THE WAR

134. Ravana Seeks Advice

Ravana summoned his ministers. “Advise me about Rama, the human who sent that monkey to our city.”

The rakshasas told Ravana there was nothing to fear, but Ravana’s brother Vibhishana did not agree. “There have been many ill omens,” he said. “Snakes have coiled around the sacred poles. Ants have infested the holy offerings. The cows give only curdled milk, and the horses weep. Crows are flocking to the rooftops. Vultures are circling. Jackals are howling.”

All that Vibhishana said was true, but Ravana grew angry and sent him away. “Sita is mine!” Ravana shouted. “I will never surrender her.”

135. Ravana Speaks with Kumbhakarna

Ravana’s gigantic brother Kumbhakarna had been sleeping all year long, cursed as he was by Nidra-Devi, the sleep-goddess. He knew nothing about Ravana’s abduction of Sita. He even slept through Hanuman’s destruction of Lanka.

When Kumbhakarna awoke, Ravana told him about Sita and about Rama’s demands. “What should I do?” he asked.

“Taking the woman was not wise,” said Kumbhakarna. “But I will use my strength to defeat your enemies. Let Rama come, let his brother come, let the monkey army come! Wake me, and I will kill them all and drink their blood.”

Then he went back to sleep.

136. Vibhishana Comes to Rama

Rama led his army of monkeys and bears south to the ocean. There they camped on the shore, deciding how to rescue Sita from Lanka.

To their surprise, a rakshasa came flying through the sky. “Rama,” cried the rakshasa, “give me refuge!” It was Vibhishana, Ravana’s righteous brother.

“He can’t be trusted,” shouted Sugriva. “I’m certain he plans to kill us in our sleep.” Angada and Jambavan agreed that Rama should send Vibhishana away.

But Hanuman said, “I know this rakshasa; I heard him speak in my defense, defying his brother. We can trust him.”

So Rama gave Vibhishana refuge.

137. Rama Petitions the Ocean

Rama sought help from Varuna, the Ocean God, to cross over to Lanka. He conducted rituals by the shore for three days and nights, but the Ocean did not come to him, and Rama grew angry. He attacked the Ocean with arrows, shattering the water and terrifying the Ocean’s inhabitants.

Lakshmana rushed towards Rama and restrained him. “You are not a man of anger, brother. Stop this attack.”

Ocean appeared at last. “Dear Rama,” he said, “the way to cross me is by means of a bridge. The monkey Nala knows how to do this; let him build the bridge.”

138. Nala Builds a Bridge

Following Varuna’s advice, Rama sought out the monkey Nala, the son of Vishvakarma, architect of the gods. “Yes,” Nala told Rama, “I can build this bridge.”

Thousands of monkeys and bears dragged trees and rocks to the ocean’s edge. Nala chose the rocks, fitting them one to another, and on each rock he wrote Rama’s name. Thanks to the power of the Rama-nama, the stones floated on the water; they did not sink.

As they saw the bridge stretching farther and farther towards Lanka, everyone whooped with joy. Even the gods and the gandharvas gazed down from heaven in amazement.

139. A Squirrel Wants to Help

While monkeys and bears hurried to build the bridge, dragging huge trees and enormous rocks to the seashore, a squirrel wanted to help. So the squirrel rolled in the sand, ran to the bridge, and shook the sand out of his fur. Again and again.

Then an angry monkey kicked the squirrel out of the way. “We need real workers!” he shouted.

But Rama rebuked the monkey. “The squirrel’s work matters,” explained Rama. “That sand is filling gaps between the stones.”

In gratitude, Rama ran his fingers over the squirrel’s back.

That is why the squirrels of India have stripes.

140. A Woman’s Body Washes Ashore

One morning, they saw something floating in the water… a woman’s body, tangled in the seaweed.

Lakshmana ran up. “It’s Sita!” he wailed in horror.

Rama came running, and the princes wept, stricken with grief.

But Hanuman was suspicious. He built a pyre, put the body on top, and set it on fire.

