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Chapter 9

Carnage Among the Rākṣasas

The Rākṣasas ran quickly to Rāvaṇa and told him the news. “After wreaking havoc among the monkeys for some time, your glorious brother has been slain by Rāma. His limbless and headless trunk lies half-submerged in the sea, and his head now blocks the city’s main gate.”

Rāvaṇa was shocked and seized by grief. He fainted. All around him his sons and other relatives sent up a wail of sorrow. They could not believe their ears. How could the invincible Kumbhakarna be killed by a mere human?

Gradually Rāvaṇa came around and began to lament. “Alas, my brother, where have you gone? Without removing the thorn from my side how have you left me alone? What use now is my kingdom, or Sītā, or even life itself? I am deprived of my right arm, depending on which I had no fear from the assembled gods headed by Indra. Now those gods stand in the sky raising shouts of joy. I cannot brook this turn of events. I shall follow the path trodden by my brother. Either I shall slay Rāma or Death may claim me too.”

Rāvaṇa wept and tossed about in agony. He remembered Vibhishana’s advice. His virtuous brother had spoken wisely. He had been wrongly expelled from Lanka. Now Rāvaṇa was tasting the bitter fruit of that action. One who ignores the good advice of wise well-wishers always comes to grief.

The Rākṣasa king sank down in distress. Seeing him fallen into abject sorrow, his son Devantaka, who was not very thoughtful, said, “Why are you lamenting in this way, O king? Those endowed with power and valor do not give way to grief. The time has come for firm action, not lamentation. Only command me and I shall go out and exterminate your enemies.”

Rāvaṇa’s other sons were heartened by Devantaka’s words. They also began boasting of their power. All of them clamored for the order to fight. They were all mighty in battle and had never experienced defeat. All of them knew the mystic missiles and all had received various boons from their practices of asceticism. Bragging loudly, they declared that they would all go out together and finish Rāma and the monkeys in no time.

Rāvaṇa was encouraged. Driven by his destiny, the demon stood up and embraced his sons, ordering them to march out for battle. Four of the Rākṣasa’s sons, Trishira, Devantaka, Narantaka and Atikaya, along with two of his half-brothers, Mahaparshwa and Mahodara, were dispatched for the fight. Those gigantic warriors anointed themselves with medicinal herbs capable of warding off injuries, as well as with perfumes and sandalwood paste. They put on golden armor and took up their fierce weapons.

Mahodara mounted an elephant that resembled a dark cloud. Trishira mounted a fine chariot drawn by the best of horses and equipped with thousands of weapons. Atikaya, who stood with a flaming crown on his head, mounted another superb chariot. On either side of him stood Devantaka and Narantaka, clutching frightful maces, both of them appearing like Viṣṇu holding the Mandara mountain. Mahaparshwa came behind them, mounted upon another elephant which resembled Airāvata, the carrier of Indra.

They came out of the western gate of Lanka, like six brilliant planets suddenly appearing in the heavens. Followed by the massed ranks of Rākṣasa warriors, they raised their weapons and rushed joyfully toward the monkey army.

The monkeys saw them advancing like a row of dark clouds. The earth shook and the sky resounded with their roars. Drums crashed and conches blew, filling the four quarters with a deafening clamor.

The Vanara army thundered in response and took up crags and tree trunks. The two armies met with a clash and a terrible, confused fight ensued. Demons and monkeys gave out leonine roars as they assailed one another with fury. The monkeys sprang high, dragging down the airborne Rākṣasas and dashing them to the earth. They smashed the demons with rocks and pounded them with their fists and feet.

The Rākṣasas sent volley after volley of arrows at the monkeys. They whirled their spiked maces and swords, viciously hacking down the enemy troops. The monkeys picked up one Rākṣasa to strike another, and the Rākṣasas did the same with the monkeys. Arrows with crescent or horseshoe heads sped through the air and lopped off arms, legs and heads.

Narantaka sent up a tremendous roar and began carving a path deep into the monkey army. He left a trail of flesh and blood strewn with mountain-like monkeys lying stretched on the ground. The demon sundered the ranks of his enemy, piercing them with his spear and killing dozens at a time. The monkeys howled in fear as Narantaka fought with a maniacal fury. None could face him.

Seeing the awful destruction being wrought by Narantaka, Aṅgada came forward. He shouted to the demon. “Wait! Why are you showing your strength against ordinary monkeys? Throw your spear, which strikes like lightning, at my breast.”

Narantaka spun round and glared at Aṅgada. He hurled his great flaming spear at the monkey who stood firmly before him. The spear broke against Aṅgada’s chest and fell to the ground. Aṅgada leapt forward and dealt a blow to the head of the Rākṣasa’s horse. The horse’s feet sank deeply into the ground and its eyes popped out. Narantaka jumped off the back of his slain horse and roared in anger. He struck Aṅgada a terrible blow on the side of his head. The monkey vomited hot blood and fell back dazed.

