Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 11:03 PM
Hanuman Crouched Low on the slopes of Mount Mahendra, stretching out his tail and fixing his eyes on the horizon. He remembered his father the Wind god and prayed for his protection. Then he vowed, 'Either I shall find Sita or destroy Lanka,' and leaped into the sky.
As he launched himself the mountain shook, sending forth showers of fragrant flowers. Thousands of trees were uprooted and swept into the sky, falling like a carpet of stars into the sea. He flew through the air with his tail out behind him, shining like the sun as he passed in and out of clouds. His eyes blazed and the wind thundered past his ears while far below the sea tossed in his wake, churning up waves as high as mountains.
Wishing to help Hanuman, the Sea god sent the winged mountain Mainaka up from the seabed to give him a resting place. But as the mountain, with its gold-tipped peaks, rose before him, Hanuman simply thrust it aside with his chest. The gods were thrilled at his prowess and wanted to see more of his splendour, so they sent Surasa, mother of the Naga celestial snakes, to test him. She assumed a gigantic form and rose from the ocean in front of Hanuman, with her mouth outstretched to devour him. But Hanuman expanded his size, forcing her to open her mouth wider, then shrank to the size of a thumb to enter and leave her mouth in an instant, and continued on his way.
Next came the sea-demoness Simhika, who had not eaten for years. When she saw Hanuman flying above the sea, she used her magic powers to seize his shadow. Hanuman felt himself' held back by some unseen influence and looked down, seeing Simhika in the sea. He swept down towards her and she tried to swallow him, but he again shrank to nothing and flew into her mouth. Penetrating deep inside her, he burst out through her heart and killed her instantly.
As he neared the island of Lanka, Hanuman saw forests and mountains stretched out below him, and in the distance Mount Trikuta, beside which stood the fabulous city of Lanka, looking like the capital of heaven. He returned to his normal size and touched down safely on the peak of Mount Trikuta. Not even short of breath, he set off through the lush jungle towards the city. Soon he arrived at the edge of the outer moat beneath towering walls and turrets of gold with pennants fluttering in the breeze. He made his way to the northern gate where he saw large numbers of guards and much coming and going. He lay hidden among the trees until darkness fell.
When all was dark he shrank to the size of a cat and sprang over the battlements. By the light of the full moon he followed the main highway into the city. Around him were mansions of' gold inlaid with diamonds and pearls. Deep rumblings, like the distant roar of' the ocean, came from the depths of the city, and here and there bells tinkled. Suddenly he was challenged by a hideous female figure.
'Who are you and what do you want?' she demanded.
'First tell me who you are,' Hanuman replied.
'My name is Lanka, the guardian spirit of this city, and I am aware of all that goes on here. No one can wander about this city without my sanction.'
'It is my wish to see around Lanka and I shall do as I please,' retorted Hanuman.
Not without overcoming me,' she cried, and struck Hanuman on the face. In retaliation he felled her to the ground with a slap.
'Spare me,' she begged. 'I was once told by Brahma that when a monkey enters Lanka and overpowers me, the defeat of' all the rakshasas who live here will soon follow. I give you permission to go wherever you please and assure you that you will accomplish your purpose, and in so doing bring about the destruction of Ravana.'
Hanuman continued on his way. Soon he heard laughter and music and saw on the streets people of all kinds. Some were ugly, others beautiful, some coarse, others refined. He saw scholars and priests, powerful warriors and drunken fools. Naked ascetics with shaven heads muttered malevolent spells and eyed him curiously as he passed, while monstrous demons with deformed features and misshapen bodies guarded doorways along the way, armed with swords, clubs and spears.
After passing many mansions and crossing wide avenues, Hanuman came to the outer gates of Ravana's palace, made of solid gold embellished with precious gems. Inside was a city within a city, filled with mansions of gold and silver, teeming with demons strutting here and there, challenging each other in proud tones, singing boisterously or lying in drunk-en stupor. He also saw noble beings, hand-some and graceful, dressed in finery and shining brightly.
Entering the inner palace, Hanuman passed armed guards mounted on chariots and throngs of courtiers in avenues vibrant with the sound of kettledrums and trumpets. He came upon rakshasa women, some bashful, some alluring all exceptionally beautiful. He looked at them all closely, hoping to find Sita, but saw her nowhere.
He ranged among the houses of Ravana's generals and ministers, and his brothers Kumbhakarna and Vibhisana. He passed Ravana's stables, which housed mighty war elephants and horses of many colours, and then he entered gardens and pleasure grounds resounding with the cries of peacocks and sparkling with heaps of gems.
