Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 4:37 AM
Ravana heard the roar of the monkeys and learned that Rama and Lakshmana had both recovered. Renewing his attack, he sent Dhumraksha out from the western gate with a company of demons, riding on a golden chariot pulled by donkeys. A fierce fight ensued, during which many were slain on both sides. For a while Dhumraksha held the field, but he was soon dead, his limbs shattered beneath a huge rock hurled by Hanuman.
Next was Vajradamstra. He led his forces out from the southern gate, where he worked into the midst of the monkey army, striking terror into their hearts. But Angada hurled a mountain crag at him, smashing his chariot and throwing him to the ground, then cut off his head, sending the panic stricken demons back inside the city.
Ravana now sent out the mighty Akampana with a horde of demons. Dust obscured the armies and the earth grew muddy with their blood. Akampana slew many monkeys then turned his onslaught on Hanuman, striking him with volleys of arrows. But Hanuman struck him on the head with a big tree and the demon lost his life.
Downcast at the news of Akampana's death, Ravana summoned Prahasta, his commander-in-chief.
'I urged you to return Sita and avoid this war,' protested Prahasta. 'Nevertheless I am ready to defend you with my life.'
He ascended his glorious chariot and sallied from the eastern gate with one-third of Lanka's forces. The slaughter that ensued was terrible, creating a sea of blood and broken limbs. Prahasta attacked Nila, covering him with arrows, but Nila broke Prahasta's bow with a tree trunk. The two heroes tore at each other's limbs until at last Nila broke a great rock over Prahasta's head, ending his life and routing his army.
Angry and dismayed at the death of Prahasta, Ravana decided he himself would have to fight. Effulgent with mystic power, he led an army of gigantic demons out from the gates. Fighting with his twenty arms he Cleaved a path through the monkey army towards Hanuman.
'Remember me? I killed your son Aksa; Hanuman taunted. 'You may be safe from gods and demons, but beware of monkeys!'
Incensed, Ravana dealt Hanuman a huge blow on his chest, knocking him to the ground, and moved on. He then attacked Lakshmana and wounded him grievously with his javelin, but Hanuman knocked Ravana aside and carried Lakshmana to safety, where his wounds miraculously healed.
Rama then attacked Ravana, destroying his chariot and weapons, and striking him with a formidable arrow in his chest. III pain, the king of the demons ,dropped his bow and slumped to the ground. Rama spared him his life, allowing him to retreat into Lanka.
'Come back with a fresh chariot,' shouted Rama, 'and fight me again. Then you will discover my full strength.'
Defeated and disgraced, Ravana re-entered Lanka. He remembered Brahma's warning: 'Beware of humans'. He also remembered the curse of Vedavati, who foretold that she would come back as a woman in a future life and be the cause of his death. But he was not about to surrender.
'Wake Kumbhakarna!' he ordered.
Kumbhakarna, the brother of Ravana, was a monster who fed on flesh. Long ago when he was born he started eating all living beings at a frightening speed. To save them Brahma put him to sleep, allowing him to wake for only one day every six months. Ravana now ordered him to be awakened, although he had slept for only nine days.
Rakshasas descended into his underground mansion of' gold, where his enormous form lay buried in sleep. They sounded bells and drums but he did not stir. They struck him with clubs and trampled on him, but still he slept soundly. Finally they brought hundreds of elephants to walk all over him, and at last bestirred. He yawned and stretched, calling for food, and they fed him on deer, buffalo and pigs with vats of blood and wine.
'Why have I been woken?' he growled. 'What danger faces Lanka?'
'The city is besieged. Rama has put Ravana to flight, leaving him only with his life.'
'I shall conquer him and drink his blood!' roared the monster. Leaping from his bed, he washed his face, and called for mote drink. After drinking hundreds more barrels of wine he made his way full of excitement to his brother's palace. When he learned From Ravana the full extent of his troubles, he laughed.
'Did I not warn you, brother, that you were foolish to keep Sita? Now you are reaping the reward of your sinfulness and pride,' he chided. 'But never fear, I will put your enemies to flight and devour Rama.'
Ravana gave him a golden coat of mail and a huge golden pike. Maddened with the smell of blood, he strode into battle surrounded by an army of giant rakshasas. When the monkeys saw the colossal figure of Kumbhakarna step over Lanka's lofty battlements and advance towards them they fled in terror. With great difficulty Angada and Sugriva rallied them for the fight. Waves of monkeys attacked from all sides hurling trees, rocks and mountain peaks at him, but the monster felt no discomfort. He ploughed into their ranks, tossing them aside, trampling them underfoot, crushing them in his arms ten or twenty at a time and greedily thrusting them into his mouth until he was covered with their blood and gore.
