Friday, 23 March 2018

Is it true that Ravana used to torture sages for fun or no reason?

My Answer:
Who has time and energy to torture sages for fun? And that too why would a king, who has many duties do that? If we read the Valmiki Ramayana, we would see that these Rishis in the the Dandaka that Ravana had supposedly tortured were political bodies. They would infiltrate the Dandaka, then practice their Vedic animal sacrifices, that Ravana had clearly banned. Now this was not religious bigotry or anything like that, but rather concern for the environment. These Rshis, like Agastya, were known to perform Vedic sacrifices where copious amounts of animals were killed (in Rshi Agastya’s sacrifice, for example, it was said that every deer in the forest was devoted to the fire). It is not even that these animals were killed and their meat was eaten. These animals were tossed in the fire, making their meat useless, as it would be burned to ashes. This is such a large waste of animals and would lead to species extinction over time.
So Ravana banned such sacrifices. But Rshis would still not stop, so violent measures needed to be taken to stop such activities. Every nation has such punishments for people who break the law. But even after these punishments, these Rshis did not stop. They spread propaganda that they were being tortured by Ravana’s Rakshasas, so that kings from outside would develop pity for them and attack the Dandaka, and free it from Ravana’s rule, allowing them to obtain a land for themselves, on a religious basis, where they could perform Vedic sacrifices and kill more animals in an unrestrained manner (Rama fell prey to such propaganda, from these Rshis). In addition to this, these Rshis, led by Rshi Agastya, formed a force and started attacking the Rakshasa army in the Dandaka, thereby freeing portions of the Dandaka from Rakshasa rule.
This is, to put it blunt, treachery against the nation in which they lived in. To draw a parallel, imagine that in India, animal sacrifices of particular species are banned as this sacrifice endangers those species. However, suppose people don’t listen and continue these animal sacrifices. Punishment would then be meted out to these people, by the law. In return, if these people raise an army and begin to invade India, is this not treachery against the nation? That is what these Rshis were doing, led by Rshi Agastya. During the process of this war, many Rshis would have been killed. Their dead bodies were then used to further the propaganda they had earlier spread, that they were being tortured and killed by Ravana’s Rakshasas for no fault of theirs.
To end this answer, I am attaching a post with references from Valmiki Ramayana, explaining my perspective, that I wrote some time back:
The Root Cause of the Lankan War
Unlike the popular perception, Shurpanakha was not the root cause of the war on Lanka, as Rama had started massacring the Rakshasas in the Dandaka Forest, even before the arrival of Shurpanakha into the epic.
Does that mean that Rama was the root cause for the war on Lanka?
I would still say no... Neither was Lakshmana, Seetha, Ravana, or his Rakshasas the root cause for the war on Lanka. From my reading of Valmiki Ramayana, the root cause of the war were the Rshis in, and around the vicinity of the Dandaka Forest, that urged Rama to wage war on the Rakshasas (of the Dandaka Forest). Even prior to entering the Dandaka Forest, when Rama was still living around the Chitrakuta Mountain, Valmiki makes it clear that the Rshis in that area had planned to eliminate Ravana, using Rama. When Bharatha approaches Rama when the latter was in exile, and asks him to come back to Kosala and rule as king, the Rshis interrupt and speak the following verses in an attempt to retain Rama with them so that he could kill off Ravana:
ततस्त्वृषिगणाः क्षिप्रं दशग्रीववधैषिणः।भरतं राजशार्दूलमित्यूचु स्सङ्गता वचः।।2.112.4।।
Thereafter hosts of rishis desiring the speedy destruction of tenheaded Ravana said these words to Bharata, the best of kings.
कुले जात महाप्राज्ञ महावृत्त महायशः।ग्राह्यं रामस्य वाक्यं ते पितरं यद्यवेक्षसे।।2.112.5।।
O Bharata, born in an illustrious race, highly sagacious and a man of virtuous conduct and great renown, accept Rama's proposal if you have any regard for your father.
सदाऽनृणमिमं रामं वयमिच्छामहे पितुः।आनृणत्वाच्च कैकेय्या स्स्वर्गं दशरथो गतः।।2.112.6।।
We always desire that Rama should discharge his debt to his father. Dasaratha, who by redeeming himself of his obligation to Kaikeyi, had ascended heaven.
After Bharatha agrees to return to Kosala and rule it for the 14 year period, the Rshis tell Rama about the threat posed by the Rakshasas, led by Khara, in the Dandaka (Critical Edition, Ayodhya Kanda Section 108, translation by Pollock):




From this speech by the Rshis, there are a few things we can take note of... The first thing to take note of is that the Rshis say that, led by Khara, the Rakshasas have been harassing and killing the ascetics in Janasthana. As far as the Chitrakuta is concerned (which is where these Rshis have been living) the Rshis say that "so before these foul creatures offer physical violence to the ascetics, we will leave this ashram", thereby suggesting that the violence against the Rshis was limited to the Dandaka and that the Rakshasas had not yet penetrated the Chitrakuta region...

Hence, a few questions pop up in my mind... How did these Rshis get to know about what happened in the Dandaka? Probably through information spread by the Rshis living in the Dandaka forest. Hence, they received second-hand information, instead of first-hand information. How authentic could this information then be? We will have to analyze the speech of Rshis living in the Dandaka Forest to evaluate how authentic their claims are. That will be done, later on in this post, when I move on to an analysis of the Aranya Kanda. For now, however, I will continue my analysis of the aforementioned passage from the Ayodhya Kanda.

