(Continued from Part 3)
In the previous article, we depicted how Lord Rama allied with Sugriva, after killing his brother Vali. Sugriva, then keeping his vow, ordered the monkeys to search for Sita. Finally, Hanuman leaped over the southern oceans to reach the city of Lanka, the capital of the Rakshasas. Hanuman finally discovered Sita being held captive in the palace garden. Hanuman conveyed to Sita how Rama had been thinking of her and was searching for her all over the world. Sita expressed her grief and how she was being tormented by Ravana, and his associates. Ravana who wanted to have Sita as his queen had given her up to one year to change her mind and accept union with him. Once the year had passed, Sita would be killed and served as meat to Ravana, if she did not comply. Hanuman comforted Sita, assuring her that Rama would soon come to rescue. Before leaving Lanka, Hanuman killed hordes of Rakshasas including Aksa, one of Ravana’s sons. Setting fire to the city of Lanka with his flaming tail, Hanuman leaped once again to return to Rama.
Hanuman brings news of Sita
After burning down the city of Lanka, Hanuman leaped once again to fly across the ocean and reach the southern shore, where Angada and the other monkeys eagerly awaited his return. Hanuman told them how he had located an aggrieved Sita being held captive in Lanka. He also added how the demons tortured her attempting to compel her to surrender to Ravana. Hanuman described how he had single-handedly killed thousands of Rakshasas including Ravana’s son and burned down the city. The monkeys raised chants glorifying Hanuman and his marvelous feat. Together they returned to Kishkindha bringing the news of Sita’s discovery. Rama felt pained learning of Sita’s sorry state. Hanuman related his experience regarding the strengths and weaknesses of Lanka. Rama and Sugriva immediately ordered the monkeys to prepare for battle. Accordingly, millions of monkeys gathered at Kishkindha and they started marching toward the Southern ocean.
Meanwhile, Ravana summoned a meeting with his counsels and ministers to chalk out the next course of action. Most of his ministers assured him that Rama, Lakshmana, and the army of monkeys were no match for Ravana and hence he should not be overly worried. Vibhisana, Ravana’s brother, however, gave him wise counsel. He warned Ravana against judging Rama too lightly. Citing how Rama effortlessly defeated Khara and Dushana, Vibhisana warned the demons that Rama was a formidable enemy. Besides, Vibhisana was devoted to the Supreme and he could perceive Rama as the Supreme Lord. Hence he urged his brother to return Sita as this was the only way he could protect the entire Rakshasa kingdom from imminent destruction. Other ministers of Ravana, including Indrajit, Ravana’s son scoffed at Vibhisana whom they regarded as weak and cowardly. Finally, Ravana humiliated Vibhisana at the assembly. Hence Vibhisana quit his brother’s kingdom. Crossing over the ocean, with his trusted confidants, Vibhisana sought shelter at Rama’s feet. Rama accepted Vibhisana in his camp and declared Vibhisana to be the future king of Lanka, once Ravana had been defeated.
On reaching the southern shores, Rama, Lakshmana, Sugriva, and others wondered how they could cross over the seas to reach Lanka. Rama sat with a concentrated mind at the edge of the sea and meditated on the sea-god Samudra. He waited patiently for the sea god but even after meditating for three days, Samudra did not appear before Rama. Rama ran out of patience and wanted to teach Samudra a lesson. He pointed his arrows toward the ocean with the intent of drying it up. Lakshmana hurried to calm Rama. The celestial sages tried to appease Rama. However, a furious Rama strung His bow to invoke the brahmastra. All of a sudden, Samudra appeared from the ocean. Clad in a red robe and wearing a garland of red flowers, he presented a large heap of shining jewels collected from the depths of the ocean. He assured Rama of his support. Samudra suggested that the monkey named Nala was the son of Viswakarma (divine architect) and was capable of constructing a bridge that the sea would sustain. Samudra assured that the monkeys would be able to cross over the bridge easily and they would encounter no perils from the fierce sea creatures inhabiting the ocean depth. Rama was pleased with Samudra and directed the arrow that He had already strung towards the northern seas, inhabited by sinful demons. As a result, the whole section of the northern seas dried up.
Accordingly, the monkeys fetched Nala, the required materials, with which he created a wonderful bridge to Lanka. The bridge was eighty miles wide and eight hundred miles long leading to the sea shore of Lanka. Vibhisana and his associates guarded the bridge at the shore of Lanka to ensure no Rakshasa could attack it. Like a great flood, Rama and His army soon reached Lanka. Rama rode on the back of Hanuman while Lakshmana mounted upon the back of Angada. Reaching Lanka, they camped on its shore.
