Sons of Rama and Sita. After Rama sent away sita who was pregnant, to the forest the twin children were born to her in the hermitage of sage Valmiki. Lava and kusha ties the horse of Rama and successfully fought Bharata, Lakshmana and Rama himself. At last are finally reunited with Rama.
Who is there in Bharat who has not heard the names of Sri Rama and Sita? Rama, in order to honor his father's words, gave up his kingship and agreed to live in the forest. Sita, though tender like a flower, followed her husband, like his shadow, to the forest. The couple had to undergoend- less travails throughout their lives. Yet they did not give up the path of righteousness. That is why they remain as ideals to us. The story of Rama and Sita is the 'Ramayana'. It is also called 'Sita Charitra' (the story of Sita).
The poet who first composed the Ramayana is Valmiki. After the Valmiki Ramayana was written, many other versions like the 'Ananda Ramayana, 'Adbhuta Ramayana, Vasishta Ramayana' and 'Sesha Ramayana' also came to be written.
The Valmiki Ramayana ends with the coronation of Rama. The rest of the story, not narrated by Valmiki, is given in Sesha Ramayana. The story of Lava and Kusha, being taken up here, is from the Sesha Ramayana.
Valmiki taught his Ramayana first to his two disciples, Lava and Kusha. They used to sing it very melodiously to the accompaniment of the Veena, a stringed instrument. The surprising thing is that Rama himself heard Lava and Kusha recite it to him, though he did not at the time know that they were his sons, and the two boys also did not know that Rama was their father. How did this coincidence come about?
Sita Goes To The Forest
After killing Ravana, Rama returned to Ayodhya with Sita and Lakshmana. His coronation took place in Ayodhya. Sita became his queen. They were happy for sometime, ruling over the kingdom. But their happiness was short-lived. Sita had after a long time become pregnant. She developed the desire to give some gifts to the wives of sages. She told Rama of her desire. Rama laughed and said, "Sita, was it not enough that you stayed with the wives of the rishis during our sojourn in the forest? Do you wish for the forest-life again?" Sita smilingly replied, "At that time I was also the wife of a forest dweller and was empty-handed. Now I am a queen and can afford to give them generous gifts." Rama agreed saying, "Very good. Let it be so."
That same night a frightful thing happened.
Rama was resting in his room after supper. A spy, whose duty it was to report to the king whatever was happening in the city, came to him. He said, "Of course all subjects praise you. But there is a washer man in this city whose name is Mara. His wife is Mari. She quarreled with her husband and went away to her parents' house. They, however, advised her properly and brought her back to the husband's place. The arrogant and angry washer man snarled, 'I am not Rama to take back a wife who had gone away.' But you should not think too much of it."
Hearing the spy's words, Rama was stunned. Sending him away, Rama was lost in deep worry. He said to himself, 'Alas, Sita! Why did you marry me? You seem fated to have only sorrow. Well, camphor cannot be offered to God without being burnt. Your life is also like that. As a king I have to conduct myself as a model to my citizens. Though a washer mans, Mara is also a subject of my kingdom. Therefore it becomes my duty now to renounce you.'
Rama sat for long in a stupefied state. He sent for all his brothers. By then it was midnight. All of them rushed to him anxiously. Rama narrated to them what the spy had told him and said he would renounce Sita. They did not agree to that. They said, "Brother, that our sister-in-law is virtuous is known to the whole world. She underwent even the fire ordeal in Lanka. She entered the flames and came out unscathed. At that time father Dasharatha came from Heaven and said, 'Sita is a very virtuous lady. Your dynasty will prosper by her.' Is the washer man's word more important than father is? Sita is in advanced pregnancy. However can you think of renouncing her in this condition?"
Rama asked Lakshmana to remain and sent the others back. Then he said, "Brother Lakshmana, you have never opposed whatever I said in the past. Now also don't do so. I know that Sita is pure. It is very painful for me to give her up. But it is my duty as a king to abandon her. Sita has desired to go to the hermitages of rishis. And I have agreed. So that will be the excuse.
Take her with you and leave her on the banks of the river Ganga."
Lakshmana would never go against his elder brother's words. But his mind was not for abandoning Sita, so advanced in pregnancy, in the jungle. "All right," he said to his brother, and departed like a possessed man. By then the night was over and it was dawn.
