The Epic of Rama, Prince of India
Book XI. Rajya-Abhisheka
(Rama’s Return and Consecration)
The gathering of men at Ayodhya, the greetings to Rama, and his consecration by the Vedic bard Vasishtha, are among the most pleasing passages in the whole poem. And the happiness enjoyed by men during the reign of Rama – described in the last few couplets of this Book – is an article of belief and a living tradition in India to this day.
The portions translated in this Book form the whole or portions of Sections cxviii., cxx., cxxv., cxxix., and cxxx. of Book vi. of the original text.
I. Ordeal by Fire
Righteous Rama’s brow was clouded, saintly Sita spake in shame:
“Wherefore spake ye not, my Rama, if your bosom doubts my faith,
Dearer than a dark suspicion to a woman were her death!
Wherefore, Rama, with your token came your vassal o’er the wave,
To assist a fallen woman and a tainted wife to save,
Wherefore with your mighty forces crossed the ocean in your pride,
Risked your life in endless combats for a sin-polluted bride?
Hast thou, Rama, all forgotten! – Saintly Janak saw my birth,
Child of harvest-bearing furrow, Sita sprang from Mother Earth,
As a maiden true and stainless unto thee I gave my hand,
As a consort fond and faithful roved with thee from land to land!
But a woman pleadeth vainly when suspicion clouds her name,
Lakshman, if thou lov’st thy sister, light for me the funeral flame,
When the shadow of dishonour darkens o’er a woman’s life,
Death alone is friend and refuge of a true and trustful wife,
When a righteous lord and husband turns his cold averted eyes,
Funeral flame dispels suspicion, honour lives when woman dies!”
Dark was Rama’s gloomy visage and his lips were firmly sealed,
And his eye betrayed no weakness, word disclosed no thought concealed,
Silent heaved his heart in anguish, silent drooped his tortured head,
Lakshman with a throbbing bosom funeral pyre for Sita made,
And Videha’s sinless daughter prayed unto the Gods above,
On her lord and wedded consort cast her dying looks of love!
Witness of our sins and virtues, may this Fire protect my fame!
If a false and lying scandal brings a faithful woman shame,
Witness of our sins and virtues, may this Fire protect my fame!
If in life-long loving duty I am free from sin and blame,
Witness of our sins and virtues, may this Fire protect my fame!”
Fearless in her faith and valour Sita stepped upon the pyre,
And her form of beauty vanished circled by the clasping fire,
And an anguish shook the people like the ocean tempest-tost,
Old and young and maid and matron wept for Sita true and lost,
For bedecked in golden splendour and in gems and rich attire,
Sita vanished in the red fire of the newly lighted pyre!
Rishis and the great Gandharvas, Gods who know each secret deed,
Witnessed Sita’s high devotion and a woman’s lofty creed,
And the earth by ocean girdled with its wealth of teeming life,
Witnessed deed of dauntless duty of a true and stainless wife!
II. Woman’s Truth Vindicated
Slow the red flames rolled asunder, God of Fire incarnate came,
Holding in his radiant bosom fair Videha’s sinless dame,
Not a curl upon her tresses, not a blossom on her brow,
Not a fibre of her mantle did with tarnished lustre glow!
Witness of our sins and virtues, God of Fire incarnate spake,
Bade the sorrow-stricken Rama back his sinless wife to take:
“Ravan in his impious folly forced from thee thy faithful dame,
Guarded by her changeless virtue, Sita still remains the same,
In her woe and in her sadness true to thee hath Sita stood,
Courted oft by royal Ravan in the forest far and lone,
True to wedded troth and virtue Sita thought of thee alone,
Pure is she in thought and action, pure and stainless, true and meek,
I, the witness of all actions, thus my sacred mandate speak!”
Rama’s forehead was unclouded and a radiance lit his eye,
And his bosom heaved in gladness as he spake in accents high:
“Never from the time I saw her in her maiden days of youth,
Have I doubted Sita’s virtue, Sita’s fixed and changeless truth,
I have known her ever sinless, – let the world her virtue know,
For the God of Fire is witness to her truth and changeless vow!
