In Srimad Ramayana, Sage Valmiki has given elaborate descriptions of three cities, : Ayodhya, Kishkinda and Lanka, in that order. He has also described the types of people living in those cities and of course the rulers. To perceptive reader, they seem to fit to be designated as sattvik, rajasik, and tamasik cities. While Ayodhya would be clearly seen as a sattvik city, the attributes of ‘tamasik’ cities. While Ayodhya would be clearly seen as a satvik city, the attributes of ‘tamasik’ and ´rajasik´ could be equally applied to the latter 2 cities ie Kiskindha and Lanka. But of course , Lanka has a slight edge over Kishkindha by the virtue of the fact that it was built by Visvakarma and also the fact that it was more opulent and better inhabited. Let us study the topography and other details of cities from Valmiki’s point of view.
Ayodhya is said to have been fashioned by the first Manu , the progenitor of the Ikshvaku dynasty. It was the capital of the Kosala kingdom, through which the river Sarayu(presently Ghagara) passes. The domain of Kosala of olden times is said to have extended far away on either side of the river, ‘ covering many miles of impassable forest and dense undergrowth’. (It was in these forests that Kaikeyi wanted SriRama to live for 14 years after forfeiting Him to go further down south, where Ravana abducted Sitadevi and ultimately led to his own doom).
Ayodhya was well protected on all sides by high rampart walls , extending several miles in length. Several weapons of destruction were mounted on the walls to deter intruders. Moats ran deep around the walls. The four main city gates were exquisitely carved and strong enough to withstand even the assaults by the elephants. For these reasons the city was called ‘Ayodhya’ is impregnable.
The city was well connected with the rest of the country through wide , excellent roads fit for several chariots to move abreast. These roads were well maintained and lined with gigantic shady trees. A scent of flowers always filled the roadsides. The houses in Ayodhya had many storeys and had waving flags atop. The mansions of nobles and the royal houses were in the city center with royal pathways going in all four directions. King Dasaratha’s palace along with separate mansions for his queens, stood at the center of huge square, replete with natural and artificial gardens, limpid pools and flowering groves. Interspersed with houses and the palaces were parks and restign areas. The houses of the gentry and the middle-class were appropriate to their status. The capital and the country, as a whole, was rich in granary:Merchants from all parts of the world were thronging Ayodhya all the time to dispose of their merchandise and also to trade in precious gems, perfumes and silks for which the country was famous. The city had all varieties of domestic animals such as cattle, horses, camels and elephants, all well cared of.
More than excellences , it was the people who claimed attention. They were just and happy, generous and broadminded, truthful and contended, besides being well versed in fine arts, traditional lore and legends. Godly in spirit, self-controlled, loyal to the king, always following the rules of their class, hospitable to visitors, mindful of others properties, the citizens set great store by their moral excellence. Evils of any type did not find a place here. Happy and contented , the people of Ayodhya lived for one another. It was such a country that the Lord chose to take His incarnation as SriRama.
Sage Valmiki devotes less space ti tgus city as compared to Ayodhya described earlier and Lanka, which he would describe later. This capital city was situated in the midst of tall peaks, and guarded by huge vanaras. Obviously built on hills and slopes of hills, the whole city seemed intertwined with adjoining forests and groves. There were different types of houses , villas and palaces.The royal roads were filled with gay cafes, pleasure dens, and drinking salons. (These were obviously saintly absent in Ayodhya) The vanaras were of different shapes and hues. And each had more than one chieftain.They all had their residences the palace of their chief Sugriva shine with dazzling brilliance and seemed to consist only of turrets. Set against the blue sky , the whitewalls of the palace seemed like clouds floating across the sky. The doors and the steps were made of gold and carried intricate designs. There were attractive sofas and seats , divans and settes covered with priceless upholstery. Luscious fruits and colourful wines were found everywhere in curiously wrought receptacles. Sugriva palace was filled with a crowd of vanara girls and women, who were either singing or dancing or busy preparing garlands or edible items.Not much is mentioned about inhabitants, the vanaras. But that they were disciplined and brave is brought out later,when hundreds and thousands fanned out to different parts of the country under orders of Sugriva to locate Sitadevi.But the whole place of Sugriva to locate Sitadevi.But whole place of Kishkindha reeked of pleasure , slothful pleasure. ‘Rajasik’, and to an extent ‘tamasik’ would be an ideal description of this city.
