On Ramayana

It's a wonderful picture of Amma, with that patented smile. She does look wearied, what after those chippinf-off operations. She will now begin looking healthier and more relaxed, emotionall. I do miss her a lot, but am able to spend a lot of time reading the Ramayana. Hope to finish this project to-morrow, and it's a record for time - 24,000 slokas in just 19 days! Valmiki is the ultimate when it comes to writing poetry, so simple, straight-forward, elegant. In fact, the easiest way to learn Sanskrit is to read Valmiki, you need no translation at all! For a contrast, last month, I finished the Srimad Bhagavatham of Vyasa - 18000 slokas, and it took a month to finish, and the reading and understanding the meaning were by no means easy. Both the books are treasure-packs of wisdom, which the people of to-day lack, all over the World. Wish these scriptures were taught in educational institutions at all levels, like the British did it to us, when we were students. This has made all the difference between people then, and now.


February 09,2013

On Ramayana - Why did Lord Sriram decide to part ways with Sita Devi

Dear Lakshmi,

Am very pleased that the Ramayana has captured your imagination. Apart from being the most sacred literature for us the Hindus, the Indians, it is a heart-gripping mythology. It has all human feelings - love, hatred, animosity, anger, compassion, brotherhood, love, courage and daring, management skills, stupidity, you name it, it is there. In fact, there is a commentator's sloka (verse) which says: What is here (in Ramayana) is elsewhere; what is not here, is nowhere. I realise you cannot read the original in Sanskrit, but when you come here, I will give you the two volumes, which contain a running translation of the entire 24000 verses. For the time being, you are in safe hands if you are reading Kamala Subramanyam's book. And now, to answer your question.

The way the Ramayana is structured is very peculiar. The background to the story is that the mighty Ravana got very protective (?) boons from Lord Brahma after severe penance, that he would not be killed by any being other than a man. He had such mighty contempt for humans, that he thought it would be beneath his dignity to seek divine protection from such a despicable (?) creature. Having got the boon, he started tormenting the three Worlds, including the demi-Gods like Indra, Fire God, Wind God, Water God etc. He also became an intolerable nuisance for the earth itself, which could not bear his atrocities. So they all went to Lord Vishnu and sought help. He promised to incarnate as Sri Rama, the man, and finish off Ravana. He asked many of the junior Gods to incarnate as his supporters e.g. Hanuman, Sugriva etc. Rama himself was born as Dasaratha's son, and his three brothers were also Gods born in human form to support the cause.

Now the twist to the story. Rama does not know that he is God born into the World for a purpose, so he tries to behave as most of us human beings do. In fact, on some occasions, even when the Gods remind him that he is divine, he disowns such distinctions and declares that he is just a human being, just a son of Dasaratha, the King. In this light, you have to judge all actions and statements of Rama only from a human standard, just like what any one of us would have done placed in similar circumstances. It is seen that even though a man, Rama had an unusually high and perfect standard of morality, behaviour pattern, beliefs, adherence to the Vedas and other holy texts, customs and traditions. He was no revolutionary, like Sri Krishna of a later time was. Rama was a conformist, a traditionalist, respecter of the old values etc.

There are two occasions in the Ramayana, where his behaviour has been severely criticised, and he has been accused of outrageous behaviour towards his wife Sita. In the process, he outrages the modesty of womanhood itself, and sets a bad example. I am an ardent devotee of Sri Rama but, still hold the view that what he did to Sita was inhuman, unpardonable in any circumstance.

The two occasions are: (1) Ravana is killed and Rama sends Hanuman and later Vibhishana to inform Sita in Asoka Grove about this, and that he is ready to receive her. Sita comes before him, and before she could even look at his face, he uses the foulest language towards her and says: I have upheld the dignity of my great family of Kings by showing my valour and killing the kidnapper of my wife. But I have no more use for you, you are to me like a bright light to a man with eye-sores. You are a free woman now, and can choose to go where you like and with any other person. Get lost, he says. And Sita retorts, saying you are talking like one tribal to another. Unlike you, I am not born of human parents but am of divine origin. I will go back to my Mother, the Earth, from where I was picked up by my foster father King Janaka. On her orders, and with Sri Rama's tacit consent, Lakshmana prepares a fire into which Sita enters and disappears. A few minutes later all the Gods arrive, including the Fire God who said he could not bear the heat of Sita's chastity and purity. On all the Gods persuading forcefully and convincingly Rama accepts Sita.

