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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Other Scriptures by Acharyas > Valmiki Ramayana > Aranya Kanda


Within the Dandaka forest, Sita, Rama, and Lakshman saw a delightful cluster of cottages inhabited by rishis. Surrounded by trees laden with fruit and flowers, and resounding with the singing of birds and the chanting of Vedic mantras, the ashram sanctified the hearts of all who beheld it. In the surrounding area, the deer and other animals roamed without fear. Rama and Lakshman removed the strings from Their bows and entered the ashram.

They were very warmly received by the rishis, and were given a grass hut to stay in. After spending the night, Rama took leave of the sages and then led the way deeper into the forest, with Sita in the middle and Lakshman behind.

Suddenly, a gigantic, hideous Rakshasa appeared upon the scene. Dressed in blood-stained tiger-skin and having sunken eyes, long sharp teeth, a jagged jaw, and a round protruding belly, the Rakshasa carried a spear from which 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 then lunged forward, snatching Sita.

Quickly retreating to some distance, the Rakshasa roared once again and then declared, “I will take this woman for my wife and drink the blood of You other two.”

Rama exclaimed, “To see Sita being touched by someone else is even more painful for Me than the death of My father!”

Lakshman said reproachfully, “How can You just stand there and lament? Watch now as I kill this Rakshasa by venting the anger against Bharata that I have been obliged to suppress for so long!”

At this point, the Rakshasa inquired, “Who are You, that have intruded into my forest?”

Rama replied, “We are two kshatriyas. Why have you dared to obstruct Us and carry off My wife?”

The Rakshasa replied, “My name is Viradha, the son of Java by his wife Shatahrada. As a reward for my severe austerities, I received a benediction from Lord Brahma that no weapon can kill me. Therefore, I advise You to run away at once, for if You do so, leaving this lovely woman for me, I will spare You.”

Upon hearing this, Rama angrily strung His bow and quickly released seven golden-feathered arrows that made Viradha fall to the ground, bleeding profusely. After letting Sita go, Viradha picked up his lance and rushed madly toward Rama and Lakshman. Although the two brothers showered innumerable arrows upon the Rakshasa, he simply laughed hideously in response. In fact, as Viradha swallowed some of the arrows, the rest simply fell down from his body as a result of Brahma’s benediction. While laughing, Viradha threw his lance, but Rama cut it to pieces with His arrows.

Then, taking up their swords, Rama and Lakshman rushed at Viradha. And yet, even as they hacked away at his body, the Rakshasa picked Rama and Lakshman up in his arms and began carrying Them away on his shoulders into the forest. Seeing this, Sita cried out piteously, “O Rakshasa, please leave these two aside, and take me instead.”

When They heard this, Rama and Lakshman decided to kill Viradha at once. Exhibiting super-human prowess, Rama broke off the Rakshasa’s right arm while Lakshman wrenched off his left. This caused Viradha to fall to the ground unconscious while Rama and Lakshman continued to beat him with Their fists. Still, despite being repeatedly smashed and kicked, the Rakshasa did not die.

Rama then said, “Lakshman, because this demon cannot be killed in battle, let Us bury him alive. Quickly, dig a big hole while I keep My eye on him.”

While Lakshman was digging, Viradha regained consciousness and said to Rama, “Now I recognize You. In truth, I am the Gandharva, Tumburu. Because of lusting after the Apsara, Rambha, I was cursed by Kuvera to become a Rakshasa until that time when You would deliver me. Please bury me in this hole, for in this way I shall become free from that curse. Afterwards, You should go and meet the great rishi, Sharabhanga, who lives about twenty kilometers from here, for he will give You some very beneficial advice.”

As Lakshman continued digging, Rama kept His foot on the Rakshasa’s neck. At last, Rama threw the screaming demon into the deep pit and then covered him over with big stones. In this way, Tumburu gave up his Rakshasa body and ascended to heaven, being relieved from Kuvera’s curse.

As advised, Sita, Rama and Lakshman set out to visit the great sage Sharabhanga. When They approached the rishi’s ashram, They were amazed to see King Indra sitting on his celestial chariot, the wheels of which did not touch the ground. Surrounded by numerous demigods, Indra was conversing with Sharabhanga, and at that time another celestial chariot came and waited in the sky. When he saw Rama approach, Indra quickly ascended to the sky in his chariot drawn by 1000 horses, because he only wanted to meet the Lord after Ravana’s death.

Sita, Rama and Lakshman hurriedly went and touched Sharabhanga’s feet. After being welcomed by the rishi, Rama asked, “Great sage, if you are able to disclose the matter, please tell us the purpose of Indra’s visit.”

Sharabhanga replied, “Indra came here to take me to Brahmaloka, which is the destination I have earned by my severe penance. But, I told the King of heaven that before departing from this world I wanted to see You, knowing that You were nearby.”

Later on, when Rama requested Sharabhanga to designate a place of residence for His period of exile, the rishi advised Him to approach the great sage Sutikshna. Sharabhanga then said, “ Rama, I have one request that I beg You to kindly fulfill. The time has come for me to give up my material body, and so I wish to do so in Your presence.”

Sarabhanga built a fire and made it blaze up brightly by pouring ghee. Then, while chanting mantras, the rishi entered the fire and burned his body to ashes. Immediately, Sharabhanga was seen rising out of the fire, and in a youthful and dazzlingly effulgent celestial body, he ascended to Brahmaloka, where he was welcomed by its inhabitants.

Thereafter, some rishis came to Rama and said, “Many of us living here are being mercilessly killed by the Rakshasas. You may come and see the dead bodies that are still lying about, here and there. Rama, we humbly beg You to give us protection.”

Rama assured the rishis by saying, “As a kshatriya I am your servant, and so, for your sake I will kill the Rakshasas.” Rama then proceeded to Sutikshna’s ashram in the company of those rishis.

Welcoming Them, Sutikshna said, “I have been awaiting Your visit, O descendent of Raghu. Before ascending to Brahmaloka, Indra came here to inform me of Your immanent arrival.”

Later on, when Rama asked Sutikshna to designate a place for His residence, the rishi offered the use of his own cottage. Rama refused, saying, “If we were to remain here, our killing the deer would certainly be the cause of your unhappiness.”

Sita, Rama and Lakshman spent the night at Sutikshna’s ashram. The next morning, when Rama took permission to depart, Sutikshna embraced Him and invited Him to return after visiting all the hermitages in the Dandaka forest.

Later in the day, as they were walking along the forest path, Sita said, “My dear husband, due to the powerful influence of material nature, it is possible for even a great and noble man to gradually become degraded. Therefore, one should always be very careful to control his mind and senses so as to avoid the addictions that 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 not even a pinch of the first two faults, for You have never uttered a lie, and You could not even think of lusting after another’s wife. But, Rama, I see that You take the lives of so many innocent animals. Because of this, I can understand that there is still the contamination of enmity in You. I feel very unhappy when I see the poor animals 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 tell You a story in this connection. Once, there was a rishi who performed such wonderful austerities that Indra became afraid of being overthrown. Desiring to obstruct the rishi’s advancement, Indra came before him in the guise of a warrior. While handing him a sword, Indra requested, ‘Please keep this for me very carefully, until I return later on to take it back.’ ”

The rishi consented, and in order to keep his promise, he always kept the sword with him, even when he went to the forest to collect fruit and flowers. But, as a result, the rishi’s mind gradually became tinged with the desire for cruelty. At last, he gave up his execution of austerities to live a life of violence. In this way, the rishi became so degraded that after death he went to hell for punishment.”

“My dear husband, since that brahmana became degraded simply by the association of Indra’s sword, I request You to keep Your bow in hand only for the purpose of killing the Rakshasas that are harassing the rishis. Please do not kill even the innocent Rakshasas, and so what to speak of other poor creatures. Of course, I am a foolish woman and so it is not my position to instruct You about religious principles. Still, if You think it fit, please give my words some thought and then do what You think is best.”

Rama replied, “Dear Sita, I very much appreciate your words, which are certainly full of wisdom. I know that it is only because you love Me that you have advised Me for My welfare. Unless one is dear, he is never given such frank council. Janaki, the rishis could easily kill the Rakshasas but they do not do so because it would diminish their stock of acquired ascetic merit. It is for this reason that I have promised to kill all the Rakshasas in the Dandaka forest. I might be able to renounce you or even Lakshman, but I could never give up a promise that I had made to the brahmanas.”

Sita, Rama and Lakshman came to a large, heavenly lake. Mysteriously, the sound of singing could be heard coming from within the water, although no one was to be seen.

