HOWLING AND ROARING, DRINKING THEIR BLOOD AND DEVOURING THEIR FLESH

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Coursing through the sky in his celestial chariot, Rāvana appeared like a blazing comet. His dark body shone with a brilliant aura. From his ten heads his reddish eyes darted about, scouring the mountains below. His twenty powerful arms hanging from his huge frame looked like five-hooded serpents. Seated on a throne of gems he directed his golden chariot by thought alone and it moved swiftly over the Himālayan range.

The demon was out on his conquests. All around him flew thousands of Rāksasas, clutching swords, barbed spears, spiked maces and iron bludgeons, all of those weapons smeared with blood. Some Rāksasas had the heads of tigers, some of donkeys and some of fierce fiends. Others appeared in their natural forms: large blackish bodies, fearful faces with tall pointed ears and rows of sharp fangs, with a mass of red hair on their heads. They wore iron breastplates studded with gems and were adorned with bright gold earrings and other shining ornaments. Surrounding Rāvana they looked like dark clouds with lightning covering the sun.

Rāvana wished to defeat in battle even the gods themselves. Wanting to establish his supreme power in the universe, he had gone to the higher planets and conquered hosts of Gandharvas and Yaksas, powerful celestial fighters. Now he was returning from his victorious fight with Kuvera, his own brother and the treasurer of the gods. That lordly deity had been made to retreat by Rāvana, losing to the demon his wonderful chariot, known in all the worlds as the Pushpaka.

The fearless Rāvana, overlord of all the demons, looked down from the Pushpaka at the forests below. It was a picture of tranquility. Amongst the trees were many verdant clearings covered with varieties of wild shrubs and forest flowers. Crystal waterfalls cascaded onto many colored rocks. Lakes filled with lotuses and swans shone from the mountain plateaus as the hordes of Rāksasas soared overhead.

Sometimes the demons would see groups of ṛsis, ascetic Brahmins who dwelt in those high mountain ranges, practising austerities and worshipping the gods. They would see the columns of smoke rising up amongst the trees from the sacrificial fires tended by the sages. Using their powers of sorcery the Rāksasas dropped down volumes of blood, faeces and urine, defiling the sacrifices. They would then hurl huge boulders and blazing coals, crushing and burning the sages where they sat in meditation. Finally the demons would themselves descend, howling and roaring. They tore apart the bodies of the rsis, drinking their blood and devouring their flesh.

SOURCE: Valmiki Ramayana as retold by Krishna Dharma Dasa, Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: A Treasury of Spiritual Knowledge

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