Myths and Legends of the Hindus & Buddhists/CHAPTER II

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Myths and Legends of the Hindus & Buddhists
Sister Nivedita and Anand K. Coomaraswamy

Chapter II - The Ramayana

Places Related to Ramayana in Rama's journey from Ayodhya to Lanka.


VALMlKI is a name almost as shadowy as Homer. He was, no doubt, a Brahman by birth, and closely! connected with the kings of Ayodhya. He collected songs and legends of Rama (afterwards called Rama-Chandra, in distinction from Parashu-Rama) ; and very probably some additions were made to his work at a later time, particularly the Uttara Kand. He is said! to have invented the shloka metre, and the language and ; style of Indian epic poetry owe their definite form to him.According to the Ramayana, he was a contemporary of; Rama, and sheltered Sita during her years of lonely exile, and taught the Ramayana to her sons Kusa and Lava. The material of the Ramayana, in its simplest form, the story of the recovery of a ravished bride, is not unlike that of another great epic, the Iliad of Homer. It is not likely, however, although the view has been suggested, that the Iliad derives from the Ramayana : it is more prob able that both epics go back to common legendary sources older than 1000 years B.C.

The story of Rama is told in one of the Jatakas, which may be regarded as a shorter version, one of many then current. Probably at some time during the last centuries 'preceding Christ the current versions of Rama's saga were taken up by the Brahman poet, and formed into ne story with a clear and coherent plot; while its complete form, with the added Uttara Kanda, may be as late as A.D. 400. As a whole, the poem in its last red action seems to belong essentially to the earlier phase of the Hindu renaissance, and it reflects a culture very similar to ! that which is visibly depicted in the Ajanta frescoes (first ,

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to seventh century A.D.) ; but of course the essential subject-matter is much more ancient. The version given in he present volume amounts to about one-twentieth of the whole Ramayana. It is a condensed translation, in which all the most essential matters are included ; while no episode or figure of speech has been added for which the original does not afford authority.

Ethic of the Ramayana

Not the least significant feature of Valmiki's epic lies in its remarkable presentation of two ideal societies : an deal good and an ideal evil. He abstracts, as it were, from human life an almost pure morality and an almost pure immorality, tempered by only so much of the opposite virtue as the plot necessitates. He thus throws into the strongest relief the contrast of good and evil, as these values presented themselves to the shapers of Hindu society. For it should be understood that not merely the lawgivers, like Manu, but also the poets of ancient India, conceived of their own literary art, not as an end in itself, but entirely as a means to an end and that end, the nearest possible realization of an ideal society. The poets were practical sociologists, using the great power of their art deliberately to mould the development of human institutions and to lay down ideals for all classes of men. The poet is, in fact, a philosopher, in the Nietzschean sense of one who stands behind and directs the evolution of a desired type. Results have proved the wisdom of the chosen means ; for if Hindu society has ever as a whole approached the ideal or ideals which have been the guiding force in its development, it is through hero-worship. The Vedas, indeed, belonged essentially to the learned ; but the epics have been translated into every vernacular by

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poets, such as Tulsi Das and Kamban, ranking in power with Valmlki himself. The material of the epics, more over, as also of many of the Puranas, has been made familiar not only to the literate, but also to all the unlettered, not excepting women, by constant recitation, and also by means of the drama, in folk-song, and in painting. Until quite modern times no Hindu boy or girl grew up unfamiliar with the story of the Ramayana ; and their highest aspiration was to be like Rama or Sita.

The Mythical Origin of Caste

It is in the Ramayana, and in the Laws of Manu (c. 500 B.C.) that we find the chief account of the ideal Hindu system of Colour (caste). The mythical origin of Colour, according to Manu, is as follows : Brahmans are sprung from the mouth, Kshatriyas from the arm, Vaishyas from the thigh, and Shudras from the foot of Brahma. This myth is true in an allegorical sense ; it is used more literally to give divine sanction to the whole system. But t must not be supposed that Manu or Valmlki describes a state of society actually existing at any one time all over India. The history of Hindu society might much rather be written in terms of the degree of approach towards or divergence from the systems of the Utopists, Valmlki and Manu. How powerful their influence still is, compared even with the force of custom, appears in the fact that it is at the present day the aim of many reformers by no means to abolish the caste system, but gradually to unite the sub-castes until none but the four main Colours remain as effective social divisions. This development, combined with some provision for the transference from one caste to another of those who are able and willing to adopt the traditions and accept the

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discipline of a higher Colour, is what the present writer would also desire. Transference of caste, or the acquiring of Colour, is continually going on even now, by the absorption of aboriginal tribes into the Hindu system ; but stories like those of Vishvamitra illustrate the immense theoretical difficulty of such promotions. Against this extreme exclusiveness many protests have arisen in India, the most notable being that of Buddha, who, so far from accepting the divine right of a Brahman by birth, taught that

Not by birth does one become a Brahman :
By his actions alone one becomes a Brahman.

The strength of the hereditary principle has always prevailed against such reactions, and the most that reformers have actually accomplished is to create new caste groups.

Valmiki's Ideal Society

Let us now examine very briefly the nature of Valmiki's ideal society. From the first we are impressed with its complexity and with the high degree of differentiation of the inter dependent parts of which it is constituted. It is founded on the conception of gradation of rank, but that rank is dependent, not upon wealth, but upon mental qualities only. The doctrine of reincarnation is taken for granted ; and the conception of karma (that the fruit of actions bears inevitable fruit in another life) being combined with this, the theory logically followed that rank must be determined solely by heredity. He who deserved to be born as a Brahman was born as a Brahman, and he who deserved to be born as a Shudra was born as a Shudra. This is the theory which finds practical expression in the caste system, or, as it is known to Indians, the system of " Colour" (varna in modern vernacular, " birth " (jati). Fundamentally, there are four Colours : Brahmans, the

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priests and philosophers ; Kshatriyas, the ruling and knightly class ; Vaishyas, traders and agriculturists ; and Shudras servants of the other three, who alone are " twice-born," that is, receive priestly initiation in early manhood. Besides these, there are recognized a vast number of subdivisions of the four main classes, arising theoretically by intermarriage, and distinguishable in practice as occupation-castes.

For each Colour Hindu theory recognizes an appropriate duty and morality (dharma) : to follow any but the " own- dharma" of a man s caste constituted a most disastrous sin, meriting condign punishment. In this conception of own-dharma there appears at once the profound dis distinction of Hindu from all absolutist moralities, such as the Mosaic or Buddhist. To take one concrete example, the Mosaic Decalogue lays down the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," and this commandment is nominally binding equally upon the philosopher, the soldier, and the merchant a somewhat illogical position. But Hinduism, permeated though it be by the doctrine of ahimsa, harmlessness, does not attempt to enforce it upon the Kshatriyas or Shudras : it is the hermit and philosopher above all who must not kill or hurt any living thing, while the knight who shrank, in time of need, from slaying men or animals would not be praise worthy as a humanitarian, but blameworthy as one who neglected to follow his own-morality. This very question is raised in the Ramayana, when Sita suggests to Rama that, as they are now dwelling in the forests, the resort of hermits, they should adopt the y^-morality, and refrain from slaying, not merely beasts, but even the rakshasas1 ; but Rama replies that he is bound both

1 Rakshasas, daityas, yakshas, and asuras are demons and devils constantly at war with men and gods.

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by knightly duty and by promise to protect the hermits, and that lie must obey the ordinance of chivalry.

In its extreme form this doctrine of own-morality is re presented as having been fully realized in practice only in the golden age, when none but Brahmans practised asceticism, or attained to Perfect Enlightenment; in the second age the Brahmans and Kshatriyas were equally powerful, and it is said that in this age Mann composed the shastras (law-books) setting forth the duties of the four varnas ; in the third age the Vaishyas also practised austerities ; and in the fourth even the Shudras engaged in austere penances. Thus the four ages represent a progressive deterioration from an ideal theocracy to a com plete democracy. In the time of Rama the beginning of the fourth age is already foreshadowed by the one Shudra who became a yogi, and was slain by Rama, not so much as a punishment as to avoid the consequential disturbance of society, already manifested in the untimely death of a Brahman boy.

In an aristocratic society such as Valmiki contemplates the severity of social discipline increases toward the summit : those who have the greatest power must practise the greatest self-restraint, partly because noblesse oblige, partly because such austere discipline is the necessary condition without which power would rapidly melt away. It is needful to remember this essential character of a true aristocratic society, if we are to understand some of the most significant, and to the democrat and individualist the most incomprehensible and indefensible, episodes of the Ramayana. Upon the Kshatriya, and above all upon the king, devolves the duty of maintaining dharma ; therefore he must not only protect men and gods against

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violence, as by slaying the rakshasas, but must himself for the sake of example conform to the rules of accepted morality, even when these rules have for him no personal significance whatever. It is thus that Rama repudiates Sita twice, though all the time perfectly satisfied in his own mind of her complete faithfulness. This repudiation of Sita forms the most dramatic and remarkable feature of the whole story. Rama and Sita are brought together after a year s separation, and at the close of a long and arduous conflict : this moment, where modern sentiment would demand a " happy ending," is made the supreme test of character for both, and the final tragedy is only postponed by the appearance of the gods and justification of Sita by ordeal. In these tragic episodes, forming the culminating moral crisis in the lives of both Rama and Sita, Valmlki is com pletely and equally justified as a teacher and as an artist. Valmlki s ideal society is almost free from sin, whereby he is the better enabled to exhibit the far-reaching effects of the ill-doing of single individuals and of only faults. Even Kaikeyi is not made ignoble : she is only very young and blind and wilful ; but the whole tragedy of Rama s life and the fulfilment of the purposes of the high gods follows on her wrongdoing.

Over against this human world of the silver age is drawn the sinful and inhuman world of the rakshasas, where greed and lust and violence and deceit replace generosity and self- restraint and gentleness and truth. But these evil passions are outwardly directed against men and gods and all those who are, for the rakshasas, aliens: amongst themselves there are filial affection and the uttermost of wifely devotion, there are indomitable courage and the truest loyalty. The city of the rakshasas is pre-eminently fair, built by Vishvakarman himself ; they practise all the arts ; they worship the gods,

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and by austerity and penance win great gifts of them : in a word, they flourish like the. bay-tree, and if they arc evil, at least they are not ignoble. Amongst them are found some, like Vibhishana, not evil at all. After all, then, these rakshasas are not inhuman at all, but their estate is an image of the a-dharmic, unrighteous, aspect of human society an allegory which we should all under stand were it presented to us to-day for the first time, like the Penguins of Anatole France.

The Story

The siege of Lanka is told in the original at great length and with grotesque humour. But its violence is redeemed by many incidents of chivalric tenderness and loyalty. Ravana, once slain, is thought of by Rama as a friend ; Mandodari grieves for him as Sita herself might grieve for Rama. The story is full of marvels, but the magic element has often a profound significance and is no merely fanciful embroidery. All the great powers possessed by the protagonists of one side or the other are represented as won by self-restraint and mental concentration, not as the fruit of any talisman fortuitously acquired. Thus the conflict becomes, in the last resort, essentially a conflict of character with character. Take again the case of the magic weapons, informed with the power of irresistible spells. Hanuman is struck down and paralysed with one of these, but no sooner are physical bonds added to the mental force than he is free. Here, surely, is clear evidence of an apprehension of the principle that to fortify with violence the power of wisdom is inevitably an unsuccessful policy.

In such ways the significance of Valmlki's Ramayana becomes apparent to those who read or re-read it attentively,

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and its lasting influence on Indian life and character ideals becomes easily understandable. It is hardly possible to turn aside from this aspect of the myth of Rama and Slta without expressing profound regret that this great means of education should have been eliminated from modern educational systems in India in the name of religious neutrality. For it would scarcely be going too far to say that no one unfamiliar with the story of Rama and Sita can be in any real sense a citizen of India, nor acquainted with morality as the greatest of Indian teachers conceived it. Perhaps one might go further and say that no one unfamiliar with the story of Rama and Sita can be a true citizen of the world.

The Ramayana as Animal Epos

Here and there throughout the world we come upon whispers and echoes of the great animal epos of primitive man. As a whole it no longer exists; it is no longer even recoverable. It can only be guessed at and inferred from a hint here, a fragment there. But nowhere in the modern world is the material for its restoration so abundant as in India. To this day in the Indian imagination there is a unique sympathy with animal expression. Man or boy, gentle and simple alike, telling some story of mouse or squirrel, will bring the tale to a climax with the very cries and movements of the creature he has watched. It is assumed instinctively that at least the fundamental feelings, if not the thoughts, of furred and feathered folk are even as our own. And it is here, surely, in this swift interpretation, in this deep intuition of kinship, that we find the real traces of the temper that went to the making long ago of Buddhism and Jainism, the gentle faiths.

The Indian people are human, and cruelty occurs amongst them occasionally. The fact that it is comparatively rare is proved by the familiarity and fearlessness of all the smaller birds and beasts. But in this unconscious attitude of the Indian imagination, in its mimicry and quick perception of the half fun, half pathos of the dumb creation, we have an actual inheritance from the child hood of the world, from that early playtime of man in which the four-footed things were his brethren and companions.

This whimsical spirit, this merry sense of kindred, speaks to us throughout the Buddhist Birth-Stories (Jatakas), as a similar feeling does in Aesop's Fables or in the tales of Uncle Remus. The Jatakas, it is true, deal with animal life as the vehicle of a high philosophy and a noble romance, instead of merely making it illustrate shrewd proverbs or point homely wit. The love of Buddha and Yashodara formed the poetic legend of its age, and there was nothing incongruous to the mind of the period in making birds and beasts frequent actors in its drama. Swans are the preachers of gospels in the courts of kings. The herds of deer, like men, have amongst them chiefs and aristocrats, who will lay down their lives for those that follow them. Yet already, even here, we see the clear Aryan mind at work, reducing to order and distinct ness the tangled threads of a far older body of thought. Out of that older substance are born the tendencies that will again and again come to the surface in the great theo logical systems of later times. Of it were shaped the heroes, such as Hanuman and Garuda, who step down into the more modern arena at every new formulation of the Hindu idea, like figures already familiar, to join in its action.

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What we miss through all the poetry of this gradual Aryanizing is the element of awe for this, though pre sent, is perpetually growing less. The Aryan mind is essentially an organizing mind, always increasingly scientific, increasingly rational in its outlook upon things. The colour and caprice that make early mythologies so rich in stimulus for the imagination are almost always the contribution of older and more childlike races. To humanity, in its first morning-hours, there seemed to be in the animal something of the divine. Its inarticulate ness, not then so far removed from man s own speech, constituted an oracle. Its hidden ways of life and sudden flashings forth upon the path were supernatural. The dim intelligence that looked out from between its eyes seemed like a large benevolence, not to be compassed or fathomed by mortal thought. And who could tell what was the store of wisdom garnered behind the little old face of the grey ape out of the forest, or hoarded by the coiled snake in her hole beside the tree ?

The Attraction of the Animal

With all a child's power of wonder, the thought of man played about the elephant and the eagle, the monkey and the lion. Many tribes and races had each its own mystic animal, half worshipped as a god, half suspected of being an ancestor. With the rise of the great theological systerns all this will be regimented and organized. From: being gods themselves the mythical half-human creatures will descend, to become the vehicles and companions of gods. One of these will be mounted on the peacock, ! another on the swan. One will be carried by the bull, another by the goat. But in this very fact there will be an implicit declaration of the divine associations of the

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Garuda by Nanda Lal Bose

subordinate. The emblem thus constituted will mark a compromise, a synthesis of two systems, two ideas one relatively new, and one incomparably older and more primitive. For the same process that makes the Tenth Book of the Rig-Veda so markedly different from its predecessors, inasmuch as in it the religious consciousness of the Sanskrit-speaking people has begun to take note of the indigenous conceptions of the peoples of the soil, is characteristic of the advancing consciousness of Hinduism throughout the historic period. The Aryan brain, with its store of great nature-gods gods of sky and sun and fire, of wind and waters and storm, gods who had so much in common with each other, throughout Aryan mythology, from the Hellespont to the Ganges had gradually to recognize and include the older, vaguer, more dimly cosmic deities of various Asiatic populations. The process of this is perfectly clear and traceable historically. Only the rival elements themselves have to be assumed and enumerated. Of the growth of the mythology of Indra and Agni, of Vayu and Varuna we can say very little. In all probability it was born outside India, and brought there, as to Greece, in a state of maturity. And similarly, we cannot trace the steps by which the Indian imagination came to conceive of the universe, or the god of the universe, as the Elephant-headed. Obviously, the idea was born in India itself, where the elephants ranged the forests and breasted the rivers. The appearance of the same worship in such countries as China and Japan is clearly a relic of some very ancient religious influence brought to bear upon them from the far south.

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The Elephant-headed

What exactly is signified by this Ganesha, or Ganapati Lord of the Multitudes, or was it primarily Lord of the Territory? What is the meaning of that white elephant- head borne on that red body? Vast and cosmic he certainly is. Is he at bottom the white cloud glistening in the evening against the crimson sun ? In any case he stands to this day as the god of success and of worldly wisdom. His divine attribute is the simple one of fulfilling all desires. He is to be worshipped at the beginning of all worships, that they may be successful in their intention a sure proof of long priority. In Japan it is said that he is known as the god of the villages, and that he has something a trifle rude in his worship. In itself this shows his great antiquity, though as lord of the villages in India he could not be so old as those of Southern India, which are always dedicated to the Earth- Mother, with an altar of rude stone.

How well we can enter into the tenderness and awe of the primitive Indian man for this his great god! The depths of the night would seem to be his vast form. All wisdom and all riches were in his gigantic keeping, He gave writing. He gave wealth. He was the starry universe itself. Success was his to bestow. All that was, was contained within him. How natural that he should be the Fulfiller of Desire ! Ganesha is not the deity of a people who fear their god. He is gentle, calm, and friendly, a god who loves man and is loved by him. A genuine kindliness and a certain wise craft are written on his visage. But neither is he the god of any theological conception. He is obvious, simple, capable of a slight grossness, full of rude vigour and primal mascu-

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linity, destined from his birth to a marvellous future, both in faith and art, as the forefront of all undertakings that are to make for success. Less ancient than the primitive Mother of the Dekkan villages, he was nevertheless, it may be, the beginning of organized worship. He was already old when Buddhism was young. Above all, he is the god neither of priests nor of kings, neither of theocracies nor of nations, but in all probability of that old diffusive mercantile culture, the civilization of the Bharatas. To this day he is the god pre-eminently of merchants, and it is a curious fact that in the Indian city, when a merchant is made bankrupt, the event is notified to all comers by the office Ganeshas being turned upside down !

The Epic of Hinduism

First of the popular scriptures of Hinduism written early in the Christian era, for the now consolidating nation was the epic poem of Valmiki known as the Ramayana. This is the world gospel of purity and sorrow, but also, no less notably, the fairy-tale of nature. Since the begin ning of the reign of Ganesha the age of the making of Buddhism and the Jataka had come and gone, and with the passing centuries the sway of the Aryan genius had been more and more clearly felt. As in every work of art we obtain a glimpse of the culture that precedes it, so in the Ramayana, while there is a great deal that is prophetic of developments to come, we also find ourselves transported into the child-world of an earlier age. Like all such worlds, it was one in which birds and beasts could talk and comport themselves as men. To the folk of that time, it is clear, the forest was a realm of mystery. It was inhabited by scholars and anchorites. It was full of beautiful flowers and fragrance ; it was the haunt of

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sweet-singing birds; and it was cool and green. All holiness might be attained under its soothing influence. Any austerity might be practised in its ennobling solitudes. But it was also the home of deadly beasts of prey. And many of these were surrounded by an added and supernatural terror ; for was it not known that the demon Mancha had the power to change his shape at; will? Who, then, could tell whether even tiger or bear! were what it seemed, or something more subtle and fear some still ? Amongst the evening shadows walked strange forms and malefic presences. Misshapen monsters and powerful fiends, owning allegiance to a terrible ten-headed kinsman in distant Lanka, ranged through its fastnesses. How often must the belated hunter have listened in horror to whispering sound from the darkness of trees and brush wood, feeling that he was acting as eavesdropper to the enemies of the soul !

