The son born to Tārā (Tara) and Bāli (Bali), the king of apes in Kiṣkindhyā (Kishkindhya). Aṅgada (Angada) was married to the eldest daughter of Mainda, another chief of clan of apes. Aṅgada’s son was named Dhruba. Aṅgada was first introduced in Rāmāyaṇa (Ramayana) as a judicious royal personage, not as Bāli’s or Tārā’s son. When Bāli heard Sugrīva snarling and grew apprehensive, his wife Tārā told him, “During his strolls in the forest, Prince Aṅgada learned from spies that Sugrīva has formed an alliance with two sons of Daśaratha (Dasharatha) of the Ikṣvāku (Ikshvaku) lineage. This is what I gathered from the prince’s words.”
- In Rāmāyaṇa, Aṅgada has been portrayed in the form of a well-built man. His neck was like that of a resolute lion or bull. He had massive arms, and it seems that his complexion too was dazzling. It is perhaps for this reason that he has been called dīptagnisadṛśa (diptagnisadrisha). He had amber eyes and wore a gold aṅgada or bracelet on each arm.
Although his great physical strength was one of Aṅgada’s most distinguishing features, the most important aspect of his personality was his great knowledge. The composer of Rāmāyaṇa has depicted this in the most curious terms—”Eight-fold acumen, four kinds of strength, and fourteen striking virtues—Aṅgada possesses every quality”—
budhyā hṛṣtāṅgayā yuktaṃ caturval-samanvitam/caturdaṣaguṇam mene hanumān balinaḥ sutam.
Before taking a leap across the seas, Aṅgada stood on the shore feeling disturbed and depressed about seeking out Sītā (Sita). During this time, Hanumān praised him in the aforementioned terms. Eight-fold acumen refers to—1. Listening attentively to others, 2. Expressing himself to others, 3. Gathering the essence of the subject spoken about, 5. Assimilating the essence of the discussed subject into his mind, 6. Counter debate, 7. Understanding the meaning and significance of the discussion, and 8. Philosophical and theoretical knowledge. The four kinds of strength were—physical strength, mental strength, the strength of having presence of mind, and the strength of friends and allies. And last, the fourteen skills he had were—1. Awareness about his surroundings, 2. Determination, 3. Endurance and hardships, 4. Knowledge of all subjects, 5. Efficiency, 6. Power, 7. The quality of maintaining secrecy, 8. The virtue of staying away from disputes, 9. Valour, 10. Devotion and understanding of devoutness of others, 11. Gratefulness, 12. The quality of taking care of those who sought shelter from him, 13. Necessary anger, and 14. Calmness.
These are desirable qualities in a leader. In the end, it is in terms of these virtues that Hanumān deemed Aṅgada as strong as his father and as wise and intelligent as Bṛhaspati (Brihaspati)— bṛhaspatismo budhyā vikrame sadṛśaḥ pituḥ.
[Ex. Tilakatīka (Tilakatika)]
Aṅgada is unheard of before Kiṣkindhyākāṇda (Kishkindhyakanda) of Rāmāyaṇa. During Bāli and Sugrīva’s last battle, Rāmācandra (Ramachandra) shot Bāli with an arrow from the shadows to fulfill his promise. At the cusp of death, Bali was more troubled at the thought of his son than he was engaged in debate about the unfairness of Rāmācandra’s covert attack. Prior to his death, he recalled his beloved son and told Rāmācandra, “I am not concerned about my own life, but it pains me to think about my talented son, Aṅgada, who dons gold bracelets”—yatha putraṃ guṇajeṣtham aṅgadaṃ kanakāṅgadam.
