ramkatha-titel.gif (4275 bytes) 




Chapter 7 (c)
Winning Sita

It was a pretty little new temple-like structure, situated in the centre of a lovely garden; it was tastefully decorated with greens and festoons. The place was heavy with silence; it was as if peace fell in heavy showers there from the wings of Grace from heaven itself. It was quite adjacent to the Royal Palace. Therefore, after showing them in, Janaka fell at the feet of the sage again, saying: "Your arrival has added unto me immeasurable strength and joy. I am sure this fortune came to me as a result of the merit earned in many lives. I shall now take leave. For the Yajna to begin, there is an interval of twelve days, according to the Rthwiks. Please therefore stay on in this Mithila city itself and bless me". Viswamitra assured him that he had no objection to his proposal, and removed all apprehensions on that score from the mind of Janaka. Rama and Lakshmana looked at each other, as if that was too long a time to be away!

Arrangements were made to give them rest and undisturbed sleep that night; milk, fruits and other articles were provided for them from the palace. "I shall take your Darsan at dawn tomorrow", said Janaka while leaving. "It is not proper to delay your rest any longer, for you had a long and tiresome journey". Janaka returned to the palace, with the pundits, priests and scholars. Rama and Lakshmana talked among themselves about the devotion and humility of the Emperor, and the Light of Peace and joy that shone on his face. They sat by the side of the Master and partook of the fruits and milk. Then, they departed after receiving permission, to their apartment for rest. 

That night, they slept well. When daylight spread slowly over the City, the music of pipe and drum rose from their doorstep. Brahmins recited Vedic hymns. Rama and Lakshmana rose and finished their bath and other rituals, and approached Viswamitra. The sage gave them cups of milk to drink and said, "Sons! Janaka will be here any time now. Take breakfast and be ready". Soon, they as well as the younger pupils of the Sage repaired to the apartments and partook of fruits and milk. They washed their hands and quietly gathered around their Preceptor, and reverentially sat near him.

Meanwhile, it became known that Emperor Janaka was arriving with the Royal Preceptor in order to pay homage; for, the blowing of conches and the play of the traditional nine instruments heralded the approach of the ruler of the realm. Janaka entered with the auspicious sandal paste and rice grains in his hands, while Sathananda and the entourage entered the sacred residence. With the delight of gratitude he washed the feet of the Sage. Then, Janaka fell at the feet of Viswamitra and stood by the side of the high seat that had been placed in front of the pedestal for the sage. As soon as Viswamitra directed him, Janaka occupied his own seat. Rama and Lakshmana sat on the carpet laid on the floor to the right of their Master. Janaka said, "Great sage ! Now, what is your command? I am ready to accept and honour it. Please communicate it to me". Janaka folded his palms in prayer. At this, Viswamitra smiled, and said, "Last night, since there was no time I could not tell you in detail. I shall tell now about these Princes, Rama and Lakshmana, since you desired to hear their story. If you have no leisure now, I can tell you some other time". Janaka exclaimed, "Master! what more important work have I than experiencing the ecstasy of conversing with you? This chance can be the fruit only of age long austerity. I am filled with Ananda at the expectation that you will tell me about them; I consider it great good fortune."

Then, Viswamitra narrated the incidents that had taken place from his appearance at the court of Dasaratha up to the Yajna and the heroic way in which the young boys had stood guard and foiled the attempts of the demons to desecrate the rituals. He described the bravery and skill of the boys in their battle against the demons and praised their achievements. During the narration, tears of joy and gratitude welled from the sage’s eyes and he had to frequently wipe them with the end of his garment.