What can also be noticed from the aforementioned speech is a deliberate lie by the Rshis. They say that the cause of the persecution of the ascetics in the Janasthana is solely on Rama, and that Khara only started troubling the ascetics when Rama came to live in Chitrakuta. This is a lie, because in verse 3.6.23, Rama tells to the Rshis in the Dandaka Forest that he was sent to the Dandaka by Dasharatha, to kill the Rakshasas there. Hence, it logically follows that Dasharatha had received information about the Rakshasas molesting the Rshis in the Dandaka, prior to sending Rama for his exile:
विप्रकारमपाक्रष्टुं राक्षसैर्भवतामिमम्।पितुस्तु निर्देशकरः प्रविष्टोऽहमिदं वनम्।।3.6.23।।
I came into this forest in obedience to my father's orders to repel the aggression of demons against you.
It is a different matter that due blind bhakti for these Rshis, Rama was unable to see through their lies... What the Rshis' speech had essentially done was put the blame for the condition of the Rshis (in Janasthana) on Rama, thereby imposing guilt on him, that would eventually provoke him to take action against these Rakshasas. The Rshis ended their speech by saying "before Khara does some harm to you, too, my son, you should come away from here, with us" and added "if you are of a mind to do so", thereby taunting Rama's valor and provoking him to deal with these Rakshasas. Needless to say, at the end of Ayodhya Kanda, Rama decided to eliminate these Rakshasas and hence, entered the Dandaka.

Consider that these Rshis employed a very tactical manner to make Rama do their political bidding (i.e. free the Dandaka of Rakshasa rule), isn't it a bit naive to accept at face value, whatever they said about the Rakshasas torturing the Rshis? I believe we need to dig deeper to get to an appropriate conclusion, and that is what I will do throughout the rest of this post...

However, before I dig deeper into the matter, I feel that it is necessary to introduce the real reason behind the Rshi-Rakshasa conflict, and that is, the Vedic animal sacrifices performed by the Rshis. In Ravana's empire, he had banned the Vedic animal sacrifices. The above passage from Ayodhya Kanda Section 108 (Critical Edition) alludes to this, when the Rshis tells Rama "they scatter the laddles and other sacrificial implements: they douse the fires with water and break the vessels when the oblations are underway". Furthermore, when Ravana is first introduced in the epic, Valmiki says (Critical Edition, Aranya Kanda Section 30, translation by Bibek Debroy):
Consecrated by mantras, brahmanas kept oblations of soma in sacrificial vessels and the immensely strong one seized this. When sacrifices were about to be completed, the cruel one stole them. He was wicked in conduct and killed brahmanas.
Valmiki's bitterness for Ravana can be understood by the fact that he was also a Rshi, and hence did not like Ravana as he did not allow his fellow Rshis to perform their animal sacrifices in his empire. However, the main take away point from the above passage is that Ravana banned sacrifices, and that upon refusal of the Rshis to adhere to these laws, imposed by Ravana, Ravana had tried to forcefully curb the performance of such sacrifices.

Why did Ravana try to stop these sacrifices?

Well, these Vedic sacrifices often involved the sacrifice of animals. This was not just one or two animals sacrificed, but rather a copious amount of animals were sacrificed in these Vedic sacrifices. For example, consider the description of one of Rshi Agastya's sacrifices:
Formerly, the Rishi Agastya, while engaged in the performance of a grand sacrifice, chased the deer, and devoted every deer in the forest unto the gods in general. Thou hast been slain, pursuant to the usage sanctioned by such precedent. Wherefore reprovest us then? For his especial sacrifices Agastya performed the homa with fat of the deer.'
http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/m01119.htm
As shown by the above passages, Rshi Agastya performed sacrifices that killed nearly every deer in the forest to the fire. Obviously, this number must be an exaggeration, but the main message spread by Agastya was that as many animals as possible should be devoted to the fire in these sacrifices... Now which king can tolerate such a destruction of his wildlife? It was not as if these animals were just killed and that their skin or meat could be used. They were instead tossed into fire, and hence their meat was absolutely useless, as it would have been burned to ashes in the fire of the sacrifice.

Hence, Ravana's ban on these Vedic sacrifices can be understood by the nature of these sacrifices. These sacrifices would eliminate many animals in the forest, and that would, over time, lead to species extinction. Every king likes to protect his wildlife, and Ravana was no different...

Despite this ban on the Vedic sacrifices, the Rshis in the Dandaka did not mend their ways and would continue to eliminate animals in the Dandaka, through their sacrifices... As a result, as mentioned in the aforementioned passages, Ravana and his Rakshasas took action against these Rshis, and punishment, sometimes even death, was meted out to them. However, as I will show using verses below, the Rshis did not curb their sacrifices in the Dandaka, nor did they move out of the Dandaka. Rather, they continued their sacrifices in the Dandaka, and waged war on the Rakshasas in the Dandaka. Such wars led to even more Rshis and Rakshasas dying...

