Ramayana Story

RAMAYANA retold by C. Rajagopalachari
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Published Date:14-07-2017
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RAMAYANA retold by C. Rajagopalachari (Edited by Jay Mazo, American Gita Society) Contents 1. The Conception 39. A Second Father Dies 2. Sage Viswamitra 40. Left Eyelids Throb 3. Trisanku 41. He Sees Her Jewels 4. Rama Leaves Home 42. Sugriva's Doubts Cleared 5. Rama Slays The Monsters 43. The Slaying Of Vali 6. Sita 44. Tara's Grief 7. Bhagiratha And The Story Of 45. Anger And Reconciliation Ganga 46. The Search Begins 8. Ahalya 47. Son Of Vayu 9. Rama Wins Sita's Hand 48. The Search In Lanka 10. Parasurama's Discomfiture 49. Sita In The Asoka Park 11. Festive Preparations 50. Ravana's Solicitation 12. Manthara's Evil Counsel 51. First Among The Astute 13. Kaikeyi Succumbs 52. Sita Comforted 14. Wife Or Demon? 53. Sita And Hanuman 15. Behold A Wonder 54. Inviting Battle 16. Storm And Calm 55. The Terrible Envoy 17. Sita's Resolve 56. Hanuman Bound 18. To The Forest 57. Lanka In Flames 19. Alone By Themselves 58. A Carnival 20. Chitrakuta 59. The Tidings Conveyed 21. A Mother's Grief 60. The Army Moves Forward 22. Idle Sport And Terrible Result 61. Anxiety In Lanka 23. Last Moments 62. Ravana Calls A Council Again 24. Bharata Arrives 63. Vibhishana 25. Intrigue wasted 64. The Vanara's Doubt 26. Bharata Suspected 65. Doctrine Of Surrender And Grace 27. The Brothers Meet 66. The Great Causeway 28. Bharata Becomes Rama's Deputy 67. The Battle Begins 29. Viradha's End 68. Sita's Joy 30. Ten Years Pass 69. Serpent Darts 31. The Surpanakha Episode 70. Ravana's Defeat 32. Kamban's Surpanakha 71. The Giant Is Roused 33. Khara And His Army Liquidated 72. Is This Narayana Himself? 34. The Path Of Ruin 73. The Death Of Indrajit 35. The Golden Stag 74. End Of Ravana 36. The Good Bird Jatayu 75. The End 37. Closely Guarded 76. Epilogue 38. Rama Disconsolate AUTHOR'S PREFACE towards things spiritual which belongs to a particular people cannot be grasped or The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan has preserved or conveyed unless we have all added to the debt of gratitude owed it by these three. undertaking the publication of the English The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan has version of my Tamil Ramayana. They achieved great work by the very wide achieved great success in the distribution distribution organised by it of my of my Mahabharata book and I trust this Ramayana and Mahabharata books, which book of the story of Rama and Sita will seek to bring Valmiki and Vyasa near to receive similar welcome. those who have no access to the unrivalled Once again, I repeat my confession that original classics. The characters and in the evening of my busy life during a incidents of these two itihasas have come great and eventful period of Indian to be the raw material for the works of history, the writing of these two books numerous poets and saints that came later wherein I have retold the Mahabharata to write dramas and sing poems and and Ramayana, is, in my opinion, the best hymns to keep this nation in the straight service I have rendered to my people. path. At any rate, they embody the best joy I Oral discourses have further played have experienced; for in these two books I with them in order to entertain and helped our great sages to speak to our dear instruct pious audiences and not a few men and women again in their own variations and additions have been language, elevating their minds through made to the original. All the languages the sorrows borne by Kunti, Kausalya, of India have the Ramayana and Draupadi and Sita. The real need of the Mahabharata retold by their poets, with hour is a recommunion between us and additions and variations of their own. the sages of our land, so that the future They are the records of the mind and may be built on rock and not on sand. spirit of our forefathers who cared for In presenting this English version to a the good, ever so much more than for wider circle of readers spread all over the the pleasant and who saw more of the world, I think I am presenting to them the mystery of life than we can do in our people of Bharat just as they are, with all interminable pursuit for petty and their virtues and their faults. Our classics illusory achievements ill the material really embody our national character in all plane. its aspects and it is well the world sees us We should be thankful to those who as we really are, apart from what we wish preserved for us these many centuries-old to become. epics in spite of all the vicissitudes The Ramayana is not history or through which our nation passed since biography. It is a part of Hindu Vyasa and Valmiki's time. Even the poets mythology. One cannot understand Hindu who wrote these epics in the original did dharma unless one knows Rama and Sita, not create but built out of the inherited Bharata, Lakshmana, Ravana, bricks of national memory prior to their Kumbhakarna and Hanuman. Mythology own time. Reading the Ramayana and cannot be dispensed with. Philosophy Mahabharata even in the form I have alone or rituals alone or mythology alone given them, we go back to live with our cannot be sufficient. These are the three ancient forbears and listen to their grand stands of all ancient religions. The attitude voice. Mythology is an integral part of Taxes were light and punishment of religion. It is as necessary for religion and crime was just and inflicted according to national culture as the skin and the the capacity of the wrong-doer. skeleton that preserve a fruit with its juice Surrounded by the best counsellors and and its taste. Form is no less essential than statesmen, the king's splendor shone as the substance. Mythology and holy figures are rising sun. Many years rolled smoothly necessary for any great culture to rest on by. In the midst of all this prosperity its stable spiritual foundation and function Dasaratha had one regret; he had no son. as a life-giving inspiration and guide. One day in early summer he thought of Let us keep ever in our minds the fact performing a horse sacrifice for progeny. that it is the Ramayana and the He consulted his religious masters and on Mahabharata that bind our vast numbers their advice, got sage Rishyasringa to together as one people, despite caste, perform the Yaga. The Yaga was a grand space and language that seemingly divide affair and the invitees included many of them. the kings of the day. It was no easy thing 1. THE CONCEPTION to perform yagas. The location and To the north of the Ganga was the great erection of the sacrificial platform had to kingdom Kosala, made fertile by the river be attended to in detail strictly according Sarayu. Its capital was Ayodhya, built by to prescribed rules. There were experts Manu, the famous ruler of the Solar whose guidance was sought in arranging dynasty. From Valmiki's description of things. the capital Kosala, it is clear that ancient It meant the building of a new camp- Ayodhya was not inferior to our modern city, capable of accommodating tens of cities. Even in ancient India city thousands and providing hospitality and civilisation had reached a high level. entertainment for the invitees who King Dasaratha ruled the kingdom included the princes and sages of the land. from the capital city of Ayodhya. He had In short, yagas in those days were fought on the side of the Devas, and his something like our present-day State- fame spread in the three worlds. He was sponsored big scale conferences and the equal of Indra and Kubera. The people exhibitions. of Kosala were happy, contented and When all arrangements were complete virtuous. The land was protected by a the ceremonies were set in motion strictly mighty army, and no enemy could come as enjoined by the Shastras. anywhere near Contemporaneously with the yaga in It contained forts with moats around Ayodhya, there was a conference of the them as well as many defensive Devas in heaven. The Devas complained intallations, and true to its name, Ayodhya to Lord Brahma that Ravana, king of the defied all enemies. (Ayodhya means that demons, drunk with the power acquired which cannot be subdued by war). by the boon granted to him by Brahma, Dasaratha had eight wise