Category Archives: a. The Ramayana

Hanuman

Hanuman is one of the many deities of the Hindu tradition. He is regarded as the monkey-general of a mythic monkey kingdom, known as Kiskindha. In Hindu tradition, Hanuman is most commonly known for his role in the Ramayana [A Sanskrit epic featuring the characters of Rama, Sita, Hanuman, and Laksmana], in which he is a great ally to Rama and Laksmana [Rama is the central character of the Ramayana epic; Laksmana is his brother who accompanies Rama during his banishment from his kingdom]. The Ramayana describes how Hanuman was devoted to Rama and willingly set off to Lanka [Many people believe Lanka to be the location of today’s Sri Lanka] to search for Sita. Rama is unable to go himself; he had been expelled from the city for his 14 year exile. Earlier in the Ramayana, Rama had said that “[e]verywhere, even among the animals, can be found good creatures that follow the ways of righteousness, that are brave and provide a sure place of refuge” (Regier 995). This statement fits the description of Hanuman, for he is a loyal and virtuous being, and he is willing to endure the risk of crossing into Ravana’s land to save Sita. Hanuman does find Sita, but she refuses to return with him because of her loyalty to her husband. She is unwilling to touch another man, and believes that it is Rama’s duty (dharma) to save her himself (Regier 995).

Hanuman also demonstrates a few great powers that are useful in his role in the Ramayana epics. In the Sundarakanda [5th book of the Ramayana], Hanuman becomes a major character, with a talent for jumping extremely far distances. This is demonstrated in his jump between Mount Mahendra to Lanka’s Mount Trikuta His duality as a monkey-hero is demonstrated in this leap between the two territories and his search for Sita. Hanuman’s essential presence in the story is indicated by “the fact that the poet devotes nearly two hundred verses to the description of his jump” (Goldman 13). Hanuman further demonstrates his unique powers by his ability to change his size at will, for example during Hanuman’s leap to Lanka “he takes on a size that is said to be immeasurable. As he flies along, his shadow on the sea below is said to measure ten leagues in breadth and thirty in length” (Goldman 44).

Hanuman demonstrates that his moods are constantly changing. “[I]n some ways parallel to Hanuman’s vast and sudden changes in size are his sharp swings of mood throughout the first half of the Sundarakanda” (Goldman 47). Hanuman begins his journey to Lanka with lots of enthusiasm and optimism, but when faced with difficulties he “lapses into gloomy thought” (Goldman 47). After finding Sita, Hanuman decides to cause mayhem in Lanka. Ravana sends his forces after Hanuman, but all are unsuccessful in restraining the monkey. Ravana finally sends out his son, a powerful warrior, Indrajit, who soon realizes that he too is unable to kill Hanuman. However, he was able to acquire a “divine weapon of the god Brahma” which was able to impede any further destruction caused by Hanuman (Goldman 10). The Ramayana never directly says that Hanuman was immortal, but

“both accounts of his birth , one in the Kiskindhakanda and one in the Uttarakanda, indicate that his is to be no ordinary life span. In the former, Jambavan reports that Indra had conferred on him the great boon of being able to choose the moment of his death. In the latter Brahma foretells that he will be long-lived” (Goldman 54).

If it is then true that Hanuman is able to decide when he will die, this may account for Indrajit’s realization that even as a mighty warrior he will never be able to kill Hanuman. This demonstrates that Hanuman is not like the other monkeys in the monkey kingdom, although he has a beast-like quality when it comes to his rashness and spontaneity, like the other monkeys. He demonstrates his god-like quality with his powers, his personality, and his being the first to find Sita.

Hanuman (The monkey god Hanuman serves as a guardian deity and flanks a palace entrance in Bhaktapur, Nepal)
Hanuman (The monkey god Hanuman serves as a guardian deity and flanks a palace entrance in Bhaktapur, Nepal)

According to Goldman, Hanuman is presented in a “dual nature” (47). He is represented as a monkey with monkey instincts, but is also represented as a hero in the way that he is continually attempting to save someone. His continual changing in size emphasizes this duality. He can appear in a gigantic size, representing his heroic/divine qualities. Or he can shrink down to a size that is smaller than the average human. The dual-nature of Hanuman can be compared with Rama’s contrasting personality,

“[If] the liminal nature of the avatara and the particulars of its associated boon-motif account for the ambiguity of Rama’s nature as a god-man, then the same factors would appear to determine the ambivalent status of Hanuman as both god and beast.” (Goldman 47)

Hanuman’s behaviour, and his powers are the result of his parentage. He is the “mind-born” son of Vayu, the wind god, and Anjana. It is said that he can move with the swiftness of the wind as a result of his family line. In the Sundarakanda, it is said that his father helps him leap between the two kingdoms on his search for Sita (Goldman 41).

Although the Ramayana is the text through which Hanuman gained his popularity, it is not the only epic in which he has appeared. In the Mahabharata, in the Kadali forest Hanuman meets his half-brother Bhima; the two are both sons of the wind god, Vayu. The two met when Hanuman was sleeping over a path on which Bhima was travelling. Bhima requested that Hanuman move out of the way so that he could pass. Hanuman replied by asking Bhima to move his tail to one side. Bhima, though the strongest of the Pandava Brothers, could not budge Hanuman’s tail. Hanuman then introduce himself to Bhima in the form that he took while crossing the ocean to Lanka (Nagar 386).

Hanuman is a widely worshipped deity in India; “[h]is images are smeared with the sacred colour vermilion, to denote the estimation in which he is held, and the universal admiration of his devotion as a model faithful servant” (Monier-Williams 140). He is looked up to, and is admired for his faithfulness to Rama. He went to rescue Sita a woman that he had never met, nor seen before, without any thought for his own well-being. Located in Delhi is the Sri Hanuman Maharaj (Great Lord Hanuman) temple, a building made of white marble dedicated to Hanuman (Lutgendorf 311). “According to many Hindus, the popularity of Hanuman—who in narrative often expands his physical from—has itself been steadily expanding in recent decades. Certainly its iconic manifestations have been growing, as groups of prominent patrons vie with one another to erect larger and larger murtis of the great monkey in highly visible locations” (Lutgendorf 312). “He [Hanuman] exemplifies both ‘sakti and bhakti’—briefly ‘power’ and ‘devotion’” (Lutgendorf 315). For this reason he is widely admired, and well-liked.

Hanuman is also widely popular because of his deviant childhood. Hanuman’s childhood stories appeal to many people because of its human-like quality. As a child he ascends towards the ‘rising sun’ in an attempt to grasp it. However, the god Indra sees this as a threat and sends him plummeting back down, breaking Hanuman’s jaw; hanu means jaw, giving Hanuman his name. Hanuman’s father Vayu then threatens the entire cosmos. To make up for what happened to Hanuman, each deity grants him with a unique boon, giving him his particular powers that are useful in his adventures during adulthood (Lutgendorf 317).

Hanuman played a key role in the Ramayana and other stories featuring him. He is widely well known in Hinduism, and by many other people around the world. Hanuman’s incredible dedication is what makes him an ideal character to respect and support.

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Lutgendorf, Philip. “Monkey in the Middle: The Status of Hanuman in Popular Hinduism.” Religion 27.4 (1997): 311-332.

Monier-Williams, Monier (2003) Hinduism and its Sources Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, New Delhi.

Nagar, Shantilal (2004) Hanuman: Through the Ages Vol. 2. India: B.R. Publishing Corporation.

Regier, Willis G. “The Ramayana of Valmiki. Volume 4. Kiskindhakanda.” The John Hopkins University Press. 112.5 (December 1997): 994-998.

The Ramayana of Valmiki: An Epic of Ancient India (1999) Vol. V Sundarakanda. Trans. R. P. Goldman & Sally J. Sutherland-Goldman. Princeton: Princeton University Press:

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Rama

Ramayana

Laksmana

Sita

Ravana

Lanka

Sundarakanda

Indrajit

Kiskindhakanda

Uttarakanda

Avatara

Mahabharata

Bhima and the Pandava Brothers

Vayu, the wind god

Sri Hanuman Maharaj

Dharma

Mount Mahendra

Mount Trikuta

Jambavan Reports

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.sanatansociety.org/indian_epics_and_stories/the_life_of_hanuman.htm

http://www.webonautics.com/mythology/hanuman.html

http://hinduism.about.com/library/weekly/aa052801a.htm

http://mywebpages.comcast.net/scottandrewh/hanuman.html

http://www.dalsabzi.com/Wisdom_Scrip/sankat_mochan_hanuman.htm

http://www.exoticindiaart.com/article/hanuman

http://hinduwebsite.com/hanuman.htm

Article written by Kristin Barry (March 2006) who is solely responsible for its content.

Related Readings (The Ramayana)

Buck, William (1976) Ramayana. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.

Dharma, Krishna (aka Kenneth Anderson) (2000) Ramayana: India’s Immortal Tale of Adventure, Love, and Wisdom. Badger, CA: Torchlight Publishing, Inc.

Goldman, Robert P. (gen. ed) The Ramayana of V?lm?ki: An Epic of Ancient India. Volume I: Balakanda. Robert P. Goldman (ed. and trans.) Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press (PUP), 1984; Sheldon Pollock (ed. and trans.) Volume II: Ayodhyanda. PUP, 1986; Sheldon Pollock (ed. and trans.) Volume III: Aranyakanda. PUP, 1991; Rosalind Lefeber (ed. and trans.) Volume IV: Kiskindhakanda. PUP, 1996.

Robert P. Goldman and Sally Sutherland Goldman (ed. and trans.). Volume V: Sundarakanda. PUP, 1996.

Hill. W. D. P. (1952)The Holy Lake of the Acts of Rama: An English translation of Tulsi Das’s Ramacaritmanasa. Calcutta: Oxford University Press.

Menon, Ramesh (2001) The Ramayana. New York: North Point Press.

Narayan, R. K. (1996) The Ramayana. New Delhi, Vision Books Pvt. Ltd.

Prasad, R. C. (ed. and trans.) (1988) Tulasidasa’s Shriramacharitamanasa: The Holy Lake of the Acts of Rama. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Rajagopalachari, C. (1962) Ramayana. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

Sundaram, P. S. (2002) Kamba Ramayana. N.S. Jagannatha (ed.). New Delhi: Penguin.

Tapasyananda, Swami (1985) The Adhyatma Ramayana: The Spiritual Version of the Rama Saga. Mylapore, Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math.

V?lm?ki. The Ramayana, abridged. Arshia Sattar (trans.) New Delhi: Penguin, 1996.

Venkatesananada, Swami (1988) The Concise Ramayana of Valmiki. Albany: State University of New York Press.

On the Ramayana and its Tradition

Blank, Jonah (1992) Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God, Retracing the Ramayana Through India. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company.

Dehejia, Vidya, (ed.) (1994) The Legend of Rama – Artistic Visions. Bombay, Marg Publications.

Lutgendorf, Philip (1992) The Life of a Text: Performing the Ramcaritmanas of Tulsidas. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Richman, Paula, (ed.) (1991) Many Ramayanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia. Berkeley, University of California Press.

_____, (ed.) (2001) Questioning Ramayanas: A South Asian Tradition. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Vyas, S. N. (1967) Indian in the Ramayana Age. Delhi: Atura Ram & Sons.

Whaling, F. (1980) The Rise of the Religious Significance of Rama. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Book 7: Uttara Kanda (part 2)

Book of the North
Jessica Renney

After Agastya finished the story of Hanuman all the rsis, vanaras, and raksasas left Ayodhya. Subsequently the puspaka vimana presented itself to Rama and vowed its services. Rama dismissed the puspaka vimana and continued towards a private garden where he was greeted by Sita. Together they drank wine, ate food and fruit, and enjoyed dancing and singing as they did most nights. As all of Ayodhya was under control, Rama felt it was time for him and Sita to have a child. While the two were preparing to seek the rsis blessing for their child, Rama joined Bharata and a few bards in the sabha. He wanted to know how his people felt about him; he wanted Bharata to tell him all the things his people said about him, good or bad. Bharata did just that. He told Rama that his people were not convinced Sita was pure and accused her of infidelity. Rama was distraught and began to question his own actions; they had lead to his tarnished reputation. Laksmana tried to convince him otherwise, but Rama ordered him to take Sita to Valmiki’s hermitage in an attempt to gain back some of his honor as a king. Although it was difficult for Laksmana, he followed his brother’s orders. At the northern bank of the Ganga that Laksmana broke down and told Sita the real reason they were engaged in the journey together. Upset and aware of her own purity, Sita accepted Rama’s decision and vowed to continue loving him regardless. Alone and mystified Laksmana began his journey back to Ayodhya questioning his brother Rama’s actions towards Sita, the women he loved. Sumantra explained, “Laksmana, Fate has overruled all emotion today.” Sumantra proceeded to tell the story of Bhrgu who placed a curse on Visnu, who would be reborn as human and experience separation from his wife.

Laksmana returned to find Rama depressed and heart broken. He reminded Rama of his capabilities as a great king and his duty to his people. The two spent the night together as Rama began to tell his brother many stories of power of trusting in Fate to conquer all. Rama began to tell the story of king Naga, who was cursed to be reborn as a lizard and would only attain liberation when Visnu was incarnated as Vasudeva. Rama explained to Laksmana how this was an example of a king who neglected his own dharma, and no king should neglect his people. Rama continued, “King Nimi was cursed him by Vasistha. Nimi lost his body but later returned into the eyes of humans causing us to blink.” Rama asked Laksmana if he wanted to hear another ancient tale. Laksmana agreed eagerly and Rama proceeded to tell the story of Yayati and his two wives Sarmia and Devayani. Yadu, Devayani’s son, placed a curse of immediate old age on his father. Yayati approached both his sons for help, Yadu refused but his brother, Puru Sarmia’s son, agreed to help. In turn, his father rewarded him with kingship. While reminiscing on these stories Rama recognized it was time to stop grieving over Sita and return to his duties as king.

The next morning the two brothers were awoken by Sumatra who had hurried to tell Rama there were munis waiting to see him. The munis entered and explained to Rama how they lived in terror of Lavana, son of Madhu a powerful demon. Rama took the opportunity to send Satrughna to kill Lavana and take rule over the kingdom of Madhu. The summer months approached and Satrughna began his journey to fulfill his brother’s requests. After two days of riding, he spent the night at Valmiki’s asrama. Before he began traveling, the next morning Valmiki shared the story of king Sauasa with Satrughna. This story took place in a neighboring hermitage. And still in another nearby hermitage the very same night, Sita gave birth to Kusa and Lava, Rama’s sons who later grow up in Valmiki’s care. When the right time came and the weather permitted, Satrughna began his journey to the river Yamuna where Chyvana welcomed him and relayed to him the story of Mandhata, who was defeated by Lavana. The next day Satrughna crossed the Yamuna where he defeated Lavana with the arrow of Brahma. The kingdom of Madhu flourished under Satrughna’s rule and his people prospered more than could have been imagined. Nevertheless, twelve years later, king Satrughna longed to return to Ayodhya to see his brother Rama.

On the way back to his home city, Satrughna arrived in Valmiki’s hermitage and heard the story of his brother as composed by the great rsi. Satrughna rode out again the next morning at dawn for Ayodhya, where he begged Rama not to send him back to Madhura. After only seven days, despite his wishes, Satrughna returned to Madhura to be a great ruler and adhered to his dharma and destiny to be a king.

In Ayodhya, no evil disturbed Rama’s people until one day a terribly distraught Brahmin came to his gates. The Brahmin did not believe the kingdom to be perfect and sinless, for his son had died, and it must have been a result of the king’s terrible sins. Rama wondered whether he was to blame. What had he done to deserve this? Narada assured Rama he was not responsible for the boy’s death. A sudra was performing austerities in the kingdom, an immoral practice, which caused the young boy to die. Rama went in search of the sudra and found him beside a grodha tree standing upon his head in intense tapasya. Rama drew his sword and beheaded the sudra, thus acquiring a boon that was used to resuscitate the Brahmin’s son. Rama then continued on to visit Agastya who was completing his tapasya that very day. He asked Rama to stay the night with him, and relayed the story of king Vidharbha who ruled for many years and his son late Sveta. When Sveta passed away, Brahma made him hungry for human flesh because his austerities over the last three thousand years were self-involved rather than performed for others. Yet he was finally released from his curse by Agastya. Vidharbha offered Agastya an ornament, which the rsi now presented to Rama. Rama recalled years ago while in exile hearing about a forest with no birds or beasts and was curious to know if it was the same vana where Agastya was met by king Sveta. Agastya admitted to withholding the entirety of the story and explained how Danda, Iksvaku’s son, was subject to a cursed death and rainfall throughout his kingdom as the consequence for taking advantage of a maiden named Araja. The curse placed on Danda by Araja’s father, Surka, left the Dandaka forest empty and abandoned until Rama’s sacred touch removed the curse. Rama induced purification and the forest was sacred once again.

As the morning sun rose, Rama began his journey back to Ayodhya. Upon his arrival he expressed to both of his brothers Laksmana and of Bharata his intentions to perform the rajasuya rite to purify him from the sin he acquired when he killed the sudra. Bharata deterred Rama from performing the rajasuya while Laksmana suggested the asvamedha sacrifice, reminding Rama how Indra used it to free himself when he slew Vtra. This prompted Rama to tell the tale of Karmada and Ila. While Karmada was hunting in the forest, he interrupted Siva and Parvati making love. By Siva’s power no male creature was to see Uma naked. Therefore, as king Karmada and his soldiers approached the two, they turned into women. King Karmanda was granted a boon and remembered that Uma conferred half of every boon Siva granted. He thus asked for his manhood back. With the ability to grant only half the boon, Uma deemed Karmada to be women for a half of his life and a man for the rest. Ila, who was Karmada as a women, fell in love and married a man named Bhuda in the first month and was once again Karmanda the next. After nine months Budha and Ila and had a child named Pururava. When the young boy was a year old his father called together some of the most powerful rsis and decided to perform and asvamedha yajna to retrieve Kamanda’s manhood. These stories only solidified Rama’s decision to perform an asvamedha yajna, and holy men from all over the world gathered to bless the king.