Rshi Agastya was one of the leaders of the Rshis, that led a war against the Rakshasas. He countered the Rakshasas, and expelled them from their own kingdom (the Dandaka) in Southern India, to a large extent (Critical Edition, Aranya Kanda Section 10, translation by Bibek Debroy):
The brave Lakshmana, the extender of prosperity, was following at the rear and was nearby. The lotus-eyed Rama spoke to him. ‘The trees possess gentle leaves. The animals and birds are quiet. The hermitage of the maharshi with the cleansed soul can’t be far away. Because of his own deeds, Agastya is famous in this world. His hermitage can be seen and it destroys the tiredness of those who are exhausted. The forest is enveloped in smoke. The place is clean, with garlands of bark. The herds of deer are quiet. Nor are the birds calling. For the welfare of the worlds, he swiftly controlled death. That performer of auspicious deeds is a refuge and he cleaned the southern direction. This is his sacred hermitage. Because of his powers, the rakshasas are terrified and are not seen to frequent the southern direction. Ever since the performer of auspicious deeds came to the southern direction, those who roam in the night have become pacified and have stopped all enmity. The southern direction is named after that illustrious and accomplished one. He is famous in the three worlds and the perpetrators of cruel deeds found him difficult to assail.
Rshi Agastya, ever since he arrived in the Dandaka, took violent measures and cleaned a portion of the Southern Direction (i.e. Dandaka Forest) of its Rakshasas. We are told that he had some of the most powerful bows and weapons with him (which he presumably used to accomplish this task). When Rama approached Agastya, the latter gave these weapons to Rama (as a matter of fact, the weapons used by Rama to kill Khara and Ravana both were gifts by Agastya, to Rama(Critical Edition, Aranya Kanda Section 11, translation by Bibek Debroy):
He then added, ‘This is a great and divine bow, decorated with gold and diamonds. O tiger among men! This belonged to Vishnu and was constructed by Vishvakarma. These excellent arrows are invincible and are like the sun. They were given by Brahma. The great Indra gave me two quivers with an inexhaustible supply of arrows. They are filled with sharp arrows that blaze like a raging fire. There is this large sheath made of silver, with a sword decorated with gold. O Rama! In ancient times, Vishnu used this bow to slay the great asuras in a battle and brought back blazing prosperity to the residents of heaven. O one who deserves honours! For the sake of victory, accept this bow, the two quivers, the arrows and the sword, just as the wielder of the vajra accepted the vajra.’ Having said this, the immensely energetic illustrious Agastya gave all those supreme weapons to Rama and spoke again.
So, as can be seen from the above passages, the Rshis in the Dandaka were not passive, weak individuals. There were some Rshis, like Agastya, that would openly wage war against the kingdom they lived in, and drive away the kingdom's Rakshasa army so that they could continue to perform their Vedic sacrifices freely. This is clearly an act of treachery against the kingdom they lived in. Rshi Agastya had very tightly regulated who lived in the portions of the Dandaka he had conquered, so as to prevent a reconquest of these portions of the Dandaka by the Rakshasas. We are told that Rshi Agastya had banned people who lie, are cruel, deceitful, violent, and addicted to desire, from living in the regions of the Dandaka that he had conquered from the Rakshasas (Critical Edition, Aranya Kanda Section 10, translation by Bibek Debroy):
The gods, the gandharvas, the siddhas and the supreme rishis always worship Agastya, who is restrained in diet, here. No one who lives here is a liar, cruel, deceitful, violent or addicted to desire. The sage ensures that.
All these adjectives generally apply to the Rakshasas, as they were described to use deceit/lies to defeat their enemies (i.e. Indrajit slaughtering a maya Seetha to demotivate the Vanara army), in addition to exhibiting violence/cruelty (with regards to the Rshis performing sacrifices), and refusing to suppress their sexuality (as in the case of Viradha, Ravana, Shurpanakha, etc...). Hence, it can be observed that Rshi Agastya tightly controlled who lived in the regions of the Dandaka that he had conquered, lest the Rakshasas may infiltrate these regions and eventually reconquer them.

By acting in such a manner, Rshi Agastya  allowed the Rshis in the Dandaka to fearlessly perform their Vedic sacrifices. As a matter of fact, in Rshi Agastya's hermitage, he had small houses (temples?) for all of the devas, and a sacrificial fire that was always running. When Rshi Agastya's disciples guide Rama, and take him to Rshi Agastya, residing deep in the hermitage, Rama is described as passing by all these mini-temples (of the devas) to reach Rshi Agastya (Critical Edition, Aranya Kanda Section 11, translation by Bibek Debroy):
Rama entered, with Sita and Lakshmana, and saw the hermitage, which was full of truculent deer. They progressively passed through Brahma’s place, Agni’s place, Vishnu’s place, the great Indra’s place, Vivasvat’s place, Soma’s place, Bhaga’s place, Kubera’s place, Dhatri–Vidhatri’s place and Vayu’s place. Surrounded by his disciples, the sage emerged. In front of him, Rama saw the sage, blazing in his energy.
In Rshi Agastya's hermitage, he had Vedic sacrifices being performed on a constant basis. In the hermitage itself, as mentioned in the aforementioned passage, there is a mention that deer were stored, which would presumably, later on, be used in the Vedic sacrifices. These deer are referred to, in the sanskrit verse (3.11.16, Critical Edition) as प्रशान्तहरिणाकीर्णम, which actually means crowded with dead deer. Hence, Bibek Debroy makes a mistake by mistranslating प्रशान्त as truculent, when it actually refers to the opposite (quiet, calm, dead, etc...). Anyways, the point I am making is that Rshi Agastya, had a multitude of dead deer in his hermitage, which would, in all likeliness, be used in the Vedic sacrifices that he performed in his hermitage on an ongoing basis. When Rama first arrived at Rshi Agastya's hermitage, he sent Lakshmana to inform Rshi Agastya's disciples about their arrival. These disciples then went to the spot where the sacrificial fire was (constantly) kept, to inform Rshi Agastya (who was sitting by the sacrificial fire) of Rama's arrival (Critical Edition, Aranya Kanda Section 11, translation by Bibek Debroy):
Hearing Lakshmana’s words, the store of austerities agreed. He entered the place where the sacrificial fire was kept to pass on the information. He quickly entered the place where the unassailable one, foremost among sages, was engaged in austerities. Joining his hands in salutation, he conveyed the news about Rama’s arrival.
This above narrative gives a brief description of the sacrificial fire that Rshi Agastya always kept running. Right prior to Rama's arrival at the hermitage, Rshi Agastya was by this sacrificial fire, likely performing oblations, and hence his disciples had to go deep into the hermitage, to the area where the sacrificial fire was kept, to inform Rshi Agastya of Rama's arrival. Rshi Agastya then completed his oblations, and then met Rama (Critical Edition, Aranya Kanda Section 12, translation by Bibek Debroy):
He received Kakutstha and offered him a seat and water. Having asked about his welfare, he asked him to be seated. He rendered oblations into the fire and honoured the guest with arghya. Following the dharma of those who are in vanaprastha, he offered them food.
I do not want to get into the nitty gritty details, but the point I am making is just that after freeing portions of the Dandaka Forest from Rakshasa rule, Rshi Agastya had built a hermitage, where the Rshis could openly perform the Vedic sacrifices without any restraint, round the clock...

