The Epic of Rama, Prince of India
Book VII. Kishkindha
(In the Nilgiri Mountains )
The portions translated in this Book form Sections v., xv., xvi., xxvi., a portion of Section xxviii., and an abstract of Sections xi. to xliii. of Book iv. of the original text.
I. Friends in Misfortune
Long and loud lamented Rama by his lonesome cottage door,
Janasthana’s woodlands answered, Panchavati’s echoing shore,
Long he searched in wood and jungle, mountain crest and pathless plain,
Till he reached the Malya mountains stretching to the southern main.
Banished from their home and empire lived within the forest cave,
To the exiled king Sugriva, Hanuman his purpose told,
As he marked the pensive Rama wand’ring with his brother bold:
“Mark the sons of Dasa-ratha banished from their royal home,
Duteous to their father’s mandate in these pathless forests roam,
Great was monarch Dasa-ratha famed for sacrifice divine,
Raja-suya, Aswa-medha, and for gift of gold and kine,
By a monarch’s stainless duty people’s love the monarch won,
By a woman’s false contrivance banished he his eldest son!
True to duty, true to virtue, Rama passed his forest life,
Till a false perfidious Raksha stole his fair and faithful wife,
And the anguish-stricken husband seeks thy friendship and thy aid, –
Mutual sorrow blends your fortunes, be ye friends in mutual need!”
Bold Sugriva heard the counsel, and to righteous Rama hied,
And the princes of Ayodhya with his greetings gratified:
“Well I know thee, righteous Rama, soul of piety and love,
And thy duty to thy father and thy faith in Gods above,
Fortune favours poor Sugriva, Rama courts his humble aid,
In our deepest direst danger be our truest friendship made!
Equal is our fateful fortune, – I have lost a queenly wife,
Banished from Kishkindha’s empire here I lead a forest life,
Pledge of love and true alliance, Rama, take this proffered hand,
Banded by a common sorrow we shall fall or stoutly stand!”
Rama grasped the hand he offered, and the tear was in his eye,
And they swore undying friendship o’er the altar blazing high,
Hanuman with fragrant blossoms sanctified the sacred rite,
And the comrades linked by sorrow walked around the altar’s light,
We are friends in thought and action, we will face our common foe!”
And they broke a leafy Sal tree, spread it underneath their feet,
Rama and his friend Sugriva sat upon the common seat,
And a branch of scented Chandan with its tender blossoms graced,
Hanuman as seat of honour for the faithful Lakshman placed.
“Listen, Rama,” spake Sugriva, “reft of kingdom, reft of wife,
Fleeing to these rugged mountains I endure a forest life,
For my tyrant brother Bali rules Kishkindha all alone,
Forced my wife from my embraces, drove me from my father’s throne,
Trembling in my fear and anguish I endure a life of woe,
Render me my wife and empire from my brother and my foe!”
“Not in vain they seek my succour,” so the gallant Rama said,
“Who with love and offered friendship seek my counsel and my aid,
Not in vain these glistening arrows in my ample quiver shine,
Bali dies the death of tyrants, wife and empire shall be thine!
Quick as Indra’s forkéd lightning are these arrows feather-plumed,
Deadly as the hissing serpent are these darts with points illumed,
And this day shall not be ended ere it sees thy brother fall,
As by lurid lightning severed sinks the crest of mountain tall!”
II. The Counsel of Tara
Linked in bonds of faithful friendship Rama and Sugriva came,
Where in royal town Kishkindha, Bali ruled with warlike fame,
And a shout like troubled ocean’s or like tempest’s deafening roar
Spake Sugriva’s mighty challenge to the victor king once more!
And like sun by eclipse shaded, dark and pale he looked around,
And his teeth were set in anger and a passion lit his eye,
As a tempest stirs a torrent when its lilies scattered lie,
And he rose in wrath terrific with a thought of vengeance dread,
And the firm earth shook and trembled ’neath his proud and haughty tread!