But the gods were ever greater than the powers of evil. It was, after all, the twilight of divinity that hung so thick about the forest-sanctuary. Were there not there the gandharvas and siddhas musical ministrants of the upper air ? Were there not apsaras, the heavenly nymphs, for whose sake, at the moment of nightfall, we must not venture too near the edge of the forest pools, lest we catch them at their bathing and incur some doom ? Were there not kinnaras', the human birds, holding instruments of music under their wings ? Was it not known that amidst their silence slept Jatayu, king for sixty thousand years of all the eagle-tribes, and that somewhere amongst them dwelt Sampati, his elder brother, unable to fly because his wings had been scorched off in the effort to cloak Jatayu from sunstroke? And all about the greenwood came and went the monkey hosts, weird with a more than human

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wisdom, able at a word to make the leafy branches blossom into beauty, and yet unhappy strugglers with their own hot monkey-nature, ever imposing on them, like a spell, a strange unspeakable destiny of mischief and futility. It is an organized society, this, that is predicated by the Indian imagination of the animal races. They have their families and genealogies, their sovereigns and political alliances, and their personal lot of tragedy or comedy. Throughout the dramatic phases of the Ramayana the counterplot is provided by the five great monkeys whom Sita sees below her, seated on a hill-top, when she is being borne through the evening sky by Ravana. Of these the chief is Sugriva, of the monster neck, who has lost wife and kingdom at the hands of his elder brother Bali, and waits to be avenged on him. Sugriva is thus a king in exile, surrounded by his counsellors and captains, in a sense the enchanted prince of fairy-tales. There are scholars who find in this tableau of the five chief monkeys on the mountain-top a fragment of some ancient cosmogony, already, it may be, a score of millenniums old.


But there moves through the Ramayana one being who, though also a monkey, is of a different order. In those parts of India where, as in the Himalayas or the interior of Maharashtra, the symbols of primitive Hinduism still abound, little chapels of Hanuman are as common as those of Ganesha, and the ape, like the elephant, has achieved a singular and obviously age-old conventionalism of form. He is always seen in profile, vigorously portrayed in low relief upon a slab. The image conveys the impression of a complex emblem rather than of plastic realism. But there is no question as to the energy and beauty of the

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qualities for which he stands. It may be questioned whether there is in the whole of literature another apotheosis of loyalty and self-surrender like that of Hanuman. He is the Hindu ideal] of the perfect servant, the servant who finds full realization of manhood, of faithfulness, of his obedience; the subordinate whose glory is in his own inferiority.

Hanuman must have been already ancient when the Ramayana was first conceived. What may have been the first impulse that created him it is now useless to guess. But he is linked to a grander order than that of Sugriva and Bali, the princes whom he serves, inasmuch as he, like Jatayu, is said to be the son of Vayu, known in the Vedas as the god of the winds. In any case the depth and seriousness of the part assigned to him in the great poem assure him of unfading immortality. Whatever may have been his age or origin, Hanuman is captured and placed by the Ramayana amongst religious conceptions of the highest import. When he bows to touch the foot of Rama, that Prince who is also a divine incarnation, we witness the meeting-point of early nature-worships with the great systems that are to sway the future of religion. But we must not forget that in this one figure those early systems have achieved the spiritual quality and made a lasting contribution to the idealism of man. In ages to come the religion of Vishnu, the Preserver, will never be able to dispense with that greatest of devotees, the monkey-god; and even in its later phases, when Garuda the divine bird, who haunted the imagination of all early peoples as taken his final place as the vehicle, or attendant, of Narayana, Hanuman is never really displaced The wonderful creation of Valmiki will retain to the end of time his domination over the hearts and consciences of men

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The Story of Rama

The Story of Rama as told by One day the hermit Valmiki inquired of the great rishi1 Narada whether he could tell of any man living perfect in goodliness, virtue, courage, and benevolence. Then Narada related to him all the story that is now called the Ramayana, for such a man as Valmiki desired to hear of was the great Rama.

Valmiki returned to his forest hut. As he passed through the woods he saw a bird-man and a bird-woman singing and dancing. But at that very moment a wicked hunter shot the bird-man with an arrow so that he died, and his mate bewailed him long and bitterly. Then the hermit was moved by pity and anger, and cursed the hunter and passed on. But as he walked on, his words recurred to him, and he found that they formed a couplet in a new metre : :" Let this be called a shloka" he said.

Soon after he reached his hut there appeared to him the four-faced shining Brahma, the Creator of the World. Him Valmiki worshipped ; but the unhappy bird-man and the new-made shloka filled his thoughts. Then Brahma addressed him with a smile : " It was by my will that those words came from thy mouth ; that metre shall be very famous hereafter. Do thou compose in it the whole history of Rama; relate, O wise one, both all that is known and all that is as yet unknown to thee of Rama and Lakshmana and Janaka's daughter, and all the tribe of rakshasas. What is unknown shall be revealed to thee, and the poem shall be true from the first word to the last. Moreover, this thy Ramayana shall spread abroad amongst

1 A sage or priest of special authority, particularly one of the " seven rishis " who are priests of the gods and are identified with the stars of the Great Bear.

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men so long as the mountains and the seas endure." So saying, Brahma vanished.

Then Valmiki, dwelling in the hermitage amongst his disciples, set himself to make the great Ramayan, that bestows on all who hear it righteousness and wealth and fulfilment of desire, as well as the severing of ties. He sought deeper insight into the story he had heard from Narada, and thereto took his seat according to yoga1 ritual, and addressed himself to ponder on that subject and no other. Then by his yoga-powers he beheld Rama and Sita, Lakshman, and Dasharatha with his wives in his kingdom, laughing and talking, bearing and forbearing, doing and undoing as in real life, as clearly as one might see a fruit held in the palm of the hand. He perceived not only what had been, but what was to come. Then only, after concentred meditation, when the whole story lay like a picture in his mind, he began to shape it into shokas, of which, when it was finished, there were no less than twenty-four thousand. Then he reflected how it might be published abroad. For this he chose Kusa and Lava, the accomplished sons of Rama and Sita, who lived in the forest hermitage, and were learned in the Vedas, in music and recitation and every art, and very fair to see. To them Valmiki taught the whole Ramayana till they could recite it perfectly from beginning to end, so that those who heard them seemed to see everything told of in the story passing before their eyes. Afterward the brothers went to Rama's city of Ayodhya, where Rama found and entertained them, thinking them to be hermits ; and there before the whole court the Ramayana was first recited in public. ;

1 Yoga, mental concentration; lit, union. Yogi, one who practises yoga, an ascetic or hermit,

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Dasharatha and the Horse Sacrifice

There was once a great and beautiful city called Ayodhya that is, "Unconquerable" in the country of Koshala. There all men were righteous and happy, well read and contented, truthful, well provided with goods, self-restrained and charitable and full of faith. Its king was Dasharatha, a veritable Manu amongst men, a moon amongst the stars. He had many wise counsellors, amongst whom were Kashyapa and Markandeya, and he had also two saintly priests attached to his family, namely, Vashishtha and Vamadeva. To another great sage, Rishyasringa, he gave his daughter Santa. His ministers were such men as could keep their counsel and judge of things finely ; they were well versed in the arts of policy and ever fair- spoken. Only one desire of Dasharatha's was unsatisfied : he had no son to carry on his line. Because of this, after many vain austerities, he determined at last on the greatest of all offerings a horse sacrifice; and calling the family priests and other Brahmans, he gave all necessary orders for this undertaking. Then, returning to the inner rooms of the palace, he told his three wives what had been set afoot, whereat their faces shone with joy, like lotus-flowers in early spring.

When a year had passed the horse that had been set free returned, and Rishyasringa and Vashishtha performed the ceremony, and there was great festivity and gladness. Then Rishyasringa told the king that four sons would be born to him, perpetuators of his race; at which sweet words the king rejoiced exceedingly.

Vishnu is born as Rama and his Brothers

Now at this time all the deities were there assembled to receive their share of the offerings made, and being

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assembled together they approached Brahma with a petition. " A certain wicked rakshasa named Ravana greatly oppresses us," they said, "whom we suffer patiently because thou hast granted him a boon not to be slain by gandharvas, or yakshas, or rakshasas, or gods. But now his tyranny becometh past endurance, and, O Lord, thou shouldst devise some method to destroy him." To them Brahma replied: "That evil rakshasa disdained to ask from me immunity from the attack of men: by man only he may and shall be slain." Thereat the deities rejoiced. At that moment there arrived the great God Vishnu, clad in yellow robes, bearing mace and discus and conch, and riding upon Garuda. Him the deities reverenced, and prayed him to take birth as the four sons of Dasharatha for the destruction of the wily and irrepressible Ravana. Then that one of lotus-eyes, making of himself four beings, chose Dasharatha for his father and disappeared. In a strange form, like a flaming tiger, he reappeared in Dasharatha's sacrificial fire and, greeting him, named himself as the messenger of God. " Do thou, O tiger amongst men," said he, " accept this divine rice and milk, and share it amongst thy wives." Then Dasharatha, overjoyed, carried the divine food and gave a portion of it to Kaushalya, and another portion to Sumitra, and another to Kaikeyi, and then the fourth portion to Sumitra again. In due time four sons were born of them, sharing the self of Vishnu from Kaushalya, Rama ; from Kaikeyi, Bharata ; and from Sumitra, Lakshmana and Satrughna ; and these names were given them by Vashishtha. Meanwhile the gods created mighty monkey-hosts, brave and wise and swift, shape-shifters, hardly to be slain, to be the helpers of the heroic Vishnu in the battle with the rakshasas.

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Rama's Journey to Vishvamitra Ashrama

The four sons of Dasharatha grew up to early manhood, excelling all in bravery and virtue. Rama especially be came the idol of the people and the favourite of his father. Learned in the Vedas, he was no less expert in the science of elephants and horses and in riding cars, and a very mirror of courtesy. Lakshmana devoted himself to Rama's service, so that the two were always together. Like a faithful shadow Lakshman followed Rama, sharing with him everything that was his own, and guarding him when he went abroad to exercise or hunt. In the same way Satrughna attached himself to Bharata. So it was till Rama reached the age of sixteen.

Now there was a certain great rishi named Vishvamitra, originally a Kshatriya, who by the practice of unheard-of austerities had won from the gods the status of brahma-rishi. He dwelt in the Shaiva hermitage called Siddhashrama, and came thence to ask a boon from Dasharatha. Two rakshasas, Maricha and Suvahu, supported by the wicked Ravana, continually disturbed his sacrifices and polluted his sacred fire; none but Rama could overcome these devils. Dasharatha welcomed Vishvamitra gladly, and promised him any gift that he desired ; but when he learnt that his dear son Rama was required for so terrible and dangerous a service, he was cast down, and it seemed as though the light of his life went out. Yet he could not break his word, and it came to pass that Rama and Lakshmana went away with Vishvamitra for the ten days of his sacrificial rites. But though it was for so short a time, this was the beginning of their manhood and of love and strife.

Vashishtha cheered Dasharatha's heart, assuring him of certain victory for Rama. So, with his father's blessing, Rama set out with Vishvamitra and his brother Lakshman.

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A cool breeze, delighted at the sight of Rama, fanned their faces, and flowers rained down upon them from the sky. Vishvamitra led the way ; the two brothers, carrying their bows and swords, wearing splendid jewels and gloves of lizard-skin upon their fingers, followed Vishvamitra like glorious flames, making him bright with the reflection of their own radiance.

Arrived at the [[hermitage, Vishvamitra (Vishvamitra-Ashrama) and the other priests began their sacrifice ; and when the rakshasas, like rain- clouds obscuring the sky, rushed forward in horrid shapes, Rama wounded and put to flight Maricha and Suvahu, and slew the others of those evil night-rangers. After the days of sacrifice and ritual at Siddhashrama were over, Rama asked Vishvamitra what other work he required of him.

Rama's marriage with Sita, the Daughter of Janaka

Vishvamitra replied that Janaka, Raja of Mithila, was about to celebrate a great sacrifice. " Thither," he said, "we shall repair. And thou, O tiger among men, shalt go with us, and there behold a wonderful and marvellous bow. This great bow the gods gave long ago to Raja Devarata; and neither gods nor gandharvas nor asuras nor rakshasas nor men have might to string it, though many kings and princes have essayed it. That bow is worshipped as a deity. The bow and Janaka's great sacrifice shalt thou behold."

Thus all the Brahmans of that hermitage, with Vishvamitra at their head, and accompanied by Rama and Lakshman, set out for Mithila; and the birds and beasts dwelling in Siddhashrama followed after Vishvamitra, whose wealth was his asceticism. As they went along the forest paths Vishvamitra related

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ancient stones to the two brothers, and especially the story of the birth of Ganga, the great river Ganges.

Janaka welcomed the ascetics with much honour, and appointing them to seats according to their rank, he asked who those brothers might be that walked amongst men like lions or elephants, godlike and goodly to be seen. Vishvamitra told King Janaka all the history of Dasharatha's sons, their journey to Siddhashrama and fight with the rakshasas, and how Rama had now come to Mithila to see the famous bow.

Next day Janaka summoned the brothers to see the bow. First he told them how that bow had been given by Shiva to the gods, and by the gods to his own ancestor, Devarata. And he added : " I have a daughter, Sita, not born of men, but sprung from the furrow as I ploughed the field and hallowed it. On him who bends the bow I will bestow my daughter. Many kings and princes have tried and failed to bend it. Now I shall show the bow to you, and if Rama succeed in bending it I shall give him my daughter Sita."

Then the great bow was brought forth upon an eight-wheeled cart drawn by five thousand tall men. Rama drew the bow from its case and strove to bend it ; it yielded easily, and he strung and drew it till at last it snapped in two with the sound of an earthquake or a thunder-clap. The thousands of spectators were amazed and terrified, and all but Vishvamitra, Janaka, Rama, and Lakshman fell to the ground. Then Janaka praised Rama and gave orders for the marriage to be prepared, and sent messengers to Ayodhya to invite Raja Dasharatha to his son's wedding, to give his blessing and consent. Thereafter the two kings met and Janaka bestowed Sita upon Rama, and his second daughter Urmila on Lakshman.

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To Bharata and Satrughna Janaka gave Mandavya and Srutakirti, daughters of Kushadhwaja. Then those four princes, holding each his bride's hand, circumnavigate the sacrificial fire, the marriage dais, the king, and all the hermits thrice, while flowers rained down from heaven and celestial music sounded. Then Dasharatha and his sons and their four brides returned home, taking with them many presents, and were welcomed by Kaushalya and Sumitra and the slender- waisted Kaikeyi. Having thus won honour, wealth, and noble brides, those four best of men dwelt at Ayodhya, serving their father.

Now, of those four sons, Rama was dearest to his father and to all men of Ayodhya. In every virtue he excelled; for he was of serene temper under all circumstances of fortune or misfortune, never vainly angered ; he remembered even a single kindness, but forgot a hundred injuries ; he was learned in the Vedas and in all arts and sciences of peace and war, such as hospitality, and policy, and logic, and poetry, and training horses and elephants, and archery; he honoured those of ripe age; he regarded not his own advantage ; he despised none, but was solicitous for the welfare of every one ; ministering to his father and his mothers, and devoted to his brothers, especially to Lakshman. But Bharata and Satrughna stayed with their uncle Ashwapati in another city.

Rama to be installed as Heir- Apparent

Now Dasharatha reflected that he had ruled for many, many years, and was weary, and he thought no joy could be greater than if he should see Rama established on the throne. He summoned a council of his vassals and counsellors and neighbouring kings and princes who were accustomed to reside in Ayodhya, and in solemn words,

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Rama's Marriage by K Venkatappa

like the thunder of drums, addressed this parliament of men :

"Ye well know that for many long years I have governed this realm, being as a father to those that dwell therein. Thinking not to gain my own happiness, I have spent my days in ruling according unto dharma1 Now I wish for rest, and would install my eldest son Rama as heir-apparent and entrust the government to him. But herein, my lords, I seek for your approval ; for the thought of the dispassionate is other than the thought of the inflamed, and truth arises from the conflict of various views." The princes rejoiced at the king's words, as peacocks dance at the sight of heavy rain-clouds. There arose the hum of many voices, as for a time the Brahmans and army-leaders, citizens and countrymen considered together. Then they answered :

" O aged king, assuredly we wish to see Prince Rama installed as heir-apparent, riding the elephant of state, seated beneath the umbrella of dominion." Again the king inquired of them for greater certainty: "Why would ye have Rama to your ruler?" and they replied :

" By reason of his many virtues, for indeed he towers among men as Sakra amongst the gods. In forgiveness he is like the Earth, in debate like Brihaspati. He speaks the truth, and is a mighty bowman. He is ever busied with the welfare of the people, and not given to detraction where he finds one blemish amongst many virtues. He is skilled in music and his eyes are fair to look upon. Neither his pleasure nor his anger is in vain ; he is easily approached, and self-controlled, and goes not forth to war or the protection of a city or a province ^ righteousness, the established code of ethics.

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without victorious return. He is beloved of all. Indeed, the Earth desires him for her Lord."

Then the king summoned Vashishtha, Vamadeva, and other of the Brahmans, and charged them to make ready for Rama's installation. Orders were given for the purveyance of gold and silver and gems and ritual vessels, grains and honey and clarified butter, cloth as yet unworn, weapons, cars, elephants, a bull with gilded horns, a tiger-skin, a sceptre and umbrella, and heaped-up rice and curds and milk for the feeding of hundreds and thousands. Flags were hoisted, the roads were watered, garlands hung on every door; knights were notified to be present in their mail, and dancers and singers to hold themselves in readiness. Then Dasharatha sent for Rama, that long-armed hero, like the moon in beauty, and gladdening the eyes of all men. Rama passed through the assembly, like a moon in the clear starry autumn sky, and bending low worshipped his father s feet. Dasharatha lifted him and set him on a seat prepared for him, golden and begemmed, where he seemed like an image or reflection of his father on the throne. Then the aged king spoke to Rama of what had been decided, and announced that he should be installed as heir- apparent. And he added wise counsel in these words : " Though thou art virtuous by nature, I would advise thee out of love and for thy good : Practise yet greater gentleness and restraint of sense ; avoid all lust and anger ; maintain thy arsenal and treasury ; personally and by means of others make thyself well acquainted with the affairs of state ; administer justice freely to all, that the people may rejoice. Gird thee, my son, and under take thy task."

Then friends of Kaushalya, Rama s mother, told her all that had been done, and received gold and kine and gems

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in reward for their good tidings, and all men with delighted minds repaired to their homes and worshipped the gods.

Then again the king sent for Rama and held converse with him. " My son," he said, " I shall install thee to-morrow as heir-apparent ; for I am old and have dreamt ill dreams, and the astrologers inform me that my life-star is threatened by the planets Sun and Mars and Rahu. There fore do thou, with Sita, from the time of sunset, observe a fast, well guarded by thy friends. I would have thee soon installed, for the hearts even of the virtuous change by the influence of natural attachments, and none knoweth what may come to pass." Then Rama left his father and sought his mother in the inner rooms. He found her in the temple, clad in silk, worshipping the gods and praying for his welfare. There, too, were Lakshman and Sita. Rama reverenced his mother, and asked her to prepare whatever should be necessary for the night of fasting, for himself and Sita. Turning then to Lakshman," Do thou rule the Earth with me," he said, " for this is thy good fortune not less than mine. My life and kingdom I desire only because of thee." Then Rama went with Sita to his own quarters, and thither Vashishtha also went to bless the fast.

All that night the streets and highways of Ayodhya were crowded with eager men ; the tumult and the hum of voices sounded like the ocean s roar when the moon is full. The streets were cleaned and washed, and hung with garlands and strings of flags and banners; lighted lamps were set on branching cressets. The name of Rama was on every man s lips, and all were expectant of the morrow, while Rama kept the fast within.

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The Scheming of Kaikeyi

All this time Bharata's mother, Kaikeyi, had not heard a word of Raja Dasharatha s intention. Kaikeyi was young and passionate and very beautiful; by nature she was generous, but not so kind or wise that she might not be swayed by the crooked promptings of her own desires or another s instigation. She had a faithful old hump backed nurse of an evil disposition ; Manthara was her name. Now Manthara, hearing the rejoicings and learning that Rama was to be installed as heir-apparent, hurried to inform her mistress of this misfortune to Bharata, as Rama's honour seemed to her narrow view. "O senseless one," she said, "why art thou idle and! content when such misfortune is thine?" Kaikeyi asked her what evil had befallen. Manthara answered with words of anger: "O my lady, a terrible destruction awaits thy bliss, so that I am sunk in fear immeasurable, and afflicted with heaviness and grief ; burning like a fire, I have sought thee hurriedly. Thou art verily a Queen of Earth; but though thy Lord speaks blandly, he is crafty and crooked-hearted within, and wills thee harm. It is Kaushalya's welfare that he seeks, not thine, whatever sweet words he may have for thee. Bharata is sent away, and Rama is to be set upon the throne ! Indeed, my girl, thou hast nursed for thy husband a poisonous snake . Now quickly act, and find a way to save thyself and Bharata and me." But Manthara's words made Kaikeyi glad : she rejoiced that Rama should be heir, and giving a jewel to the humpbacked maid, she said : " What boon can I give thee for this news? I am glad indeed to heart this tale. Rama and Bharata are very dear to me, and find no difference between them. It is well that Rama

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should be set upon the throne. Have thanks for thy good news."

Then the humpbacked servant was the more angry, and cast away the jewel. " Indeed," she said, "thou art mad to rejoice at thy calamity. What woman of good sense is gladdened by deadly news of a co-wife's son's preferment ? Thou shalt be as it were Kaushalya's slave, and Bharata but Rama's servant."