A rishi named Dharmabhrit was present, and at Rama’s request, he explained, “This lake, known as Pancapsara, was originally created by the sage, Mandakarni, by utilizing his mystic power. Thereafter, he performed austerities on the shore of this lake for 10,000 years while subsisting only upon air. Because of this, the demigods became very fearful, thinking that the rishi might come to occupy one of their posts.”

“To divert Mandakarni, the demigods deputed five Apsaras, and it so happened that the rishi became captivated by their feminine attractions. After marrying them all, Mandakarni began to reside with them in a secret house that he created within the water. The sound that you hear is the music of those Apsaras. Even to this very day they constantly serve the great rishi, who has regained his youth by utilizing his ascetic prowess.”

Thereafter, Sita, Rama and Lakshman wandered from ashram to ashram within the Dandaka forest. Sometimes they would stay at an ashram for two weeks, sometimes for a month, and sometimes even longer, up to a year. In this way, ten years of Rama’s exile passed quite comfortably and contentedly. After visiting the ashrams within the Dandaka forest, Sita, Rama and Lakshman returned to Sutikshna’s hermitage and continued living there.

One day, while conversing with Sutikshna, 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 go and offer My respects to the rishi and receive his blessings in return. Kindly give Me directions.”

Sutikshna replied, “I think that it is very good for You to go and see Agastya. I suggest that You set out this very day.”

After taking directions from Sutikshna, Rama departed, along with Sita and Lakshman. When They came to the vicinity of Agastya’s ashram, Rama told the story of how the rishi had formerly killed the Rakshasa brothers, Vatapi and Ilvala.

As evening approached, They arrived at the ashram belonging to Agastya’s brother and so decided to spend the night there. The next day they arrived at Agastya’s ashram, which was free from all disturbances because the Rakshasas were afraid of him. Rama sent Lakshman to announce His arrival. When a disciple informed him, Agastya commanded, “Invite Rama to come here at once, for I have been waiting in expectation for a long time.”

When Rama entered the ashram, He saw that sitting places were kept ready for receiving the demigods. Agastya came to greet Rama, and with great reverence the Lord bowed down and touched the rishi’s feet. Agastya had Rama seated, and then, after the customary inquiries, he provided his guests with very nice food. When the meal was finished, Agastya took great pleasure in giving Rama a bow of Lord Vishnu that had been made by Vishvakarma, two inexhaustible quivers presented by Indra, an infallible arrow given by Lord Brahma, and a gold-inlaid sword.

Then, turning to Sita, Agastya said, “You have earned eternal glory by voluntarily undergoing great hardship for the sake of your husband. What you have done is especially meritorious because it has been the nature of women since the very dawn of creation to love a man only so long as he is prosperous.”

When Rama asked Agastya to suggest a place for His residence, the rishi thought for awhile and then recommended Panchavati, about twenty kilometers away, near the Godavari River. Before Rama’s departure, Agastya confided, “I already know about Your entire life by dint of my yogic perception, which has been enhanced by my affection for You.”

While on the way to Panchavati, Sita, Rama and Lakshman came upon Jatayu, the gigantic king of the vultures. Thinking him to be a Rakshasa, Rama inquired about his identity.

With mild words, Jatayu replied, “My dear child, I was a good friend of Your father’s. Long ago, Kashyapa married eight daughters of Prajapati Daksha. From Vinata, Aruna was born, and from Tamasa, Shyeni took birth. I am the son of Aruna and his wife, Shyeni, and my name is Jatayu.”

“My dear Rama, I would like to offer myself as Your sincere servant. There are many fierce Rakshasas living in this forest, and so whenever You and Lakshman leave Your cottage, I will watch over Sita.”

Due to Jatayu’s relationship with His father, Rama respectfully bowed down to him. Jatayu then accompanied Rama, Sita and Lakshman to Panchavati, keeping a watchful eye all the while.

Upon their arrival, Rama told Lakshman, “My dear brother, please select a site for building Our cottage. It should be near a lake or river, for water and greenery together create ideal scenic beauty.”

Lakshman replied, “Rama, please select a place that is to Your liking, and then I will build a cottage.”

Rama picked out a spot near the banks of the Godavari where there was a lake that was adorned with pink and blue lotus flowers. The land there was flat and so it gave an unobstructed view of the surrounding area. The cries of swans and chakravakas could be heard, as well as those of peacocks that echoed from the caves of the nearby hills. Lakshman built a nice cottage, and after it was consecrated with flower offerings, Rama went inside, feeling very pleased.

Gradually, winter set in, and so the morning sunshine became very pleasing to the sense of touch. One morning, after Rama and Lakshman returned home after bathing in the river, they began conversing with one another as They prepared to perform Their morning religious duties.

At that time, a female Rakshasa came there, and when she saw Rama, her heart became infatuated with love for Him. With His dark, glowing complexion and lotus-petal eyes, Rama appeared to be Kandarpa, the god of love himself, in human form. By contrast, the Rakshasi had an extremely ugly face, protruding belly, deformed eyes, and copper-colored hair. Rama’s youthful body was well proportioned, muscular, and bore all the signs of royalty, whereas she was very odd-looking and on the brink of middle age.

Still, being pierced by Cupid’s arrows, the Rakshasi approached Rama and said, “My dear handsome one, please tell me who You are, and what Your purpose is in coming to the forest, dressed like a hermit.”

In reply, Rama briefly narrated the events leading up to His exile and then asked the Rakshasi to identify herself. She said, “My name is Shurpanakha, and I am the sister of Ravana, Kumbhakarna, Vibhishana, Khara and Dushana. I live in this forest and strike fear into the hearts of all creatures.”

“To tell You quite frankly, Rama, I have become overpowered by love for You, and so I have made up my mind to have You as my husband. Give up Your ugly and deformed wife! She is not worthy of such a great hero like You! I am powerful and can travel at will, and so I am a suitable partner for You. First of all I will devour flat-bellied Sita, as well as your brother Lakshman. Then, we will be free to revel together in the hills and valleys of the beautiful Dandaka forest.”

As Shurpanakha looked at Him with love-intoxicated eyes, Rama heartily laughed and jokingly replied, “I am a married man, and I am sure that a young, beautiful girl like you could not tolerate living with a co-wife. But, My brother, who is an even greater hero than Myself, is without a wife, and so I suggest that you marry Him.”

Shurpanakha took Rama’s words seriously. Leaving Him aside, she turned to Lakshman. Being saturated with lusty desires, she said, “My dear handsome hero, you appear to be more powerful and attractive than Your brother. Therefore, you are the most suitable husband for me. Come, make me Your wife, and we shall roam together through the forest, enjoying our loving affairs.”

Lakshman smilingly replied, “O woman with soft skin and lovely limbs, you should know that I am simply a servant of My elder brother. If you marry Me, then you will become no better than His maidservant. In My opinion, you would be much better off becoming Rama’s second wife. After some time, He will surely give up His aging and misshapen Sita and accept you alone. You have such a lovely face, which is decorated with sweet smiles, and your ample breasts, slender waist and wide hips make a man forget all other women. Who could resist you? Marry Rama and very soon He will cast aside His ugly wife.”

Shurpanakha was too simple-minded to understand that Rama and Lakshman were joking. Once again she turned to Rama and said, “You are too attached to ugly Sita, and so I shall eat her at once and then take You by force as my husband!”

After saying this, Shurpanakha rushed toward Sita, but Rama restrained her while telling Lakshman, “You should not have joked with this Rakshasi is such a way as to put Sita into danger. Now, disfigure her so that she will be taught a lesson!”

Receiving Rama’s order, Lakshman drew his sword and quickly sliced off Shurpanakha’s nose and ears. The Rakshasi screamed horribly in pain. While bleeding profusely, she ran to the adjoining forest, called Janasthana, where her brother, Khara, was staying along with many other Rakshasas. Smeared with blood and terribly frightened, Shurpanakha threw herself at her brother’s feet and wept bitterly. As Khara looked on, she incoherently tried to explain what had happened, and his heart became filled with horror and rage because of her disfigured appearance.

While breathing like a snake that had been trampled, Khara finally said, “Sister, get up and calm yourself! Tell me clearly what has happened! Who has dared to do this? Does he not realize that he drank poison by doing so? There is not a demigod or asura, Gandharva or rishi, who can harm you and escape with his life! Just point out the culprit and I will drink his blood dry with my sharp arrows!”

While sobbing bitterly, Shurpanakha managed to reply, “There are two brothers named Rama and Lakshman, staying nearby in the Dandaka forest. I do not know whether They are demigods or asuras, but because They have mutilated my face, I will become pacified only after drinking Their blood!”

