In a previous post, I have talked about how the Vanaras in the Valmiki Ramayana were actually a human tribe, rather than a tribe of monkeys. In that post, I have asserted that the tail of the Vanaras was actually their male sex organ (i.e. penis), since the word “लाङ्गूलम्”, which was translated by the translators as “tail”, also means “penis”. This is supported by the fact that only male Vanaras were described as having this लाङ्गूलम्, not the female Vanaras!
However, one objection that almost every person acquainted with Ramayana would raise is that if Hanumana was a normal human being, how would he have burned down Lanka? How can a normal human being sustain burning of their penis for such a long time to burn down an entire city? Also, how is it logical to burn down an entire city with a small flame? These are absolutely valid questions and to answer this question, I have dedicated two posts. In the first post, I will address the flaws in the claim that Hanumana burned down Lanka, using textual evidence. I will also provide an alternative to what actually happened in Lanka, following Hanumana's capture by Ravana. Then, in the second post, I will address some plausible issues with my claims, and attempt to resolve them, using textual evidence from Valmiki Ramayana.
Lets start off after Hanumana was captured by Indrajita and brought to Ravana's Sabha. Hanumana regains consciousness from Indrajita's brahmastra and gets angry that he was captured. He then sees the handsome Ravana seated in the Sabha, and the beauty of that sight diverts Hanumana's attention from the pain of his capture by Indrajita. Seeing Ravana, Hanumana was in awe of his beauty and prowess. Soon after this, Ravana's minister Prahasta asks Hanumana to give his introduction. So Hanaumana does, and introduces himself as a messenger of Rama. He also provokes Ravana by telling him that he should return Seetha, lest he will be killed by Rama. After this provocation, an enraged Ravana orders that Hanumana be killed:
स सौष्ठव उपेतम् अदीन वादिनः |
कपेः निशम्य अप्रतिमो अप्रियम् वचः |
दश आननः कोप विवृत्त लोचनः |
समादिशत् तस्य वधम् महाकपेः || ५-५१-४६Hearing those unpleasant words endowed with extreme skillfulness and which were spoken without fear from Hanuma, that unequalled Ravana ordered for the killing of that Hanuma.Sundara Kanda Section 51
Vibhishana sees this and decides to save Hanumana's life. He talks Ravana out of killing Hanumana by saying that the killing of a “messenger” is prohibited according to the scriptures and other punishments can be used on a messenger, such as deformation of limbs, striking with a whip, shaving the head, and impressing marks on the body:
प्रसीद लङ्केश्वर राक्षसेन्द्र |
धर्मार्थयुक्तम् वचनम् शृणुष्व |
दूतानवध्यान् समयेषु राजन् |
सर्वेषु सर्वत्र वदन्ति सन्तः || ५-५२-१३"O king of demons! O lord of Lanka! Be gracious enough. Hear my words endowed with righteousness and significance. O king! Sages say that messengers should not be killed at all places and at all times."असंशयम् शत्रुः अयम् प्रवृद्धः |
कृतम् हि अनेन अप्रियम् अप्रमेयम् |
न दूत वध्याम् प्रवदन्ति सन्तो |
दूतस्य दृष्टा बहवो हि दण्डाः || ५-५२-१४"There is no doubt that this enemy is arrogant. He has created an unlimited displeasure to us. But, sages do not talk about the killing of an envoy There are indeed severeal punishments, intended for an envoy."वैरूप्याम् अन्गेषु कश अभिघातो |
मौण्ड्यम् तथा लक्ष्मण सम्निपातः |
एतान् हि दूते प्रवदन्ति दण्डान् |
वधः तु दूतस्य न नः श्रुतो अपि || ५-५२-१५"Some of the punishments to an envoy are-deforming the body parts, striking with a whip, shaving the head and impressing marks on the body. Indeed, we have not heard at any time of killing a messenger."Sundara Kanda Section 52
After much convincing, Ravana agrees to give Hanumana another punishment. The new punishment given to Hanumana is to have his tail burned in the cross roads of Lanka, in the presence of all the civilians of Lanka. I had earlier in this post mentioned that the translation of "tail" is incorrect and should instead be "penis". I will come to that later on in this post. For now, I am retaining the translation of "tail" for the simplicity of the argument:
