Thursday, 22 March 2018

According to the original scriptures, there is no mention of the story of Ravana and Rambha, then why do people spread false stories of the curse of Ravana?

My Answer:
That is what happens when people start going beyond admiring their heroes and start to idolize/deify them. Deifying the heroes means that they have to vilify whom they perceive as villains, to great a theme of white vs black, pure vs impure, dharma vs adharma. I think you get the point. In order to justify Rama’s sheer aggression against Ravana in the epic, his fanclub needs to vilify and demonize Ravana. What way other than branding him a rapist would be able to accomplish that?
Anybody that has read the Valmiki Ramayana with an open mind would notice that Ravana was not a rapist.
Why do I say so?
Well, let us analyze the mentions of Ravana being a rapist than many people of his fanclub give…
Before I start, I would like to say that since scholars have already shown the Uttara Kanda to be a later interpolation to the epic, it will therefore not be considered in assessing Ravana’s character…
Ravana Raping Rambha, Vedavati, Varuna’s Daughter
We find a mention of Ravana raping Rambha, Vedavati, and Varuna’s daughter in Yuddha Kanda Section 60:
शप्तोऽहम् वेदवत्या च यदा सा धर्षिता पुरा || ६-६०-१०
सेयम् सीता महाभागा जाता जनकनन्दिनी |
"Further, I was formerly cursed by Vedavati when she was raped by me. The same Vedavati is born as the highly fortunate Seetha the daughter of Janaka."
उमा नन्दीश्वरश्चापि रम्भा वरुणकन्यका || ६-६०-११
यथोक्तास्तन्मया प्राप्तम् न मिध्या ऋषिभाषितम् |
"What was predicted by Uma (Parvati), Nandi the attendant of Shiva, Rambha, and the daughter of Varuna has come to pass! The words of the sages never prove false."
However, the critical edition removes the aforementioned verses, and hence we ought to conclude them as later interpolations to the epic. But we do find a mention of Ravana raping Rambha, in the Ramopakhayana (a recital of the Ramayana, by Markandeya to Yuddhistira) of the Mahabharatha:
And Brahma himself then said, 'O descendant of Kakutstha, O son, in thee that art honest and pure and conversant with the duties of royal sages, this conduct is not strange. Listen, however, to these words of mine! Thou hast, O hero, slain this enemy of the gods, the Gandharvas, the Nagas, the Yakshas, the Danavas, and the great Rishis! It was through my grace that he had hitherto been unslayable of all creatures. And indeed, it was for some reason that I had tolerated him for some time! The wretch, however, abducted Sita for his own destruction. And as regards Sita, I protected her through Nalakuvera's curse. For that person had cursed Ravana of old, saying, that if he ever approached an unwilling woman, his head should certainly be split into a hundred fragments. Let no suspicion, therefore, be thine! O thou of great glory, accept thy wife!
What the Rama fanclub fails to note is that this passage suggests that Nalakubera cursed Ravana, after he raped Rambha, that his head would split into hundred fragments. However, in the Uttara Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana where this curse of Nalakubera is narrated, the curse was that his head would break into 7 fragments, not 100 (Uttara Kanda Section 26, Critical Edition, Translation by Bibek Debroy):
Hearing this, Vaishravana’s son became enraged. Hearing about this severe act of rape, he started to meditate. In this way, Vaishravana’s son got to know everything about that deed. His eyes became coppery red with rage and he instantly took some water in his hand. Having touched water, he followed the rituals and flung it up into the sky. He then pronounced a terrible curse on the Indra among the rakshasas. “She did not desire it, yet you forcibly raped her. Therefore, you will not be able to approach any other maiden who does not desire it. If a woman does not desire it and you rape her because of your desire, your head will shatter into seven fragments.”
Such a discrepancy casts a doubt on the authenticity of the rape and associated curse mentioned in the Ramopakhayana. Furthermore, in the Valmiki Ramayana, it is Brahma who gives Ravana a curse, after he raped Punjikisthala, that if he rapes another female his head would shatter into a hundred fragments (Yuddha Kanda Section 13). Hence, what likely happened is that the poet who added the Ramopakhayana into the Mahabharatha (I will give my reasons why it is a later addition to the Mahabharatha later on) borrowed from the Valmiki Ramayana, but confused the curses of Brahma and Nalakubera, and hence introduced a curse on Ravana that was a mix of the curses of Brahma and Nalakubera in the Valmiki Ramayana (i.e. In Ramopakhayana, the curse was on Ravana for raping Rambha (part of Nalakubera’s curse) and the curse was that his head would be split into a hundred fragments (part of Brahma’s curse) if he dared to rape another female).