But the true and tender Tara held her husband and her lord,
And a woman’s deeper wisdom spake in woman’s loving word:
“Wherefore like a rain-fed torrent swells thy passion in its sway,
Thoughts of wrath like withered blossoms from thy bosom cast away,
Wait till dawns another morning, wait till thou dost truly know,
With what strength and added forces comes again thy humbled foe.
Crushed in combat faint Sugriva fled in terror and in pain,
Trust me, not without a helper comes he to the fight again,
Trust me, lord, that loud defiance is no coward’s falt’ring cry,
Conscious strength not hesitation speaks in voice so proud and high!
Much my woman’s heart misgives me, not without a mighty aid,
Not without a daring comrade comes Sugriva to this raid,
Not with feeble friend Sugriva seeks alliance in his need,
Nor invokes a powerless chieftain in his lust and in his greed.
Mighty is his royal comrade, – listen, husband, to my word,
What my son in forest confines from his messengers hath heard, –
Princes from Ayodhya’s country peerless in the art of war,
Rama and the valiant Lakshman in these forests wander far,
Much I fear, these matchless warriors have their aid and counsel lent
Conscious of his strength Sugriva hath this proud defiance sent!
To his friends a tree of shelter, soul of tenderness and love,
Dearer than his love of glory is his love to heal and bless,
Dearer than the crown and empire is his hermit’s holy dress,
Not with such, my lord and husband, seek a vain unrighteous strife,
For, like precious ores in mountains, virtues dwell in Rama’s life.
Make Sugriva thy companion, make him Regent and thy Heir,
Discord with a younger brother rends an empire broad and fair,
Make thy peace with young Sugriva, nearest and thy dearest kin,
Brother’s love is truest safety, brother’s hate is deadliest sin!
Trust me, monarch of Kishkindha, trust thy true and faithful wife,
Thou shalt find no truer comrade than Sugriva in thy life,
Wage not then a war fraternal, smite him not in sinful pride,
As a brother and a warrior let him stand by Bali’s side.
Listen to thy Tara’s counsel if to thee is Tara dear,
If thy wife is true in duty scorn not Tara’s wifely tear,
Not with Rama prince of virtue wage a combat dread and high,
Not with Rama prince of valour, peerless like the Lord of sky!”
III. The Fall of Bali
Star-eyed Tara softly counselled pressing to her consort’s side,
Mighty Bali proudly answered with a warrior’s lofty pride:
“Challenge of a humbled foeman and a younger’s haughty scorn
May not, shall not, tender Tara, by a king be meekly borne!
Insult from a foe, unanswered, is a deeper stain than death,
And Sugriva’s quest for combat Bali never shall deny,
Though sustained by Rama’s forces and by Rama’s prowess high!
Free me from thy sweet embraces and amidst thy maids retire,
Woman’s love and soft devotion woman’s timid thoughts inspire,
Fear not, Tara, blood of brother Bali’s honour shall not stain,
I will quell his proud presumption, chase him from this realm again,
Free me from thy loving dalliance, midst thy damsels seek thy place,
Till I come a happy victor to my Tara’s fond embrace!”
Slow and sad with sweet obeisance Tara stepped around her lord,
Welling tear-drops choked her accents as she prayed in stifled word,
Slow and sad with swelling bosom Tara with her maids retired,
Bali issued proud and stately with the thought of vengeance fired!
Hissing like an angry cobra, city’s lofty gates he past,
And his proud and angry glances fiercely all around he cast,
Till he saw the bold Sugriva, gold-complexioned, red with ire,
Girded for the dubious combat, flaming like the forest fire!
Bali braced his warlike garments and his hand he lifted high,
Bold Sugriva raised his right arm with a proud and answering cry,
Bali’s eyes were red as copper and his chain was burnished gold,
To his brother bold Sugriva thus he spake in accents bold:
“Mark this iron fist, intruder, fatal is its vengeful blow,
Crushed and smitten thou shalt perish and to nether world shalt go,”
“Nay that fate awaits thee, Bali,” spake Sugriva armed for strife,
“When this right arm smites thy forehead, from thy bosom rends thy life!”
