Lord Ram then ordered, “Matali, drive quickly to where Ravan is staying, but at the same time be very cautious.” Then, remembering that He was speaking to Indra’s charioteer, Lord Ram felt embarrassed and so He apologized, “I am very sorry to have instructed you as if I were your master. It is just that I am eager to kill Ravan, so please excuse My offense.”

Matali was very touched by Lord Ram’s wonderful display of humility. As he maneuvered Indra’s chariot close by Ravan’s side, Lord Ram and his adversary began to exchange arrows. Soon, the fighting became very intense. Clouds rained blood upon Ravan’s chariot, and a flock of vultures followed him from behind. A huge meteor fell nearby and so all the Rakshasas (the monster clan) became exceedingly despondent, while Ravan became convinced that he would soon die.

On the other hand, very pleasing signs appeared before Lord Ram, and so He became convinced that victory would soon be His. In the duel that followed, Lord Ram and Ravan gradually exhibited the entire wealth of their respective prowess. The competition became so intense that both armies became stunned with amazement. Indeed, all the soldiers stood motionless, just like paintings, and because they were so absorbed in watching the fight, they did not even think of attacking one another.

When Ravan tried to knock down Indra’s flag, Lord Ram deflected his arrows with His own. Then, because He was determined to match Ravan, blow for blow, Lord Ram knocked down the Rakshasa King’s flag. Ravan then pierced Indra’s horses, but when the celestial steeds did not even stagger, he became angry and frustrated.

At last, Ravan resorted to the Rakshasa power of illusion to send forth mace-clubs, huge shuriken-discs, trees, and mountain peaks. Lord Ramchandra was able to counteract all these before they reached His chariot, and so they fell upon the army of monkeys. Lord Ram and Ravan continued to dispatch thousands of weapons at each other, and as they collided in the air, they fell down onto the battlefield. In this way, the fighting continued for about an hour. Lord Ram matched Ravan, blow for blow, while all created beings looked on, their minds astonished with wonder.

Both drivers also displayed great skill. But, when the chariots came side by side, Lord Ram forced Ravan’s four horses to turn away by piercing them with four arrows. This incited Ravan’s anger, and so he repeatedly pierced Lord Ram in retaliation. Lord Ram remained undisturbed, and thereafter, the exchange of all varieties of weapons became so feverish, that the fighting that took place was unparalleled in the history of warfare.

Sometimes Ravan fought in his ten-headed feature, and at other times he fought in his normal form, having one head. On one occasion, Lord Ram managed to sever Ravan’s head with an arrow. But, as that head fell to the ground, a duplicate one miraculously cropped up in its place. Lord Ram then severed that head, but once again, another one immediately manifested itself as a replacement. Again and again Lord Ram cut off Ravan’s head, until, altogether one hundred such heads lay on the battlefield.

Because each time a new head appeared to replace the old one, Lord Ram began to wonder, “With these arrows I formerly killed Maricha, Khara and Viradha. I pierced seven Sal trees and killed the invincible Vali. These arrows had humbled great mountains and agitated the fathomless sea. How is it that they are now ineffectual against Ravan?”

The duel continued at a furious pace. Both combatants were obsessed with the desire for killing the other. In fact, several days and nights passed without any break in the fighting.

At last, when Matali saw that Lord Ram was not gaining His desired victory, he inquired, “Why are you simply fighting defensively? My Lord, are You not aware of Your limitless potencies? The hour of doom has now arrived for the King of the Rakshasas. Why don’t You employ the divine brahmastra?” Being thus reminded of this ultimate weapon, Lord Ram picked up the arrow that Agastya Rishi had formerly given Him at the time of their meeting in the Dandaka forest. That arrow had been constructed personally by Lord Brahma for Indra’s use, and later on it was presented to Agastya. Garuda supplied the feathers of that wonderful arrow and the sharp head combined the energy of the Firegod, Agni, and the Sungod. Mount Meru and Mount Mandara contributed their gravity to the arrow’s weight, and its shaft was made from the subtle ethereal element.

This brahmastra weapon was omnipotent and infallible, and its dazzling effulgence made it rival the splendor of the sun. After empowering the brahmastra with the required mantras, Lord Ram placed it upon His bowstring. As the monkeys gazed upon that flaming arrow, their hearts became filled with delight, while a dreadful fear penetrated the cores of the hearts of all the Rakshasas.

As Lord Ram pulled the bowstring back to His ear, the earth trembled and the heavens also appeared to become disturbed. When Lord Ram released the brahmastra, it sped through the air like death itself, and then violently fell upon the chest of the wicked Ravan. After piercing right through the King of the Rakshasa’s heart, that effulgent arrow entered deep into the earth, taking his sinful life along with it. As that awesome brahmastra came and re-entered Lord Ram’s quiver, Ravan dropped the bow from his hand and fell down dead from his chariot.

