HIDDEN by the branches, Hanuman sang in a sweet and gentle voice the story of Rama so that it fell on Sita's ears:
"King Dasaratha ruled his kingdom well. His army was mighty and comprised of chariots, elephants and horses. He was virtuous and a doer of great deeds. He kept his word and was foremost among the famous kings of the world. He was equal to the rishis in virtue and to Indra in statesmanship. He hated no one and harmed no one. All his endeavors were crowned with success. Therefore men called him Satya-parakrama, truly valiant. The richest of the Ikshavaku race, a king of kings, the ruler of the world, he enjoyed and communicated happiness. The eldest of his four sons was Ramachandra, whose face was like the full moon. Wise, virtuous and a master of the bow, Rama was beloved of all. And he was full of kindness for all the people in the kingdom, a warrior wedded to dharma. He was the heir to the throne. And yet, to preserve the honor of his father, he left the kingdom with his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana and lived in the forest. There he vanquished the Rakshasas and protected the rishis. He destroyed Khara and Dushana and their mighty army. Coming to hear of this, Ravana, bent on revenge, induced a Rakshasa to assume the form of a deer and beguile the princes in pursuit and, in their absence, carried off Sita by force. Grief-struck Rama went in search of Sita. He met Sugriva, the Vanara, and made friends with him. Rama slew Vali, the Vanara king, and secured to his brother Sugriva the Vanara kingdom. And Sugriva sent his Vanara warriors to all the quarters of the globe to find out where Sita was. These Vanara warriors, who could assume what shape they would, searched the whole world for the missing Sita. Following a clue given by Sampati, I crossed the sea a hundred yojanas broad, and have come here. And now I see one whose form, complexion and qualities are those described to me by Rama as his royal spouse's."
Having said this, Hanuman paused.
These sweet words, uttered by some one from somewhere, filled Sita with wonder and delight. She looked around in all directions to discover who conveyed such sweet matter in so sweet a voice and in such exquisite language.
She looked round, and up and down but found no human form to match this perfect speech. She only saw a lovely little monkey seated on the branch above her. Sita saw the son of Vayu, the wise minister of the Vanara king, in the form of a little monkey, radiant like the rising sun.
The reader should imagine for himself the joy of Rama's messenger, as Sita's eyes fell on him. The reader who experiences this joy will find God in his heart. Narayana, who is waiting eagerly to enter and take possession of our hearts, would leave the great and boundless ocean of milk and come to dwell within us, when we cleanse ourselves of sinful thoughts.
Seeing Hanuman, Sita said to herself: "The words I heard the form I see, they cannot be real. I am only dreaming. One sees in one's dream what one is constantly brooding over. How often has my mind dwelt on the story of my Lord! Is it any wonder then that I seem to hear the tale as told by some one? It is not real. It is only a dream. They say that if one sees a monkey in a dream, it forebodes evil to one's kinsfolk. May God protect Rama from harm! May God keep all harm away from Lakshmana! May God bless all my kinsfolk in Mithila! No, no, this is no dream. My eyes are open and I see the same form still seated above me. There it is, clear and solid. No, this is no dream. And I am not asleep. How can one dream without sleeping? This is no dream. All this is real. Oh Gods! Could this indeed be a messenger from my dear Lord? Oh grant that it be so! Oh Vachaspati! Master of speech, I salute you. Oh Agni! I salute you. Oh Swayambhu! I salute you. Oh Gods! Protect me. May this be Rama's messenger!"
Hanuman, radiant with the joy of seeing Sita, descended to the ground and stood before her, palms joined and head bent in salutation.
And he said in a deep soothing voice: "Mother, tears are falling from your eyes like drops from lotus petals. May I know who you are, who stands there, leaning on the tree trunk, face clouded with sorrow and eyes wet with tears? Are you a goddess or a Naga maiden? The radiance of your body makes me question whether you could be of merely terrestrial birth! Are you Rohini separated for a while from the Moon-god? Or are you Arundhati parted from sage Vasishtha? No, on closer observation, you seem to be a human woman, maybe a princess adorable in your distress. Please tell me who indeed you are. May God bless you! Are you the princess Sita carried off by Ravana from Janasthana? Is mine the bliss of seeing Sita, the beloved of Rama?"
Sita was beside herself with joy. "My child," she said, "indeed I am Sita, daughter of the king of Videha and Sri Ramachandra's spouse. For twelve years I enjoyed all happiness with him in Ayodhya. In the thirteenth year, King Dasaratha made preparations to crown my husband. Then Kaikeyi, his youngest wife, reminded him of boons he had granted long ago, and demanded that in redemption of his word he should crown her son Bharata king, and exile Rama to the forest. She threatened to kill herself if this was not done. Bound by promise the king had to yield to her insistence. At his bidding Rama relinquished the crown and betook himself to the forest not only without regret, but happy that it was given to him to enable his father to keep his plighted word. I refused to be left behind and insisted on going with my lord into the forest. Even before me, Lakshmana had put on bark-garments, determined to accompany his brother to the forest and serve him. The three of us entered the forest and were living in Dandaka. One day the evil-hearted Ravana carried me off by force. And he has kept me a prisoner here in this Asoka garden. Of the time limit of twelve months he has set for me, only two more months remain. When they are over I shall end my life."
Thus spoke the helpless princess in her sorrow.
The speeches of Hanuman and of Janaki are sung by Valmiki in two brief chapters. As Hari appeared before the emperor Bali in the form of Vamana and measured the universe in two steps, so Valmiki has given the tale of Rama in a short recital by Hanuman and another by Sita. What greater joy can we have than reading Hanuman and Sita telling the divine story themselves? As Vamana got the better of Bali and saved him from his ahankara, may this tale of Rama as told by Hanuman and Sita rid us of the sense of 'I' and 'my'.
