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Ramayana, Book 2, The

BOOK II.

Canto I. The Heir Apparent.

So Bharat to his grandsire went
Obedient to the message sent,
And for his fond companion chose
Śatrughna slayer of his foes.258
There Bharat for a time remained
With love and honour entertained,
King Aśvapati's constant care,
Beloved as a son and heir.
Yet ever, as they lived at ease,
While all around combined to please,
The aged sire they left behind
Was present to each hero's mind.
Nor could the king's fond memory stray
From his brave children far away,
Dear Bharat and Śatrughna dear,
Each Varuṇ's match or Indra's peer.
To all the princes, young and brave,
His soul with fond affection clave;
Around his loving heart they clung
Like arms from his own body sprung.259
But best and noblest of the four,
Good as the God whom all adore,
Lord of all virtues, undefiled,
His darling was his eldest child.
For he was beautiful and strong,
From envy free, the foe of wrong,
With all his father's virtues blest,
And peerless in the world confessed.
With placid soul he softly spoke:
No harsh reply could taunts provoke.
He ever loved the good and sage
Revered for virtue and for age,
And when his martial tasks were o'er
Sate listening to their peaceful lore.
Wise, modest, pure, he honoured eld,
His lips from lying tales withheld;
Due reverence to the Bráhmans gave,
And ruled each passion like a slave.
Most tender, prompt at duty's call,
Loved by all men he loved them all.
Proud of the duties of his race,
With spirit meet for Warrior's place.
He strove to win by glorious deed,
Throned with the Gods, a priceless meed.
With him in speech and quick reply
Vrihaspati might hardly vie,
But never would his accents flow
For evil or for empty show.
In art and science duly trained,
His student vow he well maintained;
He learnt the lore for princes fit,
The Vedas and their Holy Writ,
And with his well-drawn bow at last
His mighty father's fame surpassed.
Of birth exalted, truthful, just,
With vigorous hand, with noble trust,
Well taught by aged twice-born men
Who gain and right could clearly ken,
Full well the claims and bounds he knew
Of duty, gain, and pleasure too:
Of memory keen, of ready tact,
In civil business prompt to act.
Reserved, his features ne'er disclosed
What counsel in his heart reposed.
All idle rage and mirth controlled,
He knew the times to give and hold,
Firm in his faith, of steadfast will,
He sought no wrong, he spoke no ill:
Not rashly swift, not idly slow,
His faults and others' keen to know.
Each merit, by his subtle sense;
He matched with proper recompense.
He knew the means that wealth provide,
And with keen eye expense could guide.
Wild elephants could he reclaim,
And mettled steeds could mount and tame.
No arm like his the bow could wield,
Or drive the chariot to the field.
Skilled to attack, to deal the blow,
Or lead a host against the foe:
Yea, e'en infuriate Gods would fear
To meet his arm in full career.
As the great sun in noontide blaze
Is glorious with his world of rays,
So Ráma with these virtues shone
Which all men loved to gaze upon.
The aged monarch fain would rest,
And said within his weary breast,
“Oh that I might, while living yet,
My Ráma o'er the kingdom set.
And see, before my course be run,
The hallowed drops anoint my son;
See all this spacious land obey,
From side to side, my first-born's sway,
And then, my life and joy complete,
Obtain in heaven a blissful seat!”
In him the monarch saw combined
The fairest form, the noblest mind,
And counselled how his son might share,
The throne with him as Regent Heir.
For fearful signs in earth and sky,
And weakness warned him death was nigh:
But Ráma to the world endeared
By every grace his bosom cheered,
The moon of every eye, whose ray
Drove all his grief and fear away.
So duty urged that hour to seize,
Himself, his realm, to bless and please.
From town and country, far and near,
He summoned people, prince, and peer.
To each he gave a meet abode,
And honoured all and gifts bestowed.
Then, splendid in his king's attire,
He viewed them, as the general Sire,
In glory of a God arrayed,
Looks on the creatures he has made.
But Kekaya's king he called not then
For haste, nor Janak, lord of men;
For after to each royal friend
The joyful tidings he would send.
Mid crowds from distant countries met
The king upon his throne was set;
Then honoured by the people, all
The rulers thronged into the hall.
On thrones assigned, each king in place
Looked silent on the monarch's face.
Then girt by lords of high renown
And throngs from hamlet and from town
He showed in regal pride,
As, honoured by the radiant band
Of blessed Gods that round him stand,
Lord Indra, Thousand-eyed.

