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Valmiki Ramayana - Aranya Kanda in Prose Sarga 46

 

Ravana praises Seetha's beauty by extolling every limb of hers, though he enters like a Brahman sanyaasi, a friar. He indulges in a most untoward laudation that is unbefitting for a saintly and elderly almsman. Unable to refute him, because he is in such a pious garb, she had to invite him as an untimely guest.

 

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Raghava's younger brother Lakshmana is very much infuriated at Seetha who spoke to him rudely, as such he journeyed towards Rama at once as though he is yearning to see Rama immediately, albeit his heart wanted him to stand guard to Seetha. Quickly taking hold of intervallic time then the ten-headed Ravana approached Vaidehi adopting an aspect of a sanyaasi, a meandering Brahman friar. That sanyaasi is now cloaked in smooth silky saffron, his head-hair is neatly tufted, sandals are wooden, umbrella is on right shoulder, and on his left shoulder a shaft of sanyaasi is shouldered, onto which his handy water vessel is hooked, and he proceeded towards Vaidehi in a mien of meandering sanyaasi. 

There are many dress rules to a sanyasi 'the Hindu sanyaasi' where the main items are, as said by Sage Angiirasa: brahma stram tridanam ca vastram jantu nivraam | ikyam ptram bsm caiva kaupnam kai veitam 'sacred thread, three-shafts, saffron clothing, deerskin, handy water vessel, grass-mat, loin-cloth, girdle-cloth... by these he will be known as a real sanyasi 'Hindu sanyaasi.' Out of all these items, the shafts make a difference. Vaishnavaite sanyaasi-s handle three shafts tied into one, and the three are symbolic to cit, acit, iishvara 'animate, inanimate, and lord...' and on this Manu says vk daa ca mano daa kya daa tathaiva ca | yasya ete nihit buddhau sa trida ca ucya te the word daNDa means 'repressing, suppression, control...' thus a sanyaasi has to control his 'speech, mind, and body... by that alone he is renowned as sanyasi... Manu. As such, Ravana is in the getup of an unmistakable Brahman sanyaasi, with an unbridled tongue.

As with a pitchiest gloom overcoming the sunless and moonless lively eventide, that great-mighty Ravana came over to Vaidehi in that forest, when she is without two of the brothers, namely Rama and Lakshmana. As a sinister planet looks over Star Rohini when she is devoid of Moon, that extremely sinister Ravana then looked over the glorious and youthful princess Seetha. 

Rohini is the principle star and dear wife of the Moon will be in lunar asterism of the same name, and when she comes in the view of planets like Saturn and Mars astrology predicts earthly havocs. Hence, Ravana is compared with such a planet and Seetha with Rohini.

On observing ferocious Ravana whose activities are iniquitous, the trees of Janasthaana are not in full sway, nor the wind is in full swing. On seeing him who is seeing with his bloodshot eyes, River Godavari too is frightened and started to rush off quietly, whose onrush will be rapid otherwise. 

The reaction of the trees, wind, and river is as said by gods to Brahma in Bala Kanda, at 1-15-10: "Surya, the Sun will not verily parch Ravana. Maarutha, the Air will not surge at his sides. On seeing Ravana, the lord of the undulating, drifting waves, Ocean... will not pulsate either, and will hide the undulating waves, for the waves are his wives, and Ravana may abduct them... like Seetha."

In the meanwhile the Decahedron demon Ravana, who is all the while waiting for some lapse of Rama, neared Vaidehi in the getup of a sanyaasi. That disgraceful Ravana made advances in a graceful mien of Brahman almsman to Vaidehi who is thinking over her husband, like the slow moving Saturn making advance to Star Citra which will be ominous. Like a wellspring shrouded by grass, enshrouded in a decent getup of a Brahman friar, in a trice Ravana leeringly stood before of Vaidehi, the admirable wife of Rama. 

This idiomatic usage of tR^iNa kuupa which draws upon straw, is held high by Dr. Satya Vrat, which is repeated often in Ramayana. He says 'Probably Kalidasa too was inspired by this very expression of Valmiki when he put it in the mouth of Shakuntala as she was being repudiated by Dushyanta: ko anyo dharma kancuka praveina ta kpa upama asya tava anukri bhaviyati - abhijna kuntalam Act 5.

While standing before her then Ravana eyed at the auspicious wife of Rama, whose lips and teeth are fine, visage is shiny like a full moon, and who is presently tortured by her tearful lamentation and sitting in the straw-cottage, and he approached that lotus-petal eyed Vaidehi who is dressed in ochry silks, as that night-walker is gladdened at his heart for her solitude. He who is hit by the arrows of Love-god that king of demons Ravana, on seeing Seetha entered resonating the resonances of Vedic-hymns as precursory in seeking alms, and spoke these well-mannered sentences to her who is in solitariness. 

