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oppressed mankind so nearly resemble each other, that, as I shall elsewhere describe a most astonishing one, I shall refrain from a description of those of the other lindu deities. It will, therefore, only be necessary to imagine, when one of these desperate encounters is mentioned, that the antagonists of the gods were monsters possessing an interminable number of heads, arms, and weapons ; that innumerable forces, billions of elephants, and millions of horses and chariots, were engaged on each side; and that stupendous mountains, and serpents of enormous magnitude, flew about on these occasions, incomparably thicker and faster than musket-balls and grape-shot, on the ever memorable day of Waterloo. By this proceeding, I shall be enabled greatly to shorten, much to the relief of the reader, my account of the extensively worshipped deity, Krishna, and the heroes of the Ramayana.
SEVENTH AVATAR, or RAMA CHANDRA.
It has been already shewn, that the entire objects of the several avatars of Vishnu have been the punishment of tyrannical and wicked princes, who having obtained extraordinary power from the gods by their religious austerities, afterwards became iniquitous ministers of vice, and the sanguinary oppressors of mankind. They are, in consequence, represented as hydra-headed demons or giants, possessing numerous arms, which (as well as their heads) were no sooner struck off, than they were instantly reproduced. In this avatar, Vishnu appears in the person of a courageous and virtuous prince, the son of the puissant sovereign of Hindustan (whose capital, Ayodhya, is said to have extended over a space of forty miles), to punish a monstrous giant, Ravan, who then reigned over Lanka (or the island of Ceylon). Ravan, like the tyrants of the preceding avatars, had obtained his power by his piety, having been rewarded by Brahma,* in
* There is another version of Ravan's acquirement of power, which exonerates Brahma aud implicates Siva, in a manner difficult to account for beyond the charmed pale of Hindu mythology. Ravan, to propitiate Siva, cut off nine of his ten heads, and was about to decapitate the tenth, when Mahadeo, moved by such extraordinary devotion, demanded to know his wishes, pledging himself unreservedly to grant them. Ravan demanded immortality, universal dominion,
Figi. Rama Chandra and Silu. 2. Ravan. 22.214.171.124. Hanuman.
Published by Farbury. Allen & C°London 1832.
consequence of it, with the monarchy of the three regions. Rama Chandra had also been brought up in the paths of religion and virtue, and had been taught that one of the first duties of a prince was to subjugate his own passions to their control. When, therefore, Ravan became an apostate from his duty to the gods, Rama Chandra was appointed the instrument of his destruction.
The Grecians had their Homer, to render imperishable the fame acquired by their glorious combats in the Trojan war; the Latins had Virgil, to sing the prowess of Eneas; and the Hindus have had their Valmic, to immortalize the martial deeds of Rama, and his army of monkeys, in subduing the giant Ravan and his hosts of many-headed monsters. The Ramayana, one of the finest epic poems (in spite of its many extravagancies) extant, beautifully describes the incidents of Rama's life, and the exploits of the contending foes.
The deity whose fame is thus celebrated, is, in the pictorial representations of him, usually described as a green man, seated beneath an umbrella, the emblem of sovereignty, on a throne: a quiver of arrows hangs at his back; in one hand he holds his destructive bow, and in the other a flower of the sacred lotus. By his side is placed Sita, who is depicted as a goddess of transcendent beauty, of a deep yellow complexion (see fig. 1, plate 9). Although the daughter of a king, and far famed for her loveliness, she did not disdain to sweep, in a most patriarchal manner, her own room daily ; a task which our charming and accomplished princesses are not frequently discovered performing. In doing this, she was accustomed to lift with one hand, while she swept under it with her left, a bow, which a thousand of her father's stoutest archers could not raise. This ponderous bow obtained for Rama the possession of the beauteous Sita, as her father, Junuka, who had received it from Mahadeo, had declared, that no one should marry her who could not bend it. Rama and Ravan were competitors for the prize; but the strength of the former easily effected that which the monstrous giant attempted in vain. Sita was, in consequence, adjudged to Rama, and Ravan retired overwhelmed with jealousy and shame, and brooding over a desire of revenge, which he lost no time in attempting to accomplish ; and which was increased by a subsequent outrage offered by Lackshman, the brother of Rama, to Surpanukha, the sister of Ravan, whose nose and ears he most unceremoniously and ungallantly cut off, in consequence of her attempt to intimidate him for having rejected her proffered love. This insult instantly roused her family to arms, and three of her brothers fell by the hand of Rama. Thus the tyrant had obtained too correct a knowledge of the strength of Rama (as well as when he bent the bow of Junuka), to venture to attack him openly: he therefore sought to accomplish, by artifice, that which he could not effect by valour and strength ; and to rob him, by stratagem, of the prize which he himself had been unable to win. It appears that Rama having been exiled from the dominions of his father by the machinations of one of his queens, had determined, although invited to return, to seclude himself from the world for a time, to perform his penitential austerities in honour of the gods in a retired forest, and Sita prevailed upon him to allow her to accompany him.
the Linga, and Parvati. These were, in consequence of Siva's pledge, bestowed : but as that god happened to be seized, like some of our austere Benedicts, with a momentary uxorious fit, he was unwilling to part with the lovely source of all his torment and all his bliss; so he prevailed on Vishnu to obtain (which that deity had a happy facility in doing), by stratagem, what he himself could not withhold. Vishnu, in disguise, succeeded; and Parvati, after purifying herself by austerities, was restored to her proper lord. Dominion and immortality, it would appear, still remained with Ravan; as, according to descriptions of compartments said to be in the temples of Ellora, he made prisoners of all the gods, not excepting Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, and put them in chains.
Ravan, who knew what had passed, and judged it a proper opportunity to effect his purpose, transformed himself into a beautiful deer, and sedulously ranged about the hut where Rama and Sita had taken up their abode. The beauty of the animal attracted the notice of Sita, who, with amiable female tenderness and humanity, earnestly besought Rama to kill it and present her with the skin. He at length consented, and set off in search of the deer, which led him in pursuit a considerable distance from the forest.