ministers, ever was causing them untold misery and ready to advise him and execute his hardship. They represented to Brahma: "It orders. Great sages like Vasishtha and is beyond our capacity to subdue, conquer Vamadeva and other Brahmanas taught or kill Ravana. In the security of your the dharma and performed rituals and boon, he has grown wicked and insolent sacrifices. and ill-treats all, even women. His desire is to dethrone Indra. You are our only refuge and it is for you to devise a method of Kaikeyi. Sumitra gave birth to twins, by which Ravana can be slain and his Lakshmana and Satrughna. She had drunk despotism ended." the divine payasam twice. Brahma knew that he had granted to In proportion to the quantity of Ravana the boon prayed for by him that payasam drunk by the respective mothers, he should be invulnerable and invincible the sons are traditionally considered to be against Devas, Asuras, Gandharvas and parts of Vishnu. Rama was thus half- other such beings. In his arrogance, Vishnu. Ravana did not care to ask for security But such calculations have no meaning, against mankind. As Brahma revealed this as it is impossible to measure the Infinite fateful omission all the Gods rejoiced and arithmetically. Sruit tells us that even a turned to Vishnu. fraction of the Supreme Being is whole Absolutely surrendering themselves to and complete by itself. Hari, the Devas begged him to be born as "Om Poornamadah Poornamidam a man and put an end to Ravana and his Poornat Poornamudachyate Poornasya atrocities. Hari agreed and assured the Poornamadaya Poornamevavasishyate." Devas that he would be born as four sons "What is whole, this is whole; what has of King Dasaratha who was then come out of the whole is also whole. performing a sacrifice for progeny. As the When the whole is taken out of the whole, ghee was poured into the fire and the the whole still remains whole." flames shot up to meet it, from out of the Dasaratha's four sons were given all the flames came a majestic figure, resplendent training prescribed for princes. Rama and like the noonday sun, holding a bowl of Lakshmana were specially devoted to gold. each other and so were Bharata and Calling King Dasaratha by his name, Satrughna. We can imagine that this the figure said: "The Devas are pleased special attachment arose out of the way with you and are answering your prayer. the divine payasam was divided among Here is payasam sent by the gods for your the King's wives. Dasaratha was happy to wives. You will be blessed with sons if see his four sons grow up strong, virtuous, they drink this divine beverage." With joy brave and lovable and with all other unbounded, Dasaratha received the bowl princely qualities. as he would receive a child and distributed One day as the King was the payasam to his three wives, Kausalya, contemplating his sons' matrimony, ushers Sumitra and Kaikeyi. rushed in to announce that the great Sage He asked Kausalya to drink a half of Viswamitra had arrived to see him. the payasam and he gave a half of what Viswamitra was held in awe by all as the remained to Sumitra. Half of what was most powerful among rishis. then lift was drunk by Kaikeyi, and what Viswamitra's arrival at Ayodhya was remained was given to Sumitra again. unexpected; and King Dasaratha stepped Dasaratha's wives were happy, even as a down from his throne and advanced a few beggar suddenly coming upon buried paces respectfully to receive the sage. treasure. And in due course all of them Viswamitra was a king who attained were expectant mothers. sainthood through terrible austerities. He 2. SAGE VISWAMITRA had long ago exhibited his spiritual In course of time, Dasaratha's sons powers by starting to create another were born Rama of Kausalya and Bharata Brahma and a rival universe. He had gone as far as the creation of new taking up his bow, rained arrows on the constellations, but was prevailed upon to soldiers brought forth by the cow, but stop by the entreaties of the alarmed gods. their strength was inexhaustible, and the Viswamitra, while he was king once royal forces suffered utter defeat. The went out with his army and chanced to sons of Viswamitra now chose Vasishtha visit Vasishtha's ashrama. The rishi himself as their target, only to be reduced cordially welcomed his royal guest and to ashes. his huge entourage and extended to them Defeated and disgraced, Viswamitra all hospitality so sumptuous that the King then and there entrusted his kingdom to wondered where all the rich abundance one of his sons and proceeded to the came from in a forest hermitage. Himalayas to perform tapas, directing his Questioned by him, Vasishtha called devotions to Lord Siva to gain power with his cow Sabala and explained that she was which to subdue Vasishtha. the fountain of unfailing plenty. So firm and steadfast was Viswamitra Expressing gratitude to the sage, King in his austerities that Lord Siva was Viswamitra said: "You must give me this pleased and appeared before him. He cow as she would be more useful with me asked the king what his object was in than with you. Such things of power and performing tapas. wealth by right belong to the King." Viswamitra replied: "If you, Umapati, Now Vasishtha could not part with the are satisfied with my tapas let me be divine cow. He gave many reasons and blessed with divine arrows and be master asked the King not to press his request. of every weapon." But the more unwilling Vasishtha was to "So be it," said Siva, and gave give the cow, the more eager the King Viswamitra all the weapons available to became to possess her. the Devas, Gandharvas, Rishis, Yakshas Failing in his efforts to tempt or and the Demons. persuade the sage to part with the cow, Swelling with pride like the ocean, Viswamitra became angry and ordered his Viswamitra considered Vasishtha as men to seize the cow by force. already vanquished. He straightway made Sabala could not understand why she for the abode of the sage. Frightened at was being roughly handled and she was the fearful sight of the onrushing unwilling to go away from the sage and Viswamitra, Vasishtha's disciples and the his ashrama. Shedding tears, she animals in his ashrama ran helter-skelter. wondered how she had offended Hit by the fire-weapon of Viswamitra, Vasishtha that he should stand by and Vasishtha's ashrama was reduced to look on while she was being dragged cinders. away. The cow easily put to flight the Vasishtha regretted the turn of events, soldiers and sought refuge at the feet of but determined to end the haughtiness of the sage. the erstwhile king, he faced him calmly Moved by the piteous appeal of his with his Brahmadanda (holy staff) in beloved cow, who was like a younger hand. sister to him, the sage said: "Bring forth Mad with rage, Viswamitra shot at him soldiers to resist Viswamitra's men." all the divine weapons he had acquired, Sabala instantaneously did so, and the but they were quenched as they aggressors were soon worsted. Wild with approached the rishi's staff and were rage, Viswamitra got into his chariot and, absorbed by it. Viswamitra had but one more weapon response, the King approached the sage's in his armory, and that was the most sons and sought their help. They were powerful of all, the Brahmastra. As he wroth at being asked to do something hurled it against Vasishtha the world which their father had pronounced became wrapped in gloom as in some impossible, ridiculed his vanity and curtly huge eclipse, and the very immortals bade him begone. trembled with fear. But the terrible astra King Trisanku would not give up his itself was merged in the rishi's staff, aim and told them that, since they and making both it and the holy man glow their father were too poor in merit to help with the glory they had absorbed. him, he would find others who were Viswamitra stood dazed. Openly richer. Vasishtha's sons were provoked accepting defeat, he said: "Of what use is beyond endurance, and said: "Be you a the Kshatriya's might in arms? With but a chandala." staff in his hand, this Vasishtha has The curse began to act and the next nullified all my weapons. Lord Siva has morning Trisanku woke up a different indeed fooled me. There is no alternative person altogether, an untouchable, ugly of for me but to become a Brahma Rishi like