthink it beneath their dignity to do so. Ifwe stand together maintaining due orderwe can know who is who, slay ourenemies and help our friends."67. THE BATTLE BEGINSTHE Vanara army descended fromMount Suvela and entered the forestadjoining the city of Lanka. As the armyburst in like a flood the frightened beastsand birds in the forest fled in alldirections.Valmiki describes the scene and theevent in his characteristic style. Gazingnow from below at the mountain fortressand the divinely beautiful city constructedby Viswakarma, Rama was again filledwith wonder and exclaimed:"Oh what beauty! What wealth."The Vanaras, for their part, noted theRakshasa warriors strength and readinessfor battle, the thick walls and mightyengines of defence.From Lanka, all ready for war, thesounds of drums and trumpets issuingfrom the city increased the eagerness ofthe Vanaras for battle. The army stood inordered divisions as instructed by Rama.Looking at Lanka he said:"Lakshmana! Look at the beauty of thecity."His mind turned to Sita. She wouldhave known by now, he thought, of hisarrival with the army and her depressedheart must have revived. But he spokenothing of this and engaged himself in thearrangements for the army.Suddenly, and without any noise orwarning to any one, Sugriva sprang upinto the sky and alighted on the terrace ontop of tower in Lanka, where he sawRavana seated clad in red royal robes likea thick black cloud seen in the red eveningsky. The scar caused by the tusk of Indraselephant, shone like a crescent moon onhis chest."Ravana! You are caught!" criedSugriva. "I am a friend and servant ofRama. This is your last day!"And he sprang on him, knocked off hiscrown and gave him a mighty blow. Thetwo wrestled together for a long time.Both were experts in wrestling. All thetricks of that science were tried by each.
  • 178. Ravana was at the end of his resourcesand so he discarded wrestling and took tomagic and Sugriva seeing thisdisentangled himself and sprang back towhere Rama was.The Vanara leaders, who saw the sonof Surya return, shouted praises and madea great noise of congratulations at thisdaring-do, rash and reckless no doubt, butsuch as would give the Rakshasas someidea of the mettle of the foes they were upagainst.Rama too was glad to see that Sugrivahad returned safe. Observing bleedingwounds on his body, he said:"Sugriva! I am filled with wonder andjoy at this, your valorous exploit. Butwhat you did was not right. It is not for aking to rush into risks. How could yousuddenly and without consulting anyonetake such a dangerous course?"Sugriva confessed his fault."True, it was improper to rush intobattle without consulting you. But when Isaw the villain who had insulted Sita Iwas overwhelmed by anger and forgot myduty."The Vanara army surrounded Lanka onall sides in the manner laid down byRama.Rama sent for Angada and said to him:"Prince! Take this message from me toRavana. Tell him: Great sinner, your endis approaching. Rama waits at yourfortress gate, ready for battle. Trusting tothe boons of the gods, you have becomeproud and wicked. You have troubled theworld too long and committed too manyheinous sins. The time has now come forthe world to be cleansed of you. If youcome out into the open and fight and diein battle, your sins will be washed awayand you will gain a place in the worldabove as a hero. But if you love your life,humbly restore Sita to her lord and beg forforgiveness. Then you can escape withlife. Whatever happens, you are fit to beking no longer. The kingdom of Lankanow belongs to Vibhishana. He is worthyto rule and protect his people. If you arenot willing to surrender and seek safety,then have your obsequies performed inadvance. Bid final farewell to all yourdear possessions in Lanka. Prepare fordeath. Come out and meet Rama in battle.Go, Angada, deliver this message toRavana."As instructed by Rama, bold Angadadelivered his message: "Listen, Ravana. Iam the son of Vali whom you no doubtremember. I have come as Ramasmessenger. The time for your liberationfrom sin has come. You may, if youchoose, die in battle and attain the swargaof brave men, cleansed of your foul sins.But if life is dear to you, you may beg itof Rama after humble surrender, and henever refuses mercy to a suppliant. If whatI have heard about you is true, you willelect to fight, which means you choose todie. I would advise you to take last leaveof your kinsfolk and complete yourobsequies yourself, for none of your racewill be left to perform them. Look yourlast on lovely Lanka!"Ravanas rage flared up like a flame."Seize him, kill him, the villain!" heshouted.At once, two Rakshasas caught hold ofAngada. He rose in the sky carrying thesetwo Rakshasas on either side of him andthen flung them down.He rose higher up and, coming downkicked and broke off the tower of thekings palace. Then with a single leap hereturned to where Rama was.Dazed by Angadas exploit, theRakshasas were filled with fear, but theydid not disclose it. Ravana, too, heaved aheavy sigh at the sight of the brokenturret. He looked on it as a bad omen.
  • 179. As soon as Angada returned, Ramaissued orders to the army to begin theassault on Lanka.68. SITAS JOYSUKA, the Rakshasa scout, went andreported to Ravana: "I did my jobaccording to your instructions. But myefforts were fruitless. They were roughwith me and made me feel thankful to beallowed to come back. Rama, to whom itwas sport to slay Viradha, Kabandha,Khara and others, has arrived with thearmy of Sugriva. They have somehowcome to know of the place where Sita isheld captive. The bears and monkeys havecrossed the sea and are standing ready forbattle before Lanka. The visible earth iscovered with this army. There is nothingto be gained by discussions and debates.Their strife can only be quenched with ourblood, Oh King! Consider well whatneeds to be done, and do it."And then he added with fear, in asuppressed voice: "We may yet escape ifSita is restored."Ravana was enraged. "What did yousay?" he cried. "Let no one talk to me ofSita being restored. They do not know mystrength who talk like this. I can slay thegods, the Vanaras, the Gandharvas and theYakshas. My darts can burn up Indrahimself and Yama too. Wait and see howthis wretched fellow Rama and his armywill be destroyed."Ravana believed what he said. He haddwelt long on his previous achievementsand, filled with pride, had becomefoolishly obstinate.Then he sent for two of his ministersand told them: "Scouts have come andreported that a large army has built acauseway to Lanka and has come overhere. This is indeed strange news, but asyet nothing serious has happened. Go andobserve the enemy and bring me a full anddetailed report of their strength."Accordingly, the spies assumed theshape of Vanaras and coming to Ramascamp and mixing with the other Vanaraslooked all around. But Vibhishana,discovering their disguise, caught hold ofthem and produced them before Rama.They pleaded that they were meremessengers sent by their king and prayedfor release.Rama said: "Show them our army. Letthem have a good look around before theyreturn. Give them free and fullopportunity to see our strength. And, Ohyou Rakshasa messengers! When you goback to Ravana, tell him, The strength onwhich you relied when you carried Sitaaway is to be put now to the test. Yourfortress, your city and your army will bedestroyed, Ramas darts will pierce yourbody. Yes, convey this message to yourking."The spies heard Ramas words andagreed to convey them to their master.Then, impelled perhaps by force of habit,they said: "Victory to thee!" The Vanaraarmy took this to be a fine omen.The spies went back to Ravana andsaid: "O King! We were discovered byVibhishana and were in fear of death butRama would not let them kill us and heordered our release. King! Our enemiesare determined. Rama and Lakshmana,Sugriva the Vanara king and Vibhishana,they are all of one mind. It is difficult forus to prevail against an army led by suchwarriors. We have seen Rama, son ofDasaratha. He impressed us as being byhimself strong enough to destroy our cityand army. We have seen the courage ofthe Vanaras and their eagerness for battle.It is not expedient to try the fortune of warwith them. It seems best to restore Sita toRama. Do consider what should be done."Of course the advice was sincere andwell meant, but Ravana could not controlhis fury. He said: "Even if the whole
  • 180. world turns against me, I shall not yield tofear. Even if all the Devas, Gandharvasand Vanaras join together to oppose me, Ishall not return Sita. Because you werethrashed by the enemy, you give me thiscowardly advice. Faint hearts! Where isthe foe who can vanquish me?"Having said this, he went to his hightower and himself surveyed the enemysstrength. His ministers and officers werewith him.Those who had gone out to reconnoitredescribed at length the Vanara chiefs andthe army behind them. They recounted thestrength of that huge army of bears andmonkeys gathered together from the far-flung forests, mountains and river-valleysof the world.They spoke of their physical strengthand courage, their firm devotion to Rama,their unity and eagerness to slay theRakshasas. All those that had goneconfirmed this. "Look!" one of themsaid. "That majestic and graceful youthwith matted locks and bow in hand isRama. See how he looks round him witheyes of love and command and how hisglances seem to brighten the quarters andto fill all with devotion and confidence.The mighty armed warrior near him is hisbrother Lakshmana, a peerless bowmanand Ramas second soul. And look! Nextto him is Sugriva, wearing Valis garland.He is the equal of Vali himself. There,next to him you see Vibhishana, yourbrother. It is not easy to vanquish suchwarriors. Consider well and take all stepsnecessary for victory in such a situation."As the ministers extolled the strengthof the enemy, Ravanas rage grew moreand more furious. This is the way of atyrant. The wise king is never angry withthose who bring him true information orwith ministers who give him good advicefor his welfare. But now Ravanas mindwas confused. He had no use for true factsor good advice.His thought followed a strange line. Hejudged Rama by his own character. Hethought that, if Sita could be madesomehow to yield to him, Rama wouldreturn home disgraced and brokenhearted. Hence be resolved to make onelast attempt with a different technique.He sought the help of a Rakshasasorcerer. "Oh, Lightning-Tongue!" he said(that was his name), "prepare a headwhich looks so exactly like Ramas that itwill deceive Ramas nearest and dearestinto believing it is his. When I send foryou, come to the park where Sita isincarcerated and place it before her."The sorcerer agreed to do as he wasbidden.Then Ravana went once again to theAsoka Park and tried to beguile Sita."Your husband and his army have beendestroyed." be said. "My warriors crossedthe sea and attacking Rama and hismonkeys, when they were tired andasleep, killed them all. A warrior hasbrought the head of your husband for meto see. Why do you still persist in yourobstinacy? Join my wives now and reignas their chief. Take my advice andbecome the queen of Lanka."Then he ordered a Rakshasa to fetchVidyut-Jihva, the sorcerer. The conjurercame and placed before Sita a head thatlooked exactly like Ramas.Startled by the sight, Sita cried, "Sothen, is this my fate?" and broke intohopeless lamentation.Meanwhile, Ramas army had comeclose to Lanka and the ministers andgenerals sent word to Ravana desiring animmediate interview. Ravana, therefore,had to leave Sita at once and go to theAssembly Hall.Ravanas presence was necessary tokeep up the sorcerers illusion. So, when
