Chapter 7(b)
The Bridge


ramagold.jpg (27175 bytes)Ravana replied in dire anger and sheer bravado. He was trembling with rage at the unpalatable advice that Prahastha gave him. Raising his voice to a wild roar, he admonished Prahastha in a torrent of abuse. "Fool! Who taught you this trickery? Whence did you derive such wisdom? They say, sparks originate in bamboo clusters! You are born in my clan". Ravana gnashed his teeth wildly; he shouted harsh and vulgar abuse; and, finally, he kicked Prahastha out of the Hall. But, before going out, Prahastha clarified his stand condemning his father and his overweening pride which had rendered him blind. Ravana, he said, would be the cause of the destruction of the dynasty. He consoled himself that for one who is mortally stricken and is awaiting his last breath, no drug can be of any use. "So my good advice appeared futile to my father", he told himself. He proceeded straight to his mother and related all that happened. Both agreed that there was nothing they could say or do, which would turn him on to the right path; So, they sat together and were lost in the contemplation of Rama and his majesty. 

The Vanaras put up a nice camp for Rama and Lakshmana on the Suvela Hill. They prepared soft rests for them, heaping grass leaves and flowers, and made them into nice beds. Rama appeared as soon as they had finished; He sat upon it, to give them joy. A little later, He placed his head on Sugriva's lap and went to sleep. Bows and arrows were kept in readiness on both sides of the bed. The Vanaras were scratching their palms which itched, in anticipation of hitting Ravana and killing him. They were holding back only because Rama had not given them the 'go'. Hanuman, the lucky, and the Crown Prince Angada were reverentially massaging the feet of Rama. Lakshmana was standing at the foot of the bed, ready with his bow and arrow, observing the face of Rama with one-pointed attention. At this moment, Rama looked out towards the East. His eyes fell on the Moon, which was rising above the horizon. "Friends!", he said, "Look at the Moon. There is a dark patch on the Moon. Don't you see it?" he asked. Each one of them answered about the patch the way he felt; but, Hanuman confessed, "Lord! I do not see any dark patch on the Moon. I see it as the reflection of your face. So, I do not see the patch you mentioned, or any other blemish." 

That night Rama spent with the Vanaras until dawn, with delightful talk and in pleasant companionship. When day brightened, He had His bath in the sea and He performed there, on the shore itself, the rituals prescribed. He called together the ministers of Sugriva and other leaders and gave them instructions about the task ahead. Later, they met and agreed unanimously that Angada, the son of Vali and the Heir-apparent of the Vanara Kingdom, be sent as an Envoy to Ravana, before launching the siege of Lanka. Rama called Angada forward and told him, "Son! You are strong and virtuous; you have to go on a mission from Rama to Ravana and advise Ravana cleverly and cautiously, softly and assuringly, without making him further enraged". He was given directions about the tone and contents of what he had to tell Ravana. He took leave, after prostrating at the feet of Rama. While departing, he said, "Master! Pray bless me with the auspicious look of your eyes. I am indeed fortunate that I am entrusted with this work. Whatever might happen to me while executing it, I am ready to offer my very life to you". Rama's heart melted with compassion when He heard these words of Angada. Rama came forward, clasped Angada to his bosom and placed his palm on his head, showering blessings on him. 

Angada then moved into the City, with Rama installed in his heart and His Form ever in his mind. He pushed aside every one who alerted and stopped him on the way and displayed great self-confidence and courage. He encountered the son of Ravana on the way. The Rakshasa Prince accosted him and inquired, "Here, o monkey! Who are you and wherefrom?" Angada replied, "I am Angada, Envoy of Rama". At this, the Rakshasa raised his foot to kick Angada. But, Angada was too quick for him; he caught him by the foot and raising him aloft twirled his body until he dashed him on the ground! The Rakshasas who witnessed this were struck with terror; they realized that the monkey was of gigantic might and kept discreetly away. News spread that the monkey that had set Lanka aflame had returned and this created widespread confusion and fear. Angada noticed, wherever he turned, panic-stricken groups of inhabitants were watching his movements. He had no need to ask any group to clear the path; they hurried out as soon as he was sighted! 

