One beautiful morning, Sita spotted a lovely deer outside their hut. It was truly an exquisite creature like no other deer she had ever seen before. Its skin had a golden luminous sheen and it stood out from the rest of the herd as it cavorted enticingly between the trees. Sita was charmed. She requested Ram to bring her the deer as a pet that would keep her company while they were away hunting. Ram could not resist his wife's plea and followed the deer into the forest to capture it and bring it back for his wife. But before he left he cautioned Laxman not to leave Sita's side for a moment.
Ram found the deer to be an elusive creature that led him a merry dance deeper and deeperinto the forest.
Finally, Ram strung his bow and shot an arrow that pierced the deer's heart. In an instant the deer was transformed into the demon Maricha who cried out for Sita and Laxman in a perfect imitation of Ram's voice. Sensing that something was terribly wrong, Ram hastened to get back to Sita.
Back at the hut Sita and Laxman were
dismayed to hear what they thought was Ram's cry of distress. Sita was
beside herself with fear and begged Laxman to go to Ram's aid. Laxman was
in a dilemma. On the one hand, he had promised his brother that he would
not leave Sita alone under any circumstances. On the other, he wanted to
rush to help Ram if he was in trouble. But Laxman suspected that things
were not what they seemed. He did not want to leave Sita, but she was adamant
that he go and find Ram. Against his better judgement, Laxman agreed. He
drew a circle around the hut with his arrow and told Sita that on no account
must she step across this line. As long as she stayed behind this boundary
no harm would come to her.
As soon as Laxman had disappeared
into the forest, a frail hermit approached the hut begging for alms and
food. Sita served him graciously, being careful to stay within the line
that Laxman had drawn. But the feeble old man said that he could barely
reach the cup of water that she had set down for him and requested her
to step forward. Sita could not see what possible harm this weak creature
could do her and she stepped across the line. Instantly, she was caught
in a vise-like grip as Ravan revealed his true identity.
Sita was terror struck. She tried
to struggle, but her strength was no match against Ravan's brute force.
She tried to warn Ravan of the consequences of abducting her. She told
him that Ram would move heaven and earth to find her. When he discovered
that it was Ravan who had kidnapped his wife, his wrath would be terrible
to behold and Ravan would be destroyed. But Ravan merely laughed at this
suggestion. He bundled Sita into his magnificent flying chariot and sped
off to Lanka. The vulture king, Jatayu, tried to come to Sita's rescue.
But Ravan cut off his wings and left him bleeding and helpless.
Ravan was quite taken with Sita's
charms. He decided that if he could persuade Sita to marry him, he could
kill two bnirds with one stone. On the one hand, he would acquire a lovely
wife. On the other, it would mean the ultimate humiliation of Ram. He gave
Sita an ultimatum. He told her that he would give her one year's time to
make up her mind to be his wife. If at the end of this time her answer
was no, he would have her cut up and served to him as a delicious meal.
However, Ravan decided that he would court Sita in the period of one year.
He would impress her with his wit, charm, knowledge and wealth. Ravan cherished
hopes that Sita might even fall in love with him by the end of a year.
Knowing the pleasure that Sita took
in nature, Ravan ensconced her in a beautiful garden. This garden was filled
with wonderful trees, flowers, birds and animals. But Sita felt like a
bird kept captive in a golden cage for all the time she was kept under
the watchful eye of demonesses.