Ramayan: Yuddha Kanda - Book Of War

Canto II - Causeway To Lanka

After leaving his brother, Vibhishan went to the opposite shore and approached Kama's camp. The monkeys who were guarding the entrance saw him and his four companions, poised in the air. He was decked with jewels and held a massive mace in his hand. Sugriv came out and observed him and asked the monkeys to prepare for a fight. Seeing this, Vibhishan spoke loudly from the sky, "I am Vibhishan, the younger brother of Ravan. I tried my best to advise him to return Sita to Ram but he insulted me and sent me out. I have abandoned everything I possess, including my family and have come to take refuge at Ram's feet for I have heard that he is merciful and friendly to all creatures. Please announce my arrival to him".

Sugriv ran back and reported the matter to Ram. "These rakshasas are wily creatures. They should never be trusted. He says he is Ravan's brother but he may be a spy. He may win your confidence and then betray you. Like an owl, which waits for the opportune moment and then destroys the whole clan of crows, he will join us and wait for the right time and annihilate us".

Ram gave careful attention to what he said and then asked everybody else to give their views. All of them were of the opinion that Vibhishan was not to be trusted.

At last Hanuman spoke, "I saw this man in Lanka when he spoke against Ravan's wishes to kill me. In fact, it is because of him that Ravan desisted from putting me to death. Neither his mien, nor his behaviour, was suspicious in any way. I think he must have tried to advise Ravan to give up his plan and the latter must have refused. That must be the reason why he decided to quit. The shastras say that it is not correct to stay with one who is steeped in adharma. Moreover, someone who comes as a spy would not announce himself, as he has done".

Ram, the compassionate one, was pleased with Hanuman's words, for they were only an echo of his own thoughts. "Whosoever approaches me with a heart filled with love, I will accept with equal loye. I will not abandon one who has taken refuge in me, even though he may be filled with faults. This is my decision".

Sugriv, the prudent, again tried to dissuade Ram to give up the idea of accepting a rakshasa, as an ally, for his experience told him that thev were not to be trusted.

With a slight smile Ram said, "A righteous man can be born even in the clan of the rakshasas. It impossible to stay any longer with his vicious brother and thus he has come to me. I shall accept him".

Sugriv said, "My Lord! You are too noble. I am sure he is a spy. It would be safer to kill him".

Ram smiled and said, "It is of no importance to me, whether he is good or bad. The code of dharma says that one who has taken refuge should never be abandoned. My principle in life is to give succour to any one who comes and declares that he wants to join me. His character is immaterial. Even if Ravan, himself, came and fell at my feet I would not refuse him, even though he has wronged me woefully. Go and bring him here".

Sugriv was amazed at these words. He bowed low to Ram and went to do his bidding. Vibhishan was thrilled to hear that he had been accepted. He strode into Ram's presence and fell at his feet and clasped them with his hands. He then rose up and said, "My Lord I am Vibhishan, the half-brother of Ravan. I have been grossly treated by him and I have left everything I possess in Lanka and taken refuge at your feet. Now, you are my everything. My life and welfare are in your hands. I have surrendered my joys and sorrows and my very life at your blessed feet. Please accept me as your devoted slave".

Ram was touched by his devotion and gave him permission to stay. He smiled tenderly at him and bade him welcome. Afterwards he asked him about Ravan's strength and weaknesses.

Vibhishan said, "Brahma has granted the ten-headed Ravan a special boon. He is invulnerable against all creatures including gods, birds, snakes and celestial beings. My brother, the huge Kumbhakarna is an exceptional warrior. The commander of the forces, Prahasta is an indomitable soldier. Ravan's son, Indrajit is invincible. His armour cannot be pierced and Agni, the god of fire, has granted him many magic boons, by which he can make himself invisible at will. The army consists of crores of rakshasas who subsist on meat and blood and can change form at will. As for Ravan, he has defeated even the gods in battle".

Ram listened carefully to this account and then said with a smile, "Fear not, 0 Vibhishan! I will kill all of them and install you as king of Lanka. Though he may run to all the worlds, Ravan will not be able to escape the fury of my arrows. Until I achieve this objective, I will not enter Ayodhya. I swear this in the name of my three brothers".

Vibhishan fell at his feet and said, "I swear in the name of dharma, that I will assist you in all ways, to the best of my ability, in carrying out your resolve. But the one thing I will not do, is to kill my own people".

Ram said, "Lakshman! Bring water from the ocean. I will myself perform the coronation of Vibhishan, here and now". Thus saying, Ram took the water brought by Lakshman and performed the abhisheka, or ceremonial bath, by pouring the consecrated water over the head of the prospective king, amidst great joy and applause from the vanaras.

Now both Sugriv and Hanuman asked their new-found ally to suggest a method how they could cross the ocean. Vibhishan suggested that the Lord of the ocean would surely comply with the wishes of Ram if he requested him. "This sea owes its very existence and name to the Sagara brothers, who were the ancestors of Ram. He will surely remember this and help him in his task".

