Ramayan: Sundar Kanda - Book Of Beauty

Canto III - Hanumanís Wrath



Hanuman was so angry at the way that Sita was being treated that he decided to show his prowess to Ravana before he left. He wanted him to realise the might of the army, he would have to face. He thought of a method to rouse the ire of the rakshasa king and decided that the best way would be to destroy this garden, which was obviously one of his favourites. He set about this destruction in a most methodical manner. Like a raging tempest, he uprooted every tree and trampled it with his feet, the creepers were twisted, the temple smashed, the pools splattered with the copper coloured buds of the Ashoka trees. Lakes were churned and made muddy, the little hillocks were ground to powder and the beloved garden of Ravana was made into a desolate waste. Having accomplished this much, Hanuman climbed to the top of the archway to the garden and waited expectantly for things to happen. He did not have long to wait. There was a great commotion in the garden itself. The birds were screeching in terror and the deer and the peacocks were crying loudly.

The rakshasis who were in charge of Sita now woke up from their drunken stupor and demanded to know what was happening. They saw the monkey and wanted to know who he was. Sita said she knew nothing about him. They saw the huge monkey sitting on the arch and ran to report to Ravana. "There's a huge monkey who has laid waste the whole garden. The only place he has not destroyed is the tree under which Sita sits. He was seen talking to her but she denies knowing anything about him".

Ravana was furious when he heard of the fate of his favourite garden. He sent some strong rakshasas to kill the monkey. Hanuman was delighted. He had been waiting for an opportunity to show his valour. They surrounded him and tried to beat him. He grew in size and clapped his hands on his shoulders in the manner of wrestlers and said in a reverberating voice, "I am Hanuman, the servant of Lord Ram. Not a thousand Ravanas are capable of withstanding my powers. I will return only after devastating Lanka".

Pulling up a pillar on which the arch was supported, he beat and killed all the rakshasas who had come to subdue him. This was reported to Ravana who found it very difficult to believe. He sent a young warrior called Jambumali, who was the son of his minister, with a large contingent and Hanuman killed him in a trice, thus causing great confusion amongst the soldiers. Next Ravana sent another contingent with the sons of his other ministers and they were also killed. Streams of blood flowed down the main highway of Lanka leading to the palace carrying with it the mangled bodies, legs and arms of rakshasas. Ravana was quite bewildered by this unexpected turn of events and decided to send his youngest son, Aksha Kumara to subdue the monkey. Wearing an armour of gold and looking like the morning sun, the young boy went forth in his chariot, sure of success. There was a terrible encounter between the two of them. Hanuman was greatly impressed by the boy and did not feel like killing him, but he knew that in war, there was no question of showing mercy.

He killed the horses first and then smashed the chariot. The boy flew up into the air and Hanuman jumped up and caught him and dashed him to death on the ground. Ravana was sunk in gloom when he heard about the death of his dear son. He summoned his eldest son, Meghanatha, who was also known as Indrajit after he had defeated Indra, the king of the gods in battle. Ravana told Indrajit to go and punish the monkey, for he feared that there was something unusual about him and the army could not handle the situation. Indrajit was an invincible warrior and set out with delight.

He hurled missile after missile at Hanuman who evaded them with great dexterity. Indrajit was amazed at this monkey's powers and realised that it was impossible to kill him, so he decided to invoke a divine missile which would paralyse him. The impact of this celestial astra called the nagapasa, knocked out Hanuman and made him feel, as if he was bound. He recovered immediately but he decided that it would be good to pretend to be senseless, so that he would be taken into the presence of Ravana. He was tied up with stout hemp ropes and dragged before the demon king. The moment the gross ropes touched his body, the subtle effects of the astra were nullified. Indrajit saw this and knew that the effect of the astra must have gone but to his surprise the monkey allowed himself to be dragged to the court. Indrajit was puzzled but he went and reported the matter to his father.

Hanuman was kicked and pulled into the hall where Ravana was seated, surrounded by his retinue of ministers. Hanuman had to admit that he was indeed a magnificent personality. He was clad in the softest of white silks which looked like billows of surf on the seashore. Many wonderful gems were round his neck and bracelets on his strong arms. His green eyes were gleaming with strange lights and looked piercingly at Hanuman. For a few minutes Hanuman was dazzled by his charisma and could not help but gaze admiringly at him. He thought to himself that if Ravana had only been a righteous person, he could easily have been the king of gods, so glorious was his personality.

Ravana looked deep into the tawny eyes of the monkey and some unknown fear assailed him. He remembered the incident long ago when Shiva, his favourite deity, had failed to comply with his demands. This had infuriated him so much that, in his arrogance, he had put one finger under the mountain of Kailasa, the abode of Shiva and tilted it perilously. Parvathi had been frightened and Shiva, to comfort her and to quell Ravana's pride, had simply pressed the mountain down with his big toe and crushed Ravana's finger. Ravana is supposed to have placated Shiva by composing the fantastic hymn, known as the "Shiva Thandava stotra". However, Shiva's bull-vehicle, Nandi, had cursed Ravana that he would suffer defeat, when Nandi himself came in the form of a monkey. For a moment, Ravana thought, that this was the time foretold by Nandi and then he dismissed the incident as of no concern and asked his minister to question the monkey about his purpose in coming to Lanka.

