Ramayan: Yuddha Kanda - Book Of War

Canto V: Hanuman To The Rescue



Ravan was completely demoralised by this scene. Far from appreciating Ram's generosity in letting him go, he was filled with humiliation and ideas of revenge. He began to recollect all those painful incidents in his life when he had insulted so many people and had been cursed by them. He aroused himself from these mournful thoughts and ordered his brother Kumbhakarn to be roused from sleep. Kumbhakarn had been summoned to the council nine days ago and had gone back to sleep. "Go and wake him upn, shouted Ravan, "or else he will sleep for another six months. He will make short work of the two Koshala princes".

Kumbhakarn's mouth was like a yawning cave and his snores shook the rafters and make them rattle. His breath reeked of alcohol and blood, for he had drunk and eaten his fill, nine days ago before falling into a deep stupor. The rakshasas who went to wake him up carried wagonloads of pork and buffalo meat and buckets of blood and marrow and barrels of strong wine. They pasted his uncouth body with sandal paste and perfume and garlands. Then they made thunderous noises calculated to waken the dead, while others blew loudly on conchs, bugles and trumpets and still others, beat drums. Some used sticks and rods to prod him awake but he slept on, blissfully snoring, despite all these tortures.

Some jumped up and down, on top of his chest, but to no avail. Then they fell to biting his ears and tearing his hair and punching his stomach. At last, the monster seemed to be showing some signs of animation and gave a great yawn and into his cavernous mouth, some of the ones who had been tugging his beard fell, and had to be fished out before he closed it. Furious at having been woken up when he had only slept for nine days, he shouted at them and they fled in terror before he caught hold of them and started eating them. He looked around and saw the mountains of food and started loudly champing his way through them. At last he was a bit appeased and the rakshasas crept back and informed him that he was urgently needed by his brother. Having licked up the pots, and eaten the buffaloes which drew the carts, Kumbhakarn dressed himself with care before going to the council hall to meet Ravan. The very earth shuddered as he stomped down the street, his gargantuan body occupying the entire width of the street.

Ravan was delighted to see him and informed him of the critical events which had taken place in Lanka while he was in the throes of beautiful slumber. Kumbhakarn laughed at Ravan's description of the vanara army and said, "My dear brother I warned you of the consequences of your ardour for that woman, just ten days ago, at the council hall but you would not listen to me. The king, who follows the rules of dharma and listens to the words of the wise, will reap the rewards of his good deeds, but the one who discards these words and acts according to his own perverted understanding, will have to bear the consequences of his actions. Both Vibhishan and I advised you once, but you would not listen. It is still not too late. Try to avert this crazy war and make friends with Ram. I hear that you have already lost your best generals and been publicly humiliated. Will you not stop, till your head is cut off from its shoulders'!

Ravan's lips quivered with rage and his eyes became like shining hot coals, shooting sparks of fire. He shouted at Kumbhakarn, "An elder brother should be honoured like a father. How dare you try to advise me? What has happened, has happened. I am not prepared to go back on anything I have done. If ever you have held me in respect or love, then tell me what to do, now. Try to correct the result of my past indiscretions instead of blaming me for them”.

Kumbhakarn realised that his words were like a red rag to a bull, so he pacified him with sweet words. "Do not worry, brother. I will pulverise the whole lot of them, just by walking in their midst and I will make mince meat of those puny princes. Just let me get my hands on them. I will tear them apart with my bare hands. I need no weapons. Cast off your worries and go into your harem and make merry with your women. Once Ram is dead, Sita will be yours". Ravan was delighted and placed many precious necklaces round his monstrous neck and sent him off with his blessings.

Kumbhakarn donned his bronze armour and golden helmet. His belt was as large as the chain on the drawbridge. Having quaffed two thousand barrels of wine and a few thousand barrels of hot buffalo blood, to give him strength, he entered the battlefield with great enthusiasm flourishing his iron spear which was spitting flames from its tip. In front of him walked the one carrying his black banner with the wheel of death on it. He was followed by a mob of excited, shouting rakshasas brandishing tridents, javelins and clubs. He looked like a colossal, black, thunder-cloud as he came out and the monkeys fled in terror.

