Now let us leave Rama and his host here and go back to Ravana. Great poets in all languages delineate with sympathy even their bad characters allowing gleams of goodness to shine through occasionally, for nature has not made anybody wholly and unredeemably evil.
The poet's aim is to direct the reader's mind into the path of good, the satvik way. For this purpose they use all their skill and power in developing even their rajasik and tamasik characters.
The reader who is held by rajasik and tamasik qualities, naturally tends to sympathise with such characters; much more so readers below the average who are untouched by the satvik element.
They would regard the deeds of the hero and other satvik characters as mere fiction invented for blind worship, and identify themselves with the rajasik and tamasik characters and even claim these as their own kith and kin. They would find themselves attracted by such characters and follow their doings with considerable interest.
Paradise Lost, the English epic on a Biblical theme, is famous throughout the world. In this poem Milton delineates the Almighty and Jesus, His spiritual son and human incarnation, as well as several orders of angels. But the most impressive character in the great epic is Satan who rebelled against God and brought sin and death into this world.
Critics of English poetry admire Milton's wonderful success in the characterisation of Satan. Similarly, the great dramatic poet Shakespeare has created a wonderful character in Shylock, the usurer and miser. Even such embodiments of despicable qualities are presented by the poets as possessing courage, determination, energy and other good qualities that attract us and serve as a bright background to their blackness.
In Valmiki's portraits of Ravana and Kumbhakarna too, we notice the same artistic skill. The cook who meets all tastes shows his skill in making out of bitter vegetables an attractive dish. So does the poet show his skill in portraying evil.
The Rakshasa king was somewhat ashamed and afraid at the thought of what Hanuman had achieved in Lanka. He summoned his ministers and took counsel with them.
He began in an apologetic tone. "What has happened is something strange and unexpected. No one has till now been known to enter our city, but this envoy of Rama has not only entered Lanka, he has met and talked with the imprisoned Sita. He has destroyed temples and palaces. He has slain some of our best warriors. He has filled our people with fear. And this thing is not likely to stop here. Hence we have to consider what should be done.
You know that the king should decide his course of action only after consulting his loyal ministers of clear vision and well- versed in statecraft. And so I have summoned this Council. Rama has become an inveterate enemy. Let us consider what we should do about it. The king has no use for ministers who are not straight forward or who not knowing their own minds wobble in their advice. The matter before us is most important. Rama is strong, and so is his army. It is certain that they will contrive some how to cross the sea. It would be unwise to trust to that single defence. Consider well and tell me how we can strengthen and secure our city and army and what steps we should take to defend ourselves."
After listening to the king, the members of the Assembly spoke with one voice.
"Great king! Knowing well that our army and our weapons are the strongest in the world, why need you be anxious? Where is the enemy who dares to attack your fortress and who can oppose your army with any hope of success? The world knows your might. Did you not invade the city of Bhogavati and defeat the Naga king? Did you not attack powerful Kubera and defeat him and his Yakshas and capture his Pushpaka Vimana as well as this island of Lanka? Did not Maya in fear of you sue for your favor and friendship and give you his daughter in marriage? How many cities in the nether region have you not attacked and taken? You fought and defeated the Kalakeyas. The sons of Varuna, yea, and Yama himself have been suppliants for your mercy. And who is this Rama? Your son Indrajit by himself can destroy Rama and his Vanara army. Did he not seize and imprison Indra himself and afterwards let him go? How can Rama and his Vanaras stand against such a warrior? You have only to bid Indrajit destroy this Vanara crowd and all will be over. Why should you, great king, be anxious?"
Thus they spoke in praise of their king.
The Commander-in-chief Prahasta rose like a great black cloud. "You, who subdued in battle the Devas, Danavas and Gandharvas, why should you, oh King of kings, feel anxious because of these little creatures? It is true that the monkey came here and caught us napping and did some mischief. But this sort of thing will never happen again. If he comes again, I know how to manage him. I alone can destroy the whole Vanara race, if only you will order it. You need not fear any danger from this small indiscretion of yours, the abduction of Sita."
Next Durmukha rose and roared: "We shall not let this monkey's bravado and undeserved good luck go unavenged. I shall go this very instant and destroy the Vanara army, root and branch, and return."
Vajradamshtra stood with a terrible iron club in his hand and cried: "Here is my weapon unwashed and still covered with the blood and flesh of my foes. Why waste your time talking about this monkey? Are not Rama and Lakshmana our enemies? I shall slay them first and then destroy the Vanara army and re turn immediately. Only let me go. I have a piece of advice to give you, King, if you would listen. Let us order some Rakshasa warriors to put on human form and approach Rama, telling him, 'Bharata has sent us in advance. A great army is coming behind to help you.' While Rama is thus fooled into negligence, our Rakshasa army can travel through the sky and destroy him and his followers on the other shore. This is my advice."
Nikumbha, son of Kumbhakarna, rose and said: "All of you may stay here with the King. I shall go alone and meet and destroy the enemy and bring you the news."
Another Rakshasa, licking his lips, said with gusto: "I shall go alone and kill and feast on the flesh of these two men, Rama and Lakshmana. Please let me go."
Thus one after another they got up and spoke brave words to please Ravana and then all of them stood up together and, raising their weapons, roared aloud.
At that Vibhishana, the younger brother of Ravana, made them all sit down, and said to the king with folded hands:
"Brother, what these people say is sweet to hear but not true or good to act upon. Anything done in violation of Niti shastra (the Science of Politics) can only lead to grief and ruin. It is only after trying sama (conciliation), dana (buying off the enemy) and bheda (sowing discord) that one should think of using danda (force of arms.) against a foe. If you take the advice of these people and start a war now, it would mean the destruction of Lanka and all of us. We should also consider the demands of dharma. It was not right, it was indeed a great sin for you, to have seized and brought Rama's wife here. We should first cleanse ourselves of this sin. What harm did Rama do to us? What Rama did in the Dandaka forest was in pure self-defence and the defence of those that looked to him for protection. He fought with and slew only those that went out to slay him. His actions surely do not justify your carrying away his wife. And even if we had any just complaint against him, we should have met in battle. Instead of that, to contrive his absence and seize his wife was very wrong and sinful. When the fault is on your side, it is morally not right that we should think of battle. Further, warcraft requires that before fighting we should take some measure of Rama's strength and that of his army. We have had some taste of Hanuman's strength and skill. It is pointless to talk lightly of him. Did he not do remarkable things? Though our own strength may be great, we should weigh it against the enemy's strength and then decide whether we should seek war or avoid it. But first it is essential that we should restore Sita. My advice is this, before Rama and the Vanaras attack Lanka, let us restore Sita. Dear brother, I am saying all this for your good. Pray, do not be angry with me. We should first set right our own fault and then think of other things."
Thus with folded hands Vibhishana besought Ravana.
Though Ravana was pleased with the vainglorious words of his ministers and generals, there was doubt lurking in his mind. Hence, after listening to Vibhishana, he said: "Let us meet again tomorrow and consider this matter."
He adjourned the Council, and retired.