Sita concluded her story with the statement that two more months remained of the allotted twelve-month term and that her life would then end. To Sita overwhelmed by grief, Hanuman spoke words of comfort.
"O princess of Videha! Rama, the noblest of men and the mightiest of warriors has sent me to you with good news. His beloved brother Lakshmana, ever anxious for your welfare, sends through me his salutations to you."
"Ah! What happiness is mine!" she exclaimed. "I now see the truth of the common saying that so long as life lasts there is hope."
Thus between these two utter strangers a profound confidence and affection sprang up like the sudden blossoming of the Parijata in Indra's garden. Yet when, in his joyful eagerness to console and encourage Sita, Hanuman took a nearer step towards her, Sita lost the confidence inspired by his words and again grew suspicious.
She shut her eyes and moved away further from the tree. Hanuman, noticing this, withdrew respectfully and stood with hands clasped in obeisance.
"I have been deceived," she cried. "You are no other than Ravana. Once you came disguised as an ascetic and imposed on me. Now you have come again in another disguise and speak sweet words. All this will bring you no good. Why do you torture me, O Ravana? I am weary and full of sorrow. You call yourself a warrior. Is it a warrior's part to persecute a helpless woman?"
Then she opened her eyes and thought again, "No, no. This cannot be Ravana. Trust and friendship spring in my heart at the sight of him. He can be no enemy of mine. It is wrong to suspect him."
She addressed him saying: "O Vanara! Are you indeed a messenger sent by Rama? May God bless you. Tell me more concerning Rama. Let my ears hear and my heart rejoice."
Then once again doubts assailed her. "Am I a victim of delusion, imagining good news? Is this a dream that mocks me with the illusion of joy to make my despair blacker when I am awake? Am I in my right senses? Of course, I am. My thoughts, my words are all normal. I am sane and sensible. But then he says that he crossed the sea a hundred yojannas broad. No, no. This cannot be true. He is Ravana and none else." So she concluded in her mind and without lifting her eyes to look at Hanuman sat apart in silence.
Hanuman understood her doubts and fears. They were natural in one who had been deceived by the Rakshasa. He thought for a while and realised that the only approach to her confidence was to awaken hope and joy in her sorely tired heart by extolling Rama and harping on the certainty of her rescue and his victory.
And he began: "Rama has sent me. Rama is radiant like the Sun. Rama is pleasant to look at like the moon. Rama is praised by all the rulers of the earth. Rama is valiant like Vishnu. Rama is wise like Brihaspati. Rama is handsome like Manmatha the god of love. Rama's words are ever sweet and true. Rama's indignation is ever righteous and well directed. Rama is the peerless warrior. Rama has sent me. While a Rakshasa in the shape of a deer beguiled Rama and drew him away in the forest, you were left alone and Ravana carried you off by force. Soon he will pay dearly for this evil deed. You will see it with your own eyes. Soon the shafts of Rama and Lakshmana will strike Lanka and destroy it along with Ravana and all his race. At Rama's bidding have I come to you to learn about your safety which is his constant concern. On Lakshmana's behalf I place at your feet his respectful salutations. And so too homage from Sugriva, the Vanara king. Rama, Lakshmana and Sugriva are ever thinking of you. It is my good fortune to have seen you alive. Now there will be no more of loss of time. Soon Rama, Lakshmana and Sugriva, accompanied by the whole Vanara army, will descend on Lanka. I am Sugriva's minister. My name is Hanuman. I crossed the sea and reached Lanka. You may take it that my foot is already on the head of the evil-minded Ravana. By Rama's grace, even more than by my own prowess have I, his servant, crossed the sea to behold you. Do not suspect me. Have faith in my words, mother." So said Hanuman with tears in his eyes. These sweet words of Hanuman acting on her great love for Rama and confidence in him, put an end to Sita's fears and gave her courage and faith.
"Forgive my suspicion, O Vanara friend," she said. "Deceived by the Rakshasa and surrounded by his artifices, I am prone to needless fear. O friend and messenger of Rama! How did you first meet Rama? How did the Prince make friends with the Vanaras? Tell me all".
To confirm her faith, Hanuman recounted once again the virtues and attractive qualities of Rama and Lakshmana. He said: "What wonder is there in Rama becoming friends with me and my king and the Vanaras when the whole world lives and finds bliss by his loving kindness?"
He proceeded to describe fully how the quarrel arose between Vali and Sugriva, how the latter first met Rama and Lakshmana, how they became friends, how Rama promised to slay Vali and secure the Vanara kingdom for Sugriva, how the Vanaras had picked up and preserved the jewels dropped by Sita, how with mounting sorrow Rama recognised them, how Vali was slain and Sugriva crowned, how after the rainy sea son was over the Vanara hosts searched the whole world for Sita, how the party led by Angada and proceeding south having failed to find her, decided to fast to death, how they met Sampati and received a clue from him, how he, Hanuman, crossed the sea and searched the inner apartments of Ravana, all this he recounted.
At the end of the narration he placed in her hand Rama's signet ring that he had brought. Sita received the ring and pressed it to her eyes with joy. Now all fear of Ravana's deceit and Rakshasa magic was over. She had complete faith in Hanuman and infinite affection for him.
" My child!" she said, "how foolish was my error! How could I suspect one like you?"
The son of Vayu explained to her who he was and who his father was and what his own might was.
"Though I, who enjoy the grace of my father Vayu, should not sing my own praises, I do so now to end your sorrow. Soon the Vanara warriors will be here to destroy the Rakshasas and their kingdom. I must first return and tell them where you are."
And then he described Rama's desolation in being parted from Sita, and the ascetic life he led, and Sita's heart melted in loving sorrow. Sita forgot her own suffering thinking of Rama's grief.