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RKD: 2.10: Rāma’s Terrible Discovery

Rāma raced toward His hermitage. He was filled with foreboding. As He crashed through the bushes He heard a jackal’s fierce yell behind Him. Recognizing the evil omen He became even more anxious. Had Sītā been devoured by Rākṣasas? Lakṣman must have left Her when He heard Maricha’s cry; Sītā would have insisted upon it. The Rākṣasas had plotted successfully. Surely they had now taken Sītā.

Rāma saw other frightening omens and His mind became even more distressed. As He rushed through the forest He suddenly saw Lakṣman coming toward Him. Rāma ran to Him and took hold of His hand. He spoke sternly. “My dear brother, what have You done? Why have You abandoned the helpless Sītā? Without doubt She is now dead or stolen by the Rākṣasas.”

Rāma pointed out to Lakṣman the various omens. He told Him about Maricha’s trickery. It was now obvious. The Rākṣasas had arranged everything so they could abduct Sītā. Tears flowed from Rāma’s eyes as He thought of His wife. If She were killed, He would give up His own life. Desperately He asked Lakṣman, “Did you fail to protect Her? Where is that gentle lady who willingly gave up every happiness to follow Me here? Where is Sītā now? You should know that I cannot live without Her for even a moment.”

Feeling dispirited, Lakṣman replied, “I did not leave Sītā willingly. Urged by Her strong and painful words I came looking for You. She would by no means allow Me to stay with Her. Forgive Me, My lord.”

Lakṣman explained everything to Rāma—how He had tried hard to convince Sītā of Rāma’s invincibility, how She had accused Him of having ulterior motives—but Rāma only became angry and reprimanded Him. Why had He taken Sītā’s words seriously when She was overwhelmed by sentiment? Why had He allowed Himself to fall prey to anger? He had failed to carry out Rāma’s order. Now They would surely meet calamity. Rāma turned and continued to run toward His hermitage, His mind fixed on Sītā.

As Rāma ran He felt a tremor run through His limbs. His left eye throbbed violently. Greatly perturbed by these baleful omens, Rāma crashed through the forest. He seemed almost to fly, oblivious of the creepers and bushes which lashed Him. Breaking into the clearing where He had His hermitage, He ran about wildly, looking for Sītā. He called Her name again and again, but on finding no sign of Her, His heart sank.

Rāma examined His hut and the surrounding grounds closely. It resembled a lotus flower blighted by winter and deprived of its charm. The trees seemed to cry as they creaked in the wind. The flowers appeared faded and dull. Deer and birds were restless and ill at ease. Rāma saw blades of kusha grass scattered around, along with flower petals fallen from Sītā’s garland. He wailed loudly. “Surely Sītā has been snatched away. Or perhaps She lies dead somewhere. Or has She gone out playfully, hiding now in sport?”

Rāma searched frantically, but Sītā was nowhere to be found. He feared the worst. This was surely the work of the Rākṣasas. Even now Sītā must be in their clutches. Rāma imagined Sītā as She was carried away. She must have cried out for Him in plaintive tones. As She was borne upwards, Her beautiful face streaked with tears, fear would have gripped that timid princess. Perhaps at that very moment She was being devoured by demons who were cutting open Her soft neck and drinking Her blood.

As Rāma ran from tree to tree, His eyes red from sorrow, He appeared almost crazy. He questioned the trees, “O Kadamba, O Bilva, O Arjuna tree, where is Janaka’s frail daughter? Is She alive or not?”

In the madness of grief He spoke to animals, the river, the sky and the earth itself, but they all remained silent, heightening Rāma’s anguish. The forest and river deities, remembering Rāvaṇa’s frightful form, were petrified with fear and could make no reply. As Rāma gazed around, it seemed to Him that He saw Sītā in the sights of the forest. The yellow flowers looked like Her silk garment. The creepers flowing in the wind became Her limbs. Rāma thought He saw His beloved wife everywhere. He ran toward Her crying, but found only the desolate and echoing forest.

