The Poet of the Ramayana--Brahma's Command--Two Great Kingdoms--A Childless Maharajah--Horse Sacrifice to Obtain Offspring--The Demon King of Ceylon--Gods Appeal to Vishnu for Help--Birth of Rama and his Brethren--Stories of Childhood--Vishwamitra takes away Rama and Lakshmana--Forest Battles with Rakshasas--Breaking of Shiva's Bow--Sita is Won--Choice of an Heir--Rama is Favoured--The Hunchback's Plot--Fulfilment of an Old Vow--Prince Bharata Chosen and Rama Banished--A Faithful Wife and Loyal Brother.
Now hear the tale of Rama and Sita, which was related unto the poet Valmiki 1 by Narada, the renowned Rishi. Be it told that when Valmiki came to know of the adventures and achievements of the great prince, he went towards the river to bathe, musing the while. It chanced that two fond herons disported on the bank, when suddenly a passing huntsman shot the male bird, which at once fell dead in a pool of blood. Great was the grief of the female heron, and Valmiki's heart was so deeply moved by its cries of distress that he gave utterance to his emotions in a stream of metrical speech. In this manner was the sloka metre invented. Then came towards the brooding poet the supreme god Brahma, who smiled and commanded him to celebrate the story of Rama in the poetic measure which, involuntarily, he had invented. Valmiki prepared himself accordingly to fulfil the desire of Brahma. He sat upon a carpet of
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A VAISHNAVAITE NUN READING THE RAMAYANA
[paragraph continues] Kusa grass, sipped holy water, and became absorbed in thought, until visions of the story were revealed before his eyes. Sloka by sloka and book by book, he composed the Ramayana; and as long as mountains endure and rivers run towards the sea, so long will it be repeated by the lips of mankind.
Valmiki sang that in days of yore there were two mighty kingdoms in sun-bright Hindustan, and these were Ko´sala, whose King was Dasarat´ha, father of Rama, and Mit´hila, 1 which was ruled over by Jan´aka, the father of beauteous Sita.
Now the capital of Kosala was Ayodhya 2, which shone in splendour like to Indra's celestial city; it had wide streets with large dwellings, richly decorated temples, towering like mountains, and grand and noble palaces. In the palace gardens there were numerous birds and flowers, shady groves of fruit trees, and lakes gemmed with bee-loved lotuses; the soft winds were wont to beat back the white water-blooms from the honey bees as coy maidens are withheld by the impulses of modesty from their eager lovers. Birds disported on the gleaming lakes, kingfishers were angered to behold themselves mirrored in the depths, thinking they gazed upon rivals, and ruffled the waters with their flapping wings. . . . The city of Ayodhya was full of prosperous and happy people.
Maharajah Dasaratha, who was of the Solar Race, dwelt in a stately palace; it was surrounded by strong walls, and guarded by a thousand warriors fierce as flames of consuming fire, and ever watchful like to mountain lions which protect their dens. Eight sage counsellors served the monarch with devotion, and he had two family priests, Vasishtha and Vamadeva.
But although Dasaratha was mighty and powerful, and prospered greatly, his heart was full of sorrow because that no son had been born to him by either of his three queens, Kausalya, Kaikeyi, and Sumitra. . . . At length he resolved to perform the Aswamedha (horse sacrifice) so that the gods might be prevailed upon to grant him an heir who would perpetuate his race. When his will was made known to the queens, their faces brightened as the lotus brightens at the promise of spring.
So it came to pass that a black horse was let loose on the night of the full moon of the month of Choitro 1. A Brahman accompanied it, and after wandering for a full year, the animal returned again to the kingdom. 2
Many rajahs attended the ceremony which took place on the north bank of the Sarayu river. Twenty-one sacrificial posts were set up for the birds, and beasts, and reptiles, which were to be offered up besides the horse, and there were eighteen Homa pits. When the fire was kindled upon the altar, Kausalya, the chief queen, slew the horse with the sacred scimitar, while the Brahmans chanted mantras. . . . All night long Kausalya and Kaikeyi, wives of the Maharajah, sat beside the horse's body, as was needful in performance of the rite. . . . Portions of the flesh were duly given to the fire, and when the ceremony was completed, Dasaratha awarded great gifts of kine and treasure to the Brahmans.