"Rama's Words Must Be Obeyed"
Lakshmana brought his chariot and stationed it at the door of Sita's palace. Sita had just then got up and was at her prayers. "Why Lakshmana, you have come so early!" she said. Lakshmana in reply asked, "Mother, why did you desire to go to the hermitages?"
Sita did not understand him fully. She felt very happy that her desire was being fulfilled. She thought, 'How much Rama loves me! How good he is! How quickly he fulfills my wishes!' Her joy and elation were boundless. To take with her she made a package of turmeric powder, vermilion, bangles, blouses, sarees and and other auspicious articles to be presented to the wives of sages. Thus Sita and Lakshmana started.
After a while the clariot reached the bank of the Ganga. Beyond the river were the hermitages. Lakshmana stopped his chariot and unyoking the horses, tied them elsewhere. With the help of boatmen both of them crossed the river. Then they began to walk. The Sun's heat was becoming more and more severe. Lakshmana was tired carrying the heavy package Sita had brought. The delicate Sita had to walk on stones and thorns, and her feet bled painfully.
When they were in the middle of the jungle, Lakshmana said, "Mother, I am a sinner, a cheat. I have brought you here to leave you in the forest. It seems some washer man said something bad about you. So Rama has ordered me to abandon you in the jungle. You are the very peesonification of virtue; but I have to perform this wicked deed of leaving you in the wilderness. You must pardon me."
As Sita heard his words, her eyes became dark. As a banana stem laden with fruit falls down to the ground in a storm, Sita collapsed unconscious. Seeing that, Lakshmana's mind was in turmoil. With fearful eyes he lifted his hands to the sky in supplication saying, "God, what suffering have you ordained for Sita who is like my mother! You only must help her." When Sita regained consciousness she said, "My boy Lakshmana, all this is the result of my sins. None else is responsible for this. When the all-merciful Rama renounces me, who else can help? You have only done his bidding. I must also obey Rama's behest. You may now go back. Convey my salutations to everyone in Ayodhya." Still weeping, Lakshmana said, "Mother, I shall return" and went back to Ayodhya.
In Valmiki's Hermitage
Sita was utterly alone in a thick forest. She did not know what she should do now. She sat beneath a tree and wept loudly. All the events of her life came back to her mind. She was born the daughter of King Janaka;
she married an exalted person, Rama, and so entered the palace of Emperor Dasharatha; but what she got as her share was only scandal, sorrow and suffering in a forest. As she thought of all this, she felt a heaviness in the head. She lay down, and got into a deep slumber.
Not far from that part of the forest where Sita lay down was the hermitage of the sage Valmiki. The sage had come to the forest to gather flowers, leaves and twigs of the holy fig tree for his worship. He saw Sita lying there. He was surprised at a lone woman sleeping there and approached her. Just then Sita also woke up.
Seeing a rishi standing so near, she was afraid. Suddenly she sat up. Valmiki asked her, "Mother, who are you? You have the looks of a royal princess. Why are you alone in the forest? Anyway, do not be afraid. I am sage Valmiki. My hermitage is very near, I have come to collect twigs."
Sita had heard of Valmiki and his story. Seeing him now, she regained a little courage. She got up and prostrated before him. She narrated to him her whole story, punctuated by tears. Valmiki was deeply moved. He said, "Don't be afraid, my child. I shall look after you as my own daughter. Come, let us go to my hermitage." Sita followed him to his hermitage.
Valmiki made arrangements for Sita's comfort. A beautiful hut was got ready for her. The wives of sages became her companions. They would help her bathe, comb her hair and set flowers in it. Among the roots and tubers they had collected for food, they selected the best ones and gave them to Sita. Valmiki looked her up every morning and evening and Enquirer about her welfare. Within a few days Sita mingled with the residents of the ashram as one of them.
Sometime elapsed and on an auspicious day Sita gave birth to twin sons. Ten days after the birth of a child, the naming ceremony has to take pace. Valmiki himself sat as the priest and conducted the ritual. The children were named Kusha and Lava. The twins grew up handsomely day by day like the moon in the bright half of the month.
