Изображения страниц
PDF

mighty giant and brother to Ravan, was directly opposed to Rama and the monkeys; and, by a piece of generalship which, I fear, our invincible Wellington could not have executed, nor would have even thought of, bade fair to effect the destruction of the whole of the invading legions. No sooner had the battle commenced, than Koombhukurma made a desperate charge upon the dense columns of the monkeys, seized entire battalions one after another, and in a few minutes, like the destroying stork among the frogs in the fable, had nearly swallowed the whole of them. Dire would have been the event to Rama, had the Lanka chief united the prudence of our great general to his own intrepid valour; but it is a fact well known to intelligent military men, that the bravest leaders of divisions make frequently the worst commanders of armies. Thus it happened with Koombhukurma, who knew how to win, but knew not how to benefit by a victory; for, by not taking all circumstances into his consideration and properly protecting his minor positions, he had no sooner possession of the monkeys in his stomach, than with an agility incredible to those who have not witnessed the oriental warfare of those days, they leaped up again, and darted out from his nostrils and ears, recommenced the combat, and with the assistance of Rama defeated and slew him. Gladly would I undertake a more comprehensive description of this eventful war, far more prolific in incidents than those sung by Homer or Virgil, or related by any poetical veteran of the present day. Gods met gods; demons encountered ursine and simian demi-gods; charmed combatants and weapons were opposed to others equally gifted ; and death danced in various figures through all the mazes of mythological extravagance. The attempt would be vain. But as the brave warrior Hanuman was one of the most distinguished in the field, I cannot resist the impulse to wander, like the predatory follower of a camp, amidst the wreck of battle, to collect from its spoils wherewith to form a chaplet of renown for this invincible hero, and his no less redoubtable chief, the illustrious Rama. The principal commanders of Rama's army were his brother Lakshman, Hanuman, Jumont, Ungud, Nul, Neel, and Beebee Khan, a deserter from Ravan. Those of Ravan were his brother Khoombhukurma, his son Meghnaud, Unee, Unkpan, and Tekaee. Hanuman and Meghnaud were commonly opposed to each other, and each was wounded often enough to kill a hundred commanders of the present day. When Meghnaud discharged serpentine fiery arrows, Hanuman dashed mountains at him in return. The attacks of the one were evaded by monkey sauterelles, and those of the other by the instantaneous ascent of fiery chariots. Meghnaud finding he could do nothing with Hanuman, attacked Lakshman and struck him senseless to the earth; which threw the whole of Rama's army into sad consternation, for leaches as learned as Doctors H– and W-, who can see full an inch beyond their noses, declared that nothing could save him but the leaves of a particular tree that grew on a far distant mountain, which must be administered before sun-rise the next morning. Hanuman, as no one else would, undertook to obtain it; but Ravan, who had been informed of the circumstance, caused the sun to rise at midnight. Hanuman, as prompt in expedients as he was resolute in action, no sooner beheld the harbinger of the god of day, and finding that he had no time to collect the simples, tore the huge mountain from its base, seized it in one hand, and tucked Surya, with his seven horses, legless charioteer, and gorgeous chariot, under his other arm, thereby obscuring his light, arrived in time to save the life of Lakshman; although interrupted on his return by another manoeuvre of Ravan, in the person of a Rakshasa, whom he instantly trod down and crushed to death. (See fig. 2, plate 11.) After the death of Khoombhukurma, Meghnaud stood the foremost amidst Ravan's chiefs. Mounted on a fiery and invisible chariot, he enveloped his foes in sheets of fire, and transfixed every god, bear, and monkey of them, except Jumont, with a thousand darts. At Jumont, Meghnaud hurled his trident, which his opponent caught with the agility of a bear, and in return pierced Megnaud with it. He then seized him by the leg and hurled him headlong into the city. Stung with shame, the Lanka chieftain sallied out again, and after performing a multiplicity of valorous actions, a minute relation of each of which would, in modern type and margin, make up a thicker quarto volume than my own, was slain by the hand of Lakshman. After this affair, another brother of Ravan, Mehrawun, who was the then king of patala (or hell), made his appearance on the stage, and, entering the camp of Rama at midnight, took him and Lakshman prisoners, and conveyed them to the infernal regions, where they were destined to be sacrificed ; but at the moment the sacrificial sword was raised over the head of Rama, Hanuman made his appearance, liberated them, and in his rage depopulated all patala. Another sanguinary conflict then took place, in which the heavens were sometimes illumined with fiery chariots and flaming darts, at one moment rushing straight forward, then cutting zigzag, and then winding in a variety of directions, and sometimes darkened by showers of arrows, javelins, and other missile weapons. Numberless arms and legs were thus lopped off, and millions of headless bodies stalked about the battle-field. Lakshman was killed over and over again. Ravan fought here, and there, and every where, and made, in utter despair, such death-dealing charges, that even “the bravest of the brave” (Hanuman) turned tail, and was seized by Ravan, by the tail, and compelled to renew the combat, in which they both fell together to the earth. On another occasion Ravan charged the main body of the gods, except Mahadeo, and had put them to flight, had not Ungad followed him, and (a common mode of attack in those days) pulled him down by the heels. To cut short this momentous affair, I must now bring forward the immortal Rama, who, after a contest in perfect keeping with the foregoing, which lasted seven days, and which would take seven long summer days to relate, terminated it and the life of Ravan together, on learning that the navel of the giant contained a portion of the amrita, or water of immortality, by letting fly a fiery arrow, which entered that part, and instantly dried up the immortal liquor, on which the charmed existence of the giant depended. At the moment of his fate the earth shook violently, and other portentous omens disclosed the joyful event which had taken place. No sooner was the battle terminated than Indra descended, and sprinkled over the field the water of life; when every monkey and bear among the slain became immediately resuscitated; but the Rakshasas remained rotting on the ground. Rama, impatient of beholding his beloved Sita, lost no time in despatching Hanuman to bring her to the camp; but before their reunion, it was necessary that she should undergo the fiery ordeal,” to prove that her virtue had remained unsullied during the time she was in the possession of the giant. After this the victorious army dispersed, and Rama, accompanied by Sugrivu, Jumont, Nul, Neel, and Ungad, who then assumed human forms, returned with Sita to Ayodhya, where he was received by his subjects with those demonstrations of joy usually attendant upon eastern conquerors. He reigned over them ten thousand years, and was at length received into the heaven of Vishnu, leaving his kingdom to his two sons. If, in the perusal of the foregoing pages, any of my readers should have allowed their imaginations to be alarmingly worked upon respecting the fate of Sita, I am now at liberty to assure them, that, as respects that beautiful daughter of Junuka, the whole was nothing but maya, or illusion. It appears, in a very lively epitome of the Ramayana, by the late Colonel Delamain, that Rama, knowing it was destined that the abduction of Sita should lead to the destruction of Ravan, unfolded to her the true nature of his expedition. She, accordingly, consented to pass into fire during the war. Having entered it, she disappeared; and a fictitious Sita sat by Rama in her stead. Thus, after the termination of the war, when it was supposed Sita entered the flame of the fiery ordeal, the illusive body perished, and the real wife of Rama came forth, transcendent in purity and beauty. This secret was preserved even from Lakshman, and was known only to Rama and Sita. The monkey, throughout Hindustan, is considered the emblem of policy and stratagem, and the worshippers of Rama believe that he transformed himself into that animal. Holwell states, that numerous colleges of Brahmans are supported by the people for the maintenance of these animals, near the groves where they resort. They are said “to live in tribes of three or four hundred, to be extremely gentle, and to appear to possess some kind of order and subordination in their sylvan polity.” Mr. Ward assures us that, some years ago, the rajah of Nudeeya expended 100,000 rupees in celebrating a marriage ceremony between two of these descendants of Hanuman. In respect to the chain of rocks which joins the island of Ceylon to the main land of Madura, the story of an army having passed across it is not wholly a fable. The rajah of Marava being severely pressed in a retreat by the king of Madura, passed over, by means of beams extended from one rock to another, with his whole army, accompanied by their treasures, elephants, and various munitions of war. The incarnate deity, whose exploits I have just represented as they are recorded by the poet Valmic, is considered by Sir William Jones to be the same as the Dionysos or Bacchus of the Greeks. This Dionysos, or Bacchus, whom he imagined to be Rama, the son of Cush, is said to have invaded India and other countries with an army of satyrs, commanded by the Sylvan deity Pan; and Sir William Jones concludes that this army, or probably

