Last week, it had come to my attention that someone named Kṛṣṇa Dāsa (KD) had written a refutation of the blog post I penned in 2018, wherein I had tried to argue that Rama was a polygamist and that the stories of his monogamy and "eka patni vratam" were simply later narratives that found their way into the Uttara Kanda (which is a later addition to the Valmiki Ramayana) and Puranic literature. This 2018 article of mine can be read here. KD commented on my blog, linking his article where he claimed to have refuted my article. I skimmed through his article there and then since I was quite interested to see the counter arguments. It seems that he has attempted to do a systemic, clinical refutation of my article, taking each major argument and dissecting it. While I do appreciate the fact that he had taken the effort to do such a rebuttal, I felt that inspite of the merits of the critique, he does end up misrepresenting several of my arguments, very often. Hence, I feel obliged to respond to the points he raised.
In this article, I will use red to refer to quotes from KD's article. The portions that KD has quoted from my 2018 article will be presented in green. In this post, my input to KD's article will be in black. So without further ado, let us get started...
KD starts off his article by stating:
It has come to our attention that a blog by one Milin Patel purporting to “focus on the history of Ancient India and its Sanskrit epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana” has made the very bizarre claim that the Rāmāyaṇa says that Śrī Rāma had more than one wife. Although polygamy was not forbidden to Hindu kings, and Rāma, being the Supreme Person, could have any number of divine marriages, the established tradition holds that Rāma had only one wife. Attempts to show otherwise may be motivated or usurped by Abrahamic, Hinduphobic elements who see polygamy as inherently unflattering. However, the Hindu literary tradition would not conceal polygamy were it indeed present. It is well known that Rāma’s father Daśaratha had three wives, and the same Hindu Pauraṇic tradition acknowledges that Śrī Kṛṣṇa had 16,108 wives. Thus, there would be no need for Hindus to conceal polygamy in the case of Rāma, if it actually was a fact. Nevertheless, since telling the truth is always the best policy, we will take up Milin Patel’s theories objectively with direct reference to his arguments and the evidence.I do not understand what KD is getting at when he sarcastically states in his first sentence that I was purporting (via my blog) to "focus on the history of Ancient India and its Sanskrit epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana", as if I am a part of this wide ranging and powerful nexus to misrepresent and malign Hinduism. Anyone who interacts enough with me on my blog or facebook or quora should know that I am a Hindu, but have opinions on these epics that diverge from KD's traditionalist interpretation. KD then states that in the Hindu tradition, polygamy was never looked down upon and this aversion to polygamy is instead seen in Abrahamic religions and Abrahamic-influenced Hindus. I cannot fully agree with this. For instance, Islam allows four wives and any attempt to limit that is met by fierce resistance from the Muslim community, since the allowance of four wives is sanctioned by the Qur'an, holy to all Muslims. On the contrary, Hindus accepted the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, which banned polygamy and enforced monogamy, without much resistance. Is that not evidence in itself of which community leans closer towards monogamy? When Emperor Akbar tilted towards Hindu-Jainism in the late 1580s to the end of his life, he realized that he made a mistake by marrying too many women. He emphatically states the following (Ain i Akbari, Vol 3, Happy Sayings):
Had I been wise earlier, I would have taken no woman from my own kingdom into my seraglio, for my subjects are to me in the place of children.If European travelers to the Mughal Empire are to be believed, in this post-mid 1580s period Akbar even went further and distributed all but one of his wives among his followers/courtiers, so that he could live with only one wife and have a monogamous lifestyle. This was after he got influenced by Hinduism and Jainism. In his early life when he was a Muslim, he was notorious for taking women to his harem, either willingly or by force, and raping the wives of his subordinates and Hindu Rajahs, as I have shown in this article. He was living the life of a polygamist player in those days when he was a Muslim. Only when he became a Hindu-Jaina did he abandon his polygamy for a life of monogamy. Hence, I do not see how an aversion to polygamy can be associated with Abrahamic religions. Rather, it should be associated with Puranic literature. In the very early Valmiki Ramayana, there is no mention of Rama's ekapatnivratam, and the few cross references that we have seem to suggest that he was a polygamist like the rest of the society he came from. It is only in the Puranic era that we see Uttara Kanda and Puranas emphasizing that Rama was a monogamist that stuck with his ekapatnivratam vow.
If I look at the trajectory, it seems to myself that later poets made a conscious effort to convert a polygamous Rama into a monogamous Rama, in order to match the society's increasing inclination towards monogamy in the early-to-mid medieval period (which itself was fueled by the society's increasing emphasis of male-female chastity, a product of Muslim influence). If Rama was to become the hero of Hindu society, every aspect of his character (including his marital behavior), would have to be tweaked to transform him into a hybrid character containing all the traits that Hindus hold dear and valuable to them. Rama was thus transformed from a heroic local chief into a chakravarti samrata, who was the torch bearer of the patriarchal belief system. KD also raises the point about Dasharatha and Krishna being polygamists and thus concludes that Hindu society was always open to the idea of polygamy, as if it was a static, never-changing society (though he erroneously states that Dasharatha had 3 wives... Valmiki Ramayana uses the word "ardha sapta shata" to describe the number of Dasharatha's wives, which means 350 [half of 700] ). As I said earlier, the original epics were written in a period when society was polygamous. However, as society evolved to be more monogamous, it became necessary to transform its most popular hero, in this case Rama, into a staunch monogamist.
Krishna's period of appeal among the masses was great in ancient society, from the Paninian age to a century or two before Al-Beruni. However, from then on his popularity waned, and in the medieval age it was rather Rama who had acquired a cult-figure status. For this reason, it made more sense for the poets of this medieval era to transform Rama's character (instead of Krishna's) into the monogamous archetype, in order to support, nourish, and enhance the shift of society from a state of polygamy to monogamy. This is not to say that Hindu society became fully monogamous in the medieval age. But rather, even though most Hindus were polygamists in this period, we see a gradual acceptance among them of the monogamist way of life and an even more gradual rise in practicing monogamists in society. This is where my article, explaining how the original polygamist Rama was transformed by these poets into a monogamist emperor who had taken an ekapatnivratam vow, comes into picture.
KD continues his article by addressing the first major argument I made in my 2018 article. I will transcribe what he wrote in his blog regarding that, and then I will write my thoughts in response to that...
Patel’s first argument and the translation he quoted is given below:
हृष्टाः खलु भविष्यन्ति रामस्य परमाः स्त्रियः |अप्रहृष्टा भविष्यन्ति स्नुषास्ते भरतक्षये || २-८-१२
“Rama’s wives will get delighted. Your daughters-in-law will be unhappy because of Bharata’s waning position.”
From such speech of Manthara, it should be evident that Rama had many wives, instead of just one wife. Manthara’s words should be considered reliable, as she was a favorite of Kayekai, and was therefore very close to the royal family of Kosala. She would therefore know how many wives Rama had. Hence, Manthara’s narrative suggests that Rama was not a monogamist.