“Stop, Hanuman!” Rama shouted. “What do you think you are doing?”

Before Hanuman could answer, the supposed corpse rose up and shrieked.

“It’s not Sita!” said Hanuman. “This is Benjakai; I saw this shape-shifting sorceress in Ravana’s palace.”

Howling in defeat, Benjakai fled back into the ocean.

141. Who Destroyed the Bridge?

The bridge soon reached halfway to Lanka.

But then, during the night, sea-monsters destroyed the bridge. In the morning, they saw the sea-monsters splashing in the ruins, dragging away the rocks.

“I’ll find out who did this!” Hanuman shouted. He dove down into the water. There he found a palace, and inside the palace he found the mermaid Suvannamaccha.

“Ravana asked me to destroy your bridge,” she said. “But you are a very handsome monkey. I like you! My creatures will help repair the bridge. Forgive me, please!”

Hanuman smiled at the mermaid.

Later, she would bear his son: Macchanu.

142. Rama Marches to Lanka

When they finally finished building the bridge, Rama led his army of monkeys and bears on their way to Lanka.

But Ravana was watching! Before Rama and his army could enter Lanka, he shot two massive arrows that destroyed each end of the bridge.

Rama’s army could not go forward or backward, and hungry sea-monsters were swarming in the waters around them.

“Help us, Hanuman!” shouted Rama.

The mighty Hanuman leaped to Lanka and then enlarged himself, expanding his tail to span the gap.

Rama’s army then marched over Hanuman’s tail into Lanka.

Rama had thwarted Ravana’s plans once again.

143. The Army Meets the Enemy

Rama and his army were about to march onto the shore of Lanka when Vibhishana shouted a warning.

“Stop, Rama! Stop!” he yelled. “Do you see that rakshasa coming towards us?”

“Yes!” said Rama. “He’s wearing a blindfold. Who is he?”

“That’s Bhasmalochana,” Vibhishana explained. “His eyes incinerate everything that he gazes at. I brought this just in case!” Vibhishana handed Rama a mirror.

Rama grasped the mirror and pointed it in the direction of Bhasmalochana.

Then, as soon as the rakshasa removed his blindfold, he found himself gazing into the mirror and incinerated himself.

Rama had thwarted Ravana again.

144. Ravana Summons a Magician

Ravana knew Rama’s army was ready to invade Lanka, so he summoned the greatest magician among the rakshasas.

“I want you to conjure up Rama’s head,” Ravana said, “and I will show it to Sita.”

The magician did as Ravana commanded.

Ravana then entered the ashoka grove and threw Rama’s head at Sita’s feet.

“Behold!” Ravana shouted. “Rama, who was your husband, is dead. Now I will be your husband.”

Sita fainted, but when she recovered she stared at Ravana coldly.

“Kill me too,” she said. “I will join my husband in heaven.”

The head vanished.

Ravana’s plan had failed.

145. Rama Sends Angada to Ravana

After Rama and his army marched across the bridge to Lanka, they built camp.

Then Rama sent the monkey Angada to Ravana on a diplomatic mission. “Tell Ravana this: free Sita, and we will depart in peace.”

Angada went to the palace, but Ravana ordered his guards to seize Angada and kill him.

Angada broke free and jumped to the roof of Ravana’s palace, punching holes in the roof with his fists and stamping with his feet until the roof collapsed.

Angada then leaped back to Rama. “There can be no peace with Ravana,” he explained. “There will be war.”

146. Indrajit Attacks

Ravana’s soldiers carried the usual weapons of war, while Rama’s soldiers wielded trees and rocks, fighting with their teeth and claws. The armies clashed day after day, and blood flowed everywhere, the blood of rakshasas mingling with the blood of monkeys and bears.

Ravana’s son Indrajit then used his invisibility to penetrate Rama’s defenses. He appeared out of nowhere, attacking the princes with his serpent-arrows. “Die!” he shouted. “Die, both of you!”

