Thursday, 22 March 2018

How did Valmiki prove Rama had only one wife?

My Answer:

When did Valmiki even say, in the first place, that Rama had only one wife? I have not found an instance of him saying that Seetha was only his wife, or that he took a vow of monogamy (ekapatnivratam). Hence, if the OP or anyone else, finds a mention in the Valmiki Ramayana that Rama was a monogamist, then he/she should present the respective verses...

That bein
g said, from my reading of the Valmiki Ramayana, I have found much evidence that Rama was not a monogamist. The first piece of evidence, is what others have already written in their answers. When Manthara tries to convince Kayekai to urge Dasharatha to send Rama to exile, she speaks the following (to Kayekai)[1]:
सुभगा खलु कौसल्या यस्याः पुत्रोऽभिषेक्ष्यते |
यौवराज्येन महता श्वः पुष्येण द्विजोत्तमैः || २-८-९

"Kausalya is very fortunate. Brahmans are going to anoint her son for the great princely kingdom tomorrow on the day of Pushyami star".

प्राप्तां सुमहतीं प्रीतिं प्रतीतां तां हतद्विषम् |
उपस्थास्यसि कौसल्यां दासीवत्त्वं कृताञ्जलिः || २-८-१०

"With folded arms, as a maid-servant, you have to serve that Kausalya who having reached great prosperity, in the height of joy, will dispose of her adversaries (in the person of Bharata and yourself)".

एवम् चेत्त्वं सहास्माभिस्तस्याः प्रेष्य भविष्यसि |
पुत्रश्च तव रामस्य प्रेष्यभावं गमिष्यति || २-८-११

"Thus, if you become Kausalya's servant-maid along with us, your son Bharata will be Rama's attendant."

हृष्टाः खलु भविष्यन्ति रामस्य परमाः स्त्रियः |
अप्रहृष्टा भविष्यन्ति स्नुषास्ते भरतक्षये || २-८-१२

"Rama's wives will get delighted. Your daughters-in-law will be unhappy because of Bharata's waning position."
From such speech of Manthara, it should be evident that Rama had many wives, instead of just one wife. Manthara’s words should be considered reliable, as she was a favorite of Kayekai, and was therefore very close to the royal family of Kosala. She would therefore know how many wives Rama had. Hence, Manthara’s narrative suggests that Rama was not a monogamist.

Now, let us move later on in Ayodhya Kanda, to the point where Rama agrees to take Lakshmana along with him to exile. After allowing Lakshmana to go to exile, Rama distributes his wealth among many brahmins. He asks Lakshmana to grab a share of his (Rama's) wealth and give it to the brahmins. Among this wealth, are included slave girls of Rama (Ayodhya Kanda Section 29, translation by Pollock):
So Rama spoke, and Suyajna accepted all the gifts and conferred gracious blessings on Rama, Lakshmana and Sita. As Brahma might address Indra, lord of the thirty gods, Rama then addressed his kind, attentive brother Saumitri with these kind words: “Summon the two eminent brahmans Agastya and Kaushika and in homage shower precious objects on them, Saumıtri, as crops are showered with rain. As for the learned preceptor of the Taittirıyas, the master of the Vedas who devotedly serves Kausalya with his blessings—present that twice-born with a palanquin and slave girls, Saumitri, and silken garments to his heart’s content. And give precious objects, garments and money enough to content Chitraratha, the noble adviser and charioteer, who has lived with us so long. Present a thousand draft animals, two hundred oxen and a thousand cows, Saumitri, to provide for dairy needs.”
Then Lakshmana himself, tiger among men, gave the riches as ordered to the lordly brahmans, just as Kubera, giver of riches, might have done. Now, after Rama had bestowed great wealth on each and every one of his dependents, he spoke to them as they stood before him choked with tears. “Both Lakshmana’s dwelling and the house belonging to me may be occupied until I return.” After speaking with all his sorrowful dependents, he turned to the keeper of the treasury and said, “Have the treasure brought.” His dependents then fetched all his treasure. And the tiger among men, with Lakshmana’s help, had the treasure distributed to the needy brahmans, young and old alike.
Here there may be confusion on whether the wealth Lakshmana was distrbuting belonged to himself or to Rama. That is to say, was Lakshmana distributing his own wealth, or did Rama allow Lakshmana to distribute some of his (Rama’s) wealth on his (Rama’s) behalf? The answer is not directly stated in the above text, but a close reading of the above text seems to suggest that that it is the latter (i.e. Lakshmana was distributing Rama’s wealth to the brahmins). After Lakshmana distributes the wealth, Valmiki writes “after Rama had bestowed great wealth on each and every one of his dependents...”. Now, Valmiki could not have said this right after Lakshmana distributed the wealth to the brahmins, unless the wealth that Lakshmana had distributed belonged to Rama himself. In other words, Lakshmana distributing the wealth was akin to Rama having his wealth bestowed on the brahmins, since the wealth that was being distributed by Lakshmana, belonged to Rama at the end of the day. Rama was granting Lakshmana the honour of distributing his (Rama’s) wealth to the brahmins.

