FROM Sampati the Vanaras learnt the place where Sita was kept a prisoner in the land of the Rakshasa, a hundred yojanas across the ocean. But of course it would not do to return to Sugriva at once with this second-hand information. They had outstayed the allotted time and only outstanding success could save them from punishment. They could not stop their search till they saw with their own eyes what Sampati had described only then could they fulfil Rama's purpose.
But then they had to cross the sea.
They went to the edge of the water and discussed matters. "How can we cross the sea, enter Lanka, see Sita and return?" Anxiety and fear overwhelmed them.
Angada said: "No matter how hard the task, one should never lose courage. Courage is the key to success. To lose heart is to lose everything."
Then he asked each one of his followers to state truly the maximum length that he could jump.
"Oh Vanara warriors!" he said, "much have I heard from Sugriva of your prowess. Your strength and your enterprise are beyond dispute. We should fulfil this task. We cannot return to Kishkindha without seeing Sita. That is certain. It is better for us to end our lives here than to be slain in disgrace by the king. Therefore, tell me, one by one, the longest jump you have the strength and courage to attempt."
Gaja said modestly: "I can jump ten yojanas." Gavaksha said: "I can do twenty." Another Vanara leader claimed he could do thirty.
And so each improved on the figure of the other. At last Jambavan, the oldest of the warriors, spoke:
"I am now old and infirm. Yet I would gladly spend myself to fulfil our king's command. But what will mere devotion avail if not seconded by strength? I think I can manage ninety yojanas, but this is not enough to cross the sea and reach Lanka. I can only regret my lost youth."
The Yuvaraja himself said: "I can do a hundred yojanas and reach Lanka, I have no doubt. But I wonder whether I shall have the strength for another jump of equal length for the return journey."
Jambavan answered, "O prince, you need not doubt your strength. Your prowess is as great as Vali's. Yet it is not proper for the crown prince to undertake this task while there are others to do it under his orders. It is neither statesmanlike nor safe for a king to act directly."
Then Jambavan cast an appraising and admiring look at Hanuman, who had sat apart, listening to the talk, but saying nothing.
"I feel that the son of Vayu, sitting there in silence is the one best fitted by strength and skill to do this deed," said the old Vanara and walked up to Hanuman and brought him to their midst.
Addressing Hanuman in the hearing of the myriad's of gloomy Vanaras, Jambavan said: "O warrior, learned in all branches of knowledge, why are you sitting silent and apart? You are the equal of King Sugriva, are you not? In strength and splendor do you not surpass all the rest of us? Why, are you not the equal of Rama and Lakshmana themselves? I have seen Garuda, the king of birds crossing the sea. The might of your shoulders is not less than that of Garuda's wings. You are not inferior to the son of Vinata in strength or speed, but you are not aware of your own prowess and intelligence. There is no equal to you in the whole world. Anjana, your mother, was a maiden among the goddesses above. By the curse of a rishi she was born as a Vanari. One day, while she was wandering carefree on a mountain slope, Vayu saw her beauty and fell in love with her and embraced her. She was wroth. 'Who are you, O wicked one' she asked, 'who dares insult me? The Wind-God answered: 'Be not angry, your body is not tainted by my touch and loses not its virgin purity. Not in body but in my heart's desire did I embrace you and out of this ethereal embrace, a child will be born to you, equal to me in strength and vigor. He will be the mightiest and most intelligent amongst the Vanaras.' Thus did the Wind- God pacify Anjana. When you were a little child, O Hanuman, you imagined the rising sun to be a fruit and flew towards it in order to pluck it. Seeing your effortless and fearless flight Indra, king of the gods, became concerned for the sun's safety and hurled his thunderbolt at you. Struck down by it, you fell on a, mountain and your right jaw was broken. Enraged by this, your father the Wind-God stopped his movements and stood still. All living creatures became breathless and felt strangled in the stillness. The gods begged Vayu to lay aside his anger and showered blessings on you. Brahma and Indra gave you boons. No weapon can slay you. Death can only come to you at your will and not other wise. You are immortal. Born of Anjana and begotten of the spirit of the Wind-God, you are equal to him in splendor, intelligence and power. But, for all your strength, you are virtuous and modest. You alone can help us to fulfil Rama's purpose. Crossing the sea is no hard task to you. This great army of Vanaras, struggling in a sea of distress, you should rescue. You, who can cross the sea, should not leave your power unused. Increase your stature. You are the equal of Garuda. Once I too was strong like you and traversed the globe twenty-one times. At the churning of the ocean of milk, I fetched herbs from the four quarters at the bidding of the gods. But now I am old and weak. You are the sole hope of the Vanaras. O, son of Anjana, we beg you, noble one! With your heritage of divine strength, delay no further. Realise your true strength and spring forward. Like Trivikrama, you can cross the sea at a single jump. Do it and end our troubles."
The aged Jambavan thus praised Hanuman, reminded him of his strength and roused his dormant courage. At once Hanuman's form began to swell like the sea in high tide. Even as the Vanaras were watching him, the son of Vayu grew in size. The radiance of his body filled Angada and his companions with wonder and joy.
From now on, Hanuman is the hero of the Ramayana. The devotees of Vishnu lovingly call him the Junior Servant of Hari. The Senior Servant is Garuda who is always with Vishnu in personal attendance.
How the Junior Servant of Hari ended the grief of Sita, destroyed by fire the city of Ravana and returned to the Lord and told him: "I found have Sita," we shall now proceed to relate. Reminded of his might by Jambavan, Hanuman was now determined to fulfil Rama's purpose. And with fervor he uttered his faith:
"May your words come true. Flying through the sky and alighting in Lanka, I shall see Janaki. I have no doubt. I shall return and bring you good news. To take the jump I must press my foot hard against the earth. This hill may stand it," he said and climbed up the Mahendra hill.
