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The most fundamental of Hindu deities, is the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva - popular deities include Ganesha, Krishna, Hanuman and goddesses like Lakshmi, Durga,Saraswati.

Lord ram in dandaka forest

In the Dhandaka forest lived many seers, sadhus and hermits. Rama unstrung his mighty bow, and decided to visit these holy Rishis one by one to spend some time with each of them. One day while Rama was going to a hermit through the forest, he came upon a Rakshasha named Viradha resembling a huge mountain top. He roared like a thunder. His eyes sunk, he looked terrible like Yama, the god of death. He at once rushed at Rama, Sita and Lakshmana with a defeaning cry. Viradha lifted up Sita and tried to carry her off. Sita began to tremble with fear and cried piteously for help. Stringing his bow, Rama struck the Rakshasha with sharp arrows. Wounded and bleeding he fell down, but soon got up and sprang upon the princes with his trident. Rama cut his trident with a sharp arrow and then the two princes fell upon him, and cut the demon to pieces with their sharp swords. But the Rakshasha did not die. The princes then dug up a huge oit and buried the demon in it while he was half-alive.

On hearing of Viradha's death, the sages, seers, hermits and pious people of the forest collected around Rama and praised his valor and courage. They prayed Rama for protection from the demons that frequently harassed and terrorized them. Moved by their prayer, Rama promised to protect and help them in every possible way. For next ten years Rama with Sita and Lakshmana lived among these holy men. They welcomed Rama, offered him food and shelter. During this period they visited many famous sages including Sutikshna and Agastya.

Wandering through the forest, finally they arrived at a charming spot on the banks of the river Godavari. The place was called Panchavati. Their Lakshmana erected a beautiful hut on a level ground. Surrounded with trees in bloom, the place had a charming lake nearby full of lotuses, swans and many other water bird. Herds of deer's grazed and sported all around. All these gave great delight to Sita of the lotus eyes.

One day it so happened that came Rakshashi surupnakha, the younger sister of ten-headed Ravana. When she saw the god like Rama, she was smitten with his beauty and desiring to marry him, said, "O Rama, I have fallen in love with you at first sight. Leave this worthless woman Sita and be my love and husband. We shall together enjoy all comforts of the world."

It amused Rama and he said smiling, "I am already married. You ask my brother Lakshmana to be your consort." Surupnakha turned to Lakshmana and said, "Come prince, I am perfect match for you. With me you shall enjoy and roam all over the forest."

Bemused Lakshmana said, "I am at my elder brother's disposal. By marrying me you too would become a slave." Thus rejected, she thought that Sita was the real cause of this rejection. Therefore, having determined to gobble up fair Sita, the ugly demons sprang upon Janaki. It enraged Rama beyond measures, and he told Lakshmana, "no more of this brother. Disfigure and punish the ugly wretch immediately." Thus ordered, Lakshmana drew his sharp sword and cut off her nose and ears.

Surupnakha bleeding and screaming fled off into the forest. Determined to seek revenge, she approached her brothers Khara and Dushana, and told them how she came to be disfigured. The demon king Khara at once sent a troop of dreadful Rakshasha fighters saying, "Go and kill the two princes along with the woman." But when messenger brought the news that they all had been killed at Rama's hands, he got furious and set out at the head of powerful army of fourteen thousand Rakshasa

Rama foresaw the coming dreadful battle and prepared himself for the fight. Rama said to Lakshmana: "Go into the nearby cave with Sita, my child. You are brave and strong to kill the Rakshasa army, but I want to destroy them alone."

As Khara with his formidable army approached, he saw Rama alone with his bow stinted. Khara attacked with loud war cries and then ensued a terrible battle. Rama's arrows went with lightning speed and the demons began to measure their length on the ground in hundreds fallen dead of cut into pieces. It presented a horrible sight. Soon the forest was freed from the cursed Khara, Dushana and their followers. The Sages in great numbers collected there to show their gratitude to Rama. Seeing the demons so wiped out, the gods sang Rama's praises and showered flowers from their Vimanas.

Sita and Lakshmana came out of the cave and returned to the triumphant Rama.Sita overjoyed with Rama's victory embraced him.

Meanwhile Surupnakha ran to her brother Ravana in Lanka and reported how Rama the blameless had killed thousands of Rakshasas single-handed. Hearing of the death and utter rout of Khara, Dushana and formidable Rakshasha army, Ravana was beside rage. He hissed like the wounded king cobra and resolved to go to Dandaka Vana to kill Rama and Lakshmana. But cautioned by Akampana, the ten-headed demon king gave up this idea. Akampana told Ravana, "Be wise my lord and listen to what I say. It is impossible to defeat Rama in the battle. Here is a stratagem, which can never fail. Rama has a jewel of a wife called Sita. Carry off Sita by force and Rama is sure to die deprived of his beloved Sita."

