The Ramayana/Book I/Canto I: Nárad

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The Ramayana of Valmiki , translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith
Book I — Canto I: Nárad[1]


OM.[2]

To sainted Nárad, prince of those
Whose lore in words of wisdom flows.
Whose constant care and chief delight
Were Scripture and ascetic rite,
The good Válmíki, first and best
Of hermit saints, these words addressed:[3]
'In all this world, I pray thee, who
Is virtuous, heroic, true?
Firm in his vows, of grateful mind,
To every creature good and kind?
Bounteous, and holy, just, and wise,
Alone most fair to all men's eyes?
Devoid of envy, firm, and sage,
Whose tranquil soul ne'er yields to rage?
Whom, when his warrior wrath is high,
Do Gods embattled fear and fly?
Whose noble might and gentle skill
The triple world can guard from ill?
Who is the best of princes, he
Who loves his people's good to see?
The store of bliss, the living mine
Where brightest joys and virtues shine?
Queen Fortune's[4] best and dearest friend,
Whose steps her choicest gifts attend?
Who may with Sun and Moon compare,
With Indra,[5] Vishnu,[6] Fire, and Air?
Grant, Saint divine,[7] the boon I ask,
For thee, I ween, an easy task,
To whom the power is given to know
If such a man breathe here below.'

Then Nárad, clear before whose eye
The present, past, and future lie,[8]
Made ready answer: 'Hermit, where
Are graces found so high and rare?
Yet listen, and my tongue shall tell
In whom alone these virtues dwell.
From old Ikshváku's[9] line he came,
Known to the world by Ráma's name:
With soul subdued, a chief of might,
In Scripture versed, in glory bright,
His steps in virtue's paths are bent,
Obedient, pure, and eloquent.
In each emprise he wins success,
And dying foes his power confess.
Tall and broad-shouldered, strong of limb,
Fortune has set her mark on him.
Graced with a conch-shell's triple line,
His threat displays the auspicious sign.[10]
High destiny is clear impressed
On massive jaw and ample chest,
His mighty shafts he truly aims,
And foemen in the battle tames.
Deep in the muscle, scarcely shown,
Embedded lies his collar-bone.
His lordly steps are firm and free,
His strong arms reach below his knee;[11]
All fairest graces join to deck
His head, his brow, his stately neck,
And limbs in fair proportion set:
The manliest form e'er fashioned yet.
Graced with each high imperial mark,
His skin is soft and lustrous dark.
Large are his eyes that sweetly shine
With majesty almost divine.
His plighted word he ne'er forgets;
On erring sense a watch he sets.
By nature wise, his teacher's skill
Has trained him to subdue his will.
Good, resolute and pure, and strong,
He guards mankind from scathe and wrong,
And lends his aid, and ne'er in vain,
The cause of justice to maintain.
Well has he studied o'er and o'er
The Vedas[12] and their kindred lore.
Well skilled is he the bow to draw,[13]
Well trained in arts and versed in law;
High-souled and meet for happy fate,
Most tender and compassionate;
The noblest of all lordly givers,
Whom good men follow, as the rivers
Follow the King of Floods, the sea:
So liberal, so just is he.
The joy of Queen Kaus'alyá's[14] heart,
In every virtue he has part:
Firm as Himálaya's[15] snowy steep,
Unfathomed like the mighty deep:
The peer of Vishnu's power and might,
And lovely as the Lord of Night;[16]
Patient as Earth, but, roused to ire,
Fierce as the world-destroying fire;
In bounty like the Lord of Gold,[17]
And Justice self ia human mould.

With him, his best and eldest son,
By all his princely virtues won
King Das'aratha[18] willed to share
His kingdom as the Regent Heir.
But when Kaikeyí, youngest queen,
With eyes of envious hate had seen
The solemn pomp and regal state
Prepared the prince to consecrate,
She bade the hapless king bestow
Two gifts he promised long ago,
That Ráma to the woods should flee,
And that her child the heir should be.

