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«(retold by C. Rajagopalachari) Contents 1. Story of birth, childhood and marriage of Lord Rama (1. BalKand) 1. The Conception 2. Sage Viswamitra 3. ...»

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(retold by C. Rajagopalachari)

Contents

1. Story of birth, childhood and marriage of Lord Rama (1. BalKand)

1. The Conception

2. Sage Viswamitra

3. Trisanku

4. Rama Leaves Home

5. Rama Slays The Monsters

6. Sita

7. Bhagiratha And The Story Of Ganga

8. Ahalya

9. Rama Wins Sita's Hand

10. Parasurama's Discomfiture

2. Lord Rama returns to Ayodhya, preparation for coronation and Rama leaves for

forest (2. AyodhyaKand)

11. Festive Preparations

12. Manthara's Evil Counsel

13. Kaikeyi Succumbs

14. Wife Or Demon?

15. Behold A Wonder!

16. Storm And Calm

17. Sita's Resolve

18. To The Forest

19. Alone By Themselves

20. Chitrakuta

21. A Mother's Grief

22. Idle Sport And Terrible Result

23. Last Moments

24. Bharata Arrives

25. Intrigue wasted

26. Bharata Suspected

27. The Brothers Meet

28. Bharata Becomes Rama's Deputy

3. Sita is kidnapped by Ravana (3. AranyaKand)

29. Viradha's End

30. Ten Years Pass

31. The Surpanakha Episode

32. Kamban's Surpanakha

33. Khara And His Army Liquidated

34. The Path Of Ruin

35. The Golden Stag

36. The Good Bird Jatayu

37. Closely Guarded

38. Rama Disconsolate

39. A Second Father Dies

40. Left Eyelids Throb

4. Search for Sita begins and Rama meets Hanuman (4. KishkindhaKand)

41. He Sees Her Jewels

42. Sugriva's Doubts Cleared

43. The Slaying Of Vali

44. Tara's Grief

45. Anger And Reconciliation

46. The Search Begins

47. Son Of Vayu

5. Hanuman goes to Lanka in search of Sita (5. SundarKand)

48. The Search In Lanka

49. Sita In The Asoka Park

50. Ravana's Solicitation

51. First Among The Astute

52. Sita Comforted

53. Sita And Hanuman

54. Inviting Battle

55. The Terrible Envoy

56. Hanuman Bound

57. Lanka In Flames

58. A Carnival

59. The Tidings Conveyed

60. The Army Moves Forward

61. Anxiety In Lanka

62. Ravana Calls A Council Again

63. Vibhishana

64. The Vanara's Doubt

65. Doctrine Of Surrender And Grace

6. Lord Rama arrives Lanka and war begins (6. LankaKand)

66. The Great Causeway

67. The Battle Begins

68. Sita's Joy

69. Serpent Darts

70. Ravana's Defeat

71. The Giant Is Roused

72. Is This Narayana Himself?

73. The Death Of Indrajit

74. End Of Ravana

75. The End

76. Epilogue

AUTHOR'S PREFACE

The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan has added to the debt of gratitude owed it by undertaking the publication of the English version of my Tamil Ramayana. They achieved great success in the distribution of my Mahabharata book and I trust this book of the story of Rama and Sita will receive similar welcome.

Once again, I repeat my confession that in the evening of my busy life during a great and eventful period of Indian history, the writing of these two books wherein I have retold the Mahabharata and Ramayana, is, in my opinion, the best service I have rendered to my people.

At any rate, they embody the best joy I have experienced; for in these two books I helped our great sages to speak to our dear men and women again in their own language, elevating their minds through the sorrows borne by Kunti, Kausalya, Draupadi and Sita. The real need of the hour is a recommunion between us and the sages of our land, so that the future may be built on rock and not on sand.

In presenting this English version to a wider circle of readers spread all over the world, I think I am presenting to them the people of Bharat just as they are, with all their virtues and their faults. Our classics really embody our national character in all its aspects and it is well the world sees us as we really are, apart from what we wish to become.

The Ramayana is not history or biography. It is a part of Hindu mythology. One cannot understand Hindu dharma unless one knows Rama and Sita, Bharata, Lakshmana, Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Hanuman. Mythology cannot be dispensed with. Philosophy alone or rituals alone or mythology alone cannot be sufficient. These are the three stands of all ancient religions.

