Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Meeting Parasurama

The meeting with Parasurama and return to Ayodhya

Dasaratha started to return to Ayodhya with is sons and their brides when he saw bad omens and became perturbed, Vasishta assured him that though there were bad omens denoting evil there were good omens also which show that the end result will be good. At that time there was a storm and the earth shook, a great screen of dust covering everywhere, and a darkness enveloped the earth.

Before they realised what was the cause, Parasurama appeared before them challenging Rama to string the bow of Vishnu whcih was given to him. Dasaratha pleaded with him saying that the revenge he took for the killing of his father Jamadagni by Karthavirya, a kshathriya, by indulging in the destruction of kshathriyas has ended by his promising Indra not to take up arms again.Rama was young and newly married and Parasurama should not harm him.

But Parasurama treated Dasaratha and others as though they were non-existent and told Rama that Visvakarma made two identical bows and gave them to Siva and Vishnu and Rama has broken the former. Parasurama said if Rama could string the bow of Vishnu then only he will accept the greatness of Rama.Rama took it up and strung it and placed an arrow asking Parasurama whether his power of locomotion or the fruit of his penance should become the target of his arrow . He said that since Parasurama is the grandson of the sister of Visvamithra he did not want to harm him.

Parasurama felt that he has lost all his prowess and realised the real identity of Rama . The power of Vishnu which was present in him till then has gone back to Rama who is the incarnation of Vishnu. Losing his luster Parasurama told Rama to take away the fruit of his penenca as he needed the power of locomotion as he had promised Kasyapa, to whom he gave the earth conquered by killing the kshatriyas, that he would not remain on his land of after sunset. Rama destroyed the fruit of his penance and he went back to Mahendraparvata.

Here a question may arise that since Parasurama is considered as one of the ten incarnations of Vishnu how can he meet Rama and challenge him. Parasurama was a partial avathaara as the divinity manifested only at the time of his destruction of kshatiryas . Parasurama signifies the yogi who has rooted out the inner enemies like kaama and krodha which are portrayed by the kshatriyas. When sattwa rises to the surface there is peace, denoted by the gift of the earth to Kasyapa. The axe of Parasurama is viveka and vairagya, discrimination and detachment, armed with which one can conquer the inner foes. The incarnation comes to an end on the occasion of the meeting between Parasurama and Rama when the Lord assumes back His powers.

After returning to Ayodhya Rama and Sita lived happily for twelve years.Seetha was like Lakshmi and Rama shone like Vishnu with her, says Valmiki.' atheeva rAmah SuSubhE athikamayA;vibhuh SriyA vishnurivAmareSvara h.' Even though they were really Narayana and Lakshmi, the sage uses the word 'like' because of their assuming human body.

Smt. Saroja Ramanujam

Friday, April 27, 2007


Rama weds Sita-SeethA kalyANam

Dasarata was elated to know about the exploits of Rama and about the marriage proposal.He started for Mithila with all his retinue and reached Mithila after travelling for four days.Valmiki says that he ordered his treasures of pearls corals, precious gems and heaps of gold a to be carried in front This deserves to be noted by the parents of the bridegrooms today! Janaka welcomed them with due honour and informed Dasaratha that the wedding will take place the day after their arrival when the yaga will be completed. He said, 'yajnasyAnthE naraSrEshta vivAham rshisammatham, ' indicating that the wedding is of the kind called brAhma, which is done according to the principles laid down by the vedas.

The marriages are of eight kinds according to Manusmrthi. they are, brAhama, daiva, Arsha, prAjApathya , gAndharva, Asura, rAkshasa and paiSAcha.

brAhma - This is done when the boy completes his brahmacharya , that is, gurukula vasa and the parents of the boy approaches the parents of the girl who consent to give their daughter satisfying themselves about the background and education in vedic lore of the boy . No dowry is given and no money transaction involved and the bride is given as kanyadhana to the bridegroom.This is the highest and noblest kind of marriage.

daiva- In this kind of marriage when the girl cannot get a suitable bridegroom the parents, after waiting for a reasonable period, go to yajnasalas to find a priest to marry their daughter,who is decked with ornaments This is considered to be inferior because the girl's parents go on, looking for a suitable match instead of viceversa.

Arsha - A girl is married to a sage after exchanging two cows for the girl.This is because neither the parents of the girl nor the sage could affor a better kind of marriage. This is even inferior to the previous one because of the exchange of cows as the sasthra does not consider any marriage involving money or material transactions as noble.

prAjapathya- similar to brAhma but the parents of the girl go in search of bridegroom unlike the latter.

gAndharva- Similar to the love marriages of today where the girl and boy get married secretly without the consent of the parents. Typical example of this kind is that of Sakuntala and Dushyanyha.

Asura - When the groom is not at all suitable for the bride but gives a lot of wealth and to the bride's parents and get married . it is more or less like buying the girl.

rAkshasa-where the bridegroom fights and carries away the bride and persuads her to marry him, often with the concent of the bride as in the case of Rukmini and Krishna or that of Prthvirakj and Samyuktha of recent times.

pAisacha-The bride is taken against her will and is forced to marry.This was not sanctioned as per the sastras.

The reply of Dasaratha to Janaka was classic.Valmiki calls him vAkyaviDHAm SrEshtah, the best of the speakers. Dasaratha said 'prathigrahO dhAthrvasah Srutham Ethath mayA purA;yaTHA vakshyasi Dharmajna thathkarishyAmahe vayam,' The meaning of the sloka is this: The gift depends on the giver, which is a well known fact and hence Dasaratha agrees to do as Janaka says because he is the dhAthA, the giver of kanyAdhAna while Dasaratha is the one who receives, and therfore has to go according to the wishes of the giver. This idea should also be noted by the parents of the bridegroom nowadays.

Then Vasishta related the glory of ikshvakuvasmsa and Janaka stated the greatness of his vamsa and they agreed on the marriage whcih is like nischayathartha of modern times.

