Hanūmān flew through the sky which resembled the ocean in all its features. He entered and reemerged from the mass of clouds and resembled the moon, which is alternately hidden and revealed. He stroked the king of mountains, Sunābha (Maināka) with his hand and flew like an arrow shot from a bow. As he spotted the Mount Mahendra, he roared and it was heard by the vānaras who were waiting eagerly for him. Jāmbavān understood from Hanūmān’s joyous roar that he had brought good news and told so to all the other vānaras. The delighted vānaras leapt from one tree to another, from one hill to another to see Hanūmān. They shook the branches that had colourful flowers and it looked as if they were waving brightly coloured clothes. As Hanūmān arrived atop the Mount Mahendra, the vānaras welcomed him with hands joined in reverence and excitedly offered him fruits, roots, and branches. Hanūmān bowed down to the elders, to Jāmbavān, and to Aṅgada. As all the vānaras bowed down to him reverence, Hanūmān said in brief, “I saw the devi – the queen!” All vānaras celebrated the news; some roared, others chattered and yet others, stood with their tails raised up. Many hugged him.
Upon the request of Jāmbavān, Hanūmān explained every detail of his trip to Laṅkā. He concluded by saying, “I was able to do all this only because of Rāma’s prowess and all your energy!” He added, “Sītā’s strength of character is such that she can hold up the three worlds; if she so wishes, she can reduce them to ashes as well! Rāvaṇa must also be immensely powerful for he has not gotten destroyed upon touching her body. His tapas must be great as well. Even the flames of fire cannot do to one’s hand what Sītā’s touch can do! In fact, Rāma will merely be an instrument of destruction; such is the condition of her sorrow. Let us put all our efforts in trying to help Sītā overcome her sorrow!”
The vānaras decided that it would be best to inform Rāma and Sugrīva of the good news and headed towards them with great alacrity. As they leaped into the sky and jumped from tree to tree, they arrived at a grove known as Madhuvana, which was as beautiful as Indra’s Nandana-vana. It was under the protection of Sugrīva and was guarded by his maternal uncle, Dadhimukha. The vānaras got wildly excited as they arrived there and begged Aṅgada to permit them to enjoy honey there. The prince got them the permission of Jāmbavān and other senior vānaras. As they drunk the honey-wine, they began dancing with joy. Some sang, some jumped, some leapt to the top of tall trees. One went laughing to another which was singing and yet another went weeping to another which was laughing. The army of vānaras was in a state of delirium induced by drinking of the mead. There was no vānara, who was not drunk. Some of the drunk monkeys roared like lions and others chirped like birds. Some threw beeswax at each other and many passed out on the ground. They dragged the guardians by their feet and insulted them by showing their posteriors. Then, an enraged Dadhimukha entered the grove, as the vānaras were tearing down the leaves and blossoms from the trees. He tried to bring them under control by shouting at some and requesting others. But the vānaras, led by Hanūmān mauled him with their claws, bit him, and nearly killed him with their hands and feet. Aṅgada too attacked him, without even realising that he was harming a family elder. In the state of intoxication, they knew no fear and did not know what they were doing.
Dadhimukha, who was bleeding and had his bones broken, somehow freed himself from the vānaras. In a secluded spot, he told his servants, “Let them be. Let us rush to our master Sugrīva, where he is with Rāma. I will report to him all the misdeeds of Aṅgada; once he hears it, he will surely execute these monkeys. The Madhuvana is a cherished possession of Sugrīva, which he has inherited from his forefathers! The monkeys must be taught a lesson!”
Dadhimukha went to Sugrīva with his hands cupped in revered and narrated everything that had taken place. As Sugrīva was listening to Dadhimukha, Lakṣmaṇa asked, “O king! Why has this guardian of the grove come before you with such a doleful face?” Sugrīva said, “Lakṣmaṇa! Dadhimukha says that vānaras led by Aṅgada have drunk up my honey-wine. If they hadn’t accomplished their mission, they would not have behaved this way. I am sure the queen has been found by Hanūmān! No one else could have achieved success. In an endeavour where Jāmbavān is the leader, Aṅgada is the general, and Hanūmān is the director, there can be no other outcome!” Listening to Sugrīva’s words, both Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa were delighted. Sugrīva said to Dadhimukha, “I am delighted that the vānaras, having successfully completed their task, have devoured the grove. People who have accomplished their mission may be pardoned when they engage in such behaviour and I have already done so. I would like to see Hanūmān and the vānaras at once!”
Delighted, Dadhimukha sprang up and rushed back to Madhuvana. He saw that the vānaras were now sober and were urinating all the mead they had drunk. Dadhimukha informed Aṅgada of Sugrīva’s eagerness to see them and begged him for pardon for asking the guards to restrain the vānaras. Immediately, Aṅgada and the vānaras leapt up into the sky, just as flames of Agni from a yajña spread into the sky.
While Aṅgada and the vānaras were on their way, Sugrīva reassured Rāma, “I am sure that the queen has been found. If not, the vānaras wouldn’t have dared to come here after the expiration of the time limit I had set. If the mission had failed, Aṅgada would not have dared to come to me; would have been dejected when the vānaras destroyed the Madhuvana, which is an ancestral inheritance for him as well. I am sure that it was Hanūmān who has found the queen!”
Even as he was saying so, they heard the chatter and roars of the approaching vānaras; they were screeching in pride as though to announce their success. The lord of vānaras, upon hearing the sound, was so delighted that he stretched his tail to the full and raised it over his head. Led by Aṅgada, the vānaras arrived at the Mount Prasravaṇa. Hanūmān joyfully informed Rāma that the queen was unharmed and possessed immense self-control. The brothers were overjoyed and Lakṣmaṇa cast an affectionate glance at Sugrīva. Rāma, who was revelling in extreme joy, looked at Hanūmān with immeasurable affection and regard. The vānaras together related everything that had taken place and the manner in which Sītā had been discovered.
Rāma further enquired, “Where is Devī Sītā? How is she disposed toward me? Tell me in detail, vānaras!” Hanūmān recounted all the events in detail and conveyed Sītā’s message to Rāma. When he was confident that the princes were reassured with his narration, he gave the means of recognition – Sītā’s cūḍāmaṇi to Rāghava. Upon hearing his from Hanūmān, Rāma hugged the cūḍāmaṇi to his heart and wept dearly and so did Lakṣmaṇa.
Rāma said, “Just as a loving cow spills milk at the thought of her loved calf, so my heart melts at the sight of this splendid jewel. It was given to Vaidehī by my father-in-law on the occasion of our wedding and was a prized possession of her family. This gem was born from the waters and was gifted by Śakra who was very pleased with a yajña. It looked even more beautiful when she wore it on her head. As I look at this jewel, I am reminded of my father and father-in-law. Now with the gem with me, I feel as though my beloved herself is back. O gracious one, please tell me again and again what Vaidehī said; sprinkle me with her words, just as a person who has fainted is sprinkled with water. Saumitri! What can be more painful than this – This jewel has landed in my hands without Vaidehī! If Vaidehī can survive for a month, I cannot even live for a moment without her. I cannot remain here for a moment longer, as I have heard about her. Please take me to where she is. How does she survive amidst rākṣasīs? How does Jānakī bear greater and greater sorrow, one after the other?”
Hanūmān recounted the episode of the crow as narrated to him by Sītā. He also narrated the way he reassured her and instilled confidence.
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.]