That being said, if the wealth that Lakshmana was distributing belonged to Rama, then it implies that the slave girls that Lakshmana was distributing to the brahmins, also belonged to Rama. It is quite evident what a slave girl (dasi) is used for. Another meaning of dasi is harlot, and hence the type of service provided by a slave girl is very clear. If these slave girls belonged to Rama, it logically follows that Rama was utilizing their services and having sex with them. In such a case, how can he be called monogamous?

Just for argument's sake, let us define monogamy as a man being legally wedded to a single woman. Interpreting the term monogamy in such a manner means that if Rama had sex with even hundreds of slave girls, he would still be called monogamous, right?

If we agree on that, let us look in the text for the number of legally wedded wives Rama had. When Ravana approaches Seetha, who was in her hermitage, as a sannyasi, Seetha gives her introduction in the following manner[2]:
दुहिता जनकस्य अहम् मैथिलस्य महात्मनः |
सीता नाम्ना अस्मि भद्रम् ते रामस्य महिषी प्रिया || ३-४७-३

"I am the daughter of noble-souled Janaka, the king of Mithila, by name I am Seetha, and the dear, first wife of Rama, let safety betide you.
Here, Seetha uses the words रामस्य महिषी प्रिया to describe herself. रामस्य महिषी प्रिया (of Rama, first wife, dear) means “(I am the) dear, first wife of Rama”. Now if Seetha calls herself the first wife of Rama, it implies that Rama must have at least two wives, if not more. Without there being a second, there cannot be a first. This suggests that Rama had more than one legally wedded wife.

Furthermore, when Seetha is in Lanka, she laments about the fact that Rama had not yet come to save her, by saying[3]:
पितुर्निदेशं नियमेन कृत्वा वनान्निवृत्तश्चरितव्रतश्च |
स्त्रीभिस्तु मन्ये विपुलेक्षणाभिस्त्वं रंस्यसे वीतभयः कृतार्थः || ५-२८-१४

"Having fulfilled your father's command as per the order of his words and observed your vow, you return from the forest fearlessly and having accomplished your purpose, I think you will enjoy carnally with large-eyed wives."

अहं तु राम त्वयि जातकामा चिरं विनाशाय निबद्धभावा |
मोघं चरित्वाथ तपो व्रतञ्च त्यक्ष्यामि धिग्जीवितमल्पभाग्याम् || ५-२८-१५

"O Rama! Having performed austerity and vow in vain, I for myself who has fallen in love with you and in whose was confined an affection for you for a long time, for my own destruction, I can lose my life. Woe to me of my little fortune!"
Note verse 5.28.14 above... Seetha clearly laments that Rama will enjoy carnally with other large-eyed wives, suggesting that Rama had perhaps more than one wife.

