Sri Rama - Introduction

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Introduction

The epical story of Sri Rama has been an undying power of sustenance of the three great qualities that have characterised the idealism of Indian culture, viz., heroism that is spontaneously fearless and valorous, a human-divine tenderness that imparts restraint to exuberance, an over- flowing sweetness to the ingathered strength of virtue, and an indefatigable austerity that must end in triumph and celebration of victory. Sri Rama, the hero of the Ramayana is the human-divine light as fierce as the summer sun and also as tender as the rain of love, each drop of which, bears the healing charm of the splendid moon of the autumn. He is a mass of virtue and a thunderstorm in the battles where evil is crushed leaving no trace.

Valmiki, one of the greatest poets of history, wrote the immortal epic to describe the immortal hero, lover and victor, not only in order to record poetically an account of a critical moment of evolution that ended with the establishment of a perfect manhood, but also to provide to the world an inspirational force to repeat that manhood in innumerable warriors who could clear the ground for the manifestation of divinity that is always concealed in the highest peaks of manhood. Valmiki's Ramayana is comparable to Homer's Iliad and Vyasa's Mahabharata; all the three are great epics and all the three stand out as great hymns of heroism; each has its own excellence and

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even superiority over the others, but the Ramayana alone presents to Man in his ascent, a shining example, of one who is very much like him and yet, is infinitely greater than he can become. It is rightly said that Sri Rama was the Supreme Lord himself, who had descended on the earth concealing his divinity so that his dazzling light could be revealed in silence; in omnipotent silence rather than in explicit declaration.

As one reads the story of Sri Rama, as told by Valmiki, one feels the presence and eloquence of divinity; in the masterful strokes of torrents of events that crowd the immense Ramayana there rings out the triumph of God, the echoes of which continue to reverberate in the heart and soul of the listener whose ears are not sealed.

The very first major event of the Ramayana brings to us the great Vishwamitra, himself a hero-warrior and yet a profound sage of supreme wisdom, who marks out Sri Rama — who was at that time an adolescent lad — to be so competently heroic that among all who could vanquish the demoniac giants, as the most valiant conqueror. Sri Rama accomplishes the tasks of a victor and on his return, is taken on the way to the court of Janaka, the king of Mithila, whose daughter would be wedded only to that lion among men who could lift the formidable bow of Shiva. None of the assembled kings and princes had succeeded, but Sri Rama, whose arms were a solid mass of strength, could lift that bow with one stroke and even break it. In that event was concealed the union of the divine master of man and the celestial goddess who had also descended on the earth to lead the human story of struggle against evil, to secure imperishable victory of the Good, and to redeem the burden of human love so that the divine love and its glory can perennially aspire to live divinely beyond the ordinary ties and knots of human comedy and tragedy.

Sri Rama, the most beloved prince of Dasaratha and his Ayodhya and its people, was to be anointed as king, and trumpets of triumph and celebration had filled the air, awaiting eagerly and regally, the morning hour when the crown was to be placed

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on a born sovereign, who was to remain a sovereign, even when at the appointed hour that crown was denied to him. As in historical moments, centuries are summarised in a few days even so on that fateful night which was to break into the dawn of the crowning of Sri Rama, the king was compelled to take a decision to send his beloved Rama into exile for fourteen years and to bestow the crown on Bharata, the younger prince and the son of the youngest queen Kaikeyi. Only Valmiki has been able to describe the majesty and the divinity of Sri Rama, who even though dimmed by the unexpected turn of events, rose immediately to the supreme heights of firm resolve, golden virtue, supreme sacrifice and imperturbable strength of equanimity. And only Valmiki could describe that tender love of Sri Rama for Sita and also the fierce love of Sita for Rama. Valmiki Ramayana should be read in the original if one wants to experience the profundities of human love, where utter renunciation vibrates in every tremor of emotion, in every pulsation of sentiment and every flash of thought. Sri Rama and Sita stand out in an unforgettable dialogue as a crowning glory of love that is human and yet divine.

