Here is a synopsis and summary of the Ramayana story. There are two summaries available: a short one and a very detailed, longer version.

Patheos offers free PDFs of the complete Ramayana story.

Book Details

Translated by Romesh Chunder Dutt
Elm Press, 1899

Valmiki Ramayana
Translated by Dwaraka Prasad Sharma

These books are currently out of copyright in India as per the Indian Copyright Act 1957. Please check copyright law within your country before downloading the books. In case of any issues send us an email.

Ramayana Short Summary

Dasharatha is the King of Ayodhya and has three wives and four sons, Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughana. Rama is the ideal and perfect son, and grows up with his brothers. When he comes of age, he marries Sita, the princess of a nearby kingdom. However, Bharata's mother is Kaikeyi, who resents Rama being the crown prince. She calls up a debt that Dasharatha owes her and asks for Rama to be exiled for fourteen years and her son Bharata be made crown prince instead.

The devastated Dasharatha has no choice and Rama prepares to leave for exile. Sita and Lakshmana will not leave his side however and follow him into the forest. While in the forest, Surphanaka, a female rakshasi (demoness) becomes enamored of Rama and is wounded by Lakshmana while trying to kill Sita. She flees to her brother Khara and asks him to avenge her. However, Khara and his army are defeated by Rama and Lakshmana, and only one member of their entire army survives. This lone soldier flees to the island kingdom of Lanka and begs Surphanaka's brother, the mighty king Ravana to avenge them. Ravana has heard of Sita's beauty and he decides to abduct her. Using trickery and magic, he manages to lure Rama and Lakshmana away from Sita and kidnaps her, taking her away to Lanka.

ramayanaRavana kidnaps Sita and slays Jatayu.

Rama and Lakshmana travel far and wide searching for Sita but to no avail. Finally, they come upon a band of vanaras or monkey-men who pledge to help him. One of the might warriors of the vanaras, Hanuman, becomes Rama's staunch devotee. The vanaras seek out traces of Sita and find she has been taken to Lanka. Hanuman flies to Lanka and confirms she is imprisoned there. He contacts Sita and informs her of Rama's whereabouts, promising that they will be back to rescue her. Before returning to the mainland, Hanuman sets fire to the whole city of Lanka.

Rama, Lakshmana and the vanar army build a causeway from the tip of India to Lanka. They travel to Lanka, where an epic battle follows between the armies. Ravana is finally killed by Rama, and Sita is freed. They return to Ayodhya, where Bharata returns the crown to Rama.

Ramayana Long Summary

The beautiful city of Ayodhya was the capital of the kingdom of Kosala, and was ruled by Dasharat who was known far and wide for his bravery in battle. He had even occasionally helped the gods in their fights against demons-a privilege that was granted to few mortals. Dasharat's people loved him just as the gods did, because he was kind and fair, but Dasharat had a deep sadness in him for in spite of marrying three times he had no heir. His wives, princesses from important kingdoms, all remained childless. One day, Vasishta the court sage advised Dasharat to perform a sacrifice in order to obtain a son.

A sacrificial fire was lit and Vasishta began performing the ceremonial rituals. As he prayed, the flames leaped high into the air and a human form emerged from the fire. Nobody realized that it was Vishnu the Restorer. 'Give this to your three queens,' Vishnu said to Dasharat and handed him a bowl full of nectar, 'and they will bear you sons.' Dasharat fell to his knees and thanked the god and rushed to give the precious food to his wives. Not long afterwards Kaushaliya, his first queen, gave birth to a son who was named Rama-Chandra. The second queen, Kaikeyi, gave birth to Bharat; and Sumitra, the youngest queen, gave birth to the twins Lakshman and Shatrughan.

As the boys grew, Rama-chandra proved himself highly skilled in the ways of kings and was equally adept in the skills of the warrior. He resembled the supreme spirit Vishnu, for Vishnu had indeed been partly reborn in him for a special purpose on Earth. However, even Ram did not realize that part of him was a god. Ram was as dark as a rain cloud. His eyes were shaped like the lotus-flower and glistened as blackly as his curly hair. Although his frame was slight and slim, he had the powerful waist and chest of a lion. His arms were remarkably long and very powerful and his hands, though strong, had delicate fingers tipped with nails which glittered like mother-of-pearl. And his face glowed like the clear autumn moon, with the beauty of truth and love. Everyone loved him and it was obvious he would be a most suitable king. Dasharat, however, had promised his second wife's father when he sought her hand that her son would be the crown prince of Ayodhya. This wife, Kaikeyi, was Dasharat's favourite wife and he could not bear to upset her. Fortunately, Kaikeyi agreed wholeheartedly that Ram should be king.

From the beginning, Lakshman was especially deeply attached to his brother Ram as was his twin brother Shatrughan to Bharat, but all four princes loved each other deeply and grew up happily together learning arts, scie nces, scriptures and statecraft from Yasishta. One day while they were still young boys, the great sage Vishvamitra arrived in Dasharat's court.

'I need the help of Ram,' he demanded, 'to slay a demoness who is attacking me.'

'H e is only a child,' protested the king, but Vasishta advised him to let Ram go with Vishvamitra.

'He is one of the world's great sages,' he counselled. 'It will be beneficial for Ram to spend some time with him.'

Unwillingly Dasharat gave in to the pressure put upon him and Ram and his brorher Lakshman went back with Vishvamitra to his hermitage. When they arrived there, Vishvamitra gave Ram magical weapons and after a bitter fight Ram vanquished the demoness.

