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Vaali Vadam: Halebidu : Part 1

Kishkindha Kanda — Sugriva tests Rama’s strength

Hanuman meets Rama and Lakshmana

Rama and Lak­sh­mana go to Rishya­mu­ka hill to seek the help of Sug­ri­va to res­cue Sita, who has been abduct­ed by Ravana, the king of Lan­ka. They begin to ascend the hill.

One day Sug­ri­va, the Vanara king, sees these two mighty men com­ing up the hill, and fear aris­es in his heart. He takes refuge in the her­mitage of Rishi Matan­ga, because he fears that they have been sent by his elder broth­er, Vali, to kill him. He dis­clos­es this to his min­is­ters, and his mind dis­turbed, Sur­gi­va keeps con­stant­ly mov­ing from one hill to anoth­er to avoid meet­ing the new vis­i­tors.

See­ing the agi­tat­ed Sug­ri­va, one of his min­is­ters, Hanu­man, says,“Please give up your irra­tional fear. We are still on the Malaya (Rishya­mu­ka) hill which is inac­ces­si­ble to Vali. I don’t see Vali any­where. A king like you should not be per­turbed. We should watch the actions and ges­tures of oth­ers and know what goes on in their mind! That is wise states­man­ship, my king!”

Hanu­man’s words appeal to the heart of Sug­ri­va. He says to Hanuman,“It is nat­ur­al for one who sees mighty war­riors such as these to be appre­hen­sive. Kings like Vali, when they wish to destroy their ene­mies, resort to many decep­tive means. Hence kings should not be trust­ed. Vali is shrewd; and we should also resort to a shrewd plan to foil his attempt to destroy me.”

Sug­ri­va then asks Hanu­man to dis­guise him­self and find out who those new men are. Dis­guised as a men­di­cant, Hanu­man humbly approach­es the two princes. After bow­ing to them, he asks,“You look like the devas or rajar­ishis, but you are clad like ascetics. Please tell me who you are and what you are doing here. You have pow­er­ful arms like princes. Yet, they are not adorned by orna­ments! Yet, your weapons are excel­lent and rich­ly cov­ered with gold and pre­cious stones. Let me tell you who I am. A great leader of the Vanaras named Sug­ri­va lives here, hav­ing been dri­ven out of his king­dom by his cru­el broth­er Vali. I am Hanu­man, his min­is­ter. Sug­ri­va seeks your friend­ship. I, too, am a Vanara, though dis­guised as a men­di­cant.”

Rama great­ly admires the speech of Hanu­man, for he feels that no one who is not a mas­ter of the three Vedas can speak like him. There is not a sin­gle fault in Hanu­man’s lan­guage, mode of expres­sion, choice of words or ges­tures! Lak­sh­mana says to him,“We would love to meet your king Sug­ri­va and cul­ti­vate his friend­ship for mutu­al ben­e­fit.”

Delight­ed to hear this, Hanu­man asks Rama,”Please tell us why are you here in this for­est. And in what way may we help you?”

Lak­sh­mana gives a full and detailed account upto the abduc­tion of Sita, and adds that they do not know where Ravana lives and what his pow­ers are. They have come there at the bid­ding of Kaband­ha, who had giv­en them the knowl­edge that Sug­ri­va would help them find Ravana.“This is an extra­or­di­nary event, Hanu­man! He who is the refuge of the whole world seeks the refuge of Sur­gi­va. He whose grat­i­fi­ca­tion brings about the grat­i­fi­ca­tion of all, seeks the grace of Sug­ri­va, the chief of the Vanaras. Sug­ri­va should help accom­plish Rama’s pur­pose.”

Hanu­man is even more delight­ed by these words. He sheds the dis­guise of a men­di­cant and escorts the princes to the pres­ence of Sug­ri­va. Sug­ri­va gives them a warm wel­come them and extends his hand in friend­ship. Rama grasps Sug­ri­va’s hand in his own hand and embraces him in gen­uine affec­tion and friend­ship. Hanu­man then kin­dles the sacred fire which bears wit­ness to this new and sig­nif­i­cant alliance. Going round the fire, Sug­ri­va says to Rama,“You are now my beloved friend. And from now on we shall share our joys and sor­rows.”

Sugriva assures Rama

After this cer­e­mo­ny, they are all seat­ed and Sug­ri­va nar­rates his sto­ry. His elder broth­er Vali has deprived him of his king­dom. Even his wife has been tak­en away from him. He has since lived here on this hill which is inac­ces­si­ble to Vali, owing to a curse by Rishi Matan­ga. But he still lives in great and con­stant fear. He then reveals that Hanu­man has told him all about the pur­pose for which they have come there. He does not know where Ravana lives, nor what his pow­ers are. But he will soon find out. “Let Ravana be on this earth or in the nether world: he will not escape!” Sug­ri­va assures Rama.

