Is Lord Rama Righteous? Clarifying 6 Ramayana Controversies

//Is Lord Rama Righteous? Clarifying 6 Ramayana Controversies

By Vidagdha Madhav Das

Lord Rama is famous as marayada purusottama, the personification of righteousness. So how can his actions be controversial? Are we missing the broader context that can enable us to see the righteousness hidden behind these commonly made allegations against Lord Rama?

1. Lord Rama abandoned his pregnant wife Sita simply relying on vulgar village gossip

This incident is indeed heartbreaking.

After rescuing Sita, Lord Rama, who never doubted Sita’s undivided love for him, anticipated village gossip in doubt of her chastity; after all, Sita was a captive of Ravana for one full year. Thus with a heavy heart, Lord Rama had asked Sita to undergo the fire test. But in spite of being proven through the fire test, some ordinary citizens still did not approve of Sita’s chastity.

Lord Rama set the highest example as a king: Lord Rama, like most political leaders of today, could have neglected or silenced his citizens’ criticisms. But he chose to act as an exemplary leader and thus gain the people’s trust in order to serve them properly. This meant acting according to the cultural norms of the time i.e. to send Sita away. This, however, does not mean that Lord Rama did not love his wife. Ramayana devotes four chapters describing Lord Rama’s intense feelings of separation when Sita was kidnapped. He was as devoted to her as she was. But we cannot comprehend the spirit of sacrifice of Lord Rama because most of us think and act in a self-centered way. And we are not kings; we cannot imagine the responsibility of a king towards his citizens. Lord Rama thus ruled Ayodhya for the next 10,000 years in an exemplary way while crying in separation from Sita.

Sita did not resent Lord Rama for his decision: On hearing the decision of Lord Rama from the distraught Lakshman, Sita was initially devastated. Soon she regained her composure and understood the heart of Lord Rama. After all, she was not a timid, emotionally abused woman who felt forced to act as per her husband’s line of thought. Rather she was independently thoughtful and knew the complexities of kingly duties. She thus accepted his decision gracefully as the inevitable twists and turns of life, on which we have little control.

Lord Rama did not ‘abandon’ Sita: The word ‘abandon’ is not the best word to describe Lord Rama’s decision in sending Sita away. Sita’s life in the forest was not like that of a single mother in the modern world. She did not have to scour for food, clothing and shelter; they were well arranged for in the hermitage of sage Valmiki. Lakshman personally escorted her to the hermitage, where the sage received her with great respect. The elderly lady-hermits lovingly cared for her and helped her in raising her sons. In this way, Lord Rama indirectly protected his wife by keeping her in the shelter of sage Valmiki, whose hermitage was within the kingdom.

Lord Rama continued to love Sita: As a king, Lord Rama was expected to perform sacrifices for the state’s welfare and the ceremony mandated one’s wife to accompany the performer. When the priests advised Lord Rama to remarry, he respectfully refused though it was a common tradition then for kings to have many wives; his father King Dasarath had 300 wives. Instead Lord Rama honored his promise to Sita that she would be his only wife. Thus he made a golden image of Sita to sit beside him to meet the traditional requirements of the sacrificial ceremony and proclaimed that he still considered Sita as his beloved wife.

2. Lord Rama unnecessarily mistreated Shurpanaka, sister of Ravana, for her innocent proposal

When Shurpanaka proposed to Lord Rama for marriage, he responded jokingly: “I am already married to Sita and I vowed not to marry more than once. You could marry my younger brother Lakshman.” Following Lord Rama, Lakshman also joked: “By marrying me, you will become the maid servant of Sita as I am dependent on my elder brother Rama.” Soon realizing the play of the two brothers, Shurpanaka decided to devour Sita who was the cause of her distress. Lord Rama, seeing the impeding danger to his wife Sita, instructed Lakshman to punish her. Lakshman instantly chopped off her nose and the embarrassed Shurpanaka left.

It was a common practice in those days to punish an aggressor by either imprisoning or partially injuring him or her. 

Shurpanaka’s story, however, did not end here with the chopping of her nose. Lord Rama, in his next incarnation as Lord Krishna, fulfilled her innocent desire to love him. According to Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Shurpanaka later performed penance to achieve Lord Rama as her husband in her next birth. When Lord Rama came as Lord Krishna, Shurpanaka took birth as Kubja, the hunch-backed woman. Lord Krishna straightened her up by making the stoops on her back disappear; he made her beautiful by his divine touch.  He then visited her house to reciprocate with her love. Lord Rama thus satisfied Shurpanaka’s desire to love him.

