“A Palace? Did I hear you right?”

“Yes, a palace. That is what I want”

The three eyed God looked at the beautiful black eyes of his consort. The sharp outlines of Kohl covered the eyes which at the moment had forgotten to blink. She knew what she wanted and he knew that she would’nt rest until she got it.

“What would you get in a palace that you wont get here, Shakti?”

“While this might be abode of Gods, I do wish to venture out once in a while and see the world. Run thorugh the meadows, feel the warmth of the sun, bathe in the pristine blue waters, get lost in the green forests. I want to experience all of that from time to time. I need a palace to stay so that I can enjoy the smaller pleasures that the mortals are bestowed with”.

Shiva looked at her with his third eye closed. She was beautiful when she was passionate.

“Oh and you shall have it. Did you have a place in mind?”

“Lankai*”

“There is no place more beautiful than that. It shall be arranged” said the Lord and summoned Vishvakarma , the chief architect of the Gods.

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Shakti could not have imagined a more beautiful palace. It was a huge. There were fountains everywhere. The walls moved as she wanted them to. She could summon windows if she felt like. The walls would change colors as she liked. The furniture covers were made of the softest silk. It would match the color of her attire if she wished. The huge enormous pillars were sculptured with her favorite art and figurines. She had a sprwaling bath and the quarters for her help alone could seat the entire island country. There were mirrors everywhere. The rooms would light up on her instructions. She fell in love with the palace’s fluid design. It was everything she wanted. It was magical.

“We need someone learned to do the poojas before I move in, my Lord”

“When you are in Lankai, can there be anyone else but my beloved Ravanan?” beamed Shiva. Ravanan was his favorite devotee. Apart from being learned on all the vedas, he was an exquisite artist. It was said that he had mastered all the 64 varities of art forms. Shakti was delighted.

“Wonderful! I cannot wait” She excalimed like a little girl wanting to play with her new toy.

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The millions of devas and all the gods assembled prompty for the grand ceremony that Ravana was performing for Shakthi’s palace. The ten headed king of Lanka dutifully performed all the rites and rituals and made all the gods happy. Shiva was pleased and Shakthi, thrilled. So thrilled that she decided to follow Shiva’s footsteps and grant Ravanan a wish.

“Ask for anything Ravana. You were great today. My palace could not have had better festivities to please all the gods”

Ravanan looked up and bowed to the God and the Goddress. Strong lines of kohl protected a stronger set of eyes behind them. He bowed his head again and he spoke as the forehead decorated with white lines of ash broke in to wrinkles,and his lips parted on one side

“You are very kind, O! Goddess. All I want are your blessings now and forever”

“Ofcourse you have our blessings Ravana, but you can have something more. Comeon now. There must be something your heart desires at this point. Go on. Ask.”

The king replied without a moment’s hesitation.

‘This palace, Goddess shakthi. Thats what my heart desires now. This beautiful palace that is so unique and unparalled in its beauty.”

Shakthi felt a jolt. She saw where Ravana was heading and she did not like it. As she looked at the still bowing down Ravana, she wasnt sure if his reverence was sincere or just an act. She knew how Shiva adored him. So he must be nice, a genuine person, she thought. Maybe he was just being honest. After all , it was a gorgeous palace. It is only expected that people will fall in love with it. She realized kings were always used to the best of comfort and luxury and Ravana probably could not help himself when he saw something as lovely as this palace. He did not mean it, she told herself. He just likes it, yes , ofcourse, that is what it should be. As Shakthi cajoled herself, she let out a mild stifled laugh and asked

“It is a beautiful palace isnt it? Thats exactly what I wanted and I am ecstatic that I got it. Now going back to the boon, Ravana. Do you want to tell me what you want?”

Ravana moved back a little , raised his head , looked the goddess in the eye and said

“This maginificent palace,goddess Shakthi. That is what I want as the boon”.

Shakthi was speechless. She felt like the jolt that hit her previously was a slight tremor compared to the one that she felt now. She felt cheated. How could he do that? He was just exploiting her good nature. All her dreams of staying in the palace while enjoying the pleasures of the mortal world now seemed shattered. She had imagined herself in the palace for days now , She had planned her routine in the palace. She had a plan for every room and now it was just being taken away from her. She was hurt. At the betrayal more than anything.

She looked at Shiva for some support knowing fully well what he would say. Shiva frightened to look her in the eye, looked towards Ravanan and said

“You know what to do Shakthi” Shiva said, scared to look at his wife’s eyes. He knew her anger and he did not want to there at that moment. But then Ravanan had her in a fix. There was no way she could say no. He recalled how excited she was about the palace. All he could do was sigh.

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“O! King of Lanka, You will regret this. Your downfall begins now”

Ravanan looked at the monkey with a mixture of awe and hatred. He was hoping for condescneding but something about him demanded respect. He looked as the commander of the monkey army of the kingdom of kishkinta escaped the control of his forces as they tried to light his tail on fire.

He jumped from one pillar to another until he reached the rear end of Ravana’s court. He turned around as he said

” I will burn it all down Ravana. You just dont take something that is someone else’s beloved”.

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“You can have it. The palace is yours”

Ravanan looked up and smiled at goddess Shakthi. Her face was flushed with anger . She had decided against controlling her emotions. She wanted him to see her in her full wrath.

“Ravana, you wilfully, knowing fully well how much I loved this palace, took it away from me. And you used such a vile underhand tactic to do so. My heart burns with anger and rage. Then again Ravana, you havent yet realized that one always gets what he deserves. You do not deserve the palace and so you will never truly have it. “

Shiva turned to look at Shakthi and tell her something. But he stopped short. She had a point.

“Your palace Ravana will suffer the same fate as my heart today. Remember this day”. She turned and walked away.

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“O! King of Kings . The monkey warrior has destroyed Lanka. Every place has been burnt down to ashes. People are running helter skeltor, the entire capital city is in chaos. There is nothing to revive. It is as though the Gods have unleashed thier anger on us.” said Ravanan’s prime minister appraising him of the situation.

Ravanan looked up and remembered the other day .

He then looked towards Ashokavanam where Sita was.

“And she?”

“That is the only place that did not burn down my lord”

And he knew why.

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Hindu Mythology will never cease to amaze me. One of many many thousands of stories buried in Ramayana.
Thanks to Sridharini for telling me this story.