TO SITA, plunged in a sea of sorrow and clinging to dharma and to the thought of her lord, Ravana spoke these words:
"O beautiful one! Why do you shrink from me? Do you not see how much I care for you? Though it is lawful for a Rakshasa to take another's wife and possess her by force, I am a beggar for your love. There is no need to fear me. I shall never touch you till your heart turns towards me. Do not be afraid. My one wish is that you should care for me as I do for you. You must accept me with affection. Why do you make your body a prey to unavailing sorrow? O beautiful one! There is none like you in loveliness, none in all the world. It is not right for you to reject beautiful jewels, and clothes, to sleep on the ground and leave your hair unkempt. O gem among women, do not thus waste your youth and beauty. Now you have come under my protection, you should lack nothing. All pleasures are suitors for your selection. I cannot take my eyes away from your face bright like the full moon. Wherever on your body I set my eyes, there they remain fixed and immovable. Why should one with so much beauty suffer so much sorrow? Accept me and enjoy all the pleasures of the world. I will conquer the world and give it to Janaka for your sake. What will I not do for you? You will be my sovereign consort. All the queens and women in the palace will be ruled by you. My wealth, my kingdom, all shall be yours to enjoy. Lanka and myself, why, the whole earth, shall belong to you. My strength and courage are known to the Devas and Asuras. Vanquished by me, they stand with bowed heads. With jewels and garments fit for you my handmaidens will adorn you. I long to see you splendidly decked. And you will be free to give away generous gifts in charity. Your authority will extend over all mankind. My subjects and kinsfolk will deem it a joy to serve you. Why do you waste your thoughts on wretched Rama, wandering in the forest? How can you love, how can you trust one who has been deprived of his rights and driven out of his kingdom and is roaming about clad in bark garments? What can this helpless fellow do? The Goddess of Wealth, she that presides over power and she who rules over success have all abandoned him, and you know it. It is even doubtful whether he is alive today. Anyhow, you may take it, he will never set eyes on you again, much less come near you. Like Garuda seizing a serpent, you have captivated my heart. I am unable to escape. Even in your present state, devoid of jewels or good clothes, you have drawn me away from my other wives. What can I do now? In my apartments are innumerable lovely women. But after seeing you, I can bear the sight of none of them. You will be Queen over all of them and receive their humble service. In what sense can Rama equal me? Do you not see that in severe austerities gone through, in strength, wealth and glory, in every way I am superior to him? Shake off your fear. We shall wander over the whole world, happy in each other's company. With me you will enjoy limitless wealth and pleasure. Life will be one continuous joy. O beautiful one, have pity on me. Let us sport together in the parks and groves by the sea. Only say 'yes'."
Thus Ravana uttered his impassioned appeal for love and pity. When Ravana had finished speaking, Sita plucked a little blade of grass and, placing it between them, laughed in derision and gently spoke:
"Ravana, lay aside all such vain thoughts concerning me. It is altogether improper for you to desire me. Turn your heart to your wives. Never can I agree to what you say. Think of the family I was born in. Think of the family I was married into. How can you ever hope to persuade me? Do not give room for such foolish and impossible desires and make sorrow for yourself!"
