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Rama after killing Viradha, the demon, enters the hermitage of Sage Sharabhanga, as advised by the dying demon Viradha in the previous episode. Sage Sharabhanga refuses the invitation of Lord Indra to come to heaven, but awaits the arrival of Rama to see him with his own eyes. After seeing Rama, Seetha and Lakshmana, and also showing next course of their journey, that Sage enters the yogic fire and ascends to Brahma's abode.
After killing that stupendously mighty Viradha, the demon in forest, then Rama embraced Seetha comfortingly... Rama said to his brother Lakshmana, who is beaming with resplendence, "Difficult forest is this, and impassable too, nor we are forest inhabitants either...
"We go quickly to Sage Sharabhanga, the penance-wealthy sage..." and then Raaghava-s approached the hermitage of Sage Sharabhanga, verily...
At that divinely resplendent sage and the one with a purified soul, near at that Sage Sharabhanga and his hermitage, Rama saw a great wonder... With his body shining like the radiance of Sun and Fire, and sitting in a great chariot that is in sky, and followed by divinities... Not touching the earth is that chariot, and thus Rama saw the Lord of Divinities, Indra, and glittering are his ornaments and cladding spotless cloths... Thus that sort of many more great souls adoring Lord Indra, sitting in the chariot, which is with green horses that traverse in firmament, that chariot is there...
Rama saw that chariot very nearby, which chariot is like the noontime Sun, the splendour of white cloud's cluster, which is like moon's sphere... that white imperial umbrella of Indra... Rama saw the stainless parasol marvellously garlanded and shining forth and the exemplary chamara-s, [royal fanning instruments,] with golden handles... and invaluable ones...
Comment: The royal umbrella and fanning instruments of Hindu order are of particular type, in comparison with their European counterparts. These chamara instruments will be made from the bushy long, silver-white hair of chamara animal, a Himalayan beast, Bos grunniens and this will be studded into a golden or silver handle. These are not for actual air circulation but they are royal insignias.
Handling them the royal fans are two best female celestials, and they are fanning at Lord Indra's head sides, and the gandharva-s, amara-s, siddhaa-s and very many great sages are there... That deity Lord Indra, staying in firmament, the celestials and sages, with best Vedic hymns are extolling Him, whilst Lord Indra is talking to Sage Sharabhanga... On seeing Shata Kratu, Lord of Hundred-rituals, Lord Indra, Rama spoke to Lakshmana, concerning and showing the chariot of Lord Indra...
Comment: The name shata kratu for Indra is due to His presiding function of yajna. Thus he who has preside over hundred or hundreds of rituals, is shata kratu.
"Comprising effulgence, auspiciousness is that chariot, and fabulous one too...see Lakshmana, and it is well luminous is that chariot like the Sun traversing in the firmament, ... Those are the horses of the Chief Invitee in Vedic rituals, [namely Lord Indra,] of which we heard earlier from our teachers, and now they are striding in the firmament...divine they are, and those green horses definitely are of Lord Indra...
Also they, Oh! Manly-tiger, those that are there around the chariot, in hundreds and hundreds, youthful ones with their ear-ornaments and swords in their hands... Wide and broad are their chests, and arms club shaped and they are clad in in red-glimmering garments and all are like tigers... unapproachable... All of them are wearing on their chest-place ornamental chains that are fire-like, and in their appearance, Soumitri, they bear a look of twenty-five-year-olds... All this is said to be, about the age factor, that it verily remains constant like these nice-looking Tigerly-men as they appear now for they are immortals and they will be ever young... Along with Vaidehi stay for a moment Lakshmana, until I know clearly who is that, such a resplendent one, on that chariot... " On saying thus to him to stay there only Rama paced towards the hermitage of Sage Sharabhanga...
Then, on seeing Rama arriving there, Lady Shachi's husband, Lord Indra, bade farewell to Sage Sharabhanga and to the celestials who are at his side spoke this way...