form, attired in dirty clothes. Vasishtha." So saying, he withdrew from His ministers and his people could not the field of battle and proceeded south for recognise him. Driven out of his kingdom more rigorous tapas. he wandered hungry and weary almost to For years and years Viswamitra went death, till his destiny took him to through terrible austerities. Pleased with Viswamitra's ashrama. his perseverance, Brahma presented The king's appearance moved the heart himself before him. Advising Viswamitra of the sage, who enquired: "Aren't you that, as a result of his tapas he had risen to King Trisanku? What has brought you to the position of a rishi among kings, this plight? Whose curse?" Brahma vanished from the scene. Recounting all that had happened he Viswamitra was disappointed that all fell at the sage's feet and said: "I have his penance could get him only the status been a good king and never swerved from of Raja Rishi. Not content with anything the path of dharma. I have committed no but the highest the rank of a Brahma sin and wronged none. My preceptor and Rishi, he subjected him self to still more his sons have deserted me and cursed me rigorous austerities in order that he might and you see me thus before you." be acknowledged an equal of Vasishtha. Viswamitra took pity on the King 3. TRISANKU converted by a curse into a chandala. This That was the time when the famous was Viswamitra's great weakness; he was king of the Solar dynasty, Trisanku, was impulsive and easily over-powered by reigning, who was so much in love with emotions like anger, sympathy and love. the beauty of his body that he could not In sweet words, he made the king bear the thought of parting with it at death happy: "O, King, I have heard of your and desired to ascend to heaven in that righteous rule. I offer you refuge; be not very body. afraid. I will arrange for the sacrifice Vasishtha, his preceptor, whom he which will enable you to enter heaven in approached for help in realising his wish, your own body. And in this very chandala advised him to give up attempting the form you shall reach heaven despite your impossible. Dissatisfied with Vasishtha's Guru's curse. Of this you may be sure." And he made arrangements for a great Trisanku reached Swarga. But Indra and unprecedented yaga. forthwith pushed him down saying, "Who Viswamitra directed his disciples to are you, entering heaven with a chandala invite all the sages and, their disciples for body? You fool that earned the curse of the proposed yaga. Afraid of saying "No" your preceptor, go down again." to what was more or less a command, all Trisanku fell from heaven, head down the rishis agreed to be present. wards, screaming, "Viswamitra Save But the sons of Vasishtha declined the me" invitation and made merry about a yaga at Viswamitra, seeing this, was beside which the officiating priest was a once himself with rage. Determined to teach the upon-a-time Kshatriya and the yajaman a gods a lesson, he shouted to Trisanku. stinking chandala. "Stop there Stop there" and, to the This reply, duly conveyed, enraged amazement of all, Trisanku's earthward Viswamitra who exploded into a curse descent came to an abrupt stop and he that Vasishtha's sons do die and be reborn stopped in mid air, shining like a star. for seven generations in a tribe given to Like a second Brahma, Viswamitra eating dog's flesh. proceeded to create a new starry horizon The sage then began the yaga. to the south as well as a new Indra and Extolling Trisanku's eminent virtues, new Devas. Viswamitra sought the help of the other Alarmed at their supremacy, the Devas rishis in effecting the bodily translation of now came to terms and humbly entreated Trisanku to heaven. Viswamitra to desist. They said: "Let Well aware of the sage's mighty Trisanku stay where he is at present. Let powers and fulminous temper, the invitees the other stars, of your creation shine lent their support, and the yaga went on. It forever, like your own fame and honor. reached the stage when the gods were Control your anger and be friends with invoked to descend and accept the us." offerings. But no god came. It was clear Gratified at this submission, and as that Viswamitra's yaga was a failure. And easily appeased as provoked, Viswamitra the rishis, who had attended the baited his creative process. But his ceremony, laughed within themselves at stupendous activities had consumed the Viswamitra's discomfiture. whole of the power that he had thus far Wild with rage, Viswamitra held the acquired by his austerities, and he found ladle of ghee over the flames and said: "O he had to begin again. Trisanku, here behold my power. I now Viswamitra now proceeded westwards transfer for your benefit all the merit I to Pushkara and resumed his austerities. have earned. If my austerities have any For years the rigorous tapas continued, but value, they should lift you to heaven in once again as it was about to bear fruit your physical frame. I care not if the something happened to rouse his anger Devas reject my offerings. King Trisanku and he lost his balance and cursed his own Ascend" sons. Soon recovering himself, he firmly A miracle followed. To the resolved never again to yield to anger, and astonishment of those assembled, resumed his tapas Trisanku in his chandala body rose After many years of austerities, heavenward. The world saw the power of Brahma and the Devas appeared before Viswamitra's tapas. him and said: "O Kausika Your tapas has borne fruit. You are no longer in the ranks "By no means", said the Creator, "but of kings; you have become a real rishi." strive to subjugate the senses, tiger among Having thus blessed Viswamitra, Brahma munis" returned. Resolved on the supreme conquest, This was again a disappointment. He Viswamitra entered on another thousand wanted to become a Brahma Rishi and years of even harder tapas which threw Vasishtha's peer and he had only been the Devas into even greater consternation. acknowedged an ordinary rishi. It was Indra called unto him the celestial recognition as futile as the missiles of damsel Rambha, and enjoined on her as a power, which Vasishtha's Brahmadanda vital service to the Devas, to employ all had swallowed. her art to bring Viswamitra under the spell He therefore decided to go on with his of her charm, and divert him from his tapas, making it more severe than ever purpose. She was sorely afraid, but Indra before. assured her that she would not be left The Devas did not like this. They sent alone, but be accompanied by the God of the heavenly damsel Menaka to tempt him Love and the Spirit of Springtime would with her celestial beauty and allurements. be with her for support. She went to Pushkara where Viswamitra Unwillingly she went and as she was undergoing austerities and played, to entered the precincts of the hermitage, the catch his eye with a hundred wiles of forest blossomed into vernal beauty, and charm and grace. Viswamitra saw her and the south wind blew gently laden with the was fascinated by her beauty. His vow scent of flowers, and kokilas burst into was broken and he spent ten years in a song. Love and Spring were both there to dream of ioy, forgetful of his high resolve. assist Beauty. Disturbed by stirrings to Awaking at last, he looked at the which he had long been a stranger, trembling Menaka sorrow fully and said Viswamitra opened his eyes and saw a he would not curse her, for it was his own smiling damsel of surpassing beauty, who folly, and not her fault, as in tempting him seemed the very soul of the spring with its she was only carrying out the orders of flowers and fragrance and song. her master. And sadly he wended his way At this vision of soft voluptuousness a to the Himalayas to resume his broken white heat of anger surged through him as tapas. he recognised in it another temptation There, for a thousand years, controlling thrown in his way by the envious gods, his senses, he performed rigorous tapas. and he cursed the temptress: "O Rambha, At the request of the Devas, Brahma for seeking to tempt me who am striving appeared before Viswamitra, and spoke to to conquer anger and desire, be thou him thus sweetly: " I welcome you as a frozen to an image of stone for ten Maharishi, my son. Pleased with your thousand years." soulful tapas I