Canto II. The People's Speech.

Then to the full assembly bowed
The monarch, and addressed the crowd
With gracious speech, in accents loud
As heavenly drum or thunder-cloud:
“Needs not to you who know declare
How ever with paternal care
My fathers of Ikshváku's line
Have ruled the realm which now is mine.
I too have taught my feet to tread
The pathway of the mighty dead,
And with fond care that never slept
Have, as I could, my people kept.
So toiling still, and ne'er remiss
For all my people's weal and bliss,
Beneath the white umbrella's260 shade.
Old age is come and strength decayed.
Thousands of years have o'er me flown,
And generations round me grown
And passed away. I crave at length
Repose and ease for broken strength.
Feeble and worn I scarce can bear
The ruler's toil, the judge's care,
With royal dignity, a weight
That tries the young and temperate.
I long to rest, my labour done,
And in my place to set my son,
If to the twice-born gathered here
My counsel wise and good appear.
For greater gifts than mine adorn
Ráma my son, my eldest-born.
Like Indra brave, before him fall
The foeman's cities, tower and wall.
Him prince of men for power and might,
The best maintainer of the right,
Fair as the moon when nothing bars
His glory close to Pushya's stars,
Him with to-morrow's light I fain
Would throne the consort of my reign.
A worthy lord for you, I ween,
Marked as her own by Fortune's Queen.
The triple world itself would be
Well ruled by such a king as he.
To such high bliss and happy fate
Will I the country dedicate,
And my sad heart will cease to grieve
If he the precious charge receive.
Thus is my careful plan matured,
Thus for myself is rest secured;
Lieges, approve the words I say,
Or point ye out some wiser way.
Devise your prudent plan. My mind
Is fondly to this thought inclined,
But men by keen debating move
Some middle course which all approve.”
The monarch ceased. In answer came
The joyous princes' glad acclaim.
So peacocks in the rain rejoice
And hail the cloud with lifted voice.
Murmurs of joy from thousands round
Shook the high palace with the sound.
Then when the gathered throng had learned
His will who right and gain discerned,
Peasant and townsman, priest and chief,
All met in consultation brief,
And soon agreed with one accord
Gave answer to their sovereign lord:
“King of the land, we know thee old:
Thousands of years have o'er thee rolled,
Ráma thy son, we pray, anoint,
And at thy side his place appoint
Our gallant prince, so brave and strong,
Riding in royal state along,
Our eyes with joyful pride will see
Screened by the shade that shelters thee.”
Then spake the king again, as though
Their hearts' true wish he sought to know:
“These prayers for Ráma's rule suggest
One question to my doubting breast.
This thing, I pray, with truth explain:
Why would ye, while I justly reign,
That he, mine eldest son, should bear
His part with me as ruling heir?”
Then all the people made reply,
Peasant and townsman, low and high:
“Each noblest gift of form and mind,
O Monarch, in thy son we find.
Do thou the godlike virtues hear
Which Ráma to our hearts endear.
So richly blest with graces, none
In all the earth excels thy son:
Nay, who to match with him may claim
In truth, in justice, and in fame?
True to his promise, gentle, kind,
Unenvious, of grateful mind,
Versed in the law and firm of soul,
He keeps each sense with strict control.
With duteous care he loves to sit
By Bráhmans skilled in Holy Writ.
Hence brightest glory, ne'er to end,
And matchless fame his youth attend.
Skilled in the use of spear and shield,
And arms which heavenly warriors wield,
Supreme in war, unconquered yet
By man, fiend, God in battle met,
Whene'er in pomp of war he goes
'Gainst town or city of the foes,
He ever comes with Lakshmaṇ back
Victorious from the fierce attack.
Returning homeward from afar
Borne on his elephant or car,
He ever to the townsmen bends
And greets them as beloved friends,
Asks how each son, each servant thrives,
How fare our pupils, offerings, wives;
And like a father bids us tell,
Each for himself, that all is well.
If pain or grief the city tries
His heart is swift to sympathize.
When festive scenes our thoughts employ
He like a father shares the joy.
High is the fate, O King, that gave
Thy Ráma born to bless and save,
With filial virtues fair and mild
Like Kaśyap old Maríchi's child.
Hence to the kingdom's distant ends
One general prayer for him ascends.
Each man in town and country prays
For Ráma's strength, health, length of days.
With hearts sincere, their wish the same,
The tender girl, the aged dame,
Subject and stranger, peasant, hind,
One thought impressed on every mind,
At evening and at dawning day
To all the Gods for Ráma pray.
Do thou, O King, of grace comply,
And hear the people's longing cry,
And let us on the throne by thee
The lotus-tinted Ráma see.
O thou who givest boons, attend;
A gracious ear, O Monarch, lend
And for our weal install,
Consenting to our earnest prayer,
Thy godlike Ráma Regent Heir,
Who seeks the good of all.”