Hanuman was the first to halt his progress. He struck him with a mountain peak so violently that the monster stumbled. But Kumbhakarna thrust his pike deep into Hanuman's chest, forcing him to retire, vomiting blood. Thousands of monkeys jumped on the demon and climbed all over him biting and scratching, but he threw them off or pushed them into his gaping mouth. Angada and Sugriva each attacked him with mountain peaks and Hanuman broke his pike. Lakshmana attacked him with arrows, piercing deep into his chest and hurting him severely. But Kumbhakarna wanted to fight Rama.
Finding Rama, he rushed at him in fury. Rama shot an arrow into his breast, making him bleed profusely. In delirium he ran amok, devouring all in his path, whether monkey, demon or bear.
'Here I am!' shouted Rama, 'ready to kill you.'
Laughing insanely, Kumbhakarna charged again at Rama, brandishing an iron club in his right hand. Rama released an arrow, powered by the Wind god, which severed Kumbhakarna's right arm. The demon lifted a tree in his other arm, but Rama severed that one too with another arrow, and with two more he cut off his feet. Still he advanced, flying through the air with his horrific mouth open like a gateway to hell. Rama took a golden arrow encrusted with diamonds and sent it blazing through the air. It tore off the demon's head and mercifully brought an end to Kumbhakarna's reign of terror. The earth shook, celestials gathered in the sky to applaud and the monkeys went wild with joy.
The news of his brother's death came as a terrible blow to Ravana. Now he realized he had been wrong not to listen to Vibhisana's advice. Seeing his despair, his sons rallied around him.
'You can still defeat Rama,' they assured him. 'We will kill him ourselves.'
Ravana felt his old enthusiasm return. His sons were, after all, powerful fighters who could fly through the air and knew the magic arts. Together four of them went out. They were met by fierce lighting and soon the ground was covered with the blood of the contestants. One by one, Ravana's sons were slain by the fury of the monkey-chiefs. Last to go was Atikaya, equal in might to Ravana. As he went forth on his chariot, brilliant as a thousand suns, the monkeys thought he was Kumbhakarna himself, come back to life.
Lakshmana challenged him but he laughed, 'You are a mere boy, I advise you to leave unless you want to die.'
Lakshmana, however, was more than a match for him. Atikaya was protected by Brahma, so only a weapon powered by Brahma could kill him. Lakshmana knew this and invoked Brahma's blessing on his arrow, which cut off Atikaya's head.
With all his sons, save Indrajit, killed in battle, Ravana at last recognized his opponent as Vishnu himself, from whom there could be no defence. But Indrajit would not allow him to give up the fight.
'You will see Rama and Lakshmana lying dead on the battlefield today, killed by my arrows,' he pledged.
Before going to fight, Indrajit offered oblations into the sacred fire. The Fire god rose dazzling from the flames to accept his offerings and gifted Indrajit with the cloak of invisibility, which allowed him to move unseen on the battlefield. He summoned his enchanted chariot, which flew through the air, and set off to do battle, accompanied by monsters riding animals such as tigers, scorpions, crows and serpents. This hideous assembly issued from the city gates, longing for victory over their tormentors.
Indrajit ranged the sky and began showering devastating arrows upon the leaders of Rama's army. Moving like lightning, always hidden from view, he left them helpless to defend themselves. His incessant barrage soon overpowered the monkey chiefs and even Rama and Lakshmana. When he saw that they had all fallen on the field of battle, Indrajit withdrew in exultation to the city of Lanka.
However, Vibhisana and Hanuman had survived Indrajit's onslaught. Roaming the scene of devastation Vibhisana discovered Jambavan, lying wounded on the ground. The venerable bear whispered to him.
'Does Hanuman live?'
'Yes,' answered Vibhisana, 'but why do you only enquire of Hanuman?'
'Because he has the power to save us all. In the northern marches of the Himalayas, between the lofty peaks of Kailasha and Rishabha, is a mountain thick with healing herbs. Among them are four herbs of unmatched potency: the herb which brings the dead to life, the herb which heals wounds, the herb which mends broken limbs and the herb which revitalizes the entire body. These rare herbs must be collected by Hanuman if we are to survive.'
