In the previous episode we had witnessed that Hanuman is searching his way through different areas of Ravana’s magnificent palace. He initially started with the “Pushpaka Vimana”, moved on to the different chambers of Ravana’s ministers and chiefs, the came down to the central courtyard, then moved on to the chamber where Ravana himself was fast asleep and searching through Ravana’s “Anthah-Pura” wherein all his wives were fast asleep! Eventually, Hanuman also sees Ravana’s most beloved wife, Mandodari who was shining like a brilliant light amongst all other women sleeping there! Upon seeing Mandodari Hanuman was taken aback for a moment and wondered if she might be Sita. But after a few minutes, Hanuman realizes that if this woman is in Ravana’s bed enjoying all the luxuries, then surely she wouldn’t be Sita! Hanuman knows the “Pathi-Vratha” nature of Goddess Sita and decides that this woman in Ravana’s chamber is someone else and not Sita.
“Taasaam ekanthabhinyasmai shayaanaam shayane shubhe!
Mukthaamani samaayukthaihi bhushanischa vibhushithaam!!
Gaureem kanaka varnaabhaam ishtaam anthah pureshvareem!!”
Thus, Valmiki Maharishi beautifully explains how Hanuman gets to see Mandodhari. He describes Mandodhari as “Gaureem kanaka varnaabhaam ishtaam anthah pureshvareem”, Which means that Mandodhari was the leader for all the women in Ravana’s “Anthah-Pura” and she was glittering like gold!
Thus as Hanuman finishes searching the entire “Anthah-Pura”, he next sees a huge kitchen and a “Paanaga-Shaala” attached to it. Normally “Paanaga-Shaala” is the place where different kinds of drinks are prepared and served. As Hanuman moves towards the “Paanaga-Shaala” he’s able to smell the sweet aroma emanating from all the drinks that were stored there. Here, Valmiki Maharishi beautifully describes this place – He says that the aroma emanating from the place is inviting Hanuman to come towards it!
Hanuman accepts the invitation and goes into the “Paanaga-Shaala”. Here he is able to see various men and women lying down in a drunken state! Hanuman starts to check out each woman lying there, to see if any one of them would be Sita! As he searches on, he is able to witness some fascinating scenes here – Valmiki Maharishi gives a beautiful accord of the scene. He explains how different women tried to please Ravana differently so as to earn his love and care – For instance; there was one woman who tried to impress Ravana with her dancing skills. She was dressed beautifully with all the costumes and was sleeping with all those on her body! There was another woman who was an expert in playing an instrument called “Mattooham” (An instrument mentioned in the Valmiki Ramayana but I do not know if this instrument still exists today!) Another woman was an expert in playing the veena and out of tiredness, was fast asleep by hugging the veena along with her! Another woman was an expert in playing the mridangam (A famous percussion instrument, which is prominently in use for modern-day Carnatic music concerts) and tried to impress Ravana with her skills. Eventually she too was tired and kept the mridangam as her pillow as she dozed off! In this way, Hanuman was able to see various women who were experts in their own domains and tried to impress Ravana with their expertise.
All these women are lying beside each other and out of their extreme tiredness, were in a state of deep sleep. During their sleep, they were in imagination that Ravana is sleeping beside them. As a result, they turn towards each other, hug and kiss each other as if they were doing it to Ravana. Thus, Hanuman was seeing all this as he was searching for Sita!
As he was checking each woman there, Hanuman also sees different kinds of juices and drinks kept at one corner of the room. Valmiki Maharishi again gives a detailed accord on the kitchen – He says that the drinks contained the essence of various items such as the meat of animals, some birds, etc. mixed with the essences of fruits and vegetables. The juices and drinks were of seven different tastes (Shad-Rasas) including sweet, sour, bitter, etc. In one corner, these drinks were present in beautifully made cups. Some of the cups were full with drinks, whereas some were half-full and the rest were emptied! At one corner, all the raw materials that were used to prepare various food items were stored. Another corner contained all the used vessels that were unwashed. Another corner had some utensils that were unused and broken.
Thus, Hanuman passes through all this and the search operation for Sita is become more and more strenuous by the moment. Amidst all these women, Hanuman was not able to find even a trace of Sita in any of them! He was able to see different women from different origins, except Sita! At this point, after undertaking extensive searches in almost all possible places, Hanuman starts having doubts in his mind. He is getting worried and starts to panic.
What were the doubts that he started to have? Can a person of Hanuman’s stature panic down? Why did he do so? Did he give up the search operation? Let’s wait to find out in the next episode!