Canto III. Dasaratha's Precepts.

The monarch with the prayer complied
Of suppliant hands, on every side
Uplifted like a lotus-bed:
And then these gracious words he said:
“Great joy and mighty fame are mine
Because your loving hearts incline,
In full assembly clearly shown
To place my Ráma on the throne.”
Then to Vaśishṭha, standing near,
And Vámadeva loud and clear
The monarch spoke that all might hear:
“'Tis pure and lovely Chaitra now
When flowers are sweet on every bough;
All needful things with haste prepare
That Ráma be appointed heir.”
Then burst the people's rapture out
In loud acclaim and joyful shout;
And when the tumult slowly ceased
The king addressed the holy priest:
“Give order, Saint, with watchful heed
For what the coming rite will need.
This day let all things ready wait
Mine eldest son to consecrate.”
Best of all men of second birth
Vaśishṭha heard the lord of earth,
And gave commandment to the bands
Of servitors with lifted hands
Who waited on their master's eye:
“Now by to-morrow's dawn supply
Rich gold and herbs and gems of price
And offerings for the sacrifice,
Wreaths of white flowers and roasted rice,
And oil and honey, separate;
New garments and a car of state,
An elephant with lucky signs,
A fourfold host in ordered lines,
The white umbrella, and a pair
Of chowries,261 and a banner fair;
A hundred vases, row on row,
To shine like fire in splendid glow,
A tiger's mighty skin, a bull
With gilded horns most beautiful.
All these, at dawn of coming day,
Around the royal shrine array,
Where burns the fire's undying ray.
Each palace door, each city gate
With wreaths of sandal decorate.
And with the garlands' fragrant scent
Let clouds of incense-smoke be blent.
Let food of noble kind and taste
Be for a hundred thousand placed;
Fresh curds with streams of milk bedewed
To feed the Bráhman multitude.
With care be all their wants supplied.
And mid the twice-born chiefs divide
Rich largess, with the early morn,
And oil and curds and roasted corn.
Soon as the sun has shown his light
Pronounce the prayer to bless the rite,
And then be all the Bráhmans called
And in their ordered seats installed.
Let all musicians skilled to play,
And dancing-girls in bright array
Stand ready in the second ring
Within the palace of the king.
Each honoured tree, each holy shrine
With leaves and flowery wreaths entwine,
And here and there beneath the shade
Be food prepared and presents laid.
Then brightly clad, in warlike guise,
With long swords girt upon their thighs,
Let soldiers of the nobler sort
March to the monarch's splendid court.”
Thus gave command the twice-born pair
To active servants stationed there.
Then hastened to the king and said
That all their task was duly sped,
The king to wise Sumantra spake:
“Now quick, my lord, thy chariot take,
And hither with thy swiftest speed
My son, my noble Ráma lead.”
Sumantra, ere the word was given,
His chariot from the court had driven,
And Ráma, best of all who ride
In cars, came sitting by his side.
The lords of men had hastened forth
From east and west and south and north,
Áryan and stranger, those who dwell
In the wild wood and on the fell,
And as the Gods to Indra, they
Showed honour to the king that day.
Like Vásav, when his glorious form
Is circled by the Gods of storm,
Girt in his hall by kings he saw
