17 | Śrī Rāma Carita Mānasa Stotra

“Putting to shame by their comeliness millions of Cupids, tell us, O fair lady, how stand they to you?” Hearing their loving and sweet words Sītā felt abashed and smiled within Herself. Looking at them in the first instance She then cast Her eyes towards the earth; the fair-complexioned lady felt a twofold delicacy. With a voice sweet as the notes of a cuckoo the fawn-eyed princess bashfully replied in loving and sweet accents: “The one who is artless in manners and has a fair and graceful form is called Lakṣmaṇa and is my younger brother-in-law.” Again veiling Her moon-like face with an end of Her sari She looked at Her beloved lord and then bending Her eyebrows and casting a sidelong glance with Her beautiful eyes that resembled the Khañjana bird (a species of wagtail) in their quick movements, She indicated to them by signs that He was Her husband. All the village women were as delighted as paupers that had been allowed free access to hoards of riches. (1 - 4)

Falling at Sītā’s feet in their great love they invoked upon Her many a blessing and said, “May you ever enjoy a happy married life so long as the earth rests on the head of the serpent-god (Śeṣa). (117)

“Be as dear to your lord as Pārvatī to Śiva; yet cease not to be kind to us, O good lady. Again and again we pray with joined palms: should you return by this very route, allow us to see you, remembering us as your handmaids.” Sītā found them all athirst with love and comforted them with many soothing words even as lilies are refreshed by moonlight. Presently, reading Śrī Rāma’s mind, Lakṣmaṇa gently asked the villagers about the road they should take. The moment they heard this the villagers, both men and women, became sad; a thrill ran through their body and tears rushed to their eyes. Their joy disappeared and they felt depressed at heart as though God was snatching back the treasure He had bestowed upon them. Reflecting on the ways of Fate they took courage and fixing upon the easiest road they gave it out to Him. (1 - 4)

Accompanied by Lakṣmaṇa and Janaka’s Daughter the Lord of Raghus then proceeded on His way. (As people tried to follow Him) He sent back all with soothing words, though He took their hearts with Him. (118)

While returning to their homes the villagers, men and women alike, grievously lamented and blamed Providence in their heart. In doleful accents they said to one another, “The Creator’s doings are all perverse, He is absolutely uncontrollable, heartless and remorseless. It is He who made the moon sickly (subject to periodical waning) and disfigured it with a dark patch. Again, it is He who made the wish-yielding tree a member of the vegetable kingdom and the ocean salt. It is the same Creator who has sent these princes into the woods. If He has chosen the forest as a fit abode for them, in vain has He provided luxuries and enjoyments. If they traverse the road bare-footed, in vain has He created vehicles of various kinds. If they repose on the ground littered with grass and leaves, why does God take the trouble of making lovely beds? If God has assigned them an abode in the shade of umbrageous trees, in vain has He taken pains to erect milk- white palaces.” (1 - 4)

“If these handsome and most delicate boys are attired in the robes of hermits and wear matted locks of hair, in vain has God created ornaments and costumes of various kinds.” (119)

“If they live on bulbs, roots and fruits alone, foods such as ambrosia exist in vain.” Some people remarked: “Naturally charming as they are, these princes must have appeared on earth of their own accord and were not made by Brahmā. In all the fourteen spheres ransack if you will the entire range of God’s creation described at length in the Vedas as perceptible by the ears, eyes and mind; but where can you find such a man and such a woman as these? At their very sight Brahmā’s mind got enamoured of them and he proceeded to make their match. He toiled much, but none of his products could even approach the prototype; and due to that jealousy he has brought these princes to the woods and hid them.” Others said, “We do not claim to know much, but account ourselves supremely blessed. They too are meritorious in our opinion, who see these princes or have seen them or shall see them.” (1 - 4)

“Making such fond remarks they filled their eyes with tears and added, Most delicate of frame, how shall they be able to traverse such an impassable road?” (120)

Overmastered by love the women felt as uneasy as the female Cakravāka bird does at evening time. Reflecting on the tender lotus-like feet of the princes and the rough road they were required to tread, the women said in polite phrase with their heart stirred with deep feeling, “At the touch of their soft and rosy soles the earth shrinks even as our hearts. If the Lord of the universe chose to exile them into the woods, why did He not at the same time strew their path with flowers? If we can secure from Heaven the boon of our asking, let us keep these princes, O friend, within the lids of our eyes.” Those men and women, who did not come in time, were unable to behold Sītā and Rāma. Hearing of their exquisite beauty they anxiously asked: “How far, brother, must have they gone by now?” The stronger of them ran on and saw the princes, and returned triumphant, attaining the end of their existence. (1 - 4)

