Reevana Naicken was the king of Antahpura in Sindhu country. He said that he was the descendent of Ravana who had ruled over Lanka several aeons earlier. His court had scholars who had mastered several shastras. One day the king questioned his courtiers: “Why does the horse have no horn?” The scholars were taken aback. Vakramukha Sastri who had come from Karnataka in search of gifts promised to answer the query. When the king gave his permission, Vakramukha Sastri began:
“Listen, O emperor Reevana. Horses had horns in ancient times. In the days when your ancestor Ravana ruled over Lanka, Brahma stopped giving horns to horses in deference to an order of Ravana.”
Reevana Naicken was delighted. “What is that? Give us the legend in full.” Vakramukha Sastri says:
When Ravana was ruling over Lanka dharmically, the clouds poured rains thrice a month. In those days a year had thirteen months, and a month had thirty three days in a regular manner. Hence there were rains every eleven days, and a year brought thirty-nine rains. The brahmins were such masters that they could repeat from memory the four Vedas, the six shastras, the sixty-four arts, the one thousand and eight puranas and ten thousand and eighty upa-puranas. In the house of each brahmin daily twenty four thousand goats were cut down for performing yagas. The Pauranika has mentioned only the goats. He might have mentioned other animals too. In this same way people belonging to other castes followed their dharma. All persons were righteous and charitable and enjoyed all the joys on earth and reached the shade of Paramasiva in the beyond.
At that time, Rama who was the son of Dasaratha ruling over Ayodhya, wanted to become the king in the place of his elder brother Bharata and started an insurrection. The father was angry and exiled Rama and his brother Lakshmana who had sided with him. They ran away to Mithila and took refuge under King Janaka. He helped them. However, Rama fell in love with Janaka’s daughter Sita, kidnapped her and went to Dandakaranya. There, Rama and Lakshmana began to give trouble to the sages in many ways. They destroyed yagas. This came to the notice of Surpanakha Devi who was in charge of the area. As she was Ravana’s sister and belonged to the brahmin community, she could not stand the manner in which Rama was troubling the sages. She ordered her army to imprison Rama and Lakshmana. Rama and Lakshmana were caught, bound and brought to Surpanakha’s presence. She had the chords removed, spoke to them sharply and said she was forgiving them as they were young kshatriyas and warned of dire consequences if they went back to their old ways. They were asked to stay in the palace for a while and have food.
When Sita and Surpanakha were closeted together, Sita told the latter that she had been forcibly kidnapped by Rama and she would like to return to her father. Taking pity, Surpanakha sent Sita to Ravana in Lanka and asked him to convey Sita safely to Mithila. As soon as Sita came to Ravana’s palace, they set about finding an auspicious date to take her to Mithila. There was no auspicious date available for a year. There was no auspicious date for the following year also. So Ravana ordered that Sita be looked after in Lanka itself for a couple of years.
In Dandakaranya Rama asked Surpanakha about Sita’s whereabouts. She said Sita had been sent to Mithila. “How could you do so?” began Lakshmana and spoke to her angrily. Immediately Suupanakha took out the knife hanging from her belt for cutting fruits and sliced off the two ears and two toes of Lakshmana. Watching her bravery, Rama fell in love with her. “Well, you have sent Sita away to Mithila. Now marry me!” he said. When she heard it, Surpanakha blushed, her cheeks growing rosy. Shyly she said: “You are a handsome fellow. I can marry you. But elder brother will be angry., You should not stay here any more. It might give rise to scandal” she replied.
Rama : “When did you send Sita to Mithila? With whom? How far would she have gone by now?” he asked.
Surpanakha in reply: “Forget Sita. I have sent her to my brother Ravana at Lanka. He might send her to Mithila or do anything else. He is the emperor of the three worlds. Forget Sita.”
