Part 6 out of 10
Gods, spirits, bards of heavenly birth,
The birds of air, the snakes of earth
Before the might of Ravan quail,
Much less can mortal man avail.
He draws, I hear, from out the breast,
The valor of the mightiest.
No, ne'er can I with him contend,
Or with the forces he may send.
How can I then my darling lend,
Godlike, unskilled in battle? No,
I will not let my young child go.
Foes of thy rite, those mighty ones,
Sunda and Upasunda's sons,
Are fierce as Fate to overthrow:
I will not let my young child go.
Maricha and Suvahu fell
Are valiant and instructed well.
One of the twain I might attack
With all my friends their lord to back."
While thus the hapless monarch spoke,
Paternal love his utterance broke.
Then words like these the saint returned,
And fury in his bosom burned:--
"Didst thou, O King, a promise make,
And wishest now thy word to break?
A son of Raghu's line should scorn
To fail in faith, a man forsworn.
But if thy soul can bear the shame
I will return e'en as I came.
Live with thy sons, and joy be thine,
False scion of Kakutstha's line."
As Visvamitra, mighty sage,
Was moved with this tempestuous rage,
Earth rocked and reeled throughout her frame,
And fear upon the Immortals came.
But Saint Vasishtha, wisest seer,
Observant of his vows austere,
Saw the whole world convulsed with dread,
And thus unto the monarch said:--
"Thou, born of old Ikshvaku's seed,
Art Justice' self in mortal weed.
Constant and pious, blest by fate,
The right thou must not violate.
Thou, Raghu's son, so famous through
The triple world as just and true,
Perform thy bounden duty still,
Nor stain thy race by deed of ill.
If thou have sworn and now refuse
Thou must thy store of merit lose.
Then, Monarch, let thy Rama go?
Nor fear for him the demon foe.
The fiends shall have no power to hurt
Him trained to war or inexpert--
Nor vanquish him in battle field,
For Kusik's son the youth will shield.
He is incarnate Justice, he
The best of men for bravery--
Embodied love of penance drear,
Among the wise without a peer.
Full well he knows, great Kusik's son,
The arms celestial, every one,
Arms from the Gods themselves concealed,
Far less to other men revealed.
These arms to him, when earth he swayed,
Mighty Krisasva, pleased, conveyed.
Krisasva's sons they are indeed,
Brought forth by Daksha's lovely seed,
Heralds of conquest, strong and bold,
Brilliant, of semblance manifold.
Jaya and Vijaya, most fair,
A hundred splendid weapons bare;
Of Jaya, glorious as the morn,
First fifty noble sons were born,
Boundless in size yet viewless too,
They came the demons to subdue.
And fifty children also came
Of Vijaya the beauteous dame,
Sanharas named, of mighty force,
Hard to assail or check in course;
Of these the hermit knows the use,
And weapons new can he produce.
All these the mighty saint will yield
To Rama's hand, to own and wield;
And armed with these, beyond a doubt
Shall Rama put those fiends to rout.
For Rama and the people's sake,
For thine own good my counsel take,
Nor seek, O King, with fond delay,
The parting of thy son to stay."
Vasishtha thus was speaking still:
The monarch, of his own free will,
Bade with quick zeal and joyful cheer
Rama and Lakshman hasten near.
Mother and sire in loving care
Sped their dear son with rite and prayer;
Vasishtha blessed him ere he went,
O'er his loved head the father bent--
And then to Kusik's son resigned
Rama with Lakshman close behind.
Standing by Visvamitra's side,
The youthful hero, lotus-eyed,
The Wind-God saw, and sent a breeze
Whose sweet pure touch just waved the trees.
There fell from heaven a flowery rain,
And with the song and dance the strain
Of shell and tambour sweetly blent
As forth the son of Raghu went.
The hermit led: behind him came
The bow-armed Rama, dear to fame,
Whose locks were like the raven's wing:--
Then Lakshman, closely following.
The Gods and Indra, filled with joy,
Looked down upon the royal boy,
And much they longed the death to see
Of their ten-headed enemy.
Rama and Lakshman paced behind
That hermit of the lofty mind,
As the young Asvins, heavenly pair,
Follow Lord Indra through the air.
On arm and hand the guard they wore,
Quiver and bow and sword they bore;
Two fire-born Gods of War seemed they,
He, Siva's self who led the way.
Upon fair Sarju's southern shore
They now had walked a league or more,
When thus the sage in accents mild
To Rama said: "Beloved child,
This lustral water duly touch:
My counsel will avail thee much.
Forget not all the words I say,
Nor let the occasion slip away.
Lo, with two spells I thee invest,
The mighty and the mightiest.
O'er thee fatigue shall ne'er prevail,
Nor age nor change thy limbs assail.
Thee powers of darkness ne'er shall smite
In tranquil sleep or wild delight.
No one is there in all the land
Thine equal for the vigorous hand.
Thou, when thy lips pronounce the spell,
Shalt have no peer in heaven or hell.
None in the world with thee shall vie,
O sinless one, in apt reply--
In fortune, knowledge, wit, and tact,
Wisdom to plan and skill to act.
This double science take, and gain
Glory that shall for aye remain.
Wisdom and judgment spring from each
Of these fair spells whose use I teach.
Hunger and thirst unknown to thee,
High in the worlds thy rank shall be.
For these two spells with might endued,
Are the Great Father's heavenly brood,
And thee, O Chief, may fitly grace,
Thou glory of Kakutstha's race.
Virtues which none can match are thine,
Lord, from thy birth, of gifts divine--
And now these spells of might shall cast
Fresh radiance o'er the gifts thou hast."
Then Rama duly touched the wave,
Raised suppliant hands, bowed low his head,
And took the spells the hermit gave,
Whose soul on contemplation fed.
From him whose might these gifts enhanced
A brighter beam of glory glanced:--
So shines in all his autumn blaze
The Day-God of the thousand rays.
The hermit's wants those youths supplied,
As pupils used to holy guide.
And then the night in sweet content
On Sarju's pleasant bank they spent.
THE HERMITAGE OF LOVE
Soon as appeared the morning light
Up rose the mighty anchorite,
And thus to youthful Rama said,
Who lay upon his leafy bed:--
"High fate is hers who calls thee son:
Arise, 'tis break of day;
Rise, Chief, and let those rites be done
Due at the morning's ray."
At that great sage's high behest
Up sprang the princely pair,
To bathing rites themselves addressed,
And breathed the holiest prayer.
Their morning task completed, they
To Visvamitra came,
That store of holy works, to pay
The worship saints may claim.
Then to the hallowed spot they went
Along fair Sarju's side
Where mix her waters confluent
With three-pathed Ganga's tide.
There was a sacred hermitage
Where saints devout of mind
Their lives through many a lengthened age
To penance had resigned.
That pure abode the princes eyed
With unrestrained delight,
And thus unto the saint they cried,
Rejoicing at the sight:--
"Whose is that hermitage we see?
Who makes his dwelling there?
Full of desire to hear are we:
O Saint, the truth declare."
The hermit, smiling, made reply
To the two boys' request:--
"Hear, Rama, who in days gone by
This calm retreat possessed--
Kandarpa in apparent form,
(Called Kama by the wise,)
Dared Uma's new-wed lord to storm
And make the God his prize.
'Gainst Sthanu's self, on rites austere
And vows intent, they say,
His bold rash hand he dared to rear,
Though Sthanu cried, Away!