Now why did I say that the Ramopakhayana is an interpolation to the original epic. Well, first of all, it gives the story of the origin of Ravana and his brothers, which is part of the interpolated Uttara Kanda. Hence, the Ramopakhayana was written when the masses already knew about Uttara Kanda. Since Uttara Kanda was written in the post-Gupta period, it implies that the Ramopakhayana was written after that period, and therefore many centuries after after Vyasa wrote his original Mahabharatha.
Furthermore, let us examine why Yuddhistira wanted to hear of Rama’s story (the Ramopakhayana), from Markandeya. Below is the narrative that describes his reasons. The context is that Draupadi was just saved from Jayadratha by the Pandavas, and Yuddhistira is immersed in sorrow that his wife had to go through all this pain:
Janamejaya said, "What did those tigers among men, the Pandavas, do, after they had suffered such misery in consequence of the ravishment of Draupadi?"
Vaisampayana said, "Having defeated Jayadratha and rescued Krishna, the virtuous king Yudhishthira took his seat by the side of that best of Munis. And among those foremost of ascetics who were expressing their grief upon bearing Draupadi's misfortune, Yudhishthira, the son of Pandu, addressed Markandeya, saying, 'O adorable Sire, amongst the gods and the ascetics, thou art known to have the fullest knowledge of both the past as well as; the future. A doubt existeth in my mind, which I would ask thee to solve! This lady is the daughter of Drupada; she hath issued from the sacrificial altar and hath not been begotten of the flesh; and she is highly blessed and is also the daughter-in-law of the illustrious Pandu. I incline to think that Time, and human Destiny that dependeth on our acts, and the Inevitable, are irresistible in respect of creatures. (If it were not so), how could such a misfortune afflict this wife of ours so faithful and virtuous, like a false accusation of theft against an honest man? The daughter of Drupada hath never committed any sinful act, nor, hath she done anything that is not commendable: on the contrary, she hath assiduously practised the highest virtues towards Brahmanas. And yet the foolish king Jayadratha had carried her away by force. In consequence of this act of violence on her, that sinful wretch hath his hair shaved off his head and sustained also, with all his allies, defeat in battle. It is true we have rescued her after slaughtering the troops of Sindhu. But the disgrace of this ravishment of our wife during our hours of carelessness, hath stained us, to be sure. This life in the wilderness is full of miseries. We subsist by chase; and though dwelling in the woods, we are obliged to slay the denizens thereof that live with us! This exile also that we suffer is due to the act of deceitful kinsmen! Is there any one who is more unfortunate than I am? Hath thou ever seen or heard of such a one before?"
"Markandeya said, 'O bull of the Bharata race, even Rama suffered unparalleled misery, for the evil-minded Ravana, king of the Rakshasas, having recourse to deceit and overpowering the vulture Jatayu, forcibly carried away his wife Sita from his asylum in the woods. Indeed, Rama, with the help of Sugriva, brought her back, constructing a bridge across the sea, and consuming Lanka with his keen-edged arrows.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'In what race was Rama born and what was the measure of his might and prowess? Whose son also was Ravana and for what was it that he had any misunderstanding with Rama? It behoveth thee, O illustrious one, to tell me all this in detail; for I long to hear the story of Rama of great achievements!'
From the above passage, it is very evident that Yuddhistira is completely ignorant about Rama and his story. He knows nothing about who Rama is, and who Ravana is. This ignorance is the root cause for the revelation of the Markandeya. However, we have references Mahabharatha prior to this incident that suggests that Yuddhistira knows Rama’s story. First of all, in Sabha Parva, when convincing his brothers to play the second dice match, he tells them:
Yudhishthira said,--'Creatures obtain fruits good and ill according to the dispensation of the Ordainer of the creation. Those fruits are inevitable whether I play or not. This is a summons to dice; it is, besides the command of the old king. Although I know that it will prove destructive to me, yet I cannot refuse.'
Vaisampayana continued,--"Although (a living) animal made of gold was an impossibility, yet Rama suffered himself to be tempted by a (golden) deer. Indeed, the minds of men over whom calamities hang, became deranged and out of order. Yudhishthira, therefore, having said these words, retraced his steps along with his brothers. And knowing full well the deception practised by Sakuni, the son of Pritha came back to sit at dice with him again. These mighty warriors again entered that assembly, afflicting the hearts of all their friends. And compelled by Fate they once more sat down at ease for gambling for the destruction of themselves."
Yuddhistira says in the above passage “although (a living) animal made of gold was an impossibility, yet Rama suffered himself to be tempted by a (golden) deer”. Such speech shows a detailed knowledge/awareness of Rama’s story. Furthermore, Yuddhistira, being a Kshatriya, is educated in the Vedas, and Rig Veda (10.93) clearly mentions Rama in it:
1. MIGHTY are ye, and far-extended, Heaven and Earth: both Worlds are evermore to us like two young Dames.
Guard us thereby from stronger foe; guard us hereby to give us strength.
