Ramayana

rama

1. Born to Dashratha,  King of Ayodhya
Rama, the eldest among four sons
cheerful, loved by all, and yet so humble
a great son to a great father was he.

2. Rama of Kausalya and Bharata of Kaikeyi
Lakshmana and Shatrughana of Sumitra
four pillars of strength to the King Dashratha
Ayodhya glowed with due resplendence.

3. In those days the earth was abound with
the rakshashas, the so called demons
who created fear wherever they roamed
in holy saints and mighty human kings.

4. Their king,  Ravana who ruled Lanka
with great warriors in his army
he had subdued even the devas
on account of boons got from Brahma.

5. With his son Indrajith, a  warrior
master of black magic and many astras
with his maya powers was unconquerable
even Indra got defeated by him.

6. Ravana had asked immunity from gods
the gandharvas and the yakshas
as boons from Brahma during his tapas
but not from man whom he thought puny.

7. Rama, of the solar dynasty, the race
had mighty kings Ikshavaku and Sagara
with Anshuman and Bhageeratha
the oceans and the Ganges we had.

8. One day, of Dashratha, was requested
services of Rama by the sage Vishwamitra
who himself was a great King, now a sage
master of every weapon, a Brahmarishi.

9. It was a thirst to rival Vasishta, the sage
that Vishwamitra became a Brahmarishi
the progress towards it contains a story
that fills pages with unraveled glory.

10. With Vishwamitra conducting a yagaa
let Rama be on guard for destroying
the rakshasas who defile the yaaga
as they shower unclean items on it.

11. Vishwamitra could destroy them
being a dignified sage, he less wished
merits to be wasted on curse or injury
though being master of every astra.

12. Dashratha not willing to let go of Rama
but with an unflinching Vishwamitra,
whose anger the world had known
was advised by preceptor Vasishta to let go.

13. The sage with Rama and Lakshmana
the princes by his side, as they walked
resembled a force, no evil could face
safeguard the ritual was the holy goal.

14. On the way, the sage, a great teacher
initiated the two princes with the astras
the use of weapons and how to recall
memorize and equip them for future.

15. After six days and nights, upon arrival
Maareecha was thrown to a long distance
and Subaahu killed on the spot with others
fruitful end of the yaaga and the rakshasas.

16. On the way back, the sage, all knowing
took the princes through the city of Mithila
ruled by the great King Janaka, a beloved
daughter Sita, a kind and beautiful soul.

17. The city of Mithila, ruled by Janaka
where Sita would wed a prince
who would lift and string the bow of Siva
a lot of suitors had come for her and failed.

18. Janaka was happy to see the Sage illustrious
with the two charming princes who glowed
by blessings of the sage and by royal birth
Happy he was, who wished Rama be a suitor.

19.  On that auspicious day, hinted by Janaka
Rama was to be shown the great bow
when Rama, lifted, strung and then bent it
joy broke out among all those, Sita included.

20. Sita garlanded Rama, her Lord for great years
messengers in haste to Ayodhya, with glad news
royal court so happy, with mothers waiting for
Rama who defeated the asuras and wed Sita.

21. When Dashratha decided to crown Rama
Kaikeyi coaxed him to change on bestowed vows
Rama be sent to the forest for 14 long years
let her son Bharata be anointed the crown.

22. When the news broke out, Rama was silent
it was important he followed his father wishes
with Sita and Lakshmana, both unrelenting
to stay back, while he roamed the forests alone.

23. That night when Rama left, the great King
Dashratha passed away and gloom descended
Bharatha not in town  not aware of happenings
when called for, he did best what he had in mind.

24. He and his retinue went on the look out
found Rama in the forest and pressed him
to return to his rightful place and crown
Rama remained firm, to honor his vow
to a great father who was now lost to him.

25. Bharata was to return and rule
the brother his mission failed assumed
the role of a caretaker by installing Rama
in his heart and his sandals on the crown.

26. The stay in Chitrakoota at first
then the dandaka forest, was spent well
initially in the company of sages
who welcomed them with all hearts.

27. The time of thirteen years had passed
the events had to change for the purpose
of Rama’s birth, the fall of Ravana
was initiated by the latter’s sister.