All the people in the hermitage loved these two charming boys Kusha and Lava. Some one or the other would always be taking up the babies and playing with them. They would laugh if the children laughed. If the children shouted, they too would shout. Especially the sage Valmiki loved them very much. He would play with them; put them on his lap and sing lullabies; lift them up and make them dance. He would even forget that it was getting late for his rites and worship. He wanted that Sita should not feel sad that her children had missed the happiness of the palace. He saw to it that the children grew up in happy environs. This gave great joy to Sita.
Kusha and Lava grew up and played with other boys. After all they were princes. They were very brave. They dragged hither and thither the lion-cup, which was in the hermitage. They would tie the monkey to the cub's tail and clap their hands in joy. They made a kitetn sit on the back of a tiger and made the latter run. If anybody seeing this tried to discipline them. They would run and hide behind sage Valmiki. They made fun of the sages also. Seeing their mischief, Sita would scold them.
Valmiki would make both the children sit on his lap; he would teach them songs of prayer. Hearing the children lisp those prayers in a lovely way, both Valmiki and Sita would feel immensely happy.
When Kusha and Lava were five years old, Valmiki arranged the tonsure ceremony of the kids.
Traditionally, as soon as the tonsure ceremony is over, the teaching of the alphabets starts. Sage Valmiki himself initiated the boys in studies. The two bright boys learnt the alphabets in no time. They also acquired the ability to read and write anything. Valmiki taught them the Shastras, mythology, music, archery and whatever else he knew. The boys became experts in all those branches of knowledge.
Valmiki taught the boys the Ramayana, which he had composed. The boys learnt it by heart and learnt to sing it to the accompaniment of the Veena (a stringed instrument). Ramayana seemed to get a new felicity when they sang it. When they sang the poem the whole hermitage appeared to forget it. Valmiki was very proud of it. Whenever any guests came to the hermitage, he would make the boys sing a part of Ramayana.
Lava and Kusha were now twelve years old. Valmiki performed the sacred-thread ceremony for them, thus giving them the right to learn the Vedas. They learnt the Vedic mantras by heart. Along with that, the training in archery was also continued. The boys became proficient in Vedas and also in archery. The sage, with the mystic power of his tapas, provided them with swords and shields. In the meantime on a certain day Valmiki was called by Varuna, the Sea-God. So the rishi asked Lava and Kusha to look after the hermitage carefully and left for the world of Varuna.
The Ashwamedha Horse
As the children were growing up in the hermitage, Rama in Ayodhya was in unbearable agony, with the memory of Sita haunting him. He always had one worry or the other. He decided to perform the Ashwamedha (Horse) sacrifice.
The Ashwamedha sacrifice was not easy to perform. Only the most powerful of kings could undertake it. Rama was of course very powerful. So he formally got anointed to perform that sacrifice. The pavilion to perform the sacrifice was erected on the bank of the river Ganga. Rama worshipped the sacrificial horse. A medallion made of gold was tied on its forehead. On it was engraved the message: "This is the sacrificial horse of Sri Rama, son of Kausalya. He is the most powerful king on Earth. All those who agree should pay tribute and become his vassals. Otherwise they will tie up this horse, and fight with Rama." The horse was left to go as it liked. Rama appointed his brother Shatrughna t o go with a large army for its protection.
Lava The Hero
The Ashwamedha horse went past many countries. The kings of all those States paid tribute and became Rama's dependants. The horse was now returning to Ayodhya.
On the way it espied Valmiki's hermitage. Seeing the lush green grass there, the horse entered the hermitage. It was trampling upon the flowerbeds there and spoiling the garden. Kusha was not there. Lava happened to be playing there with other boys of the hermitage. He saw the horse. He went near it and saw the golden plaque on its forehead. When he read the inscription, he became very angry. He thought, "is Rama, the son of Kausalya, the' only hero? If I don't humble his pride, what is the use of my being the son of Sita?" With the towel, which was his upper garment, he tied that horse to a tree. He would not listen to the other boys who in fear asked him not to do so.