The attitude towards things spiritual which belongs to a particular people cannot be grasped or preserved or conveyed unless we have all these three.

The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan has achieved great work by the very wide distribution organised by it of my Ramayana and Mahabharata books, which seek to bring Valmiki and Vyasa near to those who have no access to the unrivalled original classics. The characters and incidents of these two itihasas have come to be the raw material for the works of numerous poets and saints that came later to write dramas and sing poems and hymns to keep this nation in the straight path.

Oral discourses have further played with them in order to entertain and instruct pious audiences and not a few variations and additions have been made to the original. All the languages of India have the Ramayana and Mahabharata retold by their poets, with additions and variations of their own. They are the records of the mind and spirit of our forefathers who cared for the good, ever so much more than for the pleasant and who saw more of the mystery of life than we can do in our interminable pursuit for petty and illusory achievements ill the material plane.





We should be thankful to those who preserved for us these many centuries-old epics in spite of all the vicissitudes through which our nation passed since Vyasa and Valmiki's time. Even the poets who wrote these epics in the original did not create but built out of the inherited bricks of national memory prior to their own time. Reading the Ramayana and Mahabharata even in the form I have given them, we go back to live with our ancient forbears and listen to their grand voice.

Mythology is an integral part of religion. It is as necessary for religion and national culture as the skin and the skeleton that preserve a fruit with its juice and its taste. Form is no less essential than substance. Mythology and holy figures are necessary for any great culture to rest on its stable spiritual foundation and function as a life-giving inspiration and guide.

–  –  –

To the north of the Ganga was the great kingdom Kosala, made fertile by the river Sarayu. Its capital was Ayodhya, built by Manu, the famous ruler of the Solar dynasty. From Valmiki's description of the capital Kosala, it is clear that ancient Ayodhya was not inferior to our modern cities. Even in ancient India city civilisation had reached a high level.

King Dasaratha ruled the kingdom from the capital city of Ayodhya. He had fought on the side of the Devas, and his fame spread in the three worlds. He was the equal of Indra and Kubera. The people of Kosala were happy, contented and virtuous. The land was protected by a mighty army, and no enemy could come anywhere near It contained forts with moats around them as well as many defensive intallations, and true to its name, Ayodhya defied all enemies. (Ayodhya means that which cannot be subdued by war).

Dasaratha had eight wise ministers, ever ready to advise him and execute his orders. Great sages like Vasishtha and Vamadeva and other Brahmanas taught the dharma and performed rituals and sacrifices.

Taxes were light and punishment of crime was just and inflicted according to the capacity of the wrong-doer. Surrounded by the best counsellors and statesmen, the king's splendor shone as the rising sun. Many years rolled smoothly by. In the midst of all this prosperity Dasaratha had one regret; he had no son.

One day in early summer he thought of performing a horse sacrifice for progeny. He consulted his religious masters and on their advice, got sage Rishyasringa to perform the Yaga.

The Yaga was a grand affair and the invitees included many of the kings of the day. It was no easy thing to perform yagas. The location and erection of the sacrificial platform had to be attended to in detail strictly according to prescribed rules. There were experts whose guidance was sought in arranging things.

It meant the building of a new camp-city, capable of accommodating tens of thousands and providing hospitality and entertainment for the invitees who included the princes and sages of the land. In short, yagas in those days were something like our present-day State-sponsored big scale conferences and exhibitions.

When all arrangements were complete the ceremonies were set in motion strictly as enjoined by the Shastras.

Contemporaneously with the yaga in Ayodhya, there was a conference of the Devas in heaven. The Devas complained to Lord Brahma that Ravana, king of the demons, drunk with the power acquired by the boon granted to him by Brahma, was causing them untold misery and hardship. They represented to Brahma: "It is beyond our capacity to subdue, conquer or kill Ravana. In the security of your boon, he has grown wicked and insolent and ill-treats all, even women. His desire is to dethrone Indra. You are our only refuge and it is for you to devise a method by which Ravana can be slain and his despotism ended."

Brahma knew that he had granted to Ravana the boon prayed for by him that he should be invulnerable and invincible against Devas, Asuras, Gandharvas and other such beings. In his arrogance, Ravana did not care to ask for security against mankind. As Brahma revealed this fateful omission all the Gods rejoiced and turned to Vishnu.