As they writhed in agony, pinned to the ground by Indrajit’s arrows, Indrajit disappeared as suddenly as he had appeared.

The monkeys and bears all howled in despair.

147. Sita Visits the Battlefield

Indrajit returned to Ravana in triumph, shouting, “I have killed both Rama and Lakshmana!”

Ravana rejoiced and then summoned Trijata, one of the rakshasis who guarded Sita, ordering her to take Sita to see the bodies. “You can use my flying-chariot,” he said. “This time it is no trick; she can see for herself that my son has killed her Rama.”

Trijata did as Ravana commanded, and when Sita looked down from the sky, she saw both Rama and Lakshmana, pinned to the ground with arrows, lying in a pool of blood. Then Sita burst into tears, her heart broken.

148. Trijata Consoles Sita

Sobbing, Sita pointed to the bodies of Rama and Lakshmana on the ground. “Look!” she said to Trijata. “There lies my Rama, with his noble brother Lakshmana lying beside him.”

But Trijata, who had become Sita’s friend and confidant, did not despair. “They must still be alive,” she told Sita. “This divine vehicle cannot bear the weight of a widow’s grief. If your husband were truly dead, the chariot would plunge to the ground. Rama must still be alive, and his brother too. Take heart! I know the news will reach Lanka soon: Rama lives. The war is not over.”

149. Garuda Arrives

On the battlefield, the monkeys and bears wept over the bodies of the two princes, but Vibhishana said, “The serpent-arrows have only paralyzed them; they are not dead.”

Then the eagle-god Garuda, enemy of all serpents everywhere, hurtled down from the sky like lightning. When the serpent-arrows saw Garuda, they fled underground, hissing in terror.

Garuda then bent over the bodies of Rama and Lakshmana, caressing their faces, and the two princes revived. At his touch, their wounds were healed. Even better: Rama and Lakshmana were now stronger than before, imbued with Garuda’s powers.

All bowed before Garuda in thanks.

150. Rama Worships Durga

To prepare for war, Rama honored Durga, the warrior-goddess. “I will offer her 108 perfect blue lotuses,” Rama said, “one for each of her sacred names.”

So Rama gathered the lotuses and began chanting the names, offering one lotus for each name.

But when Rama reached the last name, he realized he had miscounted: he was short one lotus. Without hesitating, Rama took an arrow, ready to extract one of his eyes to offer instead.

At just that moment, the goddess appeared. “Stop!” she said. “Your offering is complete, Lotus-Eyed Rama.”

Then the goddess blessed Rama, bestowing victory upon him.

151. Ravana Awakens Kumbhakarna

Ravana’s spies confirmed the rumor: Rama was alive! Enraged, Ravana launched an assault, but the monkeys and bears repelled the rakshasas, felling them with trees, crushing them with rocks, and slashing them with teeth and claws.

Ravana then woke his brother, the giant Kumbhakarna, who had gone back to sleep. “Save me!” Ravana said.

So Kumbhakarna marched into battle, grabbing monkeys and bears by the handful and devouring them.

But Vibhishana reassured Rama. “Ravana has awakened our brother too early!” he explained. “Kumbhakarna will die this day; he cannot escape his fate. Launch a counterattack, and you will be victorious.”

152. Kumbhakarna Marches into Battle

Hanuman bravely attacked Kumbhakarna, hurling a mountain-top at the giant. Kumbhakarna stumbled but did not fall, and then landed his spear in Hanuman’s chest. Seeing Hanuman wounded, thousands of monkeys jumped on Kumbhakarna, but the giant shook them off.

Sugriva then struck Kumbhakarna with a boulder, smashing it to pieces on his head while Rama aimed his arrows at Kumbhakarna’s heart. Still the giant did not fall.

Rama then used his arrows to chop off Kumbhakarna’s arms.

Then his legs.

With one more arrow, Rama sliced off Kumbhakarna’s head.

So Kumbhakarna died in battle. He could not escape his fate.