The day of the marriage dawned. Janaka offered to give his daughter UrmiLa to Lakshmana and Visvamithra suggested that the daughters of his brother Kusadvaja, Mandavi and Sruthakirthi may be given in marriage to bharatha and sathrugna to which Janaka agreed with delight. Vasishta was requested by Janaka to conduct the marriage and he did so with Sathanandha and Visvamithra. Valmiki describes in such detail, all the rituals done before and during marriage, that we can learn about them from Ramayana. The muhurtha was set on the day of the star utthara in phalguna , that is , panguni utthiram, which day has become important for so many other reasons since then.

Sita, beautifully adorned, was brought to the marriage hall, and here is one of the places where Valmiki the poet has overtaken Valmiki the sage.

thathasseethAm samAneeya sarvAbharaNa bhooshithAm

padhmAm padhmaviyukthAm vai kESavAnkachyuthAm iva

vidhyuthprabhAm viSAlAksheem snigdhakunchithamoo rDhajAm

hamsAnkithEna kshoumENa kimchith peethEna samvrthAm

vAsithEnOtthareeyEN a surakthEna susamvrthAm ( VR.BK.73.30)

Sita was adorned with all ornaments, wearing red uppercloth which fully covered her and also covered with a veil of silk slightly yellow decorated with swans. She looked like Lakshmi who has left her lotus and slipped from the lap of Vishnu.She shines like lightning and has large eyesbeautiful curly hair.

Kamban describes the arrival of Sita in his own inimitable style.

ponnin oLi poovin veRi sAndhu podhi seetham,

minninezil , annavaL tham mEni oLi mAna

annamum arambaiyarum Ar amizdhum nANa

sittridai nudanga oLir seeradi peyarndhAL

She was shining like gold,with sweet smell of flowers, and cool with the sandal paste, her lutre that of lightening and she put to shame the apsara damsels and the swans with her gait.

The beauty of this verse consisits in the rhythm of the words which is in kanta nadai which when recited even without music sounds like the beautiful walkof Sita. As compared with this the verse in same rhythm is used to describe the gait of surpanakha but the alliteration was such that it portrays the deceitful behaviour of the rakshasi in disguise.We shall see this when we come to that part of the story.(MaduraiTNSes hagopalan explained this in his harikatha on Kambaramayana and also sang the two verses in kanta nadai to the delight of the rasikas which sounded different as suited to the different contexts.)

Janaka placed Sita in front of Rama before fire and said the famous lines which are repeated till today in marriages.

iyam seetha mamasuthA sahaDHarmacharee thava.

pratheeccha chainAm bhadhram thE pANim grhNeeshva pANinA

This sloka is explained by commentators elaborately.

iyam - this Seetha.

1. who is wellknown not only for her beauty but also because of her mode of manifestation. Seetha means the edge of the plough and she was called Seetha because she appeared from the earth when the tip of the plough touched the ground where she was.Being ayonija , not born from the womb she shines with her special atteributes natural to her.

2. She is like lightning and could not be seen with normal eyes and hence see her well.

3. Rama as Narayana has been separated from Seetha, Lakshmi, for long and therefore he would have been seeing her everywhere even when she is not there. Hence he was told that Seetha is here.

4. She also, like Rama, acts like a human being but has taken the incarnation for the sake of Rama only.

5.She has come to Janaka because of much penance in order to be given to Rama in kanyadhana.

Mama suthA - my daughter.Janaka is a rajarshi. and being his daughter is a testimonial for Seetha . This adjective is the predecessor of the next.

sahadharamacharee thava- She will be a fit companion for you in all your pursuits, both yoga and bhoga.For instance Seetha proved to be a sahdharmacharee in showing mercy like Rama , if not more than Rama, who accepted VibheeshaNa who was faultless, while she showed mercy even to those who wronged against her in Asokavana , by saying 'na kaschith nAparAdhyathi, who has not done something wrong ever.' Rama narrated the story of the doves to illustrate his saranagathi dharma and likewise Seetha told Hanuman the story of the bear and the tiger.(VR-YK)

pratheeccha chainAm- Take her . She actually belonged to Rama and hence Janaka says "take her " and not "I give her to you."

bhadhram thE- May you be auspicious by marrying her. It is a mangalASAsanam to ward off evil eyes as the couple are extraordinarily suited to each other.These words occur very often in Valmikiramayana. Being a sage he bestows benediction to the characters and through them to the readers.

pANim grhneeshva pANina- take her by hand. By this Janaka denotes his approval as her father.This also denotes that the marriage is a brAhma one with the consent of the parents.

Janaka gave away Seetha by pouring water purified by manthra in the hand of Rama by way of kanyadhana, saying 'pathivrathA mahAbhAgA chAyA iva anugthA thava.' These words, meaning that she is chaste and fortunate and will follow you like shadow.are indicative of her following Rama to the forest later. She reminds this to Rama and says that she has to go with him as per the orders of the elders.(VR-AK)

Write up by Prof. Saroja Ramanujam

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Choodamani Pradanam

Janaki is in an extremely distressed state and she suspects Hanuman
to be Ravanan himself. She thinks that Ravanan has taken another form
just to cheat her and torment her. But, Hanuman speaks to her sweetly
to gain her trust and when he realised that he has her attention, and
that she has started to believe him, he gives her Shri Rama's ring.
He also tells her that this was given to him by Shri Rama himself.
Here the poet Shri Valmiki tries to capture the state of mind of
Piratti. She takes the ring from him and she is overwhelmed with joy,
and memories of intimate moments with Shri Rama and the relief that
this is the unshakable proof that this is indeed his messenger, and
this had come none too soon either! - and she is overcome by myriad
emotions, all at the same time. She feels as happy as if she was
reunited with Rama himself!