Hanuman was soon coursing through the air on his way north. He passed over forests, cities, fertile plains and rivers and drew near to the mountain fastness of the Himalaya range, whose white peaks shone like clouds. Among them he found the mountain of herbs, just as Jambavan had said, and searched all over it for the precious medicines. Unable to find them he tore the summit from its roots and bore it away to Lanka. When he brought it to the battlefield, the fragrance of the herbs wafted over the wounded and healed their wounds. In addition, all, those monkeys who had died in the battle were restored to life. The demons, however, had thrown all their dead into the ocean to conceal their numbers and hence none was saved.
When they came to know of the revival of the monkey army, other demon champions came forward to fight, but they all perished, killed by Sugriva, Hanuman and Rama. The monkeys' fighting spirit was high, while all looked bleak for the demons. Indrajit desperately thought how to discourage Rama and his army. If he could convince Rama that Sita was dead, surely Rama would give up in despair and Lanka would be saved. He used his sorcery to conjure up an illusory image of Sita, placed her on his chariot, and drove before the opposing army with a company of demons.
Hanuman was astonished to see on Indrajit's chariot the figure of Sita. Her torn sari and pale, beautiful face were distinctly recognizable. But what was Indrajit doing with her? The demon took hold of her hair and dragged her towards him, beating her mercilessly. Hanuman was enraged. He surged forward with other monkeys intent on stopping Indrajit.
You are pitiless and cruel. By this foul act you are sending yourself to hell!'
'I agree that this woman should not be killed,' taunted Indrajit, but sometimes such things must be done in war. Watch me as I kill this princess, so dear to Rama.' Hanuman looked on in horror as he raised his sharpened sword and with a single stroke clove her in two, spilling her blood in his chariot. Enraged, Hanuman flew at Indrajit and aimed a huge rock to crush him and his chariot. But Indrajit speedily withdrew, leaving his army to be decimated by the outraged monkeys.
Hanuman told Rama the ghastly news. When Rama heard it he fell to the ground like a fallen tree and went into a deep depression. Lakshmana hurried to comfort him. Bewildered by this unforeseen turn of events, the two brothers remained in a state of shocked disbelief until Vibhisana arrived on the scene. When he was told what had happened he knew straight away that this was a trick of Indrajit's. He patiently explained to Rama the truth.
'Ravana would never allow Sita to be killed he is too attached to her. This is a trick of Indrajit's, who loves to use his sorcery to delude his opponents. Even now he is at the fire sanctuary preparing offerings for the Fire god. Twice already he has overcome us through occult means, and if he is allowed to complete one more such ritual, he will become invisible again and gain sufficient powers to defeat us for good. We must prevent him. Let me take Lakshmana to that place to finish Indrajit once and for all.' Rama gave his blessings and they hurried off.
On the way Vibhisana asked Hanuman to launch an attack on the demon army so as to force Indrajit to leave his sanctuary to fend them off. Hanuman led the onslaught, armed with rocks and trees, and before long they had put the demon army to flight. Sure enough, Indrajit appeared in rage to defend them.
While Hanuman did this Vibhisana and Lakshmana reached the place of sacrifice. Leading him through a dense thicket of ancient trees, Vibhisana brought Lakshmana to a clearing around a blackened banyan tree which spread its hoary branches over the fire sanctuary. Smoke rose from the fire-pit which was surrounded by ritual artifacts, and female attendants waited for Indrajit, who had evidently left in a hurry and was expected back. Suddenly Indrajit appeared, alerted by his aides of their presence in his inmost sanctuary. Deeply angered, he turned upon Vibhisana.
'You are Ravana's brother and my uncle, yet you have become our enemy, and now you have betrayed my secret. I despise you for this.'
'Although I was born a demon, that is not my nature,' replied Vibhisana. 'I have chosen a different path, driven away by the sinfulness of my family.'
Indrajit turned with contempt to Lakshmana.
'Have you come for more punishment? Do you forget that twice already I have crushed you? Stay then and fight, and I will fill you with arrows that will consume you as fire consumes a ball of cotton. So saying, he loosed a volley of arrows that pierced Lakshmana through, hissing like serpents. Lakshmana replied with Ave steel shafts that penetrated deep into his chest. And so the duel went, each displaying daz-zling skills and strength, and seemingly invulnerable to the other's arrows. They deployed cosmic weapons against each other until they had exhausted their arsenals. Gradually Indrajit, without the benefit of his invisibility, began to weaken in the face of Lakshmana's fury.
Lakshmana invoked the glorious weapon of Indra, awarded to him by Vishvamitra in his youth. He took the arrow, fretted with gold and guided by delicate feathers, and fitted it to his bow. Chanting mantras to Indra and invoking the name of Rama, he drew the arrow back to his ear, then released it. It flew straight and true and severed Indrajit's head from his shoulders.
