THERE was panic in Kishkindha when the news came that Vali had been slain by an archer, and the Vanaras fled hither and thither in hopeless confusion. Tara, seeing this, laid aside her own grief and like a queen put courage in her husband's subjects saying: "Till this day you walked before the King to battle! Why, then do you flee in fear now? There is no danger for you. Rama killed Vali only to make Sugriva king. Your lives are in no danger; you will only have a different ruler; that is all. You need not fly or fear."
When she tried to go to the spot where her husband lay dead, the Vanaras stopped her saying: "We shall crown Angada king and we shall make safe the fortress. We shall defend the town against Sugriva and his allies."
But she said: "Now my noble lord is dead, nothing matters." And boldly she went straight to where Rama and Lakshmana were standing.
When she saw her husband lying wounded to death she could not control her sorrow. She sobbed and cried.
"Ah my hero!" she wept embracing the wounded Vali. "How many heroes have you laid low and now you lie low yourself! And you have left me here!"
Soon Vali's son Angada reached the spot. And Sugriva, witnessing this scene, was filled with remorse at the thought that it was all for him that this calamity had happened. The remorse was no doubt genuine. For invariably revenge, especially revenge wreaked on those who have been friends in other day; brings nothing but bitterness and grief, and the momentary feeling of triumph is all ashes to the taste. How few of us realise this in the confusion created by desires and anger!
Tara rolled on the ground and lamented: "Leaving dear Angada an orphan and myself a helpless destitute you have gone on the journey from which there is no return. My Lord! My hero! "
Hanuman tried to console her: "The dead reach their places in heaven. Why lament for Vali? Angada will be crowned in due course and we shall then rejoice. It is our duty to look after Angada. Let us now think of performing Vali's obsequies."
"I care for nothing," answered Tara. "It is for Sugriva to perform the obsequies and to look after Angada. What is there for me to do? Can a thousand Angadas equal in my eyes my husband? With him I shall enter the house of Yama. That alone will please me."
Vali, unconscious till now, opened his eyes for the last time and addressing Sugriva said: "Brother, we two could have been friends and reigned happily over the kingdom. But it was not given to us to be so wise and happy. I am more to blame than you, but why talk about that now? Hereafter you shall rule the kingdom. I have entrusted to you Angada, my son, dearer than life itself to Tara and me. He is a warrior equal to you in prowess. Be a father to him and look after him with kindness. This is my only request to you. And be kind to Tara who was not only a blameless and affectionate wife, but also a very wise and far-sighted counsellor. Whatever she foretells is bound to happen. Do not disregard her advice on any matter. Here, take the necklace that Indra gave me and take with it its secret power. My life is over and so is my resentment. May you be happy!" Thus the generous Vali blessed his brother Sugriva.
He gave good advice to Angada: "Sugriva is now your king. Be loyal to him and give him patient, affectionate service."
Like a flowering creeper embracing a forest tree felled down by an axe, Tara lay on the ground clinging to Vali.
Nila, as gently as he could, drew out the dart from Vali's chest.
Blood gushed out of the wound and spread into a pool. Vali's life left his body. Tara lamented loudly. "For the last time salute your father," she bade Angada in heart-broken accents. "O my husband!
Your dear son is bowing before you. Will you not say a word to him? Alas! I am a widow and he is an orphan."
The sight of all this struck Sugriva to the heart. He said to himself: "Moved by desire I closed the entrance of the cave and leaving Vali there, I seized and enjoyed his wealth. What a sinner have I been!"
It may be that in his penitent mood Sugriva accused himself wrongly, but it is also true that, without our knowledge, desire corrupts our mind and leads us to wrong actions and entangles us in sin. Sugriva felt that desire had unknowingly blinded and betrayed him.
Kama in Sanskrit stands for lust and greed and every kind of desire. Kama is man's internal foe which he has to vanquish. This is the lesson taught in the last seven slokas of the third chapter of the Gita. Sri Krishna concludes his exhortation with these words: "Jahi Satrum Kamaroopam Durasadam."
If desire corrupted Sugriva's mind, anger corrupted Vali's. When Vali saw that Sugriva had barred the entrance and left him shut up in the cave he felt convinced that Sugriva had accompanied him in his pursuit of the Rakshasa not as a brother but with a treacherous motive. He concluded that Sugriva had planned to sacrifice him to the Asura and usurp his place.
He became a prey to his own fury. He disgraced and drove out his blood brother and nursed his anger. Anger (krodha, as it is called in Sanskrit) betrayed Vali into sin.
Indeed kama and krodha are the ultimate causes of all sin. Unless we defend our heart against these foes and keep them out, we cannot escape sin.
Sugriva lamented: "Though my sin was great, he would not kill me. He drove me out and allowed me to escape with life.
That was all. But I conspired to slay him and succeeded. There is no sinner like me in the world and yet with his last breath he gave me the kingdom to rule and gave, too, the gift of Indra, the necklace of power. Indeed he was noble. Why should I still cling to this base life, I, who brought about the death of my heroic brother?"
At least once a year, men that follow ancient custom utter the prayer Kamokarsheet manyurakarsheet. That is: 'Desire lured me into sin, anger lured me into sin.' So saying many times with humble penitence, they seek to cleanse their hearts. This is a practice that all should follow, to repent and purify the heart and surrender it to the Lord, Kamokarsheet manyurakarsheet, Narayanaya namah.
With fear and hesitation, Rama gently approached the weeping Tara. But there was no sign of anger on her face. The words she addressed to the slayer of her husband were worthy of a hero's queen. "With the weapon with which, O Warrior, you killed my husband, kill me too and enable me to join him. Even in heaven, he will not be happy without me. Do not fear it would be a sin. It will be a meritorious act to unite husband and wife. This will cleanse your sin, your treacherous slaying of my husband."
Valmiki says at this stage that Tara knew the truth of Rama's incarnation and saw Vishnu in him. The traditional belief is that, like Sumitra, the mother of Lakshmana, Tara, the wife of Vali, was a jnani, a knower of Reality. Though at first she hated Rama for his treachery, yet when she saw him face to face she saw his divinity, so it is said.
Those who read the Ramayana as a mere tale would find all this pointless. But to the followers of bhakti marga, this will not sound improbable. Tulasidas sings at this point that Siva explains to Parvati:
"Look, Uma, how Rama, the Supreme Being, moves all creatures like puppets tied to strings!" Bhakti is needed to realise the full meaning of Hindu ancient mythology.
Even on a rational basis, Tara comes out as a diplomat, an expert in statesmanship. She had the intelligence to anticipate coming events. What had happened had happened. By his address and good fortune, Sugriva had secured the alliance of Rama. Vali was no more; Angada's welfare was all that she should care for hereafter.
Could Angada afford to antagonise Sugriva with Rama and Lakshmana ready to support him bow in hand? Peace, not war was indicated.
Hence, when she concealed her anger from Rama and put on an appearance of patient submission to events, she was really securing the best interests of Angada and winning for him the compassion and sympathy of all.
Vali's obsequies were performed with due form and ceremony. After the auspicious bath, Sugriva was crowned king and Angada was made Yuvaraja.