2 In each succeeding sacrifice that mortal honoureth the Gods,
He who, most widely known and famed for happiness, inviteth them.
3 Ye who are Rulers over all, great is your sovran power as Gods.
Ye all possess all majesty: all must be served in sacrifice.
4 These are the joyous Kings of Immortality, Parijman, Mitra, Aryaman, and Varuṇa.
What else is Rudra, praised of men? the Maruts, Bhaga, Pūṣaṇa?
5 Come also to our dwelling, Lords of ample wealth, common partakers of our waters, Sun and Moon,
When the great Dragon of the Deep hath settled down upon their floors.
6 And let the Aśvins, Lords of splendour, set us free,—both Gods, and, with their Laws, Mitra and Varuṇa.
Through woes, as over desert lands, he speeds to ample opulence.
7 Yea, let the Aśvins Twain he gracious unto us, even Rudras, and all Gods, Bhaga, Rathaspati;
Parijman, Ṛbhu, Vāja, O Lords of all wealth Ṛbhukṣaṇas.
8 Prompt is Ṛbhukṣan, prompt the worshipper's strong drink: may thy fleet Bay Steeds, thine who speedest on, approach.
Not mans but God's is sacrifice whose psalm is unassailable.
9 O God Savitar, harmed by none, lauded, give us a place among wealthy princes.
With his Car-steeds at once 'hath our Indra guided the reins and the car of these men.
10 To these men present here, O Heaven and Earth, to us grant lofty fame extending over all mankind.
Give us a steed to win us strength, a steed with wealth for victory.
11 This speaker, Indra—for thou art our Friend—wherever he may be, guard thou, Victor! for help, ever for help
Thy wisdom, Vasu! prosper him.
12 So have they strengthened this mine hymn which seems to take its bright path to the Sun, and reconciles the men:
Thus forms a carpenter the yoke of horses, not to be displaced.
13 Whose chariot-seat hath come again laden with wealth and bright with gold,
Lightly, with piercing ends, as ’twere two ranks of heroes ranged for fight.
14 This to Duḥśīma Pṛthavāna have I sung, to Vena, Rama, to the nobles, and the King.
They yoked five hundred, and their love of us was famed upon their way.
15 Besides, they showed us seven-and-seventy horses here.
Tānva at once displayed his gift, Pārthya at once displayed his gift; and straightway Māyava showed his.
If Rig Veda mentions Rama and Yuddhistira is well versed in the Rig Veda, we have no reason to believe that Yuddhistira would not know the history of Rama. Furthermore, Lomasa recites Rama’s story to Yuddhistira, very briefly, even before Jayadratha abducted Draupadi:
Bathing here, Rama (of Bhrigu's race) regained his might, which had been taken away from him (by Dasaratha's son). Bathing here, O son of Pandu, with thy brothers and Krishna, thou wilt certainly regain that energy of thine that hath been taken away by Duryodhana, even as Rama regained his that had been taken away by Dasaratha's son in hostile encounter."
Vaisampayana continued, "At these words of Lomasa, Yudhishthira bathed there with his brothers and Krishna, and offered oblations of water, O Bharata, to the gods and the Pitris. And, O bull among men, after Yudhishthira had bathed in that tirtha, his body blazed forth in brighter effulgence, and he became invisible in respect of all foes. The son of Pandu then, O king, asked Lomasa, saying, 'O illustrious one, why had Rama's energy and might been taken away? And how also did he regain it? O exalted one, I ask thee, tell me everything.'"
"Lomasa said, 'Listen, O king, to the history of Rama (the son of Dasaratha) and Rama of Bhrigu's line gifted with intelligence. For the destruction of Ravana, O king, Vishnu, in his own body, took his birth as the son of illustrious Dasaratha. We saw in Ayodhya that son of Dasaratha after he had been born. It was then that Rama of Bhrigu's line, the son of Richika by Renuka, hearing of Rama the son of Dasaratha--of spotless deeds--went to Ayodhya, impelled by curiosity, and taking with him that celestial bow so fatal to the Kshatriyas, for ascertaining the prowess of Dasaratha's son. And Dasaratha, hearing that Rama of Bhrigu's race had arrived on the confines of his domains, set his own son Rama to receive the hero with respect. And beholding Dasaratha's son approach and stand before him with ready weapons, Rama of Bhrigu's line smilingly addressed him, O son of Kunti, saying, 'O king, O exalted one, string, if thou canst, with all thy mighty, this bow which in my hands was made the instrument of destroying the Kshatriya race.' Thus addressed, Dasaratha's son answered, 'O illustrious one, it behoveth thee not to insult me thus. Nor am I, amongst the regenerate classes, deficient in the virtues of the Kshatriya order. The descendants of Ikshwaku in special never boast of the prowess of their arms.' Then unto Dasaratha's son who said so, Rama of Bhrigu's line replied, 'A truce to all crafty speech, O king! Take this bow.' At this, Rama the son of Dasaratha, took in anger from the hands of Rama of Bhrigu's line that celestial bow that had dealt death to the foremost of Kshatriyas. And, O Bharata, the mighty hero smilingly strung that bow without the least exertion, and with its twang loud as the thunder-rattle, affrighted all creatures. And Rama, the son of Dasaratha, then, addressing Rama of Bhrigu's said, 'Here, I have strung this bow. What else, O Brahmana, shall I do for thee?' Then Rama, the son of Jamadagni, gave unto the illustrious son of Dasaratha a celestial arrow and said, 'Placing this on the bow-string, draw to thy ear, O hero!'
