Reflections on Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa – XLI:

Rescuing Sītā, the Battle at Laṅkā – Part VI

Bijoy Misra

June 25, 2022

 Woman replicates Nature. She represents Nature’s invincibility. A woman may not know when a local event may not go her way, she creates events. The story of Rāmāyaṇa centers on Sītā: she is abandoned by her unknown parents, adopted by her father Janaka, who places a high price on her marriage; she abandons the palace to follow her husband into exile, she is kidnapped when apparently doing something benevolent for her husband, and now she is stuck alone in a strange land with a lustful, arrogant, alcoholic, demonic person, who wants to take advantage of her. She continues to hope that she will be rescued. The story may be a fiction, but it has an air of reality in nature.

It was evening time when Rāma and the monkeys reached Suvela mountain at the outskirts of Laṅkā. The city looked beautiful. In the morning, they explored the beautiful gardens in the city and visited the groves of splendid tropical trees. The city radiated splendor. It had huge mansions, well-kept streets and large gates. Rāma did get a glimpse of Rāvaṇa relaxing in his palace. He wondered about Rāvaṇa’s style. He thought about Rāvaṇa’s prowess in maintaining such a splendid city. On the other hand, Sugrīva was mad about seeing Rāvaṇa. He lunged towards Rāvaṇa. They had a terrible fist-fight. Sugrīva succeeded in exhausting Rāvaṇa in the fight. He came back jubilant to the monkey battalion to be admonished by Rāma: “You are a Sovereign. You must not undertake such daring acts!” Rāma was learning to handle the monkeys in battle!

Meanwhile Vibhīṣaṇa came by to report on Rāvaṇa’s battle plans, as obtained through his spies. “There are four gates. The eastern gate is protected by Prahasta, the Commander-in-Chief. Mahāpārśva and Mahodāra guard the southern gate. Indrajīt, Rāvaṇa ‘s valiant son, is stationed at the western gate. And Rāvaṇa himself guards the northern gate. The center is manned by Virūpākṣa, with an extremely skilled battalion. They have ten thousand elephants, ten thousand chariots, twenty thousand horses and ten million infantry soldiers.” Vibhīṣaṇa added “I am not saying this to scare you, but to help you plan for the battle!”

Rāma commanded: “The agile Nīḻa should engage Prahasta at the eastern gate, Aṅgada should take care of the southern gate, and Hanūmān should handle Indrajīt at the western gate. I myself, along with Lakṣmaṇa, will fight Rāvaṇa at the northern gate. Sugrīva and Jāmbavāna should manage the central post.”

Rāma rode up the mountain and witnessed the huge vista again. His goal was to rescue Sītā, not to kill anyone or destroy property. He was heavily weighed down by the possibility that the splendor of Laṅkā would be ransacked by the massive incursion of monkeys and bears. After reaching the northern gate he ordered Aṅgada to help deliver a message to Rāvaṇa: “You have committed a high offence against the Rṣis and the gods. You have injured the clans of the Gandharvas, the Nāgaa and the Yakṣas. I appeal to you to return Sītā immediately, otherwise you and all of your associates will certainly face death!”

Aṅgada conveyed the message exactly. Rāvaṇa was furious. “Put him to death!” he ordered. Four rākṣasas got hold of Aṅgada. But the monkey slipped away. He jumped around, shattered objects, leaped up to the top of the palace and broke the flag mast. Finally, he returned back to Rāma. He was loudly shouting Rāma’s name. Seeing myriads of monkeys jammed all around the city, Rāvaṇa called upon his own troops. The massive roar of conches filled the air. Troops on elephants and horses were readied. Thousands of metal spears illumined the space. The monkeys used trees and stones as weapons. The rākṣasas roared “Victory to King Rāvaṇa”, the monkeys shouted “Victory to King Sugrīva!” The mighty battle ensued.

In the course of the battle, Aṅgada went after Indrajīt at the southern gate. Indrajīt was humbled and angry. He had a boon from Brahmā that enabled him to invoke the power to inflict anyone with a spell of unconsciousness by hitting them with arrows that resembled snakes. Indrajīt applied his boon on Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa, sealing them up with shafts of snakes. They lay on the ground. They were bleeding profusely while Indrajīt remained invisible through his occult tricks. He shouted “I have dispatched the two to Yama!”. Seeing this, the monkeys were despondent. Only Vibhīṣaṇa was able to see Indrajīt through his own conjured tricks. He Had reason to believe that Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa were not dead!

