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Introduction to The Chapter of Valmiki's Sundara Kanda
Sundara Kanda is the 5th part or section of the great Indian epic Valmiki Ramayana composed by the great sage Valmiki in its original Sanskrit language. Ramayana is the story of Rama and Sita describing their birth, childhood, marriage, their 14-year exile to the forest, the kidnap of Sita to Lanka by Ravana, the war between Rama and Ravana, Sita's union with Rama, and their return to Ayodhya, etc.
This particular section of Sundara Kanda narrates the story after the kidnap of Sita by a demon king Ravana; starting from Hanuman's flight over the ocean to Lanka till he meets Sita and delivers Rama's message and gets her message back again to Rama including his meeting with Ravana and the burning of Lanka. Sundara Kanda has 68 sub-sections, and each section is known as a 'sarga'. Each sarga is made up of hundreds of slokas or verses.
The first sarga (sub-section) of Sundara Kanda narrates this beautiful scene of the monkey lord Hanuman crossing the huge ocean till Lanka is visible to him. This sub-section is made up of 210 verses.
I got fascinated by the wonderful description of this journey and wanted to share the same with you, here in English text for your enjoyment.
The whole section of Sundara Kanda (with all its 68 chapters) has been named as "Sundara Kanda" as it is the most beautiful part of the whole Ramayana.
'Sundar' means beautiful and 'Kanda' means part or section.
There is another belief that Hanuman's original name was "Sundara" and his parents used to call him 'Sundara' often. As Sundara Kanda narrates the heroism of Hanuman in crossing the ocean, this episode has been named after his name.
Hanuman Prepares for His Giant Leap
Hanuman got reminded of his powers by Jambavan and he recollected the self-confidence regarding his innate abilities. He decided to begin his search for Sita by taking the sky route. He was standing on the tall mountain Mahendragiri enlarging his body with a stretched neck and raising his head.
The great Hanuman was glowing like 'an elephant in a lake' as the green lawns of the hill seemed like large stretches of still water. He paid his reverence to the Sun God, the Lord of Heaven 'Indra', the Wind God, and Lord Brahma. Thereafter, once again saluted his father, the Wind God, and decided to go in the south direction over the ocean and accordingly grew his body further.
Hanuman pressed his feet and hands heavily on the mountaintop before leaping. His strength was so powerful that the whole mountain shook with his pressure. The trees also moved violently due to the shaking and shred all their flowers. Covered by flowers, the whole mountain shone like a flowered mountain. Water began emerging from the mountain forming into lakes just like an excited elephant in a rut releasing the rut juice. Mineral rocks in the mountain also burst due to the heavy pressure emitting streaks of gold, silver, and other colors of the minerals in all directions. The whole mountain glowed like burning flames.
The caves resounded with the shrieks of creatures running out frightened due to the heavy jolt. The hidden snakes began biting the rocks furiously turning them black with the effect of their poison whereby they split into thousands of pieces. The frightening sounds filled the whole atmosphere, causing panic among the ascetics and vidyadharas (semi-gods), prompting them to flee from that place, leaving their belongings behind, in the fear that some demons were destroying the mountain. The vidyadhara women wearing garlands, necklaces, bracelets, bangles, and anklets gathered in the corner of the sky with surprise and excitement to know what was going on. Just then, they heard the sages, wanderers, and enlightened souls speaking among themselves about Hanuman getting determined to trace Sita by crossing the ocean in his giant form. Just then, they noticed Hanuman standing there on the mountaintop in his giant form; ready to take his grand leap.
Sundarakanda Book Cover
Hanuman Takes his Path in the Sky
Hanuman shook his body shouting loudly and flew into the air, jolting his long tail. Many trees were uprooted due to the violent jerk and sound. He began increasing his speed jolting the tail repeatedly. He seemed like Garuda, the king of birds, carrying a great serpent. He narrowed his body shrinking the neck and shoulders, to maintain a steady speed. He compared his speed with that of an arrow released from the bow of Rama and his flight with that of Garuda.
The uprooted trees also flew along with him for some moments folding back their branches just like relatives would follow their beloved ones, due to the force of his speed. After following for some time, they fell down losing the force. Some other light-weighted trees flew for some more time with him like soldiers following their king. The flowers from the trees showered down due to the forceful winds like the rain of flowers. Hanuman's body glittered like a mountain shining with fireflies due to the colorful flowers, buds, and leaves sticking to his body. Hanuma shone like a cloud filled with lightning due to the colorful shining flowers. The sea below also glittered like the sky glittering with stars.
Hanuman was flying with his arms stretched forward and the arms looked like five-headed snakes coming out of a mountain peak. While on the surface of the ocean, he seemed to be drinking the whole waters of the ocean, and while above in the sky, he seemed to swallow the whole sky. His eyes with a glow of lightning resembled two fireballs and he himself resembled a mountain with fires. Both eyes were shining like sun and moon. Whenever he lifted his tail it appeared like the flag of Indra. Whenever he circled his tail, Hanuman with his glowing white teeth, looked like the sun encircled in a ring.
Due to the force of his flight, the waves from the ocean rose as high as they seemed to touch the sky. His gigantic shadow in the waters seemed as if white clouds are following him. The air passing through his armpits sounded like the fearful sound produced by the thunderclouds.
