|Exigency of Incarnation|
|The history depicts that the need emerged the incarnation of Vykuntha Rama was that to fulfill a long desire of his ardent devotee Bhadra.|
|Bhadra performed penance at the bank of river Godavari in this ” Dandakaranya ” to get grace of lord Rama and in countenance of his beloved God – The exulted “Rishi” implored Rama to be seated on his head ,but Rama who was in search of his consort Sita gave promise to his Bhakta that his desire would be fulfilled on his way back , after finding Sita and accomplishing the process of punishing the wicked Ravana and establish ‘Dharma’ . Thus the sage had been in continuation of the frightened penance as Rama could not accomplish the promise in Ramavatara . Then Sri Mahavishnu manifested himself as Vykuntha Rama and rushed to his devotee Bhadra , signaling hisarrival by blowing ‘Shanku’,accompanied by his consort Sita and brother Laxmana , resembling that of ‘Gajendra Moksham ‘ – Thus , the moorthies of Rama ( having four hands ) – Shanku on the right , Chakra at his left and Dhanurbhana ( Bow and Arrow in the rest two hands ) , Sita had condescended on the left lap of Rama and brother ( at Rama’s left ) are existed . And the hill place where the Deities were seated on , was the head place of Bhadra – achalam ( hill ) ,thus this shrine was transformed into Bhadrachalam .|
|Bhakta Ramadas and construction of temple|
|Bhadrachalarama temple was constructed by Kancharla Gopanna popularly known as Bhakta Ramadas in the year 1674 A.D.|
|When the temple reached to the nearing completion, he had a problem of fixing ‘Sudarshana Chakra’ at the crest of the main temple. He was deeply distressed and fell into sleep. On the same night, Rama in his dream asked him to have a holy dip in river Godavari where he will find that-accordingly. On the next day morning Gopanna did so and found holy Sudarshana Chakra in the river with out much difficulty. He presumed that Sudarshana Chakra itself was shaped up with the divine power of his beloved God Rama. Soon after the construction, his miseries started. He was dismissed from service for mis-utilisation of revenue for constructing the temple and was kept in jail for 12 long years in Golkonda Fort and was tortured. Unable to withstand the miseries, Ramadas implored Rama to relieve him by singing many praising and emotional songs which got popularized from the stanzas of ‘Dasaradhi Sathakam’ and ‘Keertanas’ of Bhakta Ramadasa.|
Bhadrachalam Temple History
A sacred place that attracts lakhs of devotees from all over the world, it is the abode of Lord Rama (The seventh incarnation of SriMahavishnu). This hill place which is encircled by holy river Godavari flowing towards southern direction is the famous shrine Bhadrachalam-The name derived from Bhadragiri (Mountain of Bhadra-a boon child of Meru and Menaka). According to an Ithihasas, the significance of this shrine dates back to the Ramayana Era. This coherent hill place existed in “Dandakaranya” Of Ramayana period where Rama with his consort Sita and brother Laxmana had spent their vanavasa- and Parnashaala(the place connected to the famous Golden Deer and the place from where Sita was abducted by Ravana.) is also in the vicinity of this temple site. It is at this Mandir site that, long after Ramavatara, Bhagawan Mahavishnu manifested Himself as Rama again to fulfil a promise He made to His Bhakta Bhadra, who continued his Tapas through Yugas, praying for the grace of the Bhagawan Sri Ramachandra murthy.
Exigency of Incarnation: The history depicts that the need emerged for the incarnation of Vykuntha Rama to fulfill a long desire of his ardent devotee Bhadra.
Maharishi Bhadra: Bhadra performed penance at the bank of river Godavari in this ” Dandakaranya” to get grace of lord Rama and subsequently in the countenance of his beloved God-the exulted “Rishi” implored Rama to be seated on his head. But Rama who was in search of his consort Sita, gave promise to his Bhakta that his desire would be fulfilled on his way back, after finding Sita and accomplishing the process of punishing the wicked Ravana and establish ‘Dharma’. Thus the sage had been in continuation of the frightened penance as Rama could not accomplish the promise in Ramavatara. Then, Sri Mahavishnu manifested himself as Vykuntha Rama and rushed to his devotee Bhadra, signaling his arrival by blowing ‘Shanku’(Conch), accompanied by his consort Sita and brother Laxmana, resembling that of ‘Gajendra Moksham’-Thus, the moorthies of Rama (having four hands)-Shanku(Panchajanya-Conch)on the right, Sudarshana Chakra at his left and Dhanurbhana (Bow and Arrow in the rest two hands), Sita had condescended on the left lap of Rama and brother (at Rama’s left) have existed. And the hill place where the Deities were seated on, was the head place of Bhadra -achalam (hill), thus this shrine was transformed into Bhadrachalam.
The idols of Vykuntha Rama, Laxmana and Sita were found by Pokala Dhammakka. Pokala Dhammakka, an ardent devotee of Rama lived in the 17th century and was an inhabitant of Bhadrireddypalem, a mile away from this holy place. On one fine night, she had darshan of Rama in her dream who said “the saints and sages are worshiping my embodied moorthy settled on Bhadragiri” and asked her to trace them, perform pooja and attain salvation. On the very next day morning she started searching for the idols-peeped into an ant-hill and found the idols hidden in it. She poured hundreds of pots of Godavari water on the ant-hill which tardily dissolved and gave way for the appearance of the hidden Deities. Since then, she used to perform pooja daily and offer ‘naivedyam’ with fruits fallen from near palmyra tree and constructed a mandapam of thatch hut with the help of local villagers. Bhagawan Rama told Dhammakka that at a later date, one of his devotees would construct a Mandir at this site. Dhammakka waited patiently for the devotee. The devotee turned out to be Bhakta Ramadas.
