Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Subtle Dharma behind Vaali vadam

          Most commentators and critics and casual readers of Ramayana are quick to condemn Rama when it comes to Vaali Vadam. They do not factor Valmiki’s biographical account of the times, nor do they understand Vaali’s mindset change. Most certainly these people do not understand Dharma. Many of the comments are heard from others, TV debates or prejudiced judgemental thinking without any research. The article is not meant to defend Rama, for I am too unqualified for that task. This article is for those Hindus, who desperately want their Rama to be spotless, but struggle to understand the Sri Rama is beyond the confused education they have.

          Many versions of Ramayana have been passed on (according to some researchers over 300 are available). Some are available even from far-east like Thailand. The twists and turns of society and time have colored not only the way we see Ramayana, but also the very Ramayana itself. Many times, Valmiki Ramayana is pushed to the backseat and a more colorful RamcharitManas or Kamba Ramayana is on the fore. A key difference usually overlooked is that Valmiki is a contemporary historian, recording the Ramayana as it happened, whilst all others have built their renderings on his canvas.

          The article will be broken into the following parts: Synopsis of events around Vaali Vadam; Vaali’s questions with Rama; Rama’s response to Vaali, Vaali’s response back to Rama and the digest of what I have understood by listening and reading and pondering so far on this topic.

          Synopsis of Vaali Vadam
          Sugreeva saw Rama and Lakshmana wander around the Rishyamukha parvata. He sent Hanuman to investigate, as he was living there in fear from Vaali. Hanuman brings Rama and Lakshmana to the presence of Sugreeva, who seeks their friendship. Rama and Sugreeva form a pact of friendship by walking around the fire. Sugreeva shows the ornaments thrown by Sita, when Sugreeva witnessed her abduction by Ravana in Pushpaka Vimana. Rama seeks Lakshmana’s concurrence on identifying the jewels. Lakshmana says he can recognize only the anklet as that is the only thing he has seen on Sita. This shows the motherly veneration Lakshmana showed to his brother’s wife, or even that matter any lady.

          After recovering from this sad shock, Rama asks Sugreeva to narrate his tale of woe. Once a fierce rakshasa, Maayavi, elder brother of Dundhubi (who had died at Vaali’s hands earlier) challenged Vaali. Seeing Vaali and Sugreeva both coming to quell his challenge, he enters a cave out of fear. Vaali stations Sugreeva at its entrance and disappears for a year. Seeing foaming blood flowing and unable to discern any fighting noises, Sugreeva concludes his brother has died. He performs oblations and seals the entrance to protect the citizens from the raakshasa. The ministers coronate Sugreeva as their next King. Vaali meanwhile dislodges the boulder and feels his brother deliberately tried to kill him.

          Upon seeing Vaali, Sugreeva offers the crown at his feet and prostrates and pleads him to reoccupy the throne. Vaali’s rage feels that as further deceit. He chases Sugreeva with the single cloth he was wearing, snatches his wife Ruma (something which leads to his death), puts all his supporters in prison. He retires to Rishyamukha parvata, where Vaali is cursed not to step his foot. Despite that, he continues to torment Sugreeva by sending warriors and spies to kill him many times.

          Sugreeva wants to highlight Vaali’s strength. A very powerful buffalo demon called Dundhubhi, eager for serious combat, challenged Vaali. After a fierce fight, Vaali hurls the huge carcass for a yojana (approx. 5 miles). A few drops of dead Dundhubhi’s blood fell on Sage Matanga (This rishi was born in Shudra varna, another proof that varnas were not a barrier for great knowledge or Rishidom, as popularly believed), who cursed that the perpetuator of such a sin that polluted the environs will meet their death if he stepped his foot on this desecrated Holy site.

          Rama flicks the bone heap of Dundhubhi with a flick of his big toe for ten yojanas. Sugreeva’s fear stricken mind reasons that a live Dundhubhi in flesh would have been heavier. To imbue confidence, Rama shoots a single arrow that pierces a hole through seven huge Sala trees, enters the earth and returns back to his quiver. He prompts Sugreeva to call Vaali for a combat and was eager to fulfill his promise to his friend.

