RKD: 2.11: Rāma Meets the Monkeys
High on a peak of the Rishyamukha hill, Sugrīva had heard Rāma’s cries. He looked around and saw the two princes on the edge of the lake. He was immediately seized with fear. The two humans appeared like a couple of powerful gods. Sugrīva wondered if They had been sent by his brother Vāli, who bore him constant enmity. The princes’ large bows and swords struck fear into Sugrīva’s heart. He ran back to his cave and said to his four companions. “Two mighty warriors, disguised as ascetics, have come here. Surely this is Vāli’s doing. Dispatched by him with the purpose of seeking me out and killing me, those two heroes will soon arrive here. What should I do?”
The five great apes, who were all incarnations of the gods and who belonged to the celestial race of Vanaras, sat together and discussed. They decided to ascend a high peak and observe the warriors. Coming out from their cave they leapt from crag to crag. As they bounded impetuously upward, they broke down large trees with their powerful arms. Tigers and leopards dashed away in fear, seeing the apes jumping about the side of the mountain. After reaching a high place, they came together and gazed down upon Lake Pampa. Sugrīva’s main advisor, Hanumān, who was a son of the wind-god Vāyu, then said, “What cause is there for concern, O Sugrīva? Here are only two men. I do not see Vāli, the actual source of your fear, nor can Vāli ever come here because of Matanga’s curse.”
Hanumān advised Sugrīva to closely observe the warriors. From their movements and gestures he would be able to ascertain their actual purpose. He should not give way to unnecessary fear. Perhaps the two men had come as friends.
Sugrīva was still not sure. He had experienced Vāli’s malicious anger on numerous occasions. He replied to Hanumān, “No trust can placed in kings, O wise one. They will never rest until all their enemies are destroyed. I feel that these two warriors are Vāli’s emissaries. Even if They exhibit friendship, we should be wary. Otherwise, having gained our trust, They will then fulfill my brother’s wicked purpose.”
Sugrīva told Hanumān to assume the form of a Brahmin and meet with the warriors. He should study Them carefully and then report back. Hanumān, who accepted Sugrīva as his king, bowed respectfully and left, leaping down to the base of the mountain. As a son of Vāyu, he possessed great mystic power. He thus assumed a human form and, appearing as a wandering mendicant, approached Rāma and Lakṣman.
Hanumān prostrated himself before the princes and inquired in respectful tones, “What brings you two shining ascetics to this region? You appear like a pair of royal sages fit to rule the entire world. Your massive bows glow like rainbows, Your swords appear dreadful, and Your arms are like the trunks of mighty elephants. Yet You are dressed as Brahmins. And why do You wail so despondently? Why do You search about this lake? Your presence here is a mystery, although You are indeed welcome. You seem like the sun-god and moon-god descended to earth, illuminating this large mountain by Your own luster. Perhaps You are even powerful expansions of the Supreme Lord.”
The astute Hanumān closely examined the two brothers. He could understand They were not ordinary men. The monkey had a deep devotion for Viṣṇu and as he looked at Rāma, he felt his love being awakened. It seemed he had known this human all his life, although he had never met Him before. Hanumān thought carefully. Surely this was the Lord incarnate. What profound purpose had brought Him here?
Hanumān decided to reveal his identity. Folding his palms he told Them he was Sugrīva’s minister. Sugrīva was the king of the Vanaras, but he had been banished by his brother. He now sought the princes’ friendship and was waiting high upon the mountainside.
The brothers were relaxed and smiling. They had listened attentively to Hanumān. Rāma had become cheerful upon hearing his words and He said to Lakṣman, “This meeting is fortunate indeed, dear brother. Here stands Sugrīva’s minister, who is the monkey We seek. My heart and mind are moved by this noble Vanara’s speech. Surely he has studied every facet of Sanskrit grammar, for his words were faultless and delivered in a gentle and highly poetic style. Even an enemy with upraised sword would be made friendly by such a speech.”
Rāma asked His brother to reply to Hanumān. Lakṣman then informed the monkey that They had heard about Sugrīva and wished to meet with him in friendship. Hanumān smiled. Realizing that the two godlike brothers were seeking his master’s assistance, he felt that Sugrīva’s kingdom was already recovered. The monkey joyfully spoke again. “Pray tell me Your purpose in having come to this lonely forest region in the first place.”
By gestures Rāma urged Lakṣman to explain everything to Hanumān. Lakṣman told him in brief all that had happened to Rāma from the point of His being exiled. The narration of Rāma’s many misfortunes distressed Lakṣman and He spoke with tears streaming from His eyes. Describing how Kabandha had directed Them to find Sugrīva, the prince concluded, “This Rāma, whose father Daśaratha was daily honored by all the kings of earth and who himself possesses limitless virtues, now seeks the refuge of Sugrīva, the lord of monkeys.”