Women, children and the aged, however, wrung their hands and lamented. In this way the people were smitten with love wherever Śrī Rāma went. (121)

In every village there was similar rejoicing at the sight of Śrī Rāma, who was a moon to the lily-like solar race. Those who could get some information as to the circumstances that had led to Śrī Rāma’s banishment, blamed the king and queen. Others said, “The king is too benevolent in that he has vouchsafed to us the reward of our eyes.” Men and women talked among themselves in straight, loving and agreeable phrases. “Blessed are the parents who gave birth to these princes; and happy the town from which they hail. Happy is the land, hill, forest, village and every spot which they visit. Nay, the Creator must have felt happy in creating him who looks upon these princes as his near and dear ones.” The delightful story as to how Śrī Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa travelled in the woods was broadcast all along the route and throughout the forest. (1 - 4)

Thus bringing joy to the people on the roadside, Śrī Rāma, who was a veritable sun to the lotus-like solar race, proceeded with Sītā and Sumitrā’s son (Lakṣmaṇa) looking at the forest. (122)

Śrī Rāma walked in front while Lakṣmaṇa followed in the rear, both conspicuous in the robes of ascetics. Between the two Sītā shone like Māyā (the Divine Energy) that stands between Brahma (God), on the one hand, and the individual soul on the other. To illustrate Her beauty as it exists in my mind in another way, She looked like Rati (the wife of the god of love) shining between Madhu (the spirit presiding over the vernal season) and the god of love. Beating my brains for another illustration, let me say She shone like Rohiṇī between Budha† and the moon-god. Sītā trod on the path with meticulous care planting Her feet in the space between Her lord’s footprints. Avoiding the footprints of both Sītā and Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa traversed the road always keeping them to his right. The ideal affection of Śrī Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa and Sītā was past telling; how can one describe it? Even birds and beasts were enraptured to behold their beauty; their hearts were stolen by Rāma, the wayfarer. (1 - 4)

Whoever saw the beloved travellers, Sītā and the two brothers (Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa), joyously reached the end of the toilsome journey of life without any exertion. (123)

Nay, to this very day, anyone in whose heart the wayfarers Lakṣmaṇa, Sītā and Rāma, should ever lodge even in a dream shall find the road leading to Śrī Rāma’s abode (the divine region known by the name of Sāketa), - the road that scarce any anchorite may find. Then perceiving that Sītā was tired and seeing a banyan tree and cool water hard by, the Hero of Raghu’s line partook of bulbs, roots and fruits and staying there overnight and bathing at dawn the Lord of Raghus proceeded further. And beholding lovely woods, lakes and hills the Lord reached the hermitage of Vālmīki. Śrī Rāma saw the sage’s beautiful dwelling with its charming hills and forest and its sacred waters. The lotuses in the ponds and the trees in the woods were in blossom; intoxicated with their honey bees sweetly hummed over them. Birds and beasts made a tumultuous noise and moved about in joy free from all animosities. (1 - 4)

The lotus-eyed Rāma rejoiced to behold the sacred and lovely hermitage; and hearing of the arrival of Śrī Rāma (the Chief of Raghu’s line) the sage came forth to receive Him. (124)

Śrī Rāma fell prostrate before the sage and the holy Brāhmaṇa blessed Him in return. The sight of Śrī Rāma’s beauty gladdened his eyes and with due honour he took the Lord into the hermitage. Finding a guest as dear to him as life itself, the holy sage sent for delicious bulbs, roots and fruits. Sītā, Lakṣmaṇa and Rāma partook of those fruits and the sage then assigned them beautiful quarters. Great was the joy of Vālmīki’s heart as he beheld with his own eyes Śrī Rāma, who was bliss personified. Joining His lotus palms the Lord of Raghus then spoke to him in words which were delightful to the ears. “You directly perceive everything relating to the past, present and future, O lord of sages; the whole universe is as if berry in the palm of your hand.” Saying so the Lord related to him the whole story as to how the queen (Kaikeyī) had exiled Him into the woods. (1 - 4)