Closed the chiefs in fatal combat, each resistless in his pride,
And like running rills from mountains poured their limbs the purple tide,
As the dark cloud hurls the lightning, hurled it where his brother stood,
Staggering ’neath the blow terrific Bali reeled and almost fell,
As a proud ship overladen reels upon the ocean’s swell!
But with fiercer rage and fury Bali in his anguish rose,
And with mutual blows they battled, – brothers and relentless foes,
Like the sun and moon in conflict or like eagles in their fight,
Still they fought with cherished hatred and an unforgotten spite,
Till with mightier force and fury Bali did his younger quell,
Faint Sugriva fiercely struggling ’neath his brother’s prowess fell!
Still the wrathful rivals wrestled with their bleeding arms and knees,
With their nails like claws of tigers and with riven rocks and trees,
And as Indra battles Vritra in the tempest’s pealing roar,
Blood-stained Bali, red Sugriva, strove and struggled, fought and tore,
Till Sugriva faint and falt’ring fell like Vritra from the sky,
To his comrade and his helper turned his faint and pleading eye!
Ah! those soft and pleading glances smote the gentle Rama’s heart,
On his bow of ample stature Rama raised the fatal dart,
Like the fatal disc of Yama was his proudly circled bow,
Like a snake of deadly poison flew his arrow swift and low,
Wingéd dwellers of the forest heard the twang with trembling fear,
Echoing woods gave back the accent, lightly fled the startled deer,
And as Indra’s flag is lowered when the Aswin winds prevail,
Lofty Bali pierced and bleeding by that fatal arrow fell!
IV. The Consecration of Sugriva
E’en Sugriva’s bosom melted when he saw his brother dead,
And each Vanar chief and warrior, maha-matra, lord and peer,
Gathered round the sad Sugriva wet with unavailing tear!
And they girt the victor Rama and they praised his wond’rous might,
As the heavenly rishis gather circling Brahma’s throne of light,
Hanuman of sun-like radiance, lofty as a hill of gold,
Clasped his hands in due obeisance, spake in accents calm and bold:
“By thy prowess, peerless Rama, prince Sugriva is our lord,
To his father’s throne and empire, to his father’s town restored,
Cleansed by bath and fragrant unguents and in royal garments gay,
He shall with his gold and garlands homage to the victor pay,
To the rock-bound fair Kishkindha do thy friendly footsteps bend,
And as monarch of the Vanars consecrate thy grateful friend!”
“Fourteen years,” so Rama answered, “by his father’s stern command,
In a city’s sacred confines banished Rama may not stand,
Friend and comrade, brave Sugriva, enter thou the city wall,
And assume the royal sceptre in thy father’s royal hall.
Gallant Angad, son of Bali, is in regal duties trained,
Ruling partner of thy empire be the valiant prince ordained,
Eldest son of eldest brother, – such the maxim that we own, –
Worthy of his father’s kingdom, doth ascend his father’s throne.
Listen! ’tis the month of Sravan, now begins the yearly rain,
In these months of wind and deluge thoughts of vengeful strife were vain,
With my ever faithful Lakshman let me in these mountains roam.
Spacious is yon rocky cavern fragrant with the mountain air,
Bright with lily and with lotus, watered by a streamlet fair,
Here we dwell till month of Kartik when the clouded sky will clear,
And the time of war and vengeance on our foeman shall be near.”
Bowing to the victor’s mandate brave Sugriva marched in state,
And the host of thronging Vanars entered by the city gate,
Prostrate chiefs with due obeisance rendered homage, one and all,
And Sugriva blessed his people, stepped within the palace hall.
