Illustrated Ramayana – Part 24

Ravana called his ablest spies and ordered them to go into the vanara ranks and find out their strength. Three rakshasa spies, well disguised, went into the vanara camp but they were caught and brought before Rama. Rama, compassionate at heart, pardoned them. He would not punish even his enemies if they regretted their actions.

The spies returned to Lanka and advised Ravana to desist from the fight because the vanaras were so mighty that they could not be defeated.

There was much activity in both camps as the hour of war approached. The vanaras made careful plans to besiege Lanka and the army was divided into several groups.

One day, from his camp Sugriva saw Ravana seated in regal splendour on the topmost terrace of his palace. The sight of the proud rakshasa king provoked Sugriva. He leapt over the walls of Lanka and dropped in front of Ravana.

Sugriva challenged Ravana to a fight and the duel was long and fierce. At last, Ravana decided to use his powers of magic to kill Sugriva. The vanara guessed what Ravana had in mind and flew back to his camp.

The great war began badly for the rakshasas. Their chieftains met with many ill omens on the way to the battlefield and few returned.

Enraged at the course of the war, Ravana himself took the field. He struck down Lakshmana with a deadly weapon and went up to Rama. With powerful astras (weapons) Rama smashed Ravana’s chariot, horses, weapons and crown.

As Ravana stood on the field alone, bereft of arms and mount, the noble Rama spoke to him thus: “Oh! Ravana of matchless valour! You are tired and you have had bad luck. It is not proper for me to continue the fight. Go to Lanka, take rest and come back tomorrow with chariot and weapons.”