In Hindu mythology, Kabandha (“headless torso”) is a Rakshasa (demon) with very long arms and a mouth in his belly, who is killed and freed from a curse by Lord Rama and his brother Lakshmana.
Rama, Sita and his brother Lakshmana were exiled to the forest for fourteen years. While in the forest, Sita was kidnapped by the demon-king Ravana. Rama was informed of Sita’s fate by the dying vulture Jatayu, who had been mortally wounded while trying to save her. Searching for Sita, Rama and Lakshmana reached the Krauncha forest, where Kabandha dwelt.
While in the forest, Kabandha suddenly appeared before them. The demon blocked the path of the brothers, who tried to escape by taking a different route, but were finally caught by the long arms of Kabandha. The demon grabbed Rama in his right arm and Lakshmana in his left. Finding themselves helpless in Kabandha's clutches, Lakshmana appeals to Rama to escape and find Sita, leaving him behind as a sacrifice to the demon. When both the brothers had left every hope of survival they decided to make a last-ditch effort for survival and drew their swords to cut Kabandha’s arms as his strength lay in his hands. The brothers drew their swords and quickly cut off the arms of the demon, who fell down with a mighty roar.
The fallen Kabandha asked for the names of his vanquishers and requested that Rama perform his last rites, offered him what information he could and died. The brothers cremated Kabandha’s corpse and as the pyre was lit, Kabandha’s demon form melted and from the flames Vishvavasu (earlier cursed and made into an ugly, carnivorous demon by Indra) rose up in the air in his celestial form. Vishvavasu told Rama about Ravana and that he is very powerful and both gods and demons are scared of him. Therefore, to defeat him Lord Rama will have to strategise. For this, he advised Rama a crucial thing - which one of the ways to fight calamity is to nurture a friendship with someone, who is also in trouble. He advised the brothers to find the monkey (vanara) king Sugriva, who would guide them in the quest for Sita. Vishvavasu informed Rama that Sugriva was driven out of his kingdom by his own brother Vali and that Rama should help Sugriva regain his kingdom. The deposed Sugriva dwelt at Rishyamuka Parvat. Vishvavasu then described in detail the route to Rishyamuka Parvat.
He advised Rama to travel in the western direction till he reached the Pampa Lake in the region called Matangavana where sage Matanga’s hermitage once stood. Rama would meet vanaras at this lake and also sage Matanga’s aged female disciple Shabari, who is waiting for him and after Rama’s visit, would ascend to heaven. Rama was also informed that to the east of Matangavana is the Rishyamuka Parvat, which has an arduous path up. He revealed that one who ascends to the top of this hill will have his dreams fulfilled and assured Rama that his sorrows would end after reaching this hill where Sugriva dwelt in a cave.
There are several lessons from the story ―
1. Never give up. Never lose hope. No battle is lost until it has finally ended. A last-ditch effort must be made to win over every adversary and overcome any adverse situation.
2. Howsoever strong your adversary might be he would always have a weakness or strength. Attack his strength or exploit his weakness. Therefore, timely and periodic SWOT analysis of the adversary (competitor) is crucial - Kabandh’s arms were his biggest strength and cutting-off his arms was a strategic solution for their victory.
3. It is not always that an enemy would remain an enemy or an adversary, all the time. If treated well (with respect) and forgiven, an adversary could also become a friend and even help as is evident from the behavior of the demon Kabandh who provides all the vital clues and critical advice to Lord Ram regarding the abduction of Sita once he is emancipated from the curse upon his cremation.
4. Every adverse situation also throws-up an equal opportunity which can help overcome present or future challenges. Even though Kabandh was a demon, he provided vital clues to the kidnapping of Sita and also suggested a solution of seeking help from Sugriva (who was also going through challenging times). It was here that Lord Rama met with Hanuman who became his most ardent follower and alongwith Sugriva helped to get Sita back from Lanka.