Bhakta Ramadas and construction of temple: Bhadrachalarama temple was constructed by Kancharla Gopanna popularly known as Bhakta Ramadas in the year 1674 A.D. Kancharla Gopanna, popularly known as “Bhakta Ramdas”, a fervent devotee of Rama, was born to Linganna Murthy and Kamamba in Nelakondapalli village of Khammamett Taluk in 17th century (1620 AD). He was nephew of Akkannna, the administrative head in the court of Qutub shahi king Abul Hussan shah known as ‘Taneshah’ of Golkonda (he was the last ruler of Golconda before Aurangazeb captured it in 1687A.D.) and was appointed by him as Tahsildar of ‘Palvoncha Paragana’. Thus he was discharging his official duties earnestly and collecting revenues due to the Qutub Shahi kings in continuation of daily preaches -Chanting of ‘Ramanama’ and the feeding the poor at his house. Ramadasa, who heard the news that the villagers of Palvoncha paragana were proceeding to witness a Jatara at Bhadrachalam , became curious and he too visited Bhadrachalam. He found the deities in an amazing appearance. Ramadas, then asked the villagers to contribute liberally for the construction of the temple. After the contributions were found to be insufficient, the villagers appealed him to spend the revenue collections for the construction of the temple with a promise to repay the amount after harvesting the crops. Accordingly, Ramadas constructed the temple with an amount of Rs 6 Lakhs collected from the land revenues with out the permission of the Qutub Shahi king Taneshah.
When the temple reached to the nearing completion, he had a problem of fixing ‘Sudarshana Chakra’ at the crest of the main temple. He was deeply distressed and fell into sleep. On the same night, Rama in his dream asked him to have a holy dip in river Godavari where he will find that-accordingly. On the next day morning Gopanna did so and found holy Sudarshana Chakra in the river with out much difficulty. He presumed that Sudarshana Chakra itself was shaped up with the divine power of his beloved God Rama. Soon after the construction, his miseries started. He was dismissed from service for mis-utilisation of revenue for constructing the temple and was kept in jail for 12 long years in Golkonda Fort and was tortured. Unable to withstand the miseries, Ramadas implored Rama to relieve him by singing many praising and emotional songs which got popularized from the stanzas of ‘Dasaradhi Sathakam’ and ‘Keertanas’ of Bhakta Ramadasa.
The Qutub shahi king Taneshah, the then ruler of Golkonda became a devotee of Rama who realised the devotional spirit of Ramadas after his imprisonment and took over the charge of temple administration. This resembles the communal harmony amongst the Hindus and Muslims. The Qutub shahi king realised Ramada’s devotional spirit and dedication towards Rama, when Rama and Laxmana repaid 6 lakh Mohurs exposing themselves as Ramoji and Laxmoji, the servants of Bhakta Ramadas to get release of their devotee from the imprisonment. Thanisha gave voucher to these divine looking persons who approached him at his house during late night. Then they kept the voucher under the pillow of Gopanna where he was jailed. Tanishah who woke up on the very next day morning realised that those divine looking persons were none other than Rama and Laxmana and made arrangements to get release of Gopanna and prayed to forgive him by placing all the Gold Mohurs received last night at the feet of Gopanna. But, he refused to take back those mohurs except two as a mark of divine significance. (Those two gold coins can still be seen in Bhadrachala Sri Sita Ramachandra Swamy devasthanam).
Influenced by the Majesty of Lord Rama, the Golkonda Ruler Taneshah earmarked the income derived from the said Palvoncha paragana which was around to Rs 20,000 for the maintenance of the temple which was continued during later Asaf Jahi’s( Nizam’s)period also.The custom of offering Pearls (Mutyala Talambralu) on the occasion of Kalyana Mahotsavam( Marriage ceremony of Lord Rama and Sita – a temple ritual- performed on the auspicious Rama Navami day) to the deities sent on an elephant through a specially sent messenger was also started by the Qutub shahi king Taneshah which the later Asaf jahi’s also followed. That procedure of sending pearls to the Deities is still followed by present state Government and the state Government continues to offer Pearls during Sri Rama Navami Festival (Kalyana mahotsavam). Tumu Narsimha Dasa,Tahasildar of Palwoncha paragana,along with his associate Varada Ramadasa came here from Guntur and took over the charge of Bhadrachalarama temple after Ramadas made inscribed the performance of Nitya Poojas and sevas right from early morning “Suprabhata Seva” till night “Pavalimpu Seva” before closure of the temple as “Silaasaasanaalu” on these two pillars. This inscription gives details of daily dictum and daily rituals also.
|On one occasion Gandhiji and I were talking about a girl very dear to both of us. I said: “How did she get all these ideas and phrases of love without having read any of present-day love stories?”
Gandhiji said in answer: “But has she not read the Ramayana? Is the Ramayana not a love story too?” This struck me as profound. Then we turned to other matters.
Dasaratha’s troubles began with love. Then the love of Rama and Sita is the theme and substance of Ayodhya Kanda.
In love that is not opposed to dharma, we find a manifestation of God. So was it affirmed by Sri Krishna when he explained his manifold being to Arjuna. The Ramayana has, for its twin theme, love that is opposed to dharma also. The Ramayana is undoubtedly a great love story.
Those who regard the Ramayana as an allegory interpret Sita as the individual soul and Rama as the Supreme Being. God seeks and pursues the human soul till He secures it. He is eager to save us. It is enough if we just do not obstruct or resist.
There are also other interpretations and applications of the Ramayana. Sita, the female counterpart of the Supreme Being, is the embodiment of compassion and grace. Compassion is the Supreme Mother and she is enthroned in the heart of the Lord. When she casts her merciful glance on us, we reach the feet of God.