The gods, watching from the sky, showered flowers on Lakshmana and praised his deed. Rama hugged him close, soothing his injured limbs and ridding him of' all pain. With the help of the healing herbs he soon recovered from his ordeal. They all looked forward to the final showdown with Ravana.
Ministers hastened to Ravana with the news of Indrajit’s demise. Stunned, the lord of demons fell into a nerveless state, pondering his great loss. After some time he stirred, knitting his brows and grinding his teeth. He screamed, venting smoke and flames from his cavernous mouth, and seized his razor-edged sword, resolving to put an end to Sita, the cause of all his troubles. He swept out of his chambers, sending courtiers scurrying for shelter, and hurried down to the ashok grove, anxiously followed by his ministers and his wife Mandodari. Sita saw his purposeful approach and the long sword at his side and thought her life was at an end. 'Weak with fear and resignation, she bowed her head and waited. Suddenly an elderly minister, Suparsva, spoke up. `
Surely you will not do this heinous crime? Since childhood you have honoured your religion. Will you now destroy all your merits in one instant by murdering an innocent woman? Turn your anger on Rama, not on this helpless princess!'
Ravana heeded these words of his trusted adviser and withdrew his sword. With this friend of his he returned to his council chamber.
Ravana believed himself' invulnerable. He had a coat given to him by Brahma that was impenetrable, even by the arrows of Indra. He therefore determined to kill Rama and Lakshmana himself. He ordered his remaining generals to gather whatever was left of his army still an enormous force and go ahead, with him Following them to complete the task.
The great army advanced from the city, flying colourful banners and bristling with weapons. But this was not to be their day. Rama put on such a display of' fighting power that even he was astonished. So fierce was his onslaught and so swift his progress, that the demons could not actually see him as he destroyed them. As one cannot see a hurricane flattening a forest, they could only see their warriors falling on all sides. At other times it seemed to them they saw not one but hundreds of Ramas. He became like the wheel of Time, bringing death to all who looked upon him. Within two hours, he exterminated the entire demon army with his fire-laden arrows, save a few who managed to escape.
Lanka was filled with the bitter tears of the demon's wives, sisters and daughters.
'We blame Surpanakha,' they cried. 'That ugly and deformed creature should never have touched the handsome Rama. Nor should Ravana have stolen Sita once he saw how easily Rama disposed of his cousins Khara and Dusana. Later the invincible demons Viradha and Kabandha, and even Vali the powerful monkey king were all effortlessly killed by Rama, but still this obstinate Ravana will not release Sita. Now he has caused the death of our husbands and brothers.'
Ravana heard their wailing and bit his lips in rage. Gathering the remnants of his once great army, and the few generals to have survived the morning's holocaust, he rode out to face Rama. His chariot was resplendent with jewelled pillars and golden domes, and equipped with a huge arsenal of celestial missiles. Rows of' tiny bells jingled as it moved across the field, pulled by eight horses. But just then a vulture alighted on top of the chariot, other birds gave harsh cries, his left eye twitched and his face grew pale, while across the heavens flamed a meteor. Heedless of these omens, Ravana advanced to his doom.
The fighting went against him, and soon his generals were killed by Sugriva and Angada, leaving Ravana virtually alone. Full of rage, he invoked a spell in the name of Rahu, the planet of darkness that eclipses the moon, and cast it over the monkey army, destroying many of them. Then he turned his attention towards Rama, and the two of' them entered a full-scale contest of arms. As they circled each other loosing thunderous missiles charged with mystic potencies, the sky darkened and all creatures felt oppressed with fear. Although each was pierced repeatedly by the other's shafts, neither felt pain.
Ravana's arrows flew towards Rama, manifesting heads of lions, vultures, snakes and wolves with open jaws projecting sharpened teeth. Rama met them with arrows of fire appearing like suns, moons, meteors and comets.
Lakshmana and Vibhisana joined the attack, breaking Ravana's bow and killing his horses, forcing him to jump to the ground. Enraged, Ravana took up a javelin invested with deep magic, hung with eight bells and shining like fire, and launched it at Lakshmana with a sound like thunder. Rama, seeing it closing on Lakshmana, chanted mantras for his protection, but the javelin sank deep into Lakshmana's chest and Felled him like a stone.
Rama rushed to Lakshmana's side fearing the worst, and with great difficulty extracted the shaft from his chest. But he showed no signs of life. Rama, his eyes full of tears, entrusted him to the care of Susena, the monkey physician, and swore that he would put an end to Ravana that very day.