And Shri Periyavachan Pillai says:
It was as if Perumal had come in person and she could see him as if
he was right there. It was as if a dear realtive who had left for a
different country had come back; she just could not take her eyes
off the ring. She was afraid that this was Ravanan, but no! Hanuman
was from her Lord himself! Realising this, she is ecstatic. And she
At the time of her weddding, as her father, Janakarajan, gave her
hand to Shri Rama and as He took her hand, she could feel this ring on
His finger as he grasped her hand. It felt hard against the lotus
soft hand of her Lord. But then, it was the beautiful hand that was
ornamental to the ring ? was'nt it? And not the other way round?
Later, when both of them led a happy life in Ayodhya, at times of
"pranayarosham"(PVP"s word) , at a tiem when there is noon to act as a
go-between, Rama and Sita, both of them would want to end the
lovers' tiff, since even this kind of separation was unbearable - but,
who was to speak or act first? And was'nt this the ring that came
to the rescue! Perumal would slip the ring out and let it fall and
she would take it, hand it to Him and say "Look, here is the ring!"
and both of them would be secretley relieved and only too happy that
they had ended their silly lovers' quarrel!
As she gazed at the ring, she could see in her mind's picture, the
hand that wore it and the strong and handsome shoulder that held the
bow; and it was as if the miles and the ocean that lay in between
suddenly melted away ? and she was back with Him in their palace at
Ayodhya, seated on the beautiful bed in their exquisite bedchamber!
And she embraced the ring like she would have her Lord, if the Lord
himself had been there.
And for all the hardship she was undergoing- wasn't she the daughter
of the great king Janaka? This was not a dynasty that was familiar
with sadness! But, still, here she was!
And while she held the ring, it was like she was reunited with her
Lord himself once again!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Rama breaks the Bow

Janaka and others, besides Rama and Lakshmana heard the story of Visvamithra and Janaka praised him.The next day Visvamithra informed Janaka that the princes wished to see the bow of Siva , which Janaka had and fixed as the veeryasulka for the marriage of his daughter Sita. Janaka informed Visvamithra that the bow was given to Devaratha , his forefather by the devas. It belonged to Siva who strung it to attack the devas who supported Daksha when he insulted Siva and pleased by the entreaty by the devas, Siva gave it to Indra.. Sita, janaka said, was found in the place where his plough dug the ground when he ploughed the field for doing yaga and was brought up by him as his daughter. Since she is extraordinary, Janaka decided to give her in marriage to a valiant hero who could string the bow of Siva

When the kings came to seek the hand of Sita Janaka laid down this condition but none of them were able to fulfill it and they got angry and conducted the siege of Mithila for one year, but Janaka was able to defeat them all with the power attained from devas. Janaka ended by saying that if Rama could string the bow he would have Sita as his bride.Visvamithra told Janaka to show the bow to Rama. then Janaka ordered the bow to be broght to the court. Thousands of attendants dragged the cart in which the bow was kept and Janaka said that the bow was worshipped by him and his ancesters and could not be strung even by devas, asuras or others and hence it is impossible to do so for a human being.

Janaka told Visvamithra to show the bow to Rama and Visvamithra said "vathsa rAma DHanuH pasya, Rama my child, see this bow." Rama went near the box in which the bow was kept and opened it and saw the bow and told Visvamithra by way of getting his permission, "idham DHanurvaram samsprSAmeeha pANinA; yathnavAmscha bhavishyAmi thOlanE pooraNEpi vA, I will touch this bow with my hand and then try to move it and string it."

Then after obtaining the permission of the king and the sage, Rama took the bow in his hand with no effort and stood grasping it in the middle.'leelayA cha DHanurmaDHyE jagrAha vachanAth munEH,' as if it is a plaything..He srung the bow and put an arrow in the middle of it and pulled when the bow broke into two. .'ArOpayath sa DHarmAthmA saleelamiva thaDDhanuH;- --thadhbabhanja DHanurmaDHyE naraSreshtO mahAyaSAH,' says Valmiki, implying that it was no wonder because he was a naraSrEshta and mahAyaSAH, not only he was the best among men, being the Lord Himself but also acquired great fame already by his exploits in protecting the yajna of the sage and redeeming Ahalya.

The sound of the bow breaking was so thunderous that except Visvamithra, Janaka and the princes all the rest fainted with fear.'thasya SabdhO mahAn Aseeth nirghAtha samanissvanaH; bhoomikampaScha sumahAn parvathasyEva dheeryathaH, ' The sound was like the crash of thunder, like an earthquake and as though a mountain was splitting..

Kamban describes this episode in his own beautiful words.When the bow was brought the people seeing it commented, 'Sangodu chakkaram tharittha Sengai acchingaEru allanEl idhanai theenduvAn engu uLan oruvan, this bow can be strung only by Lord Narayana, who wears the conch and the disc and who is the mighty lion. ' Seeing Rama the wowen thought that if the king liked this youth he should giive Sita to him in marriage and to stipulate that this young boy should string the bow of Siva is not right, veLLam aNaitthavan villai edutthu ippiLLai mun ittadhu pEdhamai.'

Rama walking towards the bow is described by Kamban as 'mAgamadangalum mAl vidaiyum pon nAgamum nAgamum nANa nadandhAn.' Rama walked in such a way that put to shame the gait of the mighty lion and the bull and the elephant and with his body that disgraced even the golden Meru. He took the bow in his hand as though it was a garland extended by the hand of Sita, 'seethai enum pon choodagavAl vaLai soottida neettum Edu aviz mAlaiidhu ena edutthAn.' No one saw him take the bow and string it because all they saw was that he took the bow and it broke.'kaiyAl edutthadhu kandanar ittradhu kEttAr.

The delight of the people on seeing Rama breaking the bow is described by Kamban as.' They were describing Rama as the son of Dasaratha, one with eyes like lotus 'dhayaradhan pudhalvar enbar, thAmaraikkaNNan enbar, and that he was not a human but the Lord of the milkyocean Himself, 'mAnidan allan enbar,.kayalporu kadaluL vaigum kadavuLE' They praised both Rama and Sita saying that they suited each other. 'nambiyaikkANa nangaikku Ayiram nayanam vEndum,kombinaikkAN um thorum kurisirkumannadhE Am, Sita should have thousand eyes to see the handsome Rama and likewise he too needed the same to seeher beauty.

