Chapter 4(a)
An Ally Accepted


ramagold.jpg (27175 bytes)Thus, Rama and Lakshmana fulfilled the deep yearnings of Sabari and filled her departing soul with bliss. They continued their journey through the forest, moving like twin lions, talking about the devotion and immeasurable dedication of the aged aspirant, Sabari. Traveling fast, they approached the Rishyamuka mountain Range. Amidst the hills of that range, Sugriva [SB 9-10-32 & 10:67-2] was residing as a refugee, with his Ministers and Courtiers. Sugriva espied the two brothers, nearing the hills and was astonished at their noble mien and mighty stride. They appeared to be Divine. Sugriva was ever on the watch for strange faces nearing his habitat, for, he was afraid, his elder brother, Vali, might torment him, even in his present home, by sending emissaries of death or distress. He had his eyes on all lines of access to his craggy residence. He was frightened at the gait and the glory of the two strangers; he was anxious to know quickly who they were and what their mission was. So, he called Hanuman to his presence and said, "Mighty hero! Have you noticed those two effulgent personalities? Do not delay any longer; go, inquire who they are and why they have come and from where. Bring me all the news you can gather. If by some chance they happen to be persons sent by Vali, give me a signal. I shall be watching for it - bend your head low over your chest. That will do. I shall immediately arrange to give up this hill for another."

Sugriva gave him various directions and suggestions to meet all contingencies. Hanuman hurried towards the strangers by leaps and bounds; reaching their presence, he fell at their feet in great reverence. He said, "O Shining Ones! You arouse deep wonder and curiosity in me. Your charming forms are attracting my mind with a strange yearning. You look so tender and innocent. Indeed, you are not mere men. Of that, I am convinced. I guess you are the Divine pair Nara-Narayana, come down on earth. Won't you tell me why you are going through this jungle, with no others to serve or guide you?" Hanuman questioned them in great humility and reverence. 

Rama appreciated the devotion and humility of Hanuman. There was a smile on his face when he replied, "We are the sons of Emperor Dasaratha, ruler of Ayodhya. We entered the forest. This is my brother, Lakshmana. My name is Rama. My wife too came with me into the forest; but, while we were residing at Panchavati she was carried away by some Rakshasa when both of us were absent from our cottage. Now, we are moving around in this area, searching for her, intent on knowing her whereabouts and on regaining her." Rama spoke to Hanuman without any inhibitions, the plain facts which could explain their presence near their range of hills. He said, "Well! I have given you my antecedents and story. I like to know about yours, too." Hanuman realized that the brothers were his own Overlords; so, he fell at their feet once again to pay respectful homage. Rising up, and standing before them on one side, shedding streams of tears in sheer joy and devotion, he could not speak at all. 

At last, gathering courage, and standing with folded arms, he said in a faltering voice: "Lord! I am a stupid ignoramus; that is the reason why I questioned you so; pardon my audacity and my foolishness, O, Monarch of Monarchs! You are asking me to tell you my antecedents and present condition, as if you are ordinary mortals who can know them only when told. Is this just? I could not know who you were, bound as I am by the Delusion which you yourselves spread over us. Lord! You are mighty and unconquerable. How can the servant be on a par with the Lord and Master? All beings are overcome and deluded by your strategy and plan! I desire to make a declaration, for which my Lord is witness. I know no other activity than adoring my Lord. When the servant is fostered and guarded by his Lord, why should he fear? The might of the Lord is the shield of the servant" Saying so, Hanuman assumed his real form. Rama was fined with delight at the sight of Hanuman; he embraced him, "You are as dear to me as Lakshmana is." He drew Him to himself and fondled him lovingly stroking his head and gently touching his forehead and face. He said, "Hanuman! I shower my Love most on those who serve me and who deem that service as the highest means of liberation". At this, Hanuman said, "Lord! Sugriva, the Ruler of the Vanara hordes, has drawn upon himself through various circumstances, the enmity of his elder brother Vali and he has been driven out of his kingdom as an exile into this forest where he has taken residence. He too is your servant. He deserves your affection and blessings. Confer Grace on him and release him from the disgrace he is now immersed in. He has the capacity and authority to send millions of monkeys all over the world to seek and find Sita. He is the Monarch of Monkeys. He can achieve victory in that undertaking." Hanuman detailed the manifold excellences and capabilities of Sugriva, and persuaded Rama to seek his friendship. When Rama decided on that step, Hanuman offered to carry them on his shoulders, right to the top of the mountain range where Sugriva was. 

