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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Other Scriptures by Acharyas > Valmiki Ramayana > Yuddha Kanda


Rama was extremely pleased with Hanuman, being grateful for the invaluable service that he rendered. Just to praise him, Rama said, “Except for Garuda, no one else could have done what you did. The best of all servants is the one who, when entrusted with some task by his master, accomplishes more that what was requested. A mediocre servant is one who never tries to do more than what is ordered by the master, even though capable of doing so. That servant is the lowest of men, who, even though qualified, does not carry out the order of the master.”

“Hanuman, you not only found Sita, but you comforted her with your words as well. You surveyed the entire city of Lanka, you tested the strength of the great Rakshasa warriors, and you struck fear into the heart of Ravana. Indeed, your service has practically saved My life. It pains Me greatly that I am unable to properly reward you. Because I am living in exile, the only thing that I can call My own is My ability to embrace you.”

Saying this, Rama affectionately pressed Hanuman to His heart. Then, turning to Sugriva, Rama said, “Now we know where Sita is, but how will the monkeys be able to cross the vast ocean? It suddenly seems to Me that all of our hopes and hard labor were useless!”

As Rama fell silent, plunged into deep thought, Sugriva replied, “My Lord, You should cast off Your grief, just as an ungrateful person easily gives up kindness. For one who lacks an enthusiastic spirit, all activities become sources of misery. And, for one who is bewildered by grief, all endeavors end in failure. I am excited at the prospect of fighting with Ravana, and I am convinced that the monkeys are up to the task. Why not somehow build a bridge across the ocean? If the monkeys can just get to Lanka, I am sure that they will come out victorious.”

Then, turning back to Hanuman, Rama said, “I can easily cross the ocean by utilizing My mystic power, or, if I so desire, I can dry it up! Tell Me in more detail about Lanka’s fortifications, as well as whatever other relevant information you may have gathered.”

Hanuman eagerly replied, “Lanka has four types of defenses. First of all, it is naturally difficult to attack because it is situated high upon a mountain, encircled by a river, and surrounded by dense forests. Then, there are artificial fortifications. High golden walls surround Lanka, and there are four massive gates facing the four directions. Surrounding the walls are wide moats, and four drawbridges span these moats, leading to each of the gates. As I set fire to Lanka, I made it a point to break all the drawbridges and tear down many sections of the walls.”

“My dear Lord Rama, I suggest that only the greatest warriors- Angada, Dvivida, Mainda, Jambavan, Panasa, Nila and myself jump over to Lanka. In this way, we can defeat Ravana without having to worry about transporting the entire army of monkeys across the ocean.”

Rama replied, “It is My vow that I will personally go and destroy Lanka.”

Then, turning to Sugriva, Rama said, “The sun is now at the meridian, so that the auspicious time called Abhijit has arrived. This is the opportune time to begin a military campaign, and there is also trembling in my upper right eyelid, indicating victory. Let us assemble all the monkeys so that we can begin our march toward Lanka at once!”

Lakshman and Sugriva applauded Rama’s suggestion, and within a moment, hordes of monkeys began to emerge from the caves and wooded mountain slopes. Rama then ordered Nila, “I want you to march in front of the army. Take some monkeys with you and spread out in all directions, just in case there are enemy warriors waiting to ambush us. Any weak Vanaras should be left behind because our conquest is a formidable one.”

Rama then arranged the army so that He would ride on Hanuman’s back in the center of the formation, while Lakshman would ride on Angada. Sugriva passed on Rama’s orders to the others, and it was not long before the army set out toward the South. The powerful monkeys marched with great bravado, roaring like lions and leaping up and down. Sometimes they somersaulted or rode piggyback, and sometimes they sportingly threw one another about. Cheerful and playfully aggressive, the energetic Vanaras lashed their tails about as they clamored up and down hills, uprooting plants and dislodging great stones.

While going along, Lakshman told Rama, “Just see the auspicious signs that have become visible! There is a cool, fragrant breeze blowing from our back, and the forest animals are making sounds indicating their satisfaction. The land itself seems to be in a peaceful mood, and overhead, the sun is shining brightly.”

The army marched on, day and night, for they were very eager to fight for Sita’s recovery. While going, the monkeys bathed and played in the mountain lakes, ate the fruit and roots and drank the honey provided by the forests. At last, when they came to Mount Mahendra, Rama climbed to the peak. From there He could see the vast ocean, stretching out in the distance until it touched the horizon. After Rama rejoined them at the bottom of the hill, the monkeys marched on until they came to the seashore.

Rama then told Sugriva, “Now we are faced with the very problem we had long feared. How are we going to cross this expansive ocean? Let the monkeys set up camp in the nearby forest while we sit down and devise some means for reaching Lanka.”

As they busied themselves making their camp, the hordes of monkeys appeared like a second great ocean, agitated with tossing brown waves. The leaders of the monkeys gazed with wonder at the vast ocean, which is the refuge of the asuras, and which goes all the way down to the Patala planetary system. With wide-open eyes they stared at the fathomless sea, infested with aquatic monsters, such as the huge Timi fish, and the Timingilas that can swallow them. As if stunned with astonishment, the Vanara heroes beheld the impassable expanse of wave-clashing, wind-whipped water, having Lanka at its far side.

While sitting at ease, Rama said to Lakshman, “Usually, grief gradually disappears with the passage of time. But in My case, with the passing of each day, My anguish goes on increasing because of separation from Sita. Lakshman, the most painful thing for Me is the thought of how Sita’s allotted time is steadily slipping away. My heart burns with longing for the time to come when I will be able to kill Ravana and rescue Sita. Only then will I be able to cast off My grief once and for all, just as a person throws away his old, worn-out clothes.”

As Rama continued to vent His anguish by lamenting to Lakshman at great length, the sun gradually sank below the horizon and darkness set in.

Meanwhile, in Lanka, after witnessing Hanuman’s devastating prowess, Ravana called for a meeting of all the leading Rakshasas. After they had assembled, the Rakshasa King said, “Impenetrable Lanka has been ravaged, my palace is in ruins, and many of the best Rakshasa warriors are dead. According to authoritative opinion, the root cause of victory is good council, and so that is why I have called all of you here.”

“There are three classes of men in this world. Before initiating any important work, a wise man will take advice from those who are superior, as well as from friends who have a common interest. Then, according to the advice received, he will exert himself to the best of his capacity while depending upon Destiny for the result. The mediocre person thinks over a matter by himself, considering things in the light of his own intelligence, and then acts accordingly. The vilest of men are those with no faith in God, who act whimsically, without any sense of duty. Being unable to properly judge that which is beneficial and that which is harmful, such persons proceed blindly, saying, ‘I shall do it, no matter what!’ ”

“Similarly, there are three kinds of advice. Good advice is that which is given after an objective study of the problem, and which is in agreement with religious principles. Mediocre advice is that which is given after a heated discussion of the problem, and which places more emphasis on limited self-interest than religious principles. Bad advice is that which is given out of false pride, or to flatter, and which does not properly take into account consideration of the ultimate consequences.”

“I am convinced that very soon Rama will attack Lanka, along with a vast army of monkeys. His prowess was demonstrated at Janasthana, and so I have no doubt that He will be able to cross the ocean without difficulty. My dear Rakshasas, all of you are very intelligent, and so I want your advice about what should be done for our welfare.”

Being ignorant of Rama’s strength, and eager to please their master, the Rakshasas replied, “O King, why should you be afraid? You are powerful enough to defeat all your enemies single-handedly. Just remember how you defeated Kuvera, taking Lanka from him. Please remember how Maya Danava fearfully handed over his daughter, Mandodari, to you? Why should you worry? You can rest peacefully while your son, Indrajit, goes and kills Rama and all the monkeys before they even cross the ocean. After defeating the demigods, Indrajit arrested the King of heaven and kept him captive in Lanka. Then, only at Lord Brahma’s request was Indra allowed to go free and return to his heavenly post.”

Ravana’s commander-in-chief, Prahasta, then said, “We have conquered the demigods, Danavas, Gandharvas and Pisachas. Why should we be afraid of mere mortals? Hanuman was only able to exert his prowess because we were not alert, considering him to be merely a monkey.”

Durmukha stood up and declared, “I will not allow this insult to go unavenged! Wherever they may be, in heaven, on earth, or within the sea, I shall rid the earth of every single Vanara!”

While brandishing a club that was stained with flesh and blood, Vajradamstra angrily shouted, “Who cares for a bunch of monkeys? It is Rama and Lakshman that I will crush to death! O King, just give me the order!”

Kumbhakarna’s powerful son, Nikumbha, then bellowed, “All of you can remain here with your master. I will go and single-handedly vanquish Rama and the monkeys!”

In this way, many of the Rakshasa heroes boasted of their prowess by assuring Ravana that they could conquer the enemy single-handedly. While brandishing their weapons, the agitated Rakshasas were on the verge of departing for battle, but Vibhishana politely restrained them.

When all were seated and order was restored, Vibhishana said, “My dear elder brother, the wise have advised that violence should only be resorted to after the other three tactics of conciliation, gifts, and dissension have failed. Even then, violence will succeed only against those who are evil, who are unwary, who are already under siege by another enemy, or who are doomed by fate. Rama is supremely powerful and virtuous, and He is eager to fight for revenge. In consideration of this, how can you hope to defeat Him? Sita’s abduction is the root cause of our present crisis and so you had better return her to Rama before He destroys Lanka and all of its inhabitants.”

After hearing Vibhishana’s advice, Ravana dismissed the assembly and retired to his quarters. The next morning, Vibhishana came to Ravana as he was seated upon his throne, listening to the brahmanas offer prayers for his welfare.

After taking his seat nearby, Vibhishana said, “My dear brother, ever since you brought Sita here, many inauspicious omens have become visible. The sacrificial fire now gives off sparks and smoke. Snakes are often found inside the kitchens and sacrificial arenas. The sacrificial offerings are sometimes full of ants, and crows perch atop the palaces. Vultures continually hover over the city, and female jackals can be heard crying out ominously every morning and evening. This is all due your sinful act of kidnapping Sita.”

“Ravana, the only atonement for you is to return her to Rama at once. I am speaking honestly, whereas your other ministers simply flatter you because they are afraid that you will become displeased with them.”

Ravana was overwhelmed by the passionate desire to enjoy Sita, and so he became angry upon hearing Vibhishana’s advice. Practically shouting, Ravana replied, “I am not afraid of Rama or anyone else, and so I will never agree to return Sita! My dear younger brother, you can now take your leave and go about your business.”

Ravana had become emaciated due to his unfulfilled passion for Sita, and because of his abominable acts, even relatives had begun to disrespect him. Knowing that war was immanent, the King of the Rakshasas wanted to further consult with his ministers and so he ordered them to convene once again. When Ravana arrived at the assembly, riding upon his chariot, everyone offered their obeisances to him by bowing their heads to the floor while thousands of trumpets heralded his arrival. First of all, Ravana ordered Prahasta, “Make sure that our army is prepared to defend Lanka from within and without.”

After Prahasta had left to put the army on alert, Ravana said, “My dear Rakshasas, I am pleased to announce that, after sleeping for six months, Kumbhakarna has awakened and now graces us with his presence. Please listen attentively, for I want all of you to fully understand my position. As you know, I have become obsessed with a single-minded attraction for lovely Sita. Truthfully, I am no longer the master of myself, for I have become the slave of my passion for her.”

Then, just to enhance his public image, Ravana spoke untruthfully as follows: “Sita has agreed to become my consort, but only after the expiry of one year, for that is the time she has allotted for Rama to come and rescue her. It is for this reason that I have remained patient, but now it appears that Rama, Lakshman, and a vast army of monkeys are preparing to attack Lanka. Truthfully, I do not feel that two human beings and a band of monkeys can pose much of a threat. Still, because one monkey, Hanuman, was able to inflict so much damage, I must admit that victory is uncertain. That is why I have called all of you together. I want you to advise me how I can kill Rama, and thus keep beautiful Sita for myself.”

Kumbhakarna stood up and spoke sharply: “Foolish King, you should have consulted us when you were planning to kidnap Sita, instead of acting impulsively. That would have saved you from repenting later on. But, never mind, you can give up all your anxiety. I will counteract your blunder by killing Rama and Lakshman and devouring all the monkeys.”

Mahaparshva then said, “O King, why should one decide not to taste the honey that was procured with great endeavor after searching through a snake-infested forest? You can forcibly enjoy Sita to your heart’s content. Who can stop you? No one is as powerful as you, and so you can do whatever you like without fear.”

Ravana replied, “There is something in my past that I have always kept a secret. But, now that you have asked about this, I will disclose to you an incident that happened long ago. Once, I happened to see the incomparably beautiful Apsara, Punjikasthala, as she was on her way to offer her respects to Lord Brahma. The very sight of the Apsara inflamed me with desire, and so I forcibly grabbed her and raped her. After gratifying my urge, I let her go, and she ran, naked, to the shelter of Lord Brahma.”

“The lord then became so angry when he learned what I had done that he cursed me by saying, ‘You wicked King of the Rakshasas, your head will split into one hundred pieces if you ever try to forcibly rape any woman again.’ ”

“Mahaparshva, it is out of fear of this curse that I do not drag Sita to my bed by force. I am not afraid of Rama, though, for I know that I am the most powerful created being in the universe. Rama is obviously ignorant of my prowess, and if He dares to attack me, I will make short work of Him.”

Vibhishana then said, “My dear Ravana, can’t you see that Sita is just like a poisonous snake that you have tied around your neck? Use your good intelligence and return Sita to Rama before she becomes the cause of Lanka’s destruction and the annihilation of all the Rakshasas. I can assure you that there is no Rakshasa warrior who will be able to stand before Rama on the battlefield and live to tell about it.”

Prahasta then heatedly asked, “Why should we be afraid of a mere human being like Rama, when we have nothing to fear from even the greatest demigods and asuras?”

As Ravana’s well wisher, Vibhishana replied, “Rama possesses unlimited and inconceivable potency, on a level with Lord Vishnu Himself. Therefore, Prahasta, you will do your king a great service if you dissuade him from fighting with Rama. Actually, you are doing Ravana the greatest disservice by encouraging him to fight.”

Then, turning to Ravana, Vibhishana said, “I am only thinking of your welfare when I say that you should return Sita to Rama. The minister who measures the relative strengths of the King and his enemy, and then gives advice accordingly, is the true well-wisher.”

Being unable to tolerate his uncle’s words any longer, Indrajit excitedly interrupted, saying, “Vibhishana, you are simply a coward and a eunuch! Your advice has no place in this assembly, for it is devoid of courage and heroism. Previously, I dragged Indra and his carrier, Airavata, to the ground, making all the demigods flee in fear. It will be easy for me to kill two ordinary human beings like Rama and Lakshman.”

Vibhishana harshly replied, “You are a mere boy, and because your intelligence is not yet developed, you cannot properly decide what is to be done and what is to be avoided. You are actually Ravana’s enemy and not his son because you are dull-headed, indiscriminate, uncultured and wicked. Sita should be given back to Rama, along with abundant gifts, so that the Rakshasas may continue to live peacefully.”

Ravana also became tired of hearing Vibhishana’s advice. Just to chastise his youngest brother, the King said, “It is better to live with an enemy or a poisonous snake than one that claims to be a friend but is actually a traitor. Especially if that person is one’s own brother! It now appears to be true that a man’s relatives are the ones that rejoice the most when he encounters misfortune. Once, when some elephants saw hunters approaching, they recited the following two verses:

Fire and weapons we do not fear,

The dangerous are the so-called near and dear.

They are the ones who take special pains

To make sure all of us are put in chains.


“From cows we derive milk, in brahmanas we find tapasya, in women we see fickleness, and from relatives we are put into danger. Vibhishana, you are envious of me and that is why you cannot tolerate the honor that is given to me. If anyone else had spoken as you did, I would have killed him immediately! But, I will only say this much- wretched brother, you are a disgrace to our noble family!”

Vibhishana also became angered while being rebuked like this. Club in hand, he rose up into the air, along with his four followers, and declared, “O King, although you are my superior, I can no longer tolerate your words, for you have chosen to follow the path of irreligion. Flatterers that only speak agreeable words are easy to find. On the other hand, persons who actually speak for one’s benefit, even when the truth is unpalatable, are rarely seen.”

“Ravana, I only advised you in the hopes of saving you from being killed by Rama. Still, you have rejected my advice. Of course, you are free to do as you like, but I will no longer remain here with you.”

Vibhishana and his followers departed, and within an hour they reached the place where Rama was staying. When the monkeys saw Vibhishana hovering overhead, Sugriva told Hanuman, “These Rakshasas must have come here to try and kill us!”

The monkeys quickly picked up rocks and uprooted trees, while awaiting Sugriva’s instructions. Vibhishana then announced, “King of the monkeys, I am Ravana’s youngest brother. I repeatedly advised the King to return Sita to Rama, but he simply rebuked me with harsh words. I have left my wife and children to come here and take shelter at Lord Rama’s lotus feet. Please inform Him of my intentions.”

Sugriva then went to Rama and said, “One of the enemy Rakshasas has come here. He says that he has deserted Ravana, but I feel that he cannot be trusted. You can never trust a Rakshasa, and so I think that he must be a spy. If we trust him, then, when least expected, he may do us great harm. I suggest that we immediately kill him.”

Rama went and asked the others to give their opinions. The monkeys replied, “My dear Lord Rama, You know everything. Therefore, we can understand that You are inquiring from us just to give us respect.”

Angada then suggested, “If we can use this Rakshasa to our advantage, then we could accept him with great caution. But, if he poses too much of a threat, then it is better that we turn him away.”

Sharabha suggested, “Let us assign someone to spy on the Rakshasa. After being thoroughly examined, if he is found to actually be our ally, he should be welcomed.”

But, Jambavan warned, “This Rakshasa should be regarded with great suspicion”, and Mainda advised, “He should be thoroughly interrogated before we make up our mind.”

The wise Hanuman, who was also gifted with the art of fine speech, then said, “We do not have time to test Vibhishana. But, in my opinion, he has come here in all sincerity to take shelter of Lord Rama. He has understood that Ravana is wicked and that Rama is the supreme emblem of purity and righteousness. His peaceful demeanor and considerate speech are indications of the honesty of his purpose, for a deceitful person cannot remain so perfectly composed. It is not possible for anyone to fully conceal his inner intentions. One’s facial expressions always give some clue to one’s thoughts. I think that Vibhishana can be accepted as our ally without reservations.”

Rama was very pleased with Hanuman’s speech, but still, Sugriva argued, “Since Vibhishana has deserted his brother at a time of adversity, it can be understood that there is no one whom he would not betray.”

Rama replied, “I believe that Vibhishana has genuinely rejected Ravana. After all, such dissension often occurs in royal families. Let us welcome him as our ally.”

Sugriva meekly protested, “Maybe he was sent by Ravana. Just to be on the safe side, we should immediately capture or kill him. Otherwise, if we trust him, he may turn on us at any moment.”

Rama smiled and said, “Do you really think that this Rakshasa could harm Me? With the mere tip of My finger I could kill all the Rakshasas and asuras. Now, please listen attentively as I narrate to you a story.”

“Once, there was a hunter who caught a pigeon in his snare and then approached a nearby tree to rest. The pigeon’s wife was living in that tree and when she saw that the hunter had come to her residence, she offered him all hospitality. Because she had nothing else to feed the hunter, the female pigeon offered him her own flesh, just to fulfill her duty in the matter of receiving a guest.”

“Sugriva, if the female pigeon acted like this, then what must I do? Revealed texts again and again say that when an enemy arrives with folded hands, he must be protected by all means.”

“Besides this moral consideration, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, it is My eternal principle that if any living being takes shelter of Me, even once, saying ‘I am Yours’, then I award that person freedom from all fear. Even if Ravana were to come here and surrender to Me, I would give him all protection.”

Sugriva’s heart became filled with love while hearing this sublime statement. As tears fell from his eyes, he admitted, “O Rama, Your words and deeds are always just befitting Your supreme position. I also feel that Vibhishana is sincere, and so let us make friendship with him without delay.”

After being assured of safety, Vibhishana descended to the earth and fell down flat at Lord Rama’s lotus feet. Then, in full surrender, he explained, “I am Ravana’s youngest brother and my name is Vibhishana. I tried to give my brother good instruction, for his benefit, but he responded by rebuking me harshly. Because of this, I have abandoned my home, family and possessions, and left Lanka for good to engage in Your unalloyed devotional service. I now place my life in Your hands, and beg You to bless me with Your causeless mercy.”

While gazing upon him lovingly, as if drinking him with His eyes, Rama replied by requesting Vibhishana to describe the strengths and weaknesses of the enemy. Vibhishana then said, “Because of the benedictions he received from Lord Brahma, Ravana has become immune to death at the hands of demigods, Gandharvas, Daityas, Danavas and Nagas. Only human beings can possibly kill Ravana. Because he considered them too insignificant, Ravana did not bother to ask Lord Brahma for immunity from death at their hands.”

“Ravana’s younger brother, Kumbhakarna, is as big as a great mountain, and as powerful as Indra. Prahasta, the commander-in-chief of the Rakshasas, once defeated the Yaksha hero Manibhadra at Mount Kailash. Ravana’s son, Indrajit, is equal to his father in all respects. He wears impenetrable armor, and after propitiating the fire god he is able to make himself invisible on the battlefield. Besides these, there are millions of other Rakshasas, headed by Mahodara, Mahaparshva and Akampana, and all of them are very fierce and can change their forms at will."

Rama then said, “Vibhishana, I am well aware of Ravana’s prowess. I give you My word, that after killing him and all the other Rakshasa warriors, I will install you upon the royal throne at Lanka.”

In response, Vibhishana assured Rama that he would help Him to conquer Lanka. Rama was very satisfied with His devotee. After warmly embracing Vibhishana, Rama ordered Lakshman to go and bring water from the sea so that He could immediately perform the installation ceremony. By witnessing the extraordinary mercy of Lord Rama upon the Rakshasa, all the monkeys became ecstatic and shouted with joy.

Hanuman and Sugriva then said, “Vibhishana, we feel confident about combating the Rakshasas, but we are perplexed about how to cross over the vast and unfathomable sea. Perhaps you could advise us.”

Vibhishana replied, “I suggest that Rama call upon the presiding deity of the ocean, since previously, His forefather, King Sagara, had excavated the earth and thus extended his domain in the process. Due to this past service rendered, the ocean will certainly help Rama to accomplish His mission, out of a sense of gratitude.”

