exchange the quiet life of Rama in holy hermitages for the more
stirring incidents of the Epic in this Book. The love of a Raksha
princess for Rama and for Lakshman is rejected with scorn, and smarting
under insult and punishment she fires her brother Ravan, the king
of Ceylon, with a thirst for vengeance. The dwellers of Ceylon are
described in the Epic as monsters of various forms, and able to
assume different shapes at will. Ravan sends Maricha in the shape
of a beautiful deer to tempt away Rama and Lakshman from the cottage,
and then finds his chance for stealing away the unprotected Sita.
misfortunes of our lives, according to Indian thinkers, are but
the results of our misdeeds; calamities are brought about by our
sins. And thus we find in the Indian Epic, that a dark and foul
suspicion against Lakshman crossed the stainless mind of Sita, and
words of unmerited insult fell from her gentle lips, on the eve
of the great calamity which clouded her life ever after. It was
the only occasion on which the ideal woman of the Epic harboured
an unjust thought or spoke an angry word; and it was followed by
a tragic fate which few women on earth have suffered. To the millions
of men and women in India, Sita remains to this day the ideal of
female love and female devotion; her dark suspicions against Lakshman
sprang out of an excess of her affection for her husband and her
tragic fate and long trial proved that undying love.
portions translated in this Book form the whole or the main portions
of Sections xvii., xviii., xliii., xlv., xlvi., xlvil., and xllx.
of Book iii. of the original text.
SURPA-NAKHA IN LOVE
As the Moon with starry Chitra dwells in azure skies above,
In his lonesome leafy cottage Rama dwelt in Sita's love,
with Lakshman strong and valiant, quick to labour and obey,
Tales of bygone times recounting Rama passed the livelong day.
it so befell, a maiden, dweller of the darksome wood,
Led by wand'ring thought or fancy once before the cottage stood,
Raksha maiden, sister of the Raksha lord,
Came and looked with eager longing till her soul was passion-stirred!
on Rama lion-chested, mighty-arméd, lotus-eyed,
Stately as the jungle tusker, with his crown of tresses tied,
on Rama lofty-fronted, with a royal visage graced,
Like KANDARPA young and lustrous, lotus-hued and lotus-faced!
though she a Raksha maiden, poor in beauty plain in face,
Fell her glances passion-laden on the prince of peerless grace,
though wild her eyes and tresses, and her accents counselled fear,
Soft-eyed Rama fixed her bosom, and his sweet voice thrilled her
though bent on deeds unholy, holy Rama won her heart,
And, forlove makes bold afemale, thus didshe her thoughts impart:
be thou in hermit's vestments, in thy native beauty bright,
Friended by a youthful woman, arméd with thy bow of might,
be thou in these lone regions where the Rakshas hold their sway,
Wherefore in a lonely cottage in this darksome jungle stay?"
his wonted truth and candour Rama spake sedate and bold,
And the story of his exile to the Raksha maiden told:
of Ayodhya ruled with INDRA'S godlike fame,
And his eldest, first-born Rama, by his mandate here I came,
Lakshman strong and valiant doth with me these forests roam,
And my wife, Videha's daughter, Sita makes with me her home.
to my father's bidding, duteous to my mother's will,
Striving in the cause of virtue in the woods we wander still.
me, female of the forest, who thou be and whence thy birth,
Much I fear thou art a Raksha wearing various forms on earth!"
so spake Surpa-nakha, "if my purpose thou wouldst know,
I am Raksha, Surpa-nakha, wearing various shapes below.
my brothers, royal Ravan, Lanka's lord from days of old,
Kumbha-karna dread and dauntless, and Bibhishan true and bold,
and the doughty Dushan with me in these forests stray,
But by Rama's love emboldened I have left them on the way!
and boundless is my empire and I wander in my pride,
Thee I choose as lord and husband,--cast thy human wife aside,
is Sita and misshapen, scarce a warrior's worthy wife,
To a nobler, lordlier female consecrate thy gallant life!
flesh is food of Rakshas! weakling Sita I will slay,
Slay that boy thy stripling brother,--thee as husband I obey,
the peaks of lofty mountains, in the forests dark and lone,
We shall range the boundless woodlands and the joys of dalliance
Rama heard her impious purpose and a gentle smile repressed,
To the foul and forward female thus his mocking words addressed:
O passion-smitten maiden! Sita is my honoured wife,
With a rival loved and cherished cruel were thy wedded life!