Sugriva was delighted at the sight of Rama and Lakshmana. Sugriva understood the reasons why Rama had come into the forest and to him. They both sympathized with each other and appreciated each other's distress. They felt bound by common bonds of comradeship. Sugriva fell at the feet of Rama and Lakshmana, and offered reverential hospitality. Rama assured Sugriva that he would destroy his fear and remove his distress, for, he was the embodiment of compassion itself. And, Sugriva too promised to sacrifice everything, even his own life, in the service of Rama. The vow of everlasting friendship was solemnized with ritual Fire as witness. For, Fire is present as warmth and light in the heart of every living being; fire that is present in the inner consciousness can burn away any wavering or waywardness that might affect the vow. In fact, Fire or Agni (the subtle Divine Effulgence and Illumination which is the core of Fire) is the chief element in the Ramayana. Rama was born of the nectarine gift brought by the God of Fire from out of the sacrificial altar [See also: RRV, Chapter 3 and RRV Chapter 7(c)]. Sita was wedded to Rama with Agni as the Witness. Lanka was destroyed by Agni. It was in Agni that the Reality, the principle of Sita was kept in deposit while she was taken by Ravana to Lanka, and it was from Agni that she was again redeemed, when the war with Ravana ended in victory for Rama. The implication is that the heart of Rama was cleansed and rid of alloy with each contact with Agni. For, Rama is the symbol of Jnana or the Supremest Wisdom. He is the symbol of the Supremest Morality, too. So, the pact with Sugriva was affirmed and sanctified by invoking Agni (Fire) as the Witness. Lakshmana sought to deepen faith and tighten the bond, by relating to Sugriva the Truth of Rama and the mission on which he had come. 

He told him also of Sita and her Divinity. She was the daughter of the King of Mithila, he said, and so she can be won and her blessings secured, only by untiring Mathana, or Churning, or Sadhana. Listening to him, Sugriva shed tears of contrition. He said, "Master! One day, while I was engaged in exchanging counsel with my ministers, I heard the cry, 'Rama! Rama!' from the sky, from within the Pushpaka chariot, which we saw flying through space. While we were watching this strange scene, she threw a bundle tied in cloth down to where we stood. It was a bundle of jewels and so, we have preserved it intact and safe. It is very likely that the Rakshasa called Ravana has carried her away. For there is no iniquity that Ravana has not committed so far." Sugriva gnashed his teeth in anger at the monster whom he suspected as having done this foul deed. Rama asked that the bundle of jewels be brought. At this, Sugriva himself rose and proceeding to the cave where he had hidden it, he carried it to the Presence and placed it before Rama. The cloth in which the jewels were bundled was a part of the fiber cloth which his step-mother had thrown towards Sita, so that she might wear it while in exile as a recluse in the forest. Recognizing it as such, Lakshmana shed tears. Seeing him overcome, Sugriva and Hanuman also became sad. Rama loosened the knots and undid the bundle; he showed the contents to Lakshmana in order to confirm whether the jewels were those of Sita herself. Lakshmana declared that he could not identify them all, for, he had never raised his eyes and looked at Sita. "I have seen only the toe-rings that sister-in-law wore; for I used to prostrate at her Feet every day. Yes. These are the toe-rings she wore; I can vouchsafe for that. While moving through the jungles, I used to follow her and walk on her footsteps. You know that you always walked in front and I followed behind Sita. I was walking, watching her feet and so, I know these rings quite well." Sugriva and Hanuman looked on wistfully at the brothers, when they acted their roles and were deeply moved at the sight of the jewels dropped by Sita. Sugriva could not bear it any longer. He said, "Lord! Do not give way to sorrow. This day itself I shall set on foot plans to discover where Sita is, and for destroying the wicked Ravana. I shall bring Sita back and make you both happy. This is my plighted word, my sacred promise." 

Rama and Laksmana meet Hanuman, Sugriva and Jambavan
to discuss plans for the battle against Ravana

Rama expressed great satisfaction at this promise. He said, "Tell me in detail the reason why you are residing in this forest and not in your capital." At this, Sugriva described consecutively and in clear concise terms, as beads are strung on a string to form a garland or rosary, who his parents were, which his real place of residence was, what were the reasons for the enmity that grew between himself and his elder brother etc. Rama felt that the story of Sugriva was more or less a kin to his own, especially the separation from the wife and the exile from the Kingdom. He felt that Sugriva was upright and just, and that Vali deserved punishment since he had carried away his brother's wife, a crime which the code of monkey morals will not excuse. 