‘The City of lanka was planned and fashioned by Vishwakarma the divine architect and among all his creations this city was the most inspired’
In Valmiki’s words Lanka was richer, lovelier and grander than even Ayodhya, but less noble , righteous and spiritual. The city was planned and fashioned by Vishwakarma the divine architect and among all his creations , this city was the most inspired .Lanka was built on a three crested mountain called Trikuta. Even the approaches to the city were as beautiful as the city itself. Fragrant trees , huge granite blocks, and swards of green grass vied for space among the hilly slopes.Inhabited by birds of various hues and sizes and surrounded by waterbodies of every shape, the outskirts of Lanka, seemed to invite passers-by to diport themselves in cool surroundings. The city itself which grit with deep moats was awe inspiring. As is known, Lanka was on seashore, besides being on an elevation. It seemed to be taking on wings and flying towards the sky or providing the link between the sea and the sky. Painted white in coats of shining mortar, the high rise buildings in Lanka resembles autumnal clouds stationing themselves to drink the beauty of place. Each building had vantage points which provided uninterrupted view of the surroundings so that enemy cannot creep into the city. The city was originally built for Kubera , but was usurped by Ravana through sheer might.Sage Valmiki compares Lanka with the fair damsel with encircling global wall as her waist, the moat around as a gridle the countless weapons of war ranged on the walls as tresses and ornaments.
Ravana’s palace gets a special treatment in the Ramayana unlike Dasaratha’s palace which practically got no mention while describing Ayodhya. While all other mansions in Lanka were executed by Viswakarma , this palace was designed by Ravana himself. Guarded zealously by the rakshasas of immense stature and inhabited by gorgeously clad men and women flitting about in groups , with domesticated birds and animals roaming about the palace looked like a city. The mansion of Ravana was the center for attention and reverence by the residence of Lanka. His fame as a devout worshipper of Shiva, his proficiency in Vedic texts, his knowledge of every type of weapon , and every method of warfare , wether on the ground or on the skies were sufficient for his subjects to hold him in awe. His palace was flaunted with every type of war – vehicle, weapon and accoutrment.Surrounding this mansion were the palatial houses of brothers , sons and other relatives , his generals and officers all showing every signs of opulence .At regular intervals were encampsets of rakshasas forces, ever ready for battle . Well – caparisoned elephants , bedecked horses and camels were ranged in stables running several miles long.
The city of Lanka would not have been fully described without mentioning two distinctive features, the Pushpaka vimana and the Asokavana . The former was an aircraft inlaid with gems and ornaments and decorated with the figures of birds made of gold . Being divine in nature, it stood in the sky without touching the ground. (This was the vimana which SriRama and Sitadevi travelled in , to reach Ayodhya in time before the expiry of fourteen years). Originally Kubera’s Ravana wrested it from him after obtaining spiritual strength and a boon from Brahma . The Pushpaka vimana understood the spoken wishes of person flying it and would fly with the speed of wind. It held many chambers(one could call them mansions) within its expansive space and had everything a person could possibly desire. It could take any shape as desired by its master. The most wonderful part of the vimana was figure of Goddess Lakshmi , on whom the figures of elephants showered flowers with their uplifted trunks .Such was the proud possession of Ravana.
The other feature which distinguished Lanka from the other great cities was the Asokavana or the grove of Asoka trees, which was a well laid out garden of exquisite beauty .It was the home for rare plants and trees and birds of every description, lakes and tanks with powdered pearls and corals instead of sand, hills , hillocks carved by human hands, streams flowing as if endowed with life cavorting and turning unexpected corners. When Hanuman saw the grove , it was well and unobstrusively protected under the orders of Ravana., for held it grieving and disconsolate Sitedevi violently separated from SriRama.
Finally it is well known , this entire city of sensual splendou faced double destruction first in the hands of Hanuman, who set it ablaze after meeting Site devi later by the vanara army during the battle. Even while describing the destruction , Sage Valmiki gives vivid description of the wonders and valuables which were found in the city. The stately palaces crashed to the ground.Precious gems and rare unguents , unique vessels of gold and silver, caches of wondrous arms were destroyed on these 2 occasions . The tamasik city had its end. But it was soon revived to its glory sans its vulgar display and the vestiges of unlawful passion by the glances of Sitadevi when LordRama asked Her to bestow Her glances in that direction
The three cities Ayodhya, Kiskindha and Lanka are not only landmarks , but also signposts