II

Sri Rama's story can be read as the theme of a great message: Truth and Right,— incessant striving to discern the Truth and the heroic manifestation of Truth in actions that are Right, at any cost and irrespective of consequences; whether they are lauded or condemned, whether pleasant or unpleasant. We see that when Lakshmana implored Sri Rama to disobey the command of their father, king Dashratha, Sri Rama explained to him that their father was right in honouring the promise that he had given to queen Kaikeyi and that it was to uphold that right action of his father that he had accepted to be exiled. Bharata, the younger brother, given the crown by the father in fulfillment of his promise to queen Kaikeyi, refused to accept

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In the dark forest, Rama kills Tadaka the demoness

on Vishwamitra's command (Mewar )

Rama and Lakshmana at the court of Janaka, the king of Mithila,Pahari.

Courtesy:Govt.Museum and Art Gallery, Chadigarh (India )

 

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that crown and entreated Rama to accept it; Sri Rama, with unflinching firmness declined, and persuaded Bharata to accept the crown. And yet when Bharata, accepting Sri Rama's advice, and therefore in his capacity as king, prayed to Sri Rama to bestow upon him the boon of his wooden sandals which would be installed in the kingdom as a token of Sri Rama's sovereignty, Sri Rama without argument, granted him the boon.

Sri Rama undertook a tireless journey in search of Sita, raised an army, built a bridge over the ocean between the southern tip of India and Lanka, fought a fierce war and ultimately vanquished and killed the gigantic ogre Ravana, who was regarded as invincible. All this he did because it was right, and despite that all this involved unimaginably difficult adventure and feats. And yet, when Lanka was conquered and Sita was brought to him by the new king of Lanka, Vibhishana, he refused to take Sita back and gave her freedom to choose the future course of her life on the ground that her chastity was in doubt; she having lived in the abode of Ravana. He accepted the gift of Sita only when Agni, the lord of the mystic fire of purity, declared Sita to be pure and it was only then that Sri Rama expressed his own personal belief in regard to Sita and her purity. For Sri Rama, Sita was not only his beloved wife but also she was the queen of the kingdom of Ayodhya. As the husband of Sita, he needed no proof of her chastity as he was inwardly convinced of the unquestionable character of Sita. But it was right for him as king, to demand from Sita the queen, proof, which the people of the kingdom would require of their queen. Despite all this, when Sri Rama heard that the people of Ayodhya were critical of Sri Rama's acceptance of Sita, he decided at once to exile Sita into the forest, where she could, if she wanted, live in the hermitage of Valmiki, the great rishi and the great poet of his times.

Many in the modern world have indicted Sri Rama and considered him to have been unjust to Sita. The question, however, is whether the decision that he took was the right decision, no matter whether praised or censured. If Sri Rama were

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merely a householder, and if he were simply to deal with the situation as a husband in regard to his wife about whose chastity he had no doubt, it is not difficult to infer that he would have disregarded the criticism of the people and dealt with the matter as one concerning his private life. But Sri Rama was a king, and Sita was the queen, and therefore the problem had complex dimensions. While judging events of the past, people of the present day tend to apply the ethos of their own times as if that ethos were applicable at all times. In the days of Sri Rama, society was passing through a cycle where public duty was held supreme and to that duty all domestic duties and domestic pleasures and sufferings were required to be sublimated. Moreover, the ethos of the time of Sri Rama imposed upon the king not only rights and privileges of monarchy but also a very heavy burden of creating and maintaining the standards of democratic monarchy.

Should Rama have abdicated his kingdom so that he could live a. private and happy domestic life with Sita?

Did the king have the right to abdicate?

Kingship was not a privilege, not an ornament which one could decide to enjoy or renounce at the king's own personal choice of pleasure. Kingship was conferred on the king by the free will of the people and the king was bound to serve and protect the people as an imperative duty. The choice to abdicate the throne was not available to Sri Rama. It cannot be said that Sri Rama was so attached to his kingship that renunciation of that attachment was impossible or difficult for him. He had already, earlier on, renounced the right to the throne when it had been demanded of him, under the command of his father.

