Ramayan Kishkinda Kanda - Book Of Kishkinda

Canto II - Pact With Sugriv

Though he was quaking inside, Sugriv went up to the fortress gates and roared, summoning Vali to a duel. Vali could not believe his ears.

Sugriv must have gone mad, he thought, or else he would never dare to do such a thing. Vali took it as a huge joke and laughed his head off. Sugriv roared again and Vali thought it was high time that he was taught a lesson and he went out with an angry bellow. As he charged out of the city gates, he looked like a mountain in motion and Sugriv's heart lurched with fear but he stuck his ground, confident that Ram would come to his aid. They came to grips on the open ground just outside the city gates. Ram and Lakshman were hidden behind the bushes which surrounded the ground. Ram carefully watched the pair but the brothers looked so much alike, that he was not sure which was Vali and which, Sugriv. The latter was no mean fighter but he was certainly not a match for Vali, who thrashed him to pulp within minutes. Ram was quite helpless and dared not shoot for fear of hitting Sugriv. Poor Sugriv had no choice but to run for his life towards Rishyarnukha. He was hotly pursued by the irate Vali who threatened to kill him if he dared to make a nuisance of himself once again.

Ram, Lakshman and Hanuman now approached the chastened Sugriv who was literally licking his wounds. Naturally he was most unhappy about the whole affair and said, "Why did you force me to challenge Vali if you did not wish to kill him? You could have told me so in the beginning and spared me this humiliating defeat".

Ram was full of remorse. Having pledged-his word to Sugriv, he was bound to kill Vali and he told Sugriv the reason why he could not shoot.

"In size and form and even in the way of fighting both of you were so much alike that I dared not shoot my arrow, for fear of killing you, instead of your brother. What a tragic mistake that would have been. Never mind, take heart. Lakshman will put a garland around your neck so that I am able to differentiate between the two of you. Please do not lose your courage. Go once again and challenge him, and this time, I assure you, that my arrow will find its mark".

All of them went once more to the bushes behind the arena. Ram, Lakshman and Hanuman stood behind the bushes, while thick-necked Sugriv bellowed his war cry and strode forth, once again, like a lion and shouted for Vali in front of the city gates. Vali was in his seraglio at that time and he could not believe his ears. His amorous mood gave way to one of violent loathing. He gave a roar of anger and decided to finish off his foolhardy brother, once and for all. Sugriv had been a thorn in his side for many years and it was high time he made an end of him. That way he could keep his sister-in-law, Ruma, without any feeling of guilt. He knew the laws and he knew that he had done a despicable thing in consorting with the wife of his younger brother, who should have been treated like a daughter. He had somehow stifled his conscience all the time with various excuses but if Sugriv was dead, he would have a legitimate excuse for keeping her, for it was well within the dictates of moral law for a brother to marry the widow of his dead brother inorder to protect her. Thinking thus, he was about to rush out of the gate, when his own wife, Tara, stopped him.

"My Lord", she said, "please do not goto fight with your brother now. You have just thrashed him and sent him away. How has he dared to come again, almost immediately, unless he is being helped by someone? Our son Angada told me something a while ago. His spies had found out that Ram and Lakshman, the sons of king Dasaratha, are here in this region and they have made friends with Sugriv and agreed to help him. I have heard that Ram is a most noble person and a great warrior.

If he is helping your brother, you have no chance of victory. Remember that you have done Sugriv a great injustice by throwing him out of the kingdom for no fault of his and appropriating his wife. Please go and make friends with him and agree to take him back and make him yuvaraja. After all, you are the elder brother and it is for you to set an example. By doing this, you will make friends with Ram also. Please take my advice and do not make an enemy of Ram. I feel very frightened for you".

Her plea fell on deaf ears. Vali's time was up and he was drawn to face his brother once again, feeling sure that this time he would kill him.

"How can I bear to make friends with that arrogant coward? This is the end. I will not brook his audacity any more. As for Ram, I have heard that he is the soul of honour. He has no quarrel with me; so why should I fear him".

He forgot that though Ram was the soul of honour, he was the soul of dharma and he would never be able to brook such harsh treatment of a younger brother, by an elder and the misappropriation of his wife.

Tara embraced her husband and prayed for his safety. She returned to her chambers with slow and dragging steps. She had a premonition that she would never see him alive again.

Vali rushed out with a roar and the brothers locked themselves in a fierce combat. Sugriv fought with all his might and for some time the only sounds to be heard were grunts and groans. Ram was watching the fight closely. Perhaps he hoped that Sugriv would manage to defeat Vali by himself but soon he saw that his friend was palpably weakening and looking around desperately for help. Ram knew that the time had come for him to do something, which he really did not like to do, but which was unavoidable if he wanted to keep his promise to his friend. He fixed the arrow to the bow and let it go with a tremendous twang. It flashed forward and hit its mark with deadly accuracy and the mighty Vali fell, with a groan. He lay on the ground like a fallen god, drenched in blood, yet filled with splendour, even in death. Ram and Lakshman came out of the bushes and walked towards the fallen hero.

