Book 2: Ayodhyā Kāṇḍam (UVS Tamil Text)
Chapter 8: Entering the forest, 35-45
Translated by David Shulman. This is a draft and may not be reproduced without prior written consent.
Rama, Lakshmaṇa, and Sita arrive at Citrakuta Mountain after crossing the Yamuna River.
The sight of the river brought joy and reverence
to their hearts; they knew her greatness. Caked in dust
from the journey, they plunged into the deep water,
ate a meal of ripe fruit and roots and drank, wondering
how to cross to the other shore.
The young brother to the lord of Ayodhya’s land, where raw sugar
flows from the sugar-press through the fields, cut bamboo stalks
and lashed them together with manai vines to make a raft.
Seating the princess and the lord with arms tough as boulders,
he pushed off into deep water, swimming at first, then steering
with strong strokes, his arms like Mount Mandara at the time
of churning, and on one side the water rushed down
to the Eastern Ocean, and the rest, on the other side, flowed
upstream to the Western Sea.
Clad in bark fiber, they alighted on the shore. Before them
stretched a scorched desert: branches, roots,
the heaven above, the thinking mind,
all were seared and charred.
The prince thought: “She’ll never make it.”
At that very moment the fierce sun spread rays
of moonlight, withered branches burst into green,
and the lotus bloomed in patches of burnt sand.
Jagged, burning stones scattered on the path
were now cool, supple flowers, and vines baked
and broken put out new buds. Sweet nectar dripped
from the fangs of fierce snakes.
Clouds gathered, rumbling, sprinkling cool drops.
Archers with heavy bows lost their taste for killing,
as if they’d become serene sages. No living being
was left with hatred or hunger. Fawns nursed
at the tigress’ breast.
Snakes lurking in stony caves, their stomachs aflame,
shed their sorrow and were at rest, as if washed
by gentle waves. Thickets of bamboo so dry they could easily
catch fire with their glowing anthills were like the soft arms
of young girls with coral lips and tiny teeth.
Grasses spread for miles like blankets of green.
At every point peacocks were dancing,
showing off their feathers, like women on a stage,
as bees hummed a sleepy drone.
Fruits ripened out of season. The earth burst out
in buds as if there were no hidden roots.
Bare branches blossomed like
radiant young women. In this world,
good nature—not self-mastery—works magic.
Bandits’ haunts had turned tranquil as an ashram.
The Indragopa beetle glowed red as ruby
at every turn. You could hear the cuckoo calling
to his mate from branch to branch. The lemon tree
burst out in buds soft as the down at the root
of a peacock’s wing.
Like the heart of a woman
with long, fragrant braids whose husband
is leaving for war, or for money, promising
to come back, and she hangs on to him for dear life,
this wilderness was on fire, but it turned cool
like that woman’s heart when her man
comes home, a hero’s anklets on his feet.
 The gods and the demons used Mount Mandara as the churning rod when together they churned the Ocean of Milk.
 Women’s arms are often compared to bamboo. Termite hills are home to snakes; here, perhaps, they are “glowing” with the precious stones snakes are said to have in their hoods.
 A: pirintaṉa (the male cuckoo calls to the female who has left the nest).