Sugriva then relayed this idea to Rama and Lakshman. Rama considered it to be a very good proposal. Still, just to honor Sugriva, He said, “I will do whatever you and Lakshman decide.” Sugriva and Lakshman agreed with Vibhishana, and so Rama immediately went to the beach and sat down on a mat made of kusha grass, His face turned toward the sea.

Meanwhile, a spy named Shardula spotted the monkeys and then reported to Ravana how the army had set up camp, covering a vast area. The Rakshasa King then sent his envoy, Shuka, to deliver a message to Sugriva.

Taking the form of a bird, Shuka flew to where Sugriva was staying, and from the sky, he delivered Ravana’s message as follows: “I have never done you any harm and so why are you preparing to attack Lanka? Because the kidnapping of Sita has nothing to do with you, it would be better for you to return to Kishkindha and continue living there peacefully.”

As he was speaking, some of the monkeys jumped into the air and captured Shuka. After dragging him to the ground, the monkeys cut off his wings and beat him severely.

Shuka cried out, “O Rama, those who adhere to righteousness never indulge in killing an envoy.”

Rama intervened, and, after being released, Shuka again rose up into the sky and asked Sugriva if he had any message for Ravana.

Sugriva then said, “You can reply to your master as follows: ‘Ravana, you are just like the stool of your dynasty, for you wish to enjoy the faithful wife of another. As a consequence, when my army of monkeys swarms over the sea to Lanka, Rama will kill you, along with all your relatives.’ ”

Angada then said, “This bird does not appear to be an envoy. I think he is a spy who will convey information about the strength of our army to the enemy. Therefore, we should arrest him at once.”

Taking this as an order, the monkeys sprang into the air, and after capturing Shuka, they bound him with ropes. Shuka again appealed to Rama, and so the Lord mercifully assured him that he would be released as soon as they reached Lanka.

Thereafter, with folded hands, Rama solicited the presiding deity of the ocean as He continued to sit on a kusha grass mat. Rama was determined to reach Lanka by any means, and so He was prepared to kill the ocean god if he refused to co-operate. Finally, when, after three days and nights there was still no response from the Ocean, Rama became infuriated.

Addressing Lakshman, Rama said, “I can now practically see that, in this world, the good qualities of patience, forgiveness, simplicity and politeness are useless when dealing with wretched people who have no trace of virtue! In this world, such persons give more respect to someone who is impudent, aggressive, harsh in speech, and who runs here and there, advertising himself with self-praise. Because of My mildness and forbearance, the Ocean considers Me to be impotent and so does not even deign to come before Me.”

“Lakshman, give Me My bow so that I can teach this Ocean a lesson! Just look as I dry up all the water so that the monkeys can march to Lanka on foot without difficulty.”

His anger blazing like fire, Rama grabbed His mighty bow. After stringing it, when Rama twanged the bow with great force, the earth began to tremble. Rama shot His arrows deep into the water, causing the ocean to become agitated with high, tossing waves, terrifying the living creatures within.

Then, when Rama invoked the supremely powerful brahmastra, Lakshman put his hand on Rama’s bow and said, “My dear brother, please restrain Your anger and do not release any more arrows. There must be some more noble means of drying up the ocean so that the monkeys can march to Lanka.”

From their position in the sky, the great brahmarshis were terrified because of Rama’s exhibition of great anger. Ignoring Lakshman’s plea, Rama picked up the brahmastra arrow and loudly threatened, “I will dry up all your water so that you will remain a desert of sand. O god of the sea, since you are too proud to render Me service, I will utilize My own prowess so that the monkeys can cross you on foot!”

When Rama angrily drew back His bowstring, heaven and earth began to tremble as darkness enveloped the entire sky. Celestial winds raged with fury, uprooting tall trees and tearing off the peaks of mountains. Lightning streaked across the sky, as did hundreds of meteors, and thunder could be heard reverberating in all directions. The ocean overflowed, filling all beings with terror, but Rama remained unmoved, fixed in His determination.

Suddenly, the ocean-god rose up from the water and came before Rama, surrounded by many serpents with flaming mouths. As giant alligators, tortoises and fish were being thrown up by the billowing waves, the presiding deity of the ocean stepped onto the shore. Following him were the presiding goddesses of numerous rivers, such as the Ganga and Indus. Decorated with gold ornaments and a garland of red flowers, dressed in red cloth, and encircled by clouds and wind, the Ocean approached Rama with folded hands.

The god of the ocean said, “O gentle descendent of Raghu, earth, water, fire, air and ether are all eternally imbued with their natural characteristics. Being a great reservoir of water, I am by nature unfathomable and uncrossable. Rama, it is for You alone that I will make a concession that will enable You to cross over my water. If You construct a bridge, I will make it float by supporting its weight with my energy. In this way the hordes of monkeys can attack Lanka, so that You can recover Your dear wife, Sita.”

While standing with the brahmastra arrow pulled back to His ear, Rama replied, “First, tell Me where I can shoot this arrow, for having placed it on My bowstring, I am unwilling to withdraw it.”

The Ocean personified said, “To the north, there is a holy place known as Drumakulya, where a fierce tribe of sinful thieves called Abhiras are living. They drink the water of the ocean, and I am repulsed by their sinful touch. My Lord, I would be very pleased if You would let Your powerful arrow fall there.”

Rama released His arrow, as requested, and it fell at Drumakulya. After the brahmastra pierced the earth, water from Rasatala gushed through the crevice, and as a result, the entire subterranean region became dried up. The place where the arrow fell became known as Marukantara, and Rama gave the place this benediction: “This land will become verdant with fruit, honey and all kinds of herbs. It will be excellent for raising cattle, and those who reside here will remain free from all disease.”

The Ocean personified then said, “My dear Rama, here is Nala, the son of the celestial engineer and architect, Vishvakarma. This powerful monkey is Your great devotee, and he is as talented as his father. He can oversee the construction of Your bridge.”

After saying this, the presiding deity of the ocean disappeared from view. Nala then came before Rama. After offering his obeisances, he said, “Forbearance, conciliation and gifts are wasted upon persons who are ungrateful. I know that the ocean-god has granted You passage only out of fear of punishment, and not from a sense of gratitude.”

“My Lord, once long ago, my father, Vishvakarma, gave my mother the benediction that she would have a son equal to him in all respects. For this reason, I possess all of Vishvakarma’s architectural and engineering skill, and so I am quite capable of building the required bridge. Although I always had these talents, no one knew of them before. This is because I was never asked about such things and I do not like to speak about my own abilities. Now, first of all, I suggest that the monkeys gather the required materials so that we can begin work as soon as possible.”

Thereafter, under Rama’s supervision, all the monkeys entered the forests. After tearing off great rocks, uprooting trees, and unearthing whole hills, they brought them to the shore. When all these huge stones and trees were thrown into the ocean, the water splashed up high into the sky, creating a magnificent sight.

In this way the bridge was constructed, and it was one hundred yojanas long and ten yojanas wide. The surface was made smooth by lining up tree trunks and covering them with branches full of blossoming flowers. While work was going on, Vibhishana and his ministers kept guard on shore, and during the first day, fourteen yojanas were completed. Twenty more yojanas were built the second day, and on the third day twenty-one yojanas were added. Twenty-two yojanas were constructed on the fourth day, and the work was completed on the fifth day.

The demigods and celestial rishis had assembled in the sky just to behold the wonderful bridge, which looked like the milky way, spanning the deep blue sea. Sugriva then requested Rama and Lakshman to mount upon the backs of Hanuman and Angada. Within a short time, the entire army, consisting of thousands of crores of monkeys, began their march.

When they reached Suvela Mountain on the northern shore of the island of Lanka, the monkeys became jubilant. Sugriva set up camp and at that time, all the great demigods and rishis came there. While individually bathing the King of the monkeys with water from the sacred rivers, they blessed him for obtaining victory.

Rama then embraced Lakshman and said, “Make sure that the army stays on constant alert. I can see evil omens that predict the death of many great heroes among the monkeys, bears and Rakshasas. Just see how fierce winds are stirring up clouds of dust! The earth sometimes trembles and dark clouds are raining blood! The evening twilight is very heavily tinged with red and the wild animals are crying out in pitiful tones. Lakshman, I think that we should immediately begin our march!”

The monkeys were soon mobilized, and as they approached Lanka, all the Rakshasas heard their loud roars. While gazing upon the golden city, magnificently perched upon the top of Trikuta Mountain, Rama’s mind turned to thoughts of Sita. Rama then gave orders to the military commanders to arrange the army in a human-shaped formation with Himself and Lakshman at the head. All the monkeys picked up big trees and massive boulders. When they came closer to Lanka, Rama ordered Sugriva to release Shuka.

Shuka went and presented himself before Ravana. When the King saw how Shuka’s wings had been cut off, he laughingly inquired, “Who has done this?”

Shuka replied, “I delivered your message to Sugriva, but as I was doing so some of the monkeys captured me, and while beating me savagely they cut off my wings. It was only by the mercy of the virtuous Lord Rama that I was released. O King, the army of monkeys has already come here to rescue Sita. You had better return her to Rama, or else attack the monkeys before they swarm over our boundary walls.”

Ravana angrily replied, “I will never give up Sita! I will kill Rama and all of His monkey soldiers! But I must admit that I am quite amazed that the monkeys could build a bridge in order to come here! Now, I want you and Sharana to disguise yourselves as monkeys and secretly enter the enemy ranks, just to estimate their strength.”

Shuka and Sharana obediently went to where the monkeys had set up camp. However, due to the vastness of the army, which was spread out throughout the forest, the mountains, and along the shore, the two spies could not even begin to estimate the number of soldiers. The alert Vibhishana then spotted the two disguised Rakshasas and after capturing them he brought them to Rama.

Being afraid for their lives, Shuka and Sharana stood before Rama with folded hands and pleaded, “We have not come here of our own accord. We were sent by Ravana to ascertain the strength of Your army.”

Rama laughed and replied, “If you have accomplished your mission, then you can return to Ravana right away. But, if you have not finished your observations, you can continue your work without fear, being guided by Vibhishana. In return for our hospitality, I only request you to deliver this message to Ravana. ‘At dawn tomorrow morning, I and My army of monkeys will destroy Lanka and kill all the Rakshasas.’ ”

Out of gratitude, Shuka and Sharana offered obeisances to Lord Rama and said, “May You be victorious!”

They then returned to Ravana and said, “We were captured by Vibhishana but then mercifully released by the pious and magnanimous Rama. Due to its vastness, it was impossible for us to estimate the extent of the enemy army. However, we can assure you that Rama, Lakshman, Sugriva and Vibhishana can uproot Lanka and carry it away if they choose to do so, even without the help of the other monkeys. In fact, we are convinced that Rama alone could single-handedly destroy all the Rakshasas and their city. Therefore, we advise you to return Sita to Rama and establish an alliance of friendship with Him.”

Ravana replied, “I will never give back Sita, even if all the demigods and asuras combine together to attack me. You are only speaking such rubbish because you are afraid after being mistreated by the monkeys. What have I got to fear?”

Afterwards, Ravana climbed up onto the roof of his palace, along with his two spies, in order to get a good view of the enemy. Ravana asked Sharana to point out and identify the chief monkeys. In response, Sharana showed his master all the great heroes, headed by Hanuman, Sugriva, Angada, Mainda, Dvivida, Sveta, Panasa, Vinata, Gavaya, and finally, Dhumra, the commander-in-chief of the bears, and his younger brother, Jambavan. While pointing them out, Sharana described their physical characteristics and residences, and praised their incomparable prowess.

Next, while describing the extent of the enemy, Sharana explained the Vedic system of counting as follows: 100,000 are one lakh. 100 lakhs equals one crore. One lakh of crores is called a shanka, and one lakh shankas is called a maha-shankha. One lakh maha-shankhas is called a vrinda, and one lakh vrindas is called a maha-vrinda. One lakh maha-vrindas is called a padma, and one lakh padmas is called a maha-padma. One lakh maha-padmas is called a kharva, and one lakh kharvas is a maha-kharva. One lakh maha-kharvas is called a samudra, and one lakh samudras is an ogha. One lakh oghas is called a mahaugha, and the army of monkeys is described by Sharana as consisting of at least 100 crores of mahaughas.

Ravana became highly enraged and agitated at heart after seeing Rama, Lakshman, and all the monkey heroes. As Shuka and Sharana hung their heads down, Ravana chastised them severely, although trying to restrain his anger.

Ravana said, “You are supposed to be my ministers, and yet you are praising the enemy. Your speech is most unpalatable. Both of you are stupid, being ignorant of the political science. I must be very fortunate to have retained my sovereignty so long, despite being guided by such ignoramuses as you. How can you speak so foolishly? Do you not have any fear of death? It is only the memory of your past service that keeps me from killing you this very moment!”

Shuka and Sharana became very ashamed while hearing Ravana chastise them. Hoping to pacify their master, they replied, “O King, may victory be yours!” Shuka and Sharana then departed. Mahodara was standing nearby, and so Ravana ordered him to bring some more spies. After awhile, Shardula and others arrived while pronouncing benedictions for Ravana’s victory. After being ordered to go and ascertain the enemy’s plans, these spies circumambulated Ravana and then went to where Rama was staying. Although they were disguised as monkeys, Vibhishana soon detected them and had them arrested. Some of the monkeys began beating the enemy spies, but as before, when it came to His attention, Rama mercifully ordered them to be released.

After returning to Lanka in a stupefied condition, Shardula and his followers came before Ravana and reported, “The army of monkeys is now camped near Suvela Mountain, but it is incapable of being spied upon. Soon after our arrival, Vibhishana detected us. It is only by the grace of Rama that we were able to return here alive.”

“O King, it seems to us that Rama is capable of destroying not only all the Rakshasas, but the entire universe as well. In any case, you must either return Sita to Rama at once, or else quickly prepare to fight with His army before they reach Lanka’s boundary walls.”

Ravana thought about Shardula’s words for awhile and then said, “I will never return Sita, under any circumstance!”

After retiring to his private quarters, Ravana called for Vidyujjihva, who was a master of conjuring tricks.

Ravana told him, “I want you to create an illusory head of Rama, as well as a perfect imitation of His powerful bow, and an arrow. I am going now to the Ashoka grove to see Sita, and you should also go there and remain hidden. Then, when I call for you, bring me your magical creations.”

Ravana went to the Ashoka grove, being very eager to see Sita. Coming before the anguished daughter of Maharaja Janaka, Ravana announced, “Rama has been killed by my commander-in-chief and so now you should give up your stubbornness and become my beloved queen. I will tell you exactly what happened. After crossing the ocean, night set in, and so, being exhausted, Rama, Lakshman and all the monkey soldiers fell asleep on the shore.”

“In the darkness, the great Rakshasa warriors went and began slaughtering the monkeys. Prahasta cut off Rama’s head as He soundly slept. Lakshman, Hanuman and many other monkey chiefs were also killed, while others managed to run away. Noble lady, I have brought Rama’s severed head here just to convince you that I am telling the truth.”

Ravana then ordered one of the Rakshasi guards to call for Vidyujjihva, and so, after a moment, the magician came there, holding an illusory head of Rama, as well as a bow and arrow. Ravana said, “Look at the blood-stained head of your husband!”

Turning to Vidyujjihva, he said, “Give Sita Rama’s severed head. Let her see the remains of her mortal husband.”

As commanded, Vidyujjihva placed the illusory head at Sita’s feet and then hastily departed. Ravana took the imitation bow, and after throwing it in front of Sita, he commanded, “Submit to me now, for you have no other hope!”

The features of the illusory head exactly resembled Rama’s, and so, when she saw it, Sita cried out piteously, “O Kaikeyi, this is the result of your evil-minded plans. Now, your cherished goal is fulfilled and so you must be very happy!”

Sita was sobbing convulsively so that her whole body trembled. After speaking, she fell down unconscious onto the ground, like a banana tree uprooted by a strong wind.

Then, after some time, when she came to her senses, Sita sat down beside the illusory head and began to lament as follows: “O Rama! Without You I have become a widow, and so my life has also come to an end! What greater disaster could befall a woman than the death of her husband before her own? Oh! I am most abominable, for it is I that have caused the death of my husband! It is for my sake alone that He crossed the ocean and died without even a fight. Little did Rama know that when He married me, He wedded His death as well! I am sure that in a previous life I obstructed the marriage of some poor girl so that now I am suffering in this life. Oh Rama! Have you departed for the next world without me?”

Sita turned to Ravana and said, “Take me to where Rama’s body is lying. When I place my body upon His, you can kill me so that I can attain the same destination as my husband.”

Just at that moment, a messenger arrived and informed Ravana that Prahasta was urgently requesting his presence at a meeting of all the ministers. Ravana left, and as soon as he was gone, the illusory head and bow also vanished from Sita’s sight.

Upon entering the assembly, Ravana immediately ordered his army to become mobilized, and so, without further discussion, preparation for war commenced. At this time, Vibhishana’s wife, Sarama, came to the Ashoka grove to console Sita. Sarama had already befriended her at Ravana’s urging, for he was afraid that Sita might die prematurely due to her intense grief.

Sarama said, “I was hiding behind a bush, and so I could see and hear everything. Let me assure you that Rama is not dead. The head that you saw was an illusion created by the Rakshasa conjuring art. The truth is that Rama has arrived at Lanka, along with Lakshman and a huge army of monkeys, and they are this minute preparing to attack Ravana. That is why the Rakshasa King suddenly left in such an agitated state. He knows that he cannot defeat Rama and the monkey heroes who are under His protection.”

“Even from here I can hear the Rakshasas making preparations, because soon there will be a terrible war between the two armies. Do not worry, Sita, for Rama will kill Ravana without a doubt. If you would like to give Rama a message, I can go now and deliver it to Him.”

Sita was greatly relieved to hear this. She replied, “Sarama, instead of this, go at once and find out Ravana’s plans. Is he going to return me to Rama or is he going to fight with Him?”

Sarama went to the assembly, and while remaining hidden she overheard Ravana’s conversation with the ministers. After accomplishing her mission, she returned to Sita and told her, “As I was eavesdropping, many elder ministers advised Ravana to return you to your husband. For this purpose, they elaborately described Rama’s prowess, just to convince him. Ravana’s mother, Kaikashi, then spoke to her son, urging him to make peace.”

“Ravana remained adamant, though, and I could very well understand that he is only willing to give you up at the time of death. Even as the meeting was going on, Ravana could hear the sound of conch shells and drums and other noises made by the monkeys. Then, Malyavan, Ravana’s maternal grandfather, was the next to speak.”

Malyavan said, “A wise king never fights with an enemy that possesses superior strength. Therefore, I advise you to return Sita to Rama and establish peaceful relations with Him. Otherwise, Ravana, you can rest assured that virtue has taken the form of the enemy, just to conquer your evil self. Because you persecuted the great rishis, their power of austerity is now directed against you for your destruction. The benedictions that you received from Lord Brahma did not give you immunity from death at the hands of human beings or monkeys. Because of this, you should carefully consider what a dangerous position you are now in. My dear grandson, heed my good advice.”

“Many inauspicious signs have become visible, indicating the destruction of Lanka. Threatening clouds are pouring down blood. Our horses and elephants have tears in their eyes. Carnivorous animals freely wander in the gardens, crying out ominously. In their dreams, the Rakshasas see black women with yellow teeth, plundering their houses and standing before them, laughing. Dogs are eating the sacrificial offerings and one species of animal is seen mating with a member of another species. Time personified, appearing in a huge black form with shaved head, is seen peering into all the houses of Lanka every morning and evening.”

“Ravana, I consider Ram to be Lord Vishnu Himself, appearing in human form. Therefore, you had better go and surrender to Him so that you can rid yourself of this calamity.”

Sarama continued, saying, “Ravana could not accept this good advice, however. He angrily replied, ‘You are a rascal, for you are taking the enemy’s side. You are very eager to glorify Rama’s prowess, but what do you think of me? I can understand that you are praising the enemy because you are envious of me, or because you have been won over to His side, or else because you are afraid of Him. But, I can assure you that you will soon enough witness Rama’s death at my hands.’ ”

“Malyavan remained silent. After offering proper benedictions to the King, he retired to his quarters. After this, Ravana made arrangements for Lanka’s defense by posting Prahasta at the eastern gate, Mahaparshva and Mahodara at the southern gate, Indrajit at the western gate, Shuka and Sharana, along with himself, at the northern gate, and Virupaksha in the center of the city. The King then dismissed his ministers and retired to the interior of his palace.”

Meanwhile, as Rama and the army of monkeys approached Lanka, they discussed amongst themselves about how they could best besiege the city. Vibhishana said, “Along with my ministers- Anala, Sampati, Panasa and Pramati, I took the form of a bird and surveyed Ravana’s military arrangements. My dear Rama, I am confident that, just as Ravana had previously defeated Kuvera by invading Lanka along with 60 lakh Rakshasas, you will also gain victory with the help of these hordes of monkeys.”

Rama then ordered, “Nila will lead the attack on Prahasta at the eastern gate. Angada will lead the attack against Mahaparshva and Mahodara at the southern gate. Hanuman will will lead the assault att the western gate. Lakshman and I will spearhead the attack on Ravana at the northern gate. Sugriva, Jambavan and Vibhishana will stay in the center of our army to provide assistance wherever needed. I want only seven of us to fight in the form of human beings- Lakshman, Vibhishana, his four ministers, and I. The others should retain their forms as monkeys, for that will enable us to easily distinguish them from the Rakshasas.”

The sun was beginning to sink below the horizon, and so Rama, Lakshman and the monkey leaders climbed to the peak of Suvela Mountain to spend the night. From the mountaintop they got a splendid view of Lanka, even though darkness had already set in. With its innumerable twinkling lights, the city looked as if it were suspended in the sky, and it could be seen that the Rakshasas were prepared to fight.

The next morning, in full daylight, everyone was amazed to see the heavenly city with its array of flowering gardens filled with celestial trees and singing birds. Lanka was beautifully situated on a leveled peak of Trikuta Mountain, and it was huge. The walled city proper was ten by twenty yojanas, and in the center stood Ravana’s magnificent palace, supported by 1000 pillars. As Rama gazed at the city with great admiration, He happened to spot Ravana, perched atop the northern gate. Having a canopy over his head, Ravana was being fanned by his personal servants.

Sugriva had ordered many of the monkeys to go on ahead, jumping from mountaintop to mountaintop, to occupy Lanka’s outer gardens. When Sugriva also spotted Ravana, he impetuously jumped from the peak of Mount Suvela right to where the Rakshasa King was sitting. After momentarily gazing at Ravana with great disdain, Sugriva announced, “I am a servant of Lord Rama, and I will kill you this very day!”

