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A comment on Sita's exile and story of Lava and Kush in the Ramayana

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A comment on Sita's exile and story of Lava and Kush in the Ramayana Empty A comment on Sita's exile and story of Lava and Kush in the Ramayana

Post by Seva Lamberdar Thu May 07, 2020 9:26 am

Uttarakanda (also known as the Uttara Ramayana) is the final chapter (uttara in Sanskrit meaning later and kanda meaning chapter) in the Ramayana (story of Ram). Originally, when Valmiki first composed Ramayana (based on sage Narada’s narration to him or perhaps the prevailing legend about Ram at that time), Ramayana (according to Valmiki in the Balakanda, the opening chapter) was supposed only to be up to the Yuddhakanda (chapter dealing with Ram’s battle with Ravan to free Sita and then returning to Ayodhya along with Sita after completing fourteen years’ exile).

In other words, the Uttarakanda (using additional, fictional and newer tales which were not a part of Narada’s narration to Valmiki) was appended to Valmiki Ramayana (VR) after Yuddhakanda by later / subsequent authors and contributors. In addition, for the purpose of justifying the Uttara Ramayana (or Uttarakanda) as integral part of Ram’s story (Ramayana), the later authors took liberties in adding new, often subtle, twists and turns in the original Valmiki Ramayana (from Balakanda to Yuddhakanda), which at times gave Ram a new and conflicting role and status, unlike indicated in the original Valmiki’s version (Ramayana) according to sage Narada (VR-1-1).  

Valmiki, according to sage Narada’s narration or perhaps the prevailing legend at that time, depicts Ram as a highly principled, virtuous, conscientious, redeemer, truth-teller, self-determined (no-nonsense type) person, brilliant, not jealous, highly valorous, resplendent, steadfast, controller of vice and vile including his own senses, very adept, moralist, learned and propitious (VR-1-1-2, 3, 4, 8, 9).  Ram also is the knower of rectitude, bidden by the truth, has concern in the welfare of subjects (people), is proficient in prudence, clean in his conduct, is self-controlled and diligent, guards probity, is gentle, level-headed and clear-headed, and treats everyone equally (VR-1-1-12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 20).  In addition to showing Ram as a very noble and level-headed person who treats everyone fairly, equally and without prejudice, Balakanda (VR-1-1) also mentions Ram as not a greedy and self-centered person who has little interest in his own father’s kingdom and who even goes gladly to forest for fourteen years to fulfill his father’s wish.

However, a few shlokas or verses at the end of Balakanda (VR-1-1) in the present Ramayanas (including the Valmiki Ramayana currently), which probably were added by later authors / contributors, talk about Ram protecting the caste system, etc., thus deviating from most of Narada’s narration in Balakanda (VR-1-1). Moreover, due also to the Uttarakanda (which was added to the Ramayana by later authors), Ram is transformed into an impetuous, reckless and jealous husband (who threw his wife out on the basis of gossip), wasteful and seeking awards in afterlife (by performing “unnecessary” horse rituals: VR-1-1-94b, 95a), upholder of caste system (VR-1-1-96, 100) and acting casteist (killing a sudra boy “Sambuka” for reading the Veda).  

Valmiki is also shown uncharacteristically, by later contributors perhaps, in a number of places (e.g. third and fourth chapters of Balakanda: VR-1-3 and VR-1-4) to suddenly narrate the events in the third person while admiring and glorifying his composition (Ramayana) and himself (as the composer of Ramayana). This type of self praise and adulation on the part of Valmiki in the Ramayana seems out of place, because Valmiki in the beginning (after getting inspiration from Brahma, in the Balakanda) had decided to compose the Ramayana (according to Narada’s narration) to tell the heroic story of Ram for the good of all and to promote righteousness in society. In other words, the purpose of Valmiki to compose the Ramayana initially was to admire and glorify Ram for the good of all and not talk about himself (as seems to be the implication in VR-1-3 and VR-1-4). This naturally raises questions that some portions of even the current “Valmiki” Ramayana (including perhaps VR-1-3 and VR-1-4) might not be by Valmiki but others.

The same thing, Valmiki’s adulation (perhaps by later contributors), seems to take place in the Yuddhakanda (VR-6-128-107, 108, 113, 114, 123) where Valmiki is admired and acknowledged for his effort in writing the Ramayana. There are also claims, probably by later contributors (interested perhaps in the Uttarakanda), in the Balakanda etc. (e.g. VR-1-1-90, 94b, 95a; VR-1-3-39), which imply that Valmiki narrated the futuristic events. Unfortunately, it makes Valmiki as the predecessor of Ram, which is in direct conflict with Narada’s narration and also tarnishes Ram’s legendary status (especially according to sage Narada).

