صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

BIBLIOGRAPHY AND CRITICISM, THE RÂMÂYANA. G. W. Cox's Mythology and Folklore, 1881, p. 313 ; John Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology, Religion, Geography, History, and Literature, 1879; Sir William Jones on the Literature of the Hindus (in his Works, vol. iv.) ; Maj.Gen. Vans Kennedy's Researches into Hindu Mythology, 1831 ; James Mill's History of British India, 1840, vol. ii., pp. 47–123; F. Max Müller's Ancient Sanskrit Literature, 1859; E. A. Reed's Hindu Literature, 1891, pp. 153-271; Albrecht Weber's History of Indian Literature, 1878, pp. 191-195; J. T. Wheeler's History of India, 4 vols., 1876, vol. ii.; Sir Monier Williams's Indian Wisdom, 1863, Indian Epic Poetry, 1863; Article on Sanskrit Literature in Encyclopædia Britannica; R. M. Cust's The Râmâyana: a Sanskrit Epic (in his Linguistic and Oriental Essays, 1880, p. 56); T. Goldstuecker's Râmâyana (in his Literary Remains, 1879, vol. i., p. 155); C. J. Stone's Cradleland of Arts and Creeds, 1880, pp. 11-21; Albrecht Weber's On the Râmâyana, 1870; Westminster Review, 1849, vol. 1., p. 34; J. C. Oman's Great Indian Epics, 1874, pp. 13-81.

:

STANDARD ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS, THE RÂMÂYANA. The Ramayana, Tr. by R. T. H. Griffith, 5 vols., 1870-1874 (Follows Bombay ed., Translated into metre of “ Lady of the Lake”); Extracts from the Râmâyana, Tr. by Sir William Jones (in his Works, vol. 13); Iliad of the East, F. Richardson, 1873 (Popular translations of a set of legends from the Râmâyana); The Râmâyana translated into English Prose, edited and published by Naumatha Nath Dutt, 7 vols., Calcutta, 1890-1894

1

THE STORY OF THE RÂMÂYANA.

BRAHMA, creator of the universe, though all powerful, could not revoke a promise once made. For this reason, Ravana, the demon god of Ceylon, stood on his head in the midst of five fires for ten thousand years, and at the end of that time boldly demanded of Brahma as a reward that he should not be slain by gods, demons, or genii. He also requested the gift of nine other heads and eighteen additional arms and hands.

These having been granted, he began by the aid of his evil spirits, the Rakshasas, to lay waste the earth and to do violence to the good, especially to the priests.

At the time when Ravana's outrages were spreading terror throughout the land, and Brahma, looking down from his throne, shuddered to see the monster he had gifted with such fell power, there reigned in Ayodhya, now the city of Oude, a good and wise raja, Dasaratha, who had reigned over the splendid city for nine thousand years without once growing weary. He had but one grief, — that he was child

less, and at the opening of the story he was preparing to make the great sacrifice, Asva-medha, to propitiate the gods, that they might give him a son.

The gods, well pleased, bore his request to Brahma in person, and incidentally preferred a request that he provide some means of destroying the monster Ravana that was working such woe among their priests, and disturbing their sacrifices.

Brahma granted the first request, and, cudgeling his brains for a device to destroy Ravana, bethought himself that while he had promised that neither gods, genii, nor demons should slay him, he had said nothing of man. He accordingly led the appealing gods to Vishnu, who proclaimed that the monster should be slain by men and monkeys, and that he would himself be re-incarnated as the eldest son of Dasaratha and in this form compass the death of Ravana.

In course of time, as a reward for his performance of the great sacrifice, four sons were born to Dasaratha, Rama by Kausalya, his oldest wife, Bharata, whose mother was Kaikeyi, and twin sons, Lakshmana and Satrughna, whose mother was Sumitra.

Rama, the incarnation of Vishnu, destined to destroy Ravana, grew daily in grace, beauty, and strength. When he was but sixteen years old, having been sent for by a sage to destroy the demons who were disturbing the forest hermits in their religious rites, he departed unattended, save by his brother Lakshmana and a guide, into the pathless forests, where he successfully overcame tire terrible Rakshasa, Tarika, and conveyed her body to the grateful sage.

While he was journeying through the forests, destroying countless Rakshasas, he chanced to pass near the kingdom of Mithila and heard that its king, Janaka, had offered his peerless daughter, Sita, in marriage to the man who could bend the mighty bow of Siva the destroyer, which, since its owner's death, had been kept at Janaka's court.

