The Colossal Demon
Rāvaṇa returned to Lanka feeling highly disturbed. Overcome by Rāma like an elephant defeated by a lion, he felt humiliated. Remembering the force of Rāma’s irresistible arrows, he wondered what action to take. He summoned his counselors, who then entered the council chamber and surrounded Rāvaṇa as he sat upon his throne. The demon looked around and spoke to them, still shaking from his fight with Rāma.
“It seems that all my asceticism has proved useless, for I have been utterly vanquished by a mere mortal. I am now recalling Brahmā’s boon, which excluded protection from humans. I think this Rāma is the one referred to by King Anaranya, long ago slain by me. Again the curse of Vedavati comes to mind. Surely that lady has been born as Sītā. The predictions of those endowed with divine sight always come to pass. Considering all this, O mighty Rākṣasas, strive in every way to protect me. A great danger has now arrived at my door.”
Rāvaṇa then thought of Kumbhakarna. It was time to rouse him. When his fearsome brother marched out, the monkeys would flee in all directions. In battle his body grew to immense proportions. With each step he took he could crush an entire division of warriors. He would make short work of Rāma’s army. But how to wake him? Brahmā’s boon to him was more like a curse. He remained buried in the deepest sleep for six months, impervious to everything. It had only been ten days since he had last gone to sleep.
Rāvaṇa issued orders for the Rākṣasas to go in their thousands to Kumbhakarna’s chamber. They should raise a terrific din and try to wake him. The Rākṣasas left at once and went quickly to Kumbhakarna’s abode which was in a subterranean cavern. Pushing back the enormous gates, the Rākṣasas entered his cavern. They were deafened by the sound of his snoring and almost blown over by the blast of his breath. The Rākṣasas then saw Kumbhakarna’s stupendous body lying in slumber within the vast cave, which was lit by innumerable celestial gems. They piled up great mounds of meat and other foods by his side. Heaps of antelopes, buffaloes and boars were placed next to him, along with massive pails of blood. They anointed him with heavenly perfumes and daubed him with the finest sandal-paste. Costly incense was lit and crowds of Yatudhanas began to extol Kumbhakarna with poetic phrases. Other Rākṣasas thundered like clouds and blew their great conchshells with full force. Clapping their arms, beating drums and roaring like lions, the demons raised a tremendous uproar. As the noise issued from the cave, beasts fled in all directions and birds fell down stunned.
But Kumbhakarna did not stir. The Rākṣasas then took hold of maces, mallets, boulders and flat swords. They beat the limbs of the colossal Rākṣasa. Hundreds of demons mounted Kumbhakarna’s chest and pounded him with their fists, but were thrown off by the wind of his breath. Ten thousand Rākṣasas surrounded him and all at once began to roar and strike his body with their hard fists. Still he would not awaken.
Unable to rouse Kumbhakarna, the Rākṣasas became more and more furious. They made an even louder noise, hitting huge drums with all their strength and blowing their conches taken from the bottom of the ocean. Some of them tore out his hair while others bit his ears. Hundreds of pails of water were thrown on Kumbhakarna’s face.
The Rākṣasas then had a thousand elephants run up and down Kumbhakarna’s monstrous body while at the same time striking him with fully grown sal trees. At last he began to stir. Feeling a light touch on his body Kumbhakarna opened his eyes and stretched his limbs. The Rākṣasas and elephants were thrown to the ground and scattered as he sat up and yawned. His mouth appeared like another great cavern and his luminous eyes resembled two blazing planets.
Kumbhakarna reached out and scooped up the food that lay around him. He consumed all of it and quaffed down many pails of blood and wine. When he was sated, the other demons came and respectfully bowed before him. Looking at them with eyes still heavy from sleep, Kumbhakarna questioned them.
“Why have I been roused from my slumber? I hope everything is well with Rāvaṇa and with Lanka. Or perhaps some great peril has arrived. If so, then I shall proceed from here at once to remove the cause of your fear without delay. Tell me, O Rākṣasas, what should I do?”
