Sunday, 22 May, 2022

Indrajit in Ramayan, Might and Plight

  • Chinmay Prasun Biswas
  • 31 January, 2020 12:00 AM
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Etymologically, Indrajit is a combination of two Bengali words – Indra (king of gods) and jit (victorious), i.e. Indrajit means one who has become victorious over Indra. He is none other than Indrajit, the eldest son of Ravan (father, king of Lanka and Mandodari, mother) in Ramayan, an Indian epic written by sage Valmini. His other names are  Meghnad (because his birth cry sounded like thunder), Shakrajit, Ravani (son of Ravan), Vasavajit (conqueror of the world), Varidanada, Ghananadah According to another opinion, as he had the ability to fight from behind the clouds, he was called Meghnad. His wife was Sulichona (woman with beautiful eyes), daughter of Sheesh Naag, (king of serpents).

   He is regarded as one of the greatest warriors in Hindu texts. He is the one and only warrior who possessed the three ultimate weapons of Trimurti, i.e. Brahmandastra, Vaishnavastra and Pashupatastra. He acquired many kinds of celestial weapons from his Guru Shukra- which Shukra obtained from Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Shiv. During the battle between gods and Ravan, Indra and other gods captured Ravan. To rescue his father, Meghanad attacked gods and defeated them including Indra. Ravan and Meghnad decided to kill Indra, but Lord Brahma intervened and asked Meghnad to free Indra. In exchange Meghnad was granted a chance to ask for a boon from Brahma. He prayed for immortality, but Brahma refused it because absolute immortality is against the law of the nature. Instead, he was then granted another boon that after completion of a havan (fire-worship) of his native goddess  Mother Nikumbhila he would get a celestial chariot, mounting on which, he would become invulnerable. Brahma also warned that whosoever would destroy this havan, would also kill him. It is also believed that Meghnad was granted another boon by Brahma that he would only be killed by a man who hadn't slept for twelve consecutive years.

 First we find him in book 6 (Juddha Kanda), chapter 15 of Ramayan where he criticises Bibhishan, his uncle, because Bibhishan talked of morality and requested Ravan to hand over Sita to Ram. He took part in the battle between Ram and Ravan only three days and those three days are very significant. On the first day of his battle against Ram he was active with his weapons. He swiftly wiped out the armies of Sugreev and called Lord Ram and Laxman to come in a direct combat, with a view to take revenge of the deaths of his paternal uncle Kumbhukarna and his brothers. When Ram and Laxman appeared before him, he fought fiercely and made both of them unconscious using his most terrible weapon Naagapash (a trap made of a millions of snakes). Ram and Laxman fell on the ground breathless (Juddha Kanda, chapter 73).

Filled with the pride of success Indrajt returned to palace, but many things happened meanwhile Garuda (the king of birds with large wings,  generally a protector with power to  move anywhere swiftly, ever watchful and an enemy of serpents, also known as Tarkshya and Vynateya, the mount of Vishnu) was summoned by Hanuman and was informed of Ram and Laxman’s plight. As the food of Garuda is snakes, he quickly flew to the battlefield, swallowed up the naags (snakes) and both the brothers were rescued.

When Indrajit came to know that both Rama and Laxmana had been rescued and were still alive, he got furious and vowed to kill at least one of them on that day. When the battle started, he used all his force to cast a havoc on the armies of Sugrieev. At this disaster Ram and Laxman appeared before him and fought a fierce battle. Indrajit used his supreme magical powers, moving across the clouds and skies like a bolt of lightning. He applied his skills of sorcery and illusion warfare, repeatedly vanishing and reappearing behind and in front of Ram and Laxman. He was invisible, but his arrows injured Ram and Laxman. Indrajit used the Vasavi Sakthi on Laxman that pierced Laxman. He fell fainted and was about to die. Indrajit tried to lift unconscious Laxman arms, but though mighty he failed. Embarrassed, he hurried away from there. Realising the situation, Hanuman picked up Laxman on his shoulders and took him to Rama.  Rama and the entire monkey army was plunged in sorrow and despair. Being suggested by Bibhishan, Hanuman called in Sushen, the court physician of Lanka, to treat Laxman in the dark of the night. Examining the pulse of Laxman he prescribed that a herb Sanjeevani (life saver), available only on the peak of a mountain in the Himalayas, could cure Laxman, but it must be brought before sunrise.

Being permitted by Ram, Hanuman flew to the Himalayas. Learning it from his spies Ravan ordered mayavi (magician) Kalnemi to kill Hanuman using his magical skill, but as blessed with divine powers Hanuman reached the Himalayas safely. Failing to identify the herb, Hanuman lifted the entire peak on his back and came back overnight. Applying the magical power of that herb Lalxman survived (Juddha Kanda, chapter 74).

Being informed of Laxman’s second time survival Indrajit entered into the temple of Mother Nikumbhila (his native deity) to perform a havan that would make him invincible). Bibhishan knew this secret and divulged it to Ram. Laxman and Bibhishan took the opportunity to face Indrajit there because Indrajit would not touch any deadly weapon during havan. Valmiki Ramayan informs that seeing his guards’ defeat in the hands of Laxman, Indrajit came out from the temple and fought Laxman with the utensils of the havan. Bibhishan’s presence at Laxman’s side multiplied Indrajit's fury. Vowing to kill Bibhishan and Laxman he let loose the Yam-astra  (death weapon) but Laxman protected it. Being surprised Indrajit noticed that the powerful weapon moved around Laxman’s head and disappeared. Sense dawned upon Indrajit that Laxman was not an ordinary human being.

The arrows of Indrajit refused to harm Laxman because Laxman was the part incarnation of Vishnu and Seesh Naag. Laxman beheaded Indrajit using Anjalikastra( Juddha Kanda, chapter 88-92). It became possible only because of a curse given to Indrajit by Seesh Naag for marrying his daughter without his consent.  Seesh Naag incarnated as Laxman  who did not sleep for 12 years .

In Meghnadbadh Kabya, a Bengali epic by Michael Madhusudan Datta (Dutt, as he himself spelled) this incident has been narrated in a different way. Indrajit prayed to Laxman to allow him an opportunity to enter into his arsenal for collecting arms to fight, but his prayer resulted in vain and unarmed Indrajit was killed by Laxman against all established principles of war.

Ramayan, though written around five thousand years ago, is relevant till today in many ways. To save Laxman from certain death, Hanuman brought Sanjeevani. Modern medical research reveals that herbal medicine has magical healing power for human body. Indrajit had extraordinary skill in magical warfare keeping himself behind the clouds which is supported by modern science. In modern warfare radar is used to detect the movement of enemy planes, but there are fighter planes which can avoid the watchful eyes of powerful radar. Probably inventors of radar and supersonic planes derived the idea from Ramayan. Indrajit was mighty and conqueror, but at one stage his might proved meaningless and he had to face sad death. Such miserable situation is not unlikely in human life.


The writer is a former Commissioner of Taxes