– Ramayan: Book 4: Kishkinda Kanda – Book Of Kishkinda Canto I – The Famous Encounter

Sugriv was seated on one of the peaks of Rishyarnukha with his four ministers and anxiously watching the ascent of the two strangers. He had been beaten so badly by his brother Vali, that he lived in constant dread of his spies. He had chosen a vantage point on one of the peaks from where he could have a bird’s-eye view of everything that went on, within a distance of ten miles. As soon as he saw the two handsome young men at the foot of the hill, he was consumed with anxiety, for he feared that they had been sent by Vali to kill him. Hanuman was his chief minister and he tried his best to pacify his master and allay his fears, but Sugriv could not rest.

“They are dressed as anchorites, but look, Hanuman, they carry bows and arrows and I can see the flash of swords at their waist. I am sure they must have been sent by my brother Vali to kill me. I request you to go and meet them and find out their intentions. Speak to them sweetly and try to find out their real intention in having come to this lonely spot”.

Hanuman was the son of the wind-god – Vayu. His strength was proverbial and he was astute as well. He could assume any form at will. He took on the form of a brahmachari and approached Ram and Lakshman and accosted them with sweet words. This was indeed a momentous meeting. Next to Ganesha, Hanuman is the most loved of all the demi-gods in the Hindu pantheon. He is known for his utter and selfless devotion to Ram. This was the first time that they were meeting and ever afterwards Hanuman became Ram’s slave. It is one of the endearing qualities of Ram that no one could resist the charm of his personality. His charisma was so enticing that no one could come anywhere near him without falling a prey to his charm.

Hanuman approached them and said, “Tell me who you are. You appear to be hermits but you are carrying weapons. How is it that you are wandering about on this lonely mountain-side, when obviously you are meant to be living in palaces? I have been watching you for some time and I find that you seem to be constantly searching for something. Though you are both so handsome, there is a lurking shadow of sorrow

on your faces. But first let me tell you who I am. I am Hanuman, son of the wind-god. I am one of the ministers of the vanara king, called Sugriv. He was thrown out of his kingdom by his brother Vali and is now living in exile on this mountain. He desires to make friends with you and has sent me to find out your motives. I am actually a monkey but I can assume any form I wish”.

Ram was thrilled when he heard the words of Hanuman. Turning to Lakshman he said, “Lakshman, this Hanuman seems to be very sincere and well versed in the Vedas. He has come with the very project which we had in mind?-that is to make friends with Sugriv. Please talk to him and find out more details”.

Lakshman said, “We have come here with the express purpose of making friends with your master. We will be happy to do whatever you say”.

Hanuman was pleased with this answer and asked them the reason for their having crossed the fearful forest of Dandaka and come to that lonely region and why they wanted to make friends with Sugriv.

Lakshman told them their lineage, as was the custom, and also their reason for coming. “I am the younger brother of Ram, the eldest son of king Dasaratha of Ayodhya. Ram was banished to the forest for
a period of fourteen years. For me, my only god is Ram and my only religion, is complete obedience to his wishes, so I accompanied him. His wife, Sita, also came with him but she has been abducted by the demon king, Ravana. We have come to this place because we were
told that your master Sugriv would be able to help us find her. It is indeed one of the quirks of fate that Ram who is the refuge of all those in trouble, is now forced to seek the help of another to achieve his purpose”.

Hanuman listened carefully to this story and said, “My master Sugriv has also had his fair share of problems. His wife was abducted by hi brother and he is now forced to live the life of an exile on this lonebly mountain-top. I will take you to him. I am sure he will be able to help you. But these peaks are too steep for you to climb, so I will take you on my shoulders”.

With these words, Hanuman took the brothers with ease on his bad and brought them before Sugriv. Hanuman apprised Sugriv about the way he had met the brothers and why they had come there. He advisei him to make friends with them and render all help. Sugriv was mos relieved when he heard that they had not come from Vali and did all that he could to make them welcome.

Offering his hand to Ram. he said. “Come. let us form a bond of friendship between us which nothing can break”.

Ram took his offered hand and embraced him happily. In the meantime Hanuman had made a small fire and worshipped it with flowers. Ram and Sugriv went three times round the sacred fire and took an oath that they would remain friends forever. Ram swore to kill Vali and help Sugriv regain his kingdom and Sugriv swore to help Ram regain his wife. Hanuman made a seat of twigs and the brothers sat on it. Then Sugriv narrated his tale of woe.

“My brother Vali captured my wife and threw me out of the kingdom. I escaped to this mountain, which is the only place he cannot come, since the rishis have put a curse on him. I pray you to help me get back my wife and my kingdom”.

Ram was touched by his tale which resembled his own and promised to help him.

Sugriv continued, “My minister, Hanuman has told me all about you and I promise that I will help you to regain your wife. One day not long ago, five of us were sitting on top of this peak when we saw a rakshasa sailing across the sky with a beautiful woman in his arms. She was crying out, 0 Ram! 0 Lakshman! I think it must have been your wife. When she saw us, she tied up something in a cloth, torn from her upper garment and dropped it to us. We have kept the bundle safe. Here it is”.

Ram turned pale when he saw the scrap of yellow cloth which he recognised to be Sita?s. He opened it with trembling hands and almost fainted when he saw a few bits of her jewellery. He handed it over to Lakshman and said, “My grief, which I had somehow managed to overcome, has been fanned to flames by the sight of these ornaments belonging to my beloved. Please inspect these and see if they are Sita’s. My eyes are too blurred to see”.