An oblation was afterwards offered to the gods, who came to the place of sacrifice with the music-loving Gandharvas, the Celestial saints, the Siddhas 3, and seven Deva-rishis. Brahma came with Vishnu and Shiva, and
[paragraph continues] Indra came also with the hastening Maruts. Ere they departed, the gods promised that four sons would be born to Dasaratha.
After this, Indra and the other gods 1 journeyed to the heaven of Brahma, and spake regarding Ravana 2, the monarch of demons, who had his dwelling in Lanka. 3
Now Ravana had performed such great penances that Brahma rendered him invulnerable to gods and demons, with the result that the demon made Yama, god of death, his slave, and put Agni and Vayu, and the sun and moon, under subjection; indeed, he oppressed all the gods and obstructed sacrifices and despoiled the Brahmans. So Indra and other minor deities entreated Brahma to deliver them from the sway of Ravana.
Brahma heard the gods, and then conducted them to Vishnu's dwelling in the Ocean of Milk. Indra and the others honoured the Preserver, and cried: "O Lord of the Universe, remove the afflictions which press heavily upon us. Brahma hath blessed Ravana, nor can recall his gift. Save us, therefore, from the oppression of the demon king."
Vishnu spake and said: "Be not afraid, for I shall deliver you all. Ravana entreated Brahma for protection against all beings save the apes and men. Go therefore towards the earth, ye gods, and assume the guise of apes, and lo! I will divide myself into four parts and be born as the four sons of Maharajah Dasaratha. When I shall battle against Ravana, you will hasten to mine aid."
It came to pass that the wives of Dasaratha, who had eaten of sacrificial food, became the mothers of sons
[paragraph continues] Kausalya of Rama, Kaikeyi of Bharata, and Sumitra of Laksh´mana, and Satrughna. The people of the kingdom rejoiced greatly; they danced and sang and decked Ayodhya with streamers and flower garlands.
Of the four children Rama was the most beautiful: lying in his white cradle he was like to a blue lotus bloom amidst the gleaming waves of the Ganges. Vasishtha, the wise Brahman, perceived that he had all the marks of Vishnu, and revealed his knowledge to the Maharajah, by whom the child was well beloved. One evening the full moon rose in all its splendour, and Rama stretched out his hands because he desired to have it for a toy. His mother bought him jewels, but he threw them from him and wailed and wept until his eyes were red and swollen. Many of the women assembled round the cradle in deep concern. One said that the child was hungry, but he refused to drink; another that the Sasti was unpropitious, and offerings were at once made to that goddess; still Rama wept. A third woman declared that a ghost haunted and terrified the child, and mantras were chanted.
When the women found that they were unable to soothe Kausalya's son, the Maharajah was called, but Rama heeded him not. In his despair Dasaratha sent for his chief counsellor, who placed in Rama's hands a mirror which reflected the moon. Then the little prince was comforted, believing that he had obtained the moon; he ceased to weep, and everyone was put at ease once again.
When the children grew older they began to lisp words, and as they were unable to pronounce "peeta" and "mata" 1 they said "pa" and "ma". If Rama were asked his name, he answered "Ama". Sometimes
the Maharajah sat among his sage counsellors with the little boy upon his knee.
In their third year the princes had their ears pierced, and after that they played with other children. They made clay images of gods and put clay offerings in their mouths, and they broke the images because they would not eat.
