The story of Ramayana – Part 2
Ravana was very knowledgeable and spiritual king of Lanka. He was a devout follower of Lord Shiva, a great scholar, brave ruler and a maestro of veena (musical instrument). Ravana was a huge devotee of Lord Brahma, and received the boon of immortality (which he stored under his naval). The epic describes Ravana as a ten-headed demon. (There is a mention in Atharvaveda about demonic Brahmans called Dasagva (ten-headed). The presence of many supernatural body parts symbolizes extreme power in the ancient Indian mythic depiction. ) The existence of ten heads symbolizes extreme super natural powers but at the same time could be an interpretation of a complete man with ten emotions (viz. anger, pride, jealousy, happiness, sadness, fear, selfishness, passion, ambition, and intellect).
As the story of Ramayana continues, Ravana plotted to abduct Sita in order to take revenge on Rama and Lakshmana. Ravana’s cousin Marich had supernatural powers to take any living form. Ravana asked Marich to take the form of golden deer and lure Sita. As instructed, Marich took the form of deer and started wandering near Sita’s cottage. Sita was in awe of the deer and she requested Rama to get her the deer. Rama was reluctant to leave Sita alone, but eventually he left after the deer. He asked Lakshmana to take care of Sita while he went to capture the deer.
While Rama was gone Sita and Lakshmana waited patiently for his return. Rama aimed at the deer and shot an arrow towards it. The arrow hit the deer and Marich returned to his human form. He screamed in pain. Sita heard the scream and thought something might have happened to Rama. She pleaded Lakshmana to check out what had happened to Rama. Lakshmana was reluctant to disobey his brother’s words, but eventually left Sita alone in the hut. Before leaving Lakshmana made a boundary (called Lakshmana Rekha) with an arrow around Sita’s cottage and instructed her not to cross the line at any cost. The Lakshmana Rekha will protect her from any imminent danger while he was gone to fetch Rama. (The terminology “Lakshmana Rekha” is used still today to imply a women’s limit and boundary in the society. In Hindu religion, it is believed that the women’s virtue lies in her well-defined boundaries, set by the society, and she is always expected to stay within her limits.)
Ravana approached the cottage disguised as a hermit, soon after Lakshmana left Sita alone in the cottage. (It’s a ritual to offer food/ money to a hermit at the door. It’s a Hindu tradition to consider athithi (guests) next to God.) Sita followed the Hindu ritual and volunteered to offer the hermit (Ravana in disguise) some food. The hermit tried to enter the cottage but the Lakshmana rekha stopped him from doing so. So he asked Sita to cross the rekha and only then he will accept her offer. Sita was scared to cross the rekha, but bound by her duty she crossed the rekha to offer the hermit. A mistake was made, and immediately Ravana took his usual form and captured Sita. This episode in Ramayana is called Sita Haran (i.e. Captivating Sita).
Please read: The story of Ramayana – Part 4