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«BOOK III: DASA-RATHA-VIYOGA (The Death of the King) THE first six days of Rama's wanderings are narrated in this Book. Sita and the faithful Lakshman ...»

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The Ramayana, The Epic of Rama, Prince of India

BOOK III: DASA-RATHA-VIYOGA (The Death of the King)

THE first six days of Rama's wanderings are narrated in this Book. Sita and the faithful

Lakshman accompanied Rama in his exile, and the loyal people of Ayodhya followed

their exiled prince as far as the banks of the Tamasa river, where they halted on the first

night. Rama had to steal away at night to escape the citizens, and his wanderings during

the following days give us beautiful glimpses of forest life in holy hermitages. Thirty centuries have passed since the age of the Kosalas and Videhas, but every step of the supposed journey of Rama is well known in India to this day, and is annually traversed by thousands of devoted pilgrims. The past is not dead and buried in India, it lives in the hearts of millions of faithful men and faithful women, and shall live for ever.

On the third day of their exile, Rama and his wife and brother crossed the Ganges;

on the fourth day they came to the hermitage of Bharad-vaja, which stood where Allahabad now stands, on the confluence of the Ganges and the Jumna; on the fifth day they crossed the Jumna, the southern shores of which were then covered with woods; and on the sixth day they came to the hill of Chitrakuta, where they met the saint Valmiki, the reputed author of this Epic. " We have often looked," says a writer in Calcutta Review, vol. xxii, "on that green hill: it is the holiest spot of that sect of the Hindu faith who devote themselves to this incarnation of Vishnu. The whole neighbourhood is Rama's country. Every headland has some legend, every cavern is connected with his name, some of the wild fruits are still called Sita-phal, being the reputed food of the exile. Thousands and thousands annually visit the spot, and round the hill is raised a footpath on which the devotee, with naked feet, treads full of pious awe."

Grief for the banished Rama pressed on the ancient heart of Dasa-ratha. The feeble old king pined away and died, remembering and recounting on his death-bed how in his youth he had caused sorrow and death to an old hermit by killing his son. Scarcely any passage in the Epic is more touching than this old sad story told by the dying monarch.

The portions translated in this Book form the whole or the main portions of Sections xxvi., xxvii., xxxi., xxxix., xl., xlvi., lii., liv., lv., lvi., lxiii., and lxvi. of Book ii. of the original text.

I WOMAN'S LOVE

"Dearly loved, devoted Sita! daughter of a royal line, Part we now, for years of wand'ring in the pathless woods is mine, For my father, promise-fettered, to Kaikeyi yields the sway, And she wills her son anointed,--fourteen years doth Rama stray, But before I leave thee, Sita, in the wilderness to rove, Yield me one more tender token of thy true and trustful love!

Serve my crowned brother, Sita, as a faithful, duteous dame, Tell him not of Rama's virtues, tell him not of Rama's claim, Since my royal father willeth,--Bharat shall be regent-heir, Serve him with a loyal duty, serve him with obeisance fair, Since my royal father willeth,--years of banishment be mine, Brave in sorrow and in suffering, woman's brightest fame be thine!

Keep thy fasts and vigils, Sita, while thy Rama is away, Faith in Gods and faith in virtue on thy bosom hold their sway, In the early watch of morning to the Gods for blessings pray, To my father Dasa-ratha honour and obeisance pay, To my mother, Queen Kausalya, is thy dearest tendance due, Offer her thy consolation, be a daughter fond and true!

Queen Kaikeyi and Sumitra equal love and honour claim, With a soothing soft endearment sweetly serve each royal dame, Cherish Bharat and Satrughna with a sister's watchful love, And a mother’s true affection and a mother's kindness prove!

Listen, Sita, unto Bharat speak no heedless angry word, He is monarch of Kosala and of Raghu's race is lord, Crowned kings our willing service and our faithful duty own, Dearest sons they disinherit, cherish strangers near the throne!

Bharat's will with deep devotion and with faultless faith obey, Truth and virtue on thy bosom ever hold their gentle sway, And to please each dear relation, gentle Sita, be it thine, Part we love! for years of wand'ring in the pathless woods is mine!" Rama spake, and soft-eyed Sita, ever sweet in speech and word,

Stirred by loving woman's passion boldly answered thus her lord:

"Do I hear my husband rightly, are these words my Rama spake, And her banished lord and husband will the wedded wife forsake?

Lightly I dismiss the counsel which my lord hath lightly said, For it ill beseems a warrior and my husband's princely grade!