"Lomasa continued, 'Hearing this, Dasaratha's son blazed up in wrath and said, 'I have heard what thou hast said, and even pardoned thee. O son of Bhrigu's race, thou art full of vanity. Through the Grandsire's grace thou hast obtained energy that is superior to that of the Kshatriyas. And it is for this that thou insultest me. Behold me now in my native form: I give thee sight.' Then Rama of Bhrigu's race beheld in the body of Dasaratha's son the Adityas with the Vasus, the Rudras, the Sadhyas with the Marutas, the Pitris, Hutasana, the stellar constellations and the planets, the Gandharvas, the Rakshasas, the Yakshas, the Rivers, the tirthas, those eternal Rishis identified with Brahmaand called the Valkhilyas, the celestial Rishis, the Seas and Mountains, the Vedas with the Upanishads and Vashats and the sacrifices, the Samans in their living form, the Science of weapons, O Bharata, and the Clouds with rain and lightning, O Yudhishthira! And the illustrious Vishnu then shot that shaft. And at this the earth was filled with sounds of thunder, and burning meteors. O Bharata, began to flash through the welkin. And showers of dust and rain fell upon the surface of the earth. And whirlwinds and frightful sounds convulsed everything, and the earth herself began to quake. And shot by the hand of Rama, that shalt, confounding by its energy the other Rama, came back blazing into Rama's hands. And Bhargava, who had thus been deprived of his senses, regaining consciousness and life, bowed unto Rama--that manifestation of Vishnu's power.
Therefore, we have much evidence that Yuddhistira was well aware of Rama and his story, much before Draupadi’s kidnap by Jayadratha. Hence, there is no reason for him to tell Markandeya he does not know who Rama is. For this reason, Yuddhistira’s question to Markandeya seems like a later addition to the epic: “In what race was Rama born and what was the measure of his might and prowess? Whose son also was Ravana and for what was it that he had any misunderstanding with Rama?” That being said, it logically follows that since the Ramopakhayana is a response to Yuddhistira’s question, it must also be an interpolation since the question posed by Yuddhistira itself is an interpolation. Without any question being asked, there cannot be a response.
Hence, we would have to conclude that Ravana did not rape Rambha.
Ravana Raping Punjikisthala
We are told that Ravana raped Punjikisthala, and subsequently got a curse that if he raped another woman, his head would burst into a hundred fragments, in Yuddha Kanda Section 13. To understand this description, it is of utmost importance to first look at the context. Yuddha Kanda Section 12 begins with Ravana holding a Sabha with his ministers. In that Sabha, he orders Prahasta, the leader of his army, to make appropriate defenses for Lanka. He asks Prahasta to station the army, consisting of the four divisions (cavalry, infantry, chariots, elephants) both inside and outside of the Lanka fort. Hearing these words, Prahasta proceeds off to accomplish the task. After stationing the army in such a manner, he returns back to the Sabha. Then, Ravana tells everyone how he is sexually attracted to Seetha... He describes her body parts with feelings of kamaand makes it quite clear that he was tormented by his kama for her. To hide his hurt male ego that was punctured by Seetha's words, and the embarrassment of being rejected by Seetha from his ministers, he goes on to say that Seetha requested him to not make advances towards her for a period of 1 year as she still loved Rama, which he agreed to at the time. He then laments, saying that he was tired of waiting for this lengthy period, and constantly tormented by kama for that same reason. After speaking in that manner, he tells his ministers that he does not want to give Seetha back to Rama, and hence he asks for his ministers help in killing off Rama and Lakshmana. Hearing these words of Ravana, immersed in kama, Kumbhakarna, got very angry and lashed out at Ravana's stupid decision of kidnapping Seetha. After spending a few verses rebuking Ravana for his impulsive decision of kidnapping Seetha, Kumbhakarna calmed down and reassured his brother that he would fight to eliminate Rama and Lakshmana. That concludes Yuddha Kanda Section 12.