And they sprinkled sacred water from the vases jewel-graced,
And they waved the fan of chowri, raised the sun-shade silver-laced,
And they spread the gold and jewel, grain and herb and fragrant ghee,
Sapling twigs and bending branches, blossoms from the flowering tree,
Milk-white garments gem-bespangled, and the Chandan’s fragrant dye,
Wreaths and spices, snow-white lilies, lotus azure as the sky,
Jatarupa and Priyangu, honey, curd and holy oil,
Costly sandals gilt and jewelled, tiger-skin the hunter’s spoil!
Decked in gold and scented garlands, robed in radiance rich and rare,
Sweetly stepped around Sugriva sixteen maidens passing fair,
Priests received the royal bounty, gift and garment gold-belaced,
And they lit the holy altar with the sacred mantra graced,
And they poured the sweet libation on the altar’s lighted flame,
And on throne of royal splendour placed the chief of royal fame!
On a high and open terrace with auspicious garlands graced,
Facing eastward, in his glory was the brave Sugriva placed,
Water from each holy river, from each tirtha famed of old,
From the broad and boundless ocean, was arranged in jars of gold,
Holy consecrating water chiefs and loyal courtiers poured.
Gaya and the great Gavaksha, Gandha-madan proud and brave,
Hanuman held up the vases, Jambaman his succour gave,
And they laved the king Sugriva as Immortals in the sky,
Consecrate the star-eyed Indra in his mansions bright and high,
And a shout of joy and triumph, like the pealing voice of war,
Spake Sugriva’s consecration to the creatures near and far!
Duteous still to Rama’s mandate, as his first born and his own,
King Sugriva named young Angad sharer of his royal throne,
Gay and bannered town Kishkindha hailed Sugriva’s gracious word,
Tender Tara wiped her tear-drops bowing to a younger lord!
V. The Rains in the Nilgiri Mountains
“Mark the shadowing rain and tempest,” Rama to his brother said,
As on Malya’s cloud-capped ranges in their hermit-guise they strayed,
“Massive clouds like rolling mountains gather thick and gather high,
Lurid lightnings glint and sparkle, pealing thunders shake the sky,
Pregnant with the ocean moisture by the solar ray instilled,
Now the skies like fruitful mothers are with grateful waters filled!
Mark the folds of cloudy masses, ladder-like of smooth ascent,
One could almost reach the Sun-god, wreath him with a wreath of scent,
And when glow these heavy masses red and white with evening’s glow,
One could almost deem them sword-cuts branded by some heavenly foe!
Like a lover chandan-painted in each breeze it heaves a sigh,
And the earth is hot and feverish, moistened with the tears of rain,
Sighing like my anguished Sita when she wept in woe and pain!
Fresh and sweet like draught of nectar is the rain-besprinkled breeze,
Fragrant with the ketak blossom, scented by the camphor trees,
Fresh and bold each peak and mountain bathed in soft descending rain,
So they sprinkle holy water when they bless a monarch’s reign!
Fair and tall as holy hermits, stand yon shadow-mantled hills,
Murmuring mantras with the zephyr, robed in threads of sparkling rills,
Fair and young as gallant coursers neighing forth their thunder cries,
Lashed by golden whips of lightning are the dappled sunlit skies!
Ah, my lost and loving Sita! writhing in a Raksha’s power,
As the lightning shakes and quivers in this dark tempestuous shower,
Shadows thicken on the prospect, dower and leaf are wet with rain,
And each passing object, Lakshman, wakes in me a thought of pain!
Joyously from throne and empire with my Sita I could part,
As the stream erodes its margin, Sita’s absence breaks my heart,
Rain and tempest cloud the prospect as they cloud my onward path,
Dubious is my darksome future, mighty is my foeman’s wrath!
Ravan monarch of the Rakshas, – so Jatayu said and died, –
In some unknown forest fastness doth my sorrowing Sita hide,
But Sugriva true and faithful seeks the Raksha’s secret hold,
Firm in faith and fixed in purpose we will face our foeman bold!”