Rama asked Sugriva to tell him the story of his birth. Sugriva replied, "Yes. I seek to place at your feet the chronicle of the origins and fortunes of my entire clan. Once upon a time, Brahma, the Creator, created a monkey form. It was endowed with great might; but, it was ever wayward in movements and activities. So, Brahma named it Ruksharaj; when it demanded to be told where it should reside, Brahma directed, 'Live in the forest, for, there you can move as your waywardness dictates. And, when you catch a Rakshasa, kill him and save the area from his misdeeds'. Ruksharaja migrated to the southern region and followed Brahma's instructions. One day, the monkey Ruksharaja went to a lake to slake its thirst and when it dipped its face on the surface of the clear water, it saw its image in the lake. It was much concerned, for, evidently there was an enemy hiding in the lake, lying in wait for him! It roamed all round the shore of the lake, eager to catch the enemy when it popped out of the waters. The enemy inside the lake roared when he roared, gnashed its teeth when he did so; it echoed, reflected, all noise and all gestures. Unable to control himself any longer, Ruksha jumped into the lake to strangle his rival. That jump transformed him into a female! Struck with amazement, she came on shore; and turning to the Sun, she prayed for Grace. She also prayed to Indra, with great mental anguish. Through the Grace of Surya (the Sun) she got a son, that is, Sugriva, myself; and through the Grace that Indra bestowed on her, she got another son, Vali, my brother. Immediately after the birth of the two children, she became once again, Ruksharaja! Ruksha took the two babies with him and approached Brahma for instructions. He related to Brahma his entire story so that He could recollect the facts of his decision thus: "0 Vali and Sugriva! Go into the regions of the South and establish yourselves in Kishkindha. The Lord of all the Worlds, the Supreme Sovereign of the Universe, He who is known by many Names will take birth as Rama, as the son of Emperor Dasaratha of the Raghu Dynasty; he will come into the forest according to his father's command; he will engage himself in many superhuman achievements; he will also behave like an ordinary mortal. During his wanderings, he will arrive at Kishkindha where you are and form friendship with you. Seek the fortune of securing his darsan, hearing him speak and touching his feet. Your lives will be rendered blessed thereby." 

"We listened to the Voice of Brahma addressing us thus. We were delighted at the prospect that lay before us. We did not undertake any japa, austerity, ritual or yajna; all our talents and accomplishments were the direct result of the Grace that Brahma showered on us that day. When that Voice ceased, we offered homage in our minds to Brahma and reached Kishkindha. We destroyed the rakshasas who infested the forests there. One day, a rakshasa named Mayavi, the son of Maya, proceeded against us in order to wreak vengeance against us. He besieged us at midnight and created tremendous confusion. My elder brother could not tolerate even one moment the audacity of the foe. Vali rose and fell upon him with all his might; and Mayavi fled in terror. Mayavi hid himself in a cave, and Vali pursued him to the very last. I was also engaged in the hot pursuit of the wicked rakshasa, close behind Vali. As he entered the cave where Mayavi had taken shelter, Vali directed me, 'Brother! I am going into this cave to kill the enemy; watch the entrance and remain here, lest he escape'. When I asked him how long, he replied, 'Even fifteen days and nights! Keep close watch that long. And, if I do not emerge on the sixteenth day, you may take it that he has killed me; you can then return'. I waited and watched for full thirty days; by that time, the smell of blood emerged from the cave, a smell that I inferred was that of my brother's blood. I feared that Mayavi might emerge alive from the cave; so I placed a huge boulder at the mouth of the cave and knowing that it was foolish to wait any longer, I returned home. I gathered my companions and well-wishers and consulted them about the next step. We felt that Mayavi who could kill the redoubtable Vali must indeed be a formidable enemy and so, I spent the days in perpetual fright.

"The inhabitants of the capital realized that they must have a leader in these hard times when they were beset by foes on all sides. They pleaded that since Vali had died, I must step into his place. I had no inclination to accept the authority, but, they forced me into it. Shortly after, within about two or three days, Vali returned to the capital; he had slain Mayavi and rid the land of that vile foe. On finding me holding the position of ruler, Vali was filled with uncontrollable anger; he inferred that I had shut the exit of the cave with a boulder to prevent him from coming out alive, and that I had deliberately sought the position that was thrust on me. He decided to wreak vengeance on me for this. He began treating me as the lowest of the low and to impute motives for even the slightest fault or mistake. He deprived me of all powers and positions and looked down on me as if I were less than a menial of his household. He forced me out of the family home. He took my wife into his custody. One day, determined to destroy me, he fought with me ferociously. I could not stand up to his prowess; so, I left Kishkindha and took refuge here. Vali insisted that those who supported me or befriended me should not stay behind and so, they have also joined me at this place. My wife tried hard to come back to me; but, however much she tried, he did not allow her to come away. He treated her as his own wife." Sugriva's eyes were streaming tears as he related his sad story. Rama consoled him and sympathized with the plight. He assured him once again that he would protect him from harm and guard him against evil. 

