Ramayana: The Breaking of the bow

(This is an English translation of the episode of Rama breaking the bow, taken from here.)

Then spoke again the great recluse:

‘This mighty bow, O King, produce.’

King Janak, at the saint’s request,

This order to his train addressed:

‘Let the great bow be hither borne,

Which flowery wreaths and scents adorn.’

Soon as the monarch’s words were said,

His servants to the city sped,

Five thousand youths in number, all

Of manly strength and stature tall,

The ponderous eight-wheeled chest that held

The heavenly bow, with toil propelled.

At length they brought that iron chest,

And thus the godlike king addressed:

‘This best of bows, O lord, we bring,

Respected by each chief and king,

And place it for these youths to see,

If, Sovereign, such thy pleasure be.’

With suppliant palm to palm applied

King Janak to the strangers cried:

‘This gem of bows, O Bráhman Sage,

Our race has prized from age to age.

Too strong for those who yet have reigned,

Though great in might each nerve they strained.

Titan and fiend its strength defies,

God, spirit, minstrel of the skies.

And bard above and snake below

Are baffled by this glorious bow.

Then how may human prowess hope

With such a bow as this to cope?

What man with valour’s choicest gift

This bow can draw, or string, or lift?

Yet let the princes, holy Seer,

Behold it: it is present here.’

Then spoke the hermit pious-souled:

‘Ráma, dear son, the bow behold.

Then Ráma at his word unclosed

The chest wherein its might reposed,

Thus crying, as he viewed it: ‘Lo!

I lay mine hand upon the bow:

May happy luck my hope attend

Its heavenly strength to lift or bend.

’Good luck be thine,’ the hermit cried:

‘Assay the task!’ the king replied.

Then Raghu’s son, as if in sport,

Before the thousands of the court,

The weapon by the middle raised

That all the crowd in wonder gazed.

With steady arm the string he drew

Till burst the mighty bow in two.

As snapped the bow, an awful clang,

Loud as the shriek of tempests, rang.

The earth, affrighted, shook amain

As when a hill is rent in twain.

Then, senseless at the fearful sound,

The people fell upon the ground:

None save the king, the princely pair,

And the great saint, the shock could bear,

When woke to sense the stricken train,

And Janak’s soul was calm again,

With suppliant hands and reverent head,

These words, most eloquent, he said:

‘O Saint, Prince Ráma stands alone:

His peerless might he well has shown.

A marvel has the hero wrought

Beyond belief, surpassing thought.

My child, to royal Ráma wed,

New glory on our line will shed

And true my promise will remain

That hero’s worth the bride should gain.

Dearer to me than light and life,

My Sitá shall be Ráma’s wife.

If thou, O Bráhman, leave concede,

My counsellors, with eager speed,

Borne in their flying cars, to fair

Ayodhyá’s town the news shall bear,

With courteous message to entreat

The king to grace my royal seat.

This to the monarch shall they tell,

The bride is his who won her well:

And his two sons are resting here

Protected by the holy seer.

So, at his pleasure, let them lead

The sovereign to my town with speed.’

The hermit to his prayer inclined

And Janak, lord of virtuous mind,

With charges, to Ayodhyá sent

His ministers: and forth they went.


रामाय रामभद्राय रामचन्द्राय वेधसे |

रघुनाथाय नाथाय सीतायाः पतये नमः ||

Obeisance unto Rama; unto the auspicious Lord Rama; unto Ramachandra, to the creator of the whole universe; unto Raghunatha (scion/Lord of the lineage of Raghu); unto the Lord of the Universe; unto the dear Lord of Sita.

(A nice interpretation of this beautiful verse can be like this: We are calling Rama by the different names used to address Him by different persons. To Dasharatha He was Ramachandra; to Kausalya He was Ramabhadra; to the people of Ayodhya, He was Raghunatha (king belonging to the lineage of Raghu); to Sita, He was Her Lord (Naatha); and to the people of Mithila (Sita’s place), He was Sita’s Lord. )


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