73. Shurpanakha Sees Rama
Ravana’s sister Shurpanakha was roaming the forest when she first saw Rama. Passion overwhelmed her.
“Marry me!” she told him.
Rama laughed and replied, “I already have a wife.” Then he pointed to Lakshmana. “You might ask my brother; he’s alone here in the forest.”
But Lakshmana also rebuffed Shurpanakha.
Then Shurpanakha saw Sita. “If I get rid of her, the man will be mine,” she thought to herself.
Shurpanakha ran towards Sita, fangs bared, and Sita screamed.
Lakshmana grabbed his sword and sliced off Shurpanakha’s ears and nose.
Blood streaming down her face, Shurpanakha ran shrieking into the forest.
74. Khara and Dushana Attack
With each slice of Lakshmana’s sword as he cut off Shurpanakha’s ears and nose, one of Ravana’s heads fell off. Though he was far away in Lanka, Ravana realized that someone had attacked his sister. “Who would dare do this!” he shouted.
Meanwhile, Shurpanakha ran into the forest. “Khara! Dushana!” she screamed. “Help me, cousins!”
Khara and Dushana led the forest rakshasas against Rama and Lakshmana, but the princes of Ayodhya defeated them all. Khara and Dushana fell in battle, and rakshasa corpses covered the forest floor.
Looking around, Rama said to Lakshmana, “We must be even more vigilant now.”
75. Word Reaches Ravana
Ravana’s uncle Akampana escaped from the forest and fled to Lanka where he reported to his nephew. “A human killed Khara and Dushana and their army in the forest,” he gasped.
Ravana was outraged. “I will kill that human!” he shouted.
“His name is Rama, and he lives in the forest with his brother and his wife,” Akampana explained. “His brother mutilated your sister. And his wife is beautiful. Very beautiful! To punish Rama you should abduct his wife.”
This idea delighted Ravana. “I will go there at once,” he said. “And when I return, I’ll have a new wife!”
76. Ravana Visits Maricha
Years ago, Rama killed the rakshasi Tataka, but her son Maricha had escaped. He then retreated into the wilderness, living as a hermit.
Then one day, to Maricha’s surprise, the mighty Ravana stormed into his ashram.
“Maricha!” he shouted. “I’m going to kidnap the wife of a man named Rama who lives in the forest, and I need your help.”
When he heard Rama’s name, Maricha shuddered. He tried to dissuade Ravana, but to no avail.
“You will become a golden deer,” Ravana explained excitedly, “and lure Rama away from his wife. That’s how I will kidnap her!”
77. Maricha Becomes a Golden Deer
Reluctantly, Maricha obeyed Ravana’s command: he transformed himself into a golden deer. He then went to find Rama in the forest.
Sita was delighted when she saw the golden deer near their hut. “Catch it for me, Rama!” she said. “It can be my pet.”
“Golden deer don’t exist,” said Lakshmana. “This is some kind of trick. Do not go, Rama!”
“Please, Rama!’ Sita insisted.
“You stay here and keep Sita safe,” Rama ordered Lakshmana. “I’m going to catch that deer.”
Rama ran off after the deer.
And then… Sita and Lakshmana heard Rama shouting in the distance. “Help me!”
78. Lakshmana Draws a Line
When Sita heard Rama’s voice shouting for help, she said, “Go to him now, Lakshmana! He needs your help!”
“No!” replied Lakshmana. “He ordered me to stay here.”
“Do you want him to die?” asked Sita accusingly.
Lakshmana was shocked by Sita’s words, but he finally relented.
“I will go find out what’s happened, but you must stay inside this line,” he said to Sita, and he drew a line of protection around the hut. “No matter what happens, do not cross this line until I come back with Rama.”
Sita nodded in agreement, and Lakshmana ran into the forest.
79. An Ascetic Approaches Sita
After Rama left to follow the golden deer and Lakshmana left to follow Rama, an ascetic approached Sita, begging bowl in hand. “Feed me, please,” he said.
“Certainly,” said Sita. “Come inside.”
“That would not be right,” replied the ascetic. “You are alone in the house. Come feed me here, in the open.”
Sita gathered some food and then approached the ascetic, hesitating as she crossed Lakshmana’s line.
The ascetic vanished and Sita saw Ravana in his place. He grabbed her, and she struggled to free herself from the grip of his twenty arms. “You’ll never escape,” he snarled. “Never!”
80. Jatayu Fights Ravana
Ravana carried Sita away in his flying chariot. “You’ve vanished without leaving even a footprint!” he laughed. “Rama will never find you.”
“But I’ve found you!” roared Jatayu, the mighty eagle. He dove at Ravana, slashing with his beak and talons. Ravana fought back with his sword.
