It is a very well known fact that Rama waged war with Ravana after Ravana had kidnapped Rama's wife Seetha! For this reason, most devotees of Rama and Seetha come to the quick conclusion that the reason Rama waged war on Ravana was solely to save Seetha. They believe that Rama was not interested in killing Ravana, and that if Ravana had not kidnapped Seetha, Rama would have not even thought of attacking/killing Ravana and capturing Lanka. Although this seems like an ideal proposal, a close reading of Valmiki Ramayana would reveal that this is not the case. The purpose of this post is to therefore answer two questions:
1) Did Rama wage war with Ravana to save Seetha?
2) Did Rama wage war with Ravana to kill Ravana?
My analysis of Valmiki Ramayana suggests that Rama waged war with Ravana to kill Ravana, not to save Seetha. For those Rama devotees that may disagree with me completely, I advise them to read my entire answer before coming to a conclusion. I will divide my answer into two sections, where both possibilities are analyzed…
The quotes referenced in this post are all from Valmiki Ramayana. Links for the respective sections are provided in this post wherever the quotes are referenced!
Rama waged war with Ravana to save Seetha:
While it is true that Rama attacked Ravana to get back Seetha, it is also true that he didn’t genuinely care for Seetha’s safety. I will start off by looking at an incident showing Rama’s behavior towards Seetha and how much he trusted and respected her as a person.
After Rama, Lakshmana, and Seetha enter the Dandaka forest, some Rishis appeal to Rama to kill animals in the forest that are obstructing the vedic animal sacrifices. It is then that Seetha tells Rama to not listen to their request to kill off the animals in the Dandaka forest. She ends her appeal by stating that she, is less intelligent and a fickle minded woman (and then asking Rama to make the final decision), thereby putting herself at a lesser position to Rama, just like Rama would want it:
स्त्री चापलात् एतत् उदाहृतम् मे
धर्मम् च वक्तुम् तव कः समर्थः |
विचार्य बुद्ध्या तु सह अनुजेन
यत् रोचते तत् कुरु म अचिरेण || ३-९-३३I told you all this out of feminine fickleness. Who can guide you in the ways of dharma? After carefully deliberating the matter with your brother you may act according to your wish. Let there be no delay (hesitation).
But Rama does not listen to her, and refuses her advice as she was a mere woman… This incident shows that Rama did not value Seetha as a human being with opinions on issues. Instead, he liked Seetha as she was able to fulfill his sexual needs… This is emphasized by Rama’s initial behavior when Seetha is kidnapped. When Seetha is first kidnapped, Rama sexualizes the wilderness by comparing it to Seetha’s body parts. There are many verses spread out over a few sections where Rama makes this comparison. I will just show some of these many verses as a sample. You can read all the sections fully in the links below:
अस्ति कच्चित् त्वया दृष्टा सा कदम्ब प्रिया प्रिया |
कदम्ब यदि जानीषे शंस सीताम् शुभ आननाम् || ३-६०-१२"Oh, Kadamba tree, seest thou someone a lady who is lover of Kadamba flowers, one with a lovable face and a love of mine, thou tellest me if thou knowest. [3-60-12]स्निग्ध पल्लव संकाशाम् पीत कौशेय वासिनीम् |
शंसस्व यदि सा दृष्टा बिल्व बिल्व उपम स्तनी || ३-६०-१३"Oh, Bilva tree, if thou seest someone who is drest in yellowy-ochry silks, whose skin likens to the silkiness of thine leaflets, breasts to thine rotund and silky Bilva fruits, thou tellest me... [3-60-13]ककुभः ककुभ ऊरुम् ताम् व्यक्तम् जानाति मैथिलीम् |
