A King named Dashrat ruled, north of the Ganges River, in the city of Ayodhya. He was astute and robust, but still childless. The gods in heaven were greatly agitated by Ravan, the demon King of Lanka. The King turned to Vishnu for aid. King Dasharatha begs to Vishnu, “Please my lord we need you to incarnate in order to defeat Ravana.” Lord Vishnu knowing the trouble that Ravan has caused, agreed, “I shall incarnate as one of your sons” Lord Vishnu is the third god to be created in Hinduism and is depicted as having dark blue skin and having four arms. King Dasharatha’s three wives bore four boys: Bharat, Lakshman, Shatrughn, and Ram (in whom Vishnu had incarnated himself). Ram the eldest, of the four princes, was his father’s favorite. Lakshman, since he was a child, was keenly dedicated to his elder brother. He was Ram’s second hand and accomplished all his desires even before they were told.
They were trained in all the special arts, as the four princes grew up, and Ram excelled at everything. Janak, one of the king’s advisors, the father of beautiful Sita, was thinking of whom Sita should marry. Janak had announced, “May the mightiest warrior who can lift this bow can marry my daughter Sita.” (Ram…Ram) Several princes and warriors had tried, almost inconceivably capable to even move it, but when Ram’s chance arrived, his constricted grip snapped the bow in two. Strikingly astonished he gave him his consent to marry his daughter. Dasharath was mind blown, and so the marriage of Ram and Sita was lavishly celebrated. (Ram…Ram) And so Ram lived blissfully with his beloved wife Sita in Ayodhya. Dasharath sensed old age inevitable, so he decided with his advisors to appoint his prized son Ram as King of Ayodhya. (Ram…Ram) When the crippled Queen Kaikeyi had heard of this, she thought to make her own son Bharat to the throne, in place of Ram.
The king had gifted her two wishes in the past, when she saved his life, which she had not used yet. Kaikeyi selfishly requests, “ I want Ram banished for seven years and appoint my son Bharat as the King of Ayodhya.” The King was tortured by grief and regret, but when Rama found out, he fragrantly accepted his banishment, so that his father won’t be seen as dishonest and cowardly. (Rama…Rama) In sorrows, his mother and Lakshman tried to talk him out of it, but he insisted, “It’s my highest duty to help my father to keep his word.” He informed Sita of his decision, telling her, “I need you to be kind to Bharat, to live piously and chastely in Ayodhya, and to serve his father and his mothers obediently.” (Ram…Ram) But Sita answered him in an ardent speech on the duties of a woman, enforcing that, “As a wife, nothing could prevent me from following my husband into exile in the wilderness.” And so, stripped of all the royalty, clothed only in orange silk, the three went off into the wilderness while all of Ayodhya mourned. (Ram…Ram) Bharat the new king, vigorously refuses, that the throne belongs by law to Ram.
He vowed that he will stay outside the kingdom stripped of royalty and will rule living in a hut outside the kingdom. Bharat is so devoted to Ram he will live in exile until Ram returns to his righteous position. (Ram…Ram) Meanwhile, Ram, camping in the Chitrakuta hills, is just describing, the beauties of the landscape to Sita. Lakshman spots King Bharat drawing near climbing down from the hill. He throws himself at Ram’s feet and the brothers greet each other. (Ram…Ram) Now Bharat, with tears streaming down his face, reports to Ram the death of his father, and begs him, “ We need you to return and begin your dynasty.” Ram sorely says, “I could not return to Ayodhya; but that which my father had commanded, I will never depart from my decision to spend seven years in exile.” (Ram…Ram) Ram embraces his weeping brother with an eloquent speech on the inevitability of death, which makes every weep seem unnecessary. (Ram…Ram) Ram gives him his sandals as a symbol of sovereignty, and Bharat returns to Ayodhya, where Rama’s sandals are solemnly placed on the throne as the representatives of the king. (Rama…Rama) The exiles had been living in the Dandaka Forest for two years now and the forest hermits living there asked Ram for protection against the demons. Ram promises this protection, and from that time is incessantly engaged in battles against these monsters.
