|NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Historical Works > Ramayana > Valmiki Ramayana|
Once, in a time long ago, there lived a great mystic sage named Valmiki,2 who was never so happy as when he was discussing the pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
At that time, while Valmiki was explaining the nectar of Krishna consciousness to a group of his disciples, the great sage Shri Narada Muni,3 the transcendental spaceman who travels continuously throughout the spiritual and material worlds broadcasting the message of love of God, appeared at Valmiki's hermitage. Upon seeing Shri Narada, Valmiki and his entourage immediately offered their respectful obeisances. Then, according to religious custom, Narada Muni was offered an elevated sitting place and his feet were washed while sweet words were spoken to him, inquiring about his welfare.
After this, Valmiki inquired from Shri Narada, "O best of all knowers of truth, please tell me who, present now on this earth, is a reservoir of all opulences in full? Who is the most accomplished, learned, powerful, noble minded, truthful and grateful? Who possesses flawless moral character and remains engaged looking after the genuine welfare of all living entities? Who is there present that is without an equal, clever, the most beautiful, and is never subject to the influence of anger or malice, yet instills fear within the hearts of even the great demigods when enraged? Who possesses the prowess for giving protection to everyone within the three worlds? To whom has the goddess of fortune bestowed all blessings? O great sage, please answer my inquiries fully."
The great sage Narada, who is able to know everything that happens within the three worlds, replied, "O rsi, there is an illustrious King by the name of Rama who has appeared in the royal dynasty of Iksvaku.4 He has appeared as the son of Maharaja Dasaratha and is the full embodiment of all transcendental qualities and the possessor of all opulences in full. Indeed, Rama perfectly controls His senses and is the master of unlimited potencies.
"Rama has mighty arms that extend down to his knees and His throat is marked with three auspicious lines like those on a canticle[NKd8]. He has high and broad shoulders, a wide chest, a beautifully formed head, a graceful forehead, powerful jaws, and deeply embedded collar-bones. His eyes are large. He is majestically medium-tall in stature, and all His limbs are well formed and symmetrical. His bodily complexion is greenish and possesses a great luster. His intelligence is unfathomable and deep, His manner grave, and His speech is superb in tone and eloquence.
"This same Lord Rama possesses a supremely pure character and is the follower of true religious principles. He is full in self realization, and is the upholder of the varnasrama dharma system. Truly, He is the support of the entire universe. He is simultaneously the destroyer of all foes and the only shelter to those who are fully surrendered. Lord Rama is the absolute knower of the Vedas. Likewise, He is fully conversant with the use of all weapons. He possesses unflinching determination and is an intellectual genius with unfailing memory. Indeed, His learning is without bounds. He is wise, compassionate and heroic in battle. He is loved by all creatures and is impartial in His behavior toward His friends and foes alike. He is grave like a great ocean. In fortitude He is like the Himalayan mountains. In strength He is like Lord Vishnu. In beauty He is like the moon. In forbearance He is like the earth, and in anger He is like the fire that blazes forth at the time of universal destruction. In wealth He is like Kuvera, and in devotion He is like Dharma, the Lord of righteousness."
Narada then briefly described to Valmiki, the pastimes of Lord Ramacandra. He concluded by telling him that this same Lord Rama now rules over His subjects in a most righteous and exemplary manner.
He explained that during the reign of Lord Rama no one would suffer from the effects of any disease or mental disturbance. Everyone within Lord Rama's kingdom would be happy and prosperous, never fearing from thieves, scarcity or hunger. All the cities and villages will be filled with abundant grains, fruits, vegetables and milk products. Indeed, the people would experience the same degree of piety and happiness that was exhibited during the Satya-yuga. There would be no natural disturbances, like floods, earthquakes or famine, and all the women will be chaste and never suffer widowhood. Lord Ramacandra will rule over the earth in this way for 11,000 years before returning to His supreme abode in the spiritual sky, Vaikunthaloka.5
Thereafter, Shri Narada again took up his travels of spreading the glories of the Supreme Lord. The sage Valmiki then journeyed to the banks of the River Tamasa, accompanied by his disciple, Bharadvaja. At the river's bank, Valmiki sat down to meditate upon the words of Shri Narada. Sitting within the forest, Valmiki happened to see a pair of cranes nearby, fully absorbed in sexual intercourse and singing in melodious jubilation. At that time a malicious hunter of the Nisada[NKd9]6 race appeared from his hiding place and released an arrow that pierced the body of the male bird, causing it to fall shrieking to the ground. Then, upon seeing her mate writhing upon the ground and smeared with blood, the she bird cried out in terror, having suddenly been cast down from the heights of sensual pleasure to the greatest depths of despair.
Witnessing this tragic scene, feelings of great compassion welled up within the breast of Valmiki. Considering the Nisada's violent act to be extremely sinful, Valmiki instantly became angry and impulsively cursed the hunter, saying, "O killer of birds, as punishment for your heartless murder of an innocent creature engaged in gratifying his mate, may you never find peace of mind for endless years."
However, no sooner was this curse was uttered, when Valmiki felt an internal pang of shame for becoming a victim of uncontrolled anger. Indeed, as an enlightened soul he knew well that all living beings are acting helplessly under the influence of material nature. Thus, he soon regretted retaliating against the hunter.
Regardless, Valmiki was simultaneously astonished to realize that the curse he uttered had come from his mouth in a wonderfully poetic meter. Indeed, his curse seemed to hint of the predominant emotional expression of the Ramayana, about which he had been contemplating since his meeting with Shri Narada.
This caused Valmiki to remark to Bharadvaja, "From my sorrow came a verse of four lines, each containing eight syllables. From soka has come a wonderful sloka, for without compassion, there is no possibility of genuine poetic expression."
Thereafter, Valmiki bathed in the River Tamasa and returned to his asrama with Bharadvaja. While continuing to meditate upon his curse of the hunter, he suddenly saw Lord Brahma7 descending from his abode, the topmost planet within the universe. Overwhelmed with wonder and jubilation, the speechless Valmiki stood up to receive the first-born being of the universe.
When Lord Brahma appeared before him, Valmiki offered his respectful obeisances and worshipped Lord Brahma with great awe and reverence. Then, Lord Brahma, the universal grandsire, who can understand the hearts of everyone, said, "O blessed sage, please do not grieve by thinking you have wrongly cursed the Nisada hunter. In truth, the words that you appeared to utter in anger were my own. They were instrumentally spoken through your mouth for the purpose of inspiring you to accomplish a great task. Indeed, the time has come for you to compose the history of Lord Ramacandra's life-great transcendental pastimes meant for the ultimate welfare of the world.
"My dear Valmiki, there is no cause for you to be anxious, for by the strength of my benediction, everything that is unknown to you will become clearly revealed within your heart. Thus, by my grace, your narration of the Ramayana will be faultless."
After bestowing his benediction upon Valmiki, Lord Brahma departed to his abode upon his celestial swan carrier, filling all who beheld him with wonder. Valmiki then sat down in meditation to discover all the pastimes of Lord Ramacandra, as indicated by Lord Brahma.
Thereafter, absorbed in a deep trance of meditation, Valmiki clearly envisioned within his heart all the events of Lord Rama's manifested appearance, just as one might view them upon a television screen. Valmiki then composed the Ramayana in 24,000 verses. After completing the epic poem, he wondered who he could teach it to so that it would remain preserved in memory and propagated all over the world.
While Valmiki contemplated in this way, his disciples, Lava and Kusa, who were dressed as rsis, came before him and touched his feet, as was their daily custom. Sita had given birth to the twin brothers while in exile, and they had remained under Valmiki's care ever since.
Sita's forced exile had came about when the citizens of Ayodhya doubted her chastity after being touched by the ten-headed monster, Ravana Thus, Lord Ramacandra was forced to banish her.
Lava and Kusa were talented with fine memories and musical abilities. Moreover, they were well versed in the Vedas. Physically, the twins were exact replicas of their father, and musically they were as talented as the heavenly Gandharvas. Thus, as Valmiki gazed fondly upon the twins, he realized that they were fully qualified to become recipients of Ramayana.
Thereafter, Valmiki proceeded to teach Lava and Kusa the entire Ramayana with great care. In due course, the twins committed the entire text to memory. Following Valmiki's instructions, they chanted Lord Ramacandra's wonderful pastimes before great sages, learned brahmanas, and other pious men pure in heart. Indeed, from their recitation of Ramayana, the learned brahmanas experienced great transcendental pleasure in hearing of the pastimes of Lord Ramacandra. Thus, the brahmanas praised Lava and Kusa, rewarding them with many valuable gifts.
That is the nature of great, magnanimous souls: being very kind toward everyone and desiring their welfare, they bestow the greatest of gifts-transcendental knowledge-by describing the Lord's glories. Since these descriptions counteract all material distress, they satisfy all who hear them. The Lord Himself is satisfied by such great souls, and He declares that no one can be more dear to Him than one who chant's His glories for the benefit of all.
From that day forward Lava and Kusa began traveling all over the world, reciting the epic Ramayana. As it happened, in the course of their wanderings, they eventually came to Ayodhya. It was there that Lord Ramacandra saw the two boys wandering through the city streets dressed in the garb of rsis. Upon hearing the wide acclaim of their expert recitation of His transcendental pastimes, Lord Rama took great pleasure in inviting them to His palace to recite the Ramayana. Still, although they were His sons, He did not recognize them.
After respectfully receiving the young twin sages, the Lord invited them into His royal assembly to recite the Ramayana. Lord Rama observed that the boys, although dressed as ascetic brahmanas, possessed the bodily features of ksatriyas. Speaking to His brothers, Bharata, Laksmana and Satrughna, Rama said, "O best of King Raghu's dynasty, please listen to this wonderful narration. Although these two singers appear like ascetics, they possess the marks of great rulers. Listen to this story, because it is full of literary beauty and has universal appeal."
Thus, as Lava and Kusa began the narration of the beautiful epic poem, Rama and His brothers soon forgot everything else, becoming fully absorbed in hearing the Ramayana.
It is a fact that the bonds of material existence can be completely cut if one simply chants and hears the Lord's glories. This is conformed in Shrimad-Bhagavatam by Sukadeva Gosvami, who tells Maharaja Pariksit: "Glorification [NKd10]of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is relished by those who are no longer interested in this false material world, but at the same time, it is the right medicine for those undergoing repeated birth and death."
The conditioned soul suffers in an endless cycle of death and rebirth because he has forgotten his eternal relationship with the Supreme Lord. The direct, easy process of chanting the Lord's holy names and hearing of His glorious activities awakens the soul to his position as the Lord's eternal servant.
Lord Chaitanya has therefore recommended chanting the holy names to cleanse the heart of all dirty things accumulated over many, many lifetimes. By such chanting, one is freed from false bodily identification: "I belong to a certain family, race, and country." Being temporary, all such designations are false.
By sincerely calling on the Lord's holy names-Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare-anyone can realize that he is not the material body but a spirit soul. Such knowledge liberates the conditioned soul from the karma of acts performed in bodily consciousness: repeated birth and death in this material world.
Since a very remote time the earth had been ruled by the descendants of Iksvaku, the eldest son of Vaivasvata Manu.8 Under the rule of Iksvaku's descendent, Maharaja Dasaratha, Ayodhya flourished splendidly.
Extending along the banks of the Sarayu River, was the great tract of land known as Kosala. This land was verdant, prosperous and rich in grain. Within this vast territory was the renowned city of Ayodhya, built by the desire of Vaivasvata Manu, the ruler of mankind. This glorious city was ninety-six miles long and twenty-four miles wide. It was well laid out, and its beautiful, straight roads were perfumed with scented water sprayed from the trunks of intoxicated elephants. Every day, the damsels of the celestial planets hovered above it in their beautifully decorated airplanes and showered it with flowers.
The arched gateways of Ayodhya were made of marble, and the gates were wrought with gold and silver and embedded with precious jewels. Cannons and catapults, capable of repulsing any enemy, protected the city walls. The marketplaces were well planned, and seven-story houses symmetrically lined the streets. Adorned with multi-storied palaces and surrounded with exquisite gardens, Ayodhya resounded with the vibrations of musical instruments, rivaling Amaravati, the abode of the heavenly King, Indra. Throughout the city, bards and singers recited the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and dancers acted out the Lord's pastimes for everyone's benefit.
Within Ayodhya were many beautiful gardens abounding with flowers and shaded by fruit trees. Blue, red, and golden lotuses filled the ponds, and fountains shot water high into the air. Gentle breezes carried the aromatic spray from the fountains, cooling the citizens by their touch, and making even a hot summer day seem like spring. The sounds of cranes and peacocks could be heard everywhere. The water flowing through Ayodhya's streams and rivulets tasted as sweet as sugarcane sap, and it was used not only for drinking but for irrigating numerous mango orchards. Many houses and palaces, perfectly designed, were built of precious stones and decorated with flags and festoons. In beauty, they compared to the palaces of Vaikuntha.
Protecting this great city were thousands of warriors: skilled archers, well versed in the use of weapons, and chariot fighters who were maha-rathis, able to fight with thousands of men at a time.
The streets leading into Ayodhya were always filled with travelers. Kings and princes from all parts of the world came to render their annual tribute and pay respects to the King of Ayodhya. Traders from near and far flocked to the markets to barter.
Brahmana priests could often be seen pouring ghee into sacrificial fires and chanting Vedic hymns, proclaiming the glories of Lord Vishnu. Having mastered their senses and devoted themselves to truth, these brahmanas were blessed with all good qualities.
Maharaja Dasaratha9 was the emperor of the entire world and was a great rajarsi, considered almost to be on the level of a Maharsi. He was also an atiratha, capable of fighting with unlimited number of opponents. Indeed, because he and the citizens were completely pious, Ayodhya was the picture of perfect Vedic civilization. Thus, every imaginable opulence was exhibited in complete perfection, and material miseries, coming from the results of sinful life, were practically non-existent. In Ayodhya, the four social orders, namely the brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras, participated cooperatively for the peace and prosperity of the kingdom. No one cheated and no one was miserly. Arrogance, atheism, and harsh behavior and speech were conspicuous by their absence.
Even though Maharaja Dasaratha possessed such fantastic opulence and prestige, he remained unhappy. Try though he may, the King was unable to beget a son that would continue his dynasty. Finally, after much deliberation, King Dasaratha decided to perform an asvamedha-yajna[NKd11]10 for the purpose of acquiring a son. With this in mind he sent his chief minister, Sumantra, to call for his family priests.
When the brahmanas, headed by Vasistha and Vamadeva, assembled, Maharaja Dasaratha thus addressed them, saying, "O best among the twice born. For many years I have ardently desired to beget a son. However, all my efforts have been in vain. Because I am without an heir, I can no longer feign happiness. Indeed, my days seem wasted and filled with grief. Thus, after much careful consideration, and with your kind permission, I have decided to perform a horse sacrifice. Because you are fully knowledgeable in sastra, I am confident that you will be able to lead me on the proper path."
The priests unanimously approved of Maharaja Dasaratha's idea to perform the asvamedha-yajna[NKd12], and thereafter, the King ordered his ministers to make all necessary arrangements without delay.
Sumantra then took Maharaja Dasaratha aside to narrate the following story which he had formerly heard from Sanat-kumara, who, had spoken it in an assembly of great sages.
"You will be very interested to hear this story, my dear King," Sumantra said, "because it predicts that in the future you will become the father of four glorious sons.
"It so happened that Sanat-kumara previously related this same story in the Satya-yuga of the previous millennium. Thus, none of the events which were described by him had yet occurred, but were destined to take place in the far distant future.
"Due to some offense on the part of King Romapada, there once came to be an extremely severe drought within his kingdom, causing great fear among all the living beings. When the conditions became intolerable, Maharaja Romapada summoned his council of learned brahmanas and inquired from them the cause of the drought: `I know that it is because of some fault of my own that this terrible drought has now overcome my kingdom. O best of the twice-born, because your knowledge is boundless, please prescribe the proper atonement for my past sins, whatever it may be.'
"The brahmanas replied, `O King, there is a great brahmana [NKd13]sage named Mrgi Rsi who is residing in the forest. Mrgi Rsi is the son of Kasyapa, and his son is named Rsyasrnga.11[NKd14] If you can bring this rsi's son to your kingdom and give him your daughter Santa in marriage, the drought will immediately end.'
"Santa was actually the daughter of Maharaja Dasaratha, but had been given to the king's childless friend, Romapada, at the latter's request. King Romapada was very glad to learn the means for ending the drought, but when he requested his priests to summon Rsyasrnga, they refused. The brahmanas then explained, `O King, we fear that Mrgi Rsi will curse us if we try to lure his son away from home. Rsyasrnga has been brought up by his father in complete isolation. Thus, he has never even seen another human being. Because Rsyasrnga has never once beheld a member of the fair sex, he is completely unaware of the pleasure of their association.
"`My dear King, since we desire your welfare, we have devised a method for bringing Rsyasrnga to your kingdom. Have the most beautiful of courtesans go there and allure him with their feminine ways. We are certain that through this means your purpose will easily be accomplished.'
"Maharaja Romapada agreed to their plan and then sent for the foremost of young and beautiful prostitutes. After being thus instructed by the king and promised sufficient rewards, the girls departed for the forest, determined to bring back the young rsi at all costs.
"Thereafter, the prostitutes set up their camp at the asrama of Mrgi Rsi and waited for the opportune time. It so happened that one day Rsyasrnga wandered away from home and came to the camp of the prostitutes.
"Seeing him, the girls jubilantly approached Rsyasrnga. When they asked about his identity the boy replied, `I am the son of Mrgi Rsi, and I am engaged in performing austerities nearby at my father's asrama. How wonderfully beautiful all of you are to look at! I wish that you would come to my home and accept my respectful worship and hospitality.'
"The prostitutes then went with Rsyasrnga, where they were very nicely received at his asrama with offerings of arghya, water for washing their feet[NKd15], and various kinds of fruits and roots. However, the girls were extremely afraid of the father's imminent return and did not wish to stay too long. At last, when they took Rsyashringa's leave, the prostitutes said, `My dear friend, our customs for receiving guests are quite different from yours. Now, please accept our offerings of honor and respect in return.'
"Saying this, the girls embraced Rsyasrnga tightly with great affection, and then fed him sumptuous sweets. Never before had the innocent rsi's son tasted anything so pleasing, for he had been accustomed to eating only fruit and roots. Indeed, he thought that the sweets were a type of wonderful fruit. Moreover, since he had previously seen only his father, he took the prostitutes to be enchantingly beautiful men.
"After the girls departed, Rsyasrnga began to experience feelings of unease and restlessness within his heart. The seed of lusty desire, which had remained dormant within his heart for such a long time, had finally sprouted. Now Rsyasrnga began to constantly think of the beautiful women. Rsyasrnga could hardly sleep that night, his mind and heart becoming overwhelmed by their tender speech and warm embraces.
"Unable to think of anything else, the following day Rsyasrnga went to where the prostitutes were staying. The girls received Rsyasrnga with great delight and then explained, `This is not our real home. Please come aboard our magnificent floating hermitage and accompany us to a place where we will be able to entertain you in a much better fashion. We have many nice varieties of fruit and roots, and we shall pass the time so enjoyably that you will hardly be able to perceive how time is passing.'
"Being captivated at heart, Rsyasrnga unhesitatingly accompanied the prostitutes. Thus, the women were able to allure him back to the capital of Romapada within the kingdom of Anga. Indeed, even as Rsyasrnga was being carried down the Ganga, Indra began to send forth showers of rain, giving joy to all the living creatures.
"As soon as he understood that Rsyasrnga had arrived, King Romapada came out from his palace and bowed down before the young rsi. Then, after worshipping Rsyasrnga with great attention, Romapada escorted him into the inner apartments of his palace where he presented his daughter to the rsi in charity.
"When he could understand that Rsyasrnga was fully satisfied, Maharaja Romapada begged from him the benediction that neither he nor his father would show their wrath toward him because of the duplicitous manner in which he had been allured away from home.
"Rsyasrnga gave the king his assurances, and thereafter, the marriage between he and Santa was celebrated with great festivity. After the wedding, the newly married couple continued to live in Maharaja Romapada's palace for some time, and thus, passed their days happily in royal comfort."
Sumantra concluded his narration to Maharaja Dasaratha: "O King, Sanat-kumar further predicted that you would take help from your friend Romapada by requesting him to allow Rsyasrnga to come to the kingdom of Kosala and perform an asvamedha-yajna[NKd16]. It was further indicated that after the performance of the horse sacrifice, you would gain the fulfillment of your desires by receiving four incomparable sons."
Maharaja Dasaratha was very pleased to hear this story from Sumantra. Then, without delay, he went with his retinue to the kingdom of Anga. There, he was received by Maharaja Romapada with great respect and at that time the King of Anga informed Rsyasrnga that Dasaratha was his real father-in-law. After enjoying Romapada's hospitality for about one week, Maharaja Dasaratha addressed his friend as follows: "For a very long time I have been morose on account of not having a son to perpetuate my illustrious dynasty. Now, I beg you to allow Rsyasrnga to come to Ayodhya to perform an asvamedha-yajna [NKd17]on my behalf."
Romapada happily agreed, and Maharaja Dasaratha soon returned to his capital with Rsyasrnga and Santa. Then, when spring arrived, Maharaja Dasaratha humbly approached Rsyasrnga, begging him for orders regarding the performance of the horse sacrifice. Thus, preparations for the sacrifice commenced and a site was selected on the northern banks of the River Sarayu.
Understanding that King Janaka would be the future father-in-law of his sons, Maharaja Dasaratha sent him the first invitation. Likewise, other subordinate kings were requested to attend the sacrifice. Finally, the sacrifice began, after the challenge horse returned to Ayodhya; after wandering over the earth for one full year under the protection of 400 princes.
Maharaja Dasaratha's eldest queen, Kausalya, circumambulated the challenge horse, which was tied to one of the sacrificial stakes. Then, with three strokes of a sword, she severed the horse's head, as prescribed by sastric[NKd18] injunctions.
Thereafter, Rsyasrnga offered the fat of the dead horse into the sacrificial fire. Maharaja Dasaratha was directed to inhale the fumes, knowing that this act would free him from all sins. Then, the assisting priests offered the various limbs of the horse into the sacrificial fire, bringing the three day asvamedha-yajna [NKd19]to an end.
Maharaja Dasaratha then gave away the four directions of the earth in charity to the four chief priests. The brahmanas returned the gifts, however, saying, "O King, we are devoted to Vedic study and the performance of austerities, and have no interest in ruling over a kingdom. Therefore, please award us with other gifts like cows and gold."
Rsyasrnga then approached Maharaja Dasaratha, saying, "My dear King, you will surely receive four glorious sons. However, I propose that a separate sacrifice known as Putresti be performed just for that purpose."
Maharaja Dasaratha readily assented and soon thereafter, the sacrifice was begun. Meanwhile, just at this time, all of the chief demigods approached Lord Brahma and explained, "O Grandsire, because of your benedictions, Ravana12 has become so powerful that he is harassing everyone at will. Even we cannot subdue the wicked Raksasa. Therefore, we request you to personally devise the means for his destruction."
Lord Brahma considered the situation and then replied, "At the time of asking for benedictions, Ravana did not bother to ask for immunity from death at the hands of human beings, for he considered them to be too insignificant."
While Brahma was thus thinking how Ravana could be killed, Lord Vishnu suddenly appeared, riding on His carrier, Garuda. As effulgent as many suns, Lord Vishnu appeared in His four-armed form, dressed in bright saffron garments and carrying His disc, conch, club and a lotus flower.
The demigods worshipped the Supreme Lord with great reverence and then requested, "O master of the universe, please come to our rescue by dividing Yourself into four, becoming the sons of Maharaja Dasaratha for the purpose of killing Ravana."
Lord Vishnu replied, "You may rest assured that there is no longer any need to be afraid. I will soon incarnate personally to rule over the earth for 11,000 years after vanquishing your enemy, the King of the Raksasas."13
After saying this, Lord Vishnu suddenly disappeared as the demigods looked on with wonder. Meanwhile, from the sacrificial fire of Maharaja Dasaratha, there appeared an exceptional being of dark complexion and possessing all auspicious bodily features. This personality appeared to be unlimitedly powerful. He was decorated with transcendental ornaments, and in his hand he carried a large golden pot containing sweetrice. That divine person then reassured Maharaja Dasaratha, "I am a messenger of Lord Vishnu."
With folded hands, the King replied, "O Vishnuduta, please order me to perform whatever service I can render."
The servant of Lord Vishnu then said, "This pot of sweet rice is the reward for your two sacrificial performances. Give portions to your three wives to eat. Through them you shall beget four sons who will forever perpetuate your fame."
Maharaja Dasaratha happily accepted the sweetrice and reverentially circumambulated the Vishnuduta. After Lord Vishnu's messenger disappeared from view, Maharaja Dasaratha quickly gave portions of the sweetrice to his wives, for he was extremely eager to have sons.
First, Maharaja Dasaratha gave Kausalya one half of the sweetrice, Sumitra one fourth, and Kaikeyi one eighth. Then, after some deliberation, he gave the remaining one eighth to Sumitra. All three wives were overjoyed, for they were confident that they would soon become mothers.
The three Queens eagerly ate their shares and soon thereafter, each felt the presence of divine offspring within their wombs. When Maharaja Dasaratha understood that his wives became pregnant, he too, became very satisfied.
Meanwhile, Lord Brahma ordered the demigods as follows: "Beget partial manifestations of yourselves to assist Lord Vishnu in His forthcoming incarnation. The children which you produce in the form of monkeys (by uniting with Apsaras, she-monkeys, and female Yaksas, Nagas, Vidyadharas and Kinnaras), must be capable of assuming any form at will and must possess all other mystic powers. In addition, they must be very intelligent, highly skilled in the use of weapons, having prowess almost equal to Lord Vishnu, and possess ethereal bodies."
Formerly, Jambavan, the King of bears, had emanated from Lord Brahma's mouth as he was yawning. Now, after receiving the order of Lord Brahma, Indra begot Vali, Surya begot Sugriva, Brhaspati begot Tara, Kuvera begot Gandhamada, Visvakarma begot Nala, Varuna begot Susena, and Vayu begot Hanuman. Besides these principal monkeys, many thousands of others took birth to assist Lord Vishnu in His mission. All of them were gigantic like mountains and were very eager to fight with Ravana. Like the demigods who begot them, these monkeys were born just after conception. They were so powerful that they could agitate the ocean with their impetuous energy.
There were three classes of these created beings: bears, monkeys, and monkeys that had long tails like cows. Because there were more than ten million of these monkeys and bears, the earth soon became overrun with them as they wandered throughout the forests, eating wild fruits and various roots.
Meanwhile, after the completion of the Putresti sacrifice, the demigods (who personally came to accept their offerings), the assistant priests, Rsyasrnga and Santa, all departed for their respective residences. Then, after a pregnancy of twelve months, on the ninth day of the waxing (bright) fortnight in the month of Caitra, Kausalya gave birth to a son. This divine child possessed reddish eyes and lips, long arms, and a body possessing all auspicious markings. The son of Kausalya represented one-half of the full potency of Lord Vishnu.
Soon thereafter, a son representing one-fourth of the prowess of Lord Vishnu was born of Kaikeyi, Maharaja Dasaratha's youngest queen. Then, two days after the appearance of Kausalya's son, Sumitra gave birth to twins, each representing one-sixth of the potency of Lord Vishnu. All four of the new born children highly resembled one another and were exceedingly effulgent and pleasing to behold. Indeed, upon the appearance of Maharaja Dasaratha's four sons, the demigods showered flowers from heaven, while the Gandharvas sang and played upon musical instruments as the Apsaras danced. In Ayodhya there was a great festival, as musicians, dancers and actors crowded the streets, with all the citizens participating in the merrymaking .
Thirteen days after the birth of Kausalya's child, Vasistha Muni, the family priest of Maharaja Dasaratha, performed the name giving ceremony. The greatly fortunate rsi named the son of Kausalya, Rama, while the son of Kaikeyi was named Bharata. Likewise, the twin sons of Sumitra were named Laksmana and Satrughna.
Thereafter, Vasistha took charge of performing all the purificatory rituals for the sons of Maharaja Dasaratha, culminating with the sacred thread ceremony. Under Vasistha's guidance, all four brothers became masters of the Vedas, great heroic warriors, and the reservoirs of all godly qualities.
From birth, however, Rama outshone His brothers in all respects, Quite naturally, He became the favorite son of Maharaja Dasaratha. Likewise, from childhood, Laksmana was very attached to Rama. Similarly, Rama was not willing to eat anything or even go to sleep without Laksmana. Whenever Rama went hunting, Laksmana unfailingly accompanied Him. In like fashion, Satrughna and Bharata were very dear to each other and thus, inseparable.
After Rama, Laksmana, Bharata and Satrughna completed their education, Maharaja Dasaratha began to consult with his family priest, Vasistha, about their marriages. During one such discussion, the great and powerful brahmarsi, Visvamitra, arrived at Ayodhya. When he entered the royal palace, Maharaja Dasaratha and Vasistha immediately got up from their seats to greet him.
After worshipping Visvamitra properly, Dasaratha brought him into the royal court and seated him on an opulent throne. Maharaja Dasaratha sweetly greeted Visvamitra, saying, "O foremost of saintly persons, may all your endeavors to conquer repeated birth and death meet with success. I consider your coming here to be as welcome a gift as placing nectar in one's own hands, as torrential rainfall after a long drought, as the birth of a son for one who was childless, as the recovery of a great treasure that was considered irrevocably lost, or as the joy one feels on a festive occasion."
When Visvamitra then asked about Maharaja Dasaratha's welfare, the king humbly replied, "O great rsi, your coming here is a great blessing for me. Indeed, you have bestowed a great honor upon me. Please inform me of your desire so that I may serve the purpose of your visit."
Pleased with Maharaja Dasaratha's reception, Visvamitra replied, "I am now engaged in the performance of a great sacrifice. Indeed, the yajna almost reached its completion, when two Raksasas named Marica and Subahu interrupted the performance by dropping flesh and blood upon the sacrificial arena. These vicious Raksasas are determined to frustrate my attempt. Thus, they have repeatedly polluted my altar. O King, so that I may successfully complete the sacrifice, I have come here to take your son, Rama, to my asrama to kill these terrible Raksasas. Please do not hesitate to fulfill my request out of parental affection, for I assure you that Rama will easily be able to accomplish this task. In return for your generosity, I shall certainly give you ample benedictions. Therefore, please allow me to take Rama for just ten days. You may rest assured that He will return here safely."
Visvamitra's words pierced the very core of Maharaja Dasaratha's heart. Indeed, the King's entire body began to tremble. Then, after the rsi fell silent, he suddenly fainted upon his throne. Moments later when Maharaja Dasaratha regained consciousness, he again considered the prospect of losing Rama, and abruptly fainted for second time, falling down from his seat onto the floor.
It was only after an hour had passed that the King regained consciousness. Then, upon seeing Visvamitra before him, he pleaded, "O foremost of sages and well-wisher of everyone. My dear son Rama is only sixteen years old. He has not yet even finished His military training, and has never entered the battlefield. Please, do not ask for my inexperienced son. Instead, let me accompany you along with an aksauhini14 of soldiers to kill the Raksasas. However, if you insist that Rama must go, then let me and my army come to fight alongside Him. My dear Visvamitra, I am an old man. Without Rama, I could not bear to continue living. Please tell me, who are these two Raksasas and what is the extent of their prowess?"
Visvamitra replied, "The King of the Raksasas is named Ravana and he is now oppressing the entire world. When he does not personally obstruct a sacrifice he deputes these two powerful Raksasas, Marica and Subahu, to do the mischief."
Upon hearing the name of Ravana, Maharaja Dasaratha became increasingly despondent, saying, "No one is capable of fighting with Ravana. Just these two Raksasas are too formidable, either for me or my son. Therefore, O rsi, I cannot fulfill your request. Indeed, I cannot bear to think of allowing my son to accompany you."
Becoming nearly mad with grief, Maharaja Dasaratha began to speak incoherently, refusing Visvamitra's request. Thus, the rsi became highly insulted and angrily declared, "O foolish king, your impudence will cause the ruin of your entire dynasty. You have promised to serve me and have now gone back on your word! Such behavior toward a brahmana [NKd20]has never before been heard of in the Raghava dynasty. Therefore, I shall quickly leave this condemned place!"
Because of Visvamitra's sudden anger, the earth began to shake, with even the demigods in heaven becoming afraid. Appraising the situation, Vasistha hurriedly approached Maharaja Dasaratha, saying, "O King, do not destroy all your previously acquired merit by abandoning righteousness. You have made a solemn promise and must now fulfill Visvamitra's request by giving him your son, Rama.
"I do not think you have anything to fear. Formerly, when Visvamitra was a King, he received celestial weapons from Lord Siva which had been born of Daksa's daughters, Jaya and Suprabha. Visvamitra will surely give these weapons to Rama, as well as the necessary prowess to kill the Raksasas. Indeed, Visvamitra could easily kill Marica and Subahu himself, but is seeking Rama's help just to enhance the glory of your son."
After hearing his preceptor's words, Maharaja Dasaratha's fear subsided, allowing his mind to again became balanced. Thus pacified, the King cheerfully agreed to Visvamitra's proposal, satisfying the rsi.
Maharaja Dasaratha then summoned Rama to the royal court. Because the two were inseparable, Laksmana also presented Himself before His father. Maharaja Dasaratha affectionately smelled his sons' heads, and the brothers then departed, with Visvamitra walking in front and Rama and Laksmana following, their bows in hand. Thus, as they left the palace, flowers showered them from the sky.
After walking along the banks of the River Sarayu for twelve miles, Visvamitra stopped and said, "My dear Rama, please sip some water to perform acamana [NKd21]for purification. I shall now teach You two mantras known as Bala and Atibala. After learning them You will become freed from the influence of fatigue and old age while also gaining incomparable wisdom and strength. Although I know that these qualities already exist in You, I still desire to impart these mantras unto You for Your benefit."
After receiving the Bala and Atibala mantras, Lord Rama shone with the brilliance of a thousand suns. The three then spent the night happily on the banks of the Sarayu and the Ganga. Upon seeing an asrama of rsis situated there, Rama inquired about its history. Visvamitra then replied, "This is the very place where Lord Siva burnt Cupid to ashes after the god of love tried to disturb his deep meditation."
The next morning, Visvamitra and the two brothers crossed the Ganga. However, while in mid-stream Rama could hear the loud sound of cascading water, although there seemed no apparent reason for hearing this. Asked why this was so, Visvamitra explained, "Once, Lord Brahma created a lake from his mind. That reservoir of water became known as the Manasa-sarovara. The River Sarayu flows from that lake and the sound You hear is the water coming down from the Manasayanau and joining with the Ganga. O Rama, You should offer Your prayers and obeisances at this sacred place."
After arriving at the Southern bank of the Ganga, Rama saw a dense, uninhabited forest, and thus He inquired, "This desolate forest inspires fear in the heart of whoever beholds it. Please tell Me the reason for this."
Visvamitra replied, "After King Indra killed Vrtrasura, he became overwhelmed by sinful reactions and lost his original splendor. To restore Indra to his normal condition, the demigods bathed him in Ganga water empowered with Vedic mantras for his purification. Then, taking the water containing Indra's impurities, the demigods deposited it in this place.
"Because this land accepted his sinful reactions, Indra gave it the benediction that it would become a very prosperous country. Thus, it came to pass that two flourishing kingdoms named Malada and Karusa were established here. Later on, however, a wicked Raksasa woman named Tataka came here and began to terrorize the citizens. This Raksasa woman was the wife of Sunda, and their son is Marica, whom I have brought You here to kill.
"Gradually, all of the inhabitants of this place became so greatly harassed by Tataka that now it remains deserted. My dear Rama, I want You to destroy this she-demon today, freeing this country from its oppression. As long as this Raksasi lives, no one even dares to enter this forest."
Lord Rama then asked, "O great rsi, if it is appropriate, please explain how this Raksasi became so powerful."
Visvamitra replied, "There was once a powerful Yaksa named Suketu who pleased Lord Brahma by his performance of severe austerities. Being childless, Suketu desired a son, but instead Lord Brahma awarded him with a powerful daughter. This very beautiful girl was named Tataka, and when she grew up she was given in marriage to Sunda, the son of Jambha. Then, once upon a time, Agastya cursed Sunda to die. In their attempt to retaliate, Tataka and her son Marica rushed at the rsi, hoping to devour him. However, Agastya immediately cursed both mother and son to become man eating Raksasas. Thus, the beautiful Tataka became transformed into a horrible looking ogress. Because Agastya Rsi used to meditate in this area, Tataka is obsessed with creating disturbances here."
Visvamitra continued, "My dear Rama, please understand that Tataka is thoroughly wicked. Therefore, cast aside all hesitation at killing a woman. Remember how Indra formerly killed Virovana's daughter, Manthara, when she desired to ravage the earth. Likewise, Lord Vishnu killed the wife of Bhrgu Muni when she had desired to slay Indra. Please then, shake off all uneasiness and prepare Yourself to fulfill my command."
Receiving this order, Rama twanged His bow, with its awesome sound reverberating throughout the four directions, terrifying all creatures that heard it. So it was that when Tataka heard the sound of Lord Rama's bow, she became simultaneously struck with wonder and inflamed with rage, prompting her to rush madly toward the place where the sound had emanated.
When Rama saw her approaching, He exclaimed, "O Laksmana, just see this hideous and gigantic creature! She is so horrible that pious hearts break at the very sight of her. Still, since this Raksasi is a woman, I shall not kill her. Instead I will render her harmless by cutting off her hands, feet, nose and ears. Thus mutilated, she will not commit further iniquities."
Rushing forward, Tataka created a dust storm that temporarily blinded the vision of Rama and Laksmana. Then, using her mystic powers of illusion, Tataka created a shower of stones. Regaining His composure, Rama smashed all the rocks to pieces and then quickly cut off Tataka's arms. Simultaneously, Laksmana cut off Tataka's ears and, at Rama's urging, the tip of her nose. However, by utilizing her mystic powers, Tataka immediately disappeared. While remaining invisible, she again began showering stones. With an impassioned voice, Visvamitra then urged, "O Rama, twilight is rapidly approaching, and at that time the Raksasa's prowess greatly increases. Therefore, give up Your merciful attitude and kill Tataka at once."
As Rama proceeded to release a shower of arrows, Tataka suddenly became visible and rushed toward Him impetuously. Undisturbed, Rama selected an especially powerful golden arrow from His quiver and released it at the demoness. Although Tataka rushed forward at the speed of Indra's thunder bolt, Rama's single blazing arrow pierced Tataka's chest, causing her to immediately fall to the ground dead, making a tumultuous sound.
From the heavens, the demigods applauded and threw down showers of flowers. The Gandharvas and Apsaras began to sing and dance in ecstasy, and great rsis praised the prowess of Lord Rama.
The demigods headed by Indra then approached Visvamitra in private and said, "O rsi, because Rama has a very important mission to accomplish on our behalf, you should impart to Him all your knowledge of celestial weapons without hesitation."
After saying this, the demigods disappeared, and Visvamitra, Rama and Laksmana happily spent the night there. The next morning, Visvamitra imparted unto Rama his complete knowledge of celestial weapons. When Rama thus received the mantras which embodied these celestial weapons, the weapons appeared before Him in their personified forms, saying, "O Rama, please give us Your order. Of what service can we be to You?"
Rama replied, "My request is that all of you appear before Me when thought of."
After receiving this command, the personified weapons suddenly disappeared. Visvamitra, Rama and Laksmana then continued on their journey.
Later in the day, as the party approached Visvamitra's asrama, known as Siddhasrama, Rama inquired from the rsi about the history of that holy place. Visvamitra then explained, "Siddhasrama was formerly the abode of Lord Vamanadeva,15 who dwelt there for many hundreds of millenniums (yuga cycles). Once upon a time the demigods came to see Lord Vamanadeva, requesting Him to approach Bali Maharaja, who was engaged in performing sacrifices. Since the King of the demons had conquered the entire three worlds, the demigods petitioned Lord Vamanadeva to take away his kingdom by begging.
"Just at this time, Kasyapa also happened to arrive at Siddhasrama, and after worshipping Vamanadeva with great devotion, he prayed for the Lord to appear as his son. The Lord agreed to do so, and thus He later took birth as the dwarf brahmana [NKd22]son of Kasyapa and Aditi. He thus fulfilled the purpose of the demigods by taking away the kingdom of Bali Maharaja on the plea of begging for three steps of land."
After arriving at his asrama, Visvamitra immediately set about performing his sacrifice, while Rama and Laksmana awaited the arrival of Marica and Subahu, their bows in hand. Six days and nights passed as the two brothers guarded the sacrificial arena, completely foregoing sleep. Then, on the critical sixth night, when the soma-rasa was about to be extracted, the sacrificial fire suddenly blazed brightly, indicating the immanent arrival of the Raksasas.
Soon thereafter, a fearful clamor was heard in the sky. Suddenly, Marica, Subahu and their followers, aided by their mystic powers, swooped down without warning, causing torrents of blood, pus, stool, flesh and other contaminated substances to rain down upon the sacrificial altar. Lord Rama then told Laksmana, "I will disperse these evil Raksasas with My weapons, but I shall not kill them, for they are destined to live for some years more."
Saying this, Rama discharged a mighty weapon that struck Marica in the chest and flung him 100 yojanas16 into the middle of the ocean without killing him. Then, taking up another powerful arrow, Rama pierced Subahu's chest, causing him to fall down dead upon the ground. By invoking a third weapon, Rama drove away all the other Raksasas. Thereafter, the area again became calm.
All the rsis residing at Siddhasrama joyfully came home and congratulated Lord Rama for His wonderful accomplishment. That evening the sacrifice was successfully concluded.
After passing the night, Rama came before the rsis and inquired, "O worshipable brahmanas, now that this area has been freed from the disturbances caused by the Raksasas, is there anything more that we can do to be of service?"
At the behest of Visvamitra, the rsis replied, "We are about to depart for the kingdom of Mithila to take part in a grand sacrifice arranged by King Janaka. We request you two brothers to accompany us. There is a wonderful bow being kept at the sacrificial arena that was formerly presented to the demigods by Lord Siva. Later, the demigods gave the bow to Devarata, who was the King of Mithila long ago. This celestial bow is immeasurably strong, and even great demigods cannot bend it, what to speak of human beings. The bow has remained at Mithila for a long time and is worshipped on an altar with offerings of flowers, sandalwood paste and other auspicious articles."
Rama agreed to accompany the rsis, and thereafter a great caravan set out with one-hundred cars loaded with the paraphernalia required for Maharaja's sacrifice. [NKd23]
After traveling all day, the party reached the banks of the Sona River where they stopped for the night. Then, while He was seated at leisure, Rama inquired from Visvamitra if there was any noteworthy history he could narrate concerning that place. Thus, the rsi related to Rama the following story:
"Once, there was a great rsi named Kusa, a direct son of Lord Brahma. Kusa had four ksatriya sons who founded four cities, one of which was on the banks of the River Sona. Kusa's son named Kusanabha, begot one hundred daughters through the Apsara, Ghrtaci. When these girls grew up they were all very beautiful, and would happily play together on the banks of the river.
"Once, the demigod of air, Vayu, happened to see the girls and became captivated by their exquisite beauty. Approaching them, Vayu said, `My dear beautiful girls, if you all become my wives, I shall benedict the transformation of your fleeting human beauty into ever fresh celestial youthfulness.'
"The girls had no attraction for Vayu, however, and instead, felt insulted. They replied, `We would never think of choosing our own husbands. We will only marry according to the choice of our father. Being the daughter of a great rajarsi, we certainly have the power to curse you for your vulgar behavior. However, we shall not do so, for we do not wish to diminish our accumulated ascetic merit.'
"Vayu, who is by nature easily angered, became highly offended upon hearing their reply. Taking revenge, he subtly entered the bodies of the one hundred girls, and by his mystic power, distorted their bodily features. Thereafter, when the girls returned to the palace crying, their father was shocked to see that they had all been transformed into hunchbacks. In reply to Kusanabha's inquires, the girls related all that had happened. Maharaja Kusanabha congratulated his daughters for tolerantly refrained from cursing Vayu, and began considering how he could get them married.
"Meanwhile, a great brahmacari [NKd24]named Chuli had been performing severe austerities. In his service, an unmarried Gandharva girl named Somada, attended to him like a menial maidservant. Eventually becoming pleased by her selfless service, Chuli offered the Gandarvi a benediction. In response the girl requested the rsi to give her an exceptional son while allowing her to remain a virgin. Chuli agreed and Somada received a mind-born son of great ascetic prowess, named Brahmadatta. Later on, Brahmadatta ruled as a king, and it was he whom Kusanabha decided would be a suitable match for his daughters.
"Thus, after being invited to Kusanabha's palace, Brahmadatta accepted the one hundred girls. Upon touching their hands at the marriage ceremony, one after another, their bodily deformities vanished, each girl becoming beautiful once again."
Visvamitra then concluded his narration by explaining, "Kusanabha had no son, however, so he performed a sacrifice for that purpose. As a result, Gadhi was later born to Kusanabha, and I am the son of King Gadhi."
The next morning, the caravan continued its journey, and by evening it reached the banks of the Ganga. As they passed the night there, Rama requested Visvamitra to narrate the history of the River Ganga. Thus Visvamitra related the following story:
"The presiding deity of the Himalayas, Himivan, begot two daughters by Mena, the daughter of Mount Meru, named Ganga and Uma. Once upon a time, Lord Brahma approached Himivan and requested him to allow the demigods to adopt Ganga for the future welfare of the universe. Himivan readily agreed, and later gave his daughter, Uma, to Lord Siva, for she had always engaged in meditating upon him while performing severe austerities.
"After receiving Uma, Lord Siva began enjoying with her in an uninterrupted conjugal relationship. However, even after passing one hundred celestial years in conjugal embrace, no offspring came from their combination.
"At this time all the demigods approached Lord Siva and begged, `Please desist from your sexual activities, O Lord, for we fear that the offspring produced will be too powerful for the universe to bear. Instead, we humbly request you to restrain yourself and engage in the performance of austerities and meditation.'
"Lord Siva replied, `I accept your proposal, for my heart is actually inclined toward self realization. However, since my semen has already become unseated from my heart, it will have to be received somewhere suitable.'
"The demigods then suggested, `Let the earth, which can bear any amount of burden, receive your seed.'
"Thereafter, Lord Siva released his powerful semen and it gradually proceeded to cover the entire surface of the earth. Upon seeing this, the demigods feared the earth might crack. Thus, they began praying to Angi and Vayu, requesting them to devour the all encompassing semen of Lord Siva.
"In answer to the demigod's prayers, Angi took the help of Vayu and went to consume the semen. As soon as the fire god touched it, some of the Lord's semen turned into a white mountain, and a part of that further transformed into a thicket of effulgent, white reeds. The rest of the semen remained unchanged and was conserved within Agni.
"The demigods were elated to see that the earth had been saved from the impending calamity. With grateful hearts, they went to worship Lord Siva and his wife. However, Uma was very angry at the demigods for interrupting her while absorbed in the pleasure of sexual enjoyment. Thus, upon seeing the demigods before her, Uma cursed them, saying, `May all your wives become barren. Likewise, let the earth not only remain childless, but also come to have an uneven surface and be ruled over by numerous kings.' Thereafter Lord Siva and Parvati retired to the northern Himalayas to perform austerities.
"Some time later, when the demigods were being greatly harassed by the demons, they approached Lord Brahma, hoping to acquire a formidable military commander. In reply to the demigod's anxious plea, Lord Brahma advised them, `Because of Parvati's curse, you are unable to produce a child to serve your purpose. Therefore, I suggest that Agni place the semen of Lord Siva into the womb of Ganga. In this way a greatly heroic son will be begotten.'
"Thereafter, the demigods approached Agni and related Lord Brahma's instructions. Hearing this, Agni, approached the heavenly river, Mandakini Ganga. He then requested her to accept the semen of Lord Siva, which he had been holding for a long time.
"Ganga agreed to the proposal. Then, after assuming a most beautiful form, she allowed herself to be impregnated by Agni. However, soon after receiving the fiery semen of Lord Siva, Gangadevi felt an intense, agonizing pain. With great agitation, she told Agni, `I cannot continue to bear the semen of Lord Siva in my womb. Its burning is intolerable.'
"Agni then instructed Ganga to cast off the semen at a certain place in the Himalayas, and she hurriedly went there. In this way, the semen of Lord Siva, which had acquired a shiny golden luster because of its contacting Gangadevi, fell to the thicket of aforementioned white reeds on the white mountain. Thus, a wonderful child was born. Likewise, portions of the semen that fell upon the earth at various places transformed into gold and silver mines. Indeed, because of the fierce energy of Lord Siva's semen, mines of copper and iron were created in distant places.
"After the birth of the child, the demigods brought six goddesses called the Krittikas, to nurse him. They assured the women that the baby would come to be known as their son. For this reason the child became known as Kartikeya. The boy was also called Skanda (to flow), because he had fallen from the womb of Ganga.
"Because he saw six mothers before him, the baby assumed six faces to suck breast milk from all of them. Skanda immediately grew up to be so strong that when he was only one day old, he killed many fierce demons as the commander-in-chief of the demigods."
In conjunction with this story, Visvamitra then related to Lord Rama the story of King Sagara, who long ago ruled the world from his capital, Ayodhya. Because Maharaja Sagara was unable to beget a son, he, along with his two wives, went to the Himalayas to perform austerities. After some time the King was benedicted by the great rsi, Bhrgu, with the boon that he would receive a son by one wife who would become the perpetuator of his dynasty, while his other wife would give birth to 60,000 more sons. Hearing this, the two queens naturally questioned Bhrgu Muni who would receive the one son and who would receive the 60,000. Bhrgu replied that the decision would be left to their own discretion.
Thus, it came to be that Kesini, the senior Queen, chose to have a single son who would perpetuate the Iksvaku line. Sumati, the sister of Garuda, chose to have 60,000 sons.
Maharaja Sangara returned home, and in due course, a son was born to Kesini, and given the name Asamanjasa. Sumati, however, gave birth to a lump of flesh shaped like a bitter melon. Shortly thereafter, when the lump was opened up, 60,000 embryonic sons emerged. They were immediately placed in jars of ghee by their nurses until they could attain sufficient development. Later, when these 60,000 sons began growing up, their cruel elder step-brother, Asamanjasa,17 began to throw them into the river Sarayu, laughing with great pleasure to see them drown.
Being very aggrieved due to the vicious behavior of his son, Maharaja Sagara finally decided to exile Asamanjasa from his kingdom, although he kept the son of Asamanjasa, Amsuman, who was dearly loved by all the subjects.
After some time, Maharaja Sagara inaugurated the performance of an asvamedha-yajna[NKd25], with Amsuman protecting the challenge horse as it wandered over the earth. However, during the performance of the yajna, King Indra appeared in the guise of a Raksasa and stole the horse from the sacrificial arena. At this, the priest fervently urged Maharaja Sagara to recover the horse at all costs. He implored that if the sacrifice remained incomplete, it would prove to be most inauspicious.
Maharaja Sagara then ordered his 60,000 sons to search the entire earth for the horse, allotting each of them one square yojana. He further instructed his sons that if the horse could not be found elsewhere, to look below the earth.
Thus, as Maharaja Sagara and his grandson Amsuman waited at the sacrificial arena, the 60,000 princes searched the entire earth. At last, when they were unable to find the horse anywhere, the sons of Sagara began digging into the earth. This, however, caused the inhabitants of the lower worlds, such as the Nagas, to become greatly distressed. Indeed, even the Earth itself became extremely disturbed. Seeing this, the demigods approached Lord Brahma to lodge a complaint.
Lord Brahma pacified the demigods, explaining that since the Earth was a consort of Lord Vishnu, the Lord, in His form of Kapiladeva, would soon annihilate all 60,000 sons of Sagara.
Meanwhile, even after digging up the earth and killing many living beings in the process, the sons of Sagara could not find the sacrificial horse, and thus returned to their father disappointed. When the 60,000 princes inquired from their father what they should do next, the King ordered them to continue digging further down, until the horse was found.
The sons of Sagara resumed their excavating of all four quarters of the earth's surface, and soon came to see the four dig-gaja[NKd26], the colossal elephants that protect the four directions and support the earth. These gigantic elephants support the entire weight of the earth upon their backs, and when, due to exhaustion, they sometimes shake their heads for relief, it creates the phenomena of earthquakes.
Finally, after penetrating the earth all the way down to Rasatala, the sons of Sagara came upon Lord Kapila18 sitting in meditation, while nearby, the sacrificial horse stood grazing peacefully. Hastily assessing the situation, Sagara's sons assumed Kapiladeva to be the thief. Thus they angrily took up their digging implements and rushed to kill Him. Upon seeing this act of aggression, Kapiladeva became transcendentally angry. Then, simply by uttering the mantra "hum," He reduced the 60,000 sons of Sagara to ashes.
After a long passage of time, when his sons had not returned, Maharaja Sagara sent his grandson, Amsuman, to search for his 60,000 sons and the sacrificial horse. By following the path his uncles had taken, Amsuman came to the passage excavated by them. After entering the earth, Amsuman came upon the dig-gaja, and inquired from them about the whereabouts of his uncles. In reply, the elephants assured him that by continuing down the passage he would soon come to know everything.
At last, Amsuman reached the place where the sons of Sagara lay as a heap of ashes. Seeing this, he became overwhelmed with grief. Finding the sacrificial horse nearby, Amsuman decided to first offer water for the departed souls of his uncles before returning to his grandfather. Unfortunately, there was no water to be found in that place. While Amsuman was thinking of what to do, Garuda suddenly appeared, and said "My dear Amsuman, do not grieve for your uncles. Their deaths are ultimately meant for achieving a glorious purpose. The sons of King Sagara will be instrumental in bringing the sacred river Ganga down to earth for the welfare of all people. Your uncles were burnt to ashes by the great sage Kapila. When their remains are washed over by the waters of the Ganga, they will attain to a heavenly destination. Now, take the sacrificial horse and return to your grandfather so that the sacrifice can be completed."
With the return of the sacrificial horse, Maharaja Sagara successfully concluded the asvamedha-yajna[NKd27]. After hearing from Amsuman, the prophetic words of Garuda, the King remained absorbed in trying to formulate the means to make the Ganga descend to the earth. However, Maharaja Sagara passed away before achieving that goal.
After the death of his grandfather, Amsuman ruled the kingdom for some time. He later gave the throne to his son Dilipa, and retired to the forest to perform austerities, hoping to induce Ganga to descend to earth. After his death, Amsuman went to the heavenly planets, but his desire to cause the descent of the Ganga remained unfulfilled.
Dilipa also sought the means of bringing Ganga to earth, but he too, died, before his desire was fulfilled. Dilipa's son, Bhagiratha, then inherited the kingdom, and likewise, desired to perform austerities to cause Ganga to descend. However, since he had no son, Bhagiratha entrusted the rule of the kingdom to his ministers and retired to the forest.
After Maharaja Bhagiratha had performed austerities for 1,000 years, Lord Brahma became pleased with him. Thus, accompanied by the demigods, Lord Brahma appeared before the King to award him a benediction. Maharaja Bhagiratha worshipped Lord Brahma appropriately and then begged, "Please allow my ancestors, the sons of King Sagara, to receive the water of the Ganga. In addition, kindly benedict me to have a son."
Lord Brahma replied, "I agree to award you these benedictions. However, the earth is [NKd28]incapable of singularly bearing the weight of the Ganga's descent. You should request Lord Siva to absorb the impact of the falling water, for only he is powerful enough to do so."19
Determined to gain Lord Siva's favor, Maharaja Bhagiratha began performing severe austerities while standing motionless on the tip of a single toe for one full year. At that time, Lord Siva was pleased to appear before the King. When Maharaja Bhagiratha expressed his desire, Lord Mahadeva agreed to bear the force of the Ganga's falling water upon his head.
Soon afterward, the Ganga began to descend toward earth from her course in the heavenly planets. Indeed, all the demigods assembled to witness this grand spectacle. However, when Gangadevi saw Lord Siva prepared to take her upon his head, she arrogantly considered that his contact would contaminate her. Thus, upon seeing the expression of disgust displayed by Gangadevi, Lord Siva became highly insulted. In retaliation, he angrily captured her and concealed her waters within his matted hair, thwarting her fall to earth.
When Maharaja Bhagiratha saw how Ganga had become entangled and unable to free herself, he resumed his austerities. Finally, Lord Siva gave up his anger and released Gangadevi, allowing her to fall into the Bindusarovara in the Himalayas. Afterwards, the Ganga split into seven streams. Six of these formed other rivers, while the seventh followed Maharaja Bhagiratha as he rode upon his royal chariot.
While wending her way through various lands, it so happened that the Ganga inundated the sacrificial arena of the great sage, Jahnu. Becoming excited with rage, the rsi utilized his mystic power to swallow up the entire river. Upon seeing this, the demigods were struck with wonder. The denizens of heaven then approached Jahnu and requested him to release Gangadevi on the condition that she would become known as his daughter. The rsi agreed, and thus the Ganga was able to continue her journey.
Finally, the Ganga reached the site that had been excavated by the sons of Sagara. By entering that great crevasse, the Ganga went down to Rasatala. In doing so, she submerged the ashes of Sagara's 60,000 sons, enabling them to reach their heavenly destination.
Lord Brahma appeared once more before Maharaja Bhagiratha and declared, "O King, your mission has now been accomplished. From this time forward, the Ganga shall be known as your daughter, Bhagirathi."
After thus delivering his forefathers, Maharaja Bhagiratha returned to his capital and resumed ruling over his kingdom.
Thus, the entire night passed away as Visvamitra narrated to Rama the fascinating history of the River Ganga and her descent to earth.
When morning arrived, Rama expressed His eagerness to cross the Ganga and continue the journey. Thus, the caravan was soon made ready to depart. After reaching the far bank of the Ganga, the caravan traveled on and eventually came to the city of Visala. When Lord Rama requested Visvamitra to speak about the dynasty of kings that ruled this city, the rsi narrated the following history:
"The demigods and demons, are by nature, inimical toward one another. Once, following the advice of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the demigods executed a truce with the demons for the purpose of churning nectar from the sea. This was done with the understanding that when the nectar was generated from the churning, both sides would share it equally. Thus, both the demons and the demigods, desiring to become immortal, started for the ocean of milk, taking with them Mandara Mountain20 and Vasuki.21
"By the expert arrangement of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the demons held the snake near the mouth, and the demigods held its tail. Vasuki, with his thousands of eyes and mouths, breathed smoke and blazing fire, which severely affected the demons, headed by Pauloma, Kaleya, Bali and Ilvala. Thus the demons, who appeared like sarala trees burned by a forest fire, gradually became powerless.
