– Ramayan: Book 4: Kishkinda Kanda – Book Of Kishkinda Canto II – The Eagle’s Counsel

In one of the caves near-by, there lived an old eagle called Sampati who was the brother of Jatayu. He had not eaten for quite a while since he had lost the strength to look for food. Hearing the noise made by the monkeys, he came out of his cave and found them all lying on the shore, waiting for death.

“Today fortune has indeed favoured me. I have not eaten for days and here are some delicious monkeys, all laid out in neat rows, waiting for me to go and eat them”! With these words, the bird started to hop towards them, since he did not have any wings. The monkeys heard him say this to himself and became frightened. They did not wish to be eaten alive by an eagle, even though they were prepared to fast to death.

Angada started lamenting over their fate to Hanuman, “Just look at our fate. This bird looks as if he is Yama himself, coming to make an end of us. It is said that all birds and animals love Ram. Even the old eagle Jatayu was prepared to give up his life for his sake”.

When Sampati heard the name of his brother he called out, “Who are you? What do you know of my brother, Jatayu? How did he die? Tell me everything”.

At first, the monkeys were suspicious but soon they started to talk and gave him all their news. Sampati’s eyes filled with tears, when he heard of the fate of his younger brother and he wept bitterly. Angada now asked him how he knew Jatayu.

Sampati said, “Jatayu was my younger brother. When we were young we had a competition and flew straight at the sun. When it started to get really hot, I protected Jatayu with my wings, so that he escaped and I fell to the ground with burnt wings. I have not seen him since”.

Then Angada told him the story of Ram and why they had come there and asked him if he knew anything about Ravana.

Sampati said, “I saw Sita being carried away by that wicked rakshasa. He held her in a fierce grip while she did her best to wriggle out of his grasp. She was crying out piteously for Ram and Lakshmana. I will tell you where Ravana lives”.

A flash of hope dawned in the hearts of all the monkeys when they heard this and they crowded round the old bird and begged him to tell them all he knew.

He continued, “Ravana is the son of Vishravas and his capital is the city of Lanka. It is on an island and Sita is a prisoner in his palace. With my eagle’s keen vision I can see all the way to Lanka. If any of you is capable of crossing the sea, you will be able to see her as I can see her with my eagle eyes”. As he said this, a miracle occurred and the old eagle sprouted his wings. He had been blessed that his wings would sprout when he heard the story of Ram and he rose straight up into the sky like a young bird.

The monkeys now clustered on the shore and thought of plans to cross the ocean. They felt quite helpless but Angada encouraged them to think of some plan and asked them if any one of them could jump that far. There was great excitement in the group when he said this and one by one they said that he could jump ten miles, another twenty, another thirty and so on. Angada himself said he could jump all the way to Lanka but feared that he might be able to make it back.

Now Jambavan, the old bear, who was part of their group went up to Hanuman who was sitting apart, lost in thought.

“0 Hanuman”, he said, “why are you sitting like this, in a reverie. Don’t you know that you are the son of the wind-god and equal in strength to Ram or Lakshmana or Sugriv”? He then told him, his life story.

“There was once a celestial nymph called Punikasthala, who was cursed to be born on earth, as the daughter of a monkey chief. He; name was Anjana and she was famed for her beauty. She was married to a monkey called Kesari. She was able to take a human form whenever she wished. One day she happened to be roaming on the hill; surrounding Kishkinda, in her human form, when the wind-god, Vayu happened to be passing by. He saw the beautiful girl and fell in love with her. With one gust, he lifted her garments and seeing the beauty of her limbs, he ravished her on the hillside.

When she protested, he replied, “Fear not, 0 charming girl, you will be blessed with a son, who will be a truly glorious being. He will be as powerful as I, and full of extraordinary courage, strength, energy and intelligence”. Anjana was satisfied when she heard these words. She gave birth to a beautiful, baby monkey on the same day. You had whit( fur, a red face and tawny, golden eyes. Since your mother was the wife of another monkey, she left you inside a cave and returned to Kishkinda. “In the morning, you were very hungry. When the sun came up; looking like a golden mango, you took a flying leap at the golden fruit and tried to catch it.

Your father, Vayu, tried to protect you from getting burnt. It was the time of the eclipse, when the planet Rahu comes to eat the sun. You now jumped at Rahu and tried to catch him. Rahu went and complained to Indra, who came on his elephant, to find out who the new trouble-maker was. Seeing the little monkey, Indra hurled his thunderbolt at him, so that you fell on the mountain side and hurt the left side of your chin very badly. From that time you have been known as Hanuman, the one with a broken chin. Your father was furious and refused to blow in the world any more, so Brahma placated him and conferred a boon on you, that you would be invincible in battle. Indra too was sorry at what he had done to you and gave you another boon, that death would come to you, only when you wished for it. Then you were taken by your father to mount Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva, who taught you many things, including the knowledge of how to change your form at will. Shiva’s bull, Nandi, taught you all the arts, so that you became an accomplished scholar, proficient in the Vedas. But he also endowed you with great humility so that you could never remember your strength, unless someone reminded you of it.

Then at Sugriv’s request, you returned to Kishkinda and became his friend. We are all on the brink of despair and only you can save us. Know your own strength and leap to this city of Ravana and save us from this predicament”.

When he heard these words of Jambavan, Hanuman suddenly realised his own strength and drawing himself up to his full height he started growing and growing until his head seemed to hit the sky. The other monkeys watched, fascinated at this miracle.

From his enormous height, he spoke to them, “Vayu is very powerful. He pervades the whole universe. I am the son of that Vayu and there is nothing that I am not capable of doing. I will cross the sea in a matter of moments and see Ram’s queen and bring her back if possible”.

In his exuberance he jumped from peak to peak and crushed a mountain as easily as if it was a pebble. The monkeys watched openmouthed at this display of power. Climbing to the top of the mountain, he concentrated his mind on Ram and took a flying leap into the air and in front of the astonished gaze of the monkeys, he sailed across the sky.

Thus ends the fourth Canto called “The Eagle’s Counsel” of the Kishkinda Kanda in the glorious Ramayana of the Sage Valmiki.

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