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THE RAPE OF SITA 403

and slew Dushana and scattered the demon army in
flight. Khara sought to avenge his brother's death, but
Rama drew his bow and shot a blazing arrow which con-
sumed him instantly. So was the battle won, and Sita
came forth from the cave and embraced her heroic husband
and kissed him.

Of all the Rakshasa host only Surpa-nakha escaped
alive. She hastened to Lanka and informed the ten-
headed King Ravana of the death of his brothers, and
said : " Thou canst not defeat Rama in battle. But he
may be overcome by guile. He hath a beautiful spouse,
whose name is Sita, and she is dearer to him than life.
If thou wilt take her captive, Rama can be slain, because
he is unable to exist without her."

Said Ravana: " I will bring Sita hither in my chariot."

On the morrow Ravana and his brother Maricha,
whom Rama had aforetime driven far across the ocean
with a Celestial weapon, went towards the hermitage of
the royal exiles in a resplendent chariot which went
through the air like a great bird; it was drawn by asses
which had the heads of Rakshasas.

Maricha assumed the shape of a golden deer with
silvern spots; its horns were tipped with sapphire and its
eyes were like to blue lotus blooms. This beautiful
animal of gentle seeming grazed below the trees until
Sita beheld it with wondering eyes as she came forth to
pluck wild flowers. She called to Rama, saying : " A
deer of wondrous beauty is wandering through the grove.
I long to rest at ease on its golden skin."

Said Rama: "O Lakshmana, I must fulfil the desire
of Sita. Tarry with her until I obtain this animal for
her."

So speaking, he lifted his bow and hastened away
through the trees.



4 o 4 INDIAN MYTH AND LEGEND

Lakshmana spoke to Sita and said: "My heart is full
of misgiving. Sages have told that Rakshasas are wont to
assume the forms of deer. Ofttimes have monarchs been
waylaid in the forest by artful demons who came to lure
them away."

Rama chased the deer a long time hither and thither
through the forest, and at length he shot an arrow which
pierced its heart. In his agony Maricha sprang out of
the deer's body, and cried out in imitation of Rama's
voice : " Sita, Sita, save me ! save me, Lakshmana ! '
Then he died, and Rama perceived that he had slain the
Rakshasa Maricha, brother of Ravana.

Sita's heart was rilled with alarm when she heard the
voice of the Rakshasa calling in imitation of her husband.
She spake to Lakshmana, saying: "Hasten and help my
Rama; he calls for help."

Said Lakshmana: "Do not fear for Rama, O fair one.
No Rakshasa can injure him. I must obey his command
and remain beside thee. The cry thou hast heard is an
illusion wrought by demons."

Sita was wroth; her eyes sparkled and her voice shook
as she spake, saying: "Hath thine heart grown callous?
Art thou thy brother's enemy ? Rama is in peril, and
yet thou dost not hasten to succour him. Hast thou
followed him to the forest desiring that he should die, so
as to obtain his widow by force ? If so, thy hope is a
delusion, because I will not live one moment after he dies.
It is useless, therefore, for thee to tarry here."

Said Lakshmana, whose eyes were rilled with tears:
" I do not fear for Rama. . . . O Sita ! thy words scald
me, for thou art as a mother unto me. I cannot answer
thee. My heart is free from sin. . . . Alas ! that fickle
women with poisonous tongues should endeavour to set
brother against brother."



THE RAPE OF SITA 405

Sita wept, and Lakshmana, repenting that he had
spoken harshly, said: "I will obey thee and hasten unto
Rama. May the spirits of the forest protect thee against
hidden enemies. I am troubled because I behold evil
omens. When 1 return, may I behold Rama by thy
side."

Said Sita: "If Rama is slain I will die by drowning,
or by poison, or else by the noose. I cannot live without
Rama."

Ravana kept watch the while, and when he saw Laksh-
mana leaving the hermitage, he assumed the guise of a
forest sage and went towards the lonely and sad-hearted
Sita. The jungle had grown silent. Ravana saw that
Sita was beautiful as the solitary moon at midnight when
it illumines the gloomy forest. He spake, saying: "O
woman of golden beauty, O shy one in full bloom, robed
in silk and adorned with flowers, art thou Sri, or Gauri, 1
or the goddess of love, or a nymph of the forest ? Red
as coral are thy lips; thy teeth shine like to jasmine; love
dwelleth in thine eyes so soft and lustrous. Slender art
thou and tall, with shapely limbs, and a bosom like to
ripe fruit. . . . Wherefore, O fair one, with long shining
tresses, dost thou linger here in the lonesome jungle ?
More seemly it were if thou didst adorn a stately palace.
Choose thee a royal suitor ; be the bride of a king.
What god is thy sire, O beautiful one?'