This type of superficial linking of Ram’s story to Uttarakanda by later authors / contributors by showing Valmiki either living before Ram or contemporarily (which is inconsistent with Narada’s narration about Ram to Valmiki in the Balakanda) is further evident in the Ayodhyakanda (VR-2-56-15) where Ram, Sita and Lakshman are shown to visit Valmiki’s ashram / hermitage (in the Chitrakuta mountains) and pay homage to him. This episode seems to open the door later (in the Uttarakanda) for pregnant Sita to move to Valmiki’s ashram, after being abandoned and exiled by Ram from Ayodhya because of questions / gossip by a dhobi (or washerman) about her character during her imprisonment by Ravan in the final year of Ram’s exile. Anyway, after the pregnant Sita ends up in Valmiki’s ashram (according to the Uttarakanda), she gives birth to sons Lava and Kush who, along with their mother Sita, are supported and cared for by Valmiki who also teaches and trains Lava and Kush and eventually guides them in their fight against Ram (their father).

Interestingly, Lava and Kush find no mention in Narada’s narration to Valmiki in the Balakanda (VR-1-1). Valmiki first talks about Lava and Kush in the fourth section of Balakanda (VR-1-4), making them mainly as (ballad) singers for his Ramayana. It seems Valmiki probably wanted to popularize the Ramayana among public in the form of ballad. Therefore, he used two fictional names (Lava and Kush) as singers for Ramayana in the Balakanda (VR-1-4) where they are depicted having no relation to Ram. However, in the Uttarakanda (by later authors), Lava and Kush acquire the status as Ram’s sons, born to Sita during the time of her exile in Valmiki’s ashram. Thus there is also the possibility that Lava and Kusha might have been introduced in the Balakanda (VR-1-4) as ballad singers by later authors to facilitate the link to Uttarakanda and not because Valmiki wanted to present his composition in the ballad form (sung by Lava and Kush).

Needless to say, there are serious doubts about Uttarakanda stories involving Sita’s exile by Ram on the basis of gossip by a “dhobi” and killing of a sudra boy (“Sambuka”) for reading the Veda. Moreover, as indicated earlier, there is no mention of these incidents in Narada’s narration in the Balakanda. Considering also that Valmiki (who started his life as a sudra before learning Sanskrit and the Veda to become a Brahmin) would hardly see any reason to compose Ramayana and glorify Ram if he knew or thought that Ram was sexist and casteist and could kill a sudra for reading the Veda (as indicated in the Uttarakanda in some Ramayanas). It is obvious that such stories (especially about Ram killing a sudra for reading the Veda) probably did not exist during Valmiki’s time and they appear to have been created and planted by subsequent authors.

Furthermore, according to the Ramayana (Aranyakanda), Ram gladly accepted and ate fruit offered by a humble, old, sickly and servile woman Shabari who had sampled the fruit before giving it to Ram. That indicates that Ram was devoid of false pride and had no feelings of racism and sexism. Thus it seems highly unlikely that Ram (a king) would get swayed by a commoner dhobi’s gossip about his wife Sita (a queen) and expel her from the palace during her pregnant condition. In addition, based on the Balakanda (VR-1-49) which shows Ram redeeming Ahalya (the wife of sage Gautama) in spite of her committing the sexual offence with another man Indra (due to deception by Indra),  there is little chance, especially after Sita had already gone through Agni-priksha to prove her innocence to Ram in the Yuddhakanda (after the defeat of Ravan), that Ram would abandon and exile Sita on the basis of unsubstantiated gossip about her character by a commoner (dhobi).

In any case, considering that Ram was given to forgiveness and redemption of sinners (as he did in the case of Ahalya), the Agni-priksha of Sita (mentioned in the Balakanda: VR-1-1-81, 82, 83, 84; and the Yuddhakanda, after the defeat of Ravan) was probably only about Sita taking an oath (or making a statement) about her innocence in the witness of Agni (the Vedic deity associated with holy / ritualistic fire, Ref.1).  Even though some people (including the readers of Ramayana which uses poetic symbolism) mistakenly think that Agni-priksha involves jumping in the fire to prove one’s innocence (innocent if person comes out alive and unscathed), in reality and according to Vedic hymns the Agni-priksha involves taking the oath of innocence (or seeking the forgiveness for any infraction) in the witness of Agni (the deity associated with sacred fire).