Their education began when they were five years old. Vasishtha was the preceptor, and first he worshipped Saraswati, goddess of learning, and instructed his pupils to make offerings of flowers and fruit. They received instruction daily, beginning with the alphabet; then they studied grammar, and at length they mastered eighteen languages; they were also instructed in music and dancing and painting, and in all the sciences. From time to time the princes were examined by their royal sire in the presence of his counsellors. Afterwards they were trained to exercise in arms and take part in military sports, and they became skilled archers, and elephant riders, and horsemen and charioteers. Of all the princes Rama was the most accomplished; he rose above the others like to a flag which flutters proudly above a high dome.
Now when the princes were sixteen years old, their royal sire began to consider what brides should be selected for them. It chanced that while he was discussing this matter one day with his counsellors, Vishwamitra paid a visit to the palace. Dasaratha welcomed him with due honours, and spake saying: "Speak and tell what is thy request so that I may grant it speedily."
That mighty sage, who had been a Kshatriya in former times, but became a Brahman after practising rigid and long austerities, made answer and said: "O Maharajah, the Rakshasas are destroying our sacrificial
offerings, and I pray you to permit Rama to return with me to my hermitage, for he is mighty and brave and young and is able to overpower the demons."
Reluctantly did Dasaratha consent, but not until Vasishtha had reassured him, and he commanded that Lakshmana should accompany Rama to the hermitage. Then the princes took leave of their parents and went away with Vishwamitra.
On the first night they abode in a hermitage situated where the river Sarayu pours into the Ganges, and the sage informed the princes that on that very spot Shiva had been wounded by the arrows of Kamadeva, god of love, whom he angrily consumed with the fire that issued from his third eye.
Next day the sage led the two princes towards a dark and fearsome jungle haunted by numerous beasts of prey, in which dwelt the terrible Rakshasa woman named Taraka, mother of Maricha; 1 she was misshapen and horrible, and continually ravaged all that country. Rama twanged his bow to challenge her, and she came towards the princes roaring angrily and throwing boulders. Be-cause she was a female, the sons of Dasaratha were reluctant to cause her death. Rama shot arrows and cut off both her arms, and Lakshmana deprived her of nose and ears. She immediately changed her shape and became invisible, but by the power of sorcery continued to cause many stones to fall in showers about the young heroes. Vishwamitra urged Rama to slay her, and, guided by sound alone, he shot a great arrow which caused her death. Then the sage rejoiced greatly, and embracing Rama kissed his head.
In the morning Vishwamitra chanted powerful mantras,
which caused Celestial weapons to appear for Rama, and the spirits of the weapons stood before the prince with clasped hands and said: "We are thy servants, O nobly generous one. Good betide thee! Whatever thou dost desire, lo! we shall accomplish for thee." 1
Said Rama: "When I have need of you, I will think of you, and then you will wait upon me."
Thereafter Vishwamitra led the princes to his hermitage, which was situated in a pleasant grove where deer disported and birds sang sweetly. All the sages welcomed them. It chanced that when six days had gone past, the Brahmans prepared to offer up a sacrifice. Suddenly a band of Rakshasas, led by Maricha, son of the hag Taraka and Savahu, rushed towards the altar to defile the offering with bones and blood. Rama thought of his Celestial weapons, and they immediately appeared beside him. He cast one at Maricha which drove him hundreds of miles out to sea, and he threw a fire weapon at Savahu which consumed him; then he attacked and slew all the other demons. . . . The sages rejoiced greatly, and honoured the prince.
Next morning Vishwamitra informed Rama and Lakshmana that he and the other sages purposed to attend a great sacrifice which was to be offered up by Janaka, Rajah of Mithila. "You will accompany us," he said, "and the rajah will show you Shiva's great bow, which neither god nor man can break."
Now, both while they abode at the hermitage and as they journeyed towards Mithila, the princes heard the sacred legends of Vishnu in his dwarf incarnation, of the Churning of the Ocean, of the descent of Ganga through Shiva's hair, and of the cursing of Indra by a sage.
