Reading Guide. During their stay in the forest, Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana visit the ashrams of many sages. In this episode, you will read about one such visit to the sage Atri and his wife Anasuya. Sita tells Anasuya the story of her life, beginning with the strange story of her own birth when her father, King Janaka, found her lying on the ground while he was ploughing! You can read more about Sita's birth at Wikipedia.
Image: The illustration below is another lovely example of Kangra-style painting, rich with natural detail.
Source. Ramayana, The Epic of Rama, Prince of India, condensed into English verse by Romesh Dutt (1899). [600 words] As always, I recommend reading the verse parts out loud to hear how it sounds to you, or listening to the audio while you read.
With the sandals of his elder Bharat to Ayodhya went.
Rama sought for deeper forests, on his arduous duty bent,
Wandering with his wife and Lakshman, slowly sought the hermitage
Where resided saintly Atri, Vedic bard and ancient sage.
Anasuya, wife of Atri, votaress of gods above,
Welcomed Sita in her cottage, tended her with mother's love,
Gave her robe and holy garland, jewelléd ring and chain of gold,
Heard the tale of love and sadness which the soft-eyed Sita told:
How the monarch of Videha held the plough and tilled the earth,
From the furrow made by ploughshare infant Sita sprang to birth;
How the monarch of Videha welcomed kings of worth and pride,
Rama 'midst the gathered monarchs broke the bow and won the bride;
How by Queen Kaikeyi's mandate Rama lost his father's throne;
Sita followed him in exile in the forest dark and lone!
Softly from the lips of Sita words of joy and sorrow fell,
And the pure-souled pious priestess wept to hear the tender tale,
And she kissed her on the forehead, held her on her ancient breast,
And in mother's tender accents thus her gentle thoughts exprest:
"Sweet the tale you tell me, Sita, of thy wedding and thy love,
Of the true and tender Rama, righteous as the gods above,
"And thy wifely deep devotion fills my heart with purpose high;
Stay with us, my gentle daughter, for the night shades gather nigh.
"Hast'ning from each distant region feathered songsters seek their nest,
Twitter in the leafy thickets ere they seek their nightly rest;
"Hast'ning from their pure ablutions with their pitcher smooth and fair,
In their dripping barks the hermits to their evening rites repair,
"And in sacred agnihotra, holy anchorites engage,
And a wreath of smoke ascending marks the altar of each sage.
"Now a deeper shadow mantles bush and brake and trees around,
And a thick and inky darkness falls upon the distant ground;
"Midnight prowlers of the jungle steal beneath the sable shade,
But the tame deer by the altar seeks his wonted nightly bed.
"Mark how by the stars encircled sails the radiant Lord of Night,
With his train of silver glory streaming o'er the azure height,
"And thy consort waits thee, Sita, but before thou leavest, fair,
Let me deck thy brow and bosom with these jewels rich and rare.
"Old these eyes and grey these tresses, but a thrill of joy is mine,
Thus to see thy youth and beauty in this gorgeous garment shine!"
Pleased at heart the ancient priestess clad her in apparel meet,
And the young wife glad and grateful bowed to Anasuya's feet,
Robed and jewelléd, bright and beauteous, sweet-eyed Sita softly came,
Where with anxious heart awaited Rama, prince of righteous fame.
With a wifely love and longing Sita met her hero bold,
Anasuya's love and kindness in her grateful accents told;
Rama and his brother listened of the grace by Sita gained,
Favours of the ancient priestess, pious blessings she had rained.
In the rishi's peaceful ashram Rama passed the sacred night,
In the hushed and silent forest silvered by the moon's pale light.
Daylight dawned; to deeper forests Rama went, serene and proud,
As the sun in midday splendor sinks within a bank of cloud!
Image source: Atri with Rama and Lakshmana;
Anasuya with Sita.