Yuddha Kanda Section 13 begins by Ravana's minister Mahaparsva intervening and saying that Ravana should fulfill his sexual desire for Seetha by forcefully having sex with her (i.e. raping her). He says that the entire Rakshasa army will defend him from invaders such as Indra, Rama, Lakshmana, etc... However, Ravana replies saying that in past times, he had raped a female named Punjikasthala and after being raped she went to Brahma and reported this to him. Upon hearing of the rape, Brahma cursed him that if he tries to rape another female, his head would burst into 100 fragments, and for that reason, he cannot rape Seetha:
महापार्श्व निबोध त्वम् रहस्यम् किंचिदात्मनः |
चिरवृत्तम् तदाख्यास्ये यदवाप्तम् पुरा मया || ६-१३-१०
पितामहस्य भवनम् गच्चन्तीम् पुञ्जिकस्थलाम् |
चञ्चूर्यमाणामद्राक्षमाकाशेऽग्निशिखामिव || ६-१३-११
सा प्रसह्य मया भुक्ता कृता विवसना ततः |
स्वयम्भूभवनम् प्राप्ता लोलिता नलिनी यथा || ६-१३-१२
तच्च तस्य तदा मन्ये ज्ञातमासीन्महात्मनः |
अथ सम्कुपितो वेधा मामिदम् वाक्यमब्रवी || ६-१३-१३
अद्यप्रभृति यामन्याम् बलान्नारीम् गमिष्यसि |
तदा ते शतधा मुर्धा फलिष्यति न संशयः || ६-१३-१४
इत्यहम् तस्य शापस्य भीतः प्रसभमेव ताम् |
नारोहये बलात्सीताम् वैदेहीम् शय्ने शुभे || ६-१३-१५
"O, Mahaparsva! Know a little secret about me. I shall tell you an incident, which occurred to me long ago. Once I saw a celestial nymph, Punjikasthala (by name) flashing like a flame, concealing herself in the sky and proceeding towards the abode of Brahma. She was made unclothed by me and was enjoyed forcibly. Thereafter, appearing like a crumpled lotus, she went to the abode of Brahma. I think that the matter was made known to the high souled Brahama and then the enraged Brahma spoke to me the following words: From today onwards, if you revel with any other woman forcibly, your head then undoubtedly will break asunder into a hundred pieces. Fearing the curse given in this manner by Brahama, I am not violently making Sita the daughter of Videha, to mount on my beautiful bed forcibly."
After stating that, Ravana then goes on to praise his own valor and says that Rama stands no chance against him as he is superior to even Indra and Varuna, let alone Rama. This concludes Yuddha Kanda Section 13.
Yuddha Kanda Section 14 begins by Vibhishana joining the discussion and urging Ravana to return Seetha to Rama. However, Prahasta intervenes and tells Vibhishana that there is no fear of Rama, who is very weak in comparison to the Rakshasas. Vibhishana then replies by praising Rama's valor to the skies, just like a bard. After praising Rama in such a manner, Yuddha Kanda Section 14 comes to an end...
Now coming to the analysis of these 3 sections (Yuddha Kanda Sections 12-14)...
Yuddha Kanda Section 14 begins with the following verse:
निशाचरेन्द्रस्य निशम्य वाक्यम् |
स कुम्भकर्णस्य च गर्जितानि |
विभीषणो राक्षसराजमुख्य |
मुवाच वाक्यम् हितम्र्थयुक्तम् || ६-१४-१
Hearing the words of Ravana the king of demons and the growls of Kumbhakarna, Vibhishana spoke the following friendly and meaningful words to Ravana the foremost king of ogres:
This text would imply that in the previous section (i.e. Yuddha Kanda Section 13), there would have been some speech of Ravana and Kumbhakarna. Hearing this speech, Vibhishana replied telling Ravana to let Seetha return to Rama. However, Yuddha Kanda Section 13 does not have any mention of Kumbhakarna's speech. It only has the speech of Ravana and Mahaparsva. However, if we look back to Section 12, we see speeches of both Ravana and Kumbhakarna.
This suggests that Yuddha Kanda Section 13 was a later addition to the epic. If we consider this section a later addition to the epic and remove it, then the text flows very smoothly from the end of Yuddha Kanda Section 12 to the start of Yuddha Kanda Section 14. Right after the words of Ravana and Kumbhakarna, Vibhishana intervenes and tells Ravana that he should return Seetha to Rama as it is impossible to defeat Rama. Since Yuddha Kanda Section 13 has the mention of Ravana raping Punjikisthala along with the subsequent curse on Ravana and since that section is a later addition to the epic, we can conclude that Ravana did not rape her, nor did he obtain a curse from Brahma that his head would split into 100 fragments if he dared to rape another female in the future.