confer on you that title and But this explosion of rage made him the sanctity it imports." see how far he was from the fulfilment of Unmoved alike by gratification or his purpose and sadly he quitted the disappointment, Viswamitra folded his Himalayan forests, and sought the solitude hands in adoration and asked the Father of of the east. the Universe if the boon meant conquest There, he restrained his breathing, gave over the senses. up all thought of the things of the world, and performed austerities so stern that smoke and flames issued from his body sacred fire. Like other rishis we could and enveloped the universe. Then at the curse and destroy them. But that would be prayer of the panic-stricken gods, Brahma a waste of all our tapas. again appeared before him, and hailed him "Our troubles will end if you send with as Brahma Rishi: "All hail, Brahma Rishi, me Rama, the eldest of your warlike sons. I am pleased with you. Blessed be your Under my care, he will grow in princely life." Viswamitra was happy. stature. He will surely defeat these But humbly he said: "How can I be Rakshasas and his name will gather lustre. happy unless from Vasishtha's lips I hear Entrust Rama to my care only for a few that I am a Brahma Rishi?" days. Do not refuse my request. Fulfil the Vasishtha smiled remembering his promise you gave me unsought. Of fight with Viswamitra, and said to him: Rama's safety you need have no anxiety. "You have achieved the fruit of your great You will earn undying fame in the three austerities. Indeed you are a Brahma worlds. Vasishtha and your ministers will Rishi, my brother." There was joy all agree with what I say." round. Dasaratha trembled with fear and This was the story of the sage that anxiety. He had a hard choice to make; arrived suddenly at Dasaratha's court. either to give his well-beloved son to be 4. RAMA LEAVES HOME killed by the Rakshasas or himself incurs King, Dasaratha received Viswamitra the terrible anger of Viswamitra. as Indra would welcome Brahma and For a few moments, Dasaratha stood touching his feet, the King said: "I am speechless, for he was stunned and indeed blessed among men. Your coming bewildered. But recovering from the can only be due to the merit of my shock, he begged the sage not to press his ancestors. Like the morning sun that demand, and said: "Rama is not yet fully dispels the darkness of night, your face sixteen years of age. How can he fight brings joy to my sight. My heart is full. with Rakshasas? Of what use is it to send Born a king, you have become through him with you? What does he know of the tapas a Brahma Rishi. And you yourself wiles of Rakshasas? It is not right that I have come seeking my dwelling. Is there should send a mere lad to fight them, I am anything in my power that I can do for here, and my army is ready to march. you? If so, command and I shall obey." How can a lad protect you and your yaga? Viswamitra was rejoiced to hear these Tell me all about your foes. I shall go with words of Dasaratha, and his face you at the head of my army and do your brightened. He said: "O King, your words bidding and serve your need. Do tell me are worthy of you. Born in the Ikshvaku about these desecrators." line, with Vasishtha for your Guru, what Viswamitra described Maricha and else could you say? You have said 'yes' Subahu and Ravana their master. And he before I asked. This fills my heart with demanded again that Rama should be sent joy." And he straightway explained the along with him. purpose of his visit. Dasaratha persisted in refusal. "Parting Viswamitra said: "I am engaged in from Rama will be death to me," he said. performing a sacrifice. As it nears "I shall go with you, I and my army. Why, completion, two powerful Rakshasas, it seems to me the task proposed is pretty Maricha and Subahu, defile it. They hard even for me. How then can my son shower unclean blood and flesh on the cope with it? Indeed, I cannot send him. If The two princes were then brought to you please, I am ready with my army." the presence of the sage. The King, the Dasaratha's attempt to go back on his Queen-Mothers and Vasishtha blessed hasty word, enraged Viswamitra. The them and sent them with Viswamitra. King's pleas and reasons were like oil A pleasant breeze wafted and flowers poured on the fire of his anger. were strewn by the denizens of the "This conduct is unworthy of your heavens. Auspicious sounds were heard. lineage", the sage said. 'Tell me if this is Bow in hand, the two lads strode proudly your final word. I shall go back the way I on either side of the Sage. came. Long may you live with your kith Valmiki and Kamban revel in this and kin, having swerved from the path of picture of the two handsome princes Truth" marching out to their first adventure under The earth quaked and the gods were the guardianship of a great rishi who had afraid of the possible consequences of the also been a renowned warrior a teacher sage's wrath. who could create a new world; and beside Vasishtha now turned to the King and him, head erect, two princely pupils born spoke gently: "It ill becomes you, King, to to end the Rakshasa race. refuse having promised once. Born in the With swords of victory hanging from Ikshvaku line, you cannot do it. Having their waists, bows and quivers mounted on once said, 'I will do', you have no option strong shoulders, they moved, each like a but to do it. Failing, you will lose the three-headed cobra with uplifted hood. merit of all your great gifts and deeds. 5. RAMA SLAYA THE Send Rama with the sage, and send MONSTERS Lakshmana too. You need have no fear Viswamitra and the two princes spent for their safety, When they are protected the night on the bank of the river Sarayu. by Viswamitra, no Rakshasa can hurt Before retiring Viswamitra initiated the them. As the drink of the gods, shielded princes in two secret mantras Bala and by the wheel of fire, so will Rama be by Atibala, which had the virtue of guarding Viswamitra. You have no idea of them from fatigue and harm. They slept Viswamitra's power; he is tapas in human on the verdant bank that night and rising form. Bravest of the brave and wisest of at dawn proceeded on their journey. They the wise, he is master of every weapon. In reached Kamashrama in Anga Desa. After the three worlds there is not, and there presenting the princes to the rishis there, will never be, any to equal him in martial Viswamitra recounted to them the history or spiritual prowess. When he was king he of the ashrama. obtained from the gods mastery of all "This," be said, "is the place where the weapons. He beholds the past, the present Lord Siva was long engaged in austerities. and the future. Then why does he want the It was here that the foolish god of love princes, you may wonder. He can well Manmatha aimed his arrow at Siva and take care himself of his yaga; but it is for was turned to ashes by his wrath. Hence the good of your sons that he has come this place is known as Kamashrama." here and appears to seek your help. Do not They were the guests of the rishis that hesitate. Send your sons with him." night, and the following morning, after Listening to the wise Vasishtha, performing the usual rites, the sage and Dasaratha saw things clearly and made up his pupils set out on their journey and his mind to send Rama and Lakshmana. reached the Ganga. They crossed the river dreadful wilderness it now is. They are on a raft got ready for them by the rishis. still in this forest. And none dare enter it In midstream, the princes heard a noise for fear of Tataka. She is equal in strength and asked Viswamitra what it could be. to a score of elephants. I have brought you He explained to them that it was the sound here to rid the forest of this great enemy. of the Sarayu flowing into the Gangs. The There is no doubt that this monster, who is princes paid silent homage to the a source of trouble to the rishis, will be confluence of the two holy rivers. destroyed by you." A river or a hill, a tree or a cloud, Rama, who listened to this, asked the indeed any object of beauty may raise one sage: "You say she is a Yaksha. I have to contemplation of the Supreme Being never heard that Yakshas are particularly and silent worship of Him. In particular, strong. What is more, how does a woman sacred