The Path of Ruin | RAMAYAN

 

34. THE PATH OF RUIN


 AKAMPANA, one of the few Rakshasas who survived the great slaughter at Panchavati, fled to Lanka and seeking audience of Ravana, said: "Almost all our people who occupied Janasthana are dead and Janasthana is now an empty ruin. I alone have managed to escape with life." 

Ravana was furious with anger. He stared and violently shouted: "Who destroyed my lovely Janasthana? Was it Yama or Agni or Vishnu? I shall deal death to the god of death. I shall burn up both the god of fire and the sun. I shall strangle and suffocate the god of wind. Tell me, who was it that destroyed Janasthana and killed my men heedless that I am here to avenge? Speak out at once." 

It was ever dangerous to carry unpleasant news to tyrants. Akampana was frightened by the king's rage and said, "I shall speak, if you give me protection." He then told his tale. "Rama, son of Dasaratha, a young warrior, lion-like in fierce valor, a hero who has already acquired fame among men, fought with Khara and Dushana at Panchavati and destroyed them." 

The Rakshasa king hissed like a cobra and said: "What are you talking? How did this happen? Did Indra and the divine hosts come down to earth and fight on Rama's side?" Akampana answered: "No such thing happened, great king. Alone did Rama stand against our whole army and its commanders and destroyed them all. And Khara and Dushana too were slain. The deadly arrows issuing from Rama's bow like five-headed serpents pursued the Rakshasas wherever they went and destroyed them." And he went on to describe at length Rama's skill and speed in the use of his weapons. 

And so Ravana learnt that Dasaratha's son, Rama, with his younger brother Lakshmana was at Panchavati and that he, alone without even his brother's aid, had done it all and that no gods had come to their aid. 

"Well," said Ravana, "I do not understand this but I shall start at once. I shall destroy these little worms of men and return." And he rose. "Hear me, great king, before you go," said Akampana, and explained once again Rama's strength and courage. 

"Listen to me. No one can fight with Rama and conquer him. When I say 'No one,' I mean 'No one.' Not even you can do it. Because you have promised me protection, I dare thus to tell you the plain truth. There is only one way of killing him. His wife is with him. The whole earth holds not her equal in beauty. If you contrive to carry her off, separation from her will kill Rama; so great is his love for her. Consider how you can do this. Do not think of battle with him." 

When he heard of Sita's beauty, the Rakshasa's desire was kindled. He began to think that the defeat of Khara and his hosts was indeed a fortunate event that brought him an opportunity for gaining one more beautiful queen and wife. He welcomed Akampana's advice and said: "Tomorrow morning I shall go. I think your plan is good." 

Accordingly Ravana set out in his mule-yoked flying chariot which gleamed like the moon among the clouds as it sped fast in the air. He went straight to Maricha's dwelling. 

Maricha duly welcomed his king and inquired what urgent necessity brought him there. Ravana answered: "Hear me, Maricha. You and you alone can help me. Janasthana has been destroyed and so too the whole army I had stationed there. All this is the work of Rama, son of Dasaratha. Isn't it amazing? To avenge myself, I am resolved to carry off his wife. In this I need your advice and help." Maricha ,whose experience of Rama's prowess had seared into his soul, was horrified and tried to dissuade Ravana from his mad enterprise. 

"What plan is this? Some enemy determined to destroy you, but pretending to be your friend, has given you this plan of carrying off Sita. Whoever gave you this advice wishes the end of the Rakshasa race. It is like advising you to put your hand into the mouth of a sleeping cobra and pull out its fang. Haven't you a happy home and devoted wives? Return to them, and enjoy your life and prosperity. To hanker after Rama's wife is the highway to disgrace and destruction and the annihilation of the Rakshasa race." 

Ten-headed Ravana went back to Lanka, for Maricha's counsel appeared right to him. Ravana must have then remembered the omission in the series of boons he had secured. He had obtained immunity from the attacks of all beings except men. Rama's shafts had conquered and killed the whole army with Khara, Trisiras, Dushana and other mighty warriors. Thinking of all this, Ravana accepted Maricha's advice. 

But fate would not let him be. Ravana was seated on his throne with his counsellors around him. Majesty shone on his face like a sacrificial flame fed with ghee and his mighty body showed the scars of many wounds received in victorious battle against gods, asuras and others. 

His strength and courage were limitless, so was his adharma. He had no equal in persecuting Devas, spoiling sacrifices and carrying away women. The hosts of Devas and asuras were mortally afraid of him. He was a terror to all creatures. Enjoying wealth and varied pleasures, freed from the fear of death, the ruler of Lanka knew no master or rival and feared neither God nor sin. 

With his ten heads, large eyes and huge limbs, his figure was terrible, but it also possessed the marks of royalty. Gorgeously dressed and bejeweled as he sat on his throne, surrounded by his ministers in the midst of the splendor of the despoiled world, there suddenly appeared before him like the vision of the doom to be, his sister Surpanakha, bleeding and mutilated, a shape of pain and sorrow and shame. While all looked at her with horror struck eyes in stunned silence, her anguish broke out in burning words. 