Ravana really acclaimed her who is an excellent one in all the three worlds, beaming forth with the beauty of her body, and who is like Goddess Lakshmi but for Divine-lotus as Her settle, for Seetha is devoid of her settling, namely Rama. "Glittering like the glitter of gold, silkened in ochry silks, you are like a lotus-tendril garlanded with divine lotuses as your ensemble, who are you?" Thus Ravanan started addressing Seetha 

The beautiful outfits on this lotus-stalk like Seetha are her mukha kamala, netra kamala, kara kamala, paada kamala... 'lotus-eyes, lotus-face, lotus-stalk like hands and lotus-feet and other limbs...' The word padmini also means a 'lake' besides the runner of lotus plant. The first compound is also read as: raupya kaancana aabhaa meaning 'shining like silver and gold...' but it is in limited mms and with very limited use.

"Oh, rosy faced one, are you the personified numen of Respect, Renown or Resplendence, or the Felicitous Lakshmi herself, or oh, curvaceous one, are you a nymphal Apsara, or the numen of Benefactress, or a self-motivated woman, or Rati Devi, the consort of Manmatha, the Love God. 

These three attributes are as informed by gods to Vishnu about the three wives of Dasharatha at 1-15-20, as: hrii, HR^illekha, virtue, modesty, uprightness... shrii, shriikaara affluence, prosperity and also suggestive of resplendence, radiance of that prosperity or effluence and kiirti fame, renown, glory... a bhuuti, vibhuuti is accordance, give-all, fortune. The ash applied on forehead in worships is to be applied with a verse bhuutir bhuutikar iishvarii... and for each of these attributes, a presiding deity is there with the same name. Here the hrii is also taken to mean bhuu devi 'Mother Earth' another wife of Vishnu. The addressing varaarohe etc., are the attributes of the addressees as a beautiful woman in the group of: varaarohaa, matta kaashinii, uttamaa, vara varNiniii - amara kosha .

"Your teeth are evenly, smooth and their tips are like jasmine buds, and your whitish broad eyes are spotless, reddish at ends, and pupils are black. Your hips are beamy, thighs burly akin to elephant's trunks, and these two breasts of yours that are ornamented with best jewellery are rotund, rubbing and bumping each other, and they are swinging up and up, their nipples are brawny and jutting out, and they are smoothish like palm-fruits, thus they are covetable for they are beautiful. Oh, allurer, your smile is alluring, teeth are alluring, and your eyes allure, oh, beauty, your waist is palmful, your hair velvety, your breasts are jostling, and you rob my soul as a spate robs riverbank. 

"I have not hitherto seen any earthly female with this kind of features on the face of earth; or, a goddess - no; a gandharva female - no; yaksha female - no; kinnaraa female - no, none whosoever! I marvel why an excellent one in all the three worlds by her features, more so, fragile and youthful as yourself should be living here in the thick of forest. 

Such as you are you go back, let safety betide you, as you are unsuited to live in here, for this forest is the dwelling for ghastly demons who by their wish will be changing their guise. Delightful rooftops of skyscrapers, flourishing and richly fragranced pleasure-gardens of cities alone are meetly to you to saunter. 

Oh, beauteous lady, I opine that only best garlands, best scents, best foodstuffs, best clothing are meetly to you, oh, lady with black pupils, hence it is meet and right to you to have a best husband.

Or

"Getting at you, the garlands, scents, foodstuffs, or clothing, they all become the best, because you are the best beauteous one, as such, he alone becomes a best person who gets you as his wife, and it is meet and right to you to choose such a husband, [aside: me alone.] 

"Oh, curvaceous lady, who are you? Oh, one with an impeccable smile, do you belong to Rudraa-gods, or Marut-gods, or to Vasu-s? To me you are beaming forth like a goddess. 

Vividly: 'your kind of female is unspotted by me among humans, so you must be some goddess, but I have marked all gods and there I did not find you. This province belongs to demons. As such, gods, gandharva-s, kinnaraa-s and others cannot enter this place, let alone the gods from Shiva's side, because Shiva is the Ultimate for demons. If so, do you belong to ekaa dasha rudraa-s eleven Rudraa-s? Or, because Air can circulate here, do you belong to any of the forty-nine marut gaNaa-s, Wind-gods? Or, because earth has ancient connections with aSTa vasu-s, eight-Vasu-s, do you belong to any one of them?' Further, Seetha is not smiling throughout this chapter as her mind is set on her husband's safety. Nevertheless Ravana assumes that if Seetha smiles, that smile will be impeccable.