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 3. Lord Rama, like a coward, killed Vali unfairly, from behind

Vali, on the verge of death, questioned Lord Rama’s action, “How could you shoot at me from behind?”  Lord Rama replied, “The younger brother should be regarded as one’s own son, and his wife as one’s daughter-in-law. You sinned by unduly trying to kill your brother Sugriva and by cohabiting with his wife Ruma. The scriptures prescribe death as the punishment for such an aggressor.” On hearing Lord Rama’s explanation and sweet voice, Vali felt remorse and realized his mistake. This shows that Vali was not an evil person like Ravana; his extraordinary power simply went into his head. But Lord Rama’s words purified him and brought forth his natural devotion. Vali thus said, “My dear Lord, it is my great fortune to die in your presence. It is perfection of my life.” He further instructed his son Angada and his brother Sugriva to be devoted to Lord Rama. This transformation of Vali demonstrates his conviction in the righteousness of Lord Rama.

Still we may have the question: Why Lord Rama killed Vali from behind? Why didn’t he confront Vali in a fair battle? This has been explained by the subsequent retellings of Ramayana. Vali, because of his penance, was blessed by the gods that whenever he fought with anyone, half of his opponent’s power would come to him. Thus logically, Vali was unsurmountable in any fair duel. Lord Rama could have easily invalidated this boon, and defeated Vali in battle. Instead he preferred to honor the benediction of the gods; and that meant he had to kill Vali without confronting him face to face. Thus Lord Rama risked his own reputation to honor the words spoken by the gods. 

4. Lord Rama killed Shambuk, a sudra (low caste person), when he was performing penance

Performance of penance in itself is not a pious activity. What matters is the motivation with which the penance is performed. Even Ravana did a lot of penance, but his motivation was to cause harm to the innocent. Similarly even Shambuk’s intention behind his austerity was not virtuous.

The story of Shambuk begins with a brahmin coming to the court of Lord Rama with a complaint. The brahmin accused Lord Rama for the untimely death of his son. In those days, the death of the son before the father was unheard of, and the king was held responsible if such natural laws were disrupted. Such discrepancies occurred only when something irreligious was happening in the kingdom. Immediately Lord Rama set out to search for the cause of this calamity. On seeing Shambuk performing severe penance, Lord Rama enquired his motivation. Shambuk revealed that he wanted to usurp the position of Indra, the king of heaven. Lord Rama, seeing his wrong motivation, understood him to be the cause of disruption of natural order of things in his kingdom, and thus beheaded him. And instantly, the dead son of the brahmin became alive. Thus Lord Rama, through this incident, taught that penance without virtue is harmful to the society.

This incident of sudra Shambuk has also been misinterpreted to blemish Lord Rama as a casteist. If Lord Rama was a casteist, why would he accept the service of the forest dweller Guha who was considered an outcaste by social standards? Why would he accept the berries from Shabari, who was also considered an outcaste? Both Guha and Shabari approached Lord Rama with love and devotion, and Lord Rama reciprocated with their motivation, not caring for their social status.

5. Lord Rama put his wife Sita into distress by accepting to live in exile in the forest

When Lord Rama informed Sita about his father’s order, Sita became dumbfounded. Lord Rama asked Sita to stay back in the kingdom and take care of his parents. Sita wasn’t as upset with Ram’s decision to follow his father’s wish, as much as she was with Lord Rama’s desire to go to the forest alone, leaving her behind. She wanted to share her husband’s fortune in all circumstances. She considered the palace to be as good as hell in the absence of her righteous husband Lord Rama.

Sita was also fond of the country; she looked forward to associate with Lord Rama amid the beautiful mountains and lakes. She reminded Lord Rama of an astrologer’s prediction that she would one day live in the forest. Lord Rama warned her of the wilderness of the dense forest – the fierce beasts, rugged forest paths, stinging bushes, poisonous snakes, and furious winds – but she remained determined to accompany him.

Sita even taunted Lord Rama,“Has my father Janaka married me to an impotent person?” Finally, Lord Rama relented, and took Sita with him.

6. Lord Rama irresponsibly quit his kingdom without considering the citizens’ welfare

Kaikeyi, the favourite queen of Dashrath, demanded two boons from the King, “Firstly, coronate my son Bharat as the king of Ayodhya, and secondly, send Lord Rama on exile to the forest for 14 years.” When Lord Rama was informed of this, he did consider its implications upon the citizens of Ayodhya. After careful analysis he concluded  that Bharat was fully qualified to rule the kingdom; taking the orders of his father upon his head, he left for the forest.

