Chapter 1 — Description of Evening and the Assembly Breaks

Valmiki said:—

You have heard the discussion of the subject of detachment or composure of the soul. Attend now to that of nirvana, which will teach you how to attain your final liberation.

As the chief of sages was giving his grand speech in this manner and the princes remained mute with intense attention to the sage’s captivating oration, the assembled chiefs remained like silent and motionless portraits. They forgot their devotions and duties, so impressed on their minds were the sense and words of the sage’s speech. The assembly of saints reverently reflecting upon the deep sense of the words of the sage, with their curled brows and signs of their index fingers (indicating their wonder). 5 The ladies in the harem were lost in wonder, and turned their wondering eyes upward, resembling a cluster of black bees intently sucking the nectar honey of the new blown flowers (of the sage’s speech).

The glorious sun sank down in the sky at the fourth and last watch of the day and was divested of his radiant beams as he set in the west. The winds blew softly at the eve of the day, as if to listen to the sage’s sermon, and blew about the sweets of his moving speech like the fragrance of gently shaking mandara flowers. All other sounds drowned in the deep meditation of the audience, as when the humming of the bumble bees is paused when they rest in the cells of blooming flowers at night. Bubbling waters of pearly lakes sparkled unmoved amidst their enclosed beds, as if they were intently listening to the sage’s words which dropped like strings of pearls from his fluent lips.

10 Beams from the declining sun penetrating the windows of the palace indicated the halting of the departing sun under the cooling shade of the royal canopy after his weary journey throughout the day. 11 The pearly rays of the parting day, covered by the dust and mist of dusk, seemed to be smeared like the body of an ascetic with dust and ashes. The day gained its coolness after its journey under the burning sun.

12 The chiefs of men, their heads and hands decorated with flowers, were so entertained with the sweet speech of the sage that their senses and minds remained in bliss. 13 Ladies listening to the sage were now roused by the cries of their infants and the birds in their cages to get up and to give them their food.

14 Now the dust flung by the wings of fluttering bees covered the petals of the night blooming kumuda flowers. Flapping chowrie fans were now at rest with the trembling eyelids of the princes. 15 The rays of the sun, fearing to be attacked by the shade of dark night loosened from dark mountain caves, fled through windows to the inner apartment of the palace. 16 The time watches of the royal palace, knowing it had passed the fourth watch of the day, sounded their drums and trumpets mixed with the sound of conch shells loudly resounding on all sides. 17 The high-sounding speech of the sage was drowned under the loud sound of the jarring instruments, just as the sonorous sound of the peacock is hushed under the sound of roaring clouds.

18 Birds in cages began to quake and shake their wings with fear. The leaves and branches of lofty palm trees shook in the gardens, as if by a tremendous earthquake. 19 Babies sleeping on their nurses’ breasts trembled with fear at the loud uproar. They cried like smoking clouds of the rainy season resounding between two mountain crags resembling the breasts. 20 This noise made the chieftains’ helmets shed the dust of their decorating flowers all about the hall, just as the moving waves of the lake sprinkle the drops of water upon the land.

21 Thus Dasharata’s palace, full of apprehension at the close of the day, regained its quiet at the gradual fall of the fanfare of conch shells and the noisy confusion of drum beatings heralding the advance of night. 22 The sage put a stop to his discourse and in a sweet voice and graceful language he addressed Rama sitting in the midst of the assembly.

23 Vasishta said:—

O Raghava! I have already spread before you the long net of my words. Trap your flying mind in the same way and bring it to your heart and under your subjection. 24 Take the meaning of my discourse in such a way as to leave out what is unintelligible and lay hold of its substance, just as the swan separates and sucks the milk from water. 25 Reflect upon it repeatedly, consider it well in your mind, and go on in this way to conduct yourself in life.

26 By going on in this manner, you are sure to evade all dangers. Otherwise you must soon fall like a heavy elephant in some pit of Vindhya Mountain. 27 If you do not receive my words with attention, and act accordingly, you are sure to fall into the pit like a blind man left alone in the dark and be blown away like a lit lamp exposed in the open air. 28 In order to derive the benefit of my lectures, you must continue in the discharge of your usual duties with indifference, knowing detachment to be the correct teaching of the scriptures, and regardless of everything besides.

29 Now I bid you, O mighty monarch, and you princes and chiefs, and all you present in this place, to get up and attend to the evening services of your daily ritual. 30 Let all attend to this much at present, as the day is drawing to its close. We shall consider the rest when we meet in the morning.

31 Valmiki related:—

After the sage said this, the assembled chiefs and princes rose up, their faces blooming like full blown lotuses at the end of the day. 32 The chiefs paid their obeisance to the monarch, made their salutation to Rama, offered their reverence to the sage, and departed to their respective homes.

33 Vasishta rose up from his seat with the royal sage Vishwamitra. They were saluted on their departure by the aerial spirits who had attended the audience all along. 34 The sages were followed closely for a long way by the king and chieftains. They parted after approaching them on the way, according to their rank and dignity. 35 Celestials took their leave of the sage and took to their heavenward journey. Munis returned to their hermitages in the woods. Some of the saints turned about the palace, like bees flying about a lotus bush. 36 The king offered handfuls of fresh flowers at the feet of Vasishta, then entered the royal seraglio with his royal consorts.

37 But Rama and his brother princes kept company with the sage until they his hermitage. Then, having prostrated themselves at his feet, they returned to their princely houses.

38 Those who had heard the sage speak, having arrived at their houses, made their ablutions. Then they worshipped the gods and offered their offerings to their ancestors. They treated their guests and gave alms to beggars. 39 Then they took their meals with their brahmin guests and family members. Their dependants and servants were fed one after the other according to the rules and customs of their order and caste. 40 After the sun had set down with the daily duties of men, the bright moon rose on high, imposing many nightly duties on mankind.

41 At last the great king and princes, chiefs of men and munis, together with the sages and saints and all other terrestrial beings took themselves to their several beds, with silken bedspreads and bed cloths of various kinds. 42 They lay thinking intensely about the teachings of sage Vasishta, and on the mode of their passing over the boisterous gulf of this world by means of this spiritual knowledge. 43 Then they slept and lay with closed eyelids for only one watch of the night, then opened their eyes like the opening buds of lotuses to see the light of the day.

44 Rama and his brother princes passed three full watches of the night in waking and pondering over the deep sense of the lectures of their spiritual guide. 45 They slept with closed eyelids for only one and a half watches that night. Then they shook off the dullness of their sleep, after driving the fatigue of their bodies by a short nap.

46 Now minds being full of goodwill raised by the rising reason in their souls and knowledge of truth, they felt the crescent of spiritual light lightening their dark bosoms, just as the crescent of the moon illuminates the gloom of night, which afterwards disappeared at the approach of daylight and the gathering heat of daytime.