Meanwhile the soldiers accompanying the horse came there. They became angry that the horse had been tied up. "Who did this?" they asked the boys who were 'there. Trembling with fear, the boys said, "We didn't do that. It was he," pointing at Lava. The soldiers turned to Lava and shouted, "Untie it first." But Lava said, "Why should I untie the horse? I won't. And take care! If any of you tries to untie it, I'll cut off his hands." One of them, thinking that a young boy's words need only to be ignored, went to the horse to untie it. Lava promptly fixed an arrow in his bow and shot it the soldier's hand was cut.
The other soldiers were all very angry at what had happened to one of them. All of them surrounded the boy. But a swarm of flies does not shake a mountain. Lava stood firms and brought on a rain of arrows upon them. Many soldiers were injured and fell to the ground. They were stunned by his courage and heroism.
By then the commander of the army, Shatrughna himself, confronted Lava. He said, "Look, boy, who are you? And why have you tied the king's horse? Well, don't die of my hands. Leave the horse and run."
The words did not frighten Lava. He chanted the Mahesha incantation taught by Valmiki and aimed an arrow. Shatrughna was enraged at the boy's impudence. He also took his bow into his hands. But Lava shot an arrow that broke his bow. Shatrughna was utterly surprised at the boy's bravery. He was also angry. He took another bow and shot a terrible arrow Lava. Lava cut that arrow too. But only one half of the arrow fell down on the ground and the other sharp half-pierced Lava's chest. The boy fell down with a loud cry.
Shatrughna went near the boy prostrate on the ground. He greatly admired the boldness of the boy. He looked at him from near. Seeing the boy's handsome features, he felt drawn to him. He lifted up Lava and lay him down in his chariot. The soldiers freed the horse tied to the tree. All of them started towards Ayodhya, led by the horse.
Chased By Kusha
The young sons of the rishis were all very much afraid at what had happened to Lava. Weeping loudly they ran to the ashram and narrated to Sita all that had transpired. She started weeping tearfully, not knowing what would be her son's fate. And this had happened when Valmiki was not in the hermitage! She was in confusion as to what should be done now.
When Lava tied the sacrificial horse to a tree, Kusha was not in the ashram. He had gone out to the forest to bring the holy twigs for worship. When he returned, he saw that Sita was weeping. He asked her, "Mother, why are you weeping? What happened?"
Amidst loud sobs Sita told him all that had happened. Kusha became red with anger. He burst out, "Mother, don't be afraid. Even if it is Yama the God of Death who has taken away my brother, I will break his bones. I do no care for these so-called kings. Give me my shields, bow and arrows." Sita at once put on him his nail-coat and fetched his bow and arrows. Kusha prostrated before his mother. "May you succeed," Sita blessed and bade him farewell.
Kusha chased the army like a whirlwind. Nearing it, he shouted, "Stop! Stop!" The soldiers did not pay heed to his words and were marching on. Kusha became enraged. He shot an arrow. It flew with a hissing sound and pierced the back of a soldier who fell down. At once the whole army stopped and turned to Kusha. The soldiers got ready to fight with this new boy. But in no time Kusha rained his arrows on them. Many soldiers fell victims to his arrows and were aground. Shatrughna turned to him and said, "You are like the young of a deer and do you want to fight with tigers?" Kusha laughed and replied, "You are no tiger but a fox. When I was not there you have stolen my brother and are going away." With these words he shot four arrows which killed the four horses of Shatrughna's chariot. Another arrow brought down the charioteer.
Shatrughna jumped down from his chariot and with great wrath shouted, "You wicked boy, I'll kill you now." But an arrow shot by Kusha pierced Shatrughna's chest. Loudly uttering "Rama! Rama!" he fell down on the ground with a thud.
Seeing Shatrughna collapsing on the ground, all the army-men trembled with tear. They dropped their weapons and stood quietly. A messenger on horseback was sent to Rama. Kusha went near Shatrughna's chariot. Just then Lava also regained consciousness. As soon as he saw Kusha, he shouted, "0, brother!" and jumped from the chariot. They embraced each other. Lava said, "Brother, my bow was broken in the fight. I will now pray to the Sun-God as taught by our preceptor Valmiki and obtain a new bow." Kusha said, "Yes, please do so." Lava closed his eyes and chanted the Surya-mantra, or the hymn to the Sun. Then the Sun favoured him with a new bow. Both Lava and Kusha were overjoyed at this. The two again dragged the sacrificial horse and tied it to a tree.