And, to Rama’s great delight, Sug­ri­va remem­bers and men­tions an inci­dent that hap­pened not long ago. He had seen Sita being car­ried away by an asura who was obvi­ous­ly Ravana. Sita had seen the Vanaras sit­ting on the hill and had thrown down a bun­dle con­tain­ing her jew­els. They had heard her wail­ing aloud,”Oh Rama! Oh Lak­sh­mana!” They had pre­served the bun­dle and Sug­ri­va asks for it to be retrieved.

How impa­tient Rama is to see the bun­dle of jew­els! But when Sug­ri­va brings it, Rama is in tears. He says to Lakshmana,“Dear broth­er, look at this gar­ment of Sita, with the jew­els she was wear­ing at the time Ravana abduct­ed her. It is lucky she dropped them on soft ground, for they are intact.”

Look­ing at them, Lak­sh­mana replies,“I do not rec­og­nize the orna­ments worn by Sita on her head or on her body; but I do rec­og­nize the anklets that adorned her feet for I saw them every­day as I bowed to her.”

Sug­ri­va con­soles Rama and speaks to him words of strength,“I do not know where Ravana lives. But I promise that I shall do the need­ful to bring Sita to you. Do not let sor­row enter your heart. See, I have also been deprived of my king­dom and my wife. Though I belong to a jun­gle tribe, I do not grieve. It does not behove you, who come from a civilised prince­ly fam­i­ly, to grieve and to lose heart. For there is no hap­pi­ness for those who wor­ry and grieve; and they are robbed of their ener­gy too. Give up sor­row and be brave, dear friend.”

Encour­aged by Sug­ri­va, Rama regains his com­po­sure. He says,”My dear Sug­ri­va! Friend­ship such as ours is indeed rare in this world. I shall cer­tain­ly accom­plish your pur­pose, and I have always been true to my word.”

Sugriva shares his woes

They reaf­firm their friend­ship and Sug­ri­va con­tin­ues his story,”Rama, Vali is a mighty Vanara. He not only usurped my throne, but threw me out of the king­dom after insult­ing me. Then he seized my wife and and also incar­cer­at­ed my rela­tions. He is always plot­ting to kill me. That was the rea­son why I was strick­en with fear when I first saw you com­ing here. These few Vanaras are the only com­pan­ions I have. But now that you have become my friend, I am sure that my sor­row has come to an end. For in joy and sor­row, friends are the only resort of friends.

My elder broth­er is excep­tion­al­ly strong. Father was very fond of him. And I loved him too. When father died, nat­u­ral­ly Vali was installed on the throne of our ter­ri­to­ry known as Kishkind­ha.

Vali had an ene­my known as Mayavi, the son of Maya. One day Mayavi came to our ter­ri­to­ry and chal­lenged Vali to a duel. The women in the court and even I endeav­oured to hold Vali back from accept­ing the chal­lenge, because we wished to pre­vent blood­shed. But Vali would not hear us.

When Vali came out to fight Mayavi, the lat­ter sud­den­ly got fright­ened and he began to run. Vali fol­lowed him, and so did I. The asura Mayavi entered a ter­ri­ble cav­ern under­ground. Vali fol­lowed him, after instruct­ing me to stay at the mouth of the cav­ern while he pur­sued the asura and killed him. I plead­ed that he should take me with him also, but Vali refused.

I wait­ed for a year at the mouth of the cav­ern. I heard ter­ri­ble nois­es inside. But Vali did not return. Blood gushed out of that cav­ern. I could not heat Val­i’s roar. I sur­mised that he had been killed by the demon. Heart-bro­ken, I returned to the king­dom. The min­is­ters who some­how came to know the truth, installed me on the throne.

Some­time lat­er, Vali returned to the king­dom. I greet­ed him but he did not take any notice of me. He was filled with rage. I humbly offered him the throne and expressed our good for­tune that he had returned to us alive. I told him that I thought he had been killed, see­ing the blood rush out of the cav­ern. Out of fear and sor­row I had closed the cav­ern with a big rock and returned. The min­is­ters insist­ed on installing me on the throne as they did not wish to endan­ger the secu­ri­ty of the state by leav­ing it with­out a ruler. I did not desire it. ‘Please for­give me’, I said to him. ‘You are the ever adored king and I am as I was before.’

But, how­ev­er much I plead­ed with him, he refused to lis­ten to me. He was furi­ous. He accused me unjust­ly. He said,‘I had asked you to stay at the mouth of the cav­ern. I killed the demon Mayavi and, try­ing to come out of the cav­ern, I didn’t even know the way, because you had cov­ered the cav­ern with a rock. I kicked the stone off and have come here, only to see that you have become king!’ In great anger, he drove me out of the king­dom with just a sin­gle piece of cloth. And I have sought asy­lum on this hill which for anoth­er rea­son is out of bounds for Vali.”

Lis­ten­ing to his sto­ry, Rama reas­sures Sugriva,“Your sor­row will soon end, as soon as I behold the sin­ful Vali who has seized your wife.”

Sug­ri­va says,“Surely Rama, when you are roused to anger, you can destroy even the worlds with your mis­siles, as the sun could at the close of the epoch. How­ev­er, lis­ten atten­tive­ly while I describe the pow­ers of Vali, and then please do the need­ful.

