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Ramayana (Summary)

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The Epic is traditionally divided into several major kāṇḍas or books, that deal chronologically with the major events in the life of Rama—Bāla Kāṇḍa, Ayodhya Kāṇḍa, Araṇya Kāṇḍa, Kishkindha Kāṇḍa, Sundara Kāṇḍa, Yuddha Kāṇḍa, and Uttara Kāṇḍa.[12] The Bala Kanda describes the birth of Rama, his childhood and marriage to Sita.[28] The Ayodhya Kanda describes the preparations for Rama's coronation and his exile into the forest.[28] The third part, Aranya Kanda, describes the forest life of Rama and the kidnapping of Sita by the demon king Ravana.[28] The fourth book, Kishkindha Kanda, describes the meeting of Hanuman with Rama, the destruction of the vanara king Vali and the coronation of his younger brother Sugriva to the throne of the kingdom of Kishkindha.[28] The fifth book is Sundara Kanda, which narrates the heroism of Hanuman, his flight to Lanka and meeting with Sita.[28] The sixth book, Yuddha Kanda, describes the battle between Rama's and Ravana's armies.[28] The last book, Uttara Kanda, describes the birth of Lava and Kusha to Sita, their coronation to the throne of Ayodhya, and Rama's final departure from the world.[28]

 Bala Kanda
The birth of the four sons of Dasharatha

Dasharatha was the king of Kosala, the capital of which was the city of Ayodhya. He had three queens: Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra. He was childless for a long time and, anxious to produce an heir, he performs a fire sacrifice known as Putra-Kameshti Yagya.[29] As a consequence, Rama is first born to Kausalya, Bharata is born to Kaikeyi, and Sumitra gives birth to twins named Lakshmana and Shatrughna.[30][31] These sons are endowed, to various degrees, with the essence of the God Vishnu; Vishnu had opted to be born into mortality in order to combat the demon Ravana, who was oppressing the Gods, and who could only be destroyed by a mortal.[32] The boys are reared as the princes of the realm, receiving instructions from the scriptures and in warfare. When Rama is 16 years old, the sage Vishwamitra comes to the court of Dasharatha in search of help against demons, who were disturbing sacrificial rites. He chooses Rama, who is followed by Lakshmana, his constant companion throughout the story. Rama and Lakshmana receive instructions and supernatural weapons from Vishwamitra, and proceed to destroy the demons.[33]

Janaka was the king of Mithila. One day, a female child was found in the field by the king in the deep furrow dug by his plough. Overwhelmed with joy, the king regarded the child as a "miraculous gift of God". The child was named Sita, the Sanskrit word for furrow.[34] Sita grew up to be a girl of unparalleled beauty and charm. When Sita was of marriageable age, the king decided to have a swayamvara which included a contest. The king was in possession of an immensely heavy bow, presented to him by the God Shiva: whoever could wield the bow could marry Sita. The sage Vishwamitra attends the swayamvara with Rama and Lakshmana. Only Rama wields the bow and breaks it. Marriages are arranged between the sons of Dasharatha and daughters, nieces of Janaka. The weddings are celebrated with great festivity at Mithila and the marriage party returns to Ayodhya.[33]

Ayodhya Kanda
Bharata asks for Rama's paduka-footwear

After Rama and Sita have been married for twelve years, Dasharatha who had grown old expresses his desire to crown Rama, to which the Kosala assembly and his subjects express their support.[35][36] On the eve of the great event, Kaikeyi—her jealousy aroused by Manthara, a wicked maidservant—claims two boons that Dasharatha had long ago granted her. Kaikeyi demands Rama to be exiled into wilderness for fourteen years, while the succession passes to her son Bharata. The heartbroken king, constrained by his rigid devotion to his given word, accedes to Kaikeyi's demands.[37] Rama accepts his father's reluctant decree with absolute submission and calm self-control which characterizes him throughout the story.[38] He is joined by Sita and Lakshmana. When he asks Sita not to follow him, she says, "the forest where you dwell is Ayodhya for me and Ayodhya without you is a veritable hell for me."[39] After Rama's departure, king Dasharatha, unable to bear the grief, passes away.[40] Meanwhile, Bharata who was on a visit to his maternal uncle, learns about the events in Ayodhya. Bharata refuses to profit from his mother's wicked scheming and visits Rama in the forest. He requests Rama to return and rule. But Rama, determined to carry out his father's orders to the letter, refuses to return before the period of exile. However, Bharata carries Rama's sandals, and keeps them on the throne, while he rules as Rama's regent.[37][40]

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