Friday, January 21, 2011

PDE Ramayana: Viradha

Reading Guide. In this episode, Rama and Lakshmana do battle with a demon in the forest who has abducted Sita. The demon, Viradha, has a special protection: he cannot be wounded by any sharp weapon. As it turns out, though, this demon is not what he seems; his real name is Tumburu, and an ancient curse connects him to Rama (compare the story of Ahalya earlier).

Image: The dramatic illustration below shows Viradha fleeing with Sita in his arms. This is a detail from a larger painting; to see Rama and Lakshmana shooting the arrows, see the full-size view.

SourceThe Ramayana, translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1891 and following). [800 words] This is another excerpt taken directly from an English prose translation of Valmiki's Ramayana, but I have abbreviated this section; the original version is much longer. You can read the original version, unabridged, if you are curious about all the details that I have had to leave out.

Anasuya | 26. Viradha | Agastya

Having in company with Sita arrived at that forest abounding in terrible beasts, Rama saw a man-eating rakshasa emitting tremendous roars with hollow eyes, a huge face, frightful, having a deformed belly, disgusting, dreadful, misshapen, a horrible sight, clad in a tiger-skin, besmeared with fat, covered with blood, who stood piercing with his iron spear three lions, four tigers, two leopards, four gazelles, and the huge tusked head of an elephant.

Having seen Rama and Lakshmana as well as Sita, he, growing angry, rushed against them. He took Sita, and, going a little distance, said, "I am a rakshasa, Viradha by name. This forest is my fastness. Accoutred in arms, I range here, feeding on the flesh of ascetics. This transcendentally beauteous one shall be my wife. And in battle I shall drink your blood, wretches that you are. Having gratified Brahma by my asceticism, I received this boon that none in the world would be able to slay me by mangling my body with weapons."

Hearing the wicked and vaunting speech of the impious Viradha, Sita began to tremble from fear like a plantain tree shaken by the wind.

Rama, with his eyes reddened through wrath, replied, "You surely seek your own death, and death you shall get in battle!"

Then, stringing his bow, Rama, speedily aiming at the rakshasa, from his bow string let go seven sharpened shafts. Those arrows pierced Viradha's body and fell to the earth covered with blood. On being thus pierced, the rakshasa set Sita down and rushed in wrath towards Rama and Lakshmana.

Then the brothers showered a blazing volley of arrows on the rakshasa. The rakshasa, laughing terribly, yawned, and as he yawned the arrows fell off him.

Then, swiftly raising up swords, Rama and Lakshmana approached their antagonist and began to assail him. Seizing them both with his arms, the terrible rakshasa attempted to make away with those foremost of men who, however, retained their calmness. Reading the rakshasa's purpose Rama said to Lakshmana, "Let the rakshasa bear us by this way wherever he likes."

Lifting up Rama and Lakshmana by his might and prowess as if they were striplings, the haughty ranger of the night laid them on his shoulders.  Then, sending up dreadful shouts, he directed his course toward the forest. Seeing them carried away, Sita cried in a loud voice.

Rama and Lakshmana bestirred themselves, and Sumitra's son broke the rakshasa's left arm while Rama at once broke the rakshasa's right arm. On his arms being broken, the rakshasa, growing weak, sank down on the ground in a swoon like a hill riven by the thunderbolt.

Thereupon they assailed the rakshasa with their fists, arms, and feet, and lifting him up once and again and pressing him, they trod on him. Although he was sore pierced by full many an arrow and cut sorrily by swords, yet the rakshasa did not die.

Seeing him utterly incapable of being killed, Rama said, "O Lakshmana, foremost of men, in consequence of his austerities, that rakshasa cannot be vanquished with weapons in conflict. Therefore, let us cast him into a pit."

"You dig the pit," said the powerful Rama, while he remained, planting his foot on Viradha's throat.

Then, taking a hoe, Lakshmana dug a spacious pit and cast Viradha howling into the pit, and the forest resounded with his cries. Having thrown him into the hole, Rama and Lakshmana, their fears removed, appeared with joyful looks, and rejoiced in that forest like the sun and the moon seated in the heavens.

The rakshasa then spoke gently, "Slain am I, O chief of men, by you possessed of strength equal to that of Indra. Through ignorance, O foremost of men, I could not before know you. Now I know you you are that Rama, the worthy son of Kaushalya. By virtue of a curse, I entered this dreadful rakshasa form, I, Tumburu, a gandharva, having been cursed by Kubera. Being propitiated by me, Kubera said, 'When Rama, the son of Dasharatha, shall slay you in an encounter, you, attaining thy natural condition, shall repair to the celestial regions.' Through your grace have I been freed from this fearful curse; I shall now repair to heaven. Casting me into this pit in the wood, do you, O Rama, peacefully go thy way."

Having said this unto Rama, the mighty Viradha, afflicted with arrows, and after his body had been deposited in the pit, attained heaven.

Anasuya | Viradha | Agastya

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