Asura Dundubhi is Killed

There was once an asura known as Dun­dub­hi who had the appear­ance of a buf­fa­lo. He too was extreme­ly pow­er­ful. He want­ed to fight some­one who was matched in strength and so he came to Kishkind­ha, hav­ing heard of the mighty Vali. He lost no time in mak­ing his pres­ence felt. He shook the earth, rav­aged the for­est and roared aloud. He chal­lenged Vali to a fight. Vali grabbed the asura, lift­ed him up, whirled him around and dashed him on the ground. Vali hit Dun­dub­hi with his fists and feet and the asura was dead. How­ev­er, while Vali kicked the asura and hurled him to a dis­tance of 4 miles, blood from the asura fell in the vicin­i­ty of Rishi Matan­ga.

Rishi Matan­ga was furi­ous to see that his her­mitage had been des­e­crat­ed by blood and that the trees in the neigh­bour­hood had either been destroyed or defo­li­at­ed. See­ing the Vanaras there, he uttered a curse,‘He who killed this asura in the form of a buf­fa­lo and who caused the blood to fall in the vicin­i­ty of my her­mitage, and he who is respon­si­ble for the destruc­tion of this for­est which I have nour­ished like my own child, shall no longer enter this for­est; if they do, they will instant­ly become rocks and remain pet­ri­fied for thou­sands of years.’ The Vanaras ran to Vali and informed him about the curse. Vali imme­di­ate­ly went to the rishi and apol­o­gised with joined palms, but the rishi would not lis­ten to him.

From that time, this for­est is out of bounds to Vali and his com­pan­ions, and there­fore safe for me to dwell in it. Hence, I have tak­en refuge in this place. There you see, Rama, the huge skele­tal remains of the mighty Dun­dub­hi. And, these are the trees that Vali would shake with his bare hands and defo­li­ate! Such are his pow­ers and such is his strength.”

Lak­sh­mana is amused at this nar­ra­tion, which clear­ly express­es Sug­ri­va’s anx­i­ety and his uncer­tain­ty of the out­come of Rama’s encounter with Vali. He asks Sugriva,“Well well, tell me how you can be con­vinced of Rama’s prowess?”

Sugriva tests Rama

Sug­ri­va suggests,“Vali kicked Dun­dub­hi and the asura flew 4 miles and land­ed here. If Rama could kick the skele­ton and throw it only to a dis­tance of 300 yards, I should be con­vinced. My dear Rama, I do not belit­tle your might nor do I fright­en you; but hav­ing seen Val­i’s prowess, I am faint-heart­ed.”

So Rama goes towards the skele­ton, lifts it up with his toe and toss­es it to a dis­tance of 80 miles! Sug­ri­va is great­ly impressed. But a doubt enters his mind: Vali kicked the full body of Dun­dub­hi, where­as Rama tossed only the dry bones! Hence, Sug­ri­va sug­gests anoth­er test:“Rama, Vali could cut these trees down with a sin­gle mis­sile from his weapon. Can you also do so? I am sure you can, yet I want to see you do so.”

Rama shoots the Sala Trees

To cre­ate his con­fi­dence, Rama, beam­ing with efful­gence, takes up his bow. Hold­ing his ter­ri­ble bow and an arrow, he fires it towards a Sala tree, and all the direc­tions rever­ber­ate with the twang of his bow­string. The gold­en arrow per­fo­rates all the sev­en Sala trees, and even the lev­elled areas of the moun­tain and then enters the earth. Some ver­sions of the Ramayana say that the Sala trees were shak­ing in the wind and so Rama set foot on a snake and when the snake became rigid, the trees straight­ened. It enters the sev­enth earth­ly plane, paataala, which is beneath the six planes – ata­la, vita­la, suta­la, paataala, rasaata­la and mahataala. Thus that arrow which pierced all the trees comes up in a moment from under the earth and swift­ly re-enters the quiver of Rama. Hav­ing wit­nessed those sev­en trees bored by Rama’s arrow, Sug­ri­va is great­ly sur­prised and delight­ed. He bows his head down on the earth and stretch­ing his orna­ment­ed per­son on the ground, address­es Rama with clasped hands,”Rama! You are capa­ble of destroy­ing even the devas head­ed by Indra, what to speak of Vali! Who can stand before you in bat­tle, who has pierced the sev­en trees, and the moun­tain and the sev­en­fold planes of the earth with one arrow? I pray to you with fold­ed hands: for my wel­fare, destroy my broth­er Vali today itself.”

Con­vinced with Rama’s strength, Sug­ri­va is now in a hur­ry to elim­i­nate Vali.

The clash between Sug­ri­va and Vali start­ed. Con­fused by their sim­i­lar looks, Rama told Sug­ri­va that it would be dif­fi­cult to hit Vali. Lak­sh­mana plucked a creep­er with flow­ers and gar­land­ed Sug­ri­va. The fight then con­tin­ued.

Rama released an arrow like a thun­der­clap and Vali fell like an Ashoka tree.


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