no consort follows Lakshman, peerless is his comely face,
Dauntless is his warlike valour, matchless is his courtly grace,
he leads no wife or consort to this darksome woodland grove,
With no rival to thy passion seek his ample-hearted love! "
passion-laden then on Lakshman turned her eye,
But in merry mocking accents smiling Lakshman made reply.
in thy youthful beauty like the lotus in her pride,
I am slave of royal Rama, would'st thou be a vassal's bride?
be his younger consort, banish Sita from his arms,
Spurning Sita's faded beauty let him seek thy fresher charms,
Sita's faded graces let him brighter pleasures prove,
Wearied with a woman's dalliance let him court a Raksha's love!"
of unrequited passion raged like madness in her breast,
Torn by anger strong as tempest thus her answer she addrest:
these mocking accents uttered, Rama, to insult my flame,
Feasting on her faded beauty dost thou still revere thy dame?
beware a Raksha's fury and an injured female's wrath,
Surpa-nakha slays thy consort, bears no rival in her path!"
Sita fell in terror as the Raksha rose to slay,
So beneath the flaming meteor sinks Rohini's softer ray,
like Demon of Destruction furious Surpa -nakha came,
Rama rose to stop the slaughter and protect his helpless dame.
we have acted wrongly, for with those of savage breed,
Word in jest is courting danger,--this the penance of our deed,
perchance or death-like stupor hovers o'er my lovéd dame,
Let me wake to life my Sita, chase this female void of shame!"
anger leaped like lightning as the female hovered near.
With his sword the wrathful warrior cleft her nose and either ear,
in her anguish raised her accents shrill and high,
And the rocks and wooded valleys answered back the dismal cry,
and the doughty Dushan heard the far-resounding wail,
Saw her red disfigured visage, heard her sad and woeful tale!
Vainly fought the vengeful Khara, doughty Dushan vainly bled,
Rama and the valiant Lakshman strewed the forest with the dead,
the humbled Surpa-nakha to her royal brother hied,
Spake her sorrows unto Ravan and Maricha true and tried.
of deer unmatched in beauty now the deep Maricha, wore,
Golden tints upon his haunches, sapphire on his antlers bore,
the woodland-wand'ring Sita marked the creature in his pride,
Golden was his neck of beauty, silver-white his flank and side!
my lord and gallant Lakshman," thus the raptur'd Sita spake,
"Mark the deer of wondrous radiance browsing by the forest
my heart misgives me, sister," Lakshman hesitated still,
"Tis some deep deceitful Raksha wearing every shape at will,
wand'ring in this forest, hunting in this lonely glen,
Oft waylaid by artful Rakshas are by deep devices slain,
as day-god or Gandharva, woodland scenes they love to stray,
Till they fall upon the heedless, quick to slaughter and to slay,
me, not in jewelled lustre forest creatures haunt the green,
'Tis some maya and illusion, trust not what thy eyes have seen!"
spake the watchful Lakshman in the arts of Rakshas skilled,
For with forceful fascination Sita's inmost heart was thrilled,
good and ever gracious," sweetly thus implored the wife,
"I would tend this thing of beauty,--sharer of my forest life!
have witnessed in this jungle graceful creatures passing fair,
Chowri and the gentle roebuck, antelope of beauty rare,
have seen the lithesome monkey sporting in the branches' shade,
Grizzly bear that feeds on Mahva, and the deer that crops the blade,
have marked the stately wild bull dash into the deepest wood,
And the Kinnar strange and wondrous as in sylvan wilds he stood,
these eyes have never rested on a form so wondrous fair,
On a shape so full of beauty, decked with tints so rich and rare!
his bosom gem-bespangled, soft the lustre of his eye,
Lighting up the gloomy jungle as the Moon lights up the sky,
his gentle voice and glances and his graceful steps and light,
Fill my heart with eager longing and my soul with soft delight!
alive that beauteous object thou caust capture in thy way,
As thy Sita's sweet companion in these woodlands he will stay,
when done our days of exile, to Ayodhya will repair,
Dwell in Sita's palace chamber nursed by Sita's tender care,
our royal brother Bharat oft will praise his strength and speed,
And the queens and royal mothers pause the gentle thing to feed!
alive this wary creature be it, husband, hard to take,
Slay him and his skin of lustre cherish for thy Sita's sake,
will as a golden carpet spread the skin upon the grass,
Sweet memento of this forest when our forest days will pass!
if an eager longing which befits a woman ill,
And an unknown fascination doth my in-most bosom fill,
I mark his skin bespangled and his antlers' sapphire ray,
And his coat of starry radiance glowing in the light of day!