When the prince stopped speaking, Hanumān stood with folded palms. He looked at Rāma and said, “Fortunate indeed is Sugrīva that You have sought him as an ally. He too is fully afflicted by grief, having lost his home and family at the hands of his powerful brother. He now lives in fear on this high mountain. Come, I shall take You to him.”
Rāma and Lakṣman looked at each other joyfully. Hanumān then assumed his form as a monkey and, kneeling, told the princes to mount his shoulders. Then the powerful ape leapt up the mountainside, carrying both Rāma and Lakṣman with ease.
Within a few minutes Hanumān reached Sugrīva. Setting the brothers down, he introduced Them to the monkey chief. He told Sugrīva all that Lakṣman had said about Their exile and search for Sītā. Hanumān praised the princes highly and recommended to Sugrīva that he accept Their proffered friendship.
Sugrīva looked at the two brothers, his mind awed by Their brilliance and obvious power. Like Hanumān, he felt a strong love and devotion awakening in his heart. He stood up and spoke to Rāma. “I am highly honored that You have sought my alliance, O Rāma. Your righteousness, Your virtues and Your kindness to all beings is well known. It is my gain only that You have arrived here today. O noble one, if my friendship is acceptable to You, then please take my hand. Let us enter into an abiding pact.”
Sugrīva extended his hand to Rāma, who clasped it firmly in His own. Rāma vigorously embraced the monkey and they both felt great happiness. Hanumān then lit a fire and sanctified it with Vedic
Hanumān broke off a large bough from a flowering sal tree and set it on the ground as a seat for Rāma and Sugrīva. He broke off another from a blossoming sandalwood tree and offered it to Lakṣman. When they were all seated Sugrīva began telling Rāma about himself. “I have been banished and antagonized by my elder brother Vāli, O Rāma, and I move about these woods in great fear. He has stolen my wife and wrested the kingdom from me. Even now he seeks to destroy me. Please grant me security from my hostile brother.”
Rāma laughed heartily and replied, “Certainly service is the fruit of friendship, O mighty monkey. You need have no fear from Vāli. That immoral monkey will soon lie dead, killed by My infallible arrows. You will see Vāli struck down and lying on the earth like a shattered mountain.”
Sugrīva was reassured. He was certain he would soon recover his wife and kingdom. He again clasped Rāma’s hand and thanked Him. Sugrīva assured Rāma that he would search out and find Sītā, whether She was in the bowels of the earth or the vaults of heaven. “You should know for sure,” he said, “that neither god nor demon can hold Sītā any more than a man can digest poisoned food.”
Even as that friendship between Rāma and Vāli was forged, the left eyes of Sītā, Vāli and Rāvaṇa all throbbed violently and simultaneously, foreboding good to the princess and evil to the other two.
After the brothers and the monkeys had eaten a meal of cooked roots and forest vegetables prepared by Hanumān, they again spoke together. Sugrīva told Rāma that he had seen, not long ago, a great Rākṣasa flying overhead clutching a crying lady. He had heard Her plaintive calls of, “Rāma! Lakṣman!” This must surely have been Sītā being stolen by Rāvaṇa. Sugrīva continued, “I saw the princess wriggling like a snake in the demon’s grasp. She spotted me sitting with my four companions on the mountaintop. She then threw down Her jewels wrapped in a cloth.”
Rāma grasped the monkey’s arm. “You saw My beloved Sītā? Where are those jewels? Bring them quickly!”
Sugrīva got up and entered deeply into his cave. After a few minutes he returned, holding the cloth bundle Sītā had thrown. He laid it out before Rāma and the brilliant jewels shone in the bright sunshine. Rāma dropped to His knees and began sobbing. “Sītā! My darling!” He pressed the jewels to His bosom. Thinking of His kidnapped wife He began to hiss like a serpent provoked in its hole. He turned to Lakṣman, who had knelt by His side. “See here, O Lakṣman, Sītā’s bright jewels. The Rākṣasa must have carried Her this way.”
Lakṣman gazed at the jewels and replied to Rāma. “I do not recognize the armlets or earrings, for I have never looked at the face or body of the princess. But I recognize the anklets, which I saw each day as I bowed at Her feet.”
Rāma stood quickly and spoke to Sugrīva. “Tell Me where the demon has taken Sītā? Where does he dwell, O Sugrīva? On account of that demon I shall exterminate the entire Rākṣasa horde. By carrying off Sītā he has opened wide the portals of death. Let me know his whereabouts and I shall dispatch him to Death’s presence this very day, accompanied by all his followers.”
Sugrīva’s head fell. He told Rāma he had no knowledge of Rāvaṇa’s whereabouts. The city of the Rākṣasas was unknown to the monkeys, as it was to humans. Perhaps it even lay on some other planet, for the Rākṣasas could move freely anywhere. But Sugrīva solemnly swore that he would find Sītā. Rāma should not lament. Whatever it took to locate the princess, Sugrīva and his monkeys would undertake.
Sugrīva reassured Rāma. “Do not allow grief to overpower You, O great hero. Wise men face every calamity with fortitude and do not yield to sorrow. Only the foolish are overcome by lamentation, losing their intelligence and strength and sinking like an overloaded boat. O Rāma, I am here to help You. Cast away Your grief.”