Hearing these words and filling his eyes with his majesty and the charming loveliness of the boys, Janaka experienced supreme delight, the delight he often derived in Samadhi! He felt that the boys were actual embodiments of Divine Splendour. Though he often tried to look somewhere else, his eyes thirsted only for the sight of those charming lotuslike faces which showered Brahmic illumination! Janaka suppressed with great difficulty the outward expression of his inner ecstasy and sat looking intently at them, in humility and reverence. He did not feel for a moment that he was an Emperor and that those boys were the Princes of another Imperial Monarch. He had an indelible impression that they had come down from Heaven to Earth; the feeling was strengthened and increased by the description of  their superhuman might and skill. He realized that they were rare beings, akin to God himself, for they achieved successfully, even before reaching teenage, the guardianship of a Yajna, which the renowned Viswamitra could not carry through unimpaired. What a marvel! he wondered.

Then, the narrative was resumed by the Sage with the start of the journey towards Mithila. The stories related by the sage to the brothers were also explained to Janaka. When the story of the purification and liberation of Ahalya, the Consort of Sage Gautama at the hermitage which was near the Capital City, was related, Sathananda was surprised beyond measure; he ejaculated, "What! Has my mother been freed from the curse? Did these Divine personalities render my mother holy, and restore her to my father? Ah! Without doubt, they are Divine". While streams of tears of gratitude and joy fell down his cheeks he became so overcome with emotion that he was unable to move, like a pillar. Viswamitra observed him and said, "Son! Do not be so overwhelmed with the little events that have happened so far! In the coming days, many events vastly more amazing will happen; they will cause amazement and ecstasy, by their superhuman glory. Your parents too will arrive at Mithila City tomorrow or the day after. You can hear the marvellous story of Rama and Lakshmana direct from them. Calm yourself".

At this Emperor Janaka said, "Master! How fortunate are the parents who have such Divinely endowed sons! 0! how fortunate am I that they stepped into my house, when the thought spurred them". He turned to Rama and Lakshmana and addressed them, "Darlings! Pardon me if the residence I have arranged for you is not quite to your liking or quite in keeping with your status. If you so desire, I am ever ready to arrange a more appropriate accommodation. If you like, I shall facilitate ‘sightseeing’ in the City for you are strangers to Mithila; ask for anything you require, without reservation; I shall feel happy only when you so ask". To these words spoken with exemplary goodness and humility, Rama replied in a manner that revealed the respect he liked to offer Janaka. 

He said "Maharaja ! We are but boys. We do not feel anything wanting in the arrangements made. We are quite happy. There is no need to take trouble arranging somewhere else or something more, for us. If however, you have such great affection towards us, you can fulfill one wish that we have..." and without mentioning what it was, he turned towards the Preceptor, Viswamitra. The sage then spoke, "Janaka! The mission on which these Princes came with me from Ayodhya was over when the Yajna I had resolved upon was accomplished without the least desecration. Rama and Lakshmana pleaded for permission to return home. Meanwhile, I received your invitation regarding the Yajna you have decided upon; so, I asked these boys also to accompany me to Mithila. Then, Rama pleaded that, since his father had deputed him only for safeguarding the Yajna at my Asram, he was reluctant to proceed further and be away from his father longer than permitted. But, I spoke to them of many divine weapons you have, objects, which they are naturally eager to see and handle. I described the Bow that you have here, the Siva Bow, which deserves to be seen by them. I told them the story of that Bow. Then they agreed to accompany me hither, longing to see it. They have no yearning to go round the City or visit interesting places; bows, arrows, weapons which can guard the fight and punish the wicked - these claim first consideration for their attention". Janaka felt he had no need to hear more. He said, "In that case, I shall make arrangements to have the Bow brought to the Yajna Hall soon", and instructed that the preceptor, Sathananda be consulted about an auspicious hour when it could be brought there.

Meanwhile, Rama asked Janaka, "Maharaja! If you can tell us how that Divine Bow came into your possession, we can derive great joy." Janaka gave the details with evident joy. "Darlings: Six generations after Nimi, the great ancestor of my dynasty, the King named Devaratha ruled over this kingdom. The Gods placed this Bow of Lord Siva in trust in his palace. It has been with us since then; it is a weapon of the Gods and so, I assert it is no ordinary Bow! It weighs some thousands of tonnes! No one has held it in the erect position so far! For, who can lift that weight? Many times in the past, I tried to discover who could bend the Bow and use it or hold it for public gaze and invited people to try. But I have yet to see one who could do it. Every king and prince who attempted the feat failed and returned humiliated. They could neither bend the Bow nor even move it ever so slight.


