FULL of hope, Hanuman alighted and set foot in Lanka. But soon the flush of triumph at the accomplishment of the journey gave place to sober thinking.
"True I have crossed the sea, but that is only the beginning of my mission. There, on mount Trikuta, stands Ravana's magnificent city, as if suspended in the sky. How beautiful, how wealthy, how well secured it is! The city and the fortress are not inferior to Amaravati or Bhagavati. The lovely groves, the elegant buildings, the engines of defence, deep moats, these fill me with much admiration but also with greater concern. Who can attack and vanquish this Ravana? How can an army cross the sea that I have just crossed? Even if it crosses the sea and reaches this shore, how can it attack and bring down this fortress defended by bulwarks manned by well-armed warriors! Neither guile nor force can bring it down. But first I must find out whether Sita is alive or not. Other questions can wait. When and how can I best enter this well guarded city? I have to search it thoroughly, if I am to discover the place where Sita is kept. If thoughtlessly I do something wrong now, this error would be irretrievable and a great purpose would fail because of haste or negligence on my part. If I enter the, city by day, it will be noticed by the Rakshasas. It is best I go in at night. But in what shape shall I go? To ward off suspicion, I must put on a trivial, inconspicuous shape."
Accordingly he shrank to the size of a little monkey, no bigger than a cat. To enter and search the palaces and parks of this vast city, this would be most convenient. His present form was as much smaller than his usual size as the latter was than the mighty proportions he had assumed as he crossed the sea.
By now the sun had set. The little Vanara walked towards the fortress gate. The moon shone brightly. Hanuman was glad and grateful for this help in his search.
Even on a distant view Hanuman wondered at the wealth and beauty displayed in Ravana's capital. The streets and mansions were bright with flags and festoons and glittered with gold and precious gems. The breeze blew gently from the sea. Like Indra's Amaravati and Kubera's Alakapuri, Ravana's capital had attained the peak of prosperity. The messenger of Rama was filled with wonder and anxiety how to overcome the master of such wealth and military power.
As he was walking along in amazement and anxiety, he was rudely accosted by the terrible-looking Guardian Goddess of the city.
"Who are you, little monkey? How did you manage to come here and why are you here at all? Speak the truth."
"Yes, I am indeed a little monkey and I have come here to look at this beautiful city. I shall go back after I have gone round and seen everything and satisfied my curiosity."
The deity struck an angry blow at the monkey. Hanuman returned the blow carelessly with his left hand. It doubled her up with agony on the ground.
But soon she got up and remembered the prophecy that, when a monkey should strike and throw her down, the city she guarded would be destroyed.
She said to herself: "Ravana's sins are many and grievous. The end of Lanka is approaching. The word of the gods is about to be fulfilled." And she stood aside. The goddess of Lanka was not a servant of Ravana. She was the spirit of the city.
Hanuman climbed over the wall and jumped into the city. It was part of the ancient code of warfare that one should not enter the enemy's fortress through the regular gate, but should make his entry in an out-of-the-way manner.
Vowing that the Rakshasas should be destroyed he entered the fortress of Lanka with his left foot foremost, for that meant defeat for the enemy.
He went along the royal street that was strewn with beautiful flowers. Like lightning shining through the clouds the buildings shone against the sky. Clambering up the mansions and going along on their roofs, he admired the beauty of the city. The Rakshasa mansions and streets and their decorations shone with ineffable beauty. The sounds of cultivated and correct music were heard. Lovely women moved about to the accompaniment of tinkling anklets. The city was filled with sounds indicating a full and joyous life.
In some houses mantras were being chanted. In some others Vedic chants were heard. In others songs celebrating the heroic exploits and glory of Ravana were being sung. Soldiers and scouts were everywhere. In the streets were people dedicated to particular religious practices and vows. There were others cruel in looks and ugly. The guards were armed with bows, swords, cudgels, slings, lances and other weapons. All the warriors were clad in armor.
Some were handsome, some ugly, complexions varied from fair through brown to black. Some figures were very tall, others very short. Thus Hanuman saw that the population had been drawn from a wide area with varying climates and that the army had been recruited from the pick of many nations.
He examined mansion after mansion. He saw women of exquisite beauty, some of them in the company of their husbands and others by themselves. He saw many young damsels, bright and beautiful like images of molten gold. Some were seated on the terraces, others were sleeping in their beds. Some were playing, others singing.
Innumerable beautiful women he saw, but not Sita pining for Rama. The sight of so much beauty only filled Hanuman's heart with disappointment and sadness.
He entered and examined the homes of many Rakshasas. There were war elephants, pure-bred horses, chariots and armories. Soldiers stood fully armed.
After passing through many mansions and gardens filled with merriment and music, he came to a great palace rising aloft in a nobility of splendor far transcending all the magnificent buildings around.
