The Death of Malyavan

The Death of Malyavan

by Emily Hunt

Image of Malyavan from Ramayanworld.

The day Ravana had died, the people of the city screamed and writhed, fearful and angry. Rakshasas fell dying, Malyavan had closed his eyes and remembered what it was to be young. He could smell smoke in the air and hear the roar of the bears, the screech of the monkeys and knew in some dark, distant part of him that Ravana would fall. It should come as no surprise- Ravana had always been convinced of his own strength, so set in his ways that he’d believed he’d never lose to even one such as Rama.

Malyavan's body ached and his joints were stiff. Sitting down was actually an exercise in effort for the aging rakshasa prince who had once been Ravana's adviser. He groaned and tilted his head back to watch the brilliant sky, speckled with the myriad and sundry signs of war. Smoke. Ash. Beasts and demons of the air. The shine of weapons catching the light of the setting sun. Lanka. How he loved it. How long he had lived there. How he would mourn this place that seemed as if it would exist forever- much as he’d felt of himself when he’d been a fine, brave warrior. It had been a very long time since Malyavan had been young, strong, and had possessed a sharp memory. The Malyavan of youth had never failed to recall things of importance, as the old, doddering Malyavan did.

In beautiful Lanka of the Waves, Malyavan remembered two days of war- one in his youth, and one not so long ago, when his kinsman Ravana had paid for his covetous nature. 

His arrogance was reminiscent of that of youth. Though he was old now, Malyavan also remembered what it was to be swift, sharp, and to be so convinced of his own immortality that it had taken the sight of Vishnu himself to feel the icy fist of fear clenching about the strong young heart in his chest. He remembered the rage of the Narayan. How bright Vishnu's skin had been! How brilliant the flash of his weapon! How fearful the rakshasa warriors were when Vishu ran them into the ground, too weary to even lift their blades any longer. His rage had been terrifying and rakshasa blood had stained the ground red.

In the present, Malyavan’s lips twisted downward. The day Rama’s army had invaded Lanka, Narayana was not fighting just to be able to fight- he had come for his wife, the fair-faced harlot that Ravana had failed to return to the prince of Ayodhya in spite of the encouragement of his advisers. He had even shunned the judgment of Malyavan himself. Malyavan. Chief Adviser to the King of Lanka. 'Is this the end of me, then?' he wondered silently. 'Dying sullen and angry, slighted by my sister's kin?'

He tipped his head back again and exhaled a long, shaky breath as Indra’s arms stretched out before him. 'Well,' he reflected ruefully. 'There are worse ways to die.'

“Come,” said Indra, “I shall take you home again...”

Source Bibliography: "Ramayana" retold by William Buck (1997). University of California Press, California.  325-373.

Author’s Note: I found Malyavan to be a particularly interesting character! He had been involved in earlier battles in Lanka and therefore, could actually be considered more experienced than Ravana. How would the story have ended if Ravana had actually listened to Malyavan? He was fully aware of what Rama was capable of, and therefore, might have had more insight than some of the other rakshasas in Lanka may have possessed. Another interesting fact is that he was a kinsman of Ravana. Would this have made him closer to the King of Lanka and did this affect some of his feelings when Indra took him from the mortal world? I tried to imply he had some lingering feelings of bitterness in the last moments of his life. I tried something a bit different in telling of the moments leading up to Malyavan’s passing. I had him remember one battle, then reach back further into the past to remember his first encounter with Vishnu and how all the rakshasas had fled before I had him snap back to awareness to see Indra reaching out to him. He is, I feel, a character who should have received far more attention in the “Ramayana” than he’d received, though Buck’s interpretation of the character struck me as more poignant than Narayan’s adaptation. Thus, I chose to focus more on Buck’s version in this retelling.