RAMA AND THE MONKEYS

88. Paths Cross

But Sugriva was no longer king of the monkeys in Kishkindha. Vali, his brother, had exiled Sugriva and had taken Sugriva’s wife.

Sugriva fled to Rishyamukha Hill, the only place he was safe from Vali, and Hanuman was among the loyal monkeys who followed Sugriva.

One day, Sugriva and Hanuman saw a flying chariot racing across the sky, and they heard a woman screaming.

“Go investigate,” Sugriva said to Hanuman.

Hanuman returned with the jewelry that he found on the ground. “She must have thrown this down for us as a sign,” Hanuman told Sugriva. “I wonder who she is.”

89. The Story of Vali and Sugriva

Vali and Sugriva were brothers. Here is one story of their birth:

Beautiful apsaras sang and danced in the court of Indra, god of rain and storms.

The charioteer of Surya, the sun-god, was Aruna. He longed to see the apsaras, so he disguised himself as a woman: Aruni.

Indra was surprised to see a face in the crowd he didn’t recognize. “She is beautiful,” Indra thought to himself. “I desire her.”

So Indra seduced Aruni in that female form, and she gave birth to a child: Vali.

Surya also slept with Aruni in female form; their child was Sugriva.

90. Another Story of Vali and Sugriva

Others tell a different story about the monkeys:

Gautama left his wife Ahalya and their daughter Anjana alone in the ashram.

Disguised as Gautama, the storm-god Indra slept with Ahalya, and she conceived a son: Vali.

The sun-god Surya did likewise, and Ahalya conceived another son: Sugriva.

Anjana was jealous of her brothers. “They aren’t your sons!” she told Gautama.

Enraged, Gautama cursed the boys, turning them into monkeys.

Ahalya then cursed Anjana to stand on one foot atop Mount Kailasha. “Let the wind feed you!”

The wind-god Vayu made love to Anjana there, and she conceived a son: Hanuman.

91. Another Story of Hanuman

This is another story of Hanuman’s birth:

Anjana was an apsara, a celestial dancer, but cursed to be born on earth as a monkey, a shape-shifting monkey able to change her form.

One day Anjana put on her human form and walked across a mountaintop where Vayu, the wind-god, saw her and was captivated by her beauty.

“I am Vayu,” he said to her, “and I love you! You will bear my son, and he will be able to move as the wind does, flying as high as he wants.”

So Anjana conceived Hanuman, the monkey-son of Vayu the wind-god.

92. Yet Another Story of Hanuman

Others tell a different story about Hanuman:

Dasharatha took the celestial kheer and gave it to his three wives: Kaushalya, Kaikeyi, and Sumitra.

Kaushalya ate and conceived Rama. As she ate, a crow snatched some kheer, flew away, and dropped the kheer into the mouth of the apsara Anjana; she conceived Hanuman.

Kaikeyi ate and conceived Bharata. As she ate, a crow snatched some kheer, flew away and dropped the kheer into the mouth of the rakshasi Kaikasi; she conceived Vibhishana.

No crows bothered Sumitra when she ate the kheer and conceived her two sons, first Lakshmana and then Shatrughna.

93. When Hanuman Was Hungry

Hanuman’s mother was Anjana, but when he was born, she left him alone in the forest.

Baby Hanuman grew hungry. Very very hungry.

So when he saw what he thought was a mango in the sky, he wanted to eat that mango. He flew into the sky, eagerly reaching with his hands to grab the mango, ready to bite it with his teeth.

But it wasn’t a mango. It was the sun!

Indra the storm-god grew angry and hurled a thunderbolt at Hanuman. Hanuman fell to the ground and broke his jaw.

That’s how he got the name Hanuman, Big-Jaw.

94. The Devas Bless Hanuman

Vayu picked up Hanuman and rocked the baby in his lap. Indra’s attack on Hanuman made Vayu very angry, so he stopped the air from moving. Nobody in the three worlds was able to breathe!

Brahma then came and healed Hanuman, and Vayu let the air move again so that everyone could breathe.

Next, all of the gods bestowed blessings on Hanuman. Indra gave him protection against thunderbolts, Surya gave him radiance, Yama freed him from all sickness, and Vishvakarma made him invulnerable to weapons.

