Lakshmana - Part 8

மரபு விக்கி இருந்து

தாவிச் செல்ல: வழிசெலுத்தல், தேடுக


Ravana sends Indrajit

Here is a father, who dares to send his son on a mission from which he himself could not come back victorious!

On hearing the advice of wind god and as he was infuriated by the fact of Angada being attacked, Lakshmana used the Brahmastra for the first and only time without first seeking the sanction of Rama. This was not so when Lakshmana fought with Indrajit. We are going to see the difference in our later instalments when we study the battle scenes of Lakshmana with Indrajit.

Most important is that Vibishana – who had initially hesitated and had in a couched manner indicated his fears on the advisability of sending Lakshmana alone to meet Atikaya, a reincarnation of Kaidabha, the dreaded demon of yore – was delighted and was convinced very much about the prowess of Lakshmana. That was the reason why Rama sent him along with Lakshmana in the first place!

‘vem thiral sidhdhi kaNda vIdaNan, viyandha nenjan,’ Vibishana saw the victory of Lakshmana and was overtaken by wonder ‘andharach chiththar aarkkum amalayum kEttan,’ and also heard the celestials shouting out of joy (and exclaimed) ‘mandhira siththi anna silaith thozhil vali eedhu aayin,’ if this is the kind of mastery over archery that you have ‘indhirasiththinaarkkum iRudhiyE iyaivadhu,’ I am now more than convinced that it is not difficult for you to vanquish Indrajit as well.

This third day of the war was different in that it didn’t end with the fall of the main hero. The first day of the war ended with the exit of Ravana; the second day, with the fall of Kumbakarna. But the war on the day on which Atikaya fell did not stop with his death. It continued and Rama who was far, far away from the field and was alone had no information on what was happening in the field.

The agony of Ravana knew no bounds when he heard of what happened in the field. Naturally! Atikaya was his second son, handsome and valiant. But the ego of this person was so stout that even after the death of his endeared son – the youngest of whom (Akshakumara) was killed by Hanuman, when he came in search of Sita – did not change his mind. What impelled this person to retain Sita at such cost! What was working in his mind? Why he could not give her back at least at this stage, with the death of his sons – two of them at this point of time? When the writing is so large on the wall, what prevented him from reading the warning signals?

While his wife Dhanyamalini, the mother of Atikaya, was wailing and even while he was himself steeped in the agony of having lost his son, his most valiant and matchless warrior brother, having suffered the insult of being sent back in disgrace from the field, at the mercy of the enemy, the ego of Ravana does not lax in the least. He wants to persist in what he is doing. He wants to retain Sita at any cost. What could have motivated this person! Was he so lusty? Or was it due to some other reason? It is an interesting point to see. But these are questions for another day.

The point is, even before the mortal remains of Atikaya were removed from the field, Ravana was busy preparing his eldest son, Indrajit, to face the enemy. Here is a father, who dares to send his son on a mission from which he himself could not come back victorious! But Indrajit is not to be taken lightly. If the Book of War occupies one-third of Ramayana, the war with Indrajit occupies one-third of Yuddha Kanda. We will have to devote some time to this warrior, whom Kamban is not tired of praising for his prowess, chivalry and archery. Take a detour to study this wonderful character for sometime and come back to Lakshmana.

Number one among warriors

The name of Indrajit is intertwined with that of Lakshmana as far as the Book of War is concerned. One cannot be studied without a reference to the other…

The character of Indrajit is introduced in the Sundara Kanda, takes a quick shape in the War Council held by Ravana, convened as a sequel to the exploits of Hanuman in Lanka and holds the stage with high drama, in his war with Lakshmana, taking the reader through tense moments before his fall in about 1500 verses in Kamban. Indrajit brings Lakshmana to stupor and near death, twice. It was not an easy victory for Lakshmana against this warrior, ‘வில்லாளரை எண்ணின், விரற்கு முன் நிற்கும் வீரன்,’ ‘If one counts the best of warriors on one’s fingers, he (Indrajit) is the first name that he has to utter. And again, he says several hundred verses later, ‘ வீரர் என்பார்கட்கு எல்லாம் முன் நிற்கும் வீரர் வீரன் ’ ‘first among all that are known as warriors (worth the name).’

The name of Indrajit is intertwined with that of Lakshmana as far as the Book of War is concerned. One cannot be studied without a reference to the other, in isolation. We would therefore divide the study of this character into two portions, one that directly concerns with the study of Lakshmana and the other portions like the sacrificial fire at Nikumbila – the completion of which would have made Indrajit invincible by anyone – would be dealt with later, after we round up on Lakshmana. Now for a little background material.

The name Indra-jit is a title. He is known only by this title. One who vanquished Indra, the Lord of celestials. Hanuman is impressed with this person at the very first sight, when during his search for Sita he enters every house in Lanka and comes across Indrajit sleeping in his chambers. ‘He was so handsome and resembled Lord Muruga, excepting for the fact that the Lord has six faces and twelve shoulders’ says Kamban. ‘ வளையும் வாள் எயிற்று அரக்கனோ? ’ Is he the son of Ravana with the canine teeth like the crescent moon? ‘ கணிச்சியான் மகனோ? ’    Or is he the son of Lord Shiva? ‘ அளையில் வாழ் அரி  அனையவன்  யாவனோ ?’ Who could this person be who resembles a lion in the cavern? (Though I do not know the answer for this question, I know one thing for sure.) ‘ இளைய வீரனும், ஏந்தலும், இருவரும் பலநாள் உளைய உள்ள போர் இவனொடும் உளது ’ Both Rama and Lakshmana have to wage a war lasting many a day with this fellow.

“He is the only Rakshasa who dares to use hard words to Ravana,” observes Sri V V S Aiyar and calls our attention to the pick of the harshest of words that Indrajit utters against his father when he hears of the death of his younger brother Aksha, at the hands of Hanuman. “Thou weighest not the danger beforehand but rushest unthinking into it, and then thou sufferest. Even after seeing the prowess of that monkey, thou hast sent against him in batches those who could never hold their own against him. Is it not then thou that has killed them? … Thou hast in the days past broken the force of the elephants that hold the universe in its place, and conquered the three worlds and lifted mount Kailash itself with Shiva upon it. But what will wash this humiliation received at the hands of the monkey who has killed our Aksha?”                                                                                 (Kamban’s verses translated by Sri V V S Aiyar)

And that is what he is now asking Ravana, when he rushes to see him alarmed by the melancholy that is setting in on Lanka and when he comes to know of the death of Atikaya.