rivers, temples or images, which happen to possess so much strength?" have for generations been the objects of Viswamitra replied: "You are asking a devotion and worship, possess this power very pertinent question. Her strength in a special degree, in virtue of the sacred comes from a boon granted by Brahma. thoughts they have witnessed and There lived a Yaksha by name Suketu. absorbed as garments retain perfumes. Having no progeny he performed tapas Having crossed the Ganga, Viswamitra and won a boon from Brahma thus: 'You and the princes made their difficult way will have a beautiful daughter of great through a dense forest made dreadful by strength of body, but you will have no the reverberating roar of wild beasts. son.' Suketu's daughter, Tataka, beautiful "This," Viswamitra said, "is the and strong, was married to Sunda, a Dandaka forest. What is now a terrible Yaksha, and their child is Maricha. Sunda forest was once a well-peopled country. at one time incurred Sage Agastya's curse Once upon a time, Indra was and died. Provoked by this, Tataka and contaminated by sin, having killed Vritra, Maricha pounced on Agastya who cursed and had therefore to exile himself from them to be monsters living on the carcases the world of the Devas. The Devas set to of men. So Tataka is now an ugly themselves the task of cleansing Indra. monster. Thenceforward, she and Maricha They brought waters from the sacred have been harassing the dwellers in this rivers and bathed him to the region of Agastya. Do not hesitate to accompaniment of mantras. The waters destroy her on the ground that it is against which cleansed Indra flowed into the Kshatriya dharma to kill a woman. Her ground and enriched the earth and the land atrocities are intolerable. To punish the be came tremendously fertile." wicked, whether male or female, is the All dead things, rotting corpse or duty of kings. It is right to kill her, as to stinking garbage, when returned to the kill a wild animal for the sake of human earth are transformed into things of beauty safety. This is a duty cast on rulers. Many such as fruits and flowers and the women have been punished with death for wholesome things that nourish life. Such their crimes. Hence do not hesitate." is the alchemy of Mother Earth. Rama said to Viswamitra: "Our father's Viswamitra continued: "For long behest is that we should obey you without people lived here happily till Tataka (wife question. Bidden by you and for the of Sunda, a Yaksha) and her son Maricha general welfare, we shall kill Tataka." wrought havoc and changed this into the So saying, he strung his bow and and Rama in his turn imparted the twanged it till the forest echoed to its knowledge to Lakshmana. shrill note and the wild animals scattered As they continued the journey, Rama in all directions in terror. It reached pointed to a big hill with a lovely forest on Tataka in her fastness, filling her with its slopes and asked: "Is that the place amazement at the audacious intruder who whereto we have to go? And who are the dared enter her domain. Raging with evil ones who hinder your yaga? And anger, she ran in the direction whence the what should I do to destroy them?" sound came and sprang on Rama. The Ramachandra was eager to fight and battle began. win the blessings of the sage. The prince at first thought of cutting "That is the place we are going to," off the limbs of the monster and sparing replied Viswamitra. "There the Lord her life. But Tataka attacked fiercely and, Narayana performed tapas and it was rising in the sky, she rained stones on there that he was born as Vamana. It goes Rama and Lakshmana. The two princes by the name of Siddhashrama. Mahabali, defended themselves against the attack. son of Virochana and grandson of The fight continued and Viswamitra Prahlada the good Asura, was such a cautioned Rama against delay in dealing powerful ruler that of him even the Devas the death-blow to the monster. were afraid. Mahabali had by his deeds "She deserves no sympathy," he said. acquired the power of Indra himself. "The sun is about to set and remember Kashyapa and his spouse Aditi, of whom that at night Rakshasas grow stronger. Do all the gods were offsprings, prayed to not delay to slay her." Vishnu and begged Him to be born as Thus advised, Rama decided on killing their son and protect Indra and the Devas Tataka and pierced her chest with a deadly from Mahabali. In answer to the prayers, arrow and the huge, ugly monster fell Vishnu was born of Aditi as Vamana. down, lifeless. Vamana in the form of a young student The Devas cheered, and Viswamitra, went to the yaga that was being performed filled with joy, embraced Rama and by Mahabali and whereto all were blessed him. welcome, to ask for and receive anything With Tataka's end, the forest was freed they wanted. When Vamana presented from the curse and became beautiful to himself as a suitor, Mahabali's guru, see. The princes spent the night there and Sukra, the preceptor of all the Asuras, next morning they proceeded to knew who he really was and warned Viswamitra's ashrama. Mahabali against promising to grant the At dawn the next day, Viswamitra young Brahmana his request since indeed called Rama to his side and blessing him he was the Lord Hari in disguise, come to said: "I am very happy indeed. What is it undo him. Mahabali did not pay heed to that I can do in return for all that you have this. It was his wont never to turn down a done? I shall teach you the use of all the request. Besides, he was at heart a devotee astras." of the Lord, and felt that he would indeed So saying, Viswamitra gave be blessed if the Lord should deign to Ramachandra the divine astras which he accept a gift from him. With a smile, had obtained through his tapas. Mahabali bade him ask for what he Viswamitra taught Rama the use, control pleased without hesitation. 'All have is at and recall of the various divine weapons your disposal, money, jewels, the wide earth and all it inherits.' Vamana answered sixth day Rama told Lakshmana: that wealth was of no use to him, and all "Brother, now is the time for the enemies he begged for was three paces of ground, to come. Let us be wary." as paced by him. The monarch smiled as Even as he was saying this, flames shot he looked at the diminutive brahmachari's up from the sacrificial fire, for Agni, the legs and said, 'So be it; pace and take it.' God of Fire, knew that the Rakshasas had The little Bachelor suddenly grew in size arrived. As the rites were being into Trivikrama and with one step performed, there was heard from the sky a measured the earth and with another the great roar. entire heavens. And there being no room Rama looked up and saw Maricha and left for the third step that had been Subahu and their followers preparing to granted, he set his foot on Mahabali's shower unclean things on the sacrificial devoted head. In the eyes of God, the head fire The army of Rakshasas covered the of a bhakta is as wide as the earth or the sky like a great black cloud. heavens. And Mahabali, whose head was Rama said, "Look Lakshmana," and let blessed by the touch of Narayana's foot, go the Manavastra at Maricha. As was became one of the seven immortals of the intended, it did not kill Maricha, but world." wrapping him up in resistless force hurled After narrating the story of Mahabali, him a full hundred yojanas near the sea. Viswamitra added: "This is where at first With the Agneyastra Rama killed Narayana and later Kashyapa performed Subahu; and then the two princes utterly tapas, resulting in the incarnation of God destroyed the entire army of Rakshasas. as Vamana. In this holy place I live. And The sky was bright again. here the Rakshasas come and obstruct our Viswamitra was supremely happy at worship and our austerities. Your coming the completion of his yaga. "I am grateful here is to end this evil." to King Dasaratha," he said. "You have "So be it," said Rama. fulfilled the promise, princes. I admire The arrival of Viswamitra and the two your fortitude. This ashrama has through princes was a signal for rejoicing at the you become again a scene of success, ashrama. The rishis offered water and Siddhashrama." (Siddha means success). fruits according to custom. Rama told The next day, Rama and Lakshmana, Viswamitra that he