THE rainy season began. Sugriva and his companions spent the time in Kishkindha in enjoyment but Rama and Lakshmana spent the weary days waiting in a cave nearby. The forest paths were flooded and became rushing torrents, impossible to traverse. The search for Sita, therefore, had to be suspended. Rama brooded over Sita's predicament and was plunged in sorrow. Lakshmana counselled him to bear with the delay till the rainy season ended. And Rama held his soul in patience.
The edge of the keenest sorrow wears with time and perhaps Heaven's kindest gifts to men are sleep for the fleeting cares of the day and forgetfulness for the deep- seated injuries of the heart. Kishkindha mourned her Vali for a time, and then rejoiced in Sugriva and the survivors. Sugriva forgot the privations of his exile and the remorse for his brother's death. He enjoyed to the full his present prosperity and even Tara reconciled and adapted herself to altered circumstances in the interests of her son.
The royal palace of Kishkindha was full of joy and drinking, and the gloomy months of rain, which the Raghu brothers spent in leaden repining, sped with golden-winged enjoyment for Sugriva and his household. Only Hanuman felt anxious. He could not forget Rama's business. He was looking out for an opportunity to remind the king of his pledge to Rama.
At last, the rains ceased and the sky was cleared of cloud and lightning. The air was sweet with the perfumes of flowers and the songs of birds and joy came to life in the forest again. The intelligent and high virtuous Hanuman now approached his king. Sugriva had entrusted all official duties to the ministers and was absorbed in pleasure. Hanuman knew that the wisest and best of men neglect their promises in such circumstances and addressed the king with great politeness:
"You have regained the kingdom of your ancestors and are in secure possession and enjoyment of it. But something yet remains to be done. You must fulfil your promise to your allies and so increase your fame and strengthen your power. Even at the sacrifice of one's own interests and pleasure, one should carry out the business of one's friends according to one's promise. Only so can a king's authority and reputation grow. It will be best to fulfil one's promise before the due date. In any case delay should be avoided.
Fulfilment after the promised date is worse than useless. One should not wait to be reminded by one's friends of what had been promised to them. All this you know without my telling you. Remembering what Rama had done for us. We must take steps to fulfil our promise without waiting to be reminded by him. The rainy season is over. There is no ground for further delay. We can no longer postpone the task of searching for Sita. Rama may be very patient, but that does not justify any further delay on our part. Did not Rama kill your foe promptly, not minding the danger or the blame involved? We should fulfil our promise with equal promptness."
Thus politely did Maruti convey his advice to Sugriva. The latter accepted it and, thanking Hanuman, ordered Nila to mobilise the Vanara army. "All the world must be searched and Sita found," he said. "Order therefore the most powerful Vanaras to come and join up at once. Those who fail will be summarily punished." Having said this, Sugriva went back into private apartments.
Rama and Lakshmana spent the time in their cave waiting for the end of the rainy season and the fulfilment by Sugriva of his promise. But when the rains were over and the forest and its creatures shone with renewed beauty, Rama grieved intensely at the thought of Sita suffering at the hands of the Rakshasas.
"The world is full of life and joy," said Rama. "But Sita is in agony somewhere. And I sit still here, awaiting the favor of this ungrateful Vanara king. Alas, she walked cheerfully through the Dandaka forest, as if it were a palace-park. She did not mind the stony ground and the thorns in the path. What must be her suffering now? But this king, drowned in his cups and revelling in the company of his women, has forgotten his promise to me. Lakshmana! Go at once to Kishkindha and tell this base king: 'Remember! Know that the path still yawns open whereby the slaughtered Vali went to his doom. Do not follow him, but fulfil your promise to me. Ruin awaits him who forgets kindness and, neglects friends. Beware of Rama's arrows. The four months of the rainy season are over. These four months were like four ages to Rama, but to you, steeped in pleasures, they have perhaps sped like minutes! By delay you incur Rama's wrath and seek your destruction.' Go, Lakshmana, and tell him this."
This was the angry and impatient message Rama wanted Lakshmana to take to Sugriva.
Carrying this weight of his brother's grief and anger, Lakshmana was about to leave. Then Rama thought again. He knew Lakshmana's nature and feared danger from his rashness. So he called him back and said to him: "In conveying my complaint to Sugriva, do not be harsh. Whatever his faults, he is our friend. Point out his faults to him, but say nothing harsh."
Lakshmana agreed, but he found it hard to control his own anger as he approached the gates of Kishkindha.
Noting the severe face of Lakshmana who was fully armed, the Vanara sentry became alert and made ready to guard the fortress. This enraged Lakshmana still further.
Some Vanaras ran to the inner apartments and reported to Sugriva: "Lakshmana, furious with anger, is coming here bow in hand. We could not stop him."
