Chapter 5(a)
Success in the Search


ramagold.jpg (27175 bytes)The rains stopped. The Sarad season dawned on the world. The earth shone resplendently green. Grass sprouted everywhere and soon the earth decked itself with many-coloured floral dress. Greed weakens when gladness grows; so too, the waters evaporated when the star Agasthya appeared in the sky. The mind is rendered pure and pellucid when desire and delusion disappear; so too, the rivers were rendered clear and clean. Rama told Lakshmana, "Brother! It is desirable to give a warning to Sugriva now." Lakshmana paid heed to that command, and requested Hanuman, who was a daily visitor to the hermitage, to remind Sugriva of the promised task. Hanuman was most earnest and anxious to fulfill the orders of Rama; so, he warned Sugriva immediately and effectively. He called together the leaders of the monkey hordes and initiated the arrangements. Sugriva gave every one the determination and courage needed for the execution of the task assigned. Urged by the resolution that the mission must succeed, he sent them to all the four quarters. He entrusted the over-all leadership to Hanuman himself. Led by Hanuman, the entire assembly of monkeys shouted, "Jai" to Sugriva and "Jai" to Rama, the Lord. Dancing and jumping in glee, the monkeys hurried on their different demarcated paths, inspired by Hanuman and the holiness of the mission. 

Hanuman went East with a group of followers. Sushena and Mandava proceeded North. They searched the Gandhamadana Mountain Range, the Sumeru Peak, the Arjuna Mountain, and the Nilagiri Ranges, and the caves therein, until at last they reached the shore of the Northern Sea. The group led by Hanuman were also equally earnest in their search. They cared least for sleep or food; they were ready to offer their very lives at the feet of Rama. They desired only one thing, success in their task of serving Rama. From the least to the highest, every one had the same loyalty and spirit of dedication. Reciting the Name, "Rama" "Rama" "Rama", they peeped into every nook and corner, every peak and promontory, every cave and cove, every valley and riverbank, for, they could penetrate into regions and places where men cannot enter. 

One day, they reached the shore of a broad lake. There they espied a woman deeply engaged in austerities. They prostrated before her from a distance. She opened her eyes and seeing their exhausted condition, she said, "Monkeys! You appear very tired and hungry. Refresh yourselves with these fruits" and she supplied plenty of food. When they sat around her, she heard from them the mission on which they were moving about. She said that she was proceeding to the holy place where Rama was in residence. "Listen to my story", she said. My name is Swayamprabha. I am the daughter of a Celestial Gandharva. I have an Apsaras friend called Hema. While engaged in austerities, Brahma appeared before me and asked me what I needed. He assured me that he would grant me my wish. Then I replied, 'I wish to see God as man, moving on earth!' He said: 'Be here alone. In due course, a number of mighty monkeys would arrive here and halt at your request. From them, you can know of Rama, who is God come in human form. Later, you can look on Rama himself. Ah! That boon is being realized. The first sign and the second, of its fulfillment are already evident. The first is your arrival. The second is your account of Rama's story and the place where He is in residence. Now, I am as happy as if I have already attained the third, namely, the Darsan of Rama.' The woman was immersed in unbounded ecstasy and delight and shedding tears of joy. The monkeys too were deeply moved and shed tears of delight. Meanwhile, the woman began introspecting with eyes closed. She broke the silence with the announcement, "Monkeys! On a sea-shore, in a beautiful City, at the center of a charming garden, alone, all by herself, Sita is bewailing her fate. You will see her without doubt. Be assured of this. Proceed in confidence and with courage." 

One day, during their journey, the monkeys sank in gloom and sighed, "Alas! Of the period allotted to us by our Master, Sugriva, only two days remain. And, we have not traced Sita!" Angada and the rest lamented their fate and were lost in despair. Tears rolled down their cheeks. They had come to the shore of the sea and were sad that no one of them could cross it to continue the search. So, they sat in groups on the sands and were pining in disappointment. Jambavantha, the old leader, counseled Angada in many ways. "Why do you grieve? We have put forward our best efforts; we have searched all places without the least dereliction of duty; we have not wasted a single moment in idling; we have not worried even about food and drink. We have been engaged ceaselessly in the search for Sita. Our Master and ruler, Sugriva, might not be a witness to our activities; but, believe me, Rama is witnessing them! Therefore, Rama will not be a party to the infliction of any punishment on us. We have no reason to fear the anger of Sugriva. Since this is His Task, let us carry it out with His name on our tongue and His Form in our minds." 

