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Valmiki Ramayana - Aranya Kanda in Prose
Sarga 7

Rama arrives at the hermitage of Sage Suteekshna, as directed by Sage Sharabhanga in the previous chapter and asks the sage to show a place to dwell. Suteekshna asks Rama to stay at his own hermitage, which has no other problems than the wild animals that come in herds and make blaring noises. Rama wishes to kill those animals that hamper the tranquillity of hermits living therein, but having observed the Sage Suteekshna's kindness towards those wild animals, however disturbing they may be, Rama refrains to kill them, and would like to go to any other place than this. They spend that night there.

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Rama, the Enemy-scorcher, with his brother and Seetha has gone towards the threshold of the hermitage of Sage Suteekshna, along with those Brahmins [who accompanied him all the way.] He travelled a long way, crossing rivers with plenty of waters, and saw a mountain, towering like the great Mt. Meru...

Then those two, the best ones from Ikshvaku dynasty, entered the forest full with its diverse trees along with Seetha...those two Raghavas... entering in that perilous forest, with its many flower and fruit bearing trees, they have seen the hermitage, reclusive and adorned with rows of jute cloths [as though garlanding it...] There that hermit is sitting [in yogic posture,] with his body bearing lotus-like blotches of soil, and Rama to that Suteekshna, the sage with his richly penance, dutifully spoke...

Comment: Here it is said the soil on the sage has taken lotus-like blotches on his body. Certain yogic methods do not care outward bathing of body. Usually the bath is prescribed three times a day, but hermits of a sort leave away that bodily bathing, because the sweat and soil recurs immediately after each bath on this impure body. So they stop taking outward bath and concentrate on cleansing the inner space.

apavitro v pavitro v sarva avasthm gato api v |
ya smaret puarkkam sa bhya abhyantara uci ||

"Rama I am...Oh! Godly one...to see you I have come, hence talk to me, oh! Virtue-knower, and courageous one in truthfulness..." Said Rama to sage.

Then he, that sage, looked at that brave and best proponent of virtue, Rama...and well embracing him with both of his hands, spoke this sentence... "Welcome to you Rama, best of Raghu dynasty and the best patron of truth, this hermitage is like a well lorded one, on your stepping into it, just now... I am awaiting for you only, oh! Greatly Renowned one, without my ascent to heavens by casting off this body, oh! Brave one...on the earth's plane...[for I foresaw your arrival at this place...]

bhaava/import: This heaven 'deva loka' is negated for total salvation. Total salvation is at the tri-feet, 'tridiva'. So 'I have not ascended to heavens, which causes rebirth after the decline of merit, thus I am waiting for your arrival...for Total Salvation, moksha...' So said the sage to Rama. Govindaraja. "You birthed in Raghu's dynasty for the elimination of Ravana, and also foregone your kingdom and coming this way. So I am waiting for your graceful look, without going to heavens leaving the body. Should I leave the body and go to heavens, I cannot see parama puruSa, The Absolute, in you... so I did not cast off this body...' Thus said the sage to Rama. Maheshvara Tirtha.

"You reached Mt. Chitrakuta, repudiated of your kingdom, thus I heard, and Lord Indra, the king of deities and the Lord of Hundred sacrifices [has come to me...] Approaching me Indra, the great deity and lord of all the celestials, said that I have conquered all the worlds by my meritorious deeds... In those worlds that are attained by my penance, which are acquired by gods and sages alike, and I bestow them to you, [take them and enjoy there] strolling in them, with your wife and brother Lakshmana...

Comment: This sage Suteekshna is dedicating all his merit accrued by his penance at the feet of Lord Vishnu. This is the same effort of dedication, which Sage Sharabhanga offered, to Rama at 3-5-33 of this canto. Any thing accrued by human effort and energy, if dedicated at the feet of the God, is doubly meritorious and establishes a selflessness of the devotee. Even in any daily puuja, the devotional worship, it will be concluded with a saying, 'ye tat phalam parameshwara arpaNamastu', i.e., whatever is the result of this worship it is dedicated in the Supreme...