bade the faithful Lakshman with the gentle Sita stay,
Long through woods and gloomy gorges vainly held his cautious way,
set the snare in silence by the lake and in the dale,
'Scaping every trap, Maricha, pierced by Rama's arrows fell,
Rama's accents uttered forth his dying cry:
"Speed, my faithful brother Lakshman, helpless in the woods
"Heardst that distant cry of danger?" questioned Sita
"Woe, to me! who in my frenzy sent my lord to wilderness,
brave Lakshman, help my Rama, doleful was his distant cry
And my fainting bosom falters and a dimness clouds my eye!
the dread and darksome forest with thy keenest arrows speed,
Help thy elder and thy monarch, sore his danger and his need,
perchance the cruel Rakshas gather round his lonesome path,
As the mighty bull is slaughtered by the lions in their wrath!"
the hero: "Fear not, Sita! Dwellers of the azure height,
Rakshas nor the jungle-rangers match the peerless Rama's might,
knows no dread or danger, and his mandate still I own,
And I may not leave thee, Lady, in this cottage all alone!
aside thy causeless terror; in the sky or earth below,
In the nether regions, Rama knows no peer or equal foe,
shall slay the deer of jungle, he shall voice no dastard cry,
'Tis some trick of wily Rakshas in this forest dark and high!
thou hast heard my elder bid me in this cottage stay,
Lakshman may not leave thee, Lady, for this duty--to obey.
Rakshas roam the forest to revenge their leader slain,
Various are their arts and accents; chase thy thought of causeless
Sita's eye in anger, frenzy marked her speech and word,
For a woman's sense is clouded by the danger of her lord:
thou my Rama's danger with a cold and callous heart,
Courtest thou the death of elder in thy deep deceitful art,
thy semblance of compassion dost thou hide a cruel craft,
As in friendly guise the foeman hides his death-compelling shaft,
like a faithful younger in this dread and lonesome land,
Seekest thou the death of elder to enforce his widow's hand?
thy hope as foul thy purpose! Sita is a faithful wife,
Sita follows saintly Rama, true in death as true in life!"
Lakshman's frame in anguish and the tear stood in his eye,
Fixed in faith and pure in purpose, calm and bold he made reply:
me a Queen and Goddess,-as a mother to a son,
Answer to thy heedless censure patient Lakshman speaketh none,
of Videha's monarch,-pardon if I do thee wrong,
Fickle is the faith of woman, poison-dealing is her tongue!
thy censure, trust me, Lady, scathes me like a burning dart,
Free from guile is Lakshman's purpose, free from sin is Lakshman's
ye my truth of purpose, unseen dwellers of the wood,
Witness, I for Sita's safety by my elder's mandate stood,
to my queen and elder, I have toiled and worked in vain,
Dark suspicion and dishonour cast on me a needless stain!
I obey thy mandate, to my elder now I go,
Guardian Spirits of the forest watch thee from each secret foe,
dark and signs of danger meet my pained and aching sight,
May I see thee by thy Rama, guarded by his conquering might!"
Ravan watched the happy moment burning with a vengeful spite,
Came to sad and sorrowing Sita in the guise of anchorite,
hair and russet garment, sandals on his feet he wore.
And depending from his shoulders on a staff his vessel bore.
he came to lonely Sita, for each warlike chief was gone,
As the darkness comes to evening lightless from the parted Sun,
he cast his eyes on Sita, as a graha casts its shade
On the beauteous star Rohini when the bright Moon's glories fade.
Nature knew the moment; silent stood the forest trees,
Conscious of a deed of darkness fell the fragrant forest breeze,
troubled waters trembled' neath his lurid glance,
And his red eve's fiery lustre sparkled in the wavelets' dance!
and still were forest creatures when in guise of anchorite,
Unto Sita's lonely cottage pressed the Raksha in his might,
and voiceless was the jungle as he cast on her his eye,
As across the star of Chitra, planet Sani walks the sky!
stood in hermit's vestments,--vengeful purpose unrevealed,--
As a deep and darksome cavern is by grass and leaf concealed,
stood sedate and silent, and he gazed on Rama's queen,
Ivory brow and lip of coral, sparkling teeth of pearly sheen!
up the lonely cottage, Sita sat in radiance high,
As the Moon with streaks of silver fills the lonely midnight sky,
up the gloomy woodlands with her eyes serenely fair,
With her bark-clad shape of beauty mantled by her raven hair!