Bāli had brought up Aṅgada with so much love and care that he was anguished at how heartbroken Aṅgada would be when he would not be able to see Bāli. He was also assured that once Sugrīva ascended the throne, he would never adore Aṅgada as much as Bāli had. And thus his words to Rāmācandra were, “My son is but a child, and hence much loved by me—ekaputraśca me priyaḥ—my mighty son is yet to mature completely—bālaścākṛtabuddhiśca. Kindly maintain a harmonious relation between Sugrīva and my son.” Bāli has depended more on Rāmācandra regarding the well-being of his son. Rāmācandra, in return, has assured him that he would regard Aṅgada with the same affection with which he treats Lakṣmaṇa (Lakshmana) and Sugrīva.
Bāli lost consciousness while speaking thus. His wife approached him along with Aṅgada. It must be mentioned here that although many of Aṅgada’s soldiers and subordinates fled after Bāli was struck by the arrow, many of them were eager to crown Aṅgada the next king very soon; they even reassured him that they would render Aṅgada every possible aid and protection—
rakṣyatāṃ nagarī śūrairaṅgadaścābhiṣicyatām;
padasthaṃ bālinaḥ putraṃ bhajiṣyanti plabaṅgamāḥ.
However, allies of Aṅgada realised their error soon enough; even Tārā, Bāli’s wife intercepted them.
While lamenting before Bāli’s demise even his wife Tārā has despaired for Aṅgada. She has told Bāli, “I may be able to endure the distress of being a widow, but how will your wonderful and strong Aṅgada live bearing the wrath of Sugrīva”—batsyate kām abasthāṃ me pitṛbye krodhamūrchite? Rāmācandra’s reasoning fell flat before Tārā’s various arguments; she knew Sugrīva quite well and hence her concerns about Aṅgada were legitimate. Perhaps with this in mind, Hanumān did not venture into other contentions and respectfully proposed to Tārā, “Your son Aṅgada, other ape soldiers, and Bāli’s kingdom—everything belongs to you. Confer upon the desolate Aṅgada, and Sugrīva responsibilities as and when you deem appropriate. After Bāli’s last rites are complete, crown Aṅgada to the throne in this kingdom of apes. Seeing Aṅgada ruling the land will set your mind at peace—
tvaya parigṛhīto’yam aṅgadaḥ śāstu medinīm;
siṃhāsanagataṃ putraṃ paśyantī śāntimeṣyasi.
The conscientious Tārā was well aware of her son’s political position. She knew that Sugrīva had assassinated Bāli utilising the agency of Rāmācandra only with the motivation to usurp the throne, and hence it would not be so easy to deliver the throne to Aṅgada. So she has responded that executing this arrangement for Aṅgada did not fall within the purview of her authority—
na hyeṣā buddhirāstheya hanūmannaṅgadaṃ prati.
Bāli, even at his deathbed, comprehended Aṅgada’s circumstances the most. He realised how things stood in reality and placed a fervent request to Sugrīva, “By all means, take this kingdom of forest dwellers. But take care of my astute child, who has been brought up indulgently, as you would of your own son”—sarvataḥ pari-pālaya. “In fact, you are now a father to him; whatever he receives, it will be from you. You are his protector, and his deliverer when he comes to face his fears”—
tvamapyasya pitā dātā paritrātā ca sarvaśaḥ;
bhayeṣvabhayadaścaiva yathahaṃ plabageśvaraḥ.
- Bāli advised his beloved son Aṅgada just as he had appealed to Sugrīva, “Endure all your sorrows, judiciously judge time and place, and remain faithful to Sugrīva. If you go on the way you used to when I indulged and pampered you, Sugrīva will not treat you with deference. Do not form alliances with Sugrīva’s enemies. It is not necessary for you show excessive affinity, nor apathy towards Sugrīva, because both are flaws. Thus, maintain a neutral ground”—
na cātipraṇayaḥ kārya katarvyo’praṇayaśca te;
ubhayaṃ hi mahādoṣaṃ tasmādantaradṛg bhava.
