SUKA, the Rakshasa scout, went and reported to Ravana: "I did my job according to your instructions. But my efforts were fruitless. They were rough with me and made me feel thankful to be allowed to come back. Rama, to whom it was sport to slay Viradha, Kabandha, Khara and others, has arrived with the army of Sugriva. They have somehow come to know of the place where Sita is held captive. The bears and monkeys have crossed the sea and are standing ready for battle before Lanka. The visible earth is covered with this army. There is nothing to be gained by discussions and debates. Their strife can only be quenched with our blood, Oh King! Consider well what needs to be done, and do it." 

And then he added with fear, in a suppressed voice: "We may yet escape if Sita is restored." 

Ravana was enraged. "What did you say?" he cried. "Let no one talk to me of Sita being restored. They do not know my strength who talk like this. I can slay the gods, the Vanaras, the Gandharvas and the Yakshas. My darts can burn up Indra himself and Yama too. Wait and see how this wretched fellow Rama and his army will be destroyed." 

Ravana believed what he said. He had dwelt long on his previous achievements and, filled with pride, had become foolishly obstinate. 

Then he sent for two of his ministers and told them: "Scouts have come and reported that a large army has built a causeway to Lanka and has come over here. This is indeed strange news, but as yet nothing serious has happened. Go and observe the enemy and bring me a full and detailed report of their strength." 

Accordingly, the spies assumed the shape of Vanaras and coming to Rama's camp and mixing with the other Vanaras looked all around. But Vibhishana, discovering their disguise, caught hold of them and produced them before Rama. They pleaded that they were mere messengers sent by their king and prayed for release. 

Rama said: "Show them our army. Let them have a good look around before they return. Give them free and full opportunity to see our strength. And, Oh you Rakshasa messengers! When you go back to Ravana, tell him, 'The strength on which you relied when you carried Sita away is to be put now to the test. Your fortress, your city and your army will be destroyed, Rama's darts will pierce your body.' Yes, convey this message to your king." 

The spies heard Rama's words and agreed to convey them to their master. Then, impelled perhaps by force of habit, they said: "Victory to thee!" The Vanara army took this to be a fine omen. 

The spies went back to Ravana and said: "O King! We were discovered by Vibhishana and were in fear of death but Rama would not let them kill us and he ordered our release. King! Our enemies are determined. Rama and Lakshmana, Sugriva the Vanara king and Vibhishana, they are all of one mind. It is difficult for us to prevail against an army led by such warriors. We have seen Rama, son of Dasaratha. He impressed us as being by himself strong enough to destroy our city and army. We have seen the courage of the Vanaras and their eagerness for battle. It is not expedient to try the fortune of war with them. It seems best to restore Sita to Rama. Do consider what should be done." 

Of course the advice was sincere and well meant, but Ravana could not control his fury. He said: "Even if the whole world turns against me, I shall not yield to fear. Even if all the Devas, Gandharvas and Vanaras join together to oppose me, I shall not return Sita. Because you were thrashed by the enemy, you give me this cowardly advice. Faint hearts! Where is the foe who can vanquish me?" 

Having said this, he went to his high tower and himself surveyed the enemy's strength. His ministers and officers were with him. 

Those who had gone out to reconnoitre described at length the Vanara chiefs and the army behind them. They recounted the strength of that huge army of bears and monkeys gathered together from the farflung forests, mountains and river-valleys of the world. 

They spoke of their physical strength and courage, their firm devotion to Rama, their unity and eagerness to slay the Rakshasas. All those that had gone confirmed this. "Look!" one of them said. "That majestic and graceful youth with matted locks and bow in hand is Rama. See how he looks round him with eyes of love and command and how his glances seem to brighten the quarters and to fill all with devotion and confidence. The mighty armed warrior near him is his brother Lakshmana, a peerless bowman and Rama's second soul. And look! Next to him is Sugriva, wearing Vali's garland. He is the equal of Vali himself. There, next to him you see Vibhishana, your brother. It is not easy to vanquish such warriors. Consider well and take all steps necessary for victory in such a situation." 

As the ministers extolled the strength of the enemy, Ravana's rage grew more and more furious. This is the way of a tyrant. The wise king is never angry with those who bring him true information or with ministers who give him good advice for his welfare. But now Ravana's mind was confused. He had no use for true facts or good advice. 

His thought followed a strange line. He judged Rama by his own character. He thought that, if Sita could be made somehow to yield to him, Rama would return home disgraced and broken hearted. Hence be resolved to make one last attempt with a different technique. 

He sought the help of a Rakshasa sorcerer. "Oh, Lightning-Tongue!" he said (that was his name), "prepare a head which looks so exactly like Rama's that it will deceive Rama's nearest and dearest into believing it is his. When I send for you, come to the park where Sita is incarcerated and place it before her." 

The sorcerer agreed to do as he was bidden. 

Then Ravana went once again to the Asoka Park and tried to beguile Sita. "Your husband and his army have been destroyed." be said. "My warriors crossed the sea and attacking Rama and his monkeys, when they were tired and asleep, killed them all. A warrior has brought the head of your husband for me to see. Why do you still persist in your obstinacy? Join my wives now and reign as their chief. Take my advice and become the queen of Lanka." 

Then he ordered a Rakshasa to fetch Vidyut-Jihva, the sorcerer. The conjurer came and placed before Sita a head that looked exactly like Rama's. 

Startled by the sight, Sita cried, "So then, is this my fate?" and broke into hopeless lamentation. 

Meanwhile, Rama's army had come close to Lanka and the ministers and generals sent word to Ravana desiring an immediate interview. Ravana, therefore, had to leave Sita at once and go to the Assembly Hall. 

Ravana's presence was necessary to keep up the sorcerer's illusion. So, when he left the place, the, apparition of Rama's head vanished like smoke. Sarama, who was a lady of the royal household posted as a companion of Sita, consoled her explaining the illusion. She said: "No one has killed Rama. He has reached Lanka at the head of a great army. They have built a wonderful causeway across the sea and are all over Lanka like a submerging sea. The Rakshasas are panic-stricken. Ravana is only trying to deceive you through sorcery." 

Sarama went on to inform Sita: "Several ministers advised Ravana to restore you and save himself by unconditional submission. But he would not listen to them. 'I may perish in battle,' he said, 'but I will not bow, a suppliant before Rama. I shall never return Sita and sue for peace.' Holy lady! No harm can come to you, Rama will surely triumph and this wicked one will perish." 

Even as Sarama was speaking, the noise of the drums and trumpets sounded by the Vanara army reached Sita's ears and filled her with joy. She knew that Ravana's end was near. The Rakshasas in Lanka heard the same noise and trembled in fear. 



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