Reading Guide. Ravana has tried to convince Sita that Rama is dead in order to make her despair, and now Ravana' sson, Indrajit, the master of illusion, tries to make Rama despair: he creates an image of Sita and makes it seem as if he has slain her on the battlefield. Vibhishana, however, explains to Rama what is happening and also lets him know about a sacred place in Lanka, Nikumbhila, where it will be possible to ambush Indrajit.
Image: Sometimes the rakshasas look human (more or less), and in other depictions they look very bizarre, as in this illustration that shows Indrajit flying in the air, attacking Lakshmana from above.
Source. Ramayana, The Epic of Rama, Prince of India, condensed into English verse by Romesh Dutt (1899). Try listening to the audio or reading it out loud to yourself! [700 words]
Indrajit arose in anger for his gallant kinsmen slayed;
In his arts and deep devices Sita's beauteous image made,
And he placed the form of beauty on his speeding battle car.
With his sword he smote the image in the gory field of war!
Rama heard the fatal message which his faithful vanars gave,
And a deathlike trance and tremor fell upon the warrior brave,
But Vibhishan deep in wisdom to the anguished Rama came,
With his words of consolation spake of Rama's righteous dame:
"Trust me, Rama, trust thy comrade — for I know our wily house —
Indrajit slays not the woman whom his father seeks as spouse.
"'Tis for Sita, impious Ravan meets thee on the battlefield,
Stakes his life and throne and empire, but thy Sita will not yield.
"Deem not that the king of rakshas will permit her blood be shed;
Indrajit slays not the woman whom his father seeks to wed!
"'Twas an image of thy Sita Indrajit hath cleft in twain,
While our army wails and sorrows — he performs his rites again,
"To the holy Nikumbhila Indrajit in secret hies,
For the rites which yield him prowess, hide him in the cloudy skies.
"Let young Lakshman seek the foeman ere his magic rites be done;
Once the sacrifice completed, none can combat Ravan's son —
"Let young Lakshman speed through Lanka till his wily foe is found:
Slay the secret sacrificer on the sacrificial ground!"
Unto holy Nikumbhila, Lakshman with Vibhishan went
Bravest, choicest of the army, Rama with his brother sent.
Magic rites and sacrifices Indrajit had scarce begun,
When surprised by armed foemen rose in anger Ravan's son!
"Art thou he," thus to Vibhishan Indrajit in anger spake,
"Brother of my royal father, stealing thus my life to take,
Raksha born of raksha parents, dost thou glory in this deed,
Traitor to thy king and kinsmen, false to us in direst need?
Scorn and pity fill my bosom thus to see thee leave thy kin,
Serving as a slave of foemen, stooping to a deed of sin,
For the slave who leaves his kindred, basely seeks the foeman's grace,
Meets destruction from the foeman after he destroys his race!"
"Untaught child of impure passions," thus Vibhishan answer made,
"Of my righteous worth unconscious bitter accents hast thou said,
"Know, proud youth, that Truth and Virtue in my heart precedence take,
And we shun the impious kinsman as we shun the pois'nous snake!
"Listen, youth! This earth no longer bears thy father's sin and strife,
Plunder of the righteous neighbour, passion for the neighbour's wife,
Earth and skies have doomed thy father for his sin-polluted reign,
Unto Gods his proud defiance and his wrongs to sons of men!
Listen more! This fated Lanka groans beneath her load of crime,
And shall perish in her folly by the ruthless hand of Time.
Thou shalt perish and thy father and this proud presumptuous state,
Lakshman meets thee, impious raksha, by the stern decree of Fate!"
"Hast thou too forgot the lesson?" Indrajit to Lakshman said.
"Twice in field of war unconscious thee with Rama have I laid.
"Dost thou stealing like a serpent brave my yet unconquered might?
Perish, boy, in thy presumption, in this last and fatal fight!"
Spake the hero, "Like a coward hid beneath a mantling cloud,
Thou hast battled like a caitiff safe behind thy sheltering shroud.
"Now I seek an open combat; time is none to prate or speak.
Boastful word is coward's weapon, weapons and thy arrows seek!
Soon they mixed in dubious combat; fury fired each foeman's heart.
Either warrior felt his rival worthy of his bow and dart,
Lakshman with his hurtling arrows pierced the raksha's golden mail;
Shattered by the raksha's weapons Lakshman's useless armor fell.
Red with gore and dim in eyesight, still the chiefs in fury fought.
Neither quailed before his foeman, pause nor grace nor mercy sought,
Till with more than human valour Lakshman drew his bow amain,
Slayed the raksha's steeds and driver, severed too his bow in twain.
"If the great and godlike Rama is in faith and duty true,
Gods assist the cause of virtue!" —Lakshman uttered as he drew,
Fatal was the dart unerring — Gods assist the true and bold,
On the field of Nikumbhila, Lakshman's foeman headless rolled!