At last, he fearlessly stepped into the Audience Hall of Ravana himself. One of the guards carried the news of Angada's arrival in hot haste to Ravana. Ravana directed him to bring the Envoy to his presence and, accordingly, Angada was taken right before the Rakshasa Emperor. Angada saw Ravana as a conscious mountain, black in colour. His twenty hands were as the branches of a giant tree. He walked up to him with no trace of fear in his heart. But, everyone present in that hall shuddered in their heart of hearts as they saw him enter and proceed. They were in a state of stupor. Ravana asked Angada who he was. Angada replied, "I am the Envoy of Rama". At this, Ravana asked him the purpose of his visit. "O Ravana!" Angada began, "you and my father were friends of old. Therefore, with your welfare in view, I have come at the orders of Rama to give you some sound advice". Angada continued softly and persuasively, "You brought away the 'Mother of all the Worlds, the daughter of Janaka'; you were unable to withstand pride or lust and greed. Well, let bygones be bygones. At least today, at this very moment, if you realize the fact of your iniquity and act as I am telling you, Rama will pardon you. Decide to do as I suggest, without delay. Or else, with your own hand, you will bury in this soil your clan and your kingdom". When Angada spoke thus, Ravana exclaimed, "O vilest of Vanaras! You are indeed a fool. Perhaps you do not know that I am a foe of your 'God'. What is your name? What was the relation between me and your father? Don't be blind to the consequences of your speech". 

Angada laughed outright at this outburst. He said, "O Monarch of Rakshasas. My name is Angada; my father's name is Vali. There was friendship between you two". Hearing the words that Angada spoke, Ravana was rendered stiff and silent. But, he overcame the reaction soon and said, "True, true, there was, I remember, a monkey of that name in older days. O, are you his son? Hello, Angada! You seem to have been born in that clump as a spark of fire in order to destroy it?" Angada laughed aloud at the excited reply from Ravana. He said, "Ravana! Your days have come to an end. You will soon be reaching your old friend Vali. He can tell you there the consequence of opposing Rama. Equipped with twenty eyes, you are nevertheless blind; burdened with twenty appendages called ears, you are deaf. Caught in the thick night of ignorance, you strut about in pride, proclaiming yourself great! The tribe you plan to save will be effaced; that is the plan. Sinner! Vile barbarian! Villain blinded by pride! Demon!" When Angada gnashed his teeth in anger and poured on his head the stream of abuse, Ravana rose from his throne in a trice and shouted, "You monkey, you destroyer of your own race! Since I know and recognize the rules of political morality, I am bearing in silence your impertinence; beware. There is a limit to my patience". Ravana stared at Angada in fiery anger. But, Angada was not at all affected by that demonstration. He retorted, "O Rakshasa Monarch! I have heard much of your righteousness, your virtues, and your political morality. Consider what wonderful achievements your righteousness has effected. Kidnapping the wife of another person, devouring the messenger duly sent by your elder brother, Kubera; these are the highlights of your political morality! You are boasting of these without a trace of shame. You dare talk of your virtues and your morality! You set fire to the tail of the messenger who came to your kingdom, and yet you proclaim without shame that you are bound by rules. Such is the behaviour of Rakshasas. You have no right at all to utter the word political morality, with your tongue. You are the vilest sinner". 

When Angada was replying, without break or hesitation, the courtiers who filled the Audience Hall were aghast with fear, wondering what was in store for them. Ravana resumed his talk. He said, "Listen, monkey! Is there a single hero in your camp who can stand up against me in battle? Your Lord is broken down in sorrow at separation from his wife. He is pining and pining every day. And, his brother is affected and weakened by the sight of the agony. And, Sugriva? He hates you and is opposed to you, since you are the heir to the kingdom. Like a pair of birds fighting on the edge of a river, you will both drop into the flood some day. Both of you have your eyes on the same Kingdom. How then can you fight wholeheartedly and successfully against me? My brother upon whom you seem to rely is a coward. Jambuvantha, another of your leaders, is too old to be of any use. Nala and Nila (RRV-7a) are but engineers, unaware of the art of wielding swords". 

Angada interrupted this tirade and cut in with his own. "Ravana! One tiny monkey entered your City and set it on flame. Did any fool believe that it was ever possible? And, now, you who know it as true deny that the monkey is a valiant fighter. I am not in the least affected by anger when you declare that there is no one in our camp who can defeat you in battle, Yes. The texts on morality lay down that either friendship or enmity has to be only with equals. Will anyone praise a lion for destroying a frog? Surely, the attempt by Rama to kill you is too low for his status and dignity. Killing such a mean contemptible foe is something that will reduce His majesty. The rules that lay down the conduct and characteristics of the Kshatriya caste to which He belongs are high and noble. You are a vicious, vile, vulgar sinner, who must meet death at the hands of mere monkeys only". 