Mantharā, being the servant of Kaikeyī (whose name the blogger misspells), was trying to convince her to object to Rāma’s coronation by describing a future in which Rāma would supposedly experience great happiness at her expense. The verb “bhaviṣyanti” here in the 3rd person plural (of “bhū” meaning ‘to become’) is describing “striyaḥ” which is also plural (of “strī” which most commonly means ‘woman’). Patel’s translation interprets “striyaḥ” as “wives” and then argues that the verse proves that Rāma has wives because that is how the translator interpreted it. But “strī” means women in its most common usage, and even if it could be assumed that the “women” here refer to “wives,” the use of the verb “bhū” discounts the theory of polygamy because it is referring to a future conceived of by Mantharā in which many wives of Rāma will experience something, not to a reality at the time she made this statement. Other translations of this śloka are as follows:
Gita Press: “The most blessed ladies of Rāma’s household…”
P. Geervani, K. Kamala, & V.V. Subramaniam: “All the women of Rama’s (palace)…“
M.N. Dutt: “And Rāma’s wives together with their hand-maids…” (he then writes in his foot note “Historically Rāma had but one wife. Mantharā here anticipated that Rāma would marry many wives like His father after the installation“)
Desiraju Hanumanta Rao & K.M.K. Murthy: “Rama’s wives will get delighted….” (he also writes in his foot note, “The words ‘Rama’s wives’ here do not indicate that Rama had multiple wives. Manathara refers to a possible future where Rama being a King would marry other women. It was a norm then for a king to have more than one wife.“)
Thus, regardless of how “striyaḥ” is interpreted in this śloka, there is no conceivable way to interpret it as meaning that Rāma already had multiple wives.Let us start with Kaikeyi. I spelt it as "Kayekai", because I felt like that is how one of the early translators I used when studying the epic had spelled it. That is also why I often spell Sita as "Seetha"; Desiraju Hanumanta Rao and KMK Murthy's translation often spells Sita as "Seetha". However, in this article and henceforth I will use the forms Kaikeyi and Sita in order to avoid further confusion.
Moving on... the substance of KD's argument is that I have made a mistranslation here and that in the verse in question, Manthara is not telling Kaikeyi that Rama's (current) wives will experience happiness in the future (due to Rama's coronation), but instead Manthara is saying that Rama's future wives will acquire happiness in the future. As someone who knows Sanskrit, KD should realize that this is a poor argument to make. Let us look at the Sanskrit verse once again:
हृष्टाः खलु भविष्यन्ति रामस्य परमाः स्त्रियः |The first line is of importance to us. In it, the subject is "रामस्य परमाः स्त्रियः" (the chief women/wives of Rama), and the poet uses the verb भविष्यन्ति to describe the future of these women/wives as being हृष्टाः (blissful). If the poet intended to state that he is referring to the future wives of Rama being blissful in the future, there would have been a double usage of the verb "bhū" in the verse. For example, the line would have been written in the following manner:
अप्रहृष्टा भविष्यन्ति स्नुषास्ते भरतक्षये || २-८-१२
हृष्टाः खलु भविष्यन्ति रामस्य भविष्यन्ति परमाः स्त्रियःThe fact that the verse is not written in this way is why the translators that KD has quoted above, all translate the verse as Manthara talking about a future happiness of Rama's present chief women/wives (striyah). Even Desiraju Hanumantha Rao translates the verse like this, but being unable to explain the contradiction between this verse and the Puranic tradition that Rama was a monogamist, he does control damage by stating that this verse is referring to Rama's future wives instead of his present wives (similar to KD's argument). Regardless, the fact remains that the verse in itself does not talk of these wives/women of Rama as being in a future tense. It rather talks about a future state of happiness of these present wives/women. If we can resist the urge to extrapolate, it should be evident that Manthara knew that Rama had several women/wives. If KD still remains unconvinced and truly believes that Manthara was talking about Rama's future wives being happy in the future, all I will say is that if Rama took a famous ekapatnivratam vow, how is it that Manthara did not know of it and that she believed that Rama would marry several women in the future? Something is not adding up here...
KD also makes a point here that in this verse, "striyah" refers not to wives, but rather the more common usage of women. He does make a good point here. However, whether we translate it as wives or women depends on the context. For example, if I point at a group of women on the street and tell KD "those striyah are beautiful", I am obviously translating "striyah" as women. However, I have tell KD "your striyah are beautiful", I am obviously referring to KD's wives or girlfriends. What I am getting at here is that when referring to "striyah" in itself, it is likely going to be translated as "women". However, when I refer to these "striyah" as belonging to someone else (i.e. KD's striyah), then I am almost always referring to that person's wives. If KD's friend asks him "are your women going to be home tonight?", I am sure they are not talking about his mother or sister. Hence, I feel that my translation here is apt.
KD then presents his next argument by quoting another part of my 2018 article, and then criticizing the translation I employed in that part:
If we agree on that, let us look in the text for the number of legally wedded wives Rama had. When Ravana approaches Seetha, who was in her hermitage, as a sannyasi, Seetha gives her introduction in the following manner:
दुहिता जनकस्य अहम् मैथिलस्य महात्मनः |
सीता नाम्ना अस्मि भद्रम् ते रामस्य महिषी प्रिया || ३-४७-३
“I am the daughter of noble-souled Janaka, the king of Mithila, by name I am Seetha, and the dear, first wife of Rama, let safety betide you.
Here, Seetha uses the words रामस्य महिषी प्रिया to describe herself. रामस्य महिषी प्रिया (of Rama, first wife, dear) means “(I am the) dear, first wife of Rama”. Now if Seetha calls herself the first wife of Rama, it implies that Rama must have at least two wives, if not more. Without there being a second, there cannot be a first. This suggests that Rama had more than one legally wedded wife.
Here is a gross mistranslation. No word in the Sanskrit means “first.” The word “priyā” means “dear” as in “dear wife of Rāma.” Even Bollywood movie-goers understand this basic meaning of “priyā” which refers to someone who is dear to one’s self. Again, we can see this usage reflected in the commonly available translations:
Gita Press: “…Sītā by name, I am the beloved consort of Śrī Rāma.“
P. Geervani, K. Kamala, & V.V. Subramaniam: “I am Sita by name, daughter of the great Janaka, king of Mithila and wife of Rama….“
M.N. Dutt: “…I am the daughter of the high-souled Janaka, the king of Mithilā, the beloved Queen of Rāma and my name is Sītā.“
Desiraju Hanumanta Rao & K.M.K. Murthy: “I am the daughter of noble-souled Janaka, the king of Mithila, by name I am Seetha, and the dear wife and queen of Rama…“
As anyone can see, no one translates this śloka to indicate that Sītā is the “first” wife of Rāma. The word “priyā” does not mean “first” and this is obvious to anyone with even a modicum of knowledge of Indic languages.The skeleton of the translation I have used in the verse KD quoted is that of Desiraju Hanumanta Rao, and KMK Murthy. However, I have made some amends to the translation as I felt it was lacking in some parts. I also explained this in my original article. I stated that I translated रामस्य महिषी प्रिया as "of Rama, first wife, dear". Hence, I did not translate प्रिया as "first wife". Of course it means "dear", as KD has stated. Instead, I translated महिषी as "first/chief wife". The Monier-Williams dictionary, which can be accessed online, gives the same translation. It translates महिषी as "first wife of a king":
For Sita to be the first/chief wife of Rama, it would be necessary for Rama to have had atleast two wives, if not more.