For the faithful woman follows where her wedded lord may lead, In the banishment of Rama, Sita's exile is decreed, Sire nor son nor loving brother rules the wedded woman's state, With her lord she falls or rises, with her consort courts her fate, If the righteous son of Raghu wends to forests dark and drear, Sita steps before her husband wild and thorny paths to clear!

Like the tasted refuse water cast thy timid thoughts aside, Take me to the pathless jungle, bid me by my lord abide, Car and steed and gilded palace, vain are these to woman's life, Dearer is her husband's shadow to the loved and loving wife!

For my mother often taught me and my father often spake, That her home the wedded woman doth beside her husband make, As the shadow to the substance, to her lord is faithful wife, And she parts not from her consort till she parts with fleeting life!





Therefore bid me seek the jungle and in pathless forests roam, Where the wild deer freely ranges and the tiger makes his home, Happier than in father's mansions in the woods will Sita rove, Waste no thought on home or kindred, nestling in her husband's love!

World-renowned is Rama's valour, fearless by her Rama's side, Sita will still live and wander with a faithful woman's pride, And the wild fruit she will gather from the fresh and fragrant wood, And the food by Rama tasted shall be Sita's cherished food!

Bid me seek the sylvan greenwoods, wooded hills and plateaus high, Limpid rills and crystal nullas as they softly ripple by, And where in the lake of lotus tuneful ducks their plumage lave, Let me with my loving Rama skim the cool translucent wave!

Years will pass in happy union,--happiest lot to woman given,-Sita seeks not throne or empire, nor the brighter joys of heaven, Heaven conceals not brighter mansions in its sunny fields of pride, Where without her lord and husband faithful Sita would reside!

Therefore let me seek the jungle where the jungle-rangers rove, Dearer than the royal palace, where I share my husband's love, And my heart in sweet communion shall my Rama's wishes share, And my wifely toil shall lighten Rama's load of woe and care!" Vainly gentle Rama pleaded dangers of the jungle life, Vainly spake of toil and trial to a true and tender wife!

II BROTHER'S FAITHFULNESS

Tears bedewed the face of Lakshman as he heard what Sita said,

And he touched the feet of Rama and in gentle accents prayed:

"If my elder and his lady to the pathless forests wend, Armed with bow and ample quiver Lakshkman will on them attend, Where the wild deer range the forest and the lordly tuskers roam, And the bird of gorgeous plumage nestles in its jungle home, Dearer far to me those woodlands where my elder Rama dwells, Than the homes of bright Immortals where perennial bliss prevails!

Grant me then thy sweet permission,--faithful to thy glorious star, Lakshman shall not wait and tarry when his Rama wanders far, Grant me then thy loving mandate,--Lakshman hath no wish to stay, None shall bar the faithful younger when the elder leads the way!" "Ever true to deeds of virtue, duteous brother, faithful friend, Dearer than his life to Rama, thou shall not to forests wend, Who shall stay by Queen Kausalya, Lakshman, if we both depart, Who shall stay by Queen Sumitra, she who nursed thee on her heart?

For the king our aged father, he who ruled the earth and main, Is a captive to Kaikeyi, fettered by her silken chain, Little help Kaikeyi renders to our mothers in her pride, Little help can Bharat offer, standing by his mother's side.

Thou alone can'st serve Kausalya when for distant woods I part, When the memory of my exile rankles in her sorrowing heart, Thou alone can'st serve Sumitra, soothe her sorrows with thy love, Stay by them, my faithful Lakshman, and thy filial virtue's prove, Be this then they sacred duty, tend our mothers in their woe, Little joy or consolation have they left on earth below!" Spake the hero: "Fear no evil, well is Rama's prowess known, And to mighty Rama's mother Bharat will obeisance own, Nathless if the pride of empire sways him from the righteous path, Blood will venge the offered insult and will quench our filial wrath!

But a thousand peopled hamlets Queen Kausalya's hests obey, And a thousand armed champions own her high and queenly sway, Aye, a thousand village-centres Queen Sumitra's state maintain, And a thousand swords like Lakshman's guard her proud and prosperous reign!

All alone with gentle Sita thou shalt track thy darksome way, Grant it, that thy faithful Lakshman shall protect her night and day, Grant it, with his bow and quiver Lakshman shall the forests roam, And his axe shall fell the jungle, and his hands shall rear the home!