लता पल्लव पुष्प आढ्यो भाति हि एष वनस्पतिः || ३-६०-१५"As to how this Kakubha tree shineth laden with creepy-creepers, foliole-foliage and flowery-flowers, this tree knowest Maithili whose thighs can be likened to the smoothish trunk of this very Kakubha tree... [3-60-15]यदि ताल त्वया दृष्टा पक्व ताल फल स्तनी |
कथयस्व वरारोहाम् कारुण्यम् यदि ते मयि || ३-६०-१८"Oh, Palm tree, if thou seest that lady breasted alike ripened-palm fruits of thine, and if thine mercy is mine, thou telleth of that shapely lady Seetha... [3-60-18]गज सा गज नासोरुः यदि दृष्टा त्वया भवेत् |
ताम् मन्ये विदिताम् तुभ्यम् आख्याहि वर वारण || ३-६०-२४"Oh, elephant, thou mightst beheld her whose thighs likens to your trunk at that problematic hour, thus methinks, and that Maithili is familiar to thee, and oh, best elephant, if thou beholdest her, thou tallest me... [3-60-24]व्यक्तम् सा भक्षिता बाला राक्षसैः पिशित अशनैः |
विभज्य अंगानि सर्वाणि मया विरहिता प्रिया || ३-६०-३०"Obviously the raw-flesh gorgers must have gorged that youngish lady on diving all her limbs in my absence from my dear one... [3-60-30]नूनम् तत् शुभ दंत ओष्ठम् सुनासम् शुभ कुण्डलम् |
पूर्ण चंद्र निभम् ग्रस्तम् मुखम् निष्प्रभताम् गतम् || ३-६०-३१"Her face which is similar to a full-moon with pretty teeth, prettier lips, prettily nose and with prettyish earrings, might have obtained a blanched look when being devoured... [3-60-31]सा हि चंपक वर्ण आभा ग्रीवा ग्रैवेयक उचिता |
कोमला विलपन्त्याः तु कान्ताया भक्षिता शुभा || ३-६०-३२"But that exquisite and beautiful neck of that lady which shines forth in the colour of Campaka flower, befitting for any neck ornament, indeed it might be glutted down while she is bewailing... [3-60-32]नूनम् विक्षिप्यमाणौ तौ बाहू पल्लव कोमलौ |
भक्षितौ वेपमान अग्रौ स हस्त आभरण अंगदौ || ३-६०-३३"Her two arms which are delicate like tender leaves, ornamented with bangles and bicep-lets might have been definitely nibbled while they are wriggling with quivering fingers... [3-60-33]पश्यन् इव च ताम् सीताम् अपश्यन् मदन अर्दितः |
उवाच राघवो वाक्यम् विलाप आश्रय दुर्वचम् || ३-६२-२Even if Raghava is not able to see Seetha in his presence he started talking to her in a kind of inarticulate wailing, as wailing pampered his articulacy because his speech took shelter of wailing instinct, and as he is cowed down by Love-god, and thus he started to vent out his heart in this way. [3-62-2]कदली काण्ड सदृशौ कदल्या संवृता उभौ |
ऊरू पश्यामि ते देवि न असि शक्ता निगूहितुम् || ३-६२-४"Maybe, both your thighs liken to the stalks of banana plants, thinking so, now you have lapped them in grovy banana plants, but I can distinguish which is which, thus now I caught sight of them, oh, lady, you are inapt at least to cover them from me. [3-62-4]
As you can see from the verses above, instantly after Rama finds out that Seetha is kidnapped, he sexualizes his environment by comparing it with Seetha’s body parts, such as thighs, breasts, etc… This suggests that he was most worried of the effect of Seetha’s absence on his kama (sexual desire)… Furthermore, later Rama considers the possibility of Seetha being killed by some Rakshasas. However, even the verses where he says that are not free from kama. He sexualizes Seetha when describing the body parts that the rakshasas must have devoured:
सा नूनम् आर्या मम राक्षसेन हि
अभ्याहृता खम् समुपेत्य भीरुः |
अपस्वरम् सु स्वर विप्रलापा
भयेन विक्रन्दितवति अभीक्ष्णम् || ३-६३-७"My noblewoman might be abducted by a demon, and on reaching the sky that lady who converses with a sweet voice might have wept a lot fearfully, and it is definite that she must have shouted a lot, untunefully... [3-63-7]तौ लोहितस्य प्रिय दर्शनस्य
सदा उचितौ उत्तम चंदनस्य |
वृत्तौ स्तनौ शोणित पंक दिग्धौ
नूनम् प्रियाया मम न अभिभात || ३-६३-८"Those two roundish bosoms of my ladylove which always deserved the application of pleasantly looking red-sandalwood's paste might definitely be unshiny, as they might be bedaubed with muddy blood when they are extricated from her body for devouring. [3-63-8]तत् श्लक्ष्ण सु व्यक्त मृदु प्रलापम्
