18-1 | Śrī Rāma Carita Mānasa Stotra
Gods, Nāgas, Kinnaras and the guardians of the eight quarters flocked to Chitrakūṭa on that occasion. Śrī Rāma made obeisance to them all and the gods were glad to obtain the reward of their eyes. Raining flowers the heavenly host exclaimed, “Lord, we feel secure today!” With great supplication they described their terrible woes, and returned joyfully to their several abodes. Hermits streamed in as they heard the news that Śrī Rāma (the Delighter of Raghus) had taken up His abode at Chitrakūṭa. The moon of the solar race fell prostrate when He saw the holy company coming with a cheerful countenance. The hermits pressed Śrī Rāma (the Chief of Raghu’s line) to their bosom and invoked their blessings on Him just in order to see them come true. As they gazed on the beauty of Sītā, Lakṣmaṇa (Sumitrā’s son) and Rāma, they accounted all their spiritual practices fully rewarded. (1 - 4)
After paying them due honours the Lord dismissed the holy throng and they practised Yoga (contemplation), Japa (muttering of prayers) and austerities and performed sacrifices unmolested in their own retreats. (134)
When the Kolas and Bhīlas got this news, they felt as delighted as though the nine heavenly treasures of Kubera had found their way to their own house. With cups of leaves full of bulbs, roots and fruits they sallied forth as paupers to gather gold as spoils. Such of them as had already seen the two brothers were questioned about them by others who proceeded along the same road. Describing and hearing of Śrī Rāma’s beauty they all came and beheld the Lord of Raghus. Placing their offerings before the Lord they greeted Him and regarded Him with deep affection. They stood here and there as so many painted figures, thrilling all over and with tears streaming from their eyes. Śrī Rāma perceived that they were all overwhelmed with emotion and addressing kind words to them treated them all with honour; while they in their turn greeted the Lord again and again and with joined palms spoke to Him in polite terms: - (1 - 4)
“Having seen Your feet, O Lord, we all feel secure now. Our good-luck is responsible for Your visit to this place, O Lord of Ayodhyā.” (135)
“Blessed is the land, forest, path and hill where You have planted Your foot, my Lord. Fortunate are the birds and beasts of the forest, whose life has been crowned by Your sight. And lucky are we all along with our family in that we have been able to feast our eyes on Your beauty. You have chosen an excellent spot whereon to take up Your abode; You will be comfortable here during all the seasons. We will render all sorts of services to You keeping away elephants and lions, serpents and tigers. The dreary forest, hills, caves and ravines have all been explored by us foot by foot, O Lord. We will take You for hunting to the different haunts of game and will show You lakes and springs and other reservoirs of water. We and our people are Your servants; therefore, do not hesitate to command us, O Lord.” (1 - 4)
The same gracious Lord whom Vedic texts fail to describe and the mind of hermits cannot reach, listened to the words of the Bhīlas even as a father listens to the words of his children. (136)
Love alone attracts Śrī Rāma; let those who are curious take note of it. Śrī Rāma then gratified all the foresters by addressing to them gentle words sweetened by love. Dismissed by Him they bowed their head to Him and departed; and discussing the virtues of the Lord they returned to their respective homes. In this way Sītā and the two brothers lived in the forest, delighting the gods and hermits. Ever since the Lord of Raghus came and took up His abode there the forest became a fountain of blessings. Trees of various kinds blossomed and bore fruit and lovely creepers that coiled about them formed an excellent canopy. They were all naturally beautiful like the trees of heaven; it seemed as if the latter had abandoned the celestial groves and migrated to that spot. Strings of bees made an exceedingly sweet humming sound and a delightful breeze breathed soft, cool and fragrant. (1 - 4)
The blue jay, cuckoos, parrots, Chātakas, Chakravākas, Chakoras and other birds delighted the ear and ravished the soul with their varied notes. (137)
Elephants, lions, monkeys, boars and deer, all sported together, free from enmity. Herds of deer were enraptured when they beheld the beauty of Śrī Rāma roaming about in search of prey. All the forests of gods existing in the universe were filled with envy at the sight of Śrī Rāma’s forest. The heavenly river (Gaṅgā), Saraswatī, the Sun-born Yamunā, Narmadā (the daughter of Mount Mekhalā), the blessed Godāvarī and the various other lakes, seas, streams and rivers, all extolled the Mandākinī. The eastern and western hills (from and behind which the sun is believed to emerge and disappear every morning and evening), Mounts Kailāśa (the abode of Lord Śiva), Mandāra, Meru, all abodes of gods, and mountains like the Himalayas, all sang praises of Chitrakūṭa. Glad was the deity presiding over the Vindhya range, whose delight was more than his heart could contain, to think that he had won such great renown without much exertion. (1 - 4)
“Blessed and full of merit are all the birds and deer, creepers, trees and the various species of herbage of Chitrakūṭa,” so declare the gods day and night. (138)
Having beheld the Chief of Raghu’s line those who had eyes, attained the end of their life and were rid of sorrow; whereas inanimate objects rejoiced at the touch of the very dust of His feet and became eligible for attaining the highest state (blessedness). The forest and hill where that Ocean of Bliss (Śrī Rāma) took up His abode were naturally lovely; auspicious and the holiest of the holy; how could it be possible to glorify them ? The exquisite beauty of the forest where Sītā, Lakṣmaṇa and Śrī Rāma came and settled, taking leave of the ocean of milk and bidding adieu to Ayodhyā, could not be described even by a hundred thousand Śeṣas (each with a thousand pairs of tongues). How, then, can I describe it at some length any more than a tortoise living in a puddle can lift Mount Mandāra? Lakṣmaṇa waited upon Śrī Rāma in thought, word and deed with an amiability and devotion more than one could tell. (1 - 4)
Gazing on the feet of Sītā and Rāma every moment and conscious of their love for him, Lakṣmaṇa never recalled even in a dream his younger brother (Śatrughna), father, mother or even his home. (139)
In Śrī Rāma’s company Sītā lived a happy life, forgetting Her town (Ayodhyā), family and home. Ever watching the moonlike face of Her beloved lord She was extremely glad like the young of a Chakora bird. Finding Her lord’s affection grow from day to day She remained happy as a Cakravāka bird during the day. Her mind was so enamoured of Śrī Rāma’s feet that the forest appeared to Her as dear as a thousand Ayodhyās. Dear was the hut of leaves in the company of Her most beloved lord, while fawns and birds constituted Her beloved family. The holy hermits appeared to Her as Her own father-in-law and their spouses as Her mother-in-law; while Her diet consisting of bulbs, roots and fruits tasted like ambrosia. Shared with Her spouse even the lovely litter of leaves delighted Her as hundreds of Cupid’s own beds. Can the charm of sensuous enjoyments ever enchant Her whose very look confers the sovereignty of a sphere. (1 - 4)
Fixing their thoughts on Śrī Rāma, His devotees spurn the pleasures of sense as worth no more than a piece of straw. It is no wonder, then, in the case of Sītā, Śrī Rāma’s beloved Consort and the Mother of the universe. (140)
The Lord of Raghus would do and say only that which would please Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa. He would narrate old legends and stories, to which Lakṣmaṇa and Sītā would listen with great delight. Every time Śrī Rāma thought of Ayodhyā His eyes filled with tears. The gracious Lord became sad when He recalled His father and mother, His family and brothers and particularly the affection, amiability and devotion of Bharata; but He recovered Himself when He realized that the time was unpropitious. Perceiving this, Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa felt distressed even as the shadow of a man behaves just like him. When He saw the condition of His beloved Consort and His brother (Lakṣmaṇa), the self- possessed and compassionate Rāma, the Delighter of Raghus and the Soother of His devotees heart, began to narrate some sacred legends, hearing which Lakṣmaṇa and Sītā felt relieved. (1 - 4)
