Thursday, 22 March 2018

Does Ramayana mention ANY humans in Rama's path of conquest in Southern India?

My Answer:
I have come across some people who argue that the Vanaras were a human tribe, and that they were called monkeys (vanara/kapi/hari, etc…) because they carried a symbol/token/flag of a monkey...

Although I do agree that the Vanaras were a human tribe, I disagree that they were called monkeys (vanara/kapi/hari, etc…) because of their symbol/token/flag. The reason for this is that we never hear of the Vanara tribe carrying a symbol/token/flag bearing an image of a monkey. In my opinion, to understand why the Vanaras were depicted as monkeys, we need to have a look at the Rig Vedic and Indian Vernacular tradition. Both these traditions depict individuals with unrestrained sexuality as monkeys. For example, the first thing that comes to mind is the Vrishakapi hymn of the Rig Veda (10.86), where Vrishakapi openly shows his vulgarity, and his unrestrained-ness on matters of sexuality to Indra’s wife, Indrani. For such unrestrained sexuality, Vrishakapi is depicted as a monkey. His name, Vrishakapi means “virile monkey”, or in Doniger’s words “the monkey bursting with seed”. Some tales in the Indian Vernacular tradition have been analyzed in a research paper by Herman Tull, titled “The Tale of "The Bride and the Monkey": Female Insatiability, Male Impotence, and Simian Virility in Indian Literature[1], to show that the Indian Vernacular tradition has a common theme of depicting monkeys as greatly virile beings, females as sexually insatiable, and their husbands as impotent. Hence, the Vanara tribe in the Valmiki Ramayana is a tribe of humans, depicted as monkeys by Valmiki, because of their quality of having an unrestrained sexuality.
I don’t think anyone who has read the Valmiki Ramayana can doubt the unrestrained sexuality of the Vanaras. When Sugriva closes the opening of the cave in which Vali was present, with a boulder, and himself becomes king, he seizes and marries Vali's wife Tara. When Vali eventually gets out of this cave, and returns to his Kishkindha kingdom, he in turn snatches the throne back, banishes Sugriva from the kingdom, and steals Sugriva’s wife, Ruma, in addition to acquiring his own wife Tara, once again. Likewise, when Sugriva kills Vali, he once again steals Vali’s wife Tara. We are also told that many of the common Vanaras were also known to steal the wives of others. For example, after Vali’s death, Angada’s bodyguards tell Tara:
अभार्याश्च सभार्याश्च सन्त्यत्र वनचारिणः।
लुब्धेभ्यो विप्रयुक्तेभ्यस्तेभ्यो नस्तुमुलं भयम्4.19.16।।
'There are monkeys wandering in the forest. Some of them have made others' wives their own and some have been separated from their wives. They are a great cause of fear.'
In addition, we hear of some of the sexually vulgar acts done by the Vanaras when they stormed the Madhuvana and assaulted its guards, under the influence of the excitement of Hanumana having found Seetha in Lanka:
येऽप्यत्र मधुपाला स्स्युः प्रेष्या दधिमुखस्य तु।
तेऽपि तैर्वानरैर्भीमैः प्रतिषिद्धा दिशो गताः।।5.62.15।।
All the guards engaged in protecting the garden were driven away in all directions by the fierce vanaras.
जानुभिस्तु प्रकृष्टाश्च देवमार्गं प्रदर्शिताः।
अब्रुवन् परमोद्विग्ना गत्वा दधिमुखं वचः।।5.62.16।।
Some were dragged on their knees and tossed up. Some monkeys exhibited their private parts, showing indecent behaviour. Dadhimukha, highly disturbed at this, said:
हनूमता दत्तवरैर्हतं मधुवनं बलात्।
वयं च जानुभिः कृष्टा देवमार्गं च दर्शिताः।।5.62.17।।
Permitted by Hanuman (to enter Madhuvanam and drink), they dragged one another forcefully tossed up on their knees showing their private parts.
Due to such unrestrained sexuality, being characteristic of the Vanara tribe, this human tribe was depicted as a tribe of monkeys by Valmiki. As for their tails, the Sanskrit word used quite often for the tail is लाङ्गुल. Although this word can be translated  to mean tail, it also means penis. Hence, the लाङ्गुल referred to in the Valmiki Ramayana could have in fact been the male sexual organ (i.e. penis). That would explain why the female Vanaras were not depicted as having this लाङ्गुल. How could the female Vanaras have a penis? This लाङ्गुल (penis) of the male Vanaras was flaunted by them whenever an act of male vigor/virility was performed, therefore strengthening my claims that these male Vanaras showed an unrestrained sexuality.
Readers who are more interested in this theory, can read this blog post of mine, where I have detailed my reasons for proposing such a theory.[2]
Now, since it has been established that the Vanaras were a human tribe, depicted as monkeys due to their unrestrained sexuality and proneness to base sexual instincts, it logically follows that there were humans in Rama’s path of conquest in Southern India. Rama did not just form an alliance with Sugriva and the Vanaras, but made them subordinate to the empire of Kosala. We can see this in Rama’s statement to Vali, when the latter is killed by the former:
अपृष्ट्वा बुद्धिसम्पन्नान्वृद्धानाचार्यसम्मतान्।
सौम्य वानरचापल्यात्किं मावक्तुमिहेच्छसि4.18.5।।
'O gentle Vali why do you speak with monkeyish frivolousness, without consulting the elders and teachers endowed with intelligence?
इक्ष्वाकूणामियं भूमिस्सशैलवनकानना।
मृगपक्षिमनुष्याणां निग्रहप्रग्रहावपि4.18.6।।
'This earth including mountains, groves and forests, animals, birds and humans belongs to the Ikshvaku kings.The right of purnishment and reward also vests with them.
तां पालयति धर्मात्मा भरतस्सत्यवागृजुः।
धर्मकामार्थतत्त्वज्ञो निग्रहानुग्रहे रतः4.18.7।।
'Bharata, righteous, truthful, upright, knower of dharma, artha and kama and dispenser of punishment and rewards, rules this earth.
नयश्च विनयश्चोभौ यस्मिन्सत्यं च सुस्थितम्।
विक्रमश्च यथा दृष्टस्स राजा देशकालवित्4.18.8।।
'Bharata in whom justice and discipline, truth and courage along with the knowledge of time and place for action are firmly rooted is king (of this earth).
तस्य धर्मकृतादेशा वयमन्ये च पार्थिवाः।
चरामो वसुधां कृत्स्नां धर्मसन्तानमिच्छवः4.18.9।।
'Following his command, in confirmity with dharma we and the other kings also move all over the entire world desirous of promoting dharma.
तस्मिन्नृपतिशार्दूले भरते धर्मवत्सले।
पालयत्यखिलां भूमिं कश्चरेद्धर्मनिग्रहम्4.18.10।।
'Who can stray from the path of dharma when the whole world is ruled by Bharata, a tiger among kings, and a lover of dharma?
ते वयं धर्मविभ्रष्टं स्वधर्मे परमे स्थिताः।
भरताज्ञां पुरस्कृत्य निगृह्णीमो यथाविधि4.18.11।।
'By the command of Bharata ,all of us are devoted to our duty of upholding dharma and virtue and duly punish those who deviate from the path of dharma.
त्वं तु संक्लिष्टधर्मा च कर्मणा च विगर्हितः।
कामतन्त्रप्रधानश्च न स्थितो राजवर्त्मनि4.18.12।।
'You have violated dharma. You stand condemned for your actions. Passion is your priority. You have strayed from the right path of kings.
Rama says that the Ikshvakus rule the entire Earth and hence Vali will be judged based on Ikshvaku morality. He could only have said this if the Rama-Sugriva alliance meant that the Vanaras would be a part of the Kosalan empire, and therefore subject to Kosalan rules and morality. Hence, Rama’s alliance with Sugriva was a masterstroke by Rama. It not only gave him a force to deal with Ravana, but also allowed him to expand the borders/domains of Kosala influence. Well… to be honest, the Vanaras did not have much of a choice. Sugriva was pining for his throne back, and he did not have a warrior with him powerful enough of taking on Rama or Vali. His best bet was to just form an alliance with Rama and use him to eliminate the powerful Vali. After using Rama to obtain the kingdom of Kishkindha, he didn’t have much of a choice other than supporting Rama because had he revolted against Rama, he and his Vanaras would have been instantly crushed with Rama’s arrows…
Prior to forming this alliance with Sugriva, Rama had already eliminated the Rakshasa hold on the Dandaka Forest. After forming an alliance with Sugriva and eliminating Vali, Rama says that the entire Earth (meaning ancient India, in Mahabharatha/Ramayana) is under the rule of the Ikshvakus (see the verses I provided above). This implies that during that time, Southern India was still full of dense forests, termed the Dandaka Forest, and that civilization had not penetrated Southern India as it had in North India. Hence, conquering the Dandaka Forest meant conquering moreorless the entire Southern India. This is further confirmed by the speech of the Vanaras, searching for Seetha, to Sampati. When Sampati approached the Vanaras, their leader Angada told him the following (Kishkindha Kanda Section 56, Critical Edition, translation by Bibek Debroy):
After this, Raghava contracted an act of friendship with my uncle, the great-souled Sugriva, and killed my father. Since he had acted against my father, he had bound up Sugriva and his advisers. However, having slain Vali, Rama consecrated him as the king. Sugriva was instated in the kingdom, as the lord of the apes. The king, foremost among the apes, dispatched all of us. Having been thus engaged by Rama, we thus searched the routes here and there. But we could not find Vaidehi, just as the radiance of the sun is unreachable during the night. Controlling ourselves, we searched everywhere in Dandakaranya. In our ignorance, we entered a cave that extended inside the ground. We searched in that cave, constructed by Maya through his use of maya. The month that the kinghad decreed for us passed in that way. All of us are engaged in acting in accordance with the commands of the king of the apes. Since the contracted period was over, we were terrified and have resolved to fast and undertake praya. Kakutstha, Sugriva and Lakshmana will be angry with us if we return there. Therefore, no purpose is served by us remaining alive.’
Note that in the above passage, Angada says that during their search in the Southern direction for Seetha, they initially searched here and there around Kishkindha, and then scanned the entire Dandaka Forest, and entered in an underground cave from the Dandaka Forest. The important thing to notice is that this underground cave was a part of the Dandaka Forest. It is also noteworthy that despite searching the entire Southern direction, Angada only says that they searched the Dandaka Forest. This would only be possible if Southern India was largely uncivilized and covered by dense masses of forests, collectively called the Dandaka Forest… In such a case, searching the Dandaka Forest would mean searching the entire Southern India. It should therefore be no surprise why Rama took over 10 years to clean the Dandaka Forest of its Rakshasas. Its sheer size made it very hard to conquer…
Caves like the Kishkindha cave were likely small pockets of this large Dandaka Forest, just like how the cave that Angada et al entered in the above passage, was described as being a part of the Dandaka Forest. Below I am quoting a passage of how the Vanaras searched Southern India. Note how the mountain caves were pockets of the Dandaka Forest and hence the Vanaras were described as entering the forest, then arriving at a mountain cave during their search of the forest, and then searching the cave and proceeding further only to encounter the forest again, etc…
तत्र चापि महात्मानो नापश्यञ्जनकात्मजाम्।
हर्तारं रावणं वापि सुग्रीवप्रियकारिणः।।4.48.16।।
Eager to please Sugriva, the great souls searched in the forest region. Even there they could not find Janaka's daughter and also Ravana who had abducted Sita.
ते प्रविश्याऽशु तं भीमं लतागुल्मसमावृतम्।
दद्दृशुः क्रूरकर्माणमसुरं सुरनिर्भयम्।।4.48.17।।
(Then) they noticed a place covered with creepers and bushes. As soon as they entered the dreadful forest, they saw a demon of wicked deeds, unafraid even of gods.
तं दृष्ट्वा वानरा घोरं स्थितं शैलमिवापरम्।
गाढं परिहितास्सर्वे दृष्ट्वा तान्पर्वतोपममान्।।4.48.18।।
The monkeys beheld the dreadful demon standing firmly like a huge, incomparable mountain in front of them.
सोऽपि तान्वानरान्सर्वान् नष्टा स्स्थेत्यब्रवीद्बली।
अभ्यधावत सङ्कृद्धो मुष्टिमुद्यम्य संहितम्।।4.48.19।।
Seeing the monkeys, the infuriated demon ran towards them, raising his fist firmly, saying, 'You are all as good as dead, now that I have caught you.'
तमापतन्तं सहसा वालिपुत्रोऽङ्गदस्तदा।
रावणोऽयमिति ज्ञात्वा तलेनाभिजघान ह।।4.48.20।।
Mistaking him for Ravana, Angada, Vali's son at once pounced on him and slapped him with his palm.
स वालिपुत्राभिहतो वक्त्राच्छोणितमुद्वमन्।
असुरोऽभ्यपतद्भूमौ पर्यस्त इव पर्वतः।।4.48.21।।
Struck by Vali's son, the demon vomitting blood from the mouth, fell down on the ground like a mountain, uprooted.
तेऽपि तस्मिन्निरुच्छवासे वानरा जितकाशिनः।
व्यचिन्वन्प्रायशस्तत्र सर्वं तद्गिरिगह्वरम्।।4.48.22।।
He breathed his last, and the monkeys who won went searching almost all over the mountain caves.
विचितं तु ततः कृत्वा सर्वे ते काननं पुनः।
अन्यदेवापरं घोरं विविशुर्गिरिगह्वरम्।।4.48.23।।
Again they searched the forest and entered another dreadful mountain cave.
Rama’s conquest of the Dandaka Forest ensured that all these pockets of mountain caves were free from Rakshasa rule. The Kishkindha cave was one of these many mountain caves. After conquering the Dandaka Forest, the entire Dandaka Forest, with its caves, would have been under Kosalan rule… but only in name. What I mean is that once a mighty empire is destroyed, its vassals tend to become independent and function independently until united by another strong leader. Despite the entire empire being usurped and under the conquerer’s rule in a map, all pockets of the empire would not be under complete control of the conqueror, as many pockets would have made themselves independent after the fall of the previous empire. Hence, despite conquering the Dandaka Forest, Rama was still not the actual ruler of the small mountain caves situated in the Dandaka.

It was Rama’s subsequent alliance with the Vanaras, that ensured he could actually reach deep within these pockets of the mountain caves, usurp their power, and bring them into the Kosalan-fold. Hence, after the Rama-Sugriva alliance, Rama is able to tell Vali that the Vanaras and their kingdom are under the rule of the Ikshvakus, and therefore subject to Kosalan morality. So, other than the Rakshasas that ruled the vast Dandaka forest, and the Vanaras that ruled mountain cave pockets of the Dandaka Forest, Rama did not encounter any other major force in his conquest of Southern India.

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