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Book V: Sundara Kanda or The Book of Sundara (another name of Hanuman)

Sugriva sends his loyal follower Hanuman on a reconnaissance mission to discover the whereabouts of Sita. Each of Sugriva's messengers are sent in different directions. Hanuman heads south and hits the Indian Ocean. Everybody else is unable to cross. The only person who has the ability to cross is Hanuman. However, due to a curse by rishis, Hanuman cannot remember his own strength unless he is reminded of it. Everyone encourages Hanuman, who finally remembers his strength. He then flies to Lanka to find Sita.

Hanuman finds Sita imprisoned in Ravana's palace garden and assures her that help is on the way. He then proceeds to destroy Ravana's Asoka Grove. Ravana's demon soldiers rush in to capture him, and he then lets himself be captured by them. Viewed as a spy, Hanuman who has killed Ravana's younger son Aksa in battle, is delivered to Ravana for retribution. Impressed with Ravana's charm, nobility, heroism, and splendor, Hanuman notes the fact that Ravana is, however, "devoted to unrighteousness." Similarly struck by Hanuman's "majesty of appearance and strength," Ravana attempts to ascertain the purpose of Hanuman's visit and his reason for laying "Asoka-grove to waste." Proclaiming that he is a messenger for Sugriva, Hanuman states that he acted in self defense and pleads with Ravana to restore Sita to Rama or to fall victim to Rama's wrath. Furious at hearing Hanuman's words, Ravana orders Hanuman's death.

Vibhisana, Ravana's righteous brother, intervenes at this point and counsels Ravana to follow the scriptures. He reminds him that it is improper to execute a messenger, and instead tells him to exact the appropriate punishment for Hanuman's crime. Ravana appreciates the counsel and accepts it. He chooses, instead, to order his demons to set fire to Hanuman's tail in an effort to show that such mischief is intolerable. Enduring the punishment, Hanuman seizes the opportunity to observe Lanka during the day in an effort to gather military information for the future. Hanuman is "intrigued" that the fire does not burn or hurt him and concludes that it is Sita's grace and Rama's glory that prevent injury to him. Hanuman frees himself from his bonds, and with his tail ablaze, flies around Lanka, destroying the town. After which, he returns to Rama with news about Sita.

Shown here is the scene when Ravana orders his troops to set Hanuman's tail on fire.

Shown here is the scene when Ravana orders his troops to set Hanuman's tail on fire.

Thus, Hanuman finds Sita imprisoned in the island of Lanka and flies back to give Rama the news. Hanuman, with Rama and Lakshmana head South to free Sita from the bondage. On their way, they meet the vulture Jatayu, a devotee of Rama. Jatayu says that his brother Sampati and he, fought Ravana when they found him taking Sita to Lanka. Sampati lost his life and Jatayu lost his wings and was mortally wounded. Jatayu tells them that he saw Ravana heading towards Lanka. He then breathes his last in Rama's lap. The team head further south until they reach the Indian Ocean.

Sundara Kanda not only deals with the Hanuman finding Sita (and subsequently informing Rama), but it has a lot to say about the behaviour of a man in difficult situations. Here, every step of Hanuman teaches us how to overcome our difficulties.


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