Ram, central to Indian civilization, has influenced it for millennia. Ironically, lots of negative narratives are foisted on not just to sully his reputation but to undermine India itself. To counter this, we merely looked at some of the male opponents of Ram and how they perceived him in Valmiki Ramayana, which has pulverized a lot of falsities.
Just as millions of years of darkness in a cave have no chance against the light of a lamp, similarly, a mountain load of untruth has no chance before reading the original scriptures, doing consistent Svadhyaya and Sadhana. In this segment, we will look at how three prominent feminine opponents perceived Ram.
Ram – as seen by female opponents- Shoorpanaka is the real connecting link between Ram and his real mission, eradicating the hordes of Rakshasas under the leadership of Ravana. In fact, the way Valmiki describes her meeting of Ram, Sita and Lakshmana is usually quoted as the haasya rasa in Ramayana. She represented the diametrical opposite of Ram, being the epitome of Tamas. Leftists in India with shallow scholarship, amplified by biased media and the masses that have practically grown on a mental diet of lies and half-truths, devoid of scriptures, usually showcase Shoorpanaka as a victim or a poor lady who was punished for expressing her love. Since Valmiki is the authority, let us submit to his account.
Panchavati on the banks of River Godavari is the abode of peace with Ram and Sita, served by Lakshmana. Fortuitously, Shoorpanaka sees Ram who outshone Kamadeva and she got intensely passionate (काम मोहिता). Valmiki is so amused that he gives a long list of contrasts between Ram and Shoorpanaka. Shoorpanaka’s beauty is not the focus as much as her character. Physical beauty is subjective to the beholder. One must note, when there is pure Sattva (Ram), it is hard even for the most Tamasic mind not to fall in love but as evident in this case, that love is tainted with lust, jealousy, possessiveness or greed.
Her very first words were, what is an ascetic with a wife doing amidst a forest frequented by Rakshasas? This clearly indicates that her lust had no place with Ram. Ram patiently responds to her in detail, before even inquiring about her background. In fact, Ram complements as मनोज्ञाङ्गी, someone who is enthralling. While many deem it as jest, some feel it insulting. But in reality, seen from the Supreme Absolute’s eyes, there is nothing but beauty, a reflection of its own SELF, so either interpretation is untenable. In her formal introduction she calls herself as a कामरूपिणी, which is usually interpreted as one who takes any form she desired, though no actual evidence is available in Ramayana, but only from caricatured media portrayal and imaginations.
As she boasts about herself, she informs him that she sees him as a husband (भावेन भर्तारम्). She mocks Sita’s appearance and claims that she alone deserves to be Ram’s wife. One must not forget that she is used to seeing Ravana with a harem of women, obviously felt Ram may find it palatable to follow the same norms. She offers an easy solution to dispose ‘ugly’ Sita and his brother by eating both of them (सह भ्रात्रा भक्षयिष्यामि मानुषीम्). She adds an enticement to ramble lustily in the forests after disposing them off.
Ram’s critics seem to be worse than Shoorpanaka in their intellectual Tamas. They fail to note Ram’s reaction. He smiles and talks very gently, having noticed her lust, and merely observes that it is very painful to be co-wife, especially for the likes of her. Ram highlights that Lakshmana is the one without a wife, besides highlighting his qualities. Again this is not a lie, as Ram’s observation is only in the present situation and is an intentional pun. The minute her attention got focused on Lakshmana, all her lust over Ram vaporized. Shoorpanaka supporters seem to follow only her Tamas rather than explaining the fickleness of her supposed attraction. She proposes to be Lakshmana’s wife and Lakshmana wastes not a second in claiming to be a dasa, servant of his brother. He uses Shoorpanaka’s own adjectives to address her, in jest, and also to redirect her back to Ram. The words are a beauty of Samaskrita that different commentators have interpreted differently.
