Ramayan Kishkinda Kanda - Book Of Kishkinda

Canto III - The Search For Sita



The cave was located in a very beautiful spot surrounded on all side by beautiful trees with flowering creepers entwined on their trunks. Everywhere they looked, they saw only beauty and Ram was with nostalgia and longing for Sita, whenever he saw all this beauty, for she loved to see such things and would exclaim in such delight, that he, in turn, would find joy in her innocent approach.

He spent sleepless nights thinking of his love. Soon the monsoons set in with a vengeance. Indra let loose the flood-gates of his waters and the rain fell in sheets with thunder and lightning thrown in, for special effects. Ram and Lakshmana could scarcely step out of the cave. The enforced confinement was galling to both of them. There was nothing to distract Ram's mind. All he could do was to sit and brood over Sita's fate. Once when he saw the watery moon rising over the mountain, he could not contain his grief any more and broke down and sobbed like a child. Lakshmana comforted him as best as he could.

"Brother", he said, "you have often told me that one who loses his mental equilibrium will never be able to accomplish anything. All we need is a little bit of time. As soon as the monsoons are over, we will set out and find her and kill the rakshasa and rescue her. So please do not grieve".

Ram was touched by his tenderness. "My dear child, I know that your love for me is infinite and you speak words of wisdom. I realise that sorrow is weakening and Flltry and shake it off. It is hard to be patient when I think of how unhappy my darling is, but I will do my best".

Lakshmana confessed that the enforced inaction was getting on his nerves also. Somehow they managed to contain their impatience and at last the four months dragged to a close and the skies became blue once again.

Hanuman was always conscious of where his duty lay and when the stipulated time was over, he went to Sugriva to remind him of his promise to Ram. After his years of exile, Sugriva found his new life of luxury intoxicating. Having been deprived of proper food and women for many years, he could think of nothing else now. He left all matters of state in the able hands of his ministers and spent his whole time in the harem with women and wine. Tara, being a philosophical woman, had decided to drown her sorrow at her husband's death, in wine and make use of the comfort and security which Sugriva offered her. Moreover, the vanaras, as a tribe, were not famous for their morals.

Hanuman approached Sugriva and reminded him gently of his duty. "My Lord, your wife and your kingdom have been restored to you by the kindness of Ram. Have you forgotten that you owe him a duty? The time has come for you to repay your debt. Please set aside your other interests and devote yourself to the matter on hand. Ram is too noble to remind you of your duty, so it is up to you to make all arrangements and inform him of it. Do not rouse Ram's anger. If you do, nothing can save you".

Sugriv roused himself from his inebriation and sent for Neela, who was one of his generals and told him to get the whole army to assemble in Kishkinda. "They must be here within fifteen days from today", he said. "Ask Angada to be my representative and arrange everything". So saying he retired once more to enjoy the pleasures of the harem.

The rainy season was over. The long autumnal nights with the harvest moon hanging like a golden orb in the sky caused Ram to ache for his beloved. He was filled with despair.

Lakshman who had gone to collect fruits returned and saw his brother in a hopeless state and cursed Sugriv for his tardiness. "My beloved brother, it does not become you to give way to grief like this. Do not fritter away your energy by dwelling on sorrow. I am sure Sugriv must have commenced his search for Sita. Nothing bad can happen to Sita, for she is like a flame, which will burn to ashes anyone who dares to touch it.

Ram agreed with Lakshman, "Child, your words filled with wisdom, are always a source of great comfort to me. I am sorry to have given into my sorrow again, but this season, with its haunting beauty brings poignantly to my mind, thoughts of my lovely wife and I long for her with all my heart. She must also be suffering from the pangs of separation, just as I am. She used to love to hear the call of the cranes and would imitate them. However lovely the flowers are, they mean nothing to me when she is not here to appreciate them. How long is this torture going to last? These four months have seemed like four years to me.