Parvati’s function in relation to Siva and Lakshmi’s in relation to Hari are both identical, and are just variations of the same creed of dependence on God’s grace. God as Father and God as Mother are not distinct. If the Lord were to be parted from compassion, our plight would be just that of Ravana who separated Sita from Rama. The quality of the Lord’s compassion can be understood from the experience of true human love.
Many meanings can be read in the Ramayana and its beauty appreciated in many ways as from a real diamond many glorious colors emanate. Seventeen months ago I began writing these weekly chapters not without fear and trembling. This week I close it full of thankfulness for the health of body and peace of mind that enabled me to complete this humble service. Learned men will no doubt find many faults in what I have written. But they must be glad also that it has done some good.
A word to the children who read these chapters. I have told the story of the Prince of Ayodhya mainly for your sake. Grown up people may read Valmiki and Kamban. Those who know how to sing can render with joy the sweet songs on Rama given to us by Tyagaraja. But this story that I have told can be read direct by you, children, without anyone’s help.
You should look upon Rama, Lakshmana and Hanuman like your own fathers and elder brothers who are by your side ever eager to help you. Grow to be like Bharata, Lakshmana and Hanuman, good and brave souls, full of love and strength.
Mothers too, I know, have been reading this story with joy. This has been a great encouragement to me. They can understand why I have told the story in simple words and short sentences for the sake of our children. Everything we do, we do for the sake of our children, do we not? Only women can realise and relive the experiences and feelings of Sita.
The story of Sita as told by Valmiki and Kamban can be fully appreciated only by women. Only they can fully appreciate the courage of Jatayu and the prowess of Hanuman. Sita’s sorrows have not ended with the Ramayana. They go on, still, in the lives of our women.
In the Rama avatar, Rama did not know that he was God incarnate. Krishna knew that he was an avatar and acted accordingly. We should read the two stories with this difference in mind. The despair and grief that the man Rama experienced, Krishna never knew. When he sucked at the demon-woman’s breast or was bound with a rope and thrashed for mischief, he cared not nor grieved. Standing weaponless in the battlefield, he led the warrior to destroy the wicked. In every episode of Krishna we see the difference between the two avatars.
I have followed the story of the Prince of Ayodhya as told by Valmiki. There was a legend current among people, I think even before Valmiki’s time, that after recovering Sita, for fear of scandal, Rama sent her away to live in the forest.
This pathetic episode must have sprung from the sorrow-laden imagination of our women. It has taken shape as the Uttara Kanda of Ramayana. Although there is beauty in the Uttara Kanda, I must say my heart rebels against it. Valmiki had disposed of this old legend through the fire ordeal in the battlefield. Even that ordeal does not seem to me as consistent with Rama’s character. It is painful to read it.
As the prince returned from Mithila he met Parasurama. I have heard it said that with that meeting Parasurama’s avatar came to an end. Likewise, it should be held, I think, that Rama’s avatar came to an end with the slaying of Ravana. After that battle, Rama remained only as a King of the Ikshvaku race.
On this theory, Rama’s treatment of Sita after the battle and in the Uttara Kanda can be explained simply as the behavior of a king in accordance with the customs of the times.
But, how can we comment on a work composed thousands of years ago and coming down to us in palm-leaf manuscripts subject to corruption? If, even after the fire-ordeal in the Yuddha Kanda, it is said in the Uttara Kanda that Sita was sent to the forest, we may take it that it mirrors the voiceless and endless suffering of our women folk.
Sorrow and joy are both alike the play of God. God himself took with him his divine spouse, the embodiment of his own supreme compassion, into the world of men and women, and enacted with her a great drama of joy and sorrow in the Ramayana.
Rain falling from the heaven flows into the rivers and flows down to join the sea. Again from the sea the water is sucked up by the sun and rises to the sky, whence it descends again as rain and flows down as rivers. Even so, feelings and values rise from the people and, touching the poet’s heart, are transformed into a poem which, in turn, enlightens and inspires the people.
Thus in every land the poets and their people continuously reinforce each other. The tenderness and purity and the untold sufferings of women took shape as the Uttara Ramayana. Like an unflickering lamp, it throws light on the quality of their hearts. Whether the epics and songs of a nation spring from the faith and ideas of the common folk, or whether a nation’s faith and ideas are produced by its literature is a question which one is free to answer as one likes.
Does a plant spring from the seed or does seed issue from the plant? Was the bird or the egg the first cause? Did clouds rise from the sea or was the sea filled by the waters from the sky? All such inquiries take us to the feet of God transcending speech and thought.
One other point, in describing how Ravana carried off Sita, Kamban differs from Valmiki. In Kamban’s Ramayana, Ravana does not seize and carry Sita as Valmiki describes; without touching her he lifts her with the earth on which she stands. Kamban’s version is followed by most popular expositors because this version is less painful to our feelings.
It is no sin or shame to an innocent woman if a villain behaves like a brute. Yet, mistakenly, we in this country look on the violence of a brute as causing a blemish to the woman’s purity. It is in deference to this wrong feeling that Kamban departed from Valmiki here.
For the same reason, Tulasidas relates that the Sita seized and carried off by Ravana was not the real Sita at all but a palpable image of hers left behind by the real Sita. Thus the story is told in all North India. During the fire ordeal, it is the maya-Sita that disappears and the real Sita springs again and returns from the flames.
It was perhaps presumptuous on my part to have begun the task, but it was a joy to retell the Ramayana. Now, when it is over, I feel like one awaking from a dream of joy. When the prince left the city, he felt no sorrow. It was only when he lost Sita that he knew grief. So with me too.
