EVENING was approaching. Once more Sugriva roared at the gate of Kishkindha and challenged Vali to fight.
Vali who was then resting happily was startled and for a moment paled with puzzled concern, but was presently overwhelmed with rage and sprung stamping the earth as though he would split it.
Tara, his queen, her heart full of loving fear, held him in arms in a close embrace and tried to restrain his impetuosity with affectionate counsel. "Put away this wrath, my dear lord, as one puts away a used garland, for you have had enough fighting today. Tomorrow would do as well for another battle, for you lack neither enemies nor valor. I pray you not to rush out on the instant. It seems to me that you should think calmly before going out now to meet your brother. I am afraid there is a deeper game. Your brother was defeated and disgraced and ran for dear life and concealed himself for safety. Now he has returned and raises this noise. Your brother is not such a fool as to challenge you again so soon after the punishment you inflicted on him unless he was assured of help and protection from an invincible ally of tried prowess. Did you not observe that his very roar of challenge had a new note of confidence in it? I shall tell you what I heard from Angada who had it from our scouts who range the forests. Two princes of unrivalled valor, Rama and Lakshmana have come from Ayodhya and Sugriva has secured the promise of their assistance. After all, my lord, your brother is virtuous and brave. Why should you hate him? Who in the world is closer to us than he? He will be your devoted servant and strong ally. It is best to forget the past and make it up with Sugriva. My dear Lord, listen to my words!"
Vali disliked this advice. Anger clouded his intellect. Caught and dragged by the noose of death, he could not see reason and only became more fixed in his resolve.
Tara, bright and beautiful as became her name Tara meaning star, spoke in vain.
"What are you saying?" he said. "Am I to hear in silence the ringing challenge of this enemy-brother? When a foe calls to battle is a warrior to hang back? Death would be better than such cowardice. Don't you worry about Rama. He knows dharma; he is one brought up in the fear of sin. Oh, let me alone, will you? I may tell you I shall not kill Sugriva, only I will teach the presumptuous fellow a lesson he won't forget and let him go. Let me go, I tell you. You have spoken out of the fullness of your love for me. I shall humble Sugriva and send him back and return soon with victory. Have no fear for me."
Thus Valmiki pictures Vali, his chivalry, his dauntless and impatient valor, his tenderness. It is true Valmiki's hero has to kill the Vanara king, the epic requires it. But the slain warrior was a noble knight, worthy of the reader's admiration and tears. Tara, with tears in her eyes, circumambulated him and praying for his success returned to her apartment full of grave apprehension. Leaving Tara and her companions behind, Vali issued from the fort hissing like an angry cobra and went to meet Sugriva.
As he saw him standing there, radiant and courageous, he girt his loins and sprang on him. And Sugriva too ran forward to meet Vali.
"If you love your life," warned Vali, "run away. Do not fall a victim to this fist of mine!"
Sugriva retorted angrily and the battle began. Fierce with remembered wrongs and keyed up above himself by the certainty of Rama's help, Sugriva maintained for long an equal combat. But presently Vali's greater might began to prevail and Sugriva was in such obvious distress that Rama who was watching with ready bow knew he could not hold out much longer.
It was now or never and placing a deadly arrow on the string and pulling it to his ear, Rama sped it at Vali's mighty chest. Pierced by that irresistible shaft Vali crashed down as falls a great forest tree cut asunder by the woodman's axe and lay stretched on the ground empurpled with blood as lies the festival flag-staff pulled down when the festival is ended.
Even so, he was radiantly handsome, his noble figure shining like a cloud lit up by the setting sun. The divine necklace given to him by Indra shone on his breast, which guarded his life and fortune. This jewel, Rama's dart, the bleeding wound, all added lustre to his mighty body.
Valmiki describes beautifully the majestic appearance of the fallen hero. A true warrior is never so beautiful as when he lies dying on the field of battle.
Astounded at being hit and laid low, when he least expected it from an unknown quarter, Vali looked round in perplexed surprise and saw Rama and Lakshmana approaching him bow in hand. With tears of indignant wrath, and in a voice faint with approaching dissolution, he accused them of ignoble perfidy in dealing causeless death to a person engaged in combat with another.
"Rama," he said, "you are the son of Emperor Dasaratha. Born of a noble race and famous by your own exploits, how did you bring yourself to do this deed? The world is full of praises for your valor and virtue. And yet, while I was absorbed in a battle with another, you came unseen, and from behind, shot a fatal arrow at me. How false and undeserved is your reputation for manly virtue, for truth and forbearance! What will the world think of you now? What harm have I ever done to you? Did I come out to fight with you? You have killed me like an assassin concealing yourself behind the trees. For a royal prince to kill an innocent person in this way is grievous sin. You are unworthy for kingship. The goddess Earth will never consent to take you for a bridegroom. My greatest sorrow is that I am killed by a base and sinful wretch. If it was battle with me you wanted, I would have given it to you, and slain by me in fair combat you might have been lying in the dust as I do now. Or if it was help to recover your Sita I would have won her back for you in a day. I would have killed Ravana and dragged his body with a rope round the neck and placed it at your feet. No matter where he has hidden Sita, I would have discovered her and restored her to you."
Thus Vali, son of Indra, reproached Rama with his dying breath. And all this is fully set out by Valmiki, the divine poet, as well as by Kamban. Against this accusation what defence could Rama offer? Valmiki has it that Rama gave some explanation with which Vali was satisfied. But I am omitting all this as pointless and pray that the learned may forgive me.
What I think is that an avatar is an avatar and that among the sorrows that the Lord and His consort had to endure in their earthly incarnation, this liability to have their actions weighed on the earthly scales is a part. Vali bruised and bleeding from the many wounds of his fight with Sugriva, lay in the throes of death.
He lived just long enough to see his queen and his beloved son Angada. The poor bewildered lad who at his mother's bidding 'to fall at the feet of his father who was going on a long long journey' prostrated himself in silence, too stunned to realise the extent of his loss. This will be narrated later. Vali's words were addressed to Rama.
"All is over, I shall blame you no more. My dear, dear son Angada is orphaned. You and Sugriva should look after him. I entrust him to you. Look after him it is your duty to see that he does not pine away like a withering lotus-plant in a dried-up tank. Tell Sugriva that he should not imagine that it was Tara who set me up against him. Ask him to treat Angada as he should treat a prince, with honor and affection. Do this for me. I want no more. The warrior's Heaven is calling me!"
So ended Vali's life.
Owing to the protective virtue of Indra's necklace, Rama could not have met Vali face to face and vanquished him, just as Ravana could not be conquered by the gods. Rama could kill Vali only when himself unseen. And still the question stands, why should Vali have been killed at all?
Perhaps the answer is to be found in what Kabandha said to Rama in gratitude for being released from his curse. "Through Sugriva's friendship you will recover Sita," Sugriva's help not Vali's. And so Rama went in search of Sugriva, found him and pledged his friendship and consecrated it by fire. Sugriva had committed no unforgivable offence against Vali. Yet Vali, with his supernatural strength, persecuted his brother. Hearing the latter's complaint, Rama had pledged his word to kill Vali and restore to Sugriva his wife and make him king as his part of the contract of alliance. Thereafter, Rama had no alternative. To kill Vali from cover became an inevitable necessity. Rama erred in running after the magic deer to please his wife.
Consequent on this, difficulties and sorrows and conflicts of duty pursued him. If we keep in mind that when God takes a lower and limited form by His own ordinance, limitations follow and we should not be confused thereby. This is my humble view as against other explanations propounded by the pious.