A delighted Rama embraces Hanuman for his great service and accomplishment. Sugriva speaks to Rama words of encouragement and pushes for immediate action. Rama asks Hanuman to describe Lanka in all details, its military strength, preparedness, defenses, fortifications and all. Hanuman tells Rama all he saw, that Lanka is well-fortified and protected with innumerable demons guarding all sides of the inaccessible Lanka. Demons are well-armed and well-trained. Ravana himself is prepared and is supervising all efforts anticipating a war with Rama. Hanuman also assures that a handful of Vanara heroes – Angada, Dvivida, Mainda, Nila – can finish the job. If the army crosses the ocean, they as good as beat Ravana. Rama is sure he can somehow cross the ocean, by constructing abridge or by drying it up with his fiery arrows! Rama then fixes an auspicious moment (#muhurta#) for the journey, the day Uttara Phalguni is in conjunction with Hasta, which happened to be the following day.
Nila, the Vanara general – as per Rama’s master plan – leads the army, Rama is carried on the back of Hanuman and Lakshmana by Angada and they all march forward with prominent Vanara heroes – Gaja, Gavaya, Gavaksha, Gandhamadana, Jambavan et al – protecting it as they proceed and march past the Sahya, Malaya and Mahendra mountain ranges. Lakshmana observes good, propitious omens in the sky which forebode Rama’s victory.
The army reaches the southern shore and halts there for a strategy to cross it has to be found yet.
They say an army marches on its belly. Valmiki writes that Rama ordered Nila to choose a way among places that abound in honey, tubers and fruits!
Back in Lanka, Ravana summoned his officials and held court. He wants to hear from them what they think about the imminent threat from Rama and his Vanara army. They all well remembered what Hanuman did and left. Most in his court eulogize Ravana’s might, recounting his past victories in battles against various celestials and others. All believe that Vanara army is no match to theirs. Indeed, Indrajit, Ravana’s son, alone can defeat the Vanara army. All major battle-hardened Rakshasa heroes volunteer to finish the job individually!
But notVibhishana, Ravana’s younger (step) brother. With a refrain “pradeeyataam daasharathaaya maithilee” (May Seeta – or Maithili – Be Restored To Rama, son of Dasharatha), Vibhishana gives a reasoned advice to Ravana cautioning him that the Vanara army is mightier than they think (Hanuman has demonstrated it!) and citing the past military achievements of Rama. Vibhishana believes that war should be the very last resort, and a chance to avoid it is still a Ravana’s choice and that underestimating the enemy against all compelling evidence is fool-hardy! When an unwilling Ravana silently walks into his palace, Vibhishana follows him and repeats his words of good advice. Vibhishana took note of inauspicious omens around since Seeta was forcibly brought there. The omens he observed were that the sacrificial fires don’t come up in full force despite generous offerings (like clarified butter and curds) being made, some serpents seen coiled near fireplaces, fresh cow milk is curdled in no time, war elephants displaying strange timidity, vultures are flocking and crows are assembling on house-tops! He believes Seeta be restored to Rama for various good reasons and the well-being of Lanka is one of them. But the proud and fearless Ravana dismisses Vibhishana.
The theme in these verses is more on the safety of Lanka and how Seeta’s “presence” there is inimical to their interests, rather on morality! Some stories from other sources tell us that baby Seeta was indeed found first in Lanka and abandoned on Mandodari’s insistence for she knew Seeta would bring Lanka to ruin. Self-interest precedes morality! Seeta should be restored to Rama NOT because the abduction was an immoral and cowardly act, but because Seeta’s very stay there bodes ill for Lanka!
Ravana re-convenes his officials and announces his firm resolve to face war and that the very purpose of abducting Seeta should not be defeated! He confesses his passions got the better of him! He instructs his army chief – Prahasta – to defend Lanka. Ravana also informs Kumbhakarna – his brother – of the developments. Kumbhakarna was given to sleep for six months at a stretch before he wakes up for a day or two and relapses into sleep again for six months. It was indeed a curse he suffered in the hands of Brahma for his monstrous conduct harming people and causing menace. When all the victims of Kumbhakarna’s monstrous and violent acts report to Lord Brahma, he (Brahma) utters a curse that Kumbhakarna would spend the rest of his entire life in sleep. However, Ravana, arguing that that curse is too harsh and not dharmic – negotiates with Brahma and gets it “commuted” – to six months of sleep, awakening to life for a brief period and back to sleep.
