70 THE ARYANS IN INDIA. sion for her own son, Bharata, and in the exile of Rama, with his bride Sfta, for fourteen years to the forest. The banished pair wander south to Prayag, the modern Allahabad, already a place of sanctity, and thence across the river to the hermitage of Valmfki, among the jungles of Bundelkhand, where a hill is still pointed out as the scene of their abode. Meanwhile Rama's father dies ; and the loyal younger brother, Bharata, although declared the lawful successor, refuses to enter on the inheritance, and goes in search of Rama to bring him back as rightful heir. A contest of fraternal affection takes place ; Bharata at length returning to rule the family kingdom in the name of Rama, until the latter should come to claim it at the end of his fourteen years of banishment. The Aryans advance Southwards. — So far, the Rama- yana merely narrates the local annals of the court of Ayodhya. In the third book the main story begins. Ravana, the demon or aboriginal king of the far south, smitten by the fame of Sfta's beauty, seizes her at the hermitage while her husband Rama is away in the jungle, and flies off with her in a magic chariot through the air to Ceylon. The next three books (4th, 5th, 6th) recount the expedition of the bereaved Rama for her recovery. He allies himself with the aboriginal tribes of Southern India, who bear the names of monkeys and bears, and raises among them a great army. The Monkey general, Hanuman, jumps across the straits between India and Ceylon, discovers the princess in captivity, and leaps back with the news to Rama. The monkey troops then build a causeway across the narrow sea, — the Adam's Bridge of modern geography, — by which Rama marches across, and, after slaying the monster Ravana, delivers Sfta. The rescued wife proves her faithfulness to him, during her stay in the palace of Ravana, by the ancient ordeal of fire. Agni, the god of that element, himself conducts her out of the burning pile to her husband ; and, the fourteen years of banishment being over, Rama and Sfta. return in triumph to Ayodhya. There they reigned gloriously ; and Rama celebrated the great horse sacrifice (asva-medha) as a token of his imperial sway over India. But a famine having smitten the land, Rama regards it as a punishment sent by God for some crime com-
Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/74
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