Furthermore, another important point to ponder upon is that Ravana shared a very close relationship of friendship with his ministers. Hence, if we assume that Ravana was a serial rapist, then his close ministers should have noticed a major difference in his behavior. Earlier, he would have shamelessly raped females without thinking twice about his actions. However, contrary to his earlier behavior, he would now resist from forcing himself on other women, right? If they noticed this change, then they would have seeked to find out the reason for this change, which would be the curse he got. But the speech of Mahaparsva and Ravana suggests that nobody knew about the rape of Punjikasthala or the curse that Brahma afflicted upon Ravana. Furthermore, another important thing to take note of is that Vibhishana was present in that Sabha. Had Ravana actually mentioned the rape and subsequent curse, Vibhishana would have known about it and told Rama about it to prevent him from abandoning Seetha after the war was over, based on doubts over her chastity and devotion to him (Rama).
For those that are still unconvinced, lets shift our gaze to the Critical Edition, which had analyzed over 300 manuscripts of Valmiki Ramayana to remove the possible interpolations in the epic. The Critical Edition of Valmiki Ramayana removed the verses of Ravana raping Punjikasthala, and the subsequent curse by Brahma, making it very clear that this incident of Ravana raping Punjkasthala and being cursed by Brahma is a later addition to the Valmiki Ramayana.
Some More Instances of Ravana Raping Females
There are yet, some more verses that the Rama fanclub argue imply that Ravana raped females. The first set of these verses are seen when Shurpanakha goes to Ravana to complain that Rama decimated the Dandaka Forest. I have posted the Sanskrit Verses, their word-by-word translation by Desiraju Hanumanta Rao, and the full translation by the same translator below:
क्षेप्तारम् पर्वत अग्राणाम् सुराणाम् च प्रमर्दनम् |
उच्छेत्तारम् च धर्माणाम् पर दार अभिमर्शनम् || ३-३२-१२
12. parvata agraaNaam = to [of] mountain, peaks; kSeptaaram = volleyer of; suraaNaam ca pra mardanam = of gods, even, extreme, represser of; dharmaaNaam ca ucChettaaram = ethical values, even, an extirpator of; para daara abhimarshanam = other's, wives, [touches] molester.
At him who is a volleyer of mountain peaks, a represser of gods, an extirpator of ethical values, and a molester of others wives, Shuurpanakha saw. [3-32-12]
सर्व दिव्य अस्त्र योक्तारम् यज्ञ विघ्न करम् सदा |
पुरीम् भोगवतीम् गत्वा पराजित्य च वासुकिम् || ३-३२-१३
तक्षकस्य प्रियाम् भार्याम् पराजित्य जहार यः |
13, 14a. sarva divya astra yoktaaram = every, divine, missile, marksman of; sadaa yaj~na vighna karam = always, Vedic-rituals, obstacles, causer [interdictor]; such a Ravana she saw; yaH= who; bhogavatiim puriim gatvaa = Bhogavati, to city, on going; vaasukim paraajitya ca = Vaasuki [the King of Serpents,] on defeating, also; takSakasya priyaam bhaaryaam = Taksha's, dear, wife; paraajitya jahaara = on defeating [molesting,] abducted.
He who is a marksman of every divine missile, and an ever interdictor of Vedic-rituals, and who on going to the city named Bhogavati, the capital of Naga-s, and on defeating Vaasuki, the King of Serpents, has abducted the dear wife of Taksha on molesting her, and Shuurpanakha saw such a molester of others wives. [3-32-13, 14a]
Having a look at the first verse above, we can see that the translator has translated “पर दार अभिमर्शनम्” as “molester of other’s wives”. However, such a translation is incorrect. The word अभिमर्शनम् connotes “to touch”, and in this context can be interpreted as Ravana having consensual sex with the wives of others, by urging them to commit adultery (i.e. touch alludes to sex at times… for example if a man sees his wife in bed with a stranger and asks the stranger “how dare you touch my wife”). Since the Sanskrit does not say or imply force, we have no reason to conclude that the verse calls Ravana a rapist.