But the God's eye with scornful glare
Fell terrible on him,
Dissolved the shape that was so fair
And burnt up every limb.
Since the great God's terrific rage
Destroyed his form and frame,
Kama in each succeeding age
Has borne Ananga's name.
So, where his lovely form decayed,
This land is Anga styled:--
Sacred to him of old this shade,
And hermits undefiled.
Here Scripture-talking elders sway
Each sense with firm control,
And penance-rites have washed away
All sin from every soul.
One night, fair boy, we here will spend,
A pure stream on each hand,
And with to-morrow's light will bend
Our steps to yonder strand.
Here let us bathe, and free from stain
To that pure grove repair,
Sacred to Kama, and remain
One night in comfort there."
With penance' far-discerning eye
The saintly men beheld
Their coming, and with transport high
Each holy bosom swelled.
To Kusik's son the gift they gave
That honored guest should greet--
Water they brought his feet to lave,
And showed him honor meet.
Rama and Lakshman next obtained
In due degree their share--
Then with sweet talk the guests remained,
And charmed each listener there.
The evening prayers were duly said
With voices calm and low:--
Then on the ground each laid his head
And slept till morning's glow.
THE FOREST OF TADAKA
When the fair light of morning rose
The princely tamers of their foes
Followed, his morning worship o'er,
The hermit to the river's shore.
The high-souled men with thoughtful care
A pretty barge had stationed there.
All cried, "O lord, this barge ascend,
And with thy princely followers bend
To yonder side thy prosperous way--
With nought to check thee or delay."
Nor did the saint their rede reject:
He bade farewell with due respect,
And crossed, attended by the twain,
That river rushing to the main.
When now the bark was half-way o'er,
Rama and Lakshman heard the roar,
That louder grew and louder yet,
Of waves by dashing waters met.
Then Rama asked the mighty seer:--
"What is the tumult that I hear
Of waters cleft in mid-career?"
Soon as the speech of Rama, stirred
By deep desire to know, he heard,
The pious saint began to tell
What caused the waters' roar and swell:--
"On high Kailasa's distant hill
There lies a noble lake
Whose waters, born from Brahma's will,
The name of Manas take.
Thence, hallowing where'er they flow,
The streams of Sarju fall,
And wandering through the plains below
Embrace Ayodhya's wall.
Still, still preserved in Sarju's name
Sarovar's fame we trace,
The flood of Brahma whence she came
To run her holy race.
To meet great Ganga here she hies
With tributary wave--
Hence the loud roar ye hear arise,
Of floods that swell and rave.
Here, pride of Raghu's line, do thou
In humble adoration bow."
He spoke. The princes both obeyed,
And reverence to each river paid.
They reached the southern shore at last,
And gayly on their journey passed.
A little space beyond there stood
A gloomy awe-inspiring wood.
The monarch's noble son began
To question thus the holy man:--
"Whose gloomy forest meets mine eye,
Like some vast cloud that fills the sky?
Pathless and dark it seems to be,
Where birds in thousands wander free;
Where shrill cicadas' cries resound,
And fowl of dismal note abound.
Lion, rhinoceros, and bear,
Boar, tiger, elephant, are there,
There shrubs and thorns run wild:
Dhao, Sal, Bignonia, Bel, are found,
And every tree that grows on ground:
How is the forest styled?"
The glorious saint this answer made:--
"Dear child of Raghu, hear
Who dwells within the horrid shade
That looks so dark and drear.
Where now is wood, long ere this day
Two broad and fertile lands,
Malaja and Karusha lay,
Adorned by heavenly hands.
Here, mourning friendship's broken ties,
Lord Indra of the thousand eyes
Hungered and sorrowed many a day,
His brightness soiled with mud and clay,
When in a storm of passion he
Had slain his dear friend Namuchi.
Then came the Gods and saints who bore
Their golden pitchers brimming o'er
With holy streams that banish stain,
And bathed Lord Indra pure again.
When in this land the God was freed
From spot and stain of impious deed
For that his own dear friend he slew,
High transport thrilled his bosom through.
Then in his joy the lands he blessed,
And gave a boon they long possessed:--
"Because these fertile lands retain
The washings of the blot and stain,
('Twas thus Lord Indra sware,)
Malaja and Karusha's name
Shall celebrate with deathless fame
My malady and care."
"So be it," all the Immortals cried,
When Indra's speech they heard--
And with acclaim they ratified
The names his lips conferred.
"Long time, O victor of thy foes,
These happy lands had sweet repose,
And higher still in fortune rose.
At length a spirit, loving ill,
Tadaka, wearing shapes at will--
Whose mighty strength, exceeding vast,
A thousand elephants' surpassed,
Was to fierce Sunda, lord and head
Of all the demon armies, wed.
From her, Lord Indra's peer in might
Giant Maricha sprang to light;
And she, a constant plague and pest,
These two fair realms has long distressed.
Now dwelling in her dark abode
A league away she bars the road:
And we, O Rama, hence must go
Where lies the forest of the foe.
Now on thine own right arm rely,
And my command obey:
Smite the foul monster that she die,
And take the plague away.
To reach this country none may dare,
Fallen from its old estate,
Which she, whose fury nought can bear,
Has left so desolate.
And now my truthful tale is told--
How with accursed sway
The spirit plagued this wood of old,
And ceases not to-day."
THE BIRTH OF TADAKA
When thus the sage without a peer
Had closed that story strange to hear,
Rama again the saint addressed,
To set one lingering doubt at rest:--
"O holy man, 'tis said by all
That spirits' strength is weak and small,
How can she match, of power so slight,
A thousand elephants in might?"
And Visvamitra thus replied
To Raghu's son, the glorified:--
"Listen, and I will tell thee how
She gained the strength that arms her now.
A mighty spirit lived of yore;
Suketu was the name he bore.
Childless was he, and free from crime
In rites austere he passed his time.
The mighty Sire was pleased to show
His favor, and a child bestow,
Tadaka named, most fair to see,
A pearl among the maids was she--
And matched, for such was Brahma's dower,
A thousand elephants in power.
Nor would the Eternal Sire, although
The spirit longed, a son bestow.
That maid in beauty's youthful pride
Was given to Sunda for a bride.
Her son, Maricha was his name,
A giant, through a curse, became.
She, widowed, dared with him molest
Agastya, of all saints the best.
Inflamed with hunger's wildest rage,
Roaring she rushed upon the sage.
When the great hermit saw her near,
On-speeding in her fierce career,
He thus pronounced Maricha's doom:--
'A giant's form and shape assume,'
And then, by mighty anger swayed,
On Tadaka this curse he laid:--
'Thy present form and semblance quit,
And wear a shape thy mood to fit;
Changed form and feature by my ban,
A fearful thing that feeds on man.'
She, by his awful curse possessed,
And mad with rage that fills her breast,
Has on this land her fury dealt
Where once the saint Agastya dwelt.
Go, Rama, smite this monster dead,
The wicked plague, of power so dread,
And further by this deed of thine
The good of Brahmans and of kine.
Thy hand alone can overthrow,
In all the worlds, this impious foe.
Nor let compassion lead thy mind
To shrink from blood of womankind;
A monarch's son must ever count
The people's welfare paramount--
And whether pain or joy he deal
Dare all things for his subjects' weal;
Yea, if the deed bring praise or guilt,
If life be saved or blood be spilt:--
Such, through all time, should be the care
Of those a kingdom's weight who bear.
Slay, Rama, slay this impious fiend,
For by no law her life is screened.