KD then continues. He quotes another section of my 2018 article, and raises his objections to my arguments...
Furthermore, when Seetha is in Lanka, she laments about the fact that Rama had not yet come to save her, by saying:
पितुर्निदेशं नियमेन कृत्वा वनान्निवृत्तश्चरितव्रतश्च |
स्त्रीभिस्तु मन्ये विपुलेक्षणाभिस्त्वं रंस्यसे वीतभयः कृतार्थः || ५-२८-१४
“Having fulfilled your father’s command as per the order of his words and observed your vow, you return from the forest fearlessly and having accomplished your purpose, I think you will enjoy carnally with large-eyed wives.”
अहं तु राम त्वयि जातकामा चिरं विनाशाय निबद्धभावा |
मोघं चरित्वाथ तपो व्रतञ्च त्यक्ष्यामि धिग्जीवितमल्पभाग्याम् || ५-२८-१५
“O Rama! Having performed austerity and vow in vain, I for myself who has fallen in love with you and in whose was confined an affection for you for a long time, for my own destruction, I can lose my life. Woe to me of my little fortune!”
Note verse 5.28.14 above… Seetha clearly laments that Rama will enjoy carnally with other large-eyed wives, suggesting that Rama had perhaps more than one wife.
Nothing here says that Rāma has other wives. Milin Patel obviously had not even read the original text when he extracted these verses. Here, Sītā is trapped in Laṅka as the prisoner of Rāvaṇa and is lamenting her fate. Her statement that Rāma will forget her and enjoy life with other women is a reflection of her humility brought on by separation from her Lord:
हा राम सत्यव्रत दीर्घबाहो हा पूर्णचन्द्रप्रतिमानवक्त्र ।
हा जीवलोकस्य हितः प्रियश्च वध्यां न मां वेत्सि हि राक्षसानाम् ॥ वा.रा ५.२८.११ ॥
अनन्य दैवत्वमियं क्षमा च भूमौ च शय्या नियमश्च धर्मे ।
पतिव्रतात्वं विफलं ममेदं कृतं कृतघ्नेष्विव मानुषाणाम् ॥ वा.रा. ५.२८.१२ ॥
मोघो हि धर्मश्चरितो मयायं तथैकपत्नीत्वामिदं निरर्थम् ।
या त्वां न पश्यामि कृशा विवर्णा हीना त्वया सङ्गमने निराशा ॥ वा.रा. ५.२८.१३ ॥
पितुर्निदेशं नियमेन कृत्वा वनान्निवृत्तश्चरितव्रतश्च ।
स्त्रीभिस्तु मन्ये विपुलेक्षणाभिस्त्वं रंस्यसे वीतभयः कृतार्थः ॥ वा.रा. ५.२८.१४ ॥
“O Rama, unfailing in vows and long-armed! Alas, Rama Whose face is like the full moon! You, Who are well-disposed to the world of living beings, do not indeed know me to have been sentenced to death by the rākṣasas. I am devoted to You and to no other deva. My hardship in sleeping on the ground, my righteousness, my discipline and chastity have all proved futile like the devotion of an ungrateful person. This righteousness practiced by me is in vain like my devotion to You, as I am unable to see You. I am separated, emaciated, pale with no hope of reuniting with you. Having truly fulfilled your pledge given to your father, you will return from the forest to Ayodhya, rid of all fear, as an accomplished person, will and revel in the company of large-eyed damsels, I think.” (Vālmīki-Rāmāyaṇa 5.28.11-14)
The word “manye” in the last śloka clearly indicates that this is what Sītā thinks will happen, not a factual statement of what actually is. Again, one can look at how translators have rendered this last śloka to recognize that it clearly does not refer to a reality in which Rāma is polygamous:
Gita Press: “When, having carried out the behest of Your father according to rules and completed Your vow, You return from the forest rid of (all) fear and accomplished of purpose, You for Your part will, I believe, revel with (many) large-eyed women (after marrying them).“
P. Geervani, K. Kamala, & V.V. Subramaniam: “Having truly fulfilled your pledge given to Your father, You will return from the forest to Ayodhya, rid of all fear, and as an accomplished person, will revel in the company of large-eyed damsels, I think.“
M.N. Dutt: “And duly satisfying Your sire’s command, and returning successfully from the forest, You shall fearlessly sport with many a damsel having large eyes.”
Desiraju Hanumanta Rao & K.M.K. Murthy: “Having fulfilled your father’s command as per the order of his words and observed your vow, you return from the forest fearlessly and having accomplished your purpose, I think you will enjoy carnally with large-eyed women.“
In each of the translations, the gerundive construction kṛtvā is correctly understood as indicating that this thinking of Sītā refers to something that will happen in the future, after having fulfilled the terms of the forest exile, which Rāma was still in the process of observing when she uttered this statement. Thus, again, this cannot be taken as a reference to wives Rāma already had, but to women Rāma would supposedly enjoy in the future according to the depressed and humbled thinking of Sītā who was separated from Rāma.I do concede that I perhaps was a bit too haste and sloppy in my translation of "विपुलेक्षणाभि स्त्री" as "with large-eyed wives". "Stri" in this context seems more suitably translated as women, damsels, etc, and hence a more appropriate translation ought to be "with large-eyed women". Other than that, I find little to agree with KD here. For instance, he states: "Here, Sītā is trapped in Laṅka as the prisoner of Rāvaṇa and is lamenting her fate. Her statement that Rāma will forget her and enjoy life with other women is a reflection of her humility brought on by separation from her Lord". He then provides a lengthy passage of Sita's entire speech, in order to support his argument. However, I do not see humility in her speech. Humility means modesty, or humbleness. Sita's character is not really a very modest or humble one. When Rama refused to take Sita with him to exile (in Ayodhya Kanda), she is described to have lashed out at him with a heart of love and pride (abhimaan), and called him a female in the body of a male (VR 2.30.1-4). Likewise, when Lakshmana refused to leave Sita alone in the hermitage (right before her kidnap) as it was against Rama's orders and he feared that she might be attacked by Rakshasas, she abused him in the most vilest manner (VR 3.45). This was a man who basically served her like a personal servant for the 13 years they were in exile. Hence, it is quite laughable to call Sita a modest/humble character. Rather, she had a very arrogant, narcissistic personality.