His exploits and boons

When the mind is obstinately set in an aimless pursuit, and eyes are bloodshot with rage and the personality is submerged by vanity and ego, wisdom takes a back seat.

Of the sacrifices Indrajit performed, the Uttara Kanda gives details. Usana, the guru of demons and Daityas, informs Ravana of the following when the latter walks into the hall in which Indrajit was performing the sacrifice at Nikumbhila. Not knowing what was going on, Ravana enquiries about it and Usana informs him thus.

“I shall tell you everything Your Majesty, (please) listen to it. Seven well-known sacrifices rich in numerous details have been performed by your son. (Six) sacrifices named Agnistoma and Aswamedha, the Bahusuvarnaka sacrifice, Rajasuya, Gomedha and the sacrificed intended to propitiate Lord Vishnu, had been performed; and when the sacrifice intended to propitiate Lord Maheswara, which is exceedingly difficult for the mortals to accomplish, commenced, your son received boons personally Lord Siva (the ruler of embodied souls in bondage, who are no better than beasts) here (on this very ground). (Valmiki Ramayana, Uttara Kanda, Canto XXV, Sloka 7-9)

Usana also mentions of the Tamasi Maya, the conjuring trick that Indrajit received from Lord Siva, which could bring about a spell of darkness in the ranks and files of the enemy. “By means of this conjuring trick, when employed in a conflict, O ruler of ogres, the movement of the employer cannot be known either by the gods or demons.” (Ibid, Sloka 11) With this boon, Indrajit had the power to move unseen before the enemy. And Indrajit was not like Atikaya, who would not resort to illusory techniques even if his enemies employed it. In fact, this is one of the most important boons that he employed against Lakshmana.

The six sacrifices that he had conducted had given him near invincibility and the seventh one, namely the Nikumbhila, was stopped by none other than Ravana himself. We will see the details later. Had he completed it at that time or could he have been able to complete it in his second attempt to do so before Lakshmana marched on him, there would have been none who could have ever vanquished him.

With such glories to his credit, and bestowed with the divine bow and an inexhaustible quiver – as did Rama and Lakshmana – Indrajit remained matchless right from the beginning. The Uttara Kanda speaks of his exploits in winning over Indra and his son Jayanta as well.

Indrajit heard the wails of rakshasa women and rushed to his father, anxious about the safety of his brother and just by looking at Ravana, before he could even complete his words, Indrajit understands what has actually happened and on enquiries ascertain the death of Atikaya at the hands of Ravana. ‘Lakshmana killed him,’ says Ravana ‘while the monkey that set fire to our grand old city and others killed our forces.’ Indrajit is enraged instantly at the folly of Ravana.

‘  கொன்றார் அவரோ? ’ Was it that they killed Atikaya? ‘ கொலை சூழ்க!  என நீ கொடுத்தாய்  ’ It was you who offered them (to the enemy, beseeching them) to be killed. ‘ வன் தானையர் மானிடர் வன்மை அறிந்தும், மன்னா ,’ My king! You know how powerful these human beings are, how skilled they are and how massive is their army. ‘என்றானும் எனைச் செல ஏவலை '  You did not ask me to go in war against them, knowing full well they are extremely powerful. ’இற்றது’ And it was thus that our army and my brother were given to death (by you).

‘Why did you not send me in the first instance? Why did you not summon me? How dare you send such youngsters, especially when you know that the enemy is powerful, when you have yourself seen it in the battlefield!’ All Ravana wanted was this kind of emotional agitation! When the mind is obstinately set in an aimless pursuit, and eyes are bloodshot with rage and the personality is submerged by vanity and ego, wisdom takes a back seat. Ravana is an example.

First war with Indrajit

The anger of Indrajit shot up multi-fold on seeing Hanuman. Here was the person who was responsible for turning Lanka into shambles…

‘How at all I can remain here!’ hissed Indrajit. ‘When my brother has been killed in the battlefield, how can I rest here without making that Lakshmana, a delectable feast to Yama? ‘ இருந்தேன் எனின், நான் அவ் இராவணி அல்லென் ’ If I stay here, I am not the son of Ravana.

Ravana, as if he was waiting for this moment, seized it. After his defeat on the first day, we see him avoiding the field until the very last of his forces is wasted, remaining in the background, chuckling and challenging, whipping up passions and emotions in his favour, in the fond hope of waxing that victory that eluded him. ‘ ஏகா, இது செய்து  எனது இன்னலை நீக்கிடு ’ Go now and (do what you vowed now) and bring an end to my sufferings. ‘   எந்தைக்கு ஆகாதனவும் உளவோ? ’ Is there anything that is impossible for my sire! ‘  எனக்கு ஆற்றலர் மேல் மா கால் வரி வெஞ்சி லையோடும் வளைத்த போது சேகு ஆகும் என்று எண்ணி ’ It was you of the banded bow that I thought of as the source of my strength against my enemies  ‘ இவ்வின்னலின் சிந்தை செய்தேன் '

’ and decided to send you against them to take me out of the deep sorrow in which I am submerged.

Though on the one hand Ravana appears to be rather unthinking in sending his eldest son to take revenge on the one who killed his other son, on the other hand, he had reason to believe in the dexterity and prowess of Indrajit. Indrajit marched on the enemy with an army of forty vahini strong on Lakshmana.

On the other side, Lakshmana did not leave the field. He had calculated that having heard the death of Atikaya, either Ravana or Indrajit would come to the war front immediately. For him it was another opportunity to prove his mettle. ‘It is Indrajit who is coming here now,’ warned Vibishana. ‘It is not advisable to fight against him without being guarded on all sides. ‘maaruthi, sambavan, vanarEndhiran, thaarai sEi, neelan endru inaya thanmayaar vandhu udan ura,’ With Hanuman, Jambavan, Sugriva, Angada and Neela surrounding you on all sides, ‘nee nedum pOr seyath thagudhiyaal’ venture into this long, long battle with him.

Even as the rakshasa army was marching on into the field, Hanuman who had earlier moved away from the presence of Atikaya to the western gate, saw Indrajit coming to the field. Having seen his might earlier when he was bound by the divine weapon of Brahma, Hanuman rushed quickly to the spot where Lakshmana was preparing himself to meet the foe.

