Lanka on Fire
said, "O Lord of my Life. It is impossible to describe.
Sita is reduced to bones, for she does not take food nor
does she sleep. She is counting every minute praying for
She has no other thought than the recitation of your
name. She wanted me to inform you of her countless
prostrations. She remembered Lakshmana often and shed
profuse tears. The sharp verbal dagger-thrusts that
Ravana administers every morning and evening when he
comes to her and speaks to her, I have heard with my own
ears. Mother does not listen to his prattle in the least;
she is ever melting away in the agony of separation and
in thoughts centered on you." "Save Sita this very
moment!", cried Hanuman falling at the feet of Rama.
Hearing these words, Lakshmana rose in vengeful anger and
wept at Sita's condition. The picture of Sita in Lanka
burnt his inner being. He said at last, "Brother! Do not
delay. Save my sister-in-law!" Rama replied with a smile,
"Lakshmana! Do not hurry. Bide your time. There is a time
when each step has to be taken. Do not be dejected when
grief invades or exults when joy flows in." Rama consoled
him with soft and soothing words.
Then he called Hanuman near, and invited him to sit close
to him. He seated him near his feet. He asked him,
"Hanuman! What is the nature of the rule that Ravana has
established in Lanka? How did you set Lanka on fire?"
Hanuman said, "Lord! There is nothing you do not know.
What shall I say of the strength of monkeys! We are only
animals that jump about from branch to branch. How can we
jump from one shore of the sea to the other? How can we
overpower the Rakshasas? How can we destroy the City of
Lanka through fire? All these were due solely to your
Grace and Glory. The strength and courage that your Name
confers helped us to achieve those things. I am
absolutely unable by myself to do anything. The Ring of
yours that I had with me guarded me and guided me aright.
Lord! Seeing the Ring and holding it in her hand, how
happy was Mother! 'Is this a dream? Or, was it really
sent by Rama to me?' She wondered Thus, doubted thus, and
finally became firm in faith, Lord. Her grief, the
extreme anguish of hers, they set fire to Lanka and
destroyed it, not I. You chose me as an instrument and
you achieved these great tasks with me as a tool. All
this is a blessing bestowed on me, since you have great
affection towards devotees. Lord! Nothing is impossible
for one who has won your Grace".
When Rama heard these
words steeped in sincerity and humility, he was very
pleased. He turned to Lakshmana and said, "Brother!
Prepare for the campaign, without delay". And, watching
the earthshaking forces that were gathered and the
preparations that Jambuvan
quite soon, the Gods themselves were astounded, and
gratified. The monkey warriors touched the feet of Rama
and raised a triumphal roar. Rama blessed them all by his
glance of compassion and benediction. Each warrior became
a mountain peak that had grown wings! And, they marched
forward with exultation at every step. Auspicious omens
greeted them as soon as they stepped forward. Sita too at
Ashoka Garden sensed auspiciousness that very moment.
And, Ravana was beset by ominous forebodings indicated by
inauspicious happenings. Jambuvan and others plucked huge
trees and waved them as arms; they raised such war cries
on their way that the earth shook under their feet and
the skies rumbled all around. Off and on, they cheered,
"Victory to Lord
In Lanka every Rakshasa was struck with anxiety about
what was in store for him in days to come. They were
afraid of the disaster that was imminent; they were
convinced they could not escape the calamity. They could
communicate their fears to each other only in whispers,
since they were mortally afraid of
Wherever groups of
Rakshasas collected in Lanka the talk centered round the
calamitous damage inflicted by the messenger of Rama.
They wondered, "When the servant is capable of such
tremendous heroism, what would be the measure of the
onslaught the Master can inflict!' They pictured Rama as
capable of immeasurable attack. Their fears were
communicated by her maids to Mandodari, the Queen of
Ravana. Her mind was filled with apprehension and
anxiety. She realized that the fear was based on a
correct estimate of the happenings. She waited for a
propitious moment when Ravana would be in a receptive
mood, and could be spoken to while alone. Getting such a
chance, she said, "Lord! Do not develop enmity with the
Omniscient One. You have yourselves expressed the opinion
that Rama is not an ordinary person. Your army could not
wreak vengeance when sister
disfigured; it could not harm him or move him to
repentance. Now, he has with him millions of redoubtable
Vanara heroes. What can our Rakshasa warriors achieve
against him now? They could not even bind and punish the
messenger who got entry into this kingdom. That is the
extent of the misfortune that has beset us. When one
servant caused such horror and despair, how much worse
would be the calamities that millions like him could
bring about? Therefore, pray listen to my appeal. Send
Sita back to Rama, in the care of brother
or with your Ministers. Sita too is no ordinary woman.