Ravan in his pride and passion conquered not a woman’s love,
For the virtuous like the bright fire in their native radiance move,
Ravan in his rage and folly conquered not a faithful wife,
For like ray of sun unsullied is a righteous womans life,
Be the wide world now a witness, – pure and stainless is my dame,
Rama shall not leave his consort till he leaves his righteous fame!”
In his tears the contrite Rama clasped her in a soft embrace,
And the fond forgiving Sita in his bosom hid her face!
III. Return Home by the Aërial Car
Borne by swans, the home-returning exiles left the field of war,
“Lanka’s proud and castled city on Trikuta’s triple crest,
As on peaks of bold Kailasa mansions of Immortals rest!
Mark the gory fields surrounding where the Vanars in their might,
Faced and fought the charging Rakshas in the long and deathful fight,
Indrajit and Kumbha-karna, Ravan and his chieftains slain,
Fell upon the field of battle and their red blood soaks the plain,
Mark where dark-eyed Mandodari, Ravan’s slender-waisted wife,
Wept her widow’s tears of anguish when her monarch lost his life,
She hath dried her tears of sorrow and bestowed her heart and hand,
On Bibhishan good and faithful, crownéd king of Lanka’s land,
See my love, round Ceylon’s island how the ocean billows roar,
Hiding pearls in caves of corals, strewing shells upon the shore,
And the causeway far-extending, – monument of Rama’s fame, –
‘Rama’s Bridge’ to distant ages shall our deathless deeds proclaim!
See the rockbound fair Kishkindha and her mountain-girdled town,
Where I slayed the warrior Bali, placed Sugriva on the throne,
And the hill of Rishyamuka where Sugriva first I met,
Gave him word, – he would be monarch ere the evening’s sun had set,
See the sacred lake of Pampa by whose wild and echoing shore,
Rama poured his lamentations when he saw his wife no more,
And the woods of Janasthana where Jatayu fought and bled,
When the deep deceitful Ravan with my trusting Sita fled,
Where in righteous peace and penance Sita lived in days of yore,
And by gloomy Godavari, Saint Agastya’s home of love,
Holy men by holy duties sanctify the sacred grove!
Dost thou, o’er the Dandak forest, view the Chitrakuta hill,
Deathless bard the Saint Valmiki haunts its shade and crystal rill,
Thither came the righteous Bharat and my loving mother came,
Longing in their hearts to take us to Ayodhya’s town of fame,
Dost thou, dear devoted Sita, see the Jumna in her might,
Where in Bharad-waja’s asram passed we, love, a happy night,
And the broad and ruddy Ganga sweeping in her regal pride,
Forest-dweller faithful Guha crossed us to the southern side,
Joy! joy! my gentle Sita! Fair Ayodhya looms above,
Ancient seat of Raghu’s empire, nest of Rama’s hope and love,
Bow, bow, to bright Ayodhya! Darksome did the exiles roam,
Now their weary toil is ended in their father’s ancient home!”
Message from returning Rama, Vanars to Ayodhya brought,
Righteous Bharat gave his mandate with a holy joy distraught:
“Let our city shrines and chaityas with a lofty music shake,
And our priests to bright Immortals grateful gifts and offerings make,
Bards, reciters of Puranas, minstrels versed in ancient song,
Women with their tuneful voices lays of sacred love prolong,
Let our queens and stately courtiers step in splendour and in state,
Chieftains with their marshalled forces range along the city gate,
Offer greetings to our brother, render homage to our king!”
Brave Satrughna heard his elder and his mandate duly kept:
“Be our great and sacred city levelled, cleansed, and duly swept,
And the grateful earth be sprinkled with the water from the well,
Strewn with parchéd rice and offering and with dower of sweetest smell,
On each turret tower and temple let our flags and colours wave,
On the gates of proud Ayodhya plant Ayodhya’s banners brave,
Gay festoons of flowering creeper home and street and dwelling line,
And in gold and glittering garment let the gladdened city shine!”
Elephants in golden trappings thousand chiefs and nobles bore,
Chariots cars and gallant chargers speeding by Sarayu’s shore,
And the serried troops of battle marched with colours rich and brave,
Proudly o’er the gay procession did Ayodhya’s banners wave.