Rāma wiped His face with His cloth and smiled at Sugrīva. He felt comforted by the monkey’s words and thanked him for his counsel. He urged Sugrīva to begin the search for Sītā immediately and He again promised to kill Vāli. Sugrīva and his ministers felt immense pleasure to hear Rāma’s promise and they considered their purpose accomplished. Sugrīva vowed his unending and unswerving friendship and service to Rāma, who then asked, “Tell me how you came to be exiled, dear friend. Why do you tarry here on this lonely mountain, suffering grief and fear?”
Sugrīva then told Rāma his story. “Although I had ascended the throne of the monkeys under the instruction of Vāli’s ministers, I was deposed and chased away violently by Vāli. Even my dear wife was stolen by my powerful brother. Still he antagonizes me. Many times I have killed monkeys sent by him for my destruction. Thus it was that I feared even You when I first saw You arrive here.”
Rāma wanted to hear all the details about Vāli. He asked Sugrīva to relate the whole history. What were Vāli’s strengths and weaknesses? Why had he insulted Sugrīva? Rāma was already feeling anger toward Vāli. He wanted to know everything about the arrogant monkey. Then He would take the necessary steps. He again reassured Sugrīva. “Speak with confidence. Soon you will see My arrow streak toward Vāli’s chest and him falling like a cleft mountain.”
Sugrīva, feeling delight, said, “Vāli and I are the two sons of Riksaraja, the king of the monkeys. My father and I always held Vāli in the highest esteem. When the king died it was Vāli, as the elder prince, who was duly installed as the ruler. I always remained subservient to my brother, standing by his side.”
Sugrīva described how, one day, a demon named Mayavi had come to Kishkindha, the monkeys’ city. He had a dispute with Vāli over a woman and he stood outside the city gates, bellowing fearfully and challenging Vāli to a duel. Vāli was sleeping and Mayavi’s roars woke him. He got up furiously and immediately rushed out of the city with Sugrīva by his side. When Mayavi saw the two huge monkeys emerging from the city he became fearful and ran away. Vāli and Sugrīva gave chase and were gaining on the demon when he suddenly entered a large hole in the earth.
Upon reaching the hole, Vāli decided to go after Mayavi and he told Sugrīva to wait for him. Although Sugrīva implored his brother to take him, Vāli went alone into the hole. He bound Sugrīva on oath to remain at the entrance of the hole until he returned.
A year passed and Sugrīva waited. There was no sign of Vāli. Sugrīva began to fear his brother had been killed. He stayed at the hole, feeling misgivings. Then, as he sat watching the hole, a large amount of foaming blood began to seep out. Sugrīva also heard the roaring sound of the demon, but he could not hear his brother’s voice. Thinking carefully, Sugrīva concluded with great sorrow that Vāli must have been killed. Not wanting the demon to escape, Sugrīva placed an enormous boulder over the hole. He then returned grieving to Kishkindha.
Vāli’s ministers then installed Sugrīva on the throne, although he was reluctant to accept it. However, after only a short time elapsed, Vāli returned, having killed the demon. When he saw Sugrīva on the throne he became enraged. He bound the ministers in chains and spoke harshly to Sugrīva, explaining that he had found Mayavi after a full year of searching and had slain him and all his kinsmen. He then turned back, only to find the entrance to the hole blocked and Sugrīva gone.
Sugrīva was full of reverence toward his brother and bowed before him, touching his feet with the crown. He told Vāli how pleased and relieved he was to see him returned. Sugrīva would again happily become his brother’s servant, but Vāli would not be placated. He accused Sugrīva of deliberately shutting him up in the hole out of a desire to gain the kingdom. He threw Sugrīva out of the city with only a single cloth wrapped around him. Vāli also stole his brother’s wife.
Sugrīva concluded his story. “Thus it was that I came to be wandering about, accompanied by only a few close friends and advisors. Ranging the earth in fear of Vāli, I finally sought shelter upon this mountain, knowing that he cannot come here due to a curse.”
Rāma smiled at Sugrīva. Once more He gave him every assurance that the cruel and immoral Vāli would soon be punished. “I will soon dispel your grief at losing your wife, O king of monkeys, even as the sun dispels a morning mist.”
Sugrīva looked at Rāma. With His powerful frame and huge bow he was truly an impressive sight. Surely He could easily overpower even the mightiest of warriors. But Vāli was no ordinary opponent. Although raised by Riksharaj, Vāli had been born the son of Indra. He possessed strength beyond compare. No one could face him in battle. Therefore Sugrīva felt uncertain. He began to describe Vāli’s prowess. “Each day upon rising, Vāli, for exercise, strides from the western to the eastern ocean. Then he moves to the southern shore and again bounds from there to the northernmost coast. He knows no fatigue and climbs to the tops of mountains, hurling down their huge peaks with his bare hands. I have seen Vāli snap numerous massive trees as if they were small sticks.”