"Because the demigods were also affected by the blazing breath of Vasuki, their bodily lusters diminished, and their garments, garlands, weapons and faces were blackened by smoke. However, by the grace of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, clouds appeared on the sea, pouring torrents of rain, and strong breezes, carrying particles of water from the sea waves, thus giving relief to the demigods.
"Because of the mountain's great weight, the demigods and demons became fatigued, with some actually dying. Thus, because Mandara Mountain was very heavy and was not held by any support in the water, it sank into the ocean. In this way the prowess of both the demons and the demigods was vanquished.
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vishnu, then appeared there on the back of His carrier, Garuda. The Lord appeared like a blackish cloud. Wearing a garland of flowers, He was dressed with yellow garments with earrings that shone on His ears like lightning. His eyes were pinkish and His hair was spread over His shoulders. By His mercy He brought the demigods and demons back to life.
"The Lord then lifted the mountain with one hand and placed it on the back of Garuda. The Lord then sat on the mountain and was carried to the spot of the churning by Garuda, who placed the mountain in the middle of the sea. The Lord then asked Garuda to leave, because as long as Garuda was present, Vasuki could not come there.
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead, appearing in His incarnation as Kurmavatara, a gigantic tortoise, supported the mountain upon his back as he lay at the bottom of the ocean. With His strong, glorious arms, which award fearlessness throughout the universe, He took hold of Vasuki like a rope and began churning the ocean, using Mandara Mountain as a churning rod. Engaged in this way, the Lord appeared like a beautifully situated mountain named Indranila.
"The mountain moved back and forth, scratching the back of Lord Tortoise, who, while partially sleeping, was experiencing an itching sensation. Lord Vishnu then further expanded Himself in a gigantic form and supported the top of Mount Mandara with one hand to keep it steady.
"As the churning resumed with great force, the fish, sharks, tortoises and snakes became agitated and perturbed. The entire ocean became turbulent, and even the large aquatic animals like whales, water elephants, crocodiles and timingila fish (large whales that can swallow small whales) came to the surface. While the ocean was being churned in this way, it first produced a huge amount of a fiercely dangerous poison called halahala.
"The prajapatis, seeing no one else to save them, approached Lord Siva and offered him prayers full of truth. Lord Siva is called Asutosa because he is very pleased if one is a devotee. Therefore, he readily agreed to drink all the poison generated by the churning. Although everyone feared this poison, Lord Siva satisfied them by drinking it. The goddess Durga, Bhavani, the wife of Lord Siva, was not at all disturbed when Lord Siva agreed to drink the poison, for she knew Lord Siva's prowess. Indeed, she expressed her pleasure at this agreement.
"Thus, Lord Siva gathered the devastating poison, which had spread everywhere. He took it in his hand and drank it, causing his neck to become bluish. However, a small quantity of the poison dropped from his hands to the ground. Thus, it is because of this poison that there are poisonous snakes, scorpions, toxic plants and other poisonous things in this world.
"Thereafter, in the course of churning the milk ocean, the 600 million Apsaras were produced, and because neither the demigods or demons accepted them, they became prostitutes. When Varuni, the goddess of liquor (sura), next emerged from the milk ocean, the demons would not accept her. The demigods did, however, and for this reason the sons of Aditi became known as Asuras, whereas the sons of Diti became known as Suras.
"Finally, after many years had passed, Lord Vishnu in the form of Dhanvantari, appeared from the ocean of milk, holding a kamadhenu filled with nectar in one hand, and a staff in the other.
"As it happened, a great fight ensued between the demigods and the demons over possession of the nectar. When both sides neared destruction, the demons took possession of the nectar. Lord Vishnu then assumed the form of Mohini-murti. When this extraordinarily beautiful form of the Lord as a young woman appeared before them, the demons immediately became captivated by Her. Because the demons were then fighting among themselves to possess the nectar, they selected this beautiful woman as mediator to settle their quarrel. Taking advantage of their weakness, Mohini, the incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, enticed the demons to promise that whatever decision She might give, they would agree to.
"When the demons made this promise, Mohini-murti had the demigods and demons sit in different lines so that She could distribute the nectar, seating the demigods at a distance. Approaching the demons, Mohini-murti spoke graciously to them, causing the demons to think themselves most fortunate to talk with Her. With the demigods seated at a distant place, the demons thought the demigods would get only a small portion of the nectar. Indeed, the demons concluded that because Mohini-murti appeared so pleased with the demons, She would give them all the nectar. Enchanted by the exquisite, transcendental beauty of the Mohini form, the demons thus agreed to hand over the container of nectar to Mohinidevi, who then artfully delivered it to the demigods.
"The demons were so captivated by the tricks and friendly words of Mohini-murti, that although the demigods were served first, the demons were pacified merely by sweet words. The Lord said to the demons, `The demigods are very miserly and are excessively anxious to take the nectar first. So let them have it first. Since you are not like them you can wait a little longer. You are all heroes and are therefore pleased with Me. It is better for you to wait until after the demigods drink.'
"The Lord's intention was to distribute the nectar only to the demigods. She knew that the demons were quite unfit to drink the nectar. Therefore, by cheating them She distributed all the nectar to the demigods. When the demons saw this cheating of Mohini-murti, however, they remained silent. Nevertheless, one demon named Rahu dressed himself like a demigod and sat down in the line of the demigods, sitting beside the sun and the moon. When the Supreme Personality of Godhead understood how Rahu was cheating, He immediately cut off the demon's head. Rahu, however, had already tasted the nectar, and therefore although his head was severed, he remained alive.
"After the demigods finished drinking the nectar, the Supreme Personality of Godhead assumed His own form and quickly carried off the nectar by utilizing an act of deception. When the demons opposed Her, Mohini-murti easily vanquished them and thus enabled Indra to become the undisputed ruler of the three worlds.
"Upon seeing the defeat of her sons, Diti became very unhappy and began performing austerities with the aim of obtaining a son capable of killing Indra in revenge. Knowing that Diti was intent upon performing austerities for 1,000 years to attain his destruction, Indra came to her and began rendering menial service for her with great care and attention. When only ten years of her vow remained, Diti, being pleased with Indra, assured him that she would pacify her son once he was born, so that Indra could continue ruling over the three worlds without fear. Indra, however, remained wary, following the maxim, `Trust no future, however pleasant sounding.'
Some time later, Diti became very tired and carelessly laid down, placing her head where her feet normally would rest. In this way, Diti neglectfully allowed her hair to become contaminated by her feet. Seizing the advantage of this fault, Indra utilized his mystic power to enter her womb through her vagina. Indra then cut Diti's embryo into seven parts. When the fetus cried out in a shrill voice, he again cut each part into seven, making a total of 49 pieces. Diti, however, could understand what was happening, and begged Indra to desist from killing her child. Having been discovered, the repentant Indra came out from her womb and begged forgiveness from his step-mother. Thus, Diti requested that her 49 children be allowed to become wind-gods. Indra agreed, and thus he and Diti were reconciled, with the 49 Maruts becoming recognized as demigods."
Visvamitra concluded, "This city, Visala, is situated at the place where Diti formerly performed her austerities. Later, the son of Iksvaku, named, Visala, built the city, and the present king in his dynasty is Sumati."
Maharaja Sumati then came out of the city to receive and worship Visvamitra. At his invitation, the party rested there for one night. The next morning the caravan again proceeded on its journey toward the kingdom of Videha. Upon reaching the outskirts of Mithila, the capital city of Maharaja Janaka, Lord Rama saw an old desolate hermitage. After Rama inquired about it from Visvamitra, the rsi explained, "This ashram formerly belonged to Gautama Rsi who practiced austerities here along with his wife, Ahalya.
"Once upon a time, knowing that Gautama was away from his ashram, King Indra22 assumed a form that closely resembled the Rsi. He went to the ashram in that disguise and approached Gautama's wife, saying, `My dear beautiful one, I desire union with you immediately. Please do not disappoint me.'
"Although Ahalya recognized that it was Indra disguised as Gautama, she did not refuse him, for she too, eagerly desired his embraces. Thus, the union took place, and after their lusty urges had been gratified, Ahalya begged, `O Indra, please protect both of us from the wrath of my husband, Gautama.'
"In reply, Indra assured Ahalya that he would depart immediately, unnoticed by anyone. However, it so happened that while Indra was sneaking away from Gautama's ashram, the rsi suddenly returned. When Gautama saw Indra disguised as himself, his head hanging down in shame, he could well understand the nature of his misconduct. Thus, with great anger, the rsi cursed Indra, `O lusty fool, may your testicles immediately fall off as punishment for this abominable act!'
"No sooner had the curse been pronounced when Indra's testicles fell from his body and dropped to the ground. Then, after entering his ashram, Gautama cursed his wife, `O wretched woman! From now on you shall be incapable of eating or drinking, and you will have to lie down on a bed of ashes.'
"Thus, Ahalya was turned into a pillar of stone. Gautama then said, `Only when Lord Rama visits this spot in the distant future will you be absolved of your sin, freed from all lusty desires, and reunited with me as your husband.'
"Saying this, Gautama departed for the Himalayas. Meanwhile, Indra informed the demigods, `I have successfully thwarted Gautama Rsi's attempt to attain my position as King of heaven by making him angry. However, in the process I have lost my testicles. Now, somehow or other, please arrange for my manhood to be restored.'
"Responding to Indra's plea, the demigods arranged for the Pitris to castrate a ram and grafted its testicles onto Indra's body."
Visvamitra then invited Lord Rama to enter the ashram of Gautama, thus freeing Ahalya from her husband's curse.
As soon as Rama entered the hermitage, Ahalya regained her original form, dazzling with ascetic splendor. Rama and Laksmana respectfully touched Ahalya's feet, and she warmly welcomed the two brothers and Visvamitra, offering them ample hospitality. Indeed, upon Ahalya's liberation, there was a sudden shower of celestial flowers, with drums beating in the heavens. Gautama Rsi then came there to be reunited with his wife, likewise worshipping Lord Rama and Laksmana with great reverence.
Thereafter, the caravan entered Mithila. Upon arriving at the sacrificial arena of King Janaka, Lord Rama was pleased to see that thousands of brahmanas had assembled from all parts of the world. Hearing of Visvamitra's arrival, Maharaja Janaka hurriedly went to greet him, and addressed him, saying, "O best of saintly persons. This sacrifice will take twelve days to complete, with the demigods appearing personally to accept their shares of the offerings. My dear sir, please tell me who these two exalted personalities are that have accompanied you. Indeed, they appear to be like gods in human form."
Visvamitra replied, "These two young men are Rama and Laksmana, the sons of King Dasaratha. They have come here to examine the great bow that you have been worshipping. I brought them from Ayodhya to my ashram to kill the Raksasas that were disturbing my sacrifice. On the way, they killed the she-demon, Tataka, and then at Siddhasrama, Rama hurled Marica one-hundred yojanas into the sea and killed Sabahu. Before arriving at Mithila, Rama freed Ahalya from her husband's curse and received the worship of Gautama Rsi."
Later, when everyone was comfortably seated, Satananda, the chief priest of Maharaja Janaka and eldest son of Gautama Rsi, requested Visvamitra to recount in detail the story of how his mother had regained her original form at the sight of Lord Rama. The Rsi then happily related the entire incident. Thereafter, Satananda reciprocated by narrating the glorious history of Visvamitra.
"Visvamitra was born as the son of Gadhi and formerly ruled his kingdom as a righteous ksatriya. Once, taking an aksauhini of soldiers with him, Visvamitra began to travel over the earth. In due course he came upon the hermitage of the great brahmarsi, Vasistha.
"Entering the beautiful hermitage, which was inhabited by many sages, he bowed respectfully before Vasistha. The rsi received Visvamitra warmly, and the two became engaged in friendly conversation. Vasistha said, `My dear King, please remain here for a few days as my guest so that I may entertain you in a royal manner befitting your position.'
"Visvamitra humbly replied, `I am already fully satisfied with your warm reception. I ask only for your permission to leave.'
"Vasistha, however, repeatedly insisted that Visvamitra and his men remain. Finally, Visvamitra relented. This being settled, Vasistha brought his kamadhenu cow named Sabala before Visvamitra, and ordered her to produce a sumptuous royal feast. Being so commanded, the celestial cow immediately brought forth a huge quantity of seeming unlimited varieties of food and drink, all arranged on sparkling silver platters. Visvamitra and his men then feasted to their full satisfaction.
"However, before long, Visvamitra began to feel envious of Vasistha, wishing he had the celestial cow for himself. As the pangs of greed surfaced, Visvamitra told Vasistha, `I must have this wonderful cow of yours at all costs. Please give her to me and I will reward you appropriately.'
"Visvamitra offered the sage hundreds of thousands of cows, gold, unlimited jewels and more. Regardless, Vasistha refused to give up his celestial cow, saying, `I am very sorry, but I shall never be able to part with this kamadhenu, even in exchange for one billion cows. This wish fulfilling cow is inseparable from me, for she is needed to supply all the ingredients for my sacrificial performances.'
"Visvamitra then replied, `This cow should rightfully belong to me, for the king is meant to possess the very best of everything.'
"Because Vasistha's refusal only fanned the flames of Visvamitra's desire, the king proceeded to offer the sage more and more. Regardless, Vasistha refused to part with his cow. Finally, out of frustration and anger, Visvamitra grabbed the cow forcefully and began dragging her out of the ashram.
"At this, the kamadhenu cried out pitifully, imploring Vasistha, `O rsi, why are you allowing me to be taken away like this? Although I have served you faithfully, are you now going to desert me?'
"Saying this, Sabala freed herself from the hundreds of men assisting Visvamitra in dragging her away. As she fled back to the ashram, Vasistha replied, `My dear Sabala, I am certainly not abandoning you. However, my power is not equal to the King's. I am helpless to rescue you."
"Sabala replied, `Dear Rsi, the King's material strength is insignificant in comparison to your spiritual strength. If you allow me to do so, I will utilize your superior energy to vanquish Visvamitra's army, myself.'
"Giving his consent, Sabala proceeded to create innumerable fierce warriors from her body that began to consume Visvamitra's army. However, the powerful King was able to counteract this and destroyed all of Sabala's soldiers. Moreover, his ksatriya spirit bristling, he challenged Sabala to create more soldiers if she desired to continue fighting.
"Sabala then proceeded to produce more, fiercer warriors, that sprang from her udders, genitals, anus and other bodily parts. These superior soldiers completely vanquished Visvamitra's army. Seeing this, Visvamitra's 100 sons angrily rushed at Vasistha, but the brahmarsi easily reduced them to a mere pile of ashes simply by uttering a mighty roar.
"Having thus lost not only his entire army, but his sons as well, Visvamitra departed, pale and dejected. Having only one remaining son, Visvamitra ordered him to rule the kingdom. He then retired to the forest to perform austerities, hoping to please Lord Siva.
"After some time Lord Siva became satisfied with Visvamitra's austerities and appeared before the king to reward him. The delighted Visvamitra expressed his desire to possess the knowledge of all celestial weapons. Lord Siva, known as Asutosa, because he is easily pleased, awarded Visvamitra his desired benediction. Thus, Visvamitra, who was already too proud, became exceedingly puffed up after receiving the celestial weapons, thinking his prowess to be invincible.
"Going directly to the ashram of Vasistha, Visvamitra began showering down his weapons so fiercely that it appeared the ashram was on the verge of annihilation. All the sages residing there began to flee in terror, despite Vasistha's assurances. Indeed, in a short time, the area appeared desolate.
"Picking up his brahminical rod, Vasistha addressed Visvamitra as follows, `Because of your rash act of aggression, I shall now cut down your false pride and show you the futility of your so-called prowess.'
"Having spoken, Vasistha held out his brahminical rod and neutralized all of Visvamitra's weapons. Visvamitra then resorted to hurling his remaining celestial weapons. When this, too, failed, he prepared to release the ultimate weapon, the brahmastra.
"From above, the demigods witnessed the spectacular duel. When Visvamitra invoked the terrible brahmastra, they became wonder-struck and fearful. However, after Visvamitra released the brahmastra, Vasistha countered it by assuming an awesome form of gigantic proportions, with flames blazing forth from every pore of his body, neutralizing the energy of the brahmastra.
"The tremendous form exhibited by Vasistha stunned everyone within the three worlds who witnessed it. Indeed, after seeing the rsi's great prowess, the sages began to offer Vasistha prayers of glorification. With the brahmastra weapon countered, Vasistha again assumed his normal form. In the meantime, Visvamitra desisted from battle and departed, condemning the meager powers of the ksatriyas.
"Understanding brahminical power to be superior, Visvamitra became determined to become a brahmarsi like Vasistha. He then went into seclusion with his wife and began to execute severe penances. After some time four sons were born to him: Havispanda, Madhuspanda, Drdhanetra, and Maharatha. Then, when 1,000 years had elapsed, Lord Brahma appeared before Visvamitra and formally conferred upon him the status of rajarsi as a reward. However, as Lord Brahma departed, Visvamitra hung his head in shame over the meagerness of his achievement. Remaining determined to achieve the status of brahmarsi and nothing less, Visvamitra again resumed his severe austerities.
"During this same time there was a king in the line of Iksvaku named Trisanku who ruled from his capital, Ayodhya. Desiring to perform a sacrifice that would enable him to ascend to heaven in his human body (without changing bodies), he requested Vasistha to become his priest. Vasistha, however, refused, claiming it would be impossible to perform such a sacrifice. Afterward, Trisanku approached Vasistha's 100 sons, who were engaged in performing sacrifices, asking them to assist him in the performance of his sacrifice. However, when they learned of their father's refusal, they angrily chastised him for attempting to solicit their help after being turned down by his guru. Hearing their criticism, Trisanku replied, "If you are not willing to help me, I will seek the assistance of others more magnanimous."
"Upon hearing Trisanku's impudent statement, the rsis became furious and cursed Trisanku to become a candala. Soon thereafter, Trisanku's golden complexion turned black, his garments became old and soiled, his long lustrous hair began to fall out, his cosmetics turned to ashes, his gold ornaments turned to iron, and his garland transformed into flowers from a crematorium.
"When Trisanku's ministers witnessed this transformation they immediately abandoned him as untouchable. Having become a candala, bereft of his former position, Trisanku went to see Visvamitra, who was engaged in performing austerities.
"Visvamitra welcomed Trisanku with compassion, hearing from him how he had been cursed by the sons of Vasistha. When Trisanku begged Visvamitra for help, the rsi assured him of shelter and promised to provide him with priests that would assist him in the performance of his sacrifice.
"Thereafter, Visvamitra ordered his sons to petition all the priests and qualified brahmanas to assist him, asking also for the names of those who refused. Thus, it came to be that many brahmanas from kingdoms across the earth came to his ashram. Only Vasistha and his sons and the rsi Mahadaya refused to participate, saying, "What bramana or demigod would be willing to accept an offering from the hands of a ksatriya, what to speak of a candala?"
"When Visvamitra heard these harsh and insulting words, he immediately uttered the following curse, "May the wretched sons of Vasistha be reduced to ashes and sent to the abode of Yamaraja this very day. Thereafter, let them take 700 births as candalas, and may that fool Mahadaya become a Nisada!"
"The curses quickly took effect, and Visvamitra was able to perceive the results by dint of his mystic vision. Visvamitra then requested the brahmanas present to perform Trisanku's sacrifice. Simply out of fear of being cursed, they complied, and the sacrifice was begun.
"When Visvamitra invited the demigods to attend and accept their share of the offerings, they desisted. This made Visvamitra very angry, and he declared to Trisanku that he would elevate him to heaven by his own prowess. Indeed, as soon as Visvamitra made this vow, Trisanku began rising to heaven in his self same body.
"When King Indra saw Trisanku approaching heaven without having earned sufficient pious merit, and after having disobeyed his guru, Vasistha, Indra forcibly made Trisanku fall headfirst back toward earth. While thus falling, Trisanku called out helplessly to Visvamitra to rescue him. Visvamitra then utilized his mystic power to not only stop Trisanku's fall, but also created a replica planetary system, replete with imitation demigods for Trisanku to reside in.
"The demigods, however, were outraged by this wonderful feat. Approaching Visvamitra they said, `Give up your efforts to help Trisanku. He lacks the necessary qualifications for residing in the heavenly planets.'
"Visvamitra, however, insisted on keeping his promise. He declared, `I will never go back on my promise to send Trisanku to the heavenly planets without a change of body. Therefore, let it be ordained that my newly created heaven be accepted by you and remain for the duration of the universe.'
"In the end the demigods relented, and thus Trisanku remained head-downwards in space. By the mercy of Visvamitra he enjoys heavenly bliss while shining brightly among the stars.
"Visvamitra then returned to executing austerities, determined to become a brahmarsi like Vasistha. Then, after a long time had passed, a beautiful Apsara named Menaka, came to bathe at the Puskara lake where Visvamitra was conducting his austerities. Seeing her, Visvamitra became overwhelmed by the arrows of Cupid. Eager to enjoy with her in a conjugal way, Visvamitra implored her to remain with him at his ashram. Menaka happily consented, and thus, she and Visvamitra passed ten years together, enjoying each other while lost to the pleasures of sensual enjoyment.
"Finally, Visvamitra came to his senses and felt great disgust. He thought to himself, `I have foolishly wasted ten years, merged in the so-called enjoyment of sense gratification. Now I can understand that Menaka was sent here by the demigods simply to steal my accumulated ascetic merit. By become a slave to lust I have been impeded in my execution of austerities. Thus, I have fallen down from my exalted position.'23
"Visvamitra dismissed the fearful Menaka and then went to the northern side of the Himalayas, determined to remain celibate from then on.
"When Visvamitra again resumed his austerities, the demigods grew increasingly fearful and approached Lord Brahma, begging him to award Visvamitra the status of Maharsi. Lord Brahma agreed, but when he appeared before Visvamitra, Visvamitra replied that he would not be satisfied with anything less than the status of brahmarsi. Thus, Lord Brahma explained, `You have not yet fully controlled your senses. Therefore you will have to practice more austerities before achieving your desired goal.'
"After Lord Brahma departed, Visvamitra resumed his austerities, standing with arms upraised and subsisting on air alone for one thousand years. Thus, Indra and the other demigods again became fearful, and devised yet another plan to thwart Visvamitra.
"Indra requested the lovely Apsara named Rambha to allure Visvamitra away from his practice of austerities. Rambha, trembling with fear, declined, saying that she feared Visvamitra's curse. Indra, however, assured her by saying, `Dear girl, please do not be afraid, for you shall surely succeed. It is springtime, and Cupid shall accompany you. I shall also go disguised as a sweet-singing cuckoo. Do not worry. Your beauty is irresistible. Visvamitra will become a toy in your hands.'
"Rambha finally agreed, and thereafter she appeared before Visvamitra in a most pleasing manner, displaying her various feminine allurements. At first, Visvamitra was pleased to see her, thinking she had come of her own accord. However, after a moment's consideration, Visvamitra realized that her appearance was simply another trick to thwart him from his practice. Flaring with anger, Visvamitra roared, `You foolish woman! You knew I was performing austerities for the purpose of controlling my senses. Still, you dare to persist, trying to seduce me. For this you will have to stand as a stone statue for 10,000 years, or until the rsi, Vasistha delivers you.'
"Rambha immediately turned into stone while Indra and Cupid fearfully fled from the scene. However, after cursing the Apsara, Visvamitra became morose, realizing that he fallen victim to uncontrolled anger, thus diminishing his accumulated stock of ascetic merit. Visvamitra then vowed to never again become angry. `I will not breathe, not utter a word, I will not eat a morsel of food or drink until I achieve the status of Brahmarsi.'
"Visvamitra then resumed his austerities. However, after fasting for 1,000 years he decided to eat something. Regardless, just as Visvamitra was about to take his first bite, King Indra appeared before him in the dress of a bramana and begged for all his food. Without remorse or anger, Visvamitra humbly gave all he had planned to eat to the bramana and went back to performing his austerities for yet another 1,000 years.
"At that time, smoke began to emanate from Visvamitra's head, his powerful austerities heating up the entire universe. Feeling great distress, the demigods again approached Lord Brahma to appease Visvamitra. At that time Lord Brahma, along with the demigods, went to Visvamitra and awarded him the status of brahmarsi, just to persuade him to desist in his austerities.
"Visvamitra became very satisfied at heart. However, he further insisted, `It is not enough for you to award me the status of brahmarsi. I must also be accepted as such by the other brahmarsis, especially Vasistha.'
"Thus, it came to pass that, at the request of the demigods, Vasistha went to Visvamitra and agreed to recognize him as a brahmarsi. In turn, Visvamitra also offered great respect to Vasistha. Their long standing enmity was soon forgotten and they became friends."
What was attained by Visvamitra only after a long, difficult endeavor-the status of a perfect brahmana situated in goodness-is immediately available to a devotee who chants the Lord's holy name and surrenders to His lotus feet. A devotee automatically develops all the good qualities of the demigods, including truth and morality. Moreover, the devotional process is safe, whereas austerity and penance involve risks. Shrimad-Bhagavatam warns: "Although non-devotees who perform very severe austerities may rise up to the highest position and think themselves liberated, their intelligence is impure. They fall down from their position of imagined superiority because they have no regard for Your lotus feet."
After hearing the wonderful history of Visvamitra from Satananda, everyone retired for the night. The next morning, Maharaja Janaka called for Visvamitra, Rama and Laksmana. After respectfully greeting them, he said, "I know that such great personalities would not come here without some grave purpose. Therefore, please inform me what service I may offer you."
Visvamitra smilingly replied, "Rama and Laksmana have come here because they are eager to see the wonderful bow you keep and have worshipped for so long."
Maharaja Janaka then explained, "This bow was used by Lord Siva in a bygone age to disrupt the sacrifice of his son-in-law, Daksa. Being denied his sacrificial share, Lord Siva angrily picked up this bow and threatened to annihilate the demigods. Coming to their senses, the demigods were able to pacify Lord Siva. In turn, he handed over his bow to them. The demigods later entrusted the bow to Devavrata, the eldest son of Maharaja Nimi, my forefather."
After describing the history of Lord Siva's bow, Maharaja Janaka then related another interesting story. "Once upon a time, As I was leveling the sacrificial arena with a golden plow, much to my astonishment, I happened to uncover a baby girl. I named her Sita (furrow), and raised her as my own daughter.
"Sita quickly grew up, and upon attaining maturity, many eligible princes came calling, hoping to win her hand in marriage. Since my daughter was not an ordinary being, I explained to the princes that to win her hand in marriage, they must possess great valor. When they inquired of the extent of valor needed, I brought forth the bow of Lord Siva and asked them to string it. However, none could even lift or hold it, what to speak of bending or stringing it. Because of this, most of these princes left, feeling insulted. They then banded together to attack Mithila. A fierce battle raged for 12 months. Finally, as my army weakened, I prayed to the demigods for assistance. In answer to my plea, the celestials mercifully sent an army, and simply by their sight, my enemies fled in fear.
"Seeing that Rama is eager to see the bow of Lord Siva, I will bring it before Him to examine. If Rama is able to string this wonderful bow, then I will gladly give Him my beautiful daughter, Sita."
Soon 500 strong men were seen pulling the immense bow, which was encased in a chest and mounted on a vehicle having 8 wheels. After the arrival of the bow, Visvamitra invited Rama to open the chest, while thousands of people gathered out of curiosity. As Rama gazed with admiration at the bow, Maharaja Janaka warned, "Even great demigods, demons, Raksasas, Yaksas, Gandharvas and Nagas have failed to even bend this mighty bow. How then, will a mere mortal succeed in stringing it?"
Nevertheless, Rama sportingly placed His left hand upon the middle of the bow. Then, in the presence of the huge crowd, He effortlessly lifted the bow out of its case. Holding the bow aloft, Rama strung the bow in an instant, and began bending it with great force. Suddenly, there was a thunderous cracking noise, like a great earthquake, as the bow snapped in the middle. Indeed, the sound of the bow breaking in half, like a mountain bursting apart, stunned the senses of the assembled crowd, causing all but Visvamitra, Janaka, Rama and Laksmana, to fall to the ground.
Thus, with great pleasure, Maharaja Janaka requested Visvamitra to send messengers to Ayodhya, inviting King Dasaratha to attend the marriage of Rama and Sita. When the messengers arrived three days later at the court of Maharaja Dasaratha, they related the glorious events of Rama's breaking the bow and winning Sita's hand in marriage. Hearing this, Maharaja Dasaratha became overjoyed. Then, after consulting with Vasistha and Vamadeva, Maharaja Dasaratha decided that they all should depart for Mathila the following day.
The next morning, Maharaja Dasaratha started out, keeping his family priest in front and taking his army and a great quantity of wealth. After traveling for four days, the party reached the outskirts of Mathila. Seeing his approach, King Janaka came out to meet Maharaja Dasaratha, giving him a royal reception. Afterward, when Maharaja Dasaratha had met with his sons, it was fixed that the preliminary marriage rituals would begin at an auspicious moment the next day.
The next morning everyone assembled, and before the wedding ceremonies commenced, Maharaja Dasaratha requested King Janaka to hear of his royal lineage from Vasistha. Being so requested, the great sage Vasistha narrated his history.
"Marici was the direct son of Lord Brahma and Marici's son was Kasyapa. From Kasyapa was born Vivasvan, the sun god, and Vivasvan's son was Manu. The son of Vaivasvata Manu was Iksvaku, who was the first ruler of Ayodhya. Many generations later in the Iksvaku line came Bharata, whose son, Asita, was conquered by his enemies, the Haihayas, Talajanghas and Sasabindu's. Being defeated, Asita decided to retire to the Himalayas along with his two wives. Then, when Asita passed away, one of the widows, named Kalindi, happened to be pregnant. The other widow became envious of her and mixed poison in with Kalindi's food, desiring to kill the child within her womb. When Kalindi began to suffer the effects of the poison, the great rsi Cyavana happened to arrive at that spot. Kalindi tearfully sought his blessings so that her child might live. The rsi assured her that a son would be born, along with the excreted poison. Because of these unusual circumstances, Kalindi's son was named Sagara, one who is born along with poison.
Later on, in the line of Iksvaku, the great grand-son of Maharaja Bhagiratha named Pravrddha was cursed by Vasistha to become a Raksasa, and thus he came to be known as Kalmasapada. There were many great kings who descended from Iksvaku, such as Ambarisa, Nahusa, Yayati, Nabhaga, and Aja, the father of Maharaja Dasaratha.
After describing their histories, as well as many others, Vasistha formally requested King Janaka to give away his two daughters, Sita and Urmila, in charity to Rama and Laksmana. Maharaja first described his own genealogy, beginning with King Nimi, and concluding with his own father, Hrasvaroma. The king then happily concluded the solemn agreement, giving away his daughters to the sons of Maharaja Dasaratha.
First, Janaka requested Dasaratha to have the Samavartana ceremony performed for Rama and Laksmana. This ceremony entails shaving the head and armpits when a student returns home from the gurukula. Then, the fire sacrifice was fixed for three days later, at an auspicious time.
Vasistha requested that the two daughters of King Janaka's younger brother, Kusadvaja, be given in charity to Bharata and Satrughna. Janaka agreed, and at the proper time, when the Samavartana was performed, Maharaja Dasaratha gave away 100,000 cows in charity to the brahmanas for each of his four sons.
Thereafter, at the auspicious hour known as Vijaya, on the day chosen for the marriage, Vasistha approached Maharaja Janaka and said, "O King, the ruler of Kosala and his four sons wait outside for he who shall give away his daughters. Let the auspicious wedding sacrifice now begin without delay!"
Thereafter, Maharaja Dasaratha escorted his four sons into the sacrificial arena while Vasistha Muni prepared the sacred altar, decorating it with sandalwood paste, flowers, potted plants, bowls filled with arghya, grains, incense, and pots of turmeric, along with other auspicious articles. Then, when all was ready, Vasistha lit the sacrificial fire and began offering oblations while other brahmanas chanted Vedic mantras.
King Janaka then escorted Sita into the sacrificial arena and seated her next to Rama. With a voice trembling with emotion, Janaka said, "O noble Prince, this is my daughter Sita. Please take her hand and accept her as Your life-long partner. She is a reservoir of all auspicious qualities and she will forever be devoted to You as faithfully as Your own shadow."
Then, as Gandharvas sang and Apsaras danced with joy, amid showers of flowers from heaven and the vibration of celestial drums, King Janaka transferred the hand of the goddess of fortune ,Sita, to the hand of the Supreme Lord, Rama. Then, King Janaka placed the hand of Urmila into Laksmana's hand, then Mandavi's hand in Bharata's and finally, Srutakirti's hand into Satrughna's. The four brothers then circumnabulated the sacrificial fire three times while clasping the hands of their newly-wedded wives. Afterwards, they circumnabulated King Janaka and the great rsis.
Upon His gaining Sita, the embodiment of all loveliness and virtue, Rama felt unlimited satisfaction and happiness. Similarly, Sitadevi felt unprecedented happiness upon achieving her beloved Rama, the Lord of Her heart, and the emblem of goodness, chivalry, intelligence and handsome beauty. Dedicating their hearts to each other, Sita and Rama shone resplendently, just as Lord Vishnu shines in the company of His divine consort, Laksmi.
Even today, great opulent marriage festivals are enjoyed universally. God Himself has kindly shown us that a man and woman can enjoy a successful marriage by combining to serve the Lord. Human beings should not mate simply out of sex impulse like cats and dogs, for the way of the beasts is characterized by fear, suffering and rebirth. Therefore, every civilized society has some systematic arrangement for a happy married life within the regulations of religious codes, aimed at bringing peace and, in the best of societies, Krishna conscious living.
Eternally related as husband and wife, Rama and Sita are eternally inseparable. Materialists sometimes want to worship and possess the goddess of fortune without Lord Rama, but this is never possible. Without Rama, Sita turns into Durga, the material energy personified, and to embrace her is to embrace death. However, if we concentrate on pleasing Lord Rama or Lord Krishna, the goddess of fortune will automatically bestow all her blessings upon us. The secret of successful living, including family affairs, is to put the Lord in the center of our life and make His service the goal of our endeavors.
After the day's festivities were concluded, the marriage party retried for the night. The next morning, Visvamitra left Mithila for the Himalayas, and later that day, Maharaja Dasaratha departed with his four sons and their wives after receiving a large dowry from King Janaka.
However, while on their way back to Ayodhya, Maharaja Dasaratha observed the inauspicious sign of numerous fearful birds screeching overhead. At the same time he saw the auspicious sign of deer crossing his path from left to right. Fearing some impending danger, the King inquired from Vasistha for an explanation. The rsi replied, "The screaming birds indicate some immanent danger. However, the deer crossing from left to right indicate there is no need to worry on that account."
While Maharaja Dasaratha and his priest were thus discussing the matter, a fierce wind began blowing, shaking the very earth and knocking down many tall trees. Dust rose up and began to cover everything from all directions. It became so dark that nearly everyone except Maharaja Dasaratha, his sons, and Vasistha and the other rsis, became bewildered and panic stricken.
Suddenly, Parasurama24 appeared in a fierce form, with matted hair and carrying an ax on his right shoulder, a bow on his left, and a powerful arrow in his hands. The rsis were surprised to see Parasurama in this ferocious aspect, since previously, after annihilating the ksatriyas twenty-one times, he vowed to give up his anger and remain fixed in the execution of austerities.
As the rsis were thus wondering why he had again become moved to anger, the son of Jamadagni addressed Lord Rama as follows, "You have certainly performed an admirably heroic feat by breaking the bow of Lord Siva. However, I am carrying an even greater bow, the bow of Lord Vishnu. If You actually consider Yourself to be a great hero, then take this bow and string it. If You are able to draw the arrow back to its full length, then I shall consider You a fit person to fight with."
Hearing Parasurama's challenge, Maharaja Dasaratha became overwhelmed with grief, fearing losing his beloved son. With a trembling voice, the King pleaded, "O best of the rsis, Parasurama! Please desist from your aggressive spirit. I beg to remind you of your vow to give up fighting. After handing over the earth to Kasyapa, you retired to Mount Mahendra to perform austerities."
Parasurama, however, completely ignored Dasaratha, and continued to address Rama, saying, "Both Lord Siva's bow and this bow of Lord Vishnu were constructed by Visvakarma. Lord Siva was given one of the bows to kill Tripurasura.
"One day, after Lord Siva killed the demon, the demigods went to Lord Brahma and curiously inquired, `Who is more powerful, Lord Siva or Lord Vishnu?' To resolve their doubt, Lord Brahma arranged to create some conflict between the two. As a result, a fierce battle ensued. During the fight, Lord Vishnu cut off Lord Siva's bow string and then, simply by releasing a tumultuous roar, He stunned Lord Siva's senses. At the behest of the demigods, the fighting was then stopped and everyone who witnessed the duel concluded that Lord Vishnu is superior to Lord Siva in all respects.
"Lord Siva, however, felt bitter because of his defeat, insulted by the verdict of the demigods. Thus, in a mood of gloom and disgust, he gave away his bow to Devavrata, a king in the line of Iksvaku. Lord Vishnu also gave away His bow to the great sage Rcika, who later gave it to his son Jamadagni. However, my father never used that bow, for it was his vow not to retaliate against any wrong done to him.
"Thereafter I received the bow from him, and after killing the ksatriyas twenty-one times as revenge for Kartaviryajuna slaying my father, I became the sole ruler of the earth. When Kasyapa performed a great sacrifice so that I could make atonement for killing the ksatriyas, I gave him the earth as his priestly reward and then retired to Mount Mahendra. While there I acquired great prowess by performing severe austerities. However, when I heard that You had broken the bow of Lord Siva, I felt compelled to come and challenge You. If You consider Yourself a great hero, then take this bow and see if You are worthy of fighting with me."
Without speaking, Rama accepted Parasurama's challenge by quickly snatching his bow and arrow from his hands, including his long acquired ascetic prowess. Then, after effortlessly stringing the bow before the awe-struck Parasurama, Rama drew the arrow back to its full length. Rama then declared, "Because you are a bramana and related to Visvamitra, I shall not slay you. However, so that My taking up this arrow may not go in vain, and your challenge may be properly answered, I will use it to destroy the attainment of heaven which you earned as a result of your penances."
The demigods and celestial rsis assembled in the sky to witness Rama's shooting of the arrow. Parasurama had already been rendered impotent by Rama, and all he could do was gaze at the Lord with wide open eyes. Finally, as Rama continued to keep the arrow pulled back to His ear, Parasurama said in a subdued voice, "After I gave away the earth to Kasyapa, he ordered me not to reside here again. For this reason I must leave before night falls. Although my access to heaven has been taken away, I beg You to at least allow me to return to Mount Mahendra so that I may continue my austerities. O Rama, I can now understand that You are Lord Vishnu Himself. Thus, I am not ashamed at having met defeat at Your hands."
Rama silently accepted Parasurama's request and then released the mighty arrow, thus destroying the son of Jamadagni's acquired eligibility for heavenly elevation. Thereafter, Parasurama returned to Mount Mahendra. As soon as he departed, the darkness previously created completely dissipated. From their position in the sky, the demigods glorified Lord Rama with great enthusiasm and showered Him with fragrant flowers. Lord Rama then presented the bow of Lord Vishnu to Varuna, and the party thus continued on its way.
Upon returning home, the four sons of Maharaja Dasaratha began living very happily with their wives. After some time, King Yudhajit, the son of Kekaya and maternal uncle of Bharata and Satrughna, came to Ayodhya and invited his nephews to stay with him.
After His two brothers departed for the Kekaya kingdom, Rama began serving His father and three mothers with great care. Rama also carried out the state administrative functions so honestly and conscientiously that all the citizens came to love Him dearly.
Sita and Rama's natural attachment for each other also grew day by day, and thus they became completely dedicated to one another, being bound by each other's beauty and good qualities. In truth, Sita was beauty incarnate, being the goddess of fortune, Laksmi herself. Within her mind, Sita could vividly read every detail of everything in the innermost core of Rama's heart. Being always determined to please her husband, herself being the emblem of womanly gentleness and chastity, Sita was soon able to bring the heart of Lord Rama under her control.
Bharata and Satrughna remained with their maternal uncle, Yudhajit, for some time, being warmly entertained by him. Meanwhile, at Ayodhya, Rama became the pet son of Maharaja Dasaratha, and the beloved of all the citizens.
Rama was Lord Vishnu Himself, incarnated within human society for the purpose of killing the wicked Ravana. As the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Rama exhibited Himself as the reservoir of all good qualities. Rama's beautiful bodily features provided all who viewed Him with the full satisfaction of their eyes. Rama played the part of a courageous and heroic ksatriya, while simultaneously remaining self controlled, self satisfied, without malice, and gentle in word and deed.
Rama did not take offense when criticized by others and was pleased by even the smallest show of kindness. He was forgiving and always humble about His own position. Rama only embraced the association of persons who were pious and of superior wisdom. He was considerate and always the first to welcome guests. Rama firmly adhered to truth and honored the brahmanas. He loved the citizens, and was loved by them in return.
Rama always acted according to religious principles and was learned in all the sastras. He epitomized youthful vigor and was a mature judge of character. Rama was always diligent in the matter of punishing wrong-doers and rewarding those who were meritorious. As a horseman and wielder of the bow, Rama excelled all others, and was the greatest of the chariot warriors. Indeed, Rama was the Lord of the three worlds and the controller of eternal time. Thus, He was unconquerable even by the greatest demigods and demons.
Maharaja Dasaratha had ruled his kingdom for 60,000 years. Now, having grown old and fatigued, he finally desired to retire from his royal duties to prepare himself for an exalted destination after quitting his body. However, Maharaja Dasaratha began to see various omens foreboding evil. Thus, he anxiously desired to install Rama as the yuva-raja (heir apparent) as quickly as possible.
For this purpose, Maharaja Dasaratha called a meeting of his ministers, prominent citizens and subordinate kings. However, in his haste, Maharaja Dasaratha did not formally invite King Janaka or Kekaya, feeling confident of their support.
Thereafter, when all were assembled, Maharaja Dasaratha announced, "I have grown old, and now desire to hand the royal throne over to my eldest son, Rama, Who has reached the age of 27. It is now the sacred month of Caitra and tomorrow, the auspicious constellation Pusya will be in the ascendant. Therefore, with your permission, I will direct that the ceremonies for installing Rama as the yuva-raja begin tomorrow."
The assembled ministers, kings and citizens, all applauded Dasaratha's proposal. They then glorified Rama's incomparable virtues, equating Him with Lord Vishnu Himself. Thus, Maharaja Dasaratha was both pleased and relieved.
After everyone departed he requested Vasistha Muni to immediately begin preparations for the installation ceremony. Vasistha then ordered the chief minister, Sumantra, to arrange for the city to be gorgeously decorated and make all other preparations as needed so that the ceremonies could start promptly early the next day. Maharaja Dasaratha then summon Rama to the royal assembly.
Soon thereafter, Rama entered the royal assembly and came before his father. Approaching His father with folded hands, Rama fell flat at his feet while offering His respects. Maharaja Dasaratha then picked up his son, and after warmly embracing Him, said, "My dear Rama. I have grown old and weary, and feel it is now time for me to retire. I have sufficiently enjoyed all manner of royal opulences, I have performed innumerable sacrifices, and I have distributed huge amounts of wealth to the brahmanas. You, Rama, are my eldest and most favorite son. Likewise, all the ministers and citizens love You dearly. Therefore, I have arranged that tomorrow You will be installed as the heir-apparent to succeed me on the royal throne."
Hearing this, some of Rama's friends ran to Mother Kausalya, hoping to be the first to deliver the wonderful news to her. Indeed, upon hearing the news, she became overjoyed, and appropriately gave the bearers of the good tidings gold, jewels and cows in charity. Thereafter, when Rama returned to His own palace, He was greeted along the way by crowds of cheering citizens.
Meanwhile, Maharaja Dasaratha entered his inner apartments to lay down for some rest. Just as the King was drifting off to sleep, however, he experienced a recurring, ominous dream. Waking with a start, he immediately sent Sumantra to summon Rama. For some reason the King felt apprehensive that there might be some obstruction to his son's planned installation.
Hearing that His father had again called Him, Rama likewise felt a degree of apprehension. Making toward His father's palace with due haste, Rama entered His father's room, inquiring what was needed of Him.
Dasaratha embraced then Rama and said, "My dear Rama, all of my desires in life have been fulfilled, except to see You installed on the throne. Unfortunately, due to the influence of the Sun, Mars and Rahu, this is a very bad astrological period for me. Moreover, I have been experiencing disturbing dreams, prompting me to think that a great calamity awaits me. Therefore, I am eager to expedite matters. I want the installation ceremonies to begin immediately, even without the presence of Your brothers, Bharata and Satrughna. You and Sita should fast tonight for purification. Then tomorrow, in the early morning, prepare Yourself for the installation."
Maharaja Dasaratha was constantly haunted by the remembrance of a promise he had once made to King Kekaya at the time of his marriage to his daughter, Kaikeyi. Dasaratha had clearly indicated to his father-in-law that it would be Kaikeyi's son who would inherit the royal throne. The minds of men, Dasaratha mused, are fickle and inconsistent, especially in the face of such powerful allurements as power and prestige. For this reason Maharaja Dasaratha was most anxious to install Rama as the yuva-raja before Bharata's return.
Rama returned to His palace to inform Sita of the arrangements for the following day. Not finding her there, however, Rama went to the residence of His mother. When Rama entered Kausalya's room, He saw her sitting with half-closed eyes and suspended breath, silently praying to her household Deity, Lord Narayana, for Rama's good fortune. Kausalya, who was being attended by Laksmana and Sumitra, got up to greet her son, and Rama addressed her, saying, "O mother, father wishes to install Me as the heir-apparent to the royal throne!"
With tears in her eyes, Kausalya replied, "My austerities have surely not been in vain. May You and Sita live long and happily together."
Smiling, Rama turned to His brother Laksmana and said, "My dear brother, you must rule the kingdom along with Me, for you are just like My second half. Indeed, I could not even think of finding happiness in royal luxury, or even life itself, without you."
Thereafter, Rama returned to His palace in a jubilant mood. Sita and Rama worshipped Lord Narayana together, and then laid down to take rest for the night.
Meanwhile, within the city, all the citizens were merrily engaged in preparing for the coming festivities. All the streets in Ayodhya were washed with perfumed water and scattered with fragrant flowers. Brilliant colorful lights burned in every house and meeting place, turning night into day. The noisy crowds swelled like waves of the sea, and the numerous elephants, horses and camels appeared to be like large aquatic animals within that ocean.
At the time of Kaikeyi's marriage to Maharaja Dasaratha, her father, Asvapati, the King of Kekaya, had given her a hunchbacked maidservant named Manthara. However, Manthara was actually an Apsara, deputed by the demigods to appear on the earth to assist in the killing of Ravana.
The evening before Rama's planned installation, Manthara went onto the palace roof. From there she could see how the entire city of Ayodhya was splendidly decorated, the streets crowded with citizens in a jubilant mood. Surprised at seeing this, Manthara approached Rama's former nurse and inquired, "What great occasion warrants such a great celebration? Why do I see Kausalya in such a joyful mood and giving lavish charity to the brahmanas?"
The nurse happily replied, "Tomorrow, the constellation Pusya will be in the ascendant. Taking advantage of the auspicious time, Maharaja Dasaratha will install Rama as his heir-apparent to the royal throne."
This unexpected news deeply pierced the envious heart of Manthara. Suspecting foul play by the King, she suddenly became enraged, and thus sought Kaikeyi. Surprised at finding her mistress peacefully lounging on couch in her apartment, Manthara exclaimed, "Get up! Get up, you fool! Can't you see the disaster that is about to engulf you? Are you so deluded by your husband's sweet words that you do not realize what is happening before your eyes?"
Kaikeyi innocently replied that she could find no fault in her husband's plans. This, however, only served to further enrage Manthara. However, having mastered the art of seductive speech, Manthara then spoke to Kaikeyi in a way that eventually caused her to doubt her husband, feel dejection, and allow a feeling of estrangement from Rama to enter her heart.
Posing as her well-wisher, Manthara continued, "Surely you are aware of your husband's plans to install Rama as his successor to the throne. Can't you see how deceitfully your husband has acted? He has merely sent Bharata away so that he can secretly install his pet son, Rama, to the throne. Once Rama becomes emperor, your son will meet his ruin, and you will be plunged into an ocean of despair. Moreover, because I am dependent on you, your fortune is also mine. Please let me help you before it is too late. Please act quickly to save your own son, Bharata, and yourself."
At first Kaikeyi was surprised to hear her maidservant speaking so boldly. She replied, "I am happy to know that Rama will be installed on the throne. As a reward for delivering this wonderful news, please take this jewel. Indeed, you may ask for anything you desire."
Saying this, Kaikeyi placed a priceless jewel in Manthara's hand. However, with great disdain, the maidservant threw it aside. Then Manthara indignantly replied, "I am shocked to see that you can express joy on the eve of disaster. Passing over Bharata to choose Rama should be a great insult to you. You may imagine that you are Dasaratha's favorite. However, in truth, it is Kausalya whom he adores. Don't you feel humiliated? You imagine that you are happy, but it will be Kausalya who prospers. Once Rama becomes King you will be compelled to act as Kausalya's maidservant, and Bharata will be forced to become Rama's slave."
Thus, it came to pass that Kaikeyi's heart gradually became poisoned by Manthara's hateful words. Indeed, when her enviousness of Kausalya was fully aroused, her face became flushed with anger. Thus, Kaikeyi relented, saying, "Manthara, perhaps you are right. Somehow, Rama must be banished to the forest so that my own son can be installed on the throne. Please tell me how I might accomplish this."
Manthara then related how Dasaratha had formerly fought on the side of Indra against the demons, headed by Sambara (also known as Timidhvaja). Because Sambara knew so many illusory tricks, the demigods were afraid to fight with him. Once, after the demons had severely routed the demigods, Dasaratha led an attack on their capital city, Vaijayanta. Although he fought heroically, Dasaratha was critically wounded during the battle and fell unconscious. Kaikeyi then removed him from the battlefield and saved his life. Out of deep gratitude, Maharaja Dasaratha offered Kaikeyi two benedictions. However, she replied that she would ask for them when needed.
Manthara then said, "Now is the time to ask for these promised benedictions. Indeed, with one you will ask that Bharata be installed to the throne. With the other, demand that Rama be banished to the forest for fourteen years. Rama's absence will give Bharata the necessary opportunity to establish his popularity among the citizens. Then his position as rightful ruler will always remain secure."
After revealing the means whereby Bharata could be installed and Rama banished, Manthara further instructed Kaikeyi, saying, "Go to the sulking chamber and, after throwing off your costly ornaments and royal dress, put on old dirty clothes and lie on the cold floor. When Maharaja Dasaratha comes to see you, remain silent at first. However, do not worry. His attachment to you is so great, he will not be also to bear seeing you unhappy. He will do anything to pacify you. Regardless, keep your ambition firmly fixed in your mind. You will not settle for anything less than having your son installed on the throne. Do not allow him to pacify you will gold, jewels or anything else. Simply remind him of the two benedictions he promised. When he consents to this, then you shall demand that Bharata be installed immediately and Rama banished to the forest."
Because her fickle heart had come completely under the sway of malice and greed, Kaikeyi was soon delighted with Manthara's plan. She assured the maidservant that she would follow her advice to the letter. Indeed, suddenly, through her twisted association, Kaikeyi become obsessed with the idea of making Bharata the Emperor of the world. Like a mad-woman, she glorified Manthara, considering her to be the cause of all good fortune. Kaikeyi said, "My dear Manthara, although hunchbacks are generally sinful, you however, are wise and honorable. I think your so-called deformed body is quite beautiful. Indeed, you stoop over like a lotus flower bending in the breeze. Thus, your appearance is very charming. Moreover, your breasts are large and lovely, concealing your delicate navel as they bend low. Your hips are graceful and your thighs are smooth and shapely. Dressed in bright silk, you appear to shimmer, while the ankle bells that circle your soft feet tinkle melodiously. The entire science of diplomacy must be residing within your hump, which is as large as the hub of a chariot wheel. My dear Manthara, when Bharata is installed as heir-apparent, I shall garland your hump with a chain of pure gold. When Rama is exiled to the forest, I shall smear your hump with sandalwood paste. O Manthara, I will reward you with exquisite dresses and ornaments, and make all the other hunchback women become your maidservants and massage your feet."
Meanwhile, having completed all necessary arrangements for Rama's installation, Maharaja Dasaratha returned to his palace, desiring to see Kaikeyi. Filled with longing for his youngest queen, Dasaratha was surprised to find her absent when he entered her room. Thinking her to be nearby, the king called out her name. However, when there was no response he became apprehensive, for she had never before left her apartment without notice. Finally, after inquiring from a servant, Maharaja Dasaratha learned that Kaikeyi had entered the sulking chamber. Thus, with an anxious heart, he hastened there.
When the king entered the room, he was shocked to see Kaikeyi lying on the bare floor. Like an Apsara fallen from heaven, her ornaments and garlands were scattered about. In the King's mind, the beautiful young Kaikeyi was dearer than life itself. Thus, seeing her in such a state caused him great pain and alarm.
Falling to his knees, the King lovingly stroked her face, and asked his beloved Queen, "What is troubling you, my dear Kaikeyi? What is the cause of your despondency? Whatever it may be, please know I am prepared to remedy it. Have I not been paying enough attention to you? Did you have an argument with one of your co-wives? Has someone done something to anger you? My dearest one, please know I am under your control. I could never avoid trying to please you. Please, speak freely and tell me what troubles you. Let me dispel your sorrow as the rising sun evaporates the morning mist."
Pierced by Cupid's shaft of love, Maharaja Dasaratha was a slave to the urges of passion. Thus, upon hearing the King's words, Kaikeyi felt confident that her goal would be achieved.
After a brief silence, Kaikeyi replied, "No one has insulted me or shown me any disrespect. My lord, I will tell you what is on my mind. However, you must first assure me that you will unhesitatingly accomplish whatever I desire."
While resting her head upon his lap, Maharaja Dasaratha tenderly smoothed Kaikeyi's disheveled hair and replied, "You know that I love no one more, except Rama. I swear that I will execute whatever it is that you order. Feel free to tell me what you want and I will accomplish it without fail. Please know that I will always do whatever you want. Now, please tell me what is troubling you."
After hearing his triple assurance, Kaikeyi became fully confident that her husband was completely under her thumb. Urged on by an inflamed desire born of partiality toward her own son, the Queen proclaimed the following terrible words: "May the twelve Adityas, the eleven Rudras, the eight Vasus and the twin Asvinis bear witness! May the sun and moon, night and day, and the four directions also bear witness. May the Gandharvas, Raksasas, Pitras, Bhutas, Pisacas and all other living creatures bear witness now. My illustrious lord, the follower of dharma and adherent to truth, has promised to fulfill my desire.
"Remember, my dear husband, the battle between the demigods and the demons when you were critically wounded and left for dead. Remember how I nursed you back to life. Because of this you gratefully promised to award me two benedictions. O noble King, you must grant me these two boons today without fail. Otherwise, I shall give up my life from grief. Therefore, my request is this: let Bharata be installed as the heir-apparent to the royal throne, utilizing the very preparations you have made for Rama. This is the first benediction I desire. The second, I desire for Rama to depart for the Dandakaranya forest this very day, to live in exile for the next fourteen years, wearing only tree bark and deerskin."
Hearing Kaikeyi's ultimatum, Maharaja Dasaratha became stunned with bewilderment. Burning with distress, he wondered, "What is happening to me? Am I dreaming a vivid mental picture from a previous life? Perhaps I have gone completely mad."
Thinking in this way, the King immediately became overwhelmed with grief. Thus, he lost consciousness and fainted onto the floor. Then, when he had recovered after a brief spell, the agonized Dasaratha found the situation too painful to cope with, and again, fell into a swoon.
It was only after a long time that he finally regained full consciousness. Summoning his courage, he felt a burning rage swelling within his heart. With great agitation, Maharaja Dasaratha rebuked Kaikeyi, "You vicious woman! Are you so perverse that you are determined to destroy my entire dynasty? What have I done to deserve this? What offense has Rama ever committed against you? Rama loves you as much as His own mother. Why are you so bent upon harming Him? Everyone loves Rama more than life itself, and I also could not live without Him. I could abandon my other two wives if need be, but I could never forsake Rama!"
His rage being vented, Maharaja Dasaratha's mood suddenly changed. The King then humbly touched his head to Kaikeyi's feet and pleaded, "My dear beautiful Queen, please give up your terrible determination. Rama is the embodiment of all virtues; He is kind, forgiving, truthful gentle, fixed in His duty, and the well wisher of everyone. Rama has always served you as lovingly as your own son, Bharata, if not more. If you insist, I will install Bharata as the heir-apparent to the throne, but I could never think of banishing Rama to the forest. How can you dare even consider harming Rama? Indeed, He is completely faultless, and has never uttered an unkind word to you.
"My dear beloved one, have pity on me. Ask for any other benediction. I am ready to give you the entire earth, but not this. If I banish Rama, it will surely be the death of me. Please spare me from executing this most cruel and irreligious act."
As Maharaja Dasaratha spoke, he writhed in agony, wailing piteously. Although the King prayed for her mercy, Kaikeyi remained unmoved. Standing fast in her determination, she responded, "How can you dare speak about dharma while you are trying to rescind your promise of granting me these benedictions? You solemnly promised and I shall not forget! Remember King Sibi who gave his own flesh to the hawk, just to fulfill his promise of protection to the pigeon. If you fail to keep your word, it will stain the reputation of your entire dynasty. Therefore, whatever the circumstance, you must fulfill your promise."
Thus, as she spoke, Kaikeyi's determination increased. Overwhelmed by anger and greed, and giving up all sense of shame and decency, Kaikeyi then said, "O King, I know your true motive! Once Rama is installed as heir-apparent it will be easier for you to push me and my son away. With this impediment removed you will be free to enjoy your life fully with Kausalya. However, I vow that if you do not keep your promise, I shall drink poison and die this very day!"
Saying this, Kaikeyi remained silent as Maharaja Dasaratha agonized over her words. Staring into space with unblinking eyes, the King again lost all equilibrium and fell to the ground, uttering, "Rama, Rama."
After some time the King regained partial composure and asked his wife, "O misguided woman, from whom did you learn such shameful wickedness? Do you not know that even if Bharata were to be installed, he would not accept the kingdom without Rama? What will people think of me for performing such an ignoble act? Everyone will ridicule me, saying, `There goes the lusty King who was so attached to his wife that he sent his dearly beloved son into exile.' How then, do you think there will be happiness under such conditions?"