fired by impure passion fixed on her his lustful eye,
And the light that lit his glances gave his holy texts the lie,
in his flattering accents, with a soft and soothing art,
Praised the woman's peerless beauty to subdue the woman's heart:
in thy golden beauty, robed in sylvan russet drew,
Wearing wreath of fragrant lotus like a nymph of wilderness,
thou Sri or radiant Gauri, maid of Fortune or of Fame,
Nymph of Love or sweet Fruition, what may be thy sacred name!
thy lips of ruddy coral teeth of tender jasmine shine,
In thy eyes of limpid lustre dwclls a light of love divine,
and slender, softly rounded, are thy limbs of beauty rare,
Like the swelling fruit of tala leaves thy bosom sweetly fair!
lips that tempt and ravish, lustre that thy dark eyes beam,
Crush my heart, as rolling waters crush the margin of the stream.
thy wealth of waving tresses mantles o'er thy budding charms,
And thy waist of slender beauty courts a lover's circling arms!
or Gandharva maiden wears no brighter form or face,
Woman seen by eyes of mortals owns not such transcendent grace.
then, in lonesome forest, nymph or maiden, make thy stay,
Where the jungle creatures wander and the Rakshas hold their sway?
balls and stately mansions were for thee a meeter home,
And thy steps should grace a palace, not in pathless forest roam,
rich, not thorn of jungle, decorate a lady's bower,
Silken robes, not sylvan garments, heighten Beauty's potent power!
of the sylvan forest! other destiny is thine,
As a bride beloved and courted in thy bridal garments shine,
a loved and lordly suitor who shall wait on thee in pride,
Choose a hero worth thy beauty, be a monarch's queenly bride!
thy lineage, heaven-descended! who may be thy parents high,
Rudras or the radiant Maruts, Vassus leaders of the sky,
unworthy is this forest for a nymph or heavenly maid,
Beast's of prey infest the jungle, Rakshas haunt its gloomy shade,
dwell in lovely caverns, tuskers ford the silent lake,
Monkeys sport on pendant branches, tigers steal beneath the brake,
then this dismal forest doth thy fairy face adorn,
Who art thou and whence descended, nymph or maid or goddess-born?
"Listen, Brahman!" answered Sita,--unsuspecting in her
That she saw a base betrayer in a hermit seeming kind,--
am born of royal Janak, ruler of Videha's land,
Rama prince of proud Kosala by his valour won my hand.
we passed in peaceful pleasure in Ayodhya's happy clime,
Rich in every rare enjoyment gladsome passed our happy time,
the monarch Dasa-ratha,-for his days were almost done,
Wished to crown the royal Rama as his Heir and Regent son.
the scheming Queen Kaikeyi claimed a long-forgotten boon,
That my consort should be exiled and her son should fill the throne,
would take no rest or slumber, nourishment of drink or food,
Till her Bharat ruled the empire, Rama banished to the wood!
and twenty righteous summers graced my good and gracious lord,
True to faith and true to duty, true in purpose, deed, and word,
of all his loyal people, rich in valour and in fame,
For the rite of consecration Rama to his father came.
Kaikeyi to my husband:--'List thy father's promise fair,
Bharat shall be ruling monarch, do thou to the woods repair,'--
gentle, ever duteous, Rama listened to obey,
And through woods and pathless jungles we have held our lonely way.
O pious-hearted hermit, is his story of distress,
And his young and faithful brother follows him in wilderness,
in his warlike valour, hermit in his saintly vow,
Lakshman with his honoured elder wanders through the forest now.
thee here, O holy Brahman, rich in piety and fame,
Till the forest-ranging brothers greet thee with the forest game,
if so it please thee, father, what great rishi claims thy birth,
Wheref ore in this pathless jungle wand'rest friendless on this
nor a righteous rishi," royal Ravan made reply,
"Leader of the wrathful Rakshas, Lanka's lord and king am I,
whose valour quells the wide-world, Gods above and men below,
He whose proud and peerless prowess Rakshas and Asuras know!
thy beauty's golden lustre, Sita, wins my royal heart,
Be a sharer of my empire, of my glory take a part,
queens of queenly beauty on the royal Ravan wait,
Thou shalt be their reigning empress, thou shalt own my regal state!
girt by boundless ocean is of royal towns the best,
Seated in her pride and glory on a mountain's towering crest,
in mountain paths and woodlands thou shalt with thy Ravan stray,
Not in Godavari's gorges through the dark and dreary day,
five thousand gay-dressed damsels shall upon my Sita, wait,
Queen of Ravan's true affection, proud partaker of his state!"
