IN the epic Ramayana, one major episode describes how Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother was wounded in battle by Ravana’s son Indrajit. When the fighting was over for the day, Rama and Sugriva went to where Lakshmana was lying apparently lifeless on the battlefield. Rama was despairing and was on the point of calling off the quest for rescuing Sita but for the intervention of Sushena, Sugriva’s monkey-doctor, who said the only way to revive Lakshmana was to get three herbs from the foot of the Dunagiri mountain in the Himalayas. Hanuman, who was standing nearby, heard this and said, ‘If King Sugriva permits me, I can go to the mountain and fetch the herbs before sunrise.’
Rama blessed Hanuman, who flew into the skies and winged his way over the length of India to where the lofty snowy peaks of the Himalayas gleamed in the starlight. Hanuman had no difficulty in locating the Dunagiri mountain but finding the herbs proved to be a tough task in the dark. Sushena had described the herbs and he found the first two. But he could not find the herb called Sanjivani, though he searched high and low. Looking to the east, he saw the sky lightening as the first faint light of dawn began to streak the horizon. He prayed to Surya, the sun god, to delay the rising of the sun, but the morning continued to lighten. Desperate for time, and angry at not being able to locate the magical herb, Hanuman decided that Surya would have to be physically restrained. He increased his size enormously and stuffed the god under his right arm so no sunlight could escape. And having still not found Sanjivani, he tore up the whole of the mountain and flew back to Lanka, with the mountain slung over his shoulder. He asked Sushena to hurry with locating the medicine as the sun was desperate to escape. As soon as Sushena located to medicine, he poured a mixture of all three herbs into Lakshmana’s mouth. Lakshmana stirred, and opened his eyes. All those gathered round uttered cries of delight and the monkeys began to somersault with happiness. Rama embraced Hanuman warmly. With Lakshmana restored to health, Hanuman released the sun god and within seconds the darkness had been replaced with bright, white sunlight.