"0 monkey! Have no fear. Answer truthfully and no harm will come to you. It is obvious that you are no ordinary simian but one who has come in disguise, sent by one of the gods. If you lie you will be killed"? said the minister. Hanuman did not deign to reply to him.

Turning to Ravana he said, "I am not an emissary of the gods, neither am I in disguise. I am a monkey by birth and I destroyed the garden because I wanted to meet you face to face. 0 king! I have come here as a messenger of Sri Ram, whose wife Sita has been abducted by you. No one who has wronged Ram will escape death. Decide to act according to dharma and then perhaps you will be allowed to go free. Your life has been blessed by many gods and is filled with glorious things. Why should all this glory come to an end, because of a woman. You are wise and you should know the dictates of dharma. Is it correct to abduct another manís wife, against her wishes? There is no power in-all the three worlds which can withstand the might of Ram. Let dharma and self-interest guide you. Restore Sita to her rightful husband. I have seen her and she is in the grip of grief. My valour alone is enough to destroy the whole of Lanka, what then if Ram comes? Sita is like the noose of death, which you have placed securely round your neck. Ram's anger is deadly. Your duty is to protect your subjects, kinsmen, children, wives and wealth. Think well about what I have said and then actĒ

Ravanaís anger was mounting, with every moment. He could hardly contain himself till the end of the talk and roared to the guards to kill the precocious monkey.

Ravana's wise brother, Vibhishana, now intervened and said, "My Lord, please consider before you put this monkey to death. I admit that he has done a lot of damage but remember he is a messenger and it is against all rules of etiquette to execute a messenger".

Ravana was in no mood to listen to such wise counsel and ordered that Hanuman should be killed immediately.

Again Vibhishana said, "He is here only to convey a message sent by the enemy and is himself guiltless. The rules are very clear on this point that a messenger should not be put to death. You can torture him, shave off his hair or whip him, but you cannot kill him or else there will be a blot on your fair name. Attempts should be made to attack the princes who have sent him. Only a small portion of your army need be sent to kill those two human beings, but do not kill this monkey".

At last Ravana was convinced and said, "Vibhishana you may be right that a messenger shouldn't be killed but I have to punish this monkey somehow for the mischief he has done. The tail is a monkey's dearest treasure, so let his tail be lighted and let him be dragged through the streets of Lanka and thus provide a joyous spectacle to the citizens".

The rakshasas were delighted at the order. All the time while he was being dragged to the court, they had been shouting fiendishly, "Kill him! Roast him! Eat him"! etc. and now they fell on his tail with glee and started to wrap it round with cloth, dipped in oil, but the more they tied, the longer grew the tail, so that they had to bring bales and bales of cloth from all the shops in Lanka and still it was not enough. Hanuman's tail was encircling the city of Lanka about ten times. The confused demons ran around in circles, trying to wrap cloth round the tail and still the tail grew and grew. At last Hanuman took pity on them and allowed them to finish their job. After having wrapped the immense tail with cloth, they dipped it in oil and set fire to it. It was a colossal tail and it made a great conflagration. Everyone ran out of their houses to watch the spectacle. Hanuman was mad. He slashed his tail at the rakshasas and they fell in heaps but then he allowed them to bind him tightly and drag him through the streets of Lanka, which he had seen only during the night. He thought it would be a good idea to know the lay-out of the city, since the knowledge might come in handy when he returned with the army.

This news was brought to Sita by some of the rakshasis, who were greatly elated. Poor Sita started weeping again. Hope had just started to creep into her heart when this saviour had come but now it looked as if it was all in vain. She prayed with all her heart to Agni, the Lord of Fire and begged him not to hurt Hanuman. The fire-god was prompt and became cool on his skin, while Hanuman's father, the god of wind, blew softly round his son, thus cooling him. Hanuman was astonished at this miracle.

Now that he had succeeded in talking to the king of the rakshasas, and seeing the whole of Lanka, Hanuman decided that it was enough. He was no mean monkey to be reviled and persecuted by these stupid rakshasas. In a minute he broke free, by flexing his body. Giving a bloodcurdling roar, he sprang up on top of the city gates and picking up a pillar as easily as if it were a piece of wood, he knocked the guards down. He considered what further havoc he could do before leaving for Kishkinda.

"Ah"! he thought, "this fire, which has been used to punish me has been denied its food, so I will give it some sustenance. So saying, he took an enormous leap into the heart of the city and jumped from mansion to mansion setting fire to each, with his flaming tail. The pearl and gem encrusted palaces and houses started to crackle and crumble. At last he landed on Ravana's palace and set it ablaze. The exuberance of the people gave place to panic. Screams and cries rent the air as the terrified citizens ran hither and thither in their effort to extinguish the flames and escape from the conflagration. The whole of Lanka was like a flaming torch. It was an awesome spectacle.

