Sunday, June 8, 2014

Reading Guide Week 2: Buck. Ramayana.

READING C (go to Reading D)

This portion of Buck's Ramayana covers pp. 110-161 (page numbers may vary by edition). This week include Hanuman's backstory, which is great stuff!

p. 110. Bharata returns.

Kaushalya wakes up and discovers that King Dasharatha is dead. Messengers are sent to Bharata, who is away at the house of his grandfather. When Bharata and Shatrughna return to Ayodhya, they are amazed to find it changed. Kaikeyi explains to Bharata that Dasharatha is dead and that Rama has been disinherited and sent into exile. Bharata is appalled by what his mother has done. The priest Vasishtha insists that Bharata become king as Dasharatha had ordered in obedience to Kaikeyi's request. Dasharatha is then cremated and his bones cast into the Sarayu river.

p. 119. Bharata follows Rama into the forest.

Bharata goes with a huge entourage, including the queens, to find Rama in the forest. The forest king Guha uses divination to ascertain that Bharata's intentions are good. Guha directs them to the hermitage of sage Bharadwaja. The celestial architect Vishwakarman creates a pleasing garden in Bharadwaja's hermitage. Bharadwaja greets the three queens and blesses Kaikeyi. He then directs them to go to Rama at Chitrakuta.

p. 129. Bharata finds Rama at Chitrakuta.

Rama learns from Bharata that Dasharatha is dead, but he nevertheless refuses to return to Ayodhya until the term of his exile is over. Bharata reluctantly agrees to rule in Rama's absence. He takes Rama's sandals back with him to sit on the throne in Rama's place until Rama returns.

p. 134. Atri.

Rama, Lakshmana and Sita visit the hermitage of Atri. Atri tells them the story of Mandakarni and the five Apsarases who live in the lake. Atri's wife Anasuya befriends Sita and gives her gifts.

p. 138. Agastya.

In the fourteenth summer of their exile, Rama, Lakshmana and Sita come to Agastya's hermitage. Agastya is famous for having lowered the height of the Vindhya hills. He is also the sage who put a stop to the two demon brothers Vatapi and Ilwala. Agastya gives Rama a better bow than the one he had before and warns him about the dangers of the Dandaka forest, which is south of the Vindhya hills. Ravana is master of Dandaka, and Khara commands the demon armies of the forest.

p. 143. The Valakhilyas.

As Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana enter the forest, the tiny Valakhilyas describe the terrible deeds of the rakshasas. The Valakhilyas ask Rama to go to war with the rakshasas, but Sita tries to dissuade Rama from doing this. Rama then tells Sita the story of the Valakhilyas and how Indra scorned them because they were so small.

p. 146. Vinata and Kadru.

With the help of the Valakhilyas, the wives of the sage Kashyapa were able to conceive children. Kadru produced one thousand offspring who were nagas, while Vinata had only two children: Aruna, who became the sun's charioteer, and Garuda, who was the king of birds. Kadru challenged Vinata to a bet about the color of the horse Uchchaihshravas and used a trick to win the bet. Because she lost the bet, Vinata became Kadru's slave. Garuda wanted to ransom his mother, and Kadru demanded that Garuda supply amrita for her and her children to drink. Garuda managed to get the amrita from Indra's heaven, but he also helped Indra to be able to steal the amrita back after he successfully ransomed his mother.

p. 155. The demon Viradha.

As Rama tells this story to Sita, the demon Viradha abducts her. Rama and Lakshmana take off in pursuit and finally manage to kill the demon. Viradha reveals himself to actually be a gandharva named Tumburu. Tumburu had been cursed to live as a demon and was only freed when his demon life was brought to an end by Rama. Tumburu flies up to heaven where he finds Chitraratha, the gandharva king.

p. 156. Shurpanakha.

Lakshmana builds a house for them to live in at Panchavati. There they are visited by Shurpanakha, Ravana's sister, who proposes marriage to Rama. Rama rejects her offer, and Shurpanakha attacks Sita. Lakshmana stops Shurpanakha and mutilates her. She runs away to Khara, who is enraged by what has happened to Ravana's sister. The rakshasas launch an attack against Rama. Rama and Lakshmana completely defeat the rakshasa army. Shurpanakha goes to Ravana in Lanka and tells him what has happened in the Dandaka forest. She tells Ravana that Sita is more beautiful than any of his wives, and Ravana decides he must have Sita for himself. In order to get help in capturing Sita, Ravana goes to visit his uncle Maricha, who had survived an earlier battle with Rama years ago.

READING D (go to Reading C)

This portion of Buck's Ramayana covers pp. 162-218 (page numbers may vary by edition).

p. 162. The golden deer.

Maricha tries to persuade Ravana to leave Sita and Rama alone, but he finally relents and flies with Ravana to Panchavati. Maricha appears as a beautiful golden deer and, at Sita's insistence, Rama chases the deer. When Rama kills the deer, Maricha cries out for help in Rama's voice. Sita is terrified and Lakshmana, reluctantly, goes to investigate. Ravana then comes to Sita, disguised as an old man.

p. 169. The abduction of Sita.