So Manthara, as bards have told,
Virochan's child, was slain of old
By Indra, when in furious hate
She longed the earth to devastate.
So Kavya's mother, Bhrigu's wife,
Who loved her husband as her life,
When Indra's throne she sought to gain,
By Vishnu's hand of yore was slain.
By these and high-souled kings beside,
Struck down, have lawless women died."
THE DEATH OF TADAKA
Thus spoke the saint. Each vigorous word
The noble monarch's offspring heard--
And, reverent hands together laid,
His answer to the hermit made:--
"My sire and mother bade me aye
Thy word, O mighty Saint, obey.
So will I, O most glorious, kill
This Tadaka who joys in ill--
For such my sire's, and such thy will.
To aid with mine avenging hand
The Brahmans, kine, and all the land,
Obedient, heart and soul, I stand."
Thus spoke the tamer of the foe,
And by the middle grasped his bow.
Strongly he drew the sounding string
That made the distant welkin ring.
Scared by the mighty clang the deer
That roamed the forest shook with fear.
And Tadaka the echo heard,
And rose in haste from slumber stirred.
In wild amaze, her soul aflame
With fury towards the spot she came.
When that foul shape of evil mien
And stature vast as e'er was seen
The wrathful son of Raghu eyed,
He thus unto his brother cried:--
"Her dreadful shape, O Lakshman, see,
A form to shudder at and flee.
The hideous monster's very view
Would cleave a timid heart in two.
Behold the demon hard to smite,
Defended by her magic might.
My hand shall stay her course to-day,
And shear her nose and ears away.
No heart have I her life to take:
I spare it for her sex's sake.
My will is but--with minished force--
To check her in her evil course."
While thus he spoke, by rage impelled--
Roaring as she came nigh,
The fiend her course at Rama held
With huge arms tossed on high.
Her, rushing on, the seer assailed
With a loud cry of hate;
And thus the sons of Raghu hailed:--
"Fight, and be fortunate."
Then from the earth a horrid cloud
Of dust the demon raised,
And for awhile in darkling shroud
Wrapt Raghu's sons amazed.
Then calling on her magic power
The fearful fight to wage,
She smote him with a stony shower,
Till Rama burned with rage.
Then pouring forth his arrowy rain
That stony flood to stay,
With winged darts, as she charged amain,
He shore her hands away.
As Tadaka still thundered near
Thus maimed by Rama's blows,
Lakshman in fury severed sheer
The monster's ears and nose.
Assuming by her magic skill
A fresh and fresh disguise,
She tried a thousand shapes at will,
Then vanished from their eyes.
When Gadhi's son of high renown
Still saw the stony rain pour down
Upon each princely warrior's head,
With words of wisdom thus he said:--
"Enough of mercy, Rama, lest
This sinful evil-working pest,
Disturber of each holy rite,
Repair by magic arts her might.
Without delay the fiend should die,
For, see, the twilight hour is nigh.
And at the joints of night and day
Such giant foes are hard to slay."
Then Rama, skilful to direct
His arrow to the sound--
With shafts the mighty demon checked
Who rained her stones around.
She, sore impeded and beset
By Rama and his arrowy net--
Though skilled in guile and magic lore,
Rushed on the brothers with a roar.
Deformed, terrific, murderous, dread,
Swift as the levin on she sped--
Like cloudy pile in autumn's sky,
Lifting her two vast arms on high:
When Rama smote her with a dart
Shaped like a crescent, to the heart.
Sore wounded by the shaft that came
With lightning speed and surest aim,
Blood spurting from her mouth and side,
She fell upon the earth and died.
Soon as the Lord who rules the sky
Saw the dread monster lifeless lie,
He called aloud, Well done! well done!
And the Gods honored Raghu's son.
Standing in heaven the Thousand-eyed,
With all the Immortals, joying cried:--
"Lift up thine eyes, O Saint, and see
The Gods and Indra nigh to thee.
This deed of Rama's boundless might
Has filled our bosoms with delight.
Now, for our will would have it so,
To Raghu's son some favor show.
Invest him with the power which nought
But penance gains, and holy thought.
Those heavenly arms on him bestow--
To thee entrusted long ago
By great Krisasva best of kings,
Son of the Lord of living things.
More fit recipient none can be
Than he who joys in following thee;
And for our sakes the monarch's seed
Has yet to do a mighty deed."
He spoke; and all the heavenly train
Rejoicing sought their homes again,
While honor to the saint they paid--
Then came the evening's twilight shade.
The best of hermits overjoyed
To know the monstrous fiend destroyed,
His lips on Rama's forehead pressed,
And thus the conquering chief addressed:--
"O Rama, gracious to the sight,
Here will we pass the present night,
And with the morrow's earliest ray
Bend to my hermitage our way."
The son of Dasaratha heard,
Delighted, Visvamitra's word--
And as he bade, that night he spent
In Tadaka's wild wood, content.
And the grove shone that happy day,
Freed from the curse that on it lay--
Like Chaitraratha fair and gay.
THE CELESTIAL ARMS
That night they slept and took their rest;
And then the mighty saint addressed,
With pleasant smile and accents mild
These words to Raghu's princely child:--
"Well pleased am I. High fate be thine,
Thou scion of a royal line.
Now will I, for I love thee so,
All heavenly arms on thee bestow.
Victor with these, whoe'er oppose,
Thy hand shall conquer all thy foes--
Though Gods and spirits of the air,
Serpents and fiends, the conflict dare.
I'll give thee as a pledge of love
The mystic arms they use above,
For worthy thou to have revealed
The weapons I have learnt to wield.
First, son of Raghu, shall be thine
The arm of Vengeance, strong, divine:
The arm of Fate, the arm of Right,
And Vishnu's arm of awful might:--
That, before which no foe can stand,
The thunderbolt of Indra's hand;
And Siva's trident, sharp and dread,
And that dire weapon, Brahma's Head.
And two fair clubs, O royal child,
One Charmer and one Pointed styled--
With flame of lambent fire aglow,
On thee, O Chieftain, I bestow.
And Fate's dread net and Justice' noose
That none may conquer, for thy use:--
And the great cord, renowned of old,
Which Varun ever loves to hold.
Take these two thunderbolts, which I
Have got for thee, the Moist and Dry.
Here Siva's dart to thee I yield,
And that which Vishnu wont to wield.
I give to thee the arm of Fire,
Desired by all and named the Spire.
To thee I grant the Wind-God's dart,
Named Crusher, O thou pure of heart.
This arm, the Horse's Head, accept,
And this, the Curlew's Bill yclept,
And these two spears, the best e'er flew,
Named the Invincible and True.
And arms of fiends I make thine own,
Skull-wreath and mace that smashes bone.
And Joyous, which the spirits bear,
Great weapon of the sons of air.
Brave offspring of the best of lords,
I give thee now the Gem of swords--
And offer next, thine hand to arm,
The heavenly bard's beloved charm.
Now with two arms I thee invest
Of never-ending Sleep and Rest--
With weapons of the Sun and Rain,
And those that dry and burn amain;
And strong Desire with conquering touch,
The dart that Kama prizes much.
I give the arm of shadowy powers
That bleeding flesh of man devours.
I give the arms the God of Gold
And giant fiends exult to hold.
This smites the foe in battle-strife,
And takes his fortune, strength, and life.
I give the arms called False and True,
And great Illusion give I too;
The hero's arm called Strong and Bright
That spoils the foeman's strength in fight.