Did Sri Rama have the right to inflict the pain of separation on himself and on Sita? This question was to be decided by Sri Rama alone, and he had no difficulty in inflicting upon him- self the suffering of the separation from Sita. As king, he also had the duty to decide how he should deal with Sita with full respect to the demands of justice. Indeed, it requires no argument to prove that Sri Rama knew that his duty towards Sita in

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his capacity as her husband was to secure the highest possible happiness for his wife. And that duty could have been fulfilled if he were to abdicate his duties of a monarch.

What would be the right choice in this condition? As a king, on the other hand, it was his duty to provide to the kingdom a queen, who would be held in the eyes of the people as an exemplar of a character without blemish. He could not abdicate, because he was under an obligation to serve and protect the people. What was then the duty of the king while dealing with the queen? To accept pain for himself and even to accept pain for his wife for the sake of serving the duties of a monarch was the only acceptable solution. It is remarkable that Sita, when she heard that she stood exiled in that desolate forest; fainted at first and on recovering cried and blamed the situation for her sorrow and misfortune; but in full dignity, she sent a message through Lakshmana to Sri Rama in the following immortal words:

"The following should be communicated to the king who is embedded in the righteousness appropriate to a king. Treat citizens like your brothers always. This is the greatest dharma;

it will provide you unparalleled glory. What you can achieve through the impartial and rightful treatment to the citizens will indeed be the best and the most appropriate ..."

In their personal life Sri Rama and Sita suffered irreparably, and both of them accepted their suffering because acceptance of that suffering was right and just, for the sake of uphplding the highest standards of public duty and conduct. How many martyrs have accepted to sacrifice personal happiness and also the happiness of all those nearest and dearest, and even when irreparable suffering was inevitable as a result of the acceptance of capital punishment!

That Sri Rama took a decision to exile Sita courageously and heroically and took the full responsibility upon himself and forbade even his brothers to give him any advice in this matter can be seen as proof of his courage, heroism and intense dedication to the call of the highest duty, — a call of the highest divine duty.

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III

In all the critical and decisive moments of his life, one feels Sri Rama standing out not only as an outstanding man, a Vibhuti, but even as an Incarnation, an Avatar1 of the Divine Consciousness. It is wrongly supposed by many that the concept of an Avatar is unsustainable, and that at best, that concept contains no more than our highest sense of admiration for a personality whose dimensions seem to us to be immeasurable. It may be argued that the Supreme Lord cannot Himself be contained in a limited individuality, and that whatever purposes the Supreme Lord may have for working out an aim can be carried out by Him without limiting Himself in any individual formation. If at all a human instrumentality is needed. He can choose any individual through whom he can work out His ends. But these arguments are not conclusive, and they miss out some of the essential aspects of the relationship between the Infinite and the finite and the manner and method by which the Supreme Consciousness works in the world. The Infinite is indivisible, and there is no gulf between the Infinite and the finite. Every finite is a form of the Infinite, and every finite is essentially the Infinite. The finite is only a form but its essence is the Infinite. It is true that every finite form is only a partial manifestation of the Infinite, and no finite form can fully manifest the Infinite. The Infinite Himself does not become divided by partially manifesting Himself and by becoming Himself a finite form, which is only a demarcation in an unending series of formations. Therefore it may be said that every finite is an avatar of the Infinite, — but the word avatar can be reserved for a more specific method of manifestation of the Infinite in the finite. This brings us to the manner and method of evolution

1. For those who wish to study a detailed examination of the concept of Avatarhood, we may refer them to Sri Aurobindo's Essays on the Gita, chapters entitled: "The Possibility and Purpose of Avatarhood", "The Process of Avatarhood", "The Divine Birth and Divine Works", as also Sri Aurobindo's Letters on Avatarhood in SABCL Vol. 22.

