Reading Guide. Hanuman now prowls the city of Lanka, looking for Sita. He finds Ravana's palace and even enters Ravana's bedroom to find him sleeping there, but he cannot find Sita.
Image: The painting below shows the city of Lanka, the "golden city" of King Ravana. The image is from Christie's auction house, where the painting recently sold for $30,000.
Source. Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists by Sister Nivedita (1914). [600 words]
On the mountain summit Hanuman beheld the city of Lanka, girt with a golden wall and filled with buildings huge as cloudy mountains, the handiwork of Vishvakarman. Impatiently he waited for the setting of the sun; then, shrinking to the size of a cat, he entered the city at night, unseen by the guards.
Now Lanka seemed to him like a woman, having for robe the sea, for jewels cow-pens and stables, her breasts the towers upon her walls, and behold, as he entered in, she met him in a terrible shape and barred his way. Then Hanuman struck her down, though gently, considering her a woman, and she yielded to him and bade him accomplish his affair.
Hanuman made his way to the palace of Ravana, towering on the mountain-top, girt with a wall and moat. By now the moon was full and high, sailing like a swan across the skyey sea, and Hanuman beheld the dwellers in the palace, some drinking, some engaged in amorous dalliance, some sorry and some glad, some drinking, some eating, some making music, and some sleeping. Many a fair bride lay there in her husband's arms, but Sita of peerless virtue he could not find, wherefore that eloquent monkey was cast down and disappointed.
Then he sprang from court to court, visiting the quarters of all the foremost rakshasas, till at last he came to Ravana's own apartments, a very mine of gold and jewels, ablaze with silver light. Everywhere he sought for Sita and left no corner unexplored; golden stairs and painted cars and crystal windows and secret chambers set with gems, all these he beheld, but never Sita. The odor of meat and drink he sniffed, and to his nostrils there came also the all-pervading Air, and it said to him, "Come hither, where Ravana lies." Following the Air, he came to Ravana's sleeping-place.
There lay the lord of the rakshasas upon a glorious bed, asleep and breathing heavily; huge was his frame, decked with splendid jewels, like a crimson sunset cloud pierced by flashes of lightning; his big hands lay on the white cloth like terrible five-hooded serpents ; four golden lamps on pillars lit his bed.
Around him lay his wives, fair as the moon, decked in glorious gems and garlands that never faded. Some, wearied with pleasure, slept where they sat; one clasped her lute like an amorous girl embracing her lover; another fair one, skilled in the dance, made graceful gestures even in her sleep; others embraced each other. There, too, was Mandodari, Ravana's queen, exceeding all others in her splendor and loveliness, and Hanuman guessed she must be Sita, and the thought enlivened him, so that he waved his arms and frisked his tail and sang and danced and climbed the golden pillars and sprang down again, as his monkey-nature moved him.
But reflection showed his error, for he said, "Without Rama, Sita would not eat or drink or sleep or decorate her person, nor would she company with any other than he; this is some other one."
So Hanuman ranged farther through the palace, searching many a bower in vain. Many fair ones he beheld, but never Sita, and he deemed she must be slain or eaten by the rakshasas. So he left the palace and sat awhile in deep dejection on the city wall.