Vali watched them come and when they were close enough he said, "I was fighting with my brother when suddenly an arrow hit me from somewhere and felled me, like a mighty tree. I had no quarrel with you, Ram, yet you deemed it right to kill me while hiding behind the trees. Why did you do this? What have you gained by it? You are the son of an emperor and said to possess all great qualities. They say you are valiant, generous and righteous. You are famed for having observed the rules of dharma all your life. Why have you forgotten your own rules.

When Sugriv challenged me a second time, my wife, Tara, warned me that he might have been helped by you but I was not afraid of that, since I was sure that you would never stoop to anything unrighteous. You are the king of this land and we are only monkeys living on this small piece of territory and fighting over trivial things. Why should you concern yourself with our squabbles? Ram, today you have killed me, who am innocent. This act of yours will always be questioned. It is against all the rules of dharma. I know that you have lost your wife and Sugriv has promised to help you but had you approached me first I could have aided you without any difficulty. I would have brought her back to you, in a single day. I have already defeated Ravana once, long ago". So saying Vali fell back exhausted to the ground. The monkey king was fast losing his strength.

Now the question is often asked as to why Ram did this. Why do all our ancient scriptures revel in such dilemmatic situations? They could surely have avoided the whole problem instead of putting their heroes in positions which are so controversial. We find the same thing in the Mahabharata. Arjuna was put in the difficult position of having to slay his own kith and kin. The whole of the Bhagavad Gita is Lord Krishna's answer to this difficult question.

The fact is that, in life, we are often placed in such perplexing situations. The way we face these situations would depend on our character and view of life and the type of dharma which we follow. Here the question is often asked, as to why Ram did not go and challenge Vali himself. Valmiki has taken pains to show us that he was far superior to Vali in strength. So certainly it was not fear of defeat that stopped him from facing him. The reasons why he did not do so, are many. Vali was actually a great soul and had he seen Ram face to face, he would certainly have desisted from fighting and done his best to become friends with him. This meant that Ram would nol have been able to keep his promise to Sugriv. He had already forged a pact of friendship with Sugriv in front of fire. It was a solemn covenant which could not be broken.

Moreover Vali had done the very thing for which he was going to punish Ravana. He had abducted Sugriv's wife. The punishment for one who abducted a brother's wife was death, and Ram, as the embodiment of dharma, had to mete out this punishment. Considering all these things, Ram did not go and challenge Vali to a fight, for he knew that Vali would immediately have surrendered to him and taken refuge at his feet and Ram could nevci resist pardoning anyone who surrendered to him, as we shall see in the war with Ravana. This meant that he would never have been able to kill him as he had promised Sugriv to do. These are the reasons why he asked Sugriv to go and call Vali for a fight. Ram waited patiently for Vali to have his say, for he knew that on the face of it he had every right to berate him. After Vali had exhausted himself, Ram spoke, with compassion in his eyes, even though he put on a semblance of anger.

"0 Vali! You speak of dharma and adharma as if you know all about them, but you fail to see your own misdemeanors. Your younger brother, who is full of good qualities, should have been treated as a son by you. Instead of that, you banished him from his kingdom and misappropriated his wife, Ruma.

According to the law of this land, anyone who looks on his daughter, his sister or the wife of his brother with lust, should be punished, and the punishment is, death. You have been sleeping with your brother's wife, when he is still alive, and this violates the eternal dharma. Why do you accuse me of transgressing the law, when I have only complied with the law? Sugriv is as dear to me as Lakshman. I have sworn to be his friend and publicly gave him my word to restore his kingdom and his wife to him. How could I go back on that promise? I have only kept my word to him, nothing else, so why do you accuse me of adharma~ You would have done the same, if you had been in my position".

Vali considered Ram's words and realised that he spoke but the truth. He bitterly regretted his cruelty to his younger brother, whom he should have treated as a son, as Ram said. He also knew that his action in having stolen his brother's wife, was despicable. With flowing eyes and choked voice, Vali said, "0 Ram! You are right. I deserve to be punished. I am not worried about myself. I should die for my crimes but I am worried about the future of my only son, Angada. Please consider him like your own son and look after him. Please do not let my beloved Tara be insulted by Sugriv. She was a very good wife to me. I realise now that I was fated to meet death at your hands and that is why I did not listen to her when she begged me not to fight. Ram spoke comfortingly to Vali and promised him that he would take very good care of Angada. "What Angada was to you, he will be to me and to Sugriv so depart in peace". He stroked Vali's dying body with loving hands and Vali felt a great peace creeping into his soul at Ram's tender touch. He begged Ram to forgive him for his hasty words spoken under delusion and anger. Then he lost consciousness.

Tara heard that her husband was killed and she rushed out of the fortress with her son. The other monkeys tried to stop her and said that she should flee from that place with her son in case Sugriv did some harm to them. She spoke scornfully to them. "My beloved husband is lying dead and you expect me to protect myself. Of what use is life to me, after he has gone. I do not want the kingdom and I .do not fear for my son. All I want is to go to him". So saying she ran out of the fortress gates to the spot where Vali had fallen. She threw herself on his body and cried, as if her heart would break. Angada followed suit. Sugriv felt sorely grieved at this scene. So did Ram and Lakshman.