She is exemplarily chaste; she is the very embodiment of
spiritual energy that results from the righteous nature.
Causing grief to such a person can bring you no good.
Accede to my pleading. Return Sita to Rama. When that is
done, all will be good for you and for our Rakshasa race.
Or else, as the serpent swallows frogs, the arrows of
Rama will swallow the Rakshasa hordes. Give up
stubbornness and pride. Offer Sita at the feet of Rama".
She fell at the feet of Ravana with this pitiable
Ravana, the conceited
ignoramus, looked at Mandodari, and replied with a loud
peal of laughter. He said, "Fie on you! Tender women are
scared soon; that is their very nature. Their words
rising from fear will turn even fortune into misfortune.
When the monkeys arrive at our doors, the Rakshasas would
certainly gobble them up. The gods shudder in mortal
terror when my name is uttered within hearing; why are
you afraid of these tree-dwelling brutes? Fie on your
fears! Get thee gone from here". Saying thus, he proudly
moved into the Hall, appearing like personified audacity.
As soon as he left, Mandodari bewailed to herself, "Alas!
Destiny is devising a mighty tragedy. What has it decided
for me? It is terrible even to guess what it is".
Burdened with grief and at a loss to plan what else to
do, she resorted to her rooms and rolled on her bed,
agitated by a multitude of thoughts.
At the Audience Hall,
Ravana called the ministers together, and invited them to
give expression to their estimate of the situation. "You
are aware of the calamities that were inflicted by that
messenger of Rama. What preparations are necessary? What
are your suggestions for the future? Tell me quite
frankly, without the slightest fear". The ministers
looked at each other; they sneered in repressed laughter;
but, no one dared speak. Suddenly, Kumbhakarna,
immersed in sleep for months, and who was therefore
unaware of the conflagration at the time of the visit of
Hanuman, emerged from his sleep and rushed into the
Audience Hall. He shouted at his elder brother, "Hello!
You boasted that there is no hero equal to you in all the
three worlds; you challenged the worlds and dared any one
to face you. And, now I hear a tiny little monkey entered
the City and burnt it to ashes! Shame! Shame on you! How
did you allow it to escape alive?" With these words of
jeer, he left the hall, and hastened home. At this point,
Minister Atikaya rose from his seat and addressed the
Emperor thus: "Master! We shall obey your commands. If
only we have a gracious look from your eyes falling on
us, we can destroy all men and monkeys and wipe them out
of the face of the earth. Why assert more?" He sat down
with a grunt of satisfaction. Then, Meghanada, the
general endowed with the power of adopting any form he
likes, rose to speak. "Supreme Master!" he said, "Your
might and majesty resound all over the world. The gods
are your bondsmen. Why should we speak of the fate of men
in your Presence? For who can be stronger than these
gods?" His words were soaked in pompous pride. The
atheistic sons of Kumbhakarna, the highly egotistic
brothers, Kumbha and Nikumbha also spoke in the same
strain. Akampana and other warriors also added their
tunes to the same song. Off and on, the irrepressible
Mahodara stood up and rapped his thighs as if he was
proclaiming his eagerness to join the fray. Of course,
every one of them was infected with an inner fear, though
they did not exhibit it in their speech or their
countenances. The result was that Ravana was rendered
happy, and their aim to hearten him was realized. Lastly,
one Rakshasa rose and tried to catch attention. He said,
"Emperor! I shall dress myself as a Brahmin, and approach
Rama and Lakshmana wherever they are. I shall invite them
for lunch and, when they come into my hermitage, I shall
bind them hand and foot. If you approve of this
stratagem, I shall attempt it".