Saying this, Sugriva suddenly pounced on Ravana, knocking off his crown in the process. Although startled, Ravana managed to grab hold of Sugriva, and while uttering similar threats, he threw the monkey King down to the ground. Sugriva bounced back like a rubber ball, and after grabbing hold of Ravana, he threw him down with great force.

A fierce wrestling match took place, as the two heroes scratched one another with their nails, so that both became covered with blood and perspiration. After striking one another with their fists, and wrestling for a long time, Sugriva and Ravana suddenly fell down from the gate into the area between the boundary wall and the moat. Jumping to their feet, the two continued to fight, gradually exhibiting the complete art of wrestling.

Finally, Ravana realized that he would not be able to defeat Sugriva by mere physical strength, so he began to utilize his mystic powers. Understanding this, Sugriva decided to abandon the fight. After bounding into the air, he returned to where Rama was staying.

Sugriva felt very blissful at having performed such a heroic feat and his followers enthusiastically jumped up and down. Rama went and embraced Sugriva, but at the same time, He chastised him out of love.

Rama said, “You have acted rashly, for you dared to do something without My sanction. Besides this, a King should never take such a risk, because the death of a ruler is a great calamity for the entire nation. Sugriva, if Ravana had killed you, I certainly would have killed him in retaliation. Then, after installing Vibhishana upon the throne at Lanka and Bharata upon the throne at Ayodhya, I would have given up My life for having allowed you to be killed in My presence.”

Sugriva replied, “After seeing that rascal Ravana, the abductor of Sita, I could not bear to ignore him.”

Rama then said, “Never mind. You wonderfully displayed your heroism, and all the monkey soldiers have become inspired by your courageous example.”

Then, turning to Lakshman, Rama said, “By observing various omens, I can understand that there will soon be a great destruction of prominent monkeys, bears and Rakshasas. So, let us attack Lanka without wasting any more time.”

Rama climbed down Suvela Mountain and after reviewing his troops He began the march to Lanka, bow in hand, while the monkey that followed him uprooted trees and picked up boulders. Before long, they arrived at the city’s boundary walls. Rama stationed Himself outside the northern gate, Nila took up his position outside the eastern gate, Angada went to the southern gate, and Hanuman approached the western gate. Sugriva placed his army in-between the northern and western gates, and in this way the monkeys completely surrounded the walled city, awaiting the encounter.

The Rakshasa warriors were astonished to see how an apparently unlimited number of monkey soldiers had completely surrounded Lanka, having situated themselves between the moat and boundary walls. With weapons in hand, the leaders fearfully rushed to Ravana’s palace to inform the King of how the city was about to be besieged. After receiving this report, Ravana hastily went out onto the balcony to survey the situation.

When he saw how the entire earth had become brown, due to being covered by multitudes of monkeys, the Rakshasa King also became highly astonished. For a long time, Ravana stood motionlessly staring at Rama, wondering what he should do next.

Rama then ordered Angada to go and deliver a message as His envoy. Leaping high into the air, Angada quickly came before Ravana, who was now sitting atop the northern gate, surrounded by his ministers.

While staying somewhat apart, he announced, “My name is Angada, the nephew of King Sugriva, and successor to the throne at Kishkindha. I have come here as an envoy to deliver the following message spoken by Lord Rama: ‘King of the Rakshasas, now that all of your pious credits have become exhausted, I am going to kill you in retaliation for the atrocities that you have committed against the rishis. If you do not voluntarily surrender to Me at once, I will rid the entire earth of Rakshasas. Either submit to Me, or else come before Me so that I can purify you with the onslaught of My deadly arrows. If you are unwilling to return Sita and bow before Me, then I advise you to take a good look at Lanka, for it will be your last.’ ”

Ravana’s rage flared up when he heard this, and he ordered his ministers to capture Angada and kill him. When four Rakshasas came to seize him, Angada allowed them to do so, for he wanted to display his superior prowess. Suddenly, Angada jumped onto the top of Ravana’s palace, carrying with him all four Rakshasas that clutched his arms. Due to the force of his leap, however, the Rakshasas lost their grip and fell to the ground within the sight of Ravana. Angada proceeded to kick the palace roof so that it began to crumble while Ravana stood there, gazing helplessly.

Having thus vexed the Rakshasa King, Angada let out a loud roar and then returned to where Rama was standing. Having witnessed Angada’s prowess, Ravana began to foresee his own destruction and thus he sighed heavily, again and again.

At this time, Rama’s mind once again turned to thoughts of poor Sita, and so He ordered His army, “Make short work of the Rakshasas!”

Hearing this command, the monkeys shouted in response, “All victory to Rama and Lakshman!” Lanka resounded with the vibration. The monkey warriors started scaling the defense walls after breaking them with their trees and stones. Seeing this, Ravana ordered his troops to advance quickly, and so, amidst a terrible roaring sound, the fierce conflict commenced.

The Rakshasas struck the monkeys with their clubs and other weapons, while the monkeys countered by using trees and stones, as well as their claws and teeth. Stationed on top of the defense wall, the Rakshasas pierced many monkeys with their weapons. At the same time, numerous monkeys jumped up and forcibly dragged the Rakshasas down to the ground so that the earth soon became a muddy mixture containing flesh and blood.

As Hanuman fought with Jambumali, Angada with Indrajit, Nila with Nikumbha, and Sugriva with Praghasa, the bodies of the slain warriors were carried away by the rivers of blood that were created by the massacre.

Indrajit struck Angada with his mace, but the prince deftly grabbed it out of his hands and smashed it against his chariot. Jambumali pierced Hanuman with a spear, but the son of Vayu jumped onto the Rakshasa’s chariot and killed him with a slap of the hand. Rama, Sugriva and Nala killed numerous Rakshasas, and thus the heroic army of monkeys inflicted heavy losses upon the enemy. In that fierce battle, numerous trunks of both Rakshasas and monkeys were seen darting here and there, adding to the ghastliness of the scene.

Finally, night fell. In the darkness, the monkeys questioned, “Are you a monkey?” When someone was found to be an enemy, he was then attacked with great antagonism. Although the Rakshasas were more easily visible because of their golden armor, it was their nature to become more enlivened at night. Thus, both sides suffered heavy losses.

Hordes of Rakshasas attacked Rama in the darkness, and their loud roaring created a tumultuous noise. Keeping the giant monkey, Golangula, on one side, and Jambavan’s brother, Dhumra, on the other, Rama lit up the night sky with His golden arrows. At this time, Angada managed to smash Indrajit’s chariot and kill his driver. The injured Indrajit abandoned his disabled chariot and then vanished from view as the demigods and celestial rishis watched from their positions in the sky.

While remaining invisible, the enraged Indrajit proceeded to shower down arrows in the form of serpents. Due to a benediction Indrajit had received from Lord Brahma, these snake-arrows were able to bind Rama and Lakshman so tightly that They were hardly able to move. Rama dispatched ten of the foremost monkeys, including Hanuman, Nila and Angada, to search for Indrajit. But, as the monkeys sprang into the air, exploring all directions, the invisible Indrajit pierced them with innumerable arrows. Simultaneously, he showered arrows upon Rama and Lakshman until blood flowed profusely from Their wounds, covering Their entire bodies.

Indrajit then announced, “Rama and Lakshman, listen to me. Even Indra cannot see me, and so what to speak of others. Now, it will be my great pleasure to dispatch You both to the abode of Yamaraja with my unceasing torrents of sharp arrows.”

As Indrajit continued to pierce Rama and Lakshman, there finally remained no space to place a finger in between the arrows that completely covered Their bodies. At last, when Rama’s bow dropped from His hand as He fell to the ground, Lakshman gave up all hope of survival and fainted. Seeing this pitiful sight, all the monkeys became exceedingly despondent and tears came to their eyes.

As the leaders of the monkeys came and surrounded Rama and Lakshman, Indrajit ecstatically announced to his followers, “The two mighty warriors have fallen victim to my magical snake-arrows that are imbued with the power of Brahma. Not even Indra and all the demigods could save Rama and Lakshman now!”

The Rakshasas enthusiastically responded by shouting, “Rama is dead! Indrajit has single-handedly conquered the enemy!”

Convinced that Rama and Lakshman were dead, Indrajit joyfully departed for Ravana’s palace, intoxicated by his victory. Sugriva and Vibhishana came to where Rama and Lakshman were lying motionless, soaked with blood and breathing only slightly. Sugriva was especially pained to see how the two brothers were completely enmeshed in the serpentine arrows, and so Vibhishana took special care to comfort him.

While wiping the tears from Sugriva’s eyes, Vibhishana said, “O King, I know that Rama and Lakshman can be revived. Please rest assured that They will not die. Guard Rama carefully while I rally our army and restore the monkeys to confidence.”

Meanwhile, as all the foremost monkeys guarded Rama and Lakshman, Indrajit went to Ravana and reported the news of his victory with great pride. When Ravana heard that Rama and Lakshman had been killed, he jumped to his feet and lovingly embraced his son while saying, “My dear boy, how did you accomplish this most difficult feat? Tell me everything!”

Indrajit replied, “While remaining invisible in the sky, I first of all bound up Rama and Lakshman with my serpentine arrows. Then I deeply pierced Them until They lay lifeless upon the ground. All the monkey warriors have now given up fighting out of hopelessness.”

Thinking that Rama and Lakshman were dead, Ravana gave up all fear and anxiety. After dismissing Indrajit, he called for the Rakshasis that guarded Sita. Confident that she would now submit to him, Ravana jubilantly said, “Rama and Lakshman have been slain by my incomparable son, Indrajit. I want you to immediately go and convey this news to Sita and then take her in the Pushpaka chariot so that she can see for herself how her husband is lying dead upon the battlefield.”

After dismissing the Rakshasis, Ravana had the news of Rama and Lakshman’s deaths broadcast all over Lanka for the pleasure of the citizens. When the Rakshasi guards informed Sita of her husband’s death, she felt a terrible shock and fell to the ground while sobbing hysterically.

The Rakshasis then helped Sita onto the Pushpaka chariot, along with their leader, Trijata, and within a moment, they rose up high into the sky. While flying over the battlefield, Sita could see a large number of slain monkeys and Rakshasas. Then, she suddenly saw Rama and Lakshman, lying upon the ground and surrounded by many grieving monkeys. Sita could hear the Rakshasas rejoicing as she gazed upon Rama’s arrow-riddled body and cast-aside bow.

Being unable to contain her grief, Sita began to wail aloud while lamenting her fate as follows: “Formerly, learned brahmanas who were masters of astrology and palmistry had assured me, saying, ‘O fortunate princess, you will bear sons, and you will never have to suffer as a widow. In the future, you will become the queen of an illustrious king who will perform many great sacrifices.’ Now that Rama is dead, I can understand that these brahmanas were all liars and cheaters.”

“The brahmanas used to assure me of my good fortune by describing my auspicious bodily features, saying, ‘O princess, you have fine dark hair, and your eyebrows are curved and not joined. Your closely set teeth are even, and your rosy fingers and toes have no space between them. Your thighs are rounded, shapely and hairless, and your ample breasts touch one another. Your navel is deep, your skin is very soft, and your complexion is fair and brilliant. All your toes touch the ground as you walk, and on the soles of your feet are the auspicious marks of lotus flowers, indicating an exalted royal birth. Combined with your lotus-petal eyes and gentle smile, all these symptoms indicate that the highest good fortune awaits you.’ Oh, of what use are these auspicious marks now that my husband is dead? Without Rama, my good fortune has come to an end!”

Trijata approached Sita and said, “Princess, you can rest assured that Rama and Lakshman are not dead, for this Pushpaka chariot will never carry a widow. Look at the monkeys. They are not in a state of confusion. They are guarding Rama and Lakshman with great care. What would be the necessity of this if Rama and Lakshman were dead? Even from here I can see the luster in Rama and Lakshman’s faces which departs at the time of death. Sita, do not grieve unnecessarily, for it is certain that your husband is still alive.”

Sita became a little encouraged by Trijata’s talk. She was then brought back to the Ashoka grove. By meditating upon the piteous condition of her husband, though, she once again fell into the pit of hopelessness and despair.

Meanwhile, Rama regained consciousness. Seeing Lakshman by His side, soaked with blood and without any sign of life, Rama exclaimed with great anguish, “Even if I succeed in recovering Sita, the whole endeavor will be rendered useless if Lakshman dies! I could always find another consort to replace the daughter of Maharaja Janaka, but I could never find such a helpful friend like Lakshman! If Lakshman dies, then I will also give up My life, for I cannot bear the thought of returning to Ayodhya without Him. How could I dare face His mother after letting Him die on the battlefield in My presence?”

Turning to Sugriva, Rama said, “The monkey warriors should now retreat, for without Lakshman and I to protect them, they will be highly vulnerable. Noble King of the Vanaras, I want to express My unlimited gratitude to all of you for your sincere friendship, and the wonderful valor that you have displayed while risking your lives in My service.”

Tears came to the eyes of all the monkeys who heard Rama’s sweet and pathetic words. Vibhishana then returned, after having restored the army to confidence. When Vibhishana saw Rama and Lakshman, lying upon Their beds of arrows, he broke down and cried. Sugriva embraced him and said, “You should not doubt that Rama and Lakshman will soon recover and go on to defeat Ravana in battle.”

Sugriva then said to his father-in-law, Sushena, “You should arrange for Rama and Lakshman to return to Kishkindha so that they can safely recover from their wounds. Let all the monkeys accompany them. I will remain here alone. After single-handedly defeating Ravana, I will return to Kishkindha with Sita.”

Sushena replied, “Long, long ago, when there was a war between the demigods and the Daityas, the demons were able to kill many of the celestials by means of their mystic illusions. Brihaspati was able to revive all the slain demigods, however, by using mantras and special medicinal herbs.”

“I suggest that Panasa and Sampati go to the ocean of milk, for they are familiar with these herbs, which are called Sanjivakarani and Vishalya. Created by Lord Brahma, the Sanjivakarani herb brings a practically dead man back to life, and the herb called Vishalya instantly cures all wounds created by arrows. These herbs can be found on the Chandra and Drona Mountains, which had risen up in the middle of the milk-ocean as it was being churned for the purpose of producing nectar. Perhaps Hanuman should go there since he can make the journey in the shortest time.”

As Sushena was speaking, a fierce wind began to blow, bringing with it dense clouds and streaks of lightning. The sea became agitated with high waves, and the mountains appeared to tremble. As tall trees were being knocked down and blown into the ocean, a gigantic bird-like creature suddenly appeared. Upon his arrival, all the snake-arrows that were binding Rama and Lakshman instantly fled. This creature came and wiped Rama and Lakshman’s faces with his hands, and just by his touch, Their bodies regained Their normal bright, shining complexions and renewed strength. When the mysterious bird raised Him up and embraced Him in great happiness, Rama lovingly said, “We are both eternally indebted to you. If you think that We are worthy, please inform Us of your identity.”

The gigantic bird replied, “I am Your eternal servant, Garuda, the son of Vinata. Even all the demigods with Indra at their head could not have released You from the bondage of Indrajit’s snake-arrows. These snakes are the sons of Kadru, and were converted into arrows by Indrajit’s mystic power, which he received from Lord Brahma.”

“My dear Lord, You should be careful while fighting with the Rakshasas, for they are very tricky, whereas heroes like Yourself are straightforward. I now wish to depart, but before doing so let me assure You that You will come out victorious and get back Your beloved Sita.”

Garuda circumambulated Rama, and after embracing Him once again, he soared up into the sky. When they saw that Rama and Lakshman had completely recovered from their wounds, all the monkeys jumped for joy. With great ecstasy they beat upon drums, lashed their tails about, and roared like lions, creating a great tumult. After once again taking up trees and huge boulders, the monkeys stood ready to fight.

When Ravana heard the joyful uproar of the monkeys, he could guess that Rama and Lakshman had recovered. Just to make sure, he ordered some Rakshasas to go and ascertain the reason for the monkeys’ bravado. After climbing up onto the defense wall, the Rakshasas saw that Rama and Lakshman were alive and well, and so they fearfully rushed back to break the news to Ravana. His doubts having been confirmed, Ravana became very anxious, so that his majestic face turned pale.

Becoming enraged, the King ordered the great warrior, Dhumraksha, to go and attack Rama. After hurriedly mobilizing his army, Dhumraksha mounted upon his chariot, which was drawn by donkeys. Then, while exhibiting his great pride by laughing robustly, he headed for the western gate, where Hanuman was stationed.

As Dhumraksha rode through the streets of Lanka, a big vulture came and sat on his chariot, while other carnivorous birds perched on his flagpole. Suddenly, someone threw a headless trunk in his path, and the clouds began pouring rain mixed with blood. Dhumraksha became fearful by seeing these ominous signs, but still, he courageously approached the monkey soldiers, who were eager for combat.

A fierce battle began. The monkeys smashed the Rakshasas with their huge rocks and trees, and tore them to shreds with their sharp teeth and nails. But, because of the monkeys’ superior prowess, the Rakshasa army began to panic and run away from the battlefield.

Seeing this, Dhumraksha flared up with rage and began to afflict the monkeys so severely that they also began to flee here and there. This angered Hanuman, and taking up a huge rock, he hurled it violently against Dhumraksha’s chariot, smashing it to pieces. The Rakshasa saved himself by jumping to the ground, and Hanuman continued to go on a rampage. Picking up a huge slab of stone, Hanuman once again rushed at Dhumraksha. The Rakshasa advanced to meet him, and then deftly smashed him on the head with his club. Hanuman hardly minded the blow, however, and when he hurled the rock upon Dhumraksha’s head, the Rakshasa hero fell down dead with all his limbs shattered.

Dhumraksha’s army fearfully fled back to the shelter of Lanka, and Ravana next sent Vajradamstra to fight. This Rakshasa hero led his army to the southern gate where Angada was stationed. But, while going, he saw showers of meteors streaking across the sky and ferocious she-jackals that belched fire. Still, Vajradamstra took courage and so a heated battle followed between the monkeys and Rakshasas.

When Angada hurled a huge boulder, smashing his chariot to pieces, Vajradamstra jumped to safety. Angada quickly took up another huge rock and smashed it onto Vajradamstra’s head, causing him to fell to the ground unconscious, clasping his mace to his chest while vomiting blood. Quickly regaining consciousness, Vajradamstra came before Angada and struck him severely in the chest with his club.

The two great warriors then fought with their fists, and as they gradually became exhausted, blood began to flow from their mouths. After a brief lull, Angada took up a tree trunk while Vajradamstra picked up a sword and shield. After fighting for some time, both fell to their knees in exhaustion. Seizing the opportunity, Angada summoned all his strength, and after grabbing the Rakshasa’s sword, he stood up and sliced off his head.

Upon seeing their general slain, the remnants of the Rakshasa army fled back to the shelter of Lanka. Ravana next called for Akampana and said, “You are well-versed in the use of all kinds of weapons, and your eagerness for battle is second to none. Go now and exterminate the army of monkeys. Do away with Rama and Lakshman once and for all!”

While going, Akampana’s left eye began to twitch convulsively, his voice became choked, and his horses appeared to be depressed. Without minding these inauspicious signs, Akampana entered the battlefield. In the gruesome encounter that followed, the dust raised by the opposing armies became so thick that no one could tell who was their friend and who was their foe. Thus, monkeys began killing monkeys while Rakshasas killed other Rakshasas.

When Hanuman approached him to fight, Akampana sent forth torrents of arrows. Hanuman simply laughed, however, and then tore off a huge mass of rocks from a mountain peak. Then, as he rushed forward, whirling the rocks around with one hand and roaring loudly, Akampana easily tore the crag to pieces with his arrows. At this, Hanuman flared up with rage, and after uprooting a huge ashvattha tree, he rushed impetuously at the Rakshasa.

When they saw Hanuman in this fierce aspect, smashing all the chariots and trees that stood in his path, the Rakshasa soldier ran from the battlefield. Akampana stood fast, though, and as Hanuman approached, he pierced him deeply with fourteen arrows. Still, Hanuman did not waver, and coming right up to Akampana, he smashed the rocks on the Rakshasa’s head, making him fall down dead to the ground.

As the leaderless Rakshasas retreated to the safety of Lanka, Rama, Lakshman and the monkey warriors came and surrounded Hanuman, showering upon him their heartfelt congratulations.

It was before noon when Ravana heard about Akampana’s death, and the news visibly disturbed him. The Rakshasa King then called for his ministers and took a tour of Lanka to inspect the city’s fortifications. Turning to his minister-in-chief, Ravana said, “Prahasta, only you, me, Kumbhakarna, Indrajit and Nikumbha are capable of defeating the monkeys. We are very hard pressed, and so I want you to be the next to attack the enemy.”

Prahasta replied, “O King, previously I had advised you to return Sita to Rama. But, now that war has actually been declared, I want you to know that I am prepared to lay down my life for your sake.”

Prahasta eagerly mobilized his army, so that within an hour he mounted upon his chariot and departed. While going, Prahasta saw carnivorous birds circling counter-clockwise overhead. Meteors streaked across the sky. Female jackals howled ominously. A vulture came and perched atop his flagstaff as cold piercing winds blew and dark clouds showered rain mixed with blood. The whip repeatedly slipped from the chariot driver’s hands and the horses stumbled, even though the path was level. Prahasta’s bodily luster faded, and yet, as the monkeys and Rakshasas roared challengingly at each other, he confidently advanced toward Sugriva’s army, like a moth rushing into a fire.

In the battle that followed, Prahasta slaughtered the monkeys in great numbers with his torrents of arrows. When Nila came to challenge him, Prahasta’s arrows pierced right through his body and entered the earth. Still, Nila was undisturbed. As Prahasta rushed toward him, Nila uprooted a huge tree and managed to kill his horses and break his bow. Picking up a club, Prahasta jumped down from his disabled chariot and the two continued to fight hand to hand.

Prahasta struck Nila violently with his club, so that blood streamed from the wound. Without wavering, Nila countered by striking Prahasta in the chest with a tree. Not minding the blow, Prahasta rushed at Nila, as he was quickly picking up a boulder. When Prahasta came near, Nila smashed the rock on his head. As the boulder shattered to pieces, Ravana’s commander-in-chief fell to the ground, mortally wounded. The Rakshasa army then panicked, retreating to Lanka, while Lakshman came to congratulate Nila.

When Ravana learned about Prahasta’s death, his heart became afflicted with an unbearable torment. Addressing his ministers, the Rakshasa King said, “I can no longer remain disdainful of my powerful enemies. Therefore, I shall now personally enter the battlefield.”