One day, when I was turning the sod on the grounds where I had resolved to perform yajna, a vessel was revealed to view, in the furrow. When I removed it and examined it, I found in it a charming female child. Since the child came to us from the furrow, (sita) we named her Sita, and brought her up as our own child. One day, when she was playing with her companions, her toy rolled underneath the long box within which the Bow was kept; the more they tried to recover the ball with the help of various contrivances, the farther it rolled under the box! But, our child, Sita laughed at the discomfiture of her companions, and the palace guards. She pushed aside the box with her tender hand and recovered her toy to the astonishment of every one! I heard about this, through the Queens who came to know of it from the wonderstruck group around her at the time.

"That day, I resolved to give Sita in marriage to one who proves himself worthy to wed her, by stringing that Bow. Many a prince has since tried to lift and bend that bow, in order to win her, but all of them had to face ignominious defeat! They felt hurt and insulted; they said I had purposely humiliated them and in their resentment and despair, they grouped together and fell upon Mithila City with their combined forces. The siege lasted one full year. As a consequence, all my armoury was exhausted and I was concerned about the fate of the City. I had no other recourse but austerity to win the grace of the Gods. The Gods were pleased; they blessed me with additional reinforcements of infantry, cavalry, elephantry and chariotry. That is to say, help came to me from regions behind the besieging forces and when they were attacked from behind they were scattered. During these campaigns of vindictiveness, I was able to preserve the Bow; I guarded it like the apple of my eye. Its mysterious might is beyond description.

"Rama! Ramachandra! I shall not deny you the fulfillment of your wish; if you but agree, the Bow shall be brought to the Yajna enclosure. I shall also announce that any one who dare lift and bend it can try to do so." When Janaka spoke so authoritatively, Rama and Lakshmana looked at each other but did not reply, for they were waiting for instructions from the Master whom they had followed so far.

Just then, Viswamitra, who knew the skill and strength of the brothers, said that what Janaka proposed could be done, and that he need not apprehend any obstacle coming his way. Janaka also announced that he would give Sita in marriage to whosoever lifted the bow and stringed it, for he had vowed that Sita will be wedded only to such a one. Viswamitra approved that procedure too. 

Janaka took leave of the sage and returned to the Palace. He set upon the task of taking the bow into the Yajna Hall. A proclamation was issued that the Bow will be exposed to view, and communicated to as many kings and princes as possible. The eight-wheeled vehicle containing the box with the Bow was pulled and pushed into the enclosure by a large band of hefty heavy-weights; but they could not even move it a step. So, more men of gigantic mould had to be called in, to lend their hands, dragging the heavy chains attached to the vehicle and pushing it from behind. When at last the Bow moved into the sacred enclosure, the priests recited hymns of auspicious welcome.

Day dawned. The nine traditional musical instruments raised a paean of harmony that rose to the vaults of heaven. Conches were blown in peals. The auspiciousness of the Day was declared through song and ritual. Emperor Janaka entered the enclosure, accompanied by a group of priests and with attendants carrying materials for ceremonial worship of the Divine Bow. Long before that moment, the enclosure was filled with kings, princes, ministers, courtiers. sages and Vedic scholars. As soon as Janaka came in, the entire gathering stood up in order to render honour to the Ruler of the Realm. The Vedic pundits declaimed aloud hymns invoking the Gods to shower Grace; their voices rose up to Heaven in exclamatory unison. Others recited passages from the Vedas. All were so filled with expectancy that they looked on in wonder, without even a wink.