Rāma rebuked Himself for leaving Sītā. What would He say to Kaushalya? How could He even look at Janaka, that ever-truthful monarch? Rāma felt as if He would die. But then what would His father say upon seeing Him arrived in heaven, killed by grief? Surely the emperor would reproach Him for becoming a liar by not completing the term of His exile.

Rāma lamented piteously. “I shall never return to Ayodhya. Kaikeyi may rejoice, her purpose fulfilled. O Lakṣman, You should embrace Bharata and tell Him to long rule over this wide earth, for Rāma is no more. Without Sītā I shall not accept even heaven, what then of this world? With Sītā’s death has come Mine. For failing to protect that gentle princess I shall reach unending regions of hell.”

Rāma fell weeping to the ground. He censured Himself in many ways. Surely this awful misfortune was the result of sinful acts performed in a past life. It was undoubtedly His destiny. Such suffering—the loss of the kingdom, separation from His loved ones, the king’s death, and now Sītā’s loss—could only have been caused by His own past evil deeds. Rāma tossed about in pain.

Seeing Rāma’s agony, Lakṣman, Himself gripped by despondency, approached His brother and said, “Do not give way to despair, O mighty prince. Men of Your caliber are never bewildered by even the greatest disaster. We shall yet find Sītā. She cannot be far away. It is less than an hour since I left Her. Let Us continue Our search.

Rāma composed Himself and got up. He sighed and gazed about, wondering which way to go. As He looked at the seat outside His hut, He remembered how He had sat there with Sītā by His side—how They had talked and laughed together; how She had teased Him, pretending to be hurt by His words, or cajoling Him to fetch a particular flower from deep in the woods. As He thought of His lotus-eyed wife, Rāma’s grief rose in repeated waves.

A couple of large deer came close to the brothers. Rāma asked if they had seen Sītā. The deer then stood with their heads pointed toward the south. Rāma and Lakṣman took that as a clue and sped off in that direction. They soon came upon a trail of flowers fallen on the ground. Rāma dropped to His knees and picked up the petals. They were from the braid on Sītā’s hair. He cried out in a resounding voice, “Sītā! Sītā!”

The two brothers kept running. Suddenly they saw enormous footprints, probably of a Rākṣasa. Near to it were Sītā’s footprints going here and there as She evidently ran in fear. As they looked about they found a huge bow lying in pieces, along with many fearsome arrows tipped with blue steel barbs. A chariot lay smashed there, still yoked to great mules with goblin heads, some of which had been torn off in what was obviously a terrible fight. The headless body of the charioteer still sat holding the reins and whip. There were strands of gold fallen from Sītā’s ornaments, along with Her crushed garland.

Rāma pointed to the ground. “See here the many drops of blood! Look at these shattered weapons. And this mighty bow, encrusted with pearls and gems. Whose chariot is this, with its hundred-ribbed canopy torn apart? Look over there! Glowing golden armor studded with emeralds and rubies. All these items could only belong to gods or demons.”

Rāma fell to the ground wailing piteously. “O Lakṣman, it is clear that Sītā is dead. Here at this place two Rākṣasas fought for Her sake. The victor would surely have consumed My darling wife. Alas, I am lost.”

Lakṣman carefully examined the scene. There had obviously been an encounter between two very powerful beings. Perhaps Rāma was right. But from the footprints there did not appear to be more than one Rākṣasa. Lakṣman felt that somehow Sītā was still living. He reassured Rāma, telling Him to take heart, for Sītā would surely soon be recovered.

As He checked His grief Rāma felt consumed by anger. The corners of His eyes turned coppery as He stood holding His bow. “The Rākṣasa race will soon be extinct. They have borne away Sītā even as She practiced virtue. How did the gods stand by and allow this to happen? Do they not fear My wrath? Do they think I am powerless? For too long I have been mild and compassionate. Today the world will see a different Rāma!”

