Aranya Kand 1 - Encounter with Viradha and Surpanakha
Rama traveled to the Dandakarnya forest with Sita and Lakshmana. They met the sages there and took their blessings. As they returned through the forests, they came across a grotesque-looking demon. The demon questioned Rama why he was carrying weapons and living with a woman while being dressed like an ascetic.
The demon Viradha then charged at them and seized Sita. Rama grieved that Sita had been touched by another. An angry Lakshmana then announced he would kill the demon. Viradha then asked who they were. After Rama told them who he was, Viradha said he was the son of Java and Shatahradha. He had a boon that he could not be killed or cut by any weapon. He asked Rama to forget Sita and save his life.
An angry Rama then shot arrows at Viradha, making him fall. The angry Viradha flung his huge spear at Rama, who broke the spear and cut off Viradha’s right arm. Lakshmana then cut off the demon’s left arm.
Viradha then told Rama that he was the Gandharva Tumburu born as a demon because of Kubera’s curse. Only Rama could free him from the curse. As per Viradha’s words, the brothers dug a pit and buried the demon in it, allowing him to die and be redeemed of the curse. Before dying, the demon told them to meet the sage Sharabhangha.
Meanwhile, Indra had visited sage Sharabhangha to ask him to remind Rama of his vow. Indra left without meeting Rama, saying he would meet Rama after he was victorious. The sage then told Rama to go and meet Suteekshna, and gave us his life before Rama and went to Brahma’s world.
Many sages then met Rama and told him of how rakshasas were harassing and killing sages in the forest. Promising to help them, Rama proceeded to meet sage Suteekshna. The sage told them to stay in these forests. He asked them to go to Agastya’s ashrama and meet the great sage.
Having first met Agastya’s brother, they then proceeded to meet the great sage. Agastya blessed them and gave them the powerful bow of Vishnu created by Vishwakarma, with two inexhaustible quivers. Along with the bow studded with gold and diamonds, the sage also gave them a sword. Agastya told them to proceed to Panchavati near the Godavari and reside there.
On the way, they met a huge eagle named Jatayu. The eagle told them he was Dasharatha’s friend and would protect Sita in their absence. Lakshmana then built a hermitage using pillars made from bamboo with leaves. The three of them stayed there enjoying the wonderful weather.
One day, they had a visitor. She was a rakshasi named Shurpanakha, the sister of the demon king Ravana. Shurpanakha asked Rama to marry her. Calling Sita deformed, Shurpanakha said she would eat Sita and Lakshmana, so Rama could marry her and roam with her in the entire Dandakaranya.
Rama smilingly told her that he was married and with his wife. He asked Shurpanakha to talk to Lakshmana, who did not have a wife. Shurpanakha then asked Lakshmana to marry her. He refused saying he was Rama’s servant. Lakshmana jokingly asked Surpanakha to marry Rama, and he would surely abandon the ugly Sita for her.
Not understanding his humour, Surpanakha attacked Sita, intending to kill her. An angry Rama then asked Lakshmana to disfigure the demoness to punish her for her act. Lakshmana then used his sword to cut off her nose and ears. Screaming in pain, Surpanakha rushed to the forest to complain to her brother, the terrible demon Khara.
….. to be continued