I give thee as a priceless boon
The Dew, the weapon of the Moon,
And add the weapon, deftly planned,
That strengthens Visvakarma's hand.
The Mortal dart whose point is chill,
And Slaughter, ever sure to kill;
All these and other arms, for thou
Art very dear, I give thee now.
Receive these weapons from my hand,
Son of the noblest in the land."
Facing the east, the glorious saint
Pure from all spot of earthly taint,
To Rama, with delighted mind,
That noble host of spells consigned.
He taught the arms, whose lore is won
Hardly by Gods, to Raghu's son.
He muttered low the spell whose call
Summons those arms and rules them all--
And each, in visible form and frame,
Before the monarch's son they came.
They stood and spoke in reverent guise
To Rama with exulting cries:--
"O noblest child of Raghu, see,
Thy ministers and thralls are we."
With joyful heart and eager hand
Rama received the wondrous band,
And thus with words of welcome cried:--
"Aye present to my will abide"--
Then hasted to the saint to pay
Due reverence, and pursued his way.
THE MYSTERIOUS POWERS
Pure, with glad cheer and joyful breast,
Of those mysterious arms possessed,
Rama, now passing on his way,
Thus to the saint began to say:--
"Lord of these mighty weapons, I
Can scarce be harmed by Gods on high;
Now, best of saints, I long to gain
The powers that can these arms restrain."
Thus spoke the prince. The sage austere,
True to his vows, from evil clear,
Called forth the names of those great charms
Whose powers restrain the deadly arms.
"Receive thou True and Truly-famed,
And Bold and Fleet: the weapons named
Warder and Progress, swift of pace,
Averted-head and Drooping-face;
The Seen, and that which Secret flies--
The weapon of the thousand eyes;
Ten-headed, and the Hundred-faced,
Star-gazer and the Layer-waste;
The Omen-bird, the Pure-from-spot,
The pair that wake and slumber not;
The Fiendish, that which shakes amain,
The Strong-of-Hand, the Rich-in-Gain;
The Guardian, and the Close-allied,
The Gaper, Love, and Golden-side:--
O Raghu's son receive all these,
Bright ones that wear what forms they please;
Krisasva's mystic sons are they,
And worthy thou their might to sway."
With joy the pride of Raghu's race
Received the hermit's proffered grace--
Mysterious arms, to check and stay,
Or smite the foeman in the fray.
Then, all with heavenly forms endued,
Nigh came the wondrous multitude.
Celestial in their bright attire
Some shone like coals of burning fire--
Some were like clouds of dusky smoke;
And suppliant thus they sweetly spoke:--
"Thy thralls, O Rama, here we stand--
Command, we pray, thy faithful band."
"Depart," he cried, "where each may list,
But when I call you to assist,
Be present to my mind with speed,
And aid me in the hour of need."
To Rama then they lowly bent,
And round him in due reverence went--
To his command they answered, "Yea,"
And as they came so went away.
When thus the arms had homeward flown,
With pleasant words and modest tone,
E'en as he walked, the prince began
To question thus the holy man:--
"What cloudlike wood is that which near
The mountain's side I see appear?
O tell me, for I long to know:
Its pleasant aspect charms me so.
Its glades are full of deer at play,
And sweet birds sing on every spray.
Passed is the hideous wild--I feel
So sweet a tremor o'er me steal--
And hail with transport fresh and new
A land that is so fair to view.
Then tell me all, thou holy Sage,
And whose this pleasant hermitage
In which those wicked ones delight
To mar and kill each holy rite--
And with foul heart and evil deed
Thy sacrifice, great Saint, impede.
To whom, O Sage, belongs this land
In which thine altars ready stand?
'Tis mine to guard them, and to slay
The giants who the rites would stay.
All this, O best of saints, I burn
From thine own lips, my lord, to learn."
THE PERFECT HERMITAGE
Thus spoke the prince of boundless might,
And thus replied the anchorite:--
"Chief of the mighty arm, of yore
Lord Vishnu, whom the Gods adore
For holy thought and rites austere,
Of penance made his dwelling here.
This ancient wood was called of old
Grove of the Dwarf, the mighty-souled--
And when perfection he attained
The grove the name of Perfect gained.
Bali of yore, Virochan's son,
Dominion over Indra won--
And when with power his proud heart swelled,
O'er the three worlds his empire held.
When Bali then began a rite,
The Gods and Indra in affright
Sought Vishnu in this place of rest,
And thus with prayers the God addressed:--
'Bali, Virochan's mighty son,
His sacrifice has now begun:
Of boundless wealth, that demon king
Is bounteous to each living thing.
Though suppliants flock from every side
The suit of none is e'er denied.
Whate'er, where'er, howe'er the call,
He hears the suit and gives to all.
Now with thine own illusive art
Perform, O Lord, the helper's part:
Assume a dwarfish form, and thus
From fear and danger rescue us.'
Thus in their dread the Immortals sued
The God, a dwarfish shape indued:--
Before Virochan's son he came,
Three steps of land his only claim.
The boon obtained, in wondrous wise
Lord Vishnu's form increased in size;
Through all the worlds, tremendous, vast,
God of the Triple Step, he passed.
The whole broad earth from side to side
He measured with one mighty stride--
Spanned with the next the firmament,
And with the third through heaven he went.
Thus was the king of demons hurled
By Vishnu to the nether world--
And thus the universe restored
To Indra's rule, its ancient lord.
And now because the Immortal God
This spot in dwarflike semblance trod,
The grove has aye been loved by me
For reverence of the devotee.
But demons haunt it, prompt to stay
Each holy offering I would pay.
Be thine, O lion-lord, to kill
These giants that delight in ill.
This day, beloved child, our feet
Shall rest within the calm retreat;
And know, thou chief of Raghu's line,
My hermitage is also thine."
He spoke; and soon the anchorite,
With joyous looks that beamed delight,
With Rama and his brother stood
Within the consecrated wood.
Soon as they saw the holy man,
With one accord together ran
The dwellers in the sacred shade,
And to the saint their reverence paid--
And offered water for his feet,
The gift of honor, and a seat;
And next with hospitable care
They entertained the princely pair.
The royal tamers of their foes
Rested awhile in sweet repose--
Then to the chief of hermits sued
Standing in suppliant attitude:--
"Begin, O best of saints, we pray,
Initiatory rites to-day.
This Perfect Grove shall be anew
Made perfect, and thy words be true."
Then, thus addressed, the holy man,
The very glorious sage, began
The high preliminary rite,
Restraining sense and appetite.
Calmly the youths that night reposed,
And rose when morn her light disclosed--
Their morning worship paid, and took
Of lustral water from the brook.
Thus purified they breathed the prayer,
Then greeted Visvamitra where
As celebrant he sate beside
The flame with sacred oil supplied.
That conquering pair, of royal race,
Skilled to observe due time and place--
To Kusik's hermit son addressed,
In timely words, their meet request:--
"When must we, lord, we pray thee tell,
Those Rovers of the Night repel?
Speak, lest we let the moment fly,
And pass the due occasion by."
Thus longing for the strife, they prayed,
And thus the hermit's answer made:--
"Till the fifth day be come and past,
O Raghu's sons, your watch must last.
The saint his Diksha has begun,
And all that time will speak to none."
Soon as the steadfast devotees
Had made reply in words like these,
The youths began, disdaining sleep,
Six days and nights their watch to keep--
The warrior pair who tamed the foe,
Unrivalled benders of the bow,
Kept watch and ward unwearied still
To guard the saint from scathe and ill.
