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CHAPTER 18: LAVA AND KUSA'S CHALLENGE
Now the horse was coming back. After going all around the world, it was coming back to Ayodhya. Right on the bank of the Tamasa river, Lava and Kusa saw it. There were soldiers going past with the horse. They saw the symbol of the sun dynasty on there. "It must be something to do with that..." but they wouldn't even mention the name. Kusa said, "Let us go and see." So they saw this horse with a golden plate, and they read the plate. "This horse belongs to Lord Ramacandra of Ayodhya. He is performing asvamedha-yajna. Anyone who stops this horse must meet the army of Ayodhya. Anyone who does not stop this horse must give a gift." Lava and Kusa said, "We will give a gift!" They told all the boys, "Tie this horse." Then the army was coming and Satrughna was coming. They saw the horse, and some children were standing there playing. That was normal. When he got closer he saw that they also had bows and arrows, and Satrughna said, "Hey, you are playing some Brahma? You are holding bows and arrows." They looked up at him, and they said, "Why are you talking? You must fight with us. We have stopped your horse, and we are not giving you any gift." Satrughna said, "Fight with you? You are just small children. Do you know who I am?" Lava said, "By looking at you, I can see that you are Satrughna." "How do you know me?" he asked. "That is not the question! Why are you wasting time? If you have any backbone, you fight with us!" So Satrughna went back and got on the chariot. "All right boys, get ready." They said, "We are ready." They were playing marbles. Then Lava said to Kusa, "He is going to throw snakes. That's what he will do." They knew the whole Ramayana, who has what astra, how they will use it. They have all information. Satrughna was chanting all the mantras. "How am I going to do it? All right, I will perform my duty," and he gave the naga-parsha. While they were coming, Kusa took a piece of grass and threw it. When Satrughna saw that, he said, "I have seen this somewhere, taking a grass and throwing it." So Kusa threw the grass and it came and ate the naga-parsha, and hit Satrughna on the head. He fell unconscious. One tenth of the army fled to Ayodhya, which was very close, only about five or six hours of travel away. They came there and there was a drum there, which they beat. Everyone came there, and they told Laksmana, "Danger! Satrughna has fallen! There are two boys who look like rishi-putras, and they are very good in astra-shastra. They just took a blade of grass and counteracted Satrughna's snake weapon." Laksmana said, "I have seen this before." And then he remembered Visvamitra's yajna. "How is it that these small boys are doing it? Bharata! Go and see." So Bharata went, taking half of the Ayodhya army with him. Bharata came there and saw the boys, and he gave him some sweets. They took the sweets, and then Bharata said, "So are you going to give the horse back?" "No," they said. "But I gave you sweets." "You gave me sweets, and I ate them." "So no horse?" Bharata asked. "No horse." they said. "Now fight." Bharata said, "Fight? Do you know who I am?" "Yes," they said. "You worship shoes." Bharata said, "Are you not the same boys who were singing Ramayana there in the yajnashala?" They said, "Yes, we are the same boys, and we know that you worship shoes. You are offering camara to the shoes, and you were going to enter the fire. And then a monkey came out of the sky and told you something, and you believed it all." They were taking the Ramayana and making it into a Kimayan. They were upset with Rama. Bharata said, "Don't say this, this is aparadha. Don't say like this. With one astra I can finish your whole ashrama." "Oh, whole ashrama?" they asked. One of the boys took an arrow and drew a square, one foot by one foot, on the floor. They said to Bharata, "You please pluck the grass from here this one foot square patch. If you can do it, then I will see that you have strength." Bharata looked at that, and Kusa said to Lava, "He will use the Agni astra." He took the Agni astra, and he was going to burn that place and show them how powerful he was. Kusa took a hair from his sikha and kept it in front of him. Agni astra was coming, and this hair was standing there. As soon as the Agni astra hit that, it cooled down and couldn't move any more. Bharata said, "What is this?" So he took the Brahmastra. Before he could chant his mantras, and he was just getting ready, the Brahmastra was just starting from his bow and they both uprised Brahmastras, Lava and Kusa together. Both used Brahmastras. Before his Brahmastra was away, Bharata saw two coming. "Oh! What is that?" He was burned, and he fell down. Half of the army was also finished, all burnt into coal, everybody was black. The messenger ran off to tell Ramacandra, "Bharata also fell." So then Laksmana said, "This is very bad. I will go myself." He came in his chariot with the sun symbol on the top, so Lava and Kusa were standing there with their bows and arrows. Kusa had said, "Next is Laksmana, so we can't just play around." Laksmana said to them, "Listen to my advice. You may know a few astras, you may do some tricks, because your guru is protecting you. But you must understand, I am Laksmana." They said, "Yeah, yeah, you are Laksmana. You were chastised by Mother Sita. You wanted to enjoy her, isn't it? Don't you remember that?" Laksmana said, "Oh! Why are you bringing this