Friday, November 19, 2010

PDE Ramayana: Ravana and Sita

Reading Guide. Like other rakshasas, Ravana is able to change his shape, so he disguises himself as a sage of the forest in order to get close to Sita after Rama and Lakshmana have left her alone and unguarded.

Image: The illustration below tells the story from left to right: you see Ravana disguised as a brahmin on the left, and then you see him in his true rakshasa form on the right.

Source. The prose portion comes from Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913), and the verse portion comes from Ramayana, The Epic of Rama, Prince of India, condensed into English verse by Romesh Dutt (1899). [800 words]

The Chase | 35. Ravana and Sita | Jatayu

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 Shri, or Gauri, 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 brahmin. 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 brahmin 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 in yellow silk, has taken captive my heart. Be my chief queen, O Sita, and five thousand handmaidens will wait upon thee. Share my empire and my fame.”

Said Sita, whose eyes flashed fiery anger, “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.

~ ~ ~

By his left hand tremor-shaken, Ravan held her streaming hair,
By his right the ruthless raksha lifted up the fainting fair!

Unseen dwellers of the woodlands watched the dismal deed of shame,
Marked the mighty-armed raksha lift the poor and helpless dame,

Seat her on his car celestial yoked with asses winged with speed,
Golden in its shape and radiance, fleet as Indra's heavenly steed!

Angry threat and sweet entreaty Ravan to her ears addressed,
As the struggling fainting woman still he held upon his breast;

Vain his threat and vain entreaty, "Rama! Rama!" still she cried,
To the dark and distant forest where her noble lord had hied.

Then arose the car celestial o'er the hill and wooded vale,
Like a snake in eagle's talons Sita writhed with piteous wail,

Dim and dizzy, faint and faltering, still she sent her piercing cry,
Echoing through the boundless woodlands, pealing to the upper sky!

The Chase | Ravana and Sita | Jatayu

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