Janaka pleased with what happened said Sita who would bring fame to the clan of janakas ( all the kings in his clan were called janakas, this one was Seeradvaja Janaka) on getting Rama ,the son of Dasartha as her husband. and also expressed his satisfaction that his promise to give Sita to one who strings the bow of Siva was fulfilled.

janakAnAm kule keerthim Aharishyathi mE sutha;seethA bharthAram AsAdhya ramam daSarathAthmajam; mama sathyA prthijnA cha veeryaSulkEthi kouSika.' Then with the permission of Visvamithra Janaka made arrangements to send messengers to inform Dasaratha about what happened and to bring him for the marriage.

Article by Mrs. Saroja Ramanujam

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tale of Dove

Sri Rama is generally not regarded as a story-teller of any repute. You are able to picture the ebullient and enthralling Sri Krishna regaling His friends and Gopis with amusing tales, but somehow your imagination baulks at the prospect of the serious, straight-forward and sombre Sri Rama resorting to story-telling. However, Sri Valmiki does portray Sri Rama as telling tales to His friends of the monkey kingdom, not for entertaining them, but for their education and enlightenment. And one such is the Tale of the Dove?the celebrated Kapotha Upaakhyaanam.

Most of the Vaanara veeraas are against admitting Vibhishana into their camp despite his abject surrender at the lotus feet of Sri Raghava. They point out that one who has forsaken his dear brother at a time of crisis would not hesitate to betray his friends anytime. They advance many other arguments against Vibhishana being absorbed into their fold. However, Sri Rama, after affording everyone a patient hearing, comes out with His glorious formulation- - whatever be the shortcomings in the Saranaagata, apparent or latent, and however serious they were, it was His (Rama?s) sworn mission to extend succour and protection to anyone who surrendered. And to buttress His view point, He recounts the Tale of the Dove with telling effect?

?Shrooyate hi kapotena shatru: sharanam aagata:

Architascha yathaa nyaayam svaischa maamsai: nimantrita:?

Here, we may observe that Sri Rama doesn?t recount the story in detail, but tells his listeners ?You have of course heard of the tale of the Dove?. ?Shrooyate hi? says Sri Rama, referring to what must have been a very popular tale. For instance, when referring to the story of the hare and the tortoise, we refer merely to the title of the tale without going into details, for the story is too well-known for recounting. So too, the Tale of the Dove must have been quite famous and commonplace among people, so that Sri Rama had no need to go into details. This is no ordinary old wives? tale, but one capable of destroying all our sins, says the Itihaasa Samucchayam, attributing the story to Bhaargava Rishi, as told to Muchukunda Maharaja. Swami Desikan too has deemed it fit to comment on this tale, in his Abhaya Pradaana Saaram. Well, here is the story which you must definitely have heard before and which Srimad Mukkur Azhagiasingar used to recount with such moving words in his own inimitable fashion.

This happened in Krita Yugam. There was once a cruel man, who had made sadism and torture a way of life. He used to hunt down innocent animals just for the fun of it, incidentally feeding himself on their flesh and selling whatever he could not consume. He was shunned by all his relatives and lived the life of an outcast, intent on his own bestial pursuits. This man was caught one evening in a flood in the woods he lived in, with rains pouring down in sheets and inundating all available land space and the flood waters rising menacingly to neck height. Even at this time of misery, his sharp eyes espied a beautiful female dove on a tree, apparently searching for food for its loved ones. Immediately, he felled the bird with a stone and carried it with him for later use. Drenched to the skin, shivering with cold, terrified of the rising waters and the all-encompassing darkness, he made his way somehow to a small bit of dry land beneath a broad tree on a hillock and took shelter thereunder. In a short while, the rain stopped, the floods receded, the clouds dispersed and the moon and stars peeked out. His body racked by fever and discomfort, hunger gnawing at his insides, the hunter feared he would pass away there and then. At this moment of crisis, it struck to him to appeal to the deities of the woods (Vana Devata) for protection and succour and he did so in desperation, prompted by fear for his life.

The tree under which the man had sheltered happened to be the home of the fallen female dove, whose mate had been anxiously awaiting its return. The male dove atop the tree suffered in pain when it saw its beloved wife in the hunter?s net. The captive dove, however, consoled its husband and pointed out to the priority of protecting the hunter, who had sought their tree home as a refuge. Admiring the thought processes of its wife which were rooted in Dharma despite its being in mortal danger, the male dove flew near the hunter and asked him what he needed. Too cold even to reply, the hunter, through his shivering gestures, indicated that he was extremely cold and in need of warming up. The male dove flew away in search of dry twigs and leaves, found them after considerable difficulty, gathered them near the hunter, flew again to where a camp fire was burning and brought a lighted twig, with which it made a fire. Having relieved the hunter of his numbing cold, the dove asked him what more he needed. The hunter replied that he was being consumed by hunger. The male dove regretted its inability to feed the man who had sought succour from it. Had it been a human being, it would have had the requisite ingredients for cooking a meal for the refugee. Then a thought struck the dove, which realized that the hunter was a meat-eater. Immediately, it circled the fire thrice and fell in it voluntarily, so that its cooked flesh could satisfy the hunter?s hunger.

Put to shame by this extreme sacrifice on the part of a mere bird, the hunter could not bring himself to eat the dove?s flesh. Instantaneously, he gave up all his cruelty and bestiality and turned into a real human being, inspired by the conduct of the principled dove. As a mark of his having turned over a new leaf, he immediately set free the captured female dove, seeking its pardon. The freed dove thanked the hunter?however, too devoted to its mate to survive its death, the female dove too jumped into the fire and gave up its life. Immediately, there materialized from nowhere an air-borne vehicle, fully decorated, in which the male dove was already ensconced. The female dove joined its partner with a divine body and both ascended to heaven as the direct result of the supreme sacrifice they had performed in protecting one who had sought refuge.