Below I have reproduced Sita's speech, which KD had transcribed above:
हा राम सत्यव्रत दीर्घबाहो हा पूर्णचन्द्रप्रतिमानवक्त्र ।
हा जीवलोकस्य हितः प्रियश्च वध्यां न मां वेत्सि हि राक्षसानाम् ॥ वा.रा ५.२८.११ ॥
अनन्य दैवत्वमियं क्षमा च भूमौ च शय्या नियमश्च धर्मे ।
पतिव्रतात्वं विफलं ममेदं कृतं कृतघ्नेष्विव मानुषाणाम् ॥ वा.रा. ५.२८.१२ ॥
मोघो हि धर्मश्चरितो मयायं तथैकपत्नीत्वामिदं निरर्थम् ।
या त्वां न पश्यामि कृशा विवर्णा हीना त्वया सङ्गमने निराशा ॥ वा.रा. ५.२८.१३ ॥
पितुर्निदेशं नियमेन कृत्वा वनान्निवृत्तश्चरितव्रतश्च ।
स्त्रीभिस्तु मन्ये विपुलेक्षणाभिस्त्वं रंस्यसे वीतभयः कृतार्थः ॥ वा.रा. ५.२८.१४ ॥
“O Rama, unfailing in vows and long-armed! Alas, Rama Whose face is like the full moon! You, Who are well-disposed to the world of living beings, do not indeed know me to have been sentenced to death by the rākṣasas. I am devoted to You and to no other deva. My hardship in sleeping on the ground, my righteousness, my discipline and chastity have all proved futile like the devotion of an ungrateful person. This righteousness practiced by me is in vain like my devotion to You, as I am unable to see You. I am separated, emaciated, pale with no hope of reuniting with you. Having truly fulfilled your pledge given to your father, you will return from the forest to Ayodhya, rid of all fear, as an accomplished person, will and revel in the company of large-eyed damsels, I think.” (Vālmīki-Rāmāyaṇa 5.28.11-14)For those that are interested in reading the entire passage (which I recommend), they should read the entire section 28 of the Sundara Kanda. It reeks of despondency and helplessness, as opposed to humility. She starts off her monologue by becoming very stressed out at the possibility that Ravana may cut her to pieces because she is not accepting his advances. Then she appeals to Rama and Lakshmana to come and save, after which she begins more introspection. She starts to think that if the duo have not come to save her by now, then perhaps they were killed by Ravana already? Or perhaps, Rama was still alive, but did not want to take the hassle of saving her? Perhaps he would just return to Ayodhya and enjoy life carnally with other women? After introspecting in such a manner on the character of Rama and how he would naturally act, Sita contemplates on committing suicide and begins to try to hang herself to death.
So, while KD is absolutely right that Sita was simply expressing a future possibility, as opposed to emphatically making a claim that Rama had enjoyed carnally with many women/wives in the past, it seems that he has not understood my argument. My argument was that after living with your husband for over 10 years, a wife ought to have acquired a really good estimate of his character and how he would behave in various situations. If Sita, having such a background on Rama's character, introspects and ponders on the possibility that Rama would abandon her, return to Kosala, and enjoy carnally with young women (perhaps even after marrying them, if we take the Gita Press interpretation of the verse), then there are two possibilities that I see...
1. Sita was a bad wife and did not even know her husband enough to realize that he took an ekapatnivratam, and as such would not marry any lady other than her.
2. Rama was did not take a vow of ekapatnivratam and he was not a monogamist. Sita knew this, and that her husband had a taste for a diverse range of women.Since the tradition depicts Sita as a dedicated wife, it seems unlikely that she would be so ignorant of her husband's character. Hence, option 1 can be ruled out and option 2 can be considered. This was the argument I was making. When in a depressed, anxious state, it gives time and energy for individuals to take a step back and introspect on the character of those that have thrown them under the bus or have actively conspired against them. Sita was doing the same... I think KD should calmly read what I am writing here, and if possible think from my perspective and write a response taking my thought process into account. The response he has given in this section is sloppy and seems like it was given just for the sake of giving it, because he had not really tried to understand where I was coming from. With this piece of advise, I will move on to the next major objection he raised in his article...
Now let us consider another incident, this time in Yuddha Kanda, wherein Ravana makes Lakshmana unconscious. When Lakshmana was made unconscious, Rama laments by saying:
देशे देशे कलत्राणि देशे देशे च बान्धवाः | तं तु देशं न पश्यामि यत्र भ्राता सहोदरः || ६-१०१-१५
“Wives may be obtained ever where. Relatives can be had every where. However, I do not find a brother, born of the same womb, at such a place whatsoever.”
Note the plurality in Rama’s statement. In response to Lakshmana’s injury, Rama does not say that “a wife may be obtained everywhere”. Instead, he says “wives may be obtained everywhere”. Now if he was a monogamist, why would he talk about obtaining wives?
This is another blatant distortion of a text that says nothing about Rāma being polygamous. In this verse, Rāma, confronted with Lakṣmaṇa’s grievous injury, is making a statement of brotherly love by stressing the uniqueness of a brother like Lakṣmaṇa. As stated previously, polygamy was not unknown to ancient Hindu culture, and many Kṣatriya kings (other than Rāma) had more than one wife. The Indian subcontinent at that time, as we know from Hindu texts, was divided into many kingdoms ruled by many different royal families. Hence, Rāma says that one can in theory get wives from many different marriage alliances, but one cannot get another brother like Lakṣmaṇa.
Gita Press: “Wives may be found everywhere and kinsmen (to) can be had everywhere. I, however, see no place where a uterine (real) brother could be had.“
M.N. Dutt: “In land after land one meets with wives, in land after land one meets with friends, but find I none where a uterine brother may be met with.”
Desiraju Hanumanta Rao & K.M.K. Murthy: “Wives may be obtained everwhere. Relatives can be had everywhere. However, I do not find a brother, born of the same womb, at such a place whatsoever.”
Nothing in this verse indicates that Rāma Himself had many wives. He was merely extolling his brother’s rare virtues and stating that one cannot get such a brother unlike in theory being able to have many wives and many kinsmen.While I agree that in this chapter Rama was confronted with Lakshmana's grievous injury, and that in response to that he started praising Lakshmana's virtues and saying that nobody is equal to Lakshmana, I do feel that we need to dig a bit deeper (which KD did not do). For instance, I am a strict vegetarian and am conscious of my dietary choices. Whenever I go out, I make sure that a meal I am eating has no meat, fish, or egg. If one day I eat the most delicious Gulab Jamuns I have ever consumed in my entire life and wish to say nothing (no food item) is equal to them, I will say that "various kinds of pizza, pasta, biryani, paneer tikka masala, etc can be found anywhere, but nowhere can a dish as tasty as this Gulab Jamun be found". I will not say "beef", "pork", or "chicken" in replacement of pizza, pasta, etc, because I am conscious of the fact that I am a vegetarian and that I find all kinds of meat consumption morally repulsive...
Now, apply this same logic to Rama's speech. If he was a strict monogamist who had taken an "ekapatnivratam" and if he was quite repulsed out by the idea of marrying many wives, one would expect him (even in the present state of misery) to have refrained from saying that "wives (pl.) may be found everywhere...". Rather, he would have said "a wife (sing.) may be found everywhere...". This difference in speech was the crux of my argument. I feel that a committed monogamist would have chosen his words more wisely in this scenario, and I feel that these subtle nuances tell us alot about the personality of the character being studied. I feel that KD has just looked at the surface-level of my argument here (as he has done elsewhere throughout my 2018 article as well), instead of devoting time to understand the nuances of my argument.
With that, we will transition into the next point he raises...
more references, after Ravana’s death, do suggest that Rama had multiple wives. The first of these references are the following verses, spoken by Bharatha, when he comes to know, from Hanumana, that Rama is returning to Ayodhya, after having killed Ravana:
सूताः स्तुतिपुराणज्ञाह् सर्वे वैतालिकास्तथा |
सर्वे वादित्रकुशला गणिकाश्चैव संघशः || ६-१२७-३
राजदारास्तथामात्याः सैन्याः सेनागणाङ्गनाः |
ब्राह्मणाश्च सराजन्याः श्रेणिमुख्यास्तथा गणाः || ६-१२७-४
अभिनिर्यान्तु रामस्य द्रष्टुं शशिनिभं मुखम् |
“Let bards well-versed in singing praises and Puranas (containing ancient legends, cosmogony etc.) as also all panegyrists, all those proficient in the use of musical instruments, courtesans all collected together, the wives of the king, ministers, army-men and their wives, brahmanas accompanied by Kshatriyas (members of fighting class), leaders of guilds of traders and artisans, as also their members, come out to see the moon-like countenance of Rama.”
Bharatha says that the राजदारा (meaning “wives of the king”) will come to welcome Rama. In this case, the king being referred to cannot be Dasharatha, as he died at least fourteen years back, if not more. With Dasharatha not ruling as king for such a long period of time, Bharatha could not have possibly been referring to Dasharatha’s wives when he said राजदारा (“wives of the king”). Rather, he would have used a more respectful term, such as rajamata, had he been referring to the wives of Dasharatha.
This leaves us with two possible contenders for the position of king: Bharatha or Rama. Bharatha, as we know, was completely against himself ruling the Kosala kingdom. Rather, he wanted Rama to rule the Kosala kingdom. He only agreed to rule for the 14 year interim period of Rama’s exile, after Rama had urged him to do so. In the context/presence of Rama, could such a Bharatha ignore his elder brother Rama and call himself as “king”?
If we want to interpret this verse in an extremely literal fashion, then the flaw in Patel’s logic is that Rāma was not yet King at that point, as His paṭṭābhiṣekham had not yet been performed. Bharata only had one wife, and in any case He was only ruling as a proxy ruler. Thus, by process of elimination, the word “rājadārāḥ” could here refer only to the wives of the late Daśaratha, in other words the Queen-mothers Kauśalya, Sumitrā, and Kaikeyī. Just as one speaks of a man as one’s father even when he had passed away many years prior, so it is that Daśaratha can still be referred to as the King even though he was no longer physically sitting on the throne. Hence, the rājadārāḥ in this context are Daśaratha’s wives.
Once again, we can see that other translators have understood it in exactly this way:
Gita Press: “(Nay) let bards well-versed in singing praises as well as in the Purāṇas (containing ancient legends, cosmogony, etc.) as also minstrels, all those proficient in the use of musical instruments as well as courtesans from every wuarter, the queen-mothers as also the ministers, the troops stationed in the royal palace and drawing their emoluments from the palace itself, army men and their wives, nay, the Brahmans accompanied by the Kṣatriyas (the members of the fighting class), the leaders of the guilds of traders and artisans as well as their members issue forth to behold the moonlike contenance of Śrī Rāma.“
M.N. Dutt: “Let all the bards conversant with the chanting of the pedigree, the flatterers, all those conversant with music, the dancing girls, the queens, the courtiers, the soldiers with their wives, Brāhmaṇas, Kṣatriyas, and people of all other castes, issue out to behold the moon-like countenance of Rāma.”
Desiraju Hanumanta Rao & K.M.K. Murthy: “Let bards well-versed in singing praises and Puranas (containing ancient legends, cosmogony etc.) as also all panegyrists, all those proficient in the use of musical instruments, courtesans all collected together, the queen-mothers, ministers, army-men and their wives, brahmanas accompanied by Kshatriyas (members of fighting class), leaders of guilds of traders and artisans, as also their members, come out to see the moon-like countenance of Rama.“
There is no logical reason to assume that rājadārāḥ must refer to the wives of a presently enthroned King. Thus, this cannot be taken to mean that Rāma had more than one wife.
KD does not give any solid basis for why "rājadārāḥ" must be interpreted as the wives of Dasharatha. He rules out Rama because his coronation was not done and thus he cannot technically be called king. Then he rules out Bharata because although Bharata was ruling as a proxy king, he only had one wife. This leaves only Dasharatha, which KD quickly accepts without further examination.
Let us start with Bharata. This entire verse, urging the rājadārāḥ to go out to welcome Rama, was spoken by Bharata. Hence, the rājadārāḥ can obviously not be his own wives. A king will never refer to his wives as "wives of the king". He will simply refer to them as "my wives". This makes it evident that Bharata's wives were not being talked about. Now about the possibility of rājadārāḥ referring to the wives of Dasharatha... this is a possibility, but a highly unlikely one. Had rājadārāḥ been spoken at the time Bharata went to the Chitrakuta to convince Rama to return to Kosala, it would have made sense for rājadārāḥ to refer to the wives of the only known king, that is, Dasharatha. However, by this point in time (after 14 years of exile) there were also other contenderts to the title of king that had arisen as well (i.e. Rama). Hence, concluding that the king being referred to is Dasharatha is not so easy. More thought has to be put into it...
In this verse spoken by Bharata, rājadārāḥ could refer to Dasharatha's wives if the proper context was given by referring to Dasharatha earlier in the verse (as a primer) before the mention of rājadārāḥ, so that Bharata's servants would know who the king that is being referred to, really is. However, none of that is done. Hence, while KD is technically right that Dasharatha can still be addressed as a king even though he is no longer sitting on the throne, it takes alot of mental gymnastics and wishful thinking to assume that the king being referred to here is Dasharatha. A few verses after this speech by Bharata, Valmiki describes the various people going out to greet Rama. Among them, in VR 6.127.15, were Dasharatha's wives, referred to as "दशरथस्त्रियः". Note that the wives of Dasharatha were not addressed as "rājadārāḥ", but rather as "daśarathastrīyaḥ". Hence, it does not seem very likely that the rājadārāḥ intended by Bharata were his father's wives.
Rather, I feel that when Bharata said rājadārāḥ, he meant Rama's wives. KD makes much of the fact that Rama's paṭṭābhiṣekham had not been done as yet. While this may be true, it is important to look at things from the perspective of Bharata, who spoke the aforementioned verses which have been quoted by me in the 2018 article. As is well known, at the end of Ayodhya Kanda, when Bharata went to the Chitrakuta to convince Rama to return to Kosala as its ruler, Rama refused. Bharata then returned to Kosala with Rama's sandal, which he then put on the throne, as a symbolic reminder that though he (Bharata) is taking care of the kingdom's administration, the true king of this kingdom is none other than Rama. With Bharata thinking in such a manner about the ruler of Kosala, how could he have intended anyone other than Rama as the king when he mentioned rājadārāḥ?
