RAVANA from within his palace was surprised to hear, borne on the wind, the jubilant acclamations of the Vanaras, who he thought must then be mourning their vanquished leaders and slaughtered comrades. He turned to the Rakshasas standing beside him and asked: "What has happened to make the Vanaras so happy? Something strange must have occurred. Go and find out what it is."
Some Rakshasas climbed up and looked over the wall. Returning, they said to Ravana with fear and trembling: "King! The Vanara army, led by Sugriva, is attacking the fortress with spirit. Rama and Lakshmana are both alive. Like elephants that have broken their bonds, Rama and Lakshmana have shaken off the naga darts with which Indrajit bound them and have rejoined the army and are raging about the field like hungry lions. The darts of Indrajit have proved futile."
Ravana's face fell. He was filled with anxiety and said: "I marvel at what you say. No one till now has escaped these darts. If those weapons were powerless against these men, we are in deed in danger."
Then with an access of anger, he shouted: "Listen, Dhumraksha! Why should I worry when you are here? Get together all the men you want. Go at once and destroy these two little men and return quickly."
Dhumraksha was indeed happy and proud to be thus singled out by the king. He took a party of warriors and, issuing out of the fort, came into contact with the group who, under Hanuman, were attempting to enter the western gate. In the battle that ensued there was great slaughter on both sides. In the end Dhumraksha was slain by Hanuman. A few Rakshasas escaped into the fortress, but most of them lay dead without.
News of this discomfiture filled Ravana with uncontrollable fury. He hastily summoned Vajradamshtra and said: "Oh bravest of warriors, go without delay and destroy these wicked fellows."
Vajradamshtra bowed low before the king and followed by a mighty army sallied out of the southern gate and encountered Angada.
The Rakshasas under the leadership of Vajradamshtra waged grim battle and slew countless Vanaras. And yet the Vanara army stood firm and would not withdraw. Armed with boulders and trees, they killed innumerable Rakshasas. On both sides the fighting was intense. In the end, Angada and the Rakshasa chief fought hand to hand for a long while. Vajradamshtra was slain, gallantly fighting to the last, and the Rakshasas fled in confusion. The Vanaras surrounded Angada and shouted in exultation.
Then Ravana ordered Prahasta: "Send Akampana and let him have the most terrible Rakshasas to accompany him. Let them go and slay Rama, Sugriva and the Vanara army. None can resist Akampana's might and skill."
Accordingly, Prahasta sent an army of Rakshasas under the leadership of Akampana. True to his name, Akampana was firm and immovable in battle. He had chosen his weapons and his warriors carefully. As he advanced, bad omens met him. But neither he nor his followers regarded them. The noise of their challenge rose above that of the ocean.
A great battle ensued. Blood flowed in streams. Dust rose and cut off the sun plunging the earth in portentous gloom. The slaughter on both sides was enormous. Kumuda, Nala, Mainda and Dwivida attacked Akampana who defended himself with courage.
The battle went against the Vanara warriors and they were about to take flight
when Hanuman arrived bringing courage and hope. Akampana sent forth a shower of arrows at him but Hanuman took no notice and lifting a huge boulder and swinging it above his head hurled it at Akampana. The Rakshasa's darts intercepted the stone and reduced it to powder.
Then Hanuman grew in size and shone with blinding brightness like the sun and uprooting a big tree attacked the Rakshasa with it and slew him. The Rakshasa army was smashed like a forest in an earthquake and the survivors fled in panic from the fatal field that was strewn thick with the dead, and spread the dismal news in Lanka. The Vanaras surrounded Hanuman and uproariously expressed their admiration.
Ravana's spirits fell when he received the news of Akampana's death but he found strength in anger and desperation and began thinking of new plans. He went round the defences of the city again and took counsel with Prahasta, the commander-in chief.
"We must break this Vanara siege. We should issue at the head of the whole army and slay the Vanara chiefs. Myself, Kumbhakarna, yourself, Indrajit or Nikumbha, one of us five should take up the responsibility of leading the army out of the fortress. Are we to be afraid of monkeys? Why! They used to flee in terror on merely hearing the roar of a Rakshasa. They do not know the science of war. They are unskilled brutes. How have they managed to stand all our attacks?"
Prahasta answered humbly: "Things have happened as we foresaw. We respectfully submitted long ago that it would be best to restore Sita and make peace. But I am bound to obey you. I am prepared to sacrifice my life, my family, my all for your sake. I shall lead this sortie, if such is your pleasure."
A huge army was collected and everything was got ready for a supreme endeavor, including the solemnisation of special rites and sacrifices.
Then Prahasta marched out to the beating of drums. Evil omens presented themselves. But he disregarded them.
Seeing the great army led by Prahasta issuing out of the eastern gate of the fortress, the Vanaras roared with joy and prepared for battle.
Like moths rushing at a flame, the Rakshasas fell on the Vanara army.
"Look," said Rama, "there comes out a Rakshasa at the head of an enormous army. Who is he?"
Vibhishana replied: "It is Prahasta, the commander-in-chief of Ravana. A third of the imperial army is his to command."
Then ensued a grim battle between the Vanaras armed with boulders and trees and the Rakshasa equipped with swords, spears, bows and axes. Exchanging showers of stones for arrows and grappling in death grips at close quarters, both sides fought fiercely, deluging the field with blood.
Prahasta's followers, Narantaka, Mahanada, Kumbhahanu and others were opposed by Dwivida, Durmukha and Jambavan and stain. There was a prolonged battle between Prahasta and Nila. At last Prahasta, armed with a massive mace of iron rushed towards Nila. Nila, for his part, uprooted a big boulder and with it smashed Prahasta's head killing him on the spot.
The Rakshasa warriors fled in all directions. After this great victory, Nila went to Rama, and Lakshmana and, bowing low, told them what happened. Rama and Lakshmana praised his prowess and congratulated him.
Some of those who fled from the battle carried to the Rakshasa King the news that Nila, son of Agni, had slain Prahasta. Ravana was beside himself with rage and grief. "My warrior chief," he said, "who could vanquish Indra and his host of gods, has been killed by these Vanaras. We cannot treat this lightly. We must destroy Rama and the monkey host." So saying, Ravana got into his chariot and went forward like Rudra, the destroyer. Seated in his radiant chariot and issuing from the city, Ravana beheld the Vanara army and heard their uproar which resounded like the ocean.
Seeing a new Rakshasa army issuing out, the Vanaras stood ready to receive them with stones and trees in hand. Vibhishana pointed out the Rakshasa warriors one by one to Rama. "There seated in the chariot and shining like the rising sun, is Indrajit." And so he went on from one renowned warrior to another till he came to Ravana. "There, in the big chariot, radiant like the sun, sits the ten- headed Ravana."
Rama beheld the majestic and glowing form with interest and pity. "A great warrior no doubt," he said, "but he is so wicked that he has to be slain."
Ravana attacked innumerable Vanaras and laid them low. Nila opposed Ravana gallantly but was felled by a fire-dart. Hanuman attacked Ravana with violence and the two fought an equal battle for a while but Ravana could not be subdued and wrought great havoc in the Vanara host.
There was a fight between Lakshmana and Ravana. Lakshmana fell down unconscious but Hanuman intervened and carried Lakshmana away to Rama.
Then Rama, riding on Hanuman's shoulders, gave battle to Ravana. The Rakshasa king was sorely wounded. His olden crown was broken. So was his chariot. Deprived of every weapon, he stood before Rama.
"You may go now," said Rama. "You have fought well today. Go away and rest and come back tomorrow, refreshed and with weapons." And Ravana retreated shamefacedly to the city.