28. Soorpanakha, on seeing Rama
desired him to have as her husband
but Rama dodged her to Lakshmana
and the latter again sent her to Rama.

29. When she knew they were playing
becoming angry and rushed upon Sita
mutilated, she ran to her brothers
Khaara and Dooshana, stationed nearby.

30. Having related to them the happenings
her brothers came  with great numbers
Raama single handedly dealt with them
the death blow, causing great rage in Lanka.

31. Akampana a survivor reached Lanka
Ravana beset with rage not knowing
how dare a man cause such great havoc
the best way to punish him, he consulted.

32. Hearing Sita’s beauty from Soorpanakha
he decided to covet her, and kill Rama
but was advised by Mareecha not to proceed
but prevailed upon, they set together on a plan.

33. With a wily disguise, Mareecha as a deer
a golden beauty, the sight bewitching to Sita
imploring Rama to get it for her as a pet
Rama went after the deer for a distance.

34. Rama knowing the demon in deer shot him
when Mareecha regained his form he cried
his last act in the staged play, before he died
Mareecha cried out exactly in Rama’s voice.

35. As Rama’s voice in distress reached
confused Sita asked Lakshmana to go
who stood his ground, as per his duty
an angry Sita drove him away weeping.

36. When Lakshmana out of the scene,
Ravana stepped in a mendicant’s form
with respect, he introduced his greatness
when Sita angrily rebuked, he took her away.

37. When Rama saw Lakshmana, he feared greatly
they being tricked, hastily hurrying back
not seeing her at the hut, where could she be
was she playing a prank or did someone take her?

38. When Ravana sped fast in his puskpaka
he fought the opposing Jataayu, the aging eagle
Sita removed some of her jewels hastily
dropping them, to a group of monkeys below.

39. The brothers came upon poor Jataayu
in his last moments, who told what happened
before dying a brother who tried his best
failure, it does come even to the invincible.

40. On the way they came upon a Rakshasa
he was released from the curse, when killed
the divine being told them to seek Sugreeva
who would help them in their quest for Sita.

41. Vaali and Sugreeva, brothers of great power
once when an asura challenged Vaali to a duel
they fought for many days in a mountain cave
fearing Vaali had perished, Sugreeva blocked it

42. Sugreeva came back to be crowned king
when Vaali weary with fight came back
he drove Sugreeva out while keeping his wife
wasn’t Vaali resembling the like of Ravana?

43. Hanuman who was Sugreeva’s minister
a great communicator, he was his strength
when Rama and Lakshmana came looking
Hanuman was sent to know, if friend or foe.

44.  It was Sugreeva to whom Sita had dropped
the jewels when she saw the group of five
the only way was to restore to Sugreeva
his kingdom Kishkindha of wise monkeys.

45. It was difficult to kill Vaali face to face
with Indra’s necklace he could not be won
when Sugreeva and Vaali in a close duel
arrow from Rama killed Vaali from behind.

46. With Sugreeva back as Vanara chief
he decided to sent his people as scouts
in all directions, scores were sent out
the best headed south where Ravana flew.

47. With  Hanuman and Angada
the crown prince and Vaali’s son
with Jambavaan the king of bears
why wouldn’t the south group succeed?

48. Rama had full faith in Hanuman
gave his ring and a certain incident
so that Hanuman could be trusted
if he should be able to speak to Sita.

49. The search party arrived at the shore
the sea seemed a hurdle as it lay across
they saw Sampati, the aged eagle brother
told him about Jataayu and he about Lanka.

50. Lanka was at a distance of 100 yoganas
the vanaaras in the group when asked
some could jump 10, or even 50 not more
Angada could do one way but not two.

51. When Jaambavan reminded Hanuman
about his hidden prowess, the son of Vaayu
grew in stature and made a huge form
before making that leap of faith to far Lanka.

52. On the way he met a few friends and foes
but humble as he was, with great faith
he could well explain or swiftly destroy
as there was no time to talk or rest.

53. Landing as a small ape, he was startled
by the guardian goddess who slapped him
she was stunned when he slapped back
the fall of the city started as she vanished.

54. Hanuman went in search of mother Sita
he searched every palace, adorned by riches
where great men and women rested in peace
but not Sita in these places without any peace.