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of the world that we see all around us. The world manifests a pattern of finite forms and a number of relations and interrelations among them and a/though every form is a partial manifestation of the Infinite, there are variations and degrees of manifestation. Although every manifestation has behind it one and the same essential and indivisible Infinite, the manner and method of manifestation show a play of variations and inequalities and an unequal distribution of energy. The Consciousness of the Infinite and the Delight of the Infinite are not equally manifest in the world. There are vast differences, and it can be said that the world that is around us is a gradual process of evolution from the Infinite Consciousness that is totally veiled in the state of Inconscience, which awakes gradually from level to level and from gradation to gradation. The veiling of the Consciousness, however, does not imply abolition of Consciousness or annihilation of Consciousness. There is a distinction between the Infinite Consciousness that always remains unabridged, even when in the frontal levels of manifestation it remains veiled and therefore in appearance and effectivity a sea of Inconscience. The question is to discover the relationship between the Supreme Infinite Consciousness that is behind the Inconscience and the method by which the apparent Inconscience wakes up gradually to manifest higher and higher states of consciousness.

Can we study carefully and methodically this method ? Fortunately, this method seems to have been studied right from the Vedic times, and modern studies also indicate that the world that is around us is a process of evolution and that this evolutionary process is carried out by an intricate play of the Infinite and the finite. According to the ancient tradition of knowledge, — the tradition which is still alive in India, there is the Infinite that remains forever self-luminous in its own highest status, and there is the Infinite that accepts in another status a self- veiling in the frontal state of Inconscience. There is thus the Infinite Consciousness behind the veil of the Inconscience and there is yet the status of unveiled Infinite Consciousness. The

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veil of the Inconscience is sought to be lifted by a pressure of the Infinite Consciousness which is behind the Inconscience, but it is also aided constantly by the Infinite Consciousness that is above and that is forever unveiled. The action of the Infinite Consciousness which is above and which is forever unveiled is a process of descent, and that process of descent can be regarded as a constant process of Avatar. (Etymologically 'avatar' consists of two words 'ava' and 'tr', where 'tr' stands for stretching and 'ava' means down. Thus 'avatar' means a process of stretching downwards.) The Infinite Consciousness which is behind the veil of the Inconscience is constantly at work to gradually break the trance of the Inconscient, so that the underlying consciousness manifests drop by drop or in jets of varying degrees of manifest consciousness. That process is a process of ascent which can be described as a process of 'arohna' which etymologically means the process of upward rising. The process we call evolution is thus a process of ascent which is constantly aided by the process of descent. Even this process of ascent and descent manifests a discernible pattern. The Inconscience appears to be a sleeping rock that resists the pressure of the Infinite Consciousness that is below and the Infinite Consciousness that is above. A law seems to work that permits the resistance of the Inconscient which continues to be worked upon until the Inconscience consents to be awakened. It may be said that the Inconscience is being constantly teased and it is constantly sought to be entertained by the processes of ascent and descent so that every stage of awakening of the Inconscience is effected through the increasing consent to grow into higher and higher states of awakening. It is this process which can be seen in the evolution of Matter and the original ocean of the Inconscience (apraketam salilam to use the Vedic phrase), and the evolution of life in Matter as the seed of the Mind (Kāma āsit agre manasah retam, to use again the Vedic phrases of the Nāsadīya Sukta). At the mental level of which we are now conscious, we can detect the play of the ascent and descent of consciousness with greater and greater

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discernment, and we find here more and more clearly a double process. We find that there is an outward visible process of physical evolution with birth as its machinery. In this process, each evolved form of body houses its own evolved power of consciousness, and it is maintained and kept in continuity by heredity. There is, at the same time, an invisible process of soul evolution with rebirth1 into ascending grades of form and consciousness as its machinery. Indeed the process of rebirth is invisible, and it can be discerned only by a very close observation of the phenomena of human consciousness and its gradual evolution. Each grade of cosmic manifestation, each type of form that can house the indwelling soul, is turned by rebirth into a means for the individual soul, and the psychic entity, to manifest more and more of its concealed consciousness.

