Reading Guide. You won't be surprised to see the Rama is able to win the challenge, and thus to win Sita as his bride.
Image: The illustration this time is from a western source: it is by Evelyn Paul, and you can read more about her career as an artist at Wikipedia: Evelyn Paul.
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). [800 words] As you can see, Dutt's poetic style is very different from the one used by Griffith in the story of Ahalya that you read earlier. As always, I recommend you read the poetry out loud or listen to the audio.
Rama gazed with wonder and then said, “Permit me to lift and bend thy bow.”
Wondering greatly at these words, the monarch and many high nobles and strong warriors gathered round about. With smiling face, Rama lifted the bow; then proudly he strung it, whereat those who looked on were all amazed. The prince put forth his strength and bent the bow with resistless force until it snapped in the middle with a terrible noise like to thunder; the earth shook and the mountains echoed aloud.
At the loud crash, which resembled the roar of Indra's thunderbolt, all who were present fell down stunned and terrified save Janaka and Vishwamitra and the two sons of Dasharatha.
Said the monarch, “Now have mine eyes beheld a great wonder. Peerless is Rama, the noble one, and he shall be given for wife my daughter Sita, who is dearer to me than life. Let speedy messengers hasten unto Dasharatha and bid him to come hither.”
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"He shall win my peerless Sita who shall bend my bow of war."
Suitors came from farthest regions, warlike princes known to fame,
Vainly strove to wield the weapon, left Videha in their shame.
Vishvamitra royal rishi, Rama true, and Lakshman bold,
Came to fair Mithila's city from Ayodhya famed of old.
Spake in pride the royal rishi, "Monarch of Videha's throne,
Grant the wondrous bow of Rudra be to princely Rama shown."
Janak spake his royal mandate to his lords and warriors bold.
"Bring ye forth the bow of Rudra decked in garlands and in gold,"
And his peers and proud retainers waiting on the monarch's call
Brought the great and goodly weapon from the city's inner hall.
Stalwart men of ample stature pulled the mighty iron car
In which rested all-inviolate Janak's dreaded bow of war,
And where midst assembled monarchs sat Videha's godlike king,
With a mighty toil and effort did the eight-wheeled chariot bring.
"This the weapon of Videha," proudly thus the peers begun;
"Be it shown to royal Rama, Dasharatha's righteous son."
"This the bow," then spake the monarch to the rishi famed of old,
To the true and righteous Rama, and to Lakshman young and bold,
"This the weapon of my fathers, prized by kings from age to age;
Mighty chiefs and sturdy warriors could not bend it, noble sage.
"Gods before the bow of Rudra have in righteous terror quailed;
Rakshas fierce and stout asuras have in futile effort failed;
"Mortal man will struggle vainly Rudra's wondrous bow to bend,
Vainly strive to string the weapon and the shining dart to send.
"Holy saint and royal rishi, here is Janak's ancient bow;
Show it to Ayodhya's princes, speak to them my kingly vow!"
Vishvamitra humbly listened to the words the monarch said,
To the brave and righteous Rama, Janak's mighty bow displayed.
Rama lifted high the cover of the pond'rous iron car,
Gazed with conscious pride and prowess on the mighty bow of war.
"Let me," humbly spake the hero, "on this bow my fingers place;
Let me lift and bend the weapon; help me with your loving grace."
"Be it so," the rishi answered. "Be it so," the monarch said;
Rama lifted high the weapon on his stalwart arms displayed.
Wond'ring gazed the kings assembled as the son of Raghu's race
Proudly raised the bow of Rudra with a warrior's stately grace,
Proudly strung the bow of Rudra which the kings had tried in vain,
Drew the cord with force resistless till the weapon snapped in twain!
Like the thunder's pealing accent rose the loud terrific clang,
And the firm earth shook and trembled, and the hills in echoes rang,
And the chiefs and gathered monarchs fell and fainted in their fear,
And the men of many nations shook the dreadful sound to hear!
Pale and white the startled monarchs slowly from their terror woke,
And with royal grace and greetings Janak to the rishi spoke,
"Now my ancient eyes have witnessed wond'rous deed by Rama done,
Deed surpassing thought or fancy, wrought by Dasharatha's son,
"And the proud and peerless princess, Sita, glory of my house,
Sheds on me an added lustre as she weds a godlike spouse.
"True shall be my plighted promise, Sita, dearer than my life,
Won by worth and wond'rous valour, shall be Rama's faithful wife."
(illustration by Evelyn Paul)