The Army Moves Forward | RAMAYAN

 

60. THE ARMY MOVES FORWARD 


RAMA heard Hanuman with heart and eyes overflowing and, when he had come to the end of his narrative, said: 

"The deed done by Hanuman none else in the world could even conceive of attempting, crossing the sea, entering Lanka protected by Ravana and his formidable hosts and accomplishing the task set him by his king not only fully but beyond the fondest hopes of all." 

And it saddened him to think that it was not in his power to reward Hanuman at all adequately for the supreme joy he had brought. "O Hanuman, let this embrace of mine stand as an acknowledgment of all that my heart feels of gratitude for your great service to me." 

So saying while his whole being thrilled with grateful love, he took Hanuman into his arms and clasped him to his breast. 

"Sugriva," he said, "Hanuman has indeed wrought a wonder. He entered Lanka so strongly guarded by the Rakshasas. He has discovered Sita and, by consoling her, preserved her life. Bringing back good news of her, he has saved my life also. But how are we now going to cross the sea? How can our huge army reach the other shore? Before we can attack Ravana's city and the Rakshasa's army, we have first to cross the sea. I see no way of doing it. Our joy in Hanuman's achievement and the good news he has brought is overlaid by anxiety about our future course." 

But the Vanara king said: "What is this, my Lord Rama? What need is there for dejection? Here are my warriors, ready to lay down their lives for you and let it be our joy to transport you and Lakshmana to Lanka. Have no doubt that we can do it. The moment Hanuman saw Lanka, you may take it the fortress has fallen. Doubt only makes the warrior weak and afraid and should be cast aside. Our victory is certain. The feeling of confidence in my heart at this moment is a good enough omen for me." 

Thus Sugriva reassured Rama, and inspired him to action. Then Rama and Hanuman discussed matters about Lanka, the town, the fort, the moat and other defences. Understanding this, Hanuman described the wealth of Lanka, the happy lives of the Rakshasas, their confidence in Ravana and their affection for him. 

He told Rama of the might and size of Ravana's army; the strength and structure of the fortress; the alertness of the sentry; the moats, walls and gates, catapults and drawbridges, the care and thoroughness of all the arrangements for defence. He also explained how the coast too was carefully guarded so that no enemy ship could approach it. 

"And yet you may be certain," he said, "our Vanara army is fully equal to the conquest of Lanka. We have with us peerless warriors like Angada, Dwivida, Mainda, Jambavan, Panasa, Nala and Nila. We have an enormous army. We shall fly in the sky and without touching the ground destroy Lanka. Its mountains and forest defences are nothing to us. We shall raze the city to the ground. Fix the auspicious time and give us the order to start." 

Under the star of triumph, Uttara Phalguni, at high noon, the army set forward towards the southern sea. Good omens greeted them. 

As they marched, Rama, Sugriva and Lakshmana went conversing with one another. "If only Sita could know that we have set out," said Rama, "it would encourage her to keep life going." 

Scouts who knew the way went ahead, looking out for enemies lying in ambush. They led the army through regions that could provide food and drink for the huge army. With speed the army crossed mountains and forests. 

The Vanaras sometimes carried Rama and Lakshmana on their shoulders so that the march might be speedy. Every moment the enthusiasm of the Vanaras increased. They jumped and roared and sported. Rama could hear them saying to one another: "I shall kill Ravana! I shall meet and kill Ravana!" 

Nila and Kumuda went ahead reconnoitering in front of the army. Strong warriors were kept in the rear, guarding it from behind. King Sugriva, Rama and Lakshmana were in the middle. Rama gave strict orders that the army should inflict no harm or hardship on the towns and villages on the way. The noise of the marching army was like the roar of the sea and filled the eight quarters. The dust they raised covered the sky. 

When they came to the Mahendra Mountain, Rama climbed the peak and surveyed the sea. 

"We should now think and decide," he said, "how the army can cross the sea. Till then let it camp and rest in the forest." And Sugriva passed the order to the commanders. The Vanaras camped in the forest by the seashore. 

When Sugriva, Rama and Lakshmana had satisfied themselves that the whole army had settled in comfort, the two brothers retired apart. 

Rama said: "If a person loses a dear thing, people say that time will enable him to forget about it and he will cease to grieve. But Lakshmana, this is not what I find." 

Dejection again seized Rama for the thought of Sita and her condition preyed on his mind now more than ever before. 

"When Ravana seized Sita and carried her off," Rama said, breaking down with fresh grief, "she must have cried aloud 'Ha my Lord! Ha Rama! Ha Lakshmana!' But she saw no one coming. We failed to go to her help. Every time I think of the suffering she then must have gone through, my grief swells up afresh. What am I to do? Like the limbs of one who has drunk poison, my whole body burns with pain. She is held in the grip of the cruel Rakshasis and she is in great anguish. Janaka's daughter, the bride who entered the home of great Dasaratha, she lies on the bare ground, a prisoner surrounded by Rakshasis!" 

"Rama!" said Lakshmana, "cease from sorrow. Soon we shall destroy Ravana and rescue Sita and take her home to Ayodhya. She will enter the city like the goddess of chastity. Give up your grief. Arm yourself with courage."





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