Khara called for fourteen of the most powerful Rakshasas and sent them, along with Shurpanakha, to kill Rama, Lakshman and Sita. Rama was sitting with Sita in Their thatched cottage, while Lakshman guarded the door, when Shurpanakha pointed Them out to the others. Upon seeing the hideous man-eaters, Rama ordered Lakshman, “Stay here with Sita while I fight.”

Coming outside, Rama called out to the Rakshasas, “We have come to this forest at the request of the rishis who have sought Our protection from your atrocities. We are living a life of tapasya, and are eating only fruit and roots. Why have you come here to disturb Us? You had better turn back now, if you at all value your lives.”

Surprised at being challenged so courageously, the Rakshasas stared at Rama with blood-red eyes and replied, “Our master, Khara, is angry with You, so he has ordered us to kill You. How can You dare to fight with so many of us? In a moment we will smash You with our weapons and You will be dead!”

After saying this, the Rakshasas rushed at Rama while brandishing their weapons. But, with fourteen arrows Rama cut their weapons to pieces and then with fourteen more He pierced their hearts. Like trees whose trunks had been severed, the Rakshasas fell to the ground dead, bathed in their blood.

Shaking with fear, Shurpanakha ran back to her brother and informed him of the slaughter. She then said, “You tried to comfort me by sending others to kill Rama and Lakshman, but it was the Rakshasas who were killed and not Them. Now you must go and kill Rama and Lakshman yourself. If you do not, then I will give up my life out of shame!”

After saying this, Shurpanakha fell to the ground, overwhelmed with grief,and while beating her belly she burst into tears. Khara became enraged while listening to his sister’s harsh words and so he vowed, “Give up your sorrow! I promise to kill Rama and Lakshman this very day so that you will be able to drink Their blood!”

At this, Shurpanakha became somewhat pacified. Khara then ordered his brother, Dushana, to bring his chariot and weapons, and assemble all the 14,000 Rakshasas.

As Khara proceeded toward the Dandaka forest, along with the army of Rakshasas, dark clouds began to shower rain mixed with blood. Khara’s horses accidentally stumbled and fell down on the road. A vulture came and perched on Khara’s flagpole, jackals began to howl frightfully, and then darkness set in on account of a solar eclipse, although it was not the proper time for such an occurrence. All the while, Khara’s left arm trembled, and his voice became hoarse and faint.

And yet, in spite of witnessing these ominous omens, Khara simply laughed and said, “Because of my great prowess, I do not care for any of these so-called inauspicious signs!”

Meanwhile, all the demigods and celestial rishis assembled in the sky to witness the impending battle. As the Rakshasas approached, Rama described to Lakshman all the auspicious omens that he could see, “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 as I massacre these Rakshasas.”

After the departure of Sita and Lakshman, Rama put on His blazing golden armor. Then, as the Rakshasas advanced, roaring ferociously, Rama summoned His all-devouring anger and assumed a form that was very dreadful to see. While his army surrounded Rama, showering their clubs, spears, swords and axes, Khara released 1000 arrows. Rama cut all these to pieces, and although He was deeply pierced and bleeding, He did not appear to feel any pain.

Rama then proceeded to release thousands of arrows at the Rakshasas, cutting to pieces their bows, flags, shields, armor and bodily limbs. Innumerable Rakshasas fell down dead, along with their horses and elephants, and many of their chariots were smashed to pieces. Becoming more enraged, the remaining Rakshasas countered by showering their weapons with greater enthusiasm. Rama easily cut those weapons to pieces, however, while at the same time piercing many Rakshasas’ hearts. As numerous grotesque heads became severed from their gigantic trunks, the remaining Rakshasas began fleeing to the shelter of Khara.

Dushana suddenly rushed at Rama in great anger, and others followed, being encouraged by his exhibition of valor. Rama took up the best of Gandharva weapons, causing many thousands of arrows to stream forth from His bow, covering the sun and creating darkness everywhere. Thousands of Rakshasas were cut to pieces, so that their dismembered corpses lay in heaps.

Dushana then rallied his army, urging the remaining 5000 Rakshasas to attack Rama. In the fighting that followed, Dushana fought heroically, and when Rama saw that His arrows were being successfully counteracted, He became furious. Taking up a blazing arrow, Rama cut Dushana’s bow in half, and then with four more arrows He killed the Rakshasa’s horses. With another arrow, Rama killed Dushana’s driver, and then with three more He pierced him in the chest.

Although severely pained, Dushana grabbed a spiked club, and after jumping down from his chariot, he rushed impetuously at Rama. But, with two arrows Rama severed Dushana’s arms, and then with one more He took away the Rakshasa’s life.

The remainder of Dushana’s army rushed at Rama, hoping for revenge. Working at the speed of mind, Rama released 5000 arrows in a steady stream, like so many blazing meteors, so that 5000 slain Rakshasa warriors soon lay upon the ground. Upon seeing this, Khara ordered his few remaining soldiers to attack, but Rama made short work of them as well. Thus, the Dandaka forest became a sea of reddish mud, due to the blood of the 14,000 slain Rakshasas.

Only Khara and Trishira remained alive. As Khara prepared to attack, his general, Trishira, begged him for permission to fight first. Khara gave his consent, and so the three-headed Rakshasa approached Rama while showering his arrows. When some arrows pierced His forehead, Rama became angered and retaliated by killing Trishira’s horses and driver, and knocking down his flag. Then, as Trishira attempted to jump down from his disabled chariot, Rama pierced him in the heart with a fiery arrow, and cut off his heads with three more.

Khara then rallied the few surviving Rakshasas and fearfully attacked Rama. During the fierce battle that followed, the sun became invisible as their streams of arrows completely covered the sky.

Bringing his chariot close by, Khara dexterously broke Rama’s bow in half. Khara then shot 1000 arrows that shattered Rama’s armor, making the pieces fall to the ground. Although His limbs were deeply pierced, Rama calmly strung the bow of Lord Vishnu. He then cut down Khara’s emblem, but the Rakshasa retaliated by wounding Rama severely. Becoming enraged, Rama quickly released six arrows that pierced Khara’s head, arms and chest. Then, with thirteen more, Rama killed his horses, severed his driver’s head, broke his bow and smashed his chariot. The last of these arrows, which was as dazzling as lightning, pierced Khara in the chest, making him fall backwards, unconscious.

Khara quickly recovered himself, jumped down from his broken chariot and stood before Rama, club in hand. Rama chastised Khara by saying, “You cruel and sinful Rakshasa, because you have dedicated your life to giving pain to others, you are thoroughly condemned. To punish you, I will certainly cut off your head this very hour!”

The enraged Khara replied, “You vile wretch! Those who are actually heroes do not boast of their prowess!”

Having said this, Khara hurled his gigantic mace at Rama. That blazing club burned to ashes all the trees and bushes that stood in its path, and yet, Rama’s arrows broke it to pieces as it soared through the air. Once again, Rama and Khara exchanged harsh words, and then the Rakshasa uprooted a tall Sal tree. After whirling it around, Khara hurled it at Rama while shouting, “You are killed!” Rama cut that huge tree to pieces, however.

Then, desiring to put an end to his adversary, Rama released 1000 arrows. Although blood poured profusely from every part of his body, Khara made one last attempt by rushing at Rama impetuously. Rama selected a blazing arrow, and when it pierced Khara’s chest, making him burst into flames, the Rakshasa dropped dead onto the ground.

The demigods were overjoyed to witness Rama’s victory, and while beating their drums and showering flowers, they glorified the Lord for His astonishing feat of killing all the Rakshasas in just one and a half hours.

Great rishis, headed by Agastya, then appeared before Rama and disclosed, “It was just to arrange for You to come here and kill the Rakshasas that Indra had visited Sharabhanga. It is for this reason that the rishi had advised You to come and reside here.”

Sita and Lakshman came out from Their cave. When she saw that Rama was safe and sound, Sita ran and embraced Him with great joy. Meanwhile, a Rakshasa named Akampana, who had escaped the massacre, went to Lanka and told Ravana about the death of his two brothers and their followers.

Ravana became red with rage upon receiving this news, and with great agitation he shouted, “Who has dared 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 angry?”

Akampana was very afraid of Ravana’s wrath, and so he begged, “My lord, I shall gladly answer your questions. But, please promise that you will not become angry with me for my truthful speech.”

When Ravana gave him assurances, Akampana said, “The 14,000 Rakshasas, including your two brothers, were killed by a human being named Rama, the son of King Dasharatha.”

Ravana inquired, “Was this Rama accompanied by all the demigods?”