  • 181. he left the place, the, apparition of Ramashead vanished like smoke. Sarama, whowas a lady of the royal household postedas a companion of Sita, consoled herexplaining the illusion. She said: "No onehas killed Rama. He has reached Lanka atthe head of a great army. They have builta wonderful causeway across the sea andare all over Lanka like a submerging sea.The Rakshasas are panic-stricken. Ravanais only trying to deceive you throughsorcery."Sarama went on to inform Sita:"Several ministers advised Ravana torestore you and save himself byunconditional submission. But he wouldnot listen to them. I may perish in battle,he said, but I will not bow, a suppliantbefore Rama. I shall never return Sita andsue for peace. Holy lady! No harm cancome to you, Rama will surely triumphand this wicked one will perish."Even as Sarama was speaking, thenoise of the drums and trumpets soundedby the Vanara army reached Sitas earsand filled her with joy. She knew thatRavanas end was near. The Rakshasas inLanka heard the same noise and trembledin fear.69. SERPENT DARTSRAVANA as duly informed thatRamas Vanara host surrounded Lankalike a tumultuous sea. In an angry moodhe went up the tower of his mansion andsurveyed the scene. On every side he sawVanara warriors who had armedthemselves with trees and boulders. Hewondered how he could destroy this vastinvading force.At the same time, Rama saw the Cityof Lanka guarded by the Rakshasas. Hecould see with his minds eye the sadfigure of Sita held captive within thosewalls. He ordered an immediate assault.Shouting: "Victory to the Vanara king!Victory to Rama and Lakshmana! Polishoff the Rakshasas," the Vanara armyrushed on the doomed city. Some hurledbig boulders against the fortress wall andon the city gates. Others armed with hugetrees torn up by the roots rushed on theRakshasas.Then Ravana sent forth a big army. Hecommanded it to go out and slay at onceall the Vanaras. They beat their drums andblew their trumpets till the sky resounded.They fell upon the Vanaras. The Vanarasused boulders and trees and their ownnails and fists to oppose the Rakshasas.Thousands fell dead on either side. Thefield was covered with blood and mangledbodies.Besides this gruesome engagement,there were many duels between individualwarriors. Angada encountered Indrajit likeRudra against Yama. There was a duelbetween the Rakshasa Prajangha andSampati, one of the companions ofVibhishana. Hanuman fought a duel withJambumali, Nila with Nikumbha,Lakshmana with Viroopaksha, and so on.The chariot and horses of Indrajit weredestroyed and Angada received a blowfrom the mace of Indrajit. Jambumali hitHanuman with his weapon and Hanumansmashed his chariot to pieces. TheRakshasas concentrated their attack onRama, and fell in thousands under hisarrows.Vidyunmali aimed his darts at Sushena.The latter smashed with a rock the chariotof the Rakshasa. Vidyunmali jumped outwith his mace and attacked Sushena whocrushed him to death with a rock. In thisway many warriors fought and many died.The battle raged throughout the day.And at night the Rakshasas would not stopfighting. The battle became fierce. Bloodflowed in streams. There was terribleslaughter on both sides. Angada attackedIndrajit, slew his horses and charioteerand smashed the chariot. The Vanaras
  • 182. admired the skill and strength of theirprince and raised shouts of joy.All the warriors in the army praised theVanara princes prowess. Indrajit lost histemper along with his chariot and resortedto sorcery. Making himself invisible heaimed many darts at Rama andLakshmana who were greatly harassed atthis attack from a foe whose whereaboutsno one could discover and who seemed toshower deadly missiles from all sides.Then Indrajit shot serpent darts atRama and Lakshmana. Bound by them,they could not move and lay helpless onthe battlefield. They looked at oneanother, wondering what to do.Lakshmanas grief at Ramas plight wasgreat. As for the Vanaras they stood roundin mournful bewilderment.Indrajit congratulated the Rakshasaarmy and returned to the city. Exulting inhis victory, he went to his father andannounced that the story of Rama andLakshmana was over. Ravana was besidehimself with joy. He embraced his sonand praised his prowess.The Vanara warriors wounded anddowncast, seeing Rama and Lakshmanalaid low, concluded that all was over.Vibhishana, who saw Sugriva standinghelpless and forlorn, put courage in theVanara king. "It is foolish to lose hope,"he said. "Look at Rama and Lakshmana.Their faces are still bright. They are notdead. Be not afraid. Soon they willrecover from this swoon and resumefighting."The chief took heart and did everythingto save the army from panic. The rankswere reformed with their respectivechiefs. Meanwhile Ravana had itproclaimed in Lanka that Rama andLakshmana had been slain by Indrajit. Hesent for his women and said to them: "Goat once and inform Sita that Rama is nomore; that the two princes lie dead on thebattlefield and the Vanara army isdestroyed. Also, to convince her finally,take her in the Pushpaka Vimana andshow her the battlefield from above. Letthe obstinate one see for herself what hashappened. Seeing that she has now no oneto look to besides myself, she will turn tome."The Rakshasis did as they were told.From the Vimana Sita saw the field ofbattle. She saw Rama and Lakshmanalying motionless on the ground with theirweapons scattered by their side. She wasfilled with grief. She thought that it wasnow all over and cried: "To this end hasfate brought me, giving the lie to thepredictions of saints and astrologers that Iwould live as a happy wife and motherand a glorious queen. Poor Kausalya!Who shall console you now. Like onewho, having, crossed the ocean, getsdrowned in a little pond, these warriors,who had done so much, lie dead now. Ohprinces! How did your divine weaponsfail you. Alas, all-powerful is destiny!"When Sita was thus in the desperationof utter sorrow, Trijata, her Rakshasicompanion, who was looking closely atthe motionless figures of the princes,suddenly burst out: "Dear Sita, there is nocause for grief. Neither your husband norLakshmana is dead. Look at their faces. Isthis how the dead look? They are boundby a charmed weapon and areunconscious for a while. Look at theorderly array of the army. Have courage.Be not frightened." Her words fell likenectar in Sitas ears. The Vimana returnedto Lanka and Sita was taken back to theAsoka Vana.In time the force of the arrows chargedwith sorcery weakened. Rama opened hiseyes and sat up. Though sorely wounded,he recovered his strength by an exercise ofwill power and sat up. He looked at hisbrother lying on the ground and cried out:
  • 183. "Alas! What is the use of victory now forme? Why did I bring you, dear brother,with me to the forest and get you killedlike this? How can I return without you toAyodhya? You used ever to console me inmy sorrow. You are silent now when Iface the greatest sorrow. How can Isurvive you? Where in the world is awarrior like you? One can replaceanything lost, but where can I find anyoneto fill your place? Like Kartaviryarjunawith his thousand hands, you with yourtwo hands discharged showers of arrowsand slew the Rakshasas. How could deathcome to you? You came with me into theforest, and now I shall repay my debt toyou by joining with you to the abode ofYama. I confess defeat. The word I gaveto Vibhishana cannot be fulfilled. OhVanara king! Return to Kishkindha withall your warriors. You have worked hardfor me. You have fulfilled all the duties offriendship. You have my gratitude. Butthere is no use in more of you dying. Goback to your city. Let me perish here."Thus did Rama lament in helpless grief.Then Vibhishana arrived there, mace inhand. Seeing his huge dark form, theVanaras imagined it was Indrajit againand started to fly.In another part of the battlefieldSugriva and Angada were discussing."Why are the Vanaras thus beginning toscatter in fear? What has happened?"asked Sugriva.Angada answered, "Do you not knowthat Rama and Lakshmana are lyingwounded?"Sugriva said: "It is not that. Look at theway they are running helter-skelter. Theremust be some other reason for it."Then he learnt that the Vanaras, whohad suffered at the hands of Indrajit,mistook Vibhishana for him and werefrightened. He sent Jambavan to rally thetroops by disabusing them of this fear.Vibhishana looked at Rama andLakshmana. When he saw them wounded,covered with arrows all over, and unableto fight, he broke down crying: "It is allover. What more is there to do?"Sugriva turned to Sushena, his uncle,and said: "Take Rama and Lakshmana toKishkindha. I shall kill Ravana, redeemSita, and bring her there."Sushena answered: "There are herbswhich can heal the wounds of the princesand restore them to health. Some of usknow where these herbs are to be found.Here is Hanuman. If you send him, he willfetch the herbs."As they were speaking, the sea and airwere churned up by a mighty wind andthe great bird Garuda burst into view.When Garuda arrived, the serpent dartsthat covered Rama and Lakshmanadisappeared instantaneously. They wereall venomous serpents which had becomearrows through the magic of Indrajit andhad bound the princes bodies.When their inveterate and dreadedenemy Garuda appeared, they took flight.Then Garuda gently stroked the bodies ofRama and Lakshmana and restored tothem their full strength. The wounds wereall healed and they rose up, stronger andmore radiant than before.And Rama asked: "Who are you, mybenefactor?" He did not know that he wasVishnu and Garuda was his own bird onwhich he always rode.Garuda answered, "I am your goodfriend, and old companion. Glory isyours! Let me go now. When the battle isended, we shall know each other better."Saying thus Hamsa bird flew away.Seeing Rama and Lakshmana fullyrecovered and ready for battle, theVanaras were enthusiastic once again andresumed attacking Ravanas fortress.70. RAVANAS DEFEAT
