|NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Other Scriptures by Acharyas > Valmiki Ramayana > Uttara Kanda|
Some time after Rama’s coronation, many great rishis came to Ayodhya to personally worship Him and glorify His transcendental pastimes. The sapta-rishis; Vasishtha, Kashyapa, Atri, Vishvamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni and Bharadvaja arrived at the royal palace, as did Kaushika, Kanva, Agastya and Dhaumya. When the gatekeeper informed Rama that all these foremost rishis had arrived, He had them escorted into the royal court and then stood up with folded hands to greet them. Rama had special seats brought for the sages and then offered them all hospitality, while inquiring about their welfare.
In turn, the rishis said, “Rama, You have greatly satisfied us by descending to the earth to exhibit Your magnanimous pastimes. Now that Ravana is dead, we feel relief and happiness, for he was a great impediment to the progressive welfare of the world. Not only Ravana, but many other Rakshasas, such as Khara, Maricha, Kumbhakarna, Atikaya, Nikumbha and Kumbha were terrorizing all living beings, and so we are very grateful to Your for having destroyed them.”
“We are especially thankful that Indrajit is no more, for there was no one comparable to him. Except for You and Lakshman, he was incapable of being killed by anyone within the three worlds.”
Politely interrupting the sages, Rama curiously asked, “Why are you praising Indrajit as being even more powerful than Ravana or Kumbhakarna?”
On behalf of the sages, Agastya Rishi replied by narrating at length the history of the Rakshasas. Pulastya was the son of Lord Brahma. He went to perform austerities as Trinabindu’s ashram and later on married the rishi’s daughter. Their son was Vishrava, the name indicating that he was very fond of listening to the recitation of the Vedas. Vishrava married Bharadvaja’s daughter, and their son was named Vaishravana.
Later on, as a reward for his austerities, Lord Brahma made Vaishravana the fourth Lokapala. Besides being awarded the post of Kuvera, the lord of wealth, Vaishravana was given the Pushpaka chariot.
After this, Vaishravana asked his father to designate a place as his residence. Vishrava replied, “My dear son, you may reside at the city of Lanka, which is located on the Trikuta Mountain and which was built by Vishvakarma for the Rakshasas. Lanka is now vacant, because long ago the Rakshasas fled out of fear of Lord Vishnu and took up residence in Rasatala.”
Rama then requested, “Please tell me the history of the original Rakshasas. How powerful were they in comparison to Ravana? Why were they driven away from Lanka by Lord Vishnu so that they had to reside below the earth?”
Agastya continued his narration. In the beginning of creation, one class of beings was called Rakshasas, and their two leaders, Heti and Praheti were naturally inclined toward virtue. Heti married Bhaya, who was a very fierce woman, and their son was named Vidyutkesha. When he grew up, Vidyutkesha married Shalakatankata. The mother abandoned her son, however, for she had only desired to have sex with her husband and not receive a child.
Lord Shiva and Parvati rescued this son, named Sukesha, and after receiving benedictions from them he became very proud. Later on he married Devasvati and begot three sons, named Malyavan, Sumali and Mali. Knowing that their father had become powerful as a result of receiving benedictions, they went to perform austerities for this purpose.
When Lord Brahma came to fulfill their desires, they said, “O lord, may we become long-lived, and let us become so powerful that we will strike terror into the hearts of all our enemies. Give us the ability to become invisible, and let us three brothers always have love for one another.”
Lord Brahma consented, and thereafter, Malyavan, Sumali and Mali began to torment the demigods and asuras alike. Being enlivened by their leaders’ prowess, the Rakshasas went to Vishvakarma and requested him to give them a place of residence. Vishvakarma informed the Rakshasas that he had already built Lanka, by the order of King Indra, and that it was a city surrounded by walls of gold. At Vishvakarma’s urging, they took up residence there.
Later on, the wife of Mali gave birth to four sons who became the ministers of Vibhishana. The wife of Malyavan gave birth to many children, including Virupaksha, and the wife of Sumali gave birth to Suparshva, Prahasta and others. All these offspring became very proud like their fathers. At last, being greatly harassed, the demigods approached Lord Vishnu for shelter. Lord Vishnu assured them that He had already decided to kill the sons of Sukesha, because they had proudly overstepped the bounds of propriety.
Thereafter, a great battle took place between Lord Vishnu and the sons of Sukesha. In the fight, Mali was beheaded by Lord Vishnu’s Sudarshana chakra, and after fleeing, the Rakshasas abandoned Lanka and entered the nether regions.
Agastya then said, “Malyavan, Sumali and Mali were more powerful than Ravana and the other Rakshasas that were killed by You. Still, being descendents of Pulastya, they were nonetheless very powerful. Rama, it can only be concluded that you are Lord Narayana Himself, for no one else could have killed these Rakshasas.”
Vaishravana then began to reside at Lanka. One day, as Sumali was wandering over the earth in search of a suitable husband for his daughter, he happened to see Vaishravana flying overhead in his Pushpaka chariot. Being very impressed by the celestial vehicle, Sumali returned to the lower regions and then made up his mind to give his daughter, Kaikashi, to Vishrava. Under Sumali’s instructions, Kaikashi approached Vishrava as he was engaged in performing a sacrifice.
As Kaikashi shyly stood before him with her head bent down, scratching the ground with her toes, Vishrava inquired, “My dear young girl, who are you? What is your purpose in coming here?”
Kaikashi replied, “I am the daughter of Sumali and my name is Kaikashi. Whatever else you may wish to know, I request you to find out by utilizing your spiritual prowess.”
Vishrava then went into a trance of meditation, and after reading Kaikashi’s mind, he said, “I can understand that you want to receive sons from me. I will grant your wish, but because you have approached me at an inauspicious time, your sons will become fierce Rakshasas.”
Kaikashi begged, “I do not want to have such sons from you. Therefore, please be merciful to me.”
Vishrava then granted, “As a concession, your youngest son will become famous as a very pious man.”
Thereafter, in due course of time, Kaikashi gave birth to a hideous child possessing ten heads and twenty arms, a huge mouth and long teeth. Because of his ten heads, the child was called Dasagriva.
Then, after some time, Kumbhakarna was born. This child had the largest body on earth. Then, an ugly daughter named Shurpanakha was born, and lastly, Vibhishana.
One day, Kuvera (Vaishravana) came to see his father, Vishrava, and when Kaikashi saw him, she urged her own son, Dasagriva, to become as powerful and glorious as his half-brother. After hearing these words, Dasagriva became very envious of Kuvera and decided to become greater than him in all respects.
With this in mind, Dasagriva went to Gokarna, along with his younger brothers. There, he executed unprecedented austerities, and as a result, Lord Brahma became very pleased with him. Dasagriva went without water for 10,000 years, and at the end of each 1000 years he offered one of his heads into the sacrificial fire. In fact, it was when Dasagriva was just about to offer his last head that Lord Brahma appeared there to reward him for his austerities.
When Lord Brahma urged him to accept a benediction, Dasagriva replied in a voice that was choked up due to excessive joy, “O lord, I have only one fear, and that is of death. Please grant me the boon of immortality.”
Lord Brahma said, “It is not possible for anyone within the material creation to have absolute immortality. Even I will have to die one day, and so I request you to ask for something else.”
Ravana then begged, “Grant me immunity from death at the hands of Nagas, Daityas, Danavas, Rakshasa and demigods. I do not require immunity from others like human beings and animals, for I consider them to be no more of a threat than the straw in the street.”
Lord Brahma granted all this, and also restored Dasagriva’s heads. Then he told Vibhishana, “You may also accept a benediction from me, according to your desire.”
Vibhishana replied, “My dear lord, since you are pleased with me, the goal of my life has already been achieved. My only wish is that my mind may always remain steadily fixed upon the path of virtue, even amidst the greatest difficulties.”
Lord Brahma replied, “Because you are by nature inclined to righteousness, even though born as a Rakshasa, I will grant you immortality on the level of the chief demigods.”
Next, when Lord Brahma was about to offer Kumbhakarna a benediction, the demigods who had accompanied him pleaded, with folded hands, “This Rakshasa is very evil-minded, and he has already devoured numerous Apsaras, rishis and others. His only business is to terrorize the entire universe. Since he has already created so much havoc without any benediction, after receiving your mercy he will surely devour the three worlds. O lord, we request you to somehow cast a spell of delusion over Kumbhakarna while using the pretext of granting him a benediction.”
After carefully considering the demigods’ request, Lord Brahma mentally summoned his consort, the goddess Sarasvati, and so she immediately came and stood by his side. Goddess Sarasvati inquired, “O lord, what service can I render?” Lord Brahma requested, “I want you to become the speech within Kumbhakarna’s mouth.”
Thus it came to be that when Lord Brahma asked Kumbhakarna to accept a benediction, the gigantic Rakshasa replied, “If you wish to fulfill my desire, then allow me to sleep for many, many years.”
Lord Brahma assented, saying, “So be it!” Then, just as Lord Brahma was about to depart, Kumbhakarna came to his senses and wondered, “How did these disastrous words come from my mouth? I must have been bewildered by the demigods!”
When Sumali learned that his three grandsons had received benedictions from Lord Brahma, he gave up all fear of Lord Vishnu and came to meet Dasagriva. Sumali explained how Lanka originally belonged to the Rakshasas, and asked Dasagriva to take it back from Kuvera.
At first, Dasagriva refused, saying, “My dear maternal grandfather, you should not speak like this, for Kuvera is my elder half-brother.”