55. He came upon a calm, pleasant garden
was it Sita sitting, surrounded by women
guarding her fearfully, when he saw Ravana
walking to her and telling her to yield to him.

56. Hanuman in his tiny form, hidden in the tree
below where Sita sat, sang the praise of Rama
in a language, even great scholars could not
Sita having seen him, was still not convinced.

57. Hanuman then showed her Rama’s ring
and the incidents only known to them
consoled was she, now that they knew
her Lord would come to rescue her.

58. Hanuman decided to strike some terror
they should know about Rama, his army
he laid waste the garden which caused
the news about him, reported to Ravana.

59. Thinking it was some wicked monkey
he sent a few soldiers who were slain soon
then he sent a fierce warrior, Jambumali
who too was slain, causing discomfort.

60. Ravana then dispatched his son Aksha
a disciplined and formidable warrior
but he too was sent to the heavens
causing the great Indrajit to step in.

61. When all weapons of great strength
failed to effect Hanuman, the great son
of Ravana sent the Brahmastra
and bound by it, Hanuman lay motionless.

62. The rakshasas surrounded Hanuman
bound him by ropes and presented him
before the ten headed seated Ravana
the monkey will be shown his stature.

63. The brahmastra could not effect Hanuman
because of an earlier boon from Brahma himself
the tying of ropes on a person already bound
would diminish the effects of that great astra.

64. First counsel to Ravana was to kill the vanara
but Vibhishana, his brother a kindhearted soul
prevailed to spare the life of  naughty Hanuman
as per dharma, was it proper to kill a messenger?

65. Second counsel was to put fire to his tail
loads of cloth were brought and soaked in oil
bound to the tail which seemed to increase
the length but they lit it up not knowing him.

66. Before the happy rakshasas would know
the great servant of Rama shook his bonds
flew up into the sky and set fire to the palaces
all places he could think of to scare them.

67. He rushed to Sita, was she affected?
so glad to see her safe and sound
apprising her of what happened, assuring her
the army of Rama will appear soon to free her.

68. Hanuman, his mission accomplished
with acknowledgements from Sita received
he flew across the sea and patted the mountain
which rose to offer him rest, he while on a hurry.

69. Having landed in front of his friends
who were getting worried on his delay
he told them of of his visit in Lanka
joyfully they resumed back to Rama.

70. Rama mighty pleased to see Hanuman
to hear of his valorous deeds of crossing
and having seen his beloved wife Sita
sad of her plight told in far off Lanka.

71. Sugreeva gave orders to call all divisions
monkeys and bears came from all corners
the army of Sugreeva was a sight to behold
they marched southwards to the great sea.

72. The sea, a challenge to be tided over
for the mighty warriors to cross over
for not all could jump as Hanuman did
the need of the hour was a quick bridge.

73. Back in Lanka, Ravana held a call
on the damage done by Rama’s ape
how best we could destroy this army
Vibheeshana had a good solution.

74. Return Sita to Rama and fall
at his feet, don’t you know who he is?
this was not acceptable to Ravana
and he drove Vibeeshana out of Lanka.

75. The good souled cast off brother
surrendered to Rama, knowing him
though others were wary of acceptance
Rama crowned him as a future King.

76. Rama prayed to the sea god
to help him tide over the problem
the sea god appeared and said
he could only help maintain a bridge.

77. Why worry when you  among  have
Nala, son of the great Vishwakarma,
advised the sea god to Rama
he will be your architect to you
just as his father was to the gods.

78. The call was to bring stones and trees
great columns of these dropped
the sea held still on to these rocks
the army of soldiers built it fast.

79. The big army marched on the bridge
it was a matter of time before they reached
the shores of Lanka, a city waiting to fall
days before the war cry would sound.

80. Before the war was set to begin
Rama decided to give Ravana a last chance
he sent Angada the prince as a messenger
again the great lord of Lanka did not listen.

81. The war had begun with both armies
formidable, one with rocks and trees
the other with shields, arrows and clubs
blood flowed in torrents, a sight to behold.

82. Ravana sent Indrajith when he found
the balance uneven, who fired naga darts
that felled Rama and Lakshmana
to the bewilderment of the vanara army.

