AFTER THE WAR

165. Vibhishana Grieves for Ravana

Vibhishana grieved for his dead brother.

“Ravana died in battle,” said Rama, “as a great warrior should. Do not mourn. Honor him instead with funeral rites.”

As Vibhishana prepared the funeral pyre, Ravana’s wives came forth from Lanka and kneeled in grief around his body, still lying in the dust of the battlefield. Mandodari unbound her hair and wept.

After Vibhishana conducted Ravana’s funeral, Rama crowned Vibhishana as King of Lanka.

Matali saluted Lanka’s new king as he soared aloft in Indra’s chariot, returning to the abode of the devas.

And then, at last, Rama sent Vibhishana to fetch Sita.

166. Vibhishana Fetches Sita

“Your husband awaits,” Vibhishana said to Sita. “Bathe and adorn yourself; then we will go.”

“I would go now,” Sita replied, “just as I am.”

“No, Sita,” Vibhishana told her. “Let it be as Rama commands.”

Sita bathed and adorned herself, and then Vibhishana brought her to Rama.

Rama was torn between love for Sita and the shame of public scandal. She had been in another man’s house, and everyone knew it.

“For the insult Ravana did me, I have killed him,” Rama said. “The war is over. I wish you well, and now you may go where you like.”

167. Sita Rebukes Rama

Rama’s words made Sita feel angry and ashamed. “How can you treat me with such contempt?” she said, sobbing. “How can you have so little regard for womankind? Ravana overpowered and abducted me, but I was forever faithful to you, and I will prove it.”

Sita turned to Lakshmana. “Build a fire!” she ordered.

Lakshmana obeyed.

Sita then prayed to Agni, the fire-god. “Demonstrate my faithfulness for all to see, and do not burn me.”

Sita entered the fire.

It did not burn her.

Agni himself emerged from the fire, carrying Sita in his arms.

Rama received her with joy.

168. The Story of Maya-Sita

Some say that it was not Sita who entered the fire, but Maya-Sita, a double of Sita. Ravana didn’t bring the real Sita to Lanka. Instead, the devas snatched Sita from Ravana’s chariot when he wasn’t looking, replacing the real Sita with Maya, an illusion.

Ravana took Sita’s double to Lanka, and it was Sita’s double who came to Rama on the battlefield after the war was over.

When she stepped into the fire, the Maya-Sita was destroyed, and Agni restored the real Sita to Rama.

So it was Maya-Sita who entered the fire, but the real Sita who emerged.

169. Indra Grants Rama a Boon

Indra then appeared, descending from the heavens in his celestial chariot.

“You have done well, Rama,” he said, “and the devas have sent me to grant you a boon. Tell me what you wish.”

“Restore life to all my monkey and bear soldiers who fell in battle so that their mothers and wives may rejoice in their return,” Rama replied. “Let them rise up stronger than before!”

Indra nodded and as he ascended into the sky, the monkeys and bears were restored to life, staring at one another in amazement.

“Let’s hurry now to Ayodhya,” Rama shouted. “Bharata awaits us.”

170. Rama Goes Home

“Take Ravana’s flying chariot,” Vibhishana said, and Rama did so, sending Hanuman ahead with a message for Bharata: “The exile is over, and Rama is coming!”

Receiving this news, Bharata rejoiced and began preparations for Rama’s coronation.

When Rama reached Ayodhya, Bharata placed the royal sandals at his feet. “These sandals sat on the throne in your place,” he said. “Now you will be our king.”

When Rama and Lakshmana returned, even their own mothers didn’t recognize them. Fourteen years had changed the princes; the boys were now men. Kaushalya embraced Rama, Sumitra embraced Lakshmana, and both mothers embraced Sita.

171. Rama Becomes King

After embracing Lakshmana, Sumitra said, “Go wake Urmila!”

Lakshmana’s wife Urmila had been sleeping all those years so Lakshmana could stay awake.

Lakshmana found his wife fast asleep in their bed. “We have returned,” he whispered. Urmila opened her eyes and wept with joy when she saw him.

Rama was then crowned king, and Sita was his queen. The royal priests conducted the ceremony, and the devas showered them with flowers from heaven.

Thus began the reign of King Rama. Rama’s brothers and their wives rejoiced, as did Hanuman, Sugriva, Jambavan, and Vibhishana, along with all the people of Ayodhya.

172. Sita Rewards Hanuman

After Rama’s coronation, Sita honored Hanuman with a pearl necklace.

Hanuman started biting the pearls, cracking them open and looking inside.

“What are you looking for?” Sita asked, laughing, and all the people in attendance laughed too.

“I am looking for you,” said Hanuman, “and for Rama. Without you inside, these pearls are useless.”

“Rama and Sita are on their thrones!” the people shouted. “How could they be in the pearls?”

“In the same way they are in my heart,” Hanuman replied, tearing open his chest; everyone could see Rama and Sita there. “Are they not in your hearts also?”

173. Hanuman Honors Rama

The rishi Narada came to Ayodhya one day, shortly after Rama’s coronation. He saluted Rama and Sita in the throne room, and then he noticed that Hanuman was there.

“O Hanuman!” said Narada, “Sita wears a vermilion dot on her forehead to honor Rama. How do you honor him?”

Hanuman rushed to the marketplace and bought all the sacks of vermilion that were for sale. He returned to the palace, emptied the sacks in a heap on the floor, and rolled in the powder until he was covered all over.

“I honor him this way,” Hanuman said, beaming with pleasure.

174. Sita Has News for Rama

King Rama delighted in the company of Queen Sita. He would spend the morning occupied with royal duties, and then spend the rest of the day with his queen. Sita, likewise, performed her duties and attended to the queen-mothers in the morning, and then spent the rest of her day with Rama.

When Rama learned Sita was pregnant, he was overjoyed. “I could not be happier,” he said. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

“I would like to visit the rishis in their forest ashrams again. Do you remember?” Sita said.

“Of course I remember,” Rama said, smiling.

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