The sage Viswamitra comes to Dasaratha, the king of Ayodhya, to request the aid of his eldest son Rama. Each tries to outdo the other in complimentary speeches. The sage observes:--
"The monarch of the day invests the dawn with delegated rays to scatter night, and ocean sends his ministers the clouds, to shed his waters over the widespread earth."
The king, taking counsel with himself, and being reminded by Vamadeva, one of his priests and preceptors, that the race of Raghu never sent away a petitioner ungratified, sends for Rama and Lakshmana, and allows Viswamitra to take them with him, to his hermitage, situated on the banks of the Kausiki or Coosy river, to protect him in his rites against the oppression of Taraka, a Rakshasi.
The cry is heard that Taraka is abroad. Rama, after some hesitation about killing a female, slays her.
Viswamitra now proposes that they should visit Mithila. The two princes are introduced to Janaka, the king of Mithila, who is urged by the sage to let Rama try to bend the bow of Siva. Sanshkala, the messenger of Ravana, the king of Lanka, now arrives to demand Sita in marriage for his master, refusing, at the same time, on his part, to submit to the test of bending the bow. The demand is refused. Rama tries his fortune, bends the bow and wins the lady. The family connection is extended by the promise of Urmila, Mandavi, and Srutakirti, to Rama's brothers. Sanshkala is highly indignant and carries the information to his master's minister Malyavan, who is disappointed on Ravana's account. Malyavan anticipates that Ravana will carry Sita off; and to render the attempt less perilous, projects inveighing Rama into the forests alone, for which he sends Surpanakha, the sister of Ravana, in the disguise of Manthara, the attendant of Kaukeyi.
Parasurama then appears and boasts of his destruction of the Kshatriya race. Rama replies:--"This flag of your fame is now worn to tatters, let us see if you can mount a new one." Rama then calls for his bow, and Parasurama presents him with his axe. They go forth to fight. In the end, the two Ramas turn very excellent friends. Parasurama departs.
Dasaratha now declares his purpose of relinquishing the kingdom entirely to his son Rama, Lakshmana announces the arrival of Manthara, and presents a letter from Kaikeyi, the purpose of which is to urge Dasaratha's fulfilment of his promise, and grant her as the two boons, the Coronation of Bharata, and banishment of Rama. The old king faints. Rama recommending his father to Janaka, departs for the forests, accompanied by Lakshmana and Sita. On their arrival in the forests, they are cordially received by Sugriva, the brother of Bali the king of the monkeys. Lakshmana carries on a dialogue with Ravana, disguised as a juggler.
Jatayu, the king of birds, beholds Sita carried off by Ravana. He follows the ravisher. Rama and Lakshmana both express their grief.
"The worse the ill that Fate inflicts on noble souls, the more their firmness; and they arm their spirits with adamant to meet the blow."
"The firmness I was born with or was reared to, and rage, that fills my heart, restrain my sorrows; but hard is the task to fit my soul to bear unmurmuringly a husband's shame."
A cry of distress is now heard, and on looking out, the youths observe Guha, the friendly forest monarch, assailed by the demon Kabandha, or a fiend without a head. Lakshmana goes to his aid, and returns with his friend Guha. In the act of delivering him, Lakshmana tosses away the skeleton of Dundubhi, a giant, suspended by Bali, who, deeming this an insult, presently appears. After a prolix interchange of civility and defiance, Rama and Bali resolve to determine their respective supremacy by single combat. Bali is slain. His brother Sugriva is inaugurated as king and determines to assist Rama to recover Sita. A bridge is built over the sea. Rama's army advance to Lanka. Kumbhakarna, a brother of Ravana, and Meghanada, a son of Ravana, go forth to battle. Malyavan wishes them prosperity in a phrase perfectly oracular. They are slain. Ravana now takes the field himself. Malyavan resolves to follow him and resign, on the sword, a life now useless to his sovereign. The king is overthrown. Sita is recovered.
Rama with his wife and brother, accompanied by Vibhishana, the brother of Ravana, and Sugriva, mounts the celestial car, which was once wrested by Ravana from his brother Kuvera, and sets out to proceed to Ayodhya.
On the way the travellers descry the Sumeru mountain, the Malaya mountain, the Dandaka forest, the mountain Prasravana, the Godaveri river, mount Malyavan, Kundinipura in the Maharashtra country, the shrine of Bhimeswara, the city of Kanchi, Ujayin, the temple of Mahakala, Mahishmati the capital of Chedi, the Jumna and Ganga rivers, Varanasi, Mithila or Tirhut, and Champa near Bhagalpur.
They then proceed westward to Prayaga, and Antarvedi or Doab, when they again follow an easterly course and arrive at Ayodhya.
Bharata, Satrughna, Vasishtha the priest and the people of Ayodhya await the arrival of the party and receive them most cordially. Rama is now crowned king.