Lakshman said, “Brother, I have never looked properly at her face, so I cannot recognise the necklaces. But these are her anklets. I know them well, since I fell at her feet every morning to get her blessings”.

Ram started to question Sugriv eagerly about everything he had seen on that day and what he knew about Ravana. Sugriv admitted sadly that he knew nothing about Ravana. All he had seen was a beautiful
woman, in great distress. From her cries, he had guessed that she was being abducted. But he assured Ram that they would soon rescue her.

“Be full of hope and courage. Please do not give way to your grief like this” Sugriv had a very affectionate nature and could not bear to see Ram’s distress. “A friend considers the grief of his friend, as his own, and I cannot bear to see your sorrow. Please rest assured that I will help you to find your wife”.

Then he recounted to Ram the full details of his own banishment. “Vali is my eldest brother and was crowned king by my father. Kishkindha is the name of Vali’s fortress. One day, an asura, called Dundubhi, in the shape of a buffalo, came and challenged Vali. Dundubhi was one of those who delighted in fights. He had challenged the ocean who ignored him and swept over him with tidal waves so that Dundubhi was forced to back off in a hurry. His next target was Himavan, the Lord of the Himalayas, who simply froze him with ice and sleet.

At last Dundubhi came to Kishkinda and challenged Vali. After a good fight, Vali broke his neck and threw his carcass miles away, to this mountain. As it flew through the air, drops of blood fell on the altar of the rishi, Matanga, who was practising penance here and he cursed him that his head would break if he ever came here. That is why I have taken shelter here.

Mayavi, was the son of Dundubhi. He came to Kishkinda to take revenge on Vali and challenged him to a fight. Vali and I came out and chased Mayavi who ran off when he saw the two of us and hid in a cave. Vali followed him and told me to wait outside. I waited for a year and then to my horror, I saw blood flowing out of the cave and the roars of the asura, I was sure that my dear brother was dead. I took a large stone and closed the mouth of the cave since I was afraid the asura would come out and kill me too. Sadly I returned to Kishkinda and told my story. After due consideration, the ministers decided to
crown me, king.

One day after a fairly long gap, Vali returned. He was furious when he saw that I had been crowned. He spoke very harshly to me and accused me of having contrived a plot, to oust him from his heritage. I spoke very sweetly to him and told him the whole story and begged him to take back his rightful inheritance. He would not listen to anything I had to say. He bounded me out of the kingdom and kept
my wife, Rumi, for himself. For many years I was a wandering mendicant. Eventually I took refuge on this mountain, which is the one place to which Vali cannot come. 0 Ram! I can never forget the pain and humiliation which my brother has caused me”. So saying Sugriv burst into tears.

Ram comforted him and promised to kill Vali and get his kingdom back. But though he believed Ram, Sugriv had some doubts whether Ram could actually defeat Vali, for he knew his brother to be very powerful.

Sugriv said, “Vali is as strong as a thousand elephants. Just for sport he would pull down trees along the forest paths as he went along. He would snap off the peak of a mountain and fling it far away into the sea. Come, I will show you the huge skeleton of the asura, Dundubhi, which is lying not far from here”.

So saying, Sugriv took Ram to the skeleton. He also showed him seven, huge, palmyra trees, which Vali used to shake simultaneously as a joke and denude them of their leaves.

Lakshman was amused at this description of Vali’s prowess. He realised that Sugriv doubted if Ram could conquer Vali. He said to Sugriv, “I see that you have doubts about Ram’s prowess. Tell me what he can do to banish your doubts and restore your faith in him”.

Sugriv hung his head in shame, for Lakshman had correctly gauged his fears. “Please do not misunderstand me”, he said, “my fear of Vali is so great, that I find it difficult to accept that someone so slim and handsome as Ram, can beat him. See those trees. Vali could pierce each tree with one arrow. Can Ram do that and will he able to lift up this skeleton of Dundubhi with one foot and fling it to a distance of a hundred lengths? If he can do these two tasks, my mind would be at rest”.

Turning to Ram he said, “Please do not think I am trying to test you, or that I am trying to insult you by asking you to display your ability, but I do not want you to meet Vali until I am sure that you can beat him”.

Ram smiled reassuringly at him and said, “Your doubts are quite understandable. I will try to convince you. Saying this, Ram walked to the skeleton and lifting it with his foot, he flung it about ten miles
off. Sugriv was impressed but he still wavered.

“When Vali threw the body of Dundubhi, it was much heavier, covered as it was with flesh and blood. If you can pierce at least one of those trees with a single arrow, I will be convinced”.

Ram smiled and fixing an arrow on his bow he shot it. The arrow sped like a golden streak and piercing all seven trees, it fell to the earth along with the trees which were all split into two by Ram’s arrow.

All five monkeys were jubilant when they saw this feat and jumped up and down with excitement. Sugriv’s doubts had been cleared and he rushed and embraced Ram and begged his pardon for having doubted him.

“Let us go immediately to Kishkinda and kill Vali”, he said with great excitement.

Ram agreed but he asked Sugriv to go first and challenge Vali for a duel. He promised to conceal himself and kill him when the opportunity arose.

Thus ends the first Canto called “The Famous Encounter” of the Kishkinda Kanda in the glorious Ramyana of the Sage Valmiki.

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