Valmiki sent Lava and Kusa to Ayodhya where they would sing and perform the ramayana for Rama, their father. After twenty-five days of watching and listening to the ramayana, Rama discovered Sita’s condition and ordered for her return to Ayodhya. She returned to Rama followed by Valmiki who questioned Rama’s reasons for banishing Sita and informed him of existence of his two sons. Sita expressed her love for her only god, king Rama. She then called to be ingested by the earth as she had accomplished all she had come to earth to do. She was swallowed up and returned to her mother Bhumi Devi. Rama was distressed and angry. Valmiki assured him that he would be reunited with Sita in another life, and this comforted him.

Rama completed the asvamedha yajna and performed ten thousand more, one for every year he ruled as king, with the golden image of Sita by his side. With plenty to eat in the villages and no disease, Rama’s kingdom radiated with natural perfection. Kausalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi passed on and joined Dasaratha in heaven. Bharata’s sons Taka and Pukala were granted kingdoms along with Laksmana’s two sons Agada and Candraketu.

Rama ruled for ten thousand years protecting many people from evil, and stood as a perfect example of a life lead by dharma. Yet the day came when Rama’s mission was complete. Relieved, he was ready to return to his divine home.

One day as Yama was engaged in conversation with Rama the rsi Durvasa approached Laksmana. Durvasa demanded to be allowed to speak to Rama immediately and threatened to curse his entire royal lineage. Laksmana entered the chamber interrupting Rama knowing this was punishable by death, and was instantly banished by his brother Rama. This began Laksmana’s journey to heaven. This also marked Rama’s journey to return to the heavenly realm, leaving the world of mortals. Rama crowned Kusa and Lava to rule over their respective division of Ayodhya. Yet the people of his kingdom vowed to follow Rama to the Sarayu River along with Bharata, Satrughna, and Sugriva. Hanuman and Vibhisana remained at Rama’s request, as the world still needed their presence. They obeyed their king and agreed to stay as he asked. Rama entered the water as the river erupted with fire and flames. As Rama dissolved, he became something different, something he had always been. The rest followed. All their bodies dissolved and rose up to the sky as forms of light, following Rama’s lead as they always had. As the last of the bhaktas ascended, Rama climbed out of the world, leaving behind his legacy, which would forever be remembered. Sita awaited his heavenly ascent.

Book 7: Uttara Kanda (part 1)

The Book of the North
Julie Wiseman

When Rama was crowned king, rsis from the four quarters led by Agastya, came to bless him. While conversing in Rama’s ancient court, one of the wise rsis inquired about the triumph at Lanka and stated he was shocked by Laksmana’s ability to slay the supposedly invincible Indrajit. Intrigued by this new information, Rama admitted to his guests, that he knew little about his enemy and perhaps they could enlighten him. To that, Agastya proceeded to tell the tale of Ravana and his ancestors.
Long ago in the krta yuga, Muni Pulastya was born the son of Brahma. Blessed by the gods, he went to an asrama on a mountain that belonged to King Trnabindu. Not wanting to be disrupted, Pulastya set a curse that any women who disturbed him would become pregnant. The king’s daughter did not hear about the curse and encountered the son of Brahma and immediately became pregnant. She gave birth to Visravas, who was exceptionally devoted to the Vedas and lived with Pulastya for many years. Visravas went on to marry Devavarnini and had a son who resembled his father so much that the rsis named him Vaisravana. Visravas’ son went into tapasya for a thousand years, which pleased Brahma so much that he was given a magic vehicle, called puspaka vimana. He lived in a great city on an island called Lanka, for many, many years.

After hearing this, Rama was confused. He was sure that Lanka had always been home to the raksasa race. He asked Agastya how the demons came to claim Lanka as their home. Then Agastya began his tale of the mighty demons, which were created by Prajapati.

Once there were two mighty raksasa brothers called Heti and Praheti. Praheti was a righteous raksasa and chose to spend his time in tapasya, while his brother Heti wanted a wife. Heti married Yama’s sister Bhaya and they had a son named Vidyutkesa. Vidyutkesa married Salakatankata and they were so in love that when Salakatankata gave birth, she abandoned the child so she could return to her husband. The deserted baby boy named Sukesa and was found by Parvati and Siva. They were so touched by the raksasas love for each other, that they blessed the race with immediate birth following conception. Then to Sukesa, they granted immortality, lavish wealth, and a flying city. Sukesa eventually married Devavati and sired three sons, Malyavan, Sumali and Mali. These brothers, arrogant because of their father’s immortality, began a terrifying tapasya and were granted boons to live long and be invincible. They were also given a home on Lanka, where they were free to roam.

They eventually married Narmada’s three daughters and began to conquer and torture all the worlds.

One day Visnu was convinced by the gods to fight these demon brothers in battle with the hope of humbling them. The battle was magnificent and had many casualties on both sides. Finally, Visnu murdered Mali, frightening the demon race so that they fled to the underworld to hide from Visnu.
Eventually Sumali grew tired of living in fear of Visnu. He came up with a plan for his daughter Kaikasi to marry the righteous Visravas. In doing so, she would surely have a righteous child and clear the family name. Therefore, he sent his daughter off to pursue Visravas. Unfortunately, Visravas happened to be in a foul mood when Kaikasi found him and he cursed her with having bad raksasa sons with the exception of the last one who would be noble. Kaikasi gave birth to four children. The first was a ten headed demon child named Dasagriva. The second, Kumbhakarna was the biggest baby ever born. Next, Kaikasi had a daughter named Surpanakha who was atrocious and perfectly evil. Then finally, a child named Vibhisana was born and his mother knew this was the dharmic son she had wished for. The boys grew up in the forest and had various interests. Dasagriva and Kumbhakarna were lustful and searched the earth to satisfy their appetites, while Vibhisana was devoted to the Vedas. They all decided to go into tapasya that would last an entire age. Dasagriva decided to sacrifice one head every thousand years. After the nine thousandth year passed and he was about to offer his tenth head Brahma appeared. Brahma granted Dasagriva a boon of immunity from all beings except humans, restoration of all his nine heads, and the power to assume any form. Vibhisana was granted a truly dharmic life because of his penance. Then Brahma came before Kumbhakarna, who all the worlds feared because of his monstrous size and hefty appetite. To save the earth from this monster, Brahma tricked Kumbhakarna into asking for a boon to make him sleep for thousands of years.

Sumali, delighted for his grandchildren and their boons, no longer lived in fear of Visnu and wanted to return to Lanka. He convinced Dasagriva to take back Lanka from his stepbrother Vaisravana. So Dasagriva sent a message to his stepbrother to give back Lanka to the rightful owners. After Vaisravana consulted his father, he saw no other way to maintain peace and gave Lanka to Dasagriva.

Once Dasagriva was crowned king of the raksasas on Lanka, he felt compelled to marry. First, he gave his sister Surpanakha away to Vidhujjiva who was as hideous a match for his sister. Next, he had his brother Kumbhakarna marry Vajra and Vibhisana, marry Sarma. Then for himself, he chose Mandodari, daughter to asura maya and devi Hema, who was the most beautiful women on earth. In time, Mandodari gave birth to Meghanada and Dasagriva was more than pleased with his son.

After sometime, Kumbhakarna’s boon came into affect and he fell asleep for a thousand years. Dasagriva missed his brother terribly and grew angry with Brahma for the nasty trick. He flew into a state of destruction and decided to take over the three worlds. To avenge his sleeping brother, he started with devaloka and desecrated the land. After hearing that Dasagriva had caused so much destruction, Vaisravana, his stepbrother, sent him a warning. It stated that Dasagriva’s actions were appalling and would surely lead to no good. Taking Vaisravana warning as a threat, Dasagriva challenged his stepbrother to battle. They had a bloody combat, ending with Dasagriva vanquishing Vaisravana and acquiring his renowned puspaka vimana.

Riding home on the puspaka vimana Dasagriva ran into Nandi the mount of Siva, who was guarding the hill while his master indulged with Uma. Dasagriva, high from his victory, attempted to prove just how great he was by uprooting the mountain on which Siva resided. Little did he know, Siva found this amusing and trapped him under the mountain. Humbled by Siva, Dasagriva began to worship him for a thousand years. Pleased by the raksasa’s worship, Siva changed Dasagriva’s name to Ravana, due to his treacherous howl and granted him with the Chandrahasa, a powerful sword.

Ravana continued his reign of terror. He passed a beautiful jungle and caught sight of a stunning women dressed like a hermit. Her name was Vedavati and she worshiped Visnu in hopes of one day marrying him. Ravana had little regard for her dream and forced himself on her. Violated and with her life’s purpose ruined, she entered a funeral pyre and cursed him that she would be reborn again for the purpose of his demise.

Later in Ravana’s reign, he came across Narada Muni, who convinced him that the living world was a waste of time and he should focus on conquering the netherworld. So Ravana flew down to the netherworld and engaged Yama in a deadly battle. Just when Yama was about to kill Ravana with the staff of death, Brahma intervened. He begged Yama not to kill Ravana because this would make Brahma a liar and the three worlds would perish. In seeing that Ravana’s death was not meant to happen then, Yama vanished from the battlefield. Ravana, thinking he was triumphant in vanquishing the master of death, continued on to conquer the rest of the underworld. Once he was confident that the entire underworld bowed to him, he returned to Lanka.

When he reached Lanka he found his sister Surpanakha most distraught, for Ravana in his purging of the underworld had killed her husband in battle. Ravana swore that he didn’t intend to kill her husband and that Vidhujjiva was merely a causality of war. He decided that sending her away to mourn in Dandaka vana wilderness with their cousin Khara would be best. Ravana saw his son Meghanada, who was performing six great yajnas and was acquiring many dark mystical powers. After Ravana blessed his son, Meghanada finished his worship and return to Lanka. The pair was truly a force to be feared.

After a while in Lanka, Ravana decided it was time to return to the devaloka and take on the mighty Indra. While camping on the foot of Indra’s kingdom, he came across Rambha, who was queen of the nymphs of heaven and extraordinarily beautiful. Even though she told Ravana that they were practically kin, he forced himself on her anyway. Rambha, violated and distraught ran to her husband, who cursed Ravana saying, “If you ever force yourself on another woman your ten heads will explode.”

At last, the time came for the battle in devaloka. The battle was very fierce, with many causalities, most notably Sumali Ravana’s grandfather was killed. When it came time for Indra to fight, he proved to be a worthy adversary for Ravana and his son. This didn’t last long, for Meghanada, with his dark powers and maya was obviously supreme. When he saw his father begin to wane on the field, he captured Indra, winning the battle and saving his father’s reputation.

When Brahma heard of Indra’s failure at battle, he went down to Lanka to negotiate the release of the king of devaloka. Brahma changed Meghanada’s name to Indrajit and offered him any boon in exchange for Indra’s release. So, Indrajit released Indra and in turn asked for invincibility to all, after completion of special worship to Agni god of fire.

After Agastya completed of the tale of Ravana and Indrajit, Rama was curious as to why the ksatriya class never bothered to stand up to the mighty raksasas. Agastya explained that this wasn’t exactly the case and proceeded to tell the story of the ksatriya Arjuna. After many years of Ravana’s rule, he learned of the great ksatriya and engaged him in battle. Arjuna proved very quickly to Ravana that he was not like any of the other ksatriyas Ravana had ever fought. He had one thousand arms and could deal deadly blows and deflect Ravana’s attacks continuously. Ultimately, the ksatriya prevailed and captured Ravana, by grasping the raksasa in his arms. Victorious, Arjuna brought Ravana home and held him prisoner in his kingdom. When Ravana’s grandfather Pulastya Muni heard of Ravana’s capture, he came to the mighty ksatriya’s palace. Pulastya proclaimed that Arjuna that there was no equal to him, he asked the mighty ksatriya to set his grandson free. Arjuna gladly released the now humbled Ravana and they swore a friendship. Ravana returned home, once again satisfied that because of his friendship with the mightiest of humans, no one would question his rule of all the three worlds.

When Agastya completed the tale, Rama felt a great sense of pride for his twice born class. Afterwards, Rama asked if Ravana had ever attempted to conquer the vanara species. Agastya smiled at Sugriva and began the story of Ravana versus Sugriva’s powerful brother Vali.

Ravana heard one day of a mighty species of monkey called the vanara, who lived in the jungle and decided to the challenge their king, Vali. He found Vali, in the midst of worship and crept up to him. The vanara sensed Ravana’s presence and was ready and turned to clutch Ravana in his armpit. Vali being the pious monkey he was, completed his entire worship with Ravana held in the crook of his arm. Once he was finished, he released the raksasa king. Ravana was amazed by this great monkey and begged for him to swear a friendship witnessed by Agni. Vali agreed and invited Ravana to live in his kingdom for as long as he liked.

Since they were on the topic of vanaras Rama turned his attention to his dear friend Hanuman. He inquired of Agastya as to why Hanuman seemed so humble and unaware of his remarkable powers. Agastya smiled knowingly and proceeded to tell the story of the great monkey.

Hanuman was born from Anjana and Vayu, and from birth, everyone knew that he was a most notable child. He had the amazing ability to fly like no other and a curiosity to match. He was granted many boons from the gods which included being unaffected by most weapons, great knowledge of the scriptures, inability to drown, no death or illness from Yama, everlasting energy in battle, ability to change form, ability to fly to any part of the world and lastly, this monkey would partake in the demise of Ravana of Lanka. Unfortunately, through time, due to his great boons, Hanuman became arrogant and tormented many of the rsis. The rsis decided to curse Hanuman to forget all his powers. They said he would only remember them again to aid the avatara of Visnu.

Book 6: Yuddha Kanda

War Book
Rejean Jenotte

Upon Hanuman’s return from Lanka, he told Rama all about his adventure; including how he had found Sita and reassured her that indeed Rama and Laksmana were on their way to rescue her. Hanuman’s tale of how he routed Ravana’s city was of special interest to all those present and Rama had Hanuman tell all he could about the city of the raksasas so as to be as prepared as possible for the battle that they all knew was coming.
Shortly after, with the vanaras in high spirits and Rama no longer in despair with the hopes of being able to finally find Sita, they all set out for Mahendra and the sea. It was a glorious day with even the weather seeming to feel that a great time for the universe was approaching. Laksmana sensed such omens and helped in reassuring Rama: “My brother, our time is at hand and our destinies will be fulfilled.” But all that seemed to wane in Rama’s mind as they reached the ocean and the realization of the incredible obstacle that still awaited them struck his mind. Lakshmana did his best to console his brother. Rama attempted to quell the despair in his heart and worshipped the Surya Deva.

As Rama and the vanaras were getting themselves set on the beach, Ravana sat in council with all his ministers. Still enraged that a mere monkey had come into Lanka, ransacked the city and set it ablaze, Ravana questioned his ministers as to how they were going to defend themselves against the army that was surely coming, and the impending war they would have to fight when the vanara force led by Rama arrived. Most of Ravana’s closest advisors simply spouted boastings that Ravana wanted to hear; reiterating that Lanka had the greatest army ever assembled and how could a ragtag group of monkeys led by two puny humans ever hope to defeat the mighty Ravana and his raksasas. After listening for a period of time, Ravana’s brother Vibhisana decided enough was enough and that some sense had to be brought to the council. He advised Ravana that he should give Sita back to Rama and avoid being destroyed at the hands of the vanara army and most undoubtedly by Rama himself. Without a word, Ravana then dismissed the council. The next day, Vibhisana went to visit Rama in his private chambers to attempt to talk some more sense into him. But after more pleading, Ravana snapped and yelled, “I will never give Sita up, she will be my queen and no being in this universe is going to take her from me.” With that, Ravana dismissed his brother with another wave of his hand and began making preparations for his sabha council later that day. When the council was assembled, with all the most respected and truly wise raksasas present Ravana began by telling them all of Sita. It was after his story had been told that Ravana’s enormous brother Kumbhakarna admonished him. “Why didn’t you check with all those closest to you before deciding to carry out such a plan? What you have done my brother, is completely against dharma and I am surprised Rama has not yet destroyed.” Despite his doubts, Kumbhakarna reassured Ravana that he would not abandon him. Again, after most of the raksasas had said their piece to help build up Ravana, Vibhisana let Ravana and the council knows that he felt they should return Sita to Rama. It was the last straw for Ravana, and he banished his brother on the spot, telling him to be thankful he was not to be executed. Vibhisana then spoke of only doing his dharmic duty to his brother. Along with four of his most faithful followers, he took off and flew in the direction of Bharatavarsa, where Rama and the vanaras were camped.

Vibhisana arrived at the vanara camp shortly after. Following an initially tense moment with the monkey troops, he was able to talk with Rama; explaining his position against his brother and his wish to join Rama in the fight against Lanka. Seeing the purity in the raksasa’s heart Rama accepted him with open arms; he was grateful to have such an ally because of the strategic advantages it would bring. Then came the task of finding a way to cross the ocean to Lanka. Rama decided to petition the god of the waves to part the waters and allow the vanara army to pass. But after three full days of prayer and no response, Rama felt more drastic measures needed to be taken. Unleashing a fury on the waves that had not been seen before and that frightened even Laksmana, Rama began to dry up the waters with his bow in an unfathomable display of wrath and anger. Varuna Deva, the lord of the ocean, finally appeared and claimed he would allow the army to cross if Rama rid the world of the Abhiras, a tribe that paid no heed to dharma and put the burden of their sins on Varuna Deva. Rama then capitulated, burning the Abhiras out of existence. Varuna rewarded the army with calm and supportive seas that would hold up any bridge that the vanaras would build in order to make the crossing to Lanka. The vanara named Nala was commissioned to have the bridge built. After the building of the bridge, that Nala had tirelessly accomplished, the army made its way over to Lanka across calm seas and with exuberant feelings in their hearts.

Once on the shores of Lanka, and after a peaceful night on the beach, Rama began making plans for the best deployment of the troops in their invasion of Lanka. As they departed for the city gates, Vibhisana noticed two raksasa spies, Suka and Sarana, disguised and in the midst of the vanara ranks. They were captured and told by Rama himself to go back to Ravana, and tell him all they had seen, and to prepare himself for war.

Ravana felt that he had one final chance to make Sita submit him and force Rama to abandon his mission. Using the magic, or maya, he had a perfect replica of Rama’s head created in order to convince Sita that Rama had been killed and that there was no sense in resisting any longer. Upon being shown the severed head, Sita fell into despair. After triumphantly watching her grieve, Ravana was called away; the vanara army had appeared outside the city gates. Following Ravana’s departure from the asokavana, the head vanished and Sita, not being able to contain her grief, passed out from the shock of it all. It was then that a kindly old rakshasi named Sarama, consoled Sita, informing her that the head she had witnessed was not in fact that of Rama but was conjured out of maya and that Rama was indeed alive. Rejuvenated, Sita began to pray that Rama would be granted complete victory.

