The Battle Begins | RAMAYAN

 

67. THE BATTLE BEGINS 


THE Vanara army descended from Mount Suvela and entered the forest adjoining the city of Lanka. As the army burst in like a flood the frightened beasts and birds in the forest fled in all directions. 

Valmiki describes the scene and the event in his characteristic style. Gazing now from below at the mountain fortress and the divinely beautiful city constructed by Viswakarma, Rama was again filled with wonder and exclaimed: 

"Oh what beauty! What wealth." 

The Vanaras, for their part, noted the Rakshasa warriors' strength and readiness for battle, the thick walls and mighty engines of defence. 

From Lanka, all ready for war, the sounds of drums and trumpets issuing from the city increased the eagerness of the Vanaras for battle. The army stood in ordered divisions as instructed by Rama. 

Looking at Lanka he said: "Lakshmana! Look at the beauty of the city." 

His mind turned to Sita. She would have known by now, he thought, of his arrival with the army and her depressed heart must have revived. But he spoke nothing of this and engaged himself in the arrangements for the army. 

Suddenly, and without any noise or warning to any one, Sugriva sprang up into the sky and alighted on the terrace on top of tower in Lanka, where he saw Ravana seated clad in red royal robes like a thick black cloud seen in the red evening sky. The scar caused by the tusk of Indra's elephant, shone like a crescent moon on his chest. 

"Ravana! You are caught!" cried Sugriva. "I am a friend and servant of Rama. This is your last day!" 

And he sprang on him, knocked off his crown and gave him a mighty blow. The two wrestled together for a long time. Both were experts in wrestling. All the tricks of that science were tried by each. Ravana was at the end of his resources and so he discarded wrestling and took to magic and Sugriva seeing this disentangled himself and sprang back to where Rama was. 

The Vanara leaders, who saw the son of Surya return, shouted praises and made a great noise of congratulations at this daring-do, rash and reckless no doubt, but such as would give the Rakshasas some idea of the mettle of the foes they were up against. 

Rama too was glad to see that Sugriva had returned safe. Observing bleeding wounds on his body, he said: 

"Sugriva! I am filled with wonder and joy at this, your valorous exploit. But what you did was not right. It is not for a king to rush into risks. How could you suddenly and without consulting anyone take such a dangerous course?" 

Sugriva confessed his fault. 

"True, it was improper to rush into battle without consulting you. But when I saw the villain who had insulted Sita I was overwhelmed by anger and forgot my duty." 

The Vanara army surrounded Lanka on all sides in the manner laid down by Rama. 

Rama sent for Angada and said to him: 

"Prince! Take this message from me to Ravana. Tell him: 'Great sinner, your end is approaching. Rama waits at your fortress gate, ready for battle. Trusting to the boons of the gods, you have become proud and wicked. You have troubled the world too long and committed too many heinous sins. The time has now come for the world to be cleansed of you. If you come out into the open and fight and die in battle, your sins will be washed away and you will gain a place in the world above as a hero. But if you love your life, humbly restore Sita to her lord and beg for forgiveness. Then you can escape with life. Whatever happens, you are fit to be king no longer. The kingdom of Lanka now belongs to Vibhishana. He is worthy to rule and protect his people. If you are not willing to surrender and seek safety, then have your obsequies performed in advance. Bid final farewell to all your dear possessions in Lanka. Prepare for death. Come out and meet Rama in battle.' Go, Angada, deliver this message to Ravana." 

As instructed by Rama, bold Angada delivered his message: "Listen, Ravana. I am the son of Vali whom you no doubt remember. I have come as Rama's messenger. The time for your liberation from sin has come. You may, if you choose, die in battle and attain the swarga of brave men, cleansed of your foul sins. But if life is dear to you, you may beg it of Rama after humble surrender, and he never refuses mercy to a suppliant. If what I have heard about you is true, you will elect to fight, which means you choose to die. I would advise you to take last leave of your kinsfolk and complete your obsequies yourself, for none of your race will be left to perform them. Look your last on lovely Lanka!" 

Ravana's rage flared up like a flame. "Seize him, kill him, the villain!" he shouted. 

At once, two Rakshasas caught hold of Angada. He rose in the sky carrying these two Rakshasas on either side of him and then flung them down. 

He rose higher up and, coming down kicked and broke off the tower of the king's palace. Then with a single leap he returned to where Rama was. 

Dazed by Angada's exploit, the Rakshasas were filled with fear, but they did not disclose it. Ravana, too, heaved a heavy sigh at the sight of the broken turret. He looked on it as a bad omen. As soon as Angada returned, Rama issued orders to the army to begin the assault on Lanka.






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