Crouching down and regaining his senses, Aṅgada, who was thinking only of Rāma, suddenly sprang forward. He swung his fist with all his might and hit the Rākṣasa on the chest. Narantaka’s breast was split asunder by that blow. He sank to the ground with his limbs soaked in blood and gave up his life.

The monkeys sent up a cry of joy and the gods beat their heavenly drums. Observing Aṅgada’s incredible feat, even Rāma was struck with wonder. Aṅgada stood infused with vigor ready to continue the battle.

Seeing his brother killed, Devantaka cried loudly with grief and fury. He gazed with bloodshot eyes at Aṅgada. Followed by Trishira and Mahodara, he rushed toward the son of Vāli, releasing thousands of arrows. Aṅgada immediately seized a huge tree and swept aside all the arrows. He then hurled the tree at Devantaka, but it was torn to pieces by the arrows of Trishira standing close behind him. Aṅgada threw trees and rocks one after another. Mahodara whirled his club and shattered them as they flew toward him. Suddenly the three powerful Rākṣasas rushed simultaneously at Aṅgada. Each of them struck him furiously with their clubs. Aṅgada stood his ground tolerating the blows. He leapt toward Mahodara and struck the Rākṣasa’s elephant with his palm. The elephant fell to its knees and toppled over. Aṅgada then tore out a tusk from the dead elephant and struck Devantaka a terrific blow on the head. The demon reeled about, vomiting blood.

Hanumān saw Aṅgada engaged with the three towering Rākṣasas and he ran over to assist the prince. Nīla also rushed to Aṅgada’s aid, hurling a mountain peak at Trishira, but the Rākṣasa smashed the massive crag with his arrows. Devantaka swung his club in a full circle and caught the running Hanumān on his breast. Not minding that blow, although it was forceful enough to have rent the earth, Hanumān swung his fist at the Rākṣasa. He caught him on his head with a crack resembling a peal of thunder. The demon’s teeth and eyes were forced out and his skull was shattered. He fell like a tree cut at its root.

Hanumān roared loudly and sprang at Trishira. He clawed at the Rākṣasa’s massive steed even as a lion would claw an elephant. Trishira took up a terrible javelin and hurled it straight at Hanumān. The monkey immediately caught it and snapped it in two. Trishira lifted his sword and thrust it at Hanumān, piercing him in the breast. Not shaken by the wound, Hanumān struck the Rākṣasa a blow on the breast with his palm. Trishira fell unconscious and his sword slipped from his grasp. Hanumān snatched the sword and roared. The demon regained consciousness, awakened by Hanumān’s roar. He could not tolerate the sound and leapt up furiously, striking the monkey with his fist. Hanumān seized the Rākṣasa by his hair, which was covered by a diadem. Pulling the demon’s head toward him, Hanumān severed it with the demon’s own sword.

Even as Hanumān was slaying Trishira, Nīla killed Mahodara with a tremendous blow from a fully grown sal tree. The mountain-like monkey Rishabha then engaged in a fierce fight with Mahaparshwa. The two combatants rendered each other unconscious again and again. Finally Rishabha pounded the Rākṣasa to death with the demon’s own mace.

Seeing five of their heroes killed in duels with the monkeys, the Rākṣasas fled in all directions, resembling an ocean that has burst its shores. The demon Atikaya then came to the forefront of the battle and rallied the terrified Rākṣasas. As the huge-bodied demon advanced the monkeys ran away howling. They thought that Kumbhakarna had somehow returned to life. Surrounding Rāma, they cried for protection.

Rāma saw in the distance Atikaya, who resembled a great mountain. Amazed at this sight, Rāma turned to Vibhishana and asked, “Who is that monstrous Rākṣasa seated in a chariot drawn by a thousand horses? Surrounded by flaming pikes, he seems like a dark cloud encircled by lightning flashes. Indeed, with his golden bows on all sides of the shining chariot, he is illuminating the battlefield like the newly-risen sun. His blazing arrows going in all directions are like so many sunbeams. Tell me the name of this lion-like warrior.”

Vibhishana replied that this was Rāvaṇa’s son, a powerful fighter who had performed much asceticism and had thus acquired from Brahmā different boons. The creator of the universe had made him invincible to gods and demons and had bestowed upon him many mystical weapons as well as the wonderful chariot he was now driving. With his arrows, the demon had even checked Indra’s thunderbolt and cut down Varuṇa’s noose. Vibhishana advised Rāma to tackle him at once before he annihilated the entire army of monkeys.

