Crossing The Ganges. Bharad-Vaja’s Hermitage By Valmiki

Crossing The Ganges. Bharad-Vaja’s Hermitage

Morning dawned, and far they wandered, by their people loved and lost,
Drove through grove and flowering woodland, rippling rill and river crost,

Crossed the sacred Vedasruti on their still unending way,
Crossed the deep and rapid Gumti where the herds of cattle stray,

All the toilsome day they travelled, evening fell o’er wood and lea,
And they came where sea-like Ganga rolls in regal majesty,

‘Neath a fall Ingudi’s shadow by the river’s zephyrs blest,
Second night of Rama’s exile passed in sleep and gentle rest.

Morning dawned, the royal chariot Rama would no further own,
Sent Sumantra and the coursers back to fair Ayodhya’s town,

Doffing then their royal garments Rama and his brother bold
Coats of bark and matted tresses wore like anchorites of old.

Guha, chief of wild Nishadas, boat and needed succour gave,
And the princes and fair Sita ventured on the sacred wave.

And by royal Rama bidden strong Nishadas plied the oar,
And the strong boat quickly bounding left fair Ganga’s northern shore.

‘Goddess of the mighty Ganga!’ so the pious Sits, prayed,
‘Exiled by his father’s mandate, Rama seeks the forest shade,

Ganga! o’er the three worlds rolling, bride and empress of the sea,
And from BRAHMA’S sphere descended! banished Sita bows to thee.

May my lord return in safety, and a thousand fattened kine,
Gold and gifts and gorgeous garments, pure libations shall be thine,

And with flesh and corn I worship unseen dwellers on thy shore,
May my lord return in safety, fourteen years of exile o’er!’,

On the southern shore they journeyed through the long and weary day,
Still through grove and flowering woodland held their long and weary way,

And they slayed the deer of jungle and they spread their rich repast,
Third night of the princes’ exile underneath a tree was past.

Morning dawned, the soft-eyed Sits, wandered with the princes brave,
To the spot where ruddy Gangs, mingles with dark Jumna’s wave,

And they crost the shady woodland, verdant lawn and grassy mead,
Till the sun was in its zenith, Rama then to Lakshman said:

‘Yonder mark the famed Prayaga, spot revered from age to age,
And the line of smoke ascending speaks some rishi’s hermitage,

There the waves of ruddy Gangs with the dark blue Jumna meet,
And my ear the sea-like voices of the mingling waters greet.

Mark the monarchs of the forest severed by the hermit’s might,
And the logs of wood and fuel for the sacrificial rite,

Mark the tall trees in their blossom and the peaceful shady grove,
There the sages make their dwelling, thither, Lakshman, let us rove.’

Slowly came the exile-wand’rers, when the sun withdrew his rays,
Where the vast and sea-like rivers met in sisters’ sweet embrace,

And the asram’s peaceful dwellers, bird of song and spotted deer,
Quaked to see the princely strangers in their warlike garb appear!

Rama stepped with valiant Lakshman, gentle Sits followed close,
Till behind the screening foliage hermits’ peaceful dwellings rose,

And they came to Bharad-vaja, anchorite and holy saint,
Girt by true and faithful pupils on his sacred duty bent.

Famed for rites and lofty penance was the anchorite of yore,
Blest with more than mortal vision, deep in more than mortal tore,

And he sat beside the altar for the agni-hotra rite,
Rama spake in humble accents to the man of holy might:

‘We are sons of Dasa-ratha and to thee our homage bring,
With rny wife, the saintly Sita, daughter of Videha’s king,

Exiled by my royal father in the wilderness I roam,
And my wife and faithful brother make the pathless woods their home,

We would through these years of exile in some holy asram dwell.
And our food shall be the wild fruit and our drink from crystal well,

We would practise pious penance still on sacred rites intent,
Till our souls be filled with wisdom and our years of exile spent!’

Pleased the ancient Bharad-vaja heard the prince’s humble tale.
And with kind and courteous welcome royal strangers greeted well,

And he brought the milk and argya where the guests observant stood,
Crystal water from the fountain, berries from the darksome wood,

And a low and leafy cottage for their dwelling-place assigned,
As a host receives a stranger, welcomed them with offerings kind.

In the asram’s peaceful courtyard fearless browsed the jungle deer,
All unharmed the bird of forest; pecked the grain collected near,

And by holy men surrounded ‘neath the trees’ umbrageous shade,
In his pure and peaceful accents rishi Bharad-vaja said:

Not unknown or unexpected, princely strangers, have ye come,
I have heard of sinless Rama’s causeless banishment from home,

Welcome to a hermit’s forest, be this spot your place of rest,
Where the meeting of the rivers, makes our sacred asram blest,

Live amidst these peaceful woodlands, still on sacred rites intent
Till your souls be filled with wisdom and your years of exile spent!’

‘Gracious are thy accents, rishi,’ Rama answered thus the sage.
‘But fair towns and peopled hamlets border on this hermitage,

And to see the banished Sita and to see us, much I fear,
Crowds of rustics oft will trespass on thy calm devotions here,

Far from towns and peopled hamlets, grant us, rishi, in thy grace,
Some wild spot where hid in jungle we may pass these years in peace.’

‘Twenty miles from this Prayagya,’ spake the rishi pond’ring well,
‘Is a lonely hill and jungle where some ancient hermits dwell,

Chitra-kuta, Peak of Beauty, where the forest creatures stray,
And in every bush and thicket herds of lightsome monkeys play,

Men who view its towering summit are on lofty thoughts inclined.
Earthly pride nor earthly passions cloud their pure and peaceful mind,

Hoary-headed ancient hermits, hundred autumns who have done,
By their faith and lofty penance heaven’s eternal bliss have won,

Holy is the fair seclusion for thy purpose suited well,
Or if still thy heart inclineth, here in peace and comfort dwell!’

Spake the rishi Bharad-vaja, and with every courteous rite,
Cheered his guests with varied converse till the silent hours of night,

Fourth night of the princes’ exile in Prayaga’s hermitage,
Passed the brothers and fair Sita honoured by Prayaga’s Sacre.

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