Ramayana - the story (pg 3)
Training and marriage
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
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
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.
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
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.
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