In that verse, I translated "स्त्री" as "wife". However, the word "स्त्री" also means woman. Even if we go with the translation of "woman" (i.e. “… I think you will enjoy carnally with large-eyed women”), there is still the doubt on whether Rama was really monogamous. Seetha, being a devoted wife of Rama, would obviously know whether or not Rama had taken a vow of monogamy (ekapatnivratam). Assuming that Rama did take such a vow, and that Seetha knew of this vow, along with the fact that she also knew that being a follower of dharma, Rama always strictly adhered to his vows… then… in such a case, how could such a thought arise in Seetha’s mind that Rama would break his ekapatnivratam (vow of monogamy) and enjoy carnally with other women (take note of the plurality in “women”)? If the point Seetha was making was that Rama would abandon her and look to another female as a companion, she should have used the singular form “woman” instead of “women”, in her speech, in sync with Rama’s monogamous tendencies that she was very aware of. That is to say, Seetha should have said “... I think you will enjoy carnally with another large-eyed woman”, instead of “... I think you will enjoy carnally with large-eyed women”. However, Seetha’s speech in verse 5.28.14 uses the plural form, women, thereby betraying a lack of monogamy in Rama’s life. Seetha could only use the plural form “women” instead of the singular form “woman”, in her speech, if she had known that Rama had polygamous tendencies... This is another, albeit subtle, piece of evidence attesting to Rama being polygamous.
Now let us consider another incident, this time in Yuddha Kanda, wherein Ravana makes Lakshmana unconscious. When Lakshmana was made unconscious, Rama laments by saying[4]:
देशे देशे कलत्राणि देशे देशे च बान्धवाः | तं तु देशं न पश्यामि यत्र भ्राता सहोदरः || ६-१०१-१५
"Wives may be obtained ever where. Relatives can be had every where. However, I do not find a brother, born of the same womb, at such a place whatsoever."
Note the plurality in Rama's statement. In response to Lakshmana's injury, Rama does not say that "a wife may be obtained everywhere". Instead, he says "wives may be obtained everywhere". Now if he was a monogamist, why would he talk about obtaining wives? He ought to have talked about obtaining a single wife, as he would be restricted to a single wife instead of having the luxury of obtaining multiple wives. Hence, the plurality in Rama’s speech ("wives may be obtained everywhere") betrays a lack of monogamy in his life. One may argue that Rama was under stress, and not thinking in his right frame of mind, and hence used the plural form, wives, instead of the singular form, wife. Such reasoning definitely makes sense, but what I said above is still a point to ponder upon…

Two more references, after Ravana's death, do suggest that Rama had multiple wives. The first of these references are the following verses, spoken by Bharatha, when he comes to know, from Hanumana, that Rama is returning to Ayodhya, after having killed Ravana[5]:
सूताः स्तुतिपुराणज्ञाह् सर्वे वैतालिकास्तथा |
सर्वे वादित्रकुशला गणिकाश्चैव संघशः || ६-१२७-३
राजदारास्तथामात्याः सैन्याः सेनागणाङ्गनाः |
ब्राह्मणाश्च सराजन्याः श्रेणिमुख्यास्तथा गणाः || ६-१२७-४
अभिनिर्यान्तु रामस्य द्रष्टुं शशिनिभं मुखम् |

"Let bards well-versed in singing praises and Puranas (containing ancient legends, cosmogony etc.) as also all panegyrists, all those proficient in the use of musical instruments, courtesans all collected together, the wives of the king, ministers, army-men and their wives, brahmanas accompanied by Kshatriyas (members of fighting class), leaders of guilds of traders and artisans, as also their members, come out to see the moon-like countenance of Rama."
Bharatha says that the राजदारा (meaning “wives of the king”) will come to welcome Rama. In this case, the king being referred to cannot be Dasharatha, as he died at least fourteen years back, if not more. With Dasharatha not ruling as king for such a long period of time, Bharatha could not have possibly been referring to Dasharatha’s wives when he said राजदारा (“wives of the king”). Rather, he would have used a more respectful term, such as rajamata, had he been referring to the wives of Dasharatha.

This leaves us with two possible contenders for the position of king: Bharatha or Rama. Bharatha, as we know, was completely against himself ruling the Kosala kingdom. Rather, he wanted Rama to rule the Kosala kingdom. He only agreed to rule for the 14 year interim period of Rama’s exile, after Rama had urged him to do so. In the context/presence of Rama, could such a Bharatha ignore his elder brother Rama and call himself as “king”?

Quite doubtful…

, had Bharatha been referring to his own wives, he would have said “my wives” instead of “wives of the king”. It is not common for one to refer to himself in third person... This leaves us with Rama as the king whose wives (राजदारा) had been asked by Bharatha to come out of their palace and see him (Rama). The plurality in the word राजदारा suggests that Rama had numerous wives in Ayodhya, in addition to his well known wife, Seetha.

