Myth & Legends of India: Lava and Kusa

Another tale from Myths & Legends of India Sita’s children Lava and Kusa. Enjoy their adventures!


Pg 54 – 57

Lava and Kusa

Sita doted on Lava, her baby son, but such was the safety of the hermitage that she usually left him unattended while she went to bathe. So when Valmiki one day looked into her room and saw that Lava was not there, he was immediately worried that the baby had been carried off somehow: maybe a wild beast had got into the hermitage after all. Sita would be out of her mind with worry if she returned and found Lava missing. What should he do?

Using his unique powers and skill, Valmiki made an exact replica of Lava out of kusa grass, and placed him where Lava normally lay. He hoped that Sita would think the replica was her own baby, and would therefore miss nothing.

But soon afterwards Sita returned from her bath carrying Lava with her. He had been wide awake, and was beginning to get old enough to enjoy splashing in the water – so she had taken him with her.

She looked with amazement at the copy of her child, lying in a corner of her room, and said, ‘I had Lava with me all the time, and not it seems I have a second baby who looks just like him. How can this be?’

Valmiki explained why he had made the child, and that he had don so to stop her worrying. ‘And because I made him out of kusa grass,’ he said, ‘let him be called Kusa, and be brought up as Lava’s brother.’

So the two boys grew up together, and were trained by Valmiki in all the weapons and sciences appropriate to their Kshatriya lineage, while learning from their mother many of her virtues.

They were, however, boys, and no boy can be virtuous all the time. One day they killed a deer that belonged to the hermitage and should have been allowed to graze in peace; and they also misbehaved with Valmiki’s sacred Sivalingam. Not understanding its significance, they thought it was a toy, and started to fool about with it.

Valmiki was angered by these two misdemeanors, and was about to punish them severely. But Sita – ever gentle and understanding – begged him to be merciful, and he agreed to forgive them if they performed the following penance. ‘Let Lava go to the lake of the god Kubera, and bring back some of the golden lotuses and mandara-flowers that grow there. Then, with Kusa, he should worship the lingam with those sacred flowers. That way their sins of disrespect will be atoned for.’

As the son of Lord Rama, Lava already had courage and abilities way beyond his years. He managed to make the journey to Kubera’s lake high on Mount Kailasa, all by himself; battle with the Yakshas who guarded it; and pick the golden lotuses and the mandara-flowers, just as Valmiki had commanded.

The rigors of the expedition made him suddenly full-grown, and it was no longer as a boy that Lava journeyed home, but as a handsome young man. On the way, he stopped under a tree to rest. Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother, happened to pass by. He had been sent out by Rama to look for a victim for a religious ceremony at which not just an animal but a human being would be sacrified. Seeing from Lava’s caste-marks that he was a Kshatriya – and thus particularly valuable as a human sacrificial victim – he challenged him to fight. Lava fought bravely, but he lacked both the experience that Lakshmana had and the weapons and Lakshmana quickly overcame him and took him prisoner.

He took him back to Ayodhya, where his father Rama reigned; and meanwhile Sita grew sick with worry. Valmiki too grew anxious, both for her sake and for Lava’s, and regretted the severity of the atonement he had demanded. But through the power of his meditation, he was able to discern what had happened to Lava, and to reassure Sita that her son was alive, though held at present as a prisoner.

Then to Kusa he said, ‘Now it is your turn to be brave. Take these weapons, and go to Ayodhya. Besiege and attack the town, and by using this weapon, rescue your brother from imprisonment. You must lose no time, for the day of the ceremony is approaching when a human being will be sacrificed, and Lava is being kept for that very purpose. Before you go, let your mother Sita tell you of your and Lava’s origins: for Ayodhaya is none other than the kingdom of Lava’s father Rama, and the warrior who took Lava prisoner is Lakshmana, Rama’s brother and Lava’s uncle.

Sita now told Kusa her own story, and how Lava had been born after she had been cruelly and mistakenly abandoned by her husband Rama. Then, with tearful blessings, she saw Kusa on his way.

How Kusa journeyed to Ayodhya; how he mounted a siege and an onslaught on the city; how he prevailed even over Rama himself with the weapons Valmiki had given him (for they were magic weapons, and not even gods could withstand them); all this is another story.

But eventually, when Rama had been forced to surrender to Kusa, the boy – who had also, like Lava, suddenly grown up, and was a young man now – said: ‘I have come to rescue my brother Lava, who was taken prisoner by Lakshmana, and whom you were preparing to put to death as a human sacrifice, but who is actually your own son, whom you never saw, for he was born after Sita, his mother and your devoted wife, was cruelly cast out by you to wander through the periolous forest.’

‘At this, Rama was overcome with shame and grief and remorse. He called Lava to him, and embraced him. ‘You are my long-lost son,’ he said. ‘How could I ever have so misjudged your mother as to reject her, when she had always been unflinching in her fidelity and devote to me? And how appalling to think that you, of all people, were in danger of dying in a sacrificial ceremony! The cruelty and injustice and horror of such things must end. And I must make full amends for my cruelty to Sita, my own loyal, chaste and beautiful wife. She must be called to rejoin you and me, to dwell in comfort and happiness once again, if she can find it in her heart to forgive me.’

“A retinue was sent to the hermitage of Valmiki, and Sita agreed to return in triumph to Ayodhya. Did she forgive her husband for his suspicion of her? Outwardly they were reconciled, and she did not reproach him. But inwardly the pain of her rejection stayed with her, so much so that she prayed to Earth to take her back into her protection.

Earth responded to her prayer: the ground opened up at Sita’s feet, and she was swallowed up. Thus, for the last part of his life, Rama was not freed from loneliness and remorse. Eventually Brahma took pity on him, and called him up to heaven to be reabsorbed into Vishnu, the god whose incarnation on earth he was. Reunited with Sita as Vishnu’s wife, Lakshmi, Rama found happiness at last.”

One thought on “Myth & Legends of India: Lava and Kusa

  1. Pingback: Year 4: Life, Reflections, Myths, Psyche | Inside A Soul

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