Reading Guide. Ravana's plan works: Sita is enchanted by the golden deer and, despite Lakshmana's misgivings, she urges Rama to go get the deer for her.
Image: The illustration below is a still from Nina Paley's contemporary animated film, Sita Sings the Blues. This is a free film which you can watch online; perhaps you will choose it as an option one week!
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). [700 words]
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.
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.”
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Golden tints upon his haunches, sapphire on his antlers bore,
Till the woodland-wand'ring Sita marked the creature in his pride:
Golden was his neck of beauty, silver-white his flank and side!
"Come, my lord and gallant Lakshman," thus the raptur'd Sita spake,
"Mark the deer of wondrous radiance browsing by the forest brake!"
"Much my heart misgives me, sister," Lakshman hesitated still;
"Tis some deep deceitful raksha wearing every shape at will.
"Monarchs wand'ring in this forest, hunting in this lonely glen,
Oft waylaid by artful rakshas are by deep devices slain.
"Bright as day-god or gandharva, woodland scenes they love to stray,
Till they fall upon the heedless, quick to slaughter and to slay.
"Trust me, not in jewelled lustre forest creatures haunt the green.
'Tis some maya and illusion; trust not what thy eyes have seen!"
Vainly spake the watchful Lakshman in the arts of rakshas skilled,
For with forceful fascination Sita's inmost heart was thrilled.
"Husband, good and ever gracious," sweetly thus implored the wife,
"I would tend this thing of beauty — sharer of my forest life!
"I have witnessed in this jungle graceful creatures passing fair,
Chowri and the gentle roebuck, antelope of beauty rare;
"I have seen the lithesome monkey sporting in the branches' shade,
Grizzly bear that feeds on mahua, and the deer that crops the blade.
"I have marked the stately wild bull dash into the deepest wood,
And the kinnar strange and wondrous as in sylvan wilds he stood,
"But 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!
"Bright his bosom gem-bespangled, soft the lustre of his eye,
Lighting up the gloomy jungle as the moon lights up the sky,
"And his gentle voice and glances and his graceful steps and light,
Fill my heart with eager longing and my soul with soft delight!
"If alive that beauteous object thou canst capture in thy way,
As thy Sita's sweet companion in these woodlands he will stay,
"And when done our days of exile, to Ayodhya will repair,
Dwell in Sita's palace chamber, nursed by Sita's tender care,
"And our royal brother Bharat oft will praise his strength and speed,
And the queens and royal mothers pause the gentle thing to feed!
"If alive this wary creature be it, husband, hard to take,
Slay him and his skin of lustre cherish for thy Sita's sake,
"I will as a golden carpet spread the skin upon the grass,
Sweet memento of this forest when our forest days will pass!
"Pardon if an eager longing which befits a woman ill,
And an unknown fascination doth my inmost bosom fill,
"As I mark his skin bespangled and his antlers' sapphire ray,
And his coat of starry radiance glowing in the light of day!"