Sita's eyes in anger and a tremor shook her frame,
As in proud and scornful accents answered thus the royal dame:
thou Rama great and godlike, peerless hero in the strife,
Deep, uncompassed, like the ocean?--I am Rama's wedded wife!
thou Rama proud and princely, sinless in his saintly life,
Stately as the tall Nyagrodha?--I am Rama's wedded wife!
mighty-chested, mighty with his bow and sword,
Lion midst the sons of mortals,--Rama is my wedded lord!
as the Moon in glory, stainless in his deed and word,
Rich in valour and in virtue,--Rama is my wedded lord!
thy fitful life is shadowed by a dark and dreadful fate,
Since in frenzy of thy passion courtest thou a warrior's mate,
the tooth of hungry lion while upon the calf he feeds,
Touch the fang of deadly cobra while his dying victim bleeds,
uproot the solid mountain from its base of rocky land,
Ere thou win the wife of Rama stout of heart and strong of hand!
thy eye with point of needle till it racks thy tortured head,
Press thy red tongue cleft and bleeding on the razor's shining blade,
thyself upon the ocean from a towering peak and high,
Snatch the orbs of day and midnight from their spheres in azure
of flaming conflagration in thy flowing dress enfold,
Ere thou take the wife of Rama to thy distant dungeon hold,
thou seek to insult Rama unrelenting in his wrath,
O'er a bed of pikes of iron tread a softer easier path!"
Vain her threat and soft entreaty, Ravan held her in his wrath,
As the planet Budha captures fair Rohini in his path,
his left hand tremor-shaken, Ravan held her streaming hair,
By his right the ruthless Raksha lifted up the fainting fair!
dwellers of the woodlands watched the dismal deed of shame,
Marked the mighty-arméd Raksha lift the poor and helpless
her on his car celestial yoked with asses winged with speed,
Golden in its shape and radiance, fleet as INDRA's heavenly steed!
threat and sweet entreaty Ravan to her ears addressed,
As the struggling fainting woman still he held upon his breast,
his threat and vain entreaty, "Rama! Rama!" still she
To the dark and distant forest where her noble lord had hied.
arose the car celestial o'er the hill and wooded vale,
Like a snake in eagle's talons Sita writhed with piteous wail,
and dizzy, faint and faltering, still she sent her piercing cry,
Echoing through the boundless woodlands, pealing to the upper sky!
me mighty-arméd Lakshman, stainless in thy heart and deed,
Save a faithful wife and woman from a Raksha's lust and greed.
and faithful was thy warning,--false and foul the charge I made,
Pardon, friend, an erring sister, pardon words a woman said:
me, ever righteous Rama, duty bade thee yield thy throne,
Duty bids thee smite the sinful, save the wife who is thy own,
art king and stern chastiser of each deed of sin and shame.
Hurl thy vengeance on the Raksha who insults thy faithful dame!
of sin, unrighteous Ravan, brings in time its dreadful need,
As the young corn grows and ripens from the small and living seed,
this deed of insult, Ravan, in thy heedless folly done,
Death of all thy race and kindred thou shalt reap from Ragu's son!
woods of Panchavati, Janasthana's smiling vale'.
Flowering trees and winding creepers, murmur to my lord this tale,
companions of my exile, friends who cheered my woodland stay,
Speak to Rama, that his Sita ruthless Ravan bears away!
peaks and lofty mountains, wooded hills sublime and high,
Far-extending gloomy ranges heaving to the azure sky,
your voice of pealing thunder to my lord and consort say'
Speak of Rama, that his Sita ruthless Ravan bears away!
dwellers of the woodlands, spirits of the rock and fell,
Sita renders you obeisance as she speaks her sad farewell,
to my righteous Rama when he seeks his homeward way,
Speak to Rama, that his Sita ruthless Ravan bears away!
my Rama, true and tender! thou hast loved me as thy life,
From the foul and impious Raksha thou shalt still redeem thy wife,
my Rama, mighty-arméd! vengeance soon shall speed thy way,
When thou hearest helpless Sita is by Ravan torn away!
thou royal bird, Jatayu, witness Ravan's deed of shame,
Witness how he courts destruction, stealing Rania's faithful dame,
and the gallant Lakshman soon shall find their destined prey,
When they know that trusting Sita is by Ravan torn away!"
wept the anguished Sita; vain Jatayu in his wrath,
Fought with beak and bloody talons to impede the Raksha's path,
and bleeding fell the vulture; Ravan fled with Rama's bride,
Where amidst the boundless ocean Lanka rose in towering pride!