The vanara army gathered outside of the gates of Lanka, with information gathered by befriended birds, Rama, Sugriva, Laksmana, and the other vanara chieftains surveyed their risks. With Vibhisana’s counsel, they made their final preparations. However, before the battle could begin, Rama decided that Angada should go to Ravana and negotiate for peace one last time, in accordance with the code of kings and dharma. As ordered, Angada took Rama’s message that all will be forgiven and no harm will come to Lanka if Ravana would return Sita to Rama. Completely enraged that Rama would send such a message and that a lowly monkey would bring such a message, Ravana snarled and ordered that Angada be tortured for being so insolent. With that, Angada roared and flew out of Ravana’s court with the guards still clinging to him. Rama clearly saw Ravana’s intentions with the outcome of Angada’s mission. And with a vision of Sita burning in his mind, he made the motion for the charge. Thus, the classic battle of the ages between good and evil began.

The vanara force seemed to be too much for the raksasas to handle after the initial rush but with Ravana’s sons and closest advisors such as Indrajit, Jambumali, Nikumbha, and Virupaksha leading the defense, the raksasas quickly regained their poise. The battle raged on and the vanaras were making heavy advances when Indrajit brought it all down in one fell swoop. Making himself invisible, he flew into the sky, casting down a nagapasa, a snake coil of darkness, upon Rama and Laksmana who were caught unaware. The two princes were bound and sent into a deep sleep. Thinking the war was already won, Indrajit was borne away to the palace to meet with Ravana; all the while being cheered and praised by the raksasa people. After their initial grief at thinking the princes were dead, the vanaras were reassured by Vibhisana that life still glowed in their bodies. Garuda then flew down to Lanka, immediately the serpent coils were loosed and slithered away to the sea. As quickly as he had arrived, the great eagle made his blessings and then flew out of the world to the jubilant cheers of the vanaras.

With their princes healed, the vanaras had renewed strength and enthusiasm. They attacked more viciously than in their first onslaught. With their relentless assaults, they killed many of Ravana’s best warriors, including Dhrumraksha, Vajradamshtra, Akampana and finally Prahastra, the Senapati of Ravana, whom was thought invincible. Upon learning of his best warrior’s demise, Ravana decided to take the field of battle himself. A ruthless battle ensued, in which many vanaras and raksasas were killed. None of the vanaras, Sugriva, and Hanuman included could withstand Ravana’s fury; even Laksmana was no match for the Demon King. It was then that Rama himself joined the fray. Fighting like an entity of another time and dimension he blasted Ravana’s chariot to pieces, leaving the raksasa lying in a heap. It all could have ended right there but Rama lowered his bow and gave some of the most hurtful words that Ravana could have ever been subject to: “Go back to your palace Ravana; I have no wish to kill a tired and helpless enemy.” That show of mercy was worse than death for Ravana. With his spirit broken, he slithered back to palace to try and salvage his pride.

After suffering the humiliation of having Rama defeat him and then adding insult to injury by allowing him to weakly retreat, Ravana sat in his throne-room wondering how a mere man could have bested him in battle so easily. It was at that point that Ravana made the decision to have his brother Kumbhakarna sent into battle. The enormous demon had recently gone for another of his six month slumbers and rousing him would be no easy task. After a series of increasingly more aggressive attempts to wake Kumbhakarna, they were finally able to awaken him by pulling out a few of his thick nose hairs and blowing conches into his ears. A large feast had been laid out for him in order to satisfy the incredible hunger that always overcame him while he was awake. He then made his way to his brother, who told him everything that had happened to that point. Unmoved by Ravana’s despair, Kumbhakarna admonished his brother, telling him that he had been warned and that even though he would gladly go into battle, Ravana should return Sita to Rama. The demon king knew his sins but it was obvious that he was not going to release Sita. It was now for Kumbhakarna to sway the battle in the raksasa’s favor. Like a monster from the worst possible nightmare, Kumbhakarna came fighting. Killing both vanara and raksasa alike, he gorged himself on the flesh of both to satisfy both his insatiable appetite and his fighting spirit. After impressive duels with Angada, Hanuman and several hundred vanaras, he finally captured the vanara king Sugriva. After a remarkable escape, in which he bit the demon on the nose, Sugriva flew back to Rama and the ranks of his army. Finally, Rama made his attack on the seemingly invincible monster. With the power of the vayavya, Rama was able to severe both the raksasa’s arms clean off and then with an arrow of unimaginable power blasted Kumbhakarna head clean off his shoulders, much to the delight of the observing gods.

In his growing despair, Ravana seemed to know that the war was not going in his favor. His seemingly invincible brother had been killed in battle and the resolve of his troops was waning. Six of his sons decided that they needed to take matters into their own hands. Devantaka, Narantaka, Trisiras, Yuddhomanta, Matha, and Atikaya, all decided to head into the war in an attempt to swing the momentum back to the raksasas and restore their father’s confidence. Alas, the day was not to be theirs as they were all systematically destroyed until Atikaya was consumed to white ashes by a brahmasakti from Laksmana.

All hope for victory now seemed to rest on Ravana’s last remaining son, Indrajit. With unimaginable power, Indrajit was able to strike the entire vanara army down with a brahmastra. They were only saved by Rama and Laksmana, who absorbed most of the weapon’s power onto themselves. Thus, they all were dropped into a deep sleep that could conceivably last for eternity. It was only Vibhisana, Hanuman, and Jambavan who escaped the wrath of the brahmastra. In order for the vanara army to be roused, Hanuman had to fly to Osadhiparvata and bring back the four osadhis. With all his power, he ripped the mountain from its foundation and carried it back to Lanka. As soon as the scents of the osadhis filled the air, the army, along with Rama and Laksmana were awoken with renewed vigor. The advantageous outcome of the osadihis for the vanaras was that all the slain raksasas were not revived, since Ravana had all the dead cleared from the battle field and burned. The remaining raksasas had been celebrating the whole time thinking that the vanara army was defeated, thus they were unprepared when Sugriva sent several of his finest warriors to the city, where they set fire to many of the buildings.

In an absolutely livid state at being caught unprepared again, Ravana sent his two nephews, the sons of Kumbhakarna, out to face the vanaras with their legions. These particular skirmishes proved to be ill-fated for the raksasas as well, as both princes of the demon city were killed by Sugriva and Hanuman. Again, it all seemed up to Indrajit, who had a vile plan in store for Rama and his allies. With the power of maya, Indrajit was able to invoke an illusory Sita, which he took to the battlefield and proudly displayed to his enemies. Once he was sure that they knew it was Rama’s wife, he thrust his sword into her chest, killing her. When Rama was informed that as far as anyone could tell, his wife had been murdered he simply fainted from the shock and grief. But Vibhisana knew better. Knowing the dark sorcery, he took a force, including Laksmana, to Nikumbhila to stop Indrajit from completing the yajna, which would make him invincible and doom Rama’s cause.

It was at Nikumbila that one of the epic duels of all time occurred. Once the vanaras arrived, and subdued Indrajit’s force, Laksmana and the raksasa prince squared off against one another. It was Vibhisana who first scorned his nephew for allowing himself to follow in the footsteps of the absolute evil. Rama was on the flip side, the absolute in valor, truth, compassion, and dharma. Indrajit, overcome by fear and rage, attacked with a force most warriors couldn’t even imagine. But Laksmana was completely up to the challenge. Using his chariot, Indrajit was able to take the battle to the air, and Laksmana had the aid of Hanuman, on whose shoulders he stood. With extraordinary skill, the two warriors engulfed one another. The battle turned when Indrajit’s chariot was brought down by a group of vanaras. Once on the ground, Laksmana invoked the aindrastra, relucent ayudha and with a prayer for his brother Rama, severed Indrajit’s head from his body. Laksmana was brought back to Rama as a hero, the battle was described to his brother in complete detail and Indrajit was even praised for his prowess and skill.

Ravana was heartbroken and enraged by the death of favorite son. He was then informed by his last trusted minister, Suparsva that the next day would be amavasya and his power would be at its peak. Hope once again flashed in his eyes. With his chariot prepared and his Mulabala legions behind him, Ravana made his way to the battlefield. The procession to see him off was truly worthy of such a warrior. With his confidence restored and the rage in his heart that was overcoming him, Ravana confronted Rama and the vanara army. When the duel began all that saw were instantly awestruck and rendered motionless. Every vanara and raksasa on the battlefield immediately stopped engaging one another to gaze at the epic confrontation. Using every mantra and astra imaginable, the battle raged, each warrior proving to be up to the challenge of the other. They countered each other’s magic and arrows with ease until finally all the other warriors once again advanced to try to tip the balance of the battle. Laksmana was struck a huge blow when he cut down Ravana’s chariot with the help of Vibhisana. The effect was not as it seemed however. Ravana cast a sakti at his brother and with no regard for himself, Laksmana leaped in the weapon’s path. It struck him down like a thunderbolt. The battle disengaged as Ravana fled from Rama who became almost demonic with rage himself. The task was now to somehow revive Laksmana. Hanuman once again made a flight of salvation. This time he brought the mountain of Sanjivini. With the visalyakarani herb, Laksmana was revived and just in time, for Ravana had returned from the palace to continue the war. This was it. Rama knew that now was the time for complete victory. Rama was given the use of Indra’s own chariot, and he took to the air to vanquish the demon king once and for all. The epic duel continued as none could have reckoned. But the longer it went on, it was clear Rama had the upper hand, as his speed and his youth began to overwhelm Ravana. The human prince finally struck what seemed to be the death blow as he blasted Ravana’s central head from its neck. But another more frightening head emerged from the neck, and the raksasa fought on with renewed strength. Rama, realizing that beheading would not defeat his adversary, invoked the ultimate in all weapons, the brahmastra. With a prayer and all his might, he let loose the astra. It flashed across the sky brilliantly until it smashed into Ravana’s chest, destroying his heart. Rama had triumphed. Ravana was still brilliant, even in death. With respect for his foe, Rama had the raksasa offered tarpana for his death.

Shortly after the war had ended, Hanuman was to return Sita to Rama. He had her cleaned up and brought before her husband. She cried out in joy when she was presented before Rama, but Rama was not receptive. Shockingly, he coldly informed Sita had he merely fought this war for the sake of dharma, and not for her. Then, he even had the audacity to question her chastity and faithfulness to him. Unable to cope with Rama’s words, Sita was overcome by grief. Not wanting to live after her honor had been destroyed by the very man who was supposed to support and trust her, she had Laksmana build a pyre so she could end her life by fire. She stepped into the fire as all those around screamed for her to saved. But no one was prepared for what happened next. Brahma himself appeared before the host that was gathered and in a voice that only the creator can utter, told Rama that he was in fact the avatara of Visnu. Agni, the god of fire, then stepped out of the flames with Sita in his arms, completely unharmed. With her chastity confirmed by the most extreme of tests, Rama burst into tears and embraced his wife. The miracles continued as Dasaratha himself appeared to congratulate his sons and give them his final emotion filled blessing. Everyone rejoiced, victory had come the long journey home could now begin.

Everyone made the journey back to Ayodhya with the ksatriyas. The people of Ayodhya greeted Rama like the magnificent king he soon to become. Happiest of all was Bharata, who had lived like a hermit since Rama’s departure fourteen years earlier. All was forgiven to Kaikeyi, as Rama explained that all people are instruments of fate’s design, and she was simply playing the tune that she was assigned. Rama’s coronation as king followed in a glorious ceremony of that made the heavens envious. It was at that point that the month long celebrations began. After the most perfect month in memory, the homesick guests made their departure, and Rama crowned Bharata his yuvaraja. Thus, Rama’s quest was complete and his glorious reign began, where he ruled for ten thousand years.

AUM SHANTI SHANTI SHANTI

Book 5: Sundara Kanda

Hanuman’s Adventure
Angela Fischer

Hanuman continued to pace on the mountaintops, readying himself for the big leap to Lanka. The earth began to crack beneath his feet, animals scurried, trying to hide from the gigantic ape, while leaves and flowers fell from treetops to the ground. He could feel the winds from his father, Vayu, encircle him, encouraging him to make the jump. Hanuman then took the time to salute his father, the wind god, as well as Surya, Indra, Varuna, Kubera, and the Lokapalas. He thought about Rama and Laksmana and how much they were relying on him to succeed. With that, Hanuman stood still on one of the mountaintops and gathered himself trying to forget all doubt. He let out a loud roar, crouched down, coiled his tail and yelled, “Like an arrow from Rama’s bow I fly to Lanka!” All the vanaras below began to cheer. Hanuman leapt into the air with such great force that flowering trees were ripped from the ground, leaving a trail of colorful flowers behind him.
Hanuman continued to rise up higher and faster into the sky. The devas gathered around to watch the monkey’s great leap. To help Hanuman reach Lanka, the sun god dampened his rays to prevent from burning him. Vayu held his son in his arms and blew the winds strongly around him so he would reach Lanka even faster. Varuna, the ocean god, lifted a mountain named Mainaka from beneath the waves. Mainaka explained to Hanuman, “Varuna bade me rise to be a resting place for you. The Lord of the waves would like to be of use to you. Come Hanuman, rest a while upon me. Then you can fly to Lanka from my summit.” But Hanuman gratefully replied, “I am moved by your love and by the ocean’s kindness. But my time is short and I have none to rest. Farewell, good mountain, we shall meet again someday.” And with that, Hanuman continued on his journey to Lanka while Mainaka sank beneath the waves once again. Nearby, the light gods were watching Hanuman. They wanted to test his abilities because they felt the leap was too easy a task for him. One of the devas of light, Surasa, turned herself into a raksasi and blocked Hanuman’s path. The raksasi was as big as Hanuman and she told him “By Brahma’s boon no one can pass me without going through my mouth!” Hanuman knew he could outsmart Surasa and replied “raksasi, your mouth is too small to contain me. Open wider, so I may fit in.” And with that, Surasa opened her mouth as wide as she could. Hanuman, being the quick thinking monkey he was, shrunk in size until he was no bigger than a human’s thumb and quickly flew in and out of the raksasi’s mouth without her even noticing. Surasa was amused by the monkey and said to him “Pass in peace Hanuman; it was only the devas testing you. May your journey be fruitful; may all your missions succeed.”

Still pressing on, Hanuman soon found himself unable to move forward. It was as if some sort of force was holding him back. He looked around to see what the problem was. It wasn’t long before he realized it was the work of another raksasi, named Simhika. Simhika had emerged hungrily from the water. She charged at Hanuman with her mouth wide-open, fangs exposed. By now Hanuman had lost all of his patience. He flew as quickly as he could into Simhika’s mouth, down her throat and into her belly. He grabbed her intestines in his hand and flew back out her mouth dragging her innards with him. Leaving Simhika’s remains behind, Hanuman continued on his journey.

Soon, Hanuman reached an island covered in groves and shrubs and flora of all kinds. Streams trickled and waterfalls fell with a beauty and glory that Hanuman could not have even imagined before this moment. It contained the most glorious streams and waterfalls he had ever seen. He knew this must be Lanka. Relieved that he had made it this far, he knew there was still a larger task ahead. Hanuman again shrunk in size, this time becoming three feet tall. He wandered further into the island until he saw Ravana’s city. A deep moat surrounded the city, with only a single bridge acting as a crossing. Across the bridge was an army of raksasas (demons). They were fiercer than any raksasas he had ever seen before. Behind the raksasa army was a towering wall that appeared impossible to climb. Hanuman began to doubt his abilities after seeing the well-guarded city so he sat up in a tree for a while, trying to shed all uncertainties that he had. He knew Rama, Laksmana, and Sita were relying on him now more than ever.

It was nighttime before Hanuman regained the courage he needed to press forward. He was slowly approaching the bridge when he decided to shrink in size even more. This time he was no bigger than a kitten. Hanuman crept along the underside of the bridge, trying to avoid the site of the raksasa army. Suddenly, he felt a strong hand grab him by the scruff of his neck; it was Lankini, the spirit and guardian of Lanka. She picked Hanuman up and said, “What have we here? It seems to be no warrior, but only a little monkey. But not everything is what it seems to be, and you are very heavy for one so little. Who are you, and why are you trying to creep into Lanka?” Hanuman responded, “I saw the beauty of Lanka from yonder peak, and I was so enchanted that I came to see it nearer. I will admire the sights of Lanka and go away as I came. I mean no harm to anyone.” Lankini knew Hanuman was not telling the truth so she slapped him across the face. Hanuman retaliated and punched her in the jaw. The blow caused Lankini to topple over. Instead of fighting back, Lankini folded her hands to Hanuman and said, “So the prophecy is true! Brahma gave me a boon and said I would be invincible at these gates. But he also said that one day a little monkey would come along, and when he struck me down I would know the end of the raksasas was at hand. And I know what brings you here. It is she; it is Sita who brings doom to Lanka. It is no use my standing guard here any longer. Lankini does not bar your way any more; you are free to enter as you please.” Hanuman then crossed the bridge and as he did Lankini melted into the night and left the gates of Lanka forever.

Hanuman carefully leapt onto the wall that protected Lanka and slid down the other side. He marveled at the sight of Lanka but knew he had no time to spare and quickly set forth to find Sita. To prevent himself from being spotted by the raksasas, Hanuman ran across the rooftops until he reached Ravana’s palace. Inside the palace the hunt for Sita really began. He spotted many beautiful raksasis but knew none of them were Sita. Ravana’s palace had many rooms and Hanuman was determined to search each one. Inside numerous bedchambers Hanuman saw beautiful, sleeping women but none of them were Rama’s Sita. Still he pressed on. After much searching, Hanuman reached a door that appeared to be even more magnificent than the others. He slowly opened it and crept in. Inside, he saw a sleeping raksasa who could only have been Ravana. He had long arms that hung down to his knees and dark skin. He wore white silk and he was covered in fancy jewelry. Hanuman looked past Ravana’s bed and saw another bed in the room. He slowly tiptoed over to the other bed, thinking Sita might be asleep inside of it. As he got closer, he noticed a woman was fast asleep inside the soft bed. She was more beautiful than anyone he had ever seen before. He said quietly to himself “By her beauty she must be Sita. But how does she sleep so contentedly in Ravana’s bedchamber, with a smile curving her perfect lips?” He then thought to himself that Sita would rather die than spend the night with Ravana so he looked closer at the sleeping woman and realized that it was Mayaa’s daughter, Mandodari.