When I had to step down from high office and heavy responsibility, I did not feel at a loss or wonder what to do next. But now, when I have come to the end of the tale of the Prince of Ayodhya, the void is like that of a shrine without a God. Let no one look upon work as a burden. Good work is the secret that keeps life going. While one should not hanker after results, life without work would be unendurable.
|VIBHISHANA was crowned King of Lanka in a magnificent ceremony. The new Lord of Lanka came out to the Vanara camp and bowed low before Rama.
Then Rama said to Hanuman: “With the King’s permission, enter Lanka and tell Sita what has happened.” Hanuman accordingly took permission from Vibhishana and went to Asoka Vana to convey the news to Sita.
Sita’s joy was beyond words. She was silent.
“Why, mother,” asked Hanuman, “why do you not speak?”
“What is there to say, my son?” she answered. “How can I repay my debt to you? Your wisdom, your valor, your prowess, your patience, your humility are all your own. None in the world can equal you.” As she said this, her eyes filled with tears of gratitude and affection.
Hanuman looked at the Rakshasi women who had guarded Sita and turning to Sita said: “I wish to slay these cruel women who troubled you. Do give me leave!”
“No, my son,” she answered. “Who in the world is blameless? It is the part of noble souls to be compassionate towards all sinners as well as good people.”
These words of Sita are treasured like nectar by generations of pious men. The worst of sinners, clinging to the golden feet of the Mother, can gain forgiveness.
“These Rakshasis,” she continued “but carried out their master’s orders. How are they to blame? Their king is dead and has paid for his crime. It is unjust to punish these Rakshasis now.”
All that Hanuman could find to say in reverent admiration was that what she said was only what was worthy of Rama’s wife.
“What message am I to carry to Rama?” he asked.
“I am eager to be in his presence,” she answered. “That is all.”
Hanuman returned to Rama and gave an account of his visit. For some reason Rama’s face now darkened and with lack-lustre eyes he fell into a frown study. A little later he turned to Vibhishana and said:
“Ask Sita to bathe and bedeck herself and bring her here.”
When the message reached Sita in the Asoka Vana, she said: “I would rather go as I am.”
“Not so, my lady,” said Vibhishana, “the prince’s orders should be obeyed.”
So, after a bath and bedecked with jewels and seated in a palanquin, Sita went to the camp.
When he heard that Sita was coming, Rama woke up from his meditation. Events of the past rose like waves and battering against his mind threw it into a wild commotion of shame, grief and joy.
As Sita’s palanquin was taken through the great concourse of Vanaras, they thronged round the princess and caused confusion. It was made worse by the
Vanara leaders trying to push them aside and make way for the palanquin.
“Let no one be kept away,” said Rama. “These dear Vanaras have stood and suffered for me. Sita will be pleased to see me surrounded by such friends. Let no one be pushed away.”
Rama’s face showed a strange transformation of mind. None of those around him, not even Lakshmana could understand.
Alighting from the palanquin, Sita, with downcast eyes, proceeded towards Rama. “Aryaputra,” she said and sobbed, unable to speak more.
Aryaputra in Sanskrit means beloved and noble one and is an intimate form of address of wife to husband.
“I have slain the enemy,” said Rama. I have recovered you. I have done my duty as a Kshatriya. My vow is now fulfilled.”
Incomprehensible and wholly unexpected were these words that he uttered. His face darkened for some reason. Then he spoke even harsher words.
“It was not for mere attachment to you that I waged this grim battle but in the discharge of duty as a Kshatriya. It gives me no joy now to get you back, for doubtfulness envelopes you like a dark cloud of smoke.”
“What do you wish to do now?” he continued. “You must live alone, for we cannot live together. You can stay under the protection of any of our kinsmen or friends. How can a Kshatriya take back a wife who has lived so long in a stranger’s house?”
Sita looked at Rama. Her eyes flashed fire.
“Unworthy words have you spoken!” she said. “My ears have heard them and my heart is broken. The uncultured may speak such words but not one nobly born and brought up like you. Your anger, it seems, has destroyed your understanding. My lord does not remember the family from which I come. Janaka, the great seer, was my father and he brought me up. Is it my fault that the wicked Rakshasa seized me by force and imprisoned me? But since this is how you look at it, there is but one course open to me.”
Then turning to Lakshmana, “Fetch the faggots, Lakshmana, and kindle a fire,” she said.
Lakshmana, who had been watching Rama’s behavior in dismay and indignation turned to look at Rama’s face seeking his orders, but Rama did not say ‘No’ to Sita’s request nor show any sign of softening. Obeying Sita, Lakshmana kindled a big fire and the princess, with eyes fixed on the ground, circumambulated her lord and exclaimed:
“Ye Gods, I bow before you. Oh rishis, I bow to you. Oh Agni, you at least know my purity and will take me as your own!”
With these words she jumped into the flames. And wonder of wonders! The lambent flames were crowded with celestial figures, for all the gods came and assembled there. Brahma spoke: “Narayana! Mighty God that took human form to slay Ravana! Is not this your own Lakshmi?”
Agni, God of fire, rose in his own body out of the flames and lifting Sita in his arms with all her clothes and jewels untouched and intact, presented her to Rama.
Rama said to Brahma: “Who am I? All that I know and can tell is that I am Rama, son of Dasaratha. You know who I am and whence I came and more. It is you who must inform me.” Saying this to Brahma, Rama accepted Sita fire-proved.
“Think you that I did not know your irreproachable purity? This ordeal was to satisfy the people. Without it, they would say that Rama, blinded by love, behaved with a strange weakness and broke the rule of well-brought-up men.” So saying he drew her to his side.