  • 184. RAVANA from within his palace wassurprised to hear, borne on the wind, thejubilant acclamations of the Vanaras, whohe thought must then be mourning theirvanquished leaders and slaughteredcomrades. He turned to the Rakshasasstanding beside him and asked: "What hashappened to make the Vanaras so happy?Something strange must have occurred.Go and find out what it is."Some Rakshasas climbed up andlooked over the wall. Returning, they saidto Ravana with fear and trembling: "King!The Vanara army, led by Sugriva, isattacking the fortress with spirit. Ramaand Lakshmana are both alive. Likeelephants that have broken their bonds,Rama and Lakshmana have shaken off thenaga darts with which Indrajit bound themand have rejoined the army and are ragingabout the field like hungry lions. The dartsof Indrajit have proved futile."Ravanas face fell. He was filled withanxiety and said: "I marvel at what yousay. No one till now has escaped thesedarts. If those weapons were powerlessagainst these men, we are in deed indanger."Then with an access of anger, heshouted: "Listen, Dhumraksha! Whyshould I worry when you are here? Gettogether all the men you want. Go at onceand destroy these two little men and returnquickly."Dhumraksha was indeed happy andproud to be thus singled out by the king.He took a party of warriors and, issuingout of the fort, came into contact with thegroup who, under Hanuman, wereattempting to enter the western gate. Inthe battle that ensued there was greatslaughter on both sides. In the endDhumraksha was slain by Hanuman. Afew Rakshasas escaped into the fortress,but most of them lay dead without.News of this discomfiture filledRavana with uncontrollable fury. Hehastily summoned Vajradamshtra andsaid: "Oh bravest of warriors, go withoutdelay and destroy these wicked fellows."Vajradamshtra bowed low before theking and followed by a mighty armysallied out of the southern gate andencountered Angada.The Rakshasas under the leadership ofVajradamshtra waged grim battle andslew countless Vanaras. And yet theVanara army stood firm and would notwithdraw. Armed with boulders and trees,they killed innumerable Rakshasas. Onboth sides the fighting was intense. In theend, Angada and the Rakshasa chieffought hand to hand for a long while.Vajradamshtra was slain, gallantlyfighting to the last, and the Rakshasas fledin confusion. The Vanaras surroundedAngada and shouted in exultation.Then Ravana ordered Prahasta: "SendAkampana and let him have the mostterrible Rakshasas to accompany him. Letthem go and slay Rama, Sugriva and theVanara army. None can resist Akampanasmight and skill."Accordingly, Prahasta sent an army ofRakshasas under the leadership ofAkampana. True to his name, Akampanawas firm and immovable in battle. He hadchosen his weapons and his warriorscarefully. As he advanced, bad omens methim. But neither he nor his followersregarded them. The noise of theirchallenge rose above that of the ocean.A great battle ensued. Blood flowed instreams. Dust rose and cut off the sunplunging the earth in portentous gloom.The slaughter on both sides wasenormous. Kumuda, Nala, Mainda andDwivida attacked Akampana whodefended himself with courage.The battle went against the Vanarawarriors and they were about to take flight
  • 185. when Hanuman arrived bringing courageand hope. Akampana sent forth a showerof arrows at him but Hanuman took nonotice and lifting a huge boulder andswinging it above his head hurled it atAkampana. The Rakshasas dartsintercepted the stone and reduced it topowder.Then Hanuman grew in size and shonewith blinding brightness like the sun anduprooting a big tree attacked the Rakshasawith it and slew him. The Rakshasa armywas smashed like a forest in an earthquakeand the survivors fled in panic from thefatal field that was strewn thick with thedead, and spread the dismal news inLanka. The Vanaras surrounded Hanumanand uproariously expressed theiradmiration.Ravanas spirits fell when he receivedthe news of Akampanas death but hefound strength in anger and desperationand began thinking of new plans. He wentround the defences of the city again andtook counsel with Prahasta, thecommander-in chief."We must break this Vanara siege. Weshould issue at the head of the whole armyand slay the Vanara chiefs. Myself,Kumbhakarna, yourself, Indrajit orNikumbha, one of us five should take upthe responsibility of leading the army outof the fortress. Are we to be afraid ofmonkeys? Why! They used to flee interror on merely hearing the roar of aRakshasa. They do not know the scienceof war. They are unskilled brutes. Howhave they managed to stand all ourattacks?"Prahasta answered humbly: "Thingshave happened as we foresaw. Werespectfully submitted long ago that itwould be best to restore Sita and makepeace. But I am bound to obey you. I amprepared to sacrifice my life, my family,my all for your sake. I shall lead thissortie, if such is your pleasure."A huge army was collected andeverything was got ready for a supremeendeavor, including the solemnisation ofspecial rites and sacrifices.Then Prahasta marched out to thebeating of drums. Evil omens presentedthemselves. But he disregarded them.Seeing the great army led by Prahastaissuing out of the eastern gate of thefortress, the Vanaras roared with joy andprepared for battle.Like moths rushing at a flame, theRakshasas fell on the Vanara army."Look," said Rama, "there comes out aRakshasa at the head of an enormousarmy. Who is he?"Vibhishana replied: "It is Prahasta, thecommander-in-chief of Ravana. A third ofthe imperial army is his to command."Then ensued a grim battle between theVanaras armed with boulders and treesand the Rakshasa equipped with swords,spears, bows and axes. Exchangingshowers of stones for arrows andgrappling in death grips at close quarters,both sides fought fiercely, deluging thefield with blood.Prahastas followers, Narantaka,Mahanada, Kumbhahanu and others wereopposed by Dwivida, Durmukha andJambavan and stain. There was aprolonged battle between Prahasta andNila. At last Prahasta, armed with amassive mace of iron rushed towards Nila.Nila, for his part, uprooted a big boulderand with it smashed Prahastas headkilling him on the spot.The Rakshasa warriors fled in alldirections. After this great victory, Nilawent to Rama, and Lakshmana and,bowing low, told them what happened.Rama and Lakshmana praised his prowessand congratulated him.
  • 186. Some of those who fled from the battlecarried to the Rakshasa King the news thatNila, son of Agni, had slain Prahasta.Ravana was beside himself with rage andgrief. "My warrior chief," he said, "whocould vanquish Indra and his host of gods,has been killed by these Vanaras. Wecannot treat this lightly. We must destroyRama and the monkey host." So saying,Ravana got into his chariot and wentforward like Rudra, the destroyer. Seatedin his radiant chariot and issuing from thecity, Ravana beheld the Vanara army andheard their uproar which resounded likethe ocean.Seeing a new Rakshasa army issuingout, the Vanaras stood ready to receivethem with stones and trees in hand.Vibhishana pointed out the Rakshasawarriors one by one to Rama. "Thereseated in the chariot and shining like therising sun, is Indrajit." And so he went onfrom one renowned warrior to another tillhe came to Ravana. "There, in the bigchariot, radiant like the sun, sits the ten-headed Ravana."Rama beheld the majestic and glowingform with interest and pity. "A greatwarrior no doubt," he said, "but he is sowicked that he has to be slain."Ravana attacked innumerable Vanarasand laid them low. Nila opposed Ravanagallantly but was felled by a fire-dart.Hanuman attacked Ravana with violenceand the two fought an equal battle for awhile but Ravana could not be subduedand wrought great havoc in the Vanarahost.There was a fight between Lakshmanaand Ravana. Lakshmana fell downunconscious but Hanuman intervened andcarried Lakshmana away to Rama.Then Rama, riding on Hanumansshoulders, gave battle to Ravana. TheRakshasa king was sorely wounded. Hisolden crown was broken. So was hischariot. Deprived of every weapon, hestood before Rama."You may go now," said Rama. "Youhave fought well today. Go away and restand come back tomorrow, refreshed andwith weapons." And Ravana retreatedshamefacedly to the city.71. THE GIANT IS ROUSEDWHEN Ravana returned humbled anddejected, the gods rejoiced foreseeing thespeedy end of their troubles. Ravanaentered the fortress, ashamed and anxious.After deliberating a while, he recoveredhis courage and ordered his sleepingbrother Kumbhakarna to be roused.As the result of a curse, Kumbhakarnaused to sleep for months together and hehad gone to sleep just a few days beforethe events last narrated. Ravana asked hisministers to spare no efforts to rouseKumbhakarna at once and get him readyfor battle."All my penances have proved futile. Itlooks as though the prophecy of the rishiswill be fulfilled," thus said Ravana tohimself, but rooted in his determination tofight to the last he issued orders as if hewere certain of ultimate success: "Let thewarriors guard the fortress on all sides.My brother is sound asleep. He sleepsblissfully, unaware of my anxiety. He willnot wake up for months together if leftalone. It is only nine days since he startedsleeping. Rouse him at once. If he wakesup and goes to the battle, the enemy willbe surely scattered. Who can stand beforemy Kumbhakarna? If he wakes up andopposes my enemies in battle, I need haveno fear."Ravanas officers and their servantsaccordingly went to Kumbhakarnaspalace. They knew that as soon as heopened his eyes, he would be rapaciouslyhungry. So they first prepared and piledup mountains of food for him. Then they
  • 187. made a great din beating drums andblowing conches.Many Rakshasas exhausted themselvespushing and shaking the huge body of theRakshasa. The noise that they made withtheir shouts and drums and trumpets filledthe sky and frightened all the birds andbeasts of Lanka, but Kumbhakarna in hissleep heard nothing. The Rakshasasworked hard at rousing him. They madeelephants walk on his body. They tookcudgels and belabored him.At last his eyelids opened slightly andas one might brush away a mosquito whilestill asleep he pushed them all aside andyawned. Kumbhakarna was thusdisturbed in his sleep which otherwisewould have been months long.But before be could find out the causefor this, he began to eat and drink. Theheaps of meat and the pots of blood andwine kept ready for him were finished.When his hunger was somewhat mitigatedthe Rakshasas approached him to acquainthim with the situation.Ravanas minister Yupaksha said: "MyLord, we have been defeated in battle andstand in grave danger. You will rememberthe quarrel about Sita. The Vanaras withRama and Lakshmana have arrived andare breaking through the fort. They haveslaughtered and defeated our army whichnever knew defeat before. Lanka issurrounded by the Vanara host as by anocean. Ravana himself went to battle buthe retired from the field having had theworst of it. It was our good luck that heescaped with life."Hearing this, Kumbhakarna was besidehimself with rage. "This very instant Ishall go and destroy this enemy. I shallkill the Vanaras and drink the blood ofRama and Lakshmana. After finishing thisfirst, I shall go and wait on the king."The ministers were delighted to hearthis furious speech but pleaded withKumbhakarna that he should first see theKing and take counsel with him as to whatshould be done.Kumbhakarna agreed, washed his faceand then strode in sombre majesty to thehall of the king of Lanka.The Rakshasas standing on the royalhighway felt new courage and joy as theysaw him pass and bowed low before himand showered flowers on him. He enteredthe palace and stood in the presence ofRavana. Rejoicing at the arrival of hispeerless brother, Ravana stepped downfrom his throne and embraced him."What can I do for you, brother?"asked Kumbhakarna. "Why did you getmy sleep broken? What makes you afraid?Tell me who is tired of life and wants tobe turned into a corpse!""Brother! You do not know what hashappened," said Ravana. "You were lostin sleep. The man Rama has become a realmenace to me. He has built a dam acrossthe sea we considered inviolate and nowthe Vanara army surrounds Lanka likeanother sea. Our warriors who sortied outand met them have been defeated andalmost annihilated. It is for you now tosave us from destruction and I know youcan do it. You have put the gods to rout. Iknow your love for me. I know yourkeenness and your courage in battle. Go atonce and annihilate these enemies andhelp us in our need and save Lanka."Kumbhakarna, when he heard Ravanaswords of anxiety, was moved at first tofury against the enemy but soon heremembered the whole story and Ravanasvainglorious confidence in hisinvincibility and that made him smile alittle bitterly.He said: "Excuse me, my brother. Thewarning we gave you when you consultedus went unheeded. Our fears have cometrue. You rejected the good advice wegave you. Now, you suffer the