Sita prayed fervently for Jatayu’s victory. As the fight continued, she removed her bangles and jewelry, dropping them to leave a trail.
Finally, Ravana sliced off Jatayu’s wings, and Jatayu plunged to the earth.
“May your corpse rot in the forest!” shouted Ravana, and then he turned the flying chariot south to Lanka.
81. How Ravana Tricked Jatayu
Here is the story of how Ravana tricked Jatayu:
“Where exactly does your strength reside?” Ravana had asked him.
Jatayu didn’t reply; he just kept fighting.
“My strength is in my right big toe,” Ravana said.
Honor then compelled Jatayu to share his secret, as Ravana had. “My strength is in my wings!” Jatayu said as he swooped down and began pecking at Ravana’s toe.
But nothing happened. Ravana had lied; his strength wasn’t in his toe but in his navel, where he concealed the pot of immortal nectar.
Ravana then tore Jatayu’s wings to shreds, laughing, while Sita wept.
82. Sita Arrives in Lanka
Ravana brought Sita to Lanka and then dragged her to the door of his palace.
“Stop!” shouted Mandodari, his chief wife. “Stop right there! You cannot bring that woman here against her will. All the rest of us love you, but she does not.”
“She will love me!” Ravana insisted.
“I’m sure she will,” agreed Mandodari. “But until she does, keep her in the ashoka grove. Not here.”
Reluctantly, Ravana took Sita away to the grove. “And when I win her love,” he muttered angrily, “she’ll take Mandodari’s place!”
Silently, Sita thanked Mandodari for keeping her away from Ravana’s palace.
83. Rama Realizes the Danger
When Rama shot the golden deer, the deer shouted in Rama’s own voice, “Sita! Lakshmana! Help me!”
Then Rama saw Maricha in his rakshasa form arise out of the golden deer and collapse on the ground in a pool of blood. Recognizing Maricha, the son of Tataka whom he had fought in the forest long ago, Rama realized Sita was in terrible danger. He raced back to the hut, as did Lakshmana, but Sita was gone.
They found the wounded Jatayu who, with his last breath, whispered, “He took her.”
Jatayu died, and Rama conducted the bird’s funeral, weeping bitterly.
84. Rama Grieves
When Rama realized Sita was gone, he erupted with angry grief, threatening to destroy the whole world.
“I know where she is,” said a goose, “but I won’t tell you!”
Rama grabbed the bird by its neck; that’s how the goose got a long neck.
“Predator must have prey,” said a partridge.
“I curse you to be separated from your beloved,” Rama told the partridge, “and your call will be that of a grieving lover.”
Then Rama shouted, “If the gods do not return her to me, I will attack heaven itself.”
Finally, Lakshmana was able to calm Rama’s rage.
85. A Rakshasi Sees Lakshmana
As Rama and Lakshmana plunged through the forest, desperately looking for Sita, they passed a cave, and in the entrance there stood a rakshasi, monstrously large and misshapen.
When the rakshasi saw Lakshmana she shrieked with delight. “You!” she shouted as she reached out and grabbed him. “You will be mine! My name is Ayomukhi, and I want for you to be my husband. We will dwell here together in the forest!”
Lakshmana recoiled in horror. Without a word he unsheathed his sword and sliced off the rakshasi’s nose, one ear, and one breast.
Ayomukhi fled, screaming, into the forest.
86. Shabari Welcomes Rama
Heading south, Rama and Lakshmana arrived at Lake Pampa where they found a woman, Shabari. She lived there alone in an ashram that had been abandoned long ago.
“You look hungry,” she said. “I can offer you fruit.”
Shabari took a berry and bit into it. “Sweet!” she said, offering it to Rama, who accepted it gladly.
She bit into another berry. “Sour!” she said, throwing it away.
Another berry. “Sweet!” she said, offering it to Lakshmana, who recoiled in disgust.
“Do not judge her, Lakshmana,” said Rama. “She offers food with love.”
Shabari’s berries strengthened Rama in his quest.
87. Kabandha Grabs the Princes
In the forest Rama and Lakshmana encountered Kabandha, a ravenous monster whose head was in his stomach. He grabbed anything that moved, shoveling it into his stomach-mouth.
Rama and Lakshmana sliced off Kabandha’s arms. As he lay dying, the monster thanked them. “I was once a gandharva named Vishvavasu,” he said, “ravenous for music, food, drink, everything. My all-consuming greed turned me into a monster, but now I am free.”
When they cremated Kabandha’s corpse, his gandharva form emerged. “Go to King Sugriva in Kishkindha,” the gandharva told them. “Sugriva’s monkeys will help you.”
Then he vanished into the sky.