The man-eating giant is the first to be killed. This hideous ogre falls in love with Ram and makes amorous proposals to him. Full of rage, she is about to swallow Sita, when Lakshman cuts off her ears and nose. She flees howling to her brother, marches against Rama with 1,000 demons. Ram slays them all with the help of Laksman. (Ram…Ram) The ogre flees to Lanka, a fabulous land beyond the ocean, and incites her frightful brother Ravan to avenge her. At the same time, she describes to him the beauty of Sita in exquisite terms and incites him to gain possession of her and to make her his wife. Propelled by lust and anger, Ravan races off through the air in his golden chariot, across the ocean to where Sita lives. Though Mareecha is a demon, he’s trying to live a virtuous life. Ravan threatens Mareech, and Mareech agrees to help abduct Sita. Mareech turns himself into a golden deer and walks near Ram’s residence. Sita sees the deer and asks Ram to capture it for her as a pet. Ram agrees and goes to chase the deer, leaving Lakshman to guard Sita. Ram chases the deer for miles before he realizes it’s a trap. He shoots the deer, but with his dying breath, Mareech impersonates Rama and cries for help from Sita and Lakshana. Sita hears the cry and convinces Lakshman to go help Ram. When Lakshman is gone, Ravan disguises himself as a Brahmin and approaches Sita.
Eventually, Ravan is unable to maintain his disguise, and he transforms into his demonic form. Sita cries for help, but Ravan flies away with his golden chariot and carries Sita away. Jatayu, the wise raven, attempts to save Sita, but Ravan chops off his wing. (Ram…Ram) Ram and Lakshman find Jatayu and he relates to them what happened, but dies before he can tell them where Ravan was going with Sita. And the sun itself grew pale, its radiance dimmed, at the sight of Sita being carried away as if lamenting: “There is no more justice, no truth, no righteousness, no innocence if Ravan steals Sita, the wife of Ram.” (Ram…Ram) But Ravan carried her off across the ocean to Lanka, where he shut her in his harem. Then he conducts her round his palace, shows her all its splendors and describes to her the immeasurable riches and marvels over which the rules. With coaxing words he tried to persuade her to become his wife.
But Sita answered indignantly that she would never break faith with Ram by allowing him to embrace her. Enraged, Ravan warned that, if she does not yield herself to him within twelve months, he would enjoy her in another fashion: he would have her cut in pieces by his cooks and he would eat her for breakfast. Then he imprisoned her in a grotto and left her under the strict guard of the ogresses. (Ram…Ram) Meanwhile, Ram and Lakshman returned to find their hut empty. In vain they seek Sita in the forest. In horror, Ram raises a bitter lament, searching vainly in the forest for Sita. He questions the trees, the rivers, the hills, and the animals, but none can give him news of Sita.
At last, they find the flowers and ornaments that fell from Sita as she passed; then they come upon the ruins of Ravan’s chariot, his weapons, and the signs of a struggle. Rama fears that Sita has been killed, and in his delirium, he declares his intention of destroying the whole world: He will fill the air with his arrows, stay the wind in its course, annihilate the sun’s rays and envelop the earth in darkness, hurl down the summits of the mountains, dry up the lakes, destroy the ocean, uproot the trees, even destroy the gods themselves if they do not give him back his Sita. At last, Lakshman is able to calm his raving and to continue the search. (Ram…Ram) He hears the lightning rumble to seek help from Sugriv, the monkey. Through their travailing journey through the spring forests, they find Sugriv’s Kingdom. Sugriv is consecrated as king. Among the counselors of Sugriv, Hanuman, the son of the wind-god, and the wisest. Sugriv has the greatest confidence in him and commissions him to find Sita.
Accompanied by a army of monkeys, the resourceful Hanuman sets out toward the south. (Ram…Ram) After many adventures, they meet Sampati, a brother of the vulture Jatayu’s, who tells them, “I had flown in a race with my brother, and had scorched my wings.” Since then, “I had been lying helpless in the Vindhya hills, but I have seen Ravan carrying Sita away to Lanka.” He described to them where the Lanka was located, and the monkeys set out for the coast. But when they saw the limitless, billowing sea before them, they despaired of getting across it. (Ram…Ram) After much discussion, it is decided that no one can jump so far as Hanuman can. He then climbs to the top of Mount Mahendra and prepares to leap across the ocean. With a mighty leap, which caused Mahendra Hill to tremble in its depths and terrified all the creatures living on its slopes, the monkey Hanuman rose into the air and flew across the ocean. After a flight of four days, he finally reached Lanka. From a hill, he surveyed the town, which seemed to him impenetrable.
He made himself as small as a mouse, and after sunset, crept into the town. He examined the whole city, the palace of Ravan, on which the demon-king used to glide through the air. He also penetrated into Ravan’s harem, where he saw the king reposing in the midst of his beautiful women. After a long search, he, at last, found Sita, wasted by grief, in a tree grove. He makes himself known as a friend and messenger of Ram. (Ram…Ram) She warned him that, “Ravan has threatened to devour her after two months, and that she will die if Ram does not rescue her before then.” Hanuman assures her that Ram will certainly save her. Then he returns to the hill, flies back across the ocean and recounts everything to the monkeys awaiting him there. Finally, he returns to Ram, bringing him the news and a message from his beloved. Ram praises Hanuman for his success and embraces him, but he despairs of getting across the ocean. Sugriv suggests constructing a bridge to Lanka.
