Ramayan: Sundar Kanda - Book Of Beauty

Canto I - Leap To Lanka

Hanuman stood on the mountain and saluted the gods presiding over the quarters. He repeated the glorious mantra "Ram, Ram, Ram" ~ and concentrated on Ram. He then shook himself and roared like thunder. He swung his tail in the sky until it looked like a hooded serpent. Placing his hands on the rock, he sucked in his waist and folded his legs. Thrusting his neck far out, he held his breath and concentrating his mind on Ram, and repeating the Ram mantra , he took a flying leap. He was absolutely confident of his ability to jump over the ocean and find Sita. Because of the force with which he jumped, trees were uprooted and some even sped with him, scattering their flowers on the sea.

Hanuman coursed through the air, like a thunder-cloud. Varuna, the god of the waters, wanted to help him and asked the mountain, called Mainaka, to rise up from the waters and give him a resting place. Hanuman saw it rising and thought it was an impediment in his path and tried to push it off but the mountain took on the form of a lady and told him that she had been sent to give him a resting place.

Hanuman was pleased but refused her offer, since he was in a desperate hurry. The watching gods wanted to test his determination and sent Surasa, the mother of the serpents to block his path. She came in the form of a huge rakshasi and tried to gobble him up.

She said, "No one can pass, without entering my mouth". So Hanuman started growing in size and she also enlarged her mouth to suit his stature. Then suddenly, he became small as a thumb and entered her mouth and came out again.

"Now that I have done what you told me to do, let me pass", he said. She was pleased and allowed him to proceed. Then, there was another sea-monster, who tried to catch him by his shadow but Hanuman swooped down and killed her and carried on with his journey. Soon he saw signs of land and realised that he had reached his destination.

He thought that he would be the cynosure of all eyes if he went into Lanka in this huge form, so he changed himself into a small, insignificant looking monkey and stood on the peak overlooking Lanka, in order to survey the land. He saw a magnificent city built on a hill, surrounded by a moat. It was so well guarded that it would be almost impossible to get into it. The mansions were glittering in the evening light and the hill was covered with trees and flowering bushes. He could also see the clean white roads, bordered by green, luscious looking grass.

Situated as it was on top of the hill, Lanka looked, as if it was floating on air, for there were some clouds surrounding it. Hanuman nimbly jumped from rock to rock, as he made his way to the northern gate, guarded by fierce looking rakshasas. He felt that it would be an impossible task for an army to enter Lanka. First of all, how would Ram, accompanied by a hoard of monkeys, cross the sea, which he had just crossed. Even if they succeeded in crossing, how would they assail this bastion which looked impregnable. The lockout posts would be able to see anyone as soon as they landed on the shore.

"Even my father, the god of wind, would not be able to enter this city, undetected", he thought to himself. Anyway he decided that he would go and discover the whereabouts of Sita, for that was his immediate task. He waited till darkness had set in and then shrunk his body even further, to that of a small cat and went near the gate. He saw seven and eight-storied palaces having pillars, gloaming with pearls and coral. Precious stones were studded on the walls and the perfume of incense was rising from the hearths. He waited till a pale moon floated across the sky, accompanied by her attendants, the stars. He was so small that he could easily have slipped through the bars of the gate but as he tried to do so, he was accosted by the rakshasi who was the guardian of the gate "Who are you"? she demanded. "You look like a monkey. Why have you come here? Tell the truth or forfeit your life. No one can enter Lanka without my permission".

Hanuman spoke humbly, "Tell me, 0 lady, who you are? Why are you standing in this frightening pose"

She said gruffly, "My name is Lankini and I am here to obey the orders of the king. I have been ordered to kill anyone who enters without reason and I am going to kill you, unless you tell me the purpose of your visit".

Unruffled by this apparition, Hanuman said, "Madam, I have heard about the beauty of Lanka and have come here to see it for myself. ] just want to see its glories and then I'll go away. I have not come here to stay".

She was not impressed by his sweet words and said, "You are a stupid little monkey. You will have to fight with me. If you wish to enter".

So saying she gave him a box on his face. Without saying a word Hanuman boxed her back with his left hand. Even though he did not use all his strength, she fell down with a thud. She was really astonished to be felled by a small cat-like monkey.

She said, "I had a boon from Brahma that I would be invincible. But he also warned me that I would be vanquished by a monkey. When such a thing happened, he told me that it was a foreboding of disaster for the rakshasas. I see now, that the time has come for Ravana to be vanquished. I suppose that you have come in search of Sita. You are at liberty to enter the city and do what you wish". So saying Lankini vanished from the city forever.

