The Rámáyan ends, epically complete, with the triumphant return of Ráma and his rescued queen to Ayodhyá and his consecration and coronation in the capital of his forefathers. Even if the story were not complete, the conclusion of the last Canto of the sixth Book, evidently the work of a later hand than Válmíki's, which speaks of Ráma's glorious and happy reign and promises blessings to those who read and hear the Rámáyan, would be sufficient to show that, when these verses were added, the poem was considered to be finished. The Uttarakánda or Last Book is merely an appendix or a supplement and relates only events antecedent and subsequent to those described in the original poem. Indian scholars however, led by reverential love of tradition, unanimously ascribe this Last Book to Válmíki, and regard it as part of the Rámáyan.
Signor Gorresio has published an excellent translation of the Uttarakánda, in Italian prose, from the recension current in Bengal;(1030) and Mr. Muir has epitomized a portion of the book in the Appendix to the Fourth Part of his Sanskrit Texts (1862). From these scholars I borrow freely in the following pages, and give them my hearty thanks for saving me much wearisome labour.
"After Ráma had returned to Ayodhyá and taken possession of the throne, the rishis [saints] assembled to greet him, and Agastya, in answer to his questions recounted many particulars regarding his old enemies. In the Krita Yuga (or Golden Age) the austere and pious Brahman rishi Pulastya, a son of Brahmá, being teased with the visits of different damsels, proclaimed that any one of them whom he again saw near his hermitage should become pregnant. This had not been heard by the daughter of the royal rishi Trinavindu, who one day came into Pulastya's neighbourhood, and her pregnancy was the result (Sect. 2, vv. 14 ff.). After her return home, her father, seeing her condition, took her to Pulastya, who accepted her as his wife, and she bore a son who received the name of Visravas. This son was, like his father, an austere and religious sage. He married the daughter of the muni Bharadvája, who bore him a son to whom Brahmá gave the name of Vaisravan-Kuvera (Sect. 3, vv. 1 ff.). He performed austerities for thousands of years, when he obtained from Brahmá as a boon that he should be one of the guardians of the world (along with Indra, Varuna, and Yáma) and the god of riches. He afterwards consulted his father Visravas about an abode, and at his suggestion took possession of the city of Lanká, which had formerly been built by Visvakarmán for the Rákshasas, but had been abandoned by them through fear of Vishnu, and was at that time unoccupied. Ráma then (Sect. 4) says he is surprised to hear that Lanká had formerly belonged to the Rákshasas, as he had always understood that they were the descendants of Pulastya, and now he learns that they had also another origin. He therefore asks who was their ancestor, and what fault they had committed that they were chased away by Vishnu. Agastya replies that when Brahmá created the waters, he formed certain beings,--some of whom received the name of Rákshasas,--to guard them. The first Rákshasas kings were Heti and Praheti. Heti married a sister of Kála (Time). She bore him a son Vidyutkesa, who in his turn took for his wife Lankatanka[t.]á, the daughter of Sandhyá (V. 21). She bore him a son Sukesa, whom she abandoned, but he was seen by Siva as he was passing by with his wife Párvatí, who made the child as old as his mother, and immortal, and gave him a celestial city. Sukesa married a Gandharví called Devavatí who bore three sons, Mályavat, Sumáli and Máli. These sons practised intense austerities, when Brahmá appeared and conferred on them invincibility and long life. They then harassed the gods. Visvakarmá gave them a city, Lanká, on the mountain Trikúta, on the shore of the southern ocean, which he had built at the command of Indra.… The three Rákshasa, Mályavat and his two brothers, then began to oppress the gods, rishis, etc.; who (Sect. 6, v. 1 ff.) in consequence resort for aid to Mahádeva, who having regard to his protégé Sukesa the father of Mályavat, says that he cannot kill the Rákshasas, but advises the suppliants to go to Vishnu, which they do, and receive from him a promise that he will destroy their enemies. The three Rákshasa kings, hearing of this, consult together, and proceed to heaven to attack the gods. Vishnu prepares to meet them. The battle is described in the seventh section. The Rákshasas are defeated by Vishnu with great slaughter, and driven back to Lanká, one of their leaders, Máli, being slain. Mályavat remonstrates with Vishnu, who was assaulting the rear of the fugitives, for his unwarrior-like conduct, and wishes to renew the combat (Sect. 8, v. 3 ff.). Vishnu replies that he must fulfil his promise to the gods by slaying the Rákshasas, and that he would destroy them even if they fled to Pátála. These Rákshasas, Agastya says, were more powerful than Rávana, and, could only be destroyed by Náráyana, i.e. by Ráma himself, the eternal, indestructible god. Sumáli