With great, transcendental ecstasy, the monkey warriors loudly proclaimed Lord Ram’s victory as they attacked the fleeing Rakshasa army. From the sky, the demigods shouted, “Sadhu! Sadhu!” (“Well done! Excellent!”), as they completely covered Lord Ram’s chariot with showers of flowers, and beat upon their celestial drums.

Now that Ravan was dead at last, the demigods and great rishis felt blessed relief and a peace of mind that they had not enjoyed for a long time. A cool and gentle, fragrant breeze began to blow, and the sun spread its rays very serenely, so that happiness seemed to pervade all directions. Sugriv, Angad, Vibhishan and Lakshman were the first to come and pay their homage unto Lord Ram. But, when Vibhishan saw his elder brother lying dead upon the ground, he broke down and cried in an outburst of intense grief. Meanwhile, news of Ravan’s death spread throughout the inner apartments of the royal palace. Ravan’s wives came out of the city and entered the battlefield, their hair disheveled and dress and ornaments in disarray. Overcome by unbearable grief and wailing aloud, some of the women rolled in the dust like madwomen, while others went and embraced different parts of Ravan’s dead body.

Crying out, “O my lord! O my husband!” one of the ladies hung around Ravan’s neck, while others clutched at his feet, rubbed his wounded chest, threw up their arms in despair or fainted away, being unable to bear the grief. Amidst the sounds of loud wailing, these lamentations were heard: “Oh, dear husband, by ignoring our good advice, as well as that given by Vibhishan, you have brought about your destruction. Now that you are dead, our lives are also finished, for the wife has no other support than her husband. This is the inevitable end for such a cruel and hardhearted person like you. Who else would have dared to kidnap Sita and keep her by force, against her will?”

Ravan’s favorite queen, Mandodari, lamented, “My dear husband, even though you were so powerful, you could not stand before Lord Ram. You were too proud because of your acquired prowess, and so you became a great burden for the earth. You foolishly could not understand that it was Lord Vishnu Himself who had descended upon the earth as Lord Ram, in order to relieve her of that burden.”

“O Ravan, your sinful passion for Sita has turned out to be the cause for the destruction of all the Rakshasas. You always masqueraded as a great hero, but you were actually proven to be a coward when you deceitfully kidnapped Sita. Still, despite your abominable character, I do not see how I shall be able to go on living in your absence.” Finally, Mandodari fainted with her head upon Ravan’s chest. Her co-wives then lifted her up and revived her. At this time, Lord Ram ordered Vibhishan, “You should begin the funeral rites for your elder brother without further delay. Only after the cremation of Ravan’s body will it be possible to comfort his widows.”

Vibhishan replied, “I do not want to perform the funeral ceremonies for a man who kidnapped the wives of others, who was merciless and tyrannical, and who was inclined toward irreligion. Of course, Ravan was my elder brother, and so it is my duty to respect him. But, on the other hand, because his actions were like those of an enemy, I feel that he does not deserve my worship.”

Lord Ram said, “Vibhishan, I approve of your words because they uphold the cause of virtue. Still, I would like you to cremate your brother’s body. After all, despite his faults, Ravan was a great hero. And, it is a fact, that with the death of his body, all hostilities have now ended.” Vibhishan went inside the city to make arrangements for Ravan’s funeral. After bringing his maternal grandfather, Malyavan, Vibhishan placed Ravan’s body on the funeral carrier and then proceeded, along with other Rakshasas who carried the firewood. Going toward the south, the party arrived at a consecrated place where they cremated Ravan’s body according to the Vedic injunctions. Thereafter, Ravan’s wives were consoled, and then everyone returned to Lanka.

Having given up His transcendental anger, Lord Ram now assumed a gentle appearance and laid aside his bow, arrows and armor. The demigods departed from their positions in the sky and returned to their abodes, and while going they chanted the glories of Lord Ram with great satisfaction. After receiving due honor from Lord Ram, and permission to depart, Matali ascended into the sky upon Indra’s chariot and returned to the heavenly kingdom.

After coming to Their camp, Lord Ram ordered Lakshman to perform Vibhishan’s installation ceremony. In turn, Lakshman gave golden vessels to the chief monkeys and ordered them to go quickly and fetch water from the four seas. Soon after, Lakshman performed the installation ceremony strictly according to the Vedic injunctions, and all the citizens of Lanka came to the sacrificial arena with presentations of auspicious articles. After receiving these gifts, Vibhishan offered them to Lord Ram.

Lord Ram then told Hanuman, who was standing nearby with folded hands, “Please go and find out how Sita is, and inform her that I have killed Ravan. After doing so, return here with any message that she may give you.” After taking permission from King Vibhishan, Hanuman went to the Ashoka grove. There, he found the grief-stricken Sita, surrounded by hideous Rakshasis.