Sumali remained silent, but later on Prahasta approached Dasagriva and said, “You should know that for great heroes there is no question of letting feelings of brotherly relationship get in the way of one’s self-interest. Just consider the rivalry of the sisters, Diti and Aditi, the wives of Kashyapa. O foremost of Rakshasas, you will not be the first one to fight against his brother for sovereignty.”
Actually, Dasagriva was very pleased with the idea of conquering Lanka. Going to Trikuta, he first of all sent Prahasta as an envoy to politely ask Kuvera for the return of Lanka to the Rakshasas. Vaishravana replied, “This place has been given to me by my father, and so I am unwilling to give it up. But, if Dasagriva likes, he can come here and share Lanka so that we can live without enmity.”
After Prahasta’s departure, Vaishravana went to his father and told him about Dasagriva’s intentions.
Vishrava then said, “Dasagriva has already come here, asking me to give him Lanka. But, I rebuked him harshly for his greediness. Due to the benedictions of Lord Brahma, Dasagriva has become too proud, so that he can no longer distinguish between persons whom he should respect and those whom he need not. And now, because of my displeasure, he has become even more wicked-minded. I recommend that you leave Lanka and go live at Kailash, so that you can avoid antagonizing your arrogant half-brother.”
Kuvera vacated Lanka, and when Prahasta informed him of this, Dasagriva went there, along with the Rakshasas. Once, while roaming in the forest, Dasagriva met Maya Danava, who then gave his daughter, Mandodari, to him in marriage. At that time, Maya Danava also gave Dasagriva the spear that had severely wounded Lakshman. After some time, Mandodari gave birth to Meghanada, who later on became known as Indrajit.
Dasagriva continued to torment the demigods and rishis, and so, out of family affection, Kuvera sent a messenger to his half-brother, warning him that he had better mend his ways. This only enraged Dasagriva, though, and soon thereafter, he came to attack Kuvera. After an intense encounter, Dasagriva severely wounded his half-brother and then took possession of the Pushpaka chariot.
While proceeding to the birthplace of Kartikeya, a clump of golden reeds in the Himalayas, Dasagriva was surprised to find that the Pushpaka chariot stopped ascending the mountain and would not go any further. Nandishvara then appeared at that spot. This confidential servant of Lord Shiva was dwarfish in size, misshapen in appearance, bald, and very fearful to look at. He ordered Dasagriva, “Turn back at once, for Lord Shankara is sporting on this mountain.”
Hearing this, Dasagriva became enraged. Getting down from his chariot, he demanded, “Who is this Shankara?” Then, as he looked up, Dasagriva saw Nandi with the face of a monkey, standing near Lord Shiva and holding a flaming spear in his hand. Upon seeing the bull-carrier of Lord Shiva in this feature, Dasagriva laughed loudly with great disdain.
In response, Nandi angrily cursed Dasagriva, saying, “In the future, powerful monkeys will annihilate your entire race! Of course, I could kill you at once, if I so desired, but I will let you be destroyed by your misdeeds instead.”
Dasagriva did not care for Nandi’s words, and so he replied, “Because you have rudely stopped my chariot, I will retaliate by killing your master, Lord Shankara!”
After saying this, Dasagriva put his hands underneath the mountain and started to lift it. As the mountain began to shake, Parvati stumbled, making her cling tightly to her lord. Mahadeva then sportingly pressed down the mountain with his big toe, and as a result, Dasagriva’s arms were crushed.
As Dasagriva continued to cry out in great pain, the entire three worlds trembled so that even King Indra stumbled while walking on the road. Upon seeing their master’s plight, Dasagriva’s ministers advised him to take shelter of Lord Shiva, who is also known as Ashutosh, because he is easily pleased. Having no other alternative, Dasagriva bowed his head and began to glorify Lord Mahadeva by reciting mantras from the Samaveda.
One thousand years passed in this way, and then Lord Shiva became pleased to release the pressure of his toe so that Dasagriva could remove his arms. Because of the fierce cries that Dasagriva uttered as his arms were being crushed, Lord Shiva gave him the name Ravana. Or, from another point of view, Dasagriva became known as Ravana because his loud crying had caused even the demigods to cry out in fear.
Thereafter, Ravana’s only business was to challenge heroic kshatriyas. The prudent kings surrendered to Ravana, and the rest were easily defeated. One day, as Ravana traveled through a forest near the Himalayas, he saw a beautiful young girl with matted hair and dress of deerskin. Being attracted, Ravana laughed aloud and exclaimed, “The practice of austerities in the forest is contradictory to your youthful beauty. My dear young girl, who are you? Why are you living a life of penance here in the forest?”
The girl replied, “I am the daughter of the brahmarshi, Kushadvaja, and my name is Vedavati. Many qualified men and even demigods have asked for my hand in marriage, but my father has turned them all down. He feels that only Lord Vishnu would make a suitable son-in-law. When he heard about this, Shambhu, the King of the Daityas, came and killed my father in his sleep. My mother entered the fire when my father was cremated.”
“Ever since that time, I have installed Lord Narayana within my heart and have been performing severe austerities in the hopes of attaining Him as my husband. Ravana, by dint of my mystic prowess, I know everything about you. Now, please depart without further ado.”
Getting down from his chariot, Ravana said, “My dear lovely girl, I request you to become my wife. After all, in comparison to me, who is Lord Vishnu?”
Vedavati indignantly replied, “Who, other than you, would dare to speak disrespectfully about Lord Narayana?”
But, even as she was speaking, Ravana suddenly grabbed Vedavati by the hair. Inflamed with anger, she immediately transformed one of her arms into a sword and cut off her hair, thus setting herself free.
Then, while lighting a fire, Vedavati said, “After having been touched by you, I no longer desire to live. I am not going to curse you, for that would decrease my accumulated ascetic merit. Instead, I will take another birth in a divine manner, just to bring about your destruction.”
As Vedavati entered the fire, flowers showered down upon her from heaven. After giving up her body, Vedavati next appeared from a lotus flower. Ravana quickly went and caught hold of her, and after forcing her to get onto the Pushpaka chariot, he returned to Lanka. When Ravana showed the girl to his ministers, they warned him not to keep her, as she would become the instrument for his destruction. Taking heed of this advice, Ravana threw Vedavati into the sea.
Thereafter, upon reaching the shore, she came to the sacrificial ground of Maharaja Janaka by utilizing her mystic power. Then, when the King was leveling the ground with a plough, the girl appeared from a furrow as a baby. Thus it so came to be that the Vedavati who appeared in Satya-yuga became Janaki in the Treta-yuga.
Once, as Ravana wandered about, he came to Ayodhya and challenged King Anaranya. After a fierce battle, Ravana fatally wounded his adversary. Then, as the King lay dying on the battlefield, he cursed Ravana by saying, “In the future, one of the descendents in my dynasty, named Rama, will kill you!.” While this oath was being pronounced, flowers rained from heaven, and the demigods could be heard beating their drums.
Thereafter, Ravana went to fight with Yamaraja. He would have certainly been vanquished, but Lord Brahma came and dissuaded Yama from using his Kala-danda. Ravana defeated the sons of Varuna, and while returning to Lanka he kidnapped the virgin daughters of many kings, rishis, demigods and asuras. If Ravana saw any girl whom he found attractive, he would first kill all her relatives and then forcibly take her on his chariot. In this way, Ravana’s chariot became filled with hundreds of girls, all of whom cried piteously out of fear and grief.
Being greatly saddened because of their plight, the kidnapped girls cursed Ravana by saying, “May the destruction of this wicked Rakshasa one day come about because of a woman!”
As soon as the girls said this, flowers fell from heaven. After being cursed by these virtuous women, Ravana immediately began to lose his bodily luster. During one of his conquests, Ravana had unwittingly killed the husband of his sister, Shurpanakha. After his return to Lanka, she came there. Falling down at Ravana’s feet, she wailed, “How cruel and heartless you are to your own sister! By killing my husband you have made me a widow!”
To pacify Shurpanakha, Ravana replied, “Do not be aggrieved, for I shall gratify all your desires. Please forgive me. In the heat of battle I could not distinguish between friend and enemy, and so I accidentally killed your husband.”
Ravana sent Shurpanakha to live under the protection of her cousin, Khara, in the Dandaka forest. After that, Ravana set out to conquer the demigods. He reached Kailash as the sun was setting and so he set up camp there. As he sat at leisure on top of the hill, Ravana surveyed the beautiful forests and lakes that served as the sporting grounds of the demigods. He could hear the singing of the Apsaras coming from Kuvera’s palace, and the heavenly atmosphere was exceedingly pleasing, being enhanced by gentle, fragrant breezes.
At that time, the Apsara Rambha happened to pass nearby. When Ravana saw her beautiful bodily features, which were enhanced by her attractive dress and tinkling ornaments, he became so eager to enjoy her that he jumped up from his seat and grabbed her by the hand.
Being pierced by Cupid’s arrows, Ravana said, “O exquisitely beautiful one, your sweetly smiling face, your full and well-rounded breasts, and your shapely hips and thighs have combined to steal away my mind. Now that I have seen you, I cannot bear to let you go. Who is there superior to me that you are on your way to meet? Accept me as your husband and remain with me, for it would be a waste of your incomparable beauty to have it enjoyed by anyone else.”
Rambha angrily replied, “You should not speak to me like this, for you are just like my father, and I, your daughter-in-law.”
Ravana argued, “Only the wife of one’s son can be considered a daughter-in-law.”