The second of the two references are the following verses spoken by Valmiki, in Yuddha Kanda Section 116 (Critical Edition), at the time of Rama's coronation as the ruler of Kosala[6]:
प्रतिकर्म च रामस्य कारयामास वीर्यवान् |
लक्ष्मणस्य च लक्ष्मीवानिक्ष्वाकुकुलवर्धनः || १६||
प्रतिकर्म च सीतायाः सर्वा दशरथस्त्रियः |
आत्मनैव तदा चक्रुर्मनस्विन्यो मनोहरम् || १७||
ततो राघवपत्नीनां सर्वासामेव शोभनम् |
चकार यत्नात्कौसल्या प्रहृष्टा पुत्रवत्सला || १८||
The valiant and graceful Shatrughna, the upholder of the dignity of the Ikshwaku race, himself got ready the dresses for Rama and Lakshmana. And all the high-minded wives of Dasharatha with their own hands decked Seetha with various charming (ornaments). Thereupon Kaushalya, delighted and fond of her son, herself with great care, decorated the (other) wives of Raghava (Rama).
The above translation is derived from the translation of Yuddha Kanda Section 130 (Southern Recension), given by MN Dutt[7]. The above verses are slightly different in the Critical Edition, compared to the Southern Recension. For this reason, I have slightly tweaked MN Dutt's translation of these verses in the Southern Recension, to account for the slight change in verse structure that appears in the Critical Edition. That being said, what should bevident from the aforementioned verses is that Rama had wives other than Seetha, who were decorated and adorned by Kaushalya.

Prior to ending this post, I would like to address another point that has been a major issue of confusion, regarding Rama's marital status. I have heard many Rama devotees say that Rama told Shurpanakha that he could not marry her, as he had taken a vow of monogamy (ekapatnivratam). However, as we shall see below, this argument does not hold much merit, when we read what Rama had actually told Shurpanakha. After Shurpanakha proposed to Rama, the latter slightly smiled, chuckled, and subsequently replied (Critical Edition, Aranya Kanda Section 17, translation by Bibek Debroy):
Shurpanakha was in the throngs of desire. Rama smiled first. Then, as he willed, he addressed her in gentle words. ‘I am married and this is my beloved wife. Therefore, for women like you, it will be extremely distressing to have a co-wife. This younger brother of mine is good in conduct and handsome and pleasant. The valiant one’s name is Lakshmana and he doesn’t have a wife. He is without a wife and desires one. He is young and handsome. Given your beauty, he is the right husband for you. O large-eyed one! Seek my brother as your husband. O beautiful one! Without a co-wife, you will then be like Meru, with the radiance of the sun.’
It should be evident from the above passage, that the reason Rama said that he could not marry Shurpanakha was not because he had taken a vow to remain monogamous (ekapatnivratam). Rather, Rama told Shurpanakaha that she may not want to marry him since he is already married, and that women like her may not want to have to deal with a co-wife. Rama then suggested to Shurpanakha that she go after Lakshmana, who was of handsome features, just like her, and also single and desirous of a wife. Hence, it is quitevident that this passage does not support the claim that Rama was monogamous. Had he been monogamous, he would have rejected Shurpanakha's advances on the grounds that he had taken a vow of remaining monogamous (ekapatnivratam), and that marrying her (Shurpanakha) would be a direct violation of this vowThat being said, what this narrative could possibly suggest is the prevalence of monogamy among some sections of the Rakshasa society. Shurpanakha, in her initial introduction to Rama, said that she was a Rakshasii. Hence, when Rama says "... for women like you, it will bextremely distressing to have a co-wife", it could perhaps suggest that a section of Rakshasa society engaged in monogamy, and for that reason, the Rakshasiis belonging to that section of society did not have to deal with co-wives. Rama may have thought that Shurpanakha belonged to this section of Rakshasa society.

I will conclude this answer by re-iterating that Rama was polygamous, not monogamous. Valmiki did not prove that Rama had only one wife, since he depicted Rama as a polygamous man, in his epic.
[Image Source: Rama]



  1. Extremely well written, with good proofs and analysis. I completely agree with you. Ram had multiple wives and multiple mistresses.

  2. I saw a video which says rama had a sister shanta

  3. A truth hidden from me for the last 44 years!