With the two brothers were lying unconscious on the ground, Indrajīt returned to the palace. He boasted: “The two brothers who had killed Khara and Dūṣaṇa have been struck down! They cannot be released by anyone. The two that were causing stress to my father are put to rest by me!” Returning, he went after the monkey generals, hitting Nīḻa, Mainda, Dvivinda, Jāmbavāna, Hanūmān, Gavākṣa, and finally Aṅgada. Sugrīva was utterly depressed. Vibhīṣaṇa remained optimistic: he knew the power of the spell. “This is not a time for emotion. Please protect Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa until they come out of the spell imposed on them.” He warned: “Please advise all not to spread rumor!“

Indrajīt reported the news to his father. Rāvaṇa was very happy. He knew that the spell was not permanent, but it would be an opportune moment when Sita saw the two brothers lying on the ground and would assume them to be dead. Rāvaṇa sent Indrajīt away. He spoke to Trijaṭā, the caretaker rākṣasī who attended on Sita. “Let Sītā know that Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa have been killed by my son Indrajīt. You can let her ride the Puṣpaka. Please show her their bodies lying on the ground.” Infatuated as always, Rāvaṇa made his wishful conclusion “Sita can be dressed well and she can prepare herself to meet me on her own accord!”

Sītā was downcast in extreme grief to hear the news. Trijaṭā helped her ride the Puṣpaka. Sita saw the merriment in Laṅkā, and on the battle field she saw the two princes lying on a bed of arrows. Their bodies were riddled with darts, their armor shattered, and their bows separated. She assumed them dead. Sita broke down. She started wailing in loud piteous shrills: “People who told me that I would be a mother, a queen and a happy wife were all liars, my husband Rāma is no more! See my body marks, people told me that I would be consecrated as a queen. It is all false!”

Trijaṭā consoled Sītā: ”O righteous lady, please do not despair! Your husband is likely still living. The monkey army does not appear leaderless. I should remind you that no widow may ride on this Puṣpaka craft. Rāvaṇa knows the truth. I also see that the monkeys are guarding the two brothers. Their bodies look fresh. I fully believe that they are not dead!” “May it be so!” Sita sighed, she was troubled and deeply worried. They returned to the Aśoka grove. Sita kept on staring at the tall trees in the grove. Possibly, she was measuring her own confidence!

Rāma did wake up, but Lakṣmaṇa did not. Withstanding pain and stress is an individual attribute. Lakshmana was lying on the ground with deep wounds, bleeding limbs and a reddened face. Rāma was distraught. “What good is it if I get Sita and lose my dear brother? Someone like Sītā can be found if I search hard, but a brother like Lakṣmaṇa can never be found! O’ Lakṣmaṇa, I miss you. You consoled me in my times of my despair, and now I cannot even speak with you! How do I report this back to your mother? How do I report it to my mother? I must kill myself!” Rama assumed that Lakṣmaṇa was dead, blaming himself for it. “O’ Sugrīva, your valiant troops have done enough. Each of them is splendid in his own strength. But you must return from this place immediately. I failed. Vibhīṣaṇa could not be put on the throne. Do protect yourself! I go where my brother has gone!”

Rāma ’s family had been friends with a family of hawks. The Ramayana is a story of timely help by the objects in nature! Jaṭāyu had fought with Rāvaṇa in Pañcavaṭī, Sampāti had given Sugrīva directions to Lanka. Now the great Garuda bird showed up. He helped untie the snakes from Lakṣmaṇa’s body. Rāma expressed his gratitude to the bird, who said: “I am Garuḍa, I have been summoned through your breath. I have arrived out of affection to you! These snake knots conjured up with magic tricks by the rakshasas are the most formidable in the battles. Now since you are free, you should proceed to kill Rāvaṇa and recover Sītā !”

You will come to know me in due course!” Garuda soared up to the sky the same way that he had come.


Let Sai bless all!