THE SEARCH

108. Hanuman Heads South

Fulfilling his promise to Rama, Sugriva assembled the monkeys and sent them in the four directions to search for Sita. To the south, he sent Hanuman and Angada, together with his ally, King Jambavan, king of the bears.

“I give you one month’s time to return with news!” commanded Sugriva.

Rama then spoke with Hanuman. “Take this ring, engraved with my name,” Rama said. “Sita gave it to me. Now give it as a remembrance to Sita so that she will know you are my messenger.”

Hanuman took the ring and bowed reverently. “I will not fail you,” he promised.

109. The Monkeys Enter the Cave

Hanuman led the search party southwards, and they fell into a vast cave, filled with trees and lakes, mansions and palaces.

There they met Swayamprabha.

“What is this place?” Hanuman asked her.

“Mayasura built this place for his beloved apsara, Hema,” she replied. “I guard it for her.”

Then Hanuman told her of their quest.

Swayamprabha smiled. “Normally those who enter here do not leave, but I will use my powers to help you. Close your eyes.”

The monkeys and bears put their paws over their eyes.

Then Swayamprabha transported them out of the cave, sending them south, towards Sita.

110. The Search Party Reaches the Ocean

The southern search party finally reached the ocean and could go no farther.

Angada despaired. “It is better that we should die here rather than return in failure,” he said. Jambavan and Hanuman sought to console him, but Angada wouldn’t listen. “Maybe Jatayu was wrong all along!” he shouted.

At that moment an enormous eagle approached them, limping along the water’s edge.

“Did you say Jatayu?” asked the eagle. “I am Sampati, and Jatayu is my brother. Tell me more! Perhaps I can help you. While I cannot fly, my eyesight is keen. But first, speak to me of Jatayu.”

111. The Story of Sampati and Jatayu

“Long ago,” Sampati continued, “Jatayu and I decided to race to the sun. We soared through the sky, flying fast. The heat was intense. ‘Turn back!’ I shouted to Jatayu, but he kept flying straight at the sun. I sped in front, spreading my wings to shield him. The sun scorched my wings, and I fell to the ground here. I have had no news of my brother in all this time. Is he well? Tell me everything!”

“Your brother is dead,” said Hanuman sadly. “He died trying to protect Rama’s wife Sita from her abductor. Now we seek Sita.”

112. Sampati Turns his Gaze to Lanka

Sampati turned his gaze towards the ocean, scanning the far horizon.

“I see an island!” he said to the monkeys and bears. “And I see a golden city; that must be Lanka, where Ravana rules. There I see many beautiful women. They are happy and smiling. But there is one woman who is not smiling. That must be Sita. She sits under an ashoka tree, and she looks very sad.”

As Sampati spoke, his wings grew back. He was able to fly again! “I wish you success in your quest,” he said, and then he soared away into the sky.

113. Who Will Jump to Lanka?

From Sampati, they learned that Ravana had taken Sita to Lanka.

“Who among us is strong enough to leap one hundred yojanas over the ocean to Lanka?” asked Angada.

“I can leap ten yojanas,” said one of the monkeys, “but no more.”

“I can leap twenty,” said another.

“Thirty,” said another, “but that’s all.”

Thus they could find no monkey able to reach Lanka and send word to Sita.

Then Jambavan, the king of the bears, spoke up. “There is one among you who can do this, but he has forgotten his own powers,” he said. “That monkey is Hanuman.”

114. Jambavan Inspires Hanuman

“You are the greatest among the monkeys,” Jambavan said to Hanuman, “but you have forgotten your powers. Your father is Vayu the wind-god, and you can fly as high and as far as you want, just like the wind. As a baby, you flew into the sky to grasp the sun. The gods have bestowed blessings upon you.”

Hanuman stared at Jambavan in surprise.

“You must remember who you are!” Jambavan told him. “Then you will be able to make this leap to Lanka to find Sita and to learn how Rama might rescue her. You must jump, Hanuman: jump!”