Standing meekly in front of Sita, Hanuman said, “Your husband has sent me here to give you this message: ‘After many sleepless months, I have finally been able to accomplish My vow to rescue you. Now that your oppressor, the King of the Rakshasas, is dead, you can give up all your anxiety.’ ” Upon hearing this, Sita became so happy that she could not reply for some time. When Hanuman asked why she remained silent, Sita said, “I can hardly speak because I am so elated. Hanuman, what you have told me is unlimitedly more valuable than any amount of gold or jewels.”

Standing with folded hands, Hanuman suggested, “If you so desire, I can kill all these hideous Rakshasa women who have tormented you for so long. In fact, I would take great pleasure in avenging all the suffering that you had to undergo. I simply await your permission.”

By nature, Sita was very kind to the downtrodden. So, she replied, “They are only foolish maidservants who had to carry out the orders of the King. Whatever I had suffered was the result of my own misdeeds, and these Rakshasis acted only as instruments in the hands of destiny.” “Hanuman, perhaps you have heard this old adage that was once spoken by a bear: ‘A great man never takes into account the offenses that are committed against him. Indeed, he vows that at all costs he will not return evil with evil.’ The story goes like this:

There was a hunter being chased by a tiger, and so he climbed up into a big tree. It so happened that there was a bear perched upon one of the branches. Seeing this, the tiger said, “This hunter is our common enemy. Therefore, you should push him out of the tree so that I can eat him.” The bear replied, “This hunter has taken shelter of my home, and so I will not do anything to harm him. To act in such a way would be most unrighteous.” After saying this, the bear went to sleep.

The tiger then told the hunter, “If you push the bear out of the tree so that I can eat him, I promise that I will not harm you.” Being swayed by the tiger’s words, the hunter pushed the sleeping bear. But, as he was falling, the bear managed to grab onto a branch and save himself. The tiger then said to the bear, “Because this hunter tried to kill you, you should retaliate by pushing him out of the tree.”

And yet, even though the tiger appealed to the bear in this manner, again and again, he refused, saying, “A great person never takes into account the sins of one who has offended him. Instead, at all costs, he keeps his vow to never return evil for evil, because he knows that good conduct is the ornament of virtuous persons.”

Before departing, Hanuman asked Sita if she had any message for Lord Ram. Sita replied, “My only words are this- ‘I long to see my dear husband, who is known to be always very affectionate toward His unalloyed devotees.’ ” Hanuman said, “Rest assured that you will see Lord Ram, along with Lakshman, this very day. Now, please grant me your permission so that I can return to Lord Ram without further delay.”

Hanuman went and related Sita’s message and after doing so, he urged Lord Ram to go and meet Sita at once. “Because she has suffered so much and longs to see You, You should go to the Ashoka grove immediately,” Hanuman pleaded. Upon hearing this appeal, tears came to Lord Ram’s eyes. Then, with His eyes cast downward, Lord Ram ordered Vibhishan, “Have Sita brought to Me, after having bathed, dressed, and decorated herself with celestial ornaments.” Vibhishan went to the Ashoka grove, and through the Rakshasa women he made his presence known to Sita. Then, after very submissively approaching her, Vibhishan said, “Lord Ram would like to see you. First of all please bathe and dress yourself in these celestial clothes and ornaments. Then, mount upon the palanquin that I have brought, for that is Lord Ram’s desire.” Sita replied, “I want to see Lord Ram immediately. I do not want to bathe first.”

However, Vibhishan advised, “You had better do as Your husband has ordered, for that will bring you all auspiciousness.” Sita then went to bathe, and after dressing herself very nicely, she was placed upon the palanquin and brought before her husband. When Vibhishan came before Lord Ram, he saw that the Lord’s head was bowed down, as if He were absorbed in deep thought.

Vibhishan announced Sita’s arrival, and in response, Lord Ram asked that she be brought to Him at once. Hordes of monkeys had come there out of curiosity, just to get a glimpse of mother Sita. Vibhishan and his four assistants began pushing them back, so that mother Sita could approach Lord Ram privately. Because of this, there was a great commotion.

Due to His strong affection for His faithful servants, Lord Ram became annoyed to see this, however, and so He told Vibhishan, “Do not harass these monkeys. There is nothing wrong if a chaste woman is seen in public during a time of adversity or war, a svayamvara, a sacrifice or a wedding. Please allow the monkeys to see Sita if they so desire.” Lord Ram then ordered, “Let Sita get down from the palanquin and come to Me on foot.”

As Vibhishan escorted mother Sita, all the monkey chiefs could understand that Lord Ram was in a very stern and grave mood. They were very surprised that not only was Lord Ram making mother Sita walk within public view, but that His demeanor was so severe as well. Sita innocently approached Lord Ram with great shyness, as if she were shrinking into herself. Then, when Sita saw the handsome face of her beloved husband, her miseries immediately vanished, so that her face shone brightly like the full moon.

