Rama speaks with Garuda

Garuda comes down personally to save Rama and Lakshmana from the bounds of the deadly Nagastra. After healing them, he lifts the brothers to a sitting position. He then embraces Rama. The senior prince realizes that Garuda is the one who saved both of them from near death. So he offers his salutations to the mighty bird and thanks him for helping them overcome the disaster which was originally created by Indrajit. As a warrior, Rama understands fully, the impact of a leaderless army fighting Ravana.

He compares Garuda to his father Dasaratha and his paternal grandfather Aja and tells the son of Vinata that he is gladdened to meet him.

Then he asks who his savior is!

“Who are you, the one endowed with beauty, having blissful garlands and anointments, wearing clean garments and adorned with divine ornaments?”

He asks this question because he genuinely does not know who Garuda is. Now, does he not know? How can he not identify his own vehicle? Garuda belongs to an elite group known as Nitya Suris. We the Jivatmas are in bondage and go through unending cycles of births and deaths and are called Bhaddhas or Bhaddh-athmas.  People who were once Bhaddh-athmas and have crossed that stage successfully to attain Moksha are called Mukth-athmas. Blessed Souls who were never in this cycle and who are eternally free from any bonds are called Nitya-athmas or Nitya-Suris. Garuda belongs to this group along with Adhisesha and Vishvaksena. They are always by the side of Lord Narayana and submerged in his duties day in and day out.  The question is surprising given the stature of Garuda. From the other side, it is also not very surprising as we all know about Rama by now and to what extent he can go to prove that he is fully human.

Garuda replies thus.

“O, Rama! I am your dearest friend Garuda dear as your own breath moving outside I came here for the purpose of helping you, both.”

Now, the great bird says the princes are his friends. But the prince asks Garuda who he was. Garuda understands that Rama is human now and hence rightfully he does not recognize him for they have never met each other till that instance. He satiates Rama’s curiosity by uttering these words and then flies away to his abode having completed his duty.

“”O, hero! You need not be so curious to know the cause of my friendship. You will know of it once you have accomplished success in battle.”

This dialogue proves how well Rama undertook the human form. The totality of his incarnation is pretty evident from episodes like this.  Whereas at some places, we see him performing Godly acts, there are places where others around him prove that he is God by their acts and speeches…

Rama and Lakshmana saved

Bound by that formidable network of arrows, the two high-souled sons of Dasaratha lay bathed in blood, breathing like serpents. In the meantime, the mighty Rama by virtue of his native strength awoke from his swoon, despite the shafts that held him captive. But Lakshmana is still unconscious.

The elder of the Raghu clan is stricken with grief on seeing his brother’s body lying nearby without any movement. He tells everyone around him that the rescue of Seetha means nothing to him if he were to lose his dear brother in the process. He feels that he can never face Sumitra if he were to return to Ayodhya without Lakshmana. He is so badly shaken that he thinks he cannot fight anymore and even asks Sugriva to return home immediately.

Vibishana enters the scene and is totally taken aback to see Rama in this plight. He consoles him by saying that Lakshmana would be fine and would get up soon. He is also angry that the son of his brother has deceived two honorable fighters using his cunning demonic mind. Sushena, the father in law of Sugriva, tells him that there are herbs of sacred formulas in the ocean of milk, which the celestials used to treat all their injuries during their war with the demons. He also asks his son in law to send some monkeys to get them so that he could treat the fallen brothers.

When they are discussing thus, a great wind arises, accompanied by massive clouds and lightening. The wind whips up salty waves in the ocean and makes the mountains tremble. Trees are uprooted from the mountains. The animals and snakes from the mountains plunge into the ocean.

From the winds arose Garuda, he king of birds and son of Vinata like a blazing torch. Naturally, on seeing him, the snakes released their grips on the brothers and fled away. Taking them into his hands, Garuda caresses their faces with affection. Touched by him, Rama and Lakshmana are healed of their wounds. They regain their shine, radiance, strength, valor, endurance and memory all of which are now doubled.

Would Garuda himself come down to our world to save some ordinary human bound by serpents? His arrival proves that Rama is God. But then, the conversation that happened next will make you tizzy.

Rama slayed by Indrajit

Vibishana chooses the side of Dharma when he chooses Rama as his mentor. Soon the war starts. Monkeys are fighting the mighty asuras with mountains, trees, nails and every other thing they could lay their hands on.

Monkey army engages in hand to hand combat to which the asuras have no answers. They realize that they cannot defeat Rama’s army in daylight. So they wait for the sun to set as their strengths increase in darkness and they can fight with renewed vigor. Angada is fighting Indrajit, Hanuman is pitted against Jambumali and Nala is fighting Pratapana. Warriors from each side pick their opponents and engage them in a fierce personal battle. While the asuras use arrows, maces, and other weapons, the monkey army is using their strong hands, nails, and trees. Sugriva kills Praghasa after being hit by a volley of arrows.