“Compliance with my father’s commands, gratification of my stepmother (Kaikeyī), the installation of a brother like Bharata to the throne and my seeing you - all this, my lord, is the result of my meritorious acts.” (125)

“In beholding your feet, O king of sages, all my good deeds have been rewarded. Now I intend to go wherever you command me to go and where no anchorite may feel disturbed. For such monarchs as prove a source of annoyance to hermits and ascetics are consumed without fire. While the satisfaction of Brāhmaṇas is the root of happiness, their wrath consumes millions of generations. Bearing this in mind pray tell me a place to which I may proceed with Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa (Sumitrā’s son), and building a charming hut of leaves and grass may spend some time there, O good sir.” Hearing these guileless and unsophisticated words of Śrī Rāma (the Chief of Raghu’s line) the enlightened sage exclaimed, “Quite so, right You are. Why should You not speak thus, O Glory of Raghu’s line, ever busy as You are in maintaining the laws laid down by the Vedas?” (1 - 4)

“While You are the custodian of the Vedic laws and the Lord of the universe, Sītā (Janaka’s Daughter) is Your Māyā (Divine Energy) who creates, preserves and dissolves the universe on receiving the tacit approval of Your gracious Self. As for Lakṣmaṇa he is no other than the thousand-headed Śeṣa (the lord of serpents), the supporter of the globe and the lord of the entire creation, both animate and inanimate. Having assumed the form of a king for the sake of the gods You are out to crush the host of wicked demons.”

“Your Being, O Rāma, is beyond the range of speech and beyond conception, unknown, unutterable and infinite; the Vedas ever speak of It as “not that”, “not that”.” (126)

“This world is a spectacle and You are its spectator; nay, You make even Brahmā (the Creator), Viṣṇu (the Preserver) and Śambhu (the Destroyer) dance to Your tune. Even these latter know not Your secret; who else can know You? In fact, he alone can know You, to whom You make Yourself known; and the moment he knows You he becomes one with You. It is by Your grace, O Delighter of Raghus, that Your votaries come to know You, O Comforter of the heart of devotees. Your body is all consciousness and bliss and is devoid of change; it is the competent alone who realize this. It is for the sake of saints and gods that You have assumed a human semblance and speak and act even as worldly monarchs do. The stupid get puzzled while the wise feel delighted when they see or hear of Your doings. All that You say or do is true; for one should play the role one has assumed on the stage.” (1 - 4)

“You ask me: “Where should I take up my residence?” But I ask You with diffidence: tell me first the place where You are not; then alone I can show You a suitable place.” (127)

On hearing the sage’s words, imbued as they were with love, Śrī Rāma felt abashed and smiled within Himself. Vālmīki too smiled and spoke to Him again in words as sweet as though they were steeped in nectar: “Listen, Rāma: I tell You now the places where You should abide with Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa. The heart of those whose ears are like the ocean, constantly replenished with a number of lovely streams in the shape of Your stories but know no surfeit, shall be Your charming abode. Just as Chātakā always longs to see the rain clouds, disdaining all big rivers, oceans and lakes and prefers only drops of rain clouds. Similarly those whose eyes are always laying for your beautiful vision disdain all worldly comforts and always lay for a glimpse of your beauty in their hearts there is a comfortable for you to live in along with Lakṣmaṇa and Sītā. (1 - 4)

“Nay, You should dwell in the heart of him whose swan-like tongue picks up pearls in the shape of Your virtues in the holy Mānasarovara lake of Your fame.” (128)

“Abide, O Rāma, in the mind of those whose nose devoutly inhales every day the fragrance of sacred and lovely offerings (in the shape of flowers, sandal-paste, etc.,) made to their Lord (Yourself), who eat only that which has been offered to You and put on clothes and ornaments first dedicated to You, whose heads bow down most submissively and lovingly at the sight of a god, preceptor or Brāhmaṇa, whose hands adore Śrī Rāma’s feet every day, who cherish in their heart faith in Rāma and none else, and whose feet take them to holy places sacred to Rāma. Again those who are ever engaged in muttering the Rāma-Mantra (Śrī Rāmāya Namaḥ), the king of all sacred formulas, and worship You along with Your associates; who offer water to the manes and pour oblations into the sacred fire in diverse ways, who feed the Brāhmaṇas and bestow liberal gifts on them and who look upon their preceptor as greater than Yourself and wait upon him with due honour and entire devotion - ” (1 - 4)