Janaka walked in reverence around the vehicle with the Bow, and offered floral homage to it, while chants were recited to propitiate it. He bowed before the Divine Bow, and then turned to the distinguished assembly. He announced: "Prostrations to the Sages! I welcome all who have come to this assembly! Since many years, my forefathers as well as many other monarchs have been, as you all know, worshipping this Divine Bow. Besides, it is already well known that no one, be he a God or Demon, Yaksha, Rakshasa, Garuda or Gandharva, Kinnara or Mahoraga, no one has so far been able to lift the Bow, hold it and string it! All who attempted have turned back, humiliated. In spite of this, this day, I have again resolved to bring the Bow into the sacred enclosure. Whoever among you assembled here does lift this bow or lifting, strings it, or stringing it, fixes an arrow on to it, or who can hold the weight of the Bow in his hands can come forward and take this chance; the Bow is before you". With these words,  Janaka bowed before the gathering with his palms folded, and sat on the Lion Throne.

Viswamitra cast a glance, with a smile, at Rama. Rama quickly approached the vehicle and lifted up the iron cover with his left arm. And with his right, he raised with no concern or exertion, the Bow from its box! Holding the Bow erect he looked around, while amazement was on every face! The thousands who witnessed the wonder - citizens, kings and princes, sages and elders - raised such an applause that the sky echoed the exultation! Soon Rama stringed the magnificent Bow! With delightful ease he fixed an arrow! And he drew the string back up to the ear, in order to release it. But the Bow snapped!

Everyone around was shocked into confusion and fear by the strange, unexpected explosion. Many fainted; some cried out in terror; some fled in panic. The sages uttered prayers to God. Why dilate further? The entire gathering, barring Janaka, Viswamitra and the brothers, Rama and Lakshmana, was plunged in inexplicable inconsolable dread!

Meanwhile, Janaka rose from his seat, fell prostrate before Viswamitra, and said. "Master! There is no one on earth who can claim greater strength than Rama; such strength is not of the Earth. I shall fulfill my word; I shall give Sita in marriage to him who lifted, bent and broke this Bow."

Viswamitra replied, "Janaka! It will be good if this news is communicated to Emperor Dasaratha and the  auspicious event celebrated after he comes. This is my desire; Rama is such a deeply dutiful son that he will not agree to the marriage until Dasaratha gives his approval". So, Janaka had the Brahmins of the court called to his presence, along with some Ministers. He set them on the journey to Ayodhya as soon as day dawned. They sped on in their chariots, drawn by swift horses, for three days and nights, and reached Ayodhya on the morning of the fourth day. They halted the chariots right before the main entrance of the Imperial Palace, so that there could be no delay in taking the news they had brought to the Emperor. When the guards inquired their names and the purpose of their arrival, the Ministers required them to announce to the Emperor the fact of their coming from Mithila to see him. They informed Dasaratha immediately and they were immediately called into the palace and the Presence.

In spite of old age, Dasaratha looked a Divinely splendrous figure, when the Brahmins and Ministers of Mithila saw him on his throne. When they stood before that bright venerable face, they fell at his feet, without any hesitation or reservation. They stood up and said, "Maharaja! We are messengers from the Emperor Janaka of Mithila. He has commissioned us to inquire and learn from you about your welfare and the welfare of your realm. We have been sent with the approval of sage Viswamitra, and with the consent of the Royal Preceptor, the great Sathananda, by Maharaja Janaka to communicate to you an important message."

Dasaratha’s face was brightened by smiles; his assurance was unshaken; he was struck by the humility and good manners of the envoys from Mithila. He said, '0 Greatest among Brahmins! 0 Ministers of the Mithila Court! There is no deficiency in the administration of the kingdom of Ayodhya, no obstruction anywhere for rituals like Agnihotra; no diminution in the happiness of any of my subjects, no obstacle from any quarter in the path of their moral and spiritual advance. My subjects are prosperous; they are progressing steadily towards the highest goal. I am glad to tell you this. I wish to know about the health and welfare of Janaka, the Emperor of Mithila, about the uninterrupted performance, in his kingdom, of the religious rites prescribed in the Vedas. You can communicate to me without any reservation the Message you have brought with you. I am eager to hear it".