Moving on to the second verse, the translator has translated “पराजित्य जहार” to mean “abducted (her) upon molesting her”. However, this translation is incorrect. पराजित् does not mean “to molest” in any dictionary. It rather connotes defeat, and in this case the defeat of Takshaka’s wife. Likewise, जहार does not imply force either. It simply means “to carry off”, which can be either by force or without the application of force (i.e. the female is carried off by the male, willingly). Hence, the verse just tells us that Ravana defeated Takshaka’s wife and carried her off (to Lanka). The defeat was probably a military defeat, in sync with the regular use of the word पराजित् in military contexts, and indicates that Takshaka’s wife offered resistance to Ravana’s invasion, which eventually failed, leading to her defeat… after this she was carried off to Lanka. We know from Sundara Kanda that she was not carried off by force, because Valmiki specifically says that none of the women in Ravana’s harem were taken into Ravana’s harem by force, barring the exception of Seetha:
रावणे सुख सम्विष्टे ताः स्त्रियो विविध प्रभाः |
ज्वलन्तः कान्चना दीपाः प्रेक्षन्त अनिमिषा इव || ५-९-६७
राज ऱ्षि पित्ऱ् दैत्यानाम् गन्धर्वाणाम् च योषितः |
रक्षसाम् च अभवन् कन्याः तस्य काम वशम् गताः || ५-९-६८
न तत्र काचित् प्रमदा प्रसह्य |
वीर्य उपपन्नेन गुणेन लब्धा |
न च अन्य कामा अपि न च अन्य पूर्वा |
विना वर अर्हाम् जनक आत्मजाम् तु || ५-९-७०
न च अकुलीना न च हीन रूपा |
न अदक्षिणा न अनुपचार युक्ता |
भार्या अभवत् तस्य न हीन सत्त्वा |
न च अपि कान्तस्य न कामनीया || ५-९-७१
When Ravana was happily asleep, the golden lampposts shined as if gazing without winking, at the women of various glows. The women hailed from the families of royal sages, ancestral deities, daityas, gandharvas and rakshasas and, under the influence of sexual attraction, entered his (harem). Except Sita no other woman among them had been taken there by force. They were won only on account of his valour and virtues. None loved any one earlier and none was married to others. None among them was born of a lowly family, nor lacked beauty, kindness, skill, strength or brightness. No one was not lovable to Ravana.
If no woman other than Seetha was taken by force to Ravana’s harem, then it implies that the wife of Takshaka willingly went with Ravana and entered his harem. Hence, there is no rape involved here.
We come across another such verse that has been mistranslated. Rama tells Ravana in Yuddha Kanda Section 41:
ऋषीणाम् देवतानाम् च गन्धर्व अप्सरसाम् तथा || ६-४१-६२
नागानाम् अथ यक्षाणाम् राज्नाम् च रजनी चर |
यच् च पापम् कृतम् मोहाद् अवलिप्तेन राक्षस || ६-४१-६३
नूनम् अद्य गतो दर्पह् स्वयम्भू वर दानजः |
तस्य दण्ड धरस् ते अहम् दार आहरण कर्शितः || ६-४१-६४
62; 63; 63. rajaniichara = O; Ravana the ranger of the night!; yat = which; paapam = sin; kR^itam = was performed; avaliptena = by you the arrogant; mohaat = and the ignorant one; R^iSiiNaam = to sages; devataanaam = to celestials; tathaa = an; gandharvaapsarasaam = to the celestial musicians and their wives; naagaaanaam = to the serpent- demons; atha = and; yakSaaNaam= to yakshas the semidivine beings; raajJNaamcha = and to the kings; tasya = that; paapasya = sin's; duraasadaa = unparalleled; vyuSTiH = consequence; sampraaptaa = has come; adye = now; te = your; darpaH = arrogance; svayambhuuvaradaanajaH = born out of the boon granted to you by Brahma the god of creation; vigataH = has gone (will go).
"O, Ravana the Ranger of the Night! In your reckless arrogance, sages, celestials, celestial musicians and their wives, serpent - demons, yakshas the semi-divine beings and kings have been oppressed by you. From now on, that arrogance, born of the boon you received from Brahma the Lord of creation, shall be subdued."
Some people argue that the oppression of the wives of the celestial musicians allude to rape. However, such a claim is based on the mistranslation of the verse. The translator translates पापम् to mean “oppression”. However, such a translation is very wishful. पापम् simply connotes “sinning”. Furthermore, the translator translates गन्धर्व अप्सरसाम् to mean “Gandharvas and their wives”, when it actually just means “Gandharvas and Apsaras” (no mention of wives). Hence the verse says that Ravana sinned against sages, celestials, Gandharvas, Apsaras, etc… What the sin performed against these groups would be is not very clear, but most likely refers to the conquest of their territories. It cannot be rape because, first of all the verse never talks about rape, and secondly, interpreting the verse to mean rape would also imply that Ravana raped Devas, Yakshas, Nagas, etc that were all male in gender. Since we have no evidence that Ravana was bisexual, such a conclusion seems far-fetched. Hence, this verse also does not mention that Ravana was a rapist.