The sea of the Vanara host that stood guard before Lakshmana was soon churned by Indrajit and his forces, making the lower rungs of the Vanara army flee from the spot, leaving only the commanders to stand their ground. Sugriva rooted out a tree and attacked Indrajit but lo! It was turned to pieces by the quick arrows that showered on from the bow of Indrajit.

The anger of Indrajit shot up multi-fold on seeing Hanuman. Here was the person who was responsible for turning Lanka into shambles. Here was the person who put Aksha to a gruesome death. Hanuman engaged Indrajit in a tough combat. But even the rocks and hillocks that Hanuman hurled at him were pulverised by the force of his arrows. Without exception, all the valiant soldiers of the Vanara army fought with Indrajit and could not stand the ground against him for long. Seeing the destruction that Indrajit was causing, Lakshmana moved in.

There finally is a match

For the first time in his entire life, Indrajit saw a person who was a match for him in all respects. He was soon overtaken by awe and respect…

Many of the top ranking Vanara leaders who appeared before Indrajit, including Hanuman, in order to weaken his force, if not contain him, could not virtually last long. The first rock that he threw at Indrajit was pulverised by his arrows. Hanuman hurled a hillock at his chest and it hit him, leaving him unharmed and falling to the ground, powdered by the strong torso of Indrajit. Hanuman was bleeding profusely by the virulence and swiftness of the arrows that showered on and on from the bow of Indrajit. He could not be weakened either by Nila or by Angada, who rushed in to support Hanuman.

Lakshmana saw the destruction from a distance and quickly moved in. The Rakshasa leaders who were furious against him for having killed Atikaya launched a concerted attack on him. Lakshmana, who had just waged a long and tough battled against Atikaya just hours ago, was just unstoppable and he moved like forest fire, devouring the legions of the enemy and reducing its numbers to a very great extent in a very short time. This time, Hanuman being available close at hand and his services not needed by Rama, (to recollect, Rama is not in the scene at all and is not at all aware of what is happening here) Lakshmana seated himself on the shoulders of Hanuman, at the latter’s request.

Another reminder. What we are now looking at is the version of Kamban, which is so totally different from what Valmiki has presented. In a parallel scene in Valmiki Ramayana, we see Rama is also present in the field. We have discussed the dramatic elements and effects of this difference to some extent when we were discussing the role of Vibishana in this very same scene.

Seated on the shoulders of Hanuman, Lakshmana faced the brute in a fierce encounter. The details and techniques adopted run to several hundred verses. The Rakshasa army was reduced to nothing, leaving Indrajit alone in the field. Sri VVS Aiyar so very beautifully puts it, taking the idea from the Poet himself, thus. The Rakshasa flood abated completely, but Indrajit stood his ground unabated like a rock rising sheer from the bosom of a dried-up sea.” The sea of Rakshasa army having been dried up, Indrajit was the sole rock that was left and he stood his ground most valiantly.

For the first time in his entire life, Indrajit saw a person who was a match for him in all respects. He was soon overtaken by awe and respect for this person whom he used to call ‘a puny creature’ before the war started and had begun to respect them with the series of victories that Lakshmana was establishing in his very own presence. ‘an naran allan aagin nAraNan,’ he mutters to himself. The person who fights now with me is sure a man. If he is not a man, he could be none other than Narayana. ‘anayan andrEl pin aran, biraman endru pEsuga.’ If he is not Narayana either, then he could only be compared with Brahma and with Lord Shiva. ‘mannar nam padhiyin vandhu,’ For what king has come to our city hitherto, ‘varisilai pidithha kalvi’ and (has exhibited his) training in archery to this extent?

This fellow has come to our den. He is in our land and is fighting with me in my country. He has destroyed the thousand lions that were drawing my chariot. He has killed my charioteer. My chariot has been broken. I have never been subjected to such an insult even at the hands of the celestials. If this man does such a thing to me, Indrajit, then there must be something wrong. He may probably be not a man. He most likely is Narayana himself, or one of the Trinity.

Not a single Rakshasa warrior worth the name, is not left with surprise, shock and awe with the skills of Lakshmana.

Error of judgement I

Lakshmana immediately destroyed the chariot of Indrajit for one more time. His idea was to kill Indrajit after destroying the chariot. But he erred.

Lakshmana with his swiftness and mastery in the art of archery was soon turning the situation to his advantage. Indrajit, had come to the field so fresh, at the end of a day that found Lakshmana and others a little worn out comparatively, having had to wage a long war against Atikaya and continuing to face Indrajit. Indrajit had struck terror all around initially but it was now his turn to be at the receiving end.

‘nUru vem kaNai maarbin nuzhaidhalin’ Because a hundred arrows sunk in his chest, deep, ‘Uru sOriyodu uLLamum sOr thara,’ his physical strength was wearing out with blood flowing out heavily together with his will power ‘thEral aam thuNayum silai UndriyE aaru nindranan’ he pressed his (lower end of the) bow into the earth and leaned over it spent and tired, resting on the bow for a while.

It was on a chariot that was drawn by a thousand lions that Indrajit entered the field. It was destroyed and he had changed over to a thousand-horse drawn chariot. Hanuman jumped over the chariot even as Indrajit was resting on his bow and with a kick of his strong foot, he broke the chariot to pieces, killing all the horses and the charioteer as well. Indrajit immediately switched over to another chariot drawn by a thousand ghosts. He did nothing that day, Kamban jokes. ‘Eri Eri izhindhadhu allaal igal vEru seydhilan veyyavan.’ The only thing Indrajit was doing that day was to descend from a broken chariot and climb into a fresh chariot. He was busy with switching chariots and had no time left for fighting with Lakshmana!

Hanuman, who was carrying Lakshmana on his shoulders, did not simply stop with playing that role alone. He assumed his massive form and trampled countless rakshasas under his feet, jumping over them, while at the same time enabling Lakshmana to continue his war with Indrajit.

