by Hari Prasad Shastri | 1952 | 527,382 words | ISBN-10: 9333119590 | ISBN-13: 9789333119597
This page is entitled “description of the banqueting hall” and represents Chapter 11 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].
Then that mighty monkey dismissed this thought concerning Sita and began to reflect further:
“Separated from Rama, that lovely woman would be unable to sleep, eat or adorn herself nor would she submit to any other, were he King of the Celestials himself, for Rama has no equal even among the Gods; this is therefore some other.”
In this conviction, that foremost of monkeys began to search the banqueting hall anew, anxious to discover Sita.
Leaning on their tambourines, drums and Celikas, or stretched on luxurious couches, all these women slept soundly, worn out with playing, singing, dancing and drinking. And that leader of monkeys saw thousands of women beautifully adorned, some having fallen asleep discussing each other’s charms, some debating the art of singing, some skilled in discerning time and place, discoursing on circumstance, some given over to merriment and, elsewhere also, he observed beautiful and youthful women who had fallen asleep talking of beauty, or, full of perspicacity, deciding what was opportune. And in their midst, the Lord of the Titans, resembled a bull in a spacious stall, surrounded by graceful kine. Encircled by those women, that King of the Titans looked like a mighty tusker accompanied by female elephants in the forest.
In the abode of that powerful Titan King, that Hon among monkeys searched the banqueting hall throughout, furnished with every desirable object and he beheld the flesh of buffalo, deer and bear in separate dishes together with peacock and fowl on golden platters, that had not been broached, and percupine, deer and peacocks, seasoned with curds and sochal salt and goats, leverets and fish half consumed, with portions of dressed venison and sauces. There were wines of superior vintage and rare dishes with salted pies spiced with vinegar and diverse confections capable of stimulating the appetite. Costly bracelets and anklets were scattered here and there and fruit was arranged in small dishes, whilst flowers were spread about, lending the whole floor an air of splendour, and elegant couches and seats set round that place of feasting caused it to shine Hke fire. In addition, meats of every kind and flavour, seasoned with diverse substances and dressed by skilful cooks, were placed round the hall and Hanuman observed delicious beverages made of a variety of ingredients, some from sugar, some distilled from fruit and flowers or impregnated with fragrant powders.
The vast floor reflected the innumerable garlands, golden vessels, crystal bowls and cups lying everywhere and looked exceedingly beautiful and that mighty monkey saw golden wine jars studded with gems, some of which were full of wine, some half full and some wholly drained; and there were many wines that had not yet been served and various kinds of viands that remained untouched.
Elsewhere he saw many couches that were unoccupied, and some, where women of unsurpassed beauty slept, clasping each other in their arms. One of these youthful women had forcibly possessed herself of another’s quilt and, wrapping herself therein, had fallen asleep. The gentle breathing of these women barely stirred their attire or the garlands that adorned them but caressed them as it were and a gentle breeze, laden with the odour of sandal and the sweet-tasting Sidhu, with the diverse floral wreaths and flowers, perfumed bark prepared for ablutions and incense, spread over the aerial car, Pushpaka.
And in that residence of the titan there were women of incomparable beauty, some dark-skinned, some the colour of Kancana gold, who, overcome by slumber and worn out with dalliance, resembled sleeping lotuses.
Thus that mighty monkey searched every quarter of Ravana’s private apartments without seeing Janaki anywhere and, having scanned the faces of all these women, he was filled with apprehension, fearing lest he had failed in his purpose. Then he reflected: “Beholding the wife of another while she is sleeping, is undoubtedly an infringement of the moral law, verily to look on another’s wife was never my intention but here I have seen one who has lusted after the wives of others.”
Then another thought came to that sagacious monkey, single-mindedly bent on the execution of his duty: “All these consorts of Ravana have been beheld by me without their knowledge yet I find no fluctuation in the tenor of my mind. The mind is the motive power of every movement of the senses, whether it be good or evil and mine remains untroubled; further, how could I search for Sita otherwise? It is amongst women that one should look for women; every being is to be sought amongst its own kind, none searches for a woman among deer. Therefore with a pure heart I have explored Ravana’s inner apartment but I have not seen the daughter of Janaka.”
And Hanuman scrutinized the faces of the daughters of Devas, Danavas and Nagas, without finding Sita and, not finding her in that place, he left the banqueting hall and began to search elsewhere. Leaving that place of feasting, the offspring of the Wind-god began to look for Sita in another quarter.