Rama Laments for Sita--The King of Vultures--Story of the Demon--Revelation after Death--Rama forms an Alliance with the Apes--Slaying of Bali--The Rainy Season--Sita's Life in Lanka--Hanuman the Spy--Discovery of Sita--Battle with Giants--Building of Rama's Bridge--The Worship of Shiva--Invasion of Lanka--The War with Demons--A Serpent Noose--How the Sleeping Giant was Slain--Rama and Lakshmana Wounded--Hanuman carries a Mountain to Lanka--Lakshmana Slain and Restored to Life--Ravana seeks to kill Sita--The Fall of Ravana--Sita's Ordeal of Fire--Rama's Return to Ayodhya--Second Exile of Sita--The Horse Sacrifice--Rama's Warlike Sons--Sita Returns to the Earth Mother--Ascent of Rama.
RAMA wept for Sita. He searched hither and thither through the forest, and called on every mountain and tree and on every bird and every beast, asking whither she had gone. When he found a tattered garland which his loved one had worn, he swooned with overpowering grief.
Then Lakshmana sprinkled water drops on his face until he revived. "Alas! my brother," he cried, "do not sorrow thus lest death should snatch thee away."
Said Rama: "Sita is my heart's love. I cannot live without her. For my sake she deserted the royal palace to wander in this fearsome jungle. Now that she is gone, the moments seem longer than years. . . . How can I live on when she is lost to me?"
Lakshmana comforted his brother: then they arose together and continued their vain search. . . . Rama
beheld a beauteous lotus in a clear stream, and, blinded with tears, he deemed it was the face of Sita. "O hard-hearted one," he exclaimed, "art thou hiding there among the water blooms? Seekest thou to test my love in this manner? Arise and come to me, my sweet love, nor doubt me any longer."
But the bloom moved not, and Lakshmana led away his grief-distracted brother.
"Mayhap she hath returned to the hut now," Rama cried. Then the brethren hastened to the hermitage, but found it empty as before. . . . Rama wailed in the moon-light and cried to the orb of night: "O moon! mankind welcome thy coolness, but thou dost bring to me naught but sorrow and tears. . . . Thou lookest over the whole world, beholding all living beings. Where, O tell me, where is my beloved one, my lost Sita?"
Rama wandered fitfully through the jungle: the moonbeams and the shadows fluttered around, and it seemed as if the face of Sita were peering from everywhere. So passed a sleepless night, full of mourning and illusions.
On the morrow the brethren went forth again in quest of the lost one. They came to the place where Jatayus lay dying, and that lordly bird spake to Rama and related all that had befallen Sita and himself.
Rama sat on the ground: he embraced the dying Vulture King, and said unto Lakshmana: "Alas! my brother, the noble Jatayus hath given up his life to serve me. I have lost my kingdom and my-sire; I have lost Sita, and now our ally, the Rajah of Vultures, is dying. . . . All my friends are passing away. If I were to sit in the shade of a tree, the tree would fall; if I stooped to drink water from a river, verily the river would dry up." . . .
Then he spake to Jatayus, saying: "Whither hath Ravana gone with my well-beloved?"
Said the Vulture: "He went southward towards an unknown forest fastness. . . . Alas! my strength fails, mine eyes grow blind, my life is ebbing from my body."
When he had spoken thus, Jatayus died in Rama's arms, and his soul ascended to the heaven of Vishnu in a chariot of fire.
Thereafter the brethren went towards the south. On their way they met a black demon of monstrous size; his head was in the middle of his body; he had but one eye, and his teeth were numerous and long. Suddenly the misshapen demon stretched out his two great arms, and the brethren fought against the arms.
The demon cried: "Who are ye that dare to combat with me? I welcome ye because I am an hungered this day, and long to feast on human flesh."
Rama and Lakshmana fought on until they cleft both the great arms that were coiled around them, whereat the monster fell upon the ground. Said Rama: "We are Dasaratha's sons, who are exiles in the jungle."
