INDRAJIT comforted his father. "Why should you worry when I am here alive?" he said and gathered an army, and with it made another sortie.
He swooped down on the Vanara forces and killed and wounded thousands of them. They were helpless against his fury. The Brahmastra of Indrajit was effective against even Rama and Lakshmana who were tied up by it. They lay unconscious on the ground and the Rakshasa prince went straight to his anxious father with the glad news of this achievement.
Vibhishana rallied the Vanara leaders who had scattered in all directions and put hope and courage into them.
Jambavan, who was more dead than alive, moved slowly among the Vanaras, inquiring: "Is Hanuman alive?"
"Yes, I am here," said Hanuman, and bowed low before Jambavan.
"My son," said the old Vanara, "proceed northwards at once across the sea to the Himalaya range. Between the Rishabha and Kailasa peaks, there is the Hill of Herbs. In that hilltop are four medicinal plants. If you bring them here quickly, Rama and Lakshmana and the Vanara army will recover consciousness. Their wounds will be healed and they will fight again. Do this without loss of time. Only you can do this."
Accordingly, Hanuman sprang up into the air and moved fast. He reached the hill described by the venerable Jambavan and as he could not identify the plants, he carried the whole hill and returned with it to Lanka.
Even with the approach of the Sanjivi hill, Rama and Lakshmana and the Vanaras felt the darts slip off their bodies. Their wounds healed and they became strong and stood up.
The battle was resumed. Taking counsel with Rama, Sugriva now chose a few Vanaras and ordered them to enter Lanka and set fire to the city.
Towards midnight they entered the city with torches. They attacked and overpowered the sentry and set fire to the palaces and turrets of Lanka. Houses in their thousands were reduced to ashes. The proud city was reduced to a mass of ruin.
Valmiki describes this incident in detail. It reads very much like the destruction of cities in modern battles with which we are now familiar.
Seeing Lanka being burnt down by the Vanaras, Ravana was furious and sent to the battlefield Kumbha and Nikumbha, the sons of Kumbhakarna, together with Yupaksha and other Rakshasa warriors.
After another terrible battle, Kumbha was slain by Sugriva and Nikumbha by Hanuman. Makaraksha, son of Khara, who opposed Rama, fell to his fiery arrows. Many more mighty Rakshasas perished. Then, at the bidding of Ravana, Indrajit went once again to the battle.
He rose into the sky and became in visible. Thus he fought again unseen by the Vanaras. Indrajit, by his necromancy, created a maya-Sita and, putting her in a chariot, took her before the Vanara army and seemingly killed her in their presence.
Deceived and horrified by this, the Vanaras asked themselves: "What good is it now to continue this war?" They left the field and went to Rama with the heartrending news.
As a result of this trick, Indrajit gained time to perform an asuric sacrifice. Rama and Lakshmana, like the Vanara warriors, believed that Sita was dead and were lost in grief. They were completely bewildered and helpless when Vibhishana came and inquired what had happened.
He listened to their story. Then he said:
"You have been deceived. Never would Ravana allow Sita to be killed. This is only a trick of sorcery. Indrajit tries to defeat you through magic. Having given up all hope of achieving success by normal means, he has gone to perform an asuric sacrifice of great power. If he completes it, we cannot vanquish him. We should therefore go and obstruct the sacrifice. Let Lakshmana go at once and mar Indrajit's purpose."
Accepting this advice, Rama sent Lakshmana who was ac companied by Hanuman and other Vanaras, besides Vibhishana. They went to the spot where
Indrajit was about to offer oblations to evil spirits. The sacrifice was interrupted and a long and fierce battle ensued. Ascending his chariot, the son of Ravana sent forth his arrows.
Standing on Hanuman, Lakshmana did the same. As they were well matched in strength and skill, the battle lasted long. The chariot of Indrajit was destroyed in the course of the combat and both the heroes stood on the ground and continued the battle.
At last, Lakshmana used the Indra-astra spell and uttering the name of Rama discharged the fatal arrow. The head of Indrajit was severed and fell to the ground and as it fell, it shone like fire. The Devas and Gandharvas showered flowers from the heavens.
Lakshmana then went to Rama. He was wounded all over and bleeding. He walked slowly, supported by Jambavan and Hanuman. Rama had already heard the news of the death of Indrajit.
"Lakshmana!" he cried, "this is the end of the Rakshasa race. You have achieved it."
Lakshmana modestly stood back but Rama seated him on his lap, kissed his head and gave vent to his joy.
"You have performed a mighty deed, impossible for anyone else. You have deprived Ravana of his right hand. Who in the world can equal you or Vibhishana or Hanuman? I have no more care. You have vanquished the conqueror of Indra. I feel I have already recovered Sita."
The news reached Ravana that Indrajit had been slain by Lakshmana. When he heard that Vibhishana helped Lakshmana in slaying Indrajit, his grief and anger swelled and the tears he shed burnt where they fell. And from his mouth issued fire.
"Alas, my son! O peerless warrior! O hero! Vanquisher of the great Indra! Has Death won after all? Have you entered the heaven of heroes? But I should not grieve," he said.
But the father's heart would not thus be denied, and again he cried: "What! Is Indrajit gone? The world is now empty for me. Oh son, you have left your mother Mandodari and your dear wife and myself heart-broken and disconsolate. Nothing remains to us now but revenge and despair. It is best to kill Sita, the cause of all this tragedy. My son killed the maya- Sita. Now I shall kill the real Sita her self." So saying he rushed out, sword in hand, intending to do it. Some fierce Rakshasas, seeing Ravana issuing out in anger, applauded him with joy; but the minister Suparsva was horrified and appealed to Ravana's better sense and what was due to himself as a man and a king.
"King!" he cried, "how dare you think such a thought? How can you do it? Oh, Lord of ten heads! Brother of Kubera! Are you thinking to kill a woman? Are you going to incur this shame and sin? Can you thus be tempted by anger? You have mastered the Vedas and all the sciences. You have performed many penances. How can you end up with such a thing as this? Who is equal to you? Let us direct our anger against Rama. It will be new moon tomorrow. Gather all your armies, issue out of Lanka, slay Rama and Lakshmana and achieve victory. Then take Sita. Put on the armor you have secured from Brahma. Ascend your chariot and go to battle."
Ravana felt that Suparsva was right and his words were good. Seated on his throne, he was silent for a while, lost in profound meditation. Then he addressed the commanders with folded hands, saying:
"Go now with all your strength and slay Rama. If even you fail, I shall go myself and destroy him."
Never before had he been so courteous and humble when dealing with his officers. Adversity had taught him this lesson. Mounted on chariots that shone like the hills on the evening horizon and on the back of great elephants and beautiful horses, Ravana's army went in full force for the great battle.
The Vanaras tore up rocks and trees and attacked the Rakshasas fiercely. The Rakshasas returned the attack with equally grim ferocity.
The Vanaras jumped about everywhere and worked havoc among the Rakshasas, their chariots and animals. Each of the Rakshasas was surrounded by many Vanaras and slain.
The Rakshasas too did not spare the Vanaras whom they killed in tens of thousands.
Rama bent his bow and sent showers of arrows against the Rakshasas who destroyed their army like a raging fire. Warriors only saw their companions fall. They could not see Rama because of the shower of arrows. Their fear conjured up a multitude of Ramas, who dealt death in all directions.
Countless elephants and horses perished. Thousands of chariots were broken. The Rakshasa army was destroyed, all but a handful who fled into Lanka.
The Devas, Gandharvas and Siddhas sang the praise of Rama from above. In Lanka, the Rakshasa women clung to each other and lamented loudly that Ravana's folly should have brought this great calamity on them.