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Valmiki Ramayana - Aranya Kanda in ProseSarga 1

Rama, Seetha, and Lakshmana enter the great forest called Dandaka Forest and adore the eminent sages, who are in penance and hermitages in that forest. This canto is named as Aranya Kanda not just to show that Rama roved over just forests. The forests, as per Indian tradition, are the treasure houses of knowledge, and they are the ultimate in Vedic culture.

Thus, until Ayodhya Kanda Rama’s exile is in aaryavarta, the place where Aryans have moved freely, from River Ganges to Greece. Now Rama is stepping into an area called janasthana, meaning people’s place. This janasthana is the place where Rama eradicated certain negative aspects of the then anarchic individualised dominions where jungle law was the only recourse and brought all of them under one roof. Though people lived there about along with sages and demons as well, demonic influence is said to be predominant, as per Ramayana or other Purana-s. These demons are narrated to be man-eaters, but not cannibals who eat their own tribesmen.  Recent discoveries revealed that the first humans were cannibals. The Science magazine reported about the excavations at Neanderthals, Neander Valley, Germany.  In the words of Alban Defleur of the Universite de la Mediterranee at Masrseilles, France, “The finding allows us for the first time to demonstrate the existence of the practice of cannibalism by European Neanderthals.”  It is not clear from the excavations of Neanderthals, whether the cannibalism was practised for survival or as a ritual.  And even at Alveston in the western English country of Gloucestershire, recently found are such human thighbones, which had been split down the middle to remove marrow. Archaeologists of Bristol University are saying that the evidence indicated the victims could have been disabled and deformed people in society. They have been murdered and eaten, and the radiocarbon dating suggests these finds are about 2000 years ago. This practice is attributed to some underworld cults during the later Iron Age. That being the situation in Europe, in the knowable history, in Ramayana that has happened in an unknown era, the rakshasa-s are narrated to be man-eaters, but not as cannibals.  But the accounts given in Aranya Kanda and elsewhere, in ancient India the rakshasa-s ate up humans neither for their own survival nor for ritual but to exhibit their tyranny and their barbaric supremacy. They never reported to have eaten their own clansmen, but have a palate for other breed. Hence it is not exactly cannibalism, but a barbaric act to exert savage scare. This is what the sages advise Rama, Seetha and Lakshmana when departing towards Dandaka Aranya, and indirectly suggest eradicating such a savage atmosphere in peaceful forests.

When it comes to isms, it is said that the whole clash is between Vaishnavaites and Shaivites or Shaaktaites, because the raakshasa-s are invariably Shiva worshippers, where Vaishnavism is a later development.  All the raakshasa-s or demons in fact the term ‘demon’ do not suit them, portrayed hereafter, are ardent worshippers of Lord Shiva, and have every blessing from Shiva or Brahma. It is an ethnicity of its own which lived rich lives, pompous in attributes, wielded magical powers, and unabatedly performed anything that is beneficial for them.  Their riches and glory will be reflected in Sundara Kanda, which will be burnt down by Hanuma, humbling this deleterious ethnicity, even before Rama’s war with Ravana. Such an ethnic culture will be portrayed hereafter, in constant conflict with Rama, and Rama eradicating each and every member of such ethnicity that goes against any civility.

It is said that Rama performed deena jana rakshana in this Aranya Kaanda, Miserable People’s Protection and mitra jana rakshana in the next canto Kishkindha Kaanda, i.e., Friendly People’s Protection. The janasthana is the unexplored area by the then people of aaryavarta, where the raakshasa ethnicity prevailed and which certainly resisted any outside influences or culture, and which is why they are called raakshasa-s. The word raksha means protection, and they protect their own culture and ethnicity, and if any outsiders to join them, they shall be subservient.  For e.g., Ravana does not tolerate the insult meted out by his sister Shuurpanakha at the hands of Lakshmana.  Ravana, though persuaded by Maareecha not to encounter Rama, does not listen to any advises but wished to abduct Seetha, because he wanted to possess that beautiful woman, like all other beautiful, pompous objects like Lord Kubera’s wealth, Lanka, the golden city and Pushpaka aircraft etc. Ravana even baits Seetha with queen-hood, if only she subjugates to him, and all these dictatorial aspects reveal the pride and vanity of Rakshasa culture. But the term ‘demon’ used in paucity of equivalent term may not be taken to mean just as a wicked demon or a devil, but a powerful antagonistic culture or ethnic dominions of Rakshasas, in Janasthana.