तस्या मुखम् कुंचित केश भारम् |
रक्षो वशम् नूनम् उपगताया
न भ्राजते राहु मुखे यथा इंदुः || ३-६३-९"She has a sweet, softish, and very clear talkativeness on her lips. That visage with such lips is crowned with a hairdo with hair lumped together and plaited, such as her visage is, it must have become unshiny on her going into the repression of demon, as with an unshiny moon when repressed in the mouth of eclipsing planet Raahu, it is definite... [3-63-9]ताम् हार पाशस्य सदा उचित अंतम्
ग्रीवाम् प्रियाया मम सु व्रताया |
रक्षांसि नूनम् परिपीतवन्ति
शून्ये हि भित्वा रुधिर अशनानि || ३-६३-१०"The contours of the neck of that strait-laced ladylove of mine are always worthy for necklaces and chain-wears. The bloodthirsty demons would have indeed mangled that neck in a secluded place and they might have drunk her blood, it is definite... [3-63-10]मया विहीना विजने वने या
रक्षोभिः आहृत्य विकृष्यमाणा |
नूनम् विनादम् कुररि इव दीना
सा मुक्तवती आयत कान्त नेत्रा || ३-६३-११"While I was away from her in this uninhibited forest demons would have forcibly hauled her up when they are abducting that lady with broad-bright eyes, and she would have discordantly shrieked out like a piteous she-dove, it is definite... [3-63-11]
However, this is not the only time that Rama’s lamentation for Seetha was kama-based… In fact, there are many instances where Rama’s lamentation for her was kama-centric. For example, after Rama makes Sugriva the king of the Vanaras, he laments that Seetha is no longer with him, upon seeing the beautiful scenery of the environment in the rainy season and comparing its beauty to Seetha:
मन्द मारुत निःश्वासम् संध्या चंदन रंजितम् |
आपाण्डु जलदम् भाति काम आतुरम् इव अंबरम् || ३-२८-६"Slothful breezes as her sighs, sunset tingeing her as sandal paste, the sky with blanched clouds on her face appears like the one sighing for love. [3-28-6]एषा घर्म परिक्लिष्टा नव वारि परिप्लुता |
सीता इव शोक संतप्ता मही बाष्पम् विमुंचति || ३-२८-७"Overly agonised with the searing-summer, but thoroughly wetted with new waters, this earth looks like Seetha, both implacably outpouring tears. [3-28-7]
Then again, in Yuddha Kanda section 5, Rama laments for Seetha in front of Lakshmana. This lamentation is again very sexual in nature. Rama laments about Seetha’s increasing age and the inability to kiss her and have her breasts squish against him:
न मे दुह्खम् प्रिया दूरे न मे दुह्खम् हृता इति च |
तद् एव अनुशोचामि वयो अस्या हि अतिवर्तते || ६-५-५"There is no anguish for me that my beloved is at a distance, nor that she was taken away. Her age is indeed passing away. Only about this, I am repenting."वाहि वात यतः कन्या ताम् स्पृष्ट्वा माम् अपि स्पृश |
त्वयि मे गात्र संस्पर्शः चन्द्रे दृष्टि समागमः || ६-५-६"Oh, wind! Flow from the side of my beloved. Touch her and touch me too. It is through you that I get a contact of her limbs. It is through moon that I get a contact of her eyes."कदा नु चारु बिम्ब ओष्ठम् तस्याः पद्मम् इव आननम् |
ईषद् उन्नम्य पास्यामि रसायनम् इव आतुरः || ६-५-१३"When, gently raising her face looking like louts, with its beautiful teeth and lips, shall I drink as a sick man the sovereign drink of remedy?"तौ तस्याः सम्हतौ पीनौ स्तनौ ताल फल उपमौ |
कदा नु खलु स उत्कम्पौ हसन्त्या माम् भजिष्यतः || ६-५-१४"When will those breasts which are delightful close, bulging and quivering, looking like palmary fruits, indeed press me?"कदा नु खलु माम् साध्वी सीता अमर सुता उपमा |
स उत्कण्ठा कण्ठम् आलम्ब्य मोक्ष्यति आनन्दजम् जलम् || ६-५-२०"When indeed Seetha the virtuous lady similar to the child of a celestial, with an excited longing, will embrace my neck and release tears of joy?"