By chains of duty firmly tied,
Thw wretched king perforce complied.
Ráma, to please Kaikeyí went
Obedient forth to banishment.
Then Lakshman's truth was nobly shown,
Then were his love and courage known,
When for his brother's sake he dared
All perils, and his exile shared.
And Sítá, Ráma's darling wife,
Loved even as he loved his life,
Whom happy marks combined to bless,
A miracle of loveliness,
Of Janak's royal lineage sprung,
Most excellent of women, clung
To her dear lord, like Rohiní
Rejoicing with the Moon to be.[19]
The King and people, sad of mood,
The hero's car awhile pursued.
But when Prince Ráma lighted down
At S'riugavera's pleasant town,
Where Gangá's holy waters flow,
He bade his driver turn and go.
Guha, Nishádas' king, he met,
And on the farther bank was set.
Then on from wood to wood they strayed,
O'er many a stream, through constant shade,
As Bharadvája bade them, till
They came to Chitrakúta's hill.
And Ráma there, with Lakshman's aid,
A pleasant little cottage made,
And spent his days with Sítá, dressed

In coat of bark and deerskin vest.[20]
And Chitrakuta grew to be
As bright with those illustrious three
An Meru's[21] sacred peaks that shine
With glory, when the Gods recline
Beneath them: Siva's[22] self between
The Lord of Gold and Beauty's Queen.

The aged king for Rama pined,
And for the skies the earth resigned,
Bharat, his son, refused to reign,
Though urged by all the twice-born[23] train.
Forth to the woods he fared to meet
Hia brother, fell before his feet,
And cried, 'Thy claim all men allow:
O come, our lord and king be thou.'
But Rama nobly chose to be
Observant of his sire's decree.
He placed his sandals[24] in his hand
A pledge that he would rule the land:
And bade his brother turn again.
Then Bharat. finding prayer was vain,
The sandals took and went away;
Nor in Ayodhyá would he stay.
But turned to Nandigráma, where
He ruled the realm with watchful care,
Still longing eagerly to learn
Tidings of Ráma's safe return.

Then lest the people should repeat
Their visit to his calm retreat,
Away from Chitrakúta's hill
Fared Ráma ever onward till
Beneath the shady trees he stood
Of Dandaká's primeval wood,
Virádha, giant fiend, he slew,
And then Agastya's friendship knew.
Counselled by him he gained the sword
And bow of Indra, heavenly lord:
A pair of quivers too, that bore
Of arrows an exhaustless store.
While there he dwelt in greenwood shade
The trembling hermits sought his aid,
And bade him with his sword and bow
Destroy the fiends who worked them woe:
To come like Indra strong and brave,
A guardian God to help and save.
And Ráma's falchion left its trace
Deep cut on Súrpanakhá's face:
A hideous giantess who came
Burning for him with lawless flame.
Their sister's cries the giants heard.
And vengeance in each bosom stirred:
The monster of the triple head.
And Dúshan to the contest sped.
But they and myriad fiends beside
Beneath the might of Ráma died.

When Rávan, dreaded warrior, knew
The slaughter of his giant crew:
Rávan, the king, whose name of fear
Earth, hell, and heaven all shook to hear:
He bade the fiend Márícha aid
The vengeful plot his fury laid.
In vain the wise Márícha tried
To turn him from his course aside:
Not Rávan's self, he said, might hope
With Ráma and his strength to cope.
Impelled by fate and blind with rage
He came to Ráma's hermitage.
There, by Márícha's magic art,
He wiled the princely youths apart,
The vulture[25] slew, and bore away
The wife of Ráma as his prey.
The son of Raghu[26] came and found
Jatáyu slain upon the ground.
He rushed within his leafy cot;
He sought his wife, but found her not.
Then, then the hero's senses failed;
In mad despair he wept and wailed,
Upon the pile that bird he laid,
And still in quest of Sitá strayed.
A hideous giant then he saw,
Kabandha named, a shape of awe.