But still Kaikeyi was not moved to envy. " Why grieve at Rama's fortune ? " she said. " He is well fitted to be king ; and if the kingdom be his, it will be also [Bharata]]'s, for Rama ever regards his brothers as himself." Then Manthara, sighing very bitterly, answered Kaikeyi : "Little dost thou understand, thinking that to be good which is thy evil fortune. Thou wouldst grant me a reward because of the preferment of thy co-wife ! Know surely that Rama, when he is well established, will banish Bharata to a distant land or to another world. Bharata is his natural enemy, for what other rival has he, since Lakshmana desires only Rama's weal, and Satrughna is attached to Bharata ? Thou shouldst save Bharata from Rama, who shall overcome him as a lion an elephant : thy co-wife, Rama s mother, too, will seek to revenge on thee that slight thou didst once put on her. Sorry will be thy lot when Rama rules the earth. Thou shouldst, while there is time, plan to set thy son upon the throne and banish Rama."

Thus Kaikeyi's pride and jealousy were roused, and she grew red with anger and breathed deep and hard, and answered Manthara :

"This very day Rama must be banished and Bharata in stalled as heir. Hast thou any plan to accomplish this my will?"

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Then Manthara reminded her of an ancient pledge : how long ago in a great battle with the rakshasas Dasharatha had been wounded and almost slain ; how Kaikeyi had found him unconscious on the field of battle, and borne him to a place of safety and there healed him; how Dasharatha had granted her two boons, and she reserved those boons to ask them from him when and as she would. " Now," said Manthara, " ask thy husband for these boons : to establish Bharata as heir upon the throne, and banish Rama to the forests for fourteen years. During those years Bharata shall be so well established and make him- self so dear to the people that he need not fear Rama. Therefore do thou enter the Anger-chamber, 1 casting off thy jewels, and, putting on a soiled garment, vouchsafe no word or look to Dasharatha. Thou art his dearest wife, to whom he can refuse nothing, nor can he endure to see thee grieved. He will offer thee gold and jewels, but do thou refuse every offer but the banishment of Rama and the establishment of Bharata."

Thus was Kaikeyi led to choose that as good which was in truth most evil ; stirred up by the humpbacked servant s words, the fair Kaikeyi started up like a mare devoted to her foal and rushed along an evil path. She thanked and praised the humpbacked Manthara, and promised her many rich rewards when Bharata should be set upon the throne. Then she tore off her jewels and beautiful garments, and flung herself down upon the floor of the Anger-chamber ; she clasped her breasts and cried : " Know that either Rama shall be banished and my son installed, or I shall die : if Rama goes not to the forest, I will not desire bed or garland, sandal-paste or ointment, meat or drink, or life itself." So, like a starry sky hidden

1 A room set apart for an offended queen.

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by heavy clouds, that royal lady sulked and gloomed; like a bird-woman struck down by poisoned shafts, in her distress like a serpent s daughter in her wrath. Then, while it was still long before the dawn, Dasharatha bethought him to inform Kaikeyi of the coming ceremony. Not finding her in her painted bower nor in his own rooms, he learnt that she had gone to the Anger-chamber. There he followed, and beheld his youngest wife lying upon the ground like an uprooted vine or an ensnared doe. Then that hero, like a forest elephant, tenderly touched the lotus-eyed queen and asked what ailed her. " If thou art sick there are physicians ; or if thou wouldst have any who deserve a punishment rewarded, or those who should be rewarded punished, name thy wish : I can deny thee nothing. Thou knowest that I can refuse no request of thine ; ask then for whatsoever thou desirest and be comforted."

Thus consoled, she answered: "None has injured me; but I have a desire which, if thou wilt grant, I will tell thee of." Then Dasharatha swore by Rama himself that he would accomplish whatever she desired.

Then Kaikeyl revealed her dreadful wish, calling the Heaven and Earth and Day and Night and household gods and every living thing to witness that he had promised to fulfil her will. She reminded him of that old war with the asuras when she had saved his life and he had granted her two boons. Thus the king was snared by Kaikeyi, like a deer entering a trap. " Now those boons," she said, " which thou art pledged to grant me here and now, are these : let Rama, clad in deer-skin, lead a hermit s life in Dandaka forest for fourteen years, and Bharata be established as heir-apparent. Do thou now prove thy royal word, according to thy race and character

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and birth. Truth, so the hermits tell us, is of supreme benefit to men when they reach the next world."

Dasharatha's Dilemma

Then Dasharatha was overwhelmed with grief and swooned away, and, coming to himself again, he prayed Kaikeyi to waive her right. For long he pleaded with her, weeping heavy tears and thinking all an evil dream ; but Kaikeyi only answered with exhortations to keep his sworn word, reminding him of many ancient exemplars of truth, such as Saivya, who gave his own flesh to the hawk that pursued the dove he had protected, or Alarka, that gave his eyes to a Brahman. "If thou dost not fulfil what has been promised, thou art for ever disgraced, and here and now shall I take my own life," she said. Then Dasharatha, urged by Kaikeyi like a goaded horse, cried out : " I am bound fast by the bond of truth: this is the root of all my seeming madness. My only wish is to behold Rama."

Now dawn had come, and Vashishtha sent Rama s charioteer to tell the king that all was ready for the ceremony. Hardly able to say anything for grief, the king sent that charioteer to fetch Rama to his side. So, leaving Sita with happy words, Rama drove through the gay streets to his father s palace; those who had not the fortune to see Rama, or to be seen by him, despised themselves, and were despised by all.

Rama greeted the king and Kaikeyi dutifully, but Dasharatha, altogether broken down and crushed to earth, could only murmur faintly, " Rama, Rama." Grieved at heart, Rama wondered if he had done anything amiss, or if any misfortune had befallen his father. " O mother," he said to Kaikeyi, " what sorrow has overtaken my father's

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heart?" Then she answered shamelessly: "O Rama, nothing ails thy father, but somewhat he has to tell thee, and since thou art his dearest son, he cannot frame the speech that injures thee. Yet thou shouldst perform what he has promised me. Long ago the Lord of the Earth promised me two boons : now in vain he would set up a dyke, after the water has all passed away for thou knowest that truth is the root of all religion. If thou wilt accomplish what ever good or evil he ordains, I shall tell thee ail." Rama answered : " Dear lady, do not speak such words to me ; for if he order, I can jump into the fire or drink strong poison. Know that I shall carry out his wish : Rama's promise never fails." Then Kaikeyi told him the story of the boons, and she said : "These are the boons I have been promised : that thou shouldst dwell as a hermit in Dandaka forest for fourteen years, with dress of bark and matted hair, and that Bharata should be installed as heir-apparent on the throne to-day. Thy father is too much grieved to even glance at thee ; but do thou save his honour by redeeming those great pledges he has given."

Rama was not grieved or angered by these cruel words, but answered quietly : " Be it as thou sayest. I am only sorry for my father's grief. Let messengers be sent at once for Bharata, while I, not questioning his wish, go to the forest. Even though he has not himself commanded me, thy order is sufficient. Allow me now to see my mother and to comfort Sita, and do thou serve and tend both Bharata and our father, for this is right." Then Rama, followed by Lakshman hot with anger, but himself unmoved, sought his mother, and found her making offerings to Vishnu and other deities. Gladly she greeted him, and he reverently her. Then he told her all that had befallen : how Bharata should be appointed heir, and himself should

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live for fourteen years an exile in the forest. Like a great Sāl tree felled by the woodman's axe, she sank to the ground and wept inconsolably. " O my son," she said, " hadst thou not been born, I should have grieved only because I had no son ; but now a greater sorrow is mine. I am the eldest of the queens, and have ever endured many things from the younger wives. Now I shall be as one of Kaikeyi's maidservants, or even less. She is ever of sour mood to me ; how may I now, neglected by my husband, meet her eyes ? Twenty-seven years of thy life have I expected an end of grief, and now I know not why death delays to carry me away. All the alms giving and austerity have been in vain. Yet, O my darling, I shall follow thee even to the forest, as a cow follows after her young one ; for I cannot bear the days till thy return, nor dwell amongst the co- wives. Do thou take me with thee, like a wild hind." But Lakshman urged his brother to resist, with angry and impatient words, vowing to fight for Rama and blaming Dasharatha bitterly. Kaushalya then joined her prayer to Lakshman's, and would seek death if Rama left her. But Rama, unmoved by lust of Empire, answered Lakshman that Kaikeyi had been but an instrument in the hands of Destiny ; that others of his line had fulfilled hard tasks commanded by their fathers ; that he would follow the same path, for one obeying a father could not suffer degradation. " And, O gentle brother," he said, "I am determined to obey my father's order." To Kaushalya he answered: "The king has been ensnared by Kaikeyi, but if thou dost leave him when I am gone he will surely die. Therefore do thou remain and serve him, according to thy duty. And do thou pass the time in honouring the gods and Brahmans." Then Kaushalya was calmed and blessed her son, commending him to the

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gods and rishis and holysteads and trees and mountains and deer of the forest and all creatures of the sky to guard him. Then with sacred fire and Brahman ritual she blessed his going and walked sunwise thrice about him, and he went to Sita.

Sita, who knew nothing of what had befallen, rose and greeted him with trembling limbs, for he could no longer hide his grief. Then Rama told her all that had been done, and he said: "Now Bharata is king thou shouldst not praise me, even amongst thy friends ; so mayst thou dwell in peace as one favourable to their party. Do thou thus dwell here in peace; rise betimes, worship the gods, bow to the feet of my father Dasharatha, and honour my mother Kaushalya, and after her my other mothers with equal love and affection. Look on Bharata and Satrughna as thy sons or brothers, for they are dearer to me than life. Thus live thou here, while I go forth into the forest."

Sita will follow Rama into Exile

Then Sita answered : " I can only mock at such unmeet words, not fitting to be heard, much less to be spoken by a great prince such as thou. For, O my lord, a father, mother, son, brother, or daughter-in-law indeed abide by the result of their own actions ; but a wife, O best of men, shares in her husband s fate. Therefore I have been ordered, no less than thou, to exile in the forest. If thou goest there I shall go before thee, treading upon thorns and prickly grass. I shall be as happy there as in my father s house, thinking only of thy service. I shall not cause thee trouble, but will live on roots and fruits. I will precede thee walking and follow thee in eating. And there will be pools, with wild geese and other fowl and bright with full -blown lotus -flowers, where we may bathe. There shall I --- Myths and Legends of the Hindus & Buddhists: End of page 41

be happy with thee, even for a hundred or a thousand years!"

But Rama strove to dissuade her by recounting a tale of hardships and dangers endured by forest-dwellers, as of fierce and wild animals, poisonous serpents, a bed of leaves, scanty food, arduous ritual, hunger, thirst, and fear. But Sita, with tears in her eyes, answered patiently : "These evils seem to me like so many blessings if thou art with me, nor will I live forsaken. Moreover, it was prophesied by Brahmans of my father's house that I should dwell in a forest, and a yogini came to my mother when I was a girl and told the same tale. Know that I am wholly bound to thee, as was Savitri to Satyavan ; thy company is heaven to me and thy absence hell. Following thee, I shall be blameless, for a husband is as God to a wife. Do thou take me to share equally thy joy and sorrow, else will I drink poison, or burn in fire, or drown in water!" So she prayed, while the big tears trickled down her face like drops of water from the petals of a lotus.

Then Rama granted her desire : " O fair one, since thou fearest not the forest thou shalt follow me and share my righteousness. Do thou bestow thy wealth on Brahmans and make haste to be ready for the journey." Then Sita's heart was gladdened, and she bestowed her wealth on Brahmans and fed the poor and made all ready for the way.

Lakshman also Follows

Now Lakshman, too, with tears in his eyes, held Rama's feet and spoke to him : " If thou wilt go thus to the forest full of elephants and deer, I shall also follow, and together we shall dwell where the songs of birds and the humming of bees delight the ear. I shall go before thee on the way, finding the path, carrying bows and hoe and basket ; daily

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I shall fetch the roots and fruits thou needest, and thou shalt sport with Sita on the hill-sides, while I do every work for thee." Nor could Rama by any argument dissuade him. Take leave, then, of all thy relatives," said Rama, "and bring away from my guru's 1 house the two suits of mail and burnished weapons given to me as bridal gifts by Janaka. Distribute my wealth amongst the Brahmans." Then Rama, Sita, and Lakshman went to farewell their father and the mothers of Rama. Then a noble Brahman named Sumantra, seeing Dasharatha broken by grief, and moved to pity at the going forth of Rama, prayed Kaikeyi to relent, clasping his hands and using smooth but cutting speech ; but that noble lady's heart was hardened, and she might not in any wise be moved. But when Dasharatha wished to send Ayodhya's wealth and men with Rama to the forest she paled and choked with anger, for she required that Rama should go destitute and that the wealth should belong to Bharata. But Rama said : " What have I to do with a following in the forest ? What avails it to keep back the trappings of a goodly elephant when the elephant itself is renounced ? Let them bring me dresses of bark, a hoe and basket." Then Kaikeyi brought a dress of bark, one each for Rama and Lakshman and Sita. But Sita, clad in robes of silk, seeing the robe of a nun, trembled like a doe before the snare and wept. Then would they persuade Rama to leave Sita to dwell at home, abiding his return ; and Vashishtha rebuked Kaikeyl. " This was not in the bond," said he, "that Sita should go forth to the forest. Rather let her sit in Rama's seat ; for of all those that wed, the wife is a second self. Let Sita rule the earth in Rama's stead, being Rama's self, for be sure that Bharata

1 Guru, a teacher, especially in matters of religion and philosophy, here also of martial exercises.

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will refuse to take the throne that should be Rama's. Behold, Kaikeyi, there is not a person in the world who is not a friend to Rama : even to-day thou mayst see the beasts and birds and serpents follow him, and the trees incline their heads toward him. Therefore let Sita be well adorned and have with her cars and goods and servants when she follows Rama."

Then Dasharatha gave her robes and jewels, and laying aside the dress of bark, Sita shone resplendent, while the people muttered against Kaikeyi, and Sumantra yoked the horses to Rama's car. Rama's mother bade farewell to Sita, counselling her in the duties of women, to regard her lord as God, though exiled and deprived of wealth ; to whom Sita answered : " The moon may sooner lose its brightness than I depart from this. The lute without strings is silent, the car lacking wheels is motionless, so a woman parted from her lord can know no happiness. How should I disregard my lord, who have been taught the greater and the lesser duties by those above me ? "

Then Rama, taking leave of Dasharatha and of his mothers, said with praying hands : " If I have ever spoken discourteously, by lack of thought, or inadver tently done any wrong, do ye pardon it. I salute all ye, my father and mothers, and depart." Then Sita, Rama, and Lakshman walked sunwise thrice about the king and turned away.

Then Rama and Lakshman, and Sita third, ascended the flaming car of gold, taking their weapons and coats of mail, the hoe and basket, and Sita s goods bestowed by Dasharatha ; and Sumantra urged on the goodly horses, swift as the very wind. Men and beasts within the city were stricken dumb with grief, and, bereft of wit, rushed headlong after Rama, like thirsty travellers seeing water;

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even Rama's mother ran behind the car. Then Rama said to the charioteer, " Go thou swiftly," for, like a goaded elephant, he might not bear to look behind. Soon Rama was far away, beyond the sight of men gazing at the car's track. Then Dasharatha turned to Kaikeyl and cursed her with divorce from bed and home, and seeing the city with empty streets and closed stalls, "Take me speedily to Rama smother, Kaushalya s chamber; only there may I find any rest."

Rama and Sita and Lakshman go into Exile

Driving fast for two days, Rama reached the boundary of Koshala, and, turning back toward Ayodhya, bade farewell ito land and people. " O best of cities," said he, " I say it to thee and to the deities that guard and dwell with thee : returning from my forest home, my debt paid off, thee and my father and my mother I will see again." Then they left Koshala, rich in wealth and kine and Brahmans, and passed through other smiling lands until they reached the blessed Ganga, crystal clear, resorted to by every creature, haunted by gods and angels, sinless and sin-destroying. There Guha, king of Nishadha, greeted them and fed their horses and kept guard over them all night, and when the dark cuckoo's note and the peacock's cry were heard at dawn he sent for a splendid ferry-boat. Then Rama asked for starch-paste, and he and Lakshman dressed their hair in matted locks, after the fashion of hermits dwelling in the forest. Rama said farewell to Guha, and Sumantra the charioteer he bade go back to Ayodhya, though he prayed to follow farther. Then as they crossed, Sita prayed to Ganga for safe return after fourteen years, vowing to worship that River-Queen with many offerings.

That night they dwelt by a great tree on the farther bank and ate boar's flesh slain by Rama and Lakshman;

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and those two brothers vowed to protect Sita and each other, whether in solitude or amongst men. Lakshman should walk in front, then Sita, and Rama last. They talked also of Ayodhya, and Rama, fearing Kaikeyi's evil heart, would have Lakshman return to care for Kaushalya; and he railed against Kaikeyi and somewhat blamed his father, swayed by a woman's will. But Lakshman comforted his brother so that he wept no more. " Thou shouldst not grieve," he said, " grieving Sita and me ; and, O Rama, I can no more live without thee than a fish taken out of water without thee I do not wish to see my father, nor Satrughna, nor Sumitra, nor Heaven itself." Then Rama was comforted, and slept with Sita under the banyan-tree, while Lakshman watched.

Next day they reached the holy place where Ganga joins with Jamna at Prayag ; there they came to the hermitage of Bharadwaja, guided by the wreathing smoke of his sacrificial fire, and they were welcome guests. Bharadwaja counselled them to seek the mountain of Chitrakuta, ten leagues from Prayag. " There is a fit abode for thee," he said, " graced with many trees, resounding with the cries of peacocks, and haunted by great elephants. There are herds of elephants and deer. Thou shalt range the woods with Sita, and shalt delight in rivers, meadows, caves, and springs, in the cries of cuckoos and the belling of the deer, and in pleasant fruits and roots." Then he taught them how to come there, crossing the Jamna and passing the great banyan-tree Shyama, the Dusky, and thence by a fair sandy road through the Jamna forests.

So Rama and Sita and Lakshman took leave of Bharadwaja and crossed the Jamna by a raft, and came to Shyama. Immediately on arrival there, Sita prayed to Jamna, vowing many offerings of kine and wine

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for Rama s safe return. To Shyama Sita also prayed, saluting him with folded hands : " O great tree, I bow to thee. May my lord's vow be all fulfilled, and we again behold Kaushalya and Sumitra." Then as they went along the forest path, Sita, seeing trees and flowers unknown, asked Rama many questions, as of their names and virtues; and Lakshman brought her flowers and fruits to pleasure her; and the rippling streams, and the cries of cranes and peacocks, and the sight of elephants and monkeys delighted her.

On the second day they reached the Chitrakuta mountain, where was the hermitage of Valmiki. Greeted by that rishi, Rama told him all that had befallen. Then Lakshman fetched divers sorts of wood, and those brothers built a goodly house with doors and thatched with leaves. Then Lakshman slew a deer and cooked it, and Rama made ritual offerings to the divinities of that very place, md after communion with the deities he entered the well- vrought thatched house with Sita and Lakshman, and they rejoiced with happy hearts and cast off grieving for Ayodhya.

Dasharatha's Grief and Death

Meanwhile Ayodhya was a place of grief and mourning, without comfort for king or people. On the fifth day of Rama's exile, just when Kaushalya for a moment yielded to her sorrow and reproached her lord, there came into Dasharatha's mind a recollection of a sin committed in a past life by means of an arrow-finding-its-mark-by-sound which sin now bore the fruit of exile and death. Remembering this sin, he told Kaushalya the same night how it had been committed :

I was then so skilled a bowman as to earn the name of

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one who, aiming by sound alone, can hit the mark. Thou, lady, wert then unwedded, and I was a youthful prince. It was when rain first fell after the days of burning heat ; frogs and peacocks were rejoicing, trees were shaken by the wind and rain, the hills were hidden by the heavy showers. On such a pleasant day I went forth to hunt by the river Sarayu, and there I heard a sound like the filling of a water-jar or the roaring of an elephant.

Then I shot an arrow in the direction of the sound, for it was dark, so that nothing could be seen. Then I heard moans and cries, and I found a hermit by the bank, pierced by my shaft ; he told me of his estate and bade me seek his aged parents in the hermitage near by, and therewith died, and I lamented him. Then I sought his father and his mother, who were anxious in mind because of his delay, and confessed to them my deed ; and the rishi, who by his curse might have burned me to a cinder, spared my life because I freely told him all that had befallen. But when the funeral pyre was ready, and those aged ones, called by a vision of their son, burned their bodies with his upon the pyre, they twain cursed me with a lesser curse, that in the end I should meet my death by grieving for a son. " Thou knowest, gentle lady, that the fruit of good or evil actions is reaped by the doer thereof. Childish is anyone who does any action not considering consequences ! He that fells a mango grove and waters other trees may hope for fruit when he beholds the flower ; but when the season for fruit cometh he will grieve ! So is it now with me : ;

I die of grief for Rama's exile. I scarcely see thee, my senses are no longer keen ; I am like a smoking lamp that burns low when there is but little oil remaining. O Rama, O Kaushalya, O unhappy Sumitra, O cruel Kaikeyi I " Thus lamenting, Raja Dasharatha died.