Rama does much good in jansthana in wiping out those cultures of greedily dictatorial, magically overpowering, and ruinous to other forms of civility. In fact this Aranya Kanda is not explained in vivid terms by the ancient commentators, and if things are probed deeper in this book, Aranya Kanda, Rama did more social work than miracles.  Hence much can be explored into this Aranya Kaanda, the Book of Forest, in terms of sociological, demographically and ethnological pursuits of Rama to establish one great orderly civil empire under one emperor, that is what we call Rama Raajya. Further, it will be narrated that Rama killed these Rakshasas in thousands, which is objected by materialists as how can an archer eliminate so many thousands of Rakshasas, with just a bow and arrows.  It may be remembered that Sage Viswamitra accords many kinds of missiles to Rama, after the killing of Tataka, the demoness, in Bala Kanda.  It may not be surprising for this generation to know that a single trigger can create havoc of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, and then in all its probability Rama also might have triggered in the same way, with the missiles endowed by Sage Viswamitra.

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With this, we enter the deep forests of Dandaka Aranya, starting southward from the Vindhya Range of mountains. The forests, as per Indian tradition, are the treasure houses of knowledge. Each of the Veda is arranged in sections like 1 samhita-s, hymn section 2 braahmaNa-s, procedures in rituals 3 aaranyaka-s, enquiry into Brahma, 4 upanishad-s, consolidation of the Indian Philosophies. Hence the aranya shall be the abode for the enquirers of the Absolute, right from Vedic culture. Here the opening verses alone metaphors the forest with solar arena in sky. After completion of their grihasta aashrama, householder-ship, anyone who repairs to forests, for sanyasa aashrama, sage-hood will attain solar like resplendence in their penance in forests, with their philosophic tranquillity and resplendence.


On entering the great Dandaka Forest, Rama the courageous and unconquerable one, discerns the clusters of hermitages of sages.

 Comment: The verse uses the phrase aatmavaan, the word used in original verse is the question put to Sage Narada, by Sage Valmiki, at the start of the epic in Bala Kanda, as the first word of verse 1-1-4. The courage and invincibility are reflected in the opening verse itself, since Rama has to perform diinajana or sajjana rakshaNa i.e., saving the helpless or goodly men, viz. in the present context, the sages. The sages are to be saved from the onslaught of demons, which requires, both courage and un-invincibility. Apart from its meaning soulful one, self controlled one, aatmavaan also means courageous one.

Darbha, the sacred grass and jute clothing well permeating, and well pervaded with Vedic splendour and well glowing like the un-seeable solar arena in the sky, with naked eye...

Comment: This connotes Vedic import in saying that Supreme is far beyond from Solar orbit. In iishaavaasyopanishad, at hymn 15, we hear the following mantra, hymn.

Om hirõmayeõ p˜treõ satyasya apihitam mukham |
tat tvam p¨ÿan ap˜v®õu satya dharm˜ya d®ÿ÷aye ||

hiraNmayeNa+paatreNa= by golden, disc like vessel; satyasya= of the truth; apihitam= closed; mukham= face of; tat+tvat= that, you, apaavR^iNu= slide aside; satya+dharmaaya= I as truthful, righteous one; dR^iSTaye= to visualise, that which is beyond you.

On looking at the rising red sun, the devotee is asking  "Oh! Pooshan! God Sun, nourisher of the universe, the trueness of the Supreme is covered by your golden disk like vessel, i.e., your Solar disk, slide it aside, for as a truthful and righteous devotee, I visualise that which is beyond your golden Solar disc.