At length they reached the capital of Janaka, 1 King of Mithila, who welcomed Vishwamitra, and said: "Who are these courageous young men with the majesty of elephants and the fearlessness of tigers? Comely are they as the twin Aswins."
Said the sage: "These are sons of Dasaratha; they are slayers of Rakshasas, and desire greatly to behold Shiva's mighty bow."
Then the monarch spake to the nobles and warriors, and said: "Bring forth the bow."
His command was immediately obeyed. From an inner hall many stalwart men hauled the stupendous bow on an eight-wheeled iron chariot into the presence of the monarch of Mithila.
"Behold the bow of Shiva!" cried the warriors.
Said Janaka: "Behold the mighty bow which has been treasured by generations of kings. Many rajahs and warriors have endeavoured in vain to bend it; even Rakshasas and Asuras have failed; the gods themselves quail before it. . . . To the rajah who can bend this mighty weapon I will give in marriage my daughter, the beauteous Sita."
Rama gazed with wonder, and then said: "Permit me to lift and bend thy bow."
Wondering greatly at these words, the monarch and many high nobles and strong warriors gathered round about. . . . With smiling face, Rama lifted the bow; then proudly he strung it, whereat those who looked on were all amazed. . . . The prince put forth his strength and bent the bow with resistless force until it snapped in the middle with a terrible noise like to thunder; the earth
shook and the mountains echoed aloud. . . . At the loud crash, which resembled the roar of Indra's thunderbolt, all who were present fell down stunned and terrified save Janaka and Vishwamitra and the two sons of Dasaratha.
Said the monarch: "Now have mine eyes beheld a great wonder. Peerless is Rama, the noble one, and he shall be given for wife my daughter Sita, who is dearer to me than life. . . . Let speedy messengers hasten unto Dasaratha and bid him to come hither."
When Dasaratha reached Janaka's capital, Rama and Sita were wedded amidst great rejoicings.
Happy were the lovers together. When they arrived at Ayodhya the people welcomed them, and Dasaratha's queens embraced and kissed the soft-eyed bride of peerless fame.
It is told that on their honeymoon they loved to wander in the moonlight. On a night of warmth and beauty they went to the banks of a pond which sparkled with lotus blooms.
Said Rama: "My loved one, graceful art thou as the lotus, thy hair is like silken moss, thine eyes like beautiful bees; fair is thy face as the moon's soft image amidst the waters, thine arms are shapely lotus stalks, and thy bosom is like to buds of sweet lotus, O my peerless bride."
They plunged together into the cool, moon-swept waters, and Rama cast at his bride many fair water blooms. Sita retreated before him until she went beyond her depth; then she clung lovingly to Rama, twining her arms about his neck, nor did he hasten to draw her back, so dearly he loved to be embraced by her.
Hide-and-seek they then played amidst the floating flowers. Rama sank down until his face only was seen,
and Sita, who searched for him, knew not whether she saw the face of Rama or a blue lotus bloom on the surface of the pond. Bending down to smell what seemed to be a flower, she touched her lover's lips, and he kissed her sweetly. Then Sita hid herself, and her face was like to a lotus bloom among lotus blooms. Rama kissed her many times ere she moved or smiled. . . . At length they darted merrily from the pond in bright moonlight, their garments dripping sparkling water drops, and then they drank cups of honey; the heart of Sita was intoxicated, and she babbled words of love and sweetness. . . .
Rama and Sita spent happy hours together, sharing supreme joy like to Vishnu and peerless Lakshmi in the bright Celestial regions.
The Maharajah Dasaratha was growing old, and his counsellors and the people began to consider who should be appointed Yuvarajah (Young Rajah), to take over the duties of sovereignty and allow the monarch to spend his closing years in preparation for death, so that he might secure heaven in the next life.