Now why did Rama, who was a treasure house of virtues stoop so low. There are two justifications given by great commentators of the past. One, when Maricha had enticed Rama away and Sita, afraid of Rama's life, forces Lakshmana to go to save Rama, she used very foul language towards him. Lakshmana finally went away looking for Rama, but he was so disgusted and later reported the details to Rama. This must have been weighing in his mind when he saw Sita for the first time after this incident. Another is, that Rama is, after all, King of Ayodhya, and wanted to set the highest standards of probity for himself and all his family. 'Ceaser's wife should be above suspicion', in similar fashion, Rama must have factored in the possibility of some people scandalising Sita later and alleging all sorts of wrong-doing against her. To foreclose such a possibility, he creates the present episode and brings out her purity through the testimony of the Gods. Sita's moral heights is vindicated for ever.

The second reprehensible occasion is when Sita was pregnant and Rama is told by his secret agents that there was a particular Washerman who drove out his wife at mid-night because she had spent time with a third person. In defence of his action, he is reported to have said, 'I am not Rama, who would accept a woman who had spent a year in the captivity of the most despicable Ravana, and who could have done anything to her'! This time, Rama employs deceit, tells Lakshmana to take her to Valmiki's hermitage and abandon her there for good. Here again Rama is overwhelmned by the Washerman's comments and believes that he should set the highest standards for his Queen in the minds of his people. Clearly, he is overdoing it. But then, the mouths of future generations is shut to such outrageous comments about Sita. To-day, all Hindus and admirers of Rama and Sita only blame Rama, and not Sita. Such was Rama's concern for the purity of reputation of his queen. He was prepared to be condemned, but not his Queen.

To sum up. by our common standards of jurisprudence and behaviour norms, Rama, perhaps, did the right thing on both occasions, BUT IN THE WRONG AWAY. If I were Judge trying him for these offences, I would have no hesitation to pronounce him guilty on both counts, but give him only token punishment.

Tell me, what your own views are on this point. Love,




Dear Thatha,

I am trying to read and understand the Ramayana. While there are several stories and instances where I have questions to ask you. One immediate question arises in my mind is why did Lord Sriram decide to part ways with Sita Devi specially at a time when she was a mother to be, carrying child of Lord Ram. There are several versions that are popular amongst devotees - one says Sita preferred to voluntarily exit to the forest. Another says that Sri Ram asked her to leave, what is your opinion and why did they decide to part ways. Was this act a divorse in the modern sense or a separation? Why did a perfect man like Sri Ram behave this way?

Lots of love,
I would deeply appreciate your thoughts and comments,


Dear Lakshmi,

Am truly overwhelmned by your questioning. That is the spirit of the sincere truth-seeker, as our Upanishads reiterate over and over again. I am, therefore, more than pleased to give my explanations, based on my reading of the Ramayana, in original, also other related literature.

Judged by to-day's concept of Jurisprudence and Human rights, your criticism of Dasaratha is very appropriate, in fact, I think he messed up the whole issue by mis-handling it. If one looks at the situation, logically and step by step, the facts of the case are : 1. During the Sambara Battle, Dasaratha had given two boons to Kaikeyi who saved his life. Kaikeyi had said she will redeem these, at a later date. Dasaratha was, therefore contractually bound to perform his obligations when called upon to do so.

2. After several years, and on the persuasive prompting of Mandhara, she asked for redemption of the boons. True, the time chosen for this was inappropriate. But, then

3. Dasaratha hurriedly decided to crown Rama, the King-to-be, and fixed the day after the next for the ceremony. He emphasises that his hurry to go through the coronation is to take advantage of the absence of Bharata, who along with Satrughna was holidaying at Kaikeyi's parental Kingdom in modern Afghanistan. Dasaratha had doubts that,if Bharata were present in Ayodhya, he could not press for Rama's coronation without creating misunderstandings and obstructions. In the original text, he says this in so many words. Bharata and Satrughna knew nothing about this. Dasaratha also decides not to invite Kaikeyi's and Sita's parents or family members for the function. All arrangements are hurriedly made for the coronation. So, Dasaratha had some premonition that his decision could be challenged, although he would not have expected this to come in the form of Kaikeyi's demand for redemption of the two boons.