This situation was quite new for Indrajit. He had never encountered such an enemy. He was used to seeing the backs of his enemies in a short time. He expressed his shock and amazement to Mahaparsvan, who was standing by his side ‘oru vilaan nandru nam padai naarpadhu veLLamum kondru nindrapadi!’ I am shocked to see that a single archer has obliterated forty vahinis of our army! The answer of Mahaparsvan shows the state of mind in which the rakshasa forces were, that day. ‘neeyum naarpadhu veLLa nedum padai maya vem kaNai vazhanginai’ You destroyed a forty vahini of the Vanara army as well. ‘Oiyvu il vem samam okkum.’ Your skills doubtless match that of Lakshmana! Without realising it, the rakshasa warrior had put Lakshmana a mark above Indrajit and was comparing the latter against Lakshmana!

The evening was coming to an end and sunset was nearing. ‘You do not have much time left,’ Vibishana told Lakshmana. ‘naagame anaya namba!’ My Lord who resembles the (angered) cobra! ‘naazhigai ondru naangu baagame kaalm aagap paduththiyEl pattan.’ Only one fourth of a nazhigai – six minutes – is all that you have to kill him. He can be overpowered only if you act very quickly. ‘vega vaaL arakkar kaalam viLaindhadhu.’ The rakshasas become more powerful with sunset. The night is the time for demons. ‘visumbin EgumEl velvan.’ If Indrajit, with nightfall, reaches the sky, he would be invincible and would win for certain.

Lakshmana immediately destroyed the chariot of Indrajit for one more time. His idea was to kill Indrajit after destroying the chariot. But he erred. He did not anticipate that Indrajit would not hesitate to adopt his illusory warfare.

Error of judgement II

All Lakshmana knew was a straight face-to-face battle. As far as he was concerned, the battle was over once the enemy leaves the battlefield.

As soon as the chariot was destroyed, Indrajit vanished into the clouds. He needed time to perform the rites that were associated with the loosing of the serpent noose – naaga paasa – and therefore hid himself in the skies behind the clouds. He became invisible too, shrinking his frame the size of an atom.

‘thaNivu aRap paNdu sey thavaththinum’ because of the strength of the penances that he had performed in the past many years, ‘dharumaththaanum,’ and because of his adherence to the principles of righteousness, ‘piNi aRuppavanil petra varaththinum,’ and because of the boons that he had received from Brahma, ‘pirappinaanum,’ and because of the nature of his rakshasa birth, ‘maNi niraththu arakkan seydha maaya mandhiraththinaanum,’ and because of the power of sorcery he had, ‘aNu enach chiriyadhu aangu Or aakkayum udayan aanaan,’ he shrank his body to the size of an atom.

Notice the words of the Poet. ‘Because of his penance and because of his past adherence to the principles of Dharma,’ he says. He makes no attempt to hide the fact that all the Rakshasa forces were good souls at least at one point of time and gained their power only because of it. And at the same time, we learn a lesson that even such person can go awry and therefore one has to be ever wakeful and ever watchful over one’s qualities.

And now, Lakshmana, poor thing, he had no idea about unfair tactics. All he knew was a straight face-to-face battle. As far as he was concerned, the battle was over once the enemy leaves the battlefield. He was not used to the methods of withdrawing and then attacking from hiding. This is where the warfare in Ramayana differs from that of Mahabaratha. The world had moved a long, long way, far, far away from what it had held high even between the period of Ramayana and Mahabaratha!

The monkey hordes shouted with joy with the impression that Indrajit had beaten a retreat. ‘naayagarkku iLaya kOvum annadhE ninaindhu nakkaan.’ Lakshmana also thought in similar lines and smiled. He jumped down from the shoulders of Hanuman, handed his bow to Angada, and started plucking all the arrows that his chest was buried with. It was an announcement of a temporary cease-fire. Lakshmana was gathering his tools to walk home back and was preparing for a rest.

‘vittanan arakkan veyya padayinai.’ It was precisely at that moment Indrajit let loose the naaga paasa. Valmiki shows both the brothers bounded by the noose. Kamban differs in that he shows Lakshmana alone being bound by the paasa. “Both the aforesaid gallant princes, Sri Rama and Lakshmana, were for their part pierced with serpents used as arrows in such a way that no part of their bodies remained unpierced. Blood flowed profusely from the passage of their wounds and they both appeared like two Kimsuka trees in flower. Thereupon Indrajit (son of Ravana) the outer corners of whose eyes had turned red (through rage) and who looked like a mass of collyrium, spoke as follows to the two brothers, while remaining still invisible: “Even Indra, the ruler of gods, will not be able even to discern me much less approach me, while I am fighting imperceptibly, how much less you two!” (Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kanda, Canto XLV, Sloka 8-11)

The entire Vanara army and Lakshmana were on the ground in no time, bound by innumerable serpents that surrounded them held them hard. Just one person was found standing there. Vibishana. Indrajit had already left for his palace, having surveyed the result of what he did from the skies, victorious.

The divine will

It was due to divine Will that Lakshmana woke up from the numberless serpents that held him down in their powerful hold…

It was a very delicate situation for Vibishana, the sole survivor of the serpent noose attack. It was he who pushed Lakshmana into action against Indrajit and now there is nobody standing on the ground, excepting this poor soul. He was afraid of facing Rama. Guilt feelings overwhelmed him. We have discussed this earlier when we studied Vibishana. (See:A faggot burning on both sides)

In the following scenes, we witness Rama’s anguish and the harsh and unkind words in which he censures Vibishana. ‘You should have summoned me immediately when Indrajit came to the war front! You kept quiet and it has resulted in such a great loss! I have lost my brother now!’

The unfolding of events on that day were such that Rama did not come to know of the arrival of Indrajit at all. Let’s see the observation of Sri VVS Aiyar here. “Rama had not come to the field this day, as he had the fullest confidence in Lakshmana’s strength and valour and as he desired to give him all the honours of the day.” And if we take a closer look at the epic, we will find that Lakshmana had the sanction of Rama only to fight against Atikaya and it was by force of circumstances that Lakshmana continued his battle with Indrajit, without the sanction of Rama.

The position of Vibishana becomes highly precarious in view of this fact. Naturally, suspicions of misleading Lakshmana into a war with Indrajit would lurk anyone’s mind and Rama’s allegations border on that when he says ‘ennaik keduththanai vIdaNaa nI’. You have ruined me Vibishana. But the narration of events by Vibishana pacifies Rama and when he seeks information on the nature of the noose that is binding Lakshmana and the Vanara host and the remedy for it, he learns:

‘thaan vidil viduvadhu allaal,’ If at all it loosens its grip, it has to be of its own ‘chadhu muguan mudhalvar aaya vaan vidil vidaadhu.’ It can’t be made to uncoil its hold even by Brahma and others of his kind. ‘Un vida uyir pOi nIngum vEru uydhi illai.’ This is a no go situation. It will uncoil only after the victim dies. (That is to say, the victim is still alive now; only he is not conscious.)