Then the demon revealed that he was Kabandha, and bade them burn his body, so that he might be bereft of his Rakshasa form and nature; thereafter, he promised, he would inform them regarding Sita. The brethren dug a pit and cremated the monster, and from the fire arose Kabandha, the Gandharva, who had been placed under spells. He spake and said: "Ravana dwells in the island of Lanka; he is the King of Rakshasas. If thou wouldst fain overcome him, thou must seek the aid of the ape chief, Sugriva, King of the Vanars, who dwells on Rishyamukha mountain." 1
When the brethren went towards this mountain,
[paragraph continues] Hanuman, son of Vayu, the wind god, a counsellor of the Ape King, came forth to meet them. He conducted Rama and Lakshmana before Sugriva, to whom they related the story of Sita's abduction.
Said Sugriva: "Some days past I beheld a woman who was borne aloft in the arms of a flying Rakshasa; she threw down her ornaments, which we have preserved with care."
Then the ornaments were brought forth, and they were recognized by Lakshmana, but Rama wept so profusely that he knew not whether he gazed upon the jewels of Sita or not.
Sugriva, who was the son of Surya, the sun god, desired to aid Rama, but he told that his bride and his kingdom had been taken from him by his half-brother Bali, son of Indra, whom he feared. 1 Then Rama promised to slay Bali and restore the kingdom to Sugriva. And as he promised so did he do. Sugriva challenged his brother to single combat, and Rama discharged an arrow which pierced the heart of the usurper. All the apes rejoiced greatly when the rightful King of the Vanars was restored to his throne.
The rainy season came on soon afterwards, and Rama and Lakshmana went to dwell upon the mountain Malyavana, where they found a cave.
Slowly passed the days of waiting. Ofttimes did Rama grieve for Sita. He was wont to speak to Lakshmana, saying: "Delightful is the season of rain and tempest unto those who dwell in happy homes in the midst of their families; it is a time of sorrow to those who suffer separation. . . . Behold the great black clouds like to battling elephants leaping and rolling in heaven. Thunder
roars amidst the mountains. The lightnings flash and sparkle; alas! their golden lustre in the darkness of night reminds me of my lost Sita. . . . Now the wind falls and the earth is bright with rain tears, and I hear the sighing of Sita as she weeps in pain and sorrow. . . . The rainbow comes forth in beauty like to Sita arrayed with jewels and ornaments. . . . Now the earth is refreshed: trees are budding and flowers bloom again in beauty, but I cannot be consoled. Lost is Sita, my dearly beloved; she writhes in the palace of the Rakshasa king as the lightning writhes amidst the black clouds. . . . Ah! I abandoned my throne and kingdom with joy because Sita was with me; now my heart is breaking because she hath been snatched away. . . . See how the shadows gather again; winds roar and rains pour down; as dubious is my future, and dark as is this gloomy day of sorrow. Jatayus hath told that Sita is concealed in a distant fastness. . . . How can I be consoled? I mourn not for myself alone, but chiefly because she whom I love sorrows and suffers in a strange land."
Now, when Sita was dwelling in the palace of the demon king, guarded by Rakshasa women, Ravana approached her again and again, and addressed to her sweet speeches, praising her beauty and endeavouring to win her love. But Sita rejected him with scorn. Although she was his prisoner, he could not win her by force. She was strengthened by her own virtue; she was protected by Brahma's dread decree. Be it known that once upon a time the lustful Ravana had seized by force a nymph of Indra's heaven, whose name was Punjikashthala. When he committed that evil offence, Brahma spake angrily and said that Ravana's head would be rent asunder if ever again he attempted to act in like manner towards another female in heaven or upon earth.
Sita said unto the demon king: "Thou shalt never have me for wife either in this world or in the next. Rather would I die than gratify thy desire."
Angry was Ravana, and he commanded the female Rakshasas to convey Sita to the Asoka grove, believing that her heart would be melted by the beauties of that fair retreat. "Thou wilt provide her with fine raiment," he said, "and with rich ornaments and delicious food, thou wilt praise me before her, and anon threaten her with dire calamity if she refuseth to become my bride."
Sita remembered Rama in her heart by day and by night, and wept and moaned for him, refusing to be comforted.
When the rainy season was drawing to a close, Rama fretted because Sugriva, King of the Vanars, was making no effort to collect his forces and prepare for the recovery of Sita. Instead, he drank wine and spent the days in merriment among his wives. At length Lakshmana visited the palace and threatened Sugriva with death, because he had broken his promise, whereat the monarch summoned speedily his great armies of apes and bears in countless numbers. Four divisions were then sent out to the north and the south, and eastward and westward, to search for Sita.