'Now,' said the sage, 'you will travel with me to the capital of Vaideha, where King Janak is choosing a husband for his daughter Sita.' This had been the real reason why Vishvamitra had wanted Ram to leave the court with him for he had known that Ram would soon defeat the demoness.

Sita was the daughter of the Earth. While she was a baby, she had appeared to King Janak from a furrow in a ploughed field, and had been brought up as his daughter. Sita was in fact another incarnation of Lakshmi, the eternal wife of Vishnu in all his incarnations ; this time she had been reborn to marry Ram. She always left a train of light in her wake as a mark of her divine origin. She was as delicate and graceful as a swan: her raven black hair was threaded with pearls. Her forehead was like a half-moon, golden and glittering with the jewelled ornaments she wore. Her eyebrows were arched perfectly like a bow and below them glowed fawn-like eyes shaded with glistening lashes. Her lips glowed soft as corals, her neck was slender and dimpled. Her '·oice was as sweet as the nightingale's song. Everyone who saw Sita loved her instantly.

All Sita's suitors had to enter a contest known as a swayamnra to decide the one who should marry her. A bow of Shiv had been placed the centre of the court and the one who was able to lift it would be her husband. Hundreds tried and failed. Then, ro Sita's great joy, Ram nor only lifted the bow, but was strong enough to break it as well. News of Ram's forthcoming wedding was sent to Ayodhya. King Dasharat was overjoyed at the news and arrived for the celebrations. After the festivities were over, Ram, Sita and Dasharat returned home where all Ayodhya waited to greet them and more feasting and merriment took place to welcome Sita. Finally, a brother of Queen Kaikeyi spoke to Dasharat. 'My father wishes his grandson Bharat to return with me to live in our kingdom for several years and learn about our customs. ow that the festivities are over, Your Majesty, may I take Bharat home with me?'

Reluctantly Dasharat agreed and Bharat left for his grandfather's court.

The years went by and Ram proved to be a kind husband. Sita was a devoted wife and the two were deeply in love. Dasharat missed Bharat and longed to see him, yet one matter worried him constantly: Ram must be declared king before Bharat's return, because Dasharat wanted to avoid any arguments about which brother should become the new king. The elderly king called a council of ministers, sages and allied kings and announced his decision to crown Ram, King of Ayodhya.

The council discussed the matter and unanimously approved his choice. Ram was called before the assembly and Dasharat officially acknowledged him heir-apparent. Still anxious, the king summoned Ram to his personal chambers that night and told Ram he would crown him the very next day. Ram was stunned that his father was considering holding the coronation before Bharat could return for it. 'Such affairs have the power to create treacherous impulses in the most faithful of men so it is best to do this quickly,' the king said, brushing aside Ram's protests and Ram was dismissed to fast along with Sita in preparation for the next day's ceremony.

The king ordered his ministers to make all the necessary arrangements for the coronation, and went to Kaikeyi's rooms to give her the news. 'Your queen is in the Chamber of Protest, my liege,' said Kaikeyi's servant.

The Chamber of Protest was reserved for any queen with a complaint and had never been used during Dasharat's reign. He made his way there anxiously. Kaikeyi lay sprawled on the floor of her chamber, her hair disshevelled, her jewels scattered across the floor, and she was weeping and lamenting. Dash a rat fell to his knees and stroked her hair gently, asking, 'Who has upset you, my beloved queen''

'No-one,' she replied, 'but I ask you for the two wishes you promised when I saved you on the battlefield. If you choose not to grant them, I shall kill myself.'

Dasharat remained silent a moment as that battle flashed through his mind. The god Indra had asked Dasharat to fight the demon Shambar who was plaguing the gods. Dasharat had defeated the demon armies but was left lying severely wounded on the battlefield with little chance of living. Kaikeyi, who had insisted on accompanying him to battle, had him carried to her tent and nursed him night and day until he recovered. The king had been so grateful he had promised to grant Kaikeyi two wishes.

'You are alive, my lord,' Kaikeyi had replied, 'I need nothing else. Let me save my wishes and ask for them when I need them.'

'You and Ram are dearer to me than anything else in the world,' the king now said, realizing that Kaikeyi was about to ask him for something he would find painful to grant. 'I swear that I shall do what you want.'

'Then first I wish you to send Ram into exile for fourteen years and second I wish you to proclaim Bharat king,' Kaikeyi said swiftly. Dasharat was broken-hearted. He could not believe that Kaikeyi, who had always said she loved Ram more than her own son and had often suggested he should be king, had now changed her mind completely. He argued with Kaikeyi throughout the night, but Kaikeyi's mind was made up and Dasharat knew he must keep his promise to Kaikeyi and her father. When morning came, the king was utterly worn down. He was distressed by the idea of losing his beloved son in his own old age, and could not bring himself to speak to Ram when the young prince came to get his blessing before the coronation.

Ram was concerned, 'Have I upset my father'' he wondered, then looking at Kaikeyi's harsh expression, he asked.

'Have I displeased the king' Tell me mother, why does my father looks so dejected'' 'Then listen, Ram,' replied Kaikeyi sternly. 'Your father loves you more than even his honour so he hesitates to command you to go into exile for fourteen years, while Bharat is crowned and established king of Ayodhya.' 'Thank you for telling me mother,' Ram said. 'There is no greater virtue than to obey one's parents. I will leave immediately. Bharat will make an able king.'

Ram sadly said farewell to his heartbroken father and then went to Queen Kaushaliya, his real mother, to say goodbye to her. He explained how the decision had come about and begged her to be kind to Dasharat who was deeply unhappy at Ram's exile. Although grief-stricken, Kaushaliya agreed with Ram, praying for his happiness in exile. Then Ram went to say goodbye to Sita and to comfort her but Sita refused to be separated from her husband.

