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home  > article index > ramayana in brief - the story (pg 3)

The Ramayana in brief

Ramayana page index
  background:
  character list:
  Ramayana story:
page 1
page 2
page 3 & 4

Ramayana - the story (pg 3)

Training and marriage

  Rama and Sita, hero and heroine of the Ramayana
© durgapuja ecards
  Rama with his bow and his wife Sita.
 

Rama's mission in life to fight evil begins when the Sage and former King Viswamithra takes Rama and his brother Laxman from their home in Ayodhya to the Sarayu river for a sacrifice ceremony. This place is haunted by asuras (demons), but Rama kills the main female demon Thataka with his bow and arrow and rids the area of other asuras. He is taught by Viswamithra how to use the asthras - divine weapons or deities of various weapons. On their travels they survive many adventures, bring back to life a woman cursed into stone ages ago and fight some demons. On arrival in the town of Mithila, Rama falls in love with a woman he sees on a balcony (fortunately the love on first sight is reciprocated). It is the King Janaka's foster daughter, Sita, who because of a pledge is to be married only to somebody who can lift, bend and string the giant bow of Shiva, which is held in storage by King Janaka. Many men tried before, but all failed. The task presents no problems for Rama though; he even snaps the bow. After the wedding of Rama and Sita plus the three brothers of Rama in Mithila they all go back to Ayodhya, where the King Dasaratha (Rama's father) announces his resignation in favour for Rama as his successor.

The intrigue

Kaikeyi is Dasaratha's favourite wife and mother of Rama's halfbrother Bharata. Many years before, Dasaratha granted Kaikeyi two "blanko" wishes, which she had never asked to be fulfilled. But now through the interference of Kooni, a hunchbacked servant, Kaikeyi reminds Dasaratha of this ancient promise and demands of him the exile of Rama into the forest for 14 years, and to crown her son Bharata as the future King instead. Promises have to be kept, so even though Dasaratha dithers and tries to persuade Rama to stay, Rama is adamant about accepting the exile since it is the "duty of a son to fulfill the wish and promises of one's father". Bharata is pretty disgusted with the intrigue of his mother and promises to act only as regent until Rama's return. For the next 14 years Bharata refuses to enter Ayodhya, where Rama's sandals are kept as a symbol of his Kingship, and stays in the nearby village of Nandigram instead.

Soorpanaka, the love-stricken demon

Rama and Sita clothed in tree bark head off into the forest with Rama's brother Laxman, who turns out to be a good engineer and architect, building nice cosy huts for the couple wherever they go. In the forest strange and wonderful creatures and beings live. They meet Jatayu, the Great Eagle, a friend of Dasaratha, who in the meantime has died from grief over his expelled son. They meet Kamavalli, who appears as a beautiful woman and who falls head over heels in love with Rama. Kamavalli is in reality the female demon Soorpanaka, a sister of Ravana (who is the major "villain" in this story). Love stricken and dead jealous of Sita, Soorpanaka stalks on Sita with the aim of removing her forever from Rama's side. The vigilant Laxman though catches her and cuts off her nose, ears and breasts, whereupon Soorpanaka obviously swears revenge. She comes back with her huge army of rakshasas (demons), only to be defeated miserably by Rama's bow. Mutilated and humiliated Soorpanaka flees to Lanka to seek help from her brother Ravana.

The evil Ravana

Ravana, the villain of the Ramayana  
© durgapuja ecards
Ten-headed evil Ravana from Lanka.
 
 

Ravana is also called the overlord of the seven worlds; he has ten heads and twenty arms. When he had still been one of the "good guys" he had received lots of powers from the Gods. Now he employs some of the minor Gods for menial tasks as for example the God of Wind who has to blow away some of the flowers which are constantly showered onto Ravana. One of this demon's (in)famous deeds was his trying to lift Mount Kailas with God Shiva and Goddess Parvati on it, so that the mountain shook. As a result, Nandi the bull (Shiva's vehicle) cursed him, saying that his end would come through a monkey. He is also known as an accomplished veena (string instrument) player.

The golden deer

Soorpanaka describes Sita in such graphic detail that Ravana immediately falls in love with her. He wants her, he is sick with love, he is so miserable without her that he orders weather, sun and moon around senselessly, to the extent that the weather goes completely haywire. Eventually he takes some action. He persuades his uncle Mareecha to help him. Mareecha is also an asura (demon), but through meditation in a cave he is trying to become "good". He is one of the sons of Thataka, who was one of the first victims of Rama's demon-kills. Only under threat does he agree to help Ravana with the abduction of Sita. Disguised as a golden deer studded with gem stones he ambles around the forest so that Rama and Sita are bound to see him. Sita is fascinated by this wonderful deer and hassles Rama to catch it. Against the advice of the more suspicious Laxman Rama follows the deer through fields, forests and valleys, till he realises that he has been tricked and shoots it. Mareecha in form of the golden deer screams "Help" in Rama's voice and dies. On hearing Rama's apparent cry for help Sita persuades Laxman to leave her and to go out in order to rescue her husband. Laxman, suspecting trickery again, is reluctant to leave Sita on her own and only after Sita threatens to immolate herself, he leaves the hut they are staying at.

The abduction

Shortly afterwards an old sadhu appears and Sita lets him into the hut. It is Ravana in disguise who due to an ancient curse would die if he touched a woman without her consent. Therefore Ravana digs a hole under the ground Sita stands on, chucks her and the earth into his chariot and flies off. Jatayu, the Great Eagle, sees them and tries to rescue Sita. A fight ensues in which Ravana eventually kills Jatayu with his "Chandrahasa", an infallible sword, given a long time ago as a gift from God Shiva.

Hanuman from the monkey race

  The monkey God Hanuman, Rama's helper and friend
© durgapuja ecards
  The monkey god Hanuman.
 

Rama and Laxman are pretty upset to discover Sita's disappearance and head out to find her. On their travels through the forests they meet Sugreeva and Hanuman, members of the monkey race, who had found some of Sita's jewellery (which she had Hansel and Gretel like thrown out of the chariot when she was abducted). Rama helps Sugreeva to kill his brother Vali, the current King of Kiskinda, the land of the monkey race. Sugreeva then is crowned as the new King of Kiskinda. Rama gives him advice on how to rule and warns him that "a woman can lead one to death". Hanuman and Sugreeva promise to help Rama and Laxman in their search for Sita after the rainy season is over, which the two brothers spend in a hut in the forest.

 

Many thanks to durgapuja-ecards for allowing us to use the images accompanying this story.
*all images used remain © durgapuja-ecards.

page 4: ramayana story cont >>

Kirsten Oct 03 << back  next >>
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