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Valmiki Ramayana - Aranya Kanda in Prose
Sarga 6

After the heavenward journey of Sage Sharabhanga, Rama is approached by others sages and hermits and inform him about the atrocities of the raakshasa-s around that place. They all ask Rama to eradicate the menace of these demons and Rama avows to do so, in order to keep up the tranquillity of those hermitages and also to obliterate the demons from their kingdom.

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On Sage Sharabhanga attaining heaven, groups of sages assembled and approached Rama, of Kakustha dynasty, who is glowing with resplendence.

The sages called Vaikahanasa-s, [who are born out of the nails of Prajaapati, the first ruler of mankind,] also Vaalakhilyaa-s, [those born from His hair,] and Samprakshala-s, those from the water of His feet-wash, and those that thrive on drinking rays of sun and moon alone, and those that pound with stones and others who thrive on leaves alone, are those sages...

Comment: The samprakshaala kind of sages are also said be those that wash their interior body with water, a yogic measure called dhouli prakriya, and also otherwise attributed to wash their vessels after a meal, without preserving for the next, for god would automatically give their daily bread. The sages called ashma kuTTa, are a kind of sages, who pound their bodies with stones, and thus they pound grain with stones.

Some of them use their own teeth to grid the grain they eat, and some who perform penance in neck-deep water, and some who sleep with their head resting on their shoulders or on chests, [without using any kind of bed,] and some who do not use any kind of beds either, and some who meditate without any repose, [sitting in an enclosure without any leg-space...] And some sages whose food is water alone, or air alone to some, like that some who meditate staying in sky and some who sleep on bare ground itself...

Thus some are dwellers on high-peaked places, with their senses controlled, and some are wearers of wet cloths, always reciting [name or hymn japa] and like that some who meditate with five kinds of fire around them... All are with Vedic resplendence, having firm yogic control, have arrived at the hermitage of Sage Sharabhanga for Rama... Those virtuous sages nearing at Rama, the best beholder of virtue, [or the best wielder of bow, for dharma also means bow,] said to the Supreme in virtue, assembling themselves in groups...

"You are the [Supreme charioteer] of Ikshvaku dynasty [for you being Para Brahma, born in Ikshvaku dynasty as Rama.] And the [same Supreme] charioteer of this Earth [and earthlings,] you are supreme and master [of ours,] like Lord Indra among divinities...

Comment: In Vedanta, human body is frequently referred as ratha, chariot, drawn by the five-senses as its horses. Here the sages with controlled sense [horses,] are asking the one, who chariots/spins the earth and earthlings, to take of other children of lesser gods, from the onslaught of demons.

"Well reputed you are among the three worlds, by your repute and valour, and by your devotion to your father and truthfulness, and also by your abounding virtue...

bhaava/import: The above is the apparent meaning. The subtext is "Are you, the supreme charioteer of Ikshvaku dynasty alone, like Indra for celestial beings? And are you the supreme charioteer of this earth and earthlings alone? Not so...you are the Supreme of the whole Universe, for your reputation is well known in all the three worlds...in all the worlds... Thus you the Omni-Luminescent, entered in Ikshvaku dynasty in the form of Rama, to perform your duties like abiding by father's word, and qualities like abounding virtuousness, and to safeguard dharma..." Thus is the addressing of the enlightened sages. Maheshvara Tirtha.

"On getting at you, the great soul, virtuous one and a patron of virtue, we beg off you, oh! Lord, and that which we will tell you, for that also we beg pardon of you...

Comment: Supplication to God is a waste. His mercy flows on His own. If by mistake, an appeal is made to God, to alleviate a personal problem, His pardon is to be begged. Here the sages on one hand say that 'you have come here in the incarnation of Rama to eradicate evil.' At the same time, they say 'we have an appeal for the same.' This begging off, and beg of is as per social custom, to the apparent ruler of the kingdom, not to the innate Divine.

"Oh! Lord, very great a-dharma [wrongness,] will occur to that king who takes the sixth part [of the country's produce] as cess, but does not guard his subjects like his own sons...

import/bhaava: "Protection of subjects is but natural to all kings, but some kings do so for a particular reason, hence this appeal of ours" thus say the sages... Govindaraja. "Though, you incarnated yourself to protect the entire universe, so you will and have to protect us too... but our appeal this way to you is with an unbearable angst of ours... according to the social custom. Hence we remind you, Rama, of your kingly duties to safeguard us..." Maheshvara Tirtha.

"As though giving away his own lives, [five of them, pancha praaNaaH for his subjects,] and like his own sons...who are dearer than his own life, and always endeavouring thus to protect all his subjects, [a king shall rule...] And he will attain prestige of permanency for many years to come, even in Brahma's abode on his attaining a place...he will prosper...

"The sage thriving on tubers, fruits and performs great virtuous deeds [like yajna-s, penance, meditation etc., and from the accrual of puNya/merit of that sage,] one fourth part will go to that king who protects people virtuously...

"That one is this assemblage of Brahmans, and for these numerous groups of hermits oh! Rama, you are the Lord, [but, these hermits are] as though forsaken ones, they are being killed by demons, in fact...

"Come and see the bodies of the sages...contemplative souls...killed by ghastly demons, many of them... in many ways...in the forest... At Pampa riverside, and alongside of river Mandakini and at the surrounds of Mt. Chitrakuta also, they do this hideous warfare...

Comment: River Pampa is also called Mandakini in Kishkindha kaanda, an affectionate name for River Ganga. Rama in the first chapter of Kishkindha Kanda laments for Seetha at this Pampa River. Here Mandakini comes to mean as a fluent river at this place in Dandaka forests.

"Thus we are not able to tolerate this disorderliness for the sages, being ghastly executed in this forest by the fiendish deeds of demons...

"Then, requesting you to safeguard us, for you are the only refuge...we present ourselves before you... oh! Rama, protect us... the killable sages, by those night-walking demons...

bhaava/import: It is said as 'you are the only refuge' because there is no pre or post verbs for this sharaNyam, thus you all the protector of all worlds. 'sharaNaartham' is taken as to 'place us at our appropriate place,' namely in the abode after total salvation; sam+upasthitaa or sam+upaagamaa [as in other versions, ] we are here with vishvaasa, faithfulness, sharaNaagati, servitude, kainkarya, surrender etc.; naH+paripaalaya= protect us [and this paripaalaya naH is again repeated in next verse also]; and later in the verse the request from what to be protected is said. That is aniSTa nivR^itti ruupa phala praarthana, 'removal of that which is undesirable.' That is to say 'we better be given total salvation rather than killed by these demons, which is half way through our exercise to attain total salvation.'

"Other than you...any way out, oh! Valiant one, is not deducible on this earth, protect all of us from the demons, oh! Prince...

bhaava/import: There is no way-out on this earth, for that matter of fact in all the universe, when the 'earth' becomes upa lakshNa for all worlds. This is in consonance with the scripture's saying, 'na anyaH panthaa vidyate ayanaaya...puruSa suukta R.V. X-90' and thus those sages say 'we are contaminated with limited fruition of our practices [parimita phalatva,] and others suchlike, so you are evident here...before our naked eyes...so protect us from the demons...' where the demons, raakshsebhyaH comes to mean sarva aniSTaaH, all earthly undesirables. Again coupled with the vocation of 'Oh Prince...' 'On earth, you being the responsible prince, protect us...' Other way round, you have come here like a prince of Ayodhya, unlike a wild boar, or a fish or a man-lion, your earlier incarnations, so remember us and give salvation.

On hearing all that is said by the sages of great penance, Rama, the Kakustha's scion and the virtuous soul, said this unto all of the sages...

"Unapt is this way of speaking to me...command me, for I am at the behest of [you] sages... simply for my personal purpose I entered the forest.... To obliterate all the disorderliness due to demons in your respect, and as ordered by my father, I entered this forest...

bhaava/import: Rama's saying that 'I am at your command, oh sages...' is indicative of his nature of bhakta jana vashya... in the control of his ardent devotees, so no special prayer for salvation is needed. In the expression kevalene aatma/sva kaaryeNa... kevala is not a kevala pada...it indicates a radical sense, like 'for that purpose only' [meaning to eradicate demonic menace only,] I entered the forest...' Because the Seshin, the lord has to come to the rescue of Seshi, the servant. So 'safeguarding my own servants is my own responsibility and also pleasure, that is why I entered the forests, where my father's orders are nimitta, a concomitant factor, and not that I entered these forest due to my karma, or misfortune...' Govindaraja. According to Maheshvara Tirtha 'My coming to forests at the orders of my father is a fact but concomitant factor in this forest trek is your request to eliminate the demons, which I will do...' This is evident meaning. The latent one is "I have entered these forests only at my own desire to eradicate demons, for they are wrongdoing to you, my servants [Seshi,] and I abide by you, my devotees...'

"For the achievement of your purpose perchance I have come, for that, my dwelling in this forest will be immensely fruitful...  I wish to kill the demons, the enemies of sages... in a war with them, Oh! Sages of rich penance, you may behold the tenacity of mine topgether with my brother..." [Thus Rama promised to the sages.]

Thus giving his aegis to the sages, the one who is firmly virtue-souled, with Lakshmana and the sages surrounding him, and along with the one given by Arya Janaka, [namely Seetha...] journeyed towards Sage Suteekshna, that valiant one...

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Thus, this is the 6th chapter in Aranya Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana, the First Epic poem of India.  

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2001, Desiraju Hanumanta Rao