“Being thus informed, the grandson of King Vena immediately began to follow Indra, who was fleeing through the sky in great haste. He was very angry with him, and he chased him just as the king of the vultures chased Ravana.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.19.16)Download this episode (right click and save)
From the Vedas we find the best of everything. Son, father, brother, writer, spiritual guide - whatever the commonly known category there is an example set, a story told of the shreshtha, the best. This applies even to bad characters. From the Ramayana we hear of Ravana. The ten-headed one had a terrifying scream, and more significantly a fighting prowess that could not be matched. There was an exception with the Vanara named Vali, but then Ravana decided to make friends after assessing the strength on the opposition.
Ravana was not only the most powerful materialist and king wielding tremendous influence throughout the world, he was also the worst kind of person. Though boasting of his victories over many rival kings, Ravana did not have the courage to take on Shri Rama, who was merely a prince living in the austere setting of the forest of Dandaka. Ravana wanted Rama’s wife Sita for himself, so he devised a plan of trickery to accomplish his task.
He seemed to get away with it, taking Sita while no one was looking. There was some initial opposition, though. It came from an unlikely source. The best of the vultures, Jatayu, was friendly with Rama’s father, King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Jatayu put up a fight to stop Ravana, but success didn’t come. Ravana escaped and Jatayu eventually died from the wounds inflicted. Yet just because there was defeat doesn’t mean that the valiant effort went in vain.
1. Sita’s ornaments fell to the ground
Ravana took Sita away in a special aerial car named Pushpaka. This previously belonged to Kuvera, a demigod who was living in Lanka. Kuvera was Ravana’s half-brother, and Ravana showed him no affection. Kuvera fled Lanka in fear of Ravana and left the aerial car behind.
Sita did not go quietly with Ravana, who had first assumed a false guise to trick her into being friendly. Sita’s husband Rama was diverted from the hermitage through Ravana’s associate named Maricha, who came in the false form of a deer. Lakshmana later left after Sita lashed out at him for not helping his brother.
From the Shrimad Bhagavatam we learn that this practice of pretending to be in the renounced order of life goes back a long way. There is an incident involving Indra, the king of heaven. Jealous of the hundredth sacrifice of King Prithu, Indra disguised himself and came to earth. He stole the horse that was intended for the sacrifice, and when caught and facing punishment, he assumed the false guise of a mendicant religious man.
Ravana mimicked that tactic in his plan to take Sita. As he was flying away in the aerial car, there was the struggle with Jatayu. The vulture eventually took all of Ravana’s focus. After his victory, Ravana sped off in the aerial car with Sita. Since he was in such a hurry, he did not notice Sita’s ornaments that were dropped in the area where the Vanaras lived. These ornaments would prove vital in the future. They would help in the formation of the alliance between Rama and Sugriva, the king of the Vanaras. Those ornaments would also help Hanuman in his search for Sita.
2. He saw Rama at the time of death
In searching for Sita, Rama and Lakshmana later came across Jatayu. This was just at the moment that the vulture was passing from this world, to the next life. As is described in the Bhagavad-gita, whatever state of being one remembers at the time of death, that state they will attain without fail [8.6].
Consciousness is the key to the state of being, and the consciousness at the time of death is the most important. Jatayu got the wonderful benediction of seeing God’s beautiful face while ready to depart for the next life. As a result, he was granted liberation, or release from the cycle of birth and death. If Jatayu had not fought valiantly against Ravana, this benediction may not have been received.
3. The effort became synonymous with a heroic chase
As mentioned previously, King Indra one time stole the sacrificial horse of King Prithu. The king’s son then chased after Indra to get it back. The Bhagavatam actually makes reference to Jatayu in one of the verses describing the chase. It is said that the son of King Prithu chased after Indra in the same way that Jatayu chased after Ravana. From this we learn that Jatayu’s effort has been immortalized. He gives proof to the promise that no effort in devotional service goes to waste. The Supreme Lord is appreciative of any work done in His honor, whether large or small.
Not required order tall,
Appreciated effort even small.
Jatayu not able to overcome,
Ravana away with Sita to run.
Still not a wasted effort being,
Rama’s face at death’s time seeing.
Synonymous with heroic chase became,
Prithu’s son after Indra in way the same.