  • 188. consequences of your error and your sin.You brought away Sita. What else canhappen when, driven by lust, one actswithout thinking. If you so desired, andyou had the confidence and strength, itwould have been wise first to have slainRama and Lakshmana and then seized her.You have done things without due thoughtand in the wrong order. When one actswithout seeking or regarding the advice ofwise and faithful friends and kinsmen, it isno wonder if he runs into danger and ruin.Did you not know that these things mustfollow? Should not a king understand whogives him good advice and who bad?"Ravana did not like all this lecturing.He had no use now for lessons in ethics orpolitics. His face flushed with anger buthe controlled himself and said: "Brother!The time is now past for such talk. What Ineed now is not your criticism but yourprowess. What is done has been done andit is useless discussing whether it was justor unjust, wise or unwise. The questionnow is what we should do in our presentpredicament. It is your duty now to useyour strength and skill and ward off thepresent disasters resulting from pasterrors. He is a true friend and a truekinsman who helps one out of the troublethat has been brought on oneself, maybebecause of folly. If indeed you care forme, the time is now to show it by helpingme instead of commenting on my conduct.I depend on your strength and prowess.Out of your infinite courage, give mecomfort."Kumbhakarna was moved by thisappeal. "Have no more care," he said. "Iam your brother and can never forsakeyou. Rest assured that Rama andLakshmana are dead. I shall scatter andslay their monkey army. I shall fling atyour feet the head of Rama and you shallsee the Vanara Kings blood flowing onthe battlefield. Rama can only approachyou, if he does, over my dead body andthat is not possible, for no one canvanquish or slay me."Kumbhakarnas pride swelled. "Nomatter who the enemy is," be cried, "Ishall destroy him. Be he Yama or Surya orAgni, I shall eat them all up." In thismood he rushed out to the field of battle.The sudden waking from deep slumberhad completely upset his temper, butwhen his consuming hunger and thirst hadbeen appeased, he had recovered hisbalance and spoke wisdom to Ravana.Again seeing Ravanas plight, fraternalaffection and pity made him forgeteverything else.Ravana was pleased. "O my truewarrior! O my brother! What a friend inneed I have in Kumbhakarna!" heexclaimed, confident that Kumbhakarnawould return triumphant and he now feltlike one recovering from a mortalsickness.Kumbhakarna armed with his greatspear was about to go to battle alone, butRavana stopped him and sent an army toaid him. He covered his brothers big bodywith jewels and garments and blessed himsaving: "Go, my hero! Destroy theenemies and return victorious."Tall and mighty-limbed Kumbhakarna,covered with shining jewels, was radiantlike Trivikrama himself. Hecircumambulated his brother, bowed andmarched out spear in hand at the head of agreat army, amidst the plaudits of theRakshasas, and under a shower of flowersand good wishes.As the huge form of Kumbhakarna, agiant even among the Rakshasas, was seenstepping across the fortress-wall likeYama at the end of Time or some greatnatural cataclysm, the Vanaras werefrightened and started fleeing in alldirections. With great difficulty their
  • 189. chiefs rallied them and put them in battleformation.72. IS THIS NARAYANAHIMSELF?RALLIED by Angada, the Vanarasrecovered courage, reformed in battleorder and prepared to receiveKumbhakarna. They hurled rocks at himand dealt heavy blows with trees pluckedby the roots. But he disregarded them alland with a smile on his face went ondispatching the Vanaras with a methodiccruelty that was most terrifying. Some ofthem retreated to the newly built dam,while others tried to save themselves byconcealing on the shore of the sea and theforests.Once again Angada had to encouragethe Vanara chiefs and warriors and getthem to reform and attack Kumbhakarna.Dwivida, Hanuman, Nila, Vrishabha,Sarabha and other chiefs attackedKumbhakarna fiercely. But he disregardedthem all and continued his ruthlessslaughter of the Vanaras. Angada himselfreceived a blow, as a result of which hefainted and fell on the earth. Sugriva wasstruck down. Picking up the unconsciousVanara King, Kumbhakarna carried himwith joy towards Lanka. The Rakshasaarmy rejoiced greatly and raised atriumphant uproar. Kumbhakarna wishedto make a present of the captive VanaraKing to his brother Ravana.As Kumbhakarna went through theroyal highway carrying in triumph theunconscious Vanara king, the Rakshasasand their women-folk, standing on theterraces, showered flowers and pouredsandal paste. This incidentally revivedSugriva. He opened his eyes andwondered where he was and what hadhappened. He soon understoodeverything.He then began to bite with his teeth andtear with his nails the ears and nose of theRakshasa who was carrying him. Worriedthus Kumbhakarna threw him downintending to crush him with his feet. Butwhen he was once on the ground, Sugrivajumped and flew off across the sky andarrived at the place where Rama was.Hanuman was sure that Sugriva wouldsomehow come back. Foreseeing thisescape of Sugriva, Hanuman had ralliedthe Vanara ranks and prepared them againfor battle.Grim and gruesome with torn nose andears, Kumbhakarna, like a great blood-redevening cloud, and raging like Death atthe end of Time, returned to the battlefieldwith a huge iron mace in his hand.None could now stop Kumbhakarna.He began to kill and devour the Vanaras.The whole army began to disappear in thisway. They tried to deter him by climbingon his mountain-like body and tearing at itwith nails and teeth but without effect forhe shook them off as if they were flies.None of the Vanara chiefs could hold him.Lakshmana tried with his arrows toobstruct his progress but the Rakshasapassed him by and rushed forward to faceRama himself.For a long time Rama kept aimingpowerful darts at the Rakshasa. The arrowthat pierced the seven sal trees and theadamantine body of Vali was powerlessagainst Kumbhakarna.Sending sharper and stronger arrows,Rama wounded the arms and the feet ofthe Rakshasa, but nothing short of deathwould stop him. His legs were cut off, butlegless he moved about on his stumps andwent on with demoniac ferocity, fightinghis brothers battle.At last, Rama cut off his head with anarrow.The severed head, carried by the forceof Ramas arrow, rose into the sky and redwith blood fell in Lanka like a hill with its
  • 190. forests aflame. The news was carried toRavana."Your brother Kumbhakarna, terriblelike all-destroying Death at the end ofTime, has entered the heaven ofslaughtered heroes! He killed thousands ofVanaras and for a long time kept the armyof Rama and Lakshmana in fear ofdestruction. But at last he was, slain byRama himself, and deprived of arms andlegs his mutilated body lies like a mightytree disfigured by a forest fire. A part hasfallen into the sea. Another big part blocksthe entrance to the fortress. The severedhead, flying across the sky, has dropped inthe city and is lying there. Your belovedbrother is gone to Heaven!"When the Rakshasas told this tale,Ravana felt that his own life had left him.He swooned. After recoveringconsciousness, he cried in grief and anger:"Ah mighty warrior! How could you go toYamas world leaving me behind? Myright hand is cut off! How did Rama killyou, you whom in the whole world noenemy dared approach? I see the godsrejoicing in their heavens at your fall. TheVanara are dancing with delight. Of whatuse is this kingdom to me? Why should Icling to life when my dear brother has leftme? Yes, I have to torture and slay theman who killed this dear brother of mine!"Then with sudden and futile remorse hewailed: "Alas! Why did I refuse to listento Vibhishana?"Trisiras and his other sons tried toconsole Ravana."What is the use of lamentation" theyargued. "You who have secured fromBrahma strength and armor, why shouldyou fear or lose yourself in grief?" AndTrisiras himself set out for the battlefield.Many others eagerly followed him, ridingon elephants and chariots.A great battle ensued. Narantaka,riding on horseback spear in hand,wrought havoc among the Vanaras andwas proceeding towards Sugriva. Angadaopposed him and killed him and his horse.Likewise, Devantaka and Trisiras wereslain by Hanuman, and Mahodara by Nila.Atikaya fell a prey to Lakshmanasarrows. But before they died, these fourhad fought like four Yamas and causedenormous loss to the Vanara forces.When Ravana heard that Atikaya wasdead, he was be wildered."This is incredible! These my warriors,firm and mighty like mountains andirresistible like the ocean, have been slainone by one by these enemies. Those, whotill now have never known defeat, havebeen defeated and lie dead in thebattlefield. There stand my foes who havebroken out of the serpent entanglementswith which my peerless son Indrajit hadbound them. I cannot explain the marvelof this man Ramas strength. May it bethat he is Narayana himself?"Thus bewildered, Ravana lost heart. Hewanted that the enemy forces should notenter the fortress and in particular shouldnot enter the Asoka Vana. He supervisedthe defences again and returned to thepalace, downcast and forlorn.73. THE DEATH OF INDRAJITINDRAJIT comforted his father. "Whyshould you worry when I am here alive?"he said and gathered an army, and with itmade another sortie.He swooped down on the Vanaraforces and killed and wounded thousandsof them. They were helpless against hisfury. The Brahmastra of Indrajit waseffective against even Rama andLakshmana who were tied up by it. Theylay unconscious on the ground and theRakshasa prince went straight to hisanxious father with the glad news of thisachievement.
  • 191. Vibhishana rallied the Vanara leaderswho had scattered in all directions and puthope and courage into them.Jambavan, who was more dead thanalive, moved slowly among the Vanaras,inquiring: "Is Hanuman alive?""Yes, I am here," said Hanuman, andbowed low before Jambavan."My son," said the old Vanara,"proceed northwards at once across thesea to the Himalaya range. Between theRishabha and Kailasa peaks, there is theHill of Herbs. In that hilltop are fourmedicinal plants. If you bring them herequickly, Rama and Lakshmana and theVanara army will recover consciousness.Their wounds will be healed and they willfight again. Do this without loss of time.Only you can do this."Accordingly, Hanuman sprang up intothe air and moved fast. He reached the hilldescribed by the venerable Jambavan andas he could not identify the plants, hecarried the whole hill and returned with itto Lanka.Even with the approach of the Sanjivihill, Rama and Lakshmana and theVanaras felt the darts slip off their bodies.Their wounds healed and they becamestrong and stood up.The battle was resumed. Takingcounsel with Rama, Sugriva now chose afew Vanaras and ordered them to enterLanka and set fire to the city.Towards midnight they entered the citywith torches. They attacked andoverpowered the sentry and set fire to thepalaces and turrets of Lanka. Houses intheir thousands were reduced to ashes.The proud city was reduced to a mass ofruin.Valmiki describes this incident indetail. It reads very much like thedestruction of cities in modern battleswith which we are now familiar.Seeing Lanka being burnt down by theVanaras, Ravana was furious and sent tothe battlefield Kumbha and Nikumbha,the sons of Kumbhakarna, together withYupaksha and other Rakshasa warriors.After another terrible battle, Kumbhawas slain by Sugriva and Nikumbha byHanuman. Makaraksha, son of Khara,who opposed Rama, fell to his fieryarrows. Many more mighty Rakshasasperished. Then, at the bidding of Ravana,Indrajit went once again to the battle.He rose into the sky and became invisible. Thus he fought again unseen bythe Vanaras. Indrajit, by his necromancy,created a maya-Sita and, putting her in achariot, took her before the Vanara armyand seemingly killed her in their presence.Deceived and horrified by this, theVanaras asked themselves: "What good isit now to continue this war?" They left thefield and went to Rama with the heart-rending news.As a result of this trick, Indrajit gainedtime to perform an asuric sacrifice. Ramaand Lakshmana, like the Vanara warriors,believed that Sita was dead and were lostin grief. They were completely bewilderedand helpless when Vibhishana came andinquired what had happened.He listened to their story. Then he said:"You have been deceived. Neverwould Ravana allow Sita to be killed. Thisis only a trick of sorcery. Indrajit tries todefeat you through magic. Having givenup all hope of achieving success bynormal means, he has gone to perform anasuric sacrifice of great power. If hecompletes it, we cannot vanquish him. Weshould therefore go and obstruct thesacrifice. Let Lakshmana go at once andmar Indrajits purpose."Accepting this advice, Rama sentLakshmana who was ac companied byHanuman and other Vanaras, besidesVibhishana. They went to the spot where
  • 192. Indrajit was about to offer oblations toevil spirits. The sacrifice was interruptedand a long and fierce battle ensued.Ascending his chariot, the son of Ravanasent forth his arrows.Standing on Hanuman, Lakshmana didthe same. As they were well matched instrength and skill, the battle lasted long.The chariot of Indrajit was destroyed inthe course of the combat and both theheroes stood on the ground and continuedthe battle.At last, Lakshmana used the Indra-astraspell and uttering the name of Ramadischarged the fatal arrow. The head ofIndrajit was severed and fell to the groundand as it fell, it shone like fire. The Devasand Gandharvas showered flowers fromthe heavens.Lakshmana then went to Rama. He waswounded all over and bleeding. Hewalked slowly, supported by Jambavanand Hanuman. Rama had already heardthe news of the death of Indrajit."Lakshmana!" he cried, "this is the endof the Rakshasa race. You have achievedit."Lakshmana modestly stood back butRama seated him on his lap, kissed hishead and gave vent to his joy."You have performed a mighty deed,impossible for anyone else. You havedeprived Ravana of his right hand. Who inthe world can equal you or Vibhishana orHanuman? I have no more care. You havevanquished the conqueror of Indra. I feel Ihave already recovered Sita."The news reached Ravana that Indrajithad been slain by Lakshmana. When heheard that Vibhishana helped Lakshmanain slaying Indrajit, his grief and angerswelled and the tears he shed burnt wherethey fell. And from his mouth issued fire."Alas, my son! O peerless warrior! Ohero! Vanquisher of the great Indra! HasDeath won after all? Have you entered theheaven of heroes? But I should notgrieve," he said.But the fathers heart would not thus bedenied, and again he cried: "What! IsIndrajit gone? The world is now empty forme. Oh son, you have left your motherMandodari and your dear wife and myselfheart-broken and disconsolate. Nothingremains to us now but revenge anddespair. It is best to kill Sita, the cause ofall this tragedy. My son killed the maya-Sita. Now I shall kill the real Sita herself." So saying he rushed out, sword inhand, intending to do it. Some fierceRakshasas, seeing Ravana issuing out inanger, applauded him with joy; but theminister Suparsva was horrified andappealed to Ravanas better sense andwhat was due to himself as a man and aking."King!" he cried, "how dare you thinksuch a thought? How can you do it? Oh,Lord of ten heads! Brother of Kubera! Areyou thinking to kill a woman? Are yougoing to incur this shame and sin? Canyou thus be tempted by anger? You havemastered the Vedas and all the sciences.You have performed many penances.How can you end up with such a thing asthis? Who is equal to you? Let us directour anger against Rama. It will be newmoon tomorrow. Gather all your armies,issue out of Lanka, slay Rama andLakshmana and achieve victory. Thentake Sita. Put on the armor you havesecured from Brahma. Ascend yourchariot and go to battle."Ravana felt that Suparsva was right andhis words were good. Seated on histhrone, he was silent for a while, lost inprofound meditation. Then he addressedthe commanders with folded hands,saying:"Go now with all your strength andslay Rama. If even you fail, I shall gomyself and destroy him."