Surupnakha spoke harshly to his brother in order to rouse his anger and added, "Yes, Sita is peerless in beauty and personal charms. She is perfect match for you. Carry her off by fierce and make her your queen. Kill both the princes and be the proud possessor of that large-eyed beauty."

Ravana pondered over for a moment and then took a decision, and ordered for his chariot. Having decided to carry off Sita, he drove towards the sea and the aerial car rumbled along amidst the clouds. It was a wonderful chariot that moved at would on the ground, in the air and on the water with equal grace and ease. Soon Ravana was on the farther shore of the sea before a hermitage. Here lived maricha, the same son of Tataka who had been hurled away here by Rama's never failing arrow. He had decided to lead a life of a hermit. Maricha received and entertained Ravana with good food and drinks and then asked, "O king Lanka, what makes you hasten her." And Ravana replied, "listen Maricha, I am in a great destress. You know how Rama, a mere man, has killed my brave brothers Khara and Dushana. It is an utter disgrace to my race and me. Besides he has disfigured my sister. I must revenge this dishonor but merely killing Rama is not sufficient. I must carry off forcibly her so beautiful wife, and in this only you can help me you are a master of all kinds of stratagems. Disguise yourself as a golden deer to entice Sita. She will ask Rama and Lakshmana to catch you. And in their absence I shall carry her off to Lanka."

On hearing these words, Maricha grew pale and trembled with fear and advised Ravana to desist from this stratagem, but Ravana remained adamant and said, "None of your advice, do what I say. Rama is away chasing you cry in Rama's voice, "Alas Sita, O Lakshmana; Hearing that Lakshmana too will follow and then I will have no difficulty in stealing Sita by force."

Maricha had to obey. He knew his end was near. He thought it better ti die at pious Rama's hand than those of wicked Ravana's. They went together Panchavati in the chariot. Reaching there, Maricha changed himself into a wonderful golden deer with marvelous diamond spots. Sita saw it and at once was possessed with intense desire to have it. She called Rama and expressed her desire. Rama readily got up to go after the magic deer.

Lakshmana too saw it and cautioned Rama, "Please brother, don't run after it. It is not real. It is sheer witchcraft." But Sita insisted on having the enchanting deer dead or alive. And Rama had to go to get it. Those wonder animal captivated even Rama's heart. Ordering Lakshmana to keep guard over Sita, Rama ran after the deer with the bow in hand.

The magic deer played hide and seek with Rama and drew him away into the forest. Unable to catch him Rama decided to kill him. He let fly a shinning arrow, which went straight piercing the animal. The deer jumped high in the air and fell down dead on the ground. Before dying he gave up the disguise and cried in Rama's voice, "Alas Sita, O Lakshman!" Instantly Rama realized that Lakshmana was right. Maricha's cry made Rama shudder with fear and he hastened towards Panchavati. When Sita heard that distress call of Rama for help. Weeping woebegone and she again and again pleaded to Lakshmana to go to find out what had happened to Rama. Lakshmana tried his best to calm and console Sita but all in vain. Sita got angry and said harsh words to Lakshmana. Hence, Lakshmana had to leave reluctantly. He left looking back again and again anxiously.

In the meantime, the wicked Ravana approached Sita in the guise of an anchorite and called for alms. Sita came out and welcomes the poi hermit and offered him fruits, roots and water to wash his feet. Ravana engaged her into a pleasant conversation asking her many questions about which
she was where they come from etc.? When Sita asked Ravana about his name, family etc, and as to why he was there alone in the forest, he revealed his real identity and said, "I an Ravana, the king of Lanka. Be my chief queen and rule over me and my kingdom."

Highly at these words of Sita shot back, "How dare you talk like this to me the devout wife of Rama, the example of human excellence. I follow the man-lion Rama like his shadow. If you dare to lay your foul hands on me, you will not escape Rama's fatal arrows."

Incensed at these words of Sita, Ravana if immense strength and fame resolved to carry her off and grew to a huge size. Without any further fuss, snatching her up, placed her into his wonderful chariot and drove towards Lanka through the clouds. Being carried off forcibly along the sky, Sita wept and cried out piteously, "O Rama, where are you? Ah Lakshmana, why did I sent you away. O trees and plants of the forest, O you gods tell Rama that Ravana carried off Sita."

Jatayu, the old volture king and a friend of Dashratha when heard these pitiful cries of Sita, swooped down from his perch where he was dozing. Challenging Ravana he said, "O sinful Ravana, relinquish Sita instantly. You cannot carry her off before me like this."