Rāma roared, giving vent to His anger. He would fill the heavens with His missiles. With His weapons He would annihilate the entire creation. All living beings would find themselves oppressed as He discharged endless flaming arrows. The planets would be brought to a standstill, the sun obscured and the moon brought down from the sky. The mountains would lie crushed to a powder and the oceans would be dried up. If the gods did not bring back Sītā, they would find no shelter anywhere in the universe. All the worlds would be torn to pieces by Rāma’s arrows and nothing would remain. A blazing fire would rage through all the quarters, leaving total devastation in its wake.

Rāma tightened His clothes. His lips trembled and He pressed them against His teeth. He looked like Śiva intent upon the destruction of the universe at the end of an age. Taking from His quiver a dreadful-looking arrow, He placed it upon His bow. “Today I shall not be checked by conciliation or force. See now, dear Lakṣman, as I bring down the gods from heaven.”

Lakṣman grabbed hold of Rāma’s arm and stopped Him from releasing His arrow. With palms joined He spoke gently to the infuriated Rāma. “You have always been dedicated to the good of all beings. Do not abandon Your nature today, O Rāma. Do not be swayed by anger. You should not destroy the worlds for one person’s offense. Lords of this world are always just in their punishment. Therefore display Your forbearance, for it is as deep as that of the earth itself. Be calm and consider the situation with care.”

Lakṣman pointed out that They could see only the footprints of a single Rākṣasa. It appeared that someone had fought against the demon, probably to protect Sītā. Whoever had abducted Sītā was obviously possessed of great power. Perhaps no one was able to prevent the kidnapping. After all, who would approve of the destruction or kidnapping of Rāma’s spouse? The gods and Gandharvas, the rivers, seas, mountains and indeed all living beings were not capable of giving offense to Rāma, any more than the priests at a sacrifice could offend the person for whom they were performing the ritual.

Rāma felt slightly pacified as Lakṣman continued, “Let Us seek out the assistance of the great sages. With Me by Your side we shall search the whole earth with all its mountains and forests. If We still do not find Sītā We shall go to the depths of the ocean and up to the realms of the gods. O Rāma, We shall not rest until We find Your beloved wife.”

Lakṣman suggested that if still They did not find Sītā, then Rāma could let loose His venomous missiles upon the worlds. But first He should control His anger and seek His wife through peaceful means. Otherwise, what example would He set for the world? If the earth’s ruler immediately resorted to violence when under duress, then what would ordinary men do? Could they be expected to exercise any control when in distress? In this world calamities visited everyone in due course of time, but they also disappeared again. Happiness and distress follow one another in swift succession. One should not give way to either. Even the gods were subject to suffering. One should neither rejoice nor grieve for material things, but with a peaceful mind carry out one’s duties. This was the path to everlasting happiness. Lakṣman looked into Rāma’s eyes.

“O Rāma, You have often instructed Me in this way. Indeed, who can teach You, even if he be Bṛhaspati himself? I am only trying now to awaken Your intelligence, which has been dulled by grief. Dear brother, people like You do not give way to grief even when faced with the gravest perils. Therefore spare the worlds. Seek out only the sinful adversary who has stolen Sītā.”

Rāma put down His bow and replaced His arrow in its quiver. He was moved by His brother’s beautifully worded advice. Controlling His anger, He thanked Lakṣman and asked Him what They should do next. Where should They begin to look? The two princes continued to walk south, discussing what to do. Soon They came upon Jatayu lying upon the ground. Seeing from a distance the mountainous bird drenched in blood, Rāma exclaimed, “Lakṣman! Here is a Rākṣasa in the guise of a bird. Surely this beast has devoured Sītā. I shall make short work of it with My fiery arrows.”

Rāma fitted a razor-headed arrow to His bow and bounded toward Jatayu, but as soon as He recognized the great bird He lowered His weapon. Jatayu, close to death, saw Rāma coming and raised his head. Vomiting blood he spoke in a strained voice. “O Rāma, the godly Sītā and indeed my life have both been snatched away by Rāvaṇa. I flew to Her assistance and fought with the demon. Although I smashed his chariot and killed his horses, I was finally cut down by him.”