Looking at the elephants, horses and foot-soldiers in front, the high walls surrounding it and the beauty of its structure and the richness of its decorations, he concluded that this was Ravana's own palace, the central glory of splendid Lanka. He entered this palace. It was in every way a heaven on earth worthy of Ravana's peerless power and glory. The park, the birds sporting there, the shrines scattered here and there, filled Hanuman with wonder.
He said to himself: "What wealth, what beauty and what bliss!"
He was for a while lost in amazement. But soon he recollected that he had not yet found Sita. Admiration gave place to concern over the yet unfulfilled purpose for which he had come.
Passing through many mansions, he entered the innermost private apartment of Ravana and was almost overcome with the luxury and richness of its apartments which made it look a very abode of the gods. Everywhere was gold and silver, ivory and gems and pearls, and beautiful carpets and furniture and in their midst he saw the Pushpaka Vimana.
It was a magic vehicle obtained from Brahma by Kubera. Vanquishing Kubera, Ravana brought it to Lanka as his booty. As from Vasishtha's cow, in the Pushpaka car one could get anything one desired.
Ravana's chamber, which Hanuman now entered, was a very ocean of delight. Countless lovely women lay sleeping in the spacious chamber, some linked arm in arm and all in undress and the careless attitudes of sleep, making the place look like garden of bright, flower-laden creepers.
With his spirit controlled by dharma, Hanuman looked at all these sleeping women, each more beautiful than the other and all filled with joy and love, to see if any of them could be Sita. Ravana's power to take what shape he would and to please all women was evident from the sight of these lovely women.
Hanuman pulled himself together reproachfully at his own folly in supposing for a moment that Sita could be in that sensual paradise of happy damsels. "It is certain that Sita is not in this crowd. What a fool am I to search for her in this company! This is no place for her."
Then he went elsewhere. In another chamber he saw many beds. He saw one more gorgeous than the rest, covered with gold and diamonds and Ravana stretched on it, like another Mount Meru. His form and majestic splendor mace made even Hanuman tremble for it moment.
He stood on one side and scanned the sleeping figure unable for a time to take his eyes off the majestic and virile beauty of that mighty form. The great muscles now in repose, the symmetrical grace of limbs which made the Rakshasa King at once beautiful and terrible.
Then Hanuman looked at the women in the beds around and on the carpets. Some, who had fallen asleep while singing, were still hugging their musical instruments.
His eyes finally fell on a figure lying on a divinely beautiful cot. The shapeliness of her limbs and the beauty of her features made Hanuman imagine it might be Sita. He leaped up with joy.
The next instant he cursed himself for his folly. "Fie, fie," he said to himself, "how foolish have I been! Could Sita sleep thus carelessly, covered with jewels, in a stranger's chamber? The very thought is a sin." And he was overwhelmed with shame and sorrow at his error.
Then he said to himself: "Because she would not yield to him, this Rakshasa must have killed her. What use is there in continuing the search?"
He had now searched the inner apartments of Ravana's palace. The bedroom, the dining room, the hall of drink, the music room, all places had been searched and Sita was nowhere found. "I have entered every nook and corner. Against all the rules of propriety, I have even looked at every one in the women's chambers. But all in vain."
Saying this he left the hall of drink and went to the garden and looked into the little shrines and the arbours made of creepers. But all was in vain.
"I have seen all of Lanka," he thought with irrepressible grief. "I have seen every inch of Ravana's palace. What more could I do here? Am I to return without seeing Sita? No. I shall rather end my life here. Yes, that is the only thing for me to do."
But again he said to himself, "Fie, fie on me for yielding to such despondency unworthy and dishonorable."
He sprang up again and searched once again every inch of the places he had been through. He opened every door and window and looked in. There were ugly women, beautiful human and Naga maidens, all captured by the Rakshasa, but not Sita.
Once again his heart sank. He did not know what to do. He said to himself: "If I return to Kishkindha failing in my mission, with what face shall I meet my friends? If Rama loses all hopes of recovering Sita, what would happen to him? He would surely die. And after that, what would happen to others? Instead of going back to Sugriva and telling him that all my labors have been wasted, it would be far better to stay here and spend the rest of my days in the forest and seashore of Lanka. But why live on? Is it not best to end my life? But, then, was Sampati wrong in saying that Sita was in Lanka? Or has she been killed by the Rakshasa since Sampati sighted her in this island? She might well have been devoured by the
Rakshasis. Nothing is clear, everything is enveloped in doubt. What shall I do?"
Thus was Hanuman lost in anxiety and thought. Just then his eyes lighted on what he had so far left unexplored, a park attached to a shrine and surrounded by high walls. "Oh, here is a park, I have not seen or searched so far. Here surely I shall find Sita."
With these words as the son of Vayu meditated on Rama, hope sprang within his breast. The secluded park was well protected by high walls. "Yes, Sita must be here," he said to himself. Again he bowed to the gods. He jumped up and sat on the wall of the Asoka Vana and surveyed the beautiful park.