You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : May 1998

1& 2: Vali & Ocean King

From: VVijay236 (
Date: Wed May 20 1998 - 06:12:05 PDT

Dear Bhagavatas,

We take a couple  of the most popular controversies surrounding Srimad Valmiki
Ramayana (i) one relating to the killing of Vali by Sri Rama and  (ii) the
anger of Rama towards the Ocean king. Let us address these topics.

Anbil Ramaswamy
1. Whether Rama was justified in killing Vali hiding behind a tree?

Rama was none other than Lord Narayana, the Almighty but since he had taken a
human form, he had to go through the experiences and feelings of a human being
in intriguing circumstances. Not only in this, but we see often that human
elements buoy up in the heart of Rama as he was in the garb of man and we see
him acting  like any ordinary person. In fact, he declares that he considers
himself as a human being- ' Aatmaanam Maanusham Manye'. 

If God remains as God, there is no need for an Avatar and no occasion to show
how to establish Dharma among common people. As God, he had no need to grieve
over anything, no need for him to inquire every tree and every creeper whether
it had seen Sita (when Sita had been separated from him). 

Since he had put on the role of man, he had to act his part as a man. If by
such acting, he had roused feelings of revulsion in our minds in his treatment
of Vali, it goes to prove his success in acting as a man - a role which he had
taken upon himself. Let us now see the circumstances:
Explanations  given by Srimad Andavan Swami of Poundarikapuram Asramam,

( i ) Long before the Putrakameshti yaga conducted by Dasaratha, he performed
an Aswamedha yaga. At that time the celestials who came to accept the ' havis
offerings promised to descend to earth in the form of monkeys and bears when
the Lord descends( Avatar ) as Sri Rama and help him. 

One of the foremost among them was Vali. He was to have been inducted as Sri
Rama's Commander- in - Chief in the fight against Ravana. When even a cadet
double-crossed his master and turned a traitor, he was to be punished with
instant death. More so, in the case of a would be Chieftain. Vali
treacherously joined hands with Ravana the arch enemy. Sri Rama meted out the
punishment which he eminently deserved.

(ii ) Chronologically, Rama had met Sugriva, Vali's brother - first and as a
part of their alliance package, Rama had pledged to kill Vali and install
Sugriva as the king of Kishkinda.

And, if he had appeared before Vali, Vali might surrender in which case Rama
would not be able to keep up his word to Sugriva. The response to a  later
'Saranagathi" can be effective only when is not repugnant to the earlier
'Saranagathi'. This would be impossible in this case and there will ensue a '
Dharma Sankatam'- a clash of Dharmas.

(iii) Vali had snatched Sugriva's wife and had to be punished for this.

(iv) As king, Rama had the duty to punish evil doers and Vali deserved the

(v) As Rama was King and hunting was a legitimate pastime of kings and Vali
was an animal, Vali became an easy kill in the game. Just like hunters killing
tigers, if need be, by hiding themselves or like catching elephants through
'geddah' operations, which are not considered as acts of cowardice on the part
of the hunters, Rama's hunting Vali cannot also be faulted.

(vi) Since Vali had obtained a boon that he would acquire the strength of any
adversary facing him in fight, Rama could not present himself before him and
had necessarily to resort to the strategy of hiding himself out of Vali's

(vii) As the saying goes," Anything is fair in love and war"

According to the epic, Vali himself had accepted Rama's explanation and he and
his wife Tara sang paeans of praise on Rama's sense of justice and fairplay
but critics go on arguing the point even today. 

Even if Rama was not justified, it only proves that when God takes a lowly
(even by his own Sankalpa), limitations to which a human being is heir to,
becomes his lot too.

The contrast between Vali and Sugriva convey a moral each in its own way. It
shows how a mind confused by unjustified anger  could mean destruction to
oneself as in the case of Vali. And, Sugriva was so thoughtless that he could
not resist the temptation to becoming king thinking that Vali was no more and
this put him into lot of difficulties with Vali, who was still alive. So,
neither of them could be singled out for blame or exoneration

Critics indulge in criticism for its own sake without understanding the facts
of circumstances. It would be well if these critics could avoid similar faults
in their own lives and indeed improve upon the conduct of Rama.

2. Was Rama justified in getting angry with the Ocean King?

The wrath of Rama towards the Ocean king who delayed in coming to help Rama as
promised prompts some to question how Rama could behave like 'an ordinary man
in the street' and get angry with one whose only fault was a little delay in
helping in a mission of searching Sita (Rama's wife) - which anyway was Rama's
personal affair.

Explanations given by Srimad Andavan of Poundarikapuram Asramam

( i )  Prapatti can succeed only when it is done to one who is capable of
granting he result sought for through Saranagathi- being possessed of Gnana,
Sakti, Karuna and other qualities. Surrendering to a worthless person will be
useless. Sri Rama in his role as a human being demonstrates this by
surrendering to Samudra Raja  to please Vibhishana (who himself had
experienced the efficacy of Saranagathi ! ).

( ii ) The Ocean king was one of those bound by the pact with the Lord when
the Devas promised to help the Lord in his Avatar as a human being. In fact,
Samudra Raja should have kept himself in readiness to rush to do his duty at
the first call itself. This being so, his callousness in not responding to the
call for help especially when it came quite unnecessarily in the form of a
Saranagathi and that by Sri Rama himself earned for him the wrath of Sri Rama.

(iii ) Keeping up a promise was considered the supreme duty and failure to do
so a heinous crime in the days of Rama. At one stage, Rama tells Sita that he
would rather prefer to give her up and even Lakshmana (his brother) than to
breaking a promise he had held out to the sages who had surrendered to him. 

Today, keeping up promises is of no consequence and breaking the plighted word
does not qualm the conscience any more since it is considered a normal stance
not to be seriously bothered about.

( iv ) Also, it should be remembered that Rama was God himself and had no need
for anybody's help but since he had incarnated himself in the role of a human
being, he showed to the world how a human being would react in such

( v ) The critics do not know how Rama controlled his anger and excused the
Ocean king when he appeared before him seeking to be excused,  again showing
to the world how one should control one's anger.

(vi )  The success of an actor depends on the measure of feelings aroused
among the audience. Judging by this standard, the feeling of revulsion at his
rage felt by those who find fault with him only proves that Rama had not only
acted his part - but had also acted admirably well.

In the skewed up attitudes, the salutary morals of everlasting validity
contained in the regard  and respect for the plighted word are lost on the
modern enthusiasts who  in their half-baked knowledge find them a mere
unintelligible babble. 

This is because what were considered as virtues in the bygone days are no
longer regarded so today; And, many of what were deemed vices in the past have
become not only acceptable but also adorable.

More to follow

Anbil Ramaswamy