Jatayu then described what had taken place. Upon hearing his story Rāma fell weeping to the ground. He embraced Jatayu and stroked his head. In great pain Rāma cried out, “Alas, who is more unfortunate than I? My sovereignty is lost, I am exiled, My wife is stolen and now My father’s friend lies mortally wounded, having tried his best to help Me.”

Rāma questioned Jatayu. Where did Rāvaṇa take Sītā? What did She say as She was being dragged away? How powerful was the Rākṣasa and where was his abode? Rāma spoke wildly in a tearful voice.

Jatayu looked at Him fondly. Speaking in barely a whisper he replied, “The demon conjured up a storm as he flew in the sky. As I contended with him I soon became exhausted, being old and worn out. He then lopped off my wings. He sped away with his face pointing south.”

The bird lay gasping. He reassured Rāma that Sītā would soon be found. The Rākṣasa had kidnapped Her at an hour which was favorable for Her return. “Although he knew it not,” Jatayu said, “it was the ‘vinda’ hour. According to scripture, a treasure lost during that time is again recovered.”

Jatayu told Rāma that Rāvaṇa was the son of the sage Vishrava and the half-brother of Kuvera. Although he was immensely powerful Rāma would soon slay him; Jatayu was sure of it. As the old bird spoke he felt his life departing. Blood flowing continuously from his mouth, he looked at Rāma with tears in his eyes. Repeating Rāma’s name over and over, Jatayu gradually became silent. His head fell to the ground and his body slumped back.

Rāma stood with folded hands looking at His father’s dear friend. He cried out in anguish. “Speak more, O noble bird. Speak more!”

But Jatayu was dead. Rāma gazed at him sorrowfully. Turning to Lakṣman He said, “Alas, this bird has laid down his life for My sake, dear brother. It is clear that valiant souls who practice piety and virtue are found even in the lower species of life and not just among humans. The pain of seeing this vulture’s death afflicts Me as much as that caused by Sītā’s loss.”

Rāma considered Jatayu to be as worthy of His worship as Daśaratha. He asked Lakṣman to fetch logs so that They could build a funeral pyre. Rāma looked at the bird and said, “You will attain unsurpassed realms of happiness, O king of birds. Never again will you take birth in this mortal world of pain and suffering.”

The brothers placed Jatayu on the wood pile and set it alight. Rāma personally recited the sacred mantras and performed the ritual, cremating Jatayu as He would His own relative. Both brothers then went to the Godavari and, after bathing in the river, offered its sacred water to Jatayu’s departed soul. When the ritual was complete Rāma and Lakṣman felt pleased, knowing that Jatayu had gone to divine regions of unending happiness. They fixed their minds on recovering Sītā. Going in a southerly direction They entered the deep forest, appearing like Viṣṇu and Indra going out to encounter the Asuras.

Lakṣman went ahead wielding His long sword and hewing down the shrubs and creepers that blocked Their progress. The forest was trackless and difficult to traverse, but the brothers moved swiftly. Distressed and eager to find Sītā, They looked on all sides, but saw only the dense forest. Lions roared and birds of prey screamed above them. Thick darkness enveloped Them as they penetrated deeply into the jungle. As They moved ahead vigorously and without fear, They began to perceive evil omens. Rāma’s left arm throbbed and His mind became disturbed. Jackals howled and crows emitted shrill cries. Rāma said, “Be wary, O Lakṣman. These signs definitely indicate some imminent danger.”

Even as He spoke a loud noise suddenly resounded from ahead of Them. It was deafening and it filled the four quarters. Rāma and Lakṣman, with swords in hand, ran toward the sound. Here must be the demon responsible for taking Sītā. They would soon dispatch him. Perhaps Sītā was still there. The brothers raced ahead.

They suddenly broke into a clearing and saw a colossal Rākṣasa seated there. Taller than the surrounding trees, the demon looked like a mountain peak. He had no neck or head and his huge mouth was in his belly. The demon was dark blue in color and covered all over with sharp bristling hair. At the top of his body was a single fearful eye which blazed like fire. His long pointed tongue darted in and out, licking his lips. He had arms eight miles long and they drew toward him all kinds of animals. As Rāma and Lakṣman looked on, the Rākṣasa devoured bears, tigers and deer, which he crammed into his gaping mouth.

The brothers saw the Rākṣasa from a distance of a mile. They looked in amazement. As they stood there, the demon saw Them and reached out with his two arms, which snaked about like two enormous creepers. Tightly grasping both brothers he lifted Them high above the ground. Lakṣman cried out to Rāma, “Free Yourself, O Rāma! Leave Me as an offering to this devil. Make good Your escape. I cannot release Myself from this demon’s clutches. After recovering Sītā and the throne of Ayodhya, always remember Me there.”

Already torn by anguish due to having allowed Sītā to be captured, Lakṣman was overcome by the demon. Rāma replied to His distraught brother, “Do not yield to fear, O Lakṣman. A man like You should never feel dejected.”

The massive Rākṣasa pulled the brothers toward him. “Who are you two with shoulders like those of bulls, dressed like ascetics yet wielding swords and large bows?” he boomed. “By the will of Providence You have fallen within the range of my sight at a time when I stand oppressed by hunger. Your life is now of short duration.”

Rāma felt despair. What would happen next? Was there no end to His suffering? He called out to Lakṣman. “Powerful indeed is destiny. Calamity upon calamity is heaped upon Us. We are now threatened with death even before We could find the beautiful Sītā. What should be done now?”

The demon spoke again. “Today You two shall serve as my food. Exert Yourself if You have any strength.”

Lakṣman, who had gathered Himself together, became infuriated. He shouted to Rāma, “The strength of this repulsive demon lies in his arms alone. Let Us quickly cut off his vast arms with Our swords.”

As Lakṣman spoke the Rākṣasa roared and opened his mouth wide. He began drawing the brothers toward him. Without delay They both brought Their swords down upon his arms with great force. The razor-sharp weapons sliced through the demon’s flesh and his arms fell upon the ground, releasing Rāma and Lakṣman. Emitting a terrible bellowing scream, which echoed for miles, the demon slumped back, bathed in a stream of blood which gushed from the stumps of his arms. He called out to the princes, “Who are You?”

Lakṣman replied, “We are two sons of Daśaratha, in the line of Ikṣvāku. This is Rāma and I am Lakṣman. We are here at the behest of Our noble father. While My mighty brother wandered in the forest, His consort was stolen away by a Rākṣasa, whom We now seek. But who are you? Why do you reside in this forest in such a form with a flaming mouth in your belly?”

The demon became joyful upon hearing Lakṣman speak. “Welcome, O tigers among men. It is my good luck that I see You here today. By good fortune only have my arms been severed by You.”

The Rākṣasa, whose name was Kabandha, told the brothers his story. He had previously been a Gandharva. Once, out of pride in his divine beauty, he had laughed at a ṛṣi named Ashtavakra, whose body is bent in eight places. In order to free Kabandha from his pride the ṛṣi had pronounced a curse, turning the Gandharva into a Rākṣasa. Kabandha had begged for mercy and the ṛṣi had said, “When Rāma and Lakṣman cremate you in a lonely forest, only then shall you be released from my curse.”

Kabandha continued, “In the form of a Rākṣasa I ranged the forest. After once performing severe asceticism, I received from Brahmā the boon of a long life. Becoming fearless I then challenged Indra to battle. That invincible god hurled his thunderbolt at me. It hit me and forced my head, arms and legs into my trunk. Although I begged him, Indra would not kill me, saying, ‘Let the words of Brahmā prove true.’