Sita honoured Ravana, believing that he was a Brahman.
She told him the story of Rama's exile, and said: "Rest
thyself here until the jungle-ranging brethren return to
greet thee."

Then Ravana said: " No Brahman am I, but the ruler
of the vengeful Rakshasas. I am Ravana, King of Lanka,
dreaded by even the gods. Thy beauty, O fair one, clad

1 Names of the wives of Vishnu and Shiva.



406 INDIAN MYTH AND LEGEND

in yellow silk, has taken captive my heart. Be my chief
queen, O Sita, and five thousand handmaidens will wait
upon thee. Share mine empire and my fame."

Said Sita, whose eyes flashed fiery anger: "Knowest
thou Rama, the god-like hero who is ever victorious in
strife ? I am his wedded wife. Knowest thou Rama,
the sinless and saintly one, who is strongly armed and
full of valour and virtue? I am his wedded wife. What
madness hath prompted thee to woo the wife of so mighty
a warrior ? I follow Rama as a lioness follows a lion.
Canst thou, a prowling jackal, hope to obtain a lioness?
Snatch from the jaws of a lion the calf which it is devour-
ing, touch the fang of a cobra when it seizeth a fallen
victim, or tear up a mountain by the roots, or seize the
sun in heaven before thou dost seek to win or capture the
wife of Rama, the avenger."

Ravana boasted his prowess, saying: "I have power
to slay even Yama. I can torture the sun and shoot
arrows through the earth. Little dost thou know of my
glory and my heroism."

Then he changed his shape and stood up in gigantic
demon form with vast body and ten heads and twenty
arms. . . . Seizing Sita, he soared through the air with
her as Garuda carries off the queen of serpents ; he
placed her in his chariot and went away swifter than the
wind.

The unseen spirits of the jungle looked on, and they
heard the cries of Sita as she called in vain for Rama and
Lakshmana. Jatayus 1 , Monarch of Vultures, who lay
asleep on a mountain top, heard her and awoke ; he
darted upon Ravana like to the thunderbolt of Indra. A
fierce battle was fought in mid air. Jatayus destroyed
the chariot and killed the Rakshasa asses, but Ravana

1 Pron. Jata'yus.



THE RAPE OF SITA ^07

took Sita in his arms, and, soaring higher than the
Vulture king, disabled him with his sword.

Then Ravana continued his journey towards Lanka,
floating in the air. As he passed over the Mountain of
Apes, Sita contrived to cast off her ornaments, and they
dropped through the air like falling stars. . . . The five
apes found them and said : " Ravana is carrying away
some beautiful woman who calls upon Rama and Laksh-



mana.'



When Ravana reached his palace he delivered Sita to
a band of Rakshasa women, commanding them to guard
her by day and by night.

Long and loudly did Rama lament when he returned
to the forest hut and found that it was empty. He knew
that Sita had been carried away, but whither he knew not.



CHAPTER XXVI
Rama's Mission Fulfilled

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



408



RAMA'S MISSION FULFILLED 409

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 every-
where. 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." . . .



4 io INDIAN MYTH AND LEGEND

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 Rishya-
mukha mountain."

When the brethren went towards this mountain,

1 Among the Nilgiri mountains.



RAMA'S MISSION FULFILLED 41 1

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 pro-
fusely 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 pro-
mised 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 Malya-
vana, 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

1 These apes are the incarnations of the Vedic deities who sojourned on earth
according to Vishnu's command.



4 i2 INDIAN MYTH AND LEGEND

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 re-
freshed : 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 be-
cause 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 fast-
ness. . . . 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 ap-
proached 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.



RAMA'S MISSION FULFILLED 413

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



4H INDIAN MYTH AND LEGEND

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



RAMA'S MISSION FULFILLED 415

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.



4 i 6 INDIAN MYTH AND LEGEND

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 ren-
dered 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



RAMA'S MISSION FULFILLED 417

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 Bibishana. 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 king-
dom, 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 be 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 moun-
tains began to break in pieces. Rama next seized a



Online LibraryDonald Alexander MackenzieIndian myth and legend → online text (page 32 of 38)