with his family lived for along time in Pátála, while Kuvera dwelt in Lanká. In section 9 it is related that Sumáli once happened to visit the earth, when he observed Kuvera going in his chariot to see his father Visravas. This leads him to consider how he might restore his own fortunes. He consequently desires his daughter Kaikasí to go and woo Visravas, who receives her graciously. She becomes the mother of the dreadful Rávana, of the huge Kumbhakarna, of Súrpanakhá, and of the righteous Vibhishana, who was the last son. These children grow up in the forest. Kumbhakarna goes about eating rishis. Kuvera comes to visit his father, when Kaikasí takes occasion to urge her son Rávana to strive to become like his brother (Kuvera) in splendour. This Rávana promises to do. He then goes to the hermitage of Gokarna with his brothers to perform austerity. In section 10 their austere observances are described: after a thousand years' penance Rávana throws his head into the fire. He repeats this oblation nine times after equal intervals, and is about to do it the tenth time, when Brahmá appears, and offers a boon. Rávana asks immortality, but is refused. He then asks that he may be indestructible by all creatures more powerful than men; which boon is accorded by Brahmá together with the recovery of all the heads he had sacrificed and the power of assuming any shape he pleased. Vibhishana asks as his boon that even amid the greatest calamities he may think only of righteousness, and that the weapon of Brahmá may appear to him unlearnt, etc. The god grants his request, and adds the gift of immortality. When Brahmá is about to offer a boon to Kumbhakarna, the gods interpose, as, they say, he had eaten seven Apsarases and ten followers of Indra, besides rishis and men; and beg that under the guise of a boon stupefaction may be inflicted on him. Brahmá thinks on Sarasvatí, who arrives and, by Brahmá's command, enters into Kumbhakarna's mouth that she may speak for him. Under this influence he asks that he may receive the boon of sleeping for many years, which is granted. When however Sarasvatí has left him, and he recovers his own consciousness, he perceives that he has been deluded. Kuvera by his father's advice, gives up the city of Lanká to Rávan."(1031) Rávana marries (Sect. 12) Mandodarí the beautiful daughter of the Asur Maya whose name has several times occurred in the Rámáyan as that of an artist of wonderful skill. She bears a son Meghanáda or the Roaring Cloud who was afterwards named Indrajít from his victory over the sovereign of the skies. The conquest of Kuvera, and the acquisition of the magic self-moving chariot which has done much service in the Rámáyan, form the subject of sections XIII., XIV. and XV. "The rather pretty story of Vedavatí is related in the seventeenth section, as follows: Rávana in the course of his progress through the world, comes to the forest on the Himálaya, where he sees a damsel of brilliant beauty, but in ascetic garb, of whom he straightway becomes enamoured. He tells her that such an austere life is unsuited to her youth and attractions, and asks who she is and why she is leading an ascetic existence. She answers that she is called Vedavatí, and is the vocal daughter of Vrihaspati's son, the rishi Kusadhwaja, sprung from him during his constant study of the Veda. The gods, gandharvas, etc., she says, wished that she should choose a husband, but her father would give her to no one else than to Vishnu, the lord of the world, whom he desired for his son-in-law. Vedavatí then proceeds: 'In order that I may fulfil this desire of my father in respect of Náráyana, I wed him with my heart. Having entered into this engagement I practise great austerity. Náráyana and no other than he, Purushottama, is my husband. From the desire of obtaining him, I resort to this severe observance.' Rávana's passion is not in the least diminished by this explanation and he urges that it is the old alone who should seek to become distinguished by accumulating merit through austerity, prays that she who is so young and beautiful shall become his bride; and boasts that he is superior to Vishnu. She rejoins that no one but he would thus contemn that deity. On receiving this reply he touches the hair of her head with the tip of his finger. She is greatly incensed, and forthwith cuts off her hair and tells him that as he has so insulted her, she cannot continue to live, but will enter into the fire before his eyes. She goes on 'Since I have been insulted in the forest by thee who art wicked-hearted, I shall be born again for thy destruction. For a man of evil desire cannot be slain by a woman; and the merit of my austerity would be lost if I were to launch a curse against thee. But if I have performed or bestowed or sacrificed aught may I be born the virtuous daughter, not produced from the womb, of a righteous man.' Having thus spoken she entered the blazing fire. Then a shower of celestial flowers fell (from every part of the sky). It is she, lord, who, having been Vedavatí in the Krita age, has been born (in the Treta age) as the daughter of the king of the Janakas, and (has become) thy [Ráma's] bride; for thou art the eternal Vishnu. The mountain-like enemy who was [virtually] destroyed before by her wrath, has now been slain by her having recourse to thy superhuman energy." On this the commentator remarks: "By this it is signified that Sítá was the principal cause of Rávana's death; but the function of destroying him is ascribed to Ráma." On the words, "thou art Vishnu," in the preceding verse the same commentator remarks: "By this it is clearly affirmed that Sítá was Lakshmí." This is what Parásara says: "In the god's life as Ráma, she became Sítá, and in his birth as Krishna [she became] Rukminí."(1032)
