BOOK I - SITA-SWAYAWARA (The Bridal of Sita)
THE Epic relates to the ancient traditions of two powerful races,
and the Videhas, who lived in Northern India between the
twelfth and tenth centuries before Christ. The names Kosala and Videha
in the singular number indicate the kingdoms,--Oudh and North Behar,--and
in the plural number they mean the ancient races which inhabited those
According to the Epic, Dasa-ratha king of the Kosalas had four
sons, the eldest of whom was Rama the hero of the poem. And Janak king
of the Videhas had a daughter named Sita, who was miraculously born of
a field furrow, and who is the heroine of the Epic.
Janak ordained a severe test for the hand of his daughter, and many
a prince and warrior came and went away disappointed. Rama succeeded,
and won Sita. The story of Rama's winning his bride, and of the
marriage of his three brothers with the sister and cousins of Sita,
forms the subject of this Book.
The portions translated in this Book form Section vi., Sections
1xvii. to Ixix., Section lxxiii., and Section lxxvii. of Book i. of
the original text.
AYODRYA, THE RIGHTEOUS CITY
Rich in royal worth and valour, rich in holy Vedic lore,
Dasa-ratha ruled his empire in the happy days of yore,
Loved of men in fair Ayodhya, sprung of ancient Solar Race,
Royal rishi in his duty, saintly rishi in his grace,
Great as INDRA in his prowess, bounteous as KUVERA kind,
Dauntless deeds subdued his foemen, lofty faith subdued his mind!
Like the ancient monarch Manu, father of the human race,
Dasa-ratha ruled his people with a father's loving grace,
Truth and Justice swayed each action and each baser motive quelled
People's Love and Monarch's Duty every thought and deed impelled,
And his town like INDRA'S city,--tower and dome and turret brave--
Rose in proud and peerless beauty on Sarayu's limpid wave!
Peaceful lived the righteous people, rich in wealth in merit high,
Envy dwelt not in their bosoms and their accents shaped no lie,
Fathers with their happy households owned their cattle, corn, and
Galling penury and famine in Ayodhya had no hold,
Neighbours lived in mutual kindness helpful with their ample
None who begged the wasted refuse, none who lived by fraud and
And they wore the gem and earring, wreath and fragrant sandal
And their arms were decked with bracelets, and their necks with nishkas
Cheat and braggart and deceiver lived not in the ancient town,
Proud despiser of the lowly wore not insults in their frown,
Poorer fed not on the richer, hireling friend upon the great,
None with low and lying accents did upon the proud man wait
Men to plighted vows were faithful, faithful was each loving wife,
Impure thought and wandering fancy stained not holy wedded life,
Robed in gold and graceful garments, fair in form and fair in face,
Winsome were Ayodhya's daughters, rich in wit and woman's grace
Twice-born men were free from passion, lust of gold and impure
Faithful to their Rites and Scriptures, truthful in their word and
Altar blazed in every mansion, from each home was bounty given,
'Stooped no man to fulsome falsehood, questioned none the will of
Kshatras bowed to holy Brahmans, Vaisyas to the Kshatras bowed
Toiling Sudras lived by labour, of their honest duty proud,
To the Gods and to the Fathers, to each guest in virtue trained,
Rites were done with true devotion as by holy writ ordained,
Pure each caste in due observance, stainless was each ancient rite,
And the nation thrived and prospered by its old and matchless might,
And each man in truth abiding lived a long and peaceful life,
With his sons and with his grandsons, with his loved and honoured
Thus was ruled the ancient city by her monarch true and bold,
As the earth was ruled by Mann in the misty days of old,
Troops who never turned in battle, fierce as fire and strong and
Guarded well her lofty ramparts as the lions guard the cave.
Steeds like INDRA'S in their swiftness came from far Kamboja's
From Vanaya and Vahlika and from Sindhu's rock-bound strand,
Elephants of mighty stature from the Vindhya mountains came,
Or from deep and darksome forests round Himalay's peaks of fame,
Matchless in their mighty prowess, peerless in their wondrous
Nobler than the noble tuskers sprung from high celestial breed.
Thus Ayodhya, "virgin city,"--faithful to her haughty
Ruled by righteous Dasa-ratha won a world-embracing fame,
Strong-barred gates and lofty arches, tower and dome and turret
Decked the vast and peopled city fair as mansions of the sky.
Queens of proud and peerless beauty born of houses rich in fame,
Loved of royal Dasa-ratha to his happy mansion came,
Queen Kausalya blessed with virtue true and righteous Rama bore,
Queen Kaikeyi young and beauteous bore him Bharat rich in lore,
Queen Simitra bore the bright twins, Lakshman and Satruglina bold,
Four brave princes served their father in the happy days of old!
MITHILA, AND THE BREAKING OF THE BOW
Janak monarch of Videha spake his memage 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 rishi, Rama true and Lakshman bold,
Came to fair Mithila's city from Ayodhya famed of old,
Spake in pride the royal rishi: "Monarch of Videha's
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
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
"Be it shewn to royal Rama, Dasa-ratha's righteous son,"
"This the bow," then spake the monarch to the risha famed
To the true and righteous Rama and to Lakshman young and bold,
"This the weapon of my fathers prized by kings from age to
Mighty chiefs and sturdy warriors could not bend it, noble sage
Gods before the bow of RUDRA have in righteous terror quailed,
Rakshas 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 rishi, 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
Let me lift and bend the weapon, help me with your loving grace."