A minister of Rāvaṇa named Yupaksha replied. “A formidable danger has beset us all of a sudden. Monkeys like great mountains have laid siege to the city. Each of them resembles the single monkey who killed Prince Aksha and set fire to Lanka. At their head is Rāma, sorely grieved and angered by Sītā’s abduction. Even our lord Rāvaṇa was overpowered by Him in an encounter and then released.”
Kumbhakarna was not surprised. He had already warned his brother about Rāma. It seemed that the time for the inevitable battle had arrived. Rāma’s power would now be tested to the full. Kumbhakarna spoke in a voice that boomed around the cavern. “This very day I shall wipe out the entire army of monkeys. The Rākṣasas may gorge themselves with their flesh. I myself shall drink the blood of Rāma and Lakṣman.”
Kumbhakarna sprang to his feet and washed his face. He called for more drink and quickly swallowed two thousand pails of strong wine. Slightly inebriated and anticipating the excitement of battle, the Rākṣasa left his cave and marched toward Rāvaṇa’s palace, shaking the earth with his every step. He was surrounded by Rākṣasas who ran with joined palms and continuously sang his praises.
From outside the city, the monkeys saw Kumbhakarna rising above the city walls like a mountain peak. They cried in fear and fell stunned to the earth. Some fled in all directions, seized by panic. Seeing Kumbhakarna, who was adorned with a blazing diadem, moving within the city, the monkeys were struck with terror. They rushed to Rāma’s tent, calling for Him to come out quickly.
Rāma came out holding His bow. He saw the huge Rākṣasa, glowing with a brilliant effulgence. Rāma’s eyes opened wide with astonishment. He asked Vibhishana, “Who is this fellow resembling in every way a shining mountain? Simply upon seeing him, the monkeys have been put to flight. I have never seen such a creature before.”
Vibhishana told Rāma everything about Kumbhakarna. Describing the power of Rāvaṇa’s immense brother, he said, “This demon has defeated Indra and all the gods in battle. He has crushed and devoured tens of thousands of mighty Daityas and Dānavas. Indeed, this one has consumed innumerable living beings. It was for this reason that Brahmā contrived to have him sent into continuous slumber. The gods feared that he would render all the worlds bereft of creatures, all of them eaten by him. Obviously Rāvaṇa, fearful of You, has roused him for the battle.”
Vibhishana suggested that Rāma inform the monkeys that Kumbhakarna was only a mechanical device. Otherwise they would never be able to muster up the courage to face him in battle.
Rāma smiled. There was no need for that; He would Himself deal with this massive mountain of a Rākṣasa. He ordered Nīla to quickly array the troops for battle. They should be reassured that Rāma would Himself face the colossus. Taking hold of mountain peaks, trees and various weapons, the monkeys deployed themselves around Lanka, awaiting Kumbhakarna’s appearance. Rāma Himself stood with Lakṣman, both of Them holding Their bows and facing the city.
In Lanka, Kumbhakarna, who could change his form and size at will, had reached Rāvaṇa’s palace. He found his elder brother seated in the Pushpaka chariot appearing perturbed and anxious. Bowing low at his feet, Kumbhakarna inquired what service he could render.
Rāvaṇa was joyous upon seeing his brother and he directed him to sit down on a splendid heavenly seat. He then told him what had transpired. “O mighty one, just see how the woods and groves of Lanka have been converted into a sea of monkeys. Already they have slain many of the foremost fighters among the Rākṣasas. I have been unable to overcome them by any means. Therefore I have sought you as my only shelter. I can think of no other way to defeat this simian army. Beloved brother, you have routed the gods and Dānavas many times. Be my savior today and crush Rāma and His followers without delay.”
Kumbhakarna became angry. “Were you not warned?” he retorted. “You are now reaping the fruits of your rash and sinful act of stealing Sītā. Had you heeded the advice of your well-wishers and acted in accord with political wisdom, you would never have found yourself in such a mess.”