Sugriva said, "I am residing on this hill, helplessly, for, this is the only place where my vengeful brother, Vali, cannot come; there is a curse laid on him by a sage which effectively prevents him from entering this region. Or else, I would have died at his hands long ago." 

Rama inquired, "Friend! How did he incur that curse?" Sugriva explained, "Master! Dundubhi, the brother of Mayavi, was a mighty hero. No one could equal him in valour and physical strength. He reveled in confrontations with mountains and the sea, in sheer joy at demonstrating his might! One day, while he was exulting on his daring exploits, standing in front of a mountain peak that he had pulverized, he heard an unseen Voice announce: "Dundubhi! Do not allow your head to swell so! Beware! There lives one who is mightier than you. He is gaily wandering on the shores of the Pampa Lake, assuming leadership and asserting his power. His name is Vali'. When these words fell on his ears, Dundubhi changed himself into a formidable buffalo and rushed into Kishkindha, where the Pampa Lake is situated. He ploughed the earth with his horns and bellowed his way through hill and dale, parading in lofty pride his impregnable power. His fury was getting wilder at every step; he cast terror all around. When he dug his horns into the earth, huge trees rolled uprooted on the ground. His ferocity quaked all hearts. While he was thus invading his region, like Rahu venturing to swallow the Moon, Vali perceived him, and, that very instant, he fell upon him. The two strange-looking foes struggled for victory, like wild tuskers entangled in mortal combat. The fight lasted more than six hours! Finally, Vali gave a mortal blow to Dundubhi; staggering with pain, he fell dead on the ground, like a mountain peak reeling to the ground during a violent earthquake. The impact was so unsettling that giant trees too lay flat on the ground along with him! Vali was so intoxicated with success that he tore the corpse apart and threw the halves far into the distance, one to the south and other to the north. But, one bleeding mass of flesh and bone fell on a hermitage, showering a rain of blood over the holy area, which polluted the ascetics peacefully engaged in meditation and recitation of sacred hymns. It was the hermitage of the great saint, Mathanga. He had gone to the river for his ritual bath. When he returned, he noticed drops of blood all over the place and soon came near the half-corpse of a terror-striking monster. He could not contain himself. His disciples and pupils, yearning to be bathed in bliss, were bathed in blood. His forbearance gave way; he halted a moment wondering who could have dared commit such a sin; his anger could not be kept under restraint; it did not allow him to look back or peer into the future. He pronounced a terrible curse! "If that vicious, sinful Vali approaches this hill or even casts his eye on this hill, may his head be broken in two". That was the imprecation he uttered. Scared by that curse, Vali is keeping away from this hill; he cannot approach this place or even look upon it. Emboldened by this circumstance, I am living here, unhampered, robbed of my wife and deprived of my kith and kin". Sugriva related his plight to Rama, with nothing held back. 

Rama was disturbed by the story of the wickedness of Vali which was tormenting Sugriva since long. He could not listen any more to the list of his atrocities. Rama could not tolerate unrighteous acts; he would not relish the description of vice. He comforted Sugriva and assured him that Vali could not escape punishment for relying solely on physical strength and material power ignoring the strength and power that one should earn through righteousness and devotion to God. He vowed that with one arrow he would fell Vali to the ground and put an end to his wicked life, even if all the fourteen worlds oppose the fulfillment of the vow. He said, "Do not cast your looks upon the face of a person who is unaffected by the sorrows of his friend, or by the absurd boast of his enemy. Do not choose a friend merely to win some temporary gain, or to satisfy some urgent desire, or to plunge into some foul behaviour. Friends must have deep love towards each other; he who has no love filling his heart, moving his mind or lighting up his face can only be a bad undesirable 'friend'. The hearts of such false friends will be crooked and contaminated. A wily servant, a greedy, miserly and evil-minded wife or husband, a false friend - these four make life painful, as when pierced by spears and spikes. Therefore, o Sugriva, do not grieve. I shall come to your rescue, to the fullest extent of my physical, verbal and mental capabilities. What does it matter how strong Vali is? You are not aware of your own strength; you are bewildered by your estimate of his strength, that is all. That is at the bottom of your doubts and fears. Well. Perhaps, you desire to be assured of my powers, before you develop confidence and courage. Ask me to accomplish any task so that your faith in me can take deep root. I shall demonstrate my strength and fill your heart with courage. When that is done, I shall fight with Vali and destroy him". 