Ravana mounted his splendid chariot, and surrounded by his army, he came out of the city to fight. When Rama saw the huge Rakshasa army approaching, He questioned Vibhishana about it. Then, when Rama caught sight of Ravana, He exclaimed, “Due to his extraordinary effulgence and prowess, it is difficult for Me to look at the Rakshasa King! Still, it is certainly My good fortune that he has come within view so that I can at last vent the anger that I have restrained for so long.”

Ravana had kept a large army inside Lanka, warning them to be on the alert, in case the monkeys take advantage of his absence. As he came out from the city, Ravana divided the monkeys into halves while Rama and Lakshman took up Their bows in anticipation. The battle began when Sugriva picked up a mass of rocks, and after suddenly darting forward, hurled it impetuously at Ravana. The Rakshasa King effortlessly smashed the rocks to pieces with his arrows and then released another shaft that deeply pierced Sugriva. When Sugriva fell to the ground, moaning in pain, the Rakshasas jumped up and down while shouting jubilantly.

Six more monkey chiefs picked up boulders and rushed at Ravana, but again he easily tore the rocks to pieces. Ravana proceeded to wound these heroic monkeys, while at the same time slaughtering numerous others with his showers of arrows. Finally, being very hard-pressed, the monkeys took shelter of Lord Rama.

When Rama proceeded toward Ravana, Lakshman came and implored Him for permission to fight first, single-handedly. Rama gave His consent, and as Lakshman approached Ravana for battle, Hanuman assisted Him by hurling rocks to foil the Rakshasa King’s arrows. Then, being unable to contain himself, Hanuman suddenly darted toward Ravana.

With his right arm raised above his head, Hanuman challenged, “The benediction that you received from Lord Brahma does not grant you immunity to death at the hands of monkeys. I will now strike you dead with a single blow of my mighty fist!”

Ravana replied, “I invite you to hit me once as you like. Then, I will strike you dead!”

Hanuman said, “Why are you speaking so foolishly? Don’t you remember how easily I killed your son Aksha?”

At this, Ravana suddenly darted forward and slapped Hanuman on the chest, making him stagger backward. When Hanuman recovered his balance, he angrily retaliated by violently smacking Ravana with the palm of his hand. Ravana was visibly shaken, and so the demigods and rishis that were watching from the sky applauded Hanuman. And, when Ravana recovered himself, he also praised Hanuman as being a worthy adversary.

But, Hanuman said, “I can now understand that my prowess is very insignificant, for you are still alive and well. Now, if you still consider me to be a worthy opponent, hit me once more.”

The enraged Ravana pounded Hanuman in the chest with his clenched fist, making him reel backwards once again. Then, leaving Hanuman aside, Ravana turned his attention to Nila and began piercing him with a steady stream of arrows. Although greatly harassed, Nila picked up a boulder and hurled it at Ravana. As the King of the Rakshasas was engaged in breaking it to pieces, Hanuman recovered but restrained himself, for he was unwilling to attack someone who was engaged in combat with another.

As Nila tore up one tall tree after another, Ravana cut them to pieces with his arrows while oppressing other monkey soldiers at the same time. Then, to avoid Ravana’s arrows, Nila shrank to a tiny size and jumped onto his flagpole. The Rakshasa King flared up in anger upon seeing this trick. As Nila proceeded to dart from Ravana’s bow to the flagpole and back again, Rama, Lakshman and Hanuman were astonished to see this. Ravana also appreciated the daring feat, but by invoking a powerful fire weapon, he was able to strike Nila in the chest, making him fall to his knees.

With Nila out of the way, Ravana next approached Lakshman. After an exchange of harsh words, Ravana released seven arrows that Lakshman easily tore to pieces. Becoming excited, Ravana released showers of arrows, but Lakshman continued to neutralize all of them.

Lakshman then took the offensive by shooting arrows at the astonished Ravana, but the Rakshasa King was also able to cut them to pieces. Finally, Ravana released a brahmastra that pierced Lakshman in the forehead, making Him fall to the ground. It was with great difficulty that Lakshman recovered, and after picking up His bow, He renewed His attack on Ravana. Lakshman was able to break Ravana’s bow, and then He pierced him with three powerful arrows. Ravana fainted to the ground, his body soaked in blood. It was with a great deal of effort that he regained his composure and raised himself up once again.

Desiring to put an end to his adversary, Ravana picked up a lance that had been given to him by Lord Brahma and violently hurled it. Although Lakshman tried his best to counteract it with his weapons, that powerful lance pierced his chest, causing him to fall onto the ground in great pain. As Lakshman was losing consciousness, Ravana came to arrest Him. But, as the Rakshasa King was about to grab Him, Lakshman remembered that He is a direct expansion of Lord Vishnu, and as a result, He began to exhibit His unlimited prowess. Because of this, even though Ravana was capable of lifting up a mountain, he could not pick up Lakshman even by exerting all his strength.

As Ravana was getting back on his chariot, Hanuman suddenly darted forward and struck him violently on the chest with his fist. While blood flowed from his ten mouths, twenty ears and twenty eyes, Ravana fell down unconscious onto the floor of his chariot, causing all the monkeys to shout with joy. Hanuman then went to where Lakshman lay injured. Out of affection, Lakshman made Himself light so that Hanuman could carry Him to where Rama was staying. At that time, the lance came out from Lakshman’s body, its mission accomplished, and returned to Ravana’s chariot.

Meanwhile, Ravana regained consciousness. He once again took up his bow at the time when Lakshman got up, His wounds entirely healed by the inconceivable potency of Lord Vishnu. Because Ravana had struck down so many monkeys, Rama decided to personally approach him for combat. At Hanuman’s request, Rama mounted upon his shoulders and then proceeded with great haste toward the Rakshasa King while challenging him to fight.

Feeling great enmity toward Rama, Ravana first of all showered his arrows upon Hanuman. But, since Hanuman remained undeterred, Rama was able to come right up to Ravana’s chariot and smash it to pieces. Then, shooting an effulgent arrow, Rama deeply pierced Ravana in the chest, making him reel dizzily and drop his bow.

Then, after cutting off Ravana’s flag, Rama declared, “You have performed a heroic feat by killing innumerable monkeys on the battlefield. But, because of this, you must be exhausted and so I will refrain from killing you. You may return to Lanka to rest, and then later on I will fight with you once more.”

His defeat and Rama’s words crushed Ravana’s pride. As he returned to Lanka with his head hanging down, Rama and Lakshman went and extracted the arrows from the wounded monkeys’ bodies. Having witnessed Ravana’s humiliation, the demigods and rishis stationed in the sky rejoiced, feeling confident that their mission would soon be accomplished.

Ravana sat down despondently upon his throne. After summoning his ministers, he explained, “Long ago, when I had received benedictions from Lord Brahma, he warned me to beware of human beings. Then, once later on, a king in the line of Ikshvaku named Anaranya cursed me by saying, ‘In the future, someone will appear in my dynasty who will kill you, along with all your relatives.’ ”

“Later on, Vedavati cursed me after I raped her, and in fact, I believe that she has become the daughter of King Janaka, just to bring about my destruction. Another time, when I lifted Mount Kailash, Uma became frightened and so she cursed me by saying, ‘Wicked Rakshasa! A woman will one day become the cause of your death!’ After that, I once laughed at Nandishvara because of his monkey-like facial features, and he angrily cursed me, saying, ‘Your entire dynasty will be destroyed by an army of monkeys!’ Rambha, Punjikasthala, Nalakuvara and Lord Brahma all cursed me for raping innocent women. Now I can see that the seeds of my past sins are finally bearing fruit.”

“Quickly, go and awaken Kumbhakarna, for there is no one who can excel him on the battlefield. He fell asleep nine days ago, due to the curse of Lord Brahma, and he normally sleeps for six months without interruption. But, what is the use of his unparalleled prowess if he does not come to help me now?”

The ministers went with a large crew to Kumbhakarna’s residence, but they were perplexed as to what method they could employ to awaken him before his natural time. Taking with them enormous quantities of food, as well as other articles such as perfumes and garlands, the Rakshasas entered Kumbhakarna’s cave-like, subterranean abode, which measured one yojana in length and breadth.

As soon as they opened the door to Kumbhakarna’s room, they were blown back by the hurricane-strength winds that were being exhaled from his nostrils. At last, after entering the room with great difficulty, the Rakshasas began their attempts to awaken the sleeping giant.

First of all, mountains of meat and vats of blood were placed before the sleeping Kumbhakarna. Then, the Rakshasas smeared sandalwood paste and perfumes all over his body, which was entirely covered with bristly hair. Even though the Rakshasas loudly praised his glories, Kumbhakarna continued to sleep soundly. Next, the Rakshasas tried roaring loudly, blowing conch shells and beating drums next to Kumbhakarna’s ears. They clapped their hands and stomped their feet. They screamed, they wailed, and they shouted. They clanged on gongs, crashed cymbals and pushed and pulled his arms and legs. And yet, despite all this, Kumbhakarna did not stir.

Next, the Rakshasas picked up big hammers and clubs and beat Kumbhakarna’s body, while others pounded him repeatedly with their fists. The problem was that it was very difficult to stand before Kumbhakarna when he exhaled, because of the fierce wind that blew from his nostrils. Because of this, the 10,000 Rakshasas that surrounded Kumbhakarna appeared to move back and forth like waves of the ocean, as he breathed in and out.

Next, strong elephants, horses, camels and donkeys were prodded to walk over Kumbhakarna’s body, while some of the Rakshasas beat his limbs with big logs. Still, despite all this, the colossal Kumbhakarna was not aroused from his sleep. Finally, the Rakshasas became angry and frustrated, and so they began to pull Kumbhakarna’s hair and bite his ears. They even tried pouring buckets of water in his ears, but still, he did not stir. The Rakshasas then beat Kumbhakarna with clubs studded with nails, while making 1000 elephants walk over his body. Only then did the giant Rakshasa awaken, for it felt to him as if someone had gently touched him.

Famished and still drowsy, Kumbhakarna stretched his arms and yawned. Although some of the Rakshasas were still throwing boulders on him, he could not even feel this. Yawning again and again, Kumbhakarna got up, appearing like Kala himself awakening for the destruction of all beings. He greedily ate all the meat and drank all the blood that had been put in front of him, and when the Rakshasas saw that he was satiated, they came before him with folded hands.

With eyes still clouded by sleep, Kumbhakarna glanced at them and angrily inquired, “Why did you wake me untimely? I am sure that some great danger has overtaken you that only I can counteract. Otherwise, no one would dare come here and disturb me.”

A minister named Yupaksha replied, “Lanka has been besieged by an army of huge monkeys, led by Rama and Lakshman. Many Rakshasa heroes have already been killed, and when Ravana went to fight he was released after being defeated by Rama.”

Kumbhakarna said, “I will go at once and drink Rama and Lakshman’s blood! After having thus eliminated the cause of his fears, I will go and present myself before Ravana.”

Mahodara suggested, “You had better see Ravana first to receive his orders. After all, he is your elder brother and the King as well.”

Some of the Rakshasas then reported to Ravana, “After great endeavor, we have succeeded in awakening Kumbhakarna. Would you like to see him first, or should he directly go and fight with Rama?”

Ravana replied, “Let Kumbhakarna come here first, so that I can properly honor him. Just make sure that you supply him with enough meat and wine so that he comes here in a good mood.”

Kumbhakarna got up and washed his face. As Ravana instructed, the Rakshasas brought in mountains of food along with 200 buckets of wine. After guzzling all this, Kumbhakarna’s energy became replenished.

Thereafter, when the colossal Rakshasa came out of his subterranean cavern to meet his elder brother, the monkeys were astonished to him. Some immediately fell to the ground out of extreme fright. Others, who were more courageous, took shelter of Rama, while those who were not so courageous, ran away in all directions. Kumbhakarna had expanded his already gigantic size, just to make the enemy afraid.

When Rama saw him, He exclaimed, “Never in My life have I seen such a gigantic living entity! Vibhishana, who is this monster that towers above us like a second Mount Meru?”

Vibhishana replied, “This is the son of the sage, Vishrava, named Kumbhakarna. He is the biggest of all the Rakshasas, and he has defeated even the lord of death, Yamaraja.”

Vibhishana then informed Rama of Kumbhakarna’s history as follows: As soon as he was born, Kumbhakarna began to hungrily devour thousands of living creatures. Because of this, the created beings took shelter of Indra. The King of heaven became enraged when he learned what was happening. Thereafter, when Indra attacked and released his thunderbolt, Kumbhakarna was knocked unconscious. But, after quickly recovering, he tore out one of Airavata’s tusks and smashed it against Indra’s chest, hurting him severely. The depressed King of heaven then took all the created beings and went to see Lord Brahma.

After offering obeisances, they complained, “The son of Vishrava, named Kumbhakarna, is tormenting the rishis and kidnapping many men’s wives. Besides this, he is devouring us at such a rate that we will soon become extinct! ”

Lord Brahma absorbed his mind in meditation, and when, by his mystic vision, he saw Kumbhakarna, he became greatly alarmed at the sight. After pondering over the situation, Lord Brahma went to Kumbhakarna and said, “You have been created for the destruction of the world, but now is the time for universal maintenance. So, for the welfare of all living beings, you shall remain continually buried in deep sleep from this day on.”

Kumbhakarna immediately became overpowered by Lord Brahma’s curse, and so he fell down right there, in the presence of his elder brother.

Ravana then pleaded, “O Brahma, you have cut down a tree that was just about to bear fruit. O supreme teacher within the universe, it is not proper for you to curse your great-grandson like this. Of course, I know that your words cannot be futile, but you should at least allow Kumbhakarna some fixed time for sleeping and for awakening as well. ”

Lord Brahma replied, “I shall grant your wish. Kumbhakarna shall sleep continuously for six months, and then awaken for one day. At that time, he can wander over the earth and devour whatever he likes before once again being forced into another prolonged slumber.”

Vibhishana then concluded his narration by saying, “Ravana has awakened Kumbhakarna prematurely because of being hard-pressed in battle. Just by seeing this monstrous Rakshasa, our monkey soldiers have been thrown into a state of confusion. I therefore suggest that we tell the monkeys that Kumbhakarna is just a tall mechanical device, and in this way they will give up their fear.”

As Kumbhakarna entered Ravana’s palace, Rama ordered Nila to rally the monkeys and attack the city gates. Fierce fighting was thus going on as Kumbhakarna, along with thousand of his followers, came before Ravana, who was seated upon the Pushpaka chariot in a disturbed state of mind. Ravana became enlivened to see his brother, however, and after seating him by his side, he warmly embraced him. Kumbhakarna then asked, “Ravana, what is it that I can do for you?”

Ravana replied, “As you know, Rama has attacked Lanka with a huge army of monkeys, and many of the foremost Rakshasas have been killed in the fight. My dear brother, I am depending upon you to kill Rama and Lakshman, for I can see no one else who is capable of doing so.”

Kumbhakarna laughed heartily and then said, “What was predicted by Vibhishana and other intelligent ministers has now come to pass. My dear brother, you are a rascal for having ignored the good advice of your sincere well wishers. Vibhishana and Mandodari were correct when they advised you to return Sita to Rama. O King, it is still not too late for you to rectify your mistakes, although the decision is certainly yours alone.”

Ravana became angry while hearing this. Restraining his rage, he replied, “It is futile for you to talk like this now that the battle is in full swing. My dear brother, even if I did make a mistake by kidnapping Sita, I request you to nullify the error by manifesting your unparalleled prowess.”

To pacify his brother, Kumbhakarna sweetly replied, “O King, do not worry. I promise that I will kill Rama and Lakshman, as well as all the monkeys, headed by Sugriva and Hanuman. These so-called heroes have played havoc with our army only because I was absent from the battlefield. Now you will see just how insignificant the enemy is in the face of my supreme might.”

Desiring to please Ravana, Mahodara interrupted Kumbhakarna and said, “You are arrogant and foolish for daring to criticize your elder brother. He is the King, and so he can do whatever he likes. There was nothing wrong in Ravana’s kidnapping Sita, because kings are naturally inclined to exhibit their prowess by performing such acts. Proud giant, let me assure you that you will not be able to defeat Rama simply by dint of your strength, as you are claiming.”

Turning to Ravana, Mahodara said, “O King, I have devised a nice plan for winning Sita. Let Kumbhakarna and I, along with other Rakshasa heroes, attack Rama all at once. If we are able to kill Him, victory will be ours. But, if we cannot defeat Rama, we can still come back to Lanka and claim that we have devoured Him. This false story should then be broadcast all over Lanka to the accompaniment of drums and the rewarding of soldiers and servants. In this way, the rumor will soon reach Sita.”

“Ravana, while Sita is drowning in the ocean of grief, you should go there. Tempt her with promises of royal opulence and comfort, and try your best to gain her confidence. At that time, Sita will feel that she is without any other protector, so I am sure that she will submit to you at last. O King, if you fight with Rama, you will surely lay down your life upon the battlefield. But, if you take my advice, you can win Sita without a struggle.”

Kumbhakarna then spoke harshly, “Mahodara, your words would only appeal to cowardly kings. I have already made up my mind to kill Rama, and my determination cannot possibly go in vain. The rest of you have bungled the war so that Lanka has become divested of much of its population. Now, I will rectify the situation, and I don’t need anyone else’s help.”

Ravana heartily laughed and said, “What you say is true. Mahodara must be very afraid of Rama. Kumbhakarna, no one can stand before you when you enter the battlefield, enraged. Please go now and fight and thus put an end to our anxieties. Do not go alone, though. Surround yourself with a large army so that you will be even more invincible.”

Ravana felt rejuvenated after considering the prowess of his colossal brother. Then, as Kumbhakarna picked up a fierce dart and prepared to depart, Ravana came and placed a golden necklace and flower garlands around his neck. After putting on a suit of impenetrable armor, Kumbhakarna circumambulated Ravana and bowed down before him. Ravana embraced Kumbhakarna and offered his blessings in return.

As he approached the battlefield, Kumbhakarna expanded his body to become 600 bow lengths in height and 100 bow lengths in width. And yet, even though he was determined to kill Rama and Lakshman and devour all the monkeys, Kumbhakarna began to see many fearful omens. Meteors streaked across the sky, his left arm throbbed and his left eye twitched. A vulture came and alighted on the spear that he carried in his hand. But, under the sway of destiny, the puffed-up Kumbhakarna did not pay any attention to these inauspicious signs.

When Kumbhakarna entered the battlefield by stepping over the defense wall, all the monkeys panicked and ran away. Angada managed to rally the army, and so they proceeded to shower Kumbhakarna with numerous trees and boulders. But, all these missiles simply shattered when they struck the giant Rakshasa’s body. In retaliation, Kumbhakarna created a great slaughter of the monkeys, so that once again, they panicked and fled. In the stampede, some of the monkeys fell from the cliffs into the ocean while keeping their eyes closed out of fear.

Angada then tried to encourage the monkeys by saying, “It is better to die gloriously in battle than to flee in the hope of living a life of ease. Such cowards have to pass their lives being ridiculed by their relatives, and such insults are more painful than death.”

Still, the monkeys continued to flee, considering their lives to be very dear. Only when Angada assured the monkeys that Rama would kill Kumbhakarna did they gradually turn back toward the battlefield.

Thereafter, when the monkeys attacked Kumbhakarna, he struck down thousands of them each time he wielded his gigantic club. At the same time, the huge Rakshasa grabbed as many as thirty monkeys in his arms and stuffed them into his mouth. Dvivida threw a huge boulder at Kumbhakarna, and when it missed the mark and landed upon the Rakshasa army, it crushed many soldiers.

From the sky, Hanuman tried to throw huge slabs of stone upon Kumbhakarna, but the colossal Rakshasa easily tore them to pieces with his hands. Then, when Kumbhakarna picked up a spear and rushed at the monkeys, Hanuman blocked his path and hurled a great mass of rocks. Kumbhakarna avoided the blow, however, and when he threw the spear in retaliation, it pierced Hanuman in the chest, causing him to vomit blood while crying out in great pain.

While the Rakshasas rejoiced at seeing Hanuman’s plight, the monkeys scattered in all directions. Rishabha, Sharabha, Nila, Gavaksha and Gandhamadana then pounced upon Kumbhakarna all at once. Still, the giant Rakshasa felt their powerful blows to be no more severe than loving caresses. Kumbhakarna caught hold of Rishabha, and after squeezing him in his hand, he threw him unconscious onto the ground. Kumbhakarna then struck the other four monkey heroes, making them all fall down wounded.

Seeing this, the other monkeys became infuriated and attacked Kumbhakarna all at once by the thousands, climbing over his body as if it were a great mountain. While the monkeys bit him with their sharp teeth, he grabbed them as fast as he could and stuffed them into his gaping mouth.

In this way, as Kumbhakarna ranged over the battlefield, he devoured innumerable monkeys, although some of them managed to escape through his nostrils and ears after having entered his mouth. As the monkeys took shelter of Lord Rama, Angada suddenly rushed at Kumbhakarna and flung a big rock on his head. This only served to enrage the giant, however, who then rushed at Angada while hurling his spear. Angada dodged the spear and while doing so he slapped Kumbhakarna on the chest, making him fall to the ground in a daze. Kumbhakarna quickly recovered, and after standing up he smacked Angada with the back of his hand, making him fall down, almost bereft of consciousness.

Kumbhakarna picked up his spear and rushed at Sugriva, who quickly grabbed a boulder to meet his onrushing foe. But, when Sugriva hurled the rock at Kumbhakarna’s chest, it merely shattered to pieces. Seeing this, the Rakshasas shouted with joy while the monkeys became despondent. Then, while roaring tumultuously, Kumbhakarna violently hurled his spear.

Hanuman had been watching the duel very attentively, and upon seeing Sugriva’s plight he suddenly jumped into the air. After catching the spear in his hands, Hanuman broke it in half over his knee. The monkeys roared with delight upon seeing this, while Kumbhakarna began to feel a little disheartened. Still, in great agitation, he tore off a mass of rocks and hurled it impetuously at Sugriva. When it struck him, Sugriva fell down unconscious, and so Kumbhakarna quickly went and picked him up. After tucking him under his armpit, the giant began to carry him back to Lanka.

Seeing this, Hanuman thought, “If Sugriva is taken prisoner, our cause is lost. I must expand myself to become as huge as a mountain and then kill Kumbhakarna!”

But, the next moment, Hanuman considered, “I am sure that Sugriva will regain consciousness very soon and manage to free himself. If the King has to be rescued by another, he will certainly become disheartened.”