When Angada hits Indrajit, he becomes invisible along with his chariot. The monkeys think that Indrajit is dead and are in a jubilant mood. They hail Angada as a true hero who killes Ravana’s son. But soon Indrajit starts sending out fierce serpentine arrows which entwine all the monkeys rendering them incapable. Rama and Lakshmana are also hit by these arrows and fall down unconscious.

Sugurva’s entire army is desponded on seeing the two brothers tied by the serpents and lying unconscious in the battle field. They don’t know what to do. The arrows are shot with such precision that the brothers are bounded by them in a twinkling of an eye. They are covered by numerous arrows and fall down like a cut tree. Blood is gushing from them like water from a tap.

The entire monkey army is now gathered around the brothers of the Raghu Clan. They are depressed. Vibishana comes to the spot and identifies Indrajit through his powers. He realizes that it was Indrajit who fell the brothers with magic and the serpentine arrows. He then tries to encourage his army by saying that both Rama and Laskhmana are not dead and would surely raise from this position.  Meanwhile, Indrajit informs Ravana that he has killed both Rama and Lakshmana. Ravana is overjoyed.

Is Rama really dead? Can God die? Is Rama proving us that he is humane by dying?

Ramayana – Rama meets Vibishana

Hanuman returns to Rameswaram after seeing Sita in Lanka. He confirms her presence to Rama who then fixes an auspicious hour for their departure to Lanka. Meanwhile in Lanka, Ravana convenes a meeting of all his ministers to discuss about what happened in Lanka. All the asuras and demons that are present there eulogize on their collective strength and encourage Ravana by misleading him to think that they are actually stronger. Ravana also thinks that the entire army of Rama is like Jatayu whom he killed while bringing Sita to Lanka.

Vibishana, Ravana’s brother, begs to differ. He offers words of morality to his brother king and his ministers. He also advices Ravana to send Sita back to her husband so that the impending war could be avoided. After hearing these words from Vibishana, Ravana goes to his court and asks Prahasta to defend the city. In his court, seeing that he is enraged, a very strong demon named Mahaparsva advices Ravana to take Sita by force. But Ravana knows fully well that he cannot do that due to a curse that he has earned from Brahma.

Sensing that the discussions are going in the wrong direction and that Ravana is being misled by all the demons surrounding him, Vibishana talks in length about Rama’s valor and the strength of his arrows. He urges and even pleads with Ravana to send Sita back to avoid bloodshed. But he finds that all his counsels are falling into deaf ears. So he leaves the sides of Ravana and comes to Rama.

On seeing him all the monkeys are agitated. They are ready to attack him and kill him once he lands on this side. Sugriva announces that Vibishana has come and that he wants to join hands with them. Rama is happy and asks Sugriva to bring Vibishana to him. Sugriva and the others try to persuade Rama against this move as they suspect that this is a ploy by Ravana and that Vibishana is dangerous.

Rama dismisses this argument and instinctively but casually remarks that if he wished, he could kill all the devilish beings, demons, ogres and supernatural beings living on this earth with just a tip of his finger.

Now how many human beings could say that? In typical Rama style, Godliness and Humaneness keeps bursting out alternately in his acts, talks and emotions. Rama keeps establishing again and again that he is God and he uses that fact to steer all those around him towards the path of dharma in the Ramayana.

Ramayana – Rama releases Jatayu

Jatayu is lying down in Rama’s arms, making them his death bed. Rama is crying that Jatayu is going to pass away and is complaining about his fate to Lakshmana. After Jatayu’s death, Rama performs all the last rites that are usually performed for one’s own paternal people. Then the brothers took funeral bath in the waters of river Godavari and Rama oblates waters from the river for the king of vultures.

Before all these duties, he looks at the departed Jatayu and says

“”Oh, greatly mighty king of eagles, by me cremated ritually and by me aptly consented to, you depart to the unexcelled heavenly worlds… you depart to those worlds that are destined for the virtuosos of Vedic-rituals, and to those worlds that are destined for the practicing people of ascesis amid Five-Ritual-fires, and to those that are destined for un-retreating combatants, and to those worlds that destined for the donors of lands…”

In short, he gives Moksha or Mukti to the bird instinctively. At one instance, he is crying and the next instance he gives moksha. Two extreme emotions are coming out from Rama as seen frequently before.

Now, release from the cycle of birth and death can only be granted by The Supreme Being. Also, he overrides some very important rules that have been laid down for humans for obtaining Moksha. He who has no familiarity with the path of Yoga (Yoga Margam), he who is born as something that cannot practice the means for obtaining Mukti and he who has been killed by a Brahmin- is not eligible for the final release. Jatayu breaks all these rules. He is a bird and is killed by Ravana(however bad he may be) who is a Brahmin. But still Rama overrides all the rules that he set forth and grants Moksha because he does not need a reason to do what he thinks. When god wishes to do something, he does it.