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When news of this spread abroad next day Ayodhya was plunged in deeper grief, for in a kingless country all goes amiss, rain does not fall, there are no rejoicings, nor prosperity, nor safety ; a kingdom without a king is like a river without water, a wood without grass, a herd of kine without a keeper ; a king is father and mother, and compasseth the welfare of all men and creatures. Considering thus, the palace officers and family priests took counsel, headed by Vashishtha, to send envoys to Bharata, with a message that he should come at once for a matter that might not be delayed; but these envoys should not tell him anything of Rama's exile or the king s death. Riding in well-horsed cars, those envoys, going very swiftly, reached on an evening the wealthy city of Girivraja, in Kekaya, where Bharata was lodged with his maternal uncle.

That same night Bharata dreamt many evil dreams and might not be comforted. "Either I or Rama or Lakshman or the king is about to die," he said. Then the envoys entered and were well received. Bharata inquired if all was well with his father and mothers and brothers, land was assured that it was even so. Then the ambassadors delivered their message, and Bharata told his uncle and his grandfather, and took leave to go to Ayodhya. They conferred on him many gifts, as woollen cloths and deer-skins and elephants and dogs and swift horses ; but he, filled with anxiety because of the dreams and the very hasty journey of the envoys, had little pleasure in the gifts, and taking with him Satrughna, he departed quickly to Ayodhya.

Kaikeyi's son beheld that best of cities at sunrise on the seventh day. Seeing that all was dark and silent in that place of sadness, and beholding many inauspicious sights foreboding ill, Bharata entered the royal palace with a heavy

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heart. Not seeing his father in his quarters, he sought his mother Kaikeyi and touched her feet. She rose from her golden seat delighted, and asked him of his welfare and his journey. This he told her, and himself asked for the king. "Where is that lord of men," he said, " for I would fain touch his feet ? He is most often here with thee, but thy room and couch are empty. Is he, then, with Kaushalya? " Then Kaikeyi, blinded by lust of glory and deeming that desirable for Bharata which he indeed con sidered evil, answered him: "Thy father has gone the way of everything that lives." Then long and sadly he bewailed, and said at last : " Happy for Rama and those who were present when my sire yet lived, and might perform his death-bed rites. Now, where is Rama, who is my father, brother, and friend? I am his servant; I take refuge at his feet. Do thou inform him that I am here. And do thou tell me how my father died and what were his last words." Then Kaikeyi told him how his father died, and these were his last words, she said : "Blessed are they that shall see Rama and the strong- armed Lakshman returning here with Slta." Then Bharata apprehended fresh misfortune, and asked his mother whither Kaushalya's son and Sita and Lakshman had gone. "Rama has gone with Sita and Lakshman, wearing hermits robes, to Dandaka forest," she answered, and told him the whole story of the boons, expecting that he would be pleased. But he was bitterly angered, and reproached Kaikeyi as Dasharatha's murderer : " Like a burning coal, born for the destruction of our race art thou, whom my father unwittingly embraced. Thou didst little know my love of Rama! Only for his sake it is, who calls thee mother, that I renounce thee not. Know that this kingdom is too great a burden for me, and even were

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it not I would not receive it. Now I shall bring back Rama from the forest and will serve him. But thou shalt suffer misery in this world and the next; all that befits thee is to die by fire, or exile, or with a cord about thy neck ! "

Then came Kaushalya and Vashishtha and greeted Bharata ; and, guided by that skilful sage, Bharata per formed all his father's funeral rites, and with his mothers walked sunwise around the burning pyre, and after ten days mourning gathered up the ashes. Then, as he still grieved out of all measure, Vashishtha counselled him, discoursing of the birth and death of beings and the pairs 1 that appertain to every creature. Thus comforted, those chiefs of men held up their heads again, like Indra s shining banner stained by sun and rain.

The Regency of Bharata

On the fourteenth day the ministers requested Bharata to take his seat upon the throne ; but he refused, and gave orders to prepare an expedition to go in search of Rama. When all was ready he mounted a car and set out on the way ; with him went six thousand other cars, and a thousand elephants, and a hundred thousand cavalry, and men of rank, and citizens, as merchants and traders, potters and weavers and armourers, goldsmiths and washermen and actors, and beside these many learned men and well-respected Brahmans.

Passing through Guha's realm, the host was entertained by him, and again by Bharadwaja at Prayag. One word Bharadwaja spoke to Bharata. "Thou shoulclst not blame Kaikeyi," he said. "This exile of the king is for the good of men and gods and asuras and hermits."

1 " The pairs," i.e. the pairs of opposites, pleasure, pain, &c., inseparable from life.

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From Prayag the mighty host marched on to Chitrakuta, and came to Rama's hermitage. Then Bharata advanced alone, and fell at his brother's feet. This was the fashion of Rama : he sat in the leaf-thatched house, crowned with matted locks and clad in a black deer's skin ; like a flame he was and lion-shouldered, mighty-armed and lotus- eyed; lord of this sea-girt world he seemed, like to the ever-living Brahma; and by his side were Lakshmana and Sita. Then Bharata wept to see his brother thus, who was used to royal state. But Rama raised him from the ground and kissed his head and asked him of Dasharatha and his own well-being. Then Bharata related all that had come to pass, and prayed Rama to return to Ayodhya and rule ; but Rama would not. " How can I, commanded by my father and mother to dwell in the forest, do any otherwise ? Thou shouldst rule, in accordance with his will ; thou shouldst not blame Kaikeyi, for obedience is the duty alike of sons and wives and disciples, nor is a mother's wish less binding than a father's." Then Bharata answered: "If the kingdom is mine, I have the right to bestow it upon thee ; do thou accept it." But Rama would not consent to this, nor be moved by any argument, whether of Bharata, or of his mother, or of Vashishtha, or of any of that host. Then Bharata prayed Rama for his golden sandals, and, bowing down to them, vowed thus : " For these fourteen years I shall dwell as a hermit without the walls of Ayodhya, making over to thy sandals the task of government. If then thou comest not, I shall die by fire." To this plan Rama agreed, and, embracing Bharata and Satrughna, said, "So be it." One thing he added : " Do thou not cherish resentment against Kaikeyi, but be kindly toward her; this both myself and Sita pray thee." Then Bharata walked sun-

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wise about Rama, and, placing the sandals on an elephant, took them back to Ayodhya, followed by all that host of men. There he installed the sandals on the throne, and, living in retirement, carried on the government as their minister.

Now, for two reasons, Rama would no longer dwell at Chitrakuta : first, inasmuch as hosts of rakshasas, out of hatred of him, annoyed the hermits of that place; and, secondly, because the host of men from Ayodhya had trampled and defiled the place; and, moreover, it reminded him too sharply of his brother's grief and the citizens and queen-mother's. He went, therefore, with Sita and Lakshman toward Dandaka, and entered that deep forest like the sun that is hidden by a mass of clouds.

The Forest Life

Rama and Sita and Lakshman wandered through the forest, welcome guests at every hermitage. The great sages dwelling in the hermitages also complained against those devilish rangers of the night, and besought Rama's protection against them, which he freely promised ; and when the gentle Sita one day suggested that they should lay down their arms, abandoning the rule of knights for that of saints, and ceasing from hostility even against the rakshasas " The very bearing of weapons changeth the mind of those that carry them," she said Rama answered that it might not be, for he was pledged by knightly duty and personal promise.

So Rama dwelt in the forest for ten years, staying a month, a season, or a year at one or another hermitage. Once a fierce rakshasa named Viradha seized Sita and would have carried her off, but Rama and Lakshman with huge labour slew him. Another time they met a mighty

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vulture ; but he was a friend, and announced himself as Jatayu and a friend of Rama's father. Jatayu promised Rama his help, and to guard Sita when Rama and Lakshman went abroad together.

Last of all, Rama and Sita and Lakshman came to Panchavati, where stretched a fair lawn beside the river Godaveri, whose banks were overhung by flowery trees. The waters swarmed with fowl, throngs of deer dwelt in the woods, the cries of peacocks resounded, the hills were covered with good trees and flowers and herbs. There Lakshman built a spacious bamboo house, well thatched with leaves and with a well- smoothed floor. Thither Jatayu also came ; and Rama, Sita, and Lakshman were contented, like the gods in Heaven. Now Rama was seated with Sita, talking to Lakshman, when there came to Panchavati a fearful and hideous rakshasi, sister of Ravana ; and when she saw Rama, immediately she desired him. Her name was Surpanakha. Refused by Rama, she sought to become Lakshman's wife, and, repulsed by him, she returned to Rama and would have slain Sita. Then Lakshman seized his sword and cut off her nose and ears, and she fled away bleeding, till she met her brother Khara, younger brother of Ravana. His anger at her misfortune knew no bounds, and he sent fourteen rakshasas to slay those brothers and Sita and bring their blood for Surpanakha to drink. But Rama slew all those evil creatures with his arrows. Then Khara was indeed filled with furious anger, and set out himself with fourteen thousand rakshasas, every one shape-shifters, horrible, proud as lions, big of mouth, courageous, delighting in cruelty. As this host drove on many evil omens befell ; but Khara was fey and not to be turned aside from what he deemed a small matter to slay three human beings.

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Rama, perceiving the oncoming host, sent Lakshman with Sita to a secret cave, and cast on his mail, for he would fight alone; and all the gods and spirits of the air and creatures of heaven came to behold the battle. The rakshasas came on like a sea, or heavy clouds, and showered their weapons upon Rama, so that the wood- gods were afraid and fled away. But Rama was not afraid, and troubled the rakshasas with his marrow- piercing shafts, so that they fled to Khara for protection. He rallied them, and they came on again, discharging volleys of uprooted trees and boulders. It was in vain ; for Rama, alone and fighting on foot, slew all the fourteen thousand terrible rakshasas and stood face to face with Khara himself. A dreadful battle was theirs, as if between a lion and an elephant ; the air was dark with flying shafts. At last a fiery arrow discharged by Rama consumed the demon. Then the gods, well pleased, showered blossoms upon Rama, and departed whence they came. And Sita and Lakshman came forth from the cave.

Ravana's Wrath

But news of the destruction of the rakshasas was brought to Ravana, and he who brought the news advised Ravana to vanquish Rama by carrying Sita away. Ravana approved this plan, and sought out the crafty Maricha to further his ends. But Maricha advised Ravana to stay his hand from attempting the impossible, and Ravana, being persuaded for that time, went home to Lanka.

Twenty arms and ten heads had Ravana : he sat on his golden throne like a flaming fire fed with sacrificial offerings. He was scarred with the marks of many wounds received in battle with the gods; of royal mien and gorgeously apparelled was that puissant and cruel rakshasa.

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His wont was to destroy the sacrifices of Brahmans and to possess the wives of others not to be slain by gods or ghosts or birds or serpents. Now Surpanakha came to her brother and showed her wounds, and told him of Rama and Sita, and taunted him for unkingly ways in that he took no revenge for the slaughter of his subjects and his brother ; then she urged him to bring away Sita and make her his wife. So he took his chariot and fared along by the sea to a great forest to consult again with Maricha, who dwelt there in a hermitage practising self-restraint.

Maricha counselled Ravana not to meddle with Rama. " Thou wouldst get off easily," he said, " if Rama, once angered, left a single rakshasa alive, or held his hand from destroying thy city of Lanka." But Ravana was fey, and boasted that Rama would be an easy prey. He blamed Maricha for ill-will toward himself, and threatened him with death. Then Maricha out of fear consented, though he looked for no less than death from Rama when they should meet again. Then Ravana was pleased, and, taking Maricha in his car, set out for Rama's hermitage, explaining how Sita should be taken by a ruse.

The Golden Deer

Maricha, obedient to Ravana, assumed the form of a golden deer and ranged about the wood near Rama's hut : its horns were like twin jewels, its face was piebald, its ears like two blue lotus-flowers, its sleek sides soft as the petals of a flower, its hoofs as black as jet, its haunches slender, its lifted tail of every colour of the rainbow a deer-form such as this he took ! His back was starred with gold and silver, and he ranged about the forest lawns seeking to be seen by Sita. And when she saw him she was astonished and delighted, and called to Rama and Laksh-

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The Death of Maricha by K Venkatappa

man, and begged Rama to catch or kill the deer for her, and she urged him to the chase. Rama, too, was fascinated by the splendid deer. He would not heed Lakshman's warning that it must be a rakshasa disguised. "All the more, then, must I slay it," said Rama, "but do thou watch over Sita, staying here with the good Jatayu. I shall be back again in a very little while, bringing the deer-skin with me."

Now vanishing, now coming near, the magic deer led Rama far away, until he was wearied out and sank upon the ground under a shady tree ; then it appeared again, surrounded by other deer, and bounded away. But Rama drew his bow and loosed an arrow that pierced its breast, so that it sprang high into the air and fell moaning on the earth. Then Maricha, at the point of death, assumed his own shape, and remembering Ravana s command, he bethought him how to draw Lakshman also away from Sita, and he called aloud with Rama's voice, "Ah, Sita! Ah, Lakshman." At the sound of that awful cry Rama was struck with nameless fear, and hurried back to Panchavati, leaving Maricha dead.

Now Sita heard that cry, and urged Lakshman to go to Rama's help, upbraiding him with bitter words; for he knew Rama to be unconquerable, and himself was pledged to guard Sita from all danger. But she called him a monster of wickedness, and said that he cared nothing for Rama, but desired herself ; and he might not endure those words, and though many an ill omen warned him, she forced him thus to go in search of Rama. So he bowed to her and went away, but often turning back to glance at Sita, fearing for her safety.

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Sita Stolen

Now Ravana assumed the shape of a wandering yogi ; carrying a staff and a beggar's bowl, he came towards Sita waiting all alone for Rama to come back. The forest knew him : the very trees stayed still, the wind dropped, the Godaven flowed more slowly for fear. But he came close to Sita, and gazed upon her, and was filled with evil longings ; and he addressed her, praising her beauty, and asked her to leave that dangerous forest and go with him : to dwell in palaces and gardens. But she, thinking him a Brahman and her guest, gave him food and water, and answered that she was Rama's wife, and told the story of their life; and she asked his name and kin. Then he named himself Ravana and besought her to be his wife, and offered her palaces and servants and gardens. But she grew angry beyond all measure at that, and answered : " I am the servant of Rama, lion amongst men, immovable as any mountain, vast as the mighty ocean, radiant as Indra. Wouldst thou draw the teeth from a lion's mouth, or swim the sea with a heavy stone about thy neck? As well mightst thou seek the Sun or Moon as me ! Little like is Rama unto thee, but different as is a lion from a jackal, an elephant from a cat, the ocean from a tiny stream, or gold from iron. Indra s wife thou mightst carry off, and live; but if thou takest me, the wife of Rama, thy death is certain, and I, too, shall surely die." And she shook with fear, as a plantain-tree is shaken by the wind.

But Ravana's yellow eyes grew red with anger and the peace ful face changed, and he took his own horrid shape, ten- faced and twenty-armed; he seized that gentle thing by the hair and limbs, and sprang into his golden ass-drawn car, and

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rose up into the sky. But she cried aloud to Lakshman and to Rama. " And O thou forest and flowery trees," she cried, " and thou Godaveri, and woodland deities, and deer, and birds, I conjure you to tell my lord that Ravana has stolen me away."

Then she saw the great vulture Jatayu on a tree, and prayed him for help ; he woke from sleep and, seeing Ravana and Sita, spoke soft words to the rakshasa, advising him to leave his evil course. Jatayu warned him that Rama would surely avenge the wrong with death, " and while I live thou shalt not take away the virtuous Sita, but I will fight with thee and fling thee from thy car." Then Ravan, with angry eyes, sprang upon Jatayu, and there was a deadly battle in the sky; many weapons he showered on Jatayu, while the king of birds wounded Ravana with beak and talons. So many arrows pierced Jatayu that he seemed like a bird half hidden in a nest; but he broke with his feet two bows of Ravana's, and destroyed the sky-faring car, so that Ravana fell down on to the earth, with Sita on his lap. But Jatayu by then was weary, and Ravana sprang up again and fell upon him, and with a dagger cut away his wings, so that he fell down at the point of death. Sita sprang to her friend and clasped him with her arms, but he lay motionless and silent like an extinguished forest fire. Then Ravana seized her again and went his way across the sky. Against the body of the rakshasa she shone like golden lightning amidst heavy clouds, or a cloth of gold upon a sable elephant. All nature grieved for her: the lotus- flowers faded, the sun grew dark, the mountains wept in waterfalls and lifted up their summits like arms, the woodland deities were terrified, the young deer shed tears, and every creature lamented. But Brahma, seeing Sita carried away, rejoiced, and said, "Our work is

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accomplished now," foreseeing Ravana's death. The hermits were glad and sorry at once : sorry for Sita, and glad that Ravana must die.

Now, as they drove through the sky in such a fashion Sita saw five great monkeys on a mountain-top, and to them she cast down her jewels and her golden veil, unobserved! of Ravana, as a token for Rama. But Ravana left behind the woods and mountains, and crossed the sea, and came to his great city of Lanka 1 and set her down in an inner room, all alone and served and guarded well. Spies were sent to keep a watch on Rama. Then Ravana returned and showed to Sita all his palace and treasure and gardens, and prayed her to be his wife, and wooed her in; every way ; but she hid her face and sobbed with wordless tears. And when he urged her again she took a blade of- grass and laid it between Ravana and herself, and prophesied his death at Rama s hands and the ruin of all rakshasas, and utterly rejected him. Then he turned from prayer to threats, and, calling horrid rakshasas, gave her to their charge, and commanded them to break her spirit, whether by violence or by temptation. There was the gentle Sita, like a sinking ship, or a doe amongst a pack of dogs.

Rama's Wrath

Now Rama, returning from the chase of Maricha, was heavy-hearted ; meeting Lakshman, he blamed him much ; for leaving Sita. The jackals howled and birds cried as they hurried back. As they came near to the hermitage the feet of Rama failed him, and a trembling shook his frame; for Sita was not there. They ranged the groves of flowering trees, and the river banks where lotus-flowers ; were open, and sought the mountain caves, and asked the

1 Lanka, according to the usual view, Ceylon.

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river and the trees and all the animals where Sita was. Then Rama deemed that rakshasas had eaten her, taking revenge for Khara. But next they came to where Jatayu had fought with Ravana, and saw the broken weapons and the car and the trampled ground ; and Rama raged against all beings, and would destroy the very heavens and earth, unless the gods gave back his Sita. Then they perceived the dying Jatayu, and deeming him to be a rakshasa that had eaten Sita, Rama was about to slay him. But Jatayu spoke feebly, and related to Rama all that had befallen, so that Rama, throwing down his bow, embraced the friendly bird and lamented for his death ; and Jatayu told of Ravana and comforted Rama with assurances of victory and recovery of Sita. But therewith his spirit fled away, and his head and body sank down upon the ground ; and Rama mourned over his friend : "Ah, Lakshmana," he said, "this kingly bird dwelt here contented many years, and now is dead because of me: he has given up his life in seeking to rescue Sita. Be hold, amongst the animals of every rank there are heroes, even amongst birds. I am more sorry for this vulture who has died for me than even because of Sita's loss." Then Lakshman brought wood and fire, and they burned Jatayu there with every right and offering due to twice- born men, and spoke the mantras for his speedy coming to the abodes of the shining gods ; and that king of vultures, slain in battle for a good cause, and blest by Rama, attained a glorious state.

Then Rama and Lakshman set out to search for Sita far and wide ; it was but a little time before they met a horrid rakshasa, and it was no light matter for them to come to their above in battle with him. But he, wounded to death, rejoiced, for he had been cursed with that form

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by a hermit until Rama should slay and set him free. Rama and Lakshman burnt him on a mighty pyre, and he rose from it and, mounting upon a heavenly car, he spoke to Rama, counselling him to seek the help of the great monkey Sugriva and the four other monkeys that dwelt on the mountain Rishyamukha. " Do not thou despise that royal monkey," he said, " for he is puissant, humble, brave, expert, and graceful, good at shifting shapes, and; well acquainted with the haunts of every rakshasa. Do thou make alliance with him, taking a vow of friendship; before a fire as witness, and with his help thou shalt surely win back Sita." Then he departed, bidding them farewell and pointing out the way to Rishyamukha; and they, passing by Matanga s hermitage, came to that wooded mountain, haunt of many birds, beside the Pampa lake.