Aṅgada might not not able to accept Sugrīva as a father-figure in lieu of his father; perhaps this is why Bāli’s advise to Aṅgada was engendered on political grounds. After Bāli’s demise, while his wife Tārā wailed in grief, Rāmācandra put for his resolution to delegate Aṅgada as the crown prince—
putraśca te prāpsyati yauvarājyam.
After Bāli’s funeral and post-funeral rites were complete, when Sugrīva became the king of Kiṣkindhyā, Rāmācandra told him, “Your elder brother’s son Aṅgada, who is as strong as his father, is the most appropriate candidate to be endowed with the honour of the crown prince of Kiṣkindhyā”—
jyeṣthasya hi suto jyeṣthaḥ sadṛśo vikrameṇa ca;
aṅgado’yamadīnātmā yauvarājyasya bhājanam.
After his father’s death Aṅgada was crowned the prince of the kingdom of Kiṣkindhyā, and according to Rāmāyaṇa, as per Rāma’s instructions, Sugrīva warmly embraced Aṅgada before ceremonially appointing him as the prince. The entire clan of apes felicitated Sugrīva with praises at Aṅgada’s crowning.
After Bāli passed away, his wife Tāra, after much lamentation, accepted Sugrīva as her husband. But Aṅgada could not get over the bereavement at the loss of his father. He did not cry at all when his father died, but neither could he forgive Sugrīva who was responsible for Bāli’s death. Even then, he did not forget his father’s last words of advice to him. And therefore, after Sugrīva became the king, Aṅgada obeyed all his commands without a word of protest. When Sugrīva sent him southwards to look for Sītā, even then he acceded to his mandate without any complaint. However, Sītā was nowhere to be found even after the deadline Sugrīva had set for delivering news of Sītā had passed. It was then that the members of the troop of monkeys sent southwards became afraid and anxious. They began wondering what should be done. The most alarmed was Aṅgada. At this point surfaced his latent animosity towards Sugrīva. He said, “We have failed in our task, now our death is inevitable. Sugrīva would never forgive me. He was not the one to crown me prince, Rāma was. Moreover, he dislikes me from before; now he will surely execute me and my mother”—
sa pūrvaṃ vaddhavairo maṃ rājā dṛṣtva vyatikramam;
ghātayiṣyati daṇdena tīkṣmena kṛtanścaya.
“I shall not go back home. I resolve to die here by fasting. If we find any news of Sītā, only then we will go to Sugrīva, or else we will die here.”
Hearing Aṅgada speak as such even the other apes were dismayed. They also wanted to join him in his resolution to take his own life by fasting. Then Hanumān told Aṅgada that Sugrīva was an honourable king. “He always wishes for your mother’s welfare. He always keeps in mind what makes your mother, Tārā, happy. He would never do you any harm. You are like his own child, he has no other except you”—
priyakāmaśca te mātustadarthaṃ cāsya jīvitam;
tasyāpatyañca nāstyanyattasmādaṅgada gamyatām.
In response to Hanumān’s words, a furious Aṅgada said, “The virtues of Sugrīva you so extolled, he possesses none of them. The stature of the elder brother’s wife is equivalent to that of the mother, and yet Sugrīva has taken his elder brother’s spouse as his own. When Bāli was engaged in battle with aversaries, Sugrīva closed off the entrance to the cave. Even though he promised Rāma that he would assist him in rescuing Sītā, he forgot to keep his pledge. He has sent us to seek out Sītā not because it is the honourable thing to do, but because he is afraid of Lakṣmaṇa. Then how can I consider such a person as Sugrīva righteous? Nobody can trust him. I am the son of his enemy, he would not let me live. And so I do not want to go back. Please return and deliver my salutations to Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa, and lady Rumā (Ruma). And console my mother, the ever-loving Tārā.” Aṇgada then sunk to the ground, sobbing. The other apes joined him in tears, castigating Sugrīva and praising Bāli; they too, resolved to fast to death.
