Read an Excerpt
The Ramayana and Mahabharata
Condesnsed into English Verse
By Romesh C. Dutt
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2002 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
(The Bridal of Sita)
THE Epic relates to the ancient traditions of two powerful races, the Kosalas and the Videhas, who lived in Northern India between the twelfth and tenth centuries before Christ. The names Kosala and Videha in the singular number indicate the kingdoms, —Oudh and North Behar,—and in the plural number they mean the ancient races which inhabited those two countries.
According to the Epic, Dasa-ratha king of the Kosalas had four sons, the eldest of whom was Rama the hero of the poem. And Janak king of the Videhas had a daughter named Sita, who was miraculously born of a field furrow, and who is the heroine of the Epic.
Janak ordained a severe test for the hand of his daughter, and many a prince and warrior came and went away disappointed. Rama succeeded, and won Sita. The story of Rama's winning his bride, and of the marriage of his three brothers with the sister and cousins of Sita, forms the subject of this Book. The portions translated in this Book form Section vi., Sections lxvii. to lxix., Section lxxiii., and Section lxxvii. of Book i. of the original text.
I AYODHYA, THE RIGHTEOUS CITY
Rich in royal worth and valour, rich in holy Vedic lore, Dasa-ratha ruled his empire in the happy days of yore,
Loved of men in fair Ayodhya, sprung of ancient Solar Race, Royal rishi in his duty, saintly rishi in his grace,
Great as INDRA in his prowess, bounteous as KUVERA kind, Dauntless deeds subdued his foemen, lofty faith subdued his mind!
Like the ancient monarch Manu, father of the human race, Dasa-ratha ruled his people with a father's loving grace,
Truth and Justice swayed each action and each baser motive quelled People's Love and Monarch's Duty every thought and deed impelled,
And his town like INDRA'S city,—tower and dome and turret brave—Rose in proud and peerless beauty on Sarayu's limpid wave!
Peaceful lived the righteous people, rich in wealth in merit high, Envy dwelt not in their bosoms and their accents shaped no lie,
Fathers with their happy households owned their cattle, corn, and gold, Galling penury and famine in Ayodhya had no hold,
Neighbours lived in mutual kindness helpful with their ample wealth, None who begged the wasted refuse, none who lived by fraud and stealth!
And they wore the gem and earring, wreath and fragrant sandal paste, And their arms were decked with bracelets, and their necks with nishkas graced,
Cheat and braggart and deceiver lived not in the ancient town, Proud despiser of the lowly wore not insults in their frown,
Poorer fed not on the richer, hireling friend upon the great, None with low and lying accents did upon the proud man wait!
Men to plighted vows were faithful, faithful was each loving wife, Impure thought and wandering fancy stained not holy wedded life,
Robed in gold and graceful garments, fair in form and fair in face, Winsome were Ayodhya's daughters, rich in wit and woman's grace!
Twice-born men were free from passion, lust of gold and impure greed, Faithful to their Rites and Scriptures, truthful in their word and deed,
Altar blazed in every mansion, from each home was bounty given, Stooped no man to fulsome falsehood, questioned none the will of Heaven.
Kshatras bowed to holy Brahmans, Vaisyas to the Kshatras bowed Toiling Sudras lived by labour, of their honest duty proud,
To the Gods and to the Fathers, to each guest in virtue trained, Rites were done with true devotion as by holy writ ordained.
Pure each caste in due observance, stainless was each ancient rite, And the nation thrived and prospered by its old and matchless might,
And each man in truth abiding lived a long and peaceful life, With his sons and with his grandsons, with his loved and honoured wife.
Thus was ruled the ancient city by her monarch true and bold, As the earth was ruled by Manu in the misty days of old,
Troops who never turned in battle, fierce as fire and strong and brave, Guarded well her lofty ramparts as the lions guard the crave.
Steeds like INDRA'S in their swiftness came from far Kamboja's land, From Vanaya and Vahlika and from Sindhu's rock-bound strand,
Elephants of mighty stature from the Vindhya mountains came, Or from deep and darksome forests round Himalay's peaks of fame,
Matchless in their mighty prowess, peerless in their wondrous speed, Nobler than the noble tuskers sprung from high celestial breed.
Thus Ayodhya, "virgin city,"—faithful to her haughty name,— Ruled by righteous Dasa-ratha won a world-embracing fame,
Strong-barred gates and lofty arches, tower and dome and turret high Decked the vast and peopled city fair as mansions of the sky.