Rama rises up in anger to destroy all universe but the very next moment, he is overwhelmed by mercy, logic and reason. He finds no reason why the worlds should be destroyed for his personal loss. When the situation gets tense extremely, the divine vehicle of Vishnu, Garuda, whose very sight is a terror to all serpents, arrives on the scene.

“In the meantime there arose a wind – as well as clouds accompanied by flashes of lightning – which, having whipped up the sea-water, began to shake the mountains as it were. Their boughs broken by that mighty wind caused by the flutter of wings, large trees of the entire island (of Lanka) fell headlong into the water of the salt sea. The huge serpents inhabiting that island got alarmed, nay, all the sea-monsters (which had crawled to the shore quickly (re-)entered the salt sea. In an instant, all the monkeys saw Garuda (the king of birds and a carrier of lord Vishnu) son of Vinata, who is endowed with extraordinary might, and resembled a blazing fire (in brilliance). Perceiving him arrived (on the scene), those serpents for their part by which, serving as arrows ………fled away for good.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kanda, Canto L, Sloka 33-37)

The verses describing the arrival of Garuda in Kamban are par excellence. Not without reason the unsparing critic, Sri VVS Aiyar observes, “The magnificent stanzas in which Kamban describes the majestic flight and appearance of Garuda have scarcely a parallel in literature for the roll of their rhythm and the grandeur of the image that they present to the eye of imagination.” Aiyar planned to translate these stanzas into English. “Though conscious of the impossibility of giving an adequate translation of them, we feel bound to attempt a translation and give some idea to the reader of their grand swing.” But it is unfortunate indeed that he died in an accident before he could do so.

Now let us return to Lakshmana.

A compliment from the enemy ranks

The words of Mali clearly establish the name that Lakshmana had earned among the ranks and files of the Lanka army. ‘Why should these poor things be punished? Who is not afraid of them today?’

The Vanara host having been unbound of the naaga paasa roared in glee that shook Lanka to its very centre. The tumultuous uproar was heard by Indrajit, who was apprising Ravana of his glorious victory in binding Lakshmana with the cobra noose and he was taken aback. Soon messengers brought the news of what had happened in the warfront. Ravana laughed, recalling his past victories over the Gods, when Garuda had to fly away with his arrows stuck in his wings.

‘INdu adhu kidakka.’ Let it be on one side. ‘mEnmEl iyaindhavaaru iyaiga.’ And let it happen as it had happened in the past. ‘enji mINdavar thammaik kollum vEtkayE vEtkkum andrE.’ You would now be full of the desire to return and kill those who have come back to life. ‘aaNthagai nIyE innum aatrudhi arumaip pOrgaL.’ Go back and resume the war. Kill those creatures and let Garuda who brought them to life be ashamed of his effort going waste.

But to the surprise – rather shock – of Ravana, Indrajit was in no mood to return that day. The victory he had established only hours back is running down from his fingers. He has a responsibility now to save his city, especially when his father desires him to do so. Earlier, when he started for the war on that day, he needed no goading. He seized the opportunity. He chided his father for having sent his younger and other lesser warriors, when he was there. Now he shows a reluctance, which he had not shown at all in his entire life.

‘indru oru pozhdhu thaazhththu,’ he says. Postpone it for one day. I am very tired. I need rest. ‘en igal perum siramam nIkki,’ let me rest and be rejuvenated in the morn. I will go to the battlefield tomorrow and with the Brahmastra, I would root out the cause of all anxiety in your heart. So saying Indrajit retired to his bedchamber.

Ravana is now left with no option but to summon his other trusted deputies. It may be observed that even at this juncture he does not think of undertaking the venture himself once again. He tries to avoid facing the warriors again. And when Mahaparsva and Dhumraksha, two of his five commanders offered to go themselves. Ravana had no alternative. These two were the guards of the chariot of Indrajit and had fled from the field, unable to stand the attack on them by Hanuman with the mace were censured by Ravana severely who ordered for the cutting of their noses and be paraded in the streets of Lanka, for their cowardice. But it was Mali – another warrior of Ravana – who saved the situation and changed his mind.

The words of Mali clearly establish the name that Lakshmana had earned among the ranks and files of the Lanka army. ‘Why should these poor things be punished? Who is not afraid of them today? ‘paasamum itradhu.’ The serpent noose did not hold. ‘padhiyin mElum naasamum utradhu.’ Our army has been reduced to a mere half of what it was. ‘nambi nadandhai.’ And my Lord! You walked back. (A couched hit on Ravana. The question that remains unasked here is, ‘If you propose to punish these two, tell me who will be left with a nose in Lanka? Would you not be one among them?’)

He says further. ‘In Lanka’s streets, let Lakshmana’s name be called aloud but once; alas! A panic wild at once does seize our people and they’d hear no more but shut their doors amain! Such terror inspires that dreaded name!’ (Translated by

Sri V V S Aiyar)

Though overpowered by scheming, Lakshmana had not lost his name even among the enemy ranks.

To use or not to use

The refusal of Indrajit that day to resume the war left Ravana with no other alternative but to send his commanders-in-chief and on their death, he sent Maharaksha – Maharak kannan, as Kamban would call him. Maharaksha was the son of Kara, who wanted to avenge for the death of his father in Janasthana at the hands of Rama. These battles did not last long and were fought by both the brothers and came to an end very soon.

Now Ravana was left with only one option, that of summoning Indrajit who was resting all the while. Indrajit had already promised that he would destroy the enemies by the use of Brahmastra. The second battle was in fact still more furious than the first one and initially Rama also was in the action front for a few hours. Lakshmana was fuming and was looking for the next opportunity to fight with Indrajit. With the kind of archery displayed by the brothers that day, the vast rakshasa army was turned to dust, leaving Indrajit alone.