Sugrīva then told Rāma about Vāli’s encounter with another celestial demon named Dundubhi. This demon was accustomed to roam about in the form of a terrible-looking buffalo. He possessed the strength of ten thousand elephants and was wandering around looking for a suitable opponent. Coming to the god of the seas, the demon challenged him to battle, but the god declined, saying, “I am not competent to fight with you.” The deity sent Dundubhi to the Himavan mountain, telling him that he would get battle there, but the mountain also declined to fight with Dundubhi. The demon roared angrily and demanded to know who could possibly face him. Himavan then said that Vāli would prove a worthy combatant for him, and he directed Dundubhi to Kishkindha.
The furious demon, still in the form of a tremendous buffalo, rushed toward Vāli’s city. He appeared like a black cloud racing through the skies in the rainy season. Dundubhi arrived at the gates of Kishkindha and thundered like a large drum being violently beaten. That sound reverberated for miles and it broke down the surrounding trees. Vāli was enjoying with his wives in his palace. Drunk with wine and passion, he stood up and gazed about with reddened eyes. He was intolerant by nature and the sound of the demon maddened him. He ran out of his palace, followed by his wives. Going before Dundubhi he said, “Why do you bellow like this, O demon? If you are challenging me, then you had best flee immediately before I take your life.”
The demon laughed loudly. He said to Vāli, “You should not challenge me in the presence of ladies. O gallant monkey, fight with all your power and I shall kill you today. Or, if you prefer, you may remain for this night with your wives and we shall fight tomorrow. It is improper to fight one who is drunk or blinded by passion. Return to your city and gaze upon it for one last time. Say fond farewells to your near and dear ones. Install your son upon the throne and then come out for battle. Soon you will lie dead upon the earth.”
Vāli laughed to hear this arrogant boasting. He sent his wives back into the city and said to Dundubhi, “Do not make excuses to hide your fear. Take my inebriety to be the drunkenness of a warrior just prior to a battle. We shall fight now!”
Vāli tightened his cloth and stood like a mountain in front of Dundubhi. The demon roared and, lowering his pointed horns, charged furiously at Vāli. The monkey at once seized Dundubhi by his horns and swung him around, throwing him down on the ground. Blood flowed from the demon’s ears and he got up and charged again. Rising up on his hind legs, he began pounding Vāli with his hooves, making a sound like thunderclaps. He thrust his horns into Vāli’s body, but the monkey stood firm.
The battle raged for some time as the two opponents beat each other furiously. Vāli struck the demon with fists, knees, feet, rocks and trees. Gradually he overpowered Dundubhi, who became exhausted. Vāli then took hold of his horns and dashed him to the ground with great force. He whirled the lifeless demon around and tossed him to a distance of eight miles. As he flew through the air large amounts of blood flowed from his smashed body. Some drops fell upon the hermitage of the sage Matanga. The
Thus Sugrīva explained why Vāli did not dare come near Rishyamukha. He pointed to what appeared to be a massive heap of shining white rocks. “Here are Dundubhi’s bones, tossed away by Vāli. Even these bare bones can hardly be moved by any other person.”
Lakṣman laughed contemptuously. “What feat have you seen that Rāma cannot easily equal? O Sugrīva, I have not heard anything yet to indicate that this brother of yours is formidable.”
Sugrīva assured Lakṣman that he was convinced of Rāma’s prowess, but he had not yet seen any demonstration of Rāma’s power, while on many occasions he had witnessed the power of Vāli. He asked Rāma to show him His strength by kicking away Dundubhi’s skeleton.
Rāma laughed again and with His foot He playfully lifted the huge bones, flicking them high into the sky. That skeleton flew out of sight, landing some eighty miles away. Seeing the bones vanishing into the distance Sugrīva was impressed, but he still remained doubtful. He said to Rāma, “You have thrown the dried-up bones of Dundubhi, but he was hurled by Vāli when still a carcass full of flesh and blood. O Rāma, forgive me, but there is one other test I should like to witness.”
Sugrīva showed Rāma and Lakṣman seven sal trees, each more than thirty arms’ length in diameter. In the past Vāli had easily broken down many such trees. Sugrīva asked Rāma to show His strength by piercing one of those trees right through with an arrow.
Rāma smilingly took up His bow and strung it, placing on the string a dreadful-looking arrow. He took aim and released the arrow which passed cleanly through all seven trees. The arrow, gilded with gold, entered the earth and descended to the subterranean regions. Forcing its way back up and out of the earth, it again entered Rāma’s quiver.
Sugrīva was astonished and fell flat on the ground at Rāma’s feet. He considered Vāli as good as slain. Kneeling before Rāma he said, “You could kill with Your arrows the gods and demons combined. Who can stand before You in battle? With You as my ally, my grief has totally dried up. O Rāma, let us go quickly and make short work of Vāli.”
