Valmiki Ramayana - Kishkindha Kanda in Prose
Sarga 18-

Rama explains to dying Vali as to why he gave such a punishment. Rama categorically explains all the question put by Vali in the last chapter from the viewpoint of scriptures that lay down principle for sanaatana dharma, eternal tradition, as well as raaja dharma, king's duty. Vali finally concludes that there is someone superior to him and thus seeks refuge in Rama.

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Thus, Vali who is hit down by arrow and who is collapsing humbly spoke exacting words that contained probity, meaningfulness, and expedience, to Rama.

Then to him who is rendered like a lusterless sun, fizzling out like a cloud that released its water, and who became like a quenched fire, to such a best monkey and an unexcelled lord of monkeys who has just now imputed Rama with words that are abounding with righteousness and meaningfulness, Rama spoke subsequently.

The words Vali spoke contain righteousness from his viewpoint, when he said 'How did you hit me without confronting me…' and the meaningfulness in the words like 'a quarrel comes when gold and silver are the cause, I should have brought Ravana without bloodshed, I would have brought Maithili and presented before your…' etc. But these words are with the death time wisdom of Vali, and they become parroted saying but cannot be practical with the kind of righteousness followed by Vali.

"Uncaring for probity, prosperity, pleasure deriving, and even for the social conventions, now how do you rebuke me childishly in this matter? Unconsulted are the doyens of your race that are intellectually well off and agreeable to your mentors about rights and wrongs about your deeds, oh, gentle one, how do you wish to debate with me in this matter with your primate's caprice.

This earth with its mountains, woods, and forests, even along with the authority to condone or condemn the animals, birds, and humans on it belongs to Ikshvaku-s.

Vali's question No. 4] 'I have not done any misdeed either in your country or city...' is answered in this, "when entire earth belongs to us where is the question of a city or a particular country?"

"He who is virtue-souled, truth-abiding, plain-speaking, and the knower of the import of probity, pleasures, and prosperity, and the one who is concerned in controlling or condoning his subjects, that Bharata is the ruler of earth. In whom both scrupulousness and benignancy are there, truthfulness is firmed up, and valour as evinced by scriptures is evident, and he who is the knower of time and place is the king, namely Bharata. Holding his virtuous decree desiring to keep up the continuum of righteousness, we and some other kings are wayfaring this earth in its entirety.

The 'virtuous decree to keep up virtue' dharma kR^ita aadesha is not that of Bharata, but by the king raaaja dharma kR^ita aadesha. Bharata as younger brother cannot order his elder, and that too, a 'would-have-been-king,' but the throne demands it to be done by any subject, and now Bharata is in that throne. Actually Bharata did not give any explicit orders to Rama or others making them responsible for the upkeep of dharma, on his behalf. Rama himself orders Bharata as at: tvam raajaa bharata bhava svayam naraaNaam | vanyaanaam aham api raaja raaNmR^igaaNaam | Ayodhya Kanda II, 1-674-17 'Bharata, you become the king of humans, and I shall be the king of forest-beings...' Thus, taking responsibility on his own shoulders, in his own duty as a Kshatriya to keep up dharma, Rama is trekking forests. Some 'other kings' roaming like this are not detailed.

"While that Bharata, the kingly-tiger and a patron of virtue, is ruling the earth in its entirety, who is there to conduct himself in an unacceptable way to morality on it? Abiding in our own pre-eminent righteousness, and even abiding by the order of Bharata we punish him who deviated from the path of morality, according to custom.

"As for you, you brought virtue to a state of decadence, rendered yourself reprovable by your own decadent behaviour, for carnality alone has become your primary doctrine, and thus you have not abided by the conduct meetly to a king.

Vali's question 5. 'Non-guilty being is hurt...' is answered: 'your only guilt is that you have not abided by conduct a king should have...' The nature of that guilt is narrated in next verses.

"It is to be known by him who treads the way of righteousness that he has three fatherly personages, namely his own father, his elder brother, and the one who accords education to him. An younger brother, a son, and a disciple with good characteristics, these three are to be deemed as one's own sons, for such matters take base on rectitude alone.