"Here comes that Rama... before he talks to me, you lead him towards his vow, only after completing the result of his incarnation, he is eligible to see me... Let him be the conqueror and an accomplished one, then I will see him... very soon... for that will happen very soon... A deed is to be verily performed by him... a great deed... that is highly impossible for others..." Said Indra. Then that Vajri Thunderbolt-wielder, Lord Indra, bade farewell to the sage adoringly, and by the chariot with its green horses travelled to heavens, that Enemy-destroyer...
Comment: Lord Vishnu is said to have instructed all the divinities to not to talk to him during his human incarnation on earth as Rama. If any divine being comes into direct contact and conducts a dialogue, Rama's identity as Lord Vishnu is revealed, and Ravana will apprehend that and then revokes his boon of not to be killed by any divine being. As long as Ravana believes Rama to be a human being, so long he dares any human to confront, because he slighted humans when seeking his boon. Ravana can be ended only by Rama, but not by others. Hence, Lord Indra departed from there before the arrival of Rama.
On the transit of that Thousand-eyed Lord Indra, Raghava with his adherents [namely Lakshmana and Seetha,] came nearby the Sage Sharabhanga, who is sitting nearby the altar of fire.
Touching the feet of that Sage Sharabhanga Rama along with Seetha and Lakshmana, sat there... on obtaining a shelter, and well permitted and invited by that Sage Sharabhanga... Then, about the arrival of Lord Indra ,Raghava enquired with sage and Sage Sharabhanga also narrated all that to Raghava.
"Oh! Rama, that Boon-giver, Lord Indra desires to take me to Brahma's abode, which is achieved by me by my arduous penance and that which is unattainable for them, with their souls unconquered... I, on knowing that your course is nearby, oh! Manly-tiger, I have not gone to Brahma's abode, without seeing you, my dear guest...
Comment: Sage Sharabhanga, with his sixth sense came to know that Lord Vishnu is coming this way and will become his dear guest. He thus is obliged to receive Rama in his hermitage. It is his first priority than escaping to Brahma's abode. The sage with his own arduous penance attained that travel to Brahma's heavens and he can go there anytime. But seeing Rama, who is now a human incarnate, with his own human eyes is prime ordeal to that Sage. Secondly, ascending to heavens with mortal body is an impracticable affair. Hence the mortal body is to be cast off here only. If that mortal body is cast off, as per the request of Lord Indra, the sage's mortal eyes cannot see Rama, for Rama leaves this earth after fulfilling his vow of eradicating evil, and equally, a Sage of high order like Sharabhanga, on going to Brahma's abode will not return as an earthling. Hence seeing and receiving Rama is his priority now.
"With you I... oh manly-tiger, virtuous one and a great soul, having met... I wish to go through undesirable lesser heavens to Brahma's abode, the highest...
Comment: Please see the verse in verse page. This in Gorakhpur version it is 'avaram,' a+varam. The translation will therefore be 'undesirable heavens/lesser heavens...' If there is difference between paradise and heaven, this a+varam is paradise; the ordinary swarga of Lord Indra, where the departed soul's merit is metered and count down starts for the enjoyment of heavenly comforts. As and when the accumulated merit neutralises there, that soul has to take rebirth in the karmic cycle. kshiiNe puNye martya lokam pravishanti... This sage does not wish to go there, because he earned farther most heavens like Brahma's abode or tridiva patham etc., by his penance. And those lesser heavens are as cited by Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita 'aabrahma bhavanaallokaaH punaraavR^itti na arjuna... 8-16: and here Lord Krishna also says 'maam upetyatu... 'In me repose yourself...' This 'Me,' is 'tridivam...' 'tripaadvibuuti,' as cited by puruSa suukta hymn 'paadosya vishvaa bhuutaani, tripaadasya amR^itam divi...' etc. Dharmaakootam puts it as 'brahma lokam gamiSyaami tridivam deva sevitam...' without separating this concept into two kinds of heavens, namely paradise and Brahma's abode. Hence there is nothing enjoyable in any of the said heavens, than having a glance at you...Maheshvara Tiirtha.
