Vālī’s wife Tārā heard that her husband had been struck down by an arrow shot by Rāma. She rushed out with her son from her cave-residence. At the sight of Rāma with his bow, many timid vānaras started fleeing. They warned Tārā not to go to the vicinity of Rāma and said, “Let our warriors protect the city and Aṅgada assumes kingship. We will all serve him!” Nevertheless, Tārā went to her mortally wounded husband and lamented, “O peerless warrior in battles! Why do you now not speak to this wretched woman, who has done no wrong! Rise up, tiger among vānaras! A great king like you should not lie on the ground but I can see that you love the earth so dearly that even in death you embrace her and abandon me. My heart is, perhaps, really hard, as it does not shatter into a thousand pieces. You have reaped this fruit for having exiled Sugrīva and taken his wife. Console your son and give him your instructions as you leave for your final journey. In slaying you, Rāma has performed a great deed and fulfilled his promise made to Sugrīva. You have realised your desire, Sugrīva! You will have Rumā back and can enjoy the kingdom, for your brother, who was your foe is now dead.” The other wives of Vālī gathered there and cried dearly for him.
As Tārā lay on the ground like a star fallen from the sky, Hanumān, the leader of the vānaras gently consoled her. He said, “Every creature upon death, reaps both the pleasant and unpleasant fruits of his past deeds. Who do you grieve for, when your own condition calls for sympathy? The body is, after all, a bubble – who is to mourn for whom? You must look after the young prince Aṅgada and plan for his future. O blameless one, the entire kingdom of vānaras as well as Aṅgada look up to you now as their guardian. You son must be crowned king and then you will find peace!”
Tārā continued to lament. “I have no power over the kingdom or over Aṅgada. Sugrīva will now hold its reins, O Hanumān! A father is the real kinsman to the son and not the mother. I can find no refuge for myself other than in Vālī. It is only fitting that I share the death bed of my husband!”
Breathing hard with his life ebbing away, Vālī opened his eyes and looked around. He first spotted Sugrīva and said affectionately, “Please do not harbour grudge against me, Sugrīva. I offended you as I was under an overpowering delusion caused by Irresistible Fate. It appears like you and I were not destined to enjoy the comforts of the kingdom together and savour the mutual love that is natural between brothers. I will be departing from this world now; take over the kingship of the vānaras at once. Please carry out my requests. Here is Aṅgada, still a child, but not a fool. Raised amidst comforts, he has fallen to the ground, his face covered with tears. Look upon him—a child dearer to me than my own life—as your own son. This son of Tārā will lead the battle against the rākṣasas. Tārā, the daughter of Suṣeṇa, possesses unerring judgement in dealing with subtle questions of polity and during sudden danger. Whatever she advises as the proper course of action should be carried out without any qualms—for never has Tārā’s judgement been faulty. You must accomplish Rāghava’s mission without the slightest doubt—it would be adharma not to do so. If not, he will not hesitate to punish you. Take this celestial golden garland, Sugrīva; once I pass on, it might lose its auspicious power.” As Vālī addressed him with such brotherly affection, Sugrīva’s resentment against his brother was allayed and he received the garland.
Vālī then advised Aṅgada, “Bear with equanimity all that you face – pleasant or unpleasant. You should know the right time and place for any action. Be amicable to Sugrīva’s will. If you continue to act as you did when you were pampered by me, Sugrīva will not like it. Don’t associate with his enemies or the friends of his adversaries. Do not cultivate excessive attachment or display lack of affection: both are serious faults. Observe moderation – the golden mean!” With these words, Vālī, who suffered excruciating pain from the arrow fell dead with his eyes rolling. Tārā plunged in an ocean of grief as she gazed at the face of her dead husband. She embraced him like a creeper clinging on to a giant tree that had been cut down.
Tārā cried, “You did not listen to my advice, O valiant one, and you lie painfully on the ground littered with stones. You have succumbed to Sugrīva as you delighted in audacious deeds. Slain in battle, you lie on this hero’s bed, where you once you made your enemies lie. Born in a valorous and impeccable family, you have gone away, leaving me alone, unprotected. A wise man should never give his daughter in marriage to a warrior. Look at me, wedded to a warrior, now reduced to widowhood! Sugrīva has overcome all his fear merely by an arrow shot by Rāma and I cannot even embrace you completely as the arrow is stuck to your body.” The vānara Nīla then pulled out the arrow and Tārā caressed her husband, bathing him with her tears.