Still, Sugriv has not sent anyone to call us. I think he has forgotten his promise. Filled with lust, the king of the vanaras seems to have forgotten our very existence. Lakshman, go and ask him if he wants to hear the twang of my bow. Remind him of the death of Vali and the debt he owes to me. The rains have ceased and he has not woken up from his dream of pleasure. Time is passing and I have waited long enough. Go soon, 0 Lakshman! Tell him to honour the promise he made to me, or be prepared to face my arrows".

Lakshman was not a calm person by nature and he had been confined inside the cave for four months, which had not improved matters and now the sight of his brother's agitation, made his blood boil. He strapped the quiver to his shoulder and took up his bow "Ram, Sugriv does not deserve to be king. Drunk with power he has forgotten the codes of decent behaviour. I will despatch him immediately to the abode of Yama and ask Angada to carry on with the search".

Ram's anger abated when he saw his brother's reaction and he advised Lakshman not to repeat what he had said in anger but to adopt a conciliatory attitude.

Lakshman walked with purposeful strides to Kishkinda. The earth shook with the force of his angry strides. The entrance to the city was through a cave which was guarded by vanaras, so that no one could enter without permission. Seeing Lakshman, they took up trees in order to stop him from entering. When he saw this, Lakshman became doubly angry and seeing his fury, they flew off in all directions. They ran to Sugriv and told him of Lakshman's violent mood. The king was totally inebriated and lost to the world in the arms of his brother's wife. The monkeys ran to Angada who hurriedly came out of the gates to meet Lakshman and try to pacify him. Lakshman ordered him to call his uncle immediately. He could hear the sweet strains of music and signs of revelry floating in the air and when he thought of the agony of his brother these four months, his anger could not be controlled. Angada was scared out of his wits and ran and told his uncle and mother of Lakshman's arrival. Sugriv could hardly understand what was happening. In fact, he could hardly stand. Hanuman came to him and told him once again to go out and try to pacify Lakshman who was in a fury.

"Why should he be angry with me. What crime have I committed"? Whined the tipsy king.

Hanuman assured him that Ram was not seriously angry with him. "You must admit that you have allowed time to elapse. You have lost track of the seasons in your ardour. Ram has been counting the days to go in search of his wife. Pained in heart and mind, he has sent Lakshman to you. Please go and talk sweetly to him".

Sugriv did not dare to go and face him. He begged Tara to go and appease him, since he knew that Lakshman would not display his anger before a woman. Tara was also in a state of inebriation. Her gait was unsteady and her hair and clothes dishevelled. Lakshman took one look at her and realised the state she was in and averted his eyes.

Tara went up to him and said seductively, "Why, 0 noble prince, are you so angry? Who has been foolish enough to kindle your wrath"?

Lakshman replied, "Your husband seems to have forgotten all the rules of dharma. Lapped in lust, he has forgotten the promises he made to my brother. If you wish to do him some good, go and tell him to rouse himself from this orgy of lust and help Ram. Ingratitude leads to the destruction of the best of men. We have been betrayed by one, whom we considered a friend".

Tara replied in a sweet and gentle tone? "0 prince, please do not be angry with Sugriv. You know that kama is a powerful emotion. Even rishis have fallen to its lures, what need I say about a mere monkey, who is fickle by nature and who has been denied these pleasures for many years? Please forgive him for his apparent indifference, which has been caused by weakness. Actually, he has already ordered the army to be mobilised and soon thousands of monkeys from all over the country will be assembled here, to start out on their quest to discover Sita. Please come inside and meet Sugriv".

So saying, she led him into the inner apartments. Sugriv said not a word and stood with folded palms in front of him, while Lakshman berated him. Tara tried once more to intervene and make excuses for her husband.

"0 prince", she said, "For Ram's sake Sugriv will give up everything, even me and his wife, Rumi. He is devoted to Ram. His army will be here at any moment. Please relax and rest assured that everything will be done as you wish".

Lakshman was a little pacified by this assurance. Sugriv seeing his anger to have abated a little, now humbly begged his pardon. Both of them went to see Ram and tried to convince him that things were already under way.

