Retelling Ramayana through versions from Padma Purana, Rama using Siva’s bow Ajagavam to cross sea, legend of KakaBhushundi, Ramayana occured 11 times in multiple kalpas and yugas with different outputs
Padma Purana, with around 55,000 verses is the 3rd largest among Indian literature, after the Mahabharata (100,000 verses), and the Skanda Purana (84,000 verses), and is more than twice the size of Valmiki Ramayana.
The Srishti Khanda of the Purana has a small section dealing with Rama’s killing of Shambuka and a couple of other things. Uttara Khanda too deals with Rama’s story in a few chapters which tell the story of his birth, birth rites, the naming ceremony, etc. Here we are also told briefly of the birth of Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna as well as of Sita, Rama’s guarding Vishwamitra’s sacrifice, the weddings of the four brothers, Rama’s exile to the forest and life there, Sita’s abduction and Rama’s subsequent battle with Ravana, his return to Ayodhya, the crowning and his eventual departure from the world. The narration here is mostly the same as what is found in Valmiki Ramayana, with some variations. Rama’s story here ends with Sita entering the earth and later Rama and his brothers walking into the Sarayu accompanied by the citizens of Ayodhya, the Vanaras, the Rikshas and so on, to end their life on earth, as in the Uttara Kanda of Valmiki’s Ramayana.
However, it is in the Patala Khanda that we have the detailed narration of Rama’s story. Though this Khanda also speaks of other things, most of the Khanda is essentially Rama’s story, named Rama Aswamedha, which is the story of the last part of the Ramayana narrated against the background of the first Aswamedha that Rama conducts years after he abandons the pregnant Sita in the jungle.
The story is not narrated in strict chronological order – for instance, the abandoning of Sita, an incident that takes place at the earlier part of the story, is narrated towards the end.
Patala Khanda also explains about Sethu being built on ocean and how Vanaras crossed over it to reach Lanka, but the method here is different.
The 116th chapter of this section is known as purAkalpIya-rAmAyaNa-kathanaM and contains Jambavanta’s narration of the Ramayana’s events.
There is strikingly unique description of the enterprise of crossing the sea by the vanara sena :
“Now, I am going to relate (to you) the efforts (made) towards crossing the sea. Then Rama said, I would worship Lord Sankara and appeal to him about our predicament, and then we shall do as guided by him. Saying this, he started praying to mahadeva. (There is a beautiful hymn at 222 sloka containing several names of maheshwara, which Rama uttered to invoke him). Mahadeva then appeared to Rama with all his attributes.
Rama saluted mahadeva with joined palms and prayed to him again in the daNDavata posture.
Parameswara then addressed Rama promising him the desired boons. Rama replied to mahAdeva: ‘O sambhu, only give us the means to cross this sea so that we may reach lankA’.
Hearing this, Sambhu (Siva) then answered: ‘This is my bow ajagavaM. It immediately takes any shape as desired (by its wielder). Take this and climbing through it you can overcome the sea and reach lankA’.
Then intent upon this course, Rama invoked that ajagavaM, and when the bow appeared, Rama worshipped it. Siva then handed it over to Rama, and he threw the bow across the ocean.
Rama, lakshmana and the entire sena of as numerous vanaras as six-parArdha fulfilled their objective (of crossing the ocean) by climbing that bow.
Seeing those vanaras approaching the shore though the bow, and alarmed by the force of the vanaras, a Rakshasa coast-guard by the name of Atikaaya immediately approached Ravana”.
In Srishti-Khanda of Padma Purana, the Sethu is mentioned but in a different context.
After winning the war at lankA and fulfilling his objectives there, Rama is returning back to ayodhya along with his entourage by using the pushpaka vimana offered by vibhishana.
Before departing, rAma has given him instructions about conducting the lanka empire and some interesting orders to recover and restore a certain murtis of vaishnavi and of vamana which were commissioned earlier by Emperor Bali.