Pausing in his speech, Maharaja Dasaratha began contemplating how Rama, Who had always enjoyed the comforts of royal opulence, would be able to live a harsh life in the forest. As his pain and anger increased with these thoughts, the King suddenly mocked, "O righteous Queen, I wish you all success in ruling the kingdom after having rid yourself of all your relatives! Do not expect me to play a part in your sinister plans. I shall never grant your demands! Never!"
Regardless, his bluster soon faded, as helplessness welled up within the King. He again implored his Queen to retract her statements, saying, "Please take back all you have said!" Saying this, he once more fainted away.
After Dasaratha regained consciousness, he again rebuked Kaikeyi, "O how condemned women are. They are cruel, perverse and selfish by nature. If not all women, then surely you, O mother of Bharata. Your demands are evil and malicious. Thus, I will never grant them. You can scream as you like, take poison or threaten me, but I shall never banish Rama to the forest!"
Dasaratha's eyes were red from weeping and his voice pitiful to hear, yet Kaikeyi callously turned her head away. Again and again he begged her, but to no avail. The King prayed that the night would never pass so that he would not have to face the ordeal of banishing Rama to the forest the following day. However, King Dasaratha finally realized that Kaikeyi was unwavering in her determination. At that thought, he again fainted from hopelessness.
While King Dasaratha was arguing with Kaikeyi, Vasistha Muni completed the preparations for the coronation ceremony. The moon, lord of the stars, had entered the lunar mansion of Pusya, and the sacred hour of installation had arrived.
As Vasistha Muni made his way through the streets to the King's palace, he saw that flags, festoons, and garlands decorated all the houses. Likewise, the streets, which had been sprinkled with scented water, were filled with throngs of people anxiously awaiting Lord Rama's appearance.
Passing through the joyous crowds, Vasistha Muni, followed by other great sages, entered the palace grounds, beautifully decorated with gardens and reservoirs of water, replete with lotus flowers, swans, and shade-giving champak trees.
As Vasistha Muni was about to enter the palace he saw Sumantra, King Dasaratha's chief minister, who had also just returned. "Please tell his majesty that I have returned," Vasistha told him. "I have brought golden water pots filled with water from the sacred rivers, and a special seat of udambara wood has been made for Rama's use during the sacrifice. I have also brought various seeds, aromatic perfumes, and precious jewels for the coronation. I have collected honey, curd, roots, ghee, milk, spices, flowers, parched paddy grains, and blades of darbha grass, all to be used in the sacrifice.
"I have also brought eight virgin girls and many excellent elephants, a splendid chariot drawn by four horses, a special sword, a bow, a palanquin with bearers, an umbrella resembling the moon, a pait of camara fans, a sacred bull, and a throne decorated with carved lions. Everything necessary for the sacrifice has been collected. Therefore, please ask the king to bring Rama so that the ceremony may begin as soon as the moon has fully entered the constellation Pusya."
Entering the king's chambers, Sumantra soon reached the room where Dasaratha and Kaikeyi were sitting. Not knowing what had taken place between the King and his wife, Sumantra was still joyful. He was therefore quite surprised when the king, whose happiness had forever terminated, cried out, "O Sumantra, you are cutting my heart to pieces." Then King Dasaratha fell unconscious to the floor.
"The King has not slept all night because of his joy over Rama's installation," Kaikeyi said. Then the King regained consciousness and ordered Sumantra to summon Rama to his palace. Going to Rama's palace, he was quickly ushered into the presence of Sita and Rama. There, he saw that the Lord was garlanded with white lotus flowers, with golden necklaces covering His transcendental body. Being attended by servants who were fanning Him with camaras and offering Him various gifts with great devotion, Rama appeared just like the Supreme Lord Vishnu, Who, in fact, He was.
Hearing the King's summons, Rama remarked to Sita, "My father must be calling Me for some auspicious purpose concerning the installation ceremony."
As Rama departed, Laksmana was standing at the gate, waiting for Rama with folded hands. Rama took His brother with Him and then mounted His waiting chariot, traveling through the streets of Ayodhya.
Along the way, the citizens festively cheered, praising Rama to the accompaniment of musicians. Wherever He went people could not take their eyes away from Him. Indeed, the natural characteristic of Lord Rama is that whoever looks upon Him, cannot bear to look away.
Reaching the inner gates of His father's palace, Rama descended from His chariot and dismissed the citizens that had accompanied Him. As He His father's room alone, Rama saw Maharaja Dasaratha seated on a couch with Kaikeyi. However, Rama noted that the King's face was a withered mask of dejection and anxiety.
As Rama approached, the King could only mutter, "Rama, Rama," as his eyes filled with tears, unable to look directly at his son. Seeing His father's distressed state, Rama's heart became filled with grief and apprehension. He wondered, "What has happened to make My father so dispirited? Why is he not happy to see Me?"
Rama then inquired from Kaikeyi, "What is the cause of My father's distress? Have I done something to offend him?"
"The King," Kaikeyi began, "is neither angry or offended. He does, however, have something to tell You. He fears that by doing so, he will hurt You. Therefore, let me explain. Formerly, Your father offered me two benedictions after I saved him in a precarious situation on the battlefield. However, due to unmanly weakness, he now hesitates to fulfill his promise. Therefore, Rama, You should protect Your father's virtue by convincing him not to fall prey to falsity. O Rama, if You promise me that You are fully prepared to carry out the King's order, then I shall disclose to You the nature of the two benedictions I desire."
Feeling deeply hurt, Rama replied, "My dear mother, I am quite surprised that there is any doubt in your mind that I would unflinchingly carry out My father's wishes, even if it meant entering into fire. Please speak freely about what My father wants. Do not doubt that I will act accordingly. That is My solemn promise."
Gaining Rama's assurance, the cruel Kaikeyi then said, "Formerly, when Your father was severely wounded in fighting the demon Sambara, at the behest of the demigods, I carefully nursed him back to life. Feeling a deep sense of gratitude, the King begged me to accept two benedictions. I said that I would accept them later in a time of need. Now I wish to utilize those boons. First, I have requested Your father to install Bharata as the heir-apparent to the throne. Secondly, I have asked the King to banish You to the forest for fourteen years, where You will live as an ascetic, with matted hair and dress with tree bark and deerskin. It is Your duty to insure that Your father does not go back on his word and thus tread the path of unrighteousness."
Hearing her words. Rama did not become even slightly distressed or agitated. Without displaying even the slightest indication of displeasure, He cheerfully replied, "My dear mother, I shall immediately retire to the forest as you desire. Let messengers be sent at once to summon Bharata. I have no regrets. My only wish is that you and My father may always look upon Me favorably. My dear mother, please do not harbor any ill feeling toward Me."
At this, Kaikeyi exclaimed with delight, "It is settled! Send messengers to my brother's house so that my son may come here at once. As for You, Rama, I urge You to depart for the forest without delay. Do not worry about Your father. For the moment he is bewildered, but after Your departure, he will come around."
Rama then said, "My dear mother, it grieves Me that My father has not ordered Me himself, but I am ready to depart for the forest with your command alone."
Hearing this conversation, Maharaja Dasaratha could only mutter, "How painful! How terrible!"
When Kaikeyi finished speaking, the King again fainted onto the floor. Then, as Rama gently lifted up His father, He told Kaikeyi, "I do not want to live in this world as a slave to greed and passion. Like the rsis, I am devoted to righteousness. I would never give up the path of virtue for the sake of ruling a mere kingdom. Dear mother, there was no need in bothering My father, for if you would simply have asked Me directly, I would have unhesitatingly given you the kingdom and retired to the forest."
Saying this, Rama bowed to King Dasaratha and Kaikeyi and departed to tell His mother. Laksmana, who had already heard everything at the door, followed his elder brother. It was only with great effort that he managed to control his rage.
As the two brothers left the palace, a pitiful wailing was heard from all who had heard of Rama's impending exile. When Maharaja Dasaratha heard those cries of lamentation, he hid himself under his bedsheets in shame.
When Rama entered Kausalya's apartment, He was joyfully greeted and ushered into His mother's room. Arriving there, she immediately embraced Him, saying, "I am so happy, Rama. Today You will be installed as successor to the throne."
With great gentleness and humility, Rama replied, "My dear mother, please do not allow yourself to be overcome by grief at what I must tell you. Because of two benedictions that My father formerly promised Kaikeyi, Bharata will be installed as the heir-apparent to the throne, and this very day I shall leave Ayodhya, to dwell in the forest for fourteen years."
Hearing this, Kausalya immediately fainted to the floor. Then, after Rama tenderly lifted Kausalya to her feet, she bitterly lamented, "What greater misery could befall me than this? It would be better for me to have remained childless. Why has death not come to me instantly upon hearing of this calamity? My younger co-wives will surely despise me now. By hearing their taunts my life will be made doubly miserable."
Until then, Laksmana had controlled his rage. However, no longer able to remain silent, he suddenly vented his anger. "O Rama, our father has become senile and perverse, being overpowered by lust. He has become a mere plaything in the hands of the wicked Kaikeyi. Why should we passively stand by and accept this? A father, a king or a spiritual master who cannot distinguish between what should and should not be done, must be rejected. Rama, You should take over the government immediately-before everyone hears of the King's decision to install Bharata. Besides, even if all the ministers and citizens have found out, if they are against Your installation, I am prepared annihilate the whole of Ayodhya if necessary. My dear mother, you should know that I, at least, am loyal to Rama alone. Indeed, I am ready to kill the foolish Dasaratha if it is necessary to install Rama upon the throne."
Kausalya, however, did not care for the kingdom. She only feared separation from her beloved son. Thus she said, "O Rama, please do not go into exile. It will be more virtuous for You to stay here and please Your poor mother than going to the forest at the command of Your father. Rama, if You leave Ayodhya, then I shall fast to death, for life will become unbearable for me."
Rama replied, "Mother, it is not possible for Me to disobey My father. Therefore, you must give Me your permission so I may depart for the forest at once. The order of one's father can never be avoided. Just consider how Parasurama beheaded his own mother, Renuka, on the order of his father, Jamadagni.25 Likewise, the sage Kandu killed a cow at his father's command. Therefore, I too, must obey my father."
Turning to Laksmana, Rama said, "My dear brother, do not allow yourself to come under the sway of all-devouring wrath. Give up the idea of seizing the throne by force and accept the order of our father."
Rama again addressed Kausalya, "My dear mother, please do not torture yourself or talk of ending your life. After the term of My exile is over, I shall return to you. Therefore, please give Me your blessing so I may depart without unnecessary remorse."
Kausalya, however, could only cry in desperation. This caused Rama to become stern and say to Laksmana, "You are both causing Me more grief by opposing My desire to honor My father's command. I will not be swayed from My duty."
Then to pacify Laksmana, Rama said, "My dear brother, the sooner Bharata is installed, all of this will be forgotten. Then you will be able to easily give up your grief. Do not blame Kaikeyi, for she is only an instrument in the hands of Providence, the real shaper of our destinies."
Laksmana, however, refused to be easily pacified. He angrily retorted, "O Rama, it appears that You have become impotent, for You have given up Your ksatriya reliance on personal prowess, instead, surrendering to destiny. I am not such an eunuch, however, and shall subdue fate by my own power. Then, I will install You on the royal throne this very day."
Hearing this, Kausalya could understand that nothing could be done to deter Rama. She then pleaded, "O my son, if You are determined to execute Your father's command, then please allow me to accompany You to the forest."
Rama replied, "Dear mother, after being deceived by Kaikeyi and then deserted by you, My father would certainly give up his life. The foremost duty of a chaste and virtuous wife is to never leave her husband under any circumstance. He is her lord for as long as she lives. Regardless of how noble or religious a woman may be, if she fails to serve her husband, she commits sin. A wife's duty is to please and obey her husband, and no one else. This is the verdict of sruti; the revealed and remembered scriptures. Please, then, remain with My father and wait for Me, for I shall return after fourteen years without fail."
Hearing this, Kausalya gave up all hope of accompanying Rama, and finally agreed to give Him her blessings. After giving Rama permission to depart for the forest, Kausalya induced the brahmanas to perform sacrifices for her son's well being. Kausalya declared, "May You soon return so that my happiness will be restored. May righteousness be Your protector. May the demigods protect You, and may the celestial weapons defend You. May heaven and earth, the air, the wind, the land and water, all animate and inanimate beings protect You. May daytime and night, the sun and moon protect You. May You be happy, O Rama, for my blessing shall go with You!"
Sita, however, knew nothing of Rama's exile. She had been waiting for Him in happy expectation for many hours. When Rama finally entered her room, Sita could immediately see that He was pale, perspiring and greatly troubled. Likewise, Rama was not accompanied by His usual royal entourage. Sita then inquired, "My dear Rama, what is the matter?"
Without hesitation, Rama replied, "My father has ordered Me to leave the kingdom and go reside in the forest. Bharata is to be installed as the heir-apparent to the royal throne. Utilizing two benedictions given her long ago by My father, Kaikeyi has asked that her son be installed while I be banished to the forest.
"My dear Sita, I have no other choice than to abide by My father's order. However, I want you to stay here. Go daily and offer your respects at the feet of My father and follow Bharata's commands implicitly. My dearest, I have come here just to see you before departing for the forest."
Hearing Rama's words, Sita grew increasingly agitated. With an anger born of love, she replied, "O Rama, my husband, most excellent of men, what advice are You now giving me? It is the duty of the wife to share the husband's destiny. I must accompany You to the forest.
"A father, mother, brother, son and daughter-in-law all have their separate existence. A wife, however, has no choice but to follow her husband. I cannot find refuge in anyone else, not even myself. My husband is my only refuge. Therefore, I am determined to follow You. I shall walk behind You and eat only after You have eaten. I will never do anything to displease You, and I shall remain happy to gaze at the hills, lakes and rivers. I will never become tired, for I will feel secure in Your care. I would not want to live in heaven if You were not there. O Rama, it is You alone that I love. Without You, I would surely die."
Because of her frailty, Rama was not inclined to take Sita with Him. Thus, in an attempt to discourage her, Rama said, "O delicate lady, one has to endure great discomfort while living in the forest. There are no soft beds to lie upon, and one has to bear the onslaught of excessive heat, cold and torrential rain. In the forest, one can only hope to eat fruits and roots. There is always danger from ferocious animals that stalk in search of prey. Considering these conditions, I could never allow you to accompany Me to the forest."26
Rama's words of refusal made Sita tremble with fear at the prospect of separation from her Lord. As pearl-like tears rolled down her cheeks like drops of water falling from a lotus leaf, Sita replied, "As long as I remain with You, any inconvenience or danger will be of no consequence. O Rama, without her husband, a wife cannot live. If You do not allow me to go with You, I shall give up my life by taking poison, entering fire, or drowning myself.
"Before my marriage, an astrologer predicted that I would have to spend part of my life in the forest. Therefore, my dear husband, I know that it is my destiny to accompany You. To be with You is heaven and to live without You is hell. Therefore, You must take me with You."
Rama, however, remained reluctant to allow Sita to accompany Him into forced exile. This caused Sita to feel as though she were falling into a great abyss of calamity. Thus, she became almost mad, fearing separation from her husband. Unable to tolerate Rama's stubbornness any longer, Sita began to chastise Him, "My father made a big mistake in choosing You for a son-in-law! How can You think of deserting Your wife who married You before puberty? Are You going to leave her unprotected and exposed to the stares of others? The citizens of Ayodhya are fools for declaring, `Rama is as splendrous as the sun-His glories are without equal.' I refuse to remain here alone while You go off to the forest. Either You take me with You, or I will take poison and die!"
Crying bitterly, her heart tormented with grief, Sita teetered on the verge of fainting. Seeing her pitiful condition was more than Rama could bear. Thus, His heart softened, and He took his darling Sita in His arms. Rama then assured her that she could indeed accompany Him.
"Darling Sita," Rama began, "I only tried to dissuade you because I did not understand the true situation of your mind. O Sita, I could no more abandon you than a wise man could give up his sense of compassion. How could I ever rest peacefully, knowing that you were unhappy? Go then, and give away in charity all your valuables, clothes, jewels and whatever you possess to the brahmanas."
As Sita joyfully departed, Laksmana, who was standing nearby, came forward and caught hold of Rama's lotus feet. With tear filled eyes, Laksmana pleaded, "O Rama, please allow me to also accompany You into the forest."
Hoping to discourage Laksmana, Rama replied, "My dear brother, you must remain here at Ayodhya to serve our two mother's, Kausalya and Sumitra. Otherwise, without your protection, they will surely be mistreated by Kaikeyi."
To this, Laksmana replied, "Surely our brother Bharata will take care of everything. There is no need to be anxious for them. O Rama, as You traverse the forest, I shall walk in front with my bow in hand, allowing You and Sita to enjoy the scenic delights. I will also gather fruits and roots as You sleep, and stand nearby to guard You."
At last, Rama happily agreed. He then instructed Laksmana, "You may certainly come, but first take leave of your mother. Afterward, bring the two mighty bows given by Varuna to Maharaja Janaka, the impenetrable armor, two inexhaustible quivers, and a pair of powerful swords. After paying your respects to Vasistha, return here with the weapons and we shall depart."
Upon fulfilling Rama's orders, Laksmana returned. Rama then asked him to summon the foremost of brahmanas so He could distribute all His possessions in charity. Soon thereafter, Suyajna, the son of Vasistha, the sons of Agastya and Visvamitra arrived at the royal palace.
After duly welcoming them, Rama instructed His dependents to look after their palaces in their absence. Rama then ordered His treasurer to bring forth all His wealth. Thereafter, a huge hill of gold and jewels was stacked high, along with other valuables, such as clothing, chariots and animals. In this way, Rama began to distribute His possessions in charity.
It happened that a bramana named Trijata resided in the forest near Ayodhya. Because of his extreme poverty, the bramana was very weak and frail. Thus, his wife pleaded with him to go to Ayodhya to ask some charity from Rama. Thereafter, the bramana set out, and happened to arrive just when Rama was distributing His entire wealth. When the bramana approached Him and described his impoverished condition, Rama jokingly replied, "Take your staff and throw it as far as you can. As many cows as that stick passes over, I shall give you."
Trijata tightened his belt and then excitedly threw his staff into the air. Much to everyone's surprise, his staff soared all the way across the Sarayu and landed amongst a herd of thousands of cows that were grazing from the river's edge up to the point where his stick had landed. Rama then embraced the bramana, saying, "Please do not be offended by My jest. I merely wished to see your exhibition of brahminical prowess."
After that, Rama gave away everything in His possession. He made sure that no bramana, relative, dependent or beggar failed to receive charity on that day.
Rama, Sita and Laksmana then proceeded on foot through the streets of Ayodhya toward the palace of Maharaja Dasaratha. The citizens observing Rama traveling about in this fashion, some from their seven story mansions, and others in crowds on the street, all became greatly pained. Indeed, the citizens exclaimed, "O How unfortunate that even common people are now able to see Sita, who formerly never appeared in public. We shall take our families to accompany Rama so that Ayodhya will become like an uninhabited forest, and the forest will become like a populous city."
As Rama entered Kaikeyi's quarters He saw Sumantra, and asked the charioteer to announce His presence to the King. Upon hearing of Rama's arrival, Maharaja Dasaratha ordered Sumantra to assemble his consorts so he could meet with his son in their presence. Shortly thereafter, 350 young maidservants came and surrounded Kausalya. Then, when Rama, accompanied by Sita and Laksmana, entered His father's room, King Dasaratha ran to embrace Him. Overwhelmed by grief, the King fell unconscious before reaching his beloved son. At that, Rama rushed forward, picking up His father in His arms, while all around were heard cries of anguish.
After being brought to his couch, Dasaratha regained consciousness. Rama then said, "My dear father, I have come to bid you farewell. Please give Me permission to depart for the forest with Sita and Laksmana."
Maharaja Dasaratha then urged, "Rama, please accept my advice. Take me captive at once and then occupy the royal throne by force. No one can stop You."
Rama replied, "Dear father, I have no desire to achieve sovereignty over the earth or royal opulences."
Maharaja Dasaratha then said, "You may leave with my blessings, but please stay here for just one day so I may have the opportunity to see You."
However, Rama replied, "I must leave immediately. It is my duty to fulfill your promise and do as Kaikeyi has ordered Me. I must leave for the forest at once."
Maharaja Dasaratha then embraced Rama, and afterward he again fell unconscious. Sumantra, who was weeping profusely, also fell to the floor. Everyone, except Kaikeyi, cried aloud with grief.
Sumantra had been the most intimate associate of the royal family. Thus, he, more than all others, suffered because of the calamity before them. Suddenly, Sumantra approached Kaikeyi and began chastising her harshly, saying, "O wicked woman! By sending away Rama you will become the murderer of your own husband. Your selfish demands violate the religious principle that a kingdom be handed over to the eldest son. Indeed, you shall reap the bitter fruits of your evil deeds, for when Rama goes away, all the brahmanas will follow Him. Thus, your kingdom will become devoid of all auspiciousness. I will tell you something for your benefit:
"Once upon a time, your father, Kekaya, received a benediction from a rsi that enabled him to understand all languages-even those of the animals. However, in giving the boon, the rsi made one condition-if Kekaya ever disclosed the meaning of any speech that he heard from an animal-as a consequence, he would die.
"Later, the King once happened to hear the shrill cry of a bird. Because he understood its meaning, he began to laugh heartily. However, the queen, your mother, imagined that the King was laughing at her. Therefore, she demanded to know what he found to be so amusing. The King then informed his queen of the rsi's benediction, warning her that he would die if he disclosed what the bird had said. The foolish queen was so stubborn and jealous, however, that she replied, `you can live or die, I do not care. I only insist that you tell me why you are laughing.'
"The mortified King then went to the rsi who had given him the benediction, explaining his predicament. The rsi advised that he not disclose the bird's speech, and that he should rebuke the queen for her impudence. Taking the rsi's words seriously, Maharaja Kekaya gathered his courage, and chastised his wife severely. After which, he lived happily ever after.
"In the same way, Kaikeyi, you are acting impudently toward your husband. Admit your fault and give up your wicked plan."
Kaikeyi, however, remained unmoved. Thus, considering Rama's exile to be inevitable, Maharaja Dasaratha ordered Sumantra, "Make ready one aksauhini of soldiers and organize many merchants, hunters and the royal treasurer so that they may accompany Rama into exile. Though He may reside in the forest, my beloved son does not have to go without the objects of comfort and enjoyment."27
Hearing this, Kaikeyi was seized with fear, "Bharata will not accept the kingdom if you strip it of all its resources before his installation."
Growing progressively weaker, Dasaratha said, "If you will not let Rama go to the forest in comfort, then I shall take all the citizens with me myself and accompany Him."
Hearing this, Kaikeyi snapped, "In our dynasty there is the example of how King Sagara exiled his eldest son, Asamanjasa. Therefore, you should cast off Rama in the same way, without any comforts."
Hearing this, the elder minister Siddhartha retorted, "Asamanjasa used to take delight in drowning the other children in the River Sarayu. When the citizens complained of this to King Sagara, he rejected his cruel son. How is this comparison valid? Where is the fault of Rama?"
At that Rama replied, "My dear father, please do not be upset. I have no use for the royal comforts you desire for Me. Let Kaikeyi's maidservants bring Me tree bark at once so that I can wear suitable clothing for My forest life."
Hearing His request, the shameless Kaikeyi personally went and brought clothes made from tree bark and asked Rama to put it on. Without hesitation Rama and Laksmana obediently took off Their royal garments, putting on the clothes presented by Kaikeyi.
Sita, however, felt very unhappy when she accepted her dress made from kusa grass and tree bark, causing her eyes to fill with tears. Trying to put the dress on, it kept slipping, for she was not at all accustomed to such clothing. Rama then took the dress of tree bark and draped it over Sita's silk sari. This was unbearable to Vasistha. With tears in his eyes he restrained Rama and chastised Kaikeyi with strong words, "You wretched woman. Don't you see that everyone is prepared to follow Rama? Indeed, you will find that even Bharata and Satrughna will follow Him, leaving you alone to rule an empty kingdom. At least allow Sita to go into the forest with a comfortable dress and be carried on some conveyance."
Sita, however, was determined to follow her husband's example, and kept the forest clothes on. Seeing Sita dressed in this way, the palace residents began to condemn Dasaratha with strong words. Hearing their talk, the King lost all interest in continuing his life.
Nearly one hour passed as Maharaja Dasaratha remained delirious, incoherently mumbling words of reproachment to himself. Later, when the King became a little more composed, he ordered Sumantra to bring a chariot to carry Rama to the forest.
At this time Kausalya embraced Sita and gave her the following womanly advice: "It is well known that during times of misfortune, women will desert even righteous and loving husbands. Such wicked women forget all past favors and nothing can bind them. Because of ingratitude, such selfish women cannot be controlled by wisdom, gifts or even marriage. However, there are also women who are gentle, truthful, and obedient by nature. Thus, they honor their husbands above all. O Sita, please do not despise my son on account of His exile. Let Him always remain your worshipable Lord in all circumstances."
Sita accepted the words with folded hands and replied, "I know well my duty toward my husband. Please do not speak to me about faithless women. My attachment to Rama is like that of the moonlight to the moon. There is no vina without strings, or a chariot without wheels. Similarly, there is no future for a wife without a husband, even though she may possess 1,000 sons. Rama is my Lord and He shall always be so. How could I despise Him?"
Kausalya began weeping, thinking of the impending separation from her son. Trying to comfort her, Rama assured her that the time would pass quickly. Then he took leave of His 350 step-mothers, as they wept loudly. Rama then went and clasped the feet of His father.
Circumnabulating the King with Sita and Laksmana, Rama bowed low before His mother and father. Then, without further delay, Rama, Sita and Laksmana mounted the chariot and departed for the forest.
Maharaja Dasaratha kept his gaze fixed upon the dust raised by the chariot as it gradually disappeared over the horizon. Finally, after losing all sight of Rama's departing chariot, the King fainted and fell to the ground. When Kausalya and Kaikeyi ran to lift him up, Maharaja forbade the younger queen, saying, "Do not touch me. I have disowned you. I no longer want to see you."
Kausalya lifted her husband, and while bringing him back, saw that all the stores and shops were closed, with a gloom pervading the citizens. After entering his palace, the King asked to be taken to Kausalya's apartment. "From now on," the King declared in a faltering voice "I will stay here only."
Maharaja Dasaratha passed the night with great difficulty, likening losing Rama to the dissolution of the universe. Seeing the King and Kausalya in such a miserable state, Sumitra tried pacifying them "Please do not lament for your son, for Sita and Laksmana are with Him. Rama will not experience the least difficulty. Indeed, Rama is not an ordinary human being, but is the God of gods Himself, the illuminator of the sun and controller of eternal time. While Rama resides in the forest, the Earth herself and all natural phenomena will engage in His devotional service. Have faith that you will one day see the return of your beloved son. Therefore, your lamenting serves no purpose. Already the citizens of Ayodhya have practically stopped all activity out of grief. You must pacify the subjects and not let yourselves fall prey to anguish."
Meanwhile, some of the citizens had followed Rama's chariot to the forest, begging Him to turn back. Rama told them, "I cannot break My vow. I desire that you repose in Bharata the same love you have for Me."
As they traveled, Rama saw how some of the elderly brahmanas were having difficulty keeping up with His chariot. Hearing their anxious pleas, Rama felt great compassion and descended from the chariot. Then, along with Sita and Laksmana, He proceeded on foot, allowing the brahmanas to catch up with Him. Still, Rama would not turn His face backward, for He was determined to keep His vow perfectly. Thus, as the brahmanas constantly beseeched Rama to turn back, they reached the banks of the River Tamasa.
As the sun slipped over the horizon, Sumantra and Laksmana selected a site to rest for the evening. Then, after smoothing the ground, they made a bed of leaves for Rama. When He lay down with Sita, Rama quickly fell asleep. Nearby, Laksmana stayed awake all night, discussing the glories of his elder brother with Sumantra.
Early the next morning when Rama awoke, He saw that some citizens of Ayodhya were sleeping nearby. "Just see how much the citizens love us, Laksmana," Rama said. "They will not give up their determination to follow Me, trying to bring Me back to Ayodhya. They have completely forgotten their homes and families. They should not be burdened by Kaikeyi's curse, as we are. Let us go before they awake."
Devising a plan, He told Laksmana, "Let Sumantra drive the chariot in such a way that the citizens will become confused and unable to follow us any further."
After crossing the River Tamasa, Rama instructed Sumantra drive the chariot on a clearly visible path, while taking evasive measures that would mislead the citizens, and then return. Sumantra then drove off, and when he returned some time later, Rama, Laksmana and Sita mounted the chariot and proceeded quickly down another path into the forest.
When the citizen awoke, they looked in all directions for their beloved Lord. Searching desperately here and there, they found the tracks of the chariot wheels, but after some distance, the tracks suddenly stopped. Unable to determine which way to go, the people gazed into the distance and wept.
With Rama gone, the people reproached themselves, saying, "How can we return to Ayodhya without Rama? What will the women and children say when we fail to bring Him back? What is the use of living here without the beautiful moonlike face of Rama?" they asked. "What is the use of a husband or children or even life itself? What good are household pleasures without the daughter of King Janaka and the lotus-eyed Rama?"
With no alternative, the citizens returned to Ayodhya, feeling extremely depressed. When the household women saw that the men had returned without Rama, they reproached them with cruel, harsh words. Many simply sat down and wept. Shocked, some of them were incapable of speaking or hearing.
Everyone in Ayodhya then began condemning Kaikeyi, swearing they would never live under her rule. Thus, life in Ayodhya came almost to a standstill, the city appearing like a great ocean whose water had dried up. The brahmanas neglected their duties and mercantile people gave up conducting business. Householders no longer took the time to prepare meals, and the domestic animals let the grass drop out of their mouths, as though stunned. The cows would not give milk to their calves and mothers no longer felt happiness in greeting their sons. Even the stars in the sky assumed a stern aspect.
Feeling tormented with grief, no one in Ayodhya could eat or engage themselves in entertainment. Indeed, everyone appeared to be almost lifeless, being fully absorbed in feelings of separation from Rama.
As Rama proceeded through various territories, villages and forests, He heard the people condemning Dasaratha and Kaikeyi for exiling Him. Finally, after crossing the Vedasruti and Gomati rivers, Rama arrived at the River Syandika, which marked the southern boundary of the Kosala province.
Rama stepped down from the chariot, and with folded hands, faced Ayodhya to take leave of His birth place. Many local inhabitants had followed Rama, and when He asked them to return home, they cried loudly, unable to depart. Thus, Rama drove swiftly away, hoping to minimize their anguish.
When they reached the Ganga, Rama asked Sumantra to stop the chariot under a large inguda tree growing there. The king of this territory was named Guha, a Nisada by birth and a close friend of Rama's. When Guha heard of Rama's arrival, he jubilantly came to meet Him along with his ministers and relatives.
Although born in a Nisada family, and belonging to a lower caste, King Guha possessed all the qualities of a great devotee. He was peaceful, self controlled, humble, tolerant, and charitable. In truth, he was superior to a brahmana because he was a fully surrendered devotee of the Lord. It is a great mistake to think that a man's caste is determined by his birth. That is not the Vedic conclusion. Rather, caste is determined by quality.
Seeing Guha approach, Rama and Laksmana came forward to greet him, and the Nisada King embraced Rama with great affection. Feeling distressed at seeing the two brothers dressed in forest clothing, Guha said, "My dear Rama, my kingdom, Shringaverapura, is as much Yours as mine. Therefore, please make use of everything as if You were in Ayodhya. I am honored to have You as my guest."
In expectation of Rama, Guha brought sumptuous food, comfortable beds, and articles of worship to treat Rama to a royal reception. Rama was pleased to see this, and embraced Guha, saying, "At heart I accept all that you have offered Me. However, since I have taken a vow to wear only kusa grass, tree bark and deer skin, and eat only fruits and roots, I cannot actually utilize these gifts. Therefore, please take away what you have brought, except for the food, which I can use to feed My horses, for they are the favorite steeds of Maharaja Dasaratha."
At that Guha gave the sumptuous feast to the horses while Rama only took a little water, for He was fasting that day in honor of the Ganga. That night Sita and Rama slept beneath the inguda tree while Laksmana and Guha guarded them. Although Guha requested Laksmana to also take rest, he refused to do so as long as Rama and Sita were sleeping.
The next morning Rama decided to cross the Ganga. Hearing His decision, Guha ordered his men to bring forth a beautiful boat to carry them across. When the boat arrived, Rama told Sumantra, "Please return now to Ayodhya and engage in the service of Maharaja Dasaratha. Try to remain composed in mind so that you will be in a position to pacify the others. You have been of great help to us, but from now on we shall proceed by walking."
Sumantra pleaded with Rama for permission to accompany Him to the forest. Rama, however, insistently replied, "Please go and attend to My poor father. Do not be aggrieved, for we shall certainly return in fourteen years. Assure My parents of My well being, and urge the King to install Bharata without delay. Please also request Bharata on My behalf to treat all of his mothers equally."
Unable to bear the thought of leaving Rama, Sumantra argued, "When I return to Ayodhya alone on this chariot, the people will become hundreds of times more unhappy. O Rama, please allow me to accompany You. If You leave me aside, my life will become unbearable. I surely will enter fire or drown myself."
Rama then replied, "I am sending you back to Ayodhya so that Kaikeyi will be convinced that I have entered the forest. If you do not return with this chariot, then some fear will always remain in her mind that I might come back at any moment."
Turning to Guha, Rama said, "I do not want to live in a forest surrounded by friends and servants. I shall go to an uninhabited place and live like a rsi. Therefore, please bring Me the milk-like extract of a banyan tree so that I can mat My hair."
When Guha brought the substance, Rama and Laksmana used it to make their hair matted, making their appearance resemble forest dwelling ascetics. Then, while bidding farewell to Guha, Sita, Rama and Laksmana boarded the boat and departed.
When the boat reached mid-stream, Sita offered prayers to Mother Ganga, asking for their safe return to Ayodhya. Then, after the three disembarked onto the far shore, they continued their journey. Rama then instructed Laksmana to carefully protect Sita by walking in front. Thus, Laksmana walked ahead, Sita stayed in the middle, and Rama followed from behind.
When night fell they took shelter of a large tree. Both Rama and Laksmana stayed awake all night to protect Sita. That night, as they talked, Rama again urged Laksmana to return to Ayodhya to protect their mothers from Kaikeyi's persecution. Indeed, Rama became emotionally charged while thinking of His poor mother, His face becoming covered with tears. While comforting Him, Laksmana was able to convince Him that he could not live in His absence, and at last, Rama permitted him to stay.
The next morning Rama, Sita and Laksmana set out again. After walking some distance they reached the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers. Desiring to meet the great rsi, Bharadvaja, who lived there, Rama approached his ashram, and waited outside for permission to enter.
Soon a disciple of the rsi came to greet Rama, and escorted Him inside. Rama saw Bharadvaja sitting in meditation, surrounded by many disciples. Rama introduced Himself and then related the incidents surrounding His coming to the forest.
Thereafter Bharadvaja offered Rama, Sita and Laksmana a nice reception and served them many varieties of foods prepared from roots and fruits. The rsi then offered them comfortable accommodations, saying, "O Rama, I have been expecting Your arrival since hearing of Your exile. I wish You could spend the fourteen years here peacefully in my ashram. With my students at Your disposal, You would not be inconvenienced."
Smiling, Rama replied, "O best of rsis, your offer is very kind. However, were I to reside here, I fear many people would come to see Me since your ashram is so close to Ayodhya. Therefore, please tell Me of an isolated spot where we can stay to fulfill My vow of forest life."
Bharadvaja then suggested, "You can go to the Citrakuta Mountain, some sixty miles from here. After crossing the River Yamuna, look for the giant banyan tree named Syama. Then You will know You are proceeding in the right direction. The entire Citrakuta area is beautifully situated with cascading waterfalls and meandering streams. The cries of peacocks and cuckoos will enchant Your ears, and everywhere there is plenty of fruit and honey. Like the heavenly Gandhamada, it is a most suitable place for leading a life perfectly in the mode of goodness."
After spending the night at Bharadvaja's ashram, Rama, Sita and Laksmana took leave of the rsi and departed. Later in the day, at the banks of the Yamuna, Rama and Laksmana prepared a large raft for crossing the river. Upon reaching mid-stream, Sita offered prayer to Kalindi.
Reaching the far shore, they soon came to the banyan tree named Syama. Sita offered respectful obeisances to the sacred tree and prayed for their safe return to Ayodhya. Then, after waiting for some time, Rama, Sita, and Laksmana passed the night on the banks of the Yamuna.
The next morning they resumed their journey. While walking through the forest, Sita questioned Rama about all the varieties of plants and trees they encountered along the way. As Laksmana walked in front, bow in hand, Rama took great pleasure in describing the wonders of nature surrounding them.
In this way, Rama, Sita and Laksmana finally approached the vicinity of Citrakuta Hill, where they were pleased to find an abundance of fruit, roots, sweet water and honey. When they came to the ashram of Valmiki, Rama, Sita and Laksmana were warmly received by the illustrious rsi. Being invited to reside there, Rama ordered Laksmana to bring some logs and construct a small cottage. Thus, within a short time, Laksmana had built a nice residence, with walls of wooden stakes and a thatched roof. At Rama's request, Laksmana performed the customary sacrifices to the demigods for consecrating their new dwelling. Then, when Rama entered the new cottage, He became happy, leaving aside the grief brought about by His exile.
Meanwhile, after the departure of Rama, Guha had dispatched spies to observe Rama unnoticed. Thus, when news arrived that Rama had reached Citrakuta, Sumantra mounted his chariot to begin his painful journey back to Ayodhya.
After traveling two days, Sumantra arrived in Ayodhya in the evening, and saw that the city had become nearly desolate. Everyone was deeply grieving due to separation from Rama. Then, as word spread of his return, thousands of citizens came forward into the street and crowded around Sumantra. Hoping to hear some news of their beloved master, they anxiously waited for Sumantra to speak. In reply to their anxious inquiries, Sumantra explained, "The lotus-eyed Rama has sent me back after reaching the banks of the Ganga. Not allowing me to escort Him further, Rama, Sita and Laksmana now journey by foot through the forest."
Realizing that the Lord was not returning, some of the citizens fainted, and others wept.
"Because we cannot see Lord Rama, we are condemned," they said. "Alas, we have lost Him! But we can never forget how He used to glance at us affectionately and speak lovingly. When will we ever see Him again?" The people were grief-stricken as they recalled how Rama used to tend to their welfare, just as a father looks after his children.
Sumantra then entered the royal palace to see the afflicted Dasaratha and relay His messages. Hearing Sumantra speak of Rama, the King immediately fainted from feelings of separation. Trying to assist the King, Kausalya also swooned, and likewise had to be helped.
Before Sumantra could speak, the Queen said, "Why are now lamenting? It was you who so unkindly banished your son to the forest. You value truth more than your own son, in whom all truth resides. Arise, O king, lest your followers begin to doubt the wisdom of your actions. If you continue to lament, your subjects will perish in the fire of separation from Lord Rama."
Lashed by the sharp words of Kausalya, the King came to his senses. King Dasaratha then said, "O Sumantra, please fully describe whatever Rama has said while departing. Where is He living? What is He eating? For all these years, He has been accustomed to luxury. How has delicate Sita been able to live in the forest atmosphere? Surely her frail body cannot bear the scratch of a thorn or the scorching heat of the sun. And how is my beloved son Laksmana? What are his austerities? What is he eating? Have they sent me any message? O Sumantra, I can only survive on the strength of your reply."
Sumantra knew that Maharaja Dasaratha's life could only be sustained by hearing about Rama. Thus, he began to speak as follows: "At the time of our parting, Rama instructed me to return to Ayodhya to render service unto you and Bharata. Rama's only concern is for your welfare, and thus, He wants to insure that your promise to Kaikeyi is fulfilled. He also requested that I inform His mother, Kausalya, that He is faring well. In addition, O Kausalya, your son has requested that you remain constantly devoted to righteousness and worship your husband's lotus feet as you would those of a Deity.
"Moreover, He has asked that you shun the pride born of self-esteem and seniority and treat Queen Kaikeyi as your superior. Likewise, my King, He requests you to install Bharata as heir-apparent to the throne without delay. Even though young in years, he is still a king and deserves to be honored.
"Rama also asked me to relay a message to Bharata, begging that he should look upon Kausalya and Sumitra as he does his own mother.
"Moreover, O Emperor, I must inform you that poor Sita just stands motionless, oblivious to everything, and sighing. She has never experienced adversity before, and she did not impart any message. As I was about to leave, however, she looked at the royal chariot and suddenly burst into tears. After offering obeisances, I left, but my horses wandered, for they were also blind with tears.
"O Emperor, as I returned to Ayodhya, I saw that every moving and non-moving creature within the Kosala kingdom was in a pitiable condition due to separation from Rama. Overcome by intense separation from Rama, even trees, flowers, and fruits have withered up from grief. The rivers and lakes have dried up, the forest animals do not even move about, nor do reptiles search for food. In the ponds, the lotus flowers are dead, and the fish have also perished. In the cities throughout your kingdom, the gardens are desolate, and the birds that used to sing in them have fled. Moreover, seeing this chariot arrive without Rama, the citizens have been cast into a dazed, almost unconscious condition."
This stunned condition occurs when a devotee experiences ecstatic tribulation, fear, astonishment, lamentation, or anger on behalf of the Lord. There are many similar instances of devotees becoming stunned when they thought they had lost the Lord's association. During Lord Krishna's pastimes, the milkmaids of Vrindaban were frequently in a stunned condition, and even the cowherd boys, elders, and cows were stunned when they thought that Krishna was going to be killed by Kaliya or some other demon. Such a condition of the devotee is symptomized by the inability to speak, the cessation of movement, a feeling of voidness, and an extreme awareness of separation from the Supreme Lord. Such ecstatic emotions are relished by great devotees who have no material desires and have surrendered everything to the Lord's lotus feet. Just like the residents of Vrindaban, the people of Ayodhya were stunned due to transcendental love.
After hearing Sumantra's words, Maharaja Dasaratha became even more overwhelmed with grief. In a fit of despair, he declared, "You must take me to where Rama is staying, or somehow bring Him here. Otherwise, I shall die. I am completely merged within an ocean of grief. The two boons I granted to Kaikeyi are the shores of that ocean, and the term of Rama's exile is its extent. My inward and outward breaths are the waves and whirlpools. That ocean is further agitated by the inflowing river of tears being shed by Kausalya and others. The flaying of arms in agony is the leaping of the fish in that ocean, the disheveled hair is the seaweed, and our loud crying is its roar. Kaikeyi is the submarine fire that causes showers of welled up tears, and the words of Manthara are the alligators that infest its waters."
After speaking, Maharaja Dasaratha again fainted, and Kausalya, who had become almost mad due to intense grief, writhed on the floor. In agony the Queen wailed, "O Sumantra, if you do not take me to Rama at once then I will surely die."
Sumantra could only hope to comfort the Queen by saying, "My Queen, since He is in the company of Sita and Laksmana, Rama will pass His time quite happily, in spite of living in the forest."
Thus, even though Kausalya was the foremost of wives, she began to address Maharaja Dasaratha as follows: "It is your fault that my son has been exiled, allowing these miseries to befall us. How could you be so cruel to your own son and His delicate wife? How will Rama and Sita bear having to lie down upon the bare ground? How will they be able to maintain themselves, eating only raw fruit and roots? How will they survive the freezing cold, the winds and torrential rains? How will they protect themselves from the ferocious animals that wander through the jungle at night in search of prey?
"Even if Rama survives and returns to Ayodhya after fourteen years, Bharata will never be willing to give Him back the throne. Indeed, even if Bharata were to offer it, Rama would never accept something that had already been enjoyed by His younger brother. I am so unfortunate for having a wretched husband like you! The primary support of a woman is her husband. Since you are fully under the control of Kaikeyi, I am bereft of that shelter. The secondary support of a woman is her son, and since I am separated from Him, I am doomed."
Kausalya's lamentations were so painful to hear that Maharaja Dasaratha lost consciousness again. Then, realizing how her husband was suffering from her words, Kausalya's heart softened.
When the King regained consciousness they reconciled and he related the following story: "One who does not consider the good or bad reaction of a particular deed is certainly a great fool. One who cuts down mango trees to grow thorn bushes will undoubtedly repent for his action at harvest time. By banishing Rama to the forest, I have certainly followed this example.
"Long ago, when I was a young prince, I learned the art of piercing an invisible object with my arrow simply by hearing its sound. Once, as I was hunting at night on the banks of the River Sarayu, I heard a sound that I thought to be the trumpeting of an elephant. However, after shooting my arrow in that direction, I heard a loud scream, and a human voice called out, "Who has so cruelly pierced me with his arrow, even though I am a rsi and without fault?
"As that pitiful voice cried out in pain, I ran in the direction of the crying. Thus, I came upon a young ascetic boy lying upon the ground with my arrow stuck in his body. Seeing me before him, the boy said, `My old and invalid mother and father are waiting for me to bring them water. You have not only killed me, but them as well. Without my care they will be unable to continue living. Please go and confess to them that you have mortally wounded me. Before you leave, please pull out this arrow, for it is giving me great pain.'"
Maharaja Dasaratha continued: "I hesitated to pull out the arrow because I was afraid if I did so, the boy would die immediately. Seeing my reluctance, the boy assured me, saying, `Do not fear, thinking you will be killing a bramana. I was born of a vaisya father and sudra mother.'
"After hearing these words, I pulled out the arrow. When I did, the boy instantly gave up his life. I then filled his water pitcher and proceeded with a grief stricken heart to the ashram of the boy's parents. There, I saw the old, feeble, blind couple. Hearing me approach, they thought I was their son, and began to address me with affectionate words. This caused my heart great pain, but I took courage and explained to them how I had accidentally killed their son.
"`I am not your son,' I explained, `but a ksatriya named Dasaratha. I mistook the sound of your son collecting water to be that of an elephant drinking. Through my ignorance, I shot an arrow and killed your son. Your holiness, please tell me how I can atone for my sin.'"
Because Dasaratha was a learned man, he knew that he could not escape the reaction of a sinful deed. Thus, he intelligently inquired about the proper means of atonement. Scriptures advise every intelligent man to atone for his sins before death to avoid suffering in the next life. One has to make restitution according to the gravity of the offense. Even though many people today question the existence of a future life, the stringent laws of karma-action and reaction-are at work, and no one is excused, not even on the plea of ignorance. When people break the laws of God and nature, they must reap the results, birth after birth, possibly descending to the lower species or to the hellish planets. Wanting to avoid this, Dasaratha immediately tried to counteract his sin.
"After hearing me, the old sage replied, `Because you have voluntarily confessed your sin, I shall not curse you. If I were to do so, then you would die instantly. However, since you killed my son out of ignorance, your life shall be spared. Now, please take me to where my son is lying.'
"I led the blind couple to where their son lay lifelessly, and they began to caress the dead body and cry out pitifully. Then, as soon as they offered libations of water for their son's departed soul, King Indra descended to that spot on a celestial chariot.
"After assuring the aged parents that they would attain the same exalted destination as their son, Indra took the boy in his celestial form to the heavenly planets. The old ascetic then cursed me with the following words, `Just as we are now experiencing great anguish upon the death of our son, so you will have to feel the same grief due to separation from yours.'
"After saying this, the old sage, along with his wife, threw themselves upon their son's funeral pyre, thus giving up their lives and ascending to heaven. My dear Kausalya, today I am reaping the fruits of my horrible crime. I am dying of a broken heart. I can feel the power of my senses ebbing away like the flame of an oil-less lamp. I know that death will come to me very soon. O Queen, I have already become blind with grief. Please touch me so that I can be assured of your presence."
Thus, Maharaja Dasaratha continued to lament in separation from Rama, while remaining fully absorbed in his memory. Then, when half the night passed away, the King left his mortal body.
The next morning, when the bards came to awaken the King, his servants stood outside his door with folded hands. However, when his consorts entered his room, they found his body without any visible sign of life. The women cried out in horror, waking Kausalya and Sumitra with a start. When the two Queens saw that their King had passed away, they fell to the floor in agony. Hearing this uproar, Kaikeyi came also. When she understood that the King had died, she too, began crying piteously.
While caressing her dead husband's head, Kausalya harshly addressed Kaikeyi, "I will enter the King's funeral pyre so that I can reside with him in the place where he has gone. Only a sinful wretch like you can bear to go on living in the absence of her husband."
The ministers then came and led Kausalya away, trying their best to pacify her. Thereafter, they preserved the body of Maharaja Dasaratha in a vat of oil, since the funeral ceremonies could only be performed in the presence of a son.
Being bereft of their ruler, the citizens of Ayodhya were plunged into gloom. No one was able to sleep that night and the people gathered in the streets, publicly reproaching Kaikeyi to vent their grief.
Because he so greatly loved his son, Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, King Dasaratha attained the Lord's abode in the spiritual sky where Lord Rama reigns eternally. Even ordinary devotees, who always think of the Lord while they are eating, sleeping, working, or relaxing, attain the Lord's transcendental abode. Although King Dasaratha had to endure the reaction of his past offense, he gained his desired goal: eternal association with Lord Rama.
The next morning, the leading brahmanas of Ayodhya gathered at the royal court, urging the King's ministers to install one of the King's sons that very day. Addressing Vasistha, Vamadeva, Markendeya, Kasyana, Gautama and other rsis, the brahmanas said: "A country without a king is doomed. In such a place, rouges and thieves take advantage of the situation and lawlessness prevails. In a kingdom without a ruler, ownership disappears, sons disobey fathers, charity is forgotten, and religious practice declines as the citizens exploit one another."
The rsis then replied, "What you say is perfectly correct. It is the King that makes the demarcation between good and evil in this world. Bereft of a good king, the subjects are just like cattle without a herdsman."
Vasistha then suggested, "Since Bharata has already been selected as heir-apparent, he should be installed upon the throne immediately. Let swift messengers go now to Girivraja, the capital city of King Kekaya, to bring back Bharata and Satrughna to Ayodhya."
Thus, everyone agreed to the proposal, and messengers were dispatched, instructed to only say, "O Bharata, your presence is required at Ayodhya due to urgent business."
That night the messengers arrived at Girivraja. Bharata, meanwhile, experienced a ghastly dream, and awoke in a most disturbed state of mind. Upon seeing Bharata's despondency, Satrughna and his other friends tried to cheer his spirits. Bharata, however, failed to find their joking words amusing. They then inquired from him seriously about the nature of his inner disturbance.
Bharata then explained, "Last night in my dreams, I saw my father, disheveled and dejected, fall from a mountaintop into a pool of cow dung. As he floundered in the mire, the King drank oil from his cupped palms and laughed hysterically, like a mad man. Then, after the oil was spread over his body, the King began to eat rice that had been cooked in it.
"Suddenly the scene changed, and I saw that the ocean had become dry and the moon had fallen onto the earth. As the earth remained enveloped in darkness, Raksasas wandered its surface, while volcanoes erupted, blazing fire and lava. Then this scene evaporated, and I saw that the tusks of my father's elephant had been broken. Young, dark skinned women began harassing the King, who was dressed all in black, and smeared all over with red sandalwood paste, adorned with a garland of red flowers, and seated upon an iron throne.
"Finally I saw a chariot drawn by donkeys swiftly carrying my father toward the south. After witnessing this ghastly nightmare, I have concluded that my father, myself, or one of my brothers will surely die. Even now, although I know not why, I feel constant fear within my heart. My voice has become hoarse and my complexion has lost its luster. My mind is reeling, I feel shame and hatred, all for no apparent reason. Indeed, the more I think, the more I am convinced this nightmare forebodes great evil."
While Maharaja Bharata was thus speaking, the messengers from Ayodhya entered the room. After offering their respects, they related the message given them, saying, "O Prince, you are summoned to Ayodhya by the ministers and Vasistha. Your presence there is urgently needed."
When questioned by Bharata about the welfare of his parents, they replied as instructed, telling him that all was well. Suddenly eager to depart, Bharata took leave from his maternal grandfather and uncle.
Upon his leaving, Maharaja Asvapati gave Bharata many valuable gifts. However, Bharata hardly considered them because of the urgency conveyed in Vasistha's message, and the premonition from his dream.
Accompanied by Satrughna, Bharata mounted his chariot and hurriedly departed, accompanied by a large army supplied for his protection. Then, after passing through various territories in great haste, Bharata arrived at the outskirts of Ayodhya on the seventh day of his journey.
Bharata could discern from some distance that the city did not appear to have its usual cheerful aspect. When Bharata then entered the capital, he saw that everyone was grief-stricken. Bharata then confided to his charioteer that the visible signs before him indicated the demise of his father.
Indeed, the entire city of Ayodhya appeared neglected. Because the citizens had ceased performing their occupational duties, the entire place seemed dirty and deserted. With tears in his eyes, Bharata entered his father's palace. Failing to find the King in his usual room, Bharata then hurried to his mother's apartment. As soon as he entered her room, Kaikeyi jumped up from her seat, overjoyed to see her long absent son.
After bending low to clasp his mother's feet, Kaikeyi lifted him up and lovingly placed his head on her lap. Kaikeyi inquired about the welfare of her father and his kingdom. In reply, Bharata assured her that all was well. Then Bharata said, "I have hurried back because of Vasistha's summons. How is my father? Why do I not find him in his room?
Kaikeyi calmly replied, "The King, Maharaja Dasaratha has passed away, my dear son."
Hearing this, Bharata fell to the floor grief stricken, and began crying aloud. Kaikeyi tried comforting him, saying, "Dear Bharata, please do not become overwhelmed by sorrow. Pious and enlightened persons remain equipoised and do not give way to such lamentations."
Bharata then asked his mother how the King had died, and if he had left any message for him. "Please send someone for Rama, immediately, and inform Him of my arrival."
As if relating good news, Kaikeyi frankly replied, "Rama has left the Kosala kingdom, being exiled to the forest. He now wears tree bark, and Sita and Laksmana have followed Him. Your father could not bear to live in separation from Kausalya's son, however, and thus he gave up his life while crying out, "O Rama! O Sita! O Laksmana!"
When Bharata asked why Rama had been exiled, thinking He may have killed a bramana, Kaikeyi, determined to manipulate the events, replied, "In your absence, the King suddenly announced that he intended to install Rama as the heir-apparent to the throne the very next day. To save ourselves from becoming dominated by Kausalya and her son, I took advantage of two benedictions your father had formerly awarded me when I saved his life upon the battlefield.
"With the first boon I demanded that you be installed on the throne, and with the second, I banished Rama to the forest for fourteen years. Rama was always Dasaratha's favorite, and without Him, he died of a broken heart. Therefore, you must now accept the royal throne this very day after performing the funeral ceremonies for your deceased father. Please take heart and give up your grief."
Upon hearing the truth of things, Bharata became fiery with rage. He rebuked his mother, saying, "O wicked woman, you must be the goddess Kali, herself, appearing to destroy the entire universe! You have killed my father and exiled Rama, Who is dearer to me than life itself. Are you so perverse that you believe I will actually accept the throne from you, especially now? You are not my mother! You are my worst enemy! I pray that you go to hell for what you have done!
"Sinful woman, I will never allow you to fulfill your selfish ambitions. I will leave now for the forest and bring Rama back to rule the kingdom. After Rama is installed I will engage myself as His eternal servant, for that is my natural position and highest aspiration.
"Are you so hard-hearted that you cannot understand how Kausalya must feel in the absence of her only son? Once, the celestial kamadhenu named Surabhi happened to see that two of her sons had fallen to the ground unconscious. The two bullocks had worked very hard all day for a cruel farmer, plowing the fields in the hot sun. When Surabhi saw them in such a pitiful condition, tears fell from her eyes upon Indra's head. When Indra looked up to see the aggrieved Surabhi, he inquired of the cause of her distress. After explaining to him what had happened, Indra said, `In the entire world, no one can be more dear than a son to his mother.'"
Then Bharata vowed, "O wretched woman, not only will I bring Rama back from the forest, but I too, will spend fourteen years in exile just to keep my father's promise intact and save Rama from the sin of abandoning His vow."
Saying this, Bharata, due to excessive grief and exhaustion, fell to the floor unconscious. Then, after a long time had passed, he recovered, and spoke to the ministers gathered there, "I have no desire to become emperor of the world, for I consider myself a servant of my elder brother, Rama. Being away in a distant place, I had no idea of my mother's wicked schemes. Please believe me when I say that I had nothing to do with Rama's exile. Kaikeyi's desires are not shared by me."
Kaikeyi was not prepared for Bharata's reaction to her manipulations. She did not expect this and saw that her plans were destroyed. Suddenly, her illusion was dashed. Like awakening from a bad dream, tears welled up in her eyes, her heart filled with anguish because of the sudden turn of events.
Meanwhile, Kausalya heard Bharata's voice and went to meet him. On the way, however, she fainted, just at the time when Bharata and Satrughna were coming to see her. Thus, the two brothers saw Kausalya lying on the floor. Picking her up, they embraced her, tears streaming from their eyes.
Seeing Bharata before her, Kausalya sarcastically remarked, "So, you have now come back to enjoy the kingdom you have always coveted. You must be very happy to see that everything has worked out so well, all according to plan."
Upon hearing these words, Bharata was greatly pained. For some time he could not even reply. Then, regaining his composure, Bharata fell at Kausalya's feet, and with folded hands, said, "My dear mother, I had nothing to do with Rama's exile. Moreover, I had no idea what Kaikeyi was doing. Surely you know how much I love Rama! Don't you see how aggrieved I am due to Rama's exile and my father's death? To assure you of my innocence, I swear this oath, `Whoever has helped in the nefarious plan to exile Rama, may he reap the consequences of killing a king, a cow, a woman, a child, or an old person. May he become addicted to wine, women, meat and gambling. May he be shunned by Godly men and may he remain childless. May he incur the sinful reaction which affects the arsonist, the traitorous friend, and the unfair arbitrator. May his be the sin of refusing water to a thirsty man and he who shuns his wife when she approaches him at the time of her conception.' My dear mother, Rama is my very life and existence. He is my soul, and I have no purpose separate from dedication to His service."
Hearing this, Kausalya gave up her doubts, becoming convinced of Bharata's innocence. After lifting him up, she placed Bharata's head in her lap, crying as she caressed him. Because of his step-mother's grief, Bharata became overwhelmed, and they passed the night together in commiseration.
The next morning, Vasistha told Bharata to give up his excessive grief and cremate the body of his diseased father. Vasistha then accompanied Bharata to the cremation site. However, upon seeing the body of Maharaja Dasaratha being taken from the vat of oil and placed upon an ornamental carrier, Bharata suddenly lost all composure and began sobbing uncontrollably. Vasistha again urged Bharata to calm himself so that the funeral rites could be completed.
