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Musings on sita's agni-pravEsam#4

From: sudarshan (lucasfie_at_md2.vsnl.net.in)
Date: Sun Nov 15 1998 - 04:30:16 PST

Dear Sri.S.H.Krishnan and other members who are following this thread,

It is time for us to commence examining in detail the scene of the
"agni-pravEsam" as depicted in the Valmiki Ramayana.In doing so we must be
willing to flex our imaginations a bit so that the vividness of the
situation comes alive.
                    
                     ******               ******             *******
The war in Lanka had ended. It was a misty morning when the sun had not yet
quite risen in the eastern skies. From atop a hillock Rama looked at the
aftermath of the furious battles fought in the past weeks.

The killing-fields of Lanka presented themselves to Him in all their gory
detail. Blood flowed in the streets. The earth lay scorched and scarred....
and the torn limbs of soldiers scattered everywhere....Ruined remains of
chariots dotted the landscape like sombre shipwrecks on a deserted
beach.... the reek of rotting flesh --- of dead battle-horses, bears and
elephants --- filled the air.....

Everywhere Sri.Rama turned He saw nothing but death, dismemberment and
destruction wrought by His own hands.

As he walked through all the mayhem and casualty, the stunned Prince of
Ayodhya heard the painful moaning of the grievously wounded ...and the
dying.The wailing of dead men's mothers and wives rang in His ears,
hounding and following Him everywhere on His post-battle tour of the
island-city.

His own dear "vanarA-s" lay dead in the thousands.... unknown, unsung
heroes who'd martyred away their lives for a cause that was really not
their own.....

It is reasonable to assume that in those early hours in the aftermath of
the Lanka war Sri.Rama may have been assailed by a momentary but profound
sense of despair not unlike the black mood of depression which, at another
time in another age, overcame Arjuna at the commencement of the Kurukshetra
war. The cruel wages of a war of His own making after all, Sri.Rama
realized, had been dearly paid for by countless innocent families --- both
"vAnarA" and "rAkshasa". Thousands had been bereaved. Thousands more
needlessly dragged into a collossal, monumental tragedy for no real reason
other than that they were the loyal subjects of either Ravana or Sugriva
and hence had had to follow their respective sovereign into a bloody
war.... and unto bloody death.... "theirs not to ask why, theirs but to do
and die".... 

In those grim, anguished moments, we should imagine, Sri.Rama may well have
soliloquised :

"What has this war been really about? To redeem the honour of the IshvAku
House? To save the name of Dasaratha? Or my own? Why, oh why then did this
war have to be fought by these poor "vAnarA" infantry? Why, why indeed, did
these apes and bears, these poor denizens of the forest, have to be used by
me as so much cannon-fodder? This was a war that ought to have been fought
between "rAkshasa" and the citizenry of AyodhyA. The ranks in my army here
ought to have been filled with the hordes of men who followed Bharatha
across the Sarayu into Chitrakoot. Would those my kinsmen from Ayodhya have
set forth to spill blood on my behalf as readily, gladly and as
unquestioningly as these beloved "vAnarA-s" have done?"

"If this war had been won with my own clansmen from Saket fighting by my
side it would have earned them the glory of their kingdom and restored for
them the sovereignty of their King and Queen. But what has this victory in
this war now earned for these poor "vAnarA-s"? Nothing.... 

"What have I done? Oh, rue me, what have I done? I have done nothing but
bring death and despair to the countless innocent families of Kishkinda
.....all in the name and for the sake of my honour and that of my absent
kinsmen....Oh, what have I done...?".        

                                ***********            **************      
       **************
Far away from where Rama stood, and deep in the interior of Lanka, in the
thick woods of the Ashokavana, Sita too awoke to a new day thinking that
the news of her Lord's victory would cheer her withered heart. Strangely,
at precisely the moment when her cup of joy ought to have brimming over,
not unlike Rama she too felt in her heart the numbness of a familiar but
overwhelming sadness. She too knew about the death and destruction that had
been dealt to all Lanka by a war that had been fought for and over her.

Many days ago she had had a foreboding of this very moment when a more than
human tragedy would befall Lanka. It filled her with grief that her
premonition had to come true on the same occasion when she won her personal
liberation.

"yAdhrshAneeha dhrshyanthE lankAyAma-shubhAni vai I
   achirENaiva kAlEna prApsyAmyEva manOraTham II  

"noonam lanka hathE pApE rAvanE rAksha-sADhamE I
  shOsham yAsyathi durDharshAm pramadA viDhava yaThA II

"noonam rAkshasa-kanyAnAm rudantInAm gruhE gruhE I
  srOshyAmi nachirAdEva duKhArthA-nAmiha Dhvanim  II

"sAnDhakArA hathadhyOtha hatha-rAkshasa pungavA I
  Bhavishyathi pUrI lanka nirdAgDhA rAmasAyakai-hi  II "       

( Valmiki Ramayana -- V . 26, 26-27, 29-30)

"This city which is now stricken by so many omens of evil will in a short
time lose her splendour. As a woman reduced to widowhood, so will Lanka be
when her lord Ravana is destroyed. In no time will this city soon hear the
piercing shrieks of grief echoing from every household, for in every house
shall a 'rAkshasa' have gone to battle and failed to return home."

We shall continue in the next post.

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,
sudarshan