Rāmāyana | Sundara Kaṇḍa | Chapter 17

Chapter: 17
Rākṣasīs Seeing

[Graphic description of the Rākṣasīs surrounding Sītā is given in this chapter. It also describes the sorry state of Sītā and ends with the mention of happiness of Hanuman on seeing Sītā.]

Then in the clear sky the cream coloured moon, which is normally clear, rose like a swan appearing in blue water. 1

Shining with clarity that moon appeared to help by its light and by its cool moonlight served the son of wind God. 2

Because of that He saw the full moon faced Sītā similar to the ship in ocean weighed down and about to sink by her sorrow. 3

Trying to see Sītā (daughter of Videha) clearly, that son of wind god saw near her ugly and terrible looking Rākṣasīs among whom some were one eyed, someone eared, some with closed ears, some without ears, some with stick like ears, some breathing through the nose in the head, some with very large head and body, some thin with elongated neck, some with brush like hair, some with no hair at all, some wearing her hairs like a woollen rug, some with hanging ears and forehead, some with hanging chest and belly, some with hanging lips, some with chin itself as lips, some with hanging faces, some with hanging knees, some hunch backed, some obese, similarly some who were dwarf, some handicapped, some with slanted mouth and some with yellow eyes. 4-9

(This description in these stanzas and the following one, by the poet of a group of grotesque looking figures, indicates to us the common perception of those times of the look of Rākṣasīs. There is a story that when Lord Brahma was reciting Vedas, due to excessive hunger, he became very angry and from his anger, the first two Rākṣasas Hethi and Prahethi were born. They became a part of the Asuras and by their prowess became the pre dominant among them.)

He also saw other Rākṣasīs, among whom some were very ugly, some yellow coloured, some with jet black colour, some who were very angry, some who were interested in fighting, some who were armed with big spear, swords and rods, some with faces of pig, deer, tiger, bison, sheep and fox, some with legs of elephant, camel and horse, some with heads fixed just over the body, some with one hand and one leg, some with ears of a donkey, some with ears of a dog, some with ears of a cow, some with ears of an elephant, some with ears of a lion, similarly some without nose, some with very big nose, some with nose like an elephant, some with ears on their forehead, some with legs of an elephant, some with very big legs, some with legs of a cow, some with profuse hairs on the legs, some with big neck and heads, some with big chest and belly, some with big mouth and eye, some with long nails and tongue, some with face of a sheep, some with face of an elephant, some with face of a cow, some with face of a pig, some with faces of horse, camel and donkey, some holding spears and thorn sticks, some with ire, some interested in fighting, some with projected teeth, some with blond hairs, some with terrible looking mien, some always interested in alcohol and meat, some drinking spirits often, some with ugly faces, some who had rubbed meat and blood all over their body, some whose food was only meat and blood, some who had a terrible stare which would make hairs stand upright, and all of them surrounding on all four sides a huge forest tree with umpteen branches. 10-18

That Hanuman blessed by Goddess Lakshmi saw below that tree which was in the centre of Aśoka forest, that Lady Sītā, who was a princess, who was innocent, who was the daughter of Janaka, who had lost her glitter, who had faded because of her sorrow, who was having flying dirty hair, who was like a star pushed down to earth when its good deeds are over, * who was great because of her virtue, who was not knowing ways to see her husband, who was not wearing costly ornaments, who was wearing the ornament of her devotion to her husband, who was abducted by the King of Rākṣasas, who was separated from her relatives, who was like the she elephant who was in the custody of a lion after losing her way, who was like the autumn crescent hidden by the clouds of the late rainy season, who was dirty looking because she had not washed herself, who was like a vinā without strings, who was sunk in the sea of sorrow, who was earlier in the custody of her husband and who did not like to be in the custody of Rākṣasīs. 19-24 * In Hinduism it is believed that good deeds earn you a period of time in heaven and once the fruits of good deeds are enjoyed, they fall down to earth as stars.

Seeing the lady who was like a tender plant in flowering, surrounded by the Rākṣasīs, he felt that she was like the Rohiṇī star surrounded by the nine planets. 25

(The Moon God has 27 wives, all of them daughters of Dakṣa. The moon God, it seems was very partial to Rohiṇī, one of his wives. She is supposed to be the bright star travelling along with the moon.)

"Though by her natural beauty itself she was well made up, due to the dirt that she was having on her faded body, she was like the slush coated lotus plant which was shining as well as not shining", he thought. 26

The monkey chief Hanuman saw Sītā who was only wearing a dirty and ruffled single cloth, who was having an eye similar to the young deer, who was not wilting away because she was remembering the greatness of her husband, who was being protected by her virtue, who was having black eyes and who was blessed by her youth. 27-28

Understanding her as Sītā, that son of wind god, looking at the princess of Mithilā who was having eyes similar to an young deer, who was seeing in all directions like a fear struck deer, who was breathing heavily as if her breath will burn the well grown tress surrounding her, who was like a tidal wave of sorrow which always comes as a group, who was shining without any ornaments, who was having very perfect limbs and who was having great patience, attained limitless happiness for having completed his task. 29-31

Hanuman shed tears of happiness seeing her who was having eyes like wine and immediately Saluted Sri Rāma. 32

That heroic Hanuman becoming happy as he saw Sītā, saluted both Sri Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa and continued to be in hiding. 33

Thus ends the Seventeenth chapter of Sundara Kanda in the Rāmāyaṇa which is the first epic written by Vālmīki.