Ravana conspired with his magician Vidyujiva and faked a story to Sita about how the monkeys had been slain by the Rakshasas in battle. Vidyujiva simulated a false head that appeared just like that of Rama. Showing the magically conjured head to Sita, Ravana tried to convince Sita that Rama had been killed. In this way, he tried to win Sita’s favor. However, as soon as Ravana left the place, Sarama, the wife of Vibhisana, reassured Sita that Rama was alive and well. Sarama intimated to Sita how Ravana was concerned about Rama and his army and was making preparations to defend the city of Lanka. As they spoke, the sound of war drums, the clamor of troops, and countless trumpets were heard. The battle was about to commence.
The war of Lanka begins
Rama made one last attempt to negotiate with Ravana. Angada carried a message to Ravana, asking him to return Sita. Ravana became so enraged that he ordered his men to kill Angada although he was a messenger. Angada allowed the demons to catch hold of him and then leaped up to a high ledge. Chanting ‘Victory to Rama’, he dashed the Rakshasas together and dropped them senseless. Ravana became morose witnessing the strength of Rama’s army. Rama received Angada back affectionately and readied for battle.
Waves of demons and monkeys clashed against one another. The trumpeting of elephants, neighing of horses, clatter of chariots, and shouts of demons echoed across the earth and sky. The earth quickly became covered with a mire of flesh and blood. Great duels took place. Angada fought with Indrajit, Hanuman fought with Sharabha, Vibhisana fought with Suparshwa, Sugriva fought with Praghasha, Nala fought with Pratapana and Lakshmana fought with Durmukha. Several Rakshasas attacked Rama, who stood strong on the battlefield like a smokeless fire. They were locked in fierce fighting. These demons fought valiantly but were defeated by the monkeys. Mainda, the monkey commander, leaped into the sky and fought the Rakshasas who flew overhead. Catching hold of Vajramusti, the powerful demon, he smashed him to the ground along with his chariot and horses. In the terrible fight that ensued, Nila confronted Nikumbha, son of Kumbhakarna (Ravana’s brother). Vidyunmali, a leader among Rakshasas, fought valiantly against Sushena. Finally, Sushena brought a rock down upon the demon’s head rendering him lifeless. Many valiant demons were destroyed in this way by mighty heroes among the monkeys and bears.
Indrajit binds Lord Rama and Lakshmana
Indrajit, Ravana’s son, was a fearless warrior who had previously defeated even Lord Indra in battle. Laughing and staying invisible, Indrajit shot hundreds of arrows into the bodies of Rama and Lakshmana. The two brothers felt afflicted as the demons continued firing at them. The two brothers fell on the battlefield being covered with blood. The monkeys wailed in agony and fear. Considering his enemy to be defeated, Indrajit retired from the battlefield to share the good news with his father. As the demons rejoiced, Vibhisana reassured Sugriva that the two brothers were still alive and would recover soon. Indrajit could not face them in a fair fight and therefore resorted to cowardice, fighting while staying invisible. Vibhisana added that Rama and Lakshmana were bound by a mystical weapon that Indrajit had received as a boon from Brahma. The atmosphere in Rama’s camp turned gloomy.
Meanwhile, Ravana, who considered Rama to be dead, celebrated the demise of his arch-enemy. He called for the Pushpaka chariot and ordered that Sita be carried to the battlefield so that she could see that Rama had indeed been killed. Accordingly, Sita was brought to the battlefield on the celestial chariot. When Sita saw Rama lying motionless, she broke down. Her body shook as she lamented. Trijata who was accompanying her reassured Sita that Rama still lived. Seeing the bodily luster of Rama and Lakshmana, she understood that all was not lost. Trijata comforted Sita by saying that soon the brothers will regain their strength. The chariot returned to Lanka, carrying Sita back to the Ashoka grove.
Suddenly arose fierce winds, dark clouds, and lightning. From the horizon appeared Garuda, Lord Vishnu’s great eagle carrier. As the bird swooped down, the ethereal snakes that wrapped themselves around Rama and Lakshmana quickly vanished into the sky. Garuda introduced himself as Lord Rama’s eternal servant. Garuda raised the two brothers and gently wiped their faces. Garuda revealed that the weapon Indrajit bound the two princes with, was the Naga sons of Kadru. He had converted these serpents into weapons using sorcery. Garuda reassured that Indrajit would never be able to use these weapons again. Rama embraced Garuda, who was His eternal servant. Taking his leave, Garuda soared into the sky to pursue the two venomous serpents. As Rama and Lakshmana stood ready for battle, the Rakshasas became fearful.