Hearing Rāvaṇa reprimanded by Kumbhakarna, the minister Mahodara came to his defense. “Rāvaṇa acted properly in stealing Sītā,” he argued. “The duty of all beings is to secure their happiness by any means. Even virtue is only a means to ensure one’s happiness. Therefore Rāvaṇa’s theft of Sītā, meant as it was for his pleasure, was rightly done.”
Rāvaṇa also did not like his brother’s speech and he answered angrily. “What use is this lecturing now? We face the greatest danger we have ever known. This is the time for action, not words. Whether I have acted wisely or not is of little consequence now. Let us do what must be done.”
Kumbhakarna smiled. “Be at ease, dear brother,” he said soothingly. “I spoke only out of my love for you. It is always the duty of a well-wisher to tender proper advice. I shall now fight. You should cast away your fears. Soon you will see the monkey army stretched out on the battlefield. Rāma’s head will be brought before you. Sugrīva and the other monkey chiefs will be thrown about like so many pieces of dust.”
Kumbhakarna vaunted his prowess at length, growing more and more enraged. He did not care if Brahmā, Indra and Yamarāja appeared on the battlefield. There would be no shelter for Rāma and His army.
Mahodara spoke again. “O Kumbhakarna, you are powerful and brave, but you should give up any thought of defeating Rāma. That human has already killed fourteen thousand powerful Rākṣasas single-handedly. He is now decimating our army. I do not think further battle with Him is at all wise.”
Mahodara was afraid. He suggested that Rāvaṇa use trickery to win over Sītā. The demon king should convince Her that Rāma was dead, and then She would submit to him. This would deprive Rāma of all energy.
Both Rāvaṇa and Kumbhakarna told Mahodara to be quiet. That plan had already failed. There was no avoiding the battle now, short of returning Sītā—and that was out of the question.
Kumbhakarna boomed, “I shall now march out to make good the disastrous policy you have initiated, O king. You are surrounded by useless ministers like Mahodara. They simply acquiesce out of fear and lead you into more and more danger, which they are then powerless to prevent. It is fortunate for you that I am here as your protector.”
Rāvaṇa laughed heartily to see his brother’s resolve. Surely he would now be saved. No one could face Kumbhakarna and live. This would be a glorious day for the Rākṣasas. Rāvaṇa sprang up and placed a beautiful gold necklace around his brother’s neck. He also adorned him with numerous other gem-studded ornaments and had many fragrant garlands put on him.
Kumbhakarna donned an impenetrable golden coat of mail and a huge dark blue girdle. As he marched out for battle, he shone like the western mountains receiving the setting sun. He went first to Rāvaṇa’s weapon room and took up a great pike, which was embellished with gold and which emitted flames even as it lay there. It shone like Indra’s thunderbolt and was no less powerful. The pike was wreathed with garlands of crimson flowers and smeared with the finest sandal-paste. Clutching his fierce weapon, the demon stormed toward the city gates.
Thousands of drums were beaten and conches blew. Kumbhakarna assumed a form six hundred bow-lengths high and more than a hundred in breadth. He strode toward the battlefield surrounded by gigantic Rākṣasas driving chariots and mounted upon elephants. Others followed him on camels, donkeys, lions, serpents, antelopes and birds. The Rākṣasas, who all had terrifying forms and faces, raised their maces, swords, lances, bludgeons and bows, sending up a terrific roar.
As the Rākṣasas moved off, there were many grim omens. Massive gray clouds full of thunder and lightning covered the sun. The earth shook. Birds wheeled from right to left and a large vulture perched on Kumbhakarna’s pike. The Rākṣasa’s left eye and arm throbbed. A flaming meteor fell from the sky and descended to the ground with a terrible crash. Jackals howled and a strong wind blew into their faces. Kumbhakarna paid no heed to the omens. He stepped over Lanka’s defensive wall and laughed out loud. The Rākṣasa gazed around at the army of monkeys, which appeared like a mass of clouds. Seeing the stupendous Rākṣasa’s sudden appearance, the monkeys dispersed in all directions, even as clouds are scattered by a gale. Kumbhakarna roared repeatedly, filling the four quarters with an unbearable thundering which agitated the ocean and made the mountains quake. Numerous monkeys fell unconscious simply from hearing the sound. Others fled screeching in terror.