information to the surface?" And then they said, "And you were the rascal that brought Sita to the forest, we heard in Ayodhya. At least tell us, where did you leave her?" He had promised Rama that he would not tell anyone, and he said, "Why are you talking politics? Let us fight." So he took his astras, and the combat went on for some hours. It was tough to beat Laksmana down. Finally he was also shot down. He received wounds on the face, and he fell down. The news reached Ayodhya. Ramacandra had not been informed yet. Laksmana was superintending all of this, and now Laksmana had left. Ramacandra had not been informed of the loss, he was only told that the horse had been stopped, and something was going on. Now he was told what the real story was and he got upset. He rose and said, "I am going." Hanuman said, "This is my job. You sit down and do your yajna." So Hanuman went alone, flying through the space. So Lava and Kusa were talking. "Who will come next? It must be that monkey. We will give him fruits." "No, no. He will not be into fruits, he will get upset, because we have put Laksmana down. When Hanuman sees this he's going to get on our case." "So what should we do? Should we go to Valmiki?" "It's not that desperate yet. We can manage the situation." So he called some boys, and told them, "Do some Rama kirtan." So they began chanting, "Raghupati raghava rajarama, patita pavana sita-rama." They were all chanting and dancing. Hanuman was coming there. "Oh! Kirtan!" And he completely forgot everything. He was dancing in front, "Raghupati raghava..." Lava and Kusa said, "Keep going, and don't come back. Even the message won't reach Ayodhya. We'll have the horse." So they were having kirtan and going around the whole forest. Hanuman was leaping and dancing. He was leading kirtan, and then playing mrdanga. He had totally forgotten what he had come for. Lava and Kusa were sitting there laughing. "What an army! What a king! And what a monkey! What a crew!" Hanuman had not come back for a long time, so Ramacandra said, "We must go." So Vasistha, Visvamitra, Gautama, all rishis and saintly people and the leading citizens of Ayodhya came to the forest. Then they saw this Lava and Kusa playing there next to the horse. They were acting as if they didn't hear him or see him. They were completely ignoring him. Ramacandra called out, "Lava, Kusa. Come here." So they said, "Who are you to order us to come there? You come here!" He said, "I am the Lord of Ayodhya." "That may be," they said. "But we are the princes here in Valmiki's ashrama. We are rishi-putras. You cannot order the rishis, it is not possible. You want to hear some stories on that? Do you remember what happened to Visvamitra when he went to Vasistha's ashrama? Didn't you learn these things? Where did you go to school?" Ramacandra came to them and caressed their heads. "Just control your senses, please. Be patient. I have not done anything wrong. Just for the prestige of My dynasty, I don't want anyone to criticize the Iksvaku dynasty. That is why I did that." They said, "We are not asking explanations from you. Where are the arrows? Why don't you fight?" Ramacandra said, "No, I won't fight. If I use one arrow, that's enough." Kusa said, "Some 14,000 drunkards came in Janasthan. They didn't know what to do, bumbling around, and you finished them with one arrow. Big glory! You don't scare us with this. We know the whole Ramayana." Ramacandra said, "That's all right. They were all weak, you are very strong. But if you are strong you should also be intelligent. If your guru sees this, he will not allow it. Did you get the blessings of your guru?" They said, "Did you get the blessings of your guru when you sent Sita to the forest? Did you ask Vasistha?" He hadn't done it. In fact, after doing it Vasistha asked him, "Why did you do this?" Ramacandra had no reply to this. Kusa said, "Oh, you can do it without your guru's instruction. We can't though, because you are tall and we are short, isn't it? Let us see your arrows! Come on!" Ramacandra got very upset. "Maybe this has to be done," he said. He took acaman, and he was going to take his arrow. Just then, Hanuman, who had been going around and around, came to a big banyan tree and then the boys tied him on the tree. He was so absorbed, "Rama, Rama, Rama." They tied him. And then they stopped the kirtan. As soon as kirtan was stopped, he said, "Chant! Chant! Why did you stop?" They said, "No, no. We are going because we have work in the ashrama. But we will give you some engagement. You please count how many leaves are on this tree. You have nothing else to do." And they left. He was looking up, and suddenly he remembered, "I came here for some other purpose." He broke the rope, and he came to where everything was happening. He saw there was Rama, and there were these two boys, and he looked at Rama who was going to touch his arrow. Hanuman said, "There's something wrong here. I must get some help." So he ran into the ashrama of Valmiki, and he was asking everyone, "Where is Maharaja?" "Here is Maharaja," they said. He came to Valmiki and said, "Ramacandra and your disciples are there, and they will be finished and the whole ashrama will be burnt. Rama is angry." Valmiki said, "Oh!" He got up and was running. And then Sitadevi came out. Hanuman saw her and said, "Sita! You are here!" She said, "Yes, they are my children." Hanuman said, "Do you know what's happening? Ramacandra is going to kill them." So Sitadevi ran out also.