In this context is the following dialog recorded between vibhishana and Rama in the Vamana-Pratishta chaper of the Srishti-Khanda the first part of the padma-purana :
Vibishana fears that this bridge built to attack Ravana’s army, might be misused by others in future to attack his kingdom. So, he wants Rama to destroy it.
Rama fires a missile named Kaarmukam and breaks the bridge into 3 pieces by striking it at 2 different points, the middle piece being 10 yojana length.
Later, he approached on the other side of bridge and established Siva Lingam made with sand, which now is known as Ramanatha Swamy in Rameswaram.
Lord Siva promises that he will stay there as long as earth exists and whoever visits this place and even have a glance at his Lingam, will have all his extreme sins removed.
Rama abandoning Seetha in Padma Purana
The story is same as in Uttara Kanda of Ramayana, but the means are different.
Rama hears through his six spies about what people are thinking about his wife Seetha, who returned after staying at Ravana’s place for one year !
One night, Rama discovers that Seetha is already pregnant and next morning, his 6 spies dressed up as citizens, appear in his court.
Rama takes them into a secret chamber and asks them to give feedback about him, his administration, wife, family etc without hiding anything.
Loka bruvanti mam kidrg bharyayam mama kidrsam
Mantrisham kidrsam loka vadanti charitam katham. [Patala 56.8]
A spy narrated what he overheared : A washerman shouting at his wife asking her to get out of his home, kicking her brutally, his eyes red with rage. “You have spent the day in another man’s house and you can go back there now. I am not going to keep you in my house.” His mother interferes and tells the man his wife is innocent but he won’t listen to her. “I am not Rama,” he says repeatedly. “He can keep his wife who lived in the house of his enemy the Rakshasa, but not I. I won’t keep a wife who has lived in another man’s house.”
The spy’s words strike Rama like lightning. He faints and collapses on the floor and the spies fan him with the ends of their uttareeyas and soon he comes to consciousness.
How Lakshmana is ordered to leave Seetha in forest is same as in Ramayana.
When Lakshama took Seetha in chariot, crossed Ganga river and revealed Rama’s decision to abandon her, Seetha is unable to fully believe it.
Seetha assumes that he is joking with her: hasati ayam mahabhago lakshmano devaro mama. She keeps looking at Lakshmana who is walking away, with unblinking eyes – animeana. It is only after Lakshmana has crossed the Ganga and disappeared in the distance leaving her in the middle of the fearsome jungle that she finally accepts the reality and faints again – for ‘how could Rama abandon me: I am without sin and dearer to him than his life?’ [katham mam pra?atah pre?tham vipapam raghavo’tyajat]
The very forest is moved by Seetha’s grief. The air of the jungle changes and a breeze starts to blow, scented with the perfume of flowers. Swans dip their wings in water and coming to Seetha, fan her with them. Elephants fill their trunks with water and sprinkle it on her, washing away the dust on her body as she lies on the ground. Wild deer stand in a circle around her, their eyes wide open as hers were a moment ago. The trees around her instantly put on flowers, though it is not the season of spring.
When she comes to again, she begins wailing aloud, calling out to Rama. Valmiki who happens to go to the jungle at this time hears her cries and sends his disciples to find out who is wailing in the middle of the forest. That is how Seetha reaches the Valmiki’s ashram.
Past Life of Washerman and Washerwoman
Seetha is abandoned by her husband Rama, because of what she did long ago when she was a young girl – it is the curse of the birds to whom she had been cruel.
Very briefly, the washerman’s past life story says that he was a male parrot in that other life time and one day he and his wife parrot, both perched on a mountain cliff, were speaking about Rama and Seetha – how Rama would wed Seetha and how they would live a happy life as king and queen and so on. Seetha asks her sakhis, her girl friends, to catch the birds and bring them to her so that she can get more details of her future from them. When they are brought to her, they answer all her questions, but she refuses to let them go, saying that she would let them go only after Rama comes to Mithila and weds her as they said, for they have created longing for Rama in her heart through their words. She tells them she would keep them in her palace with all love and care. The female parrot tells Seetha this will not do, they will not be happy in the palace since they are birds of the wild. She also tells Seetha she is pregnant [with eggs] and would go to the wild and after the chicks are born, would come back to her.
