Friday, January 14, 2011

PDE Ramayana: Agastya

Reading Guide. In this episode, Rama meets with another sage in the forest: Agastya. He receives weapons from Agastya but refuses to stay with Agastya in his hermitage, determined to go deeper into the forest. Agastya is one of the most famous of the Indian rishis; you can read more about him at Wikipedia.

Image: The illustration shows Agastya offering Rama the sword and other weapons he will need in the battles ahead.

SourceRamayana, The Epic of Rama, Prince of India, condensed into English verse by Romesh Dutt (1899). [700 words] Try reading it out loud and/or listening to the audio: the power of poetry really comes through only when read aloud.

Viradha | 27. Agastya | Shurpanakha

Saint Agastya raised the princes, greeted them in accents sweet,
Gave them fruit and herb and water, offered them the honored seat,

With libations unto Agni offered welcome to each guest,
Food and drink beseeming hermits on the wearied princes pressed.

"False the hermits," spake Agastya, "who to guests their dues deny;
Hunger they in life hereafter like the speaker of a lie.

"And a royal guest and wanderer doth our foremost honor claim:
Car-borne kings protect the wide earth by their prowess and their fame.

"By these fruits and forest blossoms be our humble homage shown,
By some gift, of Rama worthy, be Agastya's blessings known!

"Take this bow, heroic Rama — need for warlike arms is thine —
Gems of more than earthly radiance on the goodly weapon shine,

"Worshipper of righteous Vishnu! Vishnu's wondrous weapon take,
Heavenly artist shaped this bow of heavenly make!

"Take this shining dart of Brahma, radiant like a tongue of flame,
Sped by good and worthy archer never shall it miss its aim,

"And this, Indra's ample quiver, filled with arrows true and keen,
Filled with arrows still unfailing in the battle's dreadful scene!

"Take this saber golden-hilted in its case of burnished gold,
Not unworthy of a monarch and a warrior true and bold.

"Impious foes of bright Immortals know these weapons dread and dire,
Mowing down the ranks of foemen, scathing like the forest fire!

"Be these weapons thy companions, Rama, thou shalt need them oft,
Meet and conquers till thy foemen like the Thunder-God aloft!"

~ ~ ~

"Pleased am I," so spake Agastya, "in these forests dark and wild,
Thou hast come to seek me, Rama, with the saintly Janak's child,

"But like pale and drooping blossom severed from the parent tree,
Far from home in toil and trouble, faithful Sita follows thee,

"True to wedded lord and husband she hath followed Raghu's son,
With a woman's deep devotion woman's duty she hath done!

"How unlike the fickle woman, true while Fame and Fortune smile,
Faithless when misfortunes gather, loveless in her wicked wile;

"How unlike the changeful woman, false as light the lightnings fling,
Keen as sabre, quick as tempest, swift as bird upon its wing!

"Dead to Fortune's frown or favour, Sita still in truth abides,
As the star of Arundhati in her mansion still resides.

"Rest thee with thy gentle consort, farther still she may not roam,
Holier were this hermit's forest as the saintly Sita's home!"

"Great Agastya," answered Rama, "blessed is my banished life,
For thy kindness to an exile and his friendless homeless wife,

"But in wilder, gloomier forests lonesome we must wander still,
Where a deeper, darker shadow settles on the rock and rill."

"Be it so," Agastya answered, "two short yojans from this place,
Wild is Panchavati's forest where unseen the wild deer race.

"Godavari's limpid waters through its gloomy gorges flow;
Fruit and root and luscious berries on its silent margin grow.

"Seek that spot and with thy brother build a lonesome leafy home;
Tend thy true and toil-worn Sita, farther still she may not roam!

"Not unknown to me the mandate by thy royal father given,
Not unseen thy endless wanderings destined by the will of Heaven.

"Therefore Panchavati's forest marked I for thy woodland stay,
Where the ripening wild fruit clusters and the wild bird trills his lay.

"Tend thy dear devoted Sita and protect each pious rite,
Matchless in thy warlike weapons, peerless in thy princely might!

"Mark yon gloomy mahua forest stretching o'er the boundless lea,
Pass that wood and turning northward seek an old nyagrodha tree,

"Then ascend a sloping upland by a steep and lofty hill,
Thou shalt enter Panchavati, blossom-covered, calm and still!"

Viradha | Agastya | Shurpanakha

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