The monstrous fiend he smote and slew,
And in the flame the body threw;
When straight from out the funeral flame
In lovely form Kabandha came,
And bade him seek in his distress
A wise and holy hermitess.
By counsel of this saintly dame
To Pampá's pleasant flood he came,
And there the steadfast friendship won
Of Hanumán the Wind-God's son.
Counselled by him he told his grief
To great Sugríva, Vánar chief,
Who, knowing all the tale, before
The sacred flame alliance swore.
Sugríva to his new-found friend
Told his own story to the end:
His hate of Báli for the wrong
And insult he had borne so long.
And Ráma lent a willing ear
And promised to allay his fear.
Sugríva warned him of the might
Of Báli, matchless in the fight,
And, credence for his tale to gain,
Showed the huge fiend[27] by Báli slain.
The prostrate corpse of mountain size
Seemed nothing in the hero's eyes;
He lightly kicked it, as it lay,
And cast it twenty leagues[28] away.
To prove his might his arrows through
Seven palms in line, uninjured, flew.
He cleft a mighty hill apart,
And down to hell he hurled his dart,
Then high Sugríva's spirit rose,
Assured of conquest o'er his foes.
With his new champion by his side
To vast Kishkindhá's cave he hied.
Then, summoned by his awful shout,
King Báli came in fury out,
First comforted his trembling wife,
Then sought Sugríva in the strife.
One shaft from Ráma's deadly bow
The monarch in the dust laid low.
Then Ráma bade Sugríva reign
In place of royal Báli slain.
Then speedy envoys hurried forth
Eastward and westward, south and north,
Commanded by the grateful king
Tidings of Ráma's spouse to bring.

Then by Sampáti's counsel led,
Brave Hanumán, who mocked at dread,
Sprang at one wild tremendous leap
Two hundred leagues across the deep.
To Lanká's[29] town he urged his way,
Where Rávan held his royal sway.
There pensive 'neath As'oka[30] boughs
He found poor Sitá, Ráma's spouse.
He gave the hapless girl a ring,
A token from her lord and king.
A pledge from her fair hand he bore;
Then battered down the garden door.
Five captains of the host be slew,
Seven sons of councillors o'erthrew;
Crushed youthful Aksha on the field,
Then to his captors chose to yield.
Soon from their bonds his limbs were free,
But honouring the high decree
Which Brahmá had pronounced of yore,[31]
He calmly all their insults bore.
The town he burnt with hostile flame,
And spoke again with Ráma's dame,
Then swiftly back to Ráma flew
With tidings of the interview.
Then with Sugríva for his guide,
Came Ráma to the ocean side.
He smote the sea with shafts as bright
As sunbeams in their summer height,
And quick appeared the Rivers' King[32]
Obedient to the summoning.
A bridge was thrown by Nala o'er
The narrow sea from shore to shore.[33]
They crossed to Lanká's golden town,
Where Ráma's hand smote Rávan down.
Vibhishan there was left to reign
Over his brother's wide domain.
To meet her husband Sitá came;
But Ráma, stung with ire and shame,
With bitter words his wife addressed
Before the crowd that round her pressed.
But Sitá, touched with noble ire,
Gave her fair body to the fire.
Then straight the God of Wind appeared,
And words from heaven her honour cleared.
And Ráma clasped his wife again,
Uninjured, pure from spot and stain,
Obedient to the Lord of Fire
And the high mandate of his sire.
Led by the Lord who rules the sky,
The Gods and heavenly saints drew nigh,
And honoured him with worthy meed,
Rejoicing in each glorious deed.
His task achieved, his foe removed,

He triumphed, by the Gods approved,
By grace of Heaven he raised to life
The chieftains slain in mortal strife;
Then in the magic chariot through
The clouds to Nandigráma flew.
Met by his faithful brothers there,
He loosed his votive coil of hair:
Thence fair Ayodhyá's town he gained,
And o'er his father's kingdom reigned.
Disease or famine ne'er oppressed
His happy people, richly blest
With all the joys of ample wealth,
Of sweet content and perfect health.
No widow mourned her well-loved mate,
No sire his son's untimely fate.
They feared not storm or robber's hand;
No fire or flood laid waste the land:
The Golden Age[34] had come again
To bless the days of Ráma's reign
From him, the great and glorious king,
Shall many a princely scion spring.
And he shall rule, beloved by men,
Ten thousand years and hundreds ten,[35]
And when his life on earth is past
To Brahmá's world shall go at last.'
Whoe'er this noble poem reads
That tells the tale of Ráma's deeds,
Good as the Scriptures, he shall be
From every sin and blemish free.
Whoever reads the saving strain,
With all his kin the heavens shall gain.
Bráhmans who read shall gather hence
The highest praise for eloquence.
The warrior, o'er the laud shall reign,
The merchant, luck in trade obtain;
And S'údras listening[36] ne'er shall fail
To reap advantage from the tale.[37]