Rambha then said, “Yes, this is correct. But you should know that I am the lawful wife of your brother’s son, Nalakuvara, and I am on my way to meet him right now. Therefore, King of the Rakshasas, please follow the path of righteousness and let me go.”
Being uninterested in good advice, Ravana replied, “Your argument only applies to women with one husband. Since the Apsaras have no actual husbands, I do not have to consider you in the light of such morality.”
After saying this, Ravana forcibly pulled Rambha down onto a flat rock and raped her. Finally, after she was released, her hair and dress all disheveled, Rambha ran to her husband, Nalakuvara, and told him what had happened. Nalakuvara became outraged to hear about Ravana’s misconduct, but to verify Rambha’s story, he went into a trance of meditation. Then, after ascertaining the truth, Nalakuvara touched water and pronounced the following curse: “Ravana’s head will split into seven parts if he ever again tries to forcibly enjoy a woman against her will!”
The demigods were overjoyed to hear this declaration, and so they showered flowers upon Kuvera’s son. When Ravana learned of the curse, he gave up all inclination to have sexual relations with women who did not feel inclined to have him.
The next morning, Ravana mobilized his forces and attacked the abode of Indra. After sending the demigods to fight, Indra approached Lord Vishnu and said, “Due to the benedictions of Lord Brahma, I feel hopeless in combating Ravana. My dear Lord, please empower me with sufficient energy to kill Ravana or else please take up the matter Yourself.”
Lord Vishnu replied, “There is no need for you to be afraid. Go and fight with Ravana, even though it is not possible for you to kill him. I do not wish to slay him just now, but when the time is ripe, I will not only kill Ravana but all his relatives as well.”
In the battle that followed, Meghanada fought with Indra’s son, Jayanta. They appeared to be equally matched, but then Ravana’s son resorted to the use of Rakshasa illusion, making Jayanta feel ill at ease. In the darkness, the fighting became exceedingly gruesome and confused, and so Puloma, the father of Indra’s wife, Sachi, came and forcibly grabbed his grandson by the hair and dragged him away from the battlefield.
Seeing this, the demigods panicked, and so Indra joined the fray. In response, Ravana came to fight with the King of heaven. At this time, Meghanada invisibly entered the ranks of the demigods and came before Indra. By releasing showers of arrow, Meghanada finally exhausted his adversary. Then, he bound up Indra by dint of the mystic power that he had acquired by the benedictions of Lord Brahma. The demigods became disheartened, and Ravana ordered his son to take the captive Indra to Lanka.
Lord Brahma then took the demigods with him and went to Lanka. While remaining stationed in the sky, Lord Brahma said to Ravana, “Because the prowess and valor exhibited by your son was very wonderful, let him be known as Indrajit from this day onward. Now, I request you to release the King of heaven, and in exchange I will reward your son with an incomparable benediction.”
Upon hearing this, Indrajit exclaimed, “I will give Indra his freedom in exchange for the boon of immortality.”
Lord Brahma replied, “It is not possible for any of the created beings to have unconditional immortality. My dear prince, please ask for something else.”
Indrajit then said, “Then, here is my request. At the time of battle, if I offer oblations into the sacrificial fire, let a chariot emerge from the flames. For as long as I am seated on that chariot, let me be immune to death. In other words, only if I engage in battle without having finished my chanting of mantras and offering of oblations will I be subject to destruction. Some people seek immortality through the performance of austerities, but I have done so simply by exhibiting my prowess!”
Lord Brahma granted Indrajit’s request, and so the King of heaven was released. Rama then inquired, “O best of rishis, was there ever a kshatriya who was able to defeat Ravana?”
Agastya Rishi then narrated how the Haihaya king, Kartaviryarjuna, had captured Ravana and tied him up, after a fierce duel. When Pulastya Muni went to Mahismati and asked for his grandson’s release, Kartaviryarjuna immediately consented.
Some time later on, Ravana came to Kishkindha and wished to fight with Vali. When informed that Vali was not present, having gone to the shore of the Southern Ocean, Ravana went there. The Rakshasa King saw Vali engaged in silent meditation, being absorbed in saying his prayers. Desiring to capture the monkey, Ravana began to tiptoe silently toward him from behind. But, Vali could see Ravana out of the corner of his eye.
While remaining undisturbed, Vali thought, “I will capture this Rakshasa when he comes near and keep him under my armpit. Then, while leaving him dangling there, I will complete my worship by visiting the other three oceans.”
Although Ravana approached from behind, Vali could hear his footsteps. When the Rakshasa King came close, Vali suddenly whirled around and caught him. Then, after pressing Ravana tightly in his armpit, Vali sprang into the air toward his next destination. Finally, upon returning to Kishkindha, Vali felt exhausted from carrying Ravana such a great distance and so he put him down in a garden. While laughing disdainfully, Vali asked the dazed Rakshasa King to identify himself.
With genuine admiration Ravana introduced himself and said, “The astonishing speed with which you travel through the air is only matched by three others- the mind, Vayu and Garuda. O King of the monkeys, you are a truly exceptional hero, and so it is my strong desire to establish friendly relations with you.”
A sacred fire was lit, and when their friendship was thus formally established, Vali and Ravana embraced one another warmly. Ravana continued to reside at Kishkindha for one month as the honored guest of the monkey chief.
Rama then said, “Great rishi, Ravana and Vali were certainly very powerful heroes. But, I feel that Hanuman’s prowess excels theirs. During My conquest of Lanka it was he alone that enabled Me to come out victorious and recover Sita. I shall never be able to express how indebted I am to Hanuman, the best of all My unalloyed servants.”
“O great sage, there is a doubt in My mind that I would like for you to dispel. When there was enmity between Vali and Sugriva, why didn’t Hanuman vanquish Vali? I think that Hanuman could not have been aware of his actual prowess. Otherwise, how could he have stood by idly and watched Sugriva suffer? Foremost of rishis, you know all mysterious truths. Please narrate to Me the wonderful pastimes of Hanuman so that My doubt can be removed.”
Hanuman was among those who were listening to this conversation, and he experienced great transcendental happiness upon hearing Rama’s words. Agastya Muni replied, “It is a fact that there is no one who can equal Hanuman in terms of strength, speed or intelligence. However, it so happened that he forgot his actual prowess, and how this came about will be understood from the story of his life.”
Vayu, the god of air, through Anjana, the wife of Kesari, a monkey chief who formerly resided on Mount Meru, begot Hanuman. After delivering the child, Anjana went to gather fruit for him. But, in his mother’s absence, the baby began to cry, and at that time the sun rose over the horizon. When the baby monkey saw the luminous orange globe, he thought that it was some kind of fruit, and so he sprang into the air to catch it.
When the demigods saw the son of Vayu flying swiftly through the air, they were astonished and declared, “Even the mind or Garuda cannot move so fast! If this monkey can exhibit such prowess as a baby, then what will he be like when he grows up?”
Vayu followed his son to protect him from the scorching heat of the sun. When the baby monkey approached, Surya mercifully refrained from burning him in consideration of his childish innocence, as well as the future mission that he would execute on behalf of Lord Rama. Because of this, the son of Vayu was able to sit next to Surya on his chariot. But, just at that time, Rahu came to attack the sun. Instinctively, the baby monkey grabbed Rahu, but that worst of celestials managed to slip out of his grip.
Rahu then approached Indra and complained, “Although I have been allotted the sun and the moon as the means for appeasing my hunger, it appears that my share had been taken by someone else. Just now, when I approached the Sungod, I saw that he was being attacked by another Rahu.”
Indra was astonished to hear this, and so he mounted upon Airavata and started out for the sun. Rahu had gone on ahead, and when the son of Vayu saw him coming, he considered him to be a fruit and so sprang from Surya’s chariot to catch him. Rahu began to flee, crying out for Indra’s protection, and so, the King of heaven, who was approaching nearby, gave him assurances. Then, when the baby monkey spotted Airavata, he took the elephant to be an enormous white fruit and so swiftly rushed toward him. When Indra saw this, he released his thunderbolt, making the baby monkey fall down dead upon a mountain.
This enraged Vayu, who then took his son’s body and withdrew to a mountain cave. Because Vayu ceased to act as the air of respiration, all living beings began to suffocate, and their bowels and bladders became obstructed. With bloated bellies, the demigods hurriedly approached Lord Brahma and anxiously informed him of their plight.
Lord Brahma then said, “It is due to Vayu’s anger that you are now suffering. Just try to understand the importance of the Windgod. Although he possesses no perceivable gross body, he moves within the bodies of all created beings. In fact, without air, a material body is no better than a block of wood. I suggest that we all go and pacify Vayu, for the welfare of the world.”
Lord Brahma then led the demigods to where Vayu was staying. The Windgod was tormented by grief at the loss of his son and was still holding his body in his arms. After Vayu offered him obeisances, Lord Brahma affectionately placed his hand upon the baby monkey’s head, and as a result, he was immediately brought back to life. Vayu then resumed circulating within all creatures.
Lord Brahma said, “In the future, this child will act for your welfare, and so all of you should award him benedictions.”
Indra took off his garland of lotus flowers and put it around the baby monkey’s neck. The King of heaven said, “Because of his broken jaw, this child will henceforward be known as Hanuman. By my benediction, he no longer need fear my thunderbolt.”
The Sungod announced, “I hereby donate one percent of my brilliance to Hanuman. In addition, I grant him full knowledge of shastra, along with an eloquent speaking ability.”
