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Ramayan, Book 3, The

BOOK III.

Canto I. The Hermitage.

When Ráma, valiant hero, stood
In the vast shade of Daṇḍak wood,
His eyes on every side he bent
And saw a hermit settlement,
Where coats of bark were hung around,
And holy grass bestrewed the ground.
Bright with Bráhmanic lustre glowed
That circle where the saints abode:
Like the hot sun in heaven it shone,
Too dazzling to be looked upon.
Wild creatures found a refuge where
The court, well-swept, was bright and fair,
And countless birds and roedeer made
Their dwelling in the friendly shade.
Beneath the boughs of well-loved trees
Oft danced the gay Apsarases.401
Around was many an ample shed
Wherein the holy fire was fed;
With sacred grass and skins of deer,
Ladles and sacrificial gear,
And roots and fruit, and wood to burn,
And many a brimming water-urn.
Tall trees their hallowed branches spread,
Laden with pleasant fruit, o'erhead;
And gifts which holy laws require,402
And solemn offerings burnt with fire,403
And Veda chants on every side
That home of hermits sanctified.
There many a flower its odour shed,
And lotus blooms the lake o'erspred.
There, clad in coats of bark and hide,—
Their food by roots and fruit supplied,—
Dwelt many an old and reverend sire
Bright as the sun or Lord of Fire,
All with each worldly sense subdued,
A pure and saintly multitude.
The Veda chants, the saints who trod
The sacred ground and mused on God,
Made that delightful grove appear
Like Brahmá's own most glorious sphere.
As Raghu's splendid son surveyed
That hermit home and tranquil shade,
He loosed his mighty bow-string, then
Drew nearer to the holy men.
With keen celestial sight endued
Those mighty saints the chieftain viewed,
With joy to meet the prince they came,
And gentle Sítá dear to fame.
They looked on virtuous Ráma, fair
As Soma404 in the evening air,
And Lakshmaṇ by his brother's side,
And Sítá long in duty tried,
And with glad blessings every sage
Received them in the hermitage.
Then Ráma's form and stature tall
Entranced the wondering eyes of all,—
His youthful grace, his strength of limb,
And garb that nobly sat on him.
To Lakshmaṇ too their looks they raised,
And upon Sítá's beauty gazed
With eyes that closed not lest their sight
Should miss the vision of delight.
Then the pure hermits of the wood,
Rejoicing in all creatures' good,
Their guest, the glorious Ráma, led
Within a cot with leaves o'erhead.
With highest honour all the best
Of radiant saints received their guest,
With kind observance, as is meet,
And gave him water for his feet.
To highest pitch of rapture wrought
Their stores of roots and fruit they brought.
They poured their blessings on his head,
And “All we have is thine,” they said.
Then, reverent hand to hand applied,405
Each duty-loving hermit cried:
“The king is our protector, bright
In fame, maintainer of the right.
He bears the awful sword, and hence
Deserves an elder's reverence.
One fourth of Indra's essence, he
Preserves his realm from danger free,
Hence honoured by the world of right
The king enjoys each choice delight.
Thou shouldst to us protection give,
For in thy realm, dear lord, we live:
Whether in town or wood thou be,
Thou art our king, thy people we.
Our wordly aims are laid aside,
Our hearts are tamed and purified.
To thee our guardian, we who earn
Our only wealth by penance turn.”
Then the pure dwellers in the shade
To Raghu's son due honour paid,
And Lakshmaṇ, bringing store of roots,
And many a flower, and woodland fruits.
And others strove the prince to please
With all attentive courtesies.

Canto II. Virádha.

Thus entertained he passed the night,
Then, with the morning's early light,
To all the hermits bade adieu
And sought his onward way anew.
He pierced the mighty forest where
Roamed many a deer and pard and bear:
Its ruined pools he scarce could see.
For creeper rent and prostrate tree,
Where shrill cicada's cries were heard,
And plaintive notes of many a bird.
Deep in the thickets of the wood
With Lakshmaṇ and his spouse he stood,
There in the horrid shade he saw
A giant passing nature's law:
Vast as some mountain-peak in size,
With mighty voice and sunken eyes,
Huge, hideous, tall, with monstrous face,
Most ghastly of his giant race.
A tiger's hide the Rákshas wore
Still reeking with the fat and gore:
Huge-faced, like Him who rules the dead,
All living things he struck with dread.
Three lions, tigers four, ten deer
He carried on his iron spear,
Two wolves, an elephant's head beside
With mighty tusks which blood-drops dyed.
When on the three his fierce eye fell,
He charged them with a roar and yell
As furious as the grisly King
When stricken worlds are perishing.
Then with a mighty roar that shook
The earth beneath their feet, he took
The trembling Sítá to his side.
Withdrew a little space, and cried:
“Ha, short lived wretches, ye who dare,
In hermit dress with matted hair,
Armed each with arrows, sword, and bow,
Through Daṇḍak's pathless wood to go:
How with one dame, I bid you tell,
Can you among ascetics dwell?
Who are ye, sinners, who despise
The right, in holy men's disguise?
The great Virádha, day by day
Through this deep-tangled wood I stray,
And ever, armed with trusty steel,
I seize a saint to make my meal.
This woman young and fair of frame
Shall be the conquering giant's dame:
Your blood, ye things of evil life,
My lips shall quaff in battle strife.”
He spoke: and Janak's hapless child,
Scared by his speech so fierce and wild,
Trembled for terror, as a frail
Young plantain shivers in the gale.
When Ráma saw Virádha clasp
Fair Sítá in his mighty grasp,
Thus with pale lips that terror dried
The hero to his brother cried:
“O see Virádha's arm enfold
My darling in its cursed hold,—
The child of Janak best of kings,
My spouse whose soul to virtue clings,
Sweet princess, with pure glory bright,
Nursed in the lap of soft delight.
Now falls the blow Kaikeyí meant,
Successful in her dark intent:
This day her cruel soul will be
Triumphant over thee and me.
Though Bharat on the throne is set,
Her greedy eyes look farther yet:
Me from my home she dared expel,
Me whom all creatures loved so well.
This fatal day at length, I ween,
Brings triumph to the younger queen.
I see with bitterest grief and shame
Another touch the Maithil dame.
Not loss of sire and royal power
So grieves me as this mournful hour.”
Thus in his anguish cried the chief:
Then drowned in tears, o'erwhelmed by grief,
Thus Lakshmaṇ in his anger spake,
Quick panting like a spell-bound snake:
“Canst thou, my brother, Indra's peer,
When I thy minister am near,
Thus grieve like some forsaken thing,
Thou, every creature's lord and king?
My vengeful shaft the fiend shall slay,
And earth shall drink his blood to-day.
The fury which my soul at first
Upon usurping Bharat nursed,
On this Virádha will I wreak
As Indra splits the mountain peak.
Winged by this arm's impetuous might
My shaft with deadly force
The monster in the chest shall smite,
And fell his shattered corse.”