'If you can to live in hardship away from home and your beloved family,' she said, 'then I will go with you. How can I be happy living in luxury without you'' His brother Lakshman also refused to stay behind and that very day they left the kingdom. Ram led the way, dressed like a holy man, with tangled hair and a leopard skin to cover his body. The only sign that he was a warrior was the quiver of arrows which hung from his shoulder and his precious bow.

The three left the city of Ayodhya and made their way across the River Ganges and up into the mountains and forests of the Himalayas where they lived a holy life, filled with fasting and prayer.

The months passed and one day Ram was meditating when he sensed a disturbance in the forest. The birds were flying from the trees and animals were scurrying away to hide in the undergrowth. Lakshman climbed to the top of a tall tree to see what was causing the turmoil. ' It is Bharat,' he shouted down to Ram. 'He is coming with an army of men. o doubt he wants to make his throne more secure by killing us.'

Ram shook his head wisely . 'Bharat is a good man,' he replied. 'It is because he loves us that he has made the journey. He probably wants us to come back to Ayodhya.'

Ram's words calmed his quick-tempered brother. When Bharat arrived he greeted his brothers with affection. Then he said, 'You should be in Ayodhya, Ram. Our father has died of grief and our country needs its true king. You should be on the throne, ruling the kingdom . Let me remain here to serve out your exile fo r you while you return to Ayodhya.' Ram hugged his brother and sa id gen tl y. 'Our father gave his word to Kaikeyi that her wishes would be fulfilled. It is our duty to ensure his word is kept.' Bharat and the wise man Vasishta who had accompanied him pleaded with Ram to change his mind, but Ram was determined to obey his father's instructions as well as he could. Reali zing this, Bharat held out a pair of golden slippers he had brought with him.

' Put your feet into these a moment,' he told Ram and when Ram had done so, Bharat picked up the slippers reverently.

' I will place these slippers by your throne as a token that it is really your ,' he said, 'and I will rule the kingdom in your name until you return. But if you do not return in fourteen years, I will burn myself on a funeral pyre.' Then he left his brothers and returned to Ayodhya.

After Bharat had left, Ram decided to move o n. The three travelled deeper into the forest and soon met some hermits.

'We are constantly plagued br the demons and other monsters which infest this forest,' said the holy men. 'They kill several of us each day, just for sport. We know you are Ram the mighty warrior. We want you to give us your word that you will protect us from these fearsome monsters.'

Ram promised to defend the holy men and the three continued their journey into the forest until they met a wise man named Sutikshin. 'I can see that you will have many demons to fight in the future,' Sutikshin told them, 'and you will often be the conquerur. But beware of a gazelle who plays in a forest glade for n IS a sign of ill fortune.'

one of them understood h1s my\tenous words, but they thanked him and set off agam on their journey. After a time the'' arm·ed at a lake where they heard exquisite ,.o1ces smgmg, the voices of five heavenly maidens who had once descended there from heaven. Ram decided to build a home with Sita and Lakshman on the shores of the beautiful lake. For ten years they lived there and Ram continued to keep his promise to protect the holy men from the monsters and demons of the forest. He did it so well that eventually there were no more monsters.

Ram and his companions decided to set out on their travels. On their way, they met an enormous vu lture who introduced himself as J atayu, the king of birds.

'I was a friend of your dead father,' Jatayu said, 'and I want you to consider me your friend as wel l. '

Ram thanked Jatayu and the three continued on their way until they arrived at a place called Panchavati where they decided to stay. But they were not destined to remain there long. A demoness named Shurpanakha saw Ram one day and fell in love with him. She transformed herself into a beautiful young woman and went to Ram.

'Become my husband,' she said to him. 'I will eat Sita and we can roam the forests happily together.'

Ram could not be tempted. 'I love my wife dearly . You must look elsewhere for a husband.'

Slighted, Shurpanakha tried to kill Sita, but Lakshman cut off her ears and nose and chased her into the forest.

Disfigured and longing for revenge,

Shurpanakha went to Janastan, the land of demons, ruled by her brother Khar. 'Look at your sister's plight,' she roared in humiliation. 'You .must avenge me with your hordes of demons. I thirst for the blood of Sita and Lakshman.' 'I will not rest until I have taken revenge,' Khar promised. He assembled an army of 14,000 demons and set out for Panchavati.

The noise of the approaching army was so loud that the gods in their heavens heard it and looked down to see what was happening. When Ram saw the army, he hid Sita and Lakshman in a cave and as the demons came nearer, he shot a stream of arrows from his mighty bow. Soon only Khar was left alive. With a strength born from despair, Khar pulled the bow out of Ram's grasp and shattered Ram's shield with his club. Then he uprooted a huge tree and hurled it at Ram, who leaped out of its path just in time. Ram swiftly picked up the bow and again showered Khar with a volley of arrows. Finally Khar, the last of the demon army, was also killed and the realm of the demons was utterly desolated.

In Heaven the gods heaved a sigh of relief. The mission for which Ram had been put on Earth was soon to be accomplished .

The kingdom of Lanka had been created for Kuvera, the god of wealth, and even its humblest buildings were made from solid gold: it was filled with splendid gardens and white cloud-like mansions. Vishvakarma, the gods' architect, had originally suspended it in mid-air, but it now lay in the middle of the Indian Ocean where it had been flung by Vayu, ihe wind god, in a moment of fury. It is still there today and is known as the island of Sri Lanka. The capital of Lanka was protected by seven broad moats and seven enormous walls of stone and metal, but Kuvera no longer ruled there because many years before, the demon Ravan had defeated him and taken the kingdom of Lanka from him.