83. Soon Garuda the eagle king flew to the scene
seeing their sworn enemy, snake darts vanished
stroking the brothers now revived by his feathers
the great bird disappeared into the distance

84. With the war going at full swing
a lot of warriors falling on Ravana’s side
he ordered to wake up Kumbakarna
from his sleep, for he alone was enough.

85. With his deep sleep disturbed
the great giant brother of Ravana
enquired as to what had happened
knowing that Rama had arrived.

86. Not approving of  Ravana’s act
of having brought Sita to Lanka
he had gone off to sleep as his curse
for six months just before the war.

87. His sleep disturbed, Kumbakarna
duty bound now strode into battle
causing great havoc among the vanaras
Rama killed him before he could kill more.

88. Indrajith again dispatched this time
fired the Brahmaastra on the brothers
the great weapon, though did strike them
they fell in a swoon, but appeared dead.

89. The might vanara camp  became gloomy
to the glee of the losing Rakshasa army
Ravana in great joy ordered Sita to be shown
the plight of her lord grounded from the air.

90. Jambavaan sent for Hanuman
to fetch the sanjeevani herb  from north
that alone could rid the effects of the astra
restoring the princes to their original glory.

91. Hanuman took upon the task
no task appeared huge for him
only one thing mattered, his master
should come back to win this war.

92. He took some time to identify the herbs
failing, he picked up the whole hillock
with his hugh frame, flying back to Lanka
with the sanjeevani given, all was well.

93. With fresh hopes, the vanara army attacked
the gates of Lanka, and this time Indrajith
again had to come out as even Prahastha
Ravana’s commander in chief had perished.

94. Lakshmana riding on Hanuman shoulders
struck a duel with Indrajith, astra to astra
finally delivering the Indrastra on Indrajith
which struck him dead and Ravana in sorrow.

95. For Ravana, all these warriors now dead
who had acquired boons and master of weapons
who had defeated the gods was wonderstruck
as to whether Rama was Narayana himself.

96. With no one in the camp left, as a general
it was Ravana himself who marched out to battle
Vibeeshana pointing  out to Rama where he was
Rama thought, a great warrior but had to be slain.

97. A great battle ensued between the ten headed
and the vanara warriors, and chiefs combined
but Ravana the matchless warrior that he was
duly dispatched them back with sore injuries.

98. The two Lords,  warriors faced each other
one had acquired boons and absorbed sins
the other having the blessings of the blessed
the gods came out to see the great duel that day.

99. Darts flew from both Rama and Ravana
each astra was met by a matching astra
finally Ravana’s chariot was shattered
while he looked defeated, Rama sent him back.

100. The next day, with many ill omens
Ravana came out to face Rama once again
the battle took place for a long time
when Indra sent his chariot for Rama.

101. Standing in the godly chariot
Rama shone like the sun of the solar dynasty
his prowess unequalled sending shafts
that each time defied the ones Ravana sent.

102. Finally the time has come, may I
remind you, said the charioteer to Rama
of the Brahmastra that should be fired
when Rama with a sigh, applied the mantra.

103. The great astra flew and struck Ravana
and what a great fall that was
the invincible and unconquerable once
now fell lifeless to the ground heavily.

104. There was great jubilation
every person in the Ravana camp
was spared and treated very well
on orders from Rama and Vibeeshana.

105. Finally Sita was free and back with Rama
with Vibeeshana now made king of Lanka,
Rama along with his devoted wife and brother
flew to Ayodhya in the pushpaka vimana.

106. It is said that Sugreeva and Vibheeshana
with Hanuman accompanied the raghu princes
on the way to Ayodhya, with other vanaras
who played important roles in the war.

107. The vimana landed at an Ashrama
of Bharadwaja the sage for the night
before Hanuman could inform Bharata
who ruled Ayodhya from his ashrama.

108. Bharata mighty pleased meets Rama
on whose behalf he had ruled 14 long years
and returns the kingdom to the rightful king
thus ends the Ramayana signifying victory over evil.

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Work is Worship

For those who have followed me recently, am republishing this post written 3 years ago, a long one for the happy weekend read.

Harish had come to the city 3 decades ago and barring a small stint at a bakery in his early formative years, he became a rickshaw puller just like thousand others across the country. Over the years, as the country progressed, there came the cycle rickshaws followed by the auto rickshaws but like many others Harish would not move up the ladder and persisted with his manual one and never thought of changing cities and pitched his tent in Calcutta where he had arrived in the 70’s.