Rama's Alliance with Sugriva

It was not long before Rama and Lakshman reached the; Rishyamukha mountain, where Sugriva dwelt. Now this Sugriva lived in exile, driven from home and robbed of his wife by his cruel brother Vali ; and when he saw the two great-eyed heroes bearing arms, he deemed them to have been sent by Vali for his destruction. So he fled away, and he sent Hanuman disguised as a hermit to speak with the knights and learn their purpose. Then Lakshman told him all that had befallen, and that Rama now sought Sugriva's aid. So Hanuman, considering that Sugriva also needed a champion for the recovery of his wife and kingdom, led the knights to Sugriva, and there Rama and the monkey-chief held converse. Hanuman made fire with two pieces of wood, and passing sunwise about it, Rama and Sugriva were made sworn friends, and each bound himself to aid the other. They gazed at each other

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intently, and neither had his fill of seeing the other. Then Sugriva told his story and prayed Rama for his aid, and he engaged himself to overcome the monkey-chief's brother, and in return Sugriva undertook to recover Sita. He told Rama how he had seen her carried away by Ravana, and how she had dropped her veil and jewels, and he showed these tokens to Rama and Lakshman. Rama knew them, but Lakshman said : " I do not recognize the bracelets or the ear-rings, but I know the anklets well, for I was not used to lift my eyes above her feet."

Now, says the story, Rama fared with Sugriva to Vali's city, and overcame Vali, and established Sugriva on the throne. Then four months of the rainy season passed away, and when the skies grew clear and the floods diminished, Sugriva sent out his marshals to summon the monkey host. They came from Himalaya and Vindhya and Kailas, from the east and from the west, from far and near, from caves and forests, in hundreds and thousands and millions, and each host was captained by a veteran leader. All the monkeys in the world assembled there, and stood before Sugriva with joined hands. Then Sugriva gave them to Rama for his service, and would place them under his command. But Rama thought it best that Sugriva should issue all commands, since he best understood the ordering of such a host, and was well acquainted with the matter to be accomplished.

The Search for Sita

As yet neither Rama nor Lakshman nor Sugriva knew more of Ravana than his name ; none could tell where he dwelt or where he kept Sita hidden. Sugriva therefore dispatched all that host under leaders to search the four quarters for a month, as far as the uttermost bound of any

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land where men or demons dwelt, or sun shone. But he trusted as much in Hanuman as in all that host together; for that son of the wind-god had his father's energy and swiftness and vehemence and power of access to every place in earth or sky, and he was brave and politic and ; keen of wit and well aware of conduct befitting the time and place. And much as Sugriva relied on Hanuman, Hanuman was even more confident of his own power. Rama also put his trust in Hanuman, and gave him his signet-ring to show for a sign to Sita when he should discover her.

Then Hanuman bowed to Rama's feet, and departed with the host appointed to search the southern quarter, while Rama remained a month with Sugriva expecting his return. And after a month the hosts came back from searching the north and west and east, sorry and dejected that they had not found Sita. But the southern host searched all the woods and caves and hidden places, till, at last they came to the mighty ocean, the home of Varuna, boundless, resounding, covered with dreadful waves. A month had passed and Sita was not found ; therefore the monkeys sat dejected, gazing over the sea: and waiting for their end, for they dared not return to Sugriva.

But there dwelt a mighty and very aged vulture named Sampati in a neighbouring cave, and he, hearing the monkeys talking of his brother Jatayu, came forth and asked for news of him. Then the monkeys related to him the whole affair, and Sampati answered that he had seen Sita carried away by Ravana and that Ravana dwelt in Lanka, a hundred leagues across the sea. " Do ye repair thither," he said, " and avenge the rape of Sita and the murder of my brother. For I have the gift of foresight,

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Rama sending his signet Ring to Sita by K Venkatappa

and even now I perceive that Ravan and Sita are there in Lanka."

Sita found in Lanka

Then the monkeys grew more hopeful, but when they marched down to the shore and sat beside the heaving sea they were again downcast, and took counsel together sadly enough. Now one monkey said he could bound over twenty leagues, and another fifty, and one eighty, and one ninety ; and Angada, son of Vali, could cross over a hundred, but his power would not avail for the return. Then Jambavan, a noble monkey, addressed Hanuman, and recalled his birth and origin, how the wind-god had begotten him and his mother Anjana had borne him in the mountains, and when he was still a child he had thought the sun to be a fruit growing in the sky, and sprang easily three thousand leagues toward it; how Indra had cast a bolt at him, breaking his jaw; how the wind-god in anger began to destroy the heavens and earth, till Brahma pacified him and granted him the boon that his son should be invulnerable, and Indra gave him the boon of choosing his own death. " And do thou, heroic monkey, prove thy prowess now and bound across the ocean," he said, " for we look on thee as our champion, and thou dost surpass all things in movement and in vehemence."

Then Hanuman roused himself, and the monkey host rejoiced. Swelling with pride and might, he boasted of the deed he would accomplish. Then he rushed up the mountain Mahendra, shaking it in his wrath and frighten ing every beast that lived in its woods and caves. Intent upon achieving a hard task, where no friend could help and no foe hindered, Hanuman stood with head uplifted like a bull, and praying to the sun, to the mountain wind,

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to the Self-create and to all beings, he set his heart in the work to be accomplished. He grew great, and stood, like a fire, with bristling hair, and roared like thunder, brandishing his tail ; so he gathered energy of mind and: body. "I will discover Sita or bring Ravana away in chains," he thought, and therewith sprang up so that the very trees were dragged upward by his impetus and fell back again behind him. He hurtled through the air like a mountain, his flashing eyes like forest fires, his lifted tail like Sakra's banner. So Hanuman held his way across the ocean. Nor, when the friendly ocean lifted up Mount Mainaka, well wooded and full of fruits and roots, would Hanuman stay to rest, but, rising up, coursed through the air like Garuda himself. Then a grim rakshasi named Sinhikha rose from the sea and caught him by the shadow, and would devour him ; but he dashed into her mouth and, growing exceeding great, burst away again, leaving her dead and broken. Then he perceived the farther shore, and thinking his huge form ill-fitted for a secret mission, he resumed his natural size and shape, and so alighted on the shore of Lanka, nor was he ever so little wearied or fatigued.

On the mountain summit Hanuman beheld the city of Lanka, girt with a golden wall, and filled with buildings huge as cloudy mountains, the handiwork of Vishvakarman. Impatiently he waited for the setting of the sun ; then, shrinking to the size of a cat, he entered the city at night, unseen by the guards. Now Lanka seemed to him like a woman, having for robe the sea, for jewels cow-pens and stables, her breasts the towers upon her walls ; and behold, as he entered in, she met him in a terrible shape and barred his way. Then Hanuman struck her down, though gently, considering her a woman,

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and she yielded to him, and bade him accomplish his affair. Hanuman made his way to the palace of Ravana, towering on the mountain-top, girt with a wall and moat. By now the moon was full and high, sailing like a swan across the skyey sea, and Hanuman beheld the dwellers in the palace, some drinking, some engaged in amorous dalliance, some sorry and some glad, some drinking, some eating, some making music, and some sleeping. Many a fair bride lay there in her husband's arms, but Sita of peerless virtue he could not find; wherefore that eloquent monkey was cast down and disappointed. Then he sprang from court to court, visiting the quarters of all the foremost rakshasas, till at last he came to Ravana's own apartments, a very mine of gold and jewels, ablaze with silver light. Everywhere he sought for Sita, and left no corner unexplored ; golden stairs and painted cars and crystal windows and secret chambers set with gems, all these he beheld, but never Sita. The odour of meat and drink he sniffed, and to his nostrils there came also the all-pervading Air, and it said to him, "Come hither, where Ravana lies." Following the Air, he came to Ravana's sleeping-place. There lay the lord of the rakshasas upon a glorious bed, asleep and breathing heavily ; huge was his frame, decked with splendid jewels, like a crimson sunset cloud pierced by flashes of lightning; his big hands lay on the white cloth like terrible five- hooded serpents ; four golden laimps on pillars lit his bed. Around him lay his wives, fair as the moon, decked in glorious gems and garlands that never faded. Some, wearied with pleasure, slept where they sat; one clasped her lute like an amorous girl embracing her lover ; another fair one, skilled in the dance, made graceful gestures even in her sleep; others embraced each other. There, too,

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was Mandodari, Havana's queen, exceeding all others in; her splendour and loveliness ; and Hanuman guessed she must be Sita, and the thought enlivened him, so that he waved his arms and frisked his tail and sang and danced and climbed the golden pillars and sprang down again, as his monkey-nature moved him.

But reflection showed his error, for he said : " Without Rama, Sita would not eat or drink or sleep or decorate her person, nor would she company with any other than he this is some other one." So Hanuman ranged farther through the palace, searching many a bower in vain. Many fair ones he beheld, but never Sita, and he deemed she must be slain or eaten by the rakshasas. So he left the palace and sat awhile in deep dejection on the city wall. "If I return without discovering Sita," he reflected, "my labour will have been in vain. And what will Sugriva say, and the sons of Dasharatha, and the monkey host? Surely Rama and Lakshman will die of grief, and after; them Bharata, and then Satrughna, and then the queen- mothers, and seeing that, Sugriva, Rama's friend, will die too, and the monkey-queens, and Angada, and all the monkey race ! No more shall the noble monkeys assemble amongst the woods and mountains or in secret places and indulge in games ; but a loud wailing will arise when I return, and they will swallow poison, or hang themselves, or jump down from lofty mountains. Therefore I must not return unsuccessful ; better that I should starve and die. It is not right that all those noble monkeys should perish on my account. I shall remain here and search Lanka again and again ; even this Asoka wood beyond the walls ! shall be examined."

Then Hanuman bowed to Rama and Sita, to Shiva, to Indra and to Death, to the Wind, the Moon and Fire, and

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o Sugriva, and praying to these with thought intent, he -anged the Asoka wood with his imagination and met with Sita. Then he sprang from the wall like an arrow from a bow, and entered the wood in bodily shape. The wood was a place of pleasure and delight, full of flowering trees and happy animals ; but Hanuman ravaged it and broke the trees. One beautiful Asoka tree stood alone, amongst pavilions and gardens, built round with golden pavements and silver walls. Hanuman sprang up this tree and kept watch all about, thinking that Sita, if she were in the forest, would come to that lovely place. He saw a marble palace, with stairs of coral and floors of shining gold, and there lay one imprisoned, weak and thin as if with fasting, sighing for heavy grief, clad in soiled robes, and guarded by horrid rakshasis, like a deer among the dogs or a shining flame obscured by smoke. Then Hanuman considered that this must be Sita, for she was fair and spotless, like a moon overcast by clouds, and she wore such jewels as Rama had described to him. Hanuman shed tears of joy and thought of Rama and Lakshman. But now, while he yet sat hidden on the tree, Ravana had waked, and that lordly rakshasa came with a great train of women to the Asoka wood. They followed their heroic husband like lightnings following a cloud, and Hanuman heard the sound of their tinkling anklets as they passed across the golden pavements.

Hanuman speaks with Sita

Ravan came toward Sita, and when she saw him she trembled like a plantain-tree (banana) shaken by the wind, and hid her face and sobbed. Then he wooed her in every way, tempting her with wealth and power and comfort; but she refused him utterly, and foretold his death at

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Rama's hands. But Ravana waxed wood-wrath, and gave a two-month term, after which, if she yielded not, she should be tortured and slain ; and leaving her to the horrid rakshasl guards with orders to break her will, Ravana returned with his wives to his apartment. Then Sita, shrinking from the horrible she-demons, threatening her with death and torture, and reviling Rama, crept to the foot of the Asoka tree where Hanuman was hidden. Hanuman reflected that there was need for him to speak with Sita; but he feared to frighten her, or to attract the notice of the guard and bring destruction on himself, for, though he had might to slay the rakshasa host, he could not, if wearied out, return across the ocean. So he sat hidden in the branches of the tree and recited Rama's virtues and deeds, speaking in gentle tones, till Sita heard him. She caught her breath with fear and looked up into the tree, and saw the monkey; eloquent was he and humble, and his eyes glowed like golden fire. Then he came down out of the tree, ruddy-faced and humbly attired, and with joined palms spoke to Sita. Then she told him that she was Sita and asked for news of Rama, and Hanuman told her all that had befallen and spoke of Rama and Lakshman, so that she was wellnigh as glad as if she had seen Rama himself. But Hanuman came a little nearer, and Sita was much afraid, thinking him to be Ravana in disguise. He had much ado to persuade her that he was Rama's friend ; but at last, when she beheld the signet-ring, it seemed to her as if she were already saved, and she was glad and sorry at once glad to know that Rama was alive and well, and sorry for his grief. Then Hanuman suggested that he should carry Sita on his back across the sea to Rama. She praised his strength, but would not go with him, because she thought she might

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all from his back into the sea, especially if the rakshasas followed them, and because she would not willingly touch any person but Rama, and because she desired that the glory of her rescue and the destruction of the rakshasas should be Rama's. " But do thou speedily bring Rama hither," she prayed. Then Hanuman praised her wisdom and modesty, and asked for a token for Rama ; and she told him of an adventure with a crow, known only to her- self and Rama, that had befallen long ago at Chitrakuta, and she gave him a jewel from her hair, and sent a message to Rama and Lakshman, praying them to rescue her. Hanuman took the gem and, bowing to Sita, made ready to depart. Then Sita gave him another message for Rama, by which he might know surely that Hanuman had found her. " Tell him, One day my brow-spot was wiped away, and thou didst paint another with red earth thou shouldst remember this. And, O Rama, do thou some soon ; for ten months have passed already since I saw thee, and I may not endure more than another month ; and good fortune go with thee, heroic monkey," she said.

Hanuman burns Lanka

But Hanuman was not satisfied with finding Sita; he dashed about the Asoka grove and broke the trees and spoiled the pavilions, like the Wind himself. The rakshasis sent messages to Ravana for help, and he, hearing that a mighty monkey was destroying his servants, sent the powerful Jambumali, bow in hand, to slay Hanuman forthwith; and, indeed, he wounded him with a sharp arrow as he sat upon a temple roof, but Hanuman hurled a bolt at him and crushed him utterly. Then a host of heroic rakshasas, led by Prince Aksha, proceeded against

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Hanuman and met their death; next Indrajit was sent against him, and an awful battle was joined, whereat the very gods were amazed. He sent a million shafts against the monkey, but he, ranging the sky, escaped them all ; then Indrajit paused, and with concentrated mind pondered over the true character of Hanuman, and with spiritual insight perceived that he was not to be slain by weapons. Therefore he devised a way to bind him, and he loosed a Brahma shaft at him. Therewith Hanuman was bound, and knew the bond unbreakable, and he fell to earth ; but he reflected that it would be well for him to converse with Ravana, and therefore he struggled not, but let the rak- shasas bear him off. But they, seeing him still, bound him yet closer, pitifully moaning the while, with cords and bark. But that binding was the means of his release, for the binding power of a Brahma weapon is broken at once if another bond is added to it. But the wily monkey gave no sign that the bonds were loosed ; and the fierce rakshasas, crying to each other, " Who is he ? what does he want?" and "Kill him! burn him! eat him !" dragged him before Ravana.

Questioned by Ravana's minister, Hanuman answered that he was indeed a monkey, come to Lanka as Rama's envoy to accomplish his commands and to behold Ravana ; and he told the story of Rama up till then, and gave Ravana sound advice, to save his life by surrendering Sita. Ravana was furious and would have Hanuman slain; but the counsellors reminded him that the punishment of death could not justly be inflicted upon one who named himself an envoy. Then Ravana cast about for a fitting penalty, and bethought him to set Hanuman's tail afire. Then the rakshasas bound the monkey's tail with cotton soaked in oil and set it all ablaze. But the heroic monkey cherished

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Burning of Lanka by K Venkatappa

a secret plan ; he suffered the rakshasas to lead him about Lanka that he might the better learn its ways and strength. Then word was taken to Sita that that monkey with whom she had conversed was led about the streets of Lanka and proclaimed a spy, and that his tail was burning. Thereat she grieved, and praying to the Fire, she said : " As I have been faithful to my lord, do thou be cool to Hanuman." The Fire flamed up in answer to her prayer, and at that very moment Hanuman' s sire blew cool between the flame and Hanuman.

Perceiving that the fire still burnt, but that his tail was icy-cold, Hanuman thought that it was for Rama's sake and Sita's and his sire's that the heat was chilled ; and he snapped his bonds and sprang into the sky, huge as a mountain, and rushed to and fro in Lanka, burning the palaces and all their treasures. And when he had burnt half Lanka to the ground and slaughtered many a rakshasa, Hanuman quenched his tail in the sea.

Hanuman returns to Rama

Then all at once he repented of his rash deed, for he thought that Sita must have died in the fire. " It is a small matter to have burnt Lanka," he reflected, " but if Sita has lost her life I have failed altogether in my work, and will rather die than return in vain to Rama." But again he thought: " It may be that that fair one has been saved by her own virtue ; the fire that scorched me not has surely never hurt that noble lady." Therewith he hastened back to the Asoka tree and found her seated there, and he greeted her, and she him, and once more they spoke of Rama, and Hanuman foretold that he would speedily rescue Sita and slay the rakshasas. Then Hanuman sprang up like a winged mountain and fared across the sea, now clearly seen, now

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hidden by the clouds, till he came to Mahendra, flourishing his tail and roaring like the wind in a mighty cavern.

And all the monkey host rejoiced exceedingly to see and hear him, knowing that he must have found Sita ; they danced, and ran from peak to peak, and waved the branches of trees and their clean white cloths, and brought fruits and roots for Hanuman to eat. Then Hanuman reported all that he had done to Angada and Jambavan, while the monkey host sat round about the three there on Mahendra's summit.

When all had been told, Angada turned to the monkey host and said : " O noble monkeys, our work is done, and the time has come for us to return to Sugriva without delay"; and they answered him: "Let us go." Then Angada leapt up into the air, followed by all the monkeys, darkening the sky as if with clouds and roaring like the wind; and coming speedily to Sugriva, Angada spoke first to the heavy-hearted Rama, and gave him tidings of Sita and praised the work of Hanuman. Then Rama talked with Hanuman, and asked him many a question as to the welfare of the slender- waisted Sita; and Hanuman told him all, and gave her message regarding the matter of the crow and of the painted brow-spot, and showed to Rama the jewel from Sita' s hair entrusted to him as a token. Rama wept at the sight of that goodly gem : it was grief to him to behold it and not Sita herself ; but he rejoiced to know that Sita lived and that Hanuman had found her.

Then [Rama]] praised Hanuman as the best of servants, who had done more even than was required of him; for a servant, merely good, does what is commanded and no more, and a bad servant is one who does not even that which his master orders. "Hanuman," he said, "has

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done his work and more, and sorry am I that I cannot do him any service in return. But affection tells of all," and therewith Rama embraced the self-controlled and great hearted Hanuman like a brother.

Next, Sugriva spoke and issued orders for a march of all the host toward the far south to lay a siege to Lanka, while Hanuman reported to Rama all that he had learnt of the strength and fortifications of the city, saying : " Do thou regard the city as already taken, for I alone have laid it waste, and it will be an easy matter for such a host as this to utterly destroy it."

Now the monkey army went on its way, led by Sugriva and Rama, and the monkeys skipped for joy and bounded gleefully and sported one with another. With them went many friendly bears, ruled by Jambavan, guard ing the rear. Passing over many mountains and delightful forests, the army came at length to Mahendra, and beheld the sea before them ; thence they marched to the very shore, beside the wave-washed rocks, and made their camp. They covered all the shore, like a second sea beside the tossing waves. Then Rama summoned a council to devise a means for crossing over the ocean, and a guard was set, and orders issued that none should wander, for he feared the magic of the rakshasas.

Vibhishana deserts the Rakshasas

Meanwhile Ravana in Lanka called another council, for " Victory follows from taking counsel," as the sages say. "Ye know how the monkey Hanuman harried Lanka, and now Rama has reached the ocean shore with a host of bears and monkeys, and he will dry the sea or bridge it and besiege us here. Do ye consider the means of protec tion for the city and the army " thus spake Ravana to

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his counsellors. And his generals advised him to entrust the battle to his son, Prince Indrajit, while others, as Prahasta, Nikumbha, and Vajrahanu, boasted that they alone would swallow up the monkey army. But Vibhishana, younger brother of Ravana, advised another course. "Force," said he, "is only to be resorted to when other means have failed, viz. conciliation, gifts, and sowing dissension. Moreover, force avails only against such as are weak or are displeasing to the gods. What but death can result from a conflict with Rama, self-controlled and vigilant and strong with the might of all the gods ? Who ever thought that Hanuman should have done so much ? and from this thou shouldst be warned and yield up Sita to her lord, to save thyself and us." And playing a perilous part, he followed his brother to his own chamber and saluted him, and spake yet further for his welfare. " From the day that Sita came," he said, " the omens have been evil : fire is ever obscured by smoke, serpents are found in kitchens, the milk of kine runs dry, wild beasts howl around the palace. Do thou restore Sita, lest we all suffer for thy sin." But Ravana dismissed his brother angrily, and boasted that he would hold Sita as his own, even if all the gods should war against him.