While Jambavantha was thus consoling and comforting Angada, a huge aged bird hopped up to the shore, in order to perform the last rites for its dead brother, and offer water sanctified by sesame grains, in the holy sea. The monkeys gathered around the new arrival and wondered whether it was a Rakshasa who had transformed himself into that form. The bird, however, started speaking first. It said, "Monkeys! My name is Sampathi. Myself and Jatayu (see: RRV-3a) are brothers. Eagles as we are, we both raced towards the sun in competition, years ago. My brother could not bear the scorching heat as we neared the Sun; he flew back. But, a sense of pride induced me to continue the flight. As I proceeded stage by stage, my wings were burnt, and fell off. I dropped like a stone from the depths of the sky. A sage named Chandrama happened to pass that way and see my plight. He sat by my side and taught me a good deal of wisdom through his lessons. Listening to his precepts, my pride was destroyed. He told me, '0 King of Birds! Listen to my words. In the Thretha Yuga (see also: BV-34)  that is coming, God Narayana is incarnating in human Form; His Consort will be carried by Ravana to an unknown place. An army of Vanaras (Monkeys) will proceed to trace her whereabouts; your life will be rendered holy and worthwhile on seeing those emissaries of God engaged in their holy mission. You can assure yourselves that it has been rendered so, because, at that very moment, your wings will grow in strength, your duty will be to communicate to them information regarding the place where Sita is kept.' This day, I came to this place by the sea in order to perform the last rites of my brother, Jatayu. Seeing you, I recollected the words of that sage uttered so long ago. Why? As soon as I recollected, see! his words have come true!' At this, the Vanaras exclaimed excitedly, "Sampathi! Keep aside the story of your life. Our term is fast ending. Tell us quick the clues to know where Sita is. Tell us what you know, what happened to her!" 

Sampathi lost no time in elaboration. He said, "O Vanaras! One day, when I was afflicted with uncontrollable hunger, I called my son, Suparna, to my side and told him, 'Son? Fly quick. Get me some food. I am old; I am hungry; my wings too have fallen off. Seeing my plight, he flew into the forest, but did not return. My anxiety for him suppressed the pangs of hunger. At last, he appeared with some quantity of venison. My hunger made me forget the restraint natural to a wise being; I was enraged at the inordinate delay and I decided to pronounce a curse on my son. Fearing this, my son caught hold of my feet in supplication and said, 'Father! I did not waste a single moment while away. Please listen to my prayer. Pardon me for the delay that was unavoidable'. He placed the venison before me, and when my hunger was appeased by eating it, I asked him to relate to me the cause for the delay. He said, when I was flying into the forest, a person with twenty hands and ten heads was hurrying along. With him was a woman of indescribable beauty. She was weeping and wailing most pitiably. I knew it was a monster and so, I attacked him and saw the woman inside the chariot. She was crying out just one Name, Rama! Rama! Rama!; no other word emerged from her mouth. My futile attempts to stop his progress and to save that woman caused this delay'. When I heard these words, I felt terribly ashamed that I had lost my wings and that I had grown old, I was overcome with grief. I guessed he must be a Rakshasa; so, I asked my son, in which direction that ten-headed monster was proceeding. He answered that he had taken the southern direction. Immediately, I exclaimed, 'Alas! That monster is the Ravana, whom the sage had mentioned; that woman is the Divine Mother, Sita! There can be no doubt in this. That monster has stolen her like a dog, a fox, and he is running away with his prey. I gnashed my teeth in anger. What else could I do?" Thus, Sampathi explained what had happened and what he knew of the incident. "I have been awaiting the arrival of the army of Vanaras, as the Sage had informed me; I was hoping every day that they would be passing my way. Today, my prayer is answered. My life has been sanctified". 

Then, Sampathi announced, "O Vanaras! The City of Lanka is situated on the Triple-Peak-Hill by the shore of the sea; that City has many charming gardens and parks. There, Sita is in the Asokavana, moaning her fate. She is awaiting your arrival. So, proceed further south". 

Angada asked the bird, how it came to know that she was in the Asokavana, under a tree grieving over her misfortune. Sampathi answered that the vision of the eagle does cover an area of 400 yojanas and that, had he not been handicapped by age, he would certainly have helped them even more in their mission. The problem now was crossing the ocean! Sampathi said, "O Vanaras! You can achieve success in the task allotted to you by Rama if there is one among you who has the strength and the skill to leap a distance of 100 yojanas." As he was saying thus, the wings of Sampathi grew and flapped a little. He could hop a slight distance and within a short time, he could actually fly. The words of the sage had proved true. 