Not beating a retreat, Indrajit advanced on his chariot towards Rama and Lakshmana. ‘iruvir ennodu porudhirO?’ he asked. Would both of you fight with me at the same time? ‘andru enin Etra oruvir vandhu uyir tharudhirO?’ Or would you come one by one and die at my hands? ‘um padayodum porudhu pondrudhal puridhirO?’ Or would you prefer to fight with me with all your army and die? ‘uruvadhu pugalum.’ Tell me what you desire to do. ‘tharuven indru umakku EtruLadhu yaan.’ I will give you whatever you want.

‘kumbakannan endru nIr ambidak kuraiththa thambi allan naan.’ I am not the brother of my father whom you killed with your arrows. ‘iRavaNan magan.’ I am the (proud) son of Ravana. ‘embimaarukkum en siru thaadhaikkum iruvir sem puN nIr kodu kadan kazhippen.’ Tell me soon, for I am desirous of performing the last rites to my uncle and my brothers who lost their lives at your hands, not with water but with your blood.

‘Allow me to fight the brute,’ Lakshmana requested Rama at that time.

“The serpent noose, my brother, that helpless bound
My limbs, has cast a slur upon my name
And men will point at me and say, ‘his friends
He could not save from worse than death; nor could
He stand against a valiant foe; and yet
He lives! If Indrajitta’s head, my darts
Do not remove, the lustre of my name
Is gone forever….”
(Kamban’s verses translated by Sri V V S Aiyar)

Rama therefore stepped back, allowing Lakshmana to take the field all by himself. The part played by Rama on that day in the warfront lasted only for the first few hours. Lakshmana fought with all his force and might and filled the field with severed limbs, blood and broken chariots, once again leaving Indrajit alone, standing by himself.

Indrajit, once again vanished into the skies, behind the clouds and from there reached his palace, this time to prepare for the firing of Brahmastra. It was Rama this time who thought that Indrajit had beaten a retreat and called the day off. ‘I perceive that he has not left as yet, my brother,’ Lakshmana told. ‘I deduce that he has gone for making preparations for shooting Brahmastra and for performing the rites that are associated prior to its use. I do not think he has run away from the field. He has bigger designs.’

And now we see Lakshmana playing his intuitive and insightful role once again.

He is at it again…

Indrajit was watching everything from yonder skies. He was waiting for the opportune moment. He did not stir. However, he started his preparations…

We will, for the sake of continuity, have a quick look at the events that took place on the second battle with Indrajit. We have seen a few portions of this day earlier, in our study of Vibishana. (See: A friend indeed and A friend in deed is a friend indeed)

‘kaN imaimppadhn munbu pOi visumbidaik karandhaan.’ Indrajit vanished behind the clouds in a trice. ‘aNNal matru avan aakkai kaNdilan aagi,’ Lakshmana could not see his physical presence anywhere. ‘paNNavarkku,’ turning to Rama (he said) ‘ivan pizhaikkumEl padukkum nam padayai.’ If this fellow escapes, he would destroy all our army. ‘eNNam matru illai.’ I have set my mind firmly on it and I don’t have a second thought. ‘ayan padai thoduppen.’ I will use Brahmastra against him.

‘No. You are not going to do it,’ said Rama firmly. ‘It is the most powerful weapon of all.* If you use it against Indrajit, it won’t stop with killing him. It is not possible to contain its destructive energy. Do not resort to its use.’ (* The Mahabaratha refers to another weapon, Brahma Siras, which is more potent than the Brahmastra.) There is no greater Veda for Lakshmana, other than the words of Rama. He accepted his words and changed his mind.

The use and directing of the Brahmastra was the job of a master. Not all could handle it. We see Aswathama using the Brahma Siras after the conclusion of the Mahabaratha war and Arjuna preparing to stop it with a similar weapon. While Arjuna could recall his weapon just moments before it was shot, Aswathama could not do so for he lacked the training to do so. Vyasa turned wild at this and Aswathama had to lose his Siromani for his misdeed. Nonetheless, the weapon that he used was directed on the foetus in the womb of Uttara, but the almost burnt foetus was saved and grew up to be King Pareekshith, son of Abhimanyu.

Rama must have had a similar thought. The weapon should not be used for the sake of killing one person, when it needs to be directed properly. ‘oruvanaal aagadhu,’ he says. It is not possible for anyone to stop its destructive force. That decision proved to be fatal, though it was made in mercy, considering the welfare of the worlds, even at a most critical time. Lakshmana, no doubt, had mastered this art of directing the divine weapon, which he proves in a later instance in the war. But for the present, Rama was hesitant about it. It was his nature. In fact, he had himself, for a long time, observed restraint in using the weapon against Ravana and only after a prolonged persuasion by Matali, the charioteer of Indra he put it to use.

Indrajit was watching everything from yonder skies. He was waiting for the opportune moment. He did not stir. However, he started his preparations, without the knowledge of Rama and Lakshmana. Both the brothers happily called it a day. The food supplies were unusually delayed and Rama sent Vibishana to supervise the preparations. It was sunset and it was time for Rama to offer puja to his weapons. He moved aside, asking Lakshmana to guard the army. ‘ayya naan avai aatrinen varuvadhu Or aLavum,’ my Sir, until I come back from performing the rites, ‘kai kOL sEnayaik kaa’ you take charge of the army and protect it, he told Lakshmana.

But Indrajit needed some more time. He asked his father to send another detachment. A battalion headed by Mahodara engaged Lakshmana and his army for a long time, as it darkened all around. It was nightfall. Mahodara, who could not stand the fiery arrows of Lakshmana, had run away from the field, returned in the guise of Indra and his army masqueraded itself as celestials and sages.

Killing from hiding

Indrajit did not have the compunction that Rama and Lakshmana had in the use of Brahmastra. We do not question that. But Indrajit did not have the temerity…

Lakshmana was perplexed. He could find no reason why the celestials, headed by Indra should come in war with them. He turned to Hanuman. ‘anuman vaaL mugam nOkkinan, aazhiyai agatrith thanu valam koNda thaamaraik kaNNan thambi.’ Lakshmana, the younger brother of the One who left the Ocean of Milk and walked the earth with bow in hand, turned to Hanuman. ‘munivar vaanavar munindhu vandhu eydha yaam muyandra thuni idhu en kolO?’ What could be the harm that we had done to the sages and celestials that they have come to fight with us? ‘solludhi viraindhu.’ (I am not able to understand.) Do tell me quickly.

