“That very powerful Garuda in the form of Rama will swiftly uproot the great serpents in the form of the Rakshasa kings, just as Vainateya swiftly uproots serpents.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.27-28)
rākśasendramahāsarpān sa rāmagaruḍo mahān ||
uddhariṣyati vegena vainateya ivoragān |
In addition to explanations of high philosophy, Vedic literature contains many historical accounts, which include details of military struggles of gigantic proportion. The side of the “good guys” often flies a flag that sports an emblem of a great devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the case of the Bharata War, the leading warrior for the Pandava side had a flag on his chariot with the emblem of Hanuman, the fearless servant of the Supreme Lord in His form of Rama. In this verse from the Ramayana, Sita Devi mentions the other personality often seen on those flags. Just like Hanuman, he flies to the scene with the utmost urgency and fills the enemy side with terror.
“The emblem of Hanuman on the flag of Arjuna is another sign of victory because Hanuman cooperated with Lord Rama in the battle between Rama and Ravana, and Lord Rama emerged victorious. Now both Rama and Hanuman were present on the chariot of Arjuna to help him. Lord Krishna is Rama Himself, and wherever Lord Rama is, His eternal servitor Hanuman and His eternal consort Sita, the goddess of fortune, are present. Therefore, Arjuna had no cause to fear any enemies whatsoever.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 1.20 Purport)
At the time that this verse was spoken, Shri Hanuman was actually close to meeting Sita. His monkey form did not preclude him from crossing a massive ocean and reaching Lanka. In that land the king of Rakshasas had set up camp. Known as Ravana, his kingdom was guarded by both the surrounding waters and his twenty arms. In his kingdom were also many other capable fighters, all of the demoniac tendency. Sita Devi, who was abducted and brought to Lanka against her will, seemed to have no hope for rescue. Her husband was wandering the forest in an ascetic’s garb at the time. He was quite powerful with the bow and arrow, but without access to His military back home in Ayodhya, how was He going to reach Lanka to rescue Sita?
As Rama is God, He is intimately connected to every spirit soul. The demoniac are those who do not realize this connection at all. Unaware of the Supersoul residing within their heart, they go so far as to say that God doesn’t exist. “I am God, don’t you see? We only get this one life, so I am going to make the most of it by enjoying as much as possible. If anyone gets in my way, I will kill them. If anyone tries to teach others that my way of life is wrong, I will get rid of them as well. No one can stop me.”
In the Kishkindha forest, though away from His home Rama was able to find more than capable servants. In just one person He found someone capable of amazing feats. Shri Hanuman reached Lanka all by himself. Then he scoured through the city looking for Sita, a person whom he had yet to meet. Since Hanuman was acting in Rama’s interests, he represented an extension of Rama’s potency. In this way Hanuman and Rama are not different; Hanuman’s arrival in Lanka was as good as Rama’s.
Here Sita compares Rama to Garuda and Ravana and his leading men to snakes. Garuda serves the same Rama in the form of Vishnu. Vishnu is the form of the Supreme Lord worshiped with awe and reverence. When we think of God as being completely great and awe-inspiring, we inherently think of His Vishnu form. Vishnu also has divine sports, and Garuda plays a major role in those. He acts as Vishnu’s carrier. Though a bird, Garuda is supremely intelligent. He uses all of his abilities for pleasing God.
Garuda instills fear in the snakes. He subsists on a diet of snakes. It is said that a saint does not protest the death of a snake. The saint is by definition kind to everyone. They have no enemies or friends. They see every individual’s inherent relationship to God, so they take pity on the miscreants. They know that eventually they will turn their ways. And yet the saints don’t mind if the snakes are removed because the snakes can slither into a scene very quickly and bite someone for no apparent reason.
Ravana and his ilk were snakes in behavior, and so Garuda in the form of Rama would arrive on the scene to uproot them. Indeed, a kind of Garuda had already arrived in the form of Hanuman. As events would unfold, Hanuman would instill terror in all through his burning tail. That tail would be set on fire first by Ravana as a way to embarrass Rama’s servant. The move would then backfire, and all would come to know of the potency of Rama through the amazing feats of Hanuman.
Rama found a capable servant in Hanuman, who discovered Sita’s location. Rama then used the massive monkey army in Kishkindha to battle against the Rakshasas. Thus He found people to serve His interests in all times and all places, reminding the world once again why He is God. Rama’s servants can also cross all boundaries. Hanuman reached Lanka, and through his swift flight through the air Garuda can reach anywhere very quickly. Rama would be like Garuda in arriving in Lanka and rescuing His beloved wife.
Rama devotees anywhere can find,
Like with monkeys in Kishkindha aligned.
Even when looks like none are there,
Garuda to arrive swiftly through air.
Rama’s beloved to Lanka Ravana brought,
That safe from danger he mistakenly thought.
Like Garuda Hanuman for Rama to act,
In burning Lanka revenge to exact.
Categories: ravana threatening sita