This, then, is the Tale of the Dove recounted by Sri Rama to His listeners on the shores of Tiruppullaani, putting an end to the debate on whether or not to admit Vibheeshana to their camp. ?When a mere bird could give up its life for protecting a Sharanaagata, could a Prince of the exalted Ikshvaaku dynasty refuse to provide refuge to one who has surrendered?? enquired Sri Raghava, reiterating that it was His life?s mission to offer succour to Sharanaagataas??Abhayam sarva bhootebhya: dadaami, etat vratam mama?.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Theme of Sundarakandam

Human Despair is indeed the predominant theme of
Valmiki's "sundara kAndam".

************ *****

Despair degrades the human spirit absolutely. There is
virtually no humanity left in a man who has lost all
hope in life or himself. The despairing soul travels
but one road: the road to slow self-destruction and
inevitable perdition.

Self-destruction and perdition take 2 forms. One is
Suicide and the other, Terrorism. One is mindless
violence directed against oneself. The other is
indiscriminate violence unleashed upon the world at
large. The pyschology and pathology of both the
suicidal as well as the terrorist mind-set is
portrayed vividly through the events and characters of
the "sundara-kaandam" in the Valmiki Ramayana.

************ ***

Rama's grief and despair over the separation from Sita
as described by Hanuman in the "sundara-kAndam" has
been briefly sketched in this series of postings
earlier (Posts #4 and #5). Clearly, from the story of
the Ramayana, we see how Rama's mind began seriously
and steadily degrading as he waited out the days and
months in the company of Lakshmana, alone in a dark,
cold cave outside the capital city of Sugriva's empire
in Kishkinda.

Rama was forlorn, frustrated and utterly hopeless.
Slowly but surely, his mind began falling apart under
very great emotional distress, until it almost
unhinged itself entirely. The despair of Rama was like
poison -- killing him slowly, corroding away his sense
of self, security and all hope in life.

The loss of Sita to Rama was more than merely loss of
a spouse or loved one. It was loss of meaning in life.
Raison d'etre -- the very reason for his existence --
became a matter of abject and philosophical doubt for
him. "Why should I continue living in this state? To
what purpose this life of mine if my Sita is lost
forever? What earthly purpose am I serving? What
desires do I have left in life? Why must I labour
forth in life, to what end, and to gain what
outcomes?". Such was the dire existential vacuum --
that shoreless sea of human despair -- in which Sri
Rama found himself floundering during the dark,
endless days and nights he spent alone in Kishkinda.

When we read these passages in the Ramayana, we are
instantly able to relate to Sri Rama's predicament,
and the agony of his profound despair. For it is a
state which we too -- ordinary men and women of this
sorry little world -- often find ourselves in, from
time to time, to greater or lesser degree as we might
want to imagine, in the many difficult situations we
encounter along our own respective paths in the long
journey of life. Despair is a universal human
condition. And even God Almighty, in his avatar in the
Ramayana, was powerless to except himself from it.

************ **

In that state of overwhelming Despair, Rama's mind
underwent a dramatic and unfortunate metastasis.

His despair slowly drove Rama's mind to begin
entertaining inhumane thoughts which his own good
nature would have under normal circumstances wholly
abhorred. It drove him to thought of malice and
malevolence, vengeance and mindless violence. A
temporary madness seized Rama, making his mind begin
harboring ideas and plots like those of a modern-day

We must turn to the passages of the "aranyA kAndam" of
the Valmiki Ramayana to understand this sudden and
ugly transformation of Rama's frame of mind. This is
what he says in a fit of fury one day to Lakshmana:

"tathAham krOdha samyukthO
na nivaryO'shiya samshayah
purEva may charudhatI manindatAm dishanti
seetAm yadi nAdya mythileem !
sadEva gandharva manushya pannagam
jagatsa-shailam parivartayAmyaham II "

(III. 64.75.78 Valmiki Ramayana)

"Lakshmana, I can wait no more! I am now going to take
law into my hands! No scourge on earth will be so
fierce and pitiless as I am going to be, I swear!

"I am up now and I swear nothing is going to stop me!
I am going to take full toll of all this world, all
this universe! I'm going to turn it all to ashes! I
will bring death and destruction everywhere! I have
beseeched everyone, every creature to show me where my
Sita is ... I have addressed the waters and streams,
the trees, the earth, the beasts and birds, but none
responds to me! None hears me or knows my grief, my

"And the gods too I have beseeched! They at least, O
Lakshmana, who see and know everything, surely they at
least should be able to tell me where perhaps Sita is
now languishing, and if she is well and safe! But
alas, they too remain silent and unmoved by my plight!
They conceal her from me!

"What should I do now but to use all the force at my
command to destroy all of them! I'm going to destroy
everything and everyone brutally in this world! If
they will not give her back to me, I shall surely be
destroyed but not before I have destroyed and wiped
them all too from the face of the world!"

************ **

Here, in the passages of the Ramayana, we see stark
confirmation of how even God's own mind, when in the
grip of profound, moral despair such as what possessed
Rama's, is indeed but only a step away from harboring
the black thoughts and baleful ideas which in the
world of the 21st century we live in today -- filled
as it is with hate, bloodshed and suffering, from Iraq
to Palestine, Afghanistan to Chechnya, from Bali to
Serbia -- it is those very same ideas that we have
come to associate with the "terrorist" mind-set, the
"anarchist's" manifesto and the "suicide bomber's"

In his moment of supreme despair, Rama's mind without
doubt turned almost "terrorist". He swore he would
destroy everything in the world and reduce it all to
ashes! If we reflect deeply upon this matter, we see
that this line of thinking is not all that different
from that of the "suicide-bomber" today, say, in Iraq
or Palestine.

I have now lived and worked in Kuwait for the last 8
years. In the past 3 years, ever since the war in
next-door Iraq began wildly spiralling into the
deadly, unceasing cycle of mindless bloodshed it has
become today, I cannot recall a single day when I
opened a local newspaper in Kuwait and did not find a
news-report of another "suicide-bomber" blowing up a
dozen or more ordinary, innocent fellow-citizens in a
crowded Baghdadi vegetable market-place or a

As I read these daily reports of grim carnage in
Baghdad and the neighbouring provinces of Iraq, in
Sadr City or Tikrit -- or in Nablus or elsewhere in
occupied Palestine, for example -- I can't help asking
myself often: "What could possibly drive a man right
over the edge of humanity to think nothing at all of
strapping kilograms of lethal RDX around his waist,
walk into a crowded souk swarming with hundreds of his
own brethren, and then, in an instant within the wink
of an eye, detonate himself and all of them too ---
all of those poor innocent men, women and children --
unto death?"