I will now move to my next point, that is, infiltration of the Dandaka Forest by the Rshis. This allowed them to increase their numbers in the Dandaka Forest, and thereby form a force to reckon with, that would later go on conquer the Dandaka Forest, and end the rule of the Rakshasas... To explain this, I will start with the story of Vatapi and Ilvala, described by Rama... Rama describes to Lakshmana how Rshi Agastya destroyed the Rakshasa leaders Vatapi and Ilvala. Like all other Rakshasa leaders, they would also punish Rshis for their Vedic animal sacrifices, and hence were addressed as brahmana-killers in the brahmana text of Valmiki Ramayana:
इह एकदा किल क्रूरो वातापिः अपि च इल्वलः |भ्रातरौ सहितौ आस्ताम् ब्राह्मणघ्नौ महा असुरौ || ४-११-५५
"Once upon a time verily cruel demon brothers Vaataapi and Ilvala were here together, and they the dreadful demons, they say, used to be brahmana-killers.
धारयन् ब्राह्मणम् रूपम् इल्वलः संस्कृतम् वदन् |आमंत्रयति विप्रान् स श्राद्धम् उद्दिश्य निर्घृणः || ४-११-५६
"Disguising in brahmana's semblance and speaking sophisticatedly that Ilvala used to invite Brahmans for the purpose of obsequial ceremonies, where Brahman are fed after usual ceremony to appeases their manes.
भ्रातरम् संस्कृतम् कृत्वा ततः तम् मेष रूपिणम् |तान् द्विजान् भोजयामास श्राद्ध दृष्टेन कर्मणा || ४-११-५७
Then Ilvala used to make his brother Vaataapi into a ram, perfect that ram's meat into deliciously cooked food, and used to feed Brahmans according to obsequial rites and deeds.
ततो भुक्तवताम् तेषाम् विप्राणाम् इल्वलो अब्रवीत् |वातापे निष्क्रमस्व इति स्वरेण महता वदन् || ४-११-५८
"When those Brahmans are surfeited with that ram's meat, then Ilvala used to shout loudly, "oh, Vaataapi, you may come out."
ततो भ्रातुर् वचः श्रुत्वा वातापिः मेषवत् नदन् |भित्त्वा भित्वा शरीराणि ब्राह्मणानाम् विनिष्पतत् || ४-११-५९
"Then on listening his brother's words Vaataapi used to lunge out bleating like a ram, tearing and rending the bodies of those Brahmans.
Obviously the above narrative has a mythical aspect. But if we were to consider the Ramayana as itihaasa, we would need to explain this in a more rational manner. One way to explain it in such a manner would be that Ilvala would search for brahmanas performing funeral rites and then offer them food. The food would be poisoned by Vatapi, and then when consumed by the brahmanas, they would die... However, their deceit did not last long, as these two were eventually eliminated by Rshi Agastya:
अगस्त्येन तदा देवैः प्रार्थितेन महर्षिणा |
अनुभूय किल श्राद्धे भक्षितः स महा असुरः || ४-११-६१

"Then by Sage Agastya, whom gods have prayed to end this demonic menace, and whom demon Ilvala invited to feast during obsequial rites, he that Agastya having relished the fiendish demon in the form of ram, they say, had finished him off.

ततः संपन्नम् इति उक्त्वा दत्त्वा हस्ते अवनेजनम् |
भ्रातरम् निष्क्रमस्व इति च इल्वलः समभाषत || ४-११-६२

"Then Ilvala while giving lateral hand wash into the palms of Agastya entered in the routine conversation of obsequies asking, "Is this rite fulfilled..." and he furthered it in calling his brother to come out.

स तदा भाषमाणम् तु भ्रातरम् विप्र घातिनम् |
अब्रवीत् प्रहसन् धीमान् अगस्त्यो मुनि सत्तमः || ४-११-६३

Then that wise and eminent sage Agastya spoke mockingly to Ilvala who is conversing that way to his brother to come out.

कुतो निष्क्रमितुम् शक्तिर् मया जीर्णस्य रक्षसः |
भ्रातुः ते मेष रूपस्य गतस्य यम सादनम् || ४-११-६४

"Where is the energy for that ram shaped demon brother of yours to come out as I digested and sent him to the hellish residence of Terminator.

अथ तस्य वचः श्रुत्वा भ्रातुर् निधन संश्रितम् |
प्रधर्षयितुम् आरेभे मुनिम् क्रोधात् निशा चरः || ४-११-६५

"Then on hearing the words of sage Agastya affirming brother's demise, that night-walking demon furiously commenced to assault the sage.

सो अभ्यद्रवत् द्विजेंद्रम् तम् मुनिना दीप्त तेजसा |
चक्षुषा अनल कल्पेन निर्दग्धो निधनम् गतः || ४-११-६६

"When that demon rushed towards that best Bhraman to kill, he that sage glowing with his own refulgence burnt him down just by his flame-like eyes and doomed him to death.
Again, removing the mythical aspects of this narrative, we would notice that Rshi Agastya had detected the deceit of Vatapi and killed Vatapi before Vatapi was able to poison the meal that he, Rshi Agastya, would later eat. After killing Vatapi, Rshi Agastya told Ilvala about this, and an angry Ilvala proceeded to kill Rshi Agastya. However, he was no match for Rshi Agastya and was easily killed by him.

This narrative also suggests that Vatapi and Ilvala did not fight the Rshis in open war. Instead they used deceit to eliminate them - they poisoned the Rshis to death. The fact that the Rshis were killed in such a manner, as opposed to open war, can be interpreted to suggest that the Rshis had infiltrated the Dandaka Forest by that time to a great extent, making it difficult for the Rakshasas to win in open war, as they were against a numerically superior enemy. Hence they were forced to resort to deceit. To prevent further infiltration of the Dandaka Foret, the Rakshasas inhabiting the forest began to only admit Rshis that they felt were genuine ascetics, instead of warriors in the guise of ascetics.
Viradha was one such Rakshasa that controlled the influx into the Dandaka Forest. When Rama first enters the Dandaka, along with Lakshmana (both of whom were warriors in the guise of ascetics), he encounters Viradha, who speaks the following harsh words (to Rama):
युवां जटाचीरधरौ सभार्यौ क्षीणजीवितौ।
प्रविष्टौ दण्डकारण्यं शरचापासिधारिणौ।।3.2.10।।