  • 193. Never before had he been so courteousand humble when dealing with hisofficers. Adversity had taught him thislesson. Mounted on chariots that shonelike the hills on the evening horizon andon the back of great elephants andbeautiful horses, Ravanas army went infull force for the great battle.The Vanaras tore up rocks and treesand attacked the Rakshasas fiercely. TheRakshasas returned the attack with equallygrim ferocity.The Vanaras jumped about everywhereand worked havoc among the Rakshasas,their chariots and animals. Each of theRakshasas was surrounded by manyVanaras and slain.The Rakshasas too did not spare theVanaras whom they killed in tens ofthousands.Rama bent his bow and sent showers ofarrows against the Rakshasas whodestroyed their army like a raging fire.Warriors only saw their companions fall.They could not see Rama because of theshower of arrows. Their fear conjured upa multitude of Ramas, who dealt death inall directions.Countless elephants and horsesperished. Thousands of chariots werebroken. The Rakshasa army wasdestroyed, all but a handful who fled intoLanka.The Devas, Gandharvas and Siddhassang the praise of Rama from above. InLanka, the Rakshasa women clung to eachother and lamented loudly that Ravanasfolly should have brought this greatcalamity on them.74. END OF RAVANATHERE was wailing in every house inLanka. In Ravanas breast grief, shameand anger seethed like a raging sea. Hehad so far sent his commanders and menin detachments, and, brave as they were,they had been destroyed in detail. Thishad been the result of overweeningconfidence in his invincibility andcontempt for the enemy, most of whomfought with no better weapons than sticksand stones. But repeated reverses hadbrought him no wisdom.He had not even disputed the passageof the sea but allowed the enemy alodgment in his island. But negligent andreckless as a general, he was brave andfinally resolving to fight himself and withhis sole strength to destroy the foe, he setout. He had full faith in his prowess and inthe efficacy of the boons he had securedand he went forth with confidencemounted on his divine chariot that wasdrawn by eight horses and filled with allmanner of weapons accompanied by adivision of Rakshasa chariot-warriors.As Ravana issued out of Lanka, the sunseemed obscured by an unpredictedeclipse, and foul birds and beasts of thenight roared at large with weird ill-omened cries; but disregarding it all,Ravana drove out to battle accompaniedby Virupaksha, Mahodara andMahaparsva.The mighty Rakshasa warriors whofollowed Ravana were mowed down by adeadly flight of arrows and chunks ofrocks and presently Ravana found himselffacing Lakshmana, who tried to opposehis further progress. Forcing his way pastLakshmana, Ravana precipitated himselfagainst Rama with all the pent-up fury ofhatred and revenge and strove tooverwhelm him with a spate of arrows.Rama easily baffled these arrows withhis own and struck Ravana repeatedly,without however being able to penetratehis armor. Thus they fought, thesesupreme bowmen, each bent on slayingthe other and using increasingly potentmissiles of secret power, while the gods inheaven looked on with marvel andadmiration. Neither hero had met such an
  • 194. opponent before and on both sidesadmiration was mingled with wrath.Rama pierced with his darts every limbof Ravana. And yet he did not fall.Then Lakshmana and Vibhishanatogether attacked Ravana. Furious withhis brother and determined to kill him,Ravana flung at him a powerful weapon.But intercepted by a dart of Lakshmana itbroke into two and fell on the ground likea burning brand. Once again, Ravanaaimed another mighty sakti againstVibhishana. This too Lakshmanaintercepted. Then Ravana hurled a sakti atLakshmana crying: "Now you are dead!"Under its impact Lakshmana fell downunconscious on the ground.Not observing this, Rama went onkeeping up his pressure against Ravana.While the battle raged between the two,the Vanara leaders took counsel and sentHanuman once again to the Hill of Herbsto save the life of Lakshmana.For the second time, Hanuman flewnorthwards and, not wasting timesearching for the plants, returned with thewhole mountain. Lakshmana got wellagain and resumed his part in the battle.Meanwhile, Matali brought his masterIndras chariot to the battlefield for the useof Rama."Indra, king of gods, has sent this foryour use," said Matali. "Be pleased toascend this chariot and destroy Ravana,the enemy of the gods!"Rama bowed to the gods,circumambulated the divine chariot andascended it. Then followed a wonderfulbattle.Sorely wounded, Ravana fellunconscious and, noting this, hischarioteer quietly took him out of thebattlefield.When, a little later, Ravana recoveredconsciousness, he was highly wroth, withhis charioteer for taking him out of thebattlefield and insisted on being takenback to face Rama. The grim battle beganagain. Every astra was met by another. Innew and wonderful ways, the two chariotsmoved and the two warriors fought for along time, while both armies watched thespectacle with breathless admiration andanxiety.Matali, the charioteer, whispered intoRamas ear: "The Rakshasas end isapproaching. Delay no further. May Iremind you of Brahma-astra?"Rama uttered the spell and sent theBrahma-astra. Though the Rakshasas tenheads had often been cut off before, theyhad grown again and baffled Rama. TheBrahma-astra, emitting flames, wenttowards Ravana and pierced his chest,where was enshrined the secret of hisinvincibility, and shattered it.Then the bow slipped from theRakshasas hand and he fell down fromthe chariot and lay stretched on thebattlefield.The gods blew their trumpets. Ramaand his chariot were covered by a heap offlowers showered from the heavens.Lakshmana, Vibhishana, Jambavan andother warriors surrounded Rama, lost injoy and adoration.When the first flush of triumph wasover and Vibhishana looked at hisbrothers body, the natural call of bloodand memories of boyhood days whenRavana and he had loved and played quiteoverwhelmed him and he burst intolamentations over his lost brother."O warrior!" he cried. "O brother ofheroic deeds! O scholar learned in allShastras! O valiant and famous King ofkings! Your great arms are, nowsprawling helpless on the ground! Self-willed and self-deceived, surrounded bybad advisers, you would not heed mywarning! The worst I feared has happenednow! You reaped what you sowed and
  • 195. you lie on the bare ground, O once mightyruler of the Rakshasas!"To Vibhishana thus lamenting, Ramaspoke:"Ravana fought like a true warrior andfell fighting like a hero! Death has washedhis sins. It calls for no mourning. Ravanahas entered Heaven."Rama cleared all confusion fromVibhishanas mind and bade him do thefuneral rites for his departed brother.Said Rama: "It is for you now, hisbrother, to do the rites. Death ends allenmity. I, his former foe, even I canrightly perform his obsequies. Yourbrother is my brother too, is he not?"The women of Ravanas palace came tothe field to mourn. They led the QueenMandodari, who looked like the goddessof grief incarnate. The crowned queen andbeloved wife of Ravana was in utterdesolation."Indra, King of gods, dared not faceyour anger," she cried. "The Rishis andthe Gandharvas at the very sight of youfled in fear in all directions. And now amere man, a wanderer in the forest, hasbrought you down! I do not understandhow this could have happened. Truly, Fateis all-powerful! But lord, my lord, Iwarned you long ago. Did I not tell youthat this Rama is no mere human being,but someone greater than Indra or Agni orYama, whom you could not vanquish?This Rama is no other than VishnuHimself in human form, God withoutbeginning, middle or end. Even when weheard that he stood on the ground ridingno car and slew your brother Khara inJanasthana, did I not say this? WhenHanuman penetrated Lank theimpenetrable fortress, and laid it waste, Iknew the truth. I begged you not to incurtheir enmity but you would not listen.Why did you cast lustful eyes on chasteSita? This was the madness that drove youto your death! Was it not a heinous sin tocarry her off when she was alone? Deathin the form of Sita drew you to your end!Sita and Rama are now reunited andhappy after their brief separation. But meand all our race you have thrust for veryinto the depths of sorrow. Alas, myhusband, my lover. You lie dead. Yet howbeautiful you look with your body piercedby Ramas darts, covered with blood anddust of battle! What should I do now? Ihad a lord who was the Lord of Lanka! Ihad a son who had vanquished Indra.They have left me and I am a merehelpless widow without friends or home!"Lamenting thus, Mandodari fell onRavanas body and lay unconscious.75. THE ENDVIBHISHANA was crowned King ofLanka in a magnificent ceremony. Thenew Lord of Lanka came out to theVanara camp and bowed low beforeRama.Then Rama said to Hanuman: "Withthe Kings permission, enter Lanka andtell Sita what has happened." Hanumanaccordingly took permission fromVibhishana and went to Asoka Vana toconvey the news to Sita.Sitas joy was beyond words. She wassilent."Why, mother," asked Hanuman, "whydo you not speak?""What is there to say, my son?" sheanswered. "How can I repay my debt toyou? Your wisdom, your valor, yourprowess, your patience, your humility areall your own. None in the world can equalyou." As she said this, her eyes filled withtears of gratitude and affection.Hanuman looked at the Rakshasiwomen who had guarded Sita and turningto Sita said: "I wish to slay these cruelwomen who troubled you. Do give meleave!"
  • 196. "No, my son," she answered. "Who inthe world is blameless? It is the part ofnoble souls to be compassionate towardsall sinners as well as good people."These words of Sita are treasured likenectar by generations of pious men. Theworst of sinners, clinging to the goldenfeet of the Mother, can gain forgiveness."These Rakshasis," she continued "butcarried out their masters orders. How arethey to blame? Their king is dead and haspaid for his crime. It is unjust to punishthese Rakshasis now."All that Hanuman could find to say inreverent admiration was that what she saidwas only what was worthy of Ramaswife."What message am I to carry toRama?" he asked."I am eager to be in his presence," sheanswered. "That is all."Hanuman returned to Rama and gavean account of his visit. For some reasonRamas face now darkened and with lack-lustre eyes he fell into a frown study. Alittle later he turned to Vibhishana andsaid:"Ask Sita to bathe and bedeck herselfand bring her here."When the message reached Sita in theAsoka Vana, she said: "I would rather goas I am.""Not so, my lady," said Vibhishana,"the princes orders should be obeyed."So, after a bath and bedecked withjewels and seated in a palanquin, Sitawent to the camp.When he heard that Sita was coming,Rama woke up from his meditation.Events of the past rose like waves andbattering against his mind threw it into awild commotion of shame, grief and joy.As Sitas palanquin was taken throughthe great concourse of Vanaras, theythronged round the princess and causedconfusion. It was made worse by theVanara leaders trying to push them asideand make way for the palanquin."Let no one be kept away," said Rama."These dear Vanaras have stood andsuffered for me. Sita will be pleased to seeme surrounded by such friends. Let noone be pushed away."Ramas face showed a strangetransformation of mind. None of thosearound him, not even Lakshmana couldunderstand.Alighting from the palanquin, Sita,with downcast eyes, proceeded towardsRama. "Aryaputra," she said and sobbed,unable to speak more.Aryaputra in Sanskrit means belovedand noble one and is an intimate form ofaddress of wife to husband."I have slain the enemy," said Rama. Ihave recovered you. I have done my dutyas a Kshatriya. My vow is now fulfilled."Incomprehensible and whollyunexpected were these words that heuttered. His face darkened for somereason. Then he spoke even harsherwords."It was not for mere attachment to youthat I waged this grim battle but in thedischarge of duty as a Kshatriya. It givesme no joy now to get you back, fordoubtfulness envelopes you like a darkcloud of smoke.""What do you wish to do now?" hecontinued. "You must live alone, for wecannot live together. You can stay underthe protection of any of our kinsmen orfriends. How can a Kshatriya take back awife who has lived so long in a strangershouse?"Sita looked at Rama. Her eyes flashedfire."Unworthy words have you spoken!"she said. "My ears have heard them andmy heart is broken. The uncultured mayspeak such words but not one nobly bornand brought up like you. Your anger, it