Then, as Sita continued to gaze upon Him with great love and affection, Lord Ram began to give vent to His pent-up inner feelings. Lord Ram’s heart was tormented by fear of stain to the impeccable reputation of His dynasty, and because of this, He addressed Sita as follows, in an angry tone of voice. Lord Ram said, “I have fulfilled My vow to win you back and thus avenge Ravan’s insult to My honor. But, you must understand that My great endeavor to kill the King of the Rakshasas was not actually for your sake. I did this just to vindicate My good name, and that of the Ikshvaku dynasty.”

“Truthfully, your appearance before Me is not at all pleasing. You are free to go wherever you like. No cultured man will accept a wife who has been embraced by another man, or who has lived in someone else’s house. I am sure that no woman could have remained with Ravan for so long without having been enjoyed by Him. Ravan was obsessed by lust for you. How could he have controlled himself and refrained from enjoying you by force? By killing Ravan I have regained My honor. But there is no need for Me to have any more attachment for you. You are now free to do as you like. Fix your mind upon Lakshman, Bharat, or anyone else whom you may choose.” While listening to this speech, Sita bent her head low with shame. Having formerly heard only loving words from Lord Ram, His talk seemed like arrows piercing her heart, and thus she began to bitterly weep. Being in the presence of so many spectators, it was very difficult for Sita to endure her husband’s reproaches.

Finally, after wiping the tears form her eyes, Sita replied in a faltering voice. She said, “How can You dare speak about me in such an irresponsible manner? Never for a moment did I give up my chastity by body, mind, or words. My character is pure and so You should not judge me as if I was an ordinary woman. Although I am called Janaki, the daughter of King Janaka, my birth was transcendental, for I appeared from within the earth.”

“Lord Ram, if all along You had cruelly planned to reject me in this way, then why didn’t you inform me when Hanuman came here as a messenger? If I had known that You did not intend to take me back, I would have immediately given up my life and thus avoided many months of unbearable suffering. You could have avoided this ghastly war that has taken the lives of countless Rakshasas and Vanaras. What was the need of demanding so much service from your allies? Lord Ram, why are You acting like this? Does my pure devotion for You mean nothing?”

Sita then turned to Lakshman and said, “Please build a large fire for me to enter, for this is the only path that remains for one who has been rejected by her husband in public.”

While suppressing His agitation, Lakshman looked at Lord Ram, and when He saw that His elder brother approved of Sita’s words, He went to prepare the fire. In fact, Lord Ram looked so stern and intense that no one dared to even talk to Him, and so what to speak of try to pacify Him. Thereafter, when the fire blazed up brightly, Sita first of all circumambulated Lord Ram. Then, after coming before the fire with folded hands, Sita bowed down to the brahmanas and demigods.

She then offered the following prayer to Agni: “O god of fire, because my heart has never turned away from Lord Ram, please protect me. Although I have never been unfaithful to Lord Ram in thought, word or deed, He accuses me of being polluted. Therefore, O lord of fire, seer of all within the three worlds, I request you to become the witness of my purity.”

After saying this, Sita circumambulated the fire. Then, as a huge crowd looked on with wonder, she entered the flames with a fearless mind. Within the blazing fire, Sita, who was adorned with dazzling gold ornaments, shone with a golden radiance. As soon as Sita was within the flames, all the women present screamed with horror and a loud cry of anguish arose from the assembled monkeys and Rakshasas. Amidst all these sounds, Lord Ram appeared to become very thoughtful. At that time, all the principal demigods hurriedly appeared before Him, riding upon their celestial vehicles. Then, as Lord Ram stood before them, with folded hands the demigods, headed by Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva, said, “O Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Ramchandra, we are very pained to see how You are neglecting Your eternal consort, Mother Sita. You are the creator of the universe and the Lord of all the demigods. Why don’t You recognize Your divinity instead of rejecting Sita, as if You were a common man?”

Lord Ram replied, “I consider myself to be an ordinary human being, the son of Maharaja Dasharath. But, if there is something more to be said, then perhaps you, Lord Brahma, can disclose it.”

Lord Brahma then said, “My dear Lord Ram, I will now reveal Your real identity. You are directly Lord Narayana, and thus You are identical with all the forms of Vishnu-tattva. You are a plenary expansion of Lord Sri Krishna, the original Supreme Personality of Godhead, and thus You are the cause of all causes. You are the universal form, the support of the cosmic manifestation, and all of the demigods are Your parts and parcels, or in other words, Your eternal servants. Sita is none other than Lakshmi herself, the supreme Goddess of Fortune. Both of you have appeared on the earth for accomplishing the destruction of Ravan. Now that this mission has been accomplished, You may return to Your transcendental abode in the spiritual sky, after ruling over the earth for as long as You desire.”

As soon as Lord Brahma finished speaking, the fire-god, Agni, emerged from the flames, carrying Sita in his arms. As Agni placed Sita before Lord Ram, everyone was amazed to see how her body, bright red dress, ornaments and hair showed absolutely no sign of being even slightly burnt.