Akampana replied, “Oh no, my lord! Rama killed all the Rakshasas single-handedly, without even taking help from His younger brother, Lakshman. Rama’s prowess is so formidable that He accomplished the task in a very short time. No one could stand before Him, and 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 Lakshman. Then we will see what kind of great heroes They are!”

For the benefit of his master, Akampana warned, “Please do not act hastily due to underestimating Rama’s prowess. He is capable of annihilating the entire cosmic manifestation and then recreating it. Even if all the demigods and asuras combined together, I do not think that Rama could be killed by them.

Therefore, do not consider attacking Him with force. I have thought of another means whereby you can insure Rama’s death. His wife, Sita, is incomparably beautiful, and her face is lovelier than thousands of moons. She is the very emblem of feminine attractiveness, and besides this, she is the perfection of womanly chastity and behavior. I think that without Sita, Rama could no longer bear to live, and so I suggest that you go and kidnap her.”

Ravana immediately liked the idea, and after thinking it over for some time he said, “Your plan is brilliant! I shall go to Panchavati tomorrow on my chariot and carry away Sita by force with great pleasure.”

After dismissing Akampana, Ravana went to the hermitage of Tataka’s son, Maricha. After receiving Ravana with great respect and washing his feet, Maricha said, “O lord of the Rakshasas, your surprise visit here fills my heart with misgivings. I know that you would not have come here personally unless the matter was very serious.”

Ravana replied, “What you say is correct. A human being named Rama has completely annihilated my army that was posted at Janasthana. His brother, Lakshman, disfigured Shurpanakha and so Khara and Dushana tried to retaliate. I had considered my two brothers to be invincible, but they have been killed along with all of their soldiers. Maricha, I need your help because I want to kidnap Rama’s wife, Sita.”

With great shock and horror, Maricha said, “Whoever has given you this idea is actually your worst enemy in the guise of a friend. Ravana, if you try to carry out this foolish plan it will only result in your 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 is the constant flowing of waves, and the span from shore to shore is the battlefield wherein His enemies drown.”

“O King of the Rakshasas, you had better control your anger and return to Lanka. Enjoy yourself there, along with your wives, and let Rama enjoy His wife in the Dandaka forest. Otherwise, you will unnecessarily bring disaster down upon your head!”

Ravana took Maricha’s advice and returned to his magnificent palace at Lanka.

Meanwhile, after witnessing the great slaughter of Rakshasas, Shurpanakha went to see her brother. Ravana had ten heads and twenty arms, and his body bore many scars from former conflicts, including those that had been inflicted by Lord Vishnu’s Sudarshana chakra. Once, Ravana attacked Bhogavati, and after defeating Vasuki and Takshaka, he took away the latter’s wife by force. After conquering Kuvera, Ravana took possession of the Pushpaka chariot, and then, out of spite, he destroyed some of the heavenly gardens, such as Nandanavana.

Long ago, Ravana had performed severe austerities, and at the completion of 10,000 years, he began offering his ten heads in sacrifice to Lord Brahma. Being pleased with Ravana, Lord Brahma offered him the benediction of being immune to death at the hands of all kinds of living entities, 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, and so they fervently prayed to Lord Vishnu for his destruction.

Shurpanakha came before Ravana, who was seated upon a golden throne within his seven-story palace, and showed him her disfigured face.

With great agitation she said, “My dear brother, have you become so absorbed in sense gratification that you fail to recognize the grave danger that is at hand? When a king is interested only in his own vulgar enjoyment and does not attend to state affairs, everyone comes to despise him. Haven’t your spies told you how Rama single-handedly killed 14,000 Rakshasas at Janasthana, including your two brothers? You are a useless king and so I predict that you will not remain on the throne for long!”

Ravana became mad with rage while listening to his sister prod him in such a manner, in front of his ministers. Still, he controlled his anger, and after thinking a moment, he inquired, “Who is this Rama, and what is His strength? Was it He that deformed you like this? Speak, for I want to know everything!”

Shurpanakha replied, “With long, powerful arms, and large eyes shaped like lotus petals, Rama appears to be the god of love himself. Although He is the most heroic kshatriya, He has dressed Himself in deerskin and tree bark and keeps matted hair. Rama’s younger brother is named Lakshman, and it is He who cut off my nose and ears, under His brother’s instruction.”

“Rama’s wife is named Sita, and she exactly resembles 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.”

“Ravana, there is no other woman like Sita. I know that if you were to see her, you would fall madly in love. She would make a perfect wife for you. I wanted to capture Sita and bring her to you, but when I tried to do so, Lakshman disfigured me. My dear brother, you should go and kidnap Sita, if you are really the powerful hero that you make yourself out to be!”

After hearing this, Ravana became fully determined to possess Sita. Once again he mounted his chariot and after crossing the sea he came to Maricha’s ashram. Maricha, who was dressed like a rishi and engaged in performing austerities, received Ravana very respectfully and then inquired, “O King, what is the reason for your early return to my humble residence?”

Ravana replied, “After hearing about Rama’s slaughter of the Rakshasas at Janasthana, I have not found a moment’s peace. I have made up my mind to kidnap Sita, and I want you to help me.”

“For this purpose, I have devised a very clever plan. I want you to take the form of a golden deer with silver spots and then play in front of Sita. She will surely become captivated by such a cute and wonderful creature and want to have it as her pet. As you proceed to lead Rama astray, I will go and kidnap the unprotected Sita and take her back to Lanka. Thereafter, when Rama becomes aggrieved and emaciated due to separation from His beloved wife, I will easily be able to kill Him.”

Upon hearing the name, Rama, Maricha became very fearful, and as he thought about Ravana’s plan, his mouth became dry. Staring with unblinking eyes, Maricha addressed Ravana with folded hands, “O lord, if you go ahead with your scheme, it will result in the destruction of Lanka and all the Rakshasas. Because of your lusty nature, and your ignorance of Rama’s prowess, you are heedlessly rushing toward your doom. Please hear from me attentively about Rama’s supreme potency before you blindly bring about your own destruction.”

“Previously, I used to wander over the earth with club in hand, being very proud of my superhuman strength. I subsisted upon the flesh of the rishis in the Dandaka forest. Out of fear, Vishvamitra approached Maharaja Dasharatha to solicit Rama’s help in protecting his sacrificial performance.”

“Thereafter, when I came to disrupt the yagya, Rama hurled me into the ocean with just one arrow. Having been spared by Rama, I returned to Lanka, but still I was not cured of my pride. Taking the form of a large, carnivorous stag with a flaming tongue, I returned to the Dandaka forest to roam about, drinking the rishis’ blood.”

“Then, once again I came upon Rama, who was wandering in the forest along with Sita and Lakshman. Considering how He had adopted a life of renunciation, I became determined to gain revenge. However, when I rushed at Him, Rama released three arrows, instantly killing my two companions. I fled with my life, and I think that I was spared only because Rama’s arrows do not kill those who run away from the battlefield.”

“Ever since that time, I have been obsessed with fear of Rama, and 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. Still, I have failed to obtain peace of mind for whenever my glance happens to fall 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, and because of this, wherever I look I feel terrified. Sometimes, I see Rama in my dreams and so I immediately wake up, my heart thumping with terror. 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.”

“O King, for your welfare, as well as mine, I advise you to forget about kidnapping Sita. Aside from fearing Rama, why should you perform such a sinful act? There is no offense more punishable that the abduction of another’s wife. Remain satisfied with your thousands of wives and thus save your dignity, fortune, kingdom, and life itself.”

After listening very patiently, Ravana replied, “Maricha, I did not ask for your advice, but only for your help in kidnapping Sita. As my minister, it is your duty to give advice only when asked for, and to obey my orders without question. I have made up my mind and nothing can deter me. I want you to take the form of a deer and charm Sita.”

“Then, when she begs Rama to capture you, lead Him deep into the forest and call out, ‘O Sita! O Lakshman!’ When He thinks that His brother is in difficulty, Lakshman will leave Sita alone to go help Him. Just perform this little service, and in return, I will reward you with half my kingdom. But, if you refuse, I will kill you this very day! This is your choice, Maricha, either certain death at my hands, or possible death at the hands of Rama. Make up your mind!”

Maricha boldly said, “Flatterers are easy to come by, but rare is the person who will speak unpleasant words that are meant for ones benefit. A minister should always give good advice, even if uncalled for, especially when the King becomes misguided. Unfortunately, it is inevitably seen that one who is about to die is never willing to take good advice.”

“O King, if we carry out your plan, then 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 than be killed here by you. So, let us depart at once.”