Even as he was speaking these words to Hanuman, Indrajit, finding the opportune moment when Lakshmana’s attention was totally diverted, fired the Brahmastra from behind the clouds. Like the bombs of the present days that are impregnated with thousands of splinters that are thrown out when the bomb explodes, innumerable arrows burst forth from the Brahmastra. ‘kOdi kOdi nUraayiram vem kaNaik kuzhaangaL mUdi mEniyai mutrurach chutrina,’ says the Poet. Arrows several hundred thousand crores in number burst forth and enveloped one and all, with Lakshmana at the centre. Lakshmana lost his consciousness and fell down on the ground.

Hanuman, who was listening to Lakshmana moments ago roared forth, shouting, ‘Why would Indra do this?’ and the very next moment he was overpowered by the enormous destructive energy that Brahmastra dispelled all around.

A question may arise - “Why is that when Indrajit strikes Lakshmana from above in the clouds it is seen as a bad thing, while Rama did the same thing in his battle with Vali?”

The reasons for killing Vali from behind the tree have been discussed very elaborately and they need no reiteration here and it won’t serve any purpose to go over the arguments once again, when they are readily available. In the first place, in the Vali incident, it was not a battle between Vali and Sri Rama. In the second place, these two incidents cannot be compared because, Rama did not vanish from the sight of his opponent in the course of the battle, giving the appearance of a retreat and then resorting to an attack when the enemy is totally unprepared. Indrajit did precisely this.

Indrajit did not have the compunction that Rama and Lakshmana had in the use of Brahmastra. We do not question that. But Indrajit did not have the temerity to resort to the use of the divine weapon, right in the presence of his enemy. He tricked Lakshmana into believing that he had retreated and then when the attention of Lakshmana was diverted, he employed the divine weapon. This is where the chivalry of Indrajit sinks low by any standards.

We are going to see in our later instalments how Lakshmana faced the use of the same divine weapon, Brahmastra, when Indrajit used it against him once again. Indrajit was not man enough to fight Lakshmana face-to-face even when resorting to the use of divine missiles. And when he did so, Indrajit became so totally a different personality. He went to the extent of pleading with his father to send Sita back. Kindly bear with me till we study those scenes.

Is Vibishana right, after all?

What Vibishana told is true, really. Rama is none other than Narayana. I have understood this fact (today) without an iota of doubt,’ said Indrajit…

On his return with food to the field, Vibishana was shocked to see the land literally littered with the bodies of all Vanara warriors. Rama too returns and finds his friends and most of all, his loving brother, is alter ego, Lakshmana lying on the ground. Lamenting for the state in which Lakshmana was lying, Rama wept bitterly, fell by his side and overcome by grief, he swooned.

When this news reached Ravana, he saw the wonderful opportunity he had to impress Sita. He ordered her to be taken in the Pushpaka Vimana to the warfront and be shown of the devastation in the midst of which both Rama and Lakshmana were lying, resembling the dead. He calculated that if Sita is made to believe that both the brothers have died, he might perhaps be accepted by her. In order therefore to impress her more properly, he ordered for the mortal remains of all rakshasas to be thrown into the sea, leaving only the bodies of Vanara army there.

Sita was taken on the Pushpaka Vimana and was shown an aerial view of the condition in which the brothers were lying. She is seeing them for the first time after several months. But she is in no condition to feel happy about this. Trijata, the daughter of Vibishana, however, very logically and lovingly showed the truth behind all this to Sita.

In the meantime, Hanuman, who was the first to wake up from the effects of Brahmastra, guided by Jambavan, brought the mountain of herbs bringing everyone on the field back to life, with their wounds healed and their original health restored. Unfortunately, Ravana had arranged for throwing of all the bodies of rakshasas into the sea and therefore that ensured that no demon is re-enlivened! We have already seen these scenes in our study of Hanuman. (See: Ravana’s game plan, The Divine Design I, The Divine Design II andHumility, the other name for Maruti)

The fact that Lakshmana and his army were restored back to life shocked Indrajit. When he was asked to go back to war on the failure of Naaga paasa to hold Lakshmana and others in stupor until their death, he merely postponed it. But now, on hearing their restoration to life, and on listening to Ravana who still sticks to his empty arguments about his prowess and his determination to retain Sita, we see for the first time Indrajit’s mind wavering. ‘  உளது நான் உணர்த்தற்பாலது, உணர்ந்தனை கோடல் உண்டேல் ’ ‘I have to tell you something so that you understand things in their right perspective – if at all you want to listen and if at all you are willing to understand,’ Indrajit said, turning to Ravana.

‘ தள மலர்க் கிழவன் தந்த படைக்கலம் தழலின் சாற்றி அளவு இலது அமைய விட்டது ’ I fired the divine weapon – Brahmastra – given by the Lord who resides in the Lotus, utilising its full potential to kill, ‘இராமனை நீக்கி அன்றால் ’ and it was not to the exclusion of Rama. I did include him in its spell. ‘ விளைவு இலது ’ It did not have any effect on him. ‘ மேனி தீண்டில ’ It did not even touch his body. ‘ மீண்டது அம்மா ’ What a wonder! It returned without harming him.

‘ மானிடன் அல்லன் ’ He is not a (mere) human being. ‘ தொல்லை வானவன் அல்லன் ’ Nor is he one of the celestials. ‘  மேல் நிமிர் முனிவன் அல்லன் ’ Nor does he belong to the ranks of sages. ‘ வீடணன் மெய்யின் சொன்ன ’ (now I realise) what Vibishana told is true, really. ‘ யான் எனது எண்ணல் தீர்ந்தார் எண்ணுறும் ஒருவன் என்றே, ’ He is the one on whom people who have stopped thinking in the lines of ‘I and mine’ are setting their minds on.      ‘ சேகு அறத் தெரிந்தது அன்றே’ I have understood this fact (today) without an iota of doubt.

Indrajit is somewhere close to the realisation of the fact. But his warrior blood does not allow him to stop his fight against the ‘humans’. He felt the need to complete the half-finished Nikumbhila sacrifice. But he needed time to complete it. More time than is available to him. He had to play another illusory technique to gain the time that he needed.