Sampāti, Jatāyu’s elder brother used to live on the Vindhya mountain. He came out of his cave and was delighted to find the troop of monkeys there. “By grace of god have they come here,” he said. “I shall devour them one at a time.” Aṅgada was terrified by Sampāti’s words. He told Hanumān, “Look, death [here, Yama] himself has arrived for us. We could not complete Rāma’s task, nor could we accomplish the enterprise entrusted to us by Sugrīva. There, we shall now sacrifice ourselves like Jatāyu had.” Sampāti caught his brother’s name and asked, “I wish to learn more about my brother. I am incapable of flight, my wings have been destroyed by the incalescence of the sun. Carry me down from this mountain.” Complying with his request, Aṅgada brought Sampāti down from the mountains. He then apprised Sampāti of the entire situation– the abduction of Sītā, slaying of Jatāyu, the search for Sītā, Aṅgada and his troop’s resolution to fast to death. Sampāti introduced himself and informed them that a demon [here rākṣasa or rakshasa] named Rāvaṇa had abducted Sītā and taken her to an island situated across the ocean. Now aware of Sītā’s whereabouts, the apes abandoned their resolution to die by fasting and gathered to decide their next stride. But to find Sītā it was necessary to cross the ocean. They became distraught at the thought of crossing the massive expanse of the ocean. Aṅgada, like the fitting leader he was, told them “If we despair now, it would be harmful for us. Let us instead discuss how far each of us are capable of crossing the sea.” Aṅgada’s words prove how mature and wise he was despite his young age. Moreover, he was incredibly brave. When all the heroic apes stated the distances they could leap over, we find Aṅgada voicing his capacity unabashedly. “I can cross this great ocean, but I do not know whether I have the potential to return from there”—
ahametadgamiṣyami yojanānāṃ śataṃ mahat;
nivartane tu me śaktiḥ syānna veti na niścitam.
In response to Aṅgada, Jāmbavān said, “We know that you are a mighty hero. You can effortlessly cross even hundreds of thousands of yojanas [a Vedic unit of distance]. But you are our lord and master. We cannot let you undertake this task yourself.” In this case, Jāmbavān has considered Aṅgada their general and told him, “We have to protect the core of the task at all times.” Soldiers must protect their general as they would their wife—this was the principle. Jāmbavān said, “You are our crown prince and royalty, our leader. It is through you that we have to accomplish our task. Therefore, we will do the work.” Aṅgada ceded to Jāmbavān’s proposal and instructed him to send someone else to Lanka. He then once again brought up Sugrīva’s heartless nature and decided, “I shall not go back home unless we have any news of Sītā.” Under these circumstances, Jāmbavān sent Hanumān to Lanka.
- Hanumān returned with news of Sītā and reported everything to the apes. Aṅgada, on hearing everything, said, ” Hanumān has succeeded in his task but he has not brought Sītā along. Let us go and defeat Rāvaṇa in war, rescue Sītā and return to Kiṣkindhyā.”
kitvā lankāṃ sarakṣaughaṃ hatvā taṃ rāvaṇaṃ raṇe;
sītāmādāya gacchāmaḥ siddhārthā hṛṣtamānasāḥ.
It is evident here that Aṅgada was immensely brave and confident. However, Jāmbavān had immediately held back this impulsive, young and heroic ape. After this, according to Jāmbavān’s advice, everyone along with Aṅgada set off towards Kiṣkindhyā. They descended the Mahendra mountain continued their journey. Gradually, they reached Madhuvana, a charming grove near Kiṣkindhyā. The grove belonged to Sugrīva and it was guarded by his maternal uncle Dadhivaktra [also known as Dadhimukha]. Aṅgada, with the consent of Jāmbavān and other elderly apes permitted them to have honey from the grove, and the monkeys happily drank their fill of honey.
- Dadhivaktra, on the other hand, was beleaguered by the monkeys when he tried to stop them; he was even assaulted by Aṅgada.