But the Vanara king was tipsy and surrounded by women and he took no notice. The king's servants ordered the sentry at the gates to stand firm and prevent the entry of any one. Lakshmana's anger became quite uncontrollable. Lakshmana forced his way in. There he met young Angada, the thought of whose youth and misfortunes took away something of the edge of his wrath. "My child go and tell the Vanara king," he said, "that Lakshmana is waiting at the palace gate to have audience of him on behalf of his grief stricken brother."
Angada went accordingly to the king's apartment and informed him of Lakshmana's visit. But Sugriva was in no condition to understand. Angada saw this and took counsel with the ministers as to what should be done. Hanuman and some of the fellow ministers gently explained what was happening and Sugriva was at last roused from his tipsy condition.
Sugriva said: "I am not at fault, am I? Why should my friends Rama and Lakshmana be angry with me? Some enemy must have carried tales and set them up against me."
Hanuman answered: "It is my duty, O king, to say these things and I say them. Do not be angry with me. We have delayed in carrying out our promise to Rama. We have forgotten Rama's grief. It is late, but not too late. Hence let us do quickly what we should. Let us seek forgiveness from Lakshmana. Let us, without further delay, take steps to fulfil our promise to Rama."
Then Sugriva agreed to receive Lakshmana.
As Lakshmana went into the Vanara town, he marvelled at its beauty and the culture of Kishkindha. Passing through beautiful streets, he stood outside the king's palace. Hearing the sounds of revelry, of dance and song, proceeding from within, he saw that the Vanaras had forgotten their promise and were lost in enjoyment. He could hardly control his anger. Still he held back from entering the women's chamber and, standing in a corner, outside, he twanged his bowstring.
The sound filled all Kishkindha with fear and trembling. Sugriva, hearing it, realised that the prince was, indeed, angry. He saw the danger and asked Tara to go and pacify the prince. "A chivalrous man like Lakshmana will find his anger slip from him, when he speaks to a lady and it will be impossible for him to continue wrathful." said the king, shrewd even in his tipsy condition.
Tara advanced towards Lakshmana. In looks, in knowledge of the world and skill in speech, Tara was unrivalled She said to Lakshmana: "After enduring for a long time poverty and persecution, Sugriva is enjoying the pleasures and the prosperity you have secured for him. This enjoyment has gone to his head and he has lost his senses. I know his fault, but you should forgive him. The high souled that knows the foibles and imperfections of our common nature should temper their censure with compassion. So be not too harsh in judging of King Sugriva's surrender to temptations of the flesh, especially after his long trials and privations. But I can assure you, he has never lost sight of his debt or his duty to you. He has already issued orders for mobilising the Vanara warriors from all quarters. Today or tomorrow they will all be here. Then the search for Sita and the war against Ravana will begin. Have no doubts. And now, pray come in and see the King."
Lakshmana, now no longer angry, entered the apartment. Sugriva, descending from his seat, welcomed Lakshmana.
"Forgive my faults," he said. "With Rama's friendship and help I am King today. How can I ever forget what I owe to the valorous and good Rama? He can destroy his foes without any help from me. I, with my armies, can only follow him. That is all. Surely Ravana will perish. The search for Sita will soon begin. Do forgive the delay of which I am guilty."
Lakshmana was pleased. "Rama is your equal in honor and prowess, none else," he said. "Come with me to Rishyamuka and give him words of comfort in his grief."
Sugriva and Lakshmana went in a litter to Rama and, explaining the arrangements already made, satisfied him.
Rama was pleased. He said: "You indeed are a real friend. Like the clouds yielding rain, the sun destroying darkness and the moon pleasing human hearts, a good friend comes to one's help spontaneously. I am happy in your friendship. Now the end of Ravana and his race is certain."
Even as Rama was expressing his gratitude and joy, great multitudes of Vanaras under their respective leaders arrived and assembled. They came from distant forests, mountains and coasts. The dust they raised darkened the sky. Millions of monkeys and bears in a variety of shapes and colors were there.
Sugriva addressed this enormous army and showed them their appointed camping places. Later, he divided the host into eight divisions and sent each under its commander, thoroughly to search in the eight directions for Sita.
One point is worth noting here. The Tamil poet Kamban describes Tara as a chaste widow living a life of discipline and privations. It is different in Valmiki, who includes Tara and the other women as part of the inheritance Sugriva won from Vali, in fact, as an appendage of the throne. When Sugriva lost himself in bodily pleasures and forgot his duty to Rama, Tara shared his revels and is described as being flushed and unsteady with wine when she went out at her lord's command to allay Lakshmana's resentment.
In ancient times, when an elder brother died leaving a wife, there was a custom in royal and other noble families for the younger brother to take the widow as wife and protect her. It is difficult for people of one age to judge the customs of another age. Imagination and great flexibility of mind are needed to assess the merits and defects of usage's with which we are not familiar.