Ravana’s commanders are killed in battle
When Ravana heard of Rama’s recovery he turned pale. Rama had escaped from a weapon that had even overwhelmed Indra, the king of demigods. Surely, the Rakshasas were now in trouble. Ravana decided to send his generals into the battle. He ordered his commander-in-chief Dhumraksha to fight with Rama. Dhumraksha wreaked havoc among his enemy camp. Monkeys fell from his arrows, vomiting blood. Finally seeing the monkeys getting slaughtered, Hanuman hurled boulders and trees toward Dhumraksha. Dhumraksha escaped, as these rocks shattered his chariot. Finally, he fought Hanuman with his mace. Despite getting hit, Hanuman stayed firm and crushed Dhumraksha’s skull with a mountain peak.
Ravana then sent Vajradamstra into the battle. Vajradamstra fought valiantly but soon fell to Angada, who chopped off his head with a sword. Ravana ordered Durdharsha, another of his chief commanders, into the battle. Exhibiting an untamed rage, Durdharsha fired arrows that tore monkeys apart. He routed Rama’s army. Witnessing this Hanuman charged toward Durdharsha. Hanuman remained firm while receiving his arrows like a torrential shower. Determined to kill Durdharsha, Hanuman, who bled profusely, brought down a tree on the demon’s head with full force, killing him instantly. The monkeys cheered Hanuman while the demigods showered praises from the sky.
Ravana then sent Prahasta into the battle. Prahasta was powerful enough to defeat Indra in battle. Seeing Prahasta wreaking havoc, Nila confronted him. Prahasta fired thousands of lethal arrows toward Nila, who received them with his closed eyes. Shouting ‘Victory to Rama’, Nila grabbed a mountain peak and hurled it towards the demon. Prahasta’s head split apart on impact causing him to fall dead. Rama and Lakshmana commended Nila.
Ravana joins the battle
Ravana was shocked to learn of Prahasta’s death. He immediately ordered his chariot and chose to participate in the battle. Encouraged by his ministers, Ravana entered the battle fray with his vast Rakshasa army. Sugriva took hold of a great mountain crag and hurled it towards Ravana’s chariot. Ravana laughed and effortlessly cut it to pieces with his arrows. He struck Sugriva with his arrow, causing him to fall senseless. Ravana wreaked havoc in the monkey camp, killing thousands. The monkeys prayed to Rama for protection. Ravana fought with Hanuman and neither could defeat the other. Ravana then turned his attention towards Nila, whom he struck with Agneyastra. Nila was burnt and fell unconscious but was not slain. Ravana then fought with Lakshmana. Both exchanged arrows that neutralized each other. Finally, Ravana was able to overpower Lakshmana with a celestial javelin he had obtained from the Gods. It penetrated Lakshmana’s defenses and struck him on the chest, causing him to faint. Ravana tried to take Lakshmana captive but could not raise him off the ground. Hanuman then jumped onto the Rakshasa’s chariot and dealt blows to his chest. Ravana fell to his knees, with blood flowing from his body. Feeling anxious for Lakshmana, Hanuman left Ravana and carried the prince to Rama’s presence. Rama gently caressed Lakshmana as he returned to his senses.
Rama mounted Hanuman’s back and decided to fight Ravana. Ravana struck Hanuman with thousands of arrows but the monkey did not flinch. An enraged Rama fired shafts that broke Ravana’s chariot to pieces. Rama then fired arrows aimed at Ravana’s chest causing him to drop his bow. Ravana had withstood Indra’s thunderbolt but could not deal with Rama’s arrows. Rama picked up a crescent-headed shaft and tore off Ravana’s diadem, of which he was very proud. Rama broke Ravana’s bow. He communicated to Ravana expressing that as Ravana seemed exhausted and was unfit to defend himself, Rama did not want to slay him at that moment. He asked Ravana to return to Lanka and return later. A humiliated Ravana scrambled to his feet and retreated to Lanka with his vanity crushed.
Fall of Kumbhakarna
Ravana then thought of Kumbhakarna, his brother, who lay asleep. Kumbhakarna was a colossal demon whose body could grow to immense proportions. He was tricked into receiving a boon from Brahma that he would sleep for six months and then stay awake for a day. Hence he stayed awake for only two days a year. The Gods feared that Kumbhakarna would destroy and eat all creatures to satisfy his insatiable hunger. Hence they tricked him into this boon. Ravana decided that it was time to wake his brother from slumber. Accordingly, hordes of Rakshasas entered the subterranean cave where Kumbhakarna lay asleep. They played drums, roared like lions, blew their great conch shells, trampled him with a thousand elephants, struck him with swords, pounded him with fists, tore his hair, etc. At last, Kumbhakarna opened his eyes. Consuming piles of meat and drinking blood, the demon went to meet Ravana. Though he chastised his brother for kidnapping Sita, Kumbhakarna comforted Ravana saying that he would fight against Rama and vanquish Him.
