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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 dis-



STORY OF RAMA 389

mounted 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 griet. 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



390 INDIAN MYTH AND LEGEND

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 Kalkeyi 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, 1 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, Rarria.
If thy sire's command must be 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 Laksh-



STORY OF RAMA 391

mana, 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 be
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 tear 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



392 INDIAN MYTH AND LEGEND

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 to-
gether, walking barefooted, towards the palace to bid fare-
well 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



STORY OF RAMA 393

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.

3 O

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 Dasa-
ratha 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 re-
turned with hearts full of sorrow to the mourning city
of Ayodhya.



CHAPTER XXV
The Rape of Sita

The Maharajah's Doom Tale of the Hermit's Son A Curse Fulfilled
Death of Dasaratha Bharata Refuses the Throne Visit to Rama in Exile
Loyalty to a Dead Sire Javala the Sceptic Bharata Honours Rama's Sandals
Wanderings of the Exiles A Love-stricken Rakshasa Jesting ends in
Bloodshed A War of Vengeance Rama's Great Victory Ravana's Cunning
Plot The Magic Deer Rama and Lakshmana Lured from Hermitage
Sita Taken Captive.

Now the Maharajah Dasaratha was doomed to die a
sorrowful death. Be it known that in his youth, when
he loved to go a-hunting, he heard in the jungle depths
one evening a gurgling of water, and thought an elephant
or a deer had come to drink from a hidden stream. He
drew his bow; he aimed at the sound and discharged an
arrow. ... A human voice uttered a cry of agony. . . .
Breaking through the tangled jungle growth, Dasaratha
discovered that he had mortally wounded a young hermit
who had come to draw water for his aged parents. The
poor victim forgave the king and counselled him, saying:
" Hasten to my sire and inform him of my fate, lest his
curse should consume thee as a fire consumes a withered
tree." Then he expired.

Dismayed and sorrowing deeply, Dasaratha went to-
wards the dwelling of the boy's parents, who were blind
and old. He heard the father cry: "Ah ! why hast thou
lingered, my son ? I am athirst, and thy mother longs
for thee."

In broken accents the king informed the lonesome

SM



THE RAPE OF SITA 395

parents of their son's death. The sire lamented aloud,
and said: "Oh! lead me to my son. Let me embrace
him for the last time."

Dasaratha conducted the weeping parents to the spot
where the lad lay lifeless and stained with blood. The
sire clasped the body, and cried: "Oh! wilt thou not
speak and greet me, my son ? Thou liest on the ground;
thou dost not answer me when 1 call. Alas ! thou canst
not love me any longer. . . . Thy mother is here. Oh !
thou who wert dutiful and kind, speak but one tender
word to her and to me. . . . Who will now read to us
each morning the holy books ? Who will now find roots
and fruits to feed us ? . . . Oh ! tarry with us yet a little
longer, my son. Wait for us ere thou dost depart to the
Kingdom of Death stay but one day longer, and on the
morrow thy father and mother will go with thee on the
weary and darksome path of no returning. . . . How
can we live now that our child and protector is taken
from us?'

So the blind old hermit lamented. Then he spake to
the king, and said: "I had but this one child and thou
hast made me childless. Now slay me a'.so, because
Death is blunted and unable to hurt me any more. . . .
A father cannot feel greater agony than when he
sorrows for a beloved son. This peculia' sharp sorrow
thou wilt yet know, O king. As I we'^p now, and as
I am hastened to death, mourning for my son, so wilt
thou suffer in like manner, sorrowing for a dearly-beloved
and righteous son. Thy death, O Dasaratha, will cleanse
thee of this crime."

Having spoken thus, the hermit built the funeral pyre
for the dead boy, and when it was lit he and his wife
leapt amidst the flames and entered the Kingdom of
Death.



