Ms.Usha Ravichandran
Ms.Padma Paremeshwaran

This Kanda describes about Thirteen years of SriRama’s exile.  In a  nutshell, this Kanda starts at Chitrakoota with the departure of Bharata, describes the Satsangh of SriRama with an array of great Saints and Sages, destruction of Rakshasas like Khara,Dushana, Maricha  and a consequent abduction of Sita by Ravana.  The purpose of Rama Avatar was to liberate his devotees and to protect Dharma.   Sri Krishna in Gita retold the same philosophy,

Parithranaya sadhunam, vinashayacha dushkrutham
Dharma samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge

And it in this Kanda, Lord starts his divine mission by protecting the Good against the Evil.  Sharanagathy and the uncompromising fidelity to righteousness and the right way to lead a life i.e. upholding Dharma at any cost  are the key messages from this Kanda.

This Kanda evolves beautifully in such a way that Rama’s each meeting with a Sage not only leads him to be in Satsangh with another Sage but also enables him to fulfill his missions.

Now to the Aranya Kanda Sri Rama is  haunted by memories of Bharata and so  Rama chooses to leave Chitrakoota and they arrive at the hermitage of Sage Atri and Anusuya.  Anusuya is a great tapasvini who is pleased with humble Sita for her devotion to her husband and her fully contended life. Then Anusuya gifts Sita with costly ornaments, Clothes and perfumes so as to please Rama and intern Sita humbly accepts the gifts of this tapasvini.
We should note here and learn from Sita – Never to say no, when someone gives something with love, even Karela Pickle.  Though Sita was Mahalakshmi herself, yet she did not decline the devotee’s gift given with love.
Well- like Anusuya, we should learn to detach ourselves from worldly things and also to part with our valuables.  But we are all Anusuyas to the extent of parting with ice-cream boxes, Nido cans and other surplus items.  We even seem to hold on to Mothercare/Sana bags.

They now proceeded towards the Dandaka forest.  And as they moved deeper into the forest  they noticed an unfriendly silence.  They are caught by a terrible rakshaka by name Viradha who threatened  to eat up Sita.  Rama and Lakshmana  chopped off the Rakhshasa’s hands who assumes the form of a Gandarva is liberated at the hands of Sri Rama.

Yet another mission of Rama  i.e.  giving moksha to Viradha is accomplished here and he in turn guides them to the ashram of Sage Sarabanga.

As they reach Sage Sarabanga’s ashram, they see the Chariot of Indra. The Sage  declines to join Indra  who had come to take him to come to Swargalog but instead chooses to serve Rama.  When the Sage wants to gift all his Tapas, Rama gently declines it saying that each person has to earn his punya  by his own conduct.  The messages we carry home from this meeting,
From Tapasvis and Sajjanas like Sarabanga and others, we can learn that even Swargalog is not so attractive or important than being in Satsangh with a noble guest like Rama.  Adi Shankara also reiterates the same concept in Bhaja Govindam in the verse,

'Satsangatvae nissangatvam nissangatvae nirmohatvam
Nirmohatvae nischalatatvam nischalatatvae jeevanmuktihi’

At least after knowing its essence, let us not skip our Satsangh on Thursdays and Saturdays under any pretext!
Secondly, spiritual uplift is something that can only be earned by Practice and it can neither be purchased nor accepted as a Gift.  We fail to understand the divinity and the eternal bliss within us instead we seek the transient happiness in parties, movies, Seef Maal, Nallis etc.

After leaving Sarabanga’s place, Rama meets many others Rishis who surrender to him and plead for his protection from himsa of Rakshasas like Khara and others.  Rama accepts the responsibility and offers protection for the Sages.  They now proceed to the ashram of Sage Sutheekshana.  Rama declines a similar offer of  the results of tapas from Sage Sutheekshana.  The Sage advises them to come back the ashram after visiting the  all the Sages in the Dandaka forest.   As they move along, Rama keeps entertaining Sita by talking to her sweetly and pleasantly so that she overcomes the tiredness of the journey.  During the period spent in Dandaka forest, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana appear to enjoy the Fauna and Flora – lead a a very peaceful life - a life in perfect harmony with nature forgetting all their misfortune.

We note here that even though they were living in the forest, they were happy and contented.  Though we have the best of comforts, we still curse our fate and crave for those things that we don't have.  There is a saying,

‘There is enough in this world for everyone's need but there is not enough in
the entire Universe to satisfy one's greed’.