Grabbing his great spike, which was embellished with gold and radiated flames, Kumbhakarna rushed into the battle. He stampeded entire divisions of monkeys at once. The monkeys threw stones, and mountain peaks at him but they could not harm the demon. Several monkeys began retreating out of fear. Angada tried very hard to convince them to return and hold the post. Kumbhakarna swallowed monkeys as Garuda would devour serpents.
Seeing the monkeys helpless, Rama challenged Kumbhakarna into battle. Rama released an arrow empowered with the power of Vayu. This arrow severed the demon’s one arm. Kumbhakarna shrieked and attacked Rama, raising a large palmyra tree with his other hand. Rama released another mystic missile that cut off Kumbhakarna’s other arm. As Kumbhakarna continued to move, Rama severed his feet with a pair of crescent-headed arrows. The demon’s mouth was wide open with which he emitted wild, deafening cries. Rama filled his mouth with arrows, thus silencing him. Rama then took up an arrow and empowered it with the power of the brahmastra. With it, He severed the demon’s head that flew and destroyed Lanka’s northern gate while the demon’s body was thrown into the ocean creating a tidal wave that swept the coast of Lanka. Demi gods and sages assembled in the sky praising Rama for His heroic feat.
Fall of Ravana’s sons and brothers
Ravana wept in agony learning of his dear brother’s death. He remembered that Vibhisana had spoken wisely and he should have accepted his advice. His sons and ministers comforted him and reassured him that soon the Rakshasas would emerge victorious. Accordingly, four of Ravana’s sons Trishira, Devantaka, Narantaka, and Atikaya along with Ravana’s half-brothers Mahaprashwa and Mahodara were dispatched to the battle. They rushed out of the western gate of Lanka. The two armies met with a clash and a terrible fight ensued. Narantaka wreaked havoc. He left a trail of flesh and a mountain of blood-strewn monkeys. Seeing the plight of the monkeys, Angada charged at Narantaka. After a brief fight, Angada swung his fist with all his might and it struck the demon’s chest, splitting it, thereby killing Narantaka.
Devantaka, Trishira, and Mahodara rushed towards Angada. Angada tore out a tusk from a dead elephant and struck Devantaka, causing him to vomit blood. Hanuman joined the fight and killed Devantaka with a swing of his fist. Trishira hurled a javelin toward Hanuman and pierced him with his sword. Not minding Trishira’s attack, Hanuman struck the demon and severed his head with the demon’s own sword. Meanwhile, Nila, who was engaged in a terrible fight with Mahodara, killed the demon giving him a blow with a fully grown sal tree. Rishabha killed Mahaparshwa with the demon’s own mace.
Atikaya, who was being driven in a chariot pulled by a thousand horses, killed the monkeys in thousands. Lakshmana confronted the demon but after a fierce exchange of celestial weapons, none of the fighters could defeat the other. Finally, wind God Vayu approached Lakshmana and informed him that Atikaya was wearing an impenetrable armor that he had received as a boon from Brahma. Hearing this, Lakshmana fired a brahmastra toward Atikaya, who tried to defend against it with javelins, spears, pikes, maces, axes, and numerous arrows of his own. But he could not defend against it. The brahmastra severed Atikaya’s neck.
Lord Rama and Lakshmana are struck by Indrajit
Reassuring Ravana, Indrajit decided to conquer Rama and His army once again. Donning his impenetrable armor, and mounting his chariot that was drawn by tigers, Indrajit set out for battle. Reaching the battlefield, Indrajit lit a fire and offered a dark-hued goat in sacrifice. Indrajit blazed like a smokeless fire. Staying invisible he rained down his arrows imbued with celestial prowess upon the monkey army. The monkeys could not see him and hurled rocks, trees, and boulders towards the sky from where the weapons were shot. But they could not harm Indrajit. Indrajit pierced all the chief monkey warriors – Nila, Angada, Dwivida, Sugriva, Rishabha, etc. Indrajit then sought Rama and Lakshmana and fired Brahmastra toward them. Rama knew that the only way to counter Brahmastra was to invoke another Brahmastra but that could bring about the destruction of the whole cosmos killing millions of innocent creatures. Hence He did not counter Indrajit’s brahmastra. Indrajit covered Rama and Lakshmana with arrows. The princes dropped to the ground and lay mortally wounded. Considering Rama and Lakshmana dead, Indrajit roared in victory and returned to Lanka.