Accompanied by Lakṣmaṇa and Sītā Śrī Rāma shone in His hut of leaves even as Indra who dwells in Amarāvatī with his spouse, Śacī, and his son, Jayanta. (141)
The Lord looked after Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa in the same way as the eyelids protect the eyeballs; while Lakṣmaṇa in his turn waited upon Sītā and Śrī Rāma (the Hero of Raghu’s race) just as a fool (who identifies himself with his body) tends his own body. In this way the Lord, who was as friendly to birds and fawns as to gods and ascetics, lived happily in the forest. Thus have I told the delightful story of Śrī Rāma’s journey to the woods; now hear how Sumantra reached Ayodhyā. When the Niṣāda chief returned after escorting the Lord, he saw the minister (Sumantra) with the chariot. The minister was distressed to see the Niṣāda chief; words fail to describe the agony which he felt at the moment. Crying out “Rāma, Rāma, Sītā, Lakṣmaṇa” he (Sumantra) dropped on the ground utterly helpless; while the horses kept looking on to the south and neighed. They were as restless as birds shorn of their wings. (1 - 4)
They would neither eat grass nor drink water; while their eyes kept shedding tears. The whole party of Niṣādas was distressed to see the horses of Śrī Rāma (the Chief of Raghu’s line). (142)
Then recovering himself, the Niṣāda said, “Sumantra, cease sorrowing now. You are a man of wisdom and a knower of the highest truth; therefore, compose yourself realizing that Fate is unpropitious to you.” Narrating various legends in soft accents, he took him by force and seated him in the chariot. But overpowered by grief he could not drive the chariot; the agony of separation from Rāma (the Chief of Raghu’s line) was severe in his heart. The horses would not move along the road; they were getting fidgety. It seemed as if wild animals had been caught and put in harness. They would topple down and turn to look behind, torn away from Rāma and smarting with deep anguish. If anyone mentioned the name of Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa or Sītā, (Janaka’s Daughter), they would start neighing and regard him with love. How could anyone describe the anguish of separation the horses felt; they were as restless as a snake robbed of its gem. (1 - 4)
The Niṣāda was overcome with grief as he beheld the minister and his horses. He then called four trusted grooms and sent them with the charioteer (Sumantra). (143)
Seeing off the charioteer, Guha returned; the agony of his separation was too deep for words. And the Niṣādas drove off to Ayodhyā, plunged in sorrow every moment.
Agitated and stricken with grief, Sumantra lamented: “Accursed is life without the Hero of Raghu’s race. This wretched body will not survive in the long run; but what a pity it did not earn fame by perishing at the time of its parting from the Hero of Raghu’s race. This life has become a sink of infamy and sin; I wonder what prevents it from departing. Alas! this vile soul has missed its chance. Oh, that my heart does not break in twain even now!” Wringing his hands and beating his head he rued his lot like a miser who has lost his hoard of riches. It seemed as if after assuming the role of, and posing as, an eminent hero, a great warrior had taken to flight. (1 - 4)
The minister gave himself up to grief like a discreet Brāhmaṇa of noble descent, who though well-versed in the Vedas and esteemed by the virtuous, has been deluded into drinking. (144)
