Book 6: Yuddha Kanda

War Book
Rejean Jenotte

Upon Hanuman’s return from Lanka, he told Rama all about his adventure; including how he had found Sita and reassured her that indeed Rama and Laksmana were on their way to rescue her. Hanuman’s tale of how he routed Ravana’s city was of special interest to all those present and Rama had Hanuman tell all he could about the city of the raksasas so as to be as prepared as possible for the battle that they all knew was coming.
Shortly after, with the vanaras in high spirits and Rama no longer in despair with the hopes of being able to finally find Sita, they all set out for Mahendra and the sea. It was a glorious day with even the weather seeming to feel that a great time for the universe was approaching. Laksmana sensed such omens and helped in reassuring Rama: “My brother, our time is at hand and our destinies will be fulfilled.” But all that seemed to wane in Rama’s mind as they reached the ocean and the realization of the incredible obstacle that still awaited them struck his mind. Lakshmana did his best to console his brother. Rama attempted to quell the despair in his heart and worshipped the Surya Deva.

As Rama and the vanaras were getting themselves set on the beach, Ravana sat in council with all his ministers. Still enraged that a mere monkey had come into Lanka, ransacked the city and set it ablaze, Ravana questioned his ministers as to how they were going to defend themselves against the army that was surely coming, and the impending war they would have to fight when the vanara force led by Rama arrived. Most of Ravana’s closest advisors simply spouted boastings that Ravana wanted to hear; reiterating that Lanka had the greatest army ever assembled and how could a ragtag group of monkeys led by two puny humans ever hope to defeat the mighty Ravana and his raksasas. After listening for a period of time, Ravana’s brother Vibhisana decided enough was enough and that some sense had to be brought to the council. He advised Ravana that he should give Sita back to Rama and avoid being destroyed at the hands of the vanara army and most undoubtedly by Rama himself. Without a word, Ravana then dismissed the council. The next day, Vibhisana went to visit Rama in his private chambers to attempt to talk some more sense into him. But after more pleading, Ravana snapped and yelled, “I will never give Sita up, she will be my queen and no being in this universe is going to take her from me.” With that, Ravana dismissed his brother with another wave of his hand and began making preparations for his sabha council later that day. When the council was assembled, with all the most respected and truly wise raksasas present Ravana began by telling them all of Sita. It was after his story had been told that Ravana’s enormous brother Kumbhakarna admonished him. “Why didn’t you check with all those closest to you before deciding to carry out such a plan? What you have done my brother, is completely against dharma and I am surprised Rama has not yet destroyed.” Despite his doubts, Kumbhakarna reassured Ravana that he would not abandon him. Again, after most of the raksasas had said their piece to help build up Ravana, Vibhisana let Ravana and the council knows that he felt they should return Sita to Rama. It was the last straw for Ravana, and he banished his brother on the spot, telling him to be thankful he was not to be executed. Vibhisana then spoke of only doing his dharmic duty to his brother. Along with four of his most faithful followers, he took off and flew in the direction of Bharatavarsa, where Rama and the vanaras were camped.

Vibhisana arrived at the vanara camp shortly after. Following an initially tense moment with the monkey troops, he was able to talk with Rama; explaining his position against his brother and his wish to join Rama in the fight against Lanka. Seeing the purity in the raksasa’s heart Rama accepted him with open arms; he was grateful to have such an ally because of the strategic advantages it would bring. Then came the task of finding a way to cross the ocean to Lanka. Rama decided to petition the god of the waves to part the waters and allow the vanara army to pass. But after three full days of prayer and no response, Rama felt more drastic measures needed to be taken. Unleashing a fury on the waves that had not been seen before and that frightened even Laksmana, Rama began to dry up the waters with his bow in an unfathomable display of wrath and anger. Varuna Deva, the lord of the ocean, finally appeared and claimed he would allow the army to cross if Rama rid the world of the Abhiras, a tribe that paid no heed to dharma and put the burden of their sins on Varuna Deva. Rama then capitulated, burning the Abhiras out of existence. Varuna rewarded the army with calm and supportive seas that would hold up any bridge that the vanaras would build in order to make the crossing to Lanka. The vanara named Nala was commissioned to have the bridge built. After the building of the bridge, that Nala had tirelessly accomplished, the army made its way over to Lanka across calm seas and with exuberant feelings in their hearts.