If we examine closely, we find that there is a pattern in the process of evolution at the human level. The soul itself seems to be a mysterious entity in the entire process of evolution, but although mysterious, it is capable of being studied. Those who have studied the nature of the soul have described it as a psychic entity which has entered from above as a partial portion of the Infinite Consciousness, during an early stage of descent, so as to aid the more decisive pressure from above in order that the Inconscient give its consent to be awakened more and more rapidly. Every soul may, therefore, be regarded as an avatar,— a portion of the Infinite Consciousness that has descended to work on the Inconscience and on varying forms of evolution that have emerged from the Inconscience, to carry out more and more rapid processes of evolution. A closer examination of the process of the working of the psychic entity shows how it has acted as the vehicle and as a field of various battles that are constantly taking place, between the gradually awaking Inconscience on the one part, and the concealed

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1. For those who are interested in studying a rational exposition and justification of rebirth, may refer to the chapters: "The Philosophy of Rebirth", The Order of the Worlds", "Rebirth and Other Worlds" and "Karma, the Soul and Immortality" of Sri Aurobindo's Life Divine.

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Infinite Consciousness that arose from below and, the Infinite Consciousness that is forever manifest and that is working constantly from .above, on the other. In this process of battle there are defeats and triumphs, and the journey of the soul can be described as a constant field of Kurukshetra, where each process of triumph marks an exceptional manifestation of the Infinite Consciousness in some exceptional degree of awakening and glory. These exceptional manifestations tend to become crystallized, and the states and the souls in which this crystallization takes place are called in the Indian terminology, Vibhutis (etymologically consisting of two words 'vi' and 'bhuti', where 'vi'means special [visesa] and 'bhuti' means becoming). In the ninth chapter of the Gita we have an elaborate description of the Vibhutis of various levels of evolution, — physical, vegetal, animal and human. All the vibhutis may be regarded as special manifestations of the higher consciousness, and, in a sense, they indicate special descents of consciousness that have come down from above from the ever-awake Infinite Consciousness.

However, there are moments in the history of evolution that are marked by the most intense resistance of the evolving consciousness and the necessity of breaking that resistance with an unprecedented power that can triumphantly overcome that resistance. These are critical moments, and it can be left to a discerning observer to mark out such overwhelmingly difficult and critical periods of human history, where events have occurred in such immeasurable dimensions that one can feel in them the working of a descent of the Infinite Consciousness in such a remarkable manner that one could be justified in discerning the descent of the Infinite Consciousness Itself. These are the moments where something more than the special manifestation has taken place. And if greater and greater descents of higher and higher levels of consciousness are a part of the machinery of evolution, what is it that prevents the Infinite Consciousness Itself descending into a human evolving psychic entity, adequately prepared through a long process of evolution? There is logically no such impossibility, and there

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have been practical examples where the Infinite Consciousness has descended at exceptional periods of the evolving psychic entities on the earth and even at the very birth of these evolving psychic entities. In the Indian spiritual tradition, there is a clear recognition of those who have manifested the presence and action of the Infinite Consciousness right from the birth of certain individuals like Sri Rama, Sri Krishna and Buddha, and others who have manifested the Infinite Consciousness at certain levels of their development in certain human births such as those of Sri Chaitanya and others. This tradition is marked by a number of sages and saints who discerned and identified and confirmed and reconfirmed in their own yogic processes of development the action of these avatars, and received their conscious help in their own individual development. To them, avatarhood of the Supreme Infinite Consciousness in individuals like Sri Rama and Sri Krishna is not a matter of speculation but a matter of their own direct experience and a living and constant confirmation and reconfirmation. The most recent testimony of the fact of avatarhood is to be found in Sri Aurobindo, who has quite categorically declared his personal and daily experience and realization of Sri Krishna as an avatar, and who has in some of his letters to disciples declared quite clearly Sri Rama as an Avatar.

