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THE RAMAYANA - Part 9
News of Meghanada’s fall in the battle-field incited Ravana’s rage to the maximum and he himself marched to the battle-field. The Vanara army was rejoicing at their success at the time. It was Vibhishana who gave th good news of Meghanada’s fall to Rama first of all. He told Rama, “Your brother Lakshmana has killed Meghanada.”
When Ravana came to know that his brother Vibhishana was siding with Rama, his anger crossed all limits. So, he decided to make short work of Vibhishana.
Meanwhile, Rama and Vibhishana came to the battle-field. Seeing Vibhishana, Ravana could not control himself. In a fit of anger, he aimed at his brother and shot an arrow at him. But Lakshmana shot an arrow that cut Ravana’s arrow into two. Thus Vibhishana was saved from being killed by Ravana.
The failure of his arrow, enhanced Ravana’s wrath even more and he began to rain arrows on the Vanaras ruthlessly. It sent a wave of terror in Rama’s army and they began to fall in the action. Others lost their enthusiasm and thought of running away.
Seeing this, Hanuman flew into a rage and taking his mace, he rushed to face the ruler of Lanka. He assumed a dreadful form and started killing the demon soldiers fighting on Ravana’s side. Seeing a large number of his soldiers dead, Ravana attacked Hanuman with his arrows. But these arrows could do no harm to him.
Demon warriors like Virupaksh, Mahodar and Mahaparshva having been killed in the action, Ravana felt disheartened as well enraged. So, he ordered his charioteer to drive the chariot further. He said, “Advance further. All the chief warriors of my army have fallen fighting. I’ll return to Lanka after killing both Rama and Lakshmana.”
Saying so, Ravana made use of a weapon that started scorching the Vanara soldiers alive. Half burnt bodies of Vanara soldiers were lying everywhere.
Seeing this, Rama and Lakshmana came to face Ravana. A fierce battle was raging now. Arrows were being shot ruthlessly from both sides and soldiers were falling in large numbers.
Rama and Ravana – both started using the most lethal weapons. These weapons were extremely dreadful. They struck against each other and fell down in the no-man’s land.
Suddenly Lakshmana started raining fierce arrows on Ravana’s chariot. It killed the charioteer and blew off his flag. Just then Vibhishana joined Lakshmana and killed the horses of Ravana’s chariot.
This enraged the ruler of Lanka and he thundered, “O Lakshmana, you seem to be so proud of your warriorship. In this intoxication, you saved Vibhishana yesterday from being killed. I must settle scores with you. I shall now use an invincible weapon on you. It will surely send you to the land of the dead. Be ready.” Saying so, Ravana flung that weapon on Lakshmana. It hit him on the chest and he was critically wounded. So, he fell down unconscious on the ground. Seeing his brother senseless, Rama was plunged into deep sorrow.
Then at once Rama drew the weapon out of Lakshmana’s chest and said to Hanuman and Sugreeva, “Make strong cordon round Lakshmana. I shall not let Ravana remain alive.”
Saying so, Rama showered arrows on Ravana and wounded him very badly. Such fierce battle was being fought between the two that the onlookers began to tremble in awe.
Rama was fighting in full fury and Ravana was on the defensive. Rama’s arrows were piercing Ravana’s body just as a strong wind shatters a cloud to small pieces
Ravana could not stand Rama’s onslaught and he fled the battle-field.
When Ravana had fled, Rama placed his brother’s head in his lap. Hanuman had already brought Sushen, the physician, along with his cot on which he was sleeping. Lakshmana was lying in a pool of blood. He was smarting under acute pain. Rama said to the physician, “Sir, my brother is badly wounded. Look! How he is chafing in pain. I am awfully worried. Do something to soothe him at once, please.”
The physician consoled Rama and said, “There is nothing to fear, Ram! Send Hanuman to the Mount Mahodaya so that he may bring a life-giving herb (sanjivani) that grows on its southern peak. That herb will relieve all pain and infuse a new life in your brother’s body. But it should essentially reach here before sunrise.”
