Friday, March 18, 2011

PDE Ramayana: Crossing the River

Reading Guide. Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana leave Ayodhya, cross the Ganges, and begin their fourteen years of exile in the forest. You have already seen that they have put aside their royal clothing, and now Rama and Lakshaman will wear their hair in jata style, the dreadlocks of Hindu ascetics.

Image: The beautiful painting on this page shows the forest exiles in their clothing made of leaves. It is another painting in the Kangra style, named after the city of Kangra in Himachal Pradesh in far northern India. According to legend, it was a hero of the Mahabharata — the mighty warrior Bhima — who founded the city thousands of years ago.

SourceMyths of the Hindus and Buddhists by Sister Nivedita (1914). [400 words]

Exile | 18. Crossing the River | Karma

Driving fast for two days, Rama reached the boundary of Koshala, and, turning back toward Ayodhya, bade farewell to land and people. "O best of cities," said he, "I say it to thee and to the deities that guard and dwell with thee: returning from my forest home, my debt paid off, thee and my father and my mother I will see again."

Then they left Koshala, rich in wealth and kine and brahmins, and passed through other smiling lands until they reached the blessed Ganga, crystal clear, resorted to by every creature, haunted by gods and angels, sinless and sin-destroying. There Guha, king of Nishadha, greeted them and fed their horses and kept guard over them all night, and when the dark cuckoo's note and the peacock's cry were heard at dawn, he sent for a splendid ferry-boat.

Then Rama asked for starch-paste, and he and Lakshmana dressed their hair in matted locks, after the fashion of hermits dwelling in the forest. Rama said farewell to Guha, and Sumantra the charioteer he bade go back to Ayodhya, though he prayed to follow farther.

Then as they crossed, Sita prayed to Ganga for safe return after fourteen years, vowing to worship that River-Queen with many offerings.

That night they dwelt by a great tree on the farther bank and ate boar's flesh slain by Rama and Lakshmana, and those two brothers vowed to protect Sita and each other, whether in solitude or amongst men. Lakshmana should walk in front, then Sita, and Rama last.

They talked also of Ayodhya, and Rama, fearing Kaikeyi's evil heart, would have Lakshmana return to care for Kaushalya, and he railed against Kaikeyi and somewhat blamed his father, swayed by a woman's will.

But Lakshmana comforted his brother so that he wept no more. "Thou shouldst not grieve," he said, "grieving Sita and me, and, O Rama, I can no more live without thee than a fish taken out of water — without thee I do not wish to see my father, nor Shatrughna, nor Sumitra, nor Heaven itself."

Then Rama was comforted, and slept with Sita under the banyan-tree, while Lakshmana watched.

Exile | Crossing the River | Karma

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