Thus Hanuman was destined for greatness.

Sugriva would need his help.

And so would Rama.

95. Hanuman Grows Up

Having received boons from the devas, Hanuman grew up to be a strong and fearless monkey. He was also mischievous! He liked to tease the rishis of the forest, breaking their pots, tearing up their clothes, and interfering with their sacrifices.

Finally the rishis cursed Hanuman. “You will forget all your powers!” they shouted at him, and Hanuman no longer remembered the divine boons he had received.

It was not until he heard the words of King Jambavan years later, on the shore of the ocean, that he remembered the supernatural abilities he would need to carry out Rama’s orders.

96. Hanuman Finds a Guru

As he grew, Hanuman sought wisdom. He learned all he could from books and wanted to learn more.

He asked Surya, the sun-god, to be his guru, but Surya refused. “I must travel all day,” Surya said. “I don’t have time to stop for lessons.”

“I will run backwards, never stopping, so that I may learn from you,” said Hanuman.

Thus Surya became Hanuman’s guru, and Hanuman’s face was burned black from looking directly at the sun.

Having completed his studies, Hanuman wanted to give Surya the guru-gift.

“Look after my monkey son, Sugriva,” said Surya.

So Hanuman befriended Sugriva.

97. Dundhubi Challenges Vali

As Vali was older than Sugriva, he was king of Kishkindha.

The bull-asura Dundhubi came to Kishkindha and challenged Vali. “I wanted to fight Ocean,” Dundhubi said, “but Ocean said Mountain was stronger. I wanted to fight Mountain, but Mountain said you were stronger. I want to fight you, Vali!”

But Dundhubi didn’t know that Vali had an amulet given to him by his father, Indra, that deprived Vali’s opponents of half their strength. The stronger the opponent, the stronger Vali became.

Vali grabbed Dundhubi’s horns, easily smashed him to the ground, and threw his mangled corpse into the air.

98. Matanga Pronounces a Curse

When Vali threw Dundhubi’s corpse into the air, it flew over the ashram of the rishi Matanga on Rishyamukha Hill.

Drops of Dundhubi’s blood rained down upon the ashram, and this made Matanga angry. When he saw Dundhubi’s corpse lying on the ground, he shouted out a curse. “Whoever threw this corpse will die if he ever sets foot on Rishyamukha Hill. His head will explode in a thousand pieces!”

So when Sugriva later had to flee from Vali, he hid on Rishyamukha Hill.

Why did Sugriva have to flee his brother Vali?

It was because of Dundhubi’s son, Mayavi.

99. Mayavi Challenges Vali

After Vali defeated the buffalo-asura Dundubhi, Dundubhi’s son, Mayavi, decided to avenge his father. “I will kill you, Vali!” Mayavi roared as he came crashing through the forest.

Vali and Mayavi fought one another there in the forest, and then Mayavi fled into a cave.

Before following Mayavi into the cave, Vali commanded his brother Sugriva to keep watch. “If I fail and Mayavi emerges from the cave, you must kill him.”

Sugriva waited.

And waited.

No one emerged from the cave.

Thinking Vali was dead, Sugriva sealed up the cave and declared himself king.

But Vali was not dead.

100. Vali Returns

Deep inside the cave, Vali fought with Mayavi until he killed the asura and then fell into a deep sleep.

When Vali awoke, he made his way to the cave entrance, only to discover a huge boulder blocking his path. “Sugriva!” he shouted. “What have you done?”

Roaring with anger, Vali smashed the boulder and rushed to the palace, where he found Sugriva on the throne.

Vali tried to kill Sugriva, and Sugriva fled to the only place of safety he could think of: Matanga’s ashram on Rishyamukha Hill where Vali dared not go.

Hanuman joined Sugriva in his exile.

101. Vali Torments Sugriva

Because of Matanga’s curse, Vali could not set foot on Rishyamukha Hill. If he did, his head would explode into a thousand pieces.

Thus Sugriva took refuge there, thinking he would be safe from Vali.

Vali, however, still found a way to torment his brother. Every day he would fly over Rishyamukha Hill and kick Sugriva in the head, which was painful and humiliating for Sugriva.

