Ramyan: Yuddha Kanda - Book Of War

Canto VII: The End Of Ravan

The vanaras were watching all the four gates but Ravan came thru the illusory gate in the sky and landed in their midst with a thud. As he emerged from the gate, it is said that the sun lost its luster, birds started to scream discordantly. Clouds rained drops of blood horses tripped and fell. Ravan's face lost its customary glow his voice became hoarse. His left arm and eye started to throb. All were indicative of death.

He did not heed any of these and drove at a fast pace through ranks of monkeys accompanied by the remains of his loyal mi He forged into the thick of the vanara army and fought like possessed. None of the vanaras were able to face the onslaught fury. Sugriv fought a duel with Ravan's general Virupaksha. At last with a blow from his open palm, Sugriv killed him. Like a lake, drying up as summer advances, the forces on both sides were decreasing as more and more of them fell. Slowly it dawned on Ravan that fate seemed to be siding Ram or else how could this have happened to him - he, who was considered invincible in all the three worlds. It was unbelievable that his valiant general Virupaksha could have been killed by a single blow from a monkey's paw. Ravan sent Mahodara his place but Sugriv took up a fallen sword and chopped off his head as easily as cutting a ripe fruit from a tree. The third and last of hi; great warriors was Mahaparshva. It was the boy prince Angada who killed him.

Seeing the death of his three dear commanders, Ravan ordered bit charioteer to take him immediately to where Ram was. Once again he came in front of Ram. He preferred to forget their first encounter when Ram had treated him so chivalrously. He saw Ram leaning against his famous bow, the Kodanda, with Lakshman beside him anc the thought crossed his mind that he looked like Narayana Himself with Indra by his side.

He passed by Lakshman and came face to face with Ram. Ram was happy to encounter him, for he had been waiting for him all these days. It was a glorious encounter. It is said that even the gods came to watch. Both were well versed in the art of warfare. The rest of the army stopped all their individual fights and came to watch this magnificent duel. The earth and sky were lit up with the brilliance of their arrows, charged with various types of incantations. In one way, it was an unfair duel since Ram was on foot and Ravan in a chariot it was an unfair duel since Ram was on foot and Ravan in a charior but Ram was not perturbed.

Now Lakshman entered the fray for he had been itching to hi a fight with Ravan. He could never forget the piteous face of his dear sister-in-law, as he had last seen her when she had begged him to after Ram. He felled Ravan's splendid banner which had be fluttering in the breeze, with a single arrow; he then brought charioteer down and broke Ravan's bow. Vibhishan rushed up a killed the horses. Ravan was furious. He jumped down from the char and sent the famous shakti weapon at his brother. Lakshman interver and saved Vibhishan. Ravan decided that it was high time he put end to this puny brother of Ram's. His green eyes sparking with copper fire and roaring with anger, Ravan buried another javelin made Mayan endowed with magic powers. It sizzled through the air making a horrendous noise. It flew like an awesome meteor at its target and Ram quickly chanted a mantra in order to rob it of its strength. Thou it lost its power to kill, it was still potent enough to knock Lakshma senseless. Ram was most upset to see blood gushing out of his brother.

wound but he knew that this was not the time for weeping, so he continued to fight with Ravan. He shouted to Hanuman and Sugriv to come and take Lakshman, whom he had taken into his arms, unmindful of the fact that Ravan's arrows were piercing him all over his body.

After handing over his beloved brother to their tender ministrations, he concentrated all his energy on Ravan. Turning to his friends, he said, "It is obvious that this world cannot contain the two of us. Either he or I will have to die. You may all take vantage positions on the hill and watch, for this battle will be talked about as long as the worlds remain, as long as the earth stands above the sea and as long as living beings inhabit this earth"! All the pent-up fury he had against Ravan which he had been bottling up for eleven months, now rose to the front and he fought like a mad tusker.

The rakshasas were night wanderers and with the approach of night they became more powerful. But with the approach of day, Ravan perceptibly became weaker. This encounter with Ram was even more fierce than the previous one and the spectators could only hear the twanging of bowstrings and could hardly see the warriors. The arrows of the demon king had the faces of fiends, lions, tigers and wolves, while Ram's arrows looked like firebrands, lightning and meteors. At last, stung and pierced by numerous gold-tipped arrows, Ravan left the field to take rest and Ram could turn his attention to his brother who lay unconscious. He begged Sugriv's court physician to do something for him.