Towards fulfilment

Brahma had granted Indrajit a boon that at the conclusion of the Nikumbhila Yaga, he would receive a chariot from Agni, drawn by horses that course anywhere…

‘I have a feeling that they are no humans and they must be the very Narayana in human form,’ Indrajit told Ravana. ‘But that doesn’t matter now. They may be or they may not be. ‘anayadhu vEru nirkka.’ Let that be on one side. ‘annadhu pagardhal,’ To call them as the reincarnations of the Supreme (and looking for an opportunity to stop the war now) ‘aaNmai vinayana andru’ does not befit manliness. ‘nindru vIzhndhadhu vIzhga.’ Let all those who have died (for our sake) be lost to us for ever. There is only one thing left for me to do now. ‘mUNdu yaan pOi nikumbalai viraivin eydhi,’ I have to reach Nikumbhila now quickly. ‘thuni aRu vELvi valli iyatrinaal mudiyum thunbam.’ ‘And if I continue the half-completed sacrifice and complete the Yaga, we will be ridden of all problems.’

As we have seen earlier, Indrajit had performed six yagjnas, and was performing his seventh – Nikumbhila – when Ravana entered the hall and stopped it, halfway through. Brahma had granted him a boon that at the conclusion of the Nikumbhila Yaga, he would receive a chariot from Agni, drawn by horses that course anywhere and everywhere that Indrajit desires, at his will. Apart from this, he would also receive the ultimate of all weapons, Brahmasiras, and by the strength of that missile, he would remain deathless until he fires the first arrow.

This is what Vibishana informs Rama in a later canto before Lakshmana sets out for his third and final war with Indrajit. “A (mystic) missile known by the name of Brahmasira (so called because it is presided over by Brahma) as well as horses coursing at his will has been well-nigh secured by that hero by virtue of a boon granted by Brahma (the self-born creator) pleased with his asceticism.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kanda, Canto LXXXV, Sloka 12)

‘But there is a problem. There are certain essential prerequisites that the Nikumbhila Yaga demands. When Indrajit sits for the Yaga, he should not get up until it is finished. If he completes the Yaga without being interrupted in any manner, he would become invincible. “If he gets up after concluding the ritual undertaken (by him) know us all as killed,” says Vibishana. (Ibid 13) But if there is an enemy of Indrajit who marches on him, before he (Indrajit) is able to reach the foot of the banyan tree (Nikumbhila, in other words) or before Indrajit is able to propitiate the fire – complete the Yaga with havis – that enemy of Indrajit would be the cause of the death of Indrajit.

That is, Indrajit should be able to complete the Nikumbhila Yaga without any external disturbance. In case there is such a disturbance in any form by – obviously – one of his enemies, before the commencement of the Yaga, or even if it is halfway through, then Indrajit had no chance of winning that enemy over. That enemy then becomes the superpower, to obliterate him.

Therefore, if Indrajit starts his Yaga now, it is very highly necessary that Rama and Lakshmana should not come to know of it. They should be rendered mentally unfit – rendering them physically unfit was impossible – so that they lose interest in everything. More than that, they should become panicky about the safety of their kith and kin and rush back to their own place. If that happens, then Indrajit would have purchased adequate time to complete the work in hand and that would be end of all the woes of rakshasas. ‘And then I have to do something in that direction to divert their attention and seed panic in their minds,’ thought Indrajit.

Clever ploy indeed

‘I will reach the battlefield today with an illusory Sita – maya Sita – then I will kill her in the presence of Hanuman,’ said Indrajit. ‘saanaki uruvamaakach chamaithu’ making the illusory form in the likeness of Sita, ‘avaL thanmai kaNda vaan uyar anuman munne vaaLinaal kondru maatri,’ and I will slay her in the presence of Hanuman who (is the only person who has seen her) ‘yaan nedum sEnaiyOdum ayOdhdhi mEl ezhundhEn ennap pOna pin,’ I will then tell him (Hanuman) that I am going over to Ayodhya with a large army ‘purivadhu ondrum illaar,’ they will be rendered inactive ‘avar thuyaram pUNbaar’ because they will be overcome by grief.

A clever plan indeed. Anybody else would have killed the maya Sita in the presence either of Rama or Lakshmana. But Indrajit chooses to do so before Hanuman. Rama or Lakshmana have seen Sita for years together and they would be able to see the utter falsehood that is happening before their eyes. But Hanuman has seen her only once and he would not be in a position to recognise that he is standing before an illusory form, as Indrajit would be taking this falsehood in an aerial car when Hanuman would be standing on the ground. The sheer distance would be sufficient to push him into the belief that what he is seeing is true. And when fear of her being killed envelopes the mind of Hanuman, even he, the very embodiment of wisdom would be dulled of his thinking, analysing and judging faculties.

That was what happened, precisely. Hanuman could not maintain his equanimity on seeing the maya Sita in the hands of Indrajit who slayed her, leaving Hanuman lamenting over his fate of witnessing this gruesome scene. 'I was the one who brought some solace to Rama. 'vanjiyai engum kaaNaadhu uyirinai marandhaan enna perum silai uravOn thEdith thirigindraan uLLam thEra,' As to embalm the heart of the great warrior of the massive bow, who had almost lost his life, 'am solaaL irundhaaL kaNdEn endra yaan,' I who told him that Sita is safe and has been seen by me, 'thunjinaaL endrum sollath thOndrinEn' has been fated to take him the news that she has been killed now!

Indrajit gave him another shock. 'I am going to Ayodhya now to kill Bharata, Satrughna and their mothers too, besides razing the city down. Do whatever you can. Protect them if you want.' So saying, he turned the Vimana in the direction of Ayodhya and vanished.
The news reached Rama. Had he seen or had Lakshmana seen the gruesome act, they would have read through the ploy. But the situation is totally different now. They are listening to it through their trusted bank of wisdom, who believes in what he has seen. The whole purpose of the campaign stands defeated now. There is no purpose in continuing the war efforts. Added to it, Indrajit has gone to Ayodhya with a threat to destroy the whole land with their kith and kin. Though they had complete trust in the ability of Bharata to handle the situation, they were not able to remain a moment more in Lanka. Should they fly back on Hanuman to Ayodhya? Or should they remain there, sending Hanuman alone? Difficult decisions had to be made. And Indrajit had moved to Nikumbhila in the meantime.

Hari Krishnan


Dev மற்றும் Hariki

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இப்பக்கம் கடைசியாக 5 மார்ச் 2010, 08:18 மணிக்குத் திருத்தப்பட்டது. இப்பக்கம் 9,211 முறைகள் அணுகப்பட்டது.