Once on the shores of Lanka, and after a peaceful night on the beach, Rama began making plans for the best deployment of the troops in their invasion of Lanka. As they departed for the city gates, Vibhisana noticed two raksasa spies, Suka and Sarana, disguised and in the midst of the vanara ranks. They were captured and told by Rama himself to go back to Ravana, and tell him all they had seen, and to prepare himself for war.

Ravana felt that he had one final chance to make Sita submit him and force Rama to abandon his mission. Using the magic, or maya, he had a perfect replica of Rama’s head created in order to convince Sita that Rama had been killed and that there was no sense in resisting any longer. Upon being shown the severed head, Sita fell into despair. After triumphantly watching her grieve, Ravana was called away; the vanara army had appeared outside the city gates. Following Ravana’s departure from the asokavana, the head vanished and Sita, not being able to contain her grief, passed out from the shock of it all. It was then that a kindly old rakshasi named Sarama, consoled Sita, informing her that the head she had witnessed was not in fact that of Rama but was conjured out of maya and that Rama was indeed alive. Rejuvenated, Sita began to pray that Rama would be granted complete victory.

The vanara army gathered outside of the gates of Lanka, with information gathered by befriended birds, Rama, Sugriva, Laksmana, and the other vanara chieftains surveyed their risks. With Vibhisana’s counsel, they made their final preparations. However, before the battle could begin, Rama decided that Angada should go to Ravana and negotiate for peace one last time, in accordance with the code of kings and dharma. As ordered, Angada took Rama’s message that all will be forgiven and no harm will come to Lanka if Ravana would return Sita to Rama. Completely enraged that Rama would send such a message and that a lowly monkey would bring such a message, Ravana snarled and ordered that Angada be tortured for being so insolent. With that, Angada roared and flew out of Ravana’s court with the guards still clinging to him. Rama clearly saw Ravana’s intentions with the outcome of Angada’s mission. And with a vision of Sita burning in his mind, he made the motion for the charge. Thus, the classic battle of the ages between good and evil began.

The vanara force seemed to be too much for the raksasas to handle after the initial rush but with Ravana’s sons and closest advisors such as Indrajit, Jambumali, Nikumbha, and Virupaksha leading the defense, the raksasas quickly regained their poise. The battle raged on and the vanaras were making heavy advances when Indrajit brought it all down in one fell swoop. Making himself invisible, he flew into the sky, casting down a nagapasa, a snake coil of darkness, upon Rama and Laksmana who were caught unaware. The two princes were bound and sent into a deep sleep. Thinking the war was already won, Indrajit was borne away to the palace to meet with Ravana; all the while being cheered and praised by the raksasa people. After their initial grief at thinking the princes were dead, the vanaras were reassured by Vibhisana that life still glowed in their bodies. Garuda then flew down to Lanka, immediately the serpent coils were loosed and slithered away to the sea. As quickly as he had arrived, the great eagle made his blessings and then flew out of the world to the jubilant cheers of the vanaras.

With their princes healed, the vanaras had renewed strength and enthusiasm. They attacked more viciously than in their first onslaught. With their relentless assaults, they killed many of Ravana’s best warriors, including Dhrumraksha, Vajradamshtra, Akampana and finally Prahastra, the Senapati of Ravana, whom was thought invincible. Upon learning of his best warrior’s demise, Ravana decided to take the field of battle himself. A ruthless battle ensued, in which many vanaras and raksasas were killed. None of the vanaras, Sugriva, and Hanuman included could withstand Ravana’s fury; even Laksmana was no match for the Demon King. It was then that Rama himself joined the fray. Fighting like an entity of another time and dimension he blasted Ravana’s chariot to pieces, leaving the raksasa lying in a heap. It all could have ended right there but Rama lowered his bow and gave some of the most hurtful words that Ravana could have ever been subject to: “Go back to your palace Ravana; I have no wish to kill a tired and helpless enemy.” That show of mercy was worse than death for Ravana. With his spirit broken, he slithered back to palace to try and salvage his pride.