At last, the procession wound its way to the crematorium. As the people walked before the carrier, they scattered flowers upon the road. Then the body was at last placed upon the funeral pyre, constructed from logs of sandalwood and aguru, and the fire lit, while brahmanas chanted hymns from the Sama-Veda. All of the King's consorts had arrived, riding upon palanquins according to their rank. Thus, the air was filled with the sound of hundreds of wailing women.
Afterward, everyone went to the banks of the River Sarayu, offering water for the departed soul of Maharaja Dasaratha. A ten day contamination period was then observed, while Bharata performed other required funeral rituals for two days. At the end of twelve days, Bharata distributed abundant charity to the brahmanas.
At dawn of the thirteenth day, Bharata and Satrughna went to the funeral pyre to collect the remaining bones and ashes so that they could be thrown in the river Sarayu. However, arriving at the crematorium and seeing the King's remains, the brothers again became overwhelmed with grief. Weeping profusely, Bharata and Satrughna fell to the ground and cried out, "O dear father, where have you gone, leaving us aside?"
Vasistha again comforted Bharata, saying, "My dear Prince, you must control yourself so that you can execute your duties. You must now collect the bones and ashes of your father's cremated body. After cleaning the funeral grounds, go to the River Sarayu and throw in the remains. The dualities of life and death, joy and sorrow, gain and loss are experienced by all embodied beings, and are thus unavoidable. Such overindulgence in lamentation does not befit a descendant of the Iksvaku dynasty."
Thereafter, the funeral rites were completed, and returning to his palace, Bharata contemplated going to the forest to bring back Rama, Sita and Laksmana. Satrughna then addressed Bharata, "Rama, who is the well wisher of everyone, is now exiled to the forest on the whim of a selfish woman. My brother Laksmana is certainly condemned. Was there nothing he could do to avert this disaster?"
Just then, the hunch-back Manthara appeared, and although she looked no better than a monkey, her body was smeared with sandalwood paste and was wearing a royal dress and valuable ornaments. Knowing her to be the real cause of Rama's banishment, the doorman suddenly grabbed Manthara by the arm and dragged her before Bharata and Satrughna, exclaiming, "Here is the wicked witch that incited Kaikeyi to banish Rama. O Prince, she fanned the flames of jealousy within the Queen's heart, and thus became the murderer of your father. Take her and punish her as you see fit."
Swelling with a desire for revenge, Satrughna violently seized Manthara and began to drag her along the ground. As Manthara's ornaments broke, scattering jewels here and there, her other hunch-backed companions fled in fear from the furious Satrughna. Satrughna then vowed, "I shall now release my long held wrath upon both Manthara and Kaikeyi, so that they will feel as much pain as they have caused others."
As Kaikeyi ran to the shelter of her son, Bharata restrained his younger brother by saying, "Satrughna, women never deserve to be slain. I would have gladly killed Kaikeyi and Manthara myself, but I knew Rama would never have forgiven me. Therefore, please restrain yourself!" Satrughna relented and released Manthara, who then ran sobbing to Kaikeyi's feet.
In sparing Manthara's life, Bharata showed both compassion and commitment to religious principles. Devotees of the Lord, being filled with all good qualities, are always compassionate. Although Manthara had brought about the cruel banishment of Rama, Sita and Laksmana, along with the death of Dasaratha and great anguish for all the people, her life was spared because of religious principles. Although she personally disregarded religious principles, they saved her life, just as they save the righteous who follow them.
The next morning, the bards came, eulogizing Bharata in expectation of his becoming King. However, their praises only aggravated his grief, and he ordered them to stop, saying, "I am not the ruler of Ayodhya."
Meanwhile, Vasistha, along with his disciples, entered the royal assembly, ordering messengers to summon Bharata, the ministers, the military commanders and other important citizens.
When Bharata arrived, he was cheered with the same enthusiasm previously offered his father. Vasistha then addressed Bharata as follows: "O Prince, because Rama and Laksmana have been banished to the forest and your father has expired, life within the kingdom has become disrupted for want of a ruler. We know you are innocent of Kaikeyi's intrigues, and were selected by Maharaja Dasaratha as his successor. All preparations have been made and the citizens are expectant. Please give your consent so that we can install you upon the throne this very day."
Bharata became pained to hear this proposal. Restraining his tears, he replied to Vasistha, "O foremost of rsis. You are well aware of our family tradition that the eldest son assume the throne. I could never think of usurping the throne from Rama, for I consider myself to be His menial servant. I want to leave for the forest as soon as possible to persuade Rama to return to Ayodhya. If I am unsuccessful, I shall remain like Laksmana. Therefore, make ready a formidable army and have engineers construct roads where there are none so that we may proceed without impediment."
Upon hearing Bharata's impassioned plea, tears came to everyone's eyes. Everyone was pleased with his determination. Upon receiving their approval, Bharata also felt great relief, and shed tears of joy.
As news of Bharata's desire spread, everyone became joyful. Thereafter, the ministers summoned many engineers and laborers. Soon a huge work crew left the city to construct a broad highway into the forest. First, the workers cut down the trees and dug up the roots, leveled the ground and filled all the holes. Then they built bridges across the streams, and after paving the highway with concrete mixed with lime, they lined the road with flowering trees. Dams were then constructed to create artificial lakes. When everything was completed, the entire highway, which extended from Ayodhya to the banks of the Ganga, was sprinkled with sandalwood scented water. Big tents were pitched at appropriate places to provide rest camps that were surrounded by fences and moats. Thus, the entire pathway, which appeared fit for use by the demigods, was completed in a very short time.
After the construction was thus completed, the citizens felt satisfied. The transforming effects of devotional service to the Lord are truly wonderful. Although previously the people were dejected because of separation from Rama, they immediately felt relief as soon as they began to serve Him. There is no difference between serving the Lord and seeing the Lord. Indeed, serving Him is the proper way to approach Him. Rather than try to see the Lord directly, we should serve Him so sincerely that He wants to see us.
The next morning Bharata ordered Sumantra to bring his chariot, and departed with his huge army. The entire party, led by Bharata, consisted of sixty thousand chariots driven by charioteers completely devoted to Rama, a hundred thousand cavalrymen, and nine thousand elephants decorated like lotuses. Kausalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi also came, riding in separate chariots, all hopeful of bringing Rama back from the forest. Many other citizens also accompanied Bharata, being delighted at the prospect of seeing Rama.
The citizens looked like denizens of heavenly planets. They wore their very best clothes with garlands of fragrant flowers, and their bodies were smeared with sandalwood paste. The chariots appeared like celestial airplanes, and the elephants move inexorably forward, like clouds driven by the wind on a beautiful sunny day.
When the party arrived at the banks of the Ganga, they stopped to spend the night, At that, Bharata took the opportunity to offer libations of Ganga water to his departed father.
When Guha saw Bharata leading a large army into the forest, he suspected that he intended to attack Rama. Guha, therefore, warned his associates, "We are followers of Rama, and must be prepared for danger. As a precaution, let one hundred soldiers guard each of our five hundred boats. Then, if necessary, we can prevent Bharata from crossing the Ganga."
Taking many gifts with him, Guha went to meet Bharata, hoping to ascertain his true mentality. When Sumantra saw Guha approaching, he informed Bharata of the Nisada King's friendship with Rama.
When Guha arrived, Bharata extended all hospitality, and inquired of the route to Bharadvaja's ashram. Guha then said, "You can rest assured I shall guide you there so you won't experience the slightest difficulty. Now, then, please tell me frankly what your intentions are for seeing Rama. Coming with such a large army, it appears you have come to fight with Him."
Bharata replied, "My dear Guha, your words give me great pain. Please believe me when I say that I have come just to persuade Rama to return to Ayodhya so He may be installed on the throne."
Guha was soon convinced of Bharata's sincerity. Then, because night had already fallen, everyone prepared to take rest. Guha then approached Bharata as he lay upon his bed: "When Rama came here with Sita and Laksmana, He laid upon a bed that we made from dried leaves. As Rama and Sita slept, Laksmana and I stayed awake all night talking. Laksmana could not bear to accept any comfort as long as Rama was laying on the bare ground. The next morning, Rama and Laksmana matted their hair with the sticky extract of a banyan tree and crossed the Ganga."
Hearing that Rama had matted his hair, Bharata became very aggrieved, fearing that his elder brother would not be willing to return to Ayodhya. Overwhelmed with apprehension, Bharata suddenly fainted. Kausalya, who sat nearby, came to his aide. It was only after one hour that Bharata regained consciousness. When he saw his anxious step mother, he assured her that his fainting was not caused by hearing anything untoward about Rama.
At Bharata's urging, Guha continued to describe everything Rama had done on His way to the forest. Guha then led Bharata, Satrughna and their mothers to where Rama and Sita had slept. He showed them the kusa grass that remained crushed by the weight of their bodies. Everyone was very sorry to see this, for they remembered how Rama used to comfortably sleep, surrounded by royal opulence. Bharata was especially pained, for he considered himself to be the cause of Sita, Rama, and Laksmana's suffering. While harshly condemning himself, Bharata made up his mind to immediately make his hair matted and lie down upon the ground, thus taking Rama's place in exile.
The next morning, now adorned with matted hair and tree bark dress, Bharata requested Guha to assist him in crossing the Ganga. Thereafter, the entire army of men and horses were taken across on the boats, while the elephants swam the river. After safely reaching the other side, Bharata disembarked, and with Guha's guidance, proceeded for the ashram of Bharadvaja.
When Bharata drew near the great rsi's hermitage, he left his army waiting at a distance of two miles, proceeding on foot with Vasistha and Satrughna. When Bharadvaja saw Vasistha enter his ashram, he quickly rose up to greet him. He proceeded to ask of the welfare of Ayodhya, wanting to know Bharata's true intentions. The rsi said, "O Prince, please tell me what brings you to the forest. I pray you have not come with any intention of harming Rama."
Bharata was extremely hurt by the rsi's words. With tears in his eyes, he replied, "It is painful to see how people doubt my intentions. Please know that I have come to the forest only to try convincing Rama to return to Ayodhya so that He can rule the kingdom. O foremost of sages, please be gracious to me and show me where Rama is staying."
Bharadvaja then replied, "O Prince, I already knew your true mentality by dint of yogic power. I only tested you as a formality. Your elder brother, Rama, is residing at the Citrakuta Mountain. Now please stay here the night. You can resume your journey tomorrow."
Bharata accepted Bharadvaja's hospitality. Then the rsi requested him to call for his entire army, wishing to entertain them also. Then, after the soldiers arrived at his ashram, Bharadvaja invoked Visvakarma and many other demigods, headed by Indra, Yama, Varuna and Kuvera, requesting them to supply all the necessary objects for a first class reception for his guests.
Immediately thereafter, fragrant breezes began to blow, and, as fragrant flowers showered down from the heavens, celestial drums beat, accompanying the singing of Gandharvas and the dancing of Apsaras. By Visvakarma's arrangement, the entire area within a forty mile radius became instantly carpeted, with lush parks full of fruit and flower bearing trees. Miraculously, four room mansions and stables became manifested, as well as a royal palace, complete with every imaginable comfort, furniture, food, clothing and articles of enjoyment.
Bharata entered the magnificent palace, accompanied by his priests and ministers. As he approached the royal throne, he meditated upon Rama as if He were seated there. Thinking in this way, Bharata circumnabulated the throne, bowing to offer obeisances. He then picked up a camara and seated himself in the seat intended for the chief minister, as everyone else took their respective places.
Meanwhile, by utilizing his mystic power, Bharadvaja created a river of sweet-rice that flowed through his ashram. Lord Brahma and Kuvera each sent 20,000 women whose embrace caused a man to appear as if seized by a fit of madness. The chiefs of the Gandharvas; Narada, Tumburu and Gopa came to sing of Rama's glories for Bharata, and celestial trees were summoned by Bharadvaja to accompany them on various musical instruments. Thus, a bel tree played upon tablas while the peepul trees danced. Others, such as Tamal trees, appeared as hunchbacks and dwarfs to render service to Bharata, and Jambu trees took the form of young women.
While Bharata was thus being entertained, the soldiers were hardly neglected. Celestial girls sang to them with sweet voices and urged them to drink wine and eat sweetrice. Seven or eight girls were engaged in rubbing oil over each man's body and then bathing them with water. Other girls massaged the warriors' feet, while giving them wine in a secluded place. Even the horses were fed grains dipped in honey. When the men became intoxicated, they exclaimed, "This is heaven! We no longer want to continue our journey to the forest or return to Ayodhya."
In this way, the soldiers became satiated with all manner of enjoyment in the company of the celestial damsels. Indeed, thousands of soldiers were seen running here and there while singing, laughing and dancing. Everyone was so amazed by the entertainment being provided that it appeared to them as if they were enjoying a delightful dream. Because of this, the night seemed to swiftly pass away. With the appearance of dawn, the Gandharvas, Apsaras and celestial trees took their leave from Bharadvaja and returned to their respective abodes.
Bharata then took his mothers and approached Bharadvaja, asking him for directions to Citrakuta. Bharadvaja then saw that one woman of the party appeared emaciated from grief. Just then another woman clasped his feet to offer respects, while a third stood with her head hung in shame. Seeing his concern, Bharata explained, "This is Kausalya, the senior widow of my father. This is Sumitra, the mother of Laksmana and Satrughna. This other woman, who is vulgar, cruel, conceited and sinful, is Kaikeyi. Being the cause of Rama's exile, she is the cause of all our present miseries."
Bharadvaja then told Bharata, "You should not consider your mother to be actually guilty. There is a higher purpose behind Rama's banishment to the forest. Thus, it is meant for the welfare and happiness of all living entities."
Thereafter, Bharata circumnabulated Bharadvaja Rsi and then commanded his army to depart. As the regiments of infantry, horses, chariots and elephants marched forward, all the forest animals fled out of fear. Finally, when Citrakuta Mountain was in view, Bharata commanded his sentries to look for Rama's cottage.
Some soldiers then saw a column of smoke rising in the distance, and excitedly informed Bharata. After ordering the army to set up camp, Bharata approached the cottage of Rama on foot along with Vasistha, Sumantra and several others.
Meanwhile, having resided at Citrakuta for three months, Rama was passing His time with Sita, sitting on a big rock at the foot of the hill. Rama was describing to Sita the various roots which the rsis ate, and pointed out the varieties of trees, flowers and wild animals that abounded there. Rama always tried His best to please Sita and divert her mind from the grief of living in exile. While speaking to Sita, Rama pointed to the River Mandakini, nicely adorned with beautiful flowers, which served as the sporting ground for swans, cranes and other exotic birds. "Truly, O dear one," Rama said, "there is no reason for us to be aggrieved, for we are residing together in this lovely place."
At just this time, Rama took notice of the dust being raised by Bharata's army coming in the far distance. Soon thereafter, Rama could hear the noises of the wild animals that were fleeing in fear. At this Rama turned to Laksmana and said, "Whatever is raising the dust is frightening the forest animals. Find out at once what is causing this disturbance."
Laksmana then climbed a tall tree, and from there he could see the large army approaching. With great urgency he called down to Rama, "Put out the fire immediately. A great army is approaching. Hide Sita within a cave and gather our weapons. We must make ready to meet them."
Rama then called back to His brother, "Look out to see their chariot flags so we may know whose army is coming."
Laksmana saw that the chariots bore the crest of a Kovidara tree with a white trunk, and reported to Rama, "It is Bharata's army! Our brother must be coming to kill us both so he can be assured of enjoying unrivaled sovereignty. Indeed, they approach with great enthusiasm. We must make ready immediately, taking our bows to fight with them from the top of the hill. I think this is our good fortune, for now we can fight with the person who has caused us our misfortune and suffering. We should not hesitate to kill Bharata outright. Afterwards I shall take pleasure in killing Kaikeyi and all her relatives, just to purge the earth of the sins she has committed."
Checking the enraged Laksmana, Rama said, "Bharata is coming here in great eagerness to see Me. What, then, is the necessity of bows and arrows? My opinion is that Bharata has come to offer Me the kingdom. However, if you wish to kill Bharata so you may enjoy the royal throne yourself, then say so, and I will tell Bharata to hand it over peacefully."
Thus admonished by Rama, Laksmana hung his head in shame, saying, "I was hoping our father had come to see us. However, since his familiar elephant is visible, though bereft of its usual white umbrella, I do not think this is so."
Laksmana then climbed down from the tree, returning to the cottage with Rama and Sita. At this time Bharata entered the forest surrounding Citrakuta Hill. When Bharata again spotted the column of smoke, he proceeded in that direction, hoping it would lead to Rama's cottage.
As Bharata hastened to that spot, Guha, Satrughna and others followed, while Vasistha brought the three mothers. Finally, Bharata came to a clearing in the forest and saw the cottage with the gold plated bows of Rama and Laksmana, and a sacrificial altar in front.
Seeing Rama, Bharata rushed forward with tears in his eyes, crying, "O Rama! How painful it is seeing You with matted hair and clothing made of tree bark! It is my fault that You cannot enjoy the royal comforts You are accustomed to, and instead must endure these hardships in the forest!"
Approaching to touch Rama's feet, Bharata suddenly fainted, falling to the ground. Rama quickly lifted His younger brother and was disturbed to see that he, too, was wearing tree bark. After embracing Satrughna, who had also fallen at His feet, Rama embraced Sumantra and Guha. Then Rama took Bharata on His lap, saying, "Dear brother, why have you come here, leaving our father alone and unattended? Tell Me about our mothers and the citizens of Ayodhya. Are they all well and happy?"
Rama then inquired from Bharata in a way that was instructive to all present: "My dear Bharata, please know that a righteous kingdom will surely prosper. Are the brahmanas, the elders and the demigods being properly respected? Are the women within the kingdom honored and protected? Are disputes being impartially judged? I hope you are avoiding the fourteen weaknesses of a king-atheism, hypocrisy, anger, procrastination, laziness, slavery to the senses, contempt for good advice, lack of vigilance, fondness for bad council, impractical planning, inability to keep a secret, attachment for foolish friends, negligence of religious observances, and failure to counteract enemies.
"My dear brother, are you aware of the three kinds of prowess: energy, authority and intelligence? Do you avoid the following eight types: the gossipy, the foul mouthed, the usurper of property and the unjust? Do you avoid making alliances with these twenty kings: the child monarch, the senile, the frail and ill, those who have been overthrown, the overly aggressive, the cowardly, the greedy, the sensualist, the frivolous, those who're defeated in battle, those who frequently travel abroad, those with many enemies, those who are poverty stricken, those opposed to religious principles, those who are despised by their ministers, and the mentally disturbed?
"I hope you prefer to keep the company of one learned man rather than thousands of ignorant fools. One talented minister can give one immense benefit, whereas in times of necessity, thousands of fools can do nothing. O Bharata, if a King does not get rid of a physician who is simply adept at aggravating a disease, a servant who is intent upon bringing disgrace to his master, or a warrior who wants to become ruler himself, then he will surely be killed by these three.
"Are the women protected and honored by you? Are they pacified with regard to their material needs? I hope that you do not place too much faith in women or confide your secrets to them."
While observing Bharata's matted hair and forest clothing, Rama could understand that he had accepted these austerities out of love for Him. Thus, after again embracing Bharata, Rama inquired, "My dear brother, why have you relinquished the throne, coming to the forest dressed as a mendicant?"
Bharata replied, "O Rama, my mother's intrigues were carried out without my knowledge. I know You are the rightful heir. Thus, I implore You to return to Ayodhya and take up the rule of the kingdom. Practically the whole of Ayodhya has come to a standstill, for everyone is morose because of Your absence.
While making his impassioned plea, Bharata clasped the lotus feet of Shri Rama, placing them on his head. Rama then picked up Bharata, saying, "I know you took no part in banishing Me to the forest. Still, I have no desire to gain the throne by sinful means. O Bharata, you should not condemn your mother or the King, for they were both acting within the bounds of propriety. Indeed, elders are free to do as they like with their dependents. Therefore, you should accept the royal throne and rule the kingdom. That was the desire of your father. I am determined to spend fourteen years in the forest, for I consider the father's order to be the supreme religious principle."
Bharata, however, objected, saying, "In the presence of an elder prince, no one can become the king. Therefore, You must come back to Ayodhya and sit upon the royal throne after offering water to the departed soul of our father."
Hearing of His father's death, Rama immediately fainted to the ground. Only when Sita, Laksmana and Satrughna sprinkled water on His body did He regain consciousness. Then, after tearfully lamenting the loss of His father, Rama declared, "Now I shall never return to Ayodhya."
Although He appeared to lament like an ordinary man, in truth, Rama remained transcendental. The Lord, His body, and His pastimes are never ordinary or material. In Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna proclaims that simply by understanding the transcendental nature of His appearance, activities, and disappearance, one can become liberated from the cycle of birth and death.
Lord Krishna displayed a similar reaction when informed by the demon Salva that His father Vasudeva had been killed. At that time, He almost fell unconscious from grief. Why do Lord Rama and Lord Krishna appear at times to be bewildered, although They are both the same Supreme Personality of Godhead? Lamentation and bewilderment characterize a conditioned soul. How can they be present in God, Who is full in all opulences, including knowledge and power? This is a controversial point. Factually, the Lord is never misled or illusioned. When playing the role of a human being, He presents Himself as a complete human being, exhibiting all the emotions of an ordinary man. All great sages who render the Lord transcendental loving service are liberated from the bodily conception. How, then, could the Lord Himself fall under illusion by identifying the soul with the body? Clearly, His grief is but another opulence, another facet of His supreme, unlimited, and inconceivable personality.
Thereafter, Rama went to the banks of the Mandakini Ganga with His brothers and Sumantra to offer water for the benefit of his father. Then, upon returning to His cottage atop the Citrakuta Mountain, Rama clasped the hands of His brothers, and all four personalities wailed in grief.
This loud sound reverberated through the valley. When Bharata's army thus heard it, the soldiers became aggrieved, for they knew it to be the brothers' lamentation for their departed father. All the soldiers then rushed toward where their crying emanated, for they too, were anxious to see Rama. When they reached the cottage the warriors greeted Rama with tears in their eyes. In turn, Rama welcomed each of them according to their positions.
Meanwhile, while keeping the three widows of King Dasaratha in front, Vasistha hastened to see Rama. When Vasistha and the widows arrived at the banks of the Mandakini Ganga, they saw the remnants of articles used as an offering by Rama for His departed father. Kausalya was pained to see that the only food Rama had at His disposal for an offering was the pulp of an inguda fruit. Kausalya considered this unworthy for her husband, and with some amusement she thought, "This is the truth of the adage, `The deities a man worships have to partake of the same food upon which he subsists.'"
When Vasistha and the three widows arrived at Rama's cottage, they were distressed to see Him appear as a demigod that had just fallen from heaven. Rama quickly stood up and went to touch the feet of His mothers. Then, as He bowed before them, the three women wiped the dust from Rama's back. Likewise, with tears in their eyes, Sita and Laksmana touched the feet of their mothers. Kausalya embraced Sita while Rama approached Vasistha to touch his feet. Rama then sat down with His preceptor, as others also came around them. Bharata then told Rama, "I want to return the kingdom of Kosala to You."
Although everyone present applauded this proposal, Rama replied, "My dear Bharata, in this material world, no one can act independently. Under the control of eternal Time, everything ultimately meets with defeat. Thus, no wise man should lament for life's reversals. Union ends in separation, for as pieces of driftwood float together and then disperse, family and society meet briefly and then depart for their separate destinations. As solid pillars gradually decay, causing a house to collapse, a man totters into old age and finally meets death. As a river cannot return to its source, everyone must follow the path of his father and forefathers. Why should one mourn for others when he himself is dying? One's skin becomes wrinkled and his hair turns grey. What can a man do?
"He rejoices when the sun rises and rejoices when it sets, not thinking he has died a little. Therefore, a sober and learned person should utilize his energy for following religious principles to attain a higher destination after death. There is no need to lament for our father, for he has given up an old body to attain heavenly happiness. Bharata, you must return to Ayodhya at once and execute our father's order. I will remain here to carry out his will."
Bharata, however, argued, "Our noble father had become too infatuated with women in his old age. Indeed, he seemed to confirm the popular notion that at the time of death one invariably becomes obsessed by something. Rama, You should undo the harm that our father caused due to that obsession and return to Ayodhya. You are a ksatriya, and Your duty is to act like one, not a hermit. You are a grhasth , the noblest of the four ashrams. Why are You abandoning the duties of household life? If You refuse to return to Ayodhya, then neither shall I. I will remain here in the forest with You, like Laksmana."
Rama again replied, "Dear Bharata, you are wrongly criticizing our father, saying he was impelled by lusty attachment for Kaikeyi. At the time of Dasaratha's marriage to Kaikeyi, her father made him promise that it would be her son who would succeed him as emperor. Bharata, please go back to Ayodhya now to keep our father's promise intact. You must take the responsibility of ruling the kingdom, even if it is only for My sake."
Next in the assembly to speak was a great rsi named Jabali . With the hope of inspiring within Rama some desire to enjoy royal opulence and sense gratification, thus causing Him to return to Ayodhya, Jabali expounded the following atheistic philosophy: "O Prince, the living being is nothing more than the resultant combination of sperm and ovum. The father is called the efficient cause of the living being and the mother is called the material cause. However, in reality, the only cause of creation is the chance interaction of atomic particles. When a person dies, he once more becomes dust. Thus, everything is only a combination of atoms and nothing more. What we call mother, father, son or daughter has no actual relationship with us. Rama, why should You undergo suffering, just for the sake of Your so-called father? What is the use of performing the sraddha ceremony? Can the dead eat your offerings? Whatever we can perceive is the all-in-all. Therefore, my dear Rama, You should enjoy that which is pleasing to the senses by accepting the kingdom from Bharata."
Hearing this diatribe, Rama angrily replied, "Your views are impiety in the garb of piety. Thus, they are most dangerous. In the name of wisdom, you are preaching the grossest ignorance. Real knowledge leads to self realization, whereas one who lives only for the pleasure of the senses becomes a slave to uncontrolled lust and greed. Truth is the highest principle of virtue. Thus, I will adhere to the order of My father without being swayed by the aspiration for personal sense gratification.
"This earth is the field of action. When one attains the rarely achieved human birth, only pious activities should be undertaken. My father made a mistake by keeping you as a minister, because your views are staunchly atheistic like those of Carvaka. A person like yourself is so condemned that the Vedas prohibit one from even seeing the face of a non-believer."
Jabali then admitted, "In truth, I am a follower of the Vedas. I have firm faith in the existence of God. I was only speaking from that viewpoint hoping to persuade You to return to Ayodhya."
At that, Vasistha intervened, since Rama had become highly agitated by Jabali's speech. "Jabali spoke like an atheist only because he knew how much everyone wants You to return to Ayodhya to sit on the throne. Still, it is a fact that in the dynasty of Iksvaku, every great ruler of the past selected their eldest son to inherit the kingdom. The unbroken rule has been that for so long as the elder brother is alive, the younger brother cannot accept the throne. Therefore, we again implore You to return to Ayodhya. You should consider that to deny my order would be an irreligious act. The instructions of the guru take precedence over those given by the mother or father."
Rama, however, remained adamant, insisting that one's duty to his parents in inviolable. When Bharata realized that his attempt to persuade Rama was futile, he became so saddened that he ordered Sumantra, "Spread kusa grass in front of the doorway of Rama's cottage. I will sit there blindfolded, foregoing all food and drink until Rama relents and accepts the royal throne."
Sumantra, however, would not act without Rama's order. Thus, Bharata spread the kusa grass with his own hands and sat down in front of Rama's cottage.
Rama then said, "Dear brother, why are you adopting this attitude? Why are you stubbornly trying to oppose Me?
Bharata finally gave up the idea of fasting until death, but continued pleading, "Let me act as Your proxy by staying here in the forest for fourteen years while You return to Ayodhya."
Just then a host of celestial rsis appeared invisibly in the sky and applauded the wonderful conversation between the two brothers. Then, desiring to accelerate the death of Ravana, the rsis said, "O Bharata, you should follow the advice of your elder brother, Rama."
Finally surrendering to the inevitable, Bharata produced a pair of wooden sandals inlaid with gold. He then requested Rama to place His lotus feet in them. Rama did as His brother asked, and then returned the sandals to Bharata. Then, with the sandals in hand, Bharata bowed to Rama, saying, "After relegating the burden of ruling the kingdom to these sandals, I will remain outside Ayodhya, wearing matted hair and clothing of tree bark. O Rama, I shall subsist upon only fruit and roots while awaiting Your return. If, however, after fourteen years You do not come back to Ayodhya, then I shall give up my life by entering fire."
Rama sanctioned this statement and then embraced Bharata and Satrughna, assuring them He would return after the term of His exile expired. With tears in his eyes, Rama bid farewell to His brothers and urged them not to neglect or hate Kaikeyi. Rama then spoke sweet words to His mothers, although they were too upset to reply. Bharata then circumnabulated Rama, and at last, while imploring everyone to leave for Ayodhya, Rama turned His back and entered the cottage.
Placing Rama's sandals upon his head, Bharata mounted his chariot. Along with Satrughna, they set out, keeping the brahmanas in front. When they arrived at the ashram of Bharadvaja, the sage inquired whether he had seen Rama and if he accomplished his mission. Bharata replied by describing Rama's firm determination to undergo His term of exile.
Vasistha then brought forth Rama's wooden sandals and requested Bharadvaja to empower them with the needed potency to fulfill the needs of the people of Ayodhya. This was ceremoniously done by Bharadvaja and thereafter, Bharata clasped the rsi's feet and took permission to depart.
Returning by the same path he previously followed, Bharata finally arrived at the outskirts of Ayodhya. When he saw the city's desolate appearance, he said to Sumantra, "Without Rama Ayodhya has no life, just as the material body remains inert as soon as the living force passes out of it."
Upon entering Dasaratha's palace, Bharata broke down and cried, seeing its desolate appearance. Bharata then announced that he would retire to Nandigrama to live the life of an ascetic. As the ministers praised his noble determination, Bharata called for his chariot and departed with Satrughna.
Out of spontaneous affection, all Ayodhya's citizens followed Bharata to Nandigrama. Upon his arrival, Bharata first ordered his ministers to install Rama's shoes upon a royal throne. Thereafter, remaining at Nandigrama with his army, Bharata submitted the state's affairs before Rama's shoes, including all gifts presented to him.
Bharata would often be seen holding the royal umbrella over Rama's shoes, or fanning them with a camara. In this way, he ruled the kingdom for fourteen years, always feeling himself subordinate to Lord Rama, Who remained there in the form of His shoes.
Meanwhile, Rama noticed that there was anxiety within the minds of the rsis living in the vicinity of Citrakuta mountain. Feeling that He might be the cause, Rama humbly approached the chief rsi and said, "I can see that there is something disturbing the minds of the rsis living here. Please disclose the reason for this, if you can, especially if I am at fault."
The old rsi relied, "My dear Rama, there could never be any fault on Your part. Our fear is caused by the Raksasas, headed by Khara, the younger brother of Ravana. Being envious by nature, Khara and the other Raksasas present themselves before us in hideous forms and disrupt our sacrifices and pollute our bodies with impure substances. We shall move to another area before the Raksasas resort to violence. I plan to take my disciples to the ashram of Asva Muni, not far from here. If You like, You may also accompany me and take up residence there."
Rama gave the rsi permission to depart, but informed him that He would remain at Citrakuta. Later on, however, Rama discovered that He experienced some unpleasant feelings attached with staying there, since the memory of Bharata and His mothers haunted Him. Additionally, Rama felt that the area had become contaminated by the stool of the horses and elephants of Bharata's army. Thus, He finally made up His mind to go elsewhere.
Rama, Sita and Laksmana thus left Citrakuta for the ashram of Arthama Muni, where they were received warmly, just as if they were the rsi's own children. When Arthama called for his aged wife, Anasuya, to welcome Sita, the eternal consort of Lord Rama approached the ascetic woman with great humility. Anasuya instructed Sita about the duties of a chaste wife, and after listening with rapt attention, Sita praised her highly. Being pleased with Sita, Anasuya then said, "My dear child, I wish to offer you a benediction, utilizing my ample stock of ascetic merit. Just tell me what you would like."
Sita replied, "O great saintly lady, your presence is itself a great and most sufficient benediction."
Nevertheless, Anasuya proceeded to give Sita an ever fresh celestial garland that never faded, celestial garments, ornaments and cosmetics that were all inexhaustible. Then, when Anasuya requested her to narrate the story of her marriage to Rama, Sita replied as follows: "While my father, King Janaka, was once plowing the soil to prepare a sacrificial altar, I suddenly emerged from the earth, covered with dust. A celestial voice then announced that I should be accepted by the childless king. Thus, I was raised as the daughter of Maharaja Janaka. Then, as I approached puberty, my father became anxious, since he could not find a suitable husband for such a divinely born girl. Finally, he decided to hold a svayamvara, wherein I would be allowed to marry anyone who could string the bow of Lord Siva, given by Varuna to our ancestor, Devarata.
"However, it came to pass that even the greatest of kings failed to lift the bow, what to speak of stringing it. However, Rama arrived at Mithila, along with Visvamitra, and He easily broke the bow in two after stringing it. However, Rama would not accept me as His wife until He received permission from His father, Maharaja Dasaratha. Thus, it was only after the arrival of the Kosala King at my father's invitation that the marriage ceremony was performed."
Thereafter, with evening approaching, Anasuya requested Sita to attend to her husband after adorning herself with her newly acquired jewels. Rama was quite pleased to see Sita so exquisitely decorated, and that night they slept at Arthama Rsi's ashram. The next morning, Rama inquired from the rsi about the path leading to the Dandakaranya forest. The sage then gave Rama directions, while warning, "This forest is infested with fierce and malicious Raksasas. They take pleasure in devouring anyone living there that neglects to rinse his mouth after eating or drinking, or who is inattentive in following any other religious injunction."
Thereafter, Rama took leave of the rsi and, accompanied by Sita and Laksmana entered the dense forest, like the moon entering a mass of dark clouds.
As Rama, Sita and Laksmana approached the Dandakaranya forest they beheld a delightful cluster of cottages, all inhabited by rsis. Surrounded by towering trees laden with fruit and flowers, and resounding with the singing of birds and the chanting of Vedic mantras, the asrama sanctified the hearts of all who beheld it. kusa grass and garments made of tree bark were seen spread everywhere, while deer and other wild animals roamed about freely without fear.
Rama and Laksmana loosened the strings on their bows, and entering the hermitage, the rsis greeted them warmly, giving them a suitable grass hut to reside in. Then, after passing the night, Rama took His leave from the sages and ventured ever deeper into the forest, with Sita walking in the middle, and Laksmana behind.[NKd29]
As they walked along, a gigantic, hideous Raksasa suddenly appeared before them. Clad in a blood stained tiger skin, he had sunken eyes, long sharp teeth, a jagged jaw, and a large, round protruding belly. [NKd30]From his spear dangled the heads of three lions, four tigers, two wolves, ten spotted deer and an elephant, all dripping with blood.
Appearing like death personified, the horrible monster roared ferociously and lunged forward, catching hold of Sita. Then, after quickly retreating some distance away, the Raksasa again roared loudly, declaring, "I shall take this woman for my wife and drink the blood of you other two."
At this, Rama loudly exclaimed, "Alas! Seeing Sita being touched by another is more painful for Me to bear than the death of My father."
Laksmana, however, was in no mood for such talk. He reproached Rama, saying, "How can You merely stand there, lamenting? Watch me as I kill this Raksasa, and vent the anger I have held toward Bharata for so long."
The Raksasa then called out, "Who are you, intruding into my forest?"
Rama replied, "We are two ksatriyas. Why do you dare obstruct us like this, carrying off My wife?"
To this the Raksasa said, "My name is Viradha. I am the son of Java by his second wife Satahrada. In reward for my severe austerities, Lord Brahma benedicted me to become immune from all weapons. Therefore, I advise You to run away while you can, and leave this lovely woman for me. Otherwise, I will be forced to kill You."
At that Rama and Laksmana quickly took up their swords and rushed at the Raksasa. However, even though they severely hacked his body, the wounded Raksasa picked up Rama and Laksmana in his arms and began carrying them away, deep into the forest. Upon seeing this, Sita cried out piteously, "O Raksasa, please leave these two aside and take me instead."
Hearing this, Rama and Laksmana decided to kill Viradha at once. Exhibiting super-human prowess, Rama broke off the Raksasa's right arm while Laksmana wrenched off his left. As Viradha fell to the ground, bereft of his senses, Rama and Laksmana continued to beat him with their fists. However, in spite of being smashed and kicked, the Raksasa did not die. Seeing this, Rama told Laksmana, "Since this demon cannot be slain in battle, let us bury him alive. Quickly dig a pit while I guard him."
As Laksmana dug, Viradha regained consciousness, and said to Rama, "I now recognize You. In truth I am the Gandharva, Tumburu. Because of lusting after the Apsara, Rambha, I was cursed by Kuvera to become a Raksasa until a time that I would be delivered by You. Please bury me in this hole, allowing me to be released from my curse. Thereafter, please go to meet the great rsi Sarabhanga, who resides twelve miles from here. When You see him he will give You some very beneficial advice."
Laksmana continued digging while Rama kept His foot on the Raksasa's neck. Then, when Laksmana had finished, Rama threw the screaming demon deep into the hole and quickly covered him up with large stones. In this way, Tumburu gave up his Raksasa body and ascended to heaven, relieved of his curse.
Formerly, even great demons like Viradha were intelligent enough to understand that they were not the body but an eternal spirit soul transmigrating from one body to another according to material activities. Today, due to the influence of the age of Kali, even great scholars and religionists cannot understand this truth. In this age, people are short lived, unintelligent, unfortunate and not philosophically inclined.
Therefore, Lord Chaitanya has shown His special mercy by delivering the easiest and most sublime method of self-realization; the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra-Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare-immediately contacts the Lord and qualifies himself to ascend to the spiritual world and live in eternal bliss with Him.
Rama, Laksmana and Sita then set out to see the great sage Sarabhanga. As they approached the rsi's ashram, they were amazed to see King Indra, seated upon a celestial chariot, its wheels not touching the ground. Indra was accompanied by numerous other demigods, and was conversing with Sarabhanga, while another celestial chariot, drawn by green horses, waited in the sky. However, when Indra saw Rama approaching, he told the other demigods, "I do not want the Lord to see me yet, but only after He kills Ravana."
Saying this, Indra ascended to the sky on his chariot drawn by 1,000 horses. Having witnessed this wonder, Sita, Rama and Laksmana quickly went and touched Sarabhanga's feet. Then, after being welcomed by the rsi, Rama said, "O foremost of sages, if you are able to discuss the matter, please tell us the purpose of Indra's visit."
Sarabhanga replied, "Indra came here to take me to Brahmaloka, the destination I have earned by my performance of severe penances. However, I told the King of heaven that before departing from this world I wanted to see You, knowing that You were nearby."
Rama requested Sarabhanga to designate a place for Him to dwell during the period of His exile. The rsi replied, "O Lord, You should approach the great sage Sutiksna. He will provide You with a suitable residence in a most pleasant portion of the forest. O Rama, as for myself, I have one request I beg You to fulfill. The time has come for me to quit my material body. Therefore, I humbly request that I may do so in Your presence."
Saying this, Sarabhanga built a fire, and after pouring ghee upon it, the fire blazed brightly. Then, while chanting mantras, the rsi entered the fire, thus burning his body to ashes. Immediately afterward, Sarabhanga was seen rising from the fire in a youthful, dazzlingly effulgent body. He then ascended to Brahmaloka, and was welcomed by its inhabitants.
Thereafter, the assembled rsis approached Rama and petitioned, "Many of us who live in this forest are being mercilessly killed by the Raksasas. You may come and see the dead bodies which are still lying about, here and there. O Rama, we humbly request that You give us protection."
Rama assured the rsis by saying, "As a ksatriya, I am your servant. Thus, for your sake, I will kill the Raksasas."
Accompanied by the sages, Rama proceeded to the asrama of Sutiksna. After receiving Rama's obeisances, the rsi said, "I have been awaiting Your visit. O descendent in the dynasty of Raghu. Before ascending to Brahmaloka, King Indra came here and informed me of Your immanent arrival."
When Rama asked the rsi to designate a place for Him to reside, the rsi offered Him the use of his own cottage. Rama refused, however, saying, "If we were to remain here, by killing the deer we would become the cause of your unhappiness."
Rama Sita and Laksmana spent the night at Sutiksna's asrama. The next morning, Rama took His leave, bowing before the great sage. Sutiksna embraced Rama, inviting Him to return to his asrama after visiting the different hermitages in the Dandakaranya forest.
Later that day, hoping to tactfully impart some advice to Rama, Sita said, "My dear husband. Due to the powerful influences of material nature it is possible even for a great and noble man to gradually become degraded. Therefore, one should always be very careful to control his mind and senses, avoiding the addictions which result from material desire.
"There are three sinful activities that should especially be avoided: false speech, sexual relations with another's wife, and cruelty toward those who are not inimical. In Your character there is no trace of the first two faults, for You have never uttered a lie, nor could You think of lusting after another man's wife. However, I see that You take the lives of many innocent animals. Thus, I can understand that there is still the contamination of enmity in You. I feel very unhappy when I see how the poor animals are being needlessly killed. My dear Rama, simply by carrying a bow in Your hands You increase the killing propensity, just as putting fuel too near a fire makes it blaze higher.
"Please listen as I relate a story in this connection. Once, there was a great rsi who performed such powerful austerities that King Indra became afraid of being overthrown. With a desire to obstruct the rsi's advancement, King Indra came before him in the guise of a warrior. While handing the brahmana a sword, Indra requested, `Please keep this for me very carefully until I return here for it.' The rsi consented, and thereafter, remaining true to his vow, he always kept the sword with him, even when he went into the forest to collect fruits and roots. As a result, the rsi's mind gradually became tinged with the desire for cruelty. Thus, he gradually gave up his execution of austerities in exchange for a life of violence. In this way, the rsi became degraded and attained a hellish destination after death.
"Therefore, my dear husband, since that brahmana was vanquished simply by the association of Indra's sword, I request that You keep Your bow in hand only to kill the Raksasas that are harassing the rsis. Please do not kill even the innocent Raksasas, what to speak of other creatures.
"Although I know it is not my position to instruct You, I pray that You give my words careful thought. Afterwards, please do what You think is best."
Rama replied, "Dear Sita, I certainly appreciate your words which are full of wisdom. I know that it is only because you love Me that you have thus advised Me, thinking only of My welfare. Unless one is dear, he is never given such frank council. O Janaki, the rsis could easily kill the Raksasas themselves. However, they do not do so, for it would diminish their stock of acquired ascetic merit. For this reason I have promised to kill all the Raksasas in the Dandakaranya forest. However, even if I were to somehow renounce you or Laksmana, I could never give up a promise to the brahmanas."
Rama, Sita and Laksmana then arrived at a large beautiful lake. Drawing near, they suddenly heard the sound of singing, seeming to come from somewhere within the lake's waters. However, no one could be seen there. At that time a rsi named Dharmabhrt [NKd31]happened by, and Rama asked him about the mysterious singing.
"This lake," the rsi began, "is known as Pancapsara, and was originally created by the sage, Mandakarni, with his mystic power. Once, Mandakarni Rsi performed austerities on the shore of this lake for 10,000 years, subsisting only on air. Because of this, the demigods became very fearful, thinking the rsi was desirous of occupying one of their posts. Thus, the demigods deputed five Apsaras to divert Mandakarni from his austerities. It followed, that the rsi indeed became captivated by the women, marrying them all. After this the rsi created a secret house within the water, and retired there to reside with his wives. The sounds You are hearing is the music of the Apsaras. Even today they constantly serve the rsi, who has regained his youth by utilizing his ascetic prowess."
Thereafter, Rama, Sita and Laksmana spent their time wandering from asrama to asrama within the Dandakaranya forest. They would stay at each hermitage for a week, a month, or longer, sometimes even a year. In this way, ten years of Rama's exile passed comfortably and contentedly. After this time the three wanderers returned to the hermitage of Sutiksna to reside.
While one day conversing with the rsi, Rama said, I have heard that the great sage, Agastya, lives somewhere in Dandakaranya, but I could not find him within the vast forest. I would like to offer My respects to the rsi and receive his blessings. Please direct Me to his asrama."
After taking directions from Sutiksna, Rama, Sita and Laksmana departed. Then, as they came to the vicinity of Agastya rsi's asrama, Rama narrated the following: "Once there were two Raksasa brothers named Vatapi and Ilvala. Ilvala would take the form of a brahmana, and while speaking in Sanskrit, he would invite some real brahmanas to a sraddha ceremony. Before the arrival of the brahmanas, Ilvala would have Vatapi take the form of a ram. Then, after cooking his brother, Ilvala would feed him to the invited brahmanas. When Vatapi thus entered the brahmana's stomachs, Ilvala would loudly call, `O my brother, please come out now.' Being summoned, Vatapi would tear open the brahmana's stomachs and come out, bleating like a ram. In this way, thousands of brahmanas were killed by the two Raksasas. Finally, at the request of the demigods, Agastya Muni28 went there as an invited guest. Agastya ate Vatapi in the form of a ram, but then, when Ilvala called for his brother, the rsi informed him, `Vatapi has already been digested by me and sent to the abode of Yamaraja.' When Ilvala heard this, in a fit of rage, tried to attack Agastya. However, the rsi burnt him to ashes with his angry glance. Thereafter, because the Raksasas feared Agastya Muni, his asrama remained free from attack."
When Rama entered his asrama, sitting places were prepared and they were provided with a suitable welcome. After finishing their meal, Agastya presented Rama with the bow of Vishnu that had been constructed by Visvakarma, along with two inexhaustible quivers from Lord Indra, an infallible arrow and a gold inlaid sword from Lord Brahma. Then, turning to Sita, Agastya praised her, saying, "You have earned eternal glory by voluntarily accepting such hardship for the sake of your husband. This is especially meritorious, since it has been the nature of women since the dawn of creation to love a man only for as long as he is prosperous."
Thereafter, Rama asked Agastya to suggest a place for His residence. After some contemplation, the rsi recommended He go to Pancavati, sixteen miles away, near the banks of the river Godavari. Then, just before Rama's departure, Agastya confided, "I already know about Your entire life, by dint of yogic perception, which has been enhanced by my love for You."
After leaving the rsi's asrama, traveling to Pancavati, Rama, Sita and Laksmana came upon Jatayu, the gigantic King of the vultures. Thinking at first that he may be a Raksasa, Rama inquired about his true identity. With mild words, Jatayu replied, "My dear child, I was a good friend of Your father. Long ago, Kasyapa married eight daughters of Prajapati Daksa. From Vinata, Aruna was born, and from Tamasa, Syeni took birth. I am the son of Aruna and his wife Syeni, and my name is Jatayu. My dear Rama, please accept me as Your sincere servant. Since there are many fierce Raksasas inhabiting this forest, whenever You and Laksmana leave your cottage, I will watch over Sita."
Because of Jatayu's previous relationship with His father, Rama respectfully bowed to Jatayu. The vulture king then accompanied them to Pancavati, keeping a watchful eye the entire time. Arriving at Pancavati, Rama selected a suitable site for building their cottage, saying "It will be good to make our residence at a site near a lake or river, for water and greenery together create the ideal scenic beauty."
Rama selected a site near the banks of the Godavari and an adjacent lake beautifully adorned with pink and blue lotuses. The land there was flat, giving an unobstructed view of the entire area. The cries of swans and cakravakas could be heard from the river, along with those of peacocks, echoing from caves of the nearby hills. After building a suitable cottage there, it was consecrated with flower offerings, and Rama happily entered it.
As winter gradually set in, the morning sunshine became most pleasing to the sense of touch. One morning, just after Rama and Laksmana had returned from bathing in the river, and were conversing about their religious duties, a Raksasi happened on the scene. Upon seeing Rama, her heart immediately became infatuated with love. With His glowing greenish complexion and lotus petal eyes, Rama appeared to be the god of love himself, in human form. The Raksasi, however, possessed an extremely ugly face, a large, protruding belly, withered breasts, deformed eyes and copper colored hair. Just as Rama's body was youthful and well proportioned, muscular and bearing all the signs of royalty, the Raksasi's body was quite hideous and on the brink of middle age. Although she could change her form at will, she became so passionate upon seeing Rama that she forgot to change her revolting appearance. Still, having been pierced by Cupid's arrow, the Raksasi approached Rama, saying, "My dear handsome one, please tell me who You are and why You have come to the forest, dressed like a hermit. Indeed, You are dressed in the garb of an ascetic and are wearing matted locks of hair, yet You are wielding a bow and keeping a woman. Why have You come to this Raksasa-infested region? Please tell me who You are, and I will fulfill all Your desires."
In reply, Rama briefly explained the incidents leading to His exile. He then asked the Raksasi who she was. The love stricken demoness replied, "Hear the real truth, O lotus-eyed one. My name is Surpanakha, the sister of Ravana, Kumbhakarna, Vibhisana, Khara and Dusana. I live in this forest and strike fear into the hearts of all creatures. Although my brothers are powerful, I surpass them all. I must frankly say, I have become overwhelmed with love for You. My mind is made up to have You for my husband. Give up Your ugly, deformed wife, for she is not worthy of a great hero like Yourself. I am very powerful, and can travel at will[NKd32]. Thus, I am a suitable partner for You. First, though, I will devour the flat bellied Sita and Your brother Laksmana. Then we will be free to revel together in the hills and valleys of the beautiful Dandakaranya forest."
As the Raksasi looked upon Him with love filled eyes, Rama laughed heartily at her proposal. Rama then jokingly said, "I am already a married man, and certainly a young and beautiful girl like you could not tolerate living with a co-wife. My brother, however, who is an ever [NKd33]greater hero than Myself, is without a wife. Therefore, I suggest that you marry him."
Surpanakha took Rama's words seriously, and left His side to face Laksmana. Saturated with lusty desires, she said, "My dear handsome hero, you are indeed even more powerful and attractive than your brother. Therefore, I consider you to be even more suitable for me. Come, make me your wife, and we shall roam together through the forest, enjoying conjugal bliss."
Laksmana smilingly replied, "O soft-skinned and lovely-limbed lady, you should know that I am simply the servant of my elder brother. Thus, if you were to marry me, it would mean that you would be no better than His maidservant. I think you would be much better off by becoming Rama's second wife, for in time He will surely discard the aging and misshapen Sita and accept you alone. You have such a lovely face, always adorned with sweet smiles. Your ample breasts, slender waist and wide hips will make a man forget all other women. Who could resist you? Marry Rama and He will cast aside His ugly wife."
Surpanakha was too simple minded to understand that Rama and Laksmana were joking with her. Thus, she again turned to Rama, saying, "You are overly attached to the ugly Sita. Thus, I will eat her up at once and forcibly take You as my husband."
Saying this, Surpanakha rushed at Sita. However, Rama checked her, telling Laksmana, "You should not joke with this Raksasi in a way that endangers Sita. Now, disfigure her in a way that will teach her a lesson."
Upon Rama's order, Laksmana drew his sword, swiftly slicing off Surpanakha's nose and ears as his elder brother looked on. Upon being cut, Surpanakha screamed out in agony. Bleeding profusely, she fled into the forest. She quickly went to Janasthana, where her brother, Khara, lived along with many other Raksasas. Frightened and smeared with blood, Surpanakha threw herself at her brother's feet, weeping bitterly. Then as Khara looked on, his sister incoherently tried to explain what had happened.
Seeing his sister's disfigurement, Khara's heart became filled with horror and rage. Breathing like a trampled snake, Khara said, "O sister, please get up and calm yourself. Compose yourself so you can clearly tell me what has happened to you. Who has dared to injure you? Does he not realize that he has drank [NKd34]poison by doing this? There is not a demigod, demon, Gandharva or rsi who can harm you and escape with his life. Please, point out the culprit and I shall drink his blood with my sharp arrows!"
Sobbing bitterly, Surpanakha replied, "There are two brothers named Rama and Laksmana staying nearby in the Dandakaranya forest. I do not know whether they are demigods or demons. However, since they have mutilated my face, I will only become satisfied after drinking their blood!"
Khara then called for fourteen of the most powerful Raksasas and sent them out with Surpanakha to kill Rama, Laksmana and Sita.
As the Raksasas approached, Rama was sitting in the cottage with Sita, while Laksmana guarded the doorway. Seeing the hideous man-eaters, Rama ordered Laksmana, "Stay here with Sita while I fight these Raksasas."
Rama then called out to the Raksasas, "We have come to this forest at the request of the rsis, who seek our protection from your atrocities. We are living a life of tapasya, eating only fruits and roots. Why have you come here to disturb us? Turn back now, if you at all value your lives."
Surprised at being challenged so courageously, the Raksasas stared at Rama with blood red eyes, saying, "Our master, Khara is very angry with You, and has ordered us to kill You. Regardless, how can you hope to fight with so many of us? In a moment we shall crush You with our weapons and You will be dead!"
Saying this, the Raksasas rushed at Rama with uplifted weapons. However, with fourteen arrows, Rama first cut their weapons to pieces. With fourteen more, He pierced their hearts. Thus, like trees whose trunks have been severed, the Raksasas fell to the ground dead, bathed in their own blood.
Shaking with fear, Surpanakha fled back to her brother's abode, informing him of the slaughter. "You tried to comfort me by sending these Raksasas to kill Rama and Laksmana. However, they have killed all the Raksasas with ease. Now you must go yourself to kill Rama and Laksmana. If you do not gain revenge for what they have done to me then I will give up my life out of shame." Saying this, Surpanakha fell to the ground, overwhelmed with grief, and began beating her belly, bursting into tears.
Hearing his sister's harsh words, Khara became enraged, uttering a vow, "Give up your sorrow, my sister. I promise to kill Rama and Laksmana this very day so that you may drink their blood!"
Hearing this, Surpanakha became somewhat pacified. Khara then ordered his brother, Dusana, to bring his chariot and weapons and to assemble their army of 14,000 Raksasas. Thereafter, Khara mounted his chariot and departed for the Dandakaranya forest with his Raksasa army.
As the Raksasas proceeded, dark clouds showered rain mixed with blood upon them, causing Khara's horses to fall down on the road. A vulture then came and perched upon Khara's flag standard while a dark red aura dimmed the light of the sun. Then, as jackals howled frightfully, darkness set in, and Rahu covered the sun, although not in an eclipse. All the while, Khara's left arm trembled violently and his voice became hoarse and faint. Still, despite witnessing all these harbingers of evil, Khara laughed, saying, "O Raksasas, because of my great prowess, I do not care for any of these so called inauspicious omens."
Meanwhile, all the great demigods and rsis assembled in the sky to witness the impending battle. As the Raksasas approached, Rama described to Laksmana the auspicious signs He had perceived: "My arrows are feeling joyful, My bow is stirring with delight, and My right arm is throbbing. My dear brother, take Sita at once to a mountain cave and watch over her carefully while I massacre these Raksasas."
After Laksmana and Sita had departed, Rama put on His suit of blazing golden armor. Then, when the Raksasas advanced toward Him, while roaring ferociously, Rama summoned His all-devouring anger and assumed a dreadful form.
As the Raksasa army surrounded Rama, Khara released 1,000 arrows while other Raksasas showered innumerable weapons, such as clubs, spears, swords, and axes. Rama, however, easily cut those weapons to pieces with His own arrows. Even though deeply pierced and bleeding, He appeared not to feel any pain. Rama then released thousands of arrows at the Raksasas, cutting off their bows, flags, shields, armor, and bodily limbs. Indeed, many of the Raksasas fell down dead, along with their elephants and horses, their chariots smashed to pieces.
At that, the Raksasas became further enraged, and countered by showering their weapons upon Rama in even greater profusion. Rama, however, again cut their weapons to pieces with His arrows, consequently killing many Raksasas by piercing their hearts. In addition, many grotesque heads were severed from their gigantic trunks. Upon seeing this, the remaining Raksasas fled in fear to the shelter of Khara.
In great anger, Dusana suddenly rushed at Rama, with many Raksasas following him, encouraged by his valor. In response, Rama took up the best of Gandharva weapons. Thus, from His bow came many thousands of arrows which soon covered the sun, engulfing the battle scene in darkness. From these arrows thousands of Raksasas were cut to pieces, so many, that their dismembered corpses lay in tall heaps.
Dusana then rallied his army, urging the remaining 5,000 Raksasas to attack Rama. In the fight that ensued, Dusana fought heroically, and when Rama saw that His arrows were being successfully counteracted by the brother of Khara, He became extremely angry. Taking up a blazing arrow, Rama cut Dusana's bow in half, then, with four more arrows, He killed the Raksasa's horses. With another arrow, Rama severed the head of Dusana's driver, and with three more arrows, pierced the Raksasa's chest. Although in great pain, Dusana jumped down from his disabled chariot and took up a spiked club. He then rushed headlong toward Rama, intent on killing Him. However, with just two arrows, Rama quickly severed Dusana's arms, and then firing one more, He killed the terrible Raksasa.
Seeing Dusana fall, the remainder of his army rushed toward Rama, seeking revenge. Working at the speed of mind, Rama released 5,000 arrows in a steady stream, like so many blazing meteors. Thus, the 5,000 Raksasa soldiers soon lay slaughtered on the ground.
Seeing this great massacre, Khara ordered his few remaining soldiers to attack. Rama, however, made short work of them. Thus, the Dandakaranya forest became a sea of reddish mud from the blood of the 14,000 slain Raksasas, with only Khara and Trisira remaining alive.
As Khara prepared to attack Rama, his general, Trisira, begged him for permission to fight first. Khara agreed, and thus, the three headed Raksasa came toward Rama, showering Him with arrows. When some of these arrows pierced Rama's forehead, Rama became enraged, and quickly retaliated by killing Trisira's horses and driver and knocking down his flag. Then, as Trisira attempted to jump down from his disabled chariot, Rama pierced his heart with a fiery arrow, and cut his three heads off with three more.
Following this, Khara rallied the few remaining Raksasas that had survived, and fearfully attacked Rama. During the fierce duel that ensued, the sun became invisible, as their streams of arrows completely covered the sky. Then, bringing his chariot close by, Khara dexterously cut Rama's bow in two. Next, Khara released 1000 arrows that shattered Rama's armor, causing it to fall to the ground in pieces.
Although His limbs were deeply pierced, Rama calmly strung the bow of Lord Vishnu. Rama then cut down Khara's emblem, but the Raksasa retaliated by with four arrows that bathed Rama in His own blood. Becoming more enraged, Rama quickly released six arrows that pierced Khara's head, arms and chest. Then, with thirteen more, Rama killed Khara's four horses, severed the driver's head, cut off his opponent's bow, and smashed his chariot. The last of these arrows, which appeared as dazzling as lightning, pierced Khara's chest, making him fall back, bereft of his senses.