In the following section (XVIII.) "Rávana is described as violently interrupting a sacrifice which is being performed by king Marutta, and the assembled gods in terror assume different shapes to escape; Indra becomes a peacock, Yáma a crow, Kuvera a lizard, and Varuna a swan; and each deity bestows a boon on the animal he had chosen. The peacock's tail recalls Indra's thousand eyes; the swan's colour becomes white, like the foam of the ocean (Varuna being its lord); the lizard obtains a golden colour; and the crow is never to die except when killed by a violent death, and the dead are to enjoy the funeral oblations when they have been devoured by the crows."(1033)
Rávan then attacks Arjuna or Kárttavírya the mighty king of Máhishmati on the banks of the Narmadá, and is defeated, captured and imprisoned by Arjuna. At the intercession of Pulastya (Sect. XXII.) he is released from his bonds. He then visits Kishkindhá where he enters into alliance with Báli the King of the Vánars: "We will have all things in common," says Rávan, "dames, sons, cities and kingdoms, food, vesture, and all delights." His next exploit is the invasion of the kingdom of departed spirits and his terrific battle with the sovereign Yáma. The poet in his description of these regions with the detested river with waves of blood, the dire lamentations, the cries for a drop of water, the devouring worm, all the tortures of the guilty and the somewhat insipid pleasures of the just, reminds one of the scenes in the under world so vividly described by Homer, Virgil, and Dante. Yáma is defeated (Sect. XXVI.) by the giant, not so much by his superior power as because at the request of Brahmá Yáma refrains from smiting with his deadly weapon the Rákshas enemy to whom that God had once given the promise that preserved him. In the twenty-seventh section Rávan goes "under the earth into Pátála the treasure-house of the waters inhabited by swarms of serpents and Daityas, and well defended by Varun." He subdues Bhogavatí the city ruled by Vásuki and reduces the Nágas or serpents to subjection. He penetrates even to the imperial seat of Varun. The God himself is absent, but his sons come forth and do battle with the invader. The giant is victorious and departs triumphant. The twenty-eighth section gives the details of a terrific battle between Rávan and Mándhátá King of Ayodhyá, a distinguished ancestor of Ráma. Supernatural weapons are employed on both sides and the issue of the conflict is long doubtful. But at last Mándhátá prepares to use the mighty weapon "acquired by severe austerities through the grace and favour of Rudra." The giant would inevitably have been slain. But two pre-eminent Munis Pulastya and Gálava beheld the fight through the power given by contemplation, and with words of exhortation they parted King Mándhátá and the sovereign of the Rákshases. Rávan at last (Sect. XXXII.) returns homeward carrying with him in his car Pushpak the virgin daughters of kings, of Rishis, of Daityas, and Gandharvas whom he has seized upon his way. The thirty-sixth section describes a battle with Indra, in which the victorious Meghanáda son of the giant, makes the King of the Gods his prisoner, binds him with his magic art, and carries him away (Sect. XXVII.) in triumph to Lanká. Brahmá intercedes (Sect. XXXVIII.) and Indrajít releases his prisoner on obtaining in return the boon that sacrifice to the Lord of Fire shall always make him invincible in the coming battle. In sections XXXIX., XL, "we have a legend related to Ráma by the sage Agastya to account for the stupendous strength of the monkey Hanumán, as it had been described in the Rámáyana. Rama naturally wonders (as perhaps many readers of the Rámáyana have done since) why a monkey of such marvellous power and prowess had not easily overcome Báli and secured the throne for his friend Sugríva. Agastya replies that Hanumán was at that time under a curse from a Rishi, and consequently was not conscious of his own might."(1034) The whole story of the marvellous Vánar is here given at length, but nothing else of importance is added to the tale already given in the Rámáyana. The Rishis or saints then (Sect. XL.) return to their celestial seats, and the Vánars, Rákshases and bears also (Sect. XLIII.) take their departure. The chariot Pushpak is restored to its original owner Kuvera, as has already been related in the Rámáyan.
