Sunday, June 8, 2014

Reading Guide Week 4: Buck. Ramayana.

READING G (go to Reading H)

This portion of Buck's Ramayana covers pp. 325-373 (page numbers may vary by edition). Buck goes on to include the "Uttara Kanda," the final book of Valmiki's Ramayana when Rama sends Sita into exile at the moment when she is pregnant with their twin sons, and you also learn about the end of Lakshmana's and Rama's lives on this earth.

p. 326. Malyavan and Shiva.

Malyavan goes to Trikuta Hill where he meets Shiva. Long ago, Shiva had rescued the abandoned baby Sukesa, Malyavan's father. Shiva takes Malyavan away from the coming battle in Lanka.

p. 329. Battling demons. 

Jambavan is ruthless in fighting the demons. The demon magicians Lightning Tongue and Thunder Tooth try to stop Jambavan, but they are killed by Hanuman and Sugriva. Shuka tells Ravana about the feeling of despair felt throughout Lanka. Ravana sends Shuka with a message to Rama. Mandodari tells Ravana she loves him.

p. 334 Ravana prepares. 

Ravana dances under the stars and causes a wind storm. Time (Kala) comes to Ravana and threatens him, but Ravana scoffs at Time. Ravana, with his many hands, needs no charioteer. Rama has the divine Matali as his charioteer, sent to him by Indra.

p. 342 The final battle. 

Rama cuts off Ravana's heads but they grow back. The warriors use weapons, mantras, and astras. A blow of Ravana's mace knocks Matali from the chariot, but Rama is able to revive him. Rama and Ravana then face each other on foot. Ravana manifests himself as Indra, which paralyzes Rama, but Matali sees through the disguise. Rama slays Ravana.

p. 349. Ravana is dead. 

After Ravana's death, Shuka arrives with the letter from Ravana to Rama (this something that Buck has invented for his version of the story; it is not in Valmiki's Ramayana — so here Buck is doing his own twist on the story, much as you do each week in your storytelling). Ravana addresses Rama as Vishnu (Narayana) and urges him to take Sita back. Rama sends Hanuman to tell Sita about the victory. Vibhishana makes plans for Ravana's funeral, and Rama makes Vibhishana king of Lanka. Mandodari weeps when she sees Ravana's corpse, and her father Maya the asura consoles her.

p. 361. Sita.

Hanuman finds Sita dressed in royal garments. He brings her the jewelry she had been given by Guha and by Anasuya. Rama orders Vibhishana to bring Sita in to the assembly. The fire god Agni appears by Sita and demonstrates her innocence. Sita puts Rama's ring on his finger (this is the ring Hanuman had brought to her as a token of Rama).

p. 367 Leaving Lanka. 

Vibhishana shows Hanuman a secret room filled with precious goods, putting great trust in Hanuman. From Vibhishana, Hanuman learns the Mantras of Compassion which restore life. The end of his exile is near, and Rama must return home in time to save Bharata from his vow to kill himself if Rama did not return at the designated time. Vibhishana offers Rama the use of Pushpaka for his return journey home. Vibhishana decides to attend Rama's coronation, as do Hanuman and Jambavan. Millions of monkeys and bears fly with them towards in the Pushpaka chariot.

READING H (go to Reading G)

This portion of Buck's Ramayana covers pp. 374-432 (page numbers may vary by edition).

p. 374. Journey to Ayodhya.

Flying on the Pushpaka chariot, Rama goes first to Kishkindha and then to Bharadwaja's hermitage. Along the way Rama shows Sita where he first met Hanuman and where they burned Jatayu's body. Rama sends Hanuman ahead to announce their arrival to Bharata, and Hanuman finds Bharata at Nandigram. Bharata weeps tears of joy at hearing news of Rama.

p. 383. Coronation.

When Rama arrives, Bharata ties his sandals back on his feet. Plans for the coronation begin. Sugriva sends Hanuman to collect water from all the world's rivers as a gift for Rama. Manthara comes to Sita to ask for forgiveness. Rama gives many presents to Sugriva, and Sita gives her pearl necklace to Hanuman. Vibhishana and Sugriva then return to their homes, and Rama sends the Pushpaka back to Vaishravana on Mount Kailasa.

p. 390. Sita abandoned. 