"If my brother dies, I care not if I win or lose the war. I do not desire the kingdom or even my life. I seem to have lost the desire even to rescue Sita. A wife like her may perhaps be found, but I will never find another like Lakshman, who was born with me and was like my own shadow and who has been my sole support and comfort during these dark days". So saying, Ram sobbed over the body of Lakshman.

The physician said, "My Lord! Lakshman's face has not lost its glow, which makes me believe that he is still alive. His skin does not have the darkness which is associated with death. His palms are still pink and soft. Moreover he has all the auspicious signs of a long-lived man. So please do not grieve".

Turning to Hanuman he requested him to go once again to the Himalayas and bring back the magic herb known as vishalyakarini which had the property of bringing a person back to consciousness. Before he could complete his sentence, Hanuman had winged his way to the north but as usual he could not recognise the medicinal herb in question so he lifted the whole peak and carried it back so that the physician could choose what he wanted. When he breathed in the healing fragrance of the herb, which the physician crushed and held to his nostrils, Lakshman woke up, as if from sleep, with no loss of energy or signs of fatigue. Both Ram and Lakshman were deeply grateful to Hanuman.

Shedding tears of joy, Ram clasped his beloved brother in his arms and said, "My dearest brother if you had died, life would not have held any meaning for me. Neither Sita nor kingdom would have meant anything".

Lakshman was embarrassed by his words and he said, "Brother, please keep your oath to kill Ravan today. Please do not worry about me. Go and challenge him to a fight. Before the sun sets you should kill him".

Ram knew that his brother spoke the truth but he went into a reverie and for a moment felt that perhaps he might not be able to defeat Ravan. Seeing Ram looking utterly exhausted and sitting in deep thought, the sage Agastya came to him and gave him the great mantra known as the Aditya hridaya which is a famous hymn to the sun-god, said to have the power to overcome all obstacles.

"0 prince of the Solar race - mighty armed Ram", he said, "listen to this ancient mantra, by which you will be able to vanquish all your foes in battle. The presiding deity of this hymn is the sun and if it is chanted fervently, it will result in the destruction of your enemies and bring you victory and unending bliss. It is guaranteed to destroy all sins and allay all anxiety. Worship the golden-orbed deity of the sun, therefore, with this hymn, for He represents the totality of all celestial beings".

The all-knowing sage knew that Ram was Narayana incarnate but he also knew that he was still unaware of his divinity and so he initiated him into the secret mantra, as a guru would initiate an ordinary mortal. By the sincere chanting of this holy hymn, not only will material obstacles be removed but also all obstacles in the path of the seeker of eternal truth. He advised Ram to look at the sun and repeat it and he would surely be victorious in his battle. Hearing this, Ram was thrilled and gazing intently at the rising sun, he repeated the hymn with all fervour and sincerity.

"Lord of victory! Lord of the East! Lord of the West! 0 Thou Immeasurable One! 0 Thou resplendent One! Golden-limbed creator of the Universe! Witness of all things! I bow to you". After repeating the hymn three times, he went forth to challenge Ravan. Just at that moment, the sun came out in a burst of glory as if he applauded Ram's decision and was urging him to hurry up with the deed on hand!

Ram shouted for Ravan to come out and the demon king came charging out, seated in another magnificent chariot. A fierce battle began between the two. The watching gods declared it to be an unequal fight since Ram was on the ground and Ravan in a chariot. Indra despatched his own charioteer, Matali to go immediately and take his chariot to Ram. He sent his divine weapons and armour to aid him. As Ram watched, a brilliant silver chariot with weapons shining like lanterns, yoked to ten silver-grey horses, landed gently in front of him.

Matali came down and bowed low before him and said, "0 king of the solar race! I have come at the behest of the king of gods. Pray get in and let us start the fight". Ram looked at Lakshman and gave a smile of understanding. They both recognised the chariot as the one which had been parked outside the hermitage of Sharabhanga, when they had gone to pay homage to the sage. At their meeting with Agastya in the forest, he had told Ram that Indra would send a chariot for him when the need arose, though at that time he had not known what the sage meant. Ram alighted the divine car and faced Ravan on an equal footing. The charioteers drove the chariots in a series of skilful and bewildering manoeuvres. Each used a number of deadly arrows charged with various potent mantras. The snake arrows of Ravan which flew with unerring precision at Ram, spitting poison from their wide open mouths, were foiled by the eagle arrows of Ram. Eagles are avowed enemies of snakes. The sky was covered with arrows flying in the air and colliding with each other and negating each other with noises like thunder. The world trembled to witness the wrath of Ram.