Ravan was the brother of the demons Shurpanakha and Khar and was the creature most hated by the gods. His mother was a demoness but his father was a Brahmin who had shown him how to pray and fast. He had prayed and fasted so devotedly that the god Brahm a was compelled to grant him a special wish in payment. Ravan had wished to be made invulnerable to attack by any god or demon. Ravan was terrifying to look at, for he had twenty arms and ten heads. His teeth shone pale gold like the light of a crescent moon. His mountainous body was covered with the ugly scars of a million battles with gods and demons.

Ravan could split open mountains, stir up the seas and tear the sun and moon from the sky. Since no god could hurt him, Ravan humiliated the gods by forcing them to do menial tasks in his palace. Vayu the wind god swept the floors for him; Kuvera the god of wealth supplied him with gold ; Varuna the sea god brought him water and Agni the fire god was his cook. Ravan was rapidly becoming the most powerful of all creatures until Vishnu found a solution. When Ravan had forced Brahma to grant him his wish, he had asked only for protection against the gods and demons ; he had been too arrogant to feel threatened by mere men and animals. This gave Vishnu an id ea. He himself would be reborn to King Dasharat in his seventh incarnation as his eldest son, Rama-chandra, and as a man he would bring about the downfall of this all-powerful demon.

He would not, however, be able to remember his previous existence as a god and would have to rely upon his human ability and courage alone. So, while Ram acted out his destiny, the gods bided their time, secure in the knowledge that one day they would be free of Ravan. Meanwhile, Ravan lived in luxury in the beautiful kingdom of Lanka.

One day, Ravan was sitting in his court with his many wives when he heard the sounds of hysterical bellows and Shurpanakha burst into the room.

'Your sister thirsts for revenge,' the demo ness howled, rolling her hideous eyes. 'Our brother Khar and all of his demons have been destroyed by Ram of Kosala and he must be punished. l wi ll personally suck the blood of Lakshman who has lopped off my nose and ears, and the blood of Sita who is the cause of my trouble. Ram's beauty attracted me and l turned myself into a beautiful woman to tempt him. l thought that no man could resist me, but I could not overcome Ram's love for Sita. She is more virtuous and lovely than any woman ever known.' Bitterly, Shurpanakha described Sita's beauty.

Ravan immediately desired Sita for himself and decided to seize her at once. He summoned his magic chariot and flew across the ocean to the place where a demon named Marich lived. 'You must help me destroy this Ram and obtain his wife Sita for me,' Ravan commanded, 'for Ram has killed 14,000 demons and disfigured my sister wi thout provocation.'

'You do not know Ram,' replied Marich, 'he is perfection personified and commands all the forces of good. You cannot defeat him.' 'Not even the gods with their combined powers can stop me,' thundered Ravan. 'You have forgotten my power, how dare you contradict me! It is your place to obey . ow do as l say or l will kill you.'

H e gave Marich careful instructions and took him to Panchavati where Ram and his wife and brother were living. There Marich transformed himself into a golden deer and began to graze peacefully in the clearing by Ram's home. Sita caught sight of the deer as she walked among the flowers. It looked at her with melting, sad eyes and she became enchanted by it. 'Ram, Lakshman,' she called. 'Come and look at this deer. Catch it and bring it to me so that I will always be able to look at it.' Ram remembered the warning that a gazelle would be an ill omen but Sita would not be convinced. Lakshman also tried to reason with her, explaining that the gazelle might be one of the few demons left, but Sita did not believe there was any danger and finally Ram agreed to catch the deer for her. However, he told Lakshman not to leave Sita's side and drew a circle around her.

'This magic circle will protect you from demons. Do not step out of it until I return with the deer,' he warned and left to try and catch the lovely animal. The chase was long but at last Ram was close enough to take aim. He intended only to wound the animal slightly so that he could catch it but he misfired and his arrow sank deep into the deer's body. As it fell to the earth, it cried out in Ram's voice, 'Ah, Lakshman! Alas, my Sita!' Sita heard her husband's voice in the distance and thought that he must be hurt and in need of help. 'Go to him immediately,' Sita told Lakshman, 'Ram needs you.'

Lakshman protested. 'Ram left me here to protect you,' he replied . 'He does not need my help.' But Sita wept and pleaded until he agreed to see if Ram had indeed been wounded. o sooner had Lakshman disappeared into the forest than a holy man passed by. 'Who are you who live in the forest, yet are dressed in silk like one of noble birth'' he asked. 'Do you have no protector'' 'I am Sita,' she replied, greeting the holy man respectfully, 'I live here with my husband Ram and his brother Lakshman.' 'Then do your duty, virtuous Sita,' said the holy man, 'and provide me with some food.' Sita stepped out of the magic circle to fetch food for the holy man and as soon as she had done so, he seized her.

'I am the ten-headed Ravan, ruler of Lanka,' he announced. 'Become my bride-you shall command him who commands the gods.' Sita resisted, struggling and pleading, but Ravan gripped her firmly by her hair and, fastening her to his chariot, he flew with her through the air. As the chariot made its way tO Lanka, Sita caught sight of the vulture Jatayu. 'King of birds,' she begged, 'tell Ram that Ravan has kidnapped me.'

Jatayu swooped in front of the chariot, spreading his massive wings to bar Ravan's progress, but the demon drew his sword and sliced off one of the bird's wings so that he tumbled bleeding to the ground, calling to Sita. 'I cannot help you, Sita, but I will tell R>m of your plight.'