Then, in his capacity as one of the universal witnesses, Agni announced, “Lord Ram, here is Your dear wife, Sita. She is completely pure and devoid of even the least tinge of sin. Sita was never the slightest bit unfaithful to You by word, thought or glance, and so what to speak of action. Therefore, My dear Lord Ram, You must accept Sita without reservation and give up Your harsh speech and behavior.”

Lord Ram was very pleased to hear this testimony, and as tears of joy fell from His eyes, He replied, “Agni, it was necessary for Sita to undergo this trial by fire in order to convince the masses of people of her purity. If I had prevented Sita from entering the fire, people would have criticized Me for accepting her without first proving her chastity. They would have concluded that I had only taken her back because of being under the influence of lust to enjoy her.”

“Actually, I knew all about Sita’s purity, and I knew that Ravan could never have polluted her, for she is fully protected by the prowess of her righteousness. It was only to prove Sita’s chastity to the world that I appeared to neglect her. Factually, Sita is not different from Me, for she is directly My internal potency, the hladhini-sakti. Just as sunlight, being not different from the sun, is inseparable from the sun, so there is no possibility of My rejecting Sita.”

Actually, Lord Ram felt great transcendental bliss while being reunited with Sita, for His pastimes were all manifestations of His internal potency, and had been enacted for the purpose of relishing spiritual relationships. Lord Shiva then addressed Lord Ram, saying, “My dear Lord, by slaying the incomparably powerful Ravan, You have performed a wonderful feat that will be glorified throughout the three worlds until the time of dissolution.” Then, while pointing toward the sky, Lord Shiva said, “Lord Ram, look up and see how Your father is waiting, seated upon his celestial chariot. After having been delivered by Your mercy, he now resides in the planet of Indra, the King of heaven. Go quickly, along with Lakshman, and be reunited with Maharaja Dasharath, for he has come here just to see You.”

Lord Ram and Lakshman went and bowed down before Their father. Feeling extremely delighted, Maharaja Dasharath took Lord Ram on his lap and said, “My residence in heaven does not give me any real pleasure. Ram, only now that I am able to see You do I feel happy. Kaikeyi’s words, demanding Your exile, have always remained imprinted on my heart. Only now that Your period of exile has ended do I feel somewhat relieved. I yearn to see Your return to Ayodhya and installed as the Emperor, after being reunited with Bharat. I can now understand that You are the Supreme Lord, Vishnu, and that You had descended upon the earth for the purpose of vanquishing Ravan.”

Lord Ram replied, “My dear father, I also feel greatly relieved now that My period of exile is over and My mission has been accomplished. But still, there is one thing that I wish that you would grant Me. May you now withdraw the harsh words that you had spoken at the time of My banishment, disowning Kaikeyi and Bharat.”

Maharaja Dasharath readily consented, saying, “Let it be so.” Then he fondly embraced Lakshman and declared, “My dear son, because of the dedicated service that You have rendered to Ram, I feel eternally indebted to You. You should know that Your elder brother is directly the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appearing in human form, for the welfare of the world. He is worshipful even by the greatest demigods, and so what to speak of ourselves.”

Maharaja Dasharath then told Sita, “Please do not bear any grudge against Ram for having tested your purity. You can rest assured that your remarkable behavior will earn you a place in history as the most glorious woman the world has ever seen.”

Having thus spoken, Maharaja Dasharath remounted his celestial chariot and ascended to heaven. Then, as Lord Ram stood before him with folded hands, Indra said, “My audience can never go in vain, and so I wish that You would take a benediction from me.”

Lord Ram was pleased to hear this, and He requested, “King of the celestials, please bring back to life all the monkey warriors who died in My service. In addition, let all the trees in the places where these great heroes dwell become full of fruit, even when out of season.” Indra replied, “Although this boon is very difficult for even me to grant, I shall happily do so.”

Immediately, all the monkeys who had died in the battle began to rise up from the ground, and since all of their wounds were completely healed, it appeared to them as if they were awakening from a deep sleep. But, when they saw Lord Ram and all the demigods before them, the monkeys could understand that they had gotten back their lost lives, and so they felt supremely delighted. Indra then ascended to heaven, followed by all the demigods. Lord Ram and the monkeys passed the night at that place. The next morning, Vibhishan came to see Lord Ram, along with numerous maidservants who carried all kinds of paraphernalia for His bath.

However, Lord Ram ordered, “My dear Vibhishan, summon all the monkeys, headed by Sugriv, and let them utilize this royal luxury. As long as I am separated from Bharat, who is practicing severe austerities on My behalf, such opulence does not appeal to Me. My only request is that you arrange for My speedy passage back to Ayodhya, for to travel there by foot would be an arduous journey.”

Vibhishan replied, “I can enable You to reach Ayodhya this very day by making use of the Pushpaka chariot. But, I request that You, Sita and Lakshman remain here for some time, along with the army of monkeys, so that I can royally entertain all of you before Your departure.” Lord Ram replied, “I certainly cannot refuse your hospitality, and yet, because My anxiety to meet Bharat, My mother and My step-mothers is so great, I beg that you allow Me to depart without delay.”