"The probity practised by principled people is very subtle and highly imponderable, and the soul that abides in the hearts of all beings alone can differentiate between just and unjust.

In another way the above is: 'I am that Supreme Soul residing in the hearts of all beings. So I alone will decide what is right and what is wrong...' Vali's question 8 is taken up. 'Your primary aspiration is to kill without probing into good or bad...' is answered saying that 'I am the decider...'

"Like a blind by birth counselling with similarly blind, you being a vacillant, on your counselling only with frantic minded vacillant monkeys, what can you really fathom about right and wrong?

"I will clarify about the words I have said, but I tell you that it is indeed inapt of you to disdain me just out of your outrage. Realise this reason by which I have eliminated you… you misbehaved with your brother's wife, forsaking the perpetual tradition.

With this one and only reason Rama suffices all the thirteen questions of Vali, as summarised in endnote of last chapter. Beyond this Rama also answers other paltry questions, later.

"While the great-souled Sugreeva is still alive, you with your habit of sinful acts have lustily misbehaved with Sugreeva's wife Ruma, who should be counted as your daughter-in-law.

Vali being a king, he committed incest transgressing tradition. vaalii taavat sva raajye sthitvaa dharmaati kramam kR^itavaan | dharma duuShakaH ca raajaa avashyam daNDaniiyaH | dharmaakuutamThis is the very fault found by Rama when expressing 'vaalii caaritra duuSakaH 'abuser of history/tradition...' in Kishkindha, 4-10-33.

"Thereby, oh, vanara, this punishment is imposed on you, for your dissolute sinning in abusing your brother's wife, thereby for your transgression of tradition and virtue.

Vali's question 10, 'inveterate killers are hell-goers...' is replied, 'killing a sinner is no sin and no hell is ensuing thereby...' is the reply, establishing Vali's sin.

"I foresee no other kind of control other than punishment to him who conducts himself contrary to the society and who is deviant of conventions.

Vali's question: 2] 'you are not punishing the wrongdoer...' is answered. saama daanam kSamaa dharmaH satyam dhR^iti 'influencing, largesse, forbearance, probity, candour' etc., will work with kings of equal status and worthiness in political strategies. But you are an inferior with an immodest conduct. Then, why should I waste that much of political manoeuvre in your regard? Thus you are eliminated straightaway...' Vali may counter Rama in asking for a lesser punishment than killing, like exiling etc., which he has given to Sugreeva. For this Rama is ready to say that no other punishment is evident than the one said by Manu: sapiNDaapatya daareShu (retaH siktvaa) praaNa tyaago vidhiiyate - - manu smR^iti.

"As a Kshatriya emerged from a best dynasty I do not tolerate your wrongdoing, and the punishment to the one who lustfully indulges with his daughter, or with his sister, or with the wife of his younger brother is his elimination, as recalled from scriptures. While Bharata is the lord of land and we are his proxies adhering to his orders, and while you too have overstepped the bounds of rightness, then how is it possible to be lenient? While ruling righteously sensible Bharata punishes him who oversteps the momentous virtue, and he is poised to put down lustful ones.

"As for us, oh, monkey's lord, we effectuate our brother's orders and our duty, and we stand for curbing your kind of shatterers of ethics. My association with Sugreeva is as good as that with Lakshmana, nevertheless it betided with an understanding to regain Sugreeva's wife and kingdom, and he will give succour to me.

Vali's question 13] 'I would have brought back Maithili in one day...' is given an answer. Bringing Maithili from the captivity of Ravana would have averted Vali's death - so Vali thought. But who will bring Ruma, wife of Sugreeva, and give her back to Sugreeva? Vali does not consider this, and in this alone Vali's transgression is said to have been proved. Thus any truce between Vali and Rama is an impossible and improbable proposition.