Only a handful of monkeys remained standing. Hanuman was one of them. Jambavan, who was lying nearby, was covered with arrows and could hardly open his eyes. Jambavan explained that there was a mountain near Mount Kailash where four precious herbs were placed by the demigods themselves. These herbs namely sanjiv karani, vishalya karani, sandhani, and Suvarna karani were capable of healing one’s wounds and bringing a dead person back to life. These herbs could restore a broken body to its pristine state. On Jambavan’s instructions, Hanuman leaped from the Malaya mountains on Lanka’s coast towards Mount Kailash. Hanuman discovered the mountain but was unable to identify the celestial herbs. The herbs also concealed themselves from Hanuman’s view. Not finding an alternative, Hanuman broke off the entire section of the mountain and left for Lanka. Hanuman descended near the Trikuta and set down the celestial hill of herbs. Vibhisana assisted in finding the celestial herbs with his occult vision. Hanuman, Vibhisana, and the other monkeys put the herbs near the nostrils and the wounds of Rama and Lakshmana. As the monkeys held their breath, Rama and Lakshmana, gradually opened their eyes. The monkeys breathed a sigh of relief. Sushena, one of the monkeys who was a healing expert, then applied the herbs to all the monkeys who lay slain in battle. In course of time, these monkeys gained their health and regained their senses.
Fall of Indrajit
A rejuvenated monkey army attacked the city of Lanka. They set fire to the mansions and the beautiful palaces that embellished the city. Great duels were fought between the principal fighters on both sides. Kumbha and Nikumbha, the sons of Kumbhakarna, fought valiantly but were eventually killed by Sugriva and Hanuman respectively. When Ravana heard about this, he became alarmed. Once again Indrajit came out of the palace to fight Rama and His army. Rama shot a shabda-astra that sought out an invisible opponent. Rama pierced the demon causing his blood-soaked arrows to fall onto the ground. Rama wanted to kill Indrajit. Perceiving this Indrajit retreated to Lanka, and conjured an illusory image of Sita with his mystic powers. He came out onto the battlefield and stayed visible this time. As everyone looked on, Indrajit grabbed the illusory Sita by the hair and by his sword cut her in half. Rama, Hanuman, and the entire Vanara army were shocked to witness this incident. As Rama grieved, Indrajit took this opportunity to make his way to Nikumbhila, where he began performing a sacrifice for Goddess Kali. Indrajit had been granted a boon by Brahma, that if he succeeded in completing his sacrifice at Nikumbhila without any hindrance, he would become undefeatable in battle and would surely vanquish his enemy. Vibhisana saw through Indrajit’s plan. He intimated to Rama and the monkeys that the Sita whom Indrajit had killed must be an illusory form. Surely, Ravana would not part with Sita, he exclaimed. He knew that Rama had been tricked by Indrajit. He urged Rama, Lakshmana, and the monkeys to immediately go to Nikumbhila to stop the ritual. There was no time to lose.
Accordingly, Rama ordered Lakshmana to Nikumbhila. Reaching Nikumbhila, Hanuman and the other monkeys wreaked havoc among the demons who guarded Indrajit’s sacrifice. Finally, not able to tolerate the disturbances anymore, Indrajit came out to fight. His sacrifice was thus hindered. Lakshmana immediately engaged with the demon in a fierce fight. Both of them exchanged arrows, causing the other to bleed. Lakshmana’s arrows struck Indrajit like thunderbolts. Both exchanged mystical missiles. Fire weapons were countered with water while weapons producing roaring gales were countered by creating unmovable mountains. Finally, Lakshmana killed Indrajit’s charioteer and the tigers who drew his chariot. Indrajit retreated and soon returned with another chariot. Lakshmana then shattered Indrajit’s bow and pierced him with arrows causing him to vomit blood. The battle between man and demon raged furiously as both of them hurled deadly missiles at each other. Eventually, Lakshmana shot an arrow that he had received from Lord Rama. This golden-tipped arrow formerly belonged to Indra. Lakshmana prayed, “If Rama is always true to His word and fixed in virtue, and possesses unrivaled power, then may this arrow end Indrajit’s life”. The arrow flew toward Indrajit with blinding speed, and before he could react, it severed the demon’s head from his body. With Indrajit slain, the demons lost all their willingness to fight. The demigods, celestial sages, and Gandharvas played on their drums celebrating Lakshmana’s heroic feat.