“Neither the demigods nor any exalted personalities were there helping Rama, for He acted alone. You should not entertain any doubt on this matter. Indeed, Rama shot feathered arrows, plated with gold, which turned into five-headed serpents that devoured all the Rakshasas. The Rakshasas were oppressed with fear, and wherever they went and wherever they turned, they saw Rama in front of them. In this way, O spotless one, have your Rakshasas been destroyed in the forest of Janasthana by Rama.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.18-19)
नैव देवा महात्मानो नात्र कार्या विचारणा।
शरा रामेण तूत्सृष्टा रुक्मपुङ्खाः पतत्रिणः।।
सर्पाः पञ्चानना भूत्वा भक्षयन्ति स्म राक्षसान्।
येन येन च गच्छन्ति राक्षसा भयकर्शिताः।
तेन तेन स्म पश्यन्ति राममेवाग्रतः स्थितम्।
इत्थं विनाशितं तेन जनस्थानं तवानघ।।
naiva devā mahātmāno nātra kāryā vicāraṇā।
śarā rāmeṇa tūtsṛṣṭā rukmapuṅkhāḥ patatriṇaḥ।।
sarpāḥ pañcānanā bhūtvā bhakṣayanti sma rākṣasān।
yena yena ca gacchanti rākṣasā bhayakarśitāḥ।
tena tena sma paśyanti rāmamevāgrataḥ sthitam।
itthaṃ vināśitaṃ tena janasthānaṃ tavānagha।।
1. Fourteen thousand in number
This is how many fighters Ravana sent to deal with Shri Rama. We get the details of this historical incident from the Sanskrit poem known as the Ramayana. Maharishi Valmiki collected the verses together even prior to many of the events taking place. Such are the possibilities when saintly qualities and heavenly assistance combine.
Fourteen thousand against one. Does that seem like a fair fight? Ravana had a good idea about Rama’s fighting prowess. He wanted to assure victory. The pretext was revenge for Shurpanakha’s disfiguration. She was on the verge of attacking Rama’s wife, Sita, when Rama’s younger brother intervened. Lakshmana lopped off her nose and Shurpanakha ran back to Lanka and complained to her brother Ravana about what had happened.
Judging by the size of the attacking army, is it any wonder that people talk about the incident today? After all, who wants to relive the tale of a massacre? This doesn’t sound like a fight. It is an overwhelming and unnecessary terrorist attack.
2. Expert at black magic
The people attacking had the ability to appear and disappear while engaged in conflict. Here today, gone tomorrow. Within sight, and then suddenly vanished. Within Vedic culture, there is a style of worship for every kind of person. If you are in the mode of ignorance, where you can’t even decipher right from wrong, there is still a way to follow some kind of regulated life.
Worshiping within that mode, one of the benefits is acquiring abilities in black magic. The people attacking could also display false visions. Similar to what mainstream media outlets do in the modern age to push forward an agenda based on a lie, Ravana’s men could show a vision on the battlefield as a way to dispirit the other side. The vision might be of the leader of the good guys succumbing to wounds or being overwhelmingly defeated.
3. Could change their shapes at will
Known as the kama-rupa-siddhi, the people descending upon the forest area of Janasthana could work clandestinely. This is how one of Ravana’s trusted advisors, Maricha, would attack the innocent sages. It was child’s play. The work is easy when the other side can’t even recognize you.
बली दत्तवरोदर्पादाजगाम तदाश्रमम्।।
तेन दृष्टः प्रविष्टोऽहं सहसैवोद्यतायुधः।
मां तु दृष्ट्वा धनुस्सज्यमसम्भ्रान्तश्चकार सः।।
balī dattavarodarpādājagāma tadāśramam।।
tena dṛṣṭaḥ praviṣṭo’haṃ sahasaivodyatāyudhaḥ।
māṃ tu dṛṣṭvā dhanussajyamasambhrāntaścakāra saḥ।।
“Then I, resembling a cloud and having molten-golden earrings, made my way into Vishvamitra’s ashrama, for I was very proud of my strength due to the boon given to me by Lord Brahma. As soon as I entered, Rama quickly noticed me and raised His weapon. Though He saw me, Rama strung His bow without any fear.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.16-17)
4. Were accustomed to attacking at night
Ravana belonged to a race of beings known as Rakshasa. One translation for this Sanskrit word is “man-eater.” We can think of a cannibal, but that usually connotes an accidental or temporary fall into madness. Rakshasas are man-eaters throughout life. It is not considered an auspicious birth; the people in Lanka were Rakshasas because of previous curses placed upon them.
Another word to describe them is nishachara. This means “ranger of the night.” Ravana’s men were accustomed to attacking at night, which bolstered their chances for success. Appear and disappear, change shapes, and pounce when there is no daylight.
How did Rama stand a chance? How did He emerge victorious? Why would anyone even accept such a fight? Why did Rama send Lakshmana and Sita towards a nearby cave, to avoid harm’s way?
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is an expert in ability in any field of activity. If we want to know how great God is, we can say that He is able to defeat fourteen thousand of the most cunning and devious fighters attacking simultaneously. He does this using only His bow and arrows. He does not require a chariot with an expert driver. He does not require military grade weapons.
Rama can turn any arrow into something like a nuclear bomb. The route was on. The conflict was so one-sided that the Rakshasas had to flee in fear of their lives. As Akampana reported back to Ravana, Rama’s arrows chased the enemy like a heat-seeking missile. The arrows showed the face of a five-headed serpent at the end, symbolic of all-devouring death, which is the only way the atheist class ever sees God.
Since by ignorance distraction,
With death only interaction.
Such as from Rama’s arrows to flee,
Which as five-headed serpents to see.
Punishment proper and just,
After against fourteen thousand thrust.
God full potency retaining,
Any foreign attack sustaining.
Categories: the four