One fine day, Surpanakha–the rakshasa sister of Ravana–appeared as a beautiful maiden. She proposed marriage to Rama who was monogamously married to Sita. After Rama refused Surpanakha’s proposal, he directed her to his younger brother Lakshmana in jest. When Surpanakha asked Lakshmana for his hand in marriage, he sent her right back to his elder brother Rama.
An angry Surpanakha, who was not at all fond of the way that her feelings had been toyed with, returned to Rama and attacked Sita. In retaliation, Lakshmana then took out his sword and cut off Surpanakha’s ears and nose.
The appearance of Surpanakha is significant. While most versions say that she is grotesque in appearance, in other versions, she is depicted as a lovelorn and beautiful woman; attributing her behaviour to her tragic love life.
While her role in the Ramayana is small, it is by no means insignificant.
Burning with humiliation and indignant rage, Surpanakha approached Khara, a cannibalistic rakshasha, to avenge her vendetta against Rama, Lakshmana and Sita. The collective act of vengeance and retaliation were unsuccessful. When Khara and his army attacked Rama, they lost and were all killed.
Surpanakha and her uncle managed to escape the war. They ran away and reached Lanka with the news of what had happened. When they reached Lanka, they approached Ravana. It was then decided that Ravana abduct Sita.
Ravana began to brood and think of his plan of attack. He remembered his friend Maricha who lived in a secluded hermitage across the ocean. Ravana flew in his aerial chariot across the sea to meet Maricha.
When he arrived, Ravana asked Maricha to turn into a golden deer with silver spots and to graze in the vicinity of Rama’s hermitage. Ravana knew that on seeing the deer, Sita would surely tell Rama and Lakshamana to catch it for her. It was the perfect ruse.
With the brothers gone, Ravana would be able to abduct Sita. Rama, who would be grief-stricken by Sita’s separation, could then be easily killed by Ravana.
Maricha was not convinced by Ravana’s plan. Maricha, who had first-hand experience of Rama’s strength, was appalled by the idea. Maricha attempted to dissuade Ravana by reminding him of the strength, courage and valour of Rama. He warned that this idea would only lead to the doom of Ravana, Lanka and the rakshasa race.
To prove his point, Maricha narrated his very first encounter with Rama. He, himself, had once underestimated Rama. In return, Maricha was thrown hundreds of leagues away by a single arrow shot by Rama. Maricha’s second encounter against Rama was not successful either.
Ravana, however, ignored Maricha’s warnings. Instead, Ravana indignantly asked how dare Maricha praise Rama and question the prowess of Ravana, who was his king. Ravana then announced that he would abduct Sita with or without Maricha’s help in order to get revenge for the death of rakshasas.
Ravana reiterated his plan and told Maricha to be the golden deer. If successful, he and Maricha would return to Lanka and Ravana would grant half his kingdom to Maricha. This time, it was Ravana’s turn to issue a warning. Ravana warned that while his own plan might later lead to the death of Maricha by Rama; Maricha’s refusal now would mean an instant death at Ravana’s hand.
Maricha finally agreed, but not before once again prophesying that Maricha’s death would lead to the death of Ravana, Lanka and all the rakshasas.
Ravana was pleased by Maricha’s consent and embraced him.
Maricha and Ravana then flew in Ravana’s chariot and stopped close to the hermitage of Rama. Maricha assumed the form of a beautiful golden deer, which had silver spots and glowed with the luminescence of many gems.
Maricha started to graze in the vicinity of Rama’s hermitage so that Sita would catch a glimpse of him. As soon as the animal-eating rakshasa Maricha entered the forest in the form of a deer, the other animals sensed something was wrong and fled in fear.
Maricha found Sita collecting flowers and ran in front of her. The golden lustre of the deer which was gambolling around the hermitage lured Sita, who was filled with wonder. She quickly called Rama and Lakshmana to see the spectacular animal.
On seeing the wondrous deer, Lakshmana immediately sensed foul play. He knew that the deer was a shape-shifted form of Maricha, who preyed on kings who came into the forest for hunting. Sita, however, was not deterred. She persuaded Rama to get her the deer, dead or alive. If caught, she said it could be bred as a pet and taken back to Ayodhya.
Rama was not able to refuse Sita. There were two options before him. The deer would die at his hand’s to comply with Sita’s wish. On the other hand, if it was the rakshasa Maricha, then, it was Ram’s duty to kill the beast. Rama decided to go after the deer and slay it. In his absence, Lakshmana asked Rama to take care of Sita.
Rama pursued Maricha. Maricha led Rama far away from the hermitage, which made Rama very angry. After a long pursuit, the tired deer stopped in a shady grassland. Rama seized the opportunity and shot it down with his golden arrow.
As the dying Maricha returned to his real form, he cried out, “Oh Sita! Oh Lakshmana!” But that wasn’t all. He did so mimicking Rama’s voice. Sita fell prey to the ruse and asked Lakshmana to go and search for Rama.
Even though Lakshmana insisted that no one could harm Rama; Sita, who was still very much worried, asked Lakshmana to go. Lakshmana reluctantly left to look for Rama.
With Lakshmana gone, Ravana appeared as a mendicant and kidnapped Sita as she stepped forward to give him alms.
The Ramayana then narrates the tale of how Rama defeats Ravana in Lanka and regains Sita.
One thought on “The Death of Maricha | A Story of Ramayana”
Wow, what a lovely story arc. Looks like everyone was up to tricks–the Gods and the Demons…
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