He had searched hundreds of rooms and still found no trace of Sita anywhere. Feeling dejected, Hanuman thought to himself “Sampati the eagle said he saw her here from across the sea. Then where is she? Ravana must have killed her between then and now, and cremated her body. Or perhaps there are dungeons below the palace where he holds her. But I have looked everywhere and found no sign of such a prison, or a stairway leading down to one.” He knew that if he returned to Kiskindha with no news of Sita Rama would surely kill himself and the others would follow suite shortly. He believed he had failed Rama. Feeling sorry for himself once more, Hanuman left the palace and sat atop a tree and watched moonbeams strike the earth. Suddenly he noticed a copse that became illuminated by the moon. The copse was hidden by the shadow of Ravana’s palace and could not be seen in the darkness of night. A slight glimmer of hope spread through Hanuman as he realized that this thicket had not yet been searched. Maybe this is where Sita was hidden away. He found his way to the asokavana and slowly entered it. Inside he found a beautiful garden. Hanuman remembered Rama telling him that Sita loved flowers, trees, and all wild things. This must be where Ravana is keeping Sita! He peered through the trees and saw a little temple hidden in the asokavana. Slowly, he crept up to the little temple and looked inside one of the windows. Inside he saw a woman dressed in dirty silk, her face stained with tears, and she was surrounded by sleeping raksasis. There was no doubt in his mind this was Sita. Unfortunately, morning was near and Hanuman decided to hide in a nearby tree to prevent any of the waking raksasis from seeing him.

As dawn broke, Ravana woke up wanting nothing but to see Sita’s beautiful face. He walked from his bedchamber to the asokavana where he held her captive. Hanuman peered through the leaves of the tree he was hiding in and watched as Ravana entered Sita’s room. He was in awe at Ravana’s greatness. He had never seen a king so grand. As Ravana walked closer to Sita, she covered herself with her hands to avoid his gaze. He said softly to her “Whenever I come here, you try to hide your beauty with your hands. But for me any part of you I see is absolutely beautiful. You are the perfect woman; beauty begins with you. Honor my love, Sita, and you will discover how deep it is. My life began when I first saw you, but you treat me so cruelly.” She didn’t reply. Getting frustrated, Ravana decided to downplay Rama’s excellence and said to Sita “he is not my equal, in wealth or power, valor, or even tapasya. Forget your wandering hermit. By now he has lost his mind from sorrow. Be sensible, as your humankind always is. Just think there is no hope of Rama ever seeing you again, no hope that he can cross the ocean. Give up your stubbornness; it is all you have to lose.” Sita, angered at what Ravana had just said replied, “I am the wife of another man, Raksasa, and my husband is my life. How can you even think of me as becoming yours, when I am already given to Rama? I have always belonged to Rama and I always will.” Angered greatly by her words, Ravana threatened Sita, “Two months I give you, out of my great love. Remember to be in my bed before those sixty days are part. If you are not, my cooks will serve you to me in pieces for my morning meal.” And with that, he left. The raksasis who were guarding Sita followed Ravana closely, trying to console him.

One of the raksasis stayed behind with Sita. Her name was Trijata and she was older than the other raksasis. She softly said to Sita, “Come and hear what I dreamed!” Knowing that Trijata was kind and caring, Sita stepped close to Trijata so she could listen to her dream. In the dream, Trijata saw Rama and Laksmana reuniting with Sita while Ravana fell to the ground, screaming in pain. She saw Ravana’s brother Kumbhakarna sink beneath the waves, while Vibhisana wore the crown upon his head. Trijata also told Sita about the monkey she had dreamt about, who set Lanka on fire with his tail.

Sita was overjoyed when she heard the news and ran to a nearby asoka tree. She sat beneath it and sobbed for she knew Rama would rescue her soon. This was the same tree Hanuman was hiding in. Hanuman knew he had to talk to her but he was scared Sita would think he was a raksasi, or worse yet, Ravana in disguise, so he hid behind the tree’s leaves and softly spoke to her. He told her the story of King Dasaratha and how he was forced to banish Rama to the jungle. He told her about an evil emperor who abducted a woman named Sita. He then explained how Rama, the brave warrior needed help finding Sita so he made friends with two monkeys, Sugriva and Hanuman. He told Sita how only one monkey was able to make the leap to Lanka. Finally, he told her that he was that monkey, he was Hanuman. Sita was excited but hesitated slightly as she looked up into the tree’s branches for the varana. Hanuman climbed down the tree and prostrated himself at her feet. Hanuman talked about his journey before he gave Sita Rama’s ring. “Rama will be here sooner than you think. But if you like, I can take you out of here today upon my back,” offered Hanuman. But Sita replied, “Dear Hanuman, my heart insists that Rama must come to Lanka and slay its raksasa. Besides, I would rather die at once than try to escape and be captured again. Also, good Hanuman, you must forgive me, but I am Rama’s wife and it isn’t proper of me to cling to your back as we cross the sea.” Hanuman understood and agreed to fly back to Rama alone so he could tell him where she was so he could save her himself. Sita then took out the chudamani (hair ornament) that she wore in her hair and said to Hanuman, “Give this to Rama. He knows it well. When he sees it, he will think of my mother, of his father Dasaratha, and of me; memories of us three are upon its jewel. Everything depends on you Hanuman; my life is in your hands.” Hanuman bowed down at her feet. He gently took the chudamani from her hand and quietly left her side.

As Hanuman was leaving Lanka he decided to make his presence known; he wanted to destroy the beautiful garden of the asokavana. He had a feeling that it was Ravana’s favorite place. He uprooted many trees and stirred whirlpools so they spilt over their banks. He also trampled over exotic plants. Some nearby raksasis heard the commotion and went to see what was happening. They were shocked to see a monkey causing so much damage and decided to bring the news to Ravana. Ravana sent hundreds of his guards to capture the monkey, including his mighty son Aksa. It was a battle between monkey and raksasa. The guards were easily defeated but Hanuman enjoyed fighting Aksa; he thought he was a handsome and noble warrior. Eventually Hanuman knew the time had come to kill Aksa; he smashed down Aksa’s chariot with a stone pillar then proceeded to pick Ravana’s son up. He then smashed Aksa’s head against a stone wall, killing him instantly. Ravana was shocked to see the great power the monkey possessed so he called for his other son Indrajit to fight him. He said to Indrajit, “Your brother and your friends have died. It seems no legion can stand against this monkey, let alone take him. Go, my son, bring him to me. Bring him alive.” Indrajit followed his father’s orders and went up to the vanara. He drew a special arrow from his quiver, one that contained Brahma’s astra. He shot the arrow at Hanuman, causing him to fall to the ground immediately. Indrajit believed he had won the battle but Hanuman thought to himself, “The boy doesn’t know that by Brahma’s own boon to me, his astra can hold me only for a moment. But I want to see Ravana’s face before I fly out of Lanka, and this is my chance. I am not afraid!” Ravana’s men quickly approached the fallen varana, captured him and brought him to Ravana. Ravana ordered the vanara to tell him who he was. Hanuman told him that Rama had sent him and that the end of Lanka was near. This greatly angered Ravana and he ordered his guards to kill Hanuman. Ravana’s brother Vibhisana explained to Ravana “On no account should a messenger be killed; he is our enemy and he must pay for what he has done. Whip him, maim him, even; shave his head and scar his body with your wrath. But do not have him killed.” Taking this to heart, Ravana retorted, “Nothing is more precious to a monkey than his tail. Let this monkey’s fine tail be set on fire. Let him be sent back with a burnt stump behind him to show that he crossed my path. Yes, let the monkey’s tail be lit and let him be marched through the streets of Lanka. Let my people mock him for what he did today.”

The raksasis from the asokavana ran to tell Sita about the monkey and how his tail was about to be set on fire. This news brought tears to Sita’s eyes – Hanuman was her only hope. She knew she had to do something so she began to pray to Agni the God of fire, “If it is true that I have been faithful to Rama, true that I have kept my vows and that my mind has always been pure, then don’t let Hanuman, who leapt across the sea to find me, who braved every danger to bring Rama’s message to me, be burned by your flames. Let your touch be upon his tail be as cool as the caress of his father Vayu.” As soon as she finished praying, Hanuman’s tail was being wrapped in cloth, dipped in oil, and set aflame. However, Hanuman felt no pain because of Sita’s prayer. Instead, the quick thinking monkey decided to use the fire to his advantage. He grew in size until he was as tall as the tallest tower in Lanka and he ran about frantically, setting buildings on fire. Next, he shrunk in size until he was no larger than a cat and he hopped from rooftop to rooftop, setting all of Lanka on fire. After Hanuman felt he had made the strength of Rama’s army known, he flew back to Bharatavarsa.

All of the vanaras at Bharatavarsa cheered when they saw Hanuman again, they knew he had found Sita safe and sound. They all then walked to Sugriva’s palace together and celebrated Hanuman’s victory by drinking the king’s finest wine. Once Rama and Laksmana heard the news of Hanuman’s return, they quickly went to him to find out anything they could about Sita. Hanuman told Rama of his adventures in Lanka. He told him how beautiful Lanka was and how he set it on fire. He told him about Ravana and his raksasa armies. He then finally told him about Sita, how she was alive but very sad all the time. He described her tear stained face, her matted hair and her torn dress. Finally, Hanuman gave Rama Sita’s chudamani and Rama said with tears in his eyes, “Laksmana, I see her face when I hold this golden ring. She weeps for me my brother.” Rama was happy to hear that Sita was alive and waiting for his arrival.Hanuman continued to rise up higher and faster into the sky. The devas gathered around to watch the monkey’s great leap. To help Hanuman reach Lanka, the sun god dampened his rays to prevent from burning him. Vayu held his son in his arms and blew the winds strongly around him so he would reach Lanka even faster. Varuna, the ocean god, lifted a mountain named Mainaka from beneath the waves. Mainaka explained to Hanuman, “Varuna bade me rise to be a resting place for you. The Lord of the waves would like to be of use to you. Come Hanuman, rest a while upon me. Then you can fly to Lanka from my summit.” But Hanuman gratefully replied, “I am moved by your love and by the ocean’s kindness. But my time is short and I have none to rest. Farewell, good mountain, we shall meet again someday.” And with that, Hanuman continued on his journey to Lanka while Mainaka sank beneath the waves once again. Nearby, the light gods were watching Hanuman. They wanted to test his abilities because they felt the leap was too easy a task for him. One of the devas of light, Surasa, turned herself into a raksasi and blocked Hanuman’s path. The raksasi was as big as Hanuman and she told him “By Brahma’s boon no one can pass me without going through my mouth!” Hanuman knew he could outsmart Surasa and replied “raksasi, your mouth is too small to contain me. Open wider, so I may fit in.” And with that, Surasa opened her mouth as wide as she could. Hanuman, being the quick thinking monkey he was, shrunk in size until he was no bigger than a human’s thumb and quickly flew in and out of the raksasi’s mouth without her even noticing. Surasa was amused by the monkey and said to him “Pass in peace Hanuman; it was only the devas testing you. May your journey be fruitful; may all your missions succeed.”

Still pressing on, Hanuman soon found himself unable to move forward. It was as if some sort of force was holding him back. He looked around to see what the problem was. It wasn’t long before he realized it was the work of another raksasi, named Simhika. Simhika had emerged hungrily from the water. She charged at Hanuman with her mouth wide-open, fangs exposed. By now Hanuman had lost all of his patience. He flew as quickly as he could into Simhika’s mouth, down her throat and into her belly. He grabbed her intestines in his hand and flew back out her mouth dragging her innards with him. Leaving Simhika’s remains behind, Hanuman continued on his journey.

Soon, Hanuman reached an island covered in groves and shrubs and flora of all kinds. Streams trickled and waterfalls fell with a beauty and glory that Hanuman could not have even imagined before this moment. It contained the most glorious streams and waterfalls he had ever seen. He knew this must be Lanka. Relieved that he had made it this far, he knew there was still a larger task ahead. Hanuman again shrunk in size, this time becoming three feet tall. He wandered further into the island until he saw Ravana’s city. A deep moat surrounded the city, with only a single bridge acting as a crossing. Across the bridge was an army of raksasas (demons). They were fiercer than any raksasas he had ever seen before. Behind the raksasa army was a towering wall that appeared impossible to climb. Hanuman began to doubt his abilities after seeing the well-guarded city so he sat up in a tree for a while, trying to shed all uncertainties that he had. He knew Rama, Laksmana, and Sita were relying on him now more than ever.

It was nighttime before Hanuman regained the courage he needed to press forward. He was slowly approaching the bridge when he decided to shrink in size even more. This time he was no bigger than a kitten. Hanuman crept along the underside of the bridge, trying to avoid the site of the raksasa army. Suddenly, he felt a strong hand grab him by the scruff of his neck; it was Lankini, the spirit and guardian of Lanka. She picked Hanuman up and said, “What have we here? It seems to be no warrior, but only a little monkey. But not everything is what it seems to be, and you are very heavy for one so little. Who are you, and why are you trying to creep into Lanka?” Hanuman responded, “I saw the beauty of Lanka from yonder peak, and I was so enchanted that I came to see it nearer. I will admire the sights of Lanka and go away as I came. I mean no harm to anyone.” Lankini knew Hanuman was not telling the truth so she slapped him across the face. Hanuman retaliated and punched her in the jaw. The blow caused Lankini to topple over. Instead of fighting back, Lankini folded her hands to Hanuman and said, “So the prophecy is true! Brahma gave me a boon and said I would be invincible at these gates. But he also said that one day a little monkey would come along, and when he struck me down I would know the end of the raksasas was at hand. And I know what brings you here. It is she; it is Sita who brings doom to Lanka. It is no use my standing guard here any longer. Lankini does not bar your way any more; you are free to enter as you please.” Hanuman then crossed the bridge and as he did Lankini melted into the night and left the gates of Lanka forever.

Hanuman carefully leapt onto the wall that protected Lanka and slid down the other side. He marveled at the sight of Lanka but knew he had no time to spare and quickly set forth to find Sita. To prevent himself from being spotted by the raksasas, Hanuman ran across the rooftops until he reached Ravana’s palace. Inside the palace the hunt for Sita really began. He spotted many beautiful raksasis but knew none of them were Sita. Ravana’s palace had many rooms and Hanuman was determined to search each one. Inside numerous bedchambers Hanuman saw beautiful, sleeping women but none of them were Rama’s Sita. Still he pressed on. After much searching, Hanuman reached a door that appeared to be even more magnificent than the others. He slowly opened it and crept in. Inside, he saw a sleeping raksasa who could only have been Ravana. He had long arms that hung down to his knees and dark skin. He wore white silk and he was covered in fancy jewelry. Hanuman looked past Ravana’s bed and saw another bed in the room. He slowly tiptoed over to the other bed, thinking Sita might be asleep inside of it. As he got closer, he noticed a woman was fast asleep inside the soft bed. She was more beautiful than anyone he had ever seen before. He said quietly to himself “By her beauty she must be Sita. But how does she sleep so contentedly in Ravana’s bedchamber, with a smile curving her perfect lips?” He then thought to himself that Sita would rather die than spend the night with Ravana so he looked closer at the sleeping woman and realized that it was Mayaa’s daughter, Mandodari.

He had searched hundreds of rooms and still found no trace of Sita anywhere. Feeling dejected, Hanuman thought to himself “Sampati the eagle said he saw her here from across the sea. Then where is she? Ravana must have killed her between then and now, and cremated her body. Or perhaps there are dungeons below the palace where he holds her. But I have looked everywhere and found no sign of such a prison, or a stairway leading down to one.” He knew that if he returned to Kiskindha with no news of Sita Rama would surely kill himself and the others would follow suite shortly. He believed he had failed Rama. Feeling sorry for himself once more, Hanuman left the palace and sat atop a tree and watched moonbeams strike the earth. Suddenly he noticed a copse that became illuminated by the moon. The copse was hidden by the shadow of Ravana’s palace and could not be seen in the darkness of night. A slight glimmer of hope spread through Hanuman as he realized that this thicket had not yet been searched. Maybe this is where Sita was hidden away. He found his way to the asokavana and slowly entered it. Inside he found a beautiful garden. Hanuman remembered Rama telling him that Sita loved flowers, trees, and all wild things. This must be where Ravana is keeping Sita! He peered through the trees and saw a little temple hidden in the asokavana. Slowly, he crept up to the little temple and looked inside one of the windows. Inside he saw a woman dressed in dirty silk, her face stained with tears, and she was surrounded by sleeping raksasis. There was no doubt in his mind this was Sita. Unfortunately, morning was near and Hanuman decided to hide in a nearby tree to prevent any of the waking raksasis from seeing him.

As dawn broke, Ravana woke up wanting nothing but to see Sita’s beautiful face. He walked from his bedchamber to the asokavana where he held her captive. Hanuman peered through the leaves of the tree he was hiding in and watched as Ravana entered Sita’s room. He was in awe at Ravana’s greatness. He had never seen a king so grand. As Ravana walked closer to Sita, she covered herself with her hands to avoid his gaze. He said softly to her “Whenever I come here, you try to hide your beauty with your hands. But for me any part of you I see is absolutely beautiful. You are the perfect woman; beauty begins with you. Honor my love, Sita, and you will discover how deep it is. My life began when I first saw you, but you treat me so cruelly.” She didn’t reply. Getting frustrated, Ravana decided to downplay Rama’s excellence and said to Sita “he is not my equal, in wealth or power, valor, or even tapasya. Forget your wandering hermit. By now he has lost his mind from sorrow. Be sensible, as your humankind always is. Just think there is no hope of Rama ever seeing you again, no hope that he can cross the ocean. Give up your stubbornness; it is all you have to lose.” Sita, angered at what Ravana had just said replied, “I am the wife of another man, Raksasa, and my husband is my life. How can you even think of me as becoming yours, when I am already given to Rama? I have always belonged to Rama and I always will.” Angered greatly by her words, Ravana threatened Sita, “Two months I give you, out of my great love. Remember to be in my bed before those sixty days are part. If you are not, my cooks will serve you to me in pieces for my morning meal.” And with that, he left. The raksasis who were guarding Sita followed Ravana closely, trying to console him.