Lakshmana And Bharat Humbled
The messenger from the warfield went straight to Rama, who was sitting in the pavilion being consecrated to perform the Ashwamedha sacrifice. The soldier told him all that had happened. Rama at first would not believe that Shatrughna had been defeated by a mere boy. But the soldier swore by it. Then Rama became worried as to who that boy could be. He sent his brother Lakshmana with a new army to help Shatrughna. Seeing him, the soldiers on the warfield had renewed courage. The whole army togetherattacked the boys again. But it was unavailing. The arrows of the boys felled many of them.
Looking at the bad shape of his army, Lakshmana himself entered the fray. Kusha left his brother to fight the army and himself faced Lakshmana. A fierce fight ensued between the two. Kusha shot the arrow of fire. But Lakshmana used the arrow of water and extinguished it. Kusha then sent a snake-arrow. Lakshmana destroyed it with an eagle-arrow.
Kusha was now very angry. He shot a very mighty arrow, the use of which Valmiki had taught him. The arrow went straight to Lakshmana and hit him. It hit him so powerfully that Lakshmana tottered and fell down on the ground. By then all the soldiers had also fled from the battlefield, unable to bear Lava's arrows.
The news that Lakshmana too was defeated and was aground reached Rama. Rama was upset. The people around whispered, 'This Rama unjustly sent away his virtuous wife Sita to the forest. This is the result of that sin.' Bharata told Rama: "Brother, don't be sad. I will go and punish those boys and bring back the brothers who have swooned." Hanumanta and Jambavanta also went to the battlefield along with Bharata.
When Hanumanta saw Lava and Kusha standing in the battlefield, he said to Bharata, "Look at those boys. They are so much resemble to Ramachandra." Bharata looked at them and felt it was indeed so. The boys bore a very strong resemblance to Rama. Bharata felt very affectionate towards them. He spoke to Kusha, "My dear boy, who are you? Who is this other boy? You two have killed our whole army. You have also brought down my brothers. Now at least, leave that horse. Why this ill will between you and us? Go to your mother and be happy."
Kusha laughed and said: 'Well,' we belong to the hermitage of Valmiki. I am Kusha and this is my younger brother Lava. I won't leave this horse. You have by yourself come for a fight. We have given a proper reply. We will make you also fall to the ground like your brothers. Only then will we go to our mother." Even as he spoke he shot arrows at Bharata.
In the fight that ensued between the two, Bharata collapsed on the ground unable to face the boy's arrows. The entire army ran away, not being able to withstand Lava's attack. Even Hanumanta and Jambavanta stood far away, where the arrows of the boys would not reach them. Some messengers ran to Rama from the battlefield and gave him the news. He was in turmoil. With no other way left, he himself had to go now to the battlefield.
Rama Also Defeated
Rama came to the battlefield and saw that everywhere soldiers were lying on the ground. And nearby lay his own brothers, unconscious. A little further was the horse, tied to a tree. Near the horse stood two boys, holding bows and arrows. What havoc had been wrought by such a small boys! Rama could not believe his eyes. He gently spoke to the children - "My dear boys, where from are you? Who is your father? And who is your mother? Who taught you archery? But why this wicked obstinacy to tie this horse? And how did you get this might to conquer such a huge army?"
To all these questions, Kusha replied merely: "Great king, you have come to free this horse and take it. If you have that power, well, conquer us and take the horse. Or else go away from here. Why such useless talk?"
But Rama said, "Alas! Should I fight with children like you? I do feel angry when - I look at my brothers lying unconscious. But I just don't have the mind to fix the arrow in my bow. I love very much to know about you. Do please tell me."
Then Kusha told him, "Look, we are the twin sons of Sitadevi. Sage Valmiki has taught us the Vedas and archery. Our study of the Ramayana, taught by him, has given us this strength."
Rama then understood that they were his own sons. At the mention of Sita's name, his agony knew no bounds.
Unable to bear that grief, he swooned in the chariot. Sugreeva who was by his side fanned him and after a while Rama recovered.