396 INDIAN MYTH AND LEGEND

After Rama had departed from Ayodhya, his mother,
Kausalya, reproached Dasaratha, saying: "Thou wouldst
not break thy promise to Kaikeyi, but thou didst break
thy promise made to thy counsellors that Rama should
be thy successor."

The Maharajah was bowed down with grief, and
cried: "Oh! forgive me, Kausalya, because my heart is
breaking while I mourn for my beloved son. Oh ! do
not wound me again, I pray thee."

Kausalya wept and said: "Alas! my grief hath made
me speak cruelly to thee."

In the middle of the second night after Rama had
-departed, Dasaratha awoke and cried: "O Kausalya, I am
dying with grief. Mine eyes have grown blind with
weeping. Take my hand in thine and speak unto me.
Oh ! bitterly I grieve now that I cannot look upon Rama
ere I die. Happy are they whose eyes behold him . . .
My heart beats feebly." . . .

When he had spoken thus, Dasaratha fell back and
was silent. Kausalya, mother of Rama, and Sumitra,
mother of Lakshmana, knelt beside him, and they
swooned when his spirit fled.

In the morning messengers were sent speedily to
Bharata, who sojourned in the kingdom of the Kaikeyas
with his mother's sire, the rajah Aswapati, bidding him
to return without delay. Seven nights passed while the
prince journeyed towards Ayodhya. He knew not that
Dasaratha had died until he reached the palace. Then
Kaikeyi, his mother, informed him without tears. Bharata
wept, and flung himself down upon the floor and cried
aloud.

Kaikeyi said: "Thou shouldst not thus give way to
grief, my son."

Said Bharata: "If the Maharajah were alive, he would



THE RAPE OF SITA 397

have embraced and kissed me on my return. But
where is Rama, who is now as a sire unto me?'

Then Kaikeyi told him all that had taken place, and
said: "For thy sake, my son, I have accomplished this.
Sorrow not, because thou wilt be installed as ruler here."

Said Bharata: " I have lost my father and my elder
brother. Of what good is a kingdom unto me now ?
O evil-hearted woman, thou hast bereft this house of all
joy ; thou hast slain my sire and banished Rama. . . .
But I will bring my brother back from the jungle ; he
shall be seated on the throne."

Satrughna sorrowed like Bharata, and when he be-
held the wicked hunchback Manthara he threw her down
and dragged her across the floor, saying: "This hateful
creature is the cause of our calamities. I will slay
her."

Kaikeyi flew away in terror, and Bharata said: "Slay
her not, because she is a woman. I would have killed
my wicked mother, but, had I done so, Rama would
ne'er have forgiven me nor have spoken to me again.
Spare this wretch, O Satrughna, lest Rama should be
angry with thee."

Kausalya, mother of Rama, then approached Bharata
and said: "The raj is now thine, O ambitious one. Thy
mother hath secured it for thee."

Bharata fell at her feet and vowed that he would
never sit on the throne, but would hasten after Rama
to entreat him to return.

Then Kausalya wept and embraced him because that
he was loyal to his elder brother.

When Bharata had performed the funeral rites for
the Maharajah, he left Ayodhya with a strong army to
search for Rama.

The two rbrothers met in the jungle of Chitra-kuta,




58fh f C

121 >- .-*t



398 INDIAN MYTH AND LEGEND

and they embraced one another and wept for their dead
sire.

In the morning Bharata spake to Rama in the
presence of the army, saying: "This raj, which was
given unto me against my will, I now gift unto thee,
mine elder brother. Accept it and remove the stain
of my mother's sin."

Said Rama: "O Bharata, my royal sire, fulfilling his
vow, banished me to the jungle and appointed thee to the
raj. A faithful son cannot recall the mandate of his sire."