Finally, Hanuman grabbed Vali by the ankle. “Stop it!” Hanuman shouted. “If you come back again, I’ll pull you down to the ground.”

Knowing that Hanuman meant what he said, Vali stopped tormenting Sugriva.

102. Hanuman Meets Rama

When Sugriva saw Rama and Lakshmana approaching Rishyamukha Hill, he was afraid. “They’re agents of Vali coming to kill me!”

He sent Hanuman, disguised as a brahmin, to find out what the strangers wanted.

“What brings you here?” Hanuman asked. “I inquire on behalf of my king, Sugriva.”

Hearing Sugriva’s name, Rama rejoiced. “We ourselves are seeking Sugriva!”

“So we are well met!” exclaimed Hanuman. “Get on my back, and I’ll take you to him.”

Hanuman changed into his monkey form, growing large enough for Rama and Lakshmana to ride on his shoulders, and he carried them to meet Sugriva.

103. Sugriva Becomes Rama’s Ally

Hanuman brought Rama and Lakshmana to Sugriva, who was hiding from his brother Vali on Rishyamukha Hill.

“We heard a woman screaming, and we saw a flying chariot. Then, we found these,” Sugriva said, showing Rama Sita’s jewelry.

Rama wept, and he told Sugriva his story.

Then Sugriva told Rama his story. “I too am in exile. My brother Vali took the throne from me. I too have lost my wife. My brother Vali took her from me.”

Rama and Sugriva became allies.

“I will help you kill Vali,” said Rama.

“And I will help you find Sita,” said Sugriva.

104. Sugriva Fights Vali

Sugriva and Rama made a plan: Sugriva would fight Vali, and Rama would shoot Vali from a hiding place in the bushes.

Sugriva and Vali fought, but Rama couldn’t tell who was who, so he didn’t shoot.

Sugriva fled, and Vali scoffed.

“You didn’t shoot him!” Sugriva said to Rama.

“I couldn’t tell you apart,” Rama explained.

Sugriva put on a flower-garland and challenged Vali again.

Rama aimed at Vali, shooting an arrow in his back.

Vali fell, fatally wounded.

Vali’s wife Tara wept bitterly and cursed Rama. “You will rescue your wife,” she said, “but still meet with grief.”

105. Tara Mourns Vali

As he promised Sugriva, Rama fatally wounded Vali.

Vali’s wife Tara wept, and Hanuman consoled her. “Vali’s great deeds earned him a place in heaven; don’t grieve,” he said. “You must help your son Angada honor his father with funeral rites.”

Before dying, Vali gave his amulet of invincibility to Sugriva. “It mustn’t touch my corpse,” he told his brother.

Then Vali died, and all the monkeys bewailed him.

Tara begged Rama to slay her with the arrow that slew Vali, but Rama refused. “God made us as we are,” he said. “There’s no escaping our destined happiness and sorrow.”

106. Sugriva Is Crowned King

It was time to crown Sugriva as king of Kishkindha.

“Noble Rama,” said Hanuman, “we ask you to come to the royal city and conduct the coronation ceremony.”

“Dear Hanuman,” Rama replied, “by my father’s order I may enter no city or village during my exile. I will stay here on Rishyamukha Hill with Lakshmana, awaiting the end of the monsoon. Then we must rescue my Sita!”

“I will come as soon as the monsoon season ends,” vowed Sugriva.

So Hanuman and the monkeys went to the city where they made Sugriva their king, with Vali’s son Angada as crown-prince.

107. Lakshmana Rebukes Sugriva

Rama waited in the forest during the rains, impatient to resume the search. Sugriva, now his ally, had vowed to help.

But when the rains ended, Sugriva continued to eat, drink and make merry with his wives in the palace.

“In my exile, I cannot enter the city,” Rama said to Lakshmana. “You must go speak to Sugriva.”

Lakshmana stormed into the palace, ready to kill Sugriva in his rage.

Ashamed, Sugriva begged Lakshmana’s forgiveness and went to Rama at once. “I will send out search parties,” said Sugriva. “My monkeys will scour the whole world to find your Sita.”

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