His car-borne Ráma near him draw,
Like him who rules the minstrel band
Of heaven;262 whose valour filled the land,
Of mighty arm and stately pride
Like a wild elephant in stride,
As fair in face as that fair stone
Dear to the moon, of moonbeams grown,263
With noble gifts and grace that took
The hearts of all, and chained each look,
World-cheering as the Lord of Rain
When floods relieve the parching plain.
The father, as the son came nigh,
Gazed with an ever-thirstier eye.
Sumantra helped the prince alight
From the good chariot passing bright,
And as to meet his sire he went
Followed behind him reverent.
Then Ráma clomb, the king to seek
That terrace like Kailása's peak,
And reached the presence of the king,
Sumantra closely following.
Before his father's face he came,
Raised suppliant hands and named his name,264
And bowing lowly as is meet
Paid reverence to the monarch's feet.
But soon as Daśaratha viewed
The prince in humble attitude,
He raised him by the hand in haste
And his beloved son embraced,
Then signed him to a glorious throne,
Gem-decked and golden, near his own.
Then Ráma, best of Raghu's line,
Made the fair seat with lustre shine
As when the orient sun upsprings
And his pure beam on Meru flings.
The glory flashed on roof and wall,
And with strange sheen suffused the hall,
As when the moon's pure rays are sent
Through autumn's star-lit firmament.
Then swelled his breast with joy and pride
As his dear son the father eyed,
E'en as himself more fair arrayed
In some clear mirror's face displayed.
The aged monarch gazed awhile,
Then thus addressed him with a smile,
As Kaśyap, whom the worlds revere,
Speaks for the Lord of Gods to hear:
“O thou of all my sons most dear,
In virtue best, thy father's peer,
Child of my consort first in place,
Mine equal in her pride of race,
Because the people's hearts are bound
To thee by graces in thee found,
Be thou in Pushya's favouring hour
Made partner of my royal power.
I know that thou by nature's bent
Both modest art and excellent,
But though thy gifts no counsel need
My love suggests the friendly rede.
Mine own dear son, be modest still,
And rule each sense with earnest will.
Keep thou the evils far away
That spring from love and anger's sway.
Thy noble course alike pursue
In secret as in open view,
And every nerve, the love to gain
Of ministers and subjects, strain.
The happy prince who sees with pride
His thriving people satisfied;
Whose arsenals with arms are stored,
And treasury with golden hoard,—
His friends rejoice as joyed the Blest
When Amrit crowned their eager quest.
So well, my child, thy course maintain,
And from all ill thy soul refrain.”
The friends of Ráma, gathered nigh,
Longing their lord to gratify,
Ran to Kauśalyá's bower to tell
The tidings that would please her well.
She, host of dames, with many a gem,
And gold, and kine rewarded them.
Then Ráma paid the reverence due,
Mounted the chariot, and withdrew,
And to his splendid dwelling drove
While crowds to show him honour strove.
The people, when the monarch's speech
Their willing ears had heard,
Were wild with joy as though on each
Great gifts had been conferred.
With meek and low salute each man
Turned to his home away,
And there with happy heart began
To all the Gods to pray.

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