Kumbhakarna entered Lanka with Sugriva in his grips, while the citizens rejoiced, showering fried grains and scented water upon the victorious hero. These offerings helped Sugriva regain consciousness, and after sizing up the situation he began to struggle to get free. First, Sugriva tore off Kumbhakarna’s earlobes with his sharp nails. Then he bit off the Rakshasa’s nose while splitting open his sides with his toes. Sharply pained, Kumbhakarna angrily threw Sugriva to the ground and began to beat him. But, Sugriva bound up into the air and returned to Rama’s side in an instant.

Being famished, the enraged Kumbhakarna picked up a huge hammer and once again entered the enemy ranks so that he could eat the monkeys. Taking handfuls of monkeys and Rakshasas as well, he stuffed them into his mouth while streams of blood and fat poured out from the corners. Although the panic-stricken monkeys tried to take shelter of Rama, Kumbhakarna ran here and there, encircling hundreds of them at a time with his outstretched arms. Lakshman then came to attack Kumbhakarna, showering His arrows.

The giant Rakshasa easily deflected these, however and said with disdain, “I want to fight with Rama, and not with His younger brother!”

In reply, Lakshman pointed to Rama, and so Kumbhakarna proceeded toward Him. Rama quickly invoked a Rudra weapon at the onrushing giant. When that weapon penetrated Kumbhakarna’s chest, he staggered, dropping his club and strewing his other weapons here and there. Many monkeys then pounced upon Kumbhakarna, hoping to take advantage of his setback, but the Rakshasa beat them back with his fists. After getting up, Kumbhakarna grabbed a mass of rocks and rushed toward Rama once again. Rama quickly tore the rocks to pieces with seven arrows, and the falling debris knocked down more than 200 monkey soldiers.

Lakshman then said to Rama, “Kumbhakarna is so intoxicated because of drinking blood that he is devouring the monkeys and Rakshasas without discriminating between them. I think that thousands of monkeys should go and climb all over Kumbhakarna’s body. Being weighed down, he can easily be defeated.”

Thereafter, innumerable monkeys proceeded to crawl over Kumbhakarna’s body. As the Rakshasa tried to shake them off, while simultaneously rummaging around, looking for some to eat, Rama took the opportunity to rush forward. With His bowstring stretched back to His ear, Rama challenged, “You worst of Rakshasas, just stand before Me for a moment so that My arrows can dispatch you to the abode of Yamaraja!”

Looking up, Kumbhakarna was overjoyed to see Rama in front of him. While laughing gleefully, he exclaimed, “What good fortune! Since You have so kindly given me this opportunity, I will devour You at once!"

As Rama sent forth showers of arrows, Kumbhakarna, without being disturbed, picked up a terrible mace, hoping to kill his enemy without further delay. In response, Rama invoked a powerful Vayu weapon that shot forth and severed Kumbhakarna’s right arm that was grasping the gigantic club. The colossal Rakshasa screamed with agonizing pain, and when the arm fell to the ground, it crushed to death an entire division of monkey soldiers. Having become mad with rage, Kumbhakarna tore up a large tree with his left arm and rushed at Rama. The Lord invoked a mighty Aindra weapon that severed Kumbhakarna’s left arm, and when it fell to the ground, both monkeys and Rakshasas were crushed.

Even though he was without arms, Kumbhakarna rushed madly at Rama while roaring hideously. With two arrows, Rama cut off his huge feet. Still, Kumbhakarna opened his terrible mouth and hobbled frantically toward Rama in the hopes of devouring Him. As Kumbhakarna steadily approached, Rama filled up his gaping mouth with so many arrows that he began to gasp for breath. Finally, as Kumbhakarna began to topple while losing consciousness on account of extreme pain, Rama discharged another Aindra weapon. After illuminating all directions as it streaked across the sky, this wonderfully effulgent weapon tore off Kumbhakarna’s head.

As the gigantic trunk of Kumbhakarna’s body crashed into the sea, crushing to death huge aquatics, the severed head, which shone like the full moon, fell down onto the King’s highway in Lanka, demolishing big palaces as well as sections of the defense wall. From the sky, the demigods shouted ecstatically, and all the monkey soldiers glorified Rama’s victory as if they had five mouths. Rama felt very blissful for having accomplished such a heroic feat.

When Ravana heard the news of Kumbhakarna’s death, of how his body was half-submerged in the sea, and of how his head was blocking the city gate, it was too much for him and he fainted, slumping down onto his throne.

After regaining consciousness, Ravana moaned, “Without Kumbhakarna, life has no meaning for me. What a fool I was not to have listened to the good advice of my pious brother, Vibhishana!”

One of Ravana’s sons, Trishira, then said, “My dear father, please do not lament like this. I am immensely powerful and I have weapons that were given to me by Lord Brahma. My brothers- Devantaka, Narantaka and Atikaya are also extremely powerful, expert in the conjuring arts and they can fight while flying in the sky. We will all go together and kill Rama, Lakshman, and the monkey warriors. Now, please give up your despair!”

Ravana became somewhat enlivened by Trishira’s assurances. After decorating his four sons with ornaments and garlands, the King sent them to fight, along with Mahaparshva and Mahodara. As the six Rakshasa heroes went out of the city followed by an enormous army, the soldiers on both sides roared impetuously. Before long, the battlefield became difficult to traverse because of being littered with dead bodies, severed limbs, smashed chariots, trees and boulders.

When ordered by Sugriva to attack Ravana’s son, Narantaka, Angada approached him unarmed while challenging, “Why are you wasting your time fighting with common monkeys? Throw your spear at my chest if you consider yourself to be a great hero!”

Biting his lip with rage, Narantaka hurled his spear, but when it struck Angada’s chest it broke and fell to the ground. Angada quickly darted forward and smashed his clenched fist on the head of Narantaka’s horse. The horse fell down dead with a fractured skull, forcing the infuriated Narantaka to jump to the ground. He then retaliated by hitting Angada violently on the head with his fist. As blood poured forth from the wound, Angada reeled back dizzily. Then, quickly regaining his composure, Angada rushed forward and smashed Narantaka with his fist. That forceful blow completely smashed the Rakshasa’s chest, making him fall down dead onto the battlefield.

Rama was very pleased and astonished by the prince’s great prowess. But, Mahodara could not tolerate the death of his nephew, and so, along with Devantaka and Trishira, he angrily rushed at Angada. When he saw the three Rakshasas approaching, Angada tore up a giant tree and hurled it at Devantaka. Trishira easily cut the tree to pieces with his arrows, and so Angada proceeded to send forth more trees and boulders, but all to no avail.

Mahodara came up to Angada, riding upon an elephant, and struck him in the chest with his spiked club. Angada was not the least disturbed by the blow, and he retaliated by violently striking the elephant with his hand. When the elephant fell down dead, Angada tore out one of its tusks and hurled it at Devantaka, wounding him severely. Devantaka soon recovered, though, and struck Angada with his club, making him fall down to his knees. As he got back on his feet, Trishira struck Angada in the forehead with three arrows, and so Nila and Hanuman rushed to the prince's aid.

Devantaka rushed at Hanuman, wielding his club. Hanuman leapt into the air to avoid the blow, and at the same time struck the Rakshasa in the head with his clenched fist. With his skull smashed in, Devantaka fell down dead onto the battlefield.

Meanwhile, as Trishira released torrents of arrows at Nila, Mahodara mounted upon another elephant to continue fighting. As all his limbs became pierced, Nila momentarily lost consciousness. Then, after recovering, he tore off some rocks from a mountain peak. Springing into the air, Nila suddenly smashed them on Mahodara’s head. Seeing Mahodara fall down dead right before his very eyes, Trishira became mad with rage. As Trishira began showering his arrows, Hanuman retaliated, but the three-headed Rakshasa tore all his weapons to pieces.

Becoming frustrated, Hanuman jumped up onto Trishira’s horse and tore at its hide with his sharp nails. Trishira tried to pierce Hanuman with his spear, but the son of Vayu grabbed it out of his hands and broke it in half. Trishira then quickly drew his sword and slashed Hanuman across the chest. Yet, in spite of being wounded, Hanuman retaliated by slapping Trishira in the chest, making him fall off his horse, dazed. Hanuman then jumped from the horse and after picking up the sword that had fallen from Trishira’s hand, he loudly roared.

This was intolerable for Trishira. He quickly jumped up and punched Hanuman in the chest. Hanuman became enraged, grabbed one of Trishira’s necks, and then severed all three of his heads, one after another, with his sword.

As the monkeys roared triumphantly, Mahaparshva angrily picked up his iron club while Rishabha came to challenge him. Mahaparshva struck Rishabha in the chest with his club, making him fall to the ground. Rishabha got up, and after rushing at Mahaparshva, he struck him severely in the chest with his fist. The Rakshasa collapsed to the ground, soaked with his own blood. Then, as Mahaparshva struggled to recover his strength, Rishabha grabbed his iron club.

After a brief exchange of words, Rishabha struck Mahaprarshva in the chest. As blood gushed from his wounds, the Rakshasa tried to grab back his weapon. But, before Mahaparshva could do so, Rishabha brought down the spiked club on his head, making him fall down to the ground dead, his eyes and teeth completely crushed.

As the Rakshasa army fled in fear, the gigantic Atikaya launched an attack on the monkeys, riding upon his chariot. When the monkeys saw the colossal Rakshasa, they thought that Kumbhakarna had come back to life and so they fearfully took shelter of Lord Rama.

Rama was also surprised to see the giant, and so He inquired about him from Vibhishana. Vibhishana explained, “This monstrous Rakshasa is the son of Ravana and Dhanyamalini and his name is Atikaya. After performing severe austerities, he received benedictions from Lord Brahma, making him extraordinarily powerful. Rama, in previous battles Atikaya was able to counteract Indra’s thunderbolt and Varuna’s nooses. Therefore, You should kill him at once before he exterminates the entire army of monkeys.”

In the battle that followed, Atikaya fought with the monkeys for awhile. Then, leaving them aside, he rushed at Rama while challenging Him with insulting words. This greatly angered Lakshman, who then rushed at Atikaya.

The gigantic Rakshasa was astonished to hear the twanging of Lakshman’s bow, but he nonetheless selected an arrow and said, “You are a mere child and so You had better leave the battlefield while You are still able to do so. Why are You foolishly coming before me, as if You want to give up Your life?”

This made Lakshman’s anger flare up more brightly, and so He replied with similarly harsh words. Then, as Atikaya placed his arrow upon his bowstring, the demigods appeared overhead, being curious to witness the duel. As the Rakshasa proceeded to release his arrows, Lakshman broke them with His own. Lakshman then pierced Atikaya’s forehead with an arrow, making him tremble violently. After recovering, Atikaya praised Lakshman for being a worthy opponent.

As the fighting continued, Atikaya released an especially powerful arrow that pierced Lakshman’s chest. Although bleeding profusely, Lakshman took out an arrow and empowered it with a mantra pertaining to the fire god, Agni. When Lakshman shot that arrow, Atikaya employed a Surya weapon to neutralize it. While soaring through the air, these two arrows collided and reduced each other to ashes before falling to the ground. Atikaya then released a Tvasta weapon and so Lakshman counteracted it with an Aindra weapon. Next, Atikaya discharged a Yama weapon and Lakshman countered with a Vayu weapon.

Lakshman proceeded to send forth a steady stream of arrows but they simply bounced off Atikaya’s armor and fell to the ground. Then, as Lakshman continued shooting His arrows, Atikaya pierced Him in the chest with a single shaft, making Him fall to the ground, unconscious.

When Lakshman recovered, He continued His assault, killing Atikaya’s horses and driver. But, despite shooting His most powerful arrows, He could not even slightly wound the son of Ravana. At this time, Vayu appeared before Lakshman and said, “This armor, which was given to Atikaya by Lord Brahma, is impenetrable. Because of this, You should use Your brahmastra to vanquish Your enemy.”

Lakshman fitted that ultimate weapon onto his bowstring and discharged it. Atikaya shot numerous arrows in an attempt to counteract the brahmastra, and then, when he saw that it was unimpeded, he hurled spears, clubs and axes. But this was also to no avail, and the brahmastra struck off Atikaya’s enormous head. As the severed head rolled upon the ground, the dejected Rakshasas rushed back to the shelter of Lanka, while the monkeys ran to Lakshman, congratulating Him.

After receiving news of Atikaya’s death, Ravana became very aggrieved and depressed. In a mood of hopeless, he brooded, “Rama and Lakshman are inconceivably powerful! They have already killed the best of my warriors! Now, I can understand that Rama is Lord Narayana Himself, appearing in human form. Although I had previously been informed of this, I had considered such talk to be the ravings of cowards and fanatics. Who will be able to defeat Rama?”

Seeing his father with tears in his eyes and overwhelmed with lamentation, Indrajit spoke up, “As long as I am still alive, there is no reason for you to grieve like this. My dear father, I promise that I will kill Rama and Lakshman this very day!”

After receiving his father’s blessings, Indrajit first went to his sacrificial altar. There, he grabbed a goat by the neck and threw it into the sacrificial fire as an offering. At once, the fire flared up brightly, indicating victory for Ravana’s pet son. Then, from out of the flames arose Agni, to personally accept the sacrificial offering. Indrajit then chanted mantras that enabled himself and his chariot, which was drawn by donkeys, and well as all his other paraphernalia, to remain invisible. After dispatching his army, Indrajit ascended to the sky, and while remaining invisible, he began raining down arrows upon the monkey soldiers.

The monkeys tried to retaliate by hurling stones and trees in the direction from which the arrows were coming, but Indrajit tore all these to pieces. He then invoked the brahmastra, causing heaven and earth to tremble, and the countless arrows produced by that supreme weapon pierced all the great monkey warriors, making them fall to the ground. While remaining invisible, Indrajit continued to shower down spears, swords and axes upon his enemy.

The bewildered monkeys could only see the shining weapons falling from the sky, but they could not locate their assailant. Even Hanuman, Sugriva, Jambavan and Nila fell to the ground wounded, and Rama and Lakshman also appeared to be eclipsed by Indrajit’s weapons.

Undisturbed, although covered with arrows, Rama then said, “Lakshman, I can understand that Indrajit is releasing arrows that are surcharged with the power of Brahma. As long as this powerful Rakshasa remains invisible, no one will be able to defeat him. Therefore, I think it is best if We just tolerate his attack. Then, when Indrajit sees that We have fallen unconscious, he will surely consider himself to be victorious and return to Lanka to inform Ravana.”

Thus it came to be that Rama and Lakshman were seriously wounded by Indrajit’s arrows and fell to the ground unconscious. Seeing that his enemies were vanquished, Indrajit shouted with joy and then returned to Lanka, to tell his father the good news.

The monkeys became exceedingly depressed upon seeing Rama and Lakshman’s condition, but Vibhishana informed them, “You should not lament like this. Rama and Lakshman have voluntarily put Themselves in this helpless condition just to honor the weapon of Lord Brahma. Very soon They will once again rise up to vanquish the enemy.”

Hanuman then offered his respects to the brahmastra and suggested, “The fighting has subsided and night has fallen. Our first business should be to go and restore the remaining monkey soldiers to confidence.”

Hanuman and Vibhishana took up torches and began wandering over the battlefield. They saw Sugriva, Angada, Nila, Nala and another 670 million monkeys lying upon the ground, having been struck down by Indrajit’s brahmastra. After searching for Jambuvan, they found him so severely wounded that he was unable to see. Still, Jambuvan inquired, “Is Hanuman still alive?”

Vibhishana asked, “Why have you inquired about Hanuman first, passing over Rama, Lakshman, Sugriva and Angada?”

Jambavan replied, “If Hanuman is alive, then the army is still intact, even if it appears to be massacred. But, if Hanuman is dead, the entire army is destroyed, even if all the soldiers appear to be well.”

Hearing this, Hanuman came and clasped Jambavan’s feet, saying, “You can rest assured that I am fine!”

Jambavan then instructed, “Go quickly to the Himalayas and locate the Rishabha Mountain. In between Rishabha and Kailash is an effulgent mountain that is covered with powerful medicinal herbs that illuminate all directions. You must gather four of these herbs and bring them back here. They are- Mritasanjivani, which can restore even a dead person to life; Sialyakarani, which is used while extracting weapons and for healing wounds; Suvarnakarani, which restores the body to its original luster; and Sandhani, which is used for healing fractured bones and joining severed limbs. If you can procure these herbs then all the monkey heroes who lost their lives can be revived.”

Hanuman was very happy to receive this command, and he began to swell up with increased energy. After going to the peak of Trikuta Mountain, he squatted down in preparation for a tremendous leap. Due to the pressure, the mountain peak crumbled, and the falling trees burst into flames on account of friction. Lanka’s palaces began to collapse, as the entire city shook, and because of this, all the citizens became very afraid.

First of all, Hanuman jumped to the Malaya Mountain on the other side of the sea. After further expanding himself, he bowed to the Sungod and then took a gigantic leap into the air, drawing up huge rocks and trees in his wake.

While soaring through the air at great speed, Hanuman soon sighted the Himalayan Mountains with their golden peaks. He saw the seat of Lord Brahma, the abode of Hayagriva, the residence of the presiding deity of the brahmastra, as well as the residences of Indra, Yama, Kuvera and Agni. Then, after finding Mount Rishabha and Mount Kailash, Hanuman located in between them the mountain that Jambavan had described, and he was astonished to see its blazing effulgence.

Hanuman frantically searched all over the mountain for the required herbs. But, since the plants had hidden themselves upon sensing the arrival of an intruder, he could not locate them. At last, becoming frustrated, Hanuman roared ferociously and then angrily challenged, “Mountain, if you act in such a way as to impede the service of Lord Rama, I will smash you into millions of tiny pieces!”

When there was no response, Hanuman ripped off the top of the mountain, sprang into the air, and quickly flew the 1000 yojanas back to Lanka. As all the monkeys shouted with glee, Hanuman came in for a landing upon the peak of Mount Trikuta.

Thereafter, when Rama and Lakshman were made to inhale the fragrance of the herbs, all Their wounds were immediately healed. The herbs were then administered to all the wounded monkeys, and as a result, they sprang to their feet, as if rousing up from a sound sleep. In fact, even those monkeys that had been killed were instantly revived to perfect health.

After the accomplishment of his mission, Hanuman quickly returned to the Himalayas and put the mountain peak back in its proper place. This whole episode took place in just one day, and when Hanuman returned to Lanka, it was already dark.

Sugriva then said, “My dear Hanuman, since all the dead Rakshasas have been thrown into the ocean by the order of Ravana, we cannot estimate how many enemy soldiers have been killed. Still, we know that all of Ravana’s sons, except Indrajit, have been killed, and so Lanka is practically defenseless. I suggest that we all take up torches and invade the city at night, just to throw the enemy into chaos.”

Soon after, the monkeys began their march to Lanka. When they came to the city gates, the Rakshasa guards fled in fear, and so they were able to enter Lanka without a fight. With torches in hand, the monkeys ran through the streets, setting all the palaces ablaze. Within a short while, fire raged on all sides while thousands of building toppled to the ground. The whole of Lanka was in a state of confusion as burnt Rakshasas and animals ran wildly in all directions, wailing in anguish.

At this time, Rama twanged His bowstring, and the sound could be heard above the clamor, and it struck terror into the hearts of the Rakshasas. Rama destroyed Lanka’s principal gate with showers of arrows, and upon witnessing this destruction, Ravana became highly enraged. He dispatched the sons of Kumbhakarna- Kumbha and Nikumbha, along with many other leading Rakshasa warriors, including Yupaksha, Sonitaksha, Prajangha and Kampana. Both the Rakshasas and monkeys were eager for battle, so the fighting that followed was very fierce.

Angada killed Kampana and then severed Prajangha’s head with his hand. After this, Yupaksha and Sonitaksha wrestled with Mainda and Dvivida. Dvivida tore at Sonitaksha’s face with his nails, and then, after throwing him to the ground, he crushed him to death with his knees. Mainda pressed Yupaksha tightly in his arms, squeezing the life right out of his body, so that he fell down dead on the spot.

Kumbha then severely wounded Mainda and Dvivida, and upon seeing the plight of his two maternal uncles, Angada became enraged. He rushed at Kumbha to gain revenge, and then a fierce duel took place between the two. After receiving numerous wounds, Angada fainted onto the ground, and so some of the monkeys went to inform Rama. The Lord then dispatched Jambha and Sugriva to come to Angada’s aid. After showering one another with weapons, Sugriva managed to come within reach of Kumbha’s chariot.

All of a sudden, Sugriva jumped up, snatched the bow right out of Kumbha’s hands and broke it in half. After jumping back to the ground, Sugriva said, “Kumbha, you have certainly exhibited great prowess on the battlefield today. Your father was naturally endowed with great prowess, whereas Ravana achieved superior prowess by dint of the benedictions he received from Lord Brahma. You are powerful in both ways. I could have killed you just now, but because you are exhausted due to fighting, I will let you return to Lanka to rest. Next time, we can fight under fair conditions.”

Kumbha appreciated Sugriva’s noble words, but without accepting the offer, he suddenly grabbed the monkey King in his strong arms. As the two squeezed each other in their embrace, the earth began to sink down due to the immense pressure exerted upon it. Finally, Sugriva lifted up Kumbha and threw him into the ocean, causing waves as high as mountains to swell up in all directions. Kumbha sprang back onto the land, and after rushing forward impetuously, he threw Sugriva down to the ground and began striking him in the chest with his fists. Although his armor became smashed and blood gushed from his wounds, Sugriva clenched his powerful fist and pounded it on Kumbha’s chest with all his might. As a consequence, Kumbha fell to the ground, mortally wounded.

After seeing his brother slain, Nikumbha roared so loudly and brandished his club so brazenly that all the monkeys and Rakshasas became stunned with fright. When Hanuman came before him, Nikumbha struck him in the chest with his massive club. But, the only consequence of this mighty blow was that the club shattered into many pieces.

Hanuman quickly responded by smashing his clenched fist against Nikumbha’s chest, making him stagger backwards. After recovering, Nikumbha captured Hanuman in his arms and began to carry him away. Hanuman soon freed himself and then threw Nikumbha violently to the ground. After pouncing upon the Rakshasa, Hanuman crushed him with his knees while simultaneously twisting his head right off from his trunk. Upon witnessing this ghastly but heroic feat, the elated monkeys shouted with joy.

After receiving the news of Kumbha and Nikumbha’s death, Ravana ordered the son of Khara named Maharaksha to go and fight with Rama and Lakshman. Although he boasted excessively about his prowess, as Maharaksha approached the battlefield, inauspicious omens heralded his defeat. The whip slipped out of his driver’s hands and then his flagpole fell to the ground. His horses began to falter, as if in a depressed mood, as tears glided down from their eyes. Although a dense dust storm suddenly arose, bringing with it gloomy darkness, Maharaksha ignored all these omens and confidently entered the battlefield.