"I am Tara, my Lord", she said, "why do not you answer me? This hard ground is not a fitting bed for you. Come, let us go back to the palace where I have prepared a silken mattress for you. My heart must indeed be very hard or else how could it go on beating, when you are lying dead. Why did you not listen to me, when I begged you not to go? Angada, my dear child, take a last look at your valiant father. Who knows what your fate will be? Ram has kept his promise to his friend and despatched your father to heaven. Sugriv, the kingdom is yours.

Your enemy is killed and you will be reunited with your wife. All your desires will be fulfilled. I hope you will be happy". So saying she beat her breast and wept bitterly. It was a most painful scene for everyone.

Hanuman went to her and tried to console her. "A man reaps the fruits of his actions, whether good or bad. The human body is like a bubble on the surface of the water. No one need mourn for another, since we are all to be pitied. Where is the cause for grief in a world where everything is transient? It is not right for you to think of giving up your life when you have a son to protect. Your son looks up to you and so do your subjects. Angada will surely be king. Let him now perform the obsequies for his father, which is the duty of a son. After that he will crowned as yuvaraja. You are a wise lady and you know only too well that life and death are inevitable and this life is most impermanent. This is why a person should always try to perform as many good acts as he can, while alive. Your thoughts should now be only for your son".

Vali painfully opened his weary eyes and saw his brother and said, “Sugriv, forgive me, tor what I nave done to you. We were not fated to share affection with each other. Accept this kingdom from me, as well as my son, my immense wealth and great fame. Listen to my last wishes. Here is my son Angada, dearer to me than my life. Treat him as your own. He will prove his valour in the war with Ravana. Do not forget your promise to Ram. Help him to find his wife. He was prepared to besmirch his own name for your sake, for the sake of a friend. So, do all you can to help him. My wife, Tara, is a very wise woman. Take her advice in all matters of statecraft. She is invariably right about these things. And finally, take this golden garland. It is divine and will lose its power once I die, so remove it before my life ebbs away. Take it. I have no further use for it".

When Sugriv heard these words of Vali, he started sobbing and all his pleasure at his victory vanished.

Vali called his son to his side and said, "My child, remember your altered circumstances and obey Sugriv in everything. Accept happiness and sorrow as they come and do not be too moved by either". By now, his end was fast approaching and he fell back gasping. Within a few minutes he was dead. Tara was inconsolable. Sugriv, too, was filled with remorse. Approaching Ram he said, "Ram you kept your word and Vali is dead but now I have totally lost interest in becoming king. The death of Vali, the sorrow of his queen and the helpless look in the eyes of his son, have made me lose interest in stepping into my brother's shoes. I have had so many fights with him, in all of which he could have easily killed me at any moment, but he always gave me a thrashing and let me go. I should never have wished for his death. I am a sinner and not fit to rule. I will not break my promise to you. Hanuman will help you but all I want is to fall into the pyre with my brother and die".

Tara also approached Ram and said, "You have been separated from your wife and you know how painful it is to you. Don*t you think that Vali feels the same pain as you do? Please do me one favour and use the same arrow on me, as you used on my husband, so that I can join him".

Ram was sorely distressed by these words and tried to comfort her. "You are the wife of a hero and you should not give way to despair. The Vedas say that everything functions according to the will of Brahma. You cannot overrule the dictates of fate. It is the sole and powerful cause for all happenings. No one can escape its decrees. It is not partial to anyone. Vali has now reached the heavens, which he has well earned through his valour. Rouse yourself from this despondency and ask your son to perform the last rites for his father".

Lakshman urged Sugriv to do the needful. A richly decorated palanquin was brought on which Vali was placed and carried to the pyre, which Angada lighted. After performing all the rites, they bathed in the river and returned to the city of Kishkinda.

All the vanaras surrounded Ram and begged him to take charge of their affairs since Sugriv was in a state of shock. Hanuman invited him to enter the city and attend the coronation.

Ram said, "According to the vow I made my father, I cannot enter a village or city till my fourteen years of exile are over. Let Sugriv be taken to the city and crowned". Turning to Sugriv, he said, "Go and take up the reins of government. Crown this young prince as yuvaraja".

Then turning to Lakshman and the others he continued, "This is the month of shravana, the first month of the rainy season. Lakshman and I will spend the four months of the monsoons in some cave, in the forest. When the month of kartika comes and the rains cease you can think about fulfilling your promise to me".

Sugriv went into the city and was crowned. After that he crowned Angada as heir-apparent. He was reunited with his wife and spent the next four months revelling with his wife and the other women of Vali’s harem.

Ram and Lakshman went to the hill called Prasravana where they found a comfortable and spacious cave which they decided to make their home for the duration of the rainy season.

Thus ends the second Canto called "Pact with Sugriv" of the Kishkinda Kanda in the glorious Ramyana of the Sage Valmiki.

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