One of the raksasis stayed behind with Sita. Her name was Trijata and she was older than the other raksasis. She softly said to Sita, “Come and hear what I dreamed!” Knowing that Trijata was kind and caring, Sita stepped close to Trijata so she could listen to her dream. In the dream, Trijata saw Rama and Laksmana reuniting with Sita while Ravana fell to the ground, screaming in pain. She saw Ravana’s brother Kumbhakarna sink beneath the waves, while Vibhisana wore the crown upon his head. Trijata also told Sita about the monkey she had dreamt about, who set Lanka on fire with his tail.

Sita was overjoyed when she heard the news and ran to a nearby asoka tree. She sat beneath it and sobbed for she knew Rama would rescue her soon. This was the same tree Hanuman was hiding in. Hanuman knew he had to talk to her but he was scared Sita would think he was a raksasi, or worse yet, Ravana in disguise, so he hid behind the tree’s leaves and softly spoke to her. He told her the story of King Dasaratha and how he was forced to banish Rama to the jungle. He told her about an evil emperor who abducted a woman named Sita. He then explained how Rama, the brave warrior needed help finding Sita so he made friends with two monkeys, Sugriva and Hanuman. He told Sita how only one monkey was able to make the leap to Lanka. Finally, he told her that he was that monkey, he was Hanuman. Sita was excited but hesitated slightly as she looked up into the tree’s branches for the varana. Hanuman climbed down the tree and prostrated himself at her feet. Hanuman talked about his journey before he gave Sita Rama’s ring. “Rama will be here sooner than you think. But if you like, I can take you out of here today upon my back,” offered Hanuman. But Sita replied, “Dear Hanuman, my heart insists that Rama must come to Lanka and slay its raksasa. Besides, I would rather die at once than try to escape and be captured again. Also, good Hanuman, you must forgive me, but I am Rama’s wife and it isn’t proper of me to cling to your back as we cross the sea.” Hanuman understood and agreed to fly back to Rama alone so he could tell him where she was so he could save her himself. Sita then took out the chudamani (hair ornament) that she wore in her hair and said to Hanuman, “Give this to Rama. He knows it well. When he sees it, he will think of my mother, of his father Dasaratha, and of me; memories of us three are upon its jewel. Everything depends on you Hanuman; my life is in your hands.” Hanuman bowed down at her feet. He gently took the chudamani from her hand and quietly left her side.

As Hanuman was leaving Lanka he decided to make his presence known; he wanted to destroy the beautiful garden of the asokavana. He had a feeling that it was Ravana’s favorite place. He uprooted many trees and stirred whirlpools so they spilt over their banks. He also trampled over exotic plants. Some nearby raksasis heard the commotion and went to see what was happening. They were shocked to see a monkey causing so much damage and decided to bring the news to Ravana. Ravana sent hundreds of his guards to capture the monkey, including his mighty son Aksa. It was a battle between monkey and raksasa. The guards were easily defeated but Hanuman enjoyed fighting Aksa; he thought he was a handsome and noble warrior. Eventually Hanuman knew the time had come to kill Aksa; he smashed down Aksa’s chariot with a stone pillar then proceeded to pick Ravana’s son up. He then smashed Aksa’s head against a stone wall, killing him instantly. Ravana was shocked to see the great power the monkey possessed so he called for his other son Indrajit to fight him. He said to Indrajit, “Your brother and your friends have died. It seems no legion can stand against this monkey, let alone take him. Go, my son, bring him to me. Bring him alive.” Indrajit followed his father’s orders and went up to the vanara. He drew a special arrow from his quiver, one that contained Brahma’s astra. He shot the arrow at Hanuman, causing him to fall to the ground immediately. Indrajit believed he had won the battle but Hanuman thought to himself, “The boy doesn’t know that by Brahma’s own boon to me, his astra can hold me only for a moment. But I want to see Ravana’s face before I fly out of Lanka, and this is my chance. I am not afraid!” Ravana’s men quickly approached the fallen varana, captured him and brought him to Ravana. Ravana ordered the vanara to tell him who he was. Hanuman told him that Rama had sent him and that the end of Lanka was near. This greatly angered Ravana and he ordered his guards to kill Hanuman. Ravana’s brother Vibhisana explained to Ravana “On no account should a messenger be killed; he is our enemy and he must pay for what he has done. Whip him, maim him, even; shave his head and scar his body with your wrath. But do not have him killed.” Taking this to heart, Ravana retorted, “Nothing is more precious to a monkey than his tail. Let this monkey’s fine tail be set on fire. Let him be sent back with a burnt stump behind him to show that he crossed my path. Yes, let the monkey’s tail be lit and let him be marched through the streets of Lanka. Let my people mock him for what he did today.”

The raksasis from the asokavana ran to tell Sita about the monkey and how his tail was about to be set on fire. This news brought tears to Sita’s eyes – Hanuman was her only hope. She knew she had to do something so she began to pray to Agni the God of fire, “If it is true that I have been faithful to Rama, true that I have kept my vows and that my mind has always been pure, then don’t let Hanuman, who leapt across the sea to find me, who braved every danger to bring Rama’s message to me, be burned by your flames. Let your touch be upon his tail be as cool as the caress of his father Vayu.” As soon as she finished praying, Hanuman’s tail was being wrapped in cloth, dipped in oil, and set aflame. However, Hanuman felt no pain because of Sita’s prayer. Instead, the quick thinking monkey decided to use the fire to his advantage. He grew in size until he was as tall as the tallest tower in Lanka and he ran about frantically, setting buildings on fire. Next, he shrunk in size until he was no larger than a cat and he hopped from rooftop to rooftop, setting all of Lanka on fire. After Hanuman felt he had made the strength of Rama’s army known, he flew back to Bharatavarsa.

All of the vanaras at Bharatavarsa cheered when they saw Hanuman again, they knew he had found Sita safe and sound. They all then walked to Sugriva’s palace together and celebrated Hanuman’s victory by drinking the king’s finest wine. Once Rama and Laksmana heard the news of Hanuman’s return, they quickly went to him to find out anything they could about Sita. Hanuman told Rama of his adventures in Lanka. He told him how beautiful Lanka was and how he set it on fire. He told him about Ravana and his raksasa armies. He then finally told him about Sita, how she was alive but very sad all the time. He described her tear stained face, her matted hair and her torn dress. Finally, Hanuman gave Rama Sita’s chudamani and Rama said with tears in his eyes, “Laksmana, I see her face when I hold this golden ring. She weeps for me my brother.” Rama was happy to hear that Sita was alive and waiting for his arrival.

Book 4: Kiskindha Kanda

In Kiskindha
Lexie Filafilo

As Laksmana and Rama hiked with ease up Rsyamuka mountain they did not know they were being watched from the top of the mountain by a scared vanara named Sugriva. Ever since Sugriva was chased from his kingdom by his brother, Vali, Sugriva was very neurotic and jumpy indeed. He could tell that these two men had bows and this discomforted Sugriva: what if his brother sent them to kill him?
vanara are mystical monkeys, not like everyday monkeys that one could see in a zoo. They have some blood of the gods in them from ancient times, and therefore some of them have fantastic powers. As the vanara are an ancient race they have, over time, become quite refined.

Sugriva ran to Hanuman—the son of Vayu—and told him of the strange men that he believed were sent by his brother to kill him. Hanuman, who was calm in even the most grave situations attempted to comfort Sugriva: “Please Sugriva, remember the curse that rsi Matanga put on Vali and his vanaras because he desecrated holy land by throwing an asura’s carcass on it. That curse does not allow Vali, or those who are employed by him, to come to this place. It will be alright.” But Sugriva was still quaking terribly: he was remembering how his brother took his wife Ruma and then exiled him from Kiskindha—the kingdom of the vanaras. Sugriva could not be comforted. “I will go down and talk to them,” Hanuman said, “if I think they are harmful I will take care of them, and if not I will bring them up to speak to you.”

Hanuman quickly dashed down the mountain, and changed his shape—as this was one of his special powers—into a tall Brahmin. Hanuman introduced himself to the two men, who he felt were powerful, but not harmful. “My name is Hanuman, I am the minister to the king of the vanaras, Sugriva, who was exiled to this mountain by his brother, Vali.” The men, who of course were Rama and Laksmana, trusted Hanuman instantly, and smiled at the Brahmin. Laksmana said to Hanuman: ” This is Rama and I am his brother Laksmana. We were also exiled from our kingdom, and have been wandering the forest for the past years. Rama’s wife, Sita, has recently been abducted, and we are on a quest to find her. We were climbing the mountain with hopes of meeting Sugriva.” With that, Hanuman changed back into vanara form, “come friends, I’ll take you to Sugriva now.”

After Hanuman found Sugriva, scared and huddled in a shivering ball in a cave, he told Sugriva of the ksatriya’s story, and explained that Rama and Laksmana were there to meet Sugriva, not to kill him. Sugriva, relieved, went out and prostrated himself at Rama’s feet, and told him that they would be great friends. Rama and Sugriva then performed the age old vanara ritual of friendship. Rama and Sugriva, Hanuman and Laksmana stayed up all night discussing their pasts. “Hanuman has told me of how you were exiled from your kingdom, and how your wife was taken from you while you were in the forest.” Sugriva said, over the blaze of the fire, “I too lost my wife and my kingdom.” Sugriva continued to tell the story of his brother Vali, and how he chased Sugriva from the kingdom of Kiskindha.

“My older brother Vali and I were really close. Out father died, and when Vali was crowned king I was so happy for him. One day an asura named Mayavi, who was smitten with the same woman as Vali, called him out to fight for her. His wife, Tara, and I pleaded with him not to go, but Vali was much too proud to listen to us. I went with Vali, and we followed Mayavi deeper and deeper into the forest. Finally, we came to a cave and Vali went in. He told me to guard the entrance, in case Mayavi tried to get away. I waited for days, and no one came out. Eventually, I saw a river of blood flowing from the cave. With tears in my eyes over my brother’s death I rolled a huge stone over to block the cave entrance so that the asura could not escape. I went back to Kiskindha, and was crowned king. Then one day, Vali came back. He accused me of attempting to kill him, so I could take over the throne. He put me in prison and took my wife. I escaped, and when he found out he tracked me down and he chased me all the way to where I am today.” Sugriva finished his story with a tear of loss for the brother he once looked up to. Rama was moved by his story, and thought Vali to be a very adharmic monkey for the pain and anguish that he caused his brother, Sugriva. Rama said, “I will kill your brother, and you will be reinstated to the throne, where you belong.”

Sugriva said to Rama “I appreciate it, but I am worried friend. Vali has a boon of strength from Brahma. I do not want my new friend to get hurt. If you can shoot an arrow through each of the seven hard wood trees over there, I am sure you will have no problem killing Vali.” Rama picked up his bow, and shot one arrow. It went through each of the seven hard wood trees consecutively. Sugriva shouted, “Vali is as good as dead!” The four hugged, and started their trip to Kiskindha to kill Vali.

Sugriva stood at the edge of the kingdom, calling Vali to fight. He knew his brother could not resist a fight. Vali, as suspected came running out of the kingdom, eager to finish the grudge he had been harboring once and for all. Both of the vanaras grew to the size of trees, and began pounding each other with their fists, boulders, and anything that that they could get their large hands on. At first Sugriva was doing well, his confidence began to rise; he was winning the fight.

Meanwhile, Rama was sitting hidden in a tree, watching the fight. He realized that the vanara brothers looked too much alike and that he could not possibly try to shoot Vali with an arrow if there was a chance he could hit Sugriva. Sugriva’s attention was focused on why Rama was not shooting his brother, and this gave Vali the opportunity to give Sugriva three harsh pounds to the head. Sugriva reeled and ran back to Rsyamuka bawling like a child.

“Why did you let me be pummeled by my brother, when you were supposed to be my friend?” Sugriva wailed to Rama when he returned. Rama calmed him saying, “I could not tell you apart. We will go back tomorrow and try again, this time though you will wear a garland made out of gajapuspi, the most colorful of flowering vines, so I can tell you apart no matter what happens. Don’t despair friend, tomorrow will be the end of the awful Vali.” The next day, Sugriva called Vali out once more, and despite the attempts of his wise wife Tara, he went anyway. “He has Rama on his side,” Tara said, as most creatures of the jungle knew about Rama’s presence in their home by now, “why would that coward come back otherwise?” Vali’s pride was too much, and once again he flew at his brother. Rama watched from a tree, and waited, hoping that Sugriva could kill Vali himself. Rama was worried about the karmic seeds he would plant if he killed Vali. Finally, when he knew that Vali was going to win the fight if he did not intervene, Rama shot Vali in the chest. Vali’s wretched screams echoed through all the worlds.

Rama went to Vali, and stood over his dying body. Slowly Vali’s eyes opened and he saw Rama standing over him. Vali asked, “Why have you done this to me you coward? It was not your fight. This deed will surely sow terrible seeds of karma for you.” Rama hovered over Vali as he continued, “What will happen to my son Angada, my beautiful wife Tara, my kingdom? I had heard that your wife was stolen by Ravana. Why did you not ask me to kill him for you? I would have. This was not a dharmic act you have committed, but a cowardly one. Oh how you will pay in other lives for this; why Rama? Why did you do this to me?”

Rama answered Vali slowly and calmly, “Perhaps you do not understand the ways of dharma as well as you suggest. An older brother’s dharma is to his younger brothers, especially if their father is dead. You did not follow dharma when you chased Sugriva out of the kingdom. I have sworn an oath of friendship with your brother, and in that way he is like my younger brother. I am justified in what I did, it was a dharmic act.” As Rama talked, Vali was soothed by his voice. It was as if Rama’s voice made Vali realize the error of his way, and made him find peace from within himself. “I understand,” Vali said in a quiet and raspy voice of death, “please make sure that Sugriva is made king and that my wife and son are taken care of.” Vali died and Tara, who had heard her husband’s earlier cries, rushed to her dying husband’s side and broke down in tears. Sugriva also wept for his brother whom he had murdered. He felt he should die with his brother. Rama and Laksmana told Sugriva that his duty was to be strong. Angada and Tara built a pyre for Vali, and when they lit it, they set him free.

Rama told Sugriva that he could not go into the city to watch his coronation because it would be breaking the vow he made to his father. “Crown Angada yuvaraja” he reminded Sugriva, “Laksmana and I will go and take refuge in a cave during the rainy season. I will see you when the month of Krittika arrives, and we will begin the search for Sita.” Sugriva prostrated himself at Rama’s feet and said, “I will see you in a few months my friend, and at that time I will keep my promise to you: I will find your beloved Sita.”

During the rainy season plants grew by leaps and bounds in only a day. Rama and Laksmana found a cave on the mountain Prasravana to wait out the rainy period in. Rama started to get very anxious during the time that he was in the cave. Luckily, Laksmana was able to keep Rama occupied with stories, and he calmed him down when he started missing Sita too much. Meanwhile, in Kiskindha, Sugriva was having a rollicking good time in his harem. He had married Tara, and was enjoying the drunken stupor that he had been in since he was crowned.

The month of Krittika came and passed, and Rama was very disheartened because he had not heard from Sugriva once. Laksmana was filled with rage because of the broken promise, and begged: “Rama let me kill Sugriva; he has no honor.” Rama replied quietly, “There is no honor in what you suggest Laksmana, it would be best if you went and reminded Sugriva of his duty to me. Ask him why he has not honored his promise to find Sita.” Laksmana arrived in Kishkindha. There were vanara guarding the palace that did not recognize him, and they sent for a back up army to fight the perceived threat. Angada lead the army, and when he saw Laksmana he stopped. “Bring me to your uncle,” Laksmana said, recognizing Angada at once. Angada brought him to his uncle’s harem. Once Laksmana was in the harem, he saw the absolute excess in which Sugriva had been living, while Rama was suffering in the forest. Sugriva, who was barely able to stand because he was so drunk, sent Tara over to reason with the angry ksatriya. Tara told Laksmana how Sugriva looked up to Rama, and how his excess of alcohol and women was due to his long exile in the forest. When Tara felt that Laksmana had been sated sufficiently by her words, she brought him to Sugriva. “Even as we speak now,” the monkey king said smoothly, “my troops are marching here to be deployed on a mission to find Sita. I have not forgotten about Rama, or my promise.” Laksmana smiled and said, “Let us go to the forest to tell Rama, and wait for your troops.”

When Sugriva got to Rama, he prostrated himself at his feet. “I have not forgotten my promise to you Rama,” Sugriva said with tears in his eyes, “even as we speak my soldiers are coming here to get their orders.”

Within ten days of Sugriva’s arrival in the forest, his troops arrived and were standing in the valley awaiting Sugriva’s instructions. Sugriva climbed onto a tree stump and started speaking to his soldiers: “Search to the ends of the earth my vanaras, and find the evil Ravana that has caused such pain for my dear friend Rama.” Sugriva continued on, telling the troops of all the places that they would be searching, which he was remembering from the days he was fleeing his brother Vali. “Vinata, go west with one quarter of the troops. Sushena, go east with one quarter of the troops. Satbali, you go north. Finally, Hanuman take Angada, who is like a son to me, and go south. I will give you all one month. If you have not found Rama’s Sita come back to this place in shame.” As the troops began to leave in their assigned directions, Rama and Sugriva went to Hanuman. “Hanuman,” Rama said with passion, “I believe that if anyone can find my Sita, it is you. Go and find her for me dear vanara, and when you do give her my ring.” Rama took the ring off his finger and gave it to Hanuman. “She will be afraid, and will not trust you at first. This ring will let her know that she can trust you.” Hanuman prostrated himself at the feet of both Sugriva and Rama and left on his mission to find Sita. Susena, Vinata, and Satbali searched high and low, day and night for a complete month respectively, but none of them could find Sita. Likewise, Hanuman, Angada, and their team searched, but to no avail. Angada, who could see that his troops were becoming dejected, said, “I know that we will be the ones to find Sita. It is Fate. Do not give up brave monkeys.” The vanaras’ spirits were lifted, and they continued searching, and to their relief found a cave that they had never seen before.