Harish was in his late sixties and his daily schedule would be to have to his breakfast which consisted of rice gruel and a banana and then he would disappear into the big bustling city crowd and would be spotted at locations taking his passengers usually one or two with their luggage in tow. Passengers rarely remembered him, as for them, he was a means of cheap transport to be quickly forgotten as soon as they landed at their destinations. It always invoked the curiosity of people who have had the time to observe people like Harish to wonder about the source of  energy to pull their passengers with just two hands to their destinations miles away on roads that sometimes sloped upwards and downwards.

rickshaw puller
Credits: The Sunday Tribune

Harish due to some thought ingrained in his childhood had never visited a temple or never thought about the gods in them and always wondered whether people did get the benefit of visiting them. He must have carried hundreds nay a thousand in his umpteen trips up and down to holy shrines spread across the city. It was rather a coincidence, a strange one at that, having carted or transported so many devotees, he had never visited or entered a shrine so far, though he knew the gods and goddesses by their pictures that were splashed across by the religious minded across the city walls and in the outer precincts of the temples.

Harish lived alone all these years except for this month when he got company. It was Nandhu, a boy of 8 years, whom he had rescued from the streets on a night trip. Nandhu seemed to be abandoned by his relations in the city or he appeared genuinely lost as he thought. By the look of the poor boy, he appeared to be from a very poor background and experience told Harish to keep him with him till he grew up in age to fend for himself.

It was already 7 pm and since Nandhu was down with fever in the hut for the last two days, Harish had him at the back of his mind all day when he was scouting for work in the sun and rain who played their parts to perfection all through the day. Today was a bad day and he had made barely 60 rupees. Without at least 70, he could not take Nandhu to the doctor who lived near their shanty house for medicines. Moreover he had to get some food for dinner for both of them. He had been roaming through the city but somehow luck eluded him today. It only dawned upon him now that he had skipped his lunch like so many other days in the past.

A light drizzle had started and Harish was hopeful that someone would hail him to escape it. As minutes ticked by, he knew he had to reach and get Nandhu to the doctor before 9 PM after which Sarmaji, the doctor would not see anybody. At his wits end, his legs impatient and his mind failing to control them, in despair he cried out to the Lord, whom he knew very feebly, for help and looked around desperately for that one passenger who could give him the last 30 rupees after which he could wind up work for the day. With his legs aching and stomach on a raging fire he wondered if he would ever reach home today.  The small shops in the lane, where he and his cart were at standstill, were downing their shutters as the shop keepers too sensed that it was high time and with the rain not helping, they least expected any one to turn up at their shops.  The sun having set an hour ago, it was quite dark except for the feeble street lights which were quite a distance apart.

It was at this point of time, a couple emerged with some baggage and asked him if he could take them to the Ram Temple which was at a mile’s distance. The couple appeared young and dressed neatly in nice clothes, Harish wondered if he could reach them to their destination in time. Moreover the road to the temple was bad and had a slight slope and it would require all his strength to pull them across it. It was that moment of time the couple asked, as if in one voice, how much he would charge them. Harish was in two minds. He did not want to scare them away as he desperately needed the 25 or 30 as he had calculated earlier and asked them for 25, which was very fair considering the time and the weather.

The couple hopped on to his carriage after a bit of bargaining and settling it at 20 rupees not withstanding Harish’s fervent pleas. After the price had been fixed it was left to Harish to show his experience to handle the cart and his passengers deftly as he pulled them slowly on to their destination. It took him a short and gasping run in the last 200 meters before he reached the temple just in time or so he thought. The couple got down and thanked him and he had to wait for the lady to count 20 coins and hand them to his outstretched hands. A lightening streak flashed, as she handed him the money, with the help of which he could see the charming couple’s faces. It seems they were newly married and had come to the temple as was the custom in those places on a Thursday. He saw them climbing up the stairs and entering the shrine.

