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Many of these forests had sages living in them. Many more had demons in them, destroying everything and at times even disrupting the lives of the sages. Dandakaranya was one such forest.
When Rama, Sita and Lakshmana entered this forest, the Rishis welcomed them, offered them fruits and nuts. A thatched hut was specially erected for them. Happy and contented, Rama decided to spend the night there.
All of a sudden, a very ugly creature appeared before him. It had
the body of a demon with huge, bulging eyes and a big mouth. It’s stomach was a big mound. This demon was Viradha. He had a Trishul in one band with which he used to pierce and carry animals. Viradha was a terror to the Rishis. He had been granted a boon by Brahma that no weapon would kill him.
As soon as Viradha saw the beautiful Sita, he grabbed her and wanted to marry her. Enraged, Rama used a sharp arrow on him. Though the arrow was powerful it could not kill Viradha, but only caused him severe injuries. Viradha put down Sita and fought with Rama. Rama and Lakshmana used their weapons and 111j ured Viradha’s body. Viradha could i lot be defeated. Soon he tucked Rama and Lakshmana under his arms and started running. At once Rama and Lakshmana chopped off his arms.
Viradha fell to the ground. Lakshmana broke all his bones. Still he did not die. Finally, Rama and Lakshmana dug a pit and buried Viradha. They covered the pit with huge boulders.
Rama, Sita and Lakshmana continued their journey through the forest and reached Panchavati. It was a lovely spot and Sita liked it very much. So, on Rama’s instructions, Lakshmana built a hut. Nearby flowed the river Godhavari. Flowers bloomed everywhere and their fragrance filled the air. The three of them lived peacefully there.
One day a demoness by name Surpanakha passed by. She saw Rama and Lakshmana talking to each other. The handsome Rama caught her attention and she fell in love with him. Surpanakha was ugly and hideous. She had rough, red hair. Her body was massive with a huge tummy. Her eyes were red and evil looking. Her voice was so powerful that the whole forest seemed to vibrate whenever she opened her mouth.
She went straight to Rama and asked him, “Who are you?” Rama replied that he was the son of Dasharatha and he then asked her who she was.
Laughing hoarsely, she said, “I am Surpanakha. I am the only sister of king Ravana of Lanka. Kumbakarna and Vibhishana are my brothers. The mighty Khara and Dushana are also my brothers. Rama, I am desirous of you. I have never seen anyone so handsome. Marry me. Be my husband.” She paused for a moment and said, “Please don’t think I am ugly.
I can turn myself into a beautiful girl. I can make you very happy.”
Rama smiled and replied, “Surpanakha, I am already married. Do you see the beautiful lady over there? She is my wife Sita. As I told you earlier, this is my brother Lakshmana. He is also married but has left his wife behind. I suggest you propose to him.”
Surpanakha thought it to be a good idea and went to Lakshmana and said, “O Lakshmana, did you hear about what your brother said? Come, let us get married and lead a happy life.” Lakshmana said jokingly, “My dear lady, I am a humble servant of Rama. If you marry me, you will have to be a maid here. Rama will be a king in a few years. It’s best if you marry him. You can then be the queen.”
Surpanakha pestered Rama again,
Kama, marry me. Otherwise I will cobble up Sita and then force you to marry me.” Rama refused. The angry Surpanakha tried to attack Sita, but Lakshmana quickly drew out his word and cut off her ears and nose.
Screaming with pain and rage,
Surpanakha ran to her brother Khara and told him about how Rama and Lakshmana ill-treated her. “I want to drink Sita’s blood. I also want the severed heads of Rama and Lakshmana. My dear brother, please fulfill my wish,” she said.
Khara, who was infuriated on seeing the condition of his dear sister, ordered fourteen of his fellow-demons to kill Rama and Lakshmana. But Rama knocked them down. Within moments, all of them were dead.