On hearing this, Rama went out and came to Kishkinda city to get Sita back from Ravana. At that time Sugriva was the king of Kishkinda. His brother Vali had been the ruler earlier. Vali and Ravana were great friends. Both studied mathematics in the same school. Ravana who got tribute from the three worlds said that Vali need not pay any tribute. When Vali was asleep, his younger brother Sugriva cut off his head with an axe, and forcibly married his wife Tara. With the help of a scheming minister called Hanuman he took over the kingdom. When he came to know of it, Ravana sent an angry missive to Sugriva:
“Ravana, emperor of Lanka writes to Sugriva of Kishkinda. You have killed my friend. You have killed your elder brother; you have stolen the kingdom. As soon as you get this letter send Tara to a nunnery in Lanka and hand over the kingdom to Vali’s son Angada. You should take to sannyas and leave the kingdom. If you do not attend to this letter, we will come and attack you.”
When he saw the message, Sugriva trembled and asked Hanuman, “What shall we do?” This was Hanuman’s plan:
“Send to Ravana as slaves Tara who had been taken from Vali and fourteen and a half crores of maids who are under seventeen. To the ritualist sages who are being looked after by Ravana, give for their yaga expenses forty crores, fifty lakhs, thirty four thousand two hundred and fifty goats and cattle, and send four hundred crores of leather bags which can contain four thousand measures each of soma juice to him and make peace. Assure him that Angada will be made crown-prince and you will pay an annual tribute of four thousand crores of gold coins. If you do this, we will be saved.”
Sugriva collected the slave girls, goats, cattle, juice and the tribute for the first year and sent them all with a letter. The ambassadors handed over to Ravana’s palace the goats, cattle and juice. They gave the slave girls and money to the sages. They handed over the letter to Ravana. As the ambassadors kept tasting the soma juice on their journey, they made a topsy turvey of their job. Ravana immediately slaughtered the goats and cattle and ate them up with the juice along with his friends. He saw the letter later and made enquiries as to why the girls and money had not come to him. He was told that these had already been given to the Maths of the sages. They also reported that as the sages had used the money as dakshina for the yaga, they felt it was against shastras to return the money. Most of the slave girls had run away from the Ashrams. He ordered all the ambassadors to be killed and asked his commander to attack Sugriva. The commander in chief immediately began recruiting soldiers. Kishkinda got all this news through their spy system. At once Sugriva gathered his army as suggested by Hanuman.
Though Ravana’s army was ready, he waited for an auspicious time to send it. But Hanuman’s army being a variety of monkeys, he quickly reached Lankas. Rama and Lakshmana joined his army. In this army there were forty nine crores, ninety four lakhs, thirty seven thousand, three hundred and fifty six infantry, twice that amount in cavalry, four times that of chariots and seventy times of that as elephants. Even before they reached Lanka, a portion of Ravana’s army attacked and massacred them. But Rama and Lakshmana kept a part of their army and entered Lanka by stealth. Ravana heard of it. “Ha! Ha! Ha! What, men bring an army into our city! What a joke! Ha! Ha! Ha!” he shouted. Hearing that sound, Adisesha became deaf. The sun fell down on earth. Then Ravana decimated Rama’s army, had him and his brother bound. But out of pity for their being princes he left them free and sent them to Janaka. Sita also reached Mithila.
“Feeling compassionate, Janaka gave Sita in marriage again to the same Rama. Later Rama and Lakshmana went to Ayodhya and were subservient to Bharata. This is the true story of Ramayana"” concludedVakramukha Sastri in the court of Reevana Naicken.
Reevana: “Sastri! I asked as to why the horse has no horn but am yet to get an answer!”
Vakramukha Sastri said: “When he heard Rama had attacked Lanka, did I not say that Ravana shouted “Ha! Ha!Ha!” and the sun fell down? It was then the seven horses of the sun lost their horns. The sun came and prostrated at the feet of Ravana. ‘My horses are immortal. None can outdistance them. They have lost their horns. Now all earthlings will laugh at me. What shall I do?” he wept. Ravana felt kindly towards the sun and told Brahma: `Create horses with no horns. That way people will not laugh at the sun’s horses.’ From that day onwards Brahma has been creating horses without horns.
Hearing Vakramukha Sastri speak so, Reevana Naicken felt happy and gave the Sastri a lakh of gold coins for each of his words, after making a word count of the whole story.
– Original in Tamil by Subramania Bharti
Transcreation by Dr. Prema Nandakumar