You both clad in bark and wearing matted hair, holding bows, arrows and swords have entered into the Dandaka forest with your wife. Your life has been cut short indeed 

कथं तापसयोर्वां च वासः प्रमदया सह।
अधर्मचारिणौ पापौ कौ युवां मुनिदूषकौ।।3.2.11।। 

How is it that you both, dressed in the robes of ascetics, live with a woman? Leading an unrighteous and sinful life, who are you who have brought disgrace to the ascetic discipline? 
अहं वनमिदं दुर्गं विराधो नाम राक्षसः।
चरामि सायुधो नित्यमृषिमांसानि भक्षयन्।।3.2.12।। 
I am a demon named Viradha. I move in this dense forest with my weapons eating the flesh of the Rshis. 
इयं नारी वरारोहा मम भार्या भविष्यति।
युवयोः पापयोश्चाहं पास्यामि रुधिरं मृधे।।3.2.13।। 
This woman of fine hips shall be my wife. You sinners I shall drink the blood of both of you in the fight.
From verses 3.2.10-11, it is evident that Viradha was not an enemy of ascetics. The fact that he says "you have brought disgrace to the ascetic discipline" suggests that he viewed true ascetics in a positive manner. However, what he was against was pseudo-ascetics infiltrating the Dandaka Forest. Seeing Rama and Lakshmana dressed as ascetics, but bearing weapons and proceeding with a wife, it seemed to him that they were pseudo-ascetics that were infiltrating the Dandaka, and hence he later threatens to kill the duo, Rama and Lakshmana, whom he believes are pseudo-ascetics.  In verse 3.2.12, Viradha says that he proceeds in the forest with his weapons (सायुधो), thereby giving a war-like context to his speech. Hence, when he continues with his speech and says that he uses these weapons to devour the flesh of Rshis and will do the same to Rama and Lakshmana (3.2.12-13), I interpret it as Viradha saying that just like he kills those pseud0-ascetics (whom he calls Rshis in verse 3.2.12), he will also kill Rama and Lakshmana who, according to Viradha were also pseudo-ascetics.

Overall, these verses show a fear, in the mind of the Rakshasas, of infiltration of the Dandaka Forest by Rshis, that is, warriors bearing the guise of ascetics. It should therefore be no surprise why a powerful warrior like Viradha was stationed to control the influx of individuals into the Dandaka Forest.

According to other versions of Ramayana, like Kakawin Ramayana, Shurpanakha is explicitly stated to be a spy of Ravana, and that she initially approached Rama to ask him why he entered the Dandaka Forest. The current version of the Rama-Shurpanakha incident in Valmiki Ramayana is a greatly tampered version, with many layers of interpolations. I will take a separate article to discuss this. However, in the original version of the epic, it seems that she initially approached Rama, for political reasons, as a spy of the Rakshasas. Her initial speech to Rama greatly resembles Viradha's speech that I posted above...
जटी तापसरूपेण सभार्यश्शरचापधृत्।आगतस्त्वमिमं देशं कथं राक्षससेवितम्।।3.17.13।।किमागमनकृत्यं ते तत्त्वमाख्यातुमर्हसि।
You are wearing matted hair like an ascetic, but living with your wife and holding bow and arrows. What brings you to this country inhabited by Rakshasas? You should tell me the truth?
Like Viradha, Shurpanakha also shows a fear that Rama was a pseudo-ascetic, and that he had come to infiltrate the home of the Rakshasas. Her speech very greatly resembles what would be common of a spy, instead of a lovestruck lady, desiring to marry Rama. Anyways, the point I am making is that the Rakshasas in general were quite apprehensive that their Dandaka Forest was being infiltrated by these Rshis, who were warriors in the guise of ascetics. So, just to re-iterate, Ravana had banned Vedic sacrifices, in an attempt to save the wildlife in the Dandaka Forest. The Rshis did not care for Ravana's new laws and continued their sacrifices. Due to this behavior of the Rshis, Ravana took some action and punished those who continued their sacrifices. These Rshis, along with other Rshis that infiltrated the Dandaka Forest, took up weapons and, under the leadership of Rshi Agastya, waged war against the Rakshasas in the Dandaka Forest, in an attempt to free it of Rakshasa rule, so that these Vedic animal sacrifices could be openly performed without any hindrance...

