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The word 'Rape' here is an archaic English usage which means 'ABDUCT, CARRY OFF,' not, as in contemporary use, 'sexually assault.'—JBH


The Rape of Sita

The Maharajah's Doom--Tale of the Hermit's Son--A Curse Fulfilled--Death of Dasaratha--Bharata Refuses the Throne--Visit to Rama in Exile--Loyalty to a Dead Sire--Javala the Sceptic--Bharata Honours Rama's Sandals--Wanderings of the Exiles--A Love-stricken Rakshasa--Jesting ends in Bloodshed--A War of Vengeance--Rama's Great Victory--Ravana's Cunning Plot--The Magic Deer--Rama and Lakshmana Lured from Hermitage--Sita Taken Captive.

Now the Maharajah Dasaratha was doomed to die a sorrowful death. Be it known that in his youth, when he loved to go a-hunting, he heard in the jungle depths one evening a gurgling of water, and thought an elephant or a deer had come to drink from a hidden stream. He drew his bow; he aimed at the sound and discharged an arrow. . . . A human voice uttered a cry of agony. . . . Breaking through the tangled jungle growth, Dasaratha discovered that he had mortally wounded a young hermit who had come to draw water for his aged parents. The poor victim forgave the king and counselled him, saying: "Hasten to my sire and inform him of my fate, lest his curse should consume thee as a fire consumes a withered tree." Then he expired.

Dismayed and sorrowing deeply, Dasaratha went towards the dwelling of the boy's parents, who were blind and old. He heard the father cry: "Ah! why hast thou lingered, my son? I am athirst, and thy mother longs for thee."

In broken accents the king informed the lonesome

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parents of their son's death. The sire lamented aloud, and said: "Oh! lead me to my son. Let me embrace him for the last time."

Dasaratha conducted the weeping parents to the spot where the lad lay lifeless and stained with blood. The sire clasped the body, and cried: "Oh! wilt thou not speak and greet me, my son? Thou liest on the ground; thou dost not answer me when I call. Alas! thou canst not love me any longer. . . . Thy mother is here. Oh! thou who wert dutiful and kind, speak but one tender word to her and to me. . . . Who will now read to us each morning the holy books? Who will now find roots and fruits to feed us? . . . Oh! tarry with us yet a little longer, my son. Wait for us ere thou dost depart to the Kingdom of Death--stay but one day longer, and on the morrow thy father and mother will go with thee on the weary and darksome path of no returning. . . . How can we live now that our child and protector is taken from us?"

So the blind old hermit lamented. Then he spake to the king, and said: "I had but this one child and thou hast made me childless. Now slay me also, because Death is blunted and unable to hurt me any more. . . . A father cannot feel greater agony than when he sorrows for a beloved son. This peculiar sharp sorrow thou wilt yet know, O king. As I weep now, and as I am hastened to death, mourning for my son, so wilt thou suffer in like manner, sorrowing for a dearly-beloved and righteous son. Thy death, O Dasaratha, will cleanse thee of this crime."

Having spoken thus, the hermit built the funeral pyre for the dead boy, and when it was lit he and his wife leapt amidst the flames and entered the Kingdom of Death.

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After Rama had departed from Ayodhya, his mother, Kausalya, reproached Dasaratha, saying: "Thou wouldst not break thy promise to Kaikeyi, but thou didst break thy promise made to thy counsellors that Rama should be thy successor."

The Maharajah was bowed down with grief; and cried: "Oh! forgive me, Kausalya, because my heart is breaking while I mourn for my beloved son. Oh! do not wound me again, I pray thee."

Kausalya wept and said: "Alas! my grief hath made me speak cruelly to thee."

In the middle of the second night after Rama had departed, Dasaratha awoke and cried: "O Kausalya, I am dying with grief. Mine eyes have grown blind with weeping. Take my hand in thine and speak unto me. Oh! bitterly I grieve now that I cannot look upon Rama ere I die. Happy are they whose eyes behold him . . . My heart beats feebly." . . .

When he had spoken thus, Dasaratha fell back and was silent. Kausalya, mother of Rama, and Sumitra, mother of Lakshmana, knelt beside him, and they swooned when his spirit fled.

In the morning messengers were sent speedily to Bharata, who sojourned in the kingdom of the Kaikeyas with his mother's sire, the rajah Aswapati, bidding him to return without delay. Seven nights passed while the prince journeyed towards Ayodhya. He knew not that Dasaratha had died until he reached the palace. Then Kaikeyi, his mother, informed him without tears. Bharata wept, and flung himself down upon the floor and cried aloud.

Kaikeyi said: "Thou shouldst not thus give way to grief; my son."

Said Bharata: "If the Maharajah were alive, he would

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have embraced and kissed me on my return. But where is Rama, who is now as a sire unto me?"