VI. The Quest for Sita
And unto a gallant chieftain thus the king his purpose told:
“Brave in war and wise in counsel! take ten thousand of my best,
Seek the hiding-place of Ravan in the regions of the East.
Seek each ravine rock and forest and each shadowy hill and cave,
Far where bright Sarayu’s waters mix with Ganga’s ruddy wave,
And where Jumna’s dark blue waters ceaseless roll in regal pride,
And the Sone through leagues of country spreads its torrent far and wide,
Seek where in Videha’s empire castled towns and hamlets shine,
In Kosala and in Malwa and by Kasi’s sacred shrine,
Magadh rich in peopled centres, Pundra region of the brave,
Anga rich in corn and cattle on the eastern ocean wave.
Seek where clans of skilful weavers dwell upon the eastern shore,
And from virgin mines of silver miners work the sparkling ore,
In the realms of uncouth nations, in the islets of the sea,
In the mountains of the ocean, wander far and wander free!”
Next to Nila son of Agni, Jambaman Vidhata’s son,
Hanuman the son of Marut, famed for deeds of valour done,
Unto Gaya and Gavaksha, Gandha-madan true and tried,
Unto Angad prince and regent, thus the brave Sugriva cried:
“Noblest, bravest of our chieftains, greatest of our race are ye,
Seek and search the Southern regions, rock and ravine, wood and tree,
Through the gorges of Narmada rolling o’er its rocky bed,
By the gloomy Godavari and by Krishna’s wooded stream,
Through Utkala’s sea-girt forests tinged by morning’s early gleam,
Search the towns of famed Dasarna and Avanti’s rocky shore,
And the uplands of Vidarbha and the mountains of Mysore,
Land of Matsyas and Kalingas and Kausika’s regions fair,
Trackless wilderness of Dandak seek with anxious toil and care.
Search the empire of the Andhras, of the sister-nations three, –
Cholas, Cheras and the Pandyas dwelling by the southern sea,
Pass Kaveri’s spreading waters, Malya’s mountains towering brave,
Seek the isle of Tamra-parni, gemmed upon the ocean wave!”
To Susena chief and elder, – Tara’s noble sire was he, –
Spake Sugriva with obeisance and in accents bold and free:
“Take my lord, a countless army of the bravest and the best,
Search where beats the sleepless ocean on the regions of the West.
Search the country of Saurashtras, of Bahlikas strong and brave,
And each busy mart and seaport on the western ocean wave,
Castles girt by barren mountains, deserts by the sandy sea,
Forests of the fragrant ketak, regions of the tamal tree!
Search the ocean port of Pattan shaded by its fruitful trees,
Where the feathery groves of cocoa court the balmy western breeze,
Where on peaks of Soma-giri lordly lions wander free,
Where the waters of the Indus mingle with the mighty sea!”
Lastly to the valiant chieftain Satavala strong and brave,
For the quest of saintly Sita thus his mighty mandate gave:
To the peaks of Himalaya, to the regions of the North!
Mlechchas and the wild Pulindas in the rocky regions dwell,
Madra chiefs and mighty Kunis live within each fertile vale,
Wild Kambojas of the mountains, Yavanas of wondrous skill,
Sakas swooping from their gorges, Pattanas of iron will!
Search the woods of devadaru mantling Himalaya’s side,
And the forests of the lodhra spreading in their darksome pride,
Search the land of Soma-srama where the gay Gandharvas dwell,
In the table land of Kala search each rock and ravine well!
Cross the snowy Himalaya, and Sudarsan’s holy peak,
Deva-sakha’s wooded ranges which the feathered songsters seek,
Cross the vast and dreary region void of stream or wooded hill,
Till you reach the white Kailasa, home of Gods, serene and still!
Pass Kuvera’s pleasant regions, search the Krauncha mountain well,
And the land where warlike females and the horse-faced women dwell,
Halt not till you reach the country where the Northern Kurus rest,
Utmost confines of the wide earth, home of Gods and Spirit blest!”