KUMBHAKARNA, the younger brother of Ravana, spoke in the assembly:
"Great King! Ignoring the principles of statecraft, you have run into a great danger. If you had any grievance against Rama and Lakshmana, you should have met them face to face and defeated and slain them before carrying off Sita. If you had acted thus, even Sita would have admired you and there would then have been a possibility of her accepting you. As waters flow down a mountain, she would have followed a victorious warrior. You did not consult us before committing the offence and incurred the enmity of Rama, but now, when it is too late, you seek our counsel. This is not the right way of doing things that a king should follow."
Having spoken thus harshly, Kumbhakarna looked at the king and saw he was pained. Affectionate as he was brave, he could not endure the sadness in his brother's face.
"Let by-gones be by-gones," he thought, "one cannot forsake one's honor."
Kumbhakarna was under no delusion as to the consequences, but his generous spirit accepted them for the sake of the brother he idolised. He knew that Rama was a peerless warrior.
He knew the power of his bow and also the limitations of the boons that Ravana had received from the gods. But it was no good taking the heart out of others in the face of unavoidable peril and so be also began to speak vaunting words like the rest:
"What You did may be wrong, and so too the way you chose to do it. You have done first what you should have done last. And yet, it does not matter. I shall slay Rama. Do not be afraid. One or two of his arrows may touch me. In spite of it, I shall kill him and drink his blood and victory will be yours. My brother, lay aside your care, and think of other things."
Some people suggest that Kumbhakarna was dull and so he thus contradicted himself. But it was not stupidity, it was due to generous affection that he accepted the inevitable fearlessly. He was a proud warrior who loved his brother and his people and he decided on honorable death with them.
Prahasta was Ravana's chief counsellor. He spoke of the King's invincible strength and cheered him up.
Ravana now grew enthusiastic and said: "Didn't I vanquish Kubera? Didn't I drive him out and make Lanka my own? Who dare come here and oppose me? Let us see!"
The assembly applauded these words.
Vibhishana alone did not join in the applause. He did not mind the wrath of his royal brother. He felt it was his duty to warn him of the danger and the error of his ways.
He felt bound to make his utmost effort to save him and the Rakshasa race from doom. He stood up and spoke:
"You have brought Sita and with her, death for yourself and your race. Your first duty to yourself and your people is to restore her to Rama. If you fail in this, we shall all assuredly perish. This is certain."
He went on describing Rama's strength and skill and his mastery of weapons. He spoke frankly and without fear.
"If we oppose Rama," he said, "defeat is inevitable. Our fortune is sinking. Let us restore Sita, seek Rama's pardon and thus save our kingdom, our lives and possessions and honor."
At this importunity of Vibhishana, Indrajit, Ravana's son, lost patience and burst out:
"My uncle's words fill me with shame. What race are we? What is our strength? I marvel that a descendant of Pulastya should talk in this strain and that the assembly should meekly sit and listen. My uncle has only betrayed his evil intentions. We can never agree to his proposal. Are we to be afraid of two petty humans? Did I not beat Indra down in battle and his hordes of gods? Does not the whole world tremble even now in terror before us? Vibhishana's counsel is an insult to our race!"
Vibhishana answered gently: "Boy, you lack experience. That is why you talk thus. You are the king's son and should be his best friend. But I am afraid you are proving yourself his worst enemy. And you, ministers who ought to give good advice, you are leading the king to ruin. My Lord of Lanka! Do not reject what I say. Return Sita honorably to Rama and seek his forgiveness. This is the only way. There is no other. Failing to pursue the only available course, we shall all perish."
Ravana's rage was now uncontrollable. "I put up with your talk thus far," he shouted in anger, "because you are my brother. Else you would by now be dead. A brother, I see, is one's worst enemy. All the world knows that the envy of brothers brings dishonor and discomfiture to the brave. They hide their real desire and wait for their time and, when it comes, do not hesitate to practise their treachery. How true is the complaint of the wild elephants in the story! We are not afraid of the burning fire. 'We do not mind the hunters and their long spears. The noosed ropes and the chains can do little harm to us. But the elephants which join the hunters and give us trouble, these brothers and cousins who turn against us, they are our terror!' Yes. So long as one is safe and prosperous, the brother smiles and talks pleasantly. But when danger comes, he is ready to leave. The bee does not stay with the flower after the honey has been sucked. It goes in search of another flower. Brothers and cousins are no better than these bees. One cannot trust them in adversity. If any one else should have spoken as you have done, Vibhishana, I would have slain him here and now. Base fellow! You are a disgrace to our race!"
Unable to bear the insult, Vibhishana rose and said: "My brother, you may speak as you please. Though you have wandered from the way of dharma, you are still my brother and I warn you that, drawn by the noose of Yama, you are going along the path of destruction. My advice, salutary but unpleasant, you reject. It is easy to speak sweet words. Your ministers are doing it. I spoke for your good. But truth is bitter and you hate it. The terrible vision of Rama's darts destroying you is before my mind's eye and makes me speak as I do. You call me your enemy. Defend your city and your life as well as you can. God bless you! I am going. May you be happy! I thought I could serve you in your need, but you will not let me. You imagine that I envy you and your possessions. Good counsel is rejected by one whose end is near."
Having spoken thus, and realising that there was no place for him in Lanka thereafter, Vibhishana renounced all his possessions and, rising into the sky, proceeded straight to the spot where Rama and Lakshmana were encamped. Four good Rakshasa friends went along with him.