Grant it, in the deepest woodlands he shall seek the forest fruit, Berries dear to holy hermits and the sweet and luscious root, And when with thy meek-eyed Sita thou shalt seek the mountain crest, Grant it, Lakshman ever duteous watch and guard thy nightly rest!" Words of brothers deep devotion Rama heard with grateful heart,

And with Sita and with Lakahman for the woods prepared to part:

"Part we then from loving kinsmen, arms and mighty weapon's bring, Bows of war which Lord VARUNA rendered to Videha's king, Coats of mail to sword impervious, quivers which can never fail, And the rapiers bright as sunshine, golden-hilted, tempered well, Safely rest these goodly weapons in our great preceptor's hall, Seek and bring them, faithful brother, for methinks we need them all!" Rama spake; his valiant brother then the wondrous weapons brought, Wreathed with fresh and fragrant garlands and with gold and jewels wrought, "Welcome, brother," uttered Rama, "stronger thus to woods we go, Wealth and gold and useless treasure to the holy priests bestow, To the son of saint Vasishtha, to each sage is honour due, Then we leave our father's mansions, to our father's mandate true!"

III MOTHER'S BLESSINGS

Tears of sorrow and of suffering flowed from Queen Kausalya's eye, As she saw departing Sita for her blessings drawing nigh, And she clasped the gentle Sita and she kissed her moistened head,

And her tears like summer tempest choked the loving words she said:

"Part we, dear devoted daughter, to thy husband ever true, With a woman's whole affection render love to husband's due!

False are women loved and cherished, gentle in their speech and word, When misfortune's shadows gather, who are faithless to their lord, Who through years of sunny splendour smile and pass the livelong day, When misfortune's darkness thickens, from their husband turn away, Who with changeful fortune changing oft ignore the plighted word, And forget a woman's duty, woman's faith to wedded lord, Who to holy love inconstant from their wedded consort part, Manly deed nor manly virtue wins the changeful woman's heart!

But the true and righteous woman, loving spouse and changeless wife, Faithful to her lord and consort holds him dearer than her life, Ever true and righteous Sita, follow still my godlike son, Like a God to thee is Rama in the woods or on the throne!" "I shall do my duty, mother," said the wife with wifely pride, "Like a God to me is Rama, Sita shall not leave his side, From the Moon will part his lustre ere I part from wedded lord, Ere from faithful wife's devotion falter in my deed or word, For the stringless lute is silent, idle is the wheel-less car, And no wife the loveless consort, inauspicious is her star!

Small the measure of affection which the sire and brother prove, Measureless to wedded woman is her lord and husband's love, True to Law and true to Scriptures, true to woman's plighted word, Can I ever be, my mother, faithless, loveless to my lord?" Tears of joy and mingled sorrow filled the Queen Kausalya's eye, As she marked the faithful Sita true in heart, in virtue high, And she wept the tears of sadness when with sweet obeisance due,

Spake with hands in meekness folded Rama ever good and true:

"Sorrow not, my loving mother, trust in virtue's changeless beam, Swift will fly the years of exile like a brief and transient dream, Girt by faithful friends and forces, blest by righteous Gods above, Thou shalt see thy son returning to thy bosom and thy love!" Unto all the royal ladies Rama his obeisance paid, For his failings unremembered, blessings and forgiveness prayed, And his words were soft and gentle, and they wept to see him go, Like the piercing cry of curlew rose the piercing voice of woe, And in halls where drum and tabor rose in joy and regal pride, Voice of grief and lamentation sounded far and sounded wide!

Then the true and faithful Lakshman parted from each weeping dame, And to sorrowing Queen Sumitra with his due obeisance came, And he bowed to Queen Sumitra and his mother kissed his head,

Stilled her anguish-laden bosom and in trembling accents said:

"Dear devoted duteous Lakshman, ever to thy elder true, When thy elder wends to forest, forest-life to thee is due, Thou hast served him true and faithful in his glory and his fame, This is Law for true and righteous,--serve him in his woe and shame, This is Law for race of Raghu known on earth for holy might, Bounteous in their sacred duty, brave and warlike in the fight!

There fore tend him as thy father, as thy mother tend his wife, And to thee, like fair Ayodhya be thy humble forest life, Go, my son, the voice of Duty bids my gallant Lakshman go, Serve thy elder with devotion and with valour meet thy foe!

IV CITIZENS' LAMENT

Spake Sumantra chariot-driver waiting by the royal car, "Haste thee, mighty-destined Rama, for we wander long and far, Fourteen years in Dandak's forest shall the righteous Rama stray, Such is Dasa-ratha's mandate, haste thee Rama and obey."



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