On the way to Panchavati, Ram, Sita and Lakshman met Jatayu. He said that he was a friend of Dashrath, and therefore he would guard Sita while they lived there. Ram told him that as a friend of his father, Jatayu would henceforth be as venerable to him as his own father. He would later help in the kidnapping of Sita from Panchvati. They located a pleasant place in Panchavati (place where five trees grow) to build their simple home. On the banks of the river Godavari river, they spend many happy, pleasant days. This is in present day Nasik city, in the State of Maharastra.
One day, however, the sister of the demon king Ravan, Shoorpanakha, came there. As soon as she saw Ram, she fell in love with him. She took the form of a lovely young woman and proposed to Ram. Ram pointed to Sita and indicated he was already married, but he hinted in jest that Lakshman was at the moment single. Shoorpanakha then proposed to Lakshman. Lakshman said, “I am a servant of Ram. If you marry a servant, you will also become a servant like me.”
Shoorpanakha was enraged at their response, and assumed her fierce demoness form and began to threaten Sita. Lakshman drew his sword and cut off Shoorpanakha’s ears and nose. She ran off, and immediately went to her brothers Khar and Dooshan and showing them her bleeding and mutilated face, asked them to attack and kill Ram and Lakshman.
Khar Dooshan’s story
Meanwhile Ram placed the real Sita in the care of Agni (the fire god), while they were alone and created a Maya (illusionary) Sita who appeared identical to the real one. He called Lakshman and asked him to take Sita to a safe cave in the mountain while he fought the demons.Then when Khar and Dooshan and Trishala attacked with their army of fourteen thousand demons, Ram was ready for them; he destroyed the entire army along with Khar, Dooshan, and Trishala.
Shoorpanakha now hurried to Lanka, to the court of Ravan, and related the entire story and the news of the death of the army and the demon brothers. She also praised the beauty of Sita and urged Ravan to attack Ram, to avenge the insult given to her.
Ravan took his aerial chariot and flew to see Mareech (the island of Mauritius gets it name from this demon), his maternal uncle, who was living an ascetic life in the forest. He requested Mareech to take the form of a golden deer in order to lure Ram away from the hermitage, so that he could kidnap Sita while she was alone at the ashram.
Story of Mareech (Golden Deer)
Mareech tried to convince Ravan that Ram and Lakshman were not ordinary mortals and it was unwise to plot against them.
But Ravan threatened to kill Mareech if he did not obey him and help him in his plan. Mareech felt helpless before the terrifying might of Ravan and obediently took the form of a golden deer near the Panchavati ashram of Ram as ordered, reflecting that it would be better to die at the hands of Lord Ram than this demon.
When Sita saw the golden deer, she asked Ram to capture it for her. On her insistence, Ram went to hunt the deer, and followed it as it ran away into the forest. Before doing so, he made Lakshman promise him that he would not leave Sita alone under any circumstances.
When they were far away, and Ram was about to shoot an arrow, Mareech, in the form of the deer cried out. He shouted in a piteous tone, imitating Ram’s voice, “O Lakshman!!” Sita heard the cry for help and persuaded Lakshmana to go to help Ram.
Lakshman tried to explain to her that even in his dreams, Ram couldn’t be threatened by anyone, so this must be a trick. But Sita was adamant; she even accused Lakshman of not going to save Ram on purpose. This accusation forced Lakshman to break his promise to Ram, and he followed the direction of the cry.
Sita is kidnapped and Jatayu killed
When Sita was left alone in the ashram, Ravan took the disguise of a sadhu and appeared in front of the hut. He called for alms outside the hut. While leaving Sita alone, Lakshman had drawn a line outside the hut and bade Sita not to cross it.
Sita tried to give the sadhu the alms while staying inside the line drawn by Lakshman. But the Sadhu insisted that he would accept the alms only if she stepped forward.
As soon as Sita crossed the “Lakshman Rekha” (the line drawn by Lakshmana), Ravan was then able to seize her and take her away with him on his aerial chariot, racing southward with his prize.
When Ram and Lakshman returned to the ashram, they realized Sita was nowhere to be found. Ram at once suspected that something was amiss and began calling out for her. He ran around shouting “Seete, Seete!” in the forest, followed in his search by Lakshman.
As they roamed around the forest, they found Jatayu, who had been fatally wounded while fighting with Ravan and attempting to rescue Sita. He told them about Ravan carrying Sita off in his aerial chariot. Then, succumbing to his wounds, the aged Jatayu laid his head on Ram’s lap and died. Rama performed his last rites.
In Lanka, Ravan placed Sita in a garden of Ashoka trees and set demonesses to guard her. He told the guards Trijata and others they were to harass and intimidate Sita into marrying him, and then returned to his palace.