Then Java'li, the Brahmanic counsellor of Dasaratha,
spake and said: "O Rama, why dim thine understanding
with empty maxims? Thou hast already obeyed thy
sire. It is foolish to think that thou shouldst continue
this allegiance to one who is dead. A man enters the
world alone and departs alone; he owns not friendship
to kindred. His parents are to him like a wayside inn
which he leaves in the morning; his allegiance to them
is temporary. He meets them like a traveller who
tarries on his journey and then goes on his way as
before. In this world we have only one life to live.
If thou wilt refuse this raj thou wilt destroy thy one life.
I am sorry for those who scorn the blessings of this
world so long as they are alive in the hope that they
will reach a Paradise which does not exist. When this
life is spent we are extinguished for ever. Alas! that
men should make to their ancestors useless offerings.
Can a dead man eat thereof? These offerings are a
waste of food. If the soul endures and passes into a new
body how can it benefit from food eaten by another?
These practices were invented by cunning priests with
selfish motives. . . . There is no Hereafter. Therefore
snatch the joys of life while thou canst, O Rama, take
the raj which is offered to thee and return to Ayodhya."



THE RAPE OF SITA 399

Said Rama, whose heart was filled with anger : " O
Javali, thy motive is excellent but thy doctrines are false.
A good man is distinguished from an evil man by his
deeds. How can I, who have embraced a virtuous life,
turn now into the path of evildoing? The gods who
read a man's heart would curse me for my sins. Vain
are thine idle words; thy reasoning is cunning but false.
Truth is our ancient path. Truth endures when all else
passes away. The venom of falsehood is more deadly
than the venom of a serpent's sting. Thou hast said
that there is no Hereafter, and that we should snatch
pleasures while life endures. If that is so, why do wise
men condemn what is evil if the vicious are simply
pursuing the quest of happiness? Why do sages live
austere lives, eating fruits and roots, instead of feasting
on flesh and drinking wine? There would be no sciences
if we believed only those things we behold. Inferential
proof must be permitted. Is a woman to consider her-
self a widow when her husband is out of sight? . . .
Know, all of ye, that I will be faithful to the mandate
of my sire. I will keep my promise which I cannot
recall. Let Bharata reign, for I will dwell in the
jungle."

Bharata said: "If my sire's wish must be fulfilled,
let me remain in the jungle for fourteen years so that
Rama may return to Ayodhya."

Said Rama: "Neither Bharata nor I can recall or
change the commands of Dasaratha."

Thereafter Bharata gave to Rama a pair ot new
sandals decked with gold, saying: "Put these upon thy
feet and they shall accomplish the good of all."

Rama put on the sandals and then returned them to
his brother, who said: "I will live as a devotee for
fourteen years with matted hair and in a robe of bark.



400 INDIAN MYTH AND LEGEND

These sandals, O Rama, will be placed upon the throne
which I will guard for thee. If thou dost not return
when the time of thy penance is ended, I will perish
upon the pyre."

The brethren then took leave of one another. Bharata
returned to Ayodhya, and to his counsellors spake, saying:
" I will dwell outside the city in Nandigrama until Rama
returns again."

Then he clad himself in bark and went to the jungle.
There he conducted the affairs of government, holding
the royal umbrella over Rama's sandals. All presents
which were given were first presented to the sandals,
because Bharata ruled the kingdom for his elder brother.
The sandals of Rama were the symbol of royal authority.

Meanwhile Rama with Sita and Lakshmana went
southward towards deeper jungles, visiting various holy
sages, and having crossed the Vindhya mountains, they
wandered together in the Deccan and Southern India.
At Panchavati 1 , nigh to the sources of the river Goda-
vari, the royal exiles built a hut with four rooms, and
lived peaceful and pious lives. Thirteen years and a half
went over their heads.