Twas now the sixth returning day,
The hour foretold had passed away.
Then Rama cried: "O Lakshman, now!
Firm, watchful, resolute be thou.
The fiends as yet have kept afar
From the pure grove in which we are;
Yet waits us, ere the day shall close,
Dire battle with the demon foes."
While thus spoke Rama, borne away
By longing for the deadly fray,
See! bursting from the altar came
The sudden glory of the flame;
Round priest and deacon, and upon
Grass, ladles, flowers, the splendor shone--
And the high rite, in order due,
With sacred texts began anew.
But then a loud and fearful roar
Re-echoed through the sky;
And like vast clouds that shadow o'er
The heavens in dark July,
Involved in gloom of magic might
Two fiends rushed on amain--
Maricha, Rover of the Night,
Suvahu, and their train.
As on they came in wild career
Thick blood in rain they shed;
And Rama saw those things of fear
Impending overhead. Then, soon as those accursed two
Who showered down blood he spied,
Thus to his brother brave and true
Spoke Rama lotus-eyed:--
"Now, Lakshman, thou these fiends shalt see,
Man-eaters, foul of mind,
Before my mortal weapon flee
Like clouds before the wind."
He spoke. An arrow, swift as thought,
Upon his bow he pressed,
And smote, to utmost fury wrought,
Maricha on the breast.
Deep in his flesh the weapon lay
Winged by the mystic spell,
And, hurled a hundred leagues away,
In ocean's flood he fell.
Then Rama, when he saw the foe
Convulsed and mad with pain
'Neath the chill-pointed weapon's blow,
To Lakshman spoke again:--
"See, Lakshman, see! this mortal dart
That strikes a numbing chill,
Hath struck him senseless with the smart,
But left him breathing still.
But these who love the evil way
And drink the blood they spill,
Rejoicing holy rites to stay,
Fierce plagues, my hand shall kill."
He seized another shaft, the best,
Aglow with living flame;
It struck Suvahu on the chest,
And dead to earth he came.
Again a dart, the Wind-God's own,
Upon his string he laid,
And all the demons were overthrown--
The saints no more afraid.
When thus the fiends were slain in fight,
Disturbers of each holy rite,
Due honor by the saints was paid
To Rama for his wondrous aid:--
So Indra is adored when he
Has won some glorious victory.
Success at last the rite had crowned,
And Visvamitra gazed around--
And seeing every side at rest,
The son of Raghu thus addressed:--
"My joy, O Prince, is now complete--
Thou hast obeyed my will:
Perfect before, this calm retreat
Is now more perfect still."
Their task achieved, the princes spent
That night with joy and full content.
Ere yet the dawn was well displayed
Their morning rites they duly paid--
And sought, while yet the light was faint,
The hermits and the mighty saint.
They greeted first that holy sire
Resplendent like the burning fire,
And then with noble words began
Their sweet speech to the sainted man:--
"Here stand, O lord, thy servants true--
Command what thou wouldst have us do."
The saints, by Visvamitra led,
To Rama thus in answer said:--
"Janak, the king who rules the land
Of fertile Mithila, has planned
A noble sacrifice, and we
Will thither go the rite to see.
Thou, Prince of men, with us shalt go,
And there behold the wondrous bow--
Terrific, vast, of matchless might,
Which, splendid at the famous rite,
The Gods assembled gave the King.
No giant, fiend, or God can string
That gem of bows, no heavenly bard;
Then, sure, for man the task were hard.
When lords of earth have longed to know
The virtue of that wondrous bow,
The strongest sons of kings in vain
Have tried the mighty cord to strain.
This famous bow thou there shalt view,
And wondrous rites shalt witness too.
The high-souled king who lords it o'er
The realm of Mithila, of yore
Gained from the Gods this bow, the price
Of his imperial sacrifice.
Won by the rite the glorious prize
Still in his royal palace lies--
Laid up in oil of precious scent
With aloes-wood and incense blent."
Then Rama answering, "Be it so,"
Made ready with the rest to go.
The saint himself was now prepared,
But ere beyond the grove he fared,
He turned him and in words like these
Addressed the sylvan deities:--
"Farewell! each holy rite complete,
I leave the hermits' perfect seat:
To Ganga's northern shore I go
Beneath Himalaya's peaks of snow."
With reverent steps he paced around
The limits of the holy ground--
And then the mighty saint set forth
And took his journey to the north.
His pupils, deep in Scripture's page,
Followed behind the holy sage,
And servants from the sacred grove
A hundred wains for convoy drove.
The very birds that winged that air,
The very deer that harbored there,
Forsook the glade and leafy brake
And followed for the hermits' sake.
They travelled far, till in the west
The sun was speeding to his rest,
And made, their portioned journey o'er,
Their halt on Sona's distant shore.
The hermits bathed when sank the sun,
And every rite was duly done--
Oblations paid to Fire, and then
Sate round their chief the holy men.
Rama and Lakshman lowly bowed
In reverence to the hermit crowd--
And Rama, having sate him down
Before the saint of pure renown,
With humble palms together laid
His eager supplication made:--
"What country, O my lord, is this,
Fair-smiling in her wealth and bliss?
Deign fully, O thou mighty Seer,
To tell me, for I long to hear."
Moved by the prayer of Rama, he
Told forth the country's history.
A king of Brahma's seed who bore
The name of Kusa reigned of yore.
Just, faithful to his vows, and true,
He held the good in honor due.
His bride, a queen of noble name,
Of old Vidarbha's monarchs came.
Like their own father, children four,
All valiant boys, the lady bore.
In glorious deeds each nerve they strained,
And well their Warrior part sustained.
To them most just, and true, and brave,
Their father thus his counsel gave:--
"Beloved children, ne'er forget
Protection is a prince's debt:
The noble work at once begin,
High virtue and her fruits to win."
The youths, to all the people dear,
Received his speech with willing ear;
And each went forth his several way,
Foundations of a town to lay.
Kusamba, prince of high renown,
Was builder of Kausambi's town,
And Kusanabha, just and wise,
Bade high Mahodaya's towers arise.
Amurtarajas chose to dwell
In Dharmaranya's citadel,
And Vasu bade his city fair
The name of Girivraja bear.
This fertile spot whereon we stand
Was once the high-souled Vasu's land.
Behold! as round we turn our eyes,
Five lofty mountain peaks arise.
See! bursting from her parent hill,
Sumagadhi, a lovely rill,
Bright gleaming as she flows between
The mountains, like a wreath is seen--
And then through Magadh's plains and groves
With many a fair meander roves.
And this was Vasu's old domain,
The fertile Magadh's broad champaign,
Which smiling fields of tilth adorn
And diadem with golden corn.
The queen Ghritachi, nymph most fair,
Married to Kusanabha, bare
A hundred daughters lovely faced,
With every charm and beauty graced.
It chanced the maidens, bright and gay
As lightning-flashes on a day
Of rain-time, to the garden went
With song and play and merriment--
And there in gay attire they strayed,
And danced, and laughed, and sang, and played.
The God of Wind who roves at will
All places, as he lists, to fill,
Saw the young maidens dancing there,
Of faultless shape and mien most fair--
"I love you all, sweet girls," he cried,
"And each shall be my darling bride.
Forsake, forsake your mortal lot,
And gain a life that withers not.
A fickle thing is youth's brief span,
And more than all is mortal man.