might begin the after their morning prayers, went to preparations for his yaga immediately and Viswamitra and asked for further orders. Viswamitra took the vows that very night. The purpose of Rama's birth was not Getting up very early the next morning, unknown to Sage Viswamitra. And he the princes went to Viswamitra and asked knew too the powers of the weapons he when the Rakshasas were expected so that had given to Rama. Still the actual fact they might hold themselves in readiness to when experienced is something more than receive them. expectation. Sage Viswamitra was happy Viswamitra was under a vow of beyond words, and his face glowed like a silence, and could not answer, but the flame. He then thought of the service that rishis, his jouniors, told the princes that he still had to do for Rama. This was the they should be ceaselessly vigilant for six prince's marriage with Sita. nights and days to safeguard the sacrifice. The rishis assembled there said to The princes, fully armed, kept vigil for Rama: "We intend proceeding to the six days and nights. On the morning of the kingdom of Videha, where in the capital city of Mithila, Janaka, the illustrious ripeness of spring time or autumn fields, philosopher king, intends to perform a or with awe and adoration on the glories great sacrifice. All of us are going there of mountain and valley, rivers and ocean. and it will be good if you and the prince, This loveliness was Sita in its entirety. your brother, accompany us. It is meet and Kamban would have it that Sita's beauty proper that the Prince of Ayodhya should threw into the shade Lakshmi herself who see the marvellous bow in the court of came up with Nectar as the Ocean of Milk Janaka." was being churned. This child of divine So it was decided, and Rama and beauty was brought up by King Janaka Lakshmana went with Viswamitra to and his dear queen. Janaka's city. When Sita reached the age of marriage 6. SITA Janaka was sad that he would have to part Janaka, king of Mithila, was an ideal with her. Though he tried hard, he was for ruler. He was a much revered friend of long unable to choose a prince worthy of Dasaratha who, when he planned his yaga Sita. Many kings came to Mithila, seeking for progeny, sent not mere messengers but Sita's hand, but in Janaka's view none of ministers to Mithila to invite King Janaka. them was good enough. The King Janaka was not only a brave king but anxiously thought over the matter and was as well-versed in the Sastras and came to a decision. Long ago, pleased Vedas as any rishi and was the beloved with a yaga performed by Janaka, Varuna, pupil of Yajnavalkya whose exposition of presented to him Rudra's bow and two Brahmana to him is the substance of the quivers. That was an ancient heavenly Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. In the bow, which no ordinary man could even Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna cites Janaka move. as an illustrious example of the Karma This was kept by him as an honored yogin. Janaka was thus worthy to be the heirloom. Since only a very exceptional father of Sita who was to be the wife of man could be considered worthy of Sita, Vishnu come down on Earth in human Janaka issued this proclamation: "Sita, my form. daughter, will be given in marriage to the Desirous of performing a yaga, Janaka prince who can lift, bend and string the at one time ploughed the chosen site. As bow of Siva which Varuna gave me and to usual, this was done by his own hand. none other." As the field was being cleared and Many princes who had heard of Sita's leveled, Janaka saw among shrubs a baby beauty, went to Mithila only to return divinely beautiful. Janaka was childless disappointed. None could fulfil the and accepted the infant as the goddess condition. Earth's gift to him. Led by Viswamitra, the rishis from Taking the child in his arms he went to Siddhashrama were proceeding to Mithila, his beloved wife and said: "Here is with bullock-carts transporting their treasure for us. I found this child on the luggage. The animals and the birds in the yaga site and we shall make it our own." ashrama set out to follow Viswamitra, but And she joyfully consented. he gently bade them stay behind. The beauty of the goddess Earth mortal It was evening when they reached the eyes cannot see in its fulness, but we get river Sona. There they rested for the night, glimpses of it as we gaze with grateful Viswamitra recounting to Rama and hearts on the emerald green or golden Lakshmana the history of the place. Getting up in the morning, they continued Years rolled by; and while the sixty their journey and crossed another river, thousand grew into strong, handsome not very deep, and by noon they were at princes, Asamanjas turned out to be a the Ganga. cruel lunatic. He indulged in the pastime They bathed in the holy river and the of throwing little children into the river rishis made lustrations to their forbears. and laughed merrily as they struggled and They improvised an ashrama there, died. performed their pujas and cooked their Naturally people hated this maniac and food. Meal over, they sat round banished him from the country. To the Viswamitra who, at the request of the two great relief of all, Asamanjas' son, princes, told the story of the Ganga. Amsuman, was the opposite of his father Himavan, king of mountains and his and was a brave, virtuous and amiable spouse, Menaka, had two daughters of prince. whom Ganga was the elder. Himavan sent King Sagara launched a great horse- her to the land of the Devas in response to sacrifice and prince Amsuman was in their request and she dwelt with them. charge of the sacrificial horse, but Indra, Uma, the younger, won the favor of Siva in the guise of a Rakshasa, managed to and became his spouse. carry off the animal. The Devas regarded Sagara, a former King of Ayodhya, had yagas by mortals as a challenge to their no son for a long time. With his two superiority, and lost no opportunity of wives, Kesini and Sumati, he went to throwing obstacles in their way. If, Himalaya and performed tapas. Sage however, all obstruction was overcome Bhrigu, pleased with the king, blessed him and the yaga was completed, they and said: "You will get a number of accepted offerings made to them. And children and will acquire undying fame. then he who performed the yaga got due One of your wives will give birth to an reward. only son, and through him your lineage The king was greatly upset when he will be continued. The other queen will heard that the sacrificial horse was stolen. bear sixty thousand strong-armed sons." He sent out the sixty thousand sons of Sagara's wives bowed low before the Sumati to go in search of the animal all sage and asked which one of them would over the earth and to spare no pains to get an only son and which the sixty retrieve it. thousand children. Sage Bhrigu asked "The loss of the horse," he impressed each of them their own desire. on them, "not only means obstruction to Kesini said she would be satisfied with the yaga; it casts sin and ignominy on an one son who would continue the line; concerned. You should, therefore, recover Sumati chose the other alternative. "Be it the horse, wherever it may be kept so," said the sage. hidden." Satisfied, the king and his wives took Eagerly the sons of Sagara proceeded leave of the sage and returned to to search the entire earth, but the horse Ayodhya. In course of time, Asamanjas was nowhere to be found. They even was born to Kesini; Sumati gave birth to a started digging the earth as for buried fissiparous mass which divided out into treasure, and in their anxiety respected sixty thousand babies. This army of neither place nor person and only children was wen taken care of by nurses. succeeded in earning the hatred of all they met. The horse was not to be found; and when they reported their failure to the chanced to be there told Amsuman: King, he bade them ransack the nether "Those ash heaps are all that is left of the world also. The princes did as they were sixty thousand sons of Sagara who were told and in Patala they saw the horse consumed by the wrathful glance of Sage grazing in a corner of an ashrama, not far Kapila. Dear child, take the horse and from the place where Sage Kapila who complete the yaga. If these