To the logical mind, which insists on consistency and verification and experience for arriving at a rational justification of belief, we can only refer to the pattern that we see in the evolutionary process and consistency of the idea of the avatar as a part of the process of evolution and to the experiences of those who can be justifiably regarded as those having the right qualification to experience and verify truths of the spiritual domain and spiritual aspects of evolution. What is more, we can even present the methods by which the logical mind, if it wants to verify by personal experience, can adopt for personal experimentation and personal verification. These methods are available in great works such as the Bhagavadgita, which is a well known episode in the Mahabharata, and in the

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latest scientific work on Yoga, entitled The Synthesis of Yoga presented to contemporary 'humanity by Sri Aurobindo. What more can be suggested for the aid of the reader other than, as a minimum effort, the study of the great work of Valmiki, entitled Ramayana. The reader who is impartial and earnest will, we trust, find in the Ramayana an account of such events that will be found vibrating with the presence of the Infinite Consciousness acting at the most difficult moments of transition of evolution with triumphant love and heroism. That is the reason why we have chosen to present a few select passages from the original Ramayana, the study of which may help to discern in a great personality the presence of the Supreme Lord. We hope that our trust will be justified.

IV

The aim of this monograph is not only to present a brief account of a few important episodes of the Ramayana, but also to present this account in the very words of the author, one of the greatest poets in the history of the world', Valmiki (as rendered from the original Sanskrit into English.) Our presentation is an adaptation of the translation of Srīmād Valmīki-Ramayana into English by Gita Press. It is felt that many readers may like to have the experience of the literary beauty, charm and strength of Valmiki's style and his genius, even though in the first introductory encounter with this great epic, they may not have the time to go through the entire original Ramayana. In that situation, what is presented in the monograph may serve to give to them something of the original and authentic experience of the epic. While the original is in poetic form, the translation that is presented here is in prose, and therefore it does not capture alI the vividity, colour, charm and rhythm of the original Sanskrit poetry of Valmiki; but a few passages of the Ramayana, which Sri Aurobindo has translated in poetic form in English, have been presented in Appendice 2, to which readers may turn in

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order to appreciate the beauty and the grandeur of the original epic.

In the very first chapter, we find a dialogue between Valmiki and Narada, which provides not only a brief statement of the great qualities and virtues that single out Sri Rama as the foremost among the most illustrious personalities witnessed in the history of humankind, but also a brief narration of the life of Sri Rama that is described with great detail in the major part of the Ramayana. In a sense, therefore, the readers will find in the first canto the main story of the life of Sri Rama, barring what is narrated in the 'Uttarakanda', which includes the painful story of the exile of Sita and the remaining part of the Ramayana.

The episodes that have been described in this monograph are related to the following:

1. Sri Rama ready for coronation is exiled.

(This episode includes the description of the preparations for the coronation of Sri Rama, that was to take place that very morning, and the summoning of Sri Rama by his father; Sri Rama's entry into the chamber of his father and his step- mother Kaikeyi; Kaikeyi's disclosure of the king's command for Sri Rama to go into exile for fourteen years to the forest and for the installation of Bharata as the king; Sri Rama's undisturbed state of mind even at this sudden reversal from coronation to exile; Sri Rama's dialogues with Kaikeyi, with Kausalya his own mother, Lakshmana and Sita and the departure of Sri Rama to the forest in the company of Sita and Lakshmana.)

2. Bharata meets with Sri Rama in the forest to urge him to accept the crown. Sri Rama declines firmly.

(This episode includes the dialogue between Bharata and Sri Rama, Bharata's insistence on Sri Rama's return to assume kingship of Ayodhya; Sri Rama's steadfast resolution to abide by the command of Da sa rath a for his exile; Bharata's request for Sri Rama's "paduka" (wooden sandals), which he declares, he would install in the kingdom as a token of Sri Rama's sovereignty

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and his own role as Sri Rama's servant to carry out the burden of the affairs of the state ofAyodhya.)

3. Hanuman's dialogue with Sita in Ashok Vatika, the garden in Lanka which is the abode of Sita during her captivity after her abduction by Ravana.