153. Indrajit Attacks Again

After Rama killed Kumbhakarna, Indrajit conducted a ritual to imbue his weapons with even greater power and then returned to the battlefield, invisible.

As Indrajit began to rain down deadly arrows on the monkeys and bears, they screamed in terror, defenseless against this invisible warrior.

“Indrajit has come for us, brother,” Rama said to Lakshmana. “We must expose ourselves to him now, before he kills us all.”

So Rama and Lakshmana rushed forward, and Indrajit launched his Brahmastra directly at them. The two princes sank to the ground, and Indrajit flew back to Lanka, roaring with the joy of victory.

154. Hanuman Goes to the Himalayas

“That was Indrajit’s Brahmastra,” shouted Vibhishana in despair. “I don’t know any remedy.”

“But I do,” said Jambavan the bear. “Hanuman must go to Rishabha Mountain in the Himalayas and bring back the sanjivani herb. Do it now, Hanuman!”

Hanuman leaped into the air and headed north. When he reached Rishabha Mountain, he didn’t know how to find the sanjivani, so he tore the mountain from the ground and carried it to Lanka.

Hanuman flew so fast that the mountain caught fire, and when Rama and Lakshmana inhaled the smoke of the burning herbs, they revived.

Then the war continued.

155. Indrajit Conjures an Illusion

Indrajit conjured a Sita illusion and rode towards Hanuman on the battlefield. When he was sure Hanuman was watching, Indrajit grabbed Sita’s hair, pulled her head back, and slit her throat with his sword.

Hanuman wailed, overcome with grief, while Indrajit turned and rode back to Lanka.

When Hanuman told Rama what he had seen, Rama stared at him, shocked into speechlessness.

Lakshmana shouted, “I will kill this Indrajit! He must die. He must die today!”

“Be calm,” Vibhishana told the princes. “This is another of Indrajit’s illusions.”

“Will you help me kill Indrajit?” asked Lakshmana.

“I will,” replied Vibhishana.

156. Indrajit Conducts a Sacrifice

Indrajit worshipped the war-goddess Pratyangira in a hidden shrine, conducting an elaborate ritual so that the devi would make him invincible.

Vibhishana, however, knew where the shrine was. “I will take you there,” he said to Lakshmana.

With Vibishana’s help, Lakshmana attacked the shrine, forcing Indrajit to break off the ritual. When Indrajit saw that it was Vibhishana who had betrayed him, he shouted, “Uncle, what have you done?”

“Your father has violated every law of good conduct,” Vibhishana replied. “I fight for Rama now. I fight for Dharma.”

In response, Indrajit attacked both Vibhishana and Lakshmana, but they escaped.

157. Lakshmana Confronts Indrajit

Indrajit returned to Lanka for his chariot and then rode back into battle, determined to kill both Lakshmana and Vibhishana.

When Lakshmana saw Indrajit approaching, he launched an arrow that killed Indrajit’s charioteer, and Vibhishana killed all four of Indrajit’s horses.

Indrajit and Lakshmana then clashed on foot, raining down arrows on one another.

“I have vowed to kill you!” Lakshmana shouted, invoking Rama as he nocked an arrow.

Lakshmana fired, and the arrow severed Indrajit’s head.

Thus Lakshmana fulfilled his vow.

He had killed Indrajit.

The monkeys and bears rejoiced, and Rama embraced his victorious brother, full of gratitude.

158. Indrajit’s Wife Comes to Rama

Lakshmana’s arrow severed Indrajit’s head with such force that it flew through the air and landed at Ravana’s feet.

“Father, forgive me,” said the head. “I failed you.” Then the head spoke no more.

Sulochana, Indrajit’s wife, was determined to cremate Indrajit’s head and body together, so she walked fearlessly across the battlefield until she found Indrajit’s body.

“Indrajit was an obedient son, like you,” she said to Rama. “I am a faithful wife, like Sita. I beg you: let me take my husband’s body away from here.”

Rama agreed, and Sulochana carried Indrajit’s body away, grieving for her husband.