Lord Rama’s acts of sacrifice are exemplary, but also extreme. They are hard to imitate, but we can derive inspiration from them even today. 

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By |2018-08-12T17:19:22+00:00April 3rd, 2017|Categories: Read!|7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Aruna April 4, 2017 at 2:32 am - Reply

    Pls make it possible to connect your messages to watts aap!

  2. Sunny October 15, 2017 at 7:34 am - Reply

    Do you have specific scriptures from the original version to support Vali’s boon, or is this just from a local version of Ramayana??? There are dozens of different versions/types of Ramayana in India.

  3. che March 3, 2019 at 11:34 pm - Reply

    Rama was an impotent Pansy as per Seeta Maiya in the VALIMKI RAMAYA

    Book II : Ayodhya Kanda – Book Of Ayodhya

    Chapter[Sarga] 30

    किम् त्वा अमन्यत वैदेहः पिता मे मिथिला अधिपः |
    राम जामातरम् प्राप्य स्त्रियम् पुरुष विग्रहम् || २-३०-३

    “What my father, the king of Mithila belonging to the country of Videha, think of himself having got as so-in-law you, a woman having the form of a man?”

    अनृतम् बल लोको अयम् अज्ञानात् यद्द् हि वक्ष्यति |
    तेजो न अस्ति परम् रामे तपति इव दिवा करे || २-३०-४

    “It is a pity if these people of Ayodhya through ignorance tell the falsehood that excellent valour is lacking in Rama as in a blazing sun.”

    किम् हि कृत्वा विषण्णः त्वम् कुतः वा भयम् अस्ति ते |
    यत् परित्यक्तु कामः त्वम् माम् अनन्य परायणाम् || २-३०-५

    “For what reason are you cast down or whence fear in you, for which you are willing to desert me, for whom there is no other recourse.”

    यम् तु भार्याम् कौमारीम् चिरम् अध्युषिताम् सतीम् |
    शैलूषैव माम् राम परेभ्यो दातुम् इच्चसि || २-३०-८

    ” Oh, Rama! I am a young girl, lived for a long time with you, a chaste woman and your wife. How would you like an actor intend to deliver me to others by your own will?”

  4. Kishore swamy May 9, 2019 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    lies being spread by liberals and Ambedkar caravaan Shambuk was a Shudra (Dalit) who did tapasya and Lord Ram killed him to prove lord Ram was a castist person he killed Shambuk on caste lines and gives a silliest explanation saying a Brahmin complained and he did it , lie spread by liberals but Actual truth is

    jaN^ghanAmA.asuraH pUrvaM girijAvaradAnataH | babhUva shUdraH kalpAyuH sa lokaxayakAmyayA | tapashchachAra durbuddhirichchhan.h mAheshvaraM padam.h

    its so FUnny till date no one has spoken this truth out cowards ,
    Means :-
    Shambuk wanted to marry goddess Parvati he was attracted to her Beauty and form and wished to take position of Lord Shiva so which Lord Ram gave him the punishment , which these liars won’t say
    For which he got his Due punishment , please enlighten others with this truth

    • Droid190209 October 20, 2020 at 2:46 pm - Reply

      And what about the Bibiswan. If rama was so nobel, then he would have sent him back. Instead he used it as an advantage for defeating Ravana. That filth killed Indrajit at night and when he was not present in the battlefield, which was then not fare at all. In the ramayana series, Ramanand Sagar lied that ramayana killed Indrajit in Battle. But Rama killed him from behind. Which brother would not avenge the person who killed your one of your distant brother (Marich) and cut the nose off your sister. Especially when you are a king.

  5. Shikha May 28, 2020 at 11:04 am - Reply

    After reading the complete post .. I have realized how the leftist distort and pervert our ancient scripts , because No where in the original Ramayana, the sita tyaag is mentioned. The writer indeed has very aptly demonized our Hindu Gods and presenting itself as an Expert on hindu Puranic text which he definitely is not. The writer of this post is definitely a leftist and a pan Islamist. #StopIntellectualTerrorism

    • Droid190209 October 20, 2020 at 2:48 pm - Reply

      Rama is a sucking filth. You know nothing about Ramayana you fool. You know nothing about Uttara Ramayana. Read books.

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