At last his anger abated and his conscience suddenly pricked him. "What have I done"! he thought. "In a fit of anger, is it possible that I have even destroyed the very person, I have come to save. How could I have become such a slave to my anger? People commit crimes easily while in the throes of anger. An angry man may kill even those who are to be respected. The truly great man is he who can control his wrath. If I have killed Sita, it means I have killed my master also".

Then he reflected awhile and thought, "No, this cannot be. If the fire could not harm me, surely it could not have harmed her. The radiance of her purity will safeguard her. The strength of her austerity and her devotion to her husband will protect her". As he was thus ruminating, he saw some astral beings, winging their way towards him and they were talking amongst themselves and commenting on the fact that in the whole of Lanka, the only person who was totally unaffected by the conflagration, was Sita. Hanuman was thrilled to hear this and he leapt towards the grove where she was sitting in order to take his leave. Sita was overjoyed to see him and gave him her blessings and told him to speed back.

Hanuman was eager to get back to Ram. He turned round to have a last look at the city. The fabulous city of Lanka which had appeared like a gleaming pearl in the moonlight the previous evening, now lay in shambles at his feet. He felt a twinge of compunction but decided that Ravana deserved it. He then returned to the top of the hill and took a flying leap. He saw the sea surging beneath him as he turned his face north and sped on his way. He passed with ease through the crimson tinted clouds and coursed through the sky like an arrow. The vanara host who were eagerly awaiting his arrival, were thrilled by his war-cry as he landed in their midst. They broke into joyous shouts as he approached. He told them all the news - how he had found Sita in the Ashoka grove, how he had set fire to Lanka and so on. As they heard the details, the excited monkeys, danced about and jumped up and down in the air. The crown prince Angada now boastfully declared army and they could return with Sita.But Hanuman said that Sita was expecting her Lord to come and rescue her, so they should head for Kishkinda straightaway.

Their enthusiasm lent wings to their feet and the monkeys made the return back to Kishkinda in half the time. When they reached the outskirts of the city, they saw the garden called Madhuvana, which was full of fruit, filled with intoxicating honey. The monkeys begged Jambavan and Hanuman for permission to enter this garden and taste the wine. As a special treat, they were given leave and the whole crowd rushed in and enjoyed themselves to their heart's content. They were so drunk that they could hardly walk. Some were singing and others dancing. Sugriva's uncle was the guardian of the grove and he tried his best to prevent them, but they paid no heed to him. The whole garden was filled with intoxicated monkeys, who were reeling about in different stages of stupor. The guard ran to report the matter to the king but Sugriva, contrary to his expectations, told him not to worry about them. He was sure that they had come back with good news or else they would not have had the courage to ravish the king's favourite garden. He told the guard to bring the monkeys to his presence immediately.

He was with Ram and Lakshman at the time in their retreat on top of Prasravana hill and they were all thrilled by his words and waited anxiously for Hanuman's arrival.

The monkey host arrived with a great clamour. Each one of them strutted in, as if he had personally achieved the impossible. Hanuman and Angada now came forward and Hanuman bent low before Ram and said, "Seen have I Sita". He phrased his sentence in this way because he knew that Ram's heart was filled with expectation and until he heard the word "seen", he would be in agony. Hanuman wanted to spare him even this one moment of pain if he could, and thus said, "Seen have I Sita". Ram's happiness could be well imagined. To hear that his beloved was alive and well, even though unhappy, was the greatest news that he could hear. He bugged Hanuman and gave him all his blessings.

The monkeys vied with each other in their attempt to tell him the narrative, which they had heard from Hanuman. Ram looked lovingly at them and then said, "I would like to know more about Sita. What did she say? Did she send any message for me"? At this, the monkeys turned sheepishly to Hanuman and begged him to continue the story. Hanuman bowed low to Ram and told him the whole story of his conquest of Lanka and his meeting with the lovely, lonely, princess of Videha who was eating her heart out for her beloved husband. He narrated the story of the crow and the red dot. He did not leave out even a single word spoken by the bereft queen. Ram listened with tears coursing down his cheeks. Hanuman told him how happy Sita was to receive Ram's ring and then he presented the hair ornament which she had given for Ram. He took it in his hands and pressed it to his chest. A flood of memories swept over him and he said, "This was given to Janaki by her father, Janaka and she wore it for the wedding. How beautiful she looked"! So saying he fell into a deep reverie thinking of his lovely, young bride.

Turning to Lakshman he said, "How ironic that I can see her jewel but not the wearer of the jewel. If she says she will live for a month more, then her life will be longer than mine. I cannot live for a moment more, without seeing her. Take me to her,0 Hanuman"! Thus he lamented.

Hanuman and Lakshman tried their best to console him. At last he managed to attain a measure of composure and praised Hanuman for his fantastic effort. "You have accomplished that which no one else could have done. I am only sorry that I am unable to reward you in a fitting manner. I can only embrace you as a token of my gratitude". With these words, Ram enfolded his servant Hanuman in his firm clasp and pressed him to his bosom while everyone looked on with pleasure.

Thus ends the third Canto called "Hanuman's Wrath" of the Sundara Kanda in the glorious Ramyana of the Sage Valmiki.




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