तस्य तत् वचनम् श्रुत्वा दशग्रीवो महाबलः |
देश काल हितम् वाक्यम् भ्रातुः उत्तमम् अब्रवीत् || ५-५३-१Hearing those words, which were aprropriate for that place and time, spoken by that high-souled Vibhishana, his brother, Ravana spoke the following words in reply:सम्यग् उक्तम् हि भवता दूत वध्या विगर्हिता |
अवश्यम् तु वधात् अन्यः क्रियताम् अस्य निग्रहः || ५-५३-२"You have spoken well indeed that killing of an envoy is forbidden. Another punishment other than killing needs be certainly meted out to him."कपीनाम् किल लान्गूलम् इष्टम् भवति भूषणम् |
तत् अस्य दीप्यताम् शीघ्रम् तेन दग्धेन गच्छतु || ५-५३-३"It is said that a tail is possibly a beloved ornament for the monkeys. Let his tail be burn immediately. Let him go with a burnt tail."ततः पश्यन्तु इमम् दीनम् अन्ग वैरूप्य कर्शितम् |
समित्रा ज्ञातयः सर्वे बान्धवाः ससुहृज् जनाः || ५-५३-४"Let all his relatives together with his friends, kinsmen and amicable persons then see him miserably injured with his deformed body part."आज्ञापयत् राक्षस इन्द्रः पुरम् सर्वम् सचत्वरम् |
लान्गूलेन प्रदीप्तेन रक्षोभिः परिणीयताम् || ५-५३-५Ravana ordered that let the monkey be carried around with his burning tail by the demons in the entire city around its cross-roads."Sundara Kanda Section 53
Keep these verses in mind as I will later refer back to them… However, the major point here, is that if we go by the translation of लाङ्गूलम् as "tail", Ravana ordered Hanumana’s tail to be burned. But this does not make any sense from a logical perspective as the purpose of Ravana changing his punishment from giving death to burning Hanumana's tail was to prevent him from acquiring the sin of murdering a messenger. Did Ravana not know that by burning a body part, it would lead to the death of the individual? There is clearly a loophole here in the text. I will refer to this later on… But lets just continue with the flow of the text for now…
The new punishment that Ravana pronounces is that Hanumana be carried to the crossroads of Lanka, and his tail be burned then, in the midst of all the civilians. Ravana’s guards follow the order, and take him to the crossroads. Hanumana, however, allows them to do so, as he wants to see the specifications of the fort of Lanka, which could not have been seen earlier when he entered Lanka, as his entry into Lanka was made at night time, in the dark. To allow for himself to note the specifications of the Lanka fort in detail, he would have needed to reach the exit of the Lanka fort. So he played along with the guards and went willingly with them all across Lanka:
रात्रौ न हि सुदृष्टा मे दुर्ग कर्म विधानतः |
अवश्यम् एव द्रष्टव्या मया लन्का निशा क्षये || ५-५३-१५"Lanka was not indeed observed well as to the particulars of specifications of the fort, when it was seen by me during the night. Surely, it is to be seen by me during the day-time."कामम् बन्धैः च मे भूयः पुच्छस्य उद्दीपनेन च |
पीडाम् कुर्वन्तु रक्षांसि न मे अस्ति मनसः श्रमः || ५-५३-१६"Let the demons tie me down of again and torment me as they wish, by burning my tail. There will be no travail to my mind."ततः ते सम्वृत आकारम् सत्त्ववन्तम् महाकपिम् |
परिगृह्य ययुः हृष्टा राक्षसाः कपि कुन्जरम् || ५-५३-१७Then, those delighted demons went, seizing Hanuma, who concealed all types of his feelings, who was strong and foremost among monkeys.शन्ख भेरी निनादैः तैः घोषयन्तः स्व कर्मभिः |
राक्षसाः क्रूर कर्माणः चारयन्ति स्म ताम् पुरीम् || ५-५३-१८Sounding couches and kettle-drums and proclaining the acts of Hanuma like his damaging of the pleasure-garden, the demons performing terrible deeds, dragged Hanuma through out that city.अन्वीयमानो रक्षोभिर्ययौ सुखमरिंदमः |
हनुमान् चारयामास राक्षसानाम् महापुरीम् || ५-५३-१९Accompanied by demons, Hanuma the annihilator of enemies, went happily and roamed about in that great city of demons.अथ अपश्यत् विमानानि विचित्राणि महाकपिः |
सम्वृतान् भूमि भागान् च सुविभक्तान् च चत्वरान् || ५-५३-२०Then, Hanuma saw some wonderful house some wrapped up plots of land and well parted cross ways.वीथीश्च गृहसम्बाधाः कपिः शृङ्गटकानि च |
तथा रथ्योपरथ्याश्च तथैव गृहकान्तरान् || ५-५३-२१
गृहांश्च मेघसम्काशान् ददर्श पवनात्मजः |Hanuma, the son of wind-god, saw streets congested with dwellings, places where several roads meet, high-ways as also approach-roads, small inner apartments and palaces appearing in multitudes, like clouds.Sundara Kanda Section 53
Upon reaching the gate of Lanka's fort, Hanumana took a rod and killed the guards that were parading him across the city. This could have been done easily, as the gate of the fort was relatively secluded from the rest of the demons:
पुर द्वारम् ततः श्रीमान् शैल शृन्गम् इव उन्नतम् || ५-५३-४०
विभक्त रक्षः सम्बाधम् आससाद अनिल आत्मजः |Then, the glorious Hanuma like a mountain-peak, approached the city-gate, which was looking high and stood secluded from the crowds of demons.स भूत्वा शैल सम्काशः क्षणेन पुनः आत्मवान् || ५-५३-४१
ह्रस्वताम् परमाम् प्राप्तो बन्धनानि अवशातयत् |That prudent Hanuma assumed the form of a mountain and immediately within a moment, assumed an exceedingly short form, thus becoming free from his tethers.विमुक्तः च अभवत् श्रीमान् पुनः पर्वत सम्निभः || ५-५३-४२
वीक्षमाणः च ददृशे परिघम् तोरण आश्रितम् |The glorious Hanuma, having been free from his bonds, again assumed the form equal to a mountain and while looking around, found and iron rod belonging to the arched door-way.स तम् गृह्य महाबाहुः काल आयस परिष्कृतम् || ५-५३-४३
रक्षिणः तान् पुनः सर्वान् सूदयामास मारुतिः |That long-armed Hanuma, again taking that rod made of iron, killed all those guards.Sundara Kanda Section 53
So as we can see from the text above, Hanumana reaches the gate of Lanka’s fort, which had demons in scarcity, and then kills the guards. So his purpose was accomplished. He wanted to see the specifications of the fort, which he saw. So, it would be logical that he would then leave Lanka and cross the ocean, now that his plan of noting the specifications of the Lanka fort was accomplished.
But NO. The text then has verses in the next 3 sections (Sundara Kanda Sections 54-56) where Hanumana does the following:
- Re-enters Lanka and burns down the buildings. The fire is described as so great that it stretches from Southern Lanka, where Seetha was held captive, to Northern Lanka.
- This generates worry in Hanumana whether Seetha is still alive. So Hanumana goes to Southern Lanka to check on her. He sees that she is alive, and then departs from Lanka.
There are a few problems with this. When Hanumana’s plan was to just see Lanka’s fort specifications, which he successfully did, why would he risk being captured again by going and engaging in a war with the demons? He had already measured the prowess of the warriors in Ravana’s army when he destroyed the Ashoka Grove and provoked the warrior in Ravana’s army to attack him. There was no need to attack the army again. Furthermore, if there was a burning Vanara in the sky, wouldn’t it have been an easy target for Lanka’s best warriors to shoot down Hanumana with his arrows? Indrajit and Ravana were both better warriors than Hanumana. Shooting arrows, with the intention of killing, at a Vanara leaping in the air would not be hard for them, right? But we do not hear of any of Ravana’s main warriors at all, when Hanumana was burning down Lanka. Where were they then? Why did they not chase down Hanumana? Why would they let an enemy easily burn down Lanka, just like that? What about the guards and police patrol in the city of Lanka. What were they doing then? As you can see, there are many loopholes in this story.
Yet another loophole is that if the fire was raging so much that it burned down everything from Southern to Northern Lanka, why were the Rakshasiis in the Ashoka Grove not dead? Why did the fire not kill Trijata? We all know of Trijata’s speech to Seetha in Yuddha Kanda, when she pacified Seetha who thought her husband Rama was dead from Indrajita's arrows, right? So, Trijata escaped the fire in Lanka. How would this be possible, considering its deadly nature, as described in Sundara Kanda Sections 54–56?