After suffering the humiliation of having Rama defeat him and then adding insult to injury by allowing him to weakly retreat, Ravana sat in his throne-room wondering how a mere man could have bested him in battle so easily. It was at that point that Ravana made the decision to have his brother Kumbhakarna sent into battle. The enormous demon had recently gone for another of his six month slumbers and rousing him would be no easy task. After a series of increasingly more aggressive attempts to wake Kumbhakarna, they were finally able to awaken him by pulling out a few of his thick nose hairs and blowing conches into his ears. A large feast had been laid out for him in order to satisfy the incredible hunger that always overcame him while he was awake. He then made his way to his brother, who told him everything that had happened to that point. Unmoved by Ravana’s despair, Kumbhakarna admonished his brother, telling him that he had been warned and that even though he would gladly go into battle, Ravana should return Sita to Rama. The demon king knew his sins but it was obvious that he was not going to release Sita. It was now for Kumbhakarna to sway the battle in the raksasa’s favor. Like a monster from the worst possible nightmare, Kumbhakarna came fighting. Killing both vanara and raksasa alike, he gorged himself on the flesh of both to satisfy both his insatiable appetite and his fighting spirit. After impressive duels with Angada, Hanuman and several hundred vanaras, he finally captured the vanara king Sugriva. After a remarkable escape, in which he bit the demon on the nose, Sugriva flew back to Rama and the ranks of his army. Finally, Rama made his attack on the seemingly invincible monster. With the power of the vayavya, Rama was able to severe both the raksasa’s arms clean off and then with an arrow of unimaginable power blasted Kumbhakarna head clean off his shoulders, much to the delight of the observing gods.

In his growing despair, Ravana seemed to know that the war was not going in his favor. His seemingly invincible brother had been killed in battle and the resolve of his troops was waning. Six of his sons decided that they needed to take matters into their own hands. Devantaka, Narantaka, Trisiras, Yuddhomanta, Matha, and Atikaya, all decided to head into the war in an attempt to swing the momentum back to the raksasas and restore their father’s confidence. Alas, the day was not to be theirs as they were all systematically destroyed until Atikaya was consumed to white ashes by a brahmasakti from Laksmana.

All hope for victory now seemed to rest on Ravana’s last remaining son, Indrajit. With unimaginable power, Indrajit was able to strike the entire vanara army down with a brahmastra. They were only saved by Rama and Laksmana, who absorbed most of the weapon’s power onto themselves. Thus, they all were dropped into a deep sleep that could conceivably last for eternity. It was only Vibhisana, Hanuman, and Jambavan who escaped the wrath of the brahmastra. In order for the vanara army to be roused, Hanuman had to fly to Osadhiparvata and bring back the four osadhis. With all his power, he ripped the mountain from its foundation and carried it back to Lanka. As soon as the scents of the osadhis filled the air, the army, along with Rama and Laksmana were awoken with renewed vigor. The advantageous outcome of the osadihis for the vanaras was that all the slain raksasas were not revived, since Ravana had all the dead cleared from the battle field and burned. The remaining raksasas had been celebrating the whole time thinking that the vanara army was defeated, thus they were unprepared when Sugriva sent several of his finest warriors to the city, where they set fire to many of the buildings.

In an absolutely livid state at being caught unprepared again, Ravana sent his two nephews, the sons of Kumbhakarna, out to face the vanaras with their legions. These particular skirmishes proved to be ill-fated for the raksasas as well, as both princes of the demon city were killed by Sugriva and Hanuman. Again, it all seemed up to Indrajit, who had a vile plan in store for Rama and his allies. With the power of maya, Indrajit was able to invoke an illusory Sita, which he took to the battlefield and proudly displayed to his enemies. Once he was sure that they knew it was Rama’s wife, he thrust his sword into her chest, killing her. When Rama was informed that as far as anyone could tell, his wife had been murdered he simply fainted from the shock and grief. But Vibhisana knew better. Knowing the dark sorcery, he took a force, including Laksmana, to Nikumbhila to stop Indrajit from completing the yajna, which would make him invincible and doom Rama’s cause.

It was at Nikumbila that one of the epic duels of all time occurred. Once the vanaras arrived, and subdued Indrajit’s force, Laksmana and the raksasa prince squared off against one another. It was Vibhisana who first scorned his nephew for allowing himself to follow in the footsteps of the absolute evil. Rama was on the flip side, the absolute in valor, truth, compassion, and dharma. Indrajit, overcome by fear and rage, attacked with a force most warriors couldn’t even imagine. But Laksmana was completely up to the challenge. Using his chariot, Indrajit was able to take the battle to the air, and Laksmana had the aid of Hanuman, on whose shoulders he stood. With extraordinary skill, the two warriors engulfed one another. The battle turned when Indrajit’s chariot was brought down by a group of vanaras. Once on the ground, Laksmana invoked the aindrastra, relucent ayudha and with a prayer for his brother Rama, severed Indrajit’s head from his body. Laksmana was brought back to Rama as a hero, the battle was described to his brother in complete detail and Indrajit was even praised for his prowess and skill.