What all Rama wanted is the 'search for Seetha...' not bring her to his fore. Elimination of Ravana is to be done by Rama alone, for which Seetha is to be located first. If a truce is struck between Vali and Rama, Vali straightway goes to Ravana and asks for Seetha. If Ravana yields Seetha there is no cause left for his elimination. Ravana for sure refuses to yield her. Then a combat ensues between Ravana and Vali. But Vali can combat one-to-one in a duel and he may not encounter a magical war of Indrajit or Kumbhakarna. Then all the demons will combine to eliminate Vali, thus the epic concludes there haphazardly. Other way round, if Vali seeks help of Ravana and his military to combat Rama, Vali's forces and Ravana's forces will come down on a handful warriors like Rama, Sugreeva Hanuma, and Jambavanta et al. Then the whole of monkey force will be with Vali, and these few warriors will be routed down mercilessly. Above all, Rama has promised Sugreeva to eliminate Vali, the abuser of tradition, and Rama becomes blameworthy if he fails in his word. Hence the simplest formula 'enemy's friend is my enemy too...' works well and Rama followed that only.

"I gave a promise to Sugreeva at the time of befriending him in the presence of vanara-s, and how is it possible for my kind to dishonour a given promise?

In Aranya Kanda he tells Seetha, that he even leaves his life than to feign his promise. api aham jiivitam jahyaam tvaam vaa siite sa lakSmaNaam || 4-10-18. Hence there is no question of his going back on the word given to them that crave for his mercy.

"Thereby you have to infer that a befitting punishment is given to you, owing to all these great reasons that abound with virtue and with supreme value. Anywise, you have to regard the punishment given to you is legitimate, and he whom rectitude guides has to render assistance to his friend, in any event. Had you pursued rightness you too would have done the same deed in imposing such a punishment, and we hear two verses that are given to the advocacy of good conventions, which the experts of rightness have also accepted, and which are said to be coined by Manu, and I too conducted myself only as detailed in those verses of law.

" 'When kings impose proper punishment on the humans who have sinned, they become sinless and enter heaven as with the pious souls with good deeds.' So says one verse of Manu.

" 'Either by punishment or by clemency a thief will be absolved from sin, but the king who does not impose proper punishment will derive the blot of that sin.' So says the other verse of Manu.

"When a renouncer has committed sin like that of the one committed by you, my venerable ancestor Maandhaata has given punishment which he desired.

This is according to the meaning derived by ancient commentators which doe not go well with the import of earlier verse 'the king derives the blot if he does not punish properly' or with the next one. Rama's ancestor Maandhaata should have got that blot for not punishing a renouncer in proper way. Other mms has this verse like this: puurveNa mama maandhaataa sampraaptam vyasanam mahat | shramaNena kR^ite paape yathaa paapam kR^itam tvayaa || And which verse is to be kept, it is up to the pundits.

Rama is quoting a precedent from his own dynasty. Maandhaata has to impose capital punishment to a sage, for that sage committed some immoral act. Here also the shramaNa is used for a wandering sage, called yati. Because he is religious person is he to let off; a religious person's sinning is doubly punishable; are the problems of Maandhaata. This word shramaNa yati, need not be equated with a Buddhist monk, for they also have same titles, and Maandhaata is said to have existed long before Buddha's era.

"Such sin is acquired even by other kings who are unobservant in imposing proper punishment, and those kings had to make amends for it at appropriate time, by that propitiation they used to mitigate that filth of that sin.

The kings who are otherwise busy may not hanker after thieves and sinners always, thus they become unobservant of each and every individual's behaviour. So the kings used to make amends at appropriate time. It is up to the individual to comport properly or improperly. An offender may escape hundred offences, but if caught once, he has to pay for all his wrongdoings.

"Thereby, enough with your annoyance, oh, tigerly vanara, as your elimination is devised righteously, and we too are not independent.

They are bound by duty. They are not at their free will to act on their own whims and fancies. Vali's question: 9] 'How do you face criticism by scholars?' is answered. ' None can criticise because I have not acted on my own, but bound by scriptures and precedents...' yaa vaa na vadhasya vadhe taavaan vadhasya mokShNe | adharmo nR^ipateH dR^iShTo dharmastu viniyacchataH - manu smR^iti 9-249-'How much sin is acquired by executing a murderer, that much sin is acquired by executing a non-murderer...' which again is somewhat similar to the present day saying, 'let hundred criminals go unpunished, but let no innocent be punished.'