“And who having done all this ask only one boon as their reward: “Let me have devotion to Śrī Rāma’s feet!” - enthrone Yourself in the temple of their heart, both Sītā and the Delighter of Raghus (Yourself). (129)

“Those who have no lust, anger, arrogance, pride or infatuation, are without greed, excitement, attraction or aversion and who are free from fraud, hypocrisy and deceit - it is in their heart that You should abide, O Chief of Raghus. Again, those who are beloved of all and friendly to all, to whom joy and sorrow, applause and abuse are alike and who scrupulously utter truthful and polite words, nay, who are resigned to You whether awake or asleep and who have no support other than Yourself - it is in their mind, O Rāma, that You should dwell. Again, those who look upon another’s wife as their own mother and to whom another’s wealth is the deadliest of all poisons, who rejoice to see others” prosperity and are particularly grieved to see another’s distress, and to whom, O Rāma, You are dear as their own life - their minds are Your blessed abodes.” (1 - 4)

“Nay, those to whom, my dear, You are at once master and companion, father and mother, preceptor and everything else - it is in the temple of their mind that Sītā and You two brothers should reside.” (130)

“Those who overlook others” faults and pick out their virtues and endure hardships for the sake of the Brāhmaṇas and cows, nay, who have established their reputation in the world as well-versed in the laws of propriety - their mind is Your excellent abode. Again, he who attributes his virtues to You and holds himself responsible for his faults, nay, who entirely depends on You and loves Śrī Rāma’s (Your) devotees - it is in his heart that You should stay along with Videha’s Daughter (Sītā). He who, renouncing his caste and kinsmen, wealth, faith and glory, his near and dear ones, his happy home and everything else, cherishes You in his bosom - in his heart You should take up Your residence, O Lord of Raghus. Again, he to whom heaven and hell and even freedom from birth and death are the same inasmuch as he beholds You armed with a bow and arrow here, there and everywhere, and who is Your servant in thought, word and deed - make his heart, O Rāma, Your permanent abode.” (1 - 4)

“Lastly, he who never wants anything and bears natural affinity to You - incessantly dwell in his mind; for that is Your own home.” (131)

The eminent sage (Vālmīki) thus showed Him many a dwelling place and his loving words gladdened Śrī Rāma’s soul. “Listen, O Lord of the solar race,” the sage continued, “I now tell You a retreat that will be delightful in the existing circumstances. Take up Your abode on the Chitrakūṭa hill: there You will have all facilities. Charming is the hill and lovely the forest, which is the haunt of elephants, lions and deer as well as of birds. It has a holy river glorified in the Purāṇas, which was brought by the sage Atri’s wife by dint of her penance. It is a side stream of the Gaṅgā and is known by the name of Mandākinī - which is quick to destroy sins even as a witch strangles infants. Many great sages like Atri dwell there practising Yoga and muttering sacred formulas and wasting their bodies with penance. Wend Your way thither, Rāma, and reward the labours of all, conferring dignity on this great mountain as well.” (1 - 4)

The great sage Vālmīki then described at length the infinite glory of Chitrakūṭa and the two brothers proceeded with Sītā and bathed in the sacred stream. (132)

Śrī Rāma (the Chief of Raghu’s line) said, “Lakṣmaṇa, here is a good descent into the river; now make arrangements for our stay somewhere.” Lakṣmaṇa presently surveyed the north bank of the Payaswinī river and said, “Lo! a rivulet bends round this bank like a bow with the river itself for its string, control of the mind and senses and charity for its arrows, and all the sins of the Kali age for its many quarries. Armed with this bow Mount Chitrakūṭa looks like an immovable huntsman who takes unerring aim and makes a frontal attack.” With these words Lakṣmaṇa showed the spot and Śrī Rāma was delighted to see the site. When the gods learnt that the site had captivated Śrī Rāma’s mind, they proceeded to Chitrakūṭa with Viśvakarma, the chief of heavenly architects. They all came in the guise of Kolas and Bhīlas and put up beautiful dwellings of leaves and grass. They made a pair of huts which were lovely beyond words, the one a fine little cottage and the other larger in size. (1 - 4)

Adorning the beautiful cottage with Lakṣmaṇa and Janaka’s Daughter (Sītā) the Lord looked as charming as the god of love accompanied by his consort, Rati, and the deity presiding over Spring (the king of seasons) all attired as hermits. (133)