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This episode occurs during the years when Rama, Sita and Lakshmana are exiled in the dense Dandaka forest.  Their adventures are described in the Aranya Kanda, the 3rd book of the Ramayana, as follows:

One day; when the trio [Rama, Sita and Lakshmana] is in the thick Dandaka forest, a gigantic rakshasa appears.  He is hideous, massive, "sunken-eyed, hugemouthed, pointed-eared, his belly deformed.”  Clad in a tiger skin, dripping with grease and spattered with blood, he makes a great uproar, seizes Sita in his arms and starts to carry her away, cursing the intruders, proudly declaring himself to be Viradha, the master of the impenetrable forest.  He tells them he will marry Sita and kill the two men who he does not fear, having obtained Brahma's boon to be invulnerable to any weapon on earth.

The angered Rama replies by speedily placing seven sharp arrows into Viradha who falls to the ground, letting Sita loose.  The two brothers continue to transfix him with flaming arrows, but he vomits them out by virtue of the boon he had received.

Then Rama breaks Viradha's right arm and Lakshmana the left, hurling him to the ground; aware of his boon, they decide to cast him into a pit.  On hearing this, Viradha tells his story.  In reality - he says - he is the gandharva (celestial being) Tumburu who incurred the wrath of Kubera for having made love to the apsara Rambha.  From this boon he will be released by a fight with Rama, assume his natural form, and return to the celestial regions.  Having been asked to put an end to his suffering, the brothers bury him in the pit.

Summarised from the Aranya Kanda, chapters 2-4.

 

Sita’s Abduction by the Rakshasa Viradha I, Banteay Srei Temple, Angkor, Cambodia
Figure 1.  Sita’s Abduction by the Rakshasa Viradha I, Banteay Srei Temple, Angkor, Cambodia
In this lintel from Banteay Srei Temple, we see the monster Viradha grasping the relatively tiny Sita on his shoulder, with the alarmed Rama and Lakshmana on either end of the relief.
You can see a larger version of this image by clicking here.

 

Here we see the monster, "as large as a mountain, creating a great uproar and causing the earth to tremble".  He was Viradha, the son of Java and Shatarada.

 

Sita’s Abduction by the Rakshasa Viradha I (Detail), Banteay Srei Temple, Angkor, Cambodia
Figure 2.  Sita’s Abduction by the Rakshasa Viradha I (Detail), Banteay Srei Temple, Angkor, Cambodia
A detail from the lintel shown in Figure 1.
You can see a larger version of this image by clicking here.

 

Viradha managed to grab the princess, but while carrying her like a baby and trying to devour her, he was pierced by arrows from Rama and Lakshmana.

 

Sita’s Abduction by the Rakshasa Viradha I, Angkor Wat Temple, Cambodia
Figure 3.  Sita’s Abduction by the Rakshasa Viradha I, Angkor Wat Temple, Cambodia
On this half pediment on the east-facing pediment of the northeastern corner pavilion, we see Viradha’s attempt to abduct Sita, with Rama and Lakshmana on the point of piercing Viradha with arrows.
You can see a larger version of this image by clicking here.

 

Badly wounded, Viradha attacked the two heroes while roaring and bursting into loud laughter.  Rama then shot two powerful arrows that cut the spear of Viradha in half.  Despite this, the monster grabbed the brothers and fought on until he was struck down by innumerable arrows and sword blows.

Viradha reveals that he is the gandharva Tumburu, who had incurred the wrath of Kubera for having loved the nymph Rambha and could not be killed by normal weapons.

Rama and Lakshmana dig a pit and bury Viradha, finally killing him and freeing to return to the celestial regions.

Rama and Lakshmana rejoiced and Sita was free.

 

The abduction of Sita happens twice in the Ramayana: first, here, by Viradha who failed and was killed, then by Ravana who was successful and ran away with his prey, commencing the main storyline of the whole Ramayana epic, of which we shall read a lot more in coming entries in My Journal.

 

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