VALMIKI describes in beautiful verses how the youthful warrior Aksha, the equal of the gods, rode to battle in a chariot drawn by eight horses. 

Who can put up in a different tongue Valmiki's poetry describing the beauty of forests and the terrible fury of encounters between warriors? The rhythm and grandeur of his words convey the terror and majesty of what he describes. This power is Valmiki's special gift. We can only summarise in pedestrian prose his glowing account, of the battle between Aksha, the beloved son of Ravana, and Hanuman. 

In a golden chariot acquired through tapasya rode Ravana's young son. When he saw Hanuman, seated on the stone battlement above the gateway, and noted approvingly the beautiful symmetry of his mighty limbs, and the majestic intrepidity of his look, Aksha felt that here was a foe worthy of his steel. He summoned all his strength and resolution to do him honor. 

The young warrior aimed three sharp arrows at Hanuman. They struck his body and drew blood. But Maruti's strength increased and his face shone with new splendor. He too was pleased with the prowess of the youthful Rakshasa. 

Fierce grew the battle between the two. Hundreds of arrows rose in clouds into the sky and hit Maruti. Like rain falling on a rock, they fell on Hanuman's body. Rising in the air Hanuman dodged about evading the arrows. Slipping as it were through the meshes of that deadly network of missiles and finding a favorable opening closed with Aksha. 

Hanuman admired Aksha's youthful promise and heroism, and was sorry to have to slay him, but there was no help for it for the prince seemed to get more and more formidable as the fight went on. And it was unwise to take chances with him. At last Hanuman hardened his heart and decided to destroy the youth. 

He rushed against Aksha's chariot and broke it to pieces. The horses fell dead. The Rakshasa prince stood on the ground chariotless. Nothing daunted, he rose in the air with bow and sword and attacked Hanuman. A great battle took place in the air. In the end Aksha's bones were crushed and splintered and he fell down dead. 

Hearing that the prince had been killed by Hanuman, Ravana shook with rage, but controlling himself he called his son Indrajit, the conqueror of Indra. 

"You have mastered all weapons," he said. "You have vanquished the Devas and Asuras in battle. You have by your austerities called Brahma down and secured from him the Brahmastra. There is none in the world who can oppose you. Fatigue cannot approach you. Your knowledge of battle is unique. You have attained strength through tapasya. Nothing is impossible for you. None can equal you in foresight. The Kinneras I sent and Jambumali and the five generals of our army, and your dear brother Aksha have all been slain by a terrible foe who has raided us in the form of a monkey and it is yours now to avenge them. Do not underrate him. It seems he cannot be vanquished by weapons. He cannot be brought down in wrestling. Consider well therefore what needs to be done. Do it and return victorious. The astras you have secured through tapasya can serve you at this moment. Without allowing your mind to wander, fight with concentration and return triumphant." 

Indrajit, bright like the gods, accepted his father's command with reverence and receiving his blessings went with courage and eagerness towards the Asoka Vana. 

Standing in a chariot drawn by four fierce lions and twanging his bowstring, Indrajit proceeded towards Hanuman. His chariot sounded like the wind off the monsoon. His lotus-like eyes shone victory. 

As Hanuman saw the chariot coming towards him, he was filled with joy. Indrajit too, skilful in battle, bent his bow and got his sharp arrows ready for Hanuman. Knowing that a great battle was at band, the Nagas, Yakshas and Siddhas assembled in the sky to see. 

At the sight of Indrajit Hanuman roared and increased his stature still further. Silently the Rakshasa warrior dispatched his darts. Showers of arrows began to descend as in the battle of the gods and their cousins, the Asuras. Hanuman rose in the sky and, moving with speed like lightning, struck down the sharp arrows. His roar made the quarters echo, drowning the drumbeats and the bow-twangs of the Rakshasa. 

The battle raged with increasing fury and filled all beholders with amazement. In skill and strength the two warriors were perfect equals. No matter how often he was wounded, Hanuman's strength showed no signs of lessening. Indrajit therefore resolved: "My arrows cannot vanquish this monkey. What my father said is true. He can be bound only by using the Brahmastra." 

The Rakshasa Prince sent forth the Brahmastra. At its touch the Vanara warrior lay bound and helpless. Hanuman realised what had happened. He said to himself: "I have been bound by the Brahmastra." Hanuman too had secured a boon from Brahma, and this he now remembered. 

"This will keep me bound for only one muhoorta (four fifths of an hour)," he said to himself. "I run no real risk. Let me see what the Rakshasas do to me while I lie bound and helpless. I might find here a further opportunity to function as a messenger." 

As instructed by Brahma when he gave him the gift of immortality, he surrendered himself to the Brahmastra and lay down on the ground, inactive but in full possession of his faculties. 

When they saw Hanuman thus lying helpless on the ground the Rakshasas who till then stood at a distance in fear, surrounded him and danced with joy and called him insulting names and praised their prince. 

"We shall cut you to pieces!" they shouted. "Let us eat him up. We shall drag him to the throne of our Ravana." Thus and in many other ways they shouted. 

A few among them feared and said: "This fellow is only pretending. He may get up suddenly and attack us." So they brought ropes of jute and coconut fibber and bound him hard and shouted exultingly: "Now we have bound him, let us drag him to the Lord of the Rakshasas." 

Indrajit, who discovered too late and could not prevent this foolish mistake of the Rakshasas, felt sad. 

"Alas!" he thought with sorrow. "They have undone all my work. These fools do not know the secrets of supernatural weapons. When they have thus used ropes and jute for binding him, the astra withdraws its power. The bound of the mantra is undone when physical bonds are added. Hanuman is now held only by the ropes that he can burst asunder and the Brahmastra cannot be used a second time." 

Hanuman too understood this, and knew he could spring up free if he liked. But he welcomed the opportunity to meet and talk to Ravana and allowed himself to be dragged to the king, patiently bearing all their insults and cruelties in seeming helplessness. They belabored and foully abused him, and dragged him through the streets and women and children came out to look at him and jeer.



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