The minister felt in his heart agony as terrible as that of a virtuous and discreet lady of high birth who is devoted to her lord in thought, word and deed and who is compelled by evil destiny to live apart from her husband. His eyes were full of tears and lacking in vision, his ears deaf and his mind was agitated and confused. Nay, his lips were getting dry and his tongue had cleaved to the palate; yet his life-breath did not depart, the term of exile serving as a door to prevent its departure from his heart. He had turned pale and repelled the sight as if he had murdered his own father and mother. Great was the despondency which preyed upon his mind as a result of the loss he had just suffered; he looked like a sinner mourning while on his way to the abode of Death. Words failed him and he lamented within himself: “What shall I see on reaching Ayodhyā? Whoever shall find the chariot devoid of Rāma will shun my sight.” (1 - 4)
“When the agitated citizens run to make enquiries of me, I shall answer them all with a heavy load on my heart.” (145)
“When all the helpless and afflicted mothers question me, good God, what shall I say to them? When Lakṣmaṇa’s mother (Sumitrā) puts questions to me, what glad tidings shall I convey to her? And when Rāma’s mother (Kauśalyā) comes running like a cow that has recently borne a calf and has her thoughts fixed on it,” the only answer I can make to her queries will be “Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa and Sītā (Videha’s Daughter) have left for the woods.” Whosoever question me must be answered; this is the treat I shall have on reaching Ayodhyā. Again, when the king who is oppressed by grief and whose life hangs on Rāma, puts questions to me, with what face shall I tell him in reply that having safely escorted the princes I have come back? The moment he hears the news of Lakṣmaṇa, Sītā and Rāma the king will drop his body like a piece of straw. (1 - 4)
“The swampy ground of my heart like a swamoy ground did not crack even though the moisture in the shape of my most beloved Rāma has left. From this I conclude that in this very frame God has endowed me with a body fit for suffering the tortures of hell.” (146)
While Sumantra was thus lamenting on the way, his chariot presently reached the bank of the Tamasā river. He politely dismissed the Niṣādas, who fell at his feet and returned with a heart stricken with grief. The minister hesitated to enter the city as if he had murdered his own preceptor, killed a Brāhmaṇa or butchered a cow. He passed the day sitting under a tree and found his opportunity only when it was dusk. He entered Ayodhyā in the dark and slunk into the palace leaving the chariot at the gate. All who heard the news flocked to the entrance of the royal palace to see the chariot. When they recognized the chariot and found the horses restless with their body wasting away as hail in the sun, the citizens, both men and women, were sore distressed as fish when the water runs short. (1 - 4)
The moment they heard of the minister’s arrival the whole court was restless. To him the palace looked as dreary as though it were an abode of spirits. (147)
In deep agony all the queens questioned him; but no reply came from him, his voice failed him. His ears could not hear, nor could his eyes see; he asked whomsoever he met: “Tell me, where is the king?” Seeing his confusion, the maid-servants conducted him to Kauśalya’s apartments. Arriving there Sumantra found the king as pale and lustreless as the moon without nectar. Without a seat, couch or ornaments he lay on the ground in a most wretched condition. Heaving a sigh he lamented even as Yayāti when he had fallen from the abode of gods. With his heart bursting with grief every moment, he looked like Sampātī† who had dropped from the heavens on account of his wings having been singed. That great lover of Rāma cried “Rāma, Rāma” and again “Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa and Sītā.” (1 - 4)
The minister, on seeing the king, exclaimed, “salutary words jaya jīva!” and made obeisance to him by falling prostrate on the ground. The moment he heard this the king rose in bewilderment and said, “Tell me, Sumantra, where is Rāma?” (148).