Yamaraja then said, “I will grant Hanuman immunity to my kala-danda, and freedom from disease.”
Kuvera declared, “Let Hanuman be immune to my mace, and may he never become tired in battle.”
Lord Shiva said, “I give Hanuman the boon that he will never be killed by me, nor by any of my weapons.”
Vishvakarma announced, “I award Hanuman the benediction that he cannot be killed by any weapon that I have made.”
Lastly, Lord Brahma said, “I grant Hanuman a long life, magnanimity, immunity to the brahmastra, and immunity to the curses of brahmanas.”
Lord Brahma then turned to Vayu and said, “This child will be able to change his form at will, and he will be unconquerable. He will be able to travel wherever he likes and at whatever speed he chooses. In the future, he will perform glorious activities that will aid in the destruction of Ravana, and by doing so he will become very pleasing to Lord Rama.”
After the departure of the demigods, Vayu placed Hanuman under the care of his mother, Anjana. Because of receiving so many benedictions, Hanuman was bursting with energy, and so he began to act fearlessly, even to the extent of offending prominent rishis by interrupting their sacrifices and breaking their paraphernalia. When Hanuman indulged in these pranks, the rishis tolerated him, for they knew that he was immune to death from their curses. Hanuman’s foster-father, Kesari, and his real father, Vayu, tried their best to discipline him. Still, Hanuman continued to transgress the bounds of propriety.
Finally, the rishis became a little angry and cursed him by saying, “For now, you will remain ignorant of your real prowess. Later on, when it is recalled to your memory at the proper time, you will once again become cognizant of your full power.”
Thereafter, being forgetful of his prowess, Hanuman wandered through the forests in a peaceful mood. At this time, Riksharaja, the king of the monkeys, succumbed to death due to old age, and so his eldest son Vali became the next ruler, while Sugriva was installed as his successor.
From childhood, Hanuman and Sugriva were best friends. Then, when hostility broke out between Vali and Sugriva, Hanuman was not aware of his real prowess and so he did not attempt to help his friend.
Another result of his forgetfulness was that Hanuman gradually became more interested in the cultivation of knowledge than the exhibition of brute force. In order to learn all departments of Vedic knowledge, he used to follow the Sungod the full distance from where he rises to where he sets. By asking innumerable questions, Hanuman became as learned in the Vedas as Brihaspati.
Agastya Rishi thus described the glories of Hanuman, and while listening, Rama, Lakshman and all the monkeys and Rakshasas felt highly astonished. Thereafter, when the assembled rishis came to take their leave, Rama said, “Now that I have been installed as the Emperor, I wish to perform many sacrifices for the welfare of the world. It is My request that all of you return at that time, for I want to perform these sacrifices under your supervision.”
After happily giving their consent, the rishis departed. Since it had already become dark, Rama dismissed all those who had assembled and retired for the night. The next morning, after being awakened by professional singers who recited His glories, Rama first of all bathed and then sat down to perform Agnihotra sacrifices. After that, Rama visited the palace temple, and from there, He went to the royal court. While seated upon His throne, surrounded by His ministers, servants and twenty of the monkey chiefs, Rama administered the state government in an exemplary manner.
Maharaja Janaka was one of the many kings who had come to Ayodhya to attend Rama’s coronation. After some days, Rama approached him and said, “My dear father-in-law, you should take your leave now and return to Vidarbha so that it does not become neglected. Bharata and Shatrughna will escort you, along with a large army.”
Maharaja Janaka consented, and at that time Rama honored him by giving him many valuable presents. In turn, whatever the King received, he gave to his beloved daughter, Sita. Rama then addressed His maternal uncle, the Kekaya king, Yudhajit: “Your father is very old, so you should return home now. Lakshman will accompany you, along with an army.”
Yudhajit gave his consent, and next, Rama bid farewell to His friend, the King of Kashi. Altogether, Rama said good bye to three hundred kings and princes who had come to Ayodhya to celebrate His coronation. After returning home, all these kings sent their escorts back with many valuable gifts for Rama. When he received all these presents, Rama immediately gave them to Sugriva, Vibhishana and the other monkeys and Rakshasas.
One day, Rama took Hanuman and Angada upon His lap and told Sugriva, “These two great heroes deserve every possible honor.”
After saying this, Rama took off the ornaments that were decorating His body and put them on Hanuman and Angada.
Rama then said to all the monkey heroes that were present there, “You are all not only My very dear friends, but you are just like My own brothers.”
While saying this, Rama embraced all the monkeys and gave them presents. The monkeys remained at Ayodhya for more than a month, and they happily passed their time feasting and relishing the association of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Ramachandra. Due to their great love for the Lord, the time passed so quickly that it seemed to the monkeys to be no more than an hour.
At the time when Rama requested Sugriva to return to Kishkindhya and Vibhishana to Lanka, Hanuman came before Him and offered the following prayer: “O my Lord, may my devotion for You always remain steady, and may my love for You never become diverted toward anyone else. In addition, may my life continue for as long as the narration of Your transcendental pastimes is recited upon this earth. Truthfully, only by hearing the recitation of Ramayana will I be able to mitigate the unbearable pangs of separation from You.”
Rama got down from His throne, and while embracing Hanuman, He declared, “Your life will continue for as long as the Ramayana is recited, and the Ramayana will be recited for as long as the earth continues to exist. My dear Hanuman, I shall never be able to repay you for the service that you have rendered. I will remain eternally indebted.”
After saying this, Rama took off the necklace of pearls and vaidurya stones that decorated His chest and placed it around Hanuman’s neck. All the monkeys then got up and, one by one, bowed down at Lord Rama’s lotus feet. Then, when Rama embraced Sugriva and Vibhishana, the eyes of all the monkeys filled up with tears, and because their minds became bewildered due to ecstatic feelings of impending separation, they could not speak distinctly. Finally, the monkeys departed, and although Rama also felt great pangs of separation from His friends, He was happy that they would once again be united with their family members.
Later that afternoon, Rama heard a voice from the sky, and when He looked up, He saw that it was the Pushpaka chariot addressing Him. The chariot informed Rama, “I returned to Kuvera as You had ordered. But, the lord of wealth told me, ‘Because Rama has conquered Ravana, you now rightly belong to Him.’ I have been sent by Kuvera to render service to You. Please accept me without hesitation.”
Rama worshiped the Pushpaka chariot with offerings of flowers, incense and sandalwood paste, and then said, “If I am ever in need of your service, you can appear to Me when called for. In the meantime, you are free to go wherever you please.”
Being so directed, the Pushpaka chariot departed in order to wander at its own discretion. Sometime after this incident, Bharata came to Rama and began to glorify His rule of the kingdom as follows: “Although just a little more than a month has passed since Your coronation, there is already a complete absence of disease, untimely death, and labor pains for women. The clouds are showering rain at the proper time, and all the people are in a joyous state of mind.”
Rama felt very pleased while listening to Bharata’s nectarine words. He was very satisfied to hear this confirmation of the fact that all living entities can attain the highest fulfillment of life in a God-conscious kingdom. The winter passed, and with the arrival of spring, Rama spent much of His time along with Sita in the lovely palace gardens. During the day, Rama would dutifully carry out the state administration.
Then, in the evenings, He would sit with Sita in the shade of a large Ashoka tree. Surrounding them, the Apsaras sang and danced amongst the flowering campaka, bakula and sandalwood trees. Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and Sita, the goddess of fortune, passed each day enjoying newer and newer delights, for their pleasure in each other’s association went on expanding unlimitedly.
One day, understanding Sita to be pregnant, Rama expressed His great happiness by saying, “O lovely princess, is there any desire within your heart that you feel has not yet been fulfilled? Please inform Me if there is, and I will gratify your wish without fail.”
Sita smilingly replied, “O Lord, in Your association, all my desires have been abundantly fulfilled. But, since You are asking, I must admit that I have a strong desire to visit the ashrams of the rishis that are situated along the banks of the Ganga. I would like to go and offer my obeisances to all the great sages who are living there.”
Rama replied, “My dear Sita, rest assured that you will very soon have the opportunity to visit the rishis in the forest.”
Later in the day, Rama entered the royal assembly and began to pass His time by joking and light conversation with His advisors. Then, turning to Bhadra, Rama asked, “What do the citizens talk about these days? What do they say about Sita, Bharata, Lakshman and Shatrughna? How do they feel about our mother, Kaikeyi, and what do they think of Me? After all, kings are always the subject of people’s criticism.”
With folded hands, Bhadra replied, “My Lord, everyone praises Your victory over the ten-headed Ravana. They consider You to be the greatest of all heroes.”
Still, Rama urged, “I want you to tell Me truthfully all that is being said. Only by knowing things as they are can one cut down his faults and weaknesses and thus endeavor for self-improvement. Bhadra, there is no need for you to be afraid. I have already understood that envious people are spreading rumors about Me throughout Ayodhya. I have personally heard some people criticize Me for foolishly taking back a woman who had remained for so long in the house of another.”
After hearing this, Bhadra first of all bowed down to Rama. Then he replied, “Whether good or bad, I do not know, but this is what people are saying in the market places and city streets: ‘Rama has performed an extraordinary feat by bridging the ocean and vanquishing the powerful Ravana. Still, has it never occurred to Him that He has brought home a woman that was abducted by the Rakshasa King and forced to sit on his lap? Does Rama not feel disgust while enjoying a woman who remained with Ravana for almost one full year? Whatever a king does, the subjects must follow, and so now we have to tolerate unfaithfulness from our wives.’ O Lord, it is these and other similar words that the people of Ayodhya speak about You.”