Absolutely surrendering themselves to Hari, the Devas begged him to be born as a man and put an end to Ravana and his atrocities. Hari agreed and assured the Devas that he would be born as four sons of King Dasaratha who was then performing a sacrifice for progeny. As the ghee was poured into the fire and the flames shot up to meet it, from out of the flames came a majestic figure, resplendent like the noonday sun, holding a bowl of gold.

Calling King Dasaratha by his name, the figure said: "The Devas are pleased with you and are answering your prayer. Here is payasam sent by the gods for your wives. You will be blessed with sons if they drink this divine beverage." With joy unbounded, Dasaratha received the bowl as he would receive a child and distributed the payasam to his three wives, Kausalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi.

He asked Kausalya to drink a half of the payasam and he gave a half of what remained to Sumitra. Half of what was then lift was drunk by Kaikeyi, and what remained was given to Sumitra again. Dasaratha's wives were happy, even as a beggar suddenly coming upon buried treasure. And in due course all of them were expectant mothers.

–  –  –

In course of time, Dasaratha's sons were born Rama of Kausalya and Bharata of Kaikeyi.

Sumitra gave birth to twins, Lakshmana and Satrughna. She had drunk the divine payasam twice.

In proportion to the quantity of payasam drunk by the respective mothers, the sons are traditionally considered to be parts of Vishnu. Rama was thus half-Vishnu.

But such calculations have no meaning, as it is impossible to measure the Infinite arithmetically. Sruit tells us that even a fraction of the Supreme Being is whole and complete by itself.

"Om Poornamadah Poornamidam Poornat Poornamudachyate Poornasya Poornamadaya Poornamevavasishyate."

"What is whole, this is whole; what has come out of the whole is also whole. When the whole is taken out of the whole, the whole still remains whole."

Dasaratha's four sons were given all the training prescribed for princes. Rama and Lakshmana were specially devoted to each other and so were Bharata and Satrughna. We can imagine that this special attachment arose out of the way the divine payasam was divided among the King's wives. Dasaratha was happy to see his four sons grow up strong, virtuous, brave and lovable and with all other princely qualities.

One day as the King was contemplating his sons' matrimony, ushers rushed in to announce that the great Sage Viswamitra had arrived to see him. Viswamitra was held in awe by all as the most powerful among rishis.

Viswamitra's arrival at Ayodhya was unexpected; and King Dasaratha stepped down from his throne and advanced a few paces respectfully to receive the sage.

Viswamitra was a king who attained sainthood through terrible austerities. He had long ago exhibited his spiritual powers by starting to create another Brahma and a rival universe. He had gone as far as the creation of new constellations, but was prevailed upon to stop by the entreaties of the alarmed gods.

Viswamitra, while he was king once went out with his army and chanced to visit Vasishtha's ashrama. The rishi cordially welcomed his royal guest and his huge entourage and extended to them all hospitality so sumptuous that the King wondered where all the rich abundance came from in a forest hermitage.

Questioned by him, Vasishtha called his cow Sabala and explained that she was the fountain of unfailing plenty.

Expressing gratitude to the sage, King Viswamitra said: "You must give me this cow as she would be more useful with me than with you. Such things of power and wealth by right belong to the King."

Now Vasishtha could not part with the divine cow. He gave many reasons and asked the King not to press his request. But the more unwilling Vasishtha was to give the cow, the more eager the King became to possess her.

Failing in his efforts to tempt or persuade the sage to part with the cow, Viswamitra became angry and ordered his men to seize the cow by force.

Sabala could not understand why she was being roughly handled and she was unwilling to go away from the sage and his ashrama. Shedding tears, she wondered how she had offended Vasishtha that he should stand by and look on while she was being dragged away. The cow easily put to flight the soldiers and sought refuge at the feet of the sage.

Moved by the piteous appeal of his beloved cow, who was like a younger sister to him, the sage said: "Bring forth soldiers to resist Viswamitra's men."

Sabala instantaneously did so, and the aggressors were soon worsted. Wild with rage, Viswamitra got into his chariot and, taking up his bow, rained arrows on the soldiers brought forth by the cow, but their strength was inexhaustible, and the royal forces suffered utter defeat.



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