Then Dasaratha descended from above and, placing the prince on his lap blessed him.
“My child!” he said to Sita. “Forgive my son. Forgive him for the wrong he did you to preserve the dharma of the world. God bless you!”
Indra gave his boon, and the Vanaras who died in battle for Rama regained their lives.
Rama and Sita, now reunited, ascended the Pushpaka which carried them swiftly in the air with their friends, the Vanara warriors and Vibhishana, to Ayodhya.
As they travelled in the sky, he said: “Look there! That is the causeway built by Nala.” Again, “Look there, that is Kishkindha,” he said, “where I met and made friends with Hanuman and Sugriva.” And Rama pointed out to Sita the spots where he and Lakshmana had wandered disconsolate and related to her all his unforgettable experiences.
Alighting at Bharadwaja’s ashrama, they sent word in advance to Guha and Bharata.
The city of Ayodhya swam in a sea of joy. Rama and Bharata met. Planning for Bharata’s sake, ambitious Kaikeyi and her hunchback maid had contrived and concocted plots. But now, as Bharata bowed at the feet of Rama, a joy deeper than what they had planned for him was his. What kingly crown could equal the joy one found at Rama’s feet? What sovereignty could bring one the glory that was now Bharata’s forever?
The Vaishnava hymns exalt Bharata even above Rama for a spotless mind and unblemished unselfishness. For fourteen years till the return of Rama, Bharata installed Rama’s padukas and administered the kingdom as a devotional exercise in the service of his brother. Now that Rama was crowned King as his father had wished, Bharata’s penance was at an end and his heart was filled with joy.
The smile of divine grace brightened Sita’s face as she cast her merciful glance on Hanuman. What more could Hanuman desire?
I have retold in brief compass the story of the Prince of Ayodhya as sung by Valmiki. Those who read or listen to the tale, it is said, will be saved from sin and sorrow. Sri Sankara, the master of wisdom, has said that, if one keeps in one’s heart the son of Dasaratha and meditates on him with reverence, one’s sins will all be burnt up as chaff in a fire.
After the avatar of Rama, the lord appeared again among men with greater soulabhya (easy accessibility) as Govinda. He lived among cowherders as one of them and served Arjuna as a chariot driver. At the end of the Gita, the Lord says to Arjuna:
“Believe in me as the sole refuge, cast aside all doubt and come unto me. I shall save you from all sins. This is truth, friend. Cast off your fear.”
This promise of Sri Krishna is addressed to all of us. We, like Arjuna, have our doubts and fears in the Kurukshetra of life and this assurance of grace is for all of us, for we are all dear to Him.
|END OF RAVANA|
|THERE was wailing in every house in Lanka. In Ravana’s breast grief, shame and anger seethed like a raging sea. He had so far sent his commanders and men in detachments, and, brave as they were, they had been destroyed in detail. This
had been the result of overweening confidence in his invincibility and contempt for the enemy, most of whom fought with no better weapons than sticks and stones. But repeated reverses had brought him no wisdom.
He had not even disputed the passage of the sea but allowed the enemy a lodgment in his island. But negligent and reckless as a general, he was brave and finally resolving to fight himself and with his sole strength to destroy the foe, he set out. He had full faith in his prowess and in the efficacy of the boons he had secured and he went forth with confidence mounted on his divine chariot that was drawn by eight horses and filled with all manner of weapons accompanied by a division of Rakshasa chariot-warriors.
As Ravana issued out of Lanka, the sun seemed obscured by an unpredicted eclipse, and foul birds and beasts of the night roared at large with weird illomened cries; but disregarding it all, Ravana drove out to battle accompanied by Virupaksha, Mahodara and Mahaparsva.
The mighty Rakshasa warriors who followed Ravana were mowed down by a deadly flight of arrows and chunks of rocks and presently Ravana found himself facing Lakshmana, who tried to oppose his further progress. Forcing his way past Lakshmana, Ravana precipitated himself against Rama with all the pent-up fury of hatred and revenge and strove to overwhelm him with a spate of arrows.
Rama easily baffled these arrows with his own and struck Ravana repeatedly, without however being able to penetrate his armor. Thus they fought, these supreme bowmen, each bent on slaying the other and using increasingly potent missiles of secret power, while the gods in heaven looked on with marvel and admiration. Neither hero had met such an opponent before and on both sides admiration was mingled with wrath.
Rama pierced with his darts every limb of Ravana. And yet he did not fall.
Then Lakshmana and Vibhishana together attacked Ravana. Furious with his brother and determined to kill him, Ravana flung at him a powerful weapon. But intercepted by a dart of Lakshmana it broke into two and fell on the ground like a burning brand. Once again, Ravana aimed another mighty sakti against Vibhishana. This too Lakshmana intercepted. Then Ravana hurled a sakti at Lakshmana crying: “Now you are dead!”
Under its impact Lakshmana fell down unconscious on the ground.
Not observing this, Rama went on keeping up his pressure against Ravana. While the battle raged between the two, the Vanara leaders took counsel and sent Hanuman once again to the Hill of Herbs to save the life of Lakshmana.
For the second time, Hanuman flew northwards and, not wasting time searching for the plants, returned with the whole mountain. Lakshmana got well again and resumed his part in the battle.
Meanwhile, Matali brought his master Indra’s chariot to the battlefield for the use of Rama.
“Indra, king of gods, has sent this for your use,” said Matali. “Be pleased to ascend this chariot and destroy Ravana, the enemy of the gods!”
Rama bowed to the gods, circumambulated the divine chariot and ascended it. Then followed a wonderful battle.
Sorely wounded, Ravana fell unconscious and, noting this, his charioteer quietly took him out of the battlefield.