Success attended the efforts of the army commanded by Hanuman. It chanced that his officers discovered on a mountain summit Sampati, the brother of Jatayus, King of the Vultures. He was wounded and helpless, because his wings had been scorched by endeavouring to soar to the sun so that he might fulfil a vain boast. Although stricken thus, Sampati could still see clearly over vast distances. He had beheld Ravana carrying away Sita across the ocean towards Lanka. This knowledge he communicated through his son to Hanuman. When
he rendered such great service to Rama his wings began to grow, and he was enabled once again to take flight athwart the blue heaven.
Hanuman then resolved to visit the distant island with purpose to discover where Sita had been hidden. Assuming gigantic form, he stood upon a mountain top and leapt seaward. The mountain shook when he sprang from it. Over the sea went the wind god's son and that swiftly. But demons endeavoured to arrest his progress through the air. Surasa, mother of the Nagas, rose up with gaping jaws, and cried: "Thou must needs pass through my mouth ere thou wilt go farther, O Hanuman."
The heroic Ape extended his bulk, but the Naga hag opened wider and wider her jaws to prevent him passing Then Hanuman shrank to the size of a man's thumb, and leapt into her mouth and out of it again and again so as to fulfil her conditions, whereat the hag owned that she was defeated and allowed him to pass.
Next arose the she dragon, Sinhika, who clutched the shadow of Hanuman and held him back. Wrathfully she sprang forward to devour him, but again the cunning Ape contracted himself, and entering her mouth, attacked her and wounded her so that she was slain.
Leaping from her body, Hanuman resumed his journey until he arrived at Lanka. Night had fallen but the moon shone brightly. He assumed the form of a cat and crept stealthily through the capital, gazing on the wonders about him. He reached the great palace of Ravana and entered therein. It had shining crystal floors and jewelled stairways of gold and silver. The mansion of Indra was not more beautiful than that resplendent palace of the demon king. Hanuman crept on through the women's chamber, and beheld fair forms "subdued in all the shapes of sleep"; beautiful were they as lotus
blooms that await the sun's first kiss ere they open their soft eyelids, or as the lustrous stars on an autumn night gleaming and moving in heaven; it seemed as if a wreath of sweet human blossoms had been thrown carelessly into that perfumed chamber of sleep.
Hanuman wandered on until he reached the Asoka grove. There he beheld the long-lost Sita, the queen of stars. Fierce she demons surrounded her, and some were of fearsome shape; they had dogs' heads and pigs' heads and the faces of horses and buffaloes; some were of great bulk and others were dwarfish; some had but one eye and others had three eyes; the ears of some hung touching the ground; others that were hairy were the most horrible to behold.
When morning came Ravana drew nigh to plead his love, praising the beauty of Sita, but she rejected him, as she had ofttimes done before, whereat the demon grew angry and threatened her with dire tortures and even death. . . . Sita was like to a gentle fawn surrounded by wolves. Yet she was without fear. Rather would she perish than be unfaithful to Rama.
Hanuman kept watch, crouching in the branches of a tree, and at length he found it possible to approach her in secret. At first she feared that Ravana had assumed the form of Hanuman to deceive her, but she was re-assured when the Vanar spy showed her the ring of Rama, and related how greatly he sorrowed because she had been taken from him. Then was her heart touched with sorrow mingled with joy. Hanuman offered to carry her away, but in her modesty she refused to touch the body of any male being save Rama. She took from her hair a bright jewel which she gave to Hanuman as a token; and she said that Ravana had allowed her but two months to live if she refused to yield to him.
Hanuman desired, ere he left the city of Ravana, to show his enmity against the demons. Assuming his gigantic form, he uprooted trees and destroyed fair mansions. The guards came out against him and he slew many of them. But, at length, the mighty Indrajit, son of Ravana, hastened forth and shot a magic serpent-shaft which enwrapped Hanuman like a noose, and rendered him helpless. Thus was he taken prisoner, and he was dragged before Ravana, who commanded that the Ape be put to death. But a counsellor intervened and advised that Hanuman should be regarded as an envoy, and treated with dishonour ere he was sent back, so that their enemies might be terrified. Ravana consented to this course, and an oil-soaked cloth was tied round the Ape's great tail and set on fire. But Sita prayed that the fire should not injure Hanuman, and her prayer was heard. The son of Vayu suddenly contracted his body so that his bonds fell from him, and he leapt over the city, setting fire with his flaming tail to many mansions, and so accomplishing great destruction. Then he obtained another brief interview with Sita, and once again leapt over the ocean; he hastened with the good tidings of his journey to Rama, who rejoiced greatly that his loved one had been found.