Dadhimukha, too, appeared before Sugrīva to lodge a complaint against Aṅgada. Sugrīva listened to everything and said, “A troop that is led by commanders such as Jāmbavān and Aṅgada and directed by Hanumān can do no wrong.”
jāmbavān yatra netā syādaṅgadaśca mahāvalaḥ;
hanūmānaścāpyadhiṣthata na tatra gatiranyathā.
They must have discovered Sītā’s whereabouts in the south. Bring them to me. When Dadhivakrta returned and passed on Sugrīva’s directive, Aṅgada said, “Then let us go to Sugrīva. I cannot give you orders because you are my elders. Without you it would not be possible for me to succeed in any task. Hence, I shall act as you ask me to.” The ape chiefs replied, “Prince, who but you can speak so politely? We, too, want to go to Sugrīva.” Aṅgada then continued the journey to Kiṣkindhyā along with the troop of monkeys. Sugrīva, on the other hand, heard the commotion of the monkeys from afar and told Rāma, “The monkeys must have discovered where Sītā is. Otherwise Aṅgada would never have returned to me.”
aṅgadasya praharṣācca jānāmi śubhadarśana.
na matsakāśamāgacchet kṛtye hi vinipātite;
yuvarājo mahābahuḥ plabatāmaṅgado varaḥ.
- While organising the army for Rāmacandra against Rāvaṇa, Aṅgada was appointed as one of the generals of the Suhamatī monkey warriors.
- Aṅgada is once again seen in Laṅkākāṇda when Rāma had set up camp at the sea shore with the army of monkeys. At that time Vibhīṣaṇa (Vibhishana) had appeared seeking protection from Rāma. Rāma wished to take in Vibhīṣaṇa; still he asked the chiefs of apes for their thoughts on the matter. Everyone stated their own opinion. Aṅgada said, “Since Vibhīṣaṇa comes from Rāvaṇa, we have to be careful. Because he could endanger us later on. Hence, the army should be assembled after considering everything, this is what I feel.If you think Vibhīṣaṇa is noble, by all means accept him, and if you think he is immoral, turn him down”—
yadi doṣo mahāṃstasmiṃstyajyatāmaviśaṃkitam;
guṇān vapi bahūn jñātā saṃgrahaḥ kriyate nṛpa.
- At the initial stages of the Laṅka war, while Rāmacandra stood outside the palace of Laṅka, barricading it, Aṅgada, along with his troop of soldiers, was responsible for guarding the south gate of the palace. There his opponents were Mahāpārśva (Mahaparshwa) and Mahodara.
- After the army had been stationed, it was contemporary ethic to try preventing the war one last time. According to that principle, Rāmacandra sent Aṅgada as a messenger to Rāvaṇa with word that Rāvaṇa must apologise and return Sītā to him, or else he must fight the war. Actually, sending an emissary at the final moment right before the war used to function as a provocation as well. Rāmacandra considered Aṅgada the appropriate candidate to be the messenger—preṣayāmāsa dautyena rāvaṇasya tato’ṅgadam.
Aṅgada received instructions from Rāma and immediately crossed the boundary of the Laṅka palace and arrived before Rāvaṇa, surrounded by his ministers at his court. He proudly introduced himself and said, “I am Bāli’s son Aṅgada and a messenger of Rāmacandra. If you can hear properly, then listen; Rāmacandra has said, ‘Come out of your palace now and fight the war, show me your prowess. I will eradicate you along with all your friends and family. If you fall at my feet and beg for forgiveness, and return Sītā to me, only then you shall live; otherwise, you will die by my hands and the kingdom will pass on to Vibhīṣaṇa.'”
Rāvaṇa was furious when heard such inciting words from Aṅgada; and ordered his subordinates to capture the monkey. Under this command four monstrous rākṣasas caught Aṅgada who immediately climbed right up to the top of the palace with the rākṣasas clinging to him. He shook himself so vigorously that the rākṣasas fell off him to the ground. He then broke off the crest/peak of the palace, identified himself to Rāvaṇa quite arrogantly, and returned to Rāmacandra with a leap in the air. Witnessing Aṅgada’s might drove a fear of the imminent future in Rāvaṇa’s heart.