Rāma agreed and they all left immediately for Kishkindha. Rāma told Sugrīva to go ahead and challenge Vāli to a fight and He would wait nearby. When Vāli came out of the city, Rāma would kill him.
Sugrīva stood outside Kishkindha and began to roar. Vāli heard his brother and rushed out to fight. The two monkeys began a tumultuous and terrible combat that resembled a clash between Mars and Mercury in the heavens. Blinded by anger they threw blows like thunderbolts at each other. Striking with their fists, palms and feet, they pummeled each other, screaming with fury.
Rāma watched closely, bow in hand. He could not distinguish who was who. The two monkey brothers resembled each other closely, like the twin Aśvinī gods. Rāma did not therefore release His arrow for fear of hitting Sugrīva.
Vāli soon got the upper hand and the battered Sugrīva ran for his life. He dashed back to the Rishyamukha, closely followed by Vāli, who stopped at the edge of the forest near to Matanga’s hermitage, saying, “Today you are spared.”
Sugrīva lay gasping on the ground as Rāma ran up to him. The monkey looked at the prince in surprise. “Why did You not say truthfully that You had no intention of slaying Vāli? Look at me now. I have been half-killed by that fearful ape. O Rāma, had I known You were reluctant I would not have moved from this place.”
Rāma consoled Sugrīva, explaining that He was unable to distinguish the monkey from his brother. Their features, dress and ornaments were too similar. He suggested that Sugrīva again challenge Vāli, but this time wearing some distinctive mark so that Rāma could tell one from the other. Lakṣman tied round Sugrīva’s neck a flowering creeper. Reassured, Sugrīva got up and left again for Kishkindha.
Lakṣman and Sugrīva strode in front, followed by Rāma, Hanumān and the other three monkeys. They soon reached the city and again Sugrīva went to the gates. He looked at Rāma, still feeling fearful. The beating from Vāli had shaken him.
Rāma saw Sugrīva’s anxious expression. He took the monkey by his shoulders and said, “Do not hesitate. Vāli will presently roll in the dust, struck down by My arrow. I have never uttered a falsehood, even though I have been in adversity for a long time. Let go your mighty shout, O Sugrīva, and Vāli will quickly proceed to this spot. How can he brook a challenge in the presence of women? This shall be his last battle and indeed his last day on earth.”
Sugrīva accepted Rāma’s firm assurance. While the two princes remained concealed in a clump of bushes, he again began to shout out his challenge. His roar rent the air pitilessly. Animals fled confused in all directions like women assailed by wicked men due to the failure of leaders to protect them. Birds dropped from the sky like gods whose pious merits have been exhausted. As Sugrīva emitted his fierce cry he sounded like the ocean lashed by a gale.
Vāli was in his inner chambers with his wives. Hearing Sugrīva’s challenge, he sat up in surprise. How had his brother returned so soon? Was he not satisfied with one thrashing? This time there would be no escape for that arrogant monkey. Vāli was seized with fury. His limbs trembled and his eyes turned crimson. Grinding his teeth he leapt from his bed and ran toward the door.
His wife Tara, seeing him about to go out, ran to him and held his arm. Her womanly intuition told her something was wrong. She spoke fearfully. “My lord, shake off this anger. Do not enter another combat with Sugrīva. Although you are more powerful than your brother, I nevertheless feel misgivings. How has Sugrīva become so fearless even though he was only just beaten by you? Why does he now stand there roaring like a monsoon cloud? Surely he has found a powerful ally.”
Vāli stopped and looked at his beautiful wife. She told him that she had heard how Sugrīva had formed a friendship with two princes from Ayodhya. Tara described the power and glory of Rāma, which she had heard described by Aṅgada, Vāli’s son. Rāma was unassailable in battle and capable of crushing vast armies. He was the supreme resort for the afflicted and had given an assurance of safety to Sugrīva. The Vanara queen begged her husband not to go out and fight. Instead he should welcome Sugrīva and install him as the Prince Regent.
Tara implored her husband. “I consider Sugrīva to be your foremost friend. You need not maintain this animosity. Bring him close with gifts and kind words. Along with Rāma he will prove your greatest ally. O valiant monarch, please do not enter another combat with Sugrīva, for I fear it will be your last.”
Gripped by death, Vāli could not accept his wife’s wise advice. He reproached her as she stood before him weeping. “How can I tolerate this insolence? For a warrior who has never known defeat, brooking an insult is worse than death. I am not able to stand the arrogance of the weak Sugrīva, much less his roar. O timid one, I shall not tarry here longer. Sugrīva shall meet his end today.”
Vāli told Tara she need not fear on Rāma’s account. He knew about the human prince. Rāma was devoted to virtue and piety; He would never commit the sin of killing an innocent person. Nor could He intervene in the fair fights of others. Vāli ordered Tara to stay in the palace. He was going out to face Sugrīva and would soon return, having either killed his brother or sent him flying in fear. The queen bowed her head and, praying for her husband, returned sorrowfully to her rooms.