I believe our seers knew that the only solution to congenital aggression and wantonly violent behavior lies in psychiatry! Putting a congenitally violent and dangerous person to sleep is indeed a measure of general safety.
Kumbhakarna – now woke up and informed of what is facing Lanka – criticizes Ravana in strong words. Kumbhakarna wonders why Ravana didn’t consult anybody in the court before he decided to abduct Seeta. He blames Ravana for their current plight but declares his allegiance to his brother’s cause and is ready for war against Rama. One minor official, Mahaparsva, goads Ravana to have Seeta by force. Then, Ravana reveals the curse he suffered. Lord Brahma cursed Ravana in the past, following many such abductions by Ravana that his head would break into pieces if he forces himself on a woman against her will.
Vibhishana stands up again and repeats his advice. He says that all in the court are living in a fool’s paradise as the first arrow of Rama has not landed yet in Lanka. He believes if a king is wayward, his courtiers should see reason. He believes none in Lanka can match up to Rama in battle and restoring Seeta to Rama is the only option left to save Lanka from imminent ruin. Prahasta and Indrajit criticize him and accuse him of cowardice. Vibhishana lashes out at them for their foolhardiness; he especially picks Indrajit and rails at him. Ravana now believes Vibhishana crossed the limits of an advisor and assumed the mantle of a harsh critic who no longer wishes his well-being. Ravana cites examples of kinsmen turning against a king out of jealousy and ulterior motives and rails against Vibhishana and that in essence is akin to disowning him. Unable to bear the harsh treatment, Vibhishana – along with his four trusted aides – leaves Lanka. Before setting forth, Vibhishana re-affirms that he indeed is a well-wisher of Ravana, but he has no choice but to leave Lanka.
Vibhishana – along with his four aides – flies to the other end of the shore and approaches Rama seeking asylum.Rama consults his Vanara comrades as to the appropriate action regards Vibhishana and most – including Sugriva – advise Rama not to trust Vibhishana as he is part of the enemy brigade and a potential spy. However when his turn comes, Hanuman certifies Vibhishana’s good character and says that Vibhishana – having heard of the episode of the killing of Vali and Sugriva becoming king of Kishkinhdha – wishes to rule Lanka once Ravana falls. Rama grants Vibhishana asylum as it’s his vow not to disappoint those who seek protection from him, and anoints him king (by sprinkling sea water on him). Thus, Vibhishana is crowned in exile. A looming war changes many equations of power and causes force re-alignments.Future vacancies are filled up before the war’s outcome is known. This happens.Ravana on the advice of his aide, Shardula, sends one Shuka as an emissary to Sugriva with a message that their effort would be futile and Sugriva better go back to Kishkindha. Shuka arrives in the guise of a bird to the shore, gives the message. When some Vanaras catch him and harass him thinking him to be spy, Rama orders his release as he came as a messenger (he was set free after they cross the ocean!). Sugriva rejects Ravana’s advice and in turn sends strong message to him that war is certain and so is Ravana’s doom. Shuka reports it later to Ravana.
Rama has to find a way to cross the ocean now. He believes the sea god would show him a way and lies down at the shore and waits for three days. Nothing happens. Now, enraged Rama, angered at the apathy of sea god, is determined to dry it up and releases several fiery arrows into it causing a great disturbance in the sea and sending tremors across the world. Finally, when threatened with Brahmastra, the sea god appears with joined palms and advises Rama to assign Nala – son of Vishvakarma – to construct a bridge (#setu#). Nala – helped by other Vanaras – builds it using rocks, boulders and wood in a matter of a week.
The Rama’s army is all set to storm Lanka.