Reading Guide. Meanwhile, back in the forest, Lakshmana finds Rama and they then rush back to their hut... but Sita is already gone, and they learn from Jatayu what happened.
Image: The illustration below is a photograph of an animatronic exhibition of scenes from the Ramayana; you can see a video at YouTube: Manas Darshan Exhibition.
Source. Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913). [500 words]
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.
Rama wept for Sita. He searched hither and thither through the forest and called on every mountain and tree and on every bird and every beast, asking whither she had gone. When he found a tattered garland which his loved one had worn, he swooned with overpowering grief.
Then Lakshmana sprinkled water drops on his face until he revived. “Alas, my brother!” he cried. “Do not sorrow thus lest death should snatch thee away.”
Said Rama, “Sita is my heart's love. I cannot live without her. For my sake she deserted the royal palace to wander in this fearsome jungle. Now that she is gone, the moments seem longer than years. How can I live on when she is lost to me?”
Lakshmana comforted his brother; then they arose together and continued their vain search. Rama beheld a beauteous lotus in a clear stream and, blinded with tears, he deemed it was the face of Sita. “O hard-hearted one,” he exclaimed, “art thou hiding there among the water blooms? Seekest thou to test my love in this manner? Arise and come to me, my sweet love, nor doubt me any longer.”
But the bloom moved not, and Lakshmana led away his grief-distracted brother.
“Mayhap she hath returned to the hut now,” Rama cried. Then the brethren hastened to the hermitage, but found it empty as before. Rama wailed in the moonlight and cried to the orb of night, “O moon! Mankind welcomes thy coolness, but thou dost bring to me naught but sorrow and tears. Thou lookest over the whole world, beholding all living beings. Where, O tell me, where is my beloved one, my lost Sita?”
Rama wandered fitfully through the jungle: the moonbeams and the shadows fluttered around, and it seemed as if the face of Sita were peering from everywhere. So passed a sleepless night, full of mourning and illusions.
On the morrow the brethren went forth again in quest of the lost one. They came to the place where Jatayu lay dying, and that lordly bird spake to Rama and related all that had befallen Sita and himself.
Rama sat on the ground; he embraced the dying Vulture King and said unto Lakshmana, “Alas, my brother, the noble Jatayu hath given up his life to serve me! I have lost my kingdom and my sire; I have lost Sita, and now our ally, the Rajah of Vultures, is dying. All my friends are passing away. If I were to sit in the shade of a tree, the tree would fall; if I stooped to drink water from a river, verily the river would dry up.”
Then he spake to Jatayu, saying, “Whither hath Ravana gone with my well-beloved?”
Said the Vulture, “He went southward towards an unknown forest fastness. Alas! My strength fails, mine eyes grow blind, my life is ebbing from my body.”
When he had spoken thus, Jatayu died in Rama's arms, and his soul ascended to the heaven of Vishnu in a chariot of fire.
Image source: Rama, Lakshmana, and Jatayu