Now the reason why Ravana had never up till now used force to Sita was this, that Brahma, one time when Ravana had ill-used a celestial dame, laid upon him a curse that if ever again he did the like against his victim's will his head should break in a hundred pieces. And by now Ravana was thin and passion-worn and weary, like a horse spent with a long journey, and he desired to compass Rama's death and make Sita his own. Therefore he took counsel again with his generals for war, but again Vibhishana opposed him, till Ravana cursed him angrily as cowardly and treasonable. Then Vibhishana deemed the time had come when he could suffer no more of such insults, and rising into the air with his four personal followers, he said to Ravana that he had spoken for his welfare, "but the fey refuse advice, as a man on the brink of death refuses medicine." So saying he passed through the sky across the sea and came to the monkey host, and announced himself as come to make alliance with Rama. Most of the monkey leaders were for slaying him, for they put little faith in a rakshasa, even if he were not a disguised spy ; but Rama spoke him fair, and engaged, in return for his assistance in the war, to set him on the throne of Lanka when Ravana should have been slain.

"Adams Bridge"

Then Hanuman and Sugriva and Rama took counsel with Vibhishana how to cross the ocean, and he deemed that Rama should seek the aid and the friendship of Ocean for the building of a bridge. This was agreed upon, and Rama, spreading a couch of sacrificial grass, lay down upon it, facing the east, with praying hands toward the sea, resolving, " Either the ocean shall yield or I will die." Thus Rama lay three days, silent, concentred, following the rule, intent upon the ocean ; but Ocean answered not. Then Rama was angered, and rose and took his bow, and would dry up the sea and lay Varuna's home bare ; and he loosed dreadful shafts at him that flamed and pierced the waters, awakening mighty storms, distressing the nagas and the makaras of the sea, so that the god-hermits haunting the sky cried out " Alas ! " and " Enough ! " But Ocean did not show himself, and Rama, threatening him, set to his bow a Brahma arrow blest with a Brahma charm, and drew. Then heaven and earth were darkened and the

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mountains trembled, lightnings flashed, and every creature was afraid, and the mighty deep was wrought with violent , movement. Then Ocean himself rose from mid-sea like the sun from Meru. Jewelled and wreathed was he and decked with many gems, and followed by noble rivers,: such as Ganga, Sindhu, and others. He came to Rama with joined palms and spoke him fair :

" O Rama," said he, " thou knowest that every element has its own inherent qualities. Mine is this, to be fathomless and hard to cross. Neither for love nor fear can I stay the waters from their endless movement. But thou shalt pass over me by means of a bridge, and I will suffer it and hold it firm." Then Rama was appeased, but the Brahma arrow waited to find its mark and might not be restrained. Rama inquired from Ocean : "Where shall I let it strike?" and Ocean answered : "There is a part of my domain toward the north haunted by evil wights; there let it fall." Then Rama let fly the flaming shaft, and the water of the sea toward the north was dried and burnt, and where the sea had been became a desert. But Rama blessed the desert and made it fruitful.

Then Ocean said to Rama : " O kind one, there is a monkey here named Nala, and he is Vishvakarma's son and has his sire's skill. Full of energy is he, and he shall build the bridge across me, and I shall bear it up." Then Ocean sank again beneath the waters. But Nala said to Rama: "Ocean has spoken truth: only because thou didst not ask me I hid my power till now."

Now all the monkeys, following Nala's orders, gathered trees and rocks and brought them from the forests to the shore, and set them in the sea. Some carried timber, some used the measuring-rods, some bore stones; huge was the tumult and noise of crags and rocks thrown into

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Building of Rama's Bridge by K Venkatappa

the sea. The first day fourteen leagues were made, and on the fifth day the bridge was finished, broad and elegant and firm like a line of parting of the hair on Ocean s head. Then the monkey host passed over, Rama and Lakshman riding upon Sugriva and Angada. Some monkeys went along the causeway, others plunged into the sea, and others coursed through the air, and the noise of them drowned the sound of the ocean waves.

Lanka Besieged

Dreadful were the omens of war that showed themselves : the earth shook, the clouds rained blood, a fiery circle fell from the sun. But the monkeys roared defiance at the rakshasas, whose destruction was thus foretold. Then Rama, beholding Lanka towering up to pierce the heavens, built by Vishvakarma, wrought, as it were, of mind rather than matter, hanging in the sky like a bank of snow-white clouds, was downcast at the thought of Slta prisoned there ; but he arrayed the host of bears and monkeys and laid siege to Lanka.

Meanwhile Ravana's spies, sent in monkey shape to gather news, brought tidings thereof to Lanka, and, advising him of Rama's resistless power, counselled that Sita should be surrendered ; but Ravana was enraged, and drove the spies away disgraced, and sent others in their place, but ever with the same result. No help was there, then, but to give battle or yield up Rama's bride; but Ravana took counsel first to betray Sita to his will. He told her that the monkey host had been dispersed and Rama slain, and a rakshasl came in, bringing the semblance of Rama's head and bow, and Sita knew them, and was grieving out of all measure, and crying aloud with many lamentations, and she prayed Ravana to slay her by Rama's head that

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she might follow him. But therewith came in a messenger from the rakshasa general calling Ravana to the battle, and he turned to the field of war ; and when he left, the head and bow immediately vanished, and Sita knew them to have been but counterfeits and vain illusions.

Rama Wounded

Now Vibhishana 's four rakshasa followers had spied on Lanka, and knew the disposition of Ravana's forces ; and Rama laid siege to the four gates of Lanka accordingly, establishing the monkey Nila at the eastern gate, guarded, by the rakshasa general Prahasta ; Angada at the western gate, guarded by Mahaparshwa ; Hanuman at the southern gate, guarded by Prince Indrajit; and himself attacked the north gate, guarded by Ravana. Then Rama sent Angada as an envoy to Ravana, challenging him to the fight; but Ravana, forgetting the respect due to an envoy, would have slain him ; and Angada sprang away and broke the palace roof, and returned to Rama. Then the monkeys advanced in order and swarmed about the walls, flooding the moat and striking terror into the hearts of the rakshasas ; scaling parties climbed the walls and battered down the gates with trees and stones, shouting " Victory for Rama and for Sugriva ! " The rakshasas sallied forth in turn with horrid trumpeting and joined in battle with the monkeys, and all the air was; filled with the noise of fighting, and terrible confusion arose of friend and foe and man and beast, and the earth was strewn with flesh and wet with gore. Thus an equal battle raged till evening ; but the rakshasas waited for the night, and eagerly desired the setting of the sun, for night is the rakshasas time of strongest might. So night fell,; and the demons ranged, devouring monkeys by thousands,

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Then those of Rama's party rallied and for a time prevailed, and Indrajit was beaten back. But he, resorting to his magic, became invisible, and showered deadly wounding arrows upon Rama and Lakshman; fighting in crooked ways, he bound them fast so that they fell helpless to the ground, covered with a thousand wounds.

Sugriva, Hanuman, Vibhishana, and all the leaders of the monkeys stood round about those wounded heroes with tear-filled eyes ; but Indrajit, unseen of any save his uncle Vibhishana, rejoiced, and let fly many a shaft that wounded Hanuman and Nila and Jambavan. Then Indrajit returned to Lanka as a victor, and his father welcomed him ; and for a while the fighting ceased.

Now Vibhishana rallied the frightened monkeys, and comforted Sugriva, saying : " This is no time for giving way to grief. Rama is not dying. Do thou gather the forces and inspire them with fresh hope." But the monkeys were panic-stricken, and if even a straw moved they deemed it to be a rakshasa. And Ravana meanwhile, taking Sita on his car, showed to her Rama and Lakshman lying on the field, senseless and pierced with many arrows, wounded and lying in the dust ; and she deemed them to be dead, and wailed but Ravana brought her back to Lanka.

Meanwhile Rama came to himself, and seeing Lakshman seeming to be dead, he made great lamentation, and praising what the monkeys had done, though unsuccessful, he gave them leave to go whither they would across the bridge and seek their homes. And Vibhishana, too, had no more taste for battle or desire for the throne of Lanka. But Sugriva comforted them and gave them fresh courage, and the monkey-chief Sushena told of a magic herb that by the Milky Ocean, and can restore the dead to

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life, "and let the Wind-god's son go thither for it," he said.

The Coming of Garuda

But as he spoke a stormy wind arose, lashing the sea and shaking the very mountains, and suddenly the monkeys beheld Garuda sailing through the air like a flaming fire. As Garuda came nigh, the arrows fell from the wounded heroes like frightened serpents darting away ; and when he bent in salutation and touched their faces with his hands, the sons of Dasharatha were healed, and they came to their former strength and radiance, and more. Then Rama questioned Garuda who he was, and he answered :

" I am thy friend, thy life free-ranging external to thyself, Garuda, and I have come to aid thee, hearing that thou wert bound by the magic shafts of Indrajit. Now thou shouldst take warning how the rakshasas fight with cunning and magic, and thou shouldst never trust them in the field. I take my way : thou needst not wonder how friendship came to be between us ; thou shalt know all after the battle is achieved. Surely thou shalt slay Ravana and win back Sita." With this Garuda, embracing Rama and Lakshman, embracing, too, the monkey, chiefs, rose into the sky and sailed away upon the wind.

Then the monkey-chiefs, seeing Rama and Lakshman restored to life and power, began to roar and frisked their tails; drums and kettledrums were struck, and seizing trees, hundreds and thousands of monkeys advanced again upon the gates of Lanka. The rangers of the night issued forth under Dhumraksha (" Grey-eye "), and there was a deadly onset. The monkeys bit and tore and fought with trees and stones, and the rakshasas killed and wounded them with arrows and cleft them with their axes and crushed

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them with their maces. Then seeing the monkeys hard beset, Hanuman, seizing a heavy rock, advanced on Dhumraksha, and, casting it down upon his car, crushed it to dust; then Hanuman laid about him lustily, and armed with a mountain-top he rushed on Dhumraksha again. But the rakshasa brought down his mace on Hanuman's head and wounded him sore; then Hanuman, heedless of the wound, let fly the mountain-top at Dhumraksha, and crushed him to the ground like a falling hill. Seeing their leader slain, the rakshasas retired.

Heavy Fighting

Short was the peace ere Ravana sent out another leader of the rakshasas, the deadly Thunder-tooth ; him Angada met as he drove the monkey host before him, piercing five and nine with every shaft, and engaged in deadly duel, till at last he severed the demon s neck and laid him low. Then Ravana sent out Akampana (" Unconquerable "), and he was slain by Hanuman, with all his host. Then Ravana was somewhat shaken and foreboded ill, but he sent for Prahasta ("Long-hand"), his foremost general; and he gathered another host, and sallied forth upon a splendid car by the eastern gate, accompanied by his counsellors, Man-slayer and Noisy-throat and Tall. That encounter was the death of many hundred rakshasas and monkeys, and the occasion of many a deed of heroism. Prahasta from his shining car sped thousands of monkey- slaying shafts, and a very river of blood flowed between the opposing hosts. Then Nila, Agni's son, brandishing an uptorn tree, rushed on Prahasta ; but he wounded the monkey with showers of arrows. At last his bow was shattered in the conflict, and the twain fought hand to hand, with tooth and nail. Then Prahasta struck Nila a

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deadly blow with his mace, and Nila flung a tall tree at Prahasta s breast ; but he lightly avoided that and rushed on Nila. Then Nila flung a mighty crag at the rakshasa, shattering his head, so that he fell slain. The rakshasa host drew back; like water rushing through a broken dyke, they melted away and entered Lanka, stricken with grief and fear.

Ravana was inflamed with wrath to learn of Prahasta's death, and his heart sank, but he boasted that he would himself destroy Rama and Lakshman with a thousand shafts, and mounted his own shining car and led a rakshasa host against the monkeys ; he seemed like the Destroyer himself, accompanied by ghosts and flesh- devouring monsters with burning eyes. Big-belly and Goblin and Man-destroyer and Three-heads, fighters with mountain-peaks and flaming maces, came with Ravana. But he, when they were face to face with the besiegers, dismissed the host to take their ease, and himself advanced to fight alone. Then first Sugriva hurled a mountain-top at him, but Ravana severed it with his golden shafts, so that it fell vainly to the earth, and he sped a deadly flaming shaft at the monkey-king that bore him to the ground groaning with pain. Then other monkey-chiefs together rushed at Ravana, but these in like fashion he destroyed, so that they cried to Rama for help. Lakshman prayed for that battle, and Rama granted him, and he took the field ; but already Hanuman was pressing Ravana hard, so that he cried: "Well done, monkey; thou art a foe in whom I may rejoice." Therewith he struck the Wind-god s son a heavy blow so that he shuddered and fell back, and Ravana turned to fight with Nila. But the Fire-god s son, flaming with anger, sprang on to Ravana's car and darted like fire from point to point ; and Ravana's

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eart sank, but he took a deadly shaft and aimed at Nila, and laid him low, at the very point of death. But then Lakshman took up the battle, and showers of arrows were loosed by either hero, so that both were sorely wounded ; and a flaming dart struck Rama's brother down. Then Ravana seized him; but he that could raise Himalaya could not lift Lakshman from the ground, for he remembered that he was a very part of Vishnu himself, and he stayed immovable. Then Hanuman returned and struck the rakshasa king a staggering blow so that he fell back, senseless and bleeding, on the platform of his car ; and Hanuman lifted Lakshman easily and bore him away to Rama. Nor was it long before both Ravana and Lakshman came to their senses; and Rama, mounted upon Hanuman's back, engaged in a dreadful battle with the king of Lanka. Rama destroyed his car, and wounded Ravana with bolts, and cut his crown atwain with a fiery disc, and struck him with an arrow, so that he grew weak and faint; then, sparing his life, he sent him back to Lanka, saying: "Thou hast accomplished deeds of heroism, and I see thee faint; do thou retire to Lanka now, for thou shalt feel my power in another battle." So the generous Rama spared his foe, and all the gods and quarters and the seas and creatures of earth rejoiced to see the rakshasa king cast down,

Pot-ear Awakened

Now Ravana bethought him of his brother Kumbhakarna ("Pot-ear"). He would ever sleep, now six, now eight, now ten months at a time, and would wake only to gorge, and then sleep again. But he was the hardest fighter and the very best of the rakshasas in battle; and now he had already slept nine months, when Ravana sent

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a host to waken him. They found him sleeping in his cave ; he lay like a mountain, drunk with sleep, and vast as Hell, his rank breath sweeping all before him, smelling of blood and fat. The rakshasas made ready for him heaps of deer and buffaloes, steaming rice and jars of blood, mountains of food piled up as high as Meru ; then set about to wake him. They winded conchs and shouted and beat on drums, so that the very birds in the sky fell dead of fear; but Pot-ear slept the harder, and the rakshasas could hardly stand against the tornado of his breath. Then they girded their cloths the tighter, and ten thousand of them yelled together, and struck heavy blows at him with logs of wood, and beat a thousand kettledrums at once. Then they waxed angrier, and set themselves to work in earnest ; some bit his ears, some poured a thousand pots of water in them, some wounded him with spears and maces, and some drove a thousand elephants against him. Therewith at last he woke, and yawned, and yawned again, so that a very storm was raging; and the pangs of hunger assailed him, and he looked about for food. Then he beheld the feast, and fell to heartily, and ate and drank ; and when the rakshasas thought him filled, they stood around him and bowed, and informed him of all that had befallen, and prayed his help. Then he, already half asleep again, roused himself, and boasted that he would regale the rakshasas with an abundant feast of monkey flesh and blood ; " and myself shall swill the blood of Rama and Lakshman," said he. So Pot-ear bathed, and, going to his brother, bade him take heart. He drank two thousand flasks of wine, and marched out like a moving mountain, clad in golden mail, to attack the monkeys. The monkeys fled in terror, but Pot-ear caught them and rushed about devouring them

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by handfuls, so that the blood and fat dripped from his mouth. Then Rama, with Hanuman and Angada and other brave monkeys, fell on him with trees and mountain- tops, swarming round him like clouds about a mountain; and Pot-ear, half asleep as yet, began to rouse himself and fight in earnest. Hanuman, from the sky, cast down the mountain-peaks on him; but he swallowed twenty and thirty monkeys at a mouthful, and slew them by hundreds at every stroke, and wounded Hanuman, and raged from side to side.

Pot-ear Slain

Then Pot-ear sped a second deadly shaft at Hanuman; but he caught it and broke it with his hands, and all the monkeys shouted, so that the rakshasa was daunted and turned away. But therewith Pot-ear flung a mountain-top and struck Sugriva down, and he lifted him and carried him away. The monkeys were scattered and their king a prisoner. But Sugriva roused himself and turned on Pot-ear and wounded him and got away; and the battle was joined again, and Lakshman fought against the rakshasa. Then Rama took up the battle, and wounded his foe with many shafts, and shot away an arm, destroy ing a hundred monkeys in its fall. Then with a second shaft he cut away the other arm, and with two keen-edged discs he cut away the demon s legs, and with a shaft of Indra he struck away his head; and he fell like a great hill and crashed down into the sea, and the gods and heroes rejoiced.

Rakshasa Successes

Then Ravana grew ever more heavy of heart ; but Prince Indrajit came to his father and vowed to slay Rama and

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Lakshman that day, and he sallied forth. But first he offered libations unto Fire, and sacrificed a goat ; and the bright, smokeless Fire-god, with his flickering tongue, rose up to take the offering, and he bestowed a Brahma weapon on Indrajit, and blessed his bow and car with charms. Armed with that weapon, Indrajit slew countless hosts of monkeys, and laid low Sugriva and Angada and Jambavan and Nila and other chiefs, but himself remained invisible. Then Rama, seeing him thus weaponed and unassailable, counselled a semblance of defeat. And Indrajit returned victorious to Lanka.

Hanuman fetches Healing Herbs

Then Vibhishana and Hanuman ranged the field, beholding thousands of slain and wounded, a horrid sight and grim ; and they came nigh to the king of bears, Jambavan, and asked if he yet lived. He answered faintly, recognizing Vibhishana's voice, and asked if Hanuman was alive; then Hanuman bowed to Jambavan and held his feet. Jambavan rejoiced, and despite his wounds he spoke to the Wind-god s son :

" Do thou labour for this host of bears and monkeys, for

only thou canst save them. Thou shalt bound over the sea, and reach Himalaya, king of mountains, and bring thence the four life-giving herbs that grow on him, and return forthwith with healing for the monkey host."

Then Hanuman roared and sprang ; and he passed across the sea and over hills and woods and rivers and cities till he came to Himalaya and beheld its hermitages. He ranged the mountain, but the herbs were hidden from him ; and angered and impatient, Hanuman rooted up the whole mountain and sprang with it into the air and

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returned to Lanka, welcomed by all the host. And the slain and wounded monkeys rose up whole, as if from restful sleep, healed by the savour of the four medicinal herbs. But all the slain rakshasas had been cast into the sea. Then Hanuman took the mountain-peak again to " Himalaya and returned to Lanka.

Now Sugriva, perceiving that few rakshasas lived to guard the city, stormed the gates, and a host of monkeys bearing flaming brands entered and burnt and ravaged her. The second night had now come on, and the burning city glowed in the darkness, like a mountain blazing with forest fires. But Ravana sent out a host against the monkeys time and again. First Kumbha and Nikumbha led the rakshasas, and were slain in deadly battle ; then Maharaksha, son of Khara, in turn was slain, and Indrajit went out again. He fought invisible as ever, and sorely wounded Rama and Lakshman. Then Indrajit retired, and came forth again, riding on a car with an illusory magic figure of Slta ; and he rode up and down the field, holding her by the hair and striking her, and he cut her down in the sight of all the monkey host. Hanuman, believing in the false show, stayed the battle and brought the news to Rama; and Rama fell down, like a tree cut off at the root. But while they grieved, Indrajit went to the altar at Nikhumbila to make sacrifices to the god of Fire.