Hence, I do not find his logic convincing here. In my opinion, the translators that KD mentioned above have also erred and thought only superficially about the conundrum of whom rājadārāḥ is referring to. The next argument that KD makes is bound to be interesting for all readers, so I will move to discuss it without further delay. He says:
The second of the two references are the following verses spoken by Valmiki, in Yuddha Kanda Section 116 (Critical Edition), at the time of Rama’s coronation as the ruler of Kosala:
प्रतिकर्म च रामस्य कारयामास वीर्यवान् |
लक्ष्मणस्य च लक्ष्मीवानिक्ष्वाकुकुलवर्धनः || १६||
प्रतिकर्म च सीतायाः सर्वा दशरथस्त्रियः |
आत्मनैव तदा चक्रुर्मनस्विन्यो मनोहरम् || १७||
ततो राघवपत्नीनां सर्वासामेव शोभनम् |
चकार यत्नात्कौसल्या प्रहृष्टा पुत्रवत्सला || १८||
The valiant and graceful Shatrughna, the upholder of the dignity of the Ikshwaku race, himself got ready the dresses for Rama and Lakshmana. And all the high-minded wives of Dasharatha with their own hands decked Seetha with various charming (ornaments). Thereupon Kaushalya, delighted and fond of her son, herself with great care, decorated the (other) wives of Raghava (Rama).
The above translation is derived from the translation of Yuddha Kanda Section 130 (Southern Recension), given by MN Dutt. The above verses are slightly different in the Critical Edition, compared to the Southern Recension. For this reason, I have slightly tweaked MN Dutt’s translation of these verses in the Southern Recension, to account for the slight change in verse structure that appears in the Critical Edition. That being said, what should be evident from the aforementioned verses is that Rama had wives other than Seetha, who were decorated and adorned by Kaushalya.
In essence, Patel is saying that he changed M.N. Dutt’s translation to suit his preconceived bias, and then proved his interpretation on the basis that this was how he chose to translate it. The recension translated by M.N. Dutt’s has this verse in chapter 128, and in actuality, this is how he translated it:
“Thereupon Kauśalyā, delighted and fond of her son, herself with great care, decorated the wives of monkeys.“
That’s because the Sanskrit in M.N. Dutt’s recension reads as “vānarapatnīnām” (wives of the vānaras) and not “rāghavapatnīnām” (wives of Rāghava).
Although “vānara” is often translated by many as “monkey,” the Rāmāyaṇa actually depicts the vānaras as an intelligent, monkey-like race who had their own government, their own kingdom of Kiṣkindha, their own version of varṇāśrama-dharma, and their own adherence to Vedic rituals. The same Sanskrit text is found in the translation of Desiraju Hanumanta Rao & K.M.K. Murthy, the Gita Press edition, and the edition published by Nag Publishers.
Hence, the correct translation is “wives of the vānaras” and not “wives of Rāma.” There is no conceivable way that the Sanskrit text “vānarapatīnām” could be taken as “wives of Rāma,” and the Sanskrit text given by Milin Patel is bogus.I honestly think that KD should take a deep breath... in... out... in... out... Now that we are relaxed, please read the text excerpted from my 2018 article once again. I state that I am not referring to the Southern Recension text that was used by MN Dutt or Desiraju Hanumanta Rao & KMK Murthy in their respective translations. Instead, I referred to the Critical Edition. For those that do not know what the Critical Edition is, it is a text composed by scholars at the MS University (in Baroda) after parsing through 300 manuscripts of the various versions/recensions, and incorporating those verses that appear most common across the various manuscripts of the Valmiki Ramayana, and in such a way as to not compromise the flow of the narrative. It gives a good estimate of the earliest written form of the Valmiki Ramayana, after which it was edited several times by brahmana poets to arrive at the modern recensions. I have used the Critical Edition of Valmiki Ramayana several times in my past articles, so if someone is still unaware of the existence of the Critical Edition, then they may read it here:
Critical Edition of Valmiki Ramayana
There is no available online translation of the Critical Edition, but one should be able to work with the Sanskrit after consulting the translations of renowned translators (MN Dutt et al) if they have a basic knowledge of Sanskrit and Devanagari script. A translation has been composed by Bibek Debroy for those that do not understand Sanskrit at all, and if you need that translation then send me a message. I have his translation in pdf format. Returning back to the Critical Edition, you can use the above link and go to Ayodhya Kanda Section 116. In that section, the following verses may be found:
The last point he raises is regarding the Rama-Shurpanakha episode. This is what he has to say about it:
Milin Patel makes much of the explicit absence of Rāma’s “ekapatnī vrata” (vow of having only one wife) during the Sūrpaṇakha episode. But he remains oblivious to the remaining details of the story. For example, when Sūrpaṇakha proposes marriage to Rāma, she says:
चिराय भव मे भर्ता सीतया किं करिष्यसि ।
विकृता च विरूपा च न चेयं सदृशी तव ॥ वा.रा. ३.१७.२७ ॥
अहमेवानुरूपा ते भार्या रूपेण पश्य माम् ।
इमां विरूपामसतीं करालां निर्णतोदरीम् ॥ वा.रा. ३.१७.२८ ॥
अनेन ते सह भ्रात्रा भक्षयिष्यामि मानुषीम् ।
“Be my husband forever. What will you do with Sītā? She is ugly, deformed, unsuitable for you. I am alone fit for you. Look upon me as your wife. I will devour your brother along with this disfigured, unchaste and fearful lady with a flat belly.” (Vālmīki-Rāmāyaṇa 3.17.27-29)
But if Rāma had many wives, then why would Sūrpaṇakha insist on killing Sītā, when she could simply be another of Rāma’s wives? And if the answer is that Sūrpaṇakha wanted to be Rāma’s only wife, then why did she not threaten to kill any other wife besides Sītā?
Rāma tells Sūrpaṇaka that,
कृतदारोऽस्मि भवति भार्येयं दयिता मम ।
त्वद्विधानां तु नारीणां सुदुःखा ससपत्नता ॥ वा.रा. ३.१८.२ ॥
“O lady I am married and here is My wife who is dear to Me. To be a co-wife to someone is indeed painful for people like you.” (Vālmīki-Rāmāyaṇa 3.18.2)
If Rāma actually had many wives, then why would He only point to Sītā and not mention these other wives? And why would He mention his marriage as a reason not to marry? He could have simply told Sūrpaṇakha that she could be another of His wives. Finally, when Sūrpaṇakha says:
अद्येमां भक्षयिष्यामि पश्यतस्तव मानुषीम् ।
त्वया सह चरिष्यामि निस्सपत्ना यथासुखम् ॥ वा.रा. ३.१८.१६ ॥
“I shall eat up this woman now before Your very eyes and I can move about happily with You without a co-wife.” (Vālmīki-Rāmāyaṇa 3.18.16)
But how could Sūrpaṇakha expect to have no co-wife by murdering Sītā, when Rāma supposedly had other wives?
Although one might try to argue that Rāma had other wives who were not present with Him during His forest exile, that He would neglect to mention them despite the detailed introduction He gave of Himself and his marriage, and that Sūrpaṇakha would not be expected to know about them, one can’t help but note that this relies on a lot of forced assumptions that have no basis in the text. Hence, despite the lack of explicit mention of “ekapatnī vrata,” the statements within the Sūrpaṇakha episode contradict the idea of Rāma having or even wanting more than one wife.It seems that KD is very confused about the sequence of events and did not think this through before typing it. So let's go through the entire interaction of Rama and Shurpanakha in some detail, to explain things more clearly.