All the sages and chieftains favoured the choice of Rama, and the heart of Dasaratha was filled with joy. The people rejoiced also when it was told to them that Rama was to become their ruler, and they raised shouts of triumph and gladness. Then Rama was sent for, and the Maharajah blessed him and bade him to spend the night in Vishnu's temple with his wife Sita, to prepare for the ceremony of installation on the morrow. That night the city of Ayodhya was illuminated, and the people prepared to decorate the streets with garlands and streamers when the dawn came.
Now there was one who did not rejoice, because that she hated Rama, son of the queen Kausalya. This was the old nurse of Prince Bharata, son of the queen
[paragraph continues] Kaikeyi 1. Her name was Manthara; she had been the slave of Kaikeyi while that queen yet abode in the palace of her sire, the rajah Aswapati. Ugly and misshapen was Manthara; she was short-necked, flat-breasted, and had legs like a crane; she was big-bellied and humpbacked. When Rama was a child she had offended him and he smote her, and ever afterwards she regarded him with fierce enmity.
It chanced that Kaikeyi was gazing idly from the palace roof on the illuminated and bustling streets, when the hunchbacked slave approached her, and said: "Canst thou be merry, O foolish one, on this night? Thou art threatened by dire misfortune. Dasaratha hath deceived thee. Thy son Bharata hath been sent to thy father's city, so that the son of Kausalya may be installed as Yuvarajah on the morrow. Henceforth thou wilt be the bondswoman of Kausalya, Rama's mother, and thou wilt have to wait obediently on the commands of proud Sita. Hasten now and prevent this dread happening."
Said Kaikeyi: "Why do you hate Rama? He is the eldest son of the chief queen, and Bharata could not become Yuvarajah without the consent of Kausalya's son, who honours me as he honours his own mother."
Manthara fumed with wonder and indignation at these words; then she said: "What madness hath blinded thee? What folly maketh thee heedless of the gulf of sorrow which awaiteth thee and thy son? I am older than thou art, and have seen dark deeds committed in royal houses. Can Bharata become the slave of Rama? Well I know that jealous Rama will drive thy lordly son into exile and mayhap slay him. . . . Arise, thou heedless queen, and save Bharata, lest he be sent to wander alone in the fearsome jungle. Speak thy mandate to the
[paragraph continues] Maharajah, whose heart hath been captivated by thy beauty. . . . Any other woman but thee would rather die than suffer a rival wife to triumph over her."
Said Kaikeyi, whose heart began to burn with jealous anger: "How can I prevail upon Dasaratha to exalt my son and send Rama into exile?"
Then the hunchback reminded Bharata's mother that she had been promised two boons by her husband. In time past Dasaratha had gone to help Indra to wage war against the demons. He was grievously wounded and would have died, but Kaikeyi cured him. So he vowed to grant her two boons, and she said: "When I have need of two favours, I will remind thee of thy promise.
Manthara spake to the queen mother of Bharata, saying: "Now go to the mourning chamber and feign sorrow and anger. The Maharajah will seek thee out, and when he findeth thee demand of him the two boons which he promised aforetime."
So it came to pass that in the mourning chamber Kaikeyi spake to Dasaratha, and said: "Now grant me the two boons as thou didst vow to do, or I shall die this night."
Said the Maharajah: "Speak thy wishes, and they will be granted. May I never achieve bliss if thy desires are not fulfilled."
Kaikeyi said: "Let royal deeds redeem royal words. The first boon I ask is that my son Bharata be installed as Yuvarajah; the second is that Rama be banished for fourteen years to live in the jungle as a devotee clad in a robe of bark."
When Dasaratha heard these awful words he swooned and fell prone like to a tempest-smitten tree. . . . At length he recovered his senses, and opening his eyes,
said: "Have I dreamed a fearsome dream? Do demons torture me? Is my mind clouded with madness?" . . .
