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The RÁMÁYAN of VÁLMÍKI - Part 1 - 1

Translated into English Verse


Ralph T.H.Griffith,M.A.


Canto I.Nárad


To sainted Nárad,prince of those Whose lore in words of wisdom flows.Whose constant care and chief delight Were Scripture and ascetic rite,The good Válmíki,first and best

Of hermit saints,these words addressed:“In all this world,I pray thee,who Is virtuous,heroic,true?Firm in his vows,of grateful mind,To every creature good and kind?

Bounteous,and holy,just,and wise,Alone most fair to all men's eyes?

Devoid of envy,firm,and sage,Whose tranquil soul ne'er yields to rage?

Whom,when his warrior wrath is high,Do Gods embattled fear and fly?

Whose noble might and gentle skill The triple world can guard from ill?

Who is the best of princes,he Who loves his people's good to see?

The store of bliss,the living mine Where brightest joys and virtues shine?

Queen Fortune's10best and dearest friend,Whose steps her choicest gifts attend?

Who may with Sun and Moon compare,With Indra,11Vishṇu,12Fire,and Air?

Grant,Saint divine,13the boon I ask,For thee,I ween,an easy task,

To whom the power is given to know If such a man breathe here below.”

Then Nárad,clear before whose eye The present,past,and future lie,14

Made ready answer:“Hermit,where Are graces found so high and rare?

Yet listen,and my tongue shall tell In whom alone these virtues dwell.

From old Ikshváku's15line he came,Known to the world by Ráma's name:

With soul subdued,a chief of might,In Scripture versed,in glory bright,

His steps in virtue's paths are bent,Obedient,pure,and eloquent.

In each emprise he wins success,And dying foes his power confess.

Tall and broad-shouldered,strong of limb,Fortune has set her mark on him.

Graced with a conch-shell's triple line,His throat displays the auspicious sign.

High destiny is clear impressed On massive jaw and ample chest,

His mighty shafts he truly aims,And foemen in the battle tames.

Deep in the muscle,scarcely shown,Embedded lies his collar-bone.

His lordly steps are firm and free,His strong arms reach below his knee;

All fairest graces join to deck His head,his brow,his stately neck,

And limbs in fair proportion set:The manliest form e'er fashioned yet.

Graced with each high imperial mark,His skin is soft and lustrous dark.

Large are his eyes that sweetly shine With majesty almost divine.

His plighted word he ne'er forgets;On erring sense a watch he sets.

By nature wise,his teacher's skill

Has trained him to subdue his will.

Good,resolute and pure,and strong,

He guards mankind from scathe and wrong,

And lends his aid,and ne'er in vain,

The cause of justice to maintain.

Well has he studied o'er and o'er

The Vedas18and their kindred lore.

Well skilled is he the bow to draw,19

Well trained in arts and versed in law;

High-souled and meet for happy fate,

Most tender and compassionate;

The noblest of all lordly givers,

Whom good men follow,as the rivers

Follow the King of Floods,the sea:

So liberal,so just is he.

The joy of Queen Kauśalyá's20heart,

In every virtue he has part:

Firm as Himálaya's21snowy steep,

Unfathomed like the mighty deep:

The peer of Vishṇu's power and might,

And lovely as the Lord of Night;22

Patient as Earth,but,roused to ire,

Fierce as the world-destroying fire;

In bounty like the Lord of Gold,23

And Justice self in human mould.

With him,his best and eldest son,

By all his princely virtues won

King Daśaratha24willed to share

His kingdom as the Regent Heir.

But when Kaikeyí,youngest queen,

With eyes of envious hate had seen

The solemn pomp and regal state

Prepared the prince to consecrate,

She bade the hapless king bestow

Two gifts he promised long ago,

That Ráma to the woods should flee,

And that her child the heir should be.

By chains of duty firmly tied,

The wretched king perforce complied.

Ráma,to please Kaikeyíwent

Obedient forth to banishment.

Then Lakshmaṇ's truth was nobly shown,

Then were his love and courage known,

When for his brother's sake he dared

All perils,and his exile shared.