Preparations were at once begun to rescue Sita. The Vanar armies were marched southward, and they camped on the shore over against Lanka, which lies sixty miles from the mainland. Here they were joined by a new and powerful ally.
Be it known that the mighty deeds of Hanuman had stricken terror to the heart of Ravana. The demon king summoned a council of war to consider what should be done. All his warriors advised him to wage war, except Bibhishana, his younger brother, who censured the
monarch for the offence which he had committed against blameless Rama. "Hear my words," he said, "and restore Sita to her rightful lord, or else Rama will swoop down upon thy kingdom, O Ravana, as a falcon who seizeth his prey. Make peace with him now, lest many perish in battle."
Ravana was made angry, and cried: "Alas! for the love of my near relatives, who sorrow at my fame and smile at my peril; they are ever jealous and full of guile, because they hate me in their secret hearts. . . . Evil is thy speech, O Bibhishana. Depart from me, false prince, and carry thy treason to our enemies. . . . If thou wert not my brother I would slay thee even now."
Bibhishana was thus banished from the Rakshasa kingdom, and he immediately crossed the sea and joined the forces of Rama.
Rama performed sacrifices to propitiate the God of Ocean, so that the Vanar forces might he enabled to pass over to Lanka, but these proved to be unavailing. Then angrily he seized his bow and shot Celestial weapons into the bosom of the deep. The earth and the sea were immediately convulsed, and darkness covered the heavens; lightning flashed and thunder bellowed aloud; the mountains began to break in pieces. Rama next seized a fiery dart and threatened to dry up the waters of the sea.
At that moment the King of Ocean rose serenely above the weltering billows in all his splendour, attended by shining water snakes. He addressed Rama with great reverence, reminding him that according to ancient laws he must remain unfordable, but counselling him the while to seek the aid of the Vanar chief Nala, son of Vishwakarma, the divine artisan, so that a bridge might be constructed to enable the armies to cross the deep. Then
the King of Ocean vanished amidst the waves and the heavens brightened again.
Nala was immediately called upon to give his aid. Assisted by his workmen, this wonderful Vanar, whose body was green, constructed a causeway of rocky islands between the mainland and Lanka (Ceylon), and to this day it is called "Rama's Bridge." 1
Rama meanwhile set up the Linga symbol of the god Shiva, and worshipped it on that holy island which hath since been called Ramisseram.
In five days the strait was spanned. Then Rama mounted on the back of Hanuman, son of the wind god Vayu, and Lakshmana mounted the back of Angada, son of Bali and grandson of Indra, and led the Vanar hosts across the sea. The apes and bears which composed the great attacking army leapt from island to island, shouting: "Victory to Rama!" "Victory to Lakshmana!" "Victory to Sugriva!" Now the apes were of many colours; they were white and black, green and blue, yellow and red and brown. Sugriva shone like silver, Angada resembled a white lotus; Nila, son of Agni, was red, and Hanuman was yellow as pure gold; Sarambha had also a yellow body, and Nala was green, while Darvindha had a black body, a red face, and a yellow tail. These were all leaders and great warriors of the Vanar host.
The army landed in Lanka unopposed, and encamped on a plain fronting the capital of the Rakshasa king.
The Rakshasas issued forth speedily to attack the apes, and the blowing of horns and beating of drums sounded like to the mighty thunder peals at a Yuga end. Indrajit was the Rakshasa leader. His followers rode on
elephants and lions, on camels and asses, on hogs and hyenas, and on wolves; they were armed with bows and arrows, maces, spears, tridents, swords, and beams, but some had also magic weapons. Roaring and swaying, they drove forward like to long sea-rollers assaulting the shore.
The gigantic apes wielded trees for clubs and threw great boulders, but some depended on their sword-like nails and their long arrowy teeth. They rushed against the demons, shouting "Rama, Rama!" and soon the plain was covered by heaps of writhing bodies and severed limbs, while rivers of blood streamed across it from between the battling hosts. Rama looked on without fear. He reposed his faith on the apes, for he knew that they were incarnations of the gods.