Khara, however, quickly recovered, and jumped down from his ruined chariot. Then he stood before Rama, club in hand. Rama chastised him, saying, "You cruel and sinful Raksasa. Since you have dedicated your life to giving pain to others, you are thoroughly condemned. To punish you, I shall now strike off your head this very hour."
This however, merely enraged Khara further. He screamed at Rama, "You vile wretch, those who are actually heroes do not brag about their prowess."
Saying this, Khara hurled his gigantic mace at Rama. The blazing club burned to ashes all the trees and bushes that stood in its path. However, Rama's arrows easily broke the club to pieces as it soared through the air. Then the two again exchanged harsh words, and Khara, looking for a weapon to attack Rama with, uprooted a huge sala tree. Whirling the tree around and around, Khara released the tree at Rama, shouting, "You are killed!"
Rama, however, easily cut the tree to pieces. Then, desiring to end the battle, Rama released 1,000 arrows. With blood flowing from nearly every pore of his body, Khara made a final rush toward Rama. As he did, Rama selected a blazing arrow, which upon piercing Khara's chest, burst into flames. Finally, the Raksasa fell to the ground, dead.
The demigods became overjoyed, witnessing Rama's victory from their airplanes in the sky. As they beat on drums and showered flowers, the demigods glorified Rama for His astonishing feat of killing all the Raksasas in such a short time.
Great rsis, headed by Agastya, then appeared before Rama and disclosed, "When Indra previously visited Sarabhanga, it was to arrange for Your killing these Raksasas. Thus, the rsi advised You to dwell in this region."
Thereafter, Sita and Laksmana came out from the cave they were sheltering in, and upon seeing Rama safe and sound, Sita ran to embrace Him with great joy. Meanwhile, a Raksasa named Akampana, who had somehow escaped the massacre at Janasthana, went to Lanka and informed Ravana of the death of his two brothers.
Upon hearing the news, Ravana became red with rage, shouting, "Who dares to offend me in this way, bringing about his own death? No one can save him now, not even Indra, Yama or Vishnu. Tell me at once! Who has dared to make me so angry?"
Fearful of Ravana's wrath, Akampana begged from Ravana, "My dear lord, I shall gladly answer your questions. However, please promise that you will not become angry toward me for my truthful speech."
Thus, after gaining Ravana's assurances, Akampana explained: "The 14,000 Raksasas, including your two brothers, were killed by a human being named Rama, the son of King Dasaratha."
Ravana then inquired, "Was this Rama accompanied by all the demigods?"
Akampana replied, "Oh no, my lord! This Rama killed all the Raksasas single-handed, without even taking help from His younger brother. Indeed, Rama's prowess is so formidable that He accomplished this awesome task in a very short time-less than two hours! No one could stand before Rama. When He became enraged, it appeared as if the entire universe would be destroyed."
Ravana then angrily declared, "I shall go to Janasthana at once and kill this Rama and Laksmana. Then we will see what kind of heroes they really are!"
Desiring to benefit his master, Akampana warned Ravana, "Please do not act hastily because of underestimating the power of Rama. He is capable of annihilating the entire universe-and again recreating it. Even if the demigods and demons all combined together, I do not think that Rama could be killed. Therefore, O lord, do not consider attacking Him with force. There is, however, another way that I think could provide the means for Rama's death. The wife of Rama, named Sita, is incomparably beautiful, with a face that is lovelier and fairer than thousands of moons. Indeed, she is the very emblem of feminine attractiveness and is the perfection of womanly chastity and behavior. I think that without Sita, Rama could no longer bear to live. Therefore, I suggest that you go to kidnap her."
Ravana immediately liked this idea, and after reflecting momentarily, he responded, "Your suggestion is brilliant! I shall go to Pancavati tomorrow on my chariot and carry Sita away by force with great pleasure."
After dismissing Akampana, Ravana went to the hermitage of Tataka's son, Marica. After receiving Ravana with great respect and washing his feet, Marica inquired, "O lord of the Raksasas, your surprise visit here fills my mind with misgiving. I know that you would not have come personally unless the matter was most important."
Ravana replied, "You are certainly correct. A human being named Rama has completely annihilated my entire army of Raksasas posted at Janasthana. Rama's brother, Laksmana had disfigured my sister, Surpanakha, causing Khara and Dusana to retaliate. I considered my two brothers to be invincible, but they have been slain along with all their soldiers. I need your help, Marica, because I plan to kidnap Rama's wife, Sita."
With great shock and horror, Marica responded, "Whoever has given you this idea is actually your worst enemy in the guise of a friend. O Ravana, if you try to carry out this foolish plan, it will only result in your own destruction, for Rama has inconceivable prowess, on the level of Lord Vishnu, Himself. Rama is like a fathomless ocean. Crocodiles are His bow and whirlpools are His mighty arms. The releasing of His arrows are like the constant flowing waves. The span from shore to shore is the battlefield, wherein His enemies drown. O King of Raksasas, it would be far better for you to control your wrath and return to Lanka. Enjoy yourself there along with your wives, and let Rama enjoy with His wife in the Dandakaranya forest. Otherwise, you will unnecessarily bring disaster down upon your own head."
Taking Marica's advice, Ravana returned to his magnificent palace at Lanka. Meanwhile, Surpanakha, having witnessed the slaughter of all the Raksasas at Janasthana, went to Lanka to see her brother, Ravana.
Ravana had ten heads and twenty arms, and his body bore many scars from former conflicts, including those inflicted by Lord Vishnu's Sudarsana Cakra. Once, Ravana attacked Bhogavati and after defeating Vasuki and Taksaka, he took away Taksaka's wife by force. Then, after conquering Kuvera, Ravana took possession of the Puspaka chariot. Then, simply out of spite, he destroyed some of the heavenly gardens, including the Nandanavana.
Long ago, Ravana once performed severe austerities, and at the end of 10,000 years, he began offering his ten heads in sacrifice to Lord Brahma. Being gratified with Ravana, Lord Brahma awarded him with immunity from death at the hands of all living creatures, except human beings. After receiving this benediction, the puffed-up Ravana began killing brahmanas and disrupting their sacrifices. Thus, he became a thorn in the side of the demigods, who fervently prayed to Lord Vishnu for his destruction.
After approaching Ravana, who was seated upon a beautiful golden throne within his seven story palace, Surpanakha revealed to her brother her disfigured face. Speaking with great agitation, she said, "My dear brother, are you so absorbed in sense gratification that you fail to recognize grave danger at hand? When the king is only interested in his own vulgar enjoyment and doesn't pay attention to state affairs, everyone comes to despise him. Haven't your spies reported how Rama slaughtered 14,000 Raksasas at Janasthana, single-handed, including your two brothers? You are a useless King, and I predict that you will not remain on the throne for long."
Ravana became inflamed by the prodding from his sister, especially coming as it was, in front of his ministers. Barely controlling his anger, he inquired from her, "Who is this Rama, and what is His strength? Was it He that deformed you like this? Speak now, for I want to know everything!"
Surpanakha replied, "With His long, powerful arms and large eyes shaped like lotus petals, Rama appears to be the god of love himself. His complexion has a green hue, and He is strongly built like a lion. His bow is as effulgent as a rainbow, and when He stretches it to full length, He shoots golden arrows that resemble venomous snakes, releasing them so fast that you can't tell whether He is pulling out the arrow or shooting it. Although He is the most heroic ksatriya, He has dressed Himself in tree-bark and deerskin and keeps matted hair.
"He killed the entire army of Raksasas at Janasthana with a volley of arrows. He is endowed with such exceptional strength that He has even subdued Khara and Dusana. I'm sure He could divert the current of a river, or bring down the stars and planets from the heavens.
"Rama's younger brother is Laksmana, and it is he who cut off my nose and ears, under his elder brother's instruction. The wife of Rama is named Sita, and she is exactly like the goddess of fortune. She has large dark eyes and the beauty of her face surpasses that of many, many moons. Her smooth skin has the color of molten gold, and her slim waist, graceful hips and full breasts make her incomparably beautiful. O Ravana, there is no other woman like Sita. If you were to see her you would fall madly in love, for she would make a perfect wife for you. I intended to capture her to bring to you, but instead I was disfigured by Laksmana. Now, my dear brother, you should go and kidnap Sita-that is, if you truly are as powerful a hero as you think."
Hearing this, Ravana became fully determined to possess Sita. He again mounted his chariot, and after crossing the sea, went to the asrama of Marica, who was dressed like a rsi, engaged in performing austerities. Marica inquired from Ravana respectfully, "O King, what is the reason for your early return to my residence?"
Ravana replied, "After hearing of Rama's slaughtering the Raksasas at Janasthana, I have not found a moment's peace. I have, therefore, made up my mind to kidnap Sita, and I want you to help me. To this end, I have devised a very clever plan. I want you to take the form of a golden deer, freckled with silver spots. Afterwards, go out into the forest and play in front of Sita. She will surely become captivated by such a darling, wonderful creature and thus desire to have it as her pet. After you prance playfully before her, lead Rama astray. Once you have done this, I will come and kidnap Sita, taking her back to Lanka. Thereafter, when Rama becomes aggrieved and emaciated due to separation from His beloved wife, I will be able to easily slay Him."
Upon hearing the name of Rama, Marica became greatly fearful. As he thought about Ravana's plan, his mouth became dry. Staring with unblinking eyes, Marica addressed Ravana with folded hands, "O lord, if you try to carry out this plan, it surely will cause the destruction of all the Raksasas and your kingdom of Lanka. Because of your lusty nature and ignorance of Rama's prowess, you are foolishly rushing toward your own doom. Please hear from me of Rama's supreme potency before you act blindly, thus bringing about your own destruction.
"Previously, I used to wander about the earth, club in hand, feeling very proud of my superhuman strength. I subsisted upon the flesh of rsis in the Dandakaranya forest. Out of fear, Visvamitra approached King Dasaratha to solicit Rama's help for protecting his sacrificial performances. Thereafter, while Rama guarded Visvamitra's sacrificial arena, I ignorantly went there with the intention of disrupting the yajna. However, with just one arrow, Rama hurled me 800 miles into the ocean and then killed the other Raksasas accompanying me. When I regained consciousness, having thus been spared by Rama, I returned to Lanka, but was still not cured of my false pride. Then, taking the form of a large carnivorous stag with a flaming tongue, I returned to the Dandakaranya forest and roamed about, drinking the blood of the rsis. As it happened, I again came upon Rama, who was wandering in the Dandakaranya forest with Laksmana and Sita. With the bitter memory of my past defeat in my mind, and considering how Rama had accepted a life of renunciation, I was determined to gain revenge. However, when I rushed at Him, Rama released three arrows. My two companions were killed instantly, and I fled for my life. I think my life was spared only because Rama's arrows do not kill one who flees from the battlefield.
"Ever since that time, I have been consumed with fear of Rama. As a result, my inclination for violence and fighting has vanished. Having given up all malice toward others, I have taken to an ascetic life of yoga practice. However, I have failed to obtain peace of mind, for whenever I happen to glance upon a tree, I think that it is Rama, dressed in tree bark. Thus, the entire forest appears to have become transformed into innumerable Ramas. Because of this, whenever I look anywhere, I become terrified. Sometimes I see Rama in my dreams, and I immediately wake up, my heart thumping in terror. Indeed, I have become so afraid of Rama that whenever I hear a word beginning with the letter "R," such as ratha or ratna, my heart trembles with fear.
"O King, for your own welfare, as well as for mine, I advise you to forget kidnapping Sita. Aside from fearing Rama, why should you perform such a sinful act? There is no offense more punishable than the abduction of another's wife. Remain satisfied with your thousands of wives and save your dignity, fortune, kingdom and life itself."
Having listened patiently, Ravana replied, "Now you must listen, Marica. I did not come asking your advice. I came to obtain your help in executing my plan to kidnap Sita. As my minister it is your duty to give advice only when asked for, and to obey my orders without question. Regardless, I have made up my mind, and nothing can deter me. I want you to take the form of a deer to charm Sita. Then, when she begs Rama to capture you, lead Him deep into the forest and call out, `O Sita! O Laksmana!' When he thinks that his brother is in difficulty, Laksmana will leave Sita aside to go help Him. Just perform this small service, and in return, I will reward you with half my kingdom. However, if you refuse, then I shall kill you myself this very day. It is your choice. You may take certain death at my hands, or possible death at the hand of Rama. Make up your mind!"
Marica, however, boldly declared, "Flatterers are quite easy to come by, my lord. Rare is that person who will speak unpleasant words that are meant for one's benefit. A minister should always give good advice, even if uncalled for, especially when the King is misguided. Unfortunately, however, it is seen that one who is about to die is never willing to take good advice. O King, if we carry out your plan, I am certain that both of us will end up dead. Still, I would rather die at the hands of an exalted enemy on the battlefield, rather than be killed by you here. Therefore, let us depart at once."
Ravana was pleased that Marica saw the wisdom of his ultimatum. He embraced Marica and they then mounted Ravana's aerial chariot and departed. Thus, after passing numerous forests, rivers towns and fields, they landed at the Dandakaranya forest, near where Rama, Sita and Laksmana were residing.
Upon descending from the chariot, Marica immediately transformed himself into a beautiful deer. Then, going to Rama's cottage, he began to prance playfully, to and fro.
Marica's deer form had numerous jewel-like silver spots, with the tips of its horns appearing like sapphires. Its mouth appeared like a pinkish lotus flower, its tail like a rainbow, and its ears were bright blue. Indeed, the magical deer appeared to have been constructed from many varieties of valuable jewels.
With a dazzling luster, the deer seemed to illuminate the entire area surrounding the cottage. Sometimes it nibbled at the grass and sometimes it frolicked among the trees.
Just then, Sita was gathering flowers in the groves of mango, asoka and karnikara trees. Seeing her, Marica the deer leapt, ran, crouched and turned, eager to attract her attention. However, the other deer in the area fled, for they had caught the scent of the disguised Raksasa, and ran away, helter-skelter.
Then, the magical deer came close to Sita, and bounded in front of her. Seeing this, Sita became captivated with wonder and enchantment, for she had never before seen such a wonderful deer. With wide open eyes, she called out, "O Rama, O Laksmana, come quickly!"
As Sita stood with eyes fixed, Rama and Laksmana also beheld the magical deer. Laksmana, however, was wary. "This might be a trick," he said. "The Raksasa Marica is known to take such animal forms just to entice and waylay kings who come to the forest to hunt."
At that, Sita interrupted Laksmana, for her intelligence had already become deluded by watching the magical deer, created by the Raksasa's mystical prowess. "O Rama," she said, "please catch this deer, for it has caught my fancy. Such a deer would make a lovely pet for me, and provide a welcome diversion from our dreary forest existence. Please go quickly, and catch this deer alive, and I will take it back with us when we return to Ayodhya at the end of our exile. Surely it will delight Bharata and our mothers. Please, Rama, I want so much to have it to play with. It is so lovely, and its smooth skin shines like the moon. O, my husband, if You cannot capture it alive, at least find and kill it so that I may have its beautiful jewel-like hide for a rug. Perhaps You think me a foolish woman, but I must have this deer. I have become completely enchanted by its beauty."
Rama was delighted to have the chance to fulfill Sita's desire, and He, too, was captivated by the deer's mysterious beauty. He the told Laksmana, "Sita is enthralled with this deer, and I must bring it for her. Look at its tongue, which darts like a flame, or lightning from a cloud. Nowhere is such a deer to be found, not even in the heavenly gardens of Nandana or Caitraratha! Indeed, this deer's splendor will cost it its life. I will make a carpet of its spotted, golden skin so Sita and I can enjoy sitting together upon it. However, if, as you say, the deer is actually Marica, then killing it will be beneficial for all the rsis that reside in this forest. O Laksmana, stay here with bow in hand until I return. Keep a careful watch over Sita."
Saying this, Rama took up a sword, bow and two quivers, whereupon Marica suddenly vanished from sight. As Rama entered the forest, the deer once again came into view, then running away swiftly, while frequently looking backwards. Again, the deer came close to Rama, as if tempting Him to capture it. As Rama rushed toward the deer, however, it disappeared from sight.
In this way, by repeatedly becoming visible and then disappearing, Marica lured Rama far away from His cottage. Confused by the deer's puzzling movements, Rama felt helpless and frustrated.
Finally, feeling exhausted from the chase, Rama rested for awhile beneath a tree. Then, once again, the deer suddenly appeared close by. However, just when Rama rose up to capture it, the deer mysteriously vanished.
Out of frustration, Rama gave up the idea of trying to capture the deer alive. Thus, when it next appeared at some distance, Rama pulled out a blazing arrow of Lord Brahma and released it to kill the deer. Marica jumped high, trying to avoid Rama's arrow, but it pierced his heart, nonetheless. As Marica fell to the ground, mortally wounded, he assumed his real form of a Raksasa. Then, remembering Ravana's instructions, Marica imitated Rama's voice, and called out in great distress, "O Sita! O Laksmana!"
Marica then gave up his life, and upon hearing these words, Rama became dejected, wondering, "What will Sita and Laksmana think?"
Indeed, a terrible fear entered Rama's heart, as He immediately rushed back to His cottage. Meanwhile, when Sita heard the voice of Marica, she thought that Rama was crying out for help. Panicked with fear, she turned to Laksmana, urging, "Go quickly to Rama and find out what has happened! That was Rama crying out for help! He needs you. O Laksmana, my heart is throbbing and I can hardly breathe. I think the Raksasas must have overwhelmed Rama!"
With Rama's order to guard Sita firmly in mind, Laksmana did not move away. His seeming indifference upset Sita even more, impelling her to chastise Laksmana with harsh words, "Why do you just stand there? Do you want Rama to die? It has now become evident that you are merely the enemy of your elder brother in the guise of a friend. I think you wish Rama to die so you may enjoy me as you like. Otherwise, you would surely rush to His rescue. Go quickly, Laksmana! What is the use of me remaining alive and safe while my husband is in danger?"
As Sita sobbed and trembled with fear, Laksmana replied, "Try to control yourself. Rest assured, no one can ever harm Rama. Not Raksasas, nor Indra and all the demigods can harm Him. I am convinced the voice you heard was the conjuring trick of Marica, made to frighten us. Rama has ordered me to protect you. Therefore, I must stay here and obey Him."
Sita was by now, practically deranged with fright. Thus, Laksmana's words only served to arouse her anger and hatred further. With eyes red with rage, Sita raved, "You shameless and wicked man! I think you are enjoying Rama's misfortune. Otherwise, why would you speak so casually? You have only been pretending to be your elder brother's humble servant. The real reason you have accompanied Rama to the forest was to look for an opportunity to kill Him and fulfill your lusty desires to enjoy me. Perhaps you are Bharata's agent! In any case, you will never obtain the fulfillment of your sinful desires! Do you really think I would accept you after having been the wife of lotus-eyed Rama? I would rather die! Indeed, without Rama, I could not bear to live for a moment."
Sita's words pierced Laksmana's heart as if struck by sharp arrows. With folded hands, the horrified Laksmana replied, "O princess of Mithila, you are like a deity to me. Thus, I cannot speak harshly in reply. I know that it is the nature of women to create trouble and discord between friends. Indeed, women are so fickle and hard-hearted that when they become obsessed with some desire, they give up all sense of morality. O daughter of King Janaka, you have goaded me with your sharp words, and so I will go to Rama as you demand. However, because I see terrible omens, foreboding great evil, I fear that when I return with Rama, we will no longer find you here."
With great agitation, Sita said, "If Rama is killed then I shall jump off a cliff, drown myself, or take poison. I would rather die than be touched by another man!"
Inflamed with rage by Sita's harsh words, Laksmana was torn between duty and his inner desire to see Rama. Thus, as Sita continued to malign him, Laksmana reluctantly departed, allowing Ravana his eagerly awaited opportunity.
Dressed in saffron cloth, his hair tied in a knot on top of his head, wearing wooden sandals and carrying an umbrella on his right shoulder and a staff and kamadhenu [NKd35]on his left, Ravana came before Sita in the guise of a wandering mendicant. Sitting inside her cottage, Sita was crying, shedding tears of grief in Rama's absence, as Ravana appeared at her doorway.29
Out of fear, the wind ceased blowing, the leaves on the trees in the forest stopped fluttering and the waters of the Godavari became hushed. While chanting Vedic mantras, Ravana approached Sita. As he stared at her, his heart became pierced by Cupid's arrows. Then, hoping to charm her, Ravana spoke to Sita. "Who are you, O lovely lady, residing all alone within this terrible forest? Are you the goddess of modesty, Hri, the goddess of fame, Kirti, the goddess of mystic powers, Bhuti, or the goddess of love, Rati? Perhaps you are Laksmi herself, now bereft of her lotus flower. Your smooth white teeth are like a row of jasmine buds and your dark eyes resemble two bumble bees that hover over your lotus-like face. Your thighs are tapered and graceful, like the trunks of elephants, and your hips are rounded and ample. Your firm, abundant breasts seem to touch each other and their nipples are pointed and prominent. Beneath them is a waist so slim that a thumb and index finger circle it perfectly. No mortal or celestial woman can equal your beauty, which has ravished my heart, like a swelling river that floods its banks.
"O dark eyed lady, why do you remain here when you could prosper elsewhere? You should reside in a palace, adorned with the finest dresses and jewels, attended by countless servants. Are you the wife of one of the Rudra's, Maruts or Vasus? O sweet smiling one, choose a worthy husband and leave this jungle that abounds with ferocious animals."
Even though addressed so boldly, Sita offered her guest a proper reception, not wishing to offend a brahmana. After offering him a seat and water to wash his feet, Sita gave her guest a meal and explained, "Dear Sir, my name is Sita, the daughter of the noble minded King Janaka of Mithila. At the age of nine I was married to my beloved husband, Rama. Later, at the urging of my father-in-law's wife, Kaikeyi, King Dasaratha installed her son Bharata as heir-apparent, banishing Rama to the forest for fourteen years. Please tell me your name and ancestry and why you have come to the Dandakaranya forest."
No longer able to control his emotions, Ravana excitedly replied, "I am Ravana, the King of the Raksasas. Even great demigods tremble at the mere mention of my name. O faultless, beautiful one, now that I have seen you, I could never again take delight in my other innumerable consorts. My dear Sita, become my principal queen and you shall have 5,000 maid-servants awaiting your commands. Leave this forest and enjoy with me in the beautiful gardens of Lanka."
Hearing Ravana, Sita became enraged. With great contempt, she replied, "I am completely devoted to Rama, Who is as steady as a rock, as grave as the ocean, and sheltering like a banyan tree. I am devoted to Rama, Who is mighty armed and broad chested, Who's face resembles the full-moon, and Who is self controlled and virtuous. Rama is a lion among men, and you, who are like a jackal, want to possess me, a lioness.
"Would you dare touch the sun or lift up Mount Mandara? Would you pierce your eyes with a needle, or carry a blazing fire in your garment? Would you attempt to swim across the ocean with a bolder tied to your neck? Then why do you dare consider running away with Rama's wife?
"Rama is Garuda, and you are but a crow. Rama is the ocean, and you, a small puddle. Rama is amrta and you are stale gruel. He is sandalwood, and you, mud. He is gold, and you, iron. Rama is like a swan, and you are no better than a vulture. You may kidnap me, but as long as Rama lives, you could no more enjoy me than a fly that flounders in ghee."
Although speaking boldly, Sita was shaking with fear. Thus, to further intimidate her, Ravana said, "Listen, my lovely lady. I am the half-brother of Kuvera, the lord of wealth. After vanquishing him, I took away his Puspaka chariot, and now he hides himself near Mount Kailasa. The demigods are all afraid of me, and wherever I go, the sunshine becomes like moonshine, the wind calms itself, and rivers stop flowing. Forget Rama, for He is a mere mortal, doomed to soon perish. Come with me and enjoy heavenly delights. I passionately yearn for you. Do not disappoint me."
Sita then replied, "If you are truly Kuvera's brother, then why do you act with such wicked intentions? The ravisher of Indra's wife may survive, but whoever tries to molest me is doomed!"
Finally, Ravana lost all patience. In a fit of rage, he revealed his gigantic form as a fierce Raksasa, with ten heads, twenty arms and sharp teeth. The King of Raksasas then declared, "If you wish to have a husband who is renowned throughout the three worlds, then accept me. Serve me and I shall never displease you. Why are you so fond of Rama, Who has been banished to the forest?"
Then after a moment's pause, Ravana quickly reached out with his left hand, grabbing Sita by the hair. As if summoned, Ravana's golden chariot came close by, and, placing his right hand upon her thigh, the king of the Raksasas took the frightened Sita in his arms and ascended into the sky. As they ascended, Sita screamed out, "Rama! Rama! O please, come save me. Why don't You save me? You must punish this wretched Ravana!"
In desperation, Sita called out to the trees, the river, birds and animals, begging them to inform Rama that she had been abducted. Just then, Sita saw Jatayu, sleeping while perched atop a tree. Sita called out to him, "Jatayu, please help me. Please go now and tell Rama that I have been kidnapped by the evil Ravana!"
Hearing Sita's cries, Jatayu awakened, and seeing how she was being roughly handled by Ravana, he challenged the King of the Raksasas, saying, "O Ravana, I am Jatayu, the King of the vultures. How can you dare lay your hands on the wife of another? Beware, for you are carrying a poisonous snake in your arms! I am now 60,000 years old and without weapons, and you are young with many weapons, but I will not allow you to carry away Sita. I warn you-give up your evil intentions, or else prepare to be hurled from your chariot like a ripe fruit falling from a tree!"
Thus challenged, Ravana angrily rushed toward Jatayu. As the fighting began, it appeared that two great mountains were striking one another. Ravana discharged many weapons at Jatayu, while the giant vulture inflicted wounds upon Ravana with his taloned feet. Although Jatayu was pierced by many powerful arrows, the sight of Sita crying while seated upon Ravana's chariot enabled him to tolerate the pain.
While attacking Ravana, Jatayu warded off the onslaught of arrows with his wings, and managed to break Ravana's bow with his feet. Gaining this advantage, Jatayu quickly cut off Ravana's armor, and with his sharp claws he killed the mules yoked to the chariot.
Thereafter, the heroic Jatayu proceeded to smash the chariot to pieces while simultaneously striking off the head of Ravana's driver with his beak. His chariot broken, Ravana fell to the ground while tightly clasping Sita in his arms. As they witnessed this wonderful display of prowess, all the creatures watching applauded Jatayu's valor.
However, because of his old age, Jatayu soon became exhausted. Meanwhile, Ravana rose up into the sky, holding Sita with one hand, and bearing a sword in another. Then, sharply condemning Ravana, Jatayu suddenly swooped down, landing upon Ravana's back, and began pulling at his hair so forcibly that the Raksasa King's lips quivered with indignation. Pressing Sita tightly to his left thigh, Ravana struck back at Jatayu with the palm of his hand. Jatayu, however, dodged the blow, and then tore off Ravana's ten left arms with his powerful beak. Ravana's arms, however, were immediately replaced by new arms. Leaving Sita aside, The King of the Raksasas began striking Jatayu with his fists and feet.
The fighting continued for nearly an hour. Finally, in desperation, Ravana took up his sword and cut off Jatayu's wings, feet, and flanks, causing him to fall mortally wounded to the ground. In urgent distress, Sita rushed to where Jatayu lay, embracing him with tears in her eyes. Ravana, however, quickly grabbed Sita by the hair and carried her off, as she cried out in grief, "Rama! Rama!"
Sita's cries caused the entire universe to fall out of order, as everything became enveloped in darkness. Due to empathy with Sita's grief, the wind no longer blew, and the sun lost its luster. Lord Brahma, however, who could perceive the entire incident through divine eyes, declared, "Our purpose is now accomplished!"
Thereafter, as Ravana rose into the sky, Sita's ornaments broke apart, her jewels falling to the ground. The pearls from her necklace slipped from her breast like the pure water of the Ganga falling from the sky. Overwhelmed with fear and grief, Sita continuously struggled to free herself from Ravana's grip, reproaching him again and again for his vile, cowardly act.
As Ravana sped to his destination, all creatures in nature appeared to lament: "There is no dharma, there is no truth, there is no gentleness." Her loose hair waving in the wind, her mark of tilaka erased and her face devoid of cheer, Sita moaned, "O Rama! O Laksmana!
Just then, Sita saw five monkey chiefs sitting atop a mountain. Unnoticed by Ravana, she took off her silk upper cloth and some jewels and dropped them in the midst of the forest dwellers, hoping they would inform Rama.
As the monkeys stared with unblinking eyes, Ravana carried Sita away toward Lanka.
Like many other powerful materialists, Ravana risked everything to gain the object of his desire. While carrying Sita across the ocean to his kingdom, he relished the thought of having successfully abducted her, and he eagerly anticipated making her his queen. Blinded by lust, he failed to realize that the beloved object of his desire was actually death personified for him. The goddess of fortune always serves the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, and when materialists try to enjoy her, she goes to them as Durga, the deadly material nature. As the mistress of this world, Durga rides a tiger and carries a trident whose prongs are the threefold miseries of material life: miseries arising from the body and mind, miseries inflicted by other living entities, and miseries imposed by higher powers in the form of natural disasters. Indeed, no one, not even the greatest scientist or conqueror, can counteract the sufferings meted out by Durga.
Thinking himself more powerful than God, Ravana dangerously ignored reality. After crossing the ocean, Ravana took Sita into the inner apartments of his palace. There, he ordered his fierce female Raksasa attendants, "Watch over Sita very carefully and let no one see her face without my permission. Let her have gold, jewels, the best clothing, ornaments and food-whatever she may desire. However, take heed of my warning: anyone who even dares to utter one harsh word toward her will die by my hands!"
After this, Ravana called for eight powerful Raksasas, saying, "Ever since Rama killed all the Raksasas at Janasthana, I have felt an intolerable enmity toward Him. Indeed, I will not sleep peacefully until Rama is killed. Go now to Janasthana, and after spying on Him, bring back any information that you may gather."
Because of his previous experience with other women, Ravana foolishly felt pleased that he had Sita. After dispatching the eight Raksasas, Ravana went to see Sita, overwhelmed with desire. Upon entering her quarters, he found her in a distressed state, surrounded by numerous Raksasis. Bathed in her own tears, Sita appeared like a wind buffeted boat at sea, or a doe strayed from its herd and surrounded by dogs.
Although she was unwilling, Ravana forced Sita to accompany him on a tour of his palace. Indeed, its opulence resembled that of the demigods, with thousands of servants waiting to carry out Ravana's desires. Many rooms held cages with exotic birds, and the palace walls were covered with intricate designs of precious jewels. The couches were made of ivory inlaid with gold. Musicians played sweet and melodious songs, and lotus flowers and fountains adorned the palace gardens and ponds.
As she viewed the spacious and fabulously decorated rooms, each containing thousands of women adorned with untold valuable jewels, Ravana explained, "Lanka is inhabited by 32 crores of Raksasas, excluding the aged and infants, and 1,000 of these are my personal servants. If you are wise, O lovely Sita, you will fulfill my ardent desire and become my principal queen. Become my master and rule over all this opulence you now see before you. I am tormented by love for you, and shall be devoted to you alone. Please grant me your favor and look upon me with affection, for youthful beauty is but fleeting. You should enjoy life with me and forget the insignificant Rama."
While covering her moon-like face, Sita began shedding silent tears. Ravana then continued, "Do not be afraid that our union goes against religious principles. I love you more than life itself. I fall at your feet and beg you to grant me your favor. Let this plea, which has arisen from love's anguish, not go in vain. Never before has Ravana bowed down before any woman."
Ravana thought that by speaking of his love for her, Sita would soon be won over. However, Sita fearlessly replied, "My heart remains, without deviation, to Rama alone. Why should I, a swan sporting with her mate within a lotus filled lake, prefer a duck meandering on the shore? You can do whatever you like to me. Regardless, because of your vile, sinful lust, you will soon meet your death at the hands of Rama."
After being harshly rebuked by Sita, Ravana became enraged, saying, "I will give you just twelve months to surrender to me. At the end of that time, if you still resist me, I will have my cooks cut you to pieces and serve you as my breakfast."
Ravana then turned to the Raksasi attendants and ordered, "Transfer Sita to the Asoka grove. Keep a careful watch over her and try to win her over to my side by whatever means is required. Threaten her, flatter her, do whatever it takes, but tame her as one would an elephant."
Arriving at the beautiful Asoka grove, replete with trees full of fruits and flowers, Sita became overwhelmed with anguish. Due to being constantly intimidated by the deformed Raksasa women, she soon fainted out of fright. At that time, Lord Brahma summoned Indra, and said, "Sita has been kidnapped by Ravana and taken to Lanka. This is our good fortune, for it will surely mean the immanent destruction of the Raksasa King. Still, there is the danger that Sita may die due to separation from Rama. Therefore, I want you to go and give her this heavenly sweet-rice to eat."
Thereafter, Indra went to the Asoka grove at Lanka along with Nidra Devi, the goddess of sleep. After Nidra had woven her spell, putting all the Raksasas to sleep, the slayer of Vrtrasura approached Sita in the dress of a brahmana, saying, "I am the heavenly King, Indra, coming here to render assistance to Lord Rama. Please take this celestial sweet-rice, for as soon as you eat it you will become immune to hunger, thirst, and bodily miseries for many years to come."
Sita doubted that the brahmana was Indra, and requested him to reveal his celestial form. Being so requested, Indra then assumed his true form. When Sita observed that his feet did not touch the ground, his garland was not faded and his clothes were completely free from dust, she became convinced of his identity and accepted the sweet-rice.
Sita first offered the food by praying for Rama and Laksmana to accept it. Then, as soon as she ate the prasada, she became freed from all bodily pangs. Their mission accomplished, Indra and Nidra Devi instantly vanished from the scene.
It is thus seen that whenever the Lord's devotee is in great difficulty, the Lord sees to his protection. A devotee never worried for his own protection or well-being. Knowing that Krishna or Rama is always attentive to his needs, he concentrates on his service to the Lord. In the wonderful reciprocation of love, the devotee always thinks of his Lord, and the Lord always thinks of His devotee.
Meanwhile, after killing Marica, Rama hastened back to His cottage. Along the way He thought, "The Raksasas certainly want to take revenge against Me for slaughtering their entire army at Janasthana. Marica's tricks were probably part of a plan to lure Me away and devour Sita. I pray that Laksmana did not leave Sita alone after hearing Marica cry out, perfectly imitating My voice."
Thus, Rama's apprehension was increased upon hearing the frightful cry of a jackal at his back. Then birds and other wild animals began to pass Rama on His right side, uttering frightful cries. Moreover, His left eye twitched, His left arm throbbed convulsively and His heart loudly thumped. While observing these inauspicious signs, Rama met Laksmana coming from the cottage. Taking him by the left hand, Rama immediately began to reproach him, saying, "How could you disobey My order, leaving Sita unprotected? From all the inauspicious omens that have appeared, I can understand that she has either been killed or kidnapped. Oh, Laksmana, how could you leave Sita all alone?"
As the two rushed back to the cottage, Rama suddenly tripped on the forest path. Overwhelmed by fear of losing Sita, and angry with Laksmana for leaving her unprotected, Rama began to lament like one deranged: "If Sita is dead then I shall kill Myself, for I cannot bear to think of living without her. Oh, Laksmana, how could you betray Me like this and leave dear Sita unprotected?"
Laksmana hoped to explain, saying, "Sita became a mad-woman after hearing Your cries for help. She spoke harshly, accusing me of leaving You to die so I could enjoy with her. Then she accused me of being Bharata's accomplice, Your enemy in disguise. Hoping to prove her accusations false, I came here to Your aide."
Hearing this, Rama angrily replied, "There is no excuse for leaving Sita alone and unprotected. You are fully aware that I am unconquerable and do not lack for defending Myself from Raksasas or anyone else. You should not have become provoked by a woman's anger and disobeyed My order. O Laksmana, you have made a great mistake, and have acted in a manner that is unworthy of you."
While conversing in this way, Rama and Laksmana finally came to their cottage, only to find it deserted. Rama then began searching feverishly for Sita. Failing to find her, His face appeared withered and dark from grief. Afflicted with transcendental madness from feelings of great separation, Rama began questioning the trees: "O Kadamba, O Bilva, O Arjuna, have you seen My beloved Sita pass this way, dressed in yellow silk and decorated with flowers in her hair?"
Rama then began asking the forest animals and birds if they had seen Sita. Receiving no reply, He became more morose. Then, imaging that Sita had suddenly appeared before Him, Rama cried out, "O dearly beloved, why are you running away from Me and hiding Yourself? Why do you not speak to Me?"
Rama then imagined that Sita had been devoured by the Raksasas, and envisioned her delicate bodily features. Rama and Laksmana continued to comb the surrounding mountains and forests, refusing to give up hope of finding Sita. However, when Sita could not be found, even after a thorough search, Rama became discouraged and sat down in utter despair. Regardless, Laksmana encouraged Him to continue searching. Thus, they roamed across many mountains, forests and plains.
Finally, Rama could go no further, His feelings giving way to intense grief. Standing motionless, seeming bereft of reason, He breathed hotly, and His eyes filled with tears. Rama became indifferent to Laksmana's assurances that they would find Sita. Tormented by love, Rama cried out helplessly, "Sita! Sita!" again and again. As if deranged, Rama cried, "My darling, have you hidden yourself just to play a joke with Me? I beg you to please come out, for My suffering is intolerable."
There are many instances of devotees weeping in separation from the Lord. The milkmaids of Vrndavana spent their whole life wandering in search of Krishna. Lord Chaitanya, as the perfect devotee, also adopted the mood of separation as the highest expression of love of God. Still, as the Supreme Lord, one may ask why Rama wept for His beloved like an ordinary man. Indeed, being the omniscient Lord, He certainly knew her whereabouts.
The Lord enacts His pastimes for several reasons. Foremost, He comes to teach us that He is never impersonal but always the Supreme Person. Thus He gives pleasure to His devotees and teaches mental speculators and mystic yogis that the Supreme Absolute Truth is a person captured and controlled by love. Secondly, He comes to establish dharma, the way of righteousness; lastly, He comes to annihilate demons. By weeping over His abducted wife, Lord Rama establishes dharma, right conduct: He shows us, by negative example, the condition of a man too attached to women. When one leaves home in circumstances like those of Lord Rama-being banished to the forest by His father-He should not take His wife with Him. That proves very troublesome.
Of course, this incident shows that a woman should always be protected, lest she be exploited by Raksasas like Ravana. Vedic living has no scope for a woman's being independent. However powerful a woman may be in the material world, she cannot protect herself independently.
Still, this is the material side of the question for the instruction of the materialists. On the spiritual side, Rama, being the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is not subject to material conditioning. The separation Rama experiences in being away from Sita is spiritually understood as conjugal love in separation. This is an activity of the Supreme Lord's pleasure potency and belongs to the mellow of conjugal love in the spiritual world.
Sita, however, did not appear, causing Rama to become more disillusioned and further convinced she had been devoured by the Raksasas. At last, while Rama continued lamenting so pitifully, Laksmana too, became sick at heart. Rama then said, "O Laksmana, please go to the banks of the Godavari, for perhaps Sita has gone there to collect flowers."
Thereafter, when Laksmana returned from the Godavari without Sita, Rama personally went to the river and began asking the trees and animals about her. However, due to their fear of Ravana, none of the creatures dared reply, although Rama noticed that the deer were looking at Him with meaningful intention. Rama then questioned the deer and tried reading their minds through their eyes. The deer seemed to reply by turning their heads upward and to the south, as if indicating that Sita had been carried away through the sky in that direction. Laksmana could understand the deer's message, and suggested they walk toward the south in hope of finding some clue.
After setting out, they soon came to a trail of scattered flowers which Rama recognized as those He had given Sita. Addressing a nearby mountain named Prasravana, Rama asked, "Where has Sita gone after passing this way?"
Receiving no answer, Rama became enraged, saying, "O mountain, if you do not reply to Me, I shall shatter you to pieces with My arrows!"
Regardless, there was only silence as Rama glanced over the mountain with red-hot eyes. Rama then prepared to release His arrows at the mountain when Laksmana pointed out Sita's footprints, along with those of the giant Raksasa. Following the footprints, Rama and Laksmana soon came upon Ravana's broken bow and quiver, portions of his shattered chariot, along with pieces of Sita's broken ornaments. Then, when drops of blood were found, Rama concluded that Sita was indeed devoured by the Raksasas, for it appeared that two man eaters had fought over her at that spot.
Gazing upon the dead mules, smashed chariot and scattered weapons, Rama suddenly vowed, "No Raksasa shall escape My vengeance, for today I will destroy them all in retaliation for Sita's murder. Why have the useless demigods not done something to save My helpless wife? If the demigods do not deliver Sita to Me at once, as revenge for their negligence and the crime of the Raksasas, I shall destroy the entire universe!"
Rama's eyes were red-hot with anger, and His lips, tightly pressed together, trembled with rage. Then, taking His bow from Laksmana, Rama placed a terrible arrow upon the string meant to destroy the entire universe. Terrified, Laksmana joined his hands in supplication, pleading, "Rama, by nature You are gentle, self controlled and the well wisher of all living entities. Therefore, please control Your wrath and do not act hastily. It appears to me that there was only one Raksasa involved in this fight, for there is but one broken chariot. Let us continue to search for Sita. If we still do not find her after more time, then You can act as You see fit. My dear brother, You must practice forbearance, since suffering is inevitable. If You cannot tolerate life's miseries, how can the common man be expected to do so? You should only consider how Your enemy can be killed. There is no need to needlessly destroy the entire universe."
While speaking this way, Laksmana lovingly massaged his brother's lotus feet, and gradually, Rama became pacified. After withdrawing the arrow from His bow, Rama listened to Laksmana's suggestion to search the entire area of Janasthana thoroughly.
Thereafter, while combing through the forest, Rama and Laksmana came upon the fallen Jatayu, lying in a pool of blood. At first, Rama thought he was a Raksasa disguised as a bird, who, having devoured Sita, was now resting. Thus, as Rama approached, He fitted an arrow to His bow, ready to release it. However, upon drawing near, Rama understood that it was Jatayu, fatally wounded while trying to rescue Sita from the clutches of Ravana. Understanding the situation, Rama threw His bow aside and embraced Jatayu, now doubly aggrieved in seeing the plight of His servant.
Rama then anxiously asked, "O Jatayu, please tell me everything you know about Sita and her abductor."
The dying Jatayu replied, "Ravana took Sita away at a particular time of day known as Vinda. If a person loses something at this time, he will surely reclaim it very soon. My dear Rama, do not be overly aggrieved because of Sita, for You shall certainly regain her after killing the Raksasa King in battle."
Then, as Jatayu described Ravana's exalted lineage, he suddenly gasped his last breath, while uttering, "Rama! Rama!"
Rama then told Laksmana, "I am more saddened at the death of Jatayu, who selflessly gave his life for My sake, than the kidnapping of Sita. Go now and bring some wood and logs so we may cremate his body. Let it be known that Jatayu will attain the highest destination as a reward for service rendered unto Me."
Laksmana then prepared the funeral pyre, and Rama placed Jatayu's body upon it and lit the fire. Both brothers then made offerings for the benefit of Jatayu's departed soul and chanted Vedic mantras. Rama and Laksmana then went to the banks of the river Godavari to offer oblations of water. Afterwards, they bathed. Thus completing the funeral ceremonies, Rama and Laksmana again fixed their minds upon the task of finding Sita, and continued to wander the forest.
By traveling toward the south-west, they reached an untrodden land overgrown with trees and bushes. After passing through this region with great difficulty, they left the Dandakaranya forest behind and entered the Kraunca forest. After also passing though this forest, Rama and Laksmana entered another dense forest. There, they were suddenly confronted by a huge Raksasi, standing before a large cave. The ghastly Raksasi, with her long, sharp teeth, large protruding belly and hard skin, quickly stepped forward, catching Laksmana by the hand, saying, "My dear handsome hero, please come with me and revel in this delightful forest." Then the Raksasi embraced Laksmana, saying, "My name is Ayonmukhi and I am yours. Take me as your beloved wife."
Contrary to the Raksasi's desire, however, Laksmana angrily drew his sword and cut off her ears, nose and breasts. Bleeding and screaming with pain, the Raksasi fled. Then, Rama and Laksmana continued on as before.
Suddenly Rama said, "My left arm is throbbing and my mind feels perturbed. O Laksmana, we should prepare for immanent danger."
A moment later, the frightful cry of a Vanjulaka bird was heard, and Laksmana remarked, "This indicates that victory will be ours."
After Rama and Laksmana proceeded some distance into the forest, a loud noise was heard, as a storm suddenly began brewing. Searching out the cause of the noise, Rama and Laksmana proceeded cautiously, swords in hand. Before long they came upon a huge Raksasa with no head, neck or legs, and a gigantic mouth located in the middle of his belly. The Raksasa was as big as a mountain, with sharp bristling hair all over its body. On his chest were two fiery eyes, and his long arms stretched out for eight miles, enabling him to easily catch large animals to eat. Although Rama and Laksmana retreated to a distance of two miles after seeing the monster, The Raksasa suddenly captured them in his grasp, squeezing so tightly that they were made helpless. Although Rama did not feel threatened, Laksmana felt despondent, saying, "O Rama, You should offer me as a sacrifice to this Raksasa in exchange for Your own life. After that, You can continue Your search for Sita."
While Rama encouraged Laksmana to not be afraid, the Raksasa said, "My name is Kabandha. It is very fortunate that you have come to my forest, because I have been hungry for a long time. Since you are the food which providence has provided for me, I think that you will have a very difficult time keeping your precious lives."
Laksmana then told Rama, "We should quickly save ourselves by cutting off this Raksasa's arms with our swords."
Hearing this, Kabandha became furious, and immediately opened his fearful mouth widely, hoping to devour Rama and Laksmana at once. However, before Kabandha could do so, Rama severed his right arm and Laksmana cut off his left. Thus, the Raksasa fell to the ground, bathed in his own blood. In an anguished voice, Kabandha asked, "Who are you?"
Laksmana replied, "This is Rama, a ksatriya in the line of Iksvaku. I am His brother, Laksmana. We have come here searching for Rama's wife, Sita, who has been kidnapped by the King of the Raksasas, Ravana."
Kabandha was overjoyed to hear the name of Rama. The Raksasa then said, "I am so fortunate! You have come here to redeem me! Please listen as I explain how I acquired this ghastly form. In my last life I was the son of Dhanu. By performing great austerities, I satisfied Lord Brahma and was granted the benediction of a long duration of life. After receiving this boon, however, I became very proud, thinking my arch-enemy, Indra, could no longer harm me. Thereafter, when I attacked the King of heaven on the battlefield, he hurled his thunderbolt at me. Upon striking me, my head and legs were forcibly thrust into my body. Finding myself in such a wretched condition, I begged Indra to kill me. However, he refused, saying it would falsify the words of Lord Brahma. At last, when I asked Indra how I could survive without a head, he placed my mouth in the middle of my belly and made my arms eight miles long. Indra then declared, `When Rama and Laksmana come before you, you will regain your heavenly form.'"
Kabandha continued, "Ever since that time I have been catching many creatures with my long arms and stuffing them into my mouth, hoping that one day I would catch the Rama mentioned by Indra. Then once, I harassed a rsi named Sthulasira, who cursed me to retain this horrible form for eternity. I tearfully begged the rsi to prescribe some end to my plight. He confirmed that I would regain my original form after being cremated by Rama. Now, I have been delivered by You, and after my death, I will direct You to a powerful ally who will help You to attain Your desired goal."
Rama then explained, "My wife Sita has been kidnapped by Ravana, the King of the Raksasas. However, I only know his name. I know nothing else about him, concerning his appearance or place of residence. I will throw you into a big pit and cremate your body so that you can attain your desired destination. In return, give me some information about this Ravana."
Kabandha then said, "I am very sorry, but I do not know anything about Ravana. After being cremated, however, I will inform you of a person who has traveled throughout the three worlds. He will be able to assist You in locating the King of the Raksasas."
Thereafter, Rama and Laksmana took Kabandha into a mountain cave and placed his body upon the funeral pyre which Laksmana had prepared. Because it was so fat, when the body began to burn, it looked just like a huge lump of burning ghee. Then, from out of the fire arose Kabandha in his original celestial form, dressed in fine garments and decorated with ornaments and garlands. After taking his seat upon a celestial chariot pulled by swans, Kabandha said, "O Rama, political misfortune can be overcome in six ways: by making peace, by fighting, by assassination, by building up superior arms and fortifications, by sowing distention, and by seeking the help of others. Just as You are now placed in the height of adversity from the loss of Your wife, so will You be able to retrieve her with the help of someone in a similar condition. Such a person is the monkey King, Sugriva, who has been exiled by his brother, Vali, the son of Indra. O Rama, You should make friends with Sugriva, who was begotten by Surya upon the wife of Rksaraja, for he is also in need of a benefactor. He is now living along with four other vanaras on Rsyamuka mountain, which is near Lake Pampa.
"First go to Lake Pampa. It is a beautiful site that abounds with exotic birds. These birds live without fear of human beings, for they have never been injured by them. You should feed these birds, and the fish in Lake Pampa; likewise, meet the ascetic woman, Sabari, who resides there.
"The entire area is beautified by ever-fresh flowers, produced from perspiration as it dropped from the bodies of Matanga Rsi's disciples as they brought fruits, roots and flowers from the forest. The great sage Matanga gave up his body at Lake Pampa long ago. Thereafter, his rsi disciples were attended to by the ascetic woman, Sabari. Although these rsis have also long since ascended to higher worlds, Sabari still resides there, awaiting Your darsana before departing for Brahmaloka.
"Near to Lake Pampa is the Rsyamuka Hill where Sugriva lives in a large cave, always fearful of being attacked by Vali. Sugriva is loyal, intelligent, generous, wise, very brave and powerful. You would do well to make an alliance with him, for he knows all about the Raksasas. His followers can wander over the earth until they find Sita."
Saying this, Kabandha took permission from Lord Rama and ascended to heaven. Then, following Kabandha's directions, Rama and Laksmana set out. On the second day they arrived at Lake Pampa, beside which they saw the ashram of Matanga Rsi.
When Rama and Laksmana entered the hermitage, Sabari quickly got up and greeted them with folded hands. Then, after touching the lotus feet of Rama and Laksmana, Sabari proceeded to entertain them with varieties of food and drink and water to wash their feet. When Rama inquired about her spiritual practices, Sabari, who was a perfected soul, replied, "Just by seeing You, I have achieved the fruition of all my austerities. At the time when You came to Citrakuta, the rsis I was serving all went to heaven in celestial chariots. Before departing, however, they assured me that You would come here, and that after receiving You, I would also attain a heavenly destination."
At Rama's request, Sabari took Him and Laksmana on a guided tour of the beautiful area surrounding Lake Pampa. Afterwards, Sabari requested Rama's permission to cast off her mortal body, desiring to rejoin the sages she had so faithfully served.
Being very pleased with Sabari, Rama granted her desire. Thus, after building a fire, the old ascetic lady, dressed in black deerskin and tree bark and wearing matted hair, leapt into the blazing flames. The next moment Sabari was seen rising up to heaven like a flash of lightning, adorned with celestial jewels and garlands.
Having thus witnessed Sabari's spiritual prowess, Rama and Laksmana went to bathe in Lake Pampa, created from the waters of the seven seas. Thereafter, feeling enlivened and ever hopeful of finding Sita, Rama anxiously departed with Laksmana, eager to find Sugriva.
The scenic spring beauty surrounding Lake Pampa awoke within Rama vivid memories of His loving pastimes with Sita, thus intensifying His transcendental grief. Indeed, Rama constantly thought of Sita and wondered if she was able to live in separation from Him. Finally, giving full vent to His unbearable sorrow, Rama bitterly lamented His plight: "O Laksmana, it is now the month of Caitra, and this lake is so lovely with its deep blue waters. This is the season of love, when all the trees become resplendent with blossoms, their petals raining down to decorate the beautiful green forest carpet. Without Sita, however, life seems meaningless. That which pleased Me when she was present, now pains Me! When I hear the kokilas call, I think of Sita's sweet voice. When I see the pinkish lotus flowers, swaying on the crests of the waves, I think of Sita's eyes. The gentle fragrant breeze only reminds Me of Sita's honey scented breath.
"O Laksmana, it is a cruel spring! The pain is unbearable, for I can no longer bear to live without Sita. You should return to Ayodhya and serve Bharata, while I stay here and give up My life."
Trying to instill some hope in Rama, Laksmana replied, "My dear brother, there is no reason to suppose that Sita does not still live. Wherever Ravana may be, in heaven, on earth, within the ocean or the nether regions, we shall find him and vent our wrath. Give up this useless melancholy and fix Your mind toward finding Sita. It is by earnest endeavor that we shall succeed, not by lamenting."
Being thus admonished by Laksmana, Rama gave up His morbid depression. Thus, while conversing, they reached the vicinity of the Rsyamuka Hill. From a distance, Sugriva could see Rama and Laksmana approaching. Suspecting them to be allies of Vali, Sugriva became very afraid. Then, with his associates, he quickly took shelter within the ashram of Matanga, the area being protected by the rsi's magic spell.
Regardless, in spite of such security, Sugriva was so restless and frightened that he kept wandering from one hilltop to another, unable to sit still for a moment. Hanuman then said to his distracted master, "You should give up this paranoia of Vali. Being a fickle-minded monkey, you hastily come to conclusions that surely will be rejected after giving the matter more careful thought."
Sugriva replied, "Whether they are agents of Vali or not, these persons are certainly fear inspiring. Indeed, these two warriors look like chiefs of the demigods, and are armed with bows and swords. Certainly, Vali is very cunning and has many friends. Therefore, I want you find out why they have come here. Observe them carefully, noting their speech and their expressions. Find out who they are and what they want. If you purposefully glorify me in their presence you shall be able to detect if they are friends or enemies."
Himself having the suspicious mind of a monkey, Hanuman concealed his real form and appeared before Rama and Laksmana as a mendicant. Then, after falling flat to offer his obeisances, Hanuman said, "O great heroes, please tell me how it is that such exalted personalities as yourselves have come to this desolate region. Your strongly built bodies indicate that you are warriors, although you are dressed as ascetics. My name is Hanuman, minister of Sugriva, who has been banished from his kingdom by his elder brother, Vali. I am the son of Vayu, and I can go anywhere at will and assume any form that I please. Sugriva has sent me here to extend his friendship and hospitality."
Rama then told Laksmana, "This Hanuman is a minister of Sugriva, the noble king of the vanaras whom we have been searching for. He appears to be most courteous, and speaks very poetically. In his eyes, limbs, attitude and expression there is nothing the least bit displeasing or duplicitous. He has depth, confidence, and power. Likewise, his speech reflects a mature unification of heart, voice and intelligence. Even an enemy would be charmed by his words! O Laksmana, please explain to Hanuman the events that have brought us here today."
Laksmana then said, "It is our good fortune to meet you. We have been searching for Sugriva and are eager to make an alliance of friendship with him. This is Rama, the son of Maharaja Dasaratha, and I am His younger brother, Laksmana. Rama's father desired to install Him as heir-apparent to the royal throne, but due to political intrigue, He was banished to the forest instead. Recently, Rama's beloved wife, Sita, was kidnapped by the Raksasa King, Ravana. Overwhelmed by grief, we have been searching for Sita in the forest. Thus, while wandering here and there we happened to come upon a fierce Raksasa named Kabandha. By killing Kabandha we relieved him of a terrible curse. In return, while ascending to heaven, he advised us to make an alliance of friendship with Sugriva. This is why we have now come. We are ready to do whatever is beneficial for you and your noble king."
As Laksmana described their plight to Hanuman, his voice and tear filled eyes reflected his inner anguish. Seeing this, Hanuman replied, "Like You, Sugriva is also bereft of his kingdom and wife. I am certain that he and his followers will help You in your campaign to find Sita. Please, come along with me and meet Sugriva, for he has been very anxious to know the reason for Your coming here."
Saying this, Hanuman assumed his true form as a gigantic monkey. Then, taking Rama and Laksmana upon his shoulders, he departed for the Rsyamuka mountain.
Upon arriving there, Hanuman first went to Sugriva and explained Rama's friendly intentions. Satisfied, Sugriva took the form of a mendicant, and went out to meet Rama and Laksmana. As he approached, Sugriva extended his hand as an offering of friendship. With great pleasure Rama also extended His hand in return, and warmly embraced the monkey chief.
Afterwards, to formally unite the two friends, Hanuman30 lit a sacred fire between Rama and Sugriva. After ceremoniously circumnabulating the fire, Rama and Sugriva looked upon each other in a warm spirit of friendship.
Sugriva then said, "My dear Rama, from this day on, Your happiness shall be my happiness. Your sorrow shall be my sorrow, and vice versa."
Sugriva then placed a flower-laden sal branch on the ground for Rama to sit upon. Similarly, Hanuman placed a branch filled with sandalwood blossoms for Laksmana's sitting place. After all were seated, Sugriva explained, "My dear Rama, I pass my life in constant anxiety because of my brother Vali. After my wife and kingdom were forcibly taken by Vali, I took shelter within this forest. However, I remain haunted by the fear that my elder brother may come here and attack me at any time. Thus, I do not know a moment's peace."
Rama gently smiled and replied, "Service is the real fruit of friendship. Therefore, it is My duty to dispose of Vali and assist you in regaining your kingdom and wife."
Sugriva then said, "Hanuman has told me about Your exile and the kidnapping of Your wife. As a friend it is my vow to help You recover her, whether she is in heaven, on earth, or in the nether regions. O Rama, I am sure I saw Sita as she was being carried away by a powerful Raksasa, crying out, `Rama! Rama!' She saw me seated atop this hill with my associates and threw down her upper garment and some jewels, which we later collected."
Eager to see these articles, Rama asked Sugriva to retrieve them. Sugriva then went to the cave he kept them stored within, and brought them out for Rama to examine. Immediately recognizing the cloth and ornaments, Rama cried out, "O Darling! O Dearly beloved!" As tears fell from His lotus eyes Rama began wailing pitifully, and then lost consciousness.
After coming to His senses, Rama said, "O Laksmana, these articles were worn by Sita. Do you recognize them?
However, to this, Laksmana replied, "Because I have never, out of respect, looked at Sita past her ankles, I cannot say whether the cloth is hers. I do, however, recognize the ankle bells, because I used to bow to her lotus feet every morning."
