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Ramayana, Epic of Rama, Prince of India

An Abbreviated Translation of the Indian Classic, the Ramayana by Romesh Chundar Dutt in 2,000 verses

156 Book XII. Aswa-Medha

156 Book XII. Aswa-Medha (Sacrifice of the Horse) [171] The real Epic ends with Rama’s happy return to Ayodhya, An Uttara- Kanda or Supplement is added, describing the fate of Sita, and giving the poem a sad ending, The dark cloud of suspicion still hung on the fame of Sita, and the people of Ayodhya made reflections on the conduct of their king, who had taken back into his house a woman who had lived in the palace of Ravan, Rama gave way to the opinion of his people, and he sent away his loving and faithful Sita to live in forests once more, Sita found an asylum in the hermitage of Valmiki, the reputed author of this Epic, and there gave birth to twins, Lava and Kusa. Years passed on, and Lava and Kusa grew up as hermit boys, and as pupils of Valmiki. After years had passed, Rama performed a great Horse-sacrifice. Kings and princes were invited from neighbouring countries, and a great feast was held, Valmiki came to the sacrifice, and his pupils, Lava and Kusa, chanted there the great Epic, the Ramayana, describing the deeds of Rama. In this interesting portion of the poem we find how songs and poetry were handed down in ancient India by memory. The boys had learnt the whole of the Epic by heart, and chanted portions of it, day after day, till the recital was completed. We are told that the poem consists of seven books, 500 cantos, and 24,000 couplets. Twenty cantos were recited each day, so that the recital of the whole poem must have taken twenty-five days. It was by such feats of memory and by such recitals that literature was preserved in ancient times in India. [172] Rama recognised his sons in the boy-minstrels, and his heart yearned once more for Sita whom he had banished, but never forgotten. He asked the Poet Valmiki to restore his wife to him, and he desired that Sita might once more prove her purity in the great assembly, so that he might take her back with the approval of his people. Sita came. But her life had been darkened by an unjust suspicion, her heart was broken, and she invoked the Earth to take her back. And the Earth, which had given Sita birth, yawned and took back her suffering child into her bosom. In the ancient hymns of the Rig Veda, Sita is simply the goddess of the fieldfurrow which bear crops for men. We find how that simple conception is concealed in the Ramayana, where Sita the heroine of the Epic is still born of the field-furrow, and after all her adventures returns to the earth. To the millions of men and women in India, however, Sita is not an allegory; she lives

XII. Sacrifice of the Horse - 157 in their hearts and affections as the model of womanly love, womanly devotion, and a wife’s noble self-abnegation. The portions translated in this Book form the whole or portions of Sections xcii., xciii., xciv., and xcvii, of Book vii. of the original text. I. The Sacrifice Years have passed; the lonely Rama in his joyless palace reigned, And for righteous duty yearning, Aswa-medha rite ordained, And a steed of darkest sable with the valiant Lakshman sent, And with troops and faithful courtiers to Naimisha’s forest went. Fair was far Naimisha’s forest by the limpid Gumti’s shore, Monarch, came and warlike chieftains, Brahmans versed in sacred lore, [173] Bharat with each friend and kinsman served them with the choicest food, Proud retainers by each chieftain and each crownéd monarch stood. Palaces and stately mansions were for royal guests assigned, Peaceful homes for learnéd Brahmans were with trees umbrageous lined, Gifts were made unto the needy, cloth by skilful wearers wrought, Ere the suppliants spake their wishes, ere they shaped their inmost thought! Rice unto the helpless widow, to the orphan wealth and gold, Gifts they gave to holy Brahmans, shelter to the weak and old, Garments to the grateful people crowding by their monarch’s door, Food and drink unto the hungry, home unto the orphan poor. Ancient rishis had not witnessed feast like this in any land, Bright Immortals in their bounty blest not with a kinder hand, Through the year and circling seasons lasted Rama’s sacred feast, And the untold wealth of Rama by his kindly gifts increased! II. Valmiki and His Pupils Foremost midst the gathered Sages to the holy yajna came Deathless Bard of Lay Immortal – Saint Valmiki rich in fame, Midst the humble homes of rishis, on the confines of the wood, Cottage of the Saint Valmiki in the shady garden stood.

Mahabharata, Epic of the Bharatas