When, a little later, Ravana recovered consciousness, he was highly wroth, with his charioteer for taking him out of the battlefield and insisted on being taken back to face Rama. The grim battle began again. Every astra was met by another. In new and wonderful ways, the two chariots moved and the two warriors fought for a long time, while both armies watched the spectacle with breathless admiration and anxiety.
Matali, the charioteer, whispered into Rama’s ear: “The Rakshasa’s end is approaching. Delay no further. May I remind you of Brahma-astra?”
Rama uttered the spell and sent the Brahma-astra. Though the Rakshasa’s ten heads had often been cut off before, they had grown again and baffled Rama. The Brahma-astra, emitting flames, went towards Ravana and pierced his chest, where was enshrined the secret of his invincibility, and shattered it.
Then the bow slipped from the Rakshasa’s hand and he fell down from the chariot and lay stretched on the battlefield.
The gods blew their trumpets. Rama and his chariot were covered by a heap of flowers showered from the heavens. Lakshmana, Vibhishana, Jambavan and other warriors surrounded Rama, lost in joy and adoration.
When the first flush of triumph was over and Vibhishana looked at his brother’s body, the natural call of blood and memories of boyhood days when Ravana and he had loved and played quite overwhelmed him and he burst into lamentations over his lost brother.
“O warrior!” he cried. “O brother of heroic deeds! O scholar learned in all Shastras! O valiant and famous King of kings! Your great arms are, now sprawling helpless on the ground! Self- willed and self-deceived, surrounded by bad advisers, you would not heed my warning! The worst I feared has happened now! You reaped what you sowed and you lie on the bare ground, O once mighty ruler of the Rakshasas!”
To Vibhishana thus lamenting, Rama spoke:
“Ravana fought like a true warrior and fell fighting like a hero! Death has washed his sins. It calls for no mourning. Ravana has entered Heaven.”
Rama cleared all confusion from Vibhishana’s mind and bade him do the funeral rites for his departed brother.
Said Rama: “It is for you now, his brother, to do the rites. Death ends all enmity. I, his former foe, even I can rightly perform his obsequies. Your brother is my brother too, is he not?”
The women of Ravana’s palace came to the field to mourn. They led the Queen Mandodari, who looked like the goddess of grief incarnate. The crowned queen and beloved wife of Ravana was in utter desolation.
“Indra, King of gods, dared not face your anger,” she cried. “The Rishis and the Gandharvas at the very sight of you fled in fear in all directions. And now a mere man, a wanderer in the forest, has brought you down! I do not understand how this could have happened. Truly, Fate is all-powerful! But lord, my lord, I warned you long ago. Did I not tell you that this Rama is no mere human being, but someone greater than Indra or Agni or Yama, whom you could not vanquish? This Rama is no other than Vishnu Himself in human form, God without beginning, middle or end. Even when we heard that he stood on the ground riding no car and slew your brother Khara in Janasthana, did I not say this? When Hanuman penetrated Lank the impenetrable fortress, and laid it waste, I knew the truth. I begged you not to incur their enmity but you would not listen. Why did you cast lustful eyes on chaste Sita? This was the madness that drove you to your death! Was it not a heinous sin to carry her off when she was alone? Death in the form of Sita drew you to your end! Sita and Rama are now reunited and happy after their brief separation. But me and all our race you have thrust for very into the depths of sorrow. Alas, my husband, my lover. You lie dead. Yet how beautiful you look with your body pierced by Rama’s darts, covered with blood and dust of battle! What should I do now? I had a lord who was the Lord of Lanka! I had a son who had vanquished Indra. They have left me and I am a mere helpless widow without friends or home!”
Lamenting thus, Mandodari fell on Ravana’s body and lay unconscious.
|THE DEATH OF INDRAJIT|
|INDRAJIT comforted his father. “Why should you worry when I am here alive?” he said and gathered an army, and with it made another sortie.
He swooped down on the Vanara forces and killed and wounded thousands of them. They were helpless against his fury. The Brahmastra of Indrajit was effective against even Rama and Lakshmana who were tied up by it. They lay unconscious on the ground and the Rakshasa prince went straight to his anxious father with the glad news of this achievement.
Vibhishana rallied the Vanara leaders who had scattered in all directions and put hope and courage into them.
Jambavan, who was more dead than alive, moved slowly among the Vanaras, inquiring: “Is Hanuman alive?”
“Yes, I am here,” said Hanuman, and bowed low before Jambavan.
“My son,” said the old Vanara, “proceed northwards at once across the sea to the Himalaya range. Between the Rishabha and Kailasa peaks, there is the Hill of Herbs. In that hilltop are four medicinal plants. If you bring them here quickly, Rama and Lakshmana and the Vanara army will recover consciousness. Their wounds will be healed and they will fight again. Do this without loss of time. Only you can do this.”
Accordingly, Hanuman sprang up into the air and moved fast. He reached the hill described by the venerable Jambavan and as he could not identify the plants, he carried the whole hill and returned with it to Lanka.
Even with the approach of the Sanjivi hill, Rama and Lakshmana and the Vanaras felt the darts slip off their bodies. Their wounds healed and they became strong and stood up.
The battle was resumed. Taking counsel with Rama, Sugriva now chose a few Vanaras and ordered them to enter Lanka and set fire to the city.
Towards midnight they entered the city with torches. They attacked and overpowered the sentry and set fire to the palaces and turrets of Lanka. Houses in their thousands were reduced to ashes. The proud city was reduced to a mass of ruin.
Valmiki describes this incident in detail. It reads very much like the destruction of cities in modern battles with which we are now familiar.