Sampathi was wonder-struck at the regaining of the wings. He said, "O Brave Vanara heroes! To fulfill the command of Rama, you have carried out the search with great efficiency and enthusiasm, without allowing even hunger and thirst to hinder your efforts. You have evinced steady faith and deep devotion, you have risked your lives often, while engaged in the search. It is Rama who has been conferring endurance and strength on you; He is having His task executed by you. Your duty now is to contemplate on Him and pray to Him with a full heart. When that is done, you can see Sita without fail and give satisfaction to Rama. You can, with His Grace, leap over the ocean with ease, see Sita and bring joy to Rama's heart. The joy that we cause in the heart of God is the only worthwhile achievement; what can we say of lives that do not offer this gift to God? Only those who live on the lines laid down by God and who by their acts carry out His Wish are valid; the rest are barren and futile; they only consume precious food and move about, burdening the earth." With these words, Sampathi took wing and flew away. 

The Vanaras who watched him fly aloft were struck with pleasant surprise at the sudden recovery of his powers. They said among themselves that Ramanam can achieve the impossible; as the saying goes, the dumb can speak, the lame can climb hills. The wingless Sampathi could get back its wings and fly into the sky only through the Grace won by recital or the Name. By means of Sampathi's words the Vanaras were enabled to see and know things correctly. Each of the monkey leaders started estimating its strength and leaping capacity. Meanwhile, Jambavantha addressed them thus. "Friends! Old age has overwhelmed me; my skill and strength have declined. Somehow prodded by the joy of executing the commands of Rama and encouraged by His Blessings, I have been able to stay on till now and move about with you. I was in full possession of my strength and intelligence, and in the best adult stage of life, when the Lord incarnated as Vamana (see also: RRV-10b) and demonstrated His Trivikrama Form." 

Hearing this, the Vanaras gathered around the Crown Prince of their kingdom, Angada. "O Prince", they pleaded, "Search for some feasible means. Decide who amongst us has to attempt to leap over the ocean." Then, Angada called together a full session of all the Vanaras and announced that he would like to know the capacity of each for this enterprise. At this, Vikata rose and said, "I can leap over thirty yojanas at the most." Nila declared, "Prince! I can manage to leap at one jump forty yojanas, but I regret I will not be able to exceed the distance by even a finger-breadth". Durdhara rose next, and said that he could easily jump a distance of fifty yojanas. Nala came forward and with great flourishing of hands, he said he could jump sixty yojanas. While such competitive boasting and parading of skills were going on, Angada declared, "Listen, I can leap over this ocean once, but I have my doubts whether I would have enough strength left to leap back. One has not only to reach the other shore; one has to fight with the Rakshasas there, if need arises. That would make me still weaker and I would have no strength left. I am afraid my resources won't last so long and for all these three operations." 

When Angada spoke in these depressing terms, the leading Vanara elders rose as one and pleaded, "Prince! You are the heir-apparent to our kingdom. The discussion whether you are capable or not, to take up this mission is irrelevant. It is not right and proper that you should cross over to the land of Rakshasas; it is against the canons of royalty. This is a task which you have to assign to some servant of the kingdom. When you have millions of servants eager to do what you bid, it is not right that you should consider undertaking this task." Jambavantha suggested that some one else might be charged with the errand and Angada looked around, and looking at Hanuman, he said, "0 Son of the Wind-God, you are the dedicated servant of Rama. Your devotion is indeed deep. You were blessed first among all of us with the Darsan of Rama. Through your intelligence, diplomacy and moral pressure, you established friendship between Rama and our ruler, Sugriva. And, now, you are observing silence, when we are involved with difficulties in the execution of the mission of Rama. I find it difficult to understand the meaning of this silence." Angada extolled Hanuman still further and said, "There is no adventure that you cannot tackle successfully. You are strong, you are highly intelligent. You are endowed with all the virtues. Evaluate your own skills, capacities and excellences, and rise." The words of Angada filled Hanuman with his erstwhile strength. He rose with a sudden gesture and said. "0 Vanaras! Wait here, all of you, awaiting my return. Wandering all these days through hills and dales, jungles and plains you have had no time to rest awhile. Eat the fruits and tubers available in this area and station yourselves here. I shall, this instant, leap over the ocean, enter Lanka, see Sita and come back. I have no other work than carrying out the command of Rama. How else can we make our lives worth-while than by earning His Grace?" 

With these words, he raised his folded palms in salutation before the vast gathering of monkeys. He took leave of Angada, the Crown Prince. The monkey hordes were raising in unison the exultant cry, "Jai Rama". "Victory to Rama". Hanuman pictured in his mind the glorious Form of Rama, and, with one leap into the sky, he was off over the sea. Unable to withstand the tremendous airflow caused by his leap and flight, trees on the hills were uprooted and carried along. The impact of his leap was so great that the peak on which he stood sank into the nether regions. 

Seeing him fly across, the sea thought within itself thus: "This Hanuman is a servant of Rama; he is proceeding on the mission of Rama. Ah! How lucky is he! He has the strength and intelligence necessary to win victory in that mission of Rama; he is indeed the foremost among the devotees of Rama". The sea was boisterous with the joy it felt at the sight of Hanuman going over and across. The Mainaka Peak, which was submerged in the sea, rose over the waters, for, he wished to serve the person who was engaged in the service of the Lord. He said, "O Son of the Wind-God! It will be exhausting for you to cover the full distance in one leap, please take rest for a while on my head and confer on me the good fortune of having a share in the service you are devoted to." Hanuman gave ear to the prayer of Mainaka, but did not halt. He touched the peak as a token of halting and sped on. He bowed to the hospitable peak in gratitude. "Mainaka! I am going on Rama's errand; till I fulfill it, I can have no thought of rest or even food and drink. It is not proper for me to stay awhile on the way," he said. A little further on, a Serpent-demon called Surasa and an Ogress named Simhika obstructed His passage, but Hanuman overcame them all and reached the Lanka shore. 



There, splendid in the sunlight, he found many gardens and parks as well as pleasure centers which made Hanuman forget where he was. He was amazed at the variety of multi-coloured birds that fluttered to and fro in clusters within the parks. Hanuman climbed on to a charming mound that was nearby and thought within himself, "This success is not due to my skill or strength; it is entirely due to the Grace and Blessings of Rama only". Seeing the uniquely grand houses, the long wide streets, the attractive gardens, etc., in that city, Hanuman was moved with wonder and doubt - doubt whether it was a replica of Heaven itself. Wherever one cast his eye, one saw well-built Rakshasa soldiers parading the streets, Rakshasa women, famed for their skill and powers to assume whatever form they wanted were found by Hanuman indulging in licentious sports. Deva, Naga, Gandharva and human damsels enslaved by Ravana were pining and wailing in the palaces, awaiting the day of release. Hanuman concluded that it would not be wise to move about in his native form among the vast crowds that filled the streets. He assumed a subtle imperceptible form and entered the City. 

There was at the very entrance gate of Lanka a demoness, named Lankini, placed there on purpose to prevent any foreigner, whatever his intentions may be, from entering the city. She saw the strange figure of Hanuman, venturing to enter and accosted him in a threatening manner. Who goes there? Where do you come from? Who are you? We have never before seen such a creature in this region. You could not have come from outside the bounds of Lanka, for Lanka is surrounded by the sea. Ah! did you, by any means, come across the sea? How can you avoid me and enter the city? Halt! Stop where you are!" Hanuman paid no attention to her vapourings; he moved forward, dragging his tail behind him as if he had not heard her threats. Lankini became even more furious and ferocious. She roared in anger, "O ill-fated fool! Do not my words fall on your ears?" Hanuman brushed aside her protests and questions; he walked towards the gate, with a smile on his face. Lankini shouted, "Ugly beast! Whoever goes against my orders will be eaten up. Remember. I will chew your bones in seconds. Be warned". She rushed forward to catch the tiny monkey that Hanuman had become, while he sought to enter Lanka City. When she came right in front of him, Hanuman tightened his little fist and hit her a mighty blow. She rolled unconscious on the ground. Blood flowed in streams from her mouth. She recovered after a while and rushed madly forward to catch hold of Hanuman. But, when Hanuman dealt another blow, she could not bear the impact; she fell and could not rise again. But, she managed to sit up after great struggle, and with folded palms, she supplicated, "O Person of wonderful Form! Long ago, when Brahma, [see also: RRV, Part 1, Chapter 3] the first of the Trinity, was turning away from Ravana, after granting him many boons, he faced him all of a sudden and said. 'The day your Guardian of the Gate is fatally hurt by a blow from a monkey's hand, know that your downfall begins; your powers can no longer help you. Be warned by that incident that death is drawing near. That monkey will enter Lanka at the command of God for fulfilling His Mission. His arrival heralds the destruction of the Rakshasas; be conscious of this'. You are the messenger indicated; how fortunate that my body was sanctified by contact with your sacred hand! Ah! How soft and thrilling was the blow you gave me." Saying thus, she fondled the spot where Hanuman had hit her. 

Meanwhile, paying no heed to her words, unmoved by praise and unconcerned with blame, Hanuman entered Lanka, repeating 'Rama' 'Rama' 'Rama' with every breath. Still a thought tormented him. Who would give him the clue about where Sita was? How to identify Sita when one sees her? He adopted a subtle form to escape notice and moved from one tree-top to another. He roamed in the bazaars and among groups of Rakshasas, unknown to any one. Suddenly, his eyes fell upon a building that seemed a temple of Hari (Vishnu, whose Avatar Rama was). It had a garden of Tulsi plants all around it; over the entrance door, the name Hari was carved beautifully. The house was undoubtedly a Temple of God, Vishnu. Hanuman was surprised! "How came the name of Hari over this door?" he wondered, "Surely, this is a holy spot," he decided. 

The curiosity of Hanuman was awakened; he jumped on to the roof of that place and peeped through the window to find out what exactly was happening. Just at that moment, a person was stretching his limbs prior to rising from bed, pronouncing the Name of Hari. When that fell on his ears, Hanuman was extremely delighted. He was also emboldened when he knew that even in Lanka there were people reciting the name of Hari. So, he felt like searching for Sita with greater courage and less apprehension. "The man of this house appears to be devout and good. Perhaps, he may be able to tell me the where-abouts of Sita. He might be persuaded to befriend me since we are both loyal to the self-same Form of God". With this idea, Hanuman changed himself into a priest of the Brahmin caste, and made his entrance into that house. Though for a moment he had some doubt regarding the stranger, Vibhishana, the owner of the house, decided that, whoever he is, he surely must be honoured since he was a Brahmin; so, he came forward and prostrated before Hanuman. "Master! which is your native place ? Where are you coming from? How could you avoid being noticed and harassed by the Rakshasas in the streets?" Vibhishana asked. He described to his guest the horrors indulged in by the Rakshasas and extolled the audacity and fearlessness of Hanuman. Hanuman replied, "I am a Servant of Hari. My name is Hanuman. I have come because Rama sent me," and he spoke thereafter of the virtues and excellences of Rama in some detail. Hanuman noticed that while he was describing Rama, tears rolled down the cheeks of Vibhishana. "O, What a happy day! How great is my fortune! As soon as I rose from bed, I could hear today these glorious words which bring peace and joy", thought Vibhishana to himself. 

Hanuman interpreted these incidents as the Grace of Rama. He was wonderstruck that in Lanka, the Land of Fear, there could be one such person soaked in Hari. He asked him, "Sir, how is it that you live without fear in this vile atmosphere?" Vibhishana replied "It is due to the Grace of God. For however long He resolves that we should live, we have to live that long; there is no escape. He is the master of the objective world and so, His law cannot be overruled, or changed by any one. Does not the tongue move about incessantly in the cavity of the mouth where teeth with sharp edges surround it? Who helps it to escape being bitten? So, too, I am living here. Enough about me; tell me on what task you have been sent here." Hanuman realized that he was a good man and that association with such men would without doubt yield good results. Before answering the queries of Vibhishana, he repeated the Name many times in joyful gratitude, Ram, Ram, Ram, Ram, and prayed for permission to disclose his mission to the pious pure-minded Vibhishana. He felt it would not be correct to hide things from him. As a preliminary, he asked, "Sir, what is your name? What are you doing in this Lanka?" Touched by the humility and good manners of Hanuman, Vibhishana replied, "Sir, I am an unfortunate person, the brother of Ravana. My name is Vibhishana. I am in a pathetic fix, for I am unable to recite the Name of Hari, to my heart's content." Hearing this Hanuman felt he had his answer. He performed one high skip in joy and said, "I am a Messenger of Rama. I have come in search of Sita." In an instant, Vibhishana fell at the feet of Hanuman and asked, "Sir, where is my Rama now? I am yearning long to see Him, but I lack the virtues that alone can entitle me to that gift. My tribe is the demonic Rakshasa tribe. Can I have the chance to have His Darsan? I have not engaged myself in Sadhana; I have no freedom here to practice austerities and rites. I have earned no right to the good fortune. Will I be blessed by Rama?" Listening to his appeal, the heart of Hanuman melted in sympathy.



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