Rama then inquired about Ravana, and Sugriva replied, "Unfortunately, I have not heard of Ravana. However, You may rest assured that I will help You find him. O Rama, You should not lament excessively for the loss of Your dear wife. A person can never become happy simply by grieving. Indeed, such sorrow actually diminishes one's strength and puts his life in danger. Although I am a foolish monkey and in a similar situation, I do not lament as much as You."
Hearing Sugriva's words, Rama became a little pacified. He then embraced Sugriva again and the two sat together comfortably. When Sugriva brought up the topic of his fear of Vali, Rama said, "Friends and enemies are known by the respective service and disservice they render. O Sugriva, rest assured that I will kill Vali this very day. First, however, I would like to know how such enmity developed between you two brothers."
Sugriva replied, "It is only unto a true friend that one can give full vent to his grief. As it happened, when my father died, Vali, being the elder prince, became the king of Kiskindhya and I engaged in his service. Previous to this, Mayavi, the son of Maya Danava, had established an enmity with Vali because of a woman. Afterward, one night, as everyone lay sleeping, Mayavi came to Kiskindhya and challenged Vali to fight. Although his wives and myself tried to restrain him, the enraged Vali rushed out of the palace to meet the aggressor. I followed my brother, and when the demon Mayavi saw both of us he became frightened and ran away. When we gave chase, Mayavi entered a deep, dark cave that was covered over by thick weeds. Vali ordered me to guard the entrance while he went into the cave to fight the demon.
"Thereafter, an entire year passed, and although I remained there guarding the entrance, I saw no sign of my brother. Suddenly, I observed blood mixed with foam oozing from the cave, and could hear the noise of many demons, but not my brother's voice. I concluded that Vali must have been slain. I then blocked the entrance to the cave with a huge boulder and offered water for the benefit of my departed brother's soul. When I returned to Kiskindhya, the ministers installed me upon the royal throne, and I began ruling the kingdom righteously.
"It came to pass that after some time, and much to the surprise of everyone, Vali returned to Kiskindhya, having slain the demon. When my brother saw me seated upon the royal throne he became enraged, and immediately arrested the ministers, throwing them in chains. I could have fought with my brother, but out of respect, I bowed down to him and placed the royal crown at his feet, hoping he would become pacified. Vali, however, remained angry, and continued to severely abuse me. Then, calling together the leading citizens, he announced to all, `I entered the bowels of the earth to kill the demon Mayavi, and it was only after searching for him for one full year that I found him. After I killed the demon and all his relatives, the blood from their bodies flowed, practically filling up the cave, and making it very difficult for me to get out. When I finally reached the mouth of the cave, I discovered it was blocked by a huge boulder. I called out for Sugriva again and again, but received no answer. Finally I kicked out the boulder, freeing myself, and returned to Kiskindhya. Much to my surprise, I saw Sugriva sitting upon the royal throne. I could then understand that his intention was to shut me up within the cave to gain control over the kingdom.'
"Thereafter, Vali took away all my possessions, including my wife, and banished me from Kiskindhya, leaving me with only a single cloth. Since that time I have been residing upon this mountain, along with my closest friends."
Rama then said, "My dear Sugriva, rest assured that I will kill Vali so that you can recover your wife and kingdom."
Even after hearing Rama's assurances, Sugriva remained doubtful whether Rama was powerful enough to slay Vali. Thus, to further illustrate his elder brother's prowess, he told the following story: "Once there was a great demon named Dundhubhi, who wandered over the earth in the form of a buffalo. Upon reaching the sea shore, Dundhubhi challenged the ocean to fight. The ocean personified, Varuna, then appeared and said, `O best of the Asuras, I am not a competent match for you. I suggest that you approach Himivan, the presiding deity of the Himalayas and father-in-law of Lord Siva.'
"Thinking the ocean to be afraid of fighting with him, Dundhubhi went to the Himalayan mountains and began tearing down its peaks and cliffs. Himivan then appeared upon one mountaintop and said, `I am the shelter of great rsis who are nonviolent and equipoised. I, however, am not at all adept at warfare. Therefore, O greatest of the demons, please leave us aside, and do not create any further disturbance.'
"The angry demon then asked who he could fight with instead, and Himivan described my brother Vali, the son of Indra. Thereafter, Dundhubhi went to Kiskindhya, and, while bellowing loudly, he began tearing up the ground with his hooves, uprooting great trees, and damaging the city's gates with his horns.
"Vali immediately went out and angrily challenged the arrogant demon to fight. After a brief exchange of harsh words, Vali grabbed Dundhubhi by the horns, whirled him around, and dashed him to the ground, causing blood to flow from the demon's ears. A fierce duel then ensued, as each struck the other forcefully. However, after a short time the demon began to weaken. Seeing this, Vali lifted Dundhubhi into the air and smashed him to the ground with all his strength.
"As blood poured profusely from every hole of his body, the demon gave up his life. Then, lifting up Dundhubhi's dead body, Vali hurled it a distance of four miles. However, as the corpse flew through the air, drops of blood fell from its mouth and landed on the ground at Matanga Rsi's ashram. This angered the great rsi, who wondered who could have done such a thoughtless and stupid act. When Matanga came to know that the demon had been killed by Vali, he pronounced the following curse: `If that monkey ever comes within four miles of my ashram, he will instantly die. If any of his ministers come here they will remain as statues for thousands of years.'
"Although Vali tried to pacify the rsi, he was unable to do so, and has been afraid to approach this place ever since. Over there you can see the bones of the great demon. You can just imagine how powerful Dundhubhi must have been. How then, can You hope to defeat Vali?"
Laksmana then laughed, realizing that Sugriva doubted Rama's ability to kill Vali. He asked, "What feat could Rama do that would prove His prowess and set your mind to ease?"
Sugriva replied, "Once, at this place, Vali pierced seven large sala trees with seven arrows. If Rama can split one of these trees with a single arrow and then kick the remains of Dundhubhi a distance of 200 bow's length, I would consider Him a suitable match for Vali."
Hearing this, Rama effortlessly lifted the skeleton of Dundhubhi with His big toe and sportingly flung it a distance of 80 miles. Even so, Sugriva said, "When Vali threw Dundhubhi's body it was heavy with flesh and blood. Moreover, he was greatly fatigued from fighting. Since the carcass is now much lighter, it is impossible to judge who is more powerful, You, or Vali."
At that, Rama took up his bow and released a powerful arrow that pierced all seven sala trees, entered the earth, going all the way down to Patala, and then, after one hour, returned to His quiver. Seeing this, Sugriva was struck with wonder, and reverently bowed at Rama's lotus feet. Rama then embraced Sugriva and suggested, "Let us now go to Kiskindhya. You should go ahead and challenge Vali, while Laksmana and I hide behind some trees just outside the city gates."
Arriving at Kiskindhya, Sugriva let out a loud roar, challenging his brother. As Vali heard it, he immediately rushed out, excited with rage, just like the sun emerging from behind a hill. In great anger, Vali and Sugriva struck each other with their fists. However, as Rama watched the fight, He could not discern which of the two was Vali, for the two brothers looked exactly alike. Thus, Rama refrained from discharging His arrows, causing Sugriva to think that He was unwilling to help him. Indeed, Sugriva was getting the worst of the fight, and finally ran away, barely alive, badly battered and soaked in his own blood. As Vali chased Sugriva, he taunted, "Coward, run for your life. This time I shall spare you."
Sugriva then took shelter in the forest by Matanga's ashram, and soon thereafter, Rama, Laksmana and Hanuman arrived. Sugriva then reproachfully told Rama, "If You did not intend to kill Vali, why did You encourage me to challenge him? It would have been better for You to say, `I am not willing to kill your elder brother.'"
Rama then explained that He could not distinguish who was who in the fight, since they both appeared identical. "It was for this reason, "Rama said, "that I hesitated to discharge My arrow."
Rama then told Sugriva to mark himself with something that would distinguish him from his brother.
Thereafter, Sugriva again set out for Kiskindhya, accompanied by Rama, Laksmana, Hanuman. When they reached the outskirts of the city, Sugriva strode forward, challenging his brother with loud roars, while the others concealed themselves behind trees and bushes.
Vali was inside the ladies' apartments when he heard Sugriva summon him. In a fit of rage he rose up from his seat, storming out of the room in heavy strides. In great anxiety, Vali's wife, Tara, clung to her husband, imploring him, "My dear lord, please cast aside your anger, and consider the matter carefully. You have already beaten Sugriva severely. Thus, it is quite suspicious that he should return so soon, roaring with confidence. I must conclude that Sugriva is now accompanied by a strong ally to dare act so boldly. Our son, Angada, has received information from his spies that Rama and Laksmana have come here and made an alliance of friendship with Sugriva. Since Rama is inconceivably powerful, comparable to Lord Vishnu Himself, you should not risk creating enmity with Him. Please settle this by making Sugriva heir-apparent, and thus establish friendship with Rama."
Being destined to die, Vali could not accept sound advice. Thus, he replied, "I cannot tolerate such arrogance from my younger brother. As for Rama, I have no quarrel with Him. He is a virtuous ksatriya, and I have no fear that He would harm an innocent person, one that bears no enmity."
Saying this, Vali stormed out of the city, hissing with rage. Confronting Sugriva, a fierce combat ensued. As before, Vali eventually began to gain the upper hand. Soon thereafter, Sugriva signaled Rama, indicating that his strength was waning.
Seeing that Sugriva was near the point of collapse, Rama fitted a powerful arrow onto His bowstring. As He released the arrow, it flashed through the air like lightning, piercing Vali deeply in the chest. However, even though bathed in his own blood upon the ground, Vali did not immediately give up his life, for he was wearing a gold chain given him by his father, King Indra.
Coming from their hiding place, Rama and Laksmana approached the fallen Vali, who began chastising Rama with disdain, saying, "I heard You were a righteous hero and King, devoted to dharma, and compassionate. Little did I realize You are a vile wretch! Like a well covered with weeds, You make an external show of virtue, but Your sinful action has betrayed Your sinful heart. I fought with Sugriva because I was convinced that You would not attack me. How could anyone claiming to be a ksatriya and a hero kill someone engaged in fighting with another and with whom he has no enmity? I never harmed or insulted You. I never attacked Your kingdom. What merit have You acquired by striking me unfairly? How will You ever justify this action in front of righteous men? If You would have fought honestly, then it would be You lying here, not I! You shot Your arrow at me from behind, like a snake attacking a sleeping man. I challenge You to justify this shameful act!"31
Rama then replied, "Your accusations show that you are actually ignorant of true morality. Monkeys are by nature frivolous because of their uncontrolled minds. Because you are a monkey, and your advisors are also monkeys, you cannot understand dharma. The entire earth, with its mountains, forests and rivers, is ruled over by the dynasty of Iksvaku. The Kings of the Iksvaku dynasty have complete authority over all men and animals and the power to punish or reward whomever they please. It is you who have acted sinfully, under the sway of lust and greed. You have taken Ruma, the wife of your younger brother, and enjoyed her as your wife. It is for this sinful act that you deserved to die at My hands. Death is the proper punishment for one who has sexual relations with his daughter, daughter-in-law, sister or the wife of a younger brother. If a king does not punish a sinner, then he himself becomes sinful. It is for this reason that I promised to kill you and thus enable Sugriva to regain his wife and kingdom. Aside from this, it is an accepted practice, that while hunting, ksatriyas release their arrows at inattentive animals from a hidden position. Therefore, since you are only a monkey, My act does not bear the slightest fault."
Being enlightened by these words, Vali felt shame for his abominable actions. With folded hands, he replied, "Whatever You have said is certainly true. I only dared to denounce You because I was overly proud, ignorant of my own sins. My dear Rama, I implore You to give protection to my only son, Angada, begotten by me through my wife Tara. He will certainly become grief-stricken upon hearing of my death. Please excuse my harsh words spoken in ignorance."
Rama assured Vali that He would take care of Andaga. Meanwhile, hearing of her husband's defeat, Tara came running from the palace with her son. Tara was surrounded by Vali's ministers, but when the monkeys saw Rama they began to flee in fear. Tara tried restraining them, but they urged, "Do not go out to see Vali. Protect your son within the fortifications of Kiskindhya and prepare to install him on the throne."
Tara, however, replied, "I do not care for sovereignty. The kingdom and its royal opulences are now useless without my husband."
While crying and beating her breast in lamentation, Tara went to where Vali lay upon the ground, firmly in the grip of approaching death. Tara embraced her dying husband, lamenting bitterly, as Vali's other wives surrounded them, plunged in grief. Tara's only desire was to follow her husband, and made up her mind to fast until death. At this, Hanuman went to her and pleaded, "O Queen, please get up. Do not succumb to grief. You must perform the funeral ceremonies for your husband and protect Angada carefully after installing him upon the throne."
Vali then said, "My dear Sugriva, I beg you to please forgive me for all the wrong I have done toward you. Accept the kingdom from me now and take care of my son, Angada, for he shall always remain faithful to you."
Saying this, Vali handed Sugriva the celestial gold chain that he had received from Indra. Then, turning to Angada, he said, "My dear son, now that I am departing you should always remain obedient to Sugriva. Always act after due consideration and accept the dualities of pleasure and pain with an equipoised mind. Avoid excessive attachment and hatred, for both lead to degradation."
Thus, after briefly speaking to Angada, Vali, who was deeply pained by Rama's arrow, gave up his life. Then, as Tara continued to embrace her dead husband, still wailing in grief, Nila came and extracted the arrow from Vali's chest. Tara then told Angada, "Bow down to your father's feet." As the young prince did this, he too, became overwhelmed with grief.
Upon seeing Tara's anguish, Sugriva became despondent, and with a sorrowful voice, said to Rama, "I have found that the fulfillment of my desire has produced the opposite of what I anticipated. Instead of happiness, I feel repulsion toward the kingdom, indeed, even life itself, after killing my elder brother. To atone for my sinful act, I will enter the fire, thus giving up my life. My dear Rama, these other heroic monkeys will help You search for Your beloved wife, Sita."
Rama became quite unhappy hearing Sugriva speak in this way. As tears came to His eyes, Tara likewise approached Rama, saying, "I know that my husband will be very unhappy without me, even if he now resides in heaven. Therefore, please kill me also, so I may rejoin him. If You consider killing a woman to be sinful, then just think of me as being non-different from Vali."
Rama turned to Sugriva, saying, "Your tears of sorrow are sufficient bereavement for the departed soul of your brother. Under the direction of eternal time this world is moving, and all living entities make their appearance and departure. Under the direction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Time never oversteps its limit. Thus, one should not lament for that which is inevitable."
Sugriva thus became pacified. With Laksmana's help he began to arrange for the cremation of his dead brother's body. Soon thereafter, a palanquin was brought from Kiskindhya. Sugriva then placed Vali's body on it and led the funeral procession to the banks of a nearby mountain stream. As the funeral pyre was being built, Tara placed Vali's head upon her lap, while continuing to weep bitterly, giving pain to all who saw her. Finally, the other women came and raised Tara up, allowing Sugriva and Angada to place the body of Vali on the funeral pyre. After the completion of the cremation, water was brought from the river Tungabhadra, and offerings were made for the departed soul of the heroic monkey king.
The codes of morality are not eternal, nor do they deal with the spirit soul. What is moral at one time and place is immoral in another. Moral codes enable man to perform his duty peacefully and make progress in Krishna consciousness. If a person does not use this golden opportunity to become God conscious, all the moral codes in the world will not save him at the moment of death. Although it is not against ksatriya injunctions to kill a monkey, we should not foolishly conclude that animals have no soul. It is necessary to learn how to detect the soul's presence. The soul is not the body but a tiny spiritual fragment of the Supreme Spirit, God. Both God and His part and parcel are fully conscious, and the soul's presence is determined by the presence of consciousness. When consciousness leaves the body, the body is dead and useless. The monkeys who served Lord Rama certainly had consciousness-indeed, very intelligent consciousness, because they became the Lord's eternal associates.
When the funeral ceremonies were completed, Hanuman requested Rama to accompany Sugriva to Kiskindhya to install him on the royal throne. Rama, declined, however, saying, "Hanuman, I suggest that you officiate at Sugriva's coronation and have Angada installed as heir-apparent. Since the monsoon season is nearly upon us, it is not a suitable time to search for Sita. All the monkey chiefs may stay in Kiskindhya for four months while Laksmana and I pass our time residing in a mountain cave. Afterward, when the autumn season arrives, we can begin an all-out search for the kingdom of Ravana."
When Sugriva entered Kiskindhya he was heartily welcomed by all the citizens. The bathing ceremony at his coronation was performed by the foremost of monkeys, including Mainda, Dvivida, and Hanuman, as well as Jambavan, the King of bears. Sugriva also accepted his wife Ruma back, and installed Angada as heir-apparent to the royal throne.
For four months, Rama and Laksmana dwelt within a cave of the Prasravana mountain. Due to feelings of intense separation from Sita, Rama could not find any pleasure in the scenic beauty of the mountainous region. Likewise, Rama was unable to sleep at night, constantly shedding intense tears of anguish.
One day Rama said to Laksmana, "After evaporating water from the ocean for nine months, the sky now sends forth heavy showers of rain. Dark clouds as large as hills range across the sky in clusters, creating a mood of melancholy. The golden lightning, as it streaks inside a blackish monsoon cloud, appears like Sita in the arms of Ravana!
"The dense, lush, green grass provides a colorful dress for mother earth, spotted with various flowers and restless birds. Bees are humming, frogs are croaking, and the rumble of thunder and patter of the rain provide musical accompaniment. Surely Sugriva is able to enjoy all this, for his objective has been fulfilled. However, without Sita, I am like the riverbank that erodes from the river's constant current."
During this time, Laksmana would try to encourage Rama, pointing out that the purpose of a grieving man was never fulfilled. Regardless, even though the dark skies and frequent rains were nourishing for the tropical jungle, the scene only served to intensify Rama's longing for Sita.
Rama assumed that by assisting Sugriva to regain his kingdom, he would remember his obligation to assist Him find Sita. However, when autumn arrived and the skies became blue and clear, Sugriva did not come forward to meet Rama. Having achieved his goal, and now without cause for fear, Sugriva began to spend his time completely absorbed in enjoying the company of young women in private, especially his wife Ruma and the newly acquired Tara. Thus, he even neglected to fulfill his obligation of managing the state administration.
When Hanuman saw how Sugriva had become a slave to sensuality, and thereby becoming negligent in his duties, he approached the king and advised, "You must keep your promise and fulfill your obligation to Rama. Only out of respect for you, has Rama not personally come here to remind you. However, you must remember that it is only by His grace that you have been allowed to prosper. It is now time for you to summon the more than 10 million monkeys under your command and begin an all-out search for Sita."
Hanuman's speech momentarily brought Sugriva back to his senses. He then called Nila and ordered, "Let my proclamation be broadcast to all the monkey warriors: All must proceed here for duty within fifteen days or else face the death-sentence as punishment."
Giving this command, Sugriva returned to his inner apartments. Meanwhile, in separation from Sita, the beauty of the autumn season served only to heighten Rama's anguish. When He could understand that He was simply wallowing in a life of sensuality, Rama became yet more depressed. Laksmana also became despondent from witnessing Rama's grief, and tried his best to cheer Him. Finally Rama declared, "Now that autumn has arrived, the ground is dry and firm, the air crisp and cool. This is the perfect time to initiate a military campaign. Unfortunately, Sugriva is not to be seen. It appears that he has forgotten all sense of duty due to becoming so fully absorbed in sensual enjoyment in the association of numerous women. Therefore, Laksmana, I want you to go to Kiskindhya and admonish Sugriva in My name, saying, `O King of the Monkeys, one who acts like you is the most vile of persons. I am astonished that you are not afraid of avoiding Me, the slayer of your elder brother. I hereby warn you that if you neglect your promise to help Me find Sita, then I will personally come to Kiskindhya and kill you along with all your relatives.'"
When Rama exhibited this anger, born of intense transcendental frustration, Laksmana also became incited with the same rage. Picking up his bow, Laksmana declared, "If that rascal Sugriva does not jump to execute Your command, then I shall kill him myself this very day!"
Saying this, Laksmana quickly departed as Rama tried to restrain His brother's anger. "First speak to Sugriva in a conciliatory tone, for I am sure that will be sufficient to bring him to his senses," Rama said.
Thereafter, in a mood of great indignation, Laksmana entered Kiskindhya, a beautiful city built within a large cave. As he rushed like a mad elephant toward Sugriva's palace, Laksmana impetuously knocked down the trees that stood in his path. When the many fierce monkeys guarding the palace entrance saw Laksmana approach, his lips trembling in rage, they began gathering weapons by uprooting large trees and tearing down mountain peaks. However, when Laksmana saw the monkey guards arming themselves in this way, he became so ferocious that the monkey guards became panic-stricken and fearfully ran away.
As this was happening, Sugriva's ministers rushed to Sugriva to inform him of Laksmana's arrival in such an angry mood. Sugriva, however, was with Tara, and was fully absorbed in sexual desires. Thus, he did not pay much heed to his ministers.
Meanwhile, as the ministers ordered the monkeys to arm themselves in preparation for battle, the enraged Laksmana met Angada and told him to inform Sugriva of his arrival. At that, Angada went into Sugriva's chamber and, clasping his uncle's feet, informed him of Laksmana's presence. However, Sugriva had fallen asleep in a drunken state, and failed to rise. Only when numerous monkeys began to clamor loudly around Sugriva did he finally arise. Thus, only due to his fear of Laksmana, did Sugriva come to his senses. As Sugriva opened his blood-shot eyes his ministers informed him, "Laksmana is now waiting for you outside the palace gates in a highly agitated state. We strongly advise you to go out immediately, offer your obeisances and submit to him. Pray this will appease his anger!"
Having finally realized the gravity of the situation, Sugriva hastily arose from his bed, though wondering why Laksmana would be angry with him without any apparent cause. Hanuman then reminded Sugriva, "O King, due to becoming absorbed in sense gratification, you have not even noticed how the time has passed. Autumn has long since arrived, yet you remain neglectful in fulfilling your promise to help Rama in His search for Sita. Thus, Laksmana has now come here to remind you. I suggest you approach him with folded hands and hope that you may somehow appease him."
On Sugriva's order, Angada escorted Laksmana into the palace, as all the monkeys who previously had taken up weapons now stood with folded hands to greet him. Thereafter, when Laksmana came to the inner apartments of Sugriva's palace, he could hear the voices of women singing to the accompaniment of musical instruments, mixed with the jingling sound of their ornaments. Indeed, upon seeing all the young, beautiful women, Laksmana became somewhat ashamed, due to his vow to shun the company of others' wives. Although he restrained himself from entering, Laksmana twanged his mighty bow, injecting fear into Sugriva, and announcing his arrival. Indeed, Sugriva trembled upon hearing that sound, and told Tara, "I wonder why Laksmana is angry. I think it would be better for you to go out first and try to appease him."
Then, as Tara came before Laksmana, her dress loosened and her eyes rolled from intoxication. As Laksmana's anger subsided, he humbly looked downward toward her feet out of respect. Tara then inquired, "My dear prince, why are you so angry with Sugriva?"
To this, Laksmana sharply replied, "Your husband has neglected his obligation to Rama, preferring instead to pass his days in his inner apartments, dallying with women."
Tara then pleaded to Laksmana, "You must forgive Sugriva, for he has lost his good intelligence under the sway of lust. It is seen that even great rsis sometimes hanker for sense gratification, what to speak of a fickle-minded monkey. Please do not think that Sugriva has forgotten his obligation to Rama. He has already called for millions of monkeys to assemble here so they may be engaged in searching for Sita. Please come in now and talk to Sugriva yourself."
Laksmana then entered the inner apartments of the palace. When he saw the fabulous opulence and bevies of beautiful women, his anger again became aroused. Sugriva was seated upon a couch, embracing Ruma. However, upon seeing Laksmana enter, he hurriedly stood up with folded hands, as did all the ladies present. The angry Laksmana then chastised Sugriva, "You have simply made empty promises, proving yourself to be a false friend. Therefore, you are most abominable. One who receives help from a sincere friend and does not repay that service is considered most hard-hearted, and must be killed. Indeed, once, when Lord Brahma saw such an ungrateful person, he exclaimed, `The means of atonement has been prescribed for the killer of a cow, a drunkard, a thief, or for one who has broken a sacred vow. However, there is no expiation for an ungrateful soul!' I warn you, Sugriva! If you do not begin helping Rama immediately, you will meet your brother Vali in the abode of Yamaraja this very day!"
Tara then replied for her husband. "O Laksmana, Sugriva is not a liar, nor is he hard-hearted. He has not forgotten what Rama did for his sake. His only fault is losing all sense of time because of overindulgence in sense gratification. We have heard that in Lanka, the abode of Ravana, there are 100 thousand crorers of Raksasas. Since it would not be possible to kill Ravana without slaying them first, Sugriva has summoned innumerable monkey warriors from all corners of the earth. He has not yet met with Rama or initiated the search for Sita because he is awaiting their arrival. Sugriva has set a fifteen-day time limit. Thus, thousands of monkeys, bears and baboons are expected to begin arriving at Kiskindhya this very day."
Hearing this, Laksmana gave up his anger. Sugriva humbly threw aside his garland and said, "I could never repay Rama for all that He has done for me. He is my master and my Lord. I will follow Him wherever He goes and do whatever He orders. I fully admit that I was at fault, and humbly beg your forgiveness."
Pleased, Laksmana replied, "Kindly forgive my angry mood as well. I think it would be best for you to go now and see Rama, for He will become encouraged by your sincerity."
Sugriva then ordered Hanuman, "Summon again all the monkeys from the Himalayan, Mahendra, Mandara and Kailasa mountains. Arouse all who are prone to sense indulgence and procrastination. Tell them that anyone who does not respond to my order within ten days will be killed!"
Hanuman immediately dispatched the monkey leaders in all directions. As a result, within that hour, millions of monkeys began pouring into Kiskindhya. After making their presentation to Sugriva, the monkeys were dismissed. Then Laksmana again requested Sugriva to go and meet with Rama. Thus, Sugriva had a palanquin brought forth, and he and Laksmana were carried to where Rama was staying, accompanied by innumerable monkeys.
Thereafter, as Laksmana and Sugriva stood before Rama with folded hands, Rama gazed upon the army of monkeys with great pleasure. Sugriva then fell flat before Rama, submitting himself as a fully surrendered soul at the lotus feet of Lord Rama. Rama then mercifully lifted up Sugriva and embraced him, without any trace of ill feeling for Sugriva's past negligence.
After offering the monkey king a seat, Rama instructed Sugriva about royal duties: "A king should well understand the proper times for dharma, artha and kama, and then enjoy life accordingly. When a king gives up the Vedic regulations, being overly attached to sense gratification, thus indulging himself irregularly, he is considered as being fallen. My dear Sugriva, now is the time for you to endeavor to find Sita as you have already vowed."
Sugriva replied, "My dear Rama, please rest assured, I am now eager to help You, as are all these monkeys who have assembled here."
Rama again embraced Sugriva, reconfirming their friendship. Thereafter, a huge dust cloud began forming, covering the entire sky so that the sun became veiled. This was due to the great hoards of monkeys converging upon Kiskindhya in response to Sugriva's order. All the great leaders of the monkeys, such as Kesar, father of Hanuman, Susena, the father of Tara, Tara, the father of Ruma, Mainda and Dvivida, the sons of the Asvini-kumaraas, and Jambavan, King of the Bears, all came before Sugriva, along with their millions of followers, reporting for duty. Thus, the entire surrounding forest and mountain area became completely covered by the monkeys. Pointing out the different groups of monkeys, Sugriva said to Rama, "My dear Lord, You should consider these monkey warriors as Your very own army. From now on, please order them as You see fit."
Rama then said, "Our first mission is to locate the abode of Ravana and ascertain whether Sita is still alive. My dear Sugriva, you should organize the search parties and then, when Sita is found, I will give the necessary orders."
Being so ordered, Sugriva immediately called for the monkey king, Vinda, and ordered, "I want you and your soldiers to search everywhere in the Eastern direction, including the seven oceans and seven islands. Beyond the ocean of milk there is an ocean of fresh water, wherein lies the subterranean fire. Thirteen yojanas from the Eastern shore of the fresh water ocean is the mountain called Jatarupasila, which is made entirely out of golden rocks. It is there that Lord Ananta Sesa resides, supporting the entire earth. This marks the outer boundary of the Eastern Quarter. I am giving you one month to search through this entire area. Anyone who reports back later than that will be executed for neglecting the royal order."
Next, Sugriva dispatched Angada, Nila, Hanuman, Jambavan, Hainda, Dvivida and others to the South, making the son of Vali their leader. After describing the Southern region, Sugriva instructed the monkeys, "Eight hundred miles beyond the Northern shore of the salt ocean is an island that I think must surely be the residence of Ravana. Further to the South is Bhogavati, the capital of Rasatala, which is presided over by Vasuki. Then, beyond the Rsabha mountain, which marks the furthest boundary of Bhu-mandala, is the abode of Yamaraja. Do not search the Pitraloka or anywhere beyond, for no earthly being can go there."
Sugriva then dispatched Susena and his followers to the West. Instructing them, he said, "In the middle of the salt ocean is Pragjyotisapura, the City of Narakasura, and the Western limit is where the sun sets. Beyond that there is no information as to what exists, and so you should not go there."
Finally, Satabali was dispatched to the North, and Sugriva informed him, "You will first come to the land of the Mlecchas, and then the Himalayan mountains. Beyond these mountains is 800 miles of desolate land. After that is Mount Kailasa, where Kuvera resides. Beyond Kailasa is Krauncha mountain, then Uttara-Kuru province, and finally, the northern salt-water sea, in the middle of which is a golden mountain called Somagiri. Therein, Lord Vishnu, Brahma and Siva reside. When you see that mountain, you should turn back, for it is not possible to go beyond that."
Sugriva considered Hanuman to be the most capable of finding Sita. Therefore, to encourage him, Sugriva said, "O Hanuman, of all the powerful monkeys, you are exceptional. On this earth, in the sky, in heaven or the nether regions, there is no one capable of obstructing you. Not only do you have super-human strength, but you are courageous, intelligent and resourceful. Therefore, I am especially counting on you to find Sita."
Hearing these words and observing Hanuman's self-confidence, Rama also became convinced that Hanuman would be the one to find His beloved wife. Taking His ring, Rama handed it to Hanuman, saying, "My name is inscribed on the inside. When you locate Sita, give her this ring. She will then become convinced that you are My envoy. My dear Hanuman, I have full confidence that you will be able to carry out this important mission on My behalf."
Accepting the ring, Hanuman touched it to his head and bowed down before Rama. He then departed while the other monkey began scouring the earth for Sita. Rama and Laksmana continued to remain at Prasravana for the prescribed period of one month. After the monkeys had departed, Rama inquired from Sugriva, "How is it that you have acquired such extensive knowledge of the earth's geography?"
Sugriva replied, "After Vali returned to Kiskindhya and banished me, even though I voluntarily surrendered the kingdom to him, he remained angry and continued to chase after me. Thus, out of fear for my brother, I continually wandered over the surface of the entire earth seeking shelter. Finally, after some time, Hanuman informed me of Matanga's curse."
Meanwhile, as the monkeys searched for Sita, they spread out during the day, combing their allotted areas, and at night, regrouped to take rest. Before one month had elapsed, Vinata, Satabali and Susena returned to Prasravana, having thoroughly scoured their assigned directions. With sad faces, they reported to Sugriva that they had not been able to unearth even a single clue where Sita might be. Sugriva sat next to Rama as the monkeys came and related to him their experiences. Thus, after some time, everyone concluded that Hanuman was their only remaining hope.
As the party led by Angada thoroughly searched throughout the desolate Vindhya mountain range, they became tormented by hunger and thirst, for that entire place was devoid of water. Then, when the monkeys left the mountains and entered the adjoining forest, they were disappointed to find that the trees did not even bear leaves, what to speak of fruit and flowers. With all the streams in that area dried up, it was devoid of birds and other animals.
This forest once had been the home of the great sage Kandu. When he happened to die prematurely at the age of ten, the rsi became so angry that he cursed the entire forest to become unfit for the habitation of man or beast.
While roaming in this desolate forest, the monkeys came upon a ferocious Raksasa. Although the demon was practically fearless, having received a benediction from the demigods, he was killed by Angada, who thought him to be Ravana. However, when they later searched the entire area and failed to find a single clue concerning Sita's whereabouts, they became disappointed.
Meanwhile, time passed quickly. As Angada urged the monkeys on in their search around the Vindhya mountain range, the allotted one month time period came to an end. Oppressed by hunger and thirst, the monkeys searched for water. It then happened that Angada and Tara sighted a cave where moist creepers grew thickly and aquatic birds flocked. Upon seeing this cave, they hastened there, hoping to find water within.
The cave was deep and dark, and as they cautiously entered it they made a living chain by holding hands. Finally, after proceeding for eight miles, the monkeys could see a light deep within the cave. Proceeding further, they came upon a grove of golden trees. Likewise, they soon came upon golden palaces, beautiful ponds and lovely gardens. In the midst of this heavenly grove, the monkeys beheld an ascetic woman dressed in black deerskin and glowing with a great spiritual effulgence. Seeing her, Hanuman approached with folded hands and said, "Kindly tell us who you are and to whom this cave belongs. Why does everything have such a golden appearance? We are very tired and thirsty. We have been wandering about through waterless regions for a long time."
The woman replied, "My name is Svayamprabha, the daughter of Merusavarni, the superintending deity of Mount Meru. I am a friend of Hema's, and I remain here guarding this hermitage. This cave named Rksabila, is the creation of Maya Danava. After performing austerities here, Maya Danava received a benediction from Lord Brahma, enabling him to possess all the mystic powers known to Sukra. Thereafter, Maya Danava continued dwelling here. However, later on, when Maya became attached to the Apsara Hema, Indra drove him from these regions with the help of his thunderbolt. Lord Brahma then gave this cave to Hema. Please make yourselves feel at home and kindly tell me the purpose of your coming to this inaccessible region."
According to Vedic etiquette, one must always welcome a guest. First, one should offer him a sitting place and refreshment; afterwards, one can inquire about his mission. Even if one is very poor, he can at least offer a clean sitting place and a glass of water. In such a pleasant atmosphere, a guest is sure to feel peaceful and happy. Following the Vedic tradition, Svayamprabha welcomed her visitors.
As Svayamprabha offered her guests her hospitality, Hanuman narrated the entire story of Rama's exile and their search for the kidnapped Sita. Hanuman then said, "We cannot thank you enough for your kind reception. Is there any service we can perform in return?"
Svayamprabha replied, "Because I am engaged in performing austerities, I have nothing to ask from others."
Hanuman then said, "Our master, the monkey King, Sugriva, has allotted us one month to find Sita. That time has already expired, and we therefore feel doomed. Is there any way you can help us?"
Svayamprabha replied, "It is nearly impossible for anyone who has entered this cave to get out alive. However, I shall assist you by utilizing my mystic powers, but it is necessary for you to close your eyes, for no one can leave here while looking about."
Thereafter, the monkeys kept their eyes tightly shut. Suddenly they felt themselves being transported out of the cave. When they at last opened their eyes, they saw that everyone had been carried out of the cave. Looking about, they could see that all the trees were now in full bloom. Concluding that spring had arrived, the monkeys became very depressed, thinking that so much time had somehow mysteriously elapsed. Angada then suggested, "We should all sit down and fast until death, for that would be more noble than being killed by Sugriva for our negligence."
All the assembled monkeys agreed that there was no question of them returning to Kiskindhya without first obtaining more information concerning Sita. Tara then advocated, "Let us take shelter within this inaccessible cave, for we could all live there without fear of being discovered."
Angada remained silent, as if ready to approve this plan. However, Hanuman then said, "My dear prince, I consider you to be endowed with the eight attributes of intelligence. These are: having an inclination to hear what others have to say, being capable of hearing what others have to say, being able to comprehend the basic meaning of what others have to say, good memory, capacity to reason in favor of a proposition, capacity to reason against a proposition, further insight into the meaning of what others say, and true wisdom. O Angada, you are also adept at employing the four kinds of political strength or expedients: persuasion or conciliation, gift or gratification, sowing seeds of distention within the enemy's ranks, and the use of violence or force if necessary. Above and beyond all this, you are endowed with the fourteen excellences that characterize great personalities. These are: a sense of time and place, firmness, ability to endure all kinds of hardship, knowledge of all subjects, expertise, vigor, ability to guard one's secrets, consistency, heroism, ability to judge one's own strength in comparison to that of the enemy, appreciation for the services rendered by others, compassion for surrendered souls, indignation in the presence of unrighteousness, and steadiness in duty."
In this way, Hanuman employed the first political expedient by flattering Angada. Then, he utilized the third expedient by causing some distention among the monkeys, making them argue about what should be done. Finally, Hanuman intimidated Angada by saying, "If you go through with your foolish plan to live within this cave then you shall soon meet with disaster. The other monkeys will not remain faithful to you for very long under such conditions. Moreover, eventually, Laksmana will find out where you are and destroy the cave along with you and the other monkeys. However, if you return to Kiskindhya, Sugriva will certainly forgive you. Because you are an only son, he will later install you on the throne."
Andaga, however, countered Hanuman by arguing, "You overestimate Sugriva and forget that he is enjoying his elder brother's wife. Sugriva purposefully neglected his promise to Rama and took action only after being threatened by Laksmana. Therefore, whoever wants to can return home. I, however, shall remain here, fasting until death."
After saying this, Angada sat down on kusa grass and wept. The other monkeys surrounded him, likewise determined to give up their lives. Just then, Sampati, the elder brother of Jatayu, came out of his cave and perched on top of a mountain in sight of all the monkeys. Being overjoyed, he said aloud to himself, "By the grace of providence I have gotten some food after such a long time. When the monkeys begin to fall down dead from starvation, I shall eat them one by one!"
Hearing this, Angada became quite agitated. Addressing Hanuman, he said, "What a horrible fate we now face! This is all the doing of the evil Kaikeyi. First she caused the destruction of the great soul, Jatayu, then Vali, and now she will become the cause of our deaths as well."
This was the first mention Sampati had heard of Jatayu's death, and so he requested, "Please tell me all the details about the passing of my younger brother. I have become very pleased in hearing Jatayu's name glorified by you, although I am distressed to hear of his death. O best of the monkeys, I wish to beg one favor from you. Long ago, my wings were burnt by the rays of the sun. As a result, I cannot fly. Would you kindly help me to come down from this mountain peak?"
Since only moments earlier, Sampati had expressed his desire to eat them, the monkeys could not readily put much faith in his words. However, they reasoned, "We are going to die in any case by fasting. Therefore, even if this gigantic vulture eats us alive, it only means that our suffering will end more quickly."
The monkeys thus went and helped Sampati down from the mountain top. As they did so, Angada retold the entire story of Rama's exile and the heroic death of Jatayu. In turn, Sampati related his own history in a tearful voice: "Long, long ago, after Indra killed Vrtrasura, Jatayu and I wanted to test our prowess and decided to challenge the King of Heaven. After soaring high into the sky, up to the heavenly planets, we defeated Indra in battle. Then, having become very proud, we decided to rise up even higher. Thereafter, as we approached the sun, Jatayu grew faint from the great heat. To save him I covered Jatayu with my wings. However, as a result, my wings became burned and I fell down onto the Vindhya mountains."
Angada then interrupted, saying, "If you are actually the elder brother of Jatayu and our well-wisher, then give us information about the abode of Ravana."
Sampati replied, "Because I am now very old and my wings are burnt, I am unable to physically serve Lord Rama. I can, however, do so with my power of speech. I was told that a young lady was carried away by Ravana, and while crying out, `Rama! Rama!' she dropped some of her ornaments to the ground. I know that this Ravana is the King of the Raksasas, and his kingdom, Lanka, is situated on an island, one hundred yojanas from the southern shore. Because I am a descendent of Vinata, my vision extends for more than one hundred yojanas. Thus, I can see the golden city from here. My dear monkeys, you will be able to find Sita in Lanka, guarded by the Raksasa women. Now, please be so kind as to grant me one favor in return. Take me to the ocean so that I can offer water for the departed soul of my brother."
The monkeys were overjoyed to hear about Sita. Thus, casting aside their vow to fast until death, they took Sampati to the ocean and quickly returned. Jambavan then asked, "How did you come to learn that Sita had been abducted by Ravana?"
In reply, Sampati explained, "After my wings were burnt and I fell into the Vindhya mountains, my son, Suparsva, began to take care of me and bring my food. Once, I was very hungry, and when Suparsva returned home without food, I chastised him. My son then said, `While searching for flesh today, I happened to see a giant Raksasa carrying away a young woman through the air. I wanted to bring both of them to you to eat, but the Raksasa asked me in a very friendly manner for me to allow him to pass by. Thus, I could not refuse his request. Afterwards, the Siddhas came and informed me of Ravana's identity, saying that it was fortunate for me that this Raksasa had not killed me.'"
Sampati could see that the monkeys were now confident of his friendship. He then continued narrating his life story. "After I fell onto the Vindhya mountains, I remained unconscious for six days. When I came to my senses, I went to see the great sage, Nisakara, who was living nearby, and was known to my brother and me. When I met the rsi, he asked me how my wings had been burnt and I explained the entire incident. I explained that after falling from the sky and not hearing from my brother, in my crippled condition, I contemplated committing suicide by jumping from a mountain peak. Thus, as I stood before him, tears flowing from my eyes, Nisakara replied, `Do not despair, for I give you the following benediction-when, at a future date, you give information to the monkeys about Sita, your wings will reappear along with renewed energy.'
"Saying this, the sage Nisakara retired to his cottage, and I crawled back to my place in the Vindhya mountains. Thereafter, I simply spent my time, waiting for your arrival. After 8000 years passed, the rsi Nisakara gave up his body and went to heaven. Now, in his absence, I have begun to doubt the validity of his words."
Then, as Sampati continued speaking to the monkeys, a pair of wings suddenly sprouted on his body, while simultaneously, he felt a surge of youthful energy. With great delight, Sampati encouraged the monkeys to resume their search for Sita. Then, as Sampati soared into the sky, the monkeys headed South, rejuvenated with new hope.
However, when the monkeys reached the shore of the ocean, they again became dejected upon seeing its vastness, thinking themselves incapable of crossing over to Lanka.
Then, to encourage the monkeys, Angada said, "Despondency is utterly useless, for it has never been cause for an action to bear fruit. Indeed, despair is the root of failure. Thus, it is as deadly as a poisonous snake. Now, whoever can leap 100 yojanas to rescue Sita from the clutches of Ravana, please step forward so we can become freed from Sugriva's wrath."
Since no one responded to Angada's call, he began asking the monkeys individually how far they could jump. Some monkeys responded that they could jump 10 yojanas, 20, 30, 40, or 50. Mainda said he could jump a distance of 60 yojanas and Dvivida claimed 70. Susena declared he could easily jump 80 yojanas, while Jambavan explained, "Formerly I had an almost unlimited jumping capacity. However, now at the end of my life, I can only leap 90 yojanas. Long ago when Lord Vamanadeva covered the entire universe, I curcumnabulated Him as He took His three strides. Unfortunately, I am no longer capable of jumping to Lanka to rescue Sita."
Finally, Angada said, "I can probably jump 100 yojanas, but I doubt I could do so a second time to make the return journey."
Jambavan replied, "I am sure that with your prowess you could leap 1,000 yojanas. However, you are the leader of this expedition, and it would not be proper for you to accomplish the task yourself. Therefore, my dear prince, you must order someone else to do it."
Angada replied, "It does not matter who is in charge. If someone does not go to Lanka, be it myself or someone else, then our only alternative is to fast until death. Therefore, Jambavan, please devise some means whereby we can cross over the ocean and save ourselves from Sugriva's wrath."
Jambavan then said, "Do not worry, for I shall now appeal to someone who will certainly be able to perform this difficult feat. O Hanuman, you are equal to Garuda, the carrier of Lord Vishnu. Why have you not spoken up? Please listen as I now describe the glories of the best of all monkeys.
"Once, one of the foremost Apsaras, named Punjikasthali, was cursed by a rsi, and thus took birth again as Anjana, the daughter of the monkey king, Kunjara. Anjana grew up to be unparalleled in beauty, and likewise, could change her form at will.
"Once, after having married the monkey chief, Kesari, Anjana took the form of a human being and began wandering at will throughout the mountains. Upon seeing the beautiful Anjana, Vayu became captivated, and removed her dress by means of the wind. When Vayu saw Anjana's rounded and closely united thighs, her swelling breasts and other feminine attractions, he became overwhelmed with sexual desire and embraced her by force. Unable to see her assailant, Anjana cried out, `Who is it that is violating my chaste vow to accept only one husband?' Vayu, replied, `I am the god of air, Vayu. I have not physically spoiled your chastity, because I have entered you mentally. By my grace you will give birth to a powerful son who is equal to myself in ranging at will.'
"Anjana became pleased by Vayu's words, and soon thereafter, she gave birth to Hanuman within a mountain cave. The next morning, when baby Hanuman saw the rising sun, he thought it to be a shiny fruit. Desiring to catch it, he leapt more than 3,000 yojanas into the sky, but was thrown back to earth by the sun's brilliance. Unscathed, Hanuman jumped again. This time, however, Indra became angered by the monkey's seeming audacity, and hurled his thunderbolt. Thus, the King of Heaven's weapon dashed Hanuman against a mountainside, fracturing the left side of his chin. Indeed, it is because of this incident that Hanuman received his name, for Hanuman literally means, `One having a broken chin.'
"Meanwhile, Vayu became very angry at Indra's aggression against his son, and began withholding the air from the three worlds. This plunged the demigods into great anxiety. Thus, with Lord Brahma at their head, they rushed to where Vayu was staying, hoping to pacify him. Thereafter, just to satisfy the wind god, Hanuman was benedicted by Lord Brahma to become invincible in battle. Indra was pleased and surprised to see that the baby monkey had not been killed by his thunderbolt. Therefore, he awarded Hanuman the benediction of being able to die at will."
Jambavan then concluded, "I therefore consider Hanuman alone to be capable of executing our mission. Of course, in the past, this little jump would have been nothing for me. As Lord Trivikrama expanded His three steps to take away Bali's kingdom, I soared around the world 21 times to circumnabulate Him. When the demigods and demons wanted to produce nectar, it was I who single-handedly collected all the herbs that were thrown into the ocean of milk. However, I have grown very old. It is now time for Hanuman to exhibit his astonishing prowess."
Hanuman became greatly encouraged upon hearing these words of glorification. Then, to the joy of all the monkeys present, Hanuman began expanding himself into a gigantic form. While doing so, he delineated his own glories: "I am able to go around Mount Meru 1,000 times without even pausing, and by slashing the waters of the ocean, I could inundate the entire world. I could circumnabulate Garuda 1,000 times as he flies through the sky, and I can uproot the entire city of Lanka and carry it a great distance, if I so desire."
All the monkeys were thrilled to hear Hanuman boast of his prowess. However, to remind him of the gravity of the situation, they said, "We shall all stand here upon one foot until you return. Our very lives rest upon you, as well as all hopes for recovering Sita."
Hanuman then informed the monkeys, "I will leap from the peak of mount Mahendra, since it is capable of sustaining the immense pressure I will exert on the earth for my leap."
Saying this, Hanuman departed, and within a minute he arrived at the mighty Mahendra Hill which would serve as the support for his monumental leap.
The virtuous Hanuman first offered his obeisances unto Surya, Indra, Vayu and Brahma at the foot of mount Mahendra. Then, after climbing to its peak, he expanded his body to gigantic proportions. Moreover, while grabbing onto the mountain with his hands and feet, he inadvertently crushed many deer underfoot. Pausing for several moments, Hanuman concentrated, composing his mind in preparation for the great leap. Because of the weight of his huge body, the entire mountain began to shake. Thus, large snakes, while vomiting fire from their mouths, bit into the rocks, causing them to split into thousands of flaming fragments.
The Vidyadharas flew up into the sky to witness the spectacular jump. Thereafter, Hanuman crouched down, summoning all his energy, and the mountain peak began to crumble, as spurts of water gushed forth from the immense pressure. Gandharva couples that had been sporting in the heavenly region, along with numerous rsis that resided there, quickly fled the mountain out of fear. Hanuman then declared to the monkeys, "Either I shall bring back Sita, or I shall uproot the entire city of Lanka, along with Ravana."
Hanuman drew in his breath and tenses his muscles. All of a sudden, he sprang into the air, like an arrow shot from the bow of Lord Rama. Due to the force of Hanuman's jump, all the trees on the peak of Mount Mahendra were uprooted and thrown into the sky. In reply to their exclamations of wonder, Hanuman soared like a huge cloud, and stretched out his tail. As Hanuman sailed through the heavens, the uprooted trees followed in his wake and then plummeted into the ocean. Simultaneously, various colored flowers that were blown from their branches fluttered down and scattered over the surface of the water, creating a particularly beautiful sight.
The hurricane winds created by Hanuman's flight agitated the ocean, creating waves as tall as mountains that crashed against his breast. The shadow of Hanuman projected upon the surface of the water measured 80 X 240 miles, and the suction created as he passed through the air drew the surrounding clouds to him. Thus, Hanuman resembled the moon as he alternately became hidden while passing through masses of clouds, and visible again, as he emerged from them. Out of parental affection, Vayu blew cooling breezes, keeping the sunshine from scorching him.
As Hanuman soared through the sky, all classes of beings applauded him. The ocean deity likewise desired to assist him, in respect for Lord Rama. Since Lord Rama had descended in the Iksvaku dynasty, and His forefather, King Sagara, had extended the ocean's boundaries, the presiding deity felt obliged.
Previously, Indra placed a great submerged mountain, named Mainaka, in the middle of the ocean to block the passage from Patala to the earth to obstruct the demons. The ocean now ordered Mainaka to rise up out of the water, hoping to assist Hanuman by providing him with a resting place. However, when Hanuman saw the great mountain peak emerging from the sea, he considered it to be an impediment and knocked it down with his chest.
Appreciating Hanuman's prowess, Mainaka took a human form. Thus appearing on his own summit, he said, "O son of Vayu, you may rest for awhile on my peak and then continue your journey. Please accept this humble service, for I desire to worship your father by offering you this assistance. In the Satya-yuga all mountains had wings, and we flew through the sky like so many Garudas. However, because of this, the demigods and rsis became fearful at the possibility of our falling to the ground and smashing everything. Finally, in a fit of anger, Indra took up his thunderbolt and proceeded to cut off the wings of many thousands of mountains. Indra likewise attacked me, but Vayu came to my rescue by forcibly casting me into the ocean. Thus, my wings were spared. Now, to repay that favor, I request you stop for awhile and accept my hospitality."
Continuing his flight, Hanuman replied, "Please excuse me, for I cannot dare stop. I promised the other monkeys that I would not tarry on my journey. Thus, my time is short."
Saying this, Hanuman touched the top of Mainaka mountain as a token of respect and then soared upwards, continuing his flight. Being pleased, Indra came forward and told Mainaka, "There is no more need for you to be afraid of my thunderbolt. You may certainly keep your wings and travel as you wish."
Meanwhile, the celestial rsis, demigods and Gandharvas approached Surasa, the mother of the Nagas, requesting, "We would like to ascertain the real strength of Hanuman. Thus, we wish you to assume the form of a huge Raksasi and try to impede him. Either Hanuman will quickly defeat you, or he will give way to despondency."
Taking the form of a huge disfigured Raksasi as large as a mountain, Surasa suddenly emerged from the ocean blocking Hanuman's path. She announced, "By the benediction of Lord Brahma it has been ordained that I can eat whatever food that comes before me. O best of the monkeys, by the will of Providence you have crossed my path. Now I invite you to enter my gaping mouth."
Hanuman replied, "I am trying to render service to Lord Rama by locating His kidnapped wife, Sita. Therefore, you should assist me. However, if you are determined to devour me instead, then after finding Sita and reporting back to Rama, I shall return here and enter your mouth without fail."
Surasa retorted, "O impudent one, because of Lord Brahma's benediction, you will be forced to enter my mouth now!" Then, Surasa opened her mouth 10 yojanas wide to block Hanuman's path. Seeing this, Hanuman expanded his body to 10 yojanas and challenged, "You will have to enlarge your mouth further if you wish me to enter it."
Surasa then expanded her mouth to 20 yojanas, and the infuriated Hanuman expanded himself to 30 yojanas. Surasa countered by making her mouth 40 yojanas, and in response, Hanuman expanded himself to 50 yojanas. Surasa then expanded her mouth to 60 yojanas and Hanuman enlarged himself to 70. She then expanded herself to 80 yojanas, and Hanuman grew to 90. Countering this, Surasa expanded her mouth to a gaping 100 yojanas wide. Then, in the twinkling of an eye, Hanuman contracted his body to the size of a thumb, darted into her mouth and exited, saying, "O daughter of Daksa, the condition of your benediction has now been fulfilled, and I shall continue on my journey."
Surasa was delighted with Hanuman's clever victory. She then appeared before him in her original form, saying, "Well done! O foremost of vanaras, go now and accomplish your mission. May you soon unite Sita and Lord Rama!"
Hanuman then continued on his way, soaring through the sky. Suddenly, a Raksasi woman named Simhika grabbed onto his shadow. Unaware of what had happened, Hanuman first thought he was losing his strength. However, upon looking around, he saw a huge, ghastly creature emerging from the sea.
As Simhika impetuously rushed toward Hanuman, her mouth opened wide, Hanuman began to expand his body. However, the sharp witted Hanuman realized that the onrushing Raksasi's mouth was still large enough to swallow him. Thus, reversing his previous strategy, Hanuman suddenly shrank himself to tiny proportions. He then entered the Raksasi's mouth, and plunged into her hideous body. Using his sharp claws, Hanuman proceeded to tear the Raksasi's heart to pieces. After doing this, he again came out of her body and resumed his expanded size. Her heart shattered, Simhika fell down dead into the water, as the Siddhas, Caranas and Vidyadharas glorified Hanuman for his victory.
Soon thereafter, the distant shore of Lanka's beaches and forests came into view. Thinking the Raksasas would spot him, Hanuman resumed his normal size and landed on Trikuta mountain.
Even after his jump of 100 yojanas, Hanuman did not feel the least bit tired. Gazing upward, he beheld the wonderful city of Lanka, perched atop the Trikuta mountain, surrounded by moats filled with lotus flowers. Additionally, the entire city was encircled by a high golden wall that was heavily guarded by fierce Raksasas.
As Hanuman approached the Northern gate of Lanka, he saw towering white palaces and broad avenues adorned with golden arches, all crowded with innumerable fierce, ugly Raksasas, armed with all manner of weapons and able to change their forms at will.
Hanuman thought to himself, "This city appears to be unconquerable, even by the demigods, what to speak of an army of monkeys. How can Rama hope to vanquish the Raksasas, since only myself, Sugriva, Nila and Angada can cross the ocean to come here? Regardless, my first duty is to find out if Sita is still alive. I must carefully consider how I can meet her, for even the best plans are sometimes spoiled by incapable messengers. The guards appear to be extremely vigilant. Therefore, I cannot try to enter in my natural form. It appears that not even the wind could enter Lanka undetected. Thus, I must assume some inconspicuous guise and enter the city at night."
Hanuman eagerly waited for the sun to set and then, when it finally grew dark, he contracted his body to become as small as a cat, and entered Lanka by jumping over the high wall. Awestruck, Hanuman saw that the city was beyond his imagination, full of seven and eight story palaces that were lavishly adorned with gold and jewels. Indeed, the entire city was filled with magnificent houses with windows of diamond-studded lattice. Inside were beautiful women, and the sounds of laughter and sweet music could be heard. Throughout the city, Raksasa brahmanas chanted Vedic hymns, praying for Ravana's protection.
The moon then rose above the horizon, thus helping Hanuman by spreading its silvery illumination. However, the next moment, Lanka personified, in the form of a hideous Raksasi woman, came before Hanuman challenging, "How have you entered this city unchecked? What is a monkey like you doing in the kingdom of the Raksasas?"
To this, Hanuman said, "I will only answer your question after you tell me who you are."
The Raksasi then angrily replied, "I am the presiding deity of Lanka. I carefully guard this city on behalf of Ravana. Because you have entered here without permission, you shall meet your death today by my hands."
Hanuman then said, "I have come here to take a tour of the city, for I desire to see all the magnificent gardens and palaces."
Lanka, however, defiantly replied, "This city is inhabited only by Raksasas. No stray monkeys are allowed to roam the streets. If you want to view the opulences of Lanka, you will have to kill me first!"
To this, Hanuman declared, "I will look at the city as much as I like and depart the same way I entered!"
To this the enraged Lanka shouted, "You will not!," and struck Hanuman with the palm of her left hand. Being slapped, Hanuman roared loudly with indignation and struck Lanka with his left fist, although not violently, in consideration of her being a woman. Regardless, Lanka fell to the ground, moaning in pain, begging, "Please spare me, for a true hero will never strike a woman. Please listen, for once, long ago, Lord Brahma informed me, `at the time when you are overpowered by a monkey, the destruction of your city and all the Raksasas is immanent!' I therefore admit defeat, for I can understand that Ravana's death is at hand. O vanara, you have my permission to enter Lanka to accomplish whatever it is you desire."
Hanuman quickly traversed the entire city, jumping from one roof-top to the next. Throughout, he detected numerous spies in various disguises. Moreover, stationed in front of Ravana's palace, completely encircled by thick walls made of pure gold from the Jambu river, he saw an army of 100,000 Raksasas protecting it.
As Hanuman searched for Sita throughout Lanka, he beheld great palaces with jewel inlaid doors. The walls within were dust-free and as clear as crystal. The floors were laid out in fascinating designs, all appealing to the eyes. Filigree stairways inlaid with gold and silver led to balconies, and above them were magnificent domes and ceilings. Musical instruments played as the wives of the Raksasas came and reclined in the arms of their amorous husbands.
As he entered one residence after another, Hanuman saw lovers caressing each other, while other women applied sandalwood paste to their bodies. Here, someone slept, there, someone laughed, while others engaged in the affairs of lovemaking. Someone was sprawled out naked, having been left aside by her husband, and someone else, decorated with flowers and ornaments, was just welcoming her lover.
In this way, Hanuman observed thousands of beautiful women with moon-like faces, their lotus petal eyes casting sidelong glances that beguiled the hearts of their loved ones. However, there was no trace of Sita, thus causing Hanuman to became somewhat disheartened.
Thereafter, Hanuman decided to search throughout the palaces belonging to Ravana's relatives and consorts. From the distance, these residences appeared to be like enormous clusters of monsoon clouds, illuminated by streaks of lightning.