The answer to that question I come up with always is:

The "suicide-bomber" of the modern time, much like Sri
Rama in the passages of Srimadh Valmiki Ramayana, I
often find myself reflecting, is really not a man in
rage but a man in terminal Despair in life. His rage
springs not so much from loss of sanity but from loss
of hope in life, and loss of faith in the world as a
place worth cherishing or preserving.

The "suicide-bomber' s" violence is nothing but despair
that has turned itself into suicidal rage at the
world. Like Sri Rama, the poor Iraqi "suicide-bomber"
has had his own family taken away from him -- a wife
perhaps killed during a military bombing, a child
buried perhaps beneath beneath the rubble of a
school-building hit by sudden rocket-attacks, an old
mother who fled home to escape sectarian street-
violence and never returned and has never been seen
anywhere since....

Those are the sort of life-events in which the
"suicide-bomber" too lost his loved ones, and has
since then plunged into despair and a life-weariness
so deep and painful that he daily seeks escape from it
but simply cannot see a way out of it. He must hence
find a way out of it either in suicide or violent,
rampant destruction. ..

All this is in fact exactly as the Valmiki Ramayana
describes a human mind will react when caught up in
life in a vortex of soul-destroying despair...

************ ***

Fortunately, for Sri Rama in the Ramayana, in the
moment of extreme distress and despair when he
teetered precariously between humanity and
sub-humanity -- when he was caught in the cross-fire
of emotions good and evil, when he almost succumbed to
the mindless rage of a terrorist mind-set --
fortunately, he had his brother Lakshmana beside him
to prevail upon him with sage counsel and exercise a
measure of soothing, calming, sane influence.

In the story of the Ramayana, when it seems as though
Rama would simply go over the brink of despair, and
give way to the rage and violence seething within him,
we see his brother Lakshmana stepping in right in time
and pulling his brother away from the very edge of
tragic disaster which the other brother otherwise
would have certainly plunged into headlong in a
free-fall of moral degradation, as it were.

************ *

It is here that we must briefly digress. We must pause
to examine a line, a phrase from the famous Tamil hymn
of the Vaishnavite faith, the TiruppAvai of AndAl.

In the TiruppAvai, there is a well-known stanza in
which an extraordinary poetic phrase appears -- one of
the most quotable of lines, in fact, in the whole

"pOginraarai pOgAmal kaathu..."

Now, in the specific thematic context of the
TiruppAvai itself, this line has been quite copiously
commentated upon by several scholars of Tamil
literature, Vaishnavite theologians and Vedantic
philosophers. But our present interest in this phrase
is not so much the theological or philosophical angle
as it is in its literal interpretation and application
in the context of the "sundara-kaandam" and the theme
of human Despair presently discoursed upon.

The literal meaning of the phrase "pOginraarai pOgAmal
kaathu..." means in simple English, "Pulling someone
back, just in the nick of time, from going away". It
means rescuing someone at the very last moment; saving
someone from going down a road to destruction;
effecting the rescue of someone at the very last
minute from grave moral disaster.

Now, when he saw his brother Rama sinking in despair
and his mind being slowly disfigured to begin
resembling the darkest side of a "terrorist's"
personality, Lakshmana immediately knew he had to step
in and play the restraining role of a moral estoppel.
In other words -- or more accurately, in the words of
the TiruppAvai -- Lakshmana knew he must pull Rama
back from the brink of a grave personal disaster --
i.e. "pOginraarai pOgAmal kaathu..."

Thus, it is that we see in the Ramayana, it falls to
the lot of Lakshmana, the younger brother, to save and
comfort the elder Rama. It is a somewhat unusual
incident in the Ramayana since throughout the epic on
many occasions, it is hotheaded and reckless Lakshmana
who is often reined in and reprimanded by Rama for
folly. But here the wonted position is reversed.

Lakshmana thus tells his brother: (III. 65.

"ekasya naaparAdaath lOkaan hartUm tvamarhasi
budhischa tE mahAprAgnya devairapi duranvayA
shOkEnAbhi prasUptam tE gnAyanam sambhOdhayAm- yaham"

"Do not become a stranger to your own innate good
nature, Rama! Ravana has taken away your wife, but why
do you wish to punish the whole world and universe of
life for it? Is it the real you, the inner and true
man within Rama, who is saying these things as you do

"Give up this boiling rage! Let us instead go about
now to somehow search and find Sita. Unable to bear
your grief, your despair, Rama, you have allowed
yourself and your good sense to go to sleep. Beware!
Go no further down this path! Pull back! This is not
the way for you to go. The world , the gods, the
creatures of the forests at large are not responsible
for your plight. They do not deserve to be the target
of your rage. They are not the cause of your despair
and condition...

"I'm only trying to awaken you, Rama, that's all. I'm
not trying to reprimand or redeem you, my dear
brother! Arise, shake off these grim thoughts that are
unworthy of you!"

************ ***
It is one of the most beautiful scenes described in
the Ramayana -- this particular scene where the Lord
Almighty in his avatar as Sri Rama is pulled away from
the edge of a moral precipice -- the perilous road
that leads to a "terrorist" way of thinking, to the
"terrorist" mind-set and moral position in life --- at
the very last minute indeed by Lakshmana.

And if ever we need no more than a single poetic
phrase to describe fully that poignant scene of the
Ramayana, we need look no further than borrow from the
TiruppAvai and say:

"pOginraarai pOgAmal kaathu..."

(to be continued)

Sudarshan MK

Our scriptures like the
Ramayana are not merely meant to be venerated as "holy
book". They are meant really to make us contemplate
and search ("dharmaa and brahma vichaara"). If we do
not recognize that fact, then it's really a waste of
time and we'd have lost a life-time of opportunity to
learn from life and grow wise.