This is said to be the coming of Supreme into lower abode of Solar orbit from His Supreme abode, say vaikuntha. Now Rama and Seetha are passing through this dazzling Solar-orbit like hermitage, to present themselves before the true devotees, and also to eradicate vice on earth. This appearance is without any prayers from the devotee, as contained in the above Vedic hymn. God reveals Himself.

Recourse for all living beings with their well tidied thresholds all over, and dense with many deer and teemed with many groups of birds, are those hermitages...

Adore dancingly are the groups of apsarasa-s, the celestial dancers with their continued dancing, and very broad are the Holy Fireplaces, with oblation items, vessels, deerskins and the sacrificial grass...

Comment: The Vedic ritual demands three Fireplaces, called tretaagni, three fires. They are 1 dakshiNa agni (Southern Fire) 2 gaarhapatya agni (Household Fire) 3 aahavaniiya agni (Invocation Fire.) These three are lit continuously day in and day out, symbolising that the fire in living beings has continuity. Wherever a Vedic ritual takes place the celestial divinity will come down to take their share of oblations and the celestial dance thereabout in praise of the ritual. The oblation vessels are of particular nature and a long spoon is made of particular wood, to oblate clarified butter or milk etc., into the Alter of Fire. The deerskin is the prescribed seat for meditation. The sacrificial grass is the essential item of even in domestic rituals, symbolising that the human kind shall prosper like the interlaced and intermingled grass, where the starting or the end point is intractable. There is one duurva suuktam in Vedic hymns, symbolising the nature of grass with mankind.

Enriched are those hermitages with ritual fuels, water vessels, tuber fruits, and also surrounded are they, with great blest trees of the forest... that yield palatable fruits... Worshipping with sacrifices and fire-oblations... sacrosanct they are, with the reverberating sounds of Brahma, [i.e., Vedic chanting,] and well covered arre the hermitages by the forest-flowers and lotus-ponds with lotuses, too... Feeding upon fruit and tuber, with their senses controlled, and clothed in jute cloths and deerskin, and with their resplendence like Lord Sun and Lord Fire, are the age-old saints, that comprise therein...

Holy they are, those hermits, with their nourish restricted and greatly shining forth with their scholarliness, that hermitage is distinctive like Lord Brahma's Abode, with its well reverberating sounds of Brahma [i.e., Vedic chanting.] They are the knowers of Brahma and thus greatly favoured ones, and glistening with those Brahmins is that cluster of saint's hermitages... and  propitious Raghava, on seeing that cluster of hermitages... that great radiant one Rama neared that cluster of hermitages, unfastening the bowstring of his great bow, and those great sages, possessors of divine knowledge, on seeing at Rama, gone towards Rama...

Comment: Indian archers fasten the bowstring only when that bow is to be put to use. Further there is a method described in dhanurveda as to how a bowstring is to be fastened to the other end of the bow. The Indian mythological bows are of six feet or two yards, in height. It is also a measure like horse length. The string, which so far is spiralled to the bow beam, is to be removed. Then the bottom end of the bow is to be kept pressed onto the ground with left foot's big toe. Then with the right hand the edge of the string is handled and with left hand the other end of the bow is to be held and crouched, so that the string can be hooked or fastened there. After fastening, the stretch of the string is to be tested like the occasional testing of the badminton or tennis racquet for the tension of its gut, by pulling and leaving it, so that it makes a warring sound. By this sound of the bowstring, which is a signal to the opponent, the opponent comes to know as to who is handling which bow. Then if the archer is going to beam out an arrow, he shall pull the arrow on the bowstring up to his right ear and leave it. aakarNaanta prayoga. Here, removing the bowstring from its fastening implies that this archer, namely Rama who is so far handling the stringed bow, for he is roaming in forests, and since he is entering the place of elderly saints now, unfastened the bowstring in all his humbleness to sages and saints.