In this war, many Rshis would have been killed... Their dead bodies were then used by the remaining Rshis to spread the (one-sided) propaganda that they were being tortured by the Rakshasas for no fault of theirs. As I have already mentioned, this propaganda spread to the Rshis in the Chitrakuta region, who tacitly urged Rama to eliminate these Rakshasas that were oppressing the Rshis in the Dandaka Forest. When Rama entered the Dandaka Forest, these Rshis used the dead bodies as propaganda to try to make Rama believe that they all were being oppressed by the Rakshasas, and that Rama should step forward and save them all (Critical Edition, Aranya Kanda Section 5, translation by Bibek Debroy):
Those ascetics came to Rama in Sharabhanga’s hermitage. Those who knew about dharma approached Rama, supreme among the upholders of dharma. The large number of self-controlled sages spoke to the one who was supremely knowledgeable about dharma. ‘You are a maharatha33 on earth and belong to the Ikshvaku lineage. You are the foremost of protectors, like Maghavan among the gods. Your fame and valour is known in the three worlds. You are also invested with the truthful vow given to your father and all types of dharma. O great-souled one! O one who knows about dharma! O one who is devoted to dharma! O protector! We have approached you for a purpose and you should pardon us for this. O son! Great adharma befalls a king who receives a sixth part as taxes, but does not protect the subjects like his sons. He must protect their lives like his own life, like his own desires and like his own son. He must always be engaged in protecting those who reside within his kingdom. O Rama! Such a person obtains everlasting fame for many years. He attains Brahma’s abode and achieves greatness there. Sages survive on roots and fruits and follow supreme dharma. A king who follows dharma and protects his subjects obtains a one-fourth share in their merits. There are many great brahmanas who have resorted to vanaprastha. O Rama! You are the protector. However, despite that, they are being fiercely slain by the rakshasas. Come and behold the bodies of the sages with cleansed souls. In this forest, there are many of them, who have been killed in many ways by the fierce rakshasas. This great carnage is going on among the abodes along the river Pampa, along Mandakinee and in the residences in Chitrakuta. We cannot tolerate this injury caused to the ascetics. In this forest, these are the horrible deeds being perpetrated by the rakshasas, who are terrible in their acts. You are the one who offers refuge. Therefore, in search of protection, we have come to you. O Rama! Protect us and slay the ones who roam during the night.’
Note that all these Rshis do is show Rama a couple of dead bodies and say that they, the Rshis, are being persecuted by the Rakshasas. This is really no actual evidence of persecution, as such dead bodies, could, in all likeliness, be the result of the warfare that the Rshis, led by Rshi Agastya, waged against the Rakshasas in the Dandaka, instead of the product of persecution. However, Rama blindly believed the words of these Rshis, instead of behaving in a skeptical manner. Furthermore, the Rshis also say that carnage is going on in the residences in the Chitrakuta. However, prior to entering the Dandaka Forest, Rama was living in the Chitrakuta region. He did not see any Rakshasas there, terrorizing the Rshis. Neither did the Rshis there complain of Rakshasa terrorism in the Chitrakuta region. Rather, their only complain was of Rakshasa terrorism in Janasthana, that could possibly spread over to the Chitrakuta region in the future. Again, due to Rama's blind bhakti for these Rshis, he did not critically analyze their words, but rather, he took their words on face value, and accepted them to be the absolute truth. As a result, he told the Rshis that it is unapt of them to request him, and that instead, they ought to command him (Critical Edition, Aranya Kanda Section 5, translation by Bibek Debroy):
Kakutstha heard this from the ascetics who were performing austerities. The one with dharma in his soul told all the ascetics, ‘You should not speak to me in this way. O ascetics! Command me.
Rama put himself right at the feet of these Rshis, and refused to question a thing they said. His blind bhakti for them is exemplified in his behavior towards Rshi Sutikshna. After asking the aforementioned group of Rshis to command him, he departed from there, and went to visit Rshi Sutikshna (whom he did not know prior to that moment) in his hermitage. Upon reaching there, he addresses Rshi Sutikshna and speaks the following:

रामोऽहमस्मि भगवन्भवन्तं द्रष्टुमागतः।
त्वं माभिवद धर्मज्ञ महर्षे सत्यविक्रम।।3.7.6।। 

O venerable one, I am Rama.You are a great sage, armed with truth as your prowess and a knower of dharma. I have come to see you. Could you speak to me?
Rama begins his speech by addressing Rshi Sutikshna as भगवन् (the translator inadequately translates it above as "O venerable one"), which actually means "O God". This kind of blind-bhakti, is similar to the reveration of self-styled godmen (such as Ram Rahim), that we get to see today... Due to such blind bhakti, Rama also took whatever Rshi Sutikshna said on face value...

Rshi Suktikshna's speech is very interesting and very eye-opening for the reader, as it is a strong piece of evidence that exposes the lies spread by the other Rshis that Rama had earlier met. According to Rshi Sutikhna, Rakshasas were not a problem in the forest, for the Rshis. Rather, according to him, the only problem in the Dandaka Forest were animals that charged towards the ashrams and disrupted the sacrifices. He clearly mentions that these animals caused no physical harm to any of the Rshis, though:
इमम् आश्रमम् आगंय मृग संघा महीयसः |
अहत्वा प्रतिगच्छन्ति लोभयित्वा अकुतोभयाः || ३-७-१८

"But herds of very large animals will be coming to this hermitage, they return after scaring us, of course without killing anyone, and they fear none...

ना अन्यो दोषो भवेत् अत्र मृगेभ्यः अन्यत्र विद्धि वै |
तत् श्रुत्वा वचनम् तस्य महर्षेः लक्ष्मणाग्रजः || ३-७-१९
उवाच वचनम् धीरो विगृह्य स शरम् धनुः |

"Know that no other problem is there other than the animals..." So said the sage. On hearing those words of that great sage, that brave elder brother of Lakshmana taking bow and arrow said this sentence.
The reason why these animals would charge at the ashrams of the Rshis should be quite obvious... We already know that the Rshis performed animal sacrifices en masse, and that Rshi Agastya's hermitage had copious amounts of deers lying dead, and ready to be tossed into the sacrificial fire. Hence, the animals charging towards the Rshis' hermitages can be understood in the context of the Vedic sacrifices... The animals would charge towards the hermitages to scare the Rshis and stop their sacrifices so that their young could be saved from being tossed into the fire of the sacrifices. However, they had no interest in physically harming the Rshis as long as their charging in herds would scare the Rshis enough that it would prevent them from sacrificing their (the animals') young ones...