          Vaali beats Sugreeva thoroughly as Rama is unable to discern the two from their attire, actions, physicality. Rama garlands Sugreeva with flowers from a creeper. Sugreeva beckons Vaali for a rematch. An enraged Vaali is stopped by Tara, his chief queen of exceeding intelligence. She reasons out Sugreeva who ran for his life earlier in the day could not have returned without proper reinforcements. She informs Vaali about Rama’s presence and his great valor. She pleads Vaali to take shelter under Rama’s benevolent grace. She recommends Sugreeva to be anointed as Yuvaraja, Crown Prince. She suggests Vaali to get rid of his hostility towards Sugreeva. Vaali pays no heed to her and counters that Rama is a virtuous man and will not sin.

          As the mortal combat began, Vaali quickly overwhelms Sugreeva whose weakening eyes are searching for Rama’s rescue. Rama selects a special arrow from his quiver and shoots at Vaali, which falls as a thunderbolt on Vaali’s chest. Vaali, mortally wounded engages with a conversation with Rama and questions the dharma behind. He poses Rama a series of questions and Rama patiently answers every single one. Vaali accepts not only Rama’s logic, but also thanks him for giving a proper redemption from his sins. He pleads Rama to take Angada, his son, under his wings and treat him the same way as Sugreeva, Bharata and Lakshmana. (This shows as a King Vaali is well informed about Rama’s background.) He pleads Tara should not be mistreated for his sins. 

          Tara rushes with Angada not heeding the ministers’ request to appoint Anagda as the next King. She laments uncontrollably near Vaali’s body. A deeply aggrieving Tara is consoled by Hanuman. Even during the depths of her sorrow, she chooses very carefully chiseled words of wisdom, be it in expressing her sorrow, or countering Hanuman’s suggestion to anoint Angada as the next ruler.

          Vaali recovers from the swoon, confesses the mess of relationship with Sugreeva was purely his fault. He recommends Angada’s protection. He urges Sugreeva to fulfill the promise given to Rama. (This did not come in the prior conversations, did he learn from the spies?) He asks Sugreeva to take his golden pendant, which gave him half the opponent’s strength in single combat before he dies. He then advises Angada to show some maturity as Sugreeva may not approve of his puerile behavior.

          As Vaali departs, Tara’s anguish knows no bounds. Tara’s plea for mercy death at the hands of Rama is met by gracious consolation. After cremation of Vaali, eventually Sugreeva gets coronated as the King.

          Vaali’s questions to Rama
        Rama and Lakshmana honorably approach the fallen warrior. Vaali, still smarting at the surprising fatal hit, launches a series of questions filled with sarcasm, ridicule, anger and self-pity. We will see a snapshot of his questions, where he is not only the victim, but also his own prosecutor.
*     You are a renowned prince with pleasing looks, but look at my ignoble death. What merit do you gain by killing me when I was not facing away from you? (It merely implies that he was focused on Sugreeva, not that Rama was hiding)

*  He gives a long list of Kingly attributes like Truthfulness, forgiveness etc. He said he expected Rama to have them and said this was his counter to Tara’s objection for the fight.

*     He ridicules Rama as an unrighteous flag bearer of Dharma. (We will henceforth  not focus much on the anger of Vaali, but focus more on his questions)

*       I have not done any misdeed in your country or city, nor have I taunted you.  I am a Vanara, subsisting on tubers and roots. Why did you assault when I was engaged elsewhere?

*      Will anyone born as a reputed Kshatriya, heedless of Dharma, commit such a heinous act, though cloaked in probity (Dharma)?

    Though Raghu vamsa is reputed for following Dharma, having done such an amoral act, how can you be running around talking of Dharma?

*       Vaali questions the authority of Rama to punish him.

*       Vaali resorts to describing himself as an animal in the forests, living on tubers and roots, not fit for human consumption.

*       He again questions that his skin, hair, bones are all unworthy of human use and also his meat. He is a five toed animal which is not sanctioned.

*       He wonders usual fights break on behalf of Land, gold, silver and there are no such interests in his forest territory

*       Vaali even tells Rama, that killing of a King will fetch him a sure path to hell.

*      Vaali wonders how great souled Dasartha ended up having an artful, felonious, evildoer who is disposed to false modesty.