115. Hanuman Leaps

Encouraged by Jambavan, Hanuman grew in size, rocketing up towards the sky. Hanuman soon towered over the monkeys and bears, who stared at him in awe.

Mighty Hanuman then climbed the towering Mount Mahendra, and as he squeezed the mountainsides in his ascent, the mountain bellowed like a trumpeting elephant. The ground shook violently, and all the animals who lived there looked around in terror as they saw the colossal Hanuman climbing up the mountain.

When Hanuman reached the mountain top, he saluted Surya, Indra, Brahma and his father Vayu, the wind-god. Then, at last, he launched himself towards Lanka.

116. Mount Mainaka Greets Hanuman

As Hanuman soared through the air, a mountain flew up from beneath the waters and offered him a place to rest.

“I am Mount Mainaka,” the winged mountain said. “Long ago, all the mountains had wings and flew through the sky, but Indra grew angry at us and cut off our wings. Vayu the wind-god carried me away from Indra, and I have hidden all these years in the ocean’s depths. Now I have risen up to offer you a resting place.”

Hanuman smiled at the mountain in gratitude. “Thank you, ” he said, “but I have no time to rest.”

117. Surasa Attacks Hanuman

The sea-monster Surasa rose up from beneath the waters, her mouth gaping open. “Feed me!” she screamed. “Everyone must give me food, or become my food.”

“I have no food to give you,” Hanuman replied.

“Then I will eat YOU!”

But Hanuman grew and grew until he was bigger than Surasa’s mouth.

Surasa opened her mouth wider.

Bigger. Wider. Bigger. Wider.

Then Hanuman made himself tiny and buzzed through Surasa’s teeth, escaping before she could shut her mouth.

“I offered myself as food and you failed to eat me,” said Hanuman, flying away. Surasa had to admire his clever escape.

118. Simhika Attacks Hanuman

As Hanuman sailed through the air towards Lanka, he cast a shadow on the water below.

The sea-monster Simhika seized Hanuman’s shadow, using magic to pull him down towards her.

Hanuman allowed Simhika to swallow him, but then he expanded inside her, bigger and bigger, slashing with his claws, until Simhika exploded into a thousand pieces, and the ocean’s waters turned red with her blood.

Hanuman then rose up into the air and continued his journey to Lanka.

The devas had been watching, and they sang Hanuman’s praises. “You will surely succeed in your quest, Hanuman!” the gods all shouted.

119. Lankini Challenges Hanuman

When Hanuman landed on Lanka, the eight-armed goddess Lankini challenged him. She held a pot of fire in one hand; in another, a bell. She waved a club capped with a human skull, and also a trident on which an elephant was impaled. In her other hands she brandished a torch, a sword, and an axe, and a snake that spewed poison.

“STOP!” she shouted at Hanuman. “You will go no farther.”

But Hanuman knocked her to the ground with his tail.

Lankini shuddered. “I cannot stop this monkey,” she groaned. “This was foretold: the city of Lanka is doomed.”

120. Ravana Comes to Sita

Hanuman found Sita in the ashoka grove, guarded by rakshasis. He concealed himself in a tree, waiting until he could speak privately to her.

Ravana and his wives then came to the grove.

Ravana attempted to seduce Sita with promises of wealth and power, but Sita rejected his advances. “You should make peace with Rama,” she said, “and release me.”

“Silence!” shouted Ravana. “I give you two months’ time to agree to my demands and become my wife. If you refuse, I’ll take you to my kitchen, kill you, and eat you for my breakfast!”

Hanuman saw and heard everything.

121. The Rakshasis Taunt Sita

The rakshasis taunted and tormented Sita. She sobbed and shouted at them, “Devour me if you want, cruel rakshasis! I don’t care. I refuse Ravana, and my Rama will come and kill you all.”

