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Book III: Aranya Kanda or The Book of the Forest

Rama, being an obedient son, leaves for the jungle with Sita and Lakshmana, who in spite of repeated requests, decides to shun the kingdom and follow his older brother devoutly in his time of crisis. Meanwhile, Bharata returns to Ayodhya and, being also devoted to Rama, becomes furious with Kaikeyi for her malicious deeds committed in his absence. He travels to the forest and tries to persuade Rama to return to the kingdom and assume the throne. Rama politely refuses, saying that he is duty-bound to see that his father's promise is fulfilled. Reluctantly Bharata agrees to return to the kingdom, requesting Rama to present to him his sandals. He formally treats Rama's sandals as the reigning entity, and ascribes himself as the representative ruler of the rightful king Rama in his absence. Bharata also vows to end his life, if Rama did not return after the 14 years in exile. Dasharatha meanwhile dies of sorrow from having to be separated from his son.

The demoness Surpanakha, sister of the demon king Ravana, becomes enamored of the handsome Rama and tries to seduce him during his stay in the jungle. Rama, renowned for his practice of Ekapatnivrata, the vow to practice unassailable loyalty to one's wife, is unresponsive. But Rama's brother Lakshmana, infuriated by Surpanaka's act of willful lasciviousness, cuts off her nose. Surpanakha runs home crying to her brother Ravana. To avenge his sister's loss of nose, Ravana uses the demon Maricha to lure Rama and Lakshmana away, leaving Sita unguarded. At her moment of vulnerability, Ravana abducts Sita in his airborne vehicle, the Pushpaka Vimana.

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