We all know about Sita’s abduction by Ravana, but what is not so well known is that Sita was abducted once earlier in the epic too. This incident was used as an act of foreshadowing, which is an important narrative device in epics and plays.

In the aranya kanda, i.e. soon after Rama, Sita and Lakhsman left Ayodhya, the three of them come across a demon in the forest of Dandaka. He had a huge face, a horrible belly and quite a horrifying appearance. He made himself even more grotesque, clad in a tiger skin, with blood smeared all around and fat hanging from the skin. He had a spear, with animal heads pierced on them.

When the demon noticed the three, he rushed towards them and seized Sita, tucked her under his arms, threatened Ram and Lakshman, and ran a distance with her. After running some distance, he stopped and turned back to threaten Ram and Lakshman who were giving him chase, with dire consequences. He said, that they looked like ascetics but had a wife and weapons with them, which aroused doubt in his mind about who they actually are, for ascetics do not have wives and never carry weapons. The demon then went on to say, that he was a mighty demon, who feasted on sages and loved good looking women and that he would make Sita his wife.

Thereafter there is an interesting conversation between Ram and Lakshman. Ram is sad and says he is disappointed to see Sita perched on the hips of the mighty demon Viradha. And this is what Kaikeyi wanted; not happy with her son as the King of Ayodhya, she sought the banishment of Ram and wished for his utter misery. Ram then breaks down and says that he could not bear the thought of someone touching Sita and that this thought was more upsetting than the death of his own father and the loss of Ayodhya!

Lakshman plays the sage in the conversation. He consoles Ram by reminding him that he was equal to Indra and that it didn’t suit him to break down and accept defeat. He promised Ram that he would kill the demon and drink his blood. He goes on to say, that he is going to channel his anger for Bharat on the creature and destroy him.

On being asked for the identity by the demon, Ram says that they are virtuous Kshatriyas and were there only to spend some time. Ram wondered who he was, who had abducted his wife? To this the demon replied that he a mighty demon, by the name of Viradha and had a boon from Lord Brahma that no weapon on earth could kill him. He told Ram to leave Sita with him and that the two could leave.

Ram was now enraged and together with Lakshaman they attacked him with arrows. Viaradha’s spear was sliced into two by one of the arrows of Ram, and soon, Lakshaman severed his right arm, while Ram cut off his left arm. Viaradha then said, that he had recognised the three, the moment he had seen them. He was a gandharva by the name of Tumburu, who was cursed by Kubera.

Kubera had told him that he would be released of the curse by Ram, when he came that way. Now that he was about to die, he requested that Ram bury him in a pit, as that was the ritual for the demons. Ram and Lakshman then hurled him into a huge pit and soon that was the end of Viradha.

The story leaves many interesting implications in its trail, for one Rama is shown to be breaking down and feeling helpless, it brings out his anger towards Kaikeyi and his grief at the death of his father. However, this is also what many cite as an excellent example of the use of foreshadowing as a device of story-telling, wherein we are warned of things to come. As Arshia Sattar says in her translation of the epic Ramayana, “Foreshadowing acts as a powerful tool in the building and maintenance of a mood for the epic. It also provides a narrative rhythm as it lays out the primary concern of the text.”

Story collected by: Utkarsh Patel

Source: Ramyana, Aranya kanda. (As per the translation by Arshia Sattar)

Location: Pan-India

Image Source: Image library for MLLL-4993, Epics of Ancient India (University of Oklahoma)