Dear friends,

In this posting, the focus will be on the utter
Despair suffered by Sita-pirAtti in the
"sundara-kAndam" . This particular theme cannot really
be studied without also examining at the same time,
rather closely, the dark side of the human mind --
the psychology of suicide.

While despair led Sri Rama to contemplate -- and very
nearly actually perpetrate -- mindless violence and
terror on the world at large (as discussed in the
previous post), Sita's despair drove her in the
opposite direction -- i.e. inflicting mindless
violence on herself to the very extreme end by taking
out her life herself.

************ *

Chapter 28 of the 'sundara-kaanda' is a stunningly
poignant one in the whole of the canto. It depicts the
moving scene where Sita soliloquizes on her sorry
plight, her tragic fate in life, her utter sense of
helplessness, her terminal weariness in life and the
desire to end her misery once and for all.

Ravana meets her in the Asokavana and in spite of his
best efforts to make her yield to his advances, is
rebuffed outright by Sita. Utterly enraged with her
rejection, the King of Lanka gives her a 2-month
reprieve in which to change her mind. "After that, O
Mythili" he tells her menacingly, "if you are not
mine, surely you will be none else's spouse either.
You shall certainly die here in Lanka".

Later, after Ravana leaves, and her 'rAkshasi'
prison-guards fall off to sleep at their stations, and
she is left all alone in the deathly desolation of the
Asokavana, it is then in the eerie stillness of the
night that Sita's heart finally cracks and sorrow
gushes out in a torrent. She laments. And the
following words come forth out of her like a grim mist
of hot and abundant tears that drops out of the
morning sky:

mOghA hi dharmascharitO mayAyAm
tathiaka-patneetvam idam nirartham
yA tvAm na pashyAmi krushA vivarNA heenA tvayA
sangamanE nirAshA

"Separated from you, O Rama, reduced to bones, with no
blood in this royal body of mine, and having no
further hope of ever meeting you, I who am your chaste
wife, look at the desperate situation I'm in now! Of
what use now is our love for each other? The vow of
fidelity I observed, and the rule of monogamy that you
have been observing, O Rama, have both become really
meaningless and vain."


Dukham bathEdam mama dukhitAyA mAsow
chirAyAdhi-gamishya thO dhvOw
Baddhasya vadhyasya tathA nishAthE rAjAparAdhAdiva

"Just as the waiting prisoner on death-row, before the
fateful day of his execution arrives, feels the hours
of the previous night drag too long and agonizingly,
so will it be unbearable to me too, this period of 2
months given as reprieve by Ravana to me! How shall I
survive these days? And why?"

************ ******

Ananya-devatmiyam kshamA cha bhoomow cha shayyA
niyamascha dharmE
pativratAtvam viphalam mamEdam krutam krutagnOshviva

"Just as a good deed done unto an ungrateful man
proves to be of no use at all, so too does my vow of
chastity -- that which made me look upon you, O Rama,
as my God, that which made me willingly go to sleep on
the hard and bare floor in my present state of
imprisonment here and that which has kept me till now
on the path of duty as a chaste wife to you --- that
vow, O Rama, has now proved futile."


Sa jIvitam kshipramaham tyajEyam vishENa shastrEna
shitEna vaapi
Vishasya dAtA na hi mEsti kaschit shastrasya vA
vEshmani rAkshasasya

"I really ought to have have ended my life long ago! I
should have hastened my end with a draft of poison or
plunged some sharp instrument into my breast as soon
as I was brought into Lanka. Why did I wait this long
in the hope that I might again set my eyes upon you, O
Rama! In this city of violent and heartless rakshasAs,
alas, what cruel irony, there was none however to
bring me either poison or sword that I could have used
upon myself."

************ **

naivAsti dOsham mama noonamatra
vadhyA-hamasyA- priya-darshanasy a
bhAvam na chAsyA-hamanu- pradAtumalam- dvijO

"So I shall commit suicide this very instant. It is
not at all sinful for one like me to take my life.
Just as a noble person refuses to impart the Vedas to
one who is not a "twice-born" , I am not going to
submit myself to the unworthy intentions of this
Ravana who has lost his senses over me."

************ *****

Bitter and tragic are Sita's words indeed. When one
reads Valmiki's account of this scene in the
"sundara-kaandam" one can't help shedding tears and
suppressing a lump that rises up in our throats.

Sita then continues:

?Hard must be my heart that preyed upon by misery and
though abandoned by hope, it still continues to beat
and endures when it ought to have shattered to pieces

?If I am not destined to look upon you ever again,
Rama, and if I must fade away without hope, disfigured
in body and spirit and utterly dejected, what good has
my unwearied practice of dharma done to me, or the
steadfast devotion of my soul to my husband?

"Ah woe to me! I?ll perish in this woe-begone plight,
but you O Rama, at the end of the 14th year of exile
that shall soon arrive, having obeyed the paternal and
royal command to the letter, and with a mind
disburdened and self-complacent, O Rama, you will
surely return triumphantly to Ayodhya, take new wives
for yourself, bedeck them with rich jewels and live
with them happy and free from care... won't you?"

"My heart surrendered to you while yet a little girl
from Mithila and dwelling in you all these years in
perfect joy and contentment -- tell me, what hardship,
miseries and indignities have I indeed not suffered
for your sake? And yet, alas, eveything has gone in
vain, and I must die forlorn and unwept.

"Why should I drag this wretched existence anymore? I
can and shall end it now??

************ **

The "sundara-kaandam" then narrates how Sita resolved
then and there to end her life -- under the
'sisumshpa" tree in the groves of the Asokavana... .
using her long beautiful tresses -- coiling them
around her neck like a hangman's sephulcral noose....

************ *

What was the state of Sita's mind in those dark
moments of that fateful night in Lanka? What drove her
to suicide? When a man and woman are separated from
each other as Rama and Sita were, what happens to
their inner beings that it simply loses all sense of
purpose and meaning in life? Why? Can a man and woman
in this mortal world love each other ever so intensely
and truly as Rama and Sita did? Isn't the
sundara-kaandam truly a great love-story? What indeed
is the true nature of "pati-vratatvam" , the vow of
conjugal fidelity? Is it really such a great human
ideal as the "sundara-kaanda" portrays it to be?.....

