The Ramayana/Book II/Canto IX: The Plot

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The Ramayana of Valmiki , translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith
Canto IX: The Plot

As fury lit Kaikeyí's eyes
She spoke with long and burning sighs:

'This day my son enthroned shall see,
And Ráma to the woods shall flee.
But tell me, damsel, if thou can,
A certain way, a skilful plan
That Bharat may the empire gain,
And Ráma's hopes be nursed in vain.'

The lady ceased. The wicked maid
The mandate of her queen obeyed,
And darkly plotting Ráma's fall
Responded to Kaikeyí's call.

'I will declare, do thou attend,
How Bharat may his throne ascend.
Dost thou forget what things befell?
Or dost thou feign, remembering well?
Or wouldst thou hear my tongue repeat
A story for thy need so meet?
Gay lady, if thy will be so,
Now hear the tale of long ago,
And when my tongue has done its part
Ponder the story in thine heart.
When Gods and demons fought of old,
Thy lord, with royal saints enrolled,
Sued to the war with thee to bring
His might to aid the Immortals' King.
Far to the southern land he sped
Where Dandak's mighty wilds are spread,
To Vaijayanta's city swayed
By S'ambara, whose flag displayd
The hugest monster of the sea.
Lord of a hundred wiles was be;
With might which Gods could never blame
Against the King of Heaven he came.
Then raged the battle wild and dread,
And mortal warriors fought and bled;
The fiends by night with strength renewed
Charged, slew the sleeping multitude.
Thy lord, King Das'aratha, long
Stood fighting with the demon throng,
But long of arm, unmatched in strength,
Fell wounded by their darts at length.
Thy husband, senseless, by thine aid
Was from the battle field conveyed.
And wounded nigh to death thy lord
Was by thy care to health restored.
Well pleased the grateful monarch sware
To grant thy first and second prayer.
Thou for no favour then wouldst sue,
The gifts reserved for season due;
And he, thy high-souled lord, agreed
To give the boons when thou shouldst need.
Myself I knew not what befell,
But oft the tale have heard thee tell,
And close to thee in friendship knit
Deep in my heart have treasured it.
Remind thy husband of his oath,
Recall the boons and claim them both,
That Bharat on the throne be placed
With rites of consecration graced,
And Ráma to the woods be sent
For twice seven years of banishment.
Go, Queen, the mourner's chamber [1] seek,
With angry eye and burning cheek;
And with disordered robes and hair
On the cold earth lie prostrate there.
When the king comes still mournful lie,
Speak not a word nor meet his eye,
But let thy tears in torrent flow,
And lie enamoured of thy woe.
Well do I know thou long hast been,
And ever art, his darling queen.
For thy dear sake, O well-loved dame,
The mighty king would brave the flame,
But ne'er would anger thee, or brook
To meet his favourite's wrathful look.
Thy loving lord would even die
Thy fancy, Queen, to gratify,
And never could he arm his breast
To answer nay to thy request.
Listen and learn, O dull of sense,
Thine all-resistless influence.
Gems he will offer, pearls and gold:
Refuse his gifts, be stern and cold.
Those proffered boons at length recall,
And claim them till he grants thee all.
And O my lady, high in bliss,
With heedful thought forget not this.
When from the ground his queen he lifts
And grants again the promised gifts,
Bind him with oaths he cannot break
And thy demands unflnching, make.
That Ráma travel to the wild
Five years and nine from home exiled,
And Bharat, best of all who reign.
The empire of the land obtain.
For when this term of years has fled
Over the banished Ráma's head,
Thy royal son to vigour grown
And rooted firm will stand alone.
The king, I know, is well inclined,
And this the hour to move his mind.
Be bold: the threatened rite prevent,
And force the king from his intent.'

