The Ramayana/Book I/Canto LVIII: Tris'anku Cursed

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The Ramayana of Valmiki , translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith
Canto LVIII: Tris'anku Cursed

Tris'anku's speech the hundred heard,
And thus replied, to anger stirred:
'Why foolish King, by him denied,
Whose truthful lips have never lied,
Dost thou transgress his prudent rule,
And seek, for aid, another school? [1]
Ikshváku's sons have aye relied
Most surely on their holy guide:
Then how dost thou, fond Monarch, dare
Transgress the rule his lips declare?
'Thy wish is vain,' the saint replied,
And bade thee cast the plan aside.
Then how can we, his sons, pretend
In such a rite our aid to lend?
O Monarch, of the childish heart,
Home to thy royal town depart.
That mighty saint, thy priest and guide,
At noblest rites may well preside:
The worlds for sacrifice combined
A worthier priest could never find.'

Such speech of theirs the monarch heard,
Though rage distorted every word,
And to the hermits made reply:
'You, like your sire, my suit deny.
For other aid I turn from you:
So, rich in penance, Saints, adieu!'

Vas'ishtha's children heard, and guessed
His evil purpose scarce expressed,
And cried, while rage their bosoms burned,
'Be to a vile Chandála [2] turned!'

This said, with lofty thoughts inspired,
Each to his own retreat retired.

That night Tris'anku underwent
Sad change in shape and lineament.
Next morn, an outcast swart of hue,
His dusky cloth he round him drew.
His hair had fallen from his head,
And roughness o'er his skin was spread.
Such wreaths adorned him as are found
To flourish on the funeral ground.
Each armlet was an iron ring:
Such was the figure of the king,
That every counsellor and peer,
And following townsman, fled in fear.

Alone, unyielding to dismay,
Though burnt by anguish night and day,
Great Vis'vámitra's side he sought,
Whose treasures were by penance bought.

The hermit with his tender eyes
Looked on Tris'anku's altered guise,
And grieving at his ruined state
Addressed him thus, compassionate:
'Great King,' the pious hermit said,
'What cause thy steps has hither led,
Ayodhyá's mighty Sovereign, whom
A curse has plagued with outcast's doom?'
In vile Chandála's [3] shape, the king
Heard Vis'vámitra's questioning,
And, suppliant palm to palm applied,
With answering eloquence he cried:
'My priest and all his sons refused
To aid the plan on which I mused.
Failing to win the boon I sought,
To this condition I was brought.
I, in the body, Saint, would fain
A mansion in the skies obtain.
I planned a hundred rites for this,
But still was doomed the fruit to miss.
Pure are my lips from falsehood's stain,
And pure they ever shall remain,--
Yea, by a Warrior's faith I swear,--
Though I be tried with grief and care.
Unnumbered rites to Heaven I paid,
With righteous care the sceptre swayed;
And holy priest and high-souled guide
My modest conduct gratified.
But, O thou best of hermits, they
Oppose my wish these rites to pay;
They one and all refuse consent,
Nor aid me in my high intent.
Fate is, I ween, the power supreme,
Plan's effort but an idle dream,
Fate whirls our plans, our all away;

Fate is our only hope and stay;
Now deign, O blessed Saint, to aid
Me, even me by Fate betrayed,
Who come, a suppliant, sore distressed,
One grace, O Hermit, to request.
No other hope or way I see:
No other refuge waits for me.
Oh, aid me in my fallen state,
And human will shall conquer Fate.'


  1. "It does not appear how Tris'anku, in asking the aid of Vas'ishtha's sons after applying in vain to their father, could be charged with resorting to another s'ákhá (School) in the ordinary sense of that word; as it is not conceivable that the sons should have been of another S'ákhá from the father, whose cause they espouse with so much warmth. The commentator in the Bombay edition explains the word S'ákhántaram as Yájanádiná rakshántaram, 'one who by sacrificing for thee, etc., will be another protector.' Gorresio's Gauda*? text, which may often be used as a commentary on the older one, has the following paraphrase of the words in question, ch. 60, 3. Múlam utsrijya*? kasmát tvam s'ákásv ichhasi lambitum*?. 'Why, forsaking the root, dost thou desire to hang upon the branches?'" MUIR, Sanskrit Texts, Vol. I., p. 401.
  2. A Chandála was a man born of the illegal and impure union of a S'údra with a woman of one of the three higher castes.
  3. The Chandála was regarded as the vilest and most abject of the men sprung from wedlock forbidden by the law (Mánavadharmas'ástra, Lib. X. 12.); a kind of social malediction weighed upon his head and rejected him from human society.' GORRESIO.