The rakshasi Trijata described a dream she had in which Rama indeed destroyed all of Lanka.

Made anxious by Sita’s grief and Trijata’s dream, the rakshasis retreated and left Sita alone.

Sita then decided to end her life. “I will use the braid of my hair to hang myself,” she said aloud, thinking nobody was there.

But Hanuman, hidden in a tree, kept watching and listening.

122. Hanuman Addresses Sita

As Sita prepared to hang herself, she experienced powerful omens that gave her hope: her left eye quivered, as did her left shoulder and her left leg.

“I won’t despair!” she vowed out loud.

Then, to her surprise, a voice spoke forth from the ashoka tree. “There was a king named Dasharatha,” Hanuman began, “whose eldest son was named Rama.” Hanuman narrated the events of Rama’s exile and Sita’s abduction, and then how Rama allied himself with the monkey-king Sugriva and sent the monkeys out in all directions to find her.

“And that is how I came here!” Hanuman said.

123. Hanuman Shows Sita the Ring

The monkey climbed down from the tree and said, “My name is Hanuman, and I am Rama’s messenger to you.”

Sita hesitated. Perhaps this was Ravana in disguise, tricking her again?

Then Hanuman showed her Rama’s signet-ring, engraved with his name. “You know this ring,” Hanuman said. “Set aside your doubts. If you want, I will carry you away to Rama now.”

Sita laughed at the small monkey, but then Hanuman grew to an enormous size, and Sita realized Hanuman could do what he said.

“No,” she replied softly. “Let Rama free me. You must bring Rama to me here.”

124. Sita Tells Hanuman a Story

Sita handed Hanuman her hairpin. “Take this to Rama and remind him of this story which nobody else knows. One day in the forest a crow bothered me. It wouldn’t leave me alone. I ran to Rama, but the crow pursued me, pecking me until it drew blood. Rama took a blade of kusha grass and made it into a fire-missile. The crow begged for mercy, but the missile could not fail, so Rama had the missile strike the crow’s right eye. The crow lost its sight in that eye but survived. Tell that to Rama, and he will remember.”

125. Hanuman Runs Wild

“I now have a long journey,” Hanuman said to Sita, “and I am very hungry.”

“I offer you the hospitality of this grove,” said Sita. “These trees are my friends; eat all you want of their fruit.”

Hanuman then began jumping from tree to tree, devouring all the fruit. The guardians of the grove came running when they heard the noise, and Hanuman pelted them with fruit, laughing.

The commotion grew so loud that it woke Ravana. “Catch that monkey!” Ravana shouted at his son Aksha.

But Hanuman killed Aksha.

Aksha was the first casualty of the war to come.

126. Hanuman Fights the Rakshasas

When Ravana learned Hanuman had killed Aksha, he shouted for Indrajit, his eldest son. “Go catch that monkey and bring him here!” Ravana shouted.

Indrajit armed himself with his deadly bow of many colors and then rode out to confront Hanuman.

Hanuman laughed when he saw Indrajit, and he kept on taunting the rakshasas. But when Indrajit fired a Brahma-arrow, Hanuman fell to the ground.

The rakshasas bound Hanuman with ropes, but Hanuman had only pretended to fall, wanting them to take him to Ravana. He shrieked and struggled, pretending to fight, and the rakshasas did exactly what he wanted.

127. Hanuman Warns Ravana

Hanuman bowed before Ravana, who sat proudly on his crystal throne.

“I am Rama’s messenger!” Hanuman proclaimed. “I allowed you to capture me so I could give you this warning: if you wish to survive, you must return Sita to her husband now. You may be the mighty king of the rakshasas, but no one can protect you from Rama.”

“I am going to kill you, monkey!” shouted Ravana.

But Vibhishana intervened. “No, my brother! A messenger’s life is sacred. You cannot kill Rama’s messenger.”

Ravana knew Vibhishana was right, so he said, “I’ll punish the monkey some other way!”