  1. A divine saint, son of Brahmá. He is the eloquent messenger of the Gods, a musician of exquisite skill, and the inventor of the viná or Indian lute. He bears a strong resemblance to Hermes or Mercury.
  2. This mystic syllable, said to typify the supreme Deity, the Gods collectively, the Vedas, the three spheres of the world, the three holy fires, the three steps of Vishnu etc., prefaces the prayers and most venerated writings of the Hindus.
  3. This colloquy is supposed to have taken place about sixteen years after Ráma's return from his wanderings and occupation of his ancestral throne.
  4. Called also S'ri and Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu, the Queen of Beauty as well as the Dea Fortuna. Her birth 'from the full-flushed wave' is described in Canto XLV of this Book.
  5. One of the most prominent objects of worship in the Rig-veda, Indra was superseded in later times by the more popular deities Vishnu and S'iva. He is the God of the firmament, and answers in many respects to the Jupiter Pluvius of the Romans. See Additional Notes.
  6. The second God of the Trimúrti or Indian Trinity. Derived from the root vis' to penetrate, the meaning of the name appears to be he who penetrates or pervades all things. An embodiment of the preserving power of nature, he is worshipped as a Saviour who has nine times been incarnate for the good of the world and will descend on earth once more. See Additional Notes and Muir's Sanskrit Texts passim.
  7. In Sanskrit devarshi. Rishi is the general appellation of sages, and another word is frequently prefixed to distinguish the degrees. A Brahmarshi is a theologian or Bráhmanical sage; a Rájarshi is a royal sage or sainted king; a Devarshi is a divine or deified sage or saint.
  8. Trikálaj'na. Literally knower of the three times. Both Schlegel and Gorresio quote Homer's.
    Os aedae ta t eonta, ta t essomena, pro t eonta.
    'That sacred seer, whose comprehensive view, The past, the present, and the future knew.'
    The Bombay edition reads trilokajna, who knows the three worlds (earth, air and heaven.) 'It is by topas (austere fervour) that rishis of subdued souls, subsisting on roots, fruits and air, obtain a vision of the three worlds with all things moving and stationary.' MANU, XI. 236.
  9. Son of Manu, the first king of Kos'ala and founder of the solar dynasty or family of the Children of the Sun, the God of that luminary being the father of Manu.
  10. The Indians paid great attention to the art of physiognomy and believed that character and fortune could be foretold not from the face only, but from marks upon the neck and hands. Three lines under the chin like those at the mouth of a conch (S'an'kha) were regarded as a peculiarly auspicious sign indicating, as did also the mark of Vishnu's discus on the hand, one born to be a chakravartin or universal emperor. In the palmistry of Europe the line of fortune, as well as the line of life, is in the hand. Cardan says that marks on the nails and teeth also show what is to happen to us: 'Sunt etiam in nobis vestigia quædam futurorum eyentuum in unguibus atque etiam in dentibus.' Though the palmy days of Indian chiromancy have passed away, the art is still to some extent studied and believed in.
  11. Long arms were regarded as a sign of heroic strength.
  12. 'Veda means originally knowing or knowledge, and this name ia given by the Bráhmans not to one work, but to the whole body of their most ancient sacred literature. Veda is the same word which appears in the Greek οἰδα, I know, and in the English wise, wisdom, to wit. The name of Veda is commonly given to four collections of hymns, which are respectively known by the names of Rig-veda, Yajur-veda, Sáma-veda, and Atharva-veda.'
    'As the language of the Veda, the Sanskrit, is the most ancient type of the English of the present day, (Sanskrit and English are but varieties of one and the same language,) so its thoughts and feelings contain in reality the first roots and germs of that intellectual growth which by an unbroken chain connects our own generation with the ancestors of the Aryan race,--with those very people who at the rising and setting of the sun listened with trembling hearts to the songs of the Veda, that told them of bright powers above, and of a life to come after the sun of their own lives had set in the clouds of the evening. These men were the true ancestors of our race, and the Veda is the oldest book we have in which to study the first beginnings of our language, and of all that is embodied in language. We are by nature Aryan, Indo-European, not Semitic: our spiritual kith and kin are to be found in India, Persia, Greece, Italy, Germany: not in Mesopotamia, Egypt, or Palestine.' Chips from a German Workshop, Vol. I. pp. 8. 4.
