Ramayana: Sita in the Asoka Grove

As you will see in this part of the story, not all the rakshasa demons are evil-minded. Ravana's brother Bibhishana (also spelled Vibhishana) will surprise you! You can read more about Vibhishana at Wikipedia.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Ramayana unit. Story source: Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913).

Image source: Hanuman in Lanka

Sita in the Asoka Grove

Hanuman and Sita

Hanuman wandered on until he reached the Asoka grove. There he beheld the long-lost Sita, the queen of stars. Fierce she demons surrounded her, and some were of fearsome shape; they had dogs' heads and pigs' heads and the faces of horses and buffaloes; some were of great bulk and others were dwarfish; some had but one eye and others had three eyes; the ears of some hung touching the ground; others that were hairy were the most horrible to behold.

When morning came, Ravana drew nigh to plead his love, praising the beauty of Sita, but she rejected him, as she had ofttimes done before, whereat the demon grew angry and threatened her with dire tortures and even death. . . . Sita was like to a gentle fawn surrounded by wolves. Yet she was without fear. Rather would she perish than be unfaithful to Rama.

Hanuman kept watch, crouching in the branches of a tree, and at length he found it possible to approach her in secret. At first she feared that Ravana had assumed the form of Hanuman to deceive her, but she was re-assured when the Vanar spy showed her the ring of Rama and related how greatly he sorrowed because she had been taken from him. Then was her heart touched with sorrow mingled with joy. Hanuman offered to carry her away, but in her modesty she refused to touch the body of any male being save Rama. She took from her hair a bright jewel which she gave to Hanuman as a token, and she said that Ravana had allowed her but two months to live if she refused to yield to him.

Hanuman and Ravana

Hanuman desired, ere he left the city of Ravana, to show his enmity against the demons. Assuming his gigantic form, he uprooted trees and destroyed fair mansions. The guards came out against him and he slew many of them. But, at length, the mighty Indrajit, son of Ravana, hastened forth and shot a magic serpent-shaft which enwrapped Hanuman like a noose, and rendered him helpless. Thus was he taken prisoner, and he was dragged before Ravana, who commanded that the Ape be put to death.

But a counsellor intervened and advised that Hanuman should be regarded as an envoy, and treated with dishonour ere he was sent back, so that their enemies might be terrified. Ravana consented to this course, and an oil-soaked cloth was tied round the Ape's great tail and set on fire. But Sita prayed that the fire should not injure Hanuman, and her prayer was heard. The son of Vayu suddenly contracted his body so that his bonds fell from him, and he leapt over the city, setting fire with his flaming tail to many mansions, and so accomplishing great destruction. Then he obtained another brief interview with Sita, and once again leapt over the ocean; he hastened with the good tidings of his journey to Rama, who rejoiced greatly that his loved one had been found.

Preparations for War

Preparations were at once begun to rescue Sita. The Vanar armies were marched southward, and they camped on the shore over against Lanka, which lies sixty miles from the mainland.

Here they were joined by a new and powerful ally: Bibhishana.

Be it known that the mighty deeds of Hanuman had stricken terror to the heart of Ravana. The demon king summoned a council of war to consider what should be done. All his warriors advised him to wage war, except Bibhishana, his younger brother, who censured the monarch for the offence which he had committed against blameless Rama. "Hear my words," he said, "and restore Sita to her rightful lord, or else Rama will swoop down upon thy kingdom, O Ravana, as a falcon who seizeth his prey. Make peace with him now, lest many perish in battle."

Ravana was made angry, and cried: "Alas! for the love of my near relatives, who sorrow at my fame and smile at my peril; they are ever jealous and full of guile, because they hate me in their secret hearts. . . . Evil is thy speech, O Bibhishana. Depart from me, false prince, and carry thy treason to our enemies. . . . If thou wert not my brother I would slay thee even now."

Bibhishana was thus banished from the Rakshasa kingdom, and he immediately crossed the sea and joined the forces of Rama.

(700 words)

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