Finally he reached Ravana's personal residence. Blazing with jewels, it was a palace. of such splendour it seemed as if heaven had come down to earth. In its inner courtyard was moored the fabulous Puspaka airplane, like a mountain, with domes clustered one above another. This was the airplane that Ravana had stolen from Kuvera, the treasurer of the gods, and was his proudest possession. It was built from gold, silver, coral and crystal; yet it hovered weightless above the ground. Hanuman slipped aboard, up stairways of' gems, through pillared halls laid with crystal and lit by emeralds and sapphires. Fountains played in lotus pools surrounded by groves of artificial trees and flowers. The Puspaka was capable of travelling at the speed of mind along cosmic pathways. It was imbued with a mind of' its own, which responded to the thoughts of its commander, who must have exceptional power in order to control it. Hanuman scoured all the chambers and hallways on its many levels, but did not find Sita.
From there he stole into Ravana's private apartments where he saw bevies of' gorgeous women deep in slumber, exhausted from their revelries, their limbs and coverings in disarray. With their heads pillowed on one another's breasts and arms, their garlands and necklaces scattered, and their breath perfumed by fragrant wines, they looked like swans floating on a sea of lotus flowers. Lamps burned dimly, held by sentinels of gold who watched silently over the fair assembly.
In the midst of this scene was a raised bedstead of ivory and gold beneath a white canopy where Ravana slept, fanned by female attendants. His powerful arms, encircled with gold bracelets and flashing with diamonds, revealed the scars of' many battles. Around his bed slept female musicians, still holding their musical instruments in sensuous embrace.
On a richly upholstered bed nearby lay a fair-complexioned woman more gorgeous than the others. At first Hanuman thought her to be Sita, but then he realized this could not be so; Sita would never surrender herself to be enjoyed by Ravana. This woman must be Ravana's queen, Mandodari, who had been given to him as a young girl by her father, the demon Maya. Since then Ravana had carried off thousands of other young girls from the homes of' gods and celestial beings, all of whom were allured by his power and sexual energy. Sita, however, was the one woman who would never submit to his will.
Continuing his search, Hanuman entered the dining hall, where meats such as peacock, rhinoceros and porcupine stood untouched or half-consumed on golden dishes. The floor was scattered with broken cups and bowls amid piles of disordered cushions, pools of juice and half-finished cups of wine.
Leaving the palaces, Hanuman scoured the open spaces surrounding them. He looked among the crowds at crossroads, in narrow lanes, in chasms and ravines, but not seeing Sita anywhere, he began to fear the worst. Perhaps she had fallen into the sea as she was carried to Lanka, or been set upon by the demon women in Ravana's employ, or had died from a broken heart in separation from her lord. In despondency Hanuman decided to hide somewhere and fast to death, his mission having failed.
Just then he came across a grove of ancient ashok trees that he had not noticed before, hidden beneath a wooded hilltop beside Ravana's palace. This was Ravana's private retreat and something told Hanuman it might be the place where he would find Sita. He prayed to Vishnu to give him success, and leaped over the boundary wall. Inside, the trees were thick with flowers and entwined with climbers. As the monkey jumped from one tree to another they scattered their blossoms, covering him with petals so that he looked like the spirit of' spring. Advancing deeper into the grove he found that the trees took on a silver hue, and their flowers became richer and more perfumed. Water tumbled down the hillside into a crystal-clear pool with a white sandy bed sparkling with gems and corals. Around the pool, marble steps descended from among trees of gold that chimed as if with tiny bells in the breeze. Hanuman climbed the tallest tree and peered out from its branches across the moonlit landscape. Nearby was a tree greater and more venerable that all the others. Beneath it he saw a woman seated on the ground dressed in torn unwashed clothes. She was pale and drawn and her face was bathed in tears, but her beauty shone like the moon through a veil of clouds.
Hanuman knew her to be the same woman he had seen carried over Rishyamukha Hill by Ravana, and he recognized the ornaments she wore as matching the ones cast down from the sky to the monkeys that day, and her yellow robe as matching the silk cloth in which they had been wrapped. She must be Sita.
Around her demonesses circled restlessly, hideous in appearance, carrying clubs or spikes. Some had only one eye and misshapen features, some were covered in hair, some were hump-backed or monstrous in size, with heads of goats, camel's feet or donkey's ears. In the midst of these monsters, Sita was weighed down by grief, like a boat sinking beneath its load.
How can such a blameless and exalted soul as Sita be afflicted with so much sorrow?' lamented Hanuman. 'Indeed it is hard to understand destiny. Yet I see she is forbearing as the earth from whom she was born. She does not see the monsters surrounding her, or this heavenly garden. She sees only Rama.
As dawn approached Hanuman heard the distant sound of the sacred hymns of the Vedas being chanted in the city. At Ravana's bedside musicians serenaded him and slowly the great demon stirred, his head heavy with drink. His first thought was of Sita. Although he was powerful beyond measure, Ravana was the slave of passion, and at the moment all his passion was focused on Sita. Dressing and perfuming himself, he set off to the ashok grove followed by a procession of female attendants bearing torches in the early dawn light. As it passed through the glades echoing with birdsong, the procession looked like the progress of the god of love.