As the monkeys stampeded, Aṅgada called out to them, “Have you forgotten your prowess, your valor and your lineage? Why are you fleeing like ordinary monkeys? This gigantic nightmare of a Rākṣasa will not be able to stand for long against us, protected as we are by Rāma and Lakṣman. Stand and fight, O Vanaras!”
The monkeys regained confidence upon hearing Aṅgada’s words. Turning back and taking hold of trees and rocks, they stood firm as Kumbhakarna rushed toward them. They smashed the Rākṣasa with mountain peaks and fully-grown trees, but these had no effect whatsoever, falling shattered to the ground. Kumbhakarna reached down and scooped up hundreds of monkeys. He dashed them furiously to the earth. The Rākṣasa began destroying the ranks of the Vanara troops like a fire consuming dry wood. Innumerable huge monkeys soon lay senseless on the ground, covered with blood.
The monkeys again hastily retreated. They bounded away without looking back or sideways. Some rushed back over the ocean bridge. Others were seen sailing through the air, having been struck or tossed by the Rākṣasa. With their faces turned pale, the monkeys scrambled up mountains or dived into the sea. Bears climbed trees and hid in caves. The whole army ran about in fear, not knowing which way to turn.
Aṅgada tried again and again to rally the monkeys. He called out to them, “Come back! Where will you hide from this monster? He must be faced. What will you say to your wives after you have fled in fear from the battlefield? Have you forgotten your boasting words, ‘We shall annihilate the Rākṣasas’? How have you become such cowards? No regions of bliss are ever attained by cowards. Indeed, they are always condemned by good men.”
Although Aṅgada tried in many ways to convince his troops to fight, they would not listen. They continued fleeing, some of them replying to the prince as they ran, “This Rākṣasa cannot be faced in battle. This is no time to exhibit bravery, for life is dear. We are going.”
Although their troops fled in all directions, Aṅgada and Sugrīva remained firm, along with Hanumān and some of the other powerful commanders of the monkey troops. The Vanara leaders then somehow managed to check the monkeys and reminded them of Rāma’s invincibility. With heartening arguments they convinced the monkeys to once more advance against Kumbhakarna. With Aṅgada at their head the Vanara forces turned again to face the mighty Rākṣasa.
Thousands of monkeys rushed in a body at Kumbhakarna, but he swept them aside with his pike. He ran about crushing and devouring the monkeys even as Garuḍa would devour serpents. With great difficulty the monkeys remained standing in the forefront of battle. Waves of other Rākṣasas rushed forward in support of Kumbhakarna, roaring in joy. The battle raged furiously with Kumbhakarna wreaking havoc among the monkey army.
The powerful Dwivida hurled an immense boulder at Kumbhakarna. The Rākṣasa evaded the rock and it fell among the other Rākṣasas, crushing chariots, horses and elephants, along with hundreds of demons. The Rākṣasa warriors fought back, severing the heads of the yelling monkeys with their deadly arrows.
Hanumān leapt into the air and rained down rocks and trees upon Kumbhakarna’s head. The Rākṣasa fended off the missiles with his pike. Hanumān, who had grown to huge proportions, came down on the ground and stood firmly in front of Kumbhakarna. He smashed him on the breast with a mountain peak and the Rākṣasa reeled back in pain. Quickly recovering, the Rākṣasa struck Hanumān a terrible blow with his pike. The monkey was rendered almost senseless and he fell back, vomiting blood.
Seeing Hanumān thrown down, the Rākṣasa forces cheered loudly and the monkeys fled in fear. Nīla quickly came forward and rallied the troops. He took up a great boulder and flung it violently at Kumbhakarna. The Rākṣasa saw it coming and smashed it to pieces with his fist, sending up a shower of flames and sparks.