4. Kaikeyi asking for Bharata to be made the King is perfectly legitimate, since the difference in age of the two brothers was a matter of hours only. And Dasaratha could have agreed to this. Rama would have readily consented to this, since he loved his brothers and mothers equally well, also wanted nothing special for himself.

5. Kaikeyi cleverly wanted Rama to be away so that Bharata would have a free run as King and the people wouild get used to his Kingship. If Rama were also in Ayodhya, then Bharata would be overshadowed by Rama who was more popular with the masses. She wanted him out of the way, so people would forget him.

6. Dasaratha was under no obligation, moral or otherwise, to accept this second demand, since it involved Rama's fundamental right to be in his motherland, also since he was not guilty of any misconduct warranting his banishment from the kingdom for any length of time He could have told Kaikeyi to seek something else, and Kaikeyi would be in doubt.

7. Neither Rama, nor any Minister was consulted with regard to the admissibility of the demand for Rama's banishment. Dasaratha, tacitly, agrees to this and asks Kaikeyi to send for Rama. It was Kaikeyi who tells Rama that his father had granted the two boons and that the father wishes that he leaves the kingdom, the same day. Rama's regret is that Dasaratha did not speak to him even one word, although he was conscious and hearing all that Kaikeyi was telling Rama.

8. Rama failed to register his protest, because he felt he had a 'pious obligation' to redeem his father's promises, even though it hurt him. Therefore, every one accepts Rama's decision to fulfil the wishes of his father, as communicated to him by Kaikeyi, in the presence of his father.

Therefore, the two people to blame for the whole mess are (1) Dasaratha who did not protest against the banishment of Rama and (2) Rama himself, who with a genuine air of respect for traditions and the pious obligation of a son, agreed to banish himself.

True, the whole thing is unfair to the innocent Queens, also to the wives of Bharata and Satrughna. But then, these ladies also consented without a murmur. As for Bharata, he banished himself from Ayodhya for 14 years, to be on the same wave-length as his brother, also to ridicule his mother for whom he had ridicule and contempt.

The bottom-line is that the affection amomg the brothers multiplied many times, notwithstanding the happenings, also all ended well. Rama came out taller from the event, and Bharata went higher than Rama by sacrificing everything that fell at his feet.

And remember, Rama had a job to do in Sri Lanka, and but for Kaikeyi and Mandhara, this would not have been possible.

I enjoyed sending you this reply. Please ask more questions, and enjoy reading the oldest and most gripping poetry in the World.




Dear Thatha,

I was delighted to read your email. Hope you and patti are fine.

Thanks for your indepth answer to my question. My mind is now clear on this issue.

I have further questions -

1. After hearing the cruel demands of Kaikeyi, King Dasaratha got disturbed and suffered .....

He heeded to Kaikeyi’s wishes to “uphold” his old promise. That is fine. Promises, if made, must be kept – at any cost.

Sri Ram also happily and willingly accepts his father King Dasarath’s pronouncement to banish him and departs to the

wilderness, on exile.

However, instead of being proud of his son, King Dasarath behaves abnormal – loses all interest in ruling the

kingdom. Also, causes great suffering to his two wives. While his Queen Kausalya reconciles to banishment of her son,

Dasarath does not. Queen Kausalya pleads with Dasarath to bring himself together. Sadly, makes no headway.

Clearly, King Dasarath is reaping the consequences of his past ‘karmas’ and curse of Shravan’s blind parents.

But, what is the ‘karma’ of Queen Kausalya ? Why did Dasarath make her suffer ? Poor woman not only loses her son Sri Ram

But, also is widowed by her illogical, selfish, self-centered, self-seeking, egotistical husband ?

Similarly, Bharata refuses to accept the throne after his father’s death. He is forlorn in love for Sri Rama. He goes away on a self-imposed

exile to Nandigram and lives like a yogi. But when his wife Mandavi asks him to take her with him – to fulfill her duty as wife, Bharata refuses.

Similarly, Urmila wife of LAKSHAMAN is left behind to “serve” the mothers-in law. What kind of man are Bharat & Lakshman

Who desert their legally wedded wives ? Selfish, I suppose ?

I could be very wrong so, correct me if I am. Will appreciate, respect your thoughts, dear Thata.





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