Filled with rage and breathing heavily, Vāli rushed out of the city gates. He saw Sugrīva standing firm like a mountain, his reddish brown body glowing like fire. Vāli tightened his loin cloth. Raising his fist he charged furiously at his brother, shouting, “This iron-like fist, hurled at you like a mace, will return after taking your life!”
Remembering his brother’s treatment of him, Sugrīva was also worked up with anger. He threw a great punch at the onrushing Vāli. The two monkeys clashed together roaring like maddened bulls. Struck a swinging blow on the chest by Vāli’s two clenched hands, Sugrīva vomited blood and looked like a mountain covered with a cascade of red oxides. He tore up a sal tree and dashed his brother over the head. Vāli shook like a ship tossed in the ocean. He fell upon Sugrīva and began pounding him with his knees and fists. The two monkeys fought fiercely and gradually Vāli once more gained the upper hand.
Sugrīva, with his vanity shattered, began fearfully looking about for Rāma. He was becoming weaker and weaker. From behind the bush Rāma saw His chance. Vāli stood over his collapsed brother, his arms upraised. Rāma swiftly placed an arrow on His bow, releasing it with a sound resembling a crash of thunder. The arrow sped like a streak of lightning and hit Vāli on the breast, sounding like another thunderclap.
Vāli fell to the ground like a hewn tree, uttering a great cry. He lay unconscious with his body bathed in blood. Although struck by Rāma’s powerful arrow, the monkey did not die, as he was wearing a gold chain Indra had given him. By Indra’s blessings that chain was capable of preserving the life of whoever wore it. Lying there with his scattered garments and shining ornaments, and the glowing arrow of Rāma protruding from his chest, Vāli looked like a colorful banner suddenly dropped to the ground.
Rāma and Lakṣman slowly approached the mortally wounded monkey. Vāli opened his eyes and looked up at Rāma, who was smiling at him. The fallen monkey spoke with difficulty. “You are famous for Your truth and virtue, O Rāma. How then have You committed such an abominable act? What was my crime that I should be punished in this way? I did not attack You. Indeed I was engaged in fair combat with another. Why then have You killed me, remaining concealed at a distance?”
Vāli accused Rāma of irreligion, saying that He only posed as a virtuous person. This heinous deed surely proved Him to be otherwise. He had lost control of His mind and senses, overcome by desire and swayed by sentiment. Out of friendship for Sugrīva, He had abandoned righteousness.
Gasping for breath, Vāli went on, “I cannot understand why You have acted in this way, O Rāma. What did You have to gain by killing me, a mere monkey living in the forest on wild fruits? The scriptures condemn the eating of monkey flesh or the using of their skins. There was no reason to slay me. I have done You no harm at all. Surely this act will be condemned by all holy men and You will go to hell.”
Vāli censured Rāma at length, speaking passionately. After some time he closed his eyes and fell back exhausted. He felt regret. Why had he not listened to Tara? She had tendered him wise advice. By ignoring her he had reaped the results of his impetuosity. The arrow in his chest burned like fire. Vāli was shocked. How could the virtuous Rāma have perpetrated such a vile deed?
Rāma waited for Vāli to regain a little strength. When the monkey again opened his eyes, Rāma said, “O Vāli, you clearly do not understand righteousness and religion. This entire earth belongs to the descendants of Manu, having been bequeathed to them by that great deity and speaker of religious codes. Bharata now rules this world and We, his brothers, are His servants. It is thus Our duty to roam the earth, promoting virtue and punishing the wicked. You, O proud monkey, are indeed wicked.”
Rāma then explained to Vāli rules of morality. The younger brother should be regarded as one’s own son, and his wife as one’s daughter-in-law. Vāli had therefore been guilty of a great sin in punishing the sinless Sugrīva and co-habiting with Ruma, Sugrīva’s wife. The scriptures prescribed death as the punishment for one who has illicit sexual relations with his own daughter or a wife of his younger brother. There was no doubt that Rāma’s punishing him was just.
Rāma continued to address the pain-stricken Vāli. “You are now freed from the sinful reaction which would have sent you to hell. A person punished by the king is released from all sins and ascends to heaven, but if the king fails to punish a sinner, then he himself incurs the sin. O Vāli, you should not grieve, for you have been fortunate to receive the proper punishment, making you eligible for the higher planets after death. Nor did I act wrongly by remaining concealed. Since you are a monkey, this was the appropriate way to kill you. Just as when hunting the king shoots arrows at animals while hidden from view, so I shot you.”
Vāli could not argue. He had always felt remorseful for the way he had treated Sugrīva, but had denied those feelings, remaining fiercely antagonistic toward his brother. Now he had finally received the result. All creatures had to accept the fruits of their own acts alone. No suffering or happiness came other than as a result of one’s former acts. Understanding this, Vāli accepted Rāma’s words as true and gave up his anger and grief. With difficulty he replied, “How can a dwarf argue with a giant? O Rāma, You are the best knower of all religious principles. I am justly punished. Please forgive my harsh words spoken earlier out of sorrow and confusion. I have certainly strayed from the path of virtue.”