ashes are to be was Vishnu sat in meditation. watered according to custom so that the The princes at once jumped to the souls of the princes may rest in peace, conclusion that they had not only found Ganga should be brought down here from the stolen horse but the thief also, and the land of the Devas." they rushed on Kapila shouting, "Here is Amsuman rushed home with the horse the thief pretending to be a yogi." Kapila and told the king all that he had found and thus disturbed opened his eyes and the learnt. sixty thousand princes were reduced to a Sagara was immersed in sorrow at the heap of ashes. Indra, the real thief, had fate that had overtaken his sons. However, artfully left the horse here with this very the horse having been brought back, he intent. completed the yaga. Grieving over his lost 7. BHAGIRATHA AND THE sons and despairing of ever bringing STORY OF GANGA Ganga down to the nether world, he died KING Sagara waited in vain for the disconsolate. return of the princes who had gone in According to the Ramayana, Sagara search of the sacrificial horse. lived for 30,000 years. Figures like 30,000 After some days he called his and 60,000 need not confuse us. Thirty grandson, Amsuman, and said: "I am thousand may mean either a very large anxious to know what has happened to the number or just thirty. If we so like, we princes who went to Patala. You are may take these figures literally. brave; go thither, well-armed and find out Amsuman succeeded Sagara as King of what has happened and come back Ayodhya and was, in turn, succeeded by crowned with success." Dilipa. Bhagiratha came after Dilipa. Amsuman went closely following the Amsuman and Dilipa though happy path of the princes and reached the nether and blessed in other respects, died world where he saw and paid salutations grieving that they were unable to bring to the mighty elephants standing guard at Ganga to Patala for the salvation of their the four quarters. These guardians of the forefathers. quarters uttered encouraging words and Bhagiratha was a valiant king. He was said he would succeed in his mission. childless. Desiring progeny and hoping to When in due course Amsuman entered bring Ganga down, he left for Gokarna for and went round Patala he was delighted performing penance, leaving the kingdom when he found the sacrificial horse in the hands of his ministers. grazing contentedly there, but was Bhagiratha went through severe perplexed and distressed when he saw austerities. With fire on all sides and head heaps of ashes all over the place. Could exposed to the hot sun, and taking food they be all that remained of his valiant but once a month, he continued his tapas. uncles? Bhagiratha's name has come to signify Garuda, the bird-king, brother of great perseverance in any good cause. Sumati, Sagara's second wife, who Brahma, pleased with the tapas, Three of them flowed west and three appeared before Bhagiratha and asked: east; and the seventh river followed "What would you have?" Bhagiratha who was full of joy at the Bhagiratha told him two wishes: "If approaching salvation of his ancestors. you have pity on me, bless me with a Ganga followed Bhagiratha's triumphal child to continue the line of my forebears. chariot; the waters danced and shone like Secondly, cursed by Kapila Muni, my lightning flashes as the river made its ancestors lie a heap of ashes in Patala. The course and the Devas and Gandharvas ashes should be washed by the waters of assembled above to witness the grand Ganga so that their souls may ascend top sight. Sometimes slow and sometimes heaven. May you be pleased to order fast, now sliding down and now jumping Ganga to go down." up, the river went on dancing behind Brahma replied: "The Devas are Bhagiratha's chariot and the folk of pleased with your tapas. You wishes are heaven enjoyed the sight all the way. granted. But there is one difficulty. The On her course, Ganga damaged the earth cannot withstand the force of yaga platform of a rishi by name Jahnu. Ganga's descent. Siva alone can stand it. The rishi took the entire flood in his palm Therefore direct your penance and prayers and sipped it off. Ganga disappeared again to him." and Bhagiratha was sorely perplexed. Bhagiratha renewed his tapas and The Devas and other rishis approached continued long without food or water, and Jahnu and begged him to forgive Ganga at last won Siva's grace. Siva appeared and allow Bhagiratha to reap the fruit of and said to Bhagiratha: "I shall fulfil your his great austerities and perseverance. The wish. I shall receive Ganga on my head. sage relented and let Ganga out through May her grace be upon you." his right ear. The Devas were glad and When Mahadeva promised help to blessed Ganga thus: "Coming out of the Bhagiratha, Ganga began her descent as rishi's body as out of your mother's womb, ordered by Brahma. In her arrogance, she you are now Jahnavi, Jahnu's daughter." thought she would fall on Mahadeva's There was no further hindrance or head and sweep him away towards Patala. mishap and Ganga reached Patala through The three-eyed God decided to teach the ocean. With the holy waters, Ganga a lesson. And the moment he Bhagiratha performed the funeral rites for willed it, the flood of waters that fell on his arcestors and secured for them their his head were held by his matted hair as in entry to heaven. an infinite receptacle. Ganga tried her best Bhagiratha's efforts having brought but not a drop could emerge from the Ganga down, she is known as Bhagirathi. tangled maze of Siva's matted locks. After concluding this narrative, This was a lesson to Ganga to be sure, Viswamitra blessed the princes. "The sun but a heart-braking disappointment to is setting," he said. "Let us say our Bhagiratha. There was nothing for him but evening prayers in the waters of Ganga to propitiate Siva with tapas. This he did whom your ancestor brought down to this to such good purpose that Siva took pity world." on him and gently let out the waters of Those who bathe in the holy waters of Ganga in Bindu Saras from where they Ganga or read or listen to this divine story flowed down in seven small separate with devotion, will be cleansed of sin and streams. endowed with virtue, strength and you shall stay here, unseen by anyone. unflagging zeal. After a long time, Dasaratha's son will 8. AHALYA pass this way. When he sets foot in this After a day's stay in the City of Visala, ashrama, you will be freed from the curse. Viswamitra and his party left for Mithila. Welcome him as a guest. You will then On the way, not far from Mithila, they recover your lost virtue and get back your saw a beautiful ashrama which seemed own beauty.' The sage then left his untenanted. Rama asked Viswamitra: violated ashrama for Himalayas to engage "Whose is this ashrama with ancient himself in austerities there." trees? Why does such a beautiful abode Viswamitra said to Rama: "Let us enter stand deserted?" the ashrama. You will bring redemption to Viswamitra replied: Ahalya and rekindle the light in her as the "This ashrama is subject to a curse. sage promised." Sage Gautama lived here with his wife And they went into the ashrama. As Ahalya, spending his days in peace and Rama set foot in the ashrama, the curse holy meditation. One day during the sage's was lifted and Ahalya stood before them absence from the ashrama, Indra, filled in all her beauty. Having lain concealed with unholy desire for the beautiful behind leaves and creepers and kept her Ahalya, entered it disguised as Gautama vow for many years, she now shone, says and approached the lady with urgent the poet, in Rama's presence, like the solicitation. She was not deceived by the moon emerging from the clouds, like a impersonation, but vain of her beauty and flame issuing from smoke and like the proud that it had won her the love of the sun's reflection in rippling water. lord of the celestials, she lost her Rama and Lakshmana touched the feet judgment and yielded to his desire. When of the sage's wife made pure by penance. the sin had been sinned, realising its She welcomed the divine princes with all heinousness and the fierce spiritual energy the customary rites of hospitality. A of her betrayed husband, she warned Indra shower of flowers descended from the of his terrible peril and