Canto III. Virádha Attacked.

Virádha with a fearful shout
That echoed through the wood, cried out:
“What men are ye, I bid you say,
And whither would ye bend your way?”
To him whose mouth shot fiery flame
The hero told his race and name:
“Two Warriors, nobly bred, are we,
And through this wood we wander free.
But who art thou, how born and styled,
Who roamest here in Daṇḍak's wild?”
To Ráma, bravest of the brave,
His answer thus Virádha gave:
“Hear, Raghu's son, and mark me well,
And I my name and race will tell.
Of Śatahradá born, I spring
From Java as my sire, O King:
Me, of this lofty lineage, all
Giants on earth Virádha call.
The rites austere I long maintained
From Brahmá's grace the boon have gained
To bear a charmed frame which ne'er
Weapon or shaft may pierce or tear.
Go as ye came, untouched by fear,
And leave with me this woman here:
Go, swiftly from my presence fly,
Or by this hand ye both shall die.”
Then Ráma with his fierce eyes red
With fury to the giant said:
“Woe to thee, sinner, fond and weak,
Who madly thus thy death wilt seek!
Stand, for it waits thee in the fray:
With life thou ne'er shalt flee away.”
He spoke, and raised the cord whereon
A pointed arrow flashed and shone,
Then, wild with anger, from his bow,
He launched the weapon on the foe.
Seven times the fatal cord he drew,
And forth seven rapid arrows flew,
Shafts winged with gold that left the wind
And e'en Suparṇa's406 self behind.
Full on the giant's breast they smote,
And purpled like the peacock's throat,
Passed through his mighty bulk and came
To earth again like flakes of flame.
The fiend the Maithil dame unclasped;
In his fierce hand his spear he grasped,
And wild with rage, pierced through and through,
At Ráma and his brother flew.
So loud the roar which chilled with fear,
So massy was the monster's spear,
He seemed, like Indra's flagstaff, dread
As the dark God who rules the dead.
On huge Virádha fierce as He407
Who smites, and worlds have ceased to be,
The princely brothers poured amain
Their fiery flood of arrowy rain.
Unmoved he stood, and opening wide
His dire mouth laughed unterrified,
And ever as the monster gaped
Those arrows from his jaws escaped.
Preserving still his life unharmed,
By Brahmá's saving promise charmed,
His mighty spear aloft in air
He raised, and rushed upon the pair.
From Ráma's bow two arrows flew
And cleft that massive spear in two,
Dire as the flaming levin sent
From out the cloudy firmament.
Cut by the shafts he guided well
To earth the giant's weapon fell:
As when from Meru's summit, riven
By fiery bolts, a rock is driven.
Then swift his sword each warrior drew,
Like a dread serpent black of hue,
And gathering fury for the blow
Rushed fiercely on the giant foe.
Around each prince an arm he cast,
And held the dauntless heroes fast:
Then, though his gashes gaped and bled,
Bearing the twain he turned and fled.
Then Ráma saw the giant's plan,
And to his brother thus began:
“O Lakshmaṇ, let Virádha still
Hurry us onward as he will,
For look, Sumitrá's son, he goes
Along the path we freely chose.”
He spoke: the rover of the night
Upraised them with terrific might,
Till, to his lofty shoulders swung,
Like children to his neck they clung.
Then sending far his fearful roar,
The princes through the wood he bore,—
A wood like some vast cloud to view,
Where birds of every plumage flew,
And mighty trees o'erarching threw
Dark shadows on the ground;
Where snakes and silvan creatures made
Their dwelling, and the jackal strayed
Through tangled brakes around.

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