Gone towards them are the sages gladsomely, on seeing that illustrious Seetha... and they the sages thus, verily visualised that practiser of rectitude, Rama... as the emerging Lord Moon...f rom the black cloudy thickets of the forests... And on seeing like that at Lakshmana, and at that glorious Seetha also... those adeptly woeful sages, rendered Vedic Blessings while receiving those visitors... Rama's physique, grace, brilliance, daintiness, and his attiring finely... that forest dwelling ages saw... with their astonished postures ...

Comment: Please see the verse. Hereruupa means the bodily shape that which, though undecorated, looks richly decorated. samhanana is beauty of the well arranged body parts with no dissimilarities, where the good old saying 'equality is the basis of beauty... and inequality is the basis of society...' may be remembered. lakshmiiH is laavaNya i.e., luminosity in-itself, as pearls would have... while saukumaarya is delicacy of a blooming flower. suveSa is good outfit or suitable outfit. Rama, Seetha and Lakshmana wear a particular dress, given by Queen Kaikeyi in Ayodhya. Those dresses are peculiar to themselves and not on par with the regular dress of hermits. This dress of these three itself is confusing attire for onlookers, like Viradha, the demon or Sugreeva, the monkey-chief, for these three do not look like perfect sages or perfect warriors. Even the demon Viradha scorns them, in the next chapter, for their inconstancy in their attire.

Seetha, Lakshmana and Rama, at them, the forest-dwellers saw without a wink on their own eyes, as the surprise coming on... [or Seetha, Lakshmana and Rama, at them, the forest-dwellers saw, as though they lost their celestial beings, who do not have the winking property on their eyes like living beings, as the surprise coming on... or  Seetha, Lakshmana and Rama, at them the forest-dwellers saw, as though the Lord Vishnu along with Goddess Lakshmi and The Thousand headed-serpent, aadi sheSha are coming from their abode vaikunTha to this hermitage, for this hermitage is like Brahma's abode, as said in earlier stanzas... and the sages lost their wink...for, any single wink will loose the sight of these divinities from vaikunTha... and surprise came upon them...]

There, those great august sages, who are interested in the welfare of all the beings, well accommodated their guest Raghava, in a chalet... Then felicitating Rama procedurally, those sages who are similar to sacred fire in glow, they fetched water, those august ones and virtue practisers... Enunciating Vedic Blessings, with their blessedness becoming great... tuber, flowers, and fruits and the entire hermitage as well, to that great soul Rama, they the sages have offered...

On offering thus, those fruits and water, they with their palms folded spoke, "The Virtuous ruler of these people, you are a shelter and of great repute... And an adorable and respectable one is the king... who wields the stick [or sceptre of justice,] and a revered one too, oh! Raghava, and having one fourth of Lord Indra's feature, in protecting the people...

Comment: Here, Rama may be astonished as to why these forest dwelling sages eulogise him so much. The sages are not using unnecessary conversation and they are informing Rama what a king shall be, whether he is in the capital or in forests. The term Lord Indra is an allusion. It refers to seven more of Lord Indra’s associates, ashta dikpaalakas, It is said that

aÿ÷˜bhir loka p˜l˜n˜m m˜tr˜bhi× nirmito n®pa×

A king is made with eight aspects of eight rulers of eight corners of the universe. Viz., Indra, Vayu Air, Yama Death, Surya Sun, Agni Fire, Varuna Rain, Chandra Moon, and Kubera Wealth. When the earth is heading towrds anarchy Lord Brahma is said to have created the king with one fourth of resplendence of each of the eight rulers. Manu Srmriti states as below:

indra anila yama arknm agneþca varuõasya ca |
candra vitteþa yo× caiva mtr nirh®tya þ˜þvatee× ||