The next verse that some people bring up is the following verse, which Mandodari speaks when lamenting upon Ravana’s death:
देवासुरनृकन्यानामाहर्तारं ततस्ततः || ६-१११-५५
शत्रुस्त्रीशोकदातारं नेतारं स्वजनस्य च |
55. aahartaaram = he used to bring; devaasura nR^ikanyaanaam = the virgin-daughters of gods; demons and human beings; tatastataH = from here and there;shatrustriishoka daataaram = he brought mourning to his enemy's wives; netaaram = he was the leader; svajanasya = of his own people.
"He used to bring the virgin-daughters of gods, demons and human beings from here and there. He brought mourning to his enemy's wives. He was the leader of his own people."
Again, this verse does not imply rape. It simply says that Ravana would carry off kanyas (virgins) to his harem. Again, as we know from the Sundara Kanda narrative I earlier provided, all these kanyas entered Ravana’s harem due to sexual attraction towards him and none was taken to Ravana’s harem forcibly. Only those that possessed the virtues of intelligence, physical strength, beauty, skills, and kindness were allowed to enter his harem. The “mourning to his enemy’s wives” just indicates that he would kill off his enemies, causing their widows to mourn for them. It was intended by Mandodari as an expression of Ravana’s martial prowess…
Now one more verse is remaining to discuss. When Hanumana searches Ravana’s harem for Seetha, we are told:
राक्षस्यो विविध आकारा विरूपा विकृताः तथा |
दृष्टा हनूमता तत्र न तु सा जनक आत्मजा || ५-१२-१९
Rakshasa women of various forms, with crooked forms and horrific forms had been seen there by Hanuma but not that Seetha.
रूपेण अप्रतिमा लोके वरा विद्या धर स्त्रियः |
दृटा हनूमता तत्र न तु राघव नन्दिनी || ५-१२-२०
The best Vidhyadhara women incomparable by beauty in the world had been seen there by Hanuma, but not Seetha.
नाग कन्या वर आरोहाः पूर्ण चन्द्र निभ आननाः |
दृष्टा हनूमता तत्र न तु सीता सुमध्यमा || ५-१२-२१
Naaga women with beautiful buttocks, with faces equaling full moon had been seen by Hanuma there, but not Seetha with a beautiful waist.
प्रमथ्य राक्षस इन्द्रेण नाग कन्या बलाद्द् हृताः |
दृष्टा हनूमता तत्र न सा जनक नन्दिनी || ५-१२-२२
Naaga women who had been carried off forcefully, being defeated by Ravana had been seen there by Hanuma, not that Seetha
सो अपश्यमः ताम् महा बाहुः पश्यमः च अन्या वर स्त्रियः |
विषसाद महा बाहुर् हनूमान् मारुत आत्मजः || ५-१२-२३
That Hanuma with great arms, the wise one, the son of Vayu not seeing that Seetha and seeing other best women became depressed again and again.
This time, I do agree with the translation of the fourth verse, and agree that it suggests that the Naga women were carried off by Ravana, using force (बलाद्द् हृताः). However, I would suggest readers to take a closer look at the entire passage, and look at the general theme it is trying to portray. The general theme is that Hanumana saw beautiful females of various forms, but not Seetha. The first three verses suggest this by describing the forms of the different women, and the last verse also suggests this by stating that Hanumana saw other “best women” (वर स्त्रियः) but not Seetha. The only verse in the above passage that stands out from this theme is the fourth verse. It deviates from the aforementioned theme by not elaborating on the physical form of these Naga women that Hanumana was observing. Furthermore, a general pattern in the above passage is that each verse is dedicated to a new tribe of women (i.e. first verse deals with the Rakshasa women, second verse deals with the Vidyadhara women, third verse deals with Naga women, and the fifth verse deals with other (अन्या) women). Following this pattern that was intended by Valmiki, the fourth verse should have talked about the physical features of a different tribe of women. This is clearly not the case though, as the fourth verse deviates from the aforementioned pattern, and continues to talk about the Nagas, instead of a different tribe. Since the fourth verse deviates significantly from the themes and patterns in the aforementioned passage, this fourth verse is an outlier that Valmiki originally did not intend to add in his epic. This verse, being an outlier, was likely added to the epic by post-Valmiki era poets that did not pay close attention to the overall passage and its properties prior to adding the verse.
Hence, a critical analysis of the Valmiki Ramayana suggests that Ravana was not a rapist.
Sorry, Rama fan-fanatics!
Image Source: Advait


  1. Did Shriram eat meat ? Thanks Bharat, #DKC41

    1. Yes he did. There are many references in Valmiki Ramayana for this. Let me know if you want the exact verses for him eating meat.

  2. 5 Big Lies of the Ramayana | Thanks Bharat,

    Maharishi Valmiki wrote the Ramayana script thousands of years before the Ramayana ?

    2. Valmiki was a robber?