Furthermore, if the city of Lanka was burned down, it would be in ashes by the time Rama and Lakshmana reached it. But much to the contrary, when the two descendants of Ikshvaku reached the city, it was initially described by them to be a very beautiful city:
निविष्टा तत्र शिखरे लन्का रावण पालिता || ६-३९-२०
दशयोजनविस्तीर्णा विंशद्योजनमायता |Lanka, ruled by Ravana, with a breadth of eighty mile and a length of one hundred sixty miles, was located on the apex of the mountain there.सा पुरी गोपुरैर् उच्चैः पाण्डुर अम्बुद सम्निभैः |
कान्चनेन च सालेन राजतेन च शोभिता || ६-३९-२१The city of Lanka looked beautiful with its towering City-gates resembling white clouds as well as with golden and silver ramparts.प्रासादैश् च विमानैश् च लन्का परम भूषिता |
घनैर् इव आतप अपाये मध्यमम् वैष्णवम् पदम् || ६-३९-२२The city of Lanka, greatly adorned by palaces and seven storied mansions, looked like the sky with clouds at the end of a summer and as a region of Vishnu between earth and heaven.तस्याम् स्तम्भ सहस्रेण प्रासादः समलम्कृतः |
कैलास शिखर आकारो दृश्यते खम् इव उल्लिखन् || ६-३९-२३
चैत्यः स राक्षस इन्द्रस्य बभूव पुर भूषणम् |
शतेन रक्षसाम् नित्यम् यः समग्रेण रक्ष्यते || ६-३९-२४A palace, duly graced with a thousand pillars, which looked like a peak of Mount Kailasa was three in the City of Lanka, which was always the City of Lanka, which was always protected by a complete army of demons. The palace seemed to be scraping the skies and was to be seen as an ornament to the City of Ravana.मनोज्ञाम् काञ्चनवतीम् सर्वतैरुपशोभिताम् |
नानाधातुविचित्रैश्च उद्यानैरुपशोभिताम् || ६-३९-२५
नानाविहगसम्घष्टाम् नानामृगनिषेविताम् |
नानाकुसुमसंपन्नाम् नानाराक्षससेविताम् || ६-३९-२६
ताम् समृद्धाम् समृद्ध अर्थो लक्ष्मीवाम्ल् लक्ष्मण अग्रजः |
रावणस्य पुरीम् रामो ददर्श सह वानरैः || ६-३९-२७The glorious Rama the elder brother of Lakshmana along with monkeys saw that charming golden city of Ravana, graced with mountains picturesque with various minerals, splendid with gardens reechoing with songs of birds of every kind, frequented by varieties of deer, richly endowed with various kinds of flowers, inhabited by demons of every degree and duly flourishing, having increased its wealth.ताम् महागृहसम्बाधां दृष्ट्वा लक्ष्मणपूर्वजः |
नगरीं त्रिदिवप्रख्यां विस्मयं प्राप वीर्यवान् ६-३९-२८Beholding that City, which looks like heaven and crammed with huge palaces, the valiant Rama the elder brother of Lakshmana was seized with astonishment.ताम् रत्न पूर्णाम् बहु सम्विधानाम् |
प्रासाद मालाभिर् अलम्कृताम् च |
पुरीम् महा यन्त्र कवाट मुख्याम् |
ददर्श रामो महता बलेन || ६-३९-२९Rama with his great army saw that City, full of precious gems, having all kinds of facilities, adorned with rows of mansions, having excellent doors with huge mechanical appliances and with a large armed forces protecting the City.Yuddha Kanda Section 39
Does this look like the description of a city burned down to ashes? No, right? It looks like Lanka was a very prosperous city when Rama and Lakshmana arrived to conquer it. There is no way that it could have been burned down to ashes a while back by Hanumana. Had the city of Lanka actually been burned down, it would many taken many decades to repair it and bring it back to its former glory. We have to remember that this was an ancient society, with less advancements compared to the modern society we have today! So, it logically follows that the repair of the entire city would have taken much, much longer than it would have taken today. It would have likely taken a minimum of 40-50 years for a proper repairment of the city, or possibly even longer. Since Ravana did not have this kind of time available between Hanumana's arrival in Lanka and Rama's attack on Lanka, it seems like the burning of Lanka was a later addition to the Ramayana. Sundara Kanda Sections 54-56 were likely added in the epic by pro-Hanumana poets, that wanted to exaggerate Hanumana's prowess, in the period where people started to worship him as a god.