Sugriv bowed before Ram and said, "You are like a god to me. How can I ever forget what you have done for me. Please do not think me to be ungrateful. Soon this entire hillside will be covered by monkeys. I will despatch them to all corners of the globe and find out the whereabouts of Sita. Rest assured that you will soon be reunited with her".

Within ten days, as he said, the whole hillside was covered with monkeys. They came in millions, lion-tailed, dark-faced, red-bottomed, white-furred and golden-haired, ranging from all parts of the country, from the Himalayas to the southern sea. All the world's tree folk answered Sugriv's call and crowded round their king to await his commands. The bears also came with their king, Jambavan, who was an old and shaggy, black bear, noted for his wisdom and respected by all the monkeys. Sugriv summoned his general, Vinata, and asked him to go east and scour the forests, hills and caves of the east, for any signs of Sita and return within a month on pain of death. Another troop was despatched to the west and another to the north. Turning to Hanuman he said, "You are exceptional. Please take a troop and go south. You are sure to find a way to reach Sita".

Ram was delighted that Hanuman was being sent south. Taking out his signet ring with the crest of the lkshvaku dynasty, he handed it over to him as a token to reassure Sita that he was indeed Ram's messenger. His last words to him were, "Hanuman, remember I am depending entirely on you. Make every attempt to locate Sita. I know that you will succeed".

The monkeys who had been sent to the north, east and west returned within the stipulated time of a month and sadly admitted that they had found no traces of Sita. Sugriv told Ram that Sita must be somewhere in the south, as he had seen her being carried in that direction. He assured Ram that if anyone could achieve the impossible, it was Hanuman, who was son of the wind-god.

Hanuman's party which had gone south made a thorough search of all the forests and caves. The time given to them was coming to an end and they were last losing nope. They had not been able to find any food or water for days. Suddenly, they saw a cave, in front of which, birds were flying. They decided to go in and see. It was dim and dark and they could hardly see anything. Hanuman went first and Angada caught hold of his tail and followed. All the rest came, each catching the tail of the one in front. Thus they slipped and slithered down the slope of the cave and suddenly fell into a garden which was so enchanting, that it could only be described as celestial. There they saw many beautiful mansions and lovely ponds, looking like gems. At last they came upon a lady ascetic and questioned her about the place. She said that the place had been designed by the architect of the demons, who was called Mayan.

He was the master of illusions and she said that all the things they were seeing were pure illusion. She was the guardian of the place and her name was Swayamprabha. She naturally wanted to know all about them. But first she entertained them with a lavish feast of fruits and honey. Then Hanuman told her the whole story of their quest and asked her the way out of the cave. She said that normally one who entered the cave by accident would never be able get out of it by themselves, but with her yogic powers, she wafted them out. She pointed out to them the sea on one side and the Malaya mountains on the other and told them to choose their course.

The monkeys stood dejectedly on the seashore watching the magnificence of the ocean. Their stipulated time was over, for they had spent a long time in the enchanted garden. They dared not go back empty handed. They feared the wrath of the king. Angada called a meeting of the vanaras and said.

"The time allotted to us is over and we dare not return, for we will be executed. It is best that we fast to death on this seashore. The king has no affection for me and will punish me severely. I would rather die on this seashore than return to face his wrath".

The monkeys said that they would prefer to return to the cave, where they could live in comfort and plenty rather than sacrifice their lives. Angada was undecided when he heard this. Now Hanuman took a hand. He had no desire to go and live a life of pleasure in the cave, nor did he wish to starve to death.

"Let us so back and bee forgiveness from Sugriv he said, "That is the honourable thing to do". But Angada who feared his uncle greatly was not convinced of this. He decided that he would give up his life on the seashore. Those wanted to join him could do so and the rest could go back. So saying he lay down on the hot sands and prepared for death. The rest followed suit.

Thus ends the third Canto called "The Search for Sita" of the Kishkinda Kanda in the glorious Ramayana of the Sage Valmiki.




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