On entering the cave and walking down a long tunnel they came to a beautiful kingdom with fantastic gardens that they could not imagine even in their wildest dreams. Suddenly, an ascetic appeared before them, and seeing that she was friendly, they ate with her. The ascetic told them her name was Svayamprabha and that the kingdom they were in was called Riksabila and was created by Mayaa. Svayamprabha was guarding the kingdom. Hanuman reciprocated, introducing himself and telling her of their quest to find Sita. “I am moved by your honor,” Svayamprabha said. “Normally all that enter this fine place cannot leave, but since your hearts are pure, and you are on an honorable quest I will free you.” With that, the vanaras were at western shore of the Bharatavarsa.

Angada, being an observant monkey said, “Time is different in Riksabila than it is in our world. A week has passed since we have been in the cave. We have not found Sita, and our time is up.” Angada was visibly perturbed, and was pacing back and forth quickly. “I am worried,” he said quickly to the ministers that had gathered around him, “that Sugriva will not take kindly to our delay. He killed my father and this is just the excuse he needs to kill me as well.” Thara, agreed with Angada, “Sugriva killed our king with no thought for us, his people. Why would we continue looking for Sita for him, or go back to him, when we have no allegiance to him, and him to us likewise. Let us return to Riksabila and live our days out in that beautiful place.” Hanuman, who was always calm said, “It is not a good plan for us to make enemies of people that are as powerful and pious as Laksmana and Rama, and we surely will if we desert our mission and our king. We are capable of finding Sita, I can feel it. Let us continue on.” After much discussion, Angada had made his mind up to go and stay on the beach, to die there. Many others seeing their prince so distraught agreed to die with him on the beach.

Thousands of little vanaras sat in groups on the beach. Angada and the monkeys surrounding him told stories about Rama, and Jatayu, and his noble death. Little did they realize, far above them, an old eagle was watching them.

Sampati the eagle was extremely old, and had not had a decent meal in a great time, considering his aged condition, and his visible lack of wings. Excited at the prospect of the meal he said, “I do not have to worry about searching my food out, today it has found me.” Angada heard him and screamed to his soldiers, “death is coming to kill us and he is in the form of a giant bird, run!” But Angada could not run; he was paralyzed with fear, and was so upset that he began to talk nonsensically about Jatayu and his noble death. Hearing this Sampati said, “How do you know Jatayu?” Angada suddenly felt a wave of trust come over him and he told Sampati the story of Rama, and how Jatayu had given his life in an attempt to save the chaste Sita from the adharmic Ravana. “I have not heard of Jatayu in many years,” Sampati said quietly, “you see I am his brother, Sampati.” “When we were just young,” Sampati said, “Jatayu and I were very competitive. One day we made a bet to see who could fly higher. We flew up for days and days, and we were neck in neck all the way. We were flying so fast that we did not realize how close we were to the sun until it was too late. Jatayu started to burn up, and fall. As soon as I saw he was in trouble I stopped flying and caught him, but as soon as I touched him my wings began to burn. I fainted and woke up when I came into contact with the ground. My wings were burned off that day, and I have not seen or heard of Jatayu since.”

Sampati walked to the edge of the water and peered out into the ocean. “What are you doing?” inquired Angada. “I am an old mystical eagle, and my family is blessed with amazing sight so that they can hunt from far above their prey. I am looking to the ocean to see if I can see Sita on the Island of Lanka, the home of Ravana.” After a long while, Sampati said, “I see her, she is within the palace walls.” Suddenly as if by a miracle, the stumps where Sampati’s wings once were began to glow and when they stopped, his wings were whole again. With tears in his eyes Sampati said, “A rsi once told me, that when I helped the avatara of Visnu by finding his love, abducted by evil, that I would have my wings back. Good luck friends, trust in yourselves and you will succeed.” Sampati flew off for the first time in thousands of years.

The vanaras were renewed because they had found Sita. The only problem was how they were going to reach her. Vanara are fantastic creatures and they are able to jump great distances, so they decided that their best bet would be for one of them to jump to the island. Angada said “I can jump at least 100 yojanas, I will do it.” Jambavan interjected, “I must insist that you do not do that. You are the heir to the throne, and you must not risk your life, even if it is for a good cause.” Continuing, Jambavan said, “Hanuman you are capable of jumping over 300 yojana, or do you not remember?” Hanuman shook his head no, bewildered by this amazing statement. “When you were only a young boy,” Jambavan started, “you thought that the sun was a piece of fruit, and you wanted it for yourself. You jumped all the way up to the sun, and Indra, seeing you, and thinking you were a very cocky boy, knocked you down with his lightening bolt. Your father, Vayu, caught you, and you were not harmed at all. Brahma, seeing what happened said that such an amazing child deserved a boon, and with his decree no weapon would ever harm you. Indra realized that it was not out of pride that you wanted the sun, but out of childish delight and he also gave you a boon. It was the boon of life because he said that you could choose when you would die.” Hanuman sat there shocked. “Don’t you see, Hanuman,” Jambavan said patting Hanuman on the back, “You were born to jump to Lanka.”

A smile crossed Hanuman’s face as if he was just realizing what he could do for the first time. “I’ll do it,” he said. Suddenly, the son of the wind began to grow, he grew to the size of the mountains and then he grew larger. When he stopped he stepped with a gigantic leg onto one of the mountains behind the beach. He was so large that he had to put the other foot on the peak beside the first. Hanuman began moving back and forth, preparing for his long jump across the ocean to save Rama’s Sita.

Book 3: Aranya Kanda

In The Forest
Shayne Dahl

In the days following Bharata’s departure, the rsis were scattered along the banks of the river with their backs turned to the exiled wanderers. Curious, Rama approached and asked them if he or his companions had caused them discomfort. With a broken voice, an elder sage replied, “We are silenced not by our grievance towards you three but in fear of Khara, the demon cousin of Ravana of Lanka.” He performs grotesque rituals with dark intentions. Khara and his minions befoul our yajnas with their black magic. “Rama, Laksmana and Sita, be wise and please abandon this inauspicious site.” The three heeded this request.
They felt more and more the loneliness akin to exile the further they moved into the wilderness. Just when the comfort of reconciliation settled their apprehensions, the rotten stench of a raksasa burned putrid in their nostrils. Obstructing their path, the demon stood tall as a tree. With a gangrene face thickly layered in flies and maggots, it grabbed Sita and grunted disgustingly. ” I have Brahma’s boon! I am invincible to your weapons! I want your blood!” Casually, Rama filled its chest with arrows and Laksmana sliced away its appendages. Severed stumps wriggled pathetically as it lay in a puddle of tar-black blood. Realizing the truth of its claim to Brahma’s boon, Rama and Laksmana grabbed the neck to strangle it. They brought the demon to a violent gurgle, then death.

A cascading light became abruptly visible upon the creature’s demise. A face formed, then a body above the already decayed torso. “I was cursed by Kubera ages ago to incarnate as a demon. He told me I would be freed by Rama’s hands and return to Devaloka in time to come. Please, bury this torso so I may return to Devaloka. Also, direct your travels to Sarabhanga’s asrama. He will bless you as fate requires.” They cured his demonic imprisonment by burying the bloody torso. They then continued their wanderings.

Not far from Sarabhanga’s asrama, they saw a great chariot manned by the master and god of war. He slowed to halt just before the asrama. The blue prince ran to him under the setting sun, excited as any in sight of an incredible one like Indra. Before he was near enough to be heard, Indra had already left and blazed into the sky. As they left, Indra spoke these words to his Devas: “Rama and I are not to meet before the great event of his life and of this world, lest the natural course of things be interrupted.”

Sarabhanga was delighted to see the forest wanderers. He explained that Indra visited as an escort. Together, they would travel to Brahmaloka (one of two spiritual realms; the other being Devaloka), for his enlightenment was imminent. Then, Sarabhanga asked for Rama’s blessing and walked into the flames of the pyre his disciples had built him. He vanished in the heavy flames and a streak of light raised to the sky as petals rained briefly. Sarabhanga’s disciples then begged Rama to help them for their fear of the raksasas‘ had become a distraction in mind they could not evade even while seated in the deepest meditation. Rama looked each of the disciples keenly in the eye and said, “I promise you, we will destroy these demons. Dissolve your fear. Those causing your distress will fall to our weapons like deadweight from the sky.” Rama, Sita and Laksmana trekked on into the night; hell-ridden grunts and snarls littered the moonless sky. They arrived at Sutiksna’s asrama in days passing.

There, they were greeted kindly with beverages and food. While Rama and Laksmana were enjoying their stay, Sita was troubled. Rama inquired and she answered, “Why did you promise to slay the raksasas of the jungle? This is their home! They have not harmed you specifically; therefore, it is adharmic for you to end them. You are powerful and should not act violently when unprovoked.” Smiling, he responded, “My love, I am a ksatriya; therefore it is my dharma to protect those incapable of protecting themselves. I will not kill unprovoked. But Sita, you must reconsider your definition of provocation. The prayers of the rsis keep sanctity in this world alight. If I do not accomplish my dharma as a ksatriya and rid the forest of these rank demons, how will the earth maintain its divinity?! Fate has brought us here with deep intentions; my burning heart tells me so. I love you, please trust me.” Her daunting expressions faded to a smile when the avatara’s eyes glowed in honesty.

Ten years passed as quickly as a midnight dream. The raksasas now ailed at the thought of Rama and Laksmana, for these two had filled many black hearts with sharp arrows and decapitated the flyblown heads of the blood-thirsty effortlessly. Sita further developed a gift she was given by the gods. She could understand and communicate with the jungle creatures easily and took pleasure in doing so. After much wandering between asramas, learning of and slaying demons, the three returned to Sutiksna’s asrama. There, Rama explained to Sutiksna how he searched for Agastya Muni’s asrama ill-successfully. Sutiksna shared with him the directions and sent them with his blessing.

Stories of Agastya Muni’s power were discussed along the way. Upon arrival, Agastya Muni gave Rama weapons and armour that was given him by Indra as a gift. “You will need these, as well as a chariot for the great battles with evil, holy one. The fear you’ve instilled in the fanged and dark hearted has inspired their demonic thirst for human blood to intensify. They wish to fill their stomachs before your weapons cleave their dreadful faces. Go to Pancavati and tread your destiny.” With his blessing, they left.

On their way, rustles were heard in the branches above. Laksmana aligned his aiming eye towards the movement and prepared an arrow. A voice was heard, “Please refrain; I am a friend of Dasaratha’s.” Laksmana lowered his defensive response and a marvellous, well-sized eagle descended with soft flapping wings, “I am Jatayu. Your course of direction is dangerous. Please, accept me as a guardian. When you and Laksmana go out and hunt, I will watch over your wife Sita.” Rama replied, “Thank you noble one. We gladly accept your gesture and your friendship.”

They walked on and found an auspicious location to build an asrama. Sita would request tasks of the animals and they gladly performed them, for they loved her. One day, after they had settled comfortably, the most rancid smell wafted into the asrama and razed, among other natural beauties, a good number of lotus flowers. No sooner did Rama, Laksmana and Sita look up did there appear a wretched raksasi.

She was inflamed at the sight of Rama’s handsome face. “I am Surpanakha, sister of Ravana,” she spouted with a raspy hiss, “I live with Khara, my cousin. I am powerful and I want you for my husband. Lose this woman and be with me, I can shape-shift into any beauty you prefer.” “I am sorry, I’m married,” Rama replied kindly, “However, my brother Laksmana is single and better looking than I. Why don’t you pursue him instead?” Desperately, she turned to Laksmana and rubbed his chest with her grimy fingers. He denied her sarcastically; “I’m just a servant and you are a princess. Try my brother again. He will leave her for you!” She became ferociously jealous and charged Sita. Laksmana swiftly maimed her with his sword, causing much of her face to appear as scraped bone and torn muscle.

She ran home to her cousin who was enraged at the sight of his pained sibling. “Who did this?! I will make him howl like tortured child. Craving the taste of his own death, he will be murdered slowly!!” Immediately, fourteen of Khara’s toughest warriors were sent to complete the deed.

Seeing the bat-like demons approaching in the night sky, Rama stamped his foot as loud as thunder. “Unless you wish to greet death in vain, leave now.” They screamed piercingly from above and began a sharp descent. Rama released serpentine weapons with precision and brought them to the ground, where their bodies twitched a few moments, then became limp. Astonished, Surpanakha reported what she had witnessed to Khara. He raged like the wickedest storm, “Show me the faces of these arrogant fools so I can take pleasure in smashing them to death and send them skyward to their ancestors!!! I will bring a thousand raksasas for each one killed!”

Rama sent Laksmana with Sita to take cover in a nearby cave. He sensed the coming battle would be unlike any before. As they left, the forest dwelling animals retreated and the gods gathered above Pancavati; they too were aware of the coming battle.

Khara and his armies arrived with the anger of hell empowering their will. Fiercely and without warning, they attacked. Transforming the evening sky into a blur of weaponry, their pointed violence aimed towards Rama, as lightning to a steel rod. Tridents, arrows and javelins fell on him like a world ending meteor shower, some scathing his flesh. However, none wounded Rama because he wore immaculate armour. His response was quicker than light, arms madly rotating from quiver to bow; soft mantra whispers were heard invoking astras, which aided his strike with supernatural blessings. The sound of demon corpses thudding to the ground was deafening and shook the jungle like a mighty earthquake. At times, Rama would call upon astras capable of turning one arrow into a fiery thousand with accuracy rarely dreamt of. Drenched in thick black blood and tolerating the rotting stench, he stood valiantly, god incarnate.

Dushana, Khara’s brother, swooped out of the fleets, casting flaming trees, boulders and fire-spitting serpents at Rama. Rama evaded their aim and ended Dushana’s life with four quick arrows to the heart. Khara attacked next; striking Rama three times before the blue one sent his horses enough arrows to crash his chariot. Rama jumped and cut up Khara’s charioteer. Khara split Rama’s bow and sprung at him with a heavy mace. Rama warned, “Your craving for death is like a deep lust, I will send you there!” He accurately shot twenty blazing arrows at Khara and they nestled deep in his back, arms and stomach. No sooner did he tear them out of his flesh did Rama send an arrow with a supreme mantra whisper to the center of Khara’s chest where it struck and, alas, felled the raksasa. Excited for Rama’s triumph, the Devas rained petals, magically cleansing the bloodied earth of demon entrails.

A raksasa who narrowly escaped fled to Lanka and relayed the defeat to the ten-headed Ravana. Ravana could not believe that a human single-handedly destroyed his warrior cousin and his legions. Even after stories of Rama’s mass slaying met Ravana’s ears, he casually stated, “I will go and kill him and his companions where they stand.” The raksasa warned against it and proposed that he lure Rama to Lanka by kidnapping Sita, Rama’s wife. Ravana recognized the wisdom in this scheme and planned to leave the following morning.

The great evil one took to his chariot and flew to Marica, his uncle who was once a raksasa but since had become a rsi. Seeing the troubled look on Ravana’s face he asked, “What has happened my nephew?” Ravana explained the situation and the vengeful plan to kidnap Sita. “He is noble therefore he will die in absence of his love. I need your help uncle,” explained Ravana. Wisely, Marica responded, “Whoever devised the plan is a fool. Rama is no one to be challenged! He has slain all the raksasas who have crossed his path in vain. Be wise and yield or you will be destroyed.” Ravana trusted his uncle and returned to Lanka.

Surpanakha approached her great brother and scolded him like he had never heard; “You’re indulgent and not fit to rule. Your kingdom laughs behind your back while you become arrogant in the bedroom! A mere human desecrated your troops and you refuse to act.” Even while she described the dominance that the Ayodhya prince demonstrated in battle against his raksasas, Ravana seemed unmoved. She knew he was as lustful as an unruly beast and she wanted the three companions dead, so she altered her discourse to whet Ravana’s appetite. “Rama’s wife is heaven sent. Her skin would feel so smooth beneath your fingertips. Her eyes are mini-galaxies waiting to see you and love you openly in your bed. I tried to take her for you but I was maimed. Go capture her for your harem, she waits to realize and adore your vast power.” Ravana’s lust bore through the logic that his uncle had previously instilled. He was determined to have Rama’s princess be his own.

As he flew his chariot to Marica’s, Ravana fantasized about the beautiful Sita Supanakha described. Ravana told his uncle the details of his scheme once again, this time more forcefully. “You will, by the powers of maya, transform into a golden deer, which will entice the lovely Sita. She will request Rama and Laksmana to seize it for her. Then, you lead them deep into the forest while I kidnap the princess.” Marica attempted, at first, to sway his nephew by warning him otherwise but with every word he spoke, the expressions on Ravana’s ten heads became angered and reddened. Knowing his nephew’s wrath, Marica decided it best to commit the act, even though in dhyana he knew it to be adharmic. To Pancavati they flew.

Ravana and his uncle landed in a forest clearing nearby Rama’s asrama. Reluctantly, Marica made himself into a shining golden deer. Ravana admired Marica’s siddhi (supernormal powers) and sent the golden deer on its way with a slap. All the forest creatures smelt the sorcery beneath the hide of the animal and stayed clear of its stench.

Sita was awe-struck with Marica’s creation. She dropped her basket and called to the deer. Unmoved by her words, it wandered elsewhere. She called the brothers. Rama was bewildered but Laksmana knew intuitively that the deer was not as it appeared to be. He shared his suspicion with Rama, who considered Laksmana’s insight, yet was still compelled to capture this majestic animal for his wife. “If it is evil, I will kill it. If not, I will capture it. Watch over Sita, I will return shortly,” Rama said to his hesitant brother. Then he spirited after the deer into the neighbouring woods.

After an hour of sporadic chasing, Rama realized it was no ordinary stag but an enemy in disguise for its movements were like no thing of the natural world. He spun an arrow and pierced the target in the heart. It transformed back to Marica and with a last breath cried in a voice identical to Rama’s, “Laksmana! Laksmana! Help me!” Sita’s heart nearly stopped at the sound of her husband’s voice screaming a near death cry. “Go to him Laksmana, save him! Save him!” Being wise, Lakshmana knew his brother was not inferior to any opposition so he refused and attempted to console Sita. In a panic attempt, she spoke harsh words to him, accusing him of coveting her, “You want him to die don’t you Laksmana?! You want him to die so I will be your wife!! Go to him now or I will kill myself!” Confused and hurt by her words, Laksmana defied his intuition and ran to the woods. Before leaving, he cast a magical barrier at the door of the asrama that no one could enter unless Sita allowed. With legs furiously pumping and sweat pouring down his dark face, Laksmana ran through the woods to the illusory call.

