– Ramayan: Book 6: Yuddha Kanda – Book Of War: Canto III – The Seige Of Lanka

The spy whom Ravan had sent returned and gave all news to him. “This sea which has never been crossed, has been crossed by Ram’s army with ease and they have camped on the southern shore. You should either return Sita to him immediately or else prepare for a mighty battle”.

Ravan was quite incensed with these words and shouted, “Let the entire world come and fight with me but I will not return Sita to Ram. Of course, it is true that I did not believe that they would be able to cross the sea but apparently they have done so. I want you and another person to go into their camp disguised as monkeys and find out about their arrangements. Go immediately and return soon”.

The two rakshasas had hardly entered the encampment and started their investigations, when Vibhishan spied them and penetrated their disguise and hauled them off to Ram. They fell at his feet and groveled for pardon. Ram smiled at them and said, “Have you finished your task, if not ask Vibhishan to take you round the camp. I have nothing to hide. Go back and tell your master, *You dared to take away my Sita from me because of your prowess. The time has come to put that prowess to the test. Tomorrow, when the sun comes up, Lanka will be destroyed by me and you will see the wrath of Ram’! Then turning to Vibhishan he said, “Release these poor creatures. What have they
done? Let them go back and deliver my message”.

The two culprits were vastly relieved and having blessed Ram for his mercy, they hurried to Lanka and repeated Ram’s message to him. Ravan was furious and went up to the palace ramparts to survey the army. The whole of the southern shore and the groves beyond were swarming with monkeys and bears of every size, shape and colour. He asked his spies to point out to him the chiefs of the various battalions and carefully scrutinized each of them. He then dismissed the two spies as being quite inefficient and traitors to boot, since they could do nothing but sing the praises of his enemy.

Next he thought of another stratagem to torture Sita. He asked a magician called Vidyudjihva to make a realistic head of Ram, with an arrow stuck in it, in order to frighten Sita.. He marched to the grove where she was sitting, plunged in sorrow, her mind absorbed with thoughts of Ram, eyes cast down and filled with bitter drops.

Ravan arrested his stride a few feet away from her in order to drink in her beauty and then approached her. “It is high time you forgot that useless husband of yours, 0 Sita, for I am sorry to tell you that he is no more. Evidently your spiritual merits were not enough to save him. You boasted that your husband was invincible, but alas, he has been killed by me. He was camping on the shore with his army but as he was sleeping, my general went and cut off his head. Vibhishan was captured and Lakshman and the monkeys have fled for their lives. As for Hanuman, his jaw was smashed and he lies dead under a tree. The whole shore is drenched with the blood of dead monkeys’. He
gave her another of his piercing looks through his crystal green eyes and continued, “I see that you do not believe me. I anticipated that and I have brought Ram’s head to convince you”.

He ordered one of the rakshasis to fetch the magician, who arrived promptly, with Ram’s head stuck on a pole. This gruesome looking article was placed before Sita. Ravan threw a bow in front of her and said, “Here is the famous bow of Ram”. Then leaning forward he whispered, as if meant for her ears alone, “Now, will you agree to be mine”?

Sita gave one look at the head and shrieked, “Oh my beloved Lord, have you deserted me? I am a despicable woman, for I am responsible for the death of my husband”. So saying she beat her breasts and lamented. Ravan watched with keen anticipation, hoping that in her sorrow she would turn to him, but she did not even notice him.

Just then, news was brought to him that his presence was urgently needed in the council chamber. Fearing that something serious was afoot, Ravan left immediately. As soon as he left, both the magic head and bow vanished, much to Sita’s amazement. Just then Vibhishan’s wife,
a rakshasi called, SaRam, who was fond of Sita, came and told her about Ravan’s foul plan to dupe her.

“Do not fear Sita. Ram can never be killed. Your husband and brother are in good health and they are camped at the foot of the hill, ready to attackn Just as she was saying this, the trumpets and bugles blared forth, calling all rakshasas to assemble for the fight. SaRam revived Sita who lay in a swoon on the ground and gave her all cheer.