During their traverses, Sita asks the Lord on three attitudes to Adarma - What are the 3 things considered as adharma?

a) Utterance of falsehood
b) Thinking of other man's wife
c) Hurting someone whom has not offended you  and seeks clarification i.e.,

She tells Rama,

"I know that
a) You have never spoken untruth nor you never will
b) You see your mother Kousalya in every woman except your wife.
    (How we all wish to say the same about our Spouses?)
c) But how, you could give a word to the Rishis that you would destroy the Rakshasas when they have done you no harm?

The Lord clarifies Sita's doubt thus:

" As Kshattriya, it is my duty to protect the  Good and destroy the Evil even if I am in the grab of a tapasvi.  The uncompromising fidelity to righteousness is my Dharma.  I will even give up my life, or  You or Lakshmana- but never sway from the Truth as it is my swadharma to protect these rishis who have abandoned their homes and worldly pleasures to do tapas."

Rama’s mission was to uphold Dharma at any cost whereas, we uphold everything else at the cost of Dharma.

Thus, they spent about Ten years in the Dandaka forest moving from place to place and meeting various Saints and Sages.  They reach the ashram of Sage Agasthya.  During the meeting, the famed Sage gave SriRama, Vishnu’s Dhanush, two inexhaustible quivers, a sword used by Lord Narayana himself during a war in Heavens and an  Armor that cannot be pierced.  Also, he   told that Indra’s Charioteer Matali would bring the Indra’s Chariot to him at an appropriate time.

If you recall in Bala Kanda, Sage Vishwamitra passes on all his knowledge of astras to Rama. This is yet another example of our scriptural insistence that, knowledge and achievement of life’s objectives can only be acquired either through a Guru or in a Satsangh.

In Bhaja Govindam, Adi Shankara says that if we sit in the boat of Satsangh, we can sail across the ocean of samsara to the shore of eternal bliss.

Now, the sage asks Rama to proceed to Panchavati to spend the rest of the days waiting for the Great events to come.  On their way to Panchavati, they meet Jatayu, the Eagle - The son of Aruna, the Charioteer to Sun, the brother of Sampati and  a close friend of their father Dasaratha.  Jatayu offers to guide them to Panchavati and promises to stay close to them  for safety of Sita.   At Panchavati, Lakshmana builds a beautiful ashram at the site selected by Rama. (When Rama asks Lakshmana to choose a good location  for the ashram, Lakshmana declines to do so.  The reason he gives is that he is only a servant of Rama who takes orders and executes.  At the same time, we find many instances, When Rama is in deep anguish, he does not hesitate to speak the Satya boldly and console Rama when he is in sorrow.  In addition to being an excellent Devotee Lakshmana shows us how a true companion should behave.

During their stay in Panchavati, there comes accidentally, Surpanaga, an ugly woman, a Kami and the Sister of Ravana.  Being a Kami, she immediately falls in love with Rama.  Rama, in one of his rare lighter moments, tells her to approach Lakshmana as he is single.  Immediately she goes to Lakshmana and expresses her love.  Now it is Lakshmana’s turn to send her back to Rama saying that as a full time servant he has no time for woman. Frustrated by their responses, she gets upset and decides to eat up Sita.  Now Rama tells Lakshmana to restrain Surpanaga from attacking Sita and he promptly maims her by chopping her ears and nose.
Object of Lust-the word lust here symbolises our desires; keeps changing. Whereas object of Love never changes!
We all behave like Surpanaka – our desires continuously changing & Never ending; misery being the end result!!

Humiliated Surpanaga rushes to her brother Khara for help who promptly dispatches  14 valiant men to defeat Rama.  On their destruction, he himself goes to attack Rama with an army of 14,000 Rakshasas.  Rama asks Lakshmana to take Sita away to safety and faces the huge army alone.  SriRama stood like MahaDeva and destroyed Khara and his army to protect the Rishis of Dandakaranya.

By slaying rakshasa Khara Rama upholds his vow on protection of Dharma-by killing Khara.  Now, Akampana, a Rakhshasa from Janastana escapes alive and manages to reach Ravana’s court and briefs him of the misfortune to his brothers and other Rakshasas.  Ravana decides to attack Rama in retaliation.  Akampana warns Ravana that Rama cannot be conquered and hence suggests stealing Sita so that Rama will die of separation.  Ravana arrives at the ashram of Maricha, his uncle who is now an Ascetic and asks for his  help  in the abduction of Sita.  Maricha is scared as he has already experienced the power of Rama’s arrows when he tried to disturb Sage Vishwamitra’s yagna in Bala Kanda.  Maricha managed to convince Ravana that getting on the wrong side of Rama is not in the best interest of Ravana.