Rama gently stroked the back of Sugriva, in order to induce him to trust him and be rid of fear and anxiety. Sugriva was eager to see the prowess of Rama; he was also wanting some prop for faith. He said, "Rama! Once upon a time, I and my brother agreed to test our strength and skill on a line of seven giant palm trees, trying to fell them one after the other, shooting a single arrow right through all of them. I felled only three; but, my brother Vali hit five and they all rolled on the ground. His capacity had that maximum measure. To defeat Vali, one should have strength beyond his. I am most eager to find out whether you have that extra might and to see how many palm trees you can fell with one arrow". 

Sugriva and his courtiers then took Rama to a place where seven mammoth palms were piercing the sky in a row. They asked him to attempt to shoot them down; they talked among themselves that since those monstrous trees were four or five times huger than the five that Vali felled, Rama must be considered strong enough to overpower Vali even if he felled two of these giants. Looking at that row, Rama smiled and calling Sugriva near him, he told him, "Sugriva! These palms are in my eyes the weakest and tiniest". Then he fitted an arrow on his bow; he felled all the seven; his arrow carried all the fallen palms up a mountain that was in the distance, blasting the rocks on the way! 

Sugriva was overwhelmed with wonder and devotion. He prostrated at the feet of Rama, exclaiming, "Rama! A hundred Valis could not have achieved this feat. I am indeed fortunate; I have no more worries in life, since I have secured your friendship! Though I am estranged from one Vali, I have today got a hundred-fold Vali as my thickest comrade! Pardon my mistake. I am ashamed that my small-mindedness persuaded me to test your powers in this manner. O! I am indeed lucky that I am blessed with the friendship of God Himself, in this form. My tale of woe has ended this day. Hope has dawned in my heart that I can soon regain my Kishkindha; I am really happy that I can again live happily with my wife and children. I am only tossed in doubt about when and how soon it can happen - within minutes, or hours or days. Of course, that depends on the will of Rama, on His Grace. It will be fulfilled the moment He decides". 

Sugriva knew that Rama alone could help him and that Rama alone had to be relied upon. He prostrated at Rama's feet and said, "Rama! Your Will, your Compassion, they are my sole refuge. When are you intending to put an end to my sorrows?" Rising again from his seat, Sugriva declared, "Listen, Rama! So long, I had labeled Vali as my greatest enemy, and shivered in fear of him. Now, I find he is my greatest benefactor. For fear of him, I took residence on this mountain range; since I was here, I could notice your arrival and meet you and be blessed by this friendship! Therefore, Vali is the root cause of all these developments. He is, indeed, my benefactor". "Rama! We fight with another person while in a dream; we hate him to the utmost; we adopt all methods to ruin him; but, as soon as we awaken and rise from bed, we know that the hatred and the struggle were false and baseless. Your Darsan has awakened me from my dream. While in that dream, I hated Vali and interpreted all his actions as inimical to me; I fought with him, in my ignorance. Now that I have seen you and had the benefit of listening to your counsel, I have risen, conscious from my dream. The touch of your holy feet has imparted the vision of Truth. My long fostered hatred and envy, greed and egoism, my enmity towards Vali and my plans for vengeance, these made me weaker and weaker. I was sunk in my single-minded yearning for a favourable moment to pay off old scores. This was the thapas, the austerity, that granted me your Grace; I got you and my agony was reckoned as asceticism, my anger was transformed into love. Lord! Bless me, pour Grace on me. I have no more desire to regain my kingdom. My wife and children have their careers marked out for them by destiny; what can I do to change the course of events? I shall no more worry about them. Enough for me if you confer on me the joy of serving you and being with you, in your presence, for the rest of my life". 

When Sugriva prayed in this strain, Rama tenderly stroked his head and said, "Son! The words you utter are indeed true. Kingdoms and power, joy and grief, anger and anxieties, properties and privileges, good and bad, are all of the stuff of which dreams are made. The proximity to God, the God-Principle in you, that alone is real. But, remember, my vow, my word, can never prove false. Whatever might happen, I shall grant you the kingdom; you cannot escape the responsibility of ruling over it. You cannot evade the fight with Vali which must take place tomorrow. Come, get ready".



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