"Oh, brave and best one among monkeys, further listen to another cause, and on listening that important cause you will not be infuriated. I have neither angst nor ire in this matter of my eliminating you, or, your reviling me, oh, best monkey, but listen to the other point I wish to make clear. People will be capturing several animals, either covertly or overtly, with snares, springes and even with numerous contrivances.

So far Rama replied Vali with a view that Vanara-s are a species of Vedic-beings who hold fast to Vedic duties like sandhyaa vandana, suuryopasthaana performed by Vali, and swasthyana performed by Tara, and the other their daily routines of Veda-s. But Vali takes a U-turn declaring himself an animal and asks: 6] Why fruits, tubers eating being is killed; 11] Un-wearable is my skin uneatable is my flesh; 12] Five kinds of five-nailed animals are usable by humans...' Rama started to tell how humans deal with animals, should Vali declare himself an animal, if not a specific Vedic-being.

"Meat eating people will undeniably kill animals, either they are speedily sprinting or standing steadily, fully dismayed or undismayed, vigilant or unvigilant, and even if they are facing away, in that there is no sacrilege. In this world even the kingly sages well-versed in virtue will go on hunting, and hunting is no face to face game, as such, oh, vanara, therefore I felled you in combat with my arrow because you are a tree-branch animal, whether you are not combating with me or combating against me.

'Whether you face this way or that you are an animal, as you alone said, besides being an enemy of my friend...' For this Griffith says - I cannot understand how Valmiki could put such an excuse as this into Rama's mouth. Rama with all solemn ceremony, has made a league of alliance with Vali's younger brother whom he regards as a dear friend and almost as an equal, and now he winds up his reasons for killing Vali by coolly saying: 'Besides you are only a monkey, you know, after all, and as such I have every right to kill you how, when, and where I like.'

"Kings are the bounteous benefactors of the unobtainable righteousness and propitious lifestyles, oh, best vanara, no doubt about it. They are not to be harmed, also not to be reproved, not disparaged and nothing displeasing is spoken to them, as they are the divinities conducting themselves in human form on the plane of earth. I am abiding by the ethicalness practised by my father and forefathers, but you revile me without the knowledge of rightness, just by clinging to your rancour." Thus said Rama to dying Vali.

There is none to say that Vali is 'unkillable...' or 'not to be killed...' But to every one a doubt occurs as to why Rama did not come face to face with and killed him? Why hit him from a remote place? For these doubts, the above said arguments may not suffice or satisfactory, either to Vali or to us, the readers. Dharmaakuutam, the only commentary on Ramayana insofar as dharma is concerned explains that for us.

evam ca adya eva tam haniShyaamiiti pratij~naa paripaalanam tadaa bhavet yadaa pracchannatayaa hanam iti ? prakaashatayaa yuddhaaya aahuutastu, bhayaan aagacchet - rumaam gR^ihiitvaa deshaantaram vaa gacchet - raavaNam vaa samaashrayet - sharaNam vaa samaagacchet - sa sahaayam sugriivam avalokya sakala vaanara senayaa yuddhaartham samaagacchet - vaa tatra adya pakShatraye tad hananasya cirakaala saadhyatvena adyaiva tam haniShyaami rumaam raajyam ca tava daasyaami iti puurva pratij~naa kaalatipaata syaat | pratij~naakaalaatipaate ca doShaH sharanaagatam anapakShe ca sharaNaagato vaalii hanyeta vaa na vaa - na adyaH - sharaNaagata hananasya niShiddhatvaat - - - - raama kR^ite vaali vadhaH adharmadhaayako na bhavati - kim tu dharma eva

When it is said by Rama that 'today only I will kill Vali...' then it may be countered by saying, 'then why killing him from distance, why not confront him?' If Rama comes to fore, fear may grip Vali, then he may take Ruma, Sugreeva's wife, and to insult, Sugreeva further, Vali may go to a distant place with her. Or, he may seek shelter with Ravana. Or, he may even take refuge in Rama like Sugreeva. Or, on seeing Sugreeva with enough support, he may summon all his Vanara army to fight with Sugreeva and his supporters. Then it will prolong for a time. Then the promise of Rama made to Sugreeva to accord his wife and his kingdom by killing Vali, also prolongs. Justice delayed is denied. Otherwise, if Vali surrenders to Rama, as the killing of a refugee is not a merited act, Rama has to pardon Vali. Whether Vali takes refuse or not, killing Vali on that day itself, and establishing Sugreeva in Kishkindha are the promises made by Rama, at the time of befriending Sugreeva. The word given is to be kept up. So Rama did it and there is no unrighteous deed done by Rama. And Vali also accepts this in the coming stanzas.

Vali is much distressed at heart of hearts when Rama has said categorically in that way, whereby, deriving certitude about rightness he found no incorrectness with Rama.

From here on Vali's repentance is narrated.

ata eva vaalinaa sakala dharma abhij~nena - bhavataa anabhij~no aham na prati vaktum arhasi - atra ca dharmo'dhigataniscaya iti visheSheNa puurva kR^itam akhilam api raama duuShaNam aj~naana pravR^ittam eva | itaH param vakShyamaaNam akhilam dharmyam eva vadati iti avagatam : dharmaakuutam-Whatever spoken by Vali earlier is without proper knowledge of dharma, and whatever said hereafter is in conformity with righteousness [owing to the dawn of death-time wisdom.] Dharmaakuutam.

That lord of vanara-s then replied Rama with adjoined palms, "oh, best one among men, what all you have said is that way proper, undoubtedly. Indeed an ignoble cannot disprove a nobleman, Raghava, and with regards to the undesirable and improper words I have unwittingly spoken earlier, in that mater too it will be truly unapt of you to make me blameworthy, as I spoke them in anguish and ignorance.

"You alone are the knower of recourses and their real nature, namely probity, prosperity, pleasure seeking, and emancipation; dharma, artha, kaama, moksha ; and you take delight in the welfare of subjects, and your faultless intellect is clear in accomplishing ends by judging the causes and effects.

"Oh, Rama, the knower of probity, I am the one who digressed from the rightness and a forerunner among such transgressors, such as I am, give absolution even to me with words abounded with rightness." Vali is thus saying to Rama.

Vali who like an elephant plumped in slough continued to say slowly, with tears fully impeding his throat and with an agonised moan, on keenly observing Rama. Also, I neither worry for myself, nor for Tara, nor even for any relatives of mine, as I do for my son Angada, the best-virtuous one with golden bicep-lets. Right from his childhood I fondly looked after Angada, and he will be dejected when he sees me no more, and he withers away like a lake with its water drained for a drink. He is boyish, juvenile, and the only dear son of mine, oh, Rama, as such that great-mighty son of Tara needs your protection.

"You have firm convictions about practicable and impracticable procedures, and you alone are the protector of the good and punisher of the bad, hence treat both Sugreeva and Angada with equal compassion. Oh, lord of men, it will be apt of you to show the same kind of outlook towards Sugreeva, oh, king, even towards Angada, which you have for Bharata and Lakshmana.

"The fault occurring from my fault of maltreating Sugreeva may not light upon that self-reproachful Tara, and it will be apt of you to see that Sugreeva will not look down on her treating her as the wife his rival. When you indeed approve someone, he is capable enough to govern the kingdom, abiding himself under your control and following your heart, why a kingdom, he can rule the earth, why earth, he can even achieve the heaven itself.

"Though Tara dissuaded me I met with my brother Sugreeva in a duel as though aspiring elimination at your hand.." On saying thus to Rama that vanara, Vali the lord of monkeys' paused for a while.