An Encounter with Mainaka Mountain
The ocean god thought that he should help Hanuman by providing some rest to him as he might have been tired much. So, he asked the mountain Mainaka hidden in the ocean to come up and provide shelter to Hanuman for a while. Mount Mainaka was indebted to the Wind God who was the father of Hanuman. So, he pleasantly accepted the request and came out of the waters just like the sun emerging from clouds. He stood high up in the ocean so that all his peaks are visible. The whole sky began glittering with his golden lights. ( Mt.Mainaka is believed to be a mountain with rich treasures of gold). Seeing the mountain, Hanuman thought of it as an obstacle in his path. So, he touched the mountain with his chest at a great speed. The impact was so strong that the peaks of the mountain shattered all around immediately. Mt.Mainaka got pleased with the speed and strength of Hanuman. He immediately took the human form and paid his respects to him and welcomed him to take a rest for some time on him as per the ocean god's instructions and thereafter proceed on his work. Hanuman was happy with his hospitality. But, he did not want to take a rest till his job got fully accomplished. So, he touched Mainaka gently and told him that hospitality has already been performed by him through his gentle words and that was sufficient for him.
Hanuman flew again into the sky after thanking Mainaka. All the angels watching this scene praised Hanuman's devotion and determination and were happy with the hospitality shown by Mt.Mainaka also.
Hanuman Encounters with Surasa, Mother of Snakes
The Devas (angels) were happy with Hanuman but wanted to test him more. So, they requested the Mother of Snakes, Surasa to take a fearful demon-like form and obstruct Hanuman for a while to test whether he wins her with his strength, courage, and wisdom. Accordingly, Surasa took a fearful, ugly shape and stood in the path of Hanuman telling him that he cannot escape from her without entering into her mouth as she has been blessed by devas accordingly. Hanuman promises to enter her mouth after the accomplishment of his job and requests her to let him go as of now. But, Surasa did not agree and stood in front of him with her mouth wide open. Getting angry, Hanuman increased his form whereby Surasa also increased her form with a larger mouth. Hanuman went on enlarging his form but Surasa was also not tired. She kept on enlarging her mouth. Realizing that she will not leave him, Hanuman suddenly entered her mouth taking a tiny form, and quickly came out. Then, he told her that he had fulfilled her desire and so let him go. Surasa got stunned at his smartness and speed. She was much pleased and blessed him to achieve success in his mission. The angels also very much appreciated his cleverness and courage.
A Female Demon Simhika Attacks Hanuman
After obtaining the blessings of Surasa, Hanuman again climbed up into the sky taking his original path. He was flying like a king of birds, Garuda, in the path tread by birds, clouds, and the pouring rains. It was the path of great musicians like tumbura and other vidyadharas singing their musical notes; the abode of great pious souls like sages, Gandharvas, nagas, and yakshas. It is the place where the sun, moon, and stars always glow; and the abode of Indra's diamond weapon and white elephant. Hanuman was traveling like a huge mountain with long wings.
Suddenly, Hanuman experienced some hindrance in his speed. A demoness named Simhika caught his shadow and began dragging it towards her. She was pleased to have some great food after a very long time. She was dragging his shadow further and further and Hanuman could not understand why he was losing speed. He looked around and then looked down. There he witnessed a very giant and strange creature raised up from the ocean. Quickly he recollected Sugriva telling him about an animal's presence in the salty ocean named Simhika. He became confident that it must be Simhika approaching him with her mouth wide open. He quickly enlarged his body. Simhika also began enlarging her mouth. She ran behind him with her wide-open mouth and Hanuman was smart enough to notice her internal organs. He quickly narrowed his body and decreased his size drastically and fell into her mouth with great speed. Before she was able to close her mouth, hanuman caught hold of her internal organs and tore them off with his sharp nails, and quickly emerged out from her mouth with equal speed. Simhika fell dead with her torn heart into the waters of the ocean. The angels, sages, and others watching all this praised hanuman for his cleverness, skill, and courage and blessed him for success in his mission.
Hanuman Visit to Lanka
Hanuman Reaches Lanka
After the death of Simhika, Hanuman has almost cleared all his obstacles in his flight to Lanka. He again regained his full speed and completed the remaining distance of the full 100 yojanas of the sea journey. (One yojana may be equal to anywhere between 3 to 8 km as it is completely disputed among scholars).
He was able to visualize the other side of the ocean. Gradually everything became visible to him. He looked around and was able to see the mountain named Malaya, the forests, the bay, and the rivers flowing into the ocean which seemed like wives going to meet their husbands. He considered it to be an auspicious sign to be welcomed by married women.
Hanuma decreased his speed and reduced his body also to its normal size so as to avoid curiosity among viewers and hide from their sight. He reached the peak of the Malaya mountain and descended over it. He sat on the mountain, looked around at the beautiful trees, and frightened the birds and animals. The City of Lanka was visible to him with its glowing lights resembling Amaravati, the capital city of Indra.
Thus, Hanuman, the great monkey king, achieved a very great and difficult task of crossing the ocean to reach Lanka which was, otherwise, unachievable to anybody else.
About Valmiki Ramayan and Hanuman
About the below linked Sundara Kanda video
This video is in Telugu lyrical form sung by a famous singer. The whole story of sub-section 1 as detailed in the above capsules is condensed into a short form in this video; showcasing the main points of this whole scene of Hanuman leaping from Mahendragiri mountain, his long journey over the ocean, his encounter with the Mainaka mountain, his encounter with Mother of Snakes, Surasa, and his killing the demoness Simhika.