The coming together of Rama and Sugriva on the Rishyamuka hill is a well-nuanced episode in which a deep friendship is born and nurtured to derive mutual benefit and mitigate sufferings inflicted by common grounds — treacherous kin, loss of kingdom and separation from a beloved wife.
The sublime devotion of Hanuman enables Rama and Sugriva to identify, appreciate and resolve each other’s plight, leading to fusion of minds. While dwelling on this episode, in a discourse, Sri Sankara Rama Dikshitar drew attention to poet Bhartruhari’s insightful observation on friendship.
“A good friend dissuades his companion from sin, encourages good action, keeps secrets, makes known his merits, does not forsake him in distress, and stands through thick and thin by his friend.”
Sugriva extends his hand to Rama which He readily clasps. Hanuman quickly lights up a fire to pledge this significant moment. “Let us share our joys and sorrows and let our friendship be eternal,” they vowed. Referring to this divine dispensation, Dikshitar pointed out Bhartruhari’s allusion to the bond between milk and water. Milk lends its qualities to water. Water, unable to stand the distress of milk when it is heated, sacrifices itself by evaporating. Now milk, for its turn, decides to boil over and put out the fire. But when water is poured on it, milk settles down, and the friends are united and happy.
Sugriva tells Rama about Vali’s wrath resulting in his persecution. Driven out of his kingdom and deprived of his wife by Vali, Sugriva leads the life of a wanderer. He seeks Rama’s benevolence to get back his earlier position. When Rama promises to save Sugriva and assures him that Vali cannot escape his bow, in the distant Asoka grove, Sita’s left eyelids throb, indicating a good omen, while those of Ravana and Vali twitch, portending doom.
Sugriva tries to allay Rama’s grief. His production of some jewels tied to a sash and dropped by a woman crying out the names of Rama and Lakshmana while being forcefully carried by a rakshasa across the sky indeed brings the much-needed balm.