Hushed and trembling, he gazed upon Kaikeyi as a startled deer gazes at a tigress. . . . He was as helpless as a serpent which hath been mantra-charmed, and for a time he sobbed aloud. . . . At length wrath possessed him, and, red-eyed and loud-voiced, he reproached her, saying: "Traitress, wouldst thou bring ruin to my family? . . . Rama hath never wronged thee; why dost thou seek to injure him? O Kaikeyi, whom I have loved and taken to my bosom, thou hast crept into my house like a poisonous snake to accomplish my ruin. It is death to me to part with my brave and noble Rama, now that I am old and feeble. . . . Have pity on me and ask for other boons."
Said Kaikeyi, coldly and bitterly: "If thou wilt break thy vow now to one who saved thy life, all men will despise thee, and I will drink poison this very night."
Dasaratha was made silent a time. Then he spoke with tears, and said: "Beautiful art thou, O Kaikeyi. Thou hast taken captive my heart. How can this evil desire dwell in thy bosom and darken it with guile? Thou hast entrapped me with the bait of thy beauty. . . . Can a father dishonour his well-loved son? Rather would I enter hell than send Rama into exile. How can I look upon his face again? How can I suffer to behold him parting with gentle Sita? . . . Oh! I have drunk of sweet wine mingled with poison. . . . Have pity on me, O Kaikeyi! I fall at thy feet. . . . I would that Yama would snatch me off in this hour."
Said Kaikeyi: "If thou dost honour truth thou wilt grant the boons I crave, but if thou wouldst rather break thine oath, let me drink poison now."
Dasaratha cried in his grief: "O shadow-robed
[paragraph continues] Night, decked with stars! arrest the hours that pass by, or else give my heart release. Cover with thy darksome mantle my sorrow and my shame, and hide this deed of crime from the knowledge of mankind. Let me perish ere the dawn; may the sun never rise to shine upon my sin-smeared life."
So he lamented through the night, and unto Kaikeyi he said: "I grant the boons, but I reject thee for ever and thy son Bharata also."
Morning dawned. . . . The city was decorated with streamers and flowers. A golden throne was set up for Rama; the tiger's skin was spread for his feet; the white umbrella waited for him. Elephants and chariot horses were harnessed. . . . The preparations for the sacrifice were completed. . . . The crowds began to gather in the streets waiting for the Maharajah and noble Rama, whom all the people loved.
Towards the palace went Sumantra, the chief counsellor. He entered the chamber in which Dasaratha had spent the night to awaken him and conduct him to the ceremony.
Kaikeyi met the counsellor and said: "Summon Rama hither, for the Maharajah must speak with him."
Wondering greatly, Sumantra hastened to the prince's dwelling and spake the royal command. Said Rama: "I will go quickly. Tarry here, O Sita, and await my return."
Sita followed Rama to the doorway and invoked the gods so that they might bless and protect him.
The multitudes of people hailed the prince as he was driven in his chariot towards the palace, and women threw flowers upon him from the housetops. . . . He entered the gate, driving through the first three courts; he dismounted
and walked across the two inner courts; he then bade his followers to remain without, and soon he stood before the Maharajah and made humble obeisance.
Rama beheld his father sitting beside Kaikeyi; his body was bent, his face was worn with grief. Tears fell from Dasaratha's eyes as his son kissed his feet and the feet of Kaikeyi also; he strove to speak while tears streamed from his eyes, but all he could utter was, "Oh! Rama." . . . The sorrow of Dasaratha rose and fell in his heart like to the waves of a stormy sea.
Said Rama: "Oh! have I offended my sire? Speak, mother, and tell. Wherefore do tears fall from his eyes? Why is his face clouded with grief? . . . I would rather die than wound his heart by word or deed."
Kaikeyi said: "The Maharajah is not angered, nor is he grief-stricken, but he fears to speak his purpose until thou dost promise to serve his will."
Said Rama: "O speak and I will obey even if I am asked to quaff poison and die ere my time. My promise is given and my lips have never lied."
