Serpent Darts | RAMAYAN



RAVANA as duly informed that Rama's Vanara host surrounded Lanka like a tumultuous sea. In an angry mood he went up the tower of his mansion and surveyed the scene. On every side he saw Vanara warriors who had armed themselves with trees and boulders. He wondered how he could destroy this vast invading force. 

At the same time, Rama saw the City of Lanka guarded by the Rakshasas. He could see with his mind's eye the sad figure of Sita held captive within those walls. He ordered an immediate assault. 

Shouting: "Victory to the Vanara king! Victory to Rama and Lakshmana! Polish off the Rakshasas," the Vanara army rushed on the doomed city. Some hurled big boulders against the fortress wall and on the city gates. Others armed with huge trees torn up by the roots rushed on the Rakshasas. 

Then Ravana sent forth a big army. He commanded it to go out and slay at once all the Vanaras. They beat their drums and blew their trumpets till the sky resounded. They fell upon the Vanaras. The Vanaras used boulders and trees and their own nails and fists to oppose the Rakshasas. Thousands fell dead on either side. The field was covered with blood and mangled bodies. 

Besides this gruesome engagement, there were many duels between individual warriors. Angada encountered Indrajit like Rudra against Yama. There was a duel between the Rakshasa Prajangha and Sampati, one of the companions of Vibhishana. Hanuman fought a duel with Jambumali, Nila with Nikumbha, Lakshmana with Viroopaksha, and so on. 

The chariot and horses of Indrajit were destroyed and Angada received a blow from the mace of Indrajit. Jambumali hit Hanuman with his weapon and Hanuman smashed his chariot to pieces. The Rakshasas concentrated their attack on Rama, and fell in thousands under his arrows. 

Vidyunmali aimed his darts at Sushena. The latter smashed with a rock the chariot of the Rakshasa. Vidyunmali jumped out with his mace and attacked Sushena who crushed him to death with a rock. In this way many warriors fought and many died. 

The battle raged throughout the day. And at night the Rakshasas would not stop fighting. The battle became fierce. Blood flowed in streams. There was terrible slaughter on both sides. Angada attacked Indrajit, slew his horses and charioteer and smashed the chariot. The Vanaras admired the skill and strength of their prince and raised shouts of joy. 

All the warriors in the army praised the Vanara prince's prowess. Indrajit lost his temper along with his chariot and resorted to sorcery. Making himself invisible he aimed many darts at Rama and Lakshmana who were greatly harassed at this attack from a foe whose whereabouts no one could discover and who seemed to shower deadly missiles from all sides. 

Then Indrajit shot serpent darts at Rama and Lakshmana. Bound by them, they could not move and lay helpless on the battlefield. They looked at one another, wondering what to do. Lakshmana's grief at Rama's plight was great. As for the Vanaras they stood round in mournful bewilderment. 

Indrajit congratulated the Rakshasa army and returned to the city. Exulting in his victory, he went to his father and announced that the story of Rama and Lakshmana was over. Ravana was beside himself with joy. He embraced his son and praised his prowess. 

The Vanara warriors wounded and downcast, seeing Rama and Lakshmana laid low, concluded that all was over. Vibhishana, who saw Sugriva standing helpless and forlorn, put courage in the Vanara king. "It is foolish to lose hope," he said. "Look at Rama and Lakshmana. Their faces are still bright. They are not dead. Be not afraid. Soon they will recover from this swoon and resume fighting." 

The chief took heart and did everything to save the army from panic. The ranks were reformed with their respective chiefs. Meanwhile Ravana had it proclaimed in Lanka that Rama and Lakshmana had been slain by Indrajit. He sent for his women and said to them: "Go at once and inform Sita that Rama is no more; that the two princes lie dead on the battlefield and the Vanara army is destroyed. Also, to convince her finally, take her in the Pushpaka Vimana and show her the battlefield from above. Let the obstinate one see for herself what has happened. Seeing that she has now no one to look to besides myself, she will turn to me." 