When Rama and Sugreeva were talking, Neela was stealthily untying the horse. Seeing that, Kusha aimed an arrow at him. Hit by the arrow, Neela fell to the ground with a thud. Hanumanta, Jambavanta and other heroes surrounded the boys. But they were all laid on the ground by the boy's arrows. This enraged Rama. He showered his arrows on the boys. They were not ordinary arrows. Rama's arrows nad killed great heroes like Ravana and Kumbhakarna. But in front of these boys, even they were ineffective. The arrows shot by Rama were all cut in the middle of their fight by the two boys. But the arrows shot by the youngsters lodged themselves in Rama's body. Rama's horses fell down and his charioteer too. The whole body of Rama was made gory with wounds. In extreme pain Rama lay down in his chariot.
The boys ran to him. They saw the handsome and dignified form of Rama. The string of pearls he was wearing looked so fine. They took it off his neck and tied it in a piece of cloth. They also took away all the precious ornaments worn by Lakshmana, Bharata Shatrughna.
Sita Is Worried
Kusha and Lava were ready to return to their mother. Just then Lava said, "Brother, one or two in this army may be awake. Let us drag them to our mother." Kusha agreed. Hearing this, Hanumanta told Jambavanta, "Look, these boys are going to take us to Sitadevi. That should cause no worry. She will certainly protect us." It happened just like that. Lava heard the two of them talking. He went to them, and tying them up, dragged them with him. With them and with the jewels, Lava and Kusha returned to the hermitage.
Sita was in great anxiety, as the children had not returned for such a long time. The boys who now came back went to her and gave her the bundle of ornaments. The boys made the two, whom they had dragged thither, prostrate at their mother's feet. Sita was stunned to see Hanumanta and Jambavanta! And the ornaments were all of Rama, Lakshmana Bharata and Shatrughna! Her heart seemed to stop. She told her children, "Alas! What have you done! Why do we need these ornaments of kings? These monkey heroes are great beings. Why did you shame them thus? Release them at once."
The two boys could not understand why their mother was pained. They took back Hanumanta and Jambavanta. Sita tearfully lamented, "What now? 0, that all this should have happened just when Valmiki is not here! What should I do now?"
And lo! It was Valmiki who was returning to the ashram. He went straight to Sita. He consoled her saying, "Mother, pray, don't weep. I know all. All that has happened is for the good. I shall set everything right."
The sage Valmiki proceeded to the battlefield with Kusha and Lava. Consecrating with sacred spells the water in the vessel he carried, he sprinkled that water on all the persons lying on the ground. All of them at once got up as if from sleep. All of them prostrated at Valmiki's feet. The sage made Lava and Kusha prostrate before Rama. Then he said, "0 great king, you are very kind-hearted. You always protect those who come to you in need. Please do not be angry. These boys are your own sons. They are born to Sitadevi. They have now committed a big mistake, when I was not in the hermitage. You must pardon them."
Rama asked Lakshmana, "Brother, did you not leave Sita in the forest?"
"Yes, I did. But I don't know what happened later," replied Lakshmana.
Then Valmiki clarified: "While in the jungle, by God's grace she was seen by me. I took her to my hermitage. There she gave birth to these twin children. I taught the Vedas and archery to them."
Valmiki sent Lava and Kusha to the hermitage and had the Veena brought. As asked by their preceptor, the boys sang the Ramayana to the accompaniment of the Veena. Their singing was so sweet, as if the goddess of music was herself there. They recited the Ramayana from the beginning to the end. Rama, his brothers and the retinue listened to it with rapt attention, forgetting themselves. Rama's joy was boundless. He said to Lakshmana, "Brother, in voice and speech, shape and beauty, these boys resemble to Sita." Lakshmana smiled and replied, it Brother, they are surely your sons. Otherwise how could they get such strength as to defeat you? Please accept them."
Rama called the two boys to him. They went to him gladly. Rama drew them near and embraced them. All the people around were happy. Rama told Valmiki, "Sir, I will take these boys with me. I have now accepted Sita back. Please send her to Ayodhya."
Rama started back to return to Ayodhya. Sage Valmiki bade him farewell and returned to his hermitage. The chariot sent by Rama arrived at the hermitage. Valmiki himself accompanied Sita to Ayodhya in that chariot. There Sita and Rama were rejoined in union. They ruled happily as king and queen, with Kusha and Lava.
The whole world sang of the glory of Rama and Sita.