Ravana's Son is Killed

Meanwhile Vibhishana came to Rama and found him overwhelmed with grief, and Lakshman told him that Sita had been slain by Indrajit. But Vibhishana guessed this to have been a vain show, less possible than for the ocean to be dried up. " It is a device," he said, " to delay the monkey army till Indrajit shall have completed

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a sacrifice to Fire and have won as a boon to be invincible in battle. Therefore grieve not, but hasten to prevent his offerings, lest the very gods be in danger if he complete them." Then Rama rose, and with Lakshman and Vibhishana pursued the son of Ravana ; and they overtook him ere he reached Nikhumbila, mounted on a fiery car. Then befell the worst and fiercest of conflicts that had yet been : Lakshman bore the brunt of that battle, and it is said that the ancestors and gods, the birds and snakes, protected Lakshman from the deadly shafts. And this was at last the manner of Indrajit s death: Lakshman took an Indra shaft, and making an act of truth, he prayed its indwelling deity : " If Rama be righteous and truthful, the first of all men in heroism, then slay this son of Ravana " ; and drawing the straight-speeding arrow to his ear, he loosed it, and it severed the rakshasa's neck, that head and trunk fell to the ground, and all the rakshasas, seeing their leader slain, cast down their arms and fled. And all the monkeys rejoiced, for no rakshasa hero re mained alive save Ravana himself. Then Rama welcomed the wounded Lakshman with great affection, and ordered Sushena to administer medicines to him and to the wounded monkeys ; and the monkey-chief applied a potent drug to Lakshman's nose, and, smelling it, the outward-going of his life was stayed, and he was healed.

Bitterly Ravana grieved for his son. " The triple worlds, and this earth with all its forests, seem to me vacant," he cried, "since thou, my hero, hast gone to the abode of Yama, who shouldst have performed my funeral rites, not I thine " ; and he burned with rage and sorrow. Then he determined to slay Sita in revenge, but his good counsellor Suparshwa held him back, saying : " Thou mayst not slay a woman ; but when Rama is slain thou shalt possess her."

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All Lanka was resounding with the lamentations of the rakshasls for the rakshasas slain in battle, and Ravana sat in fury, devising means to conquer Rama : he gnashed his teeth and bit his lips and laughed, and went with Big- belly and Squint-eye and Great-flank to the field of battle, followed by the last of the demon army, and boasting : " I shall make an end of Rama and Lakshman to-day."

Ravana's Fury

Nor could the monkeys stand before him, but were de stroyed like flies in fire; but Sugriva engaged in single fight with Squint-eye and made an end of him; and therewith both armies joined again, and there was deadly slaughter on either hand, and either army shrank like a pond in summer. Next Big-belly was slain by Sugriva, and Angada was the death of Great-flank, so that the monkeys roared with triumph. But now Ravana came on, bearing a Brahma weapon, and scattering the monkeys right and left.

He stayed not ere he came to the sons of Dasharatha : he took his way where Rama stood aside, with great eyes like the petals of a lotus, long of arm, unconquerable, holding a bow so huge it seemed to be painted on the sky. Rama set arrows to the bow and drew the string, so that a thousand rakshasas died of terror when they heard it twang ; and there began a deadly battle between the heroes. Those arrows pierced the king of Lanka like five-hooded serpents, and fell hissing to the ground; but Ravana lifted up a dreadful asura weapon, and let fly at Rama a shower of arrows having lion- and tiger-faces, and some with gaping mouths like wolves. Rama answered these with shafts faced like the sun and stars, like meteors or lightning flashes, destroying the shafts of Ravana. Then Ravana

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fought with other celestial weapons, and he lifted a Rudra shaft, irresistible and flaming, hung with eight noisy bells, and hurled it at Vibhishana; but Lakshman came before it, saving Vibhishana from death. Rama, seeing that weapon falling upon Lakshman, prayed it: "Peace be to Lakshman ! Be thou frustrated, and let thy energy depart " ; but the blazing dart struck Lakshman's breast and laid him low, nor could any monkey draw the shaft out of him. Rama stooped and drew it forth and broke it in twain, and then, albeit grieved out of measure for Lakshman and angered by his grief, Rama called to Hanuman and Sugriva, saying : " Now is the time appointed come at last. To-day I shall accomplish a deed of which all men and gods and every world shall tell as long as the earth supports a living creature. To-day my sorrow shall have an end, and all that for which I have laboured shall come to pass."

Then Rama set his mind upon the battle, but Hanuman went again to Himalaya and brought the mount of healing herbs for Lakshman, and Sushena took the life-giving plant and made Lakshman to smell its savour, so that he rose up whole and well; and Lakshman embraced his brother, and urged him to achieve his promise that very day. Sakra sent down from Heaven his car and his charioteer, named Matali, to aid the son of Dasharatha in his fight, and Rama went about and greeted it, and, mounting upon it, seemed to light the whole world with his splendour. But Ravana loosed at him a rakshasa weapon, and its golden shafts, with fiery faces vomiting flames, poured over Rama from every side and changed to venomous serpents. But Rama took a Garuda weapon and loosed a flight of golden arrows, changing at will to birds, and devouring all the serpent arrows of the rakshasa.

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Then the presiding deities of all the weapons came to stand by Rama, and what with this auspicious omen and other happy signs, Rama began to harass Ravana sorely, and wounded him, so that his charioteer, beholding him as if at the point of death, turned away from the field of battle.

Then the revered Agastya, come thither with the gods to witness the defeat of Ravana, drew near to Rama and taught him : " Rama, Rama, great-armed hero, my child, hearken to the eternal secret, the Heart of the Sun, whereby thou mayst overcome every foe. Do thou worship Sun, lord of the world, in whom dwells the spirit of all the gods. Hail! Hail! O thousand-rayed, hail to Aditya! Thou wakener of the lotus! Thou source of life and death, destroyer of all darkness, light of the soul, who wakest when all sleep, and dwellest in every heart ! Thou art the gods and every sacrifice and the fruits thereof. Do thou worship with this hymn the lord of the universe, and thou shalt conquer Ravana to-day."

Ravana Slain

Then Rama hymned the Sun, and purified himself with water-sippings, and was glad ; and he turned to deal with Ravana, for the rakshasa had come to himself again and was eager for the battle. Each like a flaming lion fought the other; head after head of the Ten-necked One did Rama cut away with his deadly arrows, but new heads ever rose in place of those cut off, and Ravana's death seemed nowise nearer than before the arrows that had slain Maricha and Khara and Vali could not take the king of Lanka's life away. Then Rama took up the Brahma weapon given to him by Agastya : the Wind lay in its wings, the Sun and Fire in its head, in its mass the weight of Meru and Mandara. Blessing that shaft with

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Vedic mantras, Rama set it on his bow and loosed it, and it sped to its appointed place and cleft the breast of Ravana, and, bathed in blood, returned and entered Rama's quiver humbly.

Thus was the lord of the rakshasas slain, and the gods rained flowers on Rama's car and chanted hymns of praise, for their desired end was now accomplished that end for which alone Vishnu had taken human form. The heavens were at peace, the air grew clear and bright, and the sun shone cloudless on the field of battle.

Ravana Mourned

But Vibhishana lamented for his brother sadly, and Rama comforted him, saying: "A hero slain in battle should not be mourned. Success in battle is not for ever : why shouldst thou grieve that one who put to flight Indra himself should fall at last ? Do thou rather perform his funeral rites. Take comfort, too, at this : with death our enmity is ended, and Ravana is as dear to me as thee." Then there issued out of Lanka a host of weeping rakshasis, seeking their lord and wailing bitterly; and Mandodari made this lament :

" O thou great-armed, younger brother of Vaisravana, who could stand before thee ? Gods and rishis thou hast daunted ; not to be borne is it that a man, fighting on foot, hath slain thee now ! But thy death has come to pass because of Sita, and I am a widow. Thou didst not heed my words, nor didst thou think how many fairer damsels thou hadst than her. Alas ! how fair thou wert and how kind thy smile : now thou art bathed in blood and pierced with shafts ! Thou wert wont to sleep on a couch of gold ; but now thou liest in the dust. Why dost thou fare away and leave me alone? Why dost thou not welcome me ?" But

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the other wives of Ravana consoled her and lifted her up, saying : " Life is uncertain for all, and all things change." Meanwhile Vibhishana made ready the funeral pyre, and Ravana was taken to the burning-ground and burnt with every rite and honour due to heroes. Ravana's wives returned to Lanka, and the gods departed to their own place. Then Lakshman, taking water brought from the ocean by Sugriva in a golden jar, anointed Vibhishana as lord of the city of Lanka and king of the rakshasas, and thereat the monkeys and rakshasas both rejoiced.

Sita brought to Rama

But now Rama called Hanuman to him, and sent him to search for Sita and inform her of all that had befallen ; and he found her still by the Asoka tree, guarded by rakshasls. Hanuman stood before her humbly and told his tale, and she gave him the message : " I desire to behold my lord." Then the radiant monkey came to Rama and gave him Sita's message. Rama wept thereat and was plunged in thought, and with a heavy sigh he said to Vibhishana : "Do thou bring Sita hither quickly, bathed and fitly adorned with sandal-paste and jewels." He repaired to her and gave her Rama's command ; she would have gone to him unbathed. " But thou shouldst do according to thy lord s word," he said. " So be it," she replied, and when she had made her ready, worthy bearers brought her on a palanquin to Rama. Rama, beholding her who had long been the prisoner of Ravana, and overcome with sorrow, was stricken at once with fury, joy, and grief. " O lord of rakshasas, O gentle king," said he to Vibhishana, " do thou bring Sita near to me." Then Vibhishana drove away the crowd of monkeys, bears, and rakshasas, and the atten dants with canes and drums roughly hustled the assembled

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host. But Rama bade them desist, and ordered that Sita should leave her palanquin and come to him on foot, saying to Vibhishana : " Thou shouldst rather comfort than harass these our own folk. No sin is there when women are seen abroad in time of war or danger, at an own-choice, 1 or at marriage. Sita is in danger now, and there can be no wrong in seeing her, the more so as I am here to guard her." Vibhishana, cast down at that rebuke, brought Sita humbly up to Rama ; and she stood shamefast, hiding as it were her true self in her outward shape, beholding Rama's face with wonder, joy, and love. At the sight of him her sorrow vanished, and she shone radiant like the moon.

But Rama, seeing her stand humbly near him, could no more hold back his speech, and cried : " O gentle one, I have subdued thy foe and wiped away the stain upon my honour. The work of Hanuman, in crossing the deep and harrying Lanka ; of Sugriva, with his army and his counsel ; and of Vibhishana, hath borne its fruit, and I have fulfilled my promise, by my own might accomplishing the duty of a man." Then Sita looked on Rama sadly, like a deer, with tear-filled eyes; and Rama, seeing her so near, but be thinking him of honour in the sight of men, was torn in twain. " I have wiped away the insult to our family and to myself," said he, " but thou art stained by dwelling with another than myself. What man of high degree receives back a wife who hath lived long in another's house? Ravan has held thee on his lap and gazed on thee with lustful eyes. I have avenged his evil deed, but I am unattached to thee. O gentle one, I am forced by a sense of honour to renounce thee, for how should Ravana have overlooked thee, so fair and dainty as thou art, when he

1 Swayamvara, choice of a husband from assembled suitors : see the story of Nala and Damayanti, page 356.

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had thee at his will ? Do thou choose what home thou wilt, whether with Lakshman, or Bharata, or Sugriva, or with Vibhishana."

Then Sita, hearing that cruel speech of Rama, little like his wonted words, trembled like a swaying vine, and wept with heavy tears, and she was ashamed before that great assembly. But she wiped the tears from her face, and answered him : " Ah, why dost thou speak thus roughly and unkindly? Seeing the ways of other women, thou wilt trust in none! But, O thou long-armed hero, I am my own sufficient witness to my purity. It was not with my consent that another touched my person. My body was not in my power; but my heart, that lies under my Own sway, is set on thee alone. O thou my lord and source of honour, our affection increased by living continually together for a long time ; and now, if thou dost not know my faithfulness, I am undone for ever. O king, why didst thou not renounce me when Hanuman came ? Then would I have given up my life, and thou needst not have undertaken all thy labour, nor laid a burden on thy friends. Thou art angered ; like a common man thou seest naught in me but womanhood. I am called the daughter of Janaka, but, in sooth, I was born of Earth ; thou knowest not my true self." Then Sita turned to Lakshman, and said with faltering speech: "O son of Sumitra, build me a funeral pyre; therein is my only refuge. Branded with an undeserved stigma, I will not live." Lakshman, wrought with grief and anger, turned to Rama, and in obedience to his ges ture he prepared the funeral pyre.

Sita's Ordeal

Then Sita, circumambulating Rama, standing with down cast eyes, approached the fire; with folded hands she

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stood and prayed : " Inasmuch as my heart has never turned from Rama, do thou, O Fire, all men s witness, guard me ; since Rama casts me away as stained, who in sooth am stainless, do thou be my refuge." Then Sita went about the pyre and entered the burning flames, so that all, both young and old, assembled there were overcome with grief, and the noise of uttermost wailing and lamen tation arose on every hand.

Rama stayed immovable and rapt ; but the gods came down to Lanka in their shining cars and, folding their hands, prayed Rama to relent. " Thou that dost protect the worlds, why dost thou renounce the daughter of Janaka, leaving her to choose the death by fire ? How can it be thou knowest not what thyself art? Thou wast in the beginning, and shalt be at the end: thou art first of all the gods, thyself the grandsire and creator. Why dost thou treat Sita after the fashion of a mere man?" said they. To whom Rama replied : " I know myself only as a man, Rama, the son of Dasharatha ; now let the grand- sire tell me who I am and whence I came."

Then Brahma answered : " Hearken, thou whose virtue lies in truth ! O Lord, thou art Narayana, bearing disc and mace; thou art the one-tusked boar; thou goest beyond the past, the present, and the future ; thine is the bow of Time; thou art creation and destruction; thou art the slayer of all enemies, thou the forgiveness and control of passions ; thou art the refuge of all gods and hermits ; thou art manifest in every creature, in cows and Brahmans, in every quarter, in sky and river and mountain-peak ; a thousand limbs, a thousand eyes, a thousand heads arei thine ; thy heart am I, thy tongue SarasvatI ; the closing of thy eye is night, its opening day : Sita is Lakshmi and thou Vishnu and Krishna. And, O Rama, now Ravana is

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slain, do thou ascend to Heaven, thy work accomplished. Naught shall they lack whose hearts are set on thee, nor fail who chant thy lay."

Then Fire, hearing those happy words, rose up with Sita on his lap, radiant as the morning sun, with golden jewels and black curling hair, and he gave her back to Rama, saying : " O Rama, here is thy Sita, whom no stain has touched. Not in word or thought or look has Sita turned aside from thee. Albeit tempted every way, she did not think of Ravana even in her inmost heart. As she is spotless, do thou take her back." Rama, staying silent for a while, with shining eyes pondered the speech of Agni ; then he answered : " Because this fair one dwelt long time in Ravana's house, she needed vindication before the assembled folk. Had I taken her unproved, the people would complain that Rama, son of King Dasha- ratha, was moved by desire, and set at naught social law. I know well that Sita's heart is set on me alone, and that her own virtue was her sufficient refuge from the assaults of Ravana ; she is mine as the sun's rays are the sun's. I can no more renounce her, but rather it behoves me to obey your happy words." Thus the glorious son of Dasharatha regained his bride, and his heart was glad.

Visions of the Gods

But now Shiva took up the word, and revealed to Rama his father Dasharatha stationed on a shining car amongst the gods, and Rama and Lakshman bowed to him ; and he, beholding his dearest son, took Rama on his lap, and spake : " Even in heaven amongst the gods I am not happy, lacking thee. I call to mind even now Kaikeyi's word, and thou hast redeemed my pledge and freed me from every debt. Now I have heard that thou art the primal

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male incarnate for the compassing of Ravana's death. Kaushalya shall be glad to see thee return victorious. Blessed are those that shall behold thee installed as Lord of Ayodhya ! Thy term of exile is ended. Do thou rule with thy brothers now in Ayodhya and have long "life!" Then Rama prayed his father : " Do thou now forgive Kaikeyi, and take back thy dreadful curse wherewith thou didst renounce her and her son." Then Dasharatha said : " So be it ! ; and to Lakshman : " May good befall thee, thou truth and honour, and thou shalt attain a lofty place in heaven. Do thou attend on Rama, whom all the gods adore with folded hands." And to Sita he said : " Thou shouldst not feel resentment forasmuch as Rama renounced thee ; for thy welfare it was done. Now hast thou attained a glory hard to be won by women ! Thou knowest well the duty of a wife. It needs not for me to tell thee that thy husband is thy very god," Then Dasharatha in his car returned to Indra s heaven.

Next Indra, standing before Rama, with folded hands addressed him, saying : "O Rama, first of men, it may not be for naught that we are come to thee. Do thou pray for such a boon as thou desirest." Then Rama spoke, de lighted : " O Lord of Heaven and foremost of the eloquent, do thou grant me this, that all the monkeys slain in battle return to life and see again their wives and children. Do thou restore those bears and monkeys that fought for me and laboured hard and recked nothing of death. And let there be flowers and fruits and roots for them, and rivers of clear water, even out of season, wherever they may go." And Indra granted that great boon, so that a host of monkeys rose up, asking like wakened sleepers: "What has happened?" Then the gods, once more addressing! Rama, said : " Do thou return to Ayodhya, sending the!

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monkeys on their way. Comfort Sita, seek out thy brother Bharata, and, being installed as king, do thou bestow good fortune on every citizen." Therewith the gods departed, and the happy army made their camp.

Rama's Return

When morning dawned, Rama, taking the car Pushpaka, given to him by Vibhishana, stood ready to depart. Self- moving was that car, and it was very fairly painted and large; two stories it had, and windows and flags and banners and many chambers, and it gave forth a melodious sound as it coursed along the airy way. Then said Vibhishana : "What more may I do?" and Rama answered : " Do thou content these bears and monkeys who have accomplished my affair with divers jewels and wealth ; then shall they fare to their homes. And do thou rule as one who is righteous, self-controlled, compassionate, a just collector of revenues, that all may be attached to thee." Then Vibhishana bestowed wealth on all the host, and Rama was taking leave of all the bears and monkeys and of Vibhishana ; but they cried out : " We wish to go with thee to Ayodhya." Then Rama invited them gladly, and Sugriva and Vibhishana and all the host mounted the mighty car; and the car rose up into the sky, drawn by golden geese, and sailed on its airy way, while the monkeys, bears, and rakshasas took their ease.

But when they passed by the city of Kishkindha, Sugriva's capital, Sita prayed Rama to take with him to Ayodhya. Tara, the wife of Sugriva, and the wives of other monkey- chiefs ; and he stayed the car while Sugriva brought Tara and the wives of other monkeys. And they mounted and set forth towards Ayodhya. They passed across Chitrakuta and Jamna and the Ganges where it divides in three,

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and at last beheld Ayodhya, and bowed to her ; and all the bears and monkeys and Vibhishana rose up in delight to see her, shining fair as Amaravati, the capital of Indra. It was the fifth day after the last of fourteen years of exile when Rama greeted the hermit Bharadwaja, and from him learnt that Bharata awaited his return, leading a hermit's life and honouring the sandals. And Bharadwaja gave him a boon, that the trees along the road to Ayodhya should bear flowers and fruit as he went, even though out of season. And so it was that for three leagues, from Bharadwaja's hermitage to Ayodhya's gate, the trees bore flowers and fruits, and the monkeys thought themselves in heaven. But Hanuman was sent in advance to bring back tidings from Ayodhya and Bharata, and speedily he went, in human form. He came to Bharata in his hermitage garbed as a yogi, thin and worn, but radiant as a mighty sage, and ruling the earth as viceroy of the sandals.

Then Hanuman related to him all that had befallen Rama since the brothers parted in Chitrakuta, and Bharata' s heart was filled with gladness, and he gave orders to prepare the city and to worship all the gods with music and flowers, and that all the people should come forth to welcome Rama. The roads were watered and the flags hoisted, and the city was filled with the sound of cavalry and cars and elephants. Then Rama came, and Bharata worshipped him and bathed his feet and humbly greeted him ; but Rama lifted him up and took him in his arms. Then Bharata bowed to Sita, and welcomed Lakshman, and embraced the monkey-chiefs, naming Sugriva "our fifth brother"; and he praised Vibhishana.

Then Rama came to his mother and humbly touched her feet, and he made salutation to the priests. Next Bharata brought the sandals and laid them at Rama' s

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The Return of Rama by K Venkatappa

feet, and with folded hands he said: "All this, thy kingdom, that thou didst entrust to me, I now return : behold, thy wealth of treasure, palace, and army is tenfold multiplied." Then placing his brother on his lap, Rama fared on to Bharata's hermitage, and there descending, Rama spake to the good car : " Do thou return to Vaishravan I grant thee leave." For that self-coursing car had been taken by Ravana from his elder brother; but now at Rama' s word it returned to the God of Wealth.

Rama installed with Sita

Then Bharata restored the kingdom to his brother, saying : "Let the world behold thee to-day installed, like the radiant midday sun. None but thou can bear the heavy burden of an empire such as ours. Do thou no more dwell in lonely places, but sleep and rise to the sound of music and the tinkle of women' s anklets. Do thou rule the people as long as the sun endures and as far as earth extends." And Rama said : " So be it."

