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Selections From The Ramayana - Epic Of Rama, Prince Of India

( Originally Published 1939 )



THE BRIDAL OF SITA

THE BREAKING OF THE Bow

JANAK, monarch of Videha, spake his message near and far,

He shall win my peerless Sita, who shall bend my bow of war,

Suitors came from farthest regions, warlike princes known to fame,

Vainly strove to wield the weapon, left Videha in their shame.

Viswa-mitra, royal risbi, Rama true and Lakshman bold,

Came to fair Mithila's city from Ayodhya famed of old.

Spake in pride the royal risbi: "Monarch of Videha's throne,

Grant, the wondrous bow of Rudra be to princely Rama shown."

Janak spake his royal mandate to his lords and warriors bold:

"Bring ye forth the bow of Rudra decked in garlands and in gold!"

And his peers and proud retainers waiting on the monarch's call,

Brought the great and goodly weapon from the city's inner hall.

Stalwart men of ample stature pulled the mighty iron car,

In which rested all-inviolate Janak's dreaded bow of war,

And where midst assembled monarchs sat Videha's godlike king,

With a mighty toil and effort did the eight-wheeled chariot bring.

"This the weapon of Videha," proudly thus the peers begun,

"Be it shewn to royal Rama, Dasa-ratha's righteous son!"

"This the bow," then spake the monarch to the risbi famed of old,

To the true and righteous Rama and to Lakshman young and bold,

"This the weapon of my fathers prized by kings from age to age;

Mighty chiefs and sturdy warriors could not bend it, noble sage!

Gods before the bow of RUDRA have in righteous terror quailed,

Raksbas fierce and stout Asuras have in futile effort failed,

Mortal man will struggle vainly Rudra's wondrous bow to bend,

Vainly strive to string the weapon and the shining dart to send.

Holy saint and royal risbi, here is Janak's ancient bow,

Shew it to Ayodhya's princes, speak to them my kingly vow!"

Viswa-mitra humbly listened to the words the monarch said,

To the brave and righteous Rama, Janak's mighty bow displayed.

Rama lifted high the cover of the pond'rous iron car,

Gazed with conscious pride and prowess on the mighty bow of war.

"Let me," humbly spake the hero, "on this bow my fingers place,

Let me lift and bend the weapon, help me with your loving grace."

"Be it so," the risbi answered, "Be it so," the monarch said.

Rama lifted high the weapon on his stalwart arms displayed, Wond'ring gazed the kings assembled as the son of Raghu's race

Proudly raised the bow of Rudra with a warrior's stately grace,

Proudly strung the bow of Rudra which the kings had tried in vain,

Drew the cord with force resistless till the weapon snapped in twain!

Like the thunder's pealing accent rose the loud, terrific clang,

And the firm earth shook and trembled and the hills in echoes rang,

And the chiefs and gathered monarchs fell and fainted in their fear,

And the men of many nations shook, the dreadful sound to hear!

Pale and white the startled monarchs slowly from their terror woke,

And with royal grace and greetings Janak to the risbi spoke:

"Now my ancient eyes have witnessed wond'rous deed by Rama done,

Deed surpassing thought or fancy wrought by Dasa-ratha's son,

And the proud and peerless princess, Sita, glory of my house,

Sheds on me an added lustre as she weds a godlike spouse.

True shall be my plighted promise: Sita, dearer than my life,

Won by worth and wond'rous valour shall be Rama's faithful wife!

Grant us leave, 0 royal rishi, grant us blessings kind and fair,

Envoys mounted on my chariot to Ayodhya shall repair,

They shall speak to Rama's father glorious feat by Rama done,

They shall speak to Dasa-ratha, Sita is by valour won,

They shall say the noble princes safely live within our walls,

They shall ask him by his presence to adorn our palace halls!"

Pleased at heart the sage assented, envoys by the monarch sent,

To Ayodhya's distant city with the royal message went.

THE WEDDING

SAGE Vasishtha skilled in duty placed Videha's honoured king, Viswa-mitra, Sata-manda, all within the sacred ring.

And he raised the holy altar as the ancient writs ordain.

Decked and graced with scented garlands gratefuI unto gods and men,

And he set the golden ladles, vases pierced by artists skilled,

Holy censers fresh and fragrant, cups with sacred honey filled,

Sanka bowls and shining salvers, argbya plates for honoured guest,

Parched rice arranged in dishes, corn unhusked that filled the rest,

And with careful hand Vasishtha grass around the altar flung,

Offered gift to lighted AGNI and the sacred mantra sung!

Softly came the sweet eyed Sita, bridal blush upon her brow,

Rama in his manly beauty came to take the sacred vow,

Janak placed his beauteous daughter facing Dasaratha's son,

Spake with father's fond emotion and the holy rite was done;

"This is Sita, child of Janak, dearer unto him than life,

Henceforth sharer of thy virtue, be she, prince, thy faithful wife,

Of thy weal and woe partaker, be she thine in every land,

Cherish her in joy and sorrow, clasp her hand within thy band,

As the shadow to the substance, to her lord is faithful wife,

And my Sita best of women follows thee in death or life!"

Tears bedew his ancient bosom, gods and men his wishes share,

And he sprinkles holy water on the blest and wedded pair.

Next he turned to Sita's sister, Urmila of beauty rare,

And to Lakshman young and valiant spake in accents soft and fair:

Take my dear devoted daughter, Urmila of stainless-love,

Lakshman, fearless in thy virtue, take thy true and faithful wife,

Clasp her hand within thy fingers, be she thine in death or life!"

To his brother's child Mandavi, Janak turned with father's love,

Yielded her to righteous Bharat, prayed for blessings from above:

"Bharat, take the fair Mandavi, be she thine in death or life,

Clasp her hand within thy fingers as thy true and faithful wife!"

Last of all was Sruta-kriti, fair in form and fair in face,

And her gentle name was honoured for her acts of righteous grace,

"Take her by the hand, Satrughna, be she thine in death or life,

As the shaclow to the substance, to her lord is faithful wife!"

Then the princes held the maidens, hand embraced in loving hand,

And Vasishtha spake the mantra, holiest priest in all the land.

Days of joy and months of gladness o'er the gentle Sita flew,

As she like the Queen of Beauty brighter in her graces grew,

And as VISHNU with his consort dwells in skies, alone, apart,

Rama in a sweet communion lived in Sita's loving heart!

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