As the chariot flew on, Sita threw her jewellery tO the ground, hoping to create a trail for Ram to follow. As they passed over a mountain peak far below, she saw a group of powerful monkeys and threw down ro them some jewellery and a scarf made from cloth of gold in the hope that if Ram came that way in his search, the monkeys would show them to him .

All too soon, they arrived at Lanka where Ravan installed Sita in his palace and started tO court her in the hope that she would agree to be his bride. Sita however had no intention of giving in to Ravan. She veiled her face and reminded him repeatedly that she was the wife of Ram and that she would never agree ro marry him even if the penalty was death.

Finally, Ravan grew weary of her resistance and threw her into a grove of ashoka trees where she was guarded by female demons. 'If you do not come to your senses within a year, I shall eat you,' he told her. Sita waited desperately for Ram to come and save her, but many months passed. Her clothes grew tattered and dirty, her hair lost its shine, and her already slender bodr wasted away until she was scarcely more than skin and bone. Still Ram did not come.

Yet the gods rejoiced, because they knew that the day would soon come when Ram would attack Lanka to rescue Sita and when that day arrived, Ravan would meet his fate .

deer had rurned into a demon as it died but he "'as immediately "'orried about Sita's safety and ran back home. On the way he met Lakshman. 'Why ha,·e you left Sita alone?' he demanded angrily. '\\' e heard your ,·oice and thought you were in danger,' Lakshman explained, 'S1ta 1nsisted that I should see why you called.' Suspecting the worst, the rwo brothers hurried home. On the way they saw Jatayu the \·ulture lying in a pool of blood.

'Ram,' whispered Jatayu. ' ;\lake haste. Ravan, the demon-king of Lanka, has abducted Sita. I could not sa,·e her, though !tried. But I am not sad for I can see golden forests and fields and I know I am about to die and go to heaven. Ravan went southwards. Follow him. Do not despair, you will find Sita.'

Jatayu died and a chariot of fire swooped down and carried his spirit away and out of the fbmes of the funeral pyre which Ram and Lakshman had lit for him.

The brothers tra' elled southwards, searching for information about Sita. Soon they entered a terrifying forest which was filled with monsters and wild beasts. Suddenly they saw the trees before them being ripped out of the soil and crushed underfoot. A huge ogre with arms the size of tree trunks was striding towards them, tearing up everything that stood in his way. The most terrifying thing about him was that he had no head.

Ram and Lakshman had heard stories of this ogre and knew that his name was Kabandha. Lakshman trembled with fear for the first time in his life, and e,·en Ram was not sure that they could defeat this creature, but the brothers did not intend to gi,·e up wi,hout a struggle. They ducked beneath his flailing arms and attacking at the same time, cut them off with their swords. \Yith his arms se,·ered Kabandha lay wounded and helpless. Then in a gentle voice that seemed to come out of the air, he asked who had destroyed him. \\'hen he found they were Ram and Lakshman, he exclaimed joyfully, 'I am released at last!'

Kabandha then explamed that he was an 1m mortal who had tried to challenge lndra's power. The angry god had cut ofi h1s head and told him that he would remain headless until Ram and Lakshman cut off h1s arms. 'Although 1 am immortal, 1 now choose to die and I ask you to cremate my bod~· with all the proper ceremomes so that m\· soul mav find release,' he told them. 'In return 1 shall tell vou how you m1ght find Ita.'

Ram d1d as Kabandha asked and as the flame>

rose h1gher, a rad1ant being emerged from the

fire and spoke to them.

'Go and find Sugriv, the exiled monkey-king. His brother Valin has usurped h1s throne and you must help Sugri,· to regain 11. Sugnv and his monkeys will then help ~·ou rescue Sita for these monkeys are of di,·ine origin and ha,·e superhuman powers. Sugri,·'s father is said to be Surya the Sun.' Encouraged, Ram and Lakshman hurned on southward. Soon they arri,·ed at a lake wh1ch was ablaze with the dazzling colour and beauty of lotuses and lilies.

Ram waded across the lake, hea,-y-hearted with longing for Sita and as he strode across. he saw a powerful monkey who was as tall as a tower. The monkey's face blazed as red as a ruby and his body glowed like molten gold. His tail stretched out to an enormous distance and he stood on a lofty rock roaring like thunder. As he saw the princes approach, he leaped agilely from the rock and flew O\'er to them, speaking in a ,·oice which was gentle and respectful.

'Know th at I am Hanuman, son of \'a~· u the god of the wind. ~lv master is ugri,· the monkey king, who has lost his kingdom and hiS wife to his brother. \\' e heard that you were nearby and know vour reputations as warnor . Sugri,· has sent me to greet you and offer hi friendship.'

When Hanuman heard that the brothers had come to seek help, he asked them to it on his shoulders and wnh one m1ghrv leap he earned them to the mountain where ugn,· was. ugnv showed them the scarf and 1ewellen· that 'na had flung down from Ravan's tlnng chanot.

'Help me win back m\ kingdom trom my wicked brother Valin,' said Sugriv, 'and I

promise to help you bring back Sita.'

'We gladly agree to help you,' Ram promised. The next day Ram and Lakshman set out with Sugriv, Hanuman and their small band of monkeys. They hid themselves in the trees around Valin's city while Sugriv went forward to stand at its gates and bellow terrifyingly to Valin to come out. Infuriated by the challenge, Valin led his soldiers out for battle. The brothers fought angrily in single hand-to-hand combat until Sugriv had to signal for Ram's help. When Ram saw that his friend was weakening, he aimed his arrow at Valin's heart and killed Valin instantly.