In their stately gilded litters royal dames and damsels came,
Queen Kausalya first and foremost, Queen Sumitra rich in fame,
Pious priest and learned Brahman, chief of guild from near and far,
Noble chief and stately courtier with the wreath and water jar.
Girt by minstrel bard and herald chanting glorious deeds of yore,
Bharat came, – his elder’s sandals still the faithful younger bore, –
Silver-white his proud umbrella, silver-white his garland brave,
Silver-white the fan of chowri which his faithful henchmen wave.
Stately march of gallant chargers and the roll of battle car,
Heavy tread of royal tuskers and the beat of drum of war,
Dundubhi and echoing sankha, voice of nations gathered nigh,
Shook the city’s tower and temple and the pealing vault of sky!
Sailing o’er the cloudless ether Rama’s Pushpa chariot came,
And ten-thousand jocund voices shouted Rama’s joyous name,
Tottering age and lisping infant hailed the righteous chief and high.
Bharat lifted up his glances unto Rama from afar,
Unto Sita, unto Lakshman, seated on the Pushpa car,
And he wafted high his greetings and he poured his pious lay,
As one wafts the chaunted mantra to the rising God of Day!
Silver swans by Rama’s bidding soft descended from the air,
And on earth the chariot lighted, – car of flowers divinely fair, –
Bharat mounting on the chariot, sought his long-lost elder’s grace,
Rama held his faithful younger in a brother’s dear embrace.
With his greetings unto Lakshman, unto Rama’s faithful dame,
To Bibhishan and Sugriva and each chief who thither came,
Bharat took the jewelled sandals with the rarest gems inlaid,
Placed them at the feet of Rama and in humble accents said:
“Tokens of thy rule and empire, these have filled thy royal throne,
Faithful to his trust and duty Bharat renders back thine own,
Bharat’s life is joy and gladness, for returned from distant shore,
Thou shall rule thy spacious kingdom and thy loyal men once more,
Thou shall hold thy rightful empire and assume thy royal crown,
Faithful to his trust and duty, – Bharat renders back thine own!”
V. The Consecration
Joy! joy! in bright Ayodhya gladness filled the hearts of all,
Joy! joy! a lofty music sounded in the royal hall,
Fourteen years of woe were ended, Rama now assumed his own,
And they placed the weary wand’rer on his father’s ancient throne,
From the vast and boundless ocean, from each far and sacred rill.
Vasishtha the Bard of Vedas with auspicious rites and meet
Placed the monarch and his consort on the gemmed and jewelled seat,
Gautama and Katyayana, Vamadeva priest of yore,
Jabali and wise Vijaya versed in holy ancient lore,
Poured the fresh and fragrant water on the consecrated king,
As the Gods anointed Indra from the pure ethereal spring!
Vedic priests with sacred mantra, dark-eyed virgins with their song,
Warriors girt in arms and weapons round the crownéd monarch throng,
Juices from each fragrant creeper on his royal brow they place,
And his father’s crown and jewels Rama’s ample forehead grace,
And as Manu, first of monarchs, was enthroned in days of yore,
So was Rama consecrated by the priests of Vedic lore!
Brave Satrughna on his brother cast the white umbrella’s shade,
Bold Sugriva and Bibhishan waved the chowri gem-inlaid,
Vayu, God of gentle zephyrs, gift of golden garland lent,
Indra, God of rain and sunshine, wreath of pearls to Rama sent,
Gay Gandharvas raised the music, fair Apsaras formed the ring,
Men in nations hailed their Rama as their lord and righteous king!
And ’tis told by ancient sages, during Rama’s happy reign,
Death untimely, dire diseases, came not to his subject men,
Widows wept not in their sorrow for their lords untimely lost,
Mothers wailed not in their anguish for their babes by Yama crost,
Robbers, cheats, and gay deceivers tempted not with lying word,
Neighbour loved his righteous neighbour and the people loved their lord!
And the earth in grateful gladness never failing harvest lent,
Rains descended in their season, never came the blighting gale,
Rich in crop and rich in pasture was each soft and smiling vale,
Loom and anvil gave their produce and the tilled and fertile soil,
And the nation lived rejoicing in their old ancestral toil.