159. Rama Battles Taranisen

Across the battlefield, Rama saw a rakshasa ferociously attacking the monkeys and bears. As he watched, Rama realized the rakshasa was tattooed all over with his name.

“He bears my name!” Rama said to Vibhishana. “Who is he?”

“His name is Taranisen,” Vibhishana explained, “and he worships you. He bears your name everywhere, but not on his teeth. Strike him in the teeth, and he will fall.”

So Rama struck the strange warrior in the teeth, and the blow killed him.

Afterwards, Rama asked Vibhishana, “How did you know about his teeth?”

“Because,” Vibhishana said sadly, “he was my son.”

160. Rama Duels with Ravana’s Son

Ravana’s son Virabahu was devoted to Vishnu. Seeing Rama in battle, he recognized Rama as Vishnu on earth.

“O God!” shouted Virabahu, bowing down before Rama. “I am yours! Let your sword send me to heaven.” Then he offered his neck to Rama’s sword.

“I cannot kill someone who shows such devotion,” Rama said.

“Then I will make you kill me,” shouted Virabahu, and he launched an attack. They fought violently, until finally Rama’s sword cut off Virabahu’s head.

The head’s mouth kept chanting the name of Rama.

Rama bent down and touched the head, and Virabahu ascended to heaven.

161. Ravana Invokes Kali

Ravana decided to pray to the warrior-goddess Kali for protection. With Kali’s help, he could become completely invincible, safe even from humans and monkeys.

“You must stop him!” Vibhishana said to Hanuman and Angada, so they flew to Lanka and found Ravana deep in meditation. The monkeys pelted Ravana with fruits and flowers he had offered to the goddess, but they could not break Ravana’s meditation.

Then they began stripping off Mandodari’s clothes. “Husband,” she screamed, “help me!”

This broke Ravana’s meditation. He came to Mandodari’s aid, and the monkeys flew away, mission accomplished: Ravana received no boon from Kali.

162. Ravana Threatens Sita

Overwhelmed by all his failures, Ravana grabbed a sword and ran to the ashoka grove. “SHE did this!” he screamed. “SHE killed my brother. SHE killed my sons. I am going to cut that wretched woman’s throat myself!”

Sita prepared for death calmly, with some regret that she had not let Hanuman carry her away. “Perhaps I am to blame,” she thought.

At the last moment, one of Ravana’s ministers, an honorable rakshasa named Suparshva, restrained him. “This woman is not the enemy,” he said. “Your enemy awaits you on the battlefield.”

So Ravana went to challenge Rama at last.

163. Ravana Rides into Battle

Ravana rode into battle, armed with the Tamasa, Bringer-of-Darkness. “I will destroy Rama and Lakshmana,” Ravana shouted, “and all their army!”

He then launched the Tamasa, incinerating thousands of Rama’s soldiers, and his chariot ran over their ashes.

Meanwhile, Rama and Lakshmana stood firm. They nocked their arrows, invoking the gods to destroy the Tamasa. Their arrows dissipated the darkness, but Ravana kept coming, hurling weapons at the princes.

Lakshmana then fired an arrow that shattered Ravana’s bow, while Vibhishana killed Ravana’s charioteer and horses, and Rama launched mighty weapons of fire.

Defeated again, Ravana retreated behind Lanka’s golden walls.

164. Rama Duels with Ravana

Next, the god Indra sent his chariot to Rama, driven by his charioteer Matali, who gave Rama the Brahmastra.

“Death awaits you, Ravana!” Rama shouted, and Ravana once again rode out into battle.

Rama’s arrows broke Ravana’s flag-staff, and the flag fell to the ground. Rama then sliced off one of Ravana’s heads, and another, and another, but a new head appeared for each head Ravana lost.

“Use the Brahmastra,” Matali urged. “Aim at his navel!”

Rama fired the weapon directly into Ravana’s navel, thus shattering the pot of immortality Ravana concealed there.

Ravana then toppled from his chariot, dead.

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