By Srinidhi Murthy
Sanjeevani, also known as Vishalya Karani, was a magical herb that grew on the peaks of Mount Gandhamadana. This herb saved Rama’s brother, Lakshmana, during their battle with Ravana. Read the story of how Hanuman brought this herb in time to save Lakshmana’s life.
During the final battle between the army of Ravana, the king of Lanka, and Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, Ravana hurled a spear at Lakshmana. Rama came forward to save his brother as he fell and drove away Ravana. Unfortunately, Lakshmana fell unconscious as the spear had already struck him before Rama’s arrival. The injury brought Lakshmana to the brink of death. Distressed, Rama asked Sushena, the Vanara physician, to save his brother’s life. Sushena examined him and declared that Lakshmana could still be saved with the magical herb called Vishalya Karani, or Sanjeevani, that was available on Mount Gandhamadana. He further added that the herb would need to be fetched before sunrise. However, soon Sushena revealed that it would take eighteen years for them to reach Gandhamadana. It seemed as though getting the herb was an impossible task and Rama and the army had lost hope for Lakshmana’s life.
Hanuman to the rescue
Suddenly, Hanuman stepped out of the crowd and promised to bring the herb before sunrise. Sushena instructed Hanuman to look for a golden creeper with blue flowers growing on either side of the river flowing down one of the peaks of Gandhamadana. After receiving Rama’s blessings, Hanuman increased his size and then, with one leap, rose high into the sky. As he flew, Ravana saw him from Lanka and immediately guessed that Hanuman was flying to get the magical herb. He was determined to stop Hanuman and ensure that Lakshmana could not be saved.
Ravana summoned Kalanemi to defeat Hanuman. Kalanemi was a fearful monster-magician with four heads, eight eyes and eight arms. Ravana promised half of his kingdom to the monster if he succeeded in defeating Hanuman. Kalanemi was terrified at the thought of a battle with Hanuman. He reminded Ravana about Hanuman’s powers and added that he would be dead if he tried to destroy the son of Vayu. However, Ravana ignored his words and asked him to drown Hanuman in the river in Gandhamadana, as the river was home to a ferocious crocodile. Left with no choice, Kalanemi agreed to the task and quickly transported himself to Gandhamadana. There, he transformed himself into a hermit and created a hermitage. He then waited for Hanuman’s arrival.
When Hanuman arrived, he immediately paid his respect to the disguised Kalanemi and mentioned the purpose of his visit. Kalanemi asked him to go and bathe in the river. He promised Hanuman that if he bathed in the river, he wouldn’t feel thirsty for a whole year. When Hanuman agreed, Kalanemi was delighted at the thought of claiming his reward from Ravana. Soon, Hanuman saw a crocodile approaching him to attack. He quickly caught hold of the reptile and flung it to the shore. To his surprise, a celestial dancer emerged in front of him. She explained that she was cursed by Indra to become a crocodile and decreed to live in the river till she was liberated by Hanuman. The celestial dancer also revealed the real identity of Kalanemi to Hanuman and advised him to be careful. Hanuman confronted Kalanemi upon his return and soon a fight ensued between them. Hanuman threw the rakshasa in the sky and he landed dead in Ravana’s court.
Ravana was disappointed by Kalanemi’s death. However, he wasted no time in planning his next move. Since he was the master of three worlds, he summoned Surya, the sun god, and ordered him to hasten the hour of his rise. Sometime later, Hanuman saw a rosy glow on the horizon, while he was still searching for the herb. To save Lakshmana, Hanuman decided to get hold of Surya’s chariot. The charioteer of Surya was shocked when he saw that the huge vanara had caught hold of the chariot and begun to whirl it around. Surya asked Hanuman the reason for stopping him. Hanuman explained his emergency and requested him not to rise before Lakshmana was restored to health. Surya sympathized with him but told Hanuman that he could not help him as he was under the orders of Ravana. Quick-witted Hanuman immediately asked Surya to lean forward and to hear out a secret. But when he did, Hanuman quickly embraced him in a tight hug, got bigger in size and held him in his arms. He then rushed back to Gandhamadana to continue his search for the herb.
A glorious return
Despite his efforts, Hanuman was not able to find the golden creeper with blue flowers that Sushena had mentioned. While he was wondering about the whereabouts of the herb, he saw some Gandharvas singing and dancing. Hanuman approached them and asked them about the Sanjeevani herb. He told them about the battle between Rama and Ravana and how the herb was essential for the Lakshmana’s survival. However, the Gandharvas informed him that they had never heard of anyone named Rama. Then they crowded around Hanuman and began to tease and torment him. Hanuman struck back at his tormentors, but chaos broke out among the Gandharvas due to the unexpected fight. Witnessing the chaos, Hanuman decided to continue his search, and not waste time-fighting. Unfortunately, try as he might, Hanuman could not find the herb. In the end, to save time, he decided to lift the whole mountain and take it with him to the camp.
After he reached, Sushena himself went and gathered the plants he wanted from the mountain. He made a paste out of herbs and held it to Lakshamana’s nose. Soon, Lakshmana woke up from his unconscious state. After the completion of the mission, Hanuman restored the mountain to its original place and healed the wounded Gandharvas, with the same herb. When Hanuman returned, Rama asked him about the shining object under his arm. Hanuman told him the story of how he had imprisoned the sun in his arms. Upon Rama’s orders, he released Surya, sought his forgiveness and allowed him to rise again. Rama, Lakshmana and the entire army were grateful for Hanuman’s efforts in saving Lakshmana’s life.
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