The apes were driven back until Sugriva flung a great tree, which shattered the chariot of Indrajit. Then the Rakshasa leader and his army took flight.
Indrajit obtained a new chariot by offering up in sacrifice a black goat, and returning to the battlefield with his forces he shot arrows at Rama and Lakshmana. Then he threw a serpent noose, which bound the two brothers so that they were unable to move. Great was their peril, but Vayu, god of wind, sent to their aid the great Celestial bird Garuda, the serpent killer, and the snakes which formed the noose fled from before it, whereat the brethren, who had meantime fallen in a swoon, rose up again. Ravana then came forth, but Rama shot arrows which swept the ten crowns from his ten heads, and he retired in his shame and skulked in the city.
The Rakshasas were in desperate straits and bethought them to awaken Kumbha-karna, the mightiest of all the demons. In former days he had terrorized the Universe; he continually devoured human beings, and had defeated
[paragraph continues] Indra even, but Brahma intervened and decreed that he would sleep for six months and then awaken for one day only. Each time he awoke he devoured a great meal, after which he was again overpowered by slumber.
Thousands of men danced and shouted and blew trumpets beside the great sleeper, but he could not be wakened; elephants were driven over his body, yet he never moved; then beautiful women came and caressed him, and he suddenly opened his eyes and roared like to the sea. His eyes were red with anger, and he cried: "Why have I been awakened before my time?"
The Rakshasas informed Kumbha-karna of the army which surrounded the city, and they brought him much food; greedily he swallowed swine and deer and many human beings and drank rivers of wine. Refreshed, but not yet satisfied, he arose and said: "Where are the apes so that I may devour them?"
He mounted his chariot and went forth to battle. The apes trembled to behold him and fled panic-stricken. . . . Sugriva rallied them quickly, and then they began to fling trees and boulders, but these were all splintered to pieces on the limbs of the giant. He defeated Hanuman, and seized Sugriva and carried him off in his chariot. Thousands of apes were devoured by the mighty Rakshasa.
At length Kumbha-karna went against Rama and a fierce conflict ensued, but in the end Rama discharged flaming arrows and severed his head from his body. The monster staggered backward and fell into the ocean, and great billows arose and tossed angrily in the midst of the swollen deep.
Indrajit thereafter offered up another sacrifice and secured fresh weapons. Rendering himself invisible, he rose high in the air and showered arrows like rain until
Rama and Lakshmana, who were grievously wounded, fell down and pretended to be dead.
When darkness came on, Hanuman and Bibhishana surveyed the battlefield with torches and found that many apes had been wounded and slain. Great was their sorrow, but Sushena, the ape physician, bade Hanuman to hasten to a certain Himalayan mountain to obtain healing herbs. The wind god's son assumed tremendous bulk, and, leaping aloft, went speedily through the air until he reached the place where the herbs grew. He searched for them in vain; then he tore up the mountain, and carrying it in his hand returned again to the battlefield. The physician soon discovered the herbs; then he gave healing to Rama and Lakshmana and the wounded apes, who rose up at once ready and eager to fight as before. Hanuman returned with the mountain and restored it to its place.
When the sun rose, Ravana sent forth young heroes to battle against the apes and bears, but they were all slain. Then Indrajit came to avenge the fallen, but Lakshmana drew his bow and shot an arrow which Indra had given to him. Unerring was his aim, and Indrajit was struck down; his body rolled headless upon the plain.
Ravana lamented for the death of his son, crying: "He was the mightiest of my heroes and the dearest to my heart. All the gods feared him, yet by a mortal was he laid low. . . . O my son, thy widow wails for thee and thy mother weeps in sore distress. Fondly I deemed that when the frailties of old age afflicted me thou wouldst close mine eyelids in death, but youth is taken first and I am left alone to battle against mine enemies."
For a time the mighty demon wept; then he arose in wrath to wreak vengeance. First of all he hastened towards the Asoka grove to slay Sita. But the Rakshasa
dames concealed the wife of Rama, and prevailed upon Ravana not to pollute his fame by slaying a woman. One cried to him: "Auspicious is the last day of the waning moon. The hour of thy vengeance is nigh. Turn thee towards the battlefield and great glory will be thine."