Furthermore, when Hanumana meets Seetha in Sundara Kanda, he tells her that in her absence, Rama has been in a miserable state due to lack of sex:
स तु मर्मणि घोरेण ताडितो मन्मथ इषुणा |
न शर्म लभते रामः सिम्ह अर्दित इव द्विपः || ५-३९-५१"Hit in the vitals by the darts of venerable Manmatha the god of love, Rama is not obtaining happiness, as an elephant gets tormented by a lion."
These quotes should be enough to show that Rama’s lamentation for Seetha’s absence was kama based! So, he was more worried that he will not be able to have sex with her, now that she has been kidnapped, instead of being genuinely worried for her safety. That is why the first thing Rama says to Hanumana when Hanumana claims that he found Seetha in Lanka (in Sundara Kanda) is:
वैदेहीम् अक्षताम् श्रुत्वा रामः तु उत्तरम् अब्रवीत् || ५-६५-४
क्व सीता वर्तते देवी कथम् च मयि वर्तते |
एतन् मे सर्वम् आख्यात वैदेहीम् प्रति वानराः || ५-६५-५Hearing of Seetha being alive, Rama on his part replied, "Where is Seetha, the princess? How is she disposed towards me? O monkeys! Tell me all that about Seetha."
Note how Rama does not ask about Seetha’s health or if she is safe. Instead, he asks about her disposition towards him. He is worried if Seetha is still interested in him or if she has fallen in love with Ravana and will not come back to him! This, along with the other evidence I provided earlier, suggests that Rama did not attack Lanka to “save” Seetha. Instead, he invaded Lanka so that he could continue to engage in sex with Seetha after killing Ravana and reconquering Seetha!
But there is one issue that many people will point out! If Rama was so sexually attracted to Seetha, why did he let her go after he killed Ravana? Why did he abandon her then? The answer is quite simple…
Due to Rama’s constant suspicion of Seetha’s loyalty, he first sends Hanumana to Seetha to convey her message back to him. The intent would have been to see Seetha’s disposition towards him via Seetha’s message that Hanumana conveys back to him:
ततह् शैलोपमं वीरं प्राञ्जलिं प्रणतं स्थितम् || ६-११२-२३
उवाचेदं वचो रामो हनूमन्तं प्लवङ्गमम् |Thereupon, Rama spoke the following words to the valiant Hanuma the monkey who was equal in size to a mountain and who was standing in humility, with his hands joined in salutation.अनुज्ज़्नाप्य महाराजमिमं सौम्य विभीषणम् || ६-११२-२४
प्रविश्य नगरीं लङ्कां कौशलं ब्रूहिमैथिलीम् |"O the benevolent one! Taking permission from this Vibhishana, the great king and entering into the City of Lanka, inform about our welfare to Seetha."वैदेह्यै मां कुशलिनं सुग्रीवं च सलक्ष्मणम् || ६-११२-२५
अचक्ष्व वदतां श्रेष्ठ रावणं च हतं रणे |"O Hanuma, the proficient one in speech! Inform Seetha that myself together with Lakshmana and Sugreeva are well and that Ravana had been killed in battle."प्रियमेतदुदाहृत्य वैदेह्यस्त्वं हरीश्वर || ६-११२-२६
प्रतिगृह्य च संदेशमुपावर्तितुमर्हसि |"O Hanuma the master of monkeys! Making clear this favourite news to Seetha, you ought to return, taking back her message."