Five huge monkey chiefs then attacked Kumbhakarna from all sides. They struck him with crags, trees, the palms of their hands and their feet. They climbed up his legs and tore at him with their nails and teeth. Then hundreds of other monkeys rushed at the Rākṣasa and leapt upon him. Kumbhakarna plucked the monkeys from his body and thrust them into his huge open mouth. Monkeys were seen to issue out of his nostrils and his ears as the demon repeatedly thrust them into his mouth.
Kumbhakarna looked like Death incarnate appearing for the destruction of all living beings. One by one the powerful monkey leaders assailed him and were repulsed. Sugrīva took up a great mountain-top and boldly challenged the Rākṣasa. “See now my prowess, O Rākṣasa. Leave aside the other monkeys and face me. With this mountain peak I shall dash you to the ground.”
The Rākṣasa laughed. “I know you, monkey. You are a grandson of Brahmā and the son of the mighty Riksaraja. Thus you stand there roaring. Show me then the limits of your strength.”
Sugrīva immediately hurled the vast crag upon the demon’s chest. It smashed to pieces and fell to the earth, but the Rākṣasa was hardly moved. In a rage he threw his flaming pike at Sugrīva but Hanumān intercepted it as it flew. The monkey placed the pike across his knees and broke it in two, making the Vanara troops roar with joy.
Kumbhakarna became maddened. He stormed across to the Malaya mountain and tore from it a massive peak. Spinning around, the Rākṣasa hurled it at Sugrīva. The monkey king was caught by the whirling crag and he fell unconscious. The Rākṣasas shouted in triumph, thinking Sugrīva to be slain. Kumbhakarna quickly ran over and took up the fallen monkey. Pressing him under his arm, the demon made his way back to the city. If Sugrīva were killed or captured, then the entire monkey army would be finished.
As the Rākṣasa stepped over the city wall, he was greeted by cheering citizens. They showered flowers and scented water on him. Sugrīva felt the cool water on his face and he regained consciousness. He saw himself being carried toward Rāvaṇa’s palace. Bending his body violently, Sugrīva spun round and ripped off the demon’s ear with his nails. He then bit off the end of his nose and clawed his side. Kumbhakarna roared in pain and threw the monkey down.
Sugrīva bounced up like a ball. He sprang onto a rooftop and quickly bounded over the city wall and back to the monkeys. Kumbhakarna stood with blood running down his face. He screamed in anger and turned back toward the battle holding a terrible-looking mace. Rushing into the monkey forces, he continued annihilating them by the thousands.
Lakṣman then appeared before the Rākṣasa. He immediately shot two dozen flaming arrows into Kumbhakarna’s arms. The prince continuously released arrows which covered Kumbhakarna on all sides like a golden cloud. Brushing aside the shafts the Rākṣasa laughed and spoke to Lakṣman. “You have shown me your prowess, O prince. I am impressed with Your valor. Even Indra or Yamarāja would not dare to face me in an encounter. But I wish to fight only with Rāma. Where is Your brother? By slaying Him I shall put an end to this conflict. My army will then finish the rest of the monkeys.”
Rāma heard the Rākṣasa’s haughty challenge. He called out, “Stand ready for battle!” and shot from a distance a number of arrows that pierced the huge demon all over. Kumbhakarna at once rushed toward Him, clutching his mighty mace. Rāma sent volleys of arrows, which shattered the Rākṣasa’s mace even as he raised it for Rāma’s destruction. Shafts bedecked with golden feathers thudded into the demon’s body by the thousands. Blood poured from his wounds like streams from a mountain.
Kumbhakarna ran about in fury, crushing monkeys and demons alike. He seized hold of a tremendous rock and flung it at Rāma. The prince released sharp-pointed arrows which smashed the crag as it flew toward Him. The pieces of the rock killed two hundred Rākṣasas as the shards fell to earth.