Then followed a heroic battle between the two Jatayu inflicted many wounds on Ravana with his sharp talons and beak and broke his mighty bow into two, destroyed his chariot and cut off his arms which were instantly replaced by new ones. But then the demon king cut off the vulture's wings, flanks and feet with his sword. Jatayu fell down on the ground drenched in blood. Ravana was too powerful for the old bird. Ravana again mounted the chariot and drove away with weeping Janaki.

Sita cried out and wailed, "Rama, O Rama, O Lakshmana!" The forest and hills reverberated with her cries. Ravana fled fast in his chariot holding Sita in his lap. Just then Sita saw four monkeys sitting on a mountain peak, and she instantly dropped her upper silk garment along with some jewels. These monkeys looked up in wonder at weeping Sita thus carried off.

Reaching Lanka, Ravana called a few Rakshasis and instructed them to look well after Sita saying, "Give Sita what she wants and let none meet her without my permission." Then he sent a few of his best-armed men to Panchavati forest to keep a watch on Rama.

The next day the ten-headed Ravana came to Sita and began to talk of his riches, treasures and matchless possessions in the fond hope of winning her favor. Ravanaprattled loud and long saying, "Be my consort, Sita, and the chief queen. Bestow your favors on me who is matches in strength, glory, riches and fame. I am really a worthy husband for you."

And Janaki replied fearlessly though in a weak voice, "Rama, my husband and lord of the long arms will slay you soon. You are bound to forfeit your life and Lanka shall be widowed. Rama is a royal swan, and you, a mere moorhen. Go away, I say."

Sore and wounded at this reprimand of Sita, Ravana threatened to kill her if she failed to accept his love within a period of twelve months. But these threats had no effect on her as she was firmly established in dharma and deep devotion to Rama. Her Rakshasi guards then led her to the Ashoka garden, a marvelous pleasure garden.

Hastening home, Rama heard an inauspicious howl of the jackal on the way. It made his heart almost sink and he prayed for Sita's safety. Full of anxiety, Rama walked at faster pace, but then he saw Lakshmana and Rama's distress knew no bounds. "Why have you left Sita alone in the forest full of demons?" he said to Lakshmana.

Lakshmana looked dejected and said, "I came running after you sent by her. We heard you call for help. She goaded me with a sharp tongue to come to you at once."

"Oh Lakshmana, how foolish of you to have left Sita alone in the hut. You failed in your duty by abandoning Sita. The golden deer was not real, but Maricha indisguise. While dying struck by my arrow he cried in my voice."

Rama hastened but reaching the hut, he found it without Sita. They searched here and there in bewilderment and cried out pitifully. He looked as if he had gone mad overwhelmed with Sita's grief. Lakshmana appealed him with folded hands to be calm and patient. After some time Lakshmana succeeded to console Rama to some extent.

As they walked farther searching Sita, they found flowers strewn on the ground. Rama had adorned Sita in the morning with these very flowers. Looking for more clues they went farther and came upon Jatayu who told in feeble dying voice, "Ravana carried off Sita. I fought to save Sita, but being old and weak was slain by him." And with these words Jatayu breathed his last. The two princes collected the firewood and cremated the king of the birds with all reverence as one would a near and dear relative.

Wandering about endlessly in the strange and thick forest in search of Sita, they saw Kabandha, a deformed and headless demon. He rushed to swallow Rama and Lakshmana with his cavernous mouth wide open. But they soon dispatched him to abode of Yama, the god of death. Kabandha's disembodied spirit told Rama to forge friendship with the monkey chief Sugriva who lived on the Rishyamuka Mountain. With his help Rama would be successful in searching out Sita, he said.

Following the path shown by Kabandha, Rama reached the lotus pool Pampa. There they received the hospitality of pious Shabri, a woman ascetic. Soon they arrived at the foot if Rishyamuka Mountain looking for monkey king Sugriva. Sugriva lived there in a hiding from fear of his elder brother Vali. When Sugriva saw Rama and Lakshmana armed with bows and arrows wandering about, he was filled with fear and apprehensions, and sent one of his ministers Hanuman to find out who the two heroic persons were.

Disguised as a Brahmin, Hanuman presented himself before the two princes and said, "who are you, clad as ascetics and carrying these mighty arms?"

Hanuman was delighted to know that they came seeking Sugriva's help and friendship. Hanuman returned to Sugriva and told him about Rama and Lakshmana. Consequently, Hanuman led Rama and Lakshmana where Sugriva was on the Malya hill. Soon Rama and Sugriva to slay Vali and restore his dear wife and the kingdom. And Sugriva in his turn entered into firm and abiding alliance. Sugriva showed Rama the upper silk garment and the jewels Sita had thrown down while being carried off by Ravana. Rama recognizing these as Sita's wept bitterly and pressed them to his breast.Sugriva consoled Rama in many comforting words, and Rama wiping his tears regained his composure.




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