Finally, after searching throughout the residences of Kumbhakarna, Indrajit and others, Hanuman entered the palace of Ravana, which was filled with the sight of beautiful women and the sound of tinkling ornaments. Indeed, Hanuman felt as though he were being carried across the skies in a celestial chariot pulled by white swans. The interior of Ravana's palace appeared to be a ravishing paradise, with wish fulfilling trees surrounded by jewel-like flowers.
While roaming about, Hanuman saw many pleasure rooms, their floors wet from wine and liquor. There were rooms filled with all varieties of weapons and rooms filled with treasure. However, to Hanuman's disappointment, Sita was nowhere to be seen. Still, there remained Ravana's personal quarters, the inner apartments that alone were four by eight miles in dimension.
Thereafter, as Hanuman wandered throughout Ravana's vast domain, he considered how to enter the apartments. Finally, he came to where the Puspaka chariot was being kept. This chariot was originally built by Visvakarma for Lord Brahma, and could traverse the sky simply by following the mental indication of the driver.
The Puspaka chariot hovered above the floor and was adorned with birds made from jewels that flapped their wings mechanically and with snakes made of silver and gold. Inside were artificial elephants with shapely trunks that showered scented water upon a carved statue of the goddess of fortune, Laksmi, who stood elegantly within a pool of water, a lotus flower in each of her four lovely hands. The Puspaka chariot appeared like a large floating hill, and was fitted with stairways of gold, with white crystal floors and balconies made from sapphires.
To get a good look at Ravana's inner apartments, Hanuman jumped up onto the Puspaka chariot. From that vantage point he could see a great hall with a crystal floor that was inlaid with pearls, diamonds and gold, and covered by a great carpet having the geography of the earth, with all its mountains and seas as its design. Stairways made of gems led to the upper levels, as everything was softly illuminated by golden lamps whose light reflected upon countless valuable jewels. Everything about this spectacular hall was gratifying to the five senses. Thus, Hanuman began to wonder, "Where am I? Is this heaven? This could well be the supreme realm of Lord Brahma!"
Upon going inside to continue his search, Hanuman saw thousands of beautiful, colorfully dressed women sprawled upon the expansive carpet. With half of the night gone, they were fast asleep under the influence of intoxicating wines and the exhaustion from their amorous revels. The women's jeweled bracelets, belts and ankle bells were now silent, although sparkling, and thus appeared like lotus-lakes, serene with silent swans and sleeping bees.
Hanuman gazed upon the ladies, who lay with eyes closed and lips tightly shut, like fragrant lotuses that close their petals upon the arrival of evening. In their stupor, the ladies' hair had become disheveled, their jewels scattered. While dancing and drinking, their ankle bracelets had been misplaced, their marks of tilak erased, and their necklaces broken. Their belts were loosened, their dresses were wrinkled, and their garlands torn and trampled. Thus, they appeared like flowering creepers that had been crushed by elephants.
Some of the ladies slept, using their braceleted arms as pillows, while others reposed on the breasts of their co-wives. Still others rested their heads upon another's lap, stomach or buttocks. Still others, captured in love's intoxication, relaxed with arms inter-clasped, embracing each other as they slept.
Seeing this scene, Hanuman wondered, "Whose limbs? Whose garlands? Whose clothes? Whose ornaments?" Indeed, the consorts of Ravana were so intimately united in sleep that it was difficult to know who was who-but not who they served.
Under the influence of lust, innumerable daughters of kings, brahmanas, Daityas and Gandharvas had become the wives of Ravana. Some he had kidnapped after defeating their relatives, but all had accepted him willingly under the infatuation of desire. None were low born, ugly, crude or stupid. Likewise, none were neglected by Ravana, lord of Lanka.
In their midst, Hanuman saw Ravana, lying asleep upon an elegant silken couch placed atop a special crystal dias and covered with a white canopy that was decorated with flowers. Ravana was seen to have one head and two arms, for it was only in battle that he assumed his gigantic form with ten heads and twenty arms. Hanuman also noticed the numerous wounds upon Ravana's body, coming from such illustrious weapons as King Indra's thunderbolt, Airavata's tusk and Lord Vishnu's Cakra.
Ravana's dark complexioned body was smeared over with sandalwood paste, his earrings flashing like fire as he lay exhausted from a night of feasting, drinking and erotic enjoyment. Hanuman stared at Ravana respectfully, though recoiling slightly in awe of his powerful, majestic appearance. Then, Hanuman again turned his attention to Ravana's consorts, who surrounded him like so many glittering stars encircling the full moon. Several were sleeping in the arms of their beloved lord, while others caressed the musical instruments they played earlier in the evening. Like a lotus clinging to a floating tree branch in mid-stream, one slender waisted beauty embraced her vina. Another held her madduka-drum in her lap as if it were her infant child. Another full breasted lady hugged her tambourine tightly, as though it was her lover that had returned from a long absence.
Lying a bit apart from the rest of the women, on a lavishly decorated couch, was the fair complexioned Mandodari, Ravana's favorite Queen. When Hanuman saw how young, beautiful and dignified she appeared, he thought, "This must be Sita!"
Feeling overjoyed at his discovery, Hanuman rejoiced like a monkey by slapping his arms, jumping for joy, kissing his tail and climbing up and down the palace pillars. However, after a moment's consideration, Hanuman concluded, "This cannot be Sita. It must be someone else. In separation from Rama, Sita would not be able to even eat or sleep. Nor would she decorate herself nicely and accept the association of another male, even if he were the King of Heaven. Indeed, in comparison to Rama, what are the demigods, what to speak of a wicked Raksasa like Ravana?"
Thereafter, Hanuman continued his search, wandering from room to room throughout the rest of Ravana's palace. He saw thousands of moon-faced women, sleeping amidst vessels containing huge quantities of meat and wine, along with drinking glasses that were scattered about. Hanuman had to observe all these women very closely while searching for Sita, and thus began to have misgivings. Hanuman thought to himself, "Perhaps I have violated religious principles by gazing upon the wives of others, sleeping in a state of undress. What will be my destination?"
However, after some consideration, Hanuman concluded, "It is the motive which determines if an act is virtuous or sinful. While gazing upon these women, I have remained pure in mind, for my only thought is to find Sita. Since I am looking for a woman, where else can I search, except among women? I am only doing this in the service of Lord Rama. Therefore, my looking upon others' wives cannot be sinful."
Thereafter, when Hanuman completed his search of Ravana's palace without finding a trace of Sita, he concluded that she must no longer be alive. Becoming saddened at heart, Hanuman wondered what he would tell the other monkeys who were now anxiously awaiting his return. However, Hanuman fought his depression by reminding himself that unwavering determination is the only cause for success. While still hoping for the best, he continued to search in places that yet remained uncovered. Finally, after scouring Lanka again and again, Hanuman became completely disheartened. Although Sampati had assured him of Sita's presence in Lanka, Hanuman could not find her anywhere. Thus, he began to speculate what might have happened: "Perhaps Sita died out of fear while being carried to Lanka by Ravana. Perhaps he dropped her out of fear of Rama. Sita might have wriggled free and fallen into the ocean, or perhaps Ravana devoured her when she refused to become his consort."
Hanuman's thoughts then turned to the disastrous results that would ensue if he were to return to Rama and report his failure. "Without Sita, Rama will surely give up His life, and Laksmana will follow suit. When they hear that Rama and Laksmana have died, Bharata and Satrughna will also end their lives. With all four sons gone, the three mothers will certainly wither away and die. Because of their failure, Sugriva, Angada and the other monkeys will give up their lives out of shame. Therefore, I must not return to Kiskindhya. Either I will commit suicide or spend the rest of my life living as a recluse."
As Hanuman struggled to emerge from these gloomy thoughts, he considered, "Maybe I should kill Ravana, or drag him back to Rama so that he can be offered as a human sacrifice to Lord Siva."
Seated upon one of Lanka's high defense walls, and thinking in this way, Hanuman suddenly spied a large grove of Asoka trees on the outskirts of town which he had not yet explored. Resolving to continue his search, Hanuman first offered his obeisances to Rama, Laksmana and the principal demigods. Then he leapt from the defensive wall into the Asoka grove. Hanuman roamed about within the grove for some time, and then climbed a tall tree to gain a better view.
From the treetop Hanuman could see a mountain stream cascading down into a nearby lotus pond. Surrounded by flowering trees, this idyllic place seemed the perfect place for Sita. Therefore, Hanuman decided to remain stationed on the treetop in the hope that Sita would come there to take her morning bath and perform her devotional duties.
Gazing in another direction, Hanuman sighted a lofty temple, supported by 1,000 pillars and situated within a nearby garden. In front of the temple sat a woman dressed in a single, dirty, worn-out, fine yellow cloth. She appeared emaciated from fasting, and because of her anguish, she sighed heavily, again and again. Although her face was wet with tears, displaying her anxiety and exhaustion, she nonetheless shone with a divine radiance that could not be obscured by her grief. Like a smoke covered fire, she was surrounded by many Raksasa women.
Hanuman recognized her to be the woman he saw earlier being carried away by Ravana. Likewise, he detected that the ornaments she wore matched the description of those given by Rama. Hanuman gazed at the woman's full-moon face, her graceful eyebrows, her full breasts, her bright red lips, her slender waist, her lotus petal eyes, her delicate, symmetrical limbs, and concluded that she must be Sita. Although as lovely as the goddess of love, she sat upon the ground like a female ascetic practicing penances. Appearing most glorious, she suffered acute anguish, and thus appeared like a sacred text misinterpreted, like wealth squandered, like faith shattered, like hope frustrated, like ideals impeded, like intellect corrupted or like fame blackened. Hanuman thought, "This is the woman whom Rama loves and for whom He suffers, sometimes feeling pity, sometimes tenderness and sometimes grief. Pity for the dear one whom He failed to protect. Tenderness for the woman who is solely dependent upon Him, and grief at suddenly losing His beloved wife. Sita's grace and beauty resemble that of Rama, thus she is certainly worth the trouble of jumping over to Lanka and killing all the Raksasas. Indeed, if Sita were placed on one side of a scale and the sovereignty of the three worlds on the other side, the latter would not measure even a fraction of her worth. I am indeed pained to see how she suffers at the hands of Ravana. Still, I know that because of remaining absorbed in thoughts of Rama, she cannot perceive her external suffering."
The moon rose to assist Hanuman observe Sita and the dangerous Raksasa women guarding her. Some of these Raksasa appeared hideous, as some had only one eye or ear, with one having ears all over her body, and another had her nose placed in the middle of her forehead. Some were bald and some were dwarves, some were hunchbacks, and some had lips that hung down to their chins. Some had heads that resembled boars, deer, camels, tigers or horses. Others had only a single hand or foot. Other Raksasis had heads that were sunk into their bodies, like Kabandha, and most had meat and blood smeared over their bodies.
Hanuman wept tears of joy in finding Sita. Remaining concealed atop the Asoka tree, he watched her as the night passed away. Meanwhile, Ravana was awakened before dawn by the singing of the bards who praised his glories to the accompaniment of musical instruments.
As he arose, Ravana began to think of Sita, for he was irresistibly drawn to her by his passion. Unable to suppress his sensual longing for the princess of Videha, Ravana set out for the Asoka grove, accompanied by 100 beautiful women carrying golden lamps, camaras, cushions, water and other paraphernalia. Still under the influence of the previous night's intoxication, Ravana staggered along, followed by the lovely ladies, who appeared to be like flashes of lightning behind a cloud. When Hanuman saw Ravana approach, he prudently concealed himself behind a dense cluster of leafy branches. When Sita saw Ravana coming, she covered her body as best she could. Then, trembling violently, she sat down and wept. As Sita sat upon the bare ground, she swayed to and fro, like a frail boat tossing upon the stormy ocean. In her wretched condition, Sita appeared to be like an understanding that had become dim, hope that had been frustrated, an order flouted, or a sacred altar that had been desecrated. She was like a full moon in eclipse, an army that had been routed, or a stream dried up from drought. She was like a pond whose lotuses had been uprooted, an extinguished flame, or birds that fled from fright.
Sita's body had become emaciated and her mind depressed from fasting, brooding, grief and fear. Coming before Sita, Ravana began speaking in the hope of seducing her: "O most fair and beautiful lady, why do you cover your shapely breasts and thin waist? O large-eyed beauty, I am afflicted with love for you, so please give up your shyness. Favor me, my beloved, and fulfill my unbearable longing to have you. I has always been the custom of Raksasas to carry away or rape the wives of others. However, I shall not touch you as long as you do not voluntarily agree to have me in return. O lovely goddess, why are you lying upon the bare ground? Why do you wear dirty clothes and fast for no reason? Why do you tie your hair in a single braid and constantly sit brooding? This is not befitting a ravishing princess like you. Become my queen and enjoy royal opulences beyond compare within the three worlds. You will have only the best garlands, sandalwood paste, perfumes and ornaments. You shall eat the finest foods, drink the most ambrosial liquids and lie upon the most luxurious couches, and revel with music, singing and dancing.
"O most lovely lady, youth quickly passes. Therefore, your stubbornness is folly. You have the loveliest face, fairer than the moon, and your bodily features are the perfection of artistic workmanship. Become my beloved, and in return I shall do anything for your pleasure. If you like, I shall conquer the entire earth and present it as a gift to your father, King Janaka. Who can dare to defy me? O Sita, after seeing you, I have become so enamored that I can no longer find pleasure in any of my wives, not even Mandodari. Why do you insist upon remaining faithful to Rama, a mere human being, a straw in the street in comparison to me? I doubt whether Rama still lives. Even if He does, you may rest assured you will never see Him again."
Sita first placed a straw between herself and Ravana as a symbol of her unwillingness to contact him directly. Then, she gently replied, "You should withdraw your mind from me and remain contented with the numerous consorts you already possess. You will never be able to possess me, just as a sinful man fails to achieve perfection. I was born in a noble family and married according to religious principles. I will never act contrary to the tenets of righteousness. There is no hope of your gaining my favor."
Turning her back on Ravana, Sita continued, "Because you are acting perversely, directing yourself away from the path of virtue, you will become the cause for the destruction of your entire kingdom. Why not follow the example of good men who protect their wives and the wives of others? The fool who is dissatisfied with his own wife, seeking pleasure with the wives of others, is doomed. Why do you ignore the advice of the wise and reject that which is good? Why are you determined to cause the destruction of all the Raksasas? Do you not know that everyone rejoices at the destruction of wicked persons?
"I will never be tempted by your offers of insignificant opulence and royal comforts. I am as inseparable from Rama as sunlight is from the sun. The only way that you can save yourself from Rama's wrath is to voluntarily deliver me back to Him. You should try to make friendship with Him, for He is very merciful to those who take shelter of Him. Otherwise, it will not be long before Rama and Laksmana come here and suck out your life breath with their arrows. You shall never be able to escape Rama's vengeance, even though you may be capable of saving yourself from Indra's thunderbolt! It is only a matter of time before Rama finds you out and kills you for your wickedness!"
Irritated by Sita's words, Ravana retorted, "Generally the more courteous a man treats a woman, the more agreeably she responds to him. In your case, however, the opposite holds true. I should kill you for your harsh words! You are fortunate, however, because my love for you controls my anger, like a charioteer that curbs unruly steeds. Love acts strangely, for the more a beloved mistreats her lover, the more he showers her with affection. It is for this reason alone that I do not kill you, although death and dishonor are what you deserve. Already, ten months of your one year grace period have passed. Thus, I shall wait only two more months. Then, if you still refuse to reciprocate my love, I shall have you chopped to pieces by my cooks and served for my breakfast!"
Several of Ravana's consorts that had been forcibly abducted by him were also present there, and upon hearing his threats they felt sympathetic toward Sita. As Ravana prepared to depart, they briefly comforted Sita, their compassionate words giving Sita some small reassurance. Thus feeling encouraged, Sita again rebuked Ravana, saying, "You cannot have a single well-wisher within your kingdom, for no one has tried to deter you from this ignoble act which is meant for your destruction. Rama is like a mighty elephant, and you are a tiny rabbit. You may only talk boldly while Rama is out of sight. I could reduce you to ashes myself by utilizing my mystic power, but I refrain from doing so because I have not received such an order from Rama. You are a fool, for it is impossible to kidnap the wife of Lord Rama. You have only been able to do so because this is the device Providence has chosen to have me as the instrumental cause of your death."
Being struck by these sharp words, Ravana hissed like a serpent and gazed at Sita with angry, bloodshot eyes. "I will kill you this very day," Ravana bellowed. Then, addressing the Raksasis who guarded Sita, he said, "You must make Sita submit to me by any means possible. Use conciliation, gifts, or force."
Ravana turned menacingly toward Sita, and it appeared he might suddenly become violent. However, Mandodari, who had come with Ravana's youngest consort, Dhanyamalini, embraced her husband, saying, "Come back to your palace and enjoy with us. Forget about this pale, emaciated Sita. When a man desires to enjoy a woman who does not love him, he only suffers. However, when the woman loves him in return, he enjoys extreme delight."
Ravana was thus dissuaded from further abusing Sita. While laughing conceitedly, he returned to his palace. The hideous Raksasi guards then approached Sita and began to threaten her in harsh, angry voices. The Raksasi named Ekajata said, "You should give up your false pride and accept Ravana, for he is a very exalted personality. Lord Brahma's mentally conceived son was Pulastya, the fourth of the six Prajapatis. Pulastya's mentally conceived son was Visrava Rsi, and his son is Ravana. Do not hesitate to accept the King of the Raksasas, thinking him to be unworthy of you. If you remain adamant, it will certainly result in your destruction!"
Another Raksasi named Durmukhi said, "You are a fool for refusing to become Ravana's queen. Don't you know that at his command the trees scatter flowers and the clouds release torrents of rain? The sun does not shine and the wind refuses to blow if it displeases Ravana. O sweet smiling goddess, listen to our advice, or else face a horrible death."
Sita, however, calmly replied, "You can devour me if you like. I shall never submit to Ravana!"
Finding Sita adamant, the Raksasis picked up spears, axes and knives, threatening Sita as they circled around her. One shouted, "You are young, soft and tender. I shall devour your heart, liver and spleen this very moment if you do not submit to Ravana!" Others exclaimed, "I shall eat up your rosy red cheeks! I will savor your succulent thighs! I will drink your hot blood!"
Then a Raksasi named Ajamukhi interrupted, "I hate squabbling. Let's chop her up and divide her into equal morsels. Order wine to be brought. Let us feast upon her human flesh and dance before the goddess Bhadrakali."
Finally, Sita could bear their ghastly remarks no longer and burst into tears. While trembling violently with fear, she cried out, "O Rama! O Laksmana!"
While thus shedding innocent tears, Sita lamented to herself, "Why doesn't Rama come here to save me? Perhaps He doesn't know where I am. Maybe He has already died from feelings of separation from me, and is now residing in heaven. Perhaps Ravana was somehow able to kill Him by means of some sinister trick.. O, when will Rama come to take me back to Ayodhya, after destroying all these Raksasas? Why am I so unfortunate that I cannot give up my life at once? If only I could die, for death would surely be preferable to such misery!"
While the Raksasis were thus attempting to intimidate Sita, one elderly woman named Trijata suddenly awoke from a deep slumber. After approaching the other Raksasis, Trijata prudently spoke as follows: "You wretches, how can you dare torment Sita like this? You shall never be able to devour her. I shall now tell you why-I have just had an incredibly vivid dream, wherein I saw Rama come here to rescue Sita, and slaying all the Raksasas."
When the other Raksasis begged her to describe her dream in detail, Trijata continued, "I saw Rama and Laksmana dressed all in white and wearing white garlands. They were soaring through the air in a white celestial chariot drawn by 1,000 white horses. Then the scene changed, and I saw Rama seated upon a gigantic four tusked elephant, dressed all in white. Sita, too, was dressed in white and was standing upon a white mountain in the middle of the sea. When Rama came nearby, Sita mounted the elephant, and thus became reunited with her beloved husband. After this, I saw Rama, Sita and Laksmana flying through the air toward the North in the Puspaka chariot. I then saw Ravana in my dream with a shaved head, his body smeared with red sandalwood paste. He was riding in a chariot drawn by asses, and while drinking oil, he laughed as though mentally deranged. As the chariot rode off, I saw Ravana disappear into a gloomy hell filled with filthy things that emitted a foul odor. I saw Kumbhakarna and the sons of Ravana in the same way, but not Vibhisana. He was mounted upon a four tusked elephant, covered by a white canopy, and was heralded by conchshells and kettledrums. Finally, I saw the whole of Lanka crumble and fall into the sea. I have therefore concluded that very soon Rama will come here and recover Sita after slaying the Raksasas. You must now give up tormenting Sita and beg for her forgiveness instead."
Meanwhile, auspicious signs appeared in the irreproachable body of Sita, like servants eager to wait upon a wealthy man. Her lotus-like left eye began to twitch and her left arm gently throbbed. Sita's graceful left thigh also quivered as if Rama Himself were standing before her. Noticing all this, Trijata declared, "Because of these auspicious signs, I can understand that Sita will soon receive some very good news."
Hearing this, Sita became elated, and said, "If all that you have described comes true, then I will make certain you are afforded all protection from the wrath of my husband."
Regardless, soon thereafter, Sita relapsed into her usual melancholy mood of hopelessness as she gazed at the Raksasis around her. She thought, "What if Ravana kills me before Rama is able to come here to save me? In this miserable situation, I cannot bear the torment."
Desiring to end her life, Sita took the string binding her hair and knotted it tightly around her neck. Then she began tying the other end to the branch of an Asoka tree. However, just at that moment, Sita again experienced many auspicious signs, causing her mood to brighten, dissipating her gloom.
All the while, Hanuman had remained hidden, listening to Sita and the Raksasis. He began considering the situation. "I must go to comfort Sita, for her intelligence has become closed due to her intense grief. I must somehow allay her fears and give her hope before returning to Rama. Indeed, at any time she may decide to give up her life out of despair. Still, how can I talk with her in the midst of these Raksasis? Never mind! Somehow, I must do it! Rama will surely ask me if I have any message from Sita. If I reply that I have none, He may decide to burn me to ashes with His anger. Therefore, I think both Sita and Rama need to be consoled with news of each other.
"I will go to meet Sita while her guards are inattentive. If I speak to her in Sanskrit, she will surely have faith in my words. However, if I speak like a bramana, she may think that I am Ravana, disguised as a mendicant. Perhaps if I address her in the Ayodhya dialect she will believe me. But if she hears a monkey speaking like a human, she will still think I am Ravana. How perplexing this is, especially since Ravana can assume any form he likes. I must be very careful, for if she screams, her cries will alert the guards. If the guards see me, they will also become afraid because of my gigantic size. Thus, they will call for the help of Ravana's soldiers. Then I could be taken captive. Besides, even if I were able to defeat all the Raksasas, I would probably be too tired to jump back to the mainland. I must consider how to approach Sita very carefully, for a thoughtless messenger can ruin even the most perfect plan."
In this way, Hanuman pondered his dilemma in great detail. Finally, he firmly concluded, "I will first sing Rama's praises. Then, after gaining Sita's confidence, I shall deliver His message to her."
Thereafter, while remaining concealed within the branches of the great Asoka tree, Hanuman recited the following:
"Descendant of Iksvaku
King Dasaratha was his name
Righteous and heroic
He ruled Ayodhya of great fame.
At last he received four sons
Rama the darling of his heart
full of unlimited potencies
Vishnu playing a human part
To give Kaikeyi her boons
into exile Rama was sent
upholder of His father's vow
with Sita and Laksmana He went
When Rama killed the Raksasas
Who filled the rsis with fear
Ravana kidnapped Sita
with the help of Marica the deer
Then in His search for Sita
Rama made Sugriva a friend
To look throughout the Southern quarter
I, Hanuman He did send
After crossing many mountains
I leapt the ocean wavy
And thus I have succeeded
In finding you, O Devi
Rama will come to save you
His dearly beloved wife
Now give me some small message
just to save your husband's life."
As Hanuman fell silent, Sita became struck with wonder at hearing his words. Thus, she began looking up into the tree to find the speaker. When she sighted Hanuman, Sita thought that she must be dreaming. "O, it is very inauspicious to see a monkey in one's dreams," she murmured to herself. Overwrought from anguish, Sita wept bitterly, and then suddenly fainted.
When she regained consciousness, she thought, "After seeing a monkey in that nightmare, I should pray for the welfare of Rama and Laksmana. But how could I have been dreaming? In my state of anguish, being separated from Rama, I cannot sleep even for a moment. It could not have been a dream, but a hallucination. The monkey I saw could not have been real, for wherever I look, I see only Rama. My ears only hear Rama's voice, and I can think only of Rama and nothing else. No matter, I cannot believe that the monkey was illusory, for he appeared so real. Oh, Lord Brahma, Indra, Surya and Vayu, please let the monkey really exist and let his words of Rama bring me auspiciousness."
Hanuman then came down from his hiding place in the tree. While standing before Sita with folded hands, he inquired, "Who are you? You appear to be a goddess, and I think you must be the consort of Rama."
Sita was delighted to hear Rama's name, and in reply to Hanuman's questions she practically narrated the entire story of her life. In conclusion, Sita explained, "Ravana has given me only two more months to live. If Rama does not come here before then, I shall voluntarily give up my life."
Gaining confidence that Sita had spoken to him, Hanuman said, "I am an envoy from Rama, and I can assure you He is quite well. Rama has sent me here to locate you. He anxiously inquires about your welfare."
Hearing this, Sita was delighted. With great happiness, they continued talking to each other. However, as they became engrossed in conversation, Hanuman gradually began inching his way closer to Sita. Upon realizing this, Sita suddenly was seized without the thought that he was actually Ravana, disguised as a monkey. Thus, she exclaimed, "O, how disgusting that I have been tricked into talking with you."
Sita then sank to the ground. Exhausted from grief, she rebuked Ravana, saying, "How abominable for you to come to me in a disguise!"
The next moment, however, Sita considered to herself, "I certainly feel delighted at heart to see this monkey. Perhaps my suspicions are false. Perhaps he really is a messenger from Rama."
Thus composing herself, Sita again addressed Hanuman more favorably, "Please tell me more of Rama. Your descriptions of Him are most pleasing to my ears and heart."
In truth, Sita was absorbed in intense emotional ecstasy in separation from Rama. Thus, her talks were manifestations of transcendental madness. Like one deranged, Sita again began speculating, "Maybe this monkey is a ghost. Perhaps I only imagine I see him because I have become mentally unbalanced, due to my agony. No! I should not even think like this! Why should I allow myself to become carried away by my disturbed mind? From his speech, it appears that this monkey came here in the service of Rama. However, how can I believe that a mere monkey could jump over the ocean to Lanka? It must be Ravana who has come here after disguising himself."
Hanuman could understand Sita's doubts, and to allay her fears, he continued to glorify Rama and reassure her in various ways. Then, to test Hanuman, Sita said, "Please tell me the story of how you met Rama. Also, describe to me in full detail the bodily features of Rama and His brother Laksmana."
Hanuman then said, "O Princess of Videha, Rama has eyes that resemble lotus petals. He has broad shoulders and mighty arms, and His neck is shaped like a conch. His eyes are coppery, and His voice deep like the sound of a kettledrum. He is solid in three places: His breast, wrist and fist. He is elevated in three places: His chest, the rim of His navel, and His abdomen. He is reddish in three places: His eyes, His nails and palms, and the soles of His feet. He is deep of voice, His navel is deep, and He walks swiftly. He has three folds of skin on the neck and belly. He is small in four places: neck, genitals, calves, and back. He walks with four different gaits: like a lion, a tiger, an elephant, and a bull. Ten places are like a lotus: His complexion, mouth, eyes, tongue, lips, palate, breast, nails, hands and feet. He is fine in four places: His bodily hair, skin, finger joints, and perception. Indeed, He has all these features and many more.
"The beauty of Laksmana is also immeasurable. Laksmana's complexion is golden, whereas Lord Rama's is greenish. I met the two brothers at the Rsyamuka mountain. When Rama saw the jewels you dropped in the midst of the monkeys while being carried away by Ravana, He became overwhelmed with joy and tears fell from His eyes. To establish an alliance of friendship with Sugriva, Rama killed Vali. To repay this favor, Sugriva initiated a great search for you all over the world by dispatching millions of monkeys. Now, by good fortune, I have located you in this remote place.
"I am the son of the mighty monkey, Kesari. My father originally resided at the Malaya Hills, and later moved to Gokarna mountain. When the celestial rsis were being oppressed by Sambasadna, Kesari killed the great demon at their request. Thereafter, I was begotten by the wind-god, Vayu, through the womb of Kesari's consort."
After hearing Hanuman's description of Rama, Sita became fully convinced that he was indeed a messenger sent by her husband. Thus, she began shedding tears of joy. Hanuman then took the opportunity to give Sita Rama's ring which had His name inscribed on the inside of the band. When she received it her face blossomed with joy, as if she were experiencing the arrival of Rama Himself. She then said, "O Hanuman, I am eternally indebted to you for this gift. You are so magnanimous to have come here for my sake. Now, please tell me more about Rama."
With folded hands, Hanuman replied, "It is only because Rama does not know where you are that He has not come here to rescue you. Without you, Rama does not know a moment's peace of mind. Truly, as soon as I return and inform Rama of your presence here, He will immediately come and kill Ravana."
Sita then urged, "You must stress to Rama the urgency of the matter, for after two months, Ravana will kill me. Ravana's younger, half-brother, Vibhisana, has repeatedly pleaded with Ravana to return me to Rama. Likewise, Vibhisana's eldest daughter, Kala, has told me how an old and wise minister named Avindhya, forewarned Ravana of the immanent destruction of the Raksasas at the hands of Rama. Regardless, Ravana refuses to listen to this advice."
Hanuman then suggested, "If you like, I can immediately deliver you to Rama by carrying you to Kiskindhya on my back. I am sure that the Raksasas could not keep up with me as I fly across the ocean."
Sita was thrilled to hear this prospect, but still, she replied, "Your proposal seems quite like what a monkey would present. How can someone so small even think of carrying me across the ocean?"
Hanuman was a little offended by this remark, and so he thought, "How little she thinks of me!"
Then, to demonstrate his prowess, Hanuman revealed his gigantic form, boasting, "If you like, I can uproot the entire city of Lanka. Then along with Ravana, carry it back to Rama! So please, give up your doubts of me."
Sita then admitted, "You are certainly strong enough to carry me across the ocean. However, I do not think it such a good idea. What if I become faint as you dash across the sky and fall into the shark and crocodile infested water? Moreover, when the Raksasas rally and attack you, you will be fully engaged in fighting with them. What will happen with me? Even if you somehow manage to kill all the Raksasas, this would only serve to diminish the glory of Rama.
"O Hanuman, since I am completely devoted to my husband, I do not want to touch the body of anyone else but Rama. When I was kidnapped by Ravana, I was helpless and had no choice. However, Rama must now come here Himself to rescue me after killing the wicked Ravana. This act alone would be worthy of enhancing His glorious reputation."
Hanuman replied, "I appreciate your statements, which are just befitting the chaste and righteous wife of Rama. I will now leave, but first, please give me some token that I can give to Rama to help me convince Him that I have actually met you."
With tear filled eyes, Sita replied in a faint voice, "O Hanuman, to convince Rama that you have met me, you may relate to Him the following incident: `One day while we were residing at Citrakuta, after playing in the water, Rama sat down, dripping wet on my lap. At that time a crow came and began pecking at me, as though eager to eat my flesh. I picked up a lump of dirt to throw to scare it away, but the determined crow remained on the scene, hiding nearby. Becoming angered, I accidentally pulled the string that held my slip, causing it to fall down. Seeing this, Rama laughed heartily, taking advantage of my flustered countenance. In the meantime, the crow returned, and again pecked at me. I took shelter of Rama by sitting on His lap, and He comforted me, wiping the tears from my eyes.
"Feeling exhausted, I soon fell asleep in Rama's arms. Likewise, He soon dozed off, too. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the crow suddenly swooped down and clawed at my breasts. This awakened Rama, who felt drops of my blood falling on Him, coming from my wounds.
"Seeing the cuts on my breasts, Rama became enraged, and asked me to identify the culprit. Then, before I could answer, He saw the crow sitting at a distance, his claws dripping with blood. In great anger, Rama took a blade of kusa grass from His mat and surcharged it with the power of a brahmastra. As the straw burst into flames, Rama hurled it at the crow. Then, as the bird flew up into the sky, the kusa-grass weapon followed it.
"This crow was, however, the son of Indra, and while being chased by the brahmastra, he tried to obtain shelter all over the universe. Regardless, even his father was powerless to help him. Finally, the crow came and surrendered to Rama. Out of compassion, Rama forgave the pale, exhausted bird, but said, "This brahmastra cannot be ineffectual. Therefore, it must be directed somewhere."
"Saying this, Rama directed the weapon to destroy the crow's right eye. Thereafter, Indra's son departed after offering his obeisances."
Sita became overwhelmed with sorrow while relating her pastime with Rama. Then, with tear stained eyes, she said, "O Hanuman, formerly, Rama used the brahmastra against an insignificant crow. Why does He not attack Ravana now? Does Rama no longer have any affection for me? In some former life I must have committed an abominable sin to cause Rama to disregard me now." Hoping to encourage the despondent Sita, Hanuman reassured Sita, saying, "I can personally vouch for the fact that He is feeling great separation from you. Rama is completely merged in the depths of the ocean of sorrow. Now, please give me some object that I can show to Rama."
Sighing, Sita Said, "At least I now have some real hope of being rescued. Somehow you must urge Rama to come quickly, for if I must pass another month away from Him, I will surely die from grief."
Saying this, Sita a bright jewel from her cloth that she formerly used to ornament her head. Giving it to Hanuman, Sita said, "When Rama sees this jewel, He will remember three persons, since it was given to me by my mother as a dowry gift in the presence of Rama and His father. O Hanuman, please return quickly, and urge Rama to quickly terminate my unbearable suffering."
Hanuman then circumnabulated Sita and was about to depart, when, in a voice choked with tears, Sita said, "Please convince Rama to hasten in my rescue."
Hanuman replied, "Do not worry, for soon you shall see Rama, Laksmana and all the heroic monkeys as they come here to slay Ravana and the Raksasas."
Sita then pleaded, "Please stay for just one more day. By your association I have gained some small relief from my intolerable miseries. O, why do I even bother to raise my hopes? How will the monkeys be able to cross the vast ocean? I do not think that even Rama and Laksmana have the capacity, but only Garuda, Vayu or yourself. Hanuman, I know you could rescue me single-handed. However, I request that you somehow enable Rama to kill all the Raksasas and save me, for that will eternally enhance His glorious reputation."
Hanuman replied, "All the monkeys in Sugriva's army are equal to or superior to me. Surely they will all easily reach Lanka. It is only inferior persons like myself that are sent on errands. Please give up all your doubts for good. If need be, I will cross over the ocean, carrying Rama and Laksmana on my back."
Sita then replied, "O Hanuman, I again urge you to please see that my rescue is hastened. I do not know how much longer I shall be able to survive under these conditions. I will give you one more message for Rama: Remind Him of the time He painted my cheeks with a red mineral to replace the decorations that had worn off."
Thereafter, as Hanuman prepared to depart, Sita repeatedly implored him to hasten her rescue. Hanuman then considered, "My mission would not be complete without ascertaining the true strength of the Raksasas. Therefore, I shall destroy this Asoka grove, the pleasure garden of Ravana, just to provoke his anger. When the King of the Raksasas sends his army to attack me, I will destroy it and then return to Rama."
Thereafter, Hanuman wrecked havoc by knocking down and uprooting Asoka trees. He stirred up the ponds and crushed the hilltops. Then, after practically destroying the entire garden, he made his stand at the entrance.
Upon hearing the frightened screams of the birds and animals, along with other sounds created by Hanuman's rampage, the Raksasi guards awoke with a start. Seeing Hanuman standing at the garden entrance, his huge form filled their hearts with terror. Surrounding Sita, the Raksasi's asked, "Who is this creature? What were you and he conversing about?"
Sita denied knowing who Hanuman was, saying, "He must be a ferocious Raksasa. Since you are all Raksasas, it is you that should know him, not I. I too, am terrified by his huge, frightening appearance."
While some of the Raksasis remained guarding Sita, others went and reported the matter to Ravana. Reverently bowing to their King, the Raksasis said, "A huge, powerful monkey has came here. After talking to Sita he devastated the entire Asoka grove garden, except for the small area where Sita stays. When we asked Sita about him, however, she claimed not to know him."
Hearing this news, Ravana immediately became enraged and dispatched 80,000 fierce Raksasas known as the Kinkaras, to go and capture Hanuman. Thereafter, when the army came before him brandishing their weapons, Hanuman further expanded his form and began lashing his tail in a violent motion, making a sound so loud that it reverberated throughout all of Lanka. Hanuman then challenged, "I am a servant of Lord Rama. If I like, I can kill 1,000 Ravanas."
As Hanuman roared menacingly, the Kinkaras were struck with fear. Regardless, they began attacking him from all sides. Hanuman then grabbed an iron bar lying at the gate, and while flying through the air, he proceeded to make a wholesale slaughter of the Raksasas. Thus, the few surviving Kinkaras hurried back to Ravana to inform him of the massacre. Upon hearing this news, Ravana's eyes rolled with rage. He then ordered the extremely powerful son of Prahasta, named Jambumali, to fight.
Meanwhile, Hanuman began to destroy the immense temple of the Raksasa's guardian deity, located in the Asoka grove. As he climbed up the edifice, which was as big as a large hill, Hanuman tore it to pieces with his claws, making crashing sounds that reverberated throughout Lanka. Hanuman then shouted, "May there be victory for Rama and Laksmana! My name is Hanuman, and I will now destroy Lanka within the sight of the Raksasas."
Although the sound of Hanuman's voice struck terror into their hearts, the one hundred guards of the sanctuary took up their weapons and surrounded him. The enraged Hanuman then broke off one of the temple columns, and assuming a terrible aspect, he whirled the column around so that fire was generated as it struck the other pillars. Thus, as Hanuman proceeded to slay the guards with the blazing pillar, the entire edifice became engulfed in flames. Again and again, Hanuman shouted, "Let there be victory for Rama, Laksmana and the monkeys!"
Jambumali then arrived on the scene, riding upon a chariot drawn by donkeys, while the twanging of his bow filled the entire sky with its awesome vibration. Without wasting time, Jambumali struck Hanuman in the mouth with one arrow and his arms with ten more. As blood covered his entire face, the infuriated Hanuman tore up a huge rock and hurled it at Jambumali with great force. Jambumali, however, broke it to pieces with ten arrows. Hanuman then uprooted a large tree and began to whirl it around. Jambumali easily broke this tree into pieces with four arrows, even before it left Hanuman's hands. The Raksasa then pierced Hanuman's arms with five arrows and his chest with ten more shafts and a dart. Regardless, Hanuman remained undaunted. The great monkey warrior then picked up an iron bar and twirled it forcefully, hurling it against Jambumali's chest. The iron bar smashed into the Raksasa so violently that his head, legs, chariot and donkeys could no longer be distinguished from one another.
Hearing of Jambumali's death, Ravana became further enraged, and commanded the seven sons of his chief minister to attack Hanuman with a large army. Thereafter, when the Raksasas approached the Asoka grove upon their chariots, they saw Hanuman stationed at the garden's arched gate. The Raksasas immediately began showering their arrows so heavily that Hanuman was momentarily obscured from view. Hanuman, however, leaped into the sky, thus avoiding their onslaught. Then, roaring loudly, he charged at the enemy. Within moments, innumerable Raksasas were struck down by Hanuman's hands and feet, while others were torn to pieces by his nails. Others were crushed by the impact of Hanuman's chest and thighs, while still others simply fell to the ground, stunned with fear of Hanuman's roar. When all seven of the chief minister's sons were thus slain, the remaining warriors panicked and fled. Thereafter, Hanuman returned to the archway, awaiting further combat.
Ravana then sent five of his leading generals along with a large army, saying, "I want you to capture this Hanuman, for he could not be a mere monkey. He must be a super-powerful being."
Thereafter, the Raksasa army assailed Hanuman from all sides. The general named Durdhara released five arrows that pierced Hanuman in the forehead. This, however, merely infuriated Hanuman, who swelled immensely in size. Then, leaping into the sky, he fell upon Durdhara's chariot like lightning striking a mountain. From the impact of Hanuman's gigantic body, the chariot was smashed to pieces and Durdhara and the horses fell down, crushed to death.
Enraged at the destruction of their comrade, two other generals named Virupaksa and Yupaksa suddenly sprang into the air and struck Hanuman's chest with their clubs. Undaunted, Hanuman swooped down to the ground, uprooted a tall sala tree, and then struck the two generals dead. The two remaining generals, Praghasa and Bhasakarna, then came before Hanuman and pierced him with a spear and dart, causing his body to become covered with blood. The enraged Hanuman then quickly tore off a mountain peak with all its animals and trees, and pounded the two Raksasas into mere pulp.
With the five generals out of the way, Hanuman effortlessly proceeded to destroy the rest of the army. Hanuman killed the horses by wielding other dead horses, and crushed elephants with other elephants. He struck dead the soldiers with other slain warriors and smashed chariots by wielding other broken chariots. After covering the ground with many mutilated, dead bodies, Hanuman once more stationed himself at the archway.
Upon hearing of this massacre, Ravana simply glanced at his son, Aksa, who was seated close by. Being desirous of battle, the prince, understanding his father's indication, eagerly leapt from his seat in the assembly. He then mounted his mystical chariot, which could travel through the air and was drawn by eight horses. As he approached the Asoka grove, Aksa began showering all his arrows on Hanuman. Then coming at close quarters, a fierce duel ensued.
Aksa was very powerful, and while witnessing this encounter, the earth began to quake, the sun became dim, and the wind ceased to blow. When Aksa managed to pierce Hanuman's head with three arrows, Hanuman began to expand his body, while the young Raksasa warrior continued to shower arrows on him. The young Aksa was childishly proud of his strength, and came fearlessly before Hanuman like an elephant approaching a well covered over by grass.
After being struck by Aksa's arrows, Hanuman assumed an awesome feature and sprang into the air. Aksa closely followed him, while constantly releasing his arrows. However, Hanuman successfully dodged them while coursing through the sky.
When an arrow suddenly pierced his chest, Hanuman mentally praised the skill of his enemy, thinking, "Although a young boy, this Raksasa is fighting very heroically, and I really do not wish to kill him. However, as the battle progresses, his prowess only increases. Thus, if I do not kill him, I may become defeated. Therefore, it behooves me to kill him immediately, just as a spreading fire should be extinguished at once."
While increasing his speed, Hanuman killed all of Aksa's horses with a slap of his hand, causing the disabled chariot to fall to the ground, becoming smashed to pieces. Taking up his bow and sword, Aksa jumped from the ruined chariot and ascended into the sky like a rsi on his way to heaven. Agile Hanuman, however, caught Aksa by the legs. Then, spinning him around thousands of times, he dashed the son of Ravana violently to the ground. With all his limbs broken and his chest crushed, Aksa gave up his life while vomiting blood.
Having witnessed Hanuman's victory, the rsis stationed in the sky gazed upon him with wonder, while in his palace, Ravana's heart filled with terror. As Hanuman again stationed himself at the archway, awaiting the next onslaught of Raksasas, the infuriated Ravana checked his anger and summoned his eldest son. Ravana then said to Indrajit, "In warfare, you are unparalleled, indeed, equal to my very self. You have conquered the King of Heaven along with all the demigods and you have received weapons from Lord Brahma himself. Now, please go and do whatever is necessary to subdue this mysterious enemy."
Hanuman felt great joy when he heard the twang of Indrajit's bow, as the Raksasa came before him riding his chariot. As Indrajit showered his arrows, Hanuman roared loudly, and expanded himself, then rose up into the sky to avoid the onslaught. In the fighting that ensued, Indrajit could not find any opportunity to pierce Hanuman with his arrows, nor could Hanuman strike Indrajit. Upon seeing the futility of his weapons, Indrajit considered Hanuman incapable of being killed. Thus, he began to think of how to capture him instead. With this in mind, Indrajit employed a special brahmastra that immediately bound Hanuman up, making him fall to the ground, practically bereft of consciousness.
Hanuman could understand that he was being bound up by the power of Lord Brahma in the form of a weapon. At the same time, he could remember receiving a benediction from Lord Brahma that such a weapon would lose its effectiveness after a short while. Therefore, Hanuman thought, "I cannot free myself just now, but still, I have nothing to fear. Rather than considering this a setback, I should take it as a good opportunity to see Ravana firsthand. Even though I have been taken captive, I am certain from the benediction of Lord Brahma, I will soon free myself."
Some of the Raksasa warriors then came and tied Hanuman with strong ropes. As they bound him, they abused him with very harsh words. However, as soon as Hanuman was tied up by their ropes, the effects of the brahmastra became nullified, as that weapon's power could not tolerate co-existing with another means of bondage. Thus, Hanuman actually allowed himself to be tied up by the Raksasas, pretending to feel pain, just so he could get his chance to meet Ravana.
Indrajit could understand that Hanuman was feigning bondage, being freed from the effects of the brahmastra. Thus he thought, "The capture of Hanuman has been rendered useless by these thoughtless Raksasas. Moreover, now that the brahmastra has been nullified, it cannot be evoked again against the same adversary."
While Indrajit pondered over this predicament, the Raksasas dragged Hanuman into the presence of Ravana while excitedly speaking among themselves, saying, "Who is this monkey-like creature? We should kill him at once. Eat him up! Let's roast him!"
Coming face to face, Ravana ordered his ministers to interrogate Hanuman. In reply to their questions, Hanuman said, "I am a messenger from Sugriva, the King of the Vanaras, who sends you his best wishes for your welfare. The noble minded Sugriva hopes that you are conducting yourself according to the principles of religion and that your kingdom is subsequently prospering."
Inwardly, Hanuman was enraged at being captured, and the thought of how Ravana had kidnapped Sita further inflamed his anger. However, as he gazed upon the King of the Raksasas seated upon his crystal throne, Hanuman thought, "With Ravana's charm, presence of mind, courage, splendor and auspicious bodily symptoms, he would have surpassed even Indra in glory had he not become adverse to righteousness."
Likewise, Ravana was enraged, yet felt apprehensive while looking at Hanuman. Ravana anxiously wondered, "Is this Nandi, the bull carrier of Lord Siva, who previously cursed me when I mocked him? Or is this Bana, the King of the Asuras, disguised as a monkey?"
Prahasta, the foremost of Ravana's ministers then assured Hanuman, "If you simply tell us the real reason why you have come here, we will let you go free."
Hanuman replied, "As a curious monkey, I have simply come here with the desire of meeting Ravana. I knew that an insignificant person like me would have a difficult time gaining the King's audience. Therefore, I destroyed the pleasure garden with the hope that I would be captured and brought to the royal assembly. I didn't intend to harm anyone, but when the Raksasa warriors attacked me, I was forced to kill them in self-defense.
"Long ago I received a benediction from Lord Brahma that I could not be bound by any weapon or ropes. Thus, you should know that I have purposefully allowed myself to be captured-the power of Indrajit's brahmastra has already been nullified. Now, please listen as I disclose the real reason for my coming here. My name is Hanuman, and I have been sent as an envoy of Lord Rama, the son of Maharaja Dasaratha. For a long time I have been searching for Rama's abducted wife, Sita, and it was my good fortune to find her here. O King of the Raksasas, please know for certain that no one is immune to the arrows of Rama and Laksmana. Not even the self-born Brahma, Lord Siva or Indra dare to face Rama on the battlefield.
"O Ravana, you are the knower of religious principles. One who is actually wise would never court disaster by giving up the path of virtue. Please take my good advice and give Sita back to Rama before it is too late. Previously, you gained immunity from death at the hands of the demigods and demons by virtue of your severe austerities. Likewise, you should now realize that your unrighteous act of abducting Sita will bring about disaster for you. Even I could annihilate all of Lanka, what to speak of Rama, who can dissolve and recreate the entire cosmic manifestation."
Hanuman's speech simply made Ravana more furious. As his reddish eyes rolled in anger, he screamed, "Kill this monkey at once!"
However, in a gentle voice, Vibhisana advised, "My dear elder brother, it is not proper to put messengers to death. You are certainly a great sastric scholar. However, all your knowledge will be made void if you let yourself become swayed by uncontrolled anger."
Ravana, however, did not appreciate this free and unwanted advice. Thus, he angrily replied, "There is no sin incurred for killing an evil-doer. Therefore, let Hanuman die."
Vibhisana then argued, "In the sastra there is no injunction that a messenger can be killed. Indeed such a thing is unheard of. Only mutilation of the limbs, flogging, shaving of the head and branding are punishments that can be administered. My dear Ravana, great heroes like yourself never fall prey to the influence of uncontrolled anger. I suggest that you try to kill the enemy who sent Hanuman, and not Hanuman himself. Why don't you send your army to fight with Rama and Laksmana, for it is they who seek revenge."
By the influence of his pious brother, Ravana finally relented, saying, "Monkeys always prize their tails very highly. Therefore, set fire to his tail and parade Hanuman through the streets of Lanka. Then the people can see what kind of hero he is. Afterwards he can be released to return to his relatives with a burnt tail and suffer great humiliation."
Being so commanded, the Raksasas then wrapped cotton rags around Hanuman's tail and soaked the cloth in oil. As the rags were set ablaze, Hanuman expanded himself in a fit of rage and began beating the Raksasas by lashing his tail about. The Raksasas, however, managed to take hold of Hanuman and tie him more tightly. Indeed, Hanuman allowed this, for he desired a tour of Lanka to better inspect its fortifications.
Thereafter, the Raksasas rudely dragged Hanuman through the city streets, announcing to the people that they had captured a spy. As all of the women, children and aged curiously came out to see the prisoner, the Raksasi guards informed Sita of Hanuman's plight. Hearing this, Sita became greatly distressed, and meditated upon Agni, praying, "If there has been any pious credit earned by me as a result of my devotion and austerities, then let them be utilized so that the fire feels cool to Hanuman."
Just then, the sacrificial fire maintained by Sita began to burn mildly. Thereafter, the fire on Hanuman's tail burned coolly, as Vayu, likewise, blew ice-winds. Hanuman thus wondered, "Why am I not being burnt, although the flames are blazing brightly? Indeed, it feels as if the Raksasas have wrapped ice around my tail! Surely this is due to the mercy of either Rama or Sita!"
Then Hanuman considered, "It is not befitting a great warrior and servant of Lord Rama to be bound up and made a laughing-stock by these Raksasas! I've had enough of this humiliation!"
Thereafter, in the twinkling of an eye, Hanuman slipped from his bonds by suddenly shrinking in size. Then, jumping into the air with a shout, Hanuman instantly assumed his gigantic form and picked up an iron bar lying at the city gates. In a moment Hanuman killed the guards and then considered, "What else can I do to torment Ravana and the Raksasas before returning to Rama? Since my tail is ablaze, why not use it to engulf Lanka in a great conflagration!!"
His mind made up, Hanuman jumped onto the roof of the prime minister's (Prahasta) palace, setting it afire. Then, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, he ignited a great fire that spread all over Lanka, avoiding only the palace of the pious Vibhisana.
Hanuman also went within many palaces, including Ravana's. Because of the raging wind, the fires soon blazed out of control, causing the upper stories of the palaces to crumble and crash to the ground. Indeed, the intense heat melted the gold and silver, which then mixed with pearls and other jewels and flowed out into the streets like lava.
A great uproar was then heard among the Raksasas as they tried in vain to save themselves and their possessions. Anguished cries and loud wails reached a pitiful crescendo, as multitudes of Raksasas, horses and elephants were burnt. Igniting the fat from the burning bodies, the fire began blazing higher and higher, so much so, that it appeared to be the time of universal destruction. In a state of panic, the inhabitants of Lanka exclaimed, "Is this Agni himself ravaging our city in the form of a monkey? Or is it Indra, Brahma, Time personified, or the unlimited energy of Lord Vishnu, coming here to destroy us all?"
After having circumnabulated the entire city, Hanuman paused to gaze upon the fire, feeling great satisfaction. Then Hanuman went to the ocean and extinguished the fire on his tail and contemplated his return to Rama. As he again turned to witness the fire consuming Lanka, Hanuman suddenly became filled with a terrible apprehension as he heard the screams of the dying Raksasas. "What a fool I have been to set fire to Lanka!" Hanuman thought. "What if Sita has also been burnt! Just see the result of uncontrolled anger. It is the most sinful condition of the living entity, for it causes him to act indiscriminately. Indeed, what is there that an engaged man will not do or refrain from saying? A person under the sway of anger can murder his own guru or parents and insult the great souls. Only one who has learned to control his anger deserves to be called a human being.
"If I have caused the death of Sita then I have killed my master as well, and shall have to give up my life as atonement. To hell with the foolish nature of monkeys which produces actions born of passion and anger. Passionate acts always give uncertain results. In this case, I may have become the cause of mass destruction. If Sita has died, Rama and Laksmana will no longer be able to live. Then, one after the other, Bharata, Satrughna, Sugriva and many others will give up their lives. Without the shelter of these exalted persons, all other living entities will gradually become disinterested in life. Thus, it may be that I have unwittingly become the cause for the destruction of the entire world!"
As Hanuman lamented in this way, he suddenly observed several auspicious omens, concluding, "The virtuous Sita could not have been harmed. Indeed, by the mercy of Rama, even I was not burnt by the fire, what to speak of His beloved consort. The purity of her character alone is sufficient to protect her. The strength of her austerities, her devotion to truth, and her dedication to Lord Rama are more powerful than fire itself."
All along, the Siddhas, Caranas and other celestial beings had been praising Hanuman for his heroic exploits. Now, to reassure Hanuman, they informed him that Sita was safe and sound. Overjoyed and relieved, Hanuman rushed to where Sita was staying. Upon seeing her, he shed tears of happiness. Sita again pleaded, "Dear Hanuman, please remain here for just one day. I gain relief great from my burning grief by your association. Indeed, your return is uncertain, as is my survival because of my intense unhappiness. I don't see how Rama, Laksmana and the monkeys will ever be able to cross the ocean. Regardless, you must urge them to come quickly and rescue me, for I do not feel I can remain alive under these conditions."
In reply, Hanuman tried to comfort Sita, and he assured her of Rama's ability to rescue her. Having made up his mind to depart, Hanuman ascended the Arsita mountain. In his eagerness to see Rama after completing his mission, Hanuman began crushing the peaks of the mountain with his feet. Then, as Hanuman expanded his size, the mountain began to crumble. Because of this, the Gandharvas and animals residing there began fleeing in fear. Indeed, as Hanuman took his mighty leap, the 30 yojana high mountain sank down until it was level with the earth.
Sailing through the sky, Hanuman again touched Mainaka mountain in a token of respect. Finally, as he approached Mahendra mountain, Hanuman began roaring jubilantly, while waving his tail, anxious to meet his monkey friends.
Hearing Hanuman's roar, the monkeys waiting on the shore also became eager to catch a glimpse of their hero. Jambavan then told the others, "Judging from his exuberance, Hanuman has been successful in his mission."
The monkeys then began excitedly springing from tree to tree, mountain peak to mountain peak, waving their cloths. Then, as Hanuman finally came into view, they stood up with folded hands to watch him descend upon Mahendra mountain.
Thereafter, the monkeys gathered around Hanuman, shouting with delight, and presenting him with fruits and roots. Hanuman first offered his respects to the elders, including Jambavan and then to prince Angada. Answering their excited inquiries, he informed them that he had found Sita. Hearing that Sita was still alive, the monkeys became overjoyed, and embraced Hanuman again and again.
Thereafter, while praising Hanuman for his great heroism and devotion to Lord Rama, Angada sat down with Hanuman to talk. Jambavan then approached and requested Hanuman to narrate the entire story of his jump to Lanka, and subsequent discovery of Sita. Thus, as all the monkeys eagerly crowded around, Hanuman, first mentally offered his respects to Sita, and related his adventure, saying, "After leaping from the Mahendra mountain, I suddenly saw a golden mountain rise up from the sea in front of me. Considering it to be an impediment, I shattered the mountain peak into 1,000 pieces by striking it with my tail. Then, the personified mountain appeared before me, and explained how he was a friend of my father, Vayu, and then disappeared again into the water.
"Thereafter, I encountered Surasa, mother of the Nagas. Because of a benediction she received, I could only proceed after entering into her mouth in a thumb-sized form. Continuing on, I was forced to suddenly slow when someone caught hold of my shadow. At first I could not discern the reason for my loss of momentum. However, looking down at the water, I saw a terrible Raksasi resting upon the water. When she announced her intention to devour me, I again diminished my size and entered her body through her mouth. After tearing her heart to shreds, I came out of her body and saw her fall down dead into the water.
Thereafter, when I reached Lanka, the presiding deity of the city tried to obstruct me. However, I easily defeated her and then began my search for Sita. Although I looked everywhere for her within each palace and residence, she was nowhere to be found. Finally, I saw her within a delightful grove of Asoka trees. When I hid nearby, Ravana suddenly came there. Although the King of the Raksasas fell at her feet trying to win her affection, Sita responded by harshly rebuking him. This, however, enraged Ravana, who then said she had but two more months left to submit to him, or he would kill her and drink her blood. In turn, Sita fearlessly replied that Ravana was not fit even to become Rama's slave. This made Ravana so angry that he struck Sita with his right hand. Fortunately, however, Mandodari quickly came and restrained him.
"After Ravana returned to his palace, I approached Sita and we talked about Rama for a long time. Finally she gave me a jewel to show Rama and some messages to give him. She said that if He did not come to rescue her within one month, she would surely die of grief. Because of Sita's suffering, I became overwhelmed with anger at the Raksasas, and my body began to expand in size. Thereafter I destroyed Ravana's pleasure garden. Consequently, because this angered the Raksasas, I had to fight with and kill innumerable soldiers.
"Finally, I allowed myself to be arrested by Ravana's son Indrajit, giving me the chance to meet the Raksasa King, face-to-face. After being dragged into the royal assembly I threatened Ravana, telling him that if he did not return Sita voluntarily, then Rama and His allies would destroy Lanka in retaliation. Likewise, his pious brother, Vibhisana, tried to give him good advice, but Ravana could not accept it.
"Thereafter, when the Raksasas set fire to my tail to punish me, I broke loose and set the entire city ablaze. However, I later became fearful, thinking that Sita might have also been burnt. Thus, I went to her for a final meeting. Because of her constantly being tormented by fierce Raksasis, the gentle Sita suffers unbearable anguish. Although Ravana offers her everything in his possession, Sita scorns him, for she knows no one but Rama as her Lord. Although constant absorption in Rama keeps her alive, Sita will certainly wither away and die if she is not rescued soon.