*     He tries to evince guilt in Rama what he will tell when he meets saintly souls (like his teachers or sages)

*    He even taunts Rama if he were to have had confronted directly, Rama would have met his end.

*    He tells Rama that the real wrongdoer is still unpunished, while he is punished for no reason (implying Ravana took Sita and not him)

    He wonders why Rama chose Sugreeva instead of him, who could easily rescue Sita from rakashasa Ravana’s clutches.

Vaali’s questions can be boiled to WHY ME? Our questions are centered on WHY did Rama hit him without a direct confrontation.

Rama’s Response to Vaali’s questions
          Rama patiently responds to every question. Vaali views himself as a dharmic person and Rama as an adharmic killer. Upon hearing Rama’s logic, he is convinced of his folly. He not only pleads to Rama of his arrogant attitude behind his questions, but also thanks him for cleansing him by this punishment. Here Rama is playing the role of a defense attorney. Rama’s responses are not in the order of the questions, so won’t ours.
*      Rama questions the lack of Dharma practiced in the lineage of Vanaras. He basically challenges their adhikara to even understand the subtleties of Dharma.

*      Rama asserts that the Ikshavaku kula has authority on the entire earth with its mountains, woods and forests including all its denizens – animals, birds and humans. (Though there were multiple kingdoms, it was the Ikshavaku kula that was considered to be the upholder of Dharma)

*    Rama edifies the ruler, Bharata as the one who has clarity of understanding in Dharma, Artha, Kama, besides being virtuous, truth-abiding, plain-speaking. He declares that Bharata is firm in Truth and valor. Rama claims to be a mere representative of King Bharata. (When Rama bids adieu to Bharata, Bharata agrees to be the ruler for exactly fourteen years as a command from Rama. Rama tells him tvam raajaa bharata bhava svayam naraaNaam | vanyaanaam aham api raaja raaNmR^igaaNaam | Ayodhya Kanda II, 1-674-17.  Rama tells Bharata to be the King of cities and villages and human habitats, while Rama will be the King of Forests and animals. In that sense, Rama is still the upholder of justice in forest territory. He keeps up the world of never entering any village or city till his fourteen year timeline is over.

*     Rama points out that Vaali had not been a good King, making carnality his primary doctrine. (We have to note the fight with the rakshasa Maayavi was on account of a woman).

*      Rama elucidates that Dharma can be learnt from three fatherly personages – own father, elder brother and one who gives education. Similarly one has to treat the following as sons – one’s own son, younger brother and a good disciple.

*    Rama’s central observation, which gets so many examples from all the avatars is the following:
सूक्ष्मः परम दुर्ज्ञेयः सताम् धर्मः प्लवंगम |
हृदिस्थः सर्व भूतानाम् आत्मा वेद शुभाशुभम् || 4-18-15
The DHARMA practised by principled people is very subtle and highly imponderable, and the soul that abides in the hearts of all beings alone can differentiate between just and unjust.

*      Rama asserts that one with a vacillating mind, sense oriented, vasana filled personality like Vaali cannot discern Dharma. Thanks to Rama for emphatically making human beings understand that Dharma is not as simple as following merely human laws or scriptures. Subtleties of Dharma can be envisioned only by the virtuous.

*  Rama calmly tells Vaali that his outrage and disdain are misplaced. Rama tells that central reason for his elimination was Vaali’s misbehavior with his brother’s wife, in violation of the Sanatana Dharma. (This means Vaali was also expected to follow Sanatana Dharma and he was aware of it). With this one explanation, Rama discards all the thirteen questions of Vaali.

Rama reasons that Ruma, Sugreeva’s wife should be treated as his daughter-in-law, not just sister-in-law. (We saw the dharmic viewpoint earlier). Rama says that he has imposed this punishment for such a horrible sinning, transgression of dharma and traditions. Thus he showcases Vaali to be guilty. Rama says there is no other alternative punishment for such violaters of society and conventions.

*    Rama recalls scriptures to tell that one who indulges in incest with his daughter, sister and daughter-in-law can get no better treatment and as a Kshatriya from the best clan, he is obligated to dole this punishment. He says how can such a deed be allowed to go unnoticed in the land where virtue personified Bharata is the ruler.