Vāli feared that after his death his brother Sugrīva would be antagonistic to his son Aṅgada. He begged Rāma to establish a friendship between the two monkeys. Rāma assured Vāli that Sugrīva would rule the Vanaras with righteousness, treating Aṅgada like a younger brother.
Vāli lost consciousness, his life all but ended. At that moment Tara ran out of the city crying for her husband. She saw the monkeys who were Vāli’s followers running about in all directions, seized with fear of Rāma. Tara stopped some of them and asked them why they were fleeing.
“See there your mighty husband struck down by Rāma’s arrow,” they replied. “Death in the form of Rāma is bearing him away. Leave quickly with us, for soon Sugrīva will take over the city and drive us out, assisted by Rāma’s deadly arrows.”
Tara looked around and saw Vāli lying on the ground. Nearby Rāma leant on his great bow. With a wail she ran toward her fallen husband, beating her breast and head. She fell at Vāli’s feet. The lordly ape resembled a mountain struck down by Indra’s thunderbolt. Crying out, “My lord!” she rolled about in agony. Aṅgada also came there and dropped to the ground at his father’s feet, overwhelmed with grief.
Tara lamented loudly. “Get up, O tiger among monkeys! Why do you not greet me? Come with me now and lay upon your excellent couch. The bare ground is no place for a king to lay. Alas, it is obvious that the earth is more dear to you than myself, for you lie there embracing her with your outstretched arms. What shall I do? Where shall I go? I am lost!”
Crying like a female osprey, the intelligent Tara thought how her husband had banished Sugrīva and stolen his wife. Surely this was the fruit of those sinful deeds. How could she live now as a widow under the care of Sugrīva, Vāli’s enemy? What would happen now to her dear son Aṅgada? Tara held Vāli’s feet, who still lay unconscious and was barely breathing.
Hanumān gently comforted Tara. “This is the sure end of everybody, O gentle lady. All of us shall reap the results of our own deeds only, good or bad. As such, we gain nothing and do nothing for others by lamenting. Vāli has reached the end of his allotted life span and will now rise to the higher regions. Do not grieve.”
Tara cried out in pain. She had no desire to live without Vāli. Laying next to her husband she determined to fast until death, following the path taken by Vāli.
As Tara sobbed, Vāli opened his eyes and looked slowly about. Seeing Sugrīva he spoke to him affectionately. “O brother, please forgive my evil acts against you. Destiny did not decree that we should share happiness together. Accept now the rulership of the monkeys. I shall soon depart for Yamarāja’s abode.”
Vāli asked his brother to be kind to Aṅgada. He also asked that Sugrīva carefully protect Tara, always seeking her advice on important matters. Rāma’s order should be closely followed and Sugrīva should always seek to please him.
Sugrīva, feeling despondent, nodded in assent to Vāli’s instructions. Vāli then took off his celestial gold chain and gave it to Sugrīva. Turning to Aṅgada he said in a whisper, “Dear son, I shall now depart from this world. Remain ever devoted to Sugrīva’s service, seeing him as you do myself.”
With his eyes rolling in pain and his teeth exposed, Vāli gave up his life. His head fell to the side as his last breath gasped out. A great howl of sorrow went up from the many monkeys who stood surrounding Vāli. “Alas, our lord is gone! Who will protect us now? Who can equal Vāli in strength and splendor?”
Tara and Aṅgada embraced Vāli’s body, wailing loudly. Sugrīva was filled with remorse. He went before Rāma and said, “I am a wretch who has caused the death of my own brother. Although he was always capable, my brother never killed me. But at the first opportunity I have had him slain. How can I take the kingdom now, stained as it is with Vāli’s blood? How can I tolerate seeing Tara and Aṅgada weeping bitterly on my account?”
Sugrīva became overwhelmed by his feelings. He felt sure he would reap the terrible results of the sin of fratricide and indeed the killing of a king. Vāli was noble and had ruled the monkeys with justice and compassion. Having killed him, Sugrīva was not fit to himself become a monarch. Everyone would simply condemn him. His only recourse was to enter fire along with the body of his brother. Sugrīva begged Rāma’s permission to give up his life. The other monkeys could assist Rāma in finding Sītā.
Rāma was moved to tears upon hearing Sugrīva’s piteous lamentations. As He considered the monkey’s sorrowful words, Tara approached him and said, “O all-powerful one, I too shall enter the fire along with Vāli. I have no desire for life without my husband. Surely he will miss me, even among the Apsarās in heaven, for I have always been his most devoted servant.”
Tara begged Rāma to kill her with the arrow which had slain Vāli. “O Rāma, the wife is always considered one with her husband. Therefore you need not fear the sin of killing a woman. You will only be completing the task of killing Vāli by taking my life. I cannot tolerate the pain of separation from my spouse. Surely You know only too well what that terrible pain is like.”