Manu smriti also prescribes certain rules for the king called Vrata. Indra accords rains for four months to sprout the seeds, so the king shall sprout the people’s hopes. Sun evaporates earthly water slowly and insignificantly so as to give the next rain, so the king shall collect taxes and spend them again for the welfare of people suurya vrata. Air pervades everywhere to enliven people, so the king shall pervade everywhere through his agents to watch out good and evil for his subjects maaruta vrata. Lord Yama, the God of Time, has no friends or foes and ends the lives of any one at the end of their time, and so shall the king in according punishments yama vrata. Rain binds one and all and it is the livelihood of any living being, so shall the king is to bind his subjects for a good livelihood varuNa vrata. Moon is both a pleasant one and presiding deity for medicinal herbs, so shall the king be pleasant to his people and keep their health chandra vrata. Fire is fiery and burns down evil and the king shall be fiery to his enemies, either internal or external aagneya vrata. The wealthy earth sustains scholars and stupid, wealthy and poor, prosperous and pathetic alike, so shall the king bear with all of his subjects pR^ithvii vrata.

"Thereby, the king enjoys the best prosperity delightfully and he is hailed by one and all of us, the subjects... thus we are to be protected by you, for we are the subjects living in your kingdom... Oh! Lord of People, may you be residing in the capital or in the forest... you are our king... Oh! King, we gave-up punishments, either physically or by the power of curses, conquered are our anger and senses, and thus we are to be protected by you... like the foetus inside a womb, as we are rich only by our severity... " Thus said the sages.

Thus saying, with fruits, tubers, flowers and other varieties of forest foods also, Raghava, along with Lakshmana is worshipped. Thus other saints and sages who are similar to the Sacred Fire, and the followers of the virtue, by their wont adored Rama, the Lord.



The meaning in the verse at 11 [please refer to verse page,] contains te tu somam iva udyantam... This context is also explained in the following ways:

te= they the knowers of three-times, past, present and future; tam= them, demons, to eliminate; udyantam+somam+iva+sthitam= arising, moon, like, is there; to remove darkness arising is the moon, and he that Rama is here; or udyantam+somam+iva= arising, moon, like like a new moon, arising in darkness of the thick cloudy forests; dR^iSTvaa= on seeing; dharmachaarinaH= virtue pratisers, the sages; mangalaani+ prayunjanaaH = Vedic Blessings rendered;

 The sages rendered Vedic Blessings on seeing the rising moon to eradicate the darkness called demons, for Rama is their object of worship as a virtuous one and they themselves are the followers of virtue.

Or, the sages have physically seen that object of their worship, Rama the virtuous one, who they are so far seeing with their inner senses alone, and rendered Vedic Blessings.

Or, the sages rendered the Vedic Blessings on seeing the moon-like Rama emerging to eradicate the darkness called demons. But this Rama is having attributes like 'ruupa sa.mhananam lakShmiim saukumaaryam' as visualised by the sages, as at verse 13. And to not to happen any untoward incident to this delicate, dainty, graceful young man at the hands of the ireful demons, the sages rendered Vedic Blessings as a precautionary measure, for the sages are dhR^iDha+vrataaH= determined in their vow, to eradicate the demons, through Rama. This is the rendering of Govindaraja.

te= they, the sages; mangalaani+prayunjaanaaH= blessings, rendered; udyantam+somam+iva= emerging, moon-like, gladdening all the world like a pleasant moon; tam= him, that Rama; pratyagR^ihNan= received as their presiding deity of virtue. This is the rendering of Maheshvara Tiirtha.

te= those sages; udyantam+somam+iva= arising, moon-like, arising like the presiding deity of Brahmins. It is said in Veda-s ' tasmaat soma raajaano braahmaNaaH ' Lord Moon shall be the deity of Brahmins Vedic Scholars, for Veda is dharma, the virtue and the Vedic Brahmins are the preachers and practisers of that virtuosity. yashashviniim= glorious is Seetha, for she is the principal cause in eradicating demons, thus, by finding such protectors who have come hither to ameliorate the difficulties of sage, the sages rendered Vedic Blessings. This is tilaka or also known as Rama Tilaka.


Thus, this is the 1st chapter in Aranya Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana,the First Epic poem of India. 

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