"Oh! Tigerly-man, non-diminishing are the abodes achieved by me either in Brahma's abode or yonder than paradise... you take them all... that are mine and achieved by my penance..." Said Sage Sharabhanga to Rama.
Comment: The sage is dedicating all his achievements of penance unto god, without any ahamtva buddhi, mine-ness. This is called phala samarpaNa. The fruits of pious achievements are to be dedicated in the divine without the concept 'I am the doer thus I shall enjoy...' Even in the daily worship we are supposed to dedicate all that we have done, with oblating water saying ' karomi yad yat sakalam parsmai naaraayaNaayeti samarpayaami... ' 'Whatever is done, in all its entirety, I dedicate it unto the Supreme...' And Govindaraja observes, whatever that is acquired by the sage is his wealth. So the heavenly abodes are his only wealth as of now, and they all are surrendered to Rama, as adoration to his guest.
Thus said to Rama, the manly-tiger and a scholar in all the scriptures, by the Sage Sharabhanga... Raghava spoke this sentence to that sage...
"I alone can gain all those worlds, oh! Great Saint, I now seek a place to dwell here in this forest as indicated by you... [Apparent meaning of the verse.]
"I will however take all those worlds of you achieved, for you have waited for me and dedicated all that whatever you achieved by your penance at my tri-feet, as ‘atithi satkaara, honouring guests…’ leaving 'the doer and doing' attachment, and without desire to enjoy the fruits of works, karma phala tyaaga… For now, show me a place to dwell in this forest like an ordinary human being… [Implicit meaning as per Govindaraja.]
“I will win-over all those worlds myself, for Kshatriya-s are not supposed to take any donations; they either have to win them or acquire them, for themselves, just show me a place to dwell… [Maheshvara Tirtha.]
“Everything merges in me alone, for I alone gave all these to you, and you also dedicated the same in me, without the concept of doer and doing…which again is reiterated in Bhagavad Gita…'labhatecha tataH kaamaan mayaiva vihitaan || 7-22 ' All the desires of the adherent like Brahma's abode, immortality etc. are acquired at my grace.' for now show me a place to live…[Another concept. tani sloki.]
Comment: Thus the wiord 'aahara' usede in the verse means gaining, win-over. Hence Rama as a king refutes that donation, telling that he alone will acquire those worlds, in an explicit meaning, that conceals Rama's identity as Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu, has Himself given those merits to this sage, as said in Bhagavadgita. Implicitly all the merits of earthly beings merge into that Absolute ultimately, and hence any fresh donation from the sage is negated. The dictionary meaning of 'aahara' is provider, fetcher, and Lord Vishnu Himself is the fetcher, provider. In another way, 'aahara' is to take, or snatch away, or merge and thus Rama is said to express 'I snatch away everything and anything done by my true devotee...for he does not do it for his own sake...' This is said to be God's 'karma phala swiikaara...' 'receiving of the fruits of work...'
Thus said by Raghava, who is like Lord Indra in strength, that Supreme Intelligent Sage Sharabhanga again spoke this way this sentence.
"Here, oh! Rama, a great resplendent sage named Suteekshna, lives in this forest...a virtuous and a self-disciplined one, and to you he will do something benignant... You approach Sage Suteekshna, and to you, in his auspicious place that hermit will arrange housing for you... in those pleasant woods... Along this River Mandaakini you may travel, following opposite to its flow, then you will see the river, bearing flower-ferries, there you can reach that Sage...
Comment: Mandaakini is the name of River Ganga, and hence any river with continuous flow is affectionately called Ganga, like Dakshina Ganga, Bhaagiirathi etc. So this nomenclature of Mandakini is to mean a river, but not Ganga. Later in Kishkindha also River Pampa is called Mandakini, at times.