Thousands of monkeys rushed at Kumbhakarna and leapt upon him, trying to drag him down, but the Rākṣasa shook them off like so many insects. He dashed about intoxicated with battle and slaying both friend and foe. Rāma determined that the time to kill him had arrived. Firmly grasping His bow he called out, “Take heart and fight, O lord of the Rākṣasas. Know Me to be the destroyer of the Rākṣasa race. You will now be slain by Me.”
Kumbhakarna whirled around and faced Rāma, but suddenly Vibhishana came between them with mace in hand. Seeing him there, Kumbhakarna said, “Yes, my brother. Come forward and strike at once. Abandon all filial affection and remain devoted to the duty of a warrior. O Vibhishana, you alone are the redeemer of our race. Among the Rākṣasas you are the best knower of virtue. Indeed, I will not slay you today, for you deserve protection at my hands. Stand aside! I cannot check my nature and am given to wantonly killing all creatures.”
Vibhishana replied, “With the interests of my race in mind I always tendered advice to Rāvaṇa, but neglected by him I sought Rāma’s shelter. Hence I stand before you in battle today.”
Tears sprang to Vibhishana’s eyes as he spoke. Rāma consoled him and told him to stand aside; the time for Kumbhakarna’s destruction had come. Seeing Rāma standing firmly before him, Kumbhakarna laughed hideously and said, “I am neither Viradha nor Kabhandha. Nor am I Khara, Dushana, Vāli or Maricha. I am Kumbhakarna, arrived here as Your death. Do not hold me in contempt. Show me the full limit of Your power and I shall then devour You, O Rāma.”
Rāma at once released arrows which flew with the speed of lightning and struck the Rākṣasa’s body. Those arrows, which had formerly pierced seven sal trees and the very earth itself, did not even shake the demon. The Rākṣasa took up a massive club and whirled it about, knocking down Rāma’s arrows as they flew. Laughing again and again, Kumbhakarna stood with his great club uplifted.
Rāma released an arrow imbued with the force of Vāyu. It roared through the air and severed the Rākṣasa’s arm. That arm, still clutching the club, fell to earth and killed a thousand monkeys and Rākṣasas. Kumbhakarna shrieked with pain, making the sky vibrate and the mountains break open. He looked like a mountain whose summit had been cut off with a gigantic sword. With his remaining arm he tore up a large palmyra tree and rushed toward Rāma. With each step the earth vibrated and trees toppled over in distant forests.
Rāma released another mystic missile, which cut off the Rākṣasa’s other arm. It fell with an enormous crash, sending Rākṣasas and monkeys scattering in all directions. With blood spurting from the stumps of his arms the Rākṣasa continued to rush at Rāma. He bellowed furiously and the monkeys covered their ears, unable to tolerate the noise. Rāma shot a pair of crescent-headed arrows imbued with the force of Indra’s thunderbolt and they severed the Rākṣasa’s feet.
Not deterred, Kumbhakarna still somehow moved swiftly toward the prince. His mouth was wide open and he emitted savage, deafening cries which shook the earth. In an instant Rāma filled his mouth with arrows and the demon was silenced. Rāma then took up an arrow which was encrusted with gems and which shone brilliantly. Empowering it with the force of the brahmāstra, He released it for Kumbhakarna’s destruction.
As it flew with terrible speed, the arrow illuminated all directions like a blazing comet descending to earth. It tore off the Rākṣasa’s head, which looked like a peak of the Himalaya mountains. Adorned with a pair of blazing gold earrings, his head shone as it was carried through the air by the force of Brahmā’s weapon. It seemed like the rising moon moving through the heavens. It fell upon the defensive wall of Lanka and demolished the great northern gate. The head then rolled along the royal highway. By the power of Brahmā’s mystic missile the Rākṣasa’s body was lifted and thrown into the ocean, creating a tidal wave which swept the coast of Lanka.
Hosts of gods and ṛṣis assembled in the sky and joyously praised Rāma. The monkeys surrounded Him roaring in exultation. All the remaining Rākṣasas fled, astonished and dismayed. Rāma felt elated and shone brightly amid the monkeys, even as the sun shines after an eclipse.