The Ramayana/Book I/Canto LVI: Vis'vámitra's Vow

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The Ramayana of Valmiki , translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith
Canto LVI: Vis'vámitra's Vow

But Vis'vámitra, at the threat
Of that illustrious anchoret,
Cried, as he launched with ready hand
A fiery weapon, 'Stand, O Stand!'
Vas'ishtha, wild with rage and hate,
Raising, as 'twere the Rod of Fate,
His mighty Bráhman wand on high,
To Vis'vámitra made reply:
'Nay, stand. O Warrior thou, and show
What soldier can, 'gainst Bráhman foe.
O Gádhi's son, thy days are told;
Thy pride is tamed, thy dart is cold.
How shall a warrior's puissance dare
With Bráhman's awful strength compare?
To-day, base Warrior, shall thou feel
That God-sent might is more than steel.'
He raised his Bráhman staff, nor missed
The fiery dart that near him hissed:
And quenched the fearful weapon fell,
As flame beneath the billow's swell.

Then Gádhi's son in fury threw
Lord Varun's arm and Rudra's too:
Indra's fierce bolt that all destroys;
That which the Lord of Herds employs:
The Human, that which minstrels Keep,
The deadly Lure, the endless Sleep:
The Yawner, and the dart which charms;
Lament and Torture, fearful arms:
The Terrible, the dart which dries,
The Thunderbolt which quenchless flies,
And Fate's dread net, and Brahmá's noose,
And that which waits for Varun's use:
The dart he loves who wields the bow
Pináka, and twin bolts that glow
With fury as they flash and fly,
The quenchless Liquid and the Dry:
The dart of Vengeance, swift to kill:
The Goblins' dart, the Curlew's Bill:

The discus both of Fate and Right,
And Vishnu's, of unerring flight:
The Wind-God's dart, the Troubler dread,
The weapon named the Horse's Head.
From his fierce hand two spears were thrown,
And the great mace that smashes bone;
The dart of spirits of the air,
And that which Fate exults to bear;
The Trident dart which slaughters foes,
And that which hanging skulls compose: [1]
These fearful darts in fiery rain
He hurled upon the saint amain,
An awful miracle to view.
But as the ceaseless tempest flew,
The sage with wand of God-sent power
Still swallowed up that fiery shower.

Then Gádhi's son, when these had failed,
With Brahmá's dart his foe assailed.
The Gods, with Indra at their head,
And Nágas, quailed disquieted,
And saints and minstrels, when they saw
The king that awful weapon draw;
And the three worlds were filled with dread,
And trembled as the missile sped.

The saint, with Bráhman wand, empowered
By lore divine that dart devoured.
Nor could the triple world withdraw
Rapt gazes from that sight of awe;
For as be swallowed down the dart
Of Brahmá, sparks from every part,
From finest pore and hair-cell, broke
Enveloped in a veil of smoke.
The staff he waved was all aglow
Like Yáma's sceptre, King below,
Or like the lurid fire of Fate
Whose rage the worlds will desolate.

The hermits, whom that sight had awed,
Extolled the saint, with hymn and laud:
'Thy power, O Sage, is ne'er in vain:
Now with thy might thy might restrain.
Be gracious, Master, and allow

The worlds to rest from trouble now;
For Vis'vámitra, strong and dread,
By thee has been discomfited.'

Then, thus addressed, the saint, well pleased.
The fury of his wrath appeased.
The king, o'erpowered and ashamed,
With many a deep-drawn sigh exclaimed:
'Ah! Warriors' strength is poor and slight;
A Bráhman's power is truly might.
This Bráhman staff the hermit held
The fury of my darts has quelled.
This truth within my heart impressed,
With senses ruled and tranquil breast
My task austere will I begin,
And Bráhmanhood will strive to win.'


  1. 'The names of many of these weapons which are mythical and partly allegorical have occurred in Canto XXIX. The general signification of the story is clear enough. It is a contest for supremacy between the regal or military order and Bráhmanical or priestly authority, like one of those struggles which our own Europe saw in the middle ages when without employing warlike weapons the priesthood frequently gained the victory.' SCHLEGEL.

    For a full account of the early contests between the Bráhmans and the Kshattriyas, see Muir's Original Sanskrit Texts (Second edition) Vol. I. Ch. IV.