The king pressed Sumantra to his bosom as if a drowning man had laid hold of some support. Seating him affectionately by his side and with his eyes full of tears the king asked him: “Apprize me of Rāma’s welfare, O loving friend; where are Rāma (the Lord of Raghus), Lakṣmaṇa and Videha’s daughter (Sītā)? Have you brought them back or have they left for the woods?” At these words tears rushed to the minister’s eyes. Overwhelmed with grief the king asked again, “Tell me the news about Sītā, Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa.” Recalling again and again Śrī Rāma’s beauty, virtues, amiability and temperament the king sorrowed within himself: “Proclaiming my intention to install him as Regent I exiled him to the woods; but the news neither delighted his soul nor grieved it. But my life did not depart even though I had to part from such a son! Who can be such a great sinner as I? (1 - 4)
“Take me, my friend, to the place where Rāma, Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa are. If not, I sincerely tell you, my life is going to depart very soon.” (149)
Again and again the king asked the minister; “Communicate to me the news of my most beloved sons. Quickly contrive, my friend, some means whereby you may be able to bring before my eyes Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa and Sītā.” Recovering himself the minister gently replied, “Your Majesty is learned and wise. Nay, you are a leader of the brave and courageous, my lord, and have always attended assemblies of holy men. Birth and death, all painful and pleasurable experiences, loss and gain, union with and separation from friends - all these, my lord, take place under the unalterable laws of time and destiny like the succession of night and day. Fools rejoice in prosperity and mourn in adversity; while the wise account both alike. Therefore, exercising your mature judgment take up courage and cease sorrowing, O friend of all. (1 - 4)
“Their first halt was made by the side of the Tamasā and the next on the bank of the celestial river (Gaṅgā). Having bathed and drunk water, Sītā and the two brothers remained without food that day. (150)
“The Niṣāda showed great hospitality and the party spent that night in the village of Siṅgaraura (Śriṅgaverapura). At daybreak they sent for the milk of the banyan tree and the two brothers coiled up their matted hair in the shape of a crown. Then Rāma’s friend (Guha) called for a boat and after helping Sītā to board it, Śrī Rāma followed suit. Lakṣmaṇa placed on it in an orderly way the two bows and quivers and himself boarded the boat on receiving the Lord’s command. Seeing my distress the Hero of Raghu’s race summoned up courage and addressed me in sweet accents: “Sire, convey my obeisances to dear father and clasp his lotus feet again and again. Then, falling at his feet submit to him thus: “Father, be not worried on my account. By your grace and goodwill and as a reward of your meritorious acts my journey to and sojourn in the woods will be happy and full of blessings. (1 - 4)
“By your grace, dear father, I shall have all sorts of comforts on my journey and having obeyed your commands shall come back safe to behold your lotus feet once more.” Nay, consoling all my mothers fall at their feet again and again and with profuse entreaties make every effort - says Tulasīdāsa - to see that the lord of Ayodhyā (my father) passes his days happily.
“Clasping my preceptor’s lotus feet again and again, give him my message: “Pray, so exhort the lord of Ayodhyā that he may no longer grieve on my account.” (151)
“Humbly approaching all the citizens and all my people, convey to them my submission: “He alone is my friend in every way, who ensures the king’s happiness.”
Again, when Bharata comes, give him my message:
“Abandon not the path of rectitude on assuming the office of Regent. Cherish your subjects in thought, word and deep and serve your mothers treating them all alike.
Again, brother, vindicate your brotherliness till the last day by serving our parents and kinsmen. And last but not the least look after the king in such a way that he may never sorrow on my account.”
Here Lakṣmaṇa interposed some harsh words, but Rāma checked him and then entreated me adjuring me by himself again and again, “Make no mention, dear father, of Lakṣmaṇa’s childishness.” (1 - 4)
“Sending her greeting Sītā opened her lips to say something but was overwhelmed with emotion. Her voice failed, her eyes filled with tears and a thrill ran through her body.” (152)
“At this moment, in response to a hint from the Chief of Raghus (Śrī Rāma), the boatman propelled the boat towards the opposite bank.
So departed the Crown of Raghu’s race, while I stood looking on with a heavy load on my heart. How am I to describe my own anguish in that I came back alive bearing Rāma’s message?”
At this stage Sumantra’s speech failed him, overpowered as he was by grief and remorse due to separation from Śrī Rāma. No sooner had he heard the charioteer’s speech than the king dropped to the ground, his heart burning with deep anguish.
His mind being unhinged by excessive infatuation he tossed about like a fish that had been inebriated by sucking the foam of early rain water (which is intoxicating to the fish).
All the queens wailed and wept; how can their great misfortune be described? At the sound of their wails sorrow itself was sorrowful and endurance could no longer endure. (1 - 4)
Ayodhyā was in great tumult at the sound of the outcry in the royal court: it seemed as if a cruel thunderbolt had fallen at night on a large habitat of birds. (153)
The life-breath of the king had now stuck to his throat; he felt uneasy like a serpent robbed of its gem. All his senses were blighted as a cluster of lotuses in a lake that had been left without water.