When Dasaratha granted permission so softly and sweetly the Ministers signed the Brahmins to speak out. The Chief Priest rose from his seat and delivered the message thus: "Great Sovereign Ruler! Our Maharaja Janaka has vowed that his daughter Sita Devi will be given in marriage only to heroic might; no doubt you must be aware of this, you might also be knowing that many princes have tried to prove their prowess and returned humiliated from Mithila. By Divine Will, your two sons Rama and Lakshmana accompanied the Sage Viswamitra eager to see the great Yajna which our Maharaja is celebrating; it happened that your eldest son, Rama, won Sita Devi by means of his incomparable valour! Maharaja! What shall we say! How shall we describe it? In full view of the distinguished gathering of sages, kings and princes, Rama, who has attained the highest pinnacle of valour, lifted and held the Bow of Siva by its middle, kept it erect and stringed it! More than this, he broke, as if in play, the Indomitable sacred Bow into two pieces! Since Sita Devi is to be given in marriage to him who lifts the Bow of Siva, the sages who had assembled, as well as our Maharaja, have decided to give her hand to Rama.

"We have been sent to request and receive your assent, to offer you cordial welcome, to invite you, with the preceptor, priests, ministers, courtiers and kith and kin, and attendants and followers, to the City of Mithila. Our Maharaja desires to celebrate the marriage of his daughter after receiving your Darsan. We are sent by him to your presence, in order to inform you of this".

The priests and ministers stood with folded hands, reverentially awaiting the reply from Dasaratha. But, Dasaratha rolled it over in his mind with earnest care and sent for the sages Vasishta, Vamadeva and others, for consultations, before speaking a word in reply. He also invited the foremost among the Brahmins of the court. When they all arrived, he asked the party from Mithila to repeat the message they had brought. When they had listened to the news, he wanted their comments. But first, Dasaratha fell prostrate before sage Vasistha and prayed that he should give his approval. Vasistha, Vamadeva and others responded with joyous acclamations, "Most auspicious"! "Most auspicious"! They asked, "Why spend further thought on this? Make preparations for the journey to Mithila"!

The ministers jumped in joy; news of the wedding of Rama spread in a trice all over the City and into the Inner apartments of the Palace, where the Queens were. The citizens raised exclamations of "Jai! Jai!" in their exultation. Attendants and servants quickly made preparations for the journey. Jewels, silk brocades and other gifts were packed in large quantities and varieties; countless chariots were loaded with them.

The Emperor and the Imperial Escort, Vasishta the Royal Preceptor, the chief Priests and other Brahmins and Pundits, ascended their chariots and took their seats. It was as if Ayodhya itself was moving out to Mithila to witness the marriage. For all who longed to join, Dasaratha made suitable arrangements. No one eager to go was left behind! The horses seemed to share the joy that filled the hearts of the inmates of the chariots; for, they trotted fast, without slackening speed, or showing signs of exhaustion. Two nights and two days they spent on the road, and the third night, they reached Mithila!

Maharaja Janaka welcomed Emperor Dasaratha at the very Entrance Gate of his City. He welcomed the Ministers, Sages and Priests as befitted their position and status. He arranged that they take rest for the night in allotted residences. As soon as the day dawned, Dasaratha sent for the rthwiks (priests who have specialised in ritual lore), the queens and the kinsmen, and alerted them to be ready and available the moment they were wanted. Meanwhile, Janaka arrived at the mansion where Dasaratha was, and took him to the special enclosure where the Yajna was being celebrated. Seats had been allotted there for the Preceptors, the Emperor and his entourage, according to their rank and authority.