It came to pass that one day there came to the quiet
hermitage a Rakshasa woman, named Surpa-nakha, the
sister of Ravana, the demon King of Lanka, Ceylon.
She was misshapen and ugly and her voice was harsh
and unpleasant. When she beheld Rama, who was
comely as a lotus, and of lofty and loyal bearing, her
heart was filled with love for him. Made bold with this
love, she resolved to assume another form so as to in-
duce him to leave the faithful Sita. ... In time she
stood before the prince in the guise of a young and
beautiful woman, and said : " Who art thou who hast

1 Nasik. About 100 miles from Bombay.




RAMA SPURNS THE DEMON LOVER

From the painting by Warwick Coble



THE RAPE OF SITA 401

come hither with thy bride to dwell in this lone jungle
which is haunted by Rakshasas?"

Said Rama: "I am Rama, the elder son of a Maha-
rajah named Dasaratha. I dwell here in exile in fulfilment
of my sire's vow, with Sita, my spouse, and Lakshmana,
my brother. Why dost thou, O fair one, who art as
beautiful as the bride of Vishnu, wander about here all
alone?'

Surpa-nakha said: "I am a Rakshasa woman, the
sister of Ravana, and have come hither because I love
thee. I have chosen thee for my husband, and thou
shalt rule over my great empire. Thy Sita is pale and
deformed and unworthy of thee, but 1 am of surpassing
beauty and have power to assume any form at will. I
must devour Sita and thy brother, so that we may range
the jungle together and visit the lofty hills."

Said Rama: "Sita is my beloved bride, nor would
I leave her. But Lakshmana hath no consort and is a fit
husband for thee."

Surpa-nakha at once departed from Rama, and went
and found Lakshmana, who jested with her.

*

Then the enraged Rakshasa woman sprang towards
Sita in jealous anger, but Rama thrust her back. Like
to lightning Lakshmana leapt forward with his sword and
cut off the ears and nose of the evil-hearted Surpa-nakha,
whereat she shrieked and fled away, wailing like to the
storm wind. The rocks answered back her awesome
cries.

Surpa-nakha hastened to one of her brothers who
was named Khara, and when he saw her disfigured and
bleeding, he cried: "None but a Celestial could have
done this deed. This day will I drink the blood of
Indra as a crane drinks milk and water."

Then Surpa-nakha related what had taken place, and

(C569) 29



402 INDIAN MYTH AND LEGEND

said : " Rama and Lakshmana attacked me to protect
the woman Sita, whose life-blood I desired to drink. I
entreat thee to bring her to me now."

Khara called upon fourteen Rakshasas and commanded
them to capture the three royal hermits who dwelt in
Dandaka jungle. They hastened away and Surpa-nakha
went with them, but soon she returned wailing, because
Rama had slain the Rakshasas with Celestial arrows.

Khara immediately called upon his brother Dush'ana,
saying: "Assemble an army of fourteen thousand Rak-
shasas, and bring my weapons and my chariot with white
horses, for, verily, this day I must kill the hateful Rama."

Evil were the omens as the army marched to battle.
Jackals howled and birds screamed at dawn ; the sky was
blood-red, and Rahu endeavoured to swallow the sun and
caused an awesome eclipse; a headless horror appeared in
mid air. The arrows of Rama emitted smoke, and he said
to Lakshmana: " Hasten with Sita to a secret cave in the
mountains and protect her there. I will battle with the
demons alone."

Lakshmana did as his brother commanded. Then
Rama girt on his glowing armour, and, armed with a
Celestial bow and many arrows, he awaited the coming of
his enemies. When the Rakshasas appeared they quailed
before him, because he appeared like to Yama at a Yuga
end, but Khara drove on in his chariot, urging his fol-
lowers to attack; they followed him roaring like a tempest,
and they appeared like to black tremendous clouds rush-
ing towards the rising sun.

Thousands of weapons were showered against Rama,
who began to discharge flaming arrows, which swept among
the Rakshasas like fire in a sun-dried forest, so that many
were mangled and slain. Still Khara and his brother con-
tinued to attack; but Rama seized a great Celestial weapon



Online LibraryDonald Alexander MackenzieIndian myth and legend → online text (page 31 of 38)