When Susena saw Lakshmana's serious condition, he called for Hanuman to collect more precious herbs from the Himalayas. Hanuman again set off north for the mountain of herbs. Reaching there, he broke off a further crag from its summit and hastened back to the scene of the battle. Susena selected a herb called Visalyakarani, which has the power to expel from the body any weapon that has penetrated it and to heal the wound made by its entry. He crushed the herb and administered it through Lakshmana's nostrils, curing him instantly. Lakshmana stood up, all pain and injury gone, and was embraced by Rama and cheered by the monkeys.
The time for the final act of war had-arrived: the destruction of Ravana. lndra, the king of heaven, decided it was time to give Rama some help. He summoned his trusted charioteer, Matali, and sent him and his chariot to Rama's assistance. All at once Indra's chariot swept down from the skies and halted before Rama, hovering in the air with its bells tinkling. Rama and Lakshmana recognized it as the same golden chariot, yolked to four green horses, that they had seen at Sarabhanga's ashram in the forest at the start of their exile. Matali greeted Rama and invited him to mount the chariot, holding Indra's shining armour and celestial weapons.
Rama mounted the chariot, which lit up the battlefield with its splendour, and set off in pursuit of Ravana. The combat was opened by Ravana, who released a demoniac missile which turned into thousands of snakes shooting fire from their mouths, assailing Rama from all directions at once. In reply Rama invoked the weapon of Garuda, the bird-carrier of Vishnu and enemy of all snakes, which produced thousands of golden eagles who devoured the snakes.
Ravana then raised another javelin, covered with spikes like mountain peaks and wreathed with fire and smoke around its point. It screamed through the air at Rama, threatening to destroy him and his entire army, but Rama countered it with a javelin of his own. When the two weapons collided the explosion illuminated the skies and showered fragments on the ground.
Rama shouted at Ravana, If I had been there when you stole Sita, I would surely have killed you then. But now that I do have you in my sight I will despatch you to the abode of death. Today vultures will feast on your heart and drag away your severed head as you lie shattered on the battlefield.'
The magical weapons Rama had received as a youth from Vishvamitra now came before him ready for his use, and Rama covered Ravana with arrows that bit deep into his body. The demon sank back in his chariot without the strength to fight on. Seeing this, his charioteer hastily retreated from the battlefield to give him time to recover.
While he was gone, the sage Agastya, who had been observing the fight from the skies, came to Rama's side. He recited in his ear the heart mantra in praise of the sun, which addresses the supreme God through the power of the sun, and allays all anxieties.
"He alone creates, sustains and destroys all that lives"; he chanted, "He lives in the hearts of all beings, awake while they sleep, and is the supreme controller of all activities. All who remember him will be victorious".
Hearing these divine words, Rama was rid of all fatigue and sorrow, and felt renewed vigour and determination. Soon Ravana's chariot returned with a sound of thunder and Rama took up Indra's bow to finish his task. Vultures circled around Ravana in a darkening sky, meteors coursed through the heavens, thunder rolled even without clouds, and blood rained down on his chariot. As the contest reached its climax, all warriors on the field, both monkeys and demons, stood motionless and watched in amazement. The denizens of heaven, observing from the sky, anxiously called out to Rama.
'May all be well with you. Delay no longer. Conquer this demon now.'
Rama fired a golden arrow which took the form of a serpent as it sped towards Ravana. It severed his head, but another head appeared on Ravana's shoulders. Again Rama cut it off and again it was replaced. Rama exhausted hundreds of arrows in this way, and the unceasing struggle passed through days and nights, neither gaining mastery over the other.
Seeing the situation, Rama's charioteer, Matali, advised him. 'The hour of Ravana's doom has come. To kill Ravana you must use the dreaded arrow of Brahma, given to you by Agastya, which never misses its target.'
Rama took out that arrow, in whose feathers resided the Wind god, in whose tip was the Sun god and the Fire god, whose shaft was made of ether and which was itself the essence of all elements. He charged it with its mystic mantra and dispatched it at Ravana with the speed of sound. Flaming and spitting, covered in smoke, it penetrated the heart of the king of the demons. Ravana's body fell lifeless to the ground.
All at once a breeze whipped up, dispersing the foul odours of the battlefield. The sky cleared and the sun shone with a warm glow. Flowers rained down and heavenly music echoed from the sky. Demons melted into the shadows while monkeys rejoiced and came forward to honour Rama, who was surrounded by his faithful Friends on earth and glorified by celestial beings in the sky.
Writer Name: Ranchor Prime