*     Rama said Sugreeva is the same to him as Lakshmana. He did not this to win Sugreeva’s favor. (Rama has told Sita earlier that he will prefer to give up his life, rather go back on his words or violate Dharma)

*      Rama reiterates that the punishment given to Vaali is legitimate. Rama tells that it is one’s Dharma to render assistance to a friend in any event. (We notice the same logic Krishna uses to convince Arjuna to intervene when Bhurishravas was about to kill Satyaki, who was more than a disciple and shadow of Arjuna.)

*  Rama quotes Manu and scriptures to prove Vaali on the legitimacy of his actions. Per Manu and Rama, a thief (sinner) can be absolved of his sin by either punishment or by clemency. But a King who does not impose the correct punishment derives the blot of that sin. He proves the precedence when Rama’s ancestor, Mandaata, punished a sage for some immoral act.

*     Rama respectfully addresses Vaali, as a tiger of vaanara and tells that we as humans do not have a choice. If a proper punishment was not given by Rama, then he will have to do some expiation to absolve the sin for not acting right.

*  Rama addresses Vaali, as Hari pungava, the best among monkeys and informs him that he has neither ire nor angst by eliminating him or Vaali reviling him.

*     Rama adds, if you still claim an excuse as an animal, animals can be trapped overtly or covertly. Meat eaters will kill the animal in any fashion and there is nothing sacrilege in it.

*    Rama keeps laboring differently to inform Vaali that his pedigree has always stuck to the path of Dharma and he is merely following them.

       Rama’s baana (arrow) was single, but his Dharma and logic is all enveloping.         He keeps repeating again and again that all he did was administer justice in the form of punishment and labors so much that Vaali’s conscience could get clarified. We already noted Rama used one of the lesser grade arrows to ensure a proper conversation with Vaali, to clarify his mind, after administering the punishment.

          Vaali’s response to Rama
          Vaali not only agrees to Rama’s viewpoint, but also thanks him for taking time to display grace, even though it may be in the form of a punishment. We will capture this only through the original verses with some translation.
एवम् उक्तः तु रामेण वाली प्रव्यथितो भृशम् |
दोषम् राघवे दध्यौ धर्मे अधिगत निश्चयः || 4-18-44
Vali is much distressed at heart of hearts when Rama has said categorically in that way, whereby, deriving certitude about rightness he found no incorrectness with Rama.

प्रत्युवाच ततो रामम् प्रांजलिर् वानरेश्वरः |
यत् त्वम् आत्थ नरश्रेष्ठ तत् थथा एव न अत्र संशयः ||4-18-45
That lord of vanara-s then replied Rama with adjoined palms, "oh, best one among men, what all you have said is that way proper, undoubtedly.

प्रतिवक्तुम् प्रकृष्टे हि न अपकृष्टः तु शक्नुयात् |
यत् अयुक्तम् मया पूर्वम् प्रमादात् वाक्यम् अप्रियम् ||
तत्र अपि खलु माम् दोषम् कर्तुम् न अर्हसि राघव | 4-18-46, 47a
Indeed an ignoble cannot disprove a nobleman, Raghava, and with regards to the undesirable and improper words I have unwittingly spoken earlier, in that mater too it will be truly unapt of you to make me blameworthy, as I spoke them in anguish and ignorance.

त्वम् हि दृष्टार्थ तत्त्वज्ञः प्रजानाम् च हिते रतः |
कार्य कारण सिद्धौ च प्रसन्ना बुद्धिः अव्यया || 4-18-47b, c
You alone are the knower of recourses and their real nature, namely probity, prosperity, pleasure seeking, and emancipation; dharma, artha, kaama, moksha ; and you take delight in the welfare of subjects, and your faultless intellect is clear in accomplishing ends by judging the causes and effects.

माम् अपि अवगतम् धर्मात् व्यतिक्रान्त पुरस्कृतम् |
धर्म संहितया वाचा धर्मज्ञ परिपालय || 4-18-48
Oh, Rama, the knower of probity, I am the one who digressed from the rightness and a forerunner among such transgressors, such as I am, give absolution even to me with words abounded with rightness." Vali is thus saying to Rama.