Rama felt shocked and dismayed upon hearing this. He asked the other ministers if what Bhadra had spoken was true, and they all confirmed that it was so. Actually, Rama knew perfectly well of Sita’s complete purity and innocence. Nevertheless, He could not tolerate the shame of having to hear how people were mocking Him in this way. Because of this, Rama made up His mind to abandon His unsuspecting wife. He then called for Lakshman.
Rama said, “Lakshman, what I have to say is very painful, but please listen to Me with great care and attention. I have just learned that many of the citizens are criticizing Me for bringing Sita back from Lanka. Just see how distressed I have become! I have appeared in the royal dynasty of Ikshvaku, and so I would rather die than have any stain of dishonor become attached to My name. After killing Ravana, I had also considered, ‘How can I take Sita back to Ayodhya?’ It was to allay these fears that I made the princess of Vidarbha enter the fire in the presence of all the demigods and great rishis. At that time, Vayu and Agni had declared that Sita was pure, and within My own heart I knew that she was chaste. So, I happily accepted Sita, but now rumors are being spread everywhere, and I am being blamed in My own kingdom.”
“O Lakshman, as long as one’s misbehavior is the subject of rumors, he has to suffer great humiliation and defamation. Improper activities are always condemned, and that is what motivates the noble-minded toward good acts. I am ready to give up My life, if necessary, in order to avoid public scandal. In fact, I am ready to renounce even you, My dear brother, if it is required for insuring My good name and reputation. So, what to speak of Sita! I feel as if I am drowning in an ocean of sorrow! Never before have I experienced such misfortune!”
“Lakshman, tomorrow at dawn I want you to take Sita to the banks of the Ganga and give her a tour of all the ashrams of the great rishis. Then, when you come to Valmiki’s ashram, which is on the banks of the River Tamasa, I want you to abandon her and come back to Ayodhya alone.”
“My dear brother, you must carry out My order without any argument, for even the slightest hesitation on Your part will make Me very displeased with You. In fact, let it be known that anyone who objects to My decision will immediately become My worst enemy! Just a little while ago, Sita told Me that she wants very much to visit all the ashrams along the banks of the Ganga. Now, go and fulfill her desire.”
Lakshman became brokenhearted while hearing Rama speak, but since he was the very obedient servant of his elder brother, he gave his consent without hesitation. Early the next morning, Lakshman went to Sita and said, “Your husband has ordered Me to fulfill your desire. I will escort you to the banks of the Ganga so that you can worship the great rishis who are residing there. Sumantra is ready with the chariot, and so I request you to come at once.”
Sita was delighted. After putting on her finest dress and most exquisite jewelry, she told Lakshman, “I will distribute these, along with other gifts, to the wives of the great sages.”
Lakshman helped Sita onto the chariot, and they quickly departed. But, as they proceeded, Sita anxiously said, “Lakshman, my right eye has begun to twitch and my mind feels strangely uneasy. I suddenly feel very weak, and the world seems to look so gloomy. I hope that Rama is alright.”
Sita offered prayers to the demigods for the welfare of her husband and other relatives. Lakshman then replied in a voice that was choked up because of his tears, “I hope that you do not meet with any misfortune.”
By evening, Sita, Lakshman and Sumantra came to the River Gomati, and so they spent the night there. Early the next morning they continued their journey, and by afternoon they came to the Ganga. But, after dismounting, Lakshman broke down and cried, for He could no longer contain His grief.
With great concern, Sita inquired, “Lakshman, what’s wrong? Now that we have reached our destination You should be happy! Your sadness makes me feel very uneasy. Has just two days separation from Rama brought You such anguish? I love Rama very dearly, but still I am not disturbed like You! Lakshman, please compose Yourself. We have to cross the Ganga so that we can meet the great rishis. After that, we can quickly return to Ayodhya, for I also miss Rama very much.”
After wiping the tears from his eyes, Lakshman arranged for a boat and then escorted Sita across the Ganga. When they reached the other side, Lakshmana tearfully confessed, “O princess of Vidarbha, the all-good Lord Rama has entrusted Me with a very painful task, and by performing this duty I will become infamous in the eyes of the world. It would have been better if I had died rather than execute your husband’s order! Noble lady, please forgive Me for what I am being forced to do.”
After saying this, Lakshman fell to the ground and began to weep very bitterly. With great agitation, Sita asked, “Lakshman! What is the matter? I cannot understand what You are saying. Please tell me clearly what is troubling You. Is there some great misfortune that has befallen Rama and You do not have the courage to tell me?”
Lakshman stood up, and with His head bowed low, He replied in a faltering voice, “While sitting in the royal court, Rama learned that vicious rumors had been circulating throughout Ayodhya, accusing Him of acting with impropriety. Everywhere, people blame Rama for having accepted you back and this stain on His reputation pains Him unbearably. Sita, I know that you are faultless, and so does Rama. Please do not misunderstand your husband. He is being forced to relinquish you in order to maintain the good name of the Ikshvaku dynasty.”
“O Princess, do not be heart-broken, for the abodes of the brahmarshis that are situated here on the banks of the Ganga are celestially beautiful. You should take shelter of the great sage Valmiki, for he was a good friend of your father-in-law, Maharaja Dasharatha. Always think of Rama within your heart, and remain unflinchingly devoted to Him. In this way, you will attain the highest happiness. Of this there is no doubt.”
Upon hearing of her cruel fate, Sita immediately fainted onto the ground. When she came to her senses, Sita piteously cried out, “Now I can see that this life has been awarded to me simply for suffering! What great sin did I commit in the past? What poor girl’s marriage did I obstruct, so that now Rama is casting off His innocent wife? I faithfully followed my husband into exile and remained content despite all kinds of hardships. Lakshman, how will I be able to survive here alone? What will I tell the rishis when they ask me why I was abandoned by my husband? What wrong have I done? I would gladly end my life at once by throwing myself in the Ganga, but that would bring about the end of Rama’s dynasty.”
Finally, after becoming somewhat composed, Sita told Lakshman, “I know that You are simply carrying out Your duty, and so I do not blame You. Go back to Ayodhya and offer my respects to my mothers-in-law. Touch the feet of my husband and deliver this message to Him: ‘O Rama, You know that my devotion has always been fixed upon You without deviation. You know of my chastity and unfailing love, and yet, out of fear of dishonor and shame, You have rejected me. O Rama, my Lord and only refuge, You should not do this!’ ”
“ ‘My dear husband, I do not grieve so much for myself, for I know that I am faultless. And, for a chaste woman, the husband is as good as God. Therefore, I must accept whatever You order as being for my welfare, even if it means giving up my life.’ ”
Lakshman circumambulated Sita and got onto the boat. After reaching the other side, He mounted upon the waiting chariot. Then, as Lakshman set out for Ayodhya, He turned His head, just to have one last glimpse of Sita. Sita also sorrowfully gazed at Lakshman as He receded into the distance. Then, being all alone and unprotected, Sita gave full vent to her grief by falling onto the ground and sobbing uncontrollably.
Lakshman then said, “Sumantra, what terrible pain Rama will have to suffer now that He has abandoned His dear wife. It seems as if that great destroyer of Rakshasas is Himself under the control of cruel Destiny! I am sure that the sorrow that Rama will feel now will far exceed that which He experienced while living in exile by the order of His father.”
Sumantra was able to pacify Lakshman, and after spending the night on the banks of the river they resumed their journey early the next morning. Meanwhile, some of Valmiki’s disciples happened to see Sita weeping. They ran to their guru and said, “Come quickly! There is a woman who resembles the goddess of fortune, sitting alone in the forest and crying!”
By dint of his mystic power, Valmiki could understand everything. He rushed to the spot where the bereaved Sita sat and very humbly approached her. Valmiki mildly spoke as follows: “Devoted wife of Lord Rama and daughter of Maharaja Janaka, by the strength of my austerities, I know all that happens within the three worlds, and thus I can understand your plight as well. Please do not be afraid. Near my ashram some female ascetics reside, and they will care for you very devotedly, as if you were their daughter. Please come with me now. Consider this to be your new home.”
Valmiki took Sita and placed her under the care of the lady ascetics. Meanwhile, after arriving at Ayodhya, Lakshman entered the royal palace. There, He saw Rama sitting in a terribly distracted state of mind, shedding tears while absorbed in a state of deep contemplation. Upon seeing this, Lakshman’s eyes also filled up with tears.
After bowing down, Lakshman spoke as follows, in a voice that was laden with great sorrow: “My dear brother, in accordance with Your order, I abandoned Sita on the banks of the Ganga near Valmiki’s ashram. Rama, there is no use in giving way to such grief. After all, in this world, meeting and separation are concomitant factors. It is inevitable that one’s wife, son and one’s very life must one day be given up. Because of this, intelligent persons always pass through life’s journey with an attitude of detachment.”
“My dear brother, Your unlimited prowess controls the three worlds. Why then do You not suppress this despondency? Cast off this weakness! Otherwise, more rumors will circulate. What will people think?”
Rama became pacified by Lakshman’s words, and thus He gradually cast off His grief. Rama then said, “My dear Lakshman, for the last four days I have completely neglected My royal duties. Now, please summon the ministers, priests and people in general with whom there is business. The King who does not daily look after the state administration is certainly doomed to suffer in hell!”
