BESIDE themselves with joy at the sight of Hanuman, the Vanaras assembled on the Mahendra peak. And the veteran Jambavan welcoming the son of Vayu with great affection, spoke on behalf of all. 

"We are eager to hear a full account of your journey and its triumphant conclusion. More particularly, we are anxious to know how you discovered Sita. How is she now? What is the state of her mind and body? And dear son of Anjana, tell us about Ravana's state and behavior. After knowing everything we shall be in a position to consider and decide what needs to be done next. " 

Hanuman tendered mental salutations to Sita and began his story. 

"You know how I sprang into the sky from this peak. As I was flying over the sea, a golden mountain rose suddenly above the surface of the water. I thought it was something rising up to obstruct me and I gave it a flick with my tail. Meekly receiving the blow, the mountain said in a sweet voice: 'My son, I am no enemy. I was saved by your father from the dire wrath of Indra and am ever greateful to him. I now live in safety sheltered by the sea. In olden days, we mountains had wings and flew hither and thither in the sky and the world was in dread of us. Then Indra, to rid the world of this terror, relentlessly pursued us and cut off our wings. It was from this common fate that your father rescued me. You are engaged in the most fatiguing task of flying across the sea. I have come up here to offer you some rest. Stay here for a while and then fulfil Rama's purpose.' I declined the offer for lack of time and, taking leave of him, went on my way." 

Thus, in proper sequence and without omission, Hanuman recounted all that happened during the passage and in the city of Lanka. He told them how he searched for Sita in vain in Ravana's palace, how he found her at last in the Asoka Vana, how Ravana sought and importuned her and was spurned by her. He narrated what dire threats Ravana held out, how the Rakshasis teased her and drove her to think of putting an end to her own life, and how it was at this juncture that he approached and gave her news of Rama and hope and interest in life. 

With tears in his eyes he told them what a divinely precious soul Sita was and how nobly she had borne herself. Then he narrated how he destroyed the park and killed the Rakshasa warriors, how he was finally bound by Indrajit and produced before Ravana. He described what took place at the interview, and how as a punishment for his boldness of speech they set fire to his tail, furnishing him thereby with a great torch with which he set their city ablaze. 

On such occasions, when a character has to recapitulate past events, we can see Valmiki's skill in retelling the story in beautiful words. This is a source of special pleasure to those who read the Ramayana as a religious exercise. They do not dislike such repetitions. Indeed it is one of the special charms in a large epic. But I have abridged the recital to suit the general reader who has no time or taste for an oft-repeated tale however edifying. Those who wish to avert some calamity or desire success in some great undertaking usually make a Parayana (devotional reading exercise) of the whole of the Sundarakanda, the canto dealing with Hanuman's expedition to Lanka. It is believed that the same result can be obtained even by a Parayana of only this chapter where Hanuman relates to the Vanara warriors all that happened between his crossing and recrossing the sea. 

After this full narration of the happenings, Hanuman proceeded: "Our efforts have been successful so far because of the power of chastity of Sita who is chastity incarnate. When I think of her I wonder how the Rakshasa could seize and carry her away and yet escape being burnt to ashes. But Ravana too had accumulated great power through his tapas. Even so, Sita could have reduced him to ashes if she had chosen, but she patiently endured all this, because she wanted the punishment to proceed from her lord. And now what is your advice? Shall we go straight to Lanka, destroy Ravana and the Rakshasa hordes, recover Sita and restore her to Rama? It is not as if we have not the strength to do this. Single-handed I can destroy them and leave not a trace behind. And Jambavan too, all by himself, can utterly destroy the Rakshasas. And so can our Prince Angada; and so can Panasa or Nila; so can Mainda and Dwivida, the sons of Asvini. Yes, there are many among us who can slay Ravana and the Rakshasa hordes. Indeed I proclaimed aloud in Lanka: 'I, the messenger of Rama and the minister of Sugriva, am come to destroy you.' But while we are talking, Vaidehi, the Goddess of purity, is there under the Simsupa tree a closely guarded prisoner pining with aching heart for rescue. In her hour of despair, I showed myself to her, and comforted her with the assurance of her lord's speedy arrival. Consider well and decide what should now be done." 

Angada, listening to all this, full of indignation jumped up, saying: "I can do it all alone. And there are so many of us here, eager warriors thirsting for battle. It would be improper, after all these days, to go to Rama empty-handed and without Sita. Let us go straight to Lanka, destroy Ravana and the Rakshasa army and return to Kishkindha with Sita in our midst." 

Jambavan, old and wise, uttered a gentle protest. "No, it is not right, dear prince," he said. "We should report everything to Rama and Lakshmana and then do what they desire. Rama's purpose should be fulfilled in the manner that he desires. That alone is proper." 

All the Vanaras, including Hanuman and Angada, agreed that this was the right thing to do. They then rose into the sky and flew towards Kishkindha. 

They alighted near the protected park of the Vanara king. They made their way into it, drank honey and ate fruit, regardless of the warnings of the guards. They indulged in unrestrained revelry and ruined the beautiful park. 

Unable to stand the riotous behavior of the mirth-makers, Dadhimukha, Sugriva's uncle and keeper of the royal park, hurried to the king and complained. 

"Your protected park has been laid waste. The Vanaras that went south have returned and, alighting in the garden, are behaving outrageously. They pay no heed to my words. On the contrary, they assaulted and insulted me. They drank up and ruined all the honeycombs and plucked and ate fruit as they liked and are now lying senseless as a result of their revelry. The trees and plants are all in ruins. The king should forthwith inflict suitable punishment on these undisciplined Vanaras." 

Sugriva understood the position at once. "Lakshmana, it is clear that Hanuman, Jambavan and Angada have succeeded in their search and are celebrating their triumph in this manner." Saying this he turned to Dadhimukha and said to him: "Send them all here at once." 

Dadhimukha now understood the real state of affairs and, hastening to the Vanaras, conveyed to them the king's command.



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