good name (as occurred with that of the great explorer of the source of the Nile) for veracity of description; but I can assure my readers, that I have no wish to draw upon them for a single atom of belief, beyond what they are perfectly disposed to advance. Koombhukurma, then, as I have before stated, was the brother of Ravan. Immediately after his birth he stretched forth his enormous arms, and gathered, as infants usually do, into his mouth every thing within his reach. At one time he ate" five hundred mistresses of Indra, the exemplary and chaste king of the heavens; at another, the wives of one hundred sages, with cows and Brahmans without number; at a future meal (which was after he had been taken to task by the gods for his gluttony, and he had become more moderate in his appetite) six thousand cows, ten thousand sheep, as many goats, five hundred buffaloes, five thousand deer, and drank five thousand hogsheads of spirits, and a few other (to use a military phrase) small articles complete; after which he expressed great indignation towards his brother for half-starving him. This hero's bed is said to have been the whole length of his house, which was twenty thousand miles long, and which must have been compressed, by some gigantic machine of course, into a becoming space, in the beautiful island of Ceylon, about eight hundred miles in circumference.

* Ward.

* The fiery ordeal is thus performed :—An excavation, nine hands long, two spans broad, and one span deep, is made in the ground, and filled up with fire of pepal wood; into this the person accused must walk barefooted; and if his feet remain unhurt, they hold him blameless; if burned,

guilty.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »