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Aranyakand - 98

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Talk By:  Venugopal

Pranams to Lord, Guruji and Sat Sanghees

The Word Aranya in the Aranya Kanda, which I will be covering in the next 10 minutes mean Forest. There are 28 chapters in this Kanda explaining the life of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita in the forest, besides the abduction of Sita by Ravana.

It begins with Rama getting clarification from his Kulapati on the uneasy atmosphere prevailing in Chitrakuta. Rama’s kulapati described the atrocities of forcing the Rishis to abandon the place. Rama was unhappy to stay in Chitrakuta not only because of the Rishis leaving the place but also due to painful memories that Bharata had left behind.

They started their journey and had a meeting with the renowned Rishi Atri and his wife Anasuya, who herself was a great tapasvini. Anasuya was so pleased with Sita that she gave her blessings with all her heart and also gave her a few clothes, garlands and ornaments. Continuing their journey into the Dandaka Forest they had the first encounter with a Rakshasa by name Viradha, who reached heavens after being killed by the valiant brothers.

They then reached the Ashrama of Sage Sarabhanga, who told Indra that he can come to Brahmaloka only after meeting Rama and entertaining him. Now the Rishis gathered around Lord Rama and expressed their happiness that their protector has decended on the Dandaka forest. This was followed by their visit to Sage Sutheekshana’s Ashram to pay their respects. They continued their life for the next 10 years wandering into the forest from one Ashram to another.

Rama, who had heard about sage Agastya, was anxious to meet him. Taking directions from sage Sutheekshana, Rama reached the Ashrama and requested for an opportunity to dust the feet of sage agastya. Agastya was so happy in meeting Rama, Sita and Lakshmana that he gave Vishnu’s Dhanus designed by Vishvakarma along with inexhaustible quivers and silver sword. As suggested by Agastya, Lakshmana set up an Ashram for them to stay in a place called Panchavati.

Ramayana should have ended here but for Shurpanaka’s desire for having Rama as her husband. She also threatened to eat up Sita. Lakshmana was so angered by this that he cut Shurpanaka’s nose and ear.

Shurpanaka’s feelings were now converted to one seeking revenge and she provoked her brother Khara to fight with Rama and Lakshmana. At the end of a fierce battle, Khara, his commanders as well as an army of 14000 soldiers were killed single handedly by Rama. One Rakshasa escaped from the battlefield and narrated the tale of woes to Ravana whose first reaction was one of disbelief. The Rakshasa after describing the prowess of Rama suggested that Ravana abduct the beautiful wife of Rama, which will make Rama lose his life in sorrow. Ravana at this stage was dissuaded from doing so by his uncle Maricha.

Shurpanaka desperate by now to seek revenge succeeded in provoking Ravana by following two fold strategy. One, by telling Ravana that he is losing control over the forest to a man and Secondly, by describing the beauty of Sita devi and by creating a desire in Ravana’s heart to make Sita his wife. Ravana now made a plan and made his uncle Maricha take the disguise of a Golden Deer with Silver spots. When Sita spotted the golden deer, with silver spots and jewelled horns, she requested Rama to capture it alive so that she can have a playmate in the Ashram. Lakshmana warned Rama that it is all Maricha in disguise, however, Rama in his eagerness to please his wife and remembering Sage Agastya’s instructions to take care of sita in every way, goes after the deer leaving strict instructions to Lakshmana to guard sita. After a few minutes of frustrating chase luring Rama deep into the forest, Rama killed the deer (maricha) and as per instructions given by Ravana, Maricha shouted Ha Sita, Ha Lakshmana in a voice similar to that of Rama. Hearing this, Sita ordered Lakshmana to go and assist Rama. Lakshmana refused to go as his brother had instructed him to guard sita and he suspected that it is part of a deep scheme. More importantly, he was sure that Rama cannot be killed in a fight. However, sita devi in her anxiety and anger heaped insults on Lakshmana, accusing him of not helping his brother because of ulterior motives to make sita his wife. Finally, she threatens Lakshmana that if he did not go to help Rama she will kill herself. Lakshmana on the verge of tears, with great hesitation, looking back often took unwilling steps to the direction from where the noise came. Ravana who was hiding and seeing all this time came to the ashram under the disguise of a sanyasi and abducted her in his chariot. Ravana also killed Jatayu, the old eagle who tried to stop Ravana. Ravana, after reaching Lanka, tried convincing sita to marrying him. Sita not only refused but told ravana that his death at the hands of Rama and Lakshmana was certain. Ravana left sita with an ultimatum of 12 months to change her mind or else be killed.

Rama and Lakshmana by now returned to the Ashram and were shocked to find it empty. Rama was inconsolable by now and declares that he cannot live without sita. Lakshmana without overstepping his decorum of a younger man talking to his elder brother, tried to calm him down. After searching all over in vain, Rama was overcome with anger and declared that he will make all three worlds empty of all beings. Lakshmana was frightened to see his brother losing sight of dharma and talked in length to his brother. Rama listened to the sweetly spoken words of Lakshmana and asked lakshmana on what action is to be taken to find sita ? They then proceeded to search and met Jatayu in a pool of blood, who explained the events to Rama. While continuing the search of Sita, they meet a Rakshasa by name Kabandha, who gets a divine form as Dhanu on getting liberation from his curse and explains the six different factors which are needed to be learnt to know any truth. He went on to explain how the leader of monkey, Sukriva can help in finding Sita. As suggested by Dhanu, they visited the Ashrama of a great tapasvini, Shabari, which helps him to get rid of the agitation in his. However, Rama was totally taken by sorrow when he saw the beautiful surroundings near the pampa river, haunted by memories of Sita Devi. Lakshmana fully appreciating his brother’s feelings, aroused the inner strength of Rama by reminding him that a man’s sorrow can easily be overcome by observance of Dharma and performing one’s duty. All these words helped Rama overcome his despondency. They then proceeded to mount Rishyamooka to meet Sugriva.

What a desire can lead us to ?

Whether it is the desire of shurpanaka to have Rama as his husband or

Ravana’s desire to have Sita as his wife or

Sita desire to capture the golden deer

Being humble

When the Rishis call Rama as their protector, Rama replies asking them to order him as he is his servant . He also says that his life in forest will be worthwhile, if he can help the Rishis.

Being Righteous and observing Dharma

Sita asked Rama whether he was righteous in agreeing to kill the Rakshasas who did not offend them in any way. Rama asks sita to consider the plight of Rishis who have given up everything in life with single minded devotion towards Tapas, which was being spoiled by Rakshasas. He says that it is his duty to make Dandaka forest a safe place for Rishis.

When Rama searches for Sita in vain, out of this anger he says that he will wipe out all three worlds of people. Again, Lakshmana explains that a man overcome with sorrow can come out of it by observing Dharma.

Valmiki says that there was no one equal to Ravana in beauty, prowess, valour, generosity, skill in fine arts. But he was not righteous. See how he met his end in the hands of Rama.

Self pity in times of Grief

Even Lord Rama reacted like an ordinary man when he could not find Sita. He declares that he cannot live without Sita. Lakshmana talks to his brother to abandon his grief and tells him that only a man who is firm will achieve his desires.

Anger makes us lose our sense

When Maricha shouts like Rama, Sita lost her mind and forced Lakshmana to go and look for Rama. She used unpardonable words to Lakshmana who saw Rama and Sita as his parents. Rama, rightfully asks Lakshmana, "Don’t you know that when a woman gets angry, she will talk without paying any attention to the sense of what she is saying ?" It is true for all of us.

July 10, 2003 04:12 PM

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