What likely happened is that after reaching the gates of Lanka’s fort, Hanumana examined the specifications of the fort, in case he needed to report it to Rama. After doing that, Hanumana killed the guards employed by Ravana and then fled from the city. This is supported by Hanumana’s speech to Rama, after returning to the Kishkindha Forest and telling the latter that he found Seetha in Lanka:
ते मया सम्क्रमा भग्नाः परिखाः च अवपूरिताः |
दग्धा च नगरी लंका प्राकाराः च अवसादिताः || ६-३-२९"Those bridges were broken by me and the moats were filled up (with the wreckage). The city of Lanka was tormented by me and the defensive walls were pulled down.अङ्गदो द्विविदो मैन्दो जाम्बवान् पनसो नलः || ६-३-३१
नीलः सेना पतिः चैव बल शेषेण किम् तव |
प्लवमाना हि गत्वा ताम् रावणस्य महापुरीम् || ६-३-३२
सप्रकाराम् सभवनाम् आनयिष्यन्ति मैथिलीम् |"Oh, Rama! What is the use for the rest of the forces to you? Angada, Divida, Mainda, Jambavan, Panasa, Anala and Nila the commander-in-chief alone, by reaching that great city of Ravana leaping and storming Lanka with its protective walls and buildings, will recover Seetha."Yuddha Kanda Section 3
In the first verse, Hanumana tells Rama that the defensive walls were pulled down and that he tormented the city. He does not give any details on the burning of Lanka. He then says, in the next two verses, that the Vanara army will storm the buildings of Lanka. However, in Sundara Kanda, it says the buildings in Lanka were burned by Hanumana. Had Hanumana actually burned those buildings, there would be no need to storm them when attacking Lanka, as they would have just been a pile of ashes, with nil defences left in them. This is yet another piece of evidence that the city was not burned by Hanumana. Instead, Hanumana says that the defensive walls, along with the bridges and moats were destroyed. This destruction makes sense with the flow of events, and likely happened after Hanumana killed his guards. After killing the guards, Hanumana probably spent some time to destroy the exterior walls of the Lanka fort, along with the bridges and moats, and then fled from the city of Lanka back towards the Vindhya Mountain range, where he met his fellow Vanaras.
This shows that Sundara Kanda Sections 54–56 are later interpolations, and that Lanka was not actually burned.
However, we are left at the same problem as earlier! If Hanumana’s tail was not physically burned, then what was the punishment meted out to him by Ravana? For that, I would advise everyone to take a look at a blog post I wrote earlier, that describes that the Vanaras were actually humans and not monkeys. Their sanskrit word “लाङ्गूलम्” was translated by the translators as “tail”, but it also means “penis”. The translation of “penis” makes more sense, as only the male Vanaras were described as having this लाङ्गूलम्. There is no description of any लाङ्गूलम् for the female Vanaras, like Tara, in the Ramayana.
So, that being said, lets see one of the verses that I earlier mentioned, when Ravana was giving punishment to Hanumana:
"Let all his relatives together with his friends, kinsmen and amicable persons then see him miserably injured with his deformed body part."Sundara Kanda Section 53
As we can see from the text above, Ravana wanted to “deform” the limbs of Hanumana. If we consider लाङ्गूलम् as being Hanumana’s penis, instead of his tail, the punishment starts to make some more sense. Ravana wanted to deform that limb of Hanumana. In other words, as was the practice in many ancient societies, he wanted the penis of Hanumana to be physically severed as a punishment to Hanumana. However, the question arises of why Ravana wanted to severe the penis of Hanumana. Why could he have not severed Hanumana's arms, or legs? My answer to this will be given in more detail in the next post. However, for now, keep in mind that the "penis" symbolizes prowess, and virility. Ravana wanted to conquer this prowess and virility of Hanumana by severing his penis. That is also why Hanumana got enraged at hearing of his new punishment that was decided by Ravana. More details about this decision of Ravana will be given in the Part 2 of "Did Hanumana Really Burn Down Lanka".
From the details mentioned in this post, a general conclusion can be made regarding what transpired from the point of Hanumana being captured by Indrajita to him leaving Lanka. The major events are summarized in point form below:
- Indrajita captures Hanumana by making him unconscious using his brahmastra, and then brings Hanumana to Ravana's Sabha. Upon regaining consciousness, Hanumana is enraged at his capture.
- Ravana's minister Prahasta asks Hanumana about the cause for the destruction he caused in Lanka, and his identity. Hanumana gives his identity and tells Ravana to return Seetha. An enraged Ravana gives death penalty to Hanumana.
- Vibhishana tells Ravana that a messenger should not be slain, hence Ravana changes Hanumana's punishment to being paraded through the crossroads in Lanka, and then having his penis severed, and thrown out of Lanka.
- Hanumana initially gets enraged at hearing this, but decides to play along and willingly goes with the guards all across Lanka. He planned that when he is taken to the gate of the Lanka fort, he will inspect it for details, then kill the guards and exit Lanka.
- Hanumana does just that. Upon reaching the gate of the Lanka fort, he kills off the guards. Then he causes some damage to the exterior walls of the Lanka fort, the moats, and the bridges. Note that the guards would have just severed Hanumana's penis, and then thrown him out of the entrance of Lanka. But prior to them being able to take action, Hanumana killed them off.
- After doing all this damage, he quickly escapes from Lanka and swims the ocean, back to the Vindhya Mountain range where he meets his fellow Vanaras and tells them about his exploits in Lanka. He was able to escape from the entrance of the fort as there were very few demon guards in the area. It was a relatively secluded place.
That concludes Part 1 of the two part series, Did Hanumana Really Burn Down Lanka. Part 2 of this two part series can be read here.