After this, Rama and Lakshman engaged in pleasant conversation while Rama related the history of many former illustrious kings. Rama then hastened to the royal assembly, being eager to attend to the duties of state administration. He ordered Lakshman, “Go now to the palace gate and bring here all those who have come with their petitions.”
Lakshman soon returned, and said, “My Lord, it appears that there is no one in the kingdom of Koshala who is in need of anything.”
But, Rama insisted, “Go once more and look carefully. I do not want to be accused of even the slightest tinge of negligence. Nor do I want the least bit of irreligiosity to go undetected in My kingdom.”
This time, Lakshman noticed a dog sitting near the palace gate. Its head was bleeding, and while staring at Him with a fixed gaze, the dog whined mournfully. “What is the matter”, Lakshman asked. “Why have you come here. You can tell me everything without fear.”
The dog replied, “I wish to speak directly with Lord Rama, whose lotus feet award one fearlessness, and who is the shelter of the distressed.”
Lakshman said, “If you have something to say, then you are welcome to come in and speak to the King Himself.”
But, the dog replied, “I am a very low-born creature, and so I am unworthy of entering temples, the houses of brahmanas and royal palaces. The King is the embodiment of all religious principles, the representative of all the demigods, and the benefactor of all living beings. Without His permission, I cannot dare to come before Rama.”
When Lakshman went and reported the matter, Rama immediately commanded, “Whoever it may be, go and usher him in without delay.”
The dog then came very humbly before Rama and said, “O Lord, the King is the representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and thus he is the savior of all creatures. While others sleep peacefully, the King remains alert, always working for the welfare of everyone.”
“But, on the other hand, because everything depends upon him, when the King is negligent, his subjects very soon perish. The King is the upholder of religious principles, and thus he simultaneously curbs down the forces of evil. Those who follow religious principles experience happiness in this life as well as the next. For this reason, the King receives great merit for sustaining dharma.”
“O Rama, You are a model religious King. With my head placed at Your lotus feet, I seek Your mercy. Do not become angry at what I have to say.”
Rama reassured the dog by saying, “Go on! You can speak without fear!”
Being thus encouraged, the dog explained, “A mendicant brahmana named Sarvatha-siddha has injured my head, even though there was no fault on my part.”
Immediately, Rama had His men go and summon Sarvatha-siddha. Soon after, when the brahmana came before Him, Rama inquired, “Why have you struck this dog? What was his fault? Anger is one’s deadly enemy. It is like a sharp sword that slashes away all of one’s virtues. Anger nullifies one’s long-accumulated merit of austerity. Therefore, the wise rid themselves of anger by neglecting it in thought, speech and act. O brahmana, one’s true character cannot remain hidden, no matter how hard one tries to conceal it. Misdeeds will always betray those who have not conquered the forces of lust, anger and greed.”
The brahmana replied, “I was wandering about, begging for alms, when I came upon this dog, squatting in the middle of the road, blocking my path. I told him, ‘Make way!’ but he got up so slowly that I struck him on the head with my staff. I was famished, and so my anger became easily aroused. O King, I admit my guilt. You should punish me as You see fit, just to save me from falling down into a hellish condition of life.”
Rama turned to His ministers and asked, “What should the punishment be? Justice must be done, for nothing instills more confidence in the minds of the people than the administration of fair punishment to all wrong-doers.”
Bhrigu, Angiras, Vasishtha, Kashyapa, and others who know religious principles replied, “A brahmana is never to be punished. This is the unanimous opinion of those who are conversant with raja-dharma. Still, Rama, You are the ultimate judge, for You are the Lord of the entire universe. You are Lord Vishnu Himself and thus whatever is spoken by You is eternal religion.”
At this point, the dog interrupted, saying, “O King, you had asked, ‘What can I do for you?’ If You really wish to act in a way that would please me, kindly appoint this brahmana to the post of acharya of the Kalanjara monastery.”
Rama fulfilled the dog’s request and so the delighted brahmana, Sarvatha-siddha, became honored as a spiritual leader and was placed atop a magnificently decorated elephant. Being greatly upset, the ministers protested, “O King, this cannot be considered punishment! Instead of putting the brahmana to shame You have awarded him an exalted position!”
Rama replied, “You do not understand the intricate law of karma, but the dog does.”
Being prompted by Rama, the dog explained, “In my last life I was the head of the Kalanjara monastery. I duly worshiped the demigods and brahmanas, I performed my sacred duties very carefully, and I nicely maintained all the servants and maidservants. And yet, despite so much care and attention, I took my next birth as a dog, due to some unknown fault.”
“Now, just consider this brahmana, who cannot even control his anger. He is certainly unfit to be an acharya. For his audacity in accepting such a position, he will degrade seven generations of his family. How can a man who is not able to control his temper be put in charge of brahmanas, cows, and deity worship? Anyone who steals from the brahmanas, demigods, women or children is doomed, as is one who takes back a gift that was freely given. In fact, the very thought of stealing from the demigods and brahmanas will send a man to the lowest of hells!”
After saying this, the dog suddenly disappeared, while Rama and the others sat there, awestruck with wide-open eyes. Although previously born in a very high family, that living being had somehow been forced to accept the body of a dog. After leaving the royal court at Ayodhya, the dog went and gave up his life by abstaining from food and water, in the hopes of attaining a better next birth.
One day, some rishis, headed by Chyavana, came to see Rama. They informed him that the son of the Daitya Madhu, named Lavanasura, was now residing at Madhuvana and was oppressing the sages who were living there. Rama assured the rishis that He would dispose of Lavanasura and then Shatrughna begged for this assignment. Rama replied, “Shatrughna, let it be so! I will crown You at once as the King of Madhuvana.”
After dispatching his army, Shatrughna set out for Madhuvana, and on the third day, he reached Valmiki’s ashram. That night, as Shatrughna stayed with Valmiki, Sita gave birth to twin sons at midnight. After receiving this news from his disciples, Valmiki went and performed some rituals with kusha-grass, for the purpose of warding off ghosts and Rakshasas. Valmiki then had some elderly people rub the body of the first-born child with the tips of kusha-grass, and the younger twin with the lower end of kusha-grass. Thus, the elder boy became known as Kush, and the younger one, Lava (meaning “lower end”). Shatrughna was very happy to learn that twin sons had been born to Lord Rama and Sita.
The next morning, Shatrughna resumed His journey. After killing Lavanasura, Shatrughna continued to reside at Madhuvana and built a great city there. After twelve years, He decided to return to Ayodhya, and on the way, He came to Valmiki’s ashram. After being very warmly received by the rishi, Shatrughna sat down and listened as Lava and Kush recited Valmiki’s composition, Ramayana, to the accompaniment of musical instruments.
The poetic expressions were so enrapturing, and the descriptions of Lord Rama’s transcendental pastimes so vivid, that tears came to Shatrughna’s eyes. Even the soldiers became entranced while hearing these events of the past, for they appeared to be re-enacted right before their very eyes. One person exclaimed to another, “How wonderful this recitation is! It appears as if we are dreaming! My dear Shatrughna, please ask Valmiki who has composed this wonderful song.”
Shatrughna replied, “My dear soldiers, we should not question the rishi about this, because many wonderful occurrences take place at his ashram. We should not be so astonished or express our curiosity unnecessarily.”
That night, while resting, Shatrughna could think of nothing else than the sweet lyrics that He had heard describing the pastimes of His worshipful brother, Lord Rama. The next morning, Shatrughna departed after taking Valmiki’s leave, and soon thereafter, he arrived at Ayodhya. Upon entering the royal palace, Shatrughna saw Rama, appearing like a second Indra, surrounded by His ministers.
After bowing before His elder brother, Shatrughna said, “My dear Rama, I have carried out Your command and killed the wicked Lavanasura. Ever since that time, I have been residing at Madhupuri (modern day Mathura), and by Your mercy it has become an exceedingly prosperous city. My dear brother, I feel very sad because of being separated from You for the last twelve years. Therefore, I beg that You now give me permission to reside in Ayodhya without going anywhere else in the future.”
Rama warmly embraced Shatrughna and replied, “My dear brother, You should not speak like this. A heroic kshatriya must not express such sorrow or feel any inconvenience while living in a distant kingdom. It is the duty of a King to rule over his subjects according to religious principles, and so You will have to return to Madhupuri. Of course, you may visit Ayodhya from time to time and thus see Me. My dear Shatrughna, you are dearer to Me than life itself. Please stay here for seven days before setting out.”
One day, an elderly brahmana, coming from a village outside Ayodhya, arrived at Rama’s palace, carrying the body of his dead child in his arms. Delirious with grief, the brahmana wept continuously while crying out, “O my son! My dear child! What terrible crime did I commit in a previous life so that I deserve the death of my only son? He is just a child, not yet fourteen, and now his mother and I will have to die out of grief. What wrong did I do? I have never spoken a lie, nor done any injury to man or animal.”
“Never before in the kingdom of Rama has a son died before his parents. Therefore, the death of my son must be due to some fault of Rama Himself. It is a well-known fact that only when the King becomes negligent in performing his duties do such anomalies occur. Rama, You must return my innocent son to me or else my wife and I will give up our lives at Your doorstep. In this way, You will become guilty of killing brahmanas. O King, You claim to be a great ruler in the line of Ikshvaku. How will You be able to go on living happily when the great sins that You have perpetrated continue to haunt You?”
Upon hearing of the brahmana’s plight, Rama hurriedly summoned His advisors- Markandeya, Maudgalya, Kashyapa, Katyayana, Jabali, Gautama and Narada. Then, after seating the great rishis and offering them obeisances, Rama informed them of the elderly brahmana’s accusations.
