Ravana, the king of Lanka, was at the height of his glory. He had fought and defeated many kings. He lived a life of luxury. But there was Indra who lived in greater luxury. Ravana was jealous of Indra and he waited for a chance to wage war against him.
One day, Ravana called his son, Meghanath, to his side and said: “Meghanath, you are a great soldier. Your fame has spread all over the world. But, lately, you have been idle. It is time you showed your strength again to the world and its people.”
Ravana added: “You know, I have defeated all my enemies. But there is Indra who does not like me. We have to teach him a lesson. Why not go and fight him? We are sure to win.”
Meghanath liked the idea. He made all the arrangements for a war with Indra. Soon, the father and the son marched out of Lanka with a huge army.
Ravana and Meghanath reached the gates of Indra’s palace. They challenged Indra to come out and fight. Indra had no choice. He accepted the challenge.
Indra, too, had a big army. A terrible battle took place. Finally, Indra and his forces were defeated.
Indra was taken prisoner and Meghanath marched him off to Lanka. Ravana and his troops looted Indra’s palace and returned home in triumph.
Back in Lanka, Ravana chained Indra to a tall pillar. Indra became an object of fun and ridicule for the people at Ravana’s palace.
For many days, Indra remained a prisoner. He was unable to escape. Then he started praying to all the other gods to come to his help. Lord Vishnu, the god of gods, heard his prayers and requested Brahma to help Indra.
Brahma went to Lanka. Ravana received him with great respect. “Look, Ravana,” said Brahma, “I hear that you have kept Indra here as a prisoner, chained to a pillar. You don’t know what you have done. It is a shame that you should do such a thing. Release Indra immediately and asked his pardon.”
Now, Brahma was one of the few gods whom Ravana respected. So Ravana did not wish to displease Brahma. Indra was immediately set free.
Ravana ordered a grand festival in Lanka to celebrate his victory. There were big feasts everywhere. There was music and dancing. There were big processions. A durbar was held and Meghanath was given the title of ‘Indrajit’ because of his victory over Indra.
While these celebrations were going on, Narada visited Lanka. Ravana received him with great courtesy and respect. “I have come to greet you in your big victory,” said Narada to Ravana.
Ravana was pleased. He said: “Oh, you also have heard of it. It was a really great victory. Indra was defeated and taken prisoner. Meghanath brought him here and chained him to a pillar, like a monkey. You ought to have come a little earlier. Then you would have seen Indra chained to a pillar.”
Ravana added: “But unfortunately I could not keep him long because poor Brahma took pity on him. In fact, Brahma came to see me. With tears in his eyes, Brahma begged me to release Indra. You know, Brahma has great respect for me and I had to oblige him. And so I let Indra go away.”
“All the world is singing your praise,” said Narada, “except someone whom I met on the way.”
“Who is that?” roared Ravana.
“Oh, it is only a monkey,” replied Narada. “But it is a big monkey-Vali, the monkey king. I don’t wish to tell you all that he told me about you. In fact, I am afraid to tell you.”
Ravana was angry. He said: “I will tell you all, if you insist. This monkey, Vali, feels that you, the great Ravana, are no match for him, that you know it, and that is why you dare not face him. I think that monkey should be taught a lesson. It is dangerous to keep him free. He must be beaten. His bones must be broken. He must be chained, and brought here for the children to play with.”
Ravana was furious. He called his son and ordered him to get ready with the army. Narada laughed.
“It is a shame for you to fight a mere monkey with an army,” said Narada. “The whole world will laugh at you, if you take an army to fight a monkey. It is a pity you don’t know your own strength. To deal with a monkey there is no need for an army or weapons. You can deal with him yourself. If you like, I shall come with you.”
Ravana thought for a moment and agreed to go with Narada. They set out immediately and reached the place where Vali was living.
“Look,” said Narada. “There is Vali.”
“Where is he?” asked Ravana. I see only a hill. Is he behind the hill?”
Narada replied: “No, no that is not a hill. It is Vali himself. Remember, I told you he was big. But don’t be afraid of him. He is only a monkey. When he sees you, he is sure to jump and climb some tall tree. You must catch him before that. See his tail at the back? Why not catch hold of him by the tail, so that he can’t run away?”
Ravana looked at Vali from Head to foot. He was frightened. Vali was such a huge monkey.
“He seems to be at prayer,” Ravana told Narada. “Let us wait a little, until he has finished his prayers. Then I shall deal with him.”
Narada said: “Your words are fine. But they are not the words of Ravana, the great and mighty Lord of Lanka. Tell me, O Ravana, are you afraid of Vali, a mere monkey? It is true that Vali is at prayer, but that is the best time to catch him.”
Ravana went forward. But he stopped when Vali’s huge tail moved a little.
Narada looked at Ravana and smiled at him with scorn.
Ravana saw that. Quickly, he went forward again and caught hold of Vali’s tail with one hand.
Vali’s tail moved a little, formed a loop, and tied up Ravana’s arm in a knot. Ravana could not draw his hand back. He looked at Narada for advice.
Narada said: “Use the other hand, Ravana, and pull that monkey’s tail quickly.”
Ravana tried that and the other hand was also caught in Vali’s long tail.
In a moment, the tail moved round and rounds over Ravana’s body. Ravana found himself completely bound and helpless. He lay like a bundle, tied to Vali’s tail.
Narada went to Ravana and said: “O great and mighty King Ravana, I have to go now. Please don’t be upset. I shall go and tell your great son, who defeated Indra, to come and help you out.”
Narada went on his way, without even looking back at helpless Ravana.
Vali finished his prayers and stood up. He did not take any notice of Ravana, who was still tied to his tail.
Vali set out on a pilgrimage. He jumped over mountains and crossed seas and oceans. He took his bath in many scared rivers. Ravana remained firmly tied to his tail all the time.
Vali held a grand durbar after his return from the pilgrimage. All the monkeys of the world attended the durbar to pay their homage to Vali. During the durbar, someone noticed something strange on Vali’s tail. The monkeys gathered round it. They saw that it was a large man tied to Vali’s tail.
The monkeys were amused. They teased Ravana.
Then Vali turned round to see what was going on. He saw Ravana tied to his tail.
Vali immediately released Ravana. He asked Ravana how he came to be there and how long he had been there.
Ravana looked very miserable. With his head bowed, he told Vali the whole story. He said he was sorry for having come to fight Vali.
Vali was kind to Ravana. He said he was sorry for all that had happened. He requested Ravana to go back home.
Vali said to Ravana: “Please don’t have any ill feeling towards me. And please don’t be jealous of people or of the gods.”
Ravana went home, sad and ashamed of himself. But he was a wiser man after this adventure.