(The dialogue is a sequel to a long story of the years spent by Sri Rama, Lakshmana and Sita in the forest, towards the end of which Ravana, by means of deception, abducts Sita and carries her to Lanka and the subsequent search by Sri Rama and Lakshmana in the course of which they receive the help of Sugriva, the king of Kishkindha and Hanuman, the most valiant hero and ally of Sugriva. Hanuman, who has found in Sri Rama the Supreme Lord of his heart and being, succeeds in his bid to find Sita by crossing the ocean between India and Lanka and discovers Sita in Ashoka Vatika in Ravana's palace.)

4. Sri Rama vanquishes and kills Ravana.

(Having received Hanuman's report of his meeting with Sita in Lanka, Sri Rama prepares for invasion of Lanka with a huge army ofSugriva's kingdom, has a bridge built between Ramesh- waram, the southern tip of India and Lanka, and engages in a fierce battle with the huge army of Ravana. The episode described here is centred on the last lap of the battle, in which Sri Rama and Ravana confront each other, and it ends in the epical victory of Sri Rama when he succeeds in vanquishing and killing Ravana.)

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and emerges unscathed and protected by the god of fire who announces publicly the purity of Sita. Although personally he needed no proof, but now publicly proved to be pure, Sri Rama gladly accepts Sita and undertakes the voyage to Ayodhya by an aerial vehicle which carries Sri Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman and Vibhishana and some others within the short course of a day. On arrival at Nandigram near Ayodhya, Bharata receives Sri Rama and Sita along with the others and leads them to a glorious welcome in Ayodhya, where Sri Rama is then anointed as the king.)

6. Sita is exiled.

(Sri Rama, on being told by his group of friends of the ugly remarks made by the citizens about Sita and of the doubt re- garding the character of Sita due to her long residence in Ravana's abode, summons his brothers Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna. Despite his conviction that Sita was chaste and had been proved by the god of fire to have been chaste, he de- clares his resolve to exile her on account of the rumours which were spread among the people about her character. On the order of Sri Rama, Lakshmana conducts Sita the next morning in the chariot which carries them both to the bank of the river across which lies the ashram of Valmiki. Both Lakshmana and Sita cross the river in a boat and on arriving at the other bank of the river, Lakshmana discloses to Sita, Sri Rama's order for Sita's exile. Sita faints on hearing this, but on recovery sends a message through Lakshmana of her acceptance of her misfortune and its consequences. Lakshmana departs returning to Ayodhya, and Sita left alone, laments. On being informed by those hearing her lamentation, Valmiki approaches Sita and as- sures her of refuge in his Ashram.)

7. Kusa and Luva come to Ayodhya, and Sita enters the earth.

(In the last episode Kusa and Lava, twin brothers born to Sita arrive at Sri Rama's magnificent sacrifice called Aswamedha

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and chant the great poem depicting the heroic life of Sri Rama, casting a spell on the listeners — the citizens of Ayodhya and all who have assembled for the sacrifice. Sri Rama himself is charmed by their song of the Ramayana and requests the two young boys to continue to chant during the ceremony. The assembled viewers, remark on the physical resemblance of the boys to Sri Rama, and Sri Rama on being told by the twins that the great poem was composed by the great sage Valmiki, sends a message to Valmiki to bring with him Sita. Valmiki arrives with Sita and declares the purity of Sita and that the twin boys were born to her. Sri Rama, however, asks that Sita should publicly declare her chastity. Sita on her part remains steadfast and while declaring her chastity prays to Mother Earth to open so that she may take refuge inside the interior of the earth. Suddenly the earth parts and there appears a golden throne arising on which is seated the goddess Mother Earth, who receives Sita and seats her on the throne and disappears into the interior of the earth. Sri Rama overpowered by the unexpected disappearance of Sita and overwhelmed by his love for Sita, roars with desolation and threatens to destroy the whole earth unless Sita is restored to him. Sri Rama is appeased by the gods and sages and he is reminded of the tasks that still remain to be accom- plished in fulfillment of the aim for which he had taken birth on the earth.)

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