Rāma watched as Atikaya penetrated into the monkey ranks. At once he was surrounded by Nīla, Dwivida, Mainda, Kumuda and Sarabha, five great heroes among the monkeys. They assailed the Rākṣasa from all sides, hurling huge rocks and trees at him. The demon easily repulsed all of their missiles with his arrows, which were bedecked with bright red jewels. He pierced all five of the monkeys and sent them running. The demon struck fear into the monkey army as a furious lion would terrify a flock of deer. He looked around and saw Rāma. Leaving aside the monkeys, the Rākṣasa drove across to Rāma and issued a proud challenge. “I do not care to fight with common warriors. If You have the courage and the strength, then stand against me today. I shall soon end Your power and Your fame.”

Hearing this, Lakṣman was infuriated. He seized His bow and twanged the string making a sound which reverberated all around the battlefield. Lakṣman gazed at Atikaya with bloodshot eyes, placing a long shaft on His bow.

The demon laughed derisively. “How do You dare to challenge me, O son of Sumitra? You are only a boy, unskilled in warfare. I cannot be faced by the Himalaya mountain nor even the earth itself. You seek to rouse the fire of universal destruction as it slumbers peacefully. Do not lose Your life in this way. Depart swiftly! Or if You choose to stand here, then be prepared for my arrows, which will quaff Your lifeblood, even as a lion would quaff the blood of a deer.”

Lakṣman could not tolerate Atikaya’s arrogant words. He thundered back at the Rākṣasa, “Mere speech does not prove your prowess, O demon. Give up this empty boasting and demonstrate your strength at once. After you send at Me the best of your arrows and missiles, I will strike your head off even as the wind blows a ripe fruit from a tree. Whether I am old or young is of no matter; you should know Me as your death arrived here today. The three worlds were taken by Viṣṇu even while He was yet a child.”

Atikaya flared up in anger. He instantly fired an arrow which flew with the speed of the wind, resembling a meteor and shooting tongues of fire. Lakṣman loosed His own arrow, which intercepted Atikaya’s in mid-flight and split it in two. Atikaya grew even more enraged and fitted five more arrows to his bow, sending them at Lakṣman in a moment. Again Lakṣman cut down his shafts as they sped toward Him.

Lakṣman seized a sharpened arrow which shone with splendor. Pulling His bow into a full circle He released the shaft and it pierced the demon in the brow. Atikaya shook like a mountain in an earthquake. Profuse blood ran down his head like oxides exuding from a mountain. The Rākṣasa praised Lakṣman’s feat. He quickly sent two dozen arrows at the prince which seemed to light up the sky, but Lakṣman struck all of them down.

Seizing his opportunity as Lakṣman parried the arrows, Atikaya sent another fierce shaft which struck the prince on His breast. Lakṣman bled profusely but pulled out the arrow and tossed it aside. He then charged an arrow with the force of the Āgneyastra, the powerful fire weapon. Seeing the arrow loosed for his destruction and blazing in the sky, Atikaya responded with an arrow imbued with the power of the sun-god. The two mystic missiles met in space like two blazing planets colliding in the heavens. Reduced to ashes, they both fell to earth.

Atikaya fired at Lakṣman a weapon presided over by Yamarāja, but the prince countered it with a missile empowered with the force of the wind-god. Lakṣman quickly responded by covering the son of Rāvaṇa with countless arrows, so that neither the demon nor his chariot were visible. Sweeping away those arrows with a sword, the demon did not feel at all harassed. He shot a deadly arrow at Lakṣman, which hit Him in the chest and caused the prince to faint for some moments. Regaining consciousness, He shot razor-headed arrows which cut down the demon’s standard. He killed the charioteer and several rows of the Rākṣasa’s horses. But although He struck the demon’s body with innumerable arrows, He could not hurt him in the least.

As Lakṣman stood confounded, the wind-god Vāyu approached Him and said, “This demon is clad in an impenetrable armor bestowed upon him by Brahmā himself. Indeed, the Rākṣasa cannot be slain except with Brahmā’s weapon.”

Hearing the celestial voice, Lakṣman took out a large golden arrow and fitted it to His bow. He recited the incantations to invoke Brahmā’s missile. As He chanted the mantras, the sky seemed to shake and the earth groaned. With that arrow on His fully stretched bow, Lakṣman appeared like Death incarnate. He released the arrow and it sped with a terrible cracking sound toward the demon.

Atikaya saw the diamond-bedecked arrow approach him blazing like the midday sun. The demon was struck with fear. Moving with blinding speed he hurled javelins, spears, pikes, maces and axes at the arrow. He also struck it with numerous arrows of his own. But the shaft could not be checked. It baffled the demon’s weapons and continued to course swiftly through the air. The blazing arrow caught Atikaya in the neck, severing his head and throwing it some distance onto the battlefield.

When Rāvaṇa’s son was slain, the remaining Rākṣasas sent up a wail. Crying in discordant, tones they ran about in fear, unable to find a protector. They turned their faces toward the city and hastily retreated. The monkeys surrounded Lakṣman and praised Him, shouting with joy. The prince smiled and returned to Rāma’s side. Rāma embraced His brother and glorified His wondrous feat. Flowers fell from the sky and heavenly drums sounded.