begged him to be heavens as Ahalya, cleansed of sin, shone gone in the instant. Indra was fleeing in like a goddess. Simultaneously the sage guilty panic; but unfortunately for him he Gautama returned to the ashrama and almost bumped into the rishi who was just received his repentant and purified wife returning from his ablutions, clad in wet back to his affection. garments and radiating spiritual lustre. That is Ahalya's story as told by Pretence was hopeless before that all- Valmiki. There are in other Puranas and seeing wisdom and Indra bowed in abject popular stories slightly varying versions, supplication, and threw himself on the but the differences need not trouble us. mercy of the rishi. The sage looked at him Now, a word to those of our times who with wrath and loathing and cursed him: read Ramayana and Bharata and other 'Lustful beast as you are, dead to all truth Puranas. In these works, there are frequent and righteousness, may your manhood fall references to Devas and Rakshasas. The away from you.' Indra at once became an latter were wicked, had no regard for eunuch and went back to the Devas in dharma, and reveled in evil deeds. Asuras ignominious shame. Then the sage turned were also like Rakshasas. But even among to his erring wife and prescribed a long Rakshasas there were a few wise and penance for her. He said: 'Living on air, virtuous people. There spring up bad men even in the best of races and vice versa. Why did the sages who told the On the whole, Asuras and Rakshasas were Puranas involve themselves in such those who rejoiced in doing wicked deeds. difficulties? Their aim was to awaken It is a pity that some people in their people to a sense of the dangers of ignorance identify the Asuras and adharma. Else, the sages need not have Rakshasas with ancient Indian tribes and deliberately attributed sinful acts to their races, a view not supported by any literary own heroes and created difficulties for work or tradition or recorded history. themselves. The conjecture of foreigners that the Some persons take pleasure in jumping Rakshasas were the Dravidian race, is not to wrong conclusions from the incidents borne out by any authority in Tamil or in the Puranas. They argue: "Ravana was other literature. The Tamil people are not a very good king. Valmiki has falsely descendants of the Asuras or Rakshasas. accused him of wicked deeds." They ask: The Devas were generally upholders of "Did not Rama act unjustly on a certain dharma and took on themselves the task of occasion? Did not Sita utter a lie?" and the putting down the Rakshasas. According to like. Valmiki could well have omitted the Puranas, they had at times to deviate incidents which are not edifying. Both from dharma in dealing with the Rama and Ravana were first presented to Rakshasas, some of whom had attained us by the poet Valmiki. great power through tapas. There was no earlier work referring to The Devas were generally good; and Ravana that can be quoted to contradict those among them who swerved from the Valmiki and stamp him as being partial to path of righteousness paid the price for it. Rama, Sita and the Devas, and twisting There was no separate code of conduct for facts to deceive people. Valmiki's the Devas; the law of Karma admits of no Ramayana is the fountain source of the distinction between the Devas and others. story of Rama; in it, one comes across The law dealt with the Devas as with seemingly wrong deeds. others. Calm consideration of such situations Wedded to virtue as the Devas would show that they are just portrayals of generally were, lapses on their part appear similar difficulties in our day-to-day life. big to us, like stains on white cloth. The It is for us to benefit from the moral trials Rakshasas' evil deeds are taken for contained in them. The lesson of the granted and do not attract much attention, Ahalya episode is that, however deadly like stains on black cloth. one's sin, one may hope to be freed from The honest, when they happen to go its consequence by penitence and astray, should evoke our sympathy. It is punishment. Instead of condemning others however the way of the world, but it is not for their sins, we should look within our right, to condemn in strong terms casual own hearts and try to purify them of every lapses of the virtuous, while tolerating evil thought. The best of us have need for habitual wrong-doers. eternal vigilance, if we would escape sin. It should be noted that in the Puranas This is the moral of Ahalya's error. we see the gods getting entangled in 9. RAMA WINS SITA'S HAND dilemmas of Dharma. Indra and other All arrangements for Janaka's yaga had Devas are shown often as committing been completed and to Mithila had come serious sins. many rishis and Brahman's from various kingdoms. Viswamitra and the princes were duly welcomed. Janaka's preceptor, a clap of thunder. And there fell from Satananda, was the first to pay honor to heaven a shower of flowers. Viswamitra. Janaka followed him. Janaka proclaimed: "My beloved The King said to the sage: "I am indeed daughter shall be wedded to this prince." blessed that you should attend my yaga." Viswamitra said to Janaka: "Send your Pointing to Rama and Lakshmana, swiftest messengers to Ayodhya to give Janaka asked Viswamitra: "Who are these the news to Dasaratha and invite him." god-like youths who resemble each other, Janaka's messengers reached Ayodhya and carry their weapons with the proud in three days. They met King Dasaratha ease of seasoned warriors? Who is the who was seated, like Indra, on his throne happy father of such sons?" and said to him: "Sage Viswamitra and Viswamitra told Janaka that they were King Janaka have sent you happy news. the sons of King Dasaratha. He narrated Your son who came to Mithila has won how they had protected his own yaga and our princess Sita by fulfilling the destroyed the Rakshasas. "They have condition set for her hand. He not only come here," the sage went on, "to see, if strung Rudra's bow which none before they may, the great bow of Rudra in your could so much as lift, but bent its tough palace." Janaka understood the meaning pride till it broke. King Janaka eagerly of Viswamitra's words and rejoiced. awaits your gracious consent for the The King said: "The prince is welcome marriage, and your presence and blessing to see the bow. If he can string it, he will at the festivities. May it please you to start win the hand of my daughter. Many were for Mithila with your retinue." the princes who saw this bow and went Dasaratha, who had sent Rama with back, unable even to move it. I shall Viswamitra with a heart not altogether indeed be happy if this prince succeeds free from anxiety even after the sage's where so many have failed and I am assurance, was thrilled with joy on thereby enabled to give Sita to him." hearing this good news. He told his Janaka then ordered his men to bring ministers to prepare for the journey and the bow which was kept safe and sacred in left the very next day for Janaka's capital. an iron box. It was brought on an eight- Dasaratha and his following reached wheeled carriage and dragged like a Mithila and were received with temple chariot during a festival. enthusiastic welcome. Exchange of "Here," said Janaka, "is Rudra's bow courtesies over, Janaka said to Dasaratha: worshipped by me and my ancestors. Let "My yaga will soon be over. I think it best Rama see this bow." to have the marriage as soon as the yaga is After obtaining permission from over," and sought his approval. Viswamitra and the King, Rama stepped Dasaratha replied: "You are the bride's out to the iron bow-case, while all eyes father and it is for you to order things as were fixed on him in wishful expectation. you wish." Opening the box, he lifted the bow At the appointed day and hour, giving effortlessly, as if it were a garland of away the bride, King Janaka said to flowers, and resting one end of it against Rama: "Here is my daughter, Sita, who his toe, he bent and strung it and drew the will ever tread with you the path of string back with such irresistible force that dharma. Take her hand in yours. Blessed the mighty bow snapped with a crash like and devoted, she will ever walk with you like your own shadow."

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