The story of Ráma and Sítá is then continued, and we meet with matter of more human interest. The winter is past and the pleasant spring-time is come, and Ráma and Sítá sit together in the shade of the Asoka trees happy as Indra and Sachí when they drink in Paradise the nectar of the Gods. "Tell me, my beloved," says Ráma, "for thou wilt soon be a mother, hast thou a wish in thy heart for me to gratify?" And Sítá smiles and answers: "I long, O son of Raghu, to visit the pure and holy hermitages on the banks of the Ganges and to venerate the feet of the saints who there perform their rigid austerities and live on roots and berries. This is my chief desire, to stand within the hermits' grove were it but for a single day." And Ráma said: "Let not the thought trouble thee: thou shalt go to the grove of the ascetics." But slanderous tongues have been busy in Ayodhyá, and Sítá has not been spared. Ráma hears that the people are lamenting his blind folly in taking back to his bosom the wife who was so long a captive in the palace of Rávan. Ráma well knows her spotless purity in thought, word, and deed, and her perfect love of him; but he cannot endure the mockery and the shame and resolves to abandon his unsuspecting wife. He orders the sad but still obedient Lakshman to convey her to the hermitage which she wishes to visit and to leave her there, for he will see her face again no more. They arrive at the hermitage, and Lakshman tells her all. She falls fainting on the ground, and when she recovers her consciousness sheds some natural tears and bewails her cruel and undeserved lot. But she resolves to live for the sake of Ráma and her unborn son, and she sends by Lakshman a dignified message to the husband who has forsaken her: "I grieve not for myself," she says "because I have been abandoned on account of what the people say, and not for any evil that I have done. The husband is the God of the wife, the husband is her lord and guide; and what seems good unto him she should do even at the cost of her life."
Sítá is honourably received by the saint Válmíki himself, and the holy women of the hermitage are charged to entertain and serve her. In this calm retreat she gives birth to two boys who receive the names of Kusa and Lava. They are carefully brought up and are taught by Válmíki himself to recite the Rámáyan. The years pass by: and Ráma at length determines to celebrate the Asvamedha or Sacrifice of the Steed. Válmíki, with his two young pupils, attends the ceremony, and the unknown princes recite before the delighted father the poem which recounts his deeds. Ráma inquires into their history and recognizes them as his sons. Sítá is invited to return and solemnly affirm her innocence before the great assembly.