She said to Aṅgada, “Look at the tragic end of your father, son. This is the end of the enmity brought about by his evil karma.”
As Vālī breathed his last and Tārā continued to grieve, Rāma advised Sugrīva, “A dead person derives no benefit from grief and mourning; please look into what needs to be done next. No ritual can be carried out once the stipulated time passes. Kāla brings about action and controls everything on earth. No being is truly in control of anything. People are governed by their inherent nature and kāla is their ultimate resort. Kāla is inevitable. Dharma, artha, and kāma, all are under the control of kāla.” Lakṣmaṇa too asked Sugrīva and Tārā to make arrangements for the final rites of Vālī.
Tārā rushed back into her cave and brought out a śibikā (bier) with the help of vānaras. Sugrīva placed Vālī’s lifeless body in the bier and decked him with various ornaments, garlands, and garments. Under Sugrīva’s direction, the vānaras performed the funeral rites for Vālī befitting a king. The pyre was placed on a sandy bank of the mountain stream. Tārā again wept uncontrollably placing her husband’s head on her lap. She said, “Why don’t you look at me when I am so grief-stricken? Though you are dead, your face looks radiant and lively. Your vānara wives have come; look at them! Dismiss the others so that we, vānara women, can enjoy love sport with you in the forest getting drunk with alcohol.” The other vānarīs consoled her and lifted her up from the place. Aṅgada then lit the pyre and all the vānaras offered tarpaṇa in the form of water to the deceased Vālī.
Hanumān then sought Rāma’s permission for the coronation of Sugrīva and requested him to enter Kiṣkindhā, the city of caves. Rāma said, “For fourteen years, dear Hanumān, I will not enter a village or a city, as per the instruction of my father. Let Sugrīva enter the beautiful city and be crowned.” He then addressed Sugrīva, “You should make Aṅgada the crown prince. It is now Śrāvaṇa-māsa – the first of the four months of the rainy season. This is not the time for expeditions. You may enter the auspicious city, while I dwell on this mountain with Lakṣmaṇa. When the month of Kārtika arrives, you must help me in trying to kill Rāvaṇa as per our agreement.”
Thus permitted by Rāma, Sugrīva entered the city of Kiṣkindhā to the joyful greetings of thousands of vānaras. The subjects prostrated before the lord of the vānaras and Sugrīva addressed them. He then entered the lovely antaḥpura that formerly belonged to his brother. Once he came back into the assembly, his friends crowned him king. They offered him the white chattra, two golden cāmaras, as well as different kinds of jewels, garments, and garlands. The best of the brāhmaṇas who had assembled there installed Sugrīva on a throne that was facing east to the accompaniment of various mantras. All the vānaras and ṛkṣas including Hanumān, Jāmbavān, Mainda, Dvivida, and Nala then consecrated Sugrīva with fragrant water collected from various rivers and tīrthas. With Sugrīva coronated, the entire city of Kiṣkindhā was filled with joy. The city was adorned with flags and banners and celebration could be seen all around. Sugrīva informed Rāma of his coronation and then recovered his wife Rumā.
Rāma went ahead to the Mount Prasravaṇa, which was the abode of deer and resounded with the roars of lions. The tall mountain abounded in pure water and looked like a mass of clouds. Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa chose a large, deep cave as their dwelling. Though the mountain was delightful, Rāma did not have any joy as he was craving for the company of his abducted wife. Though he lay down to sleep at night, the sight of the moon rising in all its brilliance made it impossible for him to fall asleep. Lakṣmaṇa advised his older brother not to yield to anguish and invigorated the valour within him. Lakṣmaṇa said, “O Rāghava, restrain your sorrow and anger. Let us pass the rainy season of four months thinking of ways to vanquish our foe!”