When Shurpanakha approaches Rama, she asks him the following:
जटी तापसरूपेण सभार्यश्शरचापधृत्।Rama replies in the following manner:
आगतस्त्वमिमं देशं कथं राक्षससेवितम्।।3.17.13।।
किमागमनकृत्यं ते तत्त्वमाख्यातुमर्हसि।
O Rama you are wearing matted hair like an ascetic, but living with your wife and holding bow and arrows. What brings you to this place haunted by rakshasas? You should tell me the truth?
आसीद्धशरथो नाम राजा त्रिदशविक्रमः।।3.17.16।।
तस्याहमग्रजः पुत्रो रामो नाम जनैश्श्रुतः।
(Rama replied) There was a king named Dasaratha who was mighty like the gods. I am his eldest son known among the people as Rama.
भ्राताऽयं लक्ष्मणो नाम यवीयान्मामनुव्रतः।।3.17.17।।
इयं भार्या च वैदेही मम सीतेति विश्रुता।
Here is Lakshmana , my younger brother, who always follows me . And this is the daughter of the king of Videha and my wife, wellknown as Sita.
नियोगात् तु नरेन्द्रस्य पितुर्मातुश्च यन्त्रितः।।3.17.18।।
धर्मार्थं धर्मकाङ्क्षी च वनं वस्तुमिहागतः।
I have come here, commanded by the king, my father and mother. Intending to obey the orders of my father, and impelled by duty to establish righteousness I have come to reside here.
त्वां तु वेदितुमिच्छामि कस्य त्वं कासि कस्य वा।।3.17.19।।
त्वं हि तावन्मनोज्ञाङ्गी राक्षसी प्रतिभासि मे।
I wish to know who you are. Tell me who your kins are. With lovely limbs you appear to be a rakshasi.
Pay close attention to Rama's reply. He gives a very brief introduction of himself. He only tells her who his father is, who his brother is, and then tells her that his wife is Sita. Following that he promptly begins to mildly flirt with her, addressing her as a beautiful lady and the curiously inquiring about whom she actually is. This should answer KD's question of why Rama did not mention his other wives in his introduction. When an already married man tries to flirt with an interested lady, he is going to keep the introduction of his family and wives to a minimum and will focus more on himself as a person and on the woman he is trying to woo. Considering the introduction that Rama gave Shurpanakha, one would expect her to only know of Rama's father and brother, and that Rama had only one wife, Sita, who was with him at the moment (that is the natural assumption the average person put in her shoes would make, since Rama talked about his spouse and only introduced one person, Sita, to her in that connection).
Hence, the mental gymnastics KD engages in (see below) to avoid the obvious implication that according to the given narrative, Shurpanakha would have thought of Rama as a man married to only one wife (i.e. Sita), is absolutely unfounded:
Although one might try to argue that Rāma had other wives who were not present with Him during His forest exile, that He would neglect to mention them despite the detailed introduction He gave of Himself and his marriage, and that Sūrpaṇakha would not be expected to know about them, one can’t help but note that this relies on a lot of forced assumptions that have no basis in the text. Hence, despite the lack of explicit mention of “ekapatnī vrata,” the statements within the Sūrpaṇakha episode contradict the idea of Rāma having or even wanting more than one wife.
As I have shown, Rama only introduced one wife to her and hence she believed that Rama was married to only one woman at the present, but also that he was not necessarily a monogamist (i.e. he would be willing to take on additional wives in the future). That is also why she believed that by eating up Sita, she would not have to bear the jealousy of any co-wife (since Rama was only married to one lady at the present).
Returning back to the point... after Rama asked Shurpanakha for her identity, she replies in the following manner:
श्रूयतां राम वक्ष्यामि तत्त्वार्थं वचनं मम। 3.17.21।।
अहं शूर्पणखा नाम राक्षसी कामरूपिणी।
अरण्यं विचरामीदमेका सर्वभयङ्करा।।3.17.22।।
My name is Surpanakha. I am a rakshasi who can assume any form at will, I move in this forest alone, unleashing a reign of terror.
रावणो नाम मे भ्राता बलीयान्राक्षसेश्वरः।
वीरो विश्रवसः पुत्रो यदि ते श्रोत्रमागतः।।3.17.23।।
My brother is Ravana, son of Visrava, and lord of all demons. You have heard his name I suppose.
प्रवृद्धनिद्रश्च सदा कुम्भकर्णो महाबलः।
विभीषणस्तु धर्मात्मा न तु राक्षसचेष्टितः।।3.17.24।।
प्रख्यातवीर्यौ च रणे भ्रातरौ खरदूषणौ।
Kumbhakarna is another brother of mine. He is very strong. He is always in deep sleep. Vibhisna another brother. He is righteous free from any rakshasa trait. My other two brothers are Khara and Dusana who are well-known heroes of war.
तानहं समतिक्रान्ता राम त्वा पूर्वदर्शनात्।।3.17.25।।
समुपेतास्मि भावेन भर्तारं पुरुषोत्तमम्।
Transgressing them (in valor), I came here, as soon as I saw you. You are the finest among men and I am here wishing you to be my husband.
अहं प्रभावसम्पन्ना स्वच्छन्दबलगामिनी।।3.17.26।।
चिराय भव मे भर्ता सीतया किं करिष्यसि।
I have influence over others, I have capacity to move wherever I want. Be my husband forever. What will you do with Sita?
विकृता च विरूपा च न चेयं सदृशी तव।।3.17.27।।
अहमेवानुरूपा ते भार्या रूपेण पश्य माम्।
She is ugly, deformed, unsuitable for you. I am alone fit for you. Look upon me as your wife.
इमां विरूपामसतीं करालां निर्णतोदरीम्।।3.17.28।।
अनेन ते सह भ्रात्रा भक्षयिष्यामि मानुषीम्।
I will devour your brother along with this disfigured, unchaste and fearful lady with a flat belly.
ततः पर्वतशृङ्गाणि वनानि विविधानि च।।3.17.29।।
पश्यन्सह मया कान्त दण्डकान्विचरिष्यसि।
O darling, thereafter you can keep wandering with me in this Dandaka forest, enjoying the beauty of the mountain tops and forests.
That is alot of text, so let us break it up little by little. Shurpanakha starts by mentioning her brothers, and emphasizing that although her brothers are all very powerful, she is even more powerful than them. It is in this connection that she offers her valor to eat up Sita and Lakshmana if they are a hindrance that is preventing Rama from following his natural desire to accept her (Shurpanakha) as a wife (or so she thinks). What I take from this passage is that perhaps in Rakshasa society, it was a socially desirable trait for the women to be very valorous. Hence, she tries to woo Rama by emphasizing the valor component of her personality. Another thing I take from this passage is that she does not offer to devour Sita because Rama took a vow of ekapatnivratam (otherwise, why would she offer to devour Lakshmana as well). Rather, she makes the offer because she is uncomfortable with having to deal with a co-wife, and hence tries to convince Rama that Sita does not deserve him. She additionally tells Rama that if his present wife and his brother are hindering him from following what he wants to do (i.e. marry Shurpanakha), then she can eliminate the problem by devouring both of them, and hence Rama has no need to be worried as such. In other words, her desire to eat up Sita was not fueled by a realization that Rama was a monogamist who could only be married to a single woman at a time, but rather by the fact that she herself would not be comfortable having to deal with a co-wife.