Seeing Lanka being burnt down by the Vanaras, Ravana was furious and sent to the battlefield Kumbha and Nikumbha, the sons of Kumbhakarna, together with Yupaksha and other Rakshasa warriors.
After another terrible battle, Kumbha was slain by Sugriva and Nikumbha by Hanuman. Makaraksha, son of Khara, who opposed Rama, fell to his fiery arrows. Many more mighty Rakshasas perished. Then, at the bidding of Ravana, Indrajit went once again to the battle.
He rose into the sky and became in visible. Thus he fought again unseen by the Vanaras. Indrajit, by his necromancy, created a maya-Sita and, putting her in a chariot, took her before the Vanara army and seemingly killed her in their presence.
Deceived and horrified by this, the Vanaras asked themselves: “What good is it now to continue this war?” They left the field and went to Rama with the heartrending news.
As a result of this trick, Indrajit gained time to perform an asuric sacrifice. Rama and Lakshmana, like the Vanara warriors, believed that Sita was dead and were lost in grief. They were completely bewildered and helpless when Vibhishana came and inquired what had happened.
He listened to their story. Then he said:
“You have been deceived. Never would Ravana allow Sita to be killed. This is only a trick of sorcery. Indrajit tries to defeat you through magic. Having given up all hope of achieving success by normal means, he has gone to perform an asuric sacrifice of great power. If he completes it, we cannot vanquish him. We should therefore go and obstruct the sacrifice. Let Lakshmana go at once and mar Indrajit’s purpose.”
Accepting this advice, Rama sent Lakshmana who was ac companied by Hanuman and other Vanaras, besides Vibhishana. They went to the spot where
Indrajit was about to offer oblations to evil spirits. The sacrifice was interrupted and a long and fierce battle ensued. Ascending his chariot, the son of Ravana sent forth his arrows.
Standing on Hanuman, Lakshmana did the same. As they were well matched in strength and skill, the battle lasted long. The chariot of Indrajit was destroyed in the course of the combat and both the heroes stood on the ground and continued the battle.
At last, Lakshmana used the Indra-astra spell and uttering the name of Rama discharged the fatal arrow. The head of Indrajit was severed and fell to the ground and as it fell, it shone like fire. The Devas and Gandharvas showered flowers from the heavens.
Lakshmana then went to Rama. He was wounded all over and bleeding. He walked slowly, supported by Jambavan and Hanuman. Rama had already heard the news of the death of Indrajit.
“Lakshmana!” he cried, “this is the end of the Rakshasa race. You have achieved it.”
Lakshmana modestly stood back but Rama seated him on his lap, kissed his head and gave vent to his joy.
“You have performed a mighty deed, impossible for anyone else. You have deprived Ravana of his right hand. Who in the world can equal you or Vibhishana or Hanuman? I have no more care. You have vanquished the conqueror of Indra. I feel I have already recovered Sita.”
The news reached Ravana that Indrajit had been slain by Lakshmana. When he heard that Vibhishana helped Lakshmana in slaying Indrajit, his grief and anger swelled and the tears he shed burnt where they fell. And from his mouth issued fire.
“Alas, my son! O peerless warrior! O hero! Vanquisher of the great Indra! Has Death won after all? Have you entered the heaven of heroes? But I should not grieve,” he said.
But the father’s heart would not thus be denied, and again he cried: “What! Is Indrajit gone? The world is now empty for me. Oh son, you have left your mother Mandodari and your dear wife and myself heart-broken and disconsolate. Nothing remains to us now but revenge and despair. It is best to kill Sita, the cause of all this tragedy. My son killed the maya- Sita. Now I shall kill the real Sita her self.” So saying he rushed out, sword in hand, intending to do it. Some fierce Rakshasas, seeing Ravana issuing out in anger, applauded him with joy; but the minister Suparsva was horrified and appealed to Ravana’s better sense and what was due to himself as a man and a king.
“King!” he cried, “how dare you think such a thought? How can you do it? Oh, Lord of ten heads! Brother of Kubera! Are you thinking to kill a woman? Are you going to incur this shame and sin? Can you thus be tempted by anger? You have mastered the Vedas and all the sciences. You have performed many penances. How can you end up with such a thing as this? Who is equal to you? Let us direct our anger against Rama. It will be new moon tomorrow. Gather all your armies, issue out of Lanka, slay Rama and Lakshmana and achieve victory. Then take Sita. Put on the armor you have secured from Brahma. Ascend your chariot and go to battle.”
Ravana felt that Suparsva was right and his words were good. Seated on his throne, he was silent for a while, lost in profound meditation. Then he addressed the commanders with folded hands, saying:
“Go now with all your strength and slay Rama. If even you fail, I shall go myself and destroy him.”
Never before had he been so courteous and humble when dealing with his officers. Adversity had taught him this lesson. Mounted on chariots that shone like the hills on the evening horizon and on the back of great elephants and beautiful horses, Ravana’s army went in full force for the great battle.
The Vanaras tore up rocks and trees and attacked the Rakshasas fiercely. The Rakshasas returned the attack with equally grim ferocity.
The Vanaras jumped about everywhere and worked havoc among the Rakshasas, their chariots and animals. Each of the Rakshasas was surrounded by many Vanaras and slain.
The Rakshasas too did not spare the Vanaras whom they killed in tens of thousands.
Rama bent his bow and sent showers of arrows against the Rakshasas who destroyed their army like a raging fire. Warriors only saw their companions fall. They could not see Rama because of the shower of arrows. Their fear conjured up a multitude of Ramas, who dealt death in all directions.
Countless elephants and horses perished. Thousands of chariots were broken. The Rakshasa army was destroyed, all but a handful who fled into Lanka.