So, Rama persuaded Hanuman to go and bring the life-saving herb as early as possible. Hanuman at once proceeded on this mission.
When Ravana came to know that Hanuman was going to bring the life-saving herb, he sent a demon, Kalnemi by name, to prevent Hanuman from reaching the Mount Mahodaya. The demon transformed himself into a saint and sitting across Hanuman’s way, began to invoke Rama. Seeing the saint’s hut, Hanuman asked for water. Kalnemi directed him to a nearby lake.
When Hanuman was drinking water at the lake, a giant spider caught his neck. He killed the spider with a blow. The spider became free from a saint’s curse and came to its real form. It said, “You have freed me from the curse. So, I let you know a secret. The saint you met on the way is not a saint indeed. He is a demon sent by Ravana to mislead you.
So, Hanuman came back to Kalnemi and killed him then and there. Then he reached the Mount of Mahodaya but he failed to recognise the herb. So, he carried a part of the mountain along with all the herbs growing on it.
It was night and Hanuman was flying over Ayodhya along with the mountain on his hand. Bharata, the king of Ayodhya took him for a demon and shot an arrow at him. It struck Hanuman who fell down on the ground calling out the name – Ram. Hearing Ram’s name, Bharata ran to Hanuman and asked him, “Who are you, brother?”
“I am a humble servant of Rama. I am carrying this life saving herb for Lakshmana.” Saying so, he narrated the entire incident.
Hearing Hanuman’s words, Bharata embraced Hanuman and expressed his regrets for hitting him with an arrow. Then he said, “Brother, day-break is not very far-off. Sit on this arrow along with your mountain. I shall make you reach Rama in an instant.”
Hanuman agreed and Bharata did what he had said.
Seeing Hanuman back in time, Rama was very pleased. Placing the mountain piece on the ground, Hanuman said to the physician, “I could not recognise the herb, so I have brought this mountain – piece. Use the herb you want.”
The physician administered the required herb to Lakshmana and he got recovered in no time and got up. All the Vanaras rejoiced at the event in merriment.
As for Rama, his joy knew no bounds and embracing his brother, he said, “Lakshmana! Hanuman has given you a new life. If something unpleasant had happened, I would have been nowhere.”
Hearing the news of Lakshmana’s recovery, Ravana sent for his warriors and said, “I myself shall route my enemies now. Get ready my chariot that moves with the speed of wind.”
In a short time, Ravana moved to the battle-field on his chariot followed by all the four-wings of his army. Several other warriors too led their chariots to the field of battle. The march of the demon solders raised clouds of dust and it made the sun invisible. It caused the sea to be turbulent and the hills to lose their equilibrium. The sound of the war-trumpets seemed as if the clouds of the Doom’s day were thundering.
Soon both the armies stood face to face and in the twinkling of an eye, arrows began to be rained from both sides. Seeing Ravana on his chariot, Vibhishana got frightened. He went to Rama who was on the ground.
Vibhishana said to Ram, “My Lord, you have neither a chariot nor any armour. How will you win Ravana, the powerful?”
Hearing these words, Rama smiled and said, “Vibhishana! Self- confidence is my chariot and my courage and patience are its wheels. Truth and character are my flag while my strength, knowledge, self-control and goodwill are four horses of my chariot. Forgiveness and uniform behaviour are the ropes used to tie these horses. Faith in God in my charioteer while contentment and charity are my sword and axe respectively. My principles are my arrows. Devotion to the Brahmanas and to my preceptor is my impenetrable armour. What other means of victory can one crave for?”
Red in anger, Ravana fell upon the Vanara army and began to fling the soldiers on the ground. His twenty arms showered volleys of arrows on Rama’s soldiers and most of them fell in action. Those who escaped ran to Rama for help. Seeing this, Lakshmana came running to face Ravana.