When all had occupied their seats, Janaka welcomed Dasaratha with the words: "Your coming to Mithila with these great sages and those foremost Brahmins and your kinsmen and escort augurs great good fortune for us. It marks the fruition of the good we have done in past lives. I am sure great joy has filled your mind, at the valour and victory of your son. I am about to enter into relationship with the great Raghu dynasty, resplendent with the 'boundless heroism of its scions. My dynasty is about to be sanctified more then ever before by this kinship. I believe this is the result of the blessings showered on me by my forefathers. Maharaja! This morning, the Yajna we have been celebrating is coming to a close. I have thought of celebrating the marriage of Sita and Rama after the conclusion of the Yajna. I plead with you to confer your assent."

Dasaratha thrilled with Ananda. His face was lit by bright smiles. He said, "Maharaja! You are the donor; elders declare that a gift is to be received at the sweet will and pleasure of the donor! So I am ever prepared to take the gift whenever it pleases you!" When Dasaratha spoke with such wit and wisdom, with such heart-melting warmth of affection, Janaka was overwhelmed with Ananda surging within him.

By then, Rama and Lakshmana entered the enclosure with the Sage Viswamitra; they prostrated before their father and their preceptors - Vasishta, Vamadeva and others. Dasaratha’s eyes glistened with delight as they fell upon the sons he had missed so long. He drew them to himself; he placed his hands on their shoulders; he pressed them to his bosom. Seeing the Ananda of the father while fondling his sons the Brahmins and ministers forgot themselves in appreciation of the depth of his affection. They were lost in admiration.

Dasaratha conversed intimately with his sons, and listened to their sweet simple descriptions of the Yajna which they guarded from desecration by demonic forces; they told him the incidents of the journey from the hermitage of Viswamitra to Mithila City. The narrative was heard also by Vasishta, Vamadeva and other sages, as well as by Bharatha and Satrughna, Sumantra and many ministers, courtiers, and nobles. They spent the night recapitulating the wonder and mystery that formed the warp and woof of that narrative.

Meanwhile, Janaka was immersed in preparations for the wedding. He was mostly in the palace itself; he invited the Chief Priest, Sathananda, to the court, and prayed to him reverentially to start collecting men and materials for the various rites preliminary to the actual wedding rite. The sage replied, "Maharaja! The Yajna concluded just today. During the next two or three days, there are, I notice, a few hours that are auspicious for the ceremonials. I can give details, if you desire to know".

At this, Janaka said saluting Sathananda and standing with folded hands, "Master! I received the assent of the Emperor Dasaratha, last night. This is indeed a sign of extreme good fortune. My younger brother Kusadhwaja is not present here now; he was all these days very busy supplying provisions for the Yajna as and when the high priests asked for them. I am reluctant to celebrate this most auspicious ceremony without his being present by my side. I do not want to deprive him of his share of joy. I have set afoot plans to get him here quickly. I feel it would be best if we fix the day and hour after his arrival". Sathananda responded, "Good! Good! That will make us all happy beyond calculation!" With this, he left the palace.

Janaka sent messengers with instructions that they should bring the brother to Mithila, with expedition. They found him in his capital City, Sankasya, for, they were taken thither by fleet - footed horses which sped faster than others. They reported to him the developments at Mithila, in detail; Kusadhwaja was overcome with the flood of Ananda that surged through him. He collected his kith and kin, as well as his entourage, in great haste; he had chariots loaded with gifts and presents, offerings and precious materials. He started off that very night and quickly reached Mithila.

Janaka hastened to meet him, for, he was counting the minutes that were hurrying by. He clasped his brother in fond embrace; he was filled with inexpressible delight. Kusadhwaja fell at the feet of his elder brother; he prostrated before Sathananda, and then all three sat on raised seats, in order to deliberate on the further course of action. They consulted among themselves and when they decided finally on what they have to do, they sent for the highly respected elder statesman, Sudhama, and told him: "Minister of State! Proceed now to the Presence of Dasaratha and pray to him to come here, to this Palace with his Ministers, Priests, Courtiers, kinsmen and others he would like to bring with him. Bring him with due honours".




contents of this Vahini | previous page | next page