Khara then took a large army of Rakshasas with him and promised his sister that he would gift her Rama’s head. Each of the Rakshasas of the army charged menacingly towards Rama. Rama fought against them single-handed while Lakshmana stood guard near Sita. Rama destroyed the entire army and soon killed Khara and
Dushana also. The Rishis and the Suras who were watching this battle showered petals on Rama and hailed his victory over the demons. They were grateful to Rama for bringing peace to Dandakaranya.
Sita and Lakshmana were very happy that Rama fought valiantly against the powerful Khara and I lushana.
Surpanakha who also witnessed the mighty power of Rama fled to I ianka. When she reached the court of Ravana, he was conducting a meeting with his ministers about an important matter relating to Lanka. Surpanakha entered the court in a dramatic way, crying loudly and I tying to cover her gaping nose with her hand. Ravana was horrified to ;ee his sister in such a condition. Even before he could say anything,
Surpanaka burst out, “Ravana, my brother! All the Rakshasas have been killed. Khara and Dushana are dead. And imagine! Just one human being is responsible for all this disaster. A man by name Rama has killed fourteen thousand Rakshasas and also Khara and Dushana. Rama is not ordinary person. When he uses his arrows, it appears as though there is a rain of arrows. And here you are leading a life of luxury, not caring, about your brothers who died at the hands of Rama.”
“But dear sister, who caused you all these injuries and why?” asked, Ravana.
“Dear brother, Rama has a very lovely wife called Sita. I wanted to bring her to you as a gift. Rama got angry and ordered his brother Lakshmana to chop off my nose and ears,” lied Surpanakha.
“Just to please me, you faced such danger, is it?” asked Ravana.
“Yes, even our brothers Khara and Dushana and a great number of Rakshasas sacrificed their lives to bring you the lovely Sita.”
Surpanakha continued to provoke Havana’s anger, “Brother, you are so strong and mighty. Kidnap Sita and keep her with you. Only then can you take revenge against Rama for his misdeeds.”
Ravana, who had attended Sita’s Swayamvar, had not forgotten her immense beauty. Nor had he forgotten how Rama had won her hand I >y humiliating all the other kings and princes. His wicked mind urged him not to lose this chance to take revenge. So he thought of a plan to kidnap Sita.
The next morning Ravana flew in his Pushpak Viman and reached the
home of Maricha, Taraka’s son. He described to Maricha the way in which Surpanakha was disfigured and how Khara and Dushana met a cruel death. “I have to take revenge against Rama. Only then will my brothers find peace in heaven. That’s why I want to separate Sita and Rama,” said Ravana.
Maricha who had earlier faced Rama’s arrows, trembled with fear just at the mention of his name. “Ravana, you are ill-advised. Carrying away Sita is to carry death with you. Sita is another man’s wife. Give up such wicked thoughts and go back to Lanka,” advised Maricha.
Ravana would not listen to Maricha. * He insisted on Maricha’s help and then explained his plan, “Maricha, if you are so afraid of Rama’s arrows, you need not face him at all.
You have magical powers and can turn yourself into any other form. All that I ask of you is to turn yourself into a beautiful golden deer and roam in front of Sita’s hut. Sita will definitely want you. So she will ask Rama and Lakshmana to catch you. When they try to chase you, you can run fast and l ake them away from Panchavati. With none to protect her, Sita can be rosily kidnapped. And unable to bear I lie separation, Rama will die.”
Maricha once again told Ravana, “0 king! You already have so many beautiful wives. Do not lust for Sita. She will be the cause of your death md destruction of Lanka.”
“Ha… Ha laughed Ravana
scornfully. “How can an ordinary man like Rama cause my death? I live beyond the ocean and he cannot even irach me there.”
“I am warning you Maricha,” he continued. “If you do not help me in this plan, I will kill you at this very spot.” Maricha knew that either way he would be killed. He preferred to die at Rama’s hands and so agreed to Ravana’s plans. Ravana took him in his Pushpak Viman and dropped him near Panchavati.