The sun lost its brilliance and the sea came in huge waves to watch this terrifying battle. The frown on Ram's face which was so rarely seen, made even Ravan tremble in terror. Birds and beasts ran about crying. Valmiki says that just as the sea can be compared only to the sea and the sky to the sky, so the battle between Ram and Ravan can only be compared to the battle between Ram and Ravan.

At last Ravan took an enormous javelin in his hands and decided to make an end of his opponent once and for all. The weapon was smoking and hissing at its edges as if anxious to go and find its rest in Ram's chest. Ravan shouted to Ram that this would be the end of him and hurled the mighty javelin at him. Ram countered with a shower of arrows which should have burnt up the javelin but the arrows fell down burnt to ashes by the fury of Ravan's weapon. The sight incensed Ram and he took the shakti weapon which Indra had sent him and hurled it with all his force at the oncoming javelin. The javelin and the shakti collided in mid-air and the javelin broke into a thousand splinters and fell on the ground, its power exhausted.

Now Ram spoke, "You call yourself a hero after abducting Sita when she was alone and unattended in the ashrama. What chance did she have against brute force? You are nothing but a thief and a molester of women and a coward. But beware, your head will provide food for hungry vultures and your blood will be lapped up by wolves before the day is over"!

Ravan was beginning to be unnerved by Ram's unflagging enthusiasm and barrage of arrows. His charioteer seeing the condition of his master skillfully steered the chariot away from Ram. When Ravan came out of his temporary swoon, he swore at the charioteer and ordered him to drive fast to the midst of the fray. "Ravan never turns his back on his enemies", he said. "He does not retreat till he has wiped out his foes".

"My Lord", said the charioteer, "it's the duty of a charioteer to protect his master. Our horses were tired and you were also fatigued and in a swoon. I saw nothing but evil omens, so I thought it best to bring you away from the situation".

Ravan was pleased by the devotion of the charioteer and presented him with his own bracelet. The charioteer whipped up the horses as commanded by his master and took him in front of Ram once again. Ram requested Matali to manoeuvre the chariot to a good position and soon the vehicle of Ravan was covered with the dust of Indra's chariot. The rest of the army stood like painted figures, spellbound by the scene. Ravan tried to bring down Indra's divine banner but failed, while Ram's arrow found its mark and brought down Ravan's pennon. Ravan was biting his lips and glaring with fury when he found that none of his arrows were hurting Ram. The latter on the other hand was having a slight smile on his face, while his arrows found a sure mark. At last fitting an arrow resembling a venomous serpent, to his bow, Ram sliced off the resplendent head of his opponent, adorned with huge golden earrings. But to his astonishment, in front of his very eyes, there rose another head in the place of the previous one and then another and then another, as each one was cut off. Ravan's ten heads are meant to convey the idea of his inordinate ego. With just one head, all of us have egos which are impossible to control, then think of the ego of a person with ten heads! When each ego head was cut off, another reared its haughty hood! It is the same with us. When our ego is put down in one place, we immediately find another reason, by which we can make ourselves feel important.

Ram was starting to feel worried, though his face remained calm and a continuous stream of arrows kept flying out of his bow. Thus they struggled through that day and night without rest, until at last Matali, Indra's charioteer, spoke to the prince of Kosala. "My Lord", he said, "remember who you are. Ravan's moment of death has come. Despatch the Brahmastra and kill him. Do not aim at his head but at his chest".

When he looked at Ravan's heart it is said that Ram saw Sita mirrored within and inside the heart of Sita, he saw himself enshrined. He was in a dilemma. What could he do? He waited for the split second when Ravan forgot Sita in his anger against Ram and at that psychological moment, he whispered the incantation of Brahma and sent his golden-tipped arrow given to him by Agastya, straight at Ravan's heart. It was the most powerful weapon known to man or god and very few human beings were initiated into its mysteries, for its power was great that no one who had not learnt to control himself, could use it. The arrow was made of the essence of all the elements. Flaming like the fire of universal destruction and as fatal as the end of Time, the arrow fled from Ram's bow like a streak of lightning and found its mark in Ravan's chest. Piercing through his body, it sank into the earth and then swerved and returned to Ram's quiver, like a meek servant. As soon as he was struck, the invincible bow of the king of demons dropped from his nerveless grasp, and his body full of splendour fell like a thunderbolt from the chariot.