When the fighting began, many monkeys fell down dead onto the ground, having been pierced by Maharaksha’s arrows. Then, as the Rakshasas roared triumphantly and the monkeys began to flee for their lives, Rama took up His bow. As Rama sent forth His arrows, the enraged Maharaksha challenged Him with harsh words. But, Rama simply laughed at the puffed-up Rakshasa and exclaimed, “You proud fool! There has never been a war that was won merely by the use of words!”

Maharaksha released a steady stream of arrows, but Rama tore them to pieces with His own. Coming close by, the two began to fight furiously, as the demigods assembled overhead to witness the spectacular duel. Although Rama and Maharaksha deeply wounded each other, their strength only seemed to go on increasing. So many arrows were released by them that no one could see the battlefield clearly. Then, flaring up with rage, Rama split Maharaksha’s bow in half, smashed his chariot to pieces, and killed his driver and horses. Jumping down from the broken chariot, Maharaksha grabbed a spear that had been presented to him by Rudra, and hurled it impetuously at Rama.

Rama was able to cut the spear to pieces with His arrows. Then, as Rama carefully fitted an Agni weapon onto His bowstring, Maharaksha madly rushed at Him with his fist upraised. But before Maharaksha could reach him, Rama released His celestial arrow, and when it pierced the Rakshasa’s heart, he fell to the ground, dead. Seeing that their leader had been slain, the Rakshasa army beat a hasty retreat back to Lanka.

Ravana then ordered Indrajit to re-enter the battlefield, and so the prince first went to his sacrificial altar. After pouring libations of ghee into the sacrificial fire, Indrajit grabbed a live goat by the neck and threw it in as an offering. As before, Agni personally came to accept the offering as the sacrificial fire blazed up brightly. Indrajit then mounted upon his chariot, after protecting it and all his weapons with the potency of Lord Brahma.

Thereafter, Indrajit showered his arrows upon Rama and Lakshman while remaining invisible in the sky. The sons of Dasharatha tried to counter-attack with celestial weapons, but none of them could even touch the powerful son of Ravana. Then, using his mystic power, Indrajit created darkness, and when he resumed showering arrows, Rama and Lakshman became pierced all over Their bodies. By aiming in the direction from which the streams of arrows were falling, Rama managed to pierce Indrajit, but the son of Ravana remained undaunted.

Finally, Lakshman became so frustrated because of His helplessness that He declared, “I will now invoke the brahmastra to destroy all the Rakshasas once and for all!”

But, Rama replied, “My dear brother, while engaged in fighting with one enemy, it is not proper to kill others who are not taking part in the battle. I am also very eager to put and end to this powerful Rakshasa. Be patient. Let Us discharge more of Our celestial weapons at him.”

Indrajit could understand that Rama intended to finish him off quickly and so he hastily returned to Lanka. Then, after a little while, he once again came out of the city riding upon his chariot, and this time he remained visible and was accompanied by an illusory Sita, sitting by his side. Seeing Indrajit coming, all the monkeys, headed by Hanuman, rushed to attack him. But, when they saw that Sita was seated on his chariot, they became exceedingly depressed.

While the monkeys looked on helplessly, Indrajit drew his sword and grabbed Sita by the hair. The illusory Sita cried out, “Rama! Rama!” and then Indrajit struck her violently with his fist. Feeling unbearable agony, Hanuman shouted, “You are the most abominable and evil-minded of all the Rakshasas. Rest assured that very soon you will be punished in the hell that is reserved for the killers of women!”

After saying this, Hanuman rushed at Indrajit, followed by many other monkeys, but the Rakshasa repelled them with his arrows. Indrajit then declared, “Watch me now as I kill Sita, for that which gives pain to the enemy must be done by someone who is endeavoring to win a war!”

Having said this, Indrajit took his sword and violently slashed the illusory Sita diagonally so that she at once fell onto the ground in a pool of blood. Indrajit then taunted Hanuman by saying, “Sita is dead, and so all of your endeavors for retrieving her have proved to be a waste of time and energy.”

For some time, Hanuman attempted to retaliate. Then, he thought, “Since Sita has been killed, it would be best for the monkeys to retreat for the time being so that I can report to Rama and receive His instructions.”

When Hanuman left the scene of battle, Indrajit returned to his sanctuary, Nikumbhila, to make offerings in the sacrificial fire for the benefit of the Rakshasas. When Hanuman met Rama, he informed Him of how Sita had been mercilessly slain by Indrajit. As soon as He heard this, Rama fainted onto the ground, and so the monkeys hurriedly came and sprinkled water on Him.

Lakshman picked Rama up in His arms and lamented, “What terrible misfortune! It appears that good and evil have changed roles! Or, maybe it is that virtue is not strong enough to give a good result without the help of prowess. I think that it is best just to depend upon one’s strength and forget all the so-called considerations of morality. I hereby vow to destroy all of Lanka this very day, including Indrajit and Ravana! O Rama, please remember Your divine position as the incarnation of Lord Vishnu and thus give up Your excessive sorrow.”

At this time, Vibhishana came there. When he saw the grief-stricken Lakshman with Rama lying unconscious upon his lap, Vibhishana anxiously inquired, “What has happened?”

As Lakshman proceeded to explain about Sita’s death, Vibhishana interrupted, saying, “It is not possible that Sita has been killed by Indrajit, for Ravana would never voluntarily part with her. The Sita that you saw was only an illusory creation. Lakshman, you should immediately go to Nikumbhila and kill Indrajit while he is making sacrificial offerings. It you do not attack him now, he will once again be able to make himself invisible after finishing his rituals, and thus he will be invulnerable.”

Rama was too aggrieved to clearly understand what Vibhishana was saying and so He asked him to repeat himself. Vibhishana then elaborated, “Long ago, Indrajit had performed severe austerities by which he satisfied Lord Brahma. When Brahma awarded Indrajit the brahmastra and flying horses, he predicted, ‘You will be killed by an enemy as you engage in performing sacrifices at Nikumbhila.’ Now, if Lakshman does not go and kill Indrajit, he will become so powerful that surely all the monkeys will be slain.”

Rama then ordered, “Lakshman, go and attack Indrajit. Take with you Hanuman, Vibhishana, and the rest of the army.”

Lakshman touched Rama’s lotus feet, and after once again vowing to kill Indrajit, He departed. As He approached Nikumbhila, Lakshman saw innumerable Rakshasas guarding it, and so Vibhishana advised, “Let their army be attacked first. Then, when the Rakshasas are hard-pressed, Indrajit will appear.”

Thus it so happened that when Indrajit saw how his army was being attacked, he mounted upon his chariot, even though his sacrifices remained incomplete. As Indrajit engaged in battle with Hanuman, Vibhishana took Lakshman to the spot underneath a banyan tree where Indrajit would offer oblations into the sacrificial fire before invisibly entering the battlefield. Vibhishana knew that Indrajit would soon come to complete his rituals, and so he urged Lakshman to wait there and kill him upon his return.

Lakshman did as advised, and sure enough, Indrajit soon returned. When Lakshman challenged him to fight, Indrajit saw Vibhishana and angrily said, “You, my own uncle, have come here to do me harm! I am the favorite son of your elder brother. Don’t you have any feelings for family members? You are also born in the dynasty of Rakshasas. Have you no pride of birth? Wicked fool! Can’t you see how those who actually follow religious principles must despise you for betraying your own kinsmen, by joining the side of the enemy? Is there no difference between living with one’s own family and licking the feet of strangers? A person’s worst relative is always better than an outsider. Only you could act so treacherously!”

Vibhishana replied, “Nephew, if you are so concerned with dharma, then why do you now reproach me, your elder? It is true that I have been born in the family of Rakshasas, but my nature is quite different. I hate impudence and cruelty. It is your father and not I who has caused this breach in our family. According to religious injunctions, it is one’s duty to renounce all connections with sinful persons, even if they happen to be family relations.”

“One who kidnaps another’s wife is most abominable, and should be cast off as much as a snake that clings to one’s body. To mistrust friends, to have sexual relations with the wife of another, and to steal another’s property- these three faults always lead to destruction. Therefore, Ravana is doomed, and along with him, you and all of Lanka will be destroyed. Indrajit, you are just a proud, foolish and ill-mannered boy. Say whatever you like, but soon you will lay down your life, being pierced by Lakshman’s arrows.”

Lakshman was mounted upon Hanuman, and after an exchange of challenges a fierce duel began. After some time, Indrajit appeared to become pale and weak, on account of Lakshman’s onslaught of arrows. Vibhishana then urged Lakshman to make short work of His adversary. When Lakshman released some more powerful arrows, the son of Ravana became momentarily dazed. But after quickly recovering, Indrajit chided, “Remember how you were defeated by me before!” He then pierced Lakshman with seven arrows, Hanuman with ten and Vibhishana with 100.

Lakshman simply laughed, however, and once again proceeded to cover Indrajit with so many arrows that his golden armor was shattered to pieces. The Rakshasa retaliated with 1000 arrows, so that Lakshman’s armor also became somewhat damaged. Thus, neither could gain the upper hand as the fighting continued for a long time, both being determined to gain victory. Innumerable arrows pierced right through their bodies and entered the earth, so that both warriors were soaked with blood. Besides these, there were countless arrows that had been counteracted, and they were seen spread all over the ground like so much kusha-grass.

Vibhishana did not want to fight with his nephew, and so he attacked other Rakshasas. Jambavan went on the rampage, as the fighting between the two armies became very heated. Hanuman put down Lakshman so that he could join the melee. As the sun sank below the horizon, he continued to exterminate the Rakshasas by the thousands. Darkness came early because the sky was covered by the incessant flow of arrows. Indeed, Lakshman and Indrajit worked so quickly that the onlookers could not detect the movement of their arms.

Lakshman then beheaded Indrajit’s driver, and so the Rakshasa had to control the reins while simultaneously discharging his arrows. This gave Lakshman an advantage, and so gradually, Indrajit began to lose heart. Four monkey warriors then jumped on Indrajit’s four horses and tore them to shreds with their sharp teeth and claws. These monkeys proceeded to smash the chariot, and so Indrajit was forced to dismount. In the dense darkness, Lakshman began to close in, and so Indrajit ordered his army to keep the monkeys busy while he re-entered Lanka to get a new chariot.

After some time, when Indrajit returned to the battlefield with renewed enthusiasm, he began striking down the monkeys by the thousands, causing the survivors to take shelter of Lakshman. Lakshman then broke Indrajit’s bow in half, and pierced his chest with five arrows. In the fierce fighting that followed, Lakshman flared up in anger and beheaded Indrajit’s driver, throwing the horses into confusion. Although he tried to retaliate, Indrajit found that all his arrows simply bounced off Lakshman. Considering Lakshman’s armor to be impenetrable, Indrajit concentrated on striking Lakshman in the forehead. Lakshman quickly responded by hitting Indrajit in the face with five arrows.

Indrajit pierced Vibhishana’s face with three arrows. Then, in a fit of rage, Vibhishana rushed at his nephew. With his club, Vibhishana pounded Indrajit’s horses to death. After jumping down from his disabled chariot, Indrajit hurled a spear at his uncle. At this point, Lakshman intervened by cutting the spear to pieces with his arrows. Then, after Vibhishana pierced his chest with five arrows, Indrajit placed a terrifying Yama weapon onto his bowstring. Upon seeing this grave danger, Lakshman invoked a wonderful arrow that had been awarded to Him by Kuvera in a dream. When the two weapons were released, they collided in mid-air, lighting up the entire sky very brightly. There was an earth-shaking explosion as the weapons shattered into hundreds of pieces amidst crackling sparks and billows of smoke.

Next, Lakshman invoked a Varuna weapon that Indrajit neutralized with a Rudra weapon. Taking the offensive, Indrajit discharged an Agni weapon, but Lakshman successfully counteracted it with a Surya missile. Indrajit then put an Asura weapon on his bowstring, and immediately numerous swords, lances, clubs, chakras and axes issued forth. But, by employing a Rudra weapon, Lakshman was able to subdue the attack. At this point, Indrajit began to lose heart. Sensing this, Lakshman carefully picked up a very powerful weapon belonging to King Indra.

As Lakshman placed this invincible arrow on His bowstring and drew it back to His ear, He prayed, “O chief of the celestials, if Rama is truly the unrivaled Lord, and the shelter of truth and virtue, let this weapon kill Ravana’s son.”

After being released by Lakshman, that effulgent arrow soared swiftly through the sky and then cut off Indrajit’s head. This incomparable son of Ravana had been the greatest impediment for Lord Rama’s army. The monkeys shouted with joy and jumped up and down, while the panic-stricken Rakshasas fled in all directions.

In the sky, the demigods and great rishis uttered ecstatic exclamations, praising Lakshman for his victory. As flowers showered from heaven upon Lakshman- Vibhishana, Hanuman and Jambavan came to congratulate him. While lashing their tails about and dancing with great joy, the monkeys shouted again and again, “Jaya Lakshman! Jaya Shri Rama!”

Lakshman was exhausted and wounded, and so He was leaning on Vibhishana and Hanuman when He came before Rama and circumambulated Him. Vibhishana then narrated the account of Indrajit’s death, and while listening to it, Rama experienced great transcendental pleasure.

After smelling Lakshman’s head and congratulating Him with great affection, Rama said, “Indrajit was just like Ravana’s right arm. Now that he has been killed after three days and nights of battle, the Rakshasa King will surely come out to fight.”

Lakshman was tormented with pain due to his numerous wounds, and so Rama ordered Sushena to treat him, along with the multitudes of other monkey soldiers. When Sushena made Him inhale the aroma of a certain herb, Lakshman was delighted to find that all His pain vanished, and His wounds immediately healed.

Meanwhile, Ravana’s ministers came and informed him of how Indrajit had been killed by Lakshman, with the assistance of Vibhishana. Ravana fainted as soon as he heard the news, and it was only after a long time that he regained consciousness. The King then lamented very bitterly over the death of his beloved son, who was to be his successor, and while doing so he became possessed of a violent anger.

In this state of mad rage, Ravana decided to take revenge by killing Sita, and at that time his appearance was so ferocious that the other Rakshasas hid out of fear. Being eager for battle, Ravana called for his impenetrable armor and the bow and arrows that had been given to him by Lord Brahma at the completion of his severe austerities.

Ravana then declared, “What Indrajit did as a conjuring trick, I shall now factually do, just to torment the enemy!”

Saying this, Ravana violently unsheathed his sword and rushed toward the Ashoka grove, followed by Mandodari and several ministers. Although these well wishers tried their best to restrain him, Ravana soon came before the terrified Sita while waving his sword about menacingly.

Sita could understand that Ravana intended to kill her, and so she wondered, “What has happened to make the wicked Rakshasa King come here like this, before my allotted twelve months has elapsed? Has he become too frustrated by my constant refusals? Or, is he going to kill me out of desperation, being unable to defeat Rama and Lakshman? I should have taken Hanuman’s advice and let him carry me back to Rama on his back. Then, I never would have been put into this horrible situation!”

Feeling compassion for the grief-stricken Sita, a pious minister named Suparshva spoke to Ravana, “O lord, you have studied the Vedas and observed the strictest vows. How can you even think of harming a woman? Let Sita be, and instead, vent your terrible wrath upon your real enemy. Today is the fourteenth day of the dark lunar fortnight. Tomorrow, as the new moon emerges, march against Rama and His monkey hordes, to obtain victory. I am sure that after killing Rama, you will be able to enjoy Sita to your heart’s content. Why should you prematurely frustrate your ardent desire in this way?”

Ravana accepted this flattering advice. After giving up the idea of killing Sita, he returned to his palace. Later on, as he sat down morosely upon his throne, Ravana, being still highly aggrieved on account of the loss of his dear son, gave the following order: “I want all the remaining Rakshasas to go at once and attack Rama. If they are unable to kill Him, then tomorrow I will personally go and fight.”

It was just before dawn when all the Rakshasas rushed out of the city to fight with the monkeys. By sunrise, a furious battle raged on all sides. When the Rakshasas succeeded in striking down multitudes of enemy soldiers, the monkeys ran to the shelter of Lord Rama’s lotus feet. Rama then employed a spectacular Gandharva weapon that issued forth streams of arrows. The showers of arrows became so dense that the Rakshasas could no longer see Rama. They could only see the results of His onslaught- the destruction of innumerable Rakshasa soldiers.

By the influence of the Gandharva weapon, Rama sometimes became invisible. At other times, the Rakshasas saw 1000 Ramas standing before them in all directions. Within the span of just over an hour, 200,000 foot soldiers, 18,000 elephant warriors, 14,000 cavalry, and numerous chariot fighters in the Rakshasa army were slain. At last, the survivors fled back to Lanka while the demigods in the sky ecstatically praised Rama for His victory.

Rama then told the monkey leaders, “You should know that such ability to employ celestial weapons is only within the power of Lord Shiva and Myself.”

Meanwhile, in Lanka, the widows of the slain Rakshasas grouped together and piteously lamented the deaths of their husbands. While wailing aloud they cried out, “We curse Shurpanakha, for she is the root cause of the enmity between Rama and Ravana that has destroyed our race. So many times in the past Rama defeated the Rakshasas, and so Ravana should have been aware of His invincibility. Why did not our foolish King accept Vibhishana’s good advice, and thus avoid this wholesale destruction?”

As he listened to the lamentations of the Rakshasa women, Ravana became mad with anger. While hissing like a trampled serpent, he ordered his ministers, “Prepare my army for battle at once! Today I will kill Rama, Lakshman, and all the monkeys with my torrents of arrows. Bring my chariot and make sure that every surviving able-bodied Rakshasa soldier follows me.”

At Ravana’s command, 100,000 chariots warriors, 300,000 elephant warriors, 60 million horse soldiers, and uncountable foot soldiers assembled. Ravana then mounted upon his celestial chariot, which was drawn by eight horses and was equipped with numerous weapons belonging to the principal demigods. He was heralded by a tumultuous fanfare of blowing conch shells and trumpets as well as shouts of encouragement from the citizens.

When the monkeys heard the uproar, a great fear entered their hearts. Then, as Ravana left Lanka through the northern gate, a gloomy atmosphere prevailed, for the sun did not shine brightly. Dark clouds appeared overhead, raining blood, and all of a sudden, Ravana’s horses stumbled. The King’s left eye twitched, his left arm throbbed, his face grew pale, and his voice became hoarse. Meteors streaked across the sky and a vulture came and perched upon Ravana’s flagpole. And yet, without minding these evil omens in the least, the King of the Rakshasas continued to advance toward his doom.

When the fighting began, Ravana created havoc, for none of the monkeys could stand before his onslaught of arrows. Sugriva then rallied the monkeys, and while Ravana turned his attention to Rama, Virupaksha rushed at the monkey king, riding upon an elephant. Sugriva tore up a giant tree and violently smashed the elephant, throwing it backwards.

Virupaksha jumped down from the wounded elephant, picked up his sword and shield and angrily rushed at Sugriva. Sugriva hurled a boulder at the onrushing foe, but Virupaksha dodged it and then slashed him with his sword. Being momentarily dazed, Sugriva fell to the ground, but then sprang up again and punched Virupaksha in the chest. This only served to enrage the Rakshasa, who then cut off Sugriva’s armor and gave him a kick that made him fall over backwards.

Once again, Sugriva sprang to his feet, but when he tried to give Virupaksha a slap, the Rakshasa artfully dodged it and struck him on the chest with his fist. Flaring up with rage, Sugriva looked for an opportunity to strike. Then, he suddenly brought down the palm of his hand on Virupaksha’s forehead with all his might. That powerful blow made blood pour out profusely from all nine holes of Virupaksha’s body as he slumped down dead onto the ground.

Meanwhile, as Ravana advanced toward Rama, he invoked a Rahu weapon that created a great destruction of monkeys. Lakshmana, who was fighting by Rama’s side, ran forward to intercept Ravana with His torrents of arrows. Ravana easily counteracted these arrows, and leaving Lakshman aside, he approached Rama.

A fierce duel followed between Rama and His archenemy, their volleys of arrows covering the entire sky. The monkeys and Rakshasas suspended their fighting for the time being, just to witness the spectacular contest.

Ravana struck Rama in the forehead with an arrow. Remaining undaunted, Rama retaliated by discharging a Rudra weapon. And yet, even though innumerable arrows issued forth, they simply bounced off Ravana’s impenetrable armor without causing him the slightest harm.

Ravana then invoked a mystic Asura weapon, so that countless arrows having the heads of lions, tigers, vultures, serpents and alligators rushed toward Rama with their gaping mouths wide open. Even though Rama employed an Agni weapon that melted Ravana’s arrows in mid-air, thousands of monkey soldiers were slain. Still, Rama and the monkey chiefs were pleased because that weapon was well known as being one of Ravana’s most formidable.

Next, Ravana invoked a Rudra weapon that had been created by Maya Danava, and as a result, numerous maces, lances, thunderbolts and nooses issued forth in a steady stream. Rama quickly foiled the Rudra weapon with His Gandharva weapon, but then Ravana discharged a brilliant Surya weapon. As a result, enormous, effulgent chakras shot forth in all directions.

With a display of inconceivable skill, Rama shattered all these chakras with His arrows, but as He did so, Ravana pierced Him in the chest with ten powerful arrows. Rama did not flinch, however, and He retaliated by piercing Ravana with numerous arrows.

Then, desiring to enter the fray, Lakshman shot seven arrows that cut down Ravana’s flag. With another arrow, Lakshman severed the head of Ravana’s driver and with five more he shattered his bow.

At this time, Vibhishana rushed forward and killed Ravana’s horses with his mace, thus forcing his enraged brother to jump down from his chariot. Then, when Ravana angrily hurled a lance at Vibhishana, Lakshman cut it to pieces with three arrows as it soared through the air. Ravana then picked up a magical spear that had been made by Maya Danava. Seeing how Vibhishana’s life was in danger, Lakshman quickly showered so many arrows upon Ravana that he became stunned while standing with the spear in his hand.

Ravana then told Lakshman, “Because You have dared to rescue Vibhishana, the spear that was meant for him will now take away Your life.”

After saying this, Ravana roared like a lion and hurled Maya Danava’s mystical spear. As it unerringly soared through the air toward Lakshman, Rama requested the spear to become ineffectual. Nonetheless, the spear pierced through Lakshman’s chest and stuck into the ground, making the son of Sumitra fall down to the ground seriously wounded.