Ravana burst into desperate laughter. "Nasty monkey! You dance in glee and jump shamelessly hither and thither, as the person who holds the rope tied round your waist commands. You learn the tricks He teaches and repeat them whenever He orders you, so that He may collect a few coins from the onlookers". Angada could not put up with these sarcastic remarks. He ejaculated, "You seem to know only about animals; you have not cared to know about the Lord, about God, about Destiny and about Fate. Why, have not monkeys taught you more than you know? They have demolished your parks, they have killed your son, they have reduced your City into a pile of ash. Yes. They have to perform one more feat, yet. They have to administer proper punishment to you. We have allowed you to escape the fate that you must meet. I believed that your heart will be cured by downright advice and harsh truth. But, no. You have no sense of shame. You have no idea of repentance. You have no trace of morality, no habit of rectitude. What a pity! You are still gnashing your teeth in anger at Vibhishana and calling him names, like coward and traitor. You are burdening the earth by the weight of your body; the sooner you are eliminated the better. You are worse than the dogs that infest your streets. They do not have the vices you suffer from. You will soon realize that their lives are better than yours". 

Angada poured abuse on Ravana regardless of convention and manners. Ravana could not digest such fiery admonitions. "Angada! Know that I am the hero, the redoubtable stalwart, who lifted the Kailasa peak by sheer physical power and courage; this Ravana is the person who laid, not flowers but his own heads, plucked by him from his body, as offerings at the Feet of Siva; this is the devotee whose might has been acknowledged by Siva himself; this is the warrior whose name strikes terror in the bravest, whose picture spreads panic; stop your prattle praising yourself and your patrons". But, Angada was in no mood to stop. He continued his onslaught. "O you conceited fool! Don't chatter away like this; use your breath for some good purpose; sing some songs in praise of Rama. Surrender to Him. Or else, the arrow of Rama will make your heads leap like balls from the shoulder where they are now resting. And, the Vanaras will gleefully kick them about, as in a ball game. I happen to be the messenger from Sugriva, our Ruler. I have, unfortunately, no orders from Sri Rama; and, I do not desire to deprive them the chance, or else, I would have put an end to your life in a trice and cast your carcass into the ocean". 

Angada grew into a fierce phenomenon as he uttered this threat. Like the lion, he slapped the ground with his palms. The earth shook so hard at the impact of those blows that the crowns on Ravana's ten heads shook and fell on the floor. Ravana rolled from his throne, but he recovered balance very soon. Angada collected four of the ten, and threw them with such great force and sure aim that they fell into the camp of Rama, right within the Presence. The Vanaras there were struck with wonder at the strange articles and they described to each other the excellences and beauties of the jeweled crowns. Rama knew what they were; He said that, while coming over, they appeared like Rahu and Kethu, which cause eclipses. 

Meanwhile, Ravana commanded, "Bind this monkey; don't allow him to depart; eat him up", and hastily retired to the inner apartments. Angada shouted "Shame on you! Why all this boast of strength and prowess? Go, dip yourself in the depths of the sea and hold your breath until you die. Woman-stealer! Fool! Lust ridden lout! I shall pluck your tongue out of your mouth on the battlefield and throw it as food for crows. Be warned". Angada was gnashing his teeth in hateful anger, when Ravana turned back and called on the Rakshasas in the Hall, "Lift him by the legs and throw him on the floor; splinter his head." At this, Meghanada rose from his seat and holding Angada by his legs pulled him with great force in order to make him fall. Many others rushed forward to help him, but, however many they were, they could not move the feet even a wee bit. They only rolled on the ground, full of humiliation and unable to decide what to do next. Then, Devakantaka tried various holds to make the feet move. He too failed ignominiously. At last, Ravana himself attempted the impossible task. He held Angada by his legs and wanted to lift him and throw him forcibly on the floor. Angada laughed at Ravana's foolishness. He said, "Ravana! no, these are not the feet you have to hold. Place your hands on the Feet of Rama, in the genuine gesture of surrender; that will liberate you from fear and bondage". 

With these words, Angada shook his feet in order to loosen the hold; the impact of that gesture was so unexpected and so strong that Ravana hit the floor and lost consciousness; his glory and splendour were destroyed. The sense of shame spread over his faces and he looked like the moon in broad daylight, pale and poor. Angada looked at his plight and felt that he should not continue his dialogue with the coward. Rama, he remembered, had told him only to administer some good advice to Ravana. "This fellow will not yield to good counsel, he will not realize his error and correct himself. He sticks to his vicious nature. War alone can give effective cure". Deciding thus, Angada left for the sacred proximity of the Feet of Rama. Reaching there, he submitted a report of all that had happened. 