It is clear from the above discussion that stories in the Uttarakanda about Sita’s exile by Ram on the basis of questions / gossip about her character and the killing of a sudra boy for reading the Veda are not true and were probably planted in the Ramayana by later authors.

Ref.:     Subhash C. Sharma, "A comment about the Uttarakanda or Uttara Ramayana," Nov. 24, 2012,
Seva Lamberdar
Seva Lamberdar

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A comment on Sita's exile and story of Lava and Kush in the Ramayana Empty Re: A comment on Sita's exile and story of Lava and Kush in the Ramayana

Post by Seva Lamberdar Thu May 07, 2020 3:09 pm

Note: Description of references to Valmiki Ramayana (VR) in the above, as  VR-J-K-L (VR-1-1-2, for example):

J represents the number of Kanda (chapter) in the Valmiki Ramayana (VR), as
J = 1 (Bala-kanda),
J = 2 (Ayodhya-kanda),
J = 3 (Aranya-kanda),
J = 4 (Kishkindha-kanda),
J = 5 (Sundara-kanda),  and
J = 6 (Yuddha-kanda).

K in the above represents the number of  Sarga (sub-chapter) within the Kanda (chapter), as
K = 1, or K = 2, or K = 3, ….

L in the above represents the number of Shloka (verse) within the particular Sanga (sub-chapter), as
L = 1, or L = 2, or L = 3, …..
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A comment on Sita's exile and story of Lava and Kush in the Ramayana Empty Re: A comment on Sita's exile and story of Lava and Kush in the Ramayana

Post by Seva Lamberdar Mon Oct 26, 2020 8:49 am

I posted the following message (#1; SS) on Facebook on the occasion of Dussehra yesterday (Oct. 25, 2020), which drew the comment (#2; FB), which I replied to as (#3; SS).  

(1) SS: "According to the Ramayana, the occurrence of Dussehra (Rama slaying Ravana in Lanka and freeing Sita) 21 days before Diwali (arrival of Rama and Sita by Pushap viman in Ayodhya; Ayodhya being about 2000 km away from Lanka) indicates that Pushpak viman was very likely a ground vehicle (chariot etc.) made of light material (wood for example) and it traveled approximately 100 km per day. Thus Pushpak viman (a ground vehicle, chariot etc.) could easily and effectively cover the distance between Lanka and Ayodhya (2000 km) in about 20 days, and it was not required for the Pushpak viman to be a flying and much speedier kind of aircraft to bring Rama & Sita back to Ayodhya."

(2)  FB:  "Your assertions may be right but surely Lord Ram wouldn’t have started the return journey immediately upon killing Ravan, he must have spent a week or two or more thanking abd celebrating his Vanar Sena besides putting Vibhishan into Ravan’s Gaddi of Lanka , consoling the families of those who lost their members Etc. , after all Lord Ram is known to be a MARYADA PURSHOTAM .. So when we know and have been told it was the PUSHPAK VIMAN , it was a VIMAN . Let’s not create unnecessary controversies . FYI they have found the PUSHPAK Vimsn of ancient era ."

(3)  SS: "In the old Sanskrit, viman was any fast moving carrier / vehicle (including a cart or chariot). Viman thus was not necessarily a machine flying in air such as an aircraft, which we have come to believe these days. Moreover, any poetic reference in the Ramayana about the viman (cart or chariot) as "flying" might just be about its traveling fast.

"Most importantly, according to the Ramayana, the time of about three weeks between Dussehra (Rama killing Ravana and freeing Sita in Lanka) and Diwali (Rama and Sita arriving in Ayodhya) is sufficient, a strong physical evidence for viman as a ground carrier (e.g. chariot), to cover the distance (about 2000 km) between Lanka and Ayodhya travelling about 100 km per day (a reasonable daily travel by a animal pulled ground vehicle).

"As for Rama thanking his associates / helpers and installing Vibhishan as king of Lanka after defeating Ravana, that he, according to the Ramayana, accomplished in just a few days (2 or 3, at the most). There was nothing more for Rama to do in Lanka after that, with still having enough time for Rama and Sita (after spending 2 or 3 days in Lanka to thank associates and install Vibhishan as king) to reach Ayodhya in a ground vehicle (a chariot), covering 100-110 km per day) in about 18 days on "Diwali" (the night of Rama's arrival in Ayodhya)."
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