by Hari Prasad Shastri | 1952 | 527,382 words | ISBN-10: 9333119590 | ISBN-13: 9789333119597
This page is entitled “the story of vedavati” and represents Chapter 17 of the Uttara-kanda of the Ramayana (English translation by Hari Prasad Shastri). The Ramayana narrates the legend of Rama and Sita and her abduction by Ravana, the king of Lanka. It contains 24,000 verses divided into seven sections [viz., Uttara-kanda].
“O king, when the long-armed Ravana was ranging the earth, he came to the Himalayan Forest and began to explore it. There he beheld a young girl, radiant as a goddess, wearing a black antelope skin and matted locks, leading the life of an ascetic.
Seeing the youthful and lovely girl who was given over to austere practices, he was overcome by desire and enquired of her laughingly:—
“‘Why, O Blessed One, hast you adopted a life so ill-fitted to your years? Assuredly such vagaries do not agree with your beauty, O Timid Lady, a beauty that nothing surpasses, and which inspires others with desire, should not be hidden.
“‘Whose daughter art you, O Fortunate One? From whence springs your way of life? Who is your consort, O Youthful Lady of lovely looks? He with whom you are united is fortunate indeed! I beg of you to tell me all; why these mortifications?’
“Being thus questioned by Ravana, that young girl, radiant with beauty and rich in ascetic practices, having offered him the traditional hospitality, replied:—
“‘My Sire is named Kushadwa ja, a Brahmarishi of immeasurable renown, the illustrious son of Brihaspati, whom he equals in wisdom. I, his daughter was born of the speech of that magnanimous One, whose constant pursuit is the study of the Veda; my name is Vedavati. At that time, the Devas, Gandharvas, Yakshas, Rakshasas and Pannagas approached my sire to ask for my hand but my father did not wish to give me in marriage to them, O King of the Rakshasas, for the reason which I shall now unfold to you; listen attentively, O Lion among Heroes!
“‘My Sire had chosen Vishnu, Chief of the Gods, Lord of the Three Worlds Himself, to be my consort and on this account he would not permit me to wed any other. Hearing this the King of the Daityas, Shumbhu, proud of his strength, was highly provoked and, during the night, while my father slept, he was slain by that wicked one. My unfortunate mother, who till then, had been so happy, embracing my father’s body, entered the fire.
“‘Now I desire to fulfil his will regarding Narayana; it is He to whom I have given my heart. With this intention I am undergoing a rigid penance. I have told you all, O King of the Rakshasas; Narayana is my lord; I desire no other than the Supreme Purusha. For the sake of Narayana, I have undergone these severe mortifications. You are known to me, O King, go hence, you the offspring of Paulastya. By the grace of mine austerities I know all that has taken place in the Three Worlds.’
“Thereupon Ravana, dismounting from his chariot, overcome by the darts of the God of Love, once more addressed that young girl of severe penances, saying
“‘O Lady of Lovely Hips, you are presumptuous in harbouring such an ambition; it is to the aged that the accumulation of merit accrues, 0 You whose eyes resemble a fawn’s. You are possessed of the beauty of the Three Worlds, O Timid Lady, but your youth is passing away; I am the Lord of Lanka and am called Dashagriva1 Become my consort and enjoy every delight according to your whim. Who is this whom you callest Vishnu? In valour, asceticism, magnificence and strength, the one you lovest cannot compare with us, O Fortunate and Youthful Lady!’
“As he spoke thus, Vedavati cried out ‘For shame! For shame!’ and thereafter addressed that Ranger of the Night further, saying:—
“‘Who, had he any wisdom, would fail to pay homage to the Supreme Lord of the Three Worlds, Vishnu, Who is universally revered, save you, O Indra among the Rakshasas?’
“At these words of Vedavati, that Ranger of the Night seized hold of the hair of that young girl, whereupon Vedavati, in indignation, cut off her hair with her hand which had been transformed into a sword.
Burning with anger, she, as if she would consume that night-ranger, kindled a brazier and, in her eagerness to yield up her life, said to him:—
“‘Soiled by your contact, O Vile Rakshasa, I do not desire to live and shall throw myself into the fire before thine eyes. Since you have affronted me in the forest, O Wretch, I shall be reborn for your destruction. It is not possible for a woman to slay an evil man and, if I curse you, my penances will be rendered void; if, however, I have ever given anything in charity or offered any sacrifice, may I be of immaculate birth and the noble daughter of a virtuous man.’
“So speaking, she threw herself into the fire that she had ignited, and straightway a rain of flowers fell.
“Vedavati is the daughter of Janaka, her supposed father, O Strong-armed Lord, and your consort, for you are the eternal Vishnu. That woman, who, in anger, formerly cursed the enemy who resembled a mountain, destroyed him by appealing to your supernatural power. Thus that goddess was reborn among men, springing up like a flame on the altar, from a field which was turned by the blade of a plough. First she was born as Vedavati in the Golden Age and subsequently, in the Silver Age, she was re-born in the family of the magnanimous Janaka in the race of Mithila, for the destruction of that Rakshasa.”