And Sítá,Ráma's darling wife,

Loved even as he loved his life,

Whom happy marks combined to bless,

A miracle of loveliness,

Of Janak's royal lineage sprung,

Most excellent of women,clung

To her dear lord,like Rohiṇí

Rejoicing with the Moon to be.25

The King and people,sad of mood,

The hero's car awhile pursued.

But when Prince Ráma lighted down

AtŚringavera's pleasant town,

Where Gangá's holy waters flow,

He bade his driver turn and go.

Guha,Nishádas'king,he met,

And on the farther bank was set.

Then on from wood to wood they strayed,

O'er many a stream,through constant shade,

As Bharadvája bade them,till

They came to Chitrakúṭa's hill.

And Ráma there,with Lakshmaṇ's aid,

A pleasant little cottage made,

And spent his days with Sítá,dressed

In coat of bark and deerskin vest.26

And Chitrakúṭa grew to be

As bright with those illustrious three

As Meru's27sacred peaks that shine

With glory,when the Gods recline

Beneath them:Śiva's28self between

The Lord of Gold and Beauty's Queen.

The aged king for Ráma pined,

And for the skies the earth resigned.

Bharat,his son,refused to reign,

Though urged by all the twice-born29train.

Forth to the woods he fared to meet

His brother,fell before his feet,

And cried,“Thy claim all men allow:

O come,our lord and king be thou.”

But Ráma nobly chose to be

Observant of his sire's decree.

He placed his sandals30in his hand

A pledge that he would rule the land:

And bade his brother turn again.

Then Bharat,finding prayer was vain,

The sandals took and went away;

Nor in Ayodhyáwould he stay.

But turned to Nandigráma,where

He ruled the realm with watchful care,

Still longing eagerly to learn

Tidings of Ráma's safe return.

Then lest the people should repeat

Their visit to his calm retreat,

Away from Chitrakúṭa's hill

Fared Ráma ever onward till

Beneath the shady trees he stood

Of Daṇḍaká's primeval wood,

Virádha,giant fiend,he slew,

And then Agastya's friendship knew.

Counselled by him he gained the sword

And bow of Indra,heavenly lord:

A pair of quivers too,that bore

Of arrows an exhaustless store.

While there he dwelt in greenwood shade

The trembling hermits sought his aid,

And bade him with his sword and bow

Destroy the fiends who worked them woe:

To come like Indra strong and brave,

A guardian God to help and save.

And Ráma's falchion left its trace

Deep cut onŚúrpaṇakhá's face:

A hideous giantess who came

Burning for him with lawless flame.

Their sister's cries the giants heard.

And vengeance in each bosom stirred:

The monster of the triple head.

And Dúshaṇto the contest sped.

But they and myriad fiends beside

Beneath the might of Ráma died.

When Rávaṇ,dreaded warrior,knew

The slaughter of his giant crew:

Rávaṇ,the king,whose name of fear

Earth,hell,and heaven all shook to hear:

He bade the fiend Márícha aid

The vengeful plot his fury laid.

In vain the wise Márícha tried

To turn him from his course aside:

Not Rávaṇ's self,he said,might hope

With Ráma and his strength to cope.

Impelled by fate and blind with rage

He came to Ráma's hermitage.

There,by Márícha's magic art,

He wiled the princely youths apart,

The vulture31slew,and bore away

The wife of Ráma as his prey.

The son of Raghu32came and found

Jaṭáyu slain upon the ground.

He rushed within his leafy cot;

He sought his wife,but found her not.

Then,then the hero's senses failed;

In mad despair he wept and wailed.

Upon the pile that bird he laid,

And still in quest of Sítástrayed.

A hideous giant then he saw,

Kabandha named,a shape of awe.

The monstrous fiend he smote and slew,

And in the flame the body threw;

When straight from out the funeral flame

In lovely form Kabandha came,

And bade him seek in his distress

A wise and holy hermitess.

By counsel of this saintly dame

To Pampá's pleasant flood he came,

And there the steadfast friendship won

Of Hanumán the Wind-God's son.

Counselled by him he told his grief

To great Sugríva,Vánar chief,

Who,knowing all the tale,before

The sacred flame alliance swore.

Sugríva to his new-found friend

Told his own story to the end:

His hate of Báli for the wrong

And insult he had borne so long.

And Ráma lent a willing ear

And promised to allay his fear.

