THERE was wailing in every house in Lanka. In Ravana's breast grief, shame and anger seethed like a raging sea. He had so far sent his commanders and men in detachments, and, brave as they were, they had been destroyed in detail. This
had been the result of overweening confidence in his invincibility and contempt for the enemy, most of whom fought with no better weapons than sticks and stones. But repeated reverses had brought him no wisdom.
He had not even disputed the passage of the sea but allowed the enemy a lodgment in his island. But negligent and reckless as a general, he was brave and finally resolving to fight himself and with his sole strength to destroy the foe, he set out. He had full faith in his prowess and in the efficacy of the boons he had secured and he went forth with confidence mounted on his divine chariot that was drawn by eight horses and filled with all manner of weapons accompanied by a division of Rakshasa chariot-warriors.
As Ravana issued out of Lanka, the sun seemed obscured by an unpredicted eclipse, and foul birds and beasts of the night roared at large with weird illomened cries; but disregarding it all, Ravana drove out to battle accompanied by Virupaksha, Mahodara and Mahaparsva.
The mighty Rakshasa warriors who followed Ravana were mowed down by a deadly flight of arrows and chunks of rocks and presently Ravana found himself facing Lakshmana, who tried to oppose his further progress. Forcing his way past Lakshmana, Ravana precipitated himself against Rama with all the pent-up fury of hatred and revenge and strove to overwhelm him with a spate of arrows.
Rama easily baffled these arrows with his own and struck Ravana repeatedly, without however being able to penetrate his armor. Thus they fought, these supreme bowmen, each bent on slaying the other and using increasingly potent missiles of secret power, while the gods in heaven looked on with marvel and admiration. Neither hero had met such an opponent before and on both sides admiration was mingled with wrath.
Rama pierced with his darts every limb of Ravana. And yet he did not fall.
Then Lakshmana and Vibhishana together attacked Ravana. Furious with his brother and determined to kill him, Ravana flung at him a powerful weapon. But intercepted by a dart of Lakshmana it broke into two and fell on the ground like a burning brand. Once again, Ravana aimed another mighty sakti against Vibhishana. This too Lakshmana intercepted. Then Ravana hurled a sakti at Lakshmana crying: "Now you are dead!"
Under its impact Lakshmana fell down unconscious on the ground.
Not observing this, Rama went on keeping up his pressure against Ravana. While the battle raged between the two, the Vanara leaders took counsel and sent Hanuman once again to the Hill of Herbs to save the life of Lakshmana.
For the second time, Hanuman flew northwards and, not wasting time searching for the plants, returned with the whole mountain. Lakshmana got well again and resumed his part in the battle.
Meanwhile, Matali brought his master Indra's chariot to the battlefield for the use of Rama.
"Indra, king of gods, has sent this for your use," said Matali. "Be pleased to ascend this chariot and destroy Ravana, the enemy of the gods!"
Rama bowed to the gods, circumambulated the divine chariot and ascended it. Then followed a wonderful battle.
Sorely wounded, Ravana fell unconscious and, noting this, his charioteer quietly took him out of the battlefield.
When, a little later, Ravana recovered consciousness, he was highly wroth, with his charioteer for taking him out of the battlefield and insisted on being taken back to face Rama. The grim battle began again. Every astra was met by another. In new and wonderful ways, the two chariots moved and the two warriors fought for a long time, while both armies watched the spectacle with breathless admiration and anxiety.
Matali, the charioteer, whispered into Rama's ear: "The Rakshasa's end is approaching. Delay no further. May I remind you of Brahma-astra?"
Rama uttered the spell and sent the Brahma-astra. Though the Rakshasa's ten heads had often been cut off before, they had grown again and baffled Rama. The Brahma-astra, emitting flames, went towards Ravana and pierced his chest, where was enshrined the secret of his invincibility, and shattered it.
Then the bow slipped from the Rakshasa's hand and he fell down from the chariot and lay stretched on the battlefield.
The gods blew their trumpets. Rama and his chariot were covered by a heap of flowers showered from the heavens. Lakshmana, Vibhishana, Jambavan and other warriors surrounded Rama, lost in joy and adoration.
When the first flush of triumph was over and Vibhishana looked at his brother's body, the natural call of blood and memories of boyhood days when Ravana and he had loved and played quite overwhelmed him and he burst into lamentations over his lost brother.
"O warrior!" he cried. "O brother of heroic deeds! O scholar learned in all Shastras! O valiant and famous King of kings! Your great arms are, now sprawling helpless on the ground! Self- willed and self-deceived, surrounded by bad advisers, you would not heed my warning! The worst I feared has happened now! You reaped what you sowed and you lie on the bare ground, O once mighty ruler of the Rakshasas!"
To Vibhishana thus lamenting, Rama spoke:
"Ravana fought like a true warrior and fell fighting like a hero! Death has washed his sins. It calls for no mourning. Ravana has entered Heaven."
Rama cleared all confusion from Vibhishana's mind and bade him do the funeral rites for his departed brother.
Said Rama: "It is for you now, his brother, to do the rites. Death ends all enmity. I, his former foe, even I can rightly perform his obsequies. Your brother is my brother too, is he not?"
The women of Ravana's palace came to the field to mourn. They led the Queen Mandodari, who looked like the goddess of grief incarnate. The crowned queen and beloved wife of Ravana was in utter desolation.
"Indra, King of gods, dared not face your anger," she cried. "The Rishis and the Gandharvas at the very sight of you fled in fear in all directions. And now a mere man, a wanderer in the forest, has brought you down! I do not understand how this could have happened. Truly, Fate is all-powerful! But lord, my lord, I warned you long ago. Did I not tell you that this Rama is no mere human being, but someone greater than Indra or Agni or Yama, whom you could not vanquish? This Rama is no other than Vishnu Himself in human form, God without beginning, middle or end. Even when we heard that he stood on the ground riding no car and slew your brother Khara in Janasthana, did I not say this? When Hanuman penetrated Lank the impenetrable fortress, and laid it waste, I knew the truth. I begged you not to incur their enmity but you would not listen. Why did you cast lustful eyes on chaste Sita? This was the madness that drove you to your death! Was it not a heinous sin to carry her off when she was alone? Death in the form of Sita drew you to your end! Sita and Rama are now reunited and happy after their brief separation. But me and all our race you have thrust for very into the depths of sorrow. Alas, my husband, my lover. You lie dead. Yet how beautiful you look with your body pierced by Rama's darts, covered with blood and dust of battle! What should I do now? I had a lord who was the Lord of Lanka! I had a son who had vanquished Indra. They have left me and I am a mere helpless widow without friends or home!"
Lamenting thus, Mandodari fell on Ravana's body and lay unconscious.