Ramayana of Valmiki

by Hari Prasad Shastri | 1952 | 527,382 words | ISBN-10: 9333119590 | ISBN-13: 9789333119597

This page is entitled “hanuman searches the harem” and represents Chapter 9 of the Sundara-kanda of the Ramayana (English translation by Hari Prasad Shastri). The Ramayana narrates the legend of Rama and Sita and her abduction by Ravana, the king of Lanka. It contains 24,000 verses divided into seven sections [viz., Sundara-kanda].

Chapter 9 - Hanuman searches the Harem

Within these precincts, a magnificent building, remarkable for its spaciousness and splendour, arrested the attention of Hanuman, the son of Maruta; it was two miles in width, four in length and belonged to the King of the Titans himself.

And Hanuman, the slayer of his foes, ranging here and there in search of the Princess of Videha, the large-eyed Sita, beheld that goodly residence where the titans dwelt together and he approached the palace of the king, surrounded by three and four tusked elephants and guarded in its entire length by warriors bearing weapons in their hands. He beheld that dwelling, thronged with titan women, consorts of Ravana, and also the daughters of kings who had been forcibly carried away by him, which resembled an ocean teeming with crocodiles, sharks, whales, enormous fish and serpents, agitated by the force of the tempest. And the splendour of the abode of Vaish-ravana, Candra and Harivahana was reflected in Ravana’s palace, a splendour that was unequalled and changeless and the prosperity of the residences of Kuvera, Yama and Varuna were rivalled, nay surpassed, by that of the titan’s abode.

In the centre of that palace, the offspring of the wind, saw yet another edifice, well constructed and furnished with innumerable grilles. Formerly created in heaven at Brahma’s wish by Vishvakarma, that noble car embellished with gems was called Pushpaka, which Kuvera had acquired by prolonged austerities and of which the King of the Titans, having vanquished him by his might, took possession. And that mighty monkey ascended that splendid car, containing figures of wolves made of Kartasvara and Hiranya gold and adorned with slender pillars of dazzling splendour, furnished with private rooms and gleaming pavilions, resembling the Meru and Mandara Mountains, licking the skies and blazing like the sun.

This masterpiece of Vishvakarma had many golden stairways and a superb and marvellous ceiling; it contained balconies and galleries of deep blue sapphire and other precious gems; the floors were encrusted with rare pearls which rendered it blindingly beautiful; built of red sandalwood and shining like pure gold, it resembled the rising sun and subtle perfumes rose therefrom.

That mighty monkey, stationed there, smelt the rich odour of wines and viands which rose on every side, and those ambrosial and penetrating fumes seemed to him to be the embodiment of Anila herself and were inhaled by him as coming from an intimate friend, and that aroma seemed to say to Hanuman “Come hither where Ravana is to be found”, and he proceeded further and beheld a vast and glorious hall.

Now that spacious apartment was very dear to Ravana, who looked on it as a greatly cherished woman and its jewelled stairways and galleries of pure gold gave it a dazzling appearance, the floors being of crystal with inlay of ivory, pearl, diamond, coral, silver and gold. It was adorned with many jewelled pilasters, which were symetrical, straight, elegant and inlaid with exceeding artistry and it was supported by tall pillars of equal size resembling wings so that the building seemed to be flying in the air and the floor was covered by a carpet, wide and four-cornered like the earth and patterned as with varied countries, kingdoms and dwellings, and there the song of birds could be heard and it was pervaded by a celestial fragrance.

Hung with rich tapestries, darkened by incense fumes, spotless and pure as a swan, garlanded with leaves and flowers lending it the resemblance of Kamadhenu, bringing delight to the heart, colour to the cheek, giving birth to prosperity and banishing all sorrow, the apartments of the King of the Titans gratified every sense, as if it were a mother.

Entering that abode protected by Ravana, Hanuman asked himself: “Can this be paradise or the region of the Gods or Indra’s capital or the state of supreme bliss?” and he examined the golden lamps, which resembled gamblers absorbed in their dice, who, defeated by their opponents, are plunged in thought, and Hanuman perceived that the brilliance of the lamps and the lustre of Ravana and the splendour of the decorations, illumined the appartment.