"What a fool are you that, sunk in sensual pleasures and arrogantly secure of sovereignty.You are not awake to the deadly danger that threatens your existence at your very doors! Surely that king who is drunk with self-importance and dead to all portents that threaten his state is doomed to shame and destruction! No object is of less account or more contemptible than a ruler who falls through his own remissness. Know you not that your brothers, Khara, Dushana and Trisiras and your gallant army of fourteen thousand fierce Rakshasas have been exterminated by Rama, a mere man, and that your outpost at Janasthana has been destroyed? One moment I saw a single warrior stand proud in the glittering pageantry of war and the next, they lay dead slain by that man's arrows, strewing the ground like ripe crops devastated by a terrible hail-storm. And you see me, your own sister, disgraced, mutilated and heartbroken! Have you no thoughts of vengeance, you, a hero, a brother, king?" 

Stung by her contempt and heart-struck by her suffering and sorrow, Ravana said: "Be sure you shall have vengeance. But this Rama, who is he? What sort of man is he? What are his weapons? How does he fight? What seeks he in Dandaka forest? And how happened it that you were so cruelly mutilated?" 

She gave a description of the brothers and Sita, dwelling on the virile beauty and powers of the brothers, probably with a view to provoke the envious jealousy of the Rakshasa. And growing enthusiastically eloquent about the superlative loveliness of Sita, she said: "I have no words to describe her perfections. I have never seen such sublime beauty in any created thing, be it Gandharva or Kinnara or a daughter of man. And now, I will tell you why this ghastly outrage was perpetrated on me. On seeing this Sita, I felt that none but you deserved her and that she was fully worthy to share your bed and out of my love for you I tried to carry her off for you. Lakshmana, who was standing by, prevented it and, springing on me, disfigured and disgraced me thus. For your sake, all this I have suffered. If you wish to avenge this insult and protect the honor of the race, rise and go at once. Apart from revenge for the insult I have suffered, secure for yourself a wife worthy of you. If you capture her and disgrace Rama, the spirits of the warriors who were slain in Dandaka would be satisfied. I too shall feel that some amends have been made for the dishonor done to me. You do not know your own strength. You can easily secure Sita, and make her your own. And can you remain indifferent to the insult to your race? Khara and Dushana lie dead in Janasthana because they dared oppose Rama. Think of all this and do what is right. Save, oh, save, the honor of our race." 

Listening to these words of his sister and her praise of Sita's beauty, Ravana dissolved the council and retired to muse alone. He had to think and think again, because he remembered what Maricha had told him. He turned in his mind the pros and cons and finally coming to a decision ordered a chariot to be kept ready in secrecy. 

It was ready, his golden chariot, drawn by mules bearing demon faces. Mounting it, he passed over sea and land and cities. As he looked from his magic chariot at the sights of the summer season down below, his passion grew stronger. 

He reached Maricha's ashrama and met Maricha who, with matted hair and bark garments, lived the life of an ascetic. Seeing his king and kinsman, Maricha welcomed Ravana duly and said: "Why have you come all this way a second time and unannounced?" 

Ravana, skillful in speech began: "I am in great trouble from which only you can save me. I beg you for help. Do you know how my brothers, under my orders, ruled Janasthana and how they and their warriors knew no opposition all these years? But now this man Rama has killed them and their whole army. Without a chariot, and standing on the ground, his arrows have pierced to death all our kinsmen. Today, in the Dandaka forest, rid of Rakshasas, the rishis live fearless lives. This Rama is a worthless prince banished by his father, no doubt for some crime. He has been wandering in the forest alone with his wife, Sita. This fellow dressed like an ascetic but enjoying sense-pleasures, this renegade from dharma, proud of his strength and for no other reason, has mutilated the face of my sister and insulted our race. My sister who has suffered this pain and shame had come and complained to me. If, with all this, I sit still and do nothing, would I still be a king? To avenge myself I have decided to carry off Rama's wife from the Dandaka forest. To disgrace and punish this Rama is a duty I owe to my race. And for this I need your help. With you to help me, I have no fear. In courage, strength, skill and magic powers, none on earth can equal you. That is why I have come to you. You cannot refuse me. I will tell you how you can help me. You should turn yourself into a golden deer, a golden deer with silver spots, casting a spell on all eyes. In that shape romp in front of Sita near Rama's ashrama. True to the character of women, she will insist on Rama and Lakshmana pursuing and capturing you for her. When they are thus engaged and she is left alone, I shall easily carry her off. Sita is a most beautiful woman. Rama losing such a wife is sure to languish in sorrow and lose his manly spirit. It will then be easy to kill him and avenge ourselves." 

Maricha stared at Ravana. His face became pale and his mouth grew parched. He was frightened by Ravana's plan. With his experience of Rama's prowess and his own wisdom born of penance, Maricha saw what was going to happen. 

He knew that Ravana's sinful purpose had not the ghost of a chance of success. It was clear to him that the noose of fate was round Ravana's neck dragging him to inevitable ruin. He had spoken no doubt of the honor of the Rakshasas, of the duties of kingship and of the insult to Surpanakha. But he was really impelled by a lustful desire to possess Sita. All this Maricha saw. 

We should analyse Surpanakha's motives too. She had suffered because of her own uncontrollable carnal desire. Though it was Lakshmana who mutilated her she was not so angry with him as with Sita who stood between her and her desire and whose beauty and virtue she hated as darkness hates light. 

The one desire that now burned in her heart was to avenge herself by bringing disgrace on Sita. In order to use Ravana for this purpose, she described Sita in such glowing terms to him and kindled his lawless passion. The rest of her talk was ancillary to her main purpose. Reference to the honor of the race, the security of his empire, the slaying of his kinsmen and so on was only to serve her main purpose which was to rouse Ravana's lust and make him desire Sita and he was caught in the snare.





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