Unsurprisingly, upon hearing these words of Rshi Sutikshna, Rama readily agreed to slaughter the poor creatures that were trying to protect their young from certain death in the fire of the Vedic sacrifices (Critical Edition, Aranya Kanda Section 6, translation by Bibek Debroy):
Having heard the words of the maharshi, Lakshmana’s patient elder brother stretched his bow, with an arrow affixed to it, and said, ‘O extremely fortunate one! When those large numbers of deer arrive, I will slay them with extremely sharp arrows that are as radiant as the vajra.
Note the difference in the speech of Rshi Sutikshna and that of the other Rshis. The first group of Rshis say that they were all oppressed by Rakshasas. However, Sutikshna's speech contradicted that by saying that Rakshasas were not the problem... Only the animals running to protect their young from being slaughtered in the Vedic sacrifices were the problem... This should have hinted to any person with basic reasoning skills that the first group of Rshis were lying and that they were never really persecuted by the Rakshasas. However, Rama treated these Rshis like god, and due to bhakti for them, he was gullible enough to completely buy their words... As a result, he agreed to slaughter all the Rakshasas in the forest, as well as all the animals in the forest...
Seetha, however, was not so gullible and realized the obvious lies of the Rshis. She therefore tried by stop Rama from attacking the Rakshasas by telling him that the Rakshasas found a refuge in the Dandaka Forest and that they have not committed any crime (suggesting that she believed they did not oppress the Rshis). Additionally, she says that as Kshatriya, he (Rama) should only raise his bow to protect the afflicted, thereby suggesting that she did not believe that the Rshis were the afflicted ones... Seetha further went on to say that Rama should respect the laws of the country (i.e. Rakshasa laws in the Dandaka Forest(Critical Edition, Aranya Kanda Section 8, translation by Bibek Debroy).
Because of affection and the great respect I hold for you, I am reminding you. You should never permit the act of picking up the bow and turn your mind towards causing enmity and slaying the rakshasas who have found a refuge in Dandaka. O brave one! In this world, it is not desirable to kill someone who has committed no crime. For kshatriyas and brave ones who have turned their minds to dwelling in the forest, the bow must only be taken up to protect those who are afflicted. What is this weapon? What is this forest? Who is a kshatriya? What are austerities? For us, all these are contradictory. The dharma of the country is what must be respected.
Note Seetha's words... देश धर्मः तु पूज्यताम्  (the dharma [laws] of the country is what must be respected)... Such words, coming from her, suggest that in her opinion, it was the Rshis that were the transgressors who transgressed the laws of the country, and that the Rakshasas, who had their laws violated were the true victims. Rama was very lucky to have such an intelligent wife, with such a presence of mind. I have explained her presence of mind earlier in my previous post "Seetha's Kidnap and the Associated Sexuality Politics". However this incident was yet another one where Seetha showed her presence of mind and reasoning ability to a great extent. She is beyond doubt, the character in the Valmiki Ramayana that I admire the most... Rama was truly blessed to have such a lady as his wife... However, he did not really deserve a woman like her. Despite her having an array of admirable qualities, Rama's affection for her was limited to the physical aspect, and he did not really value her as a person...

After such advice by Seetha, Rama treats her as a fool, and rejects her advice... This rejection of Seetha's advice eventually led to enmity with Ravana, Seetha's subsequent kidnap, and virtually the end of the conjugal relationship Rama had with Seetha... and therefore, in a sense, this rejection of Seetha's advise proved to be very costly for Rama...

Without jumping into a discussion of the dynamics of Rama and Seetha's marital life, I would like to end this post here. In conclusion, it was the Rshis in the Dandaka Forest that were the real cause of the Lankan war. They entered the Dandaka and performed their Vedic sacrifices. Despite Ravana eventually banning these sacrifices for their disastrous impact of the wildlife of the Dandaka Forest, the Rshis did not pay any heed and continued their sacrifices. They were eventually punished in accordance with the Rakshasa laws, for this transgression. However, instead of mending their ways, they infiltrated the Dandaka Forest in large numbers and waged war on the Rakshasas of the Dandaka Forest. They then used the dead bodies of the Rshis, from this war, to spread the propaganda in all directions, that they were being slaughtered and persecuted by the Rakshasas for no fault of theirs... This propaganda spread to the Chitrakuta region, and the Rshis living there manipulated Rama, into heading to the Dandaka to eliminate the Rakshasas, by feeding to him the propaganda of how the Rshis in the Dandaka were being persecuted by the Rakshasas. Upon reaching the Dandaka Forest, the Rshis residing in the Dandaka Forest showed Rama the dead bodies of some Rshis, and told them that these were the product of the Rakshasas persecuting them (they hid the fact from Rama that these dead bodies were the result of war with the Rakshasas). They also managed to convince Rama to eliminate the animals hindering their sacrifices. Following this, Rama attacked the Rakshasas in the Dandaka for about 10 years, freeing the Dandaka from Rakshasa rule to a great extent. He then met with Rshi Agastya, who gave him a multitude of powerful weapons to use in eliminating the rest of the Rakshasas in the Dandaka Forest (Critical Edition, Aranya Kanda Section 11, translation by Bibek Debroy):
He then added, ‘This is a great and divine bow, decorated with gold and diamonds. O tiger among men! This belonged to Vishnu and was constructed by Vishvakarma. These excellent arrows are invincible and are like the sun. They were given by Brahma. The great Indra gave me two quivers with an inexhaustible supply of arrows. They are filled with sharp arrows that blaze like a raging fire. There is this large sheath made of silver, with a sword decorated with gold. O Rama! In ancient times, Vishnu used this bow to slay the great asuras in a battle and brought back blazing prosperity to the residents of heaven. O one who deserves honours! For the sake of victory, accept this bow, the two quivers, the arrows and the sword, just as the wielder of the vajra accepted the vajra.’ Having said this, the immensely energetic illustrious Agastya gave all those supreme weapons to Rama and spoke again.
In short, these Rshis were truly parasites that lived off of the Rakshasas in the Dandaka, and sucked them dry. What they did is no less than what ISIS or its counterparts are doing today (i.e. creating a state based on religious grounds).

12 comments:

  1. I was never told why Ram destroyed demons before Ravan kidnapped Sita. For what reason did he do that. Good to know this background, I appreciate this information.

    Although, instinctively, I feel that the rishis were right. It is good to be kind to animals/birds, but it is not ideal for them to continue living in the conditions that animals/birds do. Somebody has to do something or hasten their evolution into human beings.

    In my opinion, that is what the rishis where doing.

    Even today, there is so much meat eating going on all over the world, even in India. The soul of the animal/bird that people eat, gets transported into the body of that human, and eventually enters the sperm/egg, then it is possible that the soul of the animal/bird gets a human body through meeting of the human sperm and egg.

    If the animals/birds became comfy in their form, they will never become or want to become a human being, but that is not good for the evolution of their soul.