Then Kaikeyi told him all that had taken place, and said: "For thy sake, my son, I have accomplished this. Sorrow not, because thou wilt be installed as ruler here."

Said Bharata: "I have lost my father and my elder brother. Of what good is a kingdom unto me now? O evil-hearted woman, thou hast bereft this house of all joy; thou hast slain my sire and banished Rama. . . . But I will bring my brother back from the jungle; he shall be seated on the throne."

Satrughna sorrowed like Bharata, and when he beheld the wicked hunchback Manthara he threw her down and dragged her across the floor, saying: "This hateful  creature is the cause of our calamities. I will slay her."

Kaikeyi flew away in terror, and Bharata said: "Slay her not, because she is a woman. I would have killed my wicked mother, but, had I done so, Rama would ne’er have forgiven me nor have spoken to me again. Spare this wretch, O Satrughna, lest Rama should be angry with thee."

Kausalya, mother of Rama, then approached Bharata and said: "The raj is now thine, O ambitious one. Thy mother hath secured it for thee."

Bharata fell at her feet and vowed that he would never sit on the throne, but would hasten after Rama to entreat him to return.

Then Kausalya wept and embraced him because that he was loyal to his elder brother.

When Bharata had performed the funeral rites for the Maharajah, he left Ayodhya with a strong army to search for Rama.

The two brothers met in the jungle of Chitra-kuta,

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and they embraced one another and wept for their dead sire.

In the morning Bharata spake to Rama in the presence of the army, saying: "This raj, which was given unto me against my will, I now gift unto thee, mine elder brother. Accept it and remove the stain of my mother's sin."

Said Rama: "O Bharata, my royal sire, fulfilling his vow, banished me to the jungle and appointed thee to the raj. A faithful son cannot recall the mandate of his sire."

Then Java´li, the Brahmanic counsellor of Dasaratha, spake and said: "O Rama, why dim thine understanding with empty maxims? Thou hast already obeyed thy sire. It is foolish to think that thou shouldst continue this allegiance to one who is dead. A man enters the world alone and departs alone; he owns not friendship to kindred. His parents are to him like a wayside inn which he leaves in the morning; his allegiance to them is temporary. He meets them like a traveller who tarries on his journey and then goes on his way as before. In this world we have only one life to live. If thou wilt refuse this raj thou wilt destroy thy one life. I am sorry for those who scorn the blessings of this world so long as they are alive in the hope that they will reach a Paradise which does not exist. When this life is spent we are extinguished for ever. Alas! that men should make to their ancestors useless offerings. Can a dead man eat thereof? These offerings are a waste of food. If the soul endures and passes into a new body how can it benefit from food eaten by another? These practices were invented by cunning priests with selfish motives. . . . There is no Hereafter. Therefore snatch the joys of life while thou canst, O Rama, take the raj which is offered to thee and return to Ayodhya."

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Said Rama, whose heart was filled with anger: "O Javali, thy motive is excellent but thy doctrines are false. A good man is distinguished from an evil man by his deeds. How can I, who have embraced a virtuous life, turn now into the path of evildoing? The gods who read a man's heart would curse me for my sins. Vain are thine idle words; thy reasoning is cunning but false. Truth is our ancient path. Truth endures when all else passes away. The venom of falsehood is more deadly than the venom of a serpent's sting. Thou hast said that there is no Hereafter, and that we should snatch pleasures while life endures. If that is so, why do wise men condemn what is evil if the vicious are simply pursuing the quest of happiness? Why do sages live austere lives, eating fruits and roots, instead of feasting on flesh and drinking wine? There would be no sciences if we believed only those things we behold. Inferential proof must be permitted. Is a woman to consider herself a widow when her husband is out of sight? . . . Know, all of ye, that I will be faithful to the mandate of my sire. I will keep my promise which I cannot recall. Let Bharata reign, for I will dwell in the jungle."

Bharata said: "If my sire's wish must be fulfilled, let me remain in the jungle for fourteen years so that Rama may return to Ayodhya."

Said Rama: "Neither Bharata nor I can recall or change the commands of Dasaratha."

Thereafter Bharata gave to Rama a pair of new sandals decked with gold, saying: "Put these upon thy feet and they shall accomplish the good of all."

Rama put on the sandals and then returned them to his brother, who said: "I will live as a devotee for fourteen years with matted hair and in a robe of bark.

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[paragraph continues] These sandals, O Rama, will be placed upon the throne which I will guard for thee. If thou dost not return when the time of thy penance is ended, I will perish upon the pyre."

The brethren then took leave of one another. Bharata returned to Ayodhya, and to his counsellors spake, saying: "I will dwell outside the city in Nandigrama until Rama returns again."

Then he clad himself in bark and went to the jungle. There he conducted the affairs of government, holding the royal umbrella over Rama's sandals. All presents which were given were first presented to the sandals, because Bharata ruled the kingdom for his elder brother. The sandals of Rama were the symbol of royal authority.

