The Ramayana/Book I/Canto LV: The Hermitage Burnt

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The Ramayana of Valmiki , translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith
Canto LV: The Hermitage Burnt

So o'er the field that host lay strewn,
By Vis'vámitra's darts o'erthrown.
Then thus Vas'ishtha charged the cow:
'Create with all thy vigour now.'

Forth sprang Kámbojas, as she lowed;
Bright as the sun their faces glowed,
Forth from her udder Barbars poured,--
Soldiers who brandished spear and sword,--
And Yavans with their shafts and darts,
And S'akas from her hinder parts.
And every pore upon her fell,
And every hair-producing cell,
With Mlechchhas [1] and Kirátas [2] teemed,
And forth with them Hárítas streamed.
And Vis'vámitra's mighty force,
Car, elephant, and foot, and horse,
Fell in a moment's time, subdued
By that tremendous multitude.
The monarch's hundred sons, whose eyes
Beheld the rout in wild surprise,
Armed with all weapons, mad with rage,
Rushed fiercely on the holy sage.
One cry he raised, one glance he shot,
And all fell scorched upon the spot:
Burnt by the sage to ashes, they
With horse, and foot, and chariot, lay.
The monarch mourned, with shame and pain,
His army lost, his children slain,
Like Ocean when his roar is hushed,
Or some great snake whose fangs are crushed:

appear that it is the object of this legend to represent this miraculous creation as the origin of these tribes, and that nothing more may have been intended than that the cow called into existence large armies, of the same stock with particular tribes previously existing.}

Or as in swift eclipse the Sun
Dark with the doom he cannot shun:
Or a poor bird with mangled wing--
So, reft of sons and host, the king.
No longer, by ambition fired,
The pride of war his breast inspired.
He gave his empire to his son--
Of all he had, the only one:
And bade him rule as kings are taught
Then straight a hermit-grove he sought.
Far to Himálaya's side he fled,
Which bards and Nágas visited,
And, Mahádeva's [3] grace to earn,
He gave his life to penance stern.
A lengthened season thus passed by,
When S'iva's self, the Lord most High,
Whose banner shows the pictured bull, [4]
Appeared, the God most bountiful:

'Why fervent thus in toil and pain?
Wliat brings thee here? what boon to gain?
Thy heart's desire, O Monarch, speak:
I grant the boons which mortals seek.'
The king, his adoration paid,
To Mahádeva answer made:
'If thou hast deemed me fit to win
Thy favour, O thou void of sin,
On me, O mighty God, bestow
The wondrous science of the bow,
All mine, complete in every part,
With secret spell and mystic art.
To me be all the arms revealed
That Gods, and saints, and Titans wield,
And every dart that arms the hands
Of spirits, fiends and minstrel bands.
Be mine, O Lord supreme in place,
This token of thy boundless grace.'

The Lord of Gods then gave consent,
And to his heavenly mansion went.
Triumphant in the arms he held,
The monarch's breast with glory swelled.
So swells the ocean, when upon
His breast the full moon's beams have shone.
Already in his mind he viewed
Vas'ishtha at his feet subdued.
He sought that hermit's grove, and there
Launched his dire weapons through the air,
Till scorched by might that none could stay
The hermitage in ashes lay.
Where'er the inmates saw, aghast,
The dart that Vis'vámitra cast,
To every side they turned and fled
In hundreds forth disquieted.
Vas'ishtha's pupils caught the fear,
And every bird and every deer,
And fled in wild confusion forth

Eastward and westward, south and north,
And so Vas'ishtha's holy shade
A solitary wild was made,
Silent awhile, for not a sound
Disturbed the hush that was around.

Vas'ishtha then, with eager cry,
Called, 'Fear not, friends, nor seek to fly.
This son of Gádhi dies to-day,
Like hoar-frost in the morning's ray.'
Thus having said, the glorious sage
Spoke to the king in words of rage:
'Because thou hast destroyed this grove
Which long in holy quiet throve,
By folly urged to senseless crime,
Now shalt thou die before thy time.'


  1. A comprehensive term for foreign or outcast races of different faith and language from the Hindus.
  2. The Kirátas and Hárítas are savage aborigines of India who occupy hills and jungles and are altogether different in race and character from the Hindus. Dr. Muir remarks in his Sanskrit Texts, Vol. I. p. 488 (second edition
  3. The Great God, S'iva.
  4. Nandi, the snow-white bull, the attendant and favourite vehicle of Siva.