Being very pleased with Maricha for his co-operation, Ravana embraced him. Then, the two mounted upon the aerial chariot and departed. After passing over numerous forests, rivers, towns and fields, they landed in the Dandaka forest near to where Sita, Rama and Lakshman were staying.

After getting down from the chariot, Maricha transformed himself into a wonderful deer and began to playfully prance back and forth in front of Rama’s cottage. The golden deer had numerous jewel-like silver spots, and the tips of its horns were like sapphires. Its mouth appeared like a pinkish lotus flower, its tail was like a rainbow, and its ears were bright blue. All in all, the magical deer seemed to have been constructed entirely of valuable jewels. Having a dazzling luster, the deer illuminated the entire area surrounding the cottage. Sometimes it nibbled at the grass and sometimes it frolicked among the trees.

Sita was gathering flowers in the groves of mango, ashoka and karnikara trees as Maricha-the-deer leapt, ran, and crouched, being eager to attract her attention. Catching the scent of the Rakshasa-in-disguise, the other deer quickly fled into the forest, helter-skelter. When the magical deer suddenly came close by, bounding in front of her eyes, Sita looked at it with wonder and enchantment.

Sita had never before seen such a wonderful deer, and with wide-open eyes she called out, “Rama, Lakshman, come here at once!”

When Lakshman came and saw the deer He said, “It’s a trick! This must be Maricha the Rakshasa disguised as a deer, seeking revenge. He is known to take such a form, just to waylay kings who come hunting in the forest.”

Sita interrupted Lakshman because her intelligence had been deluded by the deer’s beauty. She said, “Rama, please go quickly and catch this deer, for it has captivated my fancy. Such a lovely pet would make me happy by providing a diversion from our dreary forest life. If you can catch this deer alive, I will take it back to Ayodhya at the end of our exile, for it will delight Bharata and our mothers. Please Rama, bring the deer for me to play with. It is so lovely and its smooth skin shines like the moon.”

“My dear husband, if You cannot capture the deer alive, then kill it so that I can make a rug out of its jewel-like skin. You must think that I am a foolish woman, but I must have this deer, for I am enchanted by its beauty.”

Rama was delighted to receive the chance to fulfill Sita’s wish, and He was also enchanted by the deer’s mysterious beauty. He told Lakshman, “Sita is enthralled, and so I must bring her this deer. Look at its tongue, darting about like a flame, or like lightning in a cloud. Nowhere can such a deer be found- even in the heavenly Nandana or Chaitraratha gardens. For sure, this deer’s splendor will cost it its life. I will make a carpet from its spotted golden skin so that Sita and I can enjoy sitting together on it. And if, as you say, the deer is actually Maricha, then killing it will be beneficial for all the rishis residing in the forest. Lakshman, until My return, stay here with Your bow in hand, and keep a careful watch over Sita.”

Having said this, Rama picked up a sword, bow and two quivers, whereupon Maricha suddenly vanished from sight. As Rama entered the forest, the deer once again came into view, running away swiftly and looking backward. Then again, the deer came very close to Rama, as if tempting Him to capture it. But, as Rama ran toward the deer, it once again disappeared from sight. In this way, by repeatedly becoming visible and then again disappearing from view, Maricha lured Rama far away from His cottage. Confused by the deer’s puzzling movements, Rama felt helpless and frustrated.

Finally, having become exhausted by the chase, Rama rested awhile beneath a tree. Then, once again, the deer suddenly appeared close by. But when Rama got up and tried to catch it, the deer mysteriously vanished. Out of frustration, Rama gave up the idea of capturing the deer alive. When the deer next appeared at some distance, Rama shot a blazing arrow of Lord Brahma, hoping to kill it. Maricha tried to jump high to avoid Rama’s arrow, but it nonetheless pierced his heart. As Maricha fell to the ground, mortally wounded, he assumed his real form as a Rakshasa.

Then, remembering Ravana’s instructions, Maricha imitated Rama’s voice and called out in great distress, “O Sita! O Lakshman!”

Maricha gave up his life and Rama became very dejected upon hearing these words, wondering, “What will Sita and Lakshman think?” In fact, a terrible fear entered Rama’s heart, and so He immediately began to rush back to His cottage.

Meanwhile, when Sita heard Maricha’s voice, she thought that Rama must have been calling for help. Becoming panicky with fear, she turned to Lakshman and urged, “Go quickly and find out what has happened! That was Rama crying out for help! He needs You! Lakshman, my heart is throbbing and I can hardly breathe! The Rakshasas must have overwhelmed Rama!”

But, Lakshman kept Rama’s order to guard Sita firmly in mind, and so He did not even stir. This apparent indifference made Sita more upset, and so she chastised Lakshman with very harsh words: “Why do You just stand there? Do You want Rama to die? Now I can understand that You are actually the enemy of Your elder brother in the guise of a friend. I think that You would like Rama to die so that You can be free to enjoy me as You like! Otherwise, You would quickly rush to His rescue! Go quickly, Lakshman! What is the use of my remaining alive and safe when my husband is in danger?”

Unto Sita, who was sobbing and trembling in fear, Lakshman replied, “Try and control yourself! Rama cannot be harmed by anyone- by any Rakshasa or even Indra and all the demigods. Do not talk like this! The voice that you heard was the conjuring trick of Maricha, just to frighten us. Rama ordered me to protect you, and so I will stay here and obey Him.”

Sita was practically deranged due to fright. Lakshman’s words of pacification aroused hatred and anger within her heart. Her eyes became red with rage.

Sita raved, “You shameless, wicked man! I think that You are enjoying Rama’s misfortune. Otherwise, why would You speak so calmly? I can now understand that all along You were simply pretending to be Your elder brother’s humble servant. The real reason You accompanied Rama to the forest was to look for an opportunity to kill Him and then fulfill Your lusty desires to enjoy me.”

“Maybe You are Bharata’s agent! In any case, you will never obtain the fulfillment of Your sinful desires! Do You actually think that I would accept You after having been the wife of lotus-eyed Rama? I would rather die! Without Rama I could not bear to live for even a moment!”

His heart being pierced as if by arrows, the horrified Lakshman replied with folded hands, “Princess of Mithila, you are like a deity to Me and so I cannot speak harshly in reply. I know that it is the nature of women to create discord between friends. For sure, 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 shall go to Rama, as you demand. But, because I can see terrible omens, foreboding great evil, I am afraid that when I return with Rama, We will no longer find you here.”

With great agitation, Sita responded, “If Rama is killed, then I will jump from a cliff, drown myself, or take poison, for I would rather die than be touched by another man!”

Lakshman had become very angry while listening to Sita’s harsh and cruel words. Although He dutifully tried to console her, Lakshman was actually very eager to see Rama. So, as Sita continued to malign Him, Lakshman departed at last, giving Ravana his eagerly awaited opportunity.

Dressed in saffron cloth, his hair tied into a knot on top of his head, wearing wooden sandals, and carrying an umbrella on his right shoulder and a staff and kamandalu (water pot) on his left, Ravana came before Sita in the guise of a wandering mendicant. Sita was sitting inside the cottage, shedding tears of grief on account of Rama’s absence, as Ravana appeared in the doorway.

Out of fear, the wind ceased blowing, the leaves on the trees stopped fluttering, and the waters of the Godavari became hushed.

While chanting Vedic mantras Ravana approached Sita, and while staring at her his heart became pierced by Cupid’s arrows. In the hopes of charming Sita, Ravana said, “Who are you, lovely lady, residing 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? Or, are you Lakshmi herself, bereft of your lotus flower?”

“Your smooth white teeth are like a row of jasmine buds, and your dark eyes resemble two bumblebees that hover over your lotus-like face. Tapering and graceful are your thighs, like the trunks of baby elephants, and your hips are rounded and ample. Your firm and abundant breasts seem to touch one another, and their nipples are pointed and prominent. Beneath them is a waist so slim that a thumb and index finger can encircle it perfectly.”

“No mortal or even celestial woman can equal your beauty, which has ravished my heart like a swelling river that overflows its banks. Why do you remain here when you could prosper somewhere else? You should live in a palace, dressed in the finest clothes and jewelry and attended to by countless servants. O sweet-smiling one, choose a worthy husband and leave this jungle that is full of ferocious animals.”

Although spoken to so boldly, Sita offered her guest a nice reception, for she did not want to offend a brahmana. After offering Ravana a seat and water to wash his feet, Sita gave him some food and explained, “Sir, my name is Sita, and I am the daughter of the noble-minded King Janaka of Mithila. At the age of nine I was married to my beloved husband, Rama. Later on, at the urging of his wife, Kaikeyi, my father-in-law, Maharaja Dasharatha, installed her son Bharata upon the royal throne and banished Rama to the forest for fourteen years.”