Ravana went gloomily away; he mounted his chariot to battle against his enemies, remembering those who had already fallen. Followed by a great army, he swept from the city like to a tempest cloud which darkens the summer heaven. He beheld his brother Bibhishana fighting for Rama, and angrily cast at him a great weapon, but Lakshmana flung a javelin which shattered it in flight. Ravana smiled grimly and shouted to Lakshmana: "Slayer of my son, I welcome thee! Thou hast protected Bibhishana; now protect, if thou canst, thine own self."
Having spoken thus he flung a great dart, which pierced the heart of Lakshmana and pinned him to the earth.
Rama stooped over the fallen hero and cried: "Alas! art thou fallen, my gallant brother? Thy weapons have dropped from thy hands; death claims thee, but, O Lakshmana, thou wilt not die alone. I am weary of battle and of glory, and when my task is ended, I will follow in thy footsteps. . . . The love of wife or friend is easily won, but the love of a faithful brother, equal to thine, is rarely found in this world of illusions. .
Dearest of brothers, greatest of heroes, wilt thou never awaken from thy deathly swoon or open again thine eyes to behold me? . . . Alas! the lips of Lakshmana are silent and his ears are stopped."
In the darkness of night Hanuman again hastened northward in speedy flight to obtain the mountain which he had aforetime carried to Lanka. The physician found
upon it the healing herbs; he pounded them and made a paste which he placed under the nostrils of the unconscious warrior. Then Lakshmana rose up again healed and hale and powerful. Rama rejoiced greatly, and turned against his foes. . . . A night attack was made upon the Rakshasa capital, and the Apes intercepted a sacrifice which Ravana sought to offer up to the gods so as to compel their aid; many fair mansions were given to the flames.
When day came Ravana went forth to battle. Surpanakha, his sister who had caused the war, stood in his way, and he thrust her aside impatiently, whereat she cursed him, saying: "For this thou wilt never again return to the city."
Ravana drove on in battle fury, his heart filled with hatred for his foes and with sorrow for the fallen. Rama went against him in the chariot of Indra, and for a time a dubious conflict was waged. The earth trembled and the ocean shook with fear.
Suddenly Rama darted forward. He drew his bow and shot a swift arrow, which smote off one of Ravana's ten heads, but immediately another appeared in its place. 1 Then the hero seized the flaming weapon which Brahma had created for the protection of the gods; with unerring aim he discharged it in flaming splendour; it struck the demon; it cleft in twain his heart of iron. Roaring in his fierce agony Ravana fell ponderously upon the plain and immediately expired. So was the enemy of gods and men put to death by peerless Rama.
Celestial music was heard in heaven and flowers fell upon the plain of victory: a voice came down the wind, saying: "O victor of truth and righteousness, thy task is now ended."
The Rakshasa hosts broke in flight when Ravana fell, and Rama entered the city in triumph. Bibhishana burned the body of his fallen brother, and performed the funeral rites. Thereafter he was proclaimed King of Lanka.
When peace was restored, Rama commanded that Sita should be brought forth. She was carried towards the plain concealed in a litter, and all the Apes gathered round to behold her, whereat Rama requested her to alight and walk towards him, and she did so. With folded hands she approached her husband and knelt at his feet, weeping tears of joy.
Clouded was the brow of Rama; he spoke sternly, and said: "Mine enemies are slain, and thou art delivered from captivity, O Sita; but now that my shame is removed I have no desire to behold thee. I cannot receive thee as my wife, because that thou hast dwelt in the house of Ravana."
Said Sita: "Chaste and innocent have I remained. . . . O Rama, if thou hadst informed me of thy doubt, I would have died ere now. Better is death than thy dark suspicion.
Addressing Lakshmana, she then said: "Build for me a funeral pyre so that I may end my grief amidst the. flames."
As she desired so did the brother of Rama do. He built the pyre and set it alight. Then Sita invoked Agni:
If a false and lying scandal brings a faithful woman shame,
Witness of our sins and virtues, may this fire protect my fame!
Click to enlarge
THE CORONATION OF RAMA AND SITA
Fearlessly she then leapt amidst the flames and vanished, while all lamented around her. Rama cried: "This day have I sinned, because she is innocent."