Then she turned her face away and continued:
"How can I become your wife, when I am the wife of another? Do not violate dharma. Do not tread the path of sin. Listen to me. Think how carefully you watch over your wives to keep them safe from the touch of others. Would not other husbands do the same by their wives? Remember other men are like you. Do not cast your eyes on another's wife. To be happy with your own is the way of true happiness. But if you allow your mind to dwell on another's wife, sorrow and dishonor will be your portion. Is there none in the world to advise you aright? Why do you do evil and bring destruction on yourself and on your people? When a king loses self-control, his kingdom and wealth will all be destroyed. Be sure, this Lanka and its great wealth will be utterly destroyed if you persist in your sin and the foes whom you have conquered and humiliated will rejoice. I have no use for the wealth and the pleasures that you promise. They do not tempt me. I have married Rama and I cannot take my mind and heart away from him. I, who held his hand, can never touch another, never. I am his, the prince's, entirely and forever. I belong to him, as the Veda belongs to one who has reverently mastered it. It is not right for anyone else to look on me with longing eyes. Listen to me who speaks for your good. Beg Rama humbly for forgiveness and escape from his anger. Do not go in search of your own ruin. Rama is generous and will surely forgive you if you seek his mercy. Seek forgiveness and safety. Do not seek death and destruction. There, I hear even now the twang of Rama's bow. You cannot escape. Yama stands very near, ready to carry you away. The arrows of Rama and Lakshmana will soon be here in Lanka and your city will be in flames. Did not Rama utterly destroy the Rakshasas at Janasthana? Did you not, knowing his strength, come like a thief to our hut, when Rama and Lakshmana were away, to steal me? Can you for a moment stand before them face to face? Can a dog approach a tiger? Will it not flee from the very scent? As the sun sucks up moisture from the wet earth, Rama and Lakshmana will drink your life. Will you run to hide yourself among the mountains? Will you try to escape under the sea? Even then, as at the appointed hour the tree is struck by lightning, so will you perish at their hands. You cannot escape."
Thus Sita ended with a stern warning. Ravana controlled his anger and spoke:
"O Sita, doting on this spurious ascetic Rama, you talk foolishly and repay my loving words with insult and contumely. Because of my love for you, I have refrained, else you would be dead by now. Of the time I had allowed you, two months more remain. Change your mind before they pass. Be my wife and come to my bed. If you refuse, you will be sent to my kitchen and cooked for my meal. Beware!"
It was well-known that the food of the Rakshasas included human flesh. Hence this threat of Ravana was no exaggeration, but conveyed a clear possibility. Yet Sita was unafraid, and answered:
"Alas! Alas! Is there none to give you good advice? Have you no friend to save you from this sin and put you on the path of virtue? You cannot escape Rama's punishment. Like a rabbit antagonising a wild elephant you have incurred the wrath of Rama. O wretch, who stole me in his absence, are you not ashamed? Your destruction is certain. Your evil fate has driven you to this act. And yet you are the brother of Kubera. You are famous as a warrior. You are the master of a complete four-limbed army. Why should you do this mean deed in this mean way?"
Ravana's eyes rolled in anger and he looked fiercely at Sita, hissing like a snake. Seeing his mounting anger, one of his young wives, Dhanyamali walked up to his side and, embracing him, said:
"King! Why do you vex yourself over this mean human creature who does not seem to care for you? She has not the good fortune to be your wife, that is all. And what is there so attractive about her? Why do you waste your thoughts on this puny creature? Come away. Let us enjoy ourselves."
She drew him away affectionately and the Rakshasa went with her, laughing.
Before he went, Ravana ordered the Rakshasis who guarded Sita to bring her round somehow, and with resounding steps left the Asoka park, followed by his retinue. As soon as he turned his back, the Rakshasis surrounded Sita.
The princess, who had been bold up till now, trembled when she looked at these ugly creatures that began speaking to her.
"When Ravana, scion of a noble family, a world-famous warrior, desires you," said one, "how can you refuse him, O foolish girl? Who do you think Ravana is? Know that he is a direct descendant of Brahma. He is the grandson of Pulastya Prajapati, son of Brahma, a hero who has won many battles and vanquished many foes. How foolish to slight him!"
"Let not pride ruin you," said another. "Ravana is the son of rishi Visravas. Do not think he is a nobody. Accept him and be happy."
"The king of the Rakshasas, who defeated in battle and put to flight the gods of heaven, invites you to be his wife," said another. "You must yield, poor girl, or you must die."
"Slighting all his other wives," said another, "Ravana wants you and promises to make you chief among his queens. Forsaking all his noble wives, the King, bewitched by your beauty, begs for your love and offers to make you first among his consorts. Why are you foolishly obstinate?"
"None in all the world can equal Lord Ravana," said another. "Good fortune comes seeking you and you spurn it. How foolish!"
"The Sun and the Wind gods are afraid of the Rakshasa king. And he comes seeking you and wants to make you his favorite wife! Do not let your pride betray you. Do not reject the fortune that comes to you unsought."
And another concluded: "We have given you good advice. We have done our best and we leave the rest to you. If you reject his offer, you must surely die."