This is an episode from the Ramayana, a Hindi epic, as retold for children by Milly Acharya.

Before that though, some background – so far Ram has been exprelled from the kingdom of Ayodhya by a jealous step-mother and has gone to live in the woods with his wife Sita and brother Laxman. In the forest, Ram has an altercation with a demon-god, and cuts off her ears and nose, which she doesn’t take kindly to. She subsequently asks the  demon-king Ravana to take vengeance. Ravana and another demon disguise themselves to lure Sita away from the safety of the forest so that Ravana can kidnap her. Ram, aided by the monkey-god Hanuman and his troop of monkeys, head to (Sri) Lanka where Ravana is holding Sita. The monkeys have thrashed the demons and the most fearsome have been defeated by Ram and his brother.

Chapter 12

When the last of his valiant heroes failed to return, Ravana [the demon-king] knew his own turn to confront Ram and finally come. Dressed in his shimmering armour of solid gold, brilliant gems sparkling upon his chest and crown, Ravana mounted his war-chariot. Glossy black horses strained at the reins, ready to charge. His battle-flag fluttered in the wind.

“Be warned!” he thundered, “for today I shall put an end to you  all. No longer will you menace the soil of Lanka!” The forest-folk [the monkeys] sent showers of rocks and trees at his approach, but these merely rolled off his body. He answered with flaming darts that felled thousands of the monkey-people and drove terror into their hearts.

Laxman rushed to assist his loyal friends. As Ravana saw him he vowed, “You, mortal prince, shall bear the full force of my fury!” An earth-shattering thunderbolt knocked Laxman sensless to the ground. Seeing his dearest brother in a pool of blood and barely alive, Ram lost all heart for battle. The forest-folk gathered round quickly to protect Laxman, while Ravana growled and threatened them. For he was surer now of his conquest than he had been since Lanka was beset with these puny invaders.

The monkeys whispered to Ram, “We know of medicinal herbs which restore life, but these grow only on a mountain-side far away in the snow-capped Himalayas.” Who would go such a great distance and return while there was still breath in Laxman’s body? Hanuman! For he was fast as the wind and swiftly he flew off to the lofty mountains. Before he knew it, he was standing on a rocky slope among the clouds. But he was bewildered by the number of different plants which grew there. “I am no wise healer,” he mused. “If I return with the wrong herbs, I will unable to help Laxman.”

But where Hanuman’s wits failed him, his great strength saved Laxman. Wasting no time, the monkey hero lifted the great mountain upon the palm of his hand and carried it to the plain where Laxman lay lifeless. The wise forest-folk selected the right herbs and ground them into a potion while Hanuman returned the moutain to its original place. And no sooner did Laxman inhale the vapours of the herbs than his wounds began to heal.

Now Ram’s courage returned. He sprang from the ground ready to do final battle, fearless of the monster’s ten heads and countless arms. Both the combatants had powerful weapons which were blessed with magical properties. Each was skillful and valiant. And neither one had ever tasted defeat.

Soon the sky was ablaze once again with heat and flames from the clash of arms. Tremors shook the earth, the ocean churned gigantic waves, the heavens darkened ominously. All living creatures trembled with fear; their howls echoed through the island forests. Ram and Ravana fought with all their might while on both sides the other warriors stood by to watch the awesome combat.

Ravana’s weapons released ferocious animals. The heads of lions, crocodiles, vicious serpents and snarling jackals hurled down through the air. But Ram merely froze these beasts into ice which broke into pieces the monemt they touched the ground. Ravana aimed tridents filled with deadly venoms, but Ram’s poisons were equally potent.The twang of his bow could be heard for miles as he drew the string back to his ear and discharged a storm of arrows straight at his foe.

The  demon’s eyes blazed, he breathed smoke through his nostrils, his mouth twisted in rage. His twenty arms wielded twenty weapons at once! “I am no mortal,” the Demon-King reminded Ram. “The gods in their heavens fear me. Do you dare test my superhuman strength?” Ram cut off Ravana’s head in reply. Another head instantly replaced it, and when he cut this one off as well, a new head appeared in its place. The monster was impossible to defeat! Of all the magical arms that Ram posessed, none had any effect on Ravana.

It was then that Ram remembered the one weapon he had never tested. The time had come to use it – the most deadly weapon, the missle which was the gift of the Lord Brhma himself. No being on earth could endure its destructive might. It could tear open the skies or dry up the oceans.

Ram repeated the chant that would summon it, and there in his hand it gleamed in the waning sunlight, invisible to all but Ram alone. He blessed it silently, then hurled it with full force at his enermy. With a thundering roar, Brahma-astram exploded into the depths of the earth, crushing the mighty Ravana on its way. The spot was deeply gouged, like a great wound upon the ground, and poisonous fumes rose thick and fast from its dark crater. Neither tree nor grass nor weed would grow here, and for many years the land remained stubbornly barren.

Their leader was dead! With panic in their hearts and fear in their bones, the defeated demons turned and fled, easily routed by the exbuerant monkey-army. Very soon the field of battle lay empty and silent. The skies cleared, the sun shone cheerfully, gentle breezes cooled the air, the earth ceased to shudder, and the waves were calm once more.

Ram and his friends were safe; Lanka was quiet and serene. Ravana’s brother Vibhisana, who had helped Ram achieve his victory, was now crowned the new ruler of Lanka.

(From The Ramayana for young readers, retold and illustrated by Milly Acharaya)

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