After almost 10,000 years, Sita becomes pregnant and wants to pay a visit to the Ganges. Rama learns that people are gossiping about Sita and how he took her back into his house even though she had lived with Ravana. When Rama hears the gossip, he summons Lakshmana and tells him that he must go with Sumantra to take Sita to the Ganges and abandon her there. Lakshmana is upset but cannot disobey Rama's order. Vibhishana realizes Sita is in danger and goes to Narada to get his help in making sure that Valmiki will rescue Sita.

p. 394. Sumantra's story. 

Sumantra believes that Sita's banishment is a result of karma. As young men, Sumantra and Dasharatha fought against the asuras of drought, and both Jatayu and Indra helped Dasharatha in his battle against the drought demons, while Princess Kaikeyi was Dasharatha's charioteer in the war with the drought demons. Aja, Dasharatha's father, was king during the time of the war with the drought demons. When Dasharatha was wounded, Kaikeyi took care of him, which is when he granted her the boons she would later use to banish Rama. Finally, Vishnu arrived on Garuda to defeat the drought-demons. The demons sought refuge from Vishnu with an old brahmin and his wife, surrendering to their protection in the name of King Aja. Vishnu was enraged. He killed the brahmin's wife and beheaded the demons. King Aja was furious at what Vishnu had done, and the royal priest, Vasishtha, cursed Vishnu to be born on earth and to be parted from his wife. Sumantra believes Sita's banishment is a fulfillment of that curse.

p. 399. Sita and Valmiki. 

Lakshmana and Sumantra leave Sita on the shore of the Ganges. The Ganges speaks to Sita, inviting her to plunge into the river's waters. Valmiki then comes to Sita all covered with dust from the anthill and takes her into his hermitage. Sita gives birth to her two sons, Kusha and Lava, in Valmiki's hermitage.

p. 401. The festival. 

Rama plans a great public festival in the Naimisha forest. He invites Janaka, Sita's father, to the festival, along with all his old friends. Shatrughna goes to Valmiki's hermitage to invite him to the festival, not knowing that Sita lives there. He hears Kusha and Lava singing the song of the Ramayana as they practice for the festival. After one month, the festival grounds are ready and everyone assembles there. In Sita's place, Rama keeps a golden statue of her. Valmiki tells Kusha and Lava to sing a part of the Ramayana each day. The festival lasts for a year, and every day the people are enchanted by the singing of Kusha and Lava. Rama realizes that the two boys are his sons, and Valmiki explains that Sita has been living there in his hermitage for twelve years.

p. 412. Sita.

Sita comes to Rama and requests permission to prove her innocence. Sita then asks her mother the Earth (Bhumi) to receive her if she had been faithful to Rama. When Sita swears her oath, four great nagas emerge from the ground, and Mother Earth arises on a throne. She looks at Janaka, her husband, and smiles. She then takes Sita on her lap, and they vanish below the ground. Rama rules for a thousand years more after Sita's disappearance under the ground.

p. 419. Rama's meeting with Time. 

Time (Kala) comes to Ayodhya dressed as a hermit. He requests a private meeting with Rama; anyone who disturbs them will die. Durvasa the hermit arrives after a long fast, demanding to see Rama immediately. He threatens to destroy all of Rama's kingdom if he cannot see Rama right away. Lakshmana breaks into the meeting of Rama and Time, and so he must die. Lakshmana goes to the Sarayu river, where he leaves this earthly existence behind.

p. 423. The end. 

As Rama leaves Ayodhya for the last time, Lakshmi and Earth walk alongside him. Vibhishana is immortal, so he cannot accompany Rama in the end. Sugriva gives Kishkindha to Angada so he can accompany Rama. Jambavan and Hanuman do not go with Rama, so they remain on the earth as long as the story of the Ramayana is told. In parting, Rama gives a golden bracelet to Hanuman, but Hanuman says the bracelet is worthless because it does not bear Rama's name. He rips open his flesh and shows that his own bones have the name of Rama written upon them. Rama seals Hanuman's flesh and gives him the ring which bears his name, the same ring which Hanuman had taken as Rama's token when he sought Sita in Lanka. Rama goes to the Sarayu river and jumps in, followed by his friends and devoted followers. Chitraratha, the Gandharva king, waits by the gate of heaven as the souls ascend upward from the earth.

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