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  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.