The Ramayana/Book I/Canto XLI: Kapil

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The Ramayana of Valmiki by Valmiki, translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith
Book I — Canto XLI: Kapil

The father lent a gracious ear
And listened to their tale of fear,

And kindly to the Gods replied
Whom woe and death had terrified;
'The wisest Vasudeva, [1] who
The Immortals' foe, fierce Madhu, slew,
Regards broad Earth with love and pride
And guards, in Kapil's form, his bride. [2]
His kindled wrath will quickly fall
On the king's sons and burn them all.
This cleaving of the earth his eye
Foresaw in ages long gone by:
He knew with prescient soul the fate
That Sagar's children should await.'
   The Three-and-thirty, [3] freed from fear.
Sought their bright homes with hopeful cheer.
Still rose the great tempestuous sound
As Sagar's children pierced the ground.
When thus the whole broad earth was cleft,
And not a spot unsearched was left,
Back to their home the princes sped,
And thus unto their father said:
'We searched the earth from side to side,
While countless hosts of creatures died.
Our conquering feet in triumph trod
On snake and demon, fiend and God;
But yet we failed, with all our toil,
To find the robber and the spoil.
What can we more? If more we can,
Devise, O King, and tell thy plan.'
   His chidren's speech King Sagar heard,
And answered thus, to anger stirred:
'Dig on, and ne'er your labour stay
Till through earth's depths you force your way.
Then smite the robber dead, and bring
The charger back with triumphing.'

   The sixty thousand chiefs obeyed:
Deep through the earth their way they made.
Deep as they dug and deeper yet
The immortal elephant they met,
Famed Virúpáksha [4] vast of size,
Upon whose head the broad earth lies:
The mighty beast who earth sustains
With shaggy hills and wooded plains.
When, with the changing moon, distressed,
And longing for a moment's rest,
His mighty head the monster shakes,
Earth to the bottom reels and quakes.
Around that warder strong and vast
With reverential steps they passed.
Nor, when the honour due was paid,
Their downward search through earth delayed.
But turning from the east aside
Southward again their task they plied.
There Mahápadma held his place,
The best of all his mighty race,
Like some huge hill, of monstrous girth,
Upholding on his head the earth.
When the vast beast the princes saw,
They marvelled and were tilled with awe.
The sons of high-souled Sagar round
That elephant in reverence wound.
Then in the western region they
With might unwearied cleft their way.
There saw they with astonisht eyes
Saumanas, beast of mountain size.
Round him with circling steps they went
With greetings kind and reverent.
   On, on--no thought of rest or stay--
They reached the seat of Soma's sway.
There saw they Bhadra, white as snow,
With lucky marks that fortune show,
Bearing the earth upon his head.
Round him they paced with solemn tread,

And honoured him with greetings kind,
Then downward yet their way they mined.
They gained the tract 'twixt east and north
Whose fame is ever blazoned forth, [5]
And by a storm of rage impelled,
Digging through earth their course they held.
   Then all the princes, lofty-souled,
Of wondrous vigour, strong and bold,
Saw Vásudeva [6]standing there
In Kapil's form he loved to wear,
And near the everlasting God
The victim charger cropped the sod.
They saw with joy and eager eyes
The fancied robber and the prize,
And on him rushed the furious band
Crying aloud, Stand, villain! stand!
'Avaunt! avaunt!' great Kapil cried,
His bosom flusht with passion's tide;
Then by his might that proud array
All scorcht to heaps of ashes lay. [7]


  1. Here used as a name of Vishnu.
  2. Kings are called the husbands of their kingdoms or of the earth; 'She and his kingdom were his only brides.' Raghuvans'a.


      'Doubly divorced! Bad men, you violate
       A double marriage, 'twixt my crown and me,
       And then between me and my married wife.'
                             King Richard II. Act V. Sc. I.
  3. The thirty-three Gods are said in the Aitareya. Bráhmana.Book 1. ch. II. 10. to be the eight Vasus, the eleven Rudras, the twelve Àdityas, Prajápati, either Brahmá or Daksha, and Vashatkára or deitied oblation. This must have been the actual number at the beginning of the Vedic religion gradually increased by successive mythical and religious creations till the Indian Pantheon was crowded with abstractions of every kind. Through the reverence with which the words of the Veda were regarded, the immense host of multiplied divinities, in later times, still bore the name of the Thirty-three Gods.
  4. 'One of the elephants which, according to an ancient belief popular in India, supported the earth with their enormous backs; when one of these elephants shook his wearied head the earth trembled with its woods and hills. An idea, or rather a mythical fancy, similar to this, but reduced to proportions less grand, is found in Virgil when he speaks of Enceladus buried under Ætna:


      'Fama est Enceladi semiustum fulmine corpus
       Urgeri molo haec, ingentemque insuper Ætnam
       Impositam, ruptis flammam expirare caminis;
       Et fessum quoties mutat latus, intremere omnem
       Murmure Trinacriam, et coelum subtexere fumo.'
                                     Æneid. Lib, III. GORRESIO.
  5. 'The Devas and Asuras (Gods and Titans) fought in the east, the south, the west, and the north, and the Devas were defeated by the Asuras in all these directions. They then fought in the north-eastern direction; there the Devas did not sustain defeat. This direction is aparájitá, i. e. unconquerable. Thence one should do work in this direction, and have it done there; for such a one '(alone) is able to clear off his debts.' HAUG'S Aitareyaya Bráhmanam, Vol. II, p. 33.

    The debts here spoken of are a man's religious obligations to the Gods, the Pitaras or Manes, and men.
  6. Vishnu.
  7. 'It appears to me that this mythical story has reference to the volcanic phenomena of nature. Kapil may very possibly be that hidden fiery force which suddenly unprisons itself and bursts forth in volcanic effects. Kapil is, moreover, one of the names of Agni the God of Fire.' GORRESIO.