Story Of A Rakshasi
Story Of A Rakshasi
The evening breeze playfully flirts with the tree leaves and branches. The dying embers in the western horizon lit up the forest scene. Spring is nigh, and brilliant colours adorn the shrubs and bushes. The woods are not very thick, with clear traces of human habitation on the narrow trails and river banks. The murmur of a nearby brook rises above the buzz of the honey bees and the scampering footsteps of deers and rabbits.
A small hut stands in a clearing amidst the forest. Its inhabitants are not many, and they all seem to have gone out. A woman waits eagerly in the shadows. Her magnificent body has the tone of an expert climber, and her skin glows like fire in the twilight. She moves nimbly through the bushes much like a gazelle, her eyes fixed on the small dwelling. She is numb to the pain, as branches and thorns bruise her bare skin. Her slender limbs bear signs of great strength and intense femininity. Her eyes, the most remarkable feature of her body, are ablaze with lust. She swiftly climbs up a tree to gain a vantage point so that no one can approach the forest dwelling unobserved.
Two gorgeous looking men and a beautiful woman live in the hut. The people do not look like the other forest dwellers. They are definitely from a foreign land. Surpanakha has been observing the men with keen interest. Their sinewy shoulders and broad chests carry the scars of many battles, something that they display with apparent pride. In fact, the brothers are excellent marksmen, especially the elder one. Once Surpanakha saw the elder brother kill a boar with his bow and arrow. As he stood still and took aim, he looked like a statute carved out of gold. He pulled his bowstring with a gentle hum, shooting three arrows in one fluid motion. The beast had no chance.
Surpanakha has learned the name of all three. The youngest is alert and energetic. He tirelessly runs errands for his brother and sister-in-law. His handsome face lacks the maturity of his elder sibling. The couple is very fond of him, and refers to him as Lakshman. The woman in the family, Surpanakha has noticed, is the epitome of propriety. She is reverential to her husband, and never takes his name. Surpankaha has been following the couple day and night. The rakshasi discovered that inspite of being in the prime of their youth they never made love. Surpanakha's body aches for the men, and yet her rival Sita, the woman of the family, seems to be so nonchalant towards any physical love. Although, otherwise there is a lot of warmth in her relationship with her husband.
Surpanakha has realized that these are men of importance. Monks and sages from far and near visit their humble cottage. The learned Brahmins are generally proud men, sitting pompously at the top of the social hierarchy. They provide political, military and spiritual guidance to all the royal houses across the country. Many of them have set up their schools and hermitages in the forests, where they train the Kshatriyas in warcraft and politics. Between the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas, they have usurped power and possession from the native dwellers of the land. The Brahmins clasp their hands and address the head of this family with the deepest of respect - "Lord Ram." Surpanakha has gathered from different conversations that he is the king of Ayodhya. All the proprieties and the outward courtesies, are hence, habits of a royal palace - Surpanakha decided.
Surpanakha hears footsteps. They are coming back. She is determined to show herself to Ram today. She bursts into the opening, her gait emanating a wild sexuality along with a distinct air of aristocracy. The brothers turn towards her in surprise.
Surpanakha bows down to Ram, and comes straight to the point. "My Lord, I am fatally attracted towards you. Make me your wife. I am not unworthy of you. I descend from a noble and ancient line of Rakshash clan. I am the youngest child of Rishi Vishrava and his wife Kaikesi. Ravan, the king of Lanka is my eldest brother. "
Ram looks at the heaving breasts of the princess, and composes himself. "You are a princess, and yet you are roaming about unprotected?"
"I am independent, and quite capable of defending myself. I am naturally gifted with rare powers of illusion and sorcery," the Rakshashi replies haughtily.
Ram is not used to such candidness, especially from a woman. His heart twitches wickedly, but he is the master of the house of Raghus - the paradigm of royal dignity. How can he even listen to such effrontery? He musters the appropriate reproach in his voice. "I already have a wife, whom I love with all my heart. I have no reason to look for another woman."
"Your wife!" Surpanakha laughs out scornfully. "You never even make love to that woman. I would be the true woman in your life."