When Seetha does not agree, the male parrot too speaks, promising to bring his wife and give her to Seetha after the chicks are born. Seetha tells him he can go wherever he likes, but she is not going to let the female parrot go. The bird requests her repeatedly to let his wife go, but Seetha refuses. Eventually, the female bird give up her life after cursing Seetha that she too would be separated from her husband Rama while she is pregnant. Seeing her dying, the male birds throws himself into the waters of the Ganga, vowing he would be reborn in Rama’s city and because of his words Rama would give her up. It is the male bird who dies with vengeance in his heart after cursing Seetha that is reborn as the washerman.
Rama Rajya in Padma Purana
Padma Purana not only says all people are happy about Rama, it gives interesting details of the conversations among Rama’s subjects at night, reported to Rama by his spies [all collected from their homes and not from the streets.
For instance, in one home a mother, suckling her infant asks him to drink as much of her milk as possible – for he is not going to get it in his coming lifetimes. There will no future lifetimes for him – those who live in Rama’s city will have no future lifetimes, they will attain liberation [moksha] in this life itself.
In another home, a wife compares her husband to Rama and the pleased husband denies the comparison – where is Rama the sun in the sky and where is he a mere moth; where is Rama, the sacred Ganga and where is he, but a mere pool on the road ?
In yet another house, there is a game of dice going on between a love-intoxicated young husband and wife. The wife beats her husband quickly at the game and declares herself the winner, making her bangles dance as she speaks gesturing with her arms.
The husband, laughing, refuses to take the beating and declares he is not yet beaten and is going to beat her in an instant, by remembering Rama, as the Devas in the past defeated the Daityas. And he does exactly that and the delighted man and woman give themselves into each others arms in a tight embrace.
Aswamedha Yagna episode also narrated story of a divine person, whose soul was trapped in horse’s body and got liberated with tough of Lord Rama.
That divine person was cursed in past by sage Durvasa to become an animal, as he was fooling around and not respecting elders.
He was however told that when Rama touches him, he will be liberated and will ascend to the heaven.
Ramayana was witnessed 11 times with multiple outcomes of Rama-Ravana War !
Kakabhusundi was a crow who is also regarded highly as Kagabhujandar.
He has a boon to remember all his previous births. He lived in ayodhya during Kali Yuga of previous kalpa.
He clears Garuda’s doubt about Rama being a mere human or avatar of Vishnu.
Kakabhushundi has witnessed Ramayana happen 11 times with multiple outcomes of Rama-Ravana war, and seen Mahabharat 16 times with different results.
But after seeing Daksha Yagya twice, he did not either care to see it again or saw no point to seeing any more, as it ended the same way each time.
Lord Rama is said to have incarnated multiple times one earth in multiple treta-yugas of past maha-yugas.
Vayu Purana mentions the following :
Tretayuge chaturvinshe ravanastapasah kshayat
Ramam Dasharathim prapya saganah kshayamiyavan
Which means that Ravana met Rama, the son of Dasaratha in a battle field during treta yuga of 24th mahayuga.
Rama did not kill Ravana, just to get back his wife. Ravana was dictating terms at trade and wealth of all kingdoms on earth.
But he could not be killed easily due to his worship of Lord Siva.
So, after multiple attempts in multiple Ramayanas, the sages decided to seperate Seetha from Rama and place her in Ravana’s kingdom.
Seetha’s weeping for one year in ravana’s place would weaken his protective layer.
Next step was Hanuman killing some part of army and destroying Lanka’s Vaasthu by burning key places.
Final step was done by Rama, crossing over the sea on bridge with 200 million Vanaras and killing Ravana.