Narada then siad, “O King, I shall disclose to You the reason for this child’s death. Then, You can act in whatever way You see fit. In the Krita-yuga, everyone was brahminically qualified, and by performing austerity, they achieved liberation from material bondage. In that golden age, wisdom was the rule, and there were no untimely deaths. Then, at the beginning of Treta-yuga, the four social divisions were created. The kshatriyas were almost as qualified as the brahmanas and so both of them were allowed to practice tapasya. In the Dvapara-yuga, irreligiosity will increase, and thus many irregularities will be introduced. As a concession, the vaishyas will also be allowed to perform austerities, but the shudras will be strictly forbidden from doing so. Thereafter, in Kali-yuga, even shudras will be allowed to perform austerities, for in that degraded age, there will be practically no qualified brahmanas, kshatriyas or vaishyas.”
“Rama, it is a serious offense for a shudra to practice austerities in this age, and it just so happens that there is one such person in Your kingdom. There is a shudra who is executing very severe penance, and he is the cause of this child’s death. O King, irreligiosity is the state’s worst enemy. Therefore, the ruler who fails to punish wrongdoers deserves to suffer in hell. You must find this culprit at once, so that religious principles may be upheld, and the brahmana’s son restored to life.”
Being pleased with this advice, Rama ordered Lakshman, “Go at once to the palace gate. Tell the brahmana to preserve the dead body of his child in a vat of oil after applying the necessary herbs.”
Rama mentally summoned the Pushpaka chariot, and after leaving Ayodhya in the care of Lakshman and Bharata, He departed to search for the offender. After searching in the West, North and East, Rama traveled in the South. There, near the Servile Mountain, beside a large lake, Rama spotted an ascetic hanging head downward, engaged in executing severe penance.
“What great austerity! What fixed determination!” Rama exclaimed. “Tell me, O formidable one, who are you? I am Rama, the son of Dasharatha, and you have aroused My curiosity. For what purpose are you undergoing so much trouble? Are you seeking the heavenly planets, or have you some other goal? Are you a brahmana, a heroic kshatriya, a vaishya or a shudra? Please tell the truth.”
From his head-downward position, the ascetic replied, “Illustrious King, I was born from the womb of a shudrani. And yet, despite this handicap, I am performing austerities in the hopes that in my next life I can attain the planets of the demigods. My name is Shambuka.”
Shambuka had hardly finished speaking when Rama suddenly unsheathed His sword and slashed off his head. From the sky came shouts of “Well done!” and “Excellent!” as flowers rained down on all sides. Being exceedingly pleased, the great demigods appeared before Rama and declared, “O Lord, You have done us a great favor! By performing this noble act, You have insured that this shudra will not go to heaven in violation of religious principles.”
With folded hands, Rama replied to Indra, “King of heaven, if you are truly pleased with Me, then bring the brahmana’s son back to life. It was due to My fault that the boy died, and so I promised his father that I would restore his life. O best of the demigods, please allow My words to hold true.”
Indra happily replied, “My dear Lord, You can rest assured that the child is already revived and reunited with his parents. He regained his life as soon as the shudra’s head fell to the ground.”
Later on, Rama desired to perform the Rajasuya sacrifice, but He was dissuaded from doing so by Bharata, who said, “My dear elder brother, all the kings of the earth look upon You just like a father. You should not do anything that will cause them suffering. All these kings are fully obedient to You and so You should not threaten them with destruction.”
Rama gladly accepted Bharata’s advice and then Lakshman proposed that He perform the Ashvamedha-yagya instead. Rama gave His consent.
Meanwhile, Valmiki called for Lava and Kush, and instructed them as follows: “I would like for you to go out now and continue reciting Ramayana throughout the land. Go to the homes of brahmanas, the ashrams of rishis, and the palaces of great kings. Sing Ramayana while wandering through the city streets and while travelling through the countryside.”
“First of all, I want you to go to Ayodhya. If Rama invites you to recite Ramayana before the assembled brahmanas, then do so. Do not accept any payment in return, but simply say, ‘What good is gold for those who simply subsist on fruit and roots?’
If Rama inquires, ‘Whose sons are you?’ then reply, ‘We are Valmiki’s disciples’. Sing the verses of Ramayana very sweetly, and make sure that nothing displeases the King, for He is considered to be like a father to all living beings.”
Lava and Kush replied, “We shall do as you say.” That night, they slept peacefully with Valmiki’s advice firmly fixed in their hearts. Thereafter, it so came to pass that Lava and Kush began to recite the epic Ramayana, accompanied by stringed instruments, at Ayodhya. The twins’ voices had a transcendental sweetness that made their recitations appear to be more melodious than the singing of the Gandharvas. The audience was enthralled by their artistry, and Rama also listened with great curiosity.
Turning to one another, people remarked, “Except for their matted hair and deerskin dress, these boys exactly resemble Lord Rama!”
When Lava and Kush suspended their recitation for some period, Rama ordered Lakshman, “Give these noble-minded boys 20,000 gold coins, costly garments and whatever else they may desire.”
But, when they were offered these gifts Lava and Kush refused them, saying, “What is the use of gold for ascetics who live on fruit and roots?”
Highly astonished, Rama inquired, “My dear boys, how many parts are there to this epic poem, and which learned rishi has composed it?”
The twins replied, “O King, the great sage Valmiki is our spiritual master, and he is the author of this great literature that narrates the entire history of Your life. The poem consists of six parts, and one additional part describes Your concluding pastimes. If You so desire, we will recite the entire Ramayana during the intervals of Your great sacrifice.”
Thereafter, Rama listened with unbounded pleasure as Lava and Kush recited Ramayana for many days. Then, at last, Rama positively concluded, “These must be the twin sons of Sita. There is no doubt about this!”
Rama’s heart melted due to great affection for His sons. Finally, after considering the matter very deeply, Rama called for messengers of impeccable etiquette and gave them the following order.
Rama said, “Go at once to Valmiki’s ashram and tell him this, ‘If Sita is actually blameless, if her character is faultlessly pure, let her come here with your permission, so that she can prove her innocence before all the assembled citizens.’ Then, hurry back with Sita and Valmiki’s replies. Let Sita come tomorrow at dawn to establish the truth of her chastity in My presence.”
When Sita heard Rama’s message, she could not accept the proposal, for she considered such a public trial to be a great humiliation. Then, finally, after coming to a firm decision in her mind, Sita dressed in reddish cloth and started out for Ayodhya, along with Valmiki. A large crowd had gathered from all corners of the Koshala kingdom. In fact, all the demigods, headed by Lord Brahma, as well as other celestials and great rishis, came to witness the trial of Sita’s purity.
Valmiki then arrived, followed by Sita, her head bent low and her hands joined in supplication. Tears filled her large eyes, and Lord Rama was firmly fixed within her heart.
While the assembled citizens restlessly murmured in anticipation, Valmiki approached Lord Rama and said, “O son of Dasharatha, here is the impeccably righteous Sita, whom You abandoned out of fear of public scandal. She has come here to prove her purity, and thus she awaits Your command.”
“Rama, I, who have never uttered a lie, make the following declaration: ‘If Sita is tainted by even the slightest guilt, may the results of my accumulated austerities prove to be eternally fruitless.’ Although You loved Sita deeply, and were convinced of her innocence, You discarded her out of fear of public opinion. By dint of my spiritual vision, I can understand Sita’s perfect purity, and so I have come here to proclaim this truth before You.”
Rama gazed upon Sita for a moment. Then, He announced to the assembly, “So be it! I accept as truth all that the great rishi has said. Previously, the demigods had testified to Sita’s purity, and so I happily brought her back to Ayodhya. Still, people began to criticize Me, and so with great reluctance I sent her away. Now, I have decided that if Sita can prove her innocence before this assembly, then I shall once again accept her as the wife that I dearly love.”
Everyone fell silent and fixed their eyes upon Sita, who stood with her gaze lowered and her head bent slightly downward. After a short pause, Sita began to speak within the hearing of all assembled there.
Sita said, “O goddess of the earth, please hear my petition. If, since the time of my marriage, I have never thought of anyone but Rama- if I have never loved any man but my husband- then grant me shelter. In thought, word and action, if I have only dwelt in Rama, and no one else, then give me a place within you, so that I need not experience the shame of facing these slanderous people!”
As Sita was speaking, the earth suddenly opened, and from out of the crevice the goddess Bhumi majestically arose, seated upon a celestial throne that was borne by divine serpents. The goddess smilingly welcomed Sita and took her in her arms, in order to seat her on the throne by her side. Then, as all beings, in the sky and on the earth, looked on in astonishment, the celestial throne began to descend into the bowels of the earth.
There was an uproar as all beings uttered exclamations of wonder, praising Sita for this glorious confirmation of her purity. From the heavens, the demigods showered flowers, while singing and playing on musical instruments.
After Sita disappeared from sight, Rama picked up a staff that had been used during the sacrifice, and while leaning on it He gave vent to His intolerable grief.
As tears welled up in His eyes, and anger flared up within His mind, Rama lowered His head and declared, “Earth, you had better return My Sita immediately, or else open up once more so that I can be reunited with her. Sita is your daughter and so I am your son-in-law. Give Me Sita without delay or I will crush your mountains, burn your forests and then smash you into atoms!”