Rama at once determined to accomplish the feat, which had been essayed in vain by so many suitors.

When he presented himself at court Janaka was at once won by his youth and beauty; and when the mighty bow, resting upon an eightwheeled car, was drawn in by five thousand men, and Rama without apparent effort bent it until it broke, he gladly gave him his beautiful daughter, and after the splendid wedding ceremonies were over, loaded the happy pair with presents to carry back to Ayodhya.

When Dasaratha, who had attended the marriage of his son at Mithila, returned home, he began to feel weary of reigning, and bethought himself of the ancient Hindu custom of making the eldest son and heir apparent a Yuva-Raja, that is appointing him assistant king. Rama deserved this honor, and would, moreover, be of great assistance to him.

His happy people received the announcement of his intention with delight; the priests approved of it as well, and the whole city was in the midst of the most splendid preparations for the ceremony, when it occurred to Dasaratha that all he lacked was the congratulations of his youngest and favorite wife, Kaikeyi, on this great event. The well-watered streets and the garlanded houses had already aroused the suspicions of Kaikeyi, - suspicions speedily confirmed by the report of her maid. Angered and jealous because the son of Kausalya and not her darling Bharata, at that time absent from the city, was to be made Yuva-Raja, she fled to the “Chamber of Sorrows," and was there found by the old Raja.

Though Kaikeyi was his youngest and most beautiful wife, her tears, threats, and entreaties would have been of no avail had she not recalled that, months before, the old Raja, in gratitude for her devoted nursing during his illness, had granted her two promises. She now demanded the fulfilment of these before she would consent to smile upon him, and the consent won, she required him, first, to appoint Bharata Yuva-Raja ; and, second, to exile Rama for fourteen years to the terrible forest of Dandaka.

The promise of a Hindu, once given, cannot be revoked. In spite of the grief of the old Raja, of Kausalya, his old wife, and of all the people, who were at the point of revolt at the sudden disgrace of their favorite prince, the terrible news was announced to Rama, and he declared himself ready to go, to save his father from dishonor.

He purposed to go alone, but Sita would not suffer herself to be thus deserted. Life without him, she pleaded, was worse than death; and so eloquent was her grief at the thought of parting that she was at last permitted to don the rough garment of bark provided by the malicious Kaikeyi.

The people of Ayodhya, determined to share the fate of their favorites, accompanied them from the city, their tears laying the dust raised by Rama's chariot wheels. But when sleep overcame them, Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana escaped from them, dismissed their charioteer, and, crossing the Ganges, made their way to the mountain of Citra-kuta, where they took up their abode.

No more beautiful place could be imagined. Flowers of every kind, delicious fruits, and on every side the most pleasing prospects, together with perfect love, made their hermitage a paradise on earth. Here the exiles led an idyllic existence until sought out by Bharata, who, learning from his mother on his return home the ruin she had wrought in the Raj, had indignantly spurned her, and hastened to Dandaka. The old Raja had died from grief soon after the departure of the exiles, and Bharata now demanded that Rama should return to Ayodhya and become Raja, as was his right, as eldest son.

When Rama refused to do this until the end of his fourteen years of exile, Bharata vowed that for fourteen years he would wear the garb of a devotee and live outside the city, committing the management of the Raj to a pair of golden sandals which he took from Rama's feet. All the affairs of state would be transacted under the authority of the sandals, and Bharata, while ruling the Raj, would pay homage to them.

Soon after the departure of Bharata the exiles were warned to depart from their home on Citra-kuta and seek a safer hermitage, for terrible rakshasas filled this part of the forest. They accordingly sought the abode of Atri the hermit, whose wife Anasuya was so pleased with Sita's piety and devotion to her husband that she bestowed upon her the crown of immortal youth and beauty. They soon found a new abode in the forest of Pancarati, on the banks of the river Godavari, where Lakshmana erected a spacious bamboo house.

Their happiness in this elysian spot was destined to be short-lived. Near them dwelt a horrible rakshasa, Surpanakha by name, who fell in love with Rama. When she found that he did not admire the beautiful form she assumed to win him, and that both he and Lakshmana laughed at her advances, she attempted to destroy Sita, only to receive in the attempt a disfiguring wound from the watchful Lakshmana. Desiring revenge for her disfigured countenance and her scorned love, she hastened to the court of her brother Ravana, in Ceylon, and in order to induce him to avenge her wrongs, dwelt upon the charms of the beautiful wife of Rama.

Some days after, Sita espied a golden fawn, flecked with

« السابقةمتابعة »