Ravana was very pleased
with his ministers and others. Meanwhile, Vibhishana had
entered the Hall. Ravana looked at him and asked him,
"Brother! What is your opinion on this question: these
men and monkeys?" Vibhishana replied: "Most compassionate
brother! I shall answer as best I can, without any frills
or feints. I only pray that you listen patiently and
carefully. Pardon me, O Sovereign Lord! If you desire a
good status after death, an unsullied fame while alive,
prosperity and happiness here and hereafter, you must
desist from admiring the beauty of women who belong to
others. What can one single living being like you do, to
injure or obstruct the Ruler of the Fourteen Worlds? Can
any one survive after opposing Him? How can such a one
prosper? Greed clouds all the virtues of a person. Lust
and anger are gateways to the regions of ruin. Rama is
not an ordinary person. He is Death to the God of Death.
He is the regulator of Time. He cannot be affected by
illness or want or weakness. He is unborn and so,
immortal. Give up your hatred of such a Divine Person,
and pray to be accepted as His servant. Return his
consort to Him and earn His Grace. I am falling at your
feet and pleading with you with all the force I command".
Hearing him, Malyavantha, an old and revered Minister,
nodded in agreement; he stood up and spoke thus: "Master!
The words spoken by your brother are just and right.
Accepting his suggestions will redound to your
But, Ravana was greatly
incensed at the advice given by them both. He reprimanded
them hotly. He said, "You are both fools! Do you know
what you have been doing so long? You were extolling my
enemy. You are not fit to be present in this Hall, while
this subject is being considered". He ordered that they
be removed from the Hall. At this, Malyavantha got down
from his chair and hurried home, Vibhishana too offered
his prostrations to his elder brother and, with folded
palms, he expostulated, "O King! The
that in every person's heart there resides the twin
natures of goodness and wickedness. When goodness
predominates and is given full authority, the person will
possess joy, peace and prosperity of all types. When
wickedness predominates and is given full authority the
person will be attacked by all types of adversity. Now,
the vile nature is overwhelming your virtuous nature; so,
you condemn as enemies those who offer good advice and
try to promote your good. Sita is like the Night of
Destruction for the Rakshasas. And, you have no
compassion towards her. That is the wicked trait in you.
I am praying for this boon from you: Please agree to my
request. Return Sita to Rama. I am sure that will endow
you with all happiness and
At this, Ravana rose
suddenly from his throne and exclaimed: "Fool! Death has
drawn very near you. You could be alive till this moment
only on account of my grace. Now you are counting my
enemies as your benefactors. I cannot understand why you
have developed respect and loyalty to them. Is there on
earth any one living who cannot be subdued by the
strength of my shoulders? Eating the food I give, living
in the house provided by me, residing in my territory,
how dare you extol my enemies? Thorny bushes grown to
protect the fort have become harmful to the fort itself.
You have spread too much to be useful. Go, go to some
hermitage and teach your lessons on morality and
goodness". Thus saying, he pushed Vibhishana at his feet
away from him with a kick. However angrily he was kicked,
Vibhishana persisted long in praying to him, his hands
holding the very feet that were kicking him. "King! Rama
resolves on Truth and his resolution can never fail. Your
time is running out; so too, the time of your followers.
I am going to take refuge with Rama. I have done my best
to save you. I have nothing to repent for; I have not
done any wrong". With these words, he left the Hall.
Reciting with every breath Rama Rama, and breathless with
joy and excitement, he crossed the sea and landed on the
other shore. The Vanaras who noticed him took him to be a
messenger from Ravana, and they reported the arrival to
their Ruler, Sugriva. Vibhishana was prevented from
entering the camp. And the information was conveyed to
the Lord thus: "O Rama! The brother of Ravana has come to
have your Darsan."
Rama asked Sugriva, who
brought him the news, what he thought about the incident.
Sugriva replied that it was difficult to understand the
plans and purposes of Rakshasas since they assume various
forms as and when they like and so are inexplicable. We
do not know why he has come among us. I guess it is to
open a wedge between me and Angada,
the son of Vali. I believe it is advisable to bind him
and keep him aside, without delay." Rama replied,
"Friend! Your words are correct. You spoke in accordance
with the injunctions in the Sastras about defections.
