The Battle of Rama and Ravana. [Source: Narayan's adaptation of the Ramayana] pp. 155-159.
But at this moment, Ravana suddenly changed his tactics. Instead of merely shooting his arrows, which were powerful in themselves, he also invoked several supernatural forces to create strange effects: He was an adept in the use of various asthras which could be made dynamic with special incantations. At this point, the fight because one of attack with supernatural powers, and parrying of such an attack with other supernatural powers.
Ravana realized that the mere aiming of shafts with ten or twenty of his arms would be of no avail because the mortal whom he had so contemptuously thought of destroying with a slight effort was proving formidable, and his arrows were beginning to pierce and cause pain. Among the asthras sent by Ravana was one called "Danda," a special gift from Siva, capable of pursuing and pulverizing its target. When it came flaming along, the gods were struck with fear But Rama's arrow neutralized it.
Now Ravana said to himself, "These are all petty weapons. I should really get down to proper business." And he invoked the one called "Maya" - a weapon which created illusions and confused the enemy.
With proper incantations and worship, he sent off this weapon and it created an illusion of reviving all the armies and its leaders - Kumbakarna and Indrajit and the others - and bringing them back to the battlefield. Presently Rama found all those who, he thought, were no more, coming on with battle cries and surrounding him. Every man in the enemy's army was again up in arms. They seemed to fall on Rama with victorious cries. This was very confusing and Rama asked Matali, whom he had by now revived, "What is happening now? How are all these coming back? They were dead." Matali explained, "In your original identity you are the creator of illusions in this universe. Please know that Ravana has created phantoms to confuse you. If you make up your mind, you can dispel them immediately." Matali's explanation was a great help. Rama at once invoked a weapon called "Gnana" - which means "wisdom" or "perception." This was a very rare weapon, and he sent it forth. And all the terrifying armies who seemed to have come on in such a great mass suddenly evaporated into thin air.
Ravana then shot an asthra called "Thama" whose nature was to create total darkness in all the worlds. The arrows came with heads exposing frightening eyes and fangs, and fiery tongues. End to end the earth was enveloped in total darkness and the whole of creation was paralysed. This asthra also created a deluge of rain on one side, a rain of stones on the other, a hail-storm showering down intermittently, and a tornado sweeping the earth. Ravana was sure that this would arrest Rama's enterprise. But Rama was able to meet it with what was named "Shivasthra." He understood the nature of the phenomenon and the cause of it and chose the appropriate asthra for counteracting it.
Ravana now shot off what he considered his deadliest weapon - a trident endowed with extraordinary destructive power, once gifted to Ravana by the gods. When it started on its journey there was real panic all round. It came on flaming toward Rama, its speed or course unaffected by the arrows he flung at it.
When Rama noticed his arrows falling down ineffectively while the trident sailed towards him, for a moment he lost heart. When it came quite near, he uttered a certain mantra from the depth of his being and while he was breathing out the incantation, an esoteric syllable in perfect timing, the trident collapsed. Ravana, who had been so certain of vanquishing Rama with his trident, was astonished to see it fall down within an inch of him, and for a minute wondered if his adversary might not after all be a divine being although he looked lik a mortal. Ravana thought to himself, "This s, perhaps, the highest God. Who could he be? Not Siva, for Siva is my supporter; he could not be Brahma, who is four faced; could not be Vishnu, because of my immunity from the weapons of the whole trinity. Perhaps this man is the primordial being, the cause behind the whole universe. But whoever he may be, I will not stop my fight until I defeat and crush him or at least take him prisoner."
With this resolve, Ravana next sent a weapon which issued forth monstrous serpents vomiting fire and venom, with enormous fangs and red eyes. They came darting in from all directions.
Rama now selected an asthra called "Garuda" (which means "eagle). Very soon thousands of eagles were aloft, and they picked off the serpents with their claws and beaks and destroyed them. Seeing this also fail, Ravana's anger was aroused to a mad pitch and he blindly emptied a quiverful of arrows in Rama's direction. Rama's arrows met them half way and turned them round so that they went back and their sharp points embedded themselves in Ravana's own chest.
Now Rama had to pause to consider what final measure he should take to bring this campaign to an end. After much thought, he decided to use "Brahmasthra," a weapon specially designed by the Creator Brahma n a former occasion, when he had to provide one for Siva to destroy Tripura, the old monster who assumed the forms of flying mountains and settled down on habitations and cities, seeking to destroy the world. The Brahmasthra was a special gift to be used only when all other means had failed. Now Rama, with prayers and worship, invoked its fullest power an sent it in Ravana's direction, aiming at his heart rather than his head, Ravana being vulnerable at heart. While he had prayed for indestructibility of his several heads an arms, he had forgotten to strengthen his heart, where the Brahmasthra entered and ended his career. Rama watched him fall headlong from his chariot face down onto the earth, and that was the end of that great campaign.
AGNEYASTRA. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] 'The weapon of fire.' Given by Bharadwaja to Agnivesa, the son of Agni, and by him to Drona. A similar weapon was, according to the Vishnu Purana, given by the sage Aurva to his pupil King Sagara, and with it he conquered the tribes of barbarians who had invaded his patrimonial possessions."
BRAHMASTRA. See Aswatthaman, Karna and Parusurama.
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