“Now, please tell me your name and ancestry. O brahmana, why have you come alone to the Dandaka forest?”

The so-called brahmana replied, “I am Ravana, the King of the Rakshasas, and even the great demigods tremble at the mere mention of my name. O faultlessly beautiful one, now that I have seen you, I could never again take delight in my other innumerable consorts. Sita, become my principal queen and you will have 5000 maidservants awaiting your commands. Leave this forest and enjoy with me in the beautiful gardens of Lanka.”

Sita became very angry while listening to Ravana, and with great contempt she replied, “I am completely devoted to Rama, who is as steady as a rock, as grave as an ocean, and sheltering like a Banyan tree. I am devoted to Rama, who has mighty arms and a broad chest, whose 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 to touch the sun, or lift up Mount Mandara? Would you pierce your eyes with a needle or carry a blazing fire in your clothes? Would you attempt to swim across the ocean with a boulder tied around your neck? Then, why do you dare consider running away with Rama’s wife?”

“Rama is like Garuda, and you are but a crow. Rama is the ocean and you, a small puddle. Rama is sandalwood and you are mud. He is like gold and you are like 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 will no more enjoy me than a fly enjoys the ghee that it flounders in.”

Although she spoke boldly, Sita was shaking with fear. In order to further intimidate her, Ravana spoke as follows: “Listen to me, lovely lady. I am the half-brother of Kuvera, the god of wealth. After vanquishing him, I took away his Pushpaka chariot, and now he hides from me somewhere near Mount Kailash. All the demigods are 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 who is doomed to perish soon. Come with me and enjoy heavenly delights. I passionately yearn for you and so please do not reject me.”

Sita replied, “If you are actually 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, and in a fit of rage he revealed his gigantic form as a fierce Rakshasa, having ten heads, twenty arms and sharp teeth. He 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 someone who has been banished to the forest?”

Then, after a momentary pause, Ravana quickly reached out with his left hand and grabbed Sita by the hair. As if summoned, Ravana’s golden chariot came close by. Placing his right hand on Sita’s thigh, Ravana took her in his arms, mounted the chariot and ascended into the sky. Wailing like one injured or mad, Sita called out, “Rama! Rama! Why don’t you come here and save me? You must punish this wretched Ravana!”

In desperation, Sita next called out to the trees, the river, as well as the birds and animals, begging them to inform Rama of her abduction. Sita then spotted Jatayu, who was perched upon a tree, sleeping, and so she cried out, “Jatayu! I know that you cannot defeat Ravana, but please tell Rama that I have been kidnapped by him.”

Jatayu awakened upon hearing Sita’s calls, and when he saw how Ravana was carrying her away, he challenged the King of the Rakshasas: “Ravana, I am Jatayu, the King of the vultures. How is it that you dare to lay your hands upon the wife of another? Beware! You are carrying a poisonous snake in your arms. I have become old, whereas you are young and armed with weapons. Still, I will not let you carry away Sita. I warn you! Give up your evil intention or else be thrown down from your chariot like an over-ripe fruit falling from a tree.”

Being challenged, Ravana angrily rushed at Jatayu, and as they began to fight, it appeared as if two mountains were striking one another. Ravana struck Jatayu with many weapons, and the giant vulture wounded the Rakshasa King with his sharp talons. Although pierced by numerous arrows, the sight of Sita crying while seated upon Ravana’s chariot enabled Jatayu to tolerate the pain.

As he attacked Ravana, Jatayu warded off the onslaught of arrows with his wings and then managed to break the Rakshasa’s bow with his feet. Having gained this advantage, Jatayu next cut off Ravana’s armor and then killed the mules that were yoked to his chariot. The heroic Jatayu proceeded to smash Ravana’s chariot to pieces while simultaneously striking off the driver’s head with his beak. As a result, Ravana fell to the ground, while tightly holding Sita in his arms. All who witnessed this wonderful display of prowess applauded Jatayu with great enthusiasm.

But, due to his age, Jatayu became exhausted. Ravana once again rose up into the sky by dint of his own prowess, holding Sita in one arm while wielding a sword with the other. Jatayu then suddenly swooped down on Ravana, from the back, and began pulling his hair so forcibly that the Rakshasa’s lips quivered in indignation. Keeping Sita pressed tightly to his left thigh, Ravana struck back at Jatayu with his palm. Jatayu dodged the blow, and proceeded to tear off Ravana’s twenty arms with his powerful beak. Ravana’s arms were immediately replaced with new ones, and after leaving Sita aside, he began striking Jatayu with his fists and feet.

The fighting continued in this way for about an hour. Finally, in desperation, Ravana took out his sword and swiftly cut off Jatayu’s wings, feet and flanks, making him fall to the ground, fatally wounded. Greatly distressed, Sita ran to where Jatayu lay and embraced him as tears came to her eyes. But, Ravana quickly went and seized Sita by the hair.

When she cried out, “Rama! Rama!” the whole universe went out of order, so that everywhere became enveloped in darkness. Due to empathy with Sita’s grief, the wind no longer blew and the sun became lusterless. Lord Brahma, however, who could perceive the entire incident through divine eyes, declared, “Our purpose is now accomplished!”

As Ravana rose up to the sky with Sita, her ornaments broke apart, causing jewels to fall to the ground. The pearls from her necklace slipped from her breast like the pure water of the Ganga falling from the sky. Sita was overwhelmed with fear and grief, and while continuously struggling to get free, she reproached Ravana again and again for his vile and cowardly act. As Ravana sped to his destination, all creatures seemed to lament, “There is no dharma, there is no truth, there is no gentleness.”

Her loosened hair waving in the wind, her mark of tilaka erased, and her face being without cheer, Sita moaned, “O Rama, O Lakshman.” Sita then happened to see five monkey chiefs sitting on top of a mountain. Unnoticed by Ravana, she took off her silk upper garment and some jewelry and dropped them in the midst of the monkeys, hoping that they would give these things to Rama. As the monkeys stared at him with unblinking eyes, Ravana continued to carry Sita toward Lanka.

After crossing the ocean, the Rakshasa King took Sita into the inner apartments of his palace. There, he ordered the fierce female Rakshasa attendants, “I want you to watch over this woman very carefully and do not let anyone see her without my permission. Provide her with the very best clothing, jewelry, and food, and give her gold, pearls- whatever she wants. But, take heed of this warning- anyone who utters so much as one harsh word to Sita, will die by my order!”

Ravana then called for eight powerful Rakshasas and told them, “Ever since Rama killed my brothers and their army at Janasthana, I have felt an intolerable enmity toward Him. In fact, I will not be able to sleep peacefully at night until Rama is killed. Go now and spy on Him, and bring back to me all the information that you gather.”

Because of his previous experience with women, Ravana foolishly felt happy now that he had Sita. After dispatching these Rakshasas, he went to see her, being overwhelmed by desire for her. There he saw Sita in a very distressed condition, surrounded by numerous Rakshasis. Bathed in her tears, Sita appeared like a wind-buffeted boat at sea, or a doe that had strayed form its herd while being pursued by dogs. Although she was unwilling, Ravana forced Sita to accompany him on a tour of his palace.

As she viewed the spacious and fabulously decorated rooms, containing thousands of women, Ravana explained, “Lanka is inhabited by 320 million Rakshasas, excluding the aged and infants, and 1000 of these are my personal servants. If you are wise, lovely Sita, you will fulfill my ardent desire, by becoming my principal queen. Become my master and rule over all this opulence that you see before you. I am tormented by love for you, and I shall be devoted to you alone. Please grant me your favor and look upon me with affection. After all, youthful beauty is fleeting. You should enjoy life with me and forget the insignificant Rama.”

While covering her moon-like face, Sita began shedding silent tears. Ravana 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 that 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 is devoted to Rama without deviation, and 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, but rest assured that because of your vile and sinful lust, you will soon meet with death at the hands of Rama.”

Being harshly rebuked, Ravana became angry and said, “I will give you just twelve months to surrender to me. At the end of that time, if you still resist, I will have my cooks cut you into pieces and serve you as my breakfast.”

Turning to his attendants, Ravana ordered, “Take Sita to the Ashoka grove. Watch her very carefully and try to win her over to my side by whatever means required. Threaten her, flatter her, do whatever it takes, but tame her as one would an elephant.”

Sita went to live in the Ashoka grove, which was a beautiful garden filled with trees bearing fruit and flowers. Sita was already thoroughly miserable, and as the deformed Rakshasa women continued to intimidate her, she fainted due to fright. Meanwhile, Lord Brahma summoned Indra and said, “Sita has been kidnapped by Ravana and taken to Lanka. This is our good fortune because it will surely bring about the destruction of the Rakshasa King. Still, there is the danger that Sita may die due to separation from Rama, and so I want you to go and give her this heavenly kheer to eat.”

Indra went to the Ashoka grove along with Nidradevi, the goddess of sleep. After Nidra had woven her spell, putting all the Rakshasi guards to sleep, Indra approached Sita in the dress of a brahmana and said, “I am the King of heaven, Indra, and I have come here to render assistance to Lord Rama. Please take this celestial kheer, for as soon as you eat it, you will become immune to hunger, thirst, and other bodily miseries, for years to come.”

Sita doubted that the brahmana was in fact Indra, and so she asked him to reveal his celestial form. Being so requested, Indra assumed his real form, and when Sita noticed how his feet did not touch the ground, his garland was not at all faded, and his clothing was completely free from all dirt, she became convinced, and so happily agreed to eat the kheer.

First, Sita offered the food to Rama and Lakshman, praying that They would accept it. Then, as soon as she ate the prasada, Sita became freed from all bodily pangs. Since their mission had been accomplished, Indra and Nidradevi instantly vanished from Sita’s sight.

Meanwhile, after killing Maricha, as Rama hurried back to His cottage, He thought, “I know that the Rakshasas want to take revenge for My having slaughtered their entire contingent at Janasthana. Maricha’s tricks must have been part of a plan to lure Me away from Sita so that they could devour her. I hope that Lakshman did not leave Sita alone after hearing Maricha cry out, perfectly imitating My voice.”

Rama was already very apprehensive, and so when He heard the frightful cry of a jackal at His back, He became even more afraid. Birds and animals then began to pass Rama on the right side, while crying out frightfully. His left eye twitched, His left arm throbbed convulsively, and His heart thumped loudly. While observing all these inauspicious signs, Rama met Lakshman, who was on His way from the cottage.

Taking Him by the left hand, Rama reproached Lakshman, saying, “How could You disobey My order and leave Sita unprotected? From all the inauspicious omens I see I can understand that she has either been killed or kidnapped. Oh, Lakshman, how could you leave Sita all alone?”

As they rushed back to the cottage, Rama suddenly tripped on the forest path. Overwhelmed by fear, on account of Sita, and angry with Lakshman, for deserting her, Rama began to lament like a madman: “If Sita is dead, then I will kill Myself! I could not even think of living without her. Oh Lakshman, how could You betray Me like this and leave My dear Sita unprotected?”

Lakshman tried to explain what had happened by saying, “Sita became like a madwoman after hearing Your cries for help, and she spoke to Me very harshly. She goaded Me with sharp words and accused Me of leaving You to die so that I could enjoy her for Myself. Then, she accused Me of being Bharata’s accomplice and Your enemy in disguise. Just to prove that her accusations were false, I had to come to Your aid.”

With great irritation and agitation, Rama snapped, “That is no excuse for leaving Sita alone and unprotected. You know that I am unconquerable and fully able to defend Myself against the Rakshasas. You should not have disobeyed My order simply being provoked by a woman’s anger. Lakshman, You have made a great mistake by acting in a way that is quite unworthy of You.”

While conversing in this way, Rama and Lakshman returned to Their cottage and found it deserted. Feverishly, Rama began searching everywhere in the vicinity, and when He failed to find Sita, His face became withered and darkened, due to grief. Afflicted with transcendental madness arising out of separation, Rama questioned the trees: “O Kadamba, O Bilva, O Arjuna, have you seen My beloved Sita pass this way, dressed in yellow silk and with flowers in her hair?”

After receiving no reply, Rama inquired from the animals and birds, and when they gave no answer, His sorrow increased. Sometimes, Rama imagined that He caught a glimpse of Sita and so He cried out, “Dearly beloved, why are you running away from Me and hiding? Why don’t you speak to Me?”

Then again, Rama imagined that the Rakshasas had devoured Sita, and this caused Him to envision her delicate bodily features. Rama and Lakshman continued to comb the surrounding hills and forests, refusing to give up hope of finding Sita. However, when she was not found after a thorough search, Rama became discouraged and sat down in utter despair. Still, Lakshman encouraged Rama to continue looking, and so They roamed through more forests, hills and plains.

Finally, Rama could continue no longer and so He gave way to an intense grief, standing motionless as if bereft of all reason. Breathing hotly and His eyes filled with tears, Rama became indifferent to Lakshman’s assurances that They would surely find Sita. Being tormented by love, Rama cried out helplessly, “Sita, Sita”, again and again. Then, as if deranged, Rama called out, “My darling, have you hidden yourself just to play a joke on Me? I beg you to please come out now, so that My intolerable suffering will be relieved.”

When Sita did not come, Rama became even more disappointed, being convinced that the Rakshasas had devoured her. While Rama continued to lament pathetically, Lakshman also became sick at heart. Rama then said, “Lakshman, please go to the banks of the Godavari. Maybe Sita went there to gather lotus flowers.”

After some time, when Lakshman returned without Sita, Rama personally went to the river and began questioning the trees and animals there. Due to fear of Ravana, none gave a reply, although Rama did notice that the deer seemed to be looking at Him with a meaningful intention. Rama then questioned the deer and tried to read their minds by looking through their eyes. It seemed that the deer replied to Him by turning their heads upward and toward the south, as if to indicate that Sita had been carried away through the sky in that direction.

Lakshman could understand the deer’s message, and so He suggested to Rama that They walk toward the south in the hopes of finding some clue. After setting out, They soon came to a trail of scattered flowers that Rama recognized to be those that He had given Sita. Addressing the nearby mountain, named Prashravana, Rama asked, “Where has Sita gone, after passing this way?”

When He received no reply, Rama became enraged and challenged, “Hey, mountain, if you do not answer Me, I will shatter you to pieces with My arrows!”

Still, there was silence, as Rama glanced over the mountain with red-hot eyes and prepared to release His arrows for its destruction. Lakshman then pointed out Sita’s running footprints, along with those of a giant Rakshasa. Following these footprints, they came to where Ravana’s broken bow and quiver lay, as well as shattered debris from his chariot and broken pieces of Sita’s jewelry. When drops of blood were also seen, Rama concluded that Sita must have been devoured by the Rakshasas, for it appeared as if two of the man-eaters had fought over her at this place.

As He gazed at the dead mules, smashed chariot and scattered weapons, the enraged Rama vowed, “No Rakshasa will escape My vengeance, for today I shall destroy them all in retaliation for Sita’s murder. Why didn’t the useless demigods do something to save My helpless wife? If the demigods do not deliver Sita to Me at once, then as revenge for their negligence, and the devouring of Sita by the Rakshasas, I will destroy the entire universe!”

Rama’s eyes were red with anger, and his lips, which were pressed together, trembled with rage. After taking His bow from Lakshman’s hands, Rama placed a powerful arrow upon the string, which was capable of destroying the entire universe.

Terrified, Lakshman joined His hands in supplication and pleaded, “Rama, by nature You are gentle, self-controlled and the well-wisher of all living entities. Please control Your wrath and act only after careful consideration. It appears to me that there was only one Rakshasa in this fight, for there is only the debris of one broken chariot. Let us look some more, and if we cannot find any further clues as to Sita’s whereabouts, You can act as You see fit.”

“My dear brother, You must practice forbearance. After all, suffering is inevitable. If you are seen to be unable to tolerate life’s miseries, then how will the common people be expected to do so? Please think only about how Your enemy can be killed. Why should You needlessly destroy the universe?”

While speaking, Lakshman lovingly massaged His brother’s lotus feet, and fortunately, Rama became pacified. After withdrawing the arrow from His bow, Rama asked what They should do next, and so Lakshman suggested that They thoroughly search the entire area of Janasthana. Thereafter, while roaming through the forest, Rama and Lakshman came upon the fallen Jatayu, lying in a pool of blood.

At first, Rama thought that he was a Rakshasa disguised as a bird, resting a little after having devoured Sita. But as Rama approached him with an arrow fitted to His bow, Jatayu identified himself and explained how he had been fatally wounded while trying to rescue Sita from the clutches of Ravana. After understanding the situation, Rama threw His bow aside. Then, as He embraced Jatayu, Rama became doubly aggrieved on account of the plight of His well-wisher.

Anxiously, Rama inquired, “Jatayu, can you tell Me anything more about Sita and her abductor?”

The dying Jatayu replied, “Ravana kidnapped Sita at a particular time of day known as Vinda. If a person loses something at that time, he will surely get it back very soon. My dear Rama, do not be overly distraught about Sita, for You will certainly regain her after killing the King of the Rakshasas in battle.”

Then, as Jatayu was describing Ravana’s exalted lineage, he suddenly gasped his last breath while uttering, “Rama, Rama.” Rama then told Lakshman, “I feel more saddened by the death of Jatayu, who gave up his life for My sake, than the kidnapping of Sita. Go now and bring some logs so that We can cremate his body. Let it be known that Jatayu will attain to the highest destination as a reward for the service that he has rendered to Me.”

Lakshman prepared the funeral pyre and Rama placed Jatayu’s body upon it. Lakshman lit the fire, and then both brothers made offerings for the benefit of Jatayu’s departed soul while Rama chanted Vedic mantras. Rama and Lakshman then went to the Godavari to offer oblations of water, and after doing so They had Their baths. Thus completing the funeral ceremonies, Rama and Lakshman once again fixed Their minds on finding Sita, and so They continued to wander in the forest.

Passing out of the Dandaka forest, Rama and Lakshman traveled toward the southwest. After some time, They came to a huge cave, in front of which stood a fierce female Rakshasa. The ghastly Rakshasi, having sharp teeth, a large protruding belly and tough skin, suddenly caught Lakshman by the hand and said, “Handsome hero, please come and revel with me in this delightful forest.” Saying this, the Rakshasi embraced Lakshman and continued, “My name is Ayonmukhi, and I am Yours. Take me as Your beloved wife.”

Lakshman angrily drew His sword and cut off the Rakshasi’s ears, nose and breasts. Screaming with pain, she ran away and so Rama and Lakshman proceeded on into the dense forest. Rama then said, “My left arm is throbbing and My mind feels perturbed. Lakshman, we should be prepared for some immanent danger.” A moment later, the frightful cry of a Vanjulaka bird was heard, and so Lakshman said, “This indicates that victory will be Ours.”

After They had walked some distance, a loud noise was suddenly heard and a storm began brewing. Rama and Lakshman proceeded cautiously with Their swords in hand, and in this way they came upon a huge Rakshasa having no head, neck or legs, and a gigantic mouth located in the middle of his belly.

This Rakshasa was as big as a mountain and sharp, bristling hair stood up all over his body. On his chest were two fiery eyes, and his long arms stretched out for twelve kilometers, enabling him to easily catch large animals to eat. Although Rama and Lakshman retreated to a distance of three kilometers upon seeing the Rakshasa, the monster caught Them and squeezed Them so tightly that They were put into a helpless condition.

Rama did not feel aggrieved, but Lakshman became despondent and said, “My dear brother, You should offer Me as a sacrifice to this Rakshasa in exchange for Your own life, so that You can continue looking for Sita.”

Rama encouraged Lakshman not to be afraid, and at that time, the Rakshasa began to speak: “My name is Kabandha. It is my great fortune that You have come to this forest because I have been very hungry for a long time. Since You are the food that Destiny has provided me, I think that You will have a very difficult time escaping with Your precious lives.”

Lakshman said to Rama, “We should save Ourselves by quickly cutting off this Rakshasa’s arms with Our swords.”

When he heard this, Kabandha became furious and opened his mouth widely with the intention of devouring Rama and Lakshman at once. But, before he could do so, Rama cut off his right arm and Lakshman cut off his left, making the Rakshasa fall to the ground, bathed in his own blood. In an anguished voice, Kabandha asked, “Who are you?”

Lakshman replied, “This is Rama, a kshatriya in the line of Ikshvaku, and I am His brother. We have come here in search of Rama’s wife, Sita, who was kidnapped by the King of the Rakshasas, Ravana.”

Kabandha was overjoyed to hear the name Rama. After warmly welcoming his guests, he said, “I am so fortunate that you have come here and redeemed me! Please listen as I tell you how I happened to acquire this ghastly form. In my last life I was the son of Danu. By performing austerities, I was able to satisfy Lord Brahma, who then awarded me the benediction of having a long duration of life. After receiving this boon, I became very proud, thinking that my archenemy Indra could no longer harm me.”

“Thereafter, when I attacked the King of heaven on the battlefield, he hurled his thunderbolt at me. As a result, my head and legs became thrust into my body. Finding myself in such a wretched condition, I begged Indra to kill me, but he refused to do so because it would falsify Lord Brahma’s words. Then, when I asked Indra how I would survive without a head, he placed my mouth in the middle of my belly and made my arms twelve kilometers long.”

“Indra then declared, ‘When Rama and Lakshman come before you and cut off your arms, you will regain your celestial form.’ Ever since that time, I have been catching all kinds of creatures with my long arms and stuffing them into my mouth, hoping that one day I would capture the Rama who had been mentioned by Indra.”

“Then, once, I harassed a great rishi named Sthulashira, and so he cursed me to retain this horrible form for eternity. I tearfully begged the rishi to prescribe some end to my plight and so he confirmed that I would regain my original form after being cremated by Rama. At last I have been delivered by You, and so in return, after my death, I will direct You to a powerful ally who will help You get back Your wife.”

Rama said, “My wife, Sita, has been kidnapped by Ravana, the King of the Rakshasas. Unfortunately, I only know his name and nothing about his appearance or place of residence. I will cremate your body so that you can attain your desired destination. But, in return, you should give Me some information about Ravana.”

Kabandha replied, “I am very sorry, but I do not know anything about Ravana. But, after being cremated, I will tell You about someone who has traveled throughout the three worlds and so will be able to help you locate the King of the Rakshasas.”

Rama and Lakshman took Kabandha and placed him on the funeral pyre that Lakshman had made within a mountain cave. Because the body was so fat, as it burned it looked like a big lump of flaming ghee. From out of the fire rose Kabandha in his original celestial form, dressed in fine garments and decorated with ornaments and flower garlands.

After taking his seat upon a celestial chariot pulled by swans, Kabandha said, “Rama, political misfortune can be overcome by six means- making peace, fighting, assassination, amassing superior arms and fortifications, creating dissention, and seeking the help of allies. You are now plunged into the depths of despair due to the loss of Your wife, but You will one day be able to retrieve her with the help of someone in a similar condition. That person is the monkey king, Sugriva, who has been exiled by his brother, Vali, the son of Indra.”

“Rama, you should go and make friends with Sugriva. He is the son of Surya, and he also needs a benefactor. He is now living along with four other Vanaras on Rishyamukha Mountain, which is located near Lake Pampa. First go to Lake Pampa and meet the ascetic woman, Shabari. A great rishi, Matanga, resided there long ago, and after his death, Shabari took care of his disciples. These disciples of Matanga have long since ascended to higher worlds but Shabari remains there in Matanga’s ashram, awaiting Your darshan before departing for Brahmaloka.”

“Near Lake Pampa is the Rishyamukha Hill where Sugriva lives in a large cave, being afraid of his brother, Vali. Sugriva is loyal, intelligent, generous, wise, very brave and powerful. Go and make an alliance with him, for he knows all about the Rakshasas, and his followers can wander over the earth until they find Sita.”

After saying this, Kabandha took permission from Rama and ascended to heaven. Following Kabandha’s directions, Rama and Lakshman departed, and on the second day, they arrived at Lake Pampa, next to which they saw Matanga Rishi’s ashram. When Rama and Lakshman entered the hermitage, Shabari quickly got up and greeted Them with folded hands. After touching the lotus feet of Rama and Lakshman, Shabari gave Them water to wash Their feet and supplied Them with food and drink.

When Rama inquired about her spiritual practices, Shabari, a perfected soul, replied, “Just by seeing You, I have achieved the fruition of all my austerities. When You came to live at Chitrakoot, the rishis I had been serving ascended to heaven in celestial chariots. Before departing, however, they assured me that You would come here, and that after welcoming You I would also attain a heavenly destination.”

At Rama’s request, Shabari took Him and Lakshman on a tour of the beautiful area surrounding Lake Pampa. Afterwards, she requested permission from Rama to cast off her mortal body so that she could rejoin the sages she had previously served so faithfully. Being very pleased with Shabari, Rama granted her desire.

After building a fire, the elderly ascetic lady, dressed in deerskin and tree-bark, and having matted hair, leapt into the blazing flames. The next moment, Shabari was seen rising up to heaven, like a flash of lightning. She was adorned with celestial jewelry and garlands. Having thus witnessed Shabari’s spiritual prowess, Rama and Lakshman went to bathe in Lake Pampa, which had been created from the water of the seven seas. Thereafter, feeling enlivened, and hopeful of finding Sita, Rama impatiently departed, along with Lakshman, being very eager to meet Sugriva.