After fighting for some time, Ravana returned to his palace and began to perform a Yajna. Coming to know of it, Vibhishana went to Rama and said, “Ravana is performing a Yajna to be invincible. If successful, nobody will be able to kill him. So, it is advisable to render the Yajna unsuccessful.”
Directed by Rama, Hanuman and Angad barged into Ravana’s palace and said, “You shameless coward! Why have you fled from the battle-field? Why are you posing to be a saint here?” Hearing this, Ravana left his Yajna incomplete and returned to the battle-field.
Ravana came face to face with Rama who prompted by Vibhishana rained fire-emitting arrows in his navel. As a result, all the nectar present there got dry. Then Rama severed his heads and arms from his body.
Ravana’s headless body fell down with a thud and after smarting for a few minutes it became motionless.
Seeing his brother dead, Vibhishana got plunged in sorrow. Rama consoled him and said, “Vibhishana! Be calm and perform the last rites of your brother.” Vibhishana went to Lanka and performed Ravana’s last rites. Queen Mandodari and other queens returned to the palace praising Rama for his bravery and greatness.
Next day, Rama directed Lakshmana to go to Lanka along with Sugreeva, Angad, Hanuman, Nala and Jamvant and coronate Vibhishana duly because he himself escorted by others went to Lanka and enthroned Vibhishana after a ceremony.
After Vibhishana’s coronation, Ram sent for Vibhishana and Angad and said, “Both of you should go accompanied by Hanuman and bring Sita here most respectfully.”
So, they went to Sita and bowed low before her. Then making her sit in a palanquin, they brought her to Rama.
Now hanuman said to Ram, “Sita felt very pleased to know of your victory. But still she is dejected. Be kind enough to go in person to receive her. “
With tears in his eyes, Rama went to Sita who looked very serene at that time. She began to look at Rama in amazement but with a heart full of love and happiness.
Rama felt highly pleased to see Sita. He said to her in a gentle voice. “Darling! Observing all the traditions carefully, I have rescued you from the enemy’s prison after killing him in the field of battle. But no honourable person will accept his wife back after she had passed some time in another person’s house. So, we will have to be separate again now.”
Rama’s words fell like a bolt from the blue on Sita. Weeping bitterly, she said in a heavy voice, “It is right that I was in Ravana’s prison. But I have never even thought of anybody else but you. How unfortunate I am, that even my own husband is doubting my chastity! What for should I live then?”
Then Sita, who was pure in thought , word and deed, said to Lakshmana, “Observing the tenets of religion, make a fire at once.”
Lakshmana obeyed Sita and she , with folded hands, prayed to Fire-god “My honour is in your hands, O Lord. I don’t want to proclaim that I am pure but my husband doubts my chastity. Be kind to help me prove that I have always been faithful to him. “Let your sting be as cool as sandal.” Saying so, Sita entered the fire most gladly.
Seeing this, all present there began to scream in pain. There was a hue and cry but Rama stood motionless gazing at Sita. As soon as Sita entered the fire, it went out itself.
Fire-god appeared out of the fire and said to Rama, “Your wife Sita is a lady of high chastity. She is pious in thought, deed and sight even. She has not been even touched by sin or evil. She has never thought of any person other than you for a moment even. So, accept her.” Saying so, the Fire-god handed over Sita to her husband Rama.
Sita was looking so charming at that time. Her complexion resembled that of the rising sun and her golden ornaments increased her charm a lot. Seeing her beauty, everyone present felt happy. They began to praise her.
After the ordeal, Rama advanced towards Sita and said in a repentant voice, “Darling, never take to heart anything. I never doubted your chastity. But if anybody else had raised such a doubt, it would have been intolerable for me as well as for you. So, this ordeal was essential, thought I knew that your fidelity was strong enough to protect you form any evil eye – be it Ravana’s or of anybody else.”