In that hour a great wonder was wrought. Suddenly the Deva-rishis and Gandharvas and the gods appeared in the air. At the same time the red flames of the mighty pyre were divided, and the god Agni came forth with Sita, whom he delivered to Rama, saying: "Receive thy wife who is without sin or shame."
Rama embraced Sita, and said: "I have never doubted her virtue; she is without sin, and now her purity has been proved before all men."
He wept, and Sita hid her face in his bosom and soft embrace.
The exile of Rama was now ended, and he returned speedily in the car of Indra to Ayodhya, with Sita and Lakshmana and Hanuman.
Bharata welcomed his elder brother, and laid the sandals at his feet, saying: "These are the symbols of thy rule, O Rama; I have guarded the throne for thee. Now take thy crown and govern thy kingdom. I give thee back thine own."
Rama was crowned on the morrow amidst the rejoicings of the people, and prosperity returned once again to the kingdom.
Time went past, but the sorrows of Sita were not ended. The people whispered against the fair queen, doubting her virtue, because that she had been taken away by Ravana, and they wondered Rama had received her back. At length her husband, yielding to the wishes
of his subjects, banished the innocent queen from the kingdom. The faithful Lakshmana conducted her towards the southern jungles, and abandoned her nigh to the hermitage of Valmiki, counselling her with tears to take refuge with the saintly poet.
Valmiki received her with pity, and soon afterwards she gave birth to two sons, who were named Lava and Kusa.
Sixteen years went past, and Rama's mind was troubled because that he had slain Ravana, who was the son of Pulastya, the Rishi. So he resolved to perform the Aswamedha (horse sacrifice) to cleanse his soul of sin.
The horse was sent forth to wander through the land, and when it approached the hermitage of Valmiki, Lava and Kusa, the sons of Rama and Sita, took possession of it. They defeated the royal army and wounded Satrughna. Lakshmana hastened forth with another army, but he was also grievously wounded and defeated by the young heroes. Then Rama himself went southward to wage war and recapture the horse. When his sons came forth against him, Rama wondered to find that they were so like to himself in countenance and bearing; his heart was filled with tenderness, and he asked them: "Whose children are you?"
Lava and Kusa greeted him with reverence, and said: "Sita is our mother, but we know not the name of our sire."
Then Rama perceived that the lads were his own sons. . . . Valmiki, the sage, came towards him, and Rama said: "The people spoke evil things against Sita, and it was necessary to prove her innocence. Now let her be taken into my presence, for I know that these noble children are mine."
Valmiki returned to Sita and asked her to go with
him before Rama, but for a time she refused to do so. The sage pleaded with her, and at length she walked forth from the hermitage with downcast eyes and hands uplifted. In the presence of Rama and the people she then invoked the Earth, and cried:
If in duty and devotion I have laboured undefiled,
Mother Earth! who bore this woman, once again receive thy child!
If in truth unto my husband I have proved a faithful wife,
Mother Earth! relieve thy Sita from the burden of this life!
R. C. Dutt's trans.
When she had spoken thus, all who heard her wept and sorrowed. And while they gazed upon her with pity and tenderness, the earth suddenly yawned, and from its depths arose a golden throne sparkling with gems and supported by four great serpents, as a rose is supported by green leaves. Then the Earth Mother appeared and hailed Sita with loving words, and led her to the throne, on which she seated herself beside her sinless daughter, the faithful and undefiled wife of Rama. . . . The throne thereafter vanished and the earth closed over it.
So passed Sita from before the eyes of all mankind. Rama flung himself upon the ground in an agony of sorrow. But Brahma appeared and spake to him, saying: "Why dost thou despair, O Lord of all? Well thou knowest that life is but a dream, a bubble of water. . . ."
Rama, however, even after the Aswamedha had been performed, continued to mourn until the Celestial bird
[paragraph continues] Garuda carne for him: then he ascended to heaven, as Vishnu, and found Sita, who was the goddess Lakshmi, the incomparable Sri.
So endeth the story of Rama, whose fame can never die.
410:1 Among the Nilgiri mountains.
411:1 These apes are the incarnations of the Vedic deities who sojourned on earth according to Vishnu's command.
418:1 Also "Adam's Bridge". The green Celtic fairies are similarly credited with making island chains and long jutting promontories which stretch out from opposite shores of arms of the sea.
423:1 Like Hydra against which Hercules fought.