Vibhishan quickly went and brought the Pushpaka chariot. This wonderful vehicle had originally belonged to Kuvera, before it had been forcibly taken away by Ravan. The Pushpaka chariot was built by Vishvakarma and was made mostly of gold, and had seats made of vaidurya gems. This aerial chariot could travel anywhere, following the mental indications of its driver. When Lord Ram and Lakshman saw the chariot awaiting Their commands, They were astonished. But, before departing, Lord Ram requested Vibhishan to present gifts of gold and jewels to all the monkey soldiers. Then, after mounting the Pushpaka chariot, along with Lakshman and Sita, Lord Ram addressed those who surrounded Him.

Lord Ram said, “There is no way I can repay all you monkey warriors for your heroic fighting on My behalf. Your unflinching devotional service will always serve as an inspiration for future devotees. Your glories will forever shine brightly. Now, please return to Kishkindha and live there happily under Sugriv’s leadership. Vibhishan, you should accept the responsibility for ruling over Lanka at once, because the citizens have become bereft of their king.”

While standing before Lord Ram with folded hands, Sugriv and Vibhishan pleaded, “O Lord, please allow us to accompany You to Ayodhya. After seeing the coronation ceremonies, we will return home.” Lord Ram replied, “There is nothing that would please Me more than to return to Ayodhya along with all of My dear friends. Both of you can get up onto the Pushpaka chariot, and let all the other monkey heroes and Rakshasas come along as well.”

Finally, after all were comfortably seated, the Pushpaka chariot rose up majestically into the air. While the monkeys, bears and Rakshasas were enjoying the flight, Lord Ram pointed out all the sights to Sita. Lord Ram said, “Just see the great battlefield where all the heroic Rakshasas lay dead, having been killed just for your sake. There is Ravan, there is Kumbhakarna, there is Indrajit, and there is Prahasta. Over there is the bridge called Nalasetu, over which we had crossed the ocean to Lanka. There, on the far shore, is Setubandha, where Lord Shiva had appeared to Me, and where the construction of the bridge had begun. From this time on, Setubandha will be a very sacred place, capable of washing away all of one’s accumulated sinful reactions.”

Then, when Lord Ram pointed out Kishkindha, Sita said, “I would be pleased if I could return to Ayodhya in the company of all the wives of the monkey chiefs.”

Lord Ram granted Sita’s wish, and after halting the chariot, He instructed Sugriv and others to quickly go and bring their wives. When everyone was once again seated, the journey continued.

Lord Ram then pointed out, “There is Mount Rishyashringa, where I met Sugriv, and nearby, you can see the heavenly Lake Pampa, which is full of bluish lotus flowers. Further on, you can see the River Godavari, and on its banks, the ashram of Agastya Rishi. Sita, there is the spot where Ravan kidnapped you! There is Chitrakoot, where Bharat came to meet Me. There is the River Yamuna, and there is the mighty Ganga, where King Guha’s capital, Shringaverapur, can be seen.”

In this way, Sita, Lord Ram and Lakshman remembered Their entire forest life, in reverse order, as They retraced their way back home to Ayodhya. Finally, the River Sarayu came into view, and then, at last, the outskirts of Ayodhya. Before entering Ayodhya, Lord Ram stopped at Bharadvaj Rishi’s ashram, so that He could inquire about the welfare of His relatives before meeting them. After heartily welcoming Lord Ram and receiving His obeisances in return, Rishi Bharadvaj said, “In Your absence, Bharat has been living a life of severe austerities, wearing deerskin and tree bark and keeping matted hair. He has been ruling the kingdom as Your subordinate by keeping Your shoes upon the royal throne. Lord Ram, by dint of my mystic power I know everything that has happened during Your exile. I am very pleased that You have removed the burden of the earth, and so I would like to award You with any benediction that You may desire.”

Lord Ram happily replied, “Let all of the trees along the way to Ayodhya become full of fruit and flowers. Let streams of honey flow from these trees, exuding the fragrance of nectar.”

As soon as these words were spoken, all the trees along the road to Ayodhya immediately became filled with sumptuous fruits. When they saw this miraculous transformation, thousands of monkeys quickly jumped down from the Pushpaka chariot and began feasting to their full satisfaction. Lord Ram was always thinking of how He could reward the monkeys for the selfless service they had rendered, and so He felt very happy to have received this opportunity to please them.

Then, turning to Hanuman, Lord Ram said, “I would like you to go and inform Guha of My arrival. After that, go to Nandigram. I want you to describe to Bharat all the events surrounding Sita’s abduction and her subsequent recovery. Watch the expression on Bharat’s face very carefully as He hears about My arrival. Then, report back to Me before we leave this place. If Bharat wants to rule the kingdom, whether it be due to attachment for position and its resultant power, or attachment to royal luxuries, or even because of Kaikeyi’s urging, I am happy to allow Him to do so.” Hanuman took a human form and departed, traveling through the air. First, he went and informed Guha that Lord Ram would come to meet him after spending the night at Rishi Bharadvaj’s ashram. Then, upon his arrival at Nandigram, Hanuman saw Bharat dressed in tree bark and having matted hair. Bharat had been living in a small cottage, subsisting only upon fruit and roots, and he appeared to be very miserable and emaciated.