Then skilful barbers came, and Rama and Lakshman bathed and were shorn of their matted locks and dressed in shining robes ; and Dasharatha s queens attended Sita and decked her in splendid jewels, while Kaushalya decked the monkeys wives, and the priests gave orders for the coronation. Then Rama mounted a car driven by Bharata, and Satrughna held the umbrella, and Lakshman waved a chowry and Vibhishana another. Sugriva rode on an elephant, and the other monkeys followed riding on elephants to the number of nine thousand, and with music and the noise of conchs the lord of men entered his own city. Four golden jars were given to Hanuman and Jambavan and Vegadarshi and Rishabha to fetch pure water from the four oceans, and they rose into the sky and

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brought the holy water from the utmost bounds of ocean, north and south and east and west. Then Vashishtha, setting Rama and Sita upon their golden throne, sprinkled that first of men and consecrated him as king of Ayodhya. Thereat the gods rejoiced, and the gandharvas sang and the apsaras danced ; the earth was filled with crops, the trees bore fruit and flowers, and all men were glad and merry. And Rama conferred upon the Brahmans gifts of gold and ornaments, and cows and horses; to Angada he gave a golden jewelled chain such as are worn by the gods, and to Sita a necklace of matchless pearls and other ornaments and splendid robes. But she, holding the pearls in her hand, glanced at her lord, and from him to Hanuman, remembering his goodly service ; and Rama, reading her wish, granted her leave, and she gave the necklace to Hanuman. And the Wind- god's son, exemplar of energy, renown, capacity, humility, and courage, wearing that garland, shone like a mountain illumined by the moon and fleecy clouds. And to every other hero Rama gave due gifts of jewels and wealth.

Then Sugriva and Hanuman and Jambavan, with all the host, returned to their own homes, and Vibhishana repaired to Lanka ; but Rama governed Ayodhya, and in his time men lived for a thousand years, and due rains fell, and the winds were ever favourable, and there was no distress from sickness or from wild beasts or from invasion, but all men were glad and merry.

Rama Reigns

Then, while Rama sat on the throne, all the great hermits came to visit him who had regained his kingdom. They came from east and west and north and south, led by Agastya, and Rama worshipped them and appointed for them

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splendid seats of sacrificial grass and gold-embroidered deer-skin . Then the sages praised Rama s fortune, especially inasmuch as he had slain Ravana s son, mightier than Ravana himself, and had delivered men and gods from fear. Then Rama questioned the sages about the former history of Ravana and Ravana's son, and they related to him at length the story of the rakshasas origin how they had come to Lanka ; how Ravana, Kumbhakarna, and Vibhishana had won each a boon from the grandsire ; what evil deeds had been done by Ravana ; and how the gods had appointed Vishnu to take human form to achieve his death. Likewise they told of the origin and deeds of the monkeys Vali and Sugriva and Hanuman. " And, O Rama ! " they said, " in the golden age the demon sought to fight with thee; for those whom the gods destroy go to the heaven of the gods till they are born again on earth ; those whom Vishnu slays go to Vishnu's heaven, so that his very wrath is a blessing. And it was for this that Ravana stole Sita away and thou didst assume a human form for his destruction, O great one, know that thou art Narayana : do thou recollect thyself. Thou art the eternal Vishnu, and Sita is Lakshmi." Rama himself and all the assembled folk Rama's brothers, the monkey-chiefs, the rakshasas under Vibhishana, the vassal kings, and the Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas,and Shudras of Ayodhya marvelled at the words of the great sages ; and Agastya took leave of Rama and departed, and night fell.

Hanuman Rewarded

The monkeys dwelt at Ayodhya more than a month, feasting on honey and well-cooked meats and fruits and roots, though it seemed to them but a moment, because of their

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devotion toward Rama. Then the time came for them to go to their own city, and Rama embraced them all with affection and gave them goodly gifts. But Hanuman bowed and begged this boon, that he might ever be devoted to Rama alone, and that he might live on earth so long as the story of Rama's deeds was told of amongst men ; and Rama granted it, and took from his own neck a jewelled chain and put it upon Hanuman. One by one the monkeys came and touched the feet of Rama, and then went their way ; but they wept for sorrow of leaving him.

Then Rama governed Ayodhya for ten thousand years ; and at length it came to pass that Sita had conceived. Then Rama asked her if she had any longing, and she replied that she desired to visit the hermitages of the sages by the Ganges; and Rama said: "So be it"; and the visit was fixed for the morrow.

The same night it happened that Rama was engaged in converse with his counsellors and friends, and he asked them : " What do the citizens and countrymen say of Sita and my brothers and Kaikeyi ? " And one replied that they spoke often of Rama' s great conquest of Ravana. But Rama pressed for more definite reports, and a counsellor replied : " The people do indeed speak of thy great deeds and thy alliance with the bears and monkeys and rakshasas ; but they murmur inasmuch as thou hast taken Sita back, albeit she was touched by Ravana and dwelt long time in his city of Lanka. For all that, they say, thou dost still acknowledge her. Now we, too, will pass over the misdoings of our wives, for subjects always follow the customs of their king. Such, O king, is the talk."

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Sita's Second Trial

Then Rama's heart sank, and he sent away the counsellors and sent for his brothers, and they came and stood by him with folded hands and touched his feet. But they saw that he was heavy-hearted and that his eyes were full of tears, and waited anxiously for him to speak. Then Rama told them what he had learnt. " I am crushed by these slanders," he said, " for I am of an illustrious family, and Sita is no less nobly born. And Sita, to prove her innocence, submitted to ordeal by fire before you all, and Fire and Wind and all the gods declared her stainless. Even now my heart knows her to be blameless. But the censure of the folk has pierced me : ill is ill-fame for such as I, and preferable were death than this disgrace. Do thou, therefore, Lakshman, make no question, but take Sita with thee to-morrow to Valmiki's hermitage beside the Ganges, as if fulfilling the desire she spoke of even now ; and by my life and arms, do ye not seek to move me from this, lest I deem you to be my foes." And Rama s eyes were full of tears, and he went to his own apartment sighing like a wounded elephant.

The next morning Lakshman brought a goodly car and came to Sita, saying : " Rama hath commanded me to take thee to the hermitages by the Ganges in accordance with thy wish." Then Sita, taking costly gifts with her, mounted the car most eagerly. On the second day they came to the Ganges bank, whose water takes away all sin; but Lakshman stood and wept aloud. Then Sita asked him why he wept. " For," she said, "it is but two days since thou didst see Rama : he is dearer to me than life, but I am not so sad as thou. Do thou take me across the river to visit the hermits there and present my gifts, and then shall we return ; and, indeed, I am eager to see my lord again, whose eyes are like the petals of the

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lotus, the lion-breast, the first of men." So Lakshman sent for boatmen, and they went across. When they were come to the other side, Lakshman stood by Sita with folded hands and prayed her to forgive him and not deem him at fault, saying : " This is a matter too sore for words, so I but tell thee openly that Rama now renounces thee, inasmuch as the citizens have spoken against thee ; he has commanded me to leave thee here, as if in satisfaction of thy own desire. But do not grieve, for well I know that thou art guiltless, and thou mayst dwell with Valmlki, our father s friend. Do thou remember Rama always and serve the gods, so mayst thou be blest!"

Then Sita fell down fainting ; but she came to herself and complained bitterly : " Alas ! I must have greatly sinned in a past life to be thus divided from my lord, though blameless. O Lakshman, formerly it was no hardship for me to live in the forest, for I was able to be Rama's servant. But how can I live there all alone now, and what reply can I make to those who ask what sin I have committed to be banished thus ? I would fain be drowned in these waters, but I may not bring about the destruction of my lord's race. Do thou as Rama has ordered, but take this message from me to him : Thou knowest, O Rama, that I am unstained and devoted utterly to thee. I understand that it is for the avoiding of ill-fame that thou dost renounce me, and it is my duty to serve thee even in this. A husband is a woman's god, her friend and guru. I do not grieve for what befalls me, but because the people have spoken ill of me. Do thou go and tell these things to Rama." Then Lakshman crossed the river again and came to Ayodhya ; but Sita went to and fro without any refuge and began to cry aloud. Then Valmlki's sons found her there, and Valmlki came to the

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river-side and comforted her, and brought her to the hermitage and gave her to the hermits wives to cherish with affection.

Lakshman found his brother sunk in grief and with his eyes filled with tears, and he was sorry, and touched his feet and stood with folded hands, and said : " O sire, I have done all that thou didst command, and have left that peerless lady at Valmiki s hermitage. Thou shouldst not grieve therefor; for such is the work of time, whereat the wise grieve not. Where there is growth there is decay ; where there is prosperity there is also ruin ; where there is birth there must be also death. Therefore, attachment to wife, or sons, or friends, or wealth is wrong, for separation is certain. Nor shouldst thou give way to grief before the folk, lest they blame thee again."

Then Rama was comforted, and praised the words and love of Lakshman ; and he sent for the priests and counsellors who waited, and occupied himself again with the affairs of state. But none had come that day for any affair, for in Rama s time there was no disease or poverty, and none sought redress. But as Lakshman went away he saw a dog, that waited by the gate and barked, and he asked it what was its affair. Then the dog replied : " I wish to tell it to Rama himself, who is the refuge of all creatures, and proclaims Fear nothing to them all."

So Lakshman returned to Rama and informed him, and Rama sent for the dog to come to him. But the dog would not go in, saying : " We are the vilest born, and we may not enter the houses of gods or kings or Brahmans." Then Lakshman took this message also to Rama ; but he sent again for the dog and gave him leave to enter, who waited at the gate.

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Rama's Justice

Then the dog went in and stood before Rama, and praised his truth and asked his pardon ; and Rama inquired : " What shall I do for thee? Do thou speak without fear."

Then the dog related how a certain Brahman mendicant had beaten him without cause, and Rama sent for the Brahman, and he came, and asked what Rama required of him.

Then Rama reasoned with him, saying : " O twice-born one, thou hast hurt this dog, who hurt thee not. Lo, anger is the worst of passions, like a sharp dagger, and steals away all virtue. Greater is the evil that may be wrought by lack of self-control than by the sword, or a serpent, or a foe implacable." The Brahman answered : " I had been seeking alms and was tired and hungry, and this dog would not move away, although I asked him, so I struck him. But, O king, I am guilty of error, and thou shouldst punish me, that I may escape from the fear of hell." Rama considered what was a fitting punishment ; but the dog requested : " Do thou appoint this Brahman head of a family." So Rama honoured him and sent him away riding on an elephant ; but the counsellors were astonished. To them Rama said : " You do not understand this matter ; but the dog knows what it signifies." Then the dog, addressed by Rama, explained : " I was once the head of a family, and I served the gods and Brahmans, and fed the very servants before I took my food, and I was gentle and benevolent ; yet I have fallen into this sorry state. O king, this Brahman is cruel and impatient in his nature, and he will fail to discharge the duties of the head of a family, and will fall into Hell." Then Rama wondered at the dog's words, but the dog went away and betook himself to penance in Benares,

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Another time there came a Brahman to the palace gate bearing the dead body of his son, and wailing : " O my son, thou art but fourteen years of age, and I know not for what sin of mine it is that thou hast died ; never have I lied, or hurt an animal, or done any other sin. It must be for some other reason that thou hast gone to Yama's realm. Indeed, it must be that the king has sinned, for else such things may not befall. Therefore, O king, do thou confer life again upon him; or, if not, my wife and I will die here at thy gate, like those that have no king."

Then Rama summoned a council of eight chief Brahmans, and Narada took up the word and explained to Rama what had been the cause of the boy's premature death. He told him of the four ages. " And now, O king, the Kali age begins already, for a Shudra has begun to practise penances in thy kingdom, and for this cause the boy has died. Do thou search the matter out and put down such misdeeds, so that the virtue of thy subjects may increase and this boy may be restored to life."

So Rama ordered the body of the boy to be preserved in sweet oil, and he bethought him of the self-coursing car Pushpaka, and it knew his mind and came to him straight way. Then Rama mounted the car and sought through every quarter; but he found no sin in the west nor in the north, and the east was crystal clear. Only in the south, beside a sacred pool, he found a yogi standing on his head practising the most severe disciplines, and Rama asked him: "O thou blest and self-devoted, who art thou, and what thy colour, and what dost thou seek to win, whether Heaven or aught else ? " And the yogi answered : " O great Rama, I am of the Shudras, and it is for Heaven that I do this penance." Then Rama drew his sword and cut off the

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yogi's head, and the gods rained down flowers and praised the deed ; but the Shudra yogi attained to the abode of the heavenly ones. Now Rama prayed to the gods : " If ye are pleased with me, do ye restore to life the Brahman's son and so fulfil my promise " ; and they granted it, and Rama returned to Ayodhya. Meanwhile Sita, dwelling at Valmiki s hermitage, gave birth to sons, and they were named Kusha and Lava ; and they grew up in the forest hermitage, and Valmiki taught them wisdom, and he made this book of the Ramayana in shlokas, and gave them skill in recitation.

Rama's Sons

In those days Rama prepared a horse-sacrifice, setting free a jet-black horse with lucky marks to wander where it would, and Lakshman followed it. Then he invited all the bears and monkeys, and Vibhishana and foreign kings, and the rishis and others of the hermits from far and near, to be present at the final ceremony. Countless wealth he gave away throughout the year while the horse wandered, yet the treasure of Rama was in no way diminished ; never before was such an Ashwamedha in the world !

Kusha and Lava came with Valmiki to the ceremony, and Valmiki told them to recite the Ramayana everywhere, and if any questioned them, to name themselves as Valmiki's disciples. So they went about and sang of Rama's deeds ; and Rama heard of it, and he called a great assembly of the Brahmans and all kinds of grammarians and artists and musicians, and the hermit children sang before them all. Wondrous and delightful was their song, and none could hear enough of it ; but all men drank up the children with their eyes, and murmured : " They are as like to Rama as one bubble is like another ! " When Rama

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would have given them wealth, they answered : " We are dwellers in the forest: what use would money be to us ? " And when he asked who had composed that song, they answered : " Valmlki, who is our teacher. And, O king, if the story of thy feats delights thee, do thou hear it all at leisure."

So Rama hearkened to the story day by day, and from it he learnt that Kusha and Lava were the sons of Sita. Then Rama mentioned Sita's name before the assembly, and sent a messenger to inquire from the hermits if they would vouch for her faithfulness and to ask herself if she were willing to give proof of her innocence again. " Ask her," he said, " if she will swear before the people to establish her own purity and mine." - The hermits sent back the message that she would come, and Rama was glad thereof, and appointed the next day for the taking of the oath. When the appointed time had come, and all were seated in the assembly, immovable as mountains, Valmlki came forward, and Sita followed him with downcast glance and folded hands and falling tears; and there rose a cry of welcome and a murmuring in the assembly when they saw Sita following Valmlki thus, like the Vedas following Brahma. Then Valmlki spoke before the people and said to Rama : " O son of Dasharatha, albeit Sita is pure and doth follow the path of righteousness, thou didst renounce her near my hermitage because of the people's censure. Do thou now permit her to give testimony of her purity. And, O Rama, I myself, who follow truth, tell thee that these twin children are thy sons. Also I swear before thee that if any sin be found in Sita I will forgo the fruit of all austerities I have practised for many thousand years." Then Rama, seeing Sita standing before the assembly like a goddess, with folded hands, replied : "O great one,

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thou art ever virtuous, and thy words convince me of the purity of Sita. I recognize these brothers Kusha and Lava as my sons. Yet Sita shall give testimony herself, for the sake of those that have come here to witness her avowal."

Sita taken Home by Earth

Then there blew a sweet, cool, fragrant air, a divine zephyr such as used to blow only in the golden age, and folk were astonished that that air should blow also in the second age. But Sita, with downcast looks and folded palms, said : " I have never thought of anyone but Rama even in my heart : as this is true, may the goddess of the earth be my protection. I have always with mind and body and words prayed for Rama's welfare, and by this I pray Vasundhara to receive me."

Then a heavenly throne rose up from within the earth, borne on the heads of mighty nagas 1 decked in shining jewels ; and the Earth stretched out her arms and welcomed Sita and placed her on the throne, and the throne sank down again. Thereat the gods cried out in praise of Sita, and all beings on earth and in the sky were filled with wonder and astonishment, so that one mood for a single moment swayed all the universe at once.

But Rama sat him down stricken with sorrow and with hanging head, and he was torn by grief and anger that Sita had disappeared before his very eyes, and he would have destroyed the very Earth if she would not give Sita back. But Brahma said : " O Rama of firm vows, thou shouldst not grieve ; rather remember thy essential godhead, and bethink thee thou art Vishnu. Sita is blameless and pure, and for her virtue she has gone to the abode of nagas ;

1 Nagas, lit. snakes beings of semi-human, semi-serpent nature inhabiting the waters and underworld.

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but thou shalt be with her in Heaven. Hearken now to the ending of Valmiki' s story, and thou shalt know thy future history " ; and therewith Brahma with the gods returned to his own place, and Rama appointed the morrow for the hearing of the Uttara Kanda.

The Last Days of Rama

But now Rama was heavy-hearted, and the whole world seemed empty without Sita, and he knew no peace. He gave the monkeys and the kings and hermits gifts, and sent them back to their own homes, and he made a golden image of Sita to share with him in the performance of sacred rites, and a thousand years passed, while all things prospered in the kingdom of Ayodhya. Then Kaushalya and Kaikeyi died, and were united with King Dasharatha in Heaven. Bharata reigned in Kekaya, and Satrughna was king of Madhu, while the sons of Lakshman founded kingdoms of their own.

At length there came to Rama's palace the mighty yogi Time, and Rama honoured him. He named himself Time, begotten by Narayana on Maya, and he reminded Rama of his godly self and all that he had achieved in Heaven and on earth. " O Lord of the World," he said, " thou wast born on earth for the destruction of the Ten- necked rakshasa, and thou didst undertake to dwell on earth for eleven thousand years. Now that time is ripe and the grandsire sendeth me to tell thee : now wilt thou reign yet longer over men, or wilt thou return to the lord ship of the gods?" Then Rama praised the yogi and said he had spoken truth, and for himself he would return to his own place.

But already Lakshman had left his home and gone to the banks of Sarayu to practise great austerities, and there

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the gods rained flowers upon him, and Indra lifted him from the earth and returned to his own city, so that all the gods, seeing the fourth part of Vishnu come back to them, were gladdened and began to worship him. Then Rama would follow the same path, and he sought to crown his brother Bharata as king of Ayodhya, but he refused and would have the king's sons Kusha and Lava set over North and South Kosala ; and Rama granted it, and they were installed upon the throne and ruled over the new cities of Kushavati and Sravanti ; but Ayodhya was altogether emptied of people, for the folk would all follow after Rama when he went away. News of these matters was brought to Satrughna also, and he set his two sons on the throne of Mathura and hastened to return to Rama. Hearing that Rama was going away, the monkeys, born of the gods, went to Ayodhya and beheld him ; and Sugriva said : " I have set Angada upon the throne of Kishkindha, and I will follow thee."

Then Rama granted the desire of all the monkeys to follow him ; but to Hanuman he said : " It is determined already that thou shalt live for ever : do thou be glad on earth so long as the tale of me endures." To Jambavan and some others Rama appointed life till the end of the Kali age, and other bears and monkeys he gave leave to follow him. To Vibhishana he gave good counsel regarding government, and ever to worship Jagannatha, Lord of the World.

The next day Vashishtha prepared all due rites for those who go to the other world, and all men following Rama and the Brahmans set out for Sarayu. There went Bharata and Lakshman and Satrughna and their wives, and the counsellors and servants ; and all the people of Ayodhya, with the beasts and birds and the least of

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breathing things ; and the bears and rakshasas and monkeys followed Rama with happy hearts.

When they came to Sarayu, Brahma, the grandsire, came thither with the godly folk and a hundred thousand goodly cars, and the wind of Heaven blew and flowers rained down from Heaven upon earth. Then Brahma said to Rama : " Hail, O Vishnu ! Do thou, with thy brothers, enter in again in whatsoever form thou wilt, who art the refuge of all creatures, and beyond the range of thought or speech, unknown of any save thy Maya." Then Vishnu entered Heaven in his own form, with his brothers, and all the gods bowed down to him and rejoiced. Then said Vishnu to the grandsire : " It behoveth thee to allot their due place to all these people who have followed me for love, renouncing self for my sake." Then Brahma appointed places in the heavens for all those who had come after Rama, and the bears and monkeys assumed their godly forms, after the likeness of those who had begotten them. Thus did all beings there assembled, entering the waters of Sarayu, attain to the heavenly state, and Brahma and the gods returned to their own abode.

Thus ends Ramayana, revered by Brahma and made by Valmiki. He that hath no sons shall attain a son by reading even a single verse of Rama's lay. All sin is washed away from those who read or hear it read. He who recites Ramayana should have rich gifts of cows and gold. Long shall he live who reads Ramayana, and shall be honoured, with his sons and grandsons, in this world and in Heaven.

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