Kaikeyi said coldly: "The Maharajah vowed to grant two boons when I cured his wounds and saved his life, although he repents his promise now like to a man of low caste. I have asked him to fulfil his vow, and the boons I crave are that Bharata, whose star is bright, be installed as Yuvarajah, and thou shouldst be banished for twice seven years. . . . If thou art ready to obey thy father's will and preserve his honour, thou wilt depart this day from the city and permit Bharata to govern the kingdom."
Dasaratha's heart was pierced with agony at these words, but Rama heard them unmoved; they fell upon his ears like to sparks falling into the sea. Calmly he spake and said: "I will depart this day in fulfilment of my father's vow. Cheerfully will I obey his command. Let Bharata
be summoned quickly from Girivrajah, and I will hasten to the jungle of Dandaka."
Said Kaikeyi: "So be it. . . . But tarry not, for thy sire will neither wash nor eat until thou hast departed hence."
Rama bowed before his sire who was prostrated with sorrow; he bowed before Kaikeyi also. . . . All the royal attendants wept, but Rama was unmoved as is the ocean when a pot of water is drawn from it or poured in.
He went towards Kausalya, his mother, who was engaged making offerings to Vishnu on his behalf; and informed her what had taken place.
Kausalya wept and cried: "O dearly beloved, if thou hadst never been born I would not have to suffer this calamity. . . . My son, I am the chief queen, but Kaikeyi hath supplanted me, and I am disliked and neglected by my husband. . . . I am old and unable to endure the loss of thee, my son. . . . Hath my heart grown hard as rock that it will not break now? Is Yama's mansions so full that I am not called away? I have no desire to live any longer. . . . Can a son obey a sire in his dotage? . . . Rama, Rama, the people will rise in revolt; seize thou the throne, and if thy father remaineth hostile slay him, because he hath become contemptible before all men, being but a woman's slave."
Lakshmana said: "Mother, thy words are just. Who will dare oppose Rama so long as I serve him?"
Said Kausalya: "Hear the words of thy brother, Rama. If thy sire's command must he obeyed so must mine, and I command thee now not to depart to the jungle. If thou wilt not obey me, I will eat no more food and thou wilt be guilty of my death."
Rama said: "I must obey my sire's command. Permit me, therefore, O mother, to depart now. . . . O Lakshmana,
[paragraph continues] I have promised my sire to obey. Do not ask me to break my plighted word."
Still Kausalya pleaded with Rama to remain, and he sought to comfort her, but her grief was too heavy to be removed, for she loved her son dearly and hated her rival Kaikeyi.
With darkened brow and saddened eyes, Rama then went unto Sita and told her all, and said: "My mother is heartbroken, O Sita; she hath need of thee to soothe her grief. O dearly beloved, I must now depart and leave thee. Be ever obedient unto Bharata, nor laud me ever, for a rajah cares not to hear another praised in his presence."
Said Sita: "A wife must ever accompany her husband and share his sufferings. If thou must depart to the forest, it is my duty to go before thee and smooth the thorns in thy path. So long as I am with thee I will he happy even in the jungle. Dearer to me than the palace is the place where I can hold sweet converse with my husband. I will lighten thy burden of sorrow, O Rama, but if thou wilt leave me here alone I will surely die."
Rama spoke of the perils of the jungle, which was full of wild beasts and venomous reptiles, where food was scarce, and, when found, bitter to taste, where they would find no home and would have to lie on the bare ground, and where they would suffer greatly from heat and cold, from tempest and rains. "O Sita," he cried, "thou art dearer to me than life itself. How can I permit thee to suffer for me? My love will grow greater when I know what it is to be separated from thee. . . . Wait here, O loved one, until I return again."
Said Sita: "I know nor fear the perils and sorrows of the jungle. Rather would I sleep with thee on the bare ground than lie here alone on a bed of down. Without
thee I have no desire to live. . . . Take me with thee, O Rama, and let me share thy sorrow and thy joys. Sweeter will be the jungle with thee beside me than the palace when thou hast departed."