Lord Brahma then said, “My Lord, please remember Your identity! You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Vishnu, and Sita is the goddess of fortune! She has entered the planet of the Nagas, and very shortly she will be reunited with You in Your transcendental abode, Vaikuntha.”
“O Supreme hero, Lord of the universe and sustainer of all that lives, why must I remind You of Your divine position? Rama, give up Your grief and hear from Your sons the concluding portion of the great narration that describes Your transcendental pastimes. This epic poem, which was composed by Valmiki, will spread Your glories throughout the three worlds for as long as the universe continues to exist.”
Having said this, Lord Brahma disappeared from view. Rama then went to Valmiki’s ashram, along with Lava and Kush. After passing the night, grieving over the loss of Sita, Rama summoned all the rishis and then requested His sons to recite the Uttara kanda of Ramayana.
Rama then returned to Ayodhya, but He soon found life to be barren without His beloved wife. Rama had a golden deity of Sita made, and whenever He performed some religious function, He had the murti occupy the wife’s place next to Him. Rama continued to rule the kingdom strictly according to religious principles, and thus rains showered forth regularly, crops were abundant, and everywhere were signs of prosperity.
Many years later, Kaushalya passed away, and then Sumitra and then Kaikeyi, so that they became re-united with Maharaja Dasharatha in the transcendental realm. Some time thereafter, Yudhijit, the King of Kekaya, came to see Lord Rama at Ayodhya, requesting Him to conquer over the Gandharva King, Sailusha, who resided north of the River Indus.
Rama immediately appointed Bharata’s two sons, Taksha and Pushkala, as rulers of the Gandharva kingdom. Bharata then proceeded with a large army and established Taksha in Taxila and Pushkala in Pushkalavati. Five years later, Bharata returned to Ayodhya. Rama then appointed Lakshman’s two sons, Angada and Chitraketu, the rulers of Karupatha, after having brought that territory under subjugation. Lakshman had accompanied his two sons, and after an absence of one year, He returned to Ayodhya.
Since the time for the closing of Lord Rama’s earthly pastimes was near at hand, Time personified came to Ayodhya one day, disguised as a wandering ascetic. After arriving at the palace gate, Time announced to Lakshman, who was standing there, “I am a messenger from Brahma. I have come on a very important mission, and so I desire to see Lord Rama at once.”
After He had very respectfully seated Time upon a golden throne, Rama inquired, “Holy one, what is the nature of your visit? What is the message that you have come to deliver?”
The messenger replied, “O King, if You honor the wishes of Lord Brahma, then our meeting must be held in private, for his words are not meant for the ears of others. Let it be known for certain that anyone who overhears our conversation will soon meet with death. Rama, You must promise that if anyone comes and interrupts our meeting, You will unhesitatingly give up all connection with him.”
Rama replied, “Let it be so!” Then, turning to Lakshman, He ordered, “Dismiss the doorman. I want you to personally guard the entrance, for this meeting must be in strict privacy.”
When the two were alone, Death, in the form of a messenger, related Lord Brahma’s message as follows: “My Lord, You have appeared within this world at our request, to relieve the burden of the earth. Now that Ravana has been killed, and You have ruled the earth for a sufficient period of time, You may return to Your transcendental abode, if You so desire. O all-pervading Supreme Personality of Godhead, You are the source of my strength and my very existence as well. Let me therefore offer You my most respectful obeisances.”
Rama smilingly replied, “You have spoken well. May there be all good fortune for you. Now, please go and tell Brahma that because I have fulfilled the purpose of the demigods, I will very soon return to My abode in the spiritual sky.”
But, it so happened that while Rama and the messenger were conversing, Durvasa Muni came to the royal palace. When Lakshman went to receive him, the rishi insisted, “I am here on very urgent business and so I want to see Lord Rama at once.”
Lakshman replied, “Rama has given me very strict orders that He cannot be interrupted under any circumstance. O foremost of rishis, please wait a bit.”
Hearing this, Durvasa lost his temper. With fiery eyes, he screamed, “Go and announce my presence at once! If you are so foolish as to disobey me, then I will curse Rama, Bharata, You, the entire Ikshvaku dynasty, and all the people of the Koshala kingdom as well! Lakshman, I am trying to restrain myself, by my patience is wearing thin!”
Lakshman knew that to interrupt Rama’s conversation with Kala would soon bring about His death. Still, when He thought about Durvasa’s curse, He concluded, “It is better if I alone suffer rather than cause everyone’s ruination.”
Lakshman entered the room, and when Rama was informed of Durvasa’s arrival, He took leave of Kala and hurriedly went to meet him. As He stood before Durvasa Muni with folded hands, Rama inquired, “O foremost of ascetic brahmanas, what can I do to please you?”
Durvasa replied, “O righteous King, I have just completed a thousand-year fast. What can You give me to eat?”
Rama quickly provided Durvasa with a sumptuous feast, and as a result, the rishi became very pleased. But, after Durvasa’s departure, Rama remembered the promise that he had made to Kala, and so a horrible fear overwhelmed Him. Fearing the loss of His most intimate associate, Rama stood motionlessly, as if deprived of all reason, His head bowed down dejectedly.
Lakshman then approached His aggrieved brother and cheerfully said, “Rama, do not lament for that which is inevitable, being under the control of supreme destiny. Duty must be carried out without attachment or aversion. Therefore, keep Your promise and banish Me without hesitation.”
Rama summoned His ministers, and after describing all that had happened, He asked for their advice. Vasishtha said, “My dear Rama, by dint of my ascetic prowess I could foresee all this happening to You. Now, You must keep Your promise. Otherwise, Your lifelong adherence to righteousness will be blighted. With the decay of religious principles, the world gradually comes to perish. Therefore, stick to Your vow of truthfulness and banish Lakshman.”
Rama appeared to think over the matter very deeply. Then, He announced to the assembly, “In order to adhere to righteousness, I hereby order that Lakshman be banished from Ayodhya.”
All the ministers applauded Rama’s decision. Lakshman then went to the banks of the River Sarayu and began to absorb His mind in the practice of mystic yoga. Finally, when the time became ripe, King Indra appeared there, riding upon a celestial chariot. Without leaving His body, it being spiritual and transcendental, Lakshman ascended to heaven amidst the singing of Gandharvas, the dancing of Apsaras, and showers of fragrant flowers.
After Lakshman’s disappearance, Rama decided to install Bharata on the royal throne so that He could be free to follow the son of Sumitra’s path. Bharata refused to sit on the throne, however, because He preferred to accompany Rama to the forest rather than enjoy the kingdom without Him. First, Rama divided His kingdom among His sons, giving Kush the northern part of Koshala and Lava the southern part. After the coronation ceremony was completed, Rama very affectionately embraced His twin sons and then gave them vast amounts of gold and jewels, thousands of chariots, and countless horses and elephants.
When the citizens learned of Rama’s intention to retire to the forest, they became determined to follow Him wherever He might go, for their grief due to impending separation was unbearable. Shatrughna was also bent upon following Rama, so that when the Lord finally went out of the city, there was a great procession behind Him. In fact, out of love and devotion, every living entity followed Rama to the forest, so that not even an animal could be seen in Ayodhya.
As Rama walked along, everyone could see that He was exhibiting a mood of complete detachment and indifference, as if He were preparing to give up this world. All of Rama’s potencies appeared in their personified forms in order to accompany Him on this momentous occasion. Shri walked on Rama’s right and Bhumi walked on His left. Shakti walked in front, and innumerable other energies followed Rama, including Omkara, Gayatri, and the Vedas. Next in the procession came Bharata, Shatrughna and Their families. With them were the brahmanas who attended to the sacred fire. Behind the brahmanas walked the rest of the citizens, according to their positions, and last of all came the animals.
When He reached the banks of the Sarayu, Rama paused, and at that time, Lord Brahma with all the demigods appeared overhead in their celestial chariots. The sky was thus lit up with a heavenly radiance, and gentle, sweet-smelling breezes began to blow. The Gandharvas and Apsaras sang and danced, while the rest of the residents of heaven rained down the most fragrant flowers.
After some time, as Rama proceeded to enter into the water, Lord Brahma offered these prayers: “O Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, You are now concluding Your earthly pastimes, and are preparing to return to Your transcendental abode, which is beyond this material world. You are the eternal Lord Vishnu, and although You appear in various incarnations, Your body is unchanging and original. It is You alone who are the cause of all causes and the support of all existence. Everything is part and parcel of You, for You are the Supreme Absolute Truth, the source of all emanations.”
“O Lord, You have so kindly appeared to remove the burden of the earth, and so let us now offer our respectful obeisances unto You, again and again.”
Followed by Bharata and Shatrughna, Lord Rama thus returned to His eternal abode in the spiritual sky. In fact, not only the sons of Dasharatha, but all of their followers, attained to the Vaikuntha planet where Lord Rama eternally resides.
Thus concludes this transcendental narration of the pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, known as Ramayana, which was composed by the great rishi and devotee, Valmiki. Only persons who have implicit faith in the Supreme Lord should recite Ramayana, for it is not different from Him. The hearing of even a single verse has the potency to eradicate all sins committed by a person that day. For this reason, those who seek liberation from the cycle of repeated birth and death always relish this great transcendental literature.
The recitation of Ramayana grants one all of the fruits of dharma, artha, kama and moksha, and beyond that, it helps one advance toward life’s ultimate goal, the development of pure love of God. May the readers of this book become blessed and inspired in Krishna consciousness. May the transcendental forms of Sita and Lord Ramachandra remain forever situated within their hearts.