Volume 6: Yuddha Kānṭam (UVS Tamil Text)
Paṭalam 22: Pirāṭṭi Kaḷaṅkān Paṭalam, 1-8
Translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan. Draft Translation. May not be reproduced without prior written consent.
Brimming with joy, for he trusted the messengers’ words,
showering them with jewels[i] until they grew weary,
the dishonorable one said—
Set out on an elephant, large as a hill and long-trunked,
beat the drums, spread the news, let people rejoice
and anoint themselves today with ghee.
As the messengers set upon their task,
Rāvanā sent for Maruttan.
Go! Consign all slain demons to the sea.
Should you betray this plan to anyone
I shall axe both your head and honor. Urged thus,
Maruttan set out and cast into the sea
all demon corpses.
Carry her aloft the flying chariot,
show her what has befallen her men.
Unless she sees with her own eyes,
she will linger in disbelief.
Noisily, the demonesses converged,
surrounding Sītā, who stood bereft
of her will to live.
They transported her to the battlefield.
She who had never set eyes on any man
but her husband now saw him lying dead.[ii]
As if she had consumed poison
her body, mind, and breath withdrew in unison.
At the unbearable sight, she shriveled -
a fresh lotus cast into fire, her sorrow
too immense for the worlds to bear.
Celestial women wept.
Bird-voiced Pārvati who dwells
on ṣivā’s left, wept.
śrī on her lotus throne wept.
Ganga wept, as did Sarasvati.
Durga wept, lotus-eyed Krishna’s sister.
Even the unfeeling demonesses
softened and wept.
When the great earth goddess wept,
knowing Sītā’s sorrow, her golden daughter
When the imperishable Vedās and Dharmā
both slumped and sobbed
When even sin, known for its dogged torment,
cried in lament, what then do we say
of the plight of others?
Those who were standing wept
transfixed, while Sītā fell unconscious.
When, after much effort, sprinkling water on her face
the demonesses revived Sītā who lay bereft
of sense and life, she awoke and sobbed.
She glanced again at him, dark as rain clouds.
Then like one striking a fish with a lotus,
in anger, Sita smote her eyes with her hands.
She beat her breasts. She hit herself
on the stomach. She prayed and pleaded.
She curled up like a creeper cast in a fire.
She wailed, she lamented. She came undone.
She thrashed like a lightning. She grew weary
and wilted. She grew dizzy, she seethed.
She drank in her grief, stirring it
into her very being.
[i] U. Ve. Caminatayyar’s commentary explicates “மெய்யார் நிதியம்” as gifts of gold and conch, wealth of real value, while A. A. Manavalan (the Kovai Kampan Trust edition, 1998; Ed. A.S. Gnanasambandam) glosses it as referring to the jewels Rāvanā was wearing on his own body, which he gave away as gifts to the messengers who brought him news of Rāmā’s demise.
[ii] Here, U.Ve.Ca’s commentary offers the interpretation that highlights Sītā’s chastity. The line is interpreted as referring to Sita’s never having gazed directly at any man other than her husband Rāmā. This portrayal, U.Ve.Ca explains, is in contrast to the fact that Sītā refused to look directly at Rāvanā; she used a blade of grass to hold him at bay. A. A. Manavalan’s commentary offers a different interpretation of this line: when Sītā saw Rāmā’s lifeless body in the battlefield, everything else vanished from her view; Rāmā’s form was the only thing she could see (KK Trust Edition 1998, Yuddha Kandam, Vol. 3, p.4).