In the previous episode we saw the commencement of the “Yuddha-Kaanda” and witnessed the significance of the same. As we moved on further, we witnessed that Hanuman has finished his entire accord on Sita’s whereabouts, the message from Sita to Rama (along with handing over Sita’s “Choodaamani” to Rama), detailed description of who is Ravana and his strengths, who is Indrajith and his talent of waging illusionary wars, etc. Also, Hanuman talks about the route from Kishkinta to Lanka, wherein he explains the shortest possible route to the shore of the ocean. However there is a doubt amongst all of them that Hanuman was capable of crossing the ocean all by himself – But how will the others, including Rama and Lakshmana cross over to reach Lanka? For the moment, Sugriva puts this doubt to rest and the entire army gets ready to start journey.
Now moving on further, Rama chooses an auspicious date for the commencement of the journey. The day is chosen to be “Panguni-Utthiram”.
“Agreyaarthu balasyaasya neelo maargamavekshithum!”
As Sugriva unites all the Vaanaras into one single huge army, Lord Rama now starts to give them important instructions before commencing the journey – Neela to lead the army from the front. He will show the way and lead from the front. Secondly, the army should not enter into any city or urban areas where people are living. Since the army is too huge and if this huge army enters inside areas where people are residing, it might be of nuisance to them. Instead, the army should go through areas wherein the human population is scanty.
Moreover, the instruction is that the army should proceed through the foothills of mountain ranges all along the path. This is why, if we look into the geographical description given by Vaalmiki Maharishi, we can find that the Vaanara army moves southwards along the western slopes of the Western Ghats. This can be equated to the area of present day Indian state of Goa, proceeding southeards towards coastal Karnataka, crossing the present day city of Mangalore, proceeding further southwards towards Kerala, the cities of Calicut, Cochin and Trivandrum and enter into the southernmost district of Kannyakumari in Tamil Nadu. Thus the Vaanara army moves from Kishkinta through the “Sahyaadri” Mountain range and moves down southwards and reaches the southern tip of India, which is today’s Kannyakumari.
Thirdly Lord Rama instructs that nobody should eat or consume anything that is given by any stranger on the way. This is to avoid any unforeseen circumstances that Ravana could create, if he comes to know that the army is marching forward. The Raakshasaas would know that even if one or two members of the Vaanara army dies on the way due to some food poisoning, the entire army will find it difficult to move forward from that place. Hence, Rama instructs them to be very careful on this. The aim here is to reach Lanka as early as possible and the army should move ahead very quickly without wasting any time anywhere in the middle.
“Ninneshu varadurgeshu vaneshucha vanaukasaha!
Abhipluthyaabhi pashyethuhu pureshaam nihitham balam!!”
Thus the army moves fast and proceeds towards the southern direction. As mentioned above, the army crosses through innumerable mountain ranges starting from the “Sahyaadhri”, to “Kodagu” (Birthplace of river Cauvery), then pass through the “Nilgiri” mountain range (Current-day Ooty), further southwards towards the “Thiruvidhaangur” mountain range near the present-day city of “Paalakkad” in Kerala and finally reach the “Mahendra-Giri” mountain range near the current day town of Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu.
Thus the Vaanara army quickly moves towards this “Mahendragiri” mountain range – It should be remembered by the readers that this is the mountain from where Hanuman had crossed the ocean when he had gone to Lanka for the first time.
It is a very interesting geography at this point here – The plains that lie west of this “Mahendragiri” is today’s Indian state of Kerala, and the plains that lie to the east of this “Mahendragiri” is today’s Indian state of Tamil Nadu. From this point, if we traverse around 40 miles southwards, we would reach Kannyakumari. It is at this point where the entire army comes now – We can even see a small port town by name “Kolachal” on the west coast bordering Kerala and Tamil Nadu states. It is from this Kolachal that the army climbs up the mountains and cross over to the eastern side into Tamil Nadu. It is only at this point, the army goes into an urban section. It is to be remembered that today’s Kerala was a complete forest area at those times and the urban areas are towards the present-day Tamil Nadu.
Thus the army crosses over and reaches the east coast, which is not very far from that place. At this point, Rama asks Sugriva to check out if a bridge can be constructed from this location to reach Lanka. Now here is where the topic of the “Ram-Sethu” bridge starts. It’s a very important and an interesting discussion given by Vaalmiki Maharishi. So for today, let the Vaanara army rest themselves at this point before going further. Let’s wait till the next episode to commence the discussion on the bridge construction in detail! 🙂