In that connection, Rama's reply is noteworthy:
कृतदारोऽस्मि भवति भार्येयं दयिता मम।
त्वद्विधानां तु नारीणां सुदुःखा ससपत्नता।।3.18.2।।
O lady I am married and here is my wife who is dear to me. To be a cowife to some one is indeed painful for people like you.
अनुजस्त्वेष मे भ्राता शीलवान्प्रियदर्शनः।
श्रीमानकृतदारश्च लक्ष्मणो नाम वीर्यवान्।।3.18.3।।
Here is my younger brother Lakshmana. He is a man of good conduct, good look, valiant and virtuous. (Besides) he has not made a wife (i.e. he is unmarried).
अपूर्वी भार्यया चार्थी तरुणः प्रियदर्शनः।
अनुरूपश्च ते भर्ता रूपस्यास्य भविष्यति।।3.18.4।।
He is not with a wife, and is in need of one. He is young, handsome and worthy. He will be an appropriate husband to you.
एनं भज विशालाक्षि भर्तारं भ्रातरं मम।
असपत्ना वरारोहे मेरुमर्कप्रभा यथा।।3.18.5।।
O woman of large eyes and fine hips, my brother is fit for you. You will (with him) shine like the radiant Sun on mount Meru. You will enjoy yourself without a cowife. You may approach him.In the first verse, Rama again makes it clear that he is currently married to only one woman, but not that he is monogamous or that he had taken a vow of ekapatnivratam. He then tells Shurpanakha that a people like her would not be able to bear being a co-wife, and hence he advises her to go to the single Lakshmana.
What does he mean when he says that "people like you" would not be able to bear the pain of being a co-wife? Was he hinting at a personality aspect of Shurpanakha he saw in the preceding section, when she offered to eat up Sita so that she does not have to bear the discomfort of a co-wife? Or was Rama referring to a general tendency among Rakshasas to have monogamous marriages?
I will let the reader ponder upon that.
However, what is a well established fact from these verses is that the reason Shurpanakha attempted to eat up Sita later on in this section was not because Rama was a monogamist who could only marry one woman at a time (making it necessary to free up Rama from Sita, in order to marry him). Rather, the reason why she attempted to eat up Sita later in this section was so that it would be more comfortable for her to have a life sans a co-wife. The reason was not that Rama's monogamy restricted him from marrying Sita and Shurpanakha. Rather, the reason was that Shurpanakha's pickiness of not wanting a co-wife was a restriction. That is why when she attempts to attack Sita, she addresses Rama in the following manner, in VR 3.18.15-16: "You are holding on to this lady who is ugly, unchaste, fierce-looking, flat-bellied and aged and not caring for me. I shall eat up this woman now before your very eyes and I can move about happily with you without a co-wife." (एनां विरूपामसतीं करालां निर्णतोदरीम्। वृद्धां भार्यामवष्टभ्य मां न त्वं बहुमन्यसे।।3.18.15।। अद्येमां भक्षयिष्यामि पश्यतस्तव मानुषीम्। त्वया सह चरिष्यामि निस्सपत्ना यथासुखम्।।3.18.16।।)
If all this still goes over KD's head and he is still adamant on his Rama being monogamous theory, we do have yet another piece of evidence, this time spoken by Lakshmana in the same Rama-Shurpanakha story, wherein Lakshmana clearly states that Rama was not averse to taking on more than one wife. So... after Shurpanakha hears Rama's advice that she ought to marry Lakshmana, she approaches him. In response, Lakshmana redirects her back to Rama. When redirecting her back to Rama, he states the following:
समृद्धार्थस्य सिद्धार्था मुदितामलवर्णिनी।Hence, according to Lakshmana, Rama was not restricted by strict monogamy and could take on a younger wife as well. With all these cross references pointing back to support the theory that Rama was a polygamist and that he was never really restricted by a monogamist lifestyle, I would really urge KD to patiently go through all the points raised and reconsider his stance. He finally ends his article by stating the following:
आर्यस्य त्वं विशालाक्षि भार्या भव यवीयसी।।3.18.10।।
O large-eyed one, you have a clear complexion. You may become the younger wife of my master who is lord of great wealth. And live a happy, fulfilled life.
There is no clear evidence that Rāma had any other wife besides Sītā. Sītā’s marriage to Rāma is depicted in very clear detail near the end of the Bāla-Kāṇḍa along with her origin story and her royal lineage. Where in the Rāmāyaṇa is there mention of the lives, lineages, and marriages of other women who supposedly married Rāma? Where were these other wives when Rāma was being exiled to the forest and Sītā insisted that she share His exile? Where were these other wives during the 14 years of Rāma’s exile, and where were they during the descriptions of Rāma’s triumphant return to Ayodhya? Hindus were never averse to polygamy, and Daśaratha’s own polygamy is mentioned in great detail in the very Rāmāyaṇa that seemingly goes to great pains to conceal the alleged polygamy of Rāma. Thus, the theory that Rāma had many wives finds no support from even a generous reading of the text, which speaks poorly of the motivations of those who still assert this view.Two points can be made here. First of all, a statistical study by MR Yardi of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI), the same institute that composed the critical edition of the Mahabharata, has shown that other than sections 1-13, and some of section 17 of the Bala Kanda, the rest of that Kanda is a later addition to the epic. Likewise, he found that the entire Uttara Kanda is a later addition to the epic. What this means is that the entire narrative (found towards the end of the Bala Kanda) where we see Valmiki describing Sita's lineage, her Swayamvara, as well as Rama's marriage with her and their subsequent months-long honeymoon, is a later interpolation into the epic. This deconstructs half of the argument KD is making here.
The second point I would like to make is that though Dasharatha is mentioned to have 350 wives in the epic, only his chief 3 wives are mentioned in any detail. Likewise, Ravana had 1000 wives according to Maricha. Yet, only his main wife Mandodari finds any mention in the epic. Hence, the general pattern we see here is that only the chief wives of the main characters are mentioned in the epic in any detail. The other wives barely even find a passing reference. This general pattern is also seen for Rama's wives. His chief wife Sita is mentioned in great detail; however, his lesser wives are just given passing reference, such as when Manthara refers to them, or when Bharata asks them to welcome Rama when he returned after 14 years, or when Kaushalya was described as grooming these wives right before the coronation ceremony in the last section of the Yuddha Kanda.
Therefore, I do not see any significant evidence or reasoning in KD's article that forces me to reconsider my stance on Rama's polygamy. And as for the last sentence of the article is concerned, those who know me also definitely know whether or not I have any kind of hidden motive to defame Hinduism, as KD alleges. Let me leave it at that for now, and I hope that this article was helpful to those readers that are interested in the Rama polygamy debate. I look forward to hearing a response from KD if he has answers to any of the questions/arguments that I have raised in this article...