Meanwhile, Ravana approached the asrama disguised as a holy man. When he saw Sita, he nearly collapsed at the sight of her delicate face. He loved her that instant. Barely managing to voice a word, he softly asked, “Who are you? You are so beautiful. Are you a goddess? You should abandon this area; the raksasas are dangerous here. Why are you alone?” He seemed harmless to Sita at the time. He was aged and appeared to host great wisdom, like most other rsis she met over her ten years in the jungle. Foolishly, she invited him in, “Come and sit with me.”

She explained her identity to him and he loved to hear what he already knew come from her tantalizing lips. He imagined pursuing her right then in the asrama but he unmasked himself instead, knowing that if he were to capture her he had to act fast. “I am Ravana of Lanka,” his body transformed, she was disgusted and afraid. “Come to Lanka with me, be my queen. You would be a jewel in the ocean. Leave the foolish human; I am the ruler of worlds.” She refused him mockingly, “If my husband sees you here, he will fill your black heart with arrows and you will only know pain.” At once, his ten heads licked their lips and he was aroused, caught once again in his fantasy of her naked body. She saw this twisted gesture and ran for the door. He snatched her quickly with a hiss. She cried to the animals, “Tell Rama and Laksmana what has happened; that Ravana of Lanka has taken me by force!!!” His decorative chariot flew to the south as she wailed madly, pounding her fists against his hard chest.

Jatayu, perched in the trees nearby, heard her alarmed scream and launched toward them. “Rama is king! You will suffer for your actions, selfish demon!” Although he was old and near blind, he directed his jagged claws and swooped with a guttural cry to the center head of Ravana. Raking the raksasa’s back, Jatayu shot his talons at a pair of eyes. Black blood sprayed like hellish rain over the earth and his chariot plummeted to destruction. Jatayu was tired but determined. He mustered up all of his strength and dove at the stunned raksasa like a heavy comet. Ravana drew his smooth weapon and cut off Jatayu’s wings, mid-flight.

Sita wailed, for she knew the devotion of Jatayu was of the truest kind. She went to hold him as he struggled for breath but the beast from Lanka muscled her and took to the sky. Flying over a mountain, she saw monkeys gathered atop. “Rama, Laksmana,” she cried, “Help!!!” Then, she loosened her necklace, took out her earrings, ripped a piece of her sari off and let them fall to the jungle dwellers.

As soon as they entered Ravana’s palace in Lanka, Ravana smiled perversely. His excitement was interrupted by Sita. “You are a thief. My husband will level your city and bring you to your knees. You are a coward and a fool for what you have done!” He replied confidently, “You will love me because I can give you what no forest dweller can dream; a power over nations. He is weak and ill-minded. This is why I seized you so easily. Forget him, he is already dead.” Her eyes winced and tears swelled, “My Rama will?” Ravana interrupted with a wrathful tone, “You will accept my love because none have been offered it in the passing ages. If you do not receive me within one year, I will cut up your body as you live and consume it with delight!” He walked out of the room, each step a crack of thunder.

Meanwhile, back in Panchavati, Laksmana and Rama had met up in the forest. They realized their folly and sprinted back to the asrama. Rama scolded Laksmana for leaving Sita, regardless her rash words towards him. They searched all over for her, uncovering no hint of what happened. “None suffer as I do now, brother,” Rama mumbled, “Everything has been stripped from me and I am sorrowful because of it! Sita is nowhere. Surely she has been taken from us by an evil one.” When a deer approached, Laksmana came to his knees and pleaded, for the animals knew and loved her equally. The empathetic deer raised its nose along with the other forest creatures towards the south. The Ayodhya princes left soon thereafter.

Southbound, they saw pools of blood and came across the fatally wounded Jatayu. Immediately, they knew there had been a battle. Rama was infuriated. He cursed and raged and threatened to destroy the universe. Laksmana was frightened and calmed him. “You should find those responsible and deliver their karma. Calm yourself brother, I beg you. Suffering exists in the lives of all of us, even the greatest ones whom you admire.” Rama slowed his furor.

Just as he did, Jatayu called out his last words, “Go south… a powerful raksasa took Sita there.” Rama knelt by his side, crying. “I fought him… he is Visrava’s son, Kubera’s brother…” The great eagle exhaled a life ending sigh and passed. To honour Jatayu’s devotion, Rama and Laksmana built him a pyre and lit his wounded shell. White light sparked and flew gently to the sky with wings.

Moving south, Rama and Laksmana noticed a cave. Inside was a strange and desperate one named Kabandha. He was a greasy monster with scabbed stumps for legs and severed bloodied wrists for hands. He cried, “I am blessed today! Cursed by a hermit to be the monster you see before you and maimed by Indra whom I offended, I have awaited your arrival. Burn this body and free me. My name was Dhanu.” Rama spoke sternly, “Do you know of my wife’s abduction? Her name is Sita and she was taken by a demon.” “I used to know all things,” he replied, “If you release me of this burden I will reclaim that knowledge and help you find Sita.” They burned his freakish body and in the smoke raised a shining spirit. He said “Go meet with Sugriva, prince of the vanaras. He lives on the mountain called Rsyamuka. Fate intends for you two to meet. Both of you will benefit from your fellowship.” Then, he gave directions and leapt into the sky.

Nearing Rsyamuka, the twins became more relaxed. They spotted a calm clear lake that brought tranquility to their rigid state. Along the shoreline they paused because Rama wept like a dark cloud; “Lovers should never be separated during spring months. How am I to last even a few days in her absence?” Rama went on grieving until Laksmana wisely interrupted, “Brother, fate has thrown us here for a greater destiny. You know in your heart just as I that our dharma is to follow this painful road and respond intelligently to the coming obstructions. You are no ordinary human, Rama. You are capable of feats no god could accomplish. Trust that there is a meaning for your sorrow which extends beyond the immediate moment.” Rama smiled, “Without you Laksmana, I would have been laid waste by my own wrath. Let us wilfully seek Rsyamuka and meet the foretold Sugriva.”

Book 2: Ayodhya Kanda (part 2)

In Ayodhya
Lyndia Peters

The next morning was a symphony of exotic birdsong. Rama, Sita, and Laksmana awoke with the realization of sending their faithful and beloved Sumantra back to Ayodhya. Guha, the hunter king, approached Rama after the morning worship.Rama inquired, “Is there a vessel which the three of us may use to cross the Ganga?” Guha bowed slightly and acknowledged Rama’s request by ordering his best craft to be made ready for the departure of his respected guests.
The colours and royal majesty of the boat soon appeared and Rama and Laksmana gathered their few belongings and weapons to load onto the awaiting craft.Sumantra watched silently with tears welling up in his eyes.” Is there no other way? I can be of great use to you. I am loyal and true,” he said between sobs and sighs of sorrow.

Rama smiled, “You are, indeed, a loyal man.That is why I must ask you to return home to my father and deliver the news that our journey into the forest is blessed and that Sita and his sons are content and happy in their exile.” Rama embraced Sumantra and reassured the older man his duty was fulfilled in leaving the trio to venture forth alone.As his dharma (right decision) became clear to the sarathy (charioteer), he summoned his courage and readied his horses. Rama reminded him to send blessings to the king and all the royal family, and Sumantra departed with obvious sadness and despair.

The departure from Guha was no less sorrowful.” As a final request,” Rama said, “I must fashion my hair in jata, the way of the rsi, and require sap to achieve this end.”Guha provided the sap and both Rama and Laksmana used it to put their hair in jata. Blessings were exchanged and Rama thanked the hunter king for his kindness and reminded him to always follow dharma. Then the magnificent boat set off and the royal travelers moved deeper into the forest.

Disembarking on the other side of the river Rama, Sita, and Laksmana experienced the exquisite and wondrous beauty of the forest. Despite this enchantment with their surroundings they walked anxiously together with Sita between the two armed princes. A meal was found in the way of fresh mangoes and talk turned to the feelings of uneasiness and dread. Rama announced clearly, “There is no need to feel worried; so long as we are good and true this should not be a place of fear.” And with that, they resumed walking and the air of apprehension seemed to be lifted. The forest welcomed them as if it had heard the traveler’s intentions and knew it had nothing to fear.

After another day of traveling, they came upon a hermitage of rsis.” This must be the asrama of Bharadvaja,” remarked Laksmana.Rama smiled.This was of course true and soon the wise rsi could be seen. They approached and prostrated to Bharadvaja as they introduced themselves. The Brahman knew of Rama and spoke to them, “Ksatriyas of Ayodhya, you are welcome in this place. Please stay here with me until your fourteen years have passed.” Rama considered this offer and despite the enticing proposition, he politely refused. He did however, agree to spend the night and continue the journey the next day.

Bharadvaja provided directions through the forest and to the asrama of Valmiki.Rama, Laksmana, and Sita were blessed by the great rsi and spoke with him at length.Rama stated, “This place is deep enough into the forest.We are safe here and can make this our home for the next fourteen years.”Laksmana and Rama collected wood and supplies to build their own shelter. Laksmana requested, “Rama you sit, I will do the building.It will be the best you’ve ever seen.”With that, Laksmana build a shelter perfect for the three of them to live and they performed a blessing over their new home.They were all very pleased and spent their first night peacefully in their dwelling at the beginning of their forest exile.

In Dasaratha’s palace, there was still much distress and despair. Their beloved prince was gone to the depths of the forest, the brave Laksmana was gone too, and the fair and delicate Sita was not to be seen for fourteen long years.This truth was made even more apparent on the return of Sumantra who was back at the palace, alone. The subjects of Ayodhya, the people of the palace, and even the king himself felt the reality of Kaikeyi’s boon. Sumantra recounted the journey of Rama into exile on the aging king’s request. Dasaratha said feebly with a smile, “Perhaps, it would be best if I went to him; to visit Rama would quiet my mind and ease my soul. “This thought seemed to invigorate him and he grew louder and more excited. Kausalya and Sumitra were there by his side to quiet him.The old king lapsed into tears once again and apologized profusely to Kausalya, “I have taken your son from you. Please forgive me, please forgive me! “His vigor diminished and soon his apologies melted into sobs and the sobs to sighs. The king fell into a restless sleep with his two faithful wives by his side.

The king’s past nights, although restless, had been spent with Kausalya.Tonight was not unlike any other.Dasaratha was avoiding his grief of the loss of his son by retreating to his mind and the memories of the past. “Tonight I remember the times of my youth,” said Dasaratha to Kausalya, “and I must tell you of a day; one full of rain before the monsoon season, when I was hunting in the great forest.”

“On this day,” continued Dasaratha, “I had trekked great lengths and was deep in the forest as a shower of rain fell down upon the trees and dense foliage where I was hiding.Like many others, this hunt was a chance for me to exercise my hunting ability by making a kill without even seeing my prey. In the hunt, my senses were so keen that I did not need to rely on my sight; this was something of which I was very proud. From my vantage point deep in the trees, I heard an elephant make its way to a pool of water to wash itself and listened carefully as it lapped up water with its trunk. Silently, I took careful aim; letting my senses guide me. I aimed for the heart and with one shot heard the effect and the trumpeting of the dying beast echoed in my ears.As I listened closer, I realized the sound was not what I expected.There was no elephant’s call but the shocking screams of a dying man; I was aghast. The man called out, ‘Who has done this? Why do I, an innocent rsi, feel this arrow pierce my breast like a wild beast? Show yourself to me! Show yourself to me!’ I left my hiding place to see a young rsi contorted with pain and staining the cold white sand with his blood.

I explained myself to the dying holy man. His compassion was great but insisted I resume his task of collecting water for his old, blind parents so they would not be deserted and dying of thirst.I agreed shaking with regret and sadness and filled the container of water from the pool.The rsi struggled to ask, ‘Pull the arrow from my chest; the pain is too great, the torture too slow.I forgive you warrior prince and so end my suffering by bringing my death at once.’Upon removing the arrow, the rsi perished and I traveled to his home to fulfill my promise.

The rsi’s parents were waiting his return and I stared at the couple unsure of what words my lips must utter. ‘Why do you linger, my son?’ asked the blind old man. I choked back my sorrow and explained the events leading to the death of the poor man’s child. The parents requested they be brought to their son’s body and I obliged them. They sought to see him one last time and reached to trace the position of his lifeless body. Their sorrow was great and the father remained strong enough to perform his son’s last rites. When the pyre was burning, the old man spoke again, ‘Since your courage was great and you returned to speak the truth I will not curse your death in torment and fire. Although, the pain you have caused I curse upon you. Your most beloved child will also be taken from you, and before you leave this world you too will suffer the loss of sight as have I. ‘With that the man turned to his wife and before I could stop them they entered the flames of their son’s funeral pyre.” Kausalya gasped, “You have never told me about this curse.”

“I did not remember until the day Rama left,” answered the king. “As while he rode away my sight went with him and I have been, these past five days, in sightless darkness.”

“I know,” he sighed, “my time is near and I will not even be here to console your grief of the loss of our son.”Dasaratha lapsed into sobs of apologies once again and Kausalya stayed with him, his head in her lap, until he was no longer awake and retired to her own chambers. Thus, another sleepless night began.

The next morning Dasaratha’s attendants began their morning routine and went to awaken their tormented king.He could not be woken and in shock the servants realized that this night had been his last and that all breath had left him. The news traveled quickly to his queens and soon Sumitra and Kausalya were weeping at his side. The silence in the streets was proof enough that the tragedy of the king’s death was common knowledge and sorrow had swept the land. Kaikeyi’s son Bharata was sent for by the swiftest messenger, under oath not to speak of the king’s death or Rama’s exile. The mourning began and the body of Dasaratha was preserved with oils until his last rites could be performed by Bharata, his son. That night no one in

Ayodhya was untouched by grief; no soul found an hour of restful sleep.

As the messenger rode to Bharata, the prince awoke from a prophetic nightmare.Upon waking, he consulted his brother Satrughna and both agreed the signs were not encouraging. “The most unsettling,” Bharata explained, “was father, with long white hair and garlands of flowers, being pulled by a mule-cart. “Both men agreed that this would indicate a bad omen for the life of he who was seen to be drawn in a mule-cart; no sooner had their words been spoken then the messenger from Ayodhya arrived. After brief words with the messenger Bharata and Satrughna hastily collected themselves and all their anxiety to depart to the father’s palace with thoughts of bad omens and dread.

In Ayodhya, the streets were silent and the palace hung heavy with gloom.The princes, still unaware, were disheartened and confused. Bharata searched for his parents and found his mother, Kaikeyi, in her chambers. Upon a few brief formalities the prince asked to see his father. Kaikeyi replied, “Dasaratha has died.”This knowledge was agonizing Bharata and he collapsed to the floor weeping for his father.Before long Kaikeyi raised Bharata up and said, “Do not weep there is also great joy in this time of sadness.” Bharata could not believe what his mother was saying.Kaikeyi continued, “Bharata, my son, you will soon become king.”

Bharata looked speechless at his mother and withdrew; her eyes burned with evil like coals in a glowing fire. Shocked, Bharata regained control of his voice and demanded, “I must speak to Rama. Where is my beloved brother for him to hear the treacherous words his mother speaks?”

Kaikeyi smiled malevolently, “The king banished Rama to the forest before he died.” The pain was too much for Bharata to bear.His body shook and his knees grew weak and again the prince collapsed to the floor in grief. He looked up at Kaikeyi questioningly and felt her wickedness mounting as she explained how she exploited her boons from Dasaratha to send Rama to exile and make Bharata king.

Kausalya, Vasishta, and many of the people of Ayodhya doubted Bharata and his intentions.This pained Bharata since his loyalty was to Rama and his own rage was directed at Kaikeyi. Vasishta approached Bharata and spoke, “Now that you have arrived you have obligations. Your father’s last rites must be performed; the duty falls to you. “The prince resumed his sorrow at the thought of this and on the great guru’s request followed him out of the room.

Later that evening the flames of the funeral pyre of the great king, Dasaratha, blazed; although no one came too near the wisps of light stung.Mourning and distress was felt far and wide, and nowhere as strong as inside the palace walls. Bharata and Satrughna, Kausalya and Sumitra comforted each other and the love of this family was strengthened.

When a few days of mourning had past the two young princes were together discussing their father, their lives, their grief, and Rama. To them it had happened all at once; the death of their father, the loss of their brother and for Bharata the shame and resentment of his mother.As they left their apartments they saw a hideous sight. It was the joyous, smiling Manthara in glorious finery from her hump to feet. Satrughna, inspired by misery and rage, sprang out at Manthara and dragged her into the hall. Her jewels and finery speckled the palace floor and her shrieks echoed between the walls. Servants, women of the harem, and other palace dwellers rushed to the noise and saw Manthara’s plight. No one rushed to assist her as Satrughna violently struck her and blood ran red from her mouth and nose. Only when Kaikeyi entered the hall did anything change. Kaikeyi begged her son to stop Satrughna from killing her maid. Kaikeyi screamed, “Bharata, what would Rama think?” To which Bharata ordered a disappointed Satrughna to leave Manthara be and said, “For you to speak of Rama does us all great injustice and pain. It is because of my great and noble brother that I do not have your blood on my sword!Satrughna, it is not dharmic to kill a woman. “And with his words, many a person was convinced that Bharata was as virtuous as his brother Rama and things such as these spread faster than the sunlight of a cloudless dawn throughout Ayodhya.

Despite his change in popularity and the dire need for a new king, Bharata was determined to crown Rama and only Rama. The very next day he announced to the people of Ayodhya, “There will be a new king,” he paused for the cheering of his name to die away, “and I will not be satisfied until the crown is upon Rama’s head.” The crowd was elated at the sound of Rama’s name and the cheering commenced in an echoing din as the names of Bharata and Rama were shouted through the streets of Ayodhya. As the city cheered Bharata readied the army and all the necessary tools for a coronation. He was so determined to see Rama as king Bharata would bring the coronation to him.

Crowds swarmed the royal parade as it started off towards the forest.It was a slow moving but joyous procession. A week passed on the same path Rama and his company traveled in two days. First, they met the hunter king who observed the army and readied his own forces to fight to protect Rama. Guha and Bharata conversed and Guha was convinced that Rama was safe and Bharata was virtuous. The kind king assisted the substantial outfit in crossing the river and directed them on the path of Rama. Bharata followed the trail and his excitement was mounting to see his brothers and Sita.