"This is the only way, oh! Manly-tiger, and oh! Admirable one, see me for a moment, till I forsake these body parts of mine, like a snake casting its withered moult...
Comment: Sage Sharabhanga said, 'eSha panthaa naravyaaghraH' meaning that 'this is the only recourse, oh! Manly-tiger.' Here Rama asked Sage Sharabhanga to show a place to dwell. Sharabhanga's hermitage itself will now become vacant after the sage's ascension to heavens. But it is not shown to Rama to stay, instead yet another distant place is shown. All these Sages and Saints show only one path that Rama, Seetha and Lakshmana have to travel, i.e., towards Ravana, the evil on earth. From here they are directed to Sage Suteekshna's hermitage, there from to Sage Agastya's hermitage, and there from, to still deeper place in forests, called Panchavati. According to Kaikeyi's banishment, Rama need not travel this far, but could have resided in some near-about forests of River Ganga. But one after the other, either demons who became celestials or sages who are going to become divinities, all usher Rama southward, i.e., towards the dominions of demons, whom Rama has to eradicated from earth. 'If Rama were to enter into Panchavati, a powerful dominion of demons like khara and duushaNa, alleging their loyalties to Ravana, it is definite that an encounter will ensue and Rama will start eradicating one after the other, and ultimately ending with Ravana...' this appears to be the logic of all the sages. As such Rama is asked to go on travelling towards the evil side of the earth, for all of the sages know about Rama's destination
Then invoking the sacred fire and offering oblations with clarified butter into it, that hymnist sage, Sharabhanga, the great luminous one, has entered that sacred fire... His hair of body and head are burnt by the fire, of great soul and thus his shrunk skin, bones and whatever flesh and blood are there, they are also burnt completely.
Comment: Then the question arises whether Sage Sharabhanga wilfully encompassed the sin of suicide or not? Not so, because it is said that his self-immolation is not in any mortal fire, but in some yogic fire, which he invoked and sanctified with hymns. If it were to be an ordinary pyre, the mortal body do not completely burn to ashes as the skull and vertebral bones remain, for immersion into holy waters, after a while. Here it is said that nothing remained. Further scriptures lay it down that: Hence Sage Sharabhanga, having seen Rama, got that divine knowledge and there is nothing left for him to accomplish with his mortal body, and hence entered the holy fire. Those that are superior in character and virtue, even the Lord of Fire, Agni Deva, cannot even touch, rather provides a coolant condition in His lap. It is the same with Seetha in Yuddha Kanda and it also happened with Queen Chandramati, the virtuous wife of Emperor Harishchandra, one of the forefathers of Rama.Thus said in Dharmaakuutam:
anuÿ÷na asamarthasya v˜na prasthasya jŸryata× |
bh®gu× agni× jalap˜tena deha tygo vidhŸyate ||
Those who obtained divine knowledge about this mortal body, and those that cannot practice anuSThaana their daily chores, or with any incapability, and those that have left householder-hood, and desiccated, could give up their mortal bodies into fire, waters or falling from mountain peaks.
He, that Sage Sharabhanga, then in semblance like Fire Lord and becoming an youngster, resurrected from that one, that altar of fire and shone-forth...
Comment: The age of celestial is always constant like twenty-five-year-olds, as said above by Rama at 3-5-17/18.
He, that Sage Sharabhanga, transcending the ethereal worlds of fire-worshippers, of saints, of great souls, and also of divinities, has ascended to Brahma's abode... He in haven, that meritorious Brahman, the Best, has seen Lord Brahma and Lord Brahma also, on seeing that Brahman happily spoke to him... "Welcome..." 3-5-43
Thus, this is the 5th chapter in Aranya Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana, the First Epic poem of India.
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© 2001, Desiraju Hanumanta Rao