The sounds made by the approaching army of the vanaras was undermining the morale of the rakshasa army. Ravan laughed at their fears and said, “You are supposed to be great warriors and yet you have all become pale and frightened at the rumour that Ram is invincible”.

Hearing this, one of the aged ministers said, “My child, a king should always have the welfare of his subjects at heart. Because of your infatuation for a woman, you are prepared to sacrifice the well being of your people. Is that the correct attitude for a king? The whole cause of this hatred and ill feeling is Sita. Give her back to her lawful husband and save your country. Have you forgotten the boon given to you by Brahma? You asked for exemption from death from all beings but you did not mention either human beings or monkeys and now, these are the very ones who are preparing to fight with you. I am afraid Sita will bring ruin on you and on our clan. Give her back and let us live in peace”.

Ravan could never brook any criticism. Moreover he was so infatuated with Sita that the very thought of giving her back was abhorrent to him. “This Ram, whom you all fear, is only a poor human being, who has been banished by his own father and has now managed to get a few monkeys together and is daring to attack the might of Ravan, who has subdued even the king of gods! It is really laughable. After having taken so much trouble to bring Sita here, do you think
I’ll give her back to that mendicant! I will never give her up. I ma) break in two but I will never bend my heads before anyone or ask their pardon”.

With this ultimatum, he ordered all his generals to guard the city gates and be prepared for a prolonged siege, if necessary.

In the meantime, Ram’s army had come close enough to see the guards who had been stationed at the gates. Vibhishan’s spies have reported all that they needed to know about the stationing of the various forces. Hearing this, Ram decided which of his commanders should go to which gate. He himself, along with Lakshman, decided to gc to the north gate which was being guarded by Ravan himself. By this time, night was falling and Ram along with Lakshman and a few other went to the top of an adjacent hill from which they could get magnificent view of the fabulous city in the pearly light of the rising moon.

They slept on the hill in the open and when they woke up, the intoxicating fragrance of a thousand, newly opened blooms, was wafted to them from the doomed city. The birds started their melodious music to welcome the rising sun and Ram had his first glimpse of Ravan standing on the ramparts of his palace with the white umbrella of royalty, furled above his head. The gold on his garment of red silk glittered in the sun. Sugriva was standing beside Ram and when he saw Ravan standing in all his glory, he could not bear it and on a sudden impulse, he leapt into the air and landed on the terrace beside the rakshasa king and sprang on him.

Ravan was taken aback but he guessed who he was and said, “0 monkey chieftain! Very soon you will lose that beautiful neck, which has given you your name”!

Ravan would have made short work of him but Sugriva realised his folly and evaded his grasp and jumped back to Ram’s side. Ram chided him gently for his foolhardiness, though the watching monkeys
were thrilled and cheered their leader.

Arming themselves with sticks, stones, rocks and trees, the vanaras led by Ram, proceeded towards the city and took up the positions which had been decided for them. Ram was one who followed the rules of dharmic warfare and he decided to send a messenger to Ravan
to make a last bid for peace. Calling Angada, he ordered him to go and talk to Ravan.

“Tell him that I said, “I have come to punish you for stealing my wife. But even at this last moment, I would like to give you a chance. If you agree to return Sita to me, I will stop the war. If not, it will be a fight to the finish and end in the extermination of the rakshasa race?.
Angada leapt into the sky and reached the conference hall of Ravan, where he was closeted with his ministers. Boldly he walked inside and gave his message. The infuriated Ravan ordered his ministers to capture the monkey and beat him to death. As they ran to do his bidding, Angada leapt on to the terrace, carrying the ministers with him. He then threw them down and returned to Ram. War was now inevitable. Ravan had been given his last and final chance. The army marched up to the bastions of the city. As Ram gazed at the city walls, his heart flew to Sita who must have been anxiously waiting all these months, for him to come and rescue her. This thought was enough to spur him to ferocious activity.

Thus ends the third Canto called “The Siege of Lanka” of the Yuddha Kanda in the glorious Ramyana of the Sage Valmiki.

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