          Vaali seeks Rama’s oversight to ensure Angada’s future. He wants Rama to treat Sugreeva and Angada on par with Lakshmana and Bharata. He wants Rama to ensure that Tara will never be treated as a wife of Sugreeva’s former rival. Rama assures him individually on all the requests. Rama takes time to explain Vaali, that since he is cleansed of all his sins due to punishment, he need not carry any confusion or heaviness in his mind at the time of his death. Vaali seeks Rama’s pardon for not showing proper respect due to arrow’s impact.

शराभितप्तेन विचेतसा मया
प्रदूषितः त्वम् यद् अजानता विभो |
इदम् महेन्द्रोपम भीम विक्रम
प्रसादितः त्वम् क्षम मे नरेश्वर || 4-18-66
Oh, lord, oh, tremendously braving one, oh, Rama, the lord of people, I blamed you when your arrow sweltered and rendered me imbecile, thus I blamed you unthinkingly for which I may please be pardoned, I appease you for the same.

          Tara’s lamentations, even at the depths of sorrow, does not point to Rama as an aggressor, nor as Vaali as a victim. Interestingly, one of the most intelligent women in our mythologies grieves that Vaali’s end came due to his sins. The same argument, Rama is reiterating to her that it was prayashchita, an atonement of his sins.
अवस्थाम् पश्चिमाम् पश्य पितुः पुत्र सुदारुणाम् ||
संप्रसक्तस्य वैरस्य गतो अन्तः पाप कर्मणा |  4-23-22
See the highly harrowing end time plight of your father, oh, son, he reached his end owing to the enmity harnessed by sinful deeds.

                Tara sees Rama first time after Vaali breathes his last. Her body language shows anger but as she approaches Rama, she begins to eulogize him.
त्वम् अप्रमेयः च दुरासदः च जितेन्द्रियः च उत्तम धर्मकः च |
अक्षीण कीर्तिः च विचक्षणः च क्षिति क्षमवान् क्षतजोपमा अक्षः || 4-24-31
You are an indeterminable one, an inaccessible one, one with his self conquered, the supreme among righteous souls, your glory is unmitigated, and you are the one with clear discrimination, and in endurance earth-like, and your eyes are blood streaked like those of an emperor.

                (The idiom blood streaked eyes of an emperor means Rama did his actions not in anger or vengeance, but one who makes objective decisions) So even, Tara was able to see through Vaali’s faults, Rama’s viewpoint and his greatness.

          Satchitananda’s Reflections

          Rama’s response to Vaali’s questions not only clarify his doubts, mitigate his anger and erase his self-pity, but also  makes Vaali feel relieved of all the sins. The primary question of why Vaali was punished is answered clearly. But a doubt lingers why he was not taken on in a single combat, why he had to attack using Sugreeva’s pretext. Before we look into that question, let us analyze Rama’s character.

          We saw the defense and prosecution side. If we were to play the role of a judge or jury, we need to study the character of Rama. We can list the places where Rama’s character comes through before and after Vaali’s incident.

          Rama hesitates to attack Tadaka, till his preceptor clarifies the finer aspects. Rama does not even validate his father’s words given through Kaikeyi, enacts them immediately. Rama spares the life of Parasurama after overpowering him. He does not hesitate to befriend Guha, Sugreeva and even the brother of the enemy, Vibhishana. Rama does last rites for Jatayu and treats him as his father. He helps Ahalya and Sabari to evolve into higher states. Rama punishes Kakasura for his actions, but is gracious to forgive when he surrenders. 

          There were two people who get second chance from Rama’s arrows – Ravana and Maricha. Ravana, when decimated on his first encounter, is given a second chance by Rama to go back, recuperate, replenish and come back another day. Maricha, Tadaka’s son, who is spared during the defense of Vishwamitra’s Yajna, is sought after by Ravana for assistance in Sita’s kidnapping. Maricha who by then becomes an ascetic, tries to knock some sense to Ravana, in vain.

          In my Ramayana review, no one comes closer to Maricha in edifying Rama. Maricha declares Rama is the very embodiment of all Dharma in the universe – Ramo Vigrahavan Dharma.