A shower of flowers streamed from the sky and the sun came out from behind the clouds. Ravan's life was fast ebbing away. The mighty king of the rakshasas who had ruled the entire world with the might of his arms alone, now lay dead on the battlefield, a prey to every passing vulture and jackal. He who had no equal in might: and valour, who had terrified the whole world and thus earned the name "Ravanan, who had pleased Lord Shiva Himself by his glorious chanting of the Sama Veda, had been killed by a mere mortal as had been prophesied. Though he had been a great hero, because of his lust for a woman, he now lay dead. Even in death, he had not lost his splendour. Dazzling as a fallen sun, he was glorious even in death.

The remnants of the night rangers fled in terror, pursued by the jubilant cries of the vanaras. Lakshman, Sugriv and Vibhishan and all the others crowded round Ram and congratulated him. Vibhishan was suddenly struck with remorse and wept for his proud brother who had come to such an end. Ram comforted him by saying that Ravan had indeed died a hero's death.

"This is the path pursued by the heroes of old", he said. "For a Kshatriya, there is a right way of living and a right way of dying and he has chosen the right way, on the battlefield. Vibhishan, all enmity ends with death. Now go and do whatever rites are to be performed for him as per the rules, for there is no one else to do it for him, but you"

News of Ravan's death had spread like wildfire to Lanka and out of his harem, there poured out thousands of beautiful women who had been picked from all over the world, famed for their beauty, whom not even the sun had seen, for they had never been allowed to go out in the streets. They ran to the gory battlefield and threw themselves on his body and wept piteously.

"Our Lord had been granted immunity from death by Brahma and now he has been killed by a mortal. Why did you never listen to us? You abducted Sita despite our advice. She has been the cause of the extermination of the entire race of rakshasas. Had she been restored to Ram, all this would never have happened. You spurned the words of Vibhishan. Fate is indeed all powerful. It was ordained that Ravan, the greatest of all monarchs, should be defeated by a mere mortal, helped by a pack of monkeys and bears"!

Mandodari, foremost queen of Ravan, mother of the brave Indrajit, now came running to the battlefield, her hair dishevelled, her face wet with tears and lamented over the body of her dead husband.

"How could such a calamity have overtaken you, my noble one! How is it possible for a mortal to have killed you! This Ram must be divine. The fact that single-handed, he defeated Khara and Dhushana must have convinced you that he was not an ordinary human being. When I heard that he had built a bridge across the sea, I knew that he was not an ordinary mortal. I know now, who Ram is. He is Lord Narayana Himself- the Supreme Soul. He has assumed the garb of an ordinary mortal for the purpose of saving the world and the gods themselves have assumed the forms of these monkeys. My Lord! It is Narayana who has killed you, not a human being.

Once upon a time, you performed a lot of austerities with your senses under perfect control and now those senses like untamed horses have dragged you to your death. Sita is a noble lady, devoted to her husband. She should have been honoured by you but instead you chose to insult her. Her tears of shame and despair have killed you and not Ram's arrows. What does she have that I lack. In birth, I am equally high born, in beauty, she is in no way superior, yet blinded by lust, you chose to carve out your dreadful end. You brought death to yourself, the day you brought Sita to Lanka. Sita will now be reunited with her Lord and will live happily, while I will be plunged into sorrow without you.

Where has your smile gone my Lord, where is the look of love in your eyes when you gazed at me? How proud I was of my good fortune? I was the daughter of the architect of the asuras and my husband, the king of the rakshasas and my son was the most valiant warrior in the whole world. How could I believe that death would rob me of my dearest treasures, in one fell stroke? So lamenting, Mandodari fainted over the body of her husband and the other women had to carry her away. Again and again she ran back to have a last look at her husband's beloved face which she would never see again.

Ram told Vibhishan to set about the task of cremating Ravan. His body was placed on a pyre made of sandalwood and many different types of fragrant woods and herbs and draped with the skins of black antelopes. Curd and ghee were poured on his shoulders and a wooden mortar inserted between his thighs. The corpse was draped with different types of costly cloths and roasted grain was sprinkled over it. With great reverence Vibhishan touched the earthly remains of his brother with a flaming torch and set fire to it. He completed all the rites connected with the funeral and gave oblations to the departed soul. Then he went and saluted Ram and told him that everything had been done according to his wishes.

Ram prostrated to Indra's chariot and thanked Matali and sent the chariot back. He then asked Lakshman and Sugriv to take Vibhishan to the city and crown him as king. He did not go himself since his fourteen years were not over. Lakshman took Vibhishan to the city of Lanka and placed him on the throne and gave him the ceremonial bath by pouring consecrated water over his head and thus proclaimed him as king of Lanka.

Thus ends the seventh Canto called "The End of Ravan" of the Yuddha Kanda in the glorious Ramayana of the Sage Valmiki.

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