Receive unending youth, and be
Immortal, O my loves, with me,"
The hundred girls, to wonder stirred,
The wooing of the Wind-God heard,
Laughed, as a jest, his suit aside,
And with one voice they thus replied:--
"O mighty Wind, free spirit who
All life pervadest, through and through--
Thy wondrous power we maidens know;
Then wherefore wilt thou mock us so?
Our sire is Kusanabha, King;
And we, forsooth, have charms to bring
A God to woo us from the skies;
But honor first we maidens prize.
Far may the hour, we pray, be hence,
When we, O thou of little sense,
Our truthful father's choice refuse,
And for ourselves our husbands choose.
Our honored sire our lord we deem,
He is to us a God supreme--
And they to whom his high decree
May give us shall our husbands be."
He heard the answer they returned,
And mighty rage within him burned.
On each fair maid a blast he sent--
Each stately form he bowed and bent.
Bent double by the Wind-God's ire
They sought the palace of their sire,
There fell upon the ground with sighs,
While tears and shame were in their eyes.
The King himself, with, troubled brow,
Saw his dear girls so fair but now,
A mournful sight all bent and bowed--
And grieving, thus he cried aloud:--
"What fate is this, and what the cause?
What wretch has scorned all heavenly laws?
Who thus your forms could curve and break?
You struggle, but no answer make."
They heard the speech of that wise king
Of their misfortune questioning.
Again the hundred maidens sighed,
Touched with their heads his feet, and cried:--
"The God of Wind, pervading space,
Would bring on us a foul disgrace,
And choosing folly's evil way
From virtue's path in scorn would stray.
But we in words like these reproved
The God of Wind whom passion moved:--
'Farewell, O Lord! A sire have we,
No women uncontrolled and free.
Go, and our sire's consent obtain
If thou our maiden hands wouldst gain.
No self-dependent life we live:
If we offend, our fault forgive,'
But led by folly as a slave,
He would not hear the rede we gave,
And even as we gently spoke
We felt the Wind-God's crushing stroke."
The pious King, with grief distressed,
The noble hundred thus addressed:--
"With patience, daughters, bear your fate,
Yours was a deed supremely great
When with one mind you kept from shame
The honor of your father's name.
Patience, when men their anger vent,
Is woman's praise and ornament;
Yet when the Gods inflict the blow
Hard is it to support the woe.
Patience, my girls, exceeds all price--
'Tis alms, and truth, and sacrifice.
Patience is virtue, patience fame:
Patience upholds this earthly frame.
And now, I think, is come the time
To wed you in your maiden prime.
Now, daughters, go where'er you will:
Thoughts for your good my mind shall fill."
The maidens went, consoled, away:--
The best of kings, that very day,
Summoned his ministers of state
About their marriage to debate.
Since then, because the Wind-God bent
The damsels' forms for punishment,
That royal town is known to fame
By Kanyakubja's borrowed name.
There lived a sage called Chuli then,
Devoutest of the sons of men;
His days in penance rites he spent,
A glorious saint, most continent.
To him absorbed in tasks austere
The child of Urmila draw near--
Sweet Somada, the heavenly maid,
And lent the saint her pious aid.
Long time near him the maiden spent,
And served him meek and reverent,
Till the great hermit, pleased with her,
Thus spoke unto his minister:--
"Grateful am I for all thy care--
Blest maiden, speak, thy wish declare."
The sweet-voiced nymph rejoiced to see
The favor of the devotee,
And to that excellent old man,
Most eloquent she thus began:--
"Thou hast, by heavenly grace sustained,
Close union with the Godhead gained.
I long, O Saint, to see a son
By force of holy penance won.
Unwed, a maiden life I live:
A son to me, thy suppliant, give."
The saint with favor heard her prayer,
And gave a son exceeding fair.
Him, Chuli's spiritual child,
His mother Brahmadatta styled.
King Brahmadatta, rich and great,
In Kampili maintained his state--
Ruling, like Indra in his bliss,
His fortunate metropolis.
King Kusanabha planned that he
His hundred daughters' lord should be.
To him, obedient to his call,
The happy monarch gave them all.
Like Indra then he took the hand
Of every maiden of the band.
Soon as the hand of each young maid
In Brahmadatta's palm was laid,
Deformity and cares away,
She shone in beauty bright and gay.
Their freedom from the Wind-God's might
Saw Kusanabha with delight.
Each glance that on their forms he threw
Filled him with raptures ever new.
Then when the rites were all complete,
With highest marks of honor meet
The bridegroom with his brides he sent
To his great seat of government.
The nymph received with pleasant speech
Her daughters; and, embracing each,
Upon their forms she fondly gazed,
And royal Kusanabha praised.
The rites were o'er, the maids were wed,
The bridegroom to his home was sped.
The sonless monarch bade prepare
A sacrifice to gain an heir.
Then Kusa, Brahma's son, appeared,
And thus King Kusanabha cheered:--
'Thou shalt, my child, obtain a son
Like thine own self, O holy one.
Through him forever, Gadhi named,
Shalt thou in all the worlds be famed.'
He spoke and vanished from the sight
To Brahma's world of endless light.
Time fled, and, as the saint foretold,
Gadhi was born, the holy-souled.
My sire was he; through him I trace
My line from royal Kusa's race.
My sister--elder-born was she--
The pure and good Satyavati,
Was to the great Richika wed.
Still faithful to her husband dead,
She followed him, most noble dame,
And, raised to heaven in human frame,
A pure celestial stream became.
Down from Himalaya's snowy height,
In floods forever fair and bright,
My sister's holy waves are hurled
To purify and glad the world.
Now on Himalaya's side I dwell
Because I love my sister well.
She, for her faith and truth renowned,
Most loving to her husband found,
High-fated, firm in each pure vow,
Is queen of all the rivers now.
Bound by a vow I left her side
And to the Perfect convent hied.
There, by the aid 'twas thine to lend,
Made perfect, all my labors end.
Thus, mighty Prince, I now have told
My race and lineage, high and old,
And local tales of long ago
Which thou, O Rama, fain wouldst know.
As I have sate rehearsing thus
The midnight hour is come on us.
Now, Rama, sleep, that nothing may
Our journey of to-morrow stay.
No leaf on any tree is stirred--
Hushed in repose are beast and bird:
Where'er you turn, on every side,
Dense shades of night the landscape hide.
The light of eve is fled: the skies,
Thick-studded with their host of eyes,
Seem a star-forest overhead,
Where signs and constellations spread.
Now rises, with his pure cold ray,
The moon that drives the shades away,
And with his gentle influence brings
Joy to the hearts of living things.
Now, stealing from their lairs, appear
The beasts to whom the night is dear.
Now spirits walk, and every power
That revels in the midnight hour."
The mighty hermit's tale was o'er,
He closed his lips and spoke no more.
The holy men on every side,
"Well done! well done," with reverence cried,
"The mighty men of Kusa's seed
Were ever famed for righteous deed.
Like Brahma's self in glory shine
The high-souled lords of Kusa's line.
And thy great name is sounded most,
O Saint, amid the noble host.
And thy dear sister--fairest she
Of streams, the high-born Kausiki--
Diffusing virtue where she flows,
New splendor on thy lineage throws."
Thus by the chief of saints addressed
The son of Gadhi turned to rest;
So, when his daily course is done,
Sinks to his rest the beaming sun.
Rama, with Lakshman, somewhat stirred
To marvel by the tales they heard,
Turned also to his couch, to close
His eyelids in desired repose.