Now deeper in the forest, the company was tired, yet in good spirits. The asrama of Bharadvaja was fast approaching and Bharata took Satrughna and Vasishta to greet the rsi. Suspicion slowly caressed the heart of the Brahmin. Bharata’s noble face and his unadulterated words proved his intentions and removed all doubt. Bharadvaja extended an invitation to the princes and their followers to stay the night in his asrama. It proved to be a spectacular display of spirituality and magic courtesy of the rsi. The crowd was entertained with food and fancy that none would likely ever see again. They set off the next morning to find Rama, the future king of Ayodhya.

The longest portion of the journey was over. The travelers anticipated that very soon they would find the location of Rama, Sita, and Laksmana. Their feelings were correct and soon a wisp of smoke could be seen rising from the trees. Scouts were sent on ahead to ascertain the path to take through the forest. The one discovered led straight to the site of Rama’s dwelling. The parade followed the path, led by the scouts, and soon Laksmana saw the army approaching.Rama saw it too and spoke, “It must be our father coming to visit his exiled sons.”But there was no royal white umbrella. Laksmana was anxious and began to doubt Bharata’s intentions. Rama convinced his younger brother that such talk was foolish, and soon his statement was verified as Bharata and Satrughna reached the cottage.

Bharata wept at the sight of his brother and embraced Rama with a sigh of relief. “You must return to the palace,” said Bharata. “There you can restore happiness and dharma in Ayodhya.”

“Oh dear brother,” replied Rama, “that is not dharma. My path led me here and here I will stay for fourteen years.”

“But the people need you now,” answered Bharata more desperate than before.Rama just smiled as Bharata begged his return.

“There is no need for me to dishonor our father’s name in not fulfilling his orders,” Rama spoke after a pause, “so long as he is king Ayodhya will be well taken care of.” At this Bharata begin to weep.Through his tears he tried to speak and explained that poor Dasaratha had died of a broken heart five days after Rama left for the forest. Rama was overcome with grief. The queens had arrived up the path to the cottage and saw their poor son’s despair. Kausalya touched Rama’s arm and said quietly, “You must offer him tarpana.”Rama nodded and collected himself to worship the memory of his father and perform the blessing of holy water.

The next day all the travelers had arrived to the clearing and Bharata resumed his request for Rama’s coronation.Rama remained silent, but always with a faint smile. When Bharata paused Rama decided to share with him an unknown truth. Rama began in a strong voice so that all around could hear, “Father once told me of a promise he made. This promise was to your grandfather in return for marriage to Kaikeyi.Dasaratha granted that one day Kaikeyi’s father would have his grandson take the throne of Ayodhya. It is dharmic that we honor the promise of our father.”A murmur spread through the hushed crowd. Bharata gasped and began to realize that there would be no way of convincing Rama to return to the throne now.However, before he left the city Bharata made sure to prepare for any situation that would arise. He searched his baggage and produced a pair of wooden sandals.Rama looked at them amused. Bharata set them on the ground in front of Rama.

“Brother, will you step into these padukas,” said Bharata.Rama grinned and stepped in and out of the sandals.Bharata picked the newly christened sandals off the ground. Bharata announced, “These padukas will rule Ayodhya. It will always be Rama’s kingdom. Until his return in fourteen years, I will rule by these sandals and live like Rama eating berries and with my hair in jata. When the time has passed Rama will resume the throne and if he does not return in fourteen years, I will end my own life.” The crowds cheered and Rama smiled knowingly at his brother; Bharata would be a fine ruler of Ayodhya.

Back to the city traveled the princes, queens, armies, and crowds. At the palace Bharata, kind and virtuous, erected a lesser seat for himself and kept the padukas seated on the throne. The people were joyous and the city was alive once more. But trouble was not over for all these good people. In a land far from the forest and across the water an evil resided. The evil was the same that had possessed Kaikeyi and burned much stronger here. It was restless in the heart in which it dwelt; Ravana had a sleepless night and he did not even know of the coming threat that was the blue prince from Ayodhya.

Book 2: Ayodhya Kanda (part 1)

In Ayodhya
Nicole Hembroff

Upon their return to the kingdom, Rama continued to be an ideal son. He was ever present at his father’s side. He was studious and excelled in the Vedas. He loved archery, music, art and everyone who surrounded him. Rama, although handsome and strong, was always humble and tried to show others how much he appreciated their actions, no matter how small. His divine nature did not inflate his ego, in fact, he rarely thought about it. It was only in moments like his encounter with Parasurama Barghava that he was forced to recognize his own power. Dasaratha had realized his son’s nature during that incident as well, but it was not long before he no longer considered it. Instead, he concentrated on the love he felt for his favorite son.

As the king neared the end of his days, he realized he must choose a yuvaraja, an heir. There was no question as to whom he would choose. Rama had been born for that very purpose and Dasaratha could not wait to see his son crowned yuvaraja. He knew Rama would prove to be an exceptional leader.

Soon after, Dasaratha began to see frightening visions. The universe was trying to tell him something and it wasn’t good. He believed the omens were warning him of his death. His time must have been coming sooner than he had expected. The king called his advisers and told them of his plan to crown Rama yuvaraja. After consulting many people in his kingdom, Dasaratha knew they shared his faith in Rama’s ability to rule.

When Rama arrived, Dasaratha said, “My son, you have proven yourself in every way. A father could not have more pride in his son and I want to crown you as heir to my throne.” The ceremony was to be held on Pusyami. But something in Rama’s heart did not bode well. He knew he had been training to be a king since birth, yet he felt uneasy about his father’s announcement.

It was not until after Rama had left that Dasaratha was told Pusyami was only a day away. He immediately called his son back, which only served to increase Rama’s anxiety. When he arrived, Dasaratha said, “You must participate in a fast with your wife Sita. For the next night you must sleep on a bed of darbha grass and you cannot embrace one another.”

The king felt the hurried ceremony was advantageous in some ways. The omens had been growing stronger since his decision, but that was not the only benefit. Rama’s younger brother Bharata was away with Satrughna to visit Kaikeyi’s father, King Asvapati. The brothers loved each other very much, but Dasaratha knew envy could manifest in the best of friends. Thus, with Bharata away, no unnecessary rivalry would occur.

After receiving a blessing from Kausalya, Rama and Sita began their fast. Just to be sure, his guru Vasistha was sent to watch over them. As one would expect, Rama and Sita stayed true to their fast. They slept soundly while preparations and festivities continued outside.

Although it seemed like everyone was celebrating, it was not the case. On a balcony Kaikeyi’s maid Manthara stood glaring at the joyous throngs of people below her. She was known for her hag-like qualities. She was not particularly pretty, young or even nice for that matter. When she discovered the celebrations were to be held in honor of Rama’s position as yuvaraja she was furious. The maid ran immediately to Kaikeyi’s chambers and snarled “Dasaratha has decided to crown Rama yuvaraja.” To her dismay, Kaikeyi was ecstatic. Even though Rama was not her son by blood, she loved him as though he were.

Kaikeyi’s response did not fit Manthara’s plan in the slightest. The maid proceeded to convince her with the aid of her silver tongue. She said, “Kaikeyi, don’t you know Rama perceives Bharata as a threat? Surely Rama or Kausalya will attempt to have him banished or more likely still, they will slaughter him.” Kaikeyi was horrified. She cried, “We must hatch a plan to stop Rama from being crowned or my son’s very life will hang in the balance.” Manthara was eager to help and reminded Kaikeyi, “You have two boons saved up from saving your beloved Dasaratha’s life. Don’t you remember that he was so grateful to you that he offered two boons in return for your heroism? You didn’t need them at the time but you asked him to remember his promise. Wouldn’t now be an excellent chance to claim them? Kaikeyi, you did say you would use them in a time of great need.” She grinned, showing her crooked teeth and said, “This moment is just such a time.”

That night, when Dasaratha went to see his favorite wife, he found out she was in her krodhagraha. The queen had never gone to her chamber of anger before. He was instantly concerned for her and rushed to discern what he could do to help. When he saw her, she hardly looked herself. It was as though she had been possessed by some demon, even her voice was not her own. He tried to touch her but she pulled away. Dasaratha told her “I will do anything to help ease your pain. I swear on Rama’s very life that I will end your suffering.”

This was Kaikeyi’s chance to take matters in her own hands. She asked, “Dasaratha, do you remember the two boons I have saved for so many years? I want to claim them now. I would like to use the first boon to send Rama into the forest for fourteen years and the second will make my son, Bharata king!” When Dasaratha realized what she was asking, he fainted. Upon awakening he wondered, “Am I dreaming?” He thought a demon must have possessed his beloved wife. How else could she ask such things?

When he realized Kaikeyi was perfectly serious, he cried that she was evil. He begged her “Please! Change your mind! Ask me for anything but this! How can you expect me to deny the throne to my beloved Rama, the very son everyone agrees is most worthy of ruling? How can you be so cruel, so twisted? What have you done with my dear wife?” He did not know how he would tell the family and his subjects about his decision, especially when he did not believe it himself. Time and time again he beseeched her to change her mind. The harder he begged the more she exclaimed “Never!” He knew he had no choice, he must honor her request. Dasaratha fainted once again.

The next morning, the whole city was ready to celebrate the crowning of Rama. Yet something seemed to indicate that all was not well. The sun did not shine and it even began to rain. Upon awakening, the king hoped to find his wife reformed, alas, her mind was unchanged. She was still infused with the ugly disposition she’d displayed the night before.

All the preparations had been made; everyone was expecting Rama to be crowned. Kaikeyi snarled at Sumantra, “Go and fetch Rama.” He could tell the queen was not at all like herself and the king looked incredibly distressed. Sumantra was worried but decided to push the feeling aside as he went to bring Rama to the king.

He told the prince, “Dasaratha wants to speak to you privately before the ceremony.” Rama was led through the crowd in a chariot. Sumantra had to demand the masses to let them through; they were all waiting to see their shining prince crowned as yuvaraja.

Finally, they reached the palace and Rama entered with his excited brother Laksmana. When they arrived in the royal chamber, Rama was surprised to see his father’s sad face juxtaposed with the evil shadow that had taken over his mother’s. He would receive no blessing that day, only the news that he was to be banished or condemn his father. Being the dharmic man he was, Rama exclaimed, “Of course I will agree to mother’s wishes. I would not wish to bring shame to my family.” He seemed to be the only one maintaining his composure at this moment. His father was crying, his brother was becoming angry and his mother still kept her cold demeanor intact.

Before leaving the kingdom he and Laksmana went to visit his mother, Kausalya. He worried about hurting her when he broke the news, but summoned up the courage to do what he must. The rumor had spread to her dwelling already. The queen hoped it was just that, a rumor. Rama had been her shining star, in a life where her husband largely ignored her. When Rama entered Kausalya’s apartment, he was greeted with joy and with blessings. Alas, those blessings were to go unfulfilled. He told her of the news she already hoped was untrue. She was shocked. For the first time in Rama’s life, his mother said, “Your father was never around for me, he cared for Kaikeyi the most. What will I do when you leave? I have no other choice but to come to the Dandaka vana with you.”

Finally, Laksmana lost his composure. “How could our father have done this to you Rama? He has surely become a slave to his love for Kaikeyi. Dasaratha is not thinking of his kingdom. He has lost sight of his duty and his wretched wife’s opinion should not matter. We must end this horror and kill both Kaikeyi and our father. Rama, you have to rule, it is your destiny!” Kausalya gave her full support. “Laksmana,” she said, “I think your idea is the only one that will work. You are right, Rama must be yuvaraja.”

Rama did not hold their words against them. In such strange times it seemed natural to be so distraught. He declined explaining, “I cannot dishonor my father. Such strange occurrences must be the workings of dharma. Why else would Kaikeyi, who loves me as though I were her biological child, sentence me to banishment in the blink of an eye? I am determined to go into the forest. I will only ask for your blessing.”

Despite his requests Kausalya and Laksmana could not calm down. They said, “Kaikeyi can not simply be an instrument of dharmaa. She must have some ulterior motive.” It was clear to them that the young queen was evil. It hurt Rama to think of the way Kaikeyi had treated him. He knew that was not the mother he had loved all his life. Their explanation must be wrong; she must have been possessed by the will of the Gods.

Rama knew he could not sacrifice a piece of heaven to fulfill his mother and brother’s wishes. Again, he asked them “Please offer me your blessings so I might go to the forest with some semblance of serenity. I urge you to act rationally. Al I ask is that you support me in my decision.”

Kausalya finally understood there was nothing she could do to persuade him to change his mind. She only hoped he would take her with him. Rama knew she mustn’t go. Who would be there to support Dasaratha in his time of need? It was clear the king had just as much opposition to Kaikeyi’s request as everyone else. Rama told her, “Mother you must stay and comfort my dear father. You are the only one who can truly take care of him.” As any loving mother would, Kausalya blessed him on his path and wished for his safe return. He bowed at her feet and left her apartment.

Rama now had the task of parting with his most beloved Sita. He could not maintain his cool exterior when he went to see her. She knew something was wrong as soon as she saw him. Holding her hands tightly, he told her of his fate. Before she could respond, he explained, “I must uphold my father’s dharma; I have no choice but to journey to the forest. Sita, you must stay behind and await my return, but it is important that you be careful when speaking to Bharata about me. No matter how close we are, it would still be difficult for him to hear your praise of my greatness. You must not mention that I should have been king. Please, remember me and pray for my safe return and I promise everyone will take care of you in my absence. Do not forget to help my mother and father through their grief; you three will find strength in each other. Sita, my love, if you stay behind, our time apart, although difficult, will pass more quickly than you think.”

To Rama’s surprise Sita became very angry with him. She cried, “How can you think of leaving me? Have I done something wrong? I was taught when a man and woman are married they are bound to share his path. To be cut from you for fourteen years would be the cruelest punishment you could offer me.” She wouldn’t have any of his requests. She demanded, “I am coming to the forest with you Rama. I will find happiness just by being near you. Any hardships we might bear will seem like joys as long we are together.”

Being the protective, caring husband he was, Rama tried to resist. “The forest will be too dangerous and do not forget, our time apart will pass quickly. How can you live off forest plants and clothe yourself in tree bark? It would surely be too much for your delicate body to handle.”

For the first time since he had known her, Sita started to cry. “I will not be parted from my one and only love. All the dangers in the world cannot keep us apart. In fact, they will only serve as a wonderful new experience for us, a change of scenery, a chance to enjoy each other without the burdens of the kingdom.” She even told him of a prophecy she had received from rsis when she was young. They foresaw she would spend years with Rama in the forest. It was fate; she had no choice but to accompany him. With her last hope of accompanying him Sita threatened, “Rama, I vow I will take my own life if you refuse me. We were meant to be together; we have been in the past and will be forever more.”
It was then that Rama realized how deep Sita’s love for him really was. He claimed he had been merely testing her loyalty. If their destiny was to go to the forest together then they would do so.

Laksmana had been eavesdropping and ran into the room. He shouted, “If Sita is going there is no way I will be left behind!” He would offer protection and help as they continued on their journey. Rama could not send him away; after all, they were inseparable. To part the two brothers would be a crime.

The three prepared for their journey. They gathered their weapons and armor, gave away their worldly possessions, and went to see Dasaratha one last time. The people had heard by now of Rama’s fate. They all wanted to follow him into the forest, leaving Kaikeyi and Bharata to rule nothing.

When they reached Dasaratha his wishes were much the same as those of his subjects. In the midst of fainting spells and crying, the king begged Rama, “You must betray me!” But Rama could not dishonor his father. The king gave up but asked him, “Could you stay one more day?” Knowing one more day would turn into many, Rama declined, I promise it will not seem long before we have all returned.” The king ordered his armies and possessions to be taken by the travelers but Kaikeyi would have none of it. They were to live like rsis, with nothing but bark for clothing.

Finally, Dasaratha was able to express his anger to his wife. He fumed, “You only said they were to go into the forest, you didn’t mention anything about what they can take with them!” Rama did not require his father’s generosity. He said, “Laksmana and I will be happy to wear valkala –bark clothing. But I will allow you to send silks and jewelry for Sita to wear. She should not have to give up her beauty just because she has chosen to accompany me into the forest.”

Rama asked, “Dasaratha will you promise to take care of my mother. She would be in need of your help. Through each others support I know you will find a way to overcome your grief.” Now his time had come to leave. After receiving the blessings of Kausalya, Sumitra, and Dasaratha, the three loyal companions entered Sumitra’s chariot and left the city. Everyone was weeping as the chariot drove away. Dasaratha ran to follow them but fell, crying for the chariot to be stopped. Kausalya took his hand and helped him to the palace. He could not be around Kaikeyi anymore; she had caused him too much pain. The king only hoped Bharata would remain loyal to his brother and bring him back to Ayodhya.

That night, Kausalya was Dasaratha’s comfort. They shared stories and tears. Unfortunately, since Rama had left, Dasaratha had lost his sight. Their sorrows seemed to drown them until Sumitra came to fetch Kausalya. She said to Kausalya, “Dasaratha needs your strength now, not your grief. Our son will return before long.”
As Rama journeyed to the forest the people of Ayodhya followed him. They could not stop begging him to return. They vowed, “We will make you come back or you will force us to follow you into the forest.” He knew neither option was plausible. The crowd followed Rama, Sita, Laksmana and Sumantra until their day’s journey had ended. They all spent the night together by the river.

In the morning, the exiled party rose before dawn. They had to leave early in order to ensure that their followers could not trace them. They backtracked and finally headed toward the Dandaka vana. The people would think they had gone home and would not follow them.

The chariot carried them further into the lands of Kosala. From there they reached the Vedasruti river and from there the Gomati river. Along the way Rama told his companions stories of the lands they passed through. As they continued it dawned on Rama that he might never see his family or Sumantra again, but he had to remain strong for the other members of his party.

When they reached the Ganga, they decided to spend the night by a tree. It was not long before the group was greeted by a friend of Rama’s. His name was Guha and he was the king of hunters. He came bearing mattresses and a feast. Guha offered, “I have a place for you to stay for as long as you wish.” Rama politely declined, “I prefer to stay true to my life as a tapasvin –renouncer.” Instead, Guha spent the night with them. He, Sumantra, and Laksmana watched over the weapons while Rama and Sita slept.

Laksmana could not think of sleep. His head was filled with worries. His father would surely die of grief and they would never see him again. After he had gone, how were Kausalya and Sumitra to live under Kaikeyi and Bharata’s rule. His fears for his family plagued him constantly as the night wore slowly on.