After meeting Seetha and taking her message, Hanumana then conveys the message back to Rama:
तमुवाच महाप्रज्ञमभिगम्य प्लवङ्गमः |
रामं वचनमर्थज्ञो वरं सर्वधनुष्मताम् || ६-११४-१Having offered his salutation to that Rama, who was excellent among all the wielders of the bow and whose eyes resembled the lotus-petals, that highly intelligent Hanuma spoke to him as follows:यन्निमित्तोऽयमारम्भः कर्मणां च फलोदयः |
तां देवीं शोकसन्तप्तां मैथिलीं द्रष्टुमर्हसि || ६-११४-२"You ought to see Seetha that divine lady who is consumed by grief, for whose sake this course of actions was undertaken and which has (now) borne fruit."सा हि शोकसमाविष्टा बाष्पपर्याकुलेक्षणा |
मैथिली विजयं श्रुत्वा तव हर्षमुपागमत् || ६-११४-३"Hearing the delightful occurrence of your victory, that Seetha, was stricken with grief, with eyes filled with tears"पूर्वकात्प्रत्ययाच्चाहमुक्तो विश्वस्तया तया |
भर्तारं द्रष्टुमिच्छामि कृतार्थं सहलक्ष्मणम् || ६-११४-४"By her, who has trust in me because of confidence which has trust in me because of confidence which had been inspired me on a former occasion, I was spoken as follows: 'I desire to see my husband, who has accomplished his purpose, together with Lakshmana.'"
As you can see from this text here, Hanumana tells Rama that Seetha was full of grief and filled with tears upon hearing that he (Rama) won the war. Furthermore, as mentioned in the last verse above, in Seetha's message, she addressed the conquest of Lanka as "Rama's purpose", instead of "our purpose". She therefore alienates herself from the conquest of Lanka, subtly suggesting some unhappiness on the part of Seetha regarding Rama's successful conquest of Lanka. This made Rama miserable and he felt that Seetha no longer loved him. This was the reason he abandoned Seetha. She no longer loved him, and hence he would not be able to enjoy sex with her as much as he could earlier. In addition, his pride and manliness would not allow him to have sex with a woman that loved another man!
CONCLUSION: Rama did not wage war on Ravana to save Seetha. Instead he waged war on Ravana so that he could reconquer the now independent Seetha and continue to have sex with her! The motive for fighting the war was not to do good to Seetha. Instead, it was a selfish motive, meant to do good to himself.
Rama Waged War to Kill Ravana:
Many people would believe that Rama’s enemity with Ravana only arose from his desire to save Seetha. However, this is incorrect. Even prior to Seetha’s kidnap, Rama and Ravana were enemies.