Again blinded in lust, she believes that Sita is the only hindrance and getting rid of her will earn a place beside Ram. She declares her intention to eat Sita (अद्य इमाम् भक्षयिष्यामि पश्यतः तव मानुषीम्) and menacingly approaches her in great fury. Ram restrains Shoorpanaka by intervening and reprimands Lakshmana for his untimely jest with an uncivilized person that has endangered Sita’s life (क्रूरैः अनार्यैः सौमित्रे परिहासः कथंचन). Ram has always approached many Rakshasas with a sympathetic heart. He was hesitant to kill Tataka (Why Ram‘s and Krishna‘s first kill was a woman?), spared Maricha multiple times and spared Ravana in the battlefield during their first dwand. In the same vein, he sets a fitting but appropriate punishment, of defacement, for the threat of murder and cannibalism of his beloved Sita. (राक्षसीम् पुरुषव्याघ्र विरूपयितुम् अर्हसि). Lakshmana makes Ram’s command a reality to send her packing to Khara, her cousin brother, responsible for Janasthana.
It’s time for Shoorpanaka fans and Ram’s critics to wake up. A horrified Khara demands whom he must kill for seeing his sister in such a plight. She gives a description that shows her level of lustful intoxication, which even the nose/ear loss and bleeding doesn’t hinder.
तरुणौ रूप संपन्नौ सुकूमारौ महाबलौ | पुण्डरीक विशालाक्षौ चीर कृष्ण अजिन अंबरौ || ३-१९-१४
फल मूल अशिनौ दान्तौ तापसौ ब्रह्मचारिणौ |पुत्रौ दशरथस्य आस्ताम् भ्रातरौ राम लक्ष्मनौ || ३-१९-१५
गन्धर्व राज प्रतिमौ पार्थिव व्यन्जन अन्वितौ | देवौ वा मानुषौ – वा तौ न तर्कयितुम् उत्सहे || ३-१९-१६
The first two verses have been interpreted variedly, depending on how the commentators see the bhava of Shoorpanaka as lust, belittle Ram-Lakshmana or incite Khara. Note these verses are the best example of dual which is special in samskrita, besides singular and plural. For brevity, we will stick to literal meaning:
These two very good looking youths are brothers, sons of Dasaratha, gentle, very strong, broad lotus eyes, attired in blackdeer-skin and bark, subsisting on tubers and fruits, self-restrained like ascetics and adhering dharmic path. They both are royal and she is incapable of distinguishing if they are humans (Some versions say Danavas) or Devas.
Then she plays her trick to bait about Sita. One must remember Shoorpanaka’s world view is colored by lust. Khara doesn’t take the bait, but later Ravana does as he has very similar mindset. Now she wants to drink the blood of all the three. (Leftist tamasic critics must explain how this sudden transformation of love into hate happens). For a traditional deeper insight read Desire – a genealogical approach. With Khara’s first fourteen Rakshasas killed by Ram, Shoorpanaka returns to trade barbs. She later witnesses, Khara, his brother Dhushana along with fourteen thousand army get dispatched to Yamapatna in one and half muhurtas by the lone foot soldier Ram.
Knowing Ram’s prowess, Shoorpanaka goes to meet Ravana (who already has information of Janasthana through Akampana) and abuses him to incite. She said a single handed, indefatigable Ram annihilated his subjects when Ravana’s pomp and ego was in vain display. Note, Maricha’s advice perhaps kept Ravana still pondering. When challenged to describe Ram, the lustful Shoorpanaka claims him to be like Kamadeva(कन्दर्प सम रूपः). She exclaimed she could not see the difference when Ram picked an arrow from the quiver, stretched the bow, released it and hit the target, a continuation of her infatuation. She twists her tale, after giving a detailed description of Sita, that she got punished by Lakshmana who stopped her from fetching Sita for Ravana.