Then Rama took Sita’s hand in his own and went away. She too shed all sorrow and became as happy as ever in the company of her dear husband. Everybody who was present there felt overjoyed to see the husband and wife together once again.
Now Vibhishana said to Rama with folded hands, “My Lord! The period of your exile is over. So, be kind enough to grace my cottage along with your spouse.”
Hearing this Rama said, “It is so nice of you to invite us like that. But you know I have always been thinking of Bharata who will be eagerly looking forward to my return. A moment’s delay will be intolerable for him. He is performing the duties of a king but living as a hermit. Any tardiness on my part to reach Ayodhya may push him in the jaws of death. So, I would take leave of you.”
So, Vibhishana sent for an air-vehicle. Seating Rama, Lakshmana and Sita in it, he proceeded to Ayodhya. The air-vehicle flew over the battle-field which Sita was amazed to see. Then Rama show her the bridge across the sea and the Shive temple which he had built on the sea-shore.
Bharat was counting the days of Rama’s exile on his fingers. Only one day was left out of the exile-period. He was lost in thoughts. He said to himself, “Only one day left, but no news of my brother Rama has reached me so far.” Just then Hanuman appeared before him in the guise of a Brahmana. Seeing Bharata’s condition, he was moved to pity. He bowed low before Bharata and informed him of Ram’s imminent arrival. “Please let everybody in the palace and also Saint Vasishtha know it,” said Hanuman.
Bharata was overjoyed to know of Rama’s arrival. He sent word to all in the palace about it. The people of Ayodhya were also informed of it. A current of joy ran across the length and breadth of the town. People began to make preparations to receive their prince back.
The town of Ayodhya was decorated like a bride and people stood agape gazing at the path along which Rama was to come.
As soon as Rama set foot on the land of Ayodhya, he addressed Angad and Vibhishana and said, “Look! This land is my motherland. The water of the Saryu is so pious for me. It gives me perfect peace of mind. The people of Ayodhya are dearer to me than my life even.
Taking a pinch of the soil to his fore-head, Vibhishana said, “We are fortunate to be on this pious soil.”
Looking at Bharata along with other people ready to welcomes, tears welled up in Rama’s eyes. Bharata lay prostrate at his brother’s feet and Rama embraced him most affectionately.
Both the brothers were shedding tears of joy. Shatrughna and Lakshmana hugged each other too. Then Bharata and Shatrughna bowed low before Sita. Lakshmana also touched Bharata’s feet out of profound love and respect.
Rama having reached Ayodhya, Saint Vasishtha summoned a meeting of all the courtiers. Also, scholarly Braham’s were consulted. He said, “The day of today is a rec-letter day indeed. Rama has returned safe and sound after his 14 year exile. Please confer among yourselves whether it is proper to coronate Ram today or not.”
Hearing this, all the people spoke in one voice, “Revered Saint! Delay in this auspicious event is not good. Coronation should be performed at once.”
So, directed by Saint Vasishtha, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana took off their forest robes. Each of them had a bath and got dressed in a royal robe.
Then Rama was seated on the throne and his coronation was performed in a befitting manner. The spectators raised slogans – Victory to Rama and Sita.
Now Rama held his court as the king of Ayodhya. Sugreeva, Angad and many other Vanara dignitaries were present. Rama addressed them and said, “All of you have served me a lot. You all are far from your families for my sake only. Not only this, you have even forsaken your comforts for me. I am highly grateful to you all. How long will you keep serving me like that? Be kind enough to return to your places and perform your duties for your families and people there. “
Hearing these words, the Vanaras stood agape. No words could come out of their lips due to emotion. Then Rama sermonised them on worldly life and showering valuable gifts on each of them, he saw them off with full honour.
This ends part 9 … tune in for part 10 next week.
My Eternal Love, Sarveswara
Love, Faith & Trust ... The Foundation of Everything.
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