Hanuman approached Bharat and announced, “I have come here as a messenger from Lord Ram. He inquires about your welfare, and He wants to inform you that He will return to Ayodhya very soon.”

When Bharat heard these nectarine words, his face lit up with great delight. Having become exhilarated with transcendental emotion, he suddenly fainted onto the ground. After coming to his senses, Bharat stood up and embraced Hanuman with great satisfaction. While bathing Hanuman with torrents of tears, Bharat said, “Because you have brought me this wonderful news, I will immediately reward you with 100,000 cows, 100 villages and 16 virgin girls to marry. Please sit down and tell me everything that happened during Lord Ram’s exile.”

Hanuman narrated everything. When he heard about Lord Ram’s immanent return, Bharat exclaimed, “My long-cherished desire is finally going to be fulfilled!”

Bharat then ordered Shatrughna to make all the arrangements for Lord Ram’s reception. Sumantra and the other ministers soon arrived at Nandigram, riding upon elephants, and Kaushalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi came riding on palanquins. Engineers and work crews also arrived, to begin constructing a new road connecting Nandigram with Ayodhya.

After all the arrangements were made, Bharat picked up Lord Ram’s sandals, a white royal umbrella and chamaras. Then, accompanied by many brahmanas, he went out from his cottage amidst the blowing of conch shells and beating of drums, to wait for Lord Ram’s arrival.

Meanwhile, because the news had spread like wildfire, practically the entire population of Ayodhya came to Nandigram in the expectation of seeing Lord Ram. But then, after some time, when there was still no sign of His arrival, Bharat told Hanuman, “I hope that you are not exhibiting your frivolous monkey nature by joking with me.”

Hanuman then pointed out to Bharat clouds of dust in the distance that were being raised by the approaching monkeys. Just then, tumultuous roaring sounds became distinctly audible as well. When Hanuman sighted the Pushpaka chariot in the distance, he shouted, “Here comes Sri Ram!” A loud clamor arose as the restless crowd of people sighted the Pushpaka chariot, appearing like the full moon in the sky.

Then, as everyone got down from their horses, elephants and chariots, out of respect, Bharat began to worship Lord Ram from a distance. With folded hands, Bharat recited many prayers to the Lord, and then He offered various articles. Finally, when Bharat could distinctly see Lord Ram, who was glowing magnificently while seated at the front of the Pushpaka chariot, He bowed down with great reverence.

When the celestial airship landed, Bharat rushed forward and climbed aboard to greet His elder brother. Lord Ram immediately got up from His seat, and after embracing Bharat with great affection, He took Him upon His lap. Afterwards, Bharat greeted Lakshman and Sita, and then, while embracing Sugriv he said, “Although We are four, you are now just like Our fifth brother.” At this time, Lord Ram approached His mother, Kaushalya, and lovingly clasped her feet. Then, one after another, He greeted Sumitra, Kaikeyi and Vasishtha, as all the citizens came forward to welcome Him with folded hands.

Bharat then approached Lord Ram, carrying His wooden shoes in His hands. As He carefully placed those slippers on Lord Ram’s lotus feet, Bharat said, “Here is the kingdom that I was overseeing in Your absence. By Your mercy, Ayodhya is flourishing and the treasury, storehouses and army have all increased tenfold. My duty is now over and so I hereby relinquish everything to You.” After this, Lord Ram ordered the Pushpaka chariot to return to its original owner, the god of wealth, Kuvera. That celestial vehicle then ascended into the sky, heading toward the North. When Lord Ram sat down at the lotus feet of His spiritual master, Vasishtha, Bharat came and requested, “My dear elder brother, please install Yourself on the royal throne without further delay, and then resume a life of royal luxury.”

Lord Ram gave His consent and so barbers were immediately summoned and His matted hair was shaved off. After bathing, Lord Ram dressed in a royal style, while the three mothers similarly dressed Sita and the wives of the monkeys. Then, at Shatrughna’s command, Sumantra came to Lord Ram with a lavishly decorated chariot. Lord Ram graciously mounted upon it, Bharat took up the reins and Shatrughna held the royal white umbrella. On either side of Lord Ram stood Lakshman and Vibhishan, waving a fan and a chamara, and from the sky, the demigods and celestial rishis glorified Him with carefully chosen words. As Lord Ram proceeded toward Ayodhya, a huge procession followed Him, and all the monkeys, appearing in human form, rode upon elephants. When Lord Ram entered His capital, He saw how all the citizens had come out of their houses and lined the streets to welcome Him. Men and women, the elderly and the children gazed upon Lord Ram as if they were getting back their long-lost lives. While waving their cloths and jumping with excitement, the people shouted, “Our beloved prince has returned! All glories to Lord Ram, the maintainer of His devotees!” Amidst the playing of musicians and the chanting of Vedic mantras by the brahmanas, Lord Ram reciprocated by glancing lovingly over His subjects. While approaching his father’s palace, Lord Ram greeted His ministers and described to them the political alliances He had made with the monkeys and Vibhishan.