“I asked Indra how I could survive in such a form, a mere trunk with no head or limbs. Out of compassion he gave me these two arms and this huge mouth. He then said, ‘When Rāma and Lakṣman sever your arms, you will ascend to heaven.’

“Thus have I sat here, stretching out my arms and pulling into my mouth lions, leopards, bears, tigers and deer. I always thought to myself, ‘One day Rāma and Lakṣman will fall within my grip.’”

Kabandha implored the princes to throw him in a pit and cremate him. Rāma asked that he first tell Them if he knew anything about Sītā’s whereabouts. He said to the Rākṣasa, “We only know the name of Sītā’s abductor. We do not know where he lives, nor even his appearance.”

Kabandha said he would be able to give Them good advice as soon as he could assume his original celestial form because only then would he be possessed of his former divine intelligence. The brothers dug a great pit next to the demon and placed in it many logs. They pushed Kabandha into the pit and set fire to the logs. As the Rākṣasa’s body burned he looked like a large lump of ghee, with fat running down on all sides. Suddenly from the pit there arose a shining personality dressed in blazing yellow garments and wearing a bright garland. A splendid aerial chariot drawn by swans also appeared and Kabandha took his seat on it. He then spoke to Rāma. “O Raghava, I shall now tell You how You shall recover Sītā. One who has fallen upon misfortune is served by another in the same circumstances. You must befriend someone who has suffered a similar fate as You.”

Kabandha told Rāma that He should seek out the monkey Sugrīva. This monkey lived on a nearby mountain with four friends. He was powerful, intelligent, cultured and true to his promise. His enraged brother Vāli had exiled him for the sake of sovereignty and he was in need of help. By forming a pact with Sugrīva, Rāma would render him good and in return the monkey would assist Rāma in finding Sītā.

Kabandha went on, “Having restored the kingdom to Sugrīva, the monkey will send out thousands of his followers to search every part of the world. O Rāma, even if Your wife has been taken to the highest or lowest planet, She will be found and returned to You with Sugrīva’s help.”

Kabandha then told Rāma how He could find Sugrīva. With his divine vision the Gandharva could see exactly what Rāma would encounter and he told Him in detail. Rāma would meet with the monkeys near the hermitage of the Ṛṣi Matanga on the side of Lake Pampa, where there now lived only an old ascetic lady named Sabari. After explaining everything, Kabandha remained in the sky, shining like the sun. Rāma thanked him and said, “Please depart now for your own abode. You have rendered Me excellent service.”

Kabandha bowed his head and offered prayers to the brothers, recognizing who They were. His golden chariot then rose upwards. As he disappeared into the skies the Gandharva called out, “Enter an alliance with Sugrīva.”

Rāma and Lakṣman immediately headed west as suggested by Kabandha. After some time They reached Lake Pampa and stayed one night by its side. In the morning the princes looked about and located the site of Matanga’s hermitage. It was hemmed in by trees laden with fruits and flowers. Varieties of colorful birds played in the trees and their singing was beautiful. Deer, rabbits and other timid creatures moved about peacefully.

The princes walked over the soft grass and soon found the hut where Sabari lived. She was seated outside the hut and rose respectfully as They approached. Joining her palms, the ascetic lady fell down before the brothers and clasped Their feet. Sabari offered Them grass mats and brought water to wash Their feet, saying, “You are welcome.”

Rāma and Lakṣman sat at ease and Rāma spoke. “O noble lady, is your asceticism proceeding without impediment? Have you mastered your senses? Are you fully freed from anger and is your diet controlled? O gentle one, has your service to your guru borne fruit?”

Sabari looked at Rāma with tear-filled eyes. She had been practicing austerities and yoga for many years. Being fully self-realized, she could understand the identities of the two princes. She spoke in a pleasing voice. “Today the full fruition of my asceticism and meditation has been attained. Today my life is perfected. My teachers have now been served and satisfied and I have achieved heaven. Indeed, O Rāma, after seeing Your divine form I shall reach those realms that know no decay.”