To him, the sage with supreme penance, and advocate of truth [about dedication of his conquered worlds to Rama,] the soulful one Rama said unto him, like Indra to Brahma... "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...]

Comment: This is the same situation with Sage Sharabhanga in the 5th chapter of this canto. This is an allusive saying by Rama. cf. 3-5-33.

"You are an expert in all affairs, and you are interested in the welfare of all the beings, thus said by Sage Sharabhanga of Sage Gautama's dynasty...great souls, [said Rama.]

Thus said by Rama, that great sage, renowned worldwide, spoke sweet wordily along with great pleasure... "This hermitage only is the good featured one, you delight here, for here, the sage groups are always moving about, and this always contains tubers and fruits... Having come to this hermitage very large herds of animals/deer, without killing anyone, they return and they scare/lure us, and they fear none also...

Comment: There is something in this verse. Some translations read mR^iga as deer, while some others read it as animals. If they are just deer, the word a+hatvaa, [without killing...] is of no use, for deer is not a carnivorous animal to kill someone. In other versions, this verse is a complete recast telling that herds of great size animals come and blare, but do not kill or fear any one. Even if it were so, this sage has got a tolerance for them too. And if some latent meaning is picked up, the large herds of deer, moving as they like in this hermitage, are said to be 'luring' the sages, 'lobhayitbvaa...' A presumption arises here. This must be the same 'lure' Seetha got on seeing Golden Deer. But Rama raises his bow and arrow to kill these animals that disturb tranquillity of hermitage, whether it be deer or other blaring wild animals. So Rama's fury must be at the 'luring deer', say Golden Deer, but not at ordinary deer. Thus this usage of 'deer and lure' may be taken as lakshaNa for lakshita of Ramayana.

"No other problem is there, other than the animals/deer...know thus" [Said the sage.]

On hearing those words of that great sage, Lakshmana's elder brother... That brave one, Rama said this sentence, taking arrow in his bow, "Oh! Greatly blessed one,I will them,  those herds of animals that  enter here... I will kill [them the animals,] with sharp edged, curved-ended arrows, [but] then you feel ignominious ... and what more painful will be [there to you, than this act of mine...thus] then... Staying in this hermitage for long...is not approved of me..."  thus on saying to the sage conclusively by Rama, the twilight nearly came by...

On worshipping the westward vesperal time, there in that delightful hermitage of Sage Suteekshna, their stay is arranged, along with Seetha and Lakshmana, too...

Then auspicious food and that which is eatable by sages, Sage Suteekshna himself gave to them two, who are best among men, looking after them well, after the passage of twilight and on seeing the night...

Comment: It may not be construed that Seetha is served with no food, by taking the wording that 'two of best men are served food' by the sage. It is usual for the Indian women to take food after their husbands or other dependents take it first, then all womenfolk in the house join together to have their meal, [for a long time...of course, with their unending chit-chatting...]

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Endnote

In aascharya raamayana, another traditional rendering of this epic, it is said that Rama, while his stay at this hermitage, when night advanced, went out of the hermitage and killed all those animals. Not the above mentioned deer, but very big, blaring animals, as per other versions of Ramayana. The thrust of his arrows made the carcasses of those massive animals fall before the demon Kabandha. Kabandha is a cursed angle and will be released of his curse later by Rama. This Kabandha has no body parts below his waist, but has long hands with which he captures his prey that comes within the ambit of his long and strong hands. Kabandha is thus fed upon the kill of Rama, because Kabandha is a keynote character in giving information to Rama and he is to be kept alive till such time. But all this is unknown to other in-mates of the hermitage, including Seetha. The next morning Rama, in a personal conversation with Seetha, reveals what he has done during the previous night, to her surprise and praise. This is as per aascharya raamaayana.

 

Thus, this is the 7h chapter in Aranya Kanmda of Valmiki Ramayana,the First Epic poem of India.

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2001, Desiraju Hanumanta Rao