When Rama saw Lakshman’s piteous condition, He became exceedingly despondent and His eyes filled up with tears. While suppressing His intense grief, Rama went and extracted the spear from Lakshman’s body, even as Ravana showered his arrows upon Him. After breaking the spear in half, Rama raised up Lakshman in His arms and tearfully embraced Him.

After ordering Hanuman and Sugriva to guard Lakshman, Rama angrily declared, “I will now exhibit My full prowess against the wicked Ravana so that he will soon lay down dead upon the battlefield. All the monkeys can go and sit at their ease upon the mountaintops. Let them become spectators, along with the demigods, as I perform a wonderful feat that will be glorified until the dissolution of the material world!”

Thereafter, Rama attacked Ravana with a vengeance. As they proceeded to cover each other with torrents of arrows, the sounds produced by the twanging of their bows was astonishing to hear. The infuriated Rama soon overpowered Ravana, though, and so the Rakshasa King left the battlefield out of fear for his life.

Rama then returned to where Lakshman was lying, and with great anguish He told Sushena, “Just by looking at My wounded brother, My strength withers. Without Lakshman, victory will have no meaning for Me. If He dies, then I will follow Him, just as He followed Me when I was exiled to the forest.”

In a reassuring tone of voice, Sushena replied, “Rama, Lakshman is not dying. Just see how His facial luster has not faded, and His eyes still sparkle brightly. Hanuman must immediately be dispatched to the Mahodaya Mountain, so that he can bring the herbs called Vishalyakarani, Sanvarnyakarani, Samjivakarani, and Samdhani. By this medicinal treatment Lakshman can immediately be restored to good health.”

Once again, Hanuman made a quick leap to the Himalayas, but when he arrived at the Mahodaya Mountain he could not recognize the required herbs. Finally, out of frustration, he tore off the entire mountain peak. While holding it in both hands, Hanuman bounded into the air and returned to Lanka. After placing the mountain peak near Sushena, Hanuman lay down to rest for a moment and said, “I could not recognize the proper herbs, and so I decided to bring the whole mountain.”

Sushena praised Hanuman very highly and then went to look for the required herbs. After finding them, he crushed the herbs into powder, and when Lakshman was made to smell them, He instantly became cured of all His wounds. When Lakshman stood up, Rama firmly embraced Him and said, “It is My good fortune that You are well. Lakshman, without You there would be no use in recovering Sita or even maintaining My life any longer.”

Lakshman replied, “My dear brother, please do not indulge in such grief any longer. Quickly make good Your vow to kill Ravana and then install Vibhishana as the King of Lanka.”

Meanwhile, Ravana mounted upon another chariot and rushed out from the city, being eager to fight with Rama. Rama picked up His bow and began to shower arrows upon Ravana, and the fighting became very aggressive. From the sky, the demigods exclaimed, “This battle is not being fairly fought, because Rama is standing on the ground while Ravana rides upon his chariot!”

Taking this cue, Indra called for Matali and ordered him to take his chariot to where Rama was stationed upon the battlefield. Matali then came before Rama, driving Indra’s golden chariot that was drawn by 1000 horses, having a greenish complexion.

The celestial charioteer then announced, “My dear Lord, King Indra requests You to kindly accept this chariot. Inside, You will find Indra’s bow and armor, as well as an incomparable spear and various celestial arrows. Rama, please mount this chariot at once, for the demigods are very aggrieved to see how You have to fight while standing upon the ground.”

After circumambulating Indra’s chariot, Rama mounted upon it, and thereafter, a thrilling duel took place between Him and Ravana. When Ravana released a Gandharva weapon, Rama quickly neutralized it with another Gandharva weapon. Ravana next discharged a Rakshasa weapon that took the form of innumerable serpents with blazing, wide-open mouths. In response, Rama released a Garuda weapon that transformed into countless golden eagles, and they quickly ate up all of Ravana’s snake-arrows. This inflamed Ravana’s anger. He rapidly retaliated by discharging 1000 arrows at Rama, numerous more that pierced Matali, a single one that knocked down Indra’s flag, and many more that afflicted the horses. It appeared as if Rama was being put into great difficulty, and so the demigods and monkey warriors became very anxious.

Rama then assumed a very ferocious form of anger, and because of this, the earth began to quake. Many evil omens were visible, so that all beings, including Ravana, became afraid. Numerous demons then appeared in the sky to encourage Ravana, just as the demigods were rooting for Rama. As if in response, Ravana picked up a dreadful dart and roared so ferociously that heaven and earth began to tremble. He then shouted, “Rama, prepare Yourself, for now You are going to die!”

After saying this, Ravana hurled that terrible weapon, and as it soared through the sky it made a loud roaring noise and was encircled by lightning. Rama released innumerable arrows in an attempt to intercept that awesome missile, just as Indra tries to stop the fire of devastation that occurs at the end of the kalpa, by pouring down torrential rain. Then, as Rama saw that the onrushing dart was consuming His arrows, He picked up the celebrated spear of Indra and hurled it. While soaring through the air, that spear illuminated all directions and then collided with Ravana’s dart, shattering it to pieces that fell harmlessly to the ground.

Rama and Ravana continued to assail one another with showers of arrows so that blood flowed from the wounds that covered their bodies. Still, being undaunted, Rama laughed disdainfully and rebuked Ravana by saying, “Kidnapper of Sita, you are a first-class fool for considering yourself to be a great hero. Factually, you are a great coward, for you only dared to take away My wife after luring Me far away. How can you be proud of overpowering a poor, defenseless woman in the absence of her husband? Ravana, today you will meet your deserved end, so that the body that you are so attached to will become food for vultures and jackals.”

After saying this, Rama attacked Ravana with redoubled energy and greater dexterity. This was combined with the volleys of stones that were hurled by the monkeys. Within a short time, Ravana became dazed and bewildered at heart, so that he could no longer properly take up and discharge his weapons. Seeing this, Ravana’s charioteer drove him swiftly away from the battlefield, beyond the reach of Rama’s arrows.

But, when Ravana came to his senses, he chastised his driver, saying, “By your shameless action I can understand that you consider me to be impotent and a coward! By acting independently you have spoiled my reputation. Take me back to the battlefield at once!”

The chariot driver replied, “O King, I took you away from the fighting for your welfare. You had lost all your strength, and the horses had also become exhausted. Many inauspicious omens were visible as well, and so I did what I considered to be my foremost duty.”

Ravana became pacified by his charioteer’s words and then ordered, “Go quickly to where Rama is staying! Once Ravana has made up his mind he does not turn back until he has completely destroyed his enemies!”

Meanwhile, in Ravana’s absence, Agastya Rishi came to see Rama, knowing that He had become fatigued from fighting. After being properly honored and welcomed, Agastya Rishi said, “My dear Lord Rama, kindly receive from me the Aditya-hridaya prayer that is meant for satisfying the Sungod. This mantra bestows great blessings and cleanses one of all sins. One who chants this hymn prolongs his life and remains always fixed on the eternal path of religion:

‘O deity of the sun, I offer my obeisances unto you. You are the chief of the demigods, on account of your unlimited effulgence that maintains the entire universe. You are worshiped by both demigods and asuras, for obtaining ultimate welfare. You are the reservoir of universal energy and the source of life for all beings. As such, you perfectly represent the Supreme Lord, Vishnu, as His empowered expansion. Men who know the Vedas therefore worship you as Lord Narayana, situated within the sun, by chanting suitable prayers three times daily. It is you alone who destroy the dense darkness of this universe, and thus I bow down to you, O splendorous one! Again and again I offer my obeisances unto you, the eye of the Supreme Lord and witness of the world’s activities.’

“Rama, if you recite this mantra while worshiping the Sungod as the all-in-all, You will certainly be able to conquer over your enemy. Anyone in difficulty who worships Surya with this prayer never comes to grief.”

After the departure of Agastya Muni, Rama felt rejuvenated. He sipped water three times while uttering the holy name of the Lord. Then, facing the sun, Rama recited the Aditya-hridaya prayer, and as He did so He felt great transcendental bliss. Afterwards, Rama picked up His bow and advanced toward Ravana, determined to kill him in an all-out effort. At this time, Surya spoke to Rama from the sky, urging Him, “Do not delay! Go quickly!”

Rama then ordered, “Matali, drive quickly to where Ravana is staying, but at the same time be very cautious.”

Then, remembering that He was speaking to Indra’s charioteer, Rama felt embarrassed and so He apologized, “I am very sorry to have instructed you as if I were your master. It is just that I am eager to kill Ravana, so please excuse My offense.”

Matali was very touched by Rama’s wonderful display of humility. As he maneuvered Indra’s chariot close by Ravana’s side, Rama and his adversary began to exchange arrows. Soon, the fighting became very intense. Clouds rained blood upon Ravana’s chariot, and a flock of vultures followed him from behind. A huge meteor fell nearby and so all the Rakshasas became exceedingly despondent, while Ravana became convinced that he would soon die.

On the other hand, very pleasing signs appeared before Rama, and so He became convinced that victory would soon be His. In the duel that followed, Rama and Ravana gradually exhibited the entire wealth of their respective prowess The competition became so intense that both armies became stunned with amazement. Indeed, all the soldiers stood motionless, just like paintings, and because they were so absorbed in watching the fight, they did not even think of attacking one another.

When Ravana tried to knock down Indra’s flag, Rama deflected his arrows with His own. Then, because He was determined to match Ravana, blow for blow, Rama knocked down the Rakshasa King’s flag. Ravana then pierced Indra’s horses, but when the celestial steeds did not even stagger, he became angry and frustrated.

At last, Ravana resorted to the Rakshasa power of illusion to send forth clubs, discs, trees, and mountain peaks. Rama was able to counteract all these before they reached His chariot, and so they fell upon the army of monkeys. Rama and Ravana continued to dispatch thousands of weapons at each other, and as they collided in the air, they fell down onto the battlefield.

In this way, the fighting continued for about an hour. Rama matched Ravana, blow for blow, while all created beings looked on, their minds astonished with wonder.

Both drivers also displayed great skill. But, when the chariots came side by side, Rama forced Ravana’s four horses to turn away by piercing them with four arrows. This incited Ravana’s anger, and so he repeatedly pierced Rama in retaliation. Rama remained undisturbed, and thereafter, the exchange of all varieties of weapons became so feverish, that the fighting that took place was unparalleled in the history of warfare.

Sometimes Ravana fought in his ten-headed feature, and at other times he fought in his normal form, having one head. On one occasion, Rama managed to sever Ravana’s head with an arrow. But, as that head fell to the ground, a duplicate one miraculously cropped up in its place. Rama then severed that head, but once again, another one immediately manifested itself as a replacement. Again and again Rama cut off Ravana’s head, until, altogether one hundred such heads lay on the battlefield.

Because each time a new head appeared to replace the old one, Rama began to wonder, “With these arrows I formerly killed Maricha, Khara and Viradha. I pierced seven Sal trees and killed the invincible Vali. These arrows had humbled great mountains and agitated the fathomless sea. How is it that they are now ineffectual against Ravana?”

The duel continued at a furious pace. Both combatants were obsessed with the desire for killing the other. In fact, several days and nights passed without any break in the fighting.

At last, when Matali saw that Rama was not gaining His desired victory, he inquired, “Why are you simply fighting defensively? My Lord, are You not aware of Your limitless potencies? The hour of doom has now arrived for the King of the Rakshasas. Why don’t You employ the divine brahmastra?”

Being thus reminded of this ultimate weapon, Rama picked up the arrow that Agastya Rishi had formerly given Him at the time of their meeting in the Dandaka forest. That arrow had been constructed personally by Lord Brahma for Indra’s use, and later on it was presented to Agastya. Garuda supplied the feathers of that wonderful arrow and the sharp head combined the energy of the Firegod, Agni, and the Sungod. Mount Meru and Mount Mandara contributed their gravity to the arrow’s weight, and its shaft was made from the subtle ethereal element.

This brahmastra weapon was omnipotent and infallible, and its dazzling effulgence made it rival the splendor of the sun. After empowering the brahmastra with the required mantras, Rama placed it upon His bowstring. As the monkeys gazed upon that flaming arrow, their hearts became filled with delight, while a dreadful fear penetrated the cores of the hearts of all the Rakshasas.

As Rama pulled the bowstring back to His ear, the earth trembled and the heavens also appeared to become disturbed. When Rama released the brahmastra, it sped through the air like death itself, and then violently fell upon the chest of the wicked Ravana. After piercing right through the King of the Rakshasa’s heart, that effulgent arrow entered deep into the earth, taking his sinful life along with it. As that awesome brahmastra came and re-entered Rama’s quiver, Ravana dropped the bow from his hand and fell down dead from his chariot.

With great, transcendental ecstasy, the monkey warriors loudly proclaimed Rama’s victory as they attacked the fleeing Rakshasa army. From the sky, the demigods shouted, “Sadhu! Sadhu!” (“Well done! Excellent!”), as they completely covered Rama’s chariot with showers of flowers, and beat upon their celestial drums.

Now that Ravana was dead at last, the demigods and great rishis felt blessed relief and a peace of mind that they had not enjoyed for a long time. A cool and gentle, fragrant breeze began to blow, and the sun spread its rays very serenely, so that happiness seemed to pervade all directions. Sugriva, Angada, Vibhishana and Lakshman were the first to come and pay their homage unto Lord Rama. But, when Vibhishana saw his elder brother lying dead upon the ground, he broke down and cried in an outburst of intense grief.

Meanwhile, news of Ravana’s death spread throughout the inner apartments of the royal palace. Ravana’s wives came out of the city and entered the battlefield, their hair disheveled and dress and ornaments in disarray. Overcome by unbearable grief and wailing aloud, some of the women rolled in the dust like madwomen, while others went and embraced different parts of Ravana’s dead body.

Crying out, “O my lord! O my husband!” one of the ladies hung around Ravana’s neck, while others clutched at his feet, rubbed his wounded chest, threw up their arms in despair or fainted away, being unable to bear the grief.

Amidst the sounds of loud wailing, these lamentations were heard: “Oh, dear husband, by ignoring our good advice, as well as that given by Vibhishana, you have brought about your destruction. Now that you are dead, our lives are also finished, for the wife has no other support than her husband. This is the inevitable end for such a cruel and hardhearted person like you. Who else would have dared to kidnap Sita and keep her by force, against her will?”

Ravana’s favorite queen, Mandodari, lamented, “My dear husband, even though you were so powerful, you could not stand before Lord Rama. You were too proud because of your acquired prowess, and so you became a great burden for the earth. You foolishly could not understand that it was Lord Vishnu Himself who had descended upon the earth as Lord Rama, in order to relieve her of that burden.”

“O Ravana, your sinful passion for Sita has turned out to be the cause for the destruction of all the Rakshasas. You always masqueraded as a great hero, but you were actually proven to be a coward when you deceitfully kidnapped Sita. Still, despite your abominable character, I do not see how I shall be able to go on living in your absence.”

Finally, Mandodari fainted with her head upon Ravana’s chest. Her co-wives then lifted her up and revived her. At this time, Rama ordered Vibhishana, “You should begin the funeral rites for your elder brother without further delay. Only after the cremation of Ravana’s body will it be possible to comfort his widows.”

Vibhishana replied, “I do not want to perform the funeral ceremonies for a man who kidnapped the wives of others, who was merciless and tyrannical, and who was inclined toward irreligion. Of course, Ravana was my elder brother, and so it is my duty to respect him. But, on the other hand, because his actions were like those of an enemy, I feel that he does not deserve my worship.”

Rama said, “Vibhishana, I approve of your words because they uphold the cause of virtue. Still, I would like you to cremate your brother’s body. After all, despite his faults, Ravana was a great hero. And, it is a fact, that with the death of his body, all hostilities have now ended.”

Vibhishana went inside the city to make arrangements for Ravana’s funeral. After bringing his maternal grandfather, Malyavan, Vibhishana placed Ravana’s body on the funeral carrier and then proceeded, along with other Rakshasas who carried the firewood. Going toward the south, the party arrived at a consecrated place where they cremated Ravana’s body according to the Vedic injunctions. Thereafter, Ravana’s wives were consoled, and then everyone returned to Lanka.

Having given up His transcendental anger, Rama now assumed a gentle appearance and laid aside his bow, arrows and armor. The demigods departed from their positions in the sky and returned to their abodes, and while going they chanted the glories of Lord Rama with great satisfaction. After receiving due honor from Lord Rama, and permission to depart, Matali ascended into the sky upon Indra’s chariot and returned to the heavenly kingdom.

After coming to Their camp, Rama ordered Lakshman to perform Vibhishana’s installation ceremony. In turn, Lakshman gave golden vessels to the chief monkeys and ordered them to go quickly and fetch water from the four seas. Soon after, Lakshman performed the installation ceremony strictly according to the Vedic injunctions, and all the citizens of Lanka came to the sacrificial arena with presentations of auspicious articles. After receiving these gifts, Vibhishana offered them to Lord Rama.

Rama then told Hanuman, who was standing nearby with folded hands, “Please go and find out how Sita is, and inform her that I have killed Ravana. After doing so, return here with any message that she may give you.”

After taking permission from King Vibhishana, Hanuman went to the Ashoka grove. There, he found the grief-stricken Sita, surrounded by hideous Rakshasis.

Standing meekly in front of Sita, Hanuman said, “Your husband has sent me here to give you this message: ‘After many sleepless months, I have finally been able to accomplish My vow to rescue you. Now that your oppressor, the King of the Rakshasas, is dead, you can give up all your anxiety.’ ”

Upon hearing this, Sita became so happy that she could not reply for some time. When Hanuman asked why she remained silent, Sita said, “I can hardly speak because I am so elated. Hanuman, what you have told me is unlimitedly more valuable than any amount of gold or jewels.”

Standing with folded hands, Hanuman suggested, “If you so desire, I can kill all these hideous Rakshasa women who have tormented you for so long. In fact, I would take great pleasure in avenging all the suffering that you had to undergo. I simply await your permission.”

By nature, Sita was very kind to the downtrodden. So, she replied, “They are only foolish maidservants who had to carry out the orders of the King. Whatever I had suffered was the result of my own misdeeds, and these Rakshasis acted only as instruments in the hands of destiny.”

“Hanuman, perhaps you have heard this old adage that was once spoken by a bear: ‘A great man never takes into account the offenses that are committed against him. Indeed, he vows that at all costs he will not return evil with evil.’ The story goes like this:

There was a hunter being chased by a tiger, and so he climbed up into a big tree. It so happened that there was a bear perched upon one of the branches. Seeing this, the tiger said, “This hunter is our common enemy. Therefore, you should push him out of the tree so that I can eat him.”

The bear replied, “This hunter has taken shelter of my home, and so I will not do anything to harm him. To act in such a way would be most unrighteous.” After saying this, the bear went to sleep.

The tiger then told the hunter, “If you push the bear out of the tree so that I can eat him, I promise that I will not harm you.”

Being swayed by the tiger’s words, the hunter pushed the sleeping bear. But, as he was falling, the bear managed to grab onto a branch and save himself. The tiger then said to the bear, “Because this hunter tried to kill you, you should retaliate by pushing him out of the tree.”

And yet, even though the tiger appealed to the bear in this manner, again and again, he refused, saying, “A great person never takes into account the sins of one who has offended him. Instead, at all costs, he keeps his vow to never return evil for evil, because he knows that good conduct is the ornament of virtuous persons.”

Before departing, Hanuman asked Sita if she had any message for Rama. Sita replied, “My only words are this- ‘I long to see my dear husband, who is known to be always very affectionate toward His unalloyed devotees.’ ”

Hanuman said, “Rest assured that you will see Rama, along with Lakshman, this very day. Now, please grant me your permission so that I can return to Rama without further delay.”

Hanuman went and related Sita’s message and after doing so, he urged Rama to go and meet Sita at once. “Because she has suffered so much and longs to see You, You should go to the Ashoka grove immediately,” Hanuman pleaded.

Upon hearing this appeal, tears came to Rama’s eyes. Then, with His eyes cast downward, Rama ordered Vibhishana, “Have Sita brought to Me, after having bathed, dressed, and decorated herself with celestial ornaments.”

Vibhishana went to the Ashoka grove, and through the Rakshasa women he made his presence known to Sita. Then, after very submissively approaching her, Vibhishana said, “Rama would like to see you. First of all please bathe and dress yourself in these celestial clothes and ornaments. Then, mount upon the palanquin that I have brought, for that is Rama’s desire.”

Sita replied, “I want to see Rama immediately. I do not want to bathe first.”

However, Vibhishana advised, “You had better do as Your husband has ordered, for that will bring you all auspiciousness.”

Sita then went to bathe, and after dressing herself very nicely, she was placed upon the palanquin and brought before her husband. When Vibhishana came before Rama, he saw that the Lord’s head was bowed down, as if He were absorbed in deep thought.

Vibhishana announced Sita’s arrival, and in response, Rama asked that she be brought to Him at once. Hordes of monkeys had come there out of curiosity, just to get a glimpse of Sita. Vibhishana and his four assistants began pushing them back, so that Sita could approach Rama privately. Because of this, there was a great commotion.

Due to His strong affection for His faithful servants, Rama became annoyed to see this, however, and so He told Vibhishana, “Do not harass these monkeys. There is nothing wrong if a chaste woman is seen in public during a time of adversity or war, a svayamvara, a sacrifice or a wedding. Please allow the monkeys to see Sita if they so desire.”

Rama then ordered, “Let Sita get down from the palanquin and come to Me on foot.”

As Vibhishana escorted Sita, all the monkey chiefs could understand that Rama was in a very stern and grave mood. They were very surprised that not only was Rama making Sita walk within public view, but that His demeanor was so severe as well. Sita innocently approached Rama with great shyness, as if she were shrinking into herself. Then, when Sita saw the handsome face of her beloved husband, her miseries immediately vanished, so that her face shone brightly like the full moon.

Then, as Sita continued to gaze upon Him with great love and affection, Rama began to give vent to His pent-up inner feelings. Rama’s heart was tormented by fear of stain to the impeccable reputation of His dynasty, and because of this, He addressed Sita as follows, in an angry tone of voice.

Rama said, “I have fulfilled My vow to win you back and thus avenge Ravana’s insult to My honor. But, you must understand that My great endeavor to kill the King of the Rakshasas was not actually for your sake. I did this just to vindicate My good name, and that of the Ikshvaku dynasty.”

“Truthfully, your appearance before Me is not at all pleasing. You are free to go wherever you like. No cultured man will accept a wife who has been embraced by another man, or who has lived in someone else’s house. I am sure that no woman could have remained with Ravana for so long without having been enjoyed by Him. Ravana was obsessed by lust for you. How could he have controlled himself and refrained from enjoying you by force? By killing Ravana I have regained My honor. But there is no need for Me to have any more attachment for you. You are now free to do as you like. Fix your mind upon Lakshman, Bharata, or anyone else whom you may choose.”