She ceased. So counselled to her bane
Disguised beneath a show of gain,
Kaikeyí in her joy and pride
To Manthará again replied:
'Thy sense I envy, prudent maid;
With sagest lore thy lids persuade.
No hump-back maid in all the earth,
For wise resolve, can match thy worth.
Thou art alone with constant zeal
Devoted to thy lady's weal.
Dear girl, without thy faithful aid
I had not marked the plot he laid.

Full of all guile and sin and spite
Misshapen hump-backs shock the sight:
But thou art fair and formed to please,
Bent like a lily by the breeze.
I look thee o'er with watchful eye,
And in thy frame no fault can spy;
The chest so deep, the waist so trim,
So round the lines of breast and limb. [2]
Thy cheeks with moonlike beauty shine,
And the warm wealth of youth is thine.
Thy legs, my girl, are long and neat,
And somewhat long thy dainty feet,
While stepping out before my face
Thou seemest like a crane to pace.
The thousand wiles are in thy breast
Which Sambara the fiend possessed,
And countless others all thine own,
O damsel sage, to thee are known.
Thy very hump becomes thee too,
O thou whose face is fair to view,
For there reside in endless store
Plots, wissard wiles, and warrior lore.
A golden chain I'll round it fling
When Ráma's flight makes Bharat king:
Yea, polished links of finest gold,
When once the wished for prize I hold
With naught to fear and none to hate,
Thy hump, dear maid, shall decorate.
A golden frontlet wrought with care,
And precious jewels shalt thou wear:
Two lovely robes around thee fold,
And walk a Goddess to behold,
Bidding the moon himself compare
His beauty with a face so fair.
With scent of precious sandal sweet
Down to the nails upon thy feet,
First of the household thou shalt go
And pay with scorn each battled foe.'
   Kaikeyi's praise the damnel heard,
And thus again her lady stirred,
Who lay upon her beauteous bed
Like fire upon the altar fed:
'Dear Queen, they build the bridge in vain
When swollen streams are dry again.
Arise, thy glorious task complete,
And draw the king to thy retreat.'
   The large-eyed lady left her bower
Exulting in her pride of power,
And with the hump-back sought the gloom
And silence of the mourner's room.
The string of priceless pearls that huug
Around her neck to earth she flung,
With all the wealth and lustre lent
By precious gem and ornament.
Then, listening to her slave's advice,
Lay, like a nymph from Paradise.

As on the ground her limbs she laid
Once more she cried unto the maid:
'Soon must thou to the monarch say
Kaikeyi's soul has past away,
Or, Ráma banished as we planned,
My son made king shall rule the land.
No more for gold and gems I care,
For brave attire or dainty fare.
If Ráma should the throne ascend,
That very hour my life will end.'

   The royal lady wounded through
The bosom with the darts that flew
   Launched from the hump-back's tongue
Pressed both her hands upon her side,
And o'er and o'er again she cried
   With wildering fury stung:
'Yes, it shall be thy task to tell
That I have hurried hence to dwell
   In Yama's realms of woe,
Or happy Bharat shall be king,
And doomed to years of wandering
   Kaus'alyá's son shall go.
I heed not dainty viands now
Fair wreaths of flowers to twine my brow,
   Soft balm or precious scent:
My very life I count as naught,
Nothing on earth can claim my thought
   But Ráma's banishment.'
   She spoke these words of cruel ire;
Then stripping off her gay attire,
   The cold bare floor she pressed.
So, falling from her home on high,
Some lovely daughter of the sky
   Upon the ground might rest.
With darkened brow and furious mien,
Stripped of her gems and wreath, the queen
   In spotless beauty lay,
Like heaven obscured with gathering cloud,
When shades of midnight darkness shroud
   Each star's expiring ray.


  1. Literally the chamber of wrath, a 'growlery,' a small, dark, unfurnished room to which it seems, the wives and ladies of the king betook themselves when offended and sulky.
  2. In these four lines I do not translate faithfully, and I do not venture to follow Kaikeyi farther in her eulogy of the hump- back's charms.