In Aranya Kanda, it is mentioned that Rama, Lakshmana, and Seetha entered the Dandaka forest. After entering the forest, they soon reached Rishi Suteekshna’s hut. They told the rishi that they were looking for Rishi Agastya for a very long time, but could not find him, and asked for directions to Agastya:
अथ आश्रमस्थो विनयात् कदाचित् तम् महामुनिम् || ४-११-२९
उपासीनः स काकुत्स्थः सुतीक्ष्णम् इदम् अब्रवीत् |Then on one day while staying in that hermitage Rama submissively said this to that sage Suteekshna who is sitting nearby. [4-11-29b, 30a]अस्मिन् अरण्ये भगवन् अगस्त्यो मुनिसत्तमः || ४-११-३०
वसति इति मया नित्यम् कथाः कथयताम् श्रुतम् |"I have always heard through the narratives narrated by other sages that the godly and eminent sage Agastya is residing in this forest. [4-11-30b, 31a]न तु जानामि तम् देशम् वनस्य अस्य महत्तया || ४-११-३१
कुत्र आश्रम पदम् पुण्यम् महर्षेः तस्य धीमतः |"But due to the vastness of this forest I have not known that place, where is the pious hermitage of that astute sage? [4-11-31b, 32a]
Upon reaching Agastya’s hut, they told him that they were instructed by Dashratha to go to his hermitage and meet Agastya:
स प्रविश्य आश्रम पदम् लक्ष्मणो राघव अनुजः |
अगस्त्य शिष्यम् आसाद्य वाक्यम् एतद् उवाच ह || ३-१२-१On entering the hermitage Lakshmana, the younger brother of Raghava, reached Agastya's disciple and spoke this sentence to him. [3-12-1]राजा दशरथो नाम ज्येष्ठः तस्य सुतो बली |
रामः प्राप्तो मुनिम् द्रष्टुम् भार्यया सह सीतया || ३-१२-२"A king named Dasharatha was there, his eldest son and the dynamic one, Rama has arrived along with his wife Seetha to see the sage. [3-12-2]लक्ष्मणो नाम तस्य अहम् भ्राता तु अवरजो हितः |
अनुकूलः च भक्तः च यदि ते श्रोत्रम् आगतः || ३-१२-३"I am his loyal, dedicated, and adherent younger brother named Lakshmana, if ever you have heard of us. [3-12-3]ते वयम् वनम् अत्युग्रम् प्रविष्टाः पितृ शासनात् |
द्रष्टुम् इच्छ्हामहे सर्वे भगवन्तम् निवेद्यताम् || ३-१२-४By the command of our father, we have entered this dense forest and desire to see the divine sire. Please report. [3–12–4]
This suggests that when exiling Rama, Dashratha told Rama to go and meet Agastya. Definitely this meeting must have had some purpose. If we look at Rama’s conversation with some Rishis prior to going to Agastya’s hermitage, this purpose gets revealed. Rama tells the Rishis:
विप्रकारम् अपाक्रष्टुम् राक्षसैः भवताम् इमम् |
पितुः तु निर्देशकरः प्रविष्टो अहम् इदम् वनम् || ३-६-२३I came into this forest in obedience to my father's orders to repel the aggression of demons against you.भवताम् अर्थ सिद्ध्यर्थम् आगतोऽहम् यदृच्छया |
तस्य मे अयम् वने वासो भविष्यति महाफलः | ३-६-२४I came here to acomplish your task spontaneously, Therefore, my stay in the forest will yield great results.तपस्विनाम् रणे शत्रून् हन्तुम् इच्छामि राक्षसान् |
पश्यन्तु वीर्यम् ऋषयः सः ब्रातुर् मे तपोधनाः || ३-६-२५I wish to kill in the fight the demons who are your enemies. O great ascetics, you may witness my prowess supported by my brother.