Although Ravana was not scared of ( the valour as he is yet to be poisoned by Surpanaka) Rama, he respected his uncle’s judgement and goes back to Lanka.   Meanwhile Surpanaga lands up in Ravana’s court and projects herself as a victim of Rama.  She claimed that her only sin was that she tried to abduct Sita, the beautiful woman in the Universe for Ravana’s sake, and in the bargain got maimed and insulted. Further, Rama has eliminated his brothers and other Rakshasas in Janastana thereby  Rishi’s are freely roaming around in the Dandaka forest.  Hence, she said ‘Kill Rama & Lakshmana, protect your race, possess Sita as your wife and avenge the death of Rakshasas in Janastana’.  Ravana lands up in Maricha’s ashram again with a firm intention to abduct Sita and orders Maricha to accomplish his goal.  Being pushed to a corner, it is a no-win situation for Maricha.  He agrees to lure Sita as a Golden Deer and draw Rama and Lakshmana away from Sita so that Ravana can abduct Sita.

‘Vaisebi marne ka hai, Bhagavan ke haath se marenge na,
Ye Jungli ke haath se kai ko marne ka?’ thought Maricha.

It is better I get killed by the Lord rather than by Ravana – said Maricha.  Sita falling for the Golden Deer symbolises that,

Even good people, in their bad times, fail to see the truth as they are trapped by maya.

That’s why as  Rama is drawn away from Sita and as Maricha falls to the arrows of Lord and shouts for Sita and Lakshmana in a fake  RAMA'S    voice – it is Sita who again makes the mistake of insisting that Lakshmana leave immediately.

Lakshmana represents the ‘Viveka” the alert “Adisesha”- he alerted Rama that Golden Deer is a Mayavi.  Lakshmana alerts Sita that the “SOS” heard are also from a Mayavi.  But, fate has it that Viveka has to leave the scene to be replaced by kama, Lakshmana the viveki exits and Ravana the kami enters-all as per the master plane of the Lord.

Sita abuses Lakshmana, questioning his integrity and warns to kill herself if he doesn’t rush to Rama’s help.  Lakshmana leaves the ashram unwillingly at the behest of Sita and Ravana abducts Sita in the disguise of a Sanyasi.  When she was being carried away, Jatayu heard her cry for help and fought valiantly with Ravana until he was fatally injured in the unequal combat.

Look at the culture of Vulture. It’s time we checked our falling values.  How many times, we have seen Adarma and quality turned our eyes away?

While Sita was being carried away, she saw five monkeys sitting on a hillock.  She bundled her jewels and threw at them as an indication of the direction of her travel.
MahaLakhmi throwing a bundle of jewels  at Sugreeva  is a sign of ensuing prosperity for him as he is going to meet the Lord very soon.

Finally Ravana lands in Lanka, carrying his own death warrant in Sita and gives her  !2 months to consent to marry him.  Back in Panchavati, Rama questions Lakshmana the wisdom of leaving Sita alone.  Rama starts lamenting about the safety of Sita.  When Rama finds Sita missing, he becomes inconsolable in grief and Lakshmana assumes the role of  Counselor and brings him back to senses.  They come across the dying Jatayu who brief’s them on Ravana’s abduction of Sita.

  -    Lord does last rites of Jatayu with his own hands and gives him Moksha  This shows how he had compassion for even the birds & beasts.
  -    We often heard elders in the family say you can miss a wedding but never miss to comfort or do seva for family that has lost a near or dear one.  Never miss to do Seva in a family where there is a death.
  -    Never hesitate when contributions are asked for performing  ‘Antim Samskara ‘  for Helpless  labourers or orphans.

Back to Aranya Kanda, Rama tells Lakshmana that  death and sacrifice of Jatayu  has driven the sorrow out of his mind.  As they proceeded in southern direction, Kabandha, a Gandarva in the form of Rakhshasa by curse, captured them.  Rama gave moksha to Kabandha and he guided them to Rishyamukh Parvath  and the ashram of   Sabari.  They arrive in  Mathangavana and meet Sabari.   Sabari, as a child gave up marriage, when her mother told that all her pet birds would become feasts for guests.  She symbolizes the word ‘Prateeksha – patience in waiting’ – Her Guru told her that her Lord ‘Rama will come, wait for Him’.  She waited for that day and he did turn up.  She served Rama and attained Brahmaloka.

The funny thing is we only want to wait for Trains and Buses for tickets in queues for cinema halls and cricket matches.  But we don't wait for Lord.  So how will he ever come, unless we genuinely wait for Him?

This unique quality of Sabari made Rama feel that meeting her was more important to him than meeting Sugreeva in the quest of Sita.  They start their journey towards Rishyamukha to meet the monkey King  Sugreeva that would bring in the great Rama Bakta - Shri Hanumanji who is a complete person full of Wisdom, Valor, Viveka, Vinayam, Devotion, Courage and  Seva into Ramayana.