On one side, Rama is stricken with sorrow, wails over Sita’s loss and reaches out to Lakshmana for counsel. But on the other side, he grants the ultimate wish any jivatma would ask for and which ONLY he can grant. Happenings like these throughout Ramayana keep reinforcing the fact that Rama is God, although he wants the world to feel otherwise.

Ramayana – Rama and Jatayu

Sita has been abducted by Ravana and is being taken to Lanka in his pushpaka viman. Rama and Lakshmana know the general direction in which the Viman went, but they do not know the exact location. So they go in search of her through the forest.

While on flight, Ravana is blocked by the vulture king – Jatayu. Jatayu is one of Dasaratha’s close friends. He is the son of Lord Aruna  who is the son of sage Kashyap, brother of Garuda and the charioteer of Surya, the sun god. He very well knows that Ravana is abducting Sita and tries to stop Ravana by putting up a brave fight. Ravana easily slays Jatayu by cutting both his wings during the fight.

Now that the wings are gone, Jatayu falls down. He is holding his life, for he knows that Rama would come following Ravana. He realizes that he needs to guide Rama in the right direction. Rama comes to the spot where Jatayu is lying and becomes crestfallen after seeing his spate. He embraces Jatayu and starts crying bringing to the fore, his human nature.

He tells Lakshmana that it is because of his luck that all those who are associated with him are facing miseries in their lives inferring to his brother, his father, his wife and now Jatayu, whom Rama considers to be his father’s brother. He goes to the extent of saying that if he sits under a tree, the tree would fall and if he drinks the water from a river, it would dry up. Then he remembers his human duties, as Jatayu, whom he considers his own uncle, is dying in his arms. He embraces Jatayu knowing very well that he is breathing his last. After Jatayu dies, he performs the last rites according to the vedas. He feels that since he could not perform the last rites for his father, he could at least perform them for Jatayu.

After the death of Jatayu in Rama’s arms, he feels, emotes and acts like any other human being would do (on seeing one of his close relatives die).  He cries and rues about his fate, feeling very lowly about himself. While what he does after Jatayu died are his humanely duties,  he also did something that is astonishing and proves without any doubt what august seers like Vishwamitra knew – that Rama is God in plain clothes!

Ramayana – Vishwamitra asks for Rama’s help

Although Rama wanted to show the universe that he was only human, there were a lot of places where the God in him erupted out like a volcano. When we read the Ramayana, we can find a lot of instances in which Rama’s Godliness is displayed by him intentionally or unintentionally, or by people around him.

Vishwamitra comes to Dasaratha’s court asking to take Rama and Lakshmana to guard his Yagna. The king is not ready to send his sons. They are after all 12 years old. But then he also realizes that he cannot give a direct “no” as an answer to the great sage. So he indirectly states that he is not ready to send Rama (and Lakshmana). The dialogue that happened between the king and the sage is as follows.

“My Rama is not even 16 years old! He is lotus eyed. How can I send him with you?” asks the king.

The sage is not ready to take “no” as an answer though. He says

“I know who Rama is. He is the Mahatma (who is on top of all the Jivatmas) and so full of Valor and Satya Parakrama. You can even ask sage Vasishta, your guru. He will agree with me on this”

What Dasaratha said, is loaded with hidden meanings and that is why the sage had to emphasize on the fact that Rama was indeed God.

When the king talked about Rama’s age, he made it clear to Vishwamitra that Rama was not ready to fight as dharma stated that a person had to be at least 16 years old to engage in a fight. When he said that Rama was lotus eyed, he indirectly meant that Rama was still a kid and was like a gentle lotus which would close all its petals once the sun set in the evening and would wait for the sun to rise before opening its petals again. This can be seen as an important reason because the sage was asking for Rama’s help to kill Rakshasas and Asuras who fight through the night. So the king meant that Rama was not ready for such a fight spanning across nights as he was still a gentle boy not accustomed to being awake through the night.

To counter this argument, Vishwamitra had to admit to Dasaratha, something that he always knew- that Rama was the Supreme Lord himself and in one of his incarnations and also asked for Vasishta’s help to re-inforce this fact with the king. Vasishta and Vishwamitra were always found on the opposite sides of an argument and never saw things similarly. But Vishwamitra was confident that in this context Vasishta realized the same thing and hence would agree with him. Vasishta agreed with him and nudged the king to send Rama and Lakshmana with Vishwamitra.

Someone as august as Vishwamitra and Vasishta knowing that Rama was God clearly tilts the balance in favor of Rama being more God than human. Let us see other such instances in the future posts.