Meanwhile Rama with Sita and Lakshmana went southward towards deeper jungles, visiting various holy sages, and having crossed the Vindhya mountains, they wandered together in the Deccan and Southern India. At Panchavati 1, nigh to the sources of the river Godavari, the royal exiles built a hut with four rooms, and lived peaceful and pious lives. Thirteen years and a half went over their heads.

It came to pass that one day there came to the quiet hermitage a Rakshasa woman, named Surpa-nakha, the sister of Ravana, the demon King of Lanka, Ceylon. She was misshapen and ugly and her voice was harsh and unpleasant. When she beheld Rama, who was comely as a lotus, and of lofty and loyal bearing, her heart was filled with love for him. Made bold with this love, she resolved to assume another form so as to induce him to leave the faithful Sita. . . . In time she stood before the prince in the guise of a young and beautiful woman, and said: "Who art thou who hast


RAMA SPURNS THE DEMON LOVER<br> <i>From the painting by Warwick Goble</i>.
Click to enlarge

From the painting by Warwick Goble.


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come hither with thy bride to dwell in this lone jungle which is haunted by Rakshasas?"

Said Rama: "I am Rama, the elder son of a Maharajah named Dasaratha. I dwell here in exile in fulfilment of my sire's vow, with Sita, my spouse, and Lakshmana, my brother. Why dost thou, O fair one, who art as beautiful as the bride of Vishnu, wander about here all alone?"

Surpa-nakha said: "I am a Rakshasa woman, the sister of Ravana, and have come hither because I love thee. I have chosen thee for my husband, and thou shalt rule over my great empire. Thy Sita is pale and deformed and unworthy of thee, but I am of surpassing beauty and have power to assume any form at will. I must devour Sita and thy brother, so that we may range the jungle together and visit the lofty hills."

Said Rama: "Sita is my beloved bride, nor would I leave her. But Lakshmana hath no consort and is a fit husband for thee."

Surpa-nakha at once departed from Rama, and went and found Lakshmana, who jested with her.

Then the enraged Rakshasa woman sprang towards Sita in jealous anger, but Rama thrust her back. Like to lightning Lakshmana leapt forward with his sword and cut off the ears and nose of the evil-hearted Surpa-nakha, whereat she shrieked and fled away, wailing like to the storm wind. The rocks answered back her awesome cries.

Surpa-nakha hastened to one of her brothers who was named Khara, and when he saw her disfigured and bleeding, he cried: "None but a Celestial could have done this deed. This day will I drink the blood of Indra as a crane drinks milk and water."

Then Surpa-nakha related what had taken place, and

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said: "Rama and Lakshmana attacked me to protect the woman Sita, whose life-blood I desired to drink. I entreat thee to bring her to me now."

Khara called upon fourteen Rakshasas and commanded them to capture the three royal hermits who dwelt in Dandaka jungle. They hastened away and Surpa-nakha went with them, but soon she returned wailing, because Rama had slain the Rakshasas with Celestial arrows.

Khara immediately called upon his brother Dush´ana, saying: "Assemble an army of fourteen thousand Rakshasas, and bring my weapons and my chariot with white horses, for, verily, this day I must kill the hateful Rama."

Evil were the omens as the army marched to battle. Jackals howled and birds screamed at dawn; the sky was blood-red, and Rahu endeavoured to swallow the sun and caused an awesome eclipse; a headless horror appeared in mid air. The arrows of Rama emitted smoke, and he said to Lakshmana: "Hasten with Sita to a secret cave in the mountains and protect her there. I will battle with the demons alone."

Lakshmana did as his brother commanded. Then Rama girt on his glowing armour, and, armed with a Celestial bow and many arrows, he awaited the coming of his enemies. When the Rakshasas appeared they quailed before him, because he appeared like to Yama at a Yuga end, but Khara drove on in his chariot, urging his followers to attack; they followed him roaring like a tempest, and they appeared like to black tremendous clouds rushing towards the rising sun.

Thousands of weapons were showered against Rama, who began to discharge flaming arrows, which swept among the Rakshasas like fire in a sun-dried forest, so that many were mangled and slain. Still Khara and his brother continued to attack; but Rama seized a great Celestial weapon

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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 consumed 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.

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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! O save me, Lakshmana!" Then he died, and Rama perceived that he had slain the Rakshasa Maricha, brother of Ravana.

Sita's heart was filled 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 filled 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."

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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 I 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 Lakshmana 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

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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: a 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 devouring, 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

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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 Lakshmana."

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.


400:1 Nasik. About too miles from Bombay.

405:1 Names of the wives of Vishnu and Shiva.

406:1 Pron. Jata´yus.

Next: Chapter XXVI. Rama's Mission Fulfilled