रामो विग्रहवान् धर्मः साधुः सत्य पराक्रमः |
राजा सर्वस्य लोकस्य देवानाम् इव वासवः || 3-37-13
Rama is the embodiment of righteousness, he is an equable person with truthfulness as his valour, and as with Indra to all gods he is the king of entire world.

          On one end, we have Rama declared as the embodiment of Dharma by his own enemy and on the other side we have this subtle question, why did Rama have to hit Vaali, even if Vaali is guilty. So if even the enemy, who is a Rakshasa with limited spiritual evolution, can understand Ramo Vigrahavan Dharma, we have to use the baseline that we are missing something here. Since Vaali himself is convinced and also Tara, the understanding of Rama's observance of Dharma is well established.

A quick glance at Kinshkinda Kanda shows that after Vaali vadam, Sugreeva not only takes the throne, but also Tara's hands (Vaali's wife). (Though there is no direct verse indicating of it, the verses are evident with this import) Did the rulebook change when Vaali took Ruma, Sugreeva's wife? The practice back then, in many communities, the widowed elder brother's wife usually faced the choice of death. Also is the humiliation of being the former vanquished enemy's wife. Whether it was a political marriage to ensure Angada as being the crown prince or whether it was a social norm to take care of widowed elder brother's wife or whether it was polyandry practised by vanaras, Rama does not object to this voluntary practice. It may be noted Ruma was forcibly taken away from Sugreeva. In a later episode, Tara goes ahead to pacify an angry Lakshmana. Her body language description by Valmiki indicates that she had a happy married life with Sugreeva.

If this be the case, there must be a reason larger than just Ruma being forcibly taken away from Sugreeva. While Rama clearly justifies to Vaali his logic and Dharma behind the punishment, there is more information in between the lines.

Let us analyze, what would have happened if Rama directly confronted Vaali.

Scenario 1: Vaali gets afraid, runs into the city. Rama cannot enter the city. Only Lakshmana has to fight with Sugreeva, Hanuman, Nala and Neela. Time is getting wasted. The very resources, Vanara forces, Rama needs to search and rescue Sita will have to be destroyed. He cannot request Bharata for resources, as it will take extra ordinary delays in time. Vaali, could complicate things by taking Ruma into hiding and this can complicate the mission.

Scenario 2: One of Vaali's options to run away is to take shelter with Ravana. This will not only complicate Rama's mission, but also prolong it. We have to recall Rama is sitting with two ticking time bombs - desperate Sita and a faithful Bharata who has promised to quit his life if Rama failed to show up after fourteen years.

          Scenario 3: Now that Vaali saw Sugreeva's power base increase, he could buy time to build a larger resource to take them. This again will delay Rama's mission.

Scenario 4: Valmiki Ramayana merely talks of an ornament given by Indra. The other Ramayana versions inform us that this was a boon given to Vaali, by which half the power of the opponent in single combat will come to him. Rama had to honor this blessing, though he may be Supreme, just like Hanuman honored Indrajit's Brahmastra and Narasimha honored the boons given to Hiranyakashipu.

          Scenaario 5: Vaali could realize Rama's greatness and surrender to him. Now Rama will have so many dilemmas as he had promised Sugreeva of Kishkinda's throne and Vaali's elimination. The situation worsens as Ravana, who had accepted the superiority of Vaali, will also have to be treated as friend's friend. Vaali-Rama's friendship is impossibility, due to this conundrum.

Let us play with the scenarios that Vaali switches to Rama's side. Can Vaali bring back Sita? Both Vaali and Ravana are exploiters of women. So a bigger morality question will arise for Rama. Assuming Vaali tries to fight Ravana in his attempt to find Sita. Vaali could be easily eliminated as his ornament can only give him half the opponent's power in single combat. So he could not be a match for the combined forces of Indrajit, Kumbhakarna and other Rakshasas. Even Rama had to use all the divine weapons to annhilate Ravana's forces. So we have to dismiss Vaali's claim of bringing Sita as a vain boast of a fallen warrior. Even if we agree that Vaali manages to convince Ravana and bring back Sita, the very purpose of the avatara will be defeated.