Ram had fulfilled his promise. Sugriv was king once again and was ready to help to find Sita. But the summer monsoons had come and the heavy rains made further search ing impossible. Ram had to wait for the summer's end before the search for Sita could begin again.

When the monsoon rain ended at last, it was time for Sugriv to pay his debt to Ram. Sugriv called Hanuman to him. Hanuman could fly and leap so high that he could seize the clouds. H e was also a great magician and so knowledgeable that he could interpret the shastras, the Hindu books of wisdom, better than anyone else. If anyone could find Sita, Hanuman could.

'In one month,' commanded Sugriv, 'you must report back with what you have found.' Ram had no doubt that Hanuman would find his beloved Sita. 'As a token of my faith in you, Hanuman,' he said, 'here is my ring. When you see Sita, show it to her and she will know that you have come from me.' Hanuman set off with an army of monkeys, and Jambavan the king of the bears and his army went too. Thousands of monkeys and bears searched every corner of the land but without success. As the thirtieth day drew near, Hanuman was in despair, humiliated by his failure to find Sita. He called his army of searchers and made an announcement. 'I have failed in my mission and wasted a month. I cannot face the humiliation of my failure and deserve to die.'

Hanuman was about to kill himself when one of his companions noticed a weak-looking vulture hovering above in the hope that he might make a meal of the dead monkey. The monkey waved to the bird and shouted, 'Your king] atayu saw the wife of Ram being carried away. Can you direct us to her?' The vulture realized these were superhuman creatures on a virtuous quest: he decided to help them.

'I am Sampati, brother of Jatayu,' he said. 'My wings were burned once when I flew too close to Surya the Sun god. I have lost my strength so I cannot help you physically, but I did once hear a woman calling to Ram and Lakshman as Ravan's chariot flew overhead. I know that the demon lives on an island city a hundred leagues over the southern ocean. It was built by Vishvakarma and is called Lanka.'

Surya the Sun god had promised Sampati that his wings would grow strong again if he ever helped Ram and the bird was still speaking when he found his strength returning and his feathe rs growing back. The bears and monkeys thanked him for his help and as the bird began to try his newly regained power, they sped off to the shores of the Indian Ocean. When they arrived, Hanuman breathed in deeply, swelling his chest with the sea winds. He brandished his tail, and thundered up a nearby mountain with a joyous but terrifying roar. At the top of the mountain, Hanuman paused and prayed, preparing for the mighty leap which would bring him to Lanka, alone, enormous and magnificent. None of his companions would be able to follow him.

Then Hanuman leaped into the air like an arrow, flying among the clouds and over the waves far below until he landed on the island of Lanka. When at last he reached its capital, he decided to wait until dark and then crawl through the gates, but the city's demon sentries noticed him and attacked him. Hanuman slew them all in the combat which followed.

Vicrorious, Hanuman marched into Ravan's palace and searched every terrace and room umil he was certain !hat Sita was not there. He was walking through the courtyards on his way out when he saw a light !!;linerin!!; through the leO\·es of some ashoka trees. He sprang rowards them and saw !hat the light was coming from ita who still glowed with a pale radiance. \\'eak from distress and hunger. Ram' wife sat as still as a statue in her nef. A Hanuman wondered what ro do next, he heard a fanfare oi trumpets and Ra,·an am,·ed. As always Ra,·an spoke to ita of hiS Jo,·e and told her she was foolish ro pine ior Ram. when he. whom e,·en !he gods feared. •ns offerin to marry her. Bur ita refused 10 li ten. and mstead drew a line in the ground between them.

' I will never Step across this lme, because I am Ram's wife and Jo,·e only him. You should not look at the wiie of another man. [,·en now. if you rerum me to Ram, he mi ht iorgn·e you: she said. Furiously, Ra,·an turned awa~·- 'I ha,·e waited nearly a full year for you.' he bellowed. 'If you ha,·e not changed your mind in two month when the year is complete. I "·ill han you slaughtered for m~· breakfast.· Then he marched out.

Hanuman dropped lithely ro the tloor as soon as Ra,·an had left. Head bowed. he approached Sita and respectfully showed her the ring which Ram had sent. He introduced himself, telling her. 'Ram rold me to find you. He is well and worries constant!~· about you.' ita asked tender!~- about Ram and Lak hman and inquired why the~- had not yet come to rescue her. Gently, Hanuman explained ho"· difficult it had been to find her. 'Tell Ram from me,' she said when she had heard the whole srory. ' that I will live ior one month more. After that I swear that I hall die.' ·~·in this she handed Hanuman a jewel so that he could pro,·e he had seen her.

Hanuman promised faithfully 10 do as Ita said and flew off. intending to \\'reak a much h.-·oc and ruin in Lanka as he could before finallv retummg to Ram with hi new . He began b,- destroym, the demones ·es who uarded Ita. \\'hen Rann 's terrified courtier told him that a fearsome monkey had ripped apan the asho ·a ~rove. Ra,·an ent :,::: servaniS 10 StOp hlm but Hanuman round a dub and cru hed rhe1r ull -..·lth one po-..·eriul s-..·ing. The,.., he et Ravan' temple alight and destroyed many oi R.-·an's mmi>ter and 9>arnor . Finall,·. Ravan' mighue 1 on. Indraiit. hot an arrow "·h1<:h had been ::1ven to Ra-·an b,· Brahma himseli and which had a spark of divine power. The Otrro-..· tru Hanuman down and -..·bile he Ia\' helpless he -..·as brou ht ro Ravan. Hanuman po e proud!~- even m cOtpunty.