Sugríva warned him of the might

Of Báli,matchless in the fight,

And,credence for his tale to gain,

Showed the huge fiend33by Báli slain.

The prostrate corse of mountain size

Seemed nothing in the hero's eyes;

He lightly kicked it,as it lay,

And cast it twenty leagues34away.

To prove his might his arrows through

Seven palms in line,uninjured,flew.

He cleft a mighty hill apart,

And down to hell he hurled his dart.

Then high Sugríva's spirit rose,

Assured of conquest o'er his foes.

With his new champion by his side

To vast Kishkindhá's cave he hied.

Then,summoned by his awful shout,

King Báli came in fury out,

First comforted his trembling wife,

Then sought Sugríva in the strife.

One shaft from Ráma's deadly bow

The monarch in the dust laid low.

Then Ráma bade Sugríva reign

In place of royal Báli slain.

Then speedy envoys hurried forth

Eastward and westward,south and north,

Commanded by the grateful king

Tidings of Ráma's spouse to bring.

Then by Sampáti's counsel led,

Brave Hanumán,who mocked at dread,

Sprang at one wild tremendous leap

Two hundred leagues across the deep.

To Lanká's35town he urged his way,

Where Rávaṇheld his royal sway.

There pensive'neath Aśoka36boughs

He found poor Sítá,Ráma's spouse.

He gave the hapless girl a ring,

A token from her lord and king.

A pledge from her fair hand he bore;

Then battered down the garden door.

Five captains of the host he slew,

Seven sons of councillors o'erthrew;

Crushed youthful Aksha on the field,

Then to his captors chose to yield.

Soon from their bonds his limbs were free,

But honouring the high decree

Which Brahmá37had pronounced of yore,

He calmly all their insults bore.

The town he burnt with hostile flame,

And spoke again with Ráma's dame,

Then swiftly back to Ráma flew

With tidings of the interview.

Then with Sugríva for his guide,

Came Ráma to the ocean side.

He smote the sea with shafts as bright

As sunbeams in their summer height,

And quick appeared the Rivers'King38

Obedient to the summoning.

A bridge was thrown by Nala o'er

The narrow sea from shore to shore.39

They crossed to Lanká's golden town,

Where Ráma's hand smote Rávaṇdown.

Vibhishaṇthere was left to reign

Over his brother's wide domain.

To meet her husband Sítácame;

But Ráma,stung with ire and shame,

With bitter words his wife addressed

Before the crowd that round her pressed.

But Sítá,touched with noble ire,

Gave her fair body to the fire.

Then straight the God of Wind appeared,

And words from heaven her honour cleared.

And Ráma clasped his wife again,

Uninjured,pure from spot and stain,

Obedient to the Lord of Fire

And the high mandate of his sire.

Led by the Lord who rules the sky,

The Gods and heavenly saints drew nigh,

And honoured him with worthy meed,

Rejoicing in each glorious deed.

His task achieved,his foe removed,

He triumphed,by the Gods approved.

By grace of Heaven he raised to life

The chieftains slain in mortal strife;

Then in the magic chariot through

The clouds to Nandigráma flew.

Met by his faithful brothers there,

He loosed his votive coil of hair:

Thence fair Ayodhyá's town he gained,

And o'er his father's kingdom reigned.

Disease or famine ne'er oppressed

His happy people,richly blest

With all the joys of ample wealth,

Of sweet content and perfect health.

No widow mourned her well-loved mate,

No sire his son's untimely fate.

They feared not storm or robber's hand;

No fire or flood laid waste the land:

The Golden Age40had come again

To bless the days of Ráma's reign.

From him,the great and glorious king,

Shall many a princely scion spring.

And he shall rule,beloved by men,

Ten thousand years and hundreds ten,41

And when his life on earth is past

To Brahmá's world shall go at last.”

Whoe'er this noble poem reads

That tells the tale of Ráma's deeds,

Good as the Scriptures,he shall be

From every sin and blemish free.

Whoever reads the saving strain,

With all his kin the heavens shall gain.

Bráhmans who read shall gather hence

The highest praise for eloquence.

The warrior,o'er the land shall reign,

The merchant,luck in trade obtain;

AndŚúdras listening42ne'er shall fail

To reap advantage from the tale.