Having got rid of the presiding deity of the city, Hanuman entered the fabulous city of Lanka and stared spellbound. Wherever he looked he saw nothing but beauty. There was music everywhere, tinkle of anklets on women's feet, the rustle of silks and satins, perfume of jasmine and sandalwood and palaces gleaming in the silvery sheen of the moon. The army was parading the streets but he was so small that no one noticed him. At one place he saw the fabulous, aerial chariot of Ravana which he had stolen from his brother, Kubera.

It was called, Pushpaka, or the flower chariot. Pushpa means flower, and the chariot was covered with flowers and many wonderful things. He jumped on to the platform surrounding it and gazed fascinated.

At last he reached a palace which was even more magnificent than the rest. "This must be Ravana', he thought. He slipped in through the doorway which was exquisitely carved and inlaid with gems and pearls. The seats, couches and beds 'were all of gold, set with gems. The rooms glowed with the shine, emanating from all this gold and jewels. All the wealth of Kubera seemed to be here. The scene was one of revelry and rioting. Hundreds of voluptuous looking females sprawled about in various states of abandonment. Some lay on the carpets with disheveled hair and scattered jewels, some were dancing and some drinking.

The red dots on their forehead were often smeared by their lover's hands, their girdles were loosened, clothes crushed and garlands trampled. Pearls gleamed in the moonlight between their heavy breasts and gold pendants hung from their ears. Some ladies were caressing their lovers who were totally inebriated. Others were rubbing sandal paste on their perspiring bodies, some sprawled naked, some were welcoming their lovers with eager kisses, while a few virtuous ones were ensconced in their husbands' arms. They were all enchanting to look at, elegantly clad, fragrant with flowers, with curved eyes and long lashes and side long glances, guaranteed to entice all men.

All the most beautiful women from various parts of the world had been captured and brought to Lanka by Ravana. He had coursed through the length and breadth of all the worlds in his aerial vehicle, grabbing virgin daughters of the nagas, gandharvas, dailyas, danavas and rishis. All of them had cried and struggled when they were captured and sworn to kill themselves, but in the end they had succumbed to his charms, for his expertise in the art of love-making was proverbial. He had been cursed by their parents over and over again and by those whom he had brought forcibly. Seeing all these glamorous beauties, Hanuman began to feel sorry for Ravana. Instead of being content with all these women, he was deliberately courting death by capturing Sita. Most of the women were obviously under the influence of wine. Hanuman's eyes roved over all of them and he knew for sure that none of these abandoned women could be Sita, however beautiful they might be.

He had created a picture of Sita as Ram had described her and he was sure that the description did not fit any of these women. Suddenly, on top of a magnificent dais, Hanuman saw a cot made of crystal, ivory, sandal-wood and gold. It was unbelievably beautiful and he stood for a while admiring it. The white umbrella of royalty was above it. Creeping up closer, he found Ravana sleeping on it. Ht was a magnificent figure of a man with huge, powerful arms and broad chest covered with white silk. Close by, was a woman, sleeping on a separate cot, wearing jewels of pearls and gems. Her beauty was such that she really did not need any ornaments.

Her skin was golden in hue and she had an elegance, which made him think that he had found Sita. Then he realised that Sita would never be able to sleep like this without Ram beside her. She would not be clad in silks and jewels. She would not be found in Ravana's harem. Of this he was sure.

He wandered about from room to room, of the palace without finding Sita. He felt embarrassed at the thought that he was being forced to look at all these female beauties, though he was moving amongst such extraordinary beauties, ~ his mind was totally unaffected and untouched by them. Unlike all other vanaras, Hanuman was a brahmachari and had never entered the marital status. He covered every inch of space in the palace and then scoured the gardens and gardens. He was feeling more and more distressed as the night wore on. Sita was nowhere to be found. He began to think that perhaps she had killed herself or been eaten by the rakshasas. He knew that he could not return without some information about her either her demise or her whereabouts.

"If he hears that she is dead, Ram will give up his life", he was sure of that. He knew he could not return without some news. "Better for me to go and take to a life of sannyasa, rather than return without any news".

At last he suddenly spied another grove filled with Ashoka trees, which he had overlooked. It was the only place he had not searched so far. He jumped to the top of the wall surrounding the grove and looked down. It was obviously a favourite haunt of the demon king, for it was very well tended. Rare trees and flowers were growing in abundance. There were several beautiful ponds with banks covered with white sand. The steps leading to them were exquisitely carved. The night was passing and he had still not discovered Sita. The birds were beginning to wake up and flew up in clouds, chirping angrily, disturbed by Hanuman's jumps. At last he decided to hide himself in the foliage of a big tree which overlooked a splendid platform, in the hope that Sita might come there.

Thus ends the first Canto called 'Leap to Lanka' of the Sundar Kanda in the glorious Ramyana of the Sage Valmiki.

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