From this text, we realize that Rama entered the Dandaka forest on Dashratha’s wish to eliminate the rakshasas. This suggests that Rama was an enemy of the rakshasas (and their ruler, Ravana, by extension) from the very start. Rama and Dashratha’s desire to slay the rakshasas was the reason why Rama approached Agastya. That is why Agastya, who knew of Rama’s future arrival in the forest from Dashratha (prior to the exile) told Rama to live two yojanas south in Panchavati, where he could deal with the Rakshasas he needed to kill and thereby fulfill Dashratha’s orders:
ततो अब्रवीत् मुनि श्रेष्ठः श्रुत्वा रामस्य भाषितम् |
ध्यात्वा मुहूर्तम् धर्मात्मा धीरो धीरतरम् वचः || ३-१३-१२Then that eminent sage Agastya on contemplating a while about what Rama has said, that virtuous and confident sage spoke more ideational word to Rama. [3-13-12]इतो द्वि योजने तात बहु मूल फल उदकः |
देशो बहु मृगः श्रीमान् पंचवटि अभिविश्रुतः || ३-१३-१३"A most prosperous place called Panchavati is there at a distance of two yojana-s from here, oh, dear Rama, which is abundant with tubers, fruits, water, and many deer." Thus Agastya started to tell. [3-13-13]तत्र गत्वा आश्रम पदम् कृत्वा सौमित्रिणा सह |
रमस्व त्वम् पितुर् वाक्यम् यथा उक्तम् अनुपालयन् || ३-१३-१४"On your going there along with Saumitri, and on erecting a hermitage you may take delight in there complying the decreed order of your father. [3-13-14]विदितो हि एष वृत्तांतो मम सर्वः तव अनघ |
तपसः च प्रभावेण स्नेहाद् दशरथस्य च || ३-१३-१५"Indeed all of this episode of yours is known to me, oh, merited one, by the ability of my asceticism, and also by my friendship with Dasharatha. [3-13-15]
Prior to Rama leaving Agastya’s hermitage to travel 2 yojanas south to Panchavati, Agastya gives Rama some weapons with which the latter can use to accomplish his purpose of slaying the Rakshasas:
एवम् उक्त्वा फलैः मूलैः पुष्पैः च अन्यैः च राघवम् |
पूजयित्वा यथा कामम् ततो अगस्त्यः तम् अब्रवीत् || ३-१२-३१Saying thus, Agastya adored Raghava well with fruits, tubers, flowers and others according to his ardency, and then he said this to Rama. [3-12-31]इदम् दिव्यम् महत् चापम् हेम वज्र विभूषितम् |
वैष्णवम् पुरुषव्याघ्र निर्मितम् विश्वकर्मणा || ३-१२-३२
अमोघः सूर्य संकाशो ब्रह्मदत्तः शर उत्तमः |"This sacred bow that is decorated with gold and diamonds is crafted by the divine architect Vishvakarma pertains to Vishnu, and these unwasteful arrows equalling sun in their blaze are the gift of Brahma. [3-12-32, 33a]दत्तो मम महेन्द्रेण तूणी च अक्षय सायकौ || ३-१२-३३
संपूर्णौ निशितैः बाणैः ज्वलद्भिः इव पावकैः |
महा रजत कोशो अयम् असिः हेमविभूषितः || ३-१२-३४"Also these two inexhaustible quivers packed with arrows that have the blaze of Ritual-fire, and this sword decorated in gold together with its sheath made up of excellent golden are once given to me by Indra. [3-12-33b, 34]अनेन धनुषा राम हत्वा संख्ये महासुरान् |
आजहार श्रियम् दीप्ताम् पुरा विष्णुर् दिव ओकसाम् || ३-१२-३५"By this bow, oh, Rama, once Vishnu eliminated horrible demons in war and brought back radiant prosperity to the celestials. [3-12-35]तत् धनुः तौ च तूणि च शरम् खड्गम् च मानद |
जयाय प्रतिगृह्णीष्व वज्रम् वज्रधरो यथा || ३-१२-३६"The bow, these two quivers, arrows, and the sword, oh, Rama, the endower of grace, receive and wield them to triumph over the demons as Indra would wield Thunderbolt. [3-12-36]एवम् उक्त्वा महा तेजाः समस्तम् तत् वर आयुधम् |
दत्त्वा रामाय भगवान् अगस्त्यः पुनर् अब्रवीत् || ३-१२-३७On saying thus that great resplendent and godly sage Agastya, gave all of those best weapons to Rama, and again spoke to Rama [3-12-37]
As you can see in the text above, Agastya gives these best weapons to Rama and urges him to slay the rakshasas by giving him the prior example of Indra. Although Seetha tells Rama that he should not start a fight with the Rakshasas without provocation and that he should obey the (Rakshasa) law of the land in the Dandaka Forest in, Rama does not listen and goes on to slay the Rakshasas, as he was urged to do by Dashratha, Agastya, Suteekshna, and others! So, in that sense, Rama attacked the Rakshasas without being provoked by them. He was the initial aggressor. Keeping that in mind, it would make sense that he also had a desire to eliminate Ravana, the king of these Rakshasas he was eliminating from the Dandaka Forest…
In fact, once Rama kills Ravana, he says that Ravana and the south of India was conquered not by him to save Seetha, but instead, by Agastya:
निर्जिता जीवलोकस्य तपसा भावितात्मना |
अगस्त्येन दुराधर्षा मुनिना दक्षिणेव दिक् || ६-११५-१४"You have been won by me, whose mind stands purified by asceticism as the southern quarter, which was difficult to be approached by the world of mortals, was conquered by the Sage Agastya."