While listening to this speech, Sita bent her head low with shame. Having formerly heard only loving words from Rama, His talk seemed like arrows piercing her heart, and thus she began to bitterly weep. Being in the presence of so many spectators, it was very difficult for Sita to endure her husband’s reproaches.

Finally, after wiping the tears form her eyes, Sita replied in a faltering voice. She said, “How can You dare speak about me in such an irresponsible manner? Never for a moment did I give up my chastity by body, mind, or words. My character is pure and so You should not judge me as if I was an ordinary woman. Although I am called Janaki, the daughter of King Janaka, my birth was transcendental, for I appeared from within the earth.”

“Rama, if all along You had cruelly planned to reject me in this way, then why didn’t you inform me when Hanuman came here as a messenger? If I had known that You did not intend to take me back, I would have immediately given up my life and thus avoided many months of unbearable suffering. You could have avoided this ghastly war that has taken the lives of countless Rakshasas and Vanaras. What was the need of demanding so much service from your allies? Rama, why are You acting like this? Does my pure devotion for You mean nothing?”

Sita then turned to Lakshman and said, “Please build a large fire for me to enter, for this is the only path that remains for one who has been rejected by her husband in public.”

While suppressing His agitation, Lakshman looked at Rama, and when He saw that His elder brother approved of Sita’s words, He went to prepare the fire. In fact, Rama looked so stern and intense that no one dared to even talk to Him, and so what to speak of try to pacify Him.

Thereafter, when the fire blazed up brightly, Sita first of all circumambulated Rama. Then, after coming before the fire with folded hands, Sita bowed down to the brahmanas and demigods.

She then offered the following prayer to Agni: “O god of fire, because my heart has never turned away from Rama, please protect me. Although I have never been unfaithful to Rama in thought, word or deed, He accuses me of being polluted. Therefore, O lord of fire, seer of all within the three worlds, I request you to become the witness of my purity.”

After saying this, Sita circumambulated the fire. Then, as a huge crowd looked on with wonder, she entered the flames with a fearless mind. Within the blazing fire, Sita, who was adorned with dazzling gold ornaments, shone with a golden radiance. As soon as Sita was within the flames, all the women present screamed with horror and a loud cry of anguish arose from the assembled monkeys and Rakshasas. Amidst all these sounds, Rama appeared to become very thoughtful. At that time, all the principal demigods hurriedly appeared before Him, riding upon their celestial vehicles.

Then, as Rama stood before them with folded hands, the demigods, headed by Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva, said, “O Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Ramachandra, we are very pained to see how You are neglecting Your eternal consort, Mother Sita. You are the creator of the universe and the Lord of all the demigods. Why don’t You recognize Your divinity instead of rejecting Sita, as if You were a common man?”

Rama replied, “I consider myself to be an ordinary human being, the son of Maharaja Dasharatha. But, if there is something more to be said, then perhaps you, Lord Brahma, can disclose it.”

Lord Brahma then said, “My dear Lord Rama, I will now reveal Your real identity. You are directly Lord Narayana, and thus You are identical with all the forms of Vishnu-tattva. You are a plenary expansion of Lord Shri Krishna, the original Supreme Personality of Godhead, and thus You are the cause of all causes. You are the universal form, the support of the cosmic manifestation, and all of the demigods are Your parts and parcels, or in other words, Your eternal servants. Sita is none other than Lakshmi herself, the supreme Goddess of Fortune. Both of you have appeared on the earth for accomplishing the destruction of Ravana. Now that this mission has been accomplished, You may return to Your transcendental abode in the spiritual sky, after ruling over the earth for as long as You desire.”

As soon as Lord Brahma finished speaking, the fire-god, Agni, emerged from the flames, carrying Sita in his arms. As Agni placed Sita before Rama, everyone was amazed to see how her body, bright red dress, ornaments and hair showed absolutely no sign of being even slightly burnt.

Then, in his capacity as one of the universal witnesses, Agni announced, “Rama, here is Your dear wife, Sita. She is completely pure and devoid of even the least tinge of sin. Sita was never the slightest bit unfaithful to You by word, thought or glance, and so what to speak of action. Therefore, My dear Lord Rama, You must accept Sita without reservation and give up Your harsh speech and behavior.”

Rama was very pleased to hear this testimony, and as tears of joy fell from His eyes, He replied, “Agni, it was necessary for Sita to undergo this trial by fire in order to convince the masses of people of her purity. If I had prevented Sita from entering the fire, people would have criticized Me for accepting her without first proving her chastity. They would have concluded that I had only taken her back because of being under the influence of lust to enjoy her.”

“Actually, I knew all about Sita’s purity, and I knew that Ravana could never have polluted her, for she is fully protected by the prowess of her righteousness. It was only to prove Sita’s chastity to the world that I appeared to neglect her. Factually, Sita is not different from Me, for she is directly My internal potency, the hladhini-sakti. Just as sunlight, being not different from the sun, is inseparable from the sun, so there is no possibility of My rejecting Sita.”

Actually, Rama felt great transcendental bliss while being reunited with Sita, for His pastimes were all manifestations of His internal potency, and had been enacted for the purpose of relishing spiritual relationships.

Lord Shiva then addressed Rama, saying, “My dear Lord, by slaying the incomparably powerful Ravana, You have performed a wonderful feat that will be glorified throughout the three worlds until the time of dissolution.”

Then, while pointing toward the sky, Lord Shiva said, “Rama, look up and see how Your father is waiting, seated upon his celestial chariot. After having been delivered by Your mercy, he now resides in the planet of Indra, the King of heaven. Go quickly, along with Lakshman, and be reunited with Maharaja Dasharatha, for he has come here just to see You.”

Rama and Lakshman went and bowed down before Their father. Feeling extremely delighted, Maharaja Dasharatha took Rama on his lap and said, “My residence in heaven does not give me any real pleasure. Rama, only now that I am able to see You do I feel happy. Kaikeyi’s words, demanding Your exile, have always remained imprinted on my heart. Only now that Your period of exile has ended do I feel somewhat relieved. I yearn to see Your return to Ayodhya and installed as the Emperor, after being reunited with Bharata. I can now understand that You are the Supreme Lord, Vishnu, and that You had descended upon the earth for the purpose of vanquishing Ravana.”

Rama replied, “My dear father, I also feel greatly relieved now that My period of exile is over and My mission has been accomplished. But still, there is one thing that I wish that you would grant Me. May you now withdraw the harsh words that you had spoken at the time of My banishment, disowning Kaikeyi and Bharata.”

Maharaja Dasharatha readily consented, saying, “Let it be so.” Then he fondly embraced Lakshman and declared, “My dear son, because of the dedicated service that You have rendered to Rama, I feel eternally indebted to You. You should know that Your elder brother is directly the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appearing in human form, for the welfare of the world. He is worshipful even by the greatest demigods, and so what to speak of ourselves.”

Maharaja Dasharatha then told Sita, “Please do not bear any grudge against Rama for having tested your purity. You can rest assured that your remarkable behavior will earn you a place in history as the most glorious woman the world has ever seen.”

Having thus spoken, Maharaja Dasharatha remounted his celestial chariot and ascended to heaven. Then, as Rama stood before him with folded hands, Indra said, “My audience can never go in vain, and so I wish that You would take a benediction from me.”

Rama was pleased to hear this, and He requested, “King of the celestials, please bring back to life all the monkey warriors who died in My service. In addition, let all the trees in the places where these great heroes dwell become full of fruit, even when out of season.”

Indra replied, “Although this boon is very difficult for even me to grant, I shall happily do so.”

Immediately, all the monkeys who had died in the battle began to rise up from the ground, and since all of their wounds were completely healed, it appeared to them as if they were awakening from a deep sleep. But, when they saw Rama and all the demigods before them, the monkeys could understand that they had gotten back their lost lives, and so they felt supremely delighted.

Indra then ascended to heaven, followed by all the demigods. Rama and the monkeys passed the night at that place. The next morning, Vibhishana came to see Rama, along with numerous maidservants who carried all kinds of paraphernalia for His bath.

However, Rama ordered, “My dear Vibhishana, summon all the monkeys, headed by Sugriva, and let them utilize this royal luxury. As long as I am separated from Bharata, who is practicing severe austerities on My behalf, such opulence does not appeal to Me. My only request is that you arrange for My speedy passage back to Ayodhya, for to travel there by foot would be an arduous journey.”

Vibhishana replied, “I can enable You to reach Ayodhya this very day by making use of the Pushpaka chariot. But, I request that You, Sita and Lakshman remain here for some time, along with the army of monkeys, so that I can royally entertain all of you before Your departure.”

Rama replied, “I certainly cannot refuse your hospitality, and yet, because My anxiety to meet Bharata, My mother and My step-mothers is so great, I beg that you allow Me to depart without delay.”

Vibhishana quickly went and brought the Pushpaka chariot. This wonderful vehicle had originally belonged to Kuvera, before it had been forcibly taken away by Ravana. The Pushpaka chariot was built by Vishvakarma and was made mostly of gold, and had seats made of vaidurya gems. This aerial chariot could travel anywhere, following the mental indications of its driver. When Rama and Lakshman saw the chariot awaiting Their commands, They were astonished. But, before departing, Rama requested Vibhishana to present gifts of gold and jewels to all the monkey soldiers. Then, after mounting the Pushpaka chariot, along with Lakshman and Sita, Rama addressed those who surrounded Him.

Rama said, “There is no way I can repay all you monkey warriors for your heroic fighting on My behalf. Your unflinching devotional service will always serve as an inspiration for future devotees. Your glories will forever shine brightly. Now, please return to Kishkindha and live there happily under Sugriva’s leadership. Vibhishana, you should accept the responsibility for ruling over Lanka at once, because the citizens have become bereft of their king.”

While standing before Rama with folded hands, Sugriva and Vibhishana pleaded, “O Lord, please allow us to accompany You to Ayodhya. After seeing the coronation ceremonies, we will return home.”

Rama replied, “There is nothing that would please Me more than to return to Ayodhya along with all of My dear friends. Both of you can get up onto the Pushpaka chariot, and let all the other monkey heroes and Rakshasas come along as well.”

Finally, after all were comfortably seated, the Pushpaka chariot rose up majestically into the air. While the monkeys, bears and Rakshasas were enjoying the flight, Rama pointed out all the sights to Sita. Rama said, “Just see the great battlefield where all the heroic Rakshasas lay dead, having been killed just for your sake. There is Ravana, there is Kumbhakarna, there is Indrajit, and there is Prahasta. Over there is the bridge called Nalasetu, over which we had crossed the ocean to Lanka. There, on the far shore, is Setubandha, where Lord Shiva had appeared to Me, and where the construction of the bridge had begun. From this time on, Setubandha will be a very sacred place, capable of washing away all of one’s accumulated sinful reactions.”

Then, when Rama pointed out Kishkindha, Sita said, “I would be pleased if I could return to Ayodhya in the company of all the wives of the monkey chiefs.”

Rama granted Sita’s wish, and after halting the chariot, He instructed Sugriva and others to quickly go and bring their wives. When everyone was once again seated, the journey continued.

Rama then pointed out, “There is Mount Rishyashringa, where I met Sugriva, and nearby, you can see the heavenly Lake Pampa, which is full of bluish lotus flowers. Further on, you can see the River Godavari, and on its banks, the ashram of Agastya Rishi. Sita, there is the spot where Ravana kidnapped you! There is Chitrakoot, where Bharata came to meet Me. There is the River Yamuna, and there is the mighty Ganga, where King Guha’s capital, Shringaverapura, can be seen.”

In this way, Sita, Rama and Lakshman remembered Their entire forest life, in reverse order, as They retraced their way back home to Ayodhya. Finally, the River Sarayu came into view, and then, at last, the outskirts of Ayodhya.

Before entering Ayodhya, Rama stopped at Bharadvaja Rishi’s ashram, so that He could inquire about the welfare of His relatives before meeting them.

After heartily welcoming Rama and receiving His obeisances in return, Bharadvaja said, “In Your absence, Bharata has been living a life of severe austerities, wearing deerskin and tree bark and keeping matted hair. He has been ruling the kingdom as Your subordinate by keeping Your shoes upon the royal throne. Rama, by dint of my mystic power I know everything that has happened during Your exile. I am very pleased that You have removed the burden of the earth, and so I would like to award You with any benediction that You may desire.”

Rama happily replied, “Let all of the trees along the way to Ayodhya become full of fruit and flowers. Let streams of honey flow from these trees, exuding the fragrance of nectar.”

As soon as these words were spoken, all the trees along the road to Ayodhya immediately became filled with sumptuous fruit. When they saw this miraculous transformation, thousands of monkeys quickly jumped down from the Pushpaka chariot and began feasting to their full satisfaction. Rama was always thinking of how He could reward the monkeys for the selfless service they had rendered, and so He felt very happy to have received this opportunity to please them.

Then, turning to Hanuman, Rama said, “I would like you to go and inform Guha of My arrival. After that, go to Nandigrama. I want you to describe to Bharata all the events surrounding Sita’s abduction and her subsequent recovery. Watch the expression on Bharata’s face very carefully as He hears about My arrival. Then, report back to Me before we leave this place. If Bharata wants to rule the kingdom, whether it be due to attachment for position and its resultant power, or attachment to royal luxuries, or even because of Kaikeyi’s urging, I am happy to allow Him to do so.”

Hanuman took a human form and departed, travelling through the air. First, he went and informed Guha that Rama would come to meet him after spending the night at Bharadvaja’s ashram. Then, upon his arrival at Nandigrama, Hanuman saw Bharata dressed in tree bark and having matted hair. Bharata had been living in a small cottage, subsisting only upon fruit and roots, and he appeared to be very miserable and emaciated.

Hanuman approached Bharata and announced, “I have come here as a messenger from Rama. He inquires about your welfare, and He wants to inform you that He will return to Ayodhya very soon.”

When Bharata heard these nectarine words, his face lit up with great delight. Having become exhilarated with transcendental emotion, he suddenly fainted onto the ground. After coming to his senses, Bharata stood up and embraced Hanuman with great satisfaction. While bathing Hanuman with torrents of tears, Bharata said, “Because you have brought me this wonderful news, I will immediately reward you with 100,000 cows, 100 villages and 16 virgin girls to marry. Please sit down and tell me everything that happened during Rama’s exile.”

Hanuman narrated everything. When he heard about Rama’s immanent return, Bharata exclaimed, “My long-cherished desire is finally going to be fulfilled!”

Bharata then ordered Shatrughna to make all the arrangements for Rama’s reception. Sumantra and the other ministers soon arrived at Nandigrama, riding upon elephants, and Kaushalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi came riding on palanquins. Engineers and work crews also arrived, to begin constructing a new road connecting Nandigrama with Ayodhya.

After all the arrangements were made, Bharata picked up Rama’s sandals, a white royal umbrella and chamaras. Then, accompanied by many brahmanas, he went out from his cottage amidst the blowing of conch shells and beating of drums, to wait for Rama’s arrival.

Meanwhile, because the news had spread like wildfire, practically the entire population of Ayodhya came to Nandigrama in the expectation of seeing Rama. But then, after some time, when there was still no sign of His arrival, Bharata told Hanuman, “I hope that you are not exhibiting your frivolous monkey nature by joking with me.”

Hanuman then pointed out to Bharata clouds of dust in the distance that were being raised by the approaching monkeys. Just then, tumultuous roaring sounds became distinctly audible as well. When Hanuman sighted the Pushpaka chariot in the distance, he shouted, “Here comes Shri Rama!” A loud clamor arose as the restless crowd of people sighted the Pushpaka chariot, appearing like the full moon in the sky.

Then, as everyone got down from their horses, elephants and chariots, out of respect, Bharata began to worship Rama from a distance. With folded hands, Bharata recited many prayers to the Lord, and then He offered various articles. Finally, when Bharata could distinctly see Rama, who was glowing magnificently while seated at the front of the Pushpaka chariot, He bowed down with great reverence.

When the celestial airship landed, Bharata rushed forward and climbed aboard to greet His elder brother. Rama immediately got up from His seat, and after embracing Bharata with great affection, He took Him upon His lap.

Afterwards, Bharata greeted Lakshman and Sita, and then, while embracing Sugriva he said, “Although We are four, you are now just like Our fifth brother.” At this time, Rama approached His mother, Kaushalya, and lovingly clasped her feet. Then, one after another, He greeted Sumitra, Kaikeyi and Vasishtha, as all the citizens came forward to welcome Him with folded hands.

Bharata then approached Rama, carrying His wooden shoes in His hands. As He carefully placed those slippers on Rama’s lotus feet, Bharata said, “Here is the kingdom that I was overseeing in Your absence. By Your mercy, Ayodhya is flourishing and the treasury, storehouses and army have all increased tenfold. My duty is now over and so I hereby relinquish everything to You.”

After this, Rama ordered the Pushpaka chariot to return to its original owner, the god of wealth, Kuvera. That celestial vehicle then ascended into the sky, heading toward the North. When Rama sat down at the lotus feet of His spiritual master, Vasishtha, Bharata came and requested, “My dear elder brother, please install Yourself on the royal throne without further delay, and then resume a life of royal luxury.”

Rama gave His consent and so barbers were immediately summoned and His matted hair was shaved off. After bathing, Rama dressed in a royal style, while the three mothers similarly dressed Sita and the wives of the monkeys. Then, at Shatrughna’s command, Sumantra came to Rama with a lavishly decorated chariot. Rama graciously mounted upon it, Bharata took up the reins and Shatrughna held the royal white umbrella. On either side of Rama stood Lakshman and Vibhishana, waving a fan and a chamara, and from the sky, the demigods and celestial rishis glorified Him with carefully chosen words.

As Rama proceeded toward Ayodhya, a huge procession followed Him, and all the monkeys, appearing in human form, rode upon elephants. When Rama entered His capital, He saw how all the citizens had come out of their houses and lined the streets to welcome Him. Men and women, the elderly and the children gazed upon Rama as if they were getting back their long-lost lives.

While waving their cloths and jumping with excitement, the people shouted, “Our beloved prince has returned! All glories to Lord Rama, the maintainer of His devotees!” Amidst the playing of musicians and the chanting of Vedic mantras by the brahmanas, Rama reciprocated by glancing lovingly over His subjects. While approaching his father’s palace, Rama greeted His ministers and described to them the political alliances He had made with the monkeys and Vibhishana.

Rama ordered that His palace be given for Sugriva’s use, and so Bharata took the King of the monkeys by the hand and led him there. Then, at Bharata’s request, Jambavan, Hanuman, Gavaya and Rishabha brought water from the four seas while five hundred other powerful monkeys brought water from five hundred sacred rivers. These vessels of water were placed before Vasishtha.

Soon after, the rishi had Rama seated along with Sita upon a royal throne. Then, with the assistance of Vamadeva, Jabali, Kashyapa, Katyayana, Sujagya, Gautama and Vijaya Rishis, Vasishtha performed the abhisheka, and the first bathing was done by the brahmanas. Next, unmarried virgin girls got the chance to bathe Rama, and then the ministers, leading warriors, and lastly, vaishyas, one after another. After the final bathing, Vasishtha had Rama sprinkled over with herbs by the four Lokapalas and other chief demigods, who were witnessing the coronation from the sky.

When Rama sat on the golden throne bedecked with valuable jewels, Vasishtha came and placed the royal crown on His head and decorated His body with gold ornaments. This crown had been worn by all the Kings of the Ikshvaku dynasty, and was made by Lord Brahma especially for the coronation of Vaivasvata Manu.

Then, at Indra’s prompting, Vayu came and placed a garland made from one hundred golden lotus flowers around Rama’s neck. The god of air also presented a celestial necklace made of pearls and jewels. Shatrughna held the umbrella over Rama’s head while Sugriva and Vibhishana fanned Him from both sides.

At the completion of the ceremony, as the Gandharvas sang and the Apsaras danced in ecstasy, Rama gave away 100,000 cows in charity to the brahmanas, as well as 300 million gold coins and all varieties of precious jewels. Rama gave a celestial necklace of gold and jewels to Sugriva, and He gave Angada a pair of bracelets that were adorned with diamonds and vaidurya stones. To Sita, Rama presented the necklace that had been given to Him by Vayu, as well as many lavishly decorated dresses.

Sita had a very strong wish to give something to Hanuman as a token of her appreciation for all that he had done for her. With this in mind, she unclasped the necklace that Rama had given her and then looked at the Lord questioningly. Understanding her intention, Rama requested Sita to give the necklace to Hanuman and so she happily went and placed it around his neck.

All the monkey chiefs were given valuable clothing and ornaments, and in this way the coronation of Lord Rama came to a successful conclusion. Being greatly satisfied at heart, all the monkeys returned to their respective kingdoms and Vibhishana also departed for Lanka. After all had left, Rama said to Lakshman, “My dear brother, now that I have been installed upon the royal throne, I wish to install You as My successor.”

And yet, despite being repeatedly addressed by Rama in this way, Lakshman remained silent, for He refused to accept the proposal. Rama could very well understand Lakshman’s mind, and so, at last, He conferred the title upon Bharata.

Thereafter, Rama ruled the earth from His capital, Ayodhya, for 11,000 years. During that period, Rama performed numerous sacrifices, including one hundred ashvamedha-yagyas. During the reign of Lord Rama, there were no widows to lament the loss of their husbands, there were no diseases, and there were no thieves. In fact, even wild animals gave up their natural enmity and did not kill one another. All the citizens were fully righteous, and they considered Rama their Lord and master, and beyond that, their very life and soul. Everyone lived for thousands of years and had many sons. All talk was centered about Rama alone. Thus, the entire earth appeared as if it had been transformed into the kingdom of God, Vaikunthaloka.

Lava and Kush concluded their narration by saying, “Anyone who daily listens to this transcendental history, known as Ramayana, will become completely freed from all sinful reactions. This sacred narration grants prowess, longevity and victory to those who subdue their passions and hear with faith.”

“The reader of Ramayana, if a woman, will receive sons- if a king, will conquer the earth- if a traveler, will reach his destination- and if a sinful person, will be cleansed. This sacred narration should be repeated again and again, for not only does it bestow all material benedictions upon the hearer, but it pleases the Supreme Personality of Godhead, an accomplishment that is far beyond the limited interests of religiosity, economic development, sense gratification, and impersonal liberation. By the development of unalloyed love for the Supreme Lord Ramachandra, one ultimately achieves eternal shelter under the shade of His lotus feet in the eternal spiritual sky.