THE BIRTH OF GANGA
The hours of night now waning fast
On Sona's pleasant shore they passed.
Then, when the dawn began to break.
To Rama thus the hermit spake:--
"The light of dawn is breaking clear,
The hour of morning rites is near.
Rise, Rama, rise, dear son, I pray,
And make thee ready for the way."
Then Rama rose, and finished all
His duties at the hermit's call--
Prepared with joy the road to take,
And thus again in question spake:--
"Here fair and deep the Sona flows,
And many an isle its bosom shows:
What way, O Saint, will lead us o'er
And land us on the farther shore?"
The saint replied: "The way I choose
Is that which pious hermits use."
For many a league they journeyed on
Till, when the sun of mid-day shone,
The hermit-haunted flood was seen
Of Jahnavi, the Rivers' Queen.
Soon as the holy stream they viewed,
Thronged with a white-winged multitude
Of sarases and swans, delight
Possessed them at the lovely sight;
And then prepared the hermit band
To halt upon that holy strand.
They bathed as Scripture bids, and paid
Oblations due to God and shade.
To Fire they burnt the offerings meet,
And sipped the oil, like Amrit sweet.
Then pure and pleased they sate around
Saint Visvamitra, on the ground.
The holy men of lesser note,
In due degree, sate more remote,
While Raghu's sons took nearer place
By virtue of their rank and race.
Then Rama said: "O Saint, I yearn
The three-pathed Ganga's tale to learn."
Thus urged, the sage recounted both
The birth of Ganga and her growth:--
"The mighty hill with metals stored,
Himalaya, is the mountains' lord,
The father of a lovely pair
Of daughters fairest of the fair--
Their mother, offspring of the will
Of Meru, everlasting hill,
Mena, Himalaya's darling, graced
With beauty of her dainty waist.
Ganga was elder-born:--then came
The fair one known by Uma's name.
Then all the Gods of heaven, in need
Of Ganga's help their vows to speed,
To great Himalaya came and prayed
The Mountain King to yield the maid.
He, not regardless of the weal
Of the three worlds, with holy zeal
His daughter to the Immortals gave,
Ganga whose waters cleanse and save--
Who roams at pleasure, fair and free,
Purging all sinners, to the sea.
The three-pathed Ganga thus obtained,
The Gods their heavenly homes regained.
Long time the sister Uma passed
In vows austere and rigid fast,
And the King gave the devotee
Immortal Rudra's bride to be--
Matching with that unequalled Lord
His Uma through the worlds adored.
So now a glorious station fills
Each daughter of the King of Hills--
One honored as the noblest stream,
One mid the Goddesses supreme.
Thus Ganga, King Himalaya's child,
The heavenly river, undefiled,
Rose bearing with her to the sky
Her waves that bless and purify."
[_Cantos XXXVII and XXXVIII are omitted._]
THE SONS OF SAGAR
The saint in accents sweet and clear
Thus told his tale for Rama's ear--
And thus anew the holy man
A legend to the prince began:--
"There reigned a pious monarch o'er
Ayodhya in the days of yore:
Sagar his name:--no child had he,
And children much he longed to see.
His honored consort, fair of face,
Sprang from Vidarbha's royal race--
Kesini, famed from early youth
For piety and love of truth.
Arishtanemi's daughter fair,
With whom no maiden might compare
In beauty, though the earth is wide,
Sumati, was his second bride.
With his two queens afar he went,
And weary days in penance spent,
Fervent, upon Himalaya's hill
Where springs the stream called Bhrigu's rill.
Nor did he fail that saint to please
With his devout austerities,
And, when a hundred years had fled,
Thus the most truthful Bhrigu said:--
'From thee, O Sagar, blameless King,
A mighty host of sons shall spring,
And thou shalt win a glorious name
Which none, O Chief, but thou shall claim.
One of thy queens a son shall bear
Maintainer of thy race and heir;
And of the other there shall be
Sons sixty thousand born to thee.'
Thus as he spake, with one accord,
To win the grace of that high lord,
The queens, with palms together laid,
In humble supplication prayed:--
'Which queen, O Brahman, of the pair,
The many, or the one shall bear?
Most eager, Lord, are we to know,
And as thou sayest be it so,'
With his sweet speech the saint replied:--
'Yourselves, O Queens, the choice decide.
Your own discretion freely use
Which shall the one or many choose:
One shall the race and name uphold,
The host be famous, strong, and bold.
Which will have which?' Then Kesini
The mother of one heir would be.
Sumati, sister of the King
Of all the birds that ply the wing,
To that illustrious Brahman sued
That she might bear the multitude--
Whose fame throughout the world should sound
For mighty enterprise renowned.
Around the saint the monarch went,
Bowing his head, most reverent.
Then with his wives, with willing feet,
Resought his own imperial seat,
Time passed. The elder consort bare
A son called Asamanj, the heir.
Then Sumati, the younger, gave
Birth to a gourd, O hero brave,
Whose rind, when burst and cleft in two,
Gave sixty thousand babes to view.
All these with care the nurses laid
In jars of oil; and there they stayed,
Till, youthful age and strength complete,
Forth speeding from each dark retreat--
All peers in valor, years, and might,
The sixty thousand came to light.
Prince Asamanj, brought up with care,
Scourge of his foes, was made the heir.
But liegemen's boys he used to cast
To Sarju's waves that hurried past--
Laughing the while in cruel glee
Their dying agonies to see.
This wicked prince who aye withstood
The counsel of the wise and good,
Who plagued the people in his hate,
His father banished from the state.
His son, kind-spoken, brave, and tall,
Was Ansuman, beloved of all.
Long years flew by. The King decreed
To slay a sacrificial steed.
Consulting with his priestly band
He vowed the rite his soul had planned,
And, Veda-skilled, by their advice
Made ready for the sacrifice."
THE CLEAVING OF THE EARTH
The hermit ceased--the tale was done:--
Then in a transport Raghu's son
Again addressed the ancient sire
Resplendent as a burning fire:--
"O holy man, I fain would hear
The tale repeated full and clear
How he from whom my sires descend
Brought the great rite to happy end,"
The hermit answered with a smile:--
"Then listen, son of Raghu, while
My legendary tale proceeds
To tell of high-souled Sagar's deeds.
Within the spacious plain that lies
From where Himalaya's heights arise
To where proud Vindhya's rival chain
Looks down upon the subject plain--
A land the best for rites declared--
His sacrifice the king prepared.
And Ansuman the prince--for so
Sagar advised--with ready bow
Was borne upon a mighty car
To watch the steed who roamed afar.
But Indra, monarch of the skies,
Veiling his form in demon guise,
Came down upon the appointed day
And drove the victim horse away.
Reft of the steed the priests, distressed,
The master of the rite addressed:--
'Upon the sacred day by force
A robber takes the victim horse.
Haste, King! now let the thief be slain;
Bring thou the charger back again:
The sacred rite prevented thus
Brings scathe and woe to all of us.
Rise, Monarch, and provide with speed
That nought its happy course impede.'
King Sagar in his crowded court
Gave ear unto the priests' report.
He summoned straightway to his side
His sixty thousand sons, and cried:--
'Brave sons of mine, I know not how
These demons are so mighty now--
The priests began the rite so well
All sanctified with prayer and spell.
If in the depths of earth he hide,
Or lurk beneath the ocean's tide,
Pursue, dear sons, the robber's track;
Slay him and bring the charger back.