- During the war, Aṅgada exhibited great prowess. On the first day, as the battle continued into the night, Aṅgada killed the horses drawing Indrajita’s chariot, and even the charioteer, forcing even a mighty warrior such as Indrajita to flee the battlefield.
Everybody was astonished to see a hero like Indrajita retreat when threatened by Aṅgada. Bajradaṃṣtra (Bajradamshtra), a massive warrior of Rāvaṇa’s camp was slayed by Aṅgada’s sword, and with his help Aṅgada managed to kill many of the rākṣasa warriors present there.
The greatest quality of an army general is that he never loses courage. When the monkey soldiers started retreating in fear seeing Kumbhakarṇa on the battlefield, Aṅgada encouraged them by saying, “Why are you forgetting the glory of your lineage and running away? If we attack him all together, we will be able to defeat him quite easily. So come, let us all charge at him together”—
mahatī mutthitāmenāṃ rākṣasānāṃ vibhīṣikam;
vikramādvidhamiṣyamo nivarttadhvaṃ plabaṅgamāḥ.
The monkey troops were inspired by Aṅgada’s speech and engaged in battle with Kumbhakarṇa. But they were no match for the mighty Kumbhakarṇa. Once again, Aṅgada tried to embolden them. However, later on, even he himself was thrashed by Kumbhakarṇa.
Aṅgada also slayed Rāvaṇa’s son Narāntaka.
On another occasion, when the battle dragged on into the night, he killed the rākṣasa heroes Kampana and Prajaṅgha (Prajangha). When his maternal uncles Mainda and Dvivida were endangered while fighting another rākṣasa named Kumbha, Aṅgada rushed over to help them. But even he could not match the demon Kumbha. Kumbha later died at the hands of Sugrīva. While in combat with Rāvaṇa’s minister Mahāpārśva, Aṅgada struck him so hard on the chest with his fist that he died—
tena tasya nipātena rākṣāsasya mahāmṛdhe;
paphāla hṛdayañcāsya sa papāta hato bhuvi.
When Rāvaṇa fiercely attacked Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa in a terrible battle after his son Indrajita’s death, Aṅgada and other heroic monkey soldiers, tried to resist Rāvaṇa’s first attack. Rāmopākhyanaparva of Mahābhārata (Mahabharata) records that earlier, when both Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa fainted from the arrow fired by Meghanāda Indrajita, Aṅgada stood surrounding Rāmacandra, along with other ape heroes like Sugrīva and Jāmbavān.
During Rāma’s journey back to Ayodhyā, Aṅgada, too, accompanied him. After Rāmacandra’s return, in Ayodhyā, while Bharata carried Rāma’s slippers, Aṅgada carried his kharga [a weapon].
Rāmacandra was especially pleased with Aṅgada. When the monkeys were taking their leave after Rāma’s coronation as the king, he took up Aṅgada in his lap and bestowed on him his own valuable jewellery. According to Rāma, Aṅgada is Sugrīva’s worthy son—aṅgadaste suputro’yam.
Aṅgada succeeded Sugrīva to the throne of Kiṣkindhyā. It was because of Sugrīva that Aṅgada had to relinquish the right to his father’s kingdom after his death. However, when Bāli passed away, Hanumān had stated that the throne legitimately belonged to Aṅgada. After ruling the kingdom for many years, Sugrīva, too, realised that this fatherless mighty hero had been deprived of what he deserved. When Rāma resolved to renounce his mortal shell, Sugrivā also felt rather inclined towards asceticism. He arrived at Ayodhyā to give Rāma the much desired news that he himself had crowned Aṅgada the monarch of the kingdom of apes before coming to Rāma—
abhiṣicyāṅgadaṃ vīram āgato’smi nareśvara.