The despair call to the Lord an hour ago had worked and Harish wondered if it really was because of the Lord’s blessings, he had gained this last trip. Since it was so late and he having made his wages for subsistence for the day, he thought of entering the temple for the first time in his life. He had a lot of doubts as he climbed each step. What if the Pujari or the temple priest would shout at him for coming in such shabby and torn clothes? Nevertheless he walked on and entered the temple. There was no one in sight and having gained courage with each step, he walked on to explore the inner precincts of the shrine. He came to different places of worship allocated to each god or a goddess at various places inside the shrine. All this time, he was looking around with fear and awe, as with time, he still could not see anyone in the temple. Holding on to the coins, he at last reached the sanctum sanctorum where he saw the main deity and his consort and immediately recognized them by their robes and faces as his passengers who had graced his rickshaw, a few minutes ago.

Tears ran down his eyes and he felt his life had met its purpose having transported the Lord and his Consort in his rickshaw to the temple. As he prostrated on the floor in front of the shining glory with folded hands, he took care lest the coins would fall away and was struck with surprise when he counted them later to be exactly 25 coins, the price that he had asked initially and that too shining gold coins…

Sun Stories

Ganga had come late to school today also. The teacher chided her for being late every now and then. She was late most of the days in a month, let alone some days when she was absent. The only municipal school that stood at the periphery of  the village had an assortment of pupils drawn from various walks of life from the village residents.

Little did the teacher know that Ganga’s day started at 4 in the morning. She had to supply milk from Lalchand Seth’s diary to around 25 households which used to get over by 5:30 and go to Ratan Seth’s house to wash and clean the dishes.
Today the teacher had had enough and decided to give the punishment to the little girl. As she stretched out our hands for the cane to land, the teacher’s eyes fell upon the marks on the hands. It was full of cuts and bruises. When asked what had happened, Ganga preferred to remain silent. She escaped the beating this time, but will have to sit outside the class for 2 hours as punishment. As she sat outside, her eyes fell on the chirping sparrows playing in the sand and the parrots flying to some far off land. If only, I was one among them, she wondered as she shielded her eyes from the hot Sun making his presence felt.

Bala is standing beside the road with an assortment of guavas and oranges. Like his elder brother Shiva he is also a bread winner for his family, berefit of their father, and with 2 more siblings and an ailing mother to support. Both of them are out all the time selling wares. In the case of Shiva he has a make shift stall outside the main market that he uses to sell bangles, beaded chains and all  such items.

Bala used to buy 5 kilos of guavas and oranges and walk another 2 kilometers to a vantage scenic spot on the highway so that he could sell them to people or tourists frequenting the place. There were lucky days, when before reaching the spot, his goods would have been sold on the road itself. Bala had gone to school till his 4th standard and after that what ever knowledge he had gained in the last 5 years was  from these very tourists; He had picked up a bit of few languages at least that came handy in negotiating during the purchase or the haggling saga. There were days when very few people picked his wares or gave him a decent money in return for them. Today was a hot summer day and there were not many  people who even cared to look at him, let alone his fruit basket.

Rakesh was enjoying his vacation as his summer holidays had started a few days back. He along with his family is on the way to Nasik and planned to visit places that they had skipped in their visit last year. On the way, they saw some tourists have disembarked from the magnificent vehicles to see an attractive waterfall.

They also stop to get down to take pictures, selfies with all backgrounds possible. At this time, a boy of 12 approaches them. “Saab, madam,   Peru, Santra lo na; yeh bahut sast hai, saab ” in a pleading voice (translation: Sir..please buy these fruits Peru(Guava) Santra(orange), these are very cheap). Rakesh looks at the boy aged same as him, he appears shabby and sun burnt. The boy is watching him with awe and wants him to negotiate the sale with his parents. No no, the father says, we have enough food and fruits stocked in our car, no point in buying from this boy, don’t even know from where he has plucked all these.

The large guavas, for Rakesh, seemed inviting as also the boy’s eyes but his pleas fell on deaf ears and he had to get into his car that was raring to go with his parents. But before getting in, he waved back to the dark boy with his basket of fruits who was still looking at him with one hand shielding himself from the afternoon Sun.

While speeding through, in the cool comfort of his Innova car, that was now negotiating a hump, his eyes fell on a girl sitting outside a small school veranda near to the road. Pointing to her, he nudges his father.  Why is she sitting outside father? He curiously asked. “Maybe she hasn’t done her homework before coming to school ” was the quick reply..” Put the blinds on son for the sun is really hitting us even through the tinted glass”.