“You can’t do this, Ravan. This is not right. You cannot disrespect a woman like this.” I cried when I learnt his intention behind abducting Sita.
“What about Meenakshi? About what Sita’s husband and his arrogant brother did to my sister? Was that not wrong?” my husband retorted, his eyes fuming with rage at my accusation. This was the first time I had openly opposed his decision. To think of it now, there was never any need to do that before this.
A month before this incident, Meenakshi had returned home covered in blood. Her yellow angavasthram tied around her face, eyes bloodshot with anger and pain. It was only later that I learnt of what had happened. Ram had rejected her proposal to marry him. He wanted to stay loyal to Sita. Meenakshi, the sister of my egoistic husband that she was, decided to kill Sita and clear the way. But Lakshman had intervened, saving Sita’s life and had ended up cutting off Meenakshi’s nose. I had learnt this from one of Meenakshi’s bodyguards who was loyal to me. However, Meenakshi’s version of the incident portrayed her as the victim of Lakshman’s assault.
“Ravan, please listen to me. I know what happened to Meenakshi was wrong. But Sita is innocent. She is a pious and good woman. We cannot keep her imprisoned here. It is a sin.” I pleaded with him.
“Mandodari, all I know is that as Meenakshi’s elder brother it is my duty to avenge her humiliation. Ram and his brother Lakshman will soon come here to rescue Sita and that is when they will pay for their sin.” He sighed and added “While Sita is here, she will be treated the way she should be. No one, including me, will lay our hands on her” he assured.
Signalling his men to follow, he started walking out of the chamber.
“And as my wife, I expect you to stand by my side and support me in my decision,” he said looking over his shoulder before leaving.
It was not long after that the monkey-man Hanuman visited Lanka to meet Sita. He was a devotee of Ram and worshipped Sita as his mother. The purpose of his visit was a peace proposal. He requested Ravan to release Sita and save Lanka from the wrath of his Lord. This angered my short-tempered and egoistic husband, who decided to teach the monkey man a lesson and ordered his men to set Hanuman’s tail on fire.
At that point, I knew that Ravan had made an irreversible mistake of underestimating Hanuman. Hanuman whose tail was lit with fire, fought against all the guards in the courtroom, single-handedly and escaped Lanka, setting every house in Lanka on fire on his way. Within minutes, the prosperous and magnificent empire that Ravan was overly proud of was reduced to ashes.
Surprisingly, Sita who was imprisoned at Ashokavatika was unharmed by the fire. I was more than thankful for that. If something were to happen to Sita, there was no telling what would be the consequences.
Soon after that, the war between Ram and Ravana began. Ram’s army reached Lanka through a bridge that they constructed to cross the ocean. His army had more Vanars or monkey men than humans. They called themselves the Vanarsena.
Ravan who had been waiting for this day reached the battlefield with all his forces. My son Indrajit, a reflection of my husband, too joined the war.
Although, once a mighty country, Lanka’s army was outnumbered by the Ram’s Vanarsena. Soon all our children and other warriors of the Lankan army were killed. But Ravan did not know what defeat was. He preferred dying a heroic death than surrendering to his enemy.
As a last resort, Ravan decided to perform a Yagya to please the Lords. This Yagya was to be performed continuously without succumbing to any distraction. It would bring victory to him or so he believed. For once even I wanted to believe him. That this Yagya would bring us victory and take away all our sorrows with it. Little did I know that this would be the day that I would be reminded of my place in Ravan’s life.
“Raaavaaan” I screamed for help. My scalp pricked, as the roots of my hair tore through me. It was Angad, another monkey-man from Ram’s army who had barged into my chamber and dragged me out with his hand clenching my hair. It was only then that I had realised that there were demons even in Ram’s army as well.
“Help me, Raaavaaan. Please help me!” I pleaded, but Ravan seemed to give me a deaf ear. He knew that this was a strategy to distract him and stop the Yagya. Ravan, the intelligent one, would not fall for it so easily. Victory was more important to him than his family. I should have known it earlier when my son Indrajeet was killed.
“Ravan! Remember what Ram is doing for his wife’s dignity” I yelled, “You are proving yourself unworthy of fighting a man like him” I growled at him, more in sorrow than anger. It was as though the man I had known was lost and replaced by this egoistic, power-hungry beast.
My words seemed to have struck the chord. Ravan roared in anger and rose from the Yagya. He charged towards Angad with his sword. But with the Yagya, disturbed, Angad’s purpose was served. He did not fight my husband; instead, he raced towards the door and within minutes escaped the palace.
It was that day, for the first time in my life, did I feel helpless and scared. With Angad’s act, I had lost my dignity and respect in front of all the people in the courtroom. Ravan’s initial silence had proved my place in his life. It was probably this incident that convinced me to remarry at a later point.
To be continued…