Sabari told Rāma that her preceptor Matanga had not long before ascended to heaven. Before leaving he had informed Sabari that Rāma, accompanied by Lakṣman, would soon come there. She should serve the two princes and then, when they left, she would rise up to the eternal regions. With shaking hands Sabari began offering the brothers fruits and vegetables of every description.

After graciously accepting Sabari’s offerings, Rāma asked to be shown the hermitage. “I wish to see for Myself the glory of your guru,” He said. “Please show Me where he lived and worshipped.”

Sabari took the brothers to where Matanga had his altar. It shone with a brilliant luster which illuminated the surrounding area. In a pond nearby were the waters of the seven oceans, brought there by Matanga’s ascetic powers. Flower garlands made by the sage lay on the ground, still fresh and unfaded.

After she had shown the brothers around, Sabari said, “I long now to join those great ṛṣis in heaven. I am ever their servant. Please permit me to leave, O Rāma.”

Rāma and Lakṣman looked around, saying, “Wonderful.” Rāma turned to the old ascetic woman. “You have properly honored us, O blessed lady. Please depart at will.”

Sabari bowed low to Rāma and, approaching the sacrificial fire, cast herself into it. As her body was consumed she arose in a brilliant ethereal form. Adorned with celestial jewels and garlands, she appeared resplendent. Like a streak of lightning she rose into the sky, illuminating the whole region. She went upwards toward the holy realm now inhabited by the sages whom she had always served.

Having watched Sabari depart, Rāma spoke to Lakṣman. “This hermitage shines with splendor. By simply coming here We have been freed of the stain of sinful karma. Dear brother, surely now Our fortunes will change. I feel that We shall soon meet with Sugrīva.”

Rāma felt joy as He anticipated meeting the monkey. He remembered Kabandha’s words. Soon Sītā would be found, He felt sure. The two brothers left the hermitage and walked around the edge of the lake, carefully surveying the area. The sounds of peacocks and parrots perched on the trees nearby echoed all around. It was noon and the princes took their midday bath in the lake. The water was crystal clear and covered with innumerable lotuses, making it appear like a many-colored carpet. The lake had gently sloping banks of golden sand covered with tall trees. Long creepers reached down to the water and shining fishes nibbled at their ends.

As the brothers continued around the bank of the Pampa, which stretched for miles, They came to the foot of the Rishyamukha mountain. Rāma gazed up at it. “Surely this is the mountain where Sugrīva dwells. O Lakṣman, My heart is torn with grief for Sītā. I feel I cannot live much longer unless the princess is found. Please quickly search for the monkey.”

Thinking of Sītā, Rāma burst into a loud wail. Where was Janaka’s daughter now? Perhaps She had pined away in His absence, dying of grief. As Rāma looked around at the beautiful scenery His pain only heightened. Everything reminded Him of Sītā. The peahen’s mating dance brought to mind the way Sītā would approach Him in love. The fragrant breeze was like the scented breath of His beloved wife. Yellow champaka flowers resembled Her shining silk garment. Bright red tree blossoms looked like the princess’s full lips. Deer moved about with their mates, piercing Rāma’s heart as He remembered how He would wander with Sītā. The white swans reminded Rāma of His wife’s complexion. Indeed, He saw Her everywhere He looked.

Rāma cried out in anguish, His heart burning with the pain of separation. Lakṣman comforted His brother, again reassuring Him that Sītā would be found. As he spoke to Rāma his voice rose in anger. “The sinful Rāvaṇa will find no shelter, even if he enters the darkest region of the universe. I shall seek him out. Either the Rākṣasa will yield Sītā or meet with his end at My hands. Throw off Your grief, dear brother, and together We shall strenuously exert Ourselves to find Sugrīva. High-class men never give way to despondency, even when faced with the most terrible calamities. Rather, they become more and more determined to overcome their difficulties.”

Rāma was heartened by Lakṣman’s assurances. The two brothers continued Their search for Sugrīva.