Sita welcomes the old man, and he praises her beauty. Ravana then reveals his true form to Sita and carries her off against her will. Jatayu fights with Ravana, but in the end Ravana is able to chop off Jatayu's wings and, fatally wounded, he falls to the ground. Ravana heads south, taking Sita with him. As they fly away, Sita sees two monkeys on the ground and lets her jewelry fall where they can find it.

p. 176. Sita in Lanka.

Ravana holds Sita captive in Lanka. Indra brings food to Sita and tells her the story of why Ravana cannot simply rape her. The sage Vishwamitra had turned the apsarasa Rambha to stone, and the yakshas had carried her off to the Treasure Lord, Vaishravana, thinking she was a statue. Rambha returned to life and fell in love with Nalakubara, the son of Vaishravana. Meanwhile, Ravana had decided to acquire all kinds of wives, and he wanted to have an apsarasa. He saw Rambha and raped her. When Nalakubara heard what Ravana had done, he put a curse on Ravana: if he ever raped a woman again, his heads would explode. This was why Ravana had not simply raped Sita. Instead of taking her by force, he needs to persuade her to give in to him, as all the other women did, except for Rambha.

p. 181. Savari (Shavari, Shabari).

When Rama and Lakshmana get back from chasing the deer, Sita is already gone. Just before he dies, Jatayu tells them that he saw Sita being abducted by Ravana. Rama and Lakshmana head south and come to the hermitage of the sage Matanga. Matanga is dead, but Savari still lives there. She tells Rama and Lakshmana that she saw Ravana taking Sita away, and she also tells them about the monkey brothers, Vali and Sugriva, and about Sugriva's friend, the monkey Hanuman.

p. 184. Hanuman.

Savari then tells Rama and Lakshmana how Riksharaja, the first monkey, was created. This first monkey lived both as a male monkey and as a female. In female form, she gave birth to two monkeys: Vali, whose father was Indra, and Sugriva, whose father was Surya, the sun god. She then asked Vayu, the wind god, to father a child who would be a friend to Sugriva. Vayu chose Anjana, who gave birth to Hanuman but then abandoned her baby. When Hanuman saw the sun, he reached out for it, thinking it was a mango.

Vayu prevented him from being burned by the sun. Baby Hanuman thought that Rahu was a mango and tried to bite him, and he also attacked Indra and his elephant vehicle, Airavata. Indra hurled him to the ground and broke his jaw. The wind stopped blowing to take care of Hanuman. Brahma granted Hanuman eternal life, and Surya brought him mangoes. In this way, the wind was placated and agreed to blow, so the world was able to breathe again.

p. 189. Vali.

Vali was irascible and liked to fight. The buffalo demon Dundhuvi challenged Vali to a fight. Vali killed the buffalo demon and hurled its corpse towards Rishyamuka hill where it polluted the sacrificial altar of the sage Matanga. Matanga cursed Vali so that he could never approach this hill again. Dundhuvi's son Mayavi wanted to avenge his father's death and challenged Vali to a fight. Vali chased Mayavi into a cave and told Sugriva to wait outside. Sugriva waited, but he finally concluded Vali was dead and sealed the cave. When Vali finally emerged from the cave, he was furious at Sugriva and sent him into exile from the monkey kingdom, keeping Sugriva's wife Ruma prisoner. Sugriva fled with Hanuman to the hill for safety since Vali could not follow him there. Savari urges Rama and Lakshmana to befriend Sugriva. After telling all this to Rama and Lakshmana, she then steps into her own funeral pyre. As she is dying, Indra comes down in his chariot and bears her away to heaven.

p. 199. The death of Vali.

Hanuman brings Rama and Lakshmana to Sugriva, who shows them Sita's jewelry. Assured of Rama's help, Sugriva challenges Vali to a fight. Vali's wife Tara urges him to be careful, but Vali dismisses her concerns. As Sugriva and Vali are fighting, Rama shoots Vali with an arrow and kills him. Before he dies, Vali tells his son Angada to help Rama. The grieving Tara plunges Rama's arrow into her heart and dies. Sugriva becomes king and promises to begin the search for Sita as soon as the rainy season is over. Rama and Lakshmana wait out the rainy season in a forest cave.

p. 202. The expeditions.

At the end of the rainy season, Sugriva does not arrive with help. Rama sends Lakshmana to investigate, and he finds Sugriva drunk. Hanuman tells Sugriva to bow down to Lakshmana and beg forgiveness. Sugriva then amasses an army of monkeys and bears to go looking for traces of Sita. Forces set out in each direction, with orders to return in a month with news. Angada is in command of the force heading south, including Hanuman and Jambavan, the king of the bears. Rama and Lakshmana wait with Sugriva for news. Rama gives Hanuman his ring as a token to show to Sita if and when he finds her.

p. 213. The expedition to the south.

Angada, Hanuman, and Jambavan head south with their troops. They discover a cave which leads them to an underground world inhabited by a woman named Swayamprabha. She explains that the underground world was built by the asura Maya, whose consort was Hema the apsarasa. Swayamprabha helps Angada and the monkeys and bears to get out of the cave and return to the world aboveground. When they emerge into the light, they see that a month has gone by. Angada is in despair because they seem to have failed in their mission. He then enters into meditation and prepares to die, but Hanuman and Jambavan refuse to give up.

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