Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/73

This page needs to be proofread.


THE RAMAYANA. 69 in with him. This could not be allowed ; and Yudhishthira, after a glimpse of heaven, was thrust down to hell, where he found many of his old comrades in anguish. He resolved to share their sufferings rather than to enjoy paradise alone. But, having triumphed in this crowning trial, the whole scene was revealed to him to be mdyd or illusion, and the reunited band entered into heaven, where they rest for ever with Indra. Remainder of the Mahabharata. — The struggle for the kingdom of Hastinapur forms, however, only a fourth of the Mahabharata. The remainder is made up of other early legends, stories of the gods, and religious discourses, intended to teach the military caste its duties, especially its duty of reverence to the Brahmans. Taken as a whole, the Mahabharata may be said to form, the cyclopaedia of the Heroic Age in Northern India. The Ramayana. — The second great Indian epic, the Rama- yana, recounts the advance of the Aryans into Southern India. It is said to have been composed by the poet V&lmfki ; and its main story refers to a period loosely estimated at about 1000 B.C. But the Ramayana could not have been put together in its present shape many centuries, if at all, before the Christian era. Parts of it may be earlier than the Mahabharata, but the compilation as a whole apparently belongs to a later date. The Ramayana consists of about 48,000 lines. Outline of the Ramayana. — As the Mahabharata celebrates the Lunar race of Delhi, so the Ramayana forms the epic (or poetic history) of the Solar race of Ayodhya, the capital of the modern province of Oudh. The two poems thus preserve the legends of the two most famous Aryan kingdoms at the two opposite, or eastern and western, borders of the old Middle Land of Hindustan (Madhya-desa). The opening books of the Rama- yana recount the wondrous birth and boyhood of Rama, eldest son of Dasaratha, King of Ayodhya or Oudh; his marriage with the princess Sita, after he proved himself the victor at her < own choice ' of a husband (swayam-vard), by bending the mighty bow of Siva in the contest of chiefs ; and his selection as heir- apparent to his father's kingdom. A zanana intrigue ends in the youngest wife, of Dasaratha (Rama's father) obtaining the succes-