Any combatant is self-assertive until he is defeated. Here Vali is telling that he came here to die on his own. This statement has two kinds of meaning. One is, Vali being an all-daring Vanara came out, in ' come-what-may ' sense and readying himself to confront even Rama, if Rama affronts him. His argument with Tara at the start of 16th chapter details this. He asks Tara, 'If Rama is a virtue-knower and a diligent one, how then he can sin, in killing me?' Vali, unlike Ravana, never goes to a duel unless provoked. Vali being a wilful combatant and Sugreeva is coming for a second time with the support of Rama, he wanted to defeat that unknown Rama, along with suppressing Sugreeva's trivial pride. Vali promises Tara that he is not going to kill Sugreeva, but wanted to take him to task. On coming to field Rama is not evident. Then Vali wanted to see to Sugreeva first and then search for Rama. But what happened is the reverse of it. Perhaps gorilla war tactics started from this point onwards.

Rama consoled Vali with words that are agreeable to savants and that contain the essence and meaning of rightness, while Vali is with an evincible perspective of righteousness by now. And Rama spoke to Vali this way.

"Oh, fly-jumper, you need not be remorseful about your wife, son and others you leave behind, because we take care of them... nor you should bother about us thinking that we have arbitrarily eliminated you, nor necessarily bother about yourself for committing sins, as we took this decision according to rightness and considerateness in your respect.

"He who administers punishment to the punishable, and he who is punishable and gets punished, both of them will achieve the results of cause and effect, where punishment is the effect from the cause of wrongdoing, and they both thereby will not be condemned. Thereby, by virtue of the punishment you are completely divested of your blemish, and as contained in the scriptures on rightness you attained your true nature, that which is agreeable to rightness.

"Let distress, desire and even dread that abide in your heart be discarded, oh, monkey's supreme, you cannot possibly transcend destiny. As Angada has always been conducting himself with you, thus he will conduct himself with Sugreeva and also even with me, without doubt." Thus Rama spoke to Vali.

On hearing the agreeable and assertive words of that great-souled Rama, who is the treader on the path of rightness and an absolute crusher of enemies in war, Vali, the vanara, spoke these well-disposed words to Rama.

"Oh, lord, oh, tremendously braving one, oh, Rama, the lord of people, I blamed you when your arrow sweltered and rendered me imbecile, thus I blamed you unthinkingly for which I may please be pardoned, I appease you for the same.

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There are three kinds of giving. Grudge giving, duty giving, and thanksgiving. Grudge giving says ' I have to...' Duty giving says " I ought to...' Thanksgiving says " I want to...' The first comes from constraint; the second from a sense of obligation; the third from a full heart. This being the saying by an unknown, Vali gave torture to Sugreeva because he had to, Rama gave punishment to Vali because he ought to, and Sugreeva given himself to Rama, because he wanted to. Rama befriends Sugreeva only to take his help in searching Seetha, because Danu, the demon, after release from his curse advises Rama to do so. The killing of Vali is incidental to that befriending. To take help of Sugreeva, he is to be uplifted from his nasty state, and the abuser of tradition Vali is to be resolved.
diinasya sugreevasya rakShanam raamasya dharmaH | raaj~naa diina jana rakShnasya parama dharmatvaat | vastuaH tu mukhya dharmaanusaareNa eva vaali hananam | -- dharmaakuutam

In aananda raamayana, saara kaanDa another treatise of Ramayana, tells that Rama not only accords salvation to Vali but accords a boon to become a tribal in Krishna's incarnation, and kill Krishna at the end, as retaliation to the present killing.

yadi api tvam duraacaaro nihato asi raNe mayaa | tathaa api bhilla ruupeNa dvaapara ante anghri mama | bhitvaa prabhaase baaNena puurva vaireNa vaanara

But bhagavata puraaNa or padma puraaNa do not quote this sort of sanction by Rama. It is said in Anada Ramayana only to extol Rama's kind-heartedness.

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Thus, this is the 18th chapter in Kishkindha Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana, the First Epic poem of India.

© 2002, Desiraju Hanumanta Rao [Revised : June 04]


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