In the meantime, Ravan sent one of his men to try and win Sugriv over to his side. The monkeys caught him and beat him up mercilessly. He ran to Ram and begged him to intervene and stop his people from killing him. Ram told the vanaras to stop harassing him and let him go. He rose into the sky and praised Ram. "Noble Ram! You are indeed a hero amongst men. Please tell me what I should say to Ravan".

Sugriv replied scornfully, "Tell your great master, that Sugriv can never become his friend. You are the enemy of Ram and you deserve nothing but death at my hands".

Ram decided to fast to death if the Lord of the ocean did not comply with his request. So he lay on a mat of darbha in front of the ocean and meditated. Three days and three nights passed without any response from the Lord of the ocean. At the end of this time, Ram lost his patience and said to Lakshman, "As I told you before 0 Lakshman! People mistake my good nature for weakness. Some people can only be taught by force and the Lord of the ocean seems to be one of them. Bring my bow and arrows and I will dry him up with just one arrow, I will dry him of his waters, so that nothing remains but an expanse of sand and my army will easily cross over to Ravan's domain" So saying, he started to discharge arrow after arrow from his mighty bow. The waters rose up in upheaval. The waves were as tall as mountains.

The earth trembled and quivered in agony. The sky became pitch black and meteors flashed across the firmament, even as thunder roared and lightning flashed. The ocean throbbed and moaned in pain. Lakshman caught hold of Ram's hand and begged him to desist. Out of the ocean, Samudra, the Lord of the ocean, rose up, trembling with fear. The darkness caused by Ram's anger lifted due to the radiance of the jewels round Sagara's neck. Long necklaces of pearls gleamed on his chest. His hair was covered with seaweed and water kept pouring down his long grey hair and beard. He rose up on the crest of a wave, with folded palms kept above his head and slowly came to the shore and approached Ram and stood humbly in front of him.

"0 Lord", he said, "you are known to be the abode of kindness and mercy. I did not appear before you earlier, because I cannot go against my nature, as you know only too well. Earth, water, fire and wind are all ruled by the laws of nature. I am by nature deep, wide and unfathomable. I cannot change my nature. But I can give you plan by which you can cross easily. There is a monkey called Nala in your army who is the son of Vishwakarma, the architect of the god; He is an expert in building bridges. Let him build a bridge and I will see that it does not sink or fall apart while the army is crossing. I can also promise you that my sharks and whales will not harm your army while they cross". So saying Sagara melted into a wave which cam ashore to take him.

Ram called Nala who immediately agreed to construct the bridge Before starting the construction, Ram made a beautiful linga of Lore Shiva, with the sand and worshipped it and asked Shiva to bless him with success in his endeavour. The place where Ram installed the linga~ is known as Rameswaram and it is a famous place of worship even to this day.

Ordered by Nala, the monkeys scurried around, collecting material for the construction. They uprooted trees and brought huge boulders. Rocks as large as hills were carried on their willing shoulders.

Hanuma also joined and repeated the magic mantra of Kama over every stone and boulder and the work went on with great speed and enthusiasm. The bridge was a hundred leagues long and ten wide. One-fifth was built the first day and whole construction was over in five days. Ram and Lakshman sat on the shore and watched the work. It is said there was a squirrel who wanted to help Ram used to wet his fur, roll in the sand and then go and shake off the dust on the bridge, since that was the only effort he was capable of making. The monkeys made fun of him and told him to go off or he would be trampled by their feet. He was frightened and sad and went and nestled close to Ram, who took him on his lap and comforted him by passing his three fingers down his back. It is said that to this day, the squirrel bears the mar of Ram's fingers on his back. Ram calmed his fears and told him that his tiny efforts were as valuable to him as the gigantic achievement of the monkeys. The sand he had brought was as precious to him as the rocks of the vanaras. Thus the little squirrel also found a place in Ram's heart.

At last, the causeway was completed. Even the gods came to survey it and from above, it looked like the parting, in the hair, of a woman, so elegant and beautiful was it. Ram was the first to set foot on it, then came Lakshman and then Sugriv. The rest of the vanara hoard followed, dancing and bounding with joy. Sometimes they would jump into the sea and swim for a while and sometimes walk on the bridge. The noise made by the monkeys drowned the sound of the waves. It was as if the sea held its breath, while the army crossed. At last they set foot on enemy territory. Ram told Lakshman and Sugriv to make preparations for camp. The sun had set and the moon had just risen, as the army settled down for the night. Ram was touched by the enthusiasm and devotion of the monkeys and their innocent love. The noises from the city were wafted to them in the air. The monkeys were greatly excited and roared with joy.

Ram looked up at the city of Ravan with its turrets of gold and silver and thought of his beloved Janaki, who was a prisoner of love. He stood gazing at Lanka for a long time, lost in thought. At last he roused himself and talked to the commanders about their plan of action who should be in charge of which battalion and so on.

Thus ends the second Canto called "Causeway to Lanka" of the Yuddha Kanda in the glorious Ramyana of the Sage Valmiki.

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