Vibhishan told Ram the story of Kumbhakarn and why he had been cursed to sleep for months. While he was still an infant, he was in the habit of devouring thousands of creatures of all types for his breakfast and an equal amount for lunch and dinner, with a few snacks thrown in at odd times. At last, all the creatures of the world ran to Brahma for help. Even Brahma was alarmed at the sight of Kumbhakarn and cursed him that he would sleep for the rest of his life. Ravan intervened for the sake of his brother and Brahma modified his curse by saying that he would sleep for six months at a time and then wake up for a day, so that his insatiable appetite could be appeased and then sleep again for another six months.

"He can easily make one mouthful of our entire army", said Vibhishana. "Had he not been cursed by Brahma, he would have eaten up all the life on this earth long ago.

Kumbhakarn stepped over the wall and advanced like a mountain on the move, his eyeballs rolling like chariot wheels. The monkeys fled in terror and Angada had to rally them by saying that he was only a machine, which had been trained to fight and they could easily conquer him. They stared to~ rain rocks and boulders and trees on him, but they glanced like feathers from a rock. The monkeys tried to jump on him, but he brushed them off like flies. In fact, he hardly felt them and walked on, crushing thousands under his huge feet.

He suddenly pounced on Sugriva and held him aloft like a wriggling snake. Sugriva clawed viciously at his ears and bit off his nose and ripped with his nails and Kumbhakarn swore and dashed him on the ground. Sugriva bounded off to Ram.

Now Lakshman challenged him and Kumbhakarn applauded his valour, but brushed him aside and said, "I am eager to meet your brother Ram, let me pass".

Lakshmanrefused to let him pass and rained arrows on him, till his mace fell from his hands but he continued to move forward. At last he came to face with Ram and gave a bloodcurdling roar at which all the monkey fell down senseless. Taking up a huge boulder he hurled it at Ram, who stopped it with seven arrows. Lakshmans told Ram to make short work of him before he caused further damage Ram stood in front of him and said, "Brave rakshasa I am Ram, son of Dasaratla, for you have been searching. Take a good look at me, for soon your eyes will not be able to see at all".

Kumbhakarn laughed and said, "I am not Viradha or Kabandha. I cannot be killed by you".

Ram was quite unruffled and invoking the wind-god, he, he sent an arrow which cut one arm of the giant. With his other arm, Kumbhakarn pulled out a tree and threw it at Ram. Then Ram cut off his other arm. But still the monster kept advancing, shouting imprecations. With two more arrows, Ram cutoff his legs and finally with the fifth arrow which had a razor head, the huge neck of the monster was sawed and the diademed head fell to the ground with a reverberating thud. The whole earth shook and shuddered with the impact. Far of Ravan heard the fearful noise and a shaft of pure terror shot trough his heart. The mountainous head rolled down the hillside and dropped into the ocean in a whirlpool of blood, making the water rise up in huge waves. Kumbhakarn, the terror of the world, the sole hope of Ravan, now lay dead in a lake of blood.

When Ravan heard about his beloved brother's death, he fainted.

When he recovered, he sat with his head in his hands and bemoaned his loss. He just could not understand how a mighty hero like his brother could have been killed by a mere man. Seeing their father's despair, his younger sons tried to cheer him up and insisted on going, in a gang, to the battle front to try their luck. Ravan embraced them and allowed them to go. Though the princes were all valiant, one by one they were all killed and the news taken to Ravan. The heroes who had set out so enthusiastically in the morning, now lay like felled trees on the battlefield. Ravan could not bear it. He just did not know what he should do. He began to wonder if there was any truth in what he had heard about Ram - that he was Narayana Himself, who had taken on a human birth in order to kill him.

As he sat, sunk in gloom with his head in his hands, his golden boy, Indrajit, son of his favourite wife, Mandodari, now came to him and tried to cheer him up. "My beloved father", he said, "why should you worry when I am here to help you? I will go this very minute and punish your opponents. Before the sun sets, Sita will be yours".

Ravan looked at his golden boy. His skin and hair were gold and there were golden flecks in his eyes. His armour and helmet were both of gold as well as his shoes and belt. He was as beautiful as his mother and Ravan was delighted to hear his promise. "Go, my son", he said, "and may you return, victorious".