The Devas, Gandharvas and Siddhas sang the praise of Rama from above. In Lanka, the Rakshasa women clung to each other and lamented loudly that Ravana’s folly should have brought this great calamity on them.
|IS THIS NARAYANA HIMSELF?|
|RALLIED by Angada, the Vanaras recovered courage, reformed in battle order and prepared to receive Kumbhakarna. They hurled rocks at him and dealt heavy blows with trees plucked by the roots. But he disregarded them all and with a smile on his face went on dispatching the Vanaras with a methodic cruelty that was most terrifying. Some of them retreated to the newly built dam, while others tried to save themselves by concealing on the shore of the sea and the forests.
Once again Angada had to encourage the Vanara chiefs and warriors and get them to reform and attack Kumbhakarna.
Dwivida, Hanuman, Nila, Vrishabha, Sarabha and other chiefs attacked Kumbhakarna fiercely. But he disregarded them all and continued his ruthless slaughter of the Vanaras. Angada himself received a blow, as a result of which he fainted and fell on the earth. Sugriva was struck down. Picking up the unconscious Vanara King, Kumbhakarna carried him with joy towards Lanka. The Rakshasa army rejoiced greatly and raised a triumphant uproar. Kumbhakarna wished to make a present of the captive Vanara King to his brother Ravana.
As Kumbhakarna went through the royal highway carrying in triumph the unconscious Vanara king, the Rakshasas and their women-folk, standing on the terraces, showered flowers and poured sandal paste. This incidentally revived Sugriva. He opened his eyes and wondered where he was and what had happened. He soon understood everything.
He then began to bite with his teeth and tear with his nails the ears and nose of the
Rakshasa who was carrying him. Worried thus Kumbhakarna threw him down intending to crush him with his feet. But when he was once on the ground, Sugriva jumped and flew off across the sky and arrived at the place where Rama was.
Hanuman was sure that Sugriva would somehow come back. Foreseeing this escape of Sugriva, Hanuman had rallied the Vanara ranks and prepared them again for battle.
Grim and gruesome with torn nose and ears, Kumbhakarna, like a great blood-red evening cloud, and raging like Death at the end of Time, returned to the battlefield with a huge iron mace in his hand.
None could now stop Kumbhakarna. He began to kill and devour the Vanaras. The whole army began to disappear in this way. They tried to deter him by climbing on his mountain-like body and tearing at it with nails and teeth but without effect for he shook them off as if they were flies. None of the Vanara chiefs could hold him.
Lakshmana tried with his arrows to obstruct his progress but the Rakshasa passed him by and rushed forward to face Rama himself.
For a long time Rama kept aiming powerful darts at the Rakshasa. The arrow that pierced the seven sal trees and the adamantine body of Vali was powerless against Kumbhakarna.
Sending sharper and stronger arrows, Rama wounded the arms and the feet of the Rakshasa, but nothing short of death would stop him. His legs were cut off, but legless he moved about on his stumps and went on with demoniac ferocity, fighting his brother’s battle.
At last, Rama cut off his head with an arrow.
The severed head, carried by the force of Rama’s arrow, rose into the sky and red with blood fell in Lanka like a hill with its forests aflame. The news was carried to Ravana.
“Your brother Kumbhakarna, terrible like all-destroying Death at the end of Time, has entered the heaven of slaughtered heroes! He killed thousands of Vanaras and for a long time kept the army of Rama and Lakshmana in fear of destruction. But at last he was, slain by Rama himself, and deprived of arms and legs his mutilated body lies like a mighty tree disfigured by a forest fire. A part has fallen into the sea. Another big part blocks the entrance to the fortress. The severed head, flying across the sky, has dropped in the city and is lying there. Your beloved brother is gone to Heaven!”
When the Rakshasas told this tale, Ravana felt that his own life had left him. He swooned. After recovering consciousness, he cried in grief and anger: “Ah mighty warrior! How could you go to Yama’s world leaving me behind? My right hand is cut off! How did Rama kill you, you whom in the whole world no enemy dared approach? I see the gods rejoicing in their heavens at your fall. The Vanara are dancing with delight. Of what use is this kingdom to me? Why should I cling to life when my dear brother has left me? Yes, I have to torture and slay the man who killed this dear brother of mine!”
Then with sudden and futile remorse he wailed: “Alas! Why did I refuse to listen to Vibhishana?”
Trisiras and his other sons tried to console Ravana.
“What is the use of lamentation” they argued. “You who have secured from Brahma strength and armor, why should you fear or lose yourself in grief?” And Trisiras himself set out for the battlefield. Many others eagerly followed him, riding on elephants and chariots.
A great battle ensued. Narantaka, riding on horseback spear in hand, wrought havoc among the Vanaras and was proceeding towards Sugriva. Angada opposed him and killed him and his horse.
Likewise, Devantaka and Trisiras were slain by Hanuman, and Mahodara by Nila. Atikaya fell a prey to Lakshmana’s arrows. But before they died, these four had fought like four Yamas and caused enormous loss to the Vanara forces.
When Ravana heard that Atikaya was dead, he was be wildered.
“This is incredible! These my warriors, firm and mighty like mountains and irresistible like the ocean, have been slain one by one by these enemies. Those, who till now have never known defeat, have been defeated and lie dead in the battlefield. There stand my foes who have broken out of the serpent entanglements with which my peerless son Indrajit had bound them. I cannot explain the marvel of this man Rama’s strength. May it be that he is Narayana himself?”
Thus bewildered, Ravana lost heart. He wanted that the enemy forces should not enter the fortress and in particular should not enter the Asoka Vana. He supervised the defences again and returned to the palace, downcast and forlorn.