It is from here that the story of the Ramayana takes a turn, and sets the battle between Rama and Ravana into motion.
Rama, Lakshman and Sita set up a small mud hut with a thatched roof in Panchavati, and started dwelling there. They lived happily, with Lakshman lovingly looking after every need of Rama and Sita.
Early one morning, when the three of them were on their way to the Godavari for a bath, Lakshman started reminiscing about Bharat. He missed his brothers deeply, and was upset that Bharat had denied himself the comforts of the palace and was living a life of austerity. "How could such a cruel woman like Kaikayee bear such a noble son?" he wondered aloud, but Rama stopped him from condemning Kaikayee any further. They reached the river, bathed, offered their morning prayers, and started walking back to their ashram, reminiscing about the past.
While they were thus walking in the forest, Ravana's sister, Soorpanakha, was also wandering around. As soon as her eyes fell on the handsome Rama, she fell in love with him. Although Soorpanakha was a demoness and was horribly ugly, with her powers she transformed herself into a beautiful young woman and approached Rama.
She asked him who he was and what he was doing in the forest. Rama stated that he was the son of King Dashratha, and was in the forest to fulfill his duty, with his brother Lakshman and wife, Sita. Soorpanakha then introduced herself stating that she was the sister of Ravana. She added that her brothers Kumbhkaran and Vibheeshan were also renowned warriors, while her other two brothers, Khara and Dooshan reigned over the Pnachvati area and everyone was afraid of them and of her. She then looked at Sita and said, "This little girl is not worthy of you. You need a real woman, someone like me." She then went on to tell Rama that she fell in love with him the minute she saw him, and asked him if he would consider accepting her as his wife.
This 'proposal' amused Rama, and he smilingly turned it down stating that he was a one-woman man. "Why don't you ask my brother Lakshman if he would like to be your husband. He is not married," stated Rama, teasingly.
Soorpanakha then turned towards Lakshman, who she also found to be exceedingly handsome, and asked him to accept her as his wife. Lakshman stated that he was but a slave to Rama. "Why would you want a slave when you could have the master?" Lakshman added that Rama could easily have two wives, so she should go back and insist that he accept her.
Soorpanakha then went back to Rama, who once again turned her down. By now, she was angered, and when she saw Sita besides Rama, she declared that it was Sita's fault Rama could not be hers. She then assumed her original demonic form and advanced towards Sita. Sita was terrified when she saw this huge rakshasi advancing towards her, and called for help. Rama instantly shielded Sita while Lakshman attacked Soorpanakha and cut off her ears and nose. Soorpanakha ran wailing with pain into the forest.
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