Indrajit bowed low before his father and got into his chariot of illusions and set out immediately followed by a mighty army. Before reaching the front, he got down and kindled a fire and pouring oblations into it, he worshipped Agni, the god of fire, his favourite god. After this was over, he disappeared into the sky and began raining arrows over the vanara hordes, which began to fall in thousands. The whole field was strewn with dead and dying monkeys. Most of the time they could not see where he was, since he was an expert in the art of illusory warfare. How could they fight with an invisible enemy? Through the dark clouds of illusion, they could hear the sound of his chariot and the twang of his bow. Sometimes they could see the flash of his golden armour and the streak of his golden spear but of him, they could see nothing. One by one, all the great vanara heroes except for Hanuman and Jambavan were killed. At last, even Ram and Lakshman succumbed to Indrajit's fatal arrows.

Indrajit went back well pleased with his day's work. After a long time Vibhishan regained consciousness and painfully dragged himself to Jambavan and asked him what they should do now. Jambavan was badly wounded but his first question was about Hanuman.

When he heard that Hanuman was fine he said, "Now there is nothing to worry". Calling Hanuman he said, "0 Hanuman you are the only one who can save the lives of the Koshala brothers, as well as the lives of all the vanaras. Go immediately to the golden peak on the mountain called Himavan which is rich in herbs and bring back the four magic herbs. The one called Mritasanjivi will bring the dead back to life, and Ishalyakarani, will heal all wounds and the other two, will reset fractured bones and give a glow to the skin".

Hanuman grew in size and flew off to the sky with his face turned to the north. Flying smoothly, he soon reached the peak spoken of by Jambavan, but search as he could, he did not find the herbs which he was looking for. It appeared as it they were playing a game of their own and hiding from his eyes. Hanuman was quite fed up and decided to take the entire mountain. He uprooted it and sailed across the sky with the peak in his hands and soon reached Lanka. But there was no place to put it down, so he flew close to the battlefield. The air was suffused with the intoxicating perfume of the magic herbs and Ram; and Lakshman woke up, as if from sleep. The rest of the monkeys who had succumbed to Indrajit's magic weapons, also woke up, as if from sleep, after inhaling the heady fragrance of the medicinal herbs. All of them appeared to be in better condition now than they had been before they fell. Hanuman returned the peak to its original place inthe Himalayas and returned to Ram.

One might wonder how it was that none of the rakshasas revived. This was because Ravan had commanded that all the dead rakshasa should be thrown into the sea so that no one could count their number and thus taint his reputation. That night the excited monkeys set fire to Lanka for the second time. The citizens started to cry and wail in panic. The noise woke up Ravan. He had been sleeping peacefully after hearing of Ram's death from his son. He could not believe that the monkeys were carrying on the war without Ram. When he heard the news of the princes' recovery from his spies, he became most disturbed.

He summoned the two sons of Kumbhakarn, known as Kumbha and Nikumbha and asked them to go to battle to avenge their father's death. They were both fierce fighters and they marched in triumph to the battlefield. Even though the young vanaras fought bravely, they were defeated and even Angada fell in a faint. The news was taken to Ram and Sugriva decided to go to the front.

He accosted Kumbha, "I am full of admiration for the way in which you handle the bow. I see you are a combination of your father and uncle - the dexterity of one, with the solidity of the other. I do not feel like killing you since you are surely a jewel among your race but I have no option, since we are on opposite sides, so let us fight to the finish".

Though Kumbha was pleased with Sugriva's admiration, he did not like the insinuation that he was superior to himself. He rushed at him with a roar and the two of them started wrestling with each other till the earth shook and the leaves fell off the trees. At last with a powerful blow, Sugriva felled him to the ground and killed him. Seeing the death of his valiant brother, Nikumbha rushed at the monkeys and killed them by the hundreds. Seeing their plight, Hanuman came to the rescue and punched him on his chest. Nikumbha flung a huge iron pestle at Hanuman. Everyone expected him to fall but they were astonished to see that the pestle shattered into a million fragments on Hanuman's adamantine chest. After grappling for a while, Hanuman threw him on the ground and sat on his chest till he suffocated to death.

The vanaras set up roar of jubilation. The rakshasas marvelled that their enormous strength and modern weapons counted for nothing in the face of these long-tailed, tree folk, armed only with sticks and stones! Not one of them was capable of wielding a sword or using a bow and yet they seemed to be gaining the upper hand.