Rāma looked compassionately at Tara, who had fallen to the ground. He consoled her most gently. “O wife of a hero, do not think in this way. This entire creation yields happiness and distress one after another for all created beings in accord with their destiny. Where will you go to avoid your fate? Be peaceful here; having duly mourned for your husband, you will soon enjoy as much delight under Sugrīva’s protection as you did with Vāli. Your son will become Prince Regent and you will be honored. All this is ordained by Providence. O Tara, the wives of heroes never lament as you are doing now.”
Rāma instructed Tara according to the moral codes which applied to her race. On the death of her husband, she should accept his brother as her spouse and serve him as she had Vāli. Tara became silent, gazing at Rāma, who now turned to Sugrīva to comfort him.
Rāma told Sugrīva to take heart and attend to Vāli’s funeral. The soul of the monkey king would not be helped by simply grieving for him. “The time for grieving must soon end and duties must be performed,” Rāma said gravely. “Time controls everything. Vāli has succumbed to all-powerful Time, going to the regions he has earned by his own acts. Now Time is urging you to perform your religious duties toward your brother.”
Sugrīva stood looking at Rāma. His mind was bewildered with grief and remorse. Lakṣman took hold of the monkey’s arm and told him to proceed with Vāli’s cremation. Lakṣman gave detailed instructions to the confused Sugrīva. Hearing the prince speak, Sugrīva’s attendants ran to carry out his orders.
Rāma again spoke to the grieving Tara. “O Vanara queen, carefully consider whether or not this dead body of Vāli was ever related to you. It is nothing but a collection of inert chemicals. The real person is the soul, not the body. In ignorance only do we form relationships based upon bodily considerations, calling others ‘husband,’ ‘son,’ or ‘friend.’”
Rāma explained that the soul is without designations. It is eternal and dwells for only a short time in the body. During our brief sojourn in our bodies we form so many illusory relationships, but all of these will undoubtedly be broken by the force of time. The soul’s real happiness lies in its relationship with God. Vāli had now moved closer to that eternal relationship and no one need lament for him.
As Rāma spoke, Vāli’s grieving relatives felt relief. Gathering themselves together they prepared for Vāli’s funeral. A beautiful wooden palanquin was fetched. Vāli’s body was carefully laid on it and it was lifted up by eight powerful monkeys. Vāli looked like a fallen god. The palanquin was adorned by numerous carvings of birds, trees and fighting soldiers. Over its top was lattice work covered with a net and many garlands and jeweled ornaments. The sides of the palanquin were daubed with red sandal-paste, and lotus flowers were laid out all along its edges.
Sugrīva and Aṅgada bore the palanquin along with the other monkeys. Sugrīva had regained his composure and he issued orders to the monkeys. “Walk ahead of us, scattering the ground with jewels of every description. Let learned monkeys recite the scriptures and we shall proceed slowly to the cremation ground.”
The procession moved off, heading toward the river bank. A great wail was sent up by the many females who walked in front. Gradually they came to the river and a funeral pyre was built on its bank. The palanquin was set down next to the pyre and Tara again fell to the ground, crying mournfully. “O hero! Why do you not cast your glance upon me today? See here your wives, all weeping, who have trodden the long path behind you. Here are your ministers, sunk in a sea of dejection. O Vāli, dismiss your counselors now as you did in the past. Then we shall sport together, intoxicated with love.”
The other women gently raised Tara, who was overwhelmed with sorrow. With the help of Sugrīva and the weeping Aṅgada, they lifted Vāli’s body onto the pyre. Aṅgada then lit the pyre and walked around his father, who had set out on his journey to the next world. All the others joined him in slowly circumambulating the blazing pyre.
Everyone then entered the river and offered sacred water to Vāli’s soul. After the obsequies were performed, Sugrīva and his counselors surrounded Rāma and Lakṣman.
Hanumān, who resembled a golden peak of Mount Meru, folded his hands and said to Rāma, “By Your grace, O Raghava, has Sugrīva acquired the ancestral kingdom of the Vanaras. Please enter this city of Kishkindha in state and, with Your permission, we will perform the coronation ceremony.”
Rāma looked stern as He replied. “Commanded by My father I shall not enter even a village for fourteen years, much less a city. You may proceed into the city and duly install Sugrīva as your king. I shall remain outside, finding some suitable cave for My residence.”
Rāma instructed Sugrīva to remain in Kishkindha for the coming few months. It was the beginning of the monsoon season, so it would be impossible to search for Sītā. When the rains ended Sugrīva should dispatch the monkeys in all directions to look for Rāvaṇa and the princess.
Sugrīva took leave of Rāma and went into his city, which was situated within a vast mountain cave. In accordance with scriptural injunctions, a grand coronation ceremony was performed. Everyone repeatedly extolled Rāma and Lakṣman, feeling honored by the friendship of the two princes from Ayodhya. Sugrīva was reunited with his wife, Ruma, and he entered Vāli’s magnificent palace. Awaiting the end of the rainy season he lived happily, surrounded by his wives and ministers.