Book 7: Uttara Kanda (part 2)

Book of the North
Jessica Renney

After Agastya finished the story of Hanuman all the rsis, vanaras, and raksasas left Ayodhya. Subsequently the puspaka vimana presented itself to Rama and vowed its services. Rama dismissed the puspaka vimana and continued towards a private garden where he was greeted by Sita. Together they drank wine, ate food and fruit, and enjoyed dancing and singing as they did most nights. As all of Ayodhya was under control, Rama felt it was time for him and Sita to have a child. While the two were preparing to seek the rsis blessing for their child, Rama joined Bharata and a few bards in the sabha. He wanted to know how his people felt about him; he wanted Bharata to tell him all the things his people said about him, good or bad. Bharata did just that. He told Rama that his people were not convinced Sita was pure and accused her of infidelity. Rama was distraught and began to question his own actions; they had lead to his tarnished reputation. Laksmana tried to convince him otherwise, but Rama ordered him to take Sita to Valmiki’s hermitage in an attempt to gain back some of his honor as a king. Although it was difficult for Laksmana, he followed his brother’s orders. At the northern bank of the Ganga that Laksmana broke down and told Sita the real reason they were engaged in the journey together. Upset and aware of her own purity, Sita accepted Rama’s decision and vowed to continue loving him regardless. Alone and mystified Laksmana began his journey back to Ayodhya questioning his brother Rama’s actions towards Sita, the women he loved. Sumantra explained, “Laksmana, Fate has overruled all emotion today.” Sumantra proceeded to tell the story of Bhrgu who placed a curse on Visnu, who would be reborn as human and experience separation from his wife.

Laksmana returned to find Rama depressed and heart broken. He reminded Rama of his capabilities as a great king and his duty to his people. The two spent the night together as Rama began to tell his brother many stories of power of trusting in Fate to conquer all. Rama began to tell the story of king Naga, who was cursed to be reborn as a lizard and would only attain liberation when Visnu was incarnated as Vasudeva. Rama explained to Laksmana how this was an example of a king who neglected his own dharma, and no king should neglect his people. Rama continued, “King Nimi was cursed him by Vasistha. Nimi lost his body but later returned into the eyes of humans causing us to blink.” Rama asked Laksmana if he wanted to hear another ancient tale. Laksmana agreed eagerly and Rama proceeded to tell the story of Yayati and his two wives Sarmia and Devayani. Yadu, Devayani’s son, placed a curse of immediate old age on his father. Yayati approached both his sons for help, Yadu refused but his brother, Puru Sarmia’s son, agreed to help. In turn, his father rewarded him with kingship. While reminiscing on these stories Rama recognized it was time to stop grieving over Sita and return to his duties as king.

The next morning the two brothers were awoken by Sumatra who had hurried to tell Rama there were munis waiting to see him. The munis entered and explained to Rama how they lived in terror of Lavana, son of Madhu a powerful demon. Rama took the opportunity to send Satrughna to kill Lavana and take rule over the kingdom of Madhu. The summer months approached and Satrughna began his journey to fulfill his brother’s requests. After two days of riding, he spent the night at Valmiki’s asrama. Before he began traveling, the next morning Valmiki shared the story of king Sauasa with Satrughna. This story took place in a neighboring hermitage. And still in another nearby hermitage the very same night, Sita gave birth to Kusa and Lava, Rama’s sons who later grow up in Valmiki’s care. When the right time came and the weather permitted, Satrughna began his journey to the river Yamuna where Chyvana welcomed him and relayed to him the story of Mandhata, who was defeated by Lavana. The next day Satrughna crossed the Yamuna where he defeated Lavana with the arrow of Brahma. The kingdom of Madhu flourished under Satrughna’s rule and his people prospered more than could have been imagined. Nevertheless, twelve years later, king Satrughna longed to return to Ayodhya to see his brother Rama.

On the way back to his home city, Satrughna arrived in Valmiki’s hermitage and heard the story of his brother as composed by the great rsi. Satrughna rode out again the next morning at dawn for Ayodhya, where he begged Rama not to send him back to Madhura. After only seven days, despite his wishes, Satrughna returned to Madhura to be a great ruler and adhered to his dharma and destiny to be a king.

