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Topics 3&4/Sec.3/Part I Myths

From: VVijay236 (
Date: Thu May 21 1998 - 07:25:47 PDT

Dear Bhagavatas,
We give below two more topics 3 and 4, one relating to Vibhishana vs
Kumbakarna and the other relating to Urmila vs Sita. Hope you will find them
Anbil Ramaswamy
3.  Was it Vibhishana or Kumbakarna  who did the right thing, the former in
deserting and the latter in  supporting Ravana at a crucial moment ?

This is an instance of conflict of duties known in scriptures as ' Dharma
Sankata'. Both courses seem to be just and unjust at the same time depending
upon our perception. It is clear that all cannot follow the same course. Each
one follows the course conditioned by his / her respective nature.

Vibhishana tried his best to wean away Ravana from Adharma, persuade him to
restore Sita to Rama and make peace with Rama. Only when Ravana adamantly
stuck to his wicked disposition and denounced Vibhishana as a traitor,
Vibhishana had no alternative to leaving Ravana. If we find fault with
Vibhishana, it only shows how brittle is our regard for Dharma.

But, this does not mean that Kumbakarna is to be blamed. He acted according to
ordinary morality while Vibhishana was conditioned by a higher morality.
Ordinary morality can be understood by simple folk. It would be difficult for
them to appreciate the mental struggle which Vibhishana went through before
taking the hard decision.

For the same reason of being truthful to one's salt than to higher moral
values, we find in the Mahabharata,  Karna sticking on to Duryodhana rather
than joining his other Pandava brothers in the war between Pandavas and
Kauravas. He conveyed this to his mother in clear terms when she approached
him on behalf of the Pandavas. For the same reasons we condone Kumbakarna, we
can condone Karna also.

4. Was Valmiki right in his treatment of Urmila and Sita in the specified

The case of Urmila

At the time of the wedding of the four brothers, Rama married Sita, while
Lakshmana, Bharata and Satrughna married Urmila, Mandavi and Srutakeerthi
respectively all at the same time. While Sita accompanied Rama to the forest,
Mandavi and Srutakeerthi remained with their husbands. But, poor Urmila was
left behind and had to bear the pangs of separation from Lakshmana for 14 long

The Ramayana, otherwise known as " Sitayah Charitam Mahat" meaning the  'Great
story of travails of Sita' depicts very graphically the sufferings of Sita on
her separation from Rama for just 10 months but conveniently and totally
ignores the pangs of Urmila. We feel that if ever there is a character who
deserves the most sympathy in the entire Ramayana, it is that of Urmila and
the poet could have done a little more justice to her.

Explanations given by Srimad Andavan of Poundarikapuram Asramam, Srirangam-

( i ) Urmila could have insisted on accompanying Lakshmana as did Sita with
Sri Rama. But, she did not do so. Some say that she was sleeping at that time;
Some others say that she was in her shower when the three left for the forest.
This is quite unacceptable because the whole palace and indeed the whole
Ayodya was aghast at the unnatural turn of events and there is no reason to
believe that Urmila was unaware of what was happening. 

The real reason is that her insistence would have defeated the very purpose of
the Avatar of Lakshmana which was to render uninterrupted, undisturbed and
unperturbed service ' at all times, in all places and in all manners '. It was
Lakshmana's purpose to demonstrate how a '"Sesha"  shoild act in relation to a
"Seshi "-.And, certainly, this could have been jeopardised by her accompanying

( ii ) In a way, the ' Pativratyam ' of Urmila has been amply proved by her
devotion to her husband even in his absence more out of  concern for this
purpose  than for satisfying her own desires.- A different facet of '
Pativratya ', a kind of counterpart to that of Sita who accompanied and stayed
with her husband - and indeed helped him to carry out his Avatara Rahasya.

(iii)  It is the tradition of poets not to clutter their works with characters
and events not quite relevant to the main theme. Obviously, Valmiki felt that
there was no need to refer to Urmila and Srutakirti in the later denouement of
the epic. Similarly, there is not much of mention about Satrugna in the latter
portions of the epic. 

Lakshmana exemplified the ' Bhagavad Seshatvam' while Satrugna exemplified 
' Bhaagavata Seshatvam'. And, this has been graphically brought out in the
very first stanza of Ayodhya Khanda.

The case of Sita

When Sita was redeemed after the war, she was brought before Rama fully
bedecked as ordered by Rama. And, when she appeared, Rama reproached  her and
she performed a rare feat of going through the fire ordeal. This is in Yuddha

When her innocence had already been proved once, Rama is again seen in Uttara
Khanda as banishing her to the forest when a washerman made some unsavory
remark about her - long, long after their return to Ayodhya. We do not know
under what kind of jurisprudence, past, present or future that she was
banished- a second punishment for the same offense from which she had already
been exonerated.

Rajaji in his Ramayana ( published by BVB, 1990- p.311) offers some kind of
explanation for this. He says " As the prince returned from Mithila, he met
Parasurama. I have heard it said that with that meeting Parsurama's Avatar
came to an end. Likewise, it should be held, I think, that Rama's Avatar came
to an end with the slaying of Ravana. After that battle, Rama remained only as
a king of the Ikshvaku race. On this theory, Rama's treatment of Sita after
the battle and in the Uttara khanda can be explained as the behavior of a king
in accordance with the customs of the times". 

He adds that  "her banishment mirrors the voiceless and endless suffering of

Since joy and sorrow are God's play, He and his divine spouse having come down
to the world of men and women had to go through the drama of joy and sorrow
like other ordinary folk."

Explanations given by Srimad Andavan  Swami of Poundarikapuram Asramam -

( i ) The banishment of Sita only shows how as a  king, Sri Rama respected
even the will o' wisp of even the least significant citizens in his kingdom
where it concerned his own  rectitude or that of  those closely associated
with him. No one would dare say anything derogatory about Sita (not because
she was the queen but) because everyone knew how the lady was pure and serene
beyond a shadow of doubt. 

In such a background, even the fact of an  uncharitable  remark being slipped
out  was unthinkable and needed to be disabused. Though he was convinced
personally about Sita's conduct ( especially as revealed by the fire ordeal ),
he had to demonstrate that he as a king, was not carried away by a blind love
to her  in accepting her and was wary of the feelings of his subjects. This,
he could do only by such a draconian step as banishing Sita to the forest.

(ii ) Also, Sri Rama was concerned that his sons should be brought up in the
proper environment of the hermitage where only they could acquire appropriate
knowledge and build character to be able to propagate the values unfolded in
the great epic Ramayana. May be, this was another reason why he sent Sita to
the forest.

More to follow
Anbil Ramaswamy