Ram turns a shade purple. "Presently, we are living in exile, and have committed ourselves to celibacy. A woman like you would never be able to fathom the depth of our affection and loyalty. However, you can appeal to my brother Lakshman."
Lakshman was listening to the conversation with growing irritation. The Rakshashi's unearthly beauty has touched him as well, but like his brother, he detests directness in women. The woman claims to be of royal origin. But, which decent woman would speak so openly about carnal desires? In addition, the brothers belong to a race, which considers the non-Aryans a subhuman species, worthy of complete eradication. Many a times in the past Ram and Lakshman have protected the Brahmins from these monsters. He remembers the time, when he and Ram had confronted another Rakshashi, Taraka, who was supposedly rigging havoc in one of the forests. The two brothers had torn her limb to limb.
Surpanakha looks longingly at Lakshman. "Oh! Please do not disappoint me. I would be a wonderful lover," Surpanakha attempts to lightly touch Lakshman's arms.
"You claim to be a princess, and yet you possess no shame or propriety," Lakshman tries to emulate his brother's show of 'character'.
At that moment, Sita walks slowly into the clearing. She has been listening to the conversation from the shadows. Her heart had swelled with pride, when Ram summarily put down the attractions of this forest woman.
Surpanakha's eyes gleam with rage. "I have told you, I depend on no men for my survival. I have little tolerance for the vapid courtesies and decorums of the palace. I follow my own will, and express my desires frankly. You are not probably man enough to recognise my charms."
Lakshman's growing annoyance is slowly turning into a blind rage. His hand goes around his waist, and touches the handle of a dagger. Surpanakha does not realise the danger she is in. She continues to stare imploringly at Lakshman. Then, she notices Sita at the edge of the clearing. She makes a sudden movement in that direction. Immediately, Lakshman pulls out the dagger and without a warning plunges it into Surpanakha's nose. His blood is boiling with an inexplicable anger. He has spent most of his life fighting violent wars against these dark skinned natives. Surely, he needs to put this shameless woman in her place. Before the poor rakshasi could fend herself, the brave son of Dasharath slices her nose and ears in halves. "How dare you think of attacking mother Sita!" Lakshman tries to justify his brutal misogyny. Surpanakha cries out in unbearable pain, her desire turned into a terrible feeling of betrayal. Even in her agony, she cannot believe the cruelty of these men. She covers her disfigured face and runs into the forest, blood soaking the ground in her wake. "You dare hurt the sister of the king of Lanka", the brothers hear the fading wails of the helpless Rakshashi.
Ram has observed the scene with an air of indifference. He knows that Lakshman is hot headed, and specially when it comes to these forest dwellers very often he commits excesses. However, Ram does not say much to reprimand Lakshman. Sita had covered her eyes, when the blood spluttered out of Surpanakha's face. "That woman would never be able to tempt another man, I saw to that," Lakshman announces without a semblance of remorse. The three of them shake the matter off, and enter the hut.
An year or so later ----
Sita stands in front of a fire. Her eyes are expressionless. This was supposed to be the happiest moment of her life - reunion with her beloved husband, after a long cruel year. Ramchandra, Lakshman and their monkey soldiers have massacred Ravan's army and kingdom. "He is doing everything to rescue me", Sita used to feel enormous pride during her days of captivity. Her captor Ravan had never tried to force her will. Ravan wanted her to come to him on her own account. The powerful lord of Lanka could never understand what Sita saw in a kingdom-less king like Ram. Finally, through treason and treachery Ram broke through the mighty defences of Lanka. Then, came the most shocking moment of Sita's life.
"Ravan has touched you. You have stayed in his palace for an year. I am no longer sure of your sanctity or loyalty. Embrace the fire, and prove your purity," Ram utters in a cold voice. Sita looks at him in disbelief. This is the man who once spurned the advances of a beautiful woman in the forest just for her sake. "He fought the battle to slake his own ego then. In fact, for these men nothing else other than their ego matters." Sita remembers the maimed face of Surpanakha. For the first time her heart goes out for Surpanakha.
Sita enters the flames.