  • 197. seems, has destroyed your understanding.My lord does not remember the familyfrom which I come. Janaka, the great seer,was my father and he brought me up. Is itmy fault that the wicked Rakshasa seizedme by force and imprisoned me? Butsince this is how you look at it, there isbut one course open to me."Then turning to Lakshmana, "Fetch thefaggots, Lakshmana, and kindle a fire,"she said.Lakshmana, who had been watchingRamas behavior in dismay andindignation turned to look at Ramas faceseeking his orders, but Rama did not sayNo to Sitas request nor show any sign ofsoftening. Obeying Sita, Lakshmanakindled a big fire and the princess, witheyes fixed on the ground,circumambulated her lord and exclaimed:"Ye Gods, I bow before you. Oh rishis,I bow to you. Oh Agni, you at least knowmy purity and will take me as your own!"With these words she jumped into theflames. And wonder of wonders! Thelambent flames were crowded withcelestial figures, for all the gods came andassembled there. Brahma spoke:"Narayana! Mighty God that took humanform to slay Ravana! Is not this your ownLakshmi?"Agni, God of fire, rose in his own bodyout of the flames and lifting Sita in hisarms with all her clothes and jewelsuntouched and intact, presented her toRama.Rama said to Brahma: "Who am I? Allthat I know and can tell is that I am Rama,son of Dasaratha. You know who I amand whence I came and more. It is youwho must inform me." Saying this toBrahma, Rama accepted Sita fire-proved."Think you that I did not know yourirreproachable purity? This ordeal was tosatisfy the people. Without it, they wouldsay that Rama, blinded by love, behavedwith a strange weakness and broke therule of well-brought-up men." So sayinghe drew her to his side.Then Dasaratha descended from aboveand, placing the prince on his lap blessedhim."My child!" he said to Sita. "Forgivemy son. Forgive him for the wrong he didyou to preserve the dharma of the world.God bless you!"Indra gave his boon, and the Vanaraswho died in battle for Rama regained theirlives.Rama and Sita, now reunited, ascendedthe Pushpaka which carried them swiftlyin the air with their friends, the Vanarawarriors and Vibhishana, to Ayodhya.As they travelled in the sky, he said:"Look there! That is the causeway built byNala." Again, "Look there, that isKishkindha," he said, "where I met andmade friends with Hanuman and Sugriva."And Rama pointed out to Sita the spotswhere he and Lakshmana had wandereddisconsolate and related to her all hisunforgettable experiences.Alighting at Bharadwajas ashrama,they sent word in advance to Guha andBharata.The city of Ayodhya swam in a sea ofjoy. Rama and Bharata met. Planning forBharatas sake, ambitious Kaikeyi and herhunchback maid had contrived andconcocted plots. But now, as Bharatabowed at the feet of Rama, a joy deeperthan what they had planned for him washis. What kingly crown could equal thejoy one found at Ramas feet? Whatsovereignty could bring one the glory thatwas now Bharatas forever?The Vaishnava hymns exalt Bharataeven above Rama for a spotless mind andunblemished unselfishness. For fourteenyears till the return of Rama, Bharatainstalled Ramas padukas andadministered the kingdom as a devotional
  • 198. exercise in the service of his brother. Nowthat Rama was crowned King as his fatherhad wished, Bharatas penance was at anend and his heart was filled with joy.The smile of divine grace brightenedSitas face as she cast her merciful glanceon Hanuman. What more could Hanumandesire?I have retold in brief compass the storyof the Prince of Ayodhya as sung byValmiki. Those who read or listen to thetale, it is said, will be saved from sin andsorrow. Sri Sankara, the master ofwisdom, has said that, if one keeps inones heart the son of Dasaratha andmeditates on him with reverence, onessins will all be burnt up as chaff in a fire.After the avatar of Rama, the lordappeared again among men with greatersoulabhya (easy accessibility) as Govinda.He lived among cowherders as one ofthem and served Arjuna as a chariotdriver. At the end of the Gita, the Lordsays to Arjuna:"Believe in me as the sole refuge, castaside all doubt and come unto me. I shallsave you from all sins. This is truth,friend. Cast off your fear."This promise of Sri Krishna isaddressed to all of us. We, like Arjuna,have our doubts and fears in theKurukshetra of life and this assurance ofgrace is for all of us, for we are all dear toHim.76. EPILOGUEOn one occasion Gandhiji and I weretalking about a girl very dear to both ofus. I said: "How did she get all these ideasand phrases of love without having readany of present-day love stories?"Gandhiji said in answer: "But has shenot read the Ramayana? Is the Ramayananot a love story too?" This struck me asprofound. Then we turned to othermatters.Dasarathas troubles began with love.Then the love of Rama and Sita is thetheme and substance of Ayodhya Kanda.In love that is not opposed to dharma,we find a manifestation of God. So was itaffirmed by Sri Krishna when heexplained his manifold being to Arjuna.The Ramayana has, for its twin theme,love that is opposed to dharma also. TheRamayana is undoubtedly a great lovestory.Those who regard the Ramayana as anallegory interpret Sita as the individualsoul and Rama as the Supreme Being.God seeks and pursues the human soul tillHe secures it. He is eager to save us. It isenough if we just do not obstruct or resist.There are also other interpretations andapplications of the Ramayana. Sita, thefemale counterpart of the Supreme Being,is the embodiment of compassion andgrace. Compassion is the Supreme Motherand she is enthroned in the heart of theLord. When she casts her merciful glanceon us, we reach the feet of God.Parvatis function in relation to Sivaand Lakshmis in relation to Hari are bothidentical, and are just variations of thesame creed of dependence on Gods grace.God as Father and God as Mother are notdistinct. If the Lord were to be partedfrom compassion, our plight would be justthat of Ravana who separated Sita fromRama. The quality of the Lordscompassion can be understood from theexperience of true human love.Many meanings can be read in theRamayana and its beauty appreciated inmany ways as from a real diamond manyglorious colors emanate. Seventeenmonths ago I began writing these weeklychapters not without fear and trembling.This week I close it full of thankfulnessfor the health of body and peace of mindthat enabled me to complete this humbleservice. Learned men will no doubt find
  • 199. many faults in what I have written. Butthey must be glad also that it has donesome good.A word to the children who read thesechapters. I have told the story of thePrince of Ayodhya mainly for your sake.Grown up people may read Valmiki andKamban. Those who know how to singcan render with joy the sweet songs onRama given to us by Tyagaraja. But thisstory that I have told can be read direct byyou, children, without anyones help.You should look upon Rama,Lakshmana and Hanuman like your ownfathers and elder brothers who are by yourside ever eager to help you. Grow to belike Bharata, Lakshmana and Hanuman,good and brave souls, full of love andstrength.Mothers too, I know, have beenreading this story with joy. This has beena great encouragement to me. They canunderstand why I have told the story insimple words and short sentences for thesake of our children. Everything we do,we do for the sake of our children, do wenot? Only women can realise and relivethe experiences and feelings of Sita.The story of Sita as told by Valmikiand Kamban can be fully appreciated onlyby women. Only they can fully appreciatethe courage of Jatayu and the prowess ofHanuman. Sitas sorrows have not endedwith the Ramayana. They go on, still, inthe lives of our women.In the Rama avatar, Rama did notknow that he was God incarnate. Krishnaknew that he was an avatar and actedaccordingly. We should read the twostories with this difference in mind. Thedespair and grief that the man Ramaexperienced, Krishna never knew. Whenhe sucked at the demon-womans breast orwas bound with a rope and thrashed formischief, he cared not nor grieved.Standing weaponless in the battlefield, heled the warrior to destroy the wicked. Inevery episode of Krishna we see thedifference between the two avatars.I have followed the story of the Princeof Ayodhya as told by Valmiki. There wasa legend current among people, I thinkeven before Valmikis time, that afterrecovering Sita, for fear of scandal, Ramasent her away to live in the forest.This pathetic episode must have sprungfrom the sorrow-laden imagination of ourwomen. It has taken shape as the UttaraKanda of Ramayana. Although there isbeauty in the Uttara Kanda, I must say myheart rebels against it. Valmiki haddisposed of this old legend through thefire ordeal in the battlefield. Even thatordeal does not seem to me as consistentwith Ramas character. It is painful to readit.As the prince returned from Mithila hemet Parasurama. I have heard it said thatwith that meeting Parasuramas avatarcame to an end. Likewise, it should beheld, I think, that Ramas avatar came toan end with the slaying of Ravana. Afterthat battle, Rama remained only as a Kingof the Ikshvaku race.On this theory, Ramas treatment ofSita after the battle and in the UttaraKanda can be explained simply as thebehavior of a king in accordance with thecustoms of the times.But, how can we comment on a workcomposed thousands of years ago andcoming down to us in palm-leafmanuscripts subject to corruption? If,even after the fire-ordeal in the YuddhaKanda, it is said in the Uttara Kanda thatSita was sent to the forest, we may take itthat it mirrors the voiceless and endlesssuffering of our women folk.Sorrow and joy are both alike the playof God. God himself took with him hisdivine spouse, the embodiment of his ownsupreme compassion, into the world of
  • 200. men and women, and enacted with her agreat drama of joy and sorrow in theRamayana.Rain falling from the heaven flows intothe rivers and flows down to join the sea.Again from the sea the water is sucked upby the sun and rises to the sky, whence itdescends again as rain and flows down asrivers. Even so, feelings and values risefrom the people and, touching the poetsheart, are transformed into a poem which,in turn, enlightens and inspires the people.Thus in every land the poets and theirpeople continuously reinforce each other.The tenderness and purity and the untoldsufferings of women took shape as theUttara Ramayana. Like an unflickeringlamp, it throws light on the quality of theirhearts. Whether the epics and songs of anation spring from the faith and ideas ofthe common folk, or whether a nationsfaith and ideas are produced by itsliterature is a question which one is free toanswer as one likes.Does a plant spring from the seed ordoes seed issue from the plant? Was thebird or the egg the first cause? Did cloudsrise from the sea or was the sea filled bythe waters from the sky? All suchinquiries take us to the feet of Godtranscending speech and thought.One other point, in describing howRavana carried off Sita, Kamban differsfrom Valmiki. In Kambans Ramayana,Ravana does not seize and carry Sita asValmiki describes; without touching herhe lifts her with the earth on which shestands. Kambans version is followed bymost popular expositors because thisversion is less painful to our feelings.It is no sin or shame to an innocentwoman if a villain behaves like a brute.Yet, mistakenly, we in this country lookon the violence of a brute as causing ablemish to the womans purity. It is indeference to this wrong feeling thatKamban departed from Valmiki here.For the same reason, Tulasidas relatesthat the Sita seized and carried off byRavana was not the real Sita at all but apalpable image of hers left behind by thereal Sita. Thus the story is told in allNorth India. During the fire ordeal, it isthe maya-Sita that disappears and the realSita springs again and returns from theflames.It was perhaps presumptuous on mypart to have begun the task, but it was ajoy to retell the Ramayana. Now, when itis over, I feel like one awaking from adream of joy. When the prince left thecity, he felt no sorrow. It was only whenhe lost Sita that he knew grief. So with metoo.When I had to step down from highoffice and heavy responsibility, I did notfeel at a loss or wonder what to do next.But now, when I have come to the end ofthe tale of the Prince of Ayodhya, the voidis like that of a shrine without a God. Letno one look upon work as a burden. Goodwork is the secret that keeps life going.While one should not hanker after results,life without work would be unendurable.