In vain Rama remonstrated with her, but she refused to be separated from him. She fell at his feet, weeping bitterly, and at length he consented that she should share his sufferings in the jungle.
Then Lakshmana pleaded to accompany Rama also, nor could he be persuaded to remain behind.
Thereafter Rama and Sita and Lakshmana went together, walking barefooted, towards the palace to bid farewell to the Maharajah and his queens.
Rumours of what had happened were passing through the city, and the people gazed with sorrow on Rama, his bride and his brother, and some said: "The Maharajah is possessed by demons." Others said: "Let us desert the city and follow Rama. Then Bharata will have none left to rule over."
Rama entered the palace with his wife and brother, and stood before the Maharajah with folded hands.
Dasaratha lamented and said: "A woman hath deceived me. She concealed her wicked designs in her heart as a fire is concealed by ashes. . . . The evening is late; tarry therefore with thy mother and me until day breaks."
Said Rama: "Kaikeyi commanded me to depart this day to the jungle, and I promised to obey. . When fourteen years have gone past we shall return again and honour thee."
The Maharajah and his counsellors desired to send the royal army and the huntsmen and much grain and treasure to the jungle with Rama, although Kaikeyi protested loudly, but Rama refused to have soldiers and
followers, and asked for the raiment of bark which he must wear, and for the spade with which to dig roots and the basket to carry them.
The shameless Kaikeyi then went away and returned with three dresses of bark. Rama and Lakshmana immediately cast off their royal garments and all their ornaments, and assumed the rough attire of devotees. But Sita, who from childhood had been clad in silk, wept and said: "How can I wear raiment of bark? I cannot use such attire."
All the women shed tears at these words, and Dasaratha said: "Kaikeyi's command is binding on Rama only, and his wife and brother may assume any garments they desire."
So the robe of bark was taken away from Sita; it was not permitted that she should be put to shame.
Then Rama and Sita and Lakshmana took leave of all those who were in the palace, and, amidst lamentation and wailing, took their departure from the palace. They were conveyed to the frontier of the kingdom in a chariot, and many people followed them from the city, resolved to share exile with Rama. The night was spent on the banks of the Tamasa, and all slept save Rama alone. As soon as dawn came, he awakened Sita and Lakshmana and the charioteer, and together they departed ere the slumbering multitude were aware. The exiles thereafter parted with the charioteer, and crossing the river Tamasa, journeyed on till they saw the sacred Ganges, in which the gods are wont to bathe, and on whose banks many sages had chosen hermitages.
When the people awoke and found that those whom they loved and honoured had hastened away, they returned with hearts full of sorrow to the mourning city of Ayodhya.
374:1 Pron. val-mee´kee.
375:1 The kingdoms of Oudh and North Behar.
375:2 Pron. a-yõd´hya.
376:1 Easter full moon.
376:2 As we have seen, Arjuna and an army accompanied the white horse which was sacrificed in the Mahábhárata.
376:3 The spirits of ancestors.
377:1 The Vedic deities.
377:2 Pron. rah´va-na.
377:3 He is called a Rakshasa king in the Ramayana. Ravana appears to be the Brahmanical conception of Vritra, the ruler of the Danavas or Asuras. Lanká is Ceylon.
378:1 Father and mother.
380:1 The fighting Rakshasas of the Mahábhárata are all males. Here the female--the mother of demons--is prominent, as in Beowulf and typical Scottish stories.
381:1 A Gaelic axiom says, "Every weapon has its demon".
382:1 "The remains of the capital founded by Janaka, and thence termed Janakpur, are still to be seen, according to Buchanan, on the northern frontier at the Janeckpoor of the maps."--Note to Professor H. H. Wilson's translation of the Uttara Rama Charita.
385:1 Pron. ky-kay-yee´.