Queens of proud and peerless beauty born of houses rich in fame, Loved of royal Dasa-ratha to his happy mansion came,
Queen Kausalya blessed with virtue true and righteous Rama bore Queen Kaikeyi young and beauteous bore him Bharat rich in lore,
Queen Simitra bore the bright twins, Lakshman and Satrughna bold, Four brave princes served their father in the happy days of old!
II MITHILA, AND THE BREAKING OF THE BOW
Janak monarch of Videha spake his message near and far,— 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.
Viswa-mitra 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 shewn to royal Rama, Dasa-ratha's righteous son,"
"This the bow," then spake the monarch to the risha 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, Shew it to Ayodhya's princes, speak to them my kingly vow!"
Viswa-mitra 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 Dasa-ratha'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!
Grant us leave, O royal rishi, grant us blessings kind and fair, Envoys mounted on my chariot to Ayodhya shall repair,
They shall speak to Rama's father glorious feat by Rama done, They shall speak to Dasa-ratha, Sita is by valour won,
They shall say the noble princes safely live within our walls, They shall ask him by his presence to adorn our palace halls! "
Pleased at heart the sage assented, envoys by the monarch sent, To Ayodhya's distant city with the royal message went.
III THE EMBASSY TO AYODHYA
Three nights halting in their journey with their steeds fatigued and spent, Envoys from Mithila's monarch to Ayodhya's city went,
And by royal mandate bidden stepped within the palace hall, Where the ancient Dasa-ratha sat with peers and courtiers all,
And with greetings and obeisance spake their message calm and bold, Softly fell their gentle accents as their happy tale they told.
"Greetings to thee, mighty monarch, greetings to each priest and peer, Wishes for thy health and safety from Videha's king we bear,
Janak monarch of Videha for thy happy life hath prayed, And by Viswa-mitra's bidding words of gladsome message said:
'Known on earth my plighted promise, spoke by heralds near and far,— He shall win my peerless Sita who shall bend my bow of war,—
Monarchs came and princely suitors, chiefs and warriors known to fame, Baffled in their fruitless effort left Mithila in their shame,
Rama came with gallant Lakshman by their proud preceptor led, Bent and broke the mighty weapon, he the beauteous bride shall wed!
Rama strained the weapon stoutly till it snapped and broke in twain, In the concourse of the monarchs, in the throng of armed men,
Rama wins the peerless princess by the righteous will of Heaven, I redeem my plighted promise—be thy kind permission given!
Monarch of Kosala's country! with each lord and peer and priest, Welcome to Mithila's city, welcome to Videha's feast,
Joy thee in thy Rama's triumph, joy thee with a father's pride, Let each prince of proud Kosala win a fair Videha-bride !'
These by Viswa-mitra's bidding are the words our monarch said, This by Sata-nanda's counsel is the quest that he hath made."
Joyful was Kosala's monarch, spake to chieftains in the hall, Vama-deva and Vasishtha and to priests and Brahmans all:
"Priests and peers! in far Mithila, so these friendly envoys tell, Righteous Rama, gallant Lakshman, in the royal palace dwell,
And our brother of Videha prizes Rama's warlike pride, To each prince of proud Kosala yields a fair Videha-bride,
If it please ye, priests and chieftains, speed we to Mithila fair, World-renowned is Janak's virtue, Heaven-inspired his learning rare! "
Spake each peer and holy Brahman: "Dasa-ratha's will be done! " Spake the king unto the envoys: "Part we with the rising sun! "
Honoured with a regal honour, welcomed to a rich repast, Gifted envoys from Mithila day and night in gladness passed!
IV MEETING OF JANAK AND DASA-RATHA
On Ayodhya's tower and turret now the golden morning woke, Dasa-ratha girt by courtiers thus to wise Sumantra spoke:
"Bid the keepers of my treasure with their waggons lead the way, Ride in front with royal riches, gold and gems in bright array,
Bid my warriors skilled in duty lead the four-fold ranks of war, Elephants and noble chargers, serried foot and battle-car,
Bid my faithful chariot-driver harness quick each car of state, With the fleetest of my coursers, and upon my orders wait.
Vama-deva and Vasishtha versed in Veda's ancient lore, Kasyapa and good Jabali sprung from holy saints of yore,
Markandeya in his glory, Katyayana in his pride, Let each priest and proud preceptor with Kosala's monarch ride,
Harness to my royal chariot strong and stately steeds of war, For the envoys speed my journey and the way is long and far."