As days rolled on, the rains started. Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa spent their days on the Mount Mālyavān. Rāma said to his brother, “The season of rains has commenced. Look at the sky covered with clouds as huge as mountains. The skies which drank the essence of the seas through the rays of the suns now yield water, having contained in it their womb for nine months. It appears as though one can climb to the sky using the staircase formed by the clouds and offer to the Sun a garland made of kuṭaja and arjuna flowers. The sky looks as if its wounds were bandaged with wet rags of clouds, red with the colour of sunset but pale at the edges. Sighing through its gentle breeze, the sky—pale with clouds but tinged red with the sunset—looks like a lovelorn man smeared with red sandalwood paste. The earth, parched by the heat of the summer and now flooded with water appears as if it is shedding tears, just like Sītā, scorched by anguish. Wearing clouds as their kṛṣṇājina – black antelope skin, the streams as their yajñopavīta, and caves filled with rumbling winds appear, the mountains look like brāhmaṇas reciting the Vedas. Lashed by the golden whips of lightning, the sky seems to cry out in pain in the form of the thunder. Flickering against the dark clouds, the lightning appears to me as Vaidehī writhing in Rāvaṇa’s lap. The dust of the summer has now settled, the breeze is cool, and the torments of the hot season have ceased. The kings no longer go on expeditions and men, who have been away from their native lands, return home.”
“The haṃsas that crave to live in the Mānasa-sarovara have started off and the cakravākas are united with their beloved. With the clouds visible here and there, the sky looks like a calm sea dotted with mountains. The fruit of the jambū tree looks like the black bee and can be savoured to one’s content. The many coloured, ripe mango fruits fall to the ground shaken by the wind. With the streaks of lightning as their banners, rows of balāka birds as garlands, the clouds emit thunders and resemble excited elephants trumpeting in a battle. Moreover, the balāka birds that fly towards the clouds longing for them, look like a garland of fine, white lotuses strung in the sky, gently swaying in the breeze. Elephants that are intoxicated by the fragrance of the ketaka flowers, excited by the sound of the water falls, holler excitedly along with the peacocks. Elephants which roam around the mountain peaks turn back upon hearing the thunder of the clouds just as battle elephants flee hearing the powerful trumpet of a rival elephant. Raindrops fallen on leaves appear like pearls bestowed by Indra and are drunk by birds with weakened wings. The dark clouds look like mountain peaks burnt by forest fire.”
“This Prauṣṭapada-māsa is the study time for the brāhmaṇas who perform the sāma-gāna. In this season, the Sarayū river swells just as the cheerful uproars of people of Ayodhyā will swell when they see me back in the city. Sugrīva has gained back his kingdom and enjoys with his wives this season. However, I am deprived of my kingdom and my wife, and am like a river with its banks broken. My deep sorrow, the long rainy season, and the mighty foe Rāvaṇa appear as if they are endless. Given the magnitude of the task that lies ahead of us, I did not ask Sugrīva anything immediately, though he bowed down to me, because he was exhausted and had reunited with his wives after a long time. I am sure that once he has rested enough, Sugrīva will realise himself that it is time to carry out the appropriate course of action. I will wait until Sugrīva and the rivers become favourable for action. A warrior should certainly repay the help he has received. An ungrateful person deeply hurts the noble souls.”
Lakṣmaṇa whole-heartedly agreed with Rāma’s words.
Hanumān observed that the sky was now free of clouds and was washed with delightful moonlight. He also observed that Sugrīva, who was now in power, paid little attention to dharma in his total preoccupation with the gratification of senses. He had achieved his purpose, gained the kingdom, and was always taking pleasure with women. He had relegated the duties of the kingdom to his councillors and neglected his duties as a king. Thus, Hanumān, adept in the science of polity and master of the art of right speech, spoke to Sugrīva, “You have obtained kingship and brought fame to your family. It is only right for you to support your allies. You must conduct a search for Vaidehī. Attend to Rāghava’s interests as he has already achieved your objective. The proper time for action has not run out yet and you must act without further urging. Though Dāśarathi can subdue all beings with his own arrows, he is waiting for you to fulfil your promise. He risked his life to help you! You have more than a crore vānaras who obey your orders and therefore, command us!”
Upon hearing Hanumān’s timely words, Sugrīva ordered Nīla to assemble all vānaras in fifteen days’ time and declared that if any of them does not turn up before the stipulated time, they would be punished by death. He asked Nīla and Aṅgada covey his decision to the senior vānaras.
To be continued...
[The critically constituted text and the critical edition published by the Oriental Institute, Vadodara is the primary source. In addition, the Kannada rendering of the epic by Mahāmahopādhyāya Sri. N. Ranganatha Sharma and the English translation by Sri. N. Raghunathan have been referred.]