The whole of this broad earth explore,
Sea-garlanded, from shore to shore:
Yea, dig her up with might and main
Until you see the horse again.
Deep let your searching labor reach,
A league in depth dug out by each.
The robber of our horse pursue,
And please your sire who orders you.
My grandson, I, this priestly train,
Till the steed comes, will here remain.'
Their eager hearts with transport burned
As to their task the heroes turned.
Obedient to their father, they
Through earth's recesses forced their way.
With iron arms' unflinching toil
Each dug a league beneath the soil.
Earth, cleft asunder, groaned in pain,
As emulous they plied amain--
Sharp-pointed coulter, pick, and bar,
Hard as the bolts of Indra are.
Then loud the horrid clamor rose
Of monsters dying 'neath their blows,
Giant and demon, fiend and snake,
That in earth's core their dwelling make.
They dug, in ire that nought could stay,
Through sixty thousand leagues their way--
Cleaving the earth with matchless strength
Till hell itself they reached at length.
Thus digging searched they Jambudvip
With all its hills and mountains steep.
Then a great fear began to shake
The heart of God, bard, fiend, and snake--
And all distressed in spirit went
Before the Sire Omnipotent.
With signs of woe in every face
They sought the mighty Father's grace,
And trembling still and ill at ease
Addressed their Lord in words like these:--
'The sons of Sagar, Sire benign,
Pierce the whole earth with mine on mine,
And as their ruthless work they ply
Innumerable creatures die,'
'This is the thief,' the princes say,
'Who stole our victim steed away.
This marred the rite, and caused us ill.'
And so their guiltless blood they spill.
"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, who
The Immortals' foe, fierce Madhu, slew,
Regards broad Earth with love and pride,
And guards, in Kapil's form, his bride.
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, 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 children's speech King Sagar heard,
And answered thus, to anger stirred:--
'Dig on, and ne'er your labor 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 Virupaksha 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 honor due was paid,
Their downward search through earth delayed.
But turning from the east aside
Southward again their task they plied.
There Mahapadma 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 filled 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 astonished 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 honored 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,
And by a storm of rage impelled,
Digging through earth their course they held.
Then all the princes, lofty-souled,
Of wondrous vigor, strong and bold,
Saw Vasudeva 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 flushed with passion's tide;
Then by his might that proud array
All scorched to heaps of ashes lay.
Then to the prince his grandson, bright
With his own fame's unborrowed light,
King Sagar thus began to say,
Marvelling at his sons' delay:--
'Thou art a warrior skilled and bold,
Match for the mighty men of old.
Now follow on thine uncles' course
And track the robber of the horse.
To guard thee take thy sword and bow,
For huge and strong are beasts below.
There to the reverend reverence pay,
And kill the foes who check thy way;
Then turn successful home and see
My sacrifice complete through thee.'
Obedient to the high-souled lord
Grasped Ansuman his bow and sword,
And hurried forth the way to trace
With youth and valor's eager pace.
On sped he by the path he found
Dug by his uncles underground.
The warder elephant he saw
Whose size and strength pass Nature's law--
Who bears the world's tremendous weight,
Whom God, fiend, giant, venerate.
Bird, serpent, and each flitting shade,
To him the honor meet he paid--
With circling steps and greeting due,
And further prayed him, if he knew,
To tell him of his uncles' weal,
And who had dared the horse to steal.
To him in war and council tried
The warder elephant replied:--
'Thou, son of Asamanj, shalt lead
In triumph back the rescued steed,'
As to each warder beast he came
And questioned all, his words the same,
The honored youth with gentle speech
Drew eloquent reply from each--
That fortune should his steps attend,
And with the horse he home should wend.
Cheered with the grateful answer, he
Passed on with step more light and free,
And reached with careless heart the place
Where lay in ashes Sagar's race.
Then sank the spirit of the chief
Beneath that shock of sudden grief--
And with a bitter cry of woe
He mourned his kinsmen fallen so.
He saw, weighed down by woe and care,
The victim charger roaming there.
Yet would the pious chieftain fain
Oblations offer to the slain:
But, needing water for the rite,
He looked and there was none in sight.
His quick eye searching all around
The uncle of his kinsmen found--
King Garud, best beyond compare
Of birds who wing the fields of air.
Then thus unto the weeping man
The son of Vinata began:--
'Grieve not, O hero, for their fall
Who died a death approved of all.
Of mighty strength, they met their fate
By Kapil's hand whom none can mate.
Pour forth for them no earthly wave,
A holier flood their spirits crave.
If, daughter of the Lord of Snow,
Ganga would turn her stream below,
Her waves that cleanse all mortal stain
Would wash their ashes pure again.
Yea, when her flood whom all revere
Rolls o'er the dust that moulders here,
The sixty thousand, freed from sin,
A home in Indra's heaven shall win.
Go, and with ceaseless labor try
To draw the Goddess from the sky.
Return, and with thee take the steed;
So shall thy grandsire's rite succeed,'
Prince Ansuman the strong and brave
Followed the rede Suparna gave.
The glorious hero took the horse,
And homeward quickly bent his course.
Straight to the anxious King he hied,
Whom lustral rites had purified--
The mournful story to unfold
And all the King of birds had told.
The tale of woe the monarch heard,
No longer was the rite deferred:
With care and just observance he
Accomplished all, as texts decree.
The rites performed, with brighter fame,
Mighty in counsel, home he came.
He longed to bring the river down,
But found no plan his wish to crown.
He pondered long with anxious thought,
But saw no way to what he sought.
Thus thirty thousand years he spent,
And then to heaven the monarch went.
"When Sagar thus had bowed to fate,
The lords and commons of the state
Approved with ready heart and will
Prince Ansuman his throne to fill.
He ruled, a mighty king, unblamed,
Sire of Dilipa justly famed.
To him, his child and worthy heir,
The King resigned his kingdom's care,
And on Himalaya's pleasant side
His task austere of penance plied.
Bright as a God in clear renown
He planned to bring pure Ganga down.
There on his fruitless hope intent
Twice sixteen thousand years he spent,
And in the grove of hermits stayed
Till bliss in heaven his rites repaid.
Dilipa then, the good and great,
Soon as he learnt his kinsmen's fate,
Bowed down by woe, with troubled mind.
Pondering long no cure could find.
'How can I bring,' the mourner sighed,
'To cleanse their dust, the heavenly tide?
How can I give them rest, and save
Their spirits with the offered wave?'
Long with this thought his bosom skilled
In holy discipline was filled.
A son was born, Bhagirath named,
Above all men for virtue famed.
Dilipa many a rite ordained,
And thirty thousand seasons reigned.
But when no hope the king could see
His kinsmen from their woe to free,
The lord of men, by sickness tried,
Obeyed the law of fate, and died;
He left the kingdom to his son,
And gained the heaven his deeds had won.
The good Bhagirath, royal sage,
Had no fair son to cheer his age.
He, great in glory, pure in will,
Longing for sons was childless still.
Then on one wish, one thought intent,
Planning the heavenly stream's descent,
Leaving his ministers the care
And burden of his state to bear--
Dwelling in far Gokarna he
Engaged in long austerity.
With senses checked, with arms upraised,
Five fires around and o'er him blazed.
Each weary month the hermit passed
Breaking but once his awful fast.
In winter's chill the brook his bed,
In rain, the clouds to screen his head.
Thousands of years he thus endured
Till Brahma's favor was assured--
And the high Lord of living things
Looked kindly on his sufferings.
With trooping Gods the Sire came near