Thursday, 22 March 2018

How did Valmiki prove Rama had only one wife?

My Answer:

Wait… 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 Valmiki Ramayana, that Rama was a monogamist, he should present the respective verses…
That being 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) 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… and Rama was allowing Lakshmana the honor 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 arguments 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 move to the incident, in Yuddha Kanda, where 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 whatesoever."
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…
The last reference I will point out is the following verse, spoken by Bharatha, when he comes to know, from Hanumana, that Rama is returning to Ayodhya, 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…
Furthermore, had Bharatha 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.
Hence, 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