With each priest and proud retainer Dasa-ratha led the way, Glittering ranks of forces followed in their four-fold dread array,
Four days on the way they journeyed till they reached Vide ha's land, Janak with a courteous welcome came to greet the royal band.
Joyously Videha's monarch greeted every priest and peer, Greeted ancient Dasa-ratha in his accents soft and clear:
"Hast thou come, my royal brother, on my house to yield thy grace, Hast thou made a peaceful journey, pride of Raghu's royal race?
Welcome! for Mithila's people seek my royal guest to greet, Welcome! for thy sons of valour long their loving sire to meet,
Welcome to the priest Vasishtha versed in Veda's ancient lore, Welcome every righteous rishi sprung from holy saints of yore!
And my evil fates are vanquished and my race is sanctified, With the warlike race of Raghu thus in loving bonds allied,
Sacrifice and rites auspicious we ordain with rising sun, Ere the evening's darkness closes, happy nuptials shall be done! "
Thus in kind and courteous accents Janak spake his purpose high, And his royal love responding, Dasa-ratha made reply:
"Gift betokens giver's bounty,—so our ancient sages sing,— And thy righteous fame and virtue grace thy gift, Videha's king!
World-renowned is Janak's bounty, Heaven-inspired his holy grace, And we take his boon and blessing as an honour to our race!"
Royal grace and kingly greeting marked the ancient monarch's word, Janak with a grateful pleasure Dasa-ratha's answer heard,
And the Brahmans and preceptors joyously the midnight spent, And in converse pure and pleasant and in sacred sweet content.
Righteous Rama, gallant Lakshman piously their father greet, Duly make their deep obeisance, humbly touch his royal feet,
And the night is filled with gladness for the king revered and old, Honoured by the saintly Janak, greeted by his children bold,
On Mithila's tower and turret stars their silent vigils keep, When each sacred rite completed, Janak seeks his nightly sleep.
V THE PREPARATION
All his four heroic princes now with Dasa-ratha stayed In Mithila's ancient city, and their father's will obeyed,
Thither came the bold Yudhajit prince of proud Kaikeya's line, On the day that Dasa-ratha made his gifts of gold and kine,
And he met the ancient monarch, for his health and safety prayed, Made his bow and due obeisance and in gentle accents said:
"List, O king! my royal father, monarch of Kaikeya's race, Sends his kindly love and greetings with his blessings and his grace,
And he asks if Dasa-ratha prospers in his wonted health, If his friends and fond relations live in happiness and wealth.
Queen Kaikeyi is my sister, and to see her son I came, Bharat prince of peerless virtue, worthy of his father's fame,
Aye, to see that youth of valour, by my royal father sent, To Ayodhya's ancient city with an anxious heart I went,
In the city of Mithila,—thus did all thy subjects say,— With his sons and with his kinsmen Dasa-ratha makes his stay,
Hence in haste I journeyed hither, travelling late and early dawn, For to do thee due obeisance and to greet my sister's son! "
Spake the young and proud Kaikeya, dear and duly-greeted guest, Dasa-ratha on his brother choicest gifts and honours pressed.
Brightly dawned the happy morning, and Kosala's king of fame With his sons and wise Vasishtha to the sacred yajna came,
Rama and his gallant brothers decked in gem and jewel bright, In th' auspicious hour of morning did the blest Kautuka rite,
And beside their royal father piously the princes stood, And to fair Videha's monarch spake Vasishtha wise and good:
"Dasa-ratha waits expectant with each proud and princely son, Waits upon the bounteous giver, for each holy rite is done,
'Twixt the giver and the taker sacred word is sacred deed, Seal with gift thy plighted promise, let the nuptial rites proceed! "
Thus the righteous-souled Vasishtha to Videha's monarch prayed, Janak versed in holy Vedas thus in courteous accents said:
"Wherefore waits the king expectant? Free to him this royal dome, Since my kingdom is his empire and my palace is his home,
And the maidens, flame-resplendent, done each fond Kautuka rite, Beaming in their bridal beauty tread the sacrificial site!
I beside the lighted altar wait upon thy sacred hest, And auspicious is the moment, sage Vasishtha knows the rest,
Let the peerless Dasa-ratha, proud Kosala's king of might, With his sons and honoured sages enter on the holy site,
Let the righteous sage Vasishtha, sprung from Vedic saints of old, Celebrate the happy wedding; be the sacred mantras told!"
Excerpted from The Ramayana and Mahabharata by Romesh C. Dutt. Copyright © 2002 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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