“The mighty Hanuman had overheard everything in truth of what was said by Sita and Trijata, as well as the threats of the Rakshasis.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.1)
hanumān api vikrāntaḥ sarvam śuśrāva tattvataḥ |
sītāyāḥ trijaṭāyāḥ ca rākṣasīnām ca tarjanam ||
In the famous Vedic text called the Ramayana, the section featuring the exploits of a heroic messenger gone in search of a missing princess is known as the Sundara-kanda, or the book of beauty. In the opening segments a warrior in a monkey form suddenly realizes his mastery over the eight-fold mysticism known as ashtanga-yoga. He then fearlessly leaps across a massive ocean, making for an amazing and beautiful sight. Yet the section of the work also features torment, lamentation, and threats and insults directed at an innocent princess. Does this not pose a contradiction?
Indeed, the princess was gentle and sweet. She was known throughout the world as the daughter of King Janaka. No one could say a bad word about that king. He never swerved from the virtuous path. A king has all the power in the world. At their direction people’s lives can end. With a simple edict, land can be confiscated and lives can be ruined. With great power comes great responsibility. If you are the leader, everyone will look to you in times of trouble. If there is any problem in the community, the citizens will think of any mistake the leader may have made. An ordinary person can make a mistake and not have it do much harm. If the leader makes a mistake, the entire fabric of society slowly unweaves.
“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)
Janaka always followed the righteous path, and so did his daughter. She had malice towards none. She never addressed another person in harsh tones. She had respect for all creatures, including those living in the wilderness. She was thus the perfect match for her husband Rama, the eldest son of the King of Ayodhya. Rama too never harmed anyone without cause. He applied force only in defense of the innocent.
To that Rama and that Sita came the unfortunate fate of banishment from their beloved kingdom. Imagine being evicted from your home after you have done nothing wrong. You paid off the mortgage, kept up with all your bills, and were generally loved throughout the community. You had to leave because of a mistake someone else made. This is sort of what happened to Sita and Rama, and they accepted the order without issue. Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana came along as well.
In the Sundara-kanda we find descriptions of Sita’s great lamentation from being separated from Rama. Though an innocent lady, she finds herself amidst ghoulish creatures who regularly feast on human flesh. They are constantly intoxicated, keeping in line with the behavior of their leader, the king of Lanka named Ravana. In this section of the Ramayana, we also find the threats and insults hurled at Sita by these grim-visaged ogresses. They repeatedly try to scare her into submission, into accepting Ravana’s offer to become his chief queen.
Sita was in Lanka against her will, taken away by Ravana in secret. Therefore Hanuman, the courageous star of the Sundara-kanda, went to go look for her. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see that he has heard all the insults of the Rakshasis and the lamentation of Sita. He has also heard in full the description of the dream of Trijata, the lone Rakshasi who seemed favorable to Sita. Trijata spoke of a dream she had where she saw Rama emerge victorious and the entire kingdom of Lanka destroyed due to Ravana’s deed. She advised the other Rakshasis to seek Sita’s forgiveness before it was too late.
Such awful words hurled at Sita did not change the complexion of this section of the Ramayana, for they were heard by Hanuman. Love is what maintains life. The love the parents feel for their children allows those children to grow up to be healthy adults. The love the law enforcement officers feel for their fellow man allows the citizens to roam the streets without much fear. The love that mother nature feels for her creation allows others to feed off of her land. The human beings get food not from the factory, the office, or even the government treasury. They survive from the land itself, which allows crops to be planted and maintained through the cooperation of other important forces of nature like the sun and the rain.
The dream of Trijata, the cries for help from Sita, and the insults of the Rakshasis increased Hanuman’s love for Sita and Rama. The scene aided in his eventual success in the mission. He had already found Rama’s wife, and so now he would deliberate on how best to proceed. Should he speak to Sita or return right away to let Rama know where she was? From the title of this particular section, we know that the decision reached would be a beautiful one, as would be the deliberation itself.
Though with insults and ogres of grim look,
Beautiful is this Ramayana’s book.
Describes Hanuman of courage without bound,
And how in Lanka Sita Devi he found.
Though harassment from ogres she took,
Love increased in him by having a look.
Beautiful are aspects in Hanuman all,
Aptly this book a beautiful one to call.