Yet, listen to my vow. It may be opposed to your advice.
My vow is to protect all those who surrender to me. Even
if the person surrendering is our enemy, to make an
exception in his case is wrong. I shall not give up any
being that surrenders to me, even if it involves the sin
of slaying a billion
he has been sent by Ravana in order to sow the seeds of
dissension among us. Well why should we be afraid of him
even if this be true? Or he has come frightened by his
brother, if he surrenders to me, I shall guard him and
foster him as my own lifebreath. Therefore, bring him in,
quickly," he ordered and Sugriva hastened to
Hanuman hastened to him
and in an instant, made him stand before Rama. When his
eyes fell on the Lotus Face of Rama, Vibhishana shed
profuse tears of ecstasy. He could scarce stand erect.
"Lord", he gasped, and fell at the feet of Rama. "Save
me, save me. I am your slave", he prayed. "O Protector of
the Gods! I took birth in the Rakshasa race; I am the
younger brother of Ravana, who rules over the Rakshasas.
My name is Vibhishana. My birth as a Rakshasa is the
result of the vast quantity of sin I had accumulated.
Dullness and ignorance have mastery over me. As the owl
craves for night, I relish only darkness. You foster all
those who surrender to you yearning for your love and
grace. I have none else to whom I can run for
Rama saw him pleading
so humbly and so earnestly for being taken into
confidence and saved and he was delighted. He drew him
near, and softly fondled him, patting his back in deep
love. He spoke sweetly to him, and said, "My dear
Vibhishana! Do not worry. The very Darsan you had of me
has destroyed the Rakshasa nature in you. You are to me
as close as Lakshmana and Sugriva". These words wiped
away all fear from the heart of Vibhishana. Then, Rama
said, "O Ruler of Lanka! Are all your followers and
companions hale and hearty? How were you passing your
days right in the midst of many million Rakshasas? How
were you able to maintain your devotion and dedication to
God in that environment?" He also enquired of him various
matters relating to his activities.
At the end, Vibhishana
said, "O Lord of the Raghu Dynasty! Lust, anger and the
rest of that evil brood will infest the heart until the
moment you enter it, with the bow and arrow in your hand;
when your nature and your loveliness are known, they flee
from the mind. Attachments and hatreds infest the dark
hearts that know not the light of wisdom. Lord! I have
earned the fruition of dearest dreams when I could cast
my eyes on your Lotus Feet and touch them with my hands
and head. My fear and sorrow have been destroyed. I have
not done a single good deed any day; but, yet you
embraced me. O, how great is my good fortune!" From
Vibhishana's eyes, tears flowed in streams; they were
tears of joy and gratitude.
Rama intercepted his
words and said, "Vibhishana! You possess all desirable
excellences. Or else, you would not have earned this
Darsan, this chance to touch me and contact me, and this
opportunity to converse with me." At this, Vibhishana was
thrilled with unbounded joy. He fell at the Lotus Feet of
Rama again and again. Rama told him, "go, have a bath in
the sacred waters of the sea, and come soon."
Accordingly, Vibhishana left for the seashore. Rama asked
Hanuman to bring from the sea a pot of the sacred water.
When Vibhishana prostrated at the Feet of Rama, after the
bath, Rama took a handful of water from the pot that
Hanuman had brought and, sprinkling the drops on
Vibhishana's head, he declared, "I am making you by this
rite the Ruler of the Kingdom of Lanka."
Vibhishana rose and
said, "O Lord! Why do I need a kingdom? I am content if I
secure a place by the side of these Lotus Feet". But,
Rama said, "No. You cannot escape this duty". Vibhishana
replied, "I bow my head to the command I receive from
you". He folded his hands in prayerful humility. The
Vanaras stood all around, struck by the compassion and
grace that Rama bestowed on the person who surrendered
his all at His Lotus Feet. Their hearts were filled with
Rama saw the Generals
of Vanara hordes and spoke to them. "Leaders! Take this
Vibhishana with you. Do not consider him as some one
apart; regard him as your comrade. He is My own". These
endearing words greatly heartened Vibhishana. Soon, they
moved towards the seashore.
of this Vahini