The Rakshasis did as they were told. From the Vimana Sita saw the field of battle. She saw Rama and Lakshmana lying motionless on the ground with their weapons scattered by their side. She was filled with grief. She thought that it was now all over and cried: "To this end has fate brought me, giving the lie to the predictions of saints and astrologers that I would live as a happy wife and mother and a glorious queen. Poor Kausalya! Who shall console you now. Like one who, having, crossed the ocean, gets drowned in a little pond, these warriors, who had done so much, lie dead now. Oh princes! How did your divine weapons fail you. Alas, all-powerful is destiny!" 

When Sita was thus in the desperation of utter sorrow, Trijata, her Rakshasi companion, who was looking closely at the motionless figures of the princes, suddenly burst out: "Dear Sita, there is no cause for grief. Neither your husband nor Lakshmana is dead. Look at their faces. Is this how the dead look? They are bound by a charmed weapon and are unconscious for a while. Look at the orderly array of the army. Have courage. Be not frightened." Her words fell like nectar in Sita's ears. The Vimana returned to Lanka and Sita was taken back to the Asoka Vana. 

In time the force of the arrows charged with sorcery weakened. Rama opened his eyes and sat up. Though sorely wounded, he recovered his strength by an exercise of will power and sat up. He looked at his brother lying on the ground and cried out: "Alas! What is the use of victory now for me? Why did I bring you, dear brother, with me to the forest and get you killed like this? How can I return without you to Ayodhya? You used ever to console me in my sorrow. You are silent now when I face the greatest sorrow. How can I survive you? Where in the world is a warrior like you? One can replace anything lost, but where can I find anyone to fill your place? Like Kartaviryarjuna with his thousand hands, you with your two hands discharged showers of arrows and slew the Rakshasas. How could death come to you? You came with me into the forest, and now I shall repay my debt to you by joining with you to the abode of Yama. I confess defeat. The word I gave to Vibhishana cannot be fulfilled. Oh Vanara king! Return to Kishkindha with all your warriors. You have worked hard for me. You have fulfilled all the duties of friendship. You have my gratitude. But there is no use in more of you dying. Go back to your city. Let me perish here." Thus did Rama lament in helpless grief. 

Then Vibhishana arrived there, mace in hand. Seeing his huge dark form, the Vanaras imagined it was Indrajit again and started to fly. 

In another part of the battlefield Sugriva and Angada were discussing. "Why are the Vanaras thus beginning to scatter in fear? What has happened?" asked Sugriva. 

Angada answered, "Do you not know that Rama and Lakshmana are lying wounded?" 

Sugriva said: "It is not that. Look at the way they are running helter-skelter. There must be some other reason for it." 

Then he learnt that the Vanaras, who had suffered at the hands of Indrajit, mistook Vibhishana for him and were frightened. He sent Jambavan to rally the troops by disabusing them of this fear. Vibhishana looked at Rama and Lakshmana. When he saw them wounded, covered with arrows all over, and unable to fight, he broke down crying: "It is all over. What more is there to do?" 

Sugriva turned to Sushena, his uncle, and said: "Take Rama and Lakshmana to Kishkindha. I shall kill Ravana, redeem Sita, and bring her there." 

Sushena answered: "There are herbs which can heal the wounds of the princes and restore them to health. Some of us know where these herbs are to be found. Here is Hanuman. If you send him, he will fetch the herbs." 

As they were speaking, the sea and air were churned up by a mighty wind and the great bird Garuda burst into view. When Garuda arrived, the serpent darts that covered Rama and Lakshmana disappeared instantaneously. They were all venomous serpents which had become arrows through the magic of Indrajit and had bound the princes' bodies. 

When their inveterate and dreaded enemy Garuda appeared, they took flight. Then Garuda gently stroked the bodies of Rama and Lakshmana and restored to them their full strength. The wounds were all healed and they rose up, stronger and more radiant than before. 

And Rama asked: "Who are you, my benefactor?" He did not know that he was Vishnu and Garuda was his own bird on which he always rode. 

Garuda answered, "I am your good friend, and old companion. Glory is yours! Let me go now. When the battle is ended, we shall know each other better." Saying thus Hamsa bird flew away. 

Seeing Rama and Lakshmana fully recovered and ready for battle, the Vanaras were enthusiastic once again and resumed attacking Ravana's fortress.



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