Chapter 3 — Description of the Royal Assembly

Valmiki continued:—

In this manner, Rama passed the long night with his lengthy series of reflections, eagerly awaiting dawn, like a lotus longing for the rising sun at daybreak. Gradually the stars faded away at the appearance of the rising morning light in the east. The face of the sky became dimly pale before it was washed over with the white of twilight. The beating of morning drums and the alarm of trumpets roused Rama from his thoughts. He rose with his moonlike face blooming like a full blown lotus in its leafy bed. He performed his morning ablution and devotion, then joined his brothers and a few attendants to go to the hermitage of sage Vasishta.

Having arrived there, they found the sage entranced in his meditation in his lonely solitude. From a respectful distance, they lowly bent down their heads before him. After making their obeisance, they waited on him in the compound until the twilight of morning brought daylight over the face of the sky. The hermitage thronged with princes and chiefs, saints, sages and brahmins as if the celestials were gathered for a meeting in the highest heaven of Brahma. The abode of Vasishta was full of people and the crowds of cars, horses and elephants waiting outside made it equal in grandeur to a royal palace.

After a while the sage rose from his deep meditation and gave suitable reception to the assembled throng that bowed down before him. 10 Then Vasishta, accompanied by Vishwamitra and followed by a long parade of munis and other men, came out of the hermitage and got into a carriage, sitting down in the manner of the lotus-born Brahma sitting on his lotus seat. 11 He arrived at Dasharata’s palace which was surrounded by a large army. There he got down from his car, as when Brahma descends from his highest heaven to the city of Indra attended by the entire host of celestials.

12 He entered the grand court hall of the king and was saluted by courtiers lowly bending down before him, just as when a stately gander enters a bed of lotuses amid a body of aquatic birds (all staring at him). 13 The king also got up and descended from his high throne, then advanced three paces barefoot to receive the venerable sage. 14 Then entered a large collection of chiefs and princes, with groups of saints, sages, brahmins and hotri (reciter) and potri (corrector) priests.

15 Next came the minister Sumantra and others, with the learned pundits Somya and others. Rama and his brothers followed with the sons of royal ministers. 16 Next came the ministerial officers, the ministerial priests, and the principal citizens, with bodies of the Malava wrestlers and servants of all orders, and townsmen of different professions. 17 All these took their respective seats and sat in the proper order of their ranks. They kept looking intently on sage Vasishta with uplifted heads and eyes. 18 The murmur of the assembly was hushed and the eulogists’ recitations stopped. Greetings and conferences were at an end and there ensued a still silence in the assembly.

19 Winds blew sweet fragrance upward from the cups of full blown lotuses and scattered the sweet dust of their filaments in the spacious hall. 20 Clusters of flowers hung about the hall, diffusing their scents all around. The entire court hall seemed to be sprinkled with perfumes of all sorts.

21 Queens and princesses sat at the windows to see the assembly in the outer hall. They sat upon their couches in the inner apartment which was spread over with flowers. 22 They saw everything by the light of the sun which shining through the lattice work of the windows. They also saw by the radiance of the gems sparkling on their delicate bodies. Attendant women remained silent, without waving their fans or chowries.

23 The earth was sown with orient pearls by dawning sunbeams, and the ground was covered with flowers glistening at the sunlight. Light locusts did not descend upon them, thinking them to be sparks of fire, but kept hovering in the midway sky as if the body of a dark and moving cloud.

24 Respectable people sat in mute wonder to hear the holy lectures of Vasishta, because agreeable advice derived from the society of the good is beyond all estimation. 25 Spiritual masters, vidyadharas, saints, brahmins and respectable men gathered from all sides of the sky and forests and from all cities and towns. They gathered around about Vasishta and saluted him in silence, because deep veneration is naturally mute and lacking in words.

26 The sky was covered with golden dust carried by fluttering bees from the cups of the starch-like lotuses where they had been enclosed at night. Soft airs blew the tinkling sound of ringing bells hanging on strings in the door ways of houses. 27 The morning breeze was now blowing with the fragrance of various flowers, mixing with the perfume of sandal paste, and making bees fly and flutter on all sides with their sweet humming music.