Shoorpanka is indicative of our own Tamas, where we are busy chasing one desire after another, fixated on one problem after another. We want that desire for the moment, we are ready for substitutes and then we get vengeful and angry or sad when obstructed. She wanted Ram, ready to settle with Lakshmana, wanted to gobble up Sita whom she deemed as the reason for her plight. She plays the story to the mental makeup of her listeners. Selfishness, inflamed by passion of lust is a very self destructive force which places a thick veil of ignorance over oneself. We see how Shoorpanaka, despite seeing the death of the fourteen Rakshasas, goads the death of Khara-Dhushana and still wants to avenge by using a twisted tale to influence Ravana, who merely displays a bigger level of Tamas ignoring all the good advice given to him. Let us stay focused on identifying the inner Shoorpanaka in us which is making us run from pillar to post like a merciless slave master with new desires bubbling and bursting every minute.
Tara, the wife of Vaali, endowed with beauty par-excellence and with an intellect outshining her beauty, is our next subject. She had vociferously advised Vaali, not to entertain attacking Sugriva, on account of Ram’s presence, only to be ignored. She is deeply pained and in extreme sorrow, hearing his fall due to Ram’s arrow. (Read more in: Subtle dharma behind Vaali vadam) In her long lamentations, she gives us the real reason for Ram’s punishment as Vaali forcibly taking away Ruma, Sugriva’s wife, away from him.
Tara is very angry and sorry for her situation and feels Ram should be the one to face her ire and approaches him. One must note she is a person with high intellect, indicating her level of Sattva. Vaishnava traditions indicate that Bhagwan Ram is made of Shuddha Sattva, one that is beyond the 3 gunas – Sattva-Rajas-Tamas. Approaching HIM, a person of higher caliber Sattva, lose their Rajas and Tamas. We find the exact situation with Tara. She launches herself into glorifying Ram, as she is one of the few who gives us a real glimpse of Ram.
त्वम् अप्रमेयः च दुरासदः च जितेन्द्रियः च उत्तम धर्मकः च |
अक्षीण कीर्तिः च विचक्षणः च क्षिति क्षमवान् क्षतजोपमा अक्षः || ४-२४-३१
tvam aprameyaH ca dur aasadaH ca jita indriyaH ca uttama dharmakaH ca |
akshiiNa kiirtiH ca vicakshaNaH ca kshiti kshamavaan kshataja upamaa akshaH ||
You are immeasurable, inaccessible, self controlled (beyond senses), highest dharmika (righteous), one with unmitigated glory, with clear discrimination, one with forbearance like Mother Earth, eyes are red cornered (indicating like an emperor, Royal).
While many great Acharyas have written wonderful commentaries of this one sloka, it will suffice our purpose to note that Tara is not trying to placate an angry Ram for favors, but able to see the real divinity of Ram, which he has been desperately trying to cloak. Her request to kill her as a mercy plea has been rejected summarily by Ram, whose few measured words bring solace to the distressed minds of Tara.
For a person with elevated Sattva and Buddhi, when encountering emotional turbulence like anger or extreme sorrow, when reminded of the true nature of things, their mind returns to normal. When their mind comes in contact with a higher state of Sattva (Guru, Bhagwan or HIS teachings), their mind gets easily elevated to tap into this higher state of consciousness. The veil of emotions has very limited effect on their Buddhi or manas.
Mandodari, the Queen consort of Ravana, provides a similar display at the death of Ravana. Her lamentations are heart-wrenching like those of Tara and very similar to hers, are filled with words of extreme wisdom. She mocks the dead Ravana on how he got conquered by a mere human (स त्वं मानुषमात्रेण रामेण युधि निर्जितः), implying there is a superhuman behind this façade, the one Ravana refused to accept. She reasoned that it was very evident that Ram was superhuman (divine) when Ravana’s brother, Khara was eliminated with his entire army in minutes (खरस्तव हतो भ्राता तदैवानौ न मानुषः) as also when Hanuman leaped across to Lanka, causing extreme misery. How was it possible for humans to build a bridge and land a huge army across the ocean? She gives a very deep insight about Ram, on account of her sagaciousness and extreme sattva.