  • 201. GlossaryAdisesha : The primordial Serpentwhich is Lord Vishnus bed.Agneyastra : A missile charged with aninvocation to the God Agni (Fire).Aryaputra : Noble prince; classicalform of address by wife to husband,betokening love and respect combined.Ashrama : Hermitage.Asuric Yajna : Sacrifice pertaining toAsuras. Demoniacal sacrifice andnecromancy for gaining power.Abhisheka : Religious rite of pouringor sprinkling sacred waters on the head ofone who is installed as King or FirstPrince.Adharma : Sin, unrighteous action,opposite of dharma.Agni : The God of Fire.Alakapuri : The capital of Kubera, theGod of Wealth.Amaravati : The city in heaven whereIndra has his abode.Aruna : The God of Dawn, first son ofKasyapa Prajapati and Vinata. He wasborn lame.Aruna was the elder brother of Garuda.Aruna is the charioteer of the Sun GodArundhati : Wife of Sage Vasishtha, apattern of chastity.Astras : Miraculous weapons whosepower lay in the invocations they werecharged with.Asuras : Enemies of the Gods.Aswapati : King of Kekaya, father ofKaikeyi and grandfather of Bharata.Aswini Devatas : Celestial beings, twinsons of Surya.Avatar : Incarnation.Bala, Ati Bala: Two invocations toobviate hunger, thirst and sleep.Bhagirathi : Another name of Ganga.Bhagyam : Fortune, prosperity.Bhakta : Devotee.Bhakti : Devotion to God, loyalty,faith.Bheda : Diplomacy of playing oneagainst another in the enemy camp.Bhogavati : The capital of the SerpentKing in the nether world.Brahmana : The first of the four castesdevoting their lives to study and teachingand theperformance of religious ceremonies.Brahma : The Creator, one of theTrinityBrahmastra : The most powerfulamong Astras (mantra invoked weapons).Brahmachari : One who is in the firstof the four stages in a Brahmins life, thestage of study and practice of a disciplinedlife.Brahmadanda : Holy staff of anaustere Brahmin.Brahmajnana : The realisation of theSupreme Being, higher wisdom.Brahmarishi : The highest type ofsages.Brihaspati : The preceptor of theDevas, the planet Jupiter.Chaitra : The month falling in thesecond half of April and the first half ofMay.Chandala : Outcaste, untouchable.Dana : Gift, bribing of the enemy,Danavas : Sons of Danu and KasyapaPrajapati, enemies of Devas.Daityas : Sons of Diti and KasyapaPrajapati, enemies of Devas.Daivam : Divine, celestial, fate.Danda : Physical punishment, forceused in meeting the enemys tactics.Darbha : A species of sacred grass usedfor religious rites.Deva-Loka : The celestial regions.Devarishis : Sages of Heaven.Devas : Celestial beings, sons of Aditiand Kasyapa.Dharma : Duty as laid down byreligion or custom
  • 202. Dishtam : Indicated.Gandharvas : A Class Of semi-divinebeings. Celestial musicians.Garuda : The bird king who is Vishnusvehicle.Govinda : One of the names ofKrishna.Guru : Acharya, preceptor.Hari : One of the names of Vishnu. Thesecond of the Hindu Trinity. Other namesare Krishna, Mukunda, Madhava, Kesava,Narayana.Himavan : The presiding deity of theHimalaya range.Ikshvaku : King of the Solar race fromwhom the name came for the race of Solarkings.Indra : The chief and the king of theGods.Indra-Astra : Missile charged with aninvocation to Indra.Jambavan : Leader of bears in the armyof Sugriva.Jamadagni : A great sage, father ofParasurama.Jnana : Spiritual knowledge,realisation.Jnani : A knower of Reality.Kama : Desire, usually referred to inrelation to sex.Kamadhenu : The Divine cow ofHeaven. It was born of the Ocean whenthe Devas and Asuras churned it forNectar.Kamavalli : A name which Surpanakhagave to herself.Kartaviryarjuna : Son of KingKritavirya. He had a thousand hands andhis golden chariot could go wherever hewished. He was a contemporary ofRavana and had him imprisoned in hiscity. Parasurama killed him for carryingaway Kamadhenu and killing JamadagniKailasa : The abode of Siva.Kalpaka : A Tree which issued out ofthe Ocean when it was churned by Devasand Asuras. A celestial tree which grantsany wish to people who are under it.Karma : Action, the law that governsall action and its inevitable consequenceson the doer.Karma Yogin : One who practises theway of action for salvation.Kasyapa : A celebrated sage, son ofBrahma. He had many wives throughwhom were born the various forms of lifeon earth.Kekaya : A country north-west ofKosala, the place where Bharatasmaternal grand father ruled. West ofmodern Punjab.Kinkaras : Soldiers, personalattendants.Kinnaras : Celestial beings like theGandharvas, who played on musicalinstruments. Kodanda : Ramas bow.Kokila : The cuckoo.Krodha : Anger.Krouncha : A bird.Kshatriya : The second of the fourcastes.Kubera : God of Wealth.Kurukshetra : The battlefield where thePandavas and Kauravas fought.Kusa : A kind of grass used in religiousceremonies.Lakshmi : The Goddess of well-being,wife of Vishnu.Leela : Play, the unexplainable ways ofProvidence.Malyavan : The aged Rakshasagrandfather of Ravana.Malyavati : A stream flowing by thefoot of the Chitrakuta Hill.Maruti : Name of Hanuman being sonof Marut, the Wind-god.Mahabali : An Asura who became apowerful ruler and a rival to the gods. Hewas the son of Virochana and grandson ofPrahlada.Mahadeva : One of the names of Siva.Maharshi : A great Sage.
  • 203. Manmatha : The God of Love.Mantras : Scriptural verses,incantations.Maya : The architect of Asuras.Meru : A fabulous mountain aroundwhich the Sun is supposed to revolve.Naga : Semi-divine serpents.Narayana : Vishnu.Narada : The celestial rishi with thelute.Namah : Bow, salutation.Nandigrama : A village near Ayodhyawhere Bharata lived and ruled Ayodhya asa deputy of Rama.Nikumbhila : A cave and grove inLanka where oblations were offered toKali.Niti Sastra : Science of governmentand diplomacy.Niyati : Law.Paduka : Footwear.Parayana : Reading a Purana or Epic asa daily devotional exercise.Parijata : A celestial flowering tree.Parvati : Uma, wife of Siva.Patala : The nether regions.Payasam : A sweet preparation of milkand rice.Parasurama : The sixth incarnation ofVishnu who curbed the growing arroganceof the Kshatriyas.Pinaka : Bow of Siva.Puja : Worship.Prajapati : The Creator.Puranas : Sacred legends.Pushpaka Vimana : Aerial chariot ofRavana which originally belonged toKubera. Sitting in this chariot, one couldobtain anything he or she desired.Rajagriha : The capital of the Kekayacountry.Rajasabha : Council of State.Rajasik : Appertaining to the principleof activity egoism, arrogance.Rakshasas : Evil-minded strong beingssimilar to Asuras.Rakshasi : Feminine of Rakshasa.Raghu : An ancestor of Rama. He wasa king of the Solar race.Raja Rishi : An eminent sage, aphilosopher-king.Rishabha : A peak in the Himalayas.Rishi : A sage who has undergonesevere austerities.Rudra : Siva.Sama : Peaceful approach to theenemy, negotiation.Sastras : Sacred lore.Satvik : Appertaining to the element ofequanimity as distinguished from theprinciples of activity and inertia.Sanyasini : A female recluse, feminineof Sanyasi.Sarama : Wife of Vibhishana. She andTrijata were the friends among theRakshasis that Sita had during herincarceration in the Asoka Vana.Sarayu : A tributary of the riverGanges on the North bank.Satyaparakrama : Righteous andstrong. Strong in righteousness.Siddha : One who attained specialpowers through penance. A class ofheavenly beings.Siva : One of the Hindu Trinity.Sloka : Couplet or Quatrain in Sanskrit.Surya : The Sun God.Soulabhya : Ease of access.Sri Krishna : The eighth incarnation ofVishnu, who gave the Bhagavad Gita.Sruti : Veda, Revelation.Sukra : The Guru or acharya of theAsuras, the planet Venus.Swarga : Heaven, where the blessedare received after death.Tamasik : Pertaining to the element ofinertia.Tamasa : A river flowing into Ganga.Tapas : Austerities and penances.Tapasvi : One who does Tapas orpenance.Tapasvini : Feminine of Tapasvi.
  • 204. Tapasya : Power obtained throughTapas or penance.Tilaka : A mark put on the forehead ofwomen.Trivikrama : See Vamana.Vamana : The fifth incarnation ofVishnu to curb the power of Mahabali.Vamana became Trivikrama of hugestature who measured Earth and Heavenin two stepsVanaprastha : The third stage of aBrahmins life retiring with his wife as apreparation for sanyasa.Vayu : The Wind God who was fatherof Hanuman.Vaidehi : Another name of Sita.Vaishnava : Appertaining to Vishnu orworship of Vishnu.Vaitarani : A terrible river in Hell.Varuna : The Lord of the Ocean.Veda : Scripture. Four books: RigVeda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, andAtharvana Veda.Vidhi : Law, decree of fate, that whichis ordained.Vidyut-Jihva : Lightning Tongued, aRakshasa sorcerer.Vinata : Mother of Garuda.Vishnu : See Narayana.Visravas : Arishi who was father ofRavana.Viswakarma : The celestial architect.Vritra : An Asura killed by Indra.Yaga : Sacrifice, a religious ceremonyaccompanied by oblations.Yajarmana : He who performs asacrifice, Master of Ceremonies.Yakshas : A class of celestial beings.Yama : God of Death.Yojana : A measure of distance equalprobably to nine miles.Yudhajit : Son of the King of Kekaya.Brother of Kaikeyi.Yuvaraja : Prince-Regent.