  13. As with the ancient Persians and Scythians, Indian princes were carefully instructed in archery which stands for military science in general, of which, among Hindu heroes, it was the most important branch.
  14. Chief of the three queens of Das'aratha and mother of Ráma.
  15. From hima snow, (Greek χειμ-ών Latin hiems) and álaya abode, the Mansion of snow.
  16. The moon (Soma, Indu, Chandra etc.) is masculine with the Indians as with the Germans.
  17. Kuvera, the Indian Plutus, or God of Wealth.
  18. The events here briefly mentioned will be related fully in the course of the poem. The first four cantos are introductory, and are evidently the work of a later hand than Valmiki's.
  19. 4:1 'Chandra, or the Moon, is fabled to have been married to the twenty-seven daughters of the patriarch Daksha, or Asviní and the rest, who are in fact personifications of the Lunar Asterisms. His favourite amongst them was Rohiní to whom he so wholly devoted himself as to neglect the rest. They complained to their father, and Daksha repeatedly interposed, till, finding his remonstrances vain, he denounced a curse upon his son-in-law, in consequence of which he remained childless and became affected by consumption. The wives of Chandra having interceded in his behalf with their father, Daksha modified an imprecation which he could not recall, and pronounced that the decay should be periodical only, not permanent, and that it should alternate with periods of recovery. Hence the successive wane and increase of the Moon. Padma, Purána, Swarga-Khanda, Sec. II. Rohini in Astronomy is the fourth lunar mansion, containing live stars, the principal of which is Aldebaran.' WILSON, Specimens of the Hindu Theatre. Vol. I. p. 234.
    The Bengal recension has a different reading:
    'Shone with her husband like the light
    Attendant on the Lord of Night.'
  20. The garb prescribed for ascetics by Manu.
  21. Mount Meru, situated like Kailása in the lofty regions to the north of the Himálayas, is celebrated in the traditions and myths of India. Meru and Kailása are the two Indian Olympi. Perhaps they were held in such veneration because the Sanskrit-speaking Indians remembered the ancient home where they dwelt with the other primitive peoples of their family before they descended to occupy the vast plains which extend between the Indus and the Ganges.' GOBRESIO.
  22. The third God of the Indian Triad, the God of destruction and reproduction. See Additional Notes.
  23. The epithet dmija, or twice-born, is usually appropriate to Bráhmans, but is applicable to the three higher castes. Investiture with the sacred thread and initiation of the neophyte into certain religious mysteries are regarded as his regeneration or second birth.
  24. His shoes to be a memorial of the absent heir and to maintain his right. Kálidása (Raghuvans'a, XII. 17.) says that they were to be ahidevate or guardian deities of the kingdom.
  25. Jatáyu, a semi-divine bird, the friend of Ráma, who fought in defence of Sitá.
  26. Raghu was one of the most celebrated ancestors of Ráma whose commonest appellation is, therefore, Rághava or descendant of Raghu. Kálidása in the Raghuvans'a makes him the son of Dilipa and great-grandfather of Ráma. See Idylls from the Sanskrit, 'Aja' and 'Dilipa'.
  27. Dundhubi.
  28. Literally ten yojanas. The yojana is a measure of uncertain length variously reckoned as equal to nine miles, five, and a little less.
  29. Ceylon.
  30. The Jonesia As'oka is a most beautiful tree bearing a profusion of red blossoms.
  31. Brahmá, the Creator, is usually regarded as the first God of the Indian Trinity, although, as Kálidása says:
    'Of Brahma, Vishnu, S'iva, each may be First, second, third, amid the blessed Three.'
    Brahmá had guaranteed Rávan's life against all enemies except man.
  32. Ocean personified.
  33. The rocks lying between Ceylon and the mainland are still called Ráma's Bridge by the Hindus.
  34. The Bráhmans, with a system rather cosmogonical than chronological, divide the present mundane period into four ages or yugas as they call them: the Krita, the Tretá, the Dwápara, and the Kali. The Krita, cailed also the Deva-yuga or that of the Gods, is the age of truth, the perfect age, the Tretá is the age of the three sacred fires, domestic and sacrificial; the Dwápara is the age of doubt; the Kali, the present age, is the age of evil.' GORRESIO.
  35. The ancient kings of India enjoyed lives of more than patriarchal length as will appear in the course of the poem.
  36. S'údras, men of the fourth and lowest pure caste, were not allowed to read the poem, but might hear it recited.
  37. The three s'lokas or distichs which these twelve lines represent are evidently a still later and very awkward addition to the introduction.