In Ayodhya, no evil disturbed Rama’s people until one day a terribly distraught Brahmin came to his gates. The Brahmin did not believe the kingdom to be perfect and sinless, for his son had died, and it must have been a result of the king’s terrible sins. Rama wondered whether he was to blame. What had he done to deserve this? Narada assured Rama he was not responsible for the boy’s death. A sudra was performing austerities in the kingdom, an immoral practice, which caused the young boy to die. Rama went in search of the sudra and found him beside a grodha tree standing upon his head in intense tapasya. Rama drew his sword and beheaded the sudra, thus acquiring a boon that was used to resuscitate the Brahmin’s son. Rama then continued on to visit Agastya who was completing his tapasya that very day. He asked Rama to stay the night with him, and relayed the story of king Vidharbha who ruled for many years and his son late Sveta. When Sveta passed away, Brahma made him hungry for human flesh because his austerities over the last three thousand years were self-involved rather than performed for others. Yet he was finally released from his curse by Agastya. Vidharbha offered Agastya an ornament, which the rsi now presented to Rama. Rama recalled years ago while in exile hearing about a forest with no birds or beasts and was curious to know if it was the same vana where Agastya was met by king Sveta. Agastya admitted to withholding the entirety of the story and explained how Danda, Iksvaku’s son, was subject to a cursed death and rainfall throughout his kingdom as the consequence for taking advantage of a maiden named Araja. The curse placed on Danda by Araja’s father, Surka, left the Dandaka forest empty and abandoned until Rama’s sacred touch removed the curse. Rama induced purification and the forest was sacred once again.

As the morning sun rose, Rama began his journey back to Ayodhya. Upon his arrival he expressed to both of his brothers Laksmana and of Bharata his intentions to perform the rajasuya rite to purify him from the sin he acquired when he killed the sudra. Bharata deterred Rama from performing the rajasuya while Laksmana suggested the asvamedha sacrifice, reminding Rama how Indra used it to free himself when he slew Vtra. This prompted Rama to tell the tale of Karmada and Ila. While Karmada was hunting in the forest, he interrupted Siva and Parvati making love. By Siva’s power no male creature was to see Uma naked. Therefore, as king Karmada and his soldiers approached the two, they turned into women. King Karmanda was granted a boon and remembered that Uma conferred half of every boon Siva granted. He thus asked for his manhood back. With the ability to grant only half the boon, Uma deemed Karmada to be women for a half of his life and a man for the rest. Ila, who was Karmada as a women, fell in love and married a man named Bhuda in the first month and was once again Karmanda the next. After nine months Budha and Ila and had a child named Pururava. When the young boy was a year old his father called together some of the most powerful rsis and decided to perform and asvamedha yajna to retrieve Kamanda’s manhood. These stories only solidified Rama’s decision to perform an asvamedha yajna, and holy men from all over the world gathered to bless the king.

Valmiki sent Lava and Kusa to Ayodhya where they would sing and perform the ramayana for Rama, their father. After twenty-five days of watching and listening to the ramayana, Rama discovered Sita’s condition and ordered for her return to Ayodhya. She returned to Rama followed by Valmiki who questioned Rama’s reasons for banishing Sita and informed him of existence of his two sons. Sita expressed her love for her only god, king Rama. She then called to be ingested by the earth as she had accomplished all she had come to earth to do. She was swallowed up and returned to her mother Bhumi Devi. Rama was distressed and angry. Valmiki assured him that he would be reunited with Sita in another life, and this comforted him.

Rama completed the asvamedha yajna and performed ten thousand more, one for every year he ruled as king, with the golden image of Sita by his side. With plenty to eat in the villages and no disease, Rama’s kingdom radiated with natural perfection. Kausalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi passed on and joined Dasaratha in heaven. Bharata’s sons Taka and Pukala were granted kingdoms along with Laksmana’s two sons Agada and Candraketu.

Rama ruled for ten thousand years protecting many people from evil, and stood as a perfect example of a life lead by dharma. Yet the day came when Rama’s mission was complete. Relieved, he was ready to return to his divine home.

One day as Yama was engaged in conversation with Rama the rsi Durvasa approached Laksmana. Durvasa demanded to be allowed to speak to Rama immediately and threatened to curse his entire royal lineage. Laksmana entered the chamber interrupting Rama knowing this was punishable by death, and was instantly banished by his brother Rama. This began Laksmana’s journey to heaven. This also marked Rama’s journey to return to the heavenly realm, leaving the world of mortals. Rama crowned Kusa and Lava to rule over their respective division of Ayodhya. Yet the people of his kingdom vowed to follow Rama to the Sarayu River along with Bharata, Satrughna, and Sugriva. Hanuman and Vibhisana remained at Rama’s request, as the world still needed their presence. They obeyed their king and agreed to stay as he asked. Rama entered the water as the river erupted with fire and flames. As Rama dissolved, he became something different, something he had always been. The rest followed. All their bodies dissolved and rose up to the sky as forms of light, following Rama’s lead as they always had. As the last of the bhaktas ascended, Rama climbed out of the world, leaving behind his legacy, which would forever be remembered. Sita awaited his heavenly ascent.