'I am Hanuman. the on ot \'an• and me sen~er of Ram. I ha,·e had to ii!;ht m~ way mto rour presence to deliver Ram' message. Return ita to her true husband. Thi 1 Ram's order md ir you do not obe~· 1t you "''II be destroyed.' Ra-·an was o enraged by Hmuman' -..·ord that he wanted to ha-·e him killed on the spot but hiS mimsters had another idea.

'It 1 unwiSe to kill themes en er oi an enemy.' !hey ad,·ised. '\\ny not !il'·e Ram m idea o' our power instead by erring Hmuman' taJ! ali ht? A monke~·'s tail is mo t importmt to him aiter all. md without It he will be as deformed as your unlucky sister hurpanakha.' R.-·an roared wirh appro,·al at !he U!(~e tion. so the demons reased Hmuman' tail and wrapped it with p1ece of cononwool ro make it bum easily. Hanuman' tail was et ali bt but alrhough the !lames blazed tiercel,-. the ire ;:od Agni protected Hanuman and he did not feel !heir heat. As he prepared to Jea,·e Lmka. Hmuman decided ro make one last anempt to disor anize !he island before the -..·ar be!(an. He made a mighty leap onto Ra,·an' fortre where he lashed hi enormou . curved tail so that fire rained down on the terrace md courryard until the whole ci~- was one mas i,-e ilame. Then. thanking Agm for hi. aid and offering !he bummg "~- to h1m as a acritlce. he rm to !he beaches and plun ed hi tailmto the ocem to put out the fire. \\'irh another m1 h~·leap he returned to the mountam on the mainlmd where he was gl\·en a hero· welcome md proudly told the mon ·en and the beus about hi adventure . Then they

Hanuman gave Sita's jewel to Ram and told him everything that had happened while he had been away. Ram immediately set out with the monkeys and the bears for the sou themmost shores of India. Soon after they arrived, a figure approached Ram and identified himself. 'I am Vibhishan, the brother of Ravan,' he said. 'I have tried to persuade Ra,·an to return Sita to you and stop the bloodshed, but he will not listen to reason so I have come to help Ram in any way I can. I have a special power; I can see !ndrajit, Ravan's warrior son, wherever he may be. That may prove helpful to Ram in the fight which lies ahead.'

Rama thanked Vibhishan and swore to protect him since he had left his home and family to help him. Then Ram made his way down to the shore to pray for the help of Sagar, the god of the ocean, in crossing o'·er to Lanka. On Sagar's advice, the monkeys built a bridge to cross the hundred leagues of ocean between India and Lanka and soon Ram, Lakshman and the armies of bears and monkeys had arrived on the island. The monkeys quickly spread out along the beaches, taking up guard and shouting excitedly. Ram then sent a message to Ravan. 'I ha,·e arri,·ed on Lanka. Return my wife or I shall destroy you and your demons "·ith my arrows. If you do not obey my warning, you will lose e\·erything.'

Ravan was infuriated by Ram's arrogant message and ordered his mighty son Indrajit to march out against him. The battle raged fiercely, but Ram's forces were doing well until Indrajit made himself in,·isible and shot Ram and Lakshman with his magic arrow. It was the same arrow that had struck down Hanuman, for it always returned to its owner after it had been used and it ne,·er missed its target. The arrow injured both of the brothers severely and lndrajit then began shooting at the others-many monkeys and bears were wounded by his arrows for they could not see where the next attack would come from. At last Ra\'3n's brother Vibhishan used his own special powers to find Indrajit and wound him: lndrajit was forced to withdraw, boasting that he had killed Ram and Lakshman. The surviving bears and monkeys gazed mournfully down at Ram's unconscious body and to their relief, saw him stir. Suddenly there was a great flash of fire in the sky. Out of it emerged a magnificent eagle: it was Vishnu's mount, Garuda. Swooping down like a fiery meteor he spoke to Ram, 'I have been sent to restore you and Lakshman back to health.' He then embraced them both, filling them with new life, and flew back into the sky. In his palace, Ravan heard the excited cheers of the monkeys and rallied the best of his warriors. Fearsome demons charged out of the city but Hanuman killed them all single-handedly, and Ravan and his soldiers were driven back. Ravan knew his only chance now was to awaken his brother, the gluttonous giant Kumbhakarna who slept for six months of the year. It took the noise of everyone in the city to wake him but after much persuasion, Kumbhakarna agreed to help Ravan and gulped down 2000 jars of liquor to strengthen himself before setting out to kill Ram. Kumbhakarna drunkenly lurched towards Ram's armies whirling his mace around his head. The battle seemed lost and once more the bears and monkeys were slaughtered in their hundreds. Ram once again set his bow to work, aiming a steady stream of arrows at the giant. At last, Kumbhakama fell to the ground but he still waved his arms and legs about and knocked down whole troops of monkeys before Ram raised his bow and killed him with a deadly arrow. For a time, the fighting ceased but soon !ndrajit had recovered enough to return to the battle. He flew in his chariot abo\'e the ranks of bears and monkeys, showering them with arrows and lances. Only when J ambavan, Sugriv, Ram and Lakshman had all been wounded did Indrajit withdraw to his palace and the battle ended for the day.