Ravan was at a loss to know what to do. He went to the secret grove where his son Indrajit was performing his magic rituals and begged him to kill Ram.

"0 Father"!, he said, "for your sake, I killed him once, but it appears as if the whole of Nature is supporting him or else how could he be still alive? Remember father, that in your youth you ruled the world, supported by dharma, but now your rule is supported by adharma alone The very gods tremble at the mention of your name and the curses of the saints whom you have killed, have taken on the form of this battle which will be the end of you. You have made the whole of creation suffer by your inequities. Ram, however, is the image of dharma sc nature supports him. However, I shall do your bidding. I shall defeat the Kosala brothers as I promised to do".

As usual, Indrajit performed the fire ceremony and invoked the aid of Agni before setting out. The top of his chariot glistened with gold turrets and his banner too was tipped in gold. The chariot could appeal and disappear at will. He appeared suddenly in the middle of the battlefield and started raining arrows at all. He then disappeared into the sky and started a merciless onslaught on the two princes. They retaliated by sending their arrows upwards. He then produced a thick fog which covered the whole field like a miasma, so that no one could see him but could only hear the twang of his bow and the gleam of his golden armour. Ram’s body was hurt in many places by his lethal arrows. He was gyrating round and round the sky at high speed, harassing the brothers who could only shoot at random, to where they thought he might be. Seeing the plight of the vanaras, Lakshmanwas ready to send the brahmastra, but Ram stopped him and said, "This brahmastra will cause untold destruction and should be used only in the case of dire necessity. This is not the time for it. I will invoke some stronger mantras and make an end of him".

Indrajit could read Ram's mind and he decided to leave the battlefield and return with a new stratagem. Using his magic powers, he created an identical figure of Sita and brought it to the battlefield in his chariot. Hanuman recognised the same soiled, yellow garment which she had been wearing when he saw her but it could not dim the radiance of her ethereal beauty. She was sitting forlorn and unhappy, as if she did not care what was happening to her. Hanuman could not tear his gaze away from her grief-stricken face. He did not know what was happening.

He leapt towards Indrajit and began to badger him. Indrajit grabbed hold of Sita's long tresses and started to berate her with his sword while she called loudly for Ram. Hanuman could not bear to see the princess of Vaidehi being insulted so unbearably. He buried insults at Indrajit who replied in kind. At last Indrajit told Hanuman to watch carefully, for he was going to make an end of the woman, who was the prime cause of all this destruction and of his father's infatuation. Taking up his sword, he slashed Sita across the chest and killed her. Not knowing that this was only a Sita created by his magic, Hanuman wept and decided to end the battle since there seemed to be no further point in continuing it.

Hearing this news, Ram fainted and Lakshman took him in his arms and tried to comfort him, as if he were a baby.

"O brother"! he said, "you have always followed the path of dharma and now see what has happened to us. If dharma could make us victorious, Ravan should have been killed long ago and you should never have been made to undergo such suffering. Dear brother, this is the time for action. I will avenge all the sufferings which have been meted out to you".

As he was saying this, Vibhishan came and wanted to know what had caused Ram to faint. When he heard that Sita had been killed in front of Hanuman's eyes, he said, "How can you believe such a thing? Don't you know the extent of Ravan's infatuation for her? Do you think it is possible that he would allow his son to kill her! How often have I asked him to give her up and sue for peace but he has never listened? How can you imagine even for a moment that his son would have dared to kill a woman who was so dear to his father? I feel quite sure that the whole thing was a trick played by Indrajit, who is a master magician. He plotted the whole thing so that he could go and do the yaga which will make him invincible. Even now, while we are sitting here and lamenting, he must be busy with the yaga. Without wasting any time, let us go to the spot where he is performing the ceremony and stop him from its successful completion. Let Lakshman come with me. There is no time to be lost. If he is allowed to complete the ritual, he will be totally invincible. As it is, he has the weapon of Brahma with him, by which he will be able to kill quite a few of us. Brahma has warned him that only the one who is able to disrupt his yaga would be able to kill him". Ram told Lakshmanto go at once and put an end to Indrajit's yaga.

Thus ends the fifth Canto called “Hanuman To The Rescue” of the Yuddha Kanda in the glorious Ramyan of the Sage Valmiki.




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