Ravana was heartbroken and enraged by the death of favorite son. He was then informed by his last trusted minister, Suparsva that the next day would be amavasya and his power would be at its peak. Hope once again flashed in his eyes. With his chariot prepared and his Mulabala legions behind him, Ravana made his way to the battlefield. The procession to see him off was truly worthy of such a warrior. With his confidence restored and the rage in his heart that was overcoming him, Ravana confronted Rama and the vanara army. When the duel began all that saw were instantly awestruck and rendered motionless. Every vanara and raksasa on the battlefield immediately stopped engaging one another to gaze at the epic confrontation. Using every mantra and astra imaginable, the battle raged, each warrior proving to be up to the challenge of the other. They countered each other’s magic and arrows with ease until finally all the other warriors once again advanced to try to tip the balance of the battle. Laksmana was struck a huge blow when he cut down Ravana’s chariot with the help of Vibhisana. The effect was not as it seemed however. Ravana cast a sakti at his brother and with no regard for himself, Laksmana leaped in the weapon’s path. It struck him down like a thunderbolt. The battle disengaged as Ravana fled from Rama who became almost demonic with rage himself. The task was now to somehow revive Laksmana. Hanuman once again made a flight of salvation. This time he brought the mountain of Sanjivini. With the visalyakarani herb, Laksmana was revived and just in time, for Ravana had returned from the palace to continue the war. This was it. Rama knew that now was the time for complete victory. Rama was given the use of Indra’s own chariot, and he took to the air to vanquish the demon king once and for all. The epic duel continued as none could have reckoned. But the longer it went on, it was clear Rama had the upper hand, as his speed and his youth began to overwhelm Ravana. The human prince finally struck what seemed to be the death blow as he blasted Ravana’s central head from its neck. But another more frightening head emerged from the neck, and the raksasa fought on with renewed strength. Rama, realizing that beheading would not defeat his adversary, invoked the ultimate in all weapons, the brahmastra. With a prayer and all his might, he let loose the astra. It flashed across the sky brilliantly until it smashed into Ravana’s chest, destroying his heart. Rama had triumphed. Ravana was still brilliant, even in death. With respect for his foe, Rama had the raksasa offered tarpana for his death.

Shortly after the war had ended, Hanuman was to return Sita to Rama. He had her cleaned up and brought before her husband. She cried out in joy when she was presented before Rama, but Rama was not receptive. Shockingly, he coldly informed Sita had he merely fought this war for the sake of dharma, and not for her. Then, he even had the audacity to question her chastity and faithfulness to him. Unable to cope with Rama’s words, Sita was overcome by grief. Not wanting to live after her honor had been destroyed by the very man who was supposed to support and trust her, she had Laksmana build a pyre so she could end her life by fire. She stepped into the fire as all those around screamed for her to saved. But no one was prepared for what happened next. Brahma himself appeared before the host that was gathered and in a voice that only the creator can utter, told Rama that he was in fact the avatara of Visnu. Agni, the god of fire, then stepped out of the flames with Sita in his arms, completely unharmed. With her chastity confirmed by the most extreme of tests, Rama burst into tears and embraced his wife. The miracles continued as Dasaratha himself appeared to congratulate his sons and give them his final emotion filled blessing. Everyone rejoiced, victory had come the long journey home could now begin.

Everyone made the journey back to Ayodhya with the ksatriyas. The people of Ayodhya greeted Rama like the magnificent king he soon to become. Happiest of all was Bharata, who had lived like a hermit since Rama’s departure fourteen years earlier. All was forgiven to Kaikeyi, as Rama explained that all people are instruments of fate’s design, and she was simply playing the tune that she was assigned. Rama’s coronation as king followed in a glorious ceremony of that made the heavens envious. It was at that point that the month long celebrations began. After the most perfect month in memory, the homesick guests made their departure, and Rama crowned Bharata his yuvaraja. Thus, Rama’s quest was complete and his glorious reign began, where he ruled for ten thousand years.