That night, Jambavan the king of the bears wid Hanuman of some healing herbs on :\1ount Kailash, the home of Shiv. 'The herbs will heal our wounded,' he said, 'if )'OU can find them.' Hanuman flew directly to Kailash but was unable 10 recognize the herbs. Desperate to rerum before dawn, he tore off the whole top of the mountain and brought it to Jambavan, who selected the right herbs and cured the injured. Then Hanuman put the summit back in its original place. Filled with new strength and enthusiasm, the monkeys were now determined to end this bitter war swiftly. King Sugriv led them m a charge onto the battlements of Ra,•an's fortress and set the city ablaze. In the following battle, they killed all the remaining demon warriors except Indrajit and Ravan himself. With all h1s warriors dead, the ten-headed king turned to his son.

'Ram is mighty, but you have proved yourself to be mightier, because you have already wounded him twice. Kill Ram and Lakshman and we can still win this war.' !ndrajit attacked again, using every demonic trick he knew to weaken Ram and Lakshman. In order to disheanen Ram, he conjured up an image of Sita in his carriage, an image which looked as if she had been beheaded. Then he again attacked from the sky, but finally Lakshman notched an arrow which had been given to h1m by Indra and shot it at Indrajit. The arrow ripped the demon's head from h1s shoulders and the demon was defeated at last. . ow there was nothmg left for Ravan but to fight Ram himself. Hea\')'-hearted at the loss of his favourite son, Ra,·an charged out of h1s fortress in his magic chanot. He flew into the air and began to shoot arrows down at Ram with all h1s twenty arms. The gods cons1dered this was unfair and they sent Matali the hea,·enly charioteer to ra1se h1m up to an equal height. Then Ram chanted a hymn to the gods and drinking three sips of water purified himself and continued the fight with Ra,·an. Finally, his arrow pierced Ra,·an's hean and knocked him out of his chariot and onto the ground.

Ra,·an 's brother, Vibhishan, looked at the once powerful demon lying dead on the ground caked in blood and dust. 'If only you had done as I said,' he wept, 'all this destruction could ha,·e been avoided.' Ram laid his hand on Vibhishan's shoulder, 'You are a hero. Heroes must fight to the death. It is not suitable for you to grie,·e in this manner. Now prepare to gi,·e your brother a proper funeral.'

Ha,·ing buried Ravan "'ith all the proper rites, Vibhishan was crowned king of Lanka in his place. After the ceremony, Ram sent Hanuman to gi,·e Sita the news of his victory. Hanuman entered the ashoka grove with his head held high and his heart full of happiness. He bowed deeply before Sita, who was waiting anxiously for news of Rama. ' I bring you joyful news, my queen,' he said. 'Ram has asked me to tell you that the war is o,·er, Ravan is dead and right has triumphed.' As he spoke, King Vibhishan's carriage approached in all its splendour. The newly crowned king alighted from the carriage and bowed before Sita.

'If it pleases you, the women of my family shall attend to you and prepare you to meet Ram again.' Sita wept " 'ith joy when she kne"' Ram and Lakshman were safe and that she " 'as about to be united with her husband. She was bathed in Vibhishan's palace, dressed in silks and adorned with jewels. Her hair was threaded with pearls and her skin perfumed with the most delicate and exotic fragrances. When she was ready, Vibhishan instructed his servants to bring out the most magnificent palanquin to carry her to Ram. It stopped by Ram and Sita stepped nimbly down, delighted to be reunited with her husband . She looked up at him shyly yet jubilantly but was stunned by his harsh expression.

'Daughter of Janak,' he said sternly, 'I have slain the enemy and rescued you. I have done my duty and satisfied the demands of honour. But I cannot take you back. You have been touched by Ravan. How can I know that you are pure? You are free to go where you choose, I have no desire for you.' 'If I was touched by Ravan,' replied Sita with spirit, 'it was not because I chose it. It seems I have waited a long time for a man who does not love me but fought a war merely to satisfy his honour. I married a valiant prince who defended the weak, but you speak now of mistrust and blame like a coarse commoner. You knew my plight when Hanuman told you where I was. Why did you not leave me to my resources? I have no reason to live if my character and my past devotion mean nothing to you.' She turned to Lakshman. 'Prepare a funeral pyre. I intend to enter the flames.' Lakshman looked at Ram but Ram did not try to prevent him, so he did as Sita asked. When the pyre was ready, Sita walked three times around Ram, and prayed to the gods. As she entered the flames Sita whispered a prayer to Agni, god of fire. 'Protect me Agni for you know that I am pure of heart and body.'

Fearlessly Sita stood in the blazing flames awaiting her fate. As they watched, she was suddenly lifted up in the arms of Agni who appeared out of the flames and fixed his intense gaze on Ram. 'Ram,' he said. 'Your wife is chaste and sinless. Embrace her and return to Ayodhya to rule there with her at your side.'

As he spoke all the gods appeared before them. Last of all came Ram's dead father Dasharat in a flying chariot. He spoke gently to his son. 'Ram, you have played your part in a plan of the gods for they themselves could not destroy the demon Ravan. Sita's abduction and suffering were a part of the same plan. If she had not been abducted by Ravan, you would have had no reason to fight him.'

As they entered the city, they met Bharat dressed in ragged clothes, his face saddened by his long separation from his brothers and the unwanted responsibility of ruling the kingdom. When he saw his brother, Bharat's expression changed to one of joy. He immediately bowed to the ground and put the gold sandals on Ram's feet . Ram embraced Bharat and blessed him and together they all returned to the palace. They were received by the court sage Vasishta who seated Ram and Sita on the jewelled throne and blessed them both.

Other Resources

1. Mahabharata Stories

2. Leela - An exploration of Krishna's Path by Sadhguru. A free weekly webstream.

Share this post

Facebook Share Twitter Sharegplus-icon.jpg