"Therefore, let us attack Lanka at once and bring Sita back to Rama at Kiskindhya. I know that I am able to defeat all the Raksasas single-handed, as is Angada. Think of how pleased Rama would be if we not only found Sita, but rescued her, too! Indeed, I could easily have brought Sita back here with me, but because I did not have your permission, I restrained myself."
Angada then said, "Once, out of respect for the Asvini-kumaraas, Lord Brahma gave their sons Mainda and Dvivida32 a benediction, making them incapable of being slain in battle. Because of this, these proud monkeys were able to defeat the entire army of the demigods and forcibly drank nectar. I think that they could easily conquer Ravana. Indeed, since they are here with us, I also agree that we should attack Lanka and return to Rama, only after rescuing Sita."
Jambavan, however, replied, "O prince, your plan lacks wisdom. You have forgotten that we were only ordered to find Sita and not to fight for her recovery. Even if we were successful, I think that Rama would be displeased, for He vowed before all the monkeys that He would kill Ravana and win back Sita."
Angada, Hanuman and the other monkeys accepted Jambavan's advice. Without further delay, they departed for Kiskindhya. Along the way, the monkeys came to Madhuvana, a heavenly forest owned by Sugriva. Being eager to drink honey, they requested Angada to stop for a while.
Thereafter, the monkeys began to partake of roots, fruits and honey to their full satisfaction. Within a short time, all became intoxicated. While laughing, dancing and singing, they sported in a most boisterous manner, turning the nice garden into a shambles. This, however, caused the superintendent of the grove, named Dadhimukha, became very angry. When he came and told the monkeys to stop their activity, they insulted him with harsh words. Then, trying to save the garden, Dadhimukha began chastising some of the monkeys, pacifying others, and even striking some with his hands. Unfortunately, this only served to infuriate the intoxicated monkeys. Thus, they fell upon Dadhimukha and began kicking, biting and scratching him with their claws. Indeed, Hanuman further encouraged the monkeys, saying, "Enjoy yourselves as you please. I will check anyone who tries to stop you." Angada echoed this sentiment, causing the emboldened monkeys to fearlessly thrash the guards and strip the garden of all its edibles.
Meanwhile, Dadhimukha was set free, and the monkeys continued to act in various ways characteristic of the intoxicated. Some of the monkeys lay down lethargically, while others of a coarser nature, became insulting and boisterous.
All the guards then approached Dadhimukha, submitting their complaints about the monkeys' behavior. The superintendent then assured them he would put a stop to their rampage. Thereafter, Dadhimukha uprooted a huge tree, and the guards followed his example by picking up huge boulders. Then, as the guards approached, Hanuman and the other monkeys prepared to encounter them. Under the influence of intoxication, Angada grabbed Dadhimukha, who happened to be his grand-uncle, and after throwing him to the ground, began beating him mercilessly.
Finally, when Dadhimukha was let go, he took the guards with him to meet Sugriva, thinking the king would surely kill the monkeys for their misconduct. When Dadhimukha thus arrived at Kiskindhya and touched Sugriva's feet with his head, the king could see that he was highly agitated. Dadhimukha then described the misbehavior of Angada and his followers.
At this time, Laksmana came by to see what was the matter, and Sugriva explained, "Angada and his party are now at Madhuvana. From the description of their raucous behavior it appears they have been successful in their mission. I am sure that Hanuman has found Sita. Otherwise, the monkeys would never dare act with such abandon."
Hearing this, Rama and Laksmana became enlivened. Likewise, Sugriva was overjoyed, and told Dadhimukha, "Indirectly your complaint conveys good news to me. Therefore, the mischief by the monkeys should be tolerated. Please return now to Madhuvana and tell Angada and the others that I want to see them immediately."
Taking this order upon his head, Dadhimukha sprang into the air. When he arrived at Madhuvana he saw that the monkeys had by now become sober, and were passing the transformed honey from their bodies as urine. Dadhimukha then approached Angada with sweet words, saying, "Please forgive me for trying to forbid you and your followers from enjoying the gardens. O prince, your uncle was exceedingly pleased to learn of your arrival and now wants you to return to Kiskindhya at once."
Turning to his followers, Angada humbly said, "I suggest we return to Kiskindhya without delay. Still, even though the prince, I do not consider myself superior to any of you. On the contrary, I feel completely dependent on all of you. I shall do whatever you recommend. I stand here now, awaiting your order."
Fully satisfied by his statement, the monkeys replied, "O prince, your humility is just befitting an exalted personality. It indicates your eligibility to receive further good fortune. Let us not waste another moment, for Sugriva and Rama await our arrival."
Thereafter, all the monkeys sprang into the air, like so many stones shot from a catapult. Seeing the monkeys approach in the distance, Sugriva went to the grief-stricken Rama, saying, "Angada has come! I knew he would not dare return to Kiskindhya without achieving success. He could never dare devastate the Madhuvana garden given to my father, Rksaraja, by my grandfather, Lord Brahma."
Soon thereafter, Angada's party arrived upon the slopes of Prasravana mountain. In great eagerness they came before Rama, as Hanuman excitedly declared, "Sita is safe and sound She has remained fixed in her vows of chastity, never once accepting Ravana's advances."
Hearing this, Rama looked upon Hanuman with eyes laden with love and respect. All the monkeys then offered their obeisances to Sugriva, Rama and Laksmana. Unable to contain themselves, they each repeated everything Hanuman had told them about Sita. Then, when the monkeys finally fell silent, Rama said, "Describe to Me the exact location of Ravana's abode, and tell Me more of Sita. How does she really feel about Me now?"
All the monkeys then pushed Hanuman forward so he could give an authoratative answer. Bowing to the South, Hanuman then related the events leading to his discovery of Sita. Hanuman then delivered to Rama the jewel from Sita's head and said, "The devotion of King Janaka's daughter is completely fixed upon You without deviation. As a result, in separation from You, she can hardly maintain her life."
Hanuman then related Sita's messages: How Indra's son in the form of a crow had scratched her breasts, how Rama had decorated her face with red oxide, and how, due to being tortured by the Raksasis, she would surely give up her life if He did not come to rescue her within one month.
As He listened to Hanuman, Rama pressed Sita's jewel to his heart, as both He and Laksmana shed incessant tears. Rama then expressed His grief, saying, "This jewel was presented to Sita by her father at the time of our marriage. Long ago, King Indra gave the jewel to Maharaja Janaka after becoming pleased with the king's sacrificial performances. Oh Hanuman, I have become practically unconscious from intense grief. Therefore, please repeat the messages given by Sita, for they act just like cool water sprinkled upon my head.
In reply, Hanuman narrated, "After Sita finished telling me the story of how You chastised Indra's son, Jayanta, she said, `Although Rama is unlimitedly powerful and unconquerable, He does not come here to rescue me. I can only conclude that this misfortune is the result of some terrible sin I committed in a past life.'"
Hanuman then said, "I offered to carry Sita back to You, but she refused, for she was unwilling to voluntarily touch another male. Then, again and again, she said, `You must convince Rama to come here quickly to rescue me. My grief is practically unbearable, and I do not know how much longer I can go on living. Oh Hanuman, how will Rama, Laksmana and the monkeys ever be able to cross over the ocean to Lanka? I know you are able to kill Ravana and deliver me to Rama. However, it is my desire that Rama Himself come here to rescue me so His spotless reputation will be further enhanced. I do not wish to be returned to Rama the way I was brought to Lanka, carried by another.'"
Hanuman then concluded, "I assured Sita that the other monkeys were superior, and thus could easily jump over the ocean to Lanka. I also assured her that if necessary, I could carry You and Laksmana on my back. Thus, I was able to pacify Sita a little. However, in consideration of her precarious condition, I urge You to quickly devise some means whereby we can all attack Lanka without further delay."
Being extremely pleased with Hanuman's extraordinary accomplishment, Rama praised Hanuman, saying, "Except for Garuda, no one else could do what you did. Of all servants, the best is he who accomplishes more than the duty entrusted by his master. A mediocre servant is he who never attempts to do more that that which is commanded by his master, even though he may be fully capable of doing more. Finally, the worst servant is he who is among the lowest of men, who even though qualified, does not carry out the order of the master.
"Dear Hanuman, you have not only found Sita, but also comforted her with your words. Moreover, you surveyed the entire city of Lanka, tested the strength of the great Raksasa warriors, and struck fear into the heart of Ravana. Indeed, your service has saved My very life. Thus, it greatly pains Me to not be able to reward you properly. Since I am living in exile without proper means, all I can offer in reward for your service is My embrace."
Saying this, Rama affectionately pressed Hanuman to His heart. Turning to Sugriva, Rama said, "We now know where Sita is. Still, how will the monkeys ever be able to cross the vast ocean? It suddenly appears to Me that all our hopes and hard labor have been rendered useless."
Falling silent, Rama became deeply engrossed in thought. Sugriva then replied, "O my Lord, You should cast off Your grief, just as an ungrateful person can easily give up kindness. For one who lacks enthusiasm, all activities become the cause of misery. For one whose mind is bewildered by grief, all endeavors end in failure. I take great delight in the prospect of fighting with the Raksasa's. Therefore, I am convinced that the monkeys are equal to the task. Perhaps we could somehow build a bridge across the ocean. If the monkeys could only get to Lanka, I am sure they will emerge victorious."
Looking to Hanuman, Rama said, "Utilizing My mystic power, I can easily cross the ocean, or dry it up if I so desire. Therefore, please describe to Me in detail the fortifications of Lanka and any other relevant information gathered in your foray."
Hanuman eagerly replied, "Lanka has four types of defenses. Their first defense is natural, since the city is situated atop a high mountain, encircled by a river and surrounded by dense forests. Then, there are artificial fortifications. High golden walls surround Lanka, with four massive gates facing the four directions, each equipped with gigantic catapults. Also, surrounding the walls are wide moats filled with fierce alligators. Four drawbridges span these moats which lead to the four gates. When I set fire to Lanka I purposefully broke all the drawbridges and tore down many sections of the wall. My dear Lord Rama, may I suggest that only the greatest warriors, such as Angada, Dvivida, Mainda, Jambavan, Panasa, Nila and myself jump over to Lanka. Thereafter, we can defeat Ravana without any need to worry about transporting the entire army of monkeys across the ocean."
However, Rama replied, "It is My vow that I shall personally go to destroy Lanka."
Turning to Sugriva, Rama said, "The sun is now at the meridian and the auspicious time called Abhijit has arrived. This is the opportune time to begin a military campaign. Likewise, there is trembling in my right eyelid, indicating victory. Therefore, quickly assemble the monkeys so that we can begin our march to Lanka immediately."
Laksmana and Sugriva applauded Rama's statement, and within moments, hordes of monkeys emerged from caves and the wooded mountain slopes. Rama then ordered Nila, "I want you to march in front of the army. Take some of the monkeys with you and spread out in all directions, just in case enemy warriors are waiting to ambush us. Leave all weak vanaras behind, for the conquest we face is formidable."
Rama then arranged the army so He was riding upon Hanuman's back in the center of the formation, with Laksmana riding upon Angada. Thus, as Sugriva passed Rama's orders through the ranks, the army set out to the South.
The powerful monkeys marched on with great bravado, roaring like lions and leaping up and down. Sometimes they somersaulted or rode piggy-back, or threw each other into the air in sport. Appearing cheerful yet playfully aggressive, the energetic vanaras lashed their tails about while uprooting creepers and dislodging great stones as they clambered up and down the hills.
Traveling along, Laksmana said to Rama, "Look at the auspicious symptoms that have become visible! There is a cool and fragrant breeze blowing from our backs, and the forest animals are making noises that indicate their satisfaction. Indeed, the land itself appears to be in a peaceful condition, while overhead, the sun is shining especially bright."
The army thus traveled on, day and night, eager to fight for Sita's recovery. While traveling, the monkeys bathed and sported in the mountain lakes, ate fruits and roots and drank the honey from the forests. Finally, arriving at Mount Mahendra, Rama climbed to its peak. From there He could see the vast ocean, stretching to the horizon. When Rama rejoined the monkeys at the bottom, the army continued on.
Before long they arrived at the seashore. Rama then told Sugriva, "We are now confronted with the problem of crossing over the ocean. How can we possibly cross? Let the monkeys set up their camp while we devise some means for reaching Lanka."
As they busied themselves pitching camp, the monkey hordes appeared like a great brown sea, agitated with tossing brown waves. The monkey leader gazed with wonder at the vast ocean, which is the refuge of demons, going all the way down to the Patala planetary system. With wide open eyes they stared at the fathomless sea, infested with aquatic monsters like the one-hundred yojana long Timi (whale) fish, and the Timingilas, which can swallow them in a single gulp. Seeming stunned with astonishment, the vanara heroes beheld the impassable expanse of wave heaving, wind whipped water, with Lanka at its far side.
Meanwhile, sitting at their leisure, Rama said to Laksmana, "It is said that grief usually disappears with the passage of time. However, with Myself, the passing of each day only increases My anguish in separation from Sita. O Laksmana, My most painful thought is of how Sita's allotted time is steadily slipping away. Thus, My heart burns with longing for the time when I shall kill Ravana and rescue her. Only then will I be able to cast off My grief for good, just as a person throws away his old, worn out garment."
As Rama continued venting His anguish before Laksmana, lamenting at great length, the sun gradually set below the horizon. Meanwhile, In Lanka, after witnessing Hanuman's devastating prowess, Ravana called a meeting with all the leading Raksasas. To the assembly, the Raksasa King said, "Impenetrable Lanka has been ravaged. My palaces are in ruins and many of the best Raksasa warriors are dead. According to authoratative opinion, the root cause of victory is good council. That is why I have called you all here. There are three classes of men in this world: Before acting, the wise person takes council of superiors and friends who have a common interest. Then, according to their advice, he exerts himself to his fullest capacity, while ultimately depending upon Providence. The mediocre person thinks over a matter himself, considering things in the light of his own understanding, and then acts accordingly. The vilest of men are those who entirely give up faith in God and perform their actions whimsically, without a sense of duty. Being unable to properly judge what is beneficial and what is harmful, such persons go ahead blindly, saying, `I shall do it no matter what!'
"Similarly, there are three types of advice. Good advice is that given after an objective study of the problem, and is in alignment with religious principles. Mediocre advice is that which is given after a heated discussion of the problem, and which places more emphasis upon limited self interest than religious principles. Bad advice is that which is given out of false pride or to flatter, and which does not properly take into consideration the ultimate consequences.
"I am convinced that very soon, Rama will come to attack Lanka with a vast army of monkeys. His prowess was demonstrated at Janasthana. Thus, I have no doubt He will be able to cross the ocean without difficulty. My dear Raksasas, all of you are very intelligent. Therefore, I want your advice about what must be done for our welfare."
Ignorant of Rama's strength, and eager to please their master, the Raksasa's replied, "O King, why should you be afraid? You are powerful enough to defeat all your enemies single-handed. Just remember how you defeated Kuvera, taking Lanka away from him. Remember how Maya Danava fearfully handed over his daughter, Mandodari, to you. Why should you even bother to worry? You can rest peacefully, while your son, Indrajit, annihilates Rama and all the monkeys before they even cross the ocean. Previously, after defeating all the demigods, Indrajit arrested Indra, the King of heaven, keeping him captive at Lanka. Only at Lord Brahma's request was Indra allowed to go free and resume his heavenly post."
Ravana's commander-in-chief, Prahasta, then said, "We have conquered the demigods, Danavas, Gandharvas, and Piscacas. Why should we be afraid of these mere mortals? Hanuman was only able to exert his prowess because we were unwary, considering him to be a mere monkey."
Another Raksasa named Durmukha stood up and declared, "I will not allow this insult to go unavenged. Wherever they may be, in heaven, on earth, or within the sea, I shall rid the world of every single vanara!"
While brandishing a club stained with flesh and blood, the Raksasa Vajradamstra angrily shouted, "Who cares for fighting with a bunch of monkeys? It is Rama and Laksmana whom I shall crush to death. O King, just give me the order!"
Kumbhakarna's powerful son, Nikumbha, then bellowed, "Let all of you remain here with our master. I shall go and vanquish Rama and all the monkeys single-handed!"
Another Raksasa named Vajrahanu, as large as a hill, boasted, "O King, remain here and conduct your business as usual. Drink wine and make merry while I attend to Rama, Laksmana and their army of monkeys."
Indeed, many of the Raksasa heroes boasted of their prowess, assuring Ravana that they could conquer the enemy single-handed. While brandishing their weapons, the agitated Raksasas were poised for combat when Vibhisana politely restrained them. When they were thus seated, the pious Vibhisana said, "My dear elder brother, the wise have advised that violence should be resorted to only after the other three tactics of conciliation, gifts and dissension have failed. Even then, violence only succeeds against those who are evil, unwary, under siege by another enemy, or those doomed by fate. Rama is supremely powerful and virtuous and is eager to fight for revenge. Therefore, how can you hope to defeat Him? Sita's abduction is the root cause of our present crisis. Thus, you should return her to Rama before His arrows destroy Lanka and all its inhabitants."
After hearing Vibhisana's advice, Ravana dismissed the assembly and retired to his quarters. The next morning, Vibhisana came before Ravana as the Raksasa King sat on his throne, listening to the brahmanas offer prayers for his welfare. Seating himself nearby, Vibhisana said, "My dear elder brother, ever since you brought Sita to Lanka, many inauspicious omens have manifested. The sacrificial fire now gives off sparks and smoke, and snakes are frequently found inside the kitchen and sacrificial arenas. The offerings made in sacrifice are sometimes full of ants, and swarms of crows perch atop the palaces. Numerous vultures continuously hover over the city, and she-jackals can be heard crying out ominously every morning and evening. This is all because of your sinful act of kidnapping Sita. Therefore, O Ravana, the only atonement for you is to return her to Rama at once. I speak to you honestly, whereas your other ministers simply flatter you because they are afraid of incurring your displeasure."
Because Ravana was overwhelmed by his passionate desire to enjoy Sita, he became angry upon hearing his brother's sage advice. Nearly shouting, Ravana declared, "I do not have any fear of Rama or anyone else. Thus, I shall never agree to return Sita under any circumstance. Now, my dear younger brother, you may take your leave and go about your business."
In the months since kidnapping Sita, Ravana had grown emaciated due to his unfulfilled passion for Sita. Thus, because of his abominable acts, even his relatives began to disrespect him. Knowing war to be eminent, the King of the Raksasas wanted to consult further with his ministers. Thus, the next day he ordered them to convene again. Thereafter, when Ravana arrived at the assembly hall riding upon his chariot, everyone offered their respects by bowing their heads to the ground, as thousands of trumpets heralded his arrival. Then, Ravana said to his commander, "Prahastha, you must immediately ensure that our army is prepared to defend the city, both from within and without."
As Prahasta left to ready the army's preparedness, Ravana addressed the assembly: "My dear Raksasas, I am pleased to announce that after sleeping for six months, Kumbhakarna has awakened and is gracing us with his presence today. Please listen attentively, for I want you all to fully understand my position. As you know, I have become obsessed with a single-minded attraction for the lovely-limbed Sita. Indeed, I am no longer the master of myself, for I have become the slave of my passion for her."
Then, hoping to put himself in a better light, Ravana began weaving a deceitful tale, saying, "Sita has agreed to become my consort, but only after the expiration of one year. That is the exact time I have allotted for Rama to come to her rescue. For this reason I have remained patient, but it now appears that Rama, Laksmana and a vast army of monkeys are preparing to attack Lanka. In truth, I do not feel that two mere human beings and a band of monkeys can pose much of a threat. However, since one monkey, Hanuman, was able to inflict so much damage upon us, I must admit that victory is uncertain. That is why I have called for all of you. I want you to advise me how I can kill Rama, thus keeping the lovely Sita for myself."
Kumbhakarna then stood up and sharply replied, "O foolish King, you should have consulted us when you planned to kidnap Sita, instead of acting impulsively. That would have saved you from repenting later on. Regardless, you may give up your great anxiety, for I shall counteract your blunder by killing Rama and Laksmana and devouring all the monkeys."
Mahaparsva then spoke up, "O King, why should one not to taste the honey procured with great endeavor within the snake infested forest? You can forcibly enjoy Sita to your heart's content. Who can stop you? No one is as powerful as you. You are free to do as you like without fear."
Ravana then replied, "There is something in my past that I have always kept a secret. However, since you have inquired in this way, I will now disclose to you an incident that happened long ago. Once, I happened to see an Apsara of incomparable beauty named Punjikasthali, who was on her way to offer her respects to the universal Grandsire, Lord Brahma. The sight of the Apsara inflamed me with desire and I forcibly seized and raped her. After gratifying myself I released her, and she fled, naked, to the shelter of Lord Brahma. The Grandsire became enraged when he learned what I had done, and cursed me, saying, `O wicked King of the Raksasas, your head will split into 100 pieces if you ever try to forcibly rape another woman again.'
"My dear Mahaparsva, it is in fear of this curse that I do not drag Sita to my bed by force. However, I am not afraid of Rama, for I know I am the most powerful created being in the universe. Rama is obviously ignorant of my prowess. Therefore, since He desires to attack me, I shall make short work of Him."
Vibhisana then said, "My dear Ravana, can't you see that Sita is just like a poisonous snake that you have willingly tied around your neck? Use your good intelligence and return Sita to Rama before she becomes the cause of Lanka's destruction and the annihilation of all the Raksasas. I can assure you that there is no Raksasa warrior who will be able to stand before Rama on the battlefield and live to tell about it."
Prahasta then angrily asked, "Why should we be afraid of a mere human being like Rama when we have nothing to fear even from the greatest demigods and demons?"
As Ravana's well-wisher, Vibhisana replied, "Rama possesses unlimited and inconceivable potency on a level with Lord Vishnu Himself. Therefore, Prahasta, you will do your king a great service if you dissuade him from fighting with Rama. Instead, you are now performing the greatest disservice by encouraging Ravana to fight."
Turning to Ravana, Vibhisana said, "I am only thinking of your welfare when I say that you should return Sita to Rama. The minister who measures the relative strength of the king and his enemy and then gives advice accordingly, is the true well-wisher."
Unable to tolerate his uncle's words any longer, Indrajit hotly interrupted, "Vibhisana, you are simply a coward and an eunuch. Your advice has no place in this assembly, for it is devoid of courage and heroism. Previously, I dragged Indra and his carrier, Airavata, to the ground, causing all the demigods to flee in fear. Therefore, it will be easy for me to kill two ordinary human beings like Rama and Laksmana."
Vibhisana, however, harshly replied, "You are but a mere boy. Because your intelligence is not yet developed, you cannot decide what is to be done and what is to be avoided. You are actually Ravana's enemy and not his son, because you are dull headed, indiscriminate, uncultured and wicked. Sita should be given back to Rama along with abundant gifts of wealth so that the Raksasas may continue to live peacefully."
Ravana also tired of hearing Vibhisana's contrary advice. Therefore, to chastise his youngest half-brother, he said, "It is better to live with an enemy or a poisonous snake than one who claims to be a friend but is actually a traitor. Especially if that person is one's own brother! It appears that one's own relatives rejoice the most at a family member's misfortune. Once, when the elephants in the Padma-vana saw hunters approaching with snares in their hands, they recited the following two verses:
Fire and weapons
we do not fear
The dangerous are the
so-called near and dear.
They are the ones
who take special pains
to make sure that
all of us are put into chains.
"From cows we derive milk, in brahmanas we find tapasya, in women we see fickleness and from relatives we are put into danger. Vibhisana, you are envious of me and that is why you cannot tolerate the honor I receive. If anyone else had spoken as you did I would have killed him at once. Therefore, I must now say that you, O wretched half-brother, are a disgrace to our noble family!"
Enraged by Ravana's rebuke, with club in hand, Vibhisana rose up into the air, along with four of his followers, and declared, "O King, although you are my superior, I can no longer tolerate your words, for you have chosen to follow the path of irreligion. Flatterers who only utter palatable words are easy to find. However, persons who actually speak for one's benefit, even though the truth may be unpalatable, are very rarely seen. O Ravana, I have only given you advice with the hope of saving you from meeting death at the hands of Rama. You have rejected my advice, however, and are free to do so. Thus, I wish you well, O brother, but I shall no longer remain here with you."
Vibhisana and his followers then departed, and within one hour reached the place where Rama was staying. When the monkeys saw Vibhisana hovering overhead, like a peak of Mount Meru illuminated with lightning, Sugriva told Hanuman, "Take care! These Raksasas must have come here to kill us!"
Thus, all the monkeys began picking up rocks and uprooting trees, awaiting Sugriva's instructions. Vibhisana then announced, "O King of the monkeys, I am the youngest half-brother of Ravana. As former minister to Ravana, I advised him repeatedly to return Sita to Rama. However, after being rebuked by Ravana with harsh words, I have left my home, wife and children to take shelter at the lotus feet of Rama. Please go and tell Him of my intentions."
Sugriva then went to Rama and said, "One of the enemy Raksasas has arrived. Although he says he has deserted Ravana he cannot be trusted. Indeed, one can never place any trust in a Raksasa. In my opinion he must be a spy. If we believe in him, then, when we least expect it, he may do us great injury. Therefore, I suggest that he be killed immediately."
Rama, however, went to the other monkeys, headed by Hanuman, and asked their opinions. The monkeys replied, "Dear Lord Rama, You are the knower of everything. Therefore, we can understand that You are inquiring from us just to honor us."
Angada then suggested, "If the presence of this Raksasa can give us an advantage, he should be accepted with great caution. However, if he poses too much of a threat, he should be turned away."
Saraba advised, "We should assign someone to constantly spy on him. If, after being thoroughly tested, he is found to be our ally, only then should he be welcomed."
Jambavan, however, warned, "This Raksasa should be regarded with great caution and suspicion." Likewise, Mainda advised, "He should be thoroughly interrogated before any decision is made."
The ever-wise Hanuman, gifted in the art of speech, then said, "We do not have time to test Vibhisana. In my opinion he has come here in all sincerity, hoping to take shelter of Lord Rama. He has understood that Ravana is wicked and that Rama is the supreme emblem of purity and righteousness. His peaceful demeanor and considerate speech indicate the honesty of his purpose, for a deceitful person cannot remain so composed. It is not possible for anyone to fully conceal his inner intentions. Thus, the facial expression always gives some clue into one's thoughts. I think Vibhisana should be accepted as our ally without reservation."
Although Rama was pleased by Hanuman's statement, Sugriva nonetheless replied, "Since Vibhisana has deserted his half-brother at a time of adversity, it should be understood that there is none he would not betray."
Rama then replied, "I believe that Vibhisana has genuinely rejected Ravana. Indeed, such dissension often occurs in royal families. Let us welcome him as our ally."
Still unconvinced, Sugriva meekly protested, "He may have been sent by Ravana. Therefore, to be safe we should immediately capture and kill him. Otherwise, if accepted, he may turn on us at any moment."
Rama then smiled and said, "Do you truly think this Raksasa could hurt Me? With the mere tip of My finger I could kill all the Raksasas and demons. Please listen as I tell you the following story: `Once, there was a hunter who caught a male pigeon in his snare. Afterward he approached a nearby tree to take rest. The wife of the captured pigeon was residing in that tree, and upon seeing that the hunter had come to her house, she offered him ample hospitality. Indeed, since she had nothing else to feed the hunter, the bird offered him her own flesh in trying to fulfill her obligation of receiving a guest.'"
Rama continued, "O Sugriva, since a mere bird acted in this way, what can be said of a man like Myself? There are many places in the sastra where it is said that when an enemy arrives with folded hands he must be protected by all means. The great sage Kandu has commented that it is only out of fear or folly that one would act otherwise, thus incurring sin. Moreover, as the Supreme personality of Godhead, in lieu of this moral principle, it is My eternal principle that if any living being takes shelter of Me, even once, saying, ` I am Yours,' then I award that person freedom from all fear. Even if Ravana were to come here to surrender unto Me, I would give him all protection."
Sugriva's heart became filled with love upon hearing Rama's sublime statement. With tears in his eyes, he admitted, "O Rama, Your words and deeds are always just befitting Your supreme position. I too, feel that Vibhisana is sincere. Therefore, let friendship be made without delay."
After being assured of safety, Vibhisana descended to the earth and fell down flat at the lotus feet of Lord Rama. In a mood of full surrender, he explained, "I am the youngest half-brother of Ravana and my name is Vibhisana. Although I instructed the Raksasa King for his benefit, he nonetheless rebuked me harshly. Therefore, having abandoned my home, family and possessions, I have left Lanka to engage in Your unalloyed devotional service. I now place my very life in Your hands and beg You to bless me with Your causeless mercy."
While lovingly gazing upon Vibhisana, as if drinking him with His eyes, Rama requested him to describe the strengths and weaknesses of the enemy. In reply, Vibhisana said, "Because of receiving benedictions from Lord Brahma, Ravana has become immune to death at the hands of demigods, Gandharvas, Daityas, Danavas and Nagas. Indeed, he cannot be killed by any creature except human beings, whom he considers to be too insignificant. Ravana's younger brother, Kumbhakarna, is as huge as a great mountain and as powerful as Indra. The commander-in-chief of the Raksasas is Prahasta, who once routed the Yaksa hero, Manibhadra, at Mount Kailasa. Likewise, there is Ravana's son, Indrajit, who is equal to his father in all respects. He wears impenetrable armor, and after propitiating the god of fire, he is able to make himself invisible on the battlefield. Additionally, there are millions of other Raksasas, headed by Mahodara, Mahaparsva and Akampana. All of them are very fierce and can change their forms at will."
Rama then said, "O Vibhisana, I am well aware of Ravana's prowess. I give you My word that after killing him and all the other Raksasa warriors, I shall install you upon the royal throne at Lanka."
In turn, Vibhisana assured Rama that he would help Him to conquer Lanka. Rama was very satisfied with His devotee, thus, after warmly embracing Vibhisana, He ordered Laksmana to bring some water from the sea so He could immediately perform the installation ceremony.
Upon seeing this extraordinary mercy of Lord Rama upon the Raksasa, the monkeys became ecstatic and shouted with joy. Hanuman and Sugriva then said, "We feel confident about combating the Raksasas, but we are perplexed about how to cross over the vast and unfathomable ocean. Perhaps your advice can help us in this matter."
Vibhisana replied, "I suggest that Rama call upon Varuna, the presiding deity of the ocean. Previously, His forefather, Sagara, excavated his waters and extended his domain. Because of this past service rendered, the Ocean, feeling a sense of gratitude, will certainly help Rama accomplish His mission."
Sugriva then relayed Vibhisana's idea to Rama and Laksmana. Rama thought it to be a good idea, but nonetheless replied to Sugriva, I shall do whatever you and Laksmana decide."
Sugriva and Laksmana readily agreed with Vibhisana. Thereafter, Rama sat down upon a kusa mat, His face turned toward the sea. Meanwhile, a spy named Sardula sighted the monkeys, and reported to Ravana how the army had set up camp covering an area of eighty miles in all directions. The perturbed Raksasa King then ordered his envoy Suka to approach Sugriva and deliver the following message: "I have never done any harm to you. Therefore, why are you preparing to attack Lanka? Since the kidnapping of Sita has nothing to do with you, it would be better for you to return to Kiskindhya and go on living peacefully there."
Taking the form of a bird, Suka flew to Sugriva and began to deliver Ravana's message while in the sky. However, as he was speaking, some monkeys jumped into the air and captured Suka. Thus, while being dragged to the ground, Suka's wings were cut off as the monkeys savagely beat him. In great distress, Suka cried out, "O Rama, those who adhere to righteousness never indulge in killing an envoy."
Rama intervened, and after being let go, Suka once more rose into the sky, asking Sugriva if he had any message for Ravana. Sugriva replied, "You may tell your master this: `O Ravana, you are just like the stool of your dynasty, for you wish to enjoy the wife of another. Therefore, as a consequence, when my army swarms over the sea to Lanka, Rama will kill you and all your relations.'"
Angada then said, "This bird does not appear to be an envoy, but a spy who will convey information about our strength to the enemy. Therefore, he should be arrested at once."
Taking this as an order, the monkeys again sprang into the air. Thus capturing Suka again, they bound him with ropes. Suka again appealed to Rama, and He mercifully assured him he would be set free once they reached Lanka.
Thereafter, with folded hands, Rama solicited Varuna, the presiding deity of the ocean. Rama was determined to reach Lanka by any means and was prepared to kill the ocean-god should he refuse to cooperate. Thus, when three days and nights passed without any response from the ocean deity, Rama became greatly irritated. Addressing Laksmana, He said, "I can now practically see that in this material world the good qualities of patience, forgiveness and politeness are useless when dealing with vile persons bereft of all virtue. In this material world such rascals give more respect to persons who are impudent, aggressive, harsh in speech and who run about advertising themselves with self-praise. Because of My mildness and forbearance, the Ocean considers Me to be impotent. Thus, he will not deign to come before Me. Laksmana, give Me My bow and I will teach this Ocean a lesson. Watch as I dry up the water. Then the monkeys can march to Lanka on foot without difficulty!"
His anger blazing like fire, Rama strung His mighty bow and twanged it great force, causing the entire earth to tremble. Thereafter, Rama shot His arrows deep into the water, agitating the entire ocean, causing high, tossing waves, and terrifying the entities living within, including Nagas and Raksasas. Then, as He evoked His supremely powerful brahmastra, Laksmana put his head on Rama's bow and said, "My dear brother, please restrain Your anger and do not release any more arrows. Surely there must be a more noble means for drying up the ocean and facilitating the monkeys to cross over to Lanka."
From their vantage point in the sky, even the great brahmarsis were terrified to see Rama's uncommon exhibition of anger. Ignoring Laksmana's plea, Rama picked up the brahmastra arrow and loudly threatened the ocean, "I will now dry up all your water so all that remains is a desert of sand. O god of the sea, since you are too proud to render service unto Me, I shall utilize My own prowess so that the monkeys can cross to Lanka on foot!"
Thereafter, as Rama angrily drew His bow taut, heaven and earth began to tremble with darkness enveloping the entire sky. Celestial winds raged furiously, uprooting gigantic trees and tearing off mountain peaks. Lightning streaked across the sky, as did hundreds of meteors, while thunder reverberated in all directions. Indeed, the ocean overflowed its limit by eighty miles, filling all beings with terror. Still, Rama remained unmoved, fixed in His determination.
Suddenly the ocean god rose up from the water and personally appeared before Rama, surrounded by many serpents with flaming hoods. As giant alligators, tortoises and fish were thrown up by the billowing waves, the ocean's presiding deity stepped onto the shore, followed by the presiding goddesses of such rivers as the Ganga and Indus. Decorated with a garland of red flowers and golden ornaments and dressed in bright red cloth and encircled by clouds and wind, Varuna approached Rama with folded hands saying, "O gentle descendent in the Raghu dynasty, the earth, water, fire, air and ether are all eternally imbued with their natural characteristics. As a great reservoir of water, I am by nature unfathomable and impossible to cross. I cannot be otherwise. O Rama, it is for You alone that I will make a special concession, enabling You to cross my waters. If you construct a bridge I shall make it float by bearing its weight with my energy. Thus, Your vast army of monkeys can attack Lanka and You can recover Your dear wife, Sita."33
Standing with the brahmastra arrow drawn back to its full length, Rama said, "Please tell me where I can release this arrow, for having fixed it upon My bowstring, I am unwilling to withdraw it."
The ocean personified replied, "To the North is a holy place known as Drumakulya, where a fierce tribe of sinful thieves called Abhiras now live. Because they drink ocean water there, I have become repulsed by their sinful touch. O My Lord, I would be very pleased if You would let Your powerful arrow fall there."
Rama released His arrow as requested, making it fall at Drumakulya. By piercing through the earth, the arrow caused all the water from Rasatala to gush up through the crevice, causing the entire subterranean region to dry up. The place where the arrow fell then became known as Marukantara, and Rama gave it the following benediction: "This land will become verdant with fruits, honey and all varieties of herbs; it will be excellent for raising cows, and all those who reside here will have few diseases."
The ocean personified then said, "My dear Rama, here is Nala, the son of the celestial engineer and architect, Visvakarma. This powerful monkey is Your great devotee. Indeed, he is as talented as his father. He can oversee the construction of Your bridge as I allow it to float upon the surface of my waters."
Saying this, the presiding deity of the ocean disappeared. Nala then came before Rama, and after offering his obeisances, said, "Forbearance, conciliation and gifts are wasted upon persons who are ungrateful. I know that Varuna has granted You passage only out of fear of punishment and not from a sense of gratitude. My Lord, once, long ago, my father, Visvakarma, awarded my mother the benediction that she would have a son equal to him in all respects. For this reason, I possess all of Visvakarma's architectural and engineering skills. Therefore, I am quite capable of building the required bridge. Although I have these talents, no one knew of them before. This is because I was not asked about them, since I do not like to speak of my own abilities. May I suggest that the monkeys start gathering the building materials so that work can begin at once."
Thereafter, under Rama's direction, millions of monkeys began the construction, with some entering the forests in search of materials. After tearing up great rocks, trees and entire mountains, they brought them to the shore through the use of mechanical contrivances. Then, as the huge stones and trees were thrown into the ocean, the water splashed high into the sky, creating a magnificent scene as they miraculously floated. Thereafter, making sure they were properly placed, the monkeys tied them together with heavy ropes and vines.
Hanuman also carried large boulders and threw them into the sea. While doing so, he happened to see a squirrel kicking dust into the ocean in an attempt to assist the Supreme Lord. "Move out of the way or you'll get hurt," Hanuman told the squirrel. We are carrying huge boulders. What will your little dust accomplish?"
As soon as Hanuman said this, Lord Rama appeared and rebuked him, saying, "Why are you saying this? Both the squirrel and you are serving Me. Although you are lifting mountain peaks, and he is moving small grains of sand, you are both doing your best. I therefore consider your service and his service of equal value."
In this way, the bridge was constructed, one hundred yojanas long and ten yojanas wide. The surface was made smooth by placing the trunks of trees against one another. It was then covered over with tops of branches, full of blossoming flowers.
While the construction was going on, Vibhisana and his ministers kept guard at the shore. Thus, during the first day, fourteen yojanas were completed. On the second day, twenty more yojanas were completed. On the third day, twenty-one were added. Twenty-two were constructed on the fourth day, and on the fifth day the remaining twenty-three yojanas were completed.
The demigods and great rsis assembled in the sky to behold the wonderful bridge which looked like the Milky Way, spanning the deep blue ocean. Sugriva then requested Rama and Laksmana to mount the backs of Hanuman and Angada. Thus, soon thereafter, the entire army, consisting of thousands of crores of monkeys, began their march.
Upon reaching Suvela mountain at the far shore of Lanka, the monkeys became thrilled with joy. As Sugriva set up camp all the great demigods and rsis came and individually bathed the King and the monkeys with water from the sacred rivers, blessing the King for obtaining victory.
Rama then embraced Laksmana saying, "Make certain that the army stays on constant alert, for I perceive evil omens foreboding the destruction of many great heroes among the monkeys, bears and Raksasas. Indeed, just see how the fierce winds stir up clouds of dust. There are tremors in the earth and dark clouds are raining blood. The evening twilight is heavily tinged with red, and the animals cry out pitifully. O Laksmana, I think we should immediately begin our march on Lanka."
Thus, on Rama's desire, the army of monkeys departed. As they drew near Lanka their loud roaring sounds could be heard by the Raksasas. While looking at the golden city, magnificently perched atop Trikuta mountain, Rama immediately thought of Sita. Rama then gave specific orders for the military commanders to arrange the army in a human shaped formation, with Himself and Laksmana at the head. As they approached Lanka, the monkeys then took up great trees and mountain peaks, while Rama ordered Sugriva to gain release of the captive Sita.
Meanwhile, Suka was released, and immediately presented himself before Ravana. When the Raksasa King saw how Suka's wings had been cut off, he laughingly inquired, "Who has done this?"
Suka replied, "I delivered your message to Sugriva. However, the monkeys captured me and severely beat me. Then they cut off my wings. It was only due to the mercy of the virtuous Rama that I was released. O King, the army of monkeys has already arrived here to rescue Sita. Thus, you must return her to Rama or immediately attack the hordes of monkeys before they swarm over the boundary walls."
To this, Ravana angrily replied, "I will never give up Sita! I will kill Rama and all His monkey soldiers! However, I am quite amazed that these monkeys could build a bridge to cross the ocean. I want you and Sarana to disguise yourselves as monkeys and secretly enter the enemy's ranks to gain an estimate of their strength."
Suka and Sarana obediently went to the monkey's camp, but because of the vastness of their army, now spread throughout the forests, mountains and along the shore, the two spies could not even begin to estimate the number of monkey soldiers. As they moved along, however, Vibhisana detected them as disguised Raksasas and captured them, taking them to Rama. Being afraid for their lives, Suka and Sarana stood before Rama with folded hands pleading, "We have not come here of our own accord, but were sent by Ravana to ascertain the strength of Your army."
At this, Rama simply laughed and replied, "If you have accomplished your mission then you can return to Ravana at once. However, if you have not yet completed your observations, then you can continue your tour without fear, guided by Vibhisana. In return for our hospitality, I only request you to deliver this message to Ravana: `Accompanied by My army of monkeys, I will destroy Lanka and kill all the Raksasas."
Out of gratitude, Suka and Sarana offered obeisances unto Rama saying, "May You be victorious!" They then returned to Ravana and explained, "We were captured by Vibhisana but then mercifully released by magnanimous Rama. Due to their vastness, it was impossible for us to estimate the extent of the enemy's army. However, we can assure you that Rama, Laksmana, Sugriva and Vibhisana can uproot Lanka and carry it away if they so choose, even without the help of the other monkeys. Indeed, we are convinced that Rama could destroy Lanka and all the Raksasas single-handed. Therefore, we advise you to return Sita to Rama and establish an alliance of friendship with Him."
Ravana replied, "I will never give back Sita, even if all the demigods and demons combine together to attack me. You only speak such rubbish because you are now afraid after being tormented by the monkeys. What have I got to fear?"
Thereafter, Ravana climbed to the roof of his palace, accompanied by his two spies, hoping to gain a good view of the enemy. Ravana then asked Sarana to point out and identify the chief monkeys. In response, Sarana showed his master all the great heroes, including, Hanuman, Sugriva, Angada, Nala, Mainda, Dvivida, Sveta, Panasa, Vinata, Gavaya, and finally Dhumra, the commander in chief of the bears, and his younger brother, Jambavan. While thus pointing out innumerable monkeys, Sarana described their physical characteristics and praised their incomparable prowess.
While describing the extent of the monkey army, Sarana explained the Vedic system of counting: 100,000 is one lakh. 100 lakhs equals one crore. One lakh of crores is called a sanku, and one lakh of sankus is called a maha-sanku. One lakh of maha-sankus is called a vrinda, and one lakh of vrindas is called a padma, with one lakh of padmas equaling a maha-padma. One lakh of maha-padmas is called a kharva, and one lakh of kharvas is a maha-kharva. One lakh of maha-kharvas is called a samudra, and one lakh of samudras is an ogha. One lakh of oghas is called a mahaugha. The army of monkeys described by Sarana consisted of at least 100 crores of mahaughas.
Seeing Rama, Laksmana and the other monkey heroes, Ravana became thoroughly enraged. As Suka and Sarana hung their heads, Ravana chastised them severely. While trying to restrain his anger, he said, "You are supposed to be my ministers, yet you are praising the enemy. Therefore, your speech is most unpalatable. You are both ignorant of the political science. I must be fortunate indeed to have retained my sovereignty for so long, guided by such ignorant fools as you. How can you speak so foolishly? Have you no fear of death? It is only the memory of your past service that keeps me from killing you this instant!"
Suka and Sarana became ashamed to hear Ravana chastise them in this way. Thus, hoping to pacify their master, they replied, "O King, may victory be yours!" and then departed.
With Mahodara standing nearby, Ravana ordered him to bring more spies forward. Thus, soon afterward, Sardula and others arrived, pronouncing benedictions for Ravana's victory. Ordered to ascertain the enemy's plans, the spies circumnabulated Ravana and slipped out to where Rama and the monkey soldiers were camped.
Although disguised as monkeys, Vibhisana again easily detected them as Raksasas and arrested them. Thereafter, monkeys surrounded them and beat them severely. However, when their plight came to Rama's attention, He mercifully ordered that they too, be set free.
Returning to Lanka in a stupefied condition, Sardula and his men came before Ravana and reported, "The enemy army of monkeys is now encamped near the Suvela mountain. However, the enemy army is incapable of being spied upon. Just moments after our arrival we were captured by Vibhisana and then beaten by the monkeys. It is only by the grace of Rama that we were released and able to return with our lives. O King, it appears that Rama is capable destroying not only Lanka, but the entire cosmic manifestation as well. Moreover, you must either return Sita or immediately be prepared to fight with Rama's army before they reach Lanka's boundary walls."
Ravana considered Sardula's words for a moment and then replied, "I shall never return Sita under any circumstance!"
Thereafter, Ravana asked for advice from his assembled ministers. Finally, he retired to his private rooms and called for Vidyujjivha, a Raksasa expert in conjuring tricks. Ravana told him, "I want you to create an illusory head of Rama and a perfect imitation of His bow and arrows. I am going now to the Asoka grove to see Sita. You should follow me and remain hidden. When I call for you, bring your magical creations."
Ravana then went to the Asoka grove, eager to see Sita. Coming before the anguished daughter of King Janaka, Ravana announced, "Rama has been slain by my commander-in-chief. Thus, you should give up your stubbornness and become my beloved queen. I will tell you just how it happened: After crossing the ocean, night set in, and being exhausted, Rama, Laksmana and the monkey warriors fell asleep on Lanka's shore. In the darkness, the great Raksasa heroes went there and began slaughtering them all. Prahasta cut off Rama's head as He soundly slept, and Laksmana, Hanuman and the other monkey chiefs were killed as the others fled in fear. O noble lady, I have brought Rama's severed head here just to convince you that I am telling the truth."
Ravana then ordered the Raksasi guards to call for Vidyujjihva. The magician thus appeared, bearing an illusory head of Rama, along with His bow and arrows. Ravana then told Sita, "Look! This is the bloodied head of your husband!"
Then, turning to Vidyujjihva, Ravana said, "Show Sita, Rama's severed head! Let her see the remains of her mortal husband!"
As commanded, Vidyujjihva placed the illusory head at Sita's feet and hastily departed. Ravana then took Rama's illusory bow and arrows and threw them toward Sita, saying, "Submit to me now, for you have no other hope!"
The illusory severed head had features exactly resembling Rama's. Thus, when she saw it, Sita cried out mournfully, O Kaikeyi, this is the result of your evil minded plans. Now your cherished goal is fulfilled. You must be very happy!"
Trembling and crying convulsively, Sita suddenly fell to the ground like a plantain tree uprooted by a strong wind. Shortly thereafter, she recovered and sat down beside the illusory head, lamenting, "O Rama! Without You I have become a widow. Thus my life has come to an end! What greater calamity could befall a woman than the death of her husband before her own demise? Alas! I am most despicable, for it is I who have caused the death of my husband. It is for my sake alone that He crossed the ocean, only to die without even a fight! Little did Rama know that when He married me, He wedded His own death as well. Surely, in a previous life I obstructed the marriage of another girl. Thus, I now suffer in this life! O Rama! Have You departed for the next world without me?"
Sita then said to Ravana, "Please take me to where the body of Rama is lying. Then, as I place my body upon His, you may kill me so that I may attain the same destination as my husband."
Just at that moment a messenger arrived, informing Ravana that Prahasta urgently requested his presence in a meeting of his ministers. Ravana thus departed, and as soon as he was gone, the illusory head and bow vanished from Sita's sight.
Entering the assembly, Ravana immediately ordered the Raksasa mobilized for battle. Without further discussion, preparations for war commenced. Meanwhile, Vibhisana's wife, Sarama, came to console Sita. Sarama had already befriended her at Ravana's urging, for he did not wish Sita to die prematurely from grief.
Sarama then said, "I was hiding behind a nearby bush and could hear everything Ravana said. I can assure you that Rama is not dead. The head you saw was created by a Raksasa conjurer's trick. In truth, Rama has arrived at Lanka with Laksmana and the army of monkeys. They are now preparing to attack Ravana. That is why Ravana just left here in such an agitated state. He knows that he is unable to defeat Rama and the monkey heroes under His protection. Even from here I can hear the Raksasas making preparations. Indeed, there will soon be a great war between the two armies. Do not worry, Sita, for Rama will defeat Ravana without a doubt. If you would like to give Rama a message, I can deliver it for you."
Becoming greatly relieved at hearing Sarama's words, Sita replied, "O Sarama, please try to learn what Ravana's plans are. Is he going to fight with Rama, or will he return me to Rama?"
Sarama went out, and while remaining hidden, overheard Ravana's conversation with his ministers. Returning to Sita, she explained, "As I listened , many of Ravana's elder ministers advised Ravana to return you to Rama, further describing the unlimited prowess of Rama and Laksmana. Even Kaikasi, his mother, urged him to make peace with Rama.
"Ravana, however, remained adamant. Therefore, I can understand that he will only give you up at the time of his death. Even as the meeting was going on, Ravana could hear the sound of conchshells, drums and other noises being made by the monkeys. Then, Malyavan, Ravana's maternal grandfather, said, `A wise king never fights with an enemy who possesses superior strength. Therefore, I advise you to return Sita to Rama and establish peaceful relations with Him. Otherwise, O Ravana, you may rest assured that virtue, having taken the form of the enemy, will conquer over your evil self.
"`Because you have persecuted the great rsis, the power of their austerity is now aimed directly at you for your destruction. The benedictions you received from Lord Brahma did not give you immunity from death at the hands of human beings or monkeys. Therefore, you should carefully consider the dangerous position you are now in. My dear grandson, you should heed my good advice, for many inauspicious signs have already become visible, indicating the destruction of Lanka.
"`Harsh clouds are pouring down showers of hot blood. Our horses and elephants have tears in their eyes, and carnivorous animals freely enter the gardens of Lanka, crying out ominously. In their dreams, the citizens see black women with yellow teeth plundering their houses, while standing before them, laughing. Dogs eat the sacrificial offerings and one species of animal is seen mating with a member of another species. Time personified, appearing in a huge black form with shaved head, is seen peering into all the houses of Lanka every morning and evening.
"`O Ravana, I consider Rama to be Lord Vishnu Himself, appearing in the form of a human being. Therefore, you must immediately go and surrender to Him to rid yourself from this impending calamity.'"
Sarama continued, "Ravana could not accept this good advice. Instead he angrily replied, `You are a rascal, taking the side of the enemy. You seem very eager to glorify the prowess of Rama, but what do you think of me? You must be praising the enemy because you are envious of me or because you have been won over to the other side. Perhaps you are afraid of Him. I can assure you that you will soon witness the death of Rama by my own hands.'
"Malyavan remained silent for a time. Then after offering his respects to the king, retired to his own quarters. Ravana then made arrangements for Lanka's defense, posting Prahasta at the Eastern gate, Mahaparsva and Mahodara at the Southern gate, Indrajit at the Western gate, Suka and Sarana and himself at the Northern gate, and Virupaksa in the city's center. Thereafter, the King dismissed his ministers and retired to the interior of his palace."
Meanwhile, as Rama and the monkey army approached Lanka, they discussed how they could best besiege the city. Vibhisana then said, "Along with my ministers, Anala, Panasa, Sampati and Pramati, I took the form of a bird and surveyed the military arrangements of Ravana. We now know how their defenses are laid out. My dear Rama, I am confident that just as Ravana defeated Kuvera by invading Lanka with 60 lakhs of Raksasas, You too, will gain victory with the help of these hordes of monkeys."
Rama then ordered, "Nila will lead the attack on Prahasta at the Eastern gate. Angada and his soldiers will fight against Mahaparsva and Mahodara at the Southern gate. Hanuman will lead the attack against Indrajit at the Western gate, and Laksmana and I will contend with Ravana at the Northern gate. Sugriva, Jambavan and Vibhisana will stay in the center of our army to provide assistance wherever needed. I want only seven of us to fight in the form of human beings-Myself, Laksmana, Vibhisana and his four ministers. All others should retain their monkey forms, for that will allow us to remain distinguished from the enemy warriors."
The sun was already setting below the horizon when Rama, Laksmana and the monkey leaders climbed to the peak of Suvela mountain to spend the night. From the mountain top they commanded a good view of Lanka, even though darkness had already set in. With the city's innumerable twinkling lights, it appeared as if it were suspended from the sky. Moreover, they could see that the Raksasa warriors were fully prepared for the upcoming fight.
The next morning in full daylight, everyone was amazed to see the heavenly city, complete with its full array of flowering gardens filled with celestial trees and singing birds. Lanka was beautifully situated on a leveled peak of the Trikuta mountain, measuring one hundred by one hundred yojanas. The walled city proper had an area of twenty by twenty yojanas, and in the center stood the magnificent palace of Ravana, supported by 1,000 pillars.
While gazing at the city, and feeling great appreciation for its magnificence, Rama sighted Ravana perched atop the Northern gate, a canopy held over his head, and being fanned by his personal servants.
Sugriva already ordered numerous monkeys ahead, jumping from mountain top to mountain top, to occupy the outer gardens of Lanka. Suddenly, he too, sighted Ravana. Thus, Sugriva impetuously leapt from the peak of Mount Suvela to where the Raksasa King was sitting atop the Northern gate. Gazing momentarily at Ravana with an expression of great disdain, Sugriva announced, "I am a servant of Lord Rama, and I shall kill you this very day!"
Saying this, Sugriva pounced on Ravana, knocking his crown off in the process. The surprised Raksasa King then grabbed hold of Sugriva, and while uttering similar threats, threw Sugriva to the ground. Sugriva, however, bounced up immediately like a rubber ball, and in turn, braced Ravana, throwing him to the ground with great force. A fierce wrestling match thus ensued as the two heroes scratched each other with their nails, covering them both with blood and perspiration.
After striking each other with their fists and arms and wrestling for a long time, Sugriva and Ravana both fell down from the gate onto the ground in the area between the boundary wall and the moat. Then, jumping to their feet, the two kings continued fighting, gradually exhibiting all their knowledge in the art of wrestling. At last, when Ravana realized he could not defeat Sugriva with mere physical strength, he called upon his mystic powers. Understanding this, Sugriva decided to abandon the fight. Thus, bounding into the air, he immediately returned to where Rama was staying.
Sugriva was now feeling quite blissful at having performed such a heroic feat, and his followers responded by jumping excitedly in joy. Embracing Sugriva in love, Rama, however, mildly chastised him, saying, "You have acted foolishly, for you dared to do something without My sanction. Besides this, a King should never take such risks, because the death of the ruler is a great calamity for the entire nation. O Sugriva, if Ravana had killed you then I certainly would have slain him in retaliation. Then, after installing Vibhisana upon the throne at Lanka and Bharata on the throne at Ayodhya, I would have given up My own life for having allowed you to be killed in My presence."
Sugriva then replied, "After seeing that rascal Ravana, the abductor of Sita, I could not bear to simply ignore him!"
Rama replied, "Regardless, you courageously displayed your heroism and all the monkey soldiers have been inspired by your fearless example."
Turning to Laksmana, Rama said, "By observing various omens, I can understand that there will soon be great destruction, killing of prominent monkeys, bears and Raksasas. Therefore, let us attack Lanka immediately!"
Rama climbed down from Suvela mountain to review His army. He then began His march to Lanka, bow in hand, while the monkeys following him uprooted trees and mountain peaks. Soon afterward they arrived at the city's boundary walls, and Rama encamped his army outside the Northern gate. Similarly, Nila took up his position outside the Eastern gate, Angada at the southern gate, and Hanuman outside the Western gate. Sugriva placed his army in between the Northern and Western gates. Thus, the monkeys completely surrounded the walled city awaiting the encounter.
The Raksasa warriors were astonished to see a seeming unlimited number of monkeys surrounding their city. With weapons in hand, the leaders fearfully rushed to Ravana's palace to inform Ravana how the city was being besieged by the monkeys, all stationed between the moat and defensive wall. After receiving this report, Ravana quickly went to a balcony to personally survey the situation. Seeing how the entire earth around Lanka had become brown, covered by multitudes of monkeys, the Raksasa King was struck with wonder. For a long time Ravana stood motionless, staring at Rama, wondering what he should do next.
Rama then ordered Angada to deliver a message to Ravana, as His envoy. Leaping into the air, Angada quickly came before Ravana, who was now sitting atop the northern gate surrounded by his ministers. Staying a slight distance from Ravana, Angada announced, "My name is Angada, nephew of King Sugriva, and heir-apparent to the royal throne at Kiskindhya. I have come here as Rama's envoy with this message: `O King of the Raksasas, now that all of your pious credits have been exhausted, I am going to kill you in retaliation for your atrocities committed against the rsis. If you do not voluntarily surrender to Me at once, then I shall rid the entire world of Raksasas. Either submit to Me or else come before Me so that I can purify you with the onslaught of My deadly arrows. If you are unwilling to return Sita and bow down before Me, then I advise you to take a good look at Lanka, for it will be your last.'"34
Inflamed with rage, Ravana ordered his ministers to capture and kill Angada. Thus, when four Raksasas seized him, Angada allowed them, for he desired to show off his superior prowess. Then suddenly, Angada jumped to the top Ravana's palace, carrying aloft the four Raksasas clutching at his arms. However, the force of Angada's leap shook the Raksasas loose, and they plummeted to the ground at Ravana's feet. Angada then proceeded to violently kick the roof of Ravana's palace, causing the top dome to crumble, with Ravana looking on helplessly. Having thus vexed the Raksasa King, Angada let out a loud roar and returned to Rama. Witnessing Angada's prowess, Ravana foresaw his own destruction and began sighing repeatedly.
Once again, Rama thought of Sita and thus commanded His army, "Make short work of the Raksasas!"
Hearing this command, the monkeys shouted in unison, "All victory to Rama and Laksmana!" causing Lanka to resound with their vibration. The monkeys then began scaling and breaking down the defensive walls with trees and boulders. Seeing this, Ravana ordered his troops to advance quickly. Thus, amidst a terrible roaring sound, the fierce conflict began.
The Raksasas struck the monkeys with their clubs and other weapons, with the monkeys countering by using trees, stones and their claws and teeth. Stationed atop Lanka's defensive walls, the Raksasas pierced numerous monkeys with their weapons, while other monkeys leapt up and forcibly dragged the Raksasas down to the ground, causing the earth to become a mire of flesh and blood. As Hanuman fought with Jambumali, Angada with Indrajit, Nila with Nikumbha and Sugriva with Praghasa, the bodies of the slain soldiers were carried away by the rivers of blood created by the massacre.