The Ramayana. The great Hindu epic. The poetry. The mythology. The moral substance. The splendid, unquestioned prototypes it set in its hero and heroine, Rama and Sita: the perfect human beings.
It is hard to imagine that they could be less than ideal. So perfect was Rama in his piety, righteousness, strength, obedience, and respect of wisdom that he rated the recognition of the gods and was eventually elevated to their number. Even do unorthodox a Hindu as Mahatma Gandhi died from his assasin’s bullets with the hallowed name “Ram, Ram” as his last words, simultaneously forgiving his murderer and invoking the blessing of the deity.
Sita, Rama’s dutiful, loving, and incorruptible wife, dedicated solely to the happiness and welfare of her husband, has become in India the ideal of Hindu womanhood. A mother’s last words to her daughter after her marriage are “be as Sita”. The Ramayana holds a special place in Indian hearts. Primarily, it is because the basic story is so simple and so dramatic that, unlike the complexities of action and the huge cast of disparate and intricately related characters in the Mahabharata, the larger of the two great Hindu epics, the Ramayana is immediately and grippingly accessible to any age group.
In essence, the Ramayana tells of the young Prince Rama of Ayodhya, whose father, in his declining years, impressed by the just, noble and kingly qualities of his eldest son, decides to abdicate his throne and announce the coronation of Rama. Instead, through malice and trickery, he is compelled to send his son into exile for fourteen years, while a younger brother, Bharata, is crowned in Rama’s place.
Rama, his loyal brother, Lakshama, and his devoted wife Sita, set out, followed by the lamentations of their subjects and the brokenhearted blessings of the dying king, to follow this destiny without bitterness, with good grace, and even with joyful expectations of learning much from the religious hermits and sages who have made their own rigorously austere enclaves of prayer and meditation in the forests. For ten years they wander, meeting wise men, having adventures and finding themselves in conflict with evil spirits and demons, living on whatever food they can find or on game that Rama and Lakshmana both expert archers, manage to kill.
Eventually, news of Sita and the two brothers in their forest exile reaches Ravana, the ten headed Demon King of Lanka. Ravana’s sister, a fierce giantess, has seen Rama on one of her mischief making journeys, and she tries to seduce him. Meeting no success, she then tries her wiles on Lakshmana, and is spurned again. Convinced that both brothers are in love with Sita, she attempts, in a fit of jealousy, to swallow her. Lakshmana springs to Sita’s defense and so mutilates the giantess that she returns to her brother with her nose, ears, breasts severed, demanding revenge.
Ravana is not particularly interested in revenge, and it is only when he hears a description of Sita’s unparalleled beauty, grace and elegance that he determines to capture this pearl among women for himself. He orders one of his demon subjects to take the form of a golden deer of incredible charm, with bewitching liquid eyes, jewel-encrusted horns, and tinoves of alabaster. Sita sees this enchanting creature and begs Rama to catch it for her.
Unable to resist her pleading, he sets out after the deer, instructing Lakshmana to guard Sita every moment that he is gone. But no sooner has the little deer led Rama out of sight of their forest dwelling than Lakshmana and Sita hear the unmistakable voice of Rama calling for help in increasingly anguished tones. At first Lakshmana refuses to leave Sita, but the demon’s imitation of Rama’s voice is too realistic and hert-rending for Sita to bear, and at last she persuades Lakshmana to go to his bother’s aid.
This of course is the moment arranged by Ravana to fly up from his island stronghold on his miraculous winged chariot, swifter than the wind, and carry Sita off to his palace.Helpless and overpowered, she can only plead for mercy, weep at her credulousness, beg the rivers and forests to tell Rama somehow of her plight, and more practically, drop her few pieces of jewelry along the way as she and Ravan speed back to Lanka.
Only once during the journey does any creature try to stop the all-powerful Ravana. The good king of the vultures attacks the flying chariot, but falls, fatally wounded,to earth…..
to be continued.