व्यक्तमेष महायोगी परमात्मा सनातनः | अनादिमध्यनिधनो महतः परमो महान् || ६-१११-१४
तमसः परमो धाता शङ्खचक्रगदाधरः | श्रीवत्सवक्षा नित्यश्रीरजय्यः शाश्वतो ध्रुवः || ६-१११-१५
मानुषं रूपमास्थाय विष्णुः सत्यपराक्रमः | सर्वैः परिवृतो देवैर्वानरत्वमुपागतैः || ६-१११-१६
सर्वलोकेश्वरः श्रीमान् लोकानां हितकाम्यया | सराक्षस परीवारम् हतवांस्त्वां महाद्युतिः || ६-१११-१७
vyaktameShaH mahaayogii paRamtma sanaatanaH | anaadimaadhya nidhanaH mahataH paRamH mahaan||
tamasaH paramo dhaataa shaNkha chakragadaadharaH | shriivatsa vakShaaH nitya shriiH ajayyaH shaashvataH dhruvaH ||
maanuShaM ruupam aasthaaya viShNuH satya paraakRamH| sarvaiH parivRitaH daivair vanaratvam UpagatiH||
sarva lokeshvaraH shriimaan lokaanaam hitakaamyaya saraakShapariivaaram hatavaan tvaam mahaadyutiH ||
This Ram is certainly a great sage, Supreme SELF, eternal one, one with no beginning or end, greater than even distinguished Brahma, the one beyond ignorance, the nourisher, wielding a conch and sudarshana chakra, with Srivatsa mark on his chest, always with Shri (indicates Lakshmi) and also all Kalyana gunas (expression of Shri), the one who cannot be conquered, the perpetual one, the only constant in the Universe, the real might, the Lord of all the worlds, the one with Shri, the consort of Shri, the one who maintains the world in its interests, the one with great splendor, who has assumed the form of a human, surrounded by vanaras, who are disguised Devas, that Ram has killed you, the one surrounded by Rakshasas.
Mandodari, after having such a clear insight goes on to tell that Ravana, who had conquered his senses to obtain rare boons, seems to have succumbed to revenge of the senses. Her lamentations are replete with deepest viveka. She is able to clearly isolate the reasons for Ravana’s fall. She regrets Ravana’s rejection of Vibhishana’s wisdom and the words of Maricha, Kumbhakarna, herself and her father (Mayasura).
The non practicing critic’s best potshot is these are inserted lines. If one were to read throughout Valmiki Ramyan, the fingerprints of the SUPREME SELF, though it was trying its best to masquerade as a mere human.
Mandodari, like Vibhishana, has been constantly telling the truth and challenging the adharmic actions of Ravana. Unlike Vibhishana, she could not forsake Ravana, owing to her marriage. Yet her level of Sattva remains very high to clearly discern wrong and right even during her worst crisis. Her reasoning and understanding is not only able to identify good and bad, but also peer through and acknowledge the divinity in Ram.
One must note both, Tara and Mandodari, are overcome by extreme grief and seek no favors from Ram, who had just killed their husbands. In fact, Tara seeks a mercy killing only to be rejected. Neither of them have no reason to extol Ram’s virtues. But both of them know that Ram is not a mere human and their Sattvic guna coupled by their immense buddhi can make them realize the Supreme Divinity operating as Ram.
The perception of Ram, be it in Ramayana or in our real lives (in the Universe), is purely a factor of our gunas. We saw this in detail in Why can I not feel the God within. Depending on the level of Sattva, one is able to see the subtler aspects of the SUPREME SELF’s presence. In this two part analysis, we find how people perceive Ram, purely out of their guna–karma–vasana prism.
The lesson for all of us is, as we work on ourselves, our perception of divinity will alter for the better. Every effort we put towards lifting our minds off tamas and rajas, sattva shines naturally, assures Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.
Let us follow the exalted example of Vibhishana to renounce everything to serve the SUPREME SELF. If we cannot, can we atleast refine our buddhi to such a fine extent like Tara or Mandodari to accept our karmaphala as Bhagavad prasada? May we keep striving harder towards increasing the Sattva quotient in ourselves and realize the ever resplendent PaRamtma shining through us.
ॐ तत् सत्||