Ravana entered the apartments of the queens, overwhelmed by shame and fear. Mandodari noted the pallid Crest-fallen appearance of Ravana; she said, "At least, now, give up your foolish tenacity. To cultivate enmity towards Rama will bring disaster to the kingdom itself. You could not step across the line drawn by Lakshmana [RRV-3a]; how then could you hope to defeat them in battle? Your powers and might are but dry leaves before them. Your followers could not overpower the messengers they sent; can you ever hope to overwhelm them when they invade this land in their billions? You could not stir Angada's feet even a hair breadth, and yet, you hope to capture and bind billions of such Vanaras! I am pained that, in spite of all experience already available, you are still holding on obstinately to your resolution. Our son [Akshayakumara - RRV-6a] was killed. Your city was reduced into a heap of ash. Your parks were uprooted; countless Rakshasas were thrown up like balls and killed by the fall. Where were your strength and skills at that time? Boastful declarations can inflict no harm on these Vanaras." 

"Lord", Mandodari pleaded, "Pardon me for these words. You are badly mistaken when you consider Rama a mere man. He is the Master of the Universe; He is an invincible hero. You are already aware of the extent of his might and valour, aren't you? Recollect the facts related by Angada, quietly within yourself. Remember! You were seated in the gathering of kings in the Hall of Janaka, to exhibit your strength and skill; but you failed even to shift a little the position of the Bow of Siva. Rama lifted it [RRV1-7c] as if it was a spurt of playfulness and cast it aside in broken halves. This demonstration of might was seen with your own eyes. If you still do not give up your foolish tenacity, it is an indication that your destruction is imminent. What could you do when the nose and ears of your own sister, Surpanakha, [RRV2-2] was sliced off? Are you not ashamed to proclaim and boast about your strength and your heroism, after all these experiences? Rama killed Vali [RRV2-4b] with a single arrow. Was Vali an ordinary foe?... Rama has now come with his army of Vanaras and encamped on the Suvela Hill. Rama is the very embodiment of Righteousness and Morality; or else, why should He send an envoy to you, as He has done, to advise you how you can still save yourself? This envoy has tried to turn your mind towards accord with Rama. But you do not give up your sense of pride; you do not appreciate the moral sense that moves Rama; you do not understand the virtues that animate the supremely sacred Person who has sent the envoy. And, you are causing the downfall of your own kingdom! What could you do now to throw out Angada, the envoy, who entered the Audience Hall? There are in their camp thousands, nay, lakhs of Vanaras, mightier and more destructive than this one. Listen to my words; give up this demonic passion; go and surrender to Rama". These words of counsel reminding Ravana of happenings in the past, struck his heart like sharp arrows. 

Meanwhile, a new day dawned. Ravana entered the Audience Hall as the very personification of Vicious Pride and installed himself on the throne. Inside his head were revolving fast and furious the words of both Angada and Mandodari. Plans, fears, schemes, and surmises rolled inside him, like the earth and sky rotating round him. But, none of them was along right lines, for, the day of destruction of the demon clan of Rakshasas was drawing near. 

Ravana accosted a Rakshasa named Vidyutjihva, and said, "Fellow! Use your magic skill, and bring before me the 'head' of Rama as well as his 'bow and arrows'. Seeing them, Sita must believe them genuine. She must be plunged in grief!" Vidyutjihva rose from his seat in a trice and moved out of the hall. He made a correct replica of the 'bow and arrows' of Rama as well as of his head. Ravana was pleased at the exactness of reproduction. With them, he himself proceeded to Asokavana, where Sita was kept in confinement. Holding them before her, he said, "O Sita! See, these are the bow and arrows, this the head of the very person whom you are pining for and extolling, night and day. I have annihilated the Vanara hordes; Lakshmana has saved himself by fleeing from the field. In order to convince you that all this has really happened, I have brought before you this head, this bow and these arrows. Look at them". With these words, he placed them before her. Sita was hit by grief for just one moment; but, she reminded herself that there was no one, in the fourteen worlds, who could pluck that head; she knew that this was a mean trick played to terrorize her and she brushed aside the threats. She said "Ravana! Surely, your destruction has arrived. Or else, such abominable thoughts would not have come into you. You have no courage even to approach Rama; how then could you ever hope to kill him? Even in dream, you cannot realize that hope. This is a dirty magic trick, which fails to deceive me." Sita poured scorn and insults on Ravana. Meanwhile, loud exultant shouts of 'Jai', 'Jai for Lord Rama', 'Jai for Lord Rama,' were heard from all around. The Vanaras had entered the City from all directions! Ravana hurried back into his palace and the Audience Hall. 

The good woman, Sarama, wife of Vibhishana, then, came near Sita and consoled and comforted her. She said, "Mother! This Ravana is a trickster and all that he does is subterfuge. No one can dare hurt Rama; just now, he has triumphantly entered Lanka with his Vanara hordes. Lanka is being shattered into shreds by the very shouts of the Monkeys".



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