Lord Ram ordered that His palace be given for Sugriv’s use, and so Bharat took the King of the monkeys by the hand and led him there. Then, at Bharat’s request, Jambavan, Hanuman, Gavaya and Rishabha brought water from the four seas while five hundred other powerful monkeys brought water from five hundred sacred rivers. These vessels of water were placed before Vasishtha. Soon after, the rishi had Lord Ram seated along with Sita upon a royal throne. Then, with the assistance of Vamadeva, Jabali, Kashyapa, Katyayana, Sujagya, Gautama and Vijaya Rishis, Vasishtha performed the abhishek, and the first bathing was done by the brahmanas. Next, unmarried virgin girls got the chance to bathe Lord Ram, and then the ministers, leading warriors, and lastly, vaishyas, one after another. After the final bathing, Vasishtha had Lord Ram sprinkled over with herbs by the four Lokapalas and other chief demigods, who were witnessing the coronation from the sky. When Lord Ram sat on the golden throne bedecked with valuable jewels, Vasishtha came and placed the royal crown on His head and decorated His body with gold ornaments. This crown had been worn by all the Kings of the Ikshvaku dynasty, and was made by Lord Brahma especially for the coronation of Vaivasvata Manu.

Then, at Indra’s prompting, Vayu came and placed a garland made from one hundred golden lotus flowers around Lord Ram’s neck. The god of air also presented a celestial necklace made of pearls and jewels. Shatrughna held the umbrella over Lord Ram’s head while Sugriv and Vibhishan fanned Him from both sides.

At the completion of the ceremony, as the Gandharvas sang and the Apsaras danced in ecstasy, Lord Ram gave away 100,000 cows in charity to the brahmanas, as well as 300 million gold coins and all varieties of precious jewels. Lord Ram gave a celestial necklace of gold and jewels to Sugriv, and He gave Angad a pair of bracelets that were adorned with diamonds and vaidurya stones. To Sita, Lord Ram presented the necklace that had been given to Him by Vayu, as well as many lavishly decorated dresses.

Mother Sita had a very strong wish to give something to Hanuman as a token of her appreciation for all that he had done for her. With this in mind, she unclasped the necklace that Lord Ram had given her and then looked at the Lord questioningly. Understanding her intention, Lord Ram requested Sita to give the necklace to Hanuman and so she happily went and placed it around his neck. All the monkey chiefs were given valuable clothing and ornaments, and in this way the coronation of Lord Ram came to a successful conclusion. Being greatly satisfied at heart, all the monkeys returned to their respective kingdoms and Vibhishan also departed for Lanka. After all had left, Lord Ram said to Lakshman, “My dear brother, now that I have been installed upon the royal throne, I wish to install You as My successor.”

And yet, despite being repeatedly addressed by Lord Ram in this way, Lakshman remained silent, for He refused to accept the proposal. Lord Ram could very well understand Lakshman’s mind, and so, at last, He conferred the title upon Bharat.

Thereafter, Lord Ram ruled the earth from His capital, Ayodhya, for 11,000 years. During that period, Lord Ram performed numerous sacrifices, including one hundred ashvamedha-yagyas. During the reign of Lord Ram, there were no widows to lament the loss of their husbands, there were no diseases, and there were no thieves. In fact, even wild animals gave up their natural enmity and did not kill one another. All the citizens were fully righteous, and they considered Lord Ram their Lord and master, and beyond that, their very life and soul. Everyone lived for thousands of years and had many sons. All talk was centered about Lord Ram alone. Thus, the entire earth appeared as if it had been transformed into the kingdom of God, Vaikunthaloka. Lav and Kush concluded their narration by saying, “Anyone who daily listens to this transcendental history, known as Ramayana, will become completely freed from all sinful reactions. This sacred narration grants prowess, longevity and victory to those who subdue their passions and hear with faith.”

“The reader of Ramayana, if a woman, will receive sons – if a king, will conquer the earth – if a traveler, will reach his destination- and if a sinful person, will be cleansed. This sacred narration should be repeated again and again, for not only does it bestow all material benedictions upon the hearer, but it pleases the Supreme Personality of Godhead, an accomplishment that is far beyond the limited interests of religiosity, economic development, sense gratification, and impersonal liberation. By the development of unalloyed love for the Supreme Lord Ramchandra, one ultimately achieves eternal shelter under the shade of His lotus feet in the eternal spiritual sky.

Jai Sri Ram