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    1. Rohit, I disagree with you here. Killing animals does not accelerate their evolution into humans. Rather, placing these animals into environments where only those with human skills can thrive would allow for more human-like mutations over time in these animals (to survive in the environment) and that will allow for evolution. Also, forcing mass evolution into humans is not ideal as it would impact the food chain as well...

      Even humans (as a species) are evolving little by little as we speak, so I don't see the human species as a target/model that all animals should strive for...

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    2. Thanks for your reply Milin.

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  2. above article is fake ravana was not a vegetarian to begin with .milin patel you turning ravana into a animal right activist ,this has to be most idiotic thing I read .thank god you got banned from qoura for publishing this nonsense

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    1. Please read the post carefully. I never said that Ravana was a vegetarian. Meat food is described as being present in his inner apartments in Sundara Kanda, so he obviously ate meat according to Valmiki Ramayana. But eating meat does not mean that he would agree to go on an animal-killing spree and eliminate all animals in the forest. Even modern nations (whose citizens follow non-vegetarian lifestyles) impose restrictions on which animals can be hunted, in order to preserve the wildlife.

      I suggest you patiently read the article, take time and think over it, and then post a response instead of showing a knee-jerk reaction to this article...

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  3. Hello Milin,

    Very Rightly said, why would Dashana waste his time and energy in punishing the sages for no reason. Infiltrating and dandaka forest and then killing the animals for sacrificial purpose is one of the reason why Dashana took strong action against these rishis.

    I would recommend you to search for the "Ravan serial" in you tube. In episode no. 11. Dashanana is arguing with the sages and later it makes a serioud issue. Also, it is shown his disputes with Indra and shri vishnu. It is also shoen in the serial that how Rishi Vishrava(father of Dashana) gets attracted towards kaiksi(Mother). All the things are very well narrated in this show.

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    1. Thank you. I will have a look at that show.

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    2. Ravana himself used to eat meat, he even threatened Sita to accept his proposal else he will cut her into pieces and his chefs will cook her and he will eat her. So , Valmiki Ramayana is proving that even he was a Cannibal .
      And how you came to the conclusion that the animals that Rishis sacrificed were that of "endangered species" and for their protection Ravana issued such orders? As I said , that you are cooking your own assumptions just to defame Rama and Krishna .
      You are seriously a big clown expert in producing humbugs

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  4. You are such a pathetic Buffon. Rishis used to sacrifice animals , but then at earlier times the mantras were so powerful that the animal sacrificed used to get free from animal body and attains higher birth. Read what Manusmriti says about it, Read what Aiteraya Brahman 2.1.18 says about the same.
    Then you are saying that Rishis may have been killed due to any war as Ravana did not have time to do so as he was a king..!! So , just cooking your own assumptions and interpretations to propagate your agenda , Ravana used to send his demonic army to destroy the Rishis.
    And what harm does yajna causes?? When Yajna happens then it benefits everyone in the society, I know you won't accept it. If Vedic Mantras are so bad then why even demonic class used to chant Vedic Mantras in lanka for their own benefits ( Valmiki Ramayana 5.18.2).

    Your strategy is very clear , just declare everything as "later interpolations " that goes in favour of Ram and Krishna , that builds up the logical narrative of their divine act by telling that "critical editions " says so without giving reference to any prior linguists .
    Any serious scholar can easily debunk your shitty articles , from BORI to IIT Kanpur translations , all of them goes against yours one in most of the cases.
    But I know you won't accept the fact, it is because of this reason only that our Rishis made rule that religious scriptures should be read under the guidance of a spiritual master else they will produce the trash like you.
    I won't ever reply you again because I have clearly understood the pattern of your agenda which is quite laughable. Be happy with what wrong things you belive.

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  5. You are only selectively quoting that editions of Ramayana that suits your agenda. But let me tell you finally, any of the linguists is not above Ram and Krishna, there was always a logical narrative behind their divine leelas, so any of the linguists who claims these things as interpolations should be clearly rejected as Rama and Krishna won't do anything without any reason.
    There are many other linguists who don't agrees with the ones you are quoting and I can give examples of many like Dwarka Prasad Chaturvedi.
    So keep your sheer hatredness with you.
    Good Bye...!!

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  6. LoL...!! You are quoting Bibek Debroy who is not even an expert linguists and just a translator , on what basis do you claim that his translation is the most accurate and authenticated translation in the world. His article in Penguin Digest clearly reflects that he has a personal biasedness against Ram and that's why he has removed all those verses which builds up a logical narratives and goes in favour of Ram and against Ravana to whom you are quoting for fulfilling your agenda .
    Remember, an authenticated knowledge from the spiritual master ( Guru) is the most appropriate one and we'll always consider them more accurate and precise than your Bibek Debroy and your shitty articles

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    1. Skand,

      Is this the kind of abusive words that your spiritual master has taught you? By using some select words in your comment, you have revealed his identity. He is my Guru too, but don't shame him by using such abusive words.

      Regardless of which side of the equation you fall on (ok to kill animals or not ok to kill animals) and regardless of what you think of Ravan (good person or bad person), you should have the humility to understand that Lord Ram did not descend for just one reason. Moreover, he did not kill Ravan for just one reason.

      The truth is - Ravan was a great follower of 'apar' dharma. He was a righteous and a dharmic person, in the divine leela of Lord Ram. But, there is a level of divinity beyond the worldly righteousness, which he did not represent in this divine leela. Lord Ram killed him to strengthen the faith of his devotees that divine dharma always trumps worldly dharma. God is the 'adhishthan' of both "good" and "bad". Same deal with Lord Krishna and Duryodhana.

      You are showing the limits of your own intellect here.

      Ravan was right on his side of the argument ... can't go around killing innocent animals. Even if he ate meat, which he did, does not mean he sanctioned the killing of innocent animals.

      Rishis and Ram were also right. Animal life is not the be all end all of existence.

      This is not an argument between right and wrong or good and bad.

      Milin has been kind enough to create this blog and reveal the truth of Valmiki Ramayan to everybody. He always presents his articles with correct proof and translation of the Sanskrit.

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