So we can conclude Rama could not have directly confronted Vaali. So did he hide and hit the arrow from behind? raghaveno mahabano vaali vakshasi informs us that Vaali was hit on the chest. Vaali also knows Rama's presence near Sugreeva even before he left his palace. Vaali also informs Rama that he was hit when his attention was only on Sugreeva. 

Vaali's fate is sealed when Rama forms a friendship and brotherhood pack when he takes an oath around fire with Sugreeva. Forcible taking away of Ruma was unquestionably punishable. Rama is a big proponent of Prapatti, gracefully accepting even the enemy who surrenders. We see this with Kakasura who asks for pardon. We see this with Vibhishana. So Sugreeva's tale that he kept the crown at his brother's feet and begged pardon was harshly ill-treated did not go well with Rama.

But still why an indirect fatal arrow? Vaali is a very well informed King. He is not only aware of Rama's presence and friendship with Rama, but also Rama's other brothers (Bharata) and his lineage. He is also very well aware of Sita's kidnapping by Ravana. We know a mere bird, Jatayu gave his life fighting for justice. (We can argue Sugreeva who was an eye-witness did nothing, I think the first time he is let to suffer at Vaali's hands as a punishment. There is no verse to prove though.)

Vaali, who is more powerful than Ravana (atleast in one on one combat), lets a married woman get kidnapped in his own land and does nothing to protect the weak, the traumatised. As a King, Vaali has not kept up his (Rajya)Dharma and Svadharma. He was an abettor to the crime, though he did not do the crime like Ravana. Ravana's crime was direct and involved, so he got a direct punishment. Vaali's crime was indirect and he got an indirect punishment.

Vaali vada is also a psychological checkmate to Ravana. There were two people who defeated Ravana - Kartaviryarjuna and Vaali. The former was killed by Parasurama, who was humbled and spared by Rama. Vaali's vada with a low level arrow proved that if Rama could very easily overpower forces which subdued Ravana, he is no match for his prowess. We can see Ravana's actions though ego-driven, was always powered by fear. Still Ravana thinks he is the greatest.

Traditionally, God is the ultimate entity, be it in Bhakti or Jnana. Great devotees have expressed there are few aspects bigger than God himself. One is HIS GRACE. But when it comes to Rama, not only HIS Grace is higher than HIM, but also HIS FEET and HIS NAME. May Rama’s feet guide me like it did Bharata. The power of EGO appears to be just a shade lesser than the power of God's Grace. No wonder it is not easy to wrestle with. Please Rama help me annhilate my EGO. I surrender to the Lotus feet of Thy Grace.

Om Tat Sat

ADDENDUM: Vaali was attacked by Ravana, and he had badly been mauled. To recover his ego, Ravana enters into a pact over fire, very similar to Rama and Sugriva. Rama had to bring a similar equation of relationship with Sugriva to bring parity. Since Ravana was the actual culprit and Vaali did nothing to set the equation right and was also in a military pact with him, Rama's punishment was also indirect.



  1. Nicely brought out the fact's... Keep going

  2. Nicely brought out the fact's... Keep going

  3. Nicely written article. Many simply think even punishing a terrorist is inhumane. Such a low confused mind they got. Hope this article is an eye opener to them.

  4. Thanks Omkar. Although I never thought of the current context, you are right, the epics and puranas provide a great flexibility in interpretation and message to any yuga, era or timeline. One thing, I realized by reading Vaali Vadam is Dharma is not a topic to be understood by the agitated mind, in other words, one has to train one's mind to get subtle before Dharma can be properly comprehended. This is the biggest casuality of a material centric world. I intend to elaborate on this topic shortly.

  5. A very different treatment and perceptive analysis as only he can, Satchit once again brings us a nuanced 'dharma' intense aspect of a much discussed episode of the righteous king of Ramayana...

    1. Again as. this is merely an attempt to highlight what Valmiki had already told in the original. We have simply not bothered to get back to the source or to validate the veracity of the half baked ideas circulated. Dharma is very subtle and will never be perceived by am agitated mind. We see many such instances in our Itihaasas and Puranas. It will bode well for us to slow down and take advantage at the wealth of knowledge in our ancient literature.