Hidden among the branches, Hanuman watched as Ravana approached. As soon as she saw him, Sita huddled up in modesty and shook with fear. Although she was distressed and forlorn, she could not hide her flawless beauty, which shone like the moon through the clouds. Hanuman was amazed to see the mighty Ravana actually prostrate himself full-length on the ground before her.
Have no fear, sweet lady, no other demons lurk here. It is only I, begging for your love,' came Ravana's love-stricken words. 'My soul is ravished by you. Please return my love. It is the habit of us demons to seduce other's wives by force, but I have restrained from this for ten months, waiting for you to willingly give yourself to me.
Your beauty holds me entranced. The creator, after fashioning you, must have retired, having surpassed all else. Though you are covered in torn cloth with your hair in a single plait, you make me forget even my consort Mandodari. My thousands of' other wives will wait upon you. Why do you think only of' Rama, a mere man? He is nothing compared to me. Untold wealth can be yours. Just be minel
Take your mind off me and be satisfied with your nettny wives, Sita responded fiercely. 'You should protect me, not seek to molest me. Your infatuation will destroy your kingdom and all who live in it. I belong to Rama as the sunshine belongs to the sun. You will never have me. Soon Rama will be here with arrows of fire to destroy you. You cannot flee he will find you wherever you are.
It seems, good lady, that the more I speak sweet words to you the more unkind you become. Very well, be warned; you have two months to surrender to me. If you refuse to share my bed after that time, you will be minced up and I will eat you for my breakfast!' These foul words upset many of Ravana's women, whom he had won from among gods or pious families. They tried to reassure Sita with secret glances. But she continued fearlessly.
You have no friends here, otherwise they would advise you that you bring upon yourself your own destruction by stealing another's wife, not to speak of the wife of' Rama. I wonder that your tongue has not fallen out, or your eyes been blinded. I am here for your destruction. Touch me at your peril.' Ravana's face twisted and he raised Ahand to strike Sita, but was restrained by his women, who dragged him away. Sport with us, lord, and havelinthing more to do with this Sita,' they implored. 'Do with her agsi-You will to force her to her senses,' he shouted at those around Sita. Angry and humiliated, he left4Now the demonesses came forward, first cajoling, then taunting, threatening Sita with their weapons.
Don't you know what you are turning down? You have been loyal to your husband, now do the sensible. Ravana has vanquished the entire universe. The thirty-three high gods and even Indra himself are under his sway, and now he wishes to give up his wife Mandodari in favour of you. You are mad to refuse.'
I would like to taste her liver,' snarled one, 'and her heart, too.' 'Why should we wait?' cried another. 'Divide her up now and cook her.' 'I will never be his wife,' Sita retorted. 'I am human, and he is a rakshasa and I will never have anything to do with the monster. You can eat me if you like, I don't care.
Shuddering with emotion she withdrew towards the tree in which Hanuman was concealed. 'I would not touch that despicable Ravana even with my left foot. Why can I not die now? Then I would be shamed no more.
If Rama would come, he would kill Ravana and destroy this entire city. Then it will be you who weep, your husbands dead. He will destroy you all.' an old rakshasa woman, named Trijata, awoke just then. Seeing that the other rakshasas were tormenting Sita, she stopped them.'
Eat one another if you like, but you will never eat her. I have had a dream,' she murmured, 'I saw Rama, dressed in shining white, riding with Sita on a great white elephant. Then I saw Ravana and his brothers, their heads shaven, riding south on mules, laughing hideously. Next I saw a powerful monkey set fire to the city or Lanka which fell crashing into the waves, while the women of the city laughed in madness.
My advice to you is stay away from her and leave this place if you can.
Her companions fell silent and sat down listlessly, not caring enough to argue. Sita crept further into the hollow of the tree beneath Hanuman. Fingering the cord tying her hair, she thought of suicide.
Hanuman desperately wanted to reassure Sita. But how could he do so without frightening her? She would think he was just another of Ravana's tricks. He decided to talk in Sanskrit, the human language spoken in Ayodhya. Softly, he spoke of Rama. 'There was once a mighty emperor in the line of Iksvaku called Dasaratha, who had a son named Rama,' he began, and went on to recite the tale of Rama's exploits up to the time that Sita was carried away.
In search of Sita, Rama and Lakshmana journeyed south where they met with Sugriva, lord of the monkeys. In alliance with him a great search for Sita was begun, bringing me to Lanka where I have at last found her. Even now, Rama is waiting for me to bring back news so that he can rescue her.
In rapture, Sita listened to this mysterious voice, thinking at first it was just a dream. She looked here and there until she caught sight of Hanuman in the tree above her. Was this an apparition? How could a monkey talk, and know all these details of her history?
Writer – Ranchor Prime