"But Sítá's heart was too full; this second ordeal was beyond even her power to submit to, and the poet rose above the ordinary Hindu level of women when he ventured to paint her conscious purity as rebelling: 'Beholding all the spectators, and clothed in red garments, Sítá clasping her hands and bending low her face, spoke thus in a voice choked with tears: "as I, even in mind, have never thought of any other than Ráma, so may Mádhaví the goddess of Earth, grant me a hiding-place." As Sítá made this oath, lo! a marvel appeared. Suddenly cleaving the earth, a divine throne of marvellous beauty rose up, borne by resplendent dragons on their heads: and seated on it, the goddess of Earth, raising Sítá with her arm, said to her, "Welcome to thee!" and placed her by her side. And as the queen, seated on the throne, slowly descended to Hades, a continuous shower of flowers fell down from heaven on her head.'(1035)"
"Both the great Hindu epics thus end in disappointment and sorrow. In the Mahábhárata the five victorious brothers abandon the hardly won throne to die one by one in a forlorn pilgrimage to the Himálaya; and in the same way Ráma only regains his wife, after all his toils, to lose her. It is the same in the later Homeric cycle--the heroes of the Iliad perish by ill-fated deaths. And even Ulysses, after his return to Ithaca, sets sail again to Thesprotia, and finally falls by the hand of his own son. But in India and Greece alike this is an afterthought of a self-conscious time, which has been subsequently added to cast a gloom on the strong cheerfulness of the heroic age."(1036)
"The termination of Ráma's terrestrial career is thus told in Sections 116 ff. of the Uttarakánda. Time, in the form of an ascetic, comes to his palace gate, and asks, as the messenger of the great rishi (Brahmá) to see Ráma. He is admitted and received with honour, but says, when he is asked what he has to communicate, that his message must be delivered in private, and that any one who witnesses the interview is to lose his life. Ráma informs Lakshman of all this, and desires him to stand outside. Time then tells Ráma that he has been sent by Brahmá, to say that when he (Ráma, i.e. Vishnu) after destroying the worlds was sleeping on the ocean, he had formed him (Brahmá) from the lotus springing from his navel, and committed to him the work of creation; that he (Brahmá) had then entreated Ráma to assume the function of Preserver, and that the latter had in consequence become Vishnu, being born as the son of Aditi, and had determined to deliver mankind by destroying Rávana, and to live on earth ten thousand and ten hundred years; that period, adds Time, was now on the eve of expiration, and Ráma could either at his pleasure prolong his stay on earth, or ascend to heaven and rule over the gods. Ráma replies, that he had been born for the good of the three worlds, and would now return to the place whence he had come, as it was his function to fulfil the purposes of the gods. While they are speaking the irritable rishi Durvásas comes, and insists on seeing Ráma immediately, under a threat, if refused, of cursing Ráma and all his family."
Lakshman, preferring to save his kinsman, though knowing that his own death must be the consequence of interrupting the interview of Ráma with Time, enters the palace and reports the rishi's message to Ráma. Ráma comes out, and when Durvásas has got the food he wished, and departed, Ráma reflects with great distress on the words of Time, which require that Lakshman should die. Lakshman however exhorts Ráma not to grieve, but to abandon him and not break his own promise. The counsellors concurring in this advice, Ráma abandons Lakshman, who goes to the river Sarayú, suppresses all his senses, and is conveyed bodily by Indra to heaven. The gods are delighted by the arrival of the fourth part of Vishnu. Ráma then resolves to install Bharata as his successor and retire to the forest and follow Lakshman. Bharata however refuses the succession, and determines to accompany his brother. Ráma's subjects are filled with grief, and say they also will follow him wherever he goes. Messengers are sent to Satrughna, the other brother, and he also resolves to accompany Ráma; who at length sets out in procession from his capital with all the ceremonial appropriate to the "great departure," silent, indifferent to external objects, joyless, with Srí on his right, the goddess Earth on his left, Energy in front, attended by all his weapons in human shapes, by the Vedas in the forms of Bráhmans, by the Gáyatrí, the Omkára, the Vashatkára, by rishis, by his women, female slaves, eunuchs, and servants. Bharata with his family, and Satrughna, follow together with Bráhmans bearing the sacred fire, and the whole of the people of the country, and even with animals, etc., etc. Ráma, with all these attendants, comes to the banks of the Sarayú. Brahmá, with all the gods and innumerable celestial cars, now appears, and all the sky is refulgent with the divine splendour. Pure and fragrant breezes blow, a shower of flowers falls. Ráma enters the waters of the Sarayú; and Brahmá utters a voice from the sky, saying: "Approach, Vishnu; Rághava, thou hast happily arrived, with thy godlike brothers. Enter thine own body as Vishnu or the eternal ether. For thou art the abode of the worlds: no one comprehends thee, the inconceivable and imperishable, except the large-eyed Máyá thy primeval spouse." Hearing these words, Ráma enters the glory of Vishnu with his body and his followers. He then asks Brahmá to find an abode for the people who had accompanied him from devotion to his person, and Brahmá appoints them a celestial residence accordingly.(1037)