Note that in the verse above, Rama uses the word "nirjita", meaning "conquered/subdued/won" to describe what he had done to Seetha, thereby suggesting that in Rama's mind, Seetha was Ravana's property (i.e. Seetha loved Ravana), and that Rama had conquered this "property" of Ravana. This further supports my claims in the previous section that Rama did not believe that he was rescuing or saving Seetha.
Now on to the more important meaning of the verse...
In this text here, Rama says that the south (which includes Lanka) was conquered by Agastya. Hence the plan to conquer Lanka was an extension of Agastya’s mission to eliminate Rakshasas from the Dandaka Forest. Agastya urged Rama to attack Lanka and conquer it. That is also why Agastya travelled 100 yojanas (13200 km), from India to Lanka during the war period. He helped Rama out by giving him the Aditya Hridayam inin the midst of Rama’s last fight with Ravana when Rama was completely overpowered by Ravana and his self confidence was completely shattered:
ततो युद्धपरिश्रान्तं समरे चिन्तया स्थितम् |
रावणं चाग्रतो दृष्ट्वा युद्धाय समुपस्थितम् || ६-१०५-१
दैवतैश्च समागम्य द्रष्टुमभ्यागतो रणम् |
उपगम्याब्रवीद्राममगस्त्यो भगवान् ऋषिः || ६-१०५-२Approaching Rama standing absorbed in fight in the battle-field, exhausted as he was by the fight, and seeing Ravana who came nearby, facing him duly prepared for the battle, the glorious sage, Agastya, who had come together with the gods, to perceive the battle, then spoke as follows:
Prior to the war on Lanka, Agastya had an active role in the defeat of Khara and Dushana. If we read the text carefully, it is mentioned that Agastya travelled 2 Yojanas (26.4 km) south to where Rama was, when Rama was fighting off Khara and Dushana’s army:
ततो राज ऋषयः सर्वे सम्गताः परम ऋषयः || ३-३०-३३
सभाज्य मुदिता रामम् स अगस्त्या इदम् अब्रुवन् |All the kingly-sages and elite-sages along with Sage Agastya, who came here to witness the victory of Rama, then on foregathering near at Rama delightedly said this on adoring him. [3-30-33b, 34a]
Is it a coincidence that Agastya travelled 26.4 km, a very long distance, south to Panchavati, and that too, to Rama’s hermitage right in time to watch the fight between Rama and Khara/Dushana’s army? In my opinion, it seems highly absurd that such timing could be a coincidence. Agastya likely knew from beforehand (possibly from Rama) that Rama would allure Khara and Dushana’s army to attack him, hence Agastya traveled the far distance to Panchavati to witness the fight in time.
This once more shows Agastya’s role in the slaughter of the Rakshasas in the Dandaka Forest of Southern India, and in Lanka! With Agastya urging Rama to conquer all Rakshasa lands, including Lanka, Rama would have still attacked Lanka, regardless or not of whether Seetha was kidnapped. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, Rama clearly states that the attack on Lanka was on Agastya’s orders, not his personal mission to rescue Seetha.
CONCLUSION: Rama planned to attack Lanka on the orders of mainly Dashratha and Agastya. Seetha being kidnapped by Ravana was just an unplanned event. Even if Seetha was not kidnapped, Rama would have still attacked Lanka! and attempted to conquer it.