SUGRIVA was keen on regaining his kingdom and family, but he could not see how this was to be. Vali's strength stood as an impossible barrier between him and the fulfilment of his desire.
Hanuman, his minister, tried to convince him that is would succeed with Rama's help, but Sugriva's doubts persisted. Could Rama's strength overcome Vali's? It all looked hopelessly impossible. Vali's body was like steel. How was Rama going to kill him?
Sugriva had these doubts about Rama. But he had none else to help him. And he was not prepared to give up his desire. He decided to test Rama's strength.
But how is one to subject a friend to a test without discourteously betraying one's suspicion? Rama had promised to get the thing done. How was an occasion to be created to measure his ability? Sugriva thought long and formed a plan.
He told Rama softly: "My Lord Rama! Your words have banished sorrow from my heart. I know your valor. An arrow from your bow can destroy the three worlds. How can Vali's frame stand against it? Still it is my duty to tell you all about Vali's strength. He can go round to the four oceans to take up in his palm and sip the water with the morning prayers. He can toss and play with a heavy rock as if it were a ball. He can pull out mighty forest trees as if they were blades of grass. Once Dundubhi, an Asura in buffalo form possessing the strength of a thousand elephants, challenged Ocean to a fight. Ocean evaded saying: 'You should fight with an equal. There in the north stands Himavan. Go and challenge him. Leave poor me alone'. Dundubhi agreed and, speeding northwards, met and challenged Himavan, going his rocky side with his horns. Himavan controlled his temper and said: 'Why do you assault me? I am not a fighter. I spend my life in the company of sages who love to stay with me.' Dundubhi answered: 'Very well, then. But tell me of some one I can fight with. I want a worthy foeman today.' Himavan said: 'There is one in the south who is a foe worthy of you. He is Vali, the Vanara King. His strength is like his father Indra's. If you care, you may go to him and challenge him to fight.' Dundubhi went straight to Vali's place and raised a loud uproar at the entrance of Kishkindha. He tore up trees and pulled down the gate and roared, 'Come out and prove your strength in a fight with me.' Vali was then resting with his queen. On hearing the challenge he came out accompanied by the women of his palace. 'Why, O Dundubhi, do you raise this clamor at my city gate?' be asked. 'Are you tired of life?' Vali's scornful address enraged the Asura who said: 'Don't boast of your strength in the presence of your admiring women. I have come here for a fight with you. If you have any manliness in you, come out and show it. You will say you are too drunk now to fight; but I am willing to wait till you become sober. If you like you may spend the night in your pleasures and bid a tearful leave of all your dear ones and come to me in the morning to be slain by me.' Vali laughed at Dundubhi's words and said: 'My dear women, go inside. O Asura, I am not the worse for drink and if you want a fight, there is no time like the present. The drinks I have had are what the warrior takes before he goes into battle!' So saying and with a laugh he took hold of the Asura by his tail and whirled him round and flung him. Dundubhi spat blood and fell on the ground. After a while the Asura rose again and a great battle followed. Vali, son of Indra, pounded the Asura to death. And he flung the dead buffalo so that it fell on the ground at the distance of a yojana. Drops of blood from the Asura's body were carried by the wind and fell on the ashrama of Matanga. The sage was wroth and soon found out who was responsible for this contamination. He saw at once that Vali in his pride had flung a bleeding carcass and desecrated the holy spot. The sage pronounced a curse, 'If this Vali enters the precincts of this ashrama, he will lose his life.' That is why, O Rama, with my friends I am living here in safety. Vali dare not approach this place for fear of the curse. Look at these sal trees. He can pluck one of them and just shake all the leaves off as one dusts a jacket. Such is his strength. How could I, having incurred this terrible brother's enmity, feel secure?"
Lakshmana understood that Sugriva needed a demonstration of Rama's prowess to give him confidence and he said: "How would you like Rama to show you his confidence to conquer Vali?"
Sugriva answered: "Indeed, I have no doubts. I know Rama's prowess though now it is hidden as embers in ashes. I have sought refuge under him. And yet, when I recall Vali's mighty deeds, I tremble. That is all."
Seeing Sugriva's faith in him and his great fear of Vali, Rama resolved to put an end to his doubts. By a playful flip of his toe he sent the enormous skeleton of Dundubhi which was lying there, flying in the air to a distance of ten yojanas. But Sugriva though impressed was not convinced. "When my brother sent Dundubhi's carcass hurling in the sky, it was full of flesh and blood and far heavier than this weather-beaten skeleton," he said.
Then Rama bent his bow and, pulling the string to his ear, sent forth an arrow. It pierced the sal tree pointed out by Sugriva and six other trees standing behind it. Piercing the seven trees the beautiful arrow touched the earth and returned to Rama's quiver.
Sugriva, seeing this, was beside himself with joy. He was now certain that Rama's arrow could pierce the adamant frame of Vali. He fell prostrate before Rama and said: "With my own eyes I have now seen your prowess. Even if all the gods with Indra at their head should come and oppose you, your victory is certain. Why then talk of Vali? I have gained your friendship and I have no more use for fear or grief. Slay Vali and save me. Let us go to Kishkindha today."
Both Rama and Lakshmana agreed. They talked how to set about and it was finally agreed that Sugriva should appear in Kishkindha and challenge Vali to single combat. Vali was sure to come out, and as the brothers were fighting, Rama would kill Vali with an arrow. They proceeded to Kishkindha. Sugriva went ahead. Rama followed him and stood away behind a tree in the dense forest.
Sugriva shouted. Vali heard the shout and in great rage emerged from the fortress, radiant like the morning sun.
The two brothers fought each other fiercely.
But Rama, who was standing bow in hand behind a tree, was bewildered. As they wrestled together the brothers were so similar in form and feature, in equipment and method of fighting, that Rama could not distinguish Vali from Sugriva and was afraid to shoot lest he kill the wrong combatant.
Meantime Sugriva, having the worst of the fight, broke from his brother's grip with a desperate effort and, wounded and weary, disappointed and despondent, fled for life and reached Rishyamuka forest.
Even this he was able to do because Vali did not wish to slay him and was not unwilling to give his brother another lease of life.
Rama and Lakshmana rejoined the woebegone Sugriva. He looked down at the ground without lifting his eyes. He was angry that Rama had broken his word and failed to help him.
"If you did not like to kill Vali," said Sugriva, "you could have told me so earlier. In that case, I, who know Vali's might, would never have challenged him to fight. On the contrary, you made me believe you, and I have had such a drubbing that it is a wonder I am alive."
"Do not be angry, Sugriva, but listen," said Rama. "There was a good reason why I could not send forth my deadly arrow. You and Vali were alike in height and girth, in gait and shouts, in dress and ornaments. Once the fight began, I could not tell you from Vali. And I stood bewildered and helpless. It would have been terrible if I killed you instead of Vali. Do not be angry. Challenge Vali once again. This time I shall surely slay him. Here, Lakshmana, fetch that flowering creeper. Tie it round Sugriva's neck as a garland. I shall then know who is our friend and who is Vali as they fight. Now, Sugriva, you shall see Vali rolling on the ground."
Sugriva was satisfied. His spirits recovered. Lakshmana tied the creeper round his neck. Once again, and handsomer than ever, Sugriva proceeded to Kishkindha. And Rama and Lakshmana followed him as before.