Rama in pursuit of Marica: Kedareshar Temple, Halebidu, Karnataka, (c) author
How Ravana abducts Sita is well known. However, have we looked into the details?
This is how Valmiki describes Marica’s death:
sa praapta kaalam ajnaaya cakaara ca tataH svaram |
sadRisham raaghavasya eva haa siite lakSmaNa iti ca ||
Perceptive of the time that chanced bearing his death, and wishful of the death of Ravana too, then made a voice that is a soundalike to Raghava's voice and yelled 'ha, Seetha...' also thus 'ha Lakshmana...' [3-44-19]
Marica abandons the golden deer form and dies.
And Rama now knows that Lakshmana has been right in warning him:
tam dRiSTvaa patitam bhuumau raakSasam bhiima darshanam ||
raamo rudhira sikta a.ngam ceSTamaanam mahiitale |
jagaama manasaa siitaam lakSmaNasya vacaH smaran ||
On seeing that demon with a fiendish look, who has fallen to earth with limbs steeped in blood, and who is weltering on the surface of earth, Rama emotionally took flight to Seetha reminiscing Lakshmana's words. [3-44-21b, 22]
If we go by our Common Sense, and if transformed into Valmiki at this moment (of course, with our own inclinations intact), how would we have made the narrative flow here?
Wouldn’t we have made Rama rush immediately to Sita?
No doubt we can never be Valmiki, because he does not make things that easier for us …
"This is the trickery of Maareecha which Lakshmana vouchsafed earlier, that has indeed happened in that way alone, and the one whom I have killed now is none other than Maareecha. [3-44-23] "This demon died while crying out with a blatant voice 'ha, Seetha... ha, Lakshmana...' And on hearing this how Seetha will be? And what will be the plight of dextrous Lakshmana?" 
And Valmiki describes Rama’s state of mind in no uncertain terms –
iti sa.mcintya dharmaaatmaa raamo hRiSTa tanuu ruhaH ||
Thus on thinking over them that righteous-souled Rama remained in a hair-raising predicament. [3-44-25]
Valmiki further emphasizes:
tatra raamam bhayam tiivram aavivesha viSaadajam |
raakSasam mRiga ruupam tam hatvaa shrutvaa ca tat svanam ||
On killing that demon in the form of Golden Deer, and also on hearing his yelling, Rama is ensorcelled with a frantic fear caused by his own gloom. [3-44-26]
And now comes the enigmatic Shloka that has set this article in motion.
Given Rama’s tensed state, the next Shloka poses the problem:
ihatya pRiSatam ca anyam maa.msam aadaaya raaghavaH |
tvaramaaNo janasthaanam sasaara abhimukhaH tadaa ||
Raghava then on killing another spotted deer and on taking its flesh, he hurried himself towards Janasthaana. [3-44-27]
How quickly the Shloka passes our notice; however, it is compact in narrative.
We see, Rama kills another deer; and not only that, he even takes its flesh!
Doesn’t hunting another deer (after finding it … because surely the deer wouldn’t have come before him and say, ‘kill me’), then skinning it … then fleshing it … involve time … and more time?
Why would Rama do that in that tensed state?
We have interesting contrast when we read the Valmiki Ramayana and Markandeya Ramayana (of Mahabharata) side by side.
In Markandeya’s version (to Yudhishthira and Pandavas), there is no delay. Here is how the narrative unfolds in KMG’s translation:
“And while Sita was being carried away, the intelligent Rama, having slain the great deer, retraced his steps and saw his brother Lakshmana (on the way). And beholding his brother, Rama reproved him, saying, 'How couldst thou come hither, leaving the princess of Videha in a forest that is haunted by the Rakshasa?' And reflecting on his own enticement to a great distance by that Rakshasa in the guise of a deer and on the arrival of his brother (leaving Sita alone in the asylum), Rama was filled with agony.” (Mahabharata-Vana Parvan-277)
Here, Rama rushes back immediately after killing Marica and realizing the risk.
Valmiki’s Rama is no doubt different from Markandeya’s (or Vyasa’s) Rama.
Coming back …
Even if it is Rama, killing a deer cannot be that easy. Well, even it is easy for Rama, it will no doubt consume some time. And then, Rama not only kills the deer but skins it. Wouldn’t it involve some more time again?
In Valmiki, Rama is tired in pursuit of Marica –
aasiit kruddhaH tu kaakutstho vivashaH tena mohitaH |
atha avatasthe sushraantaH cChaayaam aashritya shaadvale || 3-44-9
Rama of Kakutstha is incensed as its form is spellbinding but its capture slippery, and then verily tired as he is he stayed on a pasture taking shelter of a tree shade. [3-44-9]
However, in Markandeya’s, Rama is not tired:
“And that Rakshasa enticed away Rama to a great distance by appearing before him at one time and disappearing from his view at another. And when Rama at last knew who and what that deer was, viz., that he was a Rakshasa, that illustrious descendant of Raghu's race took out an infallible arrow and slew that Rakshasa, in the disguise of a deer.” (KMG)
This again provokes the question: why would tired Rama further tire himself in pursuit of another deer?
Besides, as I have noted, after Marica’s death, Rama remains in a hair-raising predicament [3-44-25], and ensorcelled with a frantic fear caused by his own gloom. [3-44-26].
Therefore, the question remains: why would he further fatigue himself and go for hunting another deer in that mental state – that Valmiki explicitly calls “fear” (tatra raamam bhayam tiivram aavivesha viSaadajam)?
Why does killing that deer (that is, Food) gain so much importance in Rama’s mind for the time, so that it would gain even over his tensed mind?
To put the question bluntly, in Valmiki’s version, why does Rama delay?
Markandeya is a Rshi, no Kavi of either Valmiki or Vyasa’s stature. He surely misses Valmiki’s subtlety. And Vyasa, the other Kavi presents Markandeya as he is.
Now to speculate … (with out humble wretched brain …)
Perhaps Rama delays because he thinks that Lakshmana is there to protect Sita.
The interpretation that Rama is sure Lakshmana would be protecting Sita does not satisfy me entirely. Would a man like Rama be comfortable that his wife has to be always protected by his younger brother? Would Sita like that?
Could there be any other reason?
A Believer might be right to say that it is all Divine Will that makes Rama delay; otherwise, Sita would not have been abducted; otherwise, Ravana would not have been killed; otherwise, Rama’s incarnation would not have served its purpose.
Well, we may go by that thought … and we may not …
Does Rama delay to relieve his tension?
I know, we know, this does not sound convincing …
Or does Rama delay because somewhere deep in his unconscious there is the desire to see that his greatest fear really turns real?
Does he want to lose Sita? Is some Evolutionary Game going on between the husband and wife?
Choice is ours …
Who dares to know Rama and Sita’s mind?
(Translations and Transcription of Ramayana from Desiraju Hanumanta Rao)