128. Hanuman Spreads the Fire

“Monkeys are proud of their tails!” Ravana snarled. “So I will burn this monkey’s tail. Let him feel both pain and shame!”

Musicians played while the rakshasas wrapped Hanuman’s tail with oil-soaked cotton. “Apply the torch!” Ravana commanded, and Hanuman’s tail burst into flames. Then Hanuman leaped up and set Ravana’s throne-room on fire.

Then the whole palace.

Then he proceeded to burn all of Lanka, house by house.

But Hanuman did not burn the ashoka grove where Sita was praying to the fire-god Agni. “Please keep Hanuman safe, O Agni!” said Sita. “Do not let the fire harm him.”

129. Hanuman Burns the Houses of Lanka

Hanuman then set fire to the royal living quarters. Ravana’s wives all ran out, shrieking, “The fire-god Agni has taken the form of a monkey!”

Next, Hanuman found the house of Ravana’s general, Prahasta; he leaped to the roof, using his tail to set the house on fire.

One by one, Hanuman set fire to all the great houses of Lanka. Flames and smoke filled the city.

“This is Kala himself, Time-the-Destroyer!” the rakshasas screamed. “Lanka is doomed!”

But in another house, Hanuman saw a rakshasa chanting Rama’s name; it was Vibhishana, Ravana’s righteous brother. Impressed, Hanuman spared that house.

130. Hanuman Returns

After burning the city of Lanka, Hanuman returned to the ashoka grove to make sure Sita was safe and to bid her farewell. “Rama will come soon,” he promised her, “and he will rescue you from Ravana.”

Hanuman then grew as large as a mountain and leaped back over the ocean, returning to where the monkeys and bears waited for him on the shore.

“You’re alive!” shouted Jambavan with joy.

“Tell us everything!” said Angada, amazed. “We could see the smoke and flames from here, and we feared the worst.”

“You need not fear,” Hanuman replied. “I bring good news!”

131. The Monkeys and Bears Celebrate

Angada led the monkeys and bears back to Kishkindha, hurrying to meet Sugriva’s deadline.

On the way they came to Madhuvana, a honey-park belonging to King Sugriva. “Honey for the soldiers who bring news of Sita!” they all shouted. “Honey for the monkeys and bears!”

But Dadhimukha, the monkey who guarded the honey-park, stood his ground. “This grove belongs to King Sugriva!” he said. “The honey is his.”

Undeterred, the monkeys and bears overwhelmed Dadhimukha. Even Angada joined in the fight and knocked Dadhimukha to the ground.

Then they got drunk on the honey, dancing and singing songs of victory.

132. Dadhimukha Reports to Sugriva

Driven away by the honey-drunk monkeys and bears, Dadhimukha ran to King Sugriva and reported to him what had happened.

But instead of being angry, Sugriva was delighted. “Summon Lakshmana here immediately!” he told his attendants. “Angada’s expedition to the south has succeeded. They must be returning with news of Sita!”

Then Sugriva turned to Dadhimukha. “Bring Angada here to me, together with Hanuman and Jambavan. We will listen to their news, and then Lakshmana and I will go to see Rama on Rishyamukha Hill.”

Encouraged by Sugriva’s happiness, Dadhimukha returned to the honey-park to carry out his king’s command.

133. Rama Receives Hanuman

Rama had been waiting on Rishyamukha Hill; under the terms of his exile, he could not enter any city. Much time had passed, but no news had come.

At last Rama saw Lakshmana approaching, together with Sugriva, Angada, and Hanuman, their faces shining with happiness. “Is there news?” Rama shouted eagerly.

Angada narrated their trip to the ocean, and Hanuman told Rama about his trip to Lanka.

“Sita is safe and awaits you,” he said. Then, taking Rama aside, he told Rama the story of the crow and also gave him Sita’s hairpin.

Rama wept with joy at this news.

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