There for a while he threw his whole strength into his foot and walked a few steps. The creatures in the hill could not endure it and came out.
Standing on the hill, Hanuman looked at the sea and directed his yoga- concentrated mind towards Lanka. He said to himself: "I shall search and find Sita. I shall fly in the sky and cross the sea."
With this resolve he offered worship and prayer to Surya, Indra, Vayu, Brahma, and all creation. Then facing east, he made obeisance to his father Vayu and, magnifying his frame still further, turned towards the south.
He pressed the hill with his feet and struck it with his hands. At this impact the flowers fell from the trees and covered the hill. Squeezed irresistibly by the pressure of his feet the hill threw out springs of water, like the rut flowing down the cheeks of the elephant. Many colored veins of ore burst out of the rock. From the caves the beasts emerged with panic- stricken outcries. Hooded serpents emitting venom bit the rock and sparks flew out.
The hair of Hanuman's body stood on end and he roared and lashed his tail on the ground. He contracted his hind parts, held his breath, pressed down his feet, folded his ears and stiffened his muscles. Then with a roar of triumph he rose into the sky and like Garuda flew with the speed of Rama's arrow. With the momentum of his speed, many trees were uprooted and followed in his wake. Like friends who speed a parting guest, they accompanied him a little way, showering down their flowers, and dropped.
One by one the trees that followed Hanuman fell into the sea like the mountains which of old were pursued by Indra and denuded of their wings. Covered with bright-colored flowers the sea shone like the sky with its stars. Hanuman's arms with their outspread hands as he flew through the sky appeared like two five headed cobras. He seemed to swallow the sky as he flew forward. His eyes glistened like mountain forests on fire. His red nose shone like the evening sun.
His huge frame spanned the sky like an enormous comet. The air roared as he sped fast. Beneath him his shadow travelled like a ship on the sea. It looked as though a huge mountain with wings was flying in the sky. Hidden at times by clouds and again emerging from them, he shone like the moon sailing across the sky. The Gandharvas showered flowers. The Devarishis blessed him.
With courage equal to every occasion, with foresight, skill and resolution, Hanuman met and survived the trials on the way. Shooting up suddenly from the sea, a mighty mountain rose and stood, in his way. Hanuman struck it with his chest and the Mynaka Mountain yielded, like a cloud struck by the wind.
The mountain said: "My son, I am Mount Mynaka. My king Ocean bade me help Sri Rama, the descendant of the Sagara race. The Ocean is an old friend of that race. In honor of that ancient, association, stay here on me for a while. You will fulfil Rama's purpose all the better for this rest. When Indra struck with his thunder all the hills, I fled from his persecution and hid myself in the ocean and survived. The Ocean who gave me shelter now bids me help you. The sons of Sagara dug and deepened the ocean. Did not your father Vayu help me to escape from Indra's thunderbolt and find sanctuary in the sea? Both the Ocean and myself will be pleased if you will accept my hospitality and rest here for a while."
But Hanuman could not yield to Mynaka's importunity and said politely: "I cannot stop, my friend. I have no time to lose. My vow to fulfil Rama's purpose permits no delay. Your kind words are enough to please me."
He stroked the mountain affectionately with his hand and took its leave.
Later, a huge form stood in his way and said: "Enter my mouth. I have been without food for a long time and am eagerly waiting for you," and the monster opened its mouth wide like a cave.
Hanuman answered: "I am bent on doing Rama's purpose. Do not stop me."
"Impossible!" said the monster. "You must enter my mouth."
Hanuman thought quickly and decided what to do. Step by step he made his body grow bigger and bigger. The Rakshasa form (which had been assumed by Surasa, the Naga maiden) opened its mouth correspondingly wider and wider.
When the mouth was thus enormously wide, all of a sudden Hanuman contracted his body into a speck and, darting through the demon's mouth and body, came out again and resumed his former normal shape.
He then laughed and said: "You have had your wish, mother. I have entered your mouth. What more do you need?"
And the Naga goddess blessed him saying: "Your effort will be crowned with success. I did this at the bidding of the gods who wanted to test you. Rama's purpose, which you seek to serve, will assuredly triumph."
This was not the last of his trials. As he was flying in the sky, for no reason which he could discover, he found his speed obstructed and he suffered like a ship against a contrary wind. Some mighty force, he felt, was holding him and dragging him down.
He looked up and down and on all four sides. Then he discovered the cause. It was a huge she-demon in the sea holding him by his shadow below, arresting his speed, and dragging him down.
The demon, holding him by his shadow, said: "Come, come! Long have I
been waiting for you. No longer can I bear my hunger," and she opened her mouth like a cave.
At once Hanuman entered her mouth and ripped a way out through her entrails and emerged. The demon died and sank down in the water. Like the full moon emerging from an eclipse, Hanuman shone in the sky and resumed his journey.
Thus surviving many trials with the help of his subtle wit, courage and strength, he flew across the ocean and approached the coast of Lanka covered with plantain and coconut trees.
On the shore of the island he saw groves and mountains and forests and the mouths of rivers.
Hanuman saw the wealth of Ravana's kingdom and the beauty of the fortified city.
"I have reached the destination," said Hanuman to himself. "Now without letting the Rakshasas know who or what I am, I must search the place and find out where Sita is kept."
He reduced his huge form to the size of a normal monkey and alighted on a hilltop in Lanka.