Such indeed are the questions that naturally arise in
our minds after reading the great and tragic soliloquy
of Sita-pirAtti in the sundara-kaandam" .

IN the next posting we will discuss those questions in
greater detail.


Sudarshan MK

Warm Regards,

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Some Interesting Points

Some Interesting points:
(Anbil Ramaswamy)
A few special points from ?Sundara KhaNDam? highlighted in a short speech on the occasion of PaTTa abhishEkam of Sri ?Sita-Rama? on the conclusion of ?Sapta Sarga ParayaNam?
We celebrated this week (11th April to be precise) Sri Rama Navami, the ? Happy Birthday? of Lord Ramachandra moorthi. A Navaaha PaaraayaNam was started on 3rd April 2003 and concluded with "PaTTabhisheka Sarga PaaraayaNam" on 11th April 2003.
We are glad to present a few lessons that Sundara KhaaNDam teaches us.

1. The Role of mind in shaping one?s actions
As Hanuman, (the confirmed bachelor who has perfect control over his senses) goes through the harem of RavaNa in search of Sri Sita, he happens to see ladies lying there in voluptuous postures and rues over his having had to look at them in the course of his search for Sri Sita. But, he finds that this scene did not distract his mind. He concludes saying that -
?It is indeed the mind that is responsible for senses getting attached to sense objects". Since his mind was under perfect control, no opprobrium attached to his going through the harem. Further, if a woman is to be searched for, where else can one hope to find her than where ladies congregate??
?Na hi manasa: kimchit vaikrityam upapadhyatE
ManO hi hEtu: sarvEshaam indriyaaNaam pravrtanE
StriyO hi Streeshu drisyantE savathaa parimaargaNE?(Sargam 11.42-44)

The moral of the story is that one should strive to keep one?s mind under4 control even at provocative situations.

2. Why one should conquer sorrow?
When he gets exasperated on not being able to find Sri Sita inspite of an intensive search everywhere, Hanuman becomes despondent. But, soon he regains composure and tells himself how sorrow would spoil one?s efforts in any pursuit and therefore one should pursue one?s objectives without being overwhelmed by sorrow.

AnirvEda: sriyO: moolam anirvEda: param sukham /
AnirvEdaO hi satatam sarvaarthEshu pravartaka: //
karOti saphalam jantO: karma ytathtath karOti sa: /
tasmaat anirvEdakaram yatnam chEshTEham uthamam //(Sargam 12 ? 10-11)

3. Suicide is suicidal while staying alive may bring a good turn.

There are two occasions where this is highlighted:
(1) Hanuman visualizes the consequences of his return without any news about Sri Sita. He feels that he would become responsible for the demise of the members of the entire Ikshvaaku Vamsam and the entire Vaanara Vamsam, if he were to report a ?No show? about Sri Sita. At first, he thinks of self-immolation but then he decides that only if one were to be alive, one would be able to see good times. With renewed determination, he proceeds on his mission to find out Sri Sita.

?vinaasO bahavO dShaa: jeevan bhadraaNi pasyati /
tasmaat praaNaan dhaarayishyaami dhruvO jeevita sangama: //
(Sargam 13- 47-48)

(2) Sri Sita was in a similar predicament when she was so dejected on seeing no end to her separation from her spouse while she had another bout of doubt on seeing Hanuman suspecting that he was, in fact, Raakshasa in the guise of a monkey. She was so beside with despair that she also thought of suicide. But, then she also regained her composure and gave up the thought saying - that even if it should take a hundred years, patience would surely bring ultimate happiness?.

?yEti jeevantam aananadO naram Varsha Sataadapi? (Sargam 34- 20)

4. Blame it on yourself!
It is natural for people to claim an alibi, to seek to exonerate oneself and attempt to put the blame on someone else for any misfortunes they might face. This is not correct. It is the essential trait of what is known as ?SrivaishNava LakshaNam? to accept responsibility even when one is not at fault - as exemplified in ANDAL?s Tiruppvai in which she took the blame on herself when confronted with accusations from her peers saying ?naanEtaan aayiDuga?.

On several occasions, Sri Sita, even in her worst duress, never sought to blame anyone except herself.
(1) ?keedrusam tu mayaa paapam puraa janmaantarE kritam/ yEnEyam praapyatE duhkham mayaa ghOram sudaaruNam? (Sargam 25-19)
(2) ?kimnu nmE guNaa: kechit kim vaa Bhaaghya kshayO mama?
(Sargam 26 ?44)
(3) ??mamaiva dushkritam kinchit asti na samsaya:/
(4) Samarthaavapi tou yan maam naavEkshatE param tapou??
(Sargam 38- 48)

5. Relationship of husband and wife
On seeing the plight of Sri Sita?s pangs of separation from her spouse, Hanuman is so moved that he says ? The best jewel of all jewels for a wife is her husband?. This is an attestation from a confirmed bachelor!
?Bhartaa naama param naaryaa bhooshaNam bhooshaNaadapi?

6. Why one should control anger?
When RavaNa torched the tail of Hanuman, the latter was so incensed that with that fire he burned almost the whole of Lanka ("Yah sOkavahnim Janakaatmajaayaa; aadaaya tEnaiva dadaaha lankaam").
Suddenly, he realized that he had overlooked that Sri Sita was also in the same Lanka while exhibiting his anger against RavaNa and lamented:
"Kruddha: paapam na kuryaat ka: kruddhO hanyaad guroonapi?(VR 55.4)
?An angry person would not hesitate even to slay his preceptor?
Ya: samutpatitam krOdham kshamayaiva nirasyati /
YathOragastvacham JeerNaam sarvE purush uchyatE //(VR 5.55.6)
? He who extinguishes his anger and replaces it with a sense of tolerance and forgiveness, even as a snake discards its useless skin, can be deemed as venerable?.