Hanuman gives an exact description of Ravan’s palace and its fortification and declares that the best of the monkey-warriors would be able to take it. So Ram commands that the army shall be prepared for the march, and soon the vast army sets out southwards towards the coast. When the news of the approaching army of monkeys had reached Lanka, Ravan summoned his counselors, all great and powerful demons, to a council. Now while all the other relatives and counselors urged Ravan in boasting speeches to fight, Vibhishan, Ravan’s brother, points to unfavorable omens and advises him to return Sita. Ravan is much enraged at this, and accuses him of envy and ill-will; relatives, he says, “Are always the worst enemies of a king, and hero.” Feeling deeply offended by his brother, Vibhishan renounces him, flies across the ocean with four other demons and allies himself with Ram. On the advice of Vibhishan, Rama appeals to the Ocean-god himself to aid him in crossing the sea.
The latter calls the monkey Nala, the son of the divine master builder Vishvakarman, and instructs him to bridge the ocean. At Ram’s command, the monkeys bring rocks and trees. In a few days, a bridge is built over the ocean, and the whole of the great army passes over to Lanka. Now Ravan’s town is surrounded by the army of monkeys. Ravan gives the command for a general sortie. A battle takes place, also many cases of single combat between the chief heroes of the two fighting armies. Lakshman, Hanuman, and the bear-king Jambavan are the most prominent fellow combatants of Ram. While on Ravan’s side, his son Indrajit is the most conspicuous. The latter is versed in all magic arts and knows how to make himself invisible at moment. The battle horn blows and the war begins. Indrajit inflicts dangerous wounds on Ram and Lakshman. But in the night, on the advice of the bear-king Jambavan, the monkey Hanuman flies to Mount Kailasa, in order to fetch four particularly powerful healing herbs.
As these herbs are concealed, the monkey simply takes the whole mountain-peak with him and carries it to the battle-field, where, through the fragrance of the healing herbs, Ram, Lakshman and all the wounded are immediately healed. Then Hanuman puts the mountain back into its place. On another occasion, Indrajit, versed in magic, comes out of the city carrying, on his war-chariot a magically produced image of Sita, which he ill-treats and beheads before the eyes of Hanuman, Lakshman, and the monkeys. Horrified, Hanuman reports to Rama that Sita is killed; Rama falls into a swoon. Lakshman breaks into lamentations and utters a blasphemous speech with bitter complaints against a fate that has no regard to virtue but be is soon enlightened by Vibhishan that the whole affair is only a delusion produced by Indrajit. Finally, Indrajit is killed by Lakshmana after a violent duel. Furious at the death of his son, Ravan himself now appears on the field of battle. A dreadful duel between Ram and Ravan takes place, continuing day and night.
The gods themselves come to Ram’s aid, especially Indra with his chariot and his projectiles strikes aggressively. But every time Rama strikes off one of Ravana’s heads, a new head grows again. At last, Vibishan tells him Ravan’s weak spot, he succeeds in piercing Ravana’s belly button with a weapon created by the god Brahma himself. There is great rejoicing in the army of the monkeys, and wild flight of the demons. Vibhishana is installed as King of the Lanka by Rama. Only now does Rama send for Sita, and proclaim to her the joyous news of the victory — but then, in the presence of all the monkeys and gods, he rejects her. He doubts that Sita had grown over the years to love Ravan. Then Sita raises a bitter complaint against Ram’s unjust suspicions and asks Lakshman to erect a pyre: for now nothing remained for her but to enter the fire. Ram gives his consent, the pyre is erected and lighted, and Sita, invoking Agni, the fire god, as a witness of her innocence, rushes into the flames.
Then Agni arises out of the burning pyre with the uninjured Sita and delivers her to Ram, assuring him, in a solemn speech, that she has always kept her faith with him, and even in the palace of the demons remained pure and innocent. Thereupon Ram declares that he himself had never had any doubts concerning Sita’s innocence, but that it was necessary to prove it before the eyes of the people. Now Ram and his people, accompanied by Hanuman and the monkeys, return to Ayodhya, where they are received with open arms by Bharat, Shatrughna, and the mothers. They enter amidst the rejoicing of the populace. Rama is consecrated as king and rules contently and for the welfare of his subject for many years.
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