He beheld innumerable women, lying on the rugs, attired in every kind of raiment with wreaths on their heads, who, under the influence of wine, had fallen asleep, having ceased to disport themselves, half the night being spent. And, on account of the silence, that great company, decked with ornaments, the tinkling of which was no longer audible, resembled a vast lake filled with lotuses where the sound of the swans and the humming of bees has ceased.

Maruti gazed on the faces of those lovely women with eyes and mouths shut fast, emitting a flower-like fragrance and they resembled lotuses that, folding their petals at evening, wait for the dawn to open them once more or like water lilies which the bees, intoxicated with love, visit continually. With just cause did that noble and mighty monkey compare them to nymphoeae, for the harem was bright with their radiance, as the starry heavens on a serene autumnal night and, in their midst, the King of the Titans blazed like a fair moon, encircled by attendant stars.

Then that monkey said to himself: “Those planets that have fallen from the firmament, their merit exhausted, are all re-united here”, and in sooth, those women in their grace, beauty and magnificence shone like dazzling meteors.

Some lay wrapped in slumber into which they had fallen in the midst of dancing and feasting, their hair and crowns in disarray, their ornaments scattered here and there; others amongst those lovely beings had lost their anklets and the tilaka mark on their foreheads had been effaced; some had allowed their garlands to fall aside, some had broken their pearls and, their raiment in disorder, their girdles loosened, resembled disburdened mules, whilst others, bereft of earrings, their garlands torn and crushed, looked like flowering creepers trodden under foot by great elephants in the forest.

Sometimes the loosened pearls, like the scintillating rays of the moon, lay between the women’s breasts like sleeping swans, whilst chains of emerald resembled drakes or those of gold looked like Cakravata birds. And those women were like unto rivers, their thighs being the banks, where swans, geese and other waterfowl disport themselves or, sleeping, resembled streams, the golden bells on their girdles, the ripples, their faces, the lotuses, their amorous desires, the crocodiles, their grace, the banks.

On their tender limbs the marks of the ornaments looked like bees, whilst the veils of others, rising and falling with their breath, fluttered gracefully before their faces like bright streamers of many-coloured yarn and the earrings of others vibrated gently with the circulating air.

Their subtly perfumed breath impregnated with the aroma of sugar-sweetened wines which they had drunk, caused Ravana delight and, some of his consorts, in dream, savoured the lips of their rivals again and again, deeming them to be the king’s. Passionately devoted to their lord, these lovely women, no longer mistresses of themselves, offered their companions marks of their affection. Some, in their rich attire, slept leaning on their arms laden with bracelets, some rested on their companions’ breasts, some on their laps, their bosoms, their thighs and backs, and under the influence of wine, clinging amorously to one another, those women of slender waist, slept, their arms intertwined.

Those groups of damsels enfolding one another, resembled a garland of flowers visited by amorous bees or, like creepers opening to the caress of the vernal breeze that intertwine, forming clusters of blossom or the interlocking branches of great forest trees full of swarming bees; thus seemed this gathering of Ravana’s consorts. And on account of the proximity of these women, sleeping close to one another, it was impossible to distinguish to whom the jewels, veils and garlands covering their limbs, belonged.

While Ravana slept, the beauty of those women resembling golden lamps, seemed to watch over him and there were daughters of Rajarishis, Giants and Celestial Beings, who had become his consorts and that war-like titan king had acquired them after subduing their relatives, though some had followed him of their own accord from love. None had been forcibly borne away who had not been attracted by his prowess and qualities and none had belonged to another, save the daughter of Janaka whose heart was set on Rama; none was devoid of nobility, beauty, intelligence and grace and each was the object of Ravana’s desire.

Then the lord of the monkeys, endowed with virtue, reflected: “If the consort of Raghava were as one of these women, the King of the Titans would indeed be blessed to-day, but Sita is far superior to them on account of her great qualities, which is evident, since for her sake that mighty monarch of Lanka has committed this wicked deed.

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