"This is the dwelling-place of demons, and no goddess, nor a gandharva, nor a kinnara can arrive here, but how you have come here? Here, simians, lions, leopards, tigers, likewise other predators, bears, tigers, vultures will be moving. How you are not frightened from them? Being alone in this forest, oh, lady with a lovely face, how you are unafraid of horrendous and mighty elephants possessed of rut? 

"Oh, auspicious lady, who are you? Whose are you? Also from where are you? And being lonely, what for you are moving in dreadful Dandaka forest that is adored by demons?" Thus Ravana spoke to Seetha. 

When the wicked minded Ravana praised her in this way, Vaidehi the princess from Mithila has seen him who has arrived in the getup of Brahman and started to revere him with all the respects affordable to a casual guest. 

She firstly fetched a seat him, then invited him with water for feet-wash, and then said to him who looked gracious in his bearing, 'alms are ready.' 

Maithili explored him who arrived with the features of a Brahman, with a saffron-robe and alms-bowl, and finding no reason to refute him flatly, as he has come like a Brahman, she invited him as a Brahman.

Or

Maithili explored him who arrived with the features of a Brahman, with a saffron-robe and alms-bowl, and as he came with an unimperilling appearance of a Brahman, she invited him as she would ordinarily invite a real Brahman. 

Did she recognise Ravana as a pseudo-Brahman or not... is the doubt raised by this verse, because different texts use different compounds apaaya a darshanam.... upaaya a darshanam etc. It is concluded that she, for sure, identified him as a pseudo-Brahman, because she has seen many such sanyasi-s while she was in Mithila. Hence she is said here as Maithili because she hails from Mithila and her father's court was full with these sanyasi-s, yati-s, parivraajaka-s. Then it is questioned as to why she invited him, though recognised him as a pseudo-Brahman. For this Govindaraja says: kya daa mtrea yati pjyo na samaya 'By spotting the saffron robe alone, a sanyasi is venerable...'

Then, another doubt is raised as to how she noticed him to be pseudo- sanyasi . For this it is said rtri adhvnam ynam ca str kath laulyam eva ca | mancakam ukla vastram yatnm patanni a || 'Walking during night, using vehicles, showing interest in episodes relating to women, and relations with women, using a cot to sleep, wearing white cloths... these six show the downfall of his sanyaasi-hood...' Ravana is indulged in strii kathaa in the whole of this chapter, in admiring at her lips, breasts, thighs etc., and no usual swasti vacana, shubha aashiis 'blessings...' are uttered by him and thus Seetha could discern him to be a pseudo- sanyasi.

Though knowing him as such, why should she revere him at all, is another question. What else she could do as his appearance itself is uddveSTum a shakyam 'irrefutable appearance of a Brahman sanyasi...' hence, somehow some time is to be gained until the arrival of Rama or Lakshmana. Otherwise, this pseudo-sanyasi may cause any pseudo-problem that she cannot solve. For this, the reply is at the word in the last verse haritam dadarsha... 'only greenery is seen by her not Rama nor Lakshmana...' And in the next verse itself she is addressing him as a "Brahman...' but not with the titles like sanyasi or yatiishvara, paramahamsa, parivraajaka etc. A Brahmin alone is eligible to take up sanyaasa 'Hindu-sanyaasi-hood...' not Kshatriya or others. Hence, she concluded him to be Brahman. When once the sanyaasi-hood is taken he is no more a Brahman and his bodily being neutralises in the Absolute, and such a sanyaasi shall drag on his body, without comfortable bodily needs, until his natural death. But Seetha is addressing him contrary to his stance.

"Oh, Brahman, this is the Darbha-grass-seat and you be seated comfortably, here is water, receive it for hand and feet wash, here is the forest grown victuals for your sake... dine on them relaxedly..." Thus Seetha said to Ravana. 

Ravana thoroughly observed that wife of the king, Maithili, when she invited him talking civilities contextual in inviting a guest, that too Brahman sanyasi, and he firmed up his mind to abduct her even forcibly, and started to dedicate himself for destruction. 

Then